Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.
Monday, August 23, 2010
The demonstrators want to get around the Constitution by creating a sacred geography of sentiment that is outside ordinary legal reality. It consists of a space of white American Judeo-Christian victimhood and of another realm, of a brown, foreign, hostile Islam that must be excluded from lower Manhattan (never mind that these characterizations of American Muslims are pure falsehood). It is an attempt to create a space within which one religious tradition is favored over another, and an attempt to deny members of a religion the opportunity to practice it wherever they like. They grant the technical ‘right’ to the Muslims to worship there, but then seek to withdraw that right on the ground of hurt feelings or inappropriate geography. We saw this sort of thinking in the Jim Crow era, when African Americans, though full American citizens, were prevented from living, shopping, working, and inevitably from worshiping, in certain geographical areas, on the grounds that their doing so would offend and hurt the feelings of the White majority.
Those who say that not everyone who opposes the Cordoba community center is a racist may be right, but everyone who opposes it is supporting a practice that has in the American past been deeply connected to racism, which is the dictation to minorities of where they may live and worship within American cities. Just as today’s protesters said that they don’t challenge the right of Muslims to build mosques and worship, “just not here,” so the ‘protective councils’ in early twentieth century Los Angeles said exactly the same thing to Jews about their synagogues and Japanese Buddhists about their temples. Moreover, the fact is that the building of mosques is being widely opposed and interfered with throughout the country and not just in lower Manhattan. This generalized bigotry is clearly racist, and looks exactly like the prejudice implemented against other minorities in the age of ‘separate but equal.’
Muslim Americans are Americans. There can be no government Establishment of Judeo-Christian traditions, and no prohibition on how and where Muslim Americans worship. We are seeing attempts to foment a new Jim Crow, centered on mosques, which involves all the same fear-mongering, segregation, and special pleading for the majority that characterized the old one. It is important that this campaign against a Muslim community center in lower Manhattan not succeed, or it will be only the first in a long series of discriminatory policies throughout the country, as opportunistic politicians jump on the Islamophobic bandwagon.
The raging controversy over the “Ground Zero Mosque” is quintessentially American: free of facts and logic and unapologetically exploitative of emotional issues in the tradition of bare-knuckled partisan politics; yet also an occasion for responsible leaders to call on fellow Americans to live up to their highest ideals, despite the lingering trauma of 9/11 and the ravages of an economic crisis.
• “The mosque” is an affront to the memory of 9/11 victims and should not be anywhere near the site.This is based on the premise that all Muslims are collectively guilty for Sept. 11. This racist narrative — meant to deflect attention away from American foreign policies — has it that Muslims have not condemned terrorism enough, though they have, repeatedly and forcefully, and been the greatest victims of terrorism. Obama acknowledged both those truths when defending Park51.• Why can’t “the mosque” be moved elsewhere?The answer has been that doing so would be to concede to falsehood and discrimination. Besides, how far from Ground Zero would be far enough?• The West need not be nice to Muslims as long as Muslim countries persecute their minorities, such as Coptic Christians in Egypt, Baha’is in Iran, Chaldeans in Iraq, etc.In other words, since they are awful, we should be as well. Democracies should behave like dictatorships.• The project’s $100 million funding is suspect — the money may come from Saudi Arabia (15 of the 19 murderers of 9/11 were Saudis).This innuendo is being circulated just as the U.S. is secretly negotiating a record $60-billion defence contract with Saudi Arabia. Saudi money is halal for armaments, haram for mosques.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
the military police station in the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva, which is also responsible for processing complaints from Palestinians in the southern half of the West Bank, has put all testimonies of Palestinians on hold in the past four weeks because it has no translator.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
by Sami Kishawi, cross-posted from Sixteen Minutes to Palestine
I came across a rogue news headline that said “Eid festival expected to fall on 9/11. US protesters demand it be moved to another day out of respect for victims”. This isn’t just ridiculous or absurd. This is blatant prejudice. And this is my testimonial.
For those who might not know, Eid al-Fitr is a celebration or festival that Muslims observe to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Just like other Muslim holidays, it’s a strictly religious and cultural affair. It celebrates the end of the fasting period and the beginning of a purified way of life. There is absolutely no political significance to it whatsoever.
So why should it be moved?
As I’m sure many of you are, I’m disgusted by those who insist on associating Islam with 9/11. Let it be known that Islam condemns the terrorist actions that led to the downing of two towers and the deaths of thousands of innocents: men, women, children, and elderly. Here is a verse from the Qur’an (and please make sure to keep it in context):
” … If anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole humanity.”
Point is, you just can’t kill. The events that occurred on that dreadful day lie in direct contradiction with the teachings of Islam. I know this, you know this, but why doesn’t the rest of the world know this?
I was in fifth grade when the towers fell. I had no idea what happened but my classmates were buzzing about it. My teacher didn’t show up to class and I remember that striking me as odd. She was one of those old-fashioned teachers who wore one-piece dresses, sat at her desk in the front of the room facing us, and used wooden pencils instead of mechanical ones. Instead, my Spanish teacher subbed for her. Minutes into class, he said, “the Muslims did it.” I didn’t know what was going on so I didn’t say anything.
By lunch time, parents started packing the hallways trying to pick their children up. Chicago is home to a bustling downtown with tall buildings and skyscrapers so employees were told to take the rest of the day off in case a hijacked plane were to hit the Sears Tower or some other structure. Being that my mom worked in a downtown bank, she rushed over to school immediately and took me home. She explained to me what happened and I understood the look of distress on her face. I told her what my Spanish teacher said and she assured me that she’ll talk to the principal tomorrow for a formal apology. I was young and he was one of my favorite teachers, so I made her promise to just let it go. It didn’t bother me at the time.
First thing I did when I got home was turn on the television and watch Peter Jennings report on the current state of the felled buildings. I found my big yellow notepad and decided I’d be a detective for the day. I was naïve but my plan was to “discover” a pattern in the hijackings so that I can tell Mr. Jennings that Muslims weren’t behind the attacks at all. My teacher’s comments were starting to get to me.
The next day at school, I found out why my fifth grade homeroom teacher was absent from class yesterday. Her sister was in New York at the time and my teacher hadn’t been able to connect with her. New York City’s phone lines were jammed. However, her sister eventually managed to contact the school and my teacher returned to class, albeit it looking paler than usual.
Fast forward a few weeks. Mama was driving me home from school. She turned into the alley to park in our garage but a man came out of his backyard and stood in front of her. Being that my mom’s first reaction is to remain calm, she waited until he moved. He didn’t. Mama honked softly and the man finally spoke. “Get your A-rab a– out of here! We don’t want you scum. Go back to where you came from.”
What did my mom do wrong? What did she ever do wrong? She was never in trouble. The only ticket she ever got was when her parking meter expired. But that was my fault because the second quarter managed to slip into my pocket. She’d been a good samaritan her entire life. She donated to charity. She volunteered at local mosques. She worked hard to support the family. She raised my sister and myself all alone after my parents divorced. And during that moment, my mom proved to me how level-headed she was. She stayed there, politely said “excuse me”, waited for the man to move, and drove into the garage. But before the car came to a stop, I made my way out and walked down the alley to the man. I don’t fight (and I really don’t even know how) but I made a point to walk with my hands made into fists. Nobody gets away with disrespecting my mom or my religion. I was hoping to scare him. My little mind thought violence would be the answer.
My mom caught up to me and told me to relax. and unclench my fists. The man started walking towards us, so mama stood in front of me. Protectiveness, a mother’s natural instinct.
He ended up apologizing for what he said. It turns out he didn’t recognize that we were his neighbors from a few houses down. Was it sincere? I don’t know. Who am I to judge. But that’s all we needed to hear. And with that, we walked away. I’m not sure if it “scarred” my mom, but I know that since 9/11, she’s been adamant about how haram (forbidden) the attacks were. She spoke out against terrorism and made sure that I knew exactly how much Islam condemns it. That was how I was raised.
My mom isn’t the only example though. There are 1.5 billion other examples. The entire Muslim population faces harassment through this relatively new Western trend called Islamophobia. Last year, my friend’s sister was verbally abused in a supermarket. The aggressor even pulled off her headscarf after calling her a terrorist.
My mom’s friend’s child was suspended from school after getting into a fight with a classmate who spent the entire day calling him a terrorist. And just for added measure, the kid hurling insults was a policeman’s son. He got away with a warning.
A mosque in Florida was damaged by a bomb a few months ago.
A church in Florida is hosting a “Burn a Qur’an Day” on September 11 to mark the ninth anniversary of the attacks. Google it.
My friend’s dad was put in jail because he fit the profile of a “suspect”. He’s lived in the Midwest for years and the most he’s ever done was travel to Chicago to speak to crowds about how Islam is opposed to terrorism.
I can name five people at any given moment who’ve been racially profiled at airports because of their headscarf or because of their Muslim-sounding last name.
My mosque is put under surveillance. I found this out after learning that another mosque I attend is also under FBI surveillance. This I learned after someone commented on the suspicious-looking cameras stationed in really unnecessary places in an almost entirely Muslim neighborhood in the southwest suburbs.
The Muslim Student Union at the University of California – Irvine will be banned for an entire school year. No public gatherings or Friday prayers at the religiously-active college campus.
But these are only a few examples of what Muslims around the world face everyday.
The attacks of September 11 have affected more than just typical “Americans”. I am American too. Yes, I preserve my Arab culture and my Palestinian identity but I was also born and raised in Chicago. I speak English and even some Spanish. Hurricane Katrina hit me too – not physically of course but I became well aware of the oppression, the suffering, and the humility that my American brothers and sisters are forced to live with. My people can relate to your people. The economy affects me too. My family pays taxes. I say the Pledge of Allegiance. So do millions of other Americans. So how am I any different? Why can’t I grieve also? I’ve prayed countless times for the people – Muslims and non-Muslims – who were killed in the attacks. We are all one and the same.
So stop associating Islam with terrorism. Ask yourself: are those “Muslims” who hijacked those planes really Muslims? I can’t judge anyone’s faith, but I’m 100% positive that their actions go against the values of Islam. The Qur’an condemns it, the mosques condemn it, the leaders condemn it, and of course, the Muslim world-community condemns it as well. Those radicals who praise the terrorists are exactly that: radicals. Do radicals always represent the truth? No. Does the Oklahoma City bomber represent American values? No. Does he represent Christian ethics? No. Do serial killers or rogue soldiers represent you, me, or us? No.
Logically, then, those terrorist hijackers do not represent Islam. They do not represent me, my family, my community, my friends, my country, my way of life, or my religion.
Islam is not a threat to the memories of the those killed during 9-11. Muslims were killed too, in case FOX News didn’t tell you that. But Islam recognizes the power of humanity in its entirety. Not only do we grieve for the Muslims that were killed, but we also keep in our thoughts the faces, the names, and the families of all the 9/11 victims regardless of race, color, gender, size, or religion.
Eid al-Fitr will not be moved. As a matter of fact, even if it falls on September 11, I’m going to celebrate it with vigor – just like every other Muslim does. But if it’s within my power, I will invite all my non-Muslim friends to celebrate with me. I’ll invite the families of the victims for dinner at my place. We’ll enjoy the day – and we will culminate by praying for those who were killed, those who continue to be killed, and those who live in constant oppression.
And whether you want to believe it or not, the Muslims of America live in oppression too. I’m an example. Every single day, America’s peaceful Muslim communities are forced to live with the negative stereotypes, assumptions, and prejudice. We’re slandered. We’re made fun of. People swear at us. People yell at us. People burn our houses and then tell us to find a new home in another country. Some of my Muslim friends have parents who are still afraid of going out in public or unfamiliar places. Death threats don’t surprise us anymore. Some people would even prefer to die rather than having to live in constant threat or fear for their lives. This is oppression.
Eid won’t “fall” on 9-11. Nothing else will fall after those twin towers. But if Eid does indeed happen to be on the 11th of September, you’re welcome to join us in festivities where together we’ll remember the victims of crimes committed against humanity.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
The village of Al-Araqib was destroyed on July 27 (links here and here) and destroyed again last week by the Israeli Land Authority. The villagers have rebuilt after each demolition because this is the land that they know and they have nowhere else to go. Europe and the Middle East have been experiencing a heat wave (thank God it's cooled down a bit) which made rebuilding a necessity to provide some shade in the scolding Negev Desert.
Sickeningly, but not surprisingly, the village of Al-Araqib was destroyed again, for a third time, in the early morning on August 10, 2010.
Joseph Dana, an Israeli-American activist and filmmaker, was present in Al-Araqib during the latest round of demolitions. Here is a excerpt from his account:
We, Israeli and international activists, were invited to sit in these tents through the night and sip coffee in the cool desert night with the villagers. They told us about their livelihood now that the village is constantly facing demolition. Some talked about their military service in the Israeli army and their disbelief that the country they served could behave in such a way as to destroy their entire village. Others expressed hope that at least some Israelis understood the grave nature of their government and were standing arm in arm with them.
As the night closed and the light began to change, the first sounds of the demolition crew could be heard far off in the distance. Before we had time to blink, 200 fully clad police officers were on microphones telling us to leave and that any violence would be met with harsher violence. As soon as the voices on the microphones stopped, the bulldozers began to work. The place we had been sitting and having coffee through the night was leveled before our groggy, disbelieving eyes. We barely had time to register the fact that the village was being leveled, as the police began pushing us away from the living structures with extreme force.
In 2004 U.S. Aid renovated Shuhada Street with the intention of opening the street to all Hebron residents. Yet to date the street remains closed to Palestinians, while Israeli settlers freely walk and drive along it. Palestinians, supported by Israeli and international activists, have launched a campaign to “Open Shuhada Street” and end this example of what they consider “Israeli apartheid.”
It is we who stand in the light. It is they who deceive. It is we who openly proclaim our compassion and demand justice for those who suffer in Gaza. We are not afraid to name our names. We are not afraid to name our beliefs. And we know something you perhaps sense with a kind of dread. As Martin Luther King said, the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice, and that arc is descending with a righteous fury that is thundering down upon the Israeli government.You may have the bulldozers, planes and helicopters that smash houses to rubble, the commandos who descend from ropes on ships and kill unarmed civilians on the high seas as well as in Gaza, the vast power of the state behind you. We have only our hands and our hearts and our voices. But note this. Note this well. It is you who are afraid of us. We are not afraid of you. We will keep working and praying, keep protesting and denouncing, keep pushing up against your navy and your army, with nothing but our bodies, until we prove that the force of morality and justice is greater than hate and violence. And then, when there is freedom in Gaza, we will forgive ... you. We will ask you to break bread with us. We will bless your children even if you did not find it in your heart to bless the children of those you occupied. And maybe it is this forgiveness, maybe it is the final, insurmountable power of love, which unsettles you the most.
Monday, August 09, 2010
Palestinians are supposed to be dedicated to one subject -- liberating Palestine.This is a prison.We're human, we love, we fear death, we enjoy the first flowers of spring.So to express this is resistanceagainst having out subject dictated to us.If I write love poems,I resist the conditions that don't allow me to write love poems.
Defining Israel as a Jewish state condemns us to living in a racist state. This is the new definition of Zionism that we have subscribed to, and until we realize that we will not be able to uproot all the wild weeds that have seeded themselves here lately. Were we to not expel the migrant workers' children but continue to raze Bedouin villages we would not solve a thing. We will continue to move from one injustice to another until we recognize the racist nature of the state.Israel is not the only place where racism is on the rise. Europe and the United States are awash in a turbid wave of xenophobia; but in Israel, this racism is embedded in the state's most fundamental values. There is no other state whose immigration laws are blatantly and unequivocally based on the candidates' bloodlines. Jewish blood, whether authentic or dubious, is kosher. Other blood, from those of other creeds or nationalities, is unacceptable. No country throws its doors wide open to everyone, but while other states take social, economic and cultural considerations into account in Israel bloodline is the name of the game. How else are we to understand the fact that someone who was born here, who speaks the language, cherishes its values and even serves in the military, can be unceremoniously expelled while a member of the Bnei Menashe community in India or the grandson of a half-Jew from Kazakhstan are welcomed with open arms.In contrast to what we have been told there is no significant argument in the wider world, and of course not in Israel, over the Jews' right to a state. The argument is about its character. There is also no argument about the justice of the Law of Return: Israel is the place of the Jews who want to live there. The real argument is over the law's exclusivity, over the fact that it applies only to Jews. That's where it all begins. One could understand the need after the Holocaust, the necessity in the first years of the state, but 62 years after the founding of the state the time has come to reexamine the long-obsolete concepts.Does anyone actually know the meaning of the term "Jewish state" that we bandy about so much? Does it mean a state for Jews only? Is it not a new kind of "racial purity"? Is the "demographic threat" greater than the danger of the state's becoming a religious enthnocracy or an apartheid state? Wouldn't it be better to live in a just democracy? And how is it even possible to speak about a state being both Jewish and democratic? But anyone who tries to enter the cauldron of this debate, who tries to think outside the box of tired cliche, is automatically fated to delegitimization and slander. Just ask Avraham Burg, who last week announced his intention to set up a political party along those very lines.
Sunday, August 08, 2010
Saturday, August 07, 2010
The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or anyone of the world's religions...Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attack have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.
- First, nearly all suicide terrorist attacks occur as part of organized campaigns, not as isolated or random incidents. Of the 315 separate attacks in the period I studied, 301 could have had their roots traced to large, coherent political of military campaigns.
- Second, democractic states are uniquely vulnerable to suicide terrorism...and have been the targets of almost every suicide attack of the past two decades.
- Third, suicide terrorist campaigns are directed towards a strategic objective..the sponsors of every campaign have been terrorist groups trying to establish or maintain political self-determination by compelling a democratic power to withdraw from the territories they claim.
Since 9/11, the U.S. has responded to the growing threat of suicide terrorism by embarking on a policy to conquer Muslim countries - not simply rooting out existing havens for terrorists in Afghanistan but going further to remake Muslim societies in the Persian Gulf. To be sure, the U.S. must be ready to use force to protect Americans and their allies and must do so when necessary. However, the close association between foreign military occupations and the growth of suicide terrorist movements in the occupied regions should make us hesitate over any strategy centering on the transformation of Muslim societies by means of heavy military power. Althought there may still be good reasons for such a strategy, we should recognize that the sustained presence of American combat forces in Muslim countries to likely increase the odds of the next 9/11.
Sayeed Siyam, a Hamas leader in Gaza, said, "We in Hamas consider suicide bombing attacks inside the 1948 borders" - inside Israel - "to be the card thatPalestinians can play to resist the occupation...We do not own Apache helicopters ourselves, so we use our own methods. Given the methods used by the Israelis, we consider the door to hell is open. their assassination policy and the bombardment - this this theater of war inside Palestinian villages and homes - we respond to that by seeking to make Israelis feel the same, insecure inside their homes."
65% of the Palestinians who supported suicide operations cited as a main reason Israeli military incursions (poll conducted in 2002).
There is no general campaign to attack Jews living outside Palestine. The pattern of the suicide attacks over the past decade suggests that the Palestinian terrorists are concentrating their fire against the state that is actually occupying the territory they view as their homeland.
Foreign occupation can have its own logic of violence. Even when an occupying power is restained in the use of roce, the common spiral of local resistance leading to retaliation leading to more local resistance can dramatically escalate the level of harm to the civilian community. As a result, there could be a threshold of violence above which the local community becomes so desperate that it resorts to suicide terrorism because many believe they will die anyway or because they are seeking revenge for those who have died.
Prior to American's invasion in March 2003, Iraq had never experienced a suicide terrorist attack in its history.
The root cause of suicide terrorism is foreign occupation and the threat that foreign military presence poses to the local community's way of life. Hence, any policy that seeks to conquer Muslim socities in order, deliberately, to transform their culture is folly. Even if our intentions are good, anti-American terrorism would likely grow, and grow rapidly.