What’s my name?!


Ali-Whats-My-Name-FightNames are important to their bearers and generally to the society at large.  They are a source of pride and at other times scourge; people invest themselves with names of meaning or shed their names because  of its meaning.  We’ve seen people mercilessly pummel others for not recognizing their names and calling them by the chosen name, and we’ve seen others brutally whipped to acknowledge a name give to them by people in order to strip the name bearer of any sense of cultural identity or self worth and replace it with whatever value the name giver is trying to impart. kunta-getting-whipped-1

There are some people who intimidated by the idea that their name is identified with a certain ideology or belief chose to change it of their own accord in order to fit in and not be singled out, while some people change their names willingly to hide their cultural identity to avoid religious or cultural persecution. Others tonycurtiscolortake on names because of careers whereby the name distinguishes them from all others in the performing arts.  “Sting”, “Prince” come to mind to name a few. Such decisions are made artistically and usually enhance the image of the name bearer in the eyes of an adoring public.

People have denigrated entire classes of their fellow mankind by grouping them under one name, nigger, cracker, spic, kike, sandnigger, cockroach, gook are just a few examples that come to mind.  These names are meant to hurt; they come with their own invective; even the pronunciation rolls off the tongue with a certain inflection that’s meant to hurt the ears as much as the hearts and minds of the subjects of such abuse.  By using such language it’s meant to dehumanize and weaken the resolve of a person, to soften them up for the inevitable. We have not gotten over this ability to harm with the spoken word, or name.  When applied enough times to groups of people the result is systematic and relentless oppression, subjugation or intended and eventual annihilation.

AlexWhile I was  a freshman in college Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was the rave in American literary circles.  His book, The Gulag Archipelago had recently been released and became required reading in universities across the West, no less so where I studied. His was the first exposure many of us in my English literature class had to someone with a name like his and as we discussed his work, quite a few of us awkwardly pronounced or made fun of while attempting to pronounce his name so much so that our English teacher stopped the class and with all the seriousness and indignation appropriate for the moment declared, ‘young people every human has the RIGHT to have his/her name pronounced correctly’.  With that declaration he (I wish I could honor that teacher by recalling his name, but unfortunately I have forgotten it) made every student stand one at a time in class and pronounce Solzhenitsyn’s entire name until we got it right.  No student was spared as time was suspended until we said S-O-L-Z-H-E-N-I-T-S-Y-N correctly, no matter how many times it took for us to do so. I left that class with a deep sense of the importance of names and how its bearer should be honored with the correct application of that name to him or her. I realized no matter how hated by me a person or no matter how difficult the name I owed it to its bearer to honor them with their name, no suffixes or prefixes attached, no racial or cultural tags added. Such things could be done in a separate sentence but never immediately juxtaposed with the name….unless that person wanted it so.

During the late 70s toward the end of Jimmy Carter’s term in office when the Nation was gripped by the Iranian hostage crisis, America began its assault on Muslims.  American Muslims who showed any support for the revolution in Iran came under fire, scrutiny by a federal government bent on flexing its muscle to resolve the crisis and cap a ground swell that was boiling in America (which we survived and have since gone on to greater heights of prosperity).  During that time I ran across a young Muslim American who related how he was caught up in the turmoil of the time and indicted by the federal government.  He was told, he said, by officials if he would only agree to have the name “Al” affixed to his indictment instead of “Abdullah” the name he had on all his legal documents  they would eventually drop or reduce the charges. He was faced with a modern day horse whipping much like the character Kunta Kinte in the movie Roots, except in his case he refused and was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years for a crime he didn’t commit.  Finally after his appeal reached and was decided on by appeals court where he was awarded a new trial, the government having extracted its pound of flesh from him and countless others and satiated its blood lust, refused to re-try him and released him with time served.  Six years he languished in prison because he refused to go by any  name other than his name. That young man’s story reinforced to me the importance of one’s name and how authority sees the importance of names.

CAIRFoleySqIt came as no surprise, therefore, for me to read that names were being used AGAIN by the government to determine guilt or innocence or even if criminal activity or the THREAT of criminal activity existed.  Too often we in America especially and  the West in general rely too much on social schemata to define who a person is instead of listening to or watching how that person defines himself.  In today’s age of instant gratification, and sound bite, bumper slogan ideology, no time is given to evaluating the person beyond that brief first impression that usually starts with one’s name.  We are conditioned to make credible or inconsequential that person’s existence just by the sound of their name, whether it is anglicized or latin, mono or polysyllabic, foreign or American.  Everything after the name is totally irrelevant; it is why people today at the start of  Obama’s second term still think he is an illegitimate president and therefore nothing he says or does is American.  As a result there’s now talk of secessionist movements gaining ground in some parts of the country where such notions weren’t even whispered during the time of any other contemporary president.

notAmerica is a country made of people from all over the world, each of them, those who are law abiding, are citizens of this Republic with all the rights and responsibilities due by the Constitution and no one person can have that fact denied because of their name, yet such denial is becoming increasingly more prevalent.  We come from races and tribes with different and yes even unusual names but none of that allows us to deny or curtail the rights of such people because we cannot pronounce or don’t like a person’s name.   Nor should we expect people to conform to the names we want to bestow on them.  I was sitting with a friend a few years ago when we were approached by an elderly African-American with a soft, appealing  southern accent.  His voice was  melodic like that of a Sunday preacher as were his manners.  When he made eye contact with me and my friend he approached the two of us and introduced himself.  We in turn told him our names, but my friend’s name was a bit difficult for this gentleman to pronounce.  He prodded my friend several times to say the name and each time my friend pronounced his name slower and with more elaborate intonation.  Finally after the fourth or fifth time, the elderly gentleman scratched his name and said to my companion ‘do you mind if I call you Willie?’

sittingbullWe are uncomfortable with names that require effort to say and translate that difficulty into stereotyping the bearer negatively…especially if that person insists on us calling them by their name correctly.  As a society we don’t have an English teacher who will make us pronounce and honor a person’s name until we get it right….we give in too easy and suggest ways to call(define) a person that are acceptable to us.  But that is no longer acceptable in a pluralistic society such as America and it’s not desirable either.  Our names are European, African, Asian, Semitic, Latin, Oceanic and many times a mix of all of them and they all are as valuable, meaningful AND American as any other name you may find in the white pages of your local phone book.  If we are as exceptional as we claim to be, as great a Nation as we say we are, we will learn to respect the names of our countrymen and the diversity of these names that are brought to our society, otherwise we are no better than the tin pot despots, the banana republics we have supported and then invaded because of their perceived inhumanity to their fellow man.  Are we up to the task, America? Then, what’s my name?

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I’ve tried to make this point several times here, so I’ll let someone else do it more eloquently than I could


Radically Wrong: Misstated Threats – Terrorism isn’t an American-Muslim Problem

By Dena Sher, ACLU Washington Legislative Office

blog-muslimprofiling-500x280-v01None. Zero. That’s the number of fatalities or injuries from terrorist acts by American Muslims over the last two years, according to a recent report from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. Here are some other numbers from the report worth noting: In the United States in 2012, there were nine “terrorist plots” by American Muslims—only one of which led to violence. Of those nine plots, only 14 suspects were indicted. Separately, six suspects were indicted for support of terrorism.

Terrorism is not a “Muslim” phenomenon. Indeed, last year, the author of the report called terrorism by American Muslims “a minuscule threat to public safety.” Yet far too many policymakers assume the opposite is true, and too many policies are predicated on the false and bigoted assumption that Muslims are more likely to engage in terrorism than other Americans. The numbers above show how false the premise is. So why are we willing to undermine civil liberties, target an entire religious community, and devote countless resources to this “minuscule threat?”

The answer: a widely debunked “theory” on describing the “process” that drives people to become terrorists. This “theory” is based on the mistaken notion that adopting “radical” ideas (which, under the theory, includes religious beliefs) is a dangerous first step toward committing terrorist acts. Countering terrorism, the thinking goes, begins with countering “radicalization.”

Although it’s been refuted, the “theory” continues to drive policy. Recent Congressional Research Service reports cite it, and the White House issued a plan to counter violent extremism based on it. While the White House deserves some credit for using more careful language and for emphasizing the need for community engagement, it still perpetuates the notion that “how individuals are radicalized to violence” is something we can and should study and understand. And the number of agencies, task forces, working groups, and committees across government that are engaged in the White House’s plan is, well, staggeringly high.

Not surprisingly, when flawed theory drives policy, implementation of the policy is flawed too. If counterterrorism officials believe that adopting radical beliefs is a necessary first stage to terrorism, they will obviously target religious communities and political activists with their enforcement measures.

Take for example, the practice of “preventive policing” by which law enforcement doesn’t focus on crime, but rather tracks legal activities. It has a real and negative impact on individuals: the FBI conducts “assessments” or uses informants, conducts interviews, and surveils people based on their ideas or religious beliefs, or whether they are a certain religion, race, or ethnicity rather than information suggesting they might be involved in criminal activity. Preventive policing also affects entire communities. Through “domain management,” the FBI monitors and tracks entire religious, ethnic, and racial communities based on false stereotypes that ascribe certain types of crimes to entire minority communities. Targeted groups include Muslim- and Arab-Americans in Michigan, and also African-Americans in Georgia, Chinese- and Russian-Americans in California, and broad swaths of Latino-American communities in multiple states.

The FBI has increasingly relied on another tactic based on this flawed theory: the agent provocateur. Remarkably, most of the nine terrorist plots carried out by American Muslims uncovered in 2012 involved informants and undercover agents. According to a recent investigation, undercover agents and informants have targeted “Muslims who espouse radical beliefs, are vocal about their disapproval of American foreign policy, or have expressed sympathy for international terrorist groups”—otherwise known as First Amendment-protected activity. The investigation shows that these targets are fairly unsophisticated and “clearly pose little real threat” on their own. With all essential materials (like money and weapons) coming from government agents and informants, these plots are more manufactured by the government than interdicted.

It’s also clear that preventive policing won’t be tied to an empirical analysis of where significant violence occurs. According to West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, violent acts by far-right extremists significantly outnumber those by American Muslims, but have been virtually ignored by policy makers (though the report has its own problems). While there have been multiple congressional hearings on so-called radicalization of Muslims, there have been none on political violence emanating from the Far Right.

When we implement law enforcement practices that say those who hold “radical” political ideas or religious beliefs, for instance, are dangerous, we could all be in danger. What’s a “radical” idea or belief? It’s one that “reject[s] the status quo.” It’s not hard to imagine that almost all of us hold some “radical” beliefs, which is why it’s not surprising that so many groups come under government suspicion. Anti-government militiamen, misfit anarchists, PETA, Greenpeace, and the Catholic Worker have already been targeted. Who’s to say the group you belong to won’t be next.

Scared yet? You shouldn’t be!


scared_faceThere’s good news on the horizon for all of you who have believed the news pounded in the Nation’s subconscious since 911 that there’s some sort of Muslim plot to terrorize the homeland into submission.  We’ve always said such notions simply don’t exist among Muslim citizens of America and each year we’ve been proven right.  Well the trend keeps supporting that notion, with the latest news describing the prospects of terror from America’s Muslims as “nil”.

Try as al-Qaida might to encourage them, American Muslims still aren’t committing acts of terrorism. Only 14 people out of a population of millions were indicted for their involvement in violent terrorist plots in 2012, a decline from 2011′s 21. The plots themselves hit the single digits last year.

So much for a widespread stereotype. According to data tracked by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security in North Carolina and released Friday (.PDF), there were nine terrorist plots involving American Muslims in 2012. Only one of them, the attempted bombing of a Social Security office in Arizona, actually led to any violence. There were no casualties in that or any other incident. And the Triangle study tracks indictments, not convictions.

……The sample of Muslim Americans turning to terror is “vanishingly small,” Kurzman tells Danger Room…..Yet the scrutiny by law enforcement and homeland security on American Muslims has not similarly abated. The FBI tracks “geomaps” of areas where Muslims live and work, regardless of their involvement in any crime. The Patriot Act and other post-9/11 restrictions on government surveillance remain in place.

So while you don’t have anything to fear from your Muslim neighbors, you still have an intrusive, bloated, super secret, covert government that is finding ways to insert itself into your daily routines at your expense.  What the government and most Americans fail to realize is America’s Muslims are busy living their lives and finding their niche on this multi-cultural landscape like this Muslim American8424302590_8c1284e1c2 , Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim woman to compete on behalf of the United States in international competition.

Ibtihaj, a two-time U.S. National Fencing Champion and a member of the U.S. National Fencing Team since 2009, began fencing at the age of 13. She was raised in an athletic household with four siblings and played many recreational sports growing up. After searching for a sport that would enable her to comply with the Muslim requirement of modesty by remaining fully covered, her mother pointed out students fencing in full body uniforms while driving by their local school. Muhammad said because of this chance moment, “I’d like to think fencing found me.” Reminding students again of the ability to find a passion regardless of circumstance she added, “Don’t let anyone tell you no. There’s nothing you can’t achieve.”

America, it’s time to throw off your shackles of fear and embrace those who make up a part of the American fabric, albeit with different names and clothing than your own, but who are your equal in their fealty to the rule of law and the pursuit of happiness.  You can do it America if you stop being afraid.

Hat tip to @ZahraBillo

“….with liberty and justice for all” unless you’re an American Muslim


kafka-justice-for-muslims

If you thought DWB, ‘driving while black’ was bad for those American citizens who are of African descent, you can expect if you are a Muslim you will not receive any justice under the American judicial system.  In fact it is SO bad for American Muslims the New York Times’ Andrew Rosenthal asserts in an oped entitled ‘Liberty and Justice for non Muslims‘,

Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, genuine concerns about national security as well as politicking and fear have led to a shift in the balance between civil liberties and law enforcement. That much is indisputable, and widely discussed. Yet it’s rarely acknowledged that the attacks have also led to what’s essentially a separate justice system for Muslims. In this system, the principle of due process is twisted and selectively applied, if it is applied at all.

he then concentrates on special detention centers, due process and the lack thereof as it applies to Muslim defendants and extra judicial surveillance by government law agencies.

It is unfortunate to witness that in the second term of a “progressive” president we have seen the steady, unabated encroachment of the exclusion of due process for Muslim Americans.  This dates to the Clinton administration’s special administrative measures, SAM, which ended calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limited contact with family members.  Bush introduced the dreaded Patriot Act which further muddied the waters and made due process even harder for people who came under government scrutiny by expanding government’s role in the rather nefarious and broadly defined “terrorism prosecutions”.  Glen Greenwald has  adroitly gone on to show how charges of “terrorism” make it a cinch for the government to win against defendants so charged

…when someone is accused of terrorism, the rules governing trials and law completely change. All sorts of things that the state is normally barred from doing on the grounds that it is unjust suddenly become permissible when someone faces terrorism charges. Indeed, so “prejudicial” are these special rules of “justice” for terrorism cases that anyone convicted under these rules is, by definition, treated unfairly if terrorism is inapplicable.

…It’s a separate system of justice so intrinsically unjust and unfair – designed to ensure that Muslims accused of “terrorism” have basically no chance of acquittal…

It is hard to overstate the centrality of the term “terrorism” when it comes to state power, policy and law. It is the term that launches wars and sustains the US posture of endless war..

Yet this term, arguably in the abstract and certainly as applied, has no fixed meaning. It’s just a manipulative slogan legitimizing all forms of American violence against Muslims…it’s the overarching foundation for a completely separate system of justice for Muslims that is in exactly the same category as the most shameful episodes of US history.

President Obama’s National Defense Authorization Act, NDAA, another heinous piece of legislation all but ensures that American citizens can be held indefinitely without legal recourse for as long as the “controlling legal authority” outside of the judiciary deems appropriate.  It strips a citizen’s access to due process and isolates him to a labyrinthine parallel system of government restrictions that can go on in perpetuity.  This is the kind of system people fled from before the formation of this country and until very recently it is this kind of randomness that has escaped us, but now it seems to be much more common than not.

If there’s any doubt about that ask Saadiq Long, an American Muslim and Air Force veteran with no criminal record who was denied the possibility of returning to America because he was placed, unbeknownst to him, on the dreaded no-fly list.  He lived and worked in the Middle East for America’s allies in places like Egypt and  Qatar, both of them countries of stability that have managed to avoid or eliminated, you choose the term, radicalism that has plagued the area, and it’s pretty safe to say that Long had too.  So it was, although because of recent history should not have been, a surprise that he was told he could not fly back to America from Qatar. Publicity and the advocacy of lawyers and civil rights groups, notably among them the Council of American Islamic Relations were able to secure a remedy for him…..seven months after initially being told he could not fly into American air space. Even now, Long does not know why he was told he could not fly back in April, 2012.  Unfortunately, his troubles  did not end there.

In a recently held press conference, Long claims the FBI has harassed him since his return to Oklahoma that led to a dramatic standoff between him and federal agents in front of his hometown police department.  Long claims reason given by one of the agents for the standoff which ended with guns being drawn on Long and his party, was Long’s refusal to speak with the FBI without legal counsel being present.  Had he agreed to meet with agents without a lawyer, so goes the theory, none of the dramatic, heart stopping action of the encounter would have taken place; but isn’t it a right of American citizens to have a lawyer present when talking to law enforcement officials? Evidently that right does not exist if you are an American Muslim, and why should it, if over the past decade an enormous amount of legal maneuvering has made it possible for what was formally known as rights to due process available to ALL citizens are now being denied people of the Islamic faith.  Common knowledge and wisdom about a person’s rights to legal access and the necessity thereof seem to be irrelevant and inapplicable to America’s Muslims, and this seems to be continuing into the second term of America’s latest progressive president who happens to have been a constitutional professor.

America must stop this decline into the illegal abyss because if it’s possible to make this step with one group of American citizens it can extend to each and every one of us; once precedent is accepted it becomes the rule of law and there is very little likelihood of retreat from the abuses that will arise thereof.   I hope that EVERY American can see the disadvantage of remaining silent as this happens to a very disliked, despised group of Americans and support them even if it’s to keep the same abuses from happening to them.  Wake up America, please.

Muslims hate everything Americans stand for and will never coexist with (them)


English: mecca from jabal al nur

English: mecca from jabal al nur (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s what people in the US military are being taught

The US military has been offering a course which teaches that its enemy is Islam in general, suggesting a Hiroshima-type massacre to obliterate the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina in what can be seen as another instance of promoting Islamophobia in the United States.

he course, titled “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism,” was offered five times a year since 2004, with about 20 students each time, meaning roughly 800 students have taken the course over the years before it was removed in late April after protests.

“They [Muslims] hate everything you [Americans] stand for and will never coexist with you, unless you submit,” the instructor, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Dooley, said in a presentation last July for the course at Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, the Associated Press reported.

The college, for professional military members, teaches mid-level officers and government civilians on subjects related to planning and executing war. Dooley, who still works for the college, also presumed, for the purposes of his theoretical war plan, that the Geneva Conventions that set standards of armed conflict are “no longer relevant.”

“This would leave open the option once again of taking war to a civilian population wherever necessary (the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki being applicable…),” Dooley said.

His war plan suggests possible outcomes such as “Saudi Arabia threatened with starvation…Islam reduced to cult status,” and the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia “destroyed.” In his July 2011 presentation on a “counter-jihad,” Dooley asserted that the rise of what he called a “military Islam/Islamist resurgence” compels the United States to consider extreme measures, “unconstrained by fears of political incorrectness.”

A copy of the presentation was obtained and posted online by Wired.com’s Danger Room blog. The college didn’t respond to requests by the Associated Press for copies of the documents, but a Pentagon spokesman authenticated the documents. Dooley also refused to comment to the AP, saying “Can’t talk to you, sir,” and hanging up when reached by telephone at his office Thursday.

This is not the first such incident as only last year the FBI was forced to discontinue a lecture that was hostile to Islam. The instructor of the course had told agent trainees in Virginia that the more devout a Muslim is, the more likely he is to be violent.

The report comes less than two months after the US forces, in a blatantly Islamophobic act, burned the copies of the Holy Qur’an and other Islamic materials at the US-run Bagram Airbase in the province of Parwan in northeastern Afghanistan.

Islamophobia is systematically promoted and financially supported in the United States. An in-depth investigation into Islamophobia carried out by the Center for American Progress in the United States dubbed as ‘Fear, Inc. The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America’, sheds light on the collective efforts of the Zionist groups funded by the United States in pedaling a hatred for and a fear of Islam in the form of books, reports, websites, blogs, and carefully crafted talking points.

According to the report, these wealthy donors and foundations also provide direct funding to anti-Islam grassroots groups.

The project of Islamophobia which has cost more than $40 million over the past ten years has been funded by seven foundations in the United States: 1. Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation; 2. Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; 3. Newton and Rochelle Becker; 4. Foundation and Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust; 5. Russell Berrie Foundation, Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald; 6. Family Fund; 7. Fairbrook Foundation.

I’m looking at all the people responsible for this hate and see a lot of them with the word Family in their names.  You’ve got to wonder how much family and family values have to do with hating a group of people because of their religious preference.  Someone once suggested that Islamophobia closely resemble anti-semitism in nature and I’d have to agree.  The raw hatred promoted by such propaganda within the ranks of the US military makes it easy to see why and how atrocities which we’ve witnessed in Afghanistan and earlier Iraq can be so easily swept under the carpet, or not reported at all.

Spineless


, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

Image via Wikipedia

Rick Santorum is another one of the GOP candidates for president who should be roundly and openly “refudiated” for lacking the moral courage to confront and correct a lie when given the opportunity.  You can read about his cowardly approach to a questioner’s assertion that President Obama is a “Muslim” here. The article goes on to say even John McCain corrected someone when faced with a similar situation during the 2008 campaign, but Santorum chose to play to the fear of the crowd and let the statement go unanswered.  His even lamer excuse that it’s not his responsibility to correct every misguided claim only leads one to wonder if elected how would he address lies that affect the national interest.  Would he be as pusillanimous with them as well?  Would he lead the country into war because he is unable to correct mistaken notions about adversaries, or believe that the people on the other end of the lie  should be thick skinned enough to withstand US military intervention?  America, these are the choices the GOP has presented us;  the likes of people who aspire to be our leaders and lead based on racial animosity, loathing, hatred, and fear.  Perhaps the GOP has become irrelevant to the life of this Nation….perhaps it’s time to “refudiate” the entire Party of people who want to take the country in this direction.  Then of course, there’s Ron Paul……..

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….the true and authentic teachings of Islam promote the sanctity of human life, dignity of all humans, and respect of human, civil and political rights. Islamic teachings uphold religious freedom and adherence to the same universal moral values which are accepted by the majority of people of all backgrounds and upon which the US Constitution was established and according to which the Bill of Rights was enunciated.

……we the members of FCNA (Fiqh Council of North America) believe that it is false and misleading to suggest that there is a contradiction between being faithful Muslims committed to God (Allah) and being loyal American citizens. Islamic teachings require respect of the laws of the land where Muslims live as minorities, including the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, so long as there is no conflict with Muslims’ obligation for obedience to God. We do not see any such conflict with the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. The primacy of obedience to God is a commonly held position of many practicing Jews and Christians as well.
We believe further that as citizens of a free and democratic society, we have the same obligations and rights of all US citizens. We believe that right of dissent can only be exercised in a peaceful and lawful manner to advance the short and long term interests of our country.

The Fiqh Council of North America calls on all Muslim Americans and American citizens at large to engage in objective, peaceful and respectful dialogue at all levels and spheres of common social concerns. We call upon all Muslim Americans to be involved in solving pressing social problems, such as the challenge of poverty, discrimination, violence, health care and environmental protection. It is fully compatible with Islam for Muslims to integrate positively in the society of which they are equal citizens, without losing their identity as Muslims (just as Jews and Christians do not lose their religious identity in doing the same).