Friday, December 31, 2010

black asgardians... yeaaaaaaah boy!



You may have heard that in the upcoming Thor film the very black actor Idris Elba will play the Norse god Heimdall. (Apparently Flavor Flav's silly Viking cap wasn't just part of a minstrel show. In reality he was laying the subliminal groundwork for a more subversive objective).

Of course, there are some racists who are objecting to the casting decision but (even apart from the basic fact that racism is stupid) if you actually read the comic books there are some interesting reasons to support the unconventional casting.

First of all, the "gods" of Asgard aren't human in the first place so you can't really argue that they are really white or black. In fact, in some parts of the Marvel mulitverse, (the Earth X continuity) the Asgardians are shapeshifting extraterrestrials whose forms change with the perception of others. Secondly, in Marvel Comics' Lost Gods storyline the gods of Asgard are given human identities and in Heimdall's case, he became a Latino man named Donald Velez. Thirdly, in a more recent storyline, after Asgard is destroyed in Ragnarok, Heimdall takes on the form of a Katrina survivor named Ezra. (both personas lost their homes in cataclysmic ways). In any case, the bottom line is based on the comics, the idea of a black Heimdall actually isn't so strange.

Racialicious: Thor Losers: ‘Christian’ Group Aghast At Idris Elba’s Godliness
Guardian: White supremacists urge Thor boycott over casting of black actor as Norse god
The Root: White Supremacist Group Boycotting 'Thor' Because of Elba Casting


Thursday, December 30, 2010

cuba and zimbabwe and hip-hop politcs

The editorial, Cuba and Zimbabwe: Hip-Hop’s Defining Foreign Policy Issue In 2011 by Cedric Muhammad gives an interesting glimpse of the connections between music, politics and Pan-Africanism.

young, muslim and black

better late than never...

Huff Post: Ashura: Shi'a Islam's Day of Sorrow and Inspiration
BBC: Young Muslims urged to give blood during Muharram
BBC: Afghans donate blood for Ashura

What I found most interesting about this is the way that blood donation is being suggested as a "modern" way to replace the self-flagellation which "traditionally" accompanies Ashura.

rumi anniversary

Whirling Dervishes Celebrate Rumi Anniversary

Friday, December 24, 2010

"how come you ain't got no brothers up on the wall?"... oh, there they are...

The Root: The Black Magi and Other Black Religious figures in European Christmas Art

the hajj and the apartheid train

The Hajj and the Apartheid Train: Where Is the Muslim Outrage? by Ziyad Motola reflects on the ways in which modern Saudi society has gone against Islamic ideals of egalitarianism. This is particularly exemplified in the comfortable train which takes Saudi and Gulf state citizens to the holy sites during hajj, while other Muslims must either walk or take the bus,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

qui-gon, islam and narnia

In a recent interview Liam Neeson (who voices the voice of Aslan in the Narnia films and Qui-Gon Jinn in the Star Wars prequal films) has gotten into a bit of "trouble" with exclusive-minded Christians because he said:


Aslan symbolises a Christ-like figure but he also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries. That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me.


As far as I can tell, many voices in the Christian/conservative blogosphere seem to be taking the position that Liam Neeson is simply stupid, but I would tend to argue that the issue is a bit more complex. On the one hand, C.S. Lewis was obviously a Christian and intended Aslan to represent Jesus, the Conquering Lion of Judah.

But in an old post over at Islamicate you can find a tongue-in-cheek argument that C.S. Lewis is Muslim and that Aslan is best seen as an allegory for Imam Ali (after all, "Aslan" is actually Persian for "lion" and one of Ali's titles is the Lion of God).

More support for Liam Neeson's inclusive position can be found in the Narnia books themselves and how they present Aslan as a being with multiple forms and names. (And a previous Grenada post actually explores the idea, held by some Muslims, that essentially the same light that shone through Muhammad (saaws) shone through all the prophets, including Jesus (as)). In The Last Battle, Lewis seems to endorse the concept of the anonymous Christian when he describes the encounter between Aslan and Emeth (a visitor from a neighboring country who was worshiping "another" God named Tash all his life):


"Then I [Emeth] fell at his [Aslan's] feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, 'Son, thou art welcome.' But I said, 'Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.' He answered, 'Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.' Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, 'Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that though and Tash are one?'The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, 'It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites - I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, child?'

So arguably, according to Lewis, the good deeds of the Muslim and the Buddhist are accepted and rewarded by God, whether they are done in the name of Christ or not.

As a counterpoint, some might argue that Lewis' views about Muslims are suggested in his descriptions of the Calormen who worship the demon-God Tash. Calormenes are described as dark-skinned, with the men mostly bearded. Flowing robes, turbans and wooden shoes with an upturned point at the toe are common items of clothing, and the preferred weapon is the scimitar. Their country is bordered, on the north, by a Great Desert. When people like Philip Pullman (the author of the "anti-Narnia" series, His Dark Materials) criticize the Narnia books as racist, the argument is basically about this group.

So we are left with a weird sort of tension... if we assume C.S. Lewis believes in the concept of the anonymous Christian (or as Matthew 25 says, those who are welcomed into God's kingdom because of how they treated "the least of these") then, at least theoretically, Lewis believes in the salvation of the "good Muslim". On the other hand, his, arguably racist, depiction of the Calormen leaves one wondering how he really felt about flesh-and-blood Middle Easterners, Persians, Africans, etc.

The Guardian: All is well with Narnia (which deals with the Liam Neeson "gaffe")
SfReviews.net: The Last Battle (with a discussion of Lewis' racism re: the Calormen)
This Ain't Livin': Red Dwarf, Black Dwarf: The Racial Overtones of Narnia
Beliefnet: The Lion, the Muslim, and the Dryer by Dilshad Ali

Planet Grenada:
pride of baghdad
the devil and al-hallaj
harry potter and the last review
harry potter and the magic of whiteness
bell hooks v. harry potter


the scholarly hooligan (and kick-ass poet)

Just giving a shout out for Logic the Poet (known as The Scholarly Hooligan on my blogroll). He's been mentioned (without being named) on my blog before (see negrophobia, hope and gasoline and interesting weekend...) but between his blog and some YouTube channel's he's been appearing on the internet more often and so I thought I'd help him get his 15 minutes.... enjoy...


A piece on New Orleans and Katrina called "Purpose Poetry"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

heads up y'all

This Thursday coming up is the 10th of Muharram (Ashurah). It is recommended to fast on that day and to join with it either the day before or the day after.

day after day after day...
muharram facts
ashurah
more muharram posts
ashurah 1428

Also, happy new year (1432)!

so apparently the elves are black... and muslim

Santa and Pete Poster
Over at Black Improvement Blogging there is an interesting post called Santa's Black Elf. They give a nice summary of some of the European legends and customs surrounding Santa Claus, especially in terms of his assistant/slave Black Peter. Depending on the time and place, St. Nicholas has been assisted by a shackled devil, a Moorish servant, a Black freedman named Peter, or six to eight black men in addition to the diminutive non-union workers (elves) we are familiar with in the United States. In the film Santa and Pete this Black character is apparently portrayed as a Muslim.

And before anyone is tempted to go think that this kind of imagery is limited to white Christianity, you should probably explore the Persian character of Hajji Firuz who is often portrayed in blackface and associated with Nowruz or the Persian New Year.

see also:
the wise men

Sunday, December 05, 2010

kabbalah and jazz

The article, Kabbalah and Jazz: The Mystical Foundation of Improvisational Music reminded me of the film Happy Feet and how every penguin has their own unique heartsong when it says:
In his great work To Heal the Soul, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira wrote that all humans each have their own unique musical ladder -- a distinct melody that allows one to draw down spiritual sustenance into this world. This melody is exclusive and in essence can not be performed by anyone else. He believes that it is so individualized that to use someone else's ladder is like putting someone else's saliva into your mouth to sing. This concept is so ubiquitous, so universal, that Rebbe Nachman of Breslov went as far as to say that each and every blade of grass has its own unique melody as well.

For more reflections on jazz and spirituality from an Islamic perspective.
all that jazz...
the writings of yusef lateef
the philosophy of ahmed abdul-malik

my name is khan (finally saw it)

A few months ago, without actually having seen the film, I had posted some links/letters regarding the movie My Name is Khan and the controversial decision by the Muslim Public Affairs Council to honor the film with its "Voices of Courage and Conscience" Media Award. (see my name is not khan and my name is still not khan ). The film has been described as a kind of "Muslim Forrest Gump" where the hero, Rizvan Khan, a Muslim man with Asperger Syndrome is on a mission to meet the President of the United States and tell him "My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist."

Now that I have seen the movie (thanks to the used DVD bin at Blockbuster) I'm in a better position to appreciate what the disagreement was about. I totally see Su’ad Abdul Khabeer's point about the film. It's portrayal of African-Americans in rural Georgia was definitely archaic, stereotypical and problematic. And in spite of the criticisms which can still be made about how Hollywood deals with race, one would be hard pressed to find a contemporary American film which portrays Blacks in such a fashion.

But My Name is Khan, is most definitely not an American film It is an Indian-centered film for an Indian audience. So even though most of the film was set in the United States, most of the dialogue was in Hindi or Urdu and most of the subjects/agents in the film were of Indian descent; Indian store owners, professors, motel managers, news reporters, and doctors, etc. (so "of course" the African-American characters will be poorly fleshed out stereotypes).

In fact, it wouldn't really be correct to call it a "pro-Muslim" film. From an early scene in the movie we see Rizvan Khan's mother teach him explicitly that there is no difference between Muslim and Hindu. There are just two kinds of people in the world, good people and bad people. And so we see many examples of "bad Muslims" (e.g. a terrorist recruiter speaking in a mosque, a Muslim couple who are too embarrassed to pray in front of non-Muslims, Rizvan's jealous and then estranged brother Zakir) and good non-Muslims (Rizvan's Hindu wife and stepson, the white couple who befriend them, different Sikh and Hindu Indian-Americans who support Khan on his journey). In fact, we see many more examples of Hindus and Sikhs being victimized in the post-9/11 environment than we see of Muslims. (And African-American Muslims are absent).

Basically I think our evaluation of the film depends entirely on where we choose to set the bar. If we want to compare My Name is Khan to more typical Hollywood portrayals of Muslims (see planet of the arabs) then of course we would say that MNIK is wonderful. And I would actually say that, except for the scenes involving African-Americans, MNIK is basically a fun, entertaining, Bollywood film. But if we demand a higher degree of excellence, and especially if the film is to receive an award from a major Muslim-American organization because of its "courage" and "conscience" I think it is fair to hold the film to a higher standard. And by that standard, the other winners of the 2010 MPAC Courage and Conscience Media Award were more deserving.

In fact, looking at past winners of the award, I'm tempted to think that some other cultural productions and performances are more deserving... Don Cheadle in Traitor for instance or Keith David as Abu 'Imam' al-Walid in the Chronicles of Riddick. Some more controversial alternative choices might be Amir Sulaiman, the film New Muslim Cool, Mos Def and K'naan on Austin City Limits, Lupe Fiasco and others. Lets hope that MPAC is more "courageous" when it gives out awards in the future.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

entrapment or foiling terror?

Democracy Now!: Entrapment or Foiling Terror? FBI’s Reliance on Paid Informants Raises Questions about Validity of Terrorism Cases This is a slightly older article about the Newburgh Four which I had never got around to posting. It seemed timely because of the concerns about entrapment in the Mohamed Osman Mohamud case.

explosive weekend

Speaking of bombs, there have been several "explosive" stories in the news lately which will probably raise some interesting questions regarding how the media covers terrorism and violence from Muslims and non-Muslims.

On the one hand you have the occasional-beer-drinking Somali teenager Mohamed Osman Mohamud who was recently arrested in a sting-operation. Mohamud's "plan" was to detonate a van full of explosives near a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. But he was never actually in touch with any international terrorists. His "co-conspirators" were FBI agents who gave him inert explosives for the "attack"... so the public was never in actual danger. Of course, there is a question of possible entrapment. In fact, he originally got on the FBI's radar in the first place because his Muslim father was worried about changes in his son's behavior and personality and alerted some government officials. So instead of doing an intervention or finding some other constructive way to direct this confused and restless young man to channel his energy into something peaceful and positive, officials chose to fan the flames, get a notch on their belt, and ruin this kids life for the next couple of decades.

On the other hand you have George Djura Jakubec, a 54 year-old Serbian national and computer software consultant who a was apparently using his home to stockpile the largest collection of homemade explosives (e.g. PETN and HMTD) ever gathered in U.S. history. Authorities are still investigating the case but the explosives involved are apparently so unstable that the investegators are reluctant about rushing into the house. Also, it seems as if Jakubec isn't Muslim so it will be interesting to see whether this case will change the public narrative about Muslims and profiling. Fortunately no one was hurt.

Finally (and this is more of an epilogue to the first story) an Oregon mosque where Mohamed Osman Mohamud "occasionally" went for prayers suffered an arson attack after it became associated with the failed car bomb incident in the subsequent news reports. (Note, that out of the three situations mentioned, this is the only actual completed act of terrorism.

Let's keep an eye on how each of these stories is covered/presented in the media.

Greenwald: FBI Thwarts its Own Terrorist Plot
Oregon Muslim leaders fear retribution after plot
US probing arson at mosque for ties to Somali case
Investigation Of Giant Home 'Bomb Factory' Suspended Over Dangerous Conditions
Largest cache of PETN explosives found on Thanksgiving Day

Planet Grenada's Past:
on joe (joseph) stack
the murder of george tiller
eric robert rudolph
miami and the seas of david
juan cole on the miami group
amish drug rings or why profiling is really stupid


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

good for the goose?

Quick thought: In the post-Facebook post-Google information age, modern individuals are basically being "asked" to get by with a much more limited expectation of privacy. Anybody with internet access can look you up and easily find surprising amounts of information about you. It only takes a few keystrokes to find things that, in a previous era, would have taken a private detective or a dedicated stalker hours or even days of legwork to find out. This is actually not why I'm posting... this is just a (sad and depressing) feature of modern life on the grid which I've blogged about before.

The new thought which occurs to me is that given all of the above, the current Wikileaks controversy should not be exaggerated. The governments of the world should learn to operate with greater transparency and greater public scrutiny analogously to how individuals "have to" live with less privacy today. Now, if there is a clear case of Wikileaks' actions leading to people being in actual danger for their lives then the organization should definitely be prosecuted as appropriate, but most of the revelations which have been reported on seem merely embarrassing at worst. In fact, I suspect that in the long run Wikileaks' actions will tend to be a valuable and illuminating counter-weight to government corruption and dishonesty.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

please don't bomb the suburbs

I just finished reading Upski's latest book: Please Don't Bomb The Suburbs

I've mentioned him before and I used to go to school with him many moons ago. (We went to each others birthday parties way back in elementary school.) Sadly, I've almost totally lost touch with him since high school.

In alot of ways, his latest book is more a continuation of How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office than a sequel to Bomb the Suburbs. The original Bomb the Suburbs (from what I recall) was more about hip-hop music and tagging. And while both have a role in Please Don't Bomb the Suburbs, his latest book deals more with an analysis of the current state of progressive political organizing and Upski's reflections on the pitfalls and challenges of a life of activism.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

saints, patriots, heretics and traitors (part two)

At the same time, religion is supposed to represent matters of "ultimate concern" (to borrow Tillich's phrase) and in principle should properly trump other worldly concerns (including law, family and country). Some positive and principled examples which come to mind would be the various peace churches, the Catholic Worker movement, Martin Luther King Jr. and Shane Claiborne (who wrote an interesting book I've mentioned before called Jesus for President). I normally don't think of them as extrememly political but one could also mentioned the Jehovah's Witnesses who refuse to serve in the military, pledge alleigance to flags or sing national anthems.

In the Bible, one of the more well-known proof texts which is typically used to advocate for some kind of compromise between religion and the state is Matthew 22:15-21

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Even though the text is usually quoted to support the idea of compromise, I can't help but wonder if the usual reading is a fundamental misunderstanding. According to the Bible, whose image are we made in? Who is ultimately the Master and Owner of our lives? And in the end, what does Caesar have that God didn't give him in the first place?

In an analagous fashion, Islam tends to eye nationalism with suspicion as a form of idolatry. (Anyone remember Mahmud Abdul-Rauf?) But how can one make a distinction between negative ways of placing creed before country (e.g. Cantor) and positive ones (Martin Luther King)? To be honest, I'm still trying to articulate that for myself.

to be continued....



Planet Grenada:
saints, patriots, heretics and traitors (part one)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

saints, patriots, heretics and traitors (part one)

For the past couple of days I've been thinking about how to best process the recent flap involving Eric Cantor. For those who hadn't heard, Rep. Cantor is a Republican Congressman from Virginia who is set to become the highest ranking Jewish Congressman in history. He also had a recent one-on-one meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, where he assured the PM that "the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington," and that "the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other."

Several bloggers are pointing out that Cantor's comments could constitute a felony (a violation of the Logan Act) and in fact Cantor himself has made similar accusations against other members of Congress who have had independent interactions with foreign leaders. Others in the blogosphere are even accusing Cantor of treason and calling for his impeachment. I think he should definitely be given some sanctions for pledging to a foreign leader that he would serve as a check on the White House, but I'm not holding my breath.

The Cantor incident made me think about the general problem of how members of different religious minorities in the US (Catholics, Jews, Muslims) have often been accused of having divided loyalties. And more generally, it's made me think about how the various communities themselves view the relationship between loyalty to God (or religious community or religious principles) and loyalty to ones country and the demands of citizenship.

When minorities are said to have split loyalties (or accused of being unpatriotic or "unAmerican") it can often be rooted in ignorance and can be dismissed as an expression of prejudice or bigotry. (A good example would be how John F. Kennedy's Catholic faith was made into an issue when he was running for President.) And so I'm tempted to say that all such language is illegitimate... except that there are cases of people like Cantor who are exceptions to the rule. On the Christian side we could also point to Premillenialists who base their foreign policy on their anachronistic reading of Biblical eschatology instead of what is objectively in the best interests of the United States and its citizens.

(more later...)

OpEd News: Cantor, Thy Name is Traitor by Saman Mohammadi
Salon: Eric Cantor's Pledge of Alleigance
Laura Rozen: Before Clinton meeting, Cantor's one-on-one with Bibi

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

islam and the secular state (part two)

So I finally finished reading Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim's Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari'a. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the book. That isn't to say that An-Naim's ideas weren't provocative or intriguing or worth further contemplation. But I was more impressed by him as a speaker and as a thinker (based on various clips of lectures and interviews available online) than as a writer per se. In the earlier chapters of the book he tended to sound a bit repetitive and I found him a little abstract for my taste.

But he does get particularly eloquent when he is laying out his central premise in the very last chapter:
As a Muslim, I need a secular state in order to live in accordance with Shari'a out of my own genuine conviction and free choice, personally and in community with other Muslims, which is the only valid and legitimate way of being a Muslim. Belief in Islam, or any other religion, logically requires the possibility of disbelief, because belief has no value if it is coerced. If I am unable to disbelieve, I will not be able to believe. Maintaining institutional separation between Islam and the state while regulating the permanent connection of Islam and politics is a necessary condition for achieving the positive role of Shari'a now and in the future.

In many ways, the above paragraph is the heart of the book and the rest of the text is an elaboration and an unpacking of his words here.

I almost want to say that I wish he were more opinionated. I was left wondering how he concretely imagines the "separation of Islam and the state" on the one hand, and the "permanent connection of Islam and politics" on the other. He was at his most engaging when describing the interplay between Islam, the state and politics in particular settings; the caliphate of Abu Bakr (ra) and then more recently in India, Turkey and Indonesia. But I would have liked to hear him share his views on Islam and secularism in other locations; for example, Saudi Arabia, Iran, France, the US and especially his own native Sudan. I also would have liked to see him engage a bit more with the religious arguments of those who advocate for some form of "Islamic government". Maybe that's for the next book?

islam and the secular state
the postcolonial condition of muslim states
conversations with history: abdullahi ahmed an-naim

Monday, November 08, 2010

keith ellison on the tea party, anti-muslim bigotry, yemen and juan williams

Democracy Now!: Rep. Keith Ellison on Tea Party, Anti-Muslim Bigotry, US-backed Assassinations in Yemen, and the Firing of Juan Williams

It is worth noting that one of the few bright spots of this past Election Day is the fact that this brother is staying in congress for another term.

keith ellison and the tea party's view of sharia

Keith Ellison and the Tea Party's View of Sharia by Sumbul Ali-Karamali

oklahoma and the sharia

As you may have heard, 70% of Oklahoma voters recently approved a measure to ban the use of sharia law in Oklahoma courts. I've been thinking about this for a couple of days now and I'm still not sure what the measure really means.

Most of the examples which come to mind when I even try to imagine what "applying the sharia" would mean in the U.S. context are either things which are already clearly prohibited by the First Amendment or things which are clearly protected by the First Amendment. So the Oklahoma referendum fundamentally seems either redundant or unconstitutional.

The U.S. Constitution already protects non-Muslim from having "the sharia" imposed on them, while Muslims should be free to follow the sharia in matters such as marriage, inheritance, business contracts and financial arrangements. And if the terms of such agreements were drawn up in a sufficiently clear manner, why couldn't or shouldn't they be adjudicated by a U.S. court? In fact, Jews and Christians in the US already have established several institutions which allow for alternative conflict resolution according to their own religious principles but with a certain amoutn of legal validity as well. Why couldn't Muslims set up similar "courts" in the U.S.? I've never been to law school but I find it hard to imagine that a referendum which actually singles out a specific religion for special exclusion could pass constitutional muster.


Here is what appeared on the ballot in Oklahoma:

STATE QUESTION NO. 755 LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 355
This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.

International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons. The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.

So in addition to the sharia, the Oklahoma courts apparently can not consider the Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.
SHALL THE PROPOSAL BE APPROVED?
FOR THE PROPOSAL — YES
AGAINST THE PROPOSAL — NO



The only thing clear about the law is that it loudly says: "We hate Muslims and want to give them a hard time."

But even apart from its impact on Muslims, it seems like the proposal opens up a whole can of worms. It doesn't just try to exclude the use of the shaira but international law as well. Maybe they can start building Black site prisons in Oklahoma to replace Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo since the Geneva Convention apparently doesn't apply there? Or maybe Oklahoma will become a resort for international criminals if extradition treaties are no longer valid there? How does the referendum effect Indian casinos if Oklahoma courts refuse to respect tribal law?

CAIR has already made some legal moves against the referendum (An initial hearing is set for today.) InshaAllah sooner heads will prevail.

Ballotpedia: Oklahoma "Sharia Law Amendment", State Question 755 (2010)
Huff Post: Caliphate on the Range? The Shariah Precedent in American Courts
The American Muslim: Islamic Sharia and Jewish Halakha Arbitration Courts - updated 5/21/10

Sunday, October 31, 2010

the catholic church and israel

This month there was a meeting of Middle Eastern Catholic bishops in Rome which produced a number of interesting statements on the conflict in Israel/Palestine. I was mainly struck by three things. First, in spite of the fact that in the U.S. the Catholic Church seems to be associated with very conservative political stances when it comes to sexuality and in spite of the massively negative negative feelings related to the international child sex abuse scandal, the Church often takes relatively progressive positions when it comes to peace, international relations and human rights.
Bishops from the Middle East who were summoned to Rome by the pope demanded Saturday that Israel accept U.N. resolutions calling for an end to its "occupation" of Arab lands. In a final joint communique, the bishops also told Israel it shouldn't use the Bible to justify injustices against the Palestinians. During the meeting, several bishops blamed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for spurring the flight – a position echoed in their final paper. While the bishops condemned terrorism and anti-Semitism, they laid much of the blame for the conflict squarely on Israel. They listed the "occupation" of Palestinian lands, Israel's separation barrier with the West Bank, its military checkpoints, political prisoners, demolition of homes and disturbance of Palestinians' socio-economic lives as factors that have made life increasingly difficult for Palestinians.

Secondly, it was bizarre to me that one particular Archbishop was singled out for criticism by the Israelis, essentially for making a theological statement.
"We Christians cannot speak of the 'promised land' as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people," said Archbishop Cyril Bustros, a native of Lebanon who is currently a Melkite Greek Catholic bishop in Newton, Mass.

"This promise was nullified by Christ," Bustros said at a Vatican press conference marking the end of a two-week session of the Synod of Bishops. "There is no longer a chosen people -- all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people."

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called Bustros' statement "a libel against the Jewish people and the State of Israel," and expressed "our disappointment that this important synod has become a forum for political attacks on Israel in the best history of Arab propaganda."
So in order to not libel the Jewish people one has to believe in the eternal and unique chosenness of the children of Israel? It reminded me of the controversy which surrounded the release of Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ. On the one hand the film was accused by the ADL of being antisemitic. On the other hand the film was largely based on the Biblical account of Jesus' death and fleshed out by a number of other Catholic sources (the stations of the cross, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Anne Catherine Emmerich, and The Mystical City of God by María de Ágreda). According to some sources, when Pope John Paul II saw the film he responded by saying "It is as it was." So even though the ADL's criticism was largely aimed at Mel Gibson, on another level what was really being criticized was Biblical (especially Catholic) Christianity as such.

The clearest example of this sort of duality is the scene in the movie where the (presumably Jewish) crowd calls out for the criminal Barabbas to be saved rather than Jesus (as). And so in Aramaic the crowd shouts out regarding Christ, "His blood be on us and on our children." On the one hand the ADL can blame Gibson for putting the line in his movie, but on the other hand the line comes straight out of the Gospel According to Matthew. So is the ADL's problem with the film or the New Testament?

Similarly, can the perspectives expressed at this recent gathering of Catholic clergy by dismissed as anti-semitism or should they be given more respect as reflecting basic Catholic teaching on the Middle East?

The third thing that really struck me was the fact that Archbishop Bustros' assertion that the Jewish covenant is no longer in effect has actually been supported by some Orthodox Jews (see the end of the covenant) so it seems somewhat odd to criticize Gentiles for holding what amounts to the same position.

From Huff Post:
Catholic Bishops Demand Israel End Occupation of Palestinian Land
U.S. Bishop Says Jews Have No 'Exclusive Right' To Israel

From the Vatican Website:
SYNODUS EPISCOPORUM BULLETIN

Thursday, October 28, 2010

shaikhs on a plane

I've only seen a few Muslims online reference the Juan Williams firing, but the responses I've seen have been surprisingly nuanced. For sure, no one is gloating. I think it should be clear that the incident is not an indication of greater sensitivity towards Muslims in American society as much as it is just the fallout of a snarky conflict involving NPR, Fox and Juan Williams.

San Francisco Muslim: Juan Willams Stars in "Shaikhs on a Plane"
Imam Johari Abdul Malik: I’m a Garb-Wearing Muslim and Juan Williams Has a Point!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

...and they apparently hate muslims too

Colorlines: Tea Party Leader: Target Rep. Ellison Because He’s Muslim

yup, the tea party is racist


Tea Party Nationalism: A Critical Examination of the Tea Party Movement and the Size, Scope, and Focus of Its National Factions is an incredibly extensive 94-page report on the Tea Party which, among other things, outlines its connections to various hate groups. While affirming the most Tea Partiers are people of goodwill, the report identifies non-trivial links to more extreme groups.

Based on analysis of media coverage, site visits to tea party events and tea party literature, the report finds that the tea party itself has become a site for recruitment by white supremicists and others. And, beyond this susceptibility, some members of the leadership of the core tea party groups are connected to extremist groups or positions. Tea party leaders and core members are connected or affiliated with the Minuteman, the birther movement, antisemites, professional Islamophobes (Pamela Geller), and the Council of Conservative Citizens.

And because of the decentralized nature of some of the tea party organizations, they’ve made themselves susceptible to insidious efforts of white nationalists to grasp onto the movement’s success.

From: Yup, the Tea Party’s Racist, Study Finds (But It’s Not Alone)

Monday, October 25, 2010

a plague on both your houses... and juan williams

[First the facts]
By now you've probably heard that Juan Williams was fired from his job at NPR, ostensibly for making certain comments about Muslims while appearing with Bill O'Reilly on Fox News in the wake of O'Reilly's own controversial appearance on The View. The main statement by Williams at the center of the storm is the following:

I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.


Not that long after making these comments, Juan Williams lost his job at NPR and not long after that he was offered a new three-year two million dollar contract with Fox News.

[climbing on soapbox]

-What Juan Williams said was Islamophobic in the most literal sense (i.e.expressing an irrational fear of Muslims) and by his own admission reflects his own thoughts and feelings. He's going to have to work on his neurosis on his own time.

-To his credit, what he said actually wasn't that bad. He didn't try to use his Islamophobia to argue that Muslims should give up some of our First Amendment rights (e.g. move the Park 51 project) or argue that that Muslims as a group should receive differential treatment (e.g. profiling).

-I would even argue that if we are going to have an honest discussion about Islamophobia in America, then it is actually necessary for there to be *some* forums somewhere, some safe spaces where non-Muslims can candidly express their fears, misgivings, etc. about Muslims. (A televised broadcast by a "neutral" news analyst is NOT one of those forums.) The priority here is on expressing emotion not advocating for specific public policies. And of course, it is also necessary (and much more rare) for there to be safe spaces for Muslims to express how the post 9/11 climate makes us feel.

-What Juan Williams said is mild compared to the bigotry which the usual talking heads spew on Fox. In fact, what Bill O'Reilly said on The View or what Brian Killmeade said in his defense is orders of magnitude more offensive than what Juan Williams said. I really do believe in freedom of speech and an open marketplace of ideas so I don't actually want to see them censored, but anyone in the media is going to lose their job for making bigoted comments, there are a lot of folks who should get booted before Juan Williams.

-Juan Williams' real offense is that he allowed his reputation as a "reasonable" and liberal journalist (in part developed through his relationship with NPR) to provide cover and defense for the more extreme bigots at Fox.

-If the decision to fire Williams was only based on Williams' own comments, then NPR definitely overreacted. I'm more inclined to believe that since Fox News and NPR are competing news organizations, the executives at NPR probably weren't happy with Juan Williams' relationship with Fox for a while and were just looking for a convenient excuse to fire him.

-In hindsight, NPR definitely made a bad call. They are coming out of this looking like clumsy opponents of free speech and they have basically only strengthened Fox's position.

Huff Post: Juan Williams FIRED: NPR Sacks Analyst Over Fox News Muslim Comments
Garvey's Ghost: NPR and the Silencing of Outspoken Black Men
Michael Moore: Open Letter to Juan Williams
Juan Cole: Williams supported Imus Firing, Censoring of Rap Music
Juan Cole: End Federal Tax Subsidies to Fox!
Bin Gregory: Muslim Garb
Daily Show: NPR Staffing Decision 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

reconsider columbus day campaign

Better late than never...
Apparently this year there is a Reconsider Columbus Day campaign. (You also might want to check out Truthout: Reconsidering Columbus Day Campaign Suggests Honoring Indigenous People's History Instead I was tempted to just do a recap with plenty of similar links I've mentioned before over the years on previous Columbus Days (and Thanksgivings) but then decided against it. It isn't that I think such reminders are useless... rather I imagine that most of the sympathetic and interested readers of my blog already understand that some of our national American celebrations have an underside to them and it would be hard to say anything surprising or new.

On a related note: A few months ago, well before Columbus Day, it had occurred to me that if I'm honest with myself, in spite of how "down" I might think I am, I don't think I have a really good sense of American Indians want or need. I mean, I've blogged on the above-mentioned holidays from time and realize that some Native groups advocate for more mindful alternative commemorations. And I've also blogged a little on using ethnic mascots for sports teams. But aside from those symbolic struggles what else is there?

Are there specific treaties which are important to enforce? Do tribes want greater sovereignty? In what ways? Are casinos a good source of revenue? Should reservations be expanded? What would be necessary in order for the US to fairly redress the historical wrongs which were done to Native Americans? What would a "just" United States look like? Seriously. Should non-Indians just all pack up and leave Idi Amin style? And if not, then what is the most just arrangement moving forward?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

imagine

The recent occasion of John Lennon's 70th birthday put me in a mood to wonder about what different covers/versions/mash-ups had been done of the famous anti-anthem, "Imagine".

I actually found two which were (mostly) in Arabic:

Noa & Khaled (Marrakech)

and also

GAROU / Patrick FIORI / Luck MERVIL / Julie ZENATTI / Rachid TAHA / KHALED / FAUDEL / Liane FOLY / Tina ARENA / Julien CLERC / Cheb MAMI

One of the more technically interesting is:

where the lyrics, instead of being sung by John Lennon, were taken from samples of George Bush speeches.


This version by A Perfect Circle, is darker than most, both musically and visually. The historical images definitely underline the wide distance between Lennon's ideals and contemporary reality.


This one is of Bill Clinton "singing" along with a choir of Arab and Jewish children.

And of course there are at least two hip-hop versions:

Nas + Pitbull (remix)


2Pac vs. John Lennon - DJ Vlad Rock Phenomenon Remix

In both of the above, the songs start off being nearly-identical to the original and the rap doesn't come in until fairly late in each song.

You might also be interested in:
Digg: Best and Worst Imagine Covers which includes versions by Diana Ross, Avril Lavigne, David Bowie and Queen along with a Gregorian chant version, a Latin version, an electronica version, and another Nas remix.

sherman jackson and cornel west at princeton

I've posted an excerpt from this exchange before, but here is the full two hour conversation between Sherman Abdul Hakim Jackson and Cornel West on the Problem of Black Suffering. The discussion ranged from: the distinction between suffering and struggle, how do we wrestle with invisible systems of domination, Islam as a way to empower individuals to master their nafs, metaphysical suffering, inner-cities as war zones, the dangers of pragmatism, America as an empire, the Inner City Muslim Action Network as an example of "prophetic" Islam, why is Sherman Jackson a Muslim and Cornel West a Christian, the multireligious nature of Muslim Spain, the split between political and religious authority, Obama, and the indigenization of Islam in America.

The catalyst for the event seems to be the publication of Jackson's book "Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering" (I haven't read it yet) which is apparently an attempt at an Islamic response to William R. Jones' work Is God a White Racist?

The Problem of Suffering: Muslim Theological Reflections is a nice general overview from Sherman Jackson which appeared in Huffington Post on a range of Muslim answers (Ashari, Maturidi, Mutazilite and "Traditionalist") to the problem of pain.

also see Examiner: Cornel West: "Maybe I should consider being Muslim..."

Friday, October 08, 2010

cornel west and prophetic christianity

Here is a new interview with Cornel West from the newly reorganized Jesus Radicals site. In the hour-long interview with Eliacin Rosario-Cruz and Mark Van Steenwyk, West discusses a wide-range of topics including his recent disinvitation from this years Christian Community Development Association conference in Chicago due to an interview he gave to Playboy magazine, the ways in which Latin America challenges the Washington consensus, Puerto Rican independence leaders, how to chant down Babylon, how so many Caribbean activists joined the Black freedom struggle in the U.S., the Tea Party, some fierce but loving criticisms of Obama's presidency, but mostly he talks about how prophetic Christianity (and as an afterthought Judaism and Islam etc.) can constitute a counter-hegemonic force, voice and vision to challenge the American Imperial moment.


Some excerpts from the Playboy interview:

On President Obama’s shortcomings: "While he’s made some good, positive changes, I don’t think he’s a messiah or even a very progressive politician...It’s already getting late for him, when you have a chance to speak to jobs, homes, infrastructure and you end up bailing out investment bankers. They’re too big to fail? They’re too big to be managed! And what do you do? You allow them to get bigger! So you’ve got the same conditions in place that will reproduce the same catastrophe from which we’re still cleaning up from the Bush years. And you don’t speak to jobs, you don’t speak to homes, and again the poor remain invisible."

On President Obama’s inability to push a strong black agenda: "I wish [President Obama] could be more Martin Luther King-like. Set an agenda that at root is a black agenda, and it would also be the best agenda for the nation and the world. King did that. His concern for civil rights was also the best agenda for the country...By necessity, Obama has had to downplay his blackness to appease the white moderates and independents and speak to their anxieties. He knows black folk will support him anyway, so he doesn’t need to spend too much time on the chocolate side of town."

On Michelle Obama: "Somebody of her brilliance, somebody of her vision, somebody of her courage confined to keeping gardens at the White House, reaching out to military families, highlighting childhood obesity. I think she could be a great force for change if she could only set herself free. She can’t though. Black sister exercising her power, willing to take a stand, would be too much of a threat."

On corporate greed and "gangsterism": "Humans have always had the propensity to be gangsters...but for much of the past century you had sanctions in place. You had regulation. You had a stronger trade union movement. You had some balance between the rich and the poor. More of the wealth was distributed to working people. But what is it now? CEOs in the 1950s made around $25 to every $1 for an average worker. Now it’s about $275 to every $1, and the CEOs say, ‘No, we deserve it. We’re working harder.’ That’s a lie. They’re getting away with more by holding on to a larger percentage of the profits...When you read the business pages in the past three years, it’s just gangster activity, people getting away with anything they can—looting the Treasury, billions of dollars made on speculation. Those people knew it was wrong, but it was short-term gain, scandal, preoccupation with the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not get caught. The result is, we’re feeling the aftershocks of moral bankruptcy, and it’s going to hurt us for a long time."

On the Tea Party movement: "The Tea Party might look a mile wide on Fox News, but it’s only a few inches deep...Tea Party folk are not crazy people. They’re just misguided. They’re deeply conservative people who see the corruption of government. They’re right about that. But they react by being antigovernment. They’re wrong about that. They see the need for individual initiative and entrepreneurial possibility. They’re right about that. But then they affirm a corporate agenda and don’t realize corporations are a big part of the problem...They’re much weaker than people like Glenn Beck think they are. But I’ll fight for the right of Glenn Beck to express his opinion. Even he has a right to be wrong, which he is most of the time."

On Glenn Beck’s preoccupation with black people: "Glenn Beck appears to have a certain preoccupation with black folk. Why is he so obsessed with black people? I notice he doesn’t give the Amish that much attention. [laughs]"

On eliminating poverty: "Given our wealth, we could create a society with no poverty. We could do it...Brother, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to eliminate poverty. Make it a priority. You allocate assets for everyone’s basic needs—housing, food."

On acknowledging race: "Some would like to believe we live in a postracial society, but that’s completely false. You’ve got to acknowledge race. Little kids notice it from the time they’re six or seven. ‘Dang, Jamal is darker than Johnny over here. What does that mean?’ Some people will try to say, ‘It doesn’t mean anything. We’re all the same.’ That’s wrong. That’s denial. We are different because of race, and we need to learn to embrace the differences, embrace the whole person...Then again, we have to make sure our awareness of our differences doesn’t translate into a hierarchy of how you treat people."

On the dismissal of his academic career: "My academic career is dismissed by means of invisibility. And I’m not the only one. If a martian came down to America and read The New York Review of Books, it would hardly know there were any black writers. There is a de facto segregation in the life of the mind in America, and black scholars, brown scholars, black intellectuals feel it every day."

On the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church: "Anytime you have people making claims of being virtuous, you have massive hypocrisy...Don’t project purity or an image of being pristine because you end up falling on your face. Or worse, you end up projecting a face of hypocrisy, as we see with the Vatican—a gay sex scandal among the people who preach against gay marriage and other deeply important issues. Not right."

On the things our culture is yearning for: "All across this culture I see a yearning for quality relationships, a yearning for integrity, a yearning for spirituality. But people—young people in particular—are manipulated by many forces to believe that what matters in life is something else: money, materialism, short-term gain, power and the kind of show that goes along with it."

On sexuality: "Sexuality is such a precious gift, but it does take on a life of its own. I see people who fall down the path of lust, seduction and temptation, and increasingly I sense this conquest mentality in which sex becomes almost another thing to acquire. How many women can I satisfy myself with? It’s a form of pathology, and it’s a sign of our deep spiritual malnutrition."

On white fear of black sexuality: "Historically, white fear of black sexuality was always a basic component of white racism. Black bodies, white bodies bumping against one another—it’s been one of the major forms of mobilizing white citizens...Ancient associations still linger about the sheer touch of black body against white body, of being disgusting, dirty, repulsive."

Thursday, October 07, 2010

the us government and human experimentation

From Democracy Now!
Exposed: US Doctors Secretly Infected Hundreds of Guatemalans with Syphilis in the 1940s gives a more in-depth look at the recently uncovered story.

The Dark History of Medical Experimentation from the Nazis to Tuskegee to Puerto Rico gives a much more wide-ranging and historical look at how exploited populations have been used in human medical experimentation.

And finally Experiments in Torture: Medical Group Accuses CIA of Carrying Out Illegal Human Experimentation raises the very disturbing possibility that after 9/11, the Bush administration's treatment of Guantanamo detainees included human experimentation in violation of US law and the Nuremberg code. Read: The Torture Papers by Physicians for Human Rights for more details.

my last post (maybe) on rick sanchez

Ok, this will be the last (maybe) round-up of a few more articles/blogs which looked past the surface of the Rick Sanchez firing. Here are some of the highlights:

In Slate: Is it so offensive to note the effectiveness of the Jewish lobby? by the famously secular Jewish British author, Christopher Hitchens we read:

It's not that long since the late Yitzhak Rabin was complaining that groups like AIPAC had too much influence on Israeli policy. Is there any other lobby that exerts a comparable influence? Perhaps the National Rifle Association. And, of course, on the single issue of the maintenance of a failed embargo, the Cuban-American caucus and its funding base in Florida and New Jersey. (I wonder if Rick Sanchez would offer me an argument there.)

Coming to Sanchez, then, I ask myself if the world in which I have worked for so many decades—the intersecting and overlapping world of the news media, publishing, the academy, and the think-tank industry—is even imaginable without the presence of liberal American Jews. The answer is plainly no. Moreover, I can't think of any other "minority" of which this is remotely true, unless it were to be the other minority from which I can claim descent: people of British or Anglophile provenance.


In I, Sanchez Chez Pazienza gives a much more behind-the-scenes and personal account of her own experiences with Rick Sanchez and the CNN staff and why she believes we haven't seen the last of him.

The Black Snob piece: Rick Sanchez Gets Fired Over Most Epic "Jews Sux" Stupidity Ever (Rants) gives us a refresher course on the first two rules of American society:

Look. This is America and there are certain things in America that will guarantee you will get fired. One -- Be a white person saying the actual N-word in its proper context, as a dirty, dirty slur. You can be as racist as you want in America, but DEAR LORD! Don't actually SAY the word "nigger." It has magical powers apparently. So, you can make all the watermelon jokes you like. Just don't say that word in it's proper context. White people DO NOT LIKE THIS. The fact that black people also don't like this goes without saying.

Two -- Don't diss Jews.

Americans don't do criticism of the Jewish people very well. Unlike the black people, of whom you can smack around as much as you like as long as you don't say that dastardly word and mean it, you can't say anything that even looks like it might want to be wrongiddy-wrong-wrong about the Jewish people. Almost anything negative comes off as antisemitic, so you really don't have to say much to offend. Hell, just try to take the side of the Palestinians in the Middle East conflict and you could get called out as antisemitic even though you're criticizing a sovereign country with nuclear weapons ... not all sons of Abraham. Some folks, bless their hearts, don't know that Israel isn't the last word on Judaism, not even among Jews who are, wow, really critical of Israel at times.

But, whatever.


The most thoughtful and thorough discussion I've seen of the Rick Sanchez affair is in the Racialicious piece: On Rick Sanchez, Jon Stewart, and Why We All Lose Playing the Oppression Olympics by Latoya Peterson.

Peterson's piece is unique in at least two respects. First, hers is the only article I've found which didn't just take Stewart's (And Colbert's) non-racism totally for granted and actually questions the ways both shows use racial stereotypes to get a laugh (e.g. The Daily Show’s “Asian Correspondent” Olivia Munn, Dear Olivia Munn, The Daily Show Introduces Us to Gitmo, Open Thread: Cornel West on Stephen Colbert – Respect or Mockery?)

Second, Peterson's piece is also the only one I've seen on the Sanchez issue to actually take the time to debunk the idea that Jews run/own the media with any kind of evidence. She extensively quotes from a FAIR report The Jewish Media: The Lie That Won't Die and also links to Wikipedia's American Mass Media Owners

Of course, the ideal way to refute claims like Six Jewish Companies Own 96% of the World’s Media and put the issue to rest once and for all would be for someone to just do a survey or census of the media at the various levels (owners, executives, behind the scenes staff, columnists and anchors) and just deal with the issue objectively.

See also:
rick sanchez, jon stewart, jews and the media
cnn on rick sanchez
jews and the media

the almighty dollar

Income by religious tradition

The Pew Forum: Income Distribution Within U.S. Religious Groups

Sunday, October 03, 2010

cnn on rick sanchez

Ok, I'm not going to blog on this for a while after this...Today on CNN's Sunday morning show Reliable Sources, (transcript) there was a "discussion" of the firing of Rick Sanchez. I put "discussion" in quotes because CNN basically used the show to justify their decision to get rid of Sanchez.

What I thought was ironic is that Sanchez got in trouble for saying that Jews were not really a persecuted minority in the news industry, while several of the pundits on the CNN show were essentially saying the same thing about Sanchez himself.

Carole Simpson said:
he thinks that he could have been better and bigger and all of these other things, and he wasn't because of his race, as being a Cuban-American. And then it tickles me, because he looks as white as any white man. I mean, without his name, you probably would not know he was Cuban.

While Jamie McIntyre was much more dismissive: "...to say that he was made uncomfortable at CNN because of his Hispanic heritage, I think it's close to delusional."

The most accurate comment on the show came from Paul Farhi:
Well, I mean, CNN is an employer, and in America, if you criticize your employer the way he did, you're going to lose your job. He went public. It's on satellite radio. Potentially now millions of people have heard Rick Sanchez' criticism of his own company. Not kosher.

Also see Matthew Yglesias: Rick Sanchez for a perspective from a Cuban-Jewish blogger.

planet of the arabs



Planet of the Arabs, was an official selection of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. It is a trailer-esque montage of Muslim/Arab stereotypes as portrayed in American film and television. The selection of films strikes me as a bit dated today. They are all pre-9/11. Of course post-9/11 the images which could theoretically go into such a montage is much larger in number and more complex by several orders of magnitude. I wonder if there are any statistical breakdowns available for contemporary representations of Arabs/Muslims.

jews and the media

The whole Rick Sanchez issue reminded me of a joke from this year's Oscar award show:



Some related links:
An LA Times article, Who Runs Hollywood? C'Mon by Joel Stein who actually celebrates (to the point of gloating) the high levels of Jewish achievement in the entertainment industry.

A list of Jews in The American Media (From SimpleToRemember.com Judaism Online). Actually this one surprised me because I don't think I'd ever seen a list of names laid out like that. Did Rick Sanchez lie?

--
See also:
Mondoweiss: Do Jews Dominate in American Media? And So What If We Do? by Philip Weiss

rick sanchez, jon stewart, jews and the media

As you may know already, Rick Sanchez was fired from CNN, apparently because of a conversation he had on Sirius XM radio with Pete Dominick which included a passing implied mention of the role of Jews in the media.

This whole controversy is a bit surreal to me. The issue seems to have started off as just a personal conflict between Stewart and Sanchez. Over a period of time Jon Stewart repeatedly mocked Sanchez on various episodes of the Daily Show. (The Colbert Report has done similar things but to a lesser extent) For example, at one point Stewart calls Sanchez an over-caffeinated control freak (among other things) and Sanchez was featured several times on the Daily Show's "moment of zen" segment (for example in the wake of Sotomayor's nomination Stewart even did a bit including Sanchez' own mother.)

Then, this past Thursday, on the show with Pete Dominick, Rick Sanchez talked about a number of topics, his new book, his family, his faith, and his experiences of feeling marginalized in the news industry (including the mocking he's been getting from Stewart and Colbert).

Rightly or wrongly, Sanchez frames this marginalization in terms of race and class. He is Latino with a working-class upbringing in an industry where many of his colleagues are white and raised middle-to-upper-class. And if you listen to the entire interview Sanchez isn't fixated on Stewart or Jews but also mentions prejudice coming from Stephen Colbert, Glenn Beck, O'Reilly and some unnamed "top brass" at CNN as well:
Sanchez: I had a guy who works here at CNN who's a top brass come to me and say, ‘You know what, I don't want you to --

Dominick: ‘Will you wash this dish for me, Sanchez?’

Sanchez: No no, see that’s the thing; it’s more subtle. White folks usually don't see it. But we do - those of us who are minorities and women see it sometimes too from men in authority. Here, I’ll give you my example its this 'You know what, I don't want you anchoring anymore, I really don't see you as an anchor, I see you more as a reporter, I see you more as a John Quinones - you know the guy on ABC. That’s what he told me. He told me he saw me as John Quinones. Now, did he not realize that he was telling me, ‘When I see you I think of Hispanic reporters’? Cause in his mind I can’t be an anchor. An anchor is what you give the high-profile white guys, you know. So he knocks me down to that and compares me to that and it happens all the time i think. To a certain extent Jon Stewart and Colbert are the same way.

(I have to wonder if the same "top brass" Sanchez alludes to is still an executive at CNN.)

As a counter-balance, Dominick brings up Stewart's Jewishness to suggest that he is also a minority and has some understanding of Rick Sanchez's position. But based on Sanchez's childhood in Miami, Jews were just another flavor of white Anglo.
I grew up not speaking English, dealing with real prejudice every day as a kid; watching my dad work in a factory, wash dishes, drive a truck, get spit on. I’ve been told that I can’t do certain things in life simply because I was a Hispanic. My friends who are black, I’ve seen that with them; I’ve seen that with a lot of minorities. I can’t really think — although I understand the plight of Jews, and all the experiences, and the things that have happened historically for them — but I can’t say that my buddy Glen or my buddy Izzy who I grew up with in South Florida ever were prejudiced against directly simply because they were Jewish. There may have been jokes around them or about other things, but it’s kinda — you know what I’m saying, it’s kind of a different thing.

This is all context to the essential gaffe. When Dominick suggests that Stewart has minority status which should help him understand where Sanchez is coming from, Sanchez comes back with:
He’s such a minority, I mean, you know [sarcastically]… Please, what are you kidding? … I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they — the people in this country who are Jewish — are an oppressed minority? Yeah.

Sanchez doesn't hold Jews in the media to any special scrutiny or suspicion. He just views them as part of the dominant establishment with all other white people. If anything, he is actually indifferent about the distinction. As he says to Dominick:
You brought the whole Jewish conversation into this. I don't think Jewish has anything to do with this. I don't think you are are less apt to be prejudiced or more apt to be prejudiced because you are or aren't Jewish.

Here is a partial Transcript of the Sanchez/Dominick interview but I would definitely recommend that you go to the very first link above and listen to the whole conversation. Sanchez does not go on a rant. He does not have a meltdown. He does not say "Jews are in control of all media". (Contrary to how some of the coverage is parsing the incident).

Some other thoughts:
If CNN is so racially sensitive then how was Lou Dobbs able to stay on CNN for such a long period of time before leaving? It's pretty clear that Mexicans don't run CNN. For that matter, even Dr. Laura is still on the air after her N-word rant. She announced her retirement after the incident, but she's still basically leaving on her own terms. Helen Thomas unceremoniously lost her job within a day or so.

At the same time, how is Patrick Buchanan able to stay on the air, on MSNBC no less? I would argue that comments about Jews are much more of a third rail than comments about other groups, but the whole picture is more complex than a question of who gets offended. To be honest, I suspect that Rick Sanchez's real mistake wasn't what he said about Jon Stewart, and implied about Jews, as much as what he said about "top brass" at CNN. Don't bite the hand that feeds you, regardless of ethnicity.

Grenada's Past
thoughts on helen thomas
more on helen thomas
why don't they talk about bennett the way they talk about farrakhan?
us deports lou dobbs

Phoenix New Times: CNN Fires Rick Sanchez, Hires Eliot Spitzer, World's Most Famous "John"

Saturday, October 02, 2010

naif al-muwata on the 99

I've mentioned the Muslim superhero team the 99 before, but here is Naif Al-Muwata giving a really engaging talk in anticipation of the upcoming cross-over between the 99 and the Justice League. He gets into the religious correlations of some of the more mainstream heroes (Superman, Batman, Spiderman), he talks about the thought process which inspired the 99, and some of his aspirations in terms of what the 99 comic books can do for Muslim youth.



josiah x
"'x-men' is not a cleverly named documentary about the nation of islam..."

us apologizes for syphilis experiment in guatemala

Reuters: U.S. apologizes for syphilis experiment in Guatemala