Archive for June, 2008

Are we free today than yesteryear?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 26, 2008 by sweetangel16175

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

– Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence

 
“Rights are to be defended, fought for, argued over, but one thing’s for sure, we’ll never really know when they’re actually there or feel like it ever has come to its fullest potential. These are ideals. Outcomes always fall short.
 
When the Founders wrote these words, slavery was still an accepted way of doing business. Pursuit of happiness didn’t really apply to Africans, nor Native Americans, really. Neither did life nor liberty.
 
So are we “freer” now than in the days of yesteryear?
 
Are Muslim-Americans freer now in our days of war on Islamic terror than the Japanese were when we were fighting them in the Pacific? Bring up Guantanamo all you want. In terms of the scale of human suffering, Guantanamo in no way compares to the internment camps.
 
Are African-Americans freer today than say when the Founders wrote the Preamble to the Constitution?
 
With the advent of paper publishing, radio, television and the internet, are we now freer not only to express ourselves, but to be heard all around the world?
 
With the coming of the sexual revolution, are people freer to engage in all kinds of relationships than say in the 1950s?
 
Are protestors now freer to speak their minds without having to live in fear of another Kent State incident?
 
I would say, in many ways, yes our liberties have increased, not decreased. But we seem to forget all of the ways society constrained us in the past and take for granted how truly unconstrained our lives have become.”
 
– Curmudgeon
 
are we freer today than yesteryear?
 
well, i dont think so.
theres so much that we are not free from, besides racism and discrimination, theres the fact about being beautiful all the time and your mind is constantly thinking about being beautiful all the time, and you ask yourself is your hair the right way or is your make up the right color from your skin. then theres the class system, where the rich only get richer and the gap between the rich and the poor get bigger. and theres so much more….
 
and we arent truly free until everyone in the world is equal, treated equal.

i agree, its like trying to reach perfection, but its worth fighting for.

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The Three Reactions to Islam

Posted in anti semitism, anti-islamism, islam, islam and violence, islamophobia, muslim, muslims, muslims are not terrorist with tags , on June 23, 2008 by sweetangel16175

there are people who are interested because i am a Muslim.
there are also people who are apathetic, which includes most of the population.

but there are still people who fear islam and there are people who hate islam, and that is what i am here to talk about.

i wrote this as a facebook note on the 5th of this month.

“ok so i was walking home from walgreens
and i noticed that the was a jogger was running on the other side of the street where i was crossing…
the light was green to cross and i was walking to the other side of the street where the jogger was.
while i was walking, i noticed his face and he took one look at me and he looked scared, and for one second i thought he was just looking at me and that he really wasnt scared.
then he ran toward sheetz and i thought he was going to sheetz, but then he came back on the side walk and i was like, he’s went all of that way just to get away from me.
you wanna know the funny part about the whole story, my foot didnt even hit the sidewalk until like one minute after he did all of that, which means i was so far away from him its not even funny.
i am guessing he saw the hijab that i was wearing and became scared and thought i was going kill him or something like that, or thought i was a terrorist or something like that.
which really didnt bother me at first, but then it shows how stupid people can be and it makes me rather mad that people can do their own research and find out the truth. and it also shows the stereotypes are real, and its so sad that people actually do believe the media. since its like very rare that i see a person acting that way, i thought to myself, people really dont believe in them and that most people are not stupid enough to believe them. i guess i am right, but it still bothers me that there are stupid stereotypes like that.
i wanted to walk up to him and ask him would he rather jump off a cliff or would he stand by a muslim? i am guessing he would jump off the cliff by the way he acted.
people need to start thinking for themselves and stop listening to the media.
i mean come on! if u strip me down to my undies, u will find out that OMG i am human too, and that i know not to hurt people because i dont want to be hurt in the same way.
people can be so ignorant and the media takes advantage of that and i really really really hate that!
i am sorry but i am a little annoyed here.
the same thing happened to me last year, but it was like much worse.
i was walking home from the college and this car was passing me by and the person in the car was like, “F*** YOU!” i wasnt doing anything to him and he said that. the day before i believed that the people really dont believe in those stereotypes on television, i didnt even believe there were any stereotypes on television.
people really need to do there on research!”
in conclusion anti-islamism is real.

Is Tipping Racist?

Posted in racism with tags , , on June 22, 2008 by sweetangel16175

Many studies document discrimination against consumers based on race (read Shopping While Black: One Serious Shopper’s Customer Service Nightmare), but few analyze discrimination based on the race of the “seller,” in this case the driver.

 

Black cab drivers were tipped about a third less than white cab drivers, the study found. Black passengers also participated in this discrimination against Black taxi drivers. And the overall “tipping shortfall” causes total revenue per fare for Black drivers to be 7 percent less than white drivers, which perpetuates economic inequality.

 

The study, published in the Yale Law Journal, included data on more than 1,000 taxicab rides in New Haven, Conn., where taxi drivers are dispatched to pick up passengers or wait their turn at cab stands rather than being hailed from the street, which means they don’t have much discretion in turning down fares.

 

Click here to download the full study from the Social Science Research Network.

 

Here are some of the key findings:

 

  • White drivers were tipped 61 percent more than Black drivers and 64 percent more than “other” non-white drivers in the sample.
  • Black and Latino passengers also demonstrated biased tipping in favor of white drivers. Black passengers tipped white drivers 48 percent more than Black drivers, while white passengers tipped white drivers 49 percent more than Black drivers.  Latino passengers had the most disparate tipping, giving white drivers a 146 percent higher tip than Black drivers, which supports previous studies’ findings that Latinos tend to identify more with whites than Blacks.
  • Black drivers also were 80 percent more likely to be stiffed than white drivers. Latino passengers were 88 percent more likely to stiff Black drivers than white drivers, and white passengers were nearly twice as likely to stiff Black drivers.
  • Making a last-minute decision about whether to round up or down in tipping also is influenced by racial undertones, with passengers of all races tending to round up for white drivers and down for Black drivers.  

To provide some control for quality of service, which clearly influences tipping, the authors conducted some “secret auditing” of cab drivers. Their testers rated quality of service higher for Black drivers (4.5 out of 5 total points) than white drivers (3.3 out of 5 total points). While these audits were not a complete control for quality of service, previous studies on tipping back up the researchers’ findings.  

 

More than 30 service professions are regularly tipped, according to the study, which reports that restaurant tips alone in the United States are estimated at $26 billion annually.

 

There’s evidence that biased tipping extends to the restaurant realm, according to “Consumer Racial Discrimination in Tipping: A Replication and Extension,” which is based on 140 surveys of white and Black workers at a large U.S. restaurant chain. This study found that white customers tipped Black servers nearly four percentage points less than white servers and that Black customers tipped Black servers half a percentage point less than white servers, writes Ian Ayres, lead author of the latest study on taxicab tipping, in his New York Times blog.

 

A Racist History

 

Why is there racial discrimination in tipping? Think about the historic social context. The practice of tipping emerged in the early 20th century to provide a “consideration” from then primarily white customers to those serving them in menial jobs, who tended to be Black workers. “For some, the practice of tipping was intimately connected to the perceived inferiority of African Americans,” writes Ayres in the study.

 

Remember The Pullman Company? It was notorious for hiring all Black workers from the South to work its railroads and trains and was “repeatedly singled out for fostering the tipping norm for its all Black work force as a way of economizing its wage bill,” writes Ayres. “Pullman made public the fact that its African-American porters were poorly paid so the public would pay them instead.”

 

But that’s not how it works, as Ayres’ and other studies indicate. In the case of Pullman, Black porters eventually requested a prohibition on tipping, knowing it would diminish their earnings, because they didn’t want to be accepting “tokens of inferiority.”       

 

“Of course, this degradation conception of tipping may have long passed,” the authors write. “But both minority and non-minority consumers today may still be affected by this now withered perception–as one generation passes its tipping practices onto the next.”

 

What’s Next?

 

Is there a solution? The authors suggest government-mandated tipping would reduce passenger discrimination against Black taxi drivers in the form of lower tips.  They also suggest outlawing tipping altogether

 

But outlawing or heavily regulating tipping–economic incentive for superior quality of service–is antithetical to a capitalist society. Tipping policies saves employers from having to establish equitable pay scales for salaried and non-salaried employees.  However, if tipping has a disparate impact on Black taxi drivers or servers, as these and other studies indicate, employers could actually be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for maintaining a workplace policy that discriminates based on race, the study says.

 

Whether that discriminatory policy is intentional on the part of the employers is irrelevant. The reality is that it has a disparate impact based on race. Not all employment policies that produce racial inequities are illegal under Title VII, but employers would have the burden of proving that tipping is “consistent with business necessity,” writes Ayres.

 

Does a biased tipping infrastructure translate into a biased salary structure in the workplace? Currently, the salary gap in corporate America continues along racial/ethnic lines, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2007, Black full-time and salaried workers earned 20.5 percent less per week than their white counterparts, 45.9 percent less than Asian workers and slightly more (11.6 percent) than Latinos. The disparity is more evident between Black and white men–a 24 percent gap–than between Black and white women (14.9 percent).

The Sneetches

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 21, 2008 by sweetangel16175

THE SNEETCHES
by Dr. Suess

Now the Star-bellied Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-bellied Sneetches had none upon thars.
The stars weren’t so big; they were really quite small.
You would think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.
But because they had stars, all the Star-bellied Sneetches
would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.”

With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort, ”
We’ll have nothing to do with the plain-bellied sort.”
And whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
they’d hike right on past them without even talking.

When the Star-bellied children went out to play ball,
could the Plain-bellies join in their game? Not at all!
You could only play ball if your bellies had stars,
and the Plain-bellied children had none upon thars.

When the Star-bellied Sneetches had frankfurter roasts,
or picnics or parties or marshmallow toasts,
they never invited the Plain-bellied Sneetches.
Left them out cold in the dark of the beaches.
Kept them away; never let them come near,
and that’s how they treated them year after year.

Then one day, it seems, while the Plain-bellied Sneetches
were moping, just moping alone on the beaches,
sitting there, wishing their bellies had stars,
up zipped a stranger in the strangest of cars.

“My friends, ” he announced in a voice clear and keen,
“My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
I’ve heard of your troubles; I’ve heard you’re unhappy.
But I can fix that; I’m the fix-it-up chappie.
I’ve come here to help you; I have what you need.
My prices are low, and I work with great speed,
and my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed.”

Then quickly, Sylvester McMonkey McBean
put together a very peculiar machine.
Then he said, “You want stars like a Star-bellied Sneetch?
My friends, you can have them . . . . for three dollars each.
Just hand me your money and climb on aboard.”

They clambered inside and the big machine roared.
It bonked. It clonked. It jerked. It berked.
It bopped them around, but the thing really worked.
When the Plain-bellied Sneetches popped out, they had stars!
They actually did, they had stars upon thars!

Then they yelled at the ones who had stars from the start,
“We’re exactly like you; you can’t tell us apart.
We’re all just the same now, you snooty old smarties.
Now we can come to your frankfurter parties!”

“Good grief!” groaned the one who had stars from the first.
“We’re still the best Sneetches, and they are the worst.
But how in the world will we know,” they all frowned,
“if which kind is what or the other way ’round?”

Then up stepped McBean with a very sly wink, and he said,
“Things are not quite as bad as you think.
You don’t know who’s who, that is perfectly true.
But come with me, friends, do you know what I’ll do?
I’ll make you again the best Sneetches on beaches,
and all it will cost you is ten dollars eaches.

Belly stars are no longer in style, ” said McBean.
“What you need is a trip through my stars-off machine.
This wondrous contraption will take off your stars,
so you won’t look like Sneetches who have them on thars.”

That handy machine, working very precisely,
removed all the stars from their bellies quite nicely.
Then, with snoots in the air, they paraded about.
They opened their beaks and proceeded to shout,
“We now know who’s who, and there isn’t a doubt,
the best kind of Sneetches are Sneetches without.”

Then, of course those with stars all got frightfully mad.
To be wearing a star now was frightfully bad.
Then, of course old Sylvester McMonkey McBean
invited them into his stars-off machine.
Then, of course from then on, you can probably guess,
things really got into a horrible mess.

All the rest of the day on those wild screaming beaches,
the Fix-it-up-Chappie was fixing up Sneetches.
Off again, on again, in again, out again,
through the machine and back round about again,
still paying money, still running through,
changing their stars every minute or two,
until neither the Plain- nor the Star-bellies knew
whether this one was that one or that one was this one
or which one was what one or what one was who!

Then, when every last cent of their money was spent,
the Fix-It-Up-Chappie packed up and he went.
And he laughed as he drove in his car up the beach,
“They never will learn; no, you can’t teach a Sneetch!”

But McBean was quite wrong, I’m quite happy to say,
the Sneetches got quite a bit smarter that day.
That day, they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches,
and no kind of Sneetch is the BEST on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars,
and whether they had one or not upon thars.

We shall overcome

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 20, 2008 by sweetangel16175

Hey we shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, yeah I do believe
We shall overcome someday

Well we’ll walk hand in hand, we’ll walk hand in hand
We’ll walk hand in hand someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, yeah I do believe
We’ll walk hand in hand someday

Well we shall live in peace, we shall live in peace
We shall live in peace someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, yeah I do believe
We shall live in peace someday

Well we are not afraid, we are not afraid
We shall overcome someday
Yeah here in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome someday

Hey we shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome someday
We shall overcome someday

Anti-Arab Racism, Islamophobia, and the Anti-War Movement

Posted in racism, racism today, religion, Uncategorized with tags , on June 20, 2008 by sweetangel16175
Published on: October 01, 2006
    Racism against Arabs and Muslims long preceded the 9-11 terrorist attacks and has much of its roots in Western imperialism in the Middle East, especially Israel’s colonization of Palestine. Yet, the escalation that we witness today can be traced to the war on terror launched after 9-11 by Bush and his neoconservative ideologues with the backing of the Democrats. Anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism has helped sell the detentions, wars, gulags, and occupations of US imperialism’s latest and boldest venture into the Middle East and South Asia. In turn, this imperial venture has further inflamed racist views of Arabs and Muslims. 

What makes this growing racism so frightening is its wide acceptance in US society, particularly by the left. With the latter, it is not as much conscious racism as not doing enough to fight it. Part of this may be due to ambivalence, but it also stems from a lack of a dynamic understanding of Islamism. Broad support gives anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism a sense of legitimacy and respectability that makes building a mass movement that can end the war and occupation of Iraq difficult, if not impossible, since so much of the support for the war is fueled by fear and racism.

We thrash, curse for air
As our strangler declares, look
How violent the Arab
-Haiku for the Head Locked by Zein El-Amine

According to an ABC-Washington Post poll taken in March 2006, a majority of people in the US believe that “Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence,” with 46 percent expressing a negative view of the religion, 7 percent higher than in the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The poll also found that 25 percent of people in the US admitted to “harboring prejudice towards” Muslims and Arabs. The institutional effect of this racism is stark. The earnings of Arab and Muslim men working in the US dropped about 10 percent since 9-11, according to a new University of Illinois study. The drop in wages was most dramatic in areas reporting high hate crime rates. Robert Kaestner, co-author of the study said there was “an immediate and significant connection between personal prejudice and economic harm.”

This should not come as a surprise when you consider the extent of anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism being perpetrated by governments and the media around the world. The past year has seen the mass publication of Danish cartoons ridiculing Islam, police brutality and repression against North Africans in France, and a riot against mostly Lebanese immigrants in Australia—all of which led to mass protests and, in the case of France, riots by Arabs and Muslims in response.

While such blatant racism has not yet provoked a similar response in the US, it has not been because of any shortage of incidents:

• Last year a Washington, DC, radio host continuously referred to Islam as a “terrorist organization” on his show.
• The Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License started a campaign to put up “Don’t License Terrorists” billboards depicting an Arab holding a hand grenade in one hand and a driver license smeared with blood in the other.
• Republican Congressman Tancredo of Colorado openly called for the US to preempt a terrorist attack by attacking Muslim holy sites like Mecca.

Anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism is an indispensable part of the so-called “war on terror” or “the long war,” as it is now referred to, and US plans to dominate the Middle East. By dehumanizing those that the US is waging war against, this racism makes their death and the destruction of their countries more palatable to the US public and quells domestic resistance to the war. Today it helps numb people to the deaths of dozens of Iraqis per day and the mass murder of Lebanese and Palestinians by Israel.

Fomenting anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism has not been difficult because, as Noam Chomsky puts it, such racism has “long been extreme, the last ‘legitimate’ form of racism in that one doesn’t even have to pretend to conceal it.” I do not want to minimize all the other forms of racism that run deep in this country, but there is indeed a certain legitimacy and respectability given to anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism that is not found with other forms of racism. This legitimacy stems from the fact that anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism cuts across the entire political spectrum, from right to left. It is accepted and even practiced by those who would not tolerate other forms of racism. While the anti-racist record of liberals and some on the left is not the best, it is particularly bad when it comes to Arabs and Muslims.

Green menace
Arabs have historically been more the targets of this racism than Muslims. This began to change in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian revolution because it was no longer just Arabs who were the enemy. The end of the Cold War and resistance to US hegemony, particularly by Muslims in the Middle East, made Islam a useful scapegoat for US imperialism—its new bogeyman now that communism was gone. Books by the Orientalist Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations became popular because they gave “scholarly” backing to the idea that Islam was the main threat to Western “civilization.”
Many have drawn parallels between this scapegoating of Muslims to the red scare during the Cold War, referring to it as the “green menace.” While the comparison is appropriate, the concept of the green menace is, in many ways, much more insidious because it relies on racism rather than ideology. It is a more effective means of instilling fear in people, deflecting their attention from their everyday problems, and mobilizing them against some supposedly powerful enemy. That is not to say that the red scare was not (and still is not) used in a racist manner in countries like Vietnam, North Korea, China, and Cuba. It is just that the main communist bogeymen, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, were white Europeans.

The specter of the green menace, on the other hand, relies on the fact that Muslims look different and, even if they do not look different, they have distinct names, places of worship, dress, and customs that can be easily exploited to portray them as the “other”—different, prone to violence, and barbaric. Also, in the age of “full spectrum dominance,” this racism can be used to justify and mobilize attacks on a huge swath of the world’s poor because Muslims are not only present in large numbers in the Middle East, but in Africa, Asia, South Asia, and most urban centers in Europe, the United States, and Canada.

Having said that, I have chosen to use the term “anti-Arab/anti-Muslim” rather than just one or the other because both groups—and many others, including Sikhs, who are neither Arab nor Muslim—are the targets of the racism we are seeing today. The piercing words, physical assaults, and flying bombs and bullets do not know nor care that we are not all the same.

Republicratic racism
The racist hysteria around an Arab company, Dubai Ports World (DPW), managing six US ports is a good example of both the uniqueness and pervasiveness of anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism in the US. During the public debate over the deal, it was those who traditionally have at least paid lip service against racism, the Democrats, who were the most xenophobic and, in some cases, downright racist. At a rally in Newark, New Jersey, attended by a number of Democratic Congressmen, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) described the port deal as an “occupation.” He added that “we wouldn’t transfer the title to the Devil; we’re not going to transfer it to Dubai.”
The liberal group MoveOn.org was less blatantly racist but still contributed to the hysteria. On its website it asked people how it should respond to the “port security scandal.” In their summary of the issue, they regurgitated the same distorted arguments politicians from both parties had been using, like “Dubai is…known as an international money laundering hub for Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.” Such use of unsubstantiated generalizations only feeds into the stereotype that the Middle East is crawling with terrorists.

With Democrats and liberals taking such a right-wing stance, it’s no wonder that Bush and some Republicans were portrayed as supporting the deal on the basis that opposition involved anti-Arab discrimination. In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, liberal Richard Cohen says, “Maybe because Bush is a Bush—son of a president who got to know many Arabs—or maybe because he just naturally recoils from prejudice, his initial stance on this controversy has been refreshingly admirable.”
Yes, remarkably, Bush may indeed be a defender of Arabs.

However, he is selective in which Arabs he defends. Bush is more than willing to protect the rich Arab monarchies that lord over the Gulf, but certainly not the thousands of Arabs and Muslims that his racist war on terror has maligned, detained, imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Nothing captures this and the dehumanizing role of racism better than the following words from a letter Guantanamo Bay detainee Jamah Dossari gave his lawyer before attempting suicide:
The detainees are suffering from the bitterness of despair, the detention, humiliation, and the vanquish of slavery and suppression. I hope you will always remember that you met and sat with a “human being” called “Jamah” who suffered too much and was abused in his belief, self, dignity and also in his humanity. He was imprisoned, tortured, and deprived from his homeland, his family, and his young daughter who is in the most need of him for four years . . . with no reason or crime committed.

Sadly, Jamah Dossari is only one of thousands of Arab and Muslim prisoners, many of them nameless, being “detained” in US prisons and unknown “black sites” around the world, including here in the US at places like the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The anti-war movement
United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and others in the anti-war movement, as well as generally perceived progressive groups such as the Green Party sat out the DPW deal “controversy” and, more importantly, the whole anti-Muslim cartoons debate. There were protests on every continent, led mostly by Muslims who saw this as part of a broader war on Islam by non-Muslims—one that they were actually finally allowed to act on, as opposed to more egregious aspects of the war on terror like torture, imprisonment, and occupation that their rulers do not want to rock the boat over. The failure of anti-war groups in the US to organize any events in solidarity with Muslims worldwide, let alone even put out statements condemning their publication, helped reinforce the perception that the anti-war movement is not concerned with anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism.

On the positive side, some of the anti-war groups who are part of UFPJ have been organizing speaking tours of Iraqis. US Labor Against the War (USLAW) organized a tour of six Iraqi trade unionists around the country in June 2005, and in early 2006, Code Pink brought several Iraqi women to the US on a powerful tour involving Cindy Sheehan and other families of US soldiers killed in Iraq. Such events are very effective in combating racism because they humanize Iraqis and help break down stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims. The Green Party has also been good about issuing statements condemning the government’s targeting and racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims. However, if groups are genuinely concerned and committed to bringing about a just peace in the Middle East, then an explicit strategy of confronting anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism needs to be a central and consistent part of their work.

The failure of some anti-war groups to take anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism head-on may be due to the small number of Arabs and Muslims involved, and organizations’ lack of movement on these issues then reinforces the lack of Arab and Muslim involvement. For example, there is only one Muslim (and no Arabs) on UFPJ’s Steering Committee. While UFPJ does manage to have Arabs and Muslims speak at their actions and events, they are generally not involved in organizing with UFPJ on any consistent basis.

Worthless Arab lives
The tragic consequences of the failure of the anti-war movement in the US to challenge anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism were laid bare during Israel’s bloody invasion of Gaza and Lebanon. The public support for or, at best, indifference to such massive loss of innocent life and virtual destruction of entire countries and territories can only be fathomed in the context of a racism that basically says that Arab and Muslim lives are worthless and dispensable. In what other situation would the blatant targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure and the carrying out of not one but three massacres in the span of a week by a close US ally—with explicit US approval and military support—be tolerated? Add to this the fact that something similar continues to take place in Gaza and dozens of Iraqis are dying every day under the US occupation in Iraq.

Nothing exemplifies this dehumanization better than the case of Private Steven D. Green, the US soldier who raped a young Iraqi girl along with several other soldiers and then killed her and her entire family in the town of Mahmudiyah. Well before this incident, Green had said in an interview with an embedded AP reporter that he came to Iraq to kill people. He said, “I shot a guy who wouldn’t stop when we were out at a traffic checkpoint and it was like nothing…. Over here, killing people is like squashing an ant. I mean, you kill somebody and it’s like ‘All right, let’s go get some pizza.’” I’m not sure what’s more problematic—what Green said or the fact the reporter never reported it until charges were filed against Green.

Of course such racism is dismissed as the words and actions of some crazed individual. But Green’s comments—like those of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who fought in the first Gulf War and said similar things—are the logical outcome of the racism being espoused at the highest levels of government and in the media. In response to the dozens of Lebanese civilians that were being killed in the early days of Israel’s assault, US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said with no regrets, “There’s no moral equivalence between the civilian casualties from the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and those killed in Israel from malicious terrorist attacks.” Meanwhile the mainstream media portrayed the war as being between equals even though over 1200 Lebanese, almost entirely civilians, and only 157 Israelis, more than two-thirds soldiers, were killed.

Instead of immediately challenging this and other lies, UFPJ reinforced the perception of a symmetrical war propagated by the media by mentioning first in communications their concern for “the loss of life on all sides…all attacks on civilians” and front-loading condemnations of Hezbollah, without necessarily even getting to the point of the grossly uneven death and destruction in Lebanon and Palestine caused by Israel. Although, the statements UFPJ released improved as the slaughter of Lebanese and Palestinians continued unabated (partially due to feedback from Palestine-solidarity activists), they did not even call for a day of decentralized protests around the country.

To get a sense of how conservative UFPJ was around the invasion of Lebanon, one need only compare their statements and actions to anti-war groups and individuals in other countries. A widely distributed and lauded internet video during the fighting was British MP George Galloway’s interview on Sky Television (Britain’s Fox) in which he not only exposes the media’s bias toward Israel but challenges the widely accepted view in the West that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. This argument needs to be made because after 9-11 most people in the US don’t need to hear anything beyond “this is a terrorist organization” to make up their mind about who is right and who is wrong. Therefore, challenging the US government labels of “terrorist” would go a long way in shifting the debate in this country on issues related to the “war on terror.”

The reason no one in the US has done what Galloway did is that in addition to Islamophobia there is a level of acceptance of the lies about Islamism by radicals. For example, the anti-capitalists who blog at http://www.threewayfight.blogspot.com posted an entry titled “Defending my enemy’s enemy” during Israel’s recent invasion of Lebanon in which they argued that while Israel is the clear aggressor in the conflict and needs to be opposed, it doesn’t mean the left should support Hezbollah. The bloggers argue:

…Hezbollah is essentially a right-wing political movement. Its guiding ideology is Khomeini-style Islamic fundamentalism. Hezbollah’s political ideal, the Islamic Republic of Iran, enforces medieval religious law, imposes brutal strictures on women and LGBT people, persecutes religious and ethnic minorities, and has executed tens of thousands of leftists and other political dissenters.

If it’s not already, this argument will one day become part of one of Hillary Clinton’s or even George Bush’s (minus the part about LGBT people) speeches justifying a war on Lebanon and Iran. Even though the entry is insignificant in terms of the number of people who probably read it, it articulates a political view that a lot of the left, particularly anarchists and anti-authoritarians, agree with but are not as open about—hence their conspicuous absence from a lot of the organizing against Israel’s invasion.

These kinds of arguments ignore the fact that Hezbollah gave up on fighting for a theocracy long ago. It is an established political party in a multi-ethnic and religious state in which they have the support and admiration of the other ethnic and religious groups and work closely with those on the left as well as the right. Additionally, Hezbollah’s recent victory was not just a victory over the Israeli apartheid state but a major blow to US imperialism, the main source of oppression and exploitation in the world. It could possibly have a libratory effect not just in the Middle East but also in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Understanding Islamism
In short, proponents of anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism can be broken down into several groups. One consists of the Pipes and Krauthammers of the world who see Islam as inherently violent, authoritarian, intolerant (anti-Semitic, misogynist, etc.), and therefore a natural breeding ground for terrorists.

Another group says that it is not Islam but political Islam or Islamism that is the source of terrorism—that Islamists have twisted what is otherwise a “good” religion for their own fanatical purposes. Fluctuating between these two groups is the majority of people in the US, who, according to the Washington Post-ABC poll cited earlier, have for now apparently bought into the first group’s blatant racism.
This is not surprising since Pipes et al. are given free reign in the op-ed pages of the Washington Post and New York Times and appear extensively in the media. They also have the ears of a large number of politicians, including their fellow neocons in the administration. But the main reason for the growth in the number of people who feel Islam is inherently prone to terrorism is the paucity of people exposing and combating these ideas. Even those who say Islamism is the problem and not the religion itself end up feeding into stereotypes of Muslims because their arguments are based on generalizations—that all Islamists are reactionary and even fascistic—and the false belief that there are other stronger secular forces and factors that are being ignored by the media.

A good example of this could be seen on the USLAW tour of Iraqi trade unionists. A number of people stressed that the tour was a good way to show that there was a more progressive alternative to the Islamists and Baathists when it came to opposition to the US occupation. One problem with this is that it overstates the role unions play in the opposition to the occupation. But the bigger problem is that the leaders of one of the unions doing the best work against the occupation, the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra (GUOE), clearly sympathize and have close relations with the Islamist Moqtada Al Sadr. I would even venture to say that the majority of the Basra oil workers—who have gone on strike several times, including most recently in February 2006, over economic as well as political issues like privatization and the occupation—are supporters of Al Sadr.

The GUOE and its leaders are a perfect example of why a more dynamic understanding of Islamists—one that does not lump them all into one homogenous group and dismiss them as reactionaries—is needed. While only a minority of Muslims might consider themselves Islamists, a large number, maybe even a majority, support them. This is especially the case among the poor and marginalized. As the Islamists have steadily filled the vacuum created by the disintegration of the left (a direct result of US intervention in the region), they have taken on some of the language and politics of the left, becoming the main force in resisting the ravages of poverty, imperialism, and authoritarian rule. As a result, they have also gained the support of some non-Islamist political activists and co-opted others, becoming the hegemonic force in opposition to the ruling regimes and their imperial backers.

This is not to say that all Islamists are progressive, but that they are not uniformly reactionary. Moreover, each Islamist group or party differs from the other in significant ways. They are products of their own distinct histories, shaped by different colonial experiences, class struggles, and imperialism.

For example, Hamas and Hezbollah reflect the experience of a much poorer and oppressed population than Al-Qaeda. As a result of not being based in any one country and who its leaders are, Al-Qaeda says and does very little for workers and the poor. Hezbollah takes positions against privatization and neoliberalism and for workers rights that have historically been taken up by the left in Lebanon. Moreover, like some of their fellow Shiite Islamists in Iraq, Hezbollah is not trying to create a theocracy through an Islamic revolution but work within a democratic system to ensure the rights and aspirations of the Shiites, the most downtrodden in Lebanese society.

In contrast, those groups who hold or have held state power like the Islamists in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan are more right wing and authoritarian, ruthlessly suppressing any resistance. Almost all the groups that are allowed to operate openly—or in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, semi-openly—provide a wide range of social services to the poor.

Hamas and Hezbollah have also been shaped by a resistance struggle against Israeli occupation and US imperialism. In Iraq, the Sadrists took up arms against the US occupation while their fellow Shiite Islamists in the Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) supported it. Hezbollah, and now Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, all participate in elections while Al-Qaeda and other Islamists reject them.

Even on the question of women’s rights there are differences, with the level of involvement of women in the day-to-day activities of each group being an indicator of how supportive they are of women’s rights. With Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and most of the Islamist groups in Iraq, Sunni and Shiite, there is little or no involvement of women and little or no support for women’s rights. On the other hand, Hamas and the Egyptian Brotherhood ran women candidates; some even won. And women are openly involved at many levels in Hezbollah.

They’ll never win
Exposing and ending anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism needs to be a priority in the anti-war movement and the left in general. Doing so will not only bring more Arabs and Muslims into the movement, but also undercut the racist basis of support for the war. It will also alleviate the sense of isolation and powerlessness that so many Arabs and Muslims feel as a result of being the targets of war and racism.

Such blatant injustice combined with a lack of any effective mass opposition to the US-backed murder of so many innocent Arabs and Muslims is, ultimately, what pushes people to resort to terrorism. On the other hand, what the resistance in Lebanon has accomplished shows a successful alternative to such desperate and, ultimately, counterproductive tactics. It has also shown how quickly things can turn in this seemingly overwhelming struggle to stop the US war machine.

Most importantly, however, Lebanon has shown that we, Arabs and Muslims, can be locked up, tortured, and bombed but we will never stop resisting US and Israeli efforts to beat us into submission. Nothing captures this better than the words of Kamel, a shopkeeper who refused to leave Nabatiyeh, one of the hardest hit towns in south Lebanon: “Look around you. They have destroyed much of Nabatiyeh, but that is all they can do—destroy people’s homes and livelihoods. They can’t destroy our spirit and that is what they don’t understand and why they will never win this war.”

Anti-Muslim Racism?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 20, 2008 by sweetangel16175

Anti-Muslim Racism?
By Daniel Pipes
CNSNews.com Commentary
November 22, 2005

My talks at university campuses sometimes occasion protests featuring Leftists and Islamists who call me names. A favorite of theirs is “racist.”

This year, for example, a “Stand up to Racism Rally” anticipated my talk at the Rochester Institute of Technology; I was accused of racism against Muslim immigrants at Dartmouth College; and pamphlets at the University of Toronto charged me with “anti-Muslim racism.”

Anti-Muslim racism? That oxymoron puzzled me. Islam being a religion with followers of every race and pigmentation, where might race enter the picture? Dictionaries agree that racism concerns race, not religion:

— American Heritage: “The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.”

— Merriam-Webster: “A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Racial prejudice or discrimination.”

— Oxford: “The belief that there are characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to each race. Discrimination against or antagonism towards other races.”

Even the notorious United Nations anti-racism conference at Durban in 2001 implicitly used this same definition when it rejected “any doctrine of racial superiority, along with theories which attempt to determine the existence of so-called distinct human races.”

Thus understood, the term racist cannot be ascribed to me, as I neither believe that race defines capabilities nor that certain races have greater capabilities than others. Also, my writings and talks never touch on issues of race.

Does that mean the word racist merely serves Leftists and Islamists as an all-purpose pejorative, a magical insult that discredits without regard to accuracy? No, the evolution of this word is more complex than that.

Racism is now increasingly used to mean something far beyond its dictionary definition. The director of the influential London-based Institute of Race Relations (IRR), A. Sivanandan, has been pushing the concept of a “new racism” which concerns immigration, not race:

It is a racism that is not just directed at those with darker skins, from the former colonial territories, but at the newer categories of the displaced, the dispossessed and the uprooted, who are beating at western Europe’s doors, the Europe that helped to displace them in the first place. It is a racism, that is, that cannot be color-coded, directed as it is at poor whites as well, and is therefore passed off as xenophobia, a “natural” fear of strangers.

An official paper from Australia goes in a different direction, that of “cultural racism”:

In the modern era the underlying assumption of “racism” is a belief that differences in the culture, values, and/or practices of some ethnic/religious groups are “too different” and are likely to threaten “community values” and social cohesion.

Once racism is un-moored from racial characteristics, it is a small step to apply it to Muslims. Indeed, Liz Fekete of IRR discovers “anti-Muslim racism” in the legislation, policing, and counter-terrorist measures deriving from the “war on terror” (her quote marks).

She also sees the French banning of the hijab in public schools, for example, as a case of “anti-Muslim racism.” Others at IRR allege that “Muslims and those who look like Muslims are the principal targets of a new racism.”

Likewise, the Reverend Calvin Butts, III, of the Abyssinian Baptist Church of New York, opined recently at a United Nations conference on Islamophobia: “whether Muslims like it or not, Muslims are labeled people of color in the racist U.S … they won’t label you by calling you a nigger but they’ll call you a terrorist.” For Butts, counterterrorism amounts to racism.

When U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo raised the idea of bombing Islamic holy sites as a form of deterrence, a Nation of Islam leader in Denver, Gerald Muhammad, deemed his comments racist.

Note the evolution: as belief in racial differences and racial superiority wanes in polite society, some parties expand the meaning of racism to condemn political decisions such as worrying about too much immigration (even of poor whites), preferring one’s own culture, fearing radical Islam, and implementing effective counterterrorist measures.

This attempt to delegitimize political differences must be rejected. Racism refers only to racial issues, not to views on immigration, culture, religion, ideology, law enforcement, or military strategy.