Thursday, April 22, 2010
Here is an excerpt
This essay is the unedited version of a response Imam Zaid wrote to a question posed by Helen Thomas to the White House press corps, “Why do they want to do us harm?” Thomas never got an answer so “In These Times” posed the question to several respondents. The edited version along with other responses can be viewed at:http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/5712/why_do_they_want_to_do_us_harm_part_one/
To a large extent, “they” are simply a microcosmic mirror image of the extremist violence perpetrated by a hegemonic state dominated by elites that have reserved the right to use high-tech military machinery to systematically decimate countries, rip apart their social fabrics and directly or indirectly kill hundreds of thousands of people as has happened in Iraq.
In that country, “they” might be the relative of someone who died of typhoid or diarrhea from drinking sewage-contaminated water because “we” thought it a noble stratagem of war to destroy Iraq’s sanitation system during the 1991 Desert Storm operation. “they” might be someone whose home was blown away during the “Shock and Awe” campaign that inaugurated the current war in March, 2003. Maybe “they” never recovered from the shock and have been transformed by insensitive bombs into insensitive killers. Maybe “they” were brutalized and humiliated at Abu Ghraib. Maybe “they” know of Abeer Hamza al-Janabi, the 14 year-old Iraqi girl who was gang raped by a company of American soldiers, who proceeded to murder her and her entire family, including her 6-year old sister, Hadeel, and then burn their bodies to hide the evidence of their heinous crime.
Perhaps “they” are from Afghanistan, and want to do us harm for the reasons mentioned above. Maybe the callousness “they” display towards life is a reflection of the callousness we displayed when we built the “Jihad” movement to repel the Soviet invaders of that land during the 1980s, and after accomplishing that mission walked away leaving the country to endure almost a decade of murderous anarchy that culminated in the rise of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Perhaps the alienation “they” display is a pathetic parody of the Mujahideen “we” created.
Maybe “they” are not from Iraq or Afghanistan. Maybe “they” are rotting in a slum in Casablanca or Cairo, or festering in a classroom in Lagos or Lahore and have seen gruesome images generated by the wars we are prosecuting in Muslim lands. Perhaps “their” anger is combined with the angst generated by globalized economic forces “they” cannot understand. In some cases, those same forces may have rendered irrelevant their lives and their religion, the two sources of meaning in the world “they” thought “they” had inherited from “their” forefathers. Under such circumstances, “they” are easy prey to skilled recruiters who promise “them” both meaning and a free pass to Paradise by encouraging “them” to mindlessly strike out at what “they” are led to believe is the source of “their” misery.
Finally, “they” may be ignorant of both the deeper currents of world affairs and the deeper meanings of “their” religion. “they” probably have no idea of just how inconsequential spectacular violence is to the advancement of their cause. “they” probably have never stopped to reflect on how that violence is used by neo-fascist pundits and politicians to advance a climate of fear and misunderstanding that makes it more likely that even ordinarily well-meaning Americans will support policies that will lead to more bombing, maiming and murdering of Muslims –and eventually others- all around the globe. For this small minority, “their” obsession with Islam as a political ideology probably renders “them” totally oblivious to the religious message of Islam as an historical world religion that advances the sanctity of life, especially the life of innocent, noncombatant peoples, the refinement of the spirit and patient, dignified, principled resistance when confronted with the savage vagaries of “their” fellow humans.
Actually, Thomas Hagan has been spending large chunks of time outside of prison on work release for a while now isn't the most interesting part of the story. What is most surprising to me is that he apparently converted to Islam.
As Salaamu Alaykum. In February of this year, a new Bollywood film, My Name is Khan, opened in U.S. theaters. Although it is claimed that the film promotes tolerance and understanding, My Name is Khan presents our diverse and dynamic American Muslim community through a "Good Muslim/Bad Muslim" lens that does an injustice to our community and reproduces racist stereotypes about African Americans. For a cogent review of the film, please read Su'ad Abdul Khabeer’s article “Khan Breaks New Stereotypes (but Reinforces Old Ones)” featured on Altmuslim.com.
Despite the problematic depictions of Muslims and non-Muslim African Americans in My Name is Khan, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has decided to honor this film by awarding it the prestigious Voices of Courage & Conscience Media Award at the 19th Annual MPAC Foundation Media Awards on May 1, 2010. This is particularly alarming because of MPAC Foundation’s stated goal of honoring media and artists committed to positive portrayals of Islam and Muslims, promoting diversity and social justice issues, and inspiring action. Yet, it is precisely because of the trust many Muslim Americans have placed in MPAC that we cannot let this kind of dehumanization and historical erasure go unchallenged.
Yesterday, April 14th 2010, a letter was sent to MPAC's Executive Director, Staff, and Board of Directors by a collective of concerned American Muslims to express disappointment with their choice and urged the MPAC Foundation Board to rescind the award. Please see the attached letter to review the detailed critique of the film, the reasonable demand made of MPAC, and the list of Original Signatories. MPAC’s leadership has stated its willingness to seriously consider the letter’s contents and the support it garners. If you would like to add your name to the list of Signatories, please email your name and organization (or location) to MyNameIsNOTKhan2010@gmail.com. We will periodically update MPAC with the extended list of new signatories.
We have been informed that the MPAC Foundation Board will be convening within a couple of days to make a formal decision on their response to the film critique and the reasonable demands, which we believe to be both morally and ethically correct. Leading up to the Board decision, we invite like-minded individuals to contact the MPAC Los Angeles Office to express their concerns with MPAC Foundation's decision to honor My Name is Khan and for them to reconsider their actions. You can contact MPAC by calling (213) 383-3443 during business hours (PST), or email the MPAC Communications Director at Communications@mpac.org. Our expectation is that the force of our collective voices will empower MPAC to make the choice that reflects their broader organizational goals and legacy––to rescind the Award. Insha’Allah, this will also present an opportunity for some much needed consciousness-raising around issues of race, class, media and civic engagement in the Muslim American community.
FiamanAllah y Pa’lante,
Su’ad Abdul Khabeer
Arshad I. Ali, Ph.D.
UCLA Graduate School of Education
Jihad Saleh Williams, MPA
Congressional Muslim Staffers Association