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Date: Tuesday, 25 Sep 2012 09:20

Illustration by Nabil Hanna, for KABOBfest 2012.

Author: "Nabil" Tags: "Cartoons, Humor, Syria, Assad Regime, ba..."
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Date: Monday, 20 Aug 2012 09:55

Contributed by Mahmoud El-Yousseph

Last time Iran invaded a country was 216 years ago when the Persian shah, Agha Mohammad Khan, invaded the nation of Georgia. That’s still a great track record, especially compared to other nations.

Israel has repeatedly attacked and invaded numerous counties, and continues to this day to illegally occupy land from three neigbouring nations.

Iran has not illegally developed nuclear weapons, whereas Israel has developed an illegal secret nuclear weapons program that has produced hundreds of nuclear warheads.

Iran has signed the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has refused to sign it.

The capital of America is Washington, not Tel Aviv.

Iran’s spies have not been caught stealing nuclear secrets from the US. Israel’s spies have been repeatedly caught doing this, and Israel’s current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been implicated in smuggling US nuclear triggers into Israel.

Israel is reported to possess up to 300 nuclear missiles aimed at Arab and European capitals. Some can even hit US cities. Iran has no such weapons and has repeatedly said it does not wish to have them, this being in contravention of basic Islamic principles.

Iran has not sold US weapons and secret weapons technology to a US adversary. Israel has been selling US weapons and secret weapons technology to China for decades. Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard sold vitally important American secrets to the Soviet Union, as did the Rosenbergs.

Iran hasn’t been guilty of getting hundreds of thousands of US troops killed or maimed in expensive wars for Iran. Israel has repeatedly pushed the US into costly wars for Israel, expecting American citizens to fight and die for cowardly Israelis.

Israel has repeatedly been engaged in kidnapping of foreign nationals from other countries and smuggling them into Israel. No record of Iran ever having engaged in such a crime.

Israeli air and sea forces attacked the USS Liberty in international waters off the coast of Egypt for two hours on August 8, 1967. This took place on midsummer day with raised American flags and large English letters painted on the ship. 34 sailors were killed and 174 injured.

Last May, the Iranian Navy foiled an attempted pirate attack on a US cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman. The Iranian warship arrived following a distress call from the ship. The pirates fled upon the arrival of the Iranian Naval ship.

Israel has for the last five years imposed an illegal and inhumane siege over 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, causing unnecessary death, pain, and suffering. In contrast, Iran has sent aid and provided comfort to the besieged Palestinians — the very same thing America did to the Germans during the Berlin Airlift.

One could go on and on forever.

However, as a USMC veteran and activist, Dave Evans, succinctly pointed out:

“Anyone who had not sworn an oath for peace could reasonably conclude that the US should be threatening to attack Israel, not Iran!”

It’s about time Americans did something to prove they were the Masters, not the Slaves.

The capital of America is Washington, not Tel Aviv.

Author: "Guest" Tags: "Iran, Israel, Politics, US Foreign Polic..."
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Date: Wednesday, 15 Aug 2012 17:33

Illustration by Shubnum Khan, KABOBfest 2012


Author: "Shubnum" Tags: "Cartoons, In America, Islamophobia, deni..."
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Date: Wednesday, 01 Aug 2012 17:24

Before I begin: may I be allowed one rant–then I’m done until campaigning starts after Labor Day weekend?  I have submitted the following piece to THREE publications…and it’s been kicked to the curb.  I’m no Maya Angelou when it comes to writing, but I’m flexible…and willing to revise.  But this piece has been flat out rejected three times…by outlets that I’ve written for in the past.  Thanks, the floor is now open for  a war of words in the comments section.


On July 25th, I participated as my blogger persona, PITAPOLICY, in the Global Voice Hall Live Pangea program.  The topic was Arab and Muslim Americans Voting in the 2012 Elections.  Its host, Guy Taylor, drew attention to Arab, Middle Eastern, and Muslim Americans populations, who may impact voting “swing states.” Take note that there are 1.2 million American Muslims registered to vote. This means that there is a potential power behind a diverse voting “bloc” — assuming that they’ve registered.  Such optimism brought me back to my conversation with Ambassador Maen Areikat of the PLO Delegation on a need for advocacy against Islamophobia, but the even GREATER need for lobbying if the above groups could form a coalition along secularist lines.  Ambassador Areikat touched upon three themes that pinpoint the intersection of Muslim American engagement in the U.S. and issues that Islamophobes conflate.  The first theme is a reconstructed definition of secularism.  The second draws on the experiences that face many diplomatic missions from Muslim-majority countries working in D.C. to improve international relations.  A growing number of missions and their staff highlight how they see their roles expanding from cultural, political, and economic officers to “interfaith engagement officers.”  Finally, the third draws upon the first and second themes: how to balance interests and issues via institutions that differentiate between civic engagement and formalized lobbying.

The discussion of Islamophobia as a political impediment for both Muslim Americans, and those representatives from Muslim-majority countries, prompted studies by Center for American Progress. Taking the case of Palestine provided an opportunity to engage Ambassador Areikat on a fear that yields profits for a security industry, as well as paychecks to fear campaign participants — or Islamophobes — not to me ntion the increasing number of so-called “Islam experts” in the last ten years, observes Areikat.

All themes presuppose that Islamophobia operates as an industry.  According to Patheos, a resource site for all faiths, the Top Ten Islamophobes list: 1) Robert Spencer, 2) Pam Gellar, 3) Frank Gaffney (Jihad Watch blogger), 4) Brigitte Gabriels, 5) Daniel Pipes, 6)  Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 7) Steve Emerson,  8) David Horowitz (listing the 101 “most dangerous academics”), 9) Sean Hannity and 10) David Yerushalmi, who leads the anti-sharia movement.

In addition, Stephen Schwartz characterizes Islamophobia as an industry.  Schwartz founded the Center for Islamic Pluralism, a nonprofit international network of moderate Muslim journalists, intellectuals, clerics, and activists, headquartered in Washington, D.C.  The Center for American Progress specifies in Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America found that there are seven primary funders of Islamophobic institutions, which amount to over 42 million dollars.

Negotiating Is One Tool; Lobbying Is Another

Islamophobia also feeds off of the psychological insecurities of Muslim Americans.  Interfaith dialogue may only go so far. In particular, Areikat reflected, “We as Muslims are not doing enough to clean the reputation — not just grassroots lobbying, but on the organization level.”  Areikat says that Muslim Americans enjoy the privilege to participate in a variety of institutions that Muslim-majority country diplomats and missions cannot utilize.  Specifically, the advent of lobbying does not have to evoke negative images of money buying power.  For example, stronger blocs of Muslim Americans conjoined with other blocs would be more strategic on a civic as well as a political level.  Forming coalitions, or coalescing around issues present opportunities for different types of advocacy groups, including protracted lobbying efforts.

On a broader level, civil rights groups, advocacy groups, and other types of interest groups like PACS, all engage in some type of lobbying.  Essentially, advocacy groups engage and facilitate “grass roots” lobbying in that its general membership uses its manpower rather than expending significant funding to influence legislation on issues.  However, lobbying groups that dedicate substantial funds to influence legislative actors, congressmen and senators, fall under the entity of PACS and do not enjoy the privilege of federal tax exemption like its 501C-3 counterparts.

Moreover, the distinction between an advocacy organization and the more specific activity of “lobbying” is crucial in that it is not just about the focus, but the extent to which funds are spent on “political activity” by the entity.  According to IRC 501(c)(3), lobbying is described as “carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation,” while political activity is described as “participat[ing] in, or interven[ing] in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

Advocacy groups like CAIR, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and ISNA protect civil rights of American Muslims, organize educational seminars/trainings, and serve as watchdogs as crises emerge for over two million American Muslims.  As a result of their non-profit status, however, none of the above advocacy groups will be allowed to dedicate substantial funding to categorically target elected officials.  This raises further challenges when elected officials are running tight races against opponents who receive funding from Islamophobic entities.

Considering Ambassador Areikat’s interview, there is only so much a Muslim-majority country’s mission can do within the construct of American politics, civic engagement–not withstanding concerted efforts to confront Islamophobia.  Muslim Americans are not as politically engaged:   Gallup found that Muslim-Americans are least likely to be registered to vote (65%) despite demonstrating the most confidence in the honesty of US elections.  There was, and continues to be a mismatch between Muslim-American voice and voter action.  Maybe the lower level of political engagement is why Gallup’s study found that Muslim Americans feel that “their repeated condemnations of terrorism seem to go unheard,” for instance.  Consequently, the vacuum of political voices fills with more Islamophobic rhetoric, which is just another form of xenophobia and uninviting to any diplomatic mission.  Since the US is admired for its institutions by so many Muslim-majority countries, then building dialogue through institutions, like lobbies and PACs, provide another set of tools for Muslim Americans who already have many advocacy organization–and goes beyond interfaith dialogue and Islamophobia. American groups know that preparing for US elections 2012 call for taking advocacy to the next step.  American Muslims: where’s our diverse coalition if we’re not lobbying?

Author: "Mehrunisa" Tags: "Activism, Arab-Americans, In America, Is..."
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Date: Wednesday, 18 Jul 2012 01:29

After four years of living in London I have learned that I can be assured of two things in the summer: 1) Gulf Arabs 2) Christian missionaries (actually, add rain to the list). The two are linked; it seems that the (largely American) missionaries know that they can’t go out to the Gulf and preach the good word, so they’ve decided to try the next best thing – Knightsbridge and Oxford Street.

This leads to some interesting scenarios, as you might think. A prominent Saudi sheikh recently ‘live-tweeted’ his own meeting with the missionaries, complete with photos. The sheikh, Mohammed al-Areefee, said that the missionary had explained that he had come to Europe from the States to spread the gospel. Personally, I think handing out Arabic Bibles on the streets of London is a bit of a missionary cop out compared to others going to African villages and then starting global viral mass movements, but then what do I know.

Now, after observing these guys for years, I have come to one conclusion: they’re crap.

Every summer the missionaries’ faces are different, but the tactics seem to be the same – scream “hadaya majaniya” (free gifts) in some badly pronounced Texan drawl at anyone who looks vaguely Arab. Never mind that you’re essentially treating the heathen Arab like an infant, hoping that the promise of a * free * goodie will trick them into picking up a Bible, only later realising that they’ve fallen for your dastardly plan.

A couple of years ago I used to find the missionaries amusing; the bizarre interactions they’d have with the Gulfies could provide at least a couple of minutes of entertainment. But they just haven’t upped their game. They’ve turned into another annoying thing to avoid when navigating London’s streets, alongside the charity harasser people (shake a bucket and I’ll give you my change, send an agency worker on £10 an hour to not let me walk on a pavement in peace – not gonna sign up) and the beggar gangs.

Our hadaya majaniya friends are not the only ones missionaries patrolling the streets of London.

Enter Speakers’s Corner.

You’ve probably heard of it – that bastion of free speech, the historic heart of freedom of expression, where all viewpoints are heard and respected, and healthy debate is ever present.

Except, if you think that, you’ve probably never been there.

I was waiting for friends at Hyde Park (where Speaker’s Corner is located) and, realising it was a Sunday, thought that I may as well go and check out something I’d wanted to see for years. How disappointed I was.

Speaker’s Corner has turned into the land of the madmen. Instead of the place where the 19th century Chartist movement emerged, where Lenin, Orwell and Marx spoke, we now have a bunch of people on soapboxes shouting, “no, I’m right” followed by their audience replying, “no, you’re wrong.”

It’s quite depressing really. The men on the boxes were largely African and American Christians, and the crowds were largely Gulf Arabs on holiday. Evidently, many of our Gulfie friends are attracted to Speaker’s Corner as a sort of tourist attraction where this curious idea of free speech is practiced. The problem is that many probably return home thinking that Speaker’s Corner is the epitome of democracy, and are all the more pro-autocratic monarchy for it.

Speaker’s Corner is a parody of its former self. On the day I was there, various non-Arabic speakers were telling me about the changes in the Arabic grammar of the Qur’an, a woman was speaking in tongues, and a really arrogant American guy was proclaiming that Muslims couldn’t handle the truth. The worst of it was, the real nutter, the black guy dressed in a sort of black robe with a quasi KKK hood and a large swastika with a line through it was getting no attention.

Both sides weren’t exactly showering themselves in glory, the Muslim fella shouting “gay, gay, gay” at the Christian preacher wasn’t doing his cause much good, nor were the ones who decided that everything would just be better if they had a screaming match.

In essence, intelligent debate seems like an long forgotten concept at Speaker’s Corner – it’s more a “my book says this”, “no, my book says this.” The problem, of course, with that is, you’re not exactly going to convince anyone of anything if they don’t believe in your holy book in the first place.

Maybe I’ll go back to Speaker’s Corner in September. Maybe the rational debaters leave it for the summer, knowing the international men of madness will take over. One can live in hope…

Author: "Abubakr" Tags: "Uncategorized, United Kingdom, Annoying ..."
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Date: Thursday, 12 Jul 2012 11:00

Mohammad Awajah is a forty-three year old Palestinian father from the West Bank city of Jericho whose ability to speak was just restored.

During his shift as an employee for the Palestinian Telecommunication Company on January 13, 2011 he opened a phone wire box where he says he inhaled a gas that caused him to lose his ability to speak. His family, including his wife and five children, thought this was just a temporary bug; but days later he was still unable to speak and their medical trials had officially begun.

Om Moussa, Muhammad’s wife said, “We visited with a professor surgeon in the West Bank who was unable to help. We tried many medications that did nothing to bring his voice back.” She continues, “The professor said he cannot help because a long time has passed since the incident.” They still visited a number of local clinics that would prove fruitless.

They even visited with a doctor in the celebrated Israeli hospital Hadassah. Nobody was able to reunite Muhammad with his voice. At that point Muhammad started to lose hope and started seeing psychologists due to his depression. He felt disconnected from his family because he could not talk to anyone and didn’t care about anything around him. His youngest son Aboud wouldn’t talk to him and kept away from him due to this sudden change.

A West Bank doctor advised them to create a dramatic scene that would be shock Muhammad enough to bring his voice back. Om Moussa played along and put on a good show where she pretended that she only had a few days to live due to some serious illness. Muhammad offered to pay all his money to save her, but still had no voice.

Months later, Om Moussa watched a talk show where a Gaza-based Palestinian Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist was talking about a case where he was able to restore an elderly woman’s ability to speak who had lost that ability more than 15 years ago. Dr. Ahmad Jadaba’s success story was well publicized in the Palestinian media.

Desperate for help, Om Moussa called the doctor and consulted with him on her husband’s case. Due to an outdated phone directory she had to make 18 wrong calls before she could reach him. Later they met via video conference even though they were only a short drive apart. Dr. Jadaba promised Muhammad and his wife that he would do his best to restore his speaking ability.

Now, the political reality and uniqueness of the situation hits: Dr. Jadaba lives in besieged Gaza, and the Awajahs live in the West Bank. Traditionally the better doctors and facilities are in the West Bank and Israel. So most ill Gazans travel there, not the other way around. No one has ever come Gaza for health care.

Confused by the unusual request, the Israeli authorities denied them a permit to go into Gaza for medical attention. They stressed that if physicians in Israel couldn’t fix it, no one else can. Thus Israel denied all of their seven attempts to get a permit to enter Gaza. Om Moussa wouldn’t quit, working with the local health authorities in both Gaza and Ramallah. In the end, they traveled to Jordan and from Jordan they flew to Egypt and from Egypt, and special coordination that required miracles, they arrived in Gaza.

At the Rafah border, Dr. Jadaba brought his family and received Muhammad and his wife, offering to host them at his house. Arriving in Gaza on July 5th, Dr. Jadaba started his treatment on Mr. Awajah. At first it started with the assessment and the following day, the help of the hospital’s only Endoscope. Four days later, Awajah got most of his voice back to where he can make out most of the letters. Dr. Jadaba put aside a conference he was supposed to attend in Turkey to attend to Mohammed and his family.

Three days later, here’s Muhammad in a video of him saying his first words since the accident–a chapter from the Koran.

Perhaps the most touching moment came when Mohammed called his son Abboud to tell him that he now has his voice back and they can play together. The seven year old teared up and said, “I Love you Dad!”

Dr. Jadaba has called on Palestinian businesses to provide medical equipment to the main Gaza hospitals and he has gladly pledged to accept any case where his skills are needed. “The only Endoscopy are available in private clinics and not in the public hospitals where they are needed the most.” He added, “the device I used on Mohammad has been decommissioned a long time ago.”

This is a celebration of a strong Palestinian women and a Palestinian professional who despite all odds never stopped exploring. Another hero is the business where Mohammed used to work. They covered all of his medical costs and showed a good business practice. I would add the role of the media in publicizing this story to the public and telling the world about the unbreakable will of the people of Palestine.

Author: "Hanitizer" Tags: "Palestine, Uncategorized, Video"
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Date: Tuesday, 10 Jul 2012 22:17

See the original article here.

CHICAGO, IL — When Tyrone ’2-Tall’ Griffith walked into the National Committee for Social Elevation (NSCE) Chicago office on the first day of his summer internship in June, the 34-year-old black man from Chicago’s crime-ridden Englewood neighborhood was startled by what he saw.

“I never saw so many Whole Foods bags in my life,” he says. “Everywhere you look, there’s a grocery store selling fresh fruits. As a black man, I thought to myself, ‘This is not good news. How am I going to work here for the next six weeks?’”

After stepping back into his building to catch his breath, Tyrone decided to return to his desk.

“When I came back, I met NSCE spokesperson Juliette Walters and she took me out to lunch. Immediately, I was impressed by her level of knowledge about the ‘hood and the way she made me feel extremely welcome.”

Nearly a month later, Tyrone describes his internship with NSCE as “the best experience of his life.”

“I never had the chance to get to know white people and their well-intentioned communities from the inside,” he says. “By sharing

Tyrone in a position of traditional Black prayer

an office with them, I’ve been struck by how they’re always trying to do good things for the new generation in rough inner-city neighborhoods by telling us we have the power to become whatever we want.”

One of the biggest changes to Tyrone’s daily routine, he says, is his “addiction” to websites like The New Yorker and other publications that use the Oxford Comma.

Another change is the addition of someone he calls “a new and understanding friend,” James Carson, a 21-year-old white intern with The Black Civil Rights Group (BCRG), a pro-black organization that advocates for 50% less gentrification.

James and Tyrone are among 10 promising people — five whites and five blacks — brought to Chicago this summer by a group called Building A Really New America which, according to its mission statement, “introduces a radically different approach to bridging socioeconomic gaps, one that does not actually solve institutionalized inequality.”

Instead, the group offers what it calls an “in-your-face program” that wants participants to focus on meeting and actually not being afraid of people from other backgrounds, rather than “being endlessly cautious about a certain group of people for fear that they might remind us of certain historical grievances and demand, well, you know.”

James says he doesn’t pretend he’ll be able to solve the socioeconomic disparity between whites and blacks, but believes person-to-person programs like this are the only way to hide the problem under a rug.

“Smarter, wiser, and more accomplished people than Tyrone and I have tried to settle the problem and failed,” he says. “Politicians cannot do what Tyrone and I have done — establish a close friendship that introduces him to gluten-free foods, for example.

James is a third-year student from Chicagoland’s affluent Lake Forest suburb majoring in History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine and minoring in Human Rights at the University of Chicago. Before that, he spent two and a half years as a volunteer neighborhood patrolman. Tyrone says it would have been nearly impossible for their friendship to have taken hold in the southwest side of Chicago.

“Before I came to the program, if you told me a volunteer patrolman would be working closely with me, I would’ve been like, ‘Hell naw man! How am I going to deal with him?”

“As a black man, I only saw white guys in fancy dress shirts driving their cop cars all over. I wondered, ‘What if he patrolled in Englewood? What if he was the one who punched me in the chest after handcuffing me for looking suspicious? What if he shot one of my other suspicious-looking friends?”

“But when I started talking to James and getting to know him, he started telling me about his life and what socially-elevated life is like. At that point, I started seeing a different angle about white people and the cops. I saw that he was a hero and helped save a lot of people. He probably saved some black people.” [Editor's note: He most certainly definitely did, no doubt about it.]

For James, working with blacks at BCRG was less jarring, he says, because of his cultured lifestyle.

James, in a position of traditional White privilege

“My family lived just north of the South Side. We had a black friend or two, so the food, clothes, and culture feels very familiar to me,” he says.

On a typical day, Tyrone and James do what most Chicago interns do — compile portfolios, attend meetings, and help keep the copy machines running. But the two have a more ambitious goal than most summer interns. They are working on a joint social media project, perhaps a shared Twitter account at first, where whites and blacks can tweet at each other “through a safe medium without the risk of gun- or drug-related violence.”

Having just earned a degree in Computer Science from Robert Morris University in the Loop, Tyrone plans to remain in Englewood and grow his project with James into something bigger and, eventually, more hip. His dream is to launch a website or app where joint white-black innovations can be ‘crowd-applauded.’

Although they’ve grown close over the past month and pledge to stay in close touch, neither James nor ’2-Tall’ want to be residents of the same neighborhood. They are firm believers in a small and healthy dose of urban gentrification and socioeconomic disparity.

“I’m a black man,” says Tyrone. “I want to live among my people in an environment that honors my history and culture. And James’s grandfather who once lived just north of the South Side had a dream that his children would live in an all-white neighborhood. There is no reason these two dreams should be incompatible.”

See the original article here.

Author’s note: Condescension can indeed be just as vile as traditional forms of racism or discrimination.

Sami Kishawi blogs at Sixteen Minutes to Palestine.

Author: "Guest" Tags: "Humor, In America, Media, Media and Repr..."
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Date: Monday, 25 Jun 2012 18:00

“I can’t stand bellydancing,” claims one of my male friends, “because it is the most Orientalist part of our culture.”  He’s proud of this statement.  But this is the same Middle-Eastern American guy that loves visiting burlesque houses for the “artistry” and strip clubs for the thrill.  Of course I could respond by citing how disrespectful ogling women is–even if it’s quasi-consensual.  (I argue quasi-consensual because someone is paying to ogle another person.  If it was truly consensual, then the exchange would be mutual, right?)  But the moralizing isn’t going to work with this guy.  Neither is couching my argument in Islam, or in any religion.  No religion is going to support the environment of the strip club culture, nor condone the act itself.

I don’t have hard data on the number of Middle Eastern-American or Muslim men that frequent such “entertaining” establishments.  There is no way I’m going to pull a Gloria Steinam and investigate the rate of Middle Eastern or Muslim male attendance at a gentleman’s club in the US.

I loathe using the euphemism of “gentlemen”.  So does Iceland.  And that’s not the Muslim, the woman, or the artistic person in me.  It’s the gentle human being in me.

To beat the man at his own game, I needed to share the non-religious and non-cultural reasons.  Call it “Mehrunisa’s Top Seven Costs of the Strip Club Culture”.  Ironically, the social, economic, physical, and psychological costs amount to the spiritual number ‘7’.

Economic Costs

Many of the strippers do not benefit from sick leave, healthcare coverage or social security because they are hired as independent contractors.  As a result, the club owners are not paying taxes on their employed labor.  This is not that different from  households hiring illegal workers to care for their young and failing to report since they pay in cash.

One of my favorite counter-arguments: “The woman is making money off of my interest in her…so if I’m paying to watch with her consent, I’m footing the bill.”  In economic terms: he is bearing the full financial cost.

Hah! This is not only humorous, but it is indeed false.  Remember: there’s salary, and there’s commission–but it’s not hers.  There are also rental fees.  Many strip clubs charge their hired strippers rental fees..the couch, for example.  Their take-home pay is almost less than half of their rate since they are forced to share their earnings with the disc-jockey and security personnel.  The “heavies” incur the heavy cost of providing protection.

Emotional/Psychological Costs

Speaking of the strippers as labor–it’s a business, right--two studies found that strip clubs overbook women, which spirals into a fierce competition where the women engage in more explicit activities in order to earn tips.  Talk about exploiting labor conditions.
Before women even enter the stripping industry, they have already endured physical and emotional costs.  Specifically strippers are not representing the most emotionally healthy group.  According to a University of Pennsylvania study led by the Director of Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program, Dr. Layden:

65 percent of strippers have suffered sexual abuse.
55 percent of strippers experience Multiple Personality Disorder.
60 percent suffer from Depression.

Social/Societal Costs

Reasserts gender inequity – According to the author of Pimps, Tricks, and Feminists Kelly Holsoplle, “Stripclubs are organized according to gender and reflect gender power dynamics in greater society.” Consequently, strip clubs institutionalize sexual violence while others would further argue that strip clubs serve as the gateway to prostitution and other illegal activity.

Physical Costs

The physical costs of stripping should be the most obvious: we see it on the women’s face–but years later.  Her average life expectancy is 37.4 years-in contrast to the American average of 78.1 years, calculated by the World Bank.  Before that, however, the sexual assault and rape follow strippers off stage.

On a side note – ever notice the higher prescription rates and use of male enhancement drugs with younger men?  In the UK, men between 18 to 30 years of age are increasingly using Viagra.  In the US, 40-year old men who deal with erectile dysfunction are estimated as high as 39 percent. Perhaps they’ve been overstimulated to the extent that they need help.  Maybe.  That is one survey that I do not have time to design, but that should not stop eager pharmaceutical companies from administering.



Author: "Mehrunisa" Tags: "Culture, Economics, Gender and Rights, L..."
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Date: Monday, 25 Jun 2012 09:00

Contributed by Amad Ahmed

If you’re having girl problems, Jay-Z feels bad for you. In The Black Album, Jay lyrically emphasises that of the 99 problems that trouble him, ‘bitches’ aren’t one of them. Boasting about this is unnecessary – capitalism would go through an existential crisis if the hottest chick in the game wasn’t wear’n’ his chain. However, Jay’s empathy is lost on the Average Jawaad, who’s having major girl problems. Despite the countless positive adjectives that can be used to describe him, Jawaad’s having difficulty in finding a woman to settle down with. Magazines should be helping, but they’re too busy focusing on the needs of a menopausal or perverse demographic to be of any use. Luckily, like a postmodern antithesis of Carrie Bradshaw, I have an abstract analogy to help Jawaad and other twenty-something year old men who suffer like he does:

Be the pizza”

In the same way that a pizza must have fundamental components – a base, tomato sauce and cheese – before it can be recognised as a pizza; women look for fundamental components in a man if he is to be recognised as a potential suitor. Though it may seem strange to have such a practical approach to love, this UCAS generation of women realise that entry requirements makes the selection process easier to deal with. The following paragraphs are insights learnt over dinner with a truly remarkable woman, a monolith of perfection, regarding the male characteristics she deems ‘fundamental’ in a partner.

Demeanour: A smart man lets his demeanour and etiquettes speak for him – he knows that chivalry, good speech and proper elocution say more about him than anything he can say about himself. Hugh Grant and his posh twattery have given good manners a bad name, but if the balance between authority and politeness can be struck, that’s what dreams are made of. A useful adage to remember is  ‘if you think you should be doing it, make sure you’re doing it’. This gung-ho spirit channels good instinct into action; if you think you should be carrying her laptop bag and offering your arm as support so that she can balance in her too-high-heels, politely insist and kudos will cascade toward you. This shows that you’re sensitive enough to be aware of her needs and masculine enough provide them for her – that’s like telling her that you’d build her a wall and make her a perfectly raised soufflé if she asked you to. The ‘dreamboat’ achievement will be unlocked.

Engaging: A pleasant disposition is quickly branded as lifeless if there isn’t engaging conversation to go with it. By never letting there be a lull in conversation, Jawaad makes sure that women enjoy the time they spend talking to him. Pop/low cultural references are easily picked up but high culture needs more work. It takes time and effort – dense books and blogs must be sought out and read. This purpose of this is to help form opinions on a range of topics. The payoff comes when Jawaad’s opinion clicks with hers – that’s what chemistry is built upon and is the foundation to a lifetime of stimulating and enlightening conversation.

Spiritual: When Socrates is quoted as saying “the male libido is like being chained to a mad-man”, I like to picture him red faced and fumbling with his tunic, explaining himself to a woman he’s wronged. The Monolith is of the opinion that had Socrates had been a more religious man, his spirituality could have acted as some sort of psychological chastity belt, reigning in his thrashing libido. Whilst this takes away from the greater purposes of religion (gettin’ to heaven an’ that), the principles and morals religion imparts are constants, irrespective of the peaks and troughs in life. Ethics that are grounded on a greater context than the self lend credibility and stability to Jawaad’s character, making him a reliable, ‘safe’ man to be with.

Fashionable: The importance of ‘immaculate presentation’ was stressed several times over dinner, making me agonizingly aware of the creases in my shirt and the tom yom soup splatters that was now decorated them. Most men don’t go shopping much because they don’t know what they’re looking for – but there’s a minimal effort, quick fix solution. First, Jawaad must find a retail store that sells clothes that reflect his style best, easily done with a quick look at the online catalogues of major labels. He should then visit the store during a quiet period of the day, find a sales assistant that looks friendly and confess to her that he have no idea what he’s doing, has no eye for fashion and would greatly appreciate her help. That’s about as hard as it gets; he now has to nod, umm and ahh as someone employed because of her good sense of fashion does the hard work for him. Though this may seem like an unnecessary upheaval, the transition from scruffy to sharp has a tremendous impact on how Jawaad is perceived by the fashion conscious women. Buying a few Gatsby shirts and a pair of shoes that need to be cleaned using leather polish rather than a damp sock makes an immediate positive impression, one well worth making.

Physique: Having received and used a free day pass at the gym when I was 16, I got overexcited with how much weight I could squat and overdid it. It tore through the muscle fibres in my leg and had I was left crawling around the house for the next three days. A realisation occurred to me at that tender age; I decided that there’s no woman whose love is worth crawling around in agony for and I never went back to the gym. The Monolith describes my physique as ‘vulnerable’, accuses me of being selfish and tells me having eyes that look green in direct sunlight doesn’t compensate for the routine of tweezing and concealing, dieting and detoxing women put themselves through. ‘E for effort’ she says as dessert arrives. I say dessert; what came was a bowl of fruit.

By subscribing to these expectations, Jawaad isn’t being disingenuous; these are the hoops he has to jump to be in a position where he can share his divine light with his partner. These expectations are not specific to the one woman I had dinner with, they’re be broadly true for a vast majority of women. If Jawaad can fulfill these reasonable expectations, he’ll flourish with the liberty and luxury of being scrupulous in finding the perfect person for him, be confidant in a marriage that starts with fundamentally appealing to one another. By subscribing to these expectations, Jawaad stands to spend a lifetime with a requiem of perfection, who’ll understand that life is transient and the material world is all but an illusion – together they’ll recognize that only love and the gleeful adventure that loves brings is real.

Author: "Guest" Tags: "Culture, girl problems, jay z, man stuff"
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Date: Saturday, 23 Jun 2012 05:46

One of the most pernicious misunderstandings in the Muslim world about Americans is that they are dour religious fanatics.

More than about half of Americans are obese, and the US has done a solid job of lowering their education levels. I was struck on my 3,000-mile road trip across America by how many of them share Muslim values, seeking fun rather than fanaticism. They seem less interested in the mega churches than in burger joints (which are less than ubiquitous in America).

“Young people don’t really go to the churches,” said a 23-year-old man in northeastern America, cheerfully exaggerating. “We want more ways to have fun.” He said he drinks — alcohol is legal everywhere — and, until recently, abstained from polyamorous sex. American officials have suggested that perhaps ninety-three percent of the population has had premarital sex, traditionally with long-term spouses but increasingly with one-night-stands as well.

This man had joined the 2011 OWS protests, but then, he said, he was detained and beaten for several days by the NYPD, losing a tooth in the process. That soured him on political activism, and, like many others, he now just wants to go abroad and learn a foreign language.

In the south and parts of the central lands, that sense of hopelessness has led some young Americans of Southern flavor to favor seceding. In baseball games in Alabama, fans sometimes outrage the ethnic minorities, if any present, by roaring confederate slogans.

You wouldn’t think a Muslim could be made to blush in New York (well, you would), but I was taken aback by the hookup scene of one-night stands: young men with flashy cars troll for women, chat them up and then drive off with them. There is also prostitution, and the President’s secret service team was caught having been to a Colombian brothel, with several prostitutes, right before the President was due to come for the Summit of the Americas.

Remember that the US is the homeland not only of stern GOP money grubbers and fire-and-brimstone preachers but also of the romantic hedonism of Charles Bukowski. In my own Google verse discovery: ““Sex is kicking death in the ass while singing.”

In the 1970s, disgruntled young Americans rebelled against a corrupt, war-driven regime by embracing an ascetic but similarly

Disenfranchised American youth, pushed to the margins by mainstream hatred.

indulgent form of liberal individualism. Now they’re still rebelling against a corrupt, war-driven regime by embracing personal freedom — in some cases, even sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. And the right to Tweet without probable cause.

They often also look coldly on the Muslim world, which is quite dizzying. In America, Canada and the United Kingdom, we Muslims send out thousands of our kind every year to work in call centers, convenience stores and tech support and are hated. I come to the US and people hand me gifts! Or at least give me the right directions.

This youth culture of America is nurtured by the Internet — nearly ninety-two percent of American households have computers — and, more specifically, by Facebook, which is yet to be banned and is widespread. An e-Marketer study conducted in February 2011 found that nearly half of Americans were using Facebook. Twitter, not so much.

“The effect of Facebook is very big,” said one young woman who said that she was initially aghast when she saw former high school female friends pregnant and married by the age of 22 but gradually decided that there was more than one way to live.

The FBI wants to be able to wire-tap websites such as Facebook and Gmail amongst others. This past year a bill, called the Stop Online Privacy Act, was introduced and threatened online freedoms for millions of innocent Americans.

“You recognize that it’s the Music indusry’s lobby that’s working hard to ensure such legal moves without thinking much about the consequences this will have in other respects on the lives of Americans,” said a shop owner in Oakland.

Falafels, biryanis and kabobs are widespread. One popular dish now is hummus. In one home I visited, the kids were eating freshly made hummus. But no tahini. They’ll learn.

These young people are America’s future, and they can be our allies. But while we have a strategy in immigration, I’m not sure we in the Muslim world have a strategy for America itself.

Muslim world policy makers see America as fanatical, the same way they saw, well, America in the late 1970s. There was talk back then of a less than diplomatic option against US, and if we had taken that route..

My road trip across America leaves me convinced that change will come here, too, if we just have the patience to not disrupt the subterranean forces at work: dwindling education, an expanding gap between the rich and the poor, growing economic frustration, government intrusion and monopoly on information. My hunch is that if there is no war between the US and the Muslim world — which would probably strengthen our own struggles — hard-liners will go the way of Clinton, and the US will end up looking something like Canada during the Harper era: same dogma, broken teeth.

I think of a young man I met who said wistfully: “It’s normal for a boy and another boy to want to sleep together.  What’s wrong with that?” The trendy-non-heteronormative-romantics are on our side and far outnumber the fanatics. We should bet on them, not charming Obamas, as agents of self-destructive change. They’ll make our job easier.

[Tarboush tip: Nick Kristof for writing this]

Author: "Sana" Tags: "Humor, In America, Iran, Satire, Uncateg..."
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Date: Saturday, 16 Jun 2012 01:06
Illustration by Husam Zakharia for KABOBfest, 2012
Author: "Husam" Tags: "Cartoons, Syria, massacres, shabihah, sy..."
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Date: Tuesday, 12 Jun 2012 19:42

When my college advisor told me about the Washington Seminar, I was so excited just thinking about having an internship in Washington DC, where the political sausage is made. Little did I know, my college campus had few internships that I qualified for. It wasn’t likely that I would be offered an internship at one of the many conservative think tanks in the DC area. Besides, what a member of Congress would do with a Palestinian student is beyond me!

After conducting thorough research in the internships’ database, I applied to ADC and hoped for the best. The rules were complicated for non-citizens in order to deter a lot of international students from misusing internships, let alone one that is paid. However, weeks later, I got a call from Marvin, who offered me a paid internship at ADC’s national office. I was thrilled and so was my professor, who feared I may not get an internship at all.

I started working with ADC in January of that year and since that day, I have called DC my home. I have crossed paths with so many young Arab Americans who came to DC to do the same internship. Many of them would stay in the DC area even after the internship was over, working to advance Arab American causes, their interests in the States and beyond. I have met more student interns at ADC than I can count. They all come to DC to be in the capital and for many of them, ADC has served as a gateway to bigger and better things. This organization wants to be the stepping stone for young people of the community. That’s why they accept more than 15 interns a year and bring them to Washington, DC. Maintaining an internship is financially challenging for many students, which is why ADC offers a small stipend to help students cover some of their expenses.

This program is truly one that supports and fosters Arab American leaders. Also, Arab students who have studied in America and come across this program have not only benefited from it, but were given an opportunity to learn their way around a big city. Some stayed in the States and others went home to put their education to good use. ADC’s alumni work in a variety of different segments of societies, from holding government positions to working in business, media, and non-profit organizations.

Unlike many other Arab American organizations, ADC has never been exclusive. Their efforts have always been extended to each and every person in the community. It’s not a private club where few people get to be in the driver’s seat. ADC wants the community to be in the driver seat through its many chapters and diverse makeup that represents all shades of the Arab American community. ADC makes an effort to form personal attachments, the success of which is proven by many former interns who keep connecting with the office that gave them an opportunity to jumpstart their own careers. One particular act of kindness cemented my appreciation for the work of the organization. When ADC was unable to give me a stipend due to my student visa restriction, the president of the organization took me to the grocery store and bought me food with her own money to keep me from “shrinking” as, she called it. This is generosity that few organizations can boast about.

While ADC has seen its fair share of controversies over political matters such as taking a stand or remaining silent on certain issues, most of those disagreements concern foreign affairs. However, Arab Americans can rest assured that on domestic issues, ADC has always been at the forefront of defending the rights of individuals and the greater community. They stood for Arab American rights when it was toxic to do so, they were heard when people were hiding or ashamed of their identity.

So when the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) meets for their convention this summer, make sure to keep an eye out for their bright interns and remember those donors who make it possible for ADC to bring so many talented young people from across the United States to shape their careers and sharpen their leadership skills.

ADC’s annual convention will be held on June 21-24 in Washington DC. For More Information and for registration please visit ADC National Convention
Author: "Hanitizer" Tags: "Activism, Arab-Americans, In America, Me..."
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Date: Wednesday, 23 May 2012 08:48

Contributed by Mehrunisa Qayyum

“None of the MENA countries rank in the top 50,” according to the Reporters Without Border 2011-2012 ‘Press Freedom Index’.

This trend alone, calls for a conversation between media, civil society and emerging citizen journalists. For those who are wary of outside non-MENA based organizations judging MENA countries, I have an indigenous source too.  Here’s the sobering factoid: the Amman-based Center for Defending the Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ) conducted its survey on press freedom and found that only 2 percent of the 500 or so journalist said that they were entirely satisfied with the state of press freedom in the kingdom.

I needed to hear some good news, the bad is just so typical.

Somewhere between the optimism and the pessimism, the back and forth sentiments suffocate my need for a reality check.  I need to understand how people can succeed or inspire despite living in environments (like Syria, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey) that present challenges in expressing ideas, opinions, and limit media freedom.

How do people become agents of influence when media outlets determine when, how and who hears their narratives?  The who, what, when, and how determines impact.  If someone’s narrative impacts, then they represent influence. Right?

The good news is that Time Magazine announced its ‘Most Influential People for 2012’.  In particular, PITAPOLICY honed in on those from the pita-consuming region, listed below, and are among the ‘Most Influential’ (this is in no particular order):

  1. Ali Ferzat-Cartoonist, Syria
  2. Samira Ibrahim-Plaintiff, Egypt
  3. Manal Al-Sharif-Activist, Saudi Arabia
  4. Maryam Durrani-Broadcaster, Afghanistan
  5. Rached Ghannouchi-Politician, Tunisia
  6. Asghar Farhadi-Filmmaker, Iran
  7. Ali Babacan & Ahmet Davutoglu-”Neo-Ottomans”: Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Turkey
  8. Hammad bin Jassem bin Jaber al-Thani-Prime Minister & Foreign Minister, Qatar
  9. Ayatullah Ali Al-Khamenei- Supreme Leader, Iran
  10. Iftikhar Chaudry-Chief Justice, Pakistan

The terms “influencer” or “influential” connote a heavy judgment.  Simply put: Time’s yearly list not too far off from high school superlatives listed in a yearbook.  Ideally, my personal heroes would be counted among the 100.  However, in reality, whether we agree or not, the controversial exercise of voting “top 100 Influencers” provokes discussion.  On a less cynical note, the list inspires a discussion on what I would argue is the root cause for determining influence: Freedom of the Press.

Freedom of the press–or the limits imposed–pushes certain narratives forward for the less influential (audience) to accept or reject.  Conversely, the audience enjoys limited power through a feedback loop in repeating the narrative of the supposed influencer.  Each media outlet that picks up the narrative, and hits repeat, reproduces the cycle.  Voila: journalists turned bloggers note what’s ‘trending’ and repeat the narrative.  Twitter users, as many have argued, choose to amplify the narrative or amend the narrative.

Before you know it: Time Magazine puts a call out to its audience simplifying a year of initiative to about 100 or so top narratives.  In the end, the top narratives become influencers.  This may be good, if you are hero to a society. This might be bad, if you start applying relativism and algorithms to check on the list. This is one interpretation. Other interpretations are welcome.

The bad news is that Freedom House released its “Freedom of the Press 2012” report, which focused on the Middle East & North Africa region (MENA) entitled, “Breakthroughs and Pushback in the Middle East” compiled by Karin Deutsch Karlekar and Jennifer Dunham.  Specifically, the index assesses the 1) legal, 2) political, and 3) economic factors that influence print, broadcast and internet freedom.

Spoiler alert for the MENA region: more pushback is not necessarily a good thing in this case because censorship and press freedom still permeate many of the countries. When Saudi Arabia scores an 84, as it did this year, KSA didn’t earn a B- rating on its report card.  For this index, the higher the score, the worse the performance.

True, the “Breakthrough” highlights how “In 2011, Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt improved to Partly Free as media freedom expanded with the fall of longtime dictators.”  But I remember how a seasoned Egyptian-American journalist, Hanan Elbadry, worried out loud that self-censorship in Egypt has increased despite the revolutionary spirit, at a media panel in Washington, DC.  As internet and mobile phone use balloons in the region, many MENA governments are adopting new means for controlling technologies that facilitate media freedom.

This region’s media environment underwent huge improvements in 2011, but it remained the worst-performing part of the world. Libya (60), Tunisia (51), and Egypt (57), all moved from ‘Not Free’ to ‘Partly Free’. Great news: recently Juan Cole described

Image from Roibal.com

Tunisia is “now freer than the US”.   However, Bahrain (84 points) and Syria (89 points) both experienced declines in press freedom amid crackdowns on protest movements. Conditions in Iran are still extremely restrictive, with 42 journalists behind bars–the most of any country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

On May 3rd, Bahrain revoked visas for an NGO (Freedom House) to conduct a site visit to follow up on previous recommendations.  The recommendations were not implemented.  Ironically, UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day celebrations began on May 3rd–in the MENA country of Tunisia.

I do not contest the report’s finding that MENA press sees a “significant net improvement”, but I see that for every Egypt moving forward in media freedom, there’s a Bahrain or two moving backward–and neutralizing the progress. Trends like this remind me that some of the top ‘Time Most Loveable Influencers’ in the region have been freely able to express themselves because they have emigrated from those environments limiting freedom expression, like Mohsen Makhmalbaf, among other great filmmakers.Those who were not so lucky and paid with their livelihoods: the Assad regime took revenge on Political Cartoonist, Ali Farzat, by breaking his hands.

Others are able to express themselves in spite of the environment–like Hammad binn Jassem bin Jaber al-Thani, who literally influences media since he is part of the three factors of production mentioned above: legal, political, and economic influence.




Author: "Guest" Tags: "Arab World, Media"
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Date: Tuesday, 22 May 2012 06:27

Sacha Baron Cohen loves to mock all things Arab and Muslim. All three of his most popular movies have gone out of their way to vilify Arabs and Muslims. Now, as brave men and women in the Arab world courageously and resiliently face down the despots that have beaten and killed them, Baron Cohen portrays a dictator. Not only is the movie horribly ill-timed, but it stands as a testament to his horrid disdain for Arabs and Muslims.

In Bruno, he interviews a Palestinian and labels him a terrorist. That Palestinian is Ayman Abu Aita, a non-profit worker who would later sue Baron Cohen in the district of Columbia two years ago. Exactly what a show about a gay model has to do with Palestine is beyond me. Borat in its entirety is about a journalist from a Muslim republic who does crazy stunts and shows a great deal of ignorance and resentment toward Israel–it feels forced.

Now comes Baron Cohen’s third movie, The Dictator, which centers around the stereotypical caricature of an Arab/Muslim leader designed to make the entire Arab world and Muslim faith look bad. The very premise of the movie is offensive. It trivializes the senseless torture, imprisonment, and murder of civilians when death is never funny. In my conversations with Libyans and Iraqis, not one has ever told me that the deaths of their family members under the rule of their respective despots and dictators was funny.

It seems that Baron Cohen also makes the point that only mad dictators would resent Israel. Really? Try telling that to the dozen European countries who have been voicing their concerns with Israel’s occupation and land grab. While the movie has not yet been released, from the many clips and trailers available online, it’s hard to conclude that it will have anything nice to say about Muslims and Arabs.

Coming from an observant Jewish family, Baron Cohen is a partisan for the Israeli cause. He is a graduate of the London-based comedy group Habonim, which describes itself as “a Socialist Zionist Culturally Jewish youth movement”.

Baron Cohen makes movies in America in a way that reminds me of Israeli TV shows. When television programs in Israel feature an Arab character, he or she is always a stereotypical, dumbed-down version of the real thing. Why has no one called Baron Cohen out on his racism yet? Does it matter that in his three movies, not a single positive Muslim character is portrayed? I do not think his brand of racism is particularly popular since Hollywood studios have mostly abandoned it.

Baron Cohen should not be immune to criticism when he deliberately wages an assault on entire cultures and religions to serve his own agenda. He invents characters and uses them as a mouthpiece for his views on entire groups of people. Indeed, he has run into trouble because of racist or prejudiced comments his characters have made.

Per his Wikipedia page

Regarding his portrayal as the anti-Semitic Borat, Baron Cohen says the segments are a “dramatic demonstration of how racism feeds on dumb conformity, as much as rabid bigotry”, rather than a display of racism by Baron Cohen himself.[35] “Borat essentially works as a tool. By himself being anti-Semitic, he lets people lower their guard and expose their own prejudice”, Baron Cohen explains.[9]

I’m sure when the topic of his support for Israel and its illegal occupation of Palestinian land comes up, he probably replies, “I am not engaged in those discussions.” Fair enough, but why does so much of his work focus on making Arabs and Muslims look despicable? An analyst from Bitterlemons.org, who was duped by one of Bruno’s pranks, had this to say about him: “He is exploiting our tragic and painful conflict in the most cynical and deceptive manner. I doubt he’ll give us anything in return.” Baron Cohen cannot just punch one guy, smile in the face of another, and then look at the camera and say ‘I am not taking sides.’

Take this example, Cohen found enough time to slam the protest over the Toronto Film festival for its Tel Aviv event. Even celebrated Israeli filmmakers protested the ‘celebration of occupation.’ as a multi-million dollar propaganda campaign on behalf of Israel but Sacha begs to differ.

Even a Palestinian American journalist –whose wife happens to be Jewish took issues with Sacha’s characters in his op-ed “Sacha Baron Cohen’s antics – good or bad?”. To the best of my knowledge no Arab or Muslim has ever been consulted in the making of these movies movies. This means Sacha’s action suggest, “Yo, Arabs and Muslims, Let me teach you about yourself”

Cohen’s movies clearly propagate stereotypes against Arabs and Muslims that increase western ignorance and subsequently animosity, specifically benefiting Israel. The marketing of his movies often target a segment of society with low IQ (which may have racist proclivities of their own) with this type of overgrown juvenile humor.

I have yet to see one Baron Cohen movie that picks on someone other than Arabs and Muslims. Sure he did a decent acting job in both Hugo and Sweeney Todd (good movie by the way), but it seems that any movie in which he stars, writes, and produces will do nothing more than advance stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims. He wins when his movies make a killing, but also when he sees his political agenda creep into the mainstream American discussion.

Baron Cohen’s big thing is Holocaust awareness, a worthy cause indeed. But neither Arabs nor Muslims had anything to do with it, so how is he achieving his goal by making Islam the butt of each of his jokes? Baron Cohen is free to think what he wants and make any movie he likes to make, but he is not free to claim he is impartial to the conflict. This issue is akin to a white actor in blackface for many in the Arab and Muslim communities. Can you imagine an Arab actor lampooning a Jewish character in a mainstream movie? What if that actor had made questionable statements in the past about the Jewish people? Not in a million years would a movie like that see the light of day.

All I ask is that Baron Cohen be labeled accurately based on his well established distaste for Arabs. Habonim Dror, Baron Cohen’s former “Jewish cultural youth movement” includes as one of its ideals “fixing the world.” It’s hard to see how systematically using Arabs as punchlines will achieve that end.

Author: "Hanitizer" Tags: "Arab World, Islamophobia, Media, Pop Cul..."
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Date: Saturday, 05 May 2012 04:08

Contributed by Amad Ahmed

Although the Speedo brand is relatively unconcerned about the elasticity of their swim briefs, high-testosterone teens are committed to exploring the nature of it. The subject of these experiments is usually an unworldly kid, dangling from the pegs of a P.E locker room in an atomic wedgie after swim class. This experience translates as an important life lesson, there is a heightened awareness of what’s expected and accepted in social circles. By being aware of the boundaries of certain circles, personality can be regulated to ensure we exist successfully in them. Having been chafed red for wearing Speedo’s, our unworldly n00b now knows that its better to retweet a Fernando Torres joke than one about how ‘real’ Khloe Kardashian is. This fictitious, well serving n00b has compromised his individuality by diluting it with the image his peers expect of him – spiked hair, cigarettes and trainers with air bubbles in them.

Whilst this all sits well in the peer-sanctioned groups of high school, its inherent limitations are realised when set against the diversity of a University campus. This ‘grey personality’ is paradoxically highlighted when set beside the colour of fellow students – those uninhibited in thought, opinion and experience. It is the colourful ones that find each other in niche fresher’s week societies; soft eye contact bringing couples together as they contest uninformed interpretations of Nietzsche. The Islamic Society is by far the funniest, with oddball liberalists quoting scholars to justify sitting next to a hotjabi in a segregated room. To this polished crowd, it takes more than a vague reference of Noam Chomsky to impress and a sense of not belonging creeps in, bringing out the nebbish that lingers in us all.

Having fallen short of hipster-y activism and realising that general knowledge is too general to be relied on, the highbrow circles are dismissed. This is where the Student Union Rave attracts its minority crowd, those that want the duel function of socialising with girls whilst maintaining the façade of intelligence. Though it may seem to be the case, the rave is not exclusive to attractive people – there are no regulations against acne or wimpy arms. The dark room is forgiving to the pale complexion achieved from scrolling 9gag posts all day and the random flashes of strobe lighting do little more than reveal homo sapien taxonomy. For those with an insipid disposition, 18” speakers boom out the latest MTV tripe, letting conversation to comfortably plateau at the lameness of Meg Griffin and the epic killing spree’s achieved playing COD.

As uninspired as guy talk may be, it’s the safe platform from which lecherous phoarr-ing and corr-ing can de indulged in. The crude, noncommittal nature of these remarks is employed because women at a rave are by default, cold and indifferent; a historian friend described it ‘as if she were Siberia and I, an exiled revolutionary’. If ‘porridge personality’ does manage to strike a conversation with Siberia, a broad and generic disposition is adopted; with conversation limited to how rubbish WhatsApp is and whether Cheryl Cole is getting too skinny. If inanity isn’t prevalent, rejection often follows –in an excruciatingly loud voice, echoed by a less attractive, more animated, somehow involved friend. Following the shameful walk back, Burnt Porridge has two options. The first is to stay and take pictures with platonic female friends, giving the impression of a fun night with hot chicks. Alternatively, he can come prepared for chit-chat with uninterested and uninteresting woman, hoarsely exchanging celebrity drivel picked up from last week’s Grazia.

As it is a primarily shallow environment, Porridge has to simply fit in and get by – the lessons learnt from the atomic wedgie are again relevant – the special snowflake must fall into a bed of superficiality. However, once a porridge persona has been adopted and accepted, approval from Siberia is transitory, effortless and essentially meaningless. Life gets tedious in this cycle of hackneyed relations and it is only when a woman of substance slips in that the snow globe of banality is shaken up and a journey of belated self-discovery begins. There’ll be no flirty cackling coming from her; her cheeks will glow in candlelit delight as she laughs at your Dumbledore impression. The University campus thrives on people leaving their comfort zones in the effort to be well-rounded individuals, but rave night success does little to get you there. If it’s not a social setting that that is natural to you it’ll require a one-dimensional commitment that comes at the price of other, more worthwhile ones. Time is better spent in the Philosophy society; even if your contributions don’t go beyond making jokes about Nietzsche being German with a moustache.

Contributed by Amad Ahmed

Author: "Guest" Tags: "Culture"
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Date: Monday, 23 Apr 2012 17:30

Contributed by Mehrunisa Qayyum.

The die was cast on the sanctions during the summer of 2009, a senate staffer said, “It was basically understood that sanctions were going to go through.”

Middle East Foreign Policy expert, Trita Parsi, recounts the comment above in his latest book “A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran”,  to underline one of his primary concerns in regards to current American-Iranians relations.

Although Parsi was born in Iran, he moved to Sweden with his family because his academic father faced persecution. Later, he completed his Doctoral thesis on Israeli-Iranian relations under Professor Francis Fukuyama at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Parsi’s diplomatic experience includes his stint working for the Swedish Permanent Mission to the United Nations. He has also advised several Asian governments and the U.S. Capitol.

Punitive actions and heated rhetoric are not new to the US-Iran sphere of foreign policy. But it was even more troubling to learn that when other countries (Brazil and Turkey) attempted to assume a neutral role in easing the tension, and in fact received positive results, they were not commended for engaging multilaterally. Although Parsi’s new book examines this newer effort conducted by Brazil and Turkey, he connects this book to his earlier observations with his 2007 book: “Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States”. This book is recommended reading for those who recognize that hawkish US policymakers continue to nurture the intransigent paradigm that does little to progress relations with Iran. There are other competing paradigms to view Iran, a nation that also may be consumed by its own domestic challenges and vibrancy. (I am hoping that if I refrain from referencing AIPAC I can still talk about Iran.)

Getting a book review published on “A Single Roll of the Dice…” has been almost as challenging as reading this book on a DC metro without having someone ask me: “So, is Iran going to close the Strait of Hormuz and interrupt the oil flow?”

Despite these personal challenges for me, it cannot be as difficult as Parsi’s effort to conduct and assess over 60 interviews with contradicting voices in order to investigate how the “pre-breakdown” of US-Iran dialogue happened before official diplomacy actually restarted. I foolishly thought that if I discuss a book that serendipitously addresses a ‘hot topic’, then reviewing where the diplomacy option stands in a US election year would make up for the emotional discourse that predictably played out in DC while ‘netizens’ used #OccupyOccupyAIPAC and #Iran.  As The Daily Show noted: national elections tend to increase the vitriolic rhetoric as leaders demonize a potential threat to appeal to voters.

In “ A Single Roll of the Dice…” Parsi outlines two chronologies to represent each track that the US pursued immediately after Iran recognized that shared a message to dialogue:

  • The first track represented sanctions, which enhanced the status quo–because the last three decades achieved so much in US-Iranian relations.
  • The second track illustrated what revisionists might call an “Obama Doctrine” since President Obama exerted a significant amount of political capital to act on what the Bush Administration chose not to pursue.

Perhaps one could argue that the third track of military confrontation also exists, but as Parsi makes clear: the whole point behind Iran’s intent and the Obama administration’s posture was to avoid confrontation. Nevertheless, the book provides several anecdotes to highlight how “Rather than being an alternative to policy, sanctions have become an alternative to policy,” and what the driving force behind confronting “Iran’s nuclear problem” is .

Fundamentally, US sanctions have operated as a response to Iran’s nuclear potential, and thereby trumped all other recommended avenues to engage Iran on developing issues such as a long-term collaboration on Afghanistan. Moreover, the Iranian leadership has persistently said that it is not pursuing a nuclear weapon for militarized purposes as exemplified by Ayatollah Khamenei’s February 22 statement, “The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons.”

Another book that tackles Iran’s nuclear developed comes from Shahram Chubin, which is more defined by a security point of view: “Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions”. A more hawkish view of Iran may be encountered in “Showdown with Nuclear Iran: Radical Islam’s Messianic Mission to Destroy Israel and Cripple the United States” by Michael D. Evans & Jerome Corsi. In contrast, Parsi provides added value with the back-story of the current situation, which does not fixate on the philosophical definition of “rational actor” because he reviews each participating power’s role, considering its rhetoric and reaction. As a result, I see how a country may be acting rationally according to its interests while another country disagrees with policy. Nonetheless, it is more attractive to question a state’s sanity as opposed to its policy — a tool used by many involved.

In fact, discussing Iran as a rational actor–distinct from what its neighbors think or believe–has been consistently difficult, if not considered unwise. Historically, the US has consulted with he Europeans and Israel when dealing with Iran. But when newer rational actors participated, like the rising economies of Brazil and Turkey, somehow the new kids on the block were begrudgingly allowed to join the P5+1 soccer team. As a result, the US position preferred to spend more political capital maintaining the isolationist path of crippling sanctions rather than leveraging the political capital expended by Brazil and Turkey, which persuaded Iran to accept an agreement that the US had originally proposed. (By crippling sanctions, I mean the updated “targeted” sanctions policy.)

As Parsi commented, “Obama administration invested a lot of political capital in testing diplomacy with Iran …away from public view, Obama had sought to establish a direct challenge of communication with Khamenei via the Swiss embassy direct dialogue” Similarly, Iranian author Hooman Majd, noted in the New York Times, that sanctions on Iran, as a policy, have not been working either.

…Discussing Iran as a rational actor–distinct from what its neighbors think or believe–has been consistently difficult, if not considered unwise.

Additionally, Parsi tackles the sub-theme of the Iranian presidential elections in his book – something that many commentators and observers have quickly forgotten to take into consideration when analyzing current Iranian-American dynamics. Ironically, Iran continues to stump the US even though Iran experienced virtual civil war within the Iranian elite–which happens in even the most “liberal democracies” (consider how two powerful groups like the Republicans and Democrats–aka entrenched elites– are deadlocked in a heated debate regarding women’s reproductive health choices.) The discussion of election fraud signifies how the internal dynamics of a country may distract, if not outright detract, from efforts to engage with external actors. Similarly, just as the American 2012 elections create divisions and refocus Americans’ attention domestically, Iran can also sub-prioritize international relations to address issues at home.

In Iran, the Green Revolution served as a response to their own politics–it was not about “us” or the US. Essentially Parsi tries to advise American policy to:

  1. See Iran as a country capable of pragmatic decision-making;
  2. Recognize that the “lost in translation message” occurs in English between legislative and executive branches; and
  3. Domestic uprisings can be just that: internal movements that have nothing to do with anti-American sentiment.

Those interested in going beyond the narrow but ubiquitous framework currently provided to understand Iran should pick up this


Trita Parsi

A country cannot be simply be the sum of  manipulated perceptions or foreign interests, but also a result of its own consumption of domestic challenges. Perhaps the greatest parallel, ironically, is this country.

Before the book hit the stores, I attended one of Parsi’s book chat discussion because I had a few questions that related to his body

of work, such as “Do hawks in the US purposely mispronounce Iranian to rhyme with uranium to galvanize Americans into confronting the perceived nuclear threat of Iran?” I seriously proposed this theory to Trita Parsi. Thankfully, he did not take me too seriously. However, after reading his assessment, I cannot help but believe that the “Iranian, uranium” exchange is a little more than a Freudian Slip when I consider some of the conclusions. I am hesitant to trace the Iran-US latest diplomacy debacle to 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium–and I am grateful that Parsi pauses to reflect on moments of indecision versus procrastination.

Mehrunisa Qayyum is the founder of PITA POLICY and a Political Economy of MENA Consultant, based in Washington D.C. Follow her @PITAPOLICY

Author: "Guest" Tags: "Iran, Uncategorized, US Foreign Policy, ..."
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Date: Monday, 23 Apr 2012 08:36

Illustration by Nabil Hanna for KABOBfest, 2012.

Author: "Nabil" Tags: "Arab World, Cartoons, Humor, Israel, Pal..."
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Date: Saturday, 14 Apr 2012 11:45

I called my older brother Mazin the other day, but he was not at home. I learned that due to the power shortage in our town, he had been spending more time at his workplace. They have a generator, and thus he can utilize actual electric light bulbs there. Most people do not have this luxury. Power supplies have been eliminated. Candles and other antiquated light sources are used widely.

My younger brother Mahmoud also did not come home that night because he was camping out at a gas station 30 minutes away from home. He was hoping to score some gas to run his tok tok, which he uses to transport boxes.

Indeed, Gaza is out of fuel and more and more people are using horses and donkeys for everyday transportation.

My sister has told me that it has been two days since she showered last. I know she is keen on showers, so this came as a surprise to me. It turns out the water to our block has been shut off for several days now, even though our town has traditionally had abundant supplies of water. These days, people have to look at their calendar before they can take a shower. Fortunately, it has not been too hot in Gaza — not yet.

No power, no fuel, and little water: darkness is everywhere, the public is deeply distrustful, and the only people making a living are those who walk around town flaunting big guns often accompanied by a huge entourage. Which also reminds us of Lords, Dukes and courts’ jesters.

My mom told me last week that the local cooking gas truck had not being making its rounds, so she has not be able to bake bread in more than a week. With irregular water supply and no fuel or power, keeping our home running is increasingly difficult. My mom is now baking using a clay oven and burning wood. This technology has been around for ages.

Our next door neighbor called me and asked me if I could buy him some prograf — a medication used by people who have had a kidney transplant. He was unable to score some in Gaza due to limited availability and skyrocketing prices. The abject conditions in Gaza have left many people unable to access medicine and led them to seek alternative medicine and bogus treatments for very real ailments.

No power, no fuel, and little water: darkness is everywhere, the public is deeply distrustful, and the only people making a living are those who walk around town flaunting big guns often accompanied by a huge entourage. Which also reminds us of Lords, Dukes and courts’ jesters.

This is why my sister-in-law and her husband are coming to visit us here in the States this month. They are fleeing the siege, the

Image from SueHepworth.com

lack of power and water, and the abundance of weapons to be with us for three weeks. We are really thrilled about their visit, but because life is so hard in Gaza right now — and many other places too — I want to take them somewhere that will make them feel better about life in Gaza.

It took me some time, but I have finally figured it out: I will take them to Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament. Think about it…everyone at the show is bearded and scary-looking, and look like they might really hurt you. There is little food, everyone is armed, and there’s no power, just candles. There is no fuel and no cars, so people use horses. Plus they don’t bathe as often. And yes, wars and disease surround you. Perhaps being part of this show will allow them to see some of the good things about Gaza. Or maybe they’ll just feel at home…

Joking aside, this senseless suffering induced by the Israeli siege and political gridlock in both Palestine and Israel is completely preventable. The people of Gaza set free. There is no reason why three little children -conceived after a difficult in vitro procedure — should have to burn alive in Gaza when their bed sheet catches fire from the light of the candle left by their mother to ward off their fear of the dark.

For first-hand account of the current humanitarian situation in Gaza Bus Boys And Poets Tuesday, April 24, 2012 7:00pm until 9:00pm

[Hat Tip: Benyamin]

Author: "Hanitizer" Tags: "Activism, Gaza, Palestine, activism, ame..."
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Date: Wednesday, 04 Apr 2012 12:24

Illustration by Shubnum Khan for KABOBfest, 2012

Author: "Shubnum" Tags: "Cartoons, In America, Uncategorized, Ame..."
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Date: Tuesday, 03 Apr 2012 11:58

Illustration by Husam Zakharia for KABOBfest, 2012

Author: "Husam" Tags: "Arab-Americans, Cartoons, Islamophobia, ..."
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