Zeba Khan: Muslim Americans Missing From The Political Fray

I remember the day my Indian Muslim family became Latino. It was 2006 and Ted Strickland was running as the Democratic nominee for governor of Ohio. My father declared our new identity with a “Latinos Unidos por Strickland” bumper sticker on the back of our minivan. “We want him to win, right?” he reasoned.

My father’s attempt to change our family’s ethnic and religious identities into something he believed would be more acceptable to our neighbors reflects the sad reality of the role of Muslims in public life in the United States.

It is no secret that many Americans are wary of Muslims. A 2007 report published by the Pew Forum indicated that just 43 percent of Americans held a favorable view of Muslims. This fact was not lost on the Republicans who launched a whisper campaign the following year to frame Obama as the Muslim Manchurian Candidate.

Last week’s “Tea Party” demonstration in D.C. illustrates that using the term “Muslim” as a slur is still acceptable in many parts of the country as protesters exclaimed they were afraid “Muslims are moving in and taking over” – an echo of their leader Mark Williams‘ comments about candidate Obama being an “Indonesian Muslim” during the presidential campaign.

That Muslims aren’t well liked hasn’t been lost on Muslim Americans themselves. But rather than confront the stereotypes and misunderstandings that led to the negative views, most Muslim Americans seem to have gone into hiding and decided not to participate in American political life. Continue reading

Women: Blue Is the New Black

September 20, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist


Women are getting unhappier, I told my friend Carl.

“How can you tell?” he deadpanned. “It’s always been whine-whine-whine.”

Why are we sadder? I persisted.

“Because you care,” he replied with a mock sneer. “You have feelings.”

Oh, that.

In the early ’70s, breaking out of the domestic cocoon, leaving their mothers’ circumscribed lives behind, young women felt exhilarated and bold.

But the more women have achieved, the more they seem aggrieved. Did the feminist revolution end up benefiting men more than women?

According to the General Social Survey, which has tracked Americans’ mood since 1972, and five other major studies around the world, women are getting gloomier and men are getting happier.

Before the ’70s, there was a gender gap in America in which women felt greater well-being. Now there’s a gender gap in which men feel better about their lives.

As Arianna Huffington points out in a blog post headlined “The Sad, Shocking Truth About How Women Are Feeling”: “It doesn’t matter what their marital status is, how much money they make, whether or not they have children, their ethnic background, or the country they live in. Women around the world are in a funk.”

(The one exception is black women in America, who are a bit happier than they were in 1972, but still not as happy as black men.)

Marcus Buckingham, a former Gallup researcher who has a new book out called “Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently,” says that men and women passed each other midpoint on the graph of life. Continue reading

Muslim women to wear headscarf at taekwondo worlds

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The World Taekwondo Federation hopes its decision to allow Muslim women to wear a headscarf in competition will help the sport promote gender equality at the world championships.

The governing body changed its rules in January to overturn a 2007 decision that banned female competitors wearing the traditional hijab under protective headgear.

“This measure means that taekwondo is one of the few sports that treats women and men equally in the Muslim world,” said Dae Won Moon, chairman of the WTF’s technical committee, in a statement Wednesday. “We believe that our respect for others’ cultures and beliefs will allow taekwondo to enhance its status as an Olympic sport.”

The federation expects women from 140 countries including Afghanistan, Iran and the United Arab Emirates to compete at the Oct. 14-18 worlds in Copenhagen.

It banned the hijab days before the 2007 event in Beijing after being asked for guidance by the Canadian federation, after two Muslim girls were banned from a competition in Quebec. The WTF said then it did not recognize any religion and did not allow anything to be worn under headgear for safety reasons.

It then allowed Muslim women taking part at the Beijing Olympics to wear a headscarf, including Iran’s Sara Khosh Jamal who reached the quarterfinals of the under 108-pound category.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Undesirable Professor

September 4th, 2009


Notice on the welcome pack handed to me as I was taken to the room for “Special Aliens”. JFK Airport. New York. USA

Our leisurely breakfast at Coyoacan was interrupted. “It’s Trisha,” said Pedro, handing over the phone. I had just come from Dublin where I’d been chatting to Don Mullan about how he came across the incredible information that led to the reopening of the Bloody Sunday enquiry. Conversation veered to Pedro and Trish who had been involved in the project. I was heading for Mexico City. Trisha was not in Mexico but she knew I was visiting Pedro and Nadia in their lovely house in Coyoacan and I was hoping to hear from her. I was conducting the inaugural workshop of the Pedro Meyer Foundation. But Trisha’s call was not just about saying hello. The previous night, she had seen my name in a TV programme in the US. I was on top of a list of ‘undesirable professors’ who apparently went round the US making extremist speeches. The list included people like Noam Chomsky, so I was in good company, but I wondered where the extremist label had come from.

As it is, I am labelled a “Special Alien” by US immigration. I generally go to the US at least once a year to speak at the National Geographic. Last year they had also asked me to speak at the PDN (Photo District News) convention at the Jacob Javits Center in New York. Robert Pledge had turned the tables on me and taken advantage of my presence to ask me to speak at the Eugene Smith Award Ceremony at Parson’s School of Design. It was usually I who arm-twisted him into giving time to my students. Every time I arrive in the US, I go through what is now a familiar pattern. I wait in the winding queue at JFK airport. Upon scanning my passport, the immigration officer calls for someone to come over and take me to a separate room. The room, populated mostly by ‘not so pale’ people, is where “Special Aliens”  are interrogated. Continue reading

Evaluating Progress in Afghanistan-Pakistan0

The Obama administration’s draft metrics for Afghanistan and Pakistan, as obtained by Foreign Policy.

SEPTEMBER 16, 2009

The goal of the United States is to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qa’ida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.

Background: During his March 27, 2009 speech announcing our new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, President Obama said “going forward, we will not blindly stay the course. Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable.” This paper outlines a process to fulfill that directive. The intent is to use this assessment process to highlight both positive and negative trends and issues that may call for policy adjustments over time.

Agreed Metrics: The supporting objectives of the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy form the framework for evaluating progress. The indicators within each of the objectives represent a mix of quantitative and qualitative measures, intended to capture objective and subjective assessments.

Common Baseline: The ODNI provided a baseline assessment of the metrics on July 17, 2009 from which progress will be measured; this is our common start point.

Process: By March 30, 2010 and on regular intervals thereafter, the interagency will draft an assessment of progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a check and balance on the interagency, a separate assessment will also be produced by a Red Team, led by the National Intelligence Council.

Objective 1. Disrupt terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan to degrade any ability they have to plan and launch international terrorist attacks.

Metrics: Please see the attached classified annex. Continue reading