“Sex and the City 2’s” stunning Muslim clichés

It’s hard to overstate the offensiveness of the fabulous four’s exquisitely tone-deaf trip to Abu Dhabi


(See Wajahat Ali’s take on the first Sex and the City movie – “Sex and the City Through a Man’s Eyes” http://www.counterpunch.org/waj05312008.html)


I’m a heterosexual, Muslim dude who until recently thought pleated khakis and loafers were “hip” and mistook Bergdorf Goodman for an expensive Swiss chocolate. So it is not surprising that 40 minutes into “Sex and the City 2,” a 150-minute cotton candy fantasy accessorized with materialism and fashion porn, I was comatose with boredom.

But I was defibrillated by the film’s detour into Abu Dhabi (really Morocco and studio sets) and what can only be described as an Orientalist’s wet dream. After discovering they will visit the Middle East, the ladies whip out hall-of-fame Ali Baba clichés: References to “magic carpet” (a double entendre, naturally), Scheherazade and Jasmine from “Aladdin” come in rapid succession. Upon hearing a stewardess give routine flight instructions in Arabic, Samantha behaves like a wild-eyed child hearing a foreign language for the first time. “I wonder what she’s saying. It sounds so exotic!”

Michael Patrick King’s exquisitely tone-deaf movie is cinematic Viagra for Western cultural imperialists who still ignorantly and inaccurately paint the entire Middle East (and Iran) as a Shangri La in desperate need of liberation from ignorant, backward natives. Historian Bernard Lewis, the 93-year-old Hall of Fame Orientalist and author of such nuanced gems as “The Arabs in History” and “Islam and the West,” would probably die of priapism if he saw this movie. It’s like the cinematic progeny of “Not Without My Daughter” and “Arabian Nights” with a makeover by Valentino. Forget the oppressed women of Abu Dhabi. Let’s buy more bling for the burqa!

Our four female cultural avatars, like imperialistic Barbies, milk Abu Dhabi for leisure and hedonism without making any discernible, concrete efforts to learn about her people and their daily lives. An exception is Miranda, whose IQ drops about 100 points as she dilutes the vast complexities of a diverse culture into sound bites like this: “‘Hanh Gee’ means ‘yes’ in Arabic!”

Only it doesn’t — it’s Punjabi, which is spoken by South Asians.

She also incorrectly tells the audience that all women in the Middle East have to cover themselves. And, yes, nearly every single Middle Eastern female character in “SATC 2’s” imaginative rendition of “Abu Dhabi,” is veiled, silent or subdued by aggressive men.

Like curious visitors staring at an exotic animal in the zoo with equal doses of horror and fascination, the four “girls” observe a niqabi female eating French fries by carefully lifting her veil for each consumed fry. After witnessing this “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” event, Samantha declares, “It’s like they don’t want [women] to have a voice.” Continue reading

Veiled Threat: The many problems with France’s proposed burqa ban


A woman wearing a burqa.

By Wajahat Ali
Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2010, at 2:37 PM ET

As a practicing Muslim, even I admit to being somewhat startled by the appearance of the black burqa that entirely veils a woman’s face and body, revealing only a narrow opening for her eyes. Even though the women who wear burqas sometimes remind me of comic book ninjas, I nonetheless understand and respect their choice of dress and freedom of religious expression.

Unfortunately, France’s proposed ban on the burqa is a hypocritical and self-serving justification that betrays its triptych motto of “liberty, equality, fraternity.” Politicians may claim that the ban would protect women’s dignity, national safety, and fundamental French values, but in reality, this overreaching legislation serves only to embolden reactionary Muslim fundamentalists’ shouts that the “West” is at war with “Islam.” Enacting this odious legislation would deprive French female citizens of those very freedoms Europe loudly trumpets as superior examples of its Western enlightenment: gender equality and tolerance. In fact, France is increasingly beginning to resemble its alleged cultural nemesis: those misogynist, archaic “fundamentalists” who allegedly liberate women by forcing them to hide their faces.

France, like many European countries, is reacting to the transformation of its national identity to one that is increasingly brown-hued and adorned with Arabic multisyllabic last names. But lashing out against native-born Muslim citizens and immigrants from North Africa is no way to protect and define its language and “culture”—which is under no tangible threat. Like the Taliban and the Saudi government, France is selfishly using women as silent chess pawns in the greater game of cultural domination and control, and using the canard of protecting women’s rights and national security as a means of rationalizing its bigotry. Continue reading

The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment [Great Article]: Peter Beinart

In 2003, several prominent Jewish philanthropists hired Republican pollster Frank Luntz to explain why American Jewish college students were not more vigorously rebutting campus criticism of Israel. In response, he unwittingly produced the most damning indictment of the organized American Jewish community that I have ever seen.

The philanthropists wanted to know what Jewish students thought about Israel. Luntz found that they mostly didn’t. “Six times we have brought Jewish youth together as a group to talk about their Jewishness and connection to Israel,” he reported. “Six times the topic of Israel did not come up until it was prompted. Six times these Jewish youth used the word ‘they‘ rather than ‘us‘ to describe the situation.”

That Luntz encountered indifference was not surprising. In recent years, several studies have revealed, in the words of Steven Cohen of Hebrew Union College and Ari Kelman of the University of California at Davis, that “non-Orthodox younger Jews, on the whole, feel much less attached to Israel than their elders,” with many professing “a near-total absence of positive feelings.” In 2008, the student senate at Brandeis, the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored university in America, rejected a resolution commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Jewish state.

Luntz’s task was to figure out what had gone wrong. When he probed the students’ views of Israel, he hit up against some firm beliefs. First, “they reserve the right to question the Israeli position.” These young Jews, Luntz explained, “resist anything they see as ‘group think.’” They want an “open and frank” discussion of Israel and its flaws. Second, “young Jews desperately want peace.” When Luntz showed them a series of ads, one of the most popular was entitled “Proof that Israel Wants Peace,” and listed offers by various Israeli governments to withdraw from conquered land. Third, “some empathize with the plight of the Palestinians.” When Luntz displayed ads depicting Palestinians as violent and hateful, several focus group participants criticized them as stereotypical and unfair, citing their own Muslim friends.

Continue reading

U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Military Acts in Mideast Region



Published: May 24, 2010

The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate.

While the Bush administration had approved some clandestine military activities far from designated war zones, the new order is intended to make such efforts more systematic and long term, officials said. Its goals are to build networks that could “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” Al Qaeda and other militant groups, as well as to “prepare the environment” for future attacks by American or local military forces, the document said. The order, however, does not appear to authorize offensive strikes in any specific countries Continue reading

A Facebook Conversation on the Cartoon Controversy: Yousef M.



Adam, this is a free country and I will defend everyone’s right, including yours, to express their opinions against anyone who would try to censor it through violence or fear.

That being said, I want you to know why many Muslims, including myself, find this cartoon offensive, inaccurate, and taking away from the whole point of freedom of speech. Denying the Holocaust is a criminal offense in several European countries punishable by fines and even jail time. Yet no one would suggest “Everyone Deny the Holocaust Day” with anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews and reenacting passion plays is an appropriate means of combating that censorship. I have the right to publish material railing against ‘n*ggers’, “k*kes”, “f*gs”, etc., especially when such words are censored by our society largely out of fear of offending, but, last time I checked, there is no movement for “Everyone Say N*gger” day. I love South Park and I’m glad they correctly pointed out the hypocrisy of censoring the Prophet’s image amidst all the other obscene material, but, if this is truly about freedom of expression, then there are better avenues to challenge this censorship (there are many historical images of Muhammad made by Muslims, why not republish those?) that would make Muslims themselves question such views.

The Prophet Mohammed is dearer to many people than their own families. Just as they would take offense having their mother or father drawn in such a matter, portraying the Prophet with a bomb on his head or inaccurately portraying him as a pedophile (if you want to get into the details of the Prophet’s life, I’d be happy to discuss it with you) is something people do take personally, esp. in today’s atmosphere.


To be fair, there pretty much is a “deny the holocaust day” on April 20 every year where despicable whack jobs from all over the globe celebrate Hitler’s birthday. Of course, it is a bit of a paradox in that if one denies the holocaust, then what is the point of being a neo-nazi and venerating Hitler as without that tidbit all he did was lose a war.

In any case, you are right that more rational people would never sign on to a day that supported or denied the genocide, but the last time I checked we Jews were not exactly threatening death to anyone who dared to express antisemitic views. Threatening people with death for expressing unpopular viewpoints, no matter how offensive those viewpoints may or may not be to you, is never a reasonable reaction.

That is the issue. That and the fact that moderate Muslims never stand up on their own to renounce terrorism and stand in the way of these actions. Instead of voices questioning the “Draw Mohammed Day” how about some mainstream Muslim voice somewhere standing up to say that threatening death to the creators of South Park or murdering Theo Van Gogh is absolutely inexcusable. Other religions police themselves. When some radical Christian idiot murders an abortion doctor, mainstream Christian voices everywhere condemn it (sure, some do not, and they are marginalized and isolated for their behavior, and it is easy to do so because the vast majority of Christian groups condemn the action so vocally). Continue reading