The Nixonian henchmen of today: at the NYT

After Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, exposing the lies, brutality and inhumanity that drove America’s role in the Vietnam War, President Nixon and Henry Kissinger infamously plotted to smear his reputation and destroy his credibility.  As History Commons puts it in its richly documented summary of those events:

President Nixon authorizes the creation of a “special investigations unit,” later nicknamed the “Plumbers,” to root out and seal media leaks. The first target is Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press (see June 13, 1971); the team will burglarize the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis Fielding, in hopes ofsecuring information that the White House can use to smear Ellsberg’s character and undermine his credibility . . . .

Nixon aide John Ehrlichman passes on the president’s recommendations to the heads of the “Plumbers,” Egil Krogh and David Young (see July 20, 1971), regarding “Pentagon Papers” leaker Daniel Ellsberg (see Late June-July 1971). . . . Within days, Keogh and Young will give Ehrlichman a memo detailing the results of investigations into Ellsberg and a dozen of Ellsberg’s friends, family members, and colleagues. . . .


This weekend, WikiLeaks released over 400,000 classified documents of the Iraq War detailing genuinely horrific facts about massive civilian death, U.S. complicity in widespread Iraqi torture, systematic government deceit over body counts, and the slaughter of civilians by American forces about which Daniel Ellsberg himself said, as the New York Times put it: “many of the civilian deaths there could be counted as murder.”

Predictably, just as happened with Ellsberg, there is now a major, coordinated effort underway to smear WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, and to malign his mental health — all as a means of distracting attention away from these highly disturbing revelations and to impede the ability of WikiLeaks to further expose government secrets and wrongdoing with its leaks.  But now, the smear campaign is led not by Executive Branch officials, but by members of the establishment media.  As the intelligence community reporter Tim Shorrock wrote today on Twitter:  “When Dan Ellsberg leaked [the] Pentagon Papers, Nixon’s henchmen tried to destroy his reputation. Today w/Wikileaks & Assange, media does the job.” Continue reading

‘Taqwacores’: Muslim, Misfit And Making A Noise

Bobby Naderi and Dominic Rains

Bobby Naderi (left) plays an engineering student who moves into an all-Muslim house in New York and unexpectedly gets drawn into the punk lifestyle of — and tensions among — housemates including guitarist Jehangir (Dominic Rains).

The Taqwacores

  • Director: Eyad Zahra
  • Genre: Comic Drama
  • Running Time: 84 minutes

Not rated: Profanity, sexual situations, partial nudity, drug use.

With: Bobby Naderi, Noureen DeWulf, Dominic Rains

In English, with some Arabic.

October 21, 2010

Taqwacore — the Islamic punk-rock scene willed into being by Michael Muhammad Knight’s 2003 cult novel of the same name — isn’t a single subculture. It’s a dozen or more, including radical and traditional, straight and gay, hedonistic and abstemious. The Taqwacores, Eyad Zahra’s feature-film adaptation of the book, vigorously captures that diversity, and while there’s not much of a story, there is a whole lot of stuff going in a whole bunch of different directions.

Knight, who co-wrote the film, is a white American who converted to Islam as a teen, in part to escape an abusive father. He invented the idea of “taqwacore,” which combines the Arabic term for “God consciousness” with the latter part of “hard-core.” When his novel was published, there was no such thing, but subsequently taqwacore has blossomed, mostly in the U.S. It has attracted a few of the faithful, as well as some who are skeptical of the religion in which they were raised.

The movie begins with the arrival of the audience’s surrogate, Yusef (Bobby Naderi). He’s a Pakistani-American engineering student whose parents are happy to hear he’s found an all-Muslim group house. But none of the current inhabitants of the heavily graffitied building is anything like the upright, unquestioning newcomer: His housemates include perennially shirtless skateboarder Ayyub (Volkan Eryaman), red-mohawked guitarist Jehangir (Dominic Rains), heavily made-up gay “Khalifornian” Muzzamil (Tony Yalda) and Rabeya (Noureen DeWulf), an outspoken feminist who has chosen to wear a burqa.

Continue reading

“Temporary/ Muta’a Marriage is Sex for Hire”: THE GOATMILK DEBATES

THE GOATMILK DEBATES” will be an ongoing series featuring two debaters tackling an interesting or controversial question in a unique, irreverent manner.

Each debater makes their opening argument. They can elect to post a rebuttal.

The winner will be decided by the online audience and judged according to the strength of their argument.

The motion: “Temporary Marriage is a valid option for Muslims in the modern age”

Against the motion: Fatemeh Fakhraie

AGAINST THE MOTION: “Sigheh [Temporary Marriage/ Muta’a] Marriage is Sex for Hire”

Fatemeh Fakhraie

I support any way that two consenting adults can safely get it on. And so I don’t think sigheh marriage (temporary marriage also referred to as mut’a, or pleasure, marriage) is a bad idea.

In a magical, lollipop-and-rainbows land.

But in the reality where we all live? No. It’s a terrible idea.

See, in magical Lollipop Rainbow Land, men and women are equal. Sexuality is something between autonomous people who are educated enough to make intelligent decisions about their sex lives. Gender roles aren’t rigidly ascribed or enforced, and no importance is placed on virginity. Everyone respects each other and each other’s choices in this fantastical place. Sigheh marriage would be a wonderful thing in Lollipop Rainbow Land.

But, as this grumpy feminist is constantly reminded, we do not live in Lollipop Rainbow Land. We live in a place and time where women are not seen as equals and are still exploited physically, economically, sexually, etc. In this context, sigheh marriage is a sanctioned path to female exploitation—and thus, in my book, a terrible idea.

To be up front, I am an American Iranian Muslim who comes from the Shi’a tradition. Sigheh is a largely Shi’a practice, and the vast majority of my knowledge on it comes from the Iranian context. So that’s where I’m writing from today.

You can read up on sigheh in depth at Wikipedia, but the short definition is that sigheh is a way for two horny people to be quickly and cheaply married (and thus have lawful sex) in some interpretations of Islam. But the reality is that sigheh is also a largely abused practice that is usually exploitative to women.

My two major qualms against sigheh are societal and economic.

Economically, “[sigheh marriage] is largely the prerogative of wealthy married men, and the majority of women in sighehs are divorced, widowed, or poor.” In this nuanced Mother Jones’ article on sigheh, we meet Habib, who says, “I do sigheh with women who need financial help. Instead of giving money for charity, I marry them in this way and financially support them.”

But this isn’t charity; it’s a transaction. The sigheh dowry (provided he does pay it) may buy her a new stove or he may pay her rent, but she isn’t getting this for her companionship or a few kisses. A man is essentially paying a woman to be her husband in the physical capacity: he is paying for sex with her, whether she desires him or not. This is prostitution. Even if she desires him for him, in certain situations, the economic imbalance remains.

Socially, many people except clerics who extol its virtues often look down on sigheh marriage. Despite its practical legal and Islamic uses, there’s the fact that sigheh is often equated with prostitution—and who wants to be thought of as a whore? Continue reading

Challenging Islamophobia: The Role of Civic and Faith Groups in Combating Anti-Muslim Hate Speech and Crimes

Here’s the video of a panel that happened over at Center for American Progress in D.C. on October 4, 2010.

Click here to see the video. Would love feedback.

Moderated by:

Faiz Shakir, Vice President and Editor of Think Progress (CAP Action)

Featured panelists:

Wajahat Ali, playwright, essayist, humorist, and attorney
Haris Tarin, Washington, D.C. Office Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council
Rev. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director, Interfaith Center of New York and Episcopal Priest, Diocese of New York
Ken Gude, Director, International Justice and Security Program, Center for American Progress