“Bridging the Middle East and America Through Culture: Reza Aslan, Wajahat Ali + others”

Here’s an entertaining and informative panel we did at the CommonWealth Forum recently.

It features Reza Aslan, best-selling author Zoe Ferraris, Poet Najva Sol and myself.

Enjoy!

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The Great Islamophobic Crusade

Inside the Bizarre Cabal of Secretive Donors, Demagogic Bloggers, Pseudo-Scholars, European Neo-Fascists, Violent Israeli Settlers, and Republican Presidential Hopefuls Behind the Crusade
By Max Blumenthal

Nine years after 9/11, hysteria about Muslims in American life has gripped the country. With it has gone an outburst of arson attacks on mosques, campaigns to stop their construction, and the branding of the Muslim-American community, overwhelmingly moderate, as a hotbed of potential terrorist recruits. The frenzy has raged from rural Tennessee to New York City, while in Oklahoma, voters even overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure banning the implementation of Sharia law in American courts (not that such a prospect existed). This campaign of Islamophobia wounded President Obama politically, as one out of five Americans have bought into a sustained chorus of false rumors about his secret Muslim faith. And it may have tainted views of Muslims in general; an August 2010 Pew Research Center poll revealed that, among Americans, the favorability rating of Muslims had dropped by 11 points since 2005.

Erupting so many years after the September 11th trauma, this spasm of anti-Muslim bigotry might seem oddly timed and unexpectedly spontaneous. But think again: it’s the fruit of an organized, long-term campaign by a tight confederation of right-wing activists and operatives who first focused on Islamophobia soon after the September 11th attacks, but only attained critical mass during the Obama era.  It was then that embittered conservative forces, voted out of power in 2008, sought with remarkable success to leverage cultural resentment into political and partisan gain.

This network is obsessively fixated on the supposed spread of Muslim influence in America. Its apparatus spans continents, extending from Tea Party activists here to the European far right. It brings together in common cause right-wing ultra-Zionists, Christian evangelicals, and racist British soccer hooligans. It reflects an aggressively pro-Israel sensibility, with its key figures venerating the Jewish state as a Middle Eastern Fort Apache on the front lines of the Global War on Terror and urging the U.S. and various European powers to emulate its heavy-handed methods.

Little of recent American Islamophobia (with a strong emphasis on the “phobia”) is sheer happenstance.  Years before Tea Party shock troops massed for angry protests outside the proposed site of an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, representatives of the Israel lobby and the Jewish-American establishment launched a campaign against pro-Palestinian campus activism that would prove a seedbed for everything to come. That campaign quickly — and perhaps predictably — morphed into a series of crusades against mosques and Islamic schools which, in turn, attracted an assortment of shady but exceptionally energetic militants into the network’s ranks. Continue reading

Human Rights Watch Report: “Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”

Read the full report here.

This report consists of a series of case studies that compare Israel’s different treatment of Jewish settlements to nearby Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It describes the two-tier system of laws, rules, and services that Israel operates for the two populations in areas in the West Bank under its exclusive control, which provide preferential services, development, and benefits for Jewish settlers while imposing harsh conditions on Palestinians. The report highlights Israeli practices the only discernable purposes of which appear to be promoting life in the settlements while in many instances stifling growth in Palestinian communities and even forcibly displacing Palestinian residents. Such different treatment, on the basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin and not narrowly tailored to meet security or other justifiable goals, violates the fundamental prohibition against discrimination under human rights law.

Continue here.

Muslim American Artists Strive to Bridge a Chasm

By THALIA GIGERENZER

Nabeela Raza

Visitors at an exhibit by Muslim artists at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California.


When Wajahat Ali, a young Muslim American playwright from Fremont, needed to build an audience for his work, he produced his plays in cramped Pakistani restaurants in the East Bay and used Facebook to get the word out.

His play “The Domestic Crusaders” went on to open at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2005, and then moved to Off Broadway.

Now, family members who were initially skeptical of Mr. Ali’s decision to pursue writing see great power in his profession.

Mr. Ali said his uncle had told him that he wished he had “made his son into a journalist,” because “after 30 years of living in this country, I turn on the TV and see myself as a terrorist.”

Mr. Ali is one of a growing number of Bay Area artists who are reimagining one of the country’s most complicated compound identities: Muslim American.

At a time when Islam has been heavily politicized, many Muslim artists say they hope the arts can expand understanding of their faith among non-Muslims as well as bridge American and Islamic traditions.

“We’re at a point where Islam is really being defined in this country, and it’s going to be through the arts,” said Javed Ali, founder of Illume, a Muslim online news, arts and culture magazine based in Newark that serves as one of the central nodes of the Bay Area Muslim American network.

Bay Area Islamic organizations, including the much-heralded Zaytuna College in Berkeley, have embraced the shift toward culture. In January, the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California will open a new gallery in the center to showcase Muslim artists. Continue reading

Pakistan’s Palette of Blood and Tears

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/18/arts/design/18rising.html?_r=1

Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times

Abdullah Syed’s “Flying Rug,” made of United States $1 bills shaped like American drones and arranged in carpetlike patterns, from “The Rising Tide.” More

 

December 17, 2010
By JANE PERLEZ

KARACHI, Pakistan — In this chaotic city of 18 million people, an exhibition of works by Pakistan’s most significant contemporary artists shows just how imbued with violence daily life here is: on the street, in the air and in the debate about the future course of the nation.

Installed in the elegant rooms of the Mohatta Palace Museum, a confection of Mughal architecture in pink stone, the exhibition, “The Rising Tide: New Direction in Art From Pakistan,” includes more than 40 canvases, videos, installations, mobiles and sculptures made in the past 20 years. Its curator, the feminist sculptor and painter Naiza Khan, said her aim was to show the coming of age of Pakistani art, which blossomed when censorship was lifted after the death of the American-backed Islamic dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq.

Violence was not an intended theme. “I wanted the works to reflect the many strands of the urban condition,” Ms. Khan said in her light-filled studio in an upscale neighborhood here. Continue reading