The next time I hear some idiot refer to Jack Bauer in defense of torture, I want to ask him what he thinks of Jack Bauer rogering terrorists with a broomstick. You’ve never seen that in the hours of not-so-subtle pro-torture TV drama we’ve seen since 2001, have you? Never saw Andy Sipowicz cornhole a skell on NYPD blue? Or Michael Chiklis on The Shield making a suspect drink his pee? Me neither. Something tells me that might have hurt their ratings.
Ironically, the same religion that is demonized for oppressing women is the one that has historically produced great examples of women who have been empowered by Islam to serve as role models for communities globally, from Betty Shabazz to contemporary leaders such as Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of ISNA, the largest Muslim organization in North America.
Or my own personal role model, my mother, Salmenna Sediqe, who was recently elected President of the Islamic community in Toledo, Ohio. She is a survivor of war who managed not only to flee her war-ridden country but also to move beyond the painful circumstances of her home country and continue her civic engagement, empowered by the very religion that is often viewed as being responsible for a lack of women’s rights. And yes, she has done this all whilst choosing to cover her hair.
[Apologies for the hashtags in the titles recently. However, my RSS feed goes straight to Twitter, so I need to keep track there.]
David Bromwich writes:
If you want to kill with a clean conscience, the faces of the enemy had better be blank. Start to see them as human beings and it becomes harder to blockade and bomb them, to mine, and pollute, and "destabilize." President Clinton had no imagining of the disease he would bring to the innocent in Sudan by the "surgical" missile attack on the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in 1998. George W. Bush had a happy warrior's notion of the fury he would unleash on Falluja when he gave the order to destroy that city after the election of 2004. The Sudan bombing was treated by the American press as a distraction from a sex scandal. The second siege of Falluja--tens of thousands of houses crushed or cratered--was hardly covered at all.
I don't know anyone who wanted to close the detention facility at Gitmo because of where it was -- but rather because of what it was. It's not merely a symbol, but is the embodiment of the implementation of a bad policy. If you close Gitmo but carry on the same bad policy elsewhere, you're playing a shell game, Mr. President.
Yesterday, June 25, 2009. Michael Jackson died; God rest his soul. I was not going to blog about his passing. He is an artist, a celebrity, why is his death more important than any other? He was an artistic genius, of that there can be no doubt. What he did for music and dance in pop is unparalleled. However, he was still a human being. He had an impact on my childhood, but I did not know him. In many respects, because of his fame, he was unreal. He was no closer to me than Rumi, whose poetry speaks to me in a powerful way, but who died centuries ago. I was not going to write about his passing, until I saw how other Muslims were writing about him. The emphasis was on the fact that he was Muslim, and that's what makes this a story in the community (at least Muslim Matters makes a theological argument as to why it's important).
When the story of Jackson's conversion came up, I asked the question "so what?" So what if he was a Muslim, or believed to be Muslim? Why is this important to the Muslim community? I understand the appeal of claiming someone famous as part of the faith tradition, but as I said before, OBL is famous too. Jackson's musically creative period all happened before he supposedly became Muslim. His genius was not expressed as a Muslim. Do you want to take credit for something that is controversial, possibly prohibited, and done by a non-Muslim? After he supposedly became Muslim, did he, as the Qur'an says, command the good? Were his riches given to help the needy? Did he use his fame to mobilize people to help the less fortunate? I do not want to criticize him, we all make our own choices, but I want to understand why the Muslim community fêtes him in this way after his death.
To apotheosize him is diminish him to a caricature of a "famous Muslim." It means that as Muslims we are joining in the cult of fame, and not interrogating the things that we should be emulating. Mourn the loss of a man. Mourn the loss of an artist. Mourn the loss of a genius. Mourn him as a Muslim if you believe it to be true. But do not let that mourning for a man many have no personal connection to surpass the mourning for those who are dying from poverty; who are dying fighting for justice; who are suffering in Sudan. Cry for the four boys who were amputated today. Cry for Neda.
Update: Ali Eteraz sheds some light on the need to own MJ by Muslims.
Recently PBS ran a Frontline documentary from 2002 on Iran. While I applaud the effort to give some necessary background to the situation in Iran, there were some problems. Jordan Robinson wrote a letter offering some critique to the piece. I quote it below with permission:
Subject: Rebroadcast of 2002 "A Clash That's Centuries Old" a disservice to US public
Dear Frontline Senior Editorial Team,
I just finished watching your 2002 broadcast of "A Clash That's Centuries Old," part of your "Terror and Tehran" series. While I appreciate your effort to inform the American public life about life in Iran and provide context to contemporary issues in the country and internationally, I was disappointed by the report for many reasons.
Much of my dismay comes from the report's reductionist copy and narrow treatment of Iran's history and contemporary travails. Quotes such as Elaine Sciolino's "Belief doesn't allow democracy" are frankly laughable. Although Ms. Sciolino has been reporting from Iran for decades and was a reporter for respected outlets such as Newsweek and the NY Times, her quote flies in the face of a serious swath of academic analysis and commentary by leading Iran scholars and those familiar with Iran's mixture of religion and the exercise of state power.
Although Iran's democratic institutions are limited by the very real constraints imposed by an elite class of jurists, I think it would be a mistake to characterize Iran as devoid of democracy and the Islamic legal tradition as a complete hindrance to the exercise of citizen power in informing representation and policy making. I think it's helpful to remember that America's high jurist class (Supreme Court) is also appointed, and limits the "free" exercise of citizen agency by declaring what is Constitutional and what is not. I don't mean to say there is an equality between the U.S. and Iran in terms of number and quality of freedoms and political and social health, but I do think it's necessary to provide the public with reporting that provides the adequate color to paint a fuller picture of the messiness that makes up the human experience, especially the Iranian one.
I understand that this was broadcast in 2002, one year after the attacks of 9/11. But to rebroadcast it now after all that has happened in Iran is disappointing. I say this in particular now because of the grave political consequences that happen with poorly informed foreign policy creation.
The whole clash cliche I hope will be retired soon. Although it's a catchy and easy frame for a story, It helps no one living in such a complex world.
A poignant quote to emphasize this point comes from a piece by Peter Beamont published in The Guardian's Comment is Free: "If I have learnt a single thing from the last 15 years covering international crises, it is how simplified or distorted depictions of events are more easily established as given truths than challenged. And how dangerously, as Iraq made clear, those false images feed into the decision-making processes of western governments."
For the past week or so, people from across Iran's socio-economic and religious spectrum have banded together to protest the latest election results showing the great diversity (not contradictions) of Iranian life. A fair number of articles have come out discussing the power of the images that have emerged from the protests - young and old faces seen not chanting "Death to America," but "Death to the Dictator." The peole struggling for a fair hearing to redress their election grievances have been humanized through tweets, blogs and videos featuring people who want to determine their own future and are emboldened and empowered enough to believe their voice and their protest means something.
The simplistic story board and copy of this report flies in the face of what we have seen over the past week or so. This report could have remained just another piece of reporting among many, but juxtaposed to the plethora of media we receive on a daily basis covering the protest movement there, this report looks more and more like a poor piece of journalism.