Friday, October 20, 2006

Targeting Muslims - the new Inquisition: Article

Wow, what an awesome article. I read it in Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper and have been blown away. I've rarely read anything like this in Western newspapers - alas, probably because it is a critique on Western modernity?

Read on and please spread the word. I would also urge you to send a note of thanks to Bradley Burston, the author, who can be reached at

Targeting Muslims - the new Inquisition

Were I a Muslim living in the West, I'd be mad as hell. Not to mention terrified.

Were I a Muslim living in the West, I'd begin to believe that a new Inquisition had begun. An inquisition aimed at no one but Muslims.

Were I a Muslim living in the West, my wife, or my sister, or my daughter might well decide to wear a headscarf or a veil when she went out in public.

Perhaps it would be because she was tired of men and boys ogling her, objectifying her. Perhaps it would be because she felt she was entitled to her dignity. Perhaps she simply might prefer modesty and privacy to fashion slavery.

Perhaps she just thought it was a free country.

And perhaps, on that last point, she would have been mistaken.

For years, and especially since 9/11, law-abiding Muslims have been verbally and physically attacked across North America and Europe. They are scorned for their faith, shunned for their piety, falsely condemned for dual-loyalty, blamed for the crimes of terrorists they abhor.

Of late, however, there has been a disturbing new trend, particularly in Europe, where cabinet ministers and influential lawmakers have increasingly made it their mission to combat, of all things, the head scarf and veil worn by growing numbers of Muslim women and girls.

  • In Germany, the states of Baden-Wurttenberg and Bavaria recently introduced legislation to outlaw the wearing of head scarves in schools.

    Bavarian Education Monika Hohlmeier said the head scarf was increasingly being used as a political symbol. To the understandable ire of Muslims, Hohlmeier went on to say that it was acceptable to wear Christian crosses or Jewish symbols.

  • In Spain, home to the original Inquisition, Minister for Social Affairs Juan Carlos Aparicio was quoted as having said that the Muslim veil was "not a religious sign but a form of discrimination against women," and having compared it to genital mutilation.

  • In Britain, the government minister for race and faith relations, Phil Woolas, was quoted this week as demanding that Muslim teaching assistant Aisha Azmi, 24, who refused to remove her veil at work, be fired for that reason.

    "She should be sacked," Woolas was quoted as telling the Sunday Mirror. "She has put herself in a position where she can't do her job."

    Azmi worked at the Headfield Church of England junior school in Dewsbury, which took pains to state that her suspension had nothing to do with religion.

    The scarf issue had already taken center stage when former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, now an MP and Leader of the House of Commons, voiced public objections to the wearing of the niqab, a full-face veil, at face-to-face meetings with his constituents.

    The national debate has since widened, with David Davis, a top Conservative Party official, taking the anti-veil stance to a new level.

    ''What Jack touched on was the fundamental issue of whether in Britain we are developing a divided society,'' Davis said. ''Whether we are inadvertently encouraging a kind of voluntary apartheid.''

    The anti-veil arguments dovetail with a parallel campaign, which takes as its premise the concept that Islam itself renders its adherents incapable of integrating into Western societies.

    "If you are going to have Islamic schools, the question is whether they are going to embrace Western values," Patrick Sookhdeo, a Pakistan-born Anglican priest in England who converted from Islam, told the New York Times this month.

    "I would argue that Islamic values are not compatible with Western values," he said.

    And what Western values might these be? Are they the time-honored Western values of intolerance for people of color, suspicion and marginalization of non-Christians, fear and loathing of non-Whites? Exploitation of and contempt for the residents of former imperial possessions and colonies?

    At this point, there will be a pause for the springloaded Islamophobes among us to suggest that it is any society's right and duty to protect itself against elements that may foment terrorism. There will be those who will argue that the veil may both mask and encourage extremism.

    Perhaps it is time for us in the Western world to declare that Islam has a right to exist.

    Perhaps it is time for us to recognize that non-violent, non-Judeo-Christian religious observance is a right, not an act of war.

    Scarves don't explode. Veils do not kill. The niqab does not incite.

    It takes courage to wear the veil in the West. Certainly, no one should be forced to wear it against her will. But those who do so voluntarily, have chosen to brave ridicule, and perhaps to risk their own livelihood. They have made a choice for self-respect, in the face of all that is vacuous in contemporary Western civilization, where the worship of the superficial has taken on the potency and universality of a state religion.

    We in the West have allowed the veil to become the symbol of all that we do not know and do not trust about Islam.

    In the Age of Paris Hilton, however, the West desperately needs women who devote themselves to serious pursuits, to the betterment of society, women who believe that self-esteem and dignity are worthy values. If they choose to wear a veil, and we take offense, that is wholly our problem. We have no business making it theirs.
  • Monday, October 16, 2006

    Event: Tradition, laws, human rights and democracy in Pakistan - 10/26

    Tradition, laws, human rights and democracy in Pakistan

    Please come and listen to Asma Jehangir, Pakistani Human Rights
    Defender, Internationally renowned human rights lawyer,
    and Special rapporteur of UN commission on human rights,
    and founder and chair person of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)

    Thursday, October 26th, 2006
    6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

    Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies Building
    281 Park Avenue South, New York, NY
    Corner of 22nd and Park Avenue South

    Please come and listen to Asma Jehangir as she talks about the state
    of human rights in Pakistan what can be done to improve the conditions
    in Pakistan.

    Documentaries: OSI and Sundance Institute

    The Open Society Institute and the Sundance Institute present a series of
    nineteen of the most provocative documentaries made with support from the
    Soros/Sundance Documentary Fund. All movies will be shown at Film Forum.

    Thursday, October 26

    1:30 p.m.
    Stranger with a Camera (Elizabeth Barret, 2000). A thoughtful examination
    into the murder of a Canadian filmmaker who traveled to Appalachia in the
    1960s to document poverty.

    4:00 p.m.
    Long Night’s Journey into Day (Frances Reid and Deborah Hoffman, 1999). An
    inspiring portrait of four cases brought before the Truth and
    Reconciliation Commission, illustrating South Africa’s quest for
    restorative justice.

    7:00 p.m.
    Calling the Ghosts: A Story about Rape, War, and Women (Mandy Jacobson and
    Karmen Jelincic, 1996). A gripping account of the struggle for justice by
    two Bosnian women raped in a Serbian concentration camp. Preceded
    by Red Rubber Boots (Jasmila Zbanic, 2000), a haunting portrayal of one
    woman’s search for the remains of her family, who were killed by the
    Serbian army during the Bosnian war.

    Friday, October 27

    1:30 p.m.
    Hillbrow Kids (Michael Hammon and Jacqueline Gögen, 1999). A revealing
    conversation with street children in Johannesburg coping with the
    hardships of post-apartheid South Africa.

    4:00 p.m.
    Southern Comfort (Kate Davis, 2000). A moving depiction of the lethal cost
    of discrimination in the United States today, through the story of a
    female-to-male transsexual who dies of ovarian cancer after repeatedly
    being denied medical treatment. Followed by a conversation with the

    6:30 p.m.
    Children Underground (Edet Belzberg, 2001). An intimate look at the lives
    of abandoned and runaway youths who make their home below the streets of
    Bucharest, Romania. Followed by a conversation with the director.

    9:00 p.m.
    Persons of Interest (Alison Maclean and Tobias Perse, 2003). Former
    detainees of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent who were arbitrarily
    arrested and interrogated in the aftermath of September 11, 2001,
    tell their stories. Followed by a conversation with the directors.
    Preceded by Asylum (Sandy McLeod and Gini Reticker, 2003). A young
    Ghanaian woman seeks refugee status in the United States to escape the
    threat of female genital mutilation.

    Saturday, October 28

    1:30 p.m.
    Iran: Veiled Appearances (Thierry Michel, 2002). An unprecedented glimpse
    into the fractured society of Iran, exploring the lives of students,
    soldiers,artists, and religious figures.

    3:30 p.m.
    Punitive Damage (Annie Goldson, 1999). After her son is shot by the
    Indonesian military in a mother sets out on a quest for truth and justice
    that brings her to an American courtroom and puts the Indonesian
    government on trial. Preceded by Still Standing: A Youth Organizers
    Television (YO-TV) Documentary on Hurricane Katrina (2006). A poignant
    story of the challenges faced by a Hurricane Katrina survivor six
    months after the storm, documented by a group of student filmmakers.
    Followed by a conversation with the director and crew members.

    6:30 p.m.
    My American Dream: How Democracy Works Now (Shari Robertson and Michael
    Camerini, work-in-progress). An exploration into the lives of 24 people
    engaged in the struggle surrounding U.S. immigration policy. Followed
    by a conversation with the directors.

    9:00 p.m.
    One Day in September (Kevin MacDonald). A gripping account of the attack
    on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, weaving archival footage
    with contemporary interviews.

    Sunday, October 29

    1:30 p.m.
    Senorita Extraviada (Missing Young Woman) (Lourdes Portillo, 2001). A
    haunting investigation into the disappearance of hundreds of young women
    in Juárez, Mexico. Preceded by There Are Women in Russian Villages (Pavel
    Kostomarov and Antoin Kattin, 2006), a troubling look at the feminization
    of poverty in Russia, where women are the poorest members of the

    4:00 p.m.
    Life and Debt (Stephanie Black, 2001). An unsparing depiction of the
    impact of globalization on Jamaica,with narration written by Jamaica

    6:30 p.m.
    The Inner Tour (Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, 2001). A story of a group of
    Palestinians traveling around Israel for the first time, filmed just
    months before Middle East tensions escalated in 2000.

    9:00 p.m.
    Liberia: An Uncivil War (Jonathan Stack and James Brabazon, 2004). An
    inside look at the civil war in Liberia and the siege of its capital,
    including exclusive interviews with President Charles Taylor. Followed by
    a conversation with the director.

    Arna's Children screening - 10/17

    Alwan for the Arts and 3rd i NY Launch
    Collaborative Monthly Film & Video Series @ Pioneer Theater

    Every 3rd Tuesday of the month join us for the best in features, docs,
    & shorts that increase awareness of the creative vitality and
    sociopolitical realities of the Middle East, South Asia, and their
    diasporas. Given the historical and cultural affinities between these
    geographic regions, as well as the contemporary political landscape,
    these two cultural organizations are beginning a series of programming
    & marketing collaborations that encompass film, video, music, visual
    art, and literature, culminating in a week-long film festival in March
    2006. In an environment that turns these communities into enemies of
    the west, we find strength in creating alliances to provide more
    nuanced, yet genuinely critical views to New York audiences.
    The dialogue and networking will continue at the complimentary pizza &
    drinks receptions after every screening in the Pioneer Series!

    A Special Screening & Discussion to benefit The Freedom Theatre of Jenin
    Director Juliano Mer Khamis will be present by Q&A moderated by
    the Ad-Hoc Coalition for Justice in the Middle East

    **Winner 2004 FIPRESCI Prize @ Hot Docs**

    Tuesday October 17th, 7pm
    Two Boots Pioneer Theater
    155 East 3rd Street (at Avenue A)
    Subway: F to 2nd Ave; 6 to Bleecker
    Tickets: $9 Adults / $6.50 Pioneer Members
    Advance Tix:
    Plus Free Pizza Reception with the Director after the Screening

    A film by Juliano Mer Khamis, Israel/Netherlands, 2004, 85 mins,
    Arabic/English/Hebrew with English ST

    ARNA'S CHILDREN tells the story of a children's theatre group in Jenin
    refugee camp that was established by Arna Mer Khamis. Arna, an Israeli
    from a zionist family,married a Palestinian, Saliba Khamis. the
    theatre group she founded helped Jenin's children to express the
    everyday frustrations, anger, and fear of life under Israeli
    occupation. Arna?s son Juliano filmed the children during rehearsals
    from 1989 to 1996.

    After the battle of Jenin in April, 2002, Juliano went back to see
    what happened to those children. Yussef committed a suicide attack,
    Ashraf was killed in the battle of Jenin, and Ala leads a resistance
    group. The director looks back and tries to understand the choices
    made by the children he loved and worked with, and the tragedy and
    horror of lives trapped by the Israeli occupation.

    Followed by Q&A with the Director & further conversation at the Free
    Pizza Reception at downstairs Den of Cin!

    **Portions of the Proceeds to benefit The Freedom
    Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp****
    About Alwan for the Arts
    Alwan for the Arts serves the Middle East and North African population
    and educates the broader community by providing access to the range of
    Middle Eastern and North African arts; thereby enriching the
    cross-cultural and artistic encounter. Since 1998, Alwan for the Arts
    has played a leading role in promoting the diverse cultures of the
    Middle East and North Africa in New York City. It organized film
    festivals and screenings, book/poetry readings and signings, lectures
    and conferences, art exhibits, musical and theatrical performances,
    and language and literature classes. In 2003, Alwan established a
    center in lower Manhattan which provides a physical base for its
    diverse cultural activities. For more info:

    About 3rd i NY
    3rd i New York's monthly film and music salon designed by local
    filmmakers and experimental DJs showcases the works of independent
    filmmakers of South Asian descent and local djs, musicians and
    electronica artists. Providing alternative forums for South Asian
    filmmakers who often have few venues to showcase their work not only
    increases their visibility, but also provides a social forum for peers
    and audiences to participate in an ongoing discussion. For more info

    3rd i NY events are made possible in part through public funds from
    the Fund for Creative Communities/New York State Council on the Arts
    Decentralization Program, administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural

    About The Ad Hoc Coalition for Justice in the Middle East The Ad Hoc
    Coalition for Justice in the Middle East is a grassroots strategic
    alliance of concerned organizations and individuals in New York,
    formed to demand an immediate, unconditional, and permanent end to
    U.S.-sponsored Israeli aggression in the Middle East. In response to
    the continuing injustices committed by Israel, which constitute gross
    violations of international law, the Ad Hoc Coalition stands with the
    people of the Middle East in their demands for justice, equality,
    democracy, and respect for human rights. For more info: <>

    3rdi NY 4th Anniversary Bash featuring World Premiere Music Videos @