Credit: CreativeCommons / Samantha Marx.
This is the second in my series of commentaries on the American Freedom Defense Initiative and its “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” held recently in Garland, Texas.
In my first commentary, I discussed the controversy surrounding the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative’s (AFDI) cartoon caricature context of the Prophet Muhammad where two men opened fire on a security officer stationed outside the contest building. The officer brought down the shooters killing them both. By my bringing attention to the Islamophobia guiding AFDI’s event, a few readers of my commentary accused me of “blaming the victims.”
In actuality, I did no such thing. AFDI and its leader, Pamela Geller, have a far-reaching history of Islam bashing, and their event in Texas fit clearly into that framework. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate group, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization. To caricature the Prophet Muhammad, while clearly protected by the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause, can also be seen as an act of hate and bullying for the goal of insulting, inciting, inflaming, demeaning, and provoking.
by: Lita Kurth on May 12th, 2015 | Comments Off
Participating in activities like dance, sports, and even graduation ceremonies are the norm for well-off families, but costs for gear, uniforms, and equipment are prohibitive for many. Credit: CreativeCommons / Beth Rankin.
This is the first of a short series of posts by Lita Kurth on the privatization of education.
Should the parent who paid the most get the best seat at graduation? Should the children of wealthy donors get private time with public school teachers? Should a choice parking space in front of the school be reserved for the highest bidder? Anyone with a child in a California public school knows how thoroughly riddled with private-school fundraising many schools have become. I admit to anguished feelings: I can’t entirely oppose fund raising because without such stopgaps, public schools have no art, theatre, debate, music, robotics, sports, or field trips – and some public schools lack all of these! In many cases, generous and public-spirited parents try to fill the enormous gap left by Proposition 13 and raise funds for all the kids, but inevitably, when a small group coalesces around a favored activity, one in which their own children participate, the precious cornerstone and sign of democracy – universal access – is marred, and at times, completely eroded.
by: Lubna Qureshi on May 11th, 2015 | Comments Off
On Sunday, May 3rd two gunmen were shot dead as they opened fire at the security guard, outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland Texas where, “Draw Muhammad” art contest was in progress. The gunmen planned to commit a heinous act of terrorism and in its pursuit shot the security guard on duty. The intended act of terrorism is as despicable as it can be so is the caricature drawing contest organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Though Pamela Geller, the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, exercised her legal right of freedom of expression yet her expression was not free from malice and spite towards Muslims.Of course, no one can stop anyone from practicing the First Amendment and the right to free speech. We Americans cherish the freedom to say what’s on our mind. However, freedom of expression becomes questionable when it focuses on maligning the faith or religious beliefs of any one, and in this case, 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.
Many argue that the cartoon contest was an innocent art event, with a glitzy prize of $10,000, where artists from around the nation gathered to exhibit their artistic talents. Some state that mere caricatures of the Prophet of Islam should not offend anyone since it’s just ink on the paper. Yet many fail to understand why the cartoon depiction of Prophet Muhammad is so upsetting to the practicing Muslims. Therefore it is essential to understand the logic that fosters the high standard of devotion and loyalty.
by: Ali Abunimah on May 7th, 2015 | Comments Off
You can also read this over at Tikkun.org.
A note from the Editor of Tikkun Magazine — A Quarterly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics, Culture and Society (our online web archive contains many valuable articles, but they are different from what is in the print magazine which can be obtained in paper or read electronically only by those who subscribe to the magazine):
The new Israeli government is a total victory for the most extreme elements in the extreme Right in Israel. The overtly racist party HaBayit HaYehudi, the party of the West Bank settlers, will control the Justice Dept. , the Education Dept., and almost all important government offices concerned with the Occupation of the West Bank. And they have secured a promise from Likud to bring forward a proposed law that would make it illegal for any nonprofit to receive funds from a foreign government without approval from the government. That is directed at the various Israeli peace, reconciliation, human rights, and dialogue organizations that get support from a variety of European countries who want to see peace between Israel and Palestinians.
To get a sense of who these people really are, please read the following, written last summer after the brutal murder of a Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped as he walked down a street in Arab East Jerusalem by Israelis, set on fire and burnt alive to death, supposedly in “retaliation” for the brutal and outrageous kidnapping of three Israeli teens who lived in a West Bank Israeli settlement. I felt anger and horror at the murder of those three teens, and then the same upset at the murder of this Palestinian teen. But listen below to the story of what the woman just appointed to be the Justice Minister in the 2015 newly elected government of Israel, Ayelet Shaked, said in trying to justify the burning alive of that Palestinian teen. I do not subscribe to the view that Israel is seeking genocide against the Palestinian people, but it appears that its government now has in key positions people who do appear to justify a kind of holy war against Palestinians, and while I doubt that such a war will be waged in the next few years, and pray that it won’t, please do not underestimate the evil of some of the people now being put into positions of power in the new Israeli government (to see what I mean by evil, please read my editorial “Human Evil” in the Spring, 2015 issue of Tikkun magazine –subscribe now at www.tikkun.org/subscribe and then write to Leila@tikkun.org, tell her you’ve just subscribed, but don’t want to wait for the Summer 2015 issue and she will send you the Sprint issue).
Within two of the most prominent monotheistic religions in the world, Judaism and Islam, tradition dictates it blasphemous and highly insulting for any person to physically depict their G*d in Judaism, and the Prophet Muhammad in Islam, even positively or respectfully. So why then did the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and its leader, anti-Islam activist Pam Geller, organize their “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, a small suburb near Dallas? Geller offered a $10,000 prize to be awarded for the “best” cartoon caricature of Muhammad.
According to Geller, as well as the invited keynote speaker, far-right politician Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch Freedom Party, the event was called as an exercise in free speech. Evidently, Geller chose the site in reaction to a pro-Islam gathering, “Stand with the Prophet” held there last January. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate groups, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization.
by: Yanna Bat Adam on May 4th, 2015 | Comments Off
As my physical body grows old and older, there is in parallel, an essence aware of itself that becomes younger and younger.
Two opposite movements that don’t contradict each other in any way as there is a sense of wonder in becoming older/younger at the same time.
When life is seen as a miracle even the Holocaust is perceived as a gift of the One and Only Force of Nature.
A David State of Heart, Yanna, 2015.
When we are identified with our physical body, trying endlessly to meet its corporeal needs for food, sex, family, money, respect control and knowledge we see the world from the 1st story of a 10-story building.
This perspective does not enable us to see much.
Imagine you see the world from the angle of a crawling snake that continuously looks for something to hunt.
We are trapped like animals in a human form, trying to survive as best as possible as do other beasts. It sometimes feels that animals are more “civilized” than us “humans.”
by: Lubna Qureshi on April 28th, 2015 | 4 Comments »
The American Freedom Defense Initiative is continually allowed to run such repulsive ads as the one above. But free speech, when based on religious hatred, is detrimental to the morals of a society as a whole. Credit: CreativeCommons / OneCitizenSpeaking.com.
A recent ruling by a federal judge permitted the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) to display hateful advertisements on New York subway cars and buses. The tasteless ads relate the killing of Jews to Islamic teachings. This is nothing new for the AFDI. Since its inception in 2010, the AFDI has taken it upon itself to promote hateful advertisement by maligning the religious teachings of Islam under the flag of free speech. Pamela Geller, the self-proclaimed Islamophobe, organized the ad campaign. However, Geller fails to comprehend the long term consequences of the hate messages that may incite more anger and detestation in an already turbulent landscape. Although AFDI claims to exercise its right to free speech, it fails to realize the responsibilities that come with practicing the first amendment. The neglect of such responsibilities may be more harmful than even imagined.
by: Brian O’Callaghan on April 23rd, 2015 | 1 Comment »
The reality for many Trans people in Asia is far from utopian, but there is little of the overt discrimination and violence prevalent in other parts of the world. Historically, there has always been space for a third gender in Eastern cultures. Credit: Author.
To see more photographs from Brian O’Callaghan’s “Transitions,” visit the Tikkun Daily Art Gallery.
When I began photographing and interviewing Trans women in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I had to acknowledge to myself that I knew very little about the myriad of gender identities that exist. I had never really encountered positive Trans visibility until I lived in Asia. I began to see that my hetero-normative worldview was reinforced through the media and society at large. Even though I identify as an openly gay man, my notions about gender possibilities were policed. An essential lesson I learned from this project is that, there is not just one Trans story or experience. The women I interviewed wanted to share their stories in the hope of changing perceptions of what it means to be Trans.
by: Jeffrey Vogel on April 21st, 2015 | Comments Off
All living things, large, small, and in between, share in the precious gift of life on Earth. However, it is only we humans, with our large brains enabling us to be self consciously aware of this gift, that are the only creatures to celebrate Earth Day. As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day let us remember that this grand unifying perspective was made possible by one of our nation’s greatest gifts to the world, the first stunning photo of Earth from outer space taken during the Apollo moon missions. This awesome image of our beautifully round whole Earth, suspended in the vast blackness of space, is humanity’s crowning achievement on our long and frequently tortured path in trying to make some sense of our often overwhelming self-conscious existence; the climax of the long collective urge of humanity to explore our surroundings. This new perspective of the Earth takes our self consciousness to a whole new dimension enabling us to feel part of a much greater self — the whole Earth.
Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
As supremely self conscious beings, humans are acutely aware of their mortality and therefore face the question: Why am I here? Human history has been largely determined by humanity’s attempts to answer this crucial question. To find an answer we look for symbols to identify with, to give us a sense of connection and belonging. These symbols range from family to tribe, from nationality to religion, from political party to ethnicity, from wealth to power, from designer clothes to team loyalty. But these identifications and affiliations often devolve into intolerance, violence and warfare as the various groupings strive for supremacy.
by: Patrick M. Johnson on April 21st, 2015 | Comments Off
Blogs and social media have made it possible for isolated and discriminated-against people of faith to safely contend with the messages they encounter within religious discourse.
When you grow up in a religious environment, it has the potential to become a large part of your identity. It should be noted here that this is not the case for all people raised within a religious household, however it has the potential to become a way to identify yourself within society, as well as to help shape and form your moral and ethical guidelines and views of the world. However, this can occasionally conflict with other aspects of your identity, particularly when one identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community.
While there are religious denominations and beliefs that are very accepting of those within the LGBTQ community — the Unitarian and Episcopalian Churches are prime examples — this is not the case with all religious beliefs. While there is sometimes an easy knee-jerk reaction to proclaim that those who identify as homosexual should just switch their beliefs to a sect that is accepting (an opinion I have seen stated in more than one discussion about this topic), that is not always desired, as the core beliefs that come along with religious convictions are not (and should not) be that easily swayed. This represents the common way this debate is usually framed (especially among non-religious individuals or among LGBTQ individuals who are religious but belong to a very accepting church, such as Unitarian), which is the question, “How can you believe in a religion that doesn’t accept or tolerate your lifestyle?” It is seen as much easier to simply find a religion that fits your life and modify your beliefs to mold to that, rather than live in a state of cognitive dissonance where you know that your life and your religious beliefs are (at least on occasion) at odds with one another.