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: 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: Edith Lutz on May 8th, 2015 | 3 Comments »
The perennially increasing military budgets of world powers have resulted in unprecedented militarization, in the middle of which often sits Israel. Peace, on the other hand, is a child of nonviolent communication and empathy. Credit: CreativeCommons / Palestine Solidarity Project.
Promoting the capacity for empathy and supporting measures that help to develop empathy would be the better way to pave the path towards peace in the Middle East — and perhaps the only viable one.
It would certainly be a cheaper one. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) the total sum of the world’s military expenditures in 2014 amounted to 1,776 billion dollars. With $610 billion, the United States was far and away at the top of the league. The U.S.A. exported armaments worth more than $20 billion, making it the world’s leading exporter, too. In some cases the United States is very generous and offers additional military aid (supporting their own killing industry in the process). Israel, for example, is such a beneficiary. It receives military aid of about $3 billion annually. The U.S. has also helped with additional aid in special cases, such as the funding of the Iron Drone project with $429 million in March 2014 or with $576 million for the Tamir interception missiles in July 2014 (Haaretz,10 March/18 Aug 2014). Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. “In the interest of U.S. national security” and despite the protests of human rights activists, the States is going to resume its frozen military aid. President Obama has asked the Congress for $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt per year. (Reuters)
by: Shani Chabansky on May 8th, 2015 | Comments Off
Cultural comparisons can be useful, but tread with caution!
In the case of the Baltimore/Tel Aviv protests, most people are focusing on the similarities rather than the differences. This is a major mistake.
It’s fair to point out that both American and Israeli societies need to reevaluate their attitudes towards difference, particularly in regards to race. People of color have been continually marginalized throughout history, and it is clear that we are not living in the post-racist society that many of us so eagerly want to believe in.
But the similarities must stop there.
To reduce the situations into “black vs. white” is to erase both historical context and what’s actually happening today. Not to mention the fact that it is demeaning towards both Ethiopian-Israeli and African-American populations. They are different people who are struggling with very different issues.
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: Brian McLaren on May 2nd, 2015 | 1 Comment »
There’s trouble today in two places I know and love: Baltimore and Burundi.
I spent over forty years of my life in Maryland, not far from Baltimore. During the last six or seven years of my work there as a pastor, I was blessed to have friends who worked in the neighborhoods of the city that are on TV this week. They regularly invited me to spend time with them and learn what life was like for them.
I recall a walk down some of those streets back in early 2009, just after the economic meltdown. I was spending the day with a pastor who loved the city and was showing me what he and his congregation were doing to make a difference.
“It’s ironic,” he said. “Everyone is in a panic because the national unemployment rate is around 9 percent. Let me tell you — the unemployment rate in this area has been around 18% as long as I’ve worked here.”
Then he added, “When unemployment for white folks hits 9 percent, it’s called a great recession and a national emergency. When unemployment for African Americans is 18 percent, it’s normal and no big deal.”
by: Aryeh Cohen on April 30th, 2015 | Comments Off
Credit: CreativeCommons / Dorret.
Watching, reading, and thinking about Baltimore, the killing of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police, and the current nonviolent and violent reactions to that killing, I keep going back to Hannah Arendt. Arendt, in her essay on violence, draws an important distinction between violence and power.
Politically speaking, it is not enough to say that power and violence are not the same. Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course its end is the disappearance of power. This implies that it is not correct to say that the opposite of violence is nonviolence: to speak of nonviolent power is actually redundant. Violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it. (Reflections on Violence)
The power that concerns Arendt is the power of political communities. Power is the result of people coming together for political ends. Or as Arendt says: “Power needs no justification as it is inherent in the very existence of political communities.” However, Arendt here adds a supremely important caveat: “What, however, it does need is legitimacy.” Power is dependent on legitimacy. This is why violence is the opposite of power. When the power of a political community is legitimate, when it is recognized as legitimate by those who form the community, then there is no need for the violence of domination. It is only when legitimacy disappears that violence takes center stage.
by: Warren Blumenfeld on April 29th, 2015 | Comments Off
'For white people who cannot seem to understand reactions of a community to the death of one man, all you have to do is look in the mirror to determine your card,' writes Dr. Blumenfeld. Above, African American pastors cross paths with Baltimore police. Credit: CreativeCommons / Vladimir Badikov.
In virtually all the university courses I teach in the field of education, I conduct what invariably turns out to be a valuable and poignant activity for the pre-service teacher educator enrolled in the course. The simulation represents the ways in which our society, along a continuum of very high to very low, encourages and enhances to discourages and reduces the individual’s motivation to learn and succeed in life.
I begin by alerting students that we are going to engage in a class activity. I travel around the room placing a playing card face down on each student’s desk. (I always include a “Joker” card.) I tell them not to look at their cards. I then stand in front of the room and provide directions. I model by taking a remaining card from the deck, and without looking at it, I place it face outward upon my forehead.
We endorse the statement below from the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Police violence, particularly though not only against African Americans, requires immediate and forceful response at every level of our society. People should be protesting in the streets of our country wherever an ethical consciousness has not yet been snuffed out by cynicism, surplus powerlessness, indifference, or inability to focus due to mind-destroying absorption in the distractions that abound in cyberspace, the media, and the entertainments of contemporary American society.
At the very least, everyone should be writing to all of their elected officials from President Obama to the local city councils and state legislators asking for new laws that require an independent prosecutor in every city and for every state (to be chosen by a panel of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights leaders and lawyers) to investigate every incident of alleged police violence and charged with the ability to directly bring to trial those for whom there is strong reason to believe that they violated the civil and/or human rights of those assaulted, , to penalize through pay reductions every police officer in the district