The Haditha Massacre, Media and Patterns of Warfare

haditha map massacre

With the massacre of Haditha already drawing comparisons to the My Lai massacre — where up to 500 unarmed Vietnamese men, women and children were killed in cold blood by American forces — proponents of this war are holding fast against this incident becoming the tipping point of complete anti-war sentiment.

Local blogger, Joe Guarino:

[…] We cannot take these unfortunate events, and then somehow generalize and amplify the Big Message they convey to suggest that the overall war effort is unworthy. We cannot make general assessments of the war in Iraq (or in Vietnam, for that matter) on the basis of tragic events that do not reflect the overall pattern.

The media would be wrong to muster a drumbeat on these stories, but if they do in stereotypical fashion, the public should ignore it.

Unfortunately for Joe and his agenda, the American public will discuss the role this atrocity plays in the overall war effort.

Whether Haditha represents an accurate assessment of the US military’s tactical MO or not, it has marked a clear shift in our collective perception of modern warfare. No longer do we live in a fantasy world of surgically precise operations; we’ve all awoken to the reality that combat-stressed groups of men and women in a war zone are capable of murdering civilians on their own accord.

That 21st century, smart-bomb warfare meme is kaput; we’re now all aware that the US is knee-deep in a grudge match.

But in the end, it truly doesn’t matter if this one incident is indicative of the pattern to the entire war effort or not, because to the Iraqi people — the people on the other end of the gun barrel in any circumstance — it signifies a terrifying escalation of chaos, murder and occupation that cannot be erased with clarifying words.

The Overall Pattern In Iraq

From pg. 39 of the September 2004 Strategic Communication report, by the Defense Science Board—a federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice to the secretary of defense:

2.3 What is the Problem? Who Are We Dealing With?

The information campaign—or as some still would have it, “the war of ideas” or the struggle for “hearts and minds”—is important to every war effort. In this war it is an essential objective, because the larger goals of U.S. strategy depend on separating the vast majority of non-violent Muslims from the radical-militant Islamist-Jihadists. But American efforts have not only failed in this respect: they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended.

American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab societies.

  • Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.
  • Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that “freedom is the future of the Middle East” is seen as patronizing, suggesting that Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World—but Muslims do not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.
  • Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. U.S. actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim self-determination.
  • Therefore, the dramatic narrative since 9/11 has essentially borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars. American actions and the flow of events have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims. Fighting groups portray themselves as the true defenders of an Ummah (the entire Muslim community) invaded and under attack to broad public support.
  • What was a marginal network is now an Ummah-wide movement of fighting groups. Not only has there been a proliferation of “terrorist” groups: the unifying context of a shared cause creates a sense of affiliation across the many cultural and sectarian boundaries that divide Islam.
  • Finally, Muslims see Americans as strangely narcissistic—namely, that the war is all about us. As the Muslims see it, everything about the war is for Americans—really no more than an extension of American domestic politics and its great game. This perception is of course necessarily heightened by election-year atmospherics, but nonetheless sustains their impression that when Americans talk to Muslims they are really just talking to themselves.

Thus the critical problem in American public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim World is not one of “dissemination of information,” or even one of crafting and delivering the message. Rather, it is a fundamental problem of credibility. Simply, there is none; the United States today is without a working channel of communication to the world of Muslims and of Islam. Inevitably therefore, whatever Americans do and say only serves the party that has both the message and the “loud and clear” channel: the enemy.

That last sentence (with my emphasis) represents the overall pattern that I see in the Iraq war. We’re a 100,000 strong force of monolinguistic, armed men and women on a foreign soil. Our soldiers have little to no training in the local customs of the Iraqi people, and practically no one can verbally communicate with either civilians or the enemy.

Essential building blocks of communication with the Iraqi people—humane, personal connections via idle chat during a convoy exercise, supportive conversation in local establishments, calming direction provided during a house raid—all become lost opportunities to gain a semblance of trust or credibility.

This simple inability to communicate waters the fields of insurgent seeds.

So when an atrocity such as Haditha occurs, the Iraqi people’s understanding of the act can’t be contextualized or messaged into obscurity by our military. Worse even, the sheer brutality of such an incident doesn’t need to be framed or spun by operatives of al Qaeda or the leaders of local insurgents to build a greater resistance to American forces.

The atrocity speaks for itself, with a clarity of message delivered via a deafening tone of dead relatives, neighbors and friends, all never to be seen again.

Iraqi citizens have lived with the fear of a potential Haditha massacre for years now. Their daily lives are filled with various degrees of similar experiences with American forces as we consistently sweep through house after house in the middle of the night, searching for insurgents. A Haditha massacre does only one thing: it confirms their worst fears, leading to more fear and more aggression towards our troops.

No matter what we want to tell ourselves, perception is reality.

The DoD knows we’ll never be able to control the perception of Iraqi’s, so this cry of the right to look at the big picture of the war is a nothing more than panicked attempt to control the perception and reactions of Americans that might question this war effort.

To suggest that the American public should “ignore” the “media mustering a drumbeat on these stories”—these atrocities—in order to protect the overall pattern of the war in Iraq is a failed intellectual position. This incident might only be one data point in the overall pattern of war, but it’s a glaring one; one that exposes more elements going wrong over there than going right.

The Role Of The Media

Iraqi war planners aren’t overly concerned with critical journalism, such as the March 2006 Time magazine exclusive on Haditha, affecting the average American’s take on the state of the war.

Sure, it’s a concern, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

If not managed, the mainstream media can become a major threat to war efforts because it is exists via the same capitalistic infrastructure as the government it supposes to watchdog.

In other words, when media institutions begin climbing onto editorial limbs, foregoing their inherent responsibility to the interests of corporate advertising, it clearly signals a shift in times to American corporations who become placed in a position to make certain decisions they’d rather not have to make:

  • They can remove themselves from media buys that are beginning to serve the reflected will of the consumer (poor PR) or
  • They can keep their advertising in place as a public relations strategy, while implicitly distancing themselves from our government’s effort to wage war

See, the real concern isn’t with the common people in as much as it is with the flow of money, for once the majority of corporations are off the bandwagon of a war effort, its future becomes rather short-lived.

An Example Of The Power Of Media

Lieutenant William Calley—the American officer in charge at the My Lai massacre—faced the scrutiny of the much more centralized, mainstream media of 1970. Advertising legend George Lois provides context to the media exposure of the atrocity at the time by describing the decision and experience of placing Calley on the November, 1970 cover of Esquire magazine:

LieutenantWilliamCalley

“Lieutenant, this picture will show that you’re not afraid as far as your guilt is concerned. The picture will say: ‘Here I am with these kids you’re accusing me of killing. Whether you believe I’m guilty or innocent, at least read about my background and motivations.'” Calley grinned on cue, and we completed the session.

When I sent the finished cover to (Esquire editor, Harold) Hayes he called to let me know that his office staff and Esquire’s masthead bureaucrats were plenty shook up.

“Some detest it and some love it,” he said. “You going to chicken out?” I asked. “Nope,” he said. “We’ll lose advertisers and we’ll lose subscribers. But I have no choice. I’ll never sleep again if I don’t muster the courage to run it.”

The notion that some editors might feel a sense of duty to a global community—and not just to a sovereign position or a bottom line—marks the potential for transforming the media into the greatest, political equalizer on the face of the earth.

In 1970, the attack on the “liberal” media—outlets that didn’t explicitly recognize corporate interests over human interests at every turn—was eerily similar to the conservative banter of today. From Into The Dark: The My Lai Massacre:

[…] On April 1, 1971, just two days after the verdict, Nixon ordered Calley to be placed under house arrest while his appeal worked its way through the courts. “The whole tragic episode was used by the media and the antiwar forces to chip away at our efforts to build public support for our Vietnam objectives,” he wrote.

Across the nation, there were many demonstrations of support for Lt. Calley. The American Legion announced plans that it would try to raise $100,000 for his appeal. Draft board personnel in several cities resigned in groups. Several politicians spoke out in public criticizing the government’s prosecution of the soldiers at My Lai. “I’ve had veterans tell me that if they were in Vietnam now, they would lay down their arms and come home,” Congressman John Rarick told the New York Times.

But prosecutor Aubrey Daniel also did not remain silent. He wrote a highly publicized letter to President Nixon criticizing him for releasing Calley to house arrest: “How shocking it is if so many people across this nation have failed to see the moral issue—that it is unlawful for an American soldier to summarily execute unarmed and unresisting men, women and babies.” […]

In the end, we have to recognize that an atrocity such as Haditha is a symptom of the behavioral patterns of all warfare. To brush it aside as a random act of violence would be to remove the complicit nature of war planners from the equation and lay it squarely on the shoulder of the souls that serve our country, no matter the call to duty.

Why Do “They” Hate Us?

gazaairstrike

If you’re looking for a laundry list of reasons, read this article titled, “Why do they hate us so much?” Otherwise, simply imagine the experience of watching a missile evaporating a car directly in front of you as you prepare to turn into your cul-de-sac, somewhere in Suburbia, USA, sending shrapnel into your 8-year-old child who was waving hello to you from the curb.

Middle East Times
Palestinian militants, children killed in Gaza airstrike
Sakher Abu El Oun

[…] An eight-year-old boy, Raed Al Batsh, and 15-year-old Ahmed Al Sweissi, who were standing in Salaheddin Street at the time, were also killed in the massive explosion.

Another 15-year-old boy died later from his wounds. Eight bystanders, most of them children, were also wounded.

An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed that the military carried out an airstrike targeting a wanted militant from Islamic Jihad.

“A short while ago the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] carried out an aerial attack in Gaza City against a vehicle carrying an Islamic Jihad terrorist,” she said.

Israeli security sources said that Sukar was wanted in connection with Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and bombings against troops before Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip last September.

While its larger rival Hamas halted its campaign of anti-Israeli attacks in the past year, Jihad has carried out half a dozen suicide bombings inside Israel and snubbed January’s Palestinian election that was won by Hamas.

Before the air raid, Hamas’ chief parliamentarian, Mahmoud Al Zahar, warned Israel against any military escalation ahead of this month’s Israeli election, threatening that his faction would avenge every drop of Palestinian blood.

“Everyone knows that before every election, crimes are committed [by Israel]. Those looking for success try to make more Palestinians blood spill.

“This time, we say to them that no drop of Palestinian blood will run without riposte,” he told reporters in Gaza City.

The movement, which won by a landslide in January’s Palestinian election and does not recognize Israel, has not claimed an attack in Israel since early 2005, despite carrying out dozens of bloody attacks in previous years.

An Islamic Jihad spokesman vowed that the response to Monday’s “crimes” in Gaza City would strike “at the heart of the Zionist entity”. […]

Now, tell me, honesty, how would you react? What next steps would you make once the grief became tolerable. What would you expect your leaders to do for you?

These aren’t simple questions; they’re steeped in mixed issues of morality and the flawed concept of a righteous battle to end all tyranny (which often turns into a battle against a windmill). Quite honestly, if this were my child, I have no idea if I could simply breathe, let alone answer these questions, but I’ll tell you this much: I can surely understand why a parent, relative, neighbor, etc. would charge that windmill.

The insurgancy in Iraq is a perfect example.

Israel operates like this because we, the United States, allow them to operate like this. Israel will tell you otherwise, but their very existense depends on our financial support, military dominance and political capital. When Washington nods, Israel moves. The ties are deep-seeded.

Yeah, I have a grasp on the big picture of why we have a relationship with Israel, but I don’t care. This type of shit needs to stop. I mean, read the above quote once more. It suggests that this type of military strike is the norm in Israeli political campaigning.

And we bitch about the He Said/She Said negative campaigning in the States?

Until this type of aggression ceases, we’re going to continue to be viewed as a sponsor of state terrorism and innocent lives everywhere will continue to be lost in the crossfire. With great power comes great responsibility, right?

Right?

UPDATE: Nas reports that the news only gets worse:

An Israeli air strike killed Raad Al-Batash, 8, Mahmoud Al-Batash, 15, and Ahmad a-Sweisi, 14, on Monday. Sumiyya Al-Batch, the mother of Raad and Mahmoud, was also wounded. And in a separate incident, two brothers, Allam and Nidal Abu Saud, 14 and 15, were blown to pieces when an undetonated explosive left by the Israeli military in their neighborhood suddenly exploded near them.

Eight other passers-by were wounded in the air strike, most of them children, and Sukar’s aunt, who lives nearby, died of a heart attack when she was told the news of the boys’ deaths.

…a report by Israeli human rights group B’tselem called the attack a war crime [source]

(via The Black Iris of Jordan)

Understanding Islam

understanding-islam
What Everyone Should Know About Islam and Muslims
by Suzanne Haneef
Islam And The Muslim World – (pg. 127)

In order to understand what is happening to Muslims, it is necessary to have a look at what is happening to the Muslim world. During the past century-and-a-half, the entire world has gone through tremendous upheavals, particularly in the realm of religion and values. While Europe and America were experiencing a profound loss of belief in religion, due in part to the irreconcilable conflict between science and what was supposed to be the “revealed World” and in part to the changes in people’s values and outlooks as a result of massive changes in technology and patterns of living, the Muslim world too was experiencing a great crisis in the realm of religion and values.

During this period, due to a complex interplay of forces, while the hold of Christianity was weakening in the West, the influence of Islam was also becoming attenuated in the East. As a result, many Muslims so far lost sight of the true reality of their faith that masses of them took the traditions of their societies, some of which were from Islam and others from sources other than Islam, to be Islam itself. Their understanding of Islam as a dynamic, revolutionary system of life shrank until all that remained to them of it was a set of confused, quasi-Islamic traditions, some faded remnants of Islamic values and behavior, and perhaps (but often not even that) praying and fasting in Ramadan, reading the Quran when someone died, and celebrating the Festivals. Others went to the opposite extreme, placing great emphasis on the worship aspects of Islam while ignoring all the rest of its teachings, especially in the area of striving, seeking knowledge, developing resources, political responsibility, cleanliness, etc. Muslim children living in areas outside the Arab world learned from pious but often ignorent teachers to pronounce the words of the Quran without understanding anything of their meaning, much less living by them, while in other places, youngsters grew up still more ignorant of Islam, believing it to be something related to the older generation which one is supposed to respect but which has no relevance or place in contemporary life.

At the same time, the Western influence emerged in the Muslim world and little by little grew stronger and stronger. In the past this trend was fueled by Western imperialism and the presence of Western officials, as well as by Christian missionaries and westernized, often Western-educated, natives who had returned home from a sojourn in Europe or America. Later industrial and commercial interests, finding a ready market for Western goods and expertise in Muslim countries, enthusiastically accelerated the process. Muslims became uneasily conscious of their own material backwardness and lack of modernity in comparison with the West, assisted by contact with Western goods and the lure of its life-styles, conveyed to every part of the globe by Western movies, media and propaganda. The West was seen as a glamorous utopia, and adoption of some of the trappings of its culture was looked upon as the instant way to modernization and progress.

Unfortunately, what was adopted were not the outstanding and excellent aspects of Western culture but only the most superficial and harmful ones, which were simultaneously applauded by many onlookers in the West as obvious signs that the Muslim world was now beginning to wake up and come of age: the old equation of bars, boogie and bikinis with progress and modernity. Under the impact of all this, many Muslims accepted Western society’s dictum that religion, moral values and the pursuit of meaning to be given no serious emphasis or importance in society. Its criteria of being civilized material advancement and the discarding of traditional values were accepted by them as the true measure of greatness of a society without their grasping the essential fact that genuine civilization must rest on a firm base of sound spiritual and moral principles, lacking which material progress simply becomes de-civilizing, de-humanizing and destructive.

Consequently, the present era has seen the emergence of three basic types of Muslims, who have their counterparts in other faiths as well. One is the individual for whom Islam is merely a vague tradition which more often than not he prefers to have nothing to do with, who subscribes himself “Muslim” on his passport simply because he is not a Christian or a Buddhist or anything else. He may either profess some outward tokens of respect for Islam or may reject it totally, but in any case it does not occur to him to guide his life by it or to try to practice it faithfully, and he regards those who do so as backwards and stupid.

This is understandable enough in view of the fact that almost invariably such individuals lack knowledge and understanding of Islam as a total world-view and system of life; moreover, they provide an example of real understanding and commitment to Islam. Such a “Muslim” may never have prayed in his life and may not even know how since he was not taught. For him Islam is simply a relic of ancient history. He may feel an occasional twinge of pride in his Islamic heritage when it is mentioned and may even come to the “defense” of Islam when it is attacked. Or he may think about it once in a while when someone dies (“Where am I going to go when this happens to me? Oh, well, God is merciful”), but he is too preoccupied with his daily activities and with his family and possessions and pleasures to follow up this train of thought. Many social problems and vices have by now crept into the lives of such Muslims, including an increasing incidence of divorce, sexual license, alcoholism, and total loss of values and direction. Basically, they are Muslims-by-name, no different either in their concepts or behavior from people who have no religion and no values, for in fact they hate neither, and they are often very hostile to Islam and to Muslims who adhere to it faithfully.

The second group are the traditional Muslims. They may understand the basic concepts of Islam, may have some degree of Islamic knowledge and may follow the Islamic teachings to some extent, but they do not understand it as a complete and dynamic system for all aspects of the human being’s life, nor do they adhere to its requirements in all aspects of their lives consistently and as a matter of principle and obligation. In their minds, Islam is often intermixed with many pseudo-Islamic practices common to their societies, many of which are completely contrary to the Islamic teachings although they have acquired some sort of an “Islamic” sanction or flavor, and with many westernized ways of thought and behavior as well. They definitely believe in God and Islam, but in a theoretical sort of way which does not carry enough conviction to move them steadily and consistently towards a totally Islamic orientation and way of life. Because they do not conceive of Islam as a complete system for all aspects of life, they are often critical or look down on those who do as having “gone too far” in the matter of religion.

The third group consists of those Muslims who understand the religion they profess as a total system and who have consciously decided to pattern their lives according to it. Their world-view and frame of reference is that of Islam, their obediance, loyalty and devotion are for God alone; their goal is the hereafter: and their community is the community of believers. Many among this group are highly educated individuals who have arrived at such a position as a reflection on what is happening in the world around them. They are a unique group, part of the small yet strong company of true believers in God who have been lining in submission to Him since the first prophet, Adam (peace be on him), walked on earth, in obedience to His guidance.

Without question, to reach such a level of Islamic commitment requires an understanding which, due to very faulty and inadequate approaches to Islamic education even in “Muslim” countries, few are able to attain. Moreover, the appeal of westernization and modernity is so strong that few people in the Muslim world have yet grasped the fact that material advancement is not necessarily the road to either true self-respect or satisfaction, and that it has not brought real happiness and well-being to the peoples of the West, but instead a staggering array of societal and environmental problems because it has been divorced from the spiritual and moral dimensions which are as integral and essential a part of the human being’s nature as is his material aspect.

When we survey the Muslim world today, you see a confused and troubled picture in which political instability plays a major role. In spite of the Islamic requirement of a leader elected from among the people who consults with them in the conduct of affairs, in very few countries of the Muslim world today are the governments elected by the people and responsive to their needs, or capable of providing leadership and stability to their countries: rahter they are, by and large, the rulers and the ruled. And although in most cases the professed Islam and often made a public show of piety, among the rulers of the Muslim world in recent years have been many who were dictators and oppressors of the most vicous sort. They stifled all criticism and dissent in their societies, whether by individuals, groups or the press, by sadistically oppressive means, making ruthless use of highly-trained secret police and intelligence services to supress anyone they considered a threat to their unbridled power; they filled the prisons of their “Muslim” countries to overflowing with tens of thousands of sincere and committed Muslims, many belonging to the intelligensia, who were trying to call for a revival of Islam in their societies or to question the policies or actions of the ruler. Hair-raising nazi-style tortures were applied to countless numbers of them under which many died, and some of the best among them were executed for fabricating “crimes” in order to silence the voice of faith so the ruler might continue unimpeded in his relentless drive for absolute power.

County after country in the Muslim world has seen rulers of this kind during the past half century or more, men who, although often Muslims themselves, hated and feared the very name of Islam because it constituted the only real challenge to their unchecked power and ambition, and who threw all their energies into trying to suppress it by opressing Muslims.

[…]

They’re Here!

museum-tolerance
Israel’s genius is mind-blowing.

As soon as the rest of the world begins to draw the ire of the Muslim world, Israel swoops in with a coup de grâce, stealing back all the affection for themselves. Yes, Israel is about to pull some serious poltergeist shit:

The Independent
Israel plans to build ‘museum of tolerance’ on Muslim graves

Skeletons are being removed from the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem to make way for a $150m “museum of tolerance” being built for the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

Palestinians have launched a legal battle to stop the work at what was the city’s main Muslim cemetery. The work is to prepare for the construction of a museum which seeks the promotion of “unity and respect among Jews and between people of all faiths”.

Israeli archaeologists and developers have continued excavating the remains of people buried at the site – which was a cemetery for at least 1,000 years—despite a temporary ban on work granted by the Islamic Court, a division of Israel’s justice system. Police have been taking legal advice on whether the order is legally binding. The Israeli High Court is to hear a separate case brought by the Al Aqsa Association of the Islamic Movement in Israel next week.

The project, which a spokesman said had been conceived in partnership with the Jerusalem municipality and the Israeli government, was launched at a ceremony in 2004 by a cast of dignitaries ranging from Ehud Olmert, who is currently the acting Prime Minister, to the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Israeli branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre declined to comment yesterday and has had no role in the project.

Durragham Saif, the lawyer who brought the Islamic Court petition on behalf of three Palestinian families, Al Dijani, Nusseibeh and Bader Elzain, all of whom have members buried at the cemetery, said: “It’s unbelievable, it’s immoral. You cannot build a museum of tolerance on the graves of other people. Imagine this kind of thing in the [United] States or England. And this is the Middle East where events are sensitive. If this goes ahead in this way it is going to cause the opposite thing to tolerance.”

Mr Saif said he had written to the Israeli State Attorney, Menachem Mazuz, seeking police enforcement of the original order. He said on a visit to the site he had entered three out of five tents where excavations were being carried out. “I was shocked to see open graves and tens of whole skeletons there,” he said.

Ikrema Sabri, the Mufti of Jerusalem, demanded a halt to the excavations and said the Muslim religious authorities had not been consulted on the dig. Saying that the cemetery was in use for 15 centuries and that friends of the Prophet Mohamed were buried there, the Mufti declared: “There should be a complete cessation of work on the cemetery because it is sacred for Muslims.”

Under Israel’s “absentee property” law the cemetery was taken over by the Custodian of Absentee Property after the 1948 war. Mr Saif said the Custodian had no right to sell the cemetery to the Jerusalem municipality in 1992. While parties to the work are resting part of their case on what they say was an 1894 ruling by the then Sharia court that the sanctity of a cemetery could be lifted, Mr Sabri said that ruling meant that only a Muslim could make such a decision.

Osnat Goaz, a spokeswoman for the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is carrying out the excavations, said it was common in Jerusalem to build on cemeteries. Adding that in such cases the bones were reburied, she said: “Israel is more crowded with ancient artefacts than any other country in the world. If we didn’t build on former cemeteries, we would never build.”

So let’s recap recent recent events, shall we?

  • The United States begins a war in Iraq to fight an “ism” over “there” so it doesn’t have to be fought over here. In the process, at least 30,000 innocent Iraqi’s have been killed
  • A Danish newspaper feels that it needs to spice up the religous debate, so it decides to publish 12 cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed—knowing full-well the beliefs of Muslims and depicting the Prophet
  • Now Israel is digging up “friends of the Prophet Mohamed” in order to develop a “museum of tolerance” and their defense is, “If we didn’t build on former cemeteries, we would never build”

That last excuse sounds very familiar:

    Steve: Not much room for pool is there?
    Teague: We own all the land. We have already made arrangements to relocating the cemetery.
    Steve: Oh, you’re kidding. Oh, come on. I mean that’s sacrilege, isn’t it?
    Teague: Oh, don’t worry about it. After all, it’s not ancient tribal burial ground. It’s just… people. Besides we have done it before.

Brilliant. I have no idea why radical Islam exists.

(via Jesus’ General)

Reza Aslan: Press Freedoms Are Not Absolute

reza-aslan
NPR: All Things Considered – February 3rd, 2006

[…] Robert Seigel: Well, this is a very personal question. You’re an American of Iranian extraction and a Muslim. You’re also an academic and you’re I think a person who lives a secular life, no? Reza?

Reza Aslan: That’s right

Robert Seigel: You see a satiric, insulting image of The Prophet. Does your blood boil or do you say “those crazy Danes.”

Reza Aslan: Well, my blood boils, not because I’m offended by the image. My blood boils because I feel as though that the purpose of publishing these depictions was to deliberately provoke Muslim societies in Europe. So, I’m angry that there wasn’t more care and concern about trying to maintain a sense of reconciliation and unity, not so much about the pictures themselves.

Robert Seigel: It’s the motive you infer from the publication that ah…

Reza Aslan: Absolutely. […]

Listen to the entire interview to get a full picture of Aslan’s perspective. But be warned; it’s not a sexy, free speech position.

Aslan doesn’t spend much time analyzing the ills of the various cartoons. Instead, he takes the same position that I’ve been pushing for the last few days. Understanding that there is a small, but fanatical sub-section of Islam within the delicate balance of religious co-existence in Europe, it is irresponsible to provoke Muslim society by republishing these depictions.

At least the European newspapers that republished the depictions have skin in the game; their readership and neighbors represent a vocal community of Muslims. The European balance of Islam and Christian faith will be tested once again, but like I said, they’re already engaged. What baffles me is this apparent need for the right blogosphere in the US to jump in and support wholesale “free speech.” Without skin in the game, it’s beyond irresponsible; it’s reprehensible.

Chickenhawkish, actually.

Hamas: The New (Shrouded) Face Of Democracy

hamas

Arab Palestinians have been screwed throughout the course of history, so it’s not hard to imagine how Hamas became the strong-armed, righteous voice of their people. Their tactics as a revolutionary front (social services, terrorism, etc.) are well documented, so now, as the democratically elected, legislative representatives of the Palestinian people, the question at large is how will they lead as a political party?

The transition to an open-political organization is going to be difficult at best, as Hamas’ senior leadership has been in hiding since Israel assassinated founder Sheik Yassin and then his replacement, Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, just a month later in the Spring of 2004. They’re probably the most decenralized political organization in the world; the type of organizational change necessary to run legislative politics and foreign policy relationships cannot happen overnight.

And on the other side of the planet, how did the US react to this true democratic expression of change? Yesterday, President Bush awkwardly framed the US perspective:


A few of his comments were very telling (emphasis mine):

…The elections yesterday were very interesting.

On the other hand, I don’t see how you can be a partner in peace, if you advocate the destruction of a country as a part of your platform. And I know you can’t be a partner in peace if your party has an armed wing.

And so, the elections just took place, we’ll watch very closely about the formation of the government. But uhm… I will continue to remind people about what I just said. That uh… if your platform is the destruction of Israel, it means you’re not a partner in peace…

First of all, if one doesn’t understand the history of the Jewish-Israeli/Arab-Palestinian struggle, as well as the corruption of the Fatah Party, then there is no way to understand how Hamas has become the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people.

As for this reaction to “an armed wing” of a party, can we please recognize the situation for what it is without the bullshit?

  • During it’s foundation years, Israel created Haganah to defend Israeli settlers, which later became the foundation for the Israeli Defense Forces—Israeli’s army
  • The outgoing party of yesterday’s election, Fatah, was an armed party, just not as overt as Hamas
  • While the US does not have armed political parties, we do have the most powerful armed forces in the world

Everyone at the table is armed, each with an agenda and a stake to claim. Now that we have that straight, I guess the question remaining is who’s going to blink first?

The Message: Score Another One For Netflix

the-message

I’ve had the Koran sitting on my bookshelve for the past ten years; I have no idea how The Message has alluded me until this past weekend.

While the historical accuracy of the film and its brilliant acting took center stage, there were explicit elements of both the production and storyline I found especially intriguing.

For instance, Islamic law forbids portraying either the voice or likeness of the Prophet Mohammed (that concept would put Christianity straight out of business), so when certain scenes called for interaction with The Prophet, director Moustapha Akkad made the call to turn the camera into Mohammed’s silent point of view.

The cast of followers spoke directly to Mohammed, yet they were simultaneously engaged in conversation with the audience, providing us with the positioning of The Prophet. In 1976, this may not have been viewed as a compelling technique, but in the age of first person shooter video games—where we directly engage and interact with the narrative, driving the storyline as we gaze into the eyes of AI avatars—the technique shifts meaning over the years. Very retro-cool.

In terms of the story, both the politics and marketplace of Mecca circa 600 AD were fascinating and generated numerous offshoots of thought.

The film reveals that the ruling class of Mecca kept the populous in-line, and themselves profitable, through establishing a marketplace of ~360 idolic “Gods”—wooden or clay figures, sold to individuals and families alike to provide good luck. The families blindly worshiped them as their personal saviors (talk about instant, add-water religion) and left the ruling class alone to continue their manipulation of the market and society.

When Muhammed returned from the mountains and began sharing his first poetic drops of the Koran, amongst the numerous stanzas (of eventual Islamic law), the message that forbode the worship of other gods was explicit. “There is only one God” quickly became the righteous chant of all classes of men who followed Muhammed’s revelations. Upon experiencing this shifting of inclusion (of social classes) and exclusion (of idolic gods), the local merchants/governors took this challenge of authority as a direct threat to the well-greased mechanism of Mecca’s economy, class and power structure and responded with force.

The mere concept of “There can only be one God” was more revolutionary than any number of armed men storming the city because their God could not generate a profit.

After digesting the film, my mind’s eye kept returning to the current global struggles between Islam and the West, asking the question as to whether or not we’re going through a historical recurrance on a global scale.

I mean, the World Trade Center was considered to be the most prolific iconic representation of the American (and Western) financial system. Could Ramzi Yousef and Osama bin Laden possibly have targeted the WTC in ’93 and 9/11, respectively, in an attempt to make a deep seeded philosophical connection with fellow fundamentalists, tying the traits of modern day global capitalism to Mecca circa 600 AD?

Yeah, the film was that deep. Now I’ve got to check out Reza Aslan’s recently published book entitled “No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.” Based on Jon Stewart’s interview with him last night and the reviews of Islamic bloggers, it’s bound to be enlightening on numerous fronts.

Are You A Disciple Like Rosa Parks?

Louis Farrakhan spoke at Syracuse University in 1989. At the time, all I knew of Farrakhan was his position as the leader of The Nation of Islam, his rumored role in the assassination of Malcolm X and the paragraph quotes, characterizing him as an anti-Semite. Upon deciding to listen to him speak, I ended up being one of about 10 white people within the auditorium (the others being pledges sent on a cruel stunt by one of the rich boy fraternities). I decided to attend because I don’t believe much until I experience it first hand, and, well, college is supposed to be the grounds for learning.

Quite frankly, over two hours, Farrakhan was nothing but eloquent, moving, empowering and righteous. There were no hints of Antisemitism, as he seemed 100% concerned with uplifting African-Americans in America. There wasn’t even a subtle push to join The Nation. And all the time my roommates and I listened to him speak, people protested outside, refusing to hear his words from his mouth.

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Until today, I had shied away from posting about the passing of Rosa Parks… and then I watched her funeral service last night on C-Span. Do yourself a favor and listen to this speech. Louis Farrakhan captures the essence of the civil rights movement in his 10 minute speech and bridges time to reflect upon where we all need to go today… following the footprints of Rosa Parks.

Other poignant speeches:
Bill Clinton
John Conyers
Bishop T.D. Jakes
Barack Obama
Al Sharpton

(via freep)

UPDATE: Historically, Farrakhan has been exclusionary regarding gay and lesbian struggles for equal rights. He talked the talk regarding inclusion leading up to the Millions More March, but there were still acts of exclusion on the day of the march.

No one claiming to be an activist in the spirit of Rosa Parks would separate any group of human beings, based on any factor, from the Civil Rights movement. Or, as John Conyers put it, “Civil Rights has morphed into the Human Rights movement.”

A Few Suggestions For Iraq

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Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair…

Since this war is going to be more about winning the hearts and minds of Iraq, the Middle East and the watchful eyes of (former?) allies around the world than actually finding WMDs, maybe we should try a few new tactics…

  1. Instead of placing American flags on fallen statues, roofs of buildings we occupy or on bridges we take over, etc., how about placing traditional Iraqi flags with a corresponding one that reads "freedom" in Arabic in it’s place? It promotes the idea of liberation not occupation. That is your stance, isn’t it?
  2. Kill the radio broadcasts in Arabic that are making fun of Saddam. As much as these people hate him, you’re only patronizing their intelligence. It may work with Leno or Conan for our too often numbskull American public, but it’s viewed as an insulting tactic around the world. The Arab world, specifically, gets a tad bit uptight when you make fun of an Arab leader… even if he is/was a dictator. We don’t need any more people with hate in their hearts against us. It’s a dumb move. Dumb and classless. Oh my bad, the CIA is in charge on this one… no wonder.
  3. If we’re dumping billions into the war budject, we should have at least a few billions set aside to immediately move in and provide medical assistance. Temporary to begin with, perminant within a year or so. Build new, modern hospitals in strategic areas of the country in order for all people to get assistance. This, along with an irrigation system to provide fresh water throughout the country, would be the greatest investment towards the future of peace in the country.

Ok, now get out of my office and go fix the world. If you don’t no one will… right?

To Top Off The Evening

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My day at work today centered around getting pissed off about the upcoming war. On cue, the commute home got even more interesting.

First, for the comedy relief of the day. I’m waiting for the N/R train on the Cortlandt Street platform, when I look across the track and notice this older gentleman, probably in his mid-sixties, dressed conservatively in a gray suit, casually drop his paper on the platform and stroll away. My first thought was:

Ok. He just blatantly littered. Maybe that’s how people acted before Woodsy the Owl. Give him the benefit of the doubt.

So I did, and went back to scanning my own rag… and that’s when I hear a splashing sound down on the track.

In the midst of the afternoon commute rush, this same guy is urinating onto the tracks from the edge of the platform. No one knows what to do. All of us were deer in the headlights, caught watching this unfold. The guy didn’t look drunk and was dressed in a nice suit. He eventually finishes, but the kicker? He strolls back to his paper, picks it up and goes back to reading.

Ha.

So I finally get on the train and manage to find a seat. At the next stop, the women next to me gets off and a guy squeezes between the doors and sits down in her place. Nothing out of the ordinary.

During my daily dose of conservative subway people watching (i.e. don’t look at anyone for more than two seconds and only in glances), I notice the new guy reading a miniature copy of something that looks like Arabic, bobbing his head up and down… pausing… and then mumbling to himself. He then reopened the finely bounded/crafted book for a half second, looked up in the air, and went back to mumbling. Repeat cycle.

Now, I’ve been traveling the NYC subway system since I was a kid, and to my best recollection, the only people I’ve ever noticed reading like that have been Orthodox Jews traveling with me from Brooklyn to downtown Manhattan. So here I find myself during the month of "Shock and Awe," sitting next to a guy with a mustache as thick as Saddam’s, dressed in a green army jacket, mumbling to himself while reading Arabic prose.

Welcome to New York City, the cultural Mecca of Western Civilization—the only place where one can feel enlightened daily by the vast diversity of people surrounding you, yet simultaneously fear for your life because of the actions of your government and media outlets.

I’m pretty sure (about 99 & 44/100%) that this guy was praying and looking inward during a rough time in his life. This behavior occurring any time pre-9/11 or leading up to war wouldn’t have caught my eye or stirred my hand to share here. Under the current circumstances, this had me second guessing my safety.

This type of irrational fear is what the majority of this country doesn’t understand when they blindly back an irrational war.

The “red states” of this nation don’t land anywhere near the top twenty terror spots to hit in America (I have the celebrity map, you know). So while Billy Bob and soccer mom 12,614 “support the government fully to protect us” in very vaguely defined ways, people over here in NYC start to look for exits whether we’re underground, on the streets, or inside our office buildings.

I hate the fact that these thoughts even crept into my skull. As hard as it has been to be a New Yorker over the last few years, being a Muslim New Yorker must take the cake for “king of all shitty positions.”

Well, I guess it’s better than being Muslim in Ohio.