Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No to a Ground Zero Mosque, Yes to a Community Center

Yesterday, protests at Ground Zero continued to gain international attention. What's at issue is a figment of the American public's imagination: the ground zero mosque. Herds of "well-intentioned" Americans flooded lower manhattan to chant down the construction of what they are calling a ground zero mosque, but what really is an Islamic community center. This case is a powerful lesson in framing, which I was first introduced to by the George Lakoff but you and I experience constantly. If we want to make sure The Community Center at Park 51 is built, we've got to re-frame the conversation, or else the Islamophobes have won!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Scapegoat: Pakistan

The "big news" out of the Wikileaks controversy recently (whereby the website released 92,000 classified documents to the press about the Afghan war from 2004-09) was the role of Pakistan in the chaos. Well, there was a bigger story, namely how the war was in itself becoming a more obvious nightmare, but the American mainstream press opted to cover the "shocking" news that the Pakistan intelligence agency (the ISI) was supporting the Taliban and the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, even though Pakistan gets a lot of (military) aid from the U.S. The episode shows just how much Pakistan is America's whipping boy in all of this mess. Not surprisingly, the horrible flooding tragedy that has left one-fifth of Pakistan underwater as of right now is not getting much media attention in the U.S., and sorely-needed donations are lagging badly behind. As the BBC asked, who cares about Pakistan? The U.S. perception of Pakistan as a terrorist wonderland (which is problematic as it is) might be a major reason America has dropped the ball on this one (unlike Britain, which has done much more). Click here for ways to help the relief effort.

Monday, August 16, 2010

***This post first appeared on www.thedailybeast.com***

In the midst of the drama around the mosque that’s being erected two blocks from Ground Zero, a few details have been left out that provide some clarity as to the purpose of this project. Specifically, the project will be the country’s first certified “green mosque,” in full compliance with stringent LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, which is why organizers have named the project Park51, rather than the oft-cited “Cordoba House.”

The mosque (which is more accurately a community center with a prayer space) is located on Park Place in Downtown Manhattan, but the new name also reflects a desire to emphasize the intricate (though widely unknown) connections between Islamic teachings and environmentalism. For example, Islam calls upon people to be "stewards of the Earth" and to treat all things in nature as sacred. The new name, Park51, invokes images of trees, creeks, and children playing. Parks are for the public. Parks are fun. Parks are green. And parks are not controversial.

Proponents say this project is a victory for religious tolerance and a symbol of this country's unwavering dedication to freedom of religion. Opponents cite the 9/11 tragedy and its connection to Islamic fundamentalism, and say the mosque is salt in America's open wound. But the organizers of state-of-the-art Park51 believe they are building bridges, with the hope that the center can be a place for Muslims and non-Muslims to interact culturally and socially, and to provide an opportunity for all people to gain a more complete and accurate picture of how Islam sees the world.

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet and a media personality on public radio's newest morning news show, The Takeaway.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Help Flood Victims in Pakistan

More people have been affected by the flooding in Pakistan than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Almost 2,000 dead, 2 million homeless, and over 14 million affected - one out of every ten in the country. One-fifth of the country is flooded. All of this as most Pakistanis start fasting for Ramadan. The UN is calling for a massive increase in help from the international community. The U.S. media doesn't seem to be really covering the event, but after the break, we've listed a bunch of ways you can help.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bus Ads, Bigotry, and the Ground Zero Islamic Center

Dave Chappelle once did a bit in his stand up routine about hearing a comment that was so racist, even he was shocked. The bit is hilarious (it's in the brilliant "Killin' Them Softly"). Well, Chappelle would probably say something similar about the bus ad that just got approved by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). Not just because he's a Muslim, or has obviously seen lots of racism in his life, but because...well...damn, this is so racist. It is clearly meant to stir some pure venomous hatred in the hearts of bigots and those who may not really be racist, but haven't had their socially-accepted racism corrected because of the openly anti-Islamic climate in America post-9/11, something I wrote about just a few days earlier. I kid you not, the MTA approved a bus ad from the American Freedom Defense Initiative (nice name for group putting out the worst kind of ad imaginable) that shows a picture of plane #2 about to smash into the already-burning WTC on 9/11 and links it directly with the image of the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero. It is what you see above...really. Yep, they're openly linking 9/11 to the Islamic Center.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

America the Euphemism

American politicians tend to speak quite extravagantly when discussing the United States and its place in the world, as I detailed in an earlier post. It is not uncommon to hear the United States described as the greatest nation in history, a "city upon the hill," etc. Despite this penchant for exaggeration where American politics are concerned, it appears that when issues really matter American simply cannot spit the words out.
Turn on the nightly news and one will frequently hear stories about sexual assault...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Ground Zero Islamic Center, Fareed Zakaria, and Islamophobia

Aren't you glad we live in the age of Obama, where racism no longer exists? Man, what a load off my mind. You know, there's a black U.S. president. That makes everyone everywhere equal somehow (even though he hasn't actually changed policy that much from his white predecessors regarding U.S. financial institutions, foreign policy, welfare policy, etc. - but those are just facts, don't mind them). Oh wait...sonofa...

Now, I don't usually do the race/identity stuff that much. It's not my thing. I leave that to much smarter folks, like my friend Professor Lewis, amongst many others. However, all the talk about the Islamic Center near the Ground Zero site, the reaction to it, and the press coverage of it made me say, screw it, I'm going to put in my two cents.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bike-Share programs...are Sinister!

So, I've become a cyclist of sorts the past few years. I love riding my bike in the city, or on trails. It's good exercise, it's fun, it's convenient, and it's good for the environment. There are a lot of us around, especially in cities, where it is often faster to bike somewhere than to take a subway, bus, or (people still do this from time to time) drive. Now, bike safety is sort of a problem - I've been hit by a bad driver, and it is not fun - but hopefully this will improve as we get more bike lanes, etc. And, less crazy bikers - you know, the people who decide to jut in and out of heavy and fast-moving traffic as if they were driving a car.

Anyway, as such, this story caught my eye and reminded me just how crazy some people are in this country, particularly people running for public office. I don't know if it's a secret requirement that you be one of the following before being allowed to run for office in America: a moron, massively corrupt, racist, filthy rich without ever having to work for it, all of the above. It sure seems like it these days, though. Anyway, one of the candidates for the office of Governor of Colorado, Democrat John Hickenlooper, has implemented a bike-share program as the Mayor of Denver that has been incredibly successful. People can rent bikes for pretty low prices, use them in the city when they need them, and drop them back off at a variety of locations. Seems pretty cool, right? Sure. If you hate America!