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Walling Ourselves Off

“We should not confuse the accident of our birth on the richer or safer side of those walls with a moral right to exclusively enjoy that relative wealth or safety.” (h/t Daniel Solomon of Securing Rights for sharing this piece)

Dart-Throwing Chimp

In the past two weeks, more than a thousand people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Europe on often-overloaded boats. In 2014, more than three thousand perished on this crossing.

Each individual migrant’s motives are unique and unknowable, but this collective surge in deaths clearly stems, in part, from the disorder engulfing parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Civil war and state collapse have expanded the incentives and opportunities to flee, and the increased flow of migrants along dangerous routes has, predictably, led to a surge in accidental deaths.

Of course, those deaths also owe something to the policies of the countries toward which the overloaded boats sail. European governments—many of them presiding over anemic growth and unemployment crises of their own—do not have open borders, and they have responded ambivalently or coolly to this spate of arrivals. Italy, where many of these boats land, had run a widely praised search-and-rescue…

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(things I’m secretly thinking about the way some Muslims talk about Hillary Clinton)

If you want to hate on Hillary Clinton because of certain policy positions, that is great. Looking forward to this elevated conversation. But going “but mamaaaa! she’s a capitalist and a neoliberal imperialist” makes you sound like you should be eating chicken nuggets and ishe cweam in the babysitting area rather than being at the table.

When did we all sign the agreement that capitalism is bad? Does it just sound smart to say that?

Capitalism like every system has pros and cons. There was a free market during the time of “Islamic empires.” And Mecca. And Medina. The hopeless Muslim Brotherhood were capitalist business owners. Erdogan is a capitalist. Lupe Fiasco is a capitalist and makes money off a free market. Islam promoted a free market as well as a system that tried to level the playing field and give a hand up for those who were in poverty. Being a social justice-y Muslim that liked a Russell Brand status doesn’t mean you’re suddenly anti-capitalism. We live in a free market world. What on earth do you think a non-capitalistic candidate will look like? The reason why your local mosque reuses its Solo cups is not because it is socialist but because its money it wrapped up in a never-ending expansion product/the imam’s random Cayman Islands Masjid Fund…for dawa/they stretched the last imam’s contract when they waived him (see: Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons) and there’s still 3 years left to pay off/it doesn’t have any money lol.

The next blow at Hillary is that she supports the same old-school policies of old-school white men (plus the new-school but actually also old-school black president she served), and that she supports Israel and is hawkish. Find me the candidate that can get elected without even praising Israel on a token basis. And if you think wanting America to be engaged militarily in situations around the world (hawkishness) is bad, then you really have not been paying attention to the past 8 years under President Obama, where revisionist sideline leadership has only created a more dangerous world, with ISIS and Middle East chaos.

Intervention in Syria— something that Hillary Clinton supported— was a good thing on humanitarian and national security grounds. Curbing Iran’s terrorism and regional imperialistic aims is a good thing for the sake of Middle East stability. You can be against Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s style of government. You can love the Iranian people and also ask them to stop supporting Hezbollah and their murderous government. You can have a balanced approach to foreign policy (!). Is the alternative to just ditch foreign policy in its entirety? Every powerful nation has interests (haram!) and mobilizes its allies and resources to preserving those interests. It can be stability, it can be a healthy market, it can be oil, it can be promotion of liberal ideals, or the promotion of illiberal ideals (like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran).

Some forms of democracy promotion are good, starting with getting it right at home (you know, like with campaign finance reform). America is a superpower with historically unprecedented global reach with the ability to do good and bad things. We’ve done incredible things— built economic powerhouses, improved quality of life and health for many, and have maintained (broader) global peace since WWII; AAAAAND we’ve also supported occupation and dictators, abandoned some of our principles, allowed for unfettered profiteering and unsustainable practices that might actually kill our planet. *Of course* it’s going to be involved in arenas like the Middle East, especially since as a superpower (as Russia and China try to be), it is invested in global security, it’s own interests, and in places where it has invested so much resources and human lives.

Call it imperialism if it makes you feel good. In the short term, you work with what you have. In the long term, you work towards a higher standard– and these standards are inherent in our faith and our Constitution. I don’t really care much for the whole “political dynasty” claim because that’s what we have today. If you criticize her for being cold/closed off, then you haven’t been paying attention to how insulated President Obama is.

If she’s the best candidate (it might be a big problem that there’s like no real Democratic primary with her in the race), then I will vote for her. If she is not the best candidate, then I will vote for Bill Clinton.

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On Muslims condemning ISIS (Spoiler: OF COURSE WE DO).

At some point all of the “we condemn ISIS” stuff is just cheap talk. It looks desperate/borderline ridiculous.

1. Of course we condemn ISIS.

2. Of course the maniacal, medieval, murderous organization that calls itself the “Islamic State” doesn’t represent the ideas, principles, and aspirations of the vast majority of Muslims worldwide.

3. Of course the horses’ asses on Fox News are going to get it all wrong and go on to talk about how ‘moderate’ American Muslims aren’t condemning ISIS.

4. Of course the vast majority of Americans aren’t going to understand the ISIS phenomenon and where the Syria connection is even relevant or why their president is carrying out military operations in the Middle East once again (and to be quite frank, I’m confident that most Muslims couldn’t really explain it either. I find it hilarious how cocky we Muslims get when we think we understand how pathetic the situations are in “our” countries more than others. Let’s laugh a bit, yeah?)

Suggestions: Muslim civic groups should make one or two joint press conferences/releases, then focus on substantive work in our mosques to ensure that young people aren’t influenced by the noise coming out of these chaotic, complicated stories and the overwhelming misinformation out there. We also need policy advocacy with teeth– few have supported the minority in our community (such as the good folks at MPAC) that “gets it”– that ANY action that targets ISIS needs to start in Syria and the tyrannical regime that kept ISIS nurtured and comfortable (this article sums it up perfectly: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119226/us-airstrikes-isis-syria-are-not-enough-punish-assad-too).

<<< The hilarious part is that we continue to “condemn” ISIS but don’t condemn the conditions and policies of inaction that allowed ISIS to grow. >>>

Last bit: We need to hire better communication and social media specialists. The people hired for communications/social media coordinator positions need to be able to do more than simply post #hashtags and share articles that seem relevant to Islam and Muslims. These things need real research. Example: one article I saw being circulated depicted Detroit Muslim leaders condemning ISIS– some of them notably being Shi’ite clerics, which great, because we need more coalitions built between Sunni and Shi’ite leaders in the US to counter sectarianism within our community. But I wonder, or actually, assert, that many of these clerics likely never condemned Hezbollah and Assad’s butchery of the Syrian people, or Assad and Iran’s strategy which allowed ISIS to fester to get rid of the moderate Syrian opposition. Being selectively silent is as sectarian as shouting anti-Shi’ite/Sunni slogans.

These are messed up, complex situations that require rigorous study and pragmatic approaches. The “Islamic State”– or whatever we want to call it– is a reality now, and it grew right under our nose these past 3 years, and we as a community have continued to operate in the same exact way we always have: reactionary, a deer in the headlights, rarely empowered, selectively empathetic, and, most importantly, politically illiterate (seasonal rallies do not = real political capital, clout, or presence).

If any of the above sounds patronizing– great. The world as we know it is a much more dangerous place because of the inept leadership in our government. But we the citizens are just as responsible for what happens. How many years do we have to keep “protesting this sh*t”, saying “ameen” in every prayer for the same oppressed peoples and countries? We can point our fingers at colonizers, a corrupt system, imperialism, interest groups, and so on. But last time I checked, God will hold us responsible for what we know, where we are, what we owe to our surroundings, what we’re able to do, our spheres of influence. Will we face God in shame simply because we don’t have our act together?

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Selective Internationalism: An Activist Disorder

الثورة الديمقراطية، الطراز السوري DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION, SYRIAN STYLE

Gaza protest

Some 80,000 people rallied in London over the weekend to support the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip whom Israeli forces are slaughtering daily by the dozens. This commendable display of internationalism, defined as unconditional solidarity with the oppressed and the exploited without regard to borders, colors, or creeds, was repeated all over the U.S. and Europe as thousands turned out at similar marches, even defying a government ban in Paris. Bringing this street sentiment into the halls of power, Chile’s parliament voted to suspend trade talks with Israel.

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A few things I like and don’t like (V. 1): on Neo-Cons, caravans, and #SeinfeldInArabia

I’m taking a leaf out of Zach Lowe (one of my favorite sports writers)’s book and starting my blog off with some things I “like” and “don’t” like from this past week. That might also be a bit of me repping my city and its favorite son, Chief Keef. There’s a lot of stuff he doesn’t like. Before we do that, let me just say this: thanks for reading. I look forward to a consistent, fruitful, and perhaps occasionally interesting tenure here for the Shamrock Sheikh blog. Stick around, and maybe we’ll learn something from one another. Or not.

What am I up to at this moment? It’s Thursday night and it’s that time when you’re starting to recover from a front-loaded work week. Midterms just went by and Spring Break starts tomorrow evening. I bade farewell to my younger brother, Mahdi, who is leaving tonight on his high school senior year trip to perform ‘umrah (mini-pilgrimage) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It’s an odd feeling because this would be the first time in memory that I’m in the position of watching him leave. In the past it’s always been me leaving to Washington, D.C. for internships or to Champaign, IL. where my college campus is. This is the sort of experience that throws off one’s internal train of thought, because it’s entirely new. The more we grow, the more we approach the future, the more we begin to face the unknown. Maybe I sound like an old man (and that’s sort of what I’ve always been), but I know that Mahdi traveling alone, graduating high school, going to college, and so on are all wedges that make this fortress called the “present” feel like its collapsing, bit by bit. And that’s not a bad thing at all. It just means we’re growing up and hopefully moving onwards to bigger and better things. And when we get the chance to spend time together and do the things he and I always used to do together– be it going to pancake houses, playing basketball, or figuring out “what we’re going to do” or “what movie we’re going to watch” for 3 hours– those are the times that will mean the world to both of us. Safe travels Mahdi!

——–

So here are some observations I made  this week. I DON’T LIKE: why the hell do we keep throwing the term “neo-con” around so easily? I’m referring to this piece by Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek, titled “How Cold War-Hungry Neo-Cons Stage Managed RT Anchor Liz Wahl’s Resignation.” It’s a fascinating read if your worldview on global affairs is on par with that of a college freshman who watched too many Alex Jones and Illuminati/9-11 Truther videos on YouTube.

By all means, give it a read. As the authors continue to tout in subsequent Twitter wars, they seemingly have a thorough collection of sources to back up their assertion that former Russia Today anchor Liz Wahl’s resignation from the network is all a part of a neo-conservative conspiracy to reignite the Cold War. This article launched a series of rebuttals on Twitter and elsewhere between the authors and several of the journalists and pundits brought under scrutiny by Blumenthal and Khalek. Look it all up on Twitter– follow Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray or the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake to see the debate. Or, for your sanity– don’t follow the debate. This one tweet sums up how some people just never get tired of reliving their middle school days:

My favorite response came from David Weigel from Slate.com, who said that the authors were making much more of Wahl’s resignation than there actual was. This wouldn’t be the first time Blumenthal tried to be our journalist-and-savior. Just a few months ago, Blumenthal tried to smear Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a group I once worked for, which advocates for Syrian human rights as well as a more engaged U.S. Syria policy. Max’s hypothesis revolved around a series of meetings and speaking engagements that Mouaz participated in at various D.C. think tanks and organizations. And because many of these influential think tanks are backed by neo-cons and pro-Israel donors, and because Mouaz helped facilitate Senator John McCain’s visit to liberated northern Syria, Max posited that Mouaz was in the pocket of these lobbies and was an agent of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East.

Or something like that…. Max did everything but talk to Mouaz himself– a man who was born a Palestinian refugee and who as accessible as people in D.C. get. It’s funny: God forbid anyone tries to do something, I don’t know… pragmatic, relevant, and useful with their time in Washington to boost support for increased humanitarian aid to Syrian children and bring about a political solution to the now-regionalized Syrian civil war by providing a level playing field and forcing Assad to the negotiation table (remember: it was the threat of force that bolstered our diplomatic “breakthrough” in getting Assad to surrender his chemical weapons). I’m not saying that Blumenthal is off the mark here with the Wahl story. I don’t have access to his “sources” and puzzle pieces. But Max has a history of below the belt moves against people like Mouaz (whose foot alone quite frankly has done more for human rights than Max ever has/will). So there. It makes it hard for me to take writers like him seriously.

Honestly, what I’m learning is that there is a “scotomization”, where people see what they want to see. Look at universal healthcare, for example. Some people see a much-needed reform. Others see big government. Obviously, SOMEBODY has their head up their asses. I guess democracy allows us to sort of not have to inform people of their predicament.

Foreign policy is similar. I don’t look for a world where the United States dominates the international arena and acts as the global police (cliche, I know). I’m sure Max is on the same page as me on that matter. But it’s funny that people like Max and most “progressives” have such a U.S.-centric view that same world. To them, anything that the U.S. does– development, diplomacy, etc– is imperialism. If they see Haim Saban or John McCain or CFR or Kagan or any other name that doesn’t suit their one-dimensional worldview, they cry “neo-con” and attempt to smear them and everything they support by putting them in that camp. If Russia supports and covers up mass-slaughter in Syria, they’ll just say “oh but look with the U.S. did here, here, and here! The hypocrisy!” Jeez. Can’t someone, I don’t know, call out and criticize both U.S. (as is my right as a loyal citizen) AND Russia transgressions and work to support reasonable policy suggestions and solutions for BOTH? Can we try that? Maybe it’s too hard for some people to see all the way from those ivory towers, high horses, and computer screens. But grow a pair and get to work– and you’ll find that there are people willing to work with you and that there’s a process— an imperfect one– to finding progress. One damn centimeter at a time.

The viewership of course is the perfect flock of sheep. I guarantee that 99% of them haven’t seen what Beltway life and culture and operations look like and what it takes to get anything done in that town. You don’t have to agree with 100% of someone else’s views to find mutual interest in working with one another, even for a very short period of time. And you don’t have to sell out your people or principles to do so. For some people, dirt and the axes they have to grind are far more important than human lives, human dignity, and having a world where people can be privileged enough to be keyboard commandos and tear people who try to do good work, like Mouaz, down and throw them into the neo-con pile.

The most ironic part of all this is that for people like Khalek and Blumenthal who judge people like Mouaz and the broader Syrian American community (and many actual Syrians in Syria, HELLO) for supporting U.S. intervention, they ignore that the Arabs who have been fighting for dignity and social justice for a while– namely the Palestinian community– as well as the established Arab names in academia, organizations (like Arab American Institute, ADC, etc), and the blogosphere, for the most part left the Syrians hanging! It would have been great to have THEIR fraternity and support in a small town like D.C. I’m sure that, since they’ve been there for a while now, that they have the resources and connections to help us land a few meetings here and there or something. (What have they been doing there for the past 10 years, anyways? A topic for further exploration should be “do Arab Americans have their s**t together? Are they as a collective body even relevant?”) Sure, a big chunk of that community (Asad Abu Khalil, Ali Abunimah, etc.) started criticizing the Assad regime when the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria started becoming besieged, but most of them will probably never tell you that they want Assad to step down (if they even mention Syria at all in the first place. Scroll through their Twitter accounts and you’ll see the only time suffering Syria brought up is when U.S. military action is in question), or that they renounce support for Hezbollah or Iran which have played integral roles in Assad’s killing machine. Because it’s all about the muqawama, the fantasy of resistance. The resistance was in power for more than 40 years, guys. They still weren’t able to get the Golan Heights back. To hell with your resistance, if it means you throw 100,000+ Syrians under the bus to burn. And to hell to any notion that these people do what they do for social justice and global progress. It’s about ego, ideology, and sometimes the groupies (the crude way I’ll describe the college students who flock to them or “get off” whenever they say something clever about U.S. hypocrisy). I’ll be the first to call out hypocrisy when my country is involved because it’s my country. And that’s the difference. I’m empowered. I’m not going to continue to play victim and appeal to the stubborn ideological crowds. I’m more interested in real work.

As the Arabic saying goes, “the caravan keeps moving, while the dogs keep barking.”

Some people have actual ideas, facts, history, and policy suggestions to discuss. Here’s something I DO LIKE:

I wish we could keep the conversation at this level. We agree, disagree, debate, and watch as history unfolds. Someone will be totally wrong, and we can let them know “I told you so” on Twitter when it’s all said and done. That’s what it’s all about, guys. We should not be about creating an echo chamber where no one takes us seriously. Seriously. Let’s keep the conversation where it matters, and not keep digging for what’s probably not even there (not to say that Blumenthal and Khalek are 100% wrong about Wahl, of course. I didn’t see Wahl denouncing the Kremlin’s covering up of Putin’s support for Assad. But you get my point.)

——-

One more thing that I DO LIKE: My #SeinfeldInArabia tweets. Come on fellas. I was on a roll this week. It might not have been conducive to a successful midterm exam week, but hey, perhaps a future in comedy/writing is a solid Plan B:

Even Marc Lynch liked them:

Sarah was on the verge of tears:

We’ve all been there, guys.

-Adham

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I’m Sorry. Please, Let Me Explain.

Dear Girl From Across the Room,

I want to make this short and sweet. Let me explain myself so that you understand that it’s not what you might think it is. Last Sunday, my friend and I went to lunch at Portillo’s in Willowbrook. We were telling stories and laughing our asses off, and probably being a pain in the neck to everyone around us. If anything, we gave off the impression of the douchebag-frat boy type that the Sunday family brunch crowd tries to avoid.

Anyways, I saw you walk in with your family—or people who looked like your family—and I watched from my table as you all sat down on the other side of the room. I wasn’t creeping or anything—it was that simple people-watching kind of look that a person does, done passively or without any conscious thought. But I remember paying attention to the fact that I was paying attention to you. Truth: in the few seconds that this all went down, I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing or what I looked like, sitting here staring past my friend and at you. But I immediately grew conscious of EVERYTHING after I realized that you noticed me—me looking at you. Sort of how when you’re driving on the highway for a while, then zone out and daydream about something else so sweet, forgetting that you’re in the driver’s seat until you need to hit the brakes and find yourself off that normal route and past that exit you were always supposed to take. Something like that.

I don’t know why I’m writing this except that, right after we made eye-contact, I knew that I felt bad and want to make sure that I didn’t hurt you. I think that I may have hurt you because, right after you saw me staring, you turned to the girl beside you—your sister, maybe— and whispered something that made her switch places so that I wasn’t in your direct line of vision. So that, if you looked up—by incident or whatever—there wouldn’t be that risk of me looking at you.

But that’s not how it went down, and let me just put it bluntly: I wasn’t staring at you because of your cancer. Hell, maybe you don’t even have cancer. Or maybe you do, and then I pray you’re doing okay and the prognosis is a good one. If it’s cancer, then I hope you feel loved and are fighting it all for the world. This sounds so half-assed and disingenuous but I want you to know that I WASN’T EVEN THINKING ABOUT THE CANCER—not until it became awkward. In fact, my eyes were fixated on you because I thought you were absolutely beautiful. I don’t need to tell you that, because you don’t need anyone to say it to you. But I’m just going to say it because I want it to be said out loud. You are beautiful. I thought your blueish-green eyes, that bright red lipstick—everything about you including (yes) your bald head, was beautiful. You caught my honest human eye. That is all.

I’m sorry if I made you feel more visible than you want to be, and I hope you didn’t even notice me, if that’s how it would have made you feel. I’m praying that I’m entirely wrong about the situation, and you don’t even know what I’m talking about (and that I’m just being awkward as usual). I hope you had a great Sunday with your family and friends who appreciate you and make you feel loved and beautiful like no one else. I hope I’m just ignorant and that you don’t actually have cancer and, if you do, you’ll survive to share—that beauty and everything else you have to give—with the world. I hope you’ll mean the world to someone for a very, very long time. And please, don’t waste a second thought on the supposed douchebags like me.

But, for what it’s worth, your beautiful eyes captured my passive, desensitized heart for that one split second and—even though you might not have even noticed—I’ll remember that moment.

I hope you are at peace with yourself.

Best,

Your Admirer from Across the Room

 

(Published originally at Medium: https://medium.com/dear-blank/7282965f10b9)

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