Bahraini protesters carry rocks in a clash with riot police during a demonstration against the ongoing parliamentary elections in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama on November 22, 2014. AFP/Mohammed al-Shaikh
Wed, 2014-12-31 18:17
This year was a powerful amalgamation of torment, dissent, and small victories – a mixture of struggles, oftentimes intersecting, which will shape the new year.
The US government held yet another conference on how best to combat “Islamic radicalism.” It is interesting that radicalism — even without adding the Islamic adjective, as the Obama administration avoids the label — is applied to only one cultural and religious milieu. Radicalism is thus assumed to be a phenomenon of one culture and one religion. When the US government speaks about radicalism, it ignores the radicalism that prevails in the US Congress or in the US churches. It has only one radicalism and one form of violence in mind. Thus the violence of the US government, visited upon people in many Muslim countries, is not seen as the product of radicalism, but of moderation and of lofty ideals. Furthermore, for the US to really demonstrate its willingness to effectively combat radicalism it has to undertake those steps and policies — which it will never do:
In “Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology,” feminist scholar and socialist Barbara Smith speaks of a “simultaneity of oppression,” a concept that describes the concurrent oppressions faced by people of color. This approach to systematic oppression, she writes, has allowed for the connecting of struggles, creating a "particularly conducive atmosphere for coalition-building."
As I’m having my coffee peacefully on the supposedly public sidewalk currently appropriated by one of the cafés I frequent, a concrete mixing truck passes by slowly, blocking two lanes temporarily as it reaches a construction site, where a nice old building once stood and an unnecessary new one is being erected. A couple of minutes later, a water truck does the same on its way to replenish the probably dried out water supply of some building. In the opposite direction, a woman with an impeccably beautiful voice drags herself on the sidewalk singing a cyclic God-centric anthem, begging for money. Boys that sold umbrellas during last week’s storm, and generally shine shoes as their main source of income, are selling people today torch lighters with a marketing tagline, “Chalamon!”
American writer Susan Jacoby wrote a very interesting article for The New York Times about the crimes of the Crusades. She cited the valuable contribution of James Carroll in his book, “Constantine’s Sword.” Jacoby intended to compare this horrific chapter in the church’s history to the crimes being committed by ISIS. But, is that method useful, or does it do more harm than good?
On February 11, Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha, three Muslim students living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, were summarily executed by 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, who reportedly “turned himself in to the Chatham County Sheriff's Office in Pittsboro following the shooting.” All three victims were shot in the head. After searching through public records and Hicks’ facebook page, it was quickly recognizable that he is feverishly anti-religious, racist, as well as militantly nationalistic.
“If you love the God of Islam, I go!” shouted a man in the back of the theater hall in angry, broken English, “If you defend the prophet of Islam, I go!” He repeated this over and over again until he left. Between every sentence, he put on a piece of clothing: a sweater, another sweater, a jacket, a scarf, a wool hat and gloves, to help him cope with the cold world outside. As he performed his spectacle, almost everyone else in the hall was asking him to leave, “Go!” and as he repeated his threatening statement, no one had time for it, “Go out already!”
There is an attempt underway to make the case that Islam, the religion, inspired or spawned the creation of various jihadist groups. The fact that the US itself was a major catalyst for the creation of such groups, as that was its plot against communism during the Cold War, often goes unmentioned. But to understand the horrific savagery of terrorist groups in the Middle East you have to go to the origins of militias in the Middle East.
As of last week, my parents’ house, the house I grew up in, changed forever.
Although it’s normal that things change all the time, there are benchmarks by which one can define somewhere or something. One day last week was one of those times worthy of cementing an inflection point, a benchmark in defining “home.” Before that, the house I grew up in was safe from everything. It was safe from politics, when politics went very wrong. It was safe from religion, when the latter became unquestionable. It was safe from the conceptual and physical turmoil resulting from the ups and downs of the world outside, and contained within an unburstable bubble of sanity we actively upkeep as a family.