Facts vs. Narrative, Utoya Edition

by matttbastard

Norwegian journalist Magnus Nome was in the good ol’ US of A when self-styled counterjihadist crusader  Anders Breivik decided to escalate his murderous fantasies about Eurabian conquest from Outer Wingnuttia into the real world.  Thankfully, CNN, Fox News et al were ready to provide informed, accurate, up-to-the-minute coverage of events on the ground:

The news coverage over the following days taught me a lot of interesting new ‘facts’ about the innocent nation of Norway.

1. Apparently we don’t lock our doors at night. Wrong. We do.

2. There is no public debate about immigration. Wrong. Immigration generally, and Islam specifically, have been high on the agenda for more than a decade.

3. We’re all white. Wrong. Norway has become an increasingly diverse society since the early 1970s: almost a third of Oslo now has non-Norwegian origin, more than one in ten being Muslim.

4. Owning a gun is practically illegal. Wrong. Hunting and sport shooting are popular recreational activities, and Norway ranks high in gun ownership.

5. The Utøya victims were all white, and the terrorist did not kill any Muslims. Wrong. The victims reflected a diverse Norwegian society. Several of the dead were Muslims, several were of African or Middle Eastern ancestry. This information was available. It is extremely disrespectful to airbrush them out of the story to make it more coherent.

As they say, read the whole damn thing, especially if everything you know about Norway — and about Anders Breivik & far-right nationalism in Europe — was learned via teh cablez.

Image: apgroner, flickr

Red Meat Straight Outta Ann Coulter’s Rider

by matttbastard

No, just…no:

Even before she opened her mouth for the first of three speeches this week on Canadian soil, American right-wing antagonist Ann Coulter had already scored a victory of sorts.

Coulter, who spoke to an audience of about 800 at the University of Western Ontario on Monday night, received a pre-emptive and private caution about the limits of free speech in Canada from the provost of the University of Ottawa, where she appears Tuesday.

The letter was immediately leaked to select conservative news organizations, with Coulter telling one that the university was “threatening to criminally prosecute me for my speech.”

For a strident provocateur who’s speaking on “Political Correctness, Media Bias and Freedom of Speech,” the University of Ottawa warning — however tepid — was pure oxygen for the fire.

Coulter seizes the obvious talking point (gleefully solicited by the groupies at NewsMax):

“The provost of the u. of Ottawa is threatening to criminally prosecute me for my speech there on Monday — before I’ve even set foot in the country!”

Look, it’s bad enough that three Canadian campuses (including one in my hometown) have afforded a vile bigot like Coulter a stage to perform her trademark powersuit-wingnut vaudeville routine. But are they also contractually obligated to serve her up a heaping bloody plate of steak tar tar on a goddamn silver platter?

Seriously, way to feed the fucking troll, kids.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Iran: Dreams Underfoot

by matttbastard

(Image: sterno74, used under a Creative Commons licence)

Following the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, Tom Regan’s Terrorism and Security Briefing for the Christian Science Monitor became a must-read for anyone who wanted a daily general analysis of counterterrorism/counterinsurgency developments around the world. Unfortunately, Regan no longer compiles the briefing. But, late last week, he quietly emerged from an undisclosed location to pen this must-read take on the ongoing post-election turmoil in Iran.

Regan notes that the West may be projecting its own collective desire for transformative political reform in the region onto a murky, still-fluid situation that is not quite the widespread democratic uprising that the mainstream media and Western political establishment would have us believe:

…I strongly believe that what are seeing in Iran is something like a reality based TV show. It’s based on a real incident, but it’s still being shaped by the show’s writers and director (ie, the western media) to be the most interesting to a Western audience. We’re only seeing the bits of tape that conform to what the western media ([which] represent us) want the story to be. It’s real but it’s not reality.

First, this is most definitely NOT a national revolution. This is a protest largely based, as I said, in northern Tehran, the more affluent and prosperous area of the city where most of the universities are located as are (surprised) the hotels where most western journalists stay. As Time’s Joe Klein (who just got back from Tehran) noted in an interview on CNN yesterday, there is no protest at all in southern Tehran, the largest part of the city where the poor and less-educated live. This is Ahmadinejad ’s base. And there is almost no protest at all in rural areas. The regime is firmly in command in most of the country, and the more repressive elements like the Revolutionary Guard have yet to really make their presence felt.

You know, this beginning to sound like Beijing 20 years ago.

Now, there is always the chance that a revolt driven by a relatively small number of the country’s population will succeed in overthrowing the country’s regime. Especially in Iran, where one revolution has already done that. But that was a revolt approved by the large majority of the people against a hated despot. This is not the same situation. If there is hatred of Ahmedinejad it comes no where near close to the hatred felt for the Shah. It’s just not going to happen.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

h/t Karoli via Twitter

Related: Patrick Martin provides a history lesson on Mir-Houssein Mousavi, a most unlikely champion for Western-style liberal democracy, while John Palfrey, Bruce Etling and Robert Faris of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society share an informative survey of the overall Iranian web presence (which–surprise–may not conform with what we’ve been voyeuristically observing via Twitter). Elsewhere, Dana Goldstein gives us these two must-read posts on the role Iranian feminists have played in the uprising (h/t Ann Friedman). Also see the one and only Antonia Zerbisias (taking a welcome respite from blogging about her thighs and pention [sic]) for more on how–and why–the women of Iran have taken the lead in demonstrations.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Timing is Everything?

by matttbastard

Wonder if the following has been cited elsewhere as a possible (partial) explanation for Obama’s recent 180 on releasing the torture photos?

Der Spiegel:

The president took his decision under the pressure of time. Had he not acted, the 44 photos would have been released next week as per an order from a New York court. It was a decision the White House had originally approved. But the timing of the release would have been problematic — the images of rape and torture would have conflicted with Obama’s travel plans. On June 4, Obama plans to give a keynote address in Cairo in which he intends to unveil a plan of reconciliation with the Muslim world. The legacy of the Bush era includes an us-versus-them mentality from which Obama seeks to distance himself, and which he has already begun to reverse.

Whether true or not, it certainly makes more sense than David Ignatius’ repulsive, straight-from-the-Beltway-cocktail-circuit speculation that the sudden reversal was  meant as a ‘Sister Souljah moment’ (though would still be no less inexcusable).

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

NY Times: 300 Afghan Women Protest ‘Rape Law’

by mattbastard

This is probably the most inspiring and heroic thing I’ve read about in ages:

The young women stepped off the bus and moved toward the protest march just beginning on the other side of the street when they were spotted by a mob of men.

“Get out of here, you whores!” the men shouted. “Get out!”

The women scattered as the men moved in.

“We want our rights!” one of the women shouted, turning to face them. “We want equality!”

The women ran to the bus and dove inside as it rumbled away, with the men smashing the taillights and banging on the sides.

“Whores!”

But the march continued anyway. About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape.

It was an extraordinary scene. Women are mostly illiterate in this impoverished country, and they do not, generally speaking, enjoy anything near the freedom accorded to men. But there they were, most of them young, many in jeans, defying a threatening crowd and calling out slogans heavy with meaning.

[...]

The women who protested Wednesday began their demonstration with what appeared to be a deliberately provocative act. They gathered in front of the School of the Last Prophet, a madrasa run by Ayatollah Asif Mohsini, the country’s most powerful Shiite cleric. He and the scholars around him played an important role in the drafting of the new law.

“We are here to campaign for our rights,” one woman said into a loudspeaker. Then the women held their banners aloft and began to chant.

The reaction was immediate. Hundreds of students from the madrasa, most but not all of them men, poured into the streets to confront the demonstrators.

“Death to the enemies of Islam!” the counterdemonstrators cried, encircling the women. “We want Islamic law!”

The women stared ahead and kept walking.

A phalanx of police officers, some of them women, held the crowds apart.

As Spackerman (h/t) rhetorically asks, “What have you done recently that’s half as brave?”

Related: In an interview with Afghan women’s rights activist Soraya Pakzad, Jean MacKenzie puts the  controversy surrounding the Afghan ‘rape law’ in context:

The reality is that no Afghan woman, Shi’ia or Sunni, has the right to object to her husband’s advances. The international outcry, while well meaning, misses the point: It is not a single law that is the problem, it is the overall status of women.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Even in the Age of Obama, Flying While Brown is Still Hazardous

by matttbastard

The more things Change™, the more they stay the same:

Officials ordered nine Muslim passengers, including three young children, off an AirTran flight headed to Orlando from Reagan National Airport yesterday afternoon after two other passengers overheard what they thought was a suspicious remark.

Members of the party, all but one of them U.S.-born citizens who were headed to a religious retreat in Florida, were subsequently cleared for travel by FBI agents who characterized the incident as a misunderstanding, an airport official said. But the passengers said AirTran refused to rebook them, and they had to pay for seats on another carrier secured with help from the FBI.

According to Kashif Irfan, one of the passengers removed from the flight, “five of the six adults in the party are of South Asian descent, and all six are traditionally Muslim in appearance, with the men wearing beards and the women in headscarves.”

Entirely coincidental, I’m sure.

Even so, AirTran went into full spin mode following the incident:

AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson agreed that the incident amounted to a misunderstanding. But he defended AirTran’s handling of the incident, which he said strictly followed federal rules. And he denied any wrongdoing on the airline’s part.

“At the end of the day, people got on and made comments they shouldn’t have made on the airplane, and other people heard them,” Hutcheson said. “Other people heard them, misconstrued them. It just so happened these people were of Muslim faith and appearance. It escalated, it got out of hand and everyone took precautions.”

Yes, it “just so happened” that the people kicked off the plane for making “comments they shouldn’t have made” were scary brown people wearing scary Muslim clothing.

Ahem.

If you buy that load of frozen high-altitude airplane waste , well, I also have some prime TWA stock available for purchase at a fabulous price.

Vanessa @ Feministing isn’t buying:

The fact of the matter is that if “these people” weren’t of Muslim faith and appearance, this wouldn’t have happened.

Gee, ya think?!

Oh, and what were these comments that were so inappropriate that the plane just had to be evacuated and the FBI called in?

CNN:

“The conversation, as we were walking through the plane trying to find our seats, was just about where the safest place in an airplane is,” [Inayet] Sahin said. “We were (discussing whether it was safest to sit near) the wing, or the engine or the back or the front, but that’s it. We didn’t say anything else that would raise any suspicion.”

The conversation did not contain the words “bomb,” “explosion,” “terror” or other words that might have aroused suspicion, [Atif ] Irfan said.

“When we were talking, when we turned around, I noticed a couple of girls kind of snapped their heads,” said Sobia Ijaz, Irfan’s wife. “I kind of thought to myself, ‘Oh, you know, maybe they’re going to say something.‘ It didn’t occur to me that they were going to make it such a big issue.”

Hah–never underestimate the potential overblown idiocy of jittery airline passengers in a full-on post-9/11 ethnic panic state (“ZOMG TERRORISTS IZ GUNNA BLOW UP THE PLANE–LET’S ROLL!!!!1″) Still, I’m rather astounded at how remarkably sanguine the family is about the entire farcical (if infuriating) situation. Can’t say I’d be so reserved if I somehow found myself sitting across from the FBI, all because I dared to inappropriately express completely understandable concerns over flight safety (while being brown, scary and clad in funny-looking religious garb).

But don’t think a lack of righteous outrage means the family is rolling over:

“Really, at the end of the day, we’re not out here looking for money. I’m an attorney. I know how the court system works. We’re basically looking for someone to say… ‘We’re apologizing for treating you as second-class citizens.'”

“We are proud Americans,” Sahin said. “You know we decided to have our children and raise them here. We can very easily go anywhere we want in the world, but you know we love it here and we’re not going to go away, no matter what.”

Aziz said there is a “very strong possibility” he will pursue a civil rights lawsuit.

“I guess it’s just a situation of guilt by association,” Aziz said. “They see one Muslim talking to another Muslim and they automatically assume something wrong is going on.”

Libby Spencer lays out the bottom line:

If we allow ourselves to diminish our humanity and toss our common sense out of fear of terrorism, then [the terrorists have] won without lifting a finger.

Signed. Off.

h/t The Obscure Store and Reading Room

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Understanding Islamic Leadership – Irshad Manji

by matttbastard

ForaTV:

Muslim-Canadian author and commentator Irshad Manji explains clerical authority in Islam, and how the religion’s lack of a unified organizational system could open the door to reform.

Click here for full video.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers