Ortadoğu Kadınlardaki Statüsü: Gözlemler ve Engeller

I was given the opportunity to speak at a symposium organized by the International Relations Department Student Organization at my host university two weeks ago. Though very excited for the chance to talk about women’s status, I was more than a little intimidated at the prospect of doing so in Turkish. I wrote an original draft in English, then translated it into the best Turkish I could muster. Later, I sat for hours with a dedicated and diligent group of friends who helped me work the draft into a more professional and academic register, which was the resulting speech below. Clearly, I was struggling a little bit with the pronunciation in that more academic register (so many suffixes!) but I hope my audience was able to take something away from the talk. Because of the time restraints and the language barrier, my ideas are of course less fully formed and explicated in this presentation than in real life, but “what can I do sometimes?,” as my students would say. In an event, a transcript in Turkish and my intended messaging in English is below.

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Ortadoğu Kadınlardaki Statüsü: Gözlemler ve Engeller

Saygıdeğer öğretim üyesi arkadaşlarım değerli Kirikkale Üniversitei öğrencileri ve değeri misafir öğrencilerimiz- Yapacağım konuşma dünya üzerindeki kadınların statüsüne değinmek olacak,ve bu konulara değinirken istatistiksel verilerden ve hikayelerden çok gerçeklerden yola çıkacağım. Fakat, Ortadoğu’da yaşayan kadınlardan bahsedilmek istendiğinde nasil bahsedilebilir? Bu önemli bir sorudur. Ben Amerikan vatandaşıyım ve yaşadığım ülkedeki akademisyen arkadaşlarımla büyük bir mücadele içindeyiz. Politikacılar ve güçlü medya firmaları Amerikalılar’ın ortadoğu bölgesi ve İslam dünyası hakkinda çok az bilgiye sahip olduklarının farkındalar. Ayrıca onlar da bu konu hakkinda çok eksik bilgiye sahipler. Politikacılar ve medya birlikte çalişiyorlar. “Ortadoğudaki kadınlar mazlum, bağımlı” diye anlatıyorlar. “Zavallı kadınlar için uğraşacağız” diyorlar. Fakat sonra ne yapiyorlar? Savaşıyorlar, aynı zamanda diğer ülkere yaptırım gücü uygulatıyorlar. Bütün bunları yaptıktan sonra kadınların artik daha güvende olacaklarını, daha özgür olacaklarını, daha eğitimli olacaklarını ve daha rahat yaşayacaklarını idda ediyorlar. Amerikan halkı da aynı şeye inaniyor; fakat ben onlar gibi düşünmüyorum ve böyle bir vaatte bulunmayacağım. Çünkü; Hiçbirşey o kadar da basit değildir.

Dünyanın hiç bir yerindeki kadınlar ayrı koşullarda yaşamiyor. Sadece bir mahallede bile bu durum çeşitlilik gösterebilir. Yaşamları, maaşları, okuryazarlık durumları ve eğitim düzeyleri, medeni durumları, dinleri…. Aynı zamanda çevre faktörleri var. Köyde mi yoksa şehirde mi yaşıyor bu kadınlar? Isınma imkanlari, içme suları var mı? Bunlar çok önemli sorunlardır. Bu konu milletlerden ve mezheplerden daha önemli olabilir. Amerika’da yaşayan köylü bir kadınla kentli bir kadın,Türkiye’deki köylü bir kadınla kentli bir kadının ortak noktaları olabilir.

Zamanım kısıtlı olduğu için genel bir konuşma yapacağım. Şu konular üzerinde duracağım: şiddet ve savaş, eğitim, ve kadınların siyasi faaliyetleri.

Üzerinde konuşmak istediğim ilk konu şiddet. Şiddet birçok farklı türde olabilir; yapısal şiddet, ekonomik şiddet, duygusal şiddet… Bu şiddet türleri üzerinde tartışıp değerlendirme yapmamız çok önemli ama bugün ne yazıkki konumuzun odağı, bölgede kadınlara uygulanan, fiziksel şiddet. Suriye Irak ve Filistin şu anki açık örnekler. Suriye’de yedi binden fazla kadın şu anki savaş yüzünden öldü. Filistin’deki kadınlar çok kötü durumda yaşıyorlar. Bir askeri işgal altında yaşıyorlar,Gazze’de kuşatma altındalar ve sık sık şiddet görüyorlar. İnsanlar Gazze’nin açık hava hapishanesi gibi olduğunu söylüyorlar. Irak’taki kadınların durumu muhtemelen üçünün arasında en kötü olanı.  30 yıldır sürekli savaş ve işgal yaşadılar. Evrensel insan hakları bildirgesi şunu söyler: En önemli hakkımız yaşama hakkıdır. Eğer bu hak saygı görmüyorsa(bu hak tehdit ediliyorsa, eğer güvende değilseniz) diğer insan hakları korunamaz.

İkinci bir konumuz da eğitimdir. Eğitim için açılan sınıfların, kadınlarımızın mücadelesi açısından çok önemli bir yere sahip olacağına inaniyorum. Buna bir örnek olarak; Türkiye’deki kadınlarımızın bir çoğunun, eğitim seviyelerinin çok kısıtlı olması gösterilebilir. Bir çoğumuzun çevresinde bu tür kadınlarımız var öyle değil mi? Eğitimin eksik olduğu bir ortamda kadınsal değerlerin de arka plana atıldığını birliriz.Buna Türkiye bir örnekti sadece, fakat bunun yanısıra Irak, Süriye, ve Filistindeki okulların saldırıya uğraması, Ürdün ve Lübnan’da da eğitimin popüler olduğu halde pahalı  olması, çoğu yerde de ataerkil yapının hakim olması, gibi konular da  kadınlarımızın ikinci plana atılmasına sebep olarak gösterilebilir.demem o ki kadınlarımızın toplumda yer edenebilmesi, eğitimlerinin önünün açilması ve onların da söz sahibi olabilmesi için onlara her türlü firsatın verilmesi lazimdir.

Bugün Üçüncü ve son konum kadınların siyaset ve sivil toplum katılımcılığı . Geçen hafta birleşmiş Milletler’de uluslararası kadınler konferansı yüzüncü yildönümü  kutlandı ve bu yüzden bu konu Değılmek istedim. Kadın politikacilarimizdan çok örneğimiz var.mesela, Türkiyede bir dönem başbakan olarak Tansu Çiler vardı, fakat ABD’de, kadın olarak başkanı çıkmadı. ABD’de kongre üyesi olarak kadın oranı yüz’de ondokuzdur. Türkiye’de meclis üyesi olarak kadın oranı yüzde ondörtdür. Bana göre, kadınların siyasi ortamdaki yuzdelik oranının dahada artması, kadınların statülerini yukselticektir. Biz kadınlar için Filistinli kadınlar örnek olmalı çünkü orada devlet sistemi olmadığı halde kadınların siyaste atılım oranları çok yuksektir, bunlara örnek olarak Hanan Ashrawi, Leila Khaled, ve Haneen Zoabi verilebilir. Bunun yanısıra ortadoğu bölgesinde çok aktif politikacı kadınlar da var; sivil toplum kurumlarında çalişip ve yeni kurumların açilmasında öncülük ediyorlar.

Netice olarak kadınlarımızın statüsünün yukselmesi için başta şiddetsiz bir ortamın sağlanması ve eğitim düzeyinin yükseltilmesi gerekir. Bana yardimcı olan arkadaşlarım Sena, Kaan, ve Gülçin’a ve siz dinleyenlere teşekkür ederim.

Women’s Status in the Middle East: Observations and Obstacles  One of the most important things I have to say to you today is not a statistic or a story, but concerns the way we go about talking about the role of women in Middle Eastern societies in general. Where I come from in the United States academics are fighting a difficult battle to allow rays of insight to shoot through a bleak media and political landscape, one that capitalizes on the ignorance of policy makers and the public alike; one that allegedly seeks to empathize with and then liberate via occupation Muslim and middle eastern women who, we are led to believe, are oppressed, without agency, and without a voice. I do not intend to fall into that narrative today.

But no picture is ever as straightforward as either media nor politicians would have us believe. In every place, in every nation, the lives of women cannot be discussed as a monolith. Even within a single neighborhood, there may be numerous fractures in lived experience, such as age, education level, marital status, income or family earnings, literacy, health, religion, as well as numerous environmental factors. Is the space urban or rural? Is there access to clean water and other crucial utilities? These are important questions, the answers to which often shape the lives of women far more significantly than nationality or country of residence. Indeed, the values and lived experiences of relatively uneducated women in the rural United States and Turkey may be far more similar than either would expect. For women in opposite circumstances, the same may be true as well.

So rather than itemize the detailed statistics of women in each of the countries I’ll be touching on today I am instead going to draw out a couple themes and provide examples within those themes. Because time is short, I apologize, I will be speaking quite generally.

The first theme I want to speak on is that of violence. Violence can take many forms; there is structural violence, economic violence, emotional violence… These forms of violence are very important for us to discuss and critique but today, unfortunately, my focus is on physical violence, which is inflicted on women around the region. Unfortunately, Syria Iraq and Palestine are the current obvious examples. In Syria more than seven thousand women  have died due to the current war. Women in Palestine live in a very bad situation. They live under a military occupation and in Gaza they are under siege and experience frequent violence. People say Gaza is like an open air prison. The situation for women in Iraq is possibly the worst of the three. They have had 30 years of continuous war and occupation. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that the most important of our rights is the right to live. If this isn’t honored ( if that right is threatened, if you are not safe) the other human rights can’t be protected.

The second theme I want to discuss is education. The classroom is a very important place for the fight for women to unfold. Without education women are without the tools they need to improve their lives and their status. As an example, we can look to the situation of the women in our lives here in Turkey where, too often, especially in the past, their educations have been cut short. There are some obstacles to education. One of the biggest in the region is violence, as we discussed before. While literacy rates across the region are generally higher than they’ve been in the past, the education of millions of women has been disrupted in places like Iraq and Syria. Schools in Gaza and Syria have been under attack, making getting an education very difficult. In other places like Lebanon or Jordan, private education is both highly valued and prohibitively expensive. Patriarchy remains one of the biggest obstacles to education access. With access to safe, affordable, equitable education, women are better able to take their destinies into their own hands. Education for all is not a privilege, but a right.

This brings us to my third and final topic, which is women’s participation in politics and civil society. It is fitting that last week was the 100th anniversary celebration of the international women’s conference at the UN. There are many important examples of women serving in political offices across the Middle East. A point of important comparison/contrast between Turkey and the United States is political participation and empowerment. For example, Turkey has had a female prime minister (Tansu Ciler), but the US hasn’t had a female president yet. In Turkey, 14% of members of parliament are female, in the United States that rate is 19%. My view is that by actively participating in the socio-political process, women are able to make the changes our societies so badly need.We can look to the women of Palestine as an example, where, though stateless, they play important roles in  aspect of Palestinian civil society and political life, for example Hanan Ashrawi, Leila AbuKhaled, and Haneen Zoabi. This is also the case in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon where I have personally met women fighting for rights, representation, and a decent life.

We can conclude by saying that while the situation for some women in the Middle East is very positive, too many still live under threat of violence and without access to safe education. Despite obstacles, women across the region work in powerful positions and in grassroots movements to affect change in their communities. If we know one thing, it is that as long as violence persists, the status of women, and indeed of all people, cannot improve. The cessation of violence is the first and most crucial step on the road to the betterment of women’s status in the Middle East, and indeed, across the whole world.

Şükran Gününüz Kutlu Olsun! (Happy Thanksgiving!)

This post sends my sincerest Thanksgiving greetings to my friends and family, wherever they may be.
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This year marks my first ever Thanksgiving away from my traditional Waggoner family Thanksgiving/ reunion in Wood County, OH. İ took the opportunity this week to teach my classes about the history and traditions of the holiday, which was illuminating for me as well. Did you know, for example, that the name for turkey (the bird) actually comes from the country in which İ currently reside?
Below are a list of amusing and touching moments that have made this Thanksgiving unique:
    • In all of my classes I had my students share things for which they are thankful. Two responses stand out. From a student with whom I have an ongoıng joke about the rapper Eminem: “Teacher, I am thankful for Atatürk, God, and Marshall.” The other, which was expressed by a number of students: “Her şey, Teacher, I am thankful for everything in my life.” Amen to that!20131129-174839.jpg
  • My fellow K-towners and I hosted the best approximation of a traditional Thanksgiving meal as we could manage (perhaps ironically, sans turkey) for our university colleagues on Wednesday. Most amusing of our necessary substitutions was a bowl of shelled pomegranate in lieu of cranberry sauce. A great night of bonding and cultural exchange, and not a bad meal to boot! (P.S. Green bean casserole from scratch is more work than it seems!)20131129-175418.jpg
  • Some students were especially aware that being away from my family this week was difficult, and their thoughtfulness (gifts of candy bars and even a dinner invitation) made me feel as though İ really do have a home away from home here in K-Town. A group of 6 incredibly sweet ladies in one of my beginner level classes brought me a remarkable gift that almost brought me to tears: 7 glass elephant figurines with the Turkish “evil eye” attached (symbols of luck and protection in Turkish culture) as an expression of their gratitude. Each of the elephants represented one of them, and the smallest of them, they explained, was me!20131129-175811.jpg
  • “Thanksgivukah” was paid special tribute on Thursday when I followed my dad’s tradition of frying leftover mashed potatoes into pancakes 🙂
  • Thanksgiving day I had what was most probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. A relative of my roommate recently returned from hajj (Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina) and she shared with me a date from Mecca, and (miraculous) water from the ZamZam well!!20131129-175924.jpg

This list is just a small sampling of the many ways I’m blessed here in Turkey. I don’t think I’m taking much for granted here; I think know how lucky I am to have my health, a job, an affordable apartment (complete with an amazing and thoughtful roommate), a world-class education, plenty of food, and the most loving and supportive friends and family a girl could ask for. As some may say here in Turkey, “Hamdullilah!”

Sending all of my love along with cries of “Affiyet Olsun” (literally, may there be appetite) to those celebrating.

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Changes Afoot in 2013

This was originally published by The Kenyon Observer on January 14, 2013. 

Today marks the beginning of a new (and my last) semester at Kenyon.  People are back from winter break, or from semesters spent off campus ready to enter again into the daily grind. After every break, I find comfort in returning back to a place which holds friends, memories and familiar campus landmarks. In my first week of classes as a freshman, the president of my a cappella group advised us that every new year necessarily involves changes which require thoughtful consideration and a flexible outlook. As I enter my last go-around on this Hill, I can’t help but notice some of the changes underway, here in this place which can often feel so static and familiar.

Regulating Health
What was originally dubbed a campus wide smoking ban apparently goes into effect today. No official proclamation has come from our Student Government, but emails from last semester indicate that the new regulations and designated smoking areas go into effect in January 2013. Though the language and regulations evolved following community input, this marks a milestone in the College’s regulation of its students’ behaviors from a public health angle.

Paving the Way
At the start of last semester, people were caught off guard by sections of Middle Path, in front of Old Kenyon, which were roped off and re-vamped. A number of aggregate compositions of gravel and concrete were being tested to determine the possible renovation of the campuses beloved “central artery” to make it more accessible.I haven’t heard anything recently, but expect the debate (and endless alumni input) to continue.

Fraternité
Greek life at Kenyon is shifting, with proposals for both a new fraternity and sorority making their way through Greek Council last semester. Greeks are also seeking recognition and a vote as part of Student Council. Frat.

Progress(ive)Curriculum
In my four years, Kenyon has added Programs in Islamic Civilization and Cultures, Latino/a Studies, and expanded the Asian Studies program to include a joint major, the first of its kind. Rumors are circulating that the Environmental Studies program is considering adopting a similar structure. Enrollment in Arabic is at an all-time high, as are rates of study abroad. A coalition of students, faculty, and administrators recognize the challenges facing current Kenyon students and the rapidly-globalizing world they will enter upon graduation. These people are promoting changes in the curriculum and social fabric of campus which expand what it means to be a liberal arts institution while retaining Kenyon’s character, essence, and traditions.

Maintenance Management
The debate that started with an announcement about potential outsourcing of maintenance staff has yet to reach a conclusion. Negotiations are still underway, after the receipt of recommendations from the advisory panel formed last fall. The decisions that are made in the coming weeks impact how the College is perceived by its employees, the surrounding community, and by concerned alumni and students.

Presidential Politics
One of the largest changes facing Kenyon in 2013 is the departure of President S. Georgia Nugent. The search is underway, and those involved are encouraging student and faculty input on what should be required and expected of the new head of the College.

In her address to the entering class of 2016 during the annual Matriculation ceremony, President Nugent commented on the inextricability of beginnings and endings. Both bring new challenges and decisions to be made; they shape those who experience them. Kenyon is undergoing a series of changes, some more readily apparent than others. Deciding when, how, and to what extent these alterations are made requires the continual and persistent input of the student body and faculty, as well as a supportive and receptive administration. Kenyon’s Mission Statement declares that, “… A liberal education forms the foundation of a fulfilling and valuable life. To that purpose Kenyon College is devoted.” From the long-term health of students, to their mobility on campus, to the rights and assurances given to those the College employs, and what is available as a program of study here, decisions are being made which impact what that “fulfilling and valuable life” might look like here in Gambier. As students, we should resolve to be part of the process.

Lessons From Steubenville

This piece was originally published on the Kenyon Observer blog, describing the importance of comprehensive sexual assault education and bystander intervention. 

Trigger Warning: The following includes descriptions and links to content that may serve as a trigger for victims of sexual violence.

For four consecutive years I’ve attended the training session necessary to host parties on this campus. Most often, when I’ve worked campus parties I have been assigned to serve as a door worker, or as a“floater.” A floater is technically someone assigned to keep their eyes and ears on the party and ensure a safe environment which complies with the regulations outlined in the Student Handbook, the College’s party policy, and the set of expectations outlined on the Event Registration forms one fills out before a party can be held.

What I can’t get over, in the wake of the recent conviction of two students in Steubenville, OH, is that sexual assault was never mentioned; neither in any of those training sessions I attended, to my memory, nor is it explicitly mentioned in the protocols governing party hosting.

Why is that a problem? The campus has a clearly written, (if at times controversial) sexual misconduct policy. Shouldn’t that be sufficient? Here’s why I beg to differ:

Every 21 hours someone is raped on an American college campus. Furthermore, 90% of all campus rapes occur under the influence of alcohol. If you’re in college or you’ve been in college, chances are you know someone who has been sexually assaulted or raped. The chances that they knew their perpetrator prior to the attack are at least as likely.

How many Jane Doe’s have you laughed at as they stumbled away from a party instead of seeing if they needed help? Has anyone you’ve known wondered, had regrets about if they should’ve followed through on a hook-up because of their partner’s level of intoxication? Have you? How many people, if assaulted, don’t tell anyone (let alone press charges), because they’re embarrassed or ashamed, because they think it’s their fault? Ever seen a couple dancing and wondered if they’re both actually “into it?”

If you’re shocked by the images that went viral across the internet, if you’re horrified and stunned that anyone could treat a peer that way, if you’re offended, outraged that the media would place more emphasis on the consequences for the accused than the trauma endured by their victim, you’re not paying attention.

But isn’t the DFMO and the drunken hookup just how college is these days? Here’s the issue: When we hear stories like those of the young woman in Steubenville, it’s easy to mark the case and the role alcohol played in it as exceptional. She was clearly passed out, so the morality of such an act can’t possibly be questioned, right? But what happens when s/he’s not passed out, when s/he’s black-out, when s/he’s brown-out, when s/he’s tipsy? The law is very clear; any decent code of conduct is clear: intoxication means non-consent. I think it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of people in our community agree that rape is a bad thing. But how many people truly recognize that jokes, comments, and song lyrics about sex, alcohol and partying necessarily contribute to a culture that tacitly or explicitly obfuscates the definition of rape?

The message to college students should be clear and be supported by educational programming and dialogue-fostering events made possible both through student activism and initiatives undertaken by the administration. This year’s performance of Real World Gambier during First Year Orientation was an excellent example of that sort of messaging. Of course, much simpler steps can be taken as well. The freshman hall cliche of the buddy system is neither as obsolete nor as childish as its reputation.

For Kenyon students, a major takeaway from the media-saturated rape trial in Steubenville may be this: our understanding of participating and engaging in a community must include stepping in if the safety of a peer is in question. To put it in the language of party training here, everyone can and should be a floater. See something? Say something. I’d much rather be a “cock-block” than stay silent, and I reserve my right, and recognize my duty to do so as long as Kenyon students don’t feel safe. If nothing else, hopefully Steubenville can serve as a wake-up call. Every single member of this community can contribute to a shift in the way sexuality, alcohol, and safe behavior interact on this campus. There are lots of questions to be raised surrounding this issue, but here are a simple few with which we may begin:

“Hey, want me to grab you some water?”

“Can I call SafeRides for you?”

“Are you ok?”

SAT Program Ends

Last Thursday the SAT program I was teaching ended. Here are some of the best of my pictures from the program. A wonderful group of students!

The primary instructors of the BRIDGE SAT program, spelling out “ULYP” while enjoying dinner in the mountains at the home of ULYP founder Melek Al Nimer. (Photo credit Leighanne Oh)

goofing off in the gazebo after a program iftar the Wednesday before classes ended.

 

the view of the ULYP gardens and surrounding landscape from the hallway between classrooms

 

“Let’s take a silly one!” Last day of classes.

a joint session of Class 1 and 2, learning about the structure f the Writing section of the SAT.

“fuaatbaaalll!’ Repping my “Yalla Change” campaign tee shirt during an all-female futbol match, organized by teacher Alessandro.

a goofy shot with my students on the last day of class

 

a beautiful mosaic done by Syrian refugee and groundskeeper Nader. Thanks to ULYP and AAI for such an incredible summer!

 

“Islam’s Diverse Paths” at Kenyon College

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the Office of Public Affairs at Kenyon College about our slew of exciting events this spring related to the Islamicate world. It has been incredibly gratifying to watch the program grow and shift along with student interest. One of the unique advantages of the liberal arts experience, especially at Kenyon, is the ability each individual student has to shape and impact what they get out of their time on “the Hill”. Personally, I went from swearing off language study entirely, to now applying to overseas immersion programs in Arabic. The Arabic program has ballooned from a single year long introductory course, to record enrollment at the introductory and intermediate level. Every day I am meeting people who came to Kenyon because they knew it was a place where they could study the Middle East in an interdisciplinary way. I learn new things every day, both in my classes and from stimulating, intense conversations with faculty and peers alike.

What began with some buddies talking politics over dinner morphed into the Middle East Student Association, which was awarded Best New Student Organization by the Student Activities Office in the spring of 2010 and was nominated for Best Student Organization of the Year the following spring. That same organization, which I now am proud to lead, will co-sponsor at least 10 events this semester alone, everything from an Arabic/Hebrew poetry night, to a celebration of Noruz, the Persian New Year, to discussions in the lead up to Kenyon’s Center for the Study of American Democracy’s conference: “Should America Promote Democracy Abroad?” Many of my fondest memories and closest friends from Kenyon were gifts that have come via my involvement in MESA, and I am so, so lucky to have them. Each day I spend studying the Middle East brings new questions, challenges, and surprises, and I am fortunate to be in a place and with people who are similarly engaged.

The Third Jihad and the NYPD

My latest blog post for the Yalla Change campaign, called, “The Third Jihad: Dangerous NYPD Training Materials on American Muslims” can also be read here.

“This is not a film about Islam. This is about the threat of radical Islam. Only a small percentage of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims are radical.”
 

So begins The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America, a 72-minute “documentary” which aims to show the infiltration of radical Islam into the United States. Though the film begins with this disclaimer, the method of argumentation throughout directly contradicts it with various misrepresentations of Islam. It describes the first two major jihads in Islamic history as Islam’s original expansion and Islam’s arrival in Europe in the 13th century, while the third jihad supposedly aims to establish a global Islamic state, which will be achieved through a combination of violence and deception. The film “exposes” the “creeping threat of sharia” over Constitutional law, and elicits concern for radicalization in prisons via conversion to Islam. The Third Jihad presents a clash of civilizations approach, with Islam portrayed as incompatible with modernity and democracy, and Muslim integration in to American society framed as part of a 1,400 year holy war. In doing so, the film fosters dangerous and counter-productive anti-Muslim sentiment.

The Third Jihad was produced by the Clarion Fund, the group responsible for the production and distribution of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West to 28 million U.S. households in battleground states in the lead-up to the 2008 elections. An organization dedicated to producing films about “radical Islam,” the Clarion Fund’s advisory board is made up of such luminaries as Frank J. Gaffney Jr. and Daniel Pipes. Featuring interviews with “expert” Islamophobes including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Walid Phares, and Bernard Lewis, and government leaders including Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security, and R. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA. The Third Jihad  is a divisive and slanderous attack on the United States’ Muslim communities. It  was also used in counter-terrorism training by the New York Police Department.

Though news of the NYPD’s use of the film was first reported by the Village Voice over a year ago, the New York Times recently revealed that the film wasn’t merely shown “a couple of times,” as NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne originally asserted. Rather, it was shown for a period of three months as part of mandatory counter-terrorism training. Research by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School revealed that almost 1,500 officers watched this film as part of their training. The picture gets uglier: among those interviewed for the film were NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

This incident is just one in a series of affronts by the NYPD towards the Muslim community in New York. A recent report reveals deliberate NYPD targeting of Shiite mosques. The document also argues that, “The Palestinian community, although not Shi’a, should also be assessed due to presence of Hamas members and sympathizers and the group’s relationship with the Iranian government.” If this is the type of “research” that informs the NYPD’s counter-terrorism strategy, surveillance tactics such as these are unsurprising. In an article this summer, the Associated Press reported that, “the NYPD has become one of the nation’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies, targeting ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government.”

Having a police commissioner who says, as Kelly does in the film, that Muslims want to “infiltrate and dominate” America inhibits his ability to properly engage with that community. Interfaith and Muslim leaders have openly protested these surveillance tactics, some by boycotting  New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s annual interfaith breakfast. In addition, the Arab American Institute, a Yalla Change partner organization, has sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano regarding the film. The NYPD’s tactics obstruct their ability to successfully subvert terror plots  by breeding distrust and resentment. Honesty, discourse, and collaboration with Muslim leaders is the most effective way to keep America safe.
 
 
 
To learn more about the Yalla Change campaign, visit our website
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From the Bottom Up

“University of Michigan students walked out of a speech by an IDF soldier in a potent silent protest Wednesday. No news coverage: how many more unheralded actions unfold daily?” -Abby Zimet

When I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Saree Makdisi a few weeks ago, we discussed the need for grassroots efforts to actually bring about change for the Palestinians. The question posed by Ms. Zimet is a good one. What is important now is for the events to continue; for the protests to grow louder; for BDS to increase and spread, and for media coverage to be accurate and honest.

There can be no peace without justice; nor justice without truth.

The Perfect College

I happen to believe in a “best fit” college scenario– there is a school that is right for YOU.

Still, reality calls and for the hundreds of prospective college students I have or will encounter(ed) it certainly is a daunting time and task. Many of my friends at college discuss tutors and the cost of their high school tuition; many of my friends from home weigh the costs of working two jobs to afford community college.

The stakes are high, and approaches vary. I know lots of people who view an undergraduate experience as a necessary expense, of time and effort, to get training or get the piece of paper that says you’re qualified to do x job. I also know I am not alone in viewing my undergraduate experience as a time of intense personal growth and exploration.

For me, learning is an experience, not a process.

For me, you go to college to learn.

For me, you go to college to experience.

When approaching the admissions process, keep close to your heart the task of finding a place that will help you grow, and show the admissions department that you are ready to do just that.