Archive for December, 2011

December 30, 2011

From the Arab Revolutions to the Occupy Uprisings, the Winter of Our Discontent

By Hena Ashraf

Originally published at Left Turn

A few weeks ago on the train my mind drifted to Mohammed Bouazizi and a great sorrow descended over me. I thought of how his tremendous sacrifice on the 17th of December 2010 was the literal spark that set the fire for uprisings around the world. I thought of how an ordinary Tunisian street vendor profoundly affected the lives of millions of people everywhere with his tragic protest.

His self-immolation captured the immense anger and frustration that millions experience on a daily basis. By setting himself on fire in front of the local governor’s office, Bouazizi showed the world that he could no longer endure the harassment and humiliation he suffered at the hands of corrupt local authorities. His example shows how revolutions start from the ground up, from ordinary people who are fed up of being pushed around. His actions set off revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, uprisings in Bahrain, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and throughout the Arab world, as well as in Greece, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

What’s been most remarkable is that despite the War on Terror and its racist underpinnings, in 2011 Europeans and Americans learned how to revolt and protest from Arabs and Muslims. In just a few months, by demanding that regimes supported by Western governments end once and for all, the people of the Middle East defeated centuries of Orientalist notions that they are backward, ignorant, and not ready for democracy. Alongside the toppled regimes lies Orientalism. It is wonderfully astonishing that the reference point for Madrid, Rome, London, New York, Oakland, etc, is the Arab world.

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December 12, 2011

Why I Am Protesting at Occupy

By Hena Ashraf

A piece written by Ayesha Kazmi, aka AmericanPaki, called “Why I am Not Protesting at Occupy”, has been making the rounds amongst my circle of friends and with people involved and curious about the Occupy movement. In her blog post Ayesha explains why she is not protesting at Occupy because she is at risk of being targeted by law enforcement agencies, because she is Muslim.

I want to first acknowledge that I genuinely appreciate what Ayesha wrote and that she made her concerns public, because stories like Ayesha’s need to be told and heard. She has experienced questioning by the FBI, discrimination in her personal and professional life post 9/11, and raises very real points about how Muslims are targeted in this country at the hands of federal and local law enforcement.

As for me, I am a visible Muslim woman of color. By visible, I mean that I wear hijab. I’ve been politically engaged and involved with various causes and groups since I was a teenager, around issues such as militarization, Islamophobia, and Palestine solidarity. Growing up during the Bush administration, I felt that my faith community was under attack by the mainstream media and the government, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the passage and practice of oppressive domestic policies. There is war abroad and at home. Attacking and occupying Muslim countries had a boomerang effect of defaming and targeting Muslims here domestically, and these practices are still in place today. Under Obama’s watch, the United States is militarily aggressive in six Muslim countries (and Iran might be next, making it seven) and now openly assassinates American Muslims, and has just passed the terrifying National Defense Authorization Act.

So, I understand where Ayesha is coming from. Though my own personal experiences of Islamophobia do not mirror hers, I understand the sentiment of a need to be careful because there are real risks for Muslims who are politically involved – or honestly, in just being Muslim, as we have seen with the NYPD infiltrating mosques, Muslim student associations, and even local restaurants. Muslims are monitored, followed, screened, tracked, defamed, entrapped, incarcerated, abused. These horrible realities are facing Muslims, and have affected many oppressed communities before us.

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December 7, 2011

A Therapist Talks About the Occupy Wall Street Events

By Lane Arye

Last night I was talking with a group of activists/organizers from around the country about their impressions of the OWS movement. They were curious how the insights of a therapist and conflict facilitator schooled in Worldwork (which was developed by Arnold Mindell) might be useful to folks in the movement. After our teleconference, the activists encouraged me to write this.

First off, OWS is surrounded by a host of critics, from long-time social change organizers to mainstream media.  (Much of the media criticism has been debriefed, so I’m focusing on internal criticisms I have heard.)

We can learn from critics in at least two ways. They can help us improve by pointing out what we genuinely need to change. Paradoxically, they may be criticizing us for something we actually need to do more congruently. Seen from this angle, critics may be highlighting strengths we don’t yet know we have.

Take one criticism: The General Assemblies lead to a kind of individualism of people wanting to be heard and contribute, unaware of the impact on the thousand people listening.  In one recent GA, a small group of frustrated men hijacked the meeting, cursing and physically threatening the entire assembly.  Even in less dramatic situations, most GA’s are filled with judgment, fracturing statements, and individuals repeating each other just so they can get themselves heard.

From one point of view, the criticism is valid. Yes, Western individualism can be very problematic and it is always a good time to learn to become communitarian.  But perhaps there is also something beautiful about this individualism. People have the sense that they can finally speak up about the economy, that their voice is important, that they do not have to shut up and listen to talking heads who supposedly know better.

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