Vijay Prashad’s Uncle Swami, a review

Vijay Prashad, Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today

New Press, 2012

That south Asians in the US face Islamophobia and racism was made clear on August 5th of this year when Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist who was being tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center, entered a Gurudwara in Oak Creek, WI and killed 7 people, most of them Sikhs.  While the media went into overdrive trying to convince everyone that this was a “mistake,” that the real targets were Muslims and not Sikhs, as if this was supposed to be some consolation to anyone, it was quite clear that the problem was in fact the long and persistent demonization of Islam and the omnipresent xenophobia to which all immigrants are subject.

Sikhs were attacked not because Page mistook them for Muslims, but because Muslims, in general, are seen as a fifth column in the US.  As a result, anyone who happens to look like them becomes necessarily a casualty of the racism that has been mobilized against Muslims in general.  Even though the media attempted to portray this as the consequence of individual ignorance or misrecognition, the events of Oak Creek are better understood as the result of widespread propaganda which cautions fear by arguing that all Muslims are possible terrorists.

But Sikhs in the US are victims of Islamophobia in different ways than are Muslims, and that was at least part of the reason that the massacre at Oak Creek happened.  So desperate are non-Muslim immigrants to prove their American loyalty that they repeat the humiliating refrain over and over again—“But we are not Muslims!”—in the hopes that this will relieve some of the pressures that they face.  South Asians become mascots of Team Docile Immigrant and then are pitted against Arabs and Muslims (even though many South Asians are Muslims) in the never-ending process of racializing “terrorism.”

The production of “good” or “model” minorities in the United States has always been connected to a process of isolating the “bad” or “criminal” races.  If from the 1970s to the 1990s South Asians were seen as the ideal immigrant population (hardworking, law-abiding, upwardly mobile), it was because that depiction of them was convenient as a stick with which to beat African Americans and Latinos in the US.  Today, it is convenient for the Global War on Terror.

One more thing went unnoticed, though.  Unlike Muslims and Arabs who are subject to intense scrutiny by law enforcement and are asked to make themselves available to intelligence agencies all the time, Sikhs have not been subject to state surveillance.  Law enforcement agencies have undergone countless hours of training in learning how to deal with Muslims and the issues that surround Muslim communities (not all of this learning has been salutary, one has to add), but this has not extended to learning about or reaching out to the myriad other communities that are affected by the twin problems of Islamophobia and anti-terrorism.

One of the strange consequences of this is that while most mosques have video and security equipment installed outside and have direct lines to law enforcement agencies, most Gurudwaras do not.  In some ways, then, the attacks on Gurudwaras and Sikhs are not mistakes: they happen because Sikhs are vulnerable and visible in ways that most Muslims have learned not to be.  One needs to add, though, that countless mosques are routinely attacked and vandalized with almost no media attention; the singular and exceptional focus on Oak Creek is one more indication of how much Islamophobia is tolerated in the US.

But understanding the complex and contradictory ways that many south Asians have both suffered from and been cheerleaders for Islamophobia requires having a historical understanding of the divide-and-rule racial politics of American society.  This is the task that Vijay Prashad sets out in his new book, Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today, a survey of many of the important trends and issues facing South Asians in the US since 9/11.  In it, Prashad elegantly captures the contradictory pressures on South Asian Americans as they navigate the crucible of domestic racial politics, India-US political and economic relations, and internal divisions with the South Asian American communities in the US.

This book picks up where Prashad’s previous book, The Karma of Brown Folks, left off.  In that book, Prashad demonstrated, in part, how many South Asians were recruited in the United States to participate in the discourses of anti-black racism in exchange for ethnic inclusion into larger public spaces.  At the same time, Prashad showed, smaller groups of South Asians became involved in important community organizing campaigns in the US and developed as important leaders in anti-racist and international solidarity work.  A deep sensitivity to the push-pull forces that affect South Asian immigrants as well as an understanding of transnational movements of peoples into and out of the Indian subcontinent marked some of the best features of the earlier book.

But the new project is best understood as one of comparative racial formations in the US.  He argues, “In my own earlier work I argued that the fear factor of ‘blacks’ created the conditions for the construction of the Indian American as the model minority, whereas I will now argue that this is insufficient.  It is the terror factor of the ‘Muslim’ alongside antiblack racism that provides the political space for Jewish Americans and Hindu Americans to mitigate their cultural differences from the mainstream, but crucially to put themselves forwards as those who, because of their experience with terrorism, become the vanguard of the new, antiterrorist Battleship America.”

That integration of Indian (Hindu) American identity with antiterrorist politics has taken a number of different but parallel tracks in the US.  The first is the creation of the “India Lobby,” which explicitly argues for the interests of Indian capitalism within the halls of American power.  Two simultaneous processes helped to grow the India lobby and the India caucus within the American Congress.  The new opportunities opened by India’s economic liberalization beginning in 1991 meant that India was seeking new partnerships with the US and American capitalists were looking for ways to penetrate Indian markets.  The resulting convergence of interests paved the way for the lifting of sanctions on India and for closer military collaboration.

The second is the construction of a South Asian (more precisely, Hindu and Indian) identity as victims of terrorism, and so like the Israelis and the Sri Lankans, natural allies in the Global War on Terror.  Military connections and arms trades between India and Israel were already extensive when Indian Americans also launched the US-India Political Action Committee (explicitly modeled on AIPAC).  But the myth of “American-Israeli-Indian” victimhood was predicated on another myth of a singular “Islamic” enemy launching terrorist attacks on all three nations.  Despite the fact that the groups and organizations that each nation is organizing against are all different, this mythology has been convenient at creating the impression of a global jihad launched by a monolithic Islam.  It has also meant that India has not had to answer in the US for its ongoing occupation and brutalization of the people of Kashmir.

The third has been the transformation into celebrities of certain right-wing Indians who have risen to important political posts.  The likes of Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Sonal Shah, and Dinesh D’Souza have all been lionized in the Indian American press as signs of Indian American accomplishment without ever interrogating the political content of their vision.  At the same time, the fact that the majority of South Asian Americans are a part of the Democratic Party and usually left-of-center gets overlooked in the ways that certain Indians have been used to advance a neoliberal agenda in the US.

The most nefarious aspect of all of these processes has been the mainstreaming of a right-wing Hindu chauvinist ideology (called Hindutva), which has both been used against Muslims in the subcontinent as well as against linguistic, ethnic, and caste-based minorities.  In the US, the Sangh Parivar, the coalition of the Hindu right in India, uses American multiculturalism to its advantage to advance a particularly narrow understanding of Hinduism, one which whitewashes its long legacy of sexism and caste chauvinism, in particular.  This process, what Prashad calls “Yankee Hindutva,” has allowed for the growth of right-wing organizations in the US in exchange for Indian cover for American aggression abroad.

Prashad’s book is an important contribution to the understanding of how race and ethnicity are always tied up in a larger understanding of the historical flows of capital across national boundaries and the devastating effects of imperialism on people all over the world.  If there is one place that the book falls a little short it is in its call for an ethics of compassion, modeled around Gandhi in the concluding chapter, rather than fleshing out a politics of solidarity modeled around internationalism in the working class.  Indians have, as Prashad shows, participated in spectacular movements of international solidarity, and the growth of these tendencies inside the working class in the subcontinent and in the US will play no small part in challenging the American imperium.  By drawing our attention to the politics of race and ethnicity in the US, though, Prashad’s book serves an important function by highlighting just how deeply connected the fights against racism and imperialism are.

University of Insecurity

The bomb threats that were delivered to five American universities (UT Austin, North Dakota State, Valparaiso, Lousiana State, and UT Brownsville) in the last five days should be an occasion to consider the world that we live in and how it affects us.  College campuses have never really been immune from broader historical forces nor have they been protected from violence.  But what is striking about the conversation that has emerged in the tense atmosphere following what were largely hoaxes or impossible bomb plots is how remarkably flat it is.  Once the terms “Arab” or “Islam” or their synonyms are thrown around, there seems to be little need to think about what is going on here or why.

This last part bears underlining because it is the one claim that few are willing to concede in liberal America.  “Islam” and “Arabs” seem only to appear in the media or in conversation when the subject is about violence or terrorism with the effect that the terms have all become interchangeable.  Intelligent conversation then stops, the participants nod in agreement: of course, those Muslims are always up to something.  It was perhaps convenient that angry Arabs were on the streets protesting as fake bomb threats were being made.

But even when it came to the protests in the middle East, we encountered the same flat narrative.  Angry Muslims responding irrationally to the liberal values of the West, with the repetition of the vague “anti-American” label.  Few were talking about the film and the provocative circumstances of its production (the connections of the producer to far-right, Islamophobic organizations, for instance).  Even fewer were talking about the cynical way that certain marginalized Muslim organizations were using the controversy around the film to reignite their celebrity.  These protests, like the bomb threats, were supposed to be proof of the truism that passes for scrutiny: Muslims are illiberal and dangerous.

That such intellectual laziness happens is not surprising.  We live in a country where one Presidential candidate will not be photographed next to a Muslim and the other cannot be bothered to learn how to pronounce a single Arab or Muslim name correctly.  Both are in favor of bombing almost any country that dares to have a Muslim majority.  That mosques are routinely vandalized and torched without any mention only serves to highlight the quiet acceptance of this convenient political equation.  Muslims are merely tolerated here: they suffer American multiculturalism at their own peril.

That such intellectual laziness happens at a college campus is simply maddening.

At two different University of Texas campuses, the specter of Islam was raised as the source of two very different plots.  In Austin, a caller identified by one UT staff person as having a “light Middle-Eastern accent” and connections to al-Qa’ida made a bomb threat.  Despite recognizing early on that the call was likely a hoax and taking emergency measures only as a precaution, the university still released details about the caller’s supposed identity.  The possibility that the hoax could have encompassed the accent and the al-Qa’ida affiliation did not stop the administration from defending their racial profile of the caller.

At the University of Texas, Brownsville, another bomb threat, also a hoax, was made by Henry Dewitt McFarland, a veteran of the US Marines who served time in Afghanistan, when he called into the National Veteran’s Crisis Hotline.  McFarland, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was considering conversion to Islam.  He threatened to blow up a classmate, who made derogatory comments about his new religion, with a plate bomb that he claimed to have in his apartment.  The authorities found nothing in his apartment to suggest that the threat was serious.

In both instances, the story required the sensationalism that only Islam and Muslims could provide.  Neither the story about exam-related hoaxes (incidentally, earlier in the week fire alarms were pulled in eight buildings at UT Austin) nor the story about soldiers returning with PTSD from their time abroad are the way that we talk about our state of permanent insecurity on college campuses, even though those stories better help to unpack the new realities of college life.  Sans Islam, we would be forced to ask much harder questions about the skyrocketing costs of higher education or about the conditions under which American soldiers labor.  We might be forced to ask why American drones violate national sovereignty and kill with impunity.  Much easier that we talk about Muslims.

These stories stopped asking questions at a certain point because the mistaken belief that Islam and terrorism are synonymous means that there is no more story to tell.  And when critics raise the problems with this interpretation—that it eliminates the deadliness American foreign policy, that it lumps all Arabs and Muslims into one impossibly large category, that violent protests are almost always the work of fringe groups—we are accused of naively pandering to the protocols of political correctness.

Most  bomb threats at college campuses are usually connected to two things: exams and major (usually sporting) events.  Most colleges and universities have well developed protocols to deal with bomb threats because they have been a regular part of their operations.  One University of Texas official explained that UT gets 4 or 5 of these every year.  Most go unannounced.  In the four years that I have worked at UT, I have only been evacuated once.  This is not to say that we ought not take bomb threats seriously.  But we ought to ask how we determine which ones we do and why.

The majority of the insecurity that we face on college campuses has very little to do with Islam.  The events of Virginia Tech a few years ago serve as a constant reminder that colleges and universities are not ivory towers disconnected from real issues.  We might add that the incessant cuts to university budgets and the rising costs of tuition have also produced new, difficult conditions for everyone on campus.  That there are fewer health and psychological services to deal with the problems that these create is at least part of the problem, too.

There is another story that we are not telling, as well.  Since 9/11, every Muslim organization on a college campus has been audited by the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security at least once; at UCLA, Muslims are the subject of constant law enforcement surveillance.  Most Muslim students keep to themselves and associate only with other Muslims as a way to defend themselves from the racism that comes from unexpected areas.  Few speak out about it because law enforcement has been woefully inadequate about doing anything.

Later this week, the ACLU is testifying at Congressional hearings about the failure of law enforcement agencies to do anything when credible threats were made against Muslims and mosques.  In one incident in Antioch, CA, authorities were notified of threats against the mosque but failed to do anything about it.  It was then set on fire in 2007.  The authorities have even refused to call it a hate crime.  In the interests of full disclosure, I am named in the ACLU’s documents.  In 2007, death threats were made against me.  The ACLU discovered that my political activism was ostensibly the reason that law enforcement did not investigate the death threats or take them seriously.  There is a reason that we don’t have good numbers on the real harassment, discrimination, violence, and fear that Muslims and Arabs in the US feel.

There are real stories to tell here and real questions to ask, questions, which when answered, might lead to real solutions to the insecurities we all face on college campuses.  But the story about Islam and terror is too convenient.  It lets everyone off the hook.  And it keeps everyone permanently insecure.

Open Letter to UT Administration: Drop the Charges against peaceful protesters

(Please tweet me at @sshingavi if you want to sign on)

To the University of Texas, Austin administration:

We, the undersigned, members of the UT community are troubled by the arrest of peaceful protesters at the Office of the President on April 18, 2012.  Non-violent student protest ought to be met not with criminalization but with negotiations and dialogue.

Students were sitting-in to protest the University of Texas’s agreements with Nike (among others) under the notoriously discredited Fair Labor Association, a fig-leaf masquerading as a watchdog institution which has done next to nothing to eliminate sweatshop labor conditions but has done much to revive the ailing image of massive corporations like Nike and Disney.  Students took lessons that they learned in the classes taught here at UT, in departments like anthropology, geography, ethnic studies, sociology, political science, and philosophy and applied them to the real world situation of the conditions of their own education and asked the university to commit to real monitoring agencies under the Workers’ Rights Consortium.  Instead of being praised for their convictions, the administration has sought to vilify them for “trespassing.”

Once again the University of Texas will be embarrassed in the national media for its continuing preference for contracts with apparel producers with known ties to sweatshops over the educational and civic mission that the university is supposed to stand for.  Once again, the University of Texas  will be associated not with the bold slogan that “what starts here changes the world,” but with the banal repetition of the worst excesses of power at the expense of democracy, courage, and justice.

We think that it is time for this pattern of responding to protest with police to stop in favor of a policy of active engagement with student concerns.  We demand that the charges against the students arrested today be dropped.  We demand that the University revise its policies in dealing with student protesters.  But most importantly, we demand that the university drop its commitment to the Fair Labor Association and actively support the Workers’ Rights Consortium.

Sincerely,

Aaron Goldman, Community Art Education, UT College of Fine Arts

Adrian Reyna, 3rd year B.A. Government, University of Texas

Alejandro Márquez, MA candidate in Latin American Studies (LLILAS) and Global Policy Studies (LBJ)

Alida Perrine, Graduate Student in Latin American Studies, ILASSA Vice President, University of Texas – Austin

Albert A. Palacios, M.S.I.S., B. Arch., Film Curatorial Assistant, Digitization Technician, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Alejandra Cerna Rios, Graduate Student, Social Work, LBJ school

Alejandra Spector, Senior, Spanish and Portuguese

Alex Barron, Assistant Professor, St. Edwards University. UT graduate.

Alexandra Kaminsky University of Texas at Austin ’11, JD Candidate Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ’14

Allison Ramirez, Master’s candidate in Global Policy Studies (LBJ School) and Latin American Studies (LLILAS)

Albert Anthony Palacios, LLILAS Graduate Student

Allison G. Heinrich, The University of Texas at Austin ’14, Philosophy & Journalism

Alma Buena, University of Texas at Austin, Undergraduate, Government and Mexican American Studies

Amanda Austin, M. Ed., University of Texas Alumni

Amanda Gray, PhD Student, Department of American Studies and the Center for American Studies

Amy Price, UT grad student

Anabella Coronado, Ph.D. Candidate in Latin American Studies

Andi Gustavson, Doctoral Candidate in American Studies

Angelica Perez, Alumnus, Liberal Arts

Anindya Dey, University of Texas, Graduate Student

Anne Kuhnen, UT Undergraduate and President of Amnesty International-UT Chapter

Anne Lewis, Lecturer, Radio Television Film, University of Texas, Austin

Anthony Norton – UT Graduate, Spring 2010 – B.A.(Hons) Philosophy & Government. Current M.A. Philosophy student at Brandeis University

Axel Bohmann, English Department (grad student)

Ayesha Akbar, The University of Texas at Austin ’14 Psychology, Middle Eastern Studies, Arabic

Barbara Harlow, Professor, Department of English

Beliza Torres Narváez, Ph.D. Candidate 2012, Performance as Public Practice, Department of Theatre and Dance

Bernth Lindfors, Professor Emeritus, Department of English

Blanca Caldas, Ph.D. student Bilingual education/Department of Curriculum and Instruction UT Austin

Brett Anderson, History Department

Brian Stross, Professor of Anthropology, UT Austin

Caitlyn Collins, PhD student, Department of Sociology

Caitlin Eaves, Alumnus, Arabic and Religious Studies

Camilo Perez, Undergraduate, University of Texas

Carly Kocurek, doctoral candidate, Department of American Studies

Cecilia Cruz, Alumnus, Sociology and Latin American Studies

Charlotte Nunes, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, UT-Austin, Graduate Assistant, Bridging Disciplines Program

Chase Newton, Neurobiology Student at UT

Chris Ledesma, Alumnus, Spanish and Geography

Christopher Bernhardt Undergraduate Student, University of Texas-Austin

Chuck Michelson, doctoral candidate in Neuroscience, UT Austin

Claudia Chavez, graduate student, Anthropology Department

Colleen McGue, MA/MSCRP from UT 2011

Consuela Wright, Psychology Undergrad, UT

Czarina Thelen, Graduate Student, Department of Anthropology

Dan Heiman (Curriculum & Instruction)

Dana Carina Wenker, Recent UT Grad, Linguistics

Dana Cloud, Associate Professor, Department of Communication

Daniel Rudin; MFA student in Studio Art

Dave Kalloor, former grad student, UT-Austin

Deanna Kilgore, Senior Linguistics major.

Dorota Biczel, PhD Student, Dept. of Art and Art History

Eliot Tretter, Geography Department

Elizabeth Anderson, International Relations & Spanish undergrad

Elizabeth Gonzalez, President of Voices for Reproductive Justice, UT Austin.

Elizabeth Velasquez, Doctoral Student in Anthropology

Eric Covey, Doctoral Candidate, Department of American Studies

Erica Mathews, Anthropology undergraduate at UT

Erick Rodriguez, Hispanic Studies Senior and Information Technology Services Sr. Student Associate.

Fatima Jafri, Undergraduate Advertising, University of Texas at Austin

Gabriel Daniel Solis, University of Texas, Alumnus

Gretchen Murphy, Professor, Department of English

Guillermo Hernandez Martinez, University of Texas, Journalism and History major.

Heather Houser, Assistant Professor, Dept. of English

Howard Cunningham, retired, UT Health Center, Tyler

Jacinto Cuvi Escobar, Department of Sociology

Jaime Puente, MA Candidate CMAS

James Ward, School of Social Work

Janet M. Davis, Associate Professor of American Studies, History, and Women’s and Gender Studies

Jason Brownlee, Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin

Jennifer Kelly, Ph.D. Student, American Studies

Jessica Martin, graduate student, Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Jessica Osorio, LLILAS M.A. student

James Branson, Organizer, Texas State Employees Union, CWA local 2186

Jennifer Scott, Doctoral Student, School of Social Work

Jesus Joslin, Government undergraduate

Jocelyn Charvet, MSSW candidate, Class of 2012

Joao Costa Vargas, African and African Diaspora Studies Department

John Lawler, Undergraduate, Geography Department.

Jorge Antonio Renaud, MSSW Candidate, May 2012

José García, Cultural Studies in Education, TA, PhD Student

Josh Haney, Master of Public Affairs Candidate, 2012, LBJ School of Public Affairs

Josh Walther, University of Texas, Austin

Joy Learman, Assistant Instructor and Doctoral Candidate, School of Social Work

Julia Lee, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Center for Asian American Studies

Julian Munoz Villarreal, Middle Eastern Studies and Sociology undergraduate

Julianne Wooten, Environmental Science – Geosciences undergrad at UT

Justin Olaguer, Class of 2011, Philosophy BA

Kalyan Venkatraj, Gov/afr lah undergrad

Karen D. Burke, University of Texas, Alumna

Karin Samelson, journalism undergraduate senior

Katherine Adams, UT Austin ’14 Mechanical Engineering

Kathleen Burns, English Honors & Biology (EEB), UT undergraduate

Katya Kolesova, Graduate Student, Women and Gender Studies

Kayli Kallina, Class of 2014, Psychology, Education

Ken Zarifis, President, Education Austin

Kiran Ahmed, Doctoral Student, Department of Social Anthropology

Kristen Hogan, Associate Director & Lecturer, Center for Women’s & Gender Studies

Kyle Landrum, Honors Philosophy Undergrad ’12, UT Austin

Lainey Brown, Butler School of Music, University of Texas at Austin

Laura Evans, University of Texas, Undergraduate

Leah Gilman, Undergraduate, Copyedit & Design

Leslie Cunningham, retired, Texas State Employees Union

Lisa Moore, Associate Professor, Department of English

Loretta Capeheart, Ph.D. Associate Professor Justice Studies, NEIU and UT class of 1990 (College of Liberal Arts)

Lucia Duncan, Film+Radio+Teaching

Lucian VIllasenor, Mexican American Studies undergradute

Lynn Romero, Undergraduate, Latin American Studies, UT Austin

Lynz Costa-Adams, Master’s of Science in Social Work- August 2012

Madhavi Mallapragada, Assistant Professor, Radio Television Film

Marcus Denton, LBJ School of Public Affairs, Dec. ’12

Mary Grace Hebert, recent graduate of the College of Communication

Matt Richardson, Assistant Professor, Department of English

Megan Coxe, UT Austin

Melanie Wilmoth Navarro, MSSW, UT School of Social Work, 2011

Melissa McChesney, MSSW Student

Michelle Uche, International Socialist Organization

Mike Corwin, UT staff, Texas State Employees Union

Mohammad Hamze, History and Religious Studies honors undergrad

Mohan Ambikaipaker, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Communication, Tulane University, UT Alumnus

Mona Mehdy, Associate Professor, Section of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Monica Teresa Ortiz, writer, UT alum, English Literature ’03

Mubbashir Rizvi, Doctoral Candidate, University of Texas Austin

Nancy Cardenas Government and International Studies Undergrad.

Nandini Dhar, PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature, University of Texas at Austin

Naomi Paik, Assistant Professor, Department of American Studies

Nazia Hussain, Anthropology undergrad, ’12

Neil Foley, Professor, Department of History and American Studies

Nhi Lieu, Assistant Professor, Department of American Studies

Nicole Powell, UT Austin

Noah de Lissovoy, Professor, Department of Education

Parvathy Prem, University of Texas, Graduate Student

Pedro Suarez, University of Texas, Undergraduate, Mathematics and Mexican American Studies

Penny Green, Senior Lecturer and Sociology Honors Advisor, Department of Sociology

Racheal Rothrock, UT student

Ramon Mejia, History & Religious Studies, UT Austin

Rebecca Dyer, UT alumna, English PhD 2002

Rich Heyman, Lecturer, Department of Geography and the Environment

Robert Jensen, professor, School of Journalism

Roberta R. Greene, MSW, Ph.D., Professor & Endowed Chair, School of Social Work

Roberto Flotte Anthropology Honors/Mexican American Studies/Native American Studies

Rocío Villalobos, MA, College of Education, May 2011

Sade Anderson, UT graduate Student of African Diaspora Studies & Anthropology

Sam Naik, Government and Latin American Studies, University of Texas

Sammy Zoeller, BA Journalism, 1971

Sandra Pacia, UT Undergraduate Student, School of Social Work

Sarah Ihmoud, Graduate Student, UT Austin Department of Anthropology

Sarah Sussman, TA English Department

Sarah Shah, UT Alumna

Sean Sellers, MA, Latin American Studies, 2009

Shannon Speed, Assistant Vice President for Community Engagement, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Co-director, Native American and Indigenous Studies

Sharmila Rudrappa, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

Shelby Krafka UT undergrad

Shirley Thompson, American Studies and African and African Diaspora Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Snehal Shingavi, Assistant Professor, Department of English

Somy Kim, Ph.D. Candidate, Comparative Literature

Sona Shah, Staff, Center for Asian American Studies, Alumna, University of Texas

Sucheta Arora, Graduate Student, Institute of Cellular and Molecular Biology

Susan Youssef, alumna

Suzanne McEndree, student, School of Social Work

Suzanne L. Schulz, Ph.D. Candidate, Assistant Instructor Department of Radio-Television-Film

Tatiana Reinoza, PhD student, Art History

Teodora Vassileva, Human Biology Undergrad, UT Austin

Tiffani Bishop – Student

Trevor L Hoag, Doctoral Candidate in English, Rhetoric and Writing

Trisha Padayachee, UT School of Social Work, Candidate for MSSW

Vanessa Martinez, M.A. Latin American Studies, M.S. Community and Regional Planning

Virginia Raymond, JD, PhD — UT alumna/former lecturer

Vivian Newdick, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Anthropology

Wanjira Murimi, University of Texas, Undergraduate, Women’s & Gender Studies

Wasiq Sheikh, 2011 Graduate, Electrical Engineering

Will Patterson, B.S. Radio-TV-Film, Class of 2010

Zachary Dyer, Master’s Candidate in Latin American Studies

Zachary Guerinot, UT Undergraduate

Zachary Moore, Psychology Student and OccupyUt member

Zulema Nevarez, Sociology Student

Faculty petition against NYPD surveillance of Muslims

Updated: Over Four Hundred Faculty Nationwide Call for NYPD Commissioner’s Resignation

Today, more than four hundred faculty from across the country wrote to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, adding theirs to a multitude of voices calling for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Deputy Commissioner Paul Brown to step down. A response to the NYPD’s over-reaching and indiscriminate surveillance of Muslim student associations along the Northeast seaboard, this is the first nationwide faculty response to the Associated Press’s reporting of the NYPD’s extensive surveillance of Muslim communities in New York and beyond. The call for resignation is based on a number of rights-abusing practices under Commissioner Kelly including the widespread, invasive surveillance of Muslim life, particularly on college campuses, and the skyrocketing numbers of stop-and-frisks by police over the decade. Signatories include Muneer Ahmad, Meena Alexander, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Moustafa Bayoumi, Seyla Benhabib, Judith Butler, Erwin Chemerinsky, Kathleen Cleaver, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Todd Gitlin, Matthew Frye Jacobson, Amy Kaplan, Rashid Khalidi, David Luban, Vijay Prashad, Bill Qugley, Bruce Robbins, Andrew Ross, Saskia Sassen, Joan Scott, Richard Sennett, Chris Tilly, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Howard Winant, John Womack, and more. Many of the signatories come from schools the NYPD spied on. 

***

We, the undersigned faculty, call for the resignation of New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.  Under their leadership over the past decade:

The number of stop-and-frisks has skyrocketed, reaching an all-time high in 2010 of 600,601 stops, eighty-nine percent of which were of Black and Latino people. This is up from 97,296 in 2002. While the department claims this is about fighting crime, only 0.13 percent of last year’s stops resulted in the discovery of a firearm, and only seven percent of the stops resulted in arrests.

In the decade since 9/11, with the help of the CIA, the NYPD, according to extensive investigations by the Associated Press, has “become one of the nation’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies.” According to the AP’s investigation, the NYPD Intelligence Division and its Demographics Unit engaged in extensive surveillance and mapping of Sunni and Shi’a Muslim communities in New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey.

The NYPD monitored Muslim student associations at local colleges—Brooklyn College, City College, Baruch College, Hunter College, Queens College, LaGuardia Community College and St. John’s University—and universities across the northeast, including Yale University, Rutgers University, Columbia University, Princeton University, Syracuse University, and the University of Pennsylvania, going so far as to send undercover detectives to spy on student groups. Such surveillance has a chilling effect on student life and the intellectual freedom necessary for a vibrant academic community.

The NYPD screened for more than 1489 officers the anti-Muslim film The Third Jihad—which claims the “true agenda of much of Islam in America” is to “infiltrate and dominate” the United States. Kelly and Browne  cooperated in the production of the film, with Kelly sitting for a 90-minute interview with the producers. The NYPD covered up its involvement in the film until news coverage stemming from FOIL requests forced the NYPD to change its story.

New York deserves police leadership with integrity that respects and protects the rights of all New Yorkers. We call for Police Commissioner Kelly’s and Deputy Commissioner Browne’s resignation.

[Affiliations are for identification purposes only.]

Adele Bernhard, Associate Professor, Pace Law School

Ahmad A. Rahman, Associate Professor of History and Director of African and African American Studies, University of Michigan-Dearborn

Ajmel Quereshi, Supervising Attorney and Adjunct Professor, Howard University Law School

Alan A. Aja, Assistant Professor & Deputy Chair of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Alan Feigenberg, Professor of Architecture, City College (CUNY)

Alejandra Marchevsky, Professor and Associate Chair of Liberal Studies, California State University- Los Angeles

Alexandro José Gradilla, Chair and Associate Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies, California State University, Fullerton

Alex Gourevitch, Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Political Theory, Brown University

Alex Wermer-Colan, Adjunct Professor of English, Hunter College (CUNY)

Ali Akbar Mahdi, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Ohio Wesleyan University

Ali Mir, Professor, William Paterson University

Alina Das, Assistant Professor of Clinical Law, New York University School of Law

Allie Robbins, Adjunct Professor of Law, CUNY Law School

Ammiel Alcalay, Professor of English, Department of Classical, Middle Eastern and Asian Languages & Cultures, Queens College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Amna Akbar, Adjunct Professor and Supervising Attorney, CUNY School of Law

Amy Herzog, Associate Professor of Media Studies, Queens College (CUNY)

Amy Kaminsky, Professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota

Amy Kaplan, Edward W. Kane Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Andrew Feffer, Associate Professor of History, Union College

Andrew Ross, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University

Ania Loomba, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Aniruddha Das, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Columbia University

Anjana Malhotra, Co-Director, Civil rights Amicus and Advocacy Clinic, Seattle University School of Law

Ann E. Kottner, Adjunct Instructor, Brooklyn EOC/New York City College of Technology (CUNY)

Anna Bigelow, Associate Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies, North Carolina State University

Anna Roberts, Acting Assistant Professor of Lawyering, New York University School of Law

Anthony Alessandrini, Associate Professor of English, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Anthony Gronowicz, Faculty Adviser for Student Government, Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY)

Anthony Paul Farley, James Campbell Matthews Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, Albany Law School

Anthony Macias, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Riverside

Arjun Jayadev, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston

Arlene Avakian, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Arlene Istar Lev, Lecturer in the School of Social Welfare, State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany

Arnold Franklin, Assistant Professor of History, Queens College (CUNY)

Arthur MacEwan, Professor Emeritus of Economics,University of Massachusetts Boston

Ashley Dawson, Professor of English, CUNY Graduate Center

Ashwini Rao, Associate Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation, Columbia University

Ashwini Tambe, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, University of Maryland

Athan Theoharis, Professor Emeritus of History, Marquette University

A. Tom Grunfeld, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor, State University of New York (SUNY)-Empire State College

Ayman Naquvi, Continuing Education Teacher, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Aziz Rana, Assistant Professor of Law, Cornell University Law School

Aziza Ahmed, Assistant Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law

Babe Howell, Associate Professor, CUNY School of Law

Baher Azmy, Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law

Balmurli Natrajan, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, William Paterson University

Banafsheh Madaninejad, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion, Middlebury College

Barbara Applebaum, Associate Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Barbara Katz Rothman, Professor of Sociology, Baruch College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Barbara Winslow, Associate Professor of Education, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

Benji Chang, Postdoctoral Fellow, Teachers College, Columbia University

Bernard L. Stein, Professor of Film & Media, Hunter College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

Beryl Blaustone, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law

Beth Baker Cristales, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Latin American Studies, California State University-Los Angeles

Bette Gordon, Associate Professor of the Practice, School of the Arts (Film), Columbia University

Bill Mullen, Professor of American Studies, Purdue University

Bradley Lubin, Graduate Teaching Fellow, English Department, Baruch College (CUNY)

Brenda Cardenas, Associate Professor of English, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Brian Pickett, Adjunct Lecturer, Speech and Theater Department, Queensborough Community College (CUNY)

Brian Purnell, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, Bowdoin College

Bruce Robbins, Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University

Bryan McCann, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Wayne State University

C. Heike Schotten, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Caren Kaplan, Professor of American Studies, University of California-Davis

Carla Shedd, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

Carly Smith, Adjunct Professor of Communications, Baruch College (CUNY)

Carolina Bank Muñoz, Associate Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Caroline Bettinger-López, Associate Professor of Clinical Legal Education, Director, Human Rights Clinic, University of Miami School of Law

Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Mary Frances Berry Collegiate Professor, Emeritus, University of Michigan

Celina Su, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Cemil Aydin, Associate Professor of History, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Charity Scribner, Associate Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Charles E. Butterworth, Professor Emeritus of Government & Politics, University of Maryland

Charles Pinderhughes, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Essex County College

Chaumtoli Huq, Associate Professor of Law, New York Law School

Chi Adanna Mgbako, Clinical Associate Professor of Law, Fordham Law School

Chris Tilly, Professor of Urban Planning, University of California-Los Angeles

Christopher Ebert, Associate Professor of History, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Christopher Stone, Associate Professor of Arabic, Hunter College (CUNY)

Crystal A. Parikh, Associate Professor of English, New York University

Cindi Katz, Professor of Geography in Environmental Psychology and Women’s Studies, CUNY Graduate Center

Conor Tomás Reed, Graduate Teaching Fellow, English Department, Baruch College (CUNY)

Corey Robin, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Cynthia Casey, Continuing Education Teacher of CUNY Language Immersion Program, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Cyra Akila Choudhury, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Florida International University

Daniel Campos, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Daniel E. Manville, Director of Civil Rights Clinic and Associate Clinical Professor, Michigan State University College of Law

Danya Shocair Reda, Acting Assistant Professor, New York University School of Law

David Goldberg, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, Wayne State University

David Kazanjian, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania

David H. Kim, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of San Francisco

David Luban, University Professor in Law and Philosophy, Georgetown University Law Center

David Ludden, Professor of Political Economy and Globalization, New York University

David O’Brien, Professor of Psychology, Baruch College (CUNY)

David F. Weiman, Alena Wels Hirschorn ’58 Professor of Economics and Dean of Faculty Diversity and Development, Barnard College

Dayo F. Gore, Associate Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Dean Spade, Assistant Professor of Law, Seattle University School of Law

Deepa Kumar, Associate Professor of Media Studies and Middle East Studies, Rutgers University

Deirdre Bowen, Associate Professor of Lawyering Skills, Seattle University School of Law

Diana Pei Wu, Professor of Liberal Studies/Urban Communities & Environment, Antioch University-Los Angeles

Dina Siddiqui, Visiting Associate Professor of Women & Gender Studies, Hunter College (CUNY)

Donna H. Lee, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law

Donna Young, Professor of Law, Albany Law School

Ed Webb, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies, Dickinson College

Eleanor J. Bader, Adjunct Lecturer, English Department, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Elizabeth Sanders, Professor of Government, Cornell University

Ellen Gruber Garvey, Professor of English, New Jersey City University

Ellen Reese, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California-Riverside

Ellen Schrecker, Professor of History, Yeshiva University

Emad Hamdeh, Adjunct Professor of Arabic Language and Culture, Montclair State University

Enrique C. Ochoa, Professor of Latin American Studies and History, California State University-Los Angeles

Eric Lott, Professor of English, University of Virginia

Ernesto Rosen Velasquez, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Dayton

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, University of California-Irvine Law School

Evan Rapport, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology, The New School for Social Research

Eve Oishi, Associate Professor of Cultural Studies, Claremont Graduate School

Falguni Sheth, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory, Hampshire College

Felicia Kornbluh, Director of the Program in Women’s and Gender Studies and Associate Professor of History, University of Vermont

Flagg Miller, Associate Profesor of Religious Studies, University of California-Davis

Frances Geteles, Professor Emerita, City College (CUNY)

Frank Deale, Professor of Law, CUNY Law School

Frank A. Pasquale, Schering-Plough Professor in Health Care Regulation and Enforcement, Seton Hall Law School

Gabriel Arkles, Acting Assistant Professor of Lawyering, New York University School of Law

Gabriela Fried-Amilivia, Assistant Professor of Sociology, California State University Los Angeles

Gary L. Anderson, Professor of Administration, Leadership, and Technology, New York University

Gaston Alonso, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Gautam Premnath, Assistant Professor of English, University of California-Berkeley

Geert Dhondt, Assistant Professor of Economics, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY)

George Ciccariello-Maher, Assistant Professor of History and Politics, Drexel University

George D. Sussman, Professor of History, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

George Theoharis, Associate Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Gil Anidjar, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies/Religion, Columbia University

Golbarg Bashi, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Rutgers University

Graciela M. Báez, Instructor in Spanish and Portuguese, New York University

Graham MacPhee, Associate Professor of English, West Chester University

Gregg Morris, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies, Hunter College (CUNY)

Gregory M. Pflugfelder, Associate Professor of History/East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University

Gregory Sholette, Assistant Professor of Art, Queens College (CUNY)

Gregory Smithsimon, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Grisel Caicedo, Program Administrator for the Research Center for Leadership in Action, New York University

Gunja SenGupta, Professor of History, Brooklyn College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Harvey Stark, Adjunct Professor of Religion, Depauw University

Heather Love, Associate Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Heide Estes, Associate Professor of English, Monmouth University

Hester Eisenstein, Professor of Sociology, Queens College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Holly Jarman, Assistant Professor of Political Science, State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany

Hope J. Hartman, Professor of Educational Psychology, City College (CUNY)

Howard Pflanzer, Adjunct Associate Professor of English, Bronx Community College (CUNY)

Howard Winant, Professor of Sociology, University of California-Santa Barbara

Hunter Jackson, Adjunct Lecturer, Geography Department, Hunter College (CUNY)

Immanuel Ness, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Ira Shor, Professor of English, CUNY Phd Program in English and College of Staten Island (CUNY)

Irene Sosa, Associate Professor of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Isis Nusair, Associate Professor of International Studies & Women’s Studies, Denison University

Isolina Ballesteros, Associate Professor of Modern Languages, Baruch College (CUNY)

Jackie DiSalvo, Associate Professor Emerita, Baruch College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Jackie Orr, Associate Professor of Sociology, Syracuse University

Jacob Remes, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs and History, Empire State College-State University of New York (SUNY)

Janet Bauer, Associate Professor and Co-ordinator of Global Studies, Trinity College James Caron, Lecturer in South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania

James D. Hoff, Adjunct Lecturer of English, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

James Holstun, Professor of English, University of Buffalo

James Schamus, Professor of Film, Columbia University

James Smethurst, Associate Professor of Afro-American Studies, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Janna Shadduck Hernandez, Project Director, UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education

Jay Arena, Assistant Professor of Sociology, College of Staten Island (CUNY)

Jay Driskell, Assistant Professor of History, Hood College

Jeanne Flavin, Professor of Sociology, Fordham University

Jeanne Theoharis, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Jeff A. Redding, Assistant Professor, Saint Louis University School of Law

Jeffrey C. Alexander, Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology, Yale University

Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law

Jenna Loyd, Postdoctoral Fellow, Syracuse University

Jennifer L. Ball, Associate Professor of Art History, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Jennifer McCormick, Assistant Professor of Education, California State University-Los Angeles

Jennifer Tang, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Hunter College

Jeremy Walton, Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow of Religious Studies, New York University

Jerome Krase, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Jessica Attie, Instructor of Legal Writing, Brooklyn Law School

Jessica Winegar, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Northwestern University

Joan W. Scott, Professor of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study

Joanne Reitano, Professor of History, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Jodi Dean, Professor of Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Joe Rosenberg, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law (CUNY)

Johanna Fernandez, Assistant Professor of History and Black and Latino Studies, Baruch College (CUNY)

John Boy, Instructional Technology Fellow, CUNY Honors College

John L. Hammond, Professor of Sociology, Hunter College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

John Lawrence, Chairperson of Psychology, College of Staten Island (CUNY)

John Ramirez, Professor of Media Studies, California State University-Los Angeles

John R. Wallach, Professor of Political Science, Hunter College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

John Whitlow, Clinical Law Professor, CUNY School of Law (CUNY)

John Womack Jr., Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

Johnny E. Williams, Associate Professor of Sociology, Trinity College

Josefina Saldaña, Professor of Latino Studies Program and Social & Cultural Analysis, New York University

Joseph Entin, Associate Professor of English, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Joshua Guild, Assistant Professor of African American Studies and History, Princeton University

Joy James, Professor of Political Science, Williams College/University of Texas-Austin

Juan Flores, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University

Joseph B. Shedd, Associate Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Joseph E. Lowry, Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley

Judith Smith, Professor of American Studies, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Judith Wittner, Professor of Sociology, Loyola University

Julie Causton-Theoharis, Associate Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Julie Cooper, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

Julie Novkov, Professor of Political Science and Women’s Studies, State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany

Junaid Rana, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

Justin Rogers-Cooper, Assistant Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Justin Stearns, Assistant Professor of Arab Crossroads Studies, New York University-Abu Dhabi

Kade Finnoff, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Karen Miller, Associate Professor of Urban Studies and History, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Kandice Chuh, Professor of English and American Studies, CUNY Graduate Center

Karl Steel, Assistant Professor of English, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Katherine DeLorenzo , Adjunct Professor of Women and Gender Studies Program, Hunter College (CUNY)

Katherine Tate, Professor of Political Science and African American Studies, University of California-Irvine

Kathleen Belew, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in History, Rutgers University

Kathleen Cleaver, Senior Lecturer in African American Studies, Yale University, and Senior Research Scholar, Yale Law School

Kathy Hessler, Clinical Professor of Law, Lewis & Clark Law School

Kathy Pence, Associate Professor and Chair of History, Baruch College (CUNY)

Kelly Anderson, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, Hunter College (CUNY)

Ken Estey, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Kendra Salois, Adjunct Professor of Music, Montclair State University

Kenneth Boockvar, Associate Professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Kimberly R. King, Associate Professor of Psychology, California State University-Los Angeles

Kim F. Hall, Lucyle Hook Chair and Professor of English and Africana Studies, Barnard College

Kiran Asher, Associate Professor of International Development and Social Change and Women’s Studies, Clark University

Kirsten Weld, Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Latin American History, Brandeis University

Khalid Blankinship, Associate Professor of Religion, Temple University

Komozi Woodard, Professor of History and Public Policy, Sarah Lawrence College

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University

Larry Van Sickle, Associate Professor. of Sociology, Rollins College

Laura Briggs, Chair of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Laura Kang, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, University of California-Irvine

Laura Kaplan, Graduate Teaching Fellow, Hunter College (CUNY)

Laura Y. Liu, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies, Eugene Lang College, The New School for Social Research

Laura L. Rovner, Associate Professor of Law, University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Laura Tanenbaum, Associate Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Lawrence Blum, Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Education and Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Lawrence Davidson, Professor of History, West Chester University

Lawrence Rushing, Professor of Psychology, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Lawrence Weschler, Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University

Lee Anne Bell, Professor, Barbara Silver Horowitz Director of Education, Barnard College

Leyla Mei, Assistant Professor of Social & Cultural Analysis, New York University

Lila Gardner, Continuing Education Teacher, CUNY Language Immersion Program, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Lily Shapiro, Acting Assistant Professor of Lawyering, New York University School of Law

Lisa Edstrom, Lecturer/Certification Officer in Education, Barnard College

Lisa Freedman, Adjunct Professor of English, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Lisa Hajjar, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California-Santa Barbara

Lise Vogel, Emerita Professor of Sociology, Rider University

Lynne Teplin, Counselor, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Macarena Gomez Barris, Associate Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California

Maggie Clinton, Assistant Professor of History, Middlebury College

Manissa McCleave Maharawal, Graduate Teaching Fellow in Anthropology, Baruch College (CUNY)

Marc A. Hertzman, Assistant Professor of Latin American and Iberian Cultures Faculty Fellow, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University

Marcelle M. Haddix, Assistant Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Margaret Conte, Continuing Education Teacher, Language Immersion Program, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Margaret R. Hunt, Henry Winkley Professor of History and Political Economy, Amherst College

Margo Okazawa-Rey, Professor Emerita, San Francisco State University

Maria Hantzopoulos, Assistant Professor of Education, Vassar College

Mark Naison, Professor of African American Studies and History, Fordham University

Mark Noferi, Instructor of Legal Writing, Brooklyn Law School

Mark Ungar, Professor of Criminal Justice, Brooklyn College (CUNY) and John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY)

Mark Wild, Associate Professor of History, California State University-Los Angeles

Mario Rios Perez, Assistant Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Marvin Carlson, Sidney E. Cohn Distinguished Professor of Theatre and Comparative Literature, CUNY Graduate Center

Mary Dillard, Associate Professor of African History, Sarah Lawrence College

Mary A. Lynch, Clinical Professor of Law, Albany Law School

Matthew Frye Jacobson, Chair of American Studies, Yale University

Maureen Fadem, Assistant Professor of English, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Max Weiss, Assistant Professor of History, Princeton University

Meena Alexander, Distinguished Professor of English, Hunter College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Melina Abdullah, Associate Professor and Acting Chair of Pan-African Studies, California State University-Los Angeles

Melissa Phruksachart, Graduate Teaching Fellow, English Department, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Meredith L. Weiss, Associate Professor of Political Science, State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany

Micaela di Leonardo, Professor of Anthropology and Performance Studies, Northwestern University

Michael Busch, Adjunct Lecturer in International Relations, City College (CUNY)

Michael Friedman, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology, Queens College (CUNY)

Michael E. Green, Professor of Chemistry, City College (CUNY)

Michael Haber, Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University

Michael Meagher, Assistant Professor of Education, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Michael Palm, Assistant Professor of Technology and Media Studies, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Michael Sullivan, Professor Emeritus of History & Politics, Drexel University

Michael West, Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Binghamton University

Miguel Macias, Assistant Professor of Television and Radio, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Miriam Ticktin, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, The New School for Social Research

Molly Talcott, Assistant Professor of Sociology, California State University-Los Angeles

Monica J. Casper, Professor of American Studies, Arizona State University

Moustafa Bayoumi, Professor of English, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Muneer I. Ahmad, Clinical Professor of Law, Yale Law School

Nadine Naber, Associate Professor of American Culture and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan

Najam Haider, Assistant Professor of Religion, Barnard College

Nancy Gallagher, Professor of History, American University-Cairo and University of Californina-Santa Barbara

Nancy Romer, Professor of Psychology, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Naomi Braine, Associate Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Naureen Shah, Lecturer-in-Law, Columbia University School of Law

Neil Smith, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography, CUNY Graduate Center

Nicole Smith, Law School Instructor, CUNY School of Law

Noor-Aiman Khan, Assistant Professor of History, Colgate University

Norma Claire Moruzzi, Associate Professor of Political Science, Gender & Women’s Studies, and History, University of Illinois-Chicago

Omid Safi, Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina

Omnia El Shakry, Associate Professor of History, University of California-Davis

Paige West, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University

Paisley Currah, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Pamela Allen Brown, Associate Professor of English, University of Connecticut

Pamela Edwards, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law

Paola Bacchetta, Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of California-Berkeley

Patrick D. Jones, Associate Professor of History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Patrick Lloyd, Associate Professor of Physical Sciences, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Paula Chakravartty, Associate Professor of Communication, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Paul Amar, Associate Professor of Global and International Studies, University of California-Santa Barbara

Paul Levinson, Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University

Paul Maltby, Professor of English, West Chester University

Paul A. Passavant, Associate Professor of Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Paul Sedra, Associate Professor and Associate Chair of History, Simon Fraser University

Peter Brooks, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholar and Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University

Peter Halewood, Professor of Law, Albany Law School

Peter Ranis, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, CUNY Graduate Center

Piya Chatterjee, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, University of California-Riverside

Priya Parmar, Assistant Professor of Education, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

R. Shareah Taleghani, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages and Literatures, City College (CUNY)

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University

Rachel Heiman, Associate Professor of Anthropology, The New School for Social Research

Rachel Rubin, Professor of American Studies, University of Massachusetts-Boston Ragini Shah, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Suffolk University Law School

Ramzi Kassem, Associate Professor of Law, CUNY Law School

Randy Albelda, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies Department of History, Columbia University

Raymond William Baker, College Professor of International Politics, Trinity College

Rayya El Zein, Graduate Teaching Fellow, Theatre Department, City College (CUNY)

Rebecca M. Jordan-Young, Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Barnard College

Renate Bridenthal, Professor of History, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Ricardo Dominguez, Associate Professor of Visual Arts, Univeristy of California-San Diego

Richard Delgado, Adjunct Professor of Law, Seattle University School of Law

Richard Sennett, University Professor, New York University

Richard Shin, Associate Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Rick Shur, Adjunct Lecturer, English Language Acquisition Department, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Robert Rozehnal, Associate Professor of Religion Studies, Lehigh University

Roberta Gold, Postdoctoral Fellow, Tamiment Library, New York University

Robyn C. Spencer, Assistant Professor of History, Lehman College (CUNY)

Roozbeh Shirazi, Postdoctoral Fellow in Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota

Rosalind Morris, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University

Rosalind Petchesky, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Hunter College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Ruben Hernandez-León, Associate Professor of Sociology, UCLA

Rupal Oza, Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies, Hunter College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Associate Director for the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, CUNY Graduate Center

Ryan Daley, Adjunct Professor of English, New York City College of Technology (CUNY)

Saadia Toor, Associate Professor of Sociology, College of Staten Island (CUNY)

Sahar Aziz, Associate Professor of Law, Texas Wesleyan School of Law

Sally Bermanzohn, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Sally Frank, Professor of Law, Drake University

Samah Selim, Assistant Professor of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures, Rutgers University

Sameer M. Ashar, Clinical Professor of Law, University of California-Irvine

Samir Chopra, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Brooklyn College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Sandi Cooper, Professor of History, Chair, University Faculty Senate, College of Staten Island (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Sanford F. Schram, Visiting Professor of Social Work and Social Research, Bryn Mawr College

Sarah Haley, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, University of California-Los Angeles

Sarah Hoagland, Bernard J. Brommel Distinguished Research Professor Professor of Philosophy, Women’s Studies, Latino/a/Latin American Studies, Northeastern Illinois University

Sarah Rogerson, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Albany Law School

Sari Knopp Biklen, Laura and Douglas Meredith Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

Saul Slapikoff, Professor Emeritus, Tufts University

Scott Dexter, Professor of Computer and Information Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Sebastian Purcell, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, State University of New York-Courtland

Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Yale University

Shamita Dasgupta, Adjunct Professor of Clinical Law, New York University School of Law

Shamsad Ahmad, Lecturer of Physics, State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany

Shana Agid, Assistant Professor of Art, Media and Technology/Director, Printmaking, Parsons, the New School for Design

Shana L. Redmond, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California

Shefali Chandra, Assistant Professor of History, International and Area Studies, Washington University in St. Louis

Sherifa Zuhur, Director of Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Diasporic Studies

Sherine F. Hamdy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Brown University

Shireen Roshanravan, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, Kansas State University

Shirin Sinnar, Fellow, Stanford Law School

Sinan Antoon, Assistant Professor, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University

Siva Vaidhyanathan, Chair of Media Studies and Robertson Family Professor, University of Virginia

Snehal Shingavi, Assistant Professor of English, University of Texas-Austin

Sohaib Chekima, Arabic Lecturer, State University of New York-Albany

Stephen Pitti, Professor of History and American Studies, Yale University

Stanley Aronowitz, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Urban Education, CUNY Graduate Center

Stephen Sheehi, Associate Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature, University of South Carolina

Steven Zeidman, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law Stuart Ewen, Distinguished Professor of History and Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center

Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African American Studies, Purdue University

Suad Joseph, Professor of Anthropology and Women’s & Gender Studies, University of California-Davis

Sufia M. Uddin, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Connecticut College

Sujatha Fernandes, Associate Professor of Sociology, Queens College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Sumanth Gopinath, Assistant Professor of Music Theory, University of Minnesota

Sunaina Maira Professor of Asian American Studies, University of California-Davis

Susan O’Malley, Professor Emerita, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Suvir Kaul, A. M. Rosenthal Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Suzanne Gardiner, Professor of Writing, Sarah Lawrence College

Tamara Vukov, Visiting Research Professor, Department of Culture and Communication, Drexel University

Tamer el-Leithy, Assistant Prof. of History, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University

Tanweer Haq, Counselor and Advisor on Islam, Syracuse University

Tazim R. Kassam, Associate Professor of Religion and Islam, Syracuse University

Ted Swedenburg, Professor of Anthropology, University of Arkansas

Timothy K. Eatman, Assistant Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Timothy Shortell, Associate Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Timothy Stewart-Winter, Assistant Professor of History, Rutgers University

Tina Campt, Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Director of the Africana Studies Program, Barnard College

Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology, Columbia University

Tom Angotti, Professor of Urban Affairs & Planning, Hunter College (CUNY)

Torrey Shanks, Assistant Professor of Political Science, State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany

Tovah P. Klein, Associate Professor of Psychology, Barnard College

Tugrul Keskin, Assistant Professor of International and Middle Eastern Studies, Portland State University

Uli Schamiloglu, Professor of Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Velina Manolova, Graduate Teaching Fellow, City College (CUNY)

Victoria Wolcott, Associate Professor of History, State University of New York (SUNY)-Buffalo

Vijay Prashad, George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies, Trinity College

Wesley Hogan, Associate Professor of History, Virginia State University

William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education, University of Illinois-Chicago

William Harris, Professor of History, Columbia University

William Quigley, Janet Mary Riley Professor of Law, Loyola University-New Orleans

Yvette Christiansë, Professor of Africana Studies and English, Barnard College

Zakia Salime, Assistant Professor of Sociology & Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University

Zareena Grewal, Assistant Professor of American Studies, Yale University

Zoe Hammer-Tomizuka, Associate Professor of Political Studies, Prescott College

Constitutional Crisis and Power Struggle in Pakistan

English: Asif Ali Zardari.

Image via Wikipedia

On February 13, the Supreme Court of Pakistan charged Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani with contempt for his failure to ask the Swiss government to reopen the money-laundering case against President Asif Ali Zardari. The move has sparked a wide-spread debate about the legal crisis that this creates inside of Pakistan and whether the legal proceedings are being backed or influenced by the Pakistani military, which stands to gain massively if the current government is derailed.

The legal issues are fairly straightforward: back in the 1990s, when the late Benazir Bhutto was Prime Minister, Asif Ali Zardari received kickbacks from two Swiss-based companies in exchange for exclusive government contracts. Zardari was jailed for eight years in Pakistan on corruption charges, though he was never found guilty. In Pakistan, Zardari is commonly still referred to as “Mr. Ten Percent” (though sometimes the figure is substantially larger) in reference to his well-known corrupt dealings.

In 2003, Swiss courts found Zardari and Bhutto guilty of criminal money laundering, though both denied it. They left for voluntary exile in Dubai in order to avoid further prosecution in Pakistan. Bhutto and Zardari were only allowed to re-enter Pakistan after then President (and General) Pervez Musharraf signed under American pressure the National Reconciliation Ordinance which granted the pair amnesty for all charges of corruption. The NRO was part of the deal that was cut between Benazir Bhutto and the US to allow her to return to Pakistan and replace the widely unpopular Musharraf. When Zardari became President after his wife’s assassination, he asked the Swiss government to set aside the case against him, which it did.

In 2009, the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared the National Reconciliation Ordinance violated the constitution and struck it down. (This happened only months after the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and others were reluctantly reinstated by Zardari after being sacked by Musharraf). This re-opened the corruption issue and brought the Pakistani judiciary into open conflict with the Prime Minister. When Gilani closed ranks behind Zardari (both are members of the Pakistan People’s Party – PPP), the Supreme Court charged him with contempt. If convicted, Gilani would face jail time, be dismissed from his post, and be ineligible to run for Pakistani office again. If criminal charges are opened up against Zardari, too, the entire government will fall. Elections are not scheduled to take place until early next year.

The PPP has been attempting to claim that this move by the Supreme Court is actually a military coup in slow motion. They are not entirely wrong, since high ranking officials inside of the Army have been quite pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision. The Army has, of course, been gunning for the PPP and the civilian bureaucracy after the twin embarrassments of the Osama bin Laden debacle (it is now also coming to light that Musharraf may have known where bin Laden was all along) and the scandal surrounding “memogate.” At the behest of Zardari, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US dictated a memo to Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani American businessman, that sought American military assistance against the Pakistani military and the ISI, both of which it claimed was plotting a coup against the civilian government. When the memo was revealed, the military was adamant in calling for Haqqani’s resignation (which it got) and even for his head. Gilani has also embarrassingly had to repeat for the news media that he does not believe that there is any risk of a coup, after taking a harder line against military meddling in civilian affairs earlier in January.

Supporters of the judiciary, on the other hand, have been touting the Supreme Court’s independence as proof that this has nothing to do with bringing the military back into power. The Supreme Court, in their opinion, is the one institution that still has some legitimacy in Pakistan and its pursuance of the corruption charges against the President is an important part of the move towards cleaning up government. At the same time, the Supreme Court has also gone after the military in recent months. It recently ordered the ISI to produce seven men who had been disappeared illegally, bringing the spy agency under judicial review for the first time. It has been his aggressive push around these two issues – corruption and disappearances – that has earned Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary his populist reputation. The recent hearings about the human rights violations committed by the Pakistani military in Balochistan on the floor of the US Congress are also a product of the campaigns of this new, activist judiciary.

But should the Supreme Court succeed in convicting Gilani, the PPP would merely replace him with another party loyalist, forcing the Supreme Court to repeat its actions and deadlock the government. There is rampant speculation that this political game of chicken would provide the appropriate cover for the Pakistani military to retake control of the government, something that it has had no hesitation in doing in the past. While the judiciary has wide backing, it is certainly not in a position to offer an alternative government to the current one.

The entirety of this legal debate though rests on three intractable problems for which the Pakistani ruling class has never been able to provide a durable solution in the country’s history. First and most importantly is the nation’s dependence on foreign support, especially American, for its military and economic stability which is at direct odds with Pakistan’s own foreign policy objectives. This is part of the reason why the war in Afghanistan has gone on as long as it has; the Pakistani military benefits from drawing the war out, both in terms of monetary aid and in terms of its importance in Pakistani life.

This problem has been coming to a head in recent months, especially after the NATO airstrike which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers back in November and the massively unpopular drone strikes which continue to pound the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Washington has been looking for alternatives to the Pakistani military, but it has spent so long propping up the armed forces in Pakistan that it has few good options available in the region. The Pakistani military, too, relies on its ties with militant groups in the border areas. The new plan in Afghanistan announced by former ambassador Zalmay Khalilzadeh, which rewards Pakistan for its help in getting the Taliban to the negotiating table may also be a non-starter, since the Taliban have repeatedly said they will not negotiate with Karzai. The collapse of the NATO-Pakistan partnership and the potential destabilization of the Pakistani government will produce explosive results.

Secondly, the ruling class has never been able to achieve anything like hegemony for the civilian government. Both main parties, the PPP and Pakistan Muslim League, are widely discredited and are only voted in as ways of keeping the flow of graft moving in desirable directions. The newly minted Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (Justice Party) led by cricketing star Imran Khan has had massive rallies, but is hamstrung by the rival factions within it. The inability of the civilian government to rule effectively has meant that the only option for a long time was to replace corrupt, ineffective civilian government with ruthless, draconian military government.

Finally, the economy in Pakistan has always been extraordinarily lop-sided, with a staggering gap between the rich and poor in the country. Even though the Pakistani economy was able to grow in the last half 2011, much of that growth was simply trying to recover from the devastating hit the country took from flooding over the two previous years and the earthquake in 2005. Much of the country’s spending on social programs and infrastructure is financed by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, and the country is massively in debt. Unemployment is higher than the laughable official figure of 6.6% and the economy’s growth rate, somewhere between 3 and 4%, cannot accommodate the people who will enter the labor force. The current solution, external aid and printing currency through the Central Bank, are both ratcheting up inflation in the country, too. Both Moody’s and the IMF were trying to sound some alarms earlier this year that the Pakistani economy may be in for a bumpy ride this year.

But the population of Pakistan has also been restive. In December, there were sizeable rallies against the US drone strikes. Through January, thousands of people came out repeatedly against gas shortages and high inflation. In February, patients and activists went out to protest the issuance of contaminated cardiac drugs that killed over 100 people in the state of Punjab. There has also been an uptick in industrial actions in Pakistan. Added to this is fresh resistance by the Balochistan Liberation Front against the ongoing military occupation of Balochistan. While the left is still quite small, there are enormous opportunities for it to grow in this period.

All of this points to one unmistakable reality: as long as the elite in Pakistan control the economy and government in Pakistan, there will be nothing but ruin for the hundreds of millions who live there. The current legal fight is only the most recent expression of the problems that the ruling class faces in Pakistan. It neither has an agenda for ruling nor a party capable of implementing its agenda. Having eked by on corruption and repression for so long, the Pakistani establishment seems incapable of changing its tune. It will need ultimately, as in Tunisia and Egypt, to forced out by the heroic resistance of the masses.

Afghan/Pakistani left coming together

From DAWN Newspaper

AfPak left-wing parties to work together for peace

LAHORE, Dec 21: Left-wing parties of Pakistan and Afghanistan have got together for the first time and agreed on working jointly for regional peace and progress. They have rejected any military solution to the problems of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The consensus was developed at a two-day consultation of Leftists from both countries on `Regional Political Context and its Impact on Pakistan and Afghanistan` here on Wednesday.They pledged to devote all their energies to building concrete alternatives to the false choice between Nato and the Taliban. They sought the right to self-determination for Afghanistan as well as adequate and relevant mechanisms to support and sustain it.

The participants belonged to the Awami Party, Pakistan Workers Party, Labour Party Pakistan, Solidarity Party Afghanistan, Afghanistan Revolutionary Organization, Afghanistan Labour Revolutionary Organization and the event was sponsored by the Swedish Left Party.

Alleging that in both neighbouring states the progressive forces had been pushed to the wall through controlled democracies, they set their aim at working together to resist Nato strikes and standing up as a “third option” to bring peace and make progress on both sides of the Durand Line.

Swedish Left Party representative Ann Carin Landstorm said they supported the dialogue to strengthen left-wing progressive movements and parties. She called for a joint and meaningful peace revolution in the region with the moral support of her party.

She welcomed the gathering after devastating periods of history in the region that led to anarchy, chaos and terrorism instrumented by international imperialistic powers.

Afghanistan Revolutionary Organization`s Faridoun Aryan, Afghanistan Labour Revolutionary Organisation president Arif Afghani and Abdul Qadir Ranto and Nasir Shah of Solidarity Party Afghanistan called for peace in their country and condemned the US-led Nato invasion. They urged the Left to get united on a single platform and resist this regime with sincere efforts.

They called for better relations with Pakistani left-wing parties and expediting the efforts to resist the “war on terror”.

Dr Lal Khan, Jamil Umar, Abdul Qadir Ranto and Farooq Tariq of the Labour Party Pakistan also spoke. — Staff Reporter