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.

New Red Indian in Deutsche Welle on Zardari’s speech to the UN

Asif Ali Zardari has denounced an anti-Islam film in his address to the UN General Assembly and called for an international ban on it. Analysts say that the Pakistani president’s demand is hypocritical.

On Tuesday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari began his General Assembly speech by denouncing the US-made anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” and asked world leaders to ban the controversial movie and other “hate material” against the Prophet of Islam.

The low-budget movie sparked violent protests in many Muslim countries. Apart from protests in the Middle East, Islamic parties in many South Asian countries held rallies to speak out against the video and the US government.

In Pakistan, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party’s government – led by President Zardari – announced an official holiday on Friday, September 21, to show solidarity with the Prophet of Islam and to protest against the film. At least 19 people were killed during these protests as violent mobs set public property on fire, also torching a church in the northern city of Mardan, and various US establishments.

Read more here

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.

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. 

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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

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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

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

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

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

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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

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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

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

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Tanweer Haq, Counselor and Advisor on Islam, Syracuse University

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

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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

Review: Kashmir: The Case for Freedom (Tariq Ali, et al)

In the summer of 2010, protests erupted throughout Kashmir, the predominantly Muslim part of what India claims to be its northernmost state, Jammu and Kashmir (Kashmiris have always asserted their independence from India).  Throngs of young men and women defiantly hurled rocks at Indian security forces and set tires on fire to prevent armored vehicles from entering into neighborhoods.  Their chants were bold—“Go, India, Go!” and “Azadi (Independence) for Kashmir” and “Quit Kashmir” (the last being a reference to the slogan of the Indian movement against British colonialism: Quit India).  The rare media outfits that did cover the protests began calling the movement, the Kashmiri Intifada, drawing explicit comparison to the other longstanding occupation in Palestine.  For fear of having international opinion turned against it, the Indian government quickly clamped down on all media coverage of the resistance in Kashmir and opened its playbook to its favorite page: the rock-throwers in Kashmir were quickly dubbed Islamic terrorists.

At the same time, the repression in Kashmir against the population was brutal.  Protests were met with shootings, lathi (baton) charges, the firing of tear gas, curfews, mass arrests, shootings, disappearances, and torture.  The viciousness of the crackdown has its basis in the suspension of any legal oversight or consequence for the Indian security apparatus; since 1990, Kashmir has come under the purview of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which allows, among other things, any soldier or officer to fire upon any group of five or more people or anyone suspected of having a weapon, arrest anyone without a warrant and conduct home invasions. It also gives military personnel full immunity from prosecution for their actions.  Additionally, Kashmir is also one of the most heavily policed and militarized places in the world, with estimates of Indian security forces in the region at well over 700,000 (the Government of India refuses to release official numbers).  It bears underlining that the population of Kashmir is approximately 5.5 million, which means that there is one security personnel for every eight Kashmiris, a ratio which beggars Mubarak’s Egypt.  The carte blanche given to the police and military and the constant rhetoric of Islamic insurgency have proven to be a deadly and humiliating mix for ordinary Kashmiri civilians.  In one shocking video that was uploaded to youtube, Indian soldiers were seen parading young Kashmiri men naked through their village en route to a military camp.

Kashmir: The Case for Freedom, with contributions by Tariq Ali, Hilal Bhatt, Angana Chatterji, Pankaj Mishra and Arundhati Roy and selections of poems by the 16th-century Kashmiri poet, Habbah Khatun, comes at an important time, as new political and economic realities put the resistance of the Kashmiri people back on the map of global protest.  The book is essentially a handbook for human rights activists across the world, who have seen the protest movement in Kashmir grow but who have been left confused by the obfuscations which pass for journalism and the lies which are official politics in India, Pakistan, and the United States.  The overwhelming conclusion that any reader can come to after reading the book is the simple and straightforward one that Arundhati Roy arrives at: “Does any government have the right to take away people’s liberty with military force?  India needs azadi from Kashmir just as much—if not more—than Kashmir needs azadi from India.”

Kashmir has long tradition of religious syncretism, cultural innovation, and political resistance, but an equally long legacy of feudal, colonial, and now sub-imperial conquest.  The crux of the contemporary problem stems from the opportunistic way that the independence and partition of the Indian subcontinent was carried out and the vicious way that those terms are enforced on the population.  When British rule was established in Kashmir in 1846, Kashmir (recently conquered by the Sikh invader Ranjit Singh in 1819) was sold off to Dogra royalty (the Hindu rulers of neighboring Jammu) for 7.5 million rupees, 6 pairs of shawl goats, and 3 shawls (under the absurd Treaty of Amritsar).  Dogra rule was economically ruinous for the population who were reduced to a condition of absurd poverty; the few young people who could, escaped to other places in India, where they were radicalized and returned to raise slogans of freedom, justice, and land reform.  Before the partition of India, the dominant politics of the movement for Kashmiri independence, led by Sheikh Abdullah, were a heady mix of socialism and nationalism, not political Islam as is often claimed by more contemporary analysts.

When the British left India, the 565 prince states which had maintained a degree of political autonomy through treaties with the British were given the choice of acceding either to India or Pakistan or remaining independent.  Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, still hadn’t decided; leaders of the Muslim League were attempting to woo him to Pakistan, while his Hindu sympathies seemed to incline him in favor of India.  Leaders in Pakistan decided not to wait and planned an invasion.  Hari Singh, worried about being deposed militarily, quickly negotiated an accession to India in exchange for military support.  But under the terms of the agreement, Kashmir was to be allowed a referendum to determine the will of the people on the question of accession.  Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, despite publicly proclaiming his support for the plebiscite (as Arundhati Roy’s excellent collection of excerpts of his speeches shows), ultimately reneged on his promise.  The Indian army was able to repel the Pakistani invaders only up to a point; the current Line of Control which divides Kashmir more or less marks the results of that confrontation.  Since then, Kashmir has become a pawn in the cynical and deadly game between India and Pakistan.  India uses Kashmir to claim that it is a democratic society (but does so by rigging elections, importing pliable Hindu rulers, imprisoning elected leaders, brutally oppressing the population), while Pakistan claims that it is interested in Kashmiri independence (despite having flooded the Valley with guns and an intolerant variant of Islam and denying independence to its other occupied territory, Balochistan).

The book makes two important contributions to our understanding of what has happened in Kashmir since that point.  The first has to do with the form of the resistance, which has shifted over the years from secular nationalism to Islamist politics and back again.  The period between the 1940s and the early 1980s was dominated by the secular, nationalist forces in Kashmir organized under Sheikh Abdullah who initially sought some kind of compromise with the Indian state for greater autonomy within a larger federation.  When even democratic dialogue broke down and India reneged on promises, a few groups (like the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front) broke away from the dominant nationalist coalition and began waging a guerrilla struggle.  At the same time, Pakistan flush with arms and militants it was recruiting and training for the American-sponsored resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, began both recruiting Kashmir youth to jihadi outfits and began to send Islamist groups into Kashmir as well as providing weapons and training to secular groups as well (though they eventually stopped backing these groups all together).  The devastating effects of that policy on ordinary Kashmiris are documented in Hilal Bhatt’s personal essay in the collection.  But by the late 1990s, Islamist organizations had exhausted whatever appeal they may have had as their social policies came into conflict with Kashmiri ideologies and their inability to produce a military solution meant that ordinary Kashmiris were the ones suffering for the barbaric Indian crackdown that followed those terrorist activities.  The last decade of resistance has been characterized by secular, democratic opposition to the policies of the Indian state, a reality which goes against all of the mainstream propaganda that Kashmir is another front in the war on terror.

The second has to do with the staggering scale of violence that the Indian state perpetrates against the Kashmiri population (the condition of the Pakistani administered section while poor, is not nearly as bloody).  As Angana Chatterji puts it, “Kashmir is a landscape of internment, where resistance is deemed ‘insurgent’ by state institutions.”  [Chatterji and her husband, Richard Shapiro, have been targeted by the Indian government for their views on Kashmir and were both recently fired from their jobs at the California Institute of Integral Studies, in part, for their outspoken political advocacy.]  Part of the reason that Kashmir is so brutally repressed is because the Indian state is now governed by an ideology which requires the fiction of a massive security threat in order to justify exorbitant expenditures on its military and police forces.  This fiction is propped up, as Chatterji argues, by an ideology which amalgamates Hindu chauvinism, neoliberalism, and authoritarian statecraft.  The result has been the wholesale criminalization of even the mildest form of public protest.  Most recently, the police filed sedition charges against Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education for showing a man in blue carrying a stick under the Urdu letter “zoi” for “zaalim” (oppressor).  The police have charged everyone affiliated with the book with criminal conspiracy, defamation, and provocation with the intent to breach peace, since the innocuous depiction was assumed to be a police officer.  In another instance, an English professor, Noor Mohammad Bhat, was thrown in jail for administering a “provocative” examination assignment.

Despite making the case for an independent Kashmir and offering a brilliant indictment of the Indian government’s claim to being the largest democracy on the planet, the book falls short on one important point, namely in pointing out a strategy by which that independence can come about if armed struggle, mass protest, and even political compromise have all failed in turn.  The unfortunate reality in Kashmir is that it is extremely similar to Palestine, where the indigenous populations lack the necessary social force to repel the violence of occupation forces and then are forced into taking part in the opportunistic diplomacy of larger states around them.  But like Palestine, the Kashmiris have allies in both Pakistan and India who have no interest in the occupation of Kashmir, in fact whose lives would immediately be improved if both Pakistan and India were to stop spending Himalayan sums on security personnel and instead spend money on eradicating poverty.  The Indian and Pakistani working classes have common enemies—their own states—and the end to the occupation in Kashmir will only be the result of their unified struggle.  This though is only the slightest of criticisms; the spirit if not the explicit argument of the Arab Spring runs throughout this entire book.

[Special thanks to Huma Dar for suggestions and edits.]

Self-determination for Balochistan

Last week, three Republicans (Dana Rohrabacher, Louie Gohmert, and Steve King) sponsored a bill “recognizing Baluchistan’s right to self-determination.” This sparked widespread condemnation by the Pakistani ruling and military class (who saw the maneuver as meddling in internal politics) and enthusiastic support from several voices in Balochistan (who saw the resolution and the hearings that preceded it as evidence that their case was finally getting a hearing in the west). The problem is that the Balochi right to self-determination is being caught in the same ambush which trapped the Kurds in Iraq: the weakness of their position vis-à-vis Pakistan is forcing them into a compromise with American imperialism, which has already shown itself no great ally of national liberation struggles.

The Obama administration and leading Republicans were quick to distance themselves from the resolution; the establishment line continues to be that Pakistan is more important as an ally than as an enemy. David Dreier (R-CA) spoke to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to assure him that the US is fully behind the national integrity of Pakistan. All mention of the Pakistani government’s role in the horrors in Balochistan was quickly swept under the rug. At the same time, the bill is the latest salvo in the Pakistan-bashing which has been commonplace in the US as an explanation for the Afghan quagmire, the seemingly endless sources of Islamists, and the like; Rohrabacher’s bill is part of a small but vocal line of thought which sees the break-up of Pakistan as important to the “war on terror” and the coming conflict with Iran.

The fight between Christine Fair and Rohrabacher reveals some of the thinking that is behind this resolution. The real injustices done to the Baloch people are being used as sticks with which the Pakistani establishment will be humbled. In fact, offhand comments by members of Rohrabacher’s staff were picked up by the Pakistani press; one of them was overheard saying that the resolution was an opportunity to “stick it to the Pakistanis.” One suspects, too, that the decision to support the Baloch cause was opportunistic; there has been so little debate and discussion about the longstanding grievances of the Balochis in the US.

As Praveen Swami recently reported, the Pakistani military has long conducted a dirty war in Balochistan: assassinations, rape, collective punishment, disappearances. Since the establishment of Pakistan, there has been a dominant strain of Baloch politics which sought independence from Pakistan; there is also a strain which has been coopted into the establishment of Pakistan which prefers unity over independence. The Baloch Liberation Army is only the most recent formation under which the Baloch organized themselves to fight the Pakistani military.

Almost immediately, the Pakistani government cut a deal with Baloch leaders who were living in exile, presumably so that they could both pacify restive Balochis and re-establish connections to erstwhile allies. A package of economic reforms was also announced for Balochistan:

INCENTIVES: The meeting decided that the federal government will release Rs4 billion to the Water and Power Development Authority on account of its share of subsidy for farmers of Balochistan.

A total of 15,000 graduates and post-graduates from the province will be given jobs under the prime minister’s Internship Programme.

They will work as schoolteachers and get a stipend of Rs15,000 per month.

About 2,400 federal government jobs will be filled on merit with the assistance of members of the National Assembly and Senate from Balochistan.

The meeting decided to award one-step promotion to any officer coming to Islamabad from the province on deputation.

It also decided to double the number of beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme to 750,000.

The strength of Federal Levies Force will be raised from 3,500 to 6,500 through fresh recruitment.

The meeting decided to increase the number of brilliant students from Balochistan to 500 from 150 for providing free education to them with effect from the next academic year and to create an endowment fund of Rs5 billion to sustain the programme.

The Capital Development Authority will allot plots to the Balochistan government for construction of two hostels for students and officers in Islamabad.

The Frontier Corps will not be move in any district without the permission of the deputy commissioner and will not set up any check-post without the approval of the chief minister.

Confident that it has the ear of the west, the Baloch Republican Party rejected the package and praised the Republican congressmen for their support. While American imperialist interest and Balochi national interest may move in similar directions for a while, they will necessarily diverge as Balochistan is asked to be the military-base-of-the-month (which is the only way, it seems, that independence happens with American backing) against Iran and Pakistan. This is not the preferred option for the American ruling class, but it’s hard to imagine that either Santorum or Romney doesn’t start picking up this line in the debates very soon.

The Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians gets the analysis right, I think:

While any publicity about the discrimination and violence faced by Sindhis and the Baloch is to be welcomed long experience, more recently confirmed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now in Syria shows that US and western concerns about human rights violations are merely a fig leaf to provide a cover for the naked pursuit of their own selfish imperial interests.

The Pakistani state’s unjust and ruthless treatment of the Baloch, even when their elected leadership accepted the constitutional framework adopted during Z.A. Bhutto’s government in 1973 in good faith as a step toward equitable relations, is the direct cause of the desire among many Baloch to seek independence; as are repeated ‘actions’ by the military in the rise of the Baloch armed resistance movement – reminiscent of the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) in East Pakistan’s war of independence.

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

Islamophobia: from the “war on terror” to the Arab Spring

* Many people asked for a copy of my presentation at UCSC about Islamophobia so I’m posting my notes here.  I haven’t organized them into a coherent speech (I may do that later) but only tried to highlight some of the main arguments that I made (so I apologize if the prose is choppy and the transitions are missing).

I’m going to do something a little different than what you might expect – I think that most of us in this room probably begin with a baseline assumption that discrimination against Arabs and Muslims is wrong, so I won’t try to tell you how bad it is for them.

It’s perhaps enough to list at the outset that Islamophobia since 9/11 has produced a 10 fold increase in hate crimes against Muslims (the greatest number of hate crimes per group capita in the US); a targeting of Arabs and Muslims by law enforcement agencies; a targeting of Muslim places of worship and Qur’an burnings; a number of ridiculous laws including ones that make it illegal to implement something called “Sharia law”; employment discrimination; racial profiling at the airport; etc.

It was a problem before 9/11 but the war on terror has definitely ratcheted up the scale and scope of the problem.

I think that we all begin from the premise that this is wrong and that something needs to be done about it.  If we don’t begin with this premise, then much of this talk will seem like it is either senseless propaganda or irrelevant.

I’m also going to make a number of tendentious claims that will be developed in this presentation but I want to tell you what they are at the outset so that you have a sense of where this presentation is going to go

#1: The war in the middle east is intimately connected to Islamophobia (this is the Harry Potter thesis – the anti-war movement and Islamophobia cannot coexist) – Islamophobia and empire share a long history in Europe and the US.  I study narratives and what I can tell you about the Islamophobia narrative is that it is designed to erase the footprint of American empire – Arabs and Muslims hate our way of life and not our policies, we didn’t do anything to them, they are simply irrationally angry.  It then gets disconnected from its uses in foreign policy and affects us differently – I’ll talk about that, too.  But in the main, it’s about American foreign policy.

#2: To fight Islamophobia consistently, one also has to be a consistent critic of Zionism

#3: Islamophobia is used to justify collective punishment against Muslims and Arabs as a kind of principle of first strike – everything we do to them is justifiable because they are going to do worse things to us.

#4:  Islamophobia will get its most serious challenge from the activity of ordinary Muslims themselves (either in the US or in the middle east)

#5: The fight against Islamophobia is intimately connected to the fights against all oppression (sexism, racism, homophobia) – in fact, Islamophobia is used to short-circuit these movements in very specific ways

What I’d like to start with though is a little background about the attacks on people who talk about Middle east politics and the war and about Islam in the US.  In 2003 I taught a class on Palestinian poetry (you see why I like tendentious claims.  It became the source of some substantial controversy.  But one of the things that it made me aware of that I didn’t know before was of the way that the academy is policed and certain ideas are not really tolerated.  There is a right-wing conservative cabal that is hostile to all kinds of things from evolution to LGBT studies.  There is also a pro-Israeli cabal that is hostile to any criticism of Israel.  I’m going to talk about these cabals a little later because they are also the chief developers of Islamophobic literature in the US, they populate the airwaves and specifically Fox News, and they are pro-war.  The level of scrutiny that they have placed on college campuses has meant that people who teach about the war critically or who teach ideas that undermine the claims of the state of Israel have been hounded from their jobs, have been denied tenure, have faced death threats, etc.  They’ve also worked with law enforcement agencies to police the activities of activists and Muslim and Arab student groups.  And have generally created a climate of fear on college campuses – I’ve written and talked about this at length, partly because I’m one of the original offenders in the post-9/11 era.  But in many ways, what this also shows is the importance of ethnic studies curricula in the US academy as one of the few places where critical ideas can be developed and explored.   I just want to give my thanks to the students on this campus who have been campaigning for ethnic studies as part of their understanding that knowledge production in the American academy should produce some ideas that are critical of empire.

What I want to do is explain where Islamophobia comes from, how it perpetuates itself and reproduces its own claims as common sense, and what can be done to combat it.  In producing this explanation I am going to be offering up a historical materialist account of Islamophobia, by which I mean that I am going to explain how Islamophobia arises at a particular stage in the development of historical forces (in this instance European colonialism and American imperialism) and changes as those forces changes in their aims and needs. I take as a starting point the idea that Islamophobia is an invention, that there is nothing in human nature or religion as such which automatically produces hostility between Islam and Judeo-Christian and/or Hindu religions, and that the fear of Islam relies on some rather banal and easily identifiable tropes in order to capture the imagination of ordinary people. In doing so I want to argue that Islamophobia (like all chauvinisms) is fundamentally deployed in order to get ordinary people to do things and to support policies that are fundamentally against their own interests.  So most people in the US do not benefit from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya – in fact their lives would be better if that money was spent on health care, jobs, education – but they end up supporting the war because they believe that they need to sacrifice in order to secure the nation against the imminent threat posed by Islam.

At its core, Islamophobia is designed to produce an elegant and inaccurate pseudo-history and pseudo-science which stands in the place of real history and real knowledge, in that it utilizes clichés, stereotypes, and anecdotes to take the place of any real understanding of the lives of Arabs and Muslims.   So, violent Islamist ideology is supposed to be rooted in the Qur’an and not in the selective recruitment and training of Islamist ideologues by the US.  Terror is supposed to be a part of the Arab and Muslim psyche, with every Muslim a secret terrorist just waiting to be activated, and not the result of a century of European and then American imperialism in the region.  And Arab and Muslim backwardness is a cultural fact and not the product of American and European meddling in the governments of every single Arab and Muslim country in the region.

Islamophobic ideas are easy to understand, they don’t require overmuch thinking, and they are easy to find examples of in the real world, thus confirming the notion that fear of Islam is normal and those that are opposed to Islamophobia are apologists for Islam’s violent and oppressive nature.  Because if we didn’t believe the narrative about “why they hate us”, we would have no reason to be at war, we would have no reason to support Israel over the Palestinians, and we would have no reasons to voluntarily suspend our civil liberties.  Ultimately it undermines any credibility in American foreign policy in the middle east in its entirety.

I want to say something else at the outset as well: it’s important to differentiate between the different sources of Islamophobic rhetoric and activism because it structures the kinds of campaigns that can be organized.

  1. Official Islamophobia

i.      Foreign policy, official narratives, legislation

ii.      Requires nothing short of a complete overhaul of the state to do away with this and large scale organizing.

iii.      Part of the argument that I want to make is that the persistence of Islamophobia has less to do with the civilizational or cultural values of the west (some like Stephen Sheehi, for instance, with whom I agree much of the time, like to argue that it is hardwired into white people as part of white supremacy) and more to do with the persistence of imperial policies and imperialism which requires control over the region where Arabs and Muslims live.  And so, Islamophobia persists as long as imperialism persists.

  1. Populist Islamophobia

i.      News, books, ideologues

ii.      This is the sort of campaign that is produced by organizing hysteria around things like the “ground zero mosque” or the “islamo-fascism awareness week” and it has clear personalities and organizations that are connected to it.

iii.      It might be important to note that this is one of the ways that Zionist and Hindutva organizations have made themselves part of the American mainstream is by sharing their respective hatreds for Islam with the American right.

iv.      The primary function of populist Islamophobia is to skew the debate very far to the right so that official Islamophobia looks reasonable by comparison: as Mahmood Mamdani puts it, by differentiating between good Muslims and bad Muslims (i.e. Muslims who support the war and those who are opposed to the war) official Islamophobia acquires a patina of moderation in contrast, and allowed Bush and Obama to say things like “our Muslim friends” all the while pursuing policies that were detrimental to most Muslims.

v.      Can be confronted with group organizing

vi.      The fundamental point of this is winning greater numbers of activists to the cause of being consistent fighters against Islamophobia

  1. Interpersonal Islamophobia

i.      Usually a response to real economic/social grievances that find no outlet

ii.      Very hard to confront individually but can be challenged in the context of larger political shifts.

Islamophobia is a direct result of American foreign policy in two ways: first it produces the very Muslims that it claims it needs to fight and then it produces an ideology which gives cover for that fight.  I’ll explain.  During the course of the Cold War, the US consciously groomed Islamist groups in order to fight the Soviet Union and its secular allies throughout the middle east and Africa.  The best account of this is really Mahmood Mamdani’s GOOD MUSLIM BAD MUSLIM in which he shows how the American established produced a narrative of saving Islam from itself in order to justify its own foreign policies: this sometimes included propping up dictators (who were friends of the US); supporting dissident groups (against enemies of the US); and defending American values selectively in those places where America was trying to gain a foothold.  The Taliban were trained by the Pakistani ISI at the behest of the US; bin Laden was recruited by the CIA to fight the Soviet Union; Hamas was propped up in part by Israel in order to undermine the PLO, etc.  In country after country where a secular socialist organization existed to challenge the state, the US saw the communist menace looming and cultivated an Islamic organization to challenge it.

One index of this is that the textbooks that were used in the madrassahs on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan were written by graduate students at the University of Nebraska — Omaha.  They literally found a strain of Islamic thought that was an irrelevant fringe and then gave it money and supplies and resources and trained it to fight the Soviet Union everywhere.  This also changed from time to time – they didn’t always cultivate good anti-communist Muslims.  Sometimes they also just let the old racist ideas seep back in, for instance, in the wake of the oil embargo led by OPEC in 1973, you saw the rise of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab chauvinism in Hollywood.  The best account of this is REEL BAD ARABS by Jack Sheheen.

After the Cold War, the US was able to erase its footprints in Islamist ideology by pretending that these groups were produced by the Qur’an rather than by American intervention.  So that when the US became the sole superpower, it had an easy enemy in Islam against which to wage a “war” which was really about control over the resources of the region.  The loosened reins on racist propaganda allowed the US to market the war as a war of liberation rather a war of plunder

Part of this was predicated on two lies that the US easily sold to the American public:  That all Muslim groups are essentially the same;  That the US has done nothing wrong in the region.  It allowed the US to appear as the victim rather than the culprit in the war between the west and the rest.  As Stephen Sheehi put it, “Suspecting every Muslim and Arab as a ‘potential terrorist’ enabled the United States to put forward a narrative justifying its hegemony in a region that is perceived to be a potential threat to the new global order.”[1]

And it gave cover for the attack on civil liberties in the US in profound ways some of which link up with other social justice issues that I won’t really have time to talk about fully, including the fight for immigration reform in the US.  But I do want to give you one quick example.  In 2006, the FBI paid an agent-provocateur named Craig Monteilh, a professional con-man and shady informant convicted of several felonies, had infiltrated the Islamic Center of Irvine.  He tried to befriend Muslim men, study Arabic and offered to be a personal trainer.  By 2007, members of the mosque became so alarmed by the Monteilh’s “jihadi” talk that they reported him to the CAIR, local law enforcement and the FBI.  They even got a restraining order placed on Monteilh.  The FBI then approached a member of the mosque, Ahmed Niazi, and attempted to convince him to be an informant for them.  When he refused, he was charged with a series of immigration violations, which involved the standard guilt-by-association and Muslim-baiting nonsense that characterizes much Islamophobia (i.e. his sister was married to a Pakistani national who was deemed to be a terrorist by the USA).  The combination of the fear produced by the war on terror and the opacity of ever-complex immigration laws in which most immigrants don’t or can’t know their rights meant that Niazi’s case was in many ways emblematic of the kinds of things that happen to Muslims in the US.

One more example, the Bush Administration, led by John Ashcroft, detained and deported more foreign nationals in one year than any other administration in US history; even more than did the anti-anarchist Palmer Raids in 1919 and 1920 which deported hundreds, including Emma Goldman.

What Islamophobia has done is create a kind of culture of disinterest and pseudo-pragmatism: we have to give up some rights to feel safe.  One more example – because this one is quite recent – to make this homology between American foreign and domestic policy complete. NYU law school’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice recently put out a report called “Targeted and Entrapped: manufacturing the homegrown threat in the United States” which documents how law enforcement agencies basically produced the problem they were discharged to solve, and then used entrapment to justify their own existence:  “In the cases this Report examines, the government’s informants held themselves out as Muslims and looked in particular to incite other Muslims to commit acts of violence. The government’s informants introduced and aggressively pushed ideas about violent jihad and, moreover, actually encouraged the defendants to believe it was their duty to take action against the United States. In two of the three cases, the government relied on the defendants’ vulnerabilities—poverty and youth, for example—in its inducement methods. In all three cases, the government selected or encouraged the proposed locations that the defendants would later be accused of targeting. In all three cases, the government also provided the defendants with, or encouraged the defendants to acquire, material evidence, such as weaponry or violent videos, which would later be used to convict them.”

I will be making a number of tendentious propositions in this talk, and I’m going to number them for you, so tendentious proposition #1: getting rid of Islamophobia is intimately connected with ending American imperialism – neither can survive without the other.  Let’s call this the Harry Potter thesis.

Two things to say about this.  One of the reasons that the anti-war movement in the US went into decline was its unwillingness to take seriously the ways that Islamophobia was being used to justify the war.  Early on in the war in Afghanistan, a number of left and liberal groups began defending the war as a way to free Afghan women from the oppressive policies of the Taliban.  Hillary Clinton led this charge, and it more or less meant that rather than act as consistent opponents to American empire, a good chunk of the left hedged their bets and hoped that feminism would come from the barrel of a gun.  In fact, Islamophobia, more than other chauvinisms, has been used to coopt liberal causes into defending the war, as Islam is characterized over and again as opposed to women, gays, rights, and modernity.  Liberal imperialism in the United States is defined by its use of humanitarian and civil rights discourse to intervene in the middle east.

Because this matters to me, it bears underlining that this was always part of the logic of imperialism – the best critic of this rhetoric is actually Aime Cesaire who argues in Discourse of Colonialism that imperialism uses its civilizing mission to paper over its barbarian mission.

As long as the war continues, ordinary Muslims, here and abroad, will continue to suffer, because the justification for American military intervention continues to be the incapacity of Muslims to be left to their own devices.

And it’s important also to say that this is not an instrumentalist reading of Islamophobia (i.e. one that makes the ideology merely the outgrowth of American foreign policy) because as should be clear, the kind of Islamophobia that the American ruling class needs is different than the fascistic and populist one that is spreading through the grassroots.

There has always been a contradiction in American Islamophobia throughout the Cold War and it continues in strange ways today.  In the Cold War, American Islamophobia was predicated on hatred for the ordinary Arab/Muslim but a deep appreciation and connection to Arab and Muslim leaders allied to the US. After the Cold War it became a pathetic sympathy for ordinary helpless Arabs and a deep distrust of every Muslim. Some of these contradictions are now being born out in the complicated and contradictory policies that the Obama administration is pursuing with respect to the Arab revolutions (the Arab Spring as it is now being called): hedging its bets in some instances, trying to reestablish American dominance in other regions, but never quite coming out in enthusiastic support for the revolutionary processes taking place, because doing so would mean an upending of the entire project of American imperialism.

What defines American Islamophobia (and how it shares the same narratives as much of American racism):

The one-drop rule is now the one-website or the one-dollar rule (so giving to an Islamic charity or going to an Islamic website more or less confirms that you might be a terrorist).  Islam breeds terrorist (much the way that being black was supposed to be synonymous with violence).  Driving while black is flying while Muslim; Internment is now called Guantanamo.

Post-9/11 American multiculturalism (neo-liberalism) both “tolerates” Islam (by reminding us that there are good Muslims out there – implying that there are also bad ones) and does nothing to defend it when them when Islam comes under attack.  At the same time, post-9/11 American conservatism stokes Islamophobia cynically to provide an alibi for foreign intervention and opportunistically in order to achieve short-term political advantage.

Over the last  ten years it’s been a grueling process of watching Islamophobia metastasize in the US AND watching the apologists for Islamophobia pretend to be victims

  1. Peter King – the hearings about Islam
  2. The Ground Zero Mosque controversy
  3. The organized Qur’an burnings
  4. The frenzy after the Major Nidal Hassan shooting at Fort Hood
  5. The Tennessee law which bans Sharia law (following the Oklahoma law)
  6. Texas “Sharia Law Amendment” (HJR 57)
  7. The Obama presidency – and the death of Osama bin Laden

Some like to define Islamophobia as an irrational fear of Muslims and this is true, but it’s not really complete as a definition, since what it ignores is where this fear comes from.  I prefer to think of it as the latest stage in the evolution of ideas about Muslims, ongoing since the 18th century (what Edward Said called Orientalism – and it’s worth saying that this was really a European phenomenon) and put to new ends. So I am following a whole range of scholarship including important research by Mahmood Mamdani and Stephen Sheehi who argue that modern Islamophobia (really contemporary Islamophobia) results from the combination of racist ideas about Muslims (which are not new) and the needs of American foreign policy after the fall of the Soviet Union

It might be worth saying something about history here for a moment both about American foreign policy and domestic policy.  America has had racist policies about Arabs since the late 19th century where there were both restrictions on immigration and anti-miscegenation laws which argued that America could not have its good racial stock diluted by the entry of Arab (barbarian) blood. But American foreign policy has actually been complicated during the course of the Cold War in which political Islam was cynically deployed to serve American foreign policy needs.  The goal was to displace left-leaning and secular governments throughout the Arab world, because it was seen to be too close to the Soviet Union. But after the fall of the Soviet Union, it became necessary for American foreign policy to find new explanations for its foreign power projection.It found this first in the Gulf War (1991) and then with 9/11.  And it has used a demonization of Islam and a misunderstanding of Islam in order to convince Americans that these were good wars.

And we can talk about the alibis that were used to defend intervention.  Perhaps the best way to understand it is to see how cultural liberalism announces its own relationship to Islam (which they always call Islamism and then pretend that they are making a clear distinction).  The following is from “The Manifesto: together facing the new totalitarianism” which was signed by Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji, and Tasleema Nasreen to name a few.  The manifesto came out after the controversy surrounding the Dutch cartoons which depicted Muhammad as a suicide bomber.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man’s domination of woman, the Islamists’ domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people. We reject « cultural relativism », which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of “Islamophobia”, an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers. We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas. We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.

And this then becomes the composite picture (caricature) of Muslims everywhere:

  1. Muslims are a monolithic category of people who can best be understood by reading the Qur’an: “it is not politics that produces (varieties of) Islam in history.  Instead, “Islam” produces politics.”
  2. Islam is resistant to modernity
  3. Islam represses/oppresses its adherents
  4. That an intolerant Islam can be converted into a tolerant Islam (usually through some combination of modernity, atheism, or reformation)
  5. Islam is a monolithic religion
  6. Islam is a terrorist religion and a religion of violence
  7. Islam is inherently anti-democratic and ill-liberal (and also ill-humored)
  8. Islam teaches a hate of western democracy and capitalism
  9. Islam hates its women
  10. All Muslims can best be understood by reading the Qur’an (selectively)
  11. And most importantly, Islam is impervious to change

The good Muslim/bad Muslim paradox:  The good Muslim is the one who agrees with us and doesn’t want to hurt us – i.e. the one who parrots American foreign policy (and who by definition is also a “bad” Muslim).  Here’s how Edward Said puts it: “the content of this worldview has become so predictable that we can use it to generate a reliable profile, a stereotype, of the contemporary Islamophobe, who is apt to believe that Muslims are (openly or in the secrecy of their own mosques and languages) violent extremists, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian, averse to democracy, oppressive of women, culturally backward, and dedicated to establishing Islamic law around the world.”

What seemed to happen is some very quick soundbites came together and were rapidly repeated on the air by people from both sides of the aisle.  Because the fact of the matter continues to be that the real justifications for American foreign policy projection have nothing to do with democracy and feminism and have everything to with control over important geostrategic assets.  So, it is more important to understand Islamophobia as a set of ideas that have been deployed and are getting a hearing because of their ability to explain why the US needs to be in Iraq and Afghanistan (and now Libya).

8)      Tendentious claim #2: American Islamophobia can only  be fought from the perspective of a consistent anti-Zionism

What American Islamophobia is, plain and simple, is a rehearsal of Zionist arguments used to vilify Palestinians.  In Israel you have a colonial-settler state which pretends as though it is the victim of Arab aggression when in fact it is the perpetrator of violence against ordinary Palestinians.  The logic of Zionism requires erasing Israeli involvement in the ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Palestine as the reason for Palestinian anger against the state of Israel.  In the place of a legitimate political grievance, Israel produces a narrative of irrational Arab hatred and endemic anti-semitism (which we are supposed to be sympathetic to because one of the reasons that the European powers allowed Jewish settlement in Israel to expand was because of the holocaust).  And now there is a direct connection between the ideologues of Zionism in Israel and their supporters in the US.   So if you look at the people who are peddling most of the Islamophobic nonsense in the US you will find that many of them are on the payroll of Zionist outfits, frequent speakers at their conferences, frequent defenders of Israel in hearings at the House and Senate, etc. One of the reasons that Islamophobia and Zionism are so intimately connected is that the procedure of erasing historical memory and replacing it with the story of angry Arab and Muslim men was perfected in Israel and continues to be the way that the cause of Palestinian liberation is undermined.  In fact, if you aren’t willing to criticize Israel’s use of violence against Palestinians and see the cause of Zionism as analogous to apartheid, it will necessarily lead you back to the logic of Islamophobia – why else would Israel do the things that it does to Palestinians.

9)      Tendentious claim #3: the deployment of the vocabulary of “terror” and “terrorism” against the US is designed to erase the experience of collective punishment and violence of Arabs and Muslims, such that anything the US does to them is justifiable because they are going to do it to us first.

  1. The bombing of innocent civilians by unmanned drones
  2. The torture of civilians at Bagram and Abu Ghraib
  3. The decades’ long sanctions on Iraq
  4. The refusal to lift a finger to ease the suffering of Palestinians

Tendentious claim #4: the biggest challenge to Islamophobia will come from the activity of ordinary Muslims and Arabs themselves – the most spectacular examples of which are the events of the Arab Spring, the Iraqi resistance, and the Palestinian intifada.

In the wake of the revolutions that sweeping across the middle East and north Africa currently, it is much harder to convince people that Arabs and Muslims as a people are incapable of governing themselves or challenging the powerful and implementing democratic reforms.  In the wake of the economic crisis that is hitting the US the rational for the war is becoming harder and harder to justify and people are less willing to believe the lies that are told about Arabs and Muslims.  Muslims were fighting for democracy; women in hijabs were fighting the police; people were openly debating religion and the state and critiquing American foreign policy in largely peaceful ways.  The picture of the congenitally violent Muslim was being replaced with the picture of the Arab and Muslim revolutionary. This is part of the reason that public employees in Wisconsin used the example of Egypt in their protests against Governor “Hosni Mubarak” Walker.  It was inspiring to see the organic solidarity between workers in Wisconsin and the people in the streets in Egypt.  So we have some real opportunities here to organize to change people’s minds.

But there’s one lesson to take from American history and it’s an important one.  No ethnic or religious minority in the US has been able to make a dent in racism without organizing and protesting to demand fairness. The 50s and 60s were the Black Power and Civil Rights movements.  The 70s saw the Brown Berets and the Chicano power movements

Tendentious claim #5: the fight against Islamophobia is intimately connected to the fight against all forms of oppression, including racism, sexism, and homophobia.


[1] Stephen Sheehi, Islamophobia: the ideological campaign against Muslims (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2011) 174.


Worth reading

From India Together: a news piece on slum residents in Golibar fighting back against forcible displacement by developers from Mumbai.

The ongoing battle between these Golibar residents, who have refused to move out of the ruins of their homes, and the builder – Shivalik Ventures – epitomises the struggle of the urban poor to be recognised, with dignity, as a vital cog in the city’s economy. It is a demand for Mumbai’s elite to acknowledge the poor’s need for spaces in a city where, according to the Human Development Report compiled by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and the UNDP, one in every two residents of the city lives in a slum.

Ashish Khetan at Tehelka has an interesting expose of the Godhra verdict and how the Hindutva forces have tried to push their anti-Muslim campaign under the rug:

What happened to the Sabarmati Express on 27 February 2002 will always be a blot on the nation’s conscience. It deserves fair but harsh retribution. There can be no arguing that. What is being argued is whether this was a horrific upsurge of mob anger or a premeditated conspiracy. That there was a conspiracy afoot in Gujarat those years is undoubtable. But as this story shows, it was a conspiracy of a different kind. It was a conspiracy designed to rent the fabric of this country: a conspiracy by State machinery to blacken one community’s name. And declare them the enemy.