Are Muslims the New Niggers of America? – My Comment on Roger Ebert’s Post

Rogert Ebert is probably the most famous film critic in the world, who has also become a twitter sensation. But of late, Roger Ebert has been the center of attention for completely different reasons. Ebert is a noted critic of the Republican politicians like Sarah Palin who are opposing the Park 51 Muslim Community Center, dubbed incorrectly as the “Ground Zero Mosque”,  and sees the controversy as a missed opportunity to show to the world the Constitutional freedoms that Americans can enjoy.

But in relation to his opinion and comments about the Park 51 controversy, the right wingers have actually resorted to criticize Roger Ebert for his views, for supposedly sympathizing with the “terrorists” and for accusing Sarah Palin to be resorting to tactics from Mein Kampf, the autobiography of Adolf Hitler. Despite the criticism on Ebert, his mention of Sarah Palin in the context is correct, since it was her initiative, along with other politicians like Newt Gingrich, which fueled the controversy.

And this post will further illustrate why this controversy is encouraging the notion of hatred against Islam among Americans, which is the most dangerous part of the story.

One of his very recent posts for his blog for the Chicago Sun-Times “10 Things I Know About the Mosque” offer a very balanced and common-sense perspective on the issue and I felt compelled to comment on the post myself.

“Brilliant piece. The correct reaction to this blown-out-of-proportion issue is common sense really. So are American values and the rights offered by the American constitution. While those who oppose Park 51 maintain that it is not about the religion, they maintain that mosques are “monuments to terrorism” and that Muslims are terrorists. The simple translation to that is: “We don’t like you Muslims, and you can get the hell out of here.” Which is fine, but unAmerican. Given their viewpoint, there should not even be a single mosque in the NYC because the World Trade Center was located in the city, which suffered the 9/11 attacks, leave alone building Park 51 on the proposed spot. I just hope that feeling does not spread out to the rest of the America, although I have a feeling it already has, with anti-mosque protesters rising voice in other states like Tennessee. If things get too worse, this could be the beginning of the end of the religious freedom of Muslims in America. I hope not, but if that happens, then America would need to consider a fact: Are we not resorting to the same values for which we bomb other countries?”

August 26, 2010 4:25 PM

While I won’t go explaining my comment, which really was made on the spur of the moment, I would just like to reflect on a few things here. The location of the Park 51 Community Center, which just contains prayer halls and is not a mosque, has certainly stirred a controversy, which in my opinion is absurd, but nevertheless respecting the sentiments of the families of the 9/11 victim, I would consider it to be an issue in the first place. Probably the sanest analysis of the issue which I have come across so far comes from Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and pretty much reflects what I think about the issue.

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment: There is No Ground Zero Mosque

However, in the wake of the opposition to the proposed community center, many people who opposed the very idea of a Muslim place of worship found an excuse to spew out their hatred for the Muslim community. Most of these anti-Mosque protesters hold that “Mosques are monuments to terrorism”. While they have all the right to think in that way, preventing the construction of mosques is denying Muslims their religious freedom and civil rights, which is unAmerican, which would be paradoxical since the opponents of Mosques are patriotic Americans.

Even states like Tennessee, which are miles away from either New York City or Washington D. C., which were the cities that became victims of the 9/11 attacks, and have no apparent connection to the attacks except for the fact that they are located in the same country, people have started voicing their opinion against a local Islamic Center, which is well elaborated and covered in his usual satirical manner by Jon Stewart in the Daily Show.

The opposition to the proposed community center has also revived the sentiment of hatred against the Muslim community among the American public, which like most of the non-Muslim world is already suffering from Islamophobia, with incidents like a Bangladeshi Muslim cab driver getting stabbed in New York City after the passenger asked him if he was a Muslim, and went on to stab him on learning that he was, and one drunk man entering a New York Mosque, abusing Muslims and urinating over the prayer mats.

We are talking about the United States of America here, the Free World, not Afghanistan, not Iran, not Iraq, not Pakistan, but America. Still they say it is not about religion. To those who consider these mild episodes, I would just say that let us hope that it does not get any worse.

But then again, it is Americans who have to decide whether they want to offer Muslims their rights in the country, or whether they want them out of the country altogether. Because given the theory of the opponents of the Mosque, who are clearly more concerned about Islam itself than the 9/11 victims or their families, given the example of the opposition to the Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, TN and other examples quoted above, then not only should there not be a single mosque in the New York City, but in the entire country.

It could even be implied by this opinion that they also do not want any Muslims living in America altogether, since Muslims supposedly are terrorists, which is fine if the majority of Americans agree with it, which is not really the case. Just the problem is that all those Muslims living in America are “Americans”, and are somewhere in between 3 to 9 million in numbers. And you know we are not talking about illegal immigrants here and obviously it does not matter if most Muslim Americans are immigrants. Besides, America was built by immigrants anyway.

I know sane Americans like Ebert, Olbermann, President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Bloomberg believe in American values and don’t agree with those suffering from Islamophobia. But the broad public opinion matters more than that. Because if this trend strengthens, I will not really be concerned about the religious freedom of Muslims in America, but their very security. The question to ask is: Are Muslims becoming the new niggers of America? If that is the case, America certainly needs another Martin Luther King Jr.

There can be a thin line between hating terrorism and becoming a terrorist yourself.

Note: If you are still wondering why some people are insane enough to support Park 51 even after watching the video clip with Olbermann’s comments, read this.

A Message to the Punjab Police et al

Everyday I find a new story of violence in the news and find myself amazed at how hard-hearted people are. Another achievement of the Punjab Police was reported on August 21, 2010 when they baton-charged protesting female student doctors of the Quaid-e-Azam Medical College, Bahawalpur. The  report also talks about the cops taking off their head-scarves, which is clearly seen as an act of humiliation and disrespect. I just thank god they didn’t rape and murder them, or torture them to death, like they did to the two brothers in Sialkot, because they have proved that they are fully capable of doing so.

Courtesy: The Nation

It seems to me that the selection criterion of the Punjab Police is such that the most brutal, cruel and cold-hearted people, who are completely indifferent to human suffering and to inflicting physical pain on another, are selected among the masses to fill up their positions.  It seems to me that these cops are frustrated sadists, who actually love their job and enjoy beating people with their dreaded batons. They really have seemed to enjoy themselves on this occasion, beating women with the full force of their arm and dishonoring them in public. Would have been satisfying right?

Doctors and Medical Students have condemned the Bahawalpur Medical College incident and have demanded the registration of an FIR against the Principal of the College Dr. Ejaz Shah, who summoned the police in the first place to curb the protesters, and against the local DPO Babar Bakht, who according to them, had ordered the baton-charge. I hope the Chief Minister Punjab Mr. Shahbaz Sharif looks into the matter in due time.

I have not the slightest of ideas how these brutal criminals-in-disguise are trained, but I am sure the way they act do not speak well of it. And this has just not been the only incident. The reason this one caught my eye was that these cops were so brutal that they did not refrain from injuring young women. How very shameful! If the state and law-enforcing institutions resort to behavior like this, what to expect from the anarchists and the criminals?

Here, I must say, that this criticism is not aimed at the Punjab Police alone, but the Police operating in the entire country. I know that law enforcement authorities of other countries do not act in a different way, as many have witnessed in the case of the Indian law enforcement authorities in the State of Jammu & Kashmir, in the wake of recent protests there. But I will remain focused on the Pakistani police, although anyone can consider the message I am trying to convey in this post.

This is not the first time at all that such reports of violence has been reported by the police. In fact, only recently six women were injured in a police-baton charge in Sukkur, which was meant to control the flood victims while aid was being distributed among them, on the occasion of the visit of Mr. Nawaz Sharif to a relief camp there. Now if you almost beat them to death, what is the point in offering aid to them in the first place? I am aware that the crowd can really become a nuisance at times, but the police must not forget that the baton-charge is meant to bring things into order, not to murder or injure people. And they should watch who they are hitting too: Women, for crying out loud!

The Police must understand that they are public servants after all and that they should be thinking twice before they mean to harm innocent citizens. It is true that the nature of their jobs demands them to be tough on people in general, but this does not mean that they are offered carte blanche to resort to any violent act against anyone they like. It is due to the same cruel and violent tendencies, which make them abuse their authority and to commit acts as hideous and shameful as the brutal murder of the Butt brothers in public, which occurred in Sialkot a week ago.

They must understand that they are trusted with the responsibilities of ensuring the security of the people and the rule of law and order. If they will start harming people without any discrimination between a common citizen, not just a woman or a child but anyone, and someone who is clearly a miscreant, an aggressor and a criminal, then they will cease to be the guardians of the law and order, and will become criminals themselves.

They should stop taking pleasure in violence as well. However, I do not criticize them just for the sake of it. I know there are many honest and dutiful police officers and constables out there, who recognize their responsibilities, care for the public and perform their jobs with valor, dedication and courage. However, incidents such as the Bahawalpur Medical College baton-charge and the Sialkot torture and murder case certainly show that there is something terribly wrong with some of the personnel in the police force.

I just hope those who are responsible will look into the matter and will start educating the police against violence and will make them realize that their responsibility is to protect the general public and their security, not to beat them to death and resort to violence on innocent people themselves.