Friday, June 26, 2009

Reflections on the Death of Michael Jackson, and the Worship of Celebrities

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

Like almost everyone, I was stunned to hear the news of Michael Jackson's sudden death on Thursday, June 25, 2009. The community around Georgia Avenue in Washington, DC was literally buzzing with the news. As I walked toward my apartment after a long day at the office, several people even stopped me on the street to ask if I had heard of Jackson's passing.

Somehow, the man-child who dominated the universe of popular music for nearly 40-years was someone who seemed to flirt with immortality. Michael Jackson, to hundreds of millions of people who celebrated him with a passion that bordered on worship, never grew old, and wasn't supposed to die. But now that are confronted with the reality that, at the age of 50, Jackson, is indeed, dead.

As the Qur'an teaches us, from God Almighty we come, and to Him, we shall (all) surely return.

As I contemplate on the life and death of Michael Jackson, described by another famous recording artist as "a major strand of our cultural DNA", a second Qur'anic truth resonates with me: there is no deity worthy of worship but the One Lord of Creation. How true these words must be for those of us who believe in God.

Yet we live embedded in a culture where the mass adulation that society pours out on athletes and performing artists approaches, and all too frequently crosses over into, the territory of idolatry.

Michael Jackson, for all of his obvious troubles and even moral ambiguities, was truly an "idol" for millions. His phenomenal talent as a child leading the legendary Jackson 5 had grown, over the years, into entertainment legend equaling that of Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

Our culture looked beyond his fixation with self-mutilation and his fascination with children; brushing them off as nothing more that the eccentricities of genius.

And when reports revealed that Jackson's $20 million annual income could not pay for his extreme spending habits, our culture brushed it off, and seemed prepared to pour more money into his gigantic pockets of self-indulgence; feeding his appetites and the legions of sycophants feeding off him.

As we come to terms with Jackson's untimely demise, a deeper question comes to mind: "When the music stops, who, or what do we actually worship? And what is the nature of our relationship with God if the objects of our adoration are nothing more than false deities?

I believe Michael Jackson was a mirror held up before society, and one that yielded a reflection of the shape and form of modern form of idol worship.

How often do we hear the word "idol" used in context with our celebration of mega-athletes and entertainers? And how is it that we collectively allow these "idols" to hover just above the moral judgments that we reserve for lesser mortals?

When a ballplayer injects steroids, or kills someone while driving under the influence of alcohol, or when an actor gets busted for drug possession at an airport, we say, "So sad", "Too bad", "It's so unfortunate". And within just a few short weeks, after the intervention of a few ultra-expensive lawyers and a team of public relations professionals, we place these "idols" right back in the temple of collective popular worship.

The world treated Jackson the same way.

His phenomenal talent trumped his need to carve away his face and bleach his skin to the point transmogrifying his African-American identity into a white death mask.

And the numerous allegations of his sexual relationships with minor children – one of which was "settled" out of court for a reputed payment of $10 million to the family of the boy who filed the lawsuit – dissolved in the brilliant light of his on-stage persona.

Even when Michael admitted to sleeping with children who were not his own, we winced and kept giving him props, love, and adoration; and yes, the fuel of nearly all idolatry - money.

But now the "King of Pop" is gone, and like all earthly kings who pass away, his soul must answer to the Celestial King of the Universe.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not complaining about Michael Jackson's phenomenal talents, fame, or earlier financial success.

In the final analysis (as once shared by another deceased icon, Tupac Shakur) only God can judge Michael Jackson.

Collectively, however, we can, and we must, judge ourselves for the celebrity worship that permeates modern culture, and ignores the need to give real help to our "famous" – and very human – brothers and sisters when they spin out of control.

I pause to mourn with the rest of those alarmed and saddened by the passing of Michael Jackson, and I offer my sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones.

But I must remind myself, and everyone, that the worship of celebrity, any celebrity, is both false and utterly destructive to the objects of worship and to those who bow down before them.

Let us honor great talent, but save worship for the Almighty God alone.

Michael Jackson Dead at 50 (LA Times June 26, 2009)
Sony Comments on the Passing of Michael Jackson (NY June 25, 2009)
Jackson's Legacy Remains Unsullied by Scandal (Arizona Republic, June 26, 2009)
Jermaine Jackson Press Conference on Michael Jackson's Death (June 25, 2009) (Closing comment in video: "May Allah be with him, Michael, always.")

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Muslim Response to the Recent Presidential Election in Iran

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

As more than 32 million people cast their votes in Iran's 10th presidential election on Friday, June 12, 2009, I, like many if my brothers and sisters in the U.S. Muslim community, experienced conflicting emotions when the results of the election were announced the following day.

On one hand, I felt deep satisfaction that a relatively open and free election, with clearly distinct electoral choices, actually took place – albeit with much vigorous debate – in a majority-Muslim nation. On the other hand, however, I felt deep concern that the election results in Iran might lead to more civil strife and political polarization in a nation that faces extraordinary international scrutiny and criticism – not to mention the threat of military attack from either, or both, the United States and/or Israel.

The initial report of a landslide victory (62% of the popular vote) by the current Iranian President and his ruling party was not a huge surprise to many of us. President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, after all, commands a huge (but not universal) base of political support in Iran, although his victory over primary challenger, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has clearly now become tainted by charges of massive electoral fraud and other voting irregularities.

Mousavi's challenge was broadly considered to be based on a demand for broad social reform in Iran, more openness in the overall society, and a repudiation of the hard-line theocratic rule of the current Iranian religious leadership.

The election results are now in the fifth day of vigorous and violent protests, described as the most dramatic political uprising in Iran since the 1979 revolution, with Iranians in the hundreds of thousands defying a ban on rallies and a crackdown on media coverage.

Although I am fully aware that Iran is a sovereign nation, and that the trajectory of social change in that nation must be determined by the people of Iran themselves, I offer three observations with the hope that they may be helpful for Muslims, the world-at large watching what is happening in Iran, and perhaps even the leadership of Iran as well.

Observation One: Now is the time for a full and impartial review of the election itself. I commend the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for his commitment to respond to the election fraud charges leveled by Musavi and his supporters. There may be evidence that some of these allegations are true, even if the magnitude of the fraud/irregularities might not be sufficient to change the outcome of the vote. But it is also true that any democratic process must also have safeguards to insure the integrity of popular participation. The election review should be swift and thorough, and any persons found guilty of fraud or vote manipulation, on behalf of any candidate or party, must be held fully accountable for the crime.

But I inject a cautionary note here to the American critics and detractors of the Iranian leadership: Most elections in the world, in fact, are tainted by allegations of fraud and voting irregularities. We have only to look at the American presidential elections of 1996 and 2004 realize the ubiquity of democratic imperfection, if not fraud. Any ongoing dispute of President Ahmedinejad’s victory must not be a pretext for directing more threats and hostility toward Iran.

Observation Two: Popular democratic structures and personal freedoms must be safeguarded. The role of independent journalism and free access to the global internet cannot, and must not, be infringed upon – particularly in a time of great volatility and significant desire for change. One of the great strengths of the early Islamic Ummah was the confidence that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) demonstrated in his recognition of the rights of non-Muslims in the plural society of Medina. The Iranian government must recognize Iranian youth, Sunni Muslims, members of the Baha’I’ community, journalists, secular activists, and many others, are Iranian, too. There is no place in a democracy for second-class citizenship. Any and all Iranians must be allowed to freely express their (non-violent) political sentiments, and their political associations, without the fear of authoritarian crack-downs and the violation of their civil rights.

Observation Three: President Ahmedinejad should not be afraid of constructive change that embraces democratic freedoms within the context of a majority Shi’a Muslim society. The real question that I believe is in front of the people of Iran is not that of Islam vs. the secular "West", but the question of what kind of Islam is best for the people of Iran in the current historical moment. Our faith can certainly be one that rejects modernity and fears the ideas of the outside world, but it can also be a faith that embraces progress, peace, and especially the notion that women can be – and in fact are – a vital constituency in shaping a new, and better, society.

The results of the Iranian election, and it's unfortunate aftermath, will continue to reverberate in both Iran and the entire Muslim world. We must defend the right of self-determination of the people of Iran as we uphold their right to be free from outside aggression and any hostile ambitions of foreign powers.

And the best way to do this, in my opinion, is to encourage and support the development of internal democracy and the advancement of the social changes that will make the Iranian nation – indeed, an Islamic nation – stronger and better.

To the Leadership of North Korea: the Worship of Power is a Form of Shirk

By MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director, Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

As one of 16 members of a delegation invited to visit the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) some 20-years ago, when it was under the leadership of North Korean state founder President Kim II-sung, I was keenly aware that as a U.S. "peace" activist, I had been invited to undergird North Korean opposition to U.S. nuclear weapons that were, at the time, deployed in South Korea. I supported the withdrawal of these nukes from the Korean Peninsula, and considered them to be a grave provocation and potential threat to the North.

Although not allowed to speak with political dissidents or visit the notorious labor camps in which they are confined, myself and my fellow delegates were treated to lavish receptions in villages and cities throughout the country as the DPRK strove to impress us with their accomplishments in science, architecture and industry.

That was then, as they say, and this is now; the nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula today is far more ominous – the DPRK has now embarked on its own nuclear arms race.

The U.S. government officially confirmed on Monday that in addition to a long-range ballistic missile test conducted in April this year, North Korea carried out an underground atomic test on May 25, reportedly larger than its first test conducted in 2006, which resulted in U.N. sanctions against the country.

In addition to testing long-range missiles capable of striking targets in the Pacific, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn told lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday that North Korean missiles could also conceivably threaten the continental United States.

North Korea's de facto leader, Chairman of the National Defense Commission, Kim Jong-iI, son of Kim iI-sung ('Eternal President of the Republic'), has grown increasingly intransigent and belligerent on the issue, vowing to continue the country's nuclear program and threatening war on any nation that attempts to intercept shipments of strategic materials to Pyongyang.

On Friday, June 12, the U.N. Security Council unanimously voted to impose additional security and economic sanctions, including a trade and arms embargo on North Korea, also supported by two DPRK allies, China and Russia. Tens of thousands North Koreans rallied in the nation's capital on Monday denouncing the U.N.'s sanctions and Pyongyang responded by vowing to "weaponize" all its plutonium, further asserting that any blockade would be considered "an act of war".

On Tuesday, Japan announced its decision to impose fresh sanctions on North Korea, to include a ban on all exports, followed by a joint declaration from President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, calling for pursuit of a "sustained and robust effort" to implement the U.N.'s resolution.

It now seems almost inevitable that some kind of military showdown between the DPRK and much of the rest of the world is almost inevitable; and in a significant shooting war, the short fuse of a nuclear weapons exchange could very well be lit.

The DPRK is hardly the first nation to threaten to use nuclear weapons against another country. The United States, with more than 7,000 in its arsenal, along with Russia, China, and Israel, have threatened to use these weapons in the past; America being the only nation to carry out such a threat against an adversary in war time.

But none of these historical precedents excuse, in the least, the bellicose saber-rattling of the regime in Pyongyang.

Many political analysts offer the opinion that the leadership of Kim Jong-il borders on psychopathic, and that the pursuit of a North Korean nuclear deterrent is a grave danger to peace and stability in Asia and the world. And the fact that two former military allies of the DPRK are supporting the U.N.'s sanctions against his nation should be a clear indicator that he has few, if any, political friends left in the outside world.

My own interpretation of these events, however, is a little different.

The North Korean pursuit of nuclear weapons is not only grave and dangerous, but it also represents the worship of a false god; in this case, the god of the all-powerful dictatorship that is marching an entire nation to potential annihilation.

I believe that the massive adoration of political leaders and the power of the political state, is not a characteristic of Socialism, but actually a form of idolatry; and nuclear weapons in this reality, are nothing more than dangerous props supporting an immense, malignant ego that thrives on the energy of false worship and mass adoration focused on the Kim dictatorial dynasty.

Remove the idolatry, and the North Korean rationale for building and possibly using nuclear weapons would dissolve.

North Korea is, officially, an atheistic society functioning as a theocracy centered on the worship of state ideology and the elevation of its political leader to the status of a god; and when a false deity desires limitless power and adoration, the consequences will almost certainly be catastrophic for that leader and the nation that follows him.

I don't believe that there should be any type of U.S.-led pre-emptive military attack against North Korea.

It would be better, for now, to rely on international economic and trade sanctions as an instrument to push for ending North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions, while the other nuclear weapons states get down to the serious business of working for abolition.

Détente with the DPRK could be possible in the future, but only if and when it stops threatening to annihilate other nations with atomic warheads.

In the meantime, let us keep in mind the conviction of all Muslims, that there is no deity worthy of worship but the One Lord of Creation.

Possessing the ultimate weapons of mass destruction will not make the North Korean people happier, more prosperous, or freer; and these weapons will not transform Kim Jong-il into a deity.

The worship of power is a form of shirk (idolatry). That is a truth that the North Korean dictator must submit to – either in this life, or in the life to come.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Keeping It Real While Feeling the Hope: A Response to President Barack Obama's Historic June 4, 2009 Speech at Cairo University

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

Like many people who trade in the world of political commentary, I was prepared to write a response to President Obama's speech from the perspective of content analysis and criticism of not only what he communicated, but what, from my perspective, he left unsaid.

And I will still do that because there are areas of concern that many, including Muslim Americans have about the status of the relationship between the broader Islamic world, the Muslim American community and the policies and practices of the United States government.

That said, I believe all of us must acknowledge President Obama's remarks at Cairo University today as not only incisive and hopeful, but even prophetic.

A new paradigm for official US-Muslim world relations may well emerge as a result of President Obama's message. There is critical work (on all sides) to be done, and the task in front of us remains a daunting one.

But in at least three areas, President Obama's words signal a momentous and hopeful shift in the understanding that the new American government may have regarding its present and future relationship with Muslims and the Islamic world.

What are the things that make me hopeful? Here are four of them:

1. President Obama's speech advanced the understanding that Islam is not only a part of the heritage of global civilization, but part of the American historical and cultural mosaic as well. He mentioned, quite accurately, a number of important contributions that Muslims have made, and continue to make, for the advancement of American civil society, including that the fact that the Muslim American community numbers in excess of seven million, with 1,300 mosques nationwide and communities in every state. This fact alone refutes the characterization, by some that Islam is essentially alien to the American landscape, and that Muslim values and practices are incompatible with "American" culture.

Moreover, by further emphasizing the Muslim scientific, literary, and cultural underpinnings of Western and global civilization, President Obama's remarks served to advance a more enlightened understanding of Islamic and Qur'anic ethics and values as an integral part of the larger Abrahamic faith context.

2. There is recognition, for once, of both the oppression and the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. It is true that President Obama spoke, quite accurately, of the continued U.S. commitment to the safety and security of the Jewish state, the acknowledgement of the historical suffering of the Jewish people, and the legitimate aspiration for a Jewish homeland. But his recognition of Palestinian displacement and the "intolerable" conditions that afflict the West Bank and Gaza civilian population represented a major shift in American understanding of human conditions rooted in historical Palestinian displacement since 1948. Also – and this was a major pronouncement – President Obama clearly stated the opposition, by his administration, to the continuation and expansion of (illegal) Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

3. President Obama spoke of support for a genuinely universal democratic ideal. There should be no doubt about the significance of a strong statement in support of real democracy articulated by a U.S. president standing on Egyptian soil. No doubt, the Egyptian people listening today, particularly the younger generation sitting in the Cairo University audience, understood that the anti-democratic and authoritarian character of the Mubarak regime, although not named, was one of the political systems in the majority Muslim world that President Obama had in mind when he spoke these words. True social progressives and supporters of popular democracy here in the United States should be encouraged by this implied criticism of past U.S. support for anti-democratic Muslim regimes, past and present, throughout the world.

4. President Obama spoke to the centrality of building economic opportunity in the Islamic world, and especially the linkage between broad societal advancement and the elevation of the human and civil rights of Muslim women. One major (and quite legitimate) criticism of majority-Muslim nations is the fact that they have not pushed strongly for the broad social (and economic) equality of women. The President challenged those nations – in a way that was neither hostile nor disrespectful – to see the education and advancement of women as central to the need for broader economic evolution within the Muslim world. And there was also his announcement of a new cooperative venture between the United States and the Organization of Islamic Conference (O.I.C.) to work for the eradication of Polio.

Of course, pundits and critics (from both the Left and Right) will undoubtedly focus on the things that were missing from the speech, and especially the lack of details related to the architecture of new American policy related to Muslim nations.

For example, would the U.S. government choose to deal with right-wing Israeli intransigence on the issue of West Bank settlements, and for that matter, the idea of a shared Jerusalem with equal human rights and access for Palestinians? How should the U.S. engage Israel on the issue of Israeli nuclear weapons? Should the huge American military policy-stick be transformed into something qualitatively different – say, a genuine Middle East 'Marshall Plan" constructed along the lines of the vision of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Closer to home, though, there's the question of how the new Obama vision will translate to a shift in the reality of U.S. government assaults on Muslim charities, the continued reliance on arrest and torture rendition, and as we have witnessed in the legal issues related to Dr. Sami Al-Arian and so many others, the outrageous twisting of the American judicial system by prosecutors who have clearly evident prejudice against Muslims brought before the bar of justice.

We must also harbor our illusions about the ferocious, and still significant, political opposition aligned against President Obama and any progressive vision he may have for constructive engagement with Muslims, abroad or at home. He will face challenges from the pro-Israel lobby, Conservatives of all stripes, reactionaries and racists who are committed to American hegemony and the maintenance of old imperial relationships.

This speech was historically significant and deeply moving for many of the millions, and perhaps hundreds of millions of people in the global Muslim community who saw and heard it. And there is much that all of us must do to address unanswered questions and translate good intentions into tangible results.

We do live in the world of realpolitik, but we also live in a world of imagination, hope, and commitment to a common humanity.

I am thankful that, on the morning of June 4, 2009 at Egypt's Cairo University, Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America, reminded us of the enduring reality of not only an American dream, but also a transformative one – clearly shared by many in the broader global community as well.

Transcript of President Barack Obama's June 4, 2009 Speech at Cairo University
VIDEO: Obama Calls for New Start Between U.S. and Muslims (AP)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dr. Tiller's Murder: Fascist Terrorism and Its Pampered Apologists

By Mara Verheyden-Hilliard
Attorney and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice
Statement on behalf of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition

The rampant terrorism and violence against women and health care professionals who dare to provide women's health services took its latest victim when Dr. George Tiller was brutally gunned down in his church on Sunday in Wichita, Kansas.

The government and the corporate media coddle these anti-women terrorists.

In the last 30 years, right-wing bigots have carried out 5,800 reported acts of violence against women's health care providers, including targeted assassination, bombings, arsons, death threats, kidnappings and assaults, according to NARAL.

Hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of women have been assaulted and harassed by the right wing as they tried to see a doctor.

The Fascist Strategy

By targeting and intimidating health care providers, the fascist movement hopes to effectively ban abortion services in the United States. If they were to succeed, not only would it deprive women of their fundamental right to control their own bodies, it would be a health care catastrophe. One out of three women in the U.S. have an abortion by the time they are 45, according to Planned Parenthood.

The only question is whether women will be maimed or left to die because they cannot access quality health providers. Dr. Tiller took over his medical practice from his father, a doctor who began performing abortions himself in the 1940s after a patient whom he refused to help died in a back-alley abortion.

Dr. Tiller, like many other health care heroes, kept providing abortion services to women despite the threats. He had been shot previously in both arms; had his office bombed, shot at and frequently vandalized; and he and his patients were routinely threatened, intimidated and attacked.

Dr. Tiller kept providing health care services because, as his family said in a statement, he was “a dedicated servant on behalf of the rights of women everywhere.” He was past retirement age, with four children and 10 grandchildren, and he lived under a virtual military siege because of the terrorist threats. But he didn't stop.

It Wasn't Just the Gunman

This assassination is the culmination of a coordinated assault by the right wing. This included the Kansas Attorney General's efforts to prosecute Tiller, the demonization of Dr. Tiller by Bill O'Reilly, who ran dozens of hit pieces targeting him as a "murderer," and by "Operation Rescue," which prominently called him "America's Doctor of Death."

In the aftermath of the murder, amid reports that the killer had worked with them, Operation Rescue scrambled to take down their prominent "Tiller Watch" webpage, apparently sanitizing it, while their founder continued to call Dr. Tiller a "mass murderer” and held a press conference to do so.

The New York Times coverage of the murder was pathetic. On its front page it stated, "Officials offered little insight into the motive, saying that they believed it was 'the act of an isolated individual' but that they were also looking into 'his history, his family, his associates.'"

The decision to question or suggest uncertainty as to the killer’s "motive" reflects an effort to depoliticize and isolate this most violent of political acts and to disconnect the killing from right-wing groups who seek as their goal to deprive women of their rights using assassination as they see fit. Some right-wing groups and leaders have been quick to announce that the killing was not a homicide, but a justifiable act of "salvation."

The mass media has leapt to the defense of many anti-woman, right-wing groups who directly targeted Dr. Tiller by giving their spokespeople more time in the wake of Dr. Tiller's death to express their primary grievance with his murder -- that it might make them look bad.

Fake Terrorism and Real Terrorism

In recent months, Dr. Tiller reported to the FBI that the threats were increasing.

Obviously, stopping real terrorism is not a "priority" for the FBI, which has allocated limitless resources to infiltrate and sabotage lawful political organizing all over the country. The FBI and police have disrupted and spied on progressive organizations that built a powerful anti-war movement in the last years. They have paid agents provocateur to infiltrate and frame up organizations and individuals engaged in dissent.

Nor is any mosque or Muslim community center safe from FBI infiltration and disruption activities. From Southern California to upstate New York, undercover FBI agents are trying to entrap Muslim youth into "terrorist" plots that emanate from the FBI itself.

The U.S. government's use of the terrorist label is used to frame up and imprison Muslims in the United States. Just last week in Dallas, representatives of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) were sentenced to as much as 65 years in prison for the “terrorist” crime of raising money for desperately needed humanitarian relief. HLF had been the largest Muslim charity in the U.S. The charity's "crime" was that the humanitarian relief was going to those starving and dying in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine. The U.S. government has determined that it is an act of terrorism to get medicine to hospitals and food to children when U.S. foreign policy supports the strangulation of a civilian population for geostrategic reasons.

When Anthrax Threats Were No Big Deal

Yet, when it comes to the right-wing organizations that engage in violence and threats, the FBI and the corporate media are conspicuously mute.

For instance, shortly after the September 11 attacks, letters containing anthrax were sent to media and Senate offices. Hundreds of anthrax threats were also sent to reproductive health clinics, according to the website of NARAL, which states: "Between October 15 and 23, 2001, more than 250 abortion and family planning clinics in 17 states and the District of Columbia received letters purporting to contain anthrax. In each instance, a powdery substance was accompanied by a letter stating, 'You have been exposed to anthrax. We are going to kill all of you.' An additional 270 letters were sent to clinics during the first week of November."

Very few people know about this kind of extreme terrorist intimidation. Can you imagine the reaction of the FBI and the media if anti-war organizers or Arab Americans were linked to anthrax threat letters? There would be screaming headlines and nationwide police sweeps.

Coddling Right Wing Terrorists

But in 2007, in Washington, D.C., when a man showed up at an immigrant rights rally, covertly carrying a map of the demonstration area with sight lines drawn on it, with a cache of weapons including a converted fully automatic M1-Carbine and apparent plans to massacre participants, you probably never heard about it. Why? Because the man, Tyler Froatz, was a right-wing vigilante bent on attacking immigrants and their supporters.

Froatz, who organized with the Free Republic and acted as a spokesman for the Minuteman, stalked a May Day demonstration in 2007. He was arrested after he was confronted by a courageous young woman working as an organizer with the ANSWER Coalition. She was then assaulted by him when she objected to the racist signs he was posting depicting the graphic slaughter of immigrants, including pregnant women and children.

In addition to the weapons Froatz brought with him, in his apartment was found a large arsenal of rifles, handguns, ammunition, a Molotov cocktail, a hand grenade and a 100,000-volt taser gun.

So is Froatz in the special terrorist prisons in Terre Haute or Marion? No. He was released to the custody of his parents in Connecticut and thereafter allowed to plead to a minor weapons charge. The U.S. Attorney’s Office never charged him with any terrorism-related offense or hate-crimes offense. And today, members of Froatz’s group, the Free Republic, celebrated this latest cold-blooded terrorist murder of Dr. Tiller in their postings.

More than Bullet-Proof Vests and Federal Marshals: A New Strategy is Needed

The murder of Dr. Tiller is a misogynist attack against all women. It is also the foreseeable outcome of a climate of bigotry and vilification fostered by the right wing, normalized by the media and the U.S. government.

A political calculus has been made by the government as to what will be deemed terrorism: what political acts will be crushed and what political violence will be supported or tolerated. As it stands, there is no mobilized effective counter to this fascist violence and the threat that it poses. It’s time for a new strategy and a new challenge. There must be a multi-faceted mobilization of women themselves and of all those men who stand with us against anti-woman bigotry.

"Anti-Identity" Politics and the Hypocrisy of the Radical Right

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

It has been fashionable for Rush Limbaugh and other pundits of the political far Right to brand Supreme Court nominee Sonia Maria Sotomayor, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, as a "racist" and purveyor of "Identity Politics" based on a public remark that she made some years ago. Judge Sotomayor's statement, in essence, compared her experiences as a Latina raised in a working-class neighborhood in the Bronx with the experiences of her white counterparts in the judiciary.

In essence, Judge Sotomayor noted that a "wise Latina" could make better judicial decisions than a person who lacked her depth of diverse racial, ethnic, and class experiences in the social melting pot of America. The remark was followed by a clarification and quasi-retraction from Judge Sotomayor and President Barack Obama, both of whom stated that the "choice of words" was unfortunate.

There is little doubt that any person nominated by President Obama to the Supreme Court would be anathema to the Rush Limbaugh crowd. The political dividing line between conservatives and liberals – or reactionaries and progressives – is a deep and contentious one. And, as most of us know, the Right is in no mood for conciliation or cordiality after their decisive defeat in the presidential election of 2008.

But to call Judge Sotomayor a functionary of "Identity Politics" – that is, the advocacy of race and ethnicity as central factors in the work of promoting justice – is both an outrage and an act of profound hypocrisy.

The real "identity politics" in the American judicial system is a racist and xenophobic trademark of the radical Right.

For the record, I'm sure that Judge Sotomayor will make a good, and possibly brilliant, addition to the Supreme Court. She is a totally qualified, experienced, and thoughtful jurist with first-class intellectual credentials.

The Puerto Rican people, Latinos, women, and all persons who love justice should be delighted with Judge Sotomayor's nomination.

That said; let us not forget that the American justice system is, sadly, still riddled with the contradictions of racism and Xenophobia. All too often, as we saw in the recent trials of the Holy Land Foundation defendants and Dr. Sami Al-Arian, juries are quite willing to ignore substantial exculpatory evidence, or to substitute real facts with testimonies from "secret" witnesses in their rush to convict defendants based more on political associations than on any evidence of criminal conduct.

The "identity politics" of racial and religious discrimination also holds true for Naji Hamdan, a Muslim-American citizen who has endured a nine-month imprisonment and been subjected to torturous interrogations in the United Arab Emirates because of U.S. complicity in his arrest.

Identity politics hold equally true for possibly hundreds of innocent Muslim men victimized by torture, abuse, and false imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay, and in countless secret American prisons worldwide.

The identity of being Muslim, especially in this time of war being waged in Muslim lands, is sufficient (for both juries and zealous prosecutors) creates the presumption of guilt before the bar of justice, even when the empirical evidence of innocence is clear and overwhelming.

Identity politics is, indeed, alive and well in America, but don't blame Judge Sotomayor; it is not she who is racist. The racism, and politics of racial and religious identity, is manifested by the same people who gave us torture rendition, illegal government surveillance, and the support for the violence and injustice that frames both U.S. foreign policy in the Muslim world, and all too often, Islamophobia in the American court system.