Friday, 30 November 2012

recognition for palestine

i'm feeling pretty happy today, particularly with the UN vote to recognise palestine by granting it non-member observer status.  ok, it's not a huge step, and it doesn't mean that peace is going to break out any time soon.  having just witnessed another round of devastation visited on gaza, it's sad that this is the reality.

even knowing this, the vote is still hugely important.  not just because it was a resounding victory - 138 for, 41 abstentions & only 9 against - but because it does have some tangible benefits:

The Palestinians can now take part in UN debates and potentially join bodies like the International Criminal Court....

"This is a whole new ball-game now. Israel will be dealing with a member of the international community, a state called Palestine with rights," senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi told the BBC.

"We will have access to international organisations and agencies and we will take it from there."

i'm so glad that nz was part of the 138, and that the government for once has taken an ethical international stance.  what is sad is that australia merely abstaining is considered a major shift, and canada voting against was pretty awful.  i guess the latter is the result of a right-wing government, but i'm glad that the same basic ideology didn't hamper our government.

and then there's america with a left-wing president, doing their level best to prevent the vote, and then having the secretary of state condemn the result.  my happiness at mr obama's win pretty much dissipated in the first couple of days after the latest assault on gaza, and it's totally gone now.  whatever he manages to achieve within america, it's pretty clear that we aren't going to see any substantial shift in foreign policy.  but then that was pretty predictable when the candidates debate on foreign policy ended up being more about local issues than about foreign ones.

still, despite their best efforts, they could only convince 9 countries to vote against this measure.  that fact alone is cause for hope.  perhaps international pressure will continue to build, which is the only way that a peaceful solution can be forced.

and if that didn't cheer you up, how about this, which i totally love:

it reminds me of this post i wrote last year, and i love the humour they've put into making the same basic point.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

well, i didn't see that coming...

an update on the on-going saga of myself, mr cox & the waikato times: mr cox has apologised in a piece published in today's paper.  this is quite unexpected, given that he usually has his column published in saturday's paper, and given that i have never asked for an apology in my formal complaint or in my subsequent dealings with the editor.

it may be that others who lodged a complaint did ask for an apology.  but i'd like to think that this was an uncoerced apology, genuinely given, and that mr cox has gained something from this whole experience.  and until i see any evidence to the contrary, that is what i'm going to believe.

there has, in the past week, been the expected backlash in the letters to the editors section of the paper in response to my piece.  four letters in all, 2 in last saturday's paper, and all of them really quite nasty.  i'd thought about replying, but decided i wouldn't bother.  i have sent off a letter to the editor today though, thanking mr cox for his apology & writing about some of the experiences i've had of late, through my involvement with the waikato interfaith council (wifco).

i've been meaning to write about some of these, but things have been pretty hectic over the last few weeks.  i'll share a couple though.

on saturday, i was invited to an ordination at st peter's cathedral, on top of the hill at the north end of victoria st in hamilton.  it's the first time i've been to an ordination, and i'd actually been looking forward to it for a while.  partly because of my fond affection for the person becoming a priest, but also just to have the experience of being present at such an event.

it was quite lovely.  i enjoyed watching it all, though i didn't feel part of it as such.  i got up and sat down again at the appropriate times, but i didn't sing and i didn't give any of the responses, nor take part in the wafer & wine thing (obviously!).  and i thought it was quite ironic in a funny kind of way that i was sitting next to a committed atheist for the whole thing.  it just seemed to add another dimension of diversity to the whole experience.

there were 9 people going through the process on the day, 5 to become deacons & 4 were becoming priests.  of the priests, there was a nice gender balance of 2 men & 2 women; with the deacons there were 3 women & 2 men.  i found this interesting in light of the whole controversy going on in the anglican church at the moment in regards to women being allowed to become bishops.  it just seems that the vote went so much against what is actually happening on the ground, but given the requirement of a 2/3 majority at 3 levels, i guess it's not an easy hurdle for them to pass.

so now i have that to add to my list of life experiences.  another experience that is precious to me is the invitation the wifco received from tainui, to take part in a blessing of wairere drive.  this is a new section of road that has recently opened in hamilton.  the official opening was on a saturday, but we were invited on friday evening, around 6pm, to take part in the tainui blessing and to say a prayer of our own.  i recited the prayer for travelling, as the muslim offering, then put the paper i'd written it out on into a kete that was buried next to the road the following morning. there were other contributions from the baha'i, the quakers, anglicans, catholic and jews.  we had a little bit of sprinkling of holy water even.

i loved that there was recognition by wifco members of the loss of land and devastation caused by colonisation.  i loved the welcoming we received from tainui, and the explanation that was given for the naming of the road as "wairere".  it was a very special experience, a moment of real bonding between a diverse group of people, and we all went home feeling incredibly uplifted.

the reason i mentioned these events in my letter and now here on the blog is because it is exactly this kind of thing that builds communities and strong societies.  it's so very hard to hate people belonging to a particular group when you've shared experiences like this together.  it's such a powerful way to humanise the "other", and makes it so much harder to hold a whole group of people in contempt.

if only some of those angry letter writers had been able to have some of these experiences, had been able to enter a world outside of their own, perhaps the words would not have flowed so easily when they wrote into the paper.  but i suspect that they would resist any such experience, and feel completely threatened in an environment where their own supremacy was not sacrosanct.

well, we can only try.  this week in hamilton will hold the indigo festival.  as part of that will be the indigo interfaith seminars, on friday & saturday from 12 to 1pm at the hamilton library.  the festival as a whole is an attempt to celebrate diversity in the city, and i hope, if you're a hamiltonian, that you'll try to get to at least some of the events.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

at labour party conference

so here is my piece that was published in today's waikato times.  i see that it already has 37 "likes" on facebook, a whole lot more than other recent op-eds at the times.  i'm really touched that people are liking & sharing the piece - i have to say that i've been a little nervous about how it might be received ever since i sent it off.

i haven't managed to put the link up earlier because i've been in auckland all day, at the labour party conference.  it was a great day, and great to see the membership making some good decisions.  i'm particularly heartened by the constitutional changes to leadership votes, but even more than that, the changes strengthening women's representation across the party.

i know the party will be better for these changes.  what was even more heartening was the process and the open debate.  a successful political party needs to have room for disagreement and for robust debate.  it was great to see the number of people speaking for both sides of the issue on the main leadership remit on the trigger for a leadership vote.  there was passion, engagement and very good articulation of the issues.  it's a sign of a healthy party in action.

the highlight for me was CTU president helen kelly's speech.  she really is one of nz's most valuable treasures, and her speech today was courageous, humane, and right on target.  if this woman was prime minister of nz, this country would be a much better place.  she has a strong grasp on a wide variety of issues, but brings with that a huge level of empathy and understanding of the struggles faced by so many people in this country.

i can't find a copy of the speech online, no doubt it will go up in a couple of days.  but i'll type in some bits of it.  when it goes up online, i'd strongly recommend reading the whole thing.

The Pike explosion and what happened to Charanpreet is all part of a culture that fails to acknowledge the important and significant role of work in our society.  Work is conceptualised as an input required to build successful businesses, and business is seen as something the market creates.  If markets fail to create successful business then work is the victim, if business models create low value or dangerous jobs, then this is acceptable in this context.  In this model, regulation is reduced to a "business knows best" light touch.  We know that this is unsustainable and that the market in New Zealand is calibrated to create low value, dangerous jobs.  There was no benefit to Fulton Hogan of directly offering Charanpreet well-paid, decent work that night - just as there was no benefit in the minds of the Board of Pike River in investing in safety.  The risk turned out to be badly judged but the settings that may have shifted them to understand this don't exist.


It is up to Labour to change this story - never more have we needed new solutions - strong, resolute determination to work in the interests of the whole country based on a renewed understanding of egalitarianism.  We must reclaim this word - make it ours again and develop policies that make it a reality.  Reinforcing the Egalitarian doctrine that all humans are equal in fundamental worth and social status and have the same political, economic, social and civil rights must be our goal.


How did we get to the point where the entire codgeratti of NZ politics, media and business are shocked at the privacy leaks of the Port but not its plans to sack everyone and replace them, and will no doubt support their new plans?


If you don't support the Wharfies' claim for a fair deal - then you are in the wrong party.  If you think contracting in the form of employment which killed Charanpreet is something more than a ruse to avoid the reciprocity of an employment relationship and to drive the price of labour down - then you have the wrong analysis.  And if you think anything more than a radical reform of all elements of social and economic policy towards a policy of egalitarianism will resolve these matters then in my humble view, you are not brave enough for what is needed now by the people of this country.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

report back

so, it's been a long day & i'm feeling pretty exhausted right now.  but also a little more at peace.  my meeting at the paper went well, on the whole, but as it wasn't a public meeting i don't feel comfortable sharing too much here.  i had aliya danzeisen with me, a real champion who makes a huge difference to the lives of so many people in our community.

what i can say is that we were given a fair hearing, and treated with respect.  i can say there was some difference of views and i think we came to some common understandings.  i can say that i now have to write a 700 word piece to go into saturday's paper, and that's going to take some thinking through.  i don't intend to reference mr cox's piece because i don't believe he or his views deserve further publicity.  somehow i have to tread between that line of advocating for my community and for muslim women, without being preachy about my faith.  i'll leave thinking about it until tomorrow.

because of all the support i've received, i felt that i went into the meeting from a position of strength - more of an internal feeling than anything else.  it brings home to me again the importance of community, and how much more a group of people can achieve than an individual working alone.  and my main objective was to bring the people i was talking to into that community, make them feel part of us and identify with us, because in the end we all belong in this place together.

i hope we managed that.  my own impression is that we succeeded in that, but i can't be sure of how they felt.  time will tell.  and now to quote forrest gump: that's all i have to say about that.

Monday, 12 November 2012

thank you

so it's been a couple of days since i wrote my complaint, and i've sent it on to some of my networks.  while i was personally convinced about how awful mr cox's piece was, i wasn't as certain that everyone else would see it that way.

i have to say though, that i have been humbled by the support i've received on this.  so many people have contacted me to let me know that they are completely appalled by the piece and by the decision to publish it.  i've been copied into various responses to the paper, and yes, i have to say that i had tears in my eyes as i've read some of the emails.

it's hard to describe how it feels to be the target of an attack like mr cox's, which on the surface appears to be supporting muslim women, but in substance lumps them in with the violence perpetrated against them.  how to describe how awful it feels to be the subject of another's contempt, and such public contempt in a medium that reaches far and wide into the community of people with whom i must interact on a daily basis.  how can i explain the powerlessness to know that mr cox has the freedom to regularly express himself in my local paper with little apparent restraint, while i will have to go to the editor and plead for that same privilege, and hope i am able to get it for just one week.  how can i put across the rage and frustration, the turmoil inside me, when i read a perspective about me that is so patently untrue and falsely argued?

for me this stuff is triggering.  not so much of violence against me but of the emotional devastation that i & my contemporaries lived through in the aftermath of 9/11, the bali bombings and the attacks in london.  while feeling outrage and incredible sadness at the loss of innocent life and the destruction of property, i felt a real and present danger to my physical safety.  there were days when i felt afraid to go outside of my own house, and only the fact that i needed to turn up to work in order to earn my pay forced me to crawl out from under the blankets.  i felt ashamed to face the people i would come across that day, thinking that they would link me and my beliefs to these awful events overseas, because that was the primary narrative coming across various media outlets across the country.

i think the years between 2002 & 2004 were the worst, the most emotionally draining, the most terrifying.  i was fortified at that time by a group of people who were determined to take action and work on changing the media narrative.  i don't know that we were successful, but we tried in various ways: by making complaints (the most successful i remember were against radio nz for linda clark's series of interviews with jim vietch), by visiting media leaders and trying to explain the effect this kind of coverage was having on our community, by seeking spaces in the media to have our voices heard.

and to their credit, people in the media did respond.  opinion pieces began to be published in major newspapers like the herald, the christchurch press, the sunday star times.  we began to see the leadership of the muslim community being asked to comment on issues that related to the muslim community.  there was more balance and less hate, more attempts at accuracy and less crass generalisation.  not all the time, for sure.  there was still a lot of crap.  but certainly in the last few years, i have personally felt a little less like i belong to a community under siege.

it couldn't have happened without the support of some key people in the media.  i'd like to name some of them now.  simon collins of the herald has always been excellent and very supportive.  ali ikram, formerly of tvnz but now with tv3, again opened doors for us and is always willing to engage.  bryce johns, previously editor of the waikato times and now the editor of the herald on sunday, has never once turned me down when i've asked for an opinion piece to be published and was incredibly positive last year in covering the activities of young musim women in the waikato.  the team at afternoons at radio nz were receptive when i contacted them many years ago, highlighting the lack of diversity on "the panel", and they allowed me to appear on that show.  the team at pacific crews, who chose me to be the first person to appear on their "my God" series, and who have been incredibly supportive ever since. to willie jackson and the eye-to-eye team who gave me the chance to explain the effects of hate speech on one of their shows, and who were always so encouraging and supportive.

and russell brown, who was responsible for my first ever media appearance.  i'd been following his blog regularly, and wrote to him with a link that i thought he might put up in one of his pieces.  and for some unknown reason, i told this total stranger about my experiences of being part of the march up queen st by the muslim community, protesting against the danish cartoons.  he ignored the link (probably a good idea in hindsight!), but put up my description of the march & the reasons why i joined it.  which then lead to a call from tvnz and a request to appear on close up (to be interviewed by paul henry of all people).  since then, russell has been supportive in various ways, including putting up guests posts from me, and today he has written in support of my complaint.

i've also had support from other organisations that has been incredibly important and dear to me.  the people on the waikato interfaith council, every one of them with a heart of gold and actions to match.  mervyn singham and the office of ethnic affairs, not just for the work they do in the community, but the active support they provided by organising media training and contact with key media people.  the race relations commissioner, joris de bres, and a whole heap of amazing staff at the commission (and of course i have to especially mention you, rohan), who have always stepped in and helped us find solutions.  the decisive actions taken by mr de bres after the publishing of the danish cartoons, in organising a mediation meeting with the editor of the dom post, is only one of a number of crucial acts that have helped eased the burden on myself and my community.  today i have felt incredibly supported by mr de bres, and again that support brought tears to my eyes.  ruth desouza, who set up the aotearoa ethnic network to provide connections and an ability for people in ethnic communities to share their concerns.  and who works tirelessly through social media and her own professional career to fight discrimination in all its forms.

i know there are plenty of other people who deserve a mention and who i haven't managed to personally thank.  but i do thank you, every one of you for each word of support, each act of solidarity, each gesture of friendship.  today i feel so much less alone when an attack like this happens.  while the hurt, the frustration, the triggering are all still there, i also know that there are whole groups of people that have my back and will not let me stand alone.  i wish that i could do even half as much for all of you as you do for me.

so tomorrow i go to meet the editor of the waikato times.  i'm incredibly nervous about this, to the point of being afraid.  because the power lies with him and not with me.  in the end, he gets the final say and i can only ask for fair treatment.  i'm afraid that i won't have the right words to persuade him.  but i'm also hopeful, because of all the positive responses i've received.  i'm hopeful that he might also be one of those people who is prepared to listen and to understand.  i'm hopeful that he will want a positive resolution to this particular issue just as much as i do.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

way to spoil a saturday afternoon, mr cox

well, i was planning to have a quiet saturday afternoon.  but then i read this opinion piece published in the waikato times by michael cox, ex national MP and ex waipa district councillor.  and that sick feeling rose up in the pit of my stomach again.

i've been suffering from a lack of energy of late, but at least that sick feeling has spurred me to write a letter of complaint to the paper, which i've put in below.  i'd really appreciate anyone else writing or phoning the paper to register a complaint.  the best email to use would probably be - they don't actually give an email for complaints on their website or in the hard copy of their paper.

so here is my complaint:

Dear Sir


Details of Article
Opinion piece headed “We should listen to Malala about Muslim influence”
Author: Michael Cox
Page: B5
Date:  Saturday, November 10, 2012

Summary of Complaint
While acknowledging that this is an opinion piece rather than a news article so will not have the same level of accuracy, the piece is in breach of New Zealand Press Council (NZPC) Principle 1 of Accuracy, Fairness and Balance and Press Council and NZPC Principle 6 Discrimination and Diversity.  The headline is also in breach of NZPC Principle 5.  As a result of these breaches, harm will be caused to the Muslim community, in terms of further discrimination, personal safety and community cohesion.  I ask that the editor remove this piece from the Waikato Times website, and allow me to write an opinion piece in response of equal length, and with the same positioning, in a Saturday paper.

Breach of NZPC Principle 1
This principle requires that a publication “should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission.”  In this case, the opinion piece breaches the principle of fairness through omission.  The author, while correctly pointing out the atrocity committed against schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, did not also point out the widespread protests carried out by Muslims in Pakistan and around the world against this particular atrocity.  There have been vigils, marches, articles and statements by religious and political leaders condemning the actions of the individual who shot her and the group he belongs to.  In failing to even mention any of this protest, the reader is left with the impression that this is an atrocity that is either approved of by Muslims around the world, or at the very least, that they have been silent because they do not care.  This is untrue and unfair, and gives a hugely negative impression of Muslims in general.

The opinion piece also breaches the principle of accuracy, in that the author quotes the findings of a Dr Peter Hammond at length, trying to prove that a significant Muslim population in a country leads to disharmony and discord.  These statements are presented as facts, even though they are included in an opinion piece, and the inclusion of fixed percentages gives an impression that there is some factual basis to the views provided.  However, no such factual basis is given in the piece for the assertions made by Dr Hammond.  Neither is there any coverage given to the fact that significant Muslim populations live in many countries without any significant discord.  Nor does it mention the atrocities committed against Muslims in some countries which are the real source of violence and discord.   For example, Bosnia is mentioned as an example of a country where the presence of Muslims has lead to violence, without any mention of the gang rape of tens of thousands of Muslim women in an act of ethnic cleansing, nor massacres such as the one at Srebrenica.  In the context of the piece, Bosnian Muslims are presented as the aggressors rather than the victims of horrendous atrocities against them.  This is both factually incorrect and unfair.  Similar cases can be made about government and community actions against Muslims in the Philippines, France, and Sweden (the latter having banned the building of minarets, while allowing the building of church spires).

The opinion piece breaches the principle of balance by failing to report that the majority of Muslims believe in the education of girls and women, and in fact Islam almost places more emphasis on the education of females than males.  This can be easily proved by reference to the Qur’an and Hadith, and by reference to many, many Muslim scholars across the world.  That the piece fails to mention this leaves the reader with the impression that the views of the shooter and the group he belongs to are an accurate representation of the Islamic faith and the beliefs of the majority of Muslims.

Breach of NZPC Principle 6
While this principle (and myself also) acknowledges that race, religion, gender, etc are legitimate areas of discussion, it requires that publications not “place gratuitous emphasis on any such category in their reporting”.  The opinion piece breaches this principle in that it gratuitously generalises the actions and beliefs of one small group in one part of a country, and treats these as representative of Muslims around the world.  This is particularly the case when the author states:

“What makes Muslims so loathe their women; what powers of ignorance are at play, what juices are squeezed in their brains to make them want to commit such atrocities?”

It is highly offensive, inaccurate and discriminatory to include me in that statement, and to imply that I loathe myself as a woman along with all other women and that I want to commit such an atrocity against other women.  In fact, if read literally, the first part of the sentence is misogynist because I am not even acknowledged as a Muslim, but only as a thing that belongs to Muslims, who are presumably all male.  It is therefore discriminatory on the grounds of gender as well as religion.

Breach of NZPC Principle 5
This principle requires that headlines “should accurately and fairly convey the substance or a key element of the report they are designed to cover”.  In the case of this piece, the headline states that we should be listening to Ms Yousafzai about “Muslim influence”, but it fails to provide any indication of her views on “Muslim influence” at all.  It mentions that she blogged about repressive attempts against her ability to gain an education, but does not show that she herself believes this to be as a result of “Muslim influence”, rather than for example the influence of an extremist group in one part of her country.  She was widely supported not only by her father, but also by the government of Pakistan, a fact that is also omitted from this piece.  Both her father and her government are also Muslims, and I am sure that she was not opposed to their influence or support.

But more than this, the piece was much less about listening to Ms Yousafzai’s views (which formed only one part of one paragraph, where the author referred to her blogging activities), and more about the views of Dr Hammond.  The space given to the views of Dr Hammond took up almost the whole of the 2 longest columns of the piece, a full 7 paragraphs, 2 of which were the longest paragraphs in the article.  Given this huge disparity in focus and content, the headline did not fairly represent the substance of the article.  Even a headline such as “Lessons to be learned from the shooting of Malala” or something similar would have been a more accurate reflection of what the piece was attempting to point out.

Effects of the piece on the Muslim Community
Muslim women continue to be one of the most marginalised groups in New Zealand.  We are hugely discriminated against when it comes to employment, and one of the reasons for this is our portrayal as victims who both “belong” to “our” men and are “loathed” by them.  More than that, Muslim men also face significant discrimination in employment, and I can give you any number of examples where men have been asked to change their name just so they might have the chance to get a job.

Muslim women live with the daily threat to our personal safety.  I cannot count the number of times I have had comments yelled out to me as I move in public places, even during such innocuous activities such shopping for groceries or taking a walk by the river.  I’m told to get back to Iraq (I’m Indian by ethnicity), that I’m the wrong person to be campaigning for MMP, that it’s 5 miles to the nearest airport, and these are only the polite incidents.  Muslim women in this country have had their headscarves pulled off their heads, have been shot at while waiting at a bus stop, have had cars driven straight at them in an effort to intimidate, have been punched while walking down the street.  I would happy to facilitate a meeting of the editorial staff with Muslim women in Hamilton, so that they can hear first-hand about our experiences, and those of our daughters and sons who are often harassed and bullied at school.

All of these incidents don’t happen in a vacuum.  They happen as a result of an environment where the denigration of Muslims is common and where misinformation and inaccurate representations of Islam in the media influence the views of people in the community.  Muslims in this city do our best to counter these measures, through activities like Islam Awareness Week and active participation in the activities of the Waikato Interfaith Council.  We try to contribute to society and to be visible and active participants in a variety of spheres.  But even so, it is extremely difficult for us to counter the effects of one piece like this which reaches a large number of people, and can counter months of effort on our part.

I understand and respect freedom of expression.  But I also understand that with freedom comes responsibility, and some of those responsibilities are outlined in principles set out by the NZPC.  All I am asking from you, as the editor, is to uphold those principles so that our community is not unfairly and inaccurately targeted.

Resolution of this Complaint
The following actions would help to resolve this complaint:
·         Withdrawal of the article from the Waikato Times website.
·         The opportunity to write a piece in response, of equal length and equal prominence in a Saturday newspaper.  I am personally willing to write such a piece, and have had many pieces published in the Waikato Times while Mr Johns was the editor.
·         A meeting with the Editor to discuss the issues that have been raised in this letter.

Muslims are a part of the community that this paper serves.  I am personally a subscriber and have been for many years.  We have had many positive interactions with staff in the past, who have often been supportive and helpful in reporting issues of importance to us.  We do wish to continue to build a positive relationship with one of the region’s leading media outlets, which has a significant impact on our lives and wellbeing.  I am therefore very hopeful that this matter can be resolved without having recourse to the NZPC.

I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Friday, 9 November 2012

more on american elections - a muslim perspective

so i've been immersed in things american this past week.  there were the elections of course, and i've been reading a lot of stuff around that as well as watching the results yesterday.  but there was also the fact i was invited to the home of the consul-general in auckland on saturday evening, along with many other members of the muslim community, to celebrate eid-ul-adha.

it was actually a nice gesture, and of course i know it's part of their job in terms of outreach to the community. but even so, it was nice to be invited and acknowledged as a community.  it was also interesting to see who turned up.  particularly one of our more conservative sheikhs.  but most of the leadership in the muslim community was present, and i think that's a good thing.  even though i know that most people in the room would certainly have major issues with american foreign policy, it was good to see all that put aside for an evening while we got to know the consulate staff.

and back to the election (yes, i promise to stop talking about it soon), it was also really heartening to see some virulently anti-islamic candidates miss out on being elected.  i'll quote from a press release by CAIR:

In Florida, Rep. Allen West (R), who claims Islam is not a religion but is instead a "totalitarian theocratic political ideology" that is a "very vile and very vicious enemy," was defeated by a narrow margin.

Also in Florida, State Representative Adam Hasner (R) was defeated in his bid for Congress. Hasner once co-hosted an event featuring Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders that was also sponsored by Anti-Muslim hate group leader Pamela Geller....

A third Florida anti-Muslim candidate, Terry Kemple, lost his bid for the Hillsborough County School Board. Kemple's main issue in the race was seeking to keep Muslim speakers out of local schools.

In Illinois, Rep. Joe Walsh (R) was defeated in his re-election bid. Earlier this year, when a town hall meeting attendee told him that he was "looking for some godly men and women in the Senate, in the Congress, who will stand in the face of the danger of Islam," Walsh left the door open for suspicion of every Muslim living in Illinois when he responded saying radical Islam is more of a threat "now that it was right after 9/11" and "It's here. It's in Elk Grove. It's in Addison. It's in Elgin. It's here."

In Arkansas, Rep. James McLean defeated Republican Charlie Fuqua, a candidate who advocated the deportation of all Muslims in a self-published book.

In Minnesota, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) lost his seat. Cravaack was a key supporter's of Rep. Peter King's (R-NY) series of anti-Muslim hearings.

this is the first time i've seen CAIR actively involved in soliciting campaign funds for particular political campaigns - they were particularly working hard to ensure mr west lost his seat. but that was the extent of their campaigning: they focused on particular candidates who had been harmful to the muslim community, but they didn't send out a message to vote democrat or republican.  even their "get out the vote campaign" was overtly non-partisan, although they clearly knew from their own polling that muslims were largely favouring obama, by a huge margin.

there are around 7 million muslims in america, and there were significant groups of them living in the swing states.  that number is only going to get higher, and just as with other voting blocs (women, black, latino, younger voters), it's a foolish party that ignores them.  electoral power is the only sure way to safety, or at least to prevent things like this nonsense congresssional hearing.

so it's heartening to see that muslims in america are engaging with politics and the political system and that at least some islamophobic candidates losing their races.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

a great result!

yup, i'm on a high tonight having watched mr obama comfortably win the US presidential race.  there is time for cynicism & realism about what this victory might mean.  but not tonight.  tonight i'm just going to enjoy the fact that mitt romney is not president of the US, that mr obama has won & in a second term might be able to achieve more than the first.

i still recall clearly watching mr obama win back in 2008.  this time i watched the results at the home of a friend born in america, with a wide range of nz'ers, many born in the US or having lived there for some time.  there were plenty of people of colour in the room, most of indian ethnicity, and plenty of white people too.  but all obama supporters, and democrats.  it was great to be in that room, watching mr romney concede & mr obama give his rousing speech.  sure, there were bits of the latter which were annoying, but mostly it was inspiring.

i agree with gordon campbell regarding the voting system in the US:

Actually, the sight on CNN of long lines of people waiting patiently to exercise their right to vote seems quite shameful, in the richest country on earth. The lines remind me of the elections in South Africa in their first free election, in 1994. People there waited in the sun for twelve, fifteen hours or more to exercise the precious right to vote. But in the US? It has put people on the moon. It spent hundreds of billions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more hundreds of billions in bailing out the financial system. Yet when it comes to democratic choice, it runs a ramshackle voting system that looks as though it is being managed by Hamid Karzai. Bureaucratic hurdles, not enough voting machines in working order, long voting lines etc…terrible.

it is indeed terrible that voting is so difficult in some places, and all credit to those people who stayed in line to cast their vote.  it was interesting that the that when i left work in the afternoon, the top trending twitter topic worldwide was #stayinline.  mr obama did mention in his speech that this was something that needs to be addressed, and i really hope he is able to do it.

mr obama has pulled ahead in the popular vote, but part of me was hoping that he would win the electoral college but lose the popular vote.  the only reason for this is that it might have given impetus to both sides of the political divide to move towards a fairer electoral system.  but as it is, i don't think that's going to happen.

another interesting observation tonight was that mr obama didn't make mr romney's religion a target in this election.  which is, of course, the right thing to do, and something i wrote about here.  i suspect the main reason for this is because mr obama is consistently attacked about his own religious beliefs, with a depressing number of people still believing he is muslim.  i guess he just didn't want to open that particular can of worms.  but had it been the democratic candidate who was mormon, i do believe that the same would not have applied.  the right-wing so eager to denounce mr obama as a muslim (and also to denounce muslims in general in pursuit of their political aims) would have been equally eager to attack mr romney's religion had he been democrat.

but on the whole, i want to congratulate my american friends, and the american public on a great result in the presidential elections.  i really hope something good (or many good things) comes of it.

ETA:  best tweet of the night (sorry i don't know how to put the actual thing in):

Hey Todd Atkin it looks like females can shut the whole thing down if they want to.  

also, another thing i missed from the post, is that i hope all those court cases the democrats started today against some pretty dodgy decisions and practices around opening hours and last minute changes to electoral rules still go ahead.  just because mr obama has won doesn't mean those issues aren't still important and those practices don't have to be challenged.