Monthly Archives: August 2010

Muslim Cab Driver Stabbed in New York

When a Puerto Rican man happened past an anti-Muslim rally protesting the building of the Park51 Islamic community center in downtown Manhattan this weekend, he was mobbed and swarmed with hostile insults from protesters who mistakenly believed him to be Muslim. The confrontation looked like it narrowly avoided turning violent. Yesterday, in a more fatal incident, a Muslim New York City cab driver, Ahmed Sharif, was slashed with a knife across the face and neck after his passenger inquired after his religion.

Sharif, a 43-year-old father of four who has lived in America for two-and-a-half decades, commented, “I never feel this hopeless and insecure before.” He also believes that it is the anti-Muslim rhetoric surrounding the construction of the Islamic center that put his life in danger. “Right now, the public sentiment is very serious (because of the Park 51 debate). All drivers should be more careful.” Twenty-one-year-old Michael Enright, his attacker, faces serious charges, including attempted murder as a hate crime, for the attack which put his victim in the hospital. Ironically, Enright works for an interfaith group that supports the Park51 project. Guess he didn’t get the memo.

In other New York hate crime news, today over in Long Island, four teens who were a part of the hate attack that killed Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero were sentenced. The teenage boys had targeted Lucero in a “game” called beaner-hopping, or beating up anybody they happened across who looked Mexican.

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Fox News’ Terrorist Ties

If you’ve been following the controversy over the Park51 Islamic community center, you’ve probably heard at least a snippet of the right-wing’s incessant questioning over where the funding for the structure is coming from, and if it isn’t really coming from terrorist sympathizers. Fox News in particular wants viewers to follow the money, specifically raising concerns about potential backing from the Kingdom Foundation. But, as Jon Stewart points out on the Daily Show, solidifying my love for him as the best thing on T.V., the Kingdom Foundation is run by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal … who owns seven percent of News Corp, Fox News’ parent company.

So, following along with the logic, we should be opposed to Park51 because of possible “terrorist” funding from the bin Talal’s Kingdom Foundation, even though it’s all just speculation without any evidence that any money is coming from this venue. But we shouldn’t be concerned that Fox News is partly owned by the very man they’re demonizing as supporting terrorist activities. Obviously, Fox either has terrorist ties, or they’re making a big deal out of nothing to demonize a peaceful community center.

Continuing along with Jon Stewart further, watching Fox News makes them more popular, which means higher ad revenue, which goes into bin Talal’s pocket, so: “If we want to cut off funding to the terror mosque, we must, together as a nation, stop watching Fox.”

As it turns out from my own checking into Fox’s “terrorist ties,” Alwaleed bin Talal’s partial ownership of the news station is already concerning to right-wing groups, as Think Progress reported in February. So maybe it’s not so far-fetched to believe that even conservatives can be turned away from watching Fox News’ constant lies and misinformation? A gal can hope.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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www.thedailyshow.com
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More Reasons to Have Casual Sex

Careers have been built on telling women that casual sex will make them miserable, and they don’t truly want to have sex anyway. While society tends to accept that men will seek to obtain sex by hook or crook, women’s worth lies in keeping their legs shut, as fellow Women’s Rights blogger Kendall McKenzie’s post article on revirginization surgery demonstrates. But the battle of the sexes and double standards can go by the wayside because, ladies, there’s nothing wrong with your sexuality or deciding to have sex-for-pleasure.

Not convinced? Having trouble getting that abstinence-only education out of your ears? Monica Shores on Alternet lays down “6 Reasons to Have Casual Sex.” To start with, casual sex can counteract the ill effects of sexist, gender stereotyping sex education that demonizes women’s natural sexual desires. In disturbing patriarchal practices such as Purity Balls, girls undergo ceremonies where their fathers “posses” their virginity, which will later be handed off to the husband. “Notice, if you will, that these daughters never control their own virginity, their own sexuality,” fellow Women’s Rights blogger Roxann MtJoy writes. With an array of societal and cultural constraints telling women they do not own their sexuality, deciding to have casual sex can unlock the jail of conservative norms women find themselves in.

Casual partners, Shores writes, also have special benefits from being one-night stands or otherwise not deep, committed relationship: there’s less at stake, and women have the ability to explore without getting hung up on what their partner thinks. Casual sex gives women more opportunities to experiment with their likes and dislikes without that little voice in their head asking “what does he think of me?” Plus, multiple partners can teach you their own sexual tricks, and if you end up settled into a committed relationship, you can bring to the bed mind-blowing techniques and insights about what really rocks your body that otherwise neither of you might have stumbled upon.

And if it turns out casual sex isn’t really your thing? It doesn’t mean it was a mistake to try. Much like going on a bad blind date or undergoing a break-up, you come out of it a little wiser about yourself and what you want, knowledge that you can take forward with you on further relationship and sexual adventures.

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Arizona Journalism Students Profile U.S. Immigration System’s Victims

Lately, it doesn’t seem like anything good is coming out of Arizona. From the “paper’s please” SB 1070 to assaults on birthright citizenship, the state is becoming a black spot full of bad ideas for violating constitutional rights and demonizing immigrants. But Arizona State University journalism students are putting out some A+ articles as part of their News21 Latino America project, which puts a human face to the problems of our immigration system.

We already know how much children suffer from lawmakers’ refusal to pass immigration reform to create a family-based system. Torn from one or both parents or sent to a strange country where they cannot speak the language, left in foster care or, worse, homeless: these are only some of the trials faced by children, many of them U.S. citizens, who are collateral damage of the strict deportation system. Journalism student Erynn Elizabeth Reitmayer profiles some of these casualties, like Christopher, who was only one-and-half when his drug addict father reported his mother to immigration to thwart her intention to leave and take her children to a safer place. Unfortunately, it is not rare for an abusive partner to misuse the system in this way. Soon after her deportation to Mexico, a friend checked in on the children left behind, which probably saved Christopher and his three-week-old brother, who were sitting on the floor alone, covered in blood, their father nowhere to be seen.

Another set of articles explore the plight of immigrant women: trafficked, missing, raped, detained. Unable to find work in Mexico, 21-year-old Iris attempted to cross to America to provide for her sick mother and her sister’s child. Betrayed by the coyote she paid $2,000, she submitted to rape to keep the men who found her from killing her little sister. When rape survivors like Iris are picked up by Border Patrol, they rarely receive any help for their trauma, and nobody inquires into the violent crime against them. Lauren Gilger writes, “Investigating the cases of rape victims like Iris is simply not their job. Deporting them is.” But should it be? Should we be focusing all our resources on deporting women looking for work to support their families, or the men who raped them?

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Good News for Domestic Abuse Survivors Seeking Asylum

In December, Guatemalan woman Rody Alvarado was granted asylum after a 12 year battle, winning permission to remain in the United States safe from the reach of the husband who beat, raped, and threatened to kill her. A new ruling in the case of a Mexican woman, L.R., who was subjected to similar abuse from her common-law husband (he once even tried to burn her alive), clarifies the arguments under which women fleeing domestic violence in other countries can seek asylum.

The victories of Alvarado and L.R. were made possible in large part due to the shift from the Bush administration, which staunchly opposed domestic violence being used as ground for asylum, to the Obama team, which early on made it clear that there would be a change in the waters on this issue.

As decided in L.R.’s case, domestic violence victims whose own governments refuse to protect them can qualify for asylum. In many countries, misogyny is so entrenched in culture, law, and law enforcement, women victims of violence cannot obtain help; in L.R.’s case, this extended to one judge promising to protect her only if she would have sex with him. Thus, the ruling confirms that women who suffer from domestic violence that their own countries essentially give tacit acceptance of can claim to be part of a persecuted social group that is suffering from gender-based violence.

Aside from asylum, there was no other recourse for L.R.: she was unable to move anywhere in Mexico without her husband, who she reported first had sex with her when she was a teenage student and he an athletic coach, tracking her down. Now, L.R. and her two sons, also granted asylum, can start life anew, free from fear. This is one of the best parts of the U.S. immigration system.

Photo credit: Ben Pollard

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Georgia Police Sued for Arrest and Assault of Man Biking While Brown

Biking while brown isn’t a crime, but that doesn’t mean that law enforcement officials don’t treat it that way. That’s why the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the National Immigration Project, and civil rights attorney Brian Spears are suing two Georgia police officers for racial profiling in the unlawful stop, arrest, and assault of Angel Francisco Castro Torres.

Torres riding his bicycle, minding his own business, when the two police officers noticed that he looked Latino and thus pulled him over to question his immigration status, by their own admission. Although Torres was unarmed and posed no threat to the officers, he was beaten up in the course of the arrest, sustaining severe damage to his nose and eye that required surgery to repair. The officers thought they could get away with the assault by quickly bringing Torres to jail, where a 287(g) agreement with the federal government resulted in him being sent to immigration detention, despite the fact that all criminal charges against him were dropped and he was only picked up in the first place was a violation of his civil rights.

This is reminiscent of another event that happened earlier this year in Seattle, caught on tape, where police wrongfully stopped and assaulted a Latino man, as one shouted, “”I’ll beat the f—ing Mexican piss out of you, homey.” In that case, police realized, oops, they had taken an innocent man, so they picked him off the ground and sent him on his way, beaten and bruised.

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4 Days, 179 Congolese Women Raped

These days, rape is to the Congo like peanut butter is to jelly. The two seem to naturally go together, so high are the rates of rape as a weapon of war and civilian sexual assaults in the conflict-torn Congo. But even in the Congo, the rape and gang-rape of at least 179 women and 4 young boys over a 4 day rampage is a serious incident. Especially when it occurred a few miles from a United Nations peacekeeping base.

The AP reports that between two and four hundred Rwandan FDLR and Congolese Mai-Mai rebels descended on Luvungi and surrounding villages for a bout of raping and pillaging early this month. Already, 179 women have been treated for rape and gang rape, but Will F. Cragin of the International Medical Corps says that the number of victims may well be much higher. Every time aid workers go through the area, they find more women in need of medical attention. Some have been hiding out in fear of the rebels still being nearby; other are struggling naked and bruised out of the forest into which they were dragged by their rapists .

It certainly reflects poorly on the U.N. mission that this atrocity took place so near to their base of operations. While they were aware of the attack taking place, it continued largely unmolested for four days. In an additional black eye for the U.N., it has been reported that they took the trouble to provide an escort for a commercial truck to pass through the area safety, but couldn’t be bothered to intervene on behalf of civilian women. Is money that much more important than violence against women?

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Former FBI Agent: Bin Laden Happiest About Opposition to Mosques

For peaceful Muslims in the United States, the opposition to their freedom to practice their religion, and the equation of all of Islam with terrorism, is both a violation of their constitutional rights and deeply disrespectful. But, as the controversy over Park51, the Muslim community center to be built in a former Burlington Coat Factory a couple blocks from the World Trade Center, continues to mount, more people are speaking out with concerns that this kind of xenophobia and intolerance also plays into the goals of extremist terrorists like Osama Bin Laden.

Former FBI agent Ali Soufan, whose career included the interrogation of a number of terrorists, says that “one of the most important lessons” he learned was that al Qaeda terrorists “have a warped view of America. To them … the U.S. is a country at war with Islam and Muslims, and so they had a duty to fight us.” So, the person who is most likely to be pleased by this attack on Muslims’ religious rights? Osama Bin Laden. “His next video script has just written itself,” Soufan states. His words echoes those of former members of the Bush administration who have spoken out against their own party for leading an intolerance charge that “reinforc[es] al Qaeda’s message” and “undermine[s] the war on terrorism.”

Ironically, simply sticking to American principles enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and supporting the right to freedom of religion would deny such extremists the fodder they use to manipulate followers. It is when we abandon American principles, and those of human decency, whether it be through vehement religious intolerance or torture at Abu Ghraib, that we cast a shadow on our ability to wield the moral high ground and lose friends in the world.

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DNA Testing to Free Wrongfully Convicted Benefits Rape Victims

The American criminal justice system has a far from perfect record when it comes to helping rape survivors. Whether it be refusing to permit the administration of a rape kit, making unfounded accusations against and jailing survivors, or letting hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sit collecting dust, the picture can be pretty grim. But rape kits aren’t the only things going untested that should be. I’m talking about DNA tests.

As Matt Kelley writes on Criminal Justice, DNA tests have exonerated 258 wrongfully convicted persons, many of whom were in jail for rape. Yet appeals for DNA testing nonetheless often wait years, leaving potentially innocent individuals in jail. In some cities and states, prosecutors or governors have begun requesting DNA testing in cases where the convicted person claimed innocence, but the DNA evidence was/could not be tested at the time of their trial.

While the people released after DNA testing are most often Calvins and Michaels — that is to say, men — this is a huge women’s issue. Seriously, what rape survivor wants the wrong man serving time while her actual rapist walks free? And as long as the perpetrator is free, other women’s safety is jeopardized. DNA testing lets law enforcement know that they should still be looking for the actual rapist.

Of course, let’s make sure not to confuse the issue: we’re not talking about women making false accusations of rape that DNA testing proves never happened. We’re talking about a crime that was committed that DNA testing proves was committed by somebody else. It’s just not the convicted perpetrator’s DNA signature that shows up in the evidence bag.

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Legislators in 22 States Want to Be Just Like Arizona

Fellow Immigrant Rights blogger Prerna Lal reported yesterday that a Utah state representative has introduced his own copycat bill of Arizona’s anti-immigrant “paper’s please” SB 1070. Unfortunately, Utah isn’t the only state where nativist politicians are jumping on the xenophobic bandwagon. Reform Immigration for America found that in a full 22 states, legislators have made a public statement of their intention to introduce their own SB 1070 doppelganger.

These state legislators are undeterred by the multiple lawsuits facing Arizona’s law, or the fact that it’s racist, a burden on the police force, and completely ineffective in dealing with the problems of the immigration system. Of course, we can hope that legislators in Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and, of course, Utah, don’t get swept up by the xenophobic fervor of a colleague who has taken Russell Pearce as his/her hero. Thus far, legislators in only five states have acted on their promise to introduce a bill, although summer recesses have delayed their ability to do so.

Of course, Republicans desire to ride xenophobic fervor to an electoral victory can also lead to backlash. In Florida, a number of Latino Republicans have denounced gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum, who laid out his own preferred version of Arizona’s immigration law for the state of Florida. Latina Lista reports that McCollum has now realized that, oops, Florida has a lot of Latino voters who might not appreciate his unasked for support of a racial profiling law. Capitalizing on anti-immigrant sentiment might work for some politicians, but it’s not a free ride to elected office. While many people are frustrated enough with the federal government’s inaction on immigration reform to support rebellious state action, others see Arizona’s law and copycat bills as the racist, ineffective pieces of legislation they are.

Photo credit: PuenteAZ

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