Category Archives: Antiracism

One Year after Fort Hood: The Missing Story of Muslim Peacemaking

Today, November 5, 2010, marks the one-year anniversary of the Fort Hood shooting, in which former Army psychiatrist Major Nadal Halik Hasan shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, wounding 42 others. As U.S. servicemembers and the families of the victims of this shooting grieved for those who were killed and Americans mourned the loss of life, reports on these crimes riveted the mainstream media. The shootings were certainly newsworthy. The problem is that almost the only time Muslims are featured in the U.S. news media is when a Muslim engages in an act of violence. A one-sided focus on violence committed by some Muslims fuels the racist narrative that “Islam is a religion of violence”—which underwrites the so-called “Global War on Terror.”

In spite of ongoing efforts by many in the Muslim religious community and Muslim-American organizations, the long and vital history of Muslim peacemaking has been lost in the avalanche of reports on Muslims where the mainstream media connects them only with violent extremism. The lack of acknowledgment and recognition in the U.S. of Muslim peacemakers continues to have grave effects on Muslims all over the world as well as those at home in the U.S. In addition, the ongoing hyper-focus by the U.S. state and mainstream media on Islamic militants to the exclusion of those Muslims whose peacemaking efforts oppose militarism of all kinds continues to prop up and justify ongoing U.S.-backed military occupations, including those of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine.

Private First Class Naser Abdo, a 20-year-old Muslim servicemember currently serving in the U.S. Army and seeking Conscientious Objector (C.O.) status on the grounds of Islam, is a Muslim peacemaker. He states, “As I studied Islam and Islam’s commitment to peace, I developed an entirely new perspective on war and conscience… That’s when I realized my conscience would not allow me to deploy.” Pfc. Abdo’s C.O. case still awaits an Army recommendation of discharge from the military based on moral, ethical, and religious objection to all wars. Abdo is facing possible deployment to Afghanistan in spite of his C.O. claim, though Army commanders decided to delay his deployment after he went public with his case. Speaking out as a Muslim, Abdo is against war and has been working with nonviolent antiwar organizations including the War Resisters League and Quaker House in Fayetteville, NC on building public support for his objection to war on the grounds of Islam.

Several Muslim-American organizations in the U.S., such as the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, have been key supporters of Pfc. Abdo’s claim for Conscientious Objector status based on the principles of Islam. In a statement released by this organization in support of Pfc. Abdo, long-time Muslim peacemaker and antimilitarist Ibrahim Ramey states, “We believe that his position is not a product of personal cowardice or disloyalty to his nation, but rather, a coherent expression of his faith and his personal belief in the tenets and laws of the religion of Islam.” In a separate statement, Ramey further underscores the U.S. government and mainstream media blackout of Muslim opposition to militarism: “Major Muslim efforts for peace-making in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other conflict spots are virtually unknown to U.S. news consumers, and even to policy makers. In my opinion, this phenomenon plays into the hands of institutions that seek to permanently militarize the U.S. economy by creating the illusion that Muslims are ‘the enemy’ and must therefore be controlled or eliminated for the sake of ‘democracy.’”

Many other Muslim organizations also attest to the importance of U.S. recognition of Muslim peacemaking efforts. In “An Open Letter to President Obama” sent on the eve of his visit to Egypt to address the Muslim World in May 2009, 1,600 American-Muslim and non-Muslim scholars on the Middle East called on the U.S. government to recognize nonviolent Muslim leaders: “For too long, American policy in the Middle East has been paralyzed by fear of Islamist parties coming to power…However, most mainstream Islamist groups in the region are nonviolent and respect the democratic process.” This letter further urges the U.S. to discontinue its support for violent political regimes in Central Asia and support democracy through peaceful policies: “The United States, for half a century, has frequently supported repressive regimes that routinely violate human rights, and that torture and imprison those who dare criticize them and prevent their citizens from participation in peaceful civic and political activities…There is no doubt that the people of the Middle East long for greater freedom and democracy…What they need from your administration is a commitment to encourage political reform not through wars, threats, or imposition, but through peaceful policies that reward governments that take active and measurable steps towards genuine democratic reforms.”

Despite the ongoing work of Muslim peacemakers and antimilitarists, Muslims living both inside and outside of the U.S. continue to feel the deeply negative effects of the dominant culture’s association of Muslims with terrorism and violence, often referred to as “Islamophobia.” In the U.S. military, Pfc. Abdo experienced a great deal of harassment and discrimination from his fellow servicemembers: “Early in basic training… one soldier repeatedly insulted me and Islam saying, ‘Go pray to your god that doesn’t exist or your pedophile prophet.’…During the training cycle I persistently reassured my comrades that my religion did not make me an enemy of theirs or an enemy of the state. The climax of this harassment occurred when my comrades all made a concerted effort to get me an unwanted discharge because I was not welcome in their ranks.”

These acts mirror the broader U.S. climate of discrimination against Muslims, as evidenced in the media craze surrounding the “Ground Zero Mosque,” otherwise known as the proposed construction of the Park 51 Muslim Community Center in Lower Manhattan. The association of Islam with terror also served to spark the “International Burn-a-Quran Day” controversy out of Gainesville, Florida, which made national headlines on the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Just a few short weeks ago, a white New York City passenger named Michael Enright shouted, “Asalamualaykum, consider this a checkpoint!” prior to slashing the throat of Ahmad Sharif, the Muslim cab driver.

Furthermore, U.S.-backed war and occupation has been disastrous for Muslims living all over the world. The Iraq War Logs, which include close to 400,000 classified U.S. Army intelligence documents, were recently released by Wikileaks and include accounts of the violent deaths of 66,081 Iraqi civilians, along with reports by the military that confirm widespread killing and abuse of Iraqi civilians by U.S. military forces and U.S. contractors. The documents also reveal U.S. military instructions from high up the chain of command to ignore detainee abuse by Iraqi authorities. In the U.S.-led counter-insurgency war in Afghanistan, there has been 31% increase in Afghan civilian deaths and a staggering 55% increase in child casualties so far this year as a result of the war, according to the latest statistics from the United Nations. The U.S. is also conducting air strikes and Special Forces operations in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia and is slated to send $3 billion in military aid to Israel for FY2011 in support of its military occupation of Palestine.

The abuse and killing of Muslims isn’t an accidental byproduct of the U.S. military pursuit of a select group of Muslim extremists. It is the direct result and the intended effect of the U.S. government decision to go to war in pursuit of military-backed power in Central and South Asia. When the mainstream media in the US focuses solely on Muslims as violent extremists, it acts to provide a justification for these wars. The direct link made between Islam and terror also provides cover for waging war against a people, not simply targeting a few individuals, because according to this narrative, any Muslim could be a terrorist.

It is for this reason that we as people living in the U.S. must work to undo the deeply harmful effects of this narrative on the lives of Muslims living both in the U.S. and abroad and construct new narratives not premised on the logic of war and imperialism. We must lift up the stories and ongoing work of Muslim peacemakers like Naser Abdo. We must continue to make the connections between the over-amplification of violent acts committed by small groups of Islamic militants and the ongoing need for the U.S. government to attempt to justify unjust war and occupation. In a statement in a press conference earlier last month, Pfc. Abdo was clear in making this connection:

“In reference to ‘Islamophobia’ as it pertains to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there is much that I have come to understand as a Muslim Conscientious Objector. As a Conscientious Objector, I am morally disinclined to associate terror with Islam as is often the case during routine training exercises…To a soldier, the association of terror and Islam serves the purpose of falsely justifying ones actions in combat by stripping Muslims of their humanity. The association of terror and Islam is what we now refer to as ‘Islamophobia.’…It is as if the U.S. public is just recently following a trend that has been rampant in the military for years. Only when the military and America can disassociate Muslims from terror can we move onto a brighter future of religious collaboration and dialogue that defines America and makes me proud to be an American.”

For more information on Naser Abdo’s case, go to www.freenasserabdo.org.

Also, check out this article that will appear in the Fall issue of Fellowship magazine by Ibrahim Ramey:
For more info on Muslim peacemaking, see also Rabia Harris’s piece “On Islamic Nonviolence” in Fellowship:

Latino Youth Defines DREAM Act as a DeFacto Military Draft

By VAMOS Unidos Youth

We write this statement to raise our voices as Latino youth working and living in the Bronx, New York in opposition to the DREAM ACT as it stands. We demand that we return to our original DREAM ACT that had a community service option instead of a military one. The military has been losing their numbers due to the multiple wars the US has begun. The DREAM ACT would hand us over on a platter to fight these unjust wars. The DREAM ACT has been warped over the years to draft Latino youth into the military, as they need more and more soldiers to fight their wars.

We have been living under harsh conditions. Our communities have been historically underprivileged, with militarized streets, schools that seem more like jails than educational institutions, and poverty that pushes people to desperation and sadness. We have grown up with the trauma of having our family members and friends detained, jailed, and deported. But we are strong and determined, so we keep onwards. We have stood next to our parents as they worked as street vendors, as they were ticketed, arrested, and sometimes assaulted by police for trying to make a living. We, as youth, have also been ticketed and arrested alongside our parents. We have come to understand what it is to be humiliated and then stand and fight for what is right, what is principled, what is just. Our parents’ unrelenting strength to fight for us and their rights have taught us to always stand up for what is right and never sell out.

We have asked ourselves “Is the DREAM ACT an advantage or disadvantage for us as immigrant youth?” Many of us were excited about the possibility of getting documents and finally being able to be recognized as human beings, be able to get a job, an education, and help our families. Along with our teachers and mentors we delved into community organizing and becoming politically conscious. We began learning about our history and our people’s resistance. We then expanded to other cultures and histories and began to appreciate them. We marched side by side with youth from all over the world including South Asia and the Middle East. We saw that within our hearts there was no difference, and enjoyed each other’s company and diversity. Our spirits were momentarily paralyzed when we began learning about the effects of war and how their families and communities had been destroyed. We began to ask ourselves “How can we stop these wars, how can we help?” Our political education allowed us to see through the military propaganda and the army recruiters in our blocks and schools. Speaking to our peers we saw how the military was using them to fight wars that didn’t concern us and killed our friends. This forced us to look at the DREAM ACT a lot closer.

THE DREAM ACT REVEALED

In order to qualify for the DREAM ACT you have to have migrated before the age of 16 and have proof of residence in the United States for five consecutive years since the date of arrival. Also, you have to have graduated from high school or have a GED. This would eliminate many of our older youth, those that did not finish high school, and recent arrivals. You must then complete the following:

1. Serve two years in the military, or;

2. Finish two years of bachelor’s program or higher degree in the US.

What happened to the community service option that the original DREAM ACT contained? Why did our supposed advocates allow for the removal of the community service option? Was it because it became in this form the DREAM ACT became winnable? At what expense?

Two Years of College

The first option on the DREAM ACT is to go to school for at least two years; this is great for people who can afford the high tuition rates. But what about those of us who do not have enough money for the tuition, the books, and personal expenses? Also let’s not forget about our families who have more than one undocumented child who needs to go to school to get their papers.

DREAM ACT proponents say that most people will not go to the military, that they can afford school if we work. Unfortunately those folks are distanced from our realities and don’t understand our economic hardships. We broke down the cost of each year in school without the aid of Pell Grants or Financial Aid for attending two years of a four years University; our calculations were the following for a university in Ohio, which does not allow in-state tuition for undocumented students:

Cleveland State University: Out of State

* 12 Credit Hours – $7,884.00 X 2 = 1 Year = $15,768.00 X 2 years = $31,536.00

* Expenses for Students Living at Home with their Parents = $6,568.00 X 2 years = 13,136.00

* GRAND TOTAL = $44,672.00

Only 10 states allow for undocumented students to pay for in-state tuition. The majority of undocumented youth would have to pay amounts as stated in the example above. We are lucky to be in New York as it is one of the states that allow undocumented youth to apply for in-state tuition. At the same time we understand that by accepting the terms under the DREAM ACT most youth would not have the same opportunity we do here in New York. Undocumented youth in states like North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico would be forced to take the military option in large numbers as they would not be able to pay the high prices of education. For this reason we do not support the DREAM ACT.

Two Years of Military Requirement

We, the VAMOS UNIDOS YOUTH, do not support the DREAM ACT due to the military component. The fact that it has been introduced as a defense appropriation bill adds insult to injury. The DREAM ACT is a de facto military draft, forcing undocumented youth to fight in unjust wars in exchange for the recognition as human beings, a Green Card. This is a trick by the politicians, Democratic Party, and DC immigration advocates. The same way many supposed “advocates” for immigrant rights sold out the community with Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), they now sell us out with the DREAM ACT. We stand against any militarization- whether it is of the border, our communities, or our status. We will not kill innocent people in exchange for Green Cards.

Our parents have firmly stated in their fight for immigration reform, “We will not accept papers tainted with the blood of our people still crossing the border and dying,” in regards to CIR and it’s militarization of the border component. We say the same “We will not be used for the wars of the corporations and the rich in any part of the world in exchange of blood-stained immigration papers.”

We make a call out to all community organizations and allies to stand firmly on what is principled, against the DREAM ACT if it contains the military provision. Our fight will not be won in one or two years. We are prepared to organize our communities and struggle for many years. We cannot negotiate out our lives, our dignity, and the lives of others. We must rethink our strategies and take control away from the DC immigration advocates which have shown us they don’t have our interest. They have watered down good legislation at a very high cost to the community. Our communities need to decide and take control. We stand with our brothers and sisters affected by wars; we feel their pain and desperation. We will not be used to decimate other countries and their people. Thus, we stand together against the DREAM ACT with the militarization component and fight for what is principled, even if it takes us a very long time.

In Solidarity, VAMOS UNIDOS YOUTH

vamosunidos@gmail.com

VAMOS Unidos: Vendedores Ambulantes Movilizando y Organizando en Solidaridad (Street Vendors Mobilizing and Organizing in Solidarity), is a Bronx, NY, community-based social justice organization founded by low-income Latina/Latino immigrant street vendors.

Is the Iraq War Over?

On the U.S. Occupation of Iraq:

Please read and forward this statement written by the Organizing Network of the War Resisters League, made up of our Local and Affiliate groups all over the country, on the “end” of the Iraq war.

And please urge your local Congressional reps to sign on to Rep. Barney Frank’s “Dear Colleague” letter calling for a review of the military budget as a part of the work of the federal Deficit Reduction Commission. Act now!


Although we have been told that the Iraq war has officially come to an end, we, the local and national organizers of the War Resisters League, attest to the fact that the U.S. occupation of Iraq continues. This occupation directly inflicts danger and harm on the Iraqi people and stands in the way of Iraqi self-determination.

The War Resisters League fully endorses the Iraq Debacle statement, alongside partner organizations including CODEPINK, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Military Families Speak Out, Under the Hood GI Coffeehouse, and Courage to Resist.  We agree that the U.S. never attacked Iraq to support the people of Iraq. Rather, the intent has been for U.S. military control of the “strategic area” of West Asia for the benefit of U.S.-based and multinational companies, an extension of the Bush era project of global interventionism. This has taken a great toll primarily on the Iraqi people, but also on the people of the U.S., who have seen a growing war economy and increased militarism at home, including ongoing military recruiting with in communities of color and immigrant, poor, and rural communities, increased racial profiling against Muslim and Arab-Americans and unlawful detentions, including of U.S. citizens, within and outside of U.S. borders. Furthermore, it has taken a serious toll on the members of the U.S. Armed Forces, who continue to return home traumatized and injured, if at all, only to be deployed again to fight in these unconscionable wars.

We furthermore wish to underscore the central role of oil in the U.S. “strategy” in Iraq, which is to maintain thousands of troops and military contractors on the ground to support civilian U.S. forces stationed at permanent U.S. bases in the country. U.S. and multinational oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Halliburton, and KBR, have all “won” contracts to Iraq’s formerly nationalized oil fields.

We also wish to publicly support all Iraq war resisters, including those who are refusing to deploy or are fighting deployment in the U.S. Although the government and the mainstream media have reported that there are no longer any U.S. combat troops being sent to Iraq, 5,000 service members of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas were deployed to Iraq in the early morning hours of August 23rd. We support the resistance of those who have been protesting their deployment, including veterans, military families, and civilian activists at Under the Hood GI Coffeehouse.

As the war in Iraq has now officially shifted to a plan for a permanent U.S. occupation (all former “coalition” forces have completely exited the country), it remains the responsibility of the people of the U.S. to continue building a cross-sectional movement to push for a real end to the U.S. presence there in solidarity with the Iraqi people.

To find out more about organizing with WRL, email Kimber Heinz, WRL Organizing Coordinator, at kimber@warresisters.org.

In light of SB1070, an Exploration of the Militarization of Immigration

Today July 29, 2010, is the National Day of Action against SB1070, the anti-immigration, racial profiling law recently passed in Arizona. SB1070 is set to go into effect on July 29th, giving Arizona police the right to stop and arrest anyone suspected of being undocumented. Yesterday, July 28th, a federal judge blocked the state from enforcing its most controversial provisions, including sections that call for officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws that require immigrants to carry their papers at all times. Though this block is only temporary, on July 6th the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against SB1070 to declare it unconstitutional.

Immigration reform has been a hot topic for the past 5 years, with many calling for an end to illegal immigration. Recent polls show that the majority of Americans support Arizona’s unjust law, and having the state in control over immigration policy. About 20 other states are considering passing similar laws.

Many Americans fail to recognize how these “illegal” immigrants contribute significantly to the American society and economy. The strongest organizing against unfair laws in the U.S., like immigration, comes from immigrants. In addition to representing a large makeup of agricultural labor, and the service industry, each year 8,000 non-citizens enlist in the military. According to February 2008 data from the Department of Defense, more than 65,000 immigrants (non-citizens and naturalized citizens) were serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. Nearly 11 percent of those serving in the armed forces are of Latino origin. These statistics are backed with claims from the government that non-citizens serving in the military will have a chance at expedited US citizenship, without obtaining the regular benefits that a US citizen receives from serving in the military. Moreover, these “illegal” immigrants are forced to fight against people who are in similar standing as them in their struggle against US domination.

It is a known fact that recruiters crowd areas with large minority groups and immigrant populations. Additionally the proposed DREAM act, would give undocumented students the opportunity to obtain citizenship through 2 years in college or 2 years in the military. With the average cost of a 2-year college at over $2,000, many of these youth will most likely resort to the appealing recruiters that bombard their high schools. However, the fact that many illegal immigrants, and possibly youth, are serving in the military without any benefits, aside from a chance at citizenship, is unjust.

Furthermore, it is those same recruiters who flood the US-Mexican borders, beating, arresting, and deporting illegal immigrants. This militarization of the border causes those migrating to navigate through more isolated areas, leaving people who get injured behind. This militarization is also attributed to the recent increase in bodies of ” illegal” immigrants being found along the Mexico-Arizona border.

Despite all of this, many Americans cry that immigrants are taking their jobs when thousands of unemployed US citizens refuse to take available jobs in the service industry. Many complain that immigrants are anti-American and are useless, when the military seeks out vulnerable “illegal” immigrants promising them citizenship and a chance to kill to show their dedication to the US. All of these contradictions question the US’s survival as a country intolerant of immigrants and as a country using its military powers to exhibit its disrespect for those who contribute to its society.

You can help reform the militarization of immigrants by taking action against SB1070 NOW!


Add this anywhere

Albuquerque Stands Up for Immigrants

Check out this article written by WRL organizer, Gloria Walker:

“Responding to community outrage, members of the Albuquerque City Council unanimously withdrew proposed anti-immigration Resolution 10-90.

The controversial resolution stated that “Illegal immigration negatively impacts the City of Albuquerque in many different ways.” Calling for the federal government to increase border security, it stated, “the citizens of the City of Albuquerque have been victimized by crime due to illegal immigration.”

Albuquerque citizens, however, disagreed and organized to let their representatives on the city council know that they support immigrants rights.”