Behind Rolling Stone’s Cover, a Story Worth Reading

Of all the outraged responses to the Rolling Stone cover of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston marathon bombings, those from Boston were particularly acute. Mayor Thomas Menino wrote a letter of protest to Rolling Stone and several retailers with Boston ties said they would not sell the controversial issue.

And then on Thursday, Boston Magazine responded to Rolling Stone’s editorial decision with one of its own, publishing photos of the manhunt and arrest of Mr. Tsarnaev. The images were taken by Sgt. Sean Murphy, a photographer with the Massachusetts State Police who was described as “furious” about the Rolling Stone cover and accused the magazine of “glamorizing the face of terror.”

His protest, which included graphic photos of Mr. Tsarnaev during his capture, ended up creating a controversy of its own. According to Boston Magazine, Sergeant Murphy was relieved of duty just hours after he turned over hundreds of photos to the magazine.

Mr. Murphy’s actions may have put him in hot water at work, but it is not hard to understand the emotions that drove his decision. News developments, and the way they are presented in the news media, always fall harder on some than others, especially victims, families of victims and first responders.

Part of the mass umbrage would seem to stem from a misunderstanding of the magazine and its cover. From the very beginning, Rolling Stone has seen long-form journalism as part of its mission, and more recently has proven its journalistic chops with important stories about Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and the so-called vampire squids of Goldman Sachs. Those were good, important stories and while the profile about Mr. Tsarnaev did not break a lot of new ground, it did an excellent job of explaining how someone who looked like the kid next door radicalized in place and, according to the federal charges, decided to attack innocents to make a political point. There is civic and journalistic value in finding out more about who this person is, and if the cover created in-bound interest, that would seem to be to the good.

Still, many piled on, accusing Rolling Stone of a cynical play for attention while they sought some of the same in their reaction. The actor James Woods, among others, found himself on the moral high ground, issuing a profane and personal rebuke to Jann Wenner, the owner and publisher of Rolling Stone.

Madonna: Has the Queen of Pop Sensationalism gone too far by wearing a chainmail niqab?

 

The Queen of Pop is at it again. Madonna loves touting a gun or wearing fishnets and spandex at an age when most of us prefer to cover up. But her latest outfit is more controversial still. She has been pictured wearing a chainmail mask resembling a niqab – a face veil worn by Muslim women. The star posted a photo from her forthcoming photo-shoot with Harper’s Bazaar magazine on Instagram and Facebook, accompanied by the words: “The Revolution of Love is on…Inshallah [Arabic for ‘God willing’].”

 

It is unclear what message Madonna, who is well known for her humanitarian work with women in developing countries and as an exponent of the Kabbalah religion, meant to send via her new look. Some fans have interpreted the chainmail mask as a message of empowerment to women, but one Instagram user said: “You thing this message is empowering to women?…If this was a woman who really wanted to empower other females she could do this in many other ways…When did gagging women make them feel good?” Other fans have suggested that Madonna’s chainmail mask is a direct criticism of the oppression suffered by women in some Islamic countries.

 

Bill Paul Buttuls wrote on Facebook: “Are you saying the burqa is ‘trapping’ women?” while Ccim Le Bon commented: “Burqa covers even the eyes…and this is the NIQAB…the message is not clear…what do you mean queen?”

 

While the majority of fans posted positive comments about the outfit, and the odd joke about the Queen of Pop raiding Lady Gaga’s wardrobe, others found the photograph “disappointing” and “ reductive”.

 

Abu Qatada will be a free man in Jordan soon, his family predict

Abu Qatada’s family said on Monday they expected to have him home within days and expressed their hopes court proceedings against the controversial cleric would progress smoothly so he could soon return to normal life. Close friends claimed the decade-long fight to deport Qatada from Britain is unlikely to end in a jail term, and said in their opinion he would almost certainly be cleared by the Jordanian courts.

His was twice convicted in absentia for conspiring to engage in terrorist activities in Jordan, and courts there sentenced him to life imprisonment. The same charges were repeated at the State Security Court on Sunday, where Qatada denied all allegations.  His co-conspirators were sentenced and later pardoned by the king. It is this precedent which makes Abu Hanieh optimistic his friend will be freed.  The exclusion of evidence obtained under torture, the prerequisite for Qatada’s return to Jordan, is another reason. “It’s usual to get evidence by torture here,” said Abu Hanieh, who has been imprisoned many times.

Hate Group Leader Cited By Terrorist to Headline Catholic Homeschool Conference

During the last weekend in July, The Kolbe Academy, a Catholic homeschool program located in Napa, California will host a conference in Sacramento where educators and home school instructors will gather to discuss how they can “engage the culture in a year of faith.”

Ordinarily, such a program would come and go unnoticed. But this year, featured amongst a lineup of distinguished speakers, is Robert Spencer, a controversial anti-Muslim blogger who civil rights organizations including the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League label a “hate group leader.” This places him in close proximity to KKK leaders, the Black Panther Party, and neo-Nazi groups.

His scheduled appearance casts a negative light on what should be a positive event. It also raises questions about why a man whose writing was cited thirteen dozen times by the Norway terrorist Anders Breivik, who slaughtered 77 youth campers in Oslo in 2010, was ever invited to speak about youth education in the first place.

Spencer, a Catholic deacon from New Hampshire and director of the blacklist blog Jihad Watch, is set to appear as part of a speaking lineup that includes prominent clergy and educators from all across the United States. Once the director of Kolbe Academy, where he also served as a history and classics teacher, his publications include “Classical Education in the Contemporary World” and “How to Introduce Your Child to Classical Music in 52 Easy Lessons.”

If any religious group in the United States understands the harmful effects of prejudice, it is Catholics. Throughout the 1900s, they were on the receiving end of the same stereotypes and associations that Spencer aims at Muslims today.

The Santa Rosa Diocese, which governs the Kolbe Academy, should follow the actions of the Worcester Diocese in Massachusetts, which rescinded Spencer’s invitation to speak at a men’s conference in Massachusetts in March. The Sacramento Diocese, which governs St. Stephen The First Martyr Parish, the parish where the event will be held, should do the same.

 

Support of any kind for a group on the State Department’s list is now grounds for a trial on charges of terrorism

A four-month hunger strike, mass force-feedings, and widespread media coverage have at last brought Guantanamo, the notorious offshore prison set up by the Bush administration early in 2002, back into American consciousness. Prominent voices are finally calling on President Obama to close it down and send home scores of prisoners who, years ago, were cleared of wrongdoing.

Still unnoticed and out of the news, however, is a comparable situation in the U.S. itself, involving a pattern of controversial terrorism trials that result in devastating prison sentences involving the harshest forms of solitary confinement.  This growing body of prisoners is made up of Muslim men, including some formerly well-known and respected American citizens.

In the U.S. these days, the very word “terror,” no less the charge of material support for it, invariably shuts down rather than opens any conversation.  Nonetheless, a decade of researching a number of serious alleged terrorism cases on both side of the Atlantic, working alongside some extraordinary human rights lawyers, and listening to Muslim women in Great Britain and the U.S. whose lives were transformed by the imprisonment of a husband, father, or brother has given me a different perspective on such cases.

Perhaps most illuminating in them is the repeated use of what’s called “special administrative measures” to create a particularly isolating and punitive atmosphere for many of those charged with such crimes, those convicted of them, and even for their relatives.  While these efforts have come fully into their own in the post-9/11 era, they were drawn from a pre-9/11 paradigm.  Between the material support statute and those special administrative measures, it has become possible for the government to pre-convict and in many cases pre-punish a small set of Muslim men.

“Government, are you waiting for aggression?”

June 7, 2013

 

This is the tough stance of the president of the League of Muslims in Ticino. “The UDC posters (previously reported on by Euro-Islam: http://www.euro-islam.info/2009/04/28/swiss-high-court-rules-udc-muslim-posters-not-racist/) reminds us of the propaganda in the ’30s”

 

The debate focuses on the controversial posters of UDC that portray two immigrants riding two Swiss; the poster has finally been brought to the attention of the Muslim community. The president of the League of Muslims in Ticino, Gasmi Slaheddine wrote to the government requesting decisive action. “Say enough to these constant attacks on the Muslim community,” it reads.

 

According Slaheddine, “the majority of people of the Islamic community in Ticino are well integrated, both socially and professionally. There are men and women who contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country as doctors, engineers, economists, artisans, teachers, cooks… to name just a few examples. Many of these workers are of Swiss nationality.”

Is the FBI unable to ‘talk about jihad’?

“We see with the new FBI terminology and the new intelligence terminology, they can’t talk about the enemy. They can’t talk about jihad. They can’t talk about Muslim. They can’t talk about Islam.”— Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), speech on the House floor, April 26, 2013

 

Has the FBI been hamstrung in its investigation of the Boston Marathon bombers because of a “purge” of training materials deemed by the Obama administration to be offensive to various ethnic and religious groups?

 

That’s a claim that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) keeps raising on the House floor and in media interviews— a point echoed by Sean Hannity on Fox News. (Hannity cites Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) as his source.)

 

Gohmert is a controversial figure who also recently made the unsubstantiated charge that the Obama administration is staffed with “many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence.”

That’s a bizarre assertion, mostly ignored. But his comments on FBI practices have gained wide circulation, so let’s explore the basis of that claim.

After Boston, we should put Muslims under surveillance, says Rep. King

President Obama cautioned the nation not to rush to judgment about the Boston Marathon bombers. But that’s not stopping Republican Rep. Peter King.

King, who chairs the House subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, is urging authorities to beef up their surveillance of Muslims in the U.S.  following Friday night’s arrest of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Police must “realize that the threat is coming from the Muslim community and increase surveillance there,” the New York lawmaker told National Review.

King—who spearheaded controversial hearings on the radicalization of Muslim-Americans in 2011—also told CNN that “we can’t be politically correct. I think we have to see, has radicalization extended into the Chechen community?”

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said in a statement that the Obama administration should resist the calls to treat Dzhokhar as an enemy combatant.

“This is not a foreign national caught on an enemy battlefield, but an American citizen arrested on American soil. The Justice Department has demonstrated a far greater ability to successfully prosecute suspected terrorists in federal courts than the military commissions have thus far been able to show. Nothing must be done to compromise the public safety, the ability of prosecutors to seek justice for the victims or our constitutional principles,” he said.

Meeting Featuring Anti-Gay Islamist Canceled by University of East London

20 March 2013

 

A meeting featuring Khalid Yashin, an anti-gay Islamist preacher, scheduled to be hosted by the University of East London (UEL) last Friday, 15 March, was canceled after lobbying by the UEL LGBT Society and the Peter Tatchell Foundation. The meeting was scheduled to be held on the UEL Stratford campus.

 

Khalid Yashin has previously said that homosexuality and lesbianism are sins and aberrations and has endorsed the execution of gay people. Yahin’s controversial positions and the insistence of the event organizers on gender segregated seating prompted a backlash by university groups and human rights organizations, who claim that such events are contrary to the tolerant university environment.

 

The UEL student union issued a statement announcing the cancelation of the event, but neither they nor the UEL administration issued a public denunciation of Khalid Yashin’s positions or of his invitation to speak on campus.

Does Philadelphia Have a “Burqa Crisis?”

Daniel Pipes—profiled as “the country’s most controversial Middle East scholar“—is stirring debate again, taking to The Jewish Press to advocate a ban on wearing the niqab and burqa—clothing traditionally worn by Muslim women—in public spots. He says too many Philly crimes (including the recent kidnapping of a girl from her school) are taking place under, literally, the cover of Muslim garb.

It’s important to understand, though, that Pipes’ “crisis” looks a little less disturbing when looked at closely. He justifies a ban because, by his count, at least 14 robberies have been committed in Philadelphia using Muslim garb … since 2007. That’s less than three a year. If you need more perspective, consider this: The 14 robberies that Pipes counts adds up to maybe one really busy shift for the police department. In the 28-day period ending Feb. 17, there were 507 robbery reports to city police—if 14 of those robberies had been committed by burqa-wearing assailants, that wouldn’t even be 3 percent of the total. Trying to calculate what those 14 cases look like compared to six or more years of robberies? You couldn’t even see a number that small with the naked eye.