Ten Days in Duhok

April 1 – 10, 2014.

“You should tell your friend you were kidnapped,” says the dark-featured young man I met a short while ago, cigarette dangling from his grinning lips. The car careens down a dusty new highway in northern Iraq. The man has a bulwark of long eyelashes around his murky eyes, and short dark hair with a hint of silver emerging from the edges. “It is April, after all,” he says with a wink. As I peer out the window, oil wells, billboards for Turkish and Russian companies, and craggy mountains whiz by.

Continue reading

The Hazard, Hubris, and Hypocrisy of an Attack on Iran

Lately there has been much talk of Israel and/or America attacking Iran. The most recent conversation started with a column published (in Hebrew) on October 28 by Israel’s most influential journalist, Nahum Barnea (though Seymour Hersh wrote in the New Yorker in 2007 that the Bush Administration was planning to attack Iran). Barnea contends that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak are conspiring to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Haaretz later reported that Netanyahu and Barak recently persuaded foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had previously opposed attacking Iran, to support an attack. There’s currently only a “small majority” left in the Israeli cabinet who oppose such a move.

Continue reading

The Assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki and President Obama’s Impunity

The Obama administration’s decision to assassinate American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without any shred of due process sets a very dangerous precedent for executive power in the United States, and is further evidence of President Obama’s complete disregard for both domestic and international law.

Continue reading

On The French Veil Ban

Veil France© Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

On July 13, 2010 the French National Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favour of a bill prohibiting the wearing in public of clothing which conceals the face, with 335 votes for the bill and one against (most of the opposition boycotted it). In the following September, the bill easily passed through the Senate by 246 to one, and the Council of State ratified the law in October, despite previously warning the government that it could not find any legal basis in support of the ban, and that it would likely violate both the French constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. On April 11, 2011, the ban came into effect. Violations of the ban incur the penalty of €150 or the humiliating attendance of French citizenship classes. This ban has nothing to do with secularism, and nothing to do with clothing. It is about politicians catering to voters who have been infected with a growing epidemic of Islamophobia. It is unjust, prejudicial, and dangerous.

Continue reading

Concerning Middle Eastern ‘Backwardness,’ Part 3: Political Islam

No one is born a radical. One is driven to radicalism, cornered by conditions which are so extreme that they can only lead to extremism. So it has gone in the Middle East. The western world, and in particular the Americans and the British, have instituted policies in this ‘troubled’ region which have led to the emergence of radical, political Islam in two ways.

Continue reading

Concerning Middle Eastern ‘Backwardness,’ Part 2: Post-Colonial Foreign Exploitation

This is the second article in a series designed to counter the argument that some sort of Arab exceptionalism is responsible for the so-called ‘backwardness’ of the Middle East, or that the Arabs should stop the “tired old narrative” of blaming foreigners for their problems. At first glance, it does indeed seem to be an intellectually lazy, evasive argument to simply blame foreigners for all of your problems, but upon closer study of the modern history of the region, it is simply difficult to come to any other conclusion. Merely dismissing colonialism or any other form of external meddling as “a thing of the past” is naïve, and claiming that it is not useful to dwell on such matters is ridiculous, and very easy for someone who comes from a country which has never suffered from the venom of colonialism. One must study the root of a problem in order to reach a successful solution. The dismissive American English expression “that’s history,” is a telling example of how many North Americans fail to take into account powerful historical factors when considering contemporary issues.

Continue reading

Concerning Middle Eastern ‘Backwardness,’ Part 1: European Colonialism

When studying global democracies from a regional perspective, it becomes immediately apparent that there is a large undemocratic stain on the map in the irrelevantly demarcated, and incredibly diverse region known as the Middle East. One cannot help but wonder why this stain has not yet been cleansed. It is an old stain that has already been purged from most of the rest of the world (Of 194 countries in the world, there are 116 classified as democracies, and 89 classified as ‘free’ according to the watchdog organization Freedom House). Perhaps the fabric on this particular spot is very difficult to clean? Or perhaps someone not from this region left the stain, and failed to clean it before they departed. The recent and still ongoing populist uprisings throughout much of the region present us with an opportune moment in which to examine this subject.

Continue reading

On the Swiss Minaret Ban

Campaign poster for the ban. It says, “Yes to the minaret ban.” There are more minarets on the poster than in ALL of Switzerland.

The November 2009 Swiss referendum which resulted in a one-of-a-kind constitutional amendment banning the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is an illustrative example of the widespread phenomenon known as Islamophobia. There are currently only 4 minarets in the entire country (one for every 100,000 Swiss Muslims), which are not allowed to broadcast the call to prayer. This amendment is regressive and sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of Europe.

Continue reading