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Posts Tagged ‘Islamophobia’

Reading through Licia Corbella’s  Calgary Herald article “Obama’s Speech filled with dangerous equivocations”, I was filled with a sense of disgust and awe. Disgust because of the assumptions and generalisations she makes and awed because, considering her experience, one would not expect such a shallow analysis of Obama’s speech addressing the Muslim people. Early on in her article she divides the world into a Muslim and a Western world, with the no possibility of overlap between the two. Clearly from her article one is backwards, and primitive, and the other civilised and progressive.
She presents the Western world as being the ideal of humanity and the Muslim world being primitive, ruled by “medieval-minded men” and with human rights “rare to non-existent in these countries”. The amount of generalisation and over-exaggeration in the article is incredible. She repeatedly implies the practise of certain Muslim countries as the practices and laws of all Muslim countries through the use of “Islamic world” and “Muslim world” as a whole, practising certain laws. She states

that women in Islamic world should not be forced to wear a hijab or niqab…

She ignores the fact that only two countries in the “Islamic world” (Iran and Saudi Arabia) enforce a head cover. Similarly she states that the Muslim world is ruled by “brutal dictators” suggesting every Muslim country is a dictatorship. Clearly this is not the case. Although dictatorships may exist in some countries of West Asia, the majority of Muslim-majority countries, are not dictatorships. (Some examples include Pakistan and Turkey, which are democracies; Malaysia, which is a constitutional monarchy; and the UAE, which is a federation.) Before the war, Iraq would have been a dictatorship, though it should be noted that it was supported by the US at some point.

Additionally, all Muslim men in this article are represented as extremely backward people with no individuality and with no hope for progression.

One stunning accusation she makes, without giving any substantial proof, is

…in all of Muslim world beating one’s wife is not just condoned but even encouraged and taught in the mosques.

Such an accusation assumes that all Muslim men beat their wives regularly and their society not only encourages such an act but also teaches them how to perform this act. This implies Muslim women have no freedom whatsoever and all Muslim men at some point in their life will be abusive towards their wife. This accusation is hard to absorb, considering that I belong to a Muslim family and have never once witnessed encouragement of wife battering in any mosque in the west or in the east. As a matter of fact, wife beating and domestic abuse are extremely discouraged and looked down upon by societies and mosques themselves. Domestic violence is part of every society regardless, of whether it is in the west or east, and it can’t be generalized to just one society.

Her constant attempt to not regard Muslim women’s struggle for rights as equal to problems faced by women in the West is quite bleak. She repeatedly suggests that problems faced by western women are minor to the problems faced by Muslim women because western laws protect them and they are literate and aware of those laws. In contrast to them, Muslim women living in the whole of “Muslim world” are supposedly illiterate, unaware of their rights or even unaware of being victimised. Hence the struggle is greater and harder for Muslim women. It is quite astonishing that she fails to recognise, being a Canadian writer, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act introduced by Stephen Harper in parliament that revokes the right of Canadian women to demand equitable pay. If revoking a right of a western woman is this easy (and, according to Corbella, minor) then how are Muslim women’s struggles greater than Western women, if even some Western women are illiterate with regards to their own rights?

In addition, she also fails to recognize the continuing plight of non-white women trying to achieve equality in the Western World. By assuming that Western women’s plight is minor to that of Muslim women’s struggle, she undermines the struggle of Native women and women of colour in trying to achieve equality. Native women’s struggle for equality is a continuing and by no means minor struggle. They have to face racism in every aspect of Western law. Hence, they are not even recognized as equal in Western law, contrary to Corbella’s belief that “before the law, all western women are equal citizens.” Western women in this article seem to be only white women who supposedly do not have to struggle anymore for their equality and rights. Maybe Corbella needs to talk to a few Western feminists. I’m sure they would clear up this misconception in a second.

By generalizing and exaggerating, Corbella creates a perception of only a misogynistic Muslim society without acknowledging the reality that Muslims come from a wide variety of cultures and countries practising their own laws. If one were to read this article without having any prior knowledge of diversity of Muslim people, one would probably believe Muslim men as patriarchal, and animalistic, Muslim women as being brutalised at the hands of their male counterparts, without having the ability to think and decide for themselves, and Muslim society as the most primitive of societies in the modern progressive world of today.

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It seems Ezra Levant, right-wing blogger, journalist, lawyer and author, is on a mission to rid Canada of human rights commissions. Many of you may remember Levant from the Danish cartoon controversy a few years ago (see here for an interesting analysis and discussion) when his now defunct magazine ran the cartoons and was subsequently charged with hate speech by the Alberta government via the Alberta human rights commission.

In his latest book, which I have not read, he argues that human rights commissions are unnecessary in Canada. In a recent CBC radio interview he explains that he thinks human rights commissions have lost their relevance because apparently everyone gets along. Yes, that’s right. We all get along. Apparently, according to this argument racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, classism, Islamophobia, etc. don’t exist anymore.

In his short piece in the metronews.ca Levant complains about how he was a victim of the Alberta HRC.

My case, and a similar case involving Mark Steyn and Maclean’s magazine, brought the hidden worlds of HRCs into the light.

Ezra Levant. Image via CBC

Ezra Levant. Image via CBC

Regardless of what one may think of the case against Levant, for him to use his case to demonize and insult all HRC’s demonstrates how little understanding he has of the reality of Canada’s minorities. Just because he feels slighted by the HRC he advocates that the rest of us not have access to legal recourse if our human rights have been violated. And considering Canada IS still racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, classist, etc., the likelihood of minorities needing the services of an HRC are very high.

He forgets though that Maclean’s magazine was not sued because they printed Mark Steyn’s Islamophobic, fear-mongering article, an argument which Johann Hari soundly refutes, but rather because Maclean’s refused to allow a Muslim organization to print a rebuttal argument to Mark Steyn. Macleans it seemed was complicit in spreading an Islamophobic argument and not interested in dialogue or presenting a balanced view. And in today’s current state of heightened fear of Muslims, articles such as Steyn can indeed incite hatred and violence. Just look at what happened to this mosque in the US after the distribution of the Islamophobic DVD “Obsession.”

Levant’s argument sounds a lot like that of the bitter straight, middle class, White man who is complaining about how he is the truly marginalized person in Canada now. We’ve all heard the poor, rich, straight White man argument before. Levant appears completely clueless about his own privilege. He still occupies the most powerful position in Canada – rich, straight, White and male – and as such does not face the daily oppression many minorities in Canada do. How can Levant know that we get along when he is neither a racial, gender, class, nor sexual orientation minority? How does he know what being a victim of racism, sexism, homophobia, or Islamophobia feels like and how important and necessary getting justice for that oppression can be? Simply put, he cannot.  Yet, he seems to assume, without actually having the lived the life of an oppressed person, that oppression doesn’t exist. Of course it doesn’t exist for him – he occupies the position of the oppressor. From his position of power it is simple for him to claim that the human rights commissions are irrelevant. They don’t help him. They don’t provide a legal recourse for possible oppression he would face. They defend the rights of the marginalized against those who violate them – the powerful.

In this book review, which reads more like an Islamophobic rant than a book review, Jesse Ferreras explains that Levant  “puts aside all his tribal affiliations and expresses genuine concern for Canadians’ right to free speech – and for all Canadians, from Spartacists to Western Separatists. This review goes further in depiciting Levant as the poor victim. That poor, poor rich White man. He continues:

A victim of such tribunals himself, he outlines in deeply-researched detail how human rights commissions in various provinces are threatening actual rights such as public health, free speech and operating a business without pot smoke flying into your face.

Levant may have researched his book, regardless of how problematic that research may be, but Ferreras fails at this essential task.

His complainant? Syed Soharwardy, a radical Muslim cleric who wants to bring Shariah law to Canada. A man who blasted Christians who were helping out with tsunami relief efforts, charging that such groups were kidnapping Indonesian children.

How does he know Soharwardy is radical? How does he know Soharwardy wants to bring Shariah to Canada? To all of Canada or just as a means of arbitrating on family issues, just like Christian and Jewish groups were doing for years in Ontario? And what were the charges of kidnapping children based on? Considering many stories of child exploitation were coming out of the region such accusations don’t seem so outrageous and some context, or research, to these accusations would have been helpful.

I can actually appreciate Levant’s argument that certain cases that human rights commissions have taken on may seem unnecessary.

He tells of how a woman with a skin disease didn’t want to wash her hands while working at McDonald’s because it hurt. McDonald’s, as a corporation, needs to adhere to the strictest health standards – so after putting her on medical leave, giving her money for treatment and finally concluding that things wouldn’t work out, they let her go. She filed a complaint against the restaurant and a commission gave her $50,000 – solidifying the human right not to wash your hands while in the employ of the service industry.

He tells of Gator Ted’s, a restaurant in Hamilton frequented by an obnoxious man who bragged about having medical marijuana. He’d smoke it in the restaurant’s door and flaunt it as though he was an enemy of the state. The restaurant owner told him to stop smoking it near the door – and he got slapped with a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC). The owner has since tried to settle the complaint, which would ultimately mean allowing the obnoxious pothead to smoke there – a violation of Ontario liquor laws, which could shut down his restaurant.

However, without full information on the cases which has not been filtered through someone who seems to think that everyone gets along and that human rights commissions are useless, I do not feel comfortable making judgments on those cases. Nonetheless, regardless of the necessity or lack thereof of these particular cases, to abolish human rights commissions based on these few cases would be a grave injustice to ethnic and religious minorities, including the Muslims of Canada. Considering incidents of racism and Islamophobia are just as common today as they ever have been, the human rights commissions serve their purpose and are a necessary recourse for the oppressed – the real victims of hate and oppression.

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The Winnipeg Sun’s Michael Den Tandt recently wrote a piece, the title of which appears promising, but the content of which works to remind us who is and isn’t a “real” Canadian. Although he does argue that Khadr should be brought back to Canada his opinion about Khadr illustrates a certain rhetoric about what it means to be Canadian.

The article, Khadr should be brought to Canada, begins by describing Khadr using that infamous and highly overused and abused word – “Islamist.” Considering the wide variety of Muslims and Muslim ideologies that have been called Islamist I have a hard time even knowing what an “Islamist” actually is. The definition seems to change all the time depending on who is trying to malign whom and which Muslims one is trying to discredit. However, its main use seems to be to create a fear and distrust of the person being labeled as such.

This week a Federal Court judge ordered the Harper government to ask the Americans to send Omar Khadr — a former Islamist insurgent captured after a battle with U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002 — back to Canada.

Tandt does not anywhere define what he means by “Islamist” yet he uses the word as if it was simply understood that Khadr was an “Islamist.” All we know is that Khadr was fighting in Afghanistan against a force that had invaded their country. Some may call that defending a country under attack. However, this specific descriptor is used purposefully to create a specific image of Khadr – one of someone “we” should fear. We do not know if he did indeed adhere to the ideology of what some have termed “Islamism” – or the joining of religion and state, basically political Islam. Therefore to term him an “Islamist” based on the fact that he allegedly killed an American soldier, in battle, is inaccurate and fear-mongering. Tandt neglects the fact that the US and Canada have invaded Afghanistan. Afghanistan did not attack us. The war on Afghani people was unprovoked and instigated by the US. Would we not expect them to fight against an invader?

Omar Khadr fought on the wrong side in the Afghan conflict. Simply: He fought for the enemy.

Canadian soldiers today fight alongside U.S. soldiers no different from the man Khadr is alleged to have killed in that notorious firefight.

Khadr is a Canadian citizen. His actions arguably make him a traitor.

Tandt has failed to understand the complexity of the issue. It is not a simple issue.

Khadr is indeed a Canadian citizen and thus should be afforded his charter rights. However, Khadr, like many other Canadians, does not affiliate with only one nation. And this is the reality of being Canadian. A reality Tandt refuses to recognize. For Khadr, and many like him, the invasion of Afghanistan was not seen as an attack on just Afghanistan, but on the Muslim nation, or ummah. The notion of “one ummah” states that all Muslims are one nation and an attack on one Muslim country is an attack on the whole Muslim nation. Therefore, Khadr’s affiliation with Afghanistan was based on the idea that all Muslims are one nation and should protect each other. Regardless of what one may think of this concept it is the most likely reason provided to Khadr.

And this brings me to my next point. Khadr was a child when this incident occurred. He was 15. This is a very important component of the equation which many will mention, as does Tandt, but few will discuss its actual meaning. At the age of 15 people can be easily manipulated. This is why the world agrees that child soldiers, such as Khadr, should not be prosecuted or punished, but rather rehabilitated. The assumption is that true consent could not be provided to engage in such actions. Tandt negates the true meaning of Khadr’s status as a child soldier by referring to him as an “Islamist” and traitor against Canada, as if to convince us that his status as child soldier should be ignored because he is supposedly wants to blend religion and politics and was fighting against Western forces.

Such a dangerous discourse makes two oppressive assumptions. First, it tells us that Muslim child soldiers should not be afforded the same mercy and sympathy other child soldiers are entitled via international laws. Muslims, we are told, who fight against the West are all Islamists and thus an evil which should be fought. Second, it tells us that those child soldiers who fight against Western forces should not be considered child soldiers and thus should not be given their rights under international law. The assumption here is that Western forces, even those who invade sovereign countries, are engaging in a benevolent mission with pure intentions, unlike those other forces child soldiers in other battles fight against.  Western forces are somehow seen as superior and to fight them is just plain immoral.  Muslim children who fight Western forces are no longer seen as manipulated children, the victims of geopolitical oppressions, but rather as “Islamists” and traitors who have themselves chosen to fight.

Painting Khadr as an “Islamist” and traitor neglects the realities of this situation and thus creates one picture of what a real Canadian should be. This rhetoric does not allow for the existence of those Canadians who have more than one affiliation – ethnic and religious minorities. It does not allow these minorities to truly struggle with the fact that one nation they identify with would attack another nation they identify with. It assumes that ones identification with Canada should be greater despite the fact that Canada has invaded and occupied the other nation.

Tandt does argue that Khadr should be brought back to Canada and be dealt with under Canadian law. However, his ethnocentrism taints the whole argument. By depicting Khadr the way he does Tandt assumes the superiority of Canadian military actions and thus assumes an inferior opinion of those who disagree. This common rhetoric is not just about Khadr. It reflects a discourse that impacts many others. The multiple identity reality of Khadr is the reality of many Canadians. Although the majority of those Canadians would not take the route Khadr was made to take by his family, they nonetheless often struggle with the meaning of having these multiple identities, one at war with the other. Discourse such as that present in this article does not allow space for such struggles and forces these Canadians to choose sides, otherwise risk being labeled un-Canadian.

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Recently the Canadian government cut their funding to the Canadian Arab Federation. The reason? According to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney:

CAF president Khaled Mouammar believes Canada should regard Hamas and Hezbollah as “legitimate organizations,” Kenney said.

Both Hamas and Hezbollah are on the Canadian government’s list of groups “associated with terrorism,” according to the public safety department’s website.

“Here we have in Canada, someone who, until the end of this month at least, was receiving public subsidies from my department, who says … these organizations that are essentially anti-Semitic and seek the destruction of Israel … should be able to operate in Canada,” Kenney said.

People in Canada “need to exercise freedom of expression responsibly” and should be wary of the rise of a new form of anti-Semitism cloaked in debates about Israel’s actions in the Middle East, Kenney said in a speech to University of Toronto students.

In a recent rally against Israel’s war on Gaza, Mouammar referred to Kenney as a “professional whore” for supporting Israel’s war on Gaza. First things first. This recent feud began first when Kenney criticized the CAF for flying the Hamas flag at a pro-Gaza rally calling for the end of the war on Gaza. This was followed by Mouammar referring to Kenney as a “professional whore.” At this point I would be remiss to not analyze the inherent sexism in this comment. “Whore” is a highly gendered word. The word defines a woman through her sexuality solely. Words like ‘whore’ are used to depict women against whom they are used as immoral and deviant sexual beings. Similar behaviour, such as that attributed to the women against whom this word is used, would not be seen as deviant among men. (See here for an interesting discussion of the word.) Additionally, the word ‘whore’ uses the profession of prostitution, into which too many women are forced through social and/or economic conditions, to cause insult to whomever it is being used against. Using it as derogatory term ignores and trivializes the often oppressive and dangerous conditions of those women who work in the industry.We feel that Mouammar’s use of the term was sexist in nature and, as the CAF has since said, “unfortunate” though no apology has been issued to the public for using this term. It is equally as unfortunate that the inherent sexist nature of the word has not been addressed by anyone in the media or the CAF.

However, as unfortunate, and sexist, as it was, it does not warrant denying funding to the CAF. To deny Arab immigrants the many benefits they gain from this funding because of one man’s unfortunate comment seems illogical and petty on the part of the Canadian government.

But apparently this is not the reason for the cut of funds. Supposedly, the CAF propagates anti-Semitism. However, no media nor government sources have thus far provided any evidence of such propaganda. There are no anti-Semitic comments on their website, nor have any anti-Semitic comments surfaced in news reports. If anything, the organization Independent Jewish Voices have stated that they have never felt the CAF as an anti-Semitic organization and have criticized Jason Kenney and the Canadian government for their actions. I bring this up not to show any support of the CAF but to state that evidence that the CAF has made anti-Semitic comments has thus far been non-existent while evidence otherwise exists.

From the news sources, it seems, that the “real” reason behind the cuts come from an extremely troubling and problematic association being created between pro-Palestinian ideology and supporting terrorism. As seen in the quote above, Mouammar’s call for the Canadian government to treat Hamas and Hezbollah as legitimate governments, has been viewed as anti-Semitic. Considering Jimmy Carter has called for dialogue with Hamas, and, as Walkom points out, the British government is reopening talks with Hezbollah, this view is not uncommon nor unique to CAF. Nor to Muslims. However, many are painting support for the people of Palestine and criticizing Israel’s policies toward Palestinians as hate. And this is a scary and dangerous association. Coupled with the Canadian government’s recent banning of George Galloway, it comes across as a bullying tactic to quell any pro-Palestinian voice.

Such criticism is additionally problematic when one thinks back to not too long ago, when Mark Steyn, noted Islamophobe, published a clearly anti-Muslim piece in MacLean’s magazine. Many Muslims were angered and wanted an apology. At that time many cried foul saying that Steyn had the right to say what he did. Its a matter of freedom of speech after all. But now, many of the same people who were supporting MacLeans under the right to freedom of speech, are applauding the government for their actions toward the CAF. Can we say hypocrisy? And Islamophobia too?

Although the CAF is an organization for Arabs, of all religious backgrounds, there is no doubt that they have been associated with Muslims and Islam in the media. As can be seen in this piece from the National Post where Tarek Fatah assumes that those who don’t support the CAF’s position are labeled traitors to the “Muslim cause.” He then pits the CAF against his “secular Muslim Canadian Congress” stating that a member of the CAF called the MCC “house Negroes,” a term popularized by Malcolm X * consequently creating a picture of the CAF as a group against secular people. Margeret Wente supports Fatah in her article when she says

Although the CAF purports to speak for the community, it doesn’t care for Muslims who don’t share its views.

She is assuming that the community the CAF represents is Muslims when in fact they advocate and support Arabs in Canada. Not Muslims. They can overlap but are not one and the same thing.

Arabs and Muslims are being painted as foreigners in this debate and xenophobia regarding Muslims is ringing through loud and clear in the media reports. In her article Wente’s contempt toward and dismissal of immigrant and minority advocacy and support groups cannot be hidden.

Like other groups that purport to speak for immigrants and minorities, the CAF is highly skilled at grantsmanship. The grant proposals from these groups are full of jargon such as “racialized,” “ethnocultural youth” and “marginalized neighbourhoods.” Most would not exist at all without the government. The people who run them go to one another’s conferences, serve on one another’s boards, and approve one another’s grants. It isn’t clear how well they reflect the views of the groups they purport to represent, or how effective they are at helping immigrants. But they are quite effective at using the problems of immigrants to create jobs for themselves.

So why do such folks deserve our money? They don’t. But this is Canada. Only in Canada can people enjoy the largesse of the state by attacking it.

She then gives an example of a young Muslim girl who questions the assertion that Canada is a racist society, as an example of how many ungrateful and manipulative immigrant and minority groups really can be.  After all, this one Muslim girl didn’t experience racism. And she suggests that those who do criticize the racism they encounter in Canada and from the government should be punished by that government by being ignored. They should not be taken seriously. The consequence to this is of course that instead of engaging with those with concerns and complaints, the concerns of immigrants and minorities will not be addressed and the cycle of racism will be perpetuated.

She then ends her article with

The young Muslim woman has a different take. “Why not focus on your new home?”

New home? The assumption here is that those who criticize the government’s racism are new to the country and this is a completely inaccurate assumption. Ethnic and religious minorities, including Muslims and Arabs, have been in Canada for generations. Many Muslims know no other home but Canada. However, even if many Muslims are new to the country that does not deny them the right to criticize the actions of the government.

Fatah joins in on the xenophobic bandwagon when he says

Any future funding of the CAF should be made conditional to a guarantee that the organization will not behave as a mouthpiece of Hamas and Hezbollah in Canada, and will embrace Canadian, not Iranian, values.

The end result is that such voices like Fatah’s and Wente’s legitimize ignoring dissent and criticism coming from minority groups. They paint Muslims as “new foreigners” who don’t understand Canada’s “enlightened” values. Therefore their complaints of the Canadian government, whether they be criticizing the governments unconditional support of Israel or the inherent racism in Canadian society, should not be acknowledged, because newcomers should don’t really know Canada. (Didn’t Stephen Harper say that once?) The public is then told to ignore any further complaints by Muslims (other than the progressives who adopt “Canadian values”), regardless of how legitimate or serious. Muslims, and Arabs, are painted as ungrateful and whiny moochers using tax payers’ dollars to satisfy their devious, and as Fatah says “foreign affairs,” agendas.

And, where in the world did Fatah bring Iran in from?

Regardless of what one may feel toward the CAF, there is no proof that they have incited hatred toward any group. The use of the word ‘whore’ by their president was appalling. However, accusing a group of inciting hatred based on their pro-Palestinian ideology sets up a very dangerous precedent for all Canadians, not just Arabs or Muslims. It becomes a way of silencing a very legitimate concern – oppression. However, as Muslims are already a racialized group, such actions from the government make freedom of speech for Muslims very fragile when we say anything that does not coincide with and please the Canadian government.

* The use of the term “house Negroes” of course is also problematic and needs to be addressed. I will very briefly address it here as it did not fit into the flow of the article nor has it been the focus of the media coverage. Malcolm X used the term in a speech given in 1963 to describe an African American who is willing to please the the White man, at his own expense as well as at the expense of others of his race. Since then the term has often been used by many to refer to people they see as, what many nowadays refer to as, the native informant. The term should not be used without an accurate understanding of its history and its flawed reasoning as Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell explains. Dr. Yolanda Pierce addresses the issue here and Racialicious has addressed it here. This member of the CAF should have used the term “native informant” instead.

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While reading this National Post piece by Stewart Bell I got thinking about fear and Canadian-ness. In the piece Bell discusses  a recent report released by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, a partnership of think-tanks in Britain, the United States, Israel and Jordan.

From white supremacist propaganda to radical Islamist recruiting videos, the Internet is awash with extremist content, but a report released yesterday says it is time to “end the current climate of impunity” enjoyed by those responsible.

The report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence calls on authorities to go beyond simply shutting down Web sites used to promote violent political extremism and to prosecute those behind them.

“We propose the selective use of takedowns in conjunction with prosecutions as a means of signalling that cyberspace is not beyond the law,” writes the centre, a partnership of think-tanks in Britain, the United States, Israel and Jordan.

While the report’s focus is Britain, the Canadian government was consulted by the study’s authors and Canada is experiencing similar problems with extremist groups using the Internet to recruit and radicalize followers.

Apparently, in Canada, the problem is not that police do not have the resources to shut these sites down but rather that the police do not use the resources at their disposal.

Initially my thought was “Great! Maybe now they will go after those white supremacist sites that threaten and terrify so many Canadians and that promote violence against so many Canadians.” But alas, it seems this is not the intention.  I should have known. We’re not the Canadians they’re thinking about when they think about protecting Canadians. The authorities want to protect ‘real’ Canadians.

While extremist groups of all stripes use the Internet, Canadian intelligence officials are particularly concerned about the radicalization of young Muslims, which the government calls a “serious problem” and a “direct and immediate threat” to Canada.

Really? So groups that call for ridding Canada of people of colour are not a direct threat to Canada? Does the terror that people of colour feel not count? What about the sites inciting hatred toward Muslims and Arabs? Does the fear that Muslims feel not count? Does the Islamophobia we Muslims living in Canada experience not count as a threat to Canadians? Or are we not real Canadians?

It seems we don’t count. Whether we be Muslims or not, it is not our safety and fear the authorities are concerned about. We are told to fear Caribbeans and Sikhs because they’re gang bangers. We are told to fear East Asians because they’re drug smugglers. We are told to fear Muslims and Arabs because they’re terrorists. But the question is who are they implying should be scared? Those who are scared, those who are threatened, those who authorities are hoping to protect are White and Christian. They are the Canadians authorities seem to mean when they dismiss the sources of fear for people of colour and Muslims. However, the threats to people of colour and Muslims ARE a threat to Canada because we live in Canada. We are a part of Canada.

Instead it seems that Muslims, who are Canadians, are being reported as a threat to their own country. When was the last time a crime by a white, non-Muslim was described as a threat to Canada? The way in which this statement is worded creates a dichotomy  – Muslim vs Canada. This statement has pitted the young Muslim against Canada. All of a sudden he is no longer a part of Canada. He is a threat to the country. Unless they are implying that these young Muslim men are a threat to themselves as well.

And of course, all this is to say nothing about addressing the real causes of the radicalization of these young Muslim men. But that is for another post.

Muslims for too long have been seen as foreigners. This despite the fact that we have been in Canada for generations. Yet, Muslims, along with people of colour, are still seen as not real Canadians. Our concerns are placed behind the concerns of White, non-Muslim Canadians. This is still an unfortunate reality and too often leads to feelings of alienation and displacement within the Canadian context.

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By Special Correspondent Jehanzeb and originally published on Broken Mystic.

When Frank Miller’s “300″ film was released, I was absolutely outraged by the racist content of the film and more so at the insensitivity of movie-goers who simply argued “it’s just a movie.” Later on, I would hear these same individuals say, “The movie makes you want to slice up some Persians.” I wrote an article about the film almost immediately after it was released, and now that I’m still noticing people quoting the movie or listing it as their “favorite movies,” I’ve decided to update my original post and discuss some points that will hopefully shed some new light.

“300” not only represents the ever-growing trend of accepted racism towards Middle-Easterners in mainstream media and society, but also the reinforcement of Samuel P. Huntington’s overly clichéd, yet persisting, theory of “The Clash of Civilizations,” which proposes that cultural and religious differences are the primary sources for war and conflict rather than political, ideological, and/or economic differences. The fact that “300” grossed nearly $500 million worldwide in the box office may not be enough to suggest that movie-goers share the film’s racist and jingoistic views, but it is enough to indicate how successful such a film can be without many people noticing its relentless racist content. As Osagie K. Obasogie wrote in a brilliant critique of the film, “300” is “arguably the most racially charged film since D. W. Griffith’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’” – the latter being a 1915 silent film that celebrated the Ku Klux Klan’s rise to defend the South against liberated African-Americans. Oddly enough, both films were immensely successful despite protests and charges of racism.

Media imagery is very important to study. Without analyzing and critiquing images in pop culture, especially controversial and reoccurring images, we are ignoring the most powerful medium in which people receive their information from. A novel, for example, may appeal to a large demographic, but a film appeals to a much wider audience not only because of recent video-sharing websites and other internet advancements, but also because the information is so much easier to process and absorb.

According to the Cultivation Theory, a social theory developed by George Gerbner and Larry Gross, television is the most powerful storyteller in culture – it repeats the myths, ideologies, and facts and patterns of standardized roles and behaviors that define social order. Music videos, for example, cultivate a pattern of images that establish socialized norms about gender. In a typical western music video, you may see female singers like Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Beyonce wearing the scantiest of clothing and dancing in erotic and provocative ways that merely cater to their heterosexual male audiences. These images of women appear so frequently and repetitively that they develop an expectation for women in the music industry, i.e. in order to be successful, a woman needs to have a certain body type, fit society’s ideal for beauty, and dance half-nakedly. Stereotypical images of men in music videos, on the other hand, include violent-related imagery, “pimping” with multiple women, and showing off luxury. Such images make violence and promiscuous sexual behavior “cool” and more acceptable for males. As we can see from two studies by Greeson & Williams (1986) and Kalof (1999), exposure to stereotypical images of gender and sexual content in music videos increase older adolescents’ acceptance of non-marital sexual behavior and interpersonal violence.

Cognitive Social Learning Theory is another social theory which posits, in respect to media, that television presents us with attractive and relatable models for us to shape our experiences from. In other words, a person may learn particular behaviors and knowledge through observing the images displayed on television. A person may also emulate the behavior of a particular character in a film or television show, especially if a close-identification is established between the viewer and the character. Both theories – Cultivation Theory and Cognitive Social Learning Theory – apply in my following analysis of “300.”

In order to deconstruct “300,” I will start by (1) discussing its distortion of history, then (2) contrast the film’s representation of Persians and Spartans, (3) correlate Frank Miller’s Islamophobic remarks on NPR with the messages conveyed in “300,” and (4) conclude with the importance of confronting stereotypical images in mainstream media and acknowledging the contributions of all societies and civilizations.

Distortion of History

Initially a graphic novel written and drawn by Frank Miller, who is best known in the comic book industry for reinventing Batman in his critically acclaimed “The Dark Knight Returns,” the inspiration for “300” stems from true historic events, although Mr. Miller states that it was never intended to be a historically accurate account of the Battle for Thermopylae. In any case, the information we have about the Battle for Thermopylae comes from the classical Greek author, Herodotus, who lived in the Persian city of Halicarnassus. His book, “The Histories,” became part of Western folklore in 1850, when America embraced it as the leading authority on Persian history. Interesting enough, and many people may not know this, is that prior to 1850, the West had a very favorable impression of the Persian Empire, particularly because its main source for Persian history was rooted in the Bible and the “Cyropaedia,” which was written by another Greek author named Xenophon. The “Cyropaedia” glorifies the rule of Cyrus the Great, a benevolent Persian king who will be discussed later. In respect to the Battle of Thermopylae, the events may have occurred, but it was far different than the famous myth explains: 300 Spartans held Thermopylae for three days against over a million Persian soldiers.

This version of history is portrayed in the Hollywood adaptation of “300” in heavily stylized fashion that remains faithful to the comic book. The film’s director, Zack Snyder, said during an MTV interview, “[t]he events are 90 percent accurate. It’s just in the visualization that it’s crazy.” And yet, the film hardly mentions that the 300 Spartans were allied with over 4,000 Greeks on the first two days of the battle, and over 1,500 on the final day (other sources mention that there were 7,000 to 10,000 Greek allies). The battle was fought in a narrow mountain pass of Thermopylae where not even two chariots could pass through side by side; the choice of using this terrain benefited the Spartans and their Greek allies immensely against the Persians. Many historians agree that the massive Persian army would have obliterated the Spartan/Greek forces without much difficulty if the battle were fought on an open battlefield. Also worth mentioning is the fact that the Spartans were heavily armored and wore armor that weighed 30-40 kg, while the Persians were lightly armored.

Ephraim Lytle, assistant professor of Hellenistic History at the University of Toronto, states that “300” selectively idealizes Spartan society in a “problematic and disturbing” fashion, which would have seemed “as bizarre to ancient Greeks as it does to modern historians.” Touraj Daryaee, Baskerville Professor of Iranian History at the University of California, Irvine, criticizes the film’s use of classic sources:

Some passages from the Classical authors Aeschylus, Diodorus, Herodotus and Plutarch are spilt over the movie to give it an authentic flavor. Aeschylus becomes a major source when the battle with the “monstrous human herd” of the Persians is narrated in the film. Diodorus’ statement about Greek valor to preserve their liberty is inserted in the film, but his mention of Persian valor is omitted. Herodotus’ fanciful numbers are used to populate the Persian army, and Plutarch’s discussion of Greek women, specifically Spartan women, is inserted wrongly in the dialogue between the “misogynist” Persian ambassador and the Spartan king. Classical sources are certainly used, but exactly in all the wrong places, or quite naively.

As I wrote in my post on “The Truth About Thanksgiving: Brainwashing of the American History Textbook,” omitting and ignoring an entire race of people in historical accounts is a form of racism because it negates the achievements and stories of the “Other.” In the film, Persians constantly threaten Spartans with slavery, and yet, any honest historian knows that the Persian Empire, particularly the Achaemenid Empire, was built on a model of tolerance and respect for other cultures and religions. According to the documentary, “Persepolis Recreated,” the Persian Empire is the first known civilization in the history of humankind to practice international religious freedom. Images carved on the walls of Persepolis testify how Persians interacted and conversed with nobleman of other nations respectfully and without enmity. Denying another civilization its own accomplishments and contributions to the world is like blotting them out from history altogether and rewriting one’s own prejudice version. As we will learn later, any mentioning of Persian valor, compassion, and sophistication, would have resulted in a potential backfiring to the film’s agenda.

At one point in the film, the Spartan protagonist, King Leonidas, describes the Athenians as “boy lovers,” which, according to Paul Cartledge, professor of Greek History at Cambridge University, is ironic, since “the Spartans themselves incorporated institutional pederasty [erotic relationships between adolescents and adult men] into their educational system.”

The fact that Frank Miller and Zack Snyder stripped the Spartans of homosexual relations and, instead, made them accuse the Athenians of being “boy lovers” in order to reinforce their masculinity, shows us a distortion of history that favors a heavily masculinized and homophobic take on the Spartans. In modern society, homosexual males are frowned upon the most because society discourages men to behave in ways that are contrary to their expected gender traits, i.e. a man must be strong, emotionless, and courageous – and of course, these play into stereotypes about homosexuals since it suggests they cannot possess any of those traits. Therefore, if a man is a “boy lover,” he can never be as great of a fighter as a heterosexual Spartan. It’s obvious that mentioning the facts about Sparta’s institutional pederasty would not have made a connection with the film’s directed heterosexual male audience. This is evident from Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” film, where many expressed their outrage of Alexander engaging in homosexual relations, therefore never developing a close-identification with the character.

Distorting the history in “300” merely fulfills one component in glorifying the Spartans and vilifying the Persians. In the next section, we will see how the film’s visual representation of Spartans and Persians accompany its biased history for the sake of reinforcing the divide between West and East.

Spartans and Persians: Glorification, Demonization, and Tokenism

Perhaps the most noticeable offense in the film is how the Persians are horrifically depicted as monsters. It is not hard to notice the punctuated differences in skin color: the white-skinned Spartans versus the dark-skinned Persians. The Persian King, Xerxes, is shown as an abnormally tall, dark-skinned, and half-naked madman with facial piercings, kohl-enhanced eyes and, as Dana Stevens from “Slate” writes, “[has] a disturbing predilection for making people kneel before him.” The rest of the Persians are faceless savages and demonically deformed. This demonization of the Persian race extends to malformed characters, including Persian women, who are depicted as Lesbians and concubines. Even the elephants and rhinoceroses look like hell spawns. Stevens also adds:

Here are just a few of the categories that are not-so-vaguely conflated with the “bad” (i.e., Persian) side in the movie: black people. Brown people. Disfigured people. Gay men… Lesbians. Disfigured lesbians. Ten-foot-tall giants with filed teeth and lobster claws…

Also noticeable is how the Spartans wear no body armor; instead they are bare-chested and wear only a helmet, cape, and underwear. This is common in comic books where physical attributes of male characters such as muscles are magnified and exaggerated to symbolize strength, power, and heroism. In sheer contrast, the Persians are dressed in typical Middle-Eastern attire in pure Orientalist fashion, which only degrade them into invisible and insignificant characters without stories. We have seen these contrasting images of West and East cultivated before, and we still see them today. Whenever a crisis in the Middle-East is covered by the mainstream Western media, we tend to see the images of garbed Middle-Eastern men burning flags and shouting like barbarians, but rarely ever see scholarly and intellectual Middle-Easterners who are treated with respect and credibility. As Jack G. Shaheen discusses in his book, “Reel Bad Arabs,” Hollywood is guilty of vilifying Arabs and Muslims; repeating images of light-skinned and attractive Western (mostly American) counter-terrorist heroes blowing away dark-skinned, unattractive, and “rag-headed” Middle-Easterners. These images have been repeated so much in the mainstream media that they become the socialized norm: Arab/Muslim = Evil, oppressive, terrorist, and uncivilized, etc. Although the ancient Persians in “300” are neither Arab nor Muslim, they are confined into the same group through modern-day Orientalism.

Throughout the film, for instance, the constant emphasis on “The Clash of Civilizations” is not just limited to the manner of visual representations, but rather extends to what the Spartans and Persians stand for. Early in the film, we see the Spartan King, Leonidas, resist against the Persian call for “submission” by bellowing about freedom and liberty. Just like the visual depictions of Persians in “300” are no different than Hollywood’s stereotypical and insulting representation of Arabs and Muslims, neither are the themes. As adolescents and fans alike eccentrically shout the film’s most memorable quote, “This is Sparta!” – a line that Leonidas says right before kicking an African man down a well – they knowingly or unknowingly establish a close-identification with the Spartan characters and, subsequently, the heroism they are meant to epitomize. As a result, Persians get perceived, in modern terms, as “terrorists” – monstrous beings that are mysteriously driven by an innate desire to conquer, slaughter, and oppress.

These differences between Spartans and Persians ring eerily similar to modern-day tensions between the West and the Middle-East. As Obasagie writes, “this racialized depiction of freedom, nation, and democracy becomes central to “300’s” take home message,” but what remains even more unnoticed is the film’s “unapologetic glorification of eugenics.” In the very beginning of the film, for example, we see the newborn Spartans being inspected for “health, strength, and vigor,” while the weak and disabled are hurled off a cliff onto a large pile of dead babies. Obasogie further elaborates:

The film suggests that this rather crude form of eugenics is put in place for military reasons: every Spartan child should either be able to become a soldier or give birth to one… Initially shocked, audiences are quickly reassured that this is all for the greater good: nation, freedom, and the Spartan family. How else can Sparta defend itself – and inspire modern democracies – unless it reserves scarce resources for the strongest?

Strongest men, that is, which brings me to my next point: the exploitation of female characters. A blog posting written at “FirstShowing.net” explains “Why Women Should Go See ‘300.’” The list, which is not even written by a woman, reads: 1. Gerard Butler, 2. Gerard Butler Naked, 3. Empowered Women, 4. Strong Relationships, and 5. 300 Nearly Naked Men with 8-Pack Abs. The author apparently thinks that male eye-candy, romantic relationships, and a dash of “feminism” constitute a “good film” for all women.

At first glance, the Spartan Queen Gorgo may look like an empowered woman, but she is a token character, at best. In a predominately White male film, she serves as the only central female character and assumes a pseudo-feminist role of flaunting her femininity for the sake of reinforcing the film’s racism and singular image of masculinity. For instance, early in the film, the Persian messenger angrily responds to her, “What makes this woman think she can speak among men?” She responds proudly, “Because only Spartan women give birth to real men.” Yes, real men, i.e. the one-sided view of masculinity: aggressive, violent, dominating, muscular, etc. It seems that any man who doesn’t meet these characteristics is not a “real man.” It also seems that Spartan women are treated as merely “manufacturers” of these “real men.”

pantea1

The mentioning of women occurs enough times in the film to establish that Spartans     treat their women “better” than the Persians. The only Persian women we see are sex slaves and disfigured lesbians. In actuality, there were Persian Empresses such as Azarmidokht, who ruled Persia under the Sassanid Empire. Ancient Persian women not only engaged in political matters, but also served as military commanders and warriors. One of the great commanders of The Immortals was a Persian woman named Pantea (pictured left), and during the Achaemenid dynasty, the grand admiral and commander-in-chief for the Persian navy was a woman named Artemisia. Persian women also owned property and ran businesses. Unfortunately, we do not see any such representation in “300.”

A counter-argument may state that Queen Gorgo actually plays a pivotal role in the film   since she convinces the council to send more soldiers to aid the Spartans. But her success could never have been accomplished if she did not do what stereotypical female characters usually do: use her body to get what she wants. Queen Gorgo realizes she has very little choice when the corrupt Spartan politician, Theron, says he wants sex in exchange for helping her.  After she drops her top, Theron forces her against the wall and rapes her.  Later on, Theron stands before the council and accuses Queen Gorgo of being an adultress and a “whore Queen.”  Although Queen Gorgo stabs him in this scene, it’s nowhere near as disturbing as the rape scene.

As we have seen in this section, the glorified violence, racism, and erotic imagery of the Spartans, as well as the use of women, accentuates their superiority over the Persians, but perhaps nothing can drive the point home more than Frank Miller in his own words.

Frank Miller and Islamophobia

It should be in the interest of those who may disagree with my analysis of “300” to listen to Frank Miller’s interview on National Public Radio (NPR) on January 24th, 2007 (or read the transcript). The interview followed former President Bush’s State of the Union address and is pasted below (emphases added):

NPR: […] Frank, what’s the state of the union?

Frank Miller: Well, I don’t really find myself worrying about the state of the union as I do the state of the home-front. It seems to me quite obvious that our country and the entire Western World is up against an existential foe that knows exactly what it wants … and we’re behaving like a collapsing empire. Mighty cultures are almost never conquered, they crumble from within. And frankly, I think that a lot of Americans are acting like spoiled brats because of everything that isn’t working out perfectly every time.

NPR: Um, and when you say we don’t know what we want, what’s the cause of that do you think?

FM: Well, I think part of that is how we’re educated. We’re constantly told all cultures are equal, and every belief system is as good as the next. And generally that America was to be known for its flaws rather than its virtues. When you think about what Americans accomplished, building these amazing cities, and all the good its done in the world, it’s kind of disheartening to hear so much hatred of America, not just from abroad, but internally.

NPR: A lot of people would say what America has done abroad has led to the doubts and even the hatred of its own citizens.

FM: Well, okay, then let’s finally talk about the enemy. For some reason, nobody seems to be talking about who we’re up against, and the sixth century barbarism that they actually represent. These people saw people’s heads off. They enslave women, they genitally mutilate their daughters, they do not behave by any cultural norms that are sensible to us. I’m speaking into a microphone that never could have been a product of their culture, and I’m living in a city where three thousand of my neighbors were killed by thieves of airplanes they never could have built.

NPR: As you look at people around you, though, why do you think they’re so, as you would put it, self-absorbed, even whiny?

FM: Well, I’d say it’s for the same reason the Athenians and Romans were. We’ve got it a little good right now. Where I would fault President Bush the most, was that in the wake of 9/11, he motivated our military, but he didn’t call the nation into a state of war. He didn’t explain that this would take a communal effort against a common foe. So we’ve been kind of fighting a war on the side, and sitting off like a bunch of Romans complaining about it. Also, I think that George Bush has an uncanny knack of being someone people hate. I thought Clinton inspired more hatred than any President I had ever seen, but I’ve never seen anything like Bush-hatred. It’s completely mad.

NPR: And as you talk to people in the streets, the people you meet at work, socially, how do you explain this to them?

FM: Mainly in historical terms, mainly saying that the country that fought Okinawa and Iwo Jima is now spilling precious blood, but so little by comparison, it’s almost ridiculous. And the stakes are as high as they were then. Mostly I hear people say, ‘Why did we attack Iraq?’ for instance. Well, we’re taking on an idea. Nobody questions why after Pearl Harbor we attacked Nazi Germany. It was because we were taking on a form of global fascism, we’re doing the same thing now.

NPR: Well, they did declare war on us, but…

FM: Well, so did Iraq.

Iraq declared war on the United States? Not only are Frank Miller’s words filled with incredible absurdity and ignorance, they’re also plagued by disgusting prejudice that should raise questions about his underlying messages in “300” and other recent works of his. One of the things I found really disturbing in Miller’s interview was how he suggested that “teaching all cultures are equal” and “every belief system is as good as the next” is a bad thing! What is he implicating here? Are we to teach that certain cultures and belief systems are better than others?

In his next response, he essentially calls Islam “sixth century barbarism,” and then lumps the entire Muslim world into one stereotype. Then he says “I’m speaking into a microphone that never could have been a product of their culture, and I’m living in a city where three thousand of my neighbors were killed by thieves of airplanes they never could have built.” Perhaps someone should educate Mr. Miller that the Islamic empires preserved the beloved Greek philosophical texts by Plato, Socrates, Pythagoras, Ptolemy, Aristotle, and many others. He should also be informed that algebra was invented by a Persian Muslim, Mohammad Al-Khwarizmi. The word English word for “algorithm” actually comes from “Al-Khwarizmi” and the significance of algorithms in computers, programming, engineering, and software design is immensely critical. As stated by Michael H. Morgan, author of “Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists,” Al-Khwarizmi’s new ways of calculating “enable the building of a 100 story towers and mile-long buildings, calculating the point at which a space probe will intersect with the orbits of one of Jupiter’s moons, the reactions of nuclear physics… intelligence of software, and the confidentiality of a mobile phone conversation.” Ironically, the Western achievements that Frank Miller boasts about could not have been possible without the collaboration of civilizations.

Conclusion

As I have written many times in my previous essays, racism is most dangerous when it has been made more acceptable in society. When the Nazis dehumanized the Jews, they did so in cartoons and propaganda films so that the rest of the country didn’t feel sorry about killing them. When early American cartoons and cinema depicted African-Americans, they drew them with ugly features and had White actors wear blackface makeup, respectively. At the time, these obviously racist acts were acceptable. In modern times, when the insulting Danish cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, were released, many non-Muslims were too shocked at the Muslim world’s reaction than actually taking the time to realize that the cartoons were drawn out of hate and sheer Islamophobia. Rather than seeing the cartoons as racist or prejudice, many defended it as “freedom of expression.” The manner in which certain people in the Muslim world reacted to the Danish cartoons is another subject altogether, but it’s worth mentioning that their response represents a sensitivity that the West has made very little efforts to understand. For Islamophobes, demonizing the Prophet of Islam wouldn’t be such a bad idea since dehumanizing the enemy is an essential process of war. Vilifying the “Other” makes racial slurs acceptable – slurs like “rag heads,” “camel jockeys,” “towel heads,” “dune coons” among much worse things.

Although the Persians in “300” are not Muslim (the movie takes place in the Pre-Islamic and Pre-Christian era), the visualization of Persians are identical to the stereotypical images we see of Muslims in other media representations. Demonizing the Persians during a time when Middle-Easterners and Muslims are already being vilified simply makes dehumanization of the “Other” acceptable and more recognizable. I remember having one odd conversation with a young man who started his argument by saying, “Xerxes and his Muslim army were a bunch of tyrants.” I stopped him immediately and told him that his ignorant comments are precisely the reason why I raise awareness and accuse “300” of being a propaganda film. Xerxes and his Persian army were not Muslim, yet I saw many people correlating the film with present-day tensions between the United States and Iran.  Joseph Shahadi recently informed me, the right-wing party of Italy even uses images of “300” in their campaign posters! It’s sad how many don’t seem to realize that dehumanization of certain groups has dangerous consequences; after all, before the Holocaust, Jews were dehumanized.

“300” may look like a visual breakthrough in cinema “art”, but that doesn’t make up for its blood-spattering jingoism or its racist content. Counter-arguments in the film’s defense are often weak with excuses like, “it’s just a movie,” or “it’s based on a comic book” or “it’s simply meant to entertain.” The counter-arguments are short and weak because the film is unapologetic and doesn’t contain anything sympathetic or appreciative about Persians, their culture, and their history. It would benefit Frank Miller and Zack Snyder if they saw Ridley Scott’s brilliant film, “Kingdom of Heaven,” which explores the complexity of war and celebrates dialogue between great civilizations. Such films are beneficiary to society because they convey much-needed messages of coexistence, respect, and understanding that reach wide audiences.

On a personal note, it is discouraging that so many people, including academics, doctors, and scholars, are either not bothered or don’t see the racism in “300.” And every once in a while, another one of my friends will do the Spartan “Ha-oooh!” chant around me and not realize how offensive it is. The fact that so many people cite the movie and enjoy watching it provides enough support for the cognitive social learning theory, where people find the Spartan characters likable and admirable. It is likely that this may be the reason why so many are defensive of the film – simply because they like the movie so much. But we, as a progressive society, need to be bold enough to stamp our foot down and say we will not tolerate racism, just like we would never tolerate watching or promoting films that glorify the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis. As Dana Stevens writes, “If “300” had been made in Germany in the mid-1930s, it would be studied today alongside “The Eternal Jew” as a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war.”

My personal hope is that people will appreciate this analysis and realize the immense impact media has on shaping our thoughts, perspectives, and views of each other. I would also hope that people are inspired to study ancient Persian history and learn about the countless contributions of the Persians, who were among the greatest philosophers, thinkers, poets, artists, physicians, mathematicians, astronomers, and innovators in the history of the world – before and after the Islamic era. I must point out that almost 90% of the paintings I post on my blog are Persian paintings (compare them with Frank Miller’s horrific depiction of Persians in “300″ and you will understand how upset and offended one can be).

The Arab, Iranian, and/or Muslim communities need to make their mark in the film industry and I cannot stress that enough. The release of “300” angered, but also frustrated me because I felt like I could not respond with a film about Persians due to my low-budget. It is a personal dream of mine to make a “Cyrus the Great” film someday, and I’m sure many of us have dreams of certain films we’d like to see about our communities, but they cannot remain dreams. They must be manifested and brought to life, and only through perseverance, sheer dedication, and passion can we achieve our dreams. As evident in “300,” there are people making a living out of vilifying our cultures, histories, and religions while many of us stand by and watch the propaganda machine do its dirty work. I understand that not all of us are aspiring filmmakers, but to those of you who are: the longer we remain the silent, the less people will know about our beautiful stories.

I believe very firmly that Truth prevails in the end and I have faith that the new generation of progressive-thinkers, Middle-Easterners, South Asians, and Muslims alike are on their way in making a profound difference in our world. Someday, the Middle-East and Muslim world will no longer be demonized and feared, but appreciated and respected. The media has the power to turn tables around in such a way.

Someday…

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