Breaking the Shackles

When people are celebrating Women’s day on March 8, they are not considering the history behind the day, nor the present state of it. The day which is meant to appreciate women’s economic, political as well as social contribution, in addition to highlighting some of the major struggles they are still facing today.

If the topic in question is how much women have been able to achieve equality, then I presume that success cannot be denied nor belittled. Skipping the classic argument of whether women really want equality as defined by current standards dictated by a merciless machine of media. Actually, it seems that men and women are more equal than ever, that is in slavery to concepts presented and forced by media into becoming a norm including the judgment of the material over the ethical, the obsession with pleasing the expectations of both genders and falling into the trap of the fixed image of female empowerment.

It doesn’t matter where one stands from feminism – in my humble opinion- when gauging the goals behind women’s day. In the old days, female movements’ slogans were asking men for recognition and equality, but today the battle is definitely not the same; many women are also to blame for a huge part of their abuse. The polished image of the most successful female artist not only profit from their bodies, but also the demeaning of other women, at least verbally. There is no use of pointing fingers towards a man who is calling women bitches when powerful female media personalities are embracing and reusing the term with pleasure. The tolerance both women and men are showing towards the false concept of female power is beyond ridiculous.The below image widely used to root for “female power” is a perfect example.

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In the 1950s, women were told that they had to look and act in a certain way to be considered achieved. Nothing seems to have changed in that regard, the image of the achieved woman has slightly been modified to suite our time. To celebrate women day, despite the absurdity of the idea, we should be focusing on respecting all types of women and their choices, rather than emphasize the images we are bombarded with through the means of communication. It is crucial that we realize that the oppressed women from the Middle East often portrayed in papers or films may not very different from women oppressed somewhere else, or perhaps may not be oppressed at all.  The women who might not be selling material in magazines such as Forbes or Vogue are also leading change; no matter how their march is being judged by the rest of the world whether they are leading revolutionary actions within their countries, supporting education, rooting for freedom of choice, equality and justice in their purest forms, they deserve to be recognized as active contributors.

Without educated girls who respect their own gender and have bigger goals than becoming a Clinton, a Kardashian or any influential woman according to the very disturbing and unjust standards ruling our world, no progress will be made for women, nor men. It’s time to get rid of the shackles imposed on women and men, perhaps then we won’t even need to talk about equality.

 

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Beyond Trump Towers

A reality show, billionaire, businessman, ambitious party supporter, you can call Donald Trump or label him as you like. Since the moment he announced that he seriously intends to take part in the presidential race as a candidate, journalists and media users showed in many creative ways how grave a decision he has taken. It does not matter if the entire world chooses to shy away from Trump’s three Hs; Hate speech, hair and heinous statements or bash him for it. Who would have imagined that the United States-which still struggles with a race defined mentality- will even mind a speech that defines Muslims, Mexicans, and women who don’t strut in Trump approved suits as growing crisis?

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While many pointed out to Trump’s role in fueling hostility towards Muslims around the world, it seems as if his remarks represent a slice of racist groups functioning under covers so diverse and diffused within Muslim and non-Muslim communities within US and abroad. But, one cannot blame the man for Islamophobia with the increasing amount of misleading material presented by media as actual news.

Even after expressing his fears of immigration in the classic Trump style disregarding the fact that USA consists of immigrants, the man cannot be blamed for everything, although he makes an easy target for humor.

I do not fear that Trump might be winning the elections, the States had its share of republicans and democrats moved to suit lobbies and inner circles of decision makers, nor that there are actual people like Trump who exist and practice their given right of freedom of ignorant racist speech, but I do wonder how terrifying that someone like Trump is even running. But this is the beauty of democracy, right? It is the choice of the people; to be free in running for office and voting for the one who runs is.

According to the media brainwashing machine, combined with the ways of our overcapitalized world, Trump is a true success story judging by numbers. Perhaps he really is. Nevertheless, the current political and social standards presenting themselves in elections, not only in the United States but also everywhere around the world, leads us to question how much we have come to miss ethics and morals. The idea presents itself in fields of sports, arts, entertainment, science, education, politics ….you name it. The more shocking your attitudes, fortune and fame will come your way. As long as you can sell, you are a success.

If you read the news today, you will notice a huge gap between daily human tragedy and stupidity masking itself in the cloth of actual events that matter. As usual, how orange Trump’s face looked in one debate will be the talk of the hour, while the issues that need to be addressed by the next president will go unnoticed. It has become an artificial fog; as long as the crowd is pleased by the stage and the surroundings, they wouldn’t mind the fact that they cannot see the performer clearly.

Is it that there are no worthy leaders? Or is it that our world has become so bleak that those worthy are being forced to give up their responsibility due to the filthy routes they have to take in order to make it, leaving the wheel in the hands of the unworthy, or in worst cases maniacs?

The Curtain Raiser

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party), led by  President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, lost its majority in Parliament after a historic vote. The outcome has put an end to what has been called as the President’s hopes to amend the Constitution. Hilarity ensues.

Wherever you stand from Mr. Erdoğan, I must say that media (Turkish, international and Arab) has gone to extremes in depicting the political scene in Turkey. An example is the New York Times, which chose to label Erdoğan as an ‘Islamist’ who never listens to his criticizers. It does seem like the President is running a one-man show, yet the problem does not lie in attacking the man. It was the misapprehension of Arab columnists guided by gloating that led to publishing a set of photos of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who resigned recently, crying in what is presumably thought to be his reaction to the loss of his party. Moments later, the photos were identified as the ones taken during his visit to victims of Gaza strikes. Another example, is a photo of a Turkish MP, who is a member of the AK party, accompanied by his wife as the newspaper highlighted that he shaved his beard and she took her hijab off after their party failed to win the majority of the seats. Later on, it was found that he had always been beard-free and she never wore hijab in the first place.  Noticing a pattern here? The idea that the AK Party -whatever you think of it- is an Islamist movement that represents Muslim values is far from true. It means that economic and socio-political factors never count. Between those who glorify the achievements of the AK Party and those who shred it to pieces, we can surely try to find a more balanced analysis of the vote outcomes.

Adding to the weaves of Arab media are a group of so called authors and journalists who poured their criticism to their hearts’ content; suddenly it was a triumph for the world that a party which they find all mouth and trousers had finally lost after failing to serve the ‘right causes’ in the Arab and Muslim world. Suddenly, it seemed that Turkish internal and foreign affairs were a no-brainer even for those daft as a brush. In typical Arab media manner, the same courage in criticism could never have been displayed in addressing issues such as corruption, royalty, ….etc within their homelands.

It still amazes me how media can completely change the way we perceive things, the post-Turkish vote is only an example of course. If there had to be a list of myths surrounding this particular precedent, this would be it:

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I cannot even begin to explain how wrong and offensive this is. An Israeli cartoon chose to compare AK Party’s recent fail with the Marmara flotilla, in which innocent Turkish activists were killed by Israel. I don’t know what the Kurdish Party would have to say about this comparison.

2- Everyone in this is too gullible to believe that it’s a battle between the Kurds and the Turks. No, No, God No.

3- The ruling party in Turkey is the very representation of Islam and its supporters are only strict Muslims who believe in the necessity of ending secularism. Again, some people choose to back a political party for reasons that involve politics and economy.

The conclusion I came to after diving into a pool of bizarre analysis on the recent vote in Turkey, is that the vote is only a curtain raiser, whether it is Turkish-Arab relations or Turkey’s role in the world, there is a lot more to its ‘internal’ and foreign politics than what we are seeing right now. Still, media is composing its own version of the Turkish march.

The Curious Case of Muath Al-Kasasbeh

Within minutes of the announcement of ISIS killing Jordanian Lieutenant Muath Al-Kasasbeh, the entire Kingdom went into mourning. Being shocked, full of condemn and fury is only a natural reaction to what happened, whatever your political thoughts were. But what followed was a lot more interesting and eye-opening. The King, who was waging a war on ISIS with little public support or interest, was suddenly being hailed for his stern remarks against ‘terrorism’ and ISIS -which the Washigton Times chose to describe as a “Sunni radical terrorist organization”-.

Media and social networks were driven by grief and disgust since Muath was burnt alive, forming a machine of government backing herd asking the Jordanian army to take revenge, but no angry mob felt the need to ask; why did Muath Al-Kasasbah, a military man participating a war, is made into a sole hero and a martyr of Jordan’s fight against ‘ISIS’ or should I say the unbreakable alliance with the US for better or worse?

Muath Al-Kasasbeh

Muath Al-Kasasbeh

Not only national, but even International visual, audio and electronic means of communication turned the death of Al-Kasasbeh into a parade praising Jordan’s military partaking in the coalition against ISIS, without questioning the integrity, morality or purpose of this war. I tried to think of a time line for the case of Muath Al-Kasasbeh and it blew my mind; from the moment he was held by the ISIS militants in December 2014 when his F-16 jet crashed on near Ar-Raqqa. to this day where vengeful Jordanians took it to the streets protesting against ISIS. I even thought of his father who I heard on TV asking “our brothers at ISIS to release his son”. It has been a rollercoaster; the pain his parents must be living is beyond imagination. However, the sensible element in Muath’s case made it impossible for anyone to even imply that the nature of the war Jordan was diving in or the government’s transparency at large should be questioned. 

24 December 2014

– Muath Al-Kasasbah held hostage by ISIS after his jet crashed during the military intervention against ISIS.

Last days of December 2014

– Officials from USA and Jordan say Muath’s plane crash was caused by mechanical problems, while ISIS claimed that the plane was hit by a missile.

– Confusion caused by Jordan’s government, saying that Muath Al-Kasasbeh is thought to be alive.

– Al-Kasasbeh’s father asks “his brothers” in the ISIS to treat his son well in a TV interview.

Last week of January 2015

– ISIS negotiates with the Jordanian government claiming it would free al-Kasabeh and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto in exchange for Sajida al-Rishawi, a convicted terrorist held in Jordan under a death sentence.

– Al-Kasasbeh’s mother asking ISIS, via a private TV station, to release their son.

– Al-Kasasbeh’s father heads to the Turkish Embassy in Amman to call for Turkey’s help in getting his son back.

3 February 2015

– ISIS released a video showing al-Kasasbeh being burned to death while trapped inside a cage.

– Outrage in Jordan and in the world; even those who were opposing Jordan’s military intervention against ISIS demanded revenge. Images and stories depicting Al-Kasasbeh as a brave family guy, a man of the people.

– King Abdullah II cut short a visit to the United States, made a speech stressing that the Kingdom will take revenge, quoting Clint Eastwood. Jordanian government announced that all prisoners in its custody that had been convicted of association with ISIS would be executed ‘within hours’ in retaliation for al-Kasasbeh’s killing.

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-In further response, Mamdouh al-Ameri, a Jordanian military spokesman said: “While the military forces mourn the martyr, they emphasize his blood will not be shed in vain. The revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan.”

– Several non-Jordanian media outlets questioned whether the footage of Muath burnt alive by ISIS was real.

4 February 2015

– Ar-Rishawi and another Iraqi terrorist who were on death row, Ziad Khalaf Al-Karbouly, were executed by hanging in Swaqa Prison in response to al-Kasasbeh’s murder.

– One the same day, Jordan launched its first military response to the murder. Jordanian warplanes bombed ISIS positions in Mosul.

– A photo of King Abdullah II in a military uniform in a very serious pose sweeping the internet as rumors suggested he will be participating in the airstrikes against ISIS. Later on Nasser Judeh, Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said these were false claims.

5 Febraury 2015

– Jordan launched airstrikes against ISIS warehouses and training camps. According to US officials, the attacks took place near Raqqa and involved 20 Jordanian F-16s, assisted by American refueling and radio jamming aircraft. After the jets completed their mission, they flew over Al-Kasasbeh’s hometown of Karak.

– King Abdullah and Queen Rania offer condolences to Al-Kasasbeh family at their home in Al-Karak.

– Jordan radios united in commemorating Muath Al-Kasasbeh, featuring so called patriotic songs glorifying military and violence.

– Jordan state TV shows footage of the messages carried by the jetfighters in the Muath Al-Kasasbeh revenge operation.

6 February 2015

– Thousands march from Al-Husseini Mosque in Downtown (which has its fair share of anti-corruption and anti-Israel protests in previous years) to express fury over Muath Al-Kasasbeh’s death. Queen Rania also participated in the march.

Credit: Associated Press

Credit: Associated Press

– TV and radio coverage is still on and on about Jordan’s martyr, the military’s noble message and the popular King.

Has the Jordanian people’s nemesis been replaced? Or is the focus now shifted towards supporting the King in any endeavor he and the government chooses to make the entire country take part in? Remember Raed Zuiater? Perhaps not, he was just a Jordanian judge killed by Israeli soldiers at the Jordan River crossing point last year. His death did not spark national concern; maybe he should have been burned alive for his life to have worth. The double standards which both the state and the world’s government have embraced are astounding. It seems that some people are more equal than others. That is of course if we consider two Jordanians killed unjustly; one of them is a military man and the other is a civilian law enforcer. If we take into consideration non-Jordanian civilians such as the Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir who was burned alive by Israelis or even non-Arabs being killed unjustly without touching the world humanity towards a strong and fair reaction, then one will dwell upon thinking how Muath Al-Kasasbeh’s killing means more than all those deaths.

You know the American Sniper? It feels like that the Jordanian Pilot can be a possible equivalent. The thought that military men are made to believe that all they do is save lives, regardless of the battlefield they are sent to, is overwhelming. I guess that is far less romantic than believing that these human lives are taken to serve governments, rather than save lives.

What do we know? King Abdullah II is starring in a new Western and probably a new war-hero film, he even gained a lot of fans across the world who admire his ‘badass’ attitude. That’s what a developing country’s leader is all about; attitude.

Moderate Islam, is there really such a thing?

Once I asked,

“Mirror, Mirror on the Wall,

Who is the most moderate of them all?”

Without hesitation it replied,

“They are all terrorists, I am appalled,

Listen to Fox news, kill them all.”

In times like these, where there are so many types and degrees of Islam on the menu, one should be careful of not fulfilling the new ‘moderate Islam’ criteria. I assume that I have no idea of how moderate I am personally, so I thought that an application used to measure how moderate you are as a Muslim will come in handy for mankind; if you exceed the permissible limit, then the closest intelligence authority should show up at your door. Or even better one of those Facebook tests, maybe “What kind of Muslim are you?”

I haven’t heard the term ‘Moderate Islam’ before 9/11. As George W. Bush stated that “Muslims per se were not America’s enemy,” he was certainly giving a contradictory message in his speeches by going on and on about “Islamist fascists”. Then, there was a shift towards the recognition that of 1 billion Muslims around the globe, a lot can be moderate. Who is a moderate Muslim was often determined by non-Muslims or people who know so little about Islamic teachings, or even people who wanted to differentiate between their next-door Muslim and some radical fanatic committing sickening immoral crimes against humanity. What followed was the presentation of a plot where even moderate Islam would clash with civilization as many online and offline material was claiming that moderate Islam is a hoax.

Then came Barack Obama with his New Beginning speech, I reckon it was a beginning, but it wasn’t a good one. Even if the current US President is more reluctant in using words as radical Islam compared to Bush, still there were a number of procedures and foreign policies taken under his command, stressing that there are many versions of Islam and one of them is very radical.  So, the moderate Islam term was spreading like wild fire, surprisingly even in the Middle East where a lot of Muslims found themselves in a position where they have to defend themselves by proving that they are the exact embodiment of the word Moderation.

Speaking on the “Alliance of Civilizations and Turkey’s role” at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies on April 2, 2009 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister at the time, rejected attempts to call Turkey the representative of moderate Islam noting that “It is unacceptable for us to agree with such a definition. Turkey has never been a country to represent such a concept. Moreover, Islam cannot be classified as moderate or not”.

Some Muslim scholars argue that the use of words such as Islamic fascists, radical Islam, moderate Islam and such is suggesting that this faith in particular provides a nest for ideological absurdities, that if one chooses to kill or vandalize he shall find an absolutely perfect excuse or justification in Islam. The choice of words, you might think, is the least of our world’s problem, eh? I mean with ISIS posting horrific videos of their atrocities, one shall denounce it, right? Well, here is the thing; we cannot let the link between terrorism –at large- and bigotry in the form of ignorance take over our judgment. Take for example Commentator Charles Krauthammer who pointed out that Obama cannot bring himself to call ISIS “Islamic”.

So, here we are-again- with the idea that Islam is an environment where radicals are nurtured, doing nothing but promoting killing. The link between Islam and terrorism has been a good excuse for so many political schemes, in  the 9/11 Commission report, published under the presidency of George W. Bush in July 2004, had used the word Islam 322 times, Muslim 145 times, jihad 126 times, and jihadist 32 times.

Since then, media has been doing a great job in establishing this bond. Moreover, the stories about decent Muslims would always spin around the fact that although they are Muslims, they are moderate.

As if it wasn’t enough for the guys and gals in suits weighing in on who are moderate Muslims, it was then the royals of Jordan and some other US-allies stressing that Muslims are not bad people. The point is, there is no such thing as moderate Islam. But I am amazed that while Muslims constitute a large proportion of our world, they are still being monitored and categorized in order for them to feel the need to deny any relations they might have with ISIS or ‘radical’ groups by altering their real identity to fit in the acceptable form of a Muslim.

Without getting philosophical, words like Islamist, Islamic, moderate, Mohammadism,….etc, what do they actually refer to? The answer is, Islam as a whole. There is definitely a need to be careful with the name-calling game.

On behalf of myself, let me apologize for nothing and ensure you that I will always be a proud Muslim with no desire to defend and distinguish myself from terrorists of all sorts because I have done nothing wrong. How moderate is that?