American Paki

Ayesha Kazmi

Ayesha Kazmi is a Muslim American specialist in UK anti-terrorism policy at London-based CageprisonersOriginally from Boston, Massachusetts, Kazmi lived in London, England from 2005-2011. She has written for The Guardian and Privacy Matters and blogs at AmericanPaki. You can follow her on Twitter @AyeshaKazmi.

They say the onset of authoritarianism happens through a process of incrementalism. If indeed that is the case, I have missed a lot in the 6 years I spent in the United Kingdom away from the United States.

Continue reading

Does Comedy Help?

Can comedy defuse an increasingly Islamophobic atmosphere in the west? Or do short films, sketches, and new media actually solidify preexisting bigotry and reinforce stereotypes through caricatures of Muslim people?

In the wake of the Lowe’s controversy, some comedy sketches have poked fun at the ridiculousness nature of fearing Muslims and Islam. In one sketch (below), two men of presumably South Asian Muslim descent, visit a Lowe’s Superstore to shop for “materials.” The epic background, set by what is meant to be “Islamic-sounding” music, presents an ominous mood, preparing the viewer for the culminating, climactic event. I don’t want to spoil the ending, so watch the clip to see what happens.

Continue reading

Will Discrimination Backfire?

Image: Ahmed Rehab

Reem recently wrote about the controversy surrounding Lowe’s, the home improvement superstore that caved to Islamophobic pressure from the Florida Family Association (FFA) and pulled its advertising from the reality television show All-American Muslim.

Earlier this week, Jon Stewart and Asif Mandvi of the Daily Show ridiculed the absurdity of the fear many Americans have surrounding Islam and Muslims. In one segment, Stewart criticized the blatant bigotry of the FFA, a fundamentalist activist group, for lobbying American corporations to pull their advertising from All-American Muslim. But that didn’t stop kayak.com from following the lead of Lowe’s and pulling their ad campaign from the show this past Wednesday, days after the controversy made international news. In fact, according to the FFA, 65 advertisers targeted by mass email complaints have withdrawn funding from the December 11 show.

Continue reading

Building Things Together?

This past Saturday, Lowe’s Home Improvement store, which uses the  motto “Let’s Build Something Together,” pulled its advertising from TLC’s new show All-American Muslim after being pressured by the Florida Family Association. A statement put out by Lowe’s laid out their reasoning for this decision:

Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views. As a result we did pull our advertising on this program. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individual and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance.

The Florida Family Association asked its members to petition Lowe’s to pull its advertising, which appears to have been successful. Furthermore, the group claims that 65 companies that they targeted have pulled their advertising. Continue reading

How Low Can We Go?

Islamophobia Today, one of the leading blogs covering anti-Muslim sentiments worldwide, recently published an article on the latest terrorism figures from Europol. The European law enforcement agency released their annual EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report, citing “Islamists” as having carried out less than one half of one percent (0.005%) of all terrorist acts (1o out of 2,139) committed in Europe from 2005 to 2010. Interestingly, the report notes that “Islamist terrorism is still perceived as the biggest threat to most [EU] Member States.”

That perception, as divorced from reality as it is, seems to only get more and more entrenched. Reem and I have written extensively about a host of topics related to ignorance, prejudice, hatred, and violence against Muslims and Islam, but a recent statement from American comic Dennis Miller made me wonder how far things can go without anyone really noticing or caring.

Continue reading

The Taliban in Libya?

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain stumbles on questions related to Libya in a recent interview.

Last week, Republican presidential contender Herman Cain badly stumbled at an editorial meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, displaying his limited knowledge of the current situation in Libya. His campaign blamed the gaffe on 4 hours of sleep and an ambiguous question from reporters. A few days later, Cain asked the media in a rhetorical manner, “Do I agree with saying that Gadhafi should go, do I agree that they now have a country where you’ve got Taliban and Al Qaeda that’s going to be a part of the government?” For the record, the Taliban has never been associated with Gadhafi or Libya.

Continue reading

Muslim and American

On October 12th, Tarek Fatah posted a conversation with Ayaan Hirsi Ali on The Huffington Post. In this conversation, Fatah and Ali, a former Muslim and well-known critic of Islam, discussed many issues, ranging from extremist activity among Muslims to Muslim citizenship in the West. Of these topics, I would like to focus on the place of Muslims in the West, specifically in the United States.

Ali is surprised that Muslims who spend the majority or all of their lives in the United States still adhere to Islam. She expects these Muslims to discard their beliefs in order to be truly American because in her perception there is a clear contradiction between the practice of Islam and being an American. In another context, she argued that Muslims in the United States should all accept Christianity in order to have a place in America. In her conversation with Fatah, she suggested that organizations like the Islamic Society of North America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations had secret agendas because they attempt to portray a positive picture of Islam and fight for Muslims’ civil rights. Continue reading

Advertising Islam: Can Commercials and Billboards Change its Image?

One of these billboards

This week the first commercial on Islam was broadcast on TV in Australia. MyPeace, a group started by Diaa Mohamed, is behind the ad, which aims to promote Islam by addressing misconceptions about the faith and emphasizing similarities with Christianity. The commercial is part of a larger campaign, which began this past summer.

In addition to the commercial, MyPeace paid for billboards around Sydney as well as signs on 40 buses. The four statements on the billboards were: “Jesus: A Prophet of Islam,” “Holy Qur’an: The Final Testament,” “Muhammad: Mercy to Mankind,” and “Islam: Got Questions? Get Answers.” The billboards also had a phone number that people could call to ask questions about Islam and receive free literature and copies of the Qur’an. The billboards were not without controversy: the billboard on Jesus was vandalized one day after it appeared. Continue reading

The History of Hate

The revered 20th century Catalan Painter Salvador Dali also created images gruesomely depicting the Prophet Muhammad

Today, Thursday, October 6, Luis Bernabé Pons, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Alicante in Spain, will be speaking about Islam and Christianity in 16th century Spain. The event will focus upon the Lead Books of Sacromonte and will take place at the Pyle Center in Madison Wisconsin @ 7 PM.

Earlier this week, Reem and I had the privilege to speak with Luis Bernabé. We discussed a variety of topics related to the history of Islam, but his presentation exploring the history of the Occident‘s misrepresentation of Islam stood out the most. Continue reading

Fear of the Caliphate

In the past year, the Middle East has undergone massive changes that include the removal of the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt and protests that have rocked Libya, Syria, and Yemen. The world watched as the power of decades-long dictators was challenged. While the future is still unknown for these countries, it is clear that the fear of Islam, Islamic law, and an Islamically run government is widespread. As these leaders fell, fear of emerging Islamist governments and a new caliphate, an Islamic government led by a caliph, was repeatedly brought into the discussions. Terms like caliphate, sharia, jizya, and dhimmi continue to be utilized in many contexts to reflect this uneasiness with Islamic rule. Continue reading