Posts Tagged ‘anti-Muslim prejudice’

‘Ali’s Diner’ reaches 3Quarks semifinals

December 12, 2011

Thanks to your support, Overheard at Ali’s Diner on Arab Street has reached the semi-finals for the 3QuarksDaily Politics and Social Science Prize. The article finished fourth in the voting among this year’s 56 nominees. I sincerely appreciate the votes; the quark is in the mail.

Please vote now in 3QuarksDaily.com blog competition

December 6, 2011

I’d appreciate your support in this year’s 3 Quarks Daily Politics & Social Science Prize. Please vote for my nominated article, Overheard at Ali’s Diner on Arab Street, listed alphabetically under letter M for Muhammad Cohen, You can read the article, a reaction to the massacre in Oslo, and the other nominees through links on the nominee page. The deadline for voting is Saturday, December 10 at 11.59pm New York time, so please vote for Muhammad Cohen’s article now.

The articles with the most votes get considered for the top prize of $1,000, so please cast your ballot for Muhammad Cohen, and please spread the word.

Many thanks for your support, and may the best blog win.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie. See his biography, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com.

Giving thanks for Europe’s hate

November 24, 2010

A friend that I hoped would know better emailed me a speech from Dutch legislator Geert Wilders with the subject line “Warning from Holland.”

Wilders was indicted for hate speech against Islam, and this lecture, apparently from 2008, offers ample evidence why. He denounces the Qur’an and the prophet Muhammad while denying that Islam is a religion, instead branding it a violent cult that targets non-Muslims for destruction.

Built on the fallacy that there is a single monolithic Islam that combines the worst of Osama bin Laden and Iran’s mullahs, Wilders mixes half-truths and outright lies to argue Muslims are taking over the world. “We might be in the final stages of the Islamization of Europe,” Wilders claims. “This not only is a clear and present danger to the future of Europe itself, it is a threat to America and the sheer survival of the West.”

On the contrary, Europe’s growing tide of bigotry, thanks to Wilders and his disciples, represents a great opportunity for America, and there’s no better time to remember it than Thanksgiving Day.

During a televised debate on outlawing Muslim headscarves, one participant noted that 70 years ago, Europe demonized another religious minority and that didn’t turn out well for anyone.

Take these words from Wilders’ speech: “All throughout Europe a new reality is rising: entire Muslim neighborhoods where very few indigenous people reside or are even seen. And if they are, they might regret it… The shops have signs you and I cannot read. You will be hard-pressed to find any economic activity. These are Muslim ghettos controlled by religious fanatics. These are Muslim neighborhoods, and they are mushrooming in every city across Europe. These are the building-blocks for territorial control of increasingly larger portions of Europe, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city.” Substitute Jew for Muslim, and that rant could have been given by a leader of the Third Reich.

But Europe’s history of hatred toward religious minorities stretches back far beyond Nazi Germany. America was founded in part as a response to Europe’s centuries-old tradition of prejudice.

The Plymouth Pilgrims that we Americans commemorate with our Thanksgiving holiday fled England and then Wilders’ Netherlands to find freedom. Their Puritan neighbors in Massachusetts Bay and fellow colonists in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maryland all founded their settlements in search of religious freedom they couldn’t find in Europe.

From those early crucibles of liberty to the Manhattan Project and Silicon Valley, the US has benefited from others’ intolerance, attracting the best and brightest from around the world. Immigrants from Alexander Hamilton to my Indonesian niece have extended America’s family and expanded our horizons, enriching us by every measure. Americans’ basic fair-mindedness and decency plus our shared heritage of immigration have triumphed over persistent nativist impulses throughout our history.

That’s something to be thankful for on Thursday. At the same time, please offer a prayer that America’s better instincts will overcome this latest wave of hate hitting our shores from Europe and let their weakness and shortsightedness keep making America stronger.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Speak up, moderates!

September 8, 2010

It’s a busy week, full of competing ideas and emotions. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, kicking off the high holiday season begins at sundown Wednesday. Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, ends Friday, giving way to the celebration of Id ul-Fitri. Saturday marks the ninth anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on the US that left more than 3,000 dead. Amid the controversy over Cordoba House, an evangelical Christian pastor with a congregation of 50 in Florida has created an international furor with plans to commemorate the day by burning copies of the Qur’an.

On all sides, extremists have seized control of the debate. Moderates must raise their voices to be heard over the radicals and take back the conversation. In this last shared holy season between Muslims and Jews until the 2030s, Palestinians and Israelis have restarted peace talks; perhaps negotiators will be infected with the spirit of the season, as I suggested last year in The Guardian. It may not help to be hopeful, but as the old joke* instructs, “It couldn’t hurt.”

*For those who don’t know the joke: The legendary actor of the Yiddish theater Boris Tomashevski dies during intermission of a performance. The producer comes out from the closed curtain and tells crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, it breaks my heart to inform you that the great man, Tomashevski has passed away in his dressing room.”

From the back of the theater, a woman’s voice calls out, “Give him an enema.”

The producer ignores the cry and continues, “Of course, the performance will not continue, and we will refund your money. I’m sure you join me in sending deepest condolences to the family of the great man…”

“Give him an enema,” the woman repeats.

The producer can’t contain himself any longer. “Lady, Tomashevski is dead. An enema can’t help him.”

“It couldn’t hurt.”

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.


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