Although it may be hard at times to compartmentalize the work that we here at Sparrow do, avid readers of our blog and followers of our work will see some re-occuring themes. One theme is that we are critical of capitalism, another is that we are critical of the military & prison industrial complexes. With ever increasing privatization both of these complexes are growing exponentially at rates that eclipse many industrial trends world wide. An infographic recently released by the ACLU confirmed that the prison industrial complex is racist, growing, oppressive, packed with non-violent offenders, and a significant threat to our democracy.
Please share this infographic on tumblr, twitter, facebook, etc.
From Unity Productions comes a powerful testimonial of the 1.8 million Muslim Americans who are as “every-day” as the rest of us. All cliches aside, they’re our doctors, our police, our teachers, and our first responders. To paint this diverse constituency of millions with a broad brush of prejudice because of the actions of a dozen or so zealots, is not only to do so ignorantly, but also does our democracy as a whole a great disservice.
Despite all the measures this country has taken to further freedoms of expression we continue to live in a time of religious intolerance. Though some people’s anger is not completely misplaced, especially in cases where selective applications of religion further sexism, racism, homophobia, speciesism and other actions that directly infringe upon the rights of others, these legitimate grievances should never justify blindly ignorant or hateful actions. Through respectful discourse we should always challenge repressive elements of any social group, and its even ok if people feel offended while they sort things out, but when people cherry-pick negative attributes from a specific religion and then proceed to scapegoat that religion as a predicate for all the world’s problems we begin to traverse down a slippery slope of bigotry and xenophobia that can only end in disaster. Words do have power, especially in timultuous times. One need not look further then the recent attacks in Norway to see the vulgar fruits of seeds planted by hate-mongering bloggers and far-right pundits.
We live in a media-driven culture with an increasingly homogenized narrative. One that habitually trumps sensational lead-lines while passing on surrounding factual foundations because they are less inflammatory or take too long to explain in a 30 second segment. This habit has created a Hollywood-like news cycle infatuated with explosions, scandal, and falls from grace. In this cycle we almost only hear about Islam when it is conflated with terrorism, explosions, conflict, or the repressive elements of a minority’s interpretation of Sharia. Perhaps explaining these conflations is contributing to this cycle of xenophobia as well?
<The Sparrow Project has printed these benefit t-shirts in an attempt to combat Islamophobia. Proceeds raised from the sale of these shirts will benefit victims of hate crimes.
Less newsworthy, but far more important facts remain under-reported. Xenophobia is running rampant across America and around the world. Racist evangelical conservatives who separate “Allah” from the “God” of the Christian New Testament, disregard the fact that Jesus spoke Aramaic (a language which shares many words with Arabic including “Allah,” as the word for God) and are ignorant of the glaring fact that all of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths worship the same single deity. The term “Islamist” is a term fabricated by right-leaning pundits and bloggers like Glen Beck, Michael Savage and Pamela Gellar, who attempt conflate non-violent Muslims with fascists. Moreover, Jihad means to “strive” or “struggle,” and this term can include everything from one’s personal struggle with alcoholism to a wider social struggle against oppression from a dictator or governing body, the true definition of Jihad is completely divergent from the contemporary adaptation of the word repeatedly used by the mainstream western media. Despite popular western belief, most fundamentalist Muslims do not endorse violence as part of their Jihad. Moreover, most Muslims are not fundamentalists.
However, these less sensational facts don’t support the right-leaning media’s hysterical narrative that at times could appear to exist for no other purpose then to perpetuate a climate of fear of Muslims and to further justify preemptive US military actions in Islamic countries. When the habitual focus of media outlets on both the left and right leave little space for factual dialogue surrounding Islam, its merits, its practitioners, and its tremendous beauty then the onus is on us to create our own inventive grassroots responses to Islamophobia and racism. The Sparrow Project applauds Unity Productions for developing this hard-hitting video short where vulgar soundbites from Michael Savage and similar Islamophobes are juxtaposed against the dominant message of beauty, peace, love, and solidarity.
Fast Times in Palestine, tells the story of Pamela Olson, a young woman from small-town Oklahoma whose political innocence was shattered when she wandered into the West Bank in late 2003. Her fellow travelers and young Palestinians introduce her to a world of soul-destroying injustice that outsiders seldom hear about. With new knowledge and dizzying speed, Pamela finds herself working as a journalist, serving as the foreign press coordinator for a Palestinian presidential candidate, and witnessing the Disengagement from inside the Gaza Strip. Funny, gorgeous, surprising, and galvanizing, Olson’s memoir changes the way we think about the Middle East.
Monday, August 15th at 7PM At Bluestockings Books | http://bluestockings.com 172 Allen Street, New York, NY 10002, (212) 777-6028 For directions click HERE
It’s love in the time of occupation as Pamela Olson… takes us on the emotional roller-coaster of her very personal experience of life in Ramallah and in doing so lays bare the human drama of a people… determined to live free.— Tony Karon, Senior Editor, TIME
A moving, inspiring account of life in Palestine that’s enormously informative yet reads like a novel — Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace
In a field overcrowded with arcane academic texts and strident polemics, Pamela Olson has broken through with a refreshing read that packs gritty journalism into a fast-paced, intimate personal narrative.— Max Blumenthal, Author of Republican Gomorrah
Danny Bobis was a fellow activist, a drummer, a husband, a surf coach, a math teacher, and a friend to countless people. Danny went missing almost two weeks ago while surfing in Indonesia and after an almost week-long search his body was discovered by a local fisherman. Our greatest fears were confirmed.
Danny’s right arm was tattooed with the message “Wealth is Weighed in Spirit” — a portion of the chorus from the title track of his band, Cipher’s, second full-length album, Children of God’s Fire. This proclamation was more than just a sing-along or mere tattooed lettering — these were words that Danny lived by and it is a sentiment echoed today in everyone whose life was touched by Danny’s.
Danny taught math and coached the surf team at Long Beach High School. When word arrived that Danny was gone, hundreds of his students gathered on the boardwalk for an impromptu candle light vigil, they were quickly joined by members of the community, surfers, activists and fans of his band. The gathering was an eye-opening summation of Danny’s spiritual wealth. If the people holding candles that night on the boardwalk made a point to touch only a fraction of the people that Danny did in his short life then tens of thousands of people would have their lives forever impacted.
For over a decade Danny’s band Cipher was, for many, their first taste of social justice activism, and for some the beginning of a life of charitable activism. Danny used music as a medium for social change & education, playing benefit shows to fund relief efforts in the wake of hurricane Katrina or through helping to organize 100 Shows For Haiti. Cipher used their music as a means to educate at shows and Danny’s work as a teacher helped him to touch even more people. Please join us in celebrating Danny’s life tomorrow at Laurelton Beach, NY.
The Bobis family would like to invite everyone reading this to a public memorial tomorrow, 8/7/2011 at 5:30pm at Danny’s hometown surf spot, Laurelton Beach, in Long Beach, NY (CLICK HERE FOR MAP & DIRECTIONS) The entire community is invited. Join us as we honor a life of purpose and courage.
The memorial will be immediately followed by a paddle out to sea. All are invited to join. We will start promptly. For any questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org”
We lost a shining example of a person when Danny passed. We should strive every day to follow his example and continue to move this world as he would have. If wealth is weighed in spirit then Danny’s legacy has left us all rich.
Q. You were a “balancer.” What exactly did that mean, and when did you come to this realization?
A.I was actually doing my laundry, and a guard comes up to me and says, “You’re not like all the other Muslim guys, you’re going to go home soon. Keep your head up, you’re only here to balance.”
Following his hard-hitting investigative report on Communications Management Units titled ‘Little Gitmo‘, New York Magazine‘s Christopher Stewart conducted a short interview with Sparrow’s Andy Stepanian about his personal experience as an inmate there. You can read the interview online HERE or read commentary in this week’s printed edition available on news stands everywhere.
Please take a moment to comment on New York’s website and thank them for their continued coverage of the CMU issue.