Sweden’s Far-Right hope to Antagonise Muslims with Gay Pride Parade

pride-jarva

Haaretz reports today that Sweden’s far-right have organised a gay pride parade which will march through Muslim-majority districts Tensta and Husby in Stockholm. The Israeli media outlet states:

The organizer of the march, Jan Sjunnesson, is the former editor of the far-right Sweden Democrats’ newspaper, the Samtiden. The Sweden Democrats are known for their anti-immigration policies, and came out strongly in support of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten when it published cartoons derogatively depicting the Prophet Mohammed in 2005.

‘Expression of pure racism’

The scheduled march has been criticized as provocative and racist by those on the left, with angry comments appearing on the event’s Facebook page. Two residents of the Jarva area, Noah Nord and Emelie Mårtensson, claim that ‘Jarva Pride’ “pits two oppressed groups against each other,” and have organized a counter-demonstration.

One person to defend the march is evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins, who slammed criticism of the event as emblematic of “the pathetic Left.”

Swedish nationalists plan gay ‘pride’ march through Muslim areas of Stockholm

Homophobia is clearly abhorrent, however bigotry towards LGBT peope is rife in all societies; some well-known examples being in Poland, Russia and many states in the US. In America embracing homophobia is part of the country’s mainstream political discourse – you only need to listen to the reaction of many Republican presidential hopefuls to understand that.

Thus by singling out Muslims it is obvious that this event has been planned with the aim of causing trouble. Ironically, the leader of the Sweden Democrats – Jimmie Åkesson – was barred from attending Stockholm Pride, the largest pride festival in Scandinavia, last year. English language Swedish paper The Local reported:

“The management of Stockholm Pride has decided that the Sweden Democrats do not share our values and therefore are not welcome,” Maria Paulsson, press secretary at Stockholm Pride, told Dagens Opinion earlier this month. She said no other organizations were banned, as far as she knew.

“It’s not primarily because of their stance on family and LGBT issues, but because we see them as a racist party, and the LGBT fight and the fight against racism go hand and hand,” Sandra Ehne, chairman of Stockholm Pride, told The Local.

Ehne stressed that Stockholm Pride is a non-profit association consisting of many members, and that it aims to be a safe community for its members.

“Their politics are built on racist grounds, and these grounds usually include homophobia. We do not want to give our platform to a party which works against us throughout the year. And our members need to feel safe,” Ehne concluded.

Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats

Therefore it seems clear that Pride Järva has been specifically designed to antagonise a minority, or indeed, as Noah Nord and Emelie Mårtensson say, to target not one oppressed group but two. Just as with Charlie Hebdo, the creators had the right to draw Mohammed. But since then, with the proliferation of ‘draw Mohammed cartoon contests’ – usually with Geert Wilders in attendance – these events are concocted by bigots hoping for a negative if not violent reaction, in order to vindicate their own prejudices about Muslims.

Those of us on “the pathetic Left” must condemn homophobia, just as we must condemn all types of intolerance – including that towards Muslims. It is not exactly difficult to understand why we sympathise with and feel the need to defend Muslims living in the West: because they are marginalised members of society and are becoming increasingly more so.

It is evident – though it is not mentioned by politicians nor covered by the media – that the real problem facing Europe comes from the far-right, not the so-called ‘Muslim threat’.

Ayatollah Khamenei has a ‘#LETTER4U’

Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, Iran’s Supreme Leader wrote an open letter to the ‘youth in Europe and North America’, commenting on the way Islam is portrayed in the Western media. Every time a violent act is carried out by Muslims, the press and politicians make a huge fuss about the need for other Muslims to speak out and condemn such atrocities, and all Muslims are blamed by association. Despite Islamic leaders’ continuous denouncement of groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS, their statements are largely ignored by those who demand them, clearly demonstrating the presence of an anti-Muslim agenda.

So naturally, Khamenei’s letter was largely ignored. Although it was published over a month ago, I thought I should still post the text here, as it is an excellent assessment of the distorted and simplistic picture of “Islam” that is presented to us here in the West. I have put Islam in scare quotes here because of the media’s tendency to reduce the 1.7 billion people who live within numerous countries, cultures, languages, religious denominations etc, down to one blanket description: “Islam.”

To learn more about what Khamenei addresses in his letter, I recommend reading the postcolonial literary theorist Edward Said’s text Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine how we see the rest of the World. Astonishingly, the book was first published in 1981, before being updated in 1997. Said passed away in November 2003…I wonder what he would have thought of the West’s hysteria over “Islam” today?

 

To the Youth in Europe and North America

In the name of God, the Beneficent the Merciful

The recent events in France and similar ones in some other Western countries have convinced me to directly talk to you about them. I am addressing you, [the youth], not because I overlook your parents, rather it is because the future of your nations and countries will be in your hands; and also I find that the sense of quest for truth is more vigorous and attentive in your hearts.

I don’t address your politicians and statesmen either in this writing because I believe that they have consciously separated the route of politics from the path of righteousness and truth.

I would like to talk to you about Islam, particularly the image that is presented to you as Islam. Many attempts have been made over the past two decades, almost since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, to place this great religion in the seat of a horrifying enemy. The provocation of a feeling of horror and hatred and its utilization has unfortunately a long record in the political history of the West.

Here, I don’t want to deal with the different phobias with which the Western nations have thus far been indoctrinated. A cursory review of recent critical studies of history would bring home to you the fact that the Western governments’ insincere and hypocritical treatment of other nations and cultures has been censured in new historiographies.

The histories of the United States and Europe are ashamed of slavery, embarrassed by the colonial period and chagrined at the oppression of people of color and non-Christians. Your researchers and historians are deeply ashamed of the bloodsheds wrought in the name of religion between the Catholics and Protestants or in the name of nationality and ethnicity during the First and Second World Wars. This approach is admirable.

 

By mentioning a fraction of this long list, I don’t want to reproach history; rather I would like you to ask your intellectuals as to why the public conscience in the West awakens and comes to its senses after a delay of several decades or centuries. Why should the revision of collective conscience apply to the distant past and not to the current problems? Why is it that attempts are made to prevent public awareness regarding an important issue such as the treatment of Islamic culture and thought?

You know well that humiliation and spreading hatred and illusionary fear of the “other” have been the common base of all those oppressive profiteers. Now, I would like you to ask yourself why the old policy of spreading “phobia” and hatred has targeted Islam and Muslims with an unprecedented intensity. Why does the power structure in the world want Islamic thought to be marginalized and remain latent? What concepts and values in Islam disturb the programs of the super powers and what interests are safeguarded in the shadow of distorting the image of Islam? Hence, my first request is: Study and research the incentives behind this widespread tarnishing of the image of Islam.

My second request is that in reaction to the flood of prejudgments and disinformation campaigns, try to gain a direct and firsthand knowledge of this religion. The right logic requires that you understand the nature and essence of what they are frightening you about and want you to keep away from.

I don’t insist that you accept my reading or any other reading of Islam. What I want to say is: Don’t allow this dynamic and effective reality in today’s world to be introduced to you through resentments and prejudices. Don’t allow them to hypocritically introduce their own recruited terrorists as representatives of Islam.

Receive knowledge of Islam from its primary and original sources. Gain information about Islam through the Qur’an and the life of its great Prophet. I would like to ask you whether you have directly read the Qur’an of the Muslims. Have you studied the teachings of the Prophet of Islam and his humane, ethical doctrines? Have you ever received the message of Islam from any sources other than the media?

 

 

Have you ever asked yourself how and on the basis of which values has Islam established the greatest scientific and intellectual civilization of the world and raised the most distinguished scientists and intellectuals throughout several centuries?

I would like you not to allow the derogatory and offensive image-buildings to create an emotional gulf between you and the reality, taking away the possibility of an impartial judgment from you. Today, the communication media have removed the geographical borders. Hence, don’t allow them to besiege you within fabricated and mental borders.

Although no one can individually fill the created gaps, each one of you can construct a bridge of thought and fairness over the gaps to illuminate yourself and your surrounding environment. While this preplanned challenge between Islam and you, the youth, is undesirable, it can raise new questions in your curious and inquiring minds. Attempts to find answers to these questions will provide you with an appropriate opportunity to discover new truths.

Therefore, don’t miss the opportunity to gain proper, correct and unbiased understanding of Islam so that hopefully, due to your sense of responsibility toward the truth, future generations would write the history of this current interaction between Islam and the West with a clearer conscience and lesser resentment.

Seyyed Ali Khamenei
21st Jan. 2015

Additional references and sources on LETTER4U and its contents can be found at: www.letter4u.co.

Arabs Can Do Satire Too

In the wake of the attack on France’s Charlie Hebdo publication this week, I thought it would be a good time to revisit some Arab media productions satirising ISIS. It seems that many in the West think that all Arabs/Muslims are of one mind, and are unable to mock themselves or their religion. It’s worth pointing out that states such as Iraq, Palestine and Syria suffer at the hands of extremists on a daily basis – no one in this part of the world cares about that, but we demand their condemnation when the rare attack does occur here. The following Onion-style article is from a Lebanese publication; it’s much more nuanced than the crude cartoons of Charlie Hebdo (the original can be viewed here).

ISIS: Coup delayed for ‘Communal Coexistence’

isisinlebnow2

The invasion of Beirut, Lebanon, has been delayed again, according to sources close to Idiot Sycophants of Islamist Saboteurs (ISIS), a self-described “anti-Botox, pro-C4 explosives militia successor to al-Qaeda in Iraq.” Last week, after seizing eastern lands in war-torn Syria and launching lightening attacks across Iraq, ISIS cancelled its initial invasion of Lebanon on account of “crazy traffic, bro.”

ISIS spokesman Saaden Ibn-Jahshein has sought to “reassure the Lebanese public—and all of its communities—that [they] are not far from our thoughts.” In a press conference held on a rugged hill on the outskirts of a Syrian village purportedly under the Assad regime’s control, Ibn-Jahshein promised the Lebanese that their “especially tenuous period of eerie calm” would not persist.
Proclaiming his group’s “enduring desire to invade and occupy Beirut,” he emphasized, however, that ISIS “will invade once the conditions are acceptable. First, we must be assured that Lebanese state institutions and traditional communal leadership positions are restored, fully functional, and running efficiently. Second, we need somebody to help us figure out how to oust non-existent state institutions from power while securing the support of all of your patriarchs, sheikhs, beiks, and khalilyeh yeiks.”

“Our religio-political experts have advised us that we must respect ‘communal coexistence’ for our coup to be legitimate,” explained Ibn-Jahshein. “Apparently, we must overthrow all three of Lebanon’s presidents—Maronite, Sunni, and Shiite; remove all Grade One civil servants; treat Muslim and Christian parliamentarians with equal scorn and disrespect; and somehow locate, apprehend, and neutralize the half-dozen neo-feudal leaders—and their biological and ideological scions—whose influence extends throughout and beyond the formal institutions that we’d just bomb to bits.”

“We do not yet understand the Logic of Lebanon. Your president must be a Maronite; but you can’t seem to find one that knows how to put his pants on properly! Your prime minister must be a Sunni, so long as he answers to a political boss thousands of miles away—one who doesn’t seem to be able to put his pants on properly either. And, then, not that we care about them, you have the Shiites controlling the Speakership of Parliament. Some closet pro-Western lawyer kow-towing to a Party of God that has already claimed all the goddamn virgins in the next life.”

“I mean,” Ibn-Jahshein hissed, scanning an organizational chart of the Lebanese state, prominent political parties, feudal families, local bosses, religious leaders, garden-variety thugs, ambassadors, other foreign participants, and pop-up nongovernmental organizations and consultancies. “Who the fuck do we overthrow around here?”

ISIS security czar Ibn al-Fashal then interjected, reassuring NOW’s Chief Caliphate Correspondent that ISIS was “playing for keeps.”

“You’ll have to excuse Ibn-Jahshein, he’s young and impressionable. ISIS understands that it must purport to preserve and protect Lebanon’s freedom, independence, and sovereignty—so long as those ideals unfold within the context of a pan-Islamic Caliphate stretching from Morocco to the Moon and Mars. ISIS, I should also emphasize, will continue to respect communal coexistence in Lebanon—so long as moderate Sunnis, Christians, Druze, Shiites, atheists, agnostics, and the two or three Jews you’ve trotted out to populate your reconstructed synagogue understand who runs the show.”

“We want to understand Beirut and Lebanon first and, to be frank, our focus groups have yielded some troubling results… Fine, we said, set up a Caliphate. How do we get the business up and running?”

“Well, as you can imagine, views were varied. Out of nowhere, the Greek Orthodox insisted on the financial portfolio. They claimed to care for the Caliphate’s ties with the West and non-Arab Islamic world and reminded us of the ‘old, grand’ Sunni-Orthodox convergence in major Arab metropolises. But closer examination revealed that they are hoping to leverage the Caliphate to recapture influence lost after the establishment of the Maronite-centric Lebanese Republic.”

“The Maronites—not that anybody asked them about a damned thing!—rejected dhimmitude and called for the restoration of their ancient, pre-Islamic, Phoenicianomardaite Empire of Jounieh and Jbeil. They then had the audacity to ask that we, in the alternative, empower a man from the Khazen, Sfeir, or Gemayel families as Co-Caliph of Christians!”

(Hands trembling, Ibn al-Fashal then poured himself a whiskey. “It’s OK,” he whispered. “Taqiyya.”)

“Then Walid Jumblatt waltzed in, jeans and all, handed us copies of the Bible and his old interview in Playboy, and suggested we ‘reconsider our approach to this place.’ Inno, What The Fasouliyah? Who asked you? Seriously. Anyway, after his dog pissed on us, he demanded two vizier positions for the Druze and one vizier position for a ‘friendly Christian’; in turn, he offered us ‘a carefully orchestrated fake submission to your Caliph, who [the Druze] will allow into the Chouf twice a year without sending him back in a wooden box.”

“As soon as we’d negotiated an arrangement with the Druze, the Shiites showed up—Hezbollah, Amal, and the two or three feudal families that have somehow convinced Western powers of their relevance as alternatives—asking for their own courts, tax regimes, inheritance rules, and local chiefs. Fine, we said, manage your own affairs… just leave the Sunnis to us.”

“When the Maronites heard about this, they revoked their previous offer, demanded that the Caliph recognize ‘Little Lebanon’ once again, and promptly trotted out thousands of mountaineers somehow equipped with the latest, shiniest American surplus weaponry. One of their Western-educated attorneys made a particularly sophisticated argument that the prospective enclave could allow Caliphate Citizens to ‘do their business just across the border’ and therefore avoid running afoul of the Quran and Hadith.”

“But then,” continued the ISIS czar, shaking his head, “this proposal caused great consternation among Lebanese Sunnis, who have sought to reprise their role as commercial stewards and protectors of the faith, within reasonable limits. They also have some thoughts on how to redevelop and reconstruct eastern Syria and Western Iraq—something having to do with a special-purpose company empowered with a private sector equivalent of eminent domain. So we said, khallas—”

“Pardon me,” interjected an ISIS apparatchik, poking his head inside the tent.

“The Turkoman communal chief is here to see you about his promised post.”

“Bookrah, el-thawra,” al-Fashal sighed. “Bookrah!”

Anthony Elghossain believes that, if Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, Lebanon is the graveyard of ideas. Tweet him @aelghossain


Promo for Iraqi TV series ‘The Superstitious State’

 

Clip from Palestinian comedy series ‘Watan ala Watar’

Lebanese show mocks suicide bombers

ISIS parody by Iraqi Kurds

Oh yeah…it might also be worth engaging in some self-reflection, in order to ask ourselves why our official foreign policy for the last 15 years has been to destroy all the secular governments of the Middle East.