Monday, November 07, 2016

What is the difference between “Muslim” and “Islamic”?

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia *
Abstract: Social labels and categories are exercise in control. They describe opponents, create boundaries, exclude social groups, justify discrimination, and promote persecution. They are imbued with sociopolitical power. Muslims used labels, internally for the first time, during the formative period of the community to privilege the elite and marginalize dissenters. They called those who challenged the established order, Khawarij [Outsiders]. Today, Muslims living in Western societies are often labeled radical Islamic extremists. But aside from this politically charged phrase, even common adjectives, such as Islamic and Muslim, are misused. So in what contexts should these adjectives be appropriately used and why is it important to use social labels judicially?

Monday, September 19, 2016

"El Negro!" : The man stuffed and displayed like a wild animal

In the early 19th Century, it was fashionable for Europeans to collect wild animals from around the globe, bring them home and put them on display. One French dealer went further, bringing back the body of an African warrior. Dutch writer Frank Westerman came across the exhibit in a Spanish museum 30 years ago, and was determined to trace the man's history.
WARNING: This story contains an image some readers may find disturbing

A decorative chain-link fence in the national colours - blue, white and black - marks the grave of one of the most famous, but least enviable sons of Botswana: "El Negro". His resting place in a public park in the city of Gaborone, under a tree trunk and some rocks, is reminiscent of the tomb of an unknown soldier.

A metal plaque reads:

El Negro

Died c. 1830

Son of Africa

Carried to Europe in Death

Returned Home to African Soil

October 2000

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The enduring legacy of privilege: At one point, Georgetown sold 272 Slaves to save itself, it now wants to atone by offering slave descendants "preferential status" in the admissions

Nearly two centuries after Georgetown University profited from the sale of 272 slaves, it will embark on a series of steps to atone for the past, including awarding preferential status in the admissions process to descendants of the enslaved, officials said on Wednesday.

Georgetown’s president, John J. DeGioia, who will discuss the measures in a speech on Thursday afternoon, also plans to offer a formal apology, create an institute for the study of slavery and erect a public memorial to the slaves whose labor benefited the institution, including those who were sold in 1838 to help keep the university afloat.

In addition, two campus buildings will be renamed — one for an enslaved African-American man and the other for an African-American educator who belonged to a Catholic religious order.

So far, Mr. DeGioia’s plan does not include a provision for offering scholarships to descendants, a possibility that was raised by a university committee whose recommendations were released on Thursday morning. The committee, however, stopped short of calling on the university to provide such financial assistance, as well as admissions preference.

Mr. DeGioa’s decision to offer an advantage in admissions to descendants, similar to that offered to the children and grandchildren of alumni, is unprecedented, historians say. The preference will be offered to the descendants of all the slaves whose labor benefited Georgetown, not just the men, women and children sold in 1838.

More than a dozen universities — including Brown, Harvard and the University of Virginia — have publicly recognized their ties to slavery and the slave trade. But Craig Steven Wilder and Alfred L. Brophy, two historians who have studied universities and slavery, said they knew of none that had offered preferential status in admissions to the descendants of slaves.

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Monday, July 04, 2016

Refuse to visit universities if they do not properly respond to allegations of sexual misconduct

Last month, Vice President Biden penned a searing letter to the victim in a notorious Stanford University rape case. “I am filled with furious anger,” he wrote, “both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken.”
Biden’s letter encapsulated the national outrage that erupted when the woman’s attacker was sentenced to just six months in county jail. It was also a sharp reminder that one of the Obama administration’s most ardent policy initiatives has been a concerted campaign to end the scourge of sexual assault on college campuses.
According to White House officials, top members of the administration — including the president, the vice president, their wives and members of the Cabinet — will not visit institutions whose leaders they consider insufficiently serious about pursuing sexual-assault allegations and punishing perpetrators. Biden said in an interview that he would like the federal government to “take away their money” if a college or university fails to change its ways.
As the administration nears its end, the urgency of some proposals has dissipated, but the focus on campus sexual misconduct has intensified: “Now’s the time to put the pedal to the metal,” Biden said.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Ivy League of Abusers: Elite, private institutions' dark history

African-Americans have long lived with unanswered questions about their roots, missing branches in their family trees and stubborn silences from elders reluctant to delve into a painful past that extends back to slavery. This month, scores of readers wrote to us, saying they had finally found clues in an unexpected place: an article published in The New York Times.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Human Rights and social justice: the meaning and reality of torture

In the city of Chicago, Jon Burge and his team of detectives tortured over 110 Black men and women at Chicago police headquarters from 1972 to 1991.

Instead of investigating these crimes, the City of Chicago opted for covering it up, spending:

  • 9,968,191 taxpayer dollars defending Jon Burge against claims of police torture,
  • 9,880,073 taxpayer dollars spent on the legal cases related to the Burge torture scandal, and
  • 468,000 Taxpayer dollars spent for Burge’s pension since he was terminated from the department for his acts of torture and abuse.
  • And millions more settling and defending civil and criminal cases linked to these events.

110 victims of torture, on the other hand, have had their lives profoundly changed. Some served time or lost their lives without cause, including

  • 12 torture survivors were sentenced to death,
  • 5 torture survivors were sentenced to death but were later exonerated, and
  • 11 torture survivors were exonerated.

One of these survivors, Darrell Cannon was tortured on November 2, 1983 by White detectives working under the supervision of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. He confessed, under torture, to being an accomplice to a murder. The confession led to his wrongful conviction for murder and twenty-four years of incarceration. He is now traveling the country reminding people, that torture is not a theory, an abstract idea, an imagined threat... It is real. We are grateful that he has the courage to talk about this cruel crime, of which he was a victim. He is here at the University of Iowa today to share his experience with us. 

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Resource allocation and social justice

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia *

On February 23, University of Iowa’s president, J. Bruce Harreld, held a “town hall” meeting. It consisted of a one-hour data dump followed by a poorly managed Q&A session. Unsurprisingly, very few people in attendance were able to ask questions and receive meaningful answers. However, throughout the event Harreld repeatedly mentioned two phrases—“allocating resources” and “spreading the peanut butter”—that might be key to understanding the thinking and strategy of the new leadership of the University. Should the people who are served by this public institution, mainly students, worry? The short answer is, yes. Sadly, early signs suggest that those who need resources most will not get them: students with disabilities.
Faculty who teach large General Education courses may have recently received a letter from the Student Disability Services (SDS), as I did. Most of the content of the letter is familiar, but the first recommendation is noteworthy. It reads:

[Named student] will need a copy of notes that’s thorough and more comprehensive than a PowerPoint or outline... The instructor may choose to share a copy of their own notes, make a confidential announcement to solicit a volunteer student note taker from class, or have a TA take notes.
CLAS’s Undergraduate Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee (UEPCC) noted that “SDS announced on January 21 that [it] can no longer offer testing accommodations… SDS has thus asked instructors to handle testing arrangements for these students.”  UEPCC members were unsure if instructors were qualified to do some of the tasks they were asked to do.
Why should students and their parents be worried about this change in services at this public university? Because if the administrators are willing to re-allocate resources that were meant to provide for a group of students protected by state and federal laws, one can only imagine the future of programs that provide for other marginalized social. This “resource re-allocation” is a dangerous precedent because: