Poison in the Name of Politics


For the past 29 days, if I wasn’t working late I would head over to my parents’ local mosque for the nightly taraweeh prayer. Held only during the month of Ramadan and performed after the last of five prescribed prayers, taraweeh takes worshipers through all the suras in the entire Quran from start to finish throughout the holy month. Unfortunately, Muslims in swing states do not have the freedom of praying freely this year.

On Friday, September 26, the end of a week in which thousands of copies of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West – the fear-mongering, anti-Muslim documentary being distributed by (sic) the millions in swing states via DVDs inserted in major newspapers and through the U.S. mail — were distributed by mail in Ohio, a “chemical irritant” was sprayed through a window of the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton, where 300 people were gathered for a Ramadan prayer service. The room that the chemical was sprayed into was the room where babies and children were being kept while their mothers were engaged in prayers.[DailyKos]

This is a cause and effect story. The cause is their cause; promote fear and paranoia of Muslims by mass distribuion of this video (which I am intentionally not linking to).

This week, 28 million copies of a right-wing, terror propaganda DVD are being mailed and bundled in newspaper deliveries to voters in swing states. The 60-minute DVDs, titled Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, are landing on doorsteps in a campaign coinciding with the 7th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Funding is coming from a New York-based group called the Clarion Fund, a shadowy outfit whose financial backers are unclear…the DVDs were distributed last weekend in national editions of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal within selected swing states. These included Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia.[HuffingtonPost]

The effect of the fear-mongering — and keep this in mind, as you hear what conservatives are bound to say regarding how this DVD is only meant to call out ‘radical’ Islamists and not ‘moderate’ Muslims — has been tragic for Americans here at home. The following is a quote about a woman who was at the mosque, praying.

“She told me that the gas was sprayed into the room where the babies and children were being kept while their mothers prayed together their Ramadan prayers. Panicked mothers ran for their babies, crying for their children so they could flee from the gas that was burning their eyes and throats and lungs. She grabbed her youngest in her arms and grabbed the hand of her other daughter, moving with the others to exit the building and the irritating substance there…The paramedic said the young one was in shock, and gave her oxygen to help her breathe.” [DailyKos]

And of course, to add another layer of absurdity to the story, Dayton Ohio Police decided that the event was NOT a hate crime. Politics is a dirty game. There’s name-calling during the debates, mockery on SNL and ludicrous television ads, but I’m sure we can all agree that playing politics this dirty is divisive and does nothing to promote ‘Country First’ or ‘Change.’ The poisoning of little children during such a sacred month, while their parents are praying is about as low as I’ve seen politics get this election cycle.

“This isn’t political – Clarion Fund is a 501(c)3 and nowhere do they say they are pro-McCain,” some of you may say. But if it was not political, why would they send the videos out only in swing states? Associated Content elaborates:

Campaign tactics like those used by the Clarion Fund are meant to appeal to fears of the voters. It is meant to appeal to an emotional level. In psychological terms, this might precipitate a fight or flight response. With no direct threat of immediate personal harm, the fight response will most likely prevail. Add to this the public perception that the Republican Party handles defense issues better than Democrats, it is not too difficult to understand how the Republicans win elections… Fear is the strongest motivator of human action…The Clarion Fund is employing that motivator in swing states to potentially bring those states into the Republican fold and deliver to John McCain the electoral votes needed to become the next president.[AssociatedContent]

The Council on American Islamic Relations is calling for the Federal Election Commission to launch a probe into the Clarion Fund, who, if found to be electioneering will be in clear violation of their tax-deductible status. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is filing a lawsuit against the Department of Defense, for using the name and authority of an official U.S. military institution not only to validate an attack the religion of Islam, but to influence a political campaign.

So what can you do? If you are in one of the swing states and your newspaper sent you this DVD, let them know that you are unhappy about it. You can visit The American Muslim for more resources and information on the Obsession video. And finally, the next few days mark the end of Ramadan – you can tell a Muslim “Eid Mubarak”, today.

Question to the Mutiny: Are you in a swing state? Did you receive a DVD in your newspaper?

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About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

63 thoughts on “Poison in the Name of Politics

  1. “…let them know that you are unhappy about it…”

    How presumptuous and arrogant??!!!Did you assume – the way you feel is the right way?..even without letting others to decide on their own? Wow!!

  2. most Muslims in America have more in common with Rush Limbaugh than even with the Right wing of the Democratic Party.

    really? Most Muslims? In all of America? Please, don’t let ridiculous generalizations and hyperbole stop you from making asinine statements.

    Eid Mubarak, everyone.

  3. “Zainab M.: I don’t believe that Muslims have done enough..[and]… are increasingly developing the nasty habit of blaming it all on the United States, Israel and India we have actively tried to stifle any voice, which has dared highlight our flaws…most Muslims in America have more in common with Rush..”

    Yes, a lot of Muslims tend to play the “blame game.” A conversation with my parents def. reinforces the point. But, most of my American born Muslim friends don’t do that. But, I could have some exceptionally awesome friends.

    In terms of nutcases, why do I have to take responsibility for not condemning OBL just because he calls himself a Muslim? Muslims are required to stand up to injustice, so, yes, the obligation to condemn him exists because people like him are, in their own way, perpetrators of oppression and social chaos. Taking responsibility for his actions based upon the fact that he’s Muslim implies that I believe his actions are grounded in faith.

    I don’t believe that’s entirely the case. People like Osama use faith as propaganda, as do many other haters in other religions. (If he’s even alive, hello, renal failure??) There’s a great deal of academic literature which suggests that “Islamic radicals” are more of a manifestation of post-colonial politics (blame game alert!!). You can read about people like Sayyid Qutb to get a general idea of that concept. (This is a wiki article, go to the library if you want more – but, be prepared to be put on an extra special DoHS “list”).

    Manji and Sultan have had support from the Muslim community, albeit their critics are far more numerous and far louder. It’s hard to be heard over the explosion of a suicide bomber. My uncle, a Muslim, is a publisher who worked very hard to get Manji’s book published in both Pakistan and India. He worked with her and book distributors (some of them also Muslim) in those countries to ensure that her voice was heard. I suppose since nobody issues death threats against people like him, there’s no “story” there.

    Zainab, I don’t mean to pontificate (oops, too late) or be rude, but you have some reading to do. Read up on abortion in Islam, I think you’ll be (pleasantly?) surprised. Prayer in schools? I don’t recall any American Muslims demanding everyone say salat in school, but that their kids be allowed to perform prayers privately (a 10 minute thing) and that they be exempted from participation in non-Islamic prayers. Gay marriage? Well, you got me on that. Work needs to be done on gaying up the Ummah (uh, oh, here come the fatwas!! bring it on.). I’m sure some young enterprising gay Muslim academic will one day make the effort to immerse themselves in the texts and prove that God loves them, too. Which I’m sure He does. That is, if he or she is invested deep enough in the religion to even care.

    I know my posts have been long on these comments, but some of you asked for it. I’m speaking up, ok? Read a few books, talk to a couple of scholars. Or, if you don’t have the time, ahem, keep the generalizations to yourself and just be an undercover bigot. I’d prefer that people stop blaming those of us who are trying to affect change within our faith for the actions of terrorist organizations just because all of us happen to pray in the same direction. (Muslims don’t kill people, terrorists do. No? Yeah, I didn’t think that was very clever either.)

    In terms of the DVD (oooh, yeah, that). It sucks. But, I don’t recall Taz writing that legislation should be passed banning the DVD? She has a right to hate it and think it’s garbage if she wants to.

    So, I’ve made my point. SM Intern, you don’t have to tell me to stop posting. ;) I’d love to continue this dialogue with anyone via e-mail, provided they don’t act like a jerk.

    @More Weather: I just read your last comment. Again, with respect, I think you’re being very one sided in your approach as well as your criticisms. In the interest of communal harmony here at Sepia Mutiny, I’m going to defer and let you have the last word. Peace.

    Oh, wait, unless you say something, I’ll have the last word. Sweet. Fingers crossed.

  4. 50 · More Weather said

    how many times have Muslims formed a similar congregation to come out and criticize the bombers?

    In fact the newspapers i read are full of muslims condemning such incidents unequivocally. Change your newspaper.

    the Muslim community leaders have started issuing half-hearted statements denouncing terrorism.

    Why are you presuming these are half hearted? Because your arguments are half assed?

    Eid mubarak, and may the fleas of arabian camels infest the armpits of the world’s communalists.

  5. I have seen the documentary “Obsession”, a copy was available in my library. I find nothing offensive in there. It is similar to the many “Anand Patwardhan” movies showing “violent Hindu extremism”


    I remember seeing one documentary in the state run television in India when Congress was ruling (I think).

  6. Looks like youtube has the whole movie. Goto youtube and search for “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West”, there are 10 parts.

    you can figure out for yourself without relying on second hand info.

  7. I haven’t seen the video (only short clips, including endorsements from various news sources), but let’s say the video does an excellent job of portraying the nuances of terrorism, and the difference between terrorists who use Islam as their cause vs. the millions of Muslims with no connection to terrorism whatsoever… I still agree with Taz:

    Let’s say the content is decent – I really think the irresponsible distribution of material that looks like anti-Muslim propaganda is enough for the fear-mongering.

    From the 10 part clips on youtube, it seems that the documentary is close to (or longer than) a full 60 minutes. How many people are going to actually sit down, and appreciate the full film? The image on the cover – the title, with the symbol of Islam on one side, and a rifle on the other. How nuanced is that?

    And the fact that the documentary is a well-informed take to viewers here say nothing of how viewers of a particular mindset would view it. Haven’t there been studies that show no matter what evidence is presented, individuals will use the evidence to reinforce their prior convictions rather that view the evidence objectively and possibly to overturn their convictions?

    If this organization’s real attempt was to start a dialogue on terrorism, or to inform people, why didn’t they sponsor local viewings + discussion? The mass production and way in which the DVD was sent seems like a political maneuver to me.

  8. “The poisoning of little children”

    you do this alot – you may have some point but you resort to sensationalism and fabrication to prove your point – in this case it’s borrowed from a specious “email by a witness,” taken second or third hand, at other times you just make something up, and then you’re called on it and you say you might have made a mistake, but your point still stands.

    No chemical was found on the little girl – nothing at all. She certainly wasn’t “poisoned,” as you write. It’s reasonable that police didn’t charge a hate crime because there’s absolutely no evidence of a crime, period, nor any injury. The imam doesn’t link the dvd and the girl being sprayed.

    You have no credibility as a writer. You lack the ability to criticize the dvd so you make up something else: “and then they poisoned a little girl!”

  9. To reply to noblekinsman:

    FYI They found a can of pepper spray near the mosque


    Sorry to burst your bubble, it looks like a crime was committed. I live in Dayton, and I can tell you it is very odd to find cans of pepper spray laying around. It wouldn’t suprise me in the least if a couple of good ol’ boys sprayed those kids.

    “No chemical was found on the little girl – nothing at all. She certainly wasn’t “poisoned,” as you write. It’s reasonable that police didn’t charge a hate crime because there’s absolutely no evidence of a crime, period, nor any injury. “

    So, following your logic (or lack thereof), the muslims just up and decided to stop their Ramadan services, call 911, and evacuate the building for no apparent reason? And before you reply, fire and rescue squad found no evidence of a natural gas leak.

    It’s safe to say that you don’t have the credibility to criticize anyone.

  10. Unfortunately, Muslims in swing states do not have the freedom of praying freely this year.

    Say what? I live in a swing state. A local church was burned down recently. Does that mean Christians can’t pray freely now? And how are you so sure this is tied to the DVD? In every swing state? You’re going to condemn every swing state and cause fear/division in every swing state because of what some mo***** cs a***hole did.

    This is disgusting fear-mongering on the part of Taz. Is this politics of reconciliation and hopeychanginess the Obama Youth are going to bring us?

    Have you even seen the video?

  11. 46 • vikram said

    I bet this message stays for a few minutes before the sepia thought police come charging in.

    Doesn’t that remark seem stupid, now? Your obnoxious parting shot still exists.

    Faiqa, We wish you would continue to participate on the thread, if only because you are passionate, eloquent and providing balance; besides, if you go, the communalists will go back to complaining about how “no Muslims” stand up to extremism.

    Something to keep in mind: the majority of our readers do not comment. Don’t take their lack of commenting on this thread as a blessing on terrorist activity.

    Many of them don’t bother discussing posts anymore, in part because the level of discourse here has dropped. We hear/read a lot of, “What’s the point in commenting?”. Additionally, and especially recently, the loudest commenters are people to whom many of us don’t relate. To that end, we wish some of you would remember that this is a second generation-centric blog, about the American Desi experience, and we write what we know. We never intended to be a place to discuss the politics of India. Bringing up what happens there isn’t helpful.

    Finally, there are ways to make your point without resorting to personal attacks. If your comment was deleted, now you know why.