I don't want to see stores looted or buildings burned; but African- Americans have been living in burning buildings for years, choking on smoke as flames burn closer and closer.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s your foot on my neck.  – Malcolm X

"We must never, ever give up. We must be brave. We must be courageous." John Lewis, activist, congressman. 1940-2020 

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. ~ Dalai Lama

"Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public."  Professor Cornel West.

"Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat."  Audre Lorde

"The serious function of racism is distraction". 1995, Toni Morrison; Portland lecture, Playing in The Dark

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.” Nora Ephron

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

"We are more alike than we are different" ~ Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singe


It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain


You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore


 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:


"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.


New Leaders of the Middle East, Part 2


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Barack Obama’s recent speech… Uh, which speech? The one to AIPAC where he essentially capitulated to Israel? Or the one two days earlier at the US State Department?

On May 19th Mr. Obama revealed what was billed as major policy initiative, a new vision of the Middle East and North Africa. There, the American president confirmed that the country is determined not to be left out of the so-called Arab Awakening.  His declaration on what will be the American role across the region has been eclipsed by the issue of Israel. Put Israel aside (sic) for the moment.

 Let’s consider what Obama spelled out for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) on May 19th. The US president may have appeared to establish a new link – no vision, be sure--between US policy and today’s political realities there. We will support you in your reform movements (and threaten [some] leaders who do not give way); we’ll  provide funds for civil projects. We will…, he said. 

Look again. Obama’s US policy is simply a dry blanket thrown over a fire. It’s a cloaked policy to channel and administer events which outside powers initially had no control over. And it is well underway.

US diplomats and economic advisors have been lining up with various sides in the revolutions following spontaneous uprisings last December. But long before, key institutions that will execute this policy were already in place. The GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council), Gulf-based Arab media networks, established 15 years ago, and a host of American university centers which are implementing US policy at an aggressive pace. The first two have been especially active in recent months.

The positioning of the GCC reveals its growing role as a diplomatic/military arm of US policies. This body of steadfast US allies conducts summits to affirm the US position vis-à-vis various junior (and by definition, unruly) Arab states. Witness the arrival of Saudi forces in Bahrain and GCC support for NATO strikes in Libya.

GCC is a notable club of royal non-democracies. Two new members—Morocco and Jordan, fellow monarchies and solid US allies, have been invited to join the group, at the same time offering yet another example of Washington’s double standard on democracy. Changes in those regimes are highly doubtful. Also unnecessary, in Washington’s eyes. 

It is this club of monarchies which is groomed to help the US manage the Middle East and North Africa.

One of GCC’s strongest assets is its media. The professionalism, popularity and ubiquity of the Arab TV networks is well established. Arab media, from sports and business to 24-hour news, is supplemented by an abundance of American features and action films. Together they now project the success of US policy in the Middle East, patiently nurtured by the State Deptartment over the past two decades. Their influence is most notable in the power of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV. Both its 24 hour Arabic and English news channels are widely respected; the former holds sway among Arab public and its intellectuals, the latter among American liberals.

With a few billion additional US aid dollars promised by Mr. Obama, we can expect to see more women’s conferences, jazz concerts,  media workshops, children’s art, poetry and literary events in designated countries. This gift presents a symbolic gesture by the US in ‘democracy building’. But the main investment will continue from the Gulf States through their powerful Arab networks. Although civil liberties are limited in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, their media networks (MBC from Riyadh and Al-Jazeera from Doha) define public opinion across the area, including positive views of the US.

Today Al-Jazeera is outshining the BBC and CNN in offering the Libyan rebels enthusiastic support, championing NATO strikes with astonishing candor:-- through Al-Jazeera we learn how noble are the Benghazi rebels; along with NATO, those pro-democracy agents are unquestionably heroic; and Gadaffi is a fool whose doom is assured. Note that Qatar (founder and sponsor of the Al-Jazeera networks) is most active among GCC members militarily assisting NATO attacks on Libya.

Consistent with its bias in support of US policy, Al-Jazeera and to a lesser degree (Saudi controlled) Al-Arabiya channel have been aggressively reporting on Syrian dissent and Yemeni opposition to their leaders. Al-Jazeera Arabic is taking a leading role in giving voice to western-based spokesmen for what it defines as pro-democracy movements there. Commentators on both sides of the Syria dispute are so polarized that Al-Jazeera’s coverage is hardly helpful. At the same time, their attention to Jordan and Bahrain has been muted. Why have democracy movements in these monarchies been marginalized?

Over the past decade, with the rise of Al-Jazeera, the establishment of American universities and other investments in the UAE, Qatar and nearby friendly states, and the creation of Abu Dhabi as a center of luxury art, culture, and high sport, this region has taken on a new and attractive image for western consumers. Abu Dhabi is now a glamour capital-- the ‘in’ place to play and shop. It’s also a significant employer of western consultants, professors, and entertainers. Who says culture and knowledge is not a political tool?

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