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April 28, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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The Muslims I Know at the Irondequoit Library

Coming up on Monday May 2nd, 7pm-9pm, at the Irondequoit Library!

Judith Bello: If you are looking for something nice to do on Monday evening, Irondequoit Town Library is the place to go! Local film maker Mara Ahmed’s film, “The Muslims I Know” is a family friendly introduction to your Muslim neighbors. You can learn more at the link below which also links to an interview with the director on 1370 Connections aired shortly before the premier. A local affiliate of Fellowship of Reconciliation is the sponsor; we are hoping to grow into a full chapter soon. Come and meet Mara and her family and friends, sponsored by the next generation of Fellowship of Reconciliation in Rochester. More here.

April 26, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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A Thin Wall in NYC

A Thin Wall has been selected by the New York Indian Film Festival and will be screened on Tuesday May 10, 6.30 pm, at Theater 5, Village East Cinemas, 2nd Ave @ 12th Street, NYC. Check out NYIFF’s film schedule here. Hope u can make it NYC friends!
NYIFF

April 25, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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european tour 2016

my trip to europe was full of wonderful places and people. will post pictures of places by and by (i took more than 500 photos) but i wanted to pay special tribute to all the spectacular people i connected and reconnected with. here they are.

London 2016

London 2016

Dublin 2016

Dublin 2016

Belgium 2016

Belgium 2016

Amsterdam 2016

Amsterdam 2016

April 23, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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Noam Chomsky in Rochester

Went to see REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM yesterday at the Little Theatre. This was the first time Noam Chomsky saw the film himself. He was seated right in front of me. I was tempted to take a picture of the back of his head, with the film playing in front of him and post it with the caption “Chomsky watching Chomsky” or something to that effect but then I thought it would be too juvenile and with much self-discipline, I abandoned the idea.

The documentary is excellent. It parses hours and hours of interviews with Professor Chomsky and creates a clear and engaging narrative. As a filmmaker, I understand the challenge. How do you take a series of lectures by one of the most eclectic intellectuals of our time and cut them into a cogent and gripping 73 minute film? The answer: sharp editing, copious b-roll and terrific graphics and animation. The importance and urgency of what Professor Chomsky is saying helps too, of course.

He talks about the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few (a fraction of one percent) and puts this phenomenon in a historical context, he explains how the “rabble rousers” of the 60s and 70s were crushed, how the media and their focus on consumption have produced a “me” culture and undermined solidarity, and how this will continue to shape an increasingly ugly society. The film ends on a positive note by reminding us of Howard Zinn and his bottom-up view of history – the idea that the countless small actions of unknown people drive all great historical events. Ultimately it’s always been, and it continues to be, up to us.

In the post screening Q&A, I got to make a comment. I told Dr Chomsky that as a Pakistani American filmmaker I had shot a film in Lahore in 2009. The film was a broad survey of public opinion about issues of interest to Americans, e.g. the Taliban, the War on Terror, American foreign policy in the region, and a polling of what average Pakistanis thought about Americans. I interviewed a wide spectrum of people and most of them were quite politically astute. Many talked about the corporate nature of American media and how the American public was totally brainwashed. Yet some mentioned Dr Chomsky by name and said, “But then there are also people like Noam Chomsky in America.” The audience applauded vehemently. I concluded with how it was important for him to know that, even as a single individual, he’s an antidote to American imperialism and aggression. Again much applause.

In typical Chomsky style, he evaded the compliment completely and began to talk about international polls and how public opinions around the world are of immense consequence. He ended by complimenting me on recognizing that fact.

Nate Baldo (from Jewish Voice for Peace) asked a brilliant question about American military aid to Israel and increasing grassroots resistance to the occupation. Interestingly enough that was the issue Dr Chomsky spent most of his time discussing. Of course he did not mention BDS, but this was a full house (500 people or more) and an excellent forum for educating people on Israel/Palestine. All in all, a spectacular evening with an intellectual icon.

Thank you Tatyana Bakhmetyeva for organizing it and for getting us tickets to a sold out screening :)

Mara Ahmed's photo.
Mara Ahmed's photo.
Mara Ahmed's photo.

April 21, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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Forum on Islamophobia and BLM at SJFC

Took part in a panel discussion on Islamophobia and BLM at SJFC today. I started with an intro to the Islamophobia industry, defined the term itself by breaking it down into its components, mentioned the existence of anti-Muslim prejudice prior to 9/11 (Orientalism), and finally examined the overlap between Islamophobia and racism.

Thomas Gibson provided a broader context by tying Islamophobia and racism to American military interventions abroad, from the Cold War to the War on Drugs to the Global War on Terror.

Nick Robertson explained how BLM is a non-hierarchical movement (reminiscent of Ella Baker’s work in the Civil Rights movement) and how it aims to center those who are marginalized in the black community. He talked about mass incarceration as a caste system, a way to contain poor blacks.

Finally, Arlette Miller Smith underlined how BLM is a movement, not a moment. She talked about police terrorism and how it had galvanized a Black Spring.

Some interesting questions afterwards. The usual issue of accounting for “black on black” violence. Nick made the excellent point that no stats were available for “white on white” violence, which would lead us to believe it’s an ideological distraction more than anything else. Tom discussed Franz Fanon’s work and his observations about violence within oppressed/colonized communities. He also mentioned how when the state is absent, people develop codes of honor in order to survive.

A man who had harangued me earlier when I had shown The Muslims I Know at the same venue, was back with more accusations. He focused mostly on the Pakistani Army and their genocidal violence in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) back in 1971. I am sadly aware of that shameful chapter in history but I don’t see what that has to do with Islam or the existence of Islamophobia in the West. I wasn’t invited to discuss the social, political, economic and military histories and peculiarities of the 57 separate countries that fall within the realm of the “Muslim World.” Tom suggested he watch “The Fog of War” and learn something about American militarism and its horrors.

Afterwards, several young women in the audience apologized to me for the man’s behavior. One of them even gave me a hug and told me she loved my films. Sisterhood!

mara ahmed, thomas gibson, arlette miller smith and nick robertson

mara ahmed, thomas gibson, arlette miller smith and nick robertson

April 20, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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John Bellamy Foster: The only force that can combat imperialism today is a worldwide struggle of workers

John Bellamy Foster: Today, as Mészáros has argued, and as Hugo Chávez was prepared to argue on a world stage, we need a New International. The only force that can combat imperialism today is a worldwide struggle of workers (what I like to call an emerging “environmental proletariat,” reflecting the extended material struggles of our time) in which human solidarity is globalized. In my book Naked Imperialism I argued that the present, “potentially most dangerous phase of imperialism” (as István Mészaros calls it) was brought into being by the demise of the Soviet Union, which allowed the United States as the sole remaining, superpower—though relying also on NATO—to initiate regime change in parts of the Middle East, Central Asia, northern Africa, parts of Eastern Europe, and elsewhere, initiating what in the Council of Foreign Relations in the United States (the main think tank of U.S. imperialism) is being called a “New Thirty Years War.” Any mere standing back and letting this happen without resistance—for example under the delusion that this is simply “anti-terrorism” or “humanitarian intervention”—is to sign over the world to the global forces of destruction. Local struggles against imperialism will always occur; the global struggle means that the world’s people as a whole must link to these local struggles and come to the aid of them, creating an unbreakable chain. Fortunately, again, there are contradictions, in the economic, political, and ecological realms, that are driving people together. Today’s imperialist intervention might even be seen as a desperate effort by the powers that be to prevent the emergence a more unified global revolt, by seeking to drive a wedge in between.

April 18, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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Home again!

Yesterday I flew from Amsterdam to Toronto. Excellent Icelandair flights, although the Reykjavík airport is in some disarray with new construction going on, crowded departure lounges, not enough seating, and long bus rides to one’s aircraft.

In Toronto, seamless organization: I skip the long immigration lines and check in at a standalone terminal with my Nexus card. Takes all of 2 minutes. After picking up my luggage, I ask the info desk how I can call my shuttle. I don’t have a phone. No problem, another terminal, browse thru all the parking services available for Toronto airport, press a button and get connected to ur shuttle service for free. The shuttle picks me up in under 10 min.

I see people in shorts and T-shirts and wonder if they’re the hapless innocents who just landed from Cancun. No, it’s warm and balmy outside, even at 8pm.

I get to the parking lot and find my car – it’s like meeting an old friend. A quick stop at Kandahar Kabab for dinner and then off to Rochester.

Two hours later at the border, I tell the US immigration officer about my whirlwind trip to Europe. He asks me if I have anything to declare. I say no. “What? No duck or Belgian stuff?” he jokes. Another hour and I’m in Rochester’s familiar neighborhoods. Spring is in the air. I’m listening to classic rock on the radio. Oh, how good it is to be home!

Mara Ahmed's photo.