my talk, “islamophobia – the new normalcy” at presbyterian church on jan 30, 2011

i will be speaking about “islamophobia – the new normalcy” at third presbyterian church (4 meigs street, rochester, ny) at 9.30 am tomorrow, sunday jan 30th. do join us if u can.

articles that i used for my talk on islamophobia:

1) the propagation of neo-orientalism by soumaya ghannoushi
2) the rise of anti-muslim hate by deepa kumar
3) islamophobia inc. by nicole colson
4) the great islamophobic crusade by max blumenthal

my second doc “pakistan one on one”

so my second film, “pakistan one on one” is officially in post production today – YAY!!! follow on facebook by joining the group, “pakistan one-on-one”.

btw i’m speaking about filmmaking and screening clips from my second film at nazareth college today, 5.00 pm, room 170, art department.

later that day: with lynn duggan and cathy kirby, both art professors at nazareth college. spoke about filmmaking as a tool for activism, screened the first 15 minutes of my new doc “pakistan one on one” and enjoyed a terrific discussion with art students and film studies students afterwards. what a delightful (and appropriate) way to celebrate the beginning of post production!

my second doc “pakistan one on one”

joan holden’s play “nickel and dimed”

jan 24, 2011: just attended a reading of joan holden’s play “nickel and dimed” at geva theater. the play is based on barbara ehrenreich’s book in which she says provocatively: “when someone works for less pay than she can live on – when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently – then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. the working poor, as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. they neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. to be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.”

i found the play depressing – there is a hopelessness that comes from the constant, exhausting struggle for survival among america’s working poor. it’s difficult to witness. but i was more depressed by many in the audience who, in the post play discussion, expressed their disenchantment with unions. unions can be run competently or not, but the benefits of organizing workers in order to offer them some protection in a ruthless corporate work environment is a no-brainer. we need a strong movement for economic justice which can articulate all of this. the present situation is unacceptable, untenable.

“nickel and dimed” by barbara ehrenreich

cajun food at beale street cafe

had spicy jambalaya, fried chicken, cajun fries and homemade corn bread at beale street cafe, with live music of course – someone singing old elton john songs. that’s what i’m talkin’ about.

beale street cafe

goings on about town

so general musharraf was in town. over dinner with some of the locals he talked about how his visits to the u.s. r arranged by the u.s. govt and how he gets $50,000 per speech. he’s now in toronto to garner more support from pakistani expats. looks like the u.s. might be interested in propping him back in power, in pakistan. yuck!

daoud nassar, of tent of nations, speaks in rochester

met daoud nassar yesterday, a christian palestinian farmer and director of tent of nations. thru their projects for women, youth and families, this organization (mostly run by daoud’s family) uses non-violent approaches to peace in the region. daoud’s farm is located in the west bank, near bethlehem. it was truly eye-opening to meet someone so balanced and peace-loving even tho they live under impossible circumstances. daoud’s family is not allowed to have running water or electricity. they don’t have the right to build on their own land and they have to fight extremely expensive court cases in order not to lose their farm. yet they have found alternative ways of surviving. not only that, they have committed themselves to engaging with others – even settlers who threaten their v existence. pls google tent of nations and friends of tent of nations north america. daoud’s work needs our support.

this is daoud speaking at emmanuel baptist church, november 4, 2010.

daoud nassar

MUSLIMS: Reclaiming religious liberty – Letters – Rochester City Newspaper

most excellent letter from my friend richard myers: “We will not stand for attacks on the principle of religious liberty. We will not sit by when our Muslim neighbors are threatened. We will not be silent when good people are characterized as terrorists. We will not be still when politicians disregard the Constitution and label people unjustly. Therefore, we appeal to our silent neighbors: speak up gently if you can, firmly if you must. Engage your neighbors to dispel uninformed stereotyping of Muslims. Learn all you can about Islam. Enter into interfaith conversations. Memorize the opening words of the First Amendment of the Constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Complete letter.

Pakistan Flood Relief Fundraising Dinner – October 3, 7pm @ Turkish Society of Rochester (677 Beahan Rd)

Over 18 million people affected. Over 1 million houses damaged. Almost 3,000 injured and 2,000 dead. The statistics are overwhelming, and the situation is one that calls for our help.

Here’s what you can do:

Attend the event:

Tickets are $15 each, and WILL NOT be sold at the door. To reserve, call the ICR at 442-0117. The program includes dinner; speeches by Mayor Robert Duffy, Brighton Supervisor Sandra Frankel, and Dr. Ismail Mehr, who traveled to Pakistan to aid in relief efforts; and silent and podium auctions. All profits go towards relief efforts, so your donations will be put to good use.


We need volunteers to serve food to tables and babysit. If you are interested in doing either of those, write on the event wall and tell us what you can help out with. All volunteers will receive free dinner, but we can only accept 15-20 people, so you must let us know beforehand.


Tell your family, friends, professors, coworkers, and anyone else you know. The event is open to the entire Rochester community (Muslims and non-Muslims), and the more people we can get to attend, the more money we can send to aid the flood victims.

We encourage you to get involved; this is one of the worst disasters that has ever affected Pakistan, and it is a project that requires as much participation from the community as possible.

Rochester Shifting Sands Events

Rochester native and book editor Osie Gabriel Adelfang will discuss this groundbreaking anthology of Jewish women’s anti-occupation voices (including Anna Baltzer, Starhawk, and 12 others; forward by Cindy Sheehan, preface by Amira Hass). Ms. Adelfang will talk about how the book came to be, read excerpts, touch on recent events and discuss what Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, can do to promote peace, justice and democracy in Israel/Palestine. She will then answer questions and sign first-editions of the book. This event is being sponsored by Rochester-based interfaith group, Faith to Faith.

Java’s Café
Location: 16 Gibbs St., Rochester, NY Date: 8/3/2010
Time: 6:30 p.m.

Temple Brith Kodesh
Location: 2131 Elmwood Ave, Rochester, NY Date: 8/4/2010
Time: 7:00 p.m.

Praise for Shifting Sands:

“[The writers] powerfully articulate, in their different ways, the axiom of our common humanity. It may have taken our whole life to reach that place (as one contributor put it), but those who are finally able to see, must stand up and advocate for sanity now, today.”

(Deb Reich, translator, Abu Ghosh, Israel/Palestine)

“From the opening pages about a … prayer on doubt, through each and every one of the personal accounts, readers feel the wisdom of women on every page, as well as a deep sense of love for humanity—all humanity.”

(Sam Bahour, Co-Editor of Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians)

Check out book website here.
Facebook Event here.

Publisher: Whole World Press
Who to contact: Laurieann Aladin,

shifting sands

Rochester area ranked third-best to raise a family

The Rochester area has been ranked the third-best metropolitan region in the country for raising a family by Forbes magazine.

The business magazine compiled the list from seven criteria applied to the nation’s metropolitan statistical areas: cost of living, prevalence of home ownership, median household income, housing costs, commute time, crime and high school graduation rate. The statistics were taken from the federal government and Moody’s

The Rochester area scored particularly well in the cost of living and commuter rankings. Full article.

eboo patel talks about interfaith leadership in rochester – my take

dr eboo patel spoke at the 2010 interfaith conference here in rochester last evening. my husband and i had been invited to his talk followed by a private dessert reception in order to meet him one on one. dr patel is the founder and executive director of the interfaith youth core and is a member of president obama’s new faith advisory council. i already knew him from some of his writing. i was excited.

dr patel spoke about his passion, his belief in interfaith. he is especially dedicated to the idea of creating interfaith leaders – young people who will take us into a future of pluralism and mutual respect. he listed 4 global trends which make interfaith leadership a priority:

1) religious revival throughout the world

2) youth bulge: most of the world’s population consists of young people

3) media ubiquity because of which people who are vastly different are now being flung together

4) global socio-economic breakdown which is creating high levels of unemployment/underemployment and frustration

the bad news, he said, was that those who have been able to recognize and exploit the energies b/w these trends are extremists – large numbers of young people are being mobilized by strong extremist movements that are sweeping the world.

however, the good news is that these extremist movements can be deconstructed and replaced with pluralistic social models. this is where young interfaith leaders come into the picture. they can transform religious diversity to plurality, not conflict. they can make a positive engagement with difference possible. since leaders define reality, it’s important to get the vision right. young interfaith leaders can be trained to use their knowledge base and vision to offer the world another paradigm. interfaith projects would be a big part of this new world-view, this new engagement.

throughtout his speech dr patel invoked martin luther king jr. he sees him as the ultimate blueprint for interfaith leadership. MLK was obviously inspired by his christian faith but also by gandhi’s nonviolent resistance in india. dietrich bonhoeffer, the lutheran pastor who stood up to the nazis and was involved in an assassination attempt on hitler, is also one of patel’s interfaith heroes.

altho patel reveres these larger-than-life, courageous men (MLK, gandhi, bonhoeffer), he fails to understand that their work was strongly anchored in politics. they weren’t just talking about plurality, they were demanding it by asking for justice and equal rights for all and they were willing to risk their lives for such radical demands. if these are the men we must be inspired by and emulate then we must be brave enough to engage in politics and ask for equal human rights for all. u cannot separate MLK from the civil rights movement or gandhi from the quit india movement. if this is what we require from interfaith leaders then how can we not talk about american wars and occupations, about guantanamo, about extrajudicial killings courtesy of drones?

in his speech patel made the argument that all extremists (whatever their religious denomination) belong to the same religion – the religion of extremism. during Q&A a couple of students revisited that concept. one of them asked patel to elaborate on what he meant by that and also if it wouldn’t be more appropriate to view such extremists not as belonging to a separate cult but as being part of the human race, like the rest of us. patel’s answer was quite definitive. he said that some people are enemies of pluralism and they need to be put away. as an example he cited someone who would throw acid in a little girl’s face because she went to school. u can’t talk to such people. they need to be destroyed.

i found it interesting that this example, altho horrific and certainly heinous, fits the american govt’s narrative of brutality and barbarism originating mainly in the third world. there is no context of how the brutalization of a society as a whole can affect its internal structure, family dynamics, or gender issues. there is no mention of secular barbarism such as the use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium on civilian populations. i read an interesting article where the author argued that the use of depleted uranium is in fact slow genocide on account of how it curtails the growth of “unwanted” populations. i longed for more context, for more balance, for more honesty, for more reality.

to me the entire premise of global conflicts stemming from “religious revival” is problematic. one of the students in the audience said as much. he asked patel to comment on how even tho people might use religion as a rallying cry, their struggles are about other political or socio-economic issues. patel never addressed that question.

what really put me off tho was that towards the end of his speech, patel raised obama to the level of MLK and gandhi, presenting him as the new interfaith global leader of our time. what gall i thought, how misguided. but then patel went further – he mentioned clinton, he mentioned tony blair. that was it. i told my husband we should leave and forgo the private dessert invitation with patel.

no, i’m not rancorous. i don’t hate eboo patel. he is young (still in his 30s) with an already impressive bio. he is good looking, immensely articulate and speaks beautifully – with a voice and cadence that are nothing short of mesmerizing. it’s impossible not to acknowledge the man – his calm, his knowledge, his seeming truth. frankly, he’s a lot like his boss, like mr obama. and their tragedy is also the same: with all their gifts, they’re still very much part of the system. they ain’t no MLK.

apr 12, 2010
rochester, ny

Activists come to Fisher, speak out on Iraq war

Activists, bloggers, poets, musicians and concerned citizens gathered in Basil 135 on Feb. 12 for the eighth annual Poets Against the War readings. Frank Judge, president of Rochester Poets and a St. John Fisher alum, organized the event. The P.A.W. movement started in 2003 as a response to former President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. People channeled their outrage with the government into writing and created what is now the largest poetry anthology ever published. Rochester is one of the few cities in the country with an unbroken record of holding P.A.W readings. “I’m disappointed by the small turn-out,” said filmmaker and first-time performer Mara Ahmed. “It seems like there’s hardly any acknowledgement that our country’s at war.” Full article.

Operation Care Rochester – to help people in Afghanistan

Finally a chance to do something concrete to help the people of Afghanistan!

Pls join us Friday, February 26, 2010, 5:30 to 9:30pm

$10 Donation

For More information and sponsorships visit: or contact Julie Behlok: (585) 321-9777,

Rep.Eric Massa will keynote this special event to raise money and collect supplies for the children of Afghanistan displaced by war. Proceeds will benefit the BAYAT FOUNDATION, Donated goods will be shipped thru OPERATION CARE.