GUEST POST: thoughts on parading in the streets while denouncing the actions of the government

by T.J. Webb

 

event-featured-Tara-Laase-McKinney-1504621335If you are like me, you may be really wrestling with whether or not today should see you donning an American Flag t-shirt, throwing the kids in the sidecar, waving tiny American Flags, and driving down to participate in the local parade like you do every year (or whatever your annual 4th of July tradition is). It’s hard to know how overtly patriotic to be when the nation is in the midst of such moral crises. Are we permitted to parade in the streets while privately and publicly denouncing so many of the actions of our government and the words and standpoints of our elected officials?

I don’t know the answer. I don’t think I would judge anyone for celebrating, and I don’t think I would judge anyone for giving the 4th of July a miss this year. I keep being reminded that tomorrow is, first and foremost, a Patriotic holiday. That means it is a celebration for anyone who loves our country, who is thankful for America and what it stands for, for the ideals upon which we are founded. It is not a Jingoist holiday; that is, it is not for those who would celebrate our right, by virtue only of our nation of birth, to dominate or oppress others. It is not a Nationalist holiday; that is, it is not for those who would celebrate the supremacy of America and Americans over all other lands and people, for the creed of America is inherently inconsistent with Nationalism.

We Hold These Truths
So, tomorrow I will be celebrating this wonderful nation along with my family and friends, because we love and are very thankful for our country. We will wave flags, we will wear our shirts, we will eat Freedom Fries and Hamburgers (Ameriburgers?). We will celebrate that ‘America is the only nation founded on a creed’, and that creed revolves around the equality of all men and their right to justice. We will remember that we are a nation of immigrants.

history-550x286But if someone’s pride in America is of the sort that sees our primary duty in the world as promoting our own interests regardless of the suffering of others, or of seeing our own people- or a subset of our own people- as more inherently deserving of dignity and compassion, or if the phrase “they aren’t Americans” seems like a valid justification for acts of cruelty or inhumane usage… Might I recommend that they stay home and watch TV instead? Because the 4th of July is the celebration of the fact that “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” If that isn’t an idea that your conceptualization of American can get behind, then this probably just isn’t the holiday for you.

And yes, I realize that would mean it would be a quiet 4th of July at the White House.

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Resource List: Understanding the Border Crisis and How to Help

by Michelle Palmer

UPDATE: After this was originally posted, President Trump signed an executive order reversing the family separation policy. However, thousands of children are still separated from their parents, and the crackdown on immigrants remains problematic. Help is still needed, and there are ways for us to get involved. For more, see Trump’s Executive Order On Family Separation: What It Does And Doesn’t Do from NPR.


It takes a grave issue to warrant the first ever edition of “Wednesday Justice,” and this one is. To not have heard about what’s going on at the US-Mexico border over the last several weeks, you’d have to be living pretty far off the grid. But even if you have heard about it, you may not understand quite what’s happening or why. Full disclosure: we don’t have a great grasp of it either. It’s complex and confusing and heartbreaking. Channon and I have been tied up the last couple of weeks with personal projects, which means we’ve not been able to dedicate sufficient time and energy to understanding this issue as well as either of us would like. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do! We’ve gathered links that will help us understand the issue better, as well as ways to help.

What’s going on?

Updates on Executive Order from June 20:

What can we do? 

– CALL YOUR SENATORS!!! It’s super easy. Call the capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and read the script.

Script 1:

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Script 2:

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– Check out this regularly updated Google Doc from Feed Our Democracy: Action Plan for Helping Immigrant Families Torn Apart at Border

Join a protest on June 30. (Louisiana folks, here’s the link for the protest in New Orleans.) UPDATE: This is STILL ON, post-executive order.

Donate! These organizations are funding operations ON THE GROUND:

And lastly, I want to leave you with some of the best commentary I’ve read on the matter, from one of our very own guest post authors, Vershal Hogan:

Forget “be the change you want to see.” Be the change that you CAN be.

When something awful is happening a long way off, there’s only so much you can do — and you should do all of those things. Agitate the proper authorities. Give money to relief agencies. Keep talking about it on social media (and in real life!). Put the squeeze on wherever you can.

But then take to heart the message about rising tides lifting all boats. Find something in your local community you can do to improve things there. The fastest way to change hearts and minds is to meet needs.You may not be able to give out blankets at the border, but — after you call your Senator, of course — you can give out blankets at your local shelter. You may not be able to walk with the labor organizers marching on the Capitol, but — after you call the governor — you can give someone the $50 they need to get their car fixed so they can go to work. You may not be able to house every homeless veteran, but — after you call your representative — you can give someone a ride to the VA.

(And honestly, if you’re saying “what about ‘x'” in response to someone else’s concern, then you need to be sure you’re actually working to address ‘x.’)

Maybe none of those things are an option. Maybe you are tethered down with work and family and legal obligations. Maybe your good is even smaller. But do it. “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone.”

Until that season comes when you reap, do what you can when you can — be it online, in the streets or under your roof.

 


For more information…

 

Answering YOUR Questions: Part 2

We answered several of the questions we got during the survey in Answering Your Questions, Part 1 back in February. That set of questions dealt with us personally and the blog itself. This week, we’re tackling the content questions!

What are some of the answers to these justice problems in your opinion?

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Michelle:  I’m not sure how answerable this question is, but I love it! This is what we answer in each post. From the beginning of Tuesday Justice, our model for most posts is “here’s the problem, here’s what’s being done about it, here’s how you can get involved.” Whether or not what’s being done is going to solve the problem is another story, but hopefully, it’s at least helpful on some level, and we do our best to vet those solutions before we publish our posts.

For a lot of what we talk about, the ultimate solutions would require equal treatment before the law, poverty alleviation, equality in education & opportunity, and other such development goals. But there’s an element of symptom treatment in some of this. While we want to fix the root causes of injustice, we also want to alleviate some of the immediate suffering people are facing. We have to use a both/and approach.

What situation have you been made aware of which had a “perfect storm” of factors such as poverty, slavery & immigration as the root cause?

Michelle:  I came across this report from Verite, Forced Labor in the Production of Electronic Goods in Malaysia, which included a case study that illustrates these three factors coming together. (You can find more info in the Research Findings section of the report, beginning on page 83.)

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The problems started when the factory asked their broker to raise the workers’ wages to meet the new legal minimum wage standard. The broker initially agreed to the wage increase, but was disingenuous with them about how many deductions would be taken from their base salary, having them sign a contract written in English and Malay, languages that none of the three understood. When the workers got their first payslips, they realized that their wages were much lower than they had agreed, and complained about it to the factory management. The factory apparently confronted their broker about the issue, because only days later, they were informed by the broker that they were being pulled from their jobs, that the factory was ‘throwing them away.’ Days later, they were made to pack their bags and move to a new housing area in Balakong, about 50 km away from their previous residence. […] After some time, the workers were informed that they must start working at a new, much less desirable factory. The workers knew this factory to have a poor reputation and objected to the new assignment, repeatedly asking the broker to return their passports to them, but the agent refused to give their passports back. At the time of the interview, the workers had not received pay for their final two weeks of work at the original factory, nor had they been paid at all since moving to Balakong. Instead of paying them their back pay, their broker offered to loan them money to cover their living costs. Since nothing had been resolved regarding the new factory job yet, while winding down the interview, the researcher asked them what they wanted to happen. They said that they were not asking for more than they deserved, and that they wished to remain in Malaysia to continue working since they had not been able to save money yet, due to spending their first two years in the country paying off their debts. They said that they do not want to run away because they wanted to get their passports back. They just wanted to be respected and protected by the agent, and if that was not possible, they wanted to be able to transfer to another agent.”

How do you build friendships with people of another race?

Channon:  I think the most important thing to remember is that people are just people! We are all human beings and are all on this journey called life. We all experience love, joy, sadness, pain, heartache, healing, etc., and if we can always remember that in the back of our minds, then it will be easier to relate to people, even if they aren’t the same race as you! Take for example me and Michelle:  cc7We met in the UK, doing the same Masters degree, learning more about a subject that we both are passionate about. And we instantly clicked and became good friends (and are still to this day)! We also connected through our shared faith and ultimately because Michelle is just a great person and someone who I wanted to have a lasting friendship with. Even though we are black and white, we don’t dwell on that, instead we choose to focus on our shared interests, passions and genuine like of each other! So focus on the shared and similar interests with someone from another race and not your differences or the fact that you’re from different races.

Michelle: Yes, yes, yes to what Channon said! There are times when I, as a white person, need to understand how Channon’s experiences, as a black woman, are different than mine. And while it’s important to recognize that, when it comes to beginning a friendship, we often connect with others based on our shared experiences.

What do you think the most important way to prevent social justice problems is?

Channon: I don’t think there is one single, important way to prevent social justice problems. I think a couple of things need to be implemented in order to find success in preventing these issues globally. First, we must acknowledge deep-rooted hurts from the past. Brokenness within certain communities needs to be dealt with and forgiveness and healing needs to happen. Safe spaces have to be created for underrepresented groups’ voices to be heard and their opinions and ideas acknowledged. Also, I believe policies and laws have to be more strict when it comes to dealing with issues such as trafficking, modern day slavery in all of its forms. Also, plans have to be put in place so that poverty can be eliminated, so that people can live their lives comfortably without having to worry about where their next meal is coming from or whether they can afford to send their children to school. Looking at all of these things that have to be done is a HUGE task and slightly overwhelming, but Michelle and I have hope that one day we will get there!

Do you feel people should do more due diligence on what is being reported on the news before forming opinions on the issue? Also, we sometimes have dirty grids from past hurts that skew our opinions. How can we separate opinions from facts to not make an immediate emotional judgment?

Michelle: To answer the first two questions, YES. Yes, we should all do our due diligence before forming opinions. And yes, we all have dirty grids. (I’ve never heard the term “dirty grid” before; I’m just guessing it’s meaning from context.) Depending on where you grew up, who you’re around, which news gets to your feed, it’s tough to separate fact from opinion and take varying viewpoints into consideration. No one is completely neutral, and we all need to start from the understanding that our viewpoints on social justice issues HAVE BEEN affected by a number of variables. That’s key in beginning to understand why things are the way they are and how others could be viewing the same situation differently than we are.

The media we consume plays a huge role in this (see here: Political Polarization & Media Habits from Pew Research Center). So, the next step, and answer to the third question, is to make sure that you’re getting input from “the other side” (if you have a particular bent left or right) or both sides (if you feel like you don’t belong on the spectrum at all or if you feel stuck in the middle). It’s important that wherever you’re spending time getting news and information, you don’t create an echo chamber. As a liberal person in a deeply conservative region, I don’t need to curate my timelines too strictly; it happens naturally for me, both online and IRL. If the people around you mostly agree with you, it’s easy to only see the facts that confirm your opinions. (That being said, I’m not above blocking someone who regularly posts vitriol or fake news.) If you’re getting your news from TV, switch channels once in a while. If you get your news online, go to multiple sites. If you get your news via social media, follow multiple (reputable) sources. (Also, check out these tips:  Five Ways to Break Out of Your Online Echo Chamber.) It does take some effort, but it’s incredibly important to see from multiple perspectives in order to have a well-rounded, compassionate view of the issues. 

I looked up some charts to find the best news sources on either side. Obviously, this is somewhat subjective, but I didn’t see huge discrepancies. (Google “media bias chart” to see what I mean.) News sources like The Economist, The Atlantic, and Wall Street Journal both scored very well in terms of fact-reporting and minimal bias across most of the charts I saw (see photos).

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I am always interested in what we can do to help and ways we can use the information you have given us to get involved. Now that my social justice flame has been lit by a post, tell me what to do with that flame. You do this already, but I am definitely for it! // How can I get involved in social justice in my local area?

Channon:  What a great question!! There are many ways in which you can get involved in social justice in your local area.

  1. You can volunteer your time at a local organization that is working towards a specific cause.
  2. You can donate your financial resources to organizations who are doing great work locally, nationally or globally.
  3. You can choose a book that discusses social justice issues and create a book club and invite friends, family, your community, and those who may be interested in learning more about social justice and how they can help. (Our resource list has some great options for this!.)

Michelle also wrote a great blog post titled, “2017: But What Can We Do?” which lists some more ways in which you can get involved in fighting for social justice in your community. If you’re looking for something specific, but can’t seem to find it, get in touch with us and we will do our best to point you in the right direction.

Michelle:  What Channon said, plus protest and most importantly, vote!


If you didn’t get to ask us that burning question back in August during the survey, don’t hesitate to ask us now! Comment below or shoot us a message on Facebook.

The Best of Tuesday Justice (So Far)

by Channon & Michelle 

As we look ahead into 2018, we wanted to reflect on some past Tuesday Justice posts: our most viewed, Channon’s favorites, Michelle’s favorites…. If you’re new to the blog or haven’t read any of the posts mentioned below, please take a look!

Most viewed post: Desktop6-001History or Hate? The Confederate Statues of New Orleans” Written by Channon in May 2017, the post has received over 300 views, most of which came after the attack in Charlottesville in August. The views came primarily from internet searches about Confederate statues. It’s a privilege that one of our posts could provide information to people seeking out a greater understanding of hot-button issues that dominate the news cycle.

Guest Posts: Desktop6-004We’ve also had four fantastic guest posts this year, and we hope to have more in 2018. (Let us know if you’re interested or have an idea for a great guest post!)  Our most viewed guest post was “When They Get the Story Wrong: Muslims, Ideology & Terrorism” by Tom Pettinger. 

 

Channon’s Favorite Post by Michelle: “White People, Let’s Fix This

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What did you learn?

Reading through the many blog posts we’ve done since October 4th, 2016, I must say that my favourite post from Michelle is “White People, Let’s Fix This”. What I learned from this post is that empathy and education are the two things that helped the people Michelle spoke to, understand the plight and oppression of others and racial injustice. I also got to see Michelle’s and other people’s view of how they saw racial injustice and what they do and would do to help fight it.

Why did you like it?

I loved how Michelle talked about her family history, how she grew up and just brought that personal element to the post. After reading this post, I began to understand more why Michelle is the way she is (compassionate, kind, empathetic, amongst other great qualities 😊) and that she comes from a family who has always and continues to fight against social injustice, intolerance, racism and discrimination. I also really liked that she compared what was happening then, in the book “12 Million Black Voices,” in 1941 (racial oppression, etc. against black people), to what is still happening now in 2017 to black people, both in America and internationally. I also liked that Michelle shared her “woke” moment with readers – the moment her “eyes were opened” and she could connect with what was happening to black people. I also liked that Michelle took responsibility and urged others also to take action to do something about the racial injustice happening in the world today. Michelle said in her post, “The photo also reminded me that racism isn’t someone else’s problem. Those people were MY people, MY blood, MY history. And it’s my responsibility to undo the damage. Continually.”

I thoroughly enjoy Michelle’s posts every time she writes for Tuesday Justice! She is a talented and passionate person and that shows through in her writing. She is transparent when she writes and leaves you feeling empowered to take up the cause of whatever social justice issue she is discussing.

Channon’s Favorite Post by herself: “The Power of Peaceful Protest

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What did you learn?

What I learned from this post is how relevant and timely protests still are today in 2017. It also made me a bit sad when researching for this post to know that things have not changed very much from protests back in the 50s and 60s. It made me sad to know that we as black people are still fighting against the same injustices that we were fighting back then. But I was also hopeful when writing this post because I learned how powerful protests can be, when people unite together and have the same mindset, views and voice about a particular issue.

Why did you like it?

I really liked how I was able to do a compare and contrast with protests from 60 years ago (sit-ins, marches and freedom Rides of Civil Rights Movement) to protests now (Black Lives Matter, halting of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, etc.). It put into perspective what has and has not changed about protests then and now. I also loved looking back and researching the Civil Rights Movement era and the different methods that were used to get their point across. Whether it was the non-violent approach of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or the more violent approach like Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, black people have used the tool of protests for decades. Overall, I really enjoyed writing this post and doing the research for it!!!

It was a pleasure for me to write this post and I was happy to inform people (if they weren’t already aware) why protesting is so powerful, what it meant historically to groups of people and what it still means now to those same groups of people.

Michelle’s Favorite Post by Channon: “I’m rooting for everybody black.” The Importance of Supporting Black Businesses 

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What did you learn?

I learned more about the social and economic dynamics of black business within black communities. Channon was so thorough in this post with statistics about the economy within the black community, like unemployment and spending habits, but she also connected it on the social level with commentary on the (misguided) idea that black products are inferior. I feel like I understood the topic so much more fully after reading this post!

Why did you like it?

I saw several lists come across my timeline with titles like this one: “15 Gifts From Black-Owned Businesses Your Loved Ones Deserve This Holiday Season.” And I thought they were awesome, and I felt like it would be a great thing to support black-owned businesses during the holidays, but I was worried that if I shared those lists, people who think this was somehow anti-white. I wasn’t confident that I could articulate the truth until I read Channon’s post. It’s not about being anti-white; it’s about supporting the black community “in a system that is meant to keep [them] down.”

I often tell Channon that I want her posts to be more personal. She is so smart, but also she’s SO passionate about what she writes about, and I always want that to come out more. I feel like this post not only displayed her brains but also her heart and passion for the strengthening of the black community.

Michelle’s Favorite Post by herself:  “Racism in America and the Danger of Colorblindness

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What did you learn?

In researching for this post, I learned the importance of confronting racial injustice and inequality. The answer to ending systemic racism isn’t ignoring it or trying to be “colorblind.” Thinking and talking about race can be incredibly uncomfortable. Many of us were raised to believe that’s a taboo topic to be avoided at all costs, but the more I thought about what I’d read in preparation for the post, the more I realized that we have to confront the reality of the situation if we hope to make it better.

Why did you like it?

I think because of my own experience of “waking up” to racial injustice, I want to help others see it too. And working on this post helped me to think through and recognize how I can help others move forward, especially folks with kids. It’s hard to navigate how to talk to kids about race, and it’s easier to just teach them (and subsequently, ourselves) that race doesn’t matter and should be ignored altogether. I think this post helps me articulate why that line of thinking is ultimately unhelpful.

I was worried about what kind of negative responses I might get on this post. I start out by discussing the problems with an adorable viral video about some super cute kids! But I didn’t. People seemed to respond very positively to it, and I hope it helped others think through their views on race and racial injustice.

 

Desktop6But by far, one the best things we did this year wasn’t written by Channon or Michelle. It was written by the Tuesday Justice Community. It was our Freedom Post! Maybe it wasn’t our most popular post, but we are so thankful for all of you who have joined us on our journey for the full freedom of all people! 

 

Resources for Understanding DACA

by Michelle Palmer

Neither Channon nor I were quite qualified to tackle the DACA issue without lots and lots of prior research, and due to time constraints on us both, that wasn’t really an option this week. However, I wanted to provide something for folks who, like me, want to understand the issue a bit more. So I did some legwork to gather and organize what information I could. The following is the result of that endeavor, and I hope it proves useful to someone!

What is DACA?

  • Deferred Action for Child Arrivals
  • “The program has allowed hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the country. Applicants cannot have serious criminal histories, and must have arrived in the U.S. before 2007, when they were under the age of 16. DACA recipients can live and work legally in the U.S. for renewable two-year periods.” –  from a short summary of DACA from NBC.
  • The application process is lengthy and complex.

Who are Dreamers?

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What happens if DACA is rescinded?

“On DACA, the [U.S. Commission on Civil Rights] called Trump’s move to stop allowing new applicants to the program and to let permits begin expiring in six months ‘a step backward for our country.’

The statement cited both the economic arguments for DACA, including 700,000 jobs that would be lost and the billions in tax revenue, as well as the humanitarian argument for the program’s participants.

‘They now face a reality where they are at risk of being exploited in the workplace and deported and prevented from fully contributing to and supporting their families, communities, and country,’ the panel wrote.”

Who supports DACA?

…and many, many, many more.

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART

How do we help Dreamers?

And if all that wasn’t quite enough, this is a lengthy, but very informative, piece on the issue: Trump Ends DACA Program, No New Applications Accepted by Adam Edelman for NBC News

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When They Get the Story Wrong: Muslims, Ideology & Terrorism

The truth is that nobody knows what actually causes terrorism to a point where we can generalize the motivations of all terrorists. There are different levels of explanation – social, individual, structural or political motivations – and whilst each may play a part, the dominant narrative takes a religious ideological approach as fact without any demonstrated scientific basis.

Guest Post by Tom Pettinger

“Religion had nothing to do with this. We watched films. We were shown videos with images of the war in Iraq. We were told we must do something big.”

– failed 7/21/05 London Underground bomber, Hussein Omar

ad67f2_ade1bfe5d3b947eebf8b2466c0ac3ff5-mv2How well do we as a society really understand the causes of terrorism? Since 9/11, and especially 7/7 in London, we’ve been fed the line that Islamic ideology, rather than politics, causes extremism, each new ‘Islamist’ attack apparently proving the theory. And because the theory that terrorists are mentally deranged has no scientific basis, what really drives individuals to engage in this kind of socially deviant and devastating behaviour, sometimes even to a point of killing themselves as well? Is it primarily religious ideology? Is it politics? What is the effect of choosing one narrative over the other?

Following a ‘jihadist’ attack, news coverage hysterically focuses on how individuals were radicalized by an increasingly fanatical Islamic ideology (white-supremacist attacks, conversely, receive far less attention), often with a backdrop of a failed personal life or a lack of integration into modern Western society. The actual motivations for the attacks are rarely investigated. 9/11, the Boston bombing, 7/7 in London, the Brussels attacks, Paris, Florida, Madrid are frequently implied by media and politicians to have no aims other than instilling senseless terror on the basis of a warped interpretation of Islam. 7ZPVBUXU6FFVHFUFFB7FYW3WDQIt is often ignored that such atrocities attempt to accomplish a goal or communicate a political message. All definitions of terrorism have at their core some political or social aim, but aside from passing comments, we don’t hear about these in news coverage. There is a growing body of literature (see here, here and here) that suggests this direction has been encouraged by governments to silence dissent over their foreign policy; it is in Western governments’ interests to ascribe the attackers’ motivations to reasons other than their military interventions and the so-called ‘War on Terror’. It’s a natural defence mechanism to place the blame for attacks like 9/11 on anything but their own actions (be it invasions, drone strikes, or Guantanamo).

George W. Bush notoriously claimed, “They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.” This has become commonly accepted; the media and politicians incessantly bombard us with this idea. However, The Defense Science Board, a Federal Advisory Committee established to provide independent advice to the US Secretary of Defense, wrote in 2004 that,

Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.

As well as politics appearing central to acts of terrorism, further problems with taking religious ideology as the principal driver of terrorism are that:

  • Most basically, there are people who possess what society deems as ‘radical ideologies’ yet don’t engage in violence;
  • To take ‘religious ideology’ as equivalent to brainwashing is misguided when a group’s beliefs are debated to a point where they sometimes split apart;syria-war-anniversary-body-image-1426292826
  • Radicalization scholars have found an ideology is only acquired following incorporation within a group;
  • Studies have consistently found “no empirical support” for many ideologically-focussed approaches to de-radicalization or countering terrorism, suggesting it plays little part in their radicalization;
  • And above all, there is nowhere near enough scientific research into individuals’ motivations to cast generalizations (and where studies have occurred, they often find social interactions play the most important role).

Governments totally ignore the attackers’ motivations in explaining terrorism; look up basically any attack on the West – what do the attackers say? Political grievances and aims are always central. Boston Marathon BombingWhat did the Boston bomber scrawl on the inside of the boat? It wasn’t challenging freedom and democracy, but US foreign affairs and the deaths America has caused. What did the Woolwich attacker say in the street when he was standing over Fusilier Lee Rigby? It wasn’t about creating an Islamic State, but lamenting the suffering Western invasions have brought to other parts of the world. What motivations did the failed US underwear bomber Abdulmutallab give during his court case? Not the rewards from martyrdom, but US tyranny and its oppression of Muslims. As an aside, it should also be remembered that those most affected by ‘Islamic’ terrorism are other Muslims. (Stats can be found here, here, and here.)

The truth is that nobody knows what actually causes terrorism to a point where we can generalize the motivations of all terrorists. There are different levels of explanation –  social, individual, structural or political motivations – and whilst each may play a part, the dominant narrative takes a religious ideological approach as fact without any demonstrated scientific basis. If that perspective only seems like common sense, it’s because it has been constantly emphasized by politicians and the media over time. hassan_reutersNo study has had anywhere near sufficient access to terrorists to show any causation. However, these unfounded assumptions cause us to view certain communities (those perceived to be Muslims) as suspicious, based purely on correlations with widely-publicized attacks that have previously taken place. In Britain for example, following the IRA Birmingham pub bombings, those with Irish accents were viewed with suspicion and hostility; similarly, the now-suspect ‘Muslim community’ is placed under constant suspicion of being a potential threat following jihadi attacks. Studies into the creation of suspect communities show they are treated with disdain and blamed for attacks, that they experience negative interactions with the police, racism and discrimination at work, and feel unsafe walking around and like second-class citizens.

“We are constantly demonized, all through the media. I used to go to the cinema every weekend…I’ve given up because every time I would go…there’s at least one hint somewhere [that Muslims are terrorists or cause terrorism] – and in newspapers and the media as a whole, constantly we’re demonized.”

– Anonymous audience member, Evening with Arun Kundnani, YouTube

The West spends billions on domestic counter-terrorism efforts taking this unproven and highly presumptuous ideology-based explanation to minimize the threat from suspect communities. Desktop6-005A frightening consequence of this drive is that particularly within the US, in borrowing predictive principles from the widely-criticized British Prevent Strategy, a network of 15,000 informants has developed to target Muslims, and the practice of entrapment (“tricking someone into committing a crime in order to secure their prosecution”) has escalated. The FBI has even killed Americans on American soil based on opportunities the agency itself has provided to ‘vulnerable’ Muslims. (A recap of the events can be found here, but Arun Kundnani goes into more detail in his book, The Muslims Are Coming.)  Judges have repeatedly noted that these entrapped individuals would not otherwise have engaged in such deviant activities had the FBI not placed them in the ‘wrong place’ at the ‘wrong time’. Judge McMahon, sentencing the Newburgh Four, said,

Only the government could have made a terrorist out of Mr Cromitie, a man whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope… I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here except [that] the government instigated it, planned it, and brought it to fruition.

Activists Demonstrate Against Recent Rhetoric Against Muslims And Refugees Near Trump Tower

Governments have gradually diluted the threshold for ‘terrorism’ charges: in the UK, non-violent extremism is now a criminal offence, and thousands of children as young as four have gone through the British de-radicalization program. Umm Ahmed, a British Muslim, was jailed for 12 months for the possession of Inspire Magazine which she had obtained to keep updated with her brother’s trial (apparently reading the magazine online does not land you in jail, but possessing it on a USB stick does!). In sentencing her the judge said that Umm posed no threat, that she had no intent to harm, that she was not a terrorist – and even that she was a good Muslim – but that he had to imprison her based on her possession of the magazine.

The idea of a distinct and definable ‘Muslim community’, separate from the rest of the population, has been encouraged by the provision of cohesion funding that targets places with a certain number of Muslims, and by politicians calling for this apparently distinct community to condemn the latest attacks as though they were in some way collectively responsible. David Cameron in his (in)famous multiculturalism speech called for moderate Muslims to condemn the radical ones, and Trump similarly called on Muslims to “report when they see something going on”. cariprotestnwexpy4This leads to Muslims being seen collectively as a threat, and advancing the perception of them as separate to ‘the rest of us’. In turn, like after the recent Manchester bombing, we see a rise in hate crimes against those perceived to be Muslims, who are often approached in public and told, “shame on you… for what you did”. People have been killed as a result of anti-Muslim attacks, although like other right-wing extremist attacks, they get far less attention than what is considered ‘Islamist’ violence.

We have become obsessed by denouncing those engaging in political violence as deluded Islamist ideologues, when in fact, by their own testimony, the attacks they carry out seem much more like retaliations for Western policy decisions, like invasions and occupations, support for Israel (which is taken as definitional support for the oppression of Palestinians), Guantanamo, drone strikes, and so on. Claims that ideology is the overriding explanation are wholly unfounded and exist to minimize Western governments’ responsibility in motivating the attacks. However, because of these narratives being endlessly repeated, we have succeeded in separating Muslims from non-Muslims, and non-Muslims from Muslims, allowing totally irrational fear and distinction, rather than unity, to triumph.

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For more information….

Organization Profiles: Preemptive Love Coalition & International Rescue Committee

I know many of you have been burdened over the last few weeks by the plight of refugees, and I want to offer a little hope that 1) there are people fighting for them and 2) there is something you can do to help.

by Michelle Palmer

I had several ideas floating in my head regarding what to write about this week; there seems to be so much in the news that we could (and perhaps should) address. But as I laid in bed Sunday morning, scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across a couple of posts from organizations that are committed to refugees and people in crisis zones, and it just made sense to me to h9374744871_73d9c478e7_b.jpgighlight a couple of them. I know many of you have been burdened over the last few weeks by the plight of refugees, and I want to offer a little hope that 1) there are people fighting for them and 2) there is something you can do to help.

I’m going to highlight two rather different organizations. The first, Preemptive Love Coalition, is less than 10 years old with a budget a fraction of the second. The second, International Rescue Committee, started because of a suggestion made by Albert Einstein and has been around in various forms since 1933.

[Sidenote: I’m highlighting two organizations here because people connect to different organizations for a variety of reasons. (For example, I explained my undying love for Free the Slaves on the blog a couple months ago.) Maybe it’s a particular ethos you connect to or you love their founders’ tweets or there’s a story of their work that impacts you on a deeper level than all the others. If you don’t particularly connect with either of these, there’s a list of others at the end. As they say, get in where you fit in!]

Preemptive Love Coalition

Where: Primarily Iraq. Also Syria, Libya, and Iran.

The Method:  

  • Lifesaving Heart Surgeries for Childrenplc-logo-v2
  • Emergency Relief for Families Victimized by ISIS
  • Empowering Grants for Small Business Owners
  • Education for At-Risk Children
  • Peacemaking in Conflict Zones
  • Counsel to Policy Makers

When I first read that one of the big things Preemptive Love Coalition does is provide heart surgery, I was bit thrown. It didn’t quite fit with my assumptions, but it all makes sense when you read the story of how it all started:

PLC+anesthesiologist.jpg“Our story began in a hotel lobby inside Iraq in 2007. A fearful father, his beautiful daughter, her ailing heart, and the simple question, ‘Please, will you try to save her?’ From that day, we threw ourselves into eradicating the backlog of children waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery, often in the most war-torn, unreached parts of the Iraq like Fallujah and Tikrit.

“These years of investing in Iraq’s medical infrastructure through training and lifesaving care resulted in over 1,300 heart surgeries. Because of our world renowned surgical teams, we were invited into every major region of the country. When ISIS rampaged onto the global scene, we were uniquely positioned to expand our programming so that we could continue to go to the conflict-zones others were fleeing, to love those no one else will love.”

Specific reports of what PLC does on the ground aren’t hard to find on the website. Take the Fallujah Report for example. It documents how much was raised ($672,226 between May 26 and early July), how much food was delivered (306,600 pounds), and how much water was provided (414,039 liters). In addition to the reports, there’s a blog with lots of information as well.

The impact:

Numbers help us to measure the size of the impact, and these are the big numbers for Preemptive Love Coalition:15154683630_0531fd1277_b.jpg

  • 2,200 operations for children
  • Over 1 million pounds of food delivered to ISIS victims
  • 95 businesses started by displaced men and women

But beyond the numbers it’s important that the impact not only serves the locals in the short term, but leaves lasting (and sustainable) improvement. PLC is clearly committed to locals. Firstly, in their medical work, they welcome foreign volunteers, but they also seek to train locals. Secondly, instead of requesting supplies, they request money so they can source supplies locally to support the local economy. And thirdly, it’s clear that empowerment is key to their work. Direct quote from the website: “When a family says they don’t need us anymore, we consider this a success.” Organizations like PLC should always be seeking to put themselves out of business in an area.

How you can help:

  • Donate!
  • Shop! (I wear a 2x tee, and my birthday is in August…)
  • Put on a fundraiser!
  • Follow & share!  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Vimeo
    • I personally particularly enjoy PLC Senior Field Editor Matthew Willingham’s Instagram
  • Volunteer – If you’re a doctor or nurse, you can look into volunteer opportunities here. Or if you live in the Waco area, you can contact the stateside office here.

International Rescue Committee

Where: Worldwide, and in crisis zones of Nigeria, Burundi, Greece, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The method:

irc_logo_rgb_large.jpg“Internationally, IRC teams provide health care, infrastructure, learning, protection, and economic support to people in more than 30 countries, with special programs designed for women and children. When crisis occurs, the IRC arrives on the scene within 72 hours with urgently needed relief supplies and expertise. The IRC stays as long as required, helping survivors to heal, recover, and rebuild their communities. In the United States, IRC teams help resettle thousands of refugees each year in nearly 30 cities”


One of the more interesting strategies I read about on the IRC website is
cash relief. Rather than just providing the goods, cash relief helps families to purchase necessities and regain control over their lives, while also keeping money in the local economy. Like Preemptive Love Coalition, sustainable solutions are central to the IRC mission.

As a data and research geek myself,  I am very excited by the work of the Airbel Center. In humanitariaphotos%2F2012%2F01%2F3877ffa6685d149c.jpgn work, resources are limited. Research matters because it’s important that we seek the most cost effective solutions to humanitarian crises.

“The Airbel Center’s mission is to design and test life-changing, scalable solutions for people affected by crisis. By bringing together field staff, designers, strategists, researchers and technical experts, we aim to uncover and nurture ideas that make a big impact on people’s safety, health, education, income and power.”

The impact:

In 2016 alone, the IRC served over 26 million people in various ways. (You can check out more stats here.) And like PLC, the IRC seeks not only to serve locals in the short term, but leaves a lasting (and sustainable) improvement.

To demonstrate, here are few of my favorite stories from the IRC website:

  1. Congo: “The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and its partners implemented a large-scale community-driven reconstruction (CDR) program called Tuungane (“Let’s unite” in the local Kiswahili language) from 2007 to 2016. Funded by the UK Government, this program took place in more than 1,900 conflict-affected communities of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a budget of approximately 103.7 million GBP.”
  1. 1_5_1.jpgThe Muppets & Education: “The Muppets are embarking on humanitarian missions. This spring, Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy for the Sesame Workshop, and Sarah Smith, a director at the International Rescue Committee, announced a collaboration to develop educational programs for refugee children.”
  1. Jordan:There are limited livelihood options for refugees in Jordan and they can face negative repercussions if they are caught working without necessary permits. Recognizing the direct benefits many vulnerable families will receive from financial assistance, the IRC started its cash assistance program in May 2013, and has since reached over 4,100 vulnerable Syrian and Jordanian families in Mafraq and Irbid Governorates.”

How you can help:images


If neither of these organizations appeal to you, there are other organizations serving refugees. The organizations in the following list also have opportunities to get involved, give, and volunteer. We cannot stay silent when so many are suffering. Find a way to plug in, and let us know what you’re doing! refugee_sign.jpg