Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Pensacola Christian College, Where Religious Oppression Rules

Pensacola Christian College,
Where “Optical Intercourse” Can Get You into Trouble!!
by Mahmood Ketabchi
March 29, 2006

I don’t know if you have heard of the term “optical intercourse;” I have to admit that I have not heard of it before myself. “Optical intercourse” is a term that refers to two people staring at each other intently, that is, in a sexual way. It is among many offenses that are prohibited by stringent rules which control student lives particularly male and female relationship at Pensacola Christian College in Florida.

Other rules include:

1. All physical contact between male and female students are forbidden. This rule also applies to hand shaking.
2. Members of opposite sex have to use separate elevators and escalators.
3. Female and male students cannot go to the same beach.
4. They cannot socialize with each other without the presence of a chaperon.
5. Movies, even G-rated ones, are forbidden.
6. Students can only listen to classical music or music that has been approved by the college.
7. Access to TV, Internet, email, and library is strictly limited and controlled.
8. No student opposition is tolerated.

These rules and many other unwritten regulations are strictly and often capriciously enforced.

Students who break these rules or are perceived as having broken them face four types of punishments including:

1. Being “Socialed,” that is, they will be barred from speaking with a student of the opposite sex for two weeks,
2. Being “Campused,” which means students are prohibited to leave the college or speak to other students for two weeks.
3. Being “Shadoweded,” that is, students will be watched at all times by an agent of the college for several days. Plus, they are not allowed to speak to anyone but the agent who is responsible for the student being punished.
4. Being expelled from college.

Pensacola Christian College has been around for more that 30 years. It started as a Bible study college with 100 students, and now has nearly 5000 students.

The founder of the college, Mr. Horton, also established a Christian book publishing company called A Beta Book which is considered to be the largest publisher of Christian books in the world. It sells books to more than10,000 Christian schools across the country. It has also gained a large share of the home-schooling market. For many years, A Beta Books portrayed itself as a non-profit organization and evaded paying tax on their revenue. Finally, the IRS forced them to pay $50 million in back taxes.

The college prides itself in being the “most Fundamentalist” college in the country. What is interesting is that Pensacola Christian College is not an accredited college, and the college administrators are not forthcoming about it.

As I learned about this school, I thought of countries where Islamists regimes rule. As a person coming from Iran, I can see a lot of similarities. Pensacola College is a sort of Talebanite Christian fiefdom. It is a kind of life style that every right wing religious fascist would love to see spread and enforced across the world.

Right wing Muslims, Christians, and Jews, although they dislike each other, in many ways share similar values and principles. For example, they share the following:

1. Regulations and laws that governs every aspect of human life
2. Obsession with sex and sexuality especially female sexuality
3. Gender apartheid
4. Cruelty and zero tolerance for opposition and dissent
5. Deception and lies.

Religion and religious industries are by their very nature oppressive and brutal. The belief that there exists an omnipotent and omnipresent god is nothing but anti human and tyrannical.

I do not know of any other institution in the country that can do what the Pensacola Christian College does and get away with it. Although religion and religious institutions enjoy special privileges and receive the kind of legal protection that no one else can dream of, right wing religious demagogues keep complaining that they are being unfairly treated and discriminated against. They have vast resources including numerous schools, colleges, and universities all across the country to push their religion and indoctrination without obstacles, yet they are adamant about infecting public education with their prayer, and bogus theories of “intelligent design,” abstinence, etc.

Religion is like a killer narcotic that needs to be regulated. It can make people sick and/or kill. Religious industry is a medieval institution that must be swept away. It is a notorious industry with a long history of brutality and human right abuses. Today, when religious sectarianism of all sorts is on the rise, it is more important than ever to push religion out of public life into a private sphere.

In particular, religion must be separated from education both public and private. This is especially true for minors who are the primary victims of religious indoctrination and proselytizing. Children are protected in different ways. Although poorly enforced, there are many legal protections for children. We protect them from child pornography. They are protected from employer exploitation. We protect them from sexual abuse, etc. They are even protected against certain advertising and commercials. Here in the US, the tobacco industry is heavily regulated and prevented from targeting young kids.

The same should apply to religious industry. Kids need to grow in an open and free environment that enables them to develop an investigative mind of their own. They need to learn the skills to enquire and challenge what they are being taught so that they can approach the world around themselves consciously. Ideological and religious indoctrinations deprive children from developing a free and critical approach to the world. Religious superstitions, taboos, dogmas, and sectarianism are dangerous poisons shoved into children’s throat. It is hammered in their minds from early age that they belong to a particular and preferred religious sect. Organized religion produces a culture of meekness, fear, insecurity, obedience, sycophancy, and conformity. It shapes and moulds children not to become free human beings, but people who can be controlled, manipulated, and subjected to oppressors and authoritarians. Religious indoctrination aimed at children must be prohibited. That is a basic requirement for a truly free society.

To read a full report about the Pensacola Christian college, please refer to Chronicle of Higher Education, March 24, 2006, Volume LII, Number 29.

Monday, March 27, 2006

International Women's Day Report


Report compiled by Jennifer Fasulo A version of this report can be heard on the Joy of Resistance Feminist Multi-Cultural Radio by visiting, & clicking on the archives for March 23 at 11am.

All around the world on March 8, women took to the streets for International Working Women’s Day, showing unequivocally that women’s liberation and women’s rights are universal. The March 8th day of protest dates back to the radical socialist movements of the early 20th century. However, it was not celebrated in the US for many decades due to US anti-communism. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the celebration was revived by the Women’s Liberation Movement.

This year’s demonstrations emphasized equality and reproductive freedom, ending violence against women, particularly state sponsored and religious violence, as well as the sexist affects of poverty, exploitation and war. Demonstrations took place in every continent and women’s day events occurred in almost every country in the world. Many of the most powerful demonstrations could be seen in countries ruled by Islamic governments where misogyny and sexism are enshrined in law. Women of the Middle East and Asia set an example of feminist militancy for the world’s women to follow. Iranian women and their male supporters braved police assaults and arrests in order to demand their rights. Turkish women, savagely beaten in last year’s March 8 protest, returned in ever larger numbers, declaring, “we will not be silenced.” Mukhtar Mai, the Bangladeshi woman who was gang-raped by order of a village council, led thousand in a march against the kind of violence she was subjected to.

The United States, on the other hand, was notable for its lack of large scale protest, especially as Roe Vs Wade hangs in the balance. The South Dakota law banning abortion, even in the case of rape or incest, is designed to overturn Roe V Wade in the increasingly right-wing supreme court. It is just the most recent attack on women’s rights and freedom coming from the right-wing religious movement in our own backyard. While the US left remained more or less silent for March 8, the right-wing, led by George and Laura Bush, once again capitalized on the opportunity to co-opt women’s rights by holding an International Women’s Day event in the White House. Bush continues to use the rhetoric of promoting women’s rights to justify the public and foreign policies that are in fact undermining and destroying women’s rights world-wide.

The following report chronicles just some of the highlights of March 8 demonstrations around the world.


One of the largest demonstrations took place in Brazil where some ten thousand women, including representatives of 80 different organizations, marched to demand the decriminalization of abortion and end to violence against women. Women of all ages and races joined in the lively and colorful march. Brazil's Women's Health Network estimates that one million illegal abortions are performed each year, and are the fourth major cause of death in Brazilian women.

The Brazil march initiated a world tour for a Women’s Global Charter for Equal Rights that will go to 53 countries and end in Africa in October.

In other areas of Brazil, women protested in front of the Presidential Palace demanding the right to collect retirement funds for homemakers and 500 women of the Landless Rural Workers' Movement occupied the Toca de la Raposa ranch, to demand an agrarian reform which will include property rights for all women.
Women of the Landless Rural Workers Movement


"Women demand freedom! Women demand their rights!” chanted 5000 women and their male supporters in a demonstration in Multan Pakistan. Protesters decried rape and honor killings and demanded repeal of the Hudood Ordinance, a law based on Islamic Sharia which legalizes religious practices and is highly discriminatory against women.

Among leaders of the rally was Mukhtar Mai, a woman who was gang-raped in 2002 on orders by a council of villagers near Multan as punishment for her brother's alleged affair with a woman from a higher caste family. Mai has emerged as a powerful symbol of women fighting back against victimization.

"I have dedicated my life to women's rights. Wherever a woman is oppressed, I will go there and fight for her rights," Mai told reporters at the rally.

Women also marched by the thousands in cities in Bangladesh, pressing similar demands and denouncing acid attacks against women. Acid attacks are when men throw acid in women’s faces because the women refuse their advances or otherwise are perceived as not adhering to religious or cultural norms. Men in Dhaka held their own rally in solidarity with the women and added their condemnation of acid attacks which have permanently disfigured an estimated 2000 women in the past 5 years in Dhaka.


4000 women sex workers, transgender and sexual minorities staged a protest march in the capital of India. They demanded their right to be treated as other workers and opposed amendments of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA) which empower police harassment and deny them of their means of survival. Representatives from 16 states, including sex workers organizations, women’s and AIDS organizations came together for the march. The march began at the Bharat Scouts and Guides camp and ended at Jantar Mantar. National Aids Control Organization (NACO) director Sujatha said, ''With the community of women taking control over their life, I see this massive celebration as a positive sign,'' she said. Participants sought recognition of their work in reducing HIV/AIDS. National Aids Council member Smarjit Jana said’ We are not against laws to check trafficking but the government's sole focus has been on pulling people out of sex work, while ignoring the very factor that pushes individuals and communities in the business,'' she added. A representative of the transgendered demonstrators, Ashodaya Mahila Samanwaya said 'Hijras' faced the worst oppression. ''We are criminalized by both the laws - ITPA and Section 377 IPC. We are not recognized as having a gender. She added. ''We are in this profession not just out of choice but by default... We can only do this work or beg. If this amendment comes into force, our only option is death... “


International Women's Day was celebrated in several cities in Iran, despite government crack-down on opposition. In Tehran, a thousand women activists and other human rights defenders gathered under the banner: “March 8, A Day of Women’s Liberation.” The peaceful gathering was attacked and women were assaulted by anti riot forces, soldiers and police. Ms. Simin Behbehani, a well-known feminist poet, who is elderly and partially blind was also beaten with a baton and then kicked repeatedly by security guards, amidst objection by women protesters. Protesters chanted slogans and held signs reading, “Violence Against Women is Violence Against Humanity” and “Long Live March 8!”

Other large celebrations were held in Sanandaj where participants condemned the Islamic Republic’s atrocities against women, demanded equal rights for women and condemned the US government’s military threats against Iran. A 4 day march was held in Europe organized by the Campaign for the Abolition of All Misogynist, Gender-Based Legislation & Islamic Punitive Laws in Iran. A caravan of Iranian women and their supporters traveled from Frankfurt Germany to the Hague Netherlands, holding rallies outside the Iranian embassies. A skit was performed in which a mullah (Islamic cleric) led a veiled woman by a chain into the public square. The veiled woman then rose up, threw off her veil and together with other women, broke her chain and used it to chain the mullah. This was met by cries of jubilation from the audience. Solidarity rallies with the European march were held in Berkeley and NYC.

Other Iranians in exile also held protests in many cities around the world, as they do every year, including a conference against honor killings in Germany that was attended by several hundred women and organized by the Organization of Women’s Liberation in Iran.


16/03/2006: In Egypt, the Egyption Center for Women’s Rights planned a celebration to raise awareness about Egyptian women’s Rights and announce new draft legislation to increase women’s political participation. It was to be attended by 800 women and 25 women’s and development NGOs. Hours before the event was to take place, it was cancelled by the Ministry of Education, which cited the event as a “security threat.” The Center for Women’s Rights decried the decision and called for an investigation of the reasons for the cancellation.


Women in Ramallah marched from Al Manara (the city centre) to the Palestinian Presidential compound. But the march was challenged by a counter demonstration of Hamas supporters, who want to annul Women's Day, under the pretext that it is a “Western phenomenon,” and therefore alien to Palestinian culture and traditions. Margo Sabella, a member of MIFTAH, a secular pro-Palestinian organization responded, “The Palestinian women's movement can be traced back at least to the early 20th Century, and is unquestionably part of the universal women's movement which must be encouraged in order for humanity to truly achieve justice, liberty, freedom, and equality for all.”

Every year on 8 March, Palestinian women commemorate International Women's Day, despite the enormous obstacles of living under the Israeli Occupation. By law, the Palestinian constitution provides for equal rights between women and men, but in practice women experience widespread discrimination in the public and private areas. Furthermore, as Hamas takes the helm, many are concerned that whatever basic rights Palestinian women have will be taken away and reformulated according to religious practices and values.


In New Orleans, a mock funeral demonstration and rally was organized by the Global Women’s Strike for Peace to highlight the ravages of racism and sexism in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Protesters went into the streets for a “Second Line” march – a traditional New Orleans funeral celebration . They honored those who died in New Orleans and gave tribute to the mobilization of survivors, which was being led primarily by women. Elders led the “Second Line” march, carrying a banner that read “From New Orleans to Haiti to Iraq to LA: Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Wives: Fighting for Our Loved Ones’ Lives” in English and Spanish.

March organizer, Margaret Prescod, asked, “Why are women the poorer sex? Why is it largely women who do the clean-up work after disasters like Katrina? And why doesn’t anyone know this?” For hope, Prescod pointed to the Global South, where the Venezuelan revolution is paying women for housework after years of women activists pushing this demand.

Global Women’s Strike events also took place in Guyana, India, Uganda, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, Ireland and the UK.


Women in the Phillipines also risked arrests and police intimidation when thousands of women marched in cities throughout the country. Many of the rallies focused on opposition to the current president Gloria Arroyo for her attacks on women’s rights and civil rights generally. "We're certainly not celebrating her. We're repudiating her on International Women's Day. You cannot celebrate the struggle to liberate women without denouncing this particular woman," said Carol Araullo, chair of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).
Women activists criticized Arroyo for her lack of commitment to women’s rights, pointing out that she has put women’s lives and health at risk by denying support for reproductive health and family planning services. They also charged her with contributing to the feminization of migration and poverty and not giving sufficient funding to the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women. “We want a government that truly respects, protects and promotes women’s human rights,” declared the Women’s Groups Statement, “Oust Arroyo!”
One demonstration at the border of Quezon City also raised issues of violence against women and child pornography. The police forced the dispersal of the crowd, using violence and arresting two of the march leaders. Jean Enriquez of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific, said the dispersal was an "insult" to the women who had no plan of violence in staging the protest action. She said the violence clearly originated with the police.


Women took to the streets in Istanbul and Ankara Turkey, despite brutal assaults by police in last year’s March 8 demonstration. Last year when women gathered in Istanbul for a peaceful celebration, the police attacked them, beating them with batons, and spraying them with pepper spray. Women, young and old, were dragged on the streets, kicked and beaten until they fell. When a film of the beatings was shown in Europe it caused an uproar. According to Mehmet Bayram of the Middle East Radio Project, this year, “The female police tried handing flowers to their ‘sisters.’ But many people rejected this gesture.”

Women marched, sand and chanted slogans, “We Won’t Be Silenced” Long live Women’s Solidarity”, “Free daycare, Free Healthcare”, and “We won’t be somebody else’s honor” referring to the honor killings of women that has swept the country. Many demonstrations were organized by the Peoples Houses Organization, a militant community and worker association organizing among the poorest neighborhoods in Turkey.

In a report to the press, Ilknur Birol a member of the Peoples Houses Organization, declared, “We the women, hard-working laborers of society; we are celebrating March 8th with all the women of the world to take control of our lives from the claws of poverty and exploitation. We join to take back our lives from the quiet corners of workshops, from our houses that have turned into jails, and from the street corners that we were pushed into. We are struggling against the system that pushes us to more poverty everyday, that feminized poverty; We are struggling for a system where honor killings or women’s suicides do not exist, where we can send our kids to free schools and pre-schools, where we are not subject to any aggression from fathers, husbands or the state, where we are not the cheapest workers in the factories, free workers in the fields, forced workers at homes!”


Inter Press Service News Agency
Women’s Health/OBGYN News,
The World Revolution,

Pakistan & Bangladesh
Dawn the Internet Edition
Human Rights First

ISIS International,
Martsa ng Kababaihan. (2006, March 8). Unity statement: A womans place is in the struggle, womens groups statement on the occasion of International Womens Day (IWD) 2006.
Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 9 2006
San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center

Bureau Report International Edition, India Edition /

Iran, Egypt & Palestine
Women Living Under Mulsim Laws,
Organization of Women’s Liberation in Iran
Worker Communist Party of Iran,
Human Rights Watch Worldwide,
MIFTAH The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Democracy and Democracy,

New Orleans
Global Women’s Strike for Peace,

Mehmet Baryam of Middle East Radio Project
Labornet Turkey,
Journee de la femme,

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Afghan Convert: Fight for Freedom or Crusade for Christianity

Saving the Life of Abdul Rahman,
Fight for Freedom or Crusade for Christianity

by Mahmood Ketabchi
March 24, 2006

The case of Abdul Rahman, a 41 year old Afghani man, who converted to Christianity, is getting a lot of international attention and media coverage. Mr. Rahman, who used to be a Muslim, is being tried for apostasy. Under Islamic Sharia Law that dominates the Afgahni Constitution and judiciary, Mr. Rahman faces the death penalty. An Afghan cleric has compared him to “a germ” and urged that he be killed.

What is quite bizarre is that an institution designed to defend the human rights of Afghani people, the government-sponsored Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has also called for Rahman to be punished. Only in a US made democracy such an oddity can occur.

The US government and western powers that have built what they call an “Afghani democracy” have expressed their grave concern over the fate of Mr. Rahman and are pressuring the government of Hamid Karzai to drop the case against him. As a result of the international pressure, the Afghani convert might be saved from execution on the basis of “insanity.” The prosecutor Sarinwal Zamari said questions have been raised about his “mental fitness.” "We think he could be mad. He is not a normal person. He doesn't talk like a normal person," Zamari said.

Mr. Rahman’s life might very well be saved, not because it is his choice to switch from one religion to another, but because he is an insane man for converting from Islam to Christianity. In other words, only mad people go from Islam to Christianity!!!

Mr. Rahman’s religious freedom has to be respected. As he said, he is not an insane person, and he made a choice to become a Christian. Nonetheless, it is questionable to see how the US and the western governments are raising such a great commotion over Mr. Rahman’s religious rights. This is an outright hypocrisy. It looks like more of a crusade for Christianity than a sincere concern with freedom. The Islamic government of Afghanistan is committing crimes on a daily basis against the Afghani people and in particular against women.

For Example, just a few months ago, a women’s magazine was shutdown by the government and its editor sentenced to two years in prison. Why didn’t George Bush, this great fighter for democracy, call Hamid Karzai and express his concern over the women’s publication and the fate of the editor? Why don’t we see these hypocrites get so excited and all hyped up about the dire situation of women in Afghanistan, a country in which women are considered subhuman and Islamic gender apartheid rules? Not only don’t they get upset—they actually hail the great “progress” that women are supposedly making there!

What a great democracy the US and the western governments have built in Afghanistan! They cannot do any better. The world can’t wait to see Bush regime gone and his democracies replaced with societies where respect for human life, freedom, and equality becomes the number one priority.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

March 8 Celebration in Sanandaj, Iran: A Resolution for Freedom and Against War

More than 600 women and men celebrated March 8, International Women's Day in Sanandaj, Iran. The following resolution was passed by the participants.

The Resolution Passed by the March 8,
International Women’s Day in Sanandaj, Iran

This Resolution was read and approved article by article by the participants in the March 8 event in Sanandaj, Iran.

March 8 is day of struggle for freedom and equality.

It is a day that the self-evident principle of equality among human beings in all social spheres is highlighted.

We, the participants in the March 8 rally in Sanandaj, reject divisions among people based on gender, religious, and class discrimination and believe that all forms of oppression and discrimination originate from economic inequality; we declare the following demands:

1. People’s rights must be equal in all social, political, and economic spheres;
2. All laws based on gender apartheid must be abrogated;
3. Health coverage, education, housing, and jobs are a right, not a privilege for a particular minority;
4. Execution and stoning must be abrogated;
5. Full social welfare for single mothers and homemakers and classification of housework as a hard and unbearable work;
6. Street women, runaway girls, and homeless people need the full support of the government;
7. Forced marriage, temporary marriage, and polygamy must be prohibited;
8. We demand guarantees and legal protection for women from all sorts of violence and honor killing;
9. We demand freedom of thought, expression, press, organization, and assembly;
10. We demand freedom for all political and labor activists who are imprisoned; and
11. We want world peace and condemn all warmongering by the US government and its allies, including military attack on Iran.

March 8 in Esfehan, Iran: Full Equal Rights for Women and Men

Posters for March 8, International Women's Day

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Towards a Fantastic March 8 Celebration!

On the Occasion of 8th March, International Women's Day
The Organization of Women's Liberation In Iran

March is a day of equality of women and men. It is a day when, once again, the progressive section of the society organise a struggle against discrimination and lack of women's rights in the world. 8th March is a reminder of the suppressive and unequal position of women every where. It is also a reminder of the protests against the inhumane situation of women. The Organisation for Women's Liberation is at the forefront of this struggle and movement for unconditional and complete freedom of women and men in Iran .

We are celebrating 8th March at a time when the women's liberation movement has become one of the strongest, main and determining elements of the future changes in Iran . It has become clear that these changes will not culminate without women's liberation and equality. Women's demands have occupied a special place in the society's demands for freedom and equality.

The movement for women's liberation is, at present time, the flagship of No to Inequality, No to Discrimination, No to Sexual Apartheid, No to the Veil, and is the flagship of defence of Women's Rights against Cultural Relativism, defence of Secularism and struggle against Political Islam. With its clear platform of action this movement is being organised and led. The progressive movement for women's liberation has, through its activities and influence in many protests, succeeded to push back and defeat the Islamic regime's attacks against women. The presence of radical women's movement is an undeniable reality in Iran. The political changes in Iran are a reflection of the organisation and struggle which are taking shape within the women's movement on the eve of International Women's Day. Women's movement in Iran is going to, once again, to demonstrate to the world its protest against this medieval regime.Women and men!

The measure of society's freedom is freedom of women. To achieve freedom, we must overthrow the medieval Islamic rule. So long as this regime is ruling, women and the society will not be free. The struggle for women's freedom is part of the general struggle for freedom, equality and welfare.

The Organisation for Women's Liberation urges all to gather round the following demands:

NO to the Veil!
No to Sexual Apartheid!
No to Suppression!
Long Live Freedom, Equality of women and men!
Long Live Secularism!

These are the demands of the movement for women's liberation at every conference, demonstration and gatherings. Towards a fantastic 8th March celebration!

Great Walk Against Anti Women Laws in Iran's Islamic Republic

Call to Join the Great Walk Against Anti-Women Punitive Laws in Iran's Islamic
Republic on March 8th 2006!

If you are against death by stoning!

If you are against forced veiling!

If you are against prosecution and imprisonment of women!

If you are against lashing a woman’s body!

If you are against any form of patriarchy!

If you are against all the medieval laws of Iran’s Islamic Republic of Iran imposing inequality against women!

Join the great walk against anti women laws in Iran’s Islamic Republic on March 8th 2006!
For over 25 years one of the most anti women governments of the world has ruled Iran. A government whose fundamental existence is based upon oppressive laws securing domination of women.

For over 25 years Iranian women have struggled and resisted against poverty and injustice in the political, cultural and economical aspects of life . Women have endured being lashed, stoned to death , jailed, tortured and executed, but they have not surrendered to the medieval laws of Iran’s Islamic Republic.

March 8th 2006 is a time to show, once more our solidarity with the relentless struggles of Iranian women. We should make this day, a day for expressing exciting and magnificent exhibitions of solidarity against the anti- woman system of Iran’s Islamic Republic.
We, the women of the "Campaign for the abolition of all Legislation confirming inequality and imposing Islamic punishment on Iranian Women", will observe International women’s day, by organising a great walk from Germany to Holland.

This rally is the right place for :

Any woman, who feels brutalised by hearing news that her sisters are stoned to death in Iran.

Any woman, who has felt the bitterness of punishment by lashing simply for defending the right to choose her own clothes.

Any woman, who refuses to surrender to inferiority and inequality.

Any woman, who fights for the right to control her own body.

Any woman, who is struggling for the right to determine her own destiny.

Any woman who believes in a woman’s right to divorce, the right to travel, the right of choice, the right of custody and all other basic human rights.

Any woman, who is not willing to submit to the medieval laws of the Islamic Republic.

Any woman who wants to abolish the interference of religion in all aspects of political and social life, in particular when it concerns women’s lives.

In this rally, there is a place for all freedom loving women and men, all political and progressive and revolutionary forces, who want equality between men and women in every aspects of life, a place for all those who oppose gender discrimination in any form.

Freedom loving men and women!

Your active participation in this walk will resonate the voice of the just struggles of Iranian women. We want this voice to be heard throughout the world, and we want to mobilise the International women’s movement against world Imperialism, the main protector of male chauvinism in every corner of this world.

Let us play our role in burying this medieval regime, by joining in solidarity with the struggles of Iranian people.

Let us pay our respect to the needs and demands of Iranian women whose struggles have become the shining example of these struggles. No doubt the degree of progress and freedom in any society is measured by the rights and liberty of women in that society.

Monday, March 06, 2006

March 8: Solidarity with Iranian Women

By iwdsolidairty2006nyc

New York City:
Wed, March 8th, 2006
March: 5:00 PM Starts at 83rd and Roosevelt Ave.(7 train to 82st St.)
Rally: 6:30 PM 73th Street and Broadway(7, E, F, R, G trains to 74th St/ Roosevelt)

Stand in unity and solidarity with the "Great Walk Against Anti Women Laws in Iran's Islamic Republic" in Europe!

In New York on International Women's Day, March 8, we will bring together a multinational gathering of women, men and young people in solidarity with the Great Walk in Europe.

A future of Islamic Fundamentalism vs. the Bush regime's "McCrusades" is a brutal disaster for the world's women and people, and we cannot and will not accept it. Support those risking their lives to oppose barbaric Islamic fundamentalist laws and practices against women -- be part of bringing forward movements of women and people the world over to reject both deadly and crushing ruling orders, instead fighting for relations of equality between women and men, and against domination and plunder of the world's nations and countries by a handful of imperialist powers.

To those who still wonder whether George Bush and his regime can deliver some kind of liberation to the women and people of the Middle East or any corner of the globe -- as one of the Great Walk statements says: "The American government has declared that it seeks to liberate the women of the Middle East from the yoke of Islamic fundamentalism. This is a ridiculous claim that makes a mockery of real liberation and is an insult to the women of the Middle East. The march of events in Afghanistan and Iraq should have helped those who were taken in by these self-styled liberators of Middle Eastern women to realize how badly they were fooled. If anyone still believes that George Bush and his ilk are liberators of women, please talk to American women fighting to prevent him from taking away their right to abortion as well as against the efforts of the Christian fascists to dominate every aspect of the lives of women in the U.S. What George Bush is taking away from the women in the USA he will not deliver to women in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or any other country."

Join with us in supporting the Great Walk in Europe. As their material states: "In this rally there is a place for all freedom-loving women and men, all political and progressive and revolutionary forces, who want equality between men and women in every aspect of life, a place for all those who oppose gender discrimination in any form." And: "Celebrate 8 March 2006 with us and help us to build the independent ranks of women against U.S. imperialism as well as the reactionary states governing these countries."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

US Left Nationalism and the Cartoon Controversy

Cartoon Controversy:
US Left Nationalists* Join the Islamists Against Freedom
By Mahmood Ketabchi

As the world witnessed the Islamists reactionary campaign to impose their taboo on the progressive humanity, the US left nationalist, as expected, supported the Islamists. They talked of “Denmark’s Racist Cartoons,” praised the Islamists’ protests, and tried to sell us the Islamist campaign as a “fight against racism, xenophobia, colonialism, and imperialism.” They told the whole world that the “Muslims are right to be angry” and justified their savagery and hooliganism. They told us that the freedom of press and right to blasphemy was irrelevant and portray it as an imperialist conspiracy against Muslims. They called for protest in solidarity with the Islamist currents. They rushed and fell all over each other to raise hue and cry against “Islam bashing,” “the attack on the Muslim world,” and “insults against Prophet Muhammad.” They ignorantly conflated attack on religion with attack on people of color and claimed that it was racist xenophobic to attack on Islam. They tried to tell us that there is a great confrontation between imperialism and the Islamic forces.

The Rise of Xenophobia and Racism in Europe

The Cartoons of Muhammad by themselves only depict a political movement that lives by terror. However, the publication of cartoons of Muhammad by the right wing press, to the extent that they stereotyped and demonized people in Islamic ridden countries as terrorists and criminal Islamists, was indeed a racist act. The right wing press by lumping together people who live in Islamic stricken countries as “Muslims,” draws no distinction between the political Islamic movement as a dreadful, grim, and sectarian current and the masses of people who are being brutally oppressed by them. It is an affront to humanity to mix up and conflate the people of Middle East with brutal Islamists and nationalists regimes and bands of barbaric and sectarian religious and ethnic militias. The people in the Middle East are first and foremost a direct victim of these reactionary regimes and hostage to the sectarian gangs.

Additionally, the publication of the caricatures of Muhammad was motivated by anti-immigrant and xenophobic policy. Since the downfall of Soviet Union, European governments have increasingly resorted to anti-immigrant measures. Discrimination, humiliation, and contempt against immigrants of color have increasingly become a daily practice. The rise of anti-foreigner rhetoric by European officials has inflamed xenophobia and racist violence against immigrants, particularly those from Islamic stricken countries. Such policy has helped the rise of skinhead and Nazi gangs as well as right wing and racist parliamentarian parties that are rather closeted fascists. Anti-immigrant policies and xenophobic sentiments have also provided more ammunition to right-wing Islamist hate groups who pose themselves as victims of western attacks on Muslims and the Islamic way of life.

Islamists Angry at Blasphemy and Freedom not Racism

The international protests mounted by the Islamist currents had nothing to do with confronting racism and xenophobia. In fact, the fascist Mullahs and their followers in Denmark who jumped on the publication of cartoon to further their religious agenda play no role in the struggle for immigrant rights in Denmark. They simply found the cartoons as cause celebre enabling them to put themselves at the center of the international arena and show their brutality and savagery. They hoped they would intimidate the world into submission and impose their superstition and religious taboos.

The Islamist campaign against the cartoons turned into religious hysteria, sectarian fervor, and became a calculated and brutal assault on freedom of expression and the right to blasphemy. In a typical fashion, they called for the killing of the cartoonists, issued Fatwa to murder and behead anyone who insults Islam, attacked and in many cases burned some European embassies, assaulted European humanitarian organizations, threatened the lives of European citizen, promised Europe with a special 9/11, and finally instigated sectarian tensions in Lebanon and Nigeria that led to death of more than 100 people. While the Islamist have pulled out their swords to amputate freedom of expression and the right to blasphemy, the leftist apologists keep beating on an empty drum to convince people that the Islamists are fighting racism. Such a characterization of the Islamists campaign is only intended to create legitimacy and credibility for political Islam, a movement in which the left nationalist current in the US finds an ally against imperialism.

This is not the first time the Islamists have tried to intimidate the public in their own countries and across the world. For those of us who have dealt first hand with Political Islam, and similarly for all civilized and progressive humanity, the Islamist attack on freedom of press and expression does not come as surprise.

Is it a fight against racism when with utmost cruelty and barbarism, they crush any dissenting voice? Are they fighting racism when they rule by a rein of terror wherever they dominate the political climate? How is it a fight against racism when they kill and murder any communist, socialist, and freethinker they can get their hands on? Is racism vanquished when Islamic hooligans with the blessing of their mullahs and ayatollahs beat up woman who dare to defy their strict Islamic code of dress and public conduct, slash their face with razor, pour acid on them, or pin their chador or head scarf to their head? Are they fighting racism and colonialism when they attack workers’ movement, arrest, torture and kill working class leaders? Are they fighting racism when for them listening to Madonna is a crime, drinking beer carries a prison sentence and whippings, dancing becomes sinful and punishable, holding hands between boys and girls leads to arrest and beating, etc? Is it a fight against racism when Islamists in their own countries shut every mouth, tie every hand, and break every pen that dares to criticize and question their religion, religious leaders, their taboos, and superstition?

Have we forgotten that seventeen years ago in 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini on the grounds of blasphemy, issued a Fatwa for the murder of Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses? Don’t we remember that Islamists mounted a widespread protest throughout the world intimidating and threatening to kill anyone who had something to do with the book, an event that forced Rushdie to go into hiding for years and led to the killing of two people who were involved in the publication and translation of the book? Is the protest against cartoons of Muhammad any different than the protest against Rushdie’s book? No, neither one has anything to do with fighting racism. They were simply two examples of the assault on freedom and the effort to intimidate world public opinion into submission. These are the real questions that people need to ask these false Marxists? What do the have to say about them? How many examples do we need to provide them so that they may wake up and stop jumping on the Islamist bandwagon?

Hue and Cry about “Islam Bashing”

It is quite ridiculous to see how apologists for Islamists conflate criticizing religion with racism. That attempt is only intended to silence dissenting voices against Islam. According to them if you attack Islam you are racist. Racism and anti religiosity are two separate things. Racism is a direct assault on human being. Islam just like every other religion is an ideology.

An attack on Islam is not an attack on people; it is a criticism of an ideology. Only when people are stereotyped, discriminated, targeted, and demonized based on their religion, we are dealing with racism. Portraying Middle Easterners as Islamists, terrorists, dangerous, and violent is nothing but racism. Attacking people and fighting the brutality of political Islam are two different things that must be distinguished. Otherwise, no one is allowed to criticize any religion at all, and if they do, they will be labeled as racist, anti-Semitic, or Islamophobic. What the Islamists and their supporters are trying to do is very similar to that of the right-wing and reactionary Jews who intimidate their critics by calling them anti-Semites.

Moreover, how can we refrain from attacking Islam? As late Mansoor Hekmat, founder of the Worker communist movement indicated, Islam today is the banner of a political movement. The bourgeoisie in the Islamic stricken countries with the help of the US and the west have chosen to take Islam as their guiding ideology to fight communism, freedom, equality, and any trace of human decency in order to consolidate their capitalist and exploitative system. They have picked up the teachings of Islam as their ideals. They are the ones who have turned it into their political platform. They want to establish their Islamic and Muhammadian system wherever they can. They are the ones who identify their whole life with this religion. The Koran is their book and together with the traditions of Muhammad it constitutes their way of life. They devise laws based on the teachings of Muhammad. They kill communists and gays, stone to death any woman they consider “adulterous,” and rape teenage girls as young as nine years old, because their prophet has prescribed it. What are we supposed to do? Ignore their crimes and the ideology that propels them to barbarity? We cannot deal with them without dealing with that ugly banner they have in their hands. They want to take Islam as their banner, and at the same time they demand that no one in the world attack it. Well, in the world of politics it does not work that day. Once you take a theory or an ideology or whatever else as your guiding principles, then you should expect people to take it apart from the left or right. They think since their ideas and practices are derived from Islam, no one can oppose them. No, religion is not above criticism, especially when it becomes a political banner to kill freedom.

It is quite bizarre and ridiculous to see these self-proclaimed Marxists and communists turn into unabashed defenders of Islam and the prophet Muhammad. Their literature is full of praise for Islam. They show so much concern about “Islam bashing.” They get so hysterical if they see anyone attack Muhammad. If one removes their name from their articles, it would seem as if some intellectual Islamists, those who hide their machetes, have authored them. It is truly a sad commentary about the state of the left in the US that it has by and large placed itself on the side of a movement whose arms are soaked in blood. Why are they so concerned about Islam and Muhammad? They claim they are communists, and so they might want to promote communism and socialism, defend women, gay and children’s rights. They may want to consider defending workers and communists and freethinkers and progressive people who are fighting for freedom and a better life. Why not support freethinking? Let the Islamists worry about their religion and their god. They have enough oil money, guns, knives, machetes, and other resources to fend of for themselves. Marxists have their own agenda, that is, socialism.

Racist Stereotype of People in the Middle East as Muslims

Left nationalists like to call anyone who criticizes Islam racist. Yet, they are no different from the right wingers and the bourgeoisie press when they lump together hundreds of millions of people as Muslims and call them the “Muslim world.” Referring to people from the Middle East as Muslims has become a common language used by Islamists, the US government, western powers, the bourgeoisie media apparatus, and many leftist/liberal groups and individuals. Every news story and analysis about the Middle East reinforces this image and stereotype of Middle Easterners. In their mind, people in Middle East are closely identified with their religious and ethnic sects and categorized as Muslim, Coptics, Assyrians, Jews, Sunnis, Shiites, Yazidis, Kurds, Arabs, etc. The concept of citizenry finds no place in their dictionary when they speak of Middle Easterners.

While they speak of “Muslim” or “Muslim world,” the left nationalists do not refers to Americans as “Christian.” I do not see them speak of “Christian world” when countries with majority Christian population are referred to. As it goes, Middle Easterners are Muslims, but the “great and superior American nation” enjoys the benefit of being politically, socially and economically diverse people. Why is it that they utilize medieval standards to describe people who come from Middle East and call them Muslim but avoid using the same sort of language and characterization for Americans and Europeans? Such characterization is double standard and outright racist.

People living in the Middle East do not fit in that narrow and racist characterization that blurs the line between oppressed and oppressors. They confront the same sort of enemies we face here in the US. There is a fight between capital and labor, communist and capitalists, feminists and misogynism, gays and homophobes, freedom and oppression, freethinkers and religious brutality, equality and exploitation, etc. Attempts to make Middle Easterners look inferior in their social and political agenda for social change, positions that deny their daily suffering at the hand of their rulers and undermine their movements and endeavor for a life free from oppression, exploitation, and brutality is quite disturbing and shameful.

Dividing people along religious and ethnic lines pushes back progressive political and social agendas and propels the reactionary, bloody and dreadful forces of religion and ethnocentrism. As progressive humanity is forced back from the political scene, a bunch of criminal gangs, each wearing a sectarian hat, emerge and become the “leaders” of such and such a group of people and fight for the right of such and such a group of people. We saw the consequences of this trend in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and now in Iraq. Genocide, massacres of innocent people, and crimes against humanity are the outcomes. This is a part of the US government’s New World Order. Why are the left nationalists following such a line? How are they going to explain to people on what grounds they lump together hundreds of millions of people as Muslims, deny their progressive struggle for a better life, and doom them to a life of utter repression and savage tyranny?

The Myth of Imperialism vs Islam and Islamists

In response to Islamists protests against the publication of cartoons, the US and European governments ironically, more or less similar to the leftist apologists for the Islamists, raced against one another in condemning the cartoon as offensive and insulting to Islam. They sympathized with Islamists, expressed their sorrow, and apologized profusely. The US position regarding the cartoons of Muhammad exposes the fallacy that the US government and the Islamists are in an antagonistic relationship. Finding themselves on the same side with US over the cartoons, apologists for political Islam defensively attempted to differentiate their position from that of the US government. They criticized the US officials for condemning violent protests over cartoons while ignoring the atrocities committed against the Iraqi and Palestinian people. They pointed to the hypocrisy in how the US government and the media speak of press freedom in reference to the cartoons while engaging in other forms of censorship. This criticism is quite justified. But it is more of an attempt that is only intended to help these apologists escape from taking a clear position on the issue of press freedom and criminal threats and assaults on people. Yes, the US government and the media are hypocrites, but it does not mean that press freedom is not worth defending and that criminal violence and threat to kill and murder people should not be condemned.

Depicting an image that the US government and western powers are standing face to face against the Islamists is nothing but a lie and pure charlatanism devised by the Islamists and those who are their apologists. Anyone with the slight decency and any respect for facts should know by now that the US and European governments propped up the Islamists movement in an effort to fight communism and freedom. There is undeniably a tremendous amount of documentation and writings that leave no doubt that in many countries the US brought Islam from the margin of the society into prominence to protect capitalism and exploitation across the world.

Iraq is the latest example. How many people in the world knew who criminal thugs like Chalabi, Alawi, al Sadr, al Hakim, al Sistani, al Jaafari, etc were? How is it that they have become such known figures in the world? How have they turned into the powerful figures they are today? Is there any doubt that the US government under Clinton intensified its effort to bring together Iraqi reactionary religious sects, ethnocentric groups, and paid agents of the CIA to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime? It was the US government with the assistance of bourgeoisie press that molded and promoted them as “leaders” and “power brokers” in Iraqi society. They put them at the center of the Iraqi political scene so that they could tell the world that Iraqi people are with the US and to justify their invasion and occupation of Iraq. Yes, the US government unleashed Islam and Islamic militia and hooligans as a deadly force that has turned Iraq into a hell hole.

The US government does not necessarily have any objection to seeing Islam and Islamists gain political power as long as they maintain a working relationship with the US government and do not create any major obstacles for it. The US government wants to tame political Islam and bring it under its control and put it to work. That is why they try to promote “moderate Islam” while attacking “fundamentalists” and “terrorist” Islamic forces which are in an open war with the west over control and exploitation of the masses of people in Islamic dominated countries. “Moderate Islam” for the US government has nothing to do with freedom, human rights, and respect for the dignity of people’s lives; it only refers to Islamic forces and regimes that can ally themselves with the US government.

Worker communism and Cartoon Controversy

We must confront racism and xenophobia. In fact Worker communism and in particular the Worker communist Party of Iran (WPIran) and International Federation of Iranian Refugees have been a leading force and an ardent defender of immigrant rights particularly in Europe. Racist characterizations that lump together millions of people as Muslim and “the Muslim world” must be opposed because it undermines victims of Islamic brutality in the struggle for freedom, equality and a better life. Yet, the hue and cry over the Cartoons by the Islamists has nothing to do with opposing racism, defending immigrant’s rights, fighting for equality, or improving the quality of life for immigrants. The protests were designed to silence and intimidate the world into submission and consolidate Islamist political position vis-a-vis the US and the western governments. Attacking press freedom and the right to blasphemy formed the core of their campaign. The US left, by and large has stood on the side of the Islamists and declared that freedom was an irrelevant issue.

As opposed to the left nationalist current, Worker communism is a maximalist movement when it comes to freedom. That is how Marxism and communism were always known until late 1920s. This changed when the great Bolshevik revolution in the Soviet Union degenerated into a nationalist effort to build a “great industrial power” on the back of soviet workers and led to an oppressive state capitalist system. Worker communism emphasizes and fights for unconditional freedom. Any limits on freedom designed to silence dissenting voice, no matter how “offensive” it maybe, can only lead to further restrictions on people’s ability to express themselves. Only exploiters, oppressors, and reactionary forces can benefit from a type of “freedom” that comes with “ifs” and “buts.” Workers and progressive forces are always beneficiaries of freedom in its most possible expanded form.

The Populist and nationalist left gets upset about any attack on Islam and always defends it in one way or another. This same current views Islamist movement as its ally in the struggle against the US government. Worker communism sees no responsibility upon itself to defend Islam, prophet Muhammad or any other religion or their ideas and teachings. It distinguishes Islam as a faith and spiritual belief from Islam as a political movement. While it defends freedom of worship and religious belief, worker communism emphasizes freedom from religion and right to heresy and blasphemy. For Worker communism, Islam as a political current is an extremely barbaric and inhumane movement that must be beaten back and driven out of political scene. The rise of Islam everywhere has led to utter rightlessness, brutality, misery, and massacres. It is a political movement that is extremely prone to sectarian bloodshed, genocide, the destruction of civil norms, and the disintegration of societal functions and structures. In addition, Worker communism calls for the complete and unconditional separation of religion from the state and education. It believes in a strictly secular state where religion and god have no place whatsoever. It advocates that religion should be pushed out of social and political life into a private, individual, and spiritual undertaking. Religion should remain in the house of prayers where it belongs.


*Left Nationalism is a reference to populist left current. Its opposition to imperialism derives from an isolationist and protectionist position. For this left, imperialism is a foreign policy issue and devoid of class meaning. It highlights struggle against the US government and the western powers at the expense of the class struggle of workers across the globe. It calls on working class in the “third world” to join hands with their exploiters and oppressors to fight imperialism.

For further reading on the issue of cartoon, please refer to my article below:
Defend freedom of Press and the right to blasphemy

Deerfield, MA