Friday, October 30, 2009

Are Halloween costumes more than just a holiday fad?

Ah, the infamous orange jumpsuit… Simultaneously, a prison garb, Halloween costume, and a protester’s fashion statement. Following the Abu Ghraib scandals and controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay, the orange jumpsuit underwent a fashion makeover and transformed from a mere Halloween gag to a stylish political mockery. Can a Halloween costume actually have a detrimental effect on society worthy of taking offense? How far will a person push the limits of his/her costume before they become offensive to someone else? The orange jumpsuit continues to evolve and proves to be exceptionally versatile since developing into the latest Halloween craze, a gross depiction of an “illegal alien.”

The “illegal alien” costume idea stems from a similar line of Halloween attire that mock anything and everything from over-size sombreros and ponchos to fake beards and a turban. During Halloween time people always find it as an excuse to play dress-up and mock another’s religion, ethnicity, or culture.

Naturally, many spoke out against the costume claiming it is racist and simply perpetuates a false stereotype of immigrants. Chicago’s own Jorge Mujica, affiliated with the March 10th Committee, condemns the costume because it presents a mockery. The Coalition for Humane Immigrants has taken the offense a step further by petitioning major retailers like Target to stop marketing the costume.

Apparently, the pressure from outraged customers and immigration reform organizations has successfully halted sales of the costume at Target. However, other prominent corporations including Walgreen’s, Wal-Mart, and have yet to publically declare their position towards selling the costume.

After 9/11 people began parading around wearing Osama Bin Laden costumes and fake terrorist uniforms during Halloween. Imagine a Muslim person answering the door to a bunch of youths dressed up as terrorists. How would this person respond to such a shock? HA! The Muslim would laugh off the insulting masquerade, and hand them some candy. Or, do the adolescents and their parents, or better yet the major Halloween retailers need to be taught a lesson about insensitivity and offensive costumes?

Whether or not a person can take a joke is arguably irrelevant within the context of Halloween. Will allowing controversial costumes like the “illegal alien” to stay on the market perpetuate the existence of degrading stereotypes? Or, can we just ignore the insult and enjoy some candy?

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Abandon all hope ye who sit here; Governor's seat plagued by corruption

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The Union League Club of Chicago
Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Forum
Moderator: Chris Robling

Reema Ahmad, the Government Affairs Coordinator, and I recently attended an Illinois Gubernatorial candidate forum at the Union League Club of Chicago, just down the street from CAIR-Chicago’s Jackson Boulevard office. The event provided an introspective observation of several leading contenders on the campaign trail for Governor, one of the most powerful and absolutely crooked positions on the Illinois legislature. This particular presentation exclusively featured the prominent Republican candidates, namely Adam Andrzejewki, Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard, Dan Proft, and Bob Schillerstrom. The Democratic Party’s candidates will participate in a similar forum at the same location in a couple of weeks.

Illinois regrettably has an infamous reputation for being one of the most corrupt cities in the United States. It is no coincidence that Chicago is depicted as Batman’s Gotham city. The rampant fraudulence runs from the heart of Chicago all the way down to the capital in Springfield, infecting the entire Land of Lincoln. The current path to Governor is inundated with corruption scandals, lying, bribery, and every other foul mannerism that accompanies a high-ranking seat in the Illinois government.

Former Governor Rod Blagojevich, succeeded by interim Governor Pat Quinn, was recently removed from office amidst corruption allegations. He may soon undergo impeachment for a number of crimes, namely for attempting to auction off the vacant Senator seat left by current President Obama. As the candidates took to the podium promising a revolutionary change in Illinois politics the audience struggled to maintain a sense of objectivity due to the large elephant in the room, not the GOP mascot, but an obvious embodiment of a still fresh wound inflicted by Blagojevich and the incurable disease of corruption. The candidates faced off against one another during one of the most tumultuous eras in Illinois’ history. It was clear no one wanted to suffer another political scandal that has plagued the state of Illinois.

One of the main topics addressed in the forum and repeatedly discussed by candidates was the idea of “transparency of government” which stipulates openly displaying local and state finances for public scrutiny. This policy reform would allow Illinois taxpayers to view how their money is spent, specifically revealing how much and where the bulk of the state’s resources are being allocated. While a few of the candidates touted to having already exhibited their own finances on their campaign websites, others disagreed with the notion that their personal assets need to be publically disclosed in order to validate their candidacy.

Clearly, the most significant issue of the debate was the enormous budget deficit of Illinois, which according to provisional Governor Pat Quinn’s website currently stands at $11.6 billion for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. One of the questions during the Q/A session asked how could any of the candidates even attempt to balance the budget without raising taxes? The subsequent answers given by each candidate encompassed the several important policies in relation to balancing the state’s budget including education funding, changes in taxation, job creation and security, Medicaid and pensions.

I mistakenly may have heard that every candidate said they would never think of raising taxes, rather they would erase the debt through spending more intelligently. Also, some candidates even proposed cutting taxes which would grant businesses more incentives for coming to Illinois, and more importantly staying here to provide jobs. This topic penetrated deep into the hearts of those in attendance who have struggled to pay their bills and remain fearful of losing their jobs, if they already have not lost them. This debate would ultimately make or break an audience member’s support for a particular candidate.

The candidates ranged in terms of age and experience, and all were fairly wealthy middle-aged Caucasian males, not too unlike the audience. Also, the fact that these were Republican candidates vying for power over the Governor position in a majority Democratic administration was not left unmentioned. Every candidate proffered an obvious Republican style reformation to corruption, almost implicitly stating that those currently in power, or more importantly Democrats, were to blame for the current political humiliation and economic hardships afflicting Illinoisans.

Overall, the event provided first hand experience in political campaigning at the state level as opposed to the national arena which is more familiar to the average American. Prospective constituents obtained the insight to discern who among those candidates participating in the forum will lead the charge in most effectively alleviating their political and financial woes. More importantly, the audience aimed to be vigilant in preventing the past from repeating itself and clouding their present judgment. Republican or democrat, Illinoisans do not want to be duped and inveigled into electing another typical crony Governor like Blagojevich.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


The USA PATRIOT Act, or Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, is up for revision yet again. On December 31, 2009, three of the Act’s controversial provisions will sunset or potentially become reauthorized for a prolonged period.

Will the Obama administration recognize the PATRIOT Act’s immediate significance to the American public or circumvent the issue as the health care debate and foreign policy are deemed higher priority?

Capitol Hill has been holding its breath over the issue and at the forefront of the approaching sunset stands Section 215.

Previously, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) required federal law enforcement agencies to provide a substantiated formal request for any wiretapping devices used in counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations. Those restrictions were eliminated immediately following passage of the PATRIOT Act.

Section 215 of the Act permits federal law enforcement agencies limitless access to personal property (e.g., computers and laptops, telephones including mobile devices, private banking and financial statements, as well as library records).

Nowadays, wiretapping methods are legally implemented without disclosure meaning the alleged enemy will never be informed of the investigation. Consequently, Section 215 of the Act is arguably in violation of the 1st and 4th Amendments, specifically freedom of speech and association, and rights to privacy and personal property.

The extent to which one will or already has been affected by the PATRIOT Act remains unspecified. As technology and daily life continue to become fused together, the capacity of Section 215 to infiltrate one’s livelihood becomes painfully obvious.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Here we go again...

Surely Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) did not intend on peeling the scab off of a healing wound when he spoke last Thursday at a conference in Washington D.C., but his comment drawing a contrast between being Muslim and being "good" has done just that.

When questioned by The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg about groups within the Republican party that play on conspiracies surrounding President Obama, Graham expressed his disdain for some fringe elements of his party and conservative media. He denounced Fox News host Glenn Beck as a "cynic" and called the birther community, who question the president's U.S. citizenship, "crazy."

After discounting the claims that Obama was born outside of the United States, Graham went on to insist President Obama "is not a Muslim. He's a good man."

While it is outrageous - to say the least - that such broad ranging contrasts may be drawn between one’s moral composition and their religious affiliation, comments such as Senator Graham's are not new among our elected officials.

Americans were just beginning to heal from the alienation they endured last year when Islamophobia flared-up during the Presidential election and Americans across the nation accused Obama of being a Muslim, implying that this is something antithetical to being American.

Such views were also expressed by presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, nearly a year ago today at a campaign rally at which one of his supporters stated, “I don’t trust Obama… he’s an Arab!” McCain responded, “No, ma’am, he’s a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with. He’s not [an Arab].”

In a country composed of individuals from numerous ethnic backgrounds, faiths, and lifestyle decisions, it is deeply saddening to observe such blatantly discriminatory and ignorant comments made without a second thought by those representing us in government.

We have not yet arrived at the post-racial society many claim President Obama's election embodies in the U.S. today - though this ideal is not beyond the scope of reality one day.U.S. Senators and others entrusted with shaping public opinion, must challenge bigoted and un-American sentiments and serve as the enlightened vanguard that guides our nations toward peace and prosperity for all.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Threats to Obama Continue

By Nadia Ahmed

President Obama has been in office for approximately ten months. That is not nearly enough time to change the nation from the topsy-turvy state it was in, to a perfect utopian country in which everybody is at peace with each other and all is well.

If people have problems with Obama’s proposed policies towards health care, education, immigration, or abortion, they should voice that opinion. They should articulate their arguments, hold debates, or possibly join organizations that fight for their desired causes.

What Americans should not do is what Arizona pastor Steve Anderson did on August 22, 2009. Anderson publicly declared his wish for Obama’s death, claiming that Obama is set out to destroy the country and that his death would “save the nation.”

Anderson furiously preached to his congregation, “Why should Barack Obama melt like a snail? Why should Barack Obama die like the untimely birth of woman? Why should his children be fatherless and his wife a widow?” He goes on to say “Well I’ll tell you why…” and ends with a distasteful comment on Obama’s views towards abortion.

Anderson’s words are malicious and downright dangerous. They provoke more anger and mistrust within a nation that is already hotly divided. He is also inciting hate within his congregation – a group of people who believe his words and are willing to act on them.

Even if one’s views on homosexuality and abortion rights differ from those of our leaders, using such language is despicable, and possibly a sign of racism. How many of our previous presidents had Americans calling for their death? Has Obama even been in office long enough, or done anything substantial enough, to arouse so much anger?

Everyone has different opinions. Our job as Americans is to express our views— sensibly and respectfully. President Obama has at least three more years left in office. Let us make the most of these years and work together, discuss issues rationally and civilly. We don’t have to always agree – the beauty of a democratic system is that we are entitled to our opinions and granted free speech – but we do need to adhere to that self-same system that gives us our rights when it comes to our elected government and leaders. Disagree all you like, but at least have the dignity to respect the individual elected by a considerable majority of Americans to be our President.

Nadia Ahmed is a Communications Intern with CAIR-Chicago

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