The organized American Islamophobes have risen. This time, their demonization of American Muslims is focused on calling for an advertiser boycott of the reality show “All-American Muslim,” which chronicles the lives of a group of Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan.
The show is far from radical. Writes New York Times reviewer Mike Hale:
As it turns out, however, the only thing extreme about “All-American Muslim,” an eight-part series that begins on Sunday, is the lengths to which it goes to portray its subjects — members of the Arab-American community in Dearborn, Mich. — as everyday people. While head scarves and abstemiousness may set some of them apart, in general the medical assistants, secretaries, deputy sheriffs and football coaches the show follows come across as almost freakishly normal.
That’s probably something to be thankful for in our continuing post-9/11 climate of suspicion and fear.
But a reality TV show that lets Americans relate to the lives of Muslims in the United States is an offensive idea to those who want to demonize Islam.
The conservative Florida Family Association (FFA) has been pushing advertisers to drop “All-American Muslim,” and some advertisers have acquiesced. The business receiving the most flack is Lowe’s hardware chain who, this past weekend, said it pulled its advertising because the show “raised concerns.” FFA was thrilled, since the group called the TLC show “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”
We here at Standing on the Side of Love headquarters confess we haven’t seen more than a trailer for the show. But whether it’s the quality of Jersey Shore or Masterpiece Theater, it’s a disgrace that advertisers would specifically kowtow to anti-Muslim bigots, when they freely advertise on television fare ranging from the Bachelor to Flavor of Love without a second thought.
Plenty of Americans are up in arms about this travesty. One petition on Signon.org has already garnered 22,000 signatures. The petition urges Lowe’s to reconsider their decision to pull advertising dollars, and it also targets other advertisers, urging them to not cave to anti-Islamic pressure. You can add your name here.
In a move that we describe as fiscally intelligent courageous love, Russell Simmons has attempted to buy up all of the dropped advertiser time. On a positive note, it’s apparently all sold out! It’s wonderful that the bigots haven’t won here. It’s also great to see politicians like California State Sen. Ted Lieu stating they will boycott the stores in their district.
Let’s stay vigilant, sign the petition, and do what we can in our own communities to make sure that our American Muslim neighbors know that they are valued just as much as any other members of our communities.More >
This post was contributed by Mark Maginn, member of the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church Immigrant Task Force.
The members of the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church Immigrant Task Force Shattered Families Subcommittee came together, inspired to do something after digesting the Shattered Families Report produced by the Applied Research Center. The report finds that, in the first six months of 2011 alone, the federal government deported more than 46,000 mothers and fathers of U.S.-citizen children, often sending these children into the U.S. foster care system. It also details how our federal immigration policies contribute to and exacerbate the situation. This devastating research report motivated us to stand with our migrant brothers and sister and, as a result, we arranged to meet with Congressman John Garamendi’s District Director, Karen Tedford, to relate our concerns.
Everyone on the committee spoke about different aspects of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policies that shatter migrant families. Additionally, we talked about the HELP Separated Children Act, H.R. 2607. This bill will essentially stop the practices of tearing children away from their parents. The bill mandates safeguards in the process of detaining undocumented workers by providing caseworkers to interview the detainees to determine if they are parents or caregivers and requiring phone calls between parents and children and parents and child welfare agencies. It also requires training for ICE officers to ensure that the new guidelines will be followed. We were able to supply Karen with the text of the HELP Separated Children Act and other material and we also plan on sending her a copy of the video “Lost in Detention.” She even agreed to contact ICE and try to arrange a representative of the organization, and possibly someone from the Immigration Service, to meet with us.
According to Karen, this bill will die at the end of December if concerted action is not organized to promote it. So far the bill has died twice in Congress and is currently stuck in committee. This legislation is much needed if we are a nation that values families and children.
So what can you do? Contact your own representatives and ask your friends and family to contact them too. You can send a message to your Members of Congress through Standing on the Side of Love’s online form or even arrange an in-person meeting like we did.
Moving forward, we plan to continue our advocacy on the issue of shattered families. We are in the midst of arranging meetings with Rep. George Miller and Sen. Diane Feinstein’s offices in the coming weeks. We are determined to stand with our brothers and sisters for human rights and social justice and hope you are too.
Looking for more information? Check out the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s new Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit for suggestions on how to organize immigration advocacy meetings.More >
Getting Smart about ALEC: Standing on the Side of Love in Arizona Demonstrates, Learns, and Gets Ready for Future Advocacy
Post by Tom Marcinko and the Standing on the Side of Love at Vally UU Congregation in Chandler, AZ Team
Photos courtesy of Suzi Spangenberg
A low-profile but influential national right-wing group found itself in the public spotlight this week, thanks in part to yellow-shirted Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) volunteers from Unitarian Universalist congregations in the Phoenix area.
The organization was the American Legislative and Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that encourages state legislators to pass divisive bills like SB1070 and invites large corporate interests to influence legislative efforts. ALEC, whose behind-closed doors meetings also encourage state legislators to suppress voter turnout, discriminate against the LGBT community, boost the private-prison industry, and repeal the Fourteenth Amendment, expected its Nov. 30-Dec. 2 meeting at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale to be low-key.
Instead, they were greeted the morning of Nov. 30 by several hundred protesters from diverse groups, including Occupy Phoenix, Occupy Tucson, Seeds of Peace, MoveOn.org, Phoenix Urban Health Collective, and UUs Standing on the Side of Love.
For SSL, protesting the ALEC meeting also presented an opportunity to take a firm stand for social justice, in accordance with Unitarian Universalism’s long tradition advocacy and activism, and to organize and give consideration to the strategies, logistics, and tactics necessary in direct actions considerably less benign than the Phoenix Pride Parade. At the Westin, dozens of protesters were pepper-sprayed by a strong, riot-geared police presence and seven were arrested. None of the SSL demonstrators were involved in these incidents, largely because they held more of a support role.
In addition, a rally at the Arizona State Capitol Building took place around 11 a.m. the same day. UU Congregation of Phoenix minister, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray was among the speakers who addressed the crowd, including members from at least five media organizations. It had been a tough decision for Rev. Susan whether to stay in Scottsdale with members of her congregation or go to the Capitol; wafts of tear-gas still hung in the air. But in light of the goal of raising public awareness about ALEC, she opted to speak at the event along with representatives from Common Cause, MoveOn.org and other organizations. Several local UUs, dressed in familiar yellow SSL shirts, also chose to join her at the Capitol in support, and to give the public a distinct sense that “SSL is everywhere.”
SSL@Valley UU Congregation in Chander offered real-time feed of the event, with photos on their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/SSL.at.VUU. The posts, made by multiple support “com relays”, gave a good idea of how tense the situation got at the Westin, and also how most of the demonstrators kept their cool, their hope, and their sense of humor:
• “SSL folks on the livefeed below now! Looking good and sensible in hats and yellow. With lots of water!”
• “SSL protestors are staying at the south gate (to support the medics from PUHC, who had been treating several injured). Most of the other protestors are moving to the east gate again to keep pressure on ALEC attendees and the police onsite.”
• “SSL has assisted a man exhausted and dehydrated by his activities by pulling him to safety. Otherwise all the intense activity has moved to the other gate. For now.”
The gathering fell short of a “shutdown” of the conference, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s keynote address to ALEC was covered by the media. Most of ALEC’s meeting, however, took place hidden from public view. The idea that the media should be allowed to cover all the ALEC sessions our elected representatives attended seemed to be a new idea to some of the reporters who interviewed protesters.
After Nov. 30, the media continued to cover ALEC. At least a dozen protesters were arrested Dec. 2 at the offices of the Salt River Project (SRP)—a public utility and one of the many businesses that fund ALEC. Others include Koch Industries, BP, ExxonMobil, AT&T, United Healthcare, Walmart, Freeport-McMoran, Amazon.com, FedEx, Pfizer, Cox Communications.
Without the protests, it’s doubtful ALEC and its would-be sub-rosa activities would have gotten the media attention they did. And in covering the story, the media had to explain what ALEC is and what the protesters were objecting to. For the most part, local media covered the protests accurately and fairly (an incomplete list is at the bottom of this post).
Phoenix area SSLers are now engaged in debriefing and follow-up, assessing what worked well and how public advocacy can be improved, and providing chaplain support & outreach to all participants. Follow-up, what they’ve learned, is one of the most essential components of social justice work. Not only does it provide the opportunity to learn lessons about planning, organization, and communication, but it helps build relationships among team members and allied groups that are essential for effective social justice activism.
Before the ALEC summit, SSL activists had held two training sessions in Nonviolent Direct Action, which stressed Martin Luther King Jr.’s approach with a UU twist. “Cool heads, warm hearts”… “Above all, be kind”. All who planned to attend the ALEC protest had the opportunity to share experiences, learn useful de-escalation techniques, role-play possible adversarial scenarios, and were encouraged to prepare themselves well for a potentially chaotic environment.
Because the safety and well-being of demonstrators is vital, procedures for checking in and out with on or off-site support were established for both the Scottsdale and Capitol sites. Despite a few glitches, the check-in/out system greatly helped overall organization and added peace of mind for many. Additional organizational efforts ensured that sufficient support roles were in place to accommodate questions, promotions, and emergencies, and provided a way for members whose comfort level didn’t include crowds, noise, or the possibility of teargas or pepper spray to be engaged.
According to preliminary debrief information: overall execution went well, but future efforts would benefit from better internal communication. SSLers speaking to media outlets stayed solidly on message when interviewed, and more focus should be devoted to social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, increasing the use of those channels to broaden public outreach. SSL continues to have good relations with local law enforcement, but this should not be considered a guarantee of safety or protection at any event.
Once all the follow-up calls are made and the debrief information is complete, the lessons learned will be put to good use to improve infrastructure and procedures for the next direct action. When will that be?
“Likely the next time we enter the public arena to call attention to inequity, or counter identity-based discrimination within our communities,” says Rob Smith, chair of the SSL@VUU Team in Chandler, AZ. http://www.vuu.org/ssl
“This public advocacy is a big part of living our Unitarian Universalist principles and Standing on the Side of Love, so doing it effectively is essential to our team’s core mission.”
… in other words… not very long at all…
from “on the ground” in Arizona,
Tom Marcinko and the SSL@VUU Team
- For more information on ALEC:
Center for Media and Democracy: http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed
Think Progress: http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/08/05/288823/alec-exposed-corporations-funding/
Daily Kos: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/01/1041629/-ALEC-Occupy-Scottsdale-Just-ONE-Version
Official ALEC website: http://www.alec.org/
Some YouTube videos of the protest:
Impartial list of media:
- The Arizona Republic published at least three stories, including:
Phoenix Channel 12: http://www.azcentral.com/video/1303102979001
NPR station KJZZ-FM
In addition, the international TV/radio/podcast news program, Democracy Now! also mentioned the protest: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/1/headlines#12
The UU Examiner posted this story, along with a photo slideshow:
And UU World covered the protest as well:
Famed civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson stopped by Occupy Philly this week to start a discussion about bringing more diversity to the Occupy Movement. While he was there, he asked our own Rev. Peter Friedrichs to lead an interfaith group in prayer before the press conference. Check out the video here.
Rev. Jackson came to Philadelphia with the goal of engaging clergy and people of color in a meaningful diversity dialogue. Some people of color had previously felt unwelcome in the Occupy Philly community and Rev. Jackson wanted to discuss the creation of a more diverse movement. They also talked about how the economic justice issues at the heart of Occupy often have a disproportionate effect on people of color.
Before he left, Rev. Jackson made a commitment to link the interfaith working group at Occupy Philly with local African American church leaders in an effort to incorporate more voices into the movement. He also drew a clear connection between the Civil Rights Movement and the Occupy Movement, describing it as a continuation of the same work. Rev. Friedrichs reported that it was inspiring to be in Rev. Jackson’s presence and that the discussion left him energized and hopeful for the broadening of the Occupy Movement.
Rev. Friedrichs is just one of the many UU ministers and lay people across the country that are involved in the Occupy Movement. Join the conversation about Unitarian Universalism and the Occupy Movement at the OccUUpy Facebook group.More >
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Tuesday, November 22, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.
I am excited to share with you a new way to help you stand on the side of love with immigrant families. The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a national partnership of faith-based organizations working for immigration reform and other fair and humane immigration policies, has assembled a page of resources including an Advocacy Toolkit that will help equip interfaith teams to change how migrant families are treated all across the country. The Toolkit was developed in collaboration with the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), Church World Service, and other members of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC), and is available now on the IIC website. The Unitarian Universalist Association is one of 32 organizations, including Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and many mainline Christian denominations, that are members of the IIC.
The Toolkit equips you with resources to organize interfaith teams to call on elected and appointed officials in your community. The purpose of these calls is to change your community’s policy on when detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are honored by local officials.
You have heard a lot about the so-called Secure Communities program. The stated purpose of this program is to identify, detain, and deport undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes. Tragically, thousands of people who have not committed serious crimes have been detained and deported under this program.
According to ICE, their officers make immigration enforcement decisions “only after an individual is arrested for a criminal violation of state law, separate and apart from any violations of immigration law.” But thousands of people who haven’t violated state law have been detained in local jails at ICE’s request and then deported. Detainer requests from ICE should not be honored for minor infractions and immigration violations.
Cook County, Illinois, Santa Clara County, California, and Washington, D.C., have decided to not honor all detainer requests. These communities have made the decision to not honor “detainer requests” unless the person in question has been convicted of a violent or serious state crime. We believe that hundreds of other counties, cities, and perhaps even states can be inspired to follow their lead. We believe that interfaith teams can help provide the information and inspiration needed.
The Toolkit provides you with resources to organize your community and ask your local leaders to change their policy on detainer requests. In addition to the Toolkit, we will be offering webinars to help leaders like you organize and conduct calls on local officials. If you are interested in a webinar you can sign up on the IIC website and be notified when they are scheduled.
Please download the Toolkit at the link below today and join in this major new interfaith initiative to change how migrant families are treated in our communities:
The Toolkit was developed under the auspices of the Steering Committee of the IIC, a 32 member interfaith coalition. Accompanying the Toolkit is a national map that will identify where interfaith teams have formed or are in the process of forming. You can put your team on the map by filling out the online form next to the map.
If you have any questions about the Toolkit, please contact your faith community’s regional or national immigration advocacy leaders. You are also welcome to contact me.
Rev. Craig C. Roshaven
Witness Ministries Director
Unitarian Universalist Association