The ikhras awards committee is pleased to announce the Muntadhar Zaidi Ikhras Shoe-Of-The-Month Award for November, 2014 goes to the Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize recipient Tawakkol Karman. Karman, the most widely known “Arab Spring” celebrity activist promoted by Western regimes and media outlets, earned the award based on a disgraceful speech she delivered at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) banquet in Orange County, California on November 8.
It is difficult to imagine a more vapid and shallow speech. Delivered mostly in English, one had to be a native speaker of Arabic to decipher the jumbled thoughts and meaningless rambling that went on for over 30 minutes. The speech was written in Arabic with directions and guidance from her hosts at CAIR who apparently asked her to cater the speech to a US audience. It was then poorly translated into English and delivered with all the skill and charisma only a parent of an annoying and nervous child at a school recital would appreciate.
The speech began with a quick review of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) version of the “Arab Spring” narrative. Karman, who solidified her buffoonish image when she described deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi as the “Arab World’s [Nelson] Mandela”, is a member of the political wing of the MB branch in Yemen. We’ll dispense with this part of the speech and focus on the sections directly related to the ikhras shoe award nomination criteria and selection process.
The rest of the speech was a convoluted, incoherent, and amateurish attempt at political rhetoric and propaganda, complete with an endless stream of platitudes, clichés, and tropes plucked from a US middle school history class and juxtaposed against recent Arab world developments without any context or the slightest of logical connection. In doing so, she revealed an appalling ignorance of US history and managed to insult all past and present, domestic and foreign victims of the US regime. Undoubtedly on request from her CAIR hosts, Karman reiterated her call for a direct, all-out US war on Syria which we discuss below. CAIR’s Southern California Director which handled Karman’s itinerary and managed her visit is originally from Syria and a supporter of the MB. He’s also involved with the Syrian-American Council, a US MB front lobbying the most racist, anti-Arab, Islamophobic, Zionist fanatics in Congress to help push the US towards an all-out military assault on Syria. He can be seen towards the end of the Karman’s speech doing a horrific job interpreting the Arabic portion.
Making America Better
“Making America Better” for the world was the theme of her keynote address:
“All of you has to rise, making American better because all the people around the world needs America to be better…we need the American of George Washington…We need the America that is based on values on principles of freedom, human rights, acceptance, co-existence…We need this America. When America far away from its principles all the world be far away from its principles. Now we sacrifice because American politics far away from its principles and values.”
Which America is Karman talking about when she invokes the “Founding Fathers” of America? Karman referred to them as “fathers foundations, foundation father, and founder fathers”, but we won’t quibble with her English, that’s the least of the problems with her speech. In fact, we believe she should have insisted on delivering her address in Arabic and leaving it to her hosts to hire a competent interpreter. Is she talking about the same America built on settler-colonialism, genocide, slavery, land theft, racism, and capitalist exploitation? “We need the America of George Washington”, really? The first US President compared Indians to wolves, “both being beasts of prey, tho’ they differ in shape”, and stated he “preferred buying Indians’ land rather than driving them off it because that was like driving “wild beasts” from the forest.”
Karman also invoked Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Naïve Arabs infatuated with official US history often invoke Dr. King and appropriate the Black freedom struggle in the US, again, drawing false analogies devoid of any context or logical connection. They consider this to be a witty and effective tactic to explain their own confused message, whatever they imagine it to be. In all likelihood Karman never read or listened to Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech. Had she done so, perhaps she would have noticed a stark contrast between Dr. King’s description of the US regime as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and her parroting of American national mythology about an indispensable and virtuous American empire.
The most vehement proponents of “American exceptionalism” would have blushed listening to Karman tell the audience “the world needs America…We need American to be strong…America isn’t belong to you. Its belong to all the people around the world…it’s the country that was created from the people who dream.” One can only wonder who Karman is referring to when she says “the world needs America?”
Let’s forget about the Arab world and the Middle East for a moment. We won’t dwell on the millions slaughtered in US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or the thousands murdered through drone strikes, including in Karman’s own country of Yemen which she failed to mention. Nor will we spend much time listing all the brutal dictatorships backed by the US or its support for the usurping Zionist entity. Since Karman is well-versed in US propaganda, we can follow through with her point of reference and dismiss the “crazy Arabs and their crazy conspiracy theories” or the “Muslim fanatics that hate America because of its values.” Instead, let’s ask what would, for example, the people and leaders that make up the mass movements in Latin America think of Karman’s description of the US and its role in their part of the world? Do they, as Karman claims, feel they “need America?” Are they looking for a more powerful America? Or, are they working to break free from imperial domination, recover national and popular sovereignty, and transform political systems undergirded by US military power and US-led neoliberal economic structures responsible for the social exclusion and impoverishment of the majority?
Like the Arabs living under US-backed, brutal regimes, including in what Karman calls the “Arab Spring countries”, the people of Latin America are well aware of US support for their tormenters and oppressors. They remember numerous US military interventions, economic exploitation, and covert US political and economic support for brutal military regimes. They remember it well and, like the people of the Middle East, they also would find laughable Karman’s assertions the US is a unique and indispensable force for freedom, democracy, and human rights across the world.
Not surprisingly, Karman had nothing to say about pro-US tyrants in Morocco, Jordan, and the Arab Gulf states. Most of the so-called democracy and human rights activists in the Arab world looking for approval from the White Man and catering their message to please Western governments typically refrain from criticizing human rights violations in countries ruled by regimes friendly to US and Western interests. It’s probably also unrealistic to expect the holder of a graduate degree in political science to notice the comical absurdity of condemning US-backed dictatorships in “Arab Spring countries” while regurgitating official US propaganda about being a force for freedom, democracy, and human rights across the globe.
Another glaring, but predictable omission from Karman’s speech was occupied Palestine. Reality-based US history, not its national mythology and banal propaganda, would have much in common with Zionism and the foreign invaders that set up an illegitimate, settler colony in Palestine through ethnic cleansing, land theft, racism, and mass violence. If Karman wanted to draw any analogies with a sound basis in history and logic this was the place for it, but of course, Karman, like all “Arab Spring” celebrity activists, never mentions Palestine in front of Western audiences. Nor would Karman, who enjoys posing for pictures with US war criminals, ever mention unlimited US political, economic, and military support for the last remaining colonial project or its complicity in all of Israel’s massacres and war crimes.
A Call For War On Syria
Karman did have time and made sure to mention Syria twice in her speech. It seemed to be on her mind when she told the gathering “hold accountable all the governments that attack the values of America…what is happening now in Syria is because US is far away from its principles.” According to Karman, supposed US values must be imposed on the entire world, and any country that “attacks the values of America” must be held accountable. In other words, Syria is not true to America’s supposed values of democracy and human rights, and it is up to the US Empire, presumably the world’s virtuous police man, to make sure Syria is held accountable. Karman, who supported the US/NATO war on Libya, is clearly criticizing the US for not waging a similar type aggression against Syria, and calling on the audience to lobby the US government to wage such a war.
After Karman finally completed her regurgitation of clichés about “American exceptionalism” and the “indispensability” of US power along with the required condemnations of terrorism, she proceeded to lecture Arab-Americans and Muslims in the US. Again appealing to US Nationalism, Karman urged Arab-Americans and US Muslims to embrace their Americanism, calling on them to “save America”, and in doing so, “save the world.” She also lectured us on “respecting” America and being “proud to be American.” Criticizing US citizens who do not engage or participate in what they consider to be a façade of democracy, Karman asks “Why did you come here? Stay in your country if you don’t participate in a good way.” At this point in her speech we were waiting for the one American slogan Karman had thus far left out of her speech, “love it or leave it!”
If we were to respond to Karman solely as Arab-Americans or members of the US Muslim community our response would simply be we don’t need a Western media manufactured celebrity activist to fly in and give us lectures on being good citizens or participating in US politics. And we certainly don’t need a pep talk on American patriotism. Millions of US citizens, Arabs, Muslims, and others, don’t accept the basic assumptions of the US political system, don’t harbor any illusions that change is possible “from within” the American political and electoral system, and choose to not participate in what they consider to be a mockery of democracy. We also believe political action must not be ethno-centric or religiously-centered or restricted to within the US. It should include men, women and children across all religious, ethnic, and class divisions and national borders in order to work for progressive change on a global scale affecting us here in the US. On behalf of this group of Americans we would like to ask the same question of Karman that she posed to us: “Why did you come here?” US citizens, including those with an ethnic Arab or Islamic religious heritage, do not need to be lectured by you on whether or how to participate in the US political sphere, and given your appalling ignorance of US history and politics, you’re obviously the least qualified to do so.
However, we’ve never viewed ourselves as solely US citizens or Arabs or Muslims. We are, first and foremost, members of a common humanity and global citizens. So our response to Karman is not a response from Arabs, Arab-Americans, or Muslims. It is the response of all freedom-loving people across the world that believe in universal human values, true democracy, human emancipation and social justice. It is the response of all the victims of past and present US war crimes. It is the response of the indigenous population of America, the victims of genocide. It is the response of those who were enslaved. It is the response of all these victims which Karman had no time to mention in her address. It is also the response of all the victims of US imperialism and criminal wars that are too numerous to list and won’t be found in the Middle School US history textbooks Karman seems to have been reading. It is the response of those who were discriminated against, exploited, and abused. It is the response of the oppressed here in the US and the victims of US capitalism. It is the response of victims of mass incarceration, a racist criminal (in) justice system, and a thriving prison-industrial complex.
If Karman understood what the terms human rights and social justice actually mean, rather than using them as empty slogans with which to fill her twitter feed she may have noticed these past and present victims. If Karman was truly representative of an Arab mass movement for social justice and human liberation, instead of appealing to US nationalist fervor and parroting corporate state propaganda about an altruistic empire, she would have reached out to all victims of US wars and imperialism. If Karman was truly a human rights activist, instead of singing the praises of the US regime and ruling class, she would have made time to mention the tens of millions of Americans deprived of basic human rights such as food, shelter, education, and health care. If she was, as she describes herself, an opponent of repression and human rights violations in the Arab world, her speech would have included mention of poor, young, black men and women murdered by killer cops with impunity just as Arab citizens are murdered by US-equipped and trained state security apparatuses. If Karman was interested in a world in which peace, justice, and human rights prevail she would have called for the liberation of Palestine, and instead of urging the US to launch yet another war on an Arab country, she would have called for the withdrawal of all US military bases from the region and an end to US support for the Zionist colonial entity.
There is only one response to Karman’s speech, and that response is delivered on behalf of all victims, past and present, domestic and foreign, of American genocide, slavery, racism, capitalism, imperialism, and criminal wars and we are pleased to deliver this response in the form of the November, 2014 Ikhras-Shoe-Of-The-Month.
Every month Ikhras awards the Muntadhar Zaidi “Shoe of the month” to the House Arab or Muslim individual or organization whose behavior that month best exemplifies the behavior of what Malcolm X described, in the language of his own time, as the “house negro” (see video). The award is named in honor of the brave Iraqi journalist Muntadhar Zaidi who threw his shoes at the war criminal George W. Bush at a time House Arabs and Muslims were dining with him at the White House and inviting him to their mosques. Arab dictators and puppets of the empire are also qualified to enter the shoe of the month competition based on their own subservience to U.S.-led global imperialism. Contest guidelines include the “James Zogby Rule” which prohibits any one individual or organization from winning the award more than 3 times a year.