Animal Farm

Animal Farm

Animal Farm by Professor A.L.I.

George Orwell’s seminal text, is an allegory that remains as pertinent to our status quo, as it was in the time he penned it.  Orwell intended his eponymous farm to be symbolic, and in interviews, spoke to his intention to speak to the Russian Revolution through his novel.  The story explores the tensions of the worker through the lens of animals, and the role of the ruling class through a farmer’s tyranny.  Sadly, this very dialectic and tension is exacerbated now, and the past ten years have seen movements from Occupy Wallstreet, to economic tensions leading to extreme polarization that brought about the elections of Trump, Brexit and nearly wrought France under the leadership of Le Pen.  Those on the bottom, exemplified by the domesticated beasts in the text, are the people, and it is to this population I wanted to speak to, and address the very realistic tensions that we face in this day and age.

For this reason, I remixed and re-released Animal Farm, to pay homage to this text, and to the tensions we face currently—and combined with the beautiful cover art by Adam Hunter Peck, hope to draw attention to the core message—that change is needed.

Early in the song, I state: “The battle of righteous souls, versus those sick, like a war in Benghazi, the blood of Qaddafi…” referring to a tension I notice daily on my social media timeline, which seems to between principled people and a polarizing media programming.  Global events are spun to be about one thing, when in truth, they are motivated by the same base desires as the farmer in the Orwellian framing, which is an insatiable desire for profit, or greed.

Later, I talk about how this tension, leads to coalition building by those who are divested, and are seeking change.  This group has symbolic leadership, which I speak to with the lines, “I carry Malcolm’s martyrdom, like Yuri Kochiyama,” and further emphasize this with the lines “I’m Caeser with Montablan, Conquest, part five,” which invokes the classic Planet of the Apes film where the Apes rebel and takeover. The idea of a revolution, is change, and when one is seemingly imprisoned by economics, or by politics, breaking free is a part of that change.  This is why I say, “like an ambulance Assata used to escape from prison, I seek a vehicle like Hagar’s quest for a vision.”

Escape from a practical system of economic servitude that the masses participate in is the whole, point, which brings us to the hook: “this world we live upon, is an animal farm; choose to be livestock, or choose to be armed; raise the alarm, like these Beasts of England; because their feast’s beginning, with our children.”

That chorus needs no explanation, as it invokes Animal Farm, the text, specifically—even referencing the song “Beasts of England,” which is the revolutionary song the animals in the book sing as they takeover.  I further elaborate the point, about oppression and tyranny with the lines, “we are the Injuns that feed their engine, brown spots in their field of vision; like colors in prisms, light division, sufficient, yet white imprisons; in missions, hacienda’s, (migrant) farms and plantations; globalization, this life is leased to own by corporations.”

It is truly a tension between corporations and people, where the people are beasts of burden, and in this framing, they are destined to come together as a result, since they are all being victimized.  Thus, the lines, “red; yellow, brown and black, given cancer and heart attacks; alcohol & cigarette packs, secret police, infrared tags; on minarets, prayer halls, even ten Gurus on the walls; doesn’t matter as long, as beard is long, silent prayer calls; whether in turban or veiled by curtain, were just beasts of burden.”

I hope this piece, helps spark that coalition building of all oppressed people, so we cease to be beasts of burden, and help usher in a better world together.

Peace.

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How To Kill A Troll

HowToKillATroll

Dissecting the Troll

J.K. Rowling and J.R.R Tolkien have taught me one undeniable truth about trolls; that the lack intellectual capacity.  Furthermore, in childhood I learned from simple legends and lore, that trolls lurk under bridges.  Therefore, I should be unsurprised that as an educator, artist, and human being, in the habit of building bridges, and combatting ignorance, that I would attract the attention of these dimwitted beasts.

Most recently, in pieces dedicated to eradicating Islamoracism/Islamophobia or satire critiquing colonial constructions that remain a part of the framework of our status quo, I’ve attracted these trolls.  They lurk on social media, where I share these articles, and songs, and share their ineloquent hatred of me under the bridges I lay with these public posts.  The most common phrase is “go back to where you came from,” which is ironic, in that I am a product of the colonial monster that was set into motion by the wicked wizards that also created these trolls—I would gladly go back to the royalty of my ancestral roots, if they too would recede into the coal-lined-caves from where toxic DNA emerged.

Name-calling doesn’t work on trolls—since words usually go over their heads.   They understand our world only in black and white terms, in which they see what they are as purely good, and whatever is “other” as existing to serve them.  Ignoring these trolls does not sit well with the educator in me either.  I recognize that beneath their grotesque form, mutated by bad magic, and a long-standing legacy of hatred, that they are simplistic beings, who are merely frightened.  To this end, Wordsmyths was born—to educate, annihilate ignorance, and unify that strand of humanity within all of us, my acknowledging the divinity in us all—and by extension our connection to the universe.

WordsmythsWhat does Wordsmyths mean?

A wordsmith is a colloquialism for an individual with deep diction and proficiency with language.  I spell it, purposefully with “myth” replacing “-mith” in order to convey a different meaning.  Specifically, I was speaking to the “mythology” that created trolls in the first place.  Myths, created by “Wordsmyths” to help control ignorant, blind followers, and distract them from the reality of our connection.  The refrain in the song about “One God” is about the “one reality” that binds us all—that the notion of separation is not real, but truly a construction of simplistic minds.

This song is not a critique on religion, or any dogma, but a critique on ignorance.  It is also critique on patriarchy and colonialism (which are also based on and supported by falsified social construction).  The lines “Like the sun and moon, swimming in their own orbits,” refer to the Quranic verses about theses celestial bodies in a chapter, that has an oft-repeated refrain, “which of the favors of your Lord do you deny.”  It’s a chapter that reveals to the reader, in depth of reflection, that the entire universe is one reality and that we are all connected to the many miraculous things in it.  I follow the lines with “our suns and moons, left upon strange doorsteps, African origins…”  These lines are a clear critique of the social construction of race, of colonial realities and chattel slavery—it posits the notion that we are all truly African, coming from one place of origin as homo sapiens.

The lines “phantom opera mask, covers our Moorish features…” refers to the idea that those constructed as “others,” must don masks in order to be relevant in a farcically socially constructed society, such as ours.  Death is referenced, as is life, in creating a sense of liminality throughout this piece.  The lines “Last days, face east, it’s gorgeous, sunset, earth flipped, cats are sorted” refers to the scientific phenomena of pole shift (where magnetic poles shift their positivity and negativity) ostensibly shifting what we consider North and South, as well as lines in Abrahamic faith based traditions about the last days.  The lines “On horizon, I see a cubed Borg ship.” is a nod to Gene Roddenberry and my inner fanboy, while at the same time, envisioning a cube, or Kaaba, as a vehicle for cosmic travel.

Later I say, “religion constructed; pay the doorman, life distorted, rather be a free man like Morgan; yet forging our own chains on purpose; burn bill of rights and habeas corpus, freedom forfeit…”  These lines specifically call out the idea of religion as a construction, and the idea of the promise of freedom of religion, something that chains us to the idea that this is a reality, furthering our separation from the idea of the oneness of the divine and hence our reality, and therefore ourselves.  The verse takes a political turn, when I speak to the truth of what this can mean to a subsection of a population, victimized by Islamoracism, by saying, “unsupported, innocent souls are deported, to an island (Guantanamo), tortured and water boarded, truth serum injected, falsehoods recorded, justifying barrels, oil barons have hoarded, this America, hegemons have exported…”

These lines specifically call out the trolls to respond to a reality that is a clear violation of that document they choose to hold dear, as they champion this land—it is this egregious hypocrisy that not only leads to Guantanamo but to “Muslim Bans” and the dignity of those racialized as “Muslims” in ignorant minds in a hate filled society.

The song finally ends with the argument that our unity, is not an extrapolation from any text, but something manifest in our minds, and the acceptance of the logic of this argument, that we are all connected, leads to peace, in soul and body: “Don’t dismiss it as, ‘Oh yeah, it’s from a core text.’ Process this; in your cerebral cortex. My body says PEACE, my Ka* says hotep.** Who will you worship? One God or wordsmiths?”

PEACE

Professor A.L.I.

*spirit in Kemetic/**peace in Kemetic

p.s. So how do you kill a Troll?  By making them bob their head to knowledge manifest on the mic.

The Test of the American Muslim

TheTestOfTheAmericanMuslimDear Daughter,

I have something I want to share with you, which I have never explained to you before.  When I was a young man, I made a decision that would change the course of my life and ultimately yours as well.  The skeleton in the closet of our lives is that as a wide-eyed, peach-fuzz lipped, knuckleheaded, eighteen-year-old, in the middle of one brisk March night, I said the following words that would change who I was forever: “there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his last prophet.”

It was long before the frenzied age of rampant Islamophobia and nearly a decade before hijacked airplanes would slice into our hearts, like rusty blades that leave wounded tissue gangrenous with infection, claiming thousands of American lives along with our innocence, in a cacophony of death.  There was no Muslim “Kaiser Soze” (boogeyman) yet; Bin Laden was not in the public conscious and most people in our nation associated Islam with the eloquence and dignity of Muhammad Ali, and not the straggly bearded, turban clad foreign accents that terrorized us from faraway lands.

My two friends, the lanky and tall Abbas and the pudgy faced Osama, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” in unison to affirm the pledge I spoke that night that made me a Muslim, and the sound of their cry ricocheted through the air like a lost memory echoing in the back of my skull, for I too was a victim, spoon-fed imagery of explosive Middle Eastern tropes.  The hidden truth is that in the eyes of America, my brown skin and my unique heritage already categorized me as “other” in the eyes of xenophobic America.   America was already Islamophobic, it just hadn’t learned the vocabulary yet.  I grew up through the hostage crisis, embassy bombings, plane hijackings, and the Gulf War; I’d been the victim of school yard bullying and the default Iranian, Arab, Libyan, and Iraqi in all those instances, and ostensibly a Muslim, because of my brown skin.  The same lovely hued skin you have.

America had already considered me “the other” in many ways, long before I became one, and back then I always had a cowardly way to retreat from the otherness they asserted upon me.  I could say with conviction that I wasn’t Muslim or an Arab, or anything else other than what I was.  Or take it a step further, become strategic and grow to hate and then bully the Muslims around me. The venom inside me had burgeoned into racial and ethnic slurs that I found myself using under my breath, and eventually I’m loathe to admit, at the top of my lungs in order to distance myself from those who had distanced me from my identity as an American.

I became the bully that I despised by targeted the false-identity they ascribed to me, in others and challenging their othering with self-hate.  In that clouded time, Chuck D and Lord Jamar cut through my mental fog and spoke directly to me through cassette tapes stuffed in Walkman’s while the Poor Righteous Teachers taught me like no other teacher had in school and collectively, these Hip-Hop artists introduced me to a man named Malcolm X.  It was ultimately Malcolm who began the process of healing me, and by the time I met your uncle Abbas as an eighteen-year-old college kid, I was enamored with the discipline in the faith of Islam.

Abbas, now a successful surgeon, was the first practicing Muslim I had ever met, and in him, I saw a Muslim who was emblematic of what Islam taught, as manifest in the example set by Malcolm; in our friendship, I discovered the essence of Islam, is love. This was a far outcry from the Muslims I had met through Hollywood, showcased in the media, or those whom I’d previously interacted with. Our brotherhood helped introduce me to Islam, but my decision to become Muslim was a choice to become what the world already thought I was—it was ultimately a resolution to embrace my otherness.

From that day to this one, I have survived by living in the hyphen; as a Muslim-American, in a nation that devolved rapidly from President Bush making a distinction between American Muslims and those who committed the atrocities on 9/11, to a president calling for a Muslim registry and travel ban. The otherness I’d embraced in my youth now encircles me like the serpentine wrappings of the pariah I’ve become—but one I would have been regardless of my choice to become a Muslim or not. The Qur’an foresaw the test we’d face as Muslims in America when in Chapter 29, it states, “Do people think that they will be left alone on saying, ‘We believe,’ and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and God will certainly know those who are true from those who are false.”

The great secret that I have kept from you is that I didn’t choose this life for you—but that it was chosen for us, by the ignoramuses that have equated brownness with otherness and have hung hyphens around all of our necks.  The fact is whether you choose Islam or not, you will be inextricably related to it, and you can deny it at every turn, join the bullies, or choose to follow this path and thereby control the hyphen.  This is the test.

Whether you choose to wear a scarf on your head or not, you will be a default ambassador for Islam.  You will be forced to explain it and its practices at every turn and stupid people will question your nationality because of it; they will question your loyalty and they will typecast you into the role of other, so they can define themselves as civilized citizens while they demonize you. This is your test.

What may seem like a vice grip akin to a being trapped between a rock, or in this case Iraq, and a hard place, is truly a special place to be, because like the Quranic promise of a test of faith, there is a test of what it means to be American too.  Ostensibly America is just a promise.  It is a dream deferred until it is tested and realized for those collecting on its promissory notes.  For example, it takes a person like Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf to test the promise of the freedom of expression by sitting during the national anthem, just as it takes a conscientious objector like the late Muhammad Ali to test freedom of religion.  It will take someone like you embracing the otherness they cursed you with in order to litmus test the promise of America for yourself, by walking this path, donning a scarf, and ultimately living in the hyphen, until America accepts you for what you are and who you choose to be.  This is America’s test, not yours.

Love,

Dad

Stop Using Islamophobia

Islamophobia12

Why not Islamophobia?

The original definition of this term, coined in the 1970’s was not one that invoked the notions of uncontrollable fear, but one that spoke to systems of oppression; however, over time a lay definition has taken over, one which absolves agents of hate, arguing that they too are victims–victims of a uncontrollable phobia.  Sadly, this not only does a disservice to those oppressed by these agents but the fight against this type of hate because it absolves the system of its culpability.

Therefore Islamophobia no longer helps to describe a system that actively “racializes” all those that it associates with Islam (not necessarily by declaration of faith, but by physical cues like brownness, facial hair, or head covering) into a monolith to be exploited, oppressed and to limit civil rights, for the excuse of safety.

Islamoracism is therefore, a more accurate term of this type of systemic hate.  I encourage my fellow educators, and diversity practitioners to switch the nomenclature, as a coalition of Muslims and Sikhs that I am a part of have.

To help, a group of brown M.C’s of various faiths and non-faiths created this piece:

RIP Nabra Hassanen

RIPNabra.jpg

Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilayhi Rajioon

Nabra Hassanen is no longer with us.  Her light in this world was extinguished and her last moments on this earth were exceptionally brutal.  No one should experience what she experienced.  The culpability for her murder extends beyond her rapist and killer—and when I wrote to this truth—furiously writing two articles in rapid succession, to process this loss, my inbox was riddled with pushback and hate that I dared to call the cause of her death “Islamoracism.”

The semanticists came forth to argue that Muslim is not a racial category, missing the point that the nomenclature shifted to describe a systemic disenfranchisement of anyone racialized to be associated with Islam in America.  Then the police department ruled the cause of her death to be ‘road rage’ even as news that they were testing for her rape leaked shortly thereafter.  Rape is an act of hate and violence, and yet still no one was willing to call it a hate crime.  This is a system set up to turn an ignorant eye towards the violence that strikes my community, forcing the victims to plead, protest and lobby in order to get law enforcement agencies and the media to see beyond their privilege and to acknowledge what is really happening.

My sister, Hajjah Safiyyah Fatimah Abdullah said it best when I interviewed her, “There is, and in fact, has always been a concerted emphasis in this country on ‘de-humanizing’ people of color. In doing so, that allows the media to further shape public opinion that when incidents of violence occur, it is not reflective of the broader social construct in this country, but rather, an isolated, and therefore unavoidable and unaccountable occurrence that does not need to be addresses in a broader social spectrum. In other words, in classifying it as ‘road rage’ or ‘a parking space dispute’, it lays lie to the reality that due to the current racist and Islamophobic atmosphere of our society, the perpetrator is not at fault for following a group of teenagers, and then attacking them. It is well beyond ‘Road-Rage’ when you not only attack a group of people that were no threat to you, but then kidnap…yes, kidnap…he picked Nabra up and put her in his car, and then took her somewhere to bludgeon her to death, to the point that when the police found the body they said that they found the ‘remains’, not the body, but the remains and will perform an autopsy to determine identity and cause of death. That is not road-rage, that is hatred…and it was that same hatred that caused him to follow the kids in the first place. The decision by the Fairfax Police Department to label it as road rage instead of a hate crime allows the police to continue to defuse the tensions within the Muslim community and ignore the hatred of Muslims across the country; thus, insuring our community doesn’t rise up in righteous indignation. ‘Road rage’ is forgettable; it is an isolated incident whereas ‘hate’ indicates a pattern, and prompts a public discussion on the rise of violent Islamophobia. It is the same process that they use for ‘defusing’ the shooting of Black, Brown and Native people by the police. It is the responsibility of our leaders and our communities to rise up and demand that the crimes be labeled for what they are, hate crimes, and be recognized as such. It’s time for our leaders to ‘man-up’ and stop being afraid.”

Then the unimaginable happens, Nabra Hassanen’s memorial is set on fire.

The apologists and deflectors are oddly silent.  Those that began their semantic debates with my inbox have disappeared under the bridges from whence they came.  While we Muslims are left knowing, not only was our young sister brutalized and slain but that the violence and hatred in this nation is such that, there are people (I use that term loosely) who took it upon themselves to further the torture on Nabra’s family and friends, as well as the greater Muslim community, by burning a memorial left to honor her.

This is not fueled simply by an irrational fear, it is systemic, and it is sadly the world that we as Muslims have to navigate.

I’m tired of living in a place where hate, violence and hypocrisy reigns supreme.  Where is the acknowledgment of the truth?  Where is the justice?  Where is peace?

Asalaamu’Alaykum,

Professor A.L.I.

 

Islamophobia

Islamophobia12

When Abdul Jamil Kamawal, a 68-year-old Afghan-American was bludgeoned to death, last year in Oregon, it was my brother Jaideep Singh, who so eloquently stated that Islamophobia was dead.

Many believe that Islamophobia is a term that was created to respond to the specified xenophobia targeting Muslims, Sikhs and any who could be associated with Islam after 9/11 in America. However, the term was coined in the 1970’s and came into vogue in the 1990’s; since, throughout that time those associated with Islam have been victims of hate crimes and bigoted acts of violence.

I could a fill a book with tales of the numerous physical battles I had throughout the 80’s, afterschool, upon dilapidated blacktops on rundown public-school yards.  It would happen, every single time the Middle East was in the news, due to a hijacking, hostage crisis, outright war or when a Hollywood blockbuster decided to use a Middle Eastern/Muslim trope as a plot device.  Even though I wasn’t a Muslim then, I was brown, and that alone gave the bullies and the ignoramuses at school reason enough to punctuate their hatred upon me with their fists.  This was Islamophobia; I experienced it fully, before I ever became Muslim or knew what the word meant.

The fact that the schools I attended knew what was happening to me and didn’t do anything to stop it wasn’t Islamophobia, it was Islamoracism.

What we see in the United States now isn’t Islamophobia either, it is Islamoracism.  This is what Jaideep Singh was talking about; what people like he and I now face in this country is systemic hatred and not simply bigotry from the shadows alone.  When systemic power is intertwined with prejudicial intentions it creates a monolith to disenfranchise; in this moment Muslims are that homogenous group and this is a form of racism to be known as Islamoracism.

It might be phobia, as in an irrational fear that drives the system to act, but once it does, it creates systemic prejudice and this is how we witness our government violate habeas corpus and the Geneva Conventions by waterboarding suspected terrorists and holding them indefinitely without formal charges in Guantanamo, and how multiple wars in the Middle East are sold to the American People on lies, and how our government can argue to ban refugees from nations we’ve destabilized and then in an act of cartoonish buffoonery, actually create a formal Muslim Ban.

The Muslim Ban, surprised some of my liberal friends, who’d made excuses for years whenever I complained about the methods used by the TSA—even when I quoted my good friend [redacted], a TSA manager, who specifically stated to me that the rules they go by for screenings specifically target Muslims. These were necessary security measures, my friends would argue, but they finally saw the light when Trump unveiled his Travel Ban. The ban is a textbook example of racism in that it is systemic, treats Muslims as a monolith and targets them for exclusion.  In spite of this, I have some conservative friends who remain unconvinced that the ban is racist, or that it is an example of Islamoracism; they don’t see the connection between a policy such as this and the violence that it will breed—but this past weekend, they too began to change their tune.

The violence this past weekend, like a van running over people leaving the mosque after Ramadan prayers in London, weeks after a similar series of attacks claimed lives on the city in the name of ISIS, left me broken hearted. “I want to kill all Muslims!” screamed Darren Osborne, as he committed this heinous act of terror and his screams still echo in my brain. Just as I was reeling from this depravity, I fell deeper in despair with breaking news of the assault and murder of Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old Muslim girl, which left me a wreck.  These are acts emboldened by a system that is already punishing those associated with Islam, and has given the sickos tacit permission to act out their hate filled fantasies upon innocent Muslims, because they believe they are acting out in the interests of society.

To all this, I say, enough is enough! As a Muslim, a husband, father, educator and artist, I denounce both the hate and the violence—so down with Islamophobia and down with Islamoracism!

Incredulous, I reached out to other educators and artists, who were similarly fed-up; a group of brown MC’s throughout this country who I approached with the charge that we create a song about Islamophobia, which would lay out our anguish and angst, touch upon the hatred and violence, and clearly state, as we do in the song’s refrain that: “it’s not Islamophobia, its Islamoracism, it’s not a passive process, it’s a part of the system!”  Featuring KB and Swap from Karmacy, the first ever South-Asian American hip-hop group, JiNN (formerly Jinnsanity), an up-and-coming MC from Florida, the first Sri Lankan MC, Ras Ceylon and yours truly; the following song is a tool in the arsenal of those who choose to fight the ignorance of these times with knowledge and unity.

Please enjoy and share and stay tuned for videos, and future remixes, as we hope to continue to battle hatred until we dismantle the systems of oppression aimed at disenfranchising those of us who are brown enough to deserve it.

PEACE,

Professor A.L.I.