By CINNAMON STILLWELL and RIMA GREEN
February 26, 2015 – Simi Valley, CA – FreeFireZoneBlog – What does the Islamic terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January have to do with the 2014 police shootings of African-American men in Ferguson, Missouri and Long Island, New York; San Francisco’s troubled Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood; and the Occupy Wall Street movement? A recent panel discussion at Stanford University, “Terror, Freedom, Blasphemy: Reflections on Citizenship in Our Times,” used the connection between the struggles—both real and imagined—of minorities in the U.S. and those attributed to Muslims worldwide to deflect attention from Islamic radicalism in the West.
Sponsored by the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, the afternoon discussion took place in a Center for International Security and Cooperation conference room with a long, narrow table in the middle, at the head of which sat the panelists. Approximately forty people—a mixture of students and locals, many of them eating lunch—were seated at and around the table, some spilling out into the hallway. Framed posters lined the walls with slogans such as, “China Builds the Bomb” and “International Arms Control,” but none spoke to Iran’s highly-contested efforts to build a nuclear weapon.
In his introduction, Shahzad Bashir, Lysbeth Warren Anderson Professor in Islamic Studies, explained that:
The idea for this event came from a discussion between myself and [fellow panelists] Robert Crews, [and] Aishwary Kumar, and grew out of a general frustration about the state of the world.
According to Bashir, the latter included such disparate subjects as:
[T]he torture information that came out of the U.S. Senate; what’s happening in Iraq and Syria; what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri and Long Island; events in Nigeria, and what happened in Paris most recently. . . . We wanted an occasion where we could draw the connections between these events.
The inclusion of Destin Jenkins, a PhD candidate in Stanford’s history department who delivered a completely unrelated talk titled, “Citizenship, Debt, and Structural Violence: From Hunters Point to Ferguson” and who admitted that, “I am somewhat of an interloper, working on San Francisco, nothing about Paris or Islam,” achieved the organizers’ goal. As Jenkins put it:
I want to use this as an opportunity to think about the troubling connections between the enactment of citizenship and the structural violence against the African-American community of the Hunters Point neighborhood [in San Francisco] after WWII.
He thanked co-panelist Robert Crews, history professor and director of the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, for “reaching out” to him. Later, Bashir ratcheted up the absurdity by directing an audience question about the European migration of jihadists to Jenkins, who responded, predictably, by discussing Hunters Point.
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