Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sudan Elections, Troy Davis, Islamic Censorship, Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Bill

Not much to say, in fact nothing, this time on Honduras.

Not surprisingly, Omar al-Bashir has claimed a resounding victory in Sudan’s recent election, which has been declared by observers to have fallen short of international standards. Bashir, a thorough-goingly (is that grammatically correct?) corrupt politician, responsible for carnage and oppression in Darfur and for thwarting the south’s secession next year, had been trying through this election to bolster his legitimacy after his Hague indictment for crimes against humanity. Holding tenaciously onto the reins of power in Sudan, he has triumphantly declared his own victory. It’s a sorry situation, but unless someone wants to launch a pre-emptive war against him from the outside, it’s hard to see how to dislodge him. Let’s hope he doesn’t live as long as Fidel Castro, to inflict decades of suffering on his own people.

This came in via Facebook: We just got word that Troy Davis will finally get his day in court! A federal judge has scheduled an evidentiary hearing for June 30th. While the news of the hearing date is welcome, we must continue to let Georgia authorities know that we support full justice for Troy Davis. Please ask your friends to sign our petition opposing the death penalty for Troy Davis. Of course, we in Amnesty International oppose the death penalty unconditionally. It’s hard sometimes to take that position when someone appears guilty of a heinous crime. But even death penalty advocates should take pause at all the death-row inmates who have been exonerated years later by DNA evidence.

Though I usually don’t quote from National Review on-line, it has a provocative article now about the heavy hand of fear leading to self-censorship regarding anything that might conceivably be offensive to hard-line Islamists. It’s a huge dilemma—dare you publish something that might cause someone out there to launch a retaliatory attack? The following are excerpts from the article entitled “Self-Censoring South Park,” referring to blacking out the figure of Mohammed in a recent South Park episode: The late former Indonesian president and distinguished Islamic scholar Abdurrahman Wahid observed that coercively applied blasphemy laws “narrow the bounds of acceptable discourse in the Islamic world, and prevent most Muslims from thinking ‘outside the box’ not only about religion, but about vast spheres of life, literature, science and culture in general.”
In the West, extremists have already reacted violently to statements questioning Islamic doctrine’s link to violence (Pope Benedict’s speech at Regensburg), protesting the abuse of women by some Muslims (Van Gogh and Hirsi Ali’s Submission), using the Koran in a work of fiction (Rushdie’s Satanic Verses), sympathetically explaining Islam to Jews (Khalid Duran’s Children of Abraham), criticizing Sudan’s stoning law (a U.N. special rapporteur), and fictionalizing the prophet’s marriage to a nine-year-old (Sherry Jones’s Jewel of Medina). These are only a tiny sample. Then there is the chilling effect. Because of threats to others, Yale University Press, Random House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and others dropped plans to publish or display ideas and images that touch on Islam. Even the British watchdog Index on Censorship admitted that fear drove its decision not to publish the Danish cartoons in its article criticizing Yale University Press’s decision not to publish the Danish cartoons in its “definitive” book on the subject… In a February interview that addressed censorship surrounding the Danish cartoons, including on South Park, [South Park producer Matt] Stone told the Huffington Post: “Cartoonists, people who do satire…this is our time to stand up and do the right thing. And to watch the New York Times, Comedy Central, everybody just go, ‘No, we’re not going to do it, because basically we’re afraid of getting bombed’ sucked.”
And yet, who can blame them?

Needless-to-say, I am not a fan of Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law—rather, anti-Hispanic immigrant law. I do sympathize with white, native-born Arizonians who feel they are being invaded, as, no doubt, Arizona has borne the brunt of illegal cross-overs from Mexico. Even here in Washington, DC, when riding a city bus, I often see white and African American riders bristle or frown when a group of Spanish-speaking passengers gets on together and keeps on chattering loudly, as if they owned the place. Once I heard a man sitting next to me mutter, “Why don’t they learn English?” At the same time, since many of such people are my clients and I know something of their personal stories, I cannot find it in my heart to say they should be summarily deported, whatever their legal status. They are here because they needed work and if they weren’t needed in the job market, they would never have come nor stayed. How about cracking down on employers instead? Of course, if we didn’t have undocumented immigrants, we’d probably see higher prices. Still, the continuing flow has to be stemmed in a humane way, which no one has figured out yet. Meanwhile, we need to legalize folks already here because we do need their labor and their social security and tax contributions to support us old folks. The native-born are not producing enough new young workers. But we don’t want that to be an incentive for others to keep on coming. A good solution will be difficult to find. Of course, immigrants who commit crimes, whether undocumented or not, are deported and should be.

Below is what Sojourners’ Jim Wallis has to say. I’m sharing it, as he recommends.

Arizona’s Immigration Bill is a Social and Racial Sin
by Jim Wallis 4-21-2010

I got up at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday to fly to Phoenix, Arizona, to speak at a press conference and rally at the State Capitol at the invitation of the state’s clergy and other leaders in the immigration reform movement. The harshest enforcement bill in the country against undocumented immigrants just passed the Arizona state House and Senate, and is only awaiting the signature of Governor Janet Brewer to become law.

Senate Bill 1070 would require law enforcement officials in the state of Arizona to investigate someone’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be undocumented. I wonder who that would be, and if anybody who doesn’t have brown skin will be investigated. Those without identification papers, even if they are legal, are subject to arrest; so don’t forget your wallet on your way to work if you are Hispanic in Arizona. You can also be arrested if you are stopped and are simply with people who are undocumented — even if they are your family. Parents or children of “mixed-status families” (made up of legal and undocumented, as many immigrant families are out here) could be arrested if they are found together. You can be arrested if you are “transporting or harboring” undocumented people. Some might consider driving immigrant families to and from church to be Christian ministry — but it will now be illegal in Arizona.

For the first time, all law enforcement officers in the state will be enlisted to hunt down undocumented people, which will clearly distract them from going after truly violent criminals, and will focus them on mostly harmless families whose work supports the economy and who contribute to their communities. And do you think undocumented parents will now go to the police if their daughter is raped or their family becomes a victim of violent crime? Maybe that’s why the state association of police chiefs is against SB 1070.

This proposed law is not only mean-spirited — it will be ineffective and will only serve to further divide communities in Arizona, making everyone more fearful and less safe. This radical new measure, which crosses many moral and legal lines, is a clear demonstration of the fundamental mistake of separating enforcement from comprehensive immigration reform. We all want to live in a nation of laws, and the immigration system in the U.S. is so broken that it is serving no one well. But enforcement without reform of the system is merely cruel. Enforcement without compassion is immoral. Enforcement that breaks up families is unacceptable. And enforcement of this law would force us to violate our Christian conscience, which we simply will not do. It makes it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona.

Before the rally and press event, I visited some immigrant families who work at Neighborhood Ministries, an impressive community organization affiliated with Sojourners’ friends at the Christian Community Development Association. I met a group of women who were frightened by the raids that have been occurring, in which armed men invade their homes and neighborhoods with guns and helicopters. When the rumors of massive raids spread, many of these people flee both their homes and their workplaces, and head for The Church at The Neighborhood Center as the only place they feel safe and secure. But will police invade the churches if they are suspected of “harboring” undocumented people, because it is the law? Will the nurse practitioner I met at their medical clinic serving only uninsured people be arrested for being “with” the children of families who are here illegally as she treats them?

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At the rally, I started with the words of Jesus (which drew cheers from the crowd gathered at the state Capitol), who instructed his disciples to “welcome the stranger,” and said that whatever we do to “the least of these, who are members of my family” we do to him. I think that means that to obey Jesus and his gospel will mean to disobey SB 1070 in Arizona. I looked at the governor’s Executive Tower and promised that many Christians in Arizona won’t comply with this law because the people they will target will be members of our “family” in the body of Christ. And any attack against them is an attack against us, and the One we follow.

Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles just called this Arizona measure “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless immigration law.” On CNN, I defended the Cardinal’s comments, which likened the requirement of people always carrying their “papers” to the most oppressive regimes of Nazism and Communism. I wonder whether the tea party movement that rails against government intrusion will rail against this law, or whether those who resist the forced government registration of their guns will resist the forced government requirement that immigrants must always carry their documentation. Will the true conservatives please stand up here? We are all waiting.

Arizona’s SB 1070 must be named as a social and racial sin, and should be denounced as such by people of faith and conscience across the nation. This is not just about Arizona, but about all of us, and about what kind of country we want to be. It’s time to stand up to this new strategy of “deportation by attrition,” which I heard for the first time today in Arizona. It is a policy of deliberate political cruelty, and it should be remembered that “attrition” is a term of war. Arizona is deciding whether to wage war on the body of Christ. We should say that if you come after one part of the body, you come after all of us.

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and is CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at

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