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romanic's Journal
romanic's Journal
May 1, 2016

Europe's First Islamic Constitution? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Calls by a top member of the ruling party of Turkey for an Islamic constitution to replace the secular basic law currently in place in the country, a NATO member and crucial U.S. ally, have been rejected by politicians from all stripes, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, himself a pious Muslim. But as Erdogan is trying to avoid a debate that could harm him politically, the question remains: How should the relationship between state and religion be defined in a country with a 99 per cent Muslim population?

Turkey’s current constitution, which enshrines the principle of secularism in Article 2, was drawn up under military rule in 1982. All parties in Ankara agree that a completely new text should be written to give Turkey a more modern and more democratic outlook.

Erdogan is trying to convince Turks to also change the form of government from the current parliamentary to a U.S. style presidential one, with himself at the helm. The opposition says his real aim is absolute power without the sort of checks and balances that limit executive excesses elsewhere, amid speculation in the media that a referendum on a new constitution could be called this year. Erdogan cannot be sure that a majority of Turks would accept a presidential system in such a vote, with some polls saying support for his plan is as low as 35 per cent.

That is why remarks by Parliamentary Speaker Ismail Kahraman about the need for an Islamic constitution came at a bad time for Erdogan. Kahraman, a member of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), told a conference in Istanbul on April 25 that secularism should not even be mentioned in the planned new constitution. “We are an Islamic country,” Kahraman said. “There has to be a devout constitution.”

Alarming but it seems like many Turks disagree and are uneasy by such laws.

But many Turks are less enthusiastic. Rejection of calls to bring Turkey’s constitution into line with Islamic rules is not limited to die-hard secularists. “Even many devout Turks (are) likely to be queasy about this,” Howard Eissenstat, a specialist on Turkey at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, tweeted about Kahraman’s statement. Eissenstat pointed to polls showing that only a minority of 12 per cent of Turks want their country to be ruled by Islamic law and that 90 per cent think women’s decision to cover their hair should be voluntary.

April 27, 2016

Left Outside the Social-Justice Movement's Small Tent

Mahad Olad, a high school student, used to be active in “the local social-justice scene” around Minneapolis, Minnesota, attending meetings and leading demonstrations for feminist, LGBT, and anti-racism groups. Then he became disillusioned.

When he was just 16, the ACLU profiled the teen activist. He came to the U.S. as a child. Later, his immigrant parents took him back to their home country, Kenya, so that their son could experience what it was like to live in that culture as well.

“In Kenya, he saw the harsh realities faced by women trying to access reproductive health-care services and how the gay and lesbian community is forced to live underground,” the ACLU explained. “While Mahad cares about many social-justice and civil-liberties issues, he is especially drawn to reproductive freedom and LGBT rights because of his experience in Kenya. He has been one of his school's biggest advocates for comprehensive sex education and has helped to organize events at his school to teach students important information about comprehensive safe-sex practices, something that his school does not teach in class.”

Two years later he was sending off a frustrated email to me.

“I genuinely cared about these causes—still do,” he wrote, referencing everything from anti-racism to LGBT rights to reproductive health. “I believed I was doing something noble. At the same time,” he added, “a large part of me was not quite in agreement with some of the views and concepts espoused by social-justice groups. Their pro-censorship tendencies, fixation with intersectionality, and constant uproar over seemingly trivial and innocuous matters like ‘cultural appropriation’ and ‘microaggressions’ went against my civil-libertarian sensibilities.”

He fit in fine at the ACLU. But interacting with social-justice groups made up of high school and college students, he increasingly found himself having to bite his tongue.

“I never voiced my personal disagreements because having dissenting views is strictly forbidden in the activist circles I was a part of,” he explained. “If you’re white, you will be charged with being a ‘bad ally.’ (There's also certain gatherings you cannot come to because your mere presence might be threatening.) If you’re a person of color, your disagreements will usually be dismissed as some form of ‘internalized racism,’ ‘internalized sexism,’ or ‘respectability politics,’ among many other activist jargon's thrown at individuals who do not conform the groups views.”


I definitely empathize with this kid and found myself nodding a lot at points in the article. The part where he describes being called a "uncle Tom" really struck me. Something's very corrupt in many of these youth-led social justice groups.
March 18, 2016

(Janet) Mock cancels lecture at Brown Univeristy amid student protest

Janet Mock, a black, native Hawaiian trans woman and activist, announced Wednesday morning that she had canceled her campus talk, “Redefining Realness,” which was originally scheduled for March 21. Mock was invited to be a keynote speaker by Moral Voices, in association with the Brown Center for Students of Color, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, LGBTQ Center, Sexual Assault Peer Educators, Swearer Center for Public Service, Office of the Chaplains, the Rhode Island School of Design’s Office of Intercultural Student Engagement and Brown/RISD Hillel.

Moral Voices is a student group that aims to raise awareness about social justice issues of global importance each year, wrote Moral Voices co-chairs Natalie Cutler ’16 and Rachel Levy ’16 in a written statement published on medium.com.

After the group invited Mock to lecture on campus, students drafted a petition on Change.org asking Mock to disassociate her lecture from Hillel.

Hillel co-sponsored the lecture, and Moral Voices is a student group funded by a grant from within the Hillel budget, said Marshall Einhorn, executive director of Hillel. The statement published by Cutler and Levy states that the group is run “through Brown/RISD Hillel and funded by a private donor.”

The petition argued that the invitation was an attempt to “pinkwash” the history of Israel or “improve Israel’s image and rebrand it as a liberal, modern and ‘hip’ country.” Petitioners saw the move as an attempt to deflect attention from Israel’s previous track record on LGBTQ rights, racism and the occupation of Palestinian territories, the petition stated.

“We do not condone the use of queer people of color as props to hide occupation,” the petition concluded. Petitioners did not intend for Mock to cancel her lecture but instead urged her “to accept Brown students’ sponsorship instead of Hillel’s,” the petition stated.

The petition received 160 signatures, according to a member of Students for Justice in Palestine who wished to remain anonymous for fear of professional repercussions. He added that the petition was drafted and signed by “a broad coalition” of students from various student groups — including trans and queer students — who felt that there was a contradiction between Mock’s message and what Hillel stands for as an organization.

“With an Israeli government that time and time again is exploiting LGBTQ individuals for the sake of covering up (its) crimes, then it becomes really important that we don’t let a Center who is time and time again supporting the Israeli regime to then claim that they are also supporting LGBTQ voices. There is a serious contradiction there,” the SJP representative said.

“We feel the focus of Janet’s work was lost leading up to the proposed event,” wrote Mock’s representatives in an email to Moral Voices, later shared on the group’s Facebook page. The representatives added that Mock’s visit “was received with controversy and resistance rather than open dialogue and discussion about the issues closest to Janet’s work in movements for trans liberation, racial justice and intersectional feminism.”


Looks like campus activism and anti-Semitism intertwine once again. Such a shame for Brown to miss out on Mock's lecture.
February 27, 2016

Cultural appropriation isnít (always) a bad thing

Cultural appropriation is a “trending” topic because of the pop-culture practice of exploring other – sometimes obscure and far-flung – cultures in order to enhance the latter’s visual and aural aesthetics. It is common for people to call out celebrities for “appropriating” a certain culture in the way they dress and, in the case of musical artists, also in their concert and music video set designs.

On the one hand, the clip is a whirlwind view of the colorful and exotic side of India, complete with peacocks, dilapidated movie theaters, the Holi festival and a child dressed as a Hindu deity. It also portrays Beyonce as a Bollywood superstar drenched in jewels, intricate fabrics and henna. The video is a visual spectacle. It really does make you want to go to India to see and experience all that. Where do I sign?

On the other hand, that’s apparently just the tip of the iceberg of Indian culture. On teenvogue.com, Priya-Alika Elias wrote, “But that’s just a tiny part of who we are, and that’s the only part the West ever chooses to depict. That depiction is the reason white people still ask if I’ve ever charmed a snake. The India of ‘HFTW’ is an India that bears very little relation to the real India, which is complex beyond belief.”

But then, Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley and Natassja Omidina Gunasena insist that “Beyonce as a Bollywood star is not cultural appropriation” on time.com. They write, “In fact, while folks in the South Asian diaspora point fingers at Beyonce for her inauthenticity, others expressed how empowering it is for them to see a dark-skinned woman portraying a Bollywood star.”

The point of it all is that cultural appropriation is as subjective as subjective can get. Some think it’s a grave offense while others believe it’s not a big deal. Still others say it can actually be a good thing. However comical, this definition from urbandictionary.com seems to be the one that really sums up the whole debate as it stands right now:

“The ridiculous notion that being of a different culture or race (especially white) means that you are not allowed to adopt things from other cultures. This does nothing but support segregation and hinder progress in the world. All it serves to do is to promote segregation and racism.”

Depriving members of a particular culture, even a dominant and privileged one, the opportunity to pick up aspects of another culture does nothing to encourage the former to have a deeper understanding of the latter. Instead of bridging distances and promoting global interaction, accusations of cultural appropriation only make people afraid to explore outside their own culture because of the perception being lobbied that it’s negative, when it need not be.

On theatlantic.com, Jenni Avins has this to say, “In the 21st century, cultural appropriation – like globalization – isn’t just inevitable; it’s potentially positive. We have to stop guarding cultures and subcultures in efforts to preserve them. It’s naïve, paternalistic, and counterproductive. Plus, it’s just not how culture or creativity work. The exchange of ideas, styles, and traditions is one of the tenets and joys of a modern, multicultural society


More cultural crusader nonsense. I understand and respect some Indians who find the video offensive, but I also understand and respect those that found it a beautiful tribute to their culture. To politicize it is in this global world is just so tiresome.

Plus I found Beyonce to be absolutely ravishing in the video and aspiring. I'm sure some of her fans, especially young black girls, will take some interest in Bollywood and Indian cultures in general from the MV itself. Afterall that is how cultural exchange works no?
February 11, 2016

Ellen Degeneres donates $500,000 to Detroit's Spain Elementary-Middle School

DETROIT - It's being called Ellen's "biggest, most generous gift ever."

The students and staff at Spain Elementary-Middle School thought they were staying after school to be a part of a documentary on the problems plaguing Detroit Public Schools Wednesday for The Ellen Show.

They were in for a massive surprise.

“I couldn’t breathe," the school’s principal Ronald Alexander said. "I started crying. I didn’t know what to do.”

Degeneres delivered the news to the children and staff from her LA studio.

The TV show host teamed up with Lowe's to donate a half million dollars to the school. The donation comes as the district gets national attention for the horrible condition in some classrooms.

A check for $250,000 was written out to the school to pay for improvements. $50,000 also went towards new technology and $200,000 will go towards services. Students and staff were also given gift cards.


Great news! This school was highlighted the most here in the Detroit area has being the absolute worst of the worst. Glad Ellen made this possible.
January 31, 2016

Black men only: UConn's proposed 'learning community' sparks controversy

The University of Connecticut is building a special residence for those who identify as African-American males, as a way to boost retention and graduation rates. Critics of the plan are calling the arrangement "racially segregated housing."

As part of its Learning Community Program, the university has established "houses" designed to match students with like-minded peers, in order to foster development and to "make UConn feel like home," according to the school's website. In addition to houses aimed at environmentally-conscious students or nursing majors, for example, a new house under construction will cater to African-American men only.

The SCHOLA2RS House ‒ which stands for Scholastic House Of Leaders who are African American Researchers and Scholars ‒ "is a scholastic initiative to groom, nurture, and train the next generation of leaders to address grand challenges in society through the promotion of academic success in undergraduate programs at the University of Connecticut and in competitive graduate programs," the university said.

The only one of the "learning communities" based on gender or race, the house is scheduled to open in the fall semester of 2016, WTIC reported. SCHOLA2RS will be located in a 200,000-square-foot dorm that will hold more than 700 other students, according to officials connected with the program.

"African American males graduate at a lower rate than their peers," said Dr. Erik Hines, a professor of educational psychology at UConn who focuses on research pertaining to African-American male academic achievement, especially in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). "So the University of Connecticut was forward-thinking in bringing a solution to this issue."

In 2012, the graduation rate for all UConn students was 82.5 percent, while the graduation rate for black males was 54 percent. That was the main impetus to build the new house, according to Hines.

"It is a space for African American men to one, come together and validate their experiences that they may have on campus," Hines added. "Number two, it's also a space where they can have conversation and also talk with individuals who come from the same background who share the same experience."

The unusual move has prompted an outpouring of criticism. On the anonymous subreddit board for "all things UConn," commenters have expressed concern with "identity politics" on college campuses and students that "want to hide in a shell and want people to hand them things." Some are alarmed at the fact that "UConn is considering racially segregated housing," and that the house is leaving out African-American women.

Students and others have pointed out that the housing is optional, and therefore not quite comparable to racially segregated housing. Others have supported the house in light of its goals, which include boosting academic performance of male African-American students.


I'm all for giving black men a better chance at success in college, but I don't feel that comfortable with this so-called "learning community". The house isn't entirely separated from other students of race so I wouldn't call it complete segregation, but I am concerned that improving the academic performance of black men involved giving them their own little dorm away from other races. I don't think that's the way to go imo.

What do you all think?

January 20, 2016

Kent State University professor investigated for alleged link to ISIS

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating Julio Pino, a Kent State associate history professor, for his alleged involvement with the Islamic State, according to KentWired.

"Kent State is fully cooperating with the FBI," Kent State spokesman Eric Mansfield told WKYC Channel 3 News.

"As this is an ongoing investigation, we will have no further comment," said Mansfield. "The FBI has assured Kent State that there is no threat to campus.”

An FBI special agent told KentWired a joint terrorism task force has been investigating Pino for the last year and a half.

Reached Wednesday, Jennifer Larson, head of the Kent State chapter of the American Association of University Professors, replied "AAUP-KSU has no comment on the matter at this time."


WTF are hiring these freaks to teach on campus???
December 24, 2015

Obama Warns Campus Protesters Against Urge To 'Shut Up' Opposition

In a wide-ranging interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep, President Obama had some advice for college protesters across the country.

Over the past several months, protests have occurred at schools such as the University of Missouri, Yale and Ithaca College over issues ranging from offensive Halloween costumes, to the racial climate and the lack of minority faculty at schools, to school administrators' responses to racially insensitive vandalism and other incidents on campuses. Many of these protests have been led by students of color and draw inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement.

Obama did not get into specifics about any particular recent protests and punted when asked whether schools like Harvard and Yale should get rid of symbols linked to slavery. But he did say that protesters on college campuses need to engage people they don't agree with, even as they protest.


Again a great interview with Obama on campus activism and student protesting.
December 22, 2015

Oberlin College's Food and Cultural Appropriation

Last week, students at Oberlin made national headlines for casting complaints about bad dining-hall food––a perennial lament of collegians––as a problematic social-justice failure. Word spread via people who saw their behavior as political correctness run amok. The New York Post gleefully mocked the students “at Lena Dunham’s college.” On social media, many wondered if the controversy was a parody.

In fact, it is quite real.

The core student grievance, as reported by Clover Lihn Tran at The Oberlin Review: Bon Appétit, the food service vendor, “has a history of blurring the line between culinary diversity and cultural appropriation by modifying the recipes without respect for certain Asian countries’ cuisines. This uninformed representation of cultural dishes has been noted by a multitude of students, many of who have expressed concern over the gross manipulation of traditional recipes.”

One international student suffered a sando-aggression:

Diep Nguyen, a College first-year from Vietnam, jumped with excitement at the sight of Vietnamese food on Stevenson Dining Hall’s menu at Orientation this year. Craving Vietnamese comfort food, Nguyen rushed to the food station with high hopes. What she got, however, was a total disappointment. The traditional Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich that Stevenson Dining Hall promised turned out to be a cheap imitation of the East Asian dish.

Instead of a crispy baguette with grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, the sandwich used ciabatta bread, pulled pork and coleslaw. “It was ridiculous,” Nguyen said. “How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?”

Multiple students were dissatisfied with their landlocked, Midwestern institution’s take on the cuisine of an island nation with Earth’s most sophisticated fishing culture:

Perhaps the pinnacle of what many students believe to be a culturally appropriative sustenance system is Dascomb Dining Hall’s sushi bar. The sushi is anything but authentic for Tomoyo Joshi, a College junior from Japan, who said that the undercooked rice and lack of fresh fish is disrespectful. She added that in Japan, sushi is regarded so highly that people sometimes take years of apprenticeship before learning how to appropriately serve it.

“When you’re cooking a country’s dish for other people, including ones who have never tried the original dish before, you’re also representing the meaning of the dish as well as its culture,” Joshi said. “So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as ‘authentic,’ it is appropriative.”


I understand the grievance of crappy cafeteria food but to make it into a social justice issue? -_____- These kids really need to grow up if they expected authenticity in freaking Ohio.
November 19, 2015

Safe Spaces Segregate the Claremont Colleges

In the wake of last week’s protests and resignations at Claremont McKenna College (CMC), “safe spaces” for students of marginalized identities are popping up all over the campuses of the Claremont Colleges. After protestors called for action, CMC President Hiram Chodosh stated his commitment to providing a permanent safe space for students of color in the near future. Until then, the Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) have dedicated part of their office as a safe space for these students.

Safe spaces for minority students have appeared on the campuses of other Claremont Colleges as well. Last week, the Motley Coffeehouse at Scripps College issued a statement on its official Facebook page, “The Motley sitting room will be open tonight from 6-10 only for people of color and allies that they invite. Please feel free to come and use the space for whatever you need – decompress, discuss, grieve, plan, support each other, etc. In solidarity.”

Additionally, a “Hurting and Healing” event, described as “a *for POC, by POC* art show,” is scheduled to take place at Pomona College on December 5. “This show’s intent is to create a space that is pro-POC, pro-black, and anti-white supremacist,” states the event’s website. “While you may want to invite a white friend or ally, to make this a safe and comfortable space for other POC, we ask that you do not.”

Further, the editorial board of The Student Life, an official, student government-funded newspaper, expressed solidarity with the recent movement and issued a statement explaining that the publication will create a space in its next issue for students of color who wish to write about their personal experiences. “We are tired of going to protests, seeing White allies snap and clap and shout only to move on the next day like nothing happened,” the editors write.


Are these safe spaces truly safe, or are we seeing segregation coming back onto our campuses?

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Name: Roman
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Hometown: Michigan
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Member since: Thu Feb 12, 2015, 07:59 PM
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