The Ethics of Resistance

Strip a people of all freedoms. Take their land, kill their children and their loved ones, control their livelihoods, and prevent free movement. Strip them of their humanity. Occupy them. Deprive them of any form of justice. Do not, by any means, hold their aggressors accountable for their aggressions. Acknowledge the aggressor. Support the aggressor. Celebrate the aggressor. Do this for 66 years.

Then dictate to the occupied people the ethics of resistance.

Better yet, give them a list of the forms of resistance that are not allowed. Label those forms as terrorism. Do not tell them what you might consider to be “acceptable” resistance. Imply that non-violent compliance in the face of the complete annihilation of their civilization is the only form of resistance acceptable.

Tell them they must negotiate with the aggressor. Tell them they must accept all the conditions of their aggressor and cannot make conditions of their own. Tell them their people will not have the right to return but give every person in the world who belongs to the same religion of the aggressor the right to citizenship in the newly formed country.

Go to the movies. Cheer along as Hollywood glorifies American resistance fighters as they combat alien invaders, apes, and sometimes other humans. Then come home, turn on the television, and listen to American commentators and analysts deny the aforementioned occupied peoples, living under the worst conditions known to the human race, their right to resist.

Terrorize anyone who shows support to the occupied people. Label them. Demonize them. Threaten them. Call them terrorists and terrorist supporters.

Let’s you and I, sitting safely in our homes cuddling our children happily in our laps, discuss the ethics of resistance.

And let us not mention, once, the “ethics” of aggression and occupation.


Societies Overpowered by a Headscarf: It’s Time for Change

Muslim women in Europe and the United States who choose to wear a headscarf or face veil are placed under tremendous societal pressures almost every day. On the streets, some people look at them as if they are freaks of nature. Many find it difficult to get jobs or even to be accepted as tenants. And in France, women who wear the face veil are now affronted with legal action. Some women hold their heads high and persevere despite all this. Some women find it difficult to cope, they cringe under the heavy fist of society, and they decide to take off their hijab or their face veil and conform to the societal norm. Other women decide that the hijab wasn’t for them anyway and that this is as good an opportunity as any to take it off.

The struggle of the veiled Muslim woman in Europe has reached the hearts and minds of Muslims all over the world, including mine. Her struggle is their struggle. A woman has the right to choose, we all shout. Muslim women do not wear the headscarf/face veil out of oppression, we explain. In so many cases, they wear it as a matter of choice.

A woman, we shout, has the right to choose.

But do we Muslims really believe this or do we use this argument when it suits us?


Should science transcend political conflicts and wars?

This morning I posted a note about a claim that a US journal refused the publication of an Iranian research study because it was conducted in Iran Are US science journals not allowed to publish Iranian research?

I asked the questions: When do political sanctions go too far? Is it smart to sanction science and scientific research?

To this post, I got responses like the following on Twitter:

Thats sad!.. Science should be separated from politics!.. he can really publish it in EU or some other better place than US.

that is sad, I am sure that we can do something in the international forum of physics in this case.I will write a letter immediatly.

that’s probably bcse of the sanctions, Europe may too. Unfortunate falling thru the cracks of politics.

I also received this very valid question from another Twitterer:

do you think it’s OK to to have scientific relations/research with israel for example ?

When I visited Jerusalem and the West Bank in 2006, I covered the issue of Palestinian-Israeli scientific collaboration and wrote this article: Israeli-Palestinian research: walking on eggshells.

You will see that scientific collaboration between “enemies” is complex and does not have easy answers.

What do you think? Does science transcend political tensions, occupation, and war? Should it? Or is science part of the systems within we work and live and thus it is – and perhaps should – be affected by them?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this through comments to this post or by responding to the following poll:

Are US science journals not allowed to publish Iranian research?

I received an email from what seems to be a credible source saying that an Iranian working in the field of orthodontics submitted a paper to an American journal. The paper was refused solely on the grounds of the paper’s country of origin, Iran.

This is the email the Iranian orthodontist is claimed to have received (names have been removed by the source of information):

Dear Dr. XXXX

We have received your manuscript in our automated system. Unfortunately, our Federal Government does not allow us to process and edit manuscripts submitted from Iran.

I regret that the world situation results in our inability to communicate science as we would wish. I suggest that you submit your manuscript to a European journal or a journal located in some other country than ours.

Thank you for your interest in The XXXXX.


Editor-in-Chief, The XXXX
Professor Emeritus
University of XXXXX
XXXXXX University

This is definitely worth looking into. Has the US government really issued warnings to scientific journals against publishing research by Iranian scientists? If so, why? When do political sanctions go too far? Is it smart to sanction science and scientific research?

Movie Review: My Name Is Khan

The crazy, messed up world we live in required the clear sight of a man with Asperger’s syndrome to show us how life should be – could be – if we opened our eyes, minds and hearts to each other.

I watched the movie “My Name Is Khan” last night. I do not exaggerate if I say it is probably one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. It resonated so closely with thoughts I’ve had for quite some time. It focused the spotlight on a type of people who are out there but are not acknowledged.

“My Name Is Khan” is about an Indian Muslim man with Asperger’s syndrome (an autistic disease) who grew up in India among Muslim-Hindu troubles. His mother taught him that it was not Hindu or Muslim who was bad. It was the man with the stick in his hand who was bad, no matter where that person comes from.

Khan takes this simple idea with him to the U.S. and marries a Hindu woman he falls in love with against the wishes of his brother, his only remaining family member. And then 911 strikes.  The movie portrays the lives of Muslims in the United States post-911 and the prejudices they were exposed to as a result. The movie shows how friendships, relationships and lives were shattered and how people coped in different ways. And the movie has one overwhelming message repeated throughout by the main actor: “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”

My sister was a veiled Muslim woman living in the US when 911 struck. My sister is half-American. She was – as I’m sure she will tell you – as shocked by the 911 attacks as everyone else was. But she lived a very scary time afterwards, where she could not leave her home for days on end as anti-Muslim rhetoric and sentiments pervaded. I am also half American and have struggled with my identity for most of my life. So this movie is very personal to me in many ways.

The message of the movie goes beyond, however, the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists. The beauty of the movie is in its portrayal of the multi-cultural, inter-ethnic world we now live in (practically wherever we live) and how we must learn to look beyond color, race, clothing, appearance, religion, ideology and see the human being in each of us. We must look beyond our differences and see our commonalities. We must look beyond our commonalities and appreciate our differences. 

I appreciate “My Name Is Khan” because it portrays a type of people I know, but who are not given a voice. I appreciate “My Name Is Khan” because it comes after countless movies where Muslims have been portrayed as terrorists, gold-diggers, or crazy genies and sorcerers. I appreciate “My Name Is Khan” because it shows the kind of world we could be – should be – living in.