Archive for Religious Intolerance

Challenge: To Boldly Not Go Where We Have Gone Too Many Times Already

by John Weckerle

Having repeatedly written against discrimination of all kinds, it was with disappointment that we read this story regarding Irving, Texas high school freshman Ahmed Mohamed (son of a Sudanese immigrant who had run twice for that country’s presidency – and who, according to the Dallas Morning News “once made national headlines for debating a Florida pastor who burned a Quran”), who brought a clock he had made out of spare electronics parts to school to show his engineering teacher.  He presented it to the teacher early in the school day, who told him it was “nice” but advised him not to show it to any other teachers.  The clock’s alarm went off during his English class, and the teacher stated that it looked like a bomb and confiscated it.  The school’s principal called the police. Upon first seeing Mr. Mohamed one of the police officers, whom Mr. Mohamed had never met, reportedly stated “Yup.  That’s who I thought it was.”  The officers questioned the young man, who asserted truthfully that it was a clock, and he was subsequently handcuffed, arrested, not permitted to contact his parents, fingerprinted, and threatened with charges of creating a hoax bomb because police – while admitting they had no suspicion that it was a bomb – saw “no broader purpose.”

No broader purpose.  For a clock?

Now, we admit that clocks, while having their uses, have perhaps certain negative implications as well.  They are especially known for going off in the middle of a good dream – and given that this was English class (your editor always enjoyed English, despite the snoring of some of the other students) the clock might have been disruptive in that context.  However, the item was clearly not a bomb, and Mr. Mohamedhad showed it to his engineering teacher and explained what it was.  With that in mind, the concept that the article was a hoax bomb becomes absurd in the extreme; who on earth would create a hoax bomb, and then show it to a teacher – ensuring that if he did engage in the hoax, a) it would be immediately identified as a fraud, and b) he would be immediately caught and criminally charged?

Now, once it had been established that a) the object was not a bomb, and b) Mr. Mohamed had not in any way, shape, or form done anything to suggest, pretend, or otherwise represent that it was a bomb, or that it had been created as a hoax bomb, the affair could have, and should have, been concluded amicably – and Mr. Mohamed should have been sent on to whatever class awaited him.  Instead, authorities treated Mr. Mohamed as if he was a criminal, and marched him in handcuffs through the halls of his school in handcuffs, in full view of his peers.

Other than “graciously” announcing that Mr. Mohamed would not be charged with creating a hoax bomb, the city’s Mayor, Beth Van Duyne (described by the Dallas Morning News as “a national celebrity in anti-Islamic circles”), police department, and school principal continue to justify (rationalize?) their actions.  According to the police chief, “We live in an age where you can’t take things like that to school.”  Things like what?  Clocks?  Electronics projects?  We live in an age where, if we’re going to prepare engineers, scientists, and inventors to maintain (or perhaps more accurately, recover) the nation’s presence on the global technological stage, “things like that” are going to be coming to school in increasing numbers.  If this is the position, then they might as well arrest the entire robotics club and the evildoers at Radio Shack who sell good kids gone bad the parts to build these items.

Let’s face it, readers, as a case of racial/ethnic and/or religious profiling, this situation is not difficult to spot – and given that the local government has decided not to investigate it as such, perhaps external authorities and organizations should do so.

When the Dallas Morning News article first came out, it was nearly heartbreaking to read the last line: “He’s vowed never to take an invention to school again.”  To think that a bright talent had been squashed in such a way was tragic.  But then…

Mr. Mohamed has been invited to the White House and to a gathering of NASA scientists (he was wearing a NASA t-shirt at the time of his arrest).  He’s been contacted by representatives of his “dream school” – MIT – and received an outpouring of support from people throughout American society.  And all that, perhaps, gives us some hope that perhaps we are, collectively, better than some of us occasionally make us look.

As is all too often the case, suspicion born of ignorance and bias may well have created an unfortunate situation and likely a violation of a young man’s civil rights. Such things strain relationships within the community and create or strengthen divisions that sap the strength of the community as a whole.  Rather than circle the wagons, Irving city and school officials should engage in some serious self-examination and look for ways to be more inclusive and less suspicious of their minority populations.

Some small steps might be easy to take.  One way to strengthen relationships might be to allow the Muslim community a greater role in performing the invocation at the City Council meetings.  Reviewing the City Council meetings and agendas from January 2013 to date, we found that the Islamic faith was given this opportunity only once, on September 3, 2015.  Representatives of other faiths were given multiple opportunities, and a number of individual congregations were represented multiple times.  Perhaps a greater degree of inclusion here would

The City Council agendas also indicate that members of the public may speak for up to 3 minutes on essentially any topic; perhaps if a number of Muslim citizens of the greater Dallas area used this time to address this sort of situation and provide good information and suggestions on how to improve relations, the degree of familiarity would increase and the level of discrimination would decrease.  We hope that all the people of Irving, and the rest of us, may learn from this unfortunate situation and work together toward a more harmonious and balanced time together.

Proof Positive: There Is Life After Death

by John Weckerle

Or something to that effect.

On January 4, 2013, the East Mountain Tea Party announced its dissolution.  No doubt some were relieved, and others disappointed (not the least of whom were those of us who enjoyed commenting on their commentary).  As it turns out, the East Mountain Tea Party is back, and may never really have gone anywhere in the first place.

A recent Internet search led us to a Facebook page* upon which the first post, written on April 4, 2010, provides convincing (to us, at least) evidence that the owners of this Facebook account are likely the same people responsible for the posts that gave us all so much to discuss some years ago.  The fact that the cell phone number associated with the page (505-269-5617) is the same as that used for the previous web site perhaps supports that conclusion.  The commentary continued at a reduced pace, with a meager nine posts in 2013 and just one in 2014.  Now, however, we see two posts less than a week apart in March 2015, and one of them contains an all-too-familiar combination of religious intolerance and inaccuracy, referring to President Barack Obama as a “Marxist, Muslim man-boy,” all of which is clearly intended to be derogatory. And of course, there is the signature anonymity – no name, just the pseudonym “East Mountain Tea Party.”

Is the East Mountain Tea Party back, or are these just a couple of posts before the page goes silent again?  We’ll see – because we’ll be watching!

* We’re not providing them with a link, but if you search Facebook for “East Mountain Tea Party,” you’ll find them right away.

East Mountain Tea Party Officials and Islam

Editor’s note: We consider it important to state at the outset of this article that it is in no way our intent to denigrate or disrespect anyone’s religious beliefs, in this article or elsewhere; in fact, it was the issue of religious intolerance that sent us down the path that led us to this piece. We’ve provided links to full articles where appropriate to provide our readers with the full context of the quotes; we have saved the key references in both PDF and PNG screen grab formats, so if any of the links in this story should become inoperative in the future, please let us know and we’ll do what we can to repair them.

Update 1/4/11: Our original article on the East Mountain Tea Party’s apparent anti-Islamic bias can be found here.

by John Weckerle

East Mountain Tea Party Co-Founder Therese Cooper (image via You Tube)

As many of our readers may remember, we took issue some time back with what we considered to be anti-Islam positions officially expressed on the East Mountain Tea Party (EMTP) web site (our articles on the subject, along with others, are now collected under the category “Tea Party-gate.”).  The EMTP post informed readers that key members of the EMTP (Therese Cooper, Char Tierney, Silvana Lupetti, and Felicia Wilson), including at least two of its co-founders, had submitted a letter to Congressman Martin Heinrich’s demanding that he state his position with respect to a Muslim community center proposed for downtown New York.  We objected to the anonymously-posted EMTP article, and received a surprisingly vitriolic response indicating a clear anti-Muslim bias.  We had a little fun trying to track down the identity of the anonymous poster, who in our view is the EMTP’s official internet spokesperson  – and after a while, partially lost interest in that aspect, but we continued to research the issue of religious discrimination, because we were frankly dumbfounded by the strong anti-Islamic sentiment that came across in “teapartynm’s” response.

»» East Mountain Tea Party Officials and Islam

NM-Central “Outs” Anonymous Tea Party Spokesman?

by John Weckerle

Rats.  We had what could have been a great article in mind for this morning on the identity of the mysterious East Mountain Tea Party (EMTP) spokesperson “teapartynm.”  Based on writing styles and one particular hint from the web site, we were all ready to provide an exhaustive (and, now that we think of it, probably boring to most people) account of why we thought a particular person was the man behind the “nom de plume,” as it were.  Or, as it turns out, as it is.  Unfortunately, as it turns out, the Damage Control Subcommittee of the EMTP’s Public Relations Committee (okay, we’re being just a bit facetious there) appears to have gotten ahead of us and made a policy change requiring “teapartynm” to put his name on his articles – and after our most recent article on the subject, we might add.

»» NM-Central “Outs” Anonymous Tea Party Spokesman?

Hunt For East Mountain Tea Party Spokesperson Continues

by John Weckerle

In recent weeks, we’ve taken issue (here and here) with the anonymity of an official spokesperson for the East Mountain Tea Party (EMTP) who posts articles on the EMTP site and has posted comments here, including some that we consider to be anti-Muslim and equating Islam with al Qaeda.  We initially almost-but-not-quite concluded that the person, who goes by the moniker “teapartynm” on the EMTP site and “East Mountain Tea Party” here, was one Emily Cooper.  However, editor and EMTP supporter Chuck Ring asserted that Ms. Cooper was not the domain contact any longer, and was in fact no longer participating in Tea Party activities.  Mr. Ring declined to clarify: “I don’t see that knowing the name will add anything to the issue at this juncture.”  We disagree; as we stated in the original article, we consider equating Islam with al Qaeda to be bigotry, and while we think that while outright, Terry Jones-style bigotry is ugly, we believe that anonymous bigotry is worse, if somewhat less effective.

Now, it is a rule that domain contact information must be kept current, and with that in mind, we filed a complaint with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).  This is the organization that administers domains at the highest level, and makes the rules for using them.  Registrars (for example, Network Solutions or GoDaddy) then process requests for domain names.  Now, the way this process works is that, upon reciept of the complaint, ICANN sends a request for validation or update to the  the registrar – in this case, GoDaddy – which then sends a notification to the administrative contact e-mail, and the recipient logs on and confirms the contact information. Yesterday, we got a response that told us:

»» Hunt For East Mountain Tea Party Spokesperson Continues

“Credit” Where It Is Due?

by John Weckerle

Editor’s note/update: editor Chuck Ring has challenged us on our forensics in this article, stating that “you have used resources to mis-identify people who have nothing to do with the email address you are dogging.” We beg to differ, and offer the registration information as support:

East Mountain Tea Party Domain Registration Info

East Mountain Tea Party Domain Registration Info from GoDaddy whois; phone number redacted for privacy.

A few days ago, we published an article on the proposed Islamic community center in downtown Manhattan that was a response to an article on the East Mountain Tea Party web site, and had an exchange with someone calling themselves “East Mountain Tea Party.”  This person’s comment was also posted on the East Mountain Tea Party site under the name “teapartynm.”  We challenged the person to identify himself or herself, and thus far, there has been no such identification.  Neither is that person identified on the East Mountain Tea Party site; rather, the pseudonym “teapartynm” is used.

We fully support people’s right to state their opinions.  However, it’s important to realize that, while the Constitution may guarantee the right to do so, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee the right to do so anonymously, and given the rather controversial views expressed, we decided to do a little digging and see what we could find out.  Actually, we found out quite a bit, but we will for now stick to just trying to identify the person who posted the original article on the East Mountain Tea Party site and commented on ours.

»» “Credit” Where It Is Due?

No Mosque At Ground Zero – For Starters, Because Nobody’s Proposing One

Update 1/4/11: Additional discussion of the potential basis for the East Mountain Tea Party’s apparent bias against Islam can be found in our article East Mountain Tea Party Officials and Islam.

by John Weckerle

We had initially thought not to address the construction of a Muslim community center in downtown Manhattan (the Park51 Project, or Cordova House, commonly but mistakenly called the “Ground Zero Mosque), but since the East Mountain Tea Party has apparently decided to make this an election issue, we’ve decided to add some thoughts to the debate.

We’d like to begin, though, with a caution regarding a particular set of practices of discussion that seem to have become popular in certain quarters.  The first is the device by which those who disagree with a particular position attempt to turn the argument back on the originator as some sort of personal critique.  In spoken conversation, we often refer to this as the “I know you are, but what am I?” method, and have little use for it.  The second is to just outright attack the person originating the position or those who agree with it in general.  We’re not big on that one, either.  We invite our readers to post whatever comments they like, but be aware that we will probably ignore these two literary devices where responding to comments is concerned.

We also have something to say to the nebulous “teapartynm” who posted the article: We don’t think you should have to put your money where your mouth is, but you should certainly put your name there if you truly believe in what you’re saying.  To twist a line from the movie “Beetlejuice:” “Never trust the unidentified.”

»» No Mosque At Ground Zero – For Starters, Because Nobody’s Proposing One