“Self-Defense” For Whom? The Not-So-Curious Case Of Marissa Alexander

Originally published in the JHU Politik on February 23, 2014.

While our country’s all-too-frequent mass shootings over the past few years have invigorated discussion about guns and self-defense, the perspective of those affirming Second Amendment rights has often been scrutinized. Some critique raced and classed fantasies about defending one’s home from specific kinds of invaders; others question what need those who dominate this discourse truly have to defend themselves against state oppression. The latter is particularly intriguing as it is of course those with the least societal power in this country—people of color, the poor—who are the most susceptible to violence, with more to fear from the state and from their fellow citizens. What does the right to arm oneself mean for a black man, so often stereotyped as a threat—like Jonathan Ferrell, shot dead by police after knocking on a woman’s door for help after a car crash, or Jordan Davis with his “loud music” and Trayvon Martin with his infamous hoodie and bag of skittles? And what does the freedom to buy a gun mean for a Muslim, the association of whom with destructive weaponry continues to this day, fueling hate crimes and the NYPD’s socially erosive mass surveillance of Muslim communities? Meanwhile, the same city’s stop-and-frisk program harasses and humiliates these very people while groping them for weapons (blacks and Latinos comprise 84% of stops although the NYPD’s own data reveals that whites have been twice as likely to carry drugs and guns).

But there’s more. Have you heard of Marissa Alexander?

Continue reading “Self-Defense” For Whom? The Not-So-Curious Case Of Marissa Alexander

Featured in: “Navigating the New Normal: Young American Muslims Coming of Age Post 9/11”

I was interviewed by Nina Porzucki for Public Radio International’s “The World” radio program, featured in this April 23, 2013 story on being a young American Muslim in the post-9/11 United States.

Short promotional preview featuring myself:

Full story:

Continue reading Featured in: “Navigating the New Normal: Young American Muslims Coming of Age Post 9/11”

“Transparency” and the Conditions of Public Support for Drone Strikes

Originally published in Elias Isquith’s Jubilee on February 20, 2013.


Thanks to a Washington Post/ABC poll from last February, we already knew that 83% of Americans support the use of drones against suspected terrorists overseas. This fact has been used to support the notion that U.S. drone strikes abroad will not come under domestic scrutiny because there is little demand for such scrutiny among the American public. Supposedly, at least 83% of Americans have accepted the use of unmanned drones as a viable and acceptable counterterrorism tool—and for a country so tired of the “decade of war” Obama repeatedly assures us is ending, this is hardly surprising. But the reality is not that simple.

The new poll—taken after the publication of the DOJ white paper on targeted killings—asks more specific questions about the use of drones to kill individuals, revealing nuances of opinion that say as much about the consequences of transparency as they do about American ethical leanings.

The poll found that 56% of respondents support the use of drones to target “high-level terrorist leaders who may be involved in planning attacks.” Fair enough. However, only 13% indicated support for killing “anyone suspected of being associated with a terrorist group.” And, in a separate question, only 27% indicated that they would favor the use of drones “if there is a risk of killing innocent people.”

Read more at Jubilee.

Ibrahim Project, June 2: Primer on Israel/Palestine before takeoff

← Previous: Ibrahim Project, June 1: Orientation in D.C.

This is part of a series of posts on my participation in the Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Project during June 2012.

Mark’s lecture on the state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Before our departures, the group had lunch at Bistro Français in Georgetown, where Mark delivered a lecture to prepare us intellectually for the trip. Mark’s primary realm of expertise is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so this was the focus of the conversation. He started by talking about the Arab Spring in this context—phenomena that he called the “Israeli summer,” where Israel’s middle class rose against increasing costs and huge inequality, and the “Palestinian fall,” in which Palestinians gave up on negotiations and Abbas took their statehood bid to the UN. Also, Israel has itself moved the focus away from peace with the Palestinians—and instead toward war with Iran. With concerns growing about the Iranian nuclear program, IAEA demands with lack of compliance, and a loss of faith in diplomacy and sanctions, for many people the situation is basically, “either Iran gets the bomb or gets bombed.” This is the foremost foreign-policy concern of Israeli politicians at the moment, so it’s easy to see why there is now such little traction on the Palestinian issue.

Continue reading Ibrahim Project, June 2: Primer on Israel/Palestine before takeoff

Ibrahim Project, June 1: Orientation in D.C.

This is part of a series of posts on my participation in the Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Project during June 2012.


On June 1, 2012, five other students and I walked into the Institute of International Education knowing few details about how we would spend our two weeks on another continent. The trip had been in its last stages of planning, partly due to the fact that cultural attitudes about time in that part of the world are not nearly as rigid as in the United States. Only two days earlier did we find out that we would not be able to visit Saudi Arabia and thus were traveling to Oman instead (the program coordinators, due to some unforeseen circumstances, could not get us visas into the Kingdom—last year’s group of students were the first to make that trip, and whatever connections it took to make it happen were less successful this time around). So we arrived at the IIE office, eagerly anticipating the revelation of the final itinerary for our travel between the Sultanate of Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and the State of Israel.

Continue reading Ibrahim Project, June 1: Orientation in D.C.