Category Archives: Immigration and Islamophobia

Challenging the Roots of Norway’s Tragedy

The horrific murder of 76 people in Norway on July 22nd underscores the fact that, much like in the United States, migration is a giant issue facing Europe. The 1,500 page political manifesto released by Anders Behring Breivik, the confessed killer, blends together racist, anti-feminist and anti-marxist rhetoric with islamophobia and anti-immigrant vitriol. Yet Breivik’s diatribes are not such a far cry from the political tide gaining strength in many countries of Europe. New laws in France and Belgium banning the veil and the burqa and the rise of anti-immigrant political parties have served to strengthen an extreme right wing agenda on the European continent.

One of the goals of Uprooted is to draw connections between migration and other social / economic phenomena. What are the forces in the contemporary world that push people to leave home, family, neighbors, the familiar to cross barriers of mountains, oceans, deserts and language to go to other, often hostile countries?

Why does the extreme right focus on immigration? How does xenophobia reinforce the imperialist, white, male hegemony, so blatantly promoted by politicians and much of the media? And most chillingly of all: are attacks, like those perpetrated in Norway, the logical next step to arise from the political ideologies espoused by the far right – little examined,  frequently underplayed or even at times rationalized in the corporate media.

Deep Dish TV and the Uprooted team are working with European filmmakers and activists to develop a series of short documentaries that focus on the dimensions of the migration conflicts in Europe, including No Borders a group that challenge the very concept of nation-states and borders.

The following video is from a 2007  No Borders camp on the California/ Mexico border:

Uprooted will help to create an alternative to the mainstream medias discourse on immigration, which finds expression in and  fuels the rise of hate groups and the extreme right.

In their search for a narrative through which to filter the tragic attacks in Norway, many media outlets framed the bombing and shootings in an all too familiar way. Many outlets first pointed fingers at “Islamic terrorists” before anything was even known about the cause for the attacks. The Sun and the Washington Post, not only assumed the tragedies were the result of Muslim militant groups, but that they were attacks on “Western values,” tactical strikes in the so-called “Clash of Civilizations” between “the West” and Islam. In reality however, it was those very theories that state that Europe or “the West” is at “war” with Islam that drove Breivik to his actions. Those actions that he claims were a preemptive strike against the “Islamization” of Europe.

As Glen Greenwald points out in an article for Salon.com, the news media immediately stopped calling the attacks “terrorism” when they learned that the perpetrator was a white European nationalist. This is because, as Greenwald puts it, “Terrorism has no objective meaning and, at least in American political discourse, has come functionally to mean: violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes.” With attitudes like this perpetuated by the so-called “liberal news media” is it any wonder that members of the ultra-right have stated that they ideologically agree with Breivik, even if they don’t condone his violence?

The mainstream media has labeled Breivik a “madman,” an “extremist,” and even a “psychopath”. By dismissing him as a crazy individual they neglect to place his racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric in its rightful context: within the rise of right-wing extremism and white supremacy in Europe. The “lone madman” interpretation of events ignores the fact that in the past few years the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hatred of the so-called “extremists also finds congruence within mainstream “reasoned” political discourse . Last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel commented that multiculturalism had “utterly failed.” Shortly before these comments, a German politician released a book criticizing Germany’s immigration policy for engendering the same “Islamization” of Germany and Europe that Breivik feared. Both British PM David Cameron and French President Sarkozy have cast multiculturalism as a threat to their societies.

In his manifesto, Breivik listed Dutch anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders as one of his greatest influences.  Wilders has compared the Quran to Mein Kampf. While Wilders has hastily denied any connection to Breivik, his influence, and that of others like him cannot be denied. As author, journalist and professor Jeff Sharlet stated in an interview on Democracy Now!, the right wing politicians and pundits “are engaging in a rhetoric that sort of walks right up to that step of violence, and Breivik took the step. And it’s a little disingenuous for them to say, ‘Well, we never imagined anyone would do that.’ Painting Islam and immigrants as a threat to ‘western society’ that cannot be reasoned with and must be stopped at all cost paves the way for violence.”

In a well reasoned argument on Democracy Now!, renowned Norweigian peace activist and scholar Johan Galtung, compared Breivik’s philosophy to Nazism in no uncertain terms. He also stated however, that, ” This is exactly the ideology of the Washington-led attack on Muslim countries.” Citing the bombing of Libya and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as policies that take the same philosophy used by Breivik to its logical conclusion. These are scary realities to confront.

Nevertheless, Galtung did offer some words of hope for a solution. He stated that what is needed is a renewed call for dialogue; with the extreme right as well as with those groups which they so fear. “What a fantastic symbol this would be” he said, “leaving these rightists behind, saying, “You are not a part of our history. You belong to the past. Come and join us in this endeavor. Talk with the Islamic people you are so afraid of.” And you will find them 99.99 percent very, very reasonable.”

Fighting dehumanization in this way is the best strategy for challenging the largely white, straight, male political and cultural establishment that so fears the power of a more culturally integrated generation. That is why Uprooted is devoted to reclaiming the humanity of migrants both documented and undocumented. By telling their stories and giving them a place to have their voices heard Uprooted hopes to contribute to this dialogue for peace. By examining how migration relates to labor, imperialism, patriarchy and globalization Uprooted will contribute to the arguments that stand against xenophobia and racism. We hope that this project will be a tool that can be used to help stem the flow of hatred and challenge the pathological path advocated by those like Anders Breivik.

To learn more about Uprooted and how you can get involved just click here!

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Uprooted Announces Fall Video Trainings!

Part of empowering migrant communities to tell their own stories is giving them the tools they need to document their experiences. This fall Uprooted will be doing exactly that.  Working with four migrant rights groups based in New York City, our team will help them to build their media making capacity through video production workshops.

We will be working with Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), a community based organization of working class South Asian immigrants in New York City; VAMOS Unidos, Vendedores Ambulantes Movilizando y Organizando en Solidaridad (Street Vendors Mobilizing and Organizing in Solidarity), a community social justice organization, founded by low-income Latino/a immigrant street vendors; The New York State Youth Leadership Council(NYSYLC), an undocumented youth led organization fighting for access to higher education and the empowerment of migrant youth; and with the youth group of The Arab American Association of New York, a social service organization that seeks to support and empower the Arab immigrant community.

Click on the links above or watch the videos below to learn more about the amazing work of these four organizations!

DRUM- Youth Speak Out Part 1

DRUM- Youth Speak Out Part 2

Georgia 6- Felipe by the New York State Youth Leadership Council:

Balady Presents- Arab American Association of New York:

These groups all represent different sectors of the wide and diverse immigrant community in New York City. They don’t all take the same positions. For example, VAMOS Unidos opposes the DREAM Act because of its military provisions, where as the NYSYLC is fighting for its passage. All of them however, are dedicated to the empowerment of their communities and the struggle for migrant justice.

“Shifting the terms of the immigration debate” means presenting new dialogues and new perspectives. It means that although we may be at odds with one another on certain points, debates should be based on a premise that everyone, regardless of their origin or immigration status, is entitled to respect, dignity and human rights. All of these groups share that mission and work towards it everyday. They strive in their communities to “shift the debate” and to enable their members to articulate an understanding of their rights that challenges the mainstream discourse searching to dis-empower them.

Another thing all four of these organizations share is the work that they do with youth – training the next generation of leaders in their communities. The Uprooted team is very excited to work with these youth and other leaders on media skills: shaping documentaries, video shooting and editing.

By working with them and the tools they already have at their disposal, Uprooted hopes to build their capacity to document their struggles and tell their stories in a way that no one else can. We hope that the video training sessions will provide members and constituents of these groups with the tools to produce their own submissions for Uprooted. We are eager to hear their stories, and to share them with you!

Uprooting Racism, Sowing Seeds of Solidarity

Uprooted is an opportunity to create a media project that highlights the breadth and scope of migrant communities and migrant justice issues. By collecting and curating media made by and for social movements, Uprooted aims to clearly articulate how migrant justice issues operate in and through different systems of oppression.

This compelling video produced by Rights Working Group and the Restore Fairness Campaign at Breakthrough* foregrounds the prevalence of racial profiling and how it affects different communities of color in the US. It allows us to see how a pregnant Latina woman jailed for not having a driver’s license is part of the same system of oppression that enables the TSA to humiliate and force Muslim women to remove their hijabs. This video draws the connection between a Kurdish American male who is pulled over and strip searched for driving in the ‘wrong neighborhood’ to the scores of black Americans who continue to be victims of racial profiling and police brutality.

This video fits well with Uprooted’s goal of creating an alternative to the mainstream media’s narrative of migration issues. By bringing together these diverse personal experiences of racial profiling, this video better enables us to envision interracial and interethnic alliances in the struggle for social justice. Racist, unconstitutional provisions, like Alabama’s HB 56 are spreading like wildfire throughout the US (see embedded map). It is crucial that we continue to form and fortify broader, more inclusive coalitions to combat the onslaught of anti-immigrant legislation that encourages racial profiling.

*The video was shot, directed and edited by Breakthrough.