Corruption, bad policy are part of Boko Haram equation

MAY 21, 2014, 4:40 PM 

Walid: Corruption, bad policy are part of Boko Haram equation

International media attention has been focused for the past month on extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, which kidnapped almost 300 schoolgirls. The girls, who were purportedly were to be sold, are now being held as leverage for the Nigerian government in exchange for some Boko Haram members. Most of the girls have yet to be returned to their families.

Boko Haram, like its pseudo-Christian brethren the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has caused mayhem and bloodshed in Central Africa, should be viewed along the lines of a cult. Nigerian Islamic organizations, mainstream American Muslim organizations to ultra-conservatives in Saudi Arabia have condemned Boko Haram as being un-Islamic even prior to this latest act of treachery.

What has been missing, though, from many discussions on television and the hashtag campaign #SaveOurGirls is a discussion of the environmental factors that gave birth to Boko Haram and whether U.S. government policies in Nigeria actually helping its people or contributing to problems.

Boko Haram has waged a brutal campaign of terror in an attempt to overthrow the central government’s authority in Northern Nigeria in part due to many legitimate grievances. Nigeria is one of the largest oil producers in the world, yet lacks in education, economic opportunities, healthcare and security problems are rampant, especially in Northern Nigeria were Boko Haram operates.

Archbishop Joseph Edra Ukpo in Nigeria just stated a few days ago:

Corruption is what is making it difficult to bring the Boko Haram insurgence to an end and unless we fight corruption it will be difficult for Nigeria to make much progress as a nation because it has taken over much of our national life.

Boko Haram, hence, has deployed extremist tactics in their warped worldview in an attempt to remedy extreme sociopolitical conditions. Moreover, they believe that poverty and depravity in Nigeria is primarily due to its corrupt government that has been propped up by Western governments and oil interests.

Due to extreme poverty in the region, Boko Haram has recruited mercenaries from its country and neighboring Niger, many who are not even religious ideologues, just young men who desire a couple of square meals a day and shoes on their feet.

It’s a mystery where Boko Haram receives its funding, but it is known that they obtained weapons in Libya after President Barack Obama’s non-congressional authorized intervention there, which led to the downfall of Qadhafi and further destabilization of Nigeria and Mali.

At the end of the day, Nigerians have to solve Nigeria’s problems. Western intervention and staking out moral high group will not bring those kidnapped girls home nor assist Northern Nigerians. We should not pretend to be superheroes of the world.

What we can do, however, from our side of the pond, besides pray, is make sure that we are not oversimplifying complex geopolitical issues and promoting misinformation about Nigerian Muslims and Islam in general.

We should be vigilant as Americans that our government’s policies abroad do not support incessantly corrupt regimes and that we avoid unneeded military interventions, which have unintended consequences of empowering extremists, who harm large swathes of people.

More technology should be deployed to deter police misconduct

MAY 14, 2014, 1:00 PM 

Dawud Walid: More technology should be deployed to deter police misconduct

Metro Detroit has always been one of the more notorious areas in America for police misconduct and brutality. In my parent’s generation, there was systematic brutality and racial profiling, from the Detroit Police Department’s notorious Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets (S.T.R.E.S.S.) unit and routine harassment of black men driving west of Wyoming St. by the Deaborn Police during the era of Mayor Orville Hubbard.

Since then, we’ve had numerous events ranging in severity and media scrutiny, from the fatal beating of Malice Green in 1992 by Detroit Police officer Larry Nevers, to Grosse Pointe Park Police suspending five officers last year after it was revealed that a black man with diminished mental capacity was made to make ape sounds while in police custody.

Last week, dashcam video was made public regarding an incident in which a Dearborn Police officer is seen kicking an unarmed Lebanese immigrant who was being restrained on the ground. The man who was kicked multiple times barely speaks English and has diminished mental capacity, similar to the gentleman who was humiliated last year in Grosse Pointe Park.

These incidents, spread across decades, makes one wonder if there’s a greater law enforcement culture issue at hand.

Sure, there are many honorable officers serving in our region and being in law enforcement is never an easy task. However, the reflex in which police chiefs have to defend their officers, seemingly at all costs, helps perpetuate actions such as what took place in Dearborn.

But thank God for technology.

We can lawfully take smartphone video of officers in action, and many police vehicles are outfitted with dashcams, which pick up audio and video of police interactions.

All officers, as public servants, should be mic’d at all times while on duty. Officers’ interactions should be public record, except for detectives investigating sensitive cases and/or taking official statements of witnesses to crimes. Every sheriff and police officer’s car in Michigan should be compelled to have dashcams.

For many people, behaviors do not change without consequences. Greater opportunities to scrutinize the behaviors of law enforcement officers may serve as a deterrent against police misconduct.

High court fails in not hearing NDAA challenge

MAY 7, 2014, 11:10 AM 

Dawud Walid: High court fails in not hearing NDAA challenge

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent refusal to hear a challenge to part of a law, which allows for the federal government to indefinitely detain American citizens with alleged ties to particular foreign extremist organizations poses one of the greatest threats to our civil liberties since the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

The Court decided not to hear arguments pertaining to Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which in effect allows for the federal government to indefinitely detain persons including citizens without due process, who purportedly support certain terrorists while withholding due process protections.

The problematic portion of NDAA is as follows:

[Any] person who was part of or substantially supports al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.

There’s simply no transparency in the process of how the Executive Branch can designate people to fit into this provision. Plaintiffs against NDAA, which included journalist Chris Hedges and whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, argued that anyone who is viewed as a troublemaker can potentially be held by the military, per order of the president. An investigative journalist, who has conversations with an alleged terrorist as a source for a story, and a person who leaks government documents to the public that get into the hands of an extremist group, are treated the same in the eyes of the law.

Congress needs to retake up the bipartisan Smith-Amash Amendment, which was introduced after the initial passage of the controversial NDAA to restore our civil liberties. It should never be left to the sole discretion of the Executive Branch to indefinitely detain citizens who are far removed from an active battlefield. We are a nation of the rule of law, which is supposed to operate on legal principles, not the discretion of the president exerting kinglike authority.

Without an act of Congress, we may live to see the day where American citizens are held without trial under NDAA, not unlike the way rogue states such as Egypt and North Korea dominate their citizenry.

The Opportunity America Lost in the Sterling Hoopla

The Opportunity America Lost in the Sterling Hoopla

In the recent controversy surrounding Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, there have been some missing pieces that have not been discussed much in the media coverage which we were bombarded with.  Sterling getting a lifetime ban from attending NBA events, his being fined $2.5 million and some corporate sponsors cancelling and suspending support for the team are nice steps.  The lack of discussion regarding the incessant nature of misogyny and structural racism in our society relating to this incident is what disturbs me.

In all of the hoopla regarding Sterling’s racist statements, his sexist statements received little to no attention.  In the leaked audio, Sterling stated to his girlfriend, “If my girl can’t do what I want, I don’t want the girl. I’ll find a girl that will do what I want. Believe me.”  He also said, ““I’m not you, and you’re not me.  You’re supposed to be a delicate white or a delicate Latina girl.”  By these statements and those in which he dictated to her that she couldn’t be seen or photographed with black people shows that Sterling viewed her as a piece of property.

Those who dismiss this by saying that she asked for this treatment because she’s an adulteress are also part of the problem.  One reflection of misogyny in our society is that the standard of morality is squarely the burden of women.  Thus, his misogyny and infidelity have gotten an overall pass on tv talk shows.

The other issue that has been by-passed is the lack of discussion about the deeply saturated and structural nature of white supremacy and racism in America.  To depict Sterling’s comments as those of an old school bigot is an elementary analysis at best.  His justification of how he sees his black players by invoking how black jews are treated like dogs in Israel reflects a greater dehumanization of blacks that is beyond individual bias.  It involves power.

It’s easier for many Americans to get upset about Sterling’s comments than the grosser expressions of it that negatively impact millions of people of color on a daily basis.  Where’s the outrage over Native Americans continuing to be the poorest of this land and suffering the highest numbers of unprosecuted sexual assault (not to even mention the racism they face in our sports culture)?  Where’s the outrage over selective enforcement and prosecution of drug laws, which has our country having the largest prison population in the world with a disproportion percentage of black and Latino inmates?

Unfortunately, no such outrage exists en masse because white privilege allows for non-effective people to not see these expressions of racism that have far greater social costs than boorish comments from a multi-millionaire white racist thug.

When such situations arise again, we should center our conversations on these being symptoms of greater social diseases, not remnants of our so-called sexist and racist past.  We had an opportunity to create a dialogue about deep societal issues and we failed.  The only way we have a chance of defeating misogyny and racism in America is to focus on dismantling and dis-investing from male chauvinist and white supremacist structures instead of primarily focusing on individual bigots like Sterling.