I.e., they want sharia…enforced. ASAP.
Controversy over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed hit home in Seattle recently, culminating in a protest outside of southend refugee service provider on Friday.
A group of Somali Americans gathered outside the Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way to demand the resignation of a teacher who showed the cartoons to her teenage students on the day after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.
“We’re not gonna be silent when it’s something that’s not right,” said Hassan Aden, who was one of between 15 to 20 people who attended the protest. “We’re trying to show that we’re not happy with what she did.”
The teacher, Deepa Bhandaru, recently earned her Ph.D from the UW Political Science department, and works for ReWA teaching a free class on world affairs for youth, where she showed the cartoons during a lesson on free speech and religious pluralism.
A post by the Stranger (where Bhandaru has written a number of film reviews and other articles) came to her defense, saying that she’d already sent lengthly letters of apology to her colleagues at ReWA and to a local mosque attended by some of her Somali students.
When protesters arrived Friday afternoon the ReWA offices were shuttered, with all staff gone for the day, and an official statement taped to the door (posted in full below).
Shahzad Qadri, a member of ReWA’s board of directors said the decision to close was based on fears for the safety of the staff, following incidents of vandalism early in the week.
“A lot of teenagers in our community were very angry and frustrated,” said Fatma Yessef, who attended the protest with her daughter Sumaya. “We told them we have to vent our frustration in a peaceful, nice way and say ‘you cannot do this to our prophet.’”
Like Yessef, many at the protest said they’d lived in the U.S. for decades and emphasized that they embraced American values of freedom of speech and religion. But more than one participant said they felt that showing the cartoons to youth had crossed a line, and insisted that they would only be satisfied if Bhandaru were fired.
Qadri said the decision about Bhandaru’s future at ReWA would be made based on an ongoing internal investigation, the results of which would be public.
For Yessef, who said she’s know Bhandaru several years, the apologies were too little too late.
“She should respect us as much as we respect her — her religion, her personality,” she said. “I don’t want to disrespect anybody for the way they are…I don’t think it’s free speech to talk about somebody’s religion, somebody’s beloved prophet like that.”
Did the teacher flee to India fearing for her life? More: Demonstration at Refugee Center After Longtime Teacher Prints Charlie Hebdo Cartoons for a Discussion About Religion and Expression
Bhandaru apologized and explained herself in two letters: a 2,300-word one to her colleagues (in which she said the workshop itself went well, with students generally agreeing that “sometimes one person’s freedom might offend another person, but that’s the price we pay to be free”) and a 500-word letter to the Abu-Bakr Islamic Center. “I have reached out to all of the Muslim youth in my program and their parents, apologizing and guaranteeing them that I will never make this mistake again,” the second letter stated. “I am not the enemy here.”
On Friday, Jan 16, an hour after Bhandaru took a flight to India, the Somali staff at ReWA staged a demonstration at the main office. They claimed that the multi-ethnic agency—which provides services in 37 languages at 10 different locations around the city—discriminated against Somalis and Muslims and chanted “Deepa’s gotta go.”
Bhandaru says none of her students, nor the parents of her students, were unduly upset by the workshop—and that the demonstrators, many of whom aren’t fully proficient in English, may not have been told the full story. “They’ve been manipulating the fact that the people don’t speak the language,” she said of the organizers. “The parents who are upset aren’t the parents of my kids. They’re trying to gain power politically, and maybe gain power within the agency.”
Bhandaru—who acquired a Ph.D in political theory and was given an “excellence in teaching” award from the University of Washington—is currently on paid leave while the agency “investigates” the matter. Because ReWA is partially funded by city money, city investigators may become involved as well.
“Unfortunately, freedom of speech is always used as the fig leaf when people are bashing Muslims,” says Jeff Siddiqui, head of American Muslims of Puget Sound. “If this was a deliberate act of provocation, I’d say fire her. Absolutely. But if now the person gets it and is contrite, I don’t see why, because then we’d lose a good teacher.”
After the first demonstration, one of Bhandaru’s students—named Munira, a devout Muslim from the Oromo community—sent her a text: “That’s just sad that you are trying to help them, they use that against you,” she wrote. “I will pray for you for this drama to be over. It’s just really sad seeing Muslim nowadays acting this way.”
h/t Refugee Resettlement Watch who writes:
Be sure to have a look at the most recent Form990 for Refugee Women’s Alliance just one of the hundreds of contractors and subcontractors living off the taxpayers to help the ‘stranger’. In 2013 its total income (p. 9) was $5.5 million and $4.4 million came from government grants. It reaped another $600,000 from child care income (some of that was probably subsidized by taxpayers too)!
What is wrong with this picture—we pay to feed, clothe, house and educate them and get a kick in the teeth as a reward!
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