Dean Obeidallah

Dean Obeidallah

Dean Obeidallah is a former lawyer turned political comedian and commentator. Dean has appeared on numerous TV shows including CNN, Comedy Central's "Axis of Evil" Special, Current TV's "The Young Turks," ABC's "The View," MSNBC's "Up With Chris Hayes," NBC's "Rock Center," and ABC's "Nightline." Dean has written articles for CNN.comThe Huffington Post, BBC Radio and written jokes which have appeared on NBC's "Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update" segment and CBS' "The Late, Late Show." He is also co-director of the soon to be released "The Muslims Are Coming!" Twitter: @deanofcomedy

Website URL: http://www.deanofcomedy.com

One Man's Mission to Give the Call to Prayer in all 50 States

19 April 2015 Published in

By Hira Uddin

April 20, 2015

It is uncommon for a distinguished business executive to put his professional career on hold to embark on a spiritual mission across all 50 states of America - but that is precisely the path Jameel A. Syed is currently pursuing. Accompanied by his loyal campaign manager, Yahya Sultan, Syed hopes to make history as the first man to give the adhaan (call to prayer) in 50 mosques across all 50 states.

Syed explained his aim as being two-fold: "I want to make both the adhaan along with the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) go viral, and help Muslim communities author their own narratives so others can see how we contribute to impact society in a positive way." In addition to fulfilling his personal dream, Syed hopes to share the stories of Muslim American communities throughout the U.S. via various social media platforms to peacefully combat Islamophobia and the misrepresentation of Muslims.

A native of Michigan, Syed shares a profound connection both to his country and to his faith as a Muslim American - which is one of the main driving factors behind launching his Muaddhin campaign. Although he has over 20 years of professional leadership experience working with various companies and is the founder of his marketing firm, Fluidvisions, Syed now wants to be known as "the voice heard around the world." Not only does he want to be heard giving the call to prayer, but he also wants to be listened to as he delivers the last sermon of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him); accomplishing his dream full-circle. He shares that a significant source of inspiration is the essence of the Quran that encourages service to humanity. Syed states, "I want to serve God by serving humanity. Let me go and engage communities and let me help them tell their stories to others - especially when Muslims don't always have that ability to reach a broad audience."

Syed identifies the significance of the final sermon as the culmination of 23 years of prophethood in which the universal social principles of justice, equality, and unity are emphasized; therefore, he could not surrender the opportunity to call listeners back to this historical speech. Prior to the launch of his campaign, Syed explains how he searched for the most meaningful way to honor his personal link to Muhammad (PBUH) because it was in visiting his mosque in Medina which led him to formulating his vision: "Back in January of 2004 during Hajj, I was in the Prophet's mosque, and I was in front of his grave and that's where I had the idea that I would serve God through the gift that he's given me."

While he has served as a well renowned muaddhin (one appointed to give the call for prayer) for a large part of his life, his dream to reach 50 mosques in 50 states materialized a few years ago in 2004. Syed recalls how he was inspired to pursue his idea when he was seated in Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) mosque in the city of Medina. Syed stated that he was on the spiritual journey of Hajj and it was there he was inspired to make the highlight of his legacy to share the gift of the adhaan with as many people as he could reach. 

"I realized that I've had my marketing firm for ten years and I've been able to work with some of the top leadership in the United States. But I just turned 40 a few months ago and as I took a look and account of what's been done, while I've taken the benefit from the companies I've served, and when I look back at the 10 years, I ask if I've done everything I could have done and I find myself in a deficit." In an effort to fill that deficit, Syed made the commitment to embark across all 50 states and use his gift to connect with the people he meets along the way.

Although his mission is comprised of fundamental Islamic components (the call to prayer and the last sermon), Syed hopes that his journey will be followed by non-Muslims and Muslims alike. Ultimately, Syed wants others to understand that Islam truly is a religion of peace and unity; a fact he wants to emphasize by documenting the Muslim communities he encounters along the way. His personal goal is to serve God by serving humanity through making this effort to help Islam gain attention in a positive and meaningful way; his personal formula to dispel untruths about Islam and it's millions of followers. 

With a growing social media following, it is evident that he and his campaign manager have been successful in presenting snippets of diverse Muslim American communities through photos and videos posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. His unique campaign serves to invite others to learn and see a more accurate manifestation of the faith that their neighbors, coworkers, students, or friends practice. As a Muslim American, Syed is all too familiar with the climate of Islamophobia and hostility towards Muslims. He feels the misrepresentation of Islam as a religion that promotes violence serves as a reminder as to why the Muslim community needs to be creative in reaching the masses with an accurate representation of Islam. 

Additionally he believes that every individual has something substantial to contribute, and that can be as simple as being kind to strangers or stopping to have a conversation with someone. He states, "I'm a muaddhin; I haven't memorized the entirety of the Quran, I'm not a scholar. I'm not an individual involved with the extensive imparting of knowledge. But if you want to gain the favor of God, you have to get creative"; essentially meaning that a person's contribution to the social fabric is not measured by overall perfection, but using one's individual talent and perfecting one's craft.

Syed shares that he wants to set a precedent as the first muaddhin to undertake this journey across America and hopes to inspire individuals along the way to use whatever talent a person may have to help foster a deeper understanding of all people. Traveling across the country to new and unfamiliar places is no easy task and Syed admits there have been challenges along the way in terms of overall logistics as well as grappling with the fact that not everyone welcomes his mission with open arms. However, that slight rejection only motivates him further to complete his journey because he explains that he finds solace in remembering the trials encountered by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are well documented and "nothing worth having, comes easy". Moreover, regardless of the struggles he has encountered thus far, Syed is determined to push through and finish what he set out to accomplish. 

With 25 states completed since April 3rd, Syed's journey is close to being complete. He aspires to be a role model for all those who believe in serving humanity and embracing acceptance of marginalized communities. His mission to reach 50 mosques in 50 states is more than just a physical journey; it is one of unifying and connecting communities to one another in an effort to break free from hatred and discrimination of all kinds. His aim is to honor the responsibility that is attached to his title as a muaddhin: "The tradition is that when the muaddhin makes the call to prayer, everything that his voice touches, as far as his voice goes - alive and not alive, animate and inanimate, will testify for him on the day of Judgment and serve as an inteccsor. I will literally March across the entire country and make the entire country my witness." 

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Hira Uddin is a graduate of Rutgers University and currently reside in Houston, Texas where she works as a Qualified Mental Health Professional for youth with mental health diagnoses and severe emotional disturbances. She has also written articles for Bravura Magazine, Muslimgirl.net, The Happy Hijabi, and Ummid.com. Follow her onTwitter.

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Why America Should Celebrate Its first Muslim College

14 April 2015 Published in

By Nadine Mansour

April 14, 2015

Homer - Sophocles– Demosthenes - Cicero - Ibn Khaldun- St. Thomas Aquinas - Dante

Which of these names is not etched into the façade of Columbia University’s main library? It’s that of Ibn Khaldun, 9th century Muslim writer, who despite being credited with founding historiography and sociology, is omitted from among these canonical writers, philosophers, and theologians because unlike the others, his work emerged from Islamic, not Western, civilization.

Just last month, it was announced that we just got our first accredited Muslim College when the Western Association of Schools and Colleges recognized Zaytuna College, located in Berkeley, California. According to its brochure, Zaytuna hopes to contribute “to the revival of liberal education, as endures today in religious and secular institutions such as Thomas Aquinas College, St. John’s College, Amherst College, Williams College, and Wesleyan University,” adding that “Zaytuna is the first Muslim college to join the movement.”

We haven’t yet heard any fear mongering in the mainstream media that this university will indoctrinate students to impose sharia law, reject enlightenment values, or increase homegrown terror. Such claims would nonetheless be grounded in ignorance and not in reality. In a world where the ‘West’ and the ‘East’ are at some sort of perpetual war with each other, Muslim Americans have felt alienated by both mainstream American media and by mainstream Islamic traditions and thought coming from states such as Saudi Arabia. What Zaytuna offers is a means to examine the Islamic tradition in a way that juxtaposes it with the western canon with which Muslim and non-Americans alike are already too familiar.

In a statement by Hamza Yusuf, the president of the college, Zaytuna College’s curriculum “grounds its students in both the Islamic and Western scholarly traditions.” What is the Islamic scholarly tradition? How is it possible for these two traditions, which appear to be starkly different to be taught in tandem?

As a product of the American public and private school system, I am not fully equipped to answer that. As one, however, who has recently been introduced to various works of the Arabo-Islamic civilization, examined historical origins of the “East-West” divide, I can go so far as to make a few educated guesses that Zaytuna offers a way to gain knowledge as knowledge, rather than place value on western canon as is done in our Euro-North-American-centric school system. And with current instability in the Middle East, Zaytuna offers a practical means for Americans to engage with the Islamic tradition without venturing abroad. Additionally, Zaytuna can provide a different reference for ideas commonly attributed to the age of the [European] Enlightenment. You didn’t actually think there was an ‘Age of Darkness’ in which no knowledge was produced, did you? In fact the period between 700 and 1500 A.D. is one when Arab and Muslim scholarship was at a high.

In a world where theorists such as Samuel Huntington perpetuate the self-fulfilling notion of a clash of Western and Islamic civilizations, the very existence of an institution such as Zaytuna, one in which both traditions are taught in tandem (and I assure you, in which students are not leaving with extreme views), breaks down misconceptions and the narrative by creating a version of Islam that Americans find accessible. For Muslims who usually have to turn to studying abroad to learn more about the underpinnings of their faith, it sends a strong message that Islam at the higher education level is not foreign to their very own country, and indeed, Muslims have been here since the founding of this nation. It is a proactive, rather than reactive, way of explaining what Islam has to offer and will have to offer to the cultural and academic production of the U.S. and what it can continue to offer for generations to come.

Let’s not forget that America’s best- selling poets is Rumi, a Sufi mystic whose words speak for the universal humanity that is common to us all. Want to know what values, thoughts, and ideas we share with the Arabo-Islamic civilization? Want to get started on understanding the Islamic tradition without enrolling in Zaytuna? Or just explore history from a different perspective? You can start by picking up any of the following books:

The Introduction, by Ibn Khaldun

The Alchemy of Happiness, by Al-Ghazzali

Journey, by Ibn Battuta

Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes, Tamim Ansary, 2009

Sadly within the course of World History textbooks, Islamic civilization, we are told day in and day out, is at war with Western civilization, receives too little coverage in the curriculum of our school systems for the average American—and even Muslim Americans—to understand where the two civilizations converge and why in the present day they’ve diverged. By asking what is missing from the narrative, only then can we understand that neither ISIS nor Al-Qaeda nor the many despotic leaders of majority-Muslim nations represent Islam, a 1400 year-old religion, encompassing many regions, cultures, and thinkers.

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Nadine Mansour is a recent graduate of Barnard College and a native New Yorker, where she is active with minority youth. Previously, she's written for the Columbia Political Review, among other publications. Follow her on twitter: @NadineMMansour

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Can comedy defeat the NRA?

19 March 2015 Published in

By Dean Obeidallah

March 19, 2015

The NRA has battled and beaten numerous adversaries that sought to enact laws they believed could save the lives of Americans from gun violence. But there’s a new weapon in this fight against the NRA that just may make a difference: Comedy.

So what is the new comedic approach that hopes to reduce the 32 Americans killed every day by gun violence in our country? Well, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has teamed up with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Funny or Die (FOD) to make a video that calls out, in a funny and informative way, the States that make it easy for criminals to buy, carry and traffic guns. (You can watch video HERE.)

The video, released on Thursday, features a male and female couple in a parody of a commercial for Tripadvisor.com. But instead of a website offering reviews on the best restaurants or cheap places to get drunk, these two “criminals” are doing a commercial for the new website, Crimadvisor.com. This satirical “travel website” is designed to help criminals pick the “best” vacation spots based on how lax the gun laws are in each state.

The modern day Bonnie and Clyde-esque couple share with us how thrilled they are to vacation in Arizona, the state with the weakest gun safety laws. “I can see the beautiful Grand Canyon and carry a loaded gun without even having a background check,” the guy excitedly tells us.   To which his female counterparts responds: “You would fail that background check.” “I’m sure of it!” laughingly exclaims the guy.

By the end of this one minute and forty-four second video, you have learned in an entertaining way about the states that are truly a criminals dream to visit because of anemic gun safety laws, such as Nevada, Florida and Louisiana.

We also find out about states that don’t “get us criminals” because their laws make it more challenging for dangerous people to legally purchase firearms. We are talking states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California. To which the male criminal declares: “I want to shoot California so bad!”

The question, of course, is can this video actually have a meaningful impact? Yes, I know some (mostly on the right) will roll their eyes to the notion that comedy can impact public policy. These people simply don’t grasp the potential power of political comedy.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign explained to me via email that, “sometimes, humor can get people to pay attention to a tough issue and look at it differently.” Adding, if this new comedy video “makes people tune in and engage, then it can definitely help.”

I couldn’t agree more with Gross. Comedy can reach people who would never listen to a speech or a serious presentation about a political issue. For example, the Brady campaign released a short video in October 2014 which explained in a typically serious manner about how alarmingly one percent of the gun dealers sell the guns used in nearly 60 percent of the gun related crimes in the United States.

Want to guess how many views this video has attracted in six months? A little over 500.

In contrast, the Brady campaign’s new comedic video that has only been up since Thursday has nearly 90,000 views -and the word is just getting out about it. And, just as importantly, this video will likely reach younger people, many of whom aren't rigidly set in their views on gun safety laws.

If you doubt that a short comedic video can move people, you don’t need to look any further for proof that when President Obama appeared on the FOD online show, “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis last spring in the weeks before the deadline to sign up for Obamacare. That video was seen by millions, resulted in a 40 percent jump in visits to the healthcare.gov. and yielded a bump in sign ups by younger people.

Look, this video alone won’t defeat the powerful NRA and change gun laws. But it is informing people about the facts surrounding gun violence and could contribute to not only changing public opinion, it may very well inspire more people to become an activists on the issue. And to be honest, anything that might reduce the 1300 Americans who are the victims of gun related crimes each day or the 32 Americans killed daily in our country by gun violence is worth a shot because the status quo is failing us all.

 

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Dean Obeidallah is the Editor of The Dean's Report, host of SiriusXM radio's "The Dean Obeidallah Show" and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter.

 

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Why Muslims Love Jesus Too

27 December 2014 Published in

By Dean Obeidallah

December 23, 2014

It’s beginning to look a lot like a Muslim Christmas, everywhere you go. That’s right, we are seeing an increasing number of Muslim Americans celebrating Christmas. In fact, when I posed a question on Facebook asking whether any of my Muslim friends celebrate Christmas, I was blown away by the response. I was instantly inundated with literally hundreds of posts by American Muslims—and even some in Muslim countries—detailing how they celebrate this holiday.

Many mentioned having Christmas dinner at the house of Christian friends. Even more spoke of putting up a Christmas tree each year (and sent me photos of their tree.) Many told me they exchanged Christmas gifts, while others shared that they put up Christmas lights on the outside of their house. A few even noted that they attend Christmas mass with Christian friends.

Are we just being nice? Trying to fit in more in America? Or is this a part of our dastardly plot to destroy Christianity and impose sharia law in America?

In reality, from a theological point of view, Jesus is extremely important to Muslims. The Koran states‘The angels said, ‘O Mary, indeed God gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name shall be the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, who will be a man of honor in this life and the life to come, and who will be one of the ones nearest to God.”

As New York City based Imam Shamsi Ali explained by way of email, “To Muslims, Jesus is considered one of ‘mighty’ prophets along with Moses, Abraham, Noah, and Mohammed.” Ali added, “Remembering Jesus’ birth and the teachings of Jesus is an important part of our Muslim faith.”

Linda Sarsour, one of the leaders of New York City’s Muslim community, echoed the Imam’s sentiment, saying, “Jesus is very central to Islam and is someone I take great inspiration from.” The popular Muslim American rapper, Mo Sabri, even released a song “I believe in Jesus” that speaks of the connection between Muslims and Jesus, which boasts more than one million views on YouTube.

Of course, to the Muslim haters and others on the far right, Muslims celebrating Christmas freaks them out. Apparently they think they own Christmas as well as Jesus.

Just look at the backlash Wal-Mart endured this year for selling a Muslim themed star for Christmas trees, which features a crescent moon and star. If you Google “Muslim Christmas tree star” you will see a list of right-wing websites wetting their pants over this. To be honest though, I can’t even put into words the joy I feel when these bigots get angry over this type of stuff. It’s like Christmas for me any day they get pissed.

Now to be clear, there are theological differences between the way Muslims and Chirstians view Jesus. Christians view Jesus as the Son of God. While Muslims do believe in the Virgin birth of Jesus, they view Jesus as a messenger of God. Another difference is that Muslims don’t pray to Jesus. Nor do we even pray to Mohammed as some mistakenly think. We just pray to God.

But when you objectively review the theological connections between Islam and Christianity—as well as between Islam and Judaism—you can understand why it makes me laugh when some on the right say that Muslims have their own separate God called “Allah.” I mean, it’s such an idiotic statement.

And I don’t just do a facepalm when this idiocy is said by Muslim haters. I had the same reaction when I read about a recent law in Malaysia that banned Christians from using the word “Allah” when speaking of God because to the conservative Muslim Malaysian leaders, “Allah” is exclusively the Muslim God.

That’s absolutely idiotic. Islam is an Abrahamic faith that’s intertwined with Judaism and Christianity. In fact, one the most sacred holiday for Muslims is the sacrifice of Abraham, known as Eid al-Adha. Yes, that’s the same Abraham and the same sacrifice that Jews and Christians recognize, whereby God tested Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his only son. (For those unaware of the story—spoiler alert—God doesn’t actually make Abraham sacrifice his son.)

In my case, I’ve long been aware of the common themes in Christianity and Islam. My mother is Catholic and my father is Muslim so we grew up learning about both faiths and celebrating both Muslim and Christian holidays. (And to the right wing “Christians” who say Catholics aren’t real Christians, I say in all sincerity that the Catholics I know are far more Christlike than you will ever be.)

So as Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus this week, many Muslims will be doing the very same thing to varying degrees. And while the eggnog served by the Muslims celebrating Christmas might not be spiked with brandy, the most important spirit will still be there.

(This article was originally published in The Daily Beast)

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Dean Obeidallah is the editor of The Dean's Report. He is also is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer and a columnist for The Daily Beast.  He co-directed the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!"  You can follow Dean on Twitter

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The Ferguson-Palestine Connection Grows

30 November 2014 Published in

By Dean Obeidallah

November 30, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri is over 6,000 miles from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, yet increasingly people are seeing similarities between the two. For example, shortly after the grand jury decision was announced Monday that the police officer who killed Michael Brown would not be indicted, the NFL’s Reggie Bush posted a photo on Instagram of a Palestinian man holding up a sign that read: “The Palestinian people know what mean to be shot while unarmed because of your ethnicity #Ferguson #justice.”  

Next to the photo, Bush added: “No matter who are you are, what color skin you have, where you live, we are in this together. This isn’t a Ferguson Problem, it’s a Global Problem... #JusticeforMike Brown.

In addition, one of the visible fixtures in the Ferguson protests has been Palestinian-American Bassem Masri who has been continuously live streaming the protests. That is until he was arrested a few days ago in connection with the protests. (He was released Saturday on bail.)

Social media has also been filled with Palestinians expressing solidarity for the Ferguson protesters and echoing their calls for justice. Some Palestinians even offered the Ferguson protesters tips on how to deal with the tear gas being shot at them based on their own experiences with the Israeli security forces.

Even on the Israeli side the similarities have been noted by some. For example, a “Times of Israel” op-ed penned by Robert Wilkes, a self described leader of the pro-Israel community in the United States, set forth what he viewed as “nine parallels between Palestine and Ferguson.” However, he saw the overlap of interests as being horribly negative.

For example, he wrote that US blacks and Palestinians “both wish to undermine the state’s moral authority by provoking violent reactions, then portraying themselves as victims of oppression.” He also opined, “both have perfectly wretched leaders. Black leaders in America are con artists and a disgrace,” going as far as calling them “race hustlers.”

Blacks being killed by the police in disproportionately high numbers is tragically nothing new. As Pro Publica recently noted, blacks age 15 to 19 have a 21 times greater change of being killed by the police than white teens. In fact the police have killed six African American teens since Michael Brown and that doesn’t even include Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy killed last week by the Cleveland police.

And more broadly, blacks of all ages are between three and four times more likely to be killed when they encounter the police than whites. Adding to the frustration is that it's rare that the police will be charged with a crime when they kill unarmed people. For example, between 2004 and 2008, Oakland police officers shot and killed 37 people, all black. And despite the fact that 40 percent of those killed were unarmed, not one police officer was charged with a crime.

In Israel, we see an unsettling similarity. As Sarit Michaeli, a spokesperson for the Israeli human rights group B’tselem recently told a reporter for McClatchy, it’s “extremely rare” for charges to be brought against Israeli border police or soldiers for killing Palestinians.

Two recent cases in Israel have caused even greater outrage than usual because they were caught on video. The most recent incident occurred in early November in the Israeli town of Kfar Kani, which is home to mostly Arabs. Khair al-din Hamdan, a 22 year old “Israeli Arab” was seen in a surveillance video carrying what has been described as a knife, which he used to bang on the window of a parked Israeli police car.

After a few moments, the four Israeli officers exited the vehicle, causing Hamdan to turn and walk away quickly. As can be seen in the video, one Israeli police officer then shot Hamdan several times in the back. After the shooting, the police can be seen dragging Hamdan’s limp body in the street to the police vehicle. Hamdan died a short time later.  An investigation into the shooting is under way but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have publicly defended the killing of Hamdan.

And in May, two Palestinian teenagers were killed during protests when live bullets were shot at the protesters. Initially Israeli authorities denied that its forces had shot the bullets at issue. But a surveillance video was made public soon thereafter showing that one of the two teens was indeed shot by an Israeli border patrol officer.

Surprisingly, last week that border patrol officer was indicted for the killing of the one teen seen in the video. (But no charges were filled in the case of the other teen killed who was not depicted in the surveillance footage.) No doubt the video was the key.

Will the officer be convicted? Unlikely since per the Israeli paper Haaretz, in the past two years, 18 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli security forces and only one was convicted. In that case the Israeli officer was sentenced to just seven months of jail after being found guilty of killing an unarmed Palestinian.

And as the Israeli NGO Yesh Din has documented, that penalty is actually on the high end. Among the 18 members of the Israeli security forces convicted of wrongdoing in the killings of Palestinians since 2000, most received a few months in jail or even simply a suspended sentence. (The exception being an eight year prison sentence handed out to one Israeli but that was in connection with the wrongful killing of a British citizen, not a Palestinian.)

I truly wish I could say that in the future we will see less black and Palestinian teenagers die at the hands of the police in their respective countries. But I can’t with any certainty. Tragically these stories will continue until a fundamental change in police tactics is implemented. The question is how many innocent people have to die before that happens?

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Dean Obeidallah is the editor of The Dean's Report. He is also is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer and a columnist for The Daily Beast.  He co-directed the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!"  You can follow Dean on Twitter

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Why Didn't We Believe Cosby's Accusers Sooner?

21 November 2014 Published in

By Dean Obeidallah

November 21, 2014

The court of public opinion appears to have finally found Bill Cosby guilty of sexual misconduct.  I’m not saying that everyone believes every charge being leveled, but it seems clear that from social media, news coverage, etc., that most believe that Cosby did something horribly wrong with several women.

Even the entrainment industry that Cosby has made so much money for is cutting their ties to him-at least for now. NBC has pulled the plug on a sitcom they were developing to star Cosby. Netflix has shelved Cosby's new stand up special that was slated to premier next week. And Nick at Night has pulled reruns of “The Cosby Show” from its line up.

But here’s the thing: The allegations we are hearing now that Cosby drugged, molested or raped various women, for the most part, were revealed to the public years ago. Yet despite this information being known, NBC had no qualms entering into a new TV deal with Cosby, Netflix happily offered Cosby a brand new comedy special, and Nick at Nite still thought nothing of airing "Cosby Show" reruns. 

Plus fans were still buying tickets to his shows, including to a sold out show Thursday night, which surreally was a benefit for a women's organization. Adding to the bizarreness, while on stage, Cosby dedicated the show to his wife, yet he made no mention of the claims against him.

It’s not like the claims of these women against Cosby didn’t receive national media coverage. As quick refresher, there was Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, who alleged that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in his Philadelphia area mansion in 2004.

Despite the prosecutor’s decision not to indict Cosby, (It’s very challenging to secure a criminal conviction without more evidence than just one person’s word against another), Constand didn't simply go away. She filed a civil lawsuit in 2005 that included the claim that 13 other women, identified as “Jane Doe” to protect their identity, were prepared to testify at trial that Cosby had sexually assaulted them as well.  Cosby settled the case in 2006 by paying Constand an undisclosed amount.

Inspired by Constand, Barbara Bowman, one of 13 “Jane Does,” went public in 2006 with her claim that Cosby had drugged and raped her in the mid- 1980’s. Bowman's story, covered at the time by People magazine and the like, was that when she was an 18-year-old aspiring actress, Cosby had slipped drugs into her drink. The next thing she could recall was that she was undressed, wearing only a men’s white shirt and Cosby was in a robe.

Then there was Tamara Green, now an attorney, who came forward in 2005 after Constand went public with her claims. Green appeared on NBC’s “The Today Show” where she told Matt Lauer that Cosby attacked her in the 1970’s when she was an aspiring model. Green asserted that Cosby had put something in her drink and then tried to molest her.

And model, now reality show star Janice Dickinson, appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show in 2006 and said Cosby is “a bad guy, he's not a nice guy. He preys on women who just came out of rehab."  She refused to offer more details at the time, noting that she didn’t have the "shekels" of Cosby to fight a legal battle with him. (Dickinson finally revealed the details of the incident this week saying that in 1982 Cosby had drugged and raped her.)

Again all of these cases received national media coverage, however, there was no uproar like we see today.  

Is it because there was no social media back then? Was it because we liked Bill Cosby too much to believe he could commit such unthinkable acts?  

Or is it deeper? Is it because we live in a society where when three or even four women assert allegations of sexual misconduct it still is not sufficient to cause people to take the claims seriously? That’s likely why Dickinson and the numerous other women who have recently come forward to reveal similar incidents with Cosby didn’t go public until now. They, too, sensed that the public, media and entertainment industry could care less.

And maybe worse, these women felt that by taking on a beloved star like Cosby, they would be the ones attacked. We would hear them called gold-diggers, they would be “slut shamed” or asked why they didn’t fight back enough?

Even removing Cosby’s fame from this equation, many women have the same concerns causing them not reporting sexual attacks to the police. Yet still the number of women who have reported being sexually assaulted in the United States is simply staggering. The CDC reports that nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped or experienced a rape attempt at one time in their lives.

So next time you’re in a public place, look around for a moment and realize that it's likely that for every five women in that location, one has been sexually assaulted. That’s how jaw-droppingly high this number is.

It's unlikely that the women who suffered at the hands of Cosby will ever see true justice. But hopefully their stories will make us more believing when other women come forward in the future alleging sexual assault. Perhaps that will save some women – perhaps even your daughter or sister - from the same fate.

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Dean Obeidallah is the editor of The Dean's Report. He is also is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer and a columnist for The Daily Beast.  He co-directed the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!"  You can follow Dean on Twitter

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GOP has to be feeling the heat today!

04 November 2014 Published in

By Dean Obeidallah

November 4, 2014

Republican leaders must be starting to sweat.   True, they are the favorites to win many key races today.  But here’s the thing: All the Democrats have to do is NOT lose more than five US Senate seats and the media will cast the Republicans as the BIG losers of this election.

And I’m not just talking the liberal media.  Just a few days ago conservative writer and Fox news regular Charles Krauthammer told us that if the Republicans can't win the Senate this year, "maybe the Party ought to look for another country."  

Consequently, anything but securing control of the Senate will be deemed a failure by both the left and the right.  And lets be honest: The GOP couldn’t have asked for a better political climate than this year. 2014 is like perfect political storm for the GOP to the point where GOP Senate minority Mitch McConnell should be sizing up Harry Reid’s office to decide how he wants to decorate it.

Obama’s approval ratings are at historic lows.  The economy is sputtering. Obamacare is still generally unpopular. The Democrats have to defend 21 seats to the GOP’s 15, many in States that Mitt Romney won in 2012.  And Republicans have a fundraising edge with almost $2 billion raised.

But here’s the thing: The polls are still very close in key battleground states that the Republicans thought they would likely win such as in Georgia, Louisiana, Alaska and North Carolina.  In fact, I was in North Carolina last week, and as I mentioned in my article for The Daily Beast yesterday, early voting numbers and polling there indicates that the Democratic Senator Kay Hagan will likely win.  If that happens, the GOP’s dreams of controlling the Senate will have become that much tougher. 

If Republicans pick up 5 seats this year– one less than they need to control the Senate – can’t they pick up the other seat in 2016 you ask? Nope.  In 2016 the Republicans will be defending 22 Senate seats to the Democrats nine.

Odds are that in 2016 the GOP will lose, not gain Senate seats given those numbers. And making it even more challenging is that many of the Republican Senators up in 2016 are in traditionally Blue States such as Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson and Illinois’ Mark Kirk.  So after this election, the next real shot the GOP of taking the Senate is 2018, at best.

So if the GOP doesn’t prevail in its race for the Senate what happens next?  Finger pointing central!  You can likely say goodbye to Reince Priebus as RNC Chair. 

Plus you will see some really pissed off Republican Senators.  Ted Cruz for starters who stands to become a subcommittee chair if GOP takes control of the Senate. Plus Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have a shot at full committee chairs.  This will provide all three with greater media coverage and in turn helps them raise funds for their expected run for president come 2016.  Failing to pick up the Senate deprives them of this benefit.  (Conversely it would likely be a boost to Republican Governors like Chris Christie seeking the presidential nomination angering these Senators even more.)

There you have it.  While the Democrats might look like they are like George Clooney in the movie The Perfect Storm watching a huge wave about to crash into his ship, all the Democrats have to do is avoid drowning and they will have won. And for that reason alone, I would predict that Republican leaders might be sweating a little more right now than they want us to know.

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Dean Obeidallah is the editor of The Dean's Report. He is also is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer and a columnist for The Daily Beast.  He co-directed the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!"  You can follow Dean on Twitter

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To US media Canadian shooter being Muslim ends investigation

24 October 2014 Published in

By Dean Obeidallah

October 24, 2014

I really feel sorry for the journalists working in Canadian media who are reporting on Wednesday’s tragic shooting death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo.  You see, they are apparently required to do actual journalism to determine why the gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed the soldier. 

They were obligated to interview family and friends documenting Bibeau’s mental problems. They had to research his extensive criminal past and his struggles with drugs. They even were required to visit the homeless shelter Bibeau had been staying in before the shooting and interview people there who know him.

And, of course, they also mentioned that he was Muslim and the possibility of radicalization. But the Canadian media discussed his religion in the context of offering the public a full portrait of Bibeau and trying to understand his motivation.

In the United States, however, once the media finds out that a person involved in a horrible crime is Muslim, that's the end of the investigation. We don’t hear about mental issues, drug use, family problems, etc. To most in our media, if you are Muslim, then ergo, therefore, consequently, anything you do must, without a doubt, be because you are a Muslim.

For example, NBC news featured an article titled, “Who Is the Canadian Parliament Shooter?” The very first sentence of that article read: “The man who gunned down a Canadian soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Wednesday was a convert to Islam who had already been designated "high-risk" by authorities.”  (emphasis added.)

There you go: he was a “convert to Islam.”  Who needs anything more? And if you read the entire NBC article, there isn’t even a mention of the religion Bibeau converted from to Islam.  But I understand why-no one wants to sully the name of any other faith.

And CNN went as far as to tell us about a new phenomena I never heard of before to explain the possible reason for the shooting called: “Sudden Jihad Syndrome.”  Apparently any law abiding normal Muslim could suddenly and without warning become a jihadi!  I really hope pharmaceutical companies come out with a medicine to protect me from that condition before I contract it. Maybe they can call it, “Jihad begone” or “Jihad away.”

But as The Daily Banter’s Tommy Christopher pointed out, this term was not created by health care professionals. Rather, it was coined by the worst anti-Muslim bigots as a way to scare people into thinking that any Muslim could suddenly start waging a holy war. 

In contrast, Canada’s National Post ran a headline describing Bibeau as "a man troubled by drugs and crime.” The Post gave readers a sense that Bibeau was less of a calculated jihadi and more of a person plagued with a history of mental issues.

Canada’s CBC also offered the public a nuanced view of Bibeau apart from simply being a possible Islamic terrorist so that all possible causes could be considered.  

Canadian reporters, as shocking as this may be to American media outlets, even left the crime scene and travelled to a homeless shelter that Bibeau had been living in for a few days before the attack. There the reporters spoke to people who described the gunman as being “very bizarre.”  They also noted that the only reference Bibeau made to Islam was that everyone should pray five times a day “because the end of the world is coming.”

And when Islam was discussed by the Canadian media, they noted that Bibeau had been thrown out of a mosque for "erratic behavior."  They even included interviews with various Canadian Muslims denouncing Bibeau which, incredibly, media outlets like the CBC posted on the home page of its website.

Don’t get me wrong, the Canadian media did discuss the fact that Bibeau was Muslim and acknowledged the possibility he had been radicalized. But that was not the prime focus of the news reports. Rather, they painted a full picture of Bibeau as a homeless man with a criminal record, a history of drug problems, a person estranged from his family for years and noted the distinct possibility that he was mentally ill. 

Of course, apparently to the US media, Muslims can never be insane.  I guess we, Muslims, are immune to mental disorders.  Thus, everything a Muslim does is part of a calculated jihadi plot, not the work of a madman.

But when a non-Muslim in the United States commits a horrific shooting, such as at the Sandy Hook elementary school, the first thing our media typically does is provide us with a detailed mental analysis of the suspect. Why isn’t that also the case when the suspect is Muslim?

I’m not saying that Bibeau will not ultimately be determined to be a radicalized Muslim. But the Canadian media makes it clear that it will take an actual investigation to determine why this attack occurred besides just focusing on his religion and calling it a day.

Perhaps one-day members of our media will show the same level of responsibility and thoroughness as its Canadian counterparts. But until then, expect to see more investigations by our media end as soon it’s discovered that the suspect is a Muslim.

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Dean Obeidallah is the editor of The Dean's Report. He is also is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer and a columnist for The Daily Beast.  He co-directed the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!"  You can follow Dean on Twitter.

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I Found The Cure For Ebola-mania!

22 October 2014 Published in

By Dean Obeidallah

October 22, 2014

I hate to admit it, but I had Ebolamania.  I first noticed the symptoms a week ago.  I found myself worrying about being in large crowds for fear someone might have Ebola. I soon began to incessantly use hand sanitizer.  I even wondered if I could put some Purell on my fingers and insert them into my nose to kill germs.  (I wouldn’t recommend it!)

My Ebolamania really took hold of me this past weekend as I sat on a plane flying to California.  Every time I heard a person sneeze, visions of the pink and blue Ebola cells that are constantly on cable news danced through my head.

I highly doubt I was the only one on that plane suffering from this affliction. After all, the media and certain politicians – okay, Republicans - had done everything they could to make it seem like Ebola was going to kill us all.

Some have tried to offer us an antidote to Ebolamania. For example, The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky penned a must read article over the weekend about why Americans need to stop wetting their pants over the Ebola threat. (He said in a much more articulate way.) 

But for those not buying words of reassurance, we now have objective evidence that might just cure your Ebolamania. I know it helped me.

On Monday, 43 people who had come into contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died in a Dallas hospital on October 8 from Ebola, have all been declared Ebola free. 

How can we be sure these people don’t have Ebola? Science. Okay, I know that for some on the right “science” doesn’t mean much, but for the rest of you, Ebola has a 21-day incubation period.  That time period has now passed and none of the 43 people who came in contact with Duncan have the disease.

True, some of these people only had casual contact with Duncan. But others had intense, hands on interaction with Duncan while he was horribly ill.  The most notable being Duncan’s fiancé, Louise Troh, her son and two nephews, who all lived with Duncan in a Dallas apartment since he had arrived in the United States on September 20.  

Within days, Duncan became very ill.  He was vomiting, had diarrhea and a high fever.  In fact, his condition was so alarming that Troh took Duncan to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on September 25.  However, for reasons still unclear, the hospital personnel sent Duncan home despite his 103 fever and other symptoms.   

Over the next two days, Duncan became even more ill, with his fever climbing to 104 degrees. Finally, on September 27, Troh’s daughter, a nurse’s aide, called 911 to have an ambulance transport Duncan to the hospital after she connected his symptoms to the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia.

Here’s the key info for those with Ebolamania.  Between Duncan’s arrival in Dallas on September 20 and hospitalization on September 27, Duncan shared the same space as Troh and the three boys while he was gravely ill. We are talking sharing the same bathroom, food plates, blankets, etc.  All without wearing any type of bio hazmat protections.

And not one of them is sick. Nor is Troh’s daughter who sat by Duncan’s bedside and cared for him the day he was finally hospitalized.

Now that we know this info, how will the GOP and media respond?

Keep in mind just last week Rand Paul painted Ebola as being akin to the Black Death with comments like, “it’s an incredibly transmissible disease that everyone is downplaying, saying it’s hard to catch.”  Adding, “we have physicians and health workers who are catching it who are completely gloved down and taking every precaution.” (Actually, only two nurses had contracted the disease, zero doctors. But why should facts matter when trying to scare people into supporting your run for President?!) 

We even had Republican Senator Ron Johnson opine that ISIS fighters might infect themselves with Ebola and come to America to spread the disease. The problem with this claim is that Ebola is only contagious when the disease’s symptoms have manifested, meaning you will be vomiting and have uncontrollable diarrhea.  And then, while gravely ill, you will need to wipe your bodily fluids on people hoping the disease somehow enters the person's system.  Doesn’t seem like Ebola is the ideal choice for a weapon.

In any event, don’t count on the GOP toning down its rhetoric or even mentioning the 43 people who were exposed to Duncan are now Ebola free.  After all, Republicans love to use fear, it’s two weeks before the midterm elections and a new Politico poll released Monday found that Ebolamania is playing well for the GOP. 

Okay, so then what about the media? Will they cover these 43 people with the same zeal they covered the two nurses who contracted Ebola? Nah.  This story has been barley mentioned in the media over the past two days.  Fear sells, it attracts ratings; assurances that all will be fine, not so much.

The greatest hope for those with Ebolamania is self-inoculation. Read the details about how Duncan’s fiancé and her family didn’t catch the disease even though Duncan was gravely ill while living with them in a small apartment.  Pay attention to the 43 others exposed to Duncan who don’t have Ebola. 

Also keep reminding yourself that to date, only 2 Americans out of the 300 plus million of us have caught Ebola.   Add to that, Nigeria was declared Ebola free on Monday after an outbreak began there in July. 

Perhaps these facts will prove to be the antidote for those suffering from Ebolamania.   As we now know, Ebolamania is far easier to catch than Ebola.  Thankfully, it can also be far easier to cure.

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Dean Obeidallah is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer. He's a columnist for The Daily Beast and the co-director of the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!"  You can follow Dean on Twitter.

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What happens when the Sperm Bank makes the WRONG Deposit?

17 October 2014 Published in

By Seema Iyer, Esq.

October 17, 2014

Two lesbians and a black man walk into a sperm bank – sounds like the beginnings of a bad joke.  Unfortunately, it is the true reality for a couple in Ohio who sought to have a white baby by choosing a white male donor until the sperm bank made an irreparable error.

Jennifer Cramblett and Amanda Zinkon, a white couple, went to the Midwest Sperm Bank in the Chicago area and chose donor #380. They picked that donor because his coloring, blond-haired and blue-eyes, is similar to Zinkon.  The goal was obviously to have a baby that resembled them as much as possible.

As you probably figured out, the couple didn’t get donor #380. Instead, Cramblett was inseminated with sperm from donor #330, who was neither blonde hair nor blue eyed. In fact, the donor was actually a black male.  

The couple learned of the clinic’s mistake in the 5th month of the Cramblett’s pregnancy yet still decided to have the child, even if she would bear little resemblance to them physically.

So in 2012 the couple welcomed into the world baby Payton. A healthy baby girl that the couple says they love, “unconditionally.”  End of story, right?

Of course, not. It turns out while the couple was welcoming of Payton, not everyone in the 98 percent white community where they live shared those warm, fuzzy feelings.  (Apparently being a lesbian in the town is fine, as long as you’re a white one.)

Citing fear for the child’s future in an all-white school, the couple now want to move to a more diverse area.  And, as would be expected, the couple did what any red-blooded American would – they sued.

The couple’s lawsuit asks for $50,000 in damages that frankly seems quite reasonable for such a monumental blunder.  To be clear, donor #380 was substituted for donor #330 because a “3” and an “8” look alike when handwritten because Midwest Sperm Bank’s records are HANDWRITTEN.  There is no computer database to hold what is supremely private, personal information - just a bunch of papers probably mis-alphabetized in a file cabinet.

How can this be??? Don’t sperm banks have to abide by certain regulations?  Yes they do.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started regulating reproductive tissue banks in 2005.  The FDA rules include protocols for screening and testing donors as well as record-keeping.  The FDA also audits sperm banks through site inspections to insure compliance.  And most major sperm banks are licensed and inspected by states.

Still, am I the only person who thinks this has got to have happened before?  Whether it’s a mix-up, mistake or what Jason Bateman did to Jennifer Aniston in The Switch. (If I can admit I’ve seen it 12 times, you can admit you’ve seen it once.) I am not all that surprised in what I originally thought was a more common method of conception.

There are no industry-wide statistics on the number of anonymous donors inseminated births per year - strange, no? The media often reports it as 30,000-40,000 annually, whereas the American Association of Tissue Banks states it to be only between 4,000-5,000 (based on 1.5 vials per insemination, a 10% pregnancy rate per cycle and a 20% spontaneous miscarriage rate.) 

Cramblett and Zinkon’s lawsuit foreshadows a stifling future if Payton is to be raised in their small “racially intolerant” town.  But should that be the couple’s only concern?  Doesn’t simply being a child that is a partial product of an anonymous donor have other long-term repercussions?

In 2010 the Institute For American Values published a study on young adults conceived through sperm donation.  “My Daddy’s Name is Donor” examines multiple facets of the donor child’s experience and whether a connection exists to how they were conceived.  The study found that the children “fare worse than their peers raised by biological parents on important outcomes such as depression, delinquency and substance abuse.” 

While 45% overall reported that it bothers them that money was exchanged for their conception, children born to heterosexual or lesbian couples seemed to “hurt” less than those born to single mothers.  Yet practically half (47%) of donor offspring are concerned that their mothers may have lied about “important matters” while growing up, compared to only 27% of the adopted and 18% with biological parents. 

Cramblett and Zinkon are worried about raising their biracial daughter in a rural homogeneous area which unquestionably is a valid concern.  But apparently that is only one of many issues when having a donor child.  The lawsuit has two causes of action; breach of warranty, which is basic contract law, and wrongful birth.  Ouch.  How is a grown-up Payton going to feel about that one?

This intersection of law, race, sexuality, medicine and parenting has prompted interesting debate and criticism but it isn’t just part of the news cycle; it is going to define a baby girl’s life.  If Midwest Sperm Bank wants to keep its best swimmers in stock, they will settle this case thereby allowing Cramblett and Zinkon to relocate.  And then maybe buy a computer so this type of error never occurs again. 

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Seema Iyer is a criminal defense & civil rights attorney with her own lawfirm in NYC.  Seema appears frequently on MSNBC, HLN, FOX and CNN as a legal analyst. Follow her on Twitter @seemaiyeresq


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