Kevin Spacey Brings Stephen Colbert (And The Closet Jokes) To The Tonys

Kevin Spacey might?ve been the 15th choice to host the 71st Annual Tony Awards, but he was more than ready for his close-up at the award show on Sunday night. 

Paying tribute to each of the night?s nominated musicals, Spacey opened the Tonys with a show-stopping extravaganza about the anxieties of being a host in 2017. He also poked fun at the rumors about his sexual orientation as he brought guests including Stephen Colbert and Whoopi Goldberg on stage. 

The Oscar winner first appeared wearing the signature blue-striped polo shirt from ?Dear Evan Hansen? with ?#host? emblazoned on his arm cast, joking about the show?s ratings-challenged history and the prospect of Twitter trolls.  

Colbert then popped up in a groundhog headpiece, naturally, to encourage Spacey, who belted out a number inspired by the musical adaptation of ?Groundhog Day.?

Former Tonys host Whoopi Goldberg joined Spacey onstage next, triumphantly swinging open a closet door to rousing applause from the audience. 

?How long have you been in that closet?? Spacey asked.

?Well, Kevin, it depends on who you ask,? Goldberg shot back with a telling glance. 

After a taped message from Billy Crystal, who ribbed Spacey about his hosting qualifications, Spacey closed the number in spectacular fashion by channeling Norma Desmond, brought to life by Glenn Close in this year?s ?Sunset Boulevard.?

Dressed in an ornate gown and headpiece, Spacey sang, ?I?m coming out ? wait, no, no, no, no,? before breaking out into a tap-dancing routine complete with canes and top hats. 

Watch the entire opening number below.

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Defeating Terrorism Requires Recognition Of Western Complicity And Responsibility

Terrorism will in time consume the world, unless numerous parties admit inconvenient truths and adopt a holistic, cooperative and long-term approach to defeat it. The first step must be a transparent realization of all the factors that have fueled, and continue to fuel, terrorism. But it appears that we cannot even take this first step. When Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the U.K.?s Labor Party, recently stated what to us is self evident with only the extent debatable?namely, that the foreign policy of his country had contributed to terrorism?he was attacked from every side.

Here we have only space to provide a partial list of Western complicity that has produced disenfranchised masses over the last 100 years: the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 (between France and Great Britain, who in secret carved up the Middle East with straight lines and a disregard for ethnicity, religion and sect), the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the Treaty of Sevres of 1920 (which cemented the agreement of 1916, providing the seed for the creation of a Jewish state and making would-be broken promises to Kurds); the creation of Israel accompanied by unconditional U.S. support (and the deprivation of a Palestinian nation); the Western-inspired coup in the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadeq and U.S. blind support for the Shah of Iran (factors that contributed to the Iranian Revolution of 1979); the support for Arab Mujahedin in Afghanistan (to force Russia out of Afghanistan, which in turn inspired Osama bin Laden and the creation of Al-Qaeda); the support for Saddam Hussein?s dictatorship and his eight-year war with Iran (which undermined the credibility of the United Nation?s Security Council) and the provision of outlawed chemical weapons to kill and incapacitate tens of thousands of Iranians (which tarnished the West?s moral standing); the two Gulf wars, especially the Second Gulf War (which provided a haven for ISIS); the selling of arms to illegitimate rulers to wage wars against their own people (in progress in Bahrain); and Donald Trump?s tirades dividing the Middle East along ethnic and sectarian lines. While these were all important, they are in the past; but the fuel and continuing driver of terrorism are three interrelated factors that must be addressed simultaneously if terrorism is to ebb and eventually be defeated.

First, the West, and in particular the United States since WWII, has supported oppressive and corrupt dictators in the Middle East while espousing support for freedom, human rights and representative governments. The U.S. has done, and continues to do, this in the name of stability and the war on terror, while it sells arms and secures other business opportunities and sidelines human rights in oppressive Muslim lands.

Second, the supportive ideology, scaffolding and lifeblood for the U.S. approach toward the Muslim World is provided by a small group of Orientalist and Neo-Orientalist academics who are either ignorant or have personal agendas against Islam and Muslims (elaborated in a forthcoming book in July/August?Ideal Islamic Economy: An Introduction, Palgrave Macmillan). Neo-Orientalists have taken a few words from the Quran, constructed a false scaffolding of Islam and then attacked their own false creation as the reason why Islam is at the center of social and economic failure and, in turn, terrorism. Their implicit and explicit recommendation is for Muslims to abandon their religion! Their deception is evident but had been largely ignored until recently, when their influence became evident in the Second Gulf War in a Western setting where readers had little knowledge of Islam. Orientalists and their backers should know that positive change in the Middle East would only come in the context of Islam.

Third, the U.S. has become the self-appointed designator of terrorist entities and invariably brands Muslims who oppose them for any reason as terrorists. The vast majority of the world?s 1.6 billion Muslims do not accept the U.S. designation of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorists. This unhelpful U.S. practice divides the world and Muslims; it permits rogue entities to adopt force and other harsh measures toward those who disagree with them (conveniently branding them as terrorists and gets U.S. backing); and, in turn, alienates more and more Muslims from the West as they see the hand of foreigners in their oppression.

The fallout of shortsighted Western policies is everywhere to see?oppressive dictatorships in many Muslim countries, ineffective institutions, under-performing economies and oppressed and disenfranchised masses with little hope for a better future. Muslim rulers supported by the U.S. are invariably illegitimate and represent a perversion of Islam. Islam advocates freedom for all; rulers who are answerable to their community adhere to Islamic teachings?the effective institutions of Islam with justice at the center, equal opportunity, societal trust and distribution and redistribution to avoid opulence alongside poverty and deprivation. It is in the failed state of Muslim societies that terrorist groups find their breeding ground with recruits (and their young sympathizers from the West) and attempt to fill the void, preaching another false version of Islam to pursue their own agenda.

Support for illegitimate rulers, affording Neo-Orientalists unopposed platforms to spread accounts of a false Islam and opportunistically branding legitimate Muslim entities as terrorists can only make matters worse. Armed force and oppression to silence legitimate demands will only increase the cycle of violence. Pitting Shia and Sunni Muslims against each another will only widen the East-West divide. A finger in the dike may produce temporary respite but will make the inevitable ever more destructive.

The only hope for defeating the scourge of terrorism is a comprehensive and united approach by Muslims and the West to address the problem at its source?political, social and economic reforms in Muslim countries in the framework of Islam; educating Muslims and non-Muslims on Islam?s true message of freedom, peace, inclusion and justice; and the promotion of unity among all Muslims. This tall task will take decades to bear fruit but the longer we continue down the prevailing destructive path, the more difficult the road ahead.

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Donald Trump’s State Visit To The UK Now In Doubt

Two senior administration officials told New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush on Sunday that President Donald Trump?s visit to the United Kingdom is currently off the president?s schedule.

That report follows a story in The Guardian that said Trump?s U.K. trip had been put ?on hold? after he told British Prime Minister Theresa May he was worried about being met with mass street protests.

The conversation between the two leaders took place in recent weeks and was heard by ?a Downing Street adviser who was in the room,? according to The Guardian.

The White House denied The Guardian report on Sunday.

?The President has tremendous respect for Prime Minister May. That subject never came up on the call,? a White House spokesperson said.

A spokesman for May said Sunday, ?The Queen extended an invitation to President Trump to visit the UK and there is no change to those plans.?

The reported scheduling change comes just days after London Mayor Sadiq Khan reiterated last week that his country should not host a state visit in Trump?s honor.

?I don?t think we should be rolling out the red carpet to the president of the USA in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for,? said Khan, who is London?s first Muslim mayor.

The president slammed Khan over his handling of the June 3 terror attack in London. Khan shot back, saying Trump had ?deliberately? taken his assurances to Londoners ?out of context.?

May sparked criticism earlier this year when she announced that Trump had been invited to visit the U.K. with full state honors. This week?s snap election in Britain, however, ?threw the process into further doubt and Trump will be even more uncertain about a trip given the instability of May?s prospective minority government,? according to HuffPost UK.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed reports of the visit?s ?cancellation? on Sunday.

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A Promise To Her Newborn Daughter: No More Female Genital Mutilation

Jaha Dukureh is featured in the documentary “Jaha’s Promise.” She got Gambia to outlaw the practice. But could she convince her father?

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The Hunt: A Private Roof Deck on the Upper West Side

A couple wanted outdoor space, and found it, but at the top of a walk-up building.

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How Social Media Has Reshaped Feminism

This blog was coauthored by Maiya Moncino

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What Utah’s Canyon Country Can Tell Us About Trump’s Monuments Review

For over two decades, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has been a lightning rod. Now, it’s under review along with 26 other monuments and serves as example of what has people worked up.

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Prince William in Trooping the Colour rehearsal

The Duke of Cambridge inspected the troops ahead of the Queen’s Birthday Parade for the first time.

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The ‘March Against Sharia’ Protests Are Really Marches Against Muslims

An unholy alliance of Islamophobic hate group members, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and armed anti-government militia members will rally against the nonexistent threat of sharia, or Islamic, law in the U.S this weekend. 

The ?March Against Sharia? rallies are set to place on Saturday in 29 cities across 21 states, and are being organized by Act for America, the nation?s largest anti-Muslim hate group. Act for America has billed this weekend?s events as some kind of noble stand against ?atrocities? it attributes ? wrongly ? to sharia.

But a quick look at the group?s origins and its members? statements reveal that pretext to be a ruse. Saturday?s marches are against Muslims and Islam itself, and they?re attracting some of the most dangerous elements of the far right.

?They are calling them ?Anti-Sharia? rallies, but let us call them what they are: ?Anti-Muslim? protests,? Muslim activist and Women?s March organizer Linda Sarsour wrote on Facebook. ?If your definition of Sharia was defined by an anti-Muslim bigot, you might want to rethink it and ask a Muslim who actually follows the religion of Islam.?  

What You Need To Know About Act For America

Act for America is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. It was founded by Brigitte Gabriel, a Christian immigrant from Lebanon. She has said that ?every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim? and that Muslims are a ?natural threat to civilized people of the world, particularly Western society.?

Although the ?March Against Sharia? event page claims Act for America believes in religious freedom, Gabriel has also said that a ?practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Quran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.?

Gabriel and Act for America have worked for years not only to spread fear of Muslims, but to strip Muslims of rights afforded to the followers of other faiths.

Act for America has also long pushed the conspiracy theory that sharia law ? the deeply misunderstood legal or philosophical code of Islam, interpreted differently by Muslims across the world ? poses a threat to the U.S. Constitution. (It does not.)

Still, Act for America has successfully lobbied state legislatures across the country to introduce, and often pass, bills banning sharia law in state courts. The ?true aim? of these bills, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in 2011, is to ?denigrate an entire faith system.?

Years ago, it was easier to brush off Gabriel as a fringe, far-right leader of a hate group. But that was before Donald Trump was president.

In recent months, Gabriel has bragged about having a ?direct line? to the president, has been photographed having a meeting in the White House, and claims to have been dining with Trump at Mar-a-Lago when Trump decided to bomb Syria in April.  

Yet Act for America?s veneer of legitimacy hasn?t prevented its members from blatant displays of bigotry. In February, member Robert Goodwill was recorded talking to a man who argued that all American Muslims should be killed.

?We?re not there yet,? Goodwill told the man.

The official Act for America ?March Against Sharia? Facebook page is also rife with vile memes and comments denigrating Muslims.

?March Against Sharia? Rallies Draw Diverse Hate And Extremist Groups 

The convergence of anti-Muslim groups and other fringe organizations is a growing phenomenon, the Southern Poverty Law Center noted. 

SPLC trawled through all the local ?March Against Sharia? Facebook groups and compiled an extensive list of extremist groups and white supremacists who said they will be showing up at the marches on Saturday.

They found a slew of armed anti-government militia groups, some with histories of threatening government officials. The groups claim they?ll be providing ?security? at the rallies, which means they?ll likely show up with guns. Often called ?Patriot? groups, they include the Oathkeepers, the III Percenters and American Civil Defense.

The SPLC also found avowed neo-Nazis and white supremacists eager to take part in the rallies across the country. 

In Texas, members of the group Sons of Odin will be attending the Houston event.  (Sons of Odin describes its beliefs as ?closely aligned? with those of the Soldiers of Odin ? a white supremacist, anti-refugee vigilante organization.) And the neo-Nazi group White Lives Matter is set to attend the rally in Austin. 

In Batesville, Arkansas, prominent neo-Nazi Billy Roper announced that he was organizing a ?March Against Sharia? rally there. Earlier this week, when SPLC wrote a report about Roper?s involvement, Act for America was quick to distance itself from him and withdrew its affiliation with the Arkansas protest.

In a statement to HuffPost, Act for America organizer Scott Presler said ?hateful individuals sometimes latch onto others in a parasitic way in order to elevate themselves, or a completely unrelated cause.? 

Presler added that Act for America?s alleged diversity shields it from being grouped with white supremacists, noting that Gabriel is an Arab-American and that the head organizer of the marches is gay.

Still, that doesn?t preclude the group from rabid Islamophobia, as Gabriel?s statements in the video below make clear:

Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center?s Intelligence Project, says anti-Muslim hate is a great unifier among far-right groups, and especially militia groups, however disparate or seemingly opposed their beliefs may be.

?Alliances have been building for some time between anti-government and anti-Muslim groups, and Saturday?s events are another concrete example of this disturbing trend,? Beirich said.

The Backlash

Interfaith protesters across the country are planning counter-demonstrations at the ?March Against Sharia? events. 

On Friday, 129 organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, Amnesty International and the Center for New Community, sent a letter to mayors in the 29 cities where the marches are scheduled, calling on them to ?reject? Act for America?s ?bigotry,? and to ?issue an official statement to reiterate to the people of your city that every person is welcome.?

March organizers canceled one rally in Portland, Oregon and relocated it to Seattle in response to pressure from Portland?s mayor, who worried about the rally?s effect on a city already reeling from two recent hate-fueled killings.

Late last month, a white supremacist aboard a MAX train in Portland screamed anti-Muslim threats at two teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab. He then stabbed three men who stepped up to defend the girls, killing two of them.

One of the biggest rallies is happening in New York, but Rosemary Boeglin, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio?s office, told HuffPost that the event doesn?t represent New York City.

?To host an event, particularly during Islam?s highest holy month, with the explicit intention of reducing an entire community to inaccurate and hateful stereotypes is not what we stand for in New York City,? Boeglin said.   

America does not do a good job of tracking incidents of hate and bias. We need your help to create a database of such incidents across the country, so we all know what?s going on. Tell us your story.

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Women Can Now Go Topless At Maryland Beach … Maybe

Chests out, everyone. It?s time for another legal battle over gender and toplessness and it?s about to get heated at Maryland?s Ocean City beach. Shore patrol staff have been told to stand down when it comes to topless women at the beach ever since a determined activist argued that ordering women to cover up is gender discrimination.

But hold everything, responded the local mayor: ?Ocean City is not a topless beach and will not become a topless beach? because toplessness disturbs families.

The contretops began with last summer with a complaint by long-time local ?top free? activist Chelsea Covington, who pointed out that the state constitution includes an ?absolute prohibition? against gender discrimination, which would negate any law that only allows men to be bare chested. The ?top freedom movement is about equality under the law,? Covington told a local TV station at the time.

Worcester County State?s Attorney Beau Oglesby decided that the local law was unclear, and asked for an opinion from the Maryland attorney general?s office. That?s what everyone?s waiting for.

But on Tuesday, Ocean Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin ordered his staff not to engage with or to scold top-free women. They pop up every year, but until there?s a formal opinion in response to Covington?s complaint, Arbin isn?t comfortable cracking down on women ditching their tops.

?For the 44 years I?ve been guarding the beach in Ocean City, when we?d see people topless on the beach we would just tell them, ?Hey, you can?t do that,?? Arbin told CBS TV station WBOC-TV. ?But since this formal request from someone, and since the Maryland attorney general?s office hasn?t issued their opinion on it, we don?t feel like we can tell people not to sunbathe topless.?

Patrol workers will keep track of complaints but will not approach women even if someone complains, Arbin said.

Local mayor Rick Meehan isn?t so sanguine about the issue. Top-free women are an affront to families with children, he complains.

?The mayor and City Council are unanimously opposed to women being topless on our beach or in any public area in Ocean City,? Meehan said in a statement. ?While we respect Ms. Covington?s desire to express what rights she believes she may have, Ocean City is a family resort and we intend to do whatever is within our ability to also protect the rights of those families.?

He says police will respond to complaints ?should any activity of toplessness occur.?

The City Council is meeting Saturday to discuss an amendment to the town code on ?offenses involving public nudity or state of nudity.?

A town spokeswoman said everyone is ?just anxiously awaiting that [legal] opinion to see what the decision is.? She added: ?We certainly respect Ms. Covington and her constitutional rights, but we have millions of people visiting Ocean City and we have to keep them in mind as well. That puts us in a very uneasy position.?

It?s legal for women to be topless in a number of states ? and cities ? of the country. Covington has visited several spots top free and keeps a ?Breasts are Healthy? blog. 

She told WBOC last year: ?Disparate treatment of the male and female breast contributes to feelings of body and gender shame in young girls and adult women. Entrenched negative prejudices about female breasts discourage breastfeeding, cement the idea that women do not get to decide when they are to be perceived as sexual or not, and give rise to victim blaming, rape culture and bullying.?

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