Fast for Darfur?
As an American citizen, it is breathtakingly embarrassing to read of such ill-conceived ideas, and the widespread support that they enjoy in the United States, such as the call to fast on Eid ul-Fitr by members of America’s Darfur campaign pointed out by Alex de Waal in a recent post.
The focus of the effort to organize this fast seems to come from a group that has posted a web site with the internet address of “www.fastdarfur.org” and titled: “Darfur Fast for Life.” While there is an “About” page at this web site, it provides very little information on who is involved in this organization or how it is structured. There is a very brief description of a group of friends of Mia Farrow deciding to join her in a fast after receiving a note from her that she intended to fast in support of the “men women and children” of Darfur. There is also a brief list of eight individuals (and the organizations to which those individuals belong) on the “About” page who are “joining and/or supporting Mia.” Those eight individuals and their organizations are listed as: “Shannon Sedgwick Davis, from Bridgeway Foundation; Pam Omidyar, from Humanity United; Ruth Messinger, from American Jewish World Service; John Prendergast, from the Enough Project; Jerry Fowler, from Save Darfur Coalition; Gloria White Hammond, from My Sister’s Keeper; Ellen Kennedy, from GI Net MN; and I, Gabriel Stauring and the Stop Genocide Now team.” The site also states that: “Many more will join.”
There is a “Join” button on the web site as well, but this link connects the viewer with a page that encourages one to join the fast. I was unable to find a link to any page where one could join the organization. Nor could I find a page that solicited donations.
The site lists a number of celebrities that are joining in the fast, including: Don Cheadle, Taylor Hanson, Maria Bello, Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson and others. The fact that the names seem to appear on every page (including the home page) along with other prominent fasters makes this reader wonder if the organizers are not relying on the Cult of Celebrity to generate interest in their project. If this is the case, I see it as a problem, as “Cult of Celebrity” by definition is “widespread interest in arbitrarily famous individuals.” And it is the arbitrariness of this fame that gives legitimate concern to whether those celebrities clearly understand the issues at hand. And it seems to me that there has been little or no demonstration that these celebrities do, in fact, understand the complexities of the crisis in Darfur.
In addition to concern over the presence of celebrities on the list is the presence of members of the United State Congress. The names of Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Senator Bill Frist, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Congressman Spencer Bachus and Congressman Donald M. Payne appear on the web sites as individuals intending to participate on the September 21 fast. The fact that these names appear on the web site should be cause for real concern for how poorly our federal legislators fail to understand the situation in Darfur.
So it would seem that the organizers of this fast are seeking only to mobilize a demonstration fueled by the “Cult of Celebrity” and supported by members of Congress who are seemingly “tone deaf” to the Muslim world.
There are so very many problems in Darfur, and so very many of them are extremely horrific. These are problems that need serious work in order to find solutions. Responses to the crises in Darfur like the call for a fast on September 21, 2009 – at the time of Eid ul-Fitr – “Festival of the Fast Breaking” – merely hampers progress towards working towards a solution.
This is what happens when well-meaning, but ill-informed movie stars and other celebrities become too influential in advocacy groups. They have passion, and could be doing worse things with their time. But the movie star track record on helping make foreign policy is not especially impressive (remember Ed Asner and Sean Penn, for example).
The real disappointment here is John Prendergast, who has actually served in government and should know better. He seems to have become ‘star-struck.’
“The names of Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Senator Bill Frist, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Congressman Spencer Bachus and Congressman Donald M. Payne appear on the web sites as individuals intending to participate on the September 21 fast. The fact that these names appear on the web site should be cause for real concern for how poorly our federal legislators fail to understand the situation in Darfur.”
This makes no sense at all, and the claim here is missing an argument. What exactly about these public officials’ involvement makes you concerned? Does fasting itself indicate that they lack understanding of the crises in Darfur? I don’t think so.
The fact that there fasting on Eid shows a great deal of cultural ignorance and this grandstanding is hardly impressive when muslims all around the world have been fasting for a whole month.
Darfur is not in need of prejudiced xenophobic senators and ignorant self indulging celebrities.
Ms. Serapio, I would like to thank you for your comment and your question: â€œWhat exactly about these public officialsâ€™ involvement [in the proposed September 21st fast] makes you concerned?â€
But before I can adequately answer your question I need to know what you understand to be the significance of Eid ul-Fitr .