[Note: When J. Elliot refers to her being classed as one of ‘your people’ in relation to black people of color, it’s based on her reputation of being an outspoken, anti-racism ally].
A recent decision by Brandeis University (founded in 1948 as a nonsectarian Jewish community-sponsored, coeducational institution) to take back its offer to give Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary doctorate hit the media with the usual storm over such a controversial figure.
Most of the resistance to her, as a public figure, comes because of her own categorical statements against Islam. Not only does she choose to be an atheist, but she lambasts those who do not make her same choice. Her sweeping statements are meant to galvanize support against the Islam she has suffered from both as a child in a conservative family and as colleague of a brutally murdered film maker. She lost her bid for refugee status in Holland for lying about her past and was taken lovingly into the arms of certain institutions (like the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute and tea party politicians, like Pamela Gellar). All manner of official trickery was put in her favor such that she enjoys something millions of her country men and women from Somalia would probably never hope to see: US citizenship and institutional support.
It is difficult for me to write why I support the decision of Brandeis University to take back their offer to honor her (although this does not answer the important question: why they even thought to give it to her in the first place ). Many reasons against her have been repeated by individuals and institutions of Muslim civil society in the US starting when she first came here and again at this latest incident. All these are worth following up on. Compare her own words, as she continually notes, they are public knowledge. People know what she has said.
She is fond of supporting her views even at the cost of denigrating the half of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide who happen to be women and who wish to remain Muslim. If we take her logic: we are all brain washed, lacking anything remotely resembling reason—let alone love and spirit—to speak on our own behalf regarding this dedication and devotion. That is another reason why it IS difficult to speak: Everything we say in support of our faith is cast as ignorant acquiescence. So I will NOT go that route. Nor will I repeat her hateful statements about Islam in general and other scape-goating. I will also not pretend, as one Twitter fan put it, that she does not have reason to be bitter. Who am I to say what is important about someone else’s experience?
Rather, I wish to point out two things: 1) how can someone make a lifetime career of hate? If she is so against Islam, enough to leave of her own volition, why does she continue to talk about it so much? And why do people support her in that hates-mongering? 2) While she needs credit for her personal struggles against near-death, FGM, near-forced marriage, etc., there are Muslim women with these and more such struggles and experiences who STILL work for their families and communities . Perhaps those US audiences who are busy satisfying their fetish for the “Muslim-woman-victim” story—this one being spoken in the words of one very attractive black woman—cannot spare time to support actual work done in the field to change laws, policies and cultures against such practices.
Another difficulty for me in discussing this comes from direct experience of being black-listed by certain Muslim collectives, being second guessed, even when I am invited to speak at Universities, conferences, government and non-government organizations worldwide, by those voices saying, “why do you invite her, she is so controversial?” or better yet, “she is against ’Islam’”. While I find these accusations astounding, after dedicating more than 40 years of my life to reform within: to reclaim the beauty of Islam over the ugliness that surely does more than just damage our image, “in the name of Islam”, I do not then find solace by aligning myself to a hate campaign.
In fact, I do most of my work on the basis of a radical epistemological question: Who defines Islam? Who has the power to control public and institutional attitudes, funds, accolades and accusations about “Islam”? Who gets shut out of the conversations, representations, and support? How does the living experience of Islam, so critical in women’s struggles of identity, get relegated to the side lines so US audiences can listen intently to one woman who does little in application to where women on the ground are working and experiencing the struggle against patriarchy or even cruelty? It is a tough question, but I continue to be confounded by why certain self-serving Islam-haters are embraced by certain elements in the US, (most known as Islamaphobes and neo-cons) who have resources to pit Ms. Ali against some of the same Muslims that I have to contend with while continuing to work to promote change from within.
So what do I say?
I say look at the record. Follow the trail. Who has words (let’s face it, I’m a retired academic and published author, so I have LOTS of words, myself) and who backs up their words with ACTS to benefit more than just their own pockets, the size of their name in print and the chance to get established with government support in both Holland and the US?
I cannot claim the support of people who do not read my work or who are told not to read my work by those who claim the right to speak exclusively “for Islam”, but I can relay the message as I did in my recent blog about International Women’s Day referencing 25 years of grassroots work, that none of us got rich, none of us are famous. Yet ALL of us still work. The work goes on. The next generation of women and men work with us and beyond us, on the ground, with issues that matter in the actual lives of women as they live their Islam.
So it is complicated to say this, but the attention given to supporting this same-old image of the beautiful black or brown victim of Muslim violence, abuse or disregard does NOT represent us. We thought we had moved beyond the image of being victim to our own religion and moved towards a more nuanced reflection; especially since the hard work continues, sometimes in adverse situations in order to make a difference where it counts: in policies, laws, cultural practices and attitudes. This work goes on by those who do not wish to be seen as victims only, but as agents of change in our own well being.
So next time you promote Ayaan Hirsi Ali, could you ask her and her US supporters—who allow her sorry story to get in the way of millions of other sorry stories and the story tellers (who never stop working to make changes for themselves and their communities, all in the name of Islam)— in the words of Janet Jackson’s song: “What have you done for me lately?”
— Toni Morrison (via eshusplayground)
Blogger, Fadhel Al-Manasef, to 15 years in jail. The charges against him include participating in protests and defaming the kingdom by communicating with foreigners and through publishing articles on the Internet.
In addition to the prison sentence a 15-year travel ban, to begin after his sentence, was imposed on Fadhel Al-Manasef and he was ordered to pay a fine of 100,000 riyals ($26,700) according to the Anti-Cyber Crime Law. As reported by his lawyer, the sentencing is based on charges relating to incitement and participation in protests, writing articles against state security and publishing them online, signing an anti-government petition and contacting foreign media outlets without authorization and taking reporters to protests and giving them harmful information on the kingdom. He denies that he has committed any crime and is reportedly planning to appeal the verdict and sentence. He has been arrested on previous occasions in the past as a result of his human rights work.
The sentencing comes in the context of a crackdown by authorities on those peacefully exercising their right to freedom of opinion and belief particularly in political, social and religious debate. For example the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) issued an appeal on 16 April 2014 following the detention of prominent human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair(for further information see http://gc4hr.org/news/view/637). The GCHR expresses serious concern at the restrictions imposed by the authorities on basic human rights, including the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and belief. It believes that the sentencing of Fadhel Al-Manasef constitutes a direct attempt to hinder his human rights work and is solely related to such work.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against Fadhel Al-Manasef;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological safety and integrity of Fadhel Al-Manasef;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters“,and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present declaration.”
The 1996 shelling of Qana or the First Qana massacre, took place on April 18, 1996 near Qana, a village in Southern Lebanon, when the Israeli Defense Forces fired artillery shells at the Lebanese territory. Of 800 Lebanese civilians who had taken refuge in the compound, 106 were killed and around 116 injured. (x)
I was two years old in the first picture when my father took me to Qana to mourn the families that have been brutally murdered on the hands of Israeli forces.
The vice-principal of a South Korean high school who accompanied hundreds of pupils on a ferry that capsized has committed suicide, police said on Friday, as hopes faded of finding any of the 274 missing alive.
The Sewol, carrying 476 passengers and crew, capsized on Wednesday on a journey from the port of Incheon to the southern holiday island of Jeju.
Kang Min-gyu, 52, had been missing since Thursday. He appeared to have hanged himself with his belt from a tree outside a gym in the port city of Jindo where relatives of the people missing on the ship, mostly children from the school, were gathered.
Stanley L. Cohen is long-time social justice attorney and activist. For ten years he has been subjected to aggressive investigation and harassment by various agencies of the United States federal government, ultimately leading to criminal indictments being filed against him in two jurisdictions, relating to income tax matters.
On April 14, 2014 following years of litigation, enormous expense and tremendous stress to his family and his practice, he accepted a deal that includes pleading guilty to impeding the IRS tax code. He will be sentenced in October or shortly thereafter.He is now facing 18 months in prison.
The political nature of this prosecution is evident from the severity of the charges leveled against Cohen for underlying acts many of which are not even alleged to be illegal in and of themselves (for example accepting cash payments from clients, or keeping cash in an office safe), or are as benign and common as allowing clients to barter labor for legal services.
It is apparent that the motivation driving these charges is not taxes, but is in fact retaliation for Mr. Cohen’s years of standing up to governments on behalf of people and peoples’ movements. These charges are clearly intended to silence Cohen and shut down his consistent efforts to assist the politically unpopular and socially marginalized.
Stanley Cohen has a long history of standing with and for the disadvantaged and the disaffected. After coming of age as a social worker and an organizer in the anti-war and economic justice movements, he became a lawyer in 1983 and spent seven years as a public defender with the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx. Later, in private practice he continued to advocate for and represent many people the government would like to silence or put in jail: Palestinian freedom fighters, Muslim preachers, North American natives living on Indian reservations, marijuana dealers, anti-war protestors, radical squatters, the homeless, “hacktivist” information activists, members of national liberation movements, anarchists, and anti-Zionists among many others.
We the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Stanley Cohen and ask that the sentencing judge use his discretion to reduce the jail sentence to zero in light of Cohen’s many years of public service and in the interest of justice. Jailing him would be a demonstration of U.S. government retaliation against an attorney for effectively advocating on behalf of his clients and thwarting government prosecutors – the same prosecutors who now have turned their sights on him.
Fascist Israeli occupation forces turns the church of the Holy Sepulcher into military outpost, very few Palestinian Christians succeeded to reach, 19 April 2014.
An interesting piece by Rachel Woodlock
Israeli soldiers reportedly refused to stop firing tear gas canisters despite the presence of pilgrims after clashes had broken out between local youths and Israeli forces in the area.
Witnesses told Ma’an that a tour guide who was escorting the pilgrims asked an Israeli officer to stop firing tear gas canisters until pilgrims left, but the officer continued to fire. The pilgrims had to take shelter in a souvenir shop before they could complete their prayers.
The owner of the souvenir shop also tried to convince the Israeli officer to stop firing tear gas so that the pilgrims could leave, but instead the officer “asked a soldier to fire tear gas canisters at the church and at the pilgrims,” witnesses added.
An Israeli military spokeswoman did not have any information regarding the incident.
The village of al-Eizariya houses the Tomb of Lazarus who, according to the Bible, was miraculously brought back to life by Jesus days after he was buried.
Separately, fierce clashes broke out Friday between Israeli troops and young men in al-Eizariya and Abu Dis, a local spokesman told Ma’an.
Hani Halabiya, a spokesman of local popular committees in East Jerusalem added that a young man sustained minor wounds after he was hit by a rubber-coated steel bullet.
He added that Israeli troops stationed themselves inside a Muslim cemetery and fired at the Palestinian protestors. They also tried to ambush protestors in the cemetery.
South Dakota and Racism