Mind-forged Manacles

A shorter version of this ran in The Nation earlier.

51bnetm1ygl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Over a decade back, while working for an ad agency in Islamabad, I met a recently divorced young woman. The woman had grown up in the US but had submitted to her parents’ wishes when it was time to marry. Soon after the wedding, however, she discovered something amiss. The marriage could not be consummated—her husband was gay. It would be four years before she was allowed to drop the pretense and ask for a divorce.

In traditional society, marriage is a fraught prospect. It is more than the union of two individuals: for the political elite, it’s an influence multiplier; for the economic elite, it’s a corporate merger; and for the have nots, it’s a bid to have. The personal, as it were, is the political—and the social—and the economic.

The transactional character of these unions is rarely acknowledged. Material concerns are sublimated into the concept of ‘honor’, which masks marital dysfunction and serves as caveat emptor. Divorces, consequently, are rare, and divorcees disdained. Many women endure bad marriages for fear of the stigma that attends divorce.

Central to Rafia Zakaria’s The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan is the story of her aunt Amina, who, after her husband takes a new wife, decides to stay in a polygamous marriage rather than suffer a divorcee’s fate. Distraught and humiliated, Amina initially returns to her parents and contemplates divorce. But her parents’ anguish and community pressure eventually make her submit and she returns to the indignity of her husband’s divided affections.

Continue reading “Mind-forged Manacles”

Free Kashmiri Political Prisoners, End the Occupation of Kashmir

We send you this request in hopes of garnering your crucial and valuable support for the letter attached below. This letter is a response to the dire conditions of thousands of Kashmiri political prisoners, both adults and minors, under the Indian Occupation. Your support will help bring global attention to this critical and urgent issue.

Indian Occupation Forces and their 'Fearsome' Targets: Young Kashmiri Boys
Indian Occupation Forces and their ‘Fearsome’ Targets: Young Kashmiri Boys

Greetings,

We send you this request in hopes of garnering your crucial and valuable support for the letter attached below. This letter is a response to the dire conditions of thousands of Kashmiri political prisoners, both adults and minors, under the Indian Occupation.  Your support will help bring global attention to this critical and urgent issue.

On the ground, in Kashmir and elsewhere, we have a concurrent month-long campaign, the “Fast for Freedom,” first initiated via Facebook, which involves optional fasting, sit-ins, protests, lectures, and film-screenings.  This will culminate in civil protests, fasts and sit-ins by various organizations – including the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons(APDP) – and campus events in Srinagar, Delhi, and Berkeley et al, from 9th to 11th February 2014.  It is an opportunity not just for Kashmiris but for all people of conscience to show solidarity with an oppressed people, to protest an illegal military occupation, the illegal detention and torture of thousands of Kashmiri political prisoners, and incessant human rights abuse, including mass graves, fake encounters, forced disappearances, mass and gang-rapes, and daily humiliation under the ongoing military occupation.  (Please see the linked report Alleged Perpetrators for more details.)

Your endorsement of the attached letter will help bring urgently needed political attention to this long-festering issue, as well as help to generate intellectual energy to begin necessary conversations on military occupations with regard to power and privilege, coloniality and postcolonialism, sexual assault as a weapon of war, imperial and decolonial feminisms, the colonial politics of prisons and capital punishment, post/colonial tourism, the construction of the “terrorist,” Islamophobia and other forms of racialization in the context of Kashmir.   Continue reading “Free Kashmiri Political Prisoners, End the Occupation of Kashmir”

Creative Community for Peace in Letter to Jose Feliciano: Healing with Music in Colonial Times, Building Bridges Over the Bodies of the Oppressed

Right: Jose Feliciano Left: Steve Schnur

Jose Feliciano is scheduled to perform in apartheid Israel on October 10, at Nokia Stadium. Already he’s being sent messages professing liberal language of equality and harmony for all, by that elite club for the endless cycle of war profiteering, whitewashing and violence, otherwise known as “Creative Community for Peace” (CCfP). Creative Community for Peace is a specialist in apartheid PR. They’re mere existence is about diverting attention from Israel’s systematic daily war crimes against the Palestinian population under its control, by abusing the word “Peace” and shooting the messenger- Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activists (BDS), who connect the dots between Israel’s image of itself and the reality of its erasure of the Palestinian narrative and people.

Unfortunately, Jose Feliciano, for the time being, endorses the “Creative Community for Peace” statement that has been sent to him, and has posted it on the website. Continue reading “Creative Community for Peace in Letter to Jose Feliciano: Healing with Music in Colonial Times, Building Bridges Over the Bodies of the Oppressed”

The Iron Lady

The Iron Lady is currently in showing in British cinemas. The trailer seems to suggest that Margaret Thatcher advanced the cause of women. In a recent interview Meryl Streep confessed how much more she had come to appreciate Thatcher’s contributions to feminism. It all reminded me of this clip from The Onion.

Who’s Afraid of Women’s Song?

At 4:02, as the women sing, a male protester yells: “Who’s afraid of women’s song?”

The following is a testimony of one of the women, out of the 23 activists, who were arrested in this week’s Nabi Saleh demonstration (above video). This demonstration was the first after Mustafa Tamimi’s murder. It was extremely brutal, which is a relative term, considering the continuous repression that the demonstrations against the apartheid wall face, and the village of Nabi Saleh in particular.

Out of the 23 activists, many were physically assaulted while handcuffed behind their backs, as Mohammed Khatib, one of the leaders of the Bil’in popular committee, describes in his own testimony. Mustafa Tamimi’s sister, Ola, who was prevented from being with her brother as he took his last breaths, was pepper sprayed in the eyes, from a few centimeters away. And another handcuffed woman was slapped with the back of the hand of a passing male settler, when she expressed objection to him assaulting Khatib and taking pictures. These are just a few of the testimonies that were published and taped, we still don’t have a complete story of this particular demonstration, and many other stories will be lost in the clouds of gas.

Testimony of Sahar M. Vardi

Continue reading “Who’s Afraid of Women’s Song?”

Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms

By Huma Dar

A woman in niqab being arrested in Paris, April 12, 2011, copyright EPA

Of Civilities and Dignities

On 22 June 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, asserted that burqas (or the burqa-clad?) are “not welcome” in France, adding that “[i]n our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity” and that “the veils reduced dignity.” France’s Muslim minority is Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority, estimated at six-million-strong.  And this is just an approximation, as the French Republic implicitly claims to be post-race and post-religion via a prohibition on any census that would take into account the race or religion of its citizens. (This anxiety mirrors the brouhaha in Indian media àpropos the much-contested enumeration of OBCs or Other Backward Castes in the Indian census surveys of 2011, or the urgency to declare some spaces post-caste, post-feminist, and post-racist while casteism, patriarchy and racism continue unabated.)

Continue reading “Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms”

Open Letter to Justice Richard Goldstone

Reposted from the Coalition of Women for Peace website in response to Goldstone’s “reconsiderations” of the UN fact finding mission of the bloody incursion into Gaza.

 

April 5, 2011

Dear Justice Richard Goldstone,

The recent escalation in the Israeli army incursions into the Gaza strip is of grave concern to us at the Coalition of Women for Peace. The prospect of yet another flare out of large scale violence against civilians is alarming. Your recent comments on the Goldstone report are already interpreted by Israeli officials and the mainstream media channels as complete and full absolution of Israel’s military conduct in its entirety. Yet, the conclusions drawn from your statement with respect to Israel’s conduct during the Cast Lead military campaign and especially its aftermath are not backed by any new facts or findings. This seriously undermines the international, Israeli and Palestinian civil society struggle for accountability and against impunity from grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

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Egyptian Riot Grrls: Finding the Feminine Face of Fury

by Beenish Ahmed

(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Much has been aflutter on twitter about the very visible presence of women among the protests that have taken Egypt by storm over the last few weeks, but images of them have remained sparse amid the digital slideshows strung together by major media outlets, portraying mainly dense crowds of the manly.

What falls within these frames does not necessarily paint a full picture, since as Egyptian Organization for Human Rights activist Ghada Shahbandar claims, the crowd in downtown Cairo is up to 20 percent female. Others have put the number much higher, at 50 percent.

Although they are less prevalent, some efforts have been made to depict the role of women this popular uprising. The Global Post put together a slideshow on the Women of Egypt among the March of Millions in Tahrir Square, and a compilation of photographs from various sources can be found on sawt al niswa, a self-described “feminist webspace.”

A quick look through the reels of these images reveals the feminine side of fury and eliminates any remaining shred of doubt that the issues of unemployment and corruption that are widely cited as the primary causes for this unrest effect only men.

Continue reading “Egyptian Riot Grrls: Finding the Feminine Face of Fury”

From “Islamist Watch” to Islamic Mimbar: the Politics of Hypocrisy

Raheel Raza leads a group of Muslims in prayer in Canada

By Huma Dar

On Thursday, June 10, 2010, Jerome Taylor, the Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Independent posted an article headlined, “First Woman to Lead Friday Prayers in UK.” Two-thirds of the way down this article, we find that:

“Ms Raza’s appearance in Oxford is a repeat of a similar prayer session in 2008 which was led by Amina Wadud, an American-born convert and Muslim feminist. But this is the first time a Muslim-born woman will lead a mixed prayer service in Britain.”

Continue reading “From “Islamist Watch” to Islamic Mimbar: the Politics of Hypocrisy”