Sectarianization

My colleague Nader Hashemi and I have a new edited book out examining what we call the sectarianization of Middle East politics. It is published by Hurst in the UK (and worldwide) and by OUP in North America. This nifty video trailer for the book was produced by the talented Simeon Tennant.

Colonizing the Mind: Israel’s Assault on Palestinian Education

Yesterday, I stumbled across a title in Ma’an that shook me to the core:

Palestinian schools switch to Israeli curriculum in Jerusalem

To anyone who knows the Israeli curriculum, this is one of the most chilling statements anti-colonialists can imagine. The Israeli school curriculum is what allows millions of Israelis to enlist to the army, to cheer on as it slaughters Palestinians en-masse, and to be OK with being “a little bit fascist” .

I want to make a very important stop here, before we continue examining the article and the questions which it raised in my mind, so my readers, who didn’t grow up through Israel’s public school indoctrination, can get a basic idea of how it works. So sit back for 28 minutes and get to know the incredibly important research of Nurit Peled-Elhanan about the colonialist racist discourse in Israeli textbooks:

  Continue reading “Colonizing the Mind: Israel’s Assault on Palestinian Education”

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”

Manufacturing Consent and Violence: Azadi, Arundhati, Hindutva Terror, and Indian Media

by Huma Dar

At a groundbreaking seminar, ‘Azadi: The Only Way,’ organized by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) in New Delhi, India, on October 21st, 2010, the minutes record that Arundhati Roy, the prize-winning author of The God of Small Things, asserted that

[Kashmir] has never been an integral part of India and the Indian government recognised it as a disputed territory and took it to the UN on its own accord. In 1947 we were told that India became a sovereign democracy. But it became a country as per the imagination of its colonizer, and continued to be a colonizer even after the British left the country. Indian state forcibly or deceitfully annexed the North-East, Goa, Junagarh, Telangana, etc… the Indian state has waged a protracted war against the people which it calls its own. Who are the people it has waged war against? The people of North-East, Kashmir, Punjab, etc. This is an upper caste Hindu state waging a continuing struggle against the people. Continue reading “Manufacturing Consent and Violence: Azadi, Arundhati, Hindutva Terror, and Indian Media”

Feeling the Loyalty to the Jewish State of Israel

By Max Blumenthal and Joseph Dana

The Israeli Knesset is debating a bill proposed by David Rotem of the extreme right Yisrael Beiteinu party that would require all Israeli citizens to swear loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” This bill is targeted at increasing pressure on the twenty percent of Israelis who are Palestinian citizens while forcing the ultra Orthodox Jewish minority who reject the legitimacy of any state not based on Jewish biblical law to accept Zionism. If passed in its proposed form, citizens unwilling to take the loyalty oath would be at risk of losing citizenship.

Continue reading “Feeling the Loyalty to the Jewish State of Israel”

Kashmir: Trapped Within Hindu Nationalist Imagination

In annexing Kashmir, Indian leaders put aside their progressive anti-colonialism, and pursued a policy that stood in direct confrontation with the goals of struggling Kashmiris. Nehru’s professed derision for princes and despots proved facile in Kashmir in this first real test of his commitment to anti-colonialism and democratic values. His decision to urge the discredited and runaway Dogra ruler to sign the imperial Instrument of Accession, and then accept it, was a defeat for the oppressed Kashmiris who had, with great sacrifices, forced the Dogra ruler out. By recognizing the authority of the Dogra ruler, Indian sovereignty over Kashmir simply replaced the sovereignty enshrined in the Dogra maharaja. But along with that sovereignty, India inherited Dogra rule’s illegitimacy as well.

by Mohamad Junaid

(First published in Greater Kashmir on August 5, 2010)

Untitled by Samurah Kashmiri, August 5, 2010
Untitled by Samurah Kashmiri, August 5, 2010
Bharat Mata or Mother India
Bharat Mata or Mother India

On 26 January 1992, Murli Manohar Joshi, the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, after travelling by road all the way from the southern tip of India, was airlifted from Jammu to the heart of Srinagar where he half-raised the Indian flag near historic Lal Chowk. All of Kashmir was put under severe curfew, and the army was given shoot-at-sight orders. Throughout the day soldiers shot dead more than a dozen Kashmiris in the streets of Srinagar. Over the previous two years, the Indian government had unleashed a reign of terror on the people, with massacre upon massacre of unarmed protestors dotting Kashmir’s timeline. Joshi’s Ekta Yatra (Unity March), protected and provided of full support by the Indian government, was an important reminder of the nature of the Indian state and the relationship it sought with the people of Kashmir. The event was designed to put on display the majoritarian character of Indian nationhood, and line up power of the state behind it to send barely coded messages to audiences in India and in Kashmir.

Continue reading “Kashmir: Trapped Within Hindu Nationalist Imagination”

“O, God! Have mercy on me! Distracted, I whirl” — Rumi’s Gift

Not frivolously, around the alleys and bazaars, I whirl.
Lover’s temperament, I have — to have one glimpse of my Beloved, I whirl.

by Maulana Rumi

Singing: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Qawwaals

Translated by Huma Dar

Raqs al-Ruhani, al-Qahirah (Huma Dar 2005)
Naa Man Behooda Gird-e Koocha-o-Baazaar Mi Gardam (Huma Dar 2005)

نه من  بيهوده  گرد کوچه  و  بازار  می  گردم
مذاق عاشقی  دارم  پئ  ديدار  ميگردم

خدايا  رحم  کن  بر  من  پريشان وار  می  گردم
خطا کارم  گناھگارم  به  حال زار  می  گردم

شراب شوق  می نوشم  به  گرد يار  می  گردم
سخن مستانه  می گويم  ولے  هوشيار  می  گردم

گھےخندم  گھے گريم گھے افتم  گھے خيزم
مسيحا  در دلم  پيدا  و  من  بيمار  می گردم

بیا جانا  عنایت  کن  تو  مولانای رومی  را
غلام  شمس  تبریزم  قلندروار  می گردم

Continue reading ““O, God! Have mercy on me! Distracted, I whirl” — Rumi’s Gift”

Peaches

by Arif Ayaz Parrey

Can I tell how much I love peaches?
Not ordinary ones
But those plucked from
The orchards along Jhelum

The ones in the basket before me
Are nebrim for sure
But they blush like a home-grown innocence
And hold as many juicy promises

I wonder what tree bore them
I wonder if it’s wise to ignore them

The tree of life
Has many buried roots

It is said that my only son
Was killed under the canopy
Of the branches of one such tree
By the army
Also known as the security forces
An old joke
What do they secure
These so-called security forces?
Not the people, not our lives, not our liberty
Not our sentiments, nor our emotions, not our sanity
Not our sons who are shot
Nor our daughters who are raped
Not the truth, not the facts, not humanity

Continue reading “Peaches”

Outing the Muslimness, Finally: Some Viewing (and Hearing) Pleasures (The King is Out: Part VI)

The King is out: he is irreversibly a Muslim. His name is Khan: pronounce it correctly please. Long Live the King!

by Huma Dar

[Read Part I Part II Part III Part IV Part V]

Rizwan Khan Offering His Namaz

[I]n one scene I wanted to have just a half open door and I wanted to be shown saying namaz once. We couldn’t take that shot. Then we put that bit where I say the prayer: Nasrun minal lahe wah fatahun kareeb (God give me strength to win) [sic] [Victory is Allah’s, and the opening/victory is close] which is my own prayer too. I don’t think we should intellectualise entertainment.  See the fun of it.

This is how Shahrukh Khan describes his experience working in the film Chak De! India (Dir: Shimit Amin, 2007).  With apologies to King Khan for discarding his proposal to not “intellectualize” films, yet taking due “fun” in it, I argue that it is only in My Name is Khan (Dir: Karan Johar, 2010) that the King finally comes “out” as a Muslim.  No “half open door” is needed.  This coming out affords particular visceral pleasures to an audience (or at least a large section of it spread across the globe) long resigned to seeing SRK endlessly and persistently marked by the specifically filmic variety of Hinduness practiced in Bollywood: doing various pujas and aartis at different Hindu temples, or adorning his spouses’ hair-parting with sindhoor and smearing his own forehead with tilaks.  This performative Hinduization of Shahrukh Khan in Urdu-Hindi cinema is unrelenting precisely due to the dogged presumption of SRK’s Muslimness that is not easily obscured.  “In my films I have been going to temples and singing bhajans; no one has questioned that,” (my emphasis) SRK exclaims in the same interview.  No one “questions” the diegetic (filmic) Hinduness of SRK; it is expected and mandatory.  With the increasing and explicit polarization in India since 1990s, the anxiety around Muslimness is such that it requires perpetual masking: an iterative performance of Hinduness, secular or otherwise.  When the mask slips off, the performance is momentarily paused – as when SRK plays a Muslim character in a film and critiqued the anti-Pakistani politics of Indian Premier League (IPL) – Hindutva activists target SRK’s suburban Bombay home, Mannat, with massive demonstrations (See the earlier Part II for more).[1]

Continue reading “Outing the Muslimness, Finally: Some Viewing (and Hearing) Pleasures (The King is Out: Part VI)”