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”

A Suitable Boy, “Decent” People, and Names that Pass (The King is Out: Part IV)

by Huma Dar

[read Part I Part II Part III]

Ripping Apart the King, Separating Him from Kajol

In the second half of the film, My Name is Khan (2010), Karan Johar shows that Rizwan Khan’s wife, Mandira (played by Kajol) is on a personal journey to obtain justice for her son and accountability from the perpetrators of a hate crime.  It is thus ironic that Mandira’s own negligence towards Rizwan Khan (played by SRK) and the lack of accountability for making him set off on an ostensibly unfeasible mission, albeit in a fit of grief and anger, is not problematized at all in the film.  A mission that might very well have remained unfulfilled but for Rizwan Khan’s Herculean efforts, his unusual talents and disabilities, and a string of exceptional circumstances.  Rizwan Khan, given his Asperger’s syndrome, “fear of new places,” and his Muslimness (actively practiced), would have been equally, if not more, susceptible to the kind of hate crime that victimized Mandira’s son.  After the initial outburst at the place of death, Mandira had had enough time to re-think  the consequences of her angry directive to Khan, yet she never apologizes to Khan.  Here too, the immediate context of Bollywood, the multiple Hindu-Muslim marriages amongst the stars of Bombay, and the general lack of acceptance of such marriages in mainstream India are crucial to keep in mind.

Continue reading “A Suitable Boy, “Decent” People, and Names that Pass (The King is Out: Part IV)”