Qaddafi’s Harem

qaddafi-2This review of Annick Cojean’s book was published at NOW.

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Today is the beginning of the end of the era of harems and slaves and the beginning of women’s liberation within the Arab nation.” Muammar Qaddafi. September 1981.

The Arab world is still crammed full of tyrannies self-labelling with terms such as ‘popular’ and ‘democratic’, sectarian regimes pretending to be secular, reactionary regimes describing themselves as progressive, and ‘resistance’ regimes which resist nothing but their subjects’ life and freedom.

The current post-revolutionary chaos in Libya provokes two orientalist responses: the crude (statist-leftist) version, that the uprising was a foreign conspiracy; and the subtler (because it’s never quite made explicit), that the Libyans made a terrible mistake by rising, because their fractious ‘tribal’ society can only be held together by a strong man of Qaddafi’s calibre. After him, goes the implicit argument, the inevitable deluge.

“Gaddafi’s Harem” by French journalist Annick Cojean provides a fact-based corrective to those fooled by Qaddafi’s illusions, specifically those impressed by the radical feminist image evoked by his once highly visible – and sexily transgressive – corps of ‘Amazon’ body guards. It will change the minds too of those who saw the dictator from a distance as a lovable buffoon.

His regime was capricious, yes, at times even darkly comedic, but it was based on undiluted sadism. The cramping stagnation it imposed for 42 years, and the fact that it refused to budge except by force of arms, are the prime causes of today’s anarchy. The means of domination it employed – psycho-social as much as physical – tell us a great deal about the universal megalomaniac personality, as well as certain cultural weaknesses in the Arab world and beyond.

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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”

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

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Jeffrey S Wiesenfeld is Harassing Me

Like many activists, I get hoards of hate mail. As someone who’s committed to abolishing violence, whether it be peer-to-peer or on a global scale, I believe that none of us should fear exposing violence towards us, or our friends and loved ones, who don’t have the privilege to do so. In my case, I truly believe I have absolutely nothing to fear, and so I bring to you a “correspondence”, initiated by Jeffrey S Wiesenfeld, after I had sent a stencil letter to the CUNY Board of Trustees members, including himself, regarding the Tony Kushner affair. I believe this is called harassment.

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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.)

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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”

“Veil in the Time of War” or “Veilin’ the Time of War”

In the context of the current multiple arenas of war and occupation in Muslim-majority regions, the issues of gender and sexuality are vitally linked to the casus belli, both within and without academia. Such linkages, with a long and complicated genealogy thoroughly imbricated in the politics of colonization, decolonization, and neo-colonization, also indicate an obsessive desire to re-enact the “discovery narrative” or the “rescue narrative.” Examining current contestations in popular media – including recent articles written by Maureen Dowd, Naomi Wolf and Phyllis Chesler et al and the poster designed by Alexander Segert, which was integral to the success of the anti-minaret Swiss referendum – this essay investigates whether, how, and where the neoconservative, neoliberal, and the mainstream feminist discourses converge, diverge, and intersect.

Segert's Anti-Minaret Poster

by Huma Dar

In the context of the current multiple arenas of war and occupation in Muslim-majority regions, the issues of gender and sexuality are vitally linked to the casus belli, both within and without academia.  Such linkages, with a long and complicated genealogy thoroughly imbricated in the politics of colonization, decolonization, and neo-colonization, theorized by Inderpal Grewal, Gayatri Spivak, Lata Mani, Leila Ahmed, Sherene Razack, Saba Mahmood, Sunera Thobani amongst others, also indicate an obsessive desire to re-enact the “discovery narrative” or the “rescue narrative.”  Examining current contestations in popular media – including recent articles written by Maureen Dowd, Naomi Wolf and Phyllis Chesler et al and the poster designed by Alexander Segert, which was integral to the success of the anti-minaret Swiss referendum – I investigate whether, how, and where the neoconservative, neoliberal, and the mainstream feminist discourses converge, diverge, and intersect.  I undertake to deconstruct the ongoing debates that obsessively revolve around the veil or the sexuality that is variously professed to be suppressed, annihilated, or even “discovered” beneath the veil by some liberal explorers.

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Militarism, Genderphobia and Beer

Israeli commercials have proved to be the height of militarism and insensitivity in the past, today we revisit gay ole’ Israel, and debunk Hasbara, yet again.

McCann Erickson Does it Again!

McCann Erickson probably has one of the most amazing records of militarizing civil society. The good people who brought you the Army Strong campaign now bring you a beer commercial. How is beer military? Soldiers aren’t allowed to drink- it’s a punishable offense. In Israel, the majority of the population have been soldiers, and the majority of men and some women are in the reserves until the age of 45 (39 for women). Since you’re going to have civilians in your corps, you have to keep them motivated (translation below the Video):

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Surviving Within: Helen Benedict and the harsh realities of women in the U.S. military.

“I’m more afraid of men [in my unit] that I am with the enemy.”

Those were the words that Helen Benedict heard from several female soldiers. The enemy was within. Since March of 2003, more than 160,500 women have served in Iraq. More women have fought and died during this war than in any other since World War II, yet they still account for one in ten soldiers. But behind their noble service and love for their country, many female soliders find themselves in virtual isolation among men. Their seclusion, combined with the military’s history of gender discrimination and the uniquely challenging conditions in Iraq, has resulted in a mounting epidemic of sexual abuse, physical degeneration, and emotional distress among many female soldiers.

Author Helen Benedict uncovers the harsh realities female soldiers face in her latest book The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women in Iraq. Weaving together the poignant and grueling accounts of the war in Iraq, Benedict offers new insight into the lives of women in the military, before, during, and after the war. The Lonely Soldier was released last month by Beacon Press and I recently spoke with Benedict about her latest work.

Continue reading “Surviving Within: Helen Benedict and the harsh realities of women in the U.S. military.”