A multitude of grassroots movements are emerging across the country in resistance to the mainstream economy and polity. These initiatives are exploring sustainable, equitable and just paths to human well-being. Ashish Kothari and Pallav Das offer an insight into the need for such movements.
Christiane Amanpour talks to Nobel Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai and Syrian Muzoon Almellehan, a Syrian refugee, about the importance of education for girls.
Ahd is a Saudi Arabian actor, writer, director whose second short film in which she also acted, “Sanctity”/ “La sainteté”, financed by France’s CNC, won the 2012 Doha Tribeca Development Award, received a Golden Bear nomination at the Berlinale in 2013 and won the Golden Aleph in Beirut International Film Festival, 2013.
How a school for midwives in eastern Sudan is empowering and educating women and girls about FGM is the main point this piece on Al Jazeera discusses and explains.
Egypt was among the countries that witnessed a fast decline in the prevalence of FGM rates from 1987 to 2015. It ranked sixth among countries that practice FGM worldwide, with an overall percentage of 85% among girls and women aged between 15 to 49 years old.
Hana Assafiri invites ‘generous and brilliant’ women to her Moroccan deli in Melbourne every fortnight for those who want to ‘ask a Muslim anything’ in a bid to create a more cohesive society, one conversation at a time.
Janan Najeeb, a prominent member of Wisconsin’s Muslim community and a longtime participant in local interfaith efforts, offered a prayer on the floor of the Assembly at noon Thursday in what is though to be a first for Wisconsin.
Barbie has had another makeover. This time as a hijab-wearing Muslim. A Nigerian medical scientist has taken Instagram by storm since she began posting images of a hijab-wearing Barbie doll a few weeks ago.
Families of Chapel Hill Shooting Victims Speak Out on Anti-Muslim Hate saying that we must continue “our three winners legacy of love.”
Pakistan has the third largest number of out-of-school girls in the world, a fact that hit headlines globally in 2012 after Taleban terrorists shot 14-year-old schoolgirl and education advocate Malala Yousafzai. Now amid this largely patriarchal society, Pakistani women, be they educated campaigners or illiterate mothers, are at the forefront of advocating for girls’ right to school.
Casteism and the state of our civil society were the major issues discussed at the recently held Difficult Dialogues conclave in Goa. It was organised by the South Asia Centre of the London School of Economics India Summit 2016 and the Television Trust for the Environment. Darryl D’Monte, who participated in one of the panel discussions, reports.
Valentine’s Day used to be a big day for me when I was a teenager. While the original “cupid” is more than a little problematic and the capitalist, gendered and heteronormative nature of the holiday is absolutely real, in urban middle-class Mexican society it was often considered an “opportunity.” An opportunity to make your feelings for someone else known, whether they were your partner or not.
February 14th was a much anticipated day in both my junior high school and my high school. There was the year that a boy gifted me a Winnie-the-Pooh stuffy holding a heart that read “Be mine” (my dad laughed so hard). There was the year that my platonic love wrote me a poem and made me a painting. And there was the year that my 17thyear-old boyfriend got me an engagement ring (much to my parent’s dismay). Most of my memories of the holiday while I lived in Mexico are happy ones (or at least funny).
But then I moved to Canada, I met a Saudi and I became Muslim (all of those three things completely unrelated to each other). Having grown up in Saudi Arabia, where the holiday is “banned,” my partner had no idea what Valentine’s was about… of course he had seen it in the media and such, but he had never “done” Valentine’s. The first year we were together we tried it… and it just went badly. He got me heart-shaped chocolates and a stuffed bunny (I hate stuffed animals), and I got him a mini-cake and a card, that, in my opinion, was extremely cute… it had two piggies kissing… Again, being Saudi and Muslim, he was extremely offended by the pig-reference in the card, I was upset that I had to explain myself, and the day ended by some of our Saudi classmates reminding him that there were fatwas against Valentine’s and that it is “haram” to celebrate it.
That was the last time I did Valentine’s. After entering Islam there was a whole aspect of “haramness” (as I like to call it), that was very difficult to navigate. In fact, numerous Muslim sites have articles on why is it that Valentine’s is haram (here, here and here).
Yet, it is not only that some Muslim communities self-exclude from Valentine’s celebrations (which may be a completely legitimate religious or political decision), but that mainstream Western societies also exclude Muslims and other minorities, or use the holiday to “make a point” about the “barbaric” ways in which the rest of us practice love and romance.
For example, last week an acquaintance of mine contacted me regarding Valentine’s because the organization she works for wanted to publish a piece on violence against immigrant women by February 14th. I initially agreed to talk to her about immigration and gender-based violence, since it has to do with much of the academic work I do. She sent me a few leading questions, which I felt sought to have me demonstrate how men of color are the primary abusers of immigrant women. I immediately felt uneasy and told her so.
The reality of things is that gender-based violence is not only a “brown” problem, and immigrant women (and women of colour in general) tend to experience institutional and systemic violence where whiteness acts as a form of privilege. My acquaintance replied by sending me an image featuring potential immigrant women and Valentine’s (below).
She wanted to make a point of the fact that she was not the only one who thought that violence against immigrant women, including Muslims, was perpetuated primarily by how men in “those” communities understand love and relationships. The stereotyping in this image is incredibly racist and othering, but this image was created as a “feminist” Valentine’s card.
I conducted a search of “feminist Valentine’s cards” just to discover that the majority of feminist cards feature white-Western feminists and their interests… very few feature women of colour… let alone Muslim women. And even though we know that Muslim women partake in the holiday either through hijab tutorials, card making or taking the “opportunity” to express their feelings, main media sources, and more importantly, mainstream feminist “pro-Valentine’s” movements have failed to include Muslim women and generally women of colour in the celebration without questioning their understandings, experiences and desires around romance and relationships. So let’s ask the question: what would an inclusive feminist pro-Valentine movement look like?
Writing (for Muslimah Media Watch and other platforms elsewhere) has opened up many opportunities to collaborate with other activists from around the world. In particular, some articles I wrote on female circumcision (and also male circumcision) a few years ago attracted a lot of attention from activists and filmmakers, and a fresh round of conversations about these articles prompted me to gather and reflect on these transnational interactions.
A few years ago, while I was still living in the Netherlands, a Dutch non-government organization contacted me. They were looking for a gateway into the homogenized ethnic group of “Islamic Indonesian or Malaysian background”. Even though I specifically identified myself as being a Malay (ethnic group) Singaporean (nationality), they mistook me for an Indonesian. Indonesia and Malaysia are two different countries, and Indonesia alone has over 15 ethnic groups – facts that I would have hoped an NGO would be aware of if they were targeting this demographic.
Dispersing the misconceptions about ethnicity, nationality, and diasporic communities was work enough. Then they asked me to help them find other recent immigrants who “may not be informed about the consequences if they have their daughter circumcised.” Their assumptions about immigrant Muslim women and their culture(s) were ominously foreshadowing the recent Dutch policy to teach “gay rights” in refugee centres. Both parties paint immigrants and refugees as being inherently misogynist and homophobic.
Can we get #NotallMuslimwomencircumcisetheirdaughte
Soon after, I received a request from an American filmmaker working on the issue of routine male infant circumcision (MC). She was looking for doctors or parents in either Malaysia, Indonesia, or Singapore (though anyone from “Africa or Asia” would do) who supported the less invasive forms of female circumcision (pricking, slitting) – and she wasn’t planning on portraying them in a negative light. The purpose of juxtaposing FC (which is normally considered abhorrent) in other countries to male circumcision in the US was to help point out to Americans of their “cultural blind-spots” and “double standard”.
However, it would make more sense to change just one variable instead of two. For example, how about comparing “American” forms of genital cutting such as labioplasty/vaginoplasty to male circumcision? Instead of you know, using the rest of the world as a setting to help Americans learn more about themselves.
Most recently I was asked, by an Indian photographer-filmmaker, to find some women or girls who had been through FC. More specifically, she wanted to film the procedure and some interviews – keeping all parties anonymous. Then: “They can wear their burqas if they want to.” #NotallMuslimwomenwearburqas
In all of the above interactions, I felt conflicting emotions. On one hand, I wanted to raise awareness about FC and MC. However, on the other hand, I felt like the person’s interpretations of the topic were being forced on me. In the case of being asked to provide contacts, I felt like they were forcing their way into an extremely intimate subject – information which had required time and emotional effort on my part to obtain – making me feel like an unwilling ‘native informant’.
As a result of feeling coerced, I curiously started to become defensive. In my mind, I even wanted to defend these practices – FC in particular because of the ‘milder’ nature more prevalent in Southeast Asia – against the onslaught of eager activists. It was a wholly reactionary defense mechanism.
Multiracial alliances can fail or be productive. As in all relations of power, there are lines of privilege to consider. I feel that immortalising representations of Muslim women through the making of media (books, films, policy papers) is something to be especially careful about. What would make me want to collaborate? What would make it worthwhile?
There was one more request by an Italian activist, who requested me to answer a series of questions on FC. Initially suspicious (seriously you can’t blame me though), I asked her many questions about her background, work, motivations and objectives, to get a better idea about how she was planning to represent the situation in Southeast Asia. In the end, our interactions were open, pleasant and productive, so I ended up contributing my experiences.
In her book Power Lines: On the Subject of Feminist Alliances (2008), Aimee Carillo Rowe writes:
“There’s the colour of the body, and then there’s the colour of the commitment that burns like hot blue flame in our hearts… Our work is to turn ourselves inside out. To locate ourselves through our loyalty and our bravery and our willingness to fight for radical visions.”
The only project I ended up contributing to was one that I felt I had the most control over. Not only did the collaborating activist ask mostly open-ended questions, the published text is also made up mostly of quotes. This shows a willingness to let people speak for themselves (as far as it is possible in a textual form). I suppose then, what makes a collaboration worthwhile is if we can control our own representations and get our message across at the same time.
PS: I almost forgot about the random white male law student who had written a paper about FC and was looking for my feedback. When I asked him why he wanted to send it to me, he said he thought it would be ‘as much for my benefit’ as others had been ‘extremely appreciative’. I think I forgot to give him any feedback.
Some years ago I decided I was done with certain kinds of “race writing.” Specifically, the kinds that involved responding at length to arguments so transparently shallow, ignorant, and self-serving in their racism that refuting them would only wrongly imply that such arguments raise questions that legitimately merit debate/response.
White Hollywood, apparently smarting at the thought that the world doesn’t naturally revolve around white people, has given us multiple examples in recent weeks of just such arguments:
- Charlotte Rampling (who is English) calling criticisms of the overwhelming whiteness of this year’s Oscar nominations, and subsequent calls for a boycott of the Oscars, “racism against white people”
- Michael Caine (also English) telling Black actors to be more patient about decades of systematic exclusion from acting roles, from directing and producing opportunities, from industry accolades, and from the tables and boardrooms where it happens. After all, even Michael Caine—as Michael Caine helpfully reminds us—had to wait “years and years” for his Oscars. So Black actors, Michael Caine concludes, should hang tight and wait patiently, like Michael Caine did. (Fun trivia note: not only does Caine have two Oscars, he’s also one of two actors—the other being fellow white dude Jack Nicholson—to be nominated for an Oscar in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s. But he had to wait years and YEARS to win, y’all.)
- Rampling and Caine tilting at the windmills of nonexistent racial quotas, both objecting that it would be wrong to give mediocre performances by Black actors awards just because the actors are Black—an argument literally no one has made in their critique of the Oscars.
- Julie Delpy (French) saying the hardest thing in Hollywood is being a woman and that she wishes she were “African American” because, apparently, “women” get heated backlash for speaking up that “African Americans” do not. No one in Julie Delpy’s world, which is apparently another planet, ever lashes out at Black people in the industry for calling out discrimination, which makes all those stories about white actors miffed over Black actors’ criticisms of industry racism kind of awkward, no? And apparently it’s also impossible to be a woman and an “African American” at the same time. Guess I and every other Black woman missed the memo that we’re unicorns.
- I could go on: add Kristen Stewart and the Coen Brothers to the list of white Hollywood elites who have put their apparently racist feet in their mouths.
These comments have a few things in common. For one, as Racialicious’s own Kendra James notes, they’re all statements from white actors who are not American, on racism in Hollywood and the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences, both of which are, hmm, American. We can maybe extrapolate something from this about how global investment in whiteness and white supremacy transcends national borders, making white people who literally don’t know the culture they are talking about feel entitled—compelled, even—to weigh in in defense of their white brethren across the water, and to step in to impress on Black Americans our failure, even inability, to properly understand our own experiences and histories in our own country.
They’re also all blatantly solipsistic. Delpy, in a few words, and in the name of speaking up for the category of “woman,” renders Black women as mythological, nonexistent beings. In a few words, Caine shows he feels his individual experience as a white man qualifies him to lecture a whole race of people on what we should put up with. A whole race of people who, not merely in Caine’s lifetime but during his career as an actor, were by law barred from professional opportunities available to Caine and his fellow white actors, and were and still are excluded by custom from opportunities and accolades that white actors can reasonably hope for. Rampling complains of “racism” against her and her fellow white people even as she’s one of a sea of Oscar nominees who are almost nothing but white.
They’re blatantly, completely counterfactual: Delpy claims to wish to be Black in a Hollywood whose admittedly scant recognition of female excellence goes almost exclusively to white women. In an industry where the stakes for Black actresses who speak up about misogynoir, the toxic nexus of misogyny and anti-Black racism, are more dire than any white actress could imagine or fathom. It is the height of absurdity to complain about “reverse racism” when for two years only white actors have been nominated for some of the highest acting awards in the world, when barely anyone who doesn’t look like Charlotte Rampling has been nominated for, much less won, such recognition in the 87-year history of the Oscars. It is riiiiii-fucking-diculous for a white actor like Michael Caine to compare waiting in his individual professional career for accolades to whole categories of people being passed over for industry recognition for the better part of a century.
I won’t call these statements “stupid”; intelligence has nothing to do with this. I will call them laughable. They ought to be, at least. These are patently ridiculous statements utterly unhinged from anything resembling reality.
So I decided, rather than unpacking such statements at length, my response would be merely to point, and laugh. And laugh. And laugh.
I decided that rather than get into the nitty gritty of why these people are wrong as fuck, I would instead stress how their comments show how deeply entrenched white supremacy is. How much white people think they are *owed* cultural, structural, and social supremacy over other groups.
Because here’s the thing. The comments from Rampling, Caine, Delpy—just a few recent examples of widespread sentiment in the white Western world—are merely veiled ways of saying white people’s rightful place is at the top of the heap and no one should dare question it.
Really, can you get more arrogant and supremacist than getting offended just by the *idea* that white people shouldn’t get all the nominations?
Can you get more arrogant and supremacist than claiming the reason not only Black people, but people of color across the board are barely represented among Oscar nominees and similarly elite ranks, is that white actors and directors and producers and writers are just the best, pretty much all the time?
Think about it. These folks are upset, angry even, over statements so mild they don’t—shouldn’t—even warrant the label of critique. This should be common sense: professional and artistic awards shouldn’t go only to white people.
That’s it. Awards shouldn’t go only to white people. That should not be the regular state of things. This is what amounts to a controversial, questionable, even “racist” statement in a white supremacist world.
These folks are upset that other people DARE to even think this, much less voice it and demand that it be acted on.
These folks are upset that people DARE to say when a room (literal, figurative) is all white people, this is not the result of natural “meritocracy.” It’s artificial—just one result of a centuries-long process of deliberate, systematic exclusion and oppression of people of color. It shows that equal opportunity and access *does not exist* for the 33% of Americans who are not white.
So this is the deal. If you are mad, offended, feel DISCRIMINATED AGAINST simply by having to hear—not actually confront, not actually act on—the IDEA that white people shouldn’t own or get everything? If you feel something that is rightfully yours is being threatened or taken away simply by the expression of the thought that all the nice things shouldn’t go exclusively to white people (and perhaps the occasional token or exceptional brown person)?
If this is you? I will not try to persuade you to think or feel otherwise. I will not engage with your ridiculous “arguments” about why a status quo of white supremacy is just the way things should be.
I will not validate what is essentially an assumption that white people are the bar for excellence. I will not indulge demands that Black people and other people of color prove that we can be as good as white people.
I will not participate in a debate that asks that I “prove” that white people aren’t the cream of the crop, rather than questioning why, when the world has at least twice as many people of color in it for every white person, so much wealth and power—in the U.S. and globally—is hoarded by and for whiteness.
I will not pretend that you are questioning anything less than the humanity of Black people and other people of color—because let’s be real, that’s what we’re ultimately talking about, human capacity and potential and therefore our human-ness itself.
I will not argue with you about whether my humanity is equal to yours. Nope.
Instead, I will point and laugh.
Instead, I will note that you are catching feelings and pitching a fit because you think you and your fellow white people are entitled to everything.
Instead, I will point, laugh, and note the absurdity, the solipsism, the naked belief in white superiority that you are clumsily trying to cloak as logic and reason.
And then I will move on.
Because ridicule and contempt? Is all this mindset—that the natural state of things is white entitlement, for you and yours to have more than the rest of the world—deserves.
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We’re all bracing for an onslaught of analyses surrounding Beyoncé’s “Formation” this week. But at least for right now, via Mic, here’s another chance to see her and Bruno Mars do their thing at Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show with all of that Coldplay stuff cut out.