Friday Links

Friday, 27 May 2016 06:00 am
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Posted by samya

A travelling exhibition showcasing Muslim fashion in Australia has opened at the National Archives in Canberra. Australian fashion designers have tapped into an international market of women who want fashionable clothing that still adheres to Muslim tenets of modesty.

Muslim women are much less likely to have a graduate level job than Christian women with the exact same qualifications and are also less likely to receive replies to job applications, researchers found.

Mango launches a new range for Muslim women featuring modest dresses, tunics and leggings in time for Ramadan. Collection features kaftans, flowing jackets and oversized shirts.

Seventy-year-old Bader Sayeed, a lawyer, activist and a former lawmaker from Tamil Nadu, India has moved the Supreme Court challenging triple talaq, the system by which a Muslim man can unilaterally divorce his wife under Shariat law.

A younger generation of Muslim American women is testing the American political waters, urged on by ambitious men like Shukoor Ahmed and Hamza Khan, a Democratic activist who chairs the Muslim Democratic Club of Montgomery County.

Determined to shift the terms of the conversation on Islam, Amirah Sackett teamed up with dancers Iman and Khadijah to create WMDC, a three-woman performance group that executes flawless hip-hop numbers in niqab and high-tops.

As a Muslim woman who wears the headscarf in America, 22-year-old Nura Takkish says she expects to be the target of Islamophobia — just not when she and her friends are enjoying ice cream at their neighborhood ice cream parlor, before which she responds perfectly.

The popular “100 Years of Beauty“ videos are known for highlighting how fashion trends in a specific country change over time. Now, MuslimGirl.com has released its own twist on this format by focusing on the hijab.

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Posted by syahirah

Munirah Tunai Shamsidi and husband Zuhri Yuhyi. Photo by Saw Siow Feng for MMO

Munirah Tunai Shamsidi and husband Zuhri Yuhyi. Photo by Saw Siow Feng for MMO.

A few days ago, Malaysian online news platform Malay Mail Online reported on how some married Muslim men in Malaysia are using “halal speed dating” to find a second wife. Halal Speed Dating (HSD) is a matchmaking platform for Muslims, co-founded by Malaysian couple Munirah Tunai Shamsidi and Zuhri Yuhyi. Together they run matchmaking events to help people who are “seek[ing] a spouse in a respectable manner.”

While the Malay Mail article focused on the misuse of the platform to find co-wives, the whole idea of ‘halal’ or ‘shariah-compliant’ matchmaking is newsworthy in itself. The guidelines of HSD mostly centre around the inability of Malay Muslim women to choose and marry their own spouses. Female participants to this events must come with a chaperone, whom the co-founders define to be a wali (male guardian) or mahram (non-marriageable relative). Most participants come with a parent or family member.

Both Munirah and Zuhri truly believe this is the best way to find a spouse. They met at the Marriage Corner, a seminar on marriage which is part of the annual Twins of Faith conference in Kuala Lumpur. The conference is funded and organized by the UK organisation Mercy Mission. This conference is simultaneously run in other cities such as Lahore, Pakistan and Melbourne, Australia. Minirah and Zuhri married after five months of exhanging emails and chaperoned interaction.

Based on the HSD website, successful matches (and marriage) are a result of having:

  1. Marriage in mind. No “hanky-panky.”
  2. Guardian participation in the matchmaking process.
  3. Contact confidentiality: If there is a match, we will connect the male to the woman’s guardian.

With the slogan “We want to change the way people fall in love, for the better,” Munirah and Zuhri hark to a romanticised version of history where men had to ask other men for permission to marry their daughters. Their FAQs page on the HSD website, says:

“Think back on how our grandparents got married. Our grandfathers were proper gentlemen. When our grandfather wanted to marry a lady, he would approach the lady’s father first.”

“Because the traditional way of dating is faster and more efficient by including the guardians and family members in the process. More importantly, it avoids fitnah, heartbreak, premarital pregnancy, premarital sex, abandoned babies and all 50 Shades of Haram. You get the picture.”

In an interview with Singaporean news channel Channel NewsAsia, Munirah says, “In Islam, yes, of course you have to involve the father actually, because the father is the lady’s guardian. So if a guy wants to get married to a lady, it’s after receiving the permission of the father. So that’s why we’d like to get the father involved as early as possible.”

However, traditional courtship and marriage practices in the Malay archipelago were much more than just getting a father’s permission. While the tradition of ‘merisik’, or asking a girl’s hand in marriage by visiting her family, did exist (and still does) among the Malays, this process usually involved entire families. Women played an active role in gathering information about the prospective bride’s manners, health, looks, household skills and religious knowledge. There was also a period of courtship for the young woman and man to ensure their compatibility, during which the woman could play ‘hard to get’ and prolonging the process.

Let’s put aside for a moment the categorisation of “fitnah, heartbreak, premarital pregnancy, premarital sex, abandoned babies” as being haram, or forbidden. Semantically speaking, premarital pregnancy and premarital sex cannot occur in a marriage. Marriage is the precondition, according to some orthodox understandings, for sex and preganancy to happen. Yet, ‘heartbreak’ or ‘abandoned babies’ can still happen in marriages; being married is not a panacea for these.

But the fixation on children as an indicator of marriage happiness seems to be a common denominator between the Malaysian husband-wife company and the Mercy Mission Marriage Corner event that brought them together. In the couple’s video testimony for the Marriage Corner, the narrative implies that having a baby is a sign of their marital success. This narrative is further reinforced by the images of a disembodied pregnant belly in a second couple’s video testimony.

 

Newsflash: having a baby only indicate that your reproductive organs work. There are also plenty of couples that may not be able to conceive, as well as happy couples that choose not to have children. In fact, sociological studies such as those by Boyd C. Rollins and Kenneth L. Cannon (1974) on marital satisfaction show that children reduces marital happiness, at least in the beginning. Rollings and Cannon argue,

“Marital satisfaction generally starts high, falls when children are born, reaches a low point when children are in their teenage years, and rises again when children reach adulthood.”

I don’t doubt that these three couples married for love. In the third video testimony, the man mentions that his wife is “amazing” and understands him. However, the blurring and/or omission of all three women’s faces makes the entire marriage narrative revolve around men and how they are benefiting from marriage, while rendering their wives literally invisible.

The couples also repeat the rhetoric that keeping marriage in mind, marrying for the sake of Allah, and having pure intentions will increase one’s success at finding a spouse. However, what goes unmentioned is that conferences like this one attract a certain demographic. According to Channel NewsAsia, “about 5,700 people have signed up for Halal Speed Dating, typically working professionals aged between 25 to 35 who are too busy to meet people the ‘normal’ way.”

The Muslim women and men at the HSD events are often English-speaking, university-educated (undergraduate or postgraduate) professionals in their 20s and 30s, who can afford the ticket prices of 120MYR (30USD). Having a similar socioeconomic background is a major factor in determining a couple’s compatibility.

Despite this, the HSD event does ensure that there is an equal number of women and men at each event, with similar goals in mind. For example, in the case of the married men looking for second wives at one of the HSD event mentioned in the beginning of this article, the organisers did not allow them to take part because “the female applicants did not agree to such an arrangement [of being a co-wife].” Munirah said in Malay Mail Online,

“In the application forms, some said they are married and looking for second wife. Unfortunately, none of the female applicants stated their willingness to meet married men. If there are more, we will arrange but we cannot proceed with just one applicant.”

Overall, HSD seems to be a socially-acceptable matchmaking initiative for Malaysian Muslims who want to involve their families. However, it is misleading for them to promote a certain version of Islamic courtship and marriage ethics as being ‘true’ way to meet a spouse. Finding a spouse through chaperoned dating may work for some people, but holding it up as the one and only ‘Islamic’ way to find a spouse erases other equally acceptable ways of marrying, for those who even want to in the first place.

Telling tales from the Northeast

Wednesday, 25 May 2016 09:44 am
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Posted by Shoma Chatterji


There is hardly any cinema industry or theatres existing in some of the Northeastern states of India today. This is shocking because the seeds of cinema were sown in Assam way back in 1935. Shoma Chatterji writes about the challenges faced and efforts being made in these states to encourage and support film making.

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Posted by sobia

Last month, Beyonce released her latest visual album, Lemonade. And the responses have been numerous.

On CBC’s q, Naila Keleta-Mae called it masterful and discussed the legacy that Beyonce is creating. Courtney Lee listed the lessons about Black womanhood she sees, over at Sojourner, and the presence of God and Christianity in the album, over at Women in Theology. At The Guardian, Ijeoma Oluo writes about how the album is about much more than infidelity and Jay Z. Rather, she states, the album is about “the love that black women have – the love that threatens to kill us, makes us crazy and makes us stronger than we should ever have to be” while Brentin Mock over at CityLab explains the “porch-front politics” of the album. Miriam Bale speaks of the Black feminism of the album. And Evelyn from the Internets summed up her thoughts, and the album, in this video. These were just a few responses among many.

As a non-Black Muslim woman I am not going to dissect this album. In fact, I’m not really talking about the album at all, or Beyonce even. The album was made for Black women and is for them to speak about, write about, and discuss. Here, I share and discuss some questions I have in relation to certain discourses which are common in Muslim communities when it comes to sex, sexuality, and women – questions which arise from my being both a Muslim woman and a feminist. In this piece I find myself thinking out loud about the Muslim community when it comes to issues of women’s sexuality and sexual expression.

Question 1: Are Beyonce’s music and videos too sexual and thus offensive?

It is common in Muslim communities that when it comes to women, modesty (often defined in a very particular and rigid way) in clothing and discretion and secrecy in regard to sexuality are promoted as virtues. Those assumed to be violating these virtues are judged to be poor Muslims having the same type of eye-rolling childish disgust for God that a rebellious teenager might have for their out-of-touch, oh-so-boring parents. This is why this question pops into my mind.  Especially since in Beyonce’s videos the clothing of the women, the dance moves, and sometimes the scenes depicted do often have a sexualized component to them.

An image from Beyonce's visual album Lemonade. Via The Independent.

An image from Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade. Via The Independent.

However, how do we, as Muslim feminists, then incorporate the feminist values of bodily autonomy, sexual independence, freedom of choice, and freedom of expression – especially for marginalized women – into the conversation? How do we challenge traditional Islamic ideas of sexualization and objectification (i.e. the more a woman covers the less she is objectified) when the traditional, Islamic definitions of these constructs are so linked to faithful practice for so many Muslims? In other words, if most Muslims view a “covered-up” woman as a good Muslim, dutifully following God’s orders, while viewing a Muslim woman in “revealing” clothing as actively defying God, then how do we change that view without also challenging tenets of faith?

But then, shouldn’t we be challenging these tenets of faith that correlate a woman’s piety and worth with her clothing? After all, such correlations are oppressive. They are misogynistic. They do feed victim-blaming. They do place the burden of morality on the shoulders of women, and only women. They do reduce a Muslim woman’s faith to the cloth covering her body, despite that fact that we know our faith is about SO MUCH MORE than that. So much more.

Public sexual expression is viewed as offensive within many, if not most, Muslim communities. Yet, being able to choose one’s own method of sexual expression can often be a form of empowerment, especially for marginalized women. How do we, then, create space, safe space, for that within our communities while respecting our traditions?

Question 2: Do we need to protect our children from the sexual images in her videos?

I get it. Parents do need to monitor what their children watch. Children are impressionable and the complexity of the many images they come across in the media will be difficult for them to comprehend appropriately. As someone who does not have children, I cannot tell parents how to parent. (Even if I had children I wouldn’t do that.) I will, however, say that considering it is very difficult to hide sexualized images from children, Muslim parents need to ask themselves, explicitly, how they will explain such images when their children see them. They should have answers prepared that will not perpetuate the objectification and dehumanization of women and girls. They should have answers prepared that will teach boys to respect women regardless of their clothing. They should have answers that will not result in children being ashamed of their genitals or curves, rather answers that will encourage them to be comfortable with and respect their bodies.

They should also have answers that will not perpetuate dangerous, racist tropes about the bodies of Black women. Considering the pervasiveness of racism among non-Black Muslims toward Black Muslims, and considering we’re talking about Beyonce’s work (and the political implications of her work for Black people) in this post, this one is really important.  

Question  3: Should Beyonce should be promoted to Muslim girls as someone to admire?

Beyonce’s feminism is well known, though not everyone is convinced, including Black women. bell hooks recently criticized Lemonade as a project in which “violence is made to look sexy and eroticized” while other feminists of colour debated and discussed hooks’ argument. Although her expression of feminism has been critiqued and questioned, some young Muslim women have embraced her as feminist. Lemonade has been hailed a Black feminist album, all about and for Black women. Her recent work is political, speaking on issue of race and gender. Yet, in light of questions s 1 and 2 I wonder if many Muslims (as well as others) will not recognize her contributions to the discourses on social justice.  

I understand that feminism itself is a difficult thing to define. Personally, my opinion on feminists is the same as my opinion on Muslims – if someone says they are, then they are. Others can’t kick them out of the club because others don’t agree with their beliefs. But I find myself very uncomfortable with those who dismiss her messages, and her power, because they are hung up on her sexual expression.

Female leadership and autonomy within the Muslim community face a lot of opposition and antagonism. Patriarchal interpretations of the texts have meant male leaders have always tried to control Muslim women, and the messaging Muslim women receive regarding their own roles and rights. Muslim women re-interpreting texts and/or providing guidance, leadership, and inspiration to young Muslims has disrupted that male-centric narrative, prompting a backlash at times from some Muslim men. Though, to be fair, while some women leaders have often been rejected by many Muslim men, others have been accepted.*

If Muslim women can receive a negative response, non-Muslim women who may inspire Muslim women will no doubt face opposition for their influence. More so, if they dress provocatively and challenge traditional ideas on sexual expression. But then that leaves me thinking about the kind of opposition a Muslim woman who simultaneously challenges systems of patriarchy as well as traditional ideas on sexual expression would receive. Will our Muslim communities accept those Muslim women as role models who challenge traditional dress codes by engaging in overt forms of sexual expression? Will a Muslim woman’s sexuality always be so top-of-mind that her fights for social justice and equity will be drowned out in comparison? Will a Muslim woman who wears short shorts while protesting injustice be seen as lacking inspirational character because of her clothing?

My conclusion?

I have too many questions. How do we, or can we, incorporate sexual inclusion and safety while maintaining traditional and mainstream Islamic ideas on sexuality? Should we challenge these traditional ideas? Can we as a Muslim community work hard to stop the perpetuation of misogyny? Will our Muslim communities accept the leadership of women who challenge traditional ideas of sexuality?

And, who thought Beyonce could be a catalyst for these discussions?

*I recognize that there are racial implications in this discussion of who is an acceptable leader in the Muslim community. It was outside the scope of this piece to discuss them, and the race of who non-Black Muslims accept as leader is intertwined with gender.

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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

Na terça-feira [17 de maio], conversei com a Presidenta Dilma no Palácio do Planalto em sua primeira entrevista após ser suspensa. A entrevista de 22 minutos encontra-se logo abaixo. Em lugar de se comportar de forma subjugada, conformada ou derrotada, Dilma – presa e torturada por três anos pela ditadura militar que governou o país com o apoio dos EUA por 21 anos – está mais firme, combativa e determinada do que nunca.
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

La Cina sta cambiando la geografia mondiale, o almeno ci sta provando. Non nel senso di acqua e terra come per i Paesi Bassi, ma tessendo nuove infrastrutture di comunicazione per terra, acqua, aria, e nel cyberspazio/web. Le Vie della Seta. Non sorprende che un paese con un certo orientamento marxista focalizzi la propria politica sulle infrastrutture – ma qui come mezzo di trasporto-comunicazione, non di produzione.
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

We encourage other journalists, researchers, and interested parties to comb through these documents, along with future published batches, to find additional material of interest. Others may well find stories — or clues that lead to stories — that we didn’t. A primary objective of these batch releases is to make that kind of exploration possible.
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

Non so se riesco a intendere e a svolgere l’articolo che mi è richiesto. Mi sembra che sia richiesto di descrivere il significato di un cammino e un passaggio, nella vita e nell’azione di Nelson Mandela in Sudafrica, dalla strategia rivoluzionaria, anche con l’uso della violenza, alla trattativa politica, diplomatica, realistica, moderata, tenace, infine efficace.

(Italiano) Basta Sanzioni alla Siria

Monday, 23 May 2016 11:01 am
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

A giugno, il Consiglio dell’Unione europea dovrà pronunciarsi all’unanimità per poter rinnovare le sanzioni alla Siria. Riconoscendoci pienamente nell’appello lanciato da esponenti cattolici della comunità siriana (qui sotto riportato) chiediamo a tutti i parlamentari e ai sindaci di impegnarsi affinché il Governo italiano voti contro il rinnovo delle sanzioni alla Siria. -Questa la sottoscrizione che vi chiediamo di firmare-
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

Segundo o Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada são apenas 71 mil pessoas (ou 1% da população que representa apenas 0,05% dos adultos), multibilionários brasileiros, que controlam praticamente nossas riquezas e nossas finanças e através delas o jogo político. Essa classe do privilégio, além de perversa socialmente, sempre consegue manobrar o poder de Estado em seu benefício.
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

So I too shall be safe in taking for the aim of my existence a conscious striving for the universal development of everything existent. I should be the unhappiest of mortals if I could not find a purpose for my life, and a purpose at once universal and useful… Wherefore henceforth all my life must be a constant, active striving for that one purpose.

The Doomsday Clock in Fiction and Reality

Monday, 23 May 2016 11:00 am
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic representation of the level danger on planet Earth. Since its creation at the dawn of the nuclear age, the Clock has been reset 21 times, but the only other time that it ever moved as close as two minutes to midnight was 1953. That was after the United States and Soviet Union both tested fusion weapons, or “H-bombs”, within nine months of one another.
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

The inevitable result is that reactor owners will successfully avoid spending money now on decommissioning as they seek to delay beginning the actual cleanup work for the next half century and maybe longer. Later, when it comes time to finish the job, the owners – and the money – could well be long gone.

Drunks

Monday, 23 May 2016 11:00 am
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

Recently, a routine police patrol was parked outside a local neighborhood bar in Minnesota. Late in the evening, the officer noticed a man leaving the bar so intoxicated that he could barely walk.
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

Elites have openly advocated the ‘manufacture of consent’ for decades. In 1932, highly influential US foreign policy adviser Reinhold Niebuhr wrote of the need for ’emotionally potent oversimplifications’ and ‘necessary illusion’ to overcome the threat to elite control posed by ‘the stupidity of the average man’.
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

My friendly criticism is directed at those key organizers who planned the nonviolent actions without understanding how to make the commitment and courage of those who were mobilized have maximum strategic impact on the ongoing climate catastrophe.

Billion Acts of Peace

Monday, 23 May 2016 11:00 am
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

The “One Billion Acts of Peace” Campaign is an international global citizens’ movement designed to tackle the most important problems facing our planet.
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Posted by Antonio C.S. Rosa

May 17, 2016 - As protests continue in Brazil over the Legislature’s vote to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and put her on trial, Noam Chomsky notes, "We have the one leading politician who hasn’t stolen to enrich herself, who’s being impeached by a gang of thieves, who have done so. That does count as a kind of soft coup."

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