Ruptures in Arrival: Art in the Wake of Komagata Maru

KomagataMaruSurrounded

Written by Randeep Singh

Surrey Art Gallery is hosting “Ruptures in Arrival,” an exhibition marking the Komagata Maru centenary.

What’s refreshing about this exhibition becomes apparent from its introduction. The Komagata Maru is not just the story of one religious or cultural group. It is the story of all peoples who have migrated to Canada, only to be deemed illegal, or unfit for entry and sent away.

The exhibition contextualizes the Komagata Maru in time through Ali Kazimi’s short-film presenting vignettes on the lives of South Asians in B.C. in 1914. The journey of the Komagata Maru is also represented in space by Avantika Bawa who traces the routes taken by the ship on a cascading fabric.

There is a video presentation of “Mass Arrival,” a live enactment by five Toronto artists of the expulsion of a cargo ship of Tamil refugees featuring (white) residents of Toronto. The video presentation is surrounded by walls of tabloid print-outs; headlines illustrate Canada’s phobia towards refugees and migrants, including acrid political cartoons on the never-ending Yellow Peril. The introduction to the exhibit reminds us not only of the Chinese refugees from Fujian who were turned away in 1999 but of the MS St. Louis, a ship carrying 937 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany whom Canada turned away in 1939.

I end with “Four Boats Stranded,” a model exhibition of Ken Lam’s work. In 2001, Lam constructed and had positioned four ships facing four directions atop the Vancouver Art Gallery of which one was the Komagata Maru. Looking at those ships, with all the exhibits in the gallery, one remembers the journeys that made Canada and the continuous journey of defining oneself in an ever migrating world.

http://komagatamaru100.com/event/rupture-in-arrival-art-in-the-wake-of-the-komagata-maru/

White Canada Forever

chinese head tax

This year marks the centenary of the Komagata Maru incident. The celebration of that centenary has been marked by some as a historic episode in the story of Indians and Punjabi Sikhs in Canada.

The Komagata Maru however is not the history of any one ethnic or religious group: it is the history of Canada. It is a page in a chapter of Canada’s history whereby English-speaking Canadians sought to create a Canada of English values, traditions, language, law and institutions from sea to sea, a “White Canada Forever.”

There had been earlier attempts to exclude, marginalize or assimilate the aboriginal communities and the French in Canada. The Indian, like the Chinese and Japanese however, was considered an alien and unassimilable breed. His arrival on the west coast moreover threatened to bring hordes of Orientals to the shores of British Columbia.

What followed was the advent of exclusion towards Asian immigrants in British Columbia: the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 and the Chinese Head Tax; the Komagata Maru incident; the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 which completely banned Chinese migration to Canada until 1947, and the internment of Canadians of Japanese heritage in 1942 to name a few. The exclusion of undesirables was not limited to Asians. It included denying entry to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany and the internment of Italian-Canadians during the second world war.

H.G. Wells once said that history more and more becomes a race between education and catastrophe. Our history demonstrates that we have never been a multicultural utopia. We have our tragedies, follies and regrets like any country. Let’s open our eyes to the Komagata Maru, the Chinese Head Tax, the Indian Residential Schools, so we don’t close them again. Let’s remember them as the history of Canada, our reminder as how to best move forward.

Further Reading: Peter Ward, White Canada Forever (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990).

A Gay Guy in a Turban

enhanced-buzz-18640-1387318381-15(1)

Written by Randeep Singh

On December 15, 2013, Kanwar Anit Singh Saini attended the Global Day of Rage in Toronto to protest the Supreme Court of India’s upholding of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalizes homosexual sex.  He kisses another gay man at the protest. Another protester holds a poster above them with two men and the word “pyaar” written in Urdu. The photo was posted on his Facebook page with the caption “proud to be illegal.”

It’s interesting that while many in the diaspora have condemned what has happened in India, fewer have bothered to reflect on homophobic prejudice and intolerance within their local communities. The photo of Saini kissing another man generated hateful comments on Facebook from within the diaspora. Saini recalls on his Facebook page how his uncle once said the family would’ve killed Saini as a boy had they known he was gay.

South Asian GLBT persons like Saini continue to fight hate and intolerance within (and outside) their ancestral communities, including from “progressive” Indians, Pakistanis etc. Recently, I received a statement issued by a local South Asian group to the Indian Law Commission condemning the Supreme Court ruling. I was surprised to see the statement being lauded by people whom I have experienced homophobia from personally. I asked the group’s President that while I welcomed the statement, we’d do well to challenge prejudices in our backyard.

The openly gay former Indian prince Manvendra Singh Gohil said recently in an interview on CBC Radio that challenging Section 377 in India’s courts is one thing, but challenging Indians to open their hearts and minds is the greater struggle. That too is true here in Vancouver, as well as in Toronto, London, California and Queens. Saini has helped us all in that struggle by reminding us that GLBT South Asians are here and will keep up the fight.

The Union of India vs. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Indians

_71674407_137836897

Written by Randeep Singh

The Supreme Court of India has upheld section 377 of the Penal Code of India, which characterized homosexual sex as “against the order of nature.” The decision reversed a 2009 ruling of the Delhi High Court which had ruled that the law violated constitutional rights to equality and personal liberty.

To clarify, Section 377 was never abolished by the Delhi High Court: it has remained the law in India, including New Delhi. The Delhi High Court decision was only binding in that Union Territory and no where else in India. The law can only be abolished by Parliament, not by any court, including the Supreme Court of India.

As for the problems with the decision.

First, the Supreme Court’s otherwise correct statement that only Parliament can amend the law, overlooks the historical importance of the Supreme Court of India in upholding the fundamental rights and freedoms of Indians despite the state. The Supreme Court has interpreted rights and freedoms expansively to include the right to education, the right to work with dignity and on behalf of socially disadvantaged including the poor, women and backward castes. It has historically been the Supreme Court of India which has persuaded Parliament to enact socially inclusive laws, not vice-versa.

Second, the Supreme Court held that “a miniscule fraction of the country’s population constitute lesbians, gays, bisexuals or trans-genders.” How did the court come to this determination? How many Indians are in the closet? Is not one person enough to challenge a law as unconstitutional? Moreover, the Supreme Court of India has historically upheld the rights of a vulnerable social group from the excesses of more dominant social groups, as it has done in the case of backward classes, the poor and women. Why has it failed to do so now?

Third, the Supreme Court holds that Section 377 criminalizes certain acts and not sexual orientation. Under this logic, Indian homosexuals are not breaking the law so long as they do not engage in sexual intercourse. There is no separation between the act of sex and one’s sexual orientation. Legally prohibited from having sex, India’s homosexuals will have to either think twice before getting intimate with their partners or they will have to go further underground. It is a clear case of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

I’m reminded of the Supreme Court’s decision in 2005 when it refused the appeal of Afzal Guru (who was convicted of the December 2001 attack on the Indian Houses of Parliament). The court ruled that the “collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied” if Afzal received the death sentence. In this case too, the Indian Supreme Court has sought to appease the collective “moral” conscience of society, represented in this case by conservative religious bodies, supported in the recent past by senior leaders of the BJP like the late B.P. Singhal who argued homosexuality was against the ethos of Indian culture.

Section 377 remains law, but change will come eventually. Just before posting this piece, I read that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have criticized the ruling and that India’s Law Minister has stated the government has not abandoned efforts to make homosexuality legal. The law has changed for other socially disadvantaged groups in the past and the composition of the Supreme Court and Parliament is changing. Legal reasoning is dynamic and new precedents can be set. More than anything, the GLBT community in India, and its supporters locally, nationally and internationally will keep moving forward. The moment hasn’t come yet but the destination beckons.

Pakistan’s Gay Community Quietly Breaking Barriers

Written by Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai

Actor Assad Khan is part of a generation of young men breaking barriers for gays in conservative Pakistan, where homosexuality is punished by prison or worse.

Assad Khan knew he was different from a very young age. As a child at home he preferred playing with his two sisters rather than his two brothers. At school, too, he gravitated toward playing with girls. “In school I was more secure and happy playing with girls than with boys,” says the 23-year-old, boyishly handsome Khan. As a result of his behavior, he says, his family largely ignored him. “I got a terrible complex as my family favored, and gave more attention to, my brothers,” he recalls.

1383126327128.cached

As he grew up in Islamabad, reached puberty and realized he was gay, he suffered even more. “Being a gay in a society like Pakistan is not easy,” Khan says. “For a long time, I was frightened of who I was, so I hid my gay status…I acted 24 hours a day.”

Even so, he was constantly teased and harassed for his appearance and mannerisms, even ostracized. His parents and cousins made fun of him. His parents were ashamed to introduce him as part of the family. “At the mosque during Friday prayers I was teased and stared at,” he recalls. “At school and in college other students shunned me and my small circle of friends.”

Now a successful actor and fashion designer, Khan has lived and worked in the conservative and bomb-terrorized northwestern city of Peshawar for the past three years. “I felt that society was telling me I was not one of them, that I was not a proper person,” he says. “But soon I realized that it’s not my fault that God made me gay. So as a young man I came to accept who I was and to be proud of myself.”

He has flourished ever since he made that realization—succeeding against all the odds in homophobic Pakistan, where the powerful Muslim clergy preaches that homosexuality is prohibited under Islam, and where sodomy is illegal under the civil code and punishable by a long jail term (though the harsh sentence is rarely handed down). In the Taliban-controlled territory of the northwestern tribal agencies, the penalty is worse: death by firing squad or stoning. Even the man on the street seems to have no time for gays. A Pew Research Center survey of 39 countries published in early June found that only two percent of Pakistanis believed that “society should accept homosexuality,” second only to Nigeria, which registered a rock-bottom one percent acceptance rating of gays. (By way of comparison, 80 percent of Canadians said they accepted gays.)

While the Pakistani government doesn’t target LGBT citizens, neither does it have much tolerance for the gay community or its issues. Late last month and without comment, Islamabad shut down the country’s first and only gay website, queerpk.com, which was first launched last July. The website’s founder, who goes by the pseudonym Fakhir, says the ban is “unconstitutional and opposes freedom of speech.” But he does not want to pursue legal action as he doesn’t want a confrontation with the government, which could unmask those behind the website whose subtitle is “Know us, Don’t Hate Us.” Fakhir says the site is not “blasphemous or pornographic” but is aimed at educating gays on health issues such as preventing the spread of HIV, and on how to deal with social and family pressures and with depression.

Bucking discrimination, Khan, an ethnic Pashtun who goes by the nickname of Danny, studied fashion design at a college in Islamabad and quickly fell into the growing businesses of fashion, modeling and acting. His acting career got a big boost in 2009 when he was cast in a British film, called Kandahar Break: Fortress of War, which was being shot in Baluchistan, the wild-and-woolly home of his ultra-traditional Safi tribe in western Pakistan. He played a Taliban interpreter with gay tendencies who worked for a British explosive ordinance disposal team that Mullah Mohammad Omar’s regime had hired to clear mine fields in 1999.

In 2010, Khan moved to heavily Taliban-influenced Peshawar to further his acting and fashion careers, but chiefly to be closer to his partner. At first he was terrified, afraid of the Taliban and the frequent terror bombings. Every day he cautiously emerged from his hotel filled with trepidation. But he was soon pleasantly surprised by what he found: gays were not as unwelcome and under the gun as he had imagined. On the contrary, he quickly received a vibe that many young men in the ostensibly macho, largely Islamist city were gay or gay-friendly. “In Peshawar I feel like almost every second guy is gay by the way they look and talk,” he says. “On the streets and in the markets I think most people look at cute boys more than at girls.” But, he adds: “Unfortunately gays feel they have to hide their feelings and their true selves,”

Khan and other Pakistani gays say that being gay in Pakistan is not all that unusual despite the ostensibly strong prejudice against homosexuals. “I’ve found that male-to-male sex is more common than you’d imagine in our society,” says Shehzad, a smart, fashionable and educated 25-year-old gay man from Lahore. A June article in Mother Jones magazine confirmed Shehzad’s feeling, reporting that Pakistanis lead the world in Google searches for the terms “shemale sex,” “teen anal sex” and “man f—king man.”

Pakistani gays like Khan and Shehzad say the country is rife with hypocrisy. “I know that some Pakistani policy makers practice gay love in private, then go out and make laws against gays,” says Shehzad. Khan agrees: “I know that some Pakistani politicians of all parties, including those from religious parties, are interested in gay men,” he says. “Even some men who teased me for being gay suddenly come on to me when we are in a quiet spot.” “If you heard the names of the prominent members of Pakistani society who are gay, you wouldn’t believe your ears,” adds Chaudhry Javid, a 28-year-old gay man who works for a foreign aid agency and lives in a luxury apartment in Islamabad.

Still, Javid keeps his sexual orientation in the closet, hiding it from his family and friends, and claiming it is too early for him to reveal himself. “If we come out, our families will cut us out like a cancer,” he says. He adds that he’s ashamed that he can’t tell his parents that his best friend is also his sexual partner whom he loves. “I suffer when I lie to my parents describing him as just a good friend,” he says. Shehzad, too, says it’s too early for him to come out. “Society doesn’t accept us,” he says. “I don’t dare to go public.” Faisal Khan, a 28-year-old government bureaucrat in Peshawar, says he would get fired or worse if he came out. (He is not related to Assad Khan.) “I cannot expose myself,” he says. “People in the office would use it against me and I’d lose my job.” Faisal Khan says he doesn’t dare visit his family’s home village just south of Peshawar for fear the Taliban would find out about his gayness and capture him, causing a scandal for his family.  Nor would he dare to confess his sexual persuasion to the mullah at his mosque. “He would probably send me to the Taliban who would make a kebab of me,” he says.

Even so, Faisal Khan and other Pakistani gay men see hope in the future as they sense that public attitudes are slowly changing. For starters, people are beginning to tolerate unmarried young men and women congregating together in public. If the public is beginning to accept men and women dating, they reason, then eventually gay relationships will also be tolerated. Wearing a suit and red tie and sporting long black hair, Faisal Khan points to the numerous heterosexual couples sitting together in a modern University Town café in Peshawar, talking and laughing as they eat western food and listen to rock music. “Look, these boys and girls are here in public without any hesitation or fear of society or the Taliban,” he says. Javid says that a decade ago you would never see young men and women holding hands in public. Now it is almost common in the cities. Ironically, it’s not uncommon, and not viewed as homosexual behavior, for young men to hold hands in public as they walk—it’s a customary sign of friendship.

But there are still strict limits. In rural, traditional Pakistan there is a clear separation of the sexes as boys and girls are forbidden to meet in public. Yet in the tradition-bound confines of the countryside, it is easier for gay Pakistani couples to congregate in public than for mixed-sex couples. “It’s normal for a group of men to hang out together so no one can bother us,” says Javid. “But in some traditional areas, boys and girls going out together is still a sin against society and our religion.”  Javid adds that viewing homosexuality as a sin, as most Pakistanis do, is absurd since there is no victim. “Aren’t the rampant corruption in our society and the killing of innocents by the Taliban greater sins?” Javid asks.

For most gays in Pakistan, society’s views are not changing fast enough. So for now, they are forced to live largely an underground existence. They point to the many and lavish subterranean gay parties as the highlight of their social lives. “These weekly underground parties keep us happy,” says Shehzad. “Here we have a place to enjoy ourselves hidden from the Taliban, the government and the police.” Organizing these extravagant, gay parties in Islamabad and Peshawar has become a good business for Assad Khan. He says that many of the parties he organizes cost $5,000 or more to cover the expense of renting a large, posh house or reception hall, providing private security, live bands, food and drinks and paying off the cops. Partyers pay an admission charge, allowing Khan to make a profit. “Islamabad is a city famous for the biggest number of gay parties,” Assad Khan says. “The number of these parties, and the number of gays attending, is increasing, even in Peshawar.” He also helped organize a summer music festival in the mountain resort of Swat this past summer in the face of Taliban threats, and he plans to bring fashion shows to conservative Peshawar soon.

Although it may be premature, Khan is trying to organize a gay rights movement capable of standing up to the Taliban, the politicians and aggressive Pakistani cops. As a result of his efforts, he has received anonymous, threatening phone calls and has escaped an attempt to kidnap him at a wedding reception not long ago. But he remains unshaken. “We have to defeat the concept of fear and terror,” he says. “Everyone should have the right to live as they please. No one has the right to dictate to us.” He adds: “I want to be a leading voice for gay rights and protection.”

But he quickly emphasizes that his push for gay rights stops short of campaigning for the legalization of gay marriage. “We don’t want to push for gay marriage, only for our human rights,” he says. Most other gays steer clear of any gay rights movement, fearing retaliation. “The Taliban and other extremists will target any gay rights movement,” says Shehzad. “It’s too dangerous to get involved.”

Originally published in The Daily Beast, October 30, 2013: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/10/30/pakistan-s-gay-community-quietly-breaking-barriers.html

The Quebec Charter (and other secularisms)

quebec veil

The controversy over the Charter of Quebec Values got me interested in where Quebec stands as a secular society in comparison to other societies, including the rest of Canada.

STRICT SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

REPUBLICAN/LAÏCITÉ MODEL

France

  • Historical: The Wars of Religion (1648) prompted European states to recognize the need for a public domain regulated by non-clerical rules. The French Revolution (1789) saw the creation of the First Republic with all individuals as equal citizens under the law. The Civic Code of 1805 established the supremacy of the republic and state law; and the 1905 Law on the Separation of Church and State institutionalized the policy of state secularism in France.
  • French Constitution (1958): “France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic”: religion is a private matter; the public domain is governed by the idea of republic citizenship and by an active state implementing the separation of religion from public citizenship
  • Law: law banning headscarves and conspicuous religious symbols  (2004).

France (flag)

Turkey

  • Historical: the Turkish defeat in World War I and the break-up of the empire (plus the cooperation between the Caliph and the allied powers) saw the Turkish political establishment reject the caliphate and a religious state; Kemal Ataturk westernized Turkish political and legal system (including the French model of secularism)
  • Turkish Republic and Nation: indivisible, secular with “active neutrality” of state (the Islamic religion is regulated by the state)
  • Law: in June 2008, Turkey’s Constitutional Court annulled the Parliament’s proposed amendment to lift the ban on headscarves, ruling that such an amendment violated the founding principles of the Turkish Constitution.

Quebec

  • Historical: Traditional Roman-Catholic society became increasingly secularized during the Quiet Revolution of 1960s onwards; ongoing movement to preserve distinctiveness of Quebec culture in Canada;
  • Law/Politics: 1977, Charter of the French Language (French as only official language of province);1982, Quebec only province not to assent to patriation of Canadian Constitution; National Assembly (Quebec) vote that people of Quebec form a nation (2003); 2013, Quebec Charter = bid for “distinctive” society and society?

ANGLO-AMERICAN MODEL

The “democratic” (rather than ‘republican’) model of secularism prevails in European protestant countries. Protestantism itself began as a dissident movement, giving rise to other dissident sects. The resulting dissidence among different groups in these countries forced the state to eventually tolerate those differences, rather than in France where the struggle between an all-powerful church and the state resulted in the state victorious and an ensuing tradition of anti-clericalism.

U.S.A

  • Historical: The United States established a secular state with no hostility toward religion; there has been a history of good relationships between church and the state;
  • First Amendment: no official religion and no prohibition of free exercise of religion;
  • Symbolic and ceremonial use of Christianity (in God we Trust); religious customs (use of bible) in courts and oath of President (not law).

U.K.

  • Historical: Official religion remains the Church of England use of Christian symbolism associated with the Monarchy; otherwise, a highly and increasingly secular society since World War II;
  • Multi-religious with an ongoing controversy regarding multiculturalism as policy (teaching of religions in school, recognition of Sikh kirpans in public places, establishment of Shariah Courts).

turban bus stop

Canada

  • Historical: Canada’s official recognition for two languages and “founding” nations has been accompanied by an increasing recognition of rights of Aboriginals and minority groups since the 1970s.
  • Law: Official policy of multiculturalism in Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) and Canadian Multiculturalism Act (1988) including minorities’ rights to enjoy own cultures; religious freedoms and (equality) rights are subject to the limits justified in “free and democratic society.”

OFFICIALLY NEUTRAL STATE + ACCEPTANCE OF RELIGIOUS PLURALISM

INDIAN MODEL

  • Historical: India is a multi-religious society where all religions continue to be practiced in their traditional form. The Partition of 1947 helped encourage the rise of a secular state which sought to protect the rights of the minorities while proclaiming no official religion
  • State maintains a “principled distance” from religion (Bhargava): the Indian Constitution allows freedom of religion subject to health (harmful religious practices), law and order; religious pluralism and equality of all religions.
  • Law: recognition of separate personal laws for religious groups; no uniform civil code (1985 Shah Bano case);

Further Reading:

Rajeev Bhargava (ed.), Secularism and Its Critics (Oxford University Press, Oxford: 1998).

Charles Taylor, “Modes of Secularism,” in Secularism and its Critics, 31-53.

Jean Bauberot, “The Two Thresholds of Laicization,” in Secularism and its Critics, 94-136.

D.E. Smith, “India as a Secular State,” in Secularism and its Critics, 177-233.

Rajeev Bhargava, “What is Secularism For?” in Secularism and its Critics, 486-542.

Written by Randeep Singh

7th Annual Women’s Housing March – Vancouver Sept 28/13

Sat. Sep 28 @ 1:30 pm
Starts at Cordova and Columbia, just west of Main St.
Unceded Coast Salish Territories

On FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/194962550671741/

Homes for Low-Income People, not Profit for Real Estate!
Homes not Jails!
Homes not Pipelines!
Rent Control and Community Control not Social Control!
Housing, Childcare, and Healthcare for All!

.

dtespowerofwomengroup
The DTES Power of Women group – Mobile upload by Harsha Walia

On Saturday September 28th at 1:30 pm, join the Downtown Eastside Women Centre Power of Women Group in the 7th Annual March for Women’s Housing and March Against Poverty.

This year we continue to march for housing, childcare, and healthcare for all low-income residents in the DTES. We want no more evictions, no more displacement, and no more gentrification in our neighourhood. We know that the growing number of cops and condos in the DTES is part of a larger pattern to destroy and privatize neighourboods, communities, and the land. Meanwhile, women in the DTES continue to face the brunt of poverty, displacement, violence and apprehension.

We invite groups to bring their banners and anything else for our festive march. All genders are welcome and celebrated. Please bring your drums and regalia. This march is child-friendly and there will be a rest-vehicle for elders. Spread the word!

Emailproject@dewc.ca or Phone778 885 0040

The DTES Power of Women Group is a group of women (we are an inclusive group) from all walks of life who are either on social assistance, working poor, or homeless; but we are all living in extreme poverty. Our aim is to empower ourselves through our experiences and to raise awareness from our own perspectives about the social issues affecting the neighbourhood. Many of us are single mothers or have had our children apprehended due to poverty; most of us have chronic physical or mental health issues for example HIV and Hepatitis C; many have drug or alcohol addictions; and a majority have experienced and survived sexual violence and mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional abuse. For indigenous women, we are affected by a legacy of the effects of residential schools and a history of colonization and racism.

Harsha Walia 
https://twitter.com/HarshaWalia
https://www.facebook.com/NoOneIsIllegalNetwork

uddariblog@gmail.com
.
.

‘A Poem – Hik Nazm’ by Faiza

From Faiza’s Punjabi poem ‘Hik Nazm’

.

A Poem
By Faiza

It may be inconvenient
But Respected Sister an application needs to be written
A sweeper’s position has become available
In the Angrezi* school
Put it forward in such a way that
It captures their gut
Tell them
The void growing in children’s stomach
Is hard for mothers to endure
I burn in scorching wind
But some things must remain secret
Keep the secret
My man cannot stand on his feet
Battered by the police
Make a story so gripping
They come looking for me
It is your writing that will count
Who are we, what our station
Two morsels of bread
Give them full assurance from my side
I’ll work more than is required
No dearth, no shortage
There will be in my labour
All chores done I’m leavin’
Filth removed floor mopped
Say Respected Sister shall i mix the dough before I go?

*English

Translation
Fauzia Rafique

..

Hik Nazm
By Faiza

Khhechal taan hosi
Ek darkhast likhveni ae Baji
Choorrhi de saamee ae
Angrezi school vich
Gal ajehi jorreya je
Kaleja phhreejay agleyaN da
Dusseya je
BallaN de dhedh paindi kho
MawaN tooN jhalni aukhhi
Tatti va vich sarrni aaN
Per ohla rakhhna pausi
Ohla rakheya je
Banda mera pairaN bhaar khhlo nahiN sakda
Police da pinjeya
Banavo koi baat acharj
MainuN soodhday phhiran
Mul te paina tuhaday likhhan da
AsseiN keh, sadee hassti keh
Do graaNhiyaN Tukar
Tassalla kraya je mere valoN
Kam kresaN hadoN vadh
Kai ghhaTa kai thhorr
Na hosi mehnat de
Saaray kam muka challi aaN
Gand hoonj ke pochi la challi aaN
Akhho taaN aaTa ve ghunneeN jaaN Baji?

View original Shahmukhi version
Monthly Pancham, May-June 2000

faiza
Faiza is a Lahore-based poet, editor and publisher who is making valuable contributions to the development of Punjabi language and literature through her ongoing work with Monthly Pancham and Suchet Kitab Ghar.
.

.
.
uddariblog@gmail.com
facebook.com/UddariWeblog
twitter.com/UddariWeblog
.
.

Light A Candle for Punjabi – New Delhi August 13/13

delhivigil

Candle-Light Vigil in Support of Punjabi Charter for Delhi

Punjab Sanjhiwal Jatha calls upon the citizens of Delhi to stand in for lighting candles in defence of PUNJABI, URDU and other Indian languages which stand demeaned by the FOUR-YEAR UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMME adopted by Delhi University.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
6:00pm
Sri Ram Centre, Mandi House, New Delhi

Both Punjabi and Urdu are second languages of Delhi state and it is time that the insensitive Delhi government is forced to accept its shortcomings in appropriately implementing its declarations of intent.

Fight for the legitimate status for our languages in our national public life demands a unity of citizens for initiating a debate on the cultural questions facing our people in these times.

facebook.com/events/423939807725858/
.
.

The Problem of Pakistan

islam-mosque-crescent1-179464-640x480

“Meri tamir mein muzmir hai ik surat kharaabi ki”

In my being lay the seed of my destruction (Ghalib)

Ulema in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan recently banned women from entering bazaars unless they were accompanied by a close male family member or “mehram.” For many, it seems like one in a long line of laws, edicts and fatwas in Pakistan including the Hudood Ordinance of 1979, the blasphemy provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code and the enforcement of Muslim religious practices – enforcing zakat, fasting during Ramzan and prayer times – as if God, the Qur’an and all the masjids in Pakistan weren’t enough.

Curiously, many Pakistani apologists of the country’s Islamization of law and politics blame Zia while praising the secular legacy of Jinnah. But the the Islamization of Pakistan is a cause of and not a consequence of the Zia era. The “Islamic” character of Pakistan – as sanctioned by the country’s state-sponsored scholars – is inherent in the idea of the Pakistan itself.

First, what is the difference between a country founded as a homeland for India’s Muslims and an Islamic state? While I agree with Hamza Alavi that the movement for Pakistan started off as a movement for Indian Muslims to protect their community interests in a Hindu-majority country, the line between a homeland for India’s Muslims and an Islamic state became increasingly  blurred as the years went by. In “Now or Never,” published in 1933, Chauhary Rahmat Ali, refers to Muslims as a “millat” with its own distinctive culture, tradition, social code, economic system and laws of inheritance, marriage and succession.

Despite his much vaunted secular credentials, Jinnah also referred to Islam as not just a religion but a civilization and a way of life and exhorted his followers that Pakistan was not simply a question of political independence for the Muslims of India but the means through which “the Muslim ideology” could be preserved in the subcontinent. After 1947, Jinnah exhorted an audience at a speech he made on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday to prepare themselves to “sacrifice and die in order to make Pakistan (a) truly great Islamic State.”

Second, Jinnah’s death in September 1948 paved the way for those who believed Islam should be the guiding principle of Pakistan. The “Objectives Resolution” adopted by the Constituent Assembly in March 1949 provided that “Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accord with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Qur’an and the Sunna.” Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan went on to declare that “the state will create such conditions as are conductive to the building of a truly Islamic society, which means that the State will play a positive part in this effort.”

Third, the Constitution of 1956 named the new country the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan.” What was an “Islamic Republic?” Who qualified as a Muslim? Even before 1956, Sunni Muslims had called on the government to have Ahmadiyyas declared as non-Muslim, resulting in the anti-Ahmadiyya riots of 1953. The country’s first education minister, Fazl Ur Rahman, declared that Pakistani education would be permeated and transformed by “Islamic ideology.” Liaquat Ali Khan’s official injunction on obeying Ramazan resulted in angry mobs attacking restaurants and hotels who cooked and served meals during the day.

Before Zia, it was under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s tenure that Ahmedis were declared non-Muslims in 1974, setting a precedent of using religion as a means of electoral gain. What Zia may have done may have been unprecedented, but the the 1949 Objectives Resolution, the speeches and writings of Chaudhry Rehmat Ali and Liaquat Ali Khan if not Jinnah himself and the Constitution of 1956, all helped lay the foundation on which Zia could erect an Islamic State.

Written by

Randeep Singh

Further Reading:

Stephen Hay ed., Sources of Indian Tradition (1988).

Ayesha Jalal, The State of Martial Rule: The Origins of Pakistan’s Political Economy of Defence (1990)

Choudhry Rahmat Ali, “Now or Never” (1933)

Ian Talbot, Pakistan: A Modern History (2009).

Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Women in Karak barred from leaving home without Mehram,” in Dawn, July 20, 2013: http://dawn.com/news/1030354/women-in-karak-barred-from-leaving-home-without-mehram

Amanda Palmer Gets Naked In Response To Daily Mail Nipple Story

To the ‘misogynist pile of twats’ – Dear Daily Mail.
What a SONG, AMANDA PALMER!

14 July, 2013
Staff Writer, The Music, Australia

When the UK’s Daily Mail tabloid paper covered Amanda Palmer’s recent performance at Glastonbury, they didn’t mention anything about the music that she played, choosing to entirely focus on a brief moment where her breast “escaped her bra”.

Palmer wasn’t entirely thrilled about the lack of coverage her performance received and the extent of attention that was paid to her so-called wardrobe malfunction and she has decided to respond to the paper through song.

At a performance at London’s Roundhouse on Friday night, Palmer performed a song in response to the tabloid and urged audience members to film it and upload the clip to YouTube so her chosen response could spread.

The lyrics to the song refer to the paper as a “misogynist pile of twats” and accuses them of “debasing womens’ appearances”, which is all pretty cutting, but the major blow comes midway through the song.

In one verse, she sings:

“In addition you state that my breast had escaped; From my bra like a thief on the run”

Then, in the next, she sings:

“It appears that my entire body is currently, Trying to escape this kimono!”

At which point she disrobes and proceeds to play the rest of the song (almost) entirely naked.

Here it is:

That is one way to respond to a paper who won’t engage in discourse with you, we suppose.

Palmer will be at BIGSOUND in Brisbane this September as well as performing in venues around the country.

UPDATE: Speaking to theMusic.com.au, Palmer reveals the anger she felt when first reading the story and the determination not to give the paper any “fucking satisfaction” in her response.

http://themusic.com.au/news/all/2013/07/14/amanda-palmer-gets-naked-in-response-to-daily-mail-nipple-story/
..
Related content on Uddari
‘Nangi Naked’ by Fauzia Rafique
Young Egyptian woman goes nude to protest obscurantism
..

Contact Uddari
uddariblog@gmail.com
facebook.com/pages/Uddari-Weblog/333586816691660
@UddariWeblog
.
.

‘Nangi Naked’ by Fauzia Rafique

From Fauzia’s eBook of poems ‘Holier Than Life
(Purple Poppy Press, Vancouver, June 2013)
.
.

Nangi Naked
To the woman who ‘dares to bare’.

When a woman
dares to bare
i listen
listen with my gut, the womb
she says more
than the words
can tell

Listen, not miss
nothing, embed
her messages
in the genetic code
of my memory
for the generations
to come

My generations will know
in their gut, the womb
the messages of the woman
who dared to bare
anywhere, everywhere
she said more
than the words
could tell

In Kashmir
Lal Ded/Lilla Arifa, the poet,
left ‘marital home’ going
naked on the street
Lal’s poems remain
but her actions
say more
than her words
can tell

In America, Russia,
Egypt, Tunisia
the woman who dares to bare
screams
and shouts:
‘my body
is my body, my life
is my life
I’ll rule control use
my body, my life
everywhere, anywhere’

A woman who dares to bare
declares war
means rebellion, means terrorism
means armed struggle
armed with the body
presented
presented by the gods of religions and wars
as a formidable despicable sinfully
desirable
weapon of
mass destruction.

To own buy sell
kill fire repair resell reuse
the woman who dares to bare
says no.
my body
is my body, my life
is my life
I’ll rule control use
my body, my life
anywhere, everywhere

naked
or carefully covered
No is No, and
which part of any no
do you not understand
Or is it that
the naked no
says more
than the no
can tell

.

‘Dare to bare’ is the title of Ramabai Espinet’s article in ‘Aurat Darbar: The Court of women’ (Three O’Clock Press, Toronto 1995)
‘Which part of no do you not understand’ is a slogan.

.

Holier-Than-Life-Cover
.
Buy it here
Gumroad
Amazon
Smashwords

.

More
Holier Than Life Web Page
Fauzia’s Web Page
.
.

Film Review – “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”

The-Reluctant-Fundamentalist-_-Riz-Ahmed

Starring: Riz Ahmed, Liev Schreiber, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi and Haluk Bilginer. Directed by Mira Nair. (130 mins).

Reviewed by Randeep Purewall

The film adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s 2007 novel took three years to adapt for the screen. Whereas Hamid’s novel centered on two characters, the protagonist Changez Khan and an anonymous American, in a Lahore café, Nair’s film adaptation is a full-charactered narrative shot which shows the protagonist leaving Lahore (filmed in Delhi) to pursue an education and career in the United States where he lives the American Dream in New York City until 9-11. He returns to Lahore, becoming a professor.

The lead is played by Riz Ahmed who did well as a streetwise Brit and jihadist in “The Four Lions.” As Changez, Ahmed does well enough as someone searching for himself but falls short in scenes such as his having to leave America, moments otherwise rich in dramatic potential which would have underlined the torment of the character’s being American, Pakistani and Muslim.

His limitations are all the more apparent when he’s is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast including Liev Schreiber as Bobby, the American in the Lahore café, Kate Hudson as Changez’ partner Erica and a superb Kiefer Sutherland as Jimmy, Changez’ Wall Street boss. Turkish actor Haluk Bilinger is a revelation in a small but seminal role as a publisher in Istanbul who compares Changez to the Janissaries, Christian children taken from their homes and trained to fight in a Muslim army only to reconquer and destroy the homelands where they were born and nurtured.

The film is stunningly shot with searing images such as the one above. After being stripped and probed by American airport security, Changez looks through opaque glass at footage of the Twin Towers coming crashing down along with his American Dream. Nair uses music to great effect too. In one of the film most poignant scenes, Changez looks at men performing namaaz in the Suleyman Mosque in Istanbul while a boy looks back at him. The scene erupts in a clash of drums in a explosive mix of Khusrao’s “Mori Araj Suno” and Faiz’ “Rabba Sachiyaan,” highlighting Changez’ inner turmoil.

Amongst growing student protests over the presence of Americans in Pakistan, Bobby urges (Professor) Changez to control the protests: the white man tells the brown man or Muslim man to “do the right thing.” Nair say she wanted the film to start a dialogue but she provides an answer instead. Reading a eulogy at the funeral of a friend killed in the protests, Changez prays the youth of Pakistan will let their inner lights shine with a force greater than the suns’. Perhaps that is the Pakistani dream which Changez asks his students about in an earlier scene. Only for many Pakistanis, the dream is to send their kids to the West, have them score good jobs there and perhaps go West themselves.

6.5/10

“Cinema for Change” – Addressing Violence Against Women

2010_0301_women_hands_m

The South Asian Film Education Society (S.A.F.E.S.) hosted its first “Cinema for Change” film festival from April 19 to April 21, 2013. The theme: “Addressing Violence Against Women.”

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Guest Filmmaker, Samar Minallah, appeared at the opening night by Skype from Pakistan. Her documentary, “Swara: A Bridge Over Troubled Water,” looked at “swara,” the practice of using unmarried girls as compensation to settle disputes between families.  The practice of “swara” in the film of the same name, typically takes place as follows. One man kills another man and the family of the man who has been killed wants compensation from the murderer. The compensation takes the form of a girl, transferred from the family of the murderer to the family who would otherwise seek revenge. The girl is then expected to live in the “other” family as a daughter-in-law.

The practice of “swara” is well-known in North-West Pakistan and in other tribal communities and stopping it, Minallah admits, can be dangerous. The murderer (whose family pays the girl as compensation) is “let off the hook;” stopping that compensation would mean that the murderer must otherwise pay for his crime which, Minallah notes he will typically go to any lengths to avoid. Although Minallah acknowledges the challenges in fighting “swara,” she has helped bring awareness of the issue to the public and to policymakers through short public service-announcements. She also works to sensitive the police to the problem after the practice was made illegal through legislation passed in 2004. A growing number cases of “swara” moreover are being reported and addressed through public interest-litigation (200 cases were reported in 2011).

swara

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The second day saw the screening of “Common Gender” (2012), a Bangladeshi activist-documentary on the life of the hijra (intersexual) community of Dhaka and the violence underlying the social process of gendering. The two other films were “Afghanistan Unveiled” (2007) and “Provoked” (2006).

The film “Provoked,” is based on the true story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, a Punjabi woman in the United Kingdom who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her husband in 1989. Her conviction was set aside in 1992, partly through the help of the women’s advocacy and outreach group, Southhall Black Sisters. The judge noted that because of years of  abuse, Kiranjit suffered severe depression and battered women syndrome; her mental responsibility for the act was thus “diminished.” She had also been “provoked,” but was unable to retaliate right away because of her mental state. Her case (R v. Ahluwalia) changed English law, leading to the setting aside of convictions for battered women in 1992 and thereafter.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

In “Saving Face,” we hear the stories of two survivors of acid attacks in Pakistan, Zakia and Rukshana. While highlighting the brutality of the attacks and their affect on the women, we see how the problem is being fought through cooperation between reconstructive surgeons, policymakers, lawyers, the media and NGO’s is key in bringing perpetrators to justice and helping women rebuild their lives.

In “Bol” (2012) Meghna Halder presents a short-film in three parts through masks, puppetry and shadows. Whereas the “The Cyclist” looks at the facelessness of the Indian Muslim woman who died in a bomb blast in Bangalore, “The Rape” looks at how two women went missing in Kashmir and were presumed to have been raped and disposed of by the Indian Army. In “The Mask,” Meghna presents the story of a man who wakes one day to find his face has been stolen. All three films were layered with meanings, teasing one’s interpretations.

While the issue of violence against women is ongoing and oftentimes distressing, I admire the filmmakers’ use of film as a medium for raising social awareness of the problem. In Minallah, we saw an example of the activist film-maker who has continued to make films despite risk to herself. In three films, we saw how individual and community activism can bring about social change such as the passage of law against “swara” and acid-attacks in Pakistan or the precedent-setting case of Kiranjit Ahluwalia in the United Kingdom. While the struggle continues, the SAFES has hopefully played its own part in presenting “cinema for change.”

For a list of all films shown and descriptions, go to: http://southasianfilm.blogspot.ca/

Israeli mother Addresses European Parliament

Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan is the mother of Smadar Elhanan, 13 years old when killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in September 1997. Below is Nurit’s speech made on International Women’s Day in Strasbourg earlier this month.

Thank you for inviting me to this today. It is always an honour and a pleasure to be here, among you (at the European Parliament).

However, I must admit I believe you should have invited a Palestinian woman at my stead, because the women who suffer most from violence in my county are the Palestinian women. And I would like to dedicate my speech to Miriam R’aban and her husband Kamal, from Bet Lahiya in the Gaza strip, whose five small children were killed by Israeli soldiers while picking strawberries at the family`s strawberry field. No one will ever stand trial for this murder.

When I asked the people who invited me here why didn’t they invite a Palestinian woman, the answer was that it would make the discussion too localized.

I don’t know what is non-localized violence. Racism and discrimination may be theoretical concepts and universal phenomena but their impact is always local, and real. Pain is local, humiliation, sexual abuse, torture and death, are all very local, and so are the scars.

It is true, unfortunately, that the local violence inflicted on Palestinian women by the government of Israel and the Israeli army, has expanded around the globe, In fact, state violence and army violence, individual and collective violence, are the lot of Muslim women today, not only in Palestine but wherever the enlightened western world is setting its big imperialistic foot. It is violence which is hardly ever addressed and which is halfheartedly condoned by most people in Europe and in the USA.

This is because the so-called free world is afraid of the Muslim womb.

Great France of “la liberte égalite et la fraternite” is scared of little girls with head scarves. Great Jewish Israel is afraid of the Muslim womb which its ministers call a demographic threat.

Almighty America and Great Britain are infecting their respective citizens with blind fear of the Muslims, who are depicted as vile, primitive and blood-thirsty, apart from their being non-democratic, chauvinistic and mass producers of future terrorists. This in spite of the fact that the people who are destroying the world today are not Muslim. One of them is a devout Christian, one is Anglican and one is a non-devout Jew.

I have never experienced the suffering Palestinian women undergo every day, every hour, I don’t know the kind of violence that turns a woman’s life into constant hell. This daily physical and mental torture of women who are deprived of their basic human rights and needs of privacy and dignity, women whose homes are broken into at any moment of day and night, who are ordered at a gun-point to strip naked in front of strangers and their own children, whose houses are demolished , who are deprived of their livelihood and of any normal family life. This is not part of my personal ordeal.

But I am a victim of violence against women insofar as violence against children is actually violence against mothers. Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan women are my sisters because we are all at the grip of the same unscrupulous criminals who call themselves leaders of the free enlightened world and in the name of this freedom and enlightenment rob us of our children.

the-weeping-woman-of-pere-lachaise

Furthermore, Israeli, American, Italian and British mothers have been for the most part violently blinded and brainwashed to such a degree that they cannot realize their only sisters, their only allies in the world are the Muslim Palestinian, Iraqi or Afghani mothers, whose children are killed by our children or who blow themselves to pieces with our sons and daughters. They are all mind-infected by the same viruses engendered by politicians. And the viruses , though they may have various illustrious names–such as Democracy, Patriotism, God, Homeland–are all the same. They are all part of false and fake ideologies that are meant to enrich the rich and to empower the powerful.

We are all the victims of mental, psychological and cultural violence that turn us to one homogenic group of bereaved or potentially bereaved mothers. Western mothers who are taught to believe their uterus is a national asset just like they are taught to believe that the Muslim uterus is an international threat. They are educated not to cry out: `I gave him birth, I breast fed him, he is mine, and I will not let him be the one whose life is cheaper than oil, whose future is less worth than a piece of land.`

All of us are terrorized by mind-infecting education to believe all we can do is either pray for our sons to come back home or be proud of their dead bodies.

And all of us were brought up to bear all this silently, to contain our fear and frustration, to take Prozac for anxiety, but never hail Mama Courage in public. Never be real Jewish or Italian or Irish mothers.

I am a victim of state violence. My natural and civil rights as a mother have been violated and are violated because I have to fear the day my son would reach his 18th birthday and be taken away from me to be the game tool of criminals such as Sharon, Bush, Blair and their clan of blood-thirsty, oil-thirsty, land thirsty generals.

Living in the world I live in, in the state I live in, in the regime I live in, I don’t dare to offer Muslim women any ideas how to change their lives. I don’t want them to take off their scarves, or educate their children differently, and I will not urge them to constitute Democracies in the image of Western democracies that despise them and their kind. I just want to ask them humbly to be my sisters, to express my admiration for their perseverance and for their courage to carry on, to have children and to maintain a dignified family life in spite of the impossible conditions my world in putting them in. I want to tell them we are all bonded by the same pain, we all the victims of the same sort of violence even though they suffer much more, for they are the ones who are mistreated by my government and its army, sponsored by my taxes.

Islam in itself, like Judaism in itself and Christianity in itself, is not a threat to me or to anyone. American imperialism is, European indifference and co-operation is and Israeli racism and its cruel regime of occupation is. It is racism, educational propaganda and inculcated xenophobia that convince Israeli soldiers to order Palestinian women at gun-point, to strip in front of their children for security reasons, it is the deepest disrespect for the other that allow American soldiers to rape Iraqi women, that give license to Israeli jailers to keep young women in inhuman conditions, without necessary hygienic aids, without electricity in the winter, without clean water or clean mattresses and to separate them from their breast-fed babies and toddlers. To bar their way to hospitals, to block their way to education, to confiscate their lands, to uproot their trees and prevent them from cultivating their fields.

I cannot completely understand Palestinian women or their suffering. I don’t know how I would have survived such humiliation, such disrespect from the whole world. All I know is that the voice of mothers has been suffocated for too long in this war-stricken planet. Mothers` cry is not heard because mothers are not invited to international forums such as this one. This I know and it is very little. But it is enough for me to remember these women are my sisters, and that they deserve that I should cry for them, and fight for them. And when they lose their children in strawberry fields or on filthy roads by the checkpoints, when their children are shot on their way to school by Israeli children who were educated to believe that love and compassion are race and religion dependent, the only thing I can do is stand by them and their betrayed babies, and ask what Anna Akhmatova–another mother who lived in a regime of violence against women and children–asked:

Why does that streak o blood, rip the petal of your cheek?

Togetherness_Jewish_Palestinian_Child_political_solution

Published in “Jews for Justice for Palestinians”: http://jfjfp.com/?p=7720