The Limits of Photojournalism And Things More Worthwhile

It is perhaps the most interesting, creative and compelling book of photography I have ever read. I have looked and read it over a dozen times in the last 8 years.  Edward Said & Jean Mohr’s ‘After The Last Sky: Palestinian Lives’ is perhaps the only example that I know of of a brilliant writer and a sensitive photographer collaborating to produce something remarkably insightful, intelligent and provocative at the same time. Details »

Women Are Stupid And Other Pathologies of Patriarchy

The Dawn newspaper, Pakistan’s leading English language daily, reported recently that The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has declared the term ‘gender equality’  ‘vague and un-Islamic’ and called for its repeal.  You can see the original piece here.

The council argued that the concept of ‘gender equality’ was impractical because of ‘distinct differences’ in anatomy and physical and mental capabilities. The CII described the term as ‘absurd and un-Islamic’.

I will not even raise the point about the validity and legality of a Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) reviewing and recommending changes to the constitution in a citizen’s democracy, however crippled and constrained it may be in Pakistan.

I will not even raise the issue about how this council of ‘learned’ men (there is one woman member of this council of 9 I believe) determined that a woman’s ‘mental capabilities’ are distinctly different (i can’t help but suspect that they meant to say ‘less’) from that of a man.

I will only point out to this group of ‘learned’ men that ‘gender equality’ is not a declaration of a woman’s physical and mental equality with a man, but in fact a demand for equal rights, equal protections and equal freedoms under the law.  These rights are to be bestowed regardless of physical, mental, and any other ‘difference’.   They have little or nothing to do with the fact that a woman is anatomically or mentally different from a man, though again, how they figured out the latter confounds me.

That this body of men, many with long and intimidatingly impressive resumes, don’t understand this simple difference is dismaying.

That this body uses some interpretation of ‘Islam’ as a weapon to further diminish the rights of the weak is quite pathetic.

Ironically this council has never found military dictatorships as ‘un-Islamic’.  Neither have they in their infinite Islamic wisdom made statements about state use of torture, disappearences, summary executions, dispossession of the landless,  or on government graft and corruption.  It seems not to have thought it ‘un-Islamic’ that innocents are murdered, that our legal system is corrupt and dysfunctional, that the ordinary man and woman in Pakistan remains devoid of legal and judicial protection.  It has not found acid attacks, honor killings, police brutality, ‘un-Islamic’, or the killings of the country’s Baluchi or tribal area citizens by the Pakistan Army and police forces as ‘un-Islamic’.

Our constitution is used and abused almost daily by self-serving criminals in political garb, but the CII has remained politely tolerant of these mutations, focusing instead on the culture threatening implications of the term ‘gender equality’!

They fill their resumes with long lists of qualifications, certificates and degrees, and yet find ways to remain so supremely stupid.  It is quite an achievement.

Note:  I did not realize that Pakistan had such a body looking into matters of whether Pakistan’s constitution met with the standards of the Koran and/or the Sunna.  It seems to be a child of the Ayub Khan military government and was entered into the 1962 constitution as an ‘advisory’ body whose members were selected by the President.

Note: An editorial in the same newspaper expressing outrage can be read here

The Anti-Semite In Me

In 2002, just before I left for Gaza to begin nearly 2 years of work on the impact of Israel’s occupation of that land, I wrote a short email to Edward Said.  Much to my surprise, he wrote back.  It was a short response, wishing me luck with my project and expressing an interesting in seeing my work once I thought it was ready to be shown.  Edward Said died about a year later and I never got a chance to take him up on his offer, though I knew that he had made it out of politeness.  And I could never tell him how much even that polite offer had meant to me and how much it had inspired the work that I did eventually manage to produce. Details »

Unfortunately, It Was A War Crime

For those of you who may have missed it, Vice President Dick Cheney recently admitted on TV to Jonathan Karl of ABC news that he in fact did authorize the use of torture techniques such as waterboarding and other forms of torture.  Details »

Dialogue Between Bigots: Part VI of VI

This is the final installment of the interview, part VI, of ‘Dialogue Between Bigots’

EDITOR: Spanish, French Portuguese and Italian derive from Latin, yet can one argue that today these are the same language? They have diverged to the point where they are mutually unintelligible and hence different languages. All Indo-European languages derive from Sanskrit (including Farsi), yet can one claim they are the same as Sanskrit? Christianity, Judaism and Islam have a common genetic origin, for sure, but over time these religions have diverged to the point of being mutually exclusive. Details »

Dialogue Between Bigots: Part V of VI

This is part V of the interview ‘Dialogue Between Bigots’

AR: I think you are being very liberal in your belief that European law begins with the Bible and that Islamic law begins with the Koran. To claim that Europe takes from the Bible and Morocco from the Koran is to indulge in a terrible simplicity that can only be achieved by suspending genuine intellectual engagement in the history of societies and the development of their social, legal and criminal systems. Perhaps a re-reading of Michelet’s ‘History of France’ is due or at the very least Todorov’s ‘Imperfect Garden’. Details »

Dialogue Between Bigots; Part IV of VI

This is Part IV of the interview ‘Dialogue Between Bigots’

EDITOR: Whereas I agree with you that there is nothing inherently ‘Islamic’ about laws in many nations i.e. your statement is prima facie true. However, the question is what is the source of the common law of the land in Pakistan, in Iran, In Saudi Arabia? You will, of course, find examples of secular law or behavior, but the common law springs from the Koran, just as the common law in Christendom (the West) springs from the Bible. Details »

Dialogue Between Bigots: Part III of VI

This is Part III of the interview ‘Dialogue Between Bigots’

EDITOR:  By Islamic states I mean the countries that are majority Muslim and whose power structures are in the hands of Muslims. Iraq is not an Islamic theocracy, but it is surely an Islamic state. It’s history, tradition and values are shaped by Islamic religion and culture. Let us narrow the discussion. Let’s focus on Iraq and it’s history since 1800 — though we must keep in mind the 1400 year weight of Islamic history and tradition in Iraq. I will rephrase the question. Details »

Dialogue Between Bigots: Part II of VI

This is Part II of the interview ‘Dialogue Between Bigots’

EDITOR: In your opinion, is it possible for Islamic states to adopt secular systems of government, and to allow non-Muslim minorities to integrate in Muslim dominated political structures? Put another way, given the history and tradition of these areas, Iraq in particular, did the Americans have any choice other than to work with sectarian structures?

AR: Sorry, i don’t mean to be rude but i do not understand your questions because 1) I can’t tell what ‘Islamic’ states you are talking about, 2) what is the time frame that you refer to as when you speak of the ‘history and traditions’, 3) what do mean when you say ‘these areas’ and 4) secular governments do exist so why would you want to know if they can? Details »

Dialogue Between Bigots: Part I of VI

A few months ago I was asked by an editor in Europe to speak about my work, in particular my work in the Arab world.  She had seen some of my photographs from Northern Iraq that focused on the struggle of Iraq’s Assyrian Christian community as it confronted a resurgent Kurdish nationalism and a raging Iraqi militant resistance.  The editor wanted to discuss not just the specific issues related to the Assyrian Christian community, but broader issues related to the ‘Muslim’ world. Details »

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