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.

When you say Islam offers variations and adjustments, what does that mean? Let’s consider one example that goes to the heart of the matter. Christianity says that Christ was crucified for our sins, and he arose three days later in fulfillment of His promise to us. Islam says that at the last minute, a woman was substituted for Christ and it was she who was actually crucified. Christianity says God manifested himself as the Trinity (the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit). By definition, to be a Christian is to accept the Trinity and the Crucifixion and resurrection (you can throw out everything else). Islam says there is no Trinity, period. Now, I ask you, are these the same religions? These are mutually exclusive, diametrically opposite, irreconcilable positions.

Of course there is cultural interaction, particularly on the peripheries and borders of civilizations. But that is not the norm nor the point under discussion. I am referring to the law of the land and where it derives from. Again, to use a secular example, If I live in Detroit, I am subject to US laws, if I live in Windsor, I am subject to Canadian laws, even though these cities are next to each other and separated by Lake Superior (a 15 minute drive across the bridge). The laws of the land are well defined even at the peripheries, though the cultural practice not dealing with legal issues may in fact be muddier (i.e., music, art).

One cannot ignore 2000 years of Christianity, 1400 years of Islam, and 3000 years of Judaism when considering the origins of these systems. The weight of thousands of years of history cannot be dismissed, and this is manifestly obvious even from a cursory examination of today’s civilizations. If Islam and Christianity were so similar, why do they lead to such starkly different civilizations today?

As for your comments on Sharia, I am not referring to the process. Sharia, irrespective of how it is arrived at, is a body of law that is supreme and cannot be superseded. That is the point.

You can disagree with me or Daniel Pipes about this point, but to say that he has not studied his demons is an ad hominem argument. It suggests there is something wrong with him, which is not fair. He is not the only one who shares this opinion — as you say yourself, even Muslims (and not fundamentalists, either) have this opinion. And I again I point to 1400 years of history to demonstrate this.

The Caliphate was a political structure, to be sure, but it was an Islamic political structure. It was a direct expression of Islamic law. It began as an Islamic governance system and stayed so until its dissolution when the Ottoman empire ended. There is no legal mechanism within Islam to separate the religious from the secular, unlike Christianity, where the secular principle was expressed by Christ himself (“My Kingdom is in heaven” and “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”). The examples you provide are all because of Colonial influence. Before European colonialism, there were no secular structures in the Islamic world. Of course, the secular principle was not always applied in Christendom, but that’s a different discussion.

Again, I think we have different definition of “nation.” A nation is a group of people with a common culture, language, religion and history. It is not a race-based entity, it is a belief-based entity. Are there pure races? No. Are there pure individuals? Yes. Are there pure nations? Yes. Are there mixed nations? Yes.

I think you under-estimate the cohesive force of religion. What does a Christian in Iraq have in common with a Christian from Trichur or a Christian from Texas? A lot more than you may realize. Similarly for a Muslim from Baghdad and a Muslim from Bangladesh. Your worldview is fundamentally shaped by your religion, and ultimately I, as a Christian from Baghdad, would have much more in common with a Christian from China than a Muslim from Baghdad..

I don’t think my views are bigoted or biased. I am bi-cultural and worldly, and I don’t come to these conclusions lightly. But we are talking about different things. You are talking about the machinations of empires, which I don’t dispute, and I am talking about religions.

I am not aware of modern persecution of immigrants in Europe. Can you give me examples

In conclusion, the problem with Edward Said and his Orientalism is that it is unbalanced and dismisses legitimate Western argument, criticism and points-of-view. It’s like that old joke, just because you are paranoid, it DOESN’T mean there ISN’T anyone out to get you 🙂 Edward Said ultimately misses, dismisses, trivializes or just plain ignores the point that there are real and irreconcilable differences between civilizations and they cannot be deconstructed away are made to appear to be pathologies afflicting the West. That’s ridiculous.

As you have tried to argue that Islamic civilization is not monolithic, so is the case with the West.


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From “Headmen” To “Hitmen”–A People Brutalised Yet Again

Another photographer turns up at another manufactured ‘traditional’ geography, and produces another set of racist, reductive and entirely fake set of images. I don’t mean ‘fake’ in the way that most photographer’s get all concerned about. I mean ‘fake’ in a much more serious way, one that reduces people to social, political and historical caricatures and makes them into concocted objects for class titillation and voyeurism. And this American magazine–mired deep in the heart of American imperialism, its violence and its brutality–publishes the images and accompanies them with what can only be described as one of the most incredibly ahistorical, obfuscatory and infantile articles I have read outside of stuff frequently published by Time Magazine and/or The New York Times.

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Thomas Sankara’s Restless Children

The project is now complete. Although, we may never really complete the telling of this remarkable story. You can see the project by clicking on this link here, or on the image below.

Eyes Of Aliyah–Deport, Deprive, Extradite Initiative By Nisha Kapoor

I have publicly and on this forum very explicitly argued against the strange ‘disappearance’ of black/brown bodies that are the actual targets and victims of our ‘liberal’ state policies of surveillance, entrapment, drone assassinations, renditions and indefinite detention. I recently argued:

“Western visual journalism, and visual artists, have erased the actual victims of the criminal policies of the imperial state. Instead, most all have chosen to produce a large array of projects examining drone attacks, surveillance, detentions and other practices, through the use of digital abstractions, analogous environments, still life work or just simply the fascinating and enticing safety of datagrams and charts. Even a quick look at recent exhibitions focusing on the ‘war on terror’ or wars in general, have invited works that use digital representations of war, or focus on the technologies of war. An extreme case of this deflection are recent projects on drone warfare that not only avoid the actual brown/black bodies that are the targets of deadly drone attacks, but are not even produced anywhere near the geographies and social ecologies where drone attacks continue to happen! Yet, these works have found tremendous popularity, though i remain confused what kinds of conversations or debates they provoke given that the voices of the families of those who have been killed, are not only entirely missing, but people who can raised the difficult questions about the lies and propaganda that are used to justify the killings, are also entirely missing.”

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Public Release of “The Sinner”

This is my first feature length documentary film and we–Justice Project Pakistan, with the guiding support of Sarah BelalRimmel Mohydin and others at Justice Project Pakistan, are finally releasing it.

And we are doing it first in Pakistan.

The film takes us into the world of capital punishment in Pakistan through the life of one man; Jan Masi. Jan Masi worked as an execution for nearly 30 years, and claims to have executed over 1800 people. He started his work in the enthusiastic pursuit of revenge for the execution of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

This isn’t a typical documentary film. No talking heads. No linear story-telling. No polemics or moral grand standing. No righteous exclamations against capital punishment. Instead, Jan Masi, his life, his scars, his fears and despair, act as metaphors for the meaning of capital punishment in Pakistan, and the consequences it has on the broader Pakistani society.

Sudhir Patwardhan

Sudhir Patwardhan.

Can you discover ‘an influence’ after the fact?

What do you call someone who seems to embody your eye, your sensibility, and yet you had never seen his / her work, and yet, when you now see it, you see the ‘influence’…the similarities?

Is he confronting the same questions? Is he seeing this incredibly complex and multi-layered world with the same desire to depict it as close to that complexity as possible?

I was taken aback. The aesthetic pursuit is so familiar. It is as if he is a step ahead of me. He is a step ahead of me.

I am going through these images–gorgeous, striking, unique, and no, I refuse to give you some ‘European’ reference to understand them in any way. They are Patwardhan’s and his alone. But I want to make them as photographs.

They are the photographs I would make if in Mumbai. It is beautiful stuff. It makes me want to go and make photographs.

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Make It Right For Palestine, November 4, 2017

Be there. Hyde Park. Speaker’s Corner. London. 12:00 noon. 4th November, 2017.

The Polis Project…Is Up And Running

If you can’t join them, then just do it on your own.

We launched a new collective focused on research, reportage and resistance. The specific goals and objectives are being developed as we speak, but the idea is a simple one: to collect under one banner a group of individuals from different fields – artists, writers, academics, photographers, intellectuals, poets and others, who are consistently working against the grain. In this time of collective conformity, and a media sycophancy to power and extremism, some of us felt the need to create a small space where people are still determined to refuse the agendas of political power, debilitating capitalism, nationalist extremism and neoliberal idiocy, and remain fools in their hearts, and idealists in their souls.

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Short Doc: “As If A Nightmare”;The Story Of Former Bagram Prisoner Abdul Haleem Saifullah


We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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Short Doc: “Prisoner 1432” – The Story of Former Bagram Prisoner Amanatullah Ali


We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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10 Things To Consider…

I recommend that photographers, photojournalists, documentary photographers remember these wise words by Tania Canas, RISE Arts Director / Member – I am copying and pasting it here. As brown and black bodies are stripped of their clothing, as brown and black children are dehumanised to mere misery, as brown and black women are reduced to simply victims, as ghettos and brothels and refugee camps and slums become the ‘paint by number’ formula for White photographer’s career and publishing success, it becomes increasingly important that those of us on the receiving end of White ‘largesse’ begin to build obstacles, speak back, and refuse / reject these ‘representations’ and their reductive, violent and brutal narrative frames. We have lost too much, and are in danger of whatever little we have left as humans and as histories, if we permit this process to continue.

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