Saying ‘Fuck Off’ In Muslim And Why I Say It So Often!

I was days away from penning a piece about how we should neither ask or give ‘collectivist’ explanations for acts of violence carried out by people 1) using Islam as a justification, 2) with Arabic/Islamic/Muslim names, and 3) veiling their illegal, violent and inhumane activities behind a language and rhetoric of Islam.

But Ali Eteraz beat me to it, and did it more articulately and with greater clarity. By the way, I have quoted from Eteraz’s works in the past. He has also recently published what looks like a fascinating memoir. The book is called Children of Dust and chronicles his journey from a village in Pakistan to the USA where he remained the rest of his life.

In a piece called Muslims Should Raise The Other Finger , written in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings and the massive outcry against ‘Muslims’ and ‘Islam’ that emerged overtly or surreptitiously (and obviously not for the first or the last time), Ali gets right down to it and says:

There is no need for one Muslim to condemn the crimes of another. Collective responsibility cannot, and should not, be accepted. Where one accepts collective responsibility one opens the door to collective punishment. Are Muslims individuals? Or are they one singular marionette that pirouettes each time its string is pulled?

Saving a particular, and well inspired, bile for a certain individual who recently wrote a very stupid piece in the Huffington Post

One of the most egregious acts of kowtowing to the “massa” occurred recently in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings. At Huffington Post, Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Salam al-Maryati wrote an article directed to Muslim-Americans, extolling them to “amplify our Muslim American identity.” No thanks. The only thing I’ll amplify is the length of my middle finger.

Time again there is an outcry against ‘Muslims’ that insists and demands that they [the Muslims] condemn acts of individuals or individual groups, as if this community – hundreds of millions of people, dozens of different cultures and ethnicities, hundreds of different histories and heritages, and dozens of political national groups were all somehow tied to each other and aware and responsible for the acts of all within it.

No other group is expected or asked to perform such demeaning and degrading ‘collective’ apologia. A Jewish settler slaughters a Prime Minister, but he is quickly seen as an ‘individual’, ‘an extremist’ and unrepresentative of his people. A Christian fanatic blows up a Government building in Oklahoma, but churches are not raided, nor charities closed. Christian soldiers in America’s armies are out there killing and murdering civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, and yet few are exploring the pages of the New Testament to find its ‘genetic’ coding for violence. Or insisting that every Evangelical take responsibility for their actions and ‘do something about it’. A post office shooter kills off colleagues he finds boring, but we never investigate his religious feelings or delusions as a source of an explanation.

But god-forbid you have a 1) Arabic name, 2) come from a country with a predominantly Muslim heritage, or 3) traveled to or worked in or slept with a prostitute from a country with a predominantly Muslim heritage, and all bets are off and we are in the realm of the ‘mass condemnation’ and ‘mass apologia’. The ‘Muslim’ community is called to task by political leaders, and all sorts of self-appointed ‘leaders of the community’ emerge from their rats holes to speak for ‘us’.

Who are these people?

Islam has no clergy. And no illiterate, provincial or self-selected Mullah or Maulvi speaks for me or anyone in the community. It is not their role, it is not their responsibility, and it is not something anyone in any community has asked them to do. But from the morons at the Vatican to the morons at the White House, we repeatedly seen this pathetic theater of some lame-duck ‘Muslim’ leader – never heard of before or since standing alongside a bunch of self-righteous and pleased ‘Western’ leaders and playing the ‘moderate’ card. As if standing there with George Bush and mouthing stupidities about ‘the peaceful nature of Islam’ is what is needed and not what will only further encourage collectivist generalizations and racist simplicities.

So with Ali Iteraz I say – fuck you – not just to those who attempt to collect everyone of any random/vague or specific Muslim heritage into a mass, but also to those so-called ‘Islamic’ leaders who have the audacity to speak on my behalf. To turn and see acts of individuals and groups as acts of an entire, diverse and complex community is simply racist i.e. the belief that all members of a group posses characteristics and abilities (in this case, a propensity and preference for religious violence!) specific to that group!

So the next time someone asks you ‘Why is Islam so violent?’ or ‘What is your community doing about this?’ or ‘What is wrong with Islam?’, just indeed look them in the eye, smile, and say ‘Fuck you, you racist!’ There are extremists, morons, deranged individuals carrying out criminal acts all over the world. They come from all backgrounds, classes, ethnicities, religions and nations. To understand a crime we have to investigate it as a crime.

Crimes have personal, political, economic and social reasons and we are better off exploring these, than the pages of religious texts or the ‘psychology’ of ‘a belief’ to see if something in their DNA makes them uniquely susceptible to murdering, or creating illegal settlements, or faking weapons of mass destruction accusations, or building gas chambers to take out another ‘entire’ people.

Footnote: In 2005 I met a very well known American photographer in Jerusalem. I was on my way to Gaza and she was just returning from there. Upon learning that I was of a Muslim heritage, her immediate reaction was to ask me where in the Koran she could find an explanation for suicide bombings.

It took a few minutes for me to overcome my amusement and a growing disdain for this individual. I did however find a few moments of control to respond.

I turned to her and said only this – that I found it laughable that despite spending 3 weeks with the Palestinians of Gaza, and witnessing first hand their desperate conditions, their daily humiliations, their powerlessness to fend off the systemic violence inflicted on them and their children, their hunger, joblessness, and general hopelessness – conditions that have continued for decades and maintained because of an Israeli occupation, that she was searching the pages of a religious text to understand why the Palestinians engaged in retaliatory violence!

I believe that she kept looking in the pages of the Koran. She may still be looking after all these years!

Her pathetic cowardice and determined recism – one that erased the lived history and daily experiences of human beings, experience that she had seen with her own eyes, and chose instead to wallow in ‘religious’ fantasies and collective simplicities was just too appalling to behold. Suffice it to say, she has gone on to win many awards for her work. In a mainstream world where the mediocre is the magnificent, I would expect nothing less.

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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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