Searching For Love In All The Wrong Places Or Time Magazine Goes In Search Of Muslim Ghosts

We love our demons.

If we can’t find them, we will invent them.

Time Magazine, now pretty much a mouth piece for not just American exceptional-ism, idealism, innocence and purity, but for the ignorance, bigotry, myopia and fear-mongering that fuels and justifies so much that passes for politics and diplomacy in the United States today, has once again produced a rather strange piece of photo-reportage.

What Tsarnaev Saw_Dagestan by Dmitry Kostyukov - LightBox_20130520-151914

With no sense of irony, or self-awareness, the editors at the magazine dispatched their writer and a photographer to go explore the troubled, brutalized, suppressed and oppressed regions of the Russian Caucasus, all in the hope that

…to learn what, if anything, the region’s Islamists had to do with Tsarnaev’s [one of the bomber’s] radicalization.

This would be quite fascinating if it wasn’t for the fact that Tsarnaev himself actually told us the answer. He left it in a note on the boat he was hiding in, as recently reported in a piece in the Guardian that stated that:

… the bombings were retribution for the US crimes against Muslims in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and that the victims of the Boston bombing were ‘collateral damage,’ the same way innocent victims have been collateral damage in US wars around the world,” said CBS News reporter John Miller, who is a former spokesman for the FBI.

Tsarnaev was illegally interrogated by the FBI for over three days, where they denied him access to a lawyer despite his repeated requests. Even during these illegal interrogation sessions, as reported by The Washington Post, (no radical, anti-American publication here!):

The 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack, according to U.S. officials familiar with the interviews….

…the evidence so far suggests they were “self-radicalized” through Internet sites and U.S. actions in the Muslim world. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has specifically cited the U.S. war in Iraq, which ended in December 2011 with the removal of the last American forces, and the war in Afghanistan, where President Obama plans to end combat operations by the end of 2014.

In fact, the Pentagon itself released a report recently that basically argued that ‘…they do not hate us for our values, but for our policies’ . But of course, when it comes to ‘Mooslims’, it does not matter what they say. What matters are the myths we can weave around them. Its not our wars, our murders, our tortures, our indefinite detentions, our renditions, our constant humiliations, or invasions, our displacements, our drones, or anything like that. Of course not. Its not that we have, in a cold-blooded and stupid revenge for 9/11, torn asunder entire regions of the globe, and the lives of tens of millions of people. Not at all. It can’t be. Trust us, we are a good people.

It has to be Islam.

Time Magazine, rather than accept and investigate the horrors that have been inflicted on America’s recently ‘liberated’ allied nations of Iraq, and Afghanistan, prefers to continue to confuse and distract its delicate, sensitive, and clearly American-loving readership, by sending its reporters to the far corners of the globe to find its favorite avatars – the Islamic radicals, the Islamic fundamentalists, the Salafis and a whole host of other generic, generalized, bigoted constructions whose basis are fear, ignorance, racism and market share. The mad-Muslim playing the role today what the crazy-Commie did some years earlier.

But perhaps what most surprises me, and reveals a clear act of racist disregard, is the ease with which the statements these criminals actually make are dismissed and discarded. The same courtesy is of course never offered to an Islamist (whatever that is!) whose each and every word, however, delusional is examined for concreteness and reality. If a one-armed Yemeni beggar in the deserts of the North claims that he is on a mission to attack the Pentagon, his statements become fodder for magazines like Time and others , and for the continuation and perpetuation of this fraud called The War Against Terror. But if someone dare mention their motivations – like so many of the attackers in the US have done – we simply discard this as irrelevant nonsense, and instead…well, send reporters to unrelated regions to find us our convenient, and self-confirming causes. Salafi’s in Dagestan indeed. The answer seems to lie a lot closer to home, but Time Magazine seems to now know how to use a simple map to get there.

This is fast becoming a travesty. I am fast running out of adjectives. The sheer ability of a publication to obfuscate, and completely distract a readership is staggering. That throughout this entire tragic episode, not a single person asked the key questions about our nation’s role in the horrors that are the justification for these attacks, is only possible because these writers, editors, pundits and organic intellectuals (for those confused by this phrase, please see Edward Said’s Representations of the Intellectual  or just read Gramsci, which is of course a lot harder!) are paid to never bring it up.

Nice pictures. No intellgience. The games continue.

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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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