Estrin writes an entire piece about ‘domestic violence’ i.e. violence of men against women, without ever once touching, suggesting, implying or overtly labeling this predominantly Christian, and vehemently Christian nation, for having a barbaric, backward, misogynist and anti-modern religion! Here, suddenly, it is ‘patriarchy’ that is to fault, as if ‘patriarchy’ isn’t indicted in faith and its hierarchies of power, interpretation and sanction!
No investigation of the passages of the Bible? No excavation of obscure and ancient quotes of Priests to justify? No bizarre and ahistorical constructions of social history that find an act from the 1st century AD Christian community and draw a straight line from there, to today? No suggestion that Christians and Christianity is incompatible with he tenets of modernity? No calls for a Reformation among the Armenians? No outrage at the ‘horror that women suffer’ under the tutelage of the Bible?
Here are all the fashionable categories that the West loves to apply to the exotic ‘other’ – “honor killings”, “dowry death”, and what not, could be found, but of course are never suggested. Here, the faith becomes invisible, and suddenly ‘cultural’ structures are being sought, and of course, Christian realities entirely erased. The double standards are amusing to see. Inderpal Grewal’s fabulous essay ‘Outsourcing Patriarchy: Feminist Encounters: Transnational Mediations and the Crime of ‘Honor Killings’ could have been written in response to this piece alone. Or, you can also read a post I wrote earlier about this habit of manufacturing a ‘unique’ ‘Muslim/Islamic’ criminality here.
The language, and sentence structure, are critical to observe, in this piece. Towards the middle of this small news item, we find these sentences. Though they may be unthinkingly cut and pasted from earlier pieces or some standard al-Jazeera copy, it is nevertheless interesting to see how they were written:
“Baloch rebel fighters have waged war against the central Pakistan government for more than a decade seeking autonomy.”
This is a definitive statement, offered as ‘fact’. There are no qualifiers so that the reader knows for sure that these attacks are happening. But watch what happens in the next sentence.
” Locals accuse the government of exploiting their resources without providing adequate compensation.”
Suddenly, ‘locals accuse’ is dropped in when the position of the state as seen by those living under its burden are concerned. And this pattern repeats itself. In the very next paragraph, we read another definitive statement, followed by a qualified statement that yet against absolves the state of ‘factual’ crimes, and suggests that people saying such things are ‘alleging’ or ‘claiming’.
“Attacks on security personnel by separatist fighters are common – as are retaliatory operations by Pakistani forces, who rights group allege have abducted and extra-judicially killed hundreds of Baloch political activists.”
This was a strong piece about ‘domestic violence’ that appeared in The New York Times, but as I read it I could not help but connect it to the recently celebrated question of ‘honor crimes’ in Pakistan, against which our feminist government and our liberal class, are determined to wage an all out war against. It is the construction of this category – “honor crimes”, and the way it has become a means to suggest something unique, specific, and original to Islam / Muslims, that I want to question. and this article is just the way to do it. More importantly, it is the way in which Western liberal feminists and ‘native’ feminist/activists (of a certain upper or middle class mind you – class is a critical factor in these campaigns) find reason to create ‘activism’, or ’emergency campaigns’ around these unique category of crimes, while remaining silent about the crimes against women within their own ‘civilized’ society where no such campaigns are organised, and no ‘human rights’ discourse is applied. In the West, the brutality of its patriarchy, the misogyny of its society, are almost always swept under the carpet of ‘individual trauma’ or complex ‘individual’ histories, thereby exonerating society, culture, politics, genetics, religion. That is, the very explanatory factors almost always offered to explain or analyze crimes against women in the Muslim / Islamic spaces. Details »
I am not sure how ‘gender equality’, ‘human rights’ and ‘civil liberties’ became associated with being ‘secular’. If we keep in mind the construction of ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ – both entirely European constructions, we see how in the concept of secular has a long history of European gender inequality, racial segregation and slavery, colonial repression and genocide, all of which remained happy travelers with the Enlightened. That is, despite post-Enlightenment Europe’s real history of racism, colonialism, genocidal violence, slavery and more, the idea that ‘secularism’ or the separation of ‘state’ and ‘church’ is a necessary precondition for peace and tolerance, justice and liberty, is frankly, quite bizarre. In fact, so much so, given the scale of violence inflicted by European nations on the rest of the world, and the gifts of racial violence, the Holocaust, and other general intolerance towards ‘minorities’ and the blacker people, it seems entire one of the greatest propaganda feats in human history. So much has been written about ‘secularisms’ dark legacy, that I do still find it strange when these easy dichotomies are created. But then again, American media has been a bastion of the anachronistic, out-dated and classically colonial mindset for many decades now. And this is the same media that can cheer lead towards multiple wars, the deaths of millions, the displacement of millions more, and continue to speak as if its ‘secular’ credentials and these ‘secular’ nations are where peace and liberty are found, and that it is religion in fact, that is the cause of violence and fundamentalism. This myopia if of course what allows hacks like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or Alan Dershovitz, or so many of their fellow travelers to get away with the theoretical and rhetorical murder that they do. Yet, it is with amusement and bemusement to read articles such as this where a simple dichotomy is created.
These massacres were carried out by Islamists who were loved, feted and supported by America. Those were the days when religious groups – from the Muslim Brotherhood to those in Indonesia – where Washington D.C.’s favored mass murderers and cleansers. The same voices who today feign ‘shock’ at ‘Islam’s’ anti-modernist tendencies, its inability to deal with progress, where convinced in the 1950s-1970s, of communism’s appeal to Muslims, and feared it so much that they insisted on communists (read: progressives, social activists, anti-capitalists, political dissidents etc.) being killed outright. Details »
supports of mehr abdul sattar foot, a landless peasant running for a punjab provincial assembly seat, drive through local villages prior to the february 18th elections
This is what our terror laws and terror courts are mostly used for – to repress the weak, to silence the poor, to destroy a genuine struggle of a people for equality and for rights in the country. Details »
This was a shockingly bizarre set of responses from a man considered to be one of the great Arab intellectuals of our time. I have read Adonis extensively, and I am frankly really surprised to see him argue that:
“If we do not distinguish between what is religious and what is political, cultural, and social, nothing will change and the decline of the Arabs will worsen. Religion is not the answer to problems anymore. Religion is the cause of problems. That is why it needs to be separated. Every free human believes in what he wants, and we should respect that. But for religion to be the foundation of society? No.”
This statement reflects a profound and fundamental misunderstanding about the travails of our times. And the imaginary history of Europe that he is obviously repeating. It is as if he has never bothered to read people of his own generation: Wael Hallaq, Talal Asad, Akeel Bilgrami, Saba Mahmood, Edward Said, Amir Amin, Joseph Massad, Partha Chatterjee, Arun Appadurai, and so many others, who have taken so much time, so much research, so much effort, so much eloquence and insight, to peal apart the false construction of ‘state’ and ‘religion’ that underpins the very idea of ‘Europe’ in the post-Enlightenment period. Talal Asad alone has dissecting the ontology, epistemology, theory, and lineage of the creation of the ‘secular’ over a period of decades, dozens of articles and a few very critical books. What about Shahab Ahmed’s What Is Islam: The Importance Of Being Islamic? I could go on. I was simply flabbergasted to read Adonis speaking as if he has read nothing really related to the very subjects he wishes to pontificate on. And if he had gone a step further, he would have remembered to at least understand the reality and existence of colonialism, imperialism and global capitalism, that has something – I dare say something large – to do with the violent state of affairs we now find ourselves in. By what incredible imagination and feat of forgetfulness would anyone claim that Syria, and the chaos unfolding there – or in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia or Pakistan, has anything to do with the Western concept of religion? Details »
A truly pathetic and tragic situation. But here is the irony that most Pakistani liberals cannot fathom as they go about mindlessly screaming against the ‘evils of religion’ or ‘the need to separate religion and state’, or assume that Sharia’ is to blame, or that religion is backward and the cause of all that they suddenly see as ‘wrong’ in our societies because they happened to have read the latest UN missive:
“Pakistan’s blasphemy laws originated under British rule; in 1927 insulting any religion became a punishable offence in India. Punishment consisted mostly of fines and brief imprisonment. After the creation of Pakistan in 1947 this law was retained in the nation’s penal code. Under the administration of General Zia-ul-Haq the punishment for blasphemy was first changed to life imprisonment and finally in 1986, to death by hanging.”
These are secular laws! This isn’t Sharia’ or religion. This is the secular legal system, its laws written as a result of a so-called ‘secular’ colonial power, and then retained and sustained, implemented and acted on, by ‘secular’ Pakistani governments. And note again that General Zia-ul-Haq was one of the United State’s closest allies and buddies, as he was implementing these draconian and regressive interpretations of the legal system. That religious groups exploit these laws for various political and economic purposes – as would any other group – should not distract us from these facts. Details »