[Some Indian and “Western” commentators] have reduced India’s rape crisis to a cultural problem. Men, we are told – specifically, Indian men – are culturally lacking and barbaric. They have no concept of women’s rights or equality. They are born and bred to sexually assault and degrade women. This is a familiar phenomenon, and an outgrowth of colonialism. When horrible crimes happen, specifically to women, we reduce the culture, in this case, of about 1 billion people, to a gang-bang-enabling society of rapists. And of course, by blaming Indian culture specifically, Western sexism is brushed under the table. We arrive at Gayatri Spivak’s formula explaining the colonial exploitation of anti-woman violence in colonized societies: “white men saving brown women from brown men”.
The process of reducing brown men to savages has been all too familiar in recent years. We have seen Egyptian men reduced to “animals” and “beasts” by the New York Post because a mob high on a combination of stupidity and jubilation about Mubarak’s downfall brutally assaulted white reporter Lara Logan. We have seen a number of “native informants,” from Mona Eltahawaly to Hirsi Ali, tell us that Arab and Muslim men “hate” women. In typical colonial fashion, gender dynamics, including real crimes and acts of brutality, are reduced to “cultural” problems in which we can reduce entire societies to large gang-bang parties predicated on savage men who simply prey on women.” —Amith Gupta - Orientalist Feminism Rears its Head in India via Jadaliyya (via mehreenkasana)
Writers such as Gyanendra Pandey have noted that despite the systematic nature of Indian state’s violence against its Muslim minority, such violence is always deceptively depicted as an aberration, “aberration in the sense that violence is seen as something removed from the general run of Indian history: a distorted form, an exceptional moment, not the “real” history of India at all.” This is a fitting commentary on Friedman’s own whitewash of the history of India. This is, of course, not to mention India’s short stint as a dictatorship, from 1975-1977, when Indian leader Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency, jailed political opponents, dramatically limited freedom of the press, and began a campaign of forced sterilization against the poor—following a court ruling that she had broken the law during her election. Furthermore, there is India’s declaration of war against jungle tribes within India itself: peoples that have been dispossessed and robbed of their lands, only to be massacred by helicopter gunships as they try desperately to resist. Nevertheless, Friedman somehow manages to ignore these glaring problems in favor of highlighting a token Muslim appointee as proof of Indian cosmopolitanism.
Such omissions are only the beginning of Friedman’s absurd musings. He asks if Egypt, under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, might become like Pakistan, opting for strict military rule and intolerance against minorities. In the process of posing and exploring the question, he makes another glaring omission: the role of the United States. In both Pakistan and Egypt, US policy has been a major determinant in the outcome of internal power struggles, especially those which concern military-civilian relations. Pakistan did not become a militarized (near-failed) state without the active intervention of the United States. A major Cold War ally against the non-aligned India, the United States backed Pakistan with billions of dollars in military aid since its founding in order to contain the alleged threat of communism. This carried over and was intensified during the Soviet invasion of neighboring Afghanistan.
The massive and unbalanced aid flow to Pakistan’s military establishment has resulted in the weakening of Pakistan’s civilian institutions, creating a nuclear military power that can and does ignore the rule of law with the blessing of heavy US support. In the process, the United States has enriched a core of Pakistani military officers who have used the billions of dollars to fund various pet projects, while preventing any serious oversight from the Pakistani civilian government. This continues even as Pakistan’s military and intelligence services back al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. There should be no doubt that the United States has underwritten the Pakistani military’s domineering, lawless hand in Pakistan’s domestic affairs so as to quell any real or alleged threats from other regional powers.
Thank you and shukriya for proving that Friedman will always be a God damn idiot. Read this.
Feminism, Imperialism and Orientalism: The Challenge of the ‘Indian Woman’
Ramusack identifies the approach of most Western feminists of the time as “maternal imperialists”, including those who supported Indian nationalism but still believed that the colonial government improved the condition of women. As Jayawardena makes clear, they saw Indian women as their special burden, and saw themselves as the agents of progress and civilisation. The subject Indian woman in a decaying colonised society was the model of everything they were struggling against and was thus the measure of Western feminists’ own progress. British feminists saw Britain as the centre of both democracy and feminism, and when they claimed political rights they also claimed the right to participate in the empire, seeing female influence as crucial for the empire’s preservation. They sought power for themselves in the imperial project, and used the opportunities and privileges of empire as a means of resisting patriarchal constraints and creating their own independence.
Reading this brought true joy to me. More power to Fahd.
As Jasbir Puar puts it, ‘homosexual subjects who have limited legal rights in the US civil context gain significant representational currency when situated within the global scene of the war on terror’.
Praise be. Don’t forget to read this.
Orbala - How Not to Talk About Malala Yousafzai in Tanqeed magazine.
An excellent article by Orbala who argues that while criticizing US drone strikes is extremely important, one should not forget to criticize and bring attention to the ongoing attacks by the Pakistani military in the tribal agencies as part of being an ally in the so-called US “War on Terrorism.”
Make sure you read this.
This is an important piece outlining why and how The Kite Runner is as problematic as it is. It might seem like an innocent tale about loyalty and friendship at first, but upon further analysis, you’ll see how it is yet another way of perpetuating stereotypical binaries, Orientalism, and a perpetual celebration of the West and its ideologies, culture and existence.
She further states:
“In addition to government practices that defined Americans and Arabs/Muslims as binary opposites, government and media discourses relied on old Orientalist tropes that positioned American national identity as democratic, modern, and free and the Middle East as primitive, barbaric, and oppressive” (Alsultany 594). I will make the point that the same occurs within Hosseini’s novel: that despite its attempts to challenge these stereotypic binaries, the novel only ends up reinforcing them.
It’s not strictly about supporting or denouncing a certain group that does x or y. It’s about framework, context, perspective, and using basic methodological tools. That article we posted as a submission from one of our readers wasn’t posted because we disagree with the Malian’s right to determine their own circumstances. It was posted because of its framework. When the article mentions “women still walk through the streets without veils” or that “beer and wine are still served in restaurants” and that “minarets have become a symbol of violence,” this perpetuates a dichotomy that suggests societies are defined by what their women wear, what their people drink, how their people act, where their people pray, etc. This also assumes that the writer’s values and ideals are/should be applied universally.
There is little regard to the historical context with Mali being a former French colony. There is little regard to the geographical context with Mali being located in a region that is experiencing significant transitional junctures. There is little regard to the political economic context with Mali being one of the poorest countries in the world, partly due to the structural adjustment programs that enriched a small portion of the population, and dire environmental conditions that have made the agricultural sector an inconsistent source of income. There is little regard to the cultural context with the initial uprising being one that strived to establish a state by a group long-oppressed by the region’s powerful actors.
The author tops it all off by conflating the situation in Mali with the situation in Somalia. The post did not serve to inform, but rather it served to reproduce the dominant narrative which feeds into existing power structures. Consider the above before responding to what you deem to be a “dreadful set of circumstances.”
None of the people who manage this blog are from there or have an academic background in that region, so it would be inappropriate for us to comment on the coverage.
We do, as stated in the side description, welcome submissions.
In his piece in The Atlantic, de Bellaigue talks about how “mischievously” an Iranian official holds open the door for his European counter-parts, in an attempt to “wrong-foot” them. I mean, really, you sneaky, sneaky Iranian, what business do you have holding open the door for others?
I was outraged. So I wrote a reply. The above excerpt is from it. So is the following —
This is yet another piece, along with the movie Argo and many, many essays and articles that are appearing trying to express how “different”, “shady, “ambiguous”, “hypocritical” and “mischievous” Iranians supposedly are. All of this then turns into a backdrop against which Iranians as a whole are demonized and through which war-mongering rhetoric is only further fueled.
No, Dominic. You mean it was a rotting pit of human rights violations, intolerance, slavery, censorship, land theft, unmarked graves for natives, sodomy against slaves, interrogation that involved mutilating bodies for extraction of information, dragging people behind Land Rovers, more brutality, systematic erasure of histories and identities, and a whole lot more.
I don’t see an inkling of tolerance, decency in a rule of law that was oppressive, racist, expansionist-based and, most importantly, illegal. I am just amazed to know that this man and Ferguson and others like them are still regarded as “authentic historians” in the US and the UK.
What do these guys smoke.
He lives for this, though. Every “fact-check” just makes him more powerful. The only answer is to deport him and build a fence along the Atlantic coast and around all of the Ivy League schools.
Alex Pareene, your god damn brilliance.
Remember when Pankaj Mishra rightly called Niall Ferguson a racist and apologist for imperialism and colonialism? Remember when Niall Ferguson defended the British Empire including its human rights violations in the Subcontinent, now Pakistan and India? Remember when Mishra reviewed Ferguson’s god awful “Civilisation: The West and the Rest”?
Let’s just say Niall Ferguson is a pathetic waste of space.
And happily married to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
[Great find and submission by tightasaknot. Thanks!]
For a largely Arab country it’s a bizarre thing that in Lebanon (Beirut specifically), women care more about their appearance than men. Males lead a rather sullied existence, priming their closely cut mini-beards and, from my own observations, eating rather a lot. The formula in Lebanon’s capital for women is fashion-forward, from their choice of cloth to the decisions they make surgically.
Fashion and religion, they’ve never led a happy existence. Muslim, Christian and Druze women in Beirut dress surprisingly skimpy. There are vests and silks and bikinis and cashmere and come-hither off-the-shoulder numbers. Then there are the fashionable alterations to the body: lifts, tucks, laser etc. which is evident everywhere. The female body is the greatest canvas, the sculptor’s workable clay to which they can add/remove, inject/suck-out. Beirut is glitz and glamour through money and surgery. The exploration for eternal youth.
And drum roll please:
Beirut has now overtaken both LA and Miami as the plastic surgery capital of the world. Yes, Beirut. On the cusp of the Mediterranean, in the Arabian hinterland (??), where women’s fashion largely consists of this black burka or that black burka (?!?!). Yet thousands of women are now visiting their doctors and clinics for some very personal alterations.
(Read the rest of it here)
I can’t even summon the energy to point out everything that’s wrong with this. Except to say that my Arabian hinterland and his Arabian hinterland clearly aren’t the same place.
After it was revealed that he blatantly plagiarized* a paragraph from one of his recent columns, TIME has temporarily suspended his column pending further review.
We’re gonna miss Fareed Zakaria’s bullshit. To honor his legacy, here is a link to some of his bullshit we’ve tracked and archived for the laughs and the cries.
*Correction: He blatantly plagiarized multiple paragraphs LOL
“Pakistan’s new weapon of mass destruction.” I’m not even commenting on that.
Let’s just limit a Pakistani female politician to her fashion taste because obviously a Pakistani female politician is only about her fashion taste. Great journalism going on there, Zeliger. You should win an internationally acclaimed medal for your astute and totally serious analysis coming from the West on an Eastern female political figure.
Jadaliyya. Naturally brilliant.
the rest is… special.
Joan Juliet Buck: Mrs. Assad Duped Me via The Daily Beast
I have no added commentary.
To cite Orientalism Is Alive in an academic paper.
That’s an awesome goal. Do it.
Syria is Iraq by Thomas Friedman
Where Friedman sort of misses one little detail in his super simplified comparison: um, Iraq’s rentier-based economy? Maybe? Just a little bit important?