This is pathetically reductive, and it is shameful to see it coming from “Egyptian Atheists”, or what I would assume to be a non-Western source. The argument made is that these nations used to be free and democratic before Islam “took over”. Such arguments are ignorant, malicious, and do nothing but further negative misconceptions of Islam and people in Southwest Asia.
First, here is a history lesson on Afghanistan. From 1933 until 1973, Afghanistan was ruled under a man named Mohammed Zahir Shah. While he was a devout Muslim, he had a Western education in France. His reign marked four decades of peace and stability. With the introduction of a constitution Afghanistan progressively developed into a modern democratic state with free elections and a parliament, as well as a massive push for women’s rights, universal suffrage, education, worker’s rights, and civil rights. So yes, Afghanistan was doing well in the 60’s as this photo suggests. However, the photo doesn’t give you context for what went wrong.
During this period in time, the Soviet Union had a strong influence in Afghanistan. They supported modernization and education in the Afghan state. The United States, not wanting to risk their hegemony in the region, clearly had a major problem with this. They were terrified of the spread of Communism and quickly developed a plan. Afghanistan would become the Cold War’s chessboard. In the late 80’s, the Saudis, Pakistanis, and the Americans brought in radical Islamists from around the world. They armed, trained, and directed them into a militant force, and they were called the mujahideen. They became the US’ main offense against the Soviets. It wasn’t to defend the Afghans against the Soviets who were ready to pull out, but to deliver as much harm against them imaginable. Carter wanted Afghanistan to be the Soviet’s “Vietnam”. And it was. When they finally retreated Afghanistan spun into chaos and a civil war ensued under the militant mujahideen warriors. Within this framework we saw the rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and of course Osama bin Laden. All under the auspices of the United States security forces and American tax-payer monies. Clinton’s bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan was directly responsible for their rise. Oh, and then in what was most likely the greatest immoral injustice of the 21st century the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 only further driving the besieged nation further into turmoil.
What does this mean? The mujahideen, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda do not represent thousands of years of Afghan culture and Islam. They are a direct reaction to Western imperialism. The root cause for the disparity between the two pictures is foreign intervention. Not Islam, and certainly not Afghan people.
Second, here is a history on Iran. Before 1953, Iran was ruled under a democratically elected man called Mohammad Mosaddegh. Under his reign Iran saw a progressive movement of social and political reforms. During this time Britain tried to establish an oil company (British Petroleum) on Iranian soil, and promised to share profit and technology with the Iranian government. However the British, as usual, didn’t honor their agreement. They, and the United States, began to steal Iran’s oil. Prime Minister Mosaddegh would not stand for this and demanded the seizure of the oil fields and the ouster of the British. In response, the British and the United States overthrew him in a coup and installed the Shah who was a brutal tyrant and ruled the nation under an absolute monarchy. The women in this picture did live well, but that was because they were members of a very small minority and in the Shah’s social circle. Everyone else in Iran lived under harsh conditions. The economy was failing, education was abysmal, and the entire nation was rural and very religious.
Today, Iran’s health care is better. They have more political freedom. Education is improving, and the country is slowly globalizing. The economy is slightly better off, however that is quickly changing with the Western world’s sanctions against Iran in midst of their nuclear propaganda campaign at the behest of Israel.
What does this mean? Essentially, the Islamic Revolution had little to do with the rise of an Islamic state; it was the resistance of Western imperialism. Almost every social and political group was united in resisting the Shah, from the communists to the secularists to the Islamists. They demanded Iranian sovereignty and political freedoms. Is the current regime in Iran perfect? Absolutely not, and I’m passionately against it. But this picture is extremely distortive of the truth.
Unfortunately, we have gone full circle. Today, the United States is supporting terrorist cells in Iran in an attempt to oust the current Iranian regime. They want to establish another pro-Western government like the Shah and “try again” where they failed. They have been doing this for decades and it hasn’t been working well. That is why we are now seeing media hysteria against Iran, and their false quest to achieve nuclear power and bomb Israel. Iran is a peaceful nation, and always has been. They have never attacked another nation, and have absolutely no intention of attacking Israel or anyone else for that matter. The United States’ war against Iran is rooted solely to seek revenge for their failed foreign policy in the 70’s and to once again take control of their natural resources.
In conclusion, if you think you can understand decades of history in Iran and Afghanistan, or anywhere for that matter, by looking at a photograph or two, you have absolutely no right to engage in intellectual discussion or give your opinion on anything. Ever.
Kenyan TV series Usoni plans to flip the script on immigration stories by imagining a future in which the sun is no longer visible in most parts of the world, leaving Africa as the sole oasis of sunshine.
Had. To. Share.
"how will i explain gay couples to my children”
if you can explain to your children that an immortal man in a red suit who lives in the north pole travels around the entire world on one night every year on a sleigh carried by magical flying deer i think itll be easy enough to tell them two people are in love
"The Arab slave trade is a fact of history, and anti-black racism in the region is something that must be addressed."
This is an important read, really.
As someone from a Black family from this ‘Arab world’ I’m happy to see Arabs willing to start a discussion about anti-black racism, yet I find it very ironic that the author presents Gaddafi as our anti-racism hero who respected African identity. As a proud Amazigh I get irritated everytime anti-imperialists forget Gaddafi hated and denied our Amazigh identity, which is, in case some don’t know, also African. So it is false to say this guy ‘empowers’ African peoples.
Also disappointing that a Palestinian who fights against the attempts to erase the Palestinian culture and history doesn’t notice that she is praising a man who tried to erase our cultures and history and made it illegal to use our language.
A month ago, I bit my lip, cried and held a friend’s hand as she went through the emotionally draining and physically harrowing process of a home medical abortion in Egypt.
Abortion happens in Egypt. The anti-choice chest-beating religious leaders and basha politicians bear little influence on…
[Photo caption: a yellow sign with two silhouettes, next to a road, reads, in Dutch: denk aan onze kinderen] Sign reads, in Dutch, “Think of our children”. Photo via.
Sometimes you drive around these small Dutch villages, little bucolic enclaves in the middle of mist covered landscapes, beautifully dotted with farmlands and well kept yards. These villages are also, invariably, overwhelmingly white. Sometimes, when you drive around in the narrow streets you see signs that read “Think of our children” with some graphic pointing to speed limits. These signs, which are, at the root, an emotional plea to drivers, attempt to elicit care while circulating around areas where children usually play. The idea, of course, and one nobody would dispute, is that children’s lives are worth preserving and being careful about. Given my own personal history and my on going archive of “ungrievable lives”, I’ve always felt a quiet and sorrowful discomfort around those signs. This discomfort does not stem from the fact that I believe those specific children are not worth protecting but because I have seen first hand, and because I carry the scars on my body, of the lives that are not considered worth protecting. These lives, I am told, deserve care; these other lives, are not even worth mourning.
This week, Verene Shepherd, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights said in an interview that she would object to the character of Zwarte Piet if she lived in the Netherlands. From the linked article:
Verene Shepherd, who is Jamaican, said in the interview that the UN working group cannot understand why ‘people in the Netherlands do not see this is a throwback to slavery and that in the 21st century this practice should stop.’
Last week it emerged the committee is looking into the Sinterklaas celebrations and the role of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) following complaints that it is racist.
I have written extensively about the character of Zwarte Piet. I have been interviewed, quoted, dissected and even threatened for writing about this topic. In fact, it was my writing about Zwarte Piet that originated my friendship (and many working collaborations) with Quinsy Gario, the young man that was arrested, a couple of years ago, for wearing a t-shirt stating that “Zwarte Piet is racism”. It was Quinsy who originally presented the Zwarte Piet related documentation to the UN Commissioner last year. It was also Quinsy who, a bit over two weeks ago, had a hearing at Amsterdam’s City Council to request that the city wide festivities do not include this racist character. So, when we had lunch earlier this week, I was not shocked to hear the latest development: he is getting death threats and threats of unspeakable violence from a great number of white Dutch people who are incensed because he dared speak up about the racist history of this character. Dutch tabloid media is mocking him, tv and radio commentators refer to his work in the condescending tone reserved for those that are not to be acknowledged as intellectual equals, those that are to be treated like a nuisance. The very same racist tropes that created the character of Zwarte Piet are now being unleashed over the Black man protesting them.
Yesterday, in response to the UN Commissioner’s statements, two white, Dutch publicists, Kevin van Boeckholtz and Bas Vreugde started a Facebook petition to “Save Zwarte Piet” (link to news in Dutch). In the Facebook page they state they want public support to keep the character in its current incarnation: a Blackface, racist, colonial depiction of Sinterklaas’ enslaved helper. At the time of this writing, more than 1.9 million Dutch people have “Liked” this page and signed the petition. In a country of a bit over 16 million people, more than 10% of the population has publicly stated that they refuse to consider any changes to their tradition. The message is loud and clear: a significant number of Dutch people would rather cling to their racism than consider any other perspective for change.
A bit over two weeks ago, The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), an organization of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies, announced that they intend to sue The Netherlands, UK and France seeking slavery reparations. Both Britain and The Netherlands compensated slave owners and traders at the time of emancipation (with sums that amount to billions in today’s currency) but they never equally recognized the effects of the Transatlantic trade on its victims. This legal action brought forward by CARICOM at the beginning of October hardly made Dutch news. The legacy of slavery in The Netherlands, once again, silenced and swept under the rug. Which is to say, business as usual, considering the topic was not taught at all in Dutch schools until well into the 90s and even now, it is taught devoid of historical context, removed from the consequences for present day descendants. Even when the undeniable link between racist caricatures of Black people and the Dutch responsibility in the creation of these racial hierarchies are brought up, we get a petition signed by more than 10% of the population.
In its lawsuit, Caricom claims slavery condemned the region to a poverty that still afflicts it today.
And they are comparing their demand to Germany recompensing Jewish people for the Holocaust and New Zealand compensating Maoris.
'The awful legacy of these crimes against humanity ought to be repaired for the developmental benefit of our Caribbean societies and all our peoples,' said Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of the tiny Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
He called it a ‘historic wrong that has to be righted’.
Verene Shepherd, who is coordinating Jamaica’s demands for reparations, said their slave ancestors ‘got nothing’ when they were freed. ‘They got their freedom and they were told ‘Go develop yourselves’,’ she said.
The arguments we hear the most from white, Dutch people who wish to preserve the character of Zwarte Piet in its current incarnation center around emotions. This, we are told, is a character from our childhoods. We love Sinterklaas. We have such fond memories of these festivities. This character was never intended to be racist, it was simply a bit of a jester, a comic relief. Again and again, we are told, we need to preserve these feelings, the “tradition” itself merely an excuse for the preservation of white Dutch children’s emotions. “Think of our children” all over again. And all over again, the reminder that the feelings worth preserving, the lives worth cherishing are those of white Dutch children. Even if those emotions come at the expense of Black children whose cultural representation amounts to tired, old, racist stereotypes. Even if those emotions come at the expense of death threats for the people who oppose them. Just like there are “ungrievable lives”, present day Dutch society wants us to know that there is “ungrievable racism”. And they will not do a thing to change that.
The Zwarte Piet debate has never been as strong and harsh as this year, and I have to say it’s pretty depressing if not unsurprising. I mean, if elections would be held right now, the PVV would be the biggest party. An outward (even if they’ll deny it with every breath) racist and islamophobic party is the biggest party right now. I’ve had history professors at university draw direct parallels between the PVV (“Freedom Party”) and the NSDAP (Hitler’s nazi party), but you’d better not try do this outside of certain company because you’ll be boo-ed out of the room.
Back to Zwarte Piet. Last year, at the age of 23, I was finally put off Zwarte Piet when I saw Bibi Faldalla’s documentary. Seeing heartbroken parents telling the story of how their child got called “Zwarte Piet” in school contrasted with cheerful pasty white Dutch people saying that this isn’t really a problem and that everyone knows Piet is black because he travels up and down chimneys a lot and that no one associates “Black Pete” with “Black People” made me cringe. How can you maintain that something is a harmless tradition when you’ve just been told that people have been harmed by it? I couldn’t anymore, and I’ll admit that right up until then I’d used most of the arguments the people on my screen had used myself. Real people are more important than a tradition.
Let’s jump to this year. Quincy Gario made moves to ban the grand entry (intocht) of Sinterklaas into Amsterdam. It’s important to understand what a big deal this is. Every year Sinterklaas comes to the country and has one official intocht, televised on national television with well-known commentators (in my days it was Aart Staartjes, of Dutch Sesame Street fame) and actors involved. Just typing in “nationale intocht” in youtube gives you hours of televised material. And these days the intocht is preceded by a couple of weeks of television programs on several different networks, usually revolving around the Pieten working hard to get everything ready for the intocht and the celebrations. This official intocht changes city every year, but there are dozens (if not hundreds) more across the country and when I was a teenager there were occasions where I helped by dressing up as Zwarte Piet and handing out candy to kids. I’m willing to bet that almost everyone I know has done this at some point. This is how deeply ingrained this phenomenon is.
So what happens when someone tries to stop this? Hell breaks loose. It’s not been fun to go on facebook this last month. “Zwarte Piet is racism” has 11,153 likes right now, with 8 of my friends liking the page. The “Pietitie” to save Zwarte Piet has 2,1 million like, with 40 of my friends liking it. (To know, I have 220 facebook friends.) And discussion on my facebook has been hard, with people saying we “should be ashamed for making such a big deal about this when there’s people being murdered for the colour of their skin or their sexuality in other countries”. These same people (thankfully only one of them was a facebook friend) aren’t willing to listen to the arguments that 1) because I care about this issue doesn’t mean I don’t care about those other, and arguably, yes, more severe issues and 2) that I don’t feel like I can believably be upset about racism (and queerphobia, for that matter) in other countries when I let it slide in my own. This is an issue I can directly influence right here and now.
But these reactions are pretty mild compared to what POCs who speak up have to endure. From being dismissed as “Zeurpiet” (“Whiny Pete”) to receiving death threats, every single one is staggering in its racism and aggression. Here are some of the things the public told talkshow host Humberto Tan, who has consistently spoken up against racism during his career) after he discussed Zwarte Piet on his show:
"You’re not even black. You’re brown! shhhhhhhh"
"Secretly Humtero Tan is the Head Pete."
"You really feel discriminated against, eh, Humtero… GOOD!"
"Humberto Tan is on the ground crying He’s been beaten up by the police They thought it was a Zwarte Piet"
"Time for a new tradition. If we’re talking about racism. I just think that if we have to get rid of the Zwarte Pieten, we have to reinstate an old tradition. You know, just set fire to a nigger every year and celebrate the abolition of Zwarte Piet. Maybe this’ll be allowed then."
Humberto Tan comments that these reactions “come from a hot head and a cold heart” and suggests that if we want to justify this traditions by saying that Zwarte Piet is black because came through the chimney, we can hold onto that and, you know, give Zwarte Piet some soot wipes on his face and call it a day.
This suggestion is very reasonable, because it seems to me that this movement isn’t about getting rid of Sinterklaas, which is what proponents of Zwarte Piet would have you believe. It’s about having people recognise the problematic elements and then changing the festivities so these elements aren’t included anymore. One option is getting rid of Zwarte Piet entirely, but since he’s as integral to the holiday as Sinterklaas is, this isn’t a viable option. Changing him into something that isn’t a racist caricature (that until at least the late eighties usually had a Suriname or Antille accent)? Not that hard. Dutch expats living in the US already have a White Pete, same costume, no blackface. The children? They don’t care. They’re still getting candy!
People’s unwillingness to see their own bigotry, hiding behind the shield of being the Most Tolerant Country (ha!), combined with OP’s post about how the facebook campaign to “save Zwarte Piet” was started by an ad company, makes me feel very disappointed in my country. Sadly, it’s not surprising, because not only is the PVV the biggest party, generations of children have been taught in school that Indonesia’s independence war was “police actions" on part of the Dutch government. They only changed this within the last decade. Oh, and official apologies for the mass murder in a village during the war (1945-1947!) was only issued on the 12th of September this year.
My country is so fucked up when it comes to this stuff and the vast majority of the people is’nt even willing to see it.
Thanks for your honesty.
If anyone is willing to link to or provide English captions for the documentary linked above, I’m sure many people would be very grateful.
Just in case people really do not know what this is, I’ve included a few stills below a cut.
A show based on all White women, but women no less, celebrates Columbus Day (already a problem) by telling people to “explore” as if personal “exploration” itself cannot exist without connection to a thief and mass murdering, rapist, genocidal White supremacist patriarch.
Now, when I call them “clueless” I do not mean to imply that they are ignorant of the history of Columbus. Stuff like this above is done strategically. It is marketing. White women pissing on people of colour, especially women of colour is a thing. It’s a marketing strategy. It’s a platform builder and career move in mainstream feminism itself. It’s more than just ignorance via White privilege. It is intentional.
Let’s clear up some things to help limit the ignorance that will come upon reblog:
- I do not care if Lena Dunham herself did not send this tweet. It is HER show. She isn’t just an actor on the show. Look it up. Plus…her track record on race speaks for itself…
- I do not care about White Tears™. I do not want to hear a single thing about solidarity because White women have no clue what that is. The few who do, call out fellow White feminists, and get ignored by them. So there’s that.
- Scandal. Now I know the really simplistic thinkers that make up the haters of Scandal will suggest that "well Scandal is not feminist either." Magically, I never said it was. I speak out about the misogynoir lauded at the character “Olivia Pope” and the Black women who are the fans. I never said “Olivia Pope” is feminist icon or the voice of the generation. And let’s not even dare compare the feminist stances of Lena Dunham and Kerry Washington because that already does not go well with White female celebrities versus Black female celebrites.
- I do not give a fuck if you like this show. That’s not the point here.
- Don’t you muthafuckin’ dare try to suggest that I am never vocal about anything else. A White woman already tried that today on Twitter. This is a standard silencing tactic. So is “well why are you surprised?” Did I muthafuckin’ say I am “shocked” anywhere here?
- No, I will not ignore racism from White women because we are the same gender.
- No, I did not have to make my tweets any nicer than they are. Fuck tone policing.
- Yes, it is unacceptable for shows and people who claim to be the “voices” of a generation to be so ignorant and calloused. I get it. They need attention. I understand. But the Emmys already worships this mess, so what further attention is needed? I mean…I don’t see Sleepy Hollow tweeting bullshit yet magically they’re brand new with sky high ratings and a multi-racial cast!
For the White women who look towards this show as some sort of example of feminism, why are your examples so racist? I mean, you do realize the parody account @WhiteFeminist retweeted this show’s tweet as is. As is! No extra satire was needed. Well…damn.