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<nettime> on cleaning the shit at one's home
Gita Hashemi on Wed, 1 Mar 2006 13:53:10 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> on cleaning the shit at one's home


i'm forwarding the article below in the interest of diversity of 
voices and views and as follow up to the recent debate on nettime 
regarding the cartoons and the 'cartoonified' representations of the 
events of the past several weeks in the mass media and in certain 
commentary on nettime.  i'll paste the article below and follow it 
with my commentary.

----------------------------------
--- FORWARDED ARTICLE ---
----------------------------------

Don't be silenced by extremists
A plea from 11 Canadian Muslim academics and activists:
Feb. 28, 2006. 10:37 AM

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_PrintFriendly&c=Article&cid=1141037292287&call_pageid=968256290204

The authors

Jehad Aliweiwi, former executive director of the Canadian Arab Federation.
Taj Hashmi, sessional professor, Simon Fraser University.
Amir Hassanpour, associate professor, University of Toronto.
Tarek Fatah, host, The Muslim Chronicle, CTS-TV.
Tareq Y. Ismael, professor, University of Calgary.
Jacqueline S. Ismael, professor, University of Calgary.
El-Farouk Khaki, secretary general, Muslim Canadian Congress.
Shahrzad Mojab, associate professor, University of Toronto.
Haideh Moghissi, professor, York University.
Munir Pervaiz, secretary, Pakistan-Canadian Writers Forum.
Saeed Rahnema, professor, York University.

A curtain of fear has descended on the intelligentsia of the West, 
including Canada. The fear of being misunderstood as Islamophobic has 
sealed their lips, dried their pens and locked their keyboards.

With hundreds dead around the world in the aftermath of the now 
infamous Danish cartoons, Canada's writers, politicians and media 
have imposed a frightening censorship on themselves, refusing to 
speak their minds, thus ensuring that the only voices being heard are 
that of the Muslim extremists and the racist right.

Emboldened by the free rein they have received, Canada's Muslim 
extremists and their supporters flexed their muscles at Queen's Park 
last week, with speakers promising to drown the Danish people "in 
their own blood".

A protestor carried the sign "Kurt Westgaard - countdown to justice 
has begun ... it's just a matter of time."

Elsewhere, in Pakistan, a Muslim woman was pictured carrying a sign, 
"God Bless Hitler," and a Muslim cleric placed a $1 million reward 
for the murder of a Danish cartoonist. Embassies were burned, 
churches ruined and hundreds died in different Muslim countries.

Undoubtedly, Muslims were angered by the insulting cartoons. But the 
overblown reaction was partly due to their pent-up frustrations, and 
partly the result of orchestrated mischief by certain Islamist 
leaders.

Islamic societies, run by variances of autocratic regimes, are in 
turmoil. Ravaged by rampant corruption, a widening gap between rich 
and poor, and suppression of dissent, the people in these societies 
have lost hope in their own futures.

The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the unending 
occupation of the Palestinian territories and the quagmire of the 
Kashmiri dispute, have led many Muslims and non-religious peoples of 
Islamic origin, to view the West as the source of their countries' 
problems.

The growing popularity of the extremists in Muslim societies, the 
electoral success of the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, Shia 
radicals in Iraq, and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, rather 
than signifying the growing religiosity of the peoples of the Middle 
East, reflect political despair in the region.

In the West, people of Muslim origin, be they religious or secular, 
are facing growing racism, Islamophobia and discrimination reflected 
in immigration policies and anti-terrorist legislation.

The cartoon crisis was the straw that broke the camel's back.

The Muslim extremists seized the opportunity and added fuel to fire. 
The calculated role played by the two Danish Muslim extremists, 
backed by Islamic fundamentalist regimes, is a case in point. They 
not only aggravated an already inflammatory situation, but added 
their own infuriating images, never published in the West, as they 
took their case to clerics in the Middle East.

Both, Imam Abu Laban and Ahmad Akkari have escaped the attention and 
scrutiny their acts deserved. These two men, who now sit in the 
comfort of their homes in Denmark, should be held accountable for 
their criminal actions.

For too long the media have created an image that portrays 
communities from the Muslim world as a monolith entity, best 
represented by extremists.

The media have created a false dichotomy that pits these Muslim 
extremists against the West. The fact is that in all Muslim 
countries, progressive citizens are trying to break loose from the 
tyranny of the autocrats and clerics and wish to develop a civil 
society where citizenship is based not on inherited race or religion, 
but the equality of all, irrespective of faith, race, sexuality or 
gender.

In Tehran today, the city's bus drivers are on strike. Thousands have 
been arrested; entire families have disappeared. Yet, this has not 
made a blip in the western media.

If the same bus drivers were burning books or embassies, this would 
certainly be on the evening news. This is an appalling example that 
only outrageous, violent expressions of faith by Muslim extremists 
are taken as the aspirations of people from Islamic societies.

It is time for Canadians to stand up for the hard-won democratic 
values that the Muslim extremists oppose.

By rejecting the agenda of the extremists, Canada's intelligentsia 
would be standing shoulder to shoulder with the Muslims and secular 
individuals from the region who reject both Islamophobia and 
Islamism. Islamism is not the new revolutionary movement against 
global forces of oppression, as a section of the left in this country 
erroneously perceives.

Today, the religious right and autocracies in the so-called Islamic 
world are united in their call for passing legislation to make any 
discussion on religion a criminal offence.

This, at a time when many writers in Jordan, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan 
and Afghanistan are rotting in jails, facing charges of apostasy and 
blasphemy.

We call on Canadian politicians and intellectuals to stand up for 
freedom of expression.

Our democratic values, including free speech, should not be 
compromised under the garb of fighting hate.

To fight Islamophobia and racism, we do not need to sacrifice free 
speech and debate.

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--- END FORWARDED ARTICLE ---
----------------------------------------

i totally agree with the authors' call on "western" intelligentsia, 
but i find their simplistic discourse around "free expression" 
unsettling.  since they've unpacked so many other myths, i think it 
shows a certain degree of political calculation to leave the free 
expression discourse untouched.  from a tactical point of view, this 
form of intervention is no doubt advantageous.  but calling in the 
same breath on canadian politicians, the same politicians who also 
remain silent about israeli atrocities and occupation in palestine 
and are fully complicit in the u.s.-led war in afghanistan and iraq 
(haiti and elsewhere), to take a position against islamic extremism 
is a move made from a place of political desperation (perhaps of the 
same kind that the authors observe in people living under islamic 
theocracies) rather than ethical clarity.  i find this hard to accept 
except as a situated, local and tactical response (and perhaps this 
is the only way to understand/respond to the events and responses).

"free expression" is not just an ethical principle but is also a 
legal discourse and thus must be understood in the context of power 
relations.  to ignore its constructed and contextual nature as a code 
is inherently an error of fundamentalism.  all legal codes are 
defined within the paradigms of dominant powers, and these are as 
corrupt, coercive and violent in the so-called democracies 
(guantanamo bay, abu gharib, etc.) as they are in theocracies, of all 
religious brands.  the assumptions that legal discourses provide 
solutions to our social and political ills, or they should, or that 
the law is the primary site of social relations and political 
power/resistance are logocentric and fundamentally fundamentalist. 
the charge of blasphemy is used against political dissidents in 
islamic states - frequently without any actual evidence of words/acts 
of blasphemy by people who are targeted - is also a charge laid 
within the framework of the dominant legal discourse.  when canadian 
immigration deports refugees from islamic states back to their 
countries of origin, the immigration court often upholds the laws of 
these countries, even those contravening UN charters and 
international conventions.  the same logic/policy is currently being 
used against u.s. war resisters (by unofficial estimates numbering in 
the hundreds) who are seeking asylum in canada.  discourse of law is 
always and invariably a political discourse.

having said that, i'd like to briefly state a few points raised 
in/inspired by the forwarded article:

1- media representations of the post-cartoon events - as in majority 
of media representations of anything and everything in "islamic 
countries and societies" - have been sensationalist, ignorant and 
reductionist in that they have focused on extremist voices only. 
this is a continuity rather than a novelty.

2- by remaining ignorant of and/or being out of touch with the 
indigenous movements for democracy in countries under islamic states, 
"western intelligentsia" have become complicit in the 
orientalist/imperialist discourse of western states.

3- the publishing of the cartoons and the delayed reactions by 
"muslims" were equally constructed, calculated and orchestrated, the 
one by the racist danish right and the other by islamic 
fundamentalists, also on the political "right."  western 
racism/islamophobia and islamic fundamentalism are mirrors facing 
each other and between them is a historical pile of shit, ad 
infinitum.

4- meanwhile, there remain the undeniable facts that western states' 
wars of occupation and systemic campaigns of exploitation have been 
consistently intensified in "muslim" lands and at their cost first 
and foremost; and that the islamic states are fully implicated in the 
process.

5- s/he who muddies the water keeps us all from seeing the sharks.

6- really, it should not be a surprise to anybody that "we the 
muslims" have debates amongst ourselves, such as i'm exposing here, 
for your information.  some of these debates, including those 
for/against secularism, go way back, by centuries.  that's why i take 
offense when western intellectuals conflate the issues by projecting 
their xenophobic fears of "multiculturalism" (btw, north american 
critical race discourse has been unpacking that myth for a couple of 
decades now, so don't worry, nothing will really change with 
multiculturalism) onto an already complex and contentious 
history/present.  self-reflection is a precondition of ethical 
clarity and clarity of action.


finally, and this is in response to florian cramer's departing note 
to nettime, i see no reason for turning a public conversation into a 
private one.  like cramer, i got a number of messages sent to me off 
the list supporting my intervention.  puzzling, this is.  we're all 
*public* intellectuals, after all, and the topic is a matter of 
public interest/concern.  the fragmentation makes me wonder about 
nettime as a social communicative space.  cramer is right that the 
cartoon/ish debate touches on issues central to nettime's 
self-understanding.  i personally don't think that nettime's 
self-understanding needs to be a fixed and homogenous one in order 
for it to function as a public space.  and if the core principles we 
can reasonably assume we all agree on are *for* democracy (however 
undefined we tend to leave that term), then nettime has to be able at 
the very least to sustain conflict, not to avoid or quell it.

be well.

gita


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