maraahmed.com

un cahier perlé

October 18, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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a tribute to my unforgettable aunt and uncle

rafique ahmed qureshi, my mamoon jaan, my mom’s eldest brother whom she loved like a father, has passed away. “surely we belong to god and to him shall we return.” he was an incredibly, intimidatingly brilliant man: well-read, articulate in a precise yet idiomatic way both in urdu and english, with a lively mind and a spectacular memory. he was born in gohana, india, in 1921. he studied at the anglo arabic college (delhi) and then at st stephen’s college (also in delhi) from where he graduated with a master’s in history. after partition, he moved to pakistan in a kafila (foot convoy) of 80,000 people. he was a young man at the time. he lived and made that momentous history. in pakistan, he worked for the railways. mamoon jaan’s house, in mayo gardens, will remain one of my most cherished childhood haunts – a sprawling mansion set amidst gardens with multicolored roses, all archways and verandas and heavy wooden doors and outdoor ceiling fans. it was magical, a place of endless adventure and discovery, a second home, something rooted and safe and permanent. that’s what mamoon jaan was like in a way. when my grandfather died leaving a large family behind, a few years after partition, it was my uncle who stepped up to the plate and took care of things and people. he made everyone feel safe.

just a couple of months before, my mom’s eldest sister, farhat razi, left us. seven years younger than my uncle, she too was an intrepid young woman involved in political activism like the rest of her family. she was a stunning beauty. my mom tells me that her school friends used to make excuses to visit their home so they could sneak a glance at her famously gorgeous sister. but my khala was beautiful inside and out. she had a kind and generous heart. when my dad was seriously injured in a car accident in 1970 and was hospitalized for 3 months, my aunt took care of me and my sister while my mom attended my dad. that’s when we started calling her mummy, just like her own kids. she had the most delightful girlish laugh even in her old age and she made the most delicious bhujias and chutneys and parathas. everything came from the heart.

“surely we belong to god and to him shall we return.” may they both rest in peace. they will be deeply missed. they both left their benevolent mark on the world.

my uncle rafique ahmed qureshi (1921-2014) with his wife anwar qureshi and their firstborn, my cousin nurus sabah qureshi

my uncle rafique ahmed qureshi (1921-2014) with his wife anwar qureshi and their firstborn, my cousin nurus sabah qureshi

my aunt farhat razi (1928-2014)

my aunt farhat razi (1928-2014)

October 18, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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paris massacre of 1961

Frank Barat: En 1961, c’etait les algeriens. (17 octobre).
Aujourd’hui, c’est plutot les roms, comme quoi, la roue tourne et les choses evoluent. (merci Nadir Dendoune pour la photo)

paris massacre of 1961

paris massacre of 1961

October 18, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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A Conversation With Steven Salaita

this is an incredibly important event both for free speech and palestinian solidarity. hope u can join us!

“Digital Means, Political Ends, and Academic Freedom in the New Gilded Age: A Conversation With Steven Salaita”

Steven Salaita received his PhD in 2003 in Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. In the decade since, he published six books on topics ranging from Arab literature, to Anti-Arab racism in the United States, to the politics of Israel and Palestine. As a scholar, Salaita is not the sort to remain cloistered within the ivory tower. He is an activist. A Palestinian-American by heritage and identification, Salaita has been active in efforts to mobilize scholars to fight for justice for Palestinians.

In August, when Dr. Salaita was poised to begin a tenured professorship in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he was preemptively fired. His apparent offense? A series of provocative tweets that he authored during the then still ongoing war in Gaza.

Across the humanities and social sciences, faculty was outraged. Over 5,000 scholars from a range of disciplines and at various levels of professional advancement signed petitions pledging to boycott the University of Illinois until the situation had been rectified. Regardless, on September 11th, by an 8-1 vote, the University of Illinois’ Board of Trustees rejected Salaita’s appointment.

Both for scholars seeking to change the world and for scholars concerned merely with keeping their jobs, the Salaita affair is a parable for the academy in these trying times. The questions it raises are many: how might scholars with political commitments best advocate and organize? What opportunities and perils do digital media present? Does what one writes on social media belong to one’s private life or does it become part of one’s scholarly portfolio? What sorts of speech does the principle of academic freedom protect? What speech is exempt? Or, maybe, whose speech is exempt? And perhaps most crucially, in an era of the academic precariat, weakened public sector institutions, and hyper-empowered economic elites, just how sacred a principle does academic freedom remain?

On October 30th, come to the University of Rochester to see Professor Salaita discuss these issues and more. Framing commentary will be offered by Ted Brown and Tom Gibson of the University of Rochester, and Lisa Cerami of Nazareth College.

This event is generously cosponsored by the following departments, programs, and institutes at the University of Rochester: American Studies, Anthropology, Art and Art History, English, Film and Media Studies, The Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies, History, The Humanities Project, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, The Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies, and Visual and Cultural Studies.

October 18, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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Feminist games critic cancels talk after terror threat

such vile, terrifying misogyny.

ALEX HERN: Anita Sarkeesian, who is best known for her YouTube series “Tropes v Women in Video Games”, assessing various anti-feminist trends in gaming, was scheduled to talk at the university on Wednesday, when the unsigned email was sent. The author of the email threatened that if the talk was not cancelled, they would carry out an attack in the style of the 1989 Montreal massacre, when Marc Lépine murdered 14 women, claiming he was “fighting feminism”.

“I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs,” the letter said. “This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history and I’m giving you a chance to stop it. You have 24 hours to cancel Sarkeesian’s talk … Anita Sarkeesian is everything wrong with the feminist woman, and she is going to die screaming like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU. I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”

More here.

October 18, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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Open letter & video statements from arrested homeless advocates protesting county policies

Today, at 1:30pm, Sister Grace Miller, Tom Malthaner and Ryan Acuff will be back in court before Judge Thomas Rainbow Morse in downtown Rochester, NY, accused of criminal trespass in the 3rd degree for demanding justice from Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks after the county kicked homeless people out of the Civic Center Garage (a space used for temporary shelter for decades) with no plan to provide long-term, safe & clean housing. Come out and support them today! Housing is a human right! More here.

October 18, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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Muslim families look after Kolkata synagogues

PRIYANKA BORPUJARI: Generations of Muslim families have been taking care of the maintenance of three synagogues in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, which was once home to a thriving Jewish community. The city’s Jewish population has dwindled over the decades to just about 20 as compared to 3,000 at its peak before the country became independent from British rule in 1947. Khalil Khan, 71, has been working as caretaker of Beth El synagogue, one of the city’s three synagogues, for the past 55 years. His two sons – Anwar and Siraj – have chosen the same job. “It takes a week to clean the entire structure, its furniture and artifacts. By Friday afternoon, the work has to be complete,” said Rabbul Khan, whose father and two uncles have also previously worked at the Maghen David synagogue. “This is necessary for the namaaz [prayers] that they perform on Saturdays,” he told Al Jazeera. More here.

October 15, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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cultural competence panel at summit business conference

attended a business conference organized by rochester women’s network today. i was on a panel that discussed cultural competence. it was amazing to me how much overlap there was in what i had to say as a muslim woman, what gabrielle had to say as a trans-woman and what margie had to say as an african american woman. the things that we stressed were: openness, respect, immense diversity within any group and therefore the irrelevance of stereotypes, the toxic nature of dehumanization and condescension (i quoted wade davis: every culture that’s different from u is not a failed attempt at being u) and the richness of learning by allowing new information to seep in and affect beliefs and behavior.

i reminded everyone that identity is too porous and complex to contain w/i the narrow confines of religion, ethnicity or culture. the words that i liked most in the definition of cultural competence were suspension of judgment and discomfort. only if we’re willing to be intellectually and emotionally uncomfortable, do we find it possible to be truly open to other human beings. it’s much riskier than staying put, in one’s comfort zone.

of course, i had to make it broader and asked people to think about openness, respect, risk-taking and growth and apply these to nation-states: what kind of interruptions should we allow to our sovereignty, how can we rethink our politics on immigration and national borders, on the meaning of citizenship and universal human rights, on the narrative of us vs them, and the assumption of immutable identities that we are supposed to be at war with. discomfort is good if it can help us open up to our fellow human beings and our environment. more about the conference here.

here i am with fellow panelists margie lovett scott (left) and gabrielle hermosa (center).

margie lovett scott, gabrielle hermosa and mara ahmed

margie lovett scott, gabrielle hermosa and mara ahmed

October 13, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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KILL THE MESSENGER

watched “kill the messenger” last night. it’s an incredibly important film based on the life and work of gary webb, an american journalist who wrote the 1996 dark alliance series of articles (about CIA involvement in cocaine trafficking in the US). the articles were written for the san jose mercury news and later published collectively as a book. i wasn’t surprised by the fact that drug trafficking was used to finance an illegal war in nicaragua (against people who wanted to reform their govt and ensure free elections), that the money for this illegal war was raised by selling crack cocaine in impoverished black neighborhoods here in the US, that when the story came out the govt used its private propaganda arm (the NYT and washington post among other venerable media institutions) to “controversalize” gary webb and shift the focus on him rather than his work, and that webb could not work as a journalist after this process of delegitimization was successfully carried out. i know that govts lie, that power corrupts, and that the CIA has damaged the world in ways that we are just beginning to understand. i know that the war on drugs is as dark and dodgy as the war on terror. i know that investigative journalists (who don’t just quote govt officials or ask the CIA to proofread their work) put themselves in great danger when shining a light on govt malfeasance of this scale. the thing that took me off guard was one of the last lines in the film. gary webb died in 2004. he was 49 years old. he was found with *two* gunshot wounds to the head. it was deemed a “suicide” and that’s what we’re still told. since when is a human being able to shoot themselves in the head twice? seriously. i guess the suspension of disbelief doesn’t apply only to magic acts or coleridge’s fantastical tales.

more info on gary webb’s story at democracy now!

October 13, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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Assam’s modern slaves: the real price of a cup of Tetley tea – video

Poverty pay on tea estates in Assam fuels a modern slave trade ensnaring thousands of young girls. A Guardian/Observer investigation follows the slave route from an estate owned by a consortium, including the owners of the best-selling Tetley brand, through to the homes of Delhi’s booming middle classes, exposing the reality of the 21st-century slave trade. Watch Guardian report here.