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un cahier perlé

January 27, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Canandaigua Lake in winter

Today lunch with husband/best friend at the New York State Wine & Culinary Institute and then a lovely walk along Canandaigua Lake. It’s so beautiful here.


January 26, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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RIT’s 36th Annual Expressions of King’s Legacy

Yesterday I attended RIT’s 36th Annual Expressions of King’s Legacy, with keynote speaker Marc Lamont Hill. The event started with the beautiful Reenah Oshun Golden and Dee Ponder sharing their powerful words and music.

Dr Hill spoke about the neutering of MLK’s legacy, his reduction to the ornamental, to the insipid postage stamp. Yet when he was alive, he was an enemy of the state, deemed a bad influence for the younger generation, someone who had been to jail too many times. He would never have been invited to RIT to give a keynote lecture.

Dr Hill spoke about the radical imagination – how our goals and actions do not have to fit the limits of our present circumstance. He also talked about radical listening, by which he meant the ability to listen to every voice and connect social justice struggles all over the world. It was a wonderful (and much needed) reminder of the internationalism of Black power movements. For example, one cannot dismiss war because one is committed to the alleviation of poverty, one cannot talk about prison reform without talking about school reform. MLK saw the interconnectedness between the triple evils of racism, poverty and militarism – forms of violence that validate and reinforce one another in order to create a vicious circle.

Capitalism, of course, is the fountainhead of this systemic violence, for what is war but economically marginalized people in one country killing other poor people in another? What is environmental degradation but the placement of power plants and waste dumps in certain neighborhoods? In Flint, car companies had refused to use water that was causing car parts to rust, yet that same water was deemed potable for Black children.

Dr Hill wants MLK’s “I have a dream” speech to be retired because of how it has become a trope for American diversity. The speech is not about dreams, it’s about broken promises. It’s about capitalism’s inability to deliver any kind of equality.

Yes, it can be lonely to talk about racism, transphobia, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. It can be unpopular to focus not just on Trump’s excesses but also on Obama’s drones and our ongoing wars. But make these links, we must, and link our radical imagination to radical action in order to fight and resist together, we must.

I found Dr Hill at the end of this event and shook his hand. As a woman of color from the global South, as a Muslim American, I thanked him for saying the word “Palestine” and for acknowledging Obama’s drones. It’s a challenge to get activists, let alone people in the larger community, to stand by these truths. It was incredibly important to hear these words spoken loud and clear in such a large forum.

January 24, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Rokhaya Diallo: Tant que femme noire, ma liberté d’expression n’avait pas de valeur pour eux.

French journalist and activist, Rokhaya Diallo, was appointed to the National Digital Council (government advisory body) at the end of last year. Some of her statements on institutional racism, the hijab, and Charlie Hebdo had sparked controversy and that led the government to give in to requests for her removal from the council. In this interview with Iman Amrani, Rokhaya discusses her dismissal, racism and the idea of universalism, Emmanuel Macron, and freedom of speech. Pls watch.

January 24, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Chand Bibi hawking

Chand Bibi hawking. Deccan, 1700. Chand Bibi was an Indian Muslim woman warrior. She acted as the Regent of Bijapur (1580–90) and Regent of Ahmednagar (1596–99). Chand Bibi is best known for defending Ahmednagar against the Mughal forces of Emperor Akbar.

January 23, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Cemil Aydin, The Idea of the Muslim World (New Texts Out Now)

Was just debunking the idea of the “Muslim world” yesterday, during my talk about Islamophobia and racism at the Out Alliance.

Cemil Aydin: This book deals with the topics of Empires in world history and the way race and racialization via religious markers played a crucial role in the transition from an imperial world to the contemporary order of nation states. […] The idea of the Muslim world is inseparable from the claim that Muslims constitute a race. The distinction of the Muslim world and the Christian West began taking shape most forcefully in the 1880s, when the majority of Muslims and Christians resided in the same empires. The rendering of Muslims as racially distinct—a process that called on both “Semitic” ethnicity and religious difference—and inferior aimed to disable and deny their demands for rights within European empires. Muslim intellectuals could not reject the assumptions of irreducible difference but responded that they were equal to Christians, deserving of rights and fair treatment. The same conception of Muslim unity and difference justified appeals to Muslims as a global community during World War I and World War II. Racial assumptions also ensured that later subaltern and nationalist claims for rights would be framed in the idioms of Muslim solidarity and an enduring clash between Islam and the West, giving rise to the Islamism and Islamophobia of the 1980s and beyond. More here.

January 22, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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SURJ presentation at out alliance: islamophobia is racism

very lively discussion at the SURJ meeting today where i spoke about #islamophobia and #racism. the session was jam-packed. good connections made between racism, capitalism, and militarism.

typical question about the problem of misogyny in muslim communities and what we (the west) can do. my response: “have u heard of #metoo? women in america need ur allyship.” when the questioning continued about the need to help women in india, i asked if an indian or pakistani NGO should come to the u.s. to sort out harvey weinstein? will that help?

another question about a yemini girl not being able to go on a school field trip and how to explain that to her american classmates. my answer: the same way muslim families explain american culture and its brokenness to their kids.

i showed a video in which edward said talks about the richness (and multiplicities) of arab culture(s) and civilization(s), another about the meaning of orientalism, a third video in which khalid latif talks about being subjected to racial profiling and surveillance, and finally i showed “1700% project: mistaken for muslim” which truly brings home how islamophobia is racism. 1700% refers to the rate of increase in hate crimes committed against people *perceived* as muslim or arab after 9/11. the video is a collaboration b/w artist anida ali and filmmaker masahiro sugano. a great evening all in all.

thx to SURJ for inviting me to speak and thx to my sis Isabelle Bartter for always being at these things and having my back ♥

mara ahmed with activists

January 21, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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(Dis)placement, Memory and Colonial Partitions – Film Screenings

Talking about A Thin Wall at the India Community Center of Rochester, NY yesterday. Thank u Ajay Bhardwaj for ur beautiful film “Milange Babey Ratan De Mele Te” and for skyping with us. And thank u to everyone at ICC and in the Rochester community for supporting these film screenings.

skyping with ajay bhardwaj


mara ahmed

January 16, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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cambodia

i haven’t had time to write about angkor thom and angkor wat in cambodia – about their stunning history, engineering genius and magnificent artistry. we are talking about the 11th/12th century! built with blocks of sandstone brought in from a mountain miles away, thru a system of canals and then carried by elephants. the blocks were cut precisely so they interlock. no cement. angkor wat is built on a water table. it is surrounded by a large and deep moat. this way, as the water levels change during the dry and wet seasons, pressure doesn’t build up – extra water is released to or from the moat. that these temples are still standing is frankly shocking. angkor wat was the center of a city with a population of about a million, the largest city in the world at that time. it was an honor to visit these temples with someone as erudite as our guide, chamrong soeut. we took hundreds of pictures, here are just a few.

angkor wat


angkor thom


angkor thom