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May 25, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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From Howard Zinn’s You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train

“But not to believe in the possibility of dramatic change is to forget that things have changed, not enough, of course, but enough to show what is possible. We have been surprised before in history. We can be surprised again. Indeed, we can do the surprising. The reward for participating in a movement for social justice is not the prospect of future victory. It is the exhilaration of standing together with other people, taking risks together, enjoying small triumphs and enduring the disheartening setbacks—together.“

May 24, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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my daughter’s 18th birthday

this little cutie turns 18 today! we cannot believe it! what a ray of sunshine u have been in our lives, my sweet girl. may u bring the same gentle kindness to the rest of the world. love u more than i can say.

May 22, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Secular Translations – Nation-State, Modern Self, and Calculative Reason

In Secular Translations, the anthropologist Talal Asad reflects on his lifelong engagement with secularism and its contradictions. In a consideration of translatability and untranslatability, he explores the ways ideas are translated between histories and cultures and the ways religious ideas are translated into nonreligious ones. Translation opens the door for—or requires—the utter transformation of the translated. In search of meeting points between the language of Islam and the language of secular reason, Asad gives particular importance to the varieties of transformations of religious language into the idioms of secularism. He discusses the claim that liberal conceptions of equality represent earlier Christian ideas translated into secularism; explores the ways that the language and practice of religious ritual play an important but radically transformed role as they are translated into modern life; and considers the history of the idea of the self and its centrality to the project of the secular state. More here.

May 22, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Across the world, genocidal states are attacking Muslims. Is Islam really their target?

Arjun Appadurai: The killings of unarmed Palestinians by Israeli snipers this past fortnight marks a new chapter in the degradation of human life in Gaza and the Occupied Territories. It also makes one think about the continuing scandal of the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, followed by their shameful treatment in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand, among other Asian countries. Then there is Kashmir, which the Indian military continues to occupy with complete indifference to the lives of the men, women and children who live there. In each case, the targeted communities are Muslim though they are products of very different contextual histories. The global dynamics of genocide are not, in spite of appearances, primarily about Muslimness. The obsession with projecting Muslims as a coordinated global category is a collaborative project of highly specific Western and Muslim political theologies. It should not be viewed as a self-evident, universal fact.

[…] So, what do the Palestinian and Rohingya cases (extreme ideal types, as it were) teach us? That solutions to the “problem” of biominorities depend on whether you want to keep the despised minority in order to avoid actually producing some semblance of democracy, or whether you want to delink the group from their lands or resources, with no pressing need to use their presence as a pretext for an ever-militant militarised state. You either need the minority to keep paranoid sovereignty alive, or you need their resources more than you need their biominor threat.

[…] The loose post 9/11 discourse of the Muslim threat allows the two states (and others) to legitimise their violence, but the global dynamics of genocide are not primarily about Muslimness. The fact is that all nation states rely on some idea, however covert, of ethnic purity and singularity. Biominor plurality is thus always a threat to modern nation states. The question is what combination of extrusion and incarceration a particular nation state finds useful. As they consider the possibilities, Israel and Myanmar offer them two radical options, which just happen to have Muslim communities as their targets. But today’s varieties of genocide are not as much about religion as they are about paranoid and/or predatory nation-states. More here.

May 21, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Arms Manufacturers Use Israel’s Massacres in Gaza to Test New Technology

Andrew Feinstein: So, a crucial component of the arms trade, and growing component – perhaps the fastest growing there is – is the broad area of homeland security, and of surveillance and repression equipment. By Israel attacking what are effectively, by all accounts, peaceful protesters- although, of course, Israel will reflect on them as something very different to that- Israel will then use that information, particularly with non-democratic autocratic regimes around the world- the regimes of Saudi Arabia, of the United Arab Emirates, various Arab countries of similar political systems – and they will say to them, “We have this problem on a daily basis, look how we are addressing it.”

[…] So, how does this affect the United States of America? First of all, because of the relationship between the U.S. government and the Israeli government, between U.S. Defense contractors and Israeli defense contractors – many of whom have a very big state component to their composition – it is possible to be testing what are effectively illegal forms of ammunition and weaponry in Israel’s activities. And second of all, it ensures that the United States can use similar marketing devices to the Israelis in selling their defense sector as a key component of the growing homeland security surveillance and repression industry.

I should also mention that there is a very important political dimension to all of this, as well. Now, the reality of the arms trade is that it’s by far the most corrupt trade in the world. A gentleman by the name of Joe Roeber, at Transparency International at the time, calculated that the arms trade is responsible for around forty percent of all corruption in world trade. And one of the reasons for this is the very close relationships between defense contractors and governments- governments both in their myriad state forms, but also in the form of political parties, and individual politicians.

And we have seen massive amounts of money flow into political campaigning across the political divides in the United States of America and in Israel. It’s most apparent in the U.S., where one can actually track the vast amounts of money that are given to individual candidates and to political parties, and the projects that those individual politicians get back for those defense contractors in their home states or districts. More here.

May 19, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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May 19 is the birthday of both Malcolm X and Yuri Kochiyama

Frank Chi: Today (May 19) is the birthday of both #MalcolmX and #YuriKochiyama. One you’ve heard of, the other you probably haven’t. I commissioned the amazing Eric Uhlir to make their friendship come to life for me. I’m calling it “American Gothic X,” because it tells this story:

The scene was where Yuri lived: the Manhattanville Projects in Harlem. The time was June 1964. A Japanese delegation of Hibakusha (the atomic bomb survivors) just arrived in New York on a peace mission. Yuri, who knew Malcolm but not well, invited him to come speak. She did not expect him to show up.

Malcolm, who three months earlier left the Nation of Islam, was on his own journey. We remember him going everywhere flanked by NOI members. But that day, Malcolm knocked on Yuri’s door alone. When he walked in, he sucked the air out of the room. He held court and connected identities and experiences. He said: “You have been scarred by the atom bomb. You just saw that we have also been scarred. The bomb that hit us was racism.” He came out against the yet-to-be escalated Vietnam War: “The struggle of Vietnam is the struggle of the whole Third World: the struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism.”

After that, Yuri and Malcolm became closer, and they challenged each other: on integration vs. Black separatism, on religion, on internationalism. He supported the Hibakusha, she was the first non-black member of the Republic of New Afrika, Malcolm’s vision for the South. When Malcolm traveled the world later that year, she was one of two people he wrote to. When Malcolm was killed a year later, she was there. As Malcolm laid dying, it was Yuri who held him. Decades later, after Yuri successfully led the campaign for reparations for Japanese incarceration survivors, reporters asked her what she thought was next. She didn’t miss a beat: reparations for Black America, of course.

I tell this story because America likes to tell its stories in black and white. Folks who are neither are often written out. Yuri was left out of Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” (Malcolm’s wife holds him in the movie). Black/Asian narratives of allyship and radicalism are nowhere to be found in major texts – you’ll have to visit books like Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States” or Diane Fujino’s “Heartbeat of Struggle” to find this story.

This has to change. Upcoming generations demand intersectional narratives that lift every identity in this chaotic experiment we call America. In this painting, you’ll see the origami – the Hibakusha symbol – on Malcolm’s lapel. On Yuri’s dress, you’ll see the flag of the Republic of New Afrika. Between them, you’ll see a bullhorn, symbolizing the spirit of activism that drove them together.

Happy Birthday Malcolm. Happy Birthday Yuri. Happy #AsianAmerican History Month.

Malcolm X and Yuri Kochiyama

May 18, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Israel’s Massacre of Palestinian Civilians Should Spark Horror – and Action

Ian Lustick: The struggle for a two-state solution is not moribund; it is dead. This is true even if the pretense that negotiations could succeed remains a useful excuse—a way for Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States, and the peace-process industry to exploit or ignore the deepening oppression of the current one-state reality. As documented by the Israeli military, there are now more Palestinians under the control of the Israeli state than there are Jews. Indeed, for all intents and purposes the Palestinians of Gaza and of the West Bank are already within the Jewish state. They are citizens of no other country, no other recognized state. As measured by how much impact the State of Israel has over the intimate details of their lives, and indeed over whether they will live at all, they are as much inhabitants of the State of Israel as black slaves were inhabitants of the United States or as Africans in the Bantustans were inhabitants of apartheid South Africa. The five-decade occupation of the West Bank and the dozen-year blockade of Gaza, combined with regularly inflicted violent punishment, just mark differences in the way the Israeli state governs different populations in different regions. More here.