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un cahier perlé

June 2, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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Patrice Lumumba in 1960

“History will one day have its say; it will not be the history taught in the United Nations, Washington, Paris, or Brussels, however, but the history taught in the countries that have rid themselves of colonialism and its puppets.” 

May 30, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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Our own remarkable histories

I remember when Laila Lalami came to Rochester many years ago to read from her 2005 book, ‘Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits’. I’d been a fan of her writing since her moorishgirl.com days and so I went. During the Q&A someone asked her a question about how feminism evolved in North Africa by trying to understand its ties to western feminism, because how else would Moroccan women know about their rights? Laila was visibly annoyed and had to take a sip of water before she responded. I never forgot that question. This ridiculous notion that feminism is a western idea.i’m reading Urdu poet and writer Fahmida Riaz’s book, ‘Four Walls and a Black Veil,’ and in the foreword Aamir Hussein talks about how “poems such as ‘The Laughter of a Woman’ and ‘She is a Woman Impure’ celebrate femininity in ways that French feminist theorists such as Julia Kristeva, Helene Cixous and Luce Irigaray were to do. Just as Ismat Chughtai prefigured by several years Simone de Beauvoir’s theoretical configurations in ‘The Second Sex,’ so too Fahmida wrote fearlessly about blood, milk and the waters of birth before her western contemporaries began to formulate their theories of women’s writing as grounded in bodily experience, and most certainly before she could have been exposed to their writings.”I

I read Chughtai’s seminal, semi-autobiographical Terhi Lakeer (The Crooked Line) in English, a translation by Tahira Naqvi, some years ago and was blown away by its power. In her foreword to the English translation, Naqvi writes, “it was Ismat Chughtai who, fearlessly and without reserve, initiated the practice of looking at women’s lives from a psychological standpoint. This brings me to the interesting parallels that one can see between ‘The First Phase’ in The Crooked Line and the section titled ‘The Formative Years: Childhood’ in The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir’s pioneering work on female sexuality which appeared in 1949, four years after Chughtai’s novel. As a matter of fact, there are certain portions in Chughtai’s novel that seem to be fictionalised prefigurations of Beauvoir’s description and analysis of childhood playacting and fantasy; it seems as if Chughtai and Beauvoir were drawing on a common source. In both works, feminine experience is explored from childhood through puberty and adolescence to womanhood, these being the stages in the development of a sense of self that finally results in an acceptance of sexual impulses and subsequently leads to the awareness of a sexual identity.”

And of course, we can go back to ‘Sultana’s Dream’ a feminist utopia imagined and articulated by Rokeya Hossain, a writer and social reformer from Bengal.

Rokeya Hossain was born in 1880, Ismat Chughtai in 1915, and Fahmida Riaz in 1946. All three women were Muslim and Brown (South Asian). This is just a small bit of history (literature), so much more can be found in the non-white, non-western world. And confining ourselves to what’s written only, is egregiously short-sighted – so much is passed down through stories and diverse oral traditions.

I hope that my daughter and all the brilliant young women I consider to be my daughters, sisters and friends, will read these women and learn their own remarkable histories.

May 30, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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the meaning of decolonial feminism

what feminism means to me – not equality with imperial white men but rather an overhaul of the capitalist systems they have installed globally, and in complete solidarity with the struggles of oppressed people all over the world, with the clarity to identify and articulate how all our struggles are connected and how some struggles are not more important than others.

May 28, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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gentleman jack

i’m loving ‘gentleman jack,’ a show based on the diaries of ’19th century landowner anne lister who returns to her home to transform its fate – and with plans to marry a woman.’ written by the brilliant sally wainwright, the main character is played with dynamism and sensitivity by suranne jones who injects her own spunk into the entire project. still left thinking why LGBT actors don’t get cast in LGBT roles. such roles are few and far between, and i’m sure LGBT actors do exist.

reminds me of how i saw The Orphan of Zhao by the royal shakespeare company, when i took a class in theater. all the main characters were played by white actors. when asian actors complained, they were told that the casting was based on merit, to which an asian actor remarked how sad it was that asian actors were not even good enough to play themselves.

May 25, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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Le Petit Prince

Je ne savais pas trop quoi dire. Je me sentais tres maladroit. Je ne savais comment l’atteindre, où le rejoindre… C’est tellement mysterieux, le pays des larmes !

via GIPHY

May 22, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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Five more years of Narendra Modi will take India to a dark place

The myth of Modi as a technocratic moderniser – crafted by an ensemble of intellectuals and industrialists who devoted themselves to the cause of deodorising Modi, a Hindu supremacist who as chief minister of Gujarat in 2002 presided over a pogrom of Muslims – collapsed early on under the burden of the incompetence, vainglory and innate viciousness of the man who once described refugee camps housing displaced Muslims as “baby-producing centres”.

And five years on, we have more than a glimpse of the “New India” he has spawned. It is a reflection of its progenitor: culturally arid, intellectually vacant, emotionally bruised, vain, bitter, boastful, permanently aggrieved and implacably malevolent; a make-believe land full of fudge and fakery, where bigotry against religious minorities is among the therapeutic options available to members of a self-pitying majority frustrated by the prime minister’s failure to upgrade their economic standard of living. In the world’s largest secular democracy, Muslims have been lynched by mobs since Modi came into office for such offences as eating beef, dating Hindus and refusing to vacate their seats for Hindu commuters on crowded trains. More here.