Category Archives: self-authored

solidarity with the sikh community

yesterday’s attack on a gurdwara in kabul is heartbreaking. i have always felt a deep connection to the sikh community. my father is punjabi and i cherish the warmth, humor, easeful informality and festive joy that we share with our sikh sisters and brothers. it’s almost like the laid-back accents of the punjabi language embody such bonhomie.
sadly, i also remember the anti-sikh riots in india, in 1984. they align closely with the anti-muslim violence in gujarat, in 2002, and the recent pogrom in delhi, which saw sikhs mobilizing to help their muslim neighbors. this kind of solidarity is natural – sikhs too are a vulnerable minority in india.
the massacre in kabul is unconscionable, incomprehensible. there are too many historical, cultural and religious overlaps between us, south asians. if only we’d remember that. my deepest condolences and love to the sikh community everywhere.

my bother shamoun

my brother shamoun has always been my rock. even though i’m the eldest and he’s the youngest, he has a calming effect on me. whatever my worries or struggles, whether i made a terrible mistake or someone else hurt me, a quick call to my brother and my mind is at peace. he never judges. nothing fazes him. he has a spectacular sense of humor (ROFL is very real in his presence). so making him laugh gives me a major kick. he’s a cool AND brilliant dad. my parents dote on him. so do my kids. my husband loves him as much as his own brothers. it’s no surprise. i often tell my brother, i believe in him more than i believe in myself. i believe in his profound goodness. he’s my rock. [shamoun with his wife saira, not long after they got married]

my sister kalsoom

in these distressing, surreal times, i realize how much i’ve always taken my siblings (my two sisters and my brother) to be a constant in my life. as something given. solid and reliable. that will be there for me, no matter what. i want to tell them how much i love them and how much they mean to me. i’m starting with my youngest sister, kalsoom. beautiful, kind-hearted, dependable. she’s the kind of person u want most when u are down or vulnerable. she has that light touch and generosity. no wonder she became a doctor. she’s not just sweet, she’s incredibly strong. she can control her temper and stay even-keeled. she has patience. she’s magnificently resilient. but she’s also a lover of books and riddles and games. an impressive mom. an artist. a devoted daughter. my dearest sister.

hero-worship is not warranted here

cuomo’s recent ascension to american ‘hero’ reminds me of rudy giuliani’s media-savvy visibility (vs junior’s bumbling ineptitude) in the chaos that followed 9/11. sadly, that swashbuckling leadership/image didn’t go v far. at the end of the day, u can’t polish a you-know-what. with cuomo, i’d like to remind everyone of his anti-BDS executive order and blacklist. he’s the one who said: ‘If you boycott israel, new york will boycott you.’ palestine is a kind of litmus test that tells us exactly where people fall on the humanity spectrum. cuomo fails miserably. he also refused to attend the puerto rican parade because he couldn’t stand oscar lopez rivera being honored. there was a great article in mondoweiss about cuomo’s presidential ambitions and the promotion of his brand. pls see comments. all i’m saying is, listen to him if he makes sense but give it a few months and then reconsider. at the end of the day, u can’t polish a you-know-what.

What steps will the American government take?

As Paola Bacchetta points out, ‘Italy has suspended everyone’s mortgage and utility bills. France is canceling all utility bills and letting everyone ride public transport for free. Spain has nationalized all private hospitals and medical staff. In Denmark, to deal with the corona economic fallout the State will cover 75% of wages of workers who have been let off, and companies will cover the other 25%.’

Also, in Norway, the government said it would remove the three-day waiting period between the point at which companies stop paying employees’ salaries and the time unemployment benefits begin, to help keep the income of those laid off stable.

What steps will the American government take besides injected $1.5 trillion into the financial system and supporting airlines and cruise ships? Because, you know, corporations are people too.

panic and shortages

i am not an alarmist and i like to take things as they come, so today i went to wegmans for my weekly shopping and it was freaky. all the meat is gone, most of the canned goods, no cooking oil, no rice, no pasta, no garbage bags. i didn’t check the TP situation. this is extreme. people should buy what they need. it’s irresponsible to create shortages, as some might actually need that food right now. urgently. also, when people are gripped with fear, those in power will, inevitably, institute harsh authoritarian measures and trample on rights and protections. the process started a long time ago in the US, but this latest crisis (much like the war on terror) will allow robber barons and their state/defense machine to go into overdrive. let’s remember the shock doctrine and use our own calm common sense and compassion in the weeks to come. it will make all the difference.

dinner at maysaa’s

last night my beautiful friend Maysaa treated us to some exquisite iraqi, syrian and lebanese food. gorgeous salads to start with (fattoush and tabbouleh), kibbeh, dolma mahshi (stuffed onions) and dolmas made with grape leaves, fatayer with cheese, spinach and meat, and finally rice and qeema (a stew with chickpeas and ground beef, traditionally served during muharram). for dessert, we had warbat which reminded me of baklava (just as crispy, filled with custard or pistachios, walnuts, and almonds), and halawet el jibn (made with cheese dough, filled with cream, drenched in sugar syrup and rose water) – to die for. what a feast and what wonderful conversation. thank u so much maysaa and mazin.

‘books sandwiched in’ at wood library

spoke about ‘citizen: an america lyric,’ part of ‘books sandwiched in’ at wood library in #canandaigua today. discussed the book (with a clip from an interview with claudia rankine), the idea of #microaggressions, the toll they take on the body, and how my film #TheInjuredBody was inspired by the book. shared some clips from the film and explained how dance, the muscular contraction of the body, and breathing are important themes in the film. the Q & A was particularly lively with some resistance to microaggressions i shared as examples. will write more about that. but the library’s director realized how such convos were badly needed, and asked for names of activists and speakers. i guess that’s a step forward. here i am with jenny goodemote the library’s executive director.

international women’s day 2020

instead of mollycoddling privileged white women, on this international women’s day, let’s lift the voices of the most marginalized and courageous. let’s pledge solidarity to the women of shaheen bagh in india, to indigenous women here, in canada and south america, to the women of the black lives matter movement, to arab feminists and revolutionaries fighting patriarchy as well as imperial wars, to women struggling for prison abolition and immigration reform, to kashmiri women, palestinian women, uighur and rohingya women who continue to resist, to women from the senegal, chad, kenya and south africa fighting for the world’s oceans, to the women of chile, mexico and bolivia, to all our powerful sisters across the globe, we see u – we will sink or swim together. 

universal healthcare over empty representation

i understand that warren supporters are disappointed, i would be too if someone i believed in and campaigned for didn’t get the votes to stay in the race. but some of the tributes to warren that i am seeing on social media are ridiculous. like this one: ‘one day, some day, maybe this nation will be worthy of elizabeth warren. this is not that day.’

for real? i am sorry (and i know this will be unpopular) but i have to call out nonsense when i see it. i understand that warren is a woman and that, in and of itself, is a challenge. trust me, all women can ‘feel’ that in their bodies. but at the end of the day, i will vote for universal healthcare over gender. i will do it every single time.

universal healthcare is the foundation on which we build an egalitarian society and that’s particularly important to me as a woman and poc.

also, sanders might be an old white man (as warren supporters like to describe him) but he’s also jewish, not the most privileged group of people in the world historically. as a muslim woman, as a religious minority, as someone who is used to my people being constantly orientalized, othered and attacked, i’d love to see the american presidency open up that way and embrace the kind of socialist reform that i associate closely with islam.

i don’t think our nation (whatever that means) is not worthy of warren, rather we, as human beings, are certainly worthy of medicare for all.

dinner at janani’s

lovely, intimate dinner and #gupshup with the beautiful Janani Parthasarathi. janani treated me to tamil cuisine from the southern tip of india: delicious adai (pancake made with lentils and rice) that i sprinkled with gur (brown sugar from sugarcane), rasam which reminded me of karhi pakora, gojju made with tamarind and butternut squash, puliyore (a rice dish with peanuts), poriyal with cabbage and peas, and vella payasam (a fragrant kheer made with date sugar). there was also homemade dahi (yogurt) which took me back to pakistan. what a feast, what wonderful company. thank u janani.

We Arab Americans and Muslims are voting for Bernie. Because he’s Jewish

the problem with all this talk about ‘bernie bros’ is that we, women of color, muslim women, black and brown women, immigrant women, get erased so easily. some of the most prominent (and viciously attacked) woc in leadership positions, people like ilhan omar, rashida tlaib, AOC, and linda sarsour, who exist at the intersection of countless marginalized identities (black, refugee, african, arab, latina, palestinian, muslim, working class, woman) are supporting bernie sanders very publicly, yet it’s the ‘bernie bros’ who persistently define the narrative about his support. i understand that it’s deliberate, that the media are crafting a story, but it’s interesting how familiar the MO is – delete these inconvenient people who never mattered anyway. it’s infuriating. and yes, i know politicians are not a panacea and that the struggle will continue. just sick of this normalized form of erasure.

read article here.


white hypocrisy

with all due respect to football fans (including my son), the super bowl is one heavy-duty bit of commercial entertainment. an obscene embodiment of american excess. capitalism is pretty vulgar, my friends. so apart from racism and colonial hypocrisy, it’s a bit hard to understand the (white) abuse and panic triggered by shakira and J Lo’s performance. what did people expect? brittney spears?