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Archive for September 2014

Feminism: an ugly word or an ugly world?

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A good piece on the Women Against Feminism hashtag on Twitter, and on feminism in general

Politics ad Infinitum

There exists a perfidious stigma attached to the word feminism: it ought to sound as natural and as morally straightforward as affirming one is anti-racist or anti-homophobic, yet to many it doesn’t.

The “Women against feminism” campaign has accrued over 20, 000 likes on Facebook and it adumbrates many of the reasons why some women reject the term feminism. Needless to say, their reasoning was predicated upon a conception of feminism that frames feminists as “men haters” and seemingly denies the reality of instuitional sexism.

The phenomenon of demonising those who object to the patraichial status quo is not a recent one. The suffragettes were routinely depicted as “hysterical” or “irrational” for challenging the systematic and institutional way whereby women were subordinated in society. Positing that contemporary feminists are intemperate “men haters” is not dissimilar to contending that they were “shrill” and “hysterical”. Both intentions are indubitably noxious; They attempt…

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Written by Iram Ramzan

September 12, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A weekly round up: Fatwas, nude photos and sensationalist reporting

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Sensationalism in the British press

I was about to go to sleep when my Twitter timeline erupted with the news  about the brutal murder of 82-year-old Palmira Silva in her home in Edmonton, north London.  Nicholas Salvadore, whose identity was revealed later, has since been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Police were initially called out yesterday to investigate a man dressed in black, who neighbours said had decapitated a cat with a foot-long, machete-like blade, and who was running through rear gardens banging on doors and windows.

The Sun newspaper decided to go with a front page claiming “‘Muslim Convert’ beheads woman in garden”. Someone apparently told The Sun journalist that the alleged murderer had converted to Islam, though this cannot be verified.

This is sensationalist and shoddy reporting for several reasons. Firstly, detectives say they have ruled out terrorism as a motive. By putting ‘Muslim Convert in the headline and on the front page, alongside the letter to ISIS caliphate Baghdadi (see below) in the paper, The Sun is forcing its readers to link the stories together. Yes, beheadings have been in the news thanks to the barbaric actions of the so-called Islamic state, but if the police are not describing this as a terrorist crime then why is The Sun making readers think otherwise?

Secondly, as an arrest has been made, publishers and broadcasters have a duty to report news in a responsible way and in a manner in which will not create a real risk that the course of justice in proceedings may be seriously prejudiced. I work at a local newspaper so I know that I could not get away with writing that and nor would my editor publish it. However, The Sun can afford to be in contempt of court as it is a national paper, therefore they can choose to flout certain rules and guidelines.

Thirdly, the Press Complaints Commission code states that the “details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.” As we do not know what the motive of the suspect murderer was, it is irresponsible of The Sun to mention the man’s religion.

What we seem to have forgotten in all this is that an innocent elderly woman was murdered in such a horrific way. What must her family be going through? The Sun has demonstrated that it does not care about victims, rather it uses such victims to make a wider, political point to push its agenda.

I said as much on BBC Asian Network earlier today, which should be available to listen to on iPlayer soon.

 

Speaking out on abuse

https://i2.wp.com/www.cps.gov.uk/northwest/assets/uploads/images/afzal.jpg

Nazir Afzal

What has happened in Rotherham for over a decade has shocked us all. The Times claimed (£) that details from 200 restricted-access documents showed how police and child protection agencies in the South Yorkshire town had extensive knowledge of the grooming of young girls  for a decade, yet a string of offences went unprosecuted. I hope journalist Andrew Norfolk wins some awards for his brilliant investigative work.

People have come out and said that “victims should speak out” and those who know must tell the police. Ann Cryer, former MP for Keighley, tried to do just that. She claims that West Yorkshire police did not want to do anything when she told them about the abuse of young girls in her town. She then went to “community leaders” who told her that it was nothing to do with them. We also read, in Rotherham, that victims‘ evidence would go “missing” and police would not take their claims seriously. So it’s no good telling people to speak out, because at the end of the day, many in positions of power neither listened nor took any action.

Louise Mensch suggested that with a Muslim – Nazir Afzal – as the chief prosecutor of the Crown Prosecution Service for the North West in England, children would remain unsafe, which is an inflammatory statement that prompted some to reply with anti-Muslim sentiments. Never mind the fact that he was responsible for securing successful prosecutions for Asian men who were part of a grooming gang in Rochdale. Some have suggested that he is in denial over the religions of the men involved, who were all of Muslim heritage. Perhaps Afzal – a devout Muslim – is correct that religion was not a factor, as drinking and prostituting girls is hardly one of the five pillars of Islam. It could be because, as a chief prosecutor for the CPS, he has to be more careful with what he says. Regardless, one can hardly accuse him of remaining silent on abuse.

In an article for the New York Times a year ago, Afzal knows just how hard it is for women to speak out against barbaric cultural practises, stating: “Women have been talking about these issues for a long time,” he said. “I’m not the first person to take up this fight in this country, I’m just the first man, and that makes it a lot easier. I come from these communities. I understand their patriarchal nature. I can challenge them. And because I am a man, the men in the community are more likely to listen to me.”

While Muslim reformers do attract a lot of negative attention from those within their own communities, it is worse for women, who often have to put up with misogynist remarks as well as accusations of blasphemy or heresy.

Afzal revealed a more personal side to himself. When bullied in school, his father told him to “get used to it”. He also stopped posting on Twitter because, he said, the abuse got to be too much. This does not surprise me. Many Muslims, including myself, have been heavily criticised and insulted when choosing to speak out. All I can say is that when you manage to piss off both the far right and the Islamists, you are doing something right. I hope that Afzal returns to Twitter although I understand he probably has better things to do than respond to those on there who simply want to hurl abuse at him.

I have heard some Muslims say that the whole of Catholicism is not to blame for child abuse by priests, so why do we expect Muslim to defend their faith whenever any perpetrators of a Muslim heritage commit crimes? Perhaps we do not blame the whole faith but we do examine whether the requirement of celibacy is a factor in the abuse of young boys by Catholic priests. Earlier this year, Pope Francis met victims of abuse and asked for forgiveness for the crimes, which shows that in order to solve a problem, one must first acknowledge it.

 

What the Fatwa

 

Letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

 

Just over a week ago, a group of British imams and scholars issued a fatwa condemning Islamic extremist group ISIS. The fatwa represents the British Muslim community’s strongest denunciation of ISIS yet, calling the extremist group “heretical” and “an oppressive and tyrannical group.” It came after Britain’s terrorism threat was raised last week from “substantial” to “severe”. Clearly the government wants to be seen to be doing something though personally I think we should not give in to these terrorists by showing that we are afraid of them.

Fatwa

I can see both the upsides and downside of this fatwa. On the one hand, I am not keen on the use of the word ‘heresy’ as extremists themselves use it as a justification to kill those they deem as behaving in an “unIslamic” way. What exactly is ‘Islamic’ behaviour anyway? Furthermore, only those who follow those particular leaders are bound by the fatwa, meaning it is not applicable to everyone and can be ignored by many.

On the other hand, we have had many people in the media complaining about the lack of Muslim leaders coming out to denounce ISIS and the behaviour of its jihadis.  Fatwas serve those people who still seek the advice and ruling of their sheikhs and imams. Chairman of Quilliam Foundation Maajid Nawaz wrote in the Independent:

Understandably frustrated cynics could claim that this is far too little, too late. Such a stance fails to appreciate that this can only be the start, not the end. The Isis brand will only be weakened by a full-on assault from all angles.

If theological “get out clauses” are not provided for vulnerable young minds, if all vulnerable young minds hear is silence from every other Muslim Imam on the subject, this will look precariously like consent.

Similarly the above letter, featured in Friday’s Sun newspaper, speaks to self-styled ‘caliphate’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in his language and on his terms. Al-Baghdadi does not believe in secularism or western democracies, so what better response than from a group of practising and devout Muslims. My only criticism of the letter is that there are more than twice the number of men than women though that may have been down to not being able to get enough responses from people in such a short time.

Also in the news was the Muslim Council of Britain, who raised concerns about the prime minister’s anti-terrorism strategy. They claimed that the “crackdown” on British-born extremists will “push marginalised young people further towards radicalisation”. While I think the government’s strategy is only focused on those who have already become extreme – with not enough focus on counter extremism narratives – the MCB have to acknowledge that they cannot keep using this as an excuse. Some Muslims are being brainwashed and we need to address that, rather than using apologetic language. Some Muslims are already marginalised and no longer identify with Britain or British identify, hence why some chose to leave to fight in Syria and Iraq. At the end of the article is a quote from Saleem Kidwai, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Wales, who said:

I would say to the government, you must talk to the Muslim Council of Britain because it is the largest organisation. You can talk to thinktanks but they are not the grassroots groups – the MCB has got the mandate from 500 organisations who represent Muslims from all walks of life. I know they would love to help rather than obstruct.

Gosh. I wonder to which thinktanks he is alluding…

 

The two faces of Asghar Bukhari

Sometimes people forget that what they post online is available for all to see. Recently, author Jeremy Duns decided to debate, or rather attempt to, with Asghar Bukhari, of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which describes itself as the UK’s “leading movement for empowering Muslims to focus on non-violent Jihad through political activism”.

Bukhari is regularly invited on to Sky News or the BBC. On air he is very calm and composed. But his Twitter account shows a darker side.

bukhari 1 bukhari 2 bukhari 3 bukhari 4 bukhari 5 bukhari 6 bukhari 7

As you can see irony is lost on Bukhari who calls other people “bullies” yet constantly insults and demeans those with whom he debates. Not only does he use rather colourful language, he is misogynist towards women with whom he disagrees and even believes it is a “fact” that European  Jews have no DNA linking them to Palestine. Perhaps media organisations should have a look at his Twitter account and his blog – where he likens Lee Rigby’s murderer Jeremiah Adebolajo to a “revolutionary” – before inviting him on air?

 

Don’t drink?

Retired judge Mary Jane Mowat was criticised by women’s campaigners after she said that the rape conviction rate would not improve until women stopped drinking so heavily.

Mowat, who stood down in August, said it was often difficult to secure a rape conviction as it was “one person’s word against another”.

She was not, she insisted, saying that drunk girls deserve to be raped, but that drunkenness has implications for juries attempting to establish the reliability of witness testimony.
What do you think – was she right?

 

Women’s bodies

Earlier this week,  several intimate photographs of celebrities were published online. Apple confirmed that some  iCloud accounts were hacked into. Copies of the images spread to other services, including Reddit, Imgur and Twitter, from which they were subsequently deleted by administrators.

Fleet Street Fox wrote a brilliant piece on this in the Mirror that sums up exactly how I feel on the issue.  It amazes me that we still live in a world where what a woman does with her breasts or vagina can make the news – note that no nude photos of men were posted.

Jane Moore, writing in The Sun, said that the best prevention is not to take such photos in the first place.  I take it that Ms Moore has absolutely nothing on her phones or computer that would make her feel embarrassed were it to be seen by the public?

Her paper also ran the headline “How bare they”, supposedly sympathising with the female victims. This is the same paper that published semi nude photographs of journalist Tasmin Khan, bought from her ex boyfriend. In a statement to Mail Online, Khan said the incident had left her devastated by someone whom she had trusted. A bigger betrayal is from The Sun who chose to publish photos they knew were not obtained with Khan’s permission and could have ruined her life. As an Asian woman, one can only imagine what her family’s reaction could have been if they had not supported her.

 

The Ahmadi Muslims – a question

In a Twitter debate, I asked a few people why it is that Ahmadis, despite being widely persecuted, seem to be the most progressive of most Muslims in the world. After all, they believe in the same Qur’an as all other Muslims, so what makes them so different?  My theory is, as they believe that the Messiah has already been – in the form of founder of the faith Mirza Ghulam Ahmad – this has marked the beginning of a new chapter and allowed them to progress and move forward. Other Muslim groups, however, are either doing nothing in the hopes of the arrival of a hoping for a messiah to solve their problems, or they are willing to do anything they can to can to prompt the arrival of the messiah. Certainly the latter is the view of the Evangelical Christians who  believe that the return of the Jews to Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus.

As I said, this is just a theory, but I would be interested in your views.

 

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