Written by Marie Frederiksen Tuesday, 08 March 2011

With thanks: International Marxist Website

“I really believe the revolution has changed us. People are acting differently towards each other.” These are the words of Ms Kamel, 50, one of the many women who were out on Tahrir Square, actively participating in the revolution.

Cairo, February 4. Photo: 3arabawy

Arab women have once again shown that women play a decisive role in revolutionary events. In Egypt women have been participating actively in the revolution, in the same way that they played an active role in the strike movement in the few last years, in several cases pressurizing the men to join the strikes.

In earlier protests in Egypt, women only accounted for about 10 per cent of the protesters, but on Tahrir Sqaure they accounted for about 40 to 50 per cent in the days leading up to the fall of Mubarak. Women, with and without veils, participated in the defence of the square, set up barricades, led debates, shouted slogans and, together with the men, risked their lives.

Another view on women

Probably the most important motive force so far has been ordinary people’s striving for respect and dignity (something that was also clear in the Russian revolution and in France in May 1968). The dictatorial regimes, the police and the bosses don’t treat people as human beings, but as animals. That goes for all workers and poor, but especially for women.

Women’s perception of themselves has been changed through the struggle. “We have suffered the taste of teargas, but we are not afraid. The women who are afraid to leave the house, even they see us and gain courage,” explained English teacher Riham Muntaz, 25, to the newspaper The National on February 14. (Women make their power felt in Egypt’s revolution 14.02.11)

The idea that men and women should be different was removed during the revolution. Mozn Hassan, the director of the Nasra Feminist Studies Centre in Cairo said, “No one sees you as a woman here; no one sees you as a man. We are all united in our desire for democracy and freedom.” She explains that it was the freedom women experienced at Tahrir Sqaure that made them return again and again bringing along their friends, sisters and mothers.

The revolution also changed the relation between the sexes. “(…) In the square, you had people from different classes, both men and women, mixing, talking and debating. They [men] were seeing that women are strong, that they can look after themselves. They were seeing women work hard for the revolution, leading protests, and their response [not groping] is their way of saying, ‘I respect you’,” explained Ms. Hassan. Sexual harassment has been a large problem in Egypt. More than four out of five women have been sexually assaulted at some time, and the police has used this also to intimidate women, but it has been completely absent in the struggle against the Mubarak regime.

Women’s liberation through class struggle

Arab women are now showing the way forward. The right-wing bourgeois parties have used the oppression of women in many societies where Islam is the main religion to campaign against the so-called “Muslim world” and legitimize the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately in this they have had help from intellectuals and so-called left-wingers that have been complaining about the “Muslim view on women”. Other left-wingers has swung to the opposite side and even made concessions to religious forces in the Arab world. The Arab revolution shows that as Marxists we were absolutely correct when we insisted that the struggle for women’s rights is part of the class struggle and that these two are inseparable.

The Arab masses have shown that the class divide is the only decisive division. In the united struggle of the masses neither religion, gender or race play any role, and prejudices are overcome in practice. Marx explained, “it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence but their social existence that determines their consciousness”. When the material conditions are no longer tolerable for the great majority and the masses are forced to fight for better conditions, through this struggle their consciousness and ideas are changed dramatically.

Freedom to what?

The Egyptian women who have come out massively onto the streets did not do so in the name of some abstract women’s liberation. They took the streets in order to create a better life for themselves and their families.

English teacher Ms. Muntaz explains how she struggles to make ends meet. “I get paid 400 [Egyptian] pounds a month… I have no health insurance, if I need an operation I have to pay for it myself. I have no contract, no job security. We want a better life for us and for our children. We deserve a better life.”

The struggle of the Arab masses has just started. The Arab women have shown enormous courage and have shown that the struggle for women’s liberation only can be carried out as part of the struggle for a general liberation of the whole of the working people. They will realize that genuine women’s liberation does not flow from formal freedom and formal democracy, but that it requires a real social revolution.

Context of the Article: Portrayal of Women in Pakistani Media: Another Jab at Pakistani Liberal Thought by Freethinker

Shaheryar Ali

“The sex Industry sells clothes and the fashion Industry sells prostitution and pornography”

Beauty and Misogyny, Sheila Jeffreys

After reading a wonderful post by a friend and fellow blogger I am forced to write on the issues of Objectification of women, the developed of a hegemonizing and selectively politicized discourse on “emancipation of women” and its highly inaccurate linkage with commercial fashion Industry which has nothing to do with “women lib”. The only relationship it had with political and social movements of women liberation had been extremely hostile one. One often encounter’s mediocrity in disguise of advance intellect but the way “intellectually challenged” have been hegemonizing Pakistani intellectual scene is a real tragedy. This painful awareness disturbed me a lot after reading a lot of responses to Freethinker’s excellent post which objected to objectification of women by Fashion Industry and Corporate media in Pakistan and their ideological mimickers masquerading as anti-commercial “alternative media”. While freethinker was objecting to the “representational discourse and imagery”, trying to demonstrate the fakeness of hypereality [Jean Baudrillard] , one which has nothing to do with “reality” but rather is nothing but an image created, circulated , authenticated, idolized and incorporated into perceptual consciousness of humans by capitalist mass media , fashion industry and other such hegemonizing entities , the intellectually challenged media monkeys perceived it as an attack on personal choices , on liberalism and cultural pluralism etc etc. ”]Thesis[war of Pakistani Identity]The general ignorance which plagues English speaking Pakistani elite and its allied intellectual class is ironic in this sense, that their dogmatism is similar to those who it usually attack ie primitive Taliban. They are ignorant about the advance theoretical positions and philosophies which have emerged as “emancipatory critiques” of established knowledge ie Western Rationalism, Marxism/Stalinism, Logic and Analysis. Freethinker’s critique was not on the dress choice of a famous Pakistani model but rather on it being the “representative” of women. This was an attack on “Simulation”. The ground breaking critique on Mass Media and Visual Arts by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard revolves around three key concepts

1) Simulation

2) Simulacrum

3) Hyperreality.

In his philosophical cosmos a simulation is a process in which representation of things replace the “things being represented”. This is a very problematic notion because it causes “de-humanization”; the main concern of intellectuals like freethinkers. With the tremendous power that Visual media holds in late capitalism, this process of the representation becomes more important than the “real-thing”. Signs are thought of as representing reality, Signs than mask the reality, Signs than mask the “absence of reality”. With this we enter a simulacrum, a state where Signs have no relation with Reality what so ever. With Global mass media invasion, copies of copies are created and bombarded on Human Retina. No longer has the simulation reflected an original but simulation is reflecting a simulation. With the mass media and fashion Industry’s portrayals of women as beauty and sex objects, freethinker was calling for appearance of “real woman”. One which works in a cotton field goes to college, dances on a shrine, a typical lahori house wife wandering in bazaar, slightly over weight not much self conscious. The real woman which we never see on mass media or Fashion Empire which portrays a certain image of women based on male chauvinism.

”]Anti-thesis [War on women bodies]The second aspect of Freethinker’s critique was “problematization” of practice of “politicizing women’s bodies”. The ignorance about more advanced techniques of critical pedagogical dialogues led to further “misrepresentation” of Freethinker’s critique as favoring one side of the war being played on women bodies. To contextulize it let me give you an example. When General Musharaff sided with United States in War on Terror, state adopted a policy of “Enlightened Moderation”. Women’s bodies became the arena of war on terror. General Musharraff’s state sponsored the fashion industry of Pakistan and also the mass media which mushroomed in Pakistan. The commercial interests of media empires, fashion and cosmetic industries led to “objectification of women” on mass and visual media. The Ramp-show models were being represented in London and Paris as “other face” of Pakistan. [Just as the offending post against which Freethinker protested]. These simulations were being politicized as representative of a “secular progressive Jinnah’s Pakistan”. The result of this politicization of women bodies resulted in a barbaric attack on Women’s bodies from the Right Wing. “Burqa” emerged as a “resisting symbol” of Musharraff’s enlightened moderation. Whilst Mush’s were simulations existing only on media, Taliban threaded the “real women” on streets, with Acid. The ultimate anti-thesis of this politicization of simulations was Burqa clad suicidal militants of Red Mosque.

The war which was hyperreal [where reality is replaced by simulacrum] resulted in worse crimes against real women who never were being represented. Why hyperreality is dangerous, the whole violent debate in Musharraff era revolved around “obscenity of fashion shows”, “western cultural invasion” in name of “emancipation of women”. All NGO’s and modernists kept debating this useless notion , war against “co-marathon” in Lahore . All this was in name of “women rights”. Despite the marathons, and establishment of a vibrant fashion industry the “plight of real woman” is same. No serious debate took place on domestic and sexual slavery of women in Pakistan, All anti women laws remain, no debate on reproductive and abortion right, this despite the war in name of “women rights”. This is hyperreality. 8 years nation was polarized on women emancipation, liberalism, secularism and nothing has changed on ground. Because every thing was fictitious a simulacrum of mass media. The real women is paying the price now her safety is under threat.

Iqbal Hussein's paiting

Iqbal Hussein's paiting

The politicization of women bodies is one of the most important causes of mass crimes against women. Dr Robina Saigol has done an excellent study on how Pakistani Nation State politicizes women’s bodies and its consequences. Its is called Militarization, Nation and Gender : Women’s bodies as Arenas of Violent conflicts. Just as a critique on media portrayals of women was considered an attack on Pakistan Patriotism, a patriotism which revolves around either converting women into a “Barbie doll” of a “burqa clad sub human”. The inherent insecurity of Pakistani nationalists lead them to slogan mongering like Long Live Barbie Doll without realizing the amount of exploitation which goes on in such Industries.

Why we are so concerned about how women are portrayed on media for commercial interests, because overwhelming evidence exists on the harmful effects it causes on “real women”.

“Extensive research has demonstrated the negative results of female beautifulobjectification in the media. Depression, appearance anxiety, body shame, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders are only a few among the growing list of repercussions (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997). In addition to the objectification of women, the media commits another assault on the dignity of women. This assault is the dismemberment of women, and it has not received the attention it deserves (Kilbourne, 2002). Kilbourne (2002) pointed out that advertising is a 100 billion dollar a year industry. Each day we are exposed to more than 2000 ads. Advertising can be one of the most powerful sources of education in our society. Many women feel pressured to conform to the beauty standards of our culture and are willing to go to great lengths to manipulate and change their faces and bodies. Kilbourne suggests that women are conditioned to view their faces as masks and their bodies as objects. Through the mass media, women discover that their bodies and faces are in need of alteration, augmentation, and disguise. In addition, women are taught to internalize an observer’s perspective of their own bodies. This phenomenon is called objectification (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997). Advertisements are loaded with objectified women, and only recently have the effects of objectification been explored. However, the effects of the dismemberment of women in advertising have been neglected. Dismemberment advertisements highlight one part of a woman’s body while ignoring all the other parts of her body. Dismemberment ads portray women with missing appendages or substitute appendages. Of course the ads are only symbolic of dismemberment, but the symbolic imagery creates nearly the same effect.” The Objectification and Dismemberment of Women in Media , Kacey D Greening.

47503ca290403_1130b1use1What was truly condemnable that the images which were posted in retaliation of Freethinker’s criticism included what have been called “dismemberment of women”. The images highlight one part of women’s body neglect others, like in this case face and breasts. One should note that one never comes across image of male model showing just his crotch! With these images bombarding the mass media, it alters the reality and consciousness. This results in viewing women just as pleasure objects and toys; this is the first step in converting women into prostitute. Pleasure and sex which can be bought apart from woman’s soul: conditioning men into thinking of women as objects and pressurizing women to “conform” to sex-beauty protocols this de-humanizing continues. It is not about what dress some one is wearing, its hyperreality and politicization of women’s bodies which we are objecting. I am concluding this article by giving position of a radical feminist to add another perspective to the issue

“Yet fashion is still misogynist. It commodifies women, encourages them to believe that they must endure pain in order to be sexually appealing. Designers advertise clothes by picturing them on clear-skinned, breastless cadavers, in so-called “women’s magazines”; these magazines run articles that discuss how fashion can help you — an averagely fat, slightly be-zitted woman — come close to this standard of beauty. Fashion invites every woman to make the old trade of sex for money and happiness.”

Anti-Fashion: Patriarchy necessitates prostitution necessitates fashion, Chase Olivarius McAllister

“There can be no socialism without the emancipation of women, and there can no emancipation of women while the economic slavery of capitalism persists.”


For more Pakistani context of Women day and the struggle please read my old article on Fehmida Riaz and discourse of exclusion

With thanks: International Marxist Website

[SA]

On International Working Women’s Day – Fight Back Against Women’s Oppression.

By Julian Benson

We are living in a period that can be defined as one of the most turbulent in history. The economic crisis, through its sheer scale and reach, is bringing about a wholesale change in the consciousness of working people the world over. The contradictions and weaknesses of this system are becoming plainly evident as capitalism buckles under its own weight. As always, it is the poor, the oppressed, and the workers who must shoulder this weight in order to hold up the privileges of the rich. There is no portion of the working class that has so greatly and extensively borne this affliction than working women.

The International Working Womenäs Day is the day we pay homage to the tremendous contributions that female workers have made in the fight for a just society. Here women demonstrating against immigration laws in France. Photo by looking4poetry on Flickr.
The International Working Women’s Day is the day we pay homage to the tremendous contributions that female workers have made in the fight for a just society. Here women demonstrating against immigration laws in France. Photo by looking4poetry on Flickr.

March 8, International Working Women’s Day, is arguably one of the most important dates of the calendar for the global labour movement. It is the day we pay homage to the tremendous contributions that female workers have made in the fight for a just society. It is the day we reaffirm women’s place of honour at the head of our movement. More than anything else, it is the day that all workers, whatever their sex, colour, or creed, remind those who seek to divide us that we know that our struggle, our enemy, and our goal, is one and the same.

The conditions faced by working-class women today clearly illustrate the systemic nature of their exploitation. Despite the mouthpieces of the bosses taking up the cry of women’s rights in the last several decades, the facts show that their words are not reflected by their actions. According to the British Trades Union Congress (TUC), the layoff rate for female workers has increased by 2.3% since the start of 2008, almost double that of male workers. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 90% of workers in sweatshops are women and young girls.

The corporate media, when it is forced to acknowledge these facts, continually tries to confuse workers by presenting them as a gender versus gender issue. Reuters, in an article on the effects of the slump on women, spends one paragraph talking about the plight of women workers and commits the remainder of its three-page article discussing how many women are CEOs or board members of the largest corporations. The argument made by liberal Feminists is that the progress of women can be measured by how many women hold positions of power in the large corporations and in governments. When Stephen Harper announced a cabinet reshuffle after the last federal election in Canada, bourgeois feminists were delighted when he appointed a record 11 women, or 29% of cabinet, to his Tory government. The Feminist NGO, Catalyst, boasts that the percentage of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies went from 8.7% in 1995 to 16.4% in 2005. However, do facts like this really mean that the welfare of all women is improving? According to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), in the same ten-year period, women workers went from making 72% of a male worker’s pay for work of equal value, to just 70.5%. Having more women cabinet ministers and CEOs has not only failed to improve the lot of working women, pay equity has actually decreased in the last decade and the exploitation of women is as evident as ever.

Stephen Harper (right) is heading a government with record number of female ministers but this has not improved the situation for women. The same can be said for Germany's first female Prime Minister, who has presided over huge cuts in the welfare state. Photo by franz88 on Flickr.
Stephen Harper (right) is heading a government with record number of female ministers but this has not improved the situation for women. The same can be said for Germany’s first female Prime Minister (left), who has presided over huge cuts in the welfare state. Photo by franz88 on Flickr.

Capitalism depends on the subjugation of women for its very survival. Sexism, along with racism and every other divisive tool the bourgeois possess, are vital wedges needed to drive apart male workers from their female comrades in order to prevent the rise of the one thing that can undo this system: worker’s unity. Bourgeois women, the CEOs and cabinet ministers, have nothing to gain by ending the disproportionate exploitation of women workers. In fact, they have a vested interest in ensuring that this oppression continues. Keeping female workers at a lower wage than their male counterparts has the effect of putting pressure on male workers to accept lower wages in order to compete for the same jobs, thus repugnantly fostering sexism and pitting worker against worker. Additionally, women are made to form a reserve army of cheap, mobile labour, which is very profitable for the capitalists. There is a reason why women overwhelmingly fill low paid service sector jobs and sweatshops. Capitalism also doesn’t count the creation and nurturing of life as real productive work in society and expects it to be done for free, largely by working class women. A woman’s biological role as the child bearer creates a situation where, under capitalism, it is women who are also the ones who have to take up the burden of child rearing. This leaves women with the double burden of being responsible for the care of her children and home, while additionally working to help support them. Shouldering this extra weight leaves the woman worker with little free time to become politically active, organize unions, or, in many cases, even work a full-time job. This leads to women being forced into the most exploitative working conditions, often on poverty wages, thus making their situation ever worse, helping to re-enforce their economic dependence on men.

Capitalism forces upon women the double burden of child rearing and wage labour. Photo by UNICEF Iran, Mojgan Parssa-Magham.
Capitalism forces upon women the double burden of child rearing and wage labour. Photo by UNICEF Iran, Mojgan Parssa-Magham.

It is this economic dependence that has forced women to endure the most humiliating abuse across the centuries. Even in so-called enlightened Western countries, every day working class women face the choice between poverty, homelessness and losing their children on the one side, or putting up with a violent and abusive partner on the other. Programmes to protect women from these situations, meagre though they are, are also being cut back by governments looking to save money in the financial crisis. However, despite (or perhaps because of) the social and economic hardships that working class women face on a daily basis, when these women rise up to defend their rights, they do so with an unequalled militancy.

Ironically, it is bourgeois women who act as some of the worst exploitative employers of working class women. All one has to do is to take a bus in the early morning through any wealthy neighbourhood to see the army of nannies, cooks, and cleaning staff, largely pulled from immigrant women, who perform the domestic chores of these upper class households. The bourgeois women, of course, are indeed “liberated”. They are free from both the daily grind of wage labour and from the tiresome burden of domestic slavery and can readily pursue the same ends that bourgeois men do, such as politics, business, and academia. This “liberation,” in which the liberal Feminists wish to paint a victory for women, is realistically just the dumping of all these burdens directly on the already overworked mass of working class women.

It is the duty of all socialists to fight against sexism within the labour movement, not only because of its disgusting chauvinism, but more crucially because it is a tool used by the bosses to divide and conquer. The common theme shared by both liberal Feminists and reactionary chauvinists is that men and women have competing interests. Socialists believe this to be untrue. The bourgeois have an interest in maintaining gender divisions, while workers simultaneously have an interest in breaking them down. We fight along class lines for socialism not because, as some academics have stated, “Marxism doesn’t understand the women’s struggle,” but for precisely the opposite reason. Marxism is infused with over 150 years of hard won experience in the struggle against the exploitation and oppression of women. It is through continually studying this living history of our movement that we have understood that there is no solution to the women’s struggle under capitalism.

Only in socialism can a solution be found. Through universal child care, education, housing and healthcare, through the socialization of domestic chores by creating public laundries, kitchens, etc. and through the guarantee of equal pay in a system of full and fair employment, can the burdens placed on working-women’s social development finally be lifted.

On February 20, two Iranian female workers were sentenced to 100 lashes in public. Their offence wasn’t the flaunting of the Iranian regime’s reactionary “virtue laws”. What they did was far more dangerous to the Iranian state   they were arrested and whipped for attending a May Day rally.

We Marxists know, just as well as the ruling class, that the revolutionary potential of female workers is the sword of Damocles hanging over them and their system. In 1917, it was the women of Petrograd that marched from factory to factory, rousing their sons, brothers, and fathers out into the streets in what was the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Just like then, it will be the women who will embody our revolution. It will be the working women who will usher in the end of capitalism, and with it, the end of the exploitation of women now and forever. We say, “There can be no socialism without the emancipation of women, and there can no emancipation of women while the economic slavery of capitalism persists.”

It will be the working women who will usher in the end of capitalism, and with it, the end of the exploitation of women now and forever. Photo by Carlo Nicora on Flickr.
There can be no socialism without the emancipation of women and it will be working women who will usher in the end of capitalism, and with it, the end of the exploitation of women now and forever. Photo by Carlo Nicora on Flickr.

“The heart which aches after an evening lost in glasses of cognac, longing for a lost lover, the acute awareness of dispossession in Multani Kafi’s of Khawaja Farid: dispossession of Lands of Saraikies , of Baluchiis of Palestinians , the Natives who have lost Love and Land to Migrant states with civilizing missions”

Shaheryar Ali

Longing is common between Love and Palestine, lover longs like I am longing for him and Palestinians long for Palestine. They are Palestinians without having Palestine. The thing which define them, gives them identity, give them a name; they are deprived of it. This is alienation and dispossession. This is the point where politics merge with Art. “Firaq” is the continuous state of existence for a lover and for a Palestinian. Loss of the lover; heart aches, eyes cry, soul rebels. Every thing else seems meaningless, the cosmos focuses on a single being “the beloved”. The evening is hovering in a cool grey mist and I remember his green eyes, his olive skin , cognac seems to burn my soul , the universe seem to rock on to the Lover’s Lament emerging from Ustad Salamat singing Kaafi of Khawaja Farid :

Sanwal Mor Moharan

Ro Ro mein waat Nihara’n

Sanwal Mor Moharan

[O my handsome [Baluch] lover turn your camel around, I am crying, my gaze is fixed on the burning desert, Return o my Handsome [Baluch] lover]

The voice of the master strikes like a dagger on my heart, every thing seems to cry “Sanwal Mor Mohara’n” “Sanwal Mor Mohara’n” Return o my lover, Return. First Sassi died in desert and now Rohi [Romantic name of Saraiki Cholistan desert] is dead. Rohi is raped everyday by the Arab sheiks that have been given the land by Islamic Republic of Pakistan to hunt our deers, our doves, our little girls and our little boys. With poisonous dagger of Islam they have cut our land into small pieces .Our land our goddess is now a form of bribe given to Mullahs, retired Army officers, Punjabi politicians. Saraiki native wander in Rohi: slaves dying of thirst and hunger, drinking water along with animals. Our lovers, our lands lost for ever— Sanwal Mor Mohara’n. . Return my lover—- Pakistanis don’t understand these things, what is loss of land, what is loss of love , they have been taught to grab the land with sword Like Muhammed Bin Kassim who robbed Sindh and took daughter of Dahir , land and love both taken with sword

Mahmoud Darwish understands this. He is one of the dispossessed, he speaks of Love or does he speak of land, its Art or Politics. I am not sure of it but I am sure of one thing, its Love and it’s longing

Her eyes and the tattoos on her hands are Palestinian

Her name, Palestinian

Her dreams and sorrow, Palestinian

Her kerchief, her feet and body, Palestinian

Her words and her silence, Palestinian

Her voice, Palestinian

Her birth and her death, Palestinian

“The Lover, Darwish”

spe4This powerful love which natives have gives them strength to resist, this land than becomes mother, goddess and beloved life giver against the colonizers, their symbols and discourse. State of Israel and State of Pakistan both have brought hegemonizing religious beliefs , YHWE of Bible and Allah of Koran Jealous deities who want lands, temples and submission. The land of Israel is given to Israelis, the natives are slaughtered, and they have to in order to grab the land. Anat the goddess of Canaanites emerges as soul of Palestine to give them strength against those who destroyed temples of natives and grabbed their land in the work of Palestinian artist Abdel Rahmen al Mozayen . Al Mozayen’s pen and ink drawings have become synonymous with Palestinian liberation struggle. Palestinian embroidery, their historical tradition and stylized figures give his work a kind of sublimity. He focuses on Palestine’s Canaanite heritage to demonstrate longevity and steadfastness of Palestinian culture and to counter the Israeli efforts to co-opt local culture and erase their historical roots in line with Bible. These four drawing [Pen n Ink] are his work in response to Jenin’s massacre when Anat emerges as soul of Palestine who rises with the city which will re assert it self.

Imagery of goddesses has emerged as an important artistic expression of resistance especially against Catholic Church, Orthodox Judaism and fundamentalist Islam. Salman Rushdie’s most original protest against colonization experience and resultant dualism of identities found the artistic expression in discourse involving Arabian Prophet’s efforts to “divinize” and “co-opt” the 3 native Meccan goddesses Al Lat , Al Manat and Al Uzza. The act of humanism later attributed to Satan by fundamentalist transformation of Islam [event recorded by earlier muslim Imams but disputed by later scholars during establishment of Arab imperialism] Satanic Verses thus “in its effects” becomes an act of resistance against censorship imposed by Islamic fundamentalism, states and other institutions of control and transformation. With imposition of wahabi Islam by Islamic Republic the dispossessed natives of this migrant state have re-discovered the “feminine goddess imagery” of this land. “Maaa’n” or mother thus becomes the point of worship in Punjabi mystic poetry instead of Allah of mullah. The “bad-women” of romantic tales are heroines of native intellectual as opposed to the state and its patriotic intellectual. For the native Sindhi Poet Sheik Ayaz , the daughter of Dahir is heroine, for Pakistani state his molester the Arab invader of Sindh Muhammed Bin Kassim is the hero. The Sindhi resistance against Kassim and later Islamic republic finds artistic expression in female heroines Sassi and Marvi which have now merged with imagery of Benazir Bhutto the daughter of Sindh murdered in Kufa of Islamabad.

When Islamic Republic poisoned the Saraiki heartland with fundamentalist Islam, Jhang the romantic town of Heer the romantic heroine of Punjab became the ground zero of sectarian violence. The late Saraiki poet Sarwar Karbali invoked the feminine imagery of Heer to resist Talibanization

Jud tuk Jhang Heer da Jhang hai

Maakhi, Makhan, Kheer da Jhang Hai

Aj kul Jhang Islam da Jhang he

Jhang de vich Islam di Jang ae

Goli te barood di dhoo’n ae

Adam boo ae Adam boo ae

[There was a time when Jhang was town of Heer , than Jhang was town of Life, of honey, butter and milk, these days Jhang is city of Islam, Jihad of Islam is going on in Jhang, every where there is smoke of TNT and bullets and smell of charred human flesh—-]

My glass is empty and my heart aches for lost love for lost time and for lost lands, the lament continues Sanwal Mor Mohara’n——–, or my lover return——

Shaheryar Ali

Famous Pakistani academic Dr Robina Saigol has written an influential critique of Nation State from feminist perspective. It is known as “Militarization, Nation and Gender: Women bodies as arenas of violent conflicts”. The study explains quite brilliantly the ideological structures which lead to crimes against women during violent conflicts. Pakistan is the specific focus of this study. I am reminded of it after I discovered the fate of Miss Zarina Murree a Baluch woman who went missing along with 429 persons since December 2005 according to Asian Human Rights Commission Report. She is reportedly being abused as a “sex slave” by Pakistan Army. I came to know about her, thanks to the inspiring blog “Grand Trunk Road” which writes about the duality of response on the predicament of two women. The suspected Islamic Fascist terrorist Dr Aafia Siddiqui and Miss Zarina Murree. The entry can be read here .I will deal with this problem at multiple levels trying to deconstruct the hegemonious discourse on Terrorism. Why a poor school teacher like Miss Zarina Murree would be abused as a “sex-slave” by Mujahid army of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Dr Saigol explains this phenomenon in general term:

“Recent feminist theories of nationalism have pointed out that the Qaum (nation) is essentially feminine in construction. The nation is narrated on the body of women who become an emotionally-laden symbol of the nation, self, the inner, spiritual world and home. One’s motherland or maadar-e-watan, as it comes to be called, becomes invested with the kind of erotic attraction felt towards women, especially in the figure of the mother. The country comes to be appropriated, represented and contained within words which have strong romantic, erotic as well as maternal connotations. The desire for this land/woman/dharti is constructed as masculine desire; the desire to possess it, see it, admire it, love it, protect it and die fighting for it against rivals.

Since the desire for women gets transferred on to the nation and women’s bodies come to signify the nation, communal, regional, national and international conflicts come to be played out on women’s bodies. These bodies thus become arenas of violent struggle. Women are humiliated, tortured, brutally raped, and murdered as part of the process by which the sense of being a nation is created and reinforced”

Thus by kidnapping and than sexually molesting a poor Baluch teacher, Pakistan’s Army is trying to reinforce the ideology of “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. This a reply to the traitor Baluchs. The ironic fact is the history of Islamic republic taught at school traces the history of Islamic state from the invasion of Sindh by Muhammed Bin Qasim, the Umayyad , who as the myth goes invaded Sindh to defend the “honour” of a Muslim girl. Like all other myths of Islamic Republic’s ideological history this honour laden justification of Arab imperialist assault on Sindh is deconstructed by great Sindhi poet and famous conscientious objectors to 1965 Indo-Pak , Sheik Ayaz in his poem which is the lament of the native girl of Sindh abused by invading Arabs. When Yvonne Ridley, former Taliban prisoner and now a pro Taliban activist and Respect Party affiliate who could very much be suffering from “Stockholm Syndrome” broke the news of Dr Aafia Siddique being sexually molested at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, ritualistic drum beating started. The fact that its very hard to dismiss Dr Sidiqque’s links with Al-Qaida and Islamic fascism was ignored. There is a case of abuse of Dr Siddique’s rights and all extra judicial punishments, torture and abuse must be condemned but this is clearly a case of “double discourse”. All the discourse of civil rights, human rights, woman rights, good governance etc in Pakistan favors the ideological interests of Islamic Republic. Thus suspected and alleged sexual molestation of Dr Siddique, an Urdu speaking girl from middle and upper middle classes who is involved in Jihad is the drummed up at all levels in Pakistan from media to text messages on mobile phones asking the young muslim men to follow the example of Muhammed Bin Qasim and deliver the “daughter of Islam” from infidels. Liberals and progressives follow this ideological discourse bound by their ethos of “human rights” and “civil rights”, the fact that Dr Siqqique if was successful in her Jihad would result in a system which doesn’t recognizes even the concept of human rights is ignored by most lefti human rights activists. Whilst they must raise a voice against state abuse they must make sure that their interest is only in the fact that Dr Siddique be brought in a court of Law where she gets a fair trial. Just as Ajmal Kasab has the legal right to fair trial. Nothing more than that. Unfortunately we saw Iqbal Haider becoming party to the the emotional drama created by the Right. He should  have kept in mind, what image they created of other abuse victims. Mukhtar Mai, the Saraiki woman raped on orders of village counsel is a “whore” according to moral punjabi middle class. Dr Shazia Murree, the Baluch doctor raped by Captain Hamad was declared a “slut” and government narrated the stories of “condoms” in her home with a question why did a good girl had “condoms” in her home??

The great respect to woman, civil rights and human rights expressed by Islamic Republic and its ideological apparatus the media and the chattering class in cases of suspected Taliban and other ideological allies clearly vanishes when such atrocities are done to “others” of Islamic Republic by establishment. Thus the documented use of rape as a war tactic by Pakistan Army and Jamate Islami in 1971’s Bangladesh’s war of Liberation is dismissed as “Indian propaganda”, similar use of rape as a tactic to curtail MRD in 1980s in interior Sindh and Saraiki region of Punjab is never spoken of. The rape and genocide of Baluch people by Pakistani state again fails to gain any mass support or even media attention. Why this happens. Dr Rubina Saigol writes in “State and the Limit of Counter-Terrorism: The Case of Pakistan and SriLanka”

“The foundational myth of Pakistan is the two-nation theory, which

posits Muslims and Hindus as two mutually exclusive, separate and

irreconcilable nations. This ideology divided the freedom struggle

against British rule as early as 1909 with the Morley-Minto Reforms in

which the principle of separate electorate was acknowledged by the

British government. It subsequently remained the main slogan of the

Muslim League and led to the division of independence by religion.

Within the two-nation paradigm, two states emerged, a Hindu India and

a Muslim Pakistan, although Indians generally see their country as secular.

The emergence of Pakistan within a struggle divided by religion meant

that religious identity came to be the defining characteristic of Pakistani

citizenship. This implied that other, sometimes older, sources of identity

in language, region or culture had to be suppressed if not entirely erased.

The construction of Pakistani identity as Muslim required the forgetting

of the identities of Bengali, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pathan or Baloch”

This is the root of all the double discourse in Pakistan. This is the bases of Bengali Genocide, this is base of failure of democracy and this is the base of Rape of Zarina Murree. Dr Saigol is one of those few academics from Pakistan who recognizes the fact that most of the problems of Pakistan like failure of democracy and Islamic Fascism are result of the “state” itself. She also traces the roots of Taliban terrorism in two nation ideology of Pakistani state. Just have a look at the report of Asian Human Rights Commission here .

The Asian Human Rights Commission has received further details in the case of Ms. Zarina Marri, a 23-year-old schoolteacher from Balochistan province, who has been held incommunicado in an army torture cell at Karachi, the capital of Sindh province and used as a sex slave, please see our statement; http://www.ahrchk.net/statements/mainfile.php/2009statements/1843/——–“
Sanakhawan e Taqdees e Mushriq Kahan hein?

SanaKhawan e Taqdees e Mushriq Ko Lao——–

Eve oh Eve                                                                                    
    
Why wouldn’t Eve have eaten of the fruit?
Didn’t she have a hand to reach out with,
Fingers with which to make a fist?
Didn’t Eve have a stomach for feeling hunger,
A tongue for feeling thirst,
A heart with which to love?
    
Well, then, why wouldn’t Eve have eaten of the fruit?
Why would she merely have suppressed her wishes,
Regulated her steps,
Subdued her thirst?
Why would she have been so compelled
To keep Adam moving around in the Garden of Eden all their lives?
 
Because Eve did eat of the fruit,
There is sky and earth.
Because she has eaten, 

                    There are moon, sun, rivers, seas,

Because she has eaten, trees, plans and vines.

because Eve has eaten of the fruit

            there is joy, because she has eaten there is joy. 

joy, joy–

Eating  of the fruit, Eve made a heaven of the earth. 

Eve, if you get hold of the fruit 

       don’t ever refrain from eating

 

MOSQUE,  TEMPLE
 
Let the pavilions of religion
    be ground to bits,
let the bricks of temples, mosques, guruduaras, churches
     be burned in blind fire,
and upon those heaps of destruction
let lovely flower gardens grow, spreading their fragrance.
let children’s schools and study halls grow.
 
For the welfare of humanity, now let prayer halls
be turned into hospitals, orphanages, universities,
Now let prayer halls become academies of art, fine art centers,
          scientific research institutes.
Now let prayer halls be turned to golden rice fields
          in the radiant dawn,
Open fields, rivers, restless seas.
  
From now on, let religion’s other name be humanity. 

 

NOORJAHAN
    
  They have made Noorjahan stand in a hole in the courtyard.
  There she stands submerged to her waist, her head hanging.
  They’re throwing stones at Noorjahan,
  stones that are striking my body.
   I feel them on my head, forehead, chest, back,
  and I hear laughing, shouts of abuse.

  Noorjahan’s fractured  forehead pours out blood, mine also.
  Noorjahan’s eyes have burst, mine also.
  Noorjahan’s nose has been smashed, mine also.
  Noorjahan’s torn breast and heart have been pierced, mine also. 
 
        Are these stones not striking you? 
   
  They’re laughing aloud, laughing and stroking their beards.
 Even their caps, stuck to their heads, are shaking with laughter.
 They’re laughing and swinging their walking sticks.
 From the quiver of their cruel eyes,
 Arrows speed to pierce her body,
 My body also.

         Are these arrows not piercing your body?

THE GAME IN REVERSE

The other day in Ramna park I saw a boy buying a girl.

I‘d really like to buy a boy for five or ten taka,
a clean-shaven boy, with a fresh shirt, combed and parted hair,
a boy on the park bench, or standing on the main road
          In a curvaceous pose.

I’d  like to grab the boy by his collar
          and pull him up into a rickshaw –
tickling his neck and belly, I ‘d make him giggle;
bringing him home, I’d give him a sound thrashing
with high-heeled shoes, then throw him out –
           ‘”Get lost, bastard!”

Sticking bandages on his forehead,
he would doze on the sidewalks at dawn,
scratching scabies.
Mangy dogs would lick at the yellow pus
             oozing out of the ulcers in his groin.
Seeing them, the girls would laugh with their tingling sound
             of glass bangles breaking.

I really want to buy me a boy,
a fresh, nubile boy with a hairy chest –
I’ll buy a boy and rough him up all over.
Kicking him hard on his shriveled balls,
              I’ll shout, “Get lost, bastard!”

Was a poet ever kept in house arrest?

Taslima Nasreen

Was a poet ever kept in house arrest?
May be she has been a subject of politicking
True she caused clashes once in a while
May be an arson, too.
But no, a poet was never taken to safe custody.
This India, this civilization, this 21st century
They all had welcomed the poet
Ignoring its childish religionism, its merciless politics.
But today, the poet languishes in house arrest.
She has done no offense.

Having been deprived of the view of the sky
No longer she can tell how does the sky look like;
Deprived of the sight of men, no longer can she say how are folks today.
They have left leaving a world of darkness before the poet
They won’t return ever, they informed.

Today for the one hundred and fiftieth day, the poet languishes in safe custody
For one hundred and fifty days the poet is unaware
If this earth yet hosts any creature with a human soul
For one hundred and fifty days the poet is unsure
If she is alive or dead.

Whom she will approach to ask back these days for?
Facing darkness the poet ponders
Who will restore sunrays into her life?
Who is there to bring her back the song of life?

O man, tell me, all who suffered in house arrest
Most of them were poets, a big consolation will that be,
It will relieve the burden of my aloneness.
(Translated by Faizul Latif Chowdhury)

osted by Shaheryar Ali

History and interpretation – Communalism and problems of historiography in India

by Irfan Habib*

IF one looks back at 1947 to find out in what ways it brought about changes in the approach to the medieval (that is, the post-ancient, pre-British, and, in much of earlier discourse, the ‘Muslim’) period of India’s history, a few major shifts of emphasis could, perhaps, be immediately identified.

First of all, Partition meant that the two communalist camps, Hindu and Muslim, found two different ‘national’ homes. Until 1947 there had been a running debate between the advocates of the two communities. But with 1947, the Muslim side in the communal historical debate shifted entirely to Pakistan, where in its seemingly final version, the history of ‘Muslims in India’ was now projected as a struggle for a separate nation right from A.D. 712, when Muhammad ibn Qasim entered Sind at the head of an Arab army. This was the reading of history pursued with much energy by the late Ishtiaq Husain Quraishi, and as recently as January this year the publication has been announced of a two-volume Road to Pakistan, its Vol.I comprising a 653-page account of “the period from A.D. 712 to 1858″, written by “eminent historians and scholars of Pakistan” and edited by Hakim Mohammad Said of Hamdard (Karachi).

In India, the contrary interpretation found its high priest in the well-known historian R. C. Majumdar. To him the entire period from c. 1200 onwards was one of foreign rule; Muslims were alien to Indian (Hindu) culture; the Hindus, oppressed and humiliated, wished nothing better than to slaughter “the Mlechhas” (Muslims); the British regime was a successor more civilised than “Muslim rule”; yet real opposition to the British came from Hindus, not Muslims, even in 1857; and, finally, the national movement’s course was throughout distorted by concessions made to Muslims by Gandhiji, who was so much personally to blame for Partition. This view runs like a red thread in the volumes of History and Culture of the Indian People (first volume issued 1951), published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan with financial assistance from the Government of India, and edited by R. C. Majumdar, whose great industry must extract admiration from his worst critics. (An early critic was D. D. Kosambi, who wrote that if Islam was so alien to India as the original patron of the series, K. M. Munshi, and its editor R. C. Majumdar thought, then they should have worried about their own “good Muslim professional names”!). Majumdar went on to author texts on the Rebellion of 1857 and the freedom movement in which the same stance was firmly maintained. Though after Majumdar’s death (1980), there has not appeared on the scene a historian of similar calibre in the Hindutva (or even the ’soft Hindutva’) camp, the often unproven hypotheses and inferences that he bequeathed have all become firm truths for a very large number of educated people in India.

It is not often perceived that both the Hindu and Muslim communal schools share a very large area of common ground. Both see the two religious communities as constant political entities, and, therefore, in effect, separate nations. The slogan “Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan”, raised by the pre-1947 forebears of the present Sangh parivar, was the exact counterpart of the “Pakistan” slogan of the Muslim League and both equally implied adherence to the Two-Nation theory. Often, therefore, in the historical writings of the two schools, the heroes and villains are simply interchanged, while large areas of history have been ignored by both.

THE mainstream nationalist tradition of historiography presented, in contrast, a much broader and critical view of history. This could be seen in two early works on medieval Indian history, namely, Tara Chand’s Influence of Islam on Indian Culture, and Mohammad Habib’s monograph on Mahmud of Ghaznin, both published in the 1920s. Nationalist historiography presented a consistent affirmation of the compositeness of India’s heritage. It also felt called upon to controvert the official British claim of improvement in Indian economic life that the colonial regime had brought about, in contrast to its ‘native’ predecessors. W.H. Moreland’s rather cautious statement of this case brought forth challenges from Brij Narain (1929) and Radhakamal Mukerji (1934), who presented favourable views of the economic performance of the Mughal Empire.

WITH Independence, new questions within this stream of historiography were generated. As the direct compulsions of debate with British imperialism receded, there developed a greater readiness to study the factors of change and stagnation in our past and to identify various internal economic, social and ideological contradictions. Inevitably, Marxist influences began to be felt, especially under the impact of the Soviet Union’s role in the Second World War and the lifting of the colonial ban on Marxist classics. In his Introduction to the Study of Indian History (1956), Kosambi fitted the medieval polities headed by Muslim rulers in his interpretation of “Indian feudalism”, by special reference to the process that he designated “feudalism from above”. To the cultural consequences of the Islamic intrusion he added the technological one, crediting “Islamic raiders” with “breaking hide-bound custom in the adoption and transmission of new techniques”. Almost simultaneously, in a notable 102-page text (1952), Mohammad Habib offered an interpretation of the Ghorian-Turkish conquests of the 13th century and the early Delhi Sultanate in economic terms, with much use of Marxian concepts. Although the numerous insights of both these historians remain of lasting value, their major achievement was really to pioneer the exploration of a practically virgin domain.

In the subsequent period, possibly owing to the difference in the main source-languages, there were two points to which Marxist-influenced research came separately to be directed. In his Indian Feudalism (1965), R. S. Sharma studied in detail the basic relationships in early medieval society down to the eve of the Ghorian conquests. He argued in favour of a “feudalism largely realising the surplus from peasants mainly in kind through superior rights in their land and through forced labour, which is not found on any considerable scale… after the Turkish conquest of India.” These conclusions were largely underlined for the period immediately preceding c. 1200 by B.N.S. Yadava (1973).

The other effort was directed to establishing what the later medieval class structures were like, whether different from those of the earlier period or not. Satish Chandra made an initial attempt to delineate the main features of the Mughal Indian political and social order (1959). I presented (1963) a detailed study of the agrarian system of Mughal India, in which I argued that there were two ruling classes, the centralised nobility and the dispersed landed gentry (zamindars); and that the Mughal Empire collapsed because of agrarian uprisings in which the zamindars utilised the desperation of the oppressed peasantry. In later writing (1969), I denied that the Mughal Empire had any potentialities for capitalistic development, despite a considerable presence of commodity production. The last thesis has been contested by Iqtidar A. Khan (1975), while S. Moosvi (1987) has patiently reworked the basic statistics in the Ain-i-Akbari on which all work on Mughal economic history must necessarily rely. M. Athar Ali (1966), emphasising the centralised nature of Mughal polity, and the ethnic and religious compositeness of the nobility, has argued against my thesis of an agrarian crisis in that Empire.

FROM the 1970s, historical research in Medieval India began to be influenced by two distinct but converging currents. Burton Stein (1980) applied the theory of “segmentary state”, evolved in African anthropology, to medieval South India, and this became a signal for its application, notably by A. Wink (1986), to both Mughal and Maratha sovereignty. The tendency here is to deny the historicity of the process of centralisation as well as systematisation in pre-colonial governments. The other current originated from Cambridge, with C.A. Bayly (1983), who, arguing for a continuity between the previous indigenous polities and the colonial regime, saw the operation of innovative “corporate groups” behind the Mughal imperial decline, groups that later shifted their loyalties to the East India Company. The Indian supporters of the Bayly thesis include Muzaffar Alam (1986) and S. Subrahmanyan. Neither thesis has been accepted by most Indian historians, and there has been a notable disavowal of both in the West itself, in J. F. Richards’s volume on the Mughal Empire in the New Cambridge History of India (1993).

The Indian (in part NRI) counterpart of the two western theories has been the “Subaltern” school, whose members have worked as a “collective” since 1982. Sharing the Cambridge School’s scepticism of Indian nationalism, these historians have emphasised “the cultural autonomy” of tribal and local communities, and protested against those (including such as are conveniently termed “Nehruvian Marxists”) who have assumed cultural syntheses and unifying factors to be an important element in Indian history. While the Subalterns’ work has been mainly concerned with the period of the national movement, their beliefs enmesh fairly well with the criticism of nationalist and Marxist historiography of pre-colonial India that historians like Stein and Bayly have initiated.

THAT different views on medieval India should be influenced by the individual historian’s subjective views of the contemporary world is only to be expected; these must, however, first meet the criterion of support from historical evidence. In fact, so long as new views appear and provoke a fresh or extended exploration of the historical documentation, one can only welcome the tendency not to take the given history on trust. But historical evidence must always remain the touchstone. A major problem today is that only a small and declining number of people in India have access to Persian, in which language so much of the source material of medieval India is to be found. Not only does this large body of material need to be studied, but the collection of documents in all languages has also to be encouraged, as well as local antiquarian and archaeological work. With every passing day the evidence on paper, metal or brick or stone is being destroyed. If the hand of destruction is to be stayed, the people’s interest in the country’s past needs to be aroused. In this effort all those who, without necessarily being professional historians themselves, have yet a care for all aspects and phases of our heritage, can play a most crucial part.

*Irfan Habib is leading, well-respected Indian historian. He was awarded Padma Bhushan for his great contributions to Indian history. He stood up to the BJP led project to communalize Indian History.