News blackout about Indian occupation of Kashmir continues

Srinagar, Kashmir ( Tauseef Mustafa:AFP:Getty Images) Dec 24 2015

Women protest a rape in the Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir in 2009. (Bilal Bahadur)

This is a holiday season & not just for Christians–so it makes sense photojournalism would showcase religious practices & Santa Claus stunts from around the world. But it does make you wonder when media ignores news in a region most of the time & then crops up with holiday shots–like this one from Srinagar, Kashmir.

The top photo is Kashmiri Muslim women piously reacting at a religious ritual surrounding the birthday celebration of Muhammed. No offense to piety but when it comes to Kashmiri women, their religious practices are the least newsworthy events they’re engaged in–& they’re engaged in plenty.

Just a few weeks ago, massive protests erupted in the Bandipora district of Kashmir over the torture of four people, including a mother & her son, by Indian army personnel. That’s a really important story which received no media coverage outside Kashmir.

It’s been a few decades now that Kashmiri women have litigated, demanded investigations by the Indian government, & repeatedly protested sexual violence institutional & systemic to the Indian occupation of Kashmir. That sexual violence includes individual & gang rape, harassment, & torture. Several human rights groups including a UN agency, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Médecins Sans Frontières, Physicians for Human Rights, & Asia Watch (separately before it became part of HRW) have issued detailed reports describing thousands of cases of sexual violence used as collective punishment & as a weapon of war & occupation by Indian military & paramilitary forces.

Kashmiri protesters have been stonewalled every inch of the way for decades–& that makes the story all the more important to report rather than ignore. Indian authorities hold pseudo-investigations concluding the women accusers (from teenage girls to elderly women) are perpetrating a “massive hoax” orchestrated by militants & international allies (presumably the human rights groups) to make the Indian occupation of Kashmir a human rights issue. And of course there is still the issue for women of the disappearance, torture, murder of their family members.

An Indian law called the Armed Forces Special Powers Act allows Indian military & paramilitary forces what Kashmiri women call “unbridled impunity” in committing all manner of human rights violations. Because Indian troops cannot be prosecuted for their crimes, not a single one has been prosecuted for rape, murder, or destruction of property. It’s a very similar legal arrangement to what the US imposes in Iraq & Afghanistan allowing soldiers to commit war crimes & walk away scot-free from prosecution.

International solidarity with the people of Kashmir should be incorporated into antiwar activities. The news blackout does not signify its lack of importance but highlights the necessity of demanding India end the occupation of Kashmir.

(Top photo of religious ceremony by Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Image; bottom photo of women protesting rape in Shopian district 2009 by Bilal Bahadur)

New surge of thousands of Central American children crossing U.S.-Mexico border

La Bestia

Local news is issuing conflicting reports about the new surge of unaccompanied children from Central America crossing the US-Mexico border just a few miles from here. Some reports have said 5,000 children & other reports 10,000 children since October 1st.

They’ve traveled over a thousand miles (including fording rivers), crossing Mexico atop the infamous northbound el tren de la muerte (“the Death Train” also called “la bestia”). These are a network of freight trains which do not stop for immigrants to board or get off–causing hundreds of mutilations, amputations, & deaths for those fleeing countries with no disability social services.

Immigrants on the trains are subject to paramilitary & criminal gang violence, extreme cold & exposure, kidnapping, robbery, extortion, rape, assault, & mass disappearance. Some will end up in mass graves. Every year a caravan of grieving mothers from Central America comes looking for their children lost on this route.

A few years ago, the Mexican senate legalized the right of immigrants to travel through Mexico to the US but has done nothing to facilitate that right. Federal troops routinely stop & board passenger buses going north to check for & remove immigrants because the Mexican government functions as the southern flank of US immigration policy.

Along the train route however, Mexican families & human rights activists offer temporary hospitalities like shelter, food, medical care, baths, clothing. In some places where the trains slow, they rush to passing trains to hand off bags of food.

Once the children cross the border river (which has fallacious signs on the Mexican side warning of alligators in the river), there are no appropriate facilities to house & care for so many children since the Obama regime is investing in militarizing the border. Some children are warehoused in prison-like detention, others in abandoned military bases, & a few hundred on a ranch further north in Texas. But once again, local charities have set up a shelter to provide them hospitality & help. A Catholic church center is staffed by volunteers.

Local & state Democratic & Republican politicians (& presidential candidates) have attempted to portray children immigrants as associated with prostitution, drug trafficking, & crime. These politicians typify that unfortunate species of corruption labeled “probably too stupid to live in society.”

Around the world, including the US, immigration has become a child welfare issue. When it comes to children, there are no borders. There is either humanity or barbarism with no middle ground for mealy-mouth equivocations.

Immigration is a human right. Immigration is a child welfare issue. Open the damn borders.

(Photo of La Bestia from CNN)

Is thinking a crime now?

Nightly news announced the FBI is picking up ISIS sympathizers all over the US. But have they committed a crime? Is thinking now the same as doing? In my mind, I once slapped an old boyfriend silly. Did I commit a crime & can I now be arrested for assault & battery? Does that mean he felt it? Does somebody have to update Orwell’s “1984.”

And another question: if I go through a red light & there’s no traffic cop around to nail me, have I committed a moving violation?

Asra Nomani: the ubiquitous voice of Islamophobia

Asra Nomani

Nothing fries hard-boiled feminists more than seeing the rhetoric of women’s liberation incorporated into Islamophobia–the ideology of the so-called War on Terror. A central feature of that cooptation & war-mongering focuses on liberating Muslim women from the hijab–if necessary, by bombing their countries to smithereens.

The preoccupation with the veil worn by Muslim women is not an expression of solidarity against women’s status but a hackneyed form of misogyny–& not a very well disguised one. Thousands of women in niqabs & hijabs led Arab uprisings in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, & elsewhere & are on the front lines in places like Kashmir & Palestine, & monkey-faced feminists in the US or Europe are going to call them out for being male-dominated? What can possibly be of concern if women, for religious or any other reasons, choose to wear a veil? The fetish only makes sense politically–when it’s understood as targeting women for attack.

Right-wing, war-mongering feminism–very often, but not always, associated with Zionist feminists–was riding high because of the weakness of both the feminist & antiwar movements in the past decades. The recent vote by the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) to support BDS in defense of Palestinians is just one sign that the equilibrium of reactionary politics within feminism is cracking & feminism’s original association with antiwar politics is being regenerated. This presents a problem for the war makers & propagandists.

Enter the ubiquitous Asra Q. Nomani & her sidekick Hala Arafa, two retired conservative journalists trying to jumpstart a second career as Muslim media authorities on the inherent violence & misogyny of Islam–not ‘radical Islamism’, but Islam. Nomani is one of the 12 recent initiators of the Muslim Reform Movement (MRM) which (at least on the surface) appears to model itself on the Protestant Reformation by recently nailing its manifesto to the door of a Washington, DC mosque associated with Saudi Arabia.

Reform movements within religions are the very dynamics of religion. Some are consequential; others a flash-in-the-pan. The MRM manifesto is straight out of the enlightenment, with the inclusion of women’s rights. Everything looks so copacetic. One could claim it isn’t Nomani’s fault so many Zionist publications tout her articles critiquing Islam, but when you read the articles you find they’re indistinguishable from the most arrant Islamophobic propaganda. In 2010, Nomani actually argued for religious & racial profiling of Muslims. That helps explain why she would appear in venues like the Bill Maher show or Jerusalem Press Club or why she’s carrying her reform message all over US media rather than to the faithful at the mosques.

Nomani just overplayed her hand & exposed her agenda (again) when she & Arafa published a December 21st article in the Washington Post titled “As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the hijab in the name of interfaith solidarity.” In a remarkably stupid & disingenuous article, the two women evoke feminism to argue that teens & others wearing hijab as solidarity gestures with Muslim classmates are counterproductive & feed misogyny within Islam. Take a moment to catch your breath that two elite retirees would eschew active solidarity at a time when aggressive & violent incidents against Muslims, in particular Muslim women, are increasing around the world & hate-mongering is becoming deafening on US television. In some places like Myanmar, Muslims are subject to pogroms.

Nomani claims “Islamic feminism is the antidote to Islamic extremism.” Sounds good. But what is the antidote to anti-Muslim pogroms? Or to wars justified by extreme Islamophobia? The MRM claims they stand for “secular governance, human rights, including women’s rights, & peace.” Voltaire couldn’t have said it better. So why is Nomani insistently equating Islam with extremism at a time when Muslims are under attack? And why is she associating with reactionary political forces rather than helping build the antiwar movement?

Nomani is a hell of a bore to listen to but with her faux, overwrought air of sincerity, she’s taking people in. She does not represent the progressive forces of feminism but the reactionary forces of social hatred & war-mongering. The reform of Islam is a religious matter. The veil is nobody’s damn business but the women who wear them. Feminism is a ‘come as you are’ affair & doesn’t have a dress code.

(Photo of Asra Nomani from Washington Post)