Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Sound of Music and Partition and How Normal Everything Can Be Made to Seem

One of my favorite films growing up was the Sound of Music. I know, I know–but one of the scenes I found most confusing was towards the end, where the VonTrapps go perform in a show in a big theater just before fleeing the Nazi regime. I thought surely, in times such as those, no one would be performing in theaters and doing things that seemed at once so normal and so frivolous.

It turns out that this is a dangerous misunderstanding of how things work. Right now, American democracy is under serious attack and the federal government is being actively starved and narrowed to increasingly autocratic and erratic rule.

And yet, life goes on. We are, inevitably, preoccupied with the stuff of life. In some ways, this helps us retain our sanity—at least we aren’t those bizarre militia guys in the backwoods of Georgia preparing for a culture war by shooting guns in the woods. On the other hand, we spend a lot of time hoping that if we just do things as we always have, we’ll continue to have the lives that we’ve always had. When you’re Muslim in America today, this is both an exceptionally comforting and an exceptionally naïve approach.

While I was rambling about this very thing this morning, my husband reminded me that his mother and her family fled Hyderabad, India, by “going to the cinema.” As part of the Muslim Hyderabadi elite in the middle of what was suddenly a postcolonial Hindu state, his family was already under house arrest. The brutality of partition had begun, and they were certain that their lives were at risk. Still, on one occasion, they were permitted the seemingly innocuous freedom of a trip to the local cinema under armed guard. With the guards at the front of the theater and the movie underway, they slipped out the side doors, split up and made their way alternately westward across India to Pakistan, and (in the case of my mother-in-law, who was a young child, her siblings, and their Mum) toward what is now Bangladesh and onto a boat around the tip of India to rejoin the rest of the family.

That day, having legitimate fear that they would all be separated, dispossessed, and possibly executed in the place their family had called home for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years, they went to the cinema. Which was still functioning. During partition, in which millions of people lost their lives in perhaps the largest mass relocation of humans in history, it was still normal enough to go to the cinema that it was not suspicious at all. Because everyone was still mostly pretending that nothing had changed.

So that’s what we’ve been chewing on around here.

What’s Headed for You

I’d like to point out that we’ve crossed well over the line into President Bannon’s vision for destabilizing America. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just google the key words from that sentence all together.) This isn’t about racism or bigotry or misogyny. Or at least, not just those things.

The Executive Order and budget proposal calling for agencies to kill entire departments? I’d put my money on every Office of Civil Rights across the executive branch. But beyond that, these agencies govern every service and protection that ordinary Americans—every last one of the 99%–rely on every day. Schools, hospitals, roads, food: all of them are envisioned, researched, organized, funded and regulated by the executive agencies. This is a war on the actual functioning of society, on the quality of life that the vast majority of Americans (even the ones who say they don’t) enjoy.

Stopping Canadian church groups from coming to do Hurricane Sandy clean-up in poor American neighborhoods? Canadian nurses from getting to their hospital jobs in Michigan? Those are white and mostly Christian folk. There’s not even an arguably racist “national security” motive there. That’s a very North Korea move to keep outsiders from seeing what’s actually happening in our neighborhoods and hospitals while our “Dear Leader” crows about making America great.

This administration is dismantling the government. Congress was already compromised, and so now are executive agencies. The only remaining “check or balance” besides you and I is the judiciary. You know what that reminds me of? Pakistan. And I love the people and cultures of Pakistan. But things run, mostly, like a donkey cart missing a wheel because people survive in spite of, not with the support of, their government. Meanwhile, government leaders have lives of unimaginable wealth and luxury. That’s what’s headed straight for you.

What Won’t She Sell Out? The Opportunism of Asra Nomani

“…For some reason, Nomani has chosen this moment to stop walking that thin line, unapologetically aligning herself with President-elect Donald Trump. In this article, she lists her nonsensical reasons for supporting Trump: Obamacare and the president’s loan modification program, “HOPE NOW,” didn’t help her. Rural Americans in her hometown of Morgantown, WV are still struggling to make ends meet.

Nomani does not link a single one of these factors to any credible plan or promise Trump has to resolve these issues. That’s probably because there aren’t any such arguments to be made…” Read More

Anti-Muslim Extremists: The SPLC’s Field Guide

“…You may remember SPLC’s astounding report, The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nations Schools. It provided the results of an online survey that found widespread anxiety in and increased harassment of Muslim students and other students of color. The report is an important tool for parents, educators, and activists who are on the front lines, arguing that the changes in their children’s school environments must be met with proactive anti-hate messaging, diversity training, and Islam education and awareness.

SPLC has just released their Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists, which profiles 15 prominent anti-Muslim extremists….Read More