‘Assam is boiling’

Human rights defenders struggling to support millions left in immigration limbo by India’s National Register of Citizens

Tanya Singh & Haseena Manek

It has been two months since India threw nearly four million people into a desperate scramble to prove their citizenship or risk deportation. The government published a draft of the National Register of Citizens in late July and the effects were immediate: millions excluded from the list were made to produce evidence of their legitimate claims, security forces were put on alert to quell potential violence in a region with a history of persecuting ethnic minorities, and at least one thousand people are still being held in criminal jails serving as immigration detention centres.

Read the full blog post on Front Line Defenders website.

Hotel workers from around the world challenge sexual harassment

Hotel workers facing sexual harassment from guests hand list of demands to Marriott bosses at UN Labour Council meeting in Geneva.

During the United Nations International Labour Organization Conference in Geneva last month, hotel workers from across the globe met to discuss the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace and hand an accord addressing the issue to Marriott bosses

Read the full story at Rank and File.

Homeless in the “Happiest Country in the World”

How people fall through the cracks in the Danish welfare system.

Like other Nordic countries, Denmark is known globally for its comprehensive social services and a high ranking on the World Happiness Index. It may then come as a surprise that like other urban centres internationally, homelessness is an issue for Denmark’s big cities.

For example, if you are an unemployed citizen of Denmark, you are eligible to receive up to 90% of the income you made at your last job. Compare this to Canada, for example, where unemployment benefits start at 55% of your previous income with a cap at $49,500 CAD per year (approximately 250,500 DKK or 33,500 EUR). Despite this, homelessness remains an issue in larger cities like Copenhagen and Aarhus.

Read the full editorial on the Jutland Station website.

Muslim Feminisms: Solidarity Before Censure

There are many ways to be a feminist. There are many ways to show solidarity. It should go without saying that there are many ways to practice Islam.

In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the subsequent spate of abuse and assaults against Muslims living in Western countries, it is important that the vulnerability of visibly Muslim women is acknowledged. Even non-Muslim women of colour are at risk for abuse, should they choose to protect themselves from the cold with a vaguely Islamic scarf. As non-veiled Muslim women, both myself and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown carry a certain privilege in our ability to pass through Islamophobic spaces with slightly less scrutiny than our hijabi sisters.

Inclusive feminism necessitates an acknowledgement and acceptance of both the vulnerability of visibly Muslim women and the privilege of non-visibly Muslim women. Muslim women, veiled and unveiled, need to stand together. Feminists, Muslim or not, need to stand together. Without this, we are only perpetuating transcultural patriarchy—which seeks control of women’s bodies—through simultaneous criticism of wearing too much and too little.

Alibhai-Brown’s new book Refusing the Veil is at points a thoughtful and comprehensive walk through important points in the history of Islam and philosophies of practice. At other points, however, it reads as a soft conservative polemic against Muslim women and their agency, fraught with contradictions about how women should walk the fine balance between modest and slutty.

Read the full review at GUTS Magazine.

Moderate Islam and Palestine solidarity: A response to Aliya Manjee

April 13, 2015

As I read through Aliya Manjee’s editorial ‘I’m Muslim, Pro-Palestine and Visited Israel’, I couldn’t help but feel that despite first-hand experience, her comments about Israel and Palestine were remarkably reductive.

Manjee is candid about her political position (identifying as Pro-Palestine as early as the headline) and her personal identity (Shia-Ismaili-Muslim). She writes that being the only Muslim on her trip set her apart from her peers and that she does not think her identity — specifically her faith — should dictate her views on Israel and Palestine.

Read the full Op-Ed on the rabble.ca website.

Toronto activists intensify campaign against SodaStream

On Sunday, August 31st, the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) gathered to share information with members of the Toronto community about the current campaign to boycott SodaStream, a carbonated beverage company whose main production facility is in Ma’ale Adumim, an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

As part of the international campaign to Boycott SodaStream, CAIA launched a its own campaign in October of 2013 asking homewares company Bed Bath and Beyond to stop carrying SodaStream products.

Read the full article on Mondoweiss.

#BONY2012: MOURNING THE LOSS OF SANITY IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

In this age of YouTube sensations and the surprisingly ubiquitous “I’ll meet you on Facebook,” it can’t come as much of a surprise when social media, our contemporary public forum, crosses paths with the original public form, politics.

When it comes to advocacy and activism, we have laid down our picket signs in favour of hashtags (#), and write our scathing (and hopefully still rhythmic) slogans to fit into 140 characters or less.

This bleeds into other areas of our lives, too. Nowadays, when we encounter a beautiful landscape, we don’t sit back and admire, we add it to our Mobile Uploads on Facebook. When a view of the night sky makes us ponder our insignificance, we don’t write nihilistic poetry to be celebrated after our death, we tweet about it.

I’ll admit that the speed at which information can be shared — and the extent — presents a promising possibility for communication between grassroots organizations and their campaigns. But if all our effort goes into maintaining our online lives, we’ll end up with a generation of kids that would rather “like” something than really fight for it.

Political activism has become superficial and trendy, just another thing to change on our Timeline. For example, Kony 2012, the 30-minute video produced by Invisible Children, Inc., took about a month to live out its internet sensation lifecycle (last week famous, this week infamous and next week not as interesting as the latest lolcat).

What is most concerning about the dramatic take- off and then crash-and-burn of the campaign is the collateral damage it has caused in its downfall. These are losses I think we should be mourning.

First: The invisible Ugandans.

I don’t mean the ‘invisible children’ that the campaign was supposedly concerned with; I mean all of the Ugandan politicians, activists and community organizers whose work was made invisible to the international world by the Kony campaign. The campaign implied that there is no active effort on the part of the Ugandan people to protect themselves from the dangers of war, or to develop and maintain sustainable resources. This is simply untrue. There are a number of organizers in Uganda working to provide the kind of resources and services that the Kony 2012 video would make you think are nonexistent. Plus, the video inaccurately represented both the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan Army, painting a portrait that more closely resembled a Uganda from several years ago. Uganda is not currently perfect and we shouldn’t forget about it, but when it comes to activist efforts we have to ensure that we don’t discount the work of local initiatives in developing countries. It is imperative to ensure that we understand the realities and history of a situation if we are trying to get involved.

Second: Real activism.

The work that Kony 2012 advocates is the opposite of work. It is buying bracelets and ‘liking’ links and nothing that promotes peaceful development in Uganda. The end-goal of the campaign is to maintain a US military presence in Uganda, and you are wanted to help achieve that by doing a whole lot of nothing. Call me nostalgic, but I almost miss the misinformed appeals of World Vision campaigners at my door. At least they knew how to pound the pavement!

Young people now are required to do no legwork, no research. Who needs to read when campaigns like this one are clogging up your News Feed? People don’t have to bother learning about Uganda and its history; there is a ready-made video telling them what to think and who to support (or not support). This is a huge problem for the next generation, who are going to grow up on a diet of YouTube videos and slacktivism and no critical thinking skills.

Third: Jason Russell.

He got a lot of flack for the Kony 2012 video, and justifiably so. But when he showed up on the streets of California naked, the rumours of drugs, alcohol and public masturbation went just as viral as the image of his young son discussing military leader Joseph Kony. As much as I think his video was extremely problematic — more a hindrance than a help to Uganda — I can’t help feeling bad for the guy. What is the lesson here kids? Do your homework before you produce a tear-jerking documentary starring your own child and a token African orphan that you put online, or be prepared to face a wave of international criticism.

The final word here is: read. Be critical. Social media, that is, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all the powers that be of the World Wide Web, are extremely potent and powerful tools for the dissemination of information. They are great because they are so accessible. With enough friends or followers you don’t need official airtime to spread a message, you just need a few clicks of a mouse.

But, because anyone can easily share the words and images that support their views, we need to be increasingly critical of what we are consuming. I don’t just mean actually checking if the references in a Wikipedia article are legitimate, I mean doing a bit of real research when you hear about something that might be a real concern.

as published in Lot’s Wife, 2012

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