I would suggest that seeing my father’s life in that way is more important than the idea of “a dialogue between Islam and the West” that has now become fashionable. The so-called “dialogue of civilizations” seems to be based on a double premise: (a) that Muslims should try to reassure Europeans and North Americans that Islam is not a source of violence, and at the same time, (b) that Westerners should help to reform Islam. This is a very condescending notion. Could it be that the recent call for “dialogue” is motivated not by a simple desire to reach out to others but by a fear of “invading” immigrants? At any rate, one hopes that Muslims can open their minds to other peoples and traditions, and so learn from them critically – just as one hopes Westerners will want to learn from Islamic thought and experience in a similar spirit. I do think, however, that such mutual learning is made more difficult for reasons of global power rather than religious ideologies. As for reform, it should be borne in mind that Islam’s history of reform is virtually as old as Islam itself. Of course Islamic reform today will need to be based on fresh thinking, but its effectiveness is partly dependent on simultaneous reform in the West itself, if that is possible. We do, after all, live in a single interconnected world.
- Talal Asad
The literature that I cover is basically their writings and interviews — a ghastly read, I tell you. It was cruel and unusual punishment to sit down and read so much banality. My salvation, I tell you now, was Ella Fitzgerald. Without her I would have gone mad reading so much gibberish. I listened to a lot of Sister Ella to keep my soul and sanity clean. Otherwise these people pull you down if you spend too much time with them. I would read them and write in the morning and listen to Ella Fitzgerald in the evening to restore my soul and sanity.
So my strong recommendation to all those who do critical writing is that when you must read much horror in order to criticize it, do make sure you have some solid source of beauty, eloquence, and truth by your side."
Hamid Dabashi, New Texts Out Now: Hamid Dabashi, “Brown Skin, White Masks”
This is good advice.
— Bushra Rehman and Daisy Hernández, Colonize This! (via fw12)
— Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History” (1940), trans. Harry Zohn, in Selected Writings, vol. 4, eds. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 391. (via erkjhnsn)
Not In My Name: Islam, Pakistan and the Blasphemy Laws. - Mehdi Hassan in Huffington Post criticizes the recent allegation of “blasphemy” against an eleven-year-old Pakistani Christian girl with Downs syndrome. An excellent rebuttal to those attempting to use the BL against the child.
Here is the reality: the books of Islamic tradition are replete with stories of how Prophet Muhammad was verbally and physically abused by his idol-worshipping enemies in Mecca. They threw animal intestines and excrement on him; on one famous occasion, a group of homeless children threw stones and rocks at him. Yet he did not have them killed, tortured or detained. The founder of the Islamic faith, it seems, had a much thicker skin than many of its 21st Century adherents.
Co-signed as a fellow Muslim. Free Rifta Masih.(via mehreenkasana)
…It is possible to argue that Asia, Africa and South America are the only cultural regions that are truly multi-cultural today. Because in these parts of the world, living simultaneously in two cultures-the modern western and the vernacular-is no longer a matter of cognitive choice, but a matter of day-to-day survival for the humble, the unexposed and the ill-educated. Compared to that multicultural sensitivity, the fashionable contemporary ideologies of multiculturalism and post-coloniality in our times look both shallow and provincial.
One of the most damaging legacies of colonialism, however, lies in a domain that attracts little attention. The West’s centrality in all intercultural dialogues of our times has been ensured by its dominance of the cultural language in which dialogue among nonwestern cultures takes place. Even when we talk to our neighbours, it is mediated by western categories, western assumptions and western frameworks. We have learnt to talk to even our closest neighbours through the West.
This inner demon that haunts us has managed to subvert most forms of cultural dialogue among the non-western cultures. All such dialogues today are mediated by the West as an unrecognised third participant. For each culture in Asia today, while trying to talk to another Asian culture, uses as its reference point not merely the West outside, but also its own version of an ahistorical, internalised West, which may or may not have anything to do with the empirical or geographical West. One can no longer converse with one’s neighbour without conversing with its alienated self, its internalised West, and without involving one’s own internalised West."
Apart from the characterization of the political condition of India preceding the British conquest as a state of anarchy, lawlessness and arbitrary despotism, a central element in the ideological justification of British colonial rule was the criticism of the “degenerate and barbaric” social customs of the Indian people, sanctioned, or so it was believed, by their religious tradition. Alongside the project of instituting orderly, lawful and rational procedures of governance, therefore, colonialism also saw itself as performing a “civilizing mission.” In identifying this tradition as “degenerate and barbaric,” colonialist critics invariably repeated a long list of atrocities perpetrated on Indian women, not so much by men or certain classes of men, but by an entire body of scriptural canons and ritual practices which, they said, by rationalizing such atrocities within a complete framework of religious doctrine, made them appear to perpetrators and sufferers alike as the necessary marks of right conduct. By assuming a position of sympathy with the unfree and oppressed womanhood of India, the colonial mind was able to transform this figure of the Indian woman into a sign of the inherently oppressive and unfree nature of the entire cultural tradition of a country.
Of course, within the discourse thus constituted, there was much debate and controversy about the specific ways in which to carry out this project. The options ranged from proselytization by Christian missionaries to legislative and administrative action by the colonial state to a gradual spread of enlightened Western knowledge. Underlying each option was the colonial belief that in the end Indians themselves must come to believe in the unworthiness of their traditional customs and embrace the new forms of a civilized and rational social order."
Partha Chatterjee, Colonialism, Nationalism, and Colonialized Women: The Contest in India
This is a great essay about the inadvertent construction of a new patriarchy through nationalism as a response to colonialists and their manipulative characterization of the colonized Indians.
You can click through to read it.
— Robert B. Moore, “Racist Stereotyping in the English Language” (via wretchedoftheearth)
While cultural studies scholars such as Hall, Edward Said, and Paul Gilroy have written about the “pitfalls of identity” that arise when examining the Other, it should be noted that cultural identities – particularly those that have been traditionally disenfranchised – have become commodities in the same way as cultures themselves. Identities have become marketable, as exhibited by large media corporations seeking to brand multiculturalism and “sell” Others as products in the global mainstream. As John Fiske writes, “while the multiculturalist will talk of diversity and difference, the multinational CEO turns the coin over and talks of product diversification and market segmentation.”
Conceptualizing diasporic populations has also become problematic, both for scholars of identity and corporations seeking to use identity politics as a means of cultivating consumers. As Jolanta Drzewiecka notes, “Diaspora groups play an identity game legitimating their in between position in two different national contexts,” which helps to bolster their claims of collectivized authenticity in both their “new” land and their “homeland” – the latter being either a physical or psychological one. Diasporic identities have emerged as a battleground in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, where media corporations have sought to commodify marginalized groups such as Asians and West Indians while presenting discourse on homeland as a seemingly monolithic experience.
South Asian American identity is a contested terrain because of its diversity and its uniqueness in experience from other Diasporic and immigrant populations. As Yoav Hammer notes, culture can be both consuming and limiting to those who identify with a certain label. “Culture has a largely unconscious enveloping effect on members of the cultural group, defining the horizon of possibilities open to them, from amongst which to choose their course of action. Culture is a type of language shared by members of the cultural group. It defines the meanings they attribute to objects and actions and forms their identity.” Using this meaning, it is nearly impossible to define a common South Asian American culture. Though the very idea of a culture of Desis (the Hindi colloquial for “local”), in many ways, is an aberration – cultural critic Vijay Prashad would argue further that culture itself, at least the notion of cultural purity, is a fallacy – the prevalence of consistent images relating to Indian and to Indianness have led to a media-created notion of identity."
— Murali Balaji, The Commodification of the Other and MTV’s Construction of the “Ideal Type” Desi (via sitaronse)