CJ Resotred

Time to sleep now.

Never would I have thought that this Long March would succeed. Not ever. It’s brilliant. Like a lot of people, I’m not totally trusting of this restoration plan, because it does not immediately go into effect. But as it stands now, it’s brilliant.

Gillani came on TV at 5:45 am to say that PPP is keeping its promises, as it always intended. Whatever. It doesn’t matter, the lies, right now. I’m just completely thrilled. Let’s hope it sticks.

It’s not fashionable in lefty circles (where I seem to belong) to have an attachment to national flags or anthems. And to be honest, I don’t usually.

But as the national anthem played before the Prime Minister’s speech, I followed along with the words, which I haven’t heard in a long time. And I got snagged at these:

مرکزِ یقین شاد باد

Markaz-e-yaqeen shaad baad

May the centre of your faith stay alive.

Three days ago I sat with my mom and Sarah and pontificated at length about the pointlessness of this long march and the way in which the lawyer’s movement has been reduced to merely symbolic actions. I am happily eating my words.

The centre of my belief is strong again. Things happen. Someone asked me on chat if I thought it was the Americans who caused this or Kayani, the Chief of Army Staff. And I expressed a shrug but the truth is, no power broker would have cared people hadn’t, for the past 4 days, been on this long march, facing riot police, braving tear gas and coming out in droves. If the final nail in the coffin of Zardari’s current bout of authoritarianism was a phone call from somebody powerful, that’s okay. They only stated the obvious – that your’e screwed if you stick with this plan.

And so it goes. It has been said again and again over the past two years that the Chief is no saint. But that statement, bandied about as if it should mean something, is based on the notion that the symbol of the movement should be above reproach. We should be able to, in time, call them Hazrat Chief Justice. Well, it’s okay. We don’t have to like the guy much. At some point, for reasons that were part personal gain and part opportunity to finally act in favour of the nation, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry exercised his powers as an independent arm of the triumverate democractic system. Masses of people supported him. That’s the reality. He’s no saint. But by God he’ll be independent. And that’s a step in the right direction.

16 March 2009 is a good day. Let the core of your belief that things can change have its day.

Long March

I’ve written a sort of eye-witness plus hopefulness account at Global Comment. Have a look:

This morning at the Lahore High Court, things looked bleak. There were maybe two hundred people in the entire complex by 11 a.m. Getting to the High Court itself was like playing a game of PacMan – constant blocks, looming riot police, retracing of steps to get as close as possible to the complex. Inside, it seemed that this thing wasn’t going to take off. One rally was stuck in Model Town with Nawaz Sharif. A hundred people were stuck a block away from the court, getting beaten up by the police.

Then they started coming. Lawyers began filtering in from all across the barricaded city; followed by the first batch of protesters from around the block; then the Student Action Committee; the Concerned Citizens of Pakistan; the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, an Islamic political party; the Tehreek-e-Insaaf, Imran Khan’s party. By 12:30 pm, the premises were filling up and the square in front of the High Court gates was teeming with people shouting slogans and waving flags.

Read the rest of this article.

In leiu of part 2…

…or actually, as I ruminate more on part 2, I would like to direct your attention to how white feminism attempts to stay on top of a heirarchy while at the same time trying to dismantle it by Aaminah Hernández on Problem Chylde.

My favourite part:

5) Say we are hurting the cause of feminism, or that we aren’t really feminist at all.

This one is perhaps the most damaging of all. First, it presumes that we consider ourselves “feminist” at all and thereby implies that there is something wrong with us if we don’t. Then it attempts to define what feminism is, what counts as feminism, and tells us that we aren’t really part of it, while trying to shame us and discount anything we have to say because it is “not feminist”. It does not allow that feminism could have different forms and faces, but limits it to what serves the white woman and nothing more. If, as women, we cannot set our own goals, speak to our own needs, and create our own agenda, then how “feminist” are you?

How Brown is My Navel – Part 1

Off and on, I’ve been asked about how I want The West to react to some such thing I’m doing. I was asked here and in a forthcoming interview (that I shall link to later in my shameless self-promotion habit, when it’s up).

And then, I’ve been reading some things about race, tokenism, colonialism, feminism and the internet. And I have been having thoughts.

The thoughts I’m having are not so much about this current blogsplosion (which I don’t usually refer to at all but follow kind of avidly really), but about race and the relevance of the term for the kind of work I think I do.

So here are some thoughts-in-progress.

1. Expat

I’ve realized recently in a way that I didn’t before that there’s a vast difference between the US South Asian and the subcontinental South Asian. Maybe this is obvious, but maybe it’s not. But I realized it when I wrote a scathing and angry critique of Yoni Ki Baat for GlobalComment at one point and, in the responses of the creators of that project, realized that we were operating from very different premises.

My experience of South Asian identity in the US has been one of unification. Where the sub-continent is deliberately divided into is constituent countries and those national identities are virtuously adhered to, in the US, boundaries are erased and everyone’s a Desi or a South Asian.

Desi is a racial category. It signifies people from the sub-continent. It calls up brown skin and black hair. It is dominated by Indian identity, but it consists of Pakistanis and Indians primarily.

I don’t know if Desi includes Bangladeshis or Nepalis or Sri Lankans in the same way, or if in the US those points of origin fall under the category of  South Asian. I don’t know the nuanced difference between American South Asian and American Desi. Is South Asian also racial? Probably, but it’s also more. It’s an umbrella of some sort, but I’m not sure what sort.

The reason I can’t go further than this is that I’m decidedly not a South Asian American. Which is to say that, while I am South Asian, while I am Pakistani, while I am also American, and while I am mixed-“race” and mixed-nationalities, I am definitely not a South Asian American because in order to be a South Asian American or a Pakistani American, it seems imperative that one be in the United States. The identity [Ethnic]-American requires residence in and a primary dealing with the US context.

I am asserting this because, in contrast, in Pakistan, I’m half-gori. Or my mother’s American. My identity here is racialized to whiteness, but it’s not the same whiteness that I have when I’m in the States. There I am a light-skinned brown person of ethnic and Muslim origin, and therefore a kind of peripheral subject. Here I am a light-skinned Pakistani of Amreekan ancestry, but not peripheral as a result. Having an American mother does not trump having a Pakistani father or a regular Pakistani accent or fluent Urdu.

In the US, my ethnicity and religious identity marginalize me, and racialize me. Here, I have always been racialized, but that racialization doesn’t consistently marginalize me. Often it privileges me. Sometimes it does marginalize me, or at least put me on the back foot. Occasionally it combines with gender, and then it certainly marginalize me. Mostly it doesn’t matter. I’m gori, but I’m not not-Pakistani.

Gori is a racial characteristic. But race doesn’t mean here what it means in the US.

So, what’s the point? I guess to extricate one kind of Desi from another, one kind of South Asian from another. South Asians in South Asia identify by their national origin. Using the umbrella of South Asian usually comes difficult and it comes with conditions attached, and a time limit. “We will be South Asian for this conference or this SAARC summit or this project we have going together, but when it’s over, I’m Pakistani, you’re Bangladeshi, you’re Indian and we’re all going home now, thank you very much.”

In the US, it seems to be an ethnic and/or racial identity in the face of a larger hegemonic identity of whiteness.

Is that because the whiteness is up close? It’s not like the subcontinent doesn’t deal with the hegemony of the US. But perhaps it is about which hegemony is closer because if you’re using your national identity, that means you’re asserting yourself in the face of someone else’s national identity and so their race doesn’t matter. Whereas if you’re using your race, it means you can cross or have already left behind (to some extent) national borders and the relevance lies with the racial identity that is the South Asian (brown) (desi) person.

It occurs to me, however, that this definitional exercise is in itself bound up with the White-and-American-centred push to define non-white non-American subjects. By the very nature of this definitional process, I am and we are thrown into a world in which the ultimate centre resides in the US.

What I’m trying to do here is say that US South Asians and subcontinental South Asians are not the same thing at all times. A project like Yoni ki Baat (which is how this whole thought process got started for me) needs to acknowledge that, when it’s talking about South Asian, it’s not talking about every kind of South Asian. That a “South Asian” project initiated in the US has to be aware of its own circumstance.

There is a corresponding blind spot, I think, in subcontinental notions of South Asian projects that don’t acknowledge diasporic concerns. That imagine that if there is peace on the land here, there will be peace between people there and that if there is war here, there will be war there, as if the diaspora is a mirror of the “real” South Asia. There is no greater reality to either South Asianness.

Up next:

2. Islamophobia and Racism

3. White Skin Privilege

4. Talking to “The West”

Oprah, Diddy and Other Goodies at GC

I haven’t written here much lately because I haven’t got much to say these days. The stuff I do have to say I send off to GlobalComment or other such fun places what pay me. So I thought that, in addition to some shameless self-promotion that I’m about to do, I should also promote some other good stuff I’ve been reading. To wit, Joe Sapien’s take on Diddy as the next Bond. We take a break from his usual sarcastic tone to sample some flabbergasted outrage and the foolishness that is Diddy. In addition, there’s a good assessment of Obama’s Change.gov blog thing by Sarah Jaffe that you should take a look at. The piéce de resistance, though, is Renee Martin’s take on the fatness of Oprah and how we should shame her for being ashamed of it (my interpretation – not what she actually actually said) rather than point fingers at her for being fat in the first place. (In fact, she didn’t say at all that we should shame Oprah – I just think that Oprah should be ashamed of her shame. All that wealth, accomplishment and power and her weighing scale can break her heart? Pff. Stupid world.)

And I wrote about Mumbai because I do that kinda thing. This is the part where I’m shamelessly self-promoting, btw.

That’s all, folks.

Chay Magazine Issue 2 Call for Submissions!

This issue will address themes of sex and sexuality as they interact with the daily politics of human life. We are looking for feature articles and non-fiction that deal with

1.    Gender Roles

–    gender roles and gender expectations in the family and society in general
–    socialization at home and at school
–    gender role education in single gender schools and co-educational schools
–    gender role education in private schools and government schools
–    gender roles in the curriculum
–    the teaching of marriage as the final or one of the final destinations of a person, particularly a woman
–    gender roles and class variations
–    female and male autonomy from familial and other social institutions in different class strata

2.    Sex/Sexuality, Feminism and Activism in Pakistan & Abroad

–    the feminist movement in Pakistan – its history and its attention to sex and sexuality
–    what feminism means in the Pakistani context
–    women’s groups in Pakistan, their missions, agendas, histories
–    Pakistani feminism in comparison to other regional or international feminisms
–    sexual violence and the feminist movement in Pakistan
–    sexual rights movement in Pakistan, South Asia and globally
–    gender diversity activism in Pakistan, South Asia and globally
–    sexual orientation and queer activism in Pakistan
–    non-“feminist” activism on issues of sex and sexuality in Pakistan, South Asia and abroad
–    transnational feminism and sex and sexuality activism

Please submit features, non-fiction and fiction of between 500-1200 words; no more than 3 poems; no more than 3 pieces of visual art (min. resolution 300dpi) to CHAYMAGAZINE AT GMAIL DOT COM .

*

DEADLINE:  December 15, 2008

Obama and the Death of Racism

About a month ago, maybe more, I toyed with the idea of not voting because the US incursions on Pakistani soil, unilateral and unwarranted, killing Pakistanis indiscriminately in the name of the war on terror, made me angry. And I remembered how, over a year ago, Obama had said that he would support unilateral action in Pakistan if they had actionable intelligence Osama bin Laden, may God curse his name, was there. My logic was that it doesn’t matter who gets elected: they’re both going to bomb my country.

I suggested this to my (very white) mom and she sent me a terse reply: “A single issue voter is no voter at all.” And I was ashamed. And I requested my absentee ballot.

In 2004, I was in Seattle and my father asked me on the phone, “Are you voting?” I said I was. He said, “Vote well. You’re voting for all of us.” Too bad my vote only counter for one.

So yesterday, as Virginia was being declared for Obama, I called up my father in Islamabad and said, “Obama mubarak!” He said, “Khair mubarak!” and we marvelled at how soon it was clear. He told me what was happening on Fox News, which I have failed to find on my Lahori TV, praise be, and he said – that suddenly the Fox anchors have changed their tune. They’re speaking well of him.

By saying that, well, it’s a great day for race relations and anyway, his mother is white and she raised him; his father wasn’t even in the picture, really; and his poor grandmother than just died… My father said, “It was like they were trying scrub his colour off.”

Great day for race relations, then.

For anyone who thinks that racism is dead, take note: the first thing even father, my die-hard Pakistani father said after the “mubarak” was “I hope they don’t kill him.”

If someone so removed feels that…

from Black Amazon:

Dear God

Bless him Jehovah

Allah

Mother Earth

Yahweh

OBEAH

ANCESTORS ALL

please don’t grant us another picture.

Please not another Myrlie

Not another Coretta

not another going back till that ship on that sea woman rocking now fatherless children

Not another beautiful ” strong black woman” punished by lonliness for loving a man trying to be good. Not another group of brothers in tears kicking themselves because they FELL FOR IT THIS TIME AGAIN. That they believed that this time work would pay off.

who was responding to BFP:

don’t think that I’ve truly understood until yesterday exactly how terribly the black community has been hurt. How devastated the black community was by the violence inflicted on them. How deep the ache of murder, lynching, rape, benign neglect, and threats etched themselves into the black community.

I mean, I had known–but not really, not until last night.

What made it clear to me was not the sobbing black people the cameras kept flashing to, or the black college kids that walked so purposefully to my local voting center, or even all the former civil rights leaders that *told* us all what it meant, point blank, to have a black man as a president.

It was the way the first thing so many black folks said immediately after the announcement was–sweet Jesus, protect that man. It was the way so many black folks said that not so secret prayer, the way one friend didn’t look away from the television as she reached out almost desperately for another friend’s hand.

It was the fear of hope realized. What could ‘they’ do to the small tender bubble of hope that had exploded into reality?

Recent Writing Spree

All this is very shameless self-promotion. Recently I’ve assaulted Global Comment with my verbiage and so now I’m going to direct you to it, in the hopes that you will read, agree, adore and become a slave for my writing. Alternatively, you could leave a comment there, on the site.

First, read this about Islamabad from Art Kee Aulad.

Three years later, I guess we’re in 2008 at this point in the story, I can’t so much as drive that close to even the round about in front of the presidency. Now one just turns right or left a signal before the stretch of road where the parade “used to” happen, where there are wide steps on both sides of the road, where earlier people would come and sit in the evenings, where there is a round about that says GIVE WAY in the foreground and the presidency and the parliament house rest all white and somber and serious looking in the background. So we just turn right or left at the signal before all this and look at the barriers and the barbed wire sitting there, saying stay away, looking as ugly as they are meant to be. And I have forgotten what it was like to be able to drive to just wherever. I suppose just like the generation before us have forgotten what it felt like to have low boundary walls in their houses and gates that were open all day long.

And yesterday the Marriott was blown up. And today we’re looking at television footage and cctv footage and images of what seems like hellish scenes from some film. It’s unbelievable. Maham reminded me of when we went there last, it was to pick up sandwiches and use the loo before going for a play at the National Gallery right behind. The oldest hotel in the city, we’ve all attended numerous weddings, exhibitions, dinners, iftaris and other things there and it hit me today, the scale of what has happened there.

Here’s my take on it at GC:

Not that it mattered in the flames of that inferno, anymore, except that the guards were already dead by the time the guests started running. They were trying to put out the fire in the suicide truck. The cab exploded with a grenade; then the back of the truck caught fire and the guards rushed away, only to rush back with fire extinguishers.

And then I wrote a piece on Zardari, one on the Balochi women being buried alive and one about the American incursions into the northwest of Pakistan –  all at Global Comment.

And a poem: Two Eyes Show.

There. Now that I’ve whored all my writing, I can relax in the knowledge that you will read every word with great love and affection, and write glowing comments. Or just, you know, click the link and give me something to be happy about.

Abd el-Hadi Fights a Superpower – آج کی شاعری

In his life
he neither wrote nor read.
In his life he
didn’t cut down a single tree,
didn’t slit the throat
of a single calf.
In his life he did not speak
of the New York Times
behind its back,
didn’t raise
his voice to a soul
except in his saying:
“Come in, please,
by God, you can’t refuse.”

~

Nevertheless –
his case is hopeless,
his situation
desperate.
His God-given rights are a grain of salt
tossed into the sea.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:
about his enemies
my client knows not a thing.
And I can assure you,
were he to encounter
the entire crew
of the aircraft carrier Enterprise,
he’d serve them eggs
sunny-side up,
and labneh
fresh from the bag.


by Taha Muhammad Ali
tr. Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, Gabriel Levin

Fuck Off Out of My Country

Yesterday: Well, Bush, McCain, Obama: it’s all the same to me. US ground troops landed a helicopter on Pakistani soil, got out, shot a bunch of villagers “indiscriminately” says Dawn, got back into their helicopter and fucked off. (Edit: yesterday it said “indiscriminately” and today I can’t find the source in Dawn.)

The bit in scare quotes are the bit I’m scared of. And the bit that’s disputed. Along with ground troops actually coming in. I googled the story and most US sources or international media are reporting it as if it was definitely Al-Qaeda that was hit. What we have is that 20 people died, most of them women and children. Someone got back from one of the agencies recently, which is what those parts of the northwest are called, like Waziristan. He was corroborating other stories. That the local “Taliban” are just thugs for hire and always have been. And that the locals, from the community, are now putting together militias of their own to fight the thugs and keep them off their land.

Today: The US is claiming it was soldiers that died and there was no ground attack. And it was all coordinated with the Pakistanis. Look here. And at the longer AP report.

Obama, McCain, Bush. They’d all go looking for bin Laden in Pakistan, unilaterally, without worrying about fucking with Pakistani sovereignty or killing innocent Pakistanis just living their lives between one set of bullies and another.

Talk about Black Flag Days. When Zardari is elected president tomorrow, vile stain of a man that he is, find me a ray of fucking sunshine then.

Stinky

Why does Delhi smell like an inversion layer while it’s raining in the monsoon? I can’t figure it. But right now, I’m sitting in the guest room of a lovely house, it’s been raining all night and the smell coming in from the window isn’t that nice rain-on-dirt smell, but the smell of smog and deisel and yech.

I like Lahore better, though it smells like cow poo in the rain. What I really love is Islamabad. Rain on dirt. Yum.

WOC PhD

I’m getting into this fabulous blog WOC PhD. That’s Woman Of Colour for you non-Amreekan types. For one thing, she featured Stacy Ann Chin in a post on Asian/APIA/Women’s History Month. I’m in love with Stacy Ann Chin. She’s one of most vibrant poets I’ve ever heard or seen. But for another thing, and that’s the real value here, these are some of the best researched and articulate articles (oh, i’m such a good writer – ‘articulate articles’ – but it’s late, okay?_ in blogland and quite possibly on the internet.

Check it out, particularly if you’re interested in race and immigration in the US.

Firefox 3 and Urdu

I just installed Firefox 3 and it’s all slick and lovely and smooth. I’m a fan of the shashka and the smooth look and whatnot, but when I loaded BBCUrdu.com, it gave me a) an icky Naskh and b) disconnected letters. I don’t know what to do about it. I want it back to the ordinary Geeza Pro goodness a la:

Now this is still not joined letters with the medial hay because, again, Firefox has buggered it. But it’s still more readable than this:

Now this is reidiculous. it would be okay to read, though I prefer the former, if it would join where it’s supposed to.

I installed about a jillion Urdu fonts on my computer (Mac OS 10.5) and when I had Firefox 2.whatever, it eventually starting behaving. Which is to say, first it messed up the medial hay, both the dochashmi and the kunda, then it fixed dochashmi, then it fixed kunda, and then it registered the dash that forms the Urdu fullstop (which it was rendering as a question mark for a while.)

Now: do I have to reinstall my fonts? Are there new fonts? Do I have to wait till Firefox 3 catches up to Urdu? It’s very annoying.