Thursday, August 27, 2015

Comfort Women...

Village women accompany Chinese former “comfort woman” Hao Juxiang (right) as she poses for a picture outside their houses in Gucheng Town, Shanxi Province, China, July 16, 2015. Hao Juxiang lives in a small community, and many of her neighbors know about her past as a “comfort woman.”

“Comfort women,” translated from the Japanese term ianfu, is a euphemistic name for the prostitutes and sex slaves forced to serve Japanese soldiers during the second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). These “women” were mostly young girls from occupied regions, who were held and forced into sexual slavery at “comfort stations” established by the Imperial Japanese Army.

The Japanese established the first “comfort station” in 1932 to serve soldiers stationed in Shanghai leading up to the war. Many more were established as fighting increased in China and spread to South Korea. The stations, according to statements by military officials at the time, were intended to prevent sex crimes against the local population by soldiers, but they were hardly a solution or a force for good. Instead, they systematized rape and torture.

In 1998, the UN released a report suggesting the Japanese government pay compensation to former “comfort women” and prosecute surviving military officials, to which the government did not comply.

Former “comfort women” are shown in China and South Korea today, where they continue to await state compensation as well as the apology of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which they say would help them find peace in their final days. Sadly, time is running out to make amends.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty...

“Say it with me:
Now is not the time to be timid.
Now is not the time to be timid.
Now is not the time to be timid.”

 21 Self Portraits Based on Mark Gonzales Book: In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

When Those Meant To Keep The Peace Commit Sexualized Violence...

A young girl walks a short distance to visit her relatives in Haiti. But she doesn’t get far before men start harassing her, asking her to come with them. Their intentions are not even thinly disguised, and this girl is just one of their many targets.

“They do this with all of us young girls,” she says. “I have a few friends that have gone to bed with them. Some of them are asked to give them a lesbian show, and they are paid for that.”  

But what may be surprising is exactly who these men are. The unnamed girl’s quote is from a 2008 reportby the U.K.-based nonprofit organization Save the Children on sexualized violence toward children in conflict zones. The men she mentions are from an international peacekeeping force more than 10,000-strong that has been in her country since 2004: the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Perhaps not surprising is that Haiti is not the only place where such propositions and sexual assaults are taking place. The misconduct of peacekeeping forces in conflict zones has dogged the UN since the inception of the peacekeeping program more than 50 years ago.  

Peacekeeping forces from the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) patrol Darfur’s Abu Shouk internally displaced persons camp.

As the number of missions and peacekeepers has grown, widespread accounts of inappropriate behavior and sexual exploitation by peacekeepers have been reported around the world, notably in Haiti, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Cambodia, East Timor, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, UN peacekeepers helped support sex trafficking as customers of brothels relying on forced prostitution, according to Amnesty International.  

Save the Children found evidence that UN peacekeepers had raped young girls in the Ivory Coast, southern Sudan, and Haiti. Cornell constitutional law scholar Muna Ndulo recounted cases of UN peacekeepers fathering and subsequently abandoning children at the end of their deployment. Ndulo quotes staggering numbers in his report: that UN peacekeepers have fathered an estimated 24,500 babies in Cambodia and 6,600 in Liberia.
In addition to supporting prostitution and raping women during wartime, UN peacekeepers have been accused of standing by when sexualized violence is used as a war tactic by combatants. In 2010, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Atul Khare reported to the UN Security Council that UN Peacekeeping had “failed” to protect women and children from rapes in eastern DRC. Approximately 300 rapes had been reported in a village near the UN Peacekeeper’s camp in just a four-day period.  

Cases of sexual abuse by peacekeepers over time may have tarnished the organization’s work, but it wasn’t until there was widespread reporting of peacekeeping failures—including numerous reports of rapes and prostitution during the Bosnian war—that the UN sought to change the system. In response, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on a group of experts to evaluate peacekeeping operations and recommend institutional changes to help prevent abuses by peacekeepers.  

Despite enacting changes that improved oversight, abuses continued, most notably in the Congo—where peacekeepers were reportedly paying young girls food for sex in 2005. The UN responded by releasing yet another report that placed a heavier emphasis on pre-deployment conduct and discipline, and making training on preventing sexual exploitation in the field mandatory. (Multiple attempts by Women Under Siege to contact UN Peacekeeping for comment went unanswered.)  

Subsequent reform documents have been released yearly, but the cases continue. While the emphasis on reform has shown UN Peacekeeping’s awareness of its troops’ sexual misconduct, the structure of UN peacekeeping allows abuses to persist. In 2011, the United Nations reported 74 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers. While this is down from 357 cases in 2006, the UN is limited in how it can prevent and prosecute these allegations due to the organization’s size and member state-centric operating system.
Much of the problem lies in the basic structure of UN Peacekeeping, which echoes the problematic structure of the UN—the organization’s autonomy is limited as member states provide the mandate for peacekeeping actions as well as contribute personnel for missions. UN peacekeepers come from nearly 120 countries and bring with them their cultures, attitudes, and experiences on assignment. As they are recruited out of their national defense forces, these military personnel are “first and foremost members of their own national armies,” and only contracted to the UN. Currently, UN Peacekeeping is engaged in 16 missionsworldwide, utilizing a force of more than 120,000. Within that force, there is turnover of 300,000 peacekeeping troops annually, contributing to a transient culture with few repercussions for poor conduct,according to activists.  

As peacekeepers are under the control and direct leadership of their home military forces, the United Nations does not actually have that much power to enforce their behavior once they are on the ground.  

While UN Peacekeeping has a zero tolerance clause of sexual abuses within its code of conduct, it is only enforceable if the military command of the member state country taking part in the operation chooses to enforce it. Peacekeepers are protected from prosecution of sexual abuses as troops are traditionally granted jurisdictional immunity through Status of Forces Agreements in the countries where they operate. These agreements give peacekeepers absolute immunity within host countries and give exclusive jurisdiction to the peacekeeper’s nation of origin. If abuses occur, peacekeepers are held accountable to the rules and regulations of their country’s armed forces, not according the to the laws of the land where they serve. Trials are not held in civilian courts, but in military courts most often in the peacekeeper’s home country, not where the abuse occurred. This is a clear path to immunity from punishment, as men are tried by their peers in a context in which impartiality is questionable.

The lack of accountability inherent in this structure has contributed to poor reporting of sexual abuse as well as inconsistent prosecution of peacekeepers taking part in abuse.  

In January, five Uruguayan peacekeepers accused of the 2011 rape of a Haitian teenager were let off on a technicality in a Uruguayan courtroom, despite video evidence of the rape having taken place. In March, two UN peacekeepers from Pakistan were found guilty of raping a 14-year-old boy in Haiti. They were sentenced to just a year of prison in their home country. Overall, efforts at reform have been only Band-Aid fixes to systemic problems. Academics and international human rights groups like Amnesty International and Save the Children have called for greater transparencyimprovements to incident reporting and for the UN and its member states to reevaluate the conditions of jurisdictional immunity for peacekeepers committing human rights abuses in the communities they serve.

Promising developments like the prioritization of diversifying peacekeeping forces, hiring female peacekeepers, and trying abuses in the country in which they are committed are steps forward. But the UN and its member states have much further to go to toward addressing the systemic problems that allow peacekeeping forces to commit and be complicit in sexual abuse in the world’s most vulnerable communities.  

So far this year, the UN has reported 22 allegations of sexual abuse—at least 10 of which were made against military or police personnel—and an unknown number of cases have gone unreported.  

Natalie Novick is pursuing a PhD in Sociology at the University of California, San Diego. Her research examines the outcomes of cultural inequalities influencing women's representation in government, foreign affairs, and peacekeeping. Her work has previously appeared in Broad RecognitionShe is on Twitter at @genderpolitics.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Inshalla Surfboard

Phillip George - Inshalla surfboard, 2008, fibre glass, carbon and digital decal. Image courtesy of the artist and the Islamic Museum of Australia

Friday, July 31, 2015

Meet The Fast Disappearing Community Of Indians & Pakistanis Of African Origin...

When people think of Africans in Indian history, Malik Ambar tends to be the first name to come to mind. Brought to Ahmadnagar as a warrior-slave in the 16th century, he rose to be the general of the Deccan sultanate’s army—and eventually its regent.

Yet, Ambar was only the most successful of thousands of Africans brought to India by Arab and Portuguese slavers across the Arabian Sea. Thousands of others came as mercenaries and merchants. Today, the Sidis—as people of African origin living in India for centuries call themselves—are a fast disappearing community. Separated by appearance, if not by culture, they are largely misunderstood.

British photographer Luke Duggleby is attempting to change that. In the ambitious Sidi Project, Duggleby documents the lives of the community—not just in India but also in Pakistan.
Duggleby has been travelling to India for 18 years, but he learnt of the Sidis in India only a few years ago while working on a documentary on the Little Rann of Kutch. His translator and guide, while describing the communities of Gujarat, mentioned the Sidis. Duggleby was hooked.

Around 20 years ago, at the start of his career, Duggleby had spent six months in Tanzania. “Many of my first experiences of travel and photography were in various parts of Africa,” he says. “My life then took a turn east and I ended up in Asia where I have been based ever since. I have always had a deep fascination for both continents so when I heard about the Sidi I became slightly obsessed and began researching more and more about the topic.”

This eventually led to his self-funded travels to India and Pakistan over three years. In January 2013 and 2015, he visited Gujarat, Karnataka and Mumbai. In early 2014, he went to Hyderabad and Bedin in Sindh, Pakistan.

Community activism
The origins of the Sidis have been lost over time, and because of cultural assimilation. Nobody knows exactly which part of Africa they might have come from. “We don’t even have our own language,” says Mohan Siddi, a community leader from Karnataka who worked closely with Duggleby on parts of his project in January. “We speak Konkani in Karwar, close to Dharwar, where people speak Marathi. Muslim Sidis speak Urdu and Gujarati. But we still have our music.”

In Gujarat and Karnataka, where most Sidis live, music remains the enduring link to Africa. But even this link is fading in places such as Hyderabad, where Siddi says the small community is reluctant to display its African identity.

In 2003, Karnataka included Sidis on the list of Scheduled Tribes, helping them cement their identity in that state. But there is still much left to do. Siddi says he has plans to unite Africans across India. Last month, he registered an organisation in Mumbai as a platform to contact other Sidis in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The group, he says, will work for the community’s upliftment.

Siddi is also critical of the scores of photographers and scholars who have come to study Sidis, taken what they needed and left. “It is as if we are animals in a zoo,” he says. “That is why I now insist that anyone who wants to approach us should work for the upliftment of the community.”
For Duggleby, however, this is a continuing project.

“The ultimate aim of this project is to document the many other communities that form part of this Indian Ocean Africa diaspora in other countries, not just India,” he says. “By doing this I hope to tell people about this horrific part of history through the people that are a result of it today and at the same time give the Sidi communities a platform to be seen and learnt about, which they so much crave.”

Moving ahead
Sidis in India today have to deal with fragmentation within their community and discrimination from without. Despite being Indian for centuries, Sidis constantly face racial discrimination in India, where their identities or origins are not fully understood. In Pakistan—where they are also known as Sheedis—the community has suffered similar prejudice because of their physical features.
One image stands out for Duggleby, he says. It was shot in Karachi and shows two young girls studying after school. Both are Sidis, but look very different from each other.

“To me, it shows the fragility of the Sidi community,” he says. “Because of discrimination, many look to marry outside the Sidi community and dilute their African appearance. For some that is how they can avoid this discrimination, but for many this is seen as the very disappearance of the Sidi people themselves.”


Monday, July 27, 2015

25 Things You CAN Blame Muslims for ...

In this latest addition to It’s Your Fault, The Cubit’s series on blame in contemporary society, RD senior correspondent Haroon Moghul offers some good things to blame all Muslims for. 
The illustrations for this article come from the Illustration Class for high schoolers taught by Julie Zhu at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, a nationally recognized fine arts camp in Sitka, Alaska. The opportunity allowed students a peek inside professional illustration, how to approach and research an idea taken from a rough draft, and then how to edit and prepare the illustration for publication while incorporating feedback from the editors of the Cubit.
For more on blame, read the introductory post or explore the full series.
Dear World,
On behalf of the world’s 1.7 billion Muslims, I’d like to say “You’re welcome.” Because if all Muslims are blamed for whatsome of us do, shouldn’t we all be commended for what any single one of us accomplishes?
I present below twenty-five very important things you probably can’t do without, for which thank you’s are in order. On behalf of the ummah—which I’ve just now appointed myself to, with no legitimacy except that far worse people have already done so—I will accept Amazon gift cards, rent-controlled apartments, gold-pressed latinum, or chai.
Haroon Moghul
Grand Vizier of the Internets
With Authority To Speak On Behalf of the World’s 1.7 Billion Muslims
By His Majesty the Caliph Barack Obama

1. Nothing
That’s right. The first thing you can thank us for is nothing.
Hindu mathematicians may have come up with the zero, but Muslims built the vast trade networks through which concepts like the zero (and 1-9, too), spread to Europe.
This is why, in the Arab world, Arabic numbers are called ‘Indian numbers,’ and why, in the West, ‘Indian numbers’ are called ‘Arabic numbers.’ In India they’re just known as numbers.
No matter what they’re called, I think we can all agree they make life a lot easier.
2. Coffee
Muslims invented coffee, and coffee is a good thing, and no good thing ever dies. At best it goes cold.
In fact, one of the reasons coffee took off is because religious Muslims preferred the beverage for its ability to keep them awake, and therefore able to do more worshiping, studying, reading and writing.
Did you know that ‘Mocha’ is a city in Yemen, and ‘coffee’ is originally an Arabic word? (While we’re at it, so is ‘orange’: Muslims introduced oranges and other citrus fruits to Europe by way of Spain and Sicily.)
3. Pleasant Lightheadedness
Absent lemons and limes, what do you think your anti-bacterialized kitchen surfaces would smell like? Really. I’m curious. You know, for independent unpaid research.
4. Tim Hortons, Etc. 
Sure, Muslims didn’t invent buildings, but we’ve historically put very important things in them, like coffee drinkers. The first cafes in the West trace their origin to the Muslim world, which, being the origin point for coffee, was also the origin point for the world’s first cafes.
Considering how many great ideas came out of coffeehouses, you’re welcome, but in light of how many grad students have wasted their potential on fruitless arguments in coffeehouses, we’re sorry. You’re going to want that free refill. Decaf, preferably, so you’re not up all night worrying about the disappearance of tenure and the surfeit of bad life choices you’ve made.
"Algebra" by Emily Coble
“Algebra” by Emily Coble
5. Algebra
For every time you’ve had to solve for x, a Muslim has duped you.
Algebra was refined by an 8th century Persian Muslim mathematician, al-Khwarizmi. The title of his principal book included the word ‘al-jabr,’ meaning restoring or reuniting; his Latinized name entered English as “algorithm.”
The equally accomplished American, Southern Baptist polymath Lindsey Graham, once joked that everything that starts with ‘al’ is bad news. Perhaps he had a bad experience with algebra. I mean, really, how many of us have not?
While Muslims benefited from and transmitted Hindu numeracy (as well as advances in mathematics generally), algebra is interesting for its use of abstract symbols in place of defined numbers, inverting a previous contribution.
There is no known relation between algebra and Algiers.
6. America
Yeah. Really.
Desperate to get past the Muslim-Chinese stranglehold on maritime world trade and the Muslim dominance of the Silk Road, Spain financed every cockamamie plan it could to get straight to the Indies, including the one proposed by Christopher Columbus. Most Europeans were pretty disappointed by America, despite its size. They had all wanted a passage to China and to India, not some new, allegedly empty continent.
But there’s more to it than that. Where did Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella get the funding for the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria? By defeating the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim-ruled kingdom in Spain or Portugal. Which made for one other neat convergence: Though Columbus claimed he sighted land first, that honor in fact belonged Rodrigo de Triana, a descendant of the many Spanish Muslims who were allowed to stay in Spain on condition of converting to Catholicism.
Last but not least, the first country to recognize the U.S.A. was the Muslim Kingdom of Morocco, to which de Triana might’ve moved having failed to secure the bonus that was promised to the first to sight land.
7. New York City
Some Muslims and Jews were expelled from Catholic Spain as early as the 11th century—the lastdescendants of Muslims were driven out between 1609 and 1614—and some of these made common cause with a Spanish dependency, the Netherlands, which converted to Protestantism and likewise resented religious hegemony. (How the tables have turned.)
Protestant Dutch and North African Muslim pirates collaborated to harry Spanish and Portuguese ships, and eventually began to claim territory for themselves.
Without this collaboration, it’s possible the Dutch would’ve been unable to begin seizing Portuguese and Spanish colonies, and even establishing their own, though in the race for global power the Dutch were eventually surpassed by the French and the British. One of the most famous, if not the most famous, Dutch settlement is New York City, whose flag pays homage to Gotham’s Dutch origins.

“Joe Biden’s Career” by Ella Rohweder
8. Joe Biden’s Career
Though we didn’t invent tooth whitener, we did popularize toothbrushes. ‘Chew sticks,’ called miswak, were favored by the Prophet Muhammad, who encouraged his followers to clean their teeth and rinse their mouths as often as five times a day, and especially after eating. Was Islam’s Prophet a dentist?
Somehow I don’t think that would help our image.
9. LaGuardia
Did you know that on landing at LGA, Joe Biden wondered if he were “in some third world country?” This was a huge mistake; the third world has much better airports than we do. Did you also know that, centuries before the Wright brothers or even Da Vinci, Abbas ibn Firnas invented a flying machine?
He was a Muslim from Spain, too.
10. Your Crushing Student Debt
The first degree-granting universities come from Muslim North Africa, and the oldest continuously operating university in the world today, al-Azhar (sorry, Sen. Graham), is in Cairo, Egypt. This history may be the reason on graduation day you look like an enemy combatant.
Much of the modern university, including the stages by which one attains to a doctorate, descend from Islamic antecedents and maintain Islamic influences.
"The Star Wars Prequels" by Garrett Schwalber
“The Star Wars Prequels” by Garrett Schwalber
11. The Star Wars Prequels
Tattooine’s a real city, in Tunisia, which is a real country, in Africa, which is a real continent trying to become the country it is regularly confused for. Now you know why Jedis and Sith look that way—their robes are a reflection of North African culture.
The lightsaber, unfortunately, was not our idea.
"Hospitals" by Emory Banker
“Hospitals” by Emory Banker
12. Hospitals
The first hospital was founded in Cairo, and Muslim hospitals once even included wards for patients with mental illness, and used innovative techniques like music therapy to improve moods and aid in recuperation.
13. Half of American Socialism
President Obama’s dad was a Muslim. So we get like 50% credit right? 
"Irony" by Caelen Walker
“Irony” by Caelen Walker
14. Irony
The word for alcohol comes from Arabic, which is awesome since Muslims aren’t supposed to drink or sell alcohol. Or, rather, al-cohol, I should say. One possible reason an Arabic word is used to describe a beverage the majority of Arabs are not supposed to imbibe is that Muslim scientists made huge advances in chemistry and passed their terminology on to Europe.
15. The Most Expensive Housing in America
Anthony Janszoon (1607–1676) had a lot of money, so the Dutch wanted him to stay in New Amsterdam (see #7), but his half-Dutch, half-Spanish, full Muslimness meant he wasn’t interested in adhering to the churchy expectations of his new home. A compromise was reached: Janszoon set up shop a safe distance away, in the neighborhood now known as Gravesend, Brooklyn, and proceeded to make even more money, with his descendants numbering among some of America’s most prestigious families, including the Vanderbilts. Today Brooklyn has the most expensive house prices in America.
Anthony wasn’t the first Muslim in the Americas, but he was one of the first. And his dad was a pirate. What’s not to like?
16. Freedom
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims fought for the British and French against the Nazis and the Japanese in World War II. While Islamophobes love to bring up the embarrassing Palestinian Mufti al-Husseini as evidence of some kind of Muslim-Nazi alliance, they conveniently neglect the far, far, far greater number of Muslims who fought with the Allies despite being second-class citizens in their own countries.
Of course, the cost of defeating Nazi Germany broke the old European powers, and pretty much ended the Imperial Age, so #sorrynotsorry.
17. Employment
Islamophobia pays handsomely, as my colleague and co-conspirator Dean Obeidallah has discovered.
18. Paella
The Spanish staple finds its name from the Arabic ‘bawa’i,’ or remainders. Back from when most Spaniards spoke Arabic.
19. FOX News
"FOX News" by Summer Putman
“FOX News” by Summer Putman
Because what else would they talk about?
20. Band practice
The Ottomans invented military parades, and attached military bands (with drums over horns) to battle formations, to boost troop morale and freak out whoever was being attacked. They attacked often, which was not cool.
But pretty soon everyone who was anyone was doing it, and then it got lame, and people left Williamsburg and Crown Heights was the new thing, but even then the rents didn’t go down in Williamsburg.
21. The Battle of Helm’s Deep
Gimli blew the Horn of Helm Hammerhand to rally the Rohirrim, because drums were a more Muslim invention, and Tolkien intended for his legendarium to reflect a more authentically European Europe. Which, I suppose, just really means the only legitimate Europeans are the ones whose descendants would turn or be turned Christian, which suggests the fantasy novel is perhaps more science fiction than Tolkien realized. (See also #22 and #23.)
22. Old Glory
Don’t hate the player, hate the game. The East India Company was England’s answer to Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch seizure of predominantly Muslim trade through public-private partnership, but the East India Company did it that much better.
The East India Company’s flags, in turn, seem a likely influence on Old Glory.
23. History Itself
The founding father of modern sociology, and arguably of modern history, was Tunisian Renaissance man Ibn Khaldun. In addition to analyzing the rise and fall of civilizations, Ibn Khaldun was a scholar of religion and mysticism.
24. Religion
A Persian polymath attached to the marauding armies of Mahmud of Ghazni, al-Biruni was a deep, patient and brilliant student of Indian religion, society, geography and even geology. Nearly one thousand years ago he correctly argued, using fossil evidence, that parts of the Indian subcontinent were once under water. He still provides present-day Indianists with one of the most exhaustive and thorough surveys of pre-modern Hinduism. This book may also have been the first serious study of religion as a category, in the sense that we moderns would recognize.
"Italian Food" by Skyle Van Valin
“Italian Food” by Skyle Van Valin
25. Italian Food
Muslims ruled Sicily, parts of southern Italy, and even Genoa, during the 7th, 8th and 9th century. In addition to eggplants, oranges, lemons, limes, and cotton, Muslims also introduced… pasta. Yeah, pasta. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.
Given the connection between pasta, pizza and sex, that’s a major You’re Welcome. I mean, can you imagine Italian food without pasta? Can you imagine America without Italian food?
Yes, Lindsey Graham, unfortunately it’s true. Even Al Capone was our fault. Or Al-Capone, at least, who may or may not have been the same person. We lost track of him after we sent him over.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Men have only learnt how to sleep with women...

Men have only learnt how to sleep with women, 
not awaken with them. That is why the relationship 
between men and women will always 
be prone to disturbances. 
- anon

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Eid Mubarak ...

Eid card published by Hafiz Qamruddin & Sons in Lahore, December 1934
Vintage Eid cards often had urdu poetry penned especially for the occasion. 

"Eid greetings to my sympathisers,
 Eid greetings to my friends,
 Eid greetings to the lovers and the beloveds, 
 the drunks and the pious,
 Eid greetings to all four of them today."