Religion

jo cox

Jo Cox’s death was entirely preventable

Update: Jo was due to report on the 80% rise in Islamophobic attacks, mostly against women. I believe this attack was planned and she was targeted by the far right specifically.

As the nation waited with bated breath to hear whether Jo Cox MP would survive the gun and knife attack she was subjected to by right wing terrorist Thomas Mair, journalists busied themselves with the sort of apologism we have come to expect from them. Despite numerous eyewitness reports from the scene of the crime confirming the attacker had shouted ‘Britain First’, right wing and neoliberal quarters of the British press refused to acknowledge the white supremacist fascism they personally enabled in the backlash to the murder of Lee Rigby.

In the 3 years since he was brutally murdered, hundreds if not thousands of innocent Muslims, mainly women, children and the elderly have been targeted by right wing extremists the length and breadth of our sinking island. Tell Mama has provided us with reports every step of the way, they have advocated on behalf of many victims, a service that is valued and necessary given that people of colour have a general mistrust of the police, an institution not exactly lauded for its handling of hate crimes against non whites. I knew the police would refuse me support when I reported the many incidents of racist abuse and threats to kill me, but I did it anyway for the paper trail, and to prove to everyone I was doing everything in my power to keep safe. When the police blocked me on Twitter and sent me an informal caution for my political beliefs I knew then the impact this inaction would have on wider society.

They, the media and people with all the power and control would have us believe I am a nothing and a nobody therefore it does not matter that my concerns were not taken seriously. However it gave the people making threats against me the green light to continue. They also targeted others.

Injustice has a domino effect. First they come for one and if there is no resistance they come back for the others. When Muhsin Ahmed lost his life to white supremacist terrorism, some parts of the UK did feel the pain and suffering his family were condemned to endure. I felt it, Tell Mama felt it. It quickly dissipated though, because Muhsin Ahmed was also considered a nothing, a nobody, by the majority of Britons who either didn’t know, or just didn’t care. More casualties of right wing terrorism followed, the severity of attacks escalated, the growing fear in minority communities went largely ignored. Nahid Almanea was murdered by a right wing terrorist simply for wearing Islamic dress, but watch the opponents of hjiab shrug off the notion that hate filled rhetoric leads to actual violence against minorities on the ground. So they hurt more people, then some more until yesterday when a ‘lone wolf’ assassinated a person no one could ignore; a serving British MP, a white woman, a treasured citizen in British society.

He yelled ‘Britain First’ as he launched a savage attack against Jo, a known advocate for community cohesiveness. Britain First, the white supremacist terrorist militia immediately denied any involvement in the attack, despite the fact they were specifically named and had also just conducted a knife training workshop for their terrorist members. Whether or not Mair was personally known to them (putting) Britain First is a core objective for hateful little British Nazis. He was at the very least influenced by this selfish notion, if not by the organisation then the headlines feeding the hate train, and manifestos like this, from the supposedly non racist Tory party.

The murder of Jo Cox, Labour MP for Batley and Spen should strike fear in all our hearts. The right wing terrorists have moved on to suffocating the moderates on ‘their own side’. White supremacists will target other white people, those they consider race traitors, because they are the people best placed to protect minorities. It’s supposed to serve as a warning to others. It only happened because the warning signs were not heeded and the fascist threat was allowed to flourish.

Brexit was not the cause of the attack on Jo Cox, it was merely a catalyst. The Thames boat debacle only added to the confusion. Brexit is the logical conclusion to years of kowtowing to the fascist right, when politicians allegedly left of centre were suddenly espousing right wing ideas. Racism never goes away, it is only controlled or allowed to thrive unchallenged. Journalists, on ‘The Left’ all the way to the unapologetic sadistic right are the only ones with the power to change discourse. They have the power to create a just and equal society instead they purposefully harness the hate bubbling under the surface and legitimise it. Racial slurs have no place in print. Fascist free speech does not trump the right to life for anyone deemed ‘other’. Denial of cause and effect leads only to more violence, more horror. Denial will mean more deaths.

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Traditionally submissive.. bollocks

I cannot be the only woman troubled by the audacity of white men. I cannot be the only person in the world to feel contempt for the white men who target brown and black women in racist crusades to provoke the men they ‘belong’ to, a retaliation that would be deemed fair and necessary if men of colour were targeting white women (see Rotherham). These tit for tat childish penis wars must stop (and it is white women alone who can make it happen).

The prime minister of Great Britain has commanded ‘traditionally submissive’ women do xyz in a bid to curb terrorism. They must learn to speak English because apparently not speaking the language can fire wannabe terrorists into action. This idea can be applied universally, after all there are many ‘native’ English speakers who cannot write/speak English very well at all, and you tend to find them at fascist demos where their sole purpose is to strike terror into the hearts of ethnic minorities but the key difference is we don’t blame the mothers of the EDL for their brutish comical ways, we lay blame squarely at the feet of the government which knowingly incites violent hatred between marginalised groups.

This attack on women of colour (mainly) has been relentless of late. Muslim women are ‘traditionally submissive’, they do not have agency so cannot make decisions on how to dress themselves, and if they do not learn English they can be held personally accountable for the radicalisation of their kids. It’s like feminism died and made white man ruler of the world. White feminists think this is a separate issue because they agree with white men that woc are submissive and downtrodden. They treat us as such themselves. They, like white men, want to tell us what to do and how to do it. Not only do we need saving but we must bow to the superiority of white feminism and let them do things the way they always have. This domineering behaviour is the fault of the control freaks in power not the people who are trying desperately to avoid conflict for fear of another war. Given the escalation in actual incidents of violence against (primarily) Muslim women, the narrative trickling down from the top ensures this will continue. If there were any cowardly racists unaware of the traditional submissiveness of Muslim women, the PM has issued a timely reminder they are there should one feel the need for an unprovoked racist misogynistic attack. They are in effect blaming women for the abuses carried out against them, and setting the stage for all future attacks.

All feminists, whether corporate or otherwise should be outraged at this.

We live in times shockingly reminiscent of a past we were not there to see yet heard about in great detail because learning and raising consciousness was supposed to free us from the evil perpetrated against humans by other humans for being a little different. ‘Never again’ loses all meaning when yet again, the most vulnerable in our society are being marked out for easy identification. Asylum seekers – another group of humans forsaken by Fortress Europe – need our love and space to heal not wristbands and red doors, markers that have already seen violence inflicted on these people we should be protecting. The Jewish people who perished in the Holocaust wore yellow stars, an eblem for the purpose of easy identification, which is how authorities are explaining away the modern day symbols of oppression. Do not be the person who tells their grandkids “you just did what you were told”, that excuse does not fly in a humane and civilised society. Nor does “we didn’t know” because we have been telling you this will happen for some years now and instead we were vilifed, silenced, marked out as bullies. It doesn’t change the fact we were right.

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The denial of power and control dynamics by our ‘lefties’ who are really ‘righties’ has enabled the shift in public consciousness so that it’s ok to dehumanise a whole race. I haven’t been a Muslim for decades but have always hoped I’d find my way back to God, largely due to the atheist scene. However I will defend Muslims as though I am practising as one myself because the white supremacists sees me as one of them. We’re all exactly like the others. I do not wear a hijab and I speak perfect English in as standard an accent as you can get but I am still targeted by racists. It is with this in mind, I call to the white feminists of the 21st century in a plea to shut ‘their white men’ the fuck up. I’d really rather not play this ownership game but white people seem determined to target women when it is really the men they are afraid of so I’m gonna give it a go.

Words lose all meaning when you are confronted by the reality of this world. We can pretend the privileges afforded to a handful are representative of the world in general but sincerely, from my rung all the way down here, we have broken this world with our bullshit. The cheek of this man to suggest it is Muslim women who exemplify traditionally submissive women.. have you seen his wife?

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An Open Letter: To the racist next door (well, upstairs)

We haven’t met yet, I tend to avoid the stairwells at home time, in fact most of the time because I rarely go out but I frequently hear you come home after a relatively short day at work. The landlord says you’re a teacher and this was meant to prove your suitability for the flat above me, the walls are thin and I knew the last couple far too intimately, although I hadn’t met them either. Whilst it’s true there haven’t yet been any all night raves as yet, I am getting used to the drone of your very boring self important expressions. I don’t think this is your natural speaking voice but an affectation of what a teacher should sound like. You sound very male and very entitled even when I can’t make out the words, you frequently talk over your guests. When you’re not enunciating for the whole street you’re belting out Lloyd Webber classics for Britain First’s Got No Talent so it’s fair to say you like all the attention being you gets.

It is with this growing irritation that I peeked out of the peep hole when I heard your voice bellow loudly as you trudged up the stairs this afternoon. I caught the back of your head, looks like you don’t have any hair, and you seemed as tall as the door to the next floor. A shorter man with brown skin followed behind. He didn’t pique my interest as much as the words you were saying to him though. You said “whilst women in India are oppressed at least they get an education. In Pakistan they don’t even have that.”

Oh really? I’m even more pumped to meet you now, can’t wait to look at all your photos of Pakistan and hear about your best and worst adventures. Of course as an educator of future generations I assume you must have the information to make a statement so matter of factly, so I’m going to believe you when you say anything, otherwise why would you? Unless say, you were just repeating a thing you’d always heard and just assumed to be true because you’re a thickheaded arrogant racist (cos white supremacy runs deep even with the ones who don’t appear outwardly fascistic) and why should you care about whether things are factual or not, it’s not like due process is a thing poc even understand in their own corrupt countries so why would they expect it here, or something?

In my large family most of the graduates are women. My grandparents had a focus on educating the girls because they wanted us to be independent and not reliant on a husband who could do with us as he pleased. They saw education as freedom from patriarchy, which certainly confused me growing up being as my family weren’t lacking on the patriarch front. I think it was a latent desire to keep “our women” free from the clutches of western patriarchy, to increase our value as women in the western world where we are seen as servile and disposable. This attitude was prevalent in the community I come from. These were the poorest of Pakistanis and many married their girls off young but the suitors were always turned away at the door for us and my aunts. “They’re too busy with their studies” was the blanket response my gran had for anyone suggesting we were ripe. This remained the case forever, at least with regards to myself. I’m still unmarried, in my 30s, and still learning, at my own pace.

This isn’t the first time a person in a position of power has espoused dangerously problematic opinions with regards to the natives of my fledgling motherland. Another teacher, older than the racist upstairs and also a devout Christian asked me once whether it was true there was a whole village of imbeciles somewhere in Pakistan, where the IQ was nominally the lowest in the whole world. I didn’t even know what to say to that.

This kind of jarring ignorance has become commonplace in the wasteland of post recession Tory Britain, it’s breathtaking because it was not the norm for me, at least not growing up in my multicultural town with my multicultural friends and teachers. It was perhaps always there but cleverly disguised because at one time people believed in power of laws which forbid racism, I know I did. The various authorities inadequate response to racism has allowed for that attitude to seep into wider society because the racists know the cops are on their side. Whiteness trumps justice. In fact racism is condoned by the people occupying seats of power at the very top, for example when they call Cobra to deal with an unprecedented death of a white soldier on British soil even though that sentence is untrue in its entirety.

I have come to conclude there is no right or wrong in society only power and control, that is to say I believe there is a moral compass and most certainly a version of life exists for some where doing the right thing is the noblest and happiest way to live but for the majority of people it really is about what you can get away with in any given situation. These opinions white people have, where they deny the humanity of others and speak of them as aliens without any direct experience of the people in question is a narrative that is centuries old. Racism is most prevalent in the UK in the areas where there are actually no people of colour, so when you’re trying to reason with a fascist that they are wrong about all Muslims, you may as well be speaking to a shit brick wall. There is no reasoning with those who are devoid of reason, education, experience yet exist in a suit of white skin that elevates them to a state of enlightenment where they can make damaging untruthful statements about other humans without batting an eyelid or challenge.

They’re teachers and I left school at 16 so they’re right and I’m wrong, or at least that’s the version some of you allow yourselves to believe.

veerenda

You are exactly like all the others, whatever they say

If you were one of those people who insisted it is not Islamophobic to scrutinise Islam and Muslim people when you are neither of those things yourself then you personally contributed to the actions which led to a Sikh man being identified as a Muslim terrorist (by Gamergate trolls who exist only to torment vulnerable people cos ethics) and reported to the rest of the world before the information was even verified. This happened beacause the western world is largely ignorant of the rest of us and experiences it as a sort of quaint skewed little fairy tale which best fits their centuries old prejudices. The media were fooled because they are perhaps the most ignorant of the bunch and a brown face to them is always a terrorist. When a poc is probably responsible, as it is whenever there’s a disaster then due process becomes a privilege only afforded to white people. It’s consistent with the experience I have of the western world, where it doesn’t matter what you do to distinguish yourself from all the others, you’ll always be a paki, regardless of whether or not you are actually from Pakistan.

I’ve been asked where I’m from more times than whether I’ve had a good day, I know this much without doing the maths. Once upon a time I humoured it and asked people to guess and they did; Maltese, Greek, Arab, Iranian, Afghani, Latina, the list goes on and on. White people literally see colour before they see anything else and depending on your answer to this question draw conclusions before you need say anything further. I was always wary of saying Pakistani because I’d grown up feeling like the proverbial shit on one’s shoe for no apparent reason, it was just a feeling that was ever present. I used to say I was Kashmiri and this was partly true, my mum hails from there but I always had a sense it was preferable to identify as Indian, as all the Muslim Indians I knew liked to rub it in, for why, I had no idea, but it was there, this unspoken rule. I imagine now it was the residual tenets of divide rule and conquer which had passed down the generations, infecting us before we were even born. It’s apparent in the token few who deny our existence and experiences of the world so that white people can write us off as bullies and attention seekers, this idea that we must only object because we are jealous and not genuinely critical for the greater good. They will attach themselves to each other as allies and ambassadors for one another just to keep you out and struggling.

The ignorant world we find ourselves in is a direct consequence of white supremacists and their token allies. Every time a white person says to you you are not like all the others and you’re actually some kind of special snowflake, it is a lie. You are maybe a toy to the person who says that to you, someone they can wind up and watch make a fool of themselves but you are most definitely just like the others to all the white people you haven’t yet met, and probably most definitely the person who would say such a racist thing in the first place. If you’re a poc and you’re still struggling with observing and identifying divide rule and conquer, if Veerender Jubbal’s case has not made your blood run cold in horror, that the people in control of narratives can get it so very wrong, then you alone will be responsible for the ways in which you are abused.

A Sikh man (wearing a Sikh turban which is completely different to other brown people’s head coverings) can be thrust onto the world stage without his consent, without any viable reason for this attack on his identity (not that racist targeting is a viable reason even when the subject is Muslim), have a Quran photoshopped into his hands (replacing the ipad) and the media will probably get away with it, but we mustn’t let them. Remember that time little old me made a mistake that barely a few thousand people will have seen (though they will have most definitely witnessed my unprompted apology) yet the media acted as though I had killed someone with my false allegation of racism, the way they used it to whip me with because it was just such a terrible thing to accuse someone of being a racist shitheel. Well it’s actually worse to be a victim of racism, even more than being falsely accused in a system where actually, racism is inherent, it being a proud nation built on the looting and erasure of other people and cultures, and unrepentant in its ways.

The media is massively racist, whatever they might say. They just proved it.

Shout your abortion

Following the campaign to defund Planned Parenthood services in America (state funded), abortion activists took to Twitter with the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion to counter the arguments made by zealous anti choicers. If you’ve ever followed the ever present attacks on family planning or been involved in actions to support your local abortion clinic you’ll have been confronted by some very strange people indeed. With this in mind I knew that tweeting in solidarity would provoke a backlash, I just wasn’t as prepared for the kinds of things completely random people on the internet would say to me (and me, a seasoned survivor of trolls).

I tweeted:

I didn’t say I’d had an abortion or that I agreed or disagreed with termination (for the record, it’s your body, your choice) but I knew it would reach those people whose lives it had saved, at least those who acknowledged the established life within the pregnant person carrying a promise of potential life (20% of first time pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion, 80% of those before 12 weeks gestation), which is in no way a baby or a person (person being a societal construct). When a foetus is squatting in your uterus it does not cancel out the life already in existence, without which the foetus wouldn’t exist at all. Bizarrely this fact seems to have escaped these people.

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Nope, not what I said at all

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Logic clearly evades you for refusing to accept there is life in the person carrying the foetus.

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This tweet is particularly interesting because it feeds into the idea that pregnancy is essentially a woman’s fault. By opening my legs I am consenting to a foetus being installed in there. If this person could acknowledge the sperm provider and the condom issue many men have (yeah sure, they’re ‘too tight’) and spread that responsibility about a bit I’d be less inclined to believe they were woman hating scum.

For example all these people with their righteous war on people who carry foetuses (I doubt very much any of these people has even considered the fact that other genders are also capable of pregnancy, this is a specific hatred driven at cis women for not being masculine/male/patriarchal).

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The idea that all unwanted pregnancies can be attributed to selfish promiscuous women is entirely misogynistic and anti woman. These people would probably accuse a woman of entrapment if she happened to get pregnant and wanted to *keep* the foetus. Similarly there is no sympathy for women choosing to abort because their life depends on it. Going back to my original tweet, I said it because I used to work as an advocate for women in abusive relationships and have seen firsthand the violence inflicted on women for being pregnant in the first place. 30% of all domestic abuse begins in pregnancy. This is because the pregnant partner is suddenly vulnerable and dependent. Controlling abusive people use this to their advantage. It’s not uncommon for perps to threaten forced miscarriage, the idea that they put the foetus in there and they can also take it out should the victim refuse their every whim. There are people who cannot grasp the complexity of human relationships, and crisis points, relationship breakdowns, never mind the systems we have created to control people according to kyriarchy so it is a bit of a reach on my part to expect compassion.

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You are not representative of almost 8 billion people worldwide.

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76% of women faced a further incident of violence for having the audacity to leave. The period after a survivor leaves the perp is the most dangerous, “if you leave I will hunt you down and kill your kids”. 

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This guy thinks we should run all decisions by him because it’s all about him. It’s not and he is nobody.

This assertion that complete strangers have of themselves as the saviours of the unborn would have more merit if they were willing to consider the life of the pregnant person but they cease to be human from the point of conception instead acting as a vessel for the precious new life everyone’s going to forget about once it moves out of the uterus. The pregnant person will be left with the foetus they did not want.. What’s that you say?

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Complete strangers think it’s ok to tell me to sacrifice my body and wallow in the guilt of my unwanted pregnancy which I’ll then have to hand over to a stranger, the system, uncertainty. Pregnancy can be life threatening, from the phsyical difficulties to the mental strain it can put on a person, no one has the right to torture you for having the misfortune of being born with a uterus. If pregnancy doesn’t kill you then labour might. Cis men have no say in the abortion debate because they will never carry a foetus or suffer the fallout if things go wrong. The reason they are so vocal on the anti-choice scene is because they are redundant if they do not exert patriarchal power and control. They won’t ever create life so they control it.

From the frightening to the downright ridiculous, opponents of bodily autonomy reveal more about themselves than the people they target, they’re nosy and perverse, poking around in strange uteri.

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Ah, Americans.

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I keep looking for the illegal thing I’m supposed to have said but to no avail.

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If a person is feeling suicidal cos they’ve been forcibly impregnated, an abortion is life saving and I would go as far as saying therapeutic in terms of their recovery, and regaining control of their own life.

Every single one of these people and the many I didn’t document failed to see the hypocrisy in their words. The life of the foetus cancels out the life of the person carrying it, without whom the foetus wouldn’t exist at all. Personally I’m not here to change your thoughts on abortion or bring you round to my superior way of thinking – something anti-choicers may want to examine in themselves – but to ask you to cast the first stone only when you can say you are completely sin free.

Also, this stance on abortion seems to be as far as they’ve got in terms of a world view and how that actually works in practice. They’re all ‘save the foetuses’ but how many of these advocates shared the same enthusiasm for the precious lives of Syria’s existing children, rejected by Europe, asleep in the freezing cold, barely surviving? Or the fully formed babies with given names blown to pieces in Palestine? How about the severely disfigured infants of Fallujah? Selective outrage makes a mockery of the whole pro-life movement. The planet is exhausted by our reproductive efforts, live viable children are treated as though vermin, domestic abuse blights the lives of some of those foetuses saved by those ignorant of life in its entirety, yet hellbent on power and control. That’s all it is.

Why the truth matters to me

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Growing up a stranger in the place of your birth is disorientating. Asides from the challenges one might encounter when starting at a new school, like making friends, children with foreign parents have to overcome additional obstacles in order to fit in. They must learn another language sometimes, as I did, but language is one of those things small children master within a surprisingly short period of time. Other barriers to assimilation are not so easy to tackle and there are so many, it’s no surprise people from ethnic minorities suffer disproportionately with poor mental health.

When you are told you are, but also feel, a member of the underclass, you either buy into the narrative – especially when you’ve not been taught to think critically – or you seek to distance yourself from the perceptions others have of your people. You buy into their hate or your own, in a bid to survive, but to survive well. Self-love just isn’t an option. I was conscious of the lies I needed to tell if I had any hope of accessing the world I wanted to belong to as early as age 6 when I decided I wanted to be called Sam. Even for one so young and innocent I had an inkling Sam was a name they just couldn’t mess with. It was English for a start. I didn’t have to spell it out every time, or have people poke fun at it, whether my peers or teachers (who should have known better). Even at this age I knew I had to change who I was if I was to have a fighting chance in life.

Racism wasn’t the only thing that informed the shaping of an identity that sat at odds with who I was inside. In fact as time went on, it became less of a conscious thing and something I normalised, and believed everyone did. Of course I now know this isn’t true, that many people are born into their identities and have the freedom to express them without the judgmental white gaze waiting for them to slip up.  Or the limitations of a violent home, living your days in fear of attack, never knowing where the next hit was coming from, desperately trying to cover up the evil truth from outsiders, in case they confirmed you did actually deserve the abuse you endured.

I was bubbly and outgoing, smart and organised, my mouth permanently fixed in a smile. I was part of the school council, a class monitor, a straight A student, a member of the quiz team and captain for rounders, netball and cricket. We were the champions of it all. None of the teachers would have guessed the situation at home was escalating, that we were living in fear and self-harming. My personality was split early on, through necessity; I had to be two different people in order to survive. Entering the big wide world as a teen on the run, I had to invent another persona to fit in with all these interesting new London types from all over Europe and beyond. When I left school, I left my world, my friends, my life behind. I had to learn how to speak in a way that didn’t set southerners off in a fit of giggles at my dulcet Brummie drawl. I had to be flexible if I was going to make it, whatever it would take. I lapped up my token status as the one who wasn’t like all the others, as though this was a reflection of my amazingness and not a divisive and racist microagression used by white people to remind you of your place (not so worthy but not so bad either, a reminder to keep doing what it is you’re doing for cookies), and keep you from questioning their problematic views.

Of course I didn’t know then that I didn’t have to be so amenable. I was on the run from a culture I had rejected because of the ways in which it made me a target and was desperate to adopt new ways to help me blend in. I became so many different things to so many people; I forgot who I was and what I wanted. I lived a life where I was manipulated by people who identified this willingness to please and then exploited it. I was used and abused, scapegoated. I was called a liar for keeping secrets I was too afraid to share. A gestalt therapist I accessed through my work noted that I smiled when I spoke of negative things and asked me to consider the incongruence between my words and my body language. I had become so jumbled up in my thoughts I began to dissociate whenever I was afraid. There was drug abuse, promiscuity, domestic abuse in my intimate relationships whilst I struggled to hold down a job as an advocate fighting for victims of domestic abuse. I was my own best example of bad practice though it did have the bonus of making me non-judgmental, however hopeless a situation might have seemed, I believed it was essential they had access to the same support. Cops for eg are less likely to want to help repeat victims, especially those who may have been warned off from being a witness previously (cos it’s all about them and paperwork, not an infectious social disease).

I couldn’t find my way out of my living hell. I couldn’t access the support to do so because then people would know my secret; that I was ugly and horrible, and undeserving of love and respect. That I should die. My adult relationships confirmed the self-hatred I had as a small child; nothing I did would ever change the fundamental flaw from within, my low social standing as the daughter of immigrants who never did escape the ghetto or the colonial mind-set (despite the straight As) and respect for hierarchy (within patriarchy). I was a slag before I had even kissed a boy, they must have known what I would grow into I reasoned.

A tragic incident in my personal life provided the catalyst for PTSD. All the feelings I’d ever suppressed bubbled to the surface and consumed me. I existed, and that’s all I can say for my consciousness over the period of a year except that I never want to go back there. With the right support, I was able to identify the pathways responsible for the ‘random’ panic attacks. I sorted the snapshots in my mind onto the correct collages and vowed to trace them back to the first triggers so that I could beat them. In order to do this, I have to be 100% honest with myself and everyone else or the carefully constructed administration of my mental health will fold in on itself.

A huge part of my recovery is about owning my genuine mistakes and experiencing them in a way that doesn’t cripple me with anxiety (the white commentariat can go to hell for the ways in which they hindered my progress, not forgetting the PoC who’ve perpetuated the lies about me).

Don’t lie to (or about) me; I will come at you with the rage of a woman who knows she is being gaslighted, because it triggers a collage of all the people who’ve knowingly put me in harm’s way, by minimising, denying and erasing my experience of things. I always feel a little crazy following a spat with people who lie because it hits me hard in a way you cannot appreciate. Sunny Hundal occupies the same brain space as the mosque teacher who molested me and continued to enjoy the kudos of being a holy man. Helen Lewis triggers the same feelings as the guy who molested me at 15 then said he’d heard I was a slag so thought he’d try his luck. That dude denies to this day that he ever put a finger on me.

If I say something and it seems dishonest to you, run your concerns by me, to my knowledge I am always telling the truth. I do however appreciate the arbitrary nature of most things so if you know better, do tell. I won’t lie and say it doesn’t help if you’re already a friend, coming at me with criticisms, however well intentioned, won’t end well if we’ve barely exchanged a RT, or even the bare minimum of support considering the shitehole the internet can be (and has been towards me).

penssatucky

OITNB and Islamophobia

It’s rare to find a piece of popular culture that isn’t hugely problematic in some way. The mainstream media caters for the mainstream, an audience that finds humour in human suffering. If this sounds a bit far-fetched, consider the ways in which comedians hit back at victims of abuse when we have asked them to stop giving rapists the green light with their rape ‘jokes’, those witty bantz where the punchline is like a blow to the stomach, knocking the wind from unsuspecting victims of abuse further victimised by those extracting joy from their pain and calling it comedy, and then some more, by defenders of free speech but only the sort of speech that maintains existing structures of power and control and hierarchy; hate speech most often espoused by the white middle class commentariat, framed as genuine concerns for the maintenance of society, for the betterment of us all, yet translates into violence against the most vulnerable; women of colour, trans people, Muslim people.. Those voices we never hear because they are so marginalised, the ones who cannot defend themselves against the charges made against them because the white middle class heteronormative media controls our perceptions on all.

This is why Orange is the New Black was such a resounding success. Women in prison as a genre is a sure fire way to pull in the viewing numbers; if you’re old enough to remember Prisoner Cell Block H (or have been watching Wentworth – a 21st century spin off based in the same Australian prison), this has been a winning formula in reaching a specific audience because they are so frequently overlooked; those working class women doing time for survival in a patriarchal world. There are the shoplifters; women criminalised for stealing food or nappies, serving disproportionate sentences when comparing with males because women are not supposed to commit crime and are therefore punished more harshly to serve as a deterrent, but there are also those women encumbered by their acts of resilience, those who finally snapped and stabbed their abuser to death. We may not have served time at her majesty’s convenience but we do know what it is to suffer a woman’s lot in life, and this exploration of hardship and injustice keeps us hooked.

It should be easy to maintain focus on the inequalities women face without resorting to microagressions; however I was disappointed to find that my latest fave is threatening to be just as problematic as the rest. Before I begin to take it apart I feel it is relevant I make a full disclosure about my beliefs because I am frequently told I have only reacted in this way because I am a Muslim.

I am not a Muslim. I was once but I ran away as fast as I could. It took many years for me to come to the conclusion that I could not blame every last Muslim for the horrendous ways in which God was used by some of them to control me. It is not God who demands murder and rape, rather humans using the authority of God to justify their abusive practices. God, in any religion, acts for peace. It is with this fair conclusion I judge the writers of OITNB for being so disingenuous in their not so subtle reinforcement of the mind-set that Muslims are there for the ridiculing.

SPOILER ALERT – The prison is infested with bedbugs, all soft furnishings and books must be incinerated to prevent the pests from spreading further. A small gathering discusses the books that were burned, the Catholic nun character is on hand to correct Morello when she states all of the books were gone. “Not true” she asserts “there was one book they were afraid to burn” which Sister Ingalls immediately follows with a dramatic sigh as though she was suggesting that even she, as a Catholic – with all their pomp and ceremony – thinks it ridiculous to consider it a sacred text exempt from the rules to which we must all adhere. Morello responds “I stand corrected – there is a bug infested Quran.”

If this was the first mention of the Quran and a bonfire in western history you may be forgiven for thinking I am seeking issues where there are none, but you’d have had to been living on the moon to deny the continuity of this theme, especially when it’s a bunch of Americans alluding to it. Not a week goes by without another story of some Yankee yahoo threatening to buy up all the Qurans and burn them, a flagrant attempt at fanning the flames of bigotry, because those sorts of people actively seek war and know which buttons to press. Burn a bunch of poppies and see the calm Christians and even secularists fired up for vengeance because burning a book or a paper flower isn’t the random inconsequential act antagonists profess it to be.

Later on in the show, Vause is seen reading the Quran and makes an unnecessary statement about how she is probably forbidden from touching/reading the Quran but she washed her hands and figures an omniscient God would appreciate this. Just a suggestion but perhaps the show’s producers could have asked a Muslim queer for the lowdown on what is and isn’t permissible? They could even look into the positive things Islam does and encourages in its followers, for eg, recognising that trans people have a right to state funded surgery because Allah has made it our duty to save all people and treat them to good health if it is within our power to do so. This doesn’t fit western narratives though.

Yes, the Quran is a sacred book to its followers. Yes, it is given the respect one affords to a sacred artefact, it is kept in a safe place and one must be ritually cleansed in order to touch it. This is a fact. Similar could be said for the Bhagavad Gita or even the bible. That’s the thing about religious texts; they are sacred to their followers. Just because that Catholic nun thought it preposterous the Quran was given special treatment doesn’t mean there aren’t evangelical Christians who’d justify killing you for disrespecting their holy bible. Again, it is people who are fundamental in their interpretations of religion and like there are some Christian fanatics murdering abortionists yet failing to see the incongruence between their beliefs and their actions there are Muslims who will use God to justify misogyny and violence. There are also atheists demanding the culling of religious sorts because they allegedly cause war and stuff without an awareness of how ironic their solution to dehumanisation and depravity is to mirror those things we protest in extremists.

This is the crux of my ill feelings towards the framing of social narratives in the 3rd season of OITNB. The Quran and its followers have not only been posited as these people who consider themselves above the laws governing everyone else but also as the worst offender. Consider the makeover given to Pennsatucky. Be reminded that she was actually a homophobic bible bashing snitch who was employed by prison staff to rat out inmates suspected of lesbian activity. Suddenly she’s a reformed ally and lover of all things LGBTQIA, supporting Boo in her butchness? Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that Pennsatucky isn’t so violently racist and sexually shaming as she once was, I just object to the fact she’s elevated to a human position where she is capable of empathy and being part of a system even if it means completely demolishing her belief system and replacing it with an idea of what an acceptable human should be; the two are too far removed from each other for it to be a natural process, especially when they’re driving home the message that Islam is the one to watch. Instead I believe this to be an intentional move in which the writers, or whoever, get their childish jabs in at something they don’t understand or care for, in a bid to improve their ratings, reaching out to the mainstream they’re appealing to by confirming prejudices, showing solidarity to those on the same side (because Muslim queers don’t exist and therefore won’t be offended because they wouldn’t have seen the show cos it so full of sin or something).

I loved OITNB for its portrayal on the diversity of women and sexuality. For every racist, sexist trope the show explored there was a positive character to speak out for that way of life but as time goes on the characters fall into lazy racial stereotyping; homophobic Latinas and white queers, as though queer women of colour do not exist in equal numbers. Trans women for eg found a beautiful representative in Laverne Cox, she gives as good as she gets (the transphobia doesn’t let up much, even in the 3rd season) making her a perfect role model for those seeking out idols. The same cannot be said for Muslim women, perhaps because in reality they’re immediately shipped off to Guantanamo without trial, whatever the offence.


Only four episodes in, but this new series is way worse so far. The points you mention seem symptomatic of it reaching out for some mainstream populism which is totally diluting what made it great. I find it quite bizarre that we’re supposed to want the prison stay open, and cheer when it survives due to privatisation! I don’t want the prison to stay open, I want a work strike which unites everyone against the authorities, or I want the place to burn.

Adam Ford

(Since writing this piece I have seen a little more of the 3rd season and it doesn’t get any better. Soso makes an entirely irrelevant reference to stoning women in Iran and various characters join in with antisemitic remarks, no doubt triggering for some considering the nature of the ‘jokes’, and later on we get a reference to a Somali pirate thrown in for good measure. The disparaging comments against Jews don’t let up either.)