The day after 14 people were murdered in San Bernardino by a radicalized husband and wife, Shazi, a Muslim college student in Texas whose parents migrated to the United States from Pakistan, woke up shaking.
“Now the US won’t just profile young Muslim men,” she later told a friend. “They’ll profile women as well.”
Less than a week later, a sixth-grade girl in hijab was beaten by a schoolmate who called her a member of the Islamic State. Then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “ban on Muslims entering the United States.”
However, in the aftermath of the attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, fault lines of fear began to appear under that banner, most clearly between young Muslim and black women. Earlier this month, Sihem, a Muslim and an active organizer for Black Lives Matter, found herself in a Michigan university classroom discussion about Syrian refugees. She was enraged that many of her classmates were in favor of hindering or preventing asylum seekers from entering the US — and she was shocked that among those classmates were several black women whom she viewed as allies.
‘We saw violence against the black community as something we should all fight against. We expected the black women activists would feel the same in the fight against Islamophobia, but I’m not sure yet that they do.’
“We need better protection from people who use terrorist tactics,” one female black activist sitting beside Sihem said of the Syrian refugees. Was an activist against police brutality in the black community arguing for increased policing of the Muslim community? Sihem wondered.
As a Muslim student activist named Zuleha recently told me, “We saw the violence against the black community as something we should all fight against, that our parents should understand, something that affects all of us…. We expected the black women activists would feel the same in the fight against Islamophobia, but I’m not sure yet that they do.”
As suspicion on one side and disappointment on the other threatens the ties between these two groups of women, one problem may be that, for this generation, solidarity was created only through sit-ins and social media. Though both powerful platforms for imagery and statements of resistance, they can’t replace the deeper work required to build strong ties and identify a common enemy.
Analysts continually point to a growing “youth culture” for radicalization as they seek to explain why young Muslim women join and engage in violence with groups like the Islamic State. If young, disaffected Muslim women are, in fact, increasingly moving toward extremism, then the disengagement of young women from nonviolent activism and their confusion over which direction their anger should be facing is particularly worrying.
By doing so, they will find their way past connections that are only skin-deep and find strength in political ties that bind them. After all, they are all at risk of surveillance and police brutality — whether they cover their heads with a hijab or a hoodie.
The full piece appeared on Vice News: https://news.vice.com/article/amid-us-terrorism-fears-signs-appear-of-a-rift-between-young-muslim-and-black-women
This December, a number of front line fighters from abroad, and women scholar-activists here in the United States, came together to locate the political through-lines between our struggles against the violence of police, states, and empire. A central theme was the impact of militarization, in its many forms, on marginalized women around the world, including on Tamil women in Sri Lanka. For video clips and NY Times coverage of the day’s conversation, please see the link on V-Day’s Bodies of Revolution page.
In a global moment where the conversation around sexual violence is both incessant and remarkably over-simplified, this report,The Forever Victims Tamil Women in Post-War Sri Lanka, is a snapshot study by myself and Dr. Kate Cronin-Furman that attempts to disrupt prevailing narratives on the position, and politics, of Tamil women. As Sri Lanka comes up for discussion this month in the United Nations Human Rights Council, we hope this report highlights some of the complexities of daily life for Tamil women.
Through a cross-section of direct interviews on the island and additional secondary research from March-July 2015, we find that:
“Women in the north still face the risk of rape and harassment by the security forces present throughout the region, but their lives are even more negatively impacted by the climate of fear and by a worrying uptick in violence against women within the Tamil community.
Midtown New York for the past two weeks has been a colorful place, as thousands of concerned women from all over the world have been attending the annual session of the United Nations Committee on the Status of Women. The older attendees came with hopes of recreating the “fire” — as one activist put it — that pulsed through them in Beijing 20 years ago, when the Beijing Platform for Action on women’s issues was created. The younger ones came with hopes of joining an inter-generational revolution.
The British government is scrambling to find three of its female citizens traveling to join the ranks of foreign recruits to the Islamic State (IS or ISIS). These young women are not alone. According to one recent study, more than 500 women from Western countries have traveled to join the extremists in Iraq and Syria.
A narrative nonfiction essay that examines the way we intervene into the lives of women and girls affected by violence, from the intimate perspective of Sri Lanka. https://www.guernicamag.com/features/narrating-crisis-in-sri-lanka/
A policy snapshot examining the role of repression for female fighters, especially the Al-Khansaa Brigade of the IS movement in Iraq and Syria. Full piece available at foreignaffairs.com.
Please see also the follow up conversation on MSNBC’s The CYCLE on August 21st, where I joined the conversation live. http://www.msnbc.com/the-
Why might the failed suicide bomber, Sajida Al-Rishawi, be of value to ISIS and what we don’t (want) to know about her. http://www.cnn.com/video/data/