@ViceNews: Amid Terrorism Fears, Signs Appear of a Rift Between Young Muslim and Black Women

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

Bodies of Revolution

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.

The Forever Victims? The Dangers of Victimizing Tamil Women

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.

The Forever Victim

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. 

The ever-present threat of violence by the military has led women to lead tightly circumscribed lives, limiting their daily activities in order to minimize their risk of sexual assault. Their reduced participation in public life keeps them in the home, where they are increasingly vulnerable to violence at the hands of the men in their lives, many of whom are also struggling with the after-effects of wartime trauma. And the measures taken by the community, by the state, and by international actors to address their needs have only made the situation worse. Hasty marriage for protection, well-being schemes that entail isolation and exposure to state agents, and dis-empowering livelihoods programs have further undermined their economic and political position.”
We are grateful to have the report, and analyses on it’s importance to the conversation on Sri Lanka at a critical moment, covered by Rafia Zakaria, Meena Kandasamy, and in recent media appearances on Al Jazeera.


@ViceNews : ‘I Don’t Know Why We Come': Inside the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women

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.

Continue reading