The Great Book Robbery of 1948

Electronic Intifada have just published my piece on a documentary project about the looting of Palestinian books by Israel during the Nakba (‘Catastrophe’) of 1948.  Director Benny Brunner along with a couple of other people are trying to get together more information and money to get the project off the ground. So, if you can’t be bothered reading my article  then please just watch the teaser and donate to this great project.

The Great Book Robbery (teaser) from Benny Brunner on Vimeo.

Muslim Comic Artists: Where are you Sofia Naizi?

Make/shift’s latest issue is out- amazing by the way- and in it was a list of great feminist comic artist which includes one UK-based Sofia (Sowfia?) Naizi.

I’ve been searching the internet high and low for her comic book called ‘talk to the scarf because the face ain’t listening’ because it just sounds amazing but all to no avail.  I was particularly impressed as I managed to track down this video she put together which is pure genius and shows more insight into issues of identity than anything I’ve read. Ever.

Watch it. You will not be disappointed I promise.

And Sofia, if you’re out there please blog/draw more!!

Journalism… with a warning

Love. it.

The artwork obviously, not the sorry state of journalism today.

Via Rebel Art blog.

Why being an environmental activist can get you arrested..

(Article re-posted from A World of Green Muslims blog)

For most us, being green is a choice we take because we believe it is better for the environment but also that god has entrusted us to care for this planet. We take very little risk while doing our recycling or composting,  and reducing our waste isn’t likely to attract the attention of government officials. But in Morroco, activist Mohamed Attaoui was sentenced to two years in prison for exposing illegal logging of shrinking cedar forests and ‘cedar mafia’-style corruption among the ranks of the forest service and  government officials.

Weeks after he published his article on the illegal trafficking of cedar by community leaders in March 2010, Attaoui was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison. Although cedar wood is a protected species in Morocco and so those who were partaking in the illegal logging are in the wrong, Attaoui was arrested on charges of extortion for his whistleblowing.

In an article published by the Guardian’s Comment is Free, Brendan Borrell noted:

The truth of the matter is Attaoui’s case is not unique. Envirnomental activists in other countries have suffered a similar fate. In 2008, Uzbek journalist Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov, who has been documenting the destruction of the Aral Sea, was sentenced to 10 years on apparently bogus drug trafficking charges.

This July, the naked, handcuffed body of Ardiansyah Matra, the reporter who uncovered illegal logging by the Indonesian military, washed up in the Gudang Arand river.

Although Attaoui had tried to fight his sentence and even gone on hunger strike, it has been reported that 20 Septemeber is when he will be called to serve his sentence. With the various eco-wonders of the Muslim world currently under threat such as the Iraqi marshlands and Indonensian rainforests, those brave enough to speak up against environmental degreadation need to be supported not imprisoned. As the Prophet (pbuh) told us:  “The world is green and beautiful, and Allah has appointed you his guardian over it.”

Reporters without borders are encouraging people to write and ask for Attaoui’s complete and unconditional release.  Appeals can be sent to:

Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi,
Département du Premier Ministre
Palais Royal
Touarga
Rabat, Morocco
Fax: 212 5377 69995
Email: courier@pm.gov.ma
Salutation: Your Excellency

For more information click here.

Image via Agharass on Flickr.

Why Sukk really does Suck!(Especially in Burma)

Okay, cheesy headline but there is a good reason for it.

The lovely people at the Mule Newspaper in Manchester have uncovered some murky going-ons with the latest energy drink that ‘SUKK!’.

If you happen to live in Manchester, you would have had trouble avoiding this new jelly-based drink. SUKK were on local radio, on Spotify if you tried to avoid them, they wanted to be your friend on facebook and were being promoted all around town.

Well it turns out that the Tata Group, which is currently on the  Burma Campaign for human rights and democracy blacklist for selling services and equipment to the Burmese government,  has been using a subsidiary company called Clever Jelly to sell its latest drink in Manchester. Yep, you guessed it- Sukk.

According to the local Ethical Consumer Magazine, Burma is ruled by one of the world’s most brutal military regimes and has even used forced labour to prepare the country for tourism.  War Resisters International have a page dedicated to the  company’s seriously messy history and its role in violating human and labour rights and environmental standards, as well as their involvement in financial scams.

These include deadly conflicts with indigenous groups for mineral resources, pollution, supporting Hindi fundamentalist groups and setting up its military activities with a $50m investment from Israel to manufacture Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), electronic warfare systems, missiles, radar systems and security systems.

But that’s not all. It turns out that they have been using local grassroots organisations such as the alternative and quirky Afflecks Palace as well as the local cycling organisation ‘I Bike Mcr’ to promote their product.

I Bike Mcr unaware of SUKK link to Burma

Nes and Ed from the cycling group told the Mule: “If we had known who it was we wouldn’t have done it. The marketing company that approached us, Mad Media, said it was the Clever Jelly Company who wanted the promotion doing. They offered us £350 and as we’re in debt we took the money.”

“Initially they had tried to hijack Critical Mass but we were clear to them that this wasn’t appropriate. In the end we only had to send out an email and sort out a route and we refused all joint branding with them. In the past we’ve turned down corporate sponsorship. Red Bull approached a while ago but we said no,” continued Nes.

Afflecks Palace image via Christopher Ellison

After talking to MULE, Bruntwood the company which owns the Afflecks building said that SUKK material would be taken down from the website and added that Afflecks would not be participating in anything similar again.

“If we’d have known beforehand we wouldn’t have gone ahead with the promotion…” explained Tony Martin of Bruntwood.

Its seems that the above were well and truly duped but apparently Manchester’s Key 103 is currently taking part in an online promotion with Tata and declined to comment after the MULE informed them they were  supporting a company that had known links to military dictatorship.

Key 103's online promotion

Typical.

Maybe someone should email them and politely tell them to think about it again and maybe change their mind. Here’s their email in case you were in that way inclined :)

Email: Clare.bostock@key103.co.uk

Phone: 0161 288 0103 – Studio Phone Number
0161 288 5000 – Reception

Postal Address: Key 103,
Castle Quay,
Castlefield,
Manchester,
M15 4PR.

It states on their website that “If making a complaint, please include your full name, postal address and telephone number so that we can contact you to discuss your comments. We reserve the right not to process complaints that do not include this information.”

Nes and Ed from the group said, “If we had known who it was we wouldn’t have done it. The marketing company that approached us, Mad Media, said it was the Clever Jelly Company who wanted the promotion doing. They offered us £350 and as we’re in debt we took the money.”

“Initially they had tried to hijack Critical Mass but we were clear to them that this wasn’t appropriate. In the end we only had to send out an email and sort out a route and we refused all joint branding with them. In the past we’ve turned down corporate sponsorship. Red Bull approached a while ago but we said no,” continued Nes.

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Eco-Mosque donates over £50,000 to community project

Image of Mosque dome via Atomicjeep

In a time when public sector funding has all but run dry, a mosque has dug deep to donate £52,000 to save a neglected church and transform it into a community centre in Levenshulme, Manchester.

Since hitting the headlines back in 2008 as the first eco-Mosque in Manchester, the mosque’s Bohra community have sought to support the local community and were happy to become one of the largest investors in the ambitious ‘Levenshulme Inspire’ project.

Centre Director Kate Chappell was thrilled by the generous investment, “It’s wonderful to see the community pulling together to make Levenshulme a better place for us all and this level of support has by far exceeded our expectations. Levenshulme Inspire exists to celebrate the diversity of the area and bring people together….”

Envisioned as a multi-use centre, it will include a cafe, space for clubs and groups to meet, a media enterprise centre, a church, a range of business and enterprise advice as well as fourteen social housing apartments.

Levenshulme Inspire has come about due to the vision of local church members and Ed Cox, Church Leader, said: “The mosque’s investment symbolises the strength of inter-faith relationships in our community. The relationship between the church and the mosque began with plans to develop a joint youth club which we hope will now come to fruition when the centre opens later this year.”

Interview with Muslimah Media Watch: Fatemeh Fakhraie

Founder of the smart and sassy  website Muslimah Media Watch, Fatemeh Fakhraie is talented US writer who is definitely one to watch.  She launched the site back in 2007 to tackle inaccurate portrayals of Muslim women and has become a vocal representative of the diversity of the Muslim women ever since. I caught up with her to talk about her website, “hijab reduction” and why Muslims need to make the most of the spotlight they were put under after 9/11.

What motivated you to set up MMW? Was there a tipping point like 9/11 or the Hijab debate in France?

I have always been very uncomfortable with the way that mainstream media portrays Muslim women, because it’s usually in one of the three dominant stereotypes: exotic sex slave, oppressed woman, or dangerous terrorist. But, as a feminist, I also was very dissatisfied with feminist media portrayals of Muslim women, which often centered on the “oppressed woman” narrative. In 2007, I became more conscious of the blogosphere, and I realized that I could set up a media platform of my own. So I created Muslimah Media Watch as a response to all of this.

How do you feel about the success of MMW?

One of the things that gives me pride is knowing that MMW’s articles are often used in university-level gender and ethnic studies classes. The opportunity to teach students about Islamic feminism feels wonderful because this wasn’t something that I felt was represented or discussed when I was in school.

But success is a subjective term. I feel very ambivalent about whether MMW is successful, and I have a complicated relationship with that success. On one hand, I get so much support and encouragement from members in the Muslim community, and I believe that MMW is changing some people’s viewpoints and perspectives. And on the other hand, I am somewhat dissatisfied because we are very limited in our capacities— MMW is volunteer-based, and as a writer, I feel very frustrated that I can’t pay my writers or hire people to expand our multimedia presence so that we can reach more people.

Why do you think Muslim women face stereotyping?

In the West, Muslims and people from specific geographic regions or ethnic heritages are subject to more stereotyping because of a heightened global narrative of terrorism perpetrated by Muslims. So, as Muslims, women will be included in this mass profiling. Louise Cainkar’s book Homeland Insecurity: The Arab American and Muslim American Experience After 9/11 highlights the fact that many Muslim women are more visibly Muslim due to the headscarf, and are thus more likely to attract that type of attention that leads to stereotyping.

Why is it important that Muslim women (as opposed to Muslim men) respond to these media stereotypes?

Having other people speak on behalf of Muslim women isn’t only unnecessary (as we’re capable of thinking and speaking for ourselves), but it reinforces the stereotypes that Muslim women are silent creatures who aren’t allowed to have opinions or speak up.

It’s also important to speak up because it highlights the diversity of thought and opinion we have—when it comes to Islam, men and women are often put into huge, monolithic groups: “Muslim women wear this…” and “Muslim men believe this…” Speaking out reminds everyone that we think and act differently from each other.

Why do you think that Muslim women are speaking out now? What has changed now? What was holding them back before?

Muslim women have been thinking and writing and participating since the beginning of Islam. But I don’t think anyone’s been listening until now.

In the last 30 years especially, plenty of female scholars have been discussing issues and publishing books on feminism and media representation and religious interpretation. But, again, no one was paying attention.

I do think there’s a wonderful influx of differing Muslim women voices in the last ten years. I believe that some of this has been in response to 9/11 and the fact that, as Muslims, we have been forced into a spotlight. So now we’re under this spotlight, we may as well make the best of it and try and get people to understand who we are.

what is the role of the Internet?

The internet has played a wonderful role in Muslim women’s public spheres. While the internet helps disseminate plenty of harmful stereotypes, it also allows Muslim women to connect with families and like-minded men and women, it allows us to share our unique selves through blogs and other social media, and it helps connect us with resources that give us the tools to resist oppressive power forces.

Do you feel that sometimes Muslim women and their experiences are simplistically linked to the hijab?

Definitely. I think a lot of Muslim women are actually completely tired of talking about hijab (and I’m usually one of them), but everything we do seems to get linked back to this piece of cloth somehow. As much as we’d like to avoid the subject, we cover this “hijab reduction” a fair amount on MMW because it keeps on happening.