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New Texts Out Now: Hilal Elver, The Headscarf Controversy: Secularism and Freedom of Religion

[Cover of Hilal Elver,

Hilal Elver, The Headscarf Controversy: Secularism and Freedom of Religion. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?  Hilal Elver (HE): My experience in Turkey in relation to the headscarf is the main reason for writing the book. Turkey is very much a divided society: ninety-nine percent of the population is Muslim and it is a significantly religious society, yet it has also developed a secular legal order and social structure. I felt this duality even in my own family environment. My mother was an educated woman and a devout Muslim. For most of her life, at least when I was growing up, I witnessed the ...

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Sanctions Against Iran: A Duplicitous "Alternative" to War

[EU stepping on the Iranian government; an old Iranian man being crushed says

Media reports on Iran oscillate wildly between threats of imminent military action and hopeful reports of diplomatic progress. Amidst this confusing din, there is a constant truth: the United States has not ceased its economic bullying of Iran, nor has the threat of war receded. As Dennis B. Ross, the Obama Administration’s former Iran advisor, told the New York Times, “now you have a focus on the negotiations...It doesn't mean the threat of using force goes away, but it lies behind the diplomacy.” This echoes President Obama’s persistent refrain on Iran: “All options are on the table.” We argue that sanctions against Iran are not designed to work as an actual ...

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War of Position and War of Maneuver: Sexperts, Sex Pervs, and Sex Revolutionaries

[Femen Protest in Paris, Image by Joseph Paris]

The recent issue of Foreign Policy on sex has instigated critical feedback from many who have rightly challenged racist and Orientalist representations of gender and sexuality in the Muslim and Arab worlds. Several critics have rightly pointed out that essentialist approaches to culture that rely on facile binaries of men/women, freedom/oppression, and West/East lack any meaningful analyses of geopolitics, economy, colonial and post-colonial formations, and historical nuances. Most of these responses, however, have focused on Mona El Tahawy’s article, which reproduces discourses of violent Arab masculinity and victimized femininity. Here, however, I want to ...

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Iran and the US Anti-War Movement

[Iranian woman protester during the Green Movement, adapted for the Occupy Movement. Image by lmnopie, via Occupy Design.]

[This article is based on a talk given at the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) Conference on 24 March 2012 in Stamford, Connecticut. It was part of a workshop called, “Solidarity Not Intervention,” organized by Raha Iranian Feminist Collective. Just before this workshop, the conference overwhelmingly voted down a resolution put forward by Raha and Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions, and State Repression that read: “We oppose war and sanctions against the Iranian people and stand in solidarity with their struggle against state repression and all forms of outside intervention.”] The popular struggles against dictatorship known as the Arab Spring ...

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Politics at the Tip of the Clitoris: Why, in Fact, Do They Hate Us?

[Two migrant domestic workers, not allowed a day-off on Sunday, wave to the parade from their employer’s balcony during Migrant Workers May Day Parade in Beirut on 29 April 2012. Image by Hisham Ashkar]

What baffles me most about Mona Eltahawy’s Foreign Policy article is that it does not accomplish the task it sets out for itself; it does not, in fact, answer its foundational question: Why do they hate us? Instead of focusing on the why, identifying the structural reasons behind sexism and misogyny in the Arab world, Eltahaway provides illustrative evidence of the oppressions Arab women face; the list is by now all too familiar both in the West and in the Arab world. The images of a naked woman’s flawless body covered in a niqab of black paint, spread throughout the article (and on the Foreign Policy special sex issue cover) is only a bitter reminder of the resilience ...

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مظاهرة في بغداد

[مظاهرة في بغداد عام ١٩٣٩. المصدر غير معروف]

  [طالبات يتظاهرن في شارع الرشيد في بغداد عام ١٩٣٩]

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Young Women Demanding Justice and Dignity: By All Means Necessary

[An image of Amina Filali is held with the word

Amina Filali was a young Moroccan girl who was raped at the age of 15 then forced to marry her rapist. She was battered, bruised, and starved until she committed suicide in March 2012. She was 16 years old. Contributing to Amina’s suicide are her rapist turned husband, article 475 of the Moroccan penal code that absolves an aggressor of his crime once he consents to marrying his rape victim, the judge who called for a mediation instead of a prosecution against the offender, the police, and the religious clerics who have given their blessings to the rapist. Amina’s suicide exposes, once again, an entirely flawed legal system and deeply distorted patriarchal honor code ...

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How Not to Study Gender in the Middle East

[Changes in traditional Sudanese dress. Image by Khaled Albaih]

One: Gender is not the study of what is evident, it is an analysis of how what is evident came to be. Two: Before resolving to write about gender, sexuality, or any other practice or aspect of subjectivity in the Middle East, one must first define what exactly the object of study is. Be specific. What country, region, and time period forms the background picture of your study? Furthermore, the terms “Middle East,” “the Islamic World” and the “Arab world” do not refer to the same place, peoples, or histories, but the linkages between them are crucial. Moreover, the “state” is a relatively new phenomenon in the Middle East. In order to study gendered political economy in ...

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New Texts Out Now: Mervat Hatem, Literature, Gender, and Nation-Building in Nineteenth-Century Egypt

[Cover of Mervat Hatem,

Mervat F. Hatem, Literature, Gender, and Nation-Building in Nineteenth-Century Egypt: The Life and Works of `A’sha Taymur. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book? Mervat Hatem (MH): The modern construction of Egyptian history gives the grand old men of nineteenth-century Egyptian modernity (Khedive Ismail, Sheikh Rifa` Rafi` al-Tahtawi, and judge Qasim Amin) credit for promoting the interests of women by respectively building the first general school for women in al-Siyufiya (1873) and publishing one important book that supported the education of women (1873) and another to advocate their liberation through the abolition of the ...

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New Texts Out Now: Lila Abu-Lughod and Anupama Rao, Women's Rights, Muslim Family Law, and the Politics of Consent

[Cover of

Lila Abu-Lughod and Anupama Rao, editors, Women’s Rights, Muslim Family Law, and the Politics of Consent. Special issue of SOCIALDIFFERENCE-ONLINE (December 2011). [SOCIALDIFFERENCE-ONLINE is a publication of the Center for the Critical Analysis of Social Difference at Columbia University, an advanced study center that promotes innovative interdisciplinary scholarship on the role of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and race in global dynamics of power and inequality.] Jadaliyya (J): What made you organize the workshop that led to this special issue? Lila Abu-Lughod and Anupama Rao (LA-L and AR): The workshop grew out of a project called “Who’s Afraid of Sharia?” that we ...

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The Golden Handcuffs of Gay Rights: How Pinkwashing Distorts Both LGBTIQ and Anti-Occupation Activism

[A Double Bind. Image from]

Israeli democracy, through its promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, offers golden handcuffs—a beautiful gift that comes with control—to Israeli queers. At a lecture in Tel Aviv at the Women’s Peace Coalition, I heard the strain in the voices of queer Israeli activists who are chafing under Israel’s progressive gay rights record. One activist stated, “Apparently, we have won all our rights. It is as if we should be grateful and keep silent about the injustices of the occupation. LGBT rights in Israel are conditional rights; we cannot openly support the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement without legal repercussions.” (See, for ...

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Sexual Violence Is A Crime, Sometimes

[Protest Against Rape Posters; Images by]

I am against rape. I don't think this is a very controversial position to take. People should not be forced physically or coerced emotionally into having sex. I don't care what the gender makeup of the people in question are, and I don't care what their relationship is. Not everyone agrees with this position. In many countries, sexual consent is an implied provision of a marriage contract. The idea is that when two people get married, they are granted rights to each other's bodies and their resources (and yes, the fact that these two come together is interesting to say the least). In France, marital rape was criminalized (ie: rape within a marriage became a punishable ...

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Artistic Depictions of Arab Women: An Interview with Artist Lalla Essaydi

The intersection of gender, perception, identity, and space have, for centuries, collided to illustrate a skewed depiction of Arab women. The art of Orientalism brought about imagined scenes of women in harems, hidden in seclusion behind veils and walls. As these images continue to shape Western perception of Arab women, Moroccan-born artist, Lalla Essaydi, reclaims and deconstructs these images. In her exhibit, Lalla Essaydi: Revisions, at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, through her ...

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ثورة الجسد

لم يضرم الشاب التونسي، محمد البوعزيزي، النار في نفسه بل أضرمها في جسده. فعندما قام يوم الجمعة ١٧  ديسمبر/كانون الأول عام ٢٠١٠  بسكب الوقود على جسده وإشعاله احتجاجاً على بطش السلطات كان يرسل رسالة واضحة مفادها أن باستطاعة جسده أن يعبر عما تجيش به نفسه بشكل أبلغ من أي شكوى يكتبها وبطريقة أبلغ من أي هتاف يردده. وبالفعل كان من جراء هذا الفعل الدرامي أن سقط نظام من أقوى الأنظمة العربية ومن أشدها قمعاً واستبداداً. الجسد والعسكر إن هذا اليقين ببلاغة الجسد وقدرته على تحدي السلطة رأيناه يتمثل في ...

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New Texts Out Now: Amy Motlagh, Burying the Beloved: Marriage, Realism, and Reform in Modern Iran

Amy Motlagh, Burying the Beloved: Marriage, Realism, and Reform in Modern Iran. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2011. Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book? Amy Motlagh (AM): Part of the study of literature is obsessive re-reading. In this case, I became preoccupied with what I felt was a narrow translation of a word in the English edition of Sadeq Hedayat’s The Blind Owl (which is perhaps the only Persian novel to achieve the status of a work of “world literature”), giving rise to an ...

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Boycotting the Equality Forum: Statement by Professor Katherine Franke (Director of Columbia Law School Center for Gender & Sexuality)

[Below is the text and video of the statement issued by Katherine Franke in relation to her endorsement of the academic boycott of Israel. Franke is the Director of the Columbia Law School Center for Gender and Sexuality.] Remarks to the Equality Forum World Summit 2012 Panel on Legal Issues, 4 May 2012 Hi, I’m Katherine Franke from Columbia Law School, and I’m sorry I can’t join you today in person at the Equality Forum’s panel on legal issues, I want to thank you for indulging my presence by ...

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New Texts Out Now: Farzaneh Milani, Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom of Movement

Farzaneh Milani, Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom of Movement. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2011. Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book? Farzaneh Milani (FM): In a way, Words, not Swords is a rebuttal to my first book, Veils and Words. The central argument of Veils and Words revolved around Iranian women's literary output. I claimed that the veil had covered not only Iranian women's bodies, but also their literary voices. Women's self-expression, either ...

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Covering Iran's Ninjas

On the evening of 29 March, a line in my twitter feed read, “You don’t want to mess with Iran’s lady ninjas.” Cara Park’s snarky comment had been retweeted by someone I follow in Cairo. I clicked her link to find she’s a deputy managing editor of Foreign Policy, blogging on the suspensions of Reuters’ accreditation in Iran over their reporting on women training in ninjutsu: In case it wasn’t obvious, you don’t want to offend a highly-trained cadre of Iranian ninjas. Anger these black-belted beauties ...

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Notes from Western Sahara: An Interview with Fatma El-Mehdi

As the Arab Spring spread across several countries in the Middle East and North Africa, American philosopher Noam Chomsky argued that it did not originate in Tunisia, as is commonly understood. “In fact, the current wave of protests actually began last November in Western Sahara, which is under Moroccan rule, after a brutal invasion and occupation,” Chomsky stated. “The Moroccan forces came in, carried out - destroyed tent cities, a lot of killed and wounded and so on. And then it spread.”  The ...

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Queering the Qur’an? Sacred Ripping and the Holy Homonationalism

It may be hard to imagine that here, in the hot and humid Texas, being queer is “cool.” Believe it or not, Houston has a lesbian mayor and one of the first transgender judges in the nation. Hell, if it was not for the rest of Texas, gay marriage could possibly be legal in the land of Lawrence vs. Texas. But, the “feel-good” hegemonic queer culture in Houston is at best an epitome of American exceptionalism with an intense love for gay/queer normativity, or what Lisa Duggan has termed homonormativity. In ...

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The Uprisings Will be Gendered

Women's rights and the regulation of gender and sex norms in the Arab world have long been put under the spotlight by local and international activists in addition to local and international politicians and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). This year, the ongoing uprisings in the Arab world have brought into focus some dominant ways that sexual and bodily rights are framed, gendered, and politicized. These can be grouped under three loose themes, each of which deserves further study: One is the ...

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The Syrian Revolution on Four Packs a Day

Who populates the Syrian revolution? The Syrian revolution has three core populations: urbanite survivors of the 2001 Damascus Spring, disenfranchised classes rural and urban, and the traditional opposition. Local histories—not dissidents abroad nor foreign entities—create and power this revolution. Yet, some international analysts remain blind to the people of our revolution. Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE

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Welcome to the New Egyptian ParliaMENt

This cartoon is a response to the astonishing fact that the number of women who won seats in the post-Mubarak Egyptian parliamentary elections is a mere eight. Indeed women do not exceed two percent of the total number of elected members. To be more precise, they constitute one and a half percent of the “Parliament of the Revolution.” What can a revolution against "dictatorship" amount to in reality and practice if men who have been dictating policy and social life norms, continue to do so? ...

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Having a Conversation on Other Terms: Gender and the Politics of Representation in the New Moroccan Government

The recent parliamentary elections in Morocco have led to the creation of the first ever elected Islamist government in Morocco’s history. After winning more than forty percent of the votes in the November 25th elections, the Party of Justice and Development (PJD) led by Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane formed a coalition government with the socialist Parti du Progrès et du Socialisme (PPS), the nationalist Istiqlal party and the royalist Mouvement Populaire (MP). Benkirane’s first task as Prime ...

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