Special report: Making harassment history

 
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

This Chronikler special report examines, through personal testimonies and analyses, the causes and consequences of sexual harassment and what can be done about it.

Some blame women for sexual harassment, saying the way they dress and act "invites" unwanted male attention. Both statistical and anecdotal evidence show this to be a myth.   Photo: ©Khaled Diab

Some blame women for sexual harassment, saying the way they dress and act “invites” unwanted male attention. Both statistical and anecdotal evidence show this to be a myth.
Photo: ©Khaled Diab

This special focus section was launched on 20 June 2011, which Egyptian activists had declared as a day for blogging against sexual harassment. Since then, The Chronikler has sought to shed light on this troubling social phenomenon, its causes and consequences, the pain and distress it causes women, the insult it represents for men who do not harass, and its ramifications for society as a whole.

Though many of those who harass and humiliate women in this way dismiss sexual harassment as little more than a bit of fun and harmless ‘teasing’ (‘mua’kasa‘), sexual harrasment, despite being a universal phenonmenon, has reached crisis proportion in Egypt and some other parts of the Arab world, making going out in public a living hell for millions of women: conservative or liberal, young or old, educated or uneducated, rich or poor.

In Egypt, the situation has gone from crisis to catastrophe since the Egyptian revolution. Some blame the victims, saying the way women dress and act “invites” unwanted male attention. Both statistical and anecdotal evidence show this to be a myth. This intensifying of the situation is partly due to the breakdown in law and order, the deployment of sexual harassment as a political weapon, the increasing assertiveness of women and the accompanying backlash from the threatened male order.

The articles below relate the personal trauma and humilation harassment causes, the socio-economic and cultural factors behind it, and what can be done to combat it.

Sexual harassment and the medina

November 2014 – In Egypt, sexual harassment is a largely urban phenomenon fuelled by a sense of male powerlessness, insecurity and unrealistic gender ideals.

The antidote to Egypt’s sexual harassment epidemic

March 2014 – The cure for Egypt’s sexual harassment crisis is to liberate society from outdated and toxic gender ideals and to rethink notions of “honour”.

Sexual harassment: Undressing naked prejudice

March 2014 – To those who believe the way a woman dresses invites harassment, hear this: she is not to blame – her harassers are, reiterates Nadine Marroushi.

I was harassed and I’m stupefied!

June 2011- Until the revolution in social attitudes comes, women should face their harassers with a loud voice and a shebsheb (a slipper), insists Yosra Zoghby.

No online way out

June 2011 – Blogging won’t raise awareness about sexual harassment more than it already has. We must focus our efforts on lobbying the government to do more, argues Osama Diab.

18-day social revolutions do not exist

June 2011 – Tackling harassment requires much more than a political revolution: it needs a social movement that restores people’s dignity and promotes equality, says Kholoud Khalifa.

Dreaming of a harassment-free Egypt

June 2011 – Efforts to break the silence and taboo surrounding sexual harassment will eventually lead to a harassment-free Egypt, believes Rasha Dewedar.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Related posts

Sexual harassment: 18-day social revolutions do not exist

 
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

By Kholoud Khalifa

Tackling harassment requires much more than a political revolution: it needs a social movement that restores people’s dignity and promotes equality.

I sometimes wonder if the 18-day Egyptian revolution would ever have a positive impact on the problem of sexual harassment in Egypt. Is it so hard to imagine that crude impropriety, which is endemic in today’s society, can perhaps perish the same way that Mubarak, along with his embezzling wife and his corrupt sons have?

Unfortunately, the answer is ‘yes’.

This time around public disobedience and a million-man march won’t get rid of the problem. Inevitably, people will realise that curing this social disease will prove to be much more difficult than the toppling of a 30-year old dictatorial regime. While the political setting may have changed, many aspects of Egyptian lifestyle, including the reality of sexual harassment, still persist.

Some have argued that Mubarak was the reason these molestations existed and sexual harassment was a direct result of his leadership. Ask any Egyptian mother  and she will tell you that back in the 1970s women used to wear mini-skirts and received no uninvited attention for it, even in the poorest of neighbourhoods.  Deteriorating living conditions under the Mubarak regime meant that men were unable to get married, which resulted in their sexual frustration and effectively gave them, what they saw, as a god-given right to cat-call, grope and intimidate women on the streets of Egypt. While this argument may have some truth to it, it doesn’t explain why boys who haven’t hit puberty yet and married men with children are guilty of the same crimes.

The main reason why it may be harder to remedy the situation and may take longer to bring about social change, as opposed to the recent political changes, is simply because human nature is quite intricate and old habits are hard to break. The lack of education is perhaps one key social aspect that explains the rise of sexual harassment in Egyptian society.

Education doesn’t just mean schooling. I would also hold women, particularly mothers, accountable for these harassments, not because they dress chic or stay out late at night, but because many of them fail to teach their sons what it means to respect oneself and respect women.

With a society that churns out millions of harassers and pours them on to the streets, in malls, on busses and in your own private university, no recipe for political change can be applied to abolish this social problem.

However, there have been many initiatives on both a national and international level to end these assaults on women. Media outlets have published stories exposing the dire situation in Egypt, social media platforms have encouraged tweets and blogs and designed polls to monitor the relationship between sexual frustration and sexual harassment, and the American University in Cairo has gone as far as to stage plays that address this very issue. While these are all positive approaches and create awareness in different parts of the world or on campuses, they aren’t reaching the majority of offenders. 

It is imperative that the new government restore the concept of human dignity in order to stop the men who commit these deplorable deeds. But until then, if you fall into the category of ‘woman’, you’re likely to be approached and unwillingly harassed for a while to come, regardless of your social background or how you dress.

This article is part of a special series on sexual harassment. Published here with the author’s consent. © Kholoud Khalifa. All rights reserved.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Related posts

Sexual harassment: No online way out

 
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

 

Blogging won’t raise awareness about sexual harassment more than it already has. We must focus our efforts on lobbying the government to do more.

 Monday 20 June 2011

Today is a day dedicated to blogging about sexual harassment. The idea is for all the bloggers in Egypt and outside it to raise awareness about the issue by writing about it – all on the same day. However, I always ask myself, does the average sexual harasser who would hiss at and follow a high school girl in Dokki or grope a tourist walking down Tala’at Harb Street read these blogs (many of which are written in English) or even hear about them? The answer is an obvious ‘no’.

Internet usage in Egypt is still largely confined to educated circles. If you surf the web for knowledge (other than pornographic knowledge) in Egypt, read blogs and have a Facebook account, then you are most likely a university student/graduate and probably a member of at least the middle class and most likely wouldn’t around groping that high school girl around the corner. 

So how could we avoid turning this event into ‘people who think sexual harassment is bad’ writing for ‘other people who also think sexual harassment is bad’ in an infinite loop, where everyone is exchanging similar information, knowledge and opinions in our beloved political blogospheric circle, instead of trying to think and act outside this circle.

At the end of today, we will all feel quite good about our contributions and think we must be on the right track, but even though I hate to be the bearer of bad news, we really aren’t. In fact, sexual harassment is just so ingrained that even the toughest stain-removal blogging won’t be able to wash it off.

In order to combat sexual harassment, a consensus among those who blog about it today needs to be reached that there are a complicated and inextricably intertwined mix of social, economic and political reasons behind it.

Let’s take a quick look at the economic factor. It’s not only extreme poverty and inhumane living conditions that lead people to sexual harassment; many poor societies don’t suffer from this social cancer the same way Egypt does, after all.

It is this weird urban mix of dire poverty and extreme wealth which creates this immense feeling of social frustrations and anger at rich people. The victims of this kind of poverty-driven sexual harassment are usually the wealthy western-dressed girls driving around the city in their luxury cars, who embody, in the eyes of their tormentors, the lack of social justice, while their perceived physical and social vulnerabilitymakes them easy prey to these economic and social frustrations. So here, the magic ingredients of this distasteful dish of sexual harassment are poverty and social injustice, mixed in with a potent dose of misogyny. 

Part of being a ‘Man’ in our patriarchal society is to be sexually explicit by showing sexual interest in everything that even hints at femininity. If a group of teenagers hanging around a street corner see a girl passing by and one of them refrains from oogling her out or making a remark about her, let alone ask the other guys to stop it, he would probably end up on the receiving end of their derision and mockery. Victims of this type of harassment are usually the less fortunate girls who are forced into commuting their way around the city and rubbing shoulders with hundreds, if not thousands of men, on a daily basis.

This kind of male peer pressure also increases the chance of sexual harassment. This again is combined with economic reasons; a high unemployment rate and poor economic conditions increase the number of young guys wandering aimlessly around the streets of Egypt. They have endless hours on their hands, due to the lack of work, and little financial ability to do anything meaningful to kill time.

The conservative solution of enforcing gender segregation is not working either but could be possibly increasing sexual harassment. Gender segregation would only widen the communication gap between men and women, creating more gender-based social problems, such as sexual harassment and domestic violence. We should not give up on trying to solve a long-term problem through short-term ‘comfort ‘ measures, such as women-only metro cars and beaches.

As for the political aspect of the problem, it is simply the political system that allowed for these economic and social misfortunes to flourish and control our lifestyle. Additionally, it is the authoritarian political system that stripped many citizens off their dignity to the extent that they see no problem in infringing on someone’s privacy and personal space without invitation. The slightest sense of self-respect would stop any individual from doing that out of embarrassment, even if they continue to harbour misogynistic beliefs.

Even though I see the nobility of the intentions behind calling the 20 June a day for blogging about sexual harassment, this unedifying phenomenon cannot be blogged away as long as the reasons behind it are not tackled. Even if we reach a million blog entries today, there will still be a zillion sexual harassment incidents tomorrow.

A more holistic approach is needed when combating sexual harassment, and the only entity that has the ability to address this inter-connected complex situation comprehensively and put a framework for solving it on the political, social, economic, legal and security levels is the government. Therefore, the Egyptian blogosphere’s main duty should be to lobby the government to do more through its education programmes, media apparatus, poverty alleviation schemes and the establishment of a more socially just atmosphere, rather than trying to address the harassers because they are simply not listening.

This article is part of a special series on sexual harassment. Published here with the author’s consent. © Osama Diab. All rights reserved.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related posts

Where ‘no’ means jail time

 
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +5 (from 9 votes)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.1/10 (22 votes cast)

 Ray O’Reilly

Though Dubai may be the Middle East’s self-styled party capital,in the UAE, women who say they have been raped can find themselves behind bars for adultery.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

A Brisbane woman, Alicia Gali, is suing Australian embassy staff for failing to warn the 29-year-old that a complaint of rape in the United Arab Emirates could mean she ended up in jail for adultery of all things.

And that is exactly what happened. She was hauled off by police, held and eventually sentenced to 12 months in prison. She served eight months of that before being “pardoned” and released. Gali returned to Australia in March 2009 and, according to reports, has been trying to pick up the pieces of her life.

When informed of the incident in June 2008, the Australian embassy staff reportedly advised Gali to simply “reconsider her need to be in the country” and it was also suggested she not contact the media once it became apparent that making the complaint would land her in as much trouble as the rapists.

Gali has since criticised her employer, Le Meridien, for not being more clear that, without coroborating statements from four adult male witnesses to the crime, she could be charged with adultery and face prison if she filed a complaint.

“These countries don’t have the same laws as us,” Gali told News.com following her ordeal. She warned women against going to the UAE. “I was the victim. I’d had something wrong done to me and I was being punished,” she lamented.

The UAE was set up in 1971 as a federation of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaima, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. It occupies the area previously known as the Trucial Coast. UAE has a federal judicial system as well, but Dubai and Ras Al Khaima chose to maintain their own.

The UAE follows a form of civil law jurisdiction which is heavily influenced by French, Roman, Egyptian and Islamic (or Sharia) law. Islamic courts work alongside civil and criminal courts primarily concerning civil matters between Muslims. Sharia courts hear family matters, such as divorce, child custody, child abuse cases and inheritance disputes, and the principles of Sharia are applied when the UAE’s codified law doesn’t cover the situation at hand.

“The Sharia court may, at the federal level only (which … excludes Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah), also hear appeals of certain criminal cases including rape, robbery, driving under the influence of alcohol and related crimes, which were originally tried in lower criminal courts,” according to the US Consulate website for Dubai/UAE.

It should be noted that more secular Arab countries recognise and prosecute rape as a punishable crime for the perpetrator, although the social taboo attached to it leads many victims to remain silent. For instance, in Egypt, men found guilty of rape (though marital rape is not illegal) face sentences ranging between three years and life, though it is estimated that only 10% of rapes are ever reported. Tunisia, where marital rape was made illegal in 2008, probably has the most supportive legal system for rape victims in the Arab world

Punishing the victim

Gali, a salon manager at Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah, said the last thing she remembered about the incident was having a drink at the staff bar when another employee put ice in her drink. Later that night, hotel security staff were alerted that screaming could be heard from Gali’s room. Investigating the noise, they found the woman naked and unconscious with several men in the room.

Gali says she woke up the next day confused and in pain. She took herself to hospital and was informed by medical staff that she had been sexually assaulted. When she was discharged from hospital she was asked to go to a police station to make a statement.

That’s when it started going all wrong.

“I realised when I was put in a police car that I was being taken to jail,” she is reported to have said. “I didn’t even know what the charges were until five months into my sentence!”

Fast-forward a couple of years and today Gali is looking to understand what happened and is keen to get answers from the Australian government and her employer as to why she didn’t have more information and warnings about the treatment of women in rape cases in the UAE.

If not ill-advised Gali was certainly ill-informed about the world that she was entering. A world where men make and (apparently) break the rules. The UAE, and especially Dubai, appears to be suffering from a split personality. Considered by many of its neighbours as the ‘liberal and tolerant’ emirate (interpret that as you wish), Dubai seems to have a love-hate relationship with the West. Love the women, Dunkin’ Donuts, Palm Island parties … hate the women, Dunkin’ Donuts, parties!  

According to a blogger on Escape-Artist, Dubai is setting itself up as the tourism and party town of the Middle East, but with the party comes the party people and inevitably the sleeze: “It’s already the prostitution capital of the Middle East. Brazen Russians in short skirts and halter-tops frequently solicit right on the street. There are thousands of girls who have come from the former Soviet republics and Eastern Europe to ‘work’. Then there are the fun-loving girls who fly out from Europe (and the States) to hook up with affluent guys,” the blogger comments in a post entitled ‘Sex in the city’.

“What’s interesting – and a little irritating – is that a lot of local guys have no problem with being married and having girlfriends on the side (not an attitude restricted only to local guys). Local women, on the other hand, are not even allowed to chat on the telephone with a man outside the family,” the writer continues.

On the Australian embassy’s UAE site, under ‘Services for Australians’ emergency contact information is provided and a statement that: “One of the main functions of the Australian embassy is to provide a range of services (within limits) to Australian citizens.”

The ‘within limits’ is linked to a page on its smarttraveller.gov.au website which spells out what the limits are: “Consular staff cannot use their position to influence unduly or bypass local laws or processes, even when these would appear by Australian standards to be unfair or unnecessarily arduous. While consular staff can sometimes use their knowledge and understanding of the local environment to facilitate support, they must work within the legal and administrative constraints applying in their host country.”

The UAE embassy site has assorted information about passports, travel information, some tax and repatriation information and a section called ‘Living in UAE or Qatar’. No obvious or apparent mention of how to deal with UAE customs and laws or warnings to young female travellers about the risk of sexual abuse.

However, if you follow the link to the ‘Latest travel advisories and other traveller hints’, then the ‘Travel advice’ page, then scan down to the ‘United Arab Emirates’ and on that page under the ‘Local laws’ section it states: “When you are in the UAE be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can’t get you out of trouble or out of jail. Custodial sentences would be served in local jails.”

It continues: “The UAE is a Muslim country and its local laws reflect the fact that Islamic practices and beliefs are closely applied. Legal and administrative processes may be substantially different from those in Australia. If you are arrested, you may face a significant period of detention before your case comes to trial. You should familiarise yourself with local laws before you travel. […] Common law relationships, homosexual acts and prostitution are illegal and subject to severe punishment. Adultery is also a crime.”

It also states: “It is illegal to harass women. Harassment includes unwanted conversation, prolonged stares, touching any part of the body, glaring, shouting, stalking or any comments that may offend.”

In the ‘Travel tips’ section of smarttraveller.gov.au, under the ‘Sexual assault overseas’, the Australian governments offers a number of tips to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault. And the site states: “Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Try not to blame yourself. The perpetrator is the only one responsible for the assault. No one deserves to be raped or assaulted.”

(That’s one for the books, then!)

And after some further research and surfing, your reporter could not find an express mention that filing a complaint for rape without four male witnesses to back up your story may well land the victim in jail for adultery.  

Gali’s story highlights something of a disconnect in this part of the world between materialism and Westernism. It is a poignant reminder that the swish hotels and (fake) beaches can lull a visitor into thinking they are in a Western land. But this can be illusionary, and travellers and guest workers may quickly fall foul of UAE laws. Dubai’s party and glitz blitz can never mask what lurks beneath.

Note: This article was updated to clarify the location of the incident.
 
This article is published here with the author’s consent. ©Ray O’Reilly. All rights reserved.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.1/10 (22 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +5 (from 9 votes)
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related posts

Not so simply red

 
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

By Christian Nielsen

The Simply Red lead singer’s admission that he slept with thousands of women shatters one longstanding ginger stereotype, but discrimination against redheads goes way back.

10 December 2010

“A red-headed man,” Simply Red’s lead singer Mick Hucknall told the Guardian last week, “is not generally considered to be a sexual icon.” But he admits to bedding severalwomen  a day during a three-year, well, purple patch between 1985 and 1987.

Married now with a young daughter, the 50-year-old singer is doing some soul searching, and perhaps a bit of guilt purging while he’s at it.  He regrets the philandering and admits to getting caught up in the pop-star lifestyle.

“When I had the fame, it went crazy,” he said. “I was living the dream and my only regret is that I hurt some really good girls.”

Hucknall describes his sexual adventures as an addiction, a surrogate for the love of his mother who abandoned him at a young age. But the story here is not the middle-aged fading pop singer who gets the girls – truck loads of them – but that the oft-maligned gingers of this world really are something special.

Hucknall’s revelation has inspired me to follow up a story idea I had about what it means to be a redhead. Red hair appears in people with two copies of a recessive gene on chromosome 16 which causes a mutation in the MC1R protein. According to our friend Wikipedia, it is associated with fair skin, lighter eye colour and sensitivity to ultraviolet light. Cultural and societal reactions to the simple fact of having red hair range from ridicule to admiration.

Different is as different does

Delving a little deeper, I confirmed my suspicion that gingers really are super-human – though not in a red-cape kind of way. They apparently have different tolerance and sensitivity to pain than the rest of us mere mortals.

Research suggests that while people with red hair are more sensitive to thermal pain – something to do with lower levels of vitamin K – they are less sensitive to pain coming from multiple modalities, including “noxious stimuli such as electrically induced pain”. It has also been found that people with red hair respond to anesthetic and analgesics differently.

[Can you picture a battery of redheads hooked up to the mains for a series of lab tests  followed by hits of morphine? No. Okay, just me then.]

The scientists put this unexpected relationship between hair colour and pain tolerance down to a genetic mutation in a hormone receptor that responds to melanocyte-stimulating hormone (the skin pigmentation hormone) and endorphins (pain-relieving hormone), and possibly others. This doesn’t mean redheads are mutants. We all have mutations (genetic or other) which give us our physical characteristics, like curly hair. [Mick Hucknall got the double-whammy mutation of red, curly hair.]

The number of talented ginger sportsmen and women belies the total number of redheads in the world – estimated at 1-2 % but as high as 6% in northern and western European populations. What separates the top 10 from the many others trying to make it in top-level sports is not necessarily raw talent. It boils down to mental strength and physical endurance or the ability to fight through pain and recover fast.

It’s pure speculation on my part, but the super-human pain tolerance trick could be useful in today’s physically demanding sports regimes [I’d be happy for the more scientific readers out there to blow this out of the water].

Fascination and prejudice

Red hair has had it’s good and bad times in history. During the reign of Elizabeth I, it was quite fashionable and regal to be a redhead. Many painters have depicted their red-headed women as alluring subjects in the vein of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Titian’s red ladies, which were so prevalent the term titian stuck for redheads.

But the redheaded were less favoured by history.  In the Middle Ages, red hair was thought to be a mark of what’s been described as beastly sexual desire and of unearthly beings. The Brothers Grimm speak of a savage red-haired man in Der Eisenhans, while other fables and stories attribute red and green eyes to be the mark of a witch, werewolf or vampire.

In Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift paints the redhead in Hucknallesque terms: “It is observed that the red-haired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest, whom yet they much exceed in strength and activity.”

Even today, you’ll hear a comment or aspersion almost every day in the media, with terms like ‘ginge’ and carrot-top aimed squarely at the hapless redhead. It’s like a long-running joke perhaps going all the way back to English resentment of the Celts (red hair is more prevalent in Ireland and Scotland) following centuries of independence battles. Again, this is all pure speculation.

It seems even with modern science on their side, the myths, lies and prejudices directed at redheads will not go away. Any wonder they’ve got such fiery tempers!

This article is published here with the author’s permission. ©Christian Nielsen. All rights reserved.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related posts

Learning tolerance

 
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.5/10 (2 votes cast)

By Barry van Driel

Islamophobia is common in western society, so the classroom is a good place to start combating it.

25 November 2010

If ever a book was overdue, Teaching against Islamophobia is it. This edited volume of very diverse contributions deals with a phenomenon that I would want to describe as the first real obsession of the 21st century:  the unease of Western societies with Islam and Muslims.  Unease is perhaps too mild a term for the mudslinging, accusations, fears and sheer paranoia that seem to have taken hold of large swathes of the public and media across North America and Europe. The vitriolic attacks on everything Muslim have been unleashed from both the right and the left side of the political spectrum.

This book represents a committed and comprehensive attempt to remind those in society who define themselves as educators that embracing issues of social justice and equity implies taking sides in the Islamophobia debate. The editors rightfully view Islamophobia through the lens of racism. In the UK, this has led to the use of the term anti-Muslim racism instead of Islamophobia.

Though the authors claim in their forward that the book is aimed at teachers, the contributions make it clear that it is intended for a much broader audience and that it has been especially written to make all of us (the non-Muslims primarily) reflect on our attitudes and misconceptions and to rethink many of our assumptions.

Living in Europe, I was pleased to see a primarily American book provide a North American perspective on the issue of Islamophobia, while also bringing in European issues in a few key places. In that sense, the book truly has an international character.

The 20 chapters in this book cover a wide range of topics, and it moves from more theoretical and socio-political discourse to a discussion of more practical issues.

In chapter 1, Joe Kincheloe and Shirley Steinberg set the theoretical tone for the rest of the book. Their comment that “learning from difference means that teachers are aware of the histories and struggles of colonized groups and oppressed  peoples” signifies how the authors reject the very common approach in multicultural and intercultural education that avoids discussing historical injustices and controversial issues so as not to upset people. References to empathetic understanding, solidarity and valuing of differences help position their pedagogical approach.  Their deconstruction of the propagandistic arguments being used by, for instance, the Fordham Foundation to promote the West as enlightened and majority Muslim nations as inherently inferior and a threat.

Chistopher Stonebanks builds on this analysis by looking at the manner in which intolerant attitudes towards Muslims and Islam are promoted by popular culture and are not considered, by and large, to be prejudicial. He also discusses the controversial concept of Islamophobia. Any treatise on the topic is enriched by looking at alternative and perhaps more accurate concepts. For instance, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes some 67 countries from Canada to Russia, speaks of ‘intolerance against Muslims’.

The last two chapters of Part 1 have been written by several Muslim teachers and address the misconceptions they encounter among their students regarding the core principles of Islam, the role of women, perceptions of violence, the spiritual meaning of the concept of ‘jihad’, and more.

Screen villains

Part 2 of the book looks at public, media and political discourse related to Islam. Shirley Steinberg returns to the topic of media discourse by examining 17 films where there is a significant presence of Arabs and/or Muslims. Her analysis shows that the overwhelming majority of Muslims/Arabs depicted in films – for most films the two are interchangeable categories – are viewed as barbaric, dangerous and uncivilised. They are somewhere between human and animal. White men are viewed as the heroes who will save locals and the West from these evil, stealing, cheating people. Arab and Muslim women are almost exclusively portrayed as oppressed and/or fanatical.

Steinberg also traces how Arabs and Muslims are portrayed in television programmes in the United States and finds that though there a few positive depictions of Muslims, they are, by far, in the minority and becoming less common in recent years. Steinberg especially deconstructs popular television shows, such as Cable TV’s Sleeper Cell and 24. On the whole, Muslims are perceived as potential threats and especially as the ‘enemy within’.  Given their evil demeanour and the threat to the United States they do not deserve the same rights as others in society.

Jehanzab Dar looks at the demonisation of Muslims and Arabs in mainstream American comic books, which tend to be poorly developed caricatures of the ugly Arab stereotype. The author does devote some attention to several more recent positive cartoon depictions.  The series The 99 is especially mentioned as an example of how popular media (in this case comic books) can provide more accurate depictions of Muslims and Arabs.

Michael Giardina, moves away from analyses of popular culture somewhat and looks at how political individuals can be demonised through associations with Islam. He focuses on the rhetoric and imagery used to discredit US President Barack Obama by right-wing conservatives.

Nations of Islam

Part 3 shed light on “Muslims you never knew” by covering topics outside the main discourse relating to Islamophobia.

Several essays examine a topic often forgotten in the discourse about Islam and Muslims in the United States – the relationship of the African-American community to Islam. Preacher Moss, who refers to himself as an ‘undercover Muslim’, takes a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at African American perspectives on Muslim identities.  The more serious essence of his treatise is that “African American Muslims are marginalized as African Americans and ignored as African American Muslims”.

Samaa Abdurraqib provides highly insightful information about the historical relationship of the African-American community in the United States to Islam. She explains, right from its inception, Islam has been present in the United States – citing that perhaps 10%-15% of slaves brought to the United States were Muslim. She goes on to explain how this dimension of black history in the United States has been ignored in education and in the media, as has the diversity among US Muslims. The author’s main point is that Islam is not a foreign religion in the United States, as frequently claimed, but that it has long-established roots.

In a chapter that is bound to lead to significant discussion and debate among educators of all stripes, Younes Mourchid examines the contested relationship between alternative sexual orientations and traditional Islamic values. Mourchid builds his chapter on interviews with 20 LGBT Muslims. The author shows how such individuals, in often complex and contradictory ways, almost always struggle with their identity formation.

Some tend to internalise homophobic attitudes, blaming themselves for causing friction in the family, for instance, while others might internalise Islamophobic attitudes, blaming Islam for rejecting this core part of their identity. The campaign to make homosexuality acceptable in Muslim communities faces many challenges and is an uphill struggle. Mourchid closes with a discussion of whether those who hold traditional religious attitudes and reject homosexuality can be labelled ‘homophobic’.  His answer might surprise some readers.

Awad Ibrahim also seeks to provoke debate by examining the role of atheists and other non-believers within Islamic societies and ends with what he calls ‘The St Petersburg Manifesto’. This Manifesto is directed at both Muslim and non-Muslim faith communities and argues for a number of freedoms to be implemented in predominantly Muslim societies, such as freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, and the separation of religion and state.

Back to school

Part 4 brings us closest to the title of the book by providing some very concrete suggestions for materials that can be used in classrooms at all levels to combat Islamophobia, while also examining these materials critically.

Carolyne Ali Khan takes a critical look at a variety of educational programmes and materials that students in US schools are exposed to. In a very insightful discussion of several organisations and programmes that claim to promote understanding and ‘tolerance’, Ali Khan shows how they do the opposite.  She critically assesses, for instance, the messages and approaches promulgated by the New York Tolerance Centre and the American Textbook Council. The author’s discussion of these and other respected sources shows to what extent anti-Muslim bias has penetrated mainstream and even ‘tolerance’ education.  She ends her chapter by presenting some ‘uncommon knowledge’ about Pakistan and Pakistanis. Khan comments that many in Pakistan “are not the lunatic fringe. They are intelligent, complex and rational; they sing, dance and read and (perhaps most shockingly) they laugh, merrily poking fun at themselves and at the world”.

Anastasia Kamanos Gamelin looks at the intersection of gender and education in Saudi Arabia, a country known for denying women a number of fundamental rights and with a very traditional view of gender roles.

Fida Sanjakdar focuses on sex education in Australia and the view of Muslim communities regarding this always contested topic.  She notes that, in Islamic school curricula, almost no attention is devoted to sex education and this omission, in her view, represents a violation of the Islamic principles of a holistic and democratic education.

Krista Riley looks at the ways that literature, in particular young adult literature, can be used to “address themes of oppression and to promote critical reflection and social justice activism”. She does this by analyzing the book Bifocal, a fictional story about the arrests made of young Muslim men in Toronto in 2006 and the racist backlash at a high school after the arrests.

In the book’s final chapter, Melanie Stonebanks presents three potential classroom resources – illustrated picture books with Muslim main characters – that could be used as first steps to combating Islamophobia.  She concludes that, though the texts are far from perfect, they could be useful if used appropriately and with a critical eye.

This article is published with the author’s permission. © Barry van Driel. All rights reserved.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.5/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related posts

The Arab myth of Western women

 
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (3 votes cast)

By Khaled Diab

Unflattering as some Western stereotypes are of Arab men, Western women also get a bad press in conservative Arab circles.

16 November 2010

My previous article explored unflattering Western stereotypes of Arab men. As if to confirm the popularity of this archetypal image, many commenters betrayed so obvious a fondness for the Arab baddie that they could hardly bring themselves to admit that there were other alternatives.  Amid this polarised debate, a number of commenters, including WeAreTheWorld, suggested that Arab stereotypes of Western women would also be a worthwhile subject to explore.

Just as Arab men are stereotyped and pigeonholed in the west, Western women hover somewhere between myth and fantasy in the Arab world. “We’re loose, obsessed with sex, batter our men, are bad mothers, and can’t cook,” my wife joked, summing up pithily some common Arab prejudices. Then she cracked her whip as I cowered in the corner, huddled over my bowl of wood shavings.

Like the traditional orientalist image of the harem, Arab views of the contemporary Western woman are also highly sexualised. In fact, many Arab men, particularly those with little contact with the West, have this fantasy of Western women that comes straight out of Playboy magazine or the grainy images of pirate pornos.

In this view, Western women are oversexed, promiscuous and have revolving doors in their knickers. “A typical Egyptian male is a firm believer that any Western woman is an easy catch and would not mind at all having sex with complete strangers,” observes Ahmed, an old college friend.

This can lead to hassle and harassment for Western women travelling or living in Egypt and some other Arab countries, although in places like Yemen men will either just stare or the Western woman will become invisible like the local women, as my wife found while travelling alone through the country. Of course, given the potent mix of sexual repression, poverty, ignorance, the growing disappearance of the traditional model of respect for women and the failure to replace it with a modern equivalent, you don’t have to be Western to be harassed on the streets.

Some men will hit on Western women out of the conviction Ahmed described, while others who understand the West better will do so out of simple opportunism, hoping that they will “get lucky” with a woman from a society where sex does not carry the same heavy restriction for her as it does for her Arab sisters. In fact, some men want the best of both worlds: a bit of fun with Western women, then settling down with a traditional local woman.

Another form of opportunism is the allure of escape. “I think sometimes it’s not the Western woman who’s so attractive, as the lure of her passport. It sometimes seems to spell freedom,” observes Angela, a Jerusalem-based acquaintance.

Among certain men, this myth of the Western Aphrodite is complemented by another delusion: that Western women find the men in their own countries too emasculated and weak and so prefer a ‘real man’. In fact, some blokes I’ve met entertain the belief that Egyptian men have a good reputation among Western women for their virility and sexual prowess.

This misperception is reinforced in their minds by the fact that some women do come to Egypt for sexual tourism or get caught up in whirlwind relationships filled with old-fashioned romance, expressions of undying love, passion and charm. “He swept me off my feet with his sweet words, compliments, attentive gestures, romance, and warmth,” said one European woman who got drawn to a charmer with a darker side.

So, which Arabs have the most negative views of Western women? Well, probably those from the most conservative societies. “From my personal experience, the worst Arab men I found were the ones from Saudi Arabia,” a journalist with a leading Portuguese newspaper told me. “They think that all foreign women are prostitutes and they try to treat them like that.”

What is behind this belief that Western women are somehow sex-crazed? Part of it relates to the conservative Arab fixation on women’s sexuality in general. According to this outlook, women’s sexual appetites are so insatiable that, if they are left to their own devices, they turn into uncontrollable nymphomaniacs and temptresses luring men to crash into the rocks of lust.

As every woman is carrying a volatile sex bomb that will explode upon contact with freedom, in Arab societies where women have entered the workforce en masse and reached the highest academic and professional echelons, they have often done so by emphasising their ‘virtuousness’, that their independence hasn’t made them ‘bad women’.

A similar phenomenon is occurring in other modernising patriarchal societies, such as India. Even in the West, the pioneering women in academia and the professions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries often lived like nuns.

It should be pointed out that many religious Arabs, including women, do not believe that Arab women are oppressed, but that they enjoy a different, and superior, kind of liberty. In an interesting turning of the tables, conservatives are reciprocating the western interest in the position of Arab and Muslim women by examining the “oppressed” status of the western woman.

In an apparent bid to answer the charges of Western orientalism, the Saudi-based conservative Islamic thinktank, al-Medinah Centre for the Study of Orientalism, which has developed its own brand of ‘occidentalism’, has a section dedicated to Western women. Another conservative Islamic site targeted at women asks “who will end the injustice against Western women?”

“How can they [the West] demand the ending of what they see as injustice against Saudi women, when their own women are drowning in seas of injustice?” asks the author, pointing, paralleling his Western counterparts, to the prevalence of domestic violence and rape in the west – as well as pointing to questionable surveys which show that the majority of western women actually wish to return to the home.

This column appeared in the Guardian newspaper’s Comment is Free section on 10 November 2010. Read the full discussion here.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (3 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related posts

Falling in love… too literally

 
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.7/10 (3 votes cast)

By Christian Nielsen

‘Spurned skydiver murders love rival in Belgium’. Big news in a little country, and a film just waiting to be made.

Monday 15 November 2010

However, in the same place that gave us La Vie Sexuelles des Belges and SM-Rechter, you might be excused for thinking that this murder in the skies is a run-of-the-mill story.

Love triangles conjure up visions of film noire – attractive bourgeois characters living out their dark sexual fantasies. Clandestine meetings, dangerous liaisons and, of course, plenty of sex. But the Belgians have gone and crushed this fantasy by making it all too real and played out by rather homely folk.

At the centre of the story is Els Clottemans, a 26-year-old primary school teacher. Anywhere else, this unremarkable women wouldn’t warrant much attention, certainly not that of a screenwriter or director, but in Belgium her story is likely hot property now. The reason? She killed for love and she did it movie-style by cutting the parachute cords of her love rival.

Last month, a court in the old Flemish town of Tongeren took just three weeks to convict her of the murder, back in November 2006, of Els Van Doren. The jury sentenced Clottemans to 30 years. But there was nothing clear cut (sorry) about this short trial. There is also a legal storm around the case. Clottemans repeatedly denies cutting the cords. She was convicted despite no physical evidence linking her to the murder, say reports. She was found guilty because she alone had motive – she was the only one who could have done it, one of the lawyers is reported to have said.

The three protagonists in this unusual story – Clottemans, Van Doren and their lover Marcel Somers – were members of the same parachute club. Van Doren was having an extra-marital relationship with Somers who was seeing Clottemans on the side. The prosecution claimed Clottemans wanted to remove her rival from the picture. Police ruled out, quite summarily according to critics of the investigation, both Somers and Van Doren’s husband as suspects.

Among the evidence which proved enough to convict Clottemans was video footage of the actual freefall caught on the victim’s head camera. Graphic, movie-making stuff which no doubt left an impression on the court. A parachute expert also gave testimony. He said Van Doren’s main chute failed to open and the reserve, though in tact, got tangled in her strapping. She was unable to free it in time.

The case of the spurned skydiver turned murderer in Belgium could make not one but potentially three great films: a psychological thriller where plain Jane kills out of deranged passion; a legal drama with an undercurrent of police cover-up or incompetence; and a skydiving action thriller (complete with the final thud). Perhaps the last scenario would be better for Hollywood than Belgium, if past pedigree is anything to go on.   

Film beige

In this writer’s humble opinion, Belgium doesn’t do glamorous sex-plots in film; it’s more comfortable with what can only be called film beige a la Belge. Take exhibit 1, the eccentric 1994 film La Vie Sexuelles des Belges (The Sex Life of the Belgians), a semi-autobiography of Flemish writer/anarchist Jan Bucquoy. He writes, directs and narrates this funny story of sexual cadence, from his own conception (flash-back to drunk parents’quickie) to his first orgasm (beach-side hand-job by friend Eddy), his experiments with the Kama Sutra, his short married life, and from his brief career writing pornography to his flowering as a man and cineaste.

Exhibit 2 comes from director Erik Lamens whose film SM-Rechter (S&M Judge, 2009) is a grim but touching true-life account of a loving couple whose habit of filming their full-on S&M activities lands them in trouble. You see, the man is a judge and his private life becomes a public concern when a small-time criminal connects him with a seedy S&M club that he and his wife had been to. The couple endure an investigation, trial and shame but they stick it out. The real-life judge welcomed the film because it told their side of the story.

And with various sex scandals, sometimes involving children and, more recently, high-ranking clergy you’d be forgiven for getting the ‘wrong’ impression of this little nation tucked between France, Holland and Germany. But what’s the right impression, then?

That would depend on your views of sex and understanding of the Belgian psyche. This is a country that walks a delicate line between public scrutiny – a notoriously liberal press – and private discretion. It’s a region with a history of passive resistance to any and every overlord who would lay claim to it – French, Spanish, Dutch, Germans, Austrians and even Romans. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Belgians have also become famously good at compromising – called compromis à la Belge – which helps this small country navigate its way in the European Union of 27 member states and between rival language groups and territories.

Like no other people, Belgians (whether French, Dutch or German-speaking) respect individualism, cherish family and fiercely cling to their freedom of expression. Sure, it can manifest in some pretty odd, even unpleasant ways, but that should come as no surprise. Belgium is a product of its upbringing. It’s a bit temperamental but what adolescent isn’t? (Belgium was only created in 1831.)

So whether you’re seeing Belgium through its quirky films or through real-life events, you’ll be left with one redoubt: film beige never goes out of style.

Published here with the author’s permission. ©Christian Nielsen. All rights reserved.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.7/10 (3 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
Tags: , , , , , ,

Related posts

The Arab man’s burden

 
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 2 votes)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

By Khaled Diab

Some in the west are more likely to believe in the existence of elves in Middle Earth than in Arab men in the Middle East who are secular, modern and do not oppress women.

Saturday 6 November 2010

“Have you got another wife in Egypt?” asked N with the trademark, but innocent, lack of tact which I had grown to expect with every one of her visits. “No, why do you ask?” I queried as Iskander, my baby son, put a whole strawberry into his tiny mouth and little streams of red ran down his chin.

“Most Arab men married to European women have another wife in their country,” she said, making a daring generalisation. I did a quick mental inventory of all the Egyptians and other Arab men I knew who were married to or in relationships with European women, and I could not think of a single one who had a second wife back home or anywhere else. Occupied as I was with Iskander, who was babbling incomprehensible instructions to his courgette slices as he watched them fall over the side of his high chair, I let the matter drop. I also knew that N, who is from Ukraine, meant no malice with her remarks.

N entertains some stereotypical views of Arabs that come straight out of Hollywood central casting. Thus, she has expressed her surprise – and approval – that I can actually take care of a baby and do household chores. Her views are all the more surprising considering she’s married to a Muslim from Bulgaria, a country where the Muslim minority is less religious than the Christian majority.

And N is not alone. Although certain Arab stereotypes are positive, such as our reputed hospitality and generosity, I regularly encounter people who make automatic assumptions about me based solely on my background. One recent incident almost startled me into dropping my glass of wine when a young woman I know shrieked in loud surprise: “You drink alcohol!?” Although drinking alcohol is strictly speaking haram, you don’t have to be a non-believer like me to enjoy it – millions of believing Muslims knock back their favourite tipple every day.

Some stereotypes of Arab men with which we have to contend are less harmless. For example, one American Jew to whom I was introduced through mutual Israeli friends and with whom I corresponded for some time in a bid to build better mutual understanding, was ultimately unable to overcome his prejudices and accused me of viewing America as the “Great Satan”, of lacking the faculty of self-criticism, of having a secret agenda and of being a terrorist sympathiser wearing a mask of moderation.

In the popular imagination, the Arab man is not so much fun as fundamentalist, never a fan but always a fanatic, and whose only claim to fame is infamy. After all, the world’s most famous, and infamous, Arab is Osama bin Laden. Although his video and audio releases are keenly awaited and garner the kind of global attention most pop artists could only dream of, he is not the kind of role model the vast majority of Arab men aspire to.

Simply sharing his first name can prove problematic, as my brother has discovered a number of times. One surreal incident occurred when he went to a bank in London to open an account and the clerk phoned his superiors to say: “We have a guy called Osama here, should I open an account for him?” My brother was so infuriated that he left immediately.

The media, particularly the rightwing and conservative end of the spectrum, has a lot to answer for in this vilification of Arab men. Hollywood – where the overwhelming majority of Arab characters are reel bad villains or aliens from some Planet of the Arabs – is an extreme manifestation of this trend.

Although contemporary British and some other European television and cinema tend to be more nuanced and human in their treatment of Arabs, the situation on this side of the Atlantic also leaves a lot to be desired. My wife is often confounded by the European fixation with Islamism and conservative Islam. While watching a recent Belgian documentary that featured women who had converted to Islam and married ultra-conservative Muslim men, she wondered why such programmes never featured mixed couples like us or our friends: modern, a-religious, laid-back.

In fact, given the endless torrent of negative images of Arab men in western popular culture, ordinary people might be excused for believing that elves in Middle Earth are less mythical than men in the Middle East who are secular, modern, peaceable and do not oppress women. Arab women, whose struggle for equality I write about regularly, garner far more – often genuine – sympathy in the west than Arab men, but much of the compassion is condescending and ideologically, even politically, driven for faceless, voiceless, invisible victims.

So, what is behind this almost casual hatred and vilification? Many cite the September 11 attacks in 2001 as an important turning point. While prejudice against Arabs, and Muslims in general, certainly increased after these atrocities, the growing demonisation and the public debate it sparked also, and perhaps ironically, led to more people developing greater understanding and sympathy towards Arabs.

But history did not begin on 9/11, nor did anti-Arab prejudice. It has a long history in the west, dating back to the colonial era and even the earlier, mutual love-hate relationship between “Islam” and “Christendom”. While there were some orientalists who were Arabophiles, particularly in their admiration for the “noble and honourable” Bedouin but not for the “wily and cunning” city Arab, orientalism as a whole lent a respectable academic veneer, as Edward Said so convincingly demonstrated, to crude racism.

In this view, the Arab is indistinguishable as an individual, unchanging, backward, passive, deceitful, ruled by lust and sexuality, and “in all the centuries has bought no wisdom from experience”, as Gertrude Bell, who played a crucial role in creating modern-day Iraq and Jordan, once put it.

This column appeared in the Guardian newspaper’s Comment is Free section on 30 October 2010. Read the full discussion here.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 2 votes)
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related posts

الحب في زمن النزاع

 
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.3/10 (4 votes cast)

بقلـم خالد دياب

قرارات المحاكم الأخيرة في مصر وإسرائيل تُظهِر مدى الشك الذي وصل إليه اليهود والعرب الإسرائيليين

سبتمبر 2010

EN version

تماماً مثلما تعلّم روميو وجولييت الدرس بطريقة صعبة، فإن الحب والصداقة في زمن النزاع نادراً ما يكونا قصة بسيطة لشاب يقابل فتاة (أو أي خليط آخر يناسب توجهاتك). ففي أوقات كهذه، تصبح الأمور الشخصية أموراً عامة، وتصبح الأمور الرومانسية أموراً سياسية.

ورغم أن هذه سمة شائعة في النزاعات، إلا أن الحواجز التي تفصل بين العرب واليهود الإسرائيليين قد تكون، بطريقة ما، مرتفعة بشكل خاص نتيجة لطول فترة نزاعهم ومرارته. ففكرة الاتصال الإنساني العادي بين الجانبين، وخاصة تلك من النوع الجسدي الحميم أو العاطفي، تصل في أذهان الكثيرين من العرب واليهود الإسرائيليين إلى مصاف خيانة قضية وطنهم. لا تعاني علاقات كهذه من عدم الموافقة اجتماعياً ولكنها تستطيع أحياناً أن تحمل تداعيات قانونية.

خذ على سبيل المثال حالة صابر كشور، الفلسطيني البالغ من العمر 30 سنة من القدس، الذي اتهم مؤخراً بـِ “الاغتصاب عن طريق الخداع” لأنه، حسب الادعاء، كذب على امرأة يهودية إسرائيلية حول هويته الدينية حتى يمارس الجنس معها، رغم أنه يعترف فقط بأنه كذب حول وضعه الاجتماعي كمتزوج.

ورغم أن غالبية الناس يوافقون أن عدم الصدق ليس هو السياسة الفضلى، إلا أن الخداع يشكل تكتيكاً شائعاً في لعبة العشق والغرام. ولو كذب السيد كشور حول مهنته أو ثروته أو تحصيله العلمي أو عمره أو طبقته الاجتماعية أو نواياه على المدى البعيد، لكان الحادث قد مرّ وذهب طيّ النسيان دون خيبة أمل شخصية. بدلاً من ذلك، ولأنه في أبسط الحالات لم يكن صادقاً بشكل كامل حول هويته الدينية والعرقية، فقد أصبح الأمر قضية ذات اهتمام عام وتداعيات قانونية.

“المحكمة مضطرة لحماية مصالح الجمهور من المجرمين الأذكياء ذوي الكلام المعسول الذين يستطيعون خداع الضحايا البريئة بكلفة لا يمكن احتمالها: قدسية أجسادهم وأرواحهم”، حسب قول أحد القضاة الثلاثة الذين استمعوا للقضية، وقد أوجد من خلال ذلك سابقة خطيرة.

يثير الحكم تساؤلات حول ما إذا كان هذا الخداع العاطفي يشكّل فعلاً قضية ذات “اهتمام عام”، بدلاً من قضية تتعلق بمصداقية أخلاقية شخصية. وبناء على ذلك، إلى أي مدى يتوجب على الدولة أن تذهب في حماية مواطنيها من “المجرمين الأذكياء ذوي الكلام المعسول”؟

قد تجد امرأة أخرى على سبيل المثال كذب كشور حول كونه متزوجاً مزعجاً أكثر بكثير من كذبه حول انتماءه الديني. هل كانت امرأة كهذه، إذا تقدمت بشكوى شخصية للمحكمة، تحظى بنفس ردة فعل القاضي المعني؟

غني عن الكلام أن القضية أثارت ضجة ليست عالمية فحسب وإنما في الأوساط الإسرائيلية الليبرالية، ويجري الآن استئناف الحكم. “ماذا لو كان هذا الشخص يهودياً ادعى أنه مسلم ومارس الجنس مع امرأة مسلمة؟ هل كانت ستتم إدانته بالاغتصاب؟ الجواب هو: بالطبع لا”، حسب رأي جدعون ليفي، وهو معلق إسرائيلي ليبرالي.

ولكن إسرائيل ليست هي وحدها المذنبة بالمعايير المزدوجة عندما يعود الأمر إلى مضاجعة العدو أو الوقوع في حبّه. بالنسبة للكثير من الفلسطينيين والعرب فإن فكرة أن يعشقوا أو يعشق أحد يعرفونه يهودية إسرائيلية، أو أحياناً يهودية ببساطة، هو أمر يُنظَر إليه كلعنة محرّمة.

ويمكن في بعض الأحيان أن تحمل هذه “الجريمة الاجتماعية” نتائج قانونية، كما حصل مؤخراً في مصر. بعد ردّ استئناف حكومي لقرار محكمة سابق، حكمت محكمة مصرية في حزيران/يونيو الماضي بسحب الجنسية عن جميع الرجال المصريين المتزوجين من إسرائيليات وأبنائهم (بغض النظر عن قلة عددهم).

أثار القرار خلافاً في مصر، حيث أثنى كثيرون على “وطنية” المحكمة، بينما ثارت ثائرة الناشطين المصريين الليبراليين ودعاة حقوق الإنسان. “ينص القانون المصري على أنه لا يمكن سحب الجنسية المصرية إلا إذا ثبت أن المواطن يتجسس على بلده، لذا فإن هذا القرار يعتبر الزواج من إسرائيلية ضرباً من ضروب التجسس”، حسب قول نجاد البرعي، وهو محامٍ مركزه القاهرة وناشط في مجال حقوق الإنسان.

ما تظهره هاتان القضيتان بوضوح هو مستوى انعدام الثقة وجنون الارتياب والحقد بين العرب واليهود الإسرائيليين، الذي تعاظم مع تدهور الوضع في السنوات الأخيرة. وهو يشكّل على مستوى آخر أداة مناسبة لإطالة أمد النزاع. يجعل تحديد، بل وحتى منع التعامل والتفاعل مع الطرف الآخر من الأسهل بكثير كراهية “عدوك” بل وإضفاء الشيطانية عليه. من هذه الزاوية، ترتكز حقيقة أن معظم الدول العربية لا تسمح أو لا تشجع مواطنيها على السفر إلى إسرائيل، دعك من منع الإسرائيليين من السفر إلى المدن الفلسطينية في الضفة الغربية وغزة، جزئياً على الخوف من أن يُفشِل الحب الفردي الكراهية الجماعية.

جمعت المأساة التي وقعت لروميو وجولييت في نهاية المطاف أسرتيهما المتناحرتين معاً، ولكن القضايا المأساوية أعلاه من المستبعد أن يكون لها نفس الأثر. وبالرغم مما قد يؤمن به بعض الرومانسيين بسذاجة من أن الحب يتغلب على كل شيء، من المؤكد أن هذا ليس صحيحاً، ولا يستطيع الحب عمل شيء يُذكر لحل القضايا الحقيقية جداً التي تذكي نار النزاع.

بغض النظر، فإن جميع الصداقات وقصص الحب والزواج بين الإسرائيليين اليهود والعرب تتحدى ثنائية الـ “نحن” و”هم” المدمرة. ورغم أنها قد تكون علاقات شخصية، إلا أن العلاقات الخاصة بين العرب والإسرائيليين تثبت أن الذين يعيشون عبر خطوط العداء المفترضة قد يتشاركون أكثر بقضايا مع بعضهم مما يتشاركون به مع أناس من جانبهم، ويوفرن الأمل بمستقبل يسوده المزيد من التفاهم

This article, which was written for the Common Ground News Service, was originally published on 2 September 2010.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.3/10 (4 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related posts