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Author Topic: Exhalted Subjects;Racializing the Enemy-S. Tobani
Rikardo
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posted 12 May 2008 10:15 AM      Profile for Rikardo     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I've just read this piece in Rabble-not the book, and find myself in nearly complete agreement. A lot of comment today is 'racist' although not dealing with skin colour or eye shape. Is is too much of the 'Enlightment'? Has it gone to our heads? I heard this from Marik Halter and also, it seems, from Regis Debray who was really talking about May '68. Tobani is against the 'feminist' good war in Afghanistan. I heard her in a debate with a Canadian feminist who says we have to 'do something' (something military that is)
From: Levis, Quebec | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
bigcitygal
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posted 12 May 2008 10:21 AM      Profile for bigcitygal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Link to the excerpt and review in the babble book lounge here.

I really want to read this book, I've enjoyed Sunera's writing and work for many years.


From: It's difficult to work in a group when you're omnipotent - Q | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
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posted 12 May 2008 10:51 AM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I liked her argument. Racializing the enemy has indeed gone on, even though there have been ritual references to the need not to demonize "all Muslims".
From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Ken Burch
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posted 13 May 2008 02:51 AM      Profile for Ken Burch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by jeff house:
I liked her argument. Racializing the enemy has indeed gone on, even though there have been ritual references to the need not to demonize "all Muslims".

Is there a reason why we SHOULDN'T stress over and over again that "all Muslims" shouldn't be demonized? You say that as if those who oppose such demonization are making a big deal over nothing.


From: A seedy truckstop on the Information Superhighway | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
bigcitygal
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posted 13 May 2008 03:03 AM      Profile for bigcitygal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Ken, I agree with jeff's assessment. Particularly since the qualities of "the good Muslim" have been completely defined and enforced by the West.

From the excerpt (bold added):

quote:

If gender has been a key signifier of the civilizational superiority of the west, the threat to the nation said to be posed by this religio-racial enemy was also imagined as gendered. It was not only fanatic and hypermasculine Muslim men who were constituted as terrorizing the nation with their inborn propensity to blow up buildings and planes, and indeed, even their own bodies, Muslim women were also constituted as posing a very particular kind of threat. As Mamdani, and others, have noted, Muslims in the post–9/11 period have been defined as being either good or bad Muslims: After an unguarded reference to pursuing a 'crusade,' President Bush moved to distinguish between 'good Muslims' and 'bad Muslims.'

From this point of view, 'bad Muslims' were clearly responsible for terrorism. At the same time, the president seemed to assure Americans that good Muslims' were anxious to clear their names and consciences of this horrible crime and would undoubtedly support 'us' in a war against 'them.' But this could not hide the central message of such discourse: unless proved to be 'good,' every Muslim was presumed to be bad. All Muslims were now under obligation to prove their credentials by joining in a war against 'bad Muslims.' Gender relations have been central to the drawing of this distinction.

The good Muslims are the assimilated ones; they berate other Muslims for their cultural backwardness and, most particularly, they berate the women for revealing such backwardness by wearing the headscarf, the chador, or the veil. These good Muslims are styled (and style themselves) as the anti-hijabis. They acquiesce to American imperial interests, vociferously defend these, and know their proper place as supplicants to the west. They are appropriately grateful for having been allowed to partake in its civilizational project, and they want to aid the west in its quest to liberate their co-religionists, especially the women, around the world.

However, significant media coverage was also given to the bad Muslim woman, the one who dares to defy western gender norms, who refuses to condemn her religion and its adherents. This is the woman who is not imperilled, but who imperils the west by her embrace of Islam, or by her resistance to occupation and imperialist aggression. She is the 'Black widow' of Chechnya , the suicide bomber of Palestine, the 'Doctor Germ' and 'Mrs Anthrax' of Iraq.

This Muslim woman is not to be rescued: she is unrepentent.



From: It's difficult to work in a group when you're omnipotent - Q | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
Catchfire
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posted 13 May 2008 03:10 AM      Profile for Catchfire   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The argument is that if I deliberately identify a criminal as a Muslim, or use cultural cues like "brown-skinned" to do de facto the same thing, when such racial identification rarely happens (or happens much less frequently) when the criminal is white or Christian, and then "reassure" my audience that all Muslim's "shouldn't be demonized" I am first of all, obscuring the fact that the default position is that no one should be "demonized" because of their race or religion. That is, the phrase "Muslims shouldn't be demonized" forces the reader to consider the phrase "Muslims should be demonized" and then overturn it, instead of natively understanding that such a deliberation should never enter the mind in the first place.

I also wonder how often the word "demonized" is used in relation to non-Muslims. I have the impression that it is used much more often, or at least with much more cultural baggage, when referring to Muslims or people in the Middle East.

So the effect of such statements is three-fold: it surreptitiously inserts the idea "Muslims are basically evil" into the reader's consciousness by verbalizing the opposite, and it does this under the guise of liberal tolerance. Thirdly, it reinforces the association of Muslim/infidel, or Muslim/demon that has mobilized Orientalist discourse since the crusades.

This kind of soft racism happens in Western media all the time.


From: On the heather | Registered: Apr 2003  |  IP: Logged
Ken Burch
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posted 13 May 2008 05:07 AM      Profile for Ken Burch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, I hear what BCG is saying, but I never took calls to not demonize all Muslims as an attempt to paint some Muslims as lapdogs of the West. I thought it just meant pointing out that the vast majority of them(like a slight majority of Christians)as more or less decent human beings, like anybody else.
From: A seedy truckstop on the Information Superhighway | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Catchfire
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posted 13 May 2008 05:11 AM      Profile for Catchfire   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Do you recall seeing the phrase "Josef Fritzl, an Austrian, is a serial child rapist, but it is important to remember that not all Austrians are serial child rapists"?
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martin dufresne
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posted 13 May 2008 11:59 AM      Profile for martin dufresne   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Excellent point.
From: "Words Matter" (Mackinnon) | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Ken Burch
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posted 13 May 2008 01:16 PM      Profile for Ken Burch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
OK...I guess the idea is to find another way to object to group condemnation of Muslims.
From: A seedy truckstop on the Information Superhighway | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 13 May 2008 01:33 PM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Ken Burch:
OK...I guess the idea is to find another way to object to group condemnation of Muslims.

How about just calling such group condemnation for what it is - xenophobia, racism, dehumanization, serving the agenda of western imperialism, take your pick.

Even the Pope didn't speak up for the Jews by saying: "It's important to remember that not all Jews are Christ-killers." There are better ways to object to group condemnation of Jews.

I think the point has been made by now, but I'm a longtime fan of overkill.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Ken Burch
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posted 13 May 2008 02:10 PM      Profile for Ken Burch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by unionist:

How about just calling such group condemnation for what it is - xenophobia, racism, dehumanization, serving the agenda of western imperialism, take your pick.

Even the Pope didn't speak up for the Jews by saying: "It's important to remember that not all Jews are Christ-killers." There are better ways to object to group condemnation of Jews.

I think the point has been made by now, but I'm a longtime fan of overkill.


Look, I wasn't the one who even used the "not all Muslims are such and such" meme. I was just discussing it. Stop always trying to turn me into the bad guy, willya? I actually agree with you on most things.


From: A seedy truckstop on the Information Superhighway | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 13 May 2008 02:16 PM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Ken Burch:
Stop always trying to turn me into the bad guy, willya? I actually agree with you on most things.

I know you do. Was I attacking you? Didn't mean to.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
DonnyBGood
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posted 17 May 2008 04:29 AM      Profile for DonnyBGood     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
John Rawls discusses the notion of tolerating the intolerant in theory of Justice. He argues that it would be unjust to persecute someone (individual) who was intolerant. But he also argues that if an intolerant person were treated intolerantly they would not have any right to complain.

Now this is me paraphrasing the "greatest political philosopher of the 20th C" (Wikipedia, TLS) but it seems woefully deficient in dealing with the problems in Afghanistan although the topic I think nicely frames the issue there.

In Afghanistan the role of women is subordinated to that of men. Under Rawls notion of justice this inequality is only justifiable if on balance are better off as a result. Thus, for example, they may have a better situation on balance than they did under the Taliban. But this is hardly a "just" situation at all.

What most people can easily say from the Western perspective is that marginal improvements in equality are not acceptable.

This is not the case of enslavement - historically equal persons under duress. It is a case of culture and social relations. The Taliban and the orthodoxy are not the cause of these relations it is the social conditions that are repressive.

So how are you going to change these conditions through military activity and foreign occupation? What happens unless the West absorbs the culture there and starts transforming it into a satellite of our culture - that is unless it completely obliterates - the culture will become more entrenched and less resistant to any growth and progress. We have seen this throughout the Muslim world since the 1920s when the extremest movements began reinventing Islamic orthodoxy.

You see it in the US South where the military excesses of Union forces during the civil war created a deep seated sense of injustice and resistance to progress in the areas of human rights.

But we would be naive to not understand that the War mongers who advocate this incursion into Afghanistan understand this and realize that it is simply a cash cow they can milk forever.

Giving arms to housewives in Afghanistan in reality is impractical. We need to just leave and let the people in Afghanistan solve their own problems.


From: Toronto | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged

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