A Man Walks Into A Bar: the Orlando shooting was never just about guns.

A man walks into a bar.

Except he wasn’t just a man, was he? And it wasn’t just a bar. Muslim, gay, American: a Muslim man walks into a gay bar in America, and everyone knows how it ended. The Orlando Shooting, we call it, before the sun has risen.

Grief means so many things when it’s public. It’s never simple.

There’s the first response, almost a routine: oh no, not again. There’s always the panicked worry- nobody I know, is it? And then details filter through, little grains of information that lodge inside us, growing larger and larger, getting covered with all the layers of our own assumptions and preconceptions until I’m not sure we could see those tiny truths if we tried.

And some of us want to say- no- what about the thousands of other Muslim men in gay bars in America that night? And some of us want to say that we knew it would happen, that it was only a matter of time before some fundie with a gun took a break from abortion clinics and shot up the queers. Some of us want to shout that yes, homophobia is everywhere in their Muslim communities. More of us want to shout that no, you will not use homophobia to excuse your hatred of Muslims. Others will talk about how exclusion itself is to blame, turning one isolated kid against another, shutting us off from one another from the beginning. Still others went hoarse years ago, exhausted from saying over and over and over and over again that it’s guns, it’s always guns. More wonder how many people have drowned in the sea this week alone, and then we hate ourselves because we only wonder about people drowning in the sea when other people in the West are killed by someone whose name sounds a lot like theirs did.

And in the centre, fifty families grieve. Continue reading “A Man Walks Into A Bar: the Orlando shooting was never just about guns.”

A Man Walks Into A Bar: the Orlando shooting was never just about guns.

We should not kill people for speech. But I am not Charlie Hebdo.

Killing people is not okay. Okay? The Venn diagram of when people kill people and when it’s okay to kill people is two almost completely unattached circles, connected only at the point where the person being killed was trying to kill someone else first and the only way to stop it was to kill them right back. That’s basically it. And even then, if I’m being honest, it’s only okay in the sense that it’s the least bad of a bunch of terrible options.

I’ve just gotta get that out of the way, since it seems that any attempt to inject a bit of nuance into conversations surrounding people killing white westerners is interpreted as a defence of the people doing the killing.

To state another thing for the record: there was absolutely nothing okay or justified about the Charlie Habdo killings yesterday. Nothing. It was a vile act. My heart goes out to the people mourning their loved ones today. Nobody deserves that.

Clear? Okay.

Within that context, let’s talk about #iamcharlie.

The first thing to to understand here: we don’t live in a world of good guys and bad guys. The fact of people being murdered horribly exists on it’s own. It doesn’t imply that the victims are people who we should emulate. A person can be a victim of a heinous crime and still have done questionable things.

Here’s a problem with #jesuischarlie: Charlie Hebdo, from what I can gather, was a publication that produced and distributed vile, racist material in the guise of satire. Unlike any satire worth the name, it punched down at already-marginalised minorities in an environment that just encouraged an intensification of preexisting anti-Muslim sentiment.

Muslims in the West are disproportionally targeted for abuse and attacks, as are people perceived to be Muslim- normally due to their names and the colour of their skin. There’s an ugly strain of racism running through so much discourse that puts itself up as “just criticising Islam”, that you can’t ignore. There’s a lack of nuance to how we talk about Islam, as well. People talk about something called the “western world” juxtaposed against the “Islamic world”, as if these are two entirely separate and self-contained things, ignoring the fact that there is and has always been both massive diversity within, and massive mixing between, Islamic and Christian cultures the world over.

Also? I strongly believe that if you want to tackle extremism, the way to do it isn’t to further alienate people who your society has already been marginalising.

This is what Charlie Hebdo was doing.

We can condemn murdering people without valorising victims.

I don’t want a response to murder that punches down. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, at least three (at the time I’m writing this) French mosques have been attacked in ‘retaliation’. That is not okay.

It is also not okay to respond to the murder of people who were doing problematic things by repeating the worst things that they did.

When you say “I am Charlie Hebdo” and repost their racist, islamophobic (and most importantly inaccurate) cartoons, you’re not standing up for freedom of speech. You’re valorising hate speech and bullying of oppressed groups.

We don’t have to be Charlie Hebdo, or to repost their work, to condemn utterly the actions of their murderers. We are not Tinkerbell, only able to feel one thing at a time. If our response is to mean anything other than self-congratulatory grandstanding, we have to take into account that terrible, undeserved things happen to people to who did fucked-up things. We have to hold that seeming-contradiction and understand that it is not so.

We don’t have a choice between being Charlie Hebdo or the people who killed there. We don’t have to respond to attacks on freedom of speech by saying that all speech is okay simply because it was said. We don’t have to ignore the context in which violence- be it physical or otherwise- happens in order to condemn it.

I am not Charlie Hebdo.

I deeply value my right to speak more or less as I please. I value the privilege of the platform I have to speak on. I am aware that that right and privilege comes with incredible responsibilities to be thoughtful and accurate, as far as I can to help more than I harm, and to be receptive- within reason, since this is the internet after all- to critique.

It is possible to value one’s rights and simultaneously to refuse to support the abuse of those rights. And it is possible to refuse to support the abuse of a right, while simultaneously condemning utterly, entirely and without reservation those who would respond to that abuse with murder.

It’s more than possible. If we’re to actually make anything better, it’s essential.

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We should not kill people for speech. But I am not Charlie Hebdo.

How to respond to racist attacks? Put your money where your mouth is!

TW: racism, violence, pictures of racist graffiti. TL;DR, if you’re not up for facing that: Racists say shops run by immigrants aren’t welcome. How about supporting your local immigrant-run businesses? Today!

Continue reading “How to respond to racist attacks? Put your money where your mouth is!”

How to respond to racist attacks? Put your money where your mouth is!

Food. Clothes. Hijabs. New Rules.

Do you read Captain Awkward? You should, you know. Everyone in the world should read Captain Awkward. If everyone did that, the world would probably become a significantly better place in, like, a fortnight or so. People would be Using Their Words and respecting boundaries and communicating and getting rid of the Darth Vaders in their life and.. oh, it would be marvellous.

I read a thing in Captain Awkward the other day, where the good Captain observed the following in relation to a letter writer who was tired of having to explain their medical condition and dietary needs over dinner:

I think the world would be a better place if we stuck to one acceptable way of commenting on what is on a fellow adult’s plate. That way is “That looks delicious” + some variation of“Where did you get it/how did you make it/does it taste as good as it looks/smells/Is it like this other thing that is also delicious?

The following are to be instituted immediately:

  • Stop commenting on how much or how little someone eats.
  • Stop commenting on what is on someone else’s plate
  • Stop assigning food a moral value.

Like the Cap’n says, if we did those things then a whole shedload of things would be no longer problems, right there.

Something similar occurred to me today, when I came across this post over on Tumblr about some non-Muslim woman dressing up in latex hijab drag. As with just about every appropriation of Muslim women’s dress, this non-Muslim probably saw what she was doing as a statement on reclaiming sexual liberation in an edgy, different sort of way. Probably not as yet another instance of the same-old same-old, white non-Muslim women using words like ‘unveiled’ and playing with oh-so-exotic hijab fashion to make totally-not-racist-at-all statements. Because Muslim women apparently don’t have voices or keyboards of their own, and they definitely don’t have perfectly ordinary ranges of sexualities. From the post: (I’m barely containing the desire to post all of it and say READ EVERYTHING NOW, but i figure you can hop over there to do that. You should, btw)

i despise the voyeuristic gaze imposed … by non-Muslim, white western feminist eyes …

in the same way i despise photos of Muslim women in abayas shopping at victoria’s secret being circulated as somehow more revolutionary and awe inspiring than the rest

(cause Muslim women don’t need bras and panties too -_-)

all of this indirectly, and often times unintentionally, feeds into western entitlement

the idea that we have to prove how liberated we are in order to garner respect, even if it means divulging the parts of us we keep close for a variety of reasons

fundamentally, in my personal opinion, Muslim women who practice modesty (or dont) are in no way obliged to tell the dirty secrets of their lives in order for western non-Muslim women to look at them as liberated and therefore find common ground with them

and if that’s really the basis in which non-Muslims are going constructively engage with notions of liberation in regards to Muslim women

…then really, you need to critically examine why someone has to put their dirty sexual business in the streets in order to gain respect as a sexually liberated person

you need to constructively examine the distinct positionality and place of privilege a culture of sexual liberation is framed from, if the litmus test for being identified as worthy, of being identified as “liberated” relies on you outing yourself over and over again for validation by the liberated and privileged few, who all the while ignore the varying societal and cultural contexts which don’t make that a safe reality for many people, not just Muslim women.

liberation, or being liberated, should not be contingent having no privacy, framing everything around the western gaze, putting yourself in danger- outing yourself to a larger majority that already suffers from socio-cultural amnesia when it comes to anything far outside the bounds of eurocentricism and western frameworks. prostration before a fucked up ideal isn’t and never should be a necessary condition of “liberation” in the first place 

(emphasis mine).

I think it’s time we proposed some new rules. Copying shamelessly from the Captain, I think the world would be a better place if we:

  • stuck to one acceptable way of commenting on a person’s hijab clothes. That way is “I really like that thing you’re wearing” + some variation of “That colour/style really suits you” and “Where did you get it?. 
    • Only commented on a person’s clothes in appropriate situations. With people who are receptive to having their clothes talked about. By us.
  • Stopped commenting on how much or how little someone wears.
  • Stopped appropriating clothing styles with specific meanings for another culture(s).
  • Stopped assigning clothes a moral value or making assumptions about people’s morals based on what they are wearing.

Can we do that? Like, from right now, can we quit appropriating, quit assigning moral values to clothes, quit fetishising entire freakin’ religions and cultures, and if we have to comment on someone’s hijab, stick to something like “Oh, I like that scarf you’re wearing today, that colour really suits you”? Can we, like, do that now maybe?


Food. Clothes. Hijabs. New Rules.