Tag Archives: women

Nazia Erum’s ‘Mothering a Muslim’ Asks Questions that Send the Mind Reeling

By Taruni Kumar

Photo courtesy the opoponax via Flickr by CC 2.0

On a trip to Aligarh with her parents, five-year-old Azania realised that their car was surrounded by a crowd of people returning from the noon prayer congregation at the local masjid. The road was full of worshippers in white kurta-pyjamas and skullcaps.

“The Muslims are coming… They will kill us!” Azania cried as her parents Arshia Shah and Harris Alvi looked at her with both surprise and amusement. Azania had somehow learnt that “the Muslims” were dangerous and would hurt her, a thought that her parents believe she may have picked up at her playgroup or nursery school.

“The little girl had internalised that Muslims were violent. How do you tell a five-year-old that she is what she fears?”

Mothering a Muslim book jacket

Nazia Erum’s new book Mothering a Muslim raises many questions like these that send the mind reeling. The name of the book sounds like a standard parenting title albeit from a religious point of view. But this is no instruction manual. The book explores the thoughts and dilemmas of a community that finds itself embattled in India’s current political climate. It raises questions about the difficult environment in which even relatively affluent Muslim children are growing up and goes on to analyse a crisis of faith of sorts that many middle-class Muslims are dealing with.

“What is a good age to tell a child that she belongs to a particular religion? When does a child begin to associate the sound of a name with a particular religion? These were not questions Arshia and Harris had asked of themselves.”

Erum, the founder of The Luxury Label, a workwear brand for women, writes that the focus of the book came from her own hunt for answers when her daughter was born. She discovered that very little had been written about the Muslim motherhood experience from an urban middle-class perspective. This led to her consciously looking for urban, educated Muslim women in an attempt to document their experiences and stories.

The focus on the experience of motherhood allows the book to explore the fears of Muslim women specifically. Erum documented the experience of what she calls the “authentic Muslim woman”, who she defines as just about any woman who practices Islam and identifies as Muslim regardless of stereotypical markers that are assumed to represent a Muslim woman such as the burkha or niqab.

“There was a feisty hijabi principal; a burkha-clad single mother of two who was an ex-Facebook and ex-Google employee; an Urdu- and paan-loving ‘patriarch’; a bob-haired child psychologist; a gynaecologist in a niqab; a district-level swimmer; a state-level basketball player; a dentist; an advocate; an IT professional; and a shayara.

My ‘authentic Muslim woman’ drives in her veil, she puts a bindi on her face. She is your neighbour, your child’s schoolteacher. She is everywhere if you care to look.”

This focus on women and their stories allows the book to take a distinctly feminist outlook on religion and identity. At one point, Erum comments on what is expected from Muslim women in terms of how they dress, look and behave. She talks about how if a Muslim woman wears the hijab or not is often used to judge her morality and ‘Muslimness’.

Photo courtesy Izzah Zainab via Flickr by CC 2.0

Meher Jalil, one of the women Erum spoke to, says, “Patriarchy is a devil in itself but when patriarchy gets mixed with religion, it is a very potent mixture.”

These Muslim women, along with their own stories of identity, speak of how they struggle with their children’s sense of identity. The stories Erum records speak of discrimination and stereotyping at the school level. The children of those interviewed have faced name-calling, Islamophobic jokes and nationalistic rhetoric that isolates Muslims in an us-versus-them way. One of the stories talks of a child being called a “paki” by a classmate. Another about an incident when a 17-year-old boy was casually called a “terrorist” during a fight. When his mother took this up with the mother of the name-caller, she was told that her son also called the other child names, specifically, “fat”.

What is more striking is that all these stories come from a demographic that is often called privileged, are in fact privileged, and assumed to be sheltered from discrimination. But Mothering a Muslim makes it more than evident that privilege is relative and in this case, being a member of a minority religion in India frequently trumps class privilege.

However, the most striking part of Erum’s book is when she goes beyond the trials of raising a child whose identity is Muslim. She brings up a key dilemma of being Muslim that seems to plague the community causing an internal crisis of identity. How to follow one’s religion while facing criticism for being either ‘too Muslim’ from the outside world or for ‘not being Muslim enough’ by their own peers. She mentions what she refers to as the ‘Haraam Police’: the people in a Muslim person’s life who take it upon themselves to police the actions of others and declare them not Islamic enough. She writes, “Today just as we must wear our nationalism on our sleeve for the world outside, similarly, we have to wear Islam on our sleeve inside the community. There is no tolerance on either side.”

But while on the one hand, the ‘Haraam Police’ dictates who is a good Muslim, on the other, overt displays of Islam trigger the fear of radicalisation. Erum brings this up in her book and speaks to mothers who talk about the fear that grips them when their children play violent video games or even if they show a touch too much religiosity. One story revolves around a colleague of Dr Waris, a woman Erum interviewed. Her colleague’s thirteen-year-old son started going to the mosque every day for the early morning Fajr prayers. While his mother was happy at how her son had embraced religion, when it was pointed out to her that there was a possibility he was being influenced by the wrong sort of ideas, his mother immediately restricted his mosque visits to Fridayprayers only. Parents’ fear of radicalisation among the younger generation is a real one. And this point comes out strongly in the personal stories told by the women Erum speaks with.

“Everyone has multiple identities. For me, the least important identity is that I am an Allahabadi as I have lived at various places. Being a mother is an important identity. Being a woman and a Muslim are also very important. Being an Indian is the most important identity. But all these identities are seldom spelt out in life. And yet, the one identity that every child does grow up hearing repeatedly is that of being a Muslim – both from the world outside and from within the community.”

The honesty that comes through in the stories of these Muslim mothers of Muslim children plays out alongside Erum’s own experiences – that of a Muslim mother struggling with the same questions.

“When I became a mother myself I immediately felt the weight of the task ahead. The year was 2014. And our country stood divided along religious fault lines. Within the minority Muslim population, a fear was palpable. As I held my little daughter, Myra, for the first time, the fear found a place in me too. I was worried about even giving her a Muslim-sounding name. But as an educated, working metropolitan woman, I wanted to reject this unnamed fear. I wanted to work towards a bright, positive future for my daughter. I wondered if that was possible.”

The post Nazia Erum’s ‘Mothering a Muslim’ Asks Questions that Send the Mind Reeling appeared first on The Ladies Finger.

Trump refers to Haiti and African countries as “shithole” nations

This damn racist thug…..What will you and @GOP do about this racist bum in the Oval Office @SpeakerRyan? Your silence on this matter  will be considered condoning his hatred for black people. We are damn tired of the racist attacks on blacks and POC.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House, a Democratic aide briefed on the meeting told NBC News.

Trump’s comments were first reported by The Washington Post, which said the group of nations referred to also included El Salvador.

The comments came as senators huddled in the Oval Office with the president to discuss a path forward on an immigration deal. Trump questioned why the United States would want people from nations such as Haiti while he was being briefed on changes to the visa lottery system.

WATCH: @SenBlumenthal says Trump’s ‘shithole countries’ remark smacks of “the most odious and insidious racism masquerading poorly as immigration policy.”

“The President doesn’t speak for me as an American.” http://pic.twitter.com/uFQaohiNk4

— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) January 11, 2018

According to the aide, when the group came to discussing immigration from Africa, Trump asked why America would want immigrants from “all these shithole countries” and that the U.S. should have more people coming in from places like Norway. Thursday’s meeting came one day after Trump met with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the White House.

A source familiar with Thursday’s meeting told NBC News the president was particularly frustrated during discussions about the visa lottery system — a program Trump has railed against repeatedly in recent months. Another White House source explained the language Trump used as his way of trying to emphasize his support for a merit-based immigration system.

White House staffers predict President Trump’s “shithole countries” remark will resonate with his base, sources tell CNN’s Kaitlan Collins https://t.co/faSo4lEbyR https://t.co/YCpyvm0Uzm

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 11, 2018

The White House issued a statement that did not deny the remarks.

“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told NBC Thursday, as part of a lengthy statement that did not directly dispute the language reportedly used in the meeting.

“He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”

It’s not the first time reports have surfaced of Trump speaking unfavorably about immigrants, and Haitians in particular. The New York Times reported in December that Trump said Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS,” during a summer 2017 meeting about immigration.

According to the Times, Trump also targeted Nigerian immigrants during that meeting, complaining that once they came the United States they would never “go back to their huts.” The White House vigorously denied the claims in the story at the time.

Wednesday Open Thread | The cop who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice wants his job back

via 3chicspolitico

My eyes! My eyes! This can’t be real…..

The cop who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 may get his job back after nearly eight months off the force.

The Cleveland Police Department fired Officer Timothy Loehmann in May 2017, not for killing Rice, but for lying on his job application. On Wednesday, Loehmann will begin arbitration proceedings, a third-party review of his firing, according to Northeast Ohio Media Group, in hopes of getting his job back.

The Cleveland Police Department fired Loehmann after an internal review found he had lied about his past experience as a police officer, failing to disclose that he had been let go from the Independence, Ohio Police Department after they determined he was unfit to be a police officer, due to a series of bad behavior and an emotional


But it was the 2014 shooting that sparked large protests across the country, after Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, received a call about an African American kid who was playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park. The 911 dispatcher failed to inform officers that the caller said the gun was “probably fake,” and Loehmann jumped out of the patrol car and fired at the 12-year-old almost instantly, killing him.

Both Garmback and Loehmann were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, though the department suspended Garmback for 10 days for his role in the shooting, a decision he appealed to an arbitrator. He is currently awaiting a decision.

A 2017 Washington Post investigation found that hundreds of officers fired for misconduct have regained their jobs thanks to arbitration.

The City of Cleveland agreed to pay Rice’s family $6 million in April 2016 to avoid a lawsuit. The city did not admit any wrongdoing.

Melvin Carter : Mayor of St. Paul Swearing In Ceremony

Melvin Carter was sworn in yesterday as mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota. He becomes the first African-American mayor in the city’s 164-year history. http://pic.twitter.com/Wyp5Jw6GAs

— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 3, 2018

FYI: Meet Sharon Sayles Belton. First African-American Woman Mayor of Minneapolis


Category 4 “Economic Hurricane” Hits Puerto Rico

Economic racism against Puerto Rica again!

It’s been over 100 days since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, and now in the midst of disaster relief efforts, the island is confronted by the impact of the new tax bill passed by the GOP last month. Congressmember Nydia Velazquez calls it an “economic hurricane” because it screws over a slowly recovering Puerto Rico. 

The bill taxes 12.5% on any income created by patents and licenses from foreign companies outside of the United States. Even though Puerto Rico is a commonwealth and its residents are U.S. citizens, Puerto Rico is often treated as a foreign territory when it is convenient for the U.S. – and the tax bill is no exception.

Now companies in Puerto Rico are confronted with a decision to begin paying this tax or move their business elsewhere. Given multinational corporations’ general aversion to paying taxes, and the fact that Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was decimated in the hurricane, it’s likely that the island will lose thousands of jobs, throwing the population into even deeper poverty. Without medical supply manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies, two of the largest employers on the island,  over 200,000 Puerto Ricans will become unemployed, increasing the 10.6% unemployment rate, which already is more than double the U.S. average.

Even before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico was grappling with a $70 billion debt, and Puerto Ricans were leaving the island to seek employment and shelter elsewhere. Gretchen Velez, who was a college student and had never left Puerto Rico prior to the hurricane, is now one of 22 new workers at Dakota Provisions and earns $10 an hour deboning turkey in frigid South Dakota. Many low-wage factories in the U.S. are recruiting on the island, covering the cost of flights until workers can pay them back from their low-salary jobs. U.S.- based companies are capitalizing on the urgency of unemployment while Puerto Rican lives are in the hands of the U.S. government.

As feminists and activists, we know that increased unemployment and poverty exacerbated by climate disasters disproportionately impacts women. Before Hurricane Maria, 43.5% of Puerto Ricans were living in poverty. In Puerto Rico, as in many Latin American and Caribbean countries, low-income women are often employed in low-wage caregiving positions through the informal economy, without benefits or workers’ protections. Now dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane and the impending impact of the tax bill, migration to the island is likely to become increasingly feminized as women make up an even larger proportion of migrants seeking jobs on the mainland.

Puerto Ricans deserve more than what the U.S. government and corporate America is providing them. This economic impasse means that Puerto Ricans will likely continue relocating as climate refugees to the U.S. mainland, accepting low-wage jobs and poor living conditions and leaving the Puerto Rican economy to fall to pieces. Congress claims there will be a comprehensive relief package introduced in 2018, but given how slow recovery efforts have been, I am doubtful that full recovery will happen soon.

Header image credit: Ricardo Arduengo/ AFP / Getty Images

No, Sen. Collins, You Don’t Get To Cry Sexism After Destroying So Many Women’s Lives

This week, the Senate succeeded on partisan lines in passing a bill known widely as the “Republican Tax Scam,” a widely and unanimously decried piece of legislation that exploits the working class to expand the wealth of the top 5%, strips millions of people’s healthcare, and tanks the country’s economy while it’s at it, all at the service of the party’s wealthy donors.

The bill cleared the Senate floor after it was given the go-ahead by so-called “moderate” Republicans, one of whom was Senator Susan Collins, considered a ‘hero‘ by centrist Democrats after her vote to block Republican Obamacare repeal legislation. Senator Collins apparently ‘blasted’ coverage of her approach to the bill on Tuesday, decrying it as ‘unbelievably sexist‘ for a variety of reasons, including newspapers alleging the fact that she was ‘duped’ despite her experience in politics and negotiating, and noting that she ‘didn’t cry’ when confronted by protestors. She claimed that by contrast Jeff Flake, another allegedly ‘moderate’ Republican had received no such coverage.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: every woman, in every situation, is a victim of sexism. That’s because sexism is embedded in systems and institutions, and doesn’t pick and choose who it affects or when it comes in to play. Conservative women aren’t excluded from the impact of sexism, and their coverage in the media will fall into sexist tropes, just like the coverage of all women falls into sexist tropes. And it isn’t excused or okay or any better when it’s directed at conservative women because it comes from the same place and encourages the same behaviors that end up affecting women on all parts of the political spectrum. It’s no doubt that the fact that Collins is a woman affects how she’s treated, and that Flake is covered very differently by the press.

But that doesn’t mean Collins can get to deflect attention on the fact that it was her vote that helped pass a monstrous piece of legislation that plunders poor and working-class women and their families by pointing to that sexism. Here’s the thing about the systemic nature of sexism: this means that it isn’t individual actions that together constitute the patriarchy, but material conditions that put women at a disadvantage structurally to men. The bill that Collins’s support has helped come closer to becoming law will hit working-class women hard, possibly the hardest, and thereby exacerbate institutional sexism. It is disingenuous and hypocritical for Collins to call out sexism without examining how her behavior, and the behavior of the party she represents, are committed to making life worse off for a significant majority of women. Collins is trying to use feminism — like Kellyanne Conway before her, and Ivanka Trump, and like countless other women in positions of power — in a selfish and self-serving way, and ignore that feminism is a social movement aimed at lifting women as a collective, and not as individuals. If Collins really cared about sexism — as opposed to using it as a cheap political tool to score brownie points with liberals for the devastating impact her vote will have on the American working and middle class — then she would work to dismantle patriarchal structures, not uphold them by servicing the Republican party’s rich white male donors.

In 2018, we cannot let rich, powerful white women working to uphold structures of our oppression co-opt our social movements and act as wolves in sheep’s clothing. We must refuse to let powerful white women use cries of sexism to absolve themselves of responsibility from the terrible impacts of their actions. We must have the courage and conviction to stand by our criticisms of women in power while still recognizing that sexism is ubiquitous and we must always work around patriarchal discourses. In 2018, we cannot let Susan Collins use cries of ‘sexism’ to get away with destroying the lives of millions of poor women.

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ICYMI: Update on the latest in the Dolt45 Russian Probe

So where did the emails come from – GSA – and why were they provided? The guy who said he would bury them died before they are hidden. “Earlier this year, Trump appointed the top attorney at the office responsible for providing all the electronics and email accounts the Trump transition team used. That attorney’s name was Richard Backler.
Now, as background, Backler was a white collar criminal defense attorney before his appointment. He helped rich criminals beat government convictions for a firm with a name you’ll find familiar. Bracewell & Giuliani.
So, Trump appointed Backler and then Backler went and ensured Trump transition team attorneys that he would not allow his org (the GSA) to provide any of their emails to investigators. One problem: Backler fell ill and ultimately passed away.”

The Friday Night Dump came on Saturday.

And, it’s a doozy.

Scoop: Mueller obtains “tens of thousands” of Trump transition emails

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained “many tens of thousands” of Trump transition emails, including emails of Jared Kushner, transition team sources tell Axios.

  • Trump officials discovered Mueller had the emails when his prosecutors used them as the basis for questions to witnesses, the sources said.

    The emails include 12 accounts, one of which contains about 7,000 emails, the sources said.

    The accounts include the team’s political leadership and the foreign-policy team, the sources said.


Why it matters: The transition emails are said to include sensitive exchanges on matters that include potential appointments, gossip about the views of particular senators involved in the confirmation process, speculation about vulnerabilities of Trump nominees, strategizing about press statements, and policy planning on everything from war to taxes.

“Mueller is using the emails to confirm things, and get new leads,” a transition source told me.

How it happened: The sources say Mueller obtained the emails from the General Services Administration, the government agency that hosted the transition email system, which had addresses ending in “ptt.gov,” for Presidential Transition Team.

Some back story Twitter tea on this:


From this Twitter Thread:

The Hoarse Whisperer‏ @HoarseWisperer

Settle in, politikids.

You’re going to enjoy this…

I’ve read the full letter Trump transition team attorneys sent to legislators re: Mueller obtaining their emails.

It has a delicious reveal.


As we now know: 1) Mueller obtained ALL of the emails sent to/from Trump transition team accounts 2) The Trump gang only realized this after Mueller’s team seemed to know all about their emails 3) This made them quite… upset

4) Thier lawyers then wrote the letter in the link to congressmen complaining about just how upsetting all of this is. Here’s the classically amusing reveal in the letter…

Earlier this year, Trump appointed the top attorney at the office responsible for providing all the electronics and email accounts the Trump transition team used. That attorney’s name was Richard Backler.

Now, as background, Backler was a white collar criminal defense attorney before his appointment. He helped rich criminals beat government convictions for a firm with a name you’ll find familiar. Bracewell & Giuliani.

So, Trump appointed Backler and then Backler went and ensured Trump transition team attorneys that he would not allow his org (the GSA) to provide any of their emails to investigators. One problem: Backler fell ill and ultimately passed away.

So, until Mueller’s crew started asking Trump aides about those emails, they had absolutely no idea Mueller had them because they thought Trump’s guy on the inside was running interference for them. Let that one sink in.

Trump and his flunkies thought their friend at the GSA had locked their emails away *literally* in a vault no one could get to… They thought their bodies were all buried.

As a result, Trump’s people walked into their interviews with Mueller and team with a completely false sense of confidence that he didn’t know what he already knew in spades. They thought he was fishing. He was just reeling fish in.

Another Thread:

Renato Mariotti‏Verified account @renato_mariotti

THREAD: Why are Trump’s lawyers upset that Mueller obtained transition emails from a government agency? (Hint: They’re just playing politics, but this is a bad sign for them.)

3:03 PM – 16 Dec 2017

1/ Today @axios reported that Mueller obtained tens of thousands of emails from the General Services Administration, which possessed them.

2/ @axios reported that the emails included very frank discussions as well as emails from Jared Kushner. Trump’s team was unaware that Mueller possessed the emails and were surprised when Mueller’s team asked questions based on the emails.

3/ Now Trump’s team has written a letter to Congress, complaining that some of the materials were “susceptible to privilege claims.” So what does this mean?

4/ First of all, it’s not unusual at all for prosecutors to obtain emails from other parties. That’s extremely common in white collar criminal investigations and is not improper.

5/ What *is* unusual here is that Mueller obtained emails from GSA even though he could have obtained (many of) the same emails from lawyers for the Trump Transition.

6/ Typically, in a white collar case, prosecutors obtain as many emails and documents as possible from defense attorneys instead of from another source.

7/ That’s because the defense team would review the emails, take out the ones that are not relevant, sort the emails, and put them in a format could be useable by Mueller.

8/ When a prosecutor obtains emails from a third party, usually irrelevant emails aren’t sorted out. So why would Mueller get the emails from GSA instead?

9/ One reason comes to mind. Mueller was concerned that he wouldn’t receive all of the emails if he obtained them from the Trump team. That’s surprising and suggests that he has reason to distrust Trump’s team.

.@chrisgeidner spoke to a senior GSA lawyer, who said of the Trump transition team: “In using our devices,” transition team members were informed that materials “would not be held back in any law enforcement” actions.
“Therefore, no expectation of privacy can be assumed.” http://pic.twitter.com/D0uqNtgR9S

— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) December 17, 2017

Mueller just hauled in “thousands” of emails from the Mike Pence-led transition

It’s closing in on the VPhttps://t.co/HPqrs7xKOb http://pic.twitter.com/pH2WcRUhAs

— Shareblue Media (@Shareblue) December 17, 2017



We wonder why we haven’t seen hide not hair of Rudy ‘911’ in awhile.

It was his responsibility to take care of the email problem.

He did that by installing one of the partners of his firm into the head of the GSA.

But, the dude died, and didn’t bury the emails.

They, of course, don’t respect bureaucracy, so, there was nothing there but career staffers when Bobby Three Sticks came a knocking, and they followed the law.😄😄

What was left unsaid:

Bobby Three Sticks knew the answer to the questions he asked.

Can we say

LYING TO THE FBI, Boys and Girls?😄😄😄😄

One of the things that I am enjoying most?

We don’t find out anything about what Bobby Three Sticks is doing, until he wants us to. This happened MONTHS ago 😄

Can You Guess Which Theocracy In Asia is Banning Condom Ads On Prime-Time TV?

Male-fake-prudes will cause more deaths and disease!

The answer, it may surprise you to hear, is not in the Middle East, but is India.

This week, the right-wing, Hindu nationalist Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, banned condom ads on prime time television in India between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on accounts of these adverts being ‘indecent.’ The last straw, apparently, was an adv featuring actress, model, and former porn star Sunny Leone, who has often come under attack by conservative Indian commentators for her unapologetic sexuality and uncensored feminist views.

Needless to say, this move is seen locally as not only as hopelessly socially regressive, but also damaging for communities in India, who face: incomprehensive and flawed sex education resulting in unsafe abortions and early pregnancies among young women; already low and understudied rates of condom use; an increase in sexually transmitted infections among young people; and the third largest H.I.V epidemic in the world. Activists, child psychiatrists, healthcare workers and advertisement professionals have all together condemned the ban as “regressive method of functioning from right-wing politics”.

But this move should not be seen as surprising from a government that has been controlled by the religious right since at least 2014. In the past few years, India’s right has re-criminalized homosexuality; banned porn; attempted to roll back trans rights to a draconian degree; excluded women from political positions; stood against the criminalization of marital rape; protected and supported religious leaders arrested for large-scale sexual abuse and sexual slavery; seen an increase in politicians threatening sexual violence against minority women; seen an increase in violence, including sexual violence, against Dalit, Adivasi and Muslim women with impunity; and attempted to censor films that are ‘lady-oriented’ or that discuss female sexuality.

A ‘theocracy,’ as opposed to a democracy, is defined as a country that is ruled by those who claim to represent God and God’s religious principles. With these actions taken by the Hindu right in the name of the country’s cultural and religious values, it’s compelling to claim that India’s democracy is slowly being replaced by theocratic rule.

What does this mean for those of us living in the United States? Well, theocracy across the board has regressive and oppressive implications for women everywhere: whether it’s Saudi Arabia’s restrictions on the women’s vote; India’s condom advert ban; or the fact that the entirety of the United States had to come together to wrest control of Alabama out of the hands of a theocratic, Christian fundamentalist who sexually assaults young girls.

Yet our outrage over these issues is dictated by Islamophobia;  and the conversation around the dangers of a regressive, theocratic government curbing rights, especially for women and female sexuality, has always centered around the Middle East. We you don’t see the same medica coverage or cultural panic as when a member of India’s ruling party calls for the beheading of a Bollywood actress, or when Christian evangelical leaders authorize Trump to carry out the nuclear holocaust.

This Islamophobia has dangerous implications. It ignores the fact that our Muslim siblings are victims of oppression and marginalization and it allows us excuse religious fanaticism, state-sponsored repression of women, and conservatism when it comes from Hindu, Christian, Buddhist or Jewish right wing governments. We here in the United States ourselves face a crisis of theocratic extremism, with the religious right and the Republicans attempting to roll back abortion rights, birth control, and protections against gender violence. The United States is also instrumental in propping up alleged ‘democratic’ regimes underlined by strong right-wing, religious undercurrents. India’s right wing, Modi led government, for example, was propped up in part with the generous support of an allegedly ‘liberal’ diaspora community who may likely see themselves as opposed to Trump, and opposed to human rights abuses in the Middle East, but are oblivious to the parallels within the Hindu right in India.

Right-wing extremism is a problem in every country, including and especially the United States and India. These governments should not be allowed to hide behind the world’s Islamophobia and blinkered view of what constitutes a theocracy. They must be recognized for what they are and held accountable accordingly.

Header image via.

Nothing is Safe! Google Translate Makes Gender Neutral Languages Sexist

By Sharanya Gopinathan

Image courtesy Pixabay

Back on the 28th of November, a tweet by Iranian-American scholar Alex Shams went viral.

Turkish is a gender neutral language. There is no “he” or “she” – everything is just “o”. But look what happens when Google translates to English. Thread: http://pic.twitter.com/mIWjP4E6xw

— Alex Shams (@seyyedreza) November 27, 2017

He explained in the comments that Turkish is a gender neutral language, but when you enter Turkish sentences into Google Translate, the sentences get automatically gendered. And of course, in the most stereotypical manner possible. As his tweet shows, gender-neutral sentences get translated into sexist assumptions, like the idea that engineers are male, and nurses are female, and “she” naturally loves “him”.

Now, Facebook user Dina Utami has found a similar pattern in Bahasa Indonesia, a similarly gender-neutral language.


Shams explains in his thread that this happens because Google Translate picks up on how these words are commonly used online. So if the majority of references in its database to “engineers” are male, it categorises the word as male. He explains the danger of this phenomenon quite comprehensively. “Google Translate magnifies biases that exist in our culture – like unequal access to employment for women in all fields, or culturally constructed notions that women are unhappy, lazy, hopeless romantics always looking for husbands – and transforms them into translations. It has been argued that technology overcomes the biases of human beings, and because it is neutral the increasing automation of the world offers a way out of inequality. But as this small example shows, technology is far from neutral. Technology, like anything else, is what you make of it – and the way we are using technology is currently reinforcing the inequalities and biases of the world around us.”

The post Nothing is Safe! Google Translate Makes Gender Neutral Languages Sexist appeared first on The Ladies Finger.