Workers at the Hotel Omni on Sherbrooke Street in Montréal are still on strike after a lock-out on July 8th, holding out despite management's illegal hiring of scab labour to keep the hotel running, intimidation tactics, and the international jet set crossing the picket lines. For almost three months, they have been marching in a tight circle on Sherbrooke at Peel. Their demands? Minimal, to say the least: a gradual wage increase (11% over three years) and the abolition of the "wage ladder" (so, after 30 days on the job, it's equal pay for equal work (from Strike/A Infos). These have been won by other hotel workers in the city, who participated in the general strike of July 8 and have since arrived at agreement with management. But since workers at each hotel have to negotiate separately with management, and Omni management refuses to negotiate, the workers at the Omni are still on the picket line.

I walk past the Omni picket line nearly every day, and I am struck by the energy and commitment of the striking workers. It's audible, it's visible, it's palpable. And there is a larger lesson, in this, for non-unionized workers, namely, that only with collective action can better working conditions be won. As Utah Phillips, bard of the insurgent worker, croons, better conditions won't come as a gift from the benevolent bosses, and they won't come without struggle. The so-called hospitality and service sectors are largely non-unionized, and attempts to form workers' associations in these industries has been met with union-busting and even the wholesale relocation of business (as happened after attempts to unionize WalMarts in Québec). Insecurity and violations of labour rights abound in the kitchens of your city, between stacks of sweaters at the shopping mall, under high-thread-count sheets and inside toilets scrubbed daily where you lie your head and seat your seat. To abide the violence of drudgery is one thing. To live under constant fear of being fired, of becoming homeless, of inescapable poverty, of humiliation, is another. Drudgery, more than insecurity, is perhaps an inescapable feature of work under capitalism. If only a revolution can do something about the former, a militant union can do something about the latter.

So while we are "waiting" for the revolution...let's support workers in their struggle at the Omni. in Montréal, this Thursday, at 6:15 p.m., there is a solidarity rally with the Omni Hotel workers. Meeting spot is Metro Peel, at the exit on Stanley. Soyons Omniprésent-e-s

Dans la lutte, soyons Omniprésent-e-s!
Jeudi 1er septembre 18h15
Métro Peel (sortie Stanley)

Alors que les conflits dans la plupart des hôtels de Montréal ont été réglés au début de l'été en faveur des employé-e-s , le conflit à l'hôtel Omni (coin Sherbrooke et Peel) perdure. Les grèvistes, de par la loi, sont limités dans leurs moyens d'action. À chaque jour, ils et elles voient des scabs faire leur travail, pour ainsi assurer que l'argent continue d'entrer pour les patrons. En fait, l'Omni, un hôtel 4 étoiles, roule présentement à plein régime, toutes ses chambres sont occupées.

Le Réseau de Solidarité des Travailleurs-euses, un nouveau regroupement syndical de travailleurs-euses basé sur la démocratie et l'action directe, dénonce l'utilisation de scabs à l'Omni et l'arrogance des patrons qui refusent de négocier. En réponse à cette situation, le Réseau a organisé déjà deux actions de solidarité avec les travailleurs-euses en grève visant
à augmenter la pression sur les patrons de l'Omni afin qu'ils cèdent aux revendications des grévistes.

Ces actions de solidarité avaient pour but concret de contrer les effets injustes que les lois imposent aux grévistes et qui leur font craindre les injonctions. En d'autres mots, renforcir le combat des grévistes en impliquant des gens non directement touchés par le conflit. Malgré que cela n'a pas encore débouché sur un dénouement positif dans les négociations, les syndiqué-e-s de la base ont semblé dans leur ensemble fortement apprécié notre présence et notre solidarité.

Ce jeudi 1er septembre à 18h15 au métro Peel (sortie Stanley), c'est un autre rendez-vous à tous et toutes intéressé-e-s à venir faire acte de présence sur la ligne de piquetage afin de témoigner encore une fois notre solidarité envers nos camarades en lutte à l'hôtel Omni.

Confrontons les patrons avec notre meilleure arme : notre solidarité !

"Pour un syndicalisme de combat"
Réseau de Solidarité des Travailleurs-euses
rst.wsn@gmail.com, 859-9092



Disturbed by the idea that a pledge to "commit to struggle to eliminate violence against women" might fail to ellicit more than seven responses? Then go sign it!

I started this pledge a few weeks ago on PledgeBank as a way of promoting discussion of gendered violence and generating reflection on the ways in which we can fight to eliminate it, in our local communities and around the world. But it is not doing well at all! Only seven people have signed (six of whom are feminist friends of mine, rather like preaching to the choir!) and a mere three weeks remain to reach the target of 100 signatories...

Here, again, is the full text of the pledge:
"I will commit to struggle to eliminate violence against women in my community; formally or informally support women in my life or in my community who are in abusive situations to escape them; and help to create a culture of non-violence and respect for women, starting with the way I interact with acquaintances, colleagues, friends, family, children, and my partner(s). but only if 100 other people from anywhere in this dangerous world will commit to do the same."

Link to it on your (pro-)feminist blogs, take it to the streets...Anything to start a discussion about this issue.

Because violence against women is a global epidemic. Take a look at Amnesty International's Campaign to Stop Violence Against Women to gain a transnational perspective.
Where there is oppression, there is resistance. While in Iraq feminists are fighting for the codification of human rights in the new Iraqi constitution, in the State of Lagos, Nigeria, new laws to prosecute acts of domestic violence are currently under debate:
"The Lagos State House of Assembly is currently considering a state-level bill in Nigeria on violence in the family, which provides remedies under civil and criminal law. Lagos State is Nigeria’s most populous state, containing within its borders the nation’s economic capital. Moves to confront violence against women in Lagos are likely to have a major impact elsewhere in Nigeria.

And in Uganda, according to women's rights activist Ruth Ojiambo Ochieng,
“Women’s bodies have actually become battle grounds, not only to … the rebels who are fighting government, but … even the government soldiers are violating women, and targeting their sexuality… the violation is all about destroying … the inbuilt strength of a woman to build a community, so both warring factions are targeting the woman’s body to make sure that they destroy that community through this woman."

Read the stories of activists struggling to eliminate violence against women here.


Below is a press release from No one is Illegal Vancouver, criticizing the proposed security measures in Canada's public transit system made by the Minister of Transportation, Jean Lapierre recently. It confirms the fears of diasporic Muslim and racialized communities living in the west, that governments will exploit "the need" for heightened security after the London bombings in order to persecute racialized immigrant, refugee, and non-status populations. Western governments want docile immigrant populations; making them subject to arbitrary search and arrest practices, racial profiling, and forcing them to live in a climate of insecurity by criminalizing them is one way to produce this docility. Which is not to say that the Canadian public's fear of terrorist attack is unjustified, even if it is highly exaggerated, and mobilized by governments in insidious ways (and this fear is widespread: the CBC reports that 72% of respondents in a recent poll would support security camera surveillance in subways). It is, however, to say that it is misdirected -- and precisely in choosing, as its target, immigrants, refugees, and non-status people, it becomes xenophobic. Canadians should be worried: about their civil rights, about their complicity in the occupation of Iraq (26,705 Iraqi civilians killed to date, with Canadian bullets), about a government that is trying to divide and conquer its people, by making the safety of some contingent on the insecurity of others.

[No one is Illegal, Vancouver]

Vancouver August 9, 2005- Immigrant and refugee communities represented in No One is Illegal Vancouver  are outraged at the security meetings conducted by Federal Transportation Minister Jean Lapierre to discuss security in Canada’s public transit system in the wake of the London bombings.

Upgraded security measures in the post 9/11 climate have led to an increase of racial profiling and invasion of privacy rights. Within weeks of 9/11, Canada has implemented a wide array of laws and practices in the areas of criminal law, immigration law, tax law, employment, intelligence services, and airport security. Further Orwellian measures, such as the increased use of cameras in subway and trains proposed by LaPierre,  will have a devastating effect on the right to privacy in public spaces and despite government assurances, will have a disproportionate impact on racialized communities.

“We are increasingly moving towards a paranoid police state as Canada is moving towards harmonizing security policies with the United States,” states Amal Rana, member of the immigrant and refugee rights group No One is Illegal.

In the United States, two elected officials Dov Hikind and James Oddo, have publicly stated that Middle Easterners should be targeted for searches on city subways as they fit the “terrorist profile.” Hikind further stated, “They all look a certain way and …[they are] a group of people who want to kill us and destroy our way of life.”

According to a January 2004 handout, the Department of Homeland Security advises U.S. border authorities to look out for certain "suicide bomber indicators." They include a "A short haircut or recently shaved beard or moustache may be evident by differences in skin complexion on the head or face. May smell of herbal or flower water (most likely flower water), as they may have sprayed perfume on themselves, their clothing, and weapons to prepare for Paradise."

The American Civil Liberties Union- New York Chapter filed a lawsuit on August 4, 2005 in response to the New York Police Department's unprecedented policy of subjecting millions of New Yorkers to suspicionless searches in subways. Since the police adopted this policy just days after the London bombings, officers have searched the purses, handbags, briefcases and backpacks of thousands of people, all without any suspicion of wrongdoing.

Harsha Walia, member of No One is Illegal, further states, “Like many human rights organizations throughout the world, we are deeply concerned about the erosion of rights since September 11, 2001. The recent push for transit security by Jean Lapierre , along with all the other so-called security measures such as Canada’s Anti-terrorism legislation and harmonization of border policies, have a fundamentally adverse impact on civil liberties, human rights, refugee rights, and political dissent.”



Resisting Racialized Exploitation: South African Mineworkers on Strike

110,000 gold miners, members of the National Union of Mineworkers and Solidarity, are striking in South Africa for better wages, in the first industry-wide strike in 18 years. The strike started on Sunday, after union-management negotiations collapsed. Miners' wages are 2500-3000 rand (around 400USD) per month, and work in dangerous and stressful conditions -- descending as far as 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles) into the earth to extract gold ore. Unions are demanding a wage raise of 10-12% (so, around 40USD per worker per month), whereas the Chamber of Mines was offering 4.5-5% (around 20USD, at best) at the time the strike was called. Now, Solidarity reports that the Chamber of Mines

"will no longer take an active part in wage negotiations in the gold mining industry during the current critical phase of strikes in the industry. This comes after mining groups Anglo Gold Ashanti and Southdeep yesterday broke ranks by making individual offers to the various trade unions. The offer ranged from 5,25% for miners, tradesmen and officials; 6% for workers in categories 5 to 8 and 6,5% for category 3 to 4 workers."

The strike is reportedly hitting the gold industry where it hurts. According to CNN,

"The strike paralyzed the South African mines of the world's No. 2 gold producer AngloGold Ashanti, fourth-ranked Gold Fields, sixth-placed Harmony Gold and South Deep, Barker said Monday.

The chamber, which negotiates wages on behalf of gold producers, estimated a daily loss of around 40,000 ounces of gold production and 130 million rand ($20.17 million) in combined lost revenue per day due to the strike."

The history of labour organizing in South Africa is fraught with the same racism as pervades the wider society, even after the abolition of apartheid. According to an essay written by one M.P. Naicker about the historic 1946 African miners' strike and published in 1976,

"Solidarity between white and black workers was lost in those first thirty years, never to be regained to this day. The result has been that the white workers became the aristocrats of labour in South Africa, being among the highest paid workers in the world, while their black compatriots are, in the main, still living below the breadline. What is worse, the overwhelming majority of white workers in South Africa became the main and the most vociferous supporters of successive racist regimes."

It was not until 1941 that African workers formed the African Mine Workers' Union, under deadly conditions:

"Any attempt at organisation exposed them to the wiles of employers, the antagonism of white workers and the ferocious arm of the law...Many unsuccessful attempts were made to form a trade union prior to 1941. But in that year, on 3 August, a very representative miners' conference was called by the Transvaal Provincial Committee of the African National Congress. The conference was attended not only by workers from many mines, but also by delegates from a large number of African, Indian, Coloured and white organisations, as well as representatives from a number of black unions. Some white unions gave their moral support..."

But intimidation, arrests, and scare-tactics were widespread:

"From the first the [union organizing] committee encountered innumerable obstacles. The miners were ready to listen to its speakers, but the employers and the authorities were determined to prevent organisational meetings. Speakers were arrested and meetings broken up...With the formal establishment of the Union, organisational work began in earnest in the face of increased harassment, arrests, dismissals, and deportation of workers by the police and the mine management. Nevertheless, the Union grew in strength and influence. The Chamber of Mines, however, refused even to acknowledge the existence of the African Mine Workers` Union, much less to negotiate with its representatives. The Chamber`s secretary instructed the office staff not to reply to communications from the Union...Another serious obstacle was the wide-scale use of spies by the mine owners."

One expression of South African anti-black racism that the African Mine Workers' Union combatted in that first strike was, unsurprisingly, unequal pay for equal work:

"In 1946, the year of the great strike the wages were: Africans R87 and whites R1,106... the wage gap between the white worker and the black worker was 12:1"

When the Union first raised this issue with the Chamber of Mines, the latter apparently "made no serious attempt to rebut the Union's case, reiterating that its policy was to employ cheap African labour."

So, the workers decided to strike. On Sunday, August 4, 1946, over one thousand delegates assembled at an open air conference held in the Newtown Market Square: no hall where Africans could hold meetings was big enough to accommodate those present. Their demands were minimal, to say the least: a minimum wage of 10 shillings per day and better conditions of work for African miners. The general strike began on August 12, 1946.

Immediately, the striking miners were met with violence and repression:

"The police batoned, bayoneted and fired on the striking workers to force them down the mine shafts. The full extent of police repression is not known but reports from miners and some newspapers reveal intense persecution and terror during the week following Monday, 12 August.

A peaceful procession of workers began to march to Johannesburg on what became known as Bloody Tuesday, 13 August, from the East Rand. They wanted to get their passes and go back home. Police opened fire on the procession and a number of workers were killed. At one mine workers, forced to go down the mine, started a sit-down strike underground. The police drove the workers up - according to the Star - "stope by stope, level by level" to the surface. They then started beating them up, chasing them into the veld with baton charges. Then the workers were "re-assembled" in the compound yard and, said the Star, "volunteered to go back to work."

By Friday, 16 August, the striking workers (around the same number as are striking today) were "bludgeoned back to work." The strike was over. But, even though the state, the press and industry management called it a "failure," its political effects were lasting:

The African miners' strike was one of those historic events that, in a flash of illumination, educate a nation, reveal what has been hidden and destroy lies and illusions. The strike transformed African politics overnight. It spelt the end of the compromising, concession-begging tendencies that dominated African politics. The timid opportunism and servile begging for favours disappeared for all practical purposes. The Native Representative Council which, in a sense, embodied that spirit, in its session on Thursday, 15 August, in Pretoria, decided to adjourn as a protest against the Government's "breach of faith towards the African people". They never met again.

Nearly 60 years later, South African mine workers are, again, resisting racialized exploitation. The political conditions may have changed (some say only superficially, others say profoundly); but mine workers are still denied a living wage for performing dangerous work; mine workers are still getting the shaft while gold companies are reaping obscene profits. And once again, mine workers are courageously "challenging the very basis of the cheap labour system" and are struggling "for the right to live as human beings."



Think cyberspace could use a little gender parity? Wondering where all the feminist and pro-feminist bloggers hang out? Take a look at the BlogsByWomen Blogroll (links on sidebar). From a teenaged university student who is thinking aloud in Kuwait, to a twenty-something butch lesbian physics graduate student searching for her truth in Texas; from a 49-year old woman reporting on her struggles for her marriage to be legally recognized in Rochester, New York, to a woman who's lost her mother to breast cancer and is sending the world postcards of grief; from the semantically driven to the philoillogical (the latter has a great critique of the misogynist drivel in today's National Post); from sisters talk (which today reviews the first televised beauty pageant for fat women in the U.S.), to talking to god -- navigate using the links on the sidebar. And be sure to check out the BlogsByWomen Directory for even more exciting blogs by women -- these are some of my favourites (mind you, I've only just started exploring): decksitter's photoblog, brown rab girl fish, renaissance culinaire, transcending gender, pinko feminist hellcat, the green lantern. Link to the BlogsbyWomen 'roll because blogs by women rock!



The Guardian has published the full text of Tony Blair's speech on the new anti-terrorism measures that the administration is trying to implement. Unsurpringly, they focus on "foreign nationals" - non-status residents, refugees, and asylum-seekers. Here's a sampling (excerpted from Blair's speech, emphasis mine):

"1. New grounds for deportation and exclusion...The new grounds will include fostering hatred, advocating violence to further a person's beliefs or justifying or validating such violence...We are today signalling a new approach to deportation orders. Let no one be in any doubt. The rules of the game are changing.

...One other point on deportations. Once the new grounds take effect, there will be a list drawn up of specific extremist websites, bookshops, centres, networks and particular organisations of concern. Active engagement with any of these will be a trigger for the home secretary to consider the deportation of any foreign national.

2. New anti-terrorism legislation [will be introduced] in the autumn. This will include an offence of condoning or glorifying terrorism. The sort of remarks made in recent days should be covered by such laws. But this will also be applied to justifying or glorifying terrorism anywhere, not just in the UK.

3. Anyone who has participated in terrorism or has anything to do with it anywhere will automatically be refused asylum.

4. We have already powers to strip citizenship from those individuals with British or dual nationality who act in a way that is contrary to the interests of this country. We will now consult on extending these powers, applying them to naturalised citizens engaged in extremism and making the procedures simpler and more effective.

5. Cases such as Rashid Ramda wanted for the Paris metro bombing 10 years ago and who is still in the UK whilst France seeks extradition, are completely unacceptable. We will begin consultation, on setting a maximum time limit for all future extradition cases involving terrorism.

6. A new court procedure which would allow a pre-trial process. We will also examine whether the necessary procedure can be brought about to give us a way of meeting the police and security service request that detention pre-charge of terrorist suspects be significantly extended

7. For those who are [non-naturalized] British nationals and who cannot be deported, we will extend the use of control orders. Any breach can mean imprisonment.

8. To expand the court capacity necessary to deal with this and other related issues, the Lord Chancellor will increase the number of special judges hearing such cases.

9. We will proscribe Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the successor organisation of Al Muhajiroun. We will also examine the grounds of proscription to widen them and put proposals forward in the new legislation.

10. It is now necessary, in order to acquire British citizenship, that people attend a citizenship ceremony, swear allegiance to the country and have a rudimentary grasp of the English language. We will review the threshold for this to make sure it is adequate and we will establish, with the Muslim community, a commission to advise on how, consistent with people's complete freedom to worship in the way they want, and to follow their own religion and culture, there is better integration of those parts of the community presently inadequately integrated. I have asked Hazel Blears [!] to make this part of the work she is currently undertaking.

11. A new power to order closure of a place of worship which is used as a centre for fomenting extremism and will consult with Muslim leaders in respect of those clerics who are not British citizens, to draw up a list of those not suitable to preach who will be excluded from Britain.

12. We will bring forward the proposed measures on the security of our borders, with a series of countries specifically designated for biometric visas over the next year. Meanwhile, the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office are compiling an international database of those individuals whose activities or views pose a threat to Britain's security. Anyone on the database will be excluded from entry with any appeal only taking place outside the country.

...If legislation can be made ready in time and the right consensus is achieved, we are ready to recall parliament in September, at least to begin the debate over the measures.

...Coming to Britain is not a right. And even when people have come here, staying here carries with it a duty. That duty is to share and support the values that sustain the British way of life. Those that break that duty and try to incite hatred or engage in violence against our country and its people, have no place here. Over the coming months, in the courts, in parliament, in debate and engagement with all parts of our communities, we will work to turn those sentiments into reality. That is my duty as prime minister."

Scary shit, indeed. The Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, nationalist tenor of the proposed measures is not, to my mind, at all tempered by Blair's question-begging disclaimer, that "this is [legislation] not in any way whatever aimed at the decent, law-abiding Muslim community of Britain." It is clear that this legislation attempts to further solidify the two-tiered citizenship system (national vs. naturalized) by limiting the rights of naturalized citizens and making immigration and citizenship more onerous processes for certain populations. For if it is true that "coming to Britain is not a right," there is no sense in which "being born in Britain" is a right, either. It doesn't follow from this that, once in Britain, one should not have certain inalienable rights, indeed the same rights as others, regardless of when or how one got there.

Especially disturbing are the measures to institute a so-called "pre-trial process" for the investigation and prosecution of terrorist activity; this is tantamount to allowing arrest and detention without charges, and in Canada - which implemented "security certificates" to achieve this shortly after 9/11 - it has meant a disastrous contravention of basic human rights. And it doesn't take a genius to see the repressive use to which the anti-terrorism legislation which criminalizes "condoning and glorifying terrorism" will, undoubtedly be put. What counts as "condoning" terrorism? Attempts to explain its causes? It's quite clear that this is a strategy to silence any and all criticism of Britain's foreign policy. From the blacklisting and possible deportation of those who visit or run "extremist bookshops," to the right to shut down places of religious worship, to the eventual implementation of biometric visas, this spells trouble for basic human freedoms in a country that, in the aftermath of the July 7 bombing was heaping praise on itself for its "calm" response, righteous fearlessness and multiculturalist tolerance. If those things are true of the the British people, they're certainly not true of Blair's government.

So the British -- Muslims and non-Muslims alike -- should be mighty worried. Because, at bottom, the "sentiments" that Blair wants to "turn ... into reality" are nothing more than thinly-veiled chauvenism, racism, and xenophobia. And the new proposed anti-terrorism measures will do less to eliminate terrorism, and more to curtail freedoms of speech, increase racist and anti-immigrant attacks, and ensure that racialized and minoritized people live in fear. This isn't about preventing terrorism; it's about terrorizing communities and criminalizing oppositional movements. It's opportunistic, it's hypocritical, it's appalling, and it must be resisted, both in Britain and around the world.

For more analysis of the proposed anti-terrorism measures, see Lenin's Tomb.



I've added a link to Transdada, a clearinghouse for "poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions" and its sister-site, In Words, "documents of personal struggles for queer freedom." On the latter, read an interview with gay activists in Iran, publishers of MAHA, a Persian queer e-mag. Here's an excerpt in which they discuss reaction to the July 19 execution of two gay teenagers and, more generally, being queer in Iran:

"MAHA: inside Iran, there is a large number of NGO like children's rights, women's rights, human rights groups etc. but also Ms. Shirin Ebedadi (peace Noble prize winner) protested against the execution. The situation in Iran is so that no one can talk openly about GLBT rights so those who protested, they protested against execution of children (one of the boys was clearly under 18 years old). The other problem is the conflicting messages from authorities, so no one wants to defend someone who raped a young 13 years old boy, as authority claims now.

GayRussia: What is the situation of gays in Iran? How can gays live in the atmosphere of constant fear?

MAHA: The GLBT situation in Iran has changed over the past 26 years. The regime does not systematically persecute gays anymore, there are still some gay websites, there are some parks and cinemas where everyone knows that these places are meeting places for gays, furthermore it is legal in Iran that transsexual applies for sex change and it is fully accepted by the government. There are some medias which sometimes (not often) write about such issues. Having said that, the Islamic law, according to which gays punishment is death is still in force but it is thought not much followed by the regime nowadays."

The interview was conducted by Nikolai Aleksiv of GayRussia.ru.


CNN reports that the frequency of islamophobic hate-crimes in London has increased by 600% since the July 7 bombings:

"Scotland Yard figures showed there were 269 such incidents reported since the bombings, compared to only 40 in the same three-and-a-half week period last year.

In the immediate three-day aftermath of the attacks there were 68 faith hate crimes in the capital. There were none in the same period 12 months ago."

More disturbing still is the fact that British Muslims are facing harassment and assault from both sides of the law. The illegitimate "stop-and-search" of Muslims based on racial profiling has been criticized by Muslim and anti-racist communities since it first started happening, shortly after September 11: In July 2004, the Islamic Affairs Central Network reported that

"Today's Home Office figures revealing a huge 302% increase in the number of Asians who were stopped and searched by the police in 2002/2003 serve to confirm the impression that since 9/11 institutionalised racism in the police force has gradually been morphing into an institutionalised Islamophobia.

The figures also revealed that the police had an arrest rate of only 13% of those stopped and searched. Regrettably though, neither figures were provided for the number of those that went on to be actually charged or convicted of any offence nor did the figures indicate the religious affiliation of those involved. The MCB calls upon the Home Office to urgently make good this unacceptable deficiency in the interest of greater transparency"

In the aftermath of the bombings, and of the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Home Office and London police have responded with continued opacity, not greater transparency, of its policing practices. Both administrations continus to officially deny the occurance of racial profiling in "stop-and-search" practices and claim that Muslims are not being targetted in the investigation into the July 7 terrorist attacks. A representative of the Home Office, meeting with the Muslim community, insisted that "counter-terrorism powers are not targeting any community in particular but are targeting terrorists," according to the BBC. Reportedly, "she also opposed racial profiling, saying stop and searches should be based on good intelligence, not just skin colour" (emphasis mine). But in a political context where Muslims are overdetermined as "terrorists," and as racialized people are criminalized, such disclaimers ring hollow.

And so, Muslim leaders are urging Muslim women who wear the hijab to unveil, for their own safety. Dr Zaki Badawi, who heads the Muslim College in London and acts as chair of the Council of Mosques and Imams was quoted by the BBC advising Muslim women to remove this conspicuous sign of Muslim-ness so as to avoid harassment and attack:

"In the present tense situation, with the rise of attacks on Muslims, we advise Muslim women who fear being attacked physically or verbally to remove their hijab so as not to be identified by those hostile to Muslims...A woman wearing the hijab...could suffer aggression from irresponsible elements. Therefore, she ought not to wear it. Dress is meant to protect from harm, not to invite it."

Similar suggestions were made to North American Muslims after September 11. I recall being present at one community meeting during which some Muslim women responded with indignation at this - admittedly pragmatic - advice. In a society that touts itself as multicultural (as both Canadian and British societies now do), assimilation shouldn't be the price one pays for personal safety. And so, feminists on my university campus, at the time, organized a solidarity action with Muslim women being targetted for wearing the hijab, during which all women (including non-Muslims women and Muslim women who did not normally veil) veiled themselves. The point is that the non-Muslim anti-racist community needs to organize against Islamophobic attacks (institutional and individual), instead of allowing the privatization of Muslims' safety.


I've just started a pledge to end gendered violence (violence against women and non-normatively gendered people) at PledgeBank. This is the pledge:

"I will commit to struggle to eliminate violence against women in my community; formally or informally support women in my life or in my community who are in abusive situations to escape them; and help to create a culture of non-violence and respect for women, starting with the way I interact with acquaintances, colleagues, friends, family, children, and my partner(s). but only if 100 other people from anywhere in this dangerous world will commit to do the same."

Be the first to sign it. Link to it on your blog. Or tell your friends about it. The point is to stimulate public discussion about gendered violence, the ways in which we participate in it or endorse it through inaction, and the ways in which we can commit concretely to eliminate it.

(The "...but only if 100 other people do the same" bit is merely strategic...)



Iraqi women protest proposed constitution

Iraqi women staged a sit-in in downtown Baghdad on July 19 to protest the erosion of women's rights in the new Iraqi constitution, which is currently under construction. This demonstration barely registered in the international press, but the Guardian ran a short article about it:

"Despite the appalling security situation in Iraq (two Sunni members of the committee who are drafting the constitution were gunned down last week), thousands of brave Iraqi women, from different governorates, risked their lives last Tuesday when they congregated in Baghdad's Al-Firdaws Square to protest against their exclusion in the draft constitution. The international press, busy reporting the continuing violence of the insurgency, failed to cover this event and it got little publicity within Iraq."

Many rights guaranteed by the provisional constitution (the Transitional Administrative Law, or "Tal," adopted in March, 2004) are not explicit in this, permanent, version, making Iraqi feminists nervous about what has been described as the "Talibanization" of occupied Iraq. Feminists -- who organized massive demonstrations throughout Iraq -- succeeded in blocking the passage of resolution 137 as part of the "Tal," a set of rules which has been described as " in effect allowing the total subordination of women to men within their families, in the community and in political life" (Guardian). But this success was short-lived: Resolution 137 has reappeared as Article 14 in the current draft of the constitution, and, with pressure from the U.S. administration to ratify the constitution by August 15, will likely pass -- unless Iraqi feminists are able to mobilize mass feminist opposition.

According to a statement made by UNIFEM, "[o]f particular concern to Iraqi women activists and civil society groups was a chapter of the constitution on duties and rights, which now refers to Shari'ah (Islamic law) as the "main source" for legislation in the new constitution" (paraphrased by Reuters). U.S.-based women's rights NGO MADRE claims that the current draft of the constitution "subordinates guarantees of women's human rights and international law to religious Shari'ah law and replaces one of the Middle East's most progressive personal status laws with arbitrary interpretations of religious law." Specifically, MADRE warns that

"if this draft is agreed upon, it could give self-appointed religious clerics the authority to inflict grave human rights violations on Iraqi women, including denial of the rights to freedom of movement and travel, property inheritance, and custody of their children. In the worst instance, forced early marriage, polygamy, compulsory religious dress, wife beating, execution by stoning as punishment for female adultery, and public flogging of women for disobeying religious rules could all be sanctioned if the language in this draft is upheld" ("MADRE Opposes Abolition of Iraqi Women's Human Rights in Draft Constitution," July 20).

MADRE's sister organization in Iraq is the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). Yanar Mohammad of OWFI argues that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is responsible for the rise of religious sectarianism in that country, which has manifested itself in the ways in which the new, reactionary constitution departs from minimal provisions for women's equality in the secular 1959 constitution. Stimulating sectarianism and "balkanization" have served as strategies to entrench the occupation and diffuse the resistance:

"Since the beginning of the occupation, the US administration has recognized Iraqis according to their ethnic/nationalist and religious identities. This predetermined polarization of the society around its most reactionary forces has resulted with a most lethal weapon which is a government of division and inequality - a potential timed bomb for a civil war that has already started. Furthermore, the only mutual agenda for the parties in power is one of oppression, bigotry and misogyny in addition to representing the US occupation interests" ("Condemn a constitution of de-humanizing women")

Azar Majedi, writing in a special English-language issue of the Farsi socialist feminist journal Medusa, affiliated with the Worker's Communist Party of Iran, argues that throughout the Middle East, the rise of contemporary forms of political Islam is directly related to U.S. imperialism in the region:

"[i]n its present form and shape, political Islam, as a powerful force in the mainstream of political conflicts in the Middle East, is a product of the West and in particular the USA. For twenty odd years, the USA and the West created and reared political Islam as a weapon in the Cold War and against the rise of communism and the Left in the region. In 1978 they foisted the Islamic Republic onto the people of Iran in order to head off the "threat" of the Left's victory in the revolution. In the war against the Soviet Union, they let loose first the Mujahedin and then the Taliban on the people of Afghanistan. During this time, against the people's struggle for freedom and secularism, they have defended the religious and Islamic movements in the region, backed the corrupt and dictator Islamic states and supported large and small Sheikhdoms. These creatures are products of the West" ("Sexual Apartheid is a Product of Political Islam: Let's Rise Against It").

If we needed yet another example of how the U.S. is concretely supporting the rise of religious fundamentalism as a way of opposing peoples' struggle for radical self-determination, the institutional and material assault on women's rights in Iraq provides us with one. It's hardly news that U.S. not only supports, but produces fundamentalist politics when and where fundamentalist repression is an expedient means to achieving political and economic control of an invaded or occupied nation. But it stands to be repeated: the dilemma between opposing U.S. imperialism and opposing misogynist Islamic fundamentalism is a false one, quite simply because the latter is an organ of U.S. imperialism. The U.S. administration's dissociation from political Islam is part of its attempt to, on the one hand present the so-called "moderate" provisional government and the new constitution as expressions of democracy indigenous to Iraq, and on the other hand, to present the Iraqi resistance as fundamentalist and therefore anti-democratic. The constitution, and particularly Article 14, gives lie to both of these constructions.

Therefore, the U.S.-backed institutionalization of Shari'a law in the Iraqi constitution, and particularly Article 14, should be seen in the context of this strategy of repression in Iraq. Women comprise about 60% of the Iraqi population, and, as members of civil society and as members of the Iraqi resistance have been the most vocal opponents of the U.S.-occupation of Iraq. A blanket law that dominates and silences all women would obviously generates an atmosphere of insecurity and fear. This is clearly an attempt to expel and marginalize dissident and resistant women from the public sphere, to curtail the growing feminist movement in Iraq, which has been a political priority Bush regime in its "spheres of influence" in other parts of the world and domestically.

MADRE, in solidarity with OWFI is urging Americans to circulate its open letter to the American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, which demands that Khalilzad "stand[s] in support of Iraqi women who are calling on the United States to meet its legal obligations under the Hague Convention, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 to uphold the internationally recognized rights of Iraqi women under US occupation." The limitations of this approach are obvious; but it is one part of an international mobilization of feminist support for Iraqi women -- long overdue, and profoundly needed.