The Cut of the Cloth-A Trick of the Light

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Following on, my review of Ali Darke’s exhibition in South London in April 2022, I did not want to neglect her fellow collaborator, Chris Simpson. His approach is certainly different to hers in the development of art. I’ll try to explain down below, why this is.

Go to any exhibition of late medieval/Renaissance sculpture and one thing becomes clear and that’s how important they regarded the manner in which the robed, drapes of cloth around figures of Catholic religious authority and myth, are done.

Chris took part in the “Building Bridges” project, during the 2016 EU referendum, with his work displayed on the Millennium bridge. The outward form of his work, follows the archaeological tradition of being bone white. Though we know now that from antiquity, majority of statues were coloured and decorated.

This is separate from religious paintings and icons, of that era that were as we know, richly decorated. But the stark whiteness, actually works (in my opinion at least) against tradition, in that medieval/Renaissance sculpture, was for the most part dark grey.

The grey was meant to represent gravitas and a cultural aesthetic that eschewed artifice. It is important to state here, that Chris is not trying to replicate medieval/Renaissance sculpture. Rather the attempt is to emulate the cultural meaning of drapery in a secular setting.

Drapery in sculpture was meant is a replication of how the body works, of how it reacts to other bodies, of how it goes to retelling a story to a society that was for the most part illiterate. However, in a world that is largely secular, literate, has access to the internet and 3D modelling, where does an abstract notion of drapery in plaster as subtext fit in?

I would say, that it fits in, due his reimagination of the body corporeal, and of note is his usage of the veil. I was also reminded of a work by John Taverner (b.1944-d.2013), called “The Protecting Veil”. The latter’s work was informed by his Russian Orthodox faith, and the inspiration for the piece comes from the Orthodox feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God. The supposed apparition of Mary the Theotokos in the early 10th Century at the Blachernae Palace church in Constantinople, sees the “protecting veil’ of the next world into this one, cast down, rent asunder.

Both John Taverner and Chris see the use of the veil as a means of revelation, that also uses the same medium to also keep the object hidden. The use of the cloth serves to bind the fluidity of the body, yet can also can give it a dynamism.

Chris notes that, “we are wrapped in cloth from the moment, we are born, until the day we die. We have a very personal relationship to it” It is here that the use of cloth, a “veil”, if you like, means that when ashes become ashes, and dust turns to dust, this tells us that the body made as it is of atoms, DNA, carbon, elements of the earth will return to earth’s basic elements.

 In other words, though we are made of dust and return to ashes and dust after passing away, the use of cloth means that we remain bound to this world, even as we slip away to the next. Chris Simpson’s work, helps us to reconcile to leaving a shape in the very earth we walk on.

Who’s Afraid of the Darke?

In mid-April, a dear friend of mine told me about an art exhibition taking place near my manor, in South London. What’s more it wasn’t in a conventional gallery. Unfortunately for various reasons, I could not make the opening night, but I was able to catch the Q&A session on April 17th, and it was so worth it. 

Ali Darke in a Q&A Session, in South London April 2022

The exhibition was titled “Vestiges” and was a series of sculptures put together by a collaborative team of Ali Darke and Chris Simpson. As the information sheet noted; “Vestiges are the signs that something has passed-a tangible reminder in a fragment or remnant of what has been and gone, an original purpose obscure and redundant. Here are the visual echoes recorded in the meticulous refinement of the objects made by the artists and intense labour of their craft, honed through shaping, sanding and stitching” 

As a trade union and political activist, as well as a connoisseur of art, I’ve always been struck by how all three are bound to a central access point, a nexus if you will of recording, and recollection. Concerning art specifically, much of it, is the representation of what the artist believed happened, what the creative person imagined was real. 

A case in point, is the myriad of paintings and sculptures of the crucifixion, the depiction of the nails, the three wounds (the hands and the feet), the crown of thorns, as mentioned in the bible. Yet in many of the same works of art Mary his mother and other relative are there at the scene, yet the bible omits them, which is surely odd. 

The Q&A was a fascinating discussion that ranged from the works themselves on into other fields. I forgot to bring my notebook with me, alas, but luckily, I was able to write a few notes down, thanks to always carrying a pen and the handout on the chairs. So, forgive me, if the aide de memoir is not as fulsome, as one would like. 

The works are redolent of a meditative creative process and show state of consciousness that in Ali’s case, is not afraid to make the white of the material, figuratively dark (no pun intended). They (as in both sets of work) become part of the dreamscape in which a mythos, as potent as you’d get in ancient Athens is created. It becomes a think space for sculpture, in the creation and then recreation. Ali said during the discussion, that she often tore up her work and then restarted from scratch. This then begs the question, is it better to be Sisyphus or Icarus? 

To paraphrase Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, regarding the work, this is not “a poor player. that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more”, nor is it “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” We are shown both the resilience and frailties of the body, how art can function in corporeal reality. 

The work leads us to what I call the ‘unknown shape of trauma’. She leads us through minotaen, complicated, labyrinth of family history. For example, the use of white sheets, came about because as a young child she saw her mother changing the bed sheets after suffering from a miscarriage. The image of purity is intertwined with loss and the perception of societal shame. 

To slightly misquote Sartre, “Hell can be other people” and we become familiar with the sameness of things, of how intergenerational trauma can be passed down…how it can be both a yoke of oppression, as painful as the steps taken by the ‘Little Mermaid’ or a means of reconciling the past. 

Ali Darke, can be found here along with more of her work; www.alidarke.com and also on Instagram under; ali_darke

A Last Minute Open Letter to USA Comrades who Think Biden is as bad as Trump

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Dear Comrade, 

Well, we are almost at the finishing line, for the USA elections of 2020. This time around, I am so pleased to hear less of talk on social media, of the left of voting for a third party, such as Jill Stein. Nonetheless, I still see left-wing people, people who call themselves Marxists, communists, socialists, anarchists, etc. still trying to equate Biden with Trump as if they are in the same category.  I want to reassure you that as Marxist, I share your concerns but you miss a number of fundamental points. Calling for a vote for Biden does not mean one has to be supportive of either his politics or party, the Democrats. 

But Trump is unique, and poses a clear and present danger to; the working class, POC, women, LGBTQ, the disabled, Native Americans, etc. He is also a supporter of white supremacy, is a racist AC bigot and not to leave out an unrepentant mysogonist. He has also made clear signals to the right-wing militias to ‘lock and load for bear’ in case he looses the current election

To paraphrase, Marx, he “comes dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” At times, if I may say so, it seems that a number of left-wing publications, organisations, and individuals, such as Jacobin, Glenn Greenwald, Jill Stein, seem to believe in accelerationism. But the wages of revolution do not lie in ultra leftism but in supporting the anti-Trump resistance. 

The latter has repeatedly shown its mettle in not letting centrist forces co-opt it, as both Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi have tried. It has shown it’s maturity in being part of the #MeToo movement and of the Women’s Marches of 2017, 2018 and 2019, in supporting the “dreamers”, in demanding the disbanding of ICE, free healthcare for all, shortening of the working day and an increase in the living wage. Just as importantly it has thrown itself into making demands for an end to racial oppression via BLM (Black Lives Matter). They have shown a political agility and ability to self organise, that the rest of the left should take note of. 

As the Marxist Humanist Initiative makes clear here in its October 1st 2020 editorial; “The political crisis in the United States continues to escalate dramatically in the run-up to the November 3 presidential election. The polls anticipate a resounding victory for Biden, and Trump has already announced that he will not accept the result if he loses, and that he is counting on the Supreme Court—with the addition of a new right-wing justice––to allow him to steal the election. 

Meanwhile, he is doing everything possible to suppress the vote. All sides anticipate chaos, conflict, and the possibility of violence. The election could even lead to the end of liberal democracy in the US. What we advocate is mass mobilization to defeat Trump in overwhelming numbers and to protect the election.  Moreover, a thorough, humiliating defeat of Trump could help to bring about the demise of the Republican Party and deal a blow to white nationalism and authoritarianism”

Regarding Biden, the editorial also quite rightly point to the fact that “Marxist-Humanist Initiative has written extensively about the threat of Trumpism, the attitude of the “left” toward Trump and the Democratic Party, and about the importance of voting, while simultaneously supporting mass movements that go beyond the narrow realm of bourgeois electoral politics.”  I can highly recommend that before you vote, that you read the rest of the illuminating and prescient editorial that draws such political inferences as are necessary.  https://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/mhieditorial/editorial-trumpism-democrats-and-how-to-vote-from-the-left.html

My letter is not meant as a finger wagging exercise, given that here in the UK, we have a right wing government that is firm friends with several authoritarian governments around the world. Those of us here on the left are desperately trying to get our own house in order. This election will decide if a country called the “USA” can continue to exist as we know it.

I am reminded of the penultimate scene in Powell and Pressburger’s 1945 film “A Matter of Life and Death” in which Abraham Farlan, a Boston school teacher killed by a British bullet in 1775 rings the liberty bell, loud and clear in his invocation of the USA “In America, sir,  where these rights are held to be inalienable! I doubt if you have more freedom than England. An Englishman thinks, as he likes in religion and politics. It isn’t what a man thinks and says it’s when and where and to whom. A man with a flint and steel, striking sparks over a wet blanket is one thing but striking them over a tinderbox is another! An American baby sucks in freedom with the milk of the breast at which he hangs. A man can see further, sir, from the top of Boston State House. And see more worth seeing than from the pyramids, turrets and steeples…of all the places of the world. No smoke, sir…no fog, sir…and a clean sweep from, the outer light and the sea beyond to the New Hampshire mountains! Yes, sir, there are great truths…Higher than mountains and broader than seas…that people look for from the tops of our hills-America, sir!!!”

The anti-trump resistance is in many ways far more revolutionary than many of the left parties. If you are not careful then urging abstention, not voting or even worse, voting for Trump, then you consign the US working class to, in the last words of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now “The Horror, the horror” of a Trump second term.  In those circumstances and in light of the high political stakes that will decide if America continues on the road to fascism, it is vital that…

Beyond the Veil-From HiJab Hunez to Haram Hussies (Thoughts on the latest controversy over the Burka).

images

“Say it loud,
I’m Muslim and I’m proud,
I’m beautiful in hijab and I’m beautiful without,
I may be straight, I may be gay,
I’m Muslim and I’m proud either way!”
©Somoye Zadeh

Let me state first of all that the Burka and the Hijab, etc. are not in and of themselves either liberationary nor are they progressive. BUT Muslims do not wear them, in a cultural and societal vacuum, and although it can be worn as a sign of religious piety, it can also be worn as a rejection of what is seen as certain western hypocrisies.

As Mihret Woldesemait, from DUKE UNIVERSITY Durham, North Carolina, in ‘Unfolding the Modern Hijab: From the Colonial Veil to Pious Fashion’ on April 15, 2013, notes in her abstract “However, in the 1970s, a new veiling movement emerged that appropriated the veil as a sign of an authentic identity and an instrument to accommodate a changing modern world. This neo-veiling movement, furthermore, standardized a set of Islamic norms and practices that would use the veil as the embodiment of inner piety and ethical states” https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e8eb/60382147f088e659479a3ac7d3d9cfaa703c.pdf

In one sense we have been here before, concerning the anti-Muslim prejudice around the burka. Last time around in 2016 it was concerning the Burkini and Muslim women being fined on French beaches for wearing one. Although the ban was welcomed, by the FN (of course), and certain ‘liberal’ feminists and centre right etc. it was also enforced by a number of communist mayors in the south of France.

However that ban was taking place in a political context (as indeed is the current row), see; https://www.theguardian.com/…/nice-france-burkini-ban-respo…, and https://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/those-who-rage-against-the-b…/, and https://www.theguardian.com/…/french-police-make-woman-remo… also; https://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/burkini-ban-protesters-hold-… 

Back in 2016, the specific context was the appealing treatment and the subsequent vilification of refugees and migrants in Calais. Yet as Al Jazeera made clear; “The number of refugees who arrived on Europe’s shores plunged by nearly two-thirds last year, but the number of those who died on the often perilous journey in the Mediterranean Sea rose sharply, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the EU border agency Frontex has said.

About 364,000 people seeking work or refugee protection crossed the sea between January and December, compared to more than one million in 2015, Frontex said in a statement on Friday” https://www.aljazeera.com/…/number-refugees-reaching-europe…

This did not stop the usual rent a-reactionaries here and in Europe back in 2016, deciding that throwing refugees and migrants under a bus was a public duty. The nasty over spill over, came the right-wing tabloids and broadsheets, plus sections of social media who whipped up imaginary fears of a migrant invasion; https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35609823,

https://www.reuters.com/…/us-europe-migrants-germany-bus-id…and also; https://www.theguardian.com/…/david-camerons-bunch-of-migra…

“Say it loud
Pride is what it’s all about
It’s my right to be devout
Without a fight I won’t go out
So hear me cry, hear me shout
I may be lapsed but without doubt
I’m Muslim and I’m proud”
©Somoye Zadeh

But to move it onto 2018, it as quite clear to many that BoJo, far from being a jaw jutting, truth to power, iconoclast, was taking the opportunity and using his privilege to punch down in his comments about what Muslim women look like when wearing the Burka. This while claiming he was writing from a ‘liberal’ position of live and let live.

http---i.huffpost.com-gen-2807400-images-n-MUSLIM-WOMAN-628x314

We have to see the current discussion as being rooted in terms of colonialism and the anti-colonialist struggles that resulted especially over the next 60-70 years. Part of the discourse of colonialism was to posit itself as the “Enlightenment” against the savage oriental, ‘other’. The banning of the veil (akin to the banning of the kilt and tartan in both Scotland and Ireland) was not liberation, but rather a social and cultural form of domination. It was based upon a presumption of the superiority of western civilisation and western values. In turn, it made the point that those who opposed it, had to be backward savages.

“This woman, who sees without being seen, frustrates the coloniser as she opposes the colonisers’ standards of liberation, she asserts an identity, and even power, of her own, thus refusing to acknowledge the validity of, and inherent power in, her coloniser’s unveiling, subjugation and rape of her own culture” (Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism).

Yes the veil, Hijab, Naqab, burka, etc. are pieces of cloth but they are also much more than just pieces of cloth, if one see’s what I mean, in that they occupy as much of a social space as a religious one, and in case anyone has forgotten, then let me remind them, that we live in an imperialist country. This in turn means that the critiques of the veil, Hijab, Burka, etc. from the right and certain liberals is taking place in a current context of Islamophobia that pretends its progressive. See http://www.ox.ac.uk/…/2016-09-02-veil-worn-muslim-women

Those defending Boris Johnson (BoJo) point to, as one of them put it to me online “submission to a hard-core religious conservative dress and politics that challenges the liberal society we all live in”. And yet, Argentina has bowed (yet again) recently to the dictates of Pope inspired authoritarianism by rejecting abortion. Denmark, along with Belgium and France has brought in authoritarian anti-Muslim laws that claim they are to do with liberating Muslim women.

I also find it odd, that those defending BoJo, who like to talk about the primacy of belief without interference, seem to think that Muslims can afford to be made an exception. That’s even before we get onto the assumption that wearing the veil if a Muslim woman, makes one defacto a “hard core religious, conservative”, though being the latter has never bothered right wingers before if they are Christian.

These are the facts,
I won’t stand for your racist attacks,
I won’t be banned or sent back,
Whether beige, brown or black,
I’ll say it loud, I’m Muslim and damn I’m proud!
” ©Somoye Zadeh

The imposition of disrobing, (see the French in Algeria during the colonial period) were not about “liberation”, rather it was a top down attempt to build up a modern society, in both countries it was an attempt to attract a new native client base to French nationalism. The resistance to a ban on the face veil took many forms, and Fritz Fanon, (see above) exhibited but one of them in his writings. It also mirrors that of the developments and strands that can take place within anti-colonialism.

In the case of the FNLA in Algeria, they were in favour of a modern society including the panoply of women’s rights. Yet at the same time they saw the French as just changing the parameters of objectification; Arab women were/are still subject to the exoticisation of orientalism and this is still a very valid point for today.

It is at this point that I’d like to develop the point about how the veil and putting it on/taking it off has become the symbol of imposition of modernity and resisting colonialism. 3540820-portrait-of-two-muslim-womenOn January 24th 2017, Katarzyna Falecka, in ‘The Conversation’ noted in ‘From colonial Algeria to modern day Europe, the Muslim veil remains an ideological battleground’, Fantasies of unveiling’ that Throughout the 19th century, the Muslim veil functioned as an object of fascination for European travellers to the Middle East, despite the fact that Christians and Druzes –a religious sect with origins in 11th-century Egypt – would also veil. European photographers in the region produced eroticised representations of women lifting their veils and exposing their naked bodies. Reproduced as postcards, these images circulated across the Mediterranean, constructing the image of a Muslim woman whose erotic powers could be unleashed once the veil was lifted.

 But in the 1950s, the veil played an important role during the Algerian war of independence against French colonial rule. Frantz Fanon, a Martinique-born psychiatrist and anti-colonial intellectual, described the French colonial doctrine in Algeria as follows: If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the women; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves and in the houses where the men keep them out of sight. 

Fanon was a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front who considered women’s ill treatment by the French army to embody the whole country’s situation. For him, it was impossible for the colonial power to conquer Algeria without winning over its women to European “norms”.

In 1958, during the Algerian war of independence, mass “unveiling” ceremonies were staged across Algeria. The wives of French military officers unveiled some Algerian women to show that they were now siding with their French “sisters”. These spectacles formed part of an emancipation campaign aimed at demonstrating how Muslim women had been won over to European values and away from the independence struggle. They were also staged at a moment of political turmoil in mainland France, which was struggling politically and financially to maintain its colony in North Africa” https://theconversation.com/from-colonial-algeria-to-modern-day-europe-the-muslim-veil-remains-an-ideological-battleground-70242

Maria Boariu in 5.1 of, ‘The Veil as Metaphor of French Colonized Algeria’ states in the section, V.1. THE VEIL FOR THE COLONIZERS’ 

“Barrier to Visual Control: Before discussing the colonizer’s attitude towards the veiled woman, a brief overview of the modern discourse on transparency is needed. The 18th century brought the ideal of a perfect transparent world. Rousseau’s ideal was a transparent society. In 1787, Jeremy Bentham elaborated the plan of the Panopticon. It was an architectural figure that consisted in a tower central to an annular building divided into cells.

The occupants of the cells were isolated from one another by walls and subject to scrutiny by an observer in the tower who remains unseen. The Panopticon thus allowed seeing without being seen. For Foucault, such asymmetry of seeing-without-being-seen is the very essence of power because ultimately the power to dominate rests on the differential possession of knowledge20.

The metaphor of the one that is seen without being able to see the observer turned to be the most dramatic frustration the French colonists experienced in Algeria. Veiled woman could see the foreign colonizer, but the colonizer could not see her. The veil became a barrier to the visual control of the Western eye.

Anger, frustrated desire and fantasy gave a distinctive character to French colonization in Algeria. The veil was seen as the concrete manifestation of resistance by the colonized to an imposed reciprocity: veiled women were able to see without being seen. Colonist desire was thus articulated as the desire to unveil Algeria, for women’s insistence on wearing the veil meant the colony’s resistance to the French authority.

French Men’s Attitude towards Veiled Women

‘If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the woman; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves and in the houses where the men keep them out of sight.’ Frantz Fanon. A Dying Colonialism.p.23 Why did “la mission civilisatrice” have women as the first “target”? Since veiled women served as metaphors for Oriental culture, the political strategy did not have exclusively a military character.

According to F. Fanon, the French colonizers perceived Algerian women as embodying the true and authentic self of Algerian culture. Since they represented the essence of the culture that was colonized, having access to them and their bodies symbolized the means for a successful penetration to the heart of the colonized culture. As a consequence, a metaphorical link between “Woman” and “Colony” was established21. In this context, the veiled woman (the other sex) and the colony (the other culture) were related. Colonies themselves were idealized as female.” http://www.jsri.ro/old/html%20version/index/no_3/maria_boariu-articol.htm

Are Right Wingers Really Feminists: When on 19th June 2017 a van was driven into pedestrians in Finsbury Park, London, by Darren Osborne, injuring at least eight people and killing one, he didn’t do it as homage to women’s liberation. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/finsbury-park-terror-trial-darren-osborne-had-planned-to-attack-jeremy-corbyn-and-sadiq-khan-at-a3753656.html

On July 4th 2018 in Belgium, the two men who targeted a 19-year-old woman, inflicting injuries upon her with a sharp object and calling her a “filthy Arab.” weren’t getting their inner Greer on; https://www.trtworld.com/europe/muslim-woman-assaulted-in-belgium-her-hijab-and-shirt-pulled-off-18667

On 31st of July 2017 in the UK, the man who punched a Muslim nurse wearing a hijab and tried to tie it around her neck on her way to meet patient, wasn’t doing it out of sisterly solidarity with Muslim women’s oppression https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/muslim-nurse-hijab-attack-punch-tie-neck-patient-stoke-on-trent-assault-judge-paul-glenn-racist-a7869336.html

The examples given, as they relate to the UK do predate the current outrage over Boris’s anti-Muslim comments. But since he made those comments,  Boris Johnson, has been encouraged to get his inner Enoch on by his fellow conservatives, and opinion polls. There have also been a number of recent attacks (August 2018) on Muslim women. What they have shared with BoJo is their distaste of Muslim women, while at the same time complaining about how Islam is oppressing them.

Yet we know, at the same time that the right-wing establishment and commentariate, are the same people who wailed “PC gawn mad”, when the Presidents club scandal broke https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/president-club-what-happened-who-went-guestlist-charities-dorchester-hotel-groping-women-men-only-a8175611.html and also, https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/presidents-club-more-women-speak-out-as-scandalhit-club-shuts-amid-groping-claims-a3748966.html. The fact that it was a ‘charity’ event was meant to offset the fact that working class women were being groped and sexually harassed, etc.

They were also outraged over the fact that the ‘Grid Girls’, female models who parade on the starting grid and stand with the drivers’ name boards before every grand prix were axed from Formula One. So, In the UK context we have British sections of the establishment in politics and the fourth estate, pretending that punching down on the marginalised, in this case Muslim women, is somehow them being ‘feminists’ and standing up for women’s rights.

These political acts are coming from the same people, who brought us; “Hostile Environment”, Prevent programme, “Go Home” vans, description of migrants and refugees as a “swarm”, Windrush, Grenfell, “If you want a nigger for your neighbour”, “rivers of blood” and constant Daily Mail/Express/Evening Standard headlines warning about ‘The Muzzie in our Midst’.

Being anti-Muslim (while pretending that your anti-Islam) is low hanging fruit for the right and far right and so, no wonder they are so eager to pluck it. Oh and for those still trying to a square BoJo into a round hole of women’s rights, he’s quoted in the Guardian as saying “It was as though the whole county of Hampshire was lying back and opening her well-bred legs, to be ravished by the Italian stallion.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/04/no-more-grid-girls-formula-one-enforcing-speed-limits

*©Poem by Somaye Zadeh and © to same on her website;www.somaye.info

 

 

London Calling

An excellent blog piece by my comrade Harry P

Harry Paterson

austerity
Image by Dr. Dunno

Allow me to pre-empt some wearyingly predictable liberal condemnation heading your way.

When the riots start be careful not to get trampled underfoot as liberals and reactionaries alike bolt for the moral high-ground. Watch out for the pious; the sanctimonious; the mealy-mouthed; the people who always see unruly protest as something worse than the injustice, the oppression, the social cleansing that triggered it.

Remind them that the freedom to voice their bourgeois indignation, along with the freedom to vote, to control their own fertility, to protest, to join a trade union, to have Saturday and Sunday off work, to even get paid for work and a great deal more, were only won by centuries of often violent struggle. They give us nothing but that which we take.

Riots are the final resort of the marginalised and disenfranchised. There can be no condemnation by anyone aspiring to…

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More than a Thousand Activists rally in Paris for La France Insoumise as it launches its own Struggle against Macron’s Labour Reforms. — Tendance Coatesy

Please note, this is not an endorsement of Tendance Coatesy, much less his politics

Over a Thousand Rally in Paris for La France insoumise against Macron’s labour reforms. Plus d’un millier de militants ont répondu à l’appel de La France insoumise, pour exprimer leur rejet du projet de réforme du Code du travail. Jean-Luc Mélenchon a défendu une opposition frontale au texte et annoncé le lancement d’une campagne pendant l’été. […]

via More than a Thousand Activists rally in Paris for La France Insoumise as it launches its own Struggle against Macron’s Labour Reforms. — Tendance Coatesy

Pink Washing and Islamophobia

Concerning Islamophobia and pink washing, it is not just how ever, the usual suspects that one might expect on the neo-conservative right. There are also those who are (nominally at least) from the centre and ‘far’ left who seem determined to book a ticket on the carnival ride of reaction. Maajid Nawaz, Julie Bindel, Maryam Namazie, Peter Tatchell are in a loose alliance with those such as Douglas Murray, Melanie Phillips, Brendan O’Neil, Hardeep Singh and Anne-Marie Waters.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) attended the London Pride march that took place in London in early July 2017. They carried several controversial placards that had the slogans; “Allah is Gay”, “Fuck Islam” and “Islamophobia is an Oxymoron”. *Update 18th July 2017, it seems that the placards saying “Fuck Islam”, have been removed from the CEMB website 

allah-is-gay-2

LGBTQ has become a cipher for other issues and politics, and it has also become the new social and cultural frontline concerning Muslims here in the UK. Maajid Nawaz, Julie Bindel, Maryam Namazie, Peter Tatchell, as well as Douglas Murray, Melanie Phillips, Brendan O’Neil, and Anne-Marie Waters would no doubt regard themselves as honourable people, fighting for ‘liberal’ and ‘enlightenment’ values. Indeed, such is their ‘honour’, that I am reminded of the barbs thrown by Marc Antony at the false pieties of Julius Caesar’s assassins

(From Julius Caesar, spoken by Marc Antony)

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honourable man.

You all did see that on the Lupercal

I thrice presented him a kingly crown,

Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?

 Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And, sure, he is an honourable man”.

On July 12th 2017, Maz Saleem wrote an article for Counterfire and also on her Facebook page. Both have generated threads of up to 100 comments, and in the article itself, ‘Islamophobic Placards Have No Place at Pride’. http://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/19090-shock-and-controversy-over-islamophobic-placards-at-pride

Maz Saleem said, “Maryam Namazie and activists from the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) were seen waving placards with “Allah is gay”, “Fuck Islamic Homophobia”, “East London Mosque incites murder of LGBT” and other Islamophobic slogans written on them during the Pride march in London.

These placards are something the EDL or a Nazi would carry. Pride is supposed to represent people, as they are, faith or no faith, so how were they even allowed on the parade? This goes against everything Pride stands for and it is absolutely appalling to see that that Maryam Namazie’s group got away with it.

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Namazie and the Council of Ex- Muslims clearly want to cause conflict between Muslims and the gay community, and they don’t care who they hurt or offend in the process”.

There has been a common, and often publically asserted statement by secularists on the right, centre left and elements of the ‘far’ left, that to be a Muslim is to automatically be against LGBTQ. Also, that pointing out the usage of Islamophobic comments, slogans and narratives, according to them means that one is siding against “free speech” and in favour of the Islamists.

Strange Meeting: Maryam, and her supporters, in their responses back to Maz, made the point that they were highlighting homophobia in Islamic countries and that many of the members of the ex-Muslims are LGBTQ. Whist that might be true, it is also not the main issue, because the right, has members who’re also LGBTQ and who also do this false conflation.

From the CEMB website, 8th July 2017, Daniel Fitzgerald, CEMB Pride organiser, made the claim that, “CEMB is challenging a narrative. Never before in the history of Pride London since its start in 1972 has a group consisting of those from a Muslim background, including refugees, come together to protest crimes committed to LGBT people in the name of Islam and topless too! These are VERY brave people who speak from direct experience. All states that have the death penalty for gays are Islamic, yet this alarming fact is ignored time and time again. No more excuses.” https://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/cemb-pride

Douglas Murray, a gay neo conservative is in no doubt that gays are making a rod for their own backs if they do not denounce Islam and Muslims. It also has to be said, that Douglas Murray, has enjoyed the freedoms won by LGBTQ activists and the left, whilst at the same time decrying them for fighting for them. He said ‘Most Western Gays Remain in Denial about Islam’ June 14, 2016.

“For historic reasons principally the political Right’s opposition to gay rights—most gay spokespeople continue to think that the political right is the sole locale from which anti-gay sentiment can come.

For many years Pat Robertson was their worst nightmare. But Pat Robertson just wanted to stop gays from marrying. He didn’t call for people to throw us off high buildings. RELATED: Killing Homosexuals Is Not ISIS Law, It Is Muslim Law”. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/436567/islam-gays-they-remain-denial-about-threat

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Douglas Murray writes with such bad faith, as remind one of a comment by the Cardinal de Richelieu, “Si vous me donnez six lignes écrites par la main des hommes les plus honnêtes, je trouverai quelque chose qui les pendra”

Writing online for ‘Yes Magazine’, on June 26th 2016, ‘Stop Asking Me to Denounce Islam to Prove I Care About LGBT Rights-Surely, I am not less queer just because I am Muslim’, Aaminah Khan had this to say. “In this and other instances, LGBT Muslims are seen as impostors and our Muslim families and communities as threats. After events like the recent tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida, this problem becomes more pronounced”.

And that “Many came from fellow LGBT people, who asked me how I justified homophobic laws in Muslim countries (I don’t) and demanded that I “disavow” Islam as proof that I really did care about LGBT rights (I won’t, but I do).”

Many LGBTQ people, who’re not particularly political, do join in with Islamophobia, as Aaminah Khan found. But I submit that this has to do with a genuine fear of intolerance and bigotry that many have faced and that many Islamic conservatives display. It is clear, though that of those on the political right do not care especially about the dilemmas and concerns of LGBTQ people. But they get a sudden rush of ‘Pink’ activism if they can use it to bash Muslims.

On March 1st 2016, The UK newspaper, the Independent noted ‘Founder of Europe’s first LGBT-friendly mosque says being gay and Muslim is ‘like deciding which arm to cut off’’. “Being gay and Muslim is like “trying to decide whether to cut off one arm, or the other”, says the founder of Europe’s first inclusive mosque. Dr and Imam Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed told the Evening Standard that being gay “is not sin” but that the rejection of LGBT Muslims is “modern and new in Islam”.

Imam Zahed said: “It has to do with colonisation, complexes and the fact that Arab Muslim societies are in turmoil and are looking for very macho identities to push forward. Dominic Arnall, who works for LGBT rights charity Stonewall, believes events such as last month’s LGBT History Month celebrating religion means the future looks bright for gay people of faith.

“There are a number of excellent groups springing up, based here in London, all of which are specifically seeking to support LGBT people of faith.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/founder-of-europe-s-first-lgbt-friendly-mosque-says-being-gay-and-muslim-is-like-deciding-which-arm-a6905521.html

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Tim Stanley, a member of the conservative commentariate, remarked upon this, when writing about the Orlando shooting in 2016, but it applies, just as much to those who think they can counter pose being LGBTQ with being Muslim in 2017. ‘Islam does have a problem with homosexuality. But so do western conservatives’ 13th June 2016.

“When we ask Muslims to interrogate attitudes towards sexuality in their community, we do so assuming that our own culture is 100 per cent gay friendly. It is not. Polls suggest that around a third of Americans still believe that homosexuality should be discouraged. Homosexual acts have only been legal in the West since the 1960s. Gay marriage has only been on the agenda for a decade and is still bitterly resented by social conservatives”. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/13/islam-does-have-a-problem-with-homosexuality-but-so-do-western-c

Conclusion: Centre left liberals and sections of the ‘far’ left seem to have made political alliances with sections of the neo conservative right, when it comes to LGBTQ and Muslims. They are very fond of quoting social survey attitudes conducted within the Muslim community that has highlighted their attitudes to certain issues.

James Kirkup, though in the Daily Telegraph points out, in his article from February 13th 2015, when quoting the British Social Attitudes (BSA), “much of the difference on socio-moral opinions was due to socio-economic disadvantage and high religiosity, both factors which predict social conservatism among all Britons and not just Muslims”. In other words, “Muslims’ moral and social attitudes, the old-fashioned and illiberal attitudes that worry so many people aren’t so very different from those of other poor and badly-educated non-Muslims”.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11409181/British-Muslims-integration-and-segregation-are-about-economics-not-values.html

Also the viability and methodology of the C4 / Juniper Survey of Muslims 2015, has been called strongly into question. Louise Ridley Assistant news editor at The Huffington Post UK, noted ‘Channel 4 British Muslims Poll Called ‘Skewed’ For Targeting ‘Conservative’ Areas With 20% Muslims’ on April 11th 2016, that “Surveying areas with a high Muslim population would give different answers”. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/channel-4-british-muslims_uk_570badf0e4b0fa55639d65a9

One would hope that Maryam, Peter, etc. would note that in both in the UK and also the USA, conservatives have been strident in their opposition to pro LGBTQ legislation. At the same time, we also see (and it also happens in Liberal circles in and outside of the LGBTQ community), the tokenization of oppression.

As Sarah Harvard wryly notes on pink washing, in Bitchmedia, March 17th 2016 ‘Stuck in the Media Spotlight, LGBT Muslims often feel Exploited’. “Activists point out how common it is for lobbying organizations and policymakers to use pink washing to frame interventions into majority Muslim countries as humanitarian efforts rather than imperialist ventures.

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We’ve seen this with the Human Rights Campaign, who has been outed as the largest LGBTQ donor to drone manufacturers (http://mic.com/articles/39043/human-rights-campaign-largestlgbt-donors-are-drone-manufacturers#.RVnmi9plB) using gay rights abroad as justification for their support of the killings of many innocent civilians” https://www.bitchmedia.org/lgbt-muslims-media-spotlight-islamophobia-queer-feminism-hearken

As stated there is a critique to be made of religious conservatism and that also of course includes that of Islam. But there are ways and means of carrying out that critique that does not repeat the orientalist, ‘othering’ of Muslims as being a bunch of over sexed, head chopping, clit cutting, religious fanatics tropes.

The claim has been made by, The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), and groups similar to them that accusing them of “Islamophobia”, is a means of shutting down debate and free speech.

This is ironic when you consider that they are happy to use the term “Islamist” and Islamofascists” against the left. Anti-Muslim sentiment, chiding the Muslim community for not signing up to every PC list imaginable can be seen from the most degenerate tabloid to the snottiest of broadsheets.

Muslims are not stupid, and they can smell a bottle of political snake oil from a mile off. Especially if it is coming from publications, individuals and organisations that have spent most of they’re existence, sneering at the very idea of LGBTQ.

Samar Kaukab, was writing concerning FGM and how right-wing forces try to co-opt this issue, but applies just as well to LGBTQ, on April 14th 2017, “To not be like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, we must center what needs to be centered; namely, Muslim women and girls. We must actually care for them.

When we reduce the sexual violence that occurs in particular Muslim communities to sectarian divides and perpetuate dangerous myths and tropes about already persecuted minority Muslim communities, we do not care for Muslim women and girls. Muslim women — particularly Muslim women with complex identities who come from already marginalized communities — do not deserve simplistic analyses that flatten their lives, their stories, and their own advocacy”.

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The Muslim community, in the UK, is not a monolith, nor is it stuck in the dark ages, and if they are fed up with hearing how backward they are from the right, then why should they listen to anyone on purporting to be on the left, coming out with the same sentiments?

One cannot but help but wonder however, if they truly realise the role that they are playing. Do Maryam, Bindel, Tatchell realise, or indeed care, that repeating the tropes, by eroticising oppression, they merely reinforce the social conservatism they fight against.

There were groups on the Pride march, who were Muslim LGBTQ, groups that are just as committed to freedom and equality. Groups who nonetheless do not share the sentiments, let alone the politics of Dawkins, Sam Harris, Bill Maher, or the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), etc. so does this then make them ex-LGBTQ in the yes of the above or ex-Muslims in the eyes of the conservative Imams?

The Grenfell Fire -Or How the Body Burns

The Grenfell Fire -Or How the Body Burns

Trigger Warning-some might find the images distressful, and my apologies if this is so

A Language Lit by Fire

170614064500-41-london-fire-exlarge-169Did you know that fire has several different voices and that it speaks with its own language? That it can whisper low and soft, all full of warmth and innocence, when tamed in the grate of a cottage fire grate…That it hisses with a vengeful glee when allowed to breath and that it can cackle with malevolence when given more to eat? No wonder it was a source of worship for the ancestors, and why the Gods punished Prometheus for stealing it from them

The Grenfell towers was a tower of babel, a monument to a multiculturalism that came about through few options, poverty, of making friendships, relationships, education, raising families. The towers stand as shells of dreams, amidst the city of the human deluge, and now exist as if in a time capsule.

Yet all the data in the world cannot recapture the life, the loves, the hopes, the disappointments, the thousand and one days and nights that went on behind closed doors. The angry gestures, the romantic words, the erotic fumbling’s after a Friday/Saturday night…the halo of light around the fried chicken shop, that said tonight was over

Bonfire of austerity-Spent and burnt out

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Exactly How Does the Human Body Burn?

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The sages would have us know that “the thin outer layers of skin fry and begin to peel off as the flames dance across their surface. Then, after around 5 minutes, the thicker dermal layer of skin shrinks and begins to split, allowing the underlying yellow fat to leak out”.

Have you seen what flames can do to meat, bone, clothes, and hair?http://disinfo.com/2009/05/exactly-how-does-the-human-body-burn/

The researchers say, like the scalds of old with hoarded knowledge, “that the average body can, a little like a tree branch and up burn to around seven hours?” For men and women the average body consists of between 55-65% of water and that the average body fat will be between 24-31%

In a time when capitalism has lifted all those leaky poverty stricken boats, don’t believe that a tower block full of “all of human life is here” can’t take less than 15 minutes to catch fire and over 60 hours to burn out.

Were visitors from another world to visit today, they might assume it was a temple, a relic left over from a past conflict, where “life was brutal and short”. The Guardian tells us “Men in Blackpool can currently expect to live to just 75.2 years, the lowest life expectancy in the country.” https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/30/life-expectancy-increases-gap-widens-rich-poor-imperial-research

If the ancient Greeks had seen the Grenfell tower, would they think it one of the Palaces of Hades, seeing as it is slap next to the opulent palaces of the super rich. The outside cladding is as black as his heart and the natures of the wealthy; he would have appreciated their cold-blooded arrogance, because you are all equal when you are dead.

What does a bowl of smoke taste like, what it is to burn? What’s the smell of burning human flesh?

Slate magazine noted in 2007, “ Police in Houston reported, “The remains of a woman who had been strangled by her ex-boyfriend may have been burned over a barbecue on his balcony* Neighbour’s said they noticed an awful, acrid odour coming from the grills for two days. You’ll know it when you smell it. Burning muscle tissue gives off an aroma similar to beef in a frying pan, and body fat smells like a side of fatty pork on the grill. But you probably won’t mistake the scent of human remains for a cookout.

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That’s because a whole body includes all sorts of parts that we’d rarely use for a regular barbecue. For example, cattle are bled after slaughter, and the beef and pork we eat contain few blood vessels. When a whole human body burns, all the iron-rich blood still inside can give the smell a coppery, metallic component.

Full bodies also include internal organs, which rarely burn completely because of their high fluid content; they smell like burnt liver. Fire fighters say that cerebrospinal fluid burns up in a musky, sweet perfume.

Burning skin has a charcoal like smell, while setting hair on fire produces a sulphurous odour. This is because the keratin in our hair contains large amounts of cysteine, a sulphur-containing amino acid. * (Hooves and nails also contain keratin.” http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2007/03/barbyou.html

The residents of Grenfell tower were located in Kensington & Chelsea, one of the wealthiest of boroughs in London that also has one of the highest concentrations of deprivation. http://www.londonspovertyprofile.org.uk/news/updated-profile-of-kensington

Nonetheless in June, as part of a long hot summer, they hardly expected their bodies and souls would be fuel for the ‘bonfire of the red tape and regulations’ vanities. Is it still ‘corporate murder’, if you’ve been to all the right schools, clubs and sit on the right charity boards? And smoke? Don’t you know it is bad for you? That “smoke gets in your eyes”, and mouth, lungs, ears, hair, especially when your trying to escape with your kids from a burning building…”burning down the house… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNnAvTTaJjM

To the Soul?

For the ancient Athenians, it was customary to place the ashes of the deceased beloved one in an urn. They had a horror of an unmarked death, with none of the proper rites and rituals being observed. Hence the humbling of King Priam, during the Trojan War, where he begs Achilles, the noble psychotic for the return of his son Hectors, body.

For the multitude within those walls, the ghosts that have no fingers to tear through the veil that keeps them from the world there will be no preparation of the the body, that gets washed and anointed. No payment for the ferryman of the dead to convey the soul from the world of the living to the world of the dead.

As far as the state was concerned, many of those who died in a blaze of fear, agony, curdled and crisped, were already ghosts, not meant to be here, until caught.

The modern age, the lack of status for those consumed, means that those who have the task of finding them, have to go as Yevgeny Yevtushenko, said in his poem ‘Loss’, “like an old blind woman madly stretching her hand in fog, searching with hopeless incantation for her lost milk cow”

Tower block fire in London

And “Fires were started” or Götterdämmerung

What it is to burn? What it is, to find a home, transformed into a portal to hell? What it is to feel the body being consumed by the devil, to have his hands so tight round your throat that you cannot scream for pities sake or your own? There are 200 pain receptors for every centimetre of the body. What it is to smell your bowels opening, hear the shriek of the flames as they claim you as one of their own?

In Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelung” Brünnhilde issues orders for a huge funeral pyre to be assembled by the river. Lighting the pyre with a firebrand, she sends Wotan’s ravens home. The fire flares up, and the hall of the Gibichungs catches fire and collapses, a red glow is seen in the sky. Flames flare up in the Hall of the Gods, hiding it and them from sight completely. And the gods are consumed in the flames.

I hope the residents of Grenfell would have understood Yevgeny Yevtushenko, when he wrote, “Is it true that we no longer exist? Or are we not yet born? We are birthing now, but it’s painful to be born again”.

 

 

The Clear and Present Danger of Trump

There is a danger that parts of the left are equating Trumps critique of both the EU and NATO means that he’s some what of an allie.

This is a big mistake and only shows that they have mistaken this for inter-imperialist rivalry.
MHI is an organisation that has quite rightly called this ultra left accelerationism out at the left forum. Here’s a link that I’m posting for others to watch and make up their mind
http://mailchi.mp/e821355d56d6/video-confronting-anti-neoliberal-left-collaboration-with-trumpism-and-the-far-right?e=98f353780c