By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
8 October 2020
• The Injustice of Slavery Is Not Over: The Graves of the Enslaved Are Still Being Desecrated
By Afua Hirsch
• The Tories Aren't Ashamed Of Their Islamophobia. They're Proud of It
By Nesrine Malik
• Emmanuel Macron on A Crusade Against Islamic Sectarianism
By Brussels Morning
• Will We Ever End Violence Against Women?
By Anjali Sen and Jamshed M. Kazi
• The Myth of Trump’s Political Genius, Exposed
By Jamelle Bouie
The Injustice of Slavery Is Not Over: The Graves of the Enslaved Are Still Being Desecrated
By Afua Hirsch
8 Oct 2020
Illustration by Eva Bee
It should come as no surprise that centuries of amnesia towards Britain’s own history has left us with a lot to learn. My personal school education during the 1990s contained a gaping hole between the Tudors and the Second World War. If you wanted to surgically remove the period of colonial expansion and transatlantic enslavement, you’d struggle to beat it.
So those of us with time, resources and motivation are left to bridge the void through self-education, which often involves grappling with significant facts and figures.
The numbers of Africans estimated to have been trafficked by Europeans to their American and Caribbean colonies: 12 million-plus. Deaths on the Middle Passage alone, across the Atlantic: 1.5 million at a highly conservative estimate. The cumulative individual tragedies on slave trails to the coast, in the barracoons, and on the beaches: no one can even count.
So the four centuries of African enslavement by Europeans remains an abstract story. The need to make it real, to find things that you can see, touch and feel is what most motivated me to participate in the ambitious documentary series Enslaved with Samuel L Jackson, to be broadcast on the BBC starting on Sunday. It’s an attempt to get away from the numbers and statistics and instead focus on the real people who endured this era – their flesh and bone, dreams and legacies. In Brazil, for example, you can see the remains of men, women and children who survived the Middle Passage, only to die on arrival in Rio de Janeiro: I found myself kneeling before their bodies.
The Cemetery of the New Blacks, as it’s known, was only discovered when the Guimarães dos Anjos family wanted to renovate their house and found what they thought was evidence of a serial killer having operated there. It turned out to be a mass grave from the transatlantic slave trade. As is so often the case, it’s the details that stay with you. Among the bodies – estimated at up to 30,000 – archaeologists also found the remnants of contemporary domestic waste. When Africans died, they were dumped into mass graves, into which people also flung their household rubbish.
Nearby, a laboratory has categorised the objects found on their bodies – pipes, amulets, rings – the things they carried all through the Middle Passage into this new world. These little objects affected me deeply. It had never occurred to me that enslaved people might have imagined themselves smoking, or being able to protect themselves with a charm. These minuscule traces of home crystallised just how much had been taken away.
Many of these artefacts turned up during the 2016 Olympics. Building work for the Rio games – a new light rail system, fancy glass office buildings – unearthed Valongo, a wharf which had a monumental role in the slave trade but had been long forgotten. Four million enslaved Africans were trafficked to Brazil – 10 times the number taken to what is now the US. Many arrived through this port. The African-American historian Sadakne Baroudi, who has dedicated much of her life to educating people about what happened there, told me its name should be known and understood to the same extent as those of Hiroshima and Auschwitz.
When it comes to the transatlantic slave trade, forgetting is the final, ongoing wrong. Everywhere we travelled, it was the same story. In Portugal – the first country to commoditise Africans, in the 1440s – bodies were also tossed into a rubbish dump in the Algarve coastal town of Lagos. Many of the skeletons discovered had signs of violent trauma, of having been shackled and bound. A third were children. The site is now an underground car park with a putting golf garden on its roof.
These discoveries are particularly egregious from an African perspective. In so many cultures across the continent, the only thing worse than being abused in life is being abused in death – without proper burial rites or the dignity befitting of ancestors.
But most of what we sought was beneath the water, because of a little known but bone-chilling fact. The Atlantic, like many bodies of water crossed in the slave trade, is littered with the wreckages of slave ships.
One such is the infamous ship the London, in which the bodies of enslaved Africans are believed to lie beneath the sea off Ilfracombe in Devon.
So much of this is a British story. The oldest slave ship ever discovered, which lies in the Channel, still contains artefacts that were exchanged for human lives. It’s hard to believe that this Royal Africa Company vessel – dubbed 35F – lies in one of the busiest waterways in the world, unknown by almost everyone outside the marine archeology community, and completely unprotected.
Then there is the Douro, an 1843 wreck found off the coast of the Isles of Scilly – another green and pleasant part of England in no way associated in the popular imagination with the brutal traffic of slavery. Those who already know about this history will notice something strange about the date. The slave trade was abolished by Britain in 1807; slavery itself was outlawed years later, in 1834.
That the Douro, whose cargo of textiles, munitions and manillas – bronze bracelets that were used as currency for purchasing African people – was wrecked 36 years after British ships were banned from the slave trade, speaks to a different story. That story is of the one million people or more who continued to be enslaved late into the 19th century.
The divers who found these artefacts were for many years free to sell them to the highest bidder, some even trading them on eBay. In the absence of sufficient institutions to protect these finds for future generations, we are still reliant on their discoverers’ individual goodwill to store them in their basements and garages: incredibly, this is still where much of this precious history remains.
There is a reason why most of us have not seen these things for ourselves. The documentary’s team of divers risked their lives exploring some of these wreckage sites – they are treacherous, deep and dangerous. Anyone wondering at the anger towards prominent memorials of slavers such as Edward Colston, might understand it better having seen how the enslaved are, by contrast, still disrespected and dishonoured.
Because the reality is that, having been content to ignore these stories for so long, our societies still seem relaxed about seeing the remains of these brutalised people being debased, their graves turned into mini-golf, the remnants of their lives and experiences washed away. To the list of historic wrongs we are already grappling with, in this year above all, this injustice is ongoing and renewed every day.
Afua Hirsch is a Guardian columnist
The Tories Aren't Ashamed Of Their Islamophobia. They're Proud Of It
By Nesrine Malik
7 Oct 2020
‘Whatever seeds of Islamophobia have been planted in the past few years are flourishing under Boris Johnson’s premiership.’ Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters
Remember Islamophobia? More specifically, remember Islamophobia in the Conservative party? I cannot blame you if you don’t. A few things have happened since the Tories committed to launching an inquiry last year. On the list of concerns about the party in government – after a year in which a pandemic stripped bare its incompetence and dishonesty – prejudice towards Muslims is nowhere near the top. Even in stable times, attempting to get some attention, some media scrutiny, some outrage about the scourge of Islamophobia in the Conservative party was to be stonewalled by indifference at best, hostility at worst.
Given that the party appointed a woman who does not believe in structural racism to the government commission on racial inequalities, the Tories’ investigation into their issues with race and Islam is unlikely to be a rigorous affair.
But there has been one insightful submission to the now watered-down inquiry, by Hope Not Hate. Published last week, it makes for bleak reading. Almost 60% of Conservative members believe poisonous myths about “no-go areas in Britain where sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter”. Another 57% expressed negative views about Muslims, of which 21% registered very negative attitudes.
An overwhelming majority of party members, according to this YouGov polling, are very open about their antipathy towards Muslims. This has intensified under Boris Johnson – those who backed him in the leadership election are much more likely to believe in conspiracy theories about Muslims taking over the country and destroying Britain’s way of life. Whatever seeds of Islamophobia have been planted in the past few years are flourishing under Johnson’s premiership.
But few will be shocked by that. It takes a lot these days, I find, to really shake people with accounts of Islamophobia in general, and in the Conservative party in particular. I could use up more column inches detailing incidents where MPs questioned Muslims’ loyalty to Britain, or of councillors who were reinstated despite calling Saudis “sand peasants” and posting material comparing Asian people to dogs. I could retread the still shocking ground of Johnson’s own comments about Muslims and their “letterbox” burqas, which still did not get in the way of his election to head the party.
But all these incidents were relegated to background noise in British politics – the sort that is turned slightly up in moments such as this, when a report is released or a media organisation reveals dossiers full of incidents. The quiet normalisation of prejudice towards Muslims in the Conservative party and in wider British society is one of the most shameful chapters in recent British history.
Contrary to the popular view that one is no longer allowed to offend minorities without swift retribution, there is in reality a lot you need to do before you get into trouble for bashing Muslims.
Alongside the normalisation of Islamophobia came a hobbling of the opposition’s ability to call it out, with the problem of antisemitism on the left used to dismiss Labour’s critiques on the basis that it had no moral authority to lecture anyone. The Conservatives’ election triumph, even as Islamophobia ravaged its ranks, was a national endorsement for its intolerance of Muslims.
And as part of its agenda for power, for years the Conservative party has continued to fold Islamophobia into a wider intolerance that encompassed migrants, asylum seekers, citizens of nowhere, and racial minorities who would not even be afforded the respect of unconscious bias training. Tory MPs resisted the exercise, calling it “snake oil crap” that should be rejected by a party“unabashed in our cultural conservatism”.
And unabashed it is. One way to read the new report into Islamophobia is to see the problem not as something the party wishes would go away, but one that is a proud expression of its values. As a group of people who embody much of what the right dislikes, Muslims could not be a better scapegoat. Racially they are mostly brown and black, easily distinguishable as alien. Culturally, whether they are practising or not, all Muslims are seen as fair game to attack because of the terrorist actions of a tiny minority. The result is a synthetically tribalised group of people who are used to make the case for closing borders and reclaiming British identity.
What could be more elemental to Conservatism today, with Brexit providing a looming moment of peak Britishness, than the raising of barricades against the rest of the world? Naval patrols in the channel, and dystopian proposals for floating iron walls or for flying refugees to remote islands, are not earnest technical suggestions to a problem. They are the brainstorms of a party that wishes to create a stark hierarchy of humanity.
Unaddressed Islamophobia among Conservative members is not about Muslims as such: it’s about a vision of the world in which it is acceptable to sort people on this British group of islands into categories of indigenous and alien, and affording them rights and respect along those lines. Judging by how little interest there is in challenging entrenched Islamophobia in Britain’s dominant party, we may already live in that world.
Nesrine Malik is a Guardian columnist
Emmanuel Macron On A Crusade Against Islamic Sectarianism
By Brussels Morning
7 October 2020
The debate on the influence of Islam in France took another turn last week when the French president announced the government’s intention of putting forward legislation on monitoring the financing of mosques, as well as Islamic cultural associations and even sports clubs. The intent is to ensure they don’t become fronts for spreading radical ideas.
The envisaged measures would restrict entry into France by imams from overseas and would also put limits on home-schooling. These, in President Macron’s view, constituted risk factors that could contribute to the establishment of a parallel Muslim society in France. The proposal builds on the principle of secularism, a concept institutionalised at the time of the French Revolution, which still serves as the constitutional foundation in the French Republic.
Given that France is the country with Europe’s largest Muslim population, the proposed legislation, which is due to go before the French Assemblée Nationale this year, is likely to prove hugely controversial. Many see it as a means of targeting the Muslim community specifically and as a sop by Macron to right-wing voters. By claiming that there is a phenomenon of “Islamist separatism”, Macron has taken a decidedly different position in the public debate on the role of Islam that to date had centred on whether and to what degree women can be veiled in public.
On previous occasions, the French President has shown himself to favour greater awareness and understanding of Islamic culture while he has condemned comments that link the religion directly with terrorism. Having been seen as sympathetic and protective of the Muslim community’s special characteristics, he has now weighed in with an opinion that is seen as legitimising the repression of Islam in France. Constitutional secularism states that practitioners of all religions and beliefs are equal before the law.
Yet by taking aim at France’s six million Muslims, Macron, who claims to be promoting social mobility, has stepped into a potential minefield by drawing parallels between Islam and the social problems and poverty experienced in many French suburbs.
The proposed measures include compulsory school enrolment for children from age three onwards, with home-schooling allowed only for health reasons. There would be stricter rules on private schools, with Arabic language instruction being introduced into the public school system. Research into Islam as a religion would be furthered within a state institution (the Scientific Institute of Islamology) and there would be more research positions for Islamic studies in French higher education.
In fact, some of the measures flagged by Macron in his speech last week had been planned by fthe government of former President Hollande. The timing of Macron’s announcement has been interpreted as strategic positioning ahead of the 2022 presidential elections.
Mixed Welcome for Macron’s Proposals
The “Rassemblement National” (RN) party, formerly known as Front National, which is headed by Marine Le Pen, acknowledges that the programme reflects some “good intentions” but is doubtful about the role of the French Council of Muslim Faith in the context of French public institutions. The RN remains concerned with the issue of migration, an issue it believes is the “breeding ground of all factionalism”.
The Republican Party (LR) also wants the new measures to address migration.
The Socialist Party advocates tackling integration through improved economic and social policies. Meanwhile, leading left-wing politician Jean-Luc Melanchon of the “France Insoumise” movement forthrightly criticised the proposed programme for its hypocrisy and the outright damage he asserted it would inflict on sectarian relations. Only the “Mouvement Democrate” welcomed the draft, which they described as offering realistic concrete solutions.
Critics, academics and NGOs alike criticised the president’s narrative, with many wondering whether he was attacking separatism as a whole or the Muslim religion in particular. While some lambasted the continuous “obsession” of French politicians with the French Muslim community, others worried that political initiatives such as the proposed measures risked deepening societal divisions and stigmatising members of this community, especially young women who are already vulnerable to discrimination.
Gilles Kepel, an expert on the Middle East, favours a stricter framework for home-schooling and restricting the influence of foreign imams. The latter are widely seen as promoting their own agendas and of being insufficiently critical of certain Islamist ideologies iat varience with French values. On the other hand, Francois Burgat, professor emeritus at the National Council of Scientific Research, defends the Macron administration’s use of the term separatism and equating it with Islam, saying that it is courageous to point to the wider community when identifying a cultural environment that enables acts of violence towards French society at large.
The human rights organisation “Ligue de Droits de l’Homme” took issue with Macron’s use of terminology similar to the language of the extreme right, in singling out “Muslim extremists” as the culprits.
The draft proposals will be put to vote early next year.
Will We Ever End Violence Against Women?
By Anjali Sen and Jamshed M. Kazi
October 7, 2020
AF was raped by a stranger who broke into her house in Bintaro, Tangerang, last year (The Jakarta Post, Aug. 9). Although she filed a report immediately afterward, providing significant evidence, her case has just been processed by the police only after her posts on Instagram went viral in early August. In the end, the perpetrator was charged under Articles 285 and 365 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) for rape and theft, even though he also allegedly threatened the victim through social media.
The definitions of gender-based violence (GBV) and violence against women (VAW), which encompass different types of violence — from domestic violence and forced marriage, to online violence, to emotional violence — have become more diversified. However, without comprehensive systematically enforced legislation, survivors often have a hard time reporting such incidents and accessing justice. As a result, impunity for acts of GBV increases and it gets harder to eliminate this scourge. For the past 12 years, the Annual Report of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) has recorded a 792 percent or nearly eightfold increase in cases of sexual violence since 2007. Throughout 2019, Komnas Perempuan reported 431,471 cases of VAW, which was 6 percent higher than the previous year.
And we know that for every case reported, many more remain hidden—not only in Indonesia but globally. In “normal” times, women in Indonesia already experience high levels of violence. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the situation. The home is not always a safe space for women. At the outset of the pandemic, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) forecast that there would be up to 31 million more incidents of GBV around the world if lockdowns lasted for six months or longer. According to a UN Women series of reports on VAW, amid the pandemic, domestic violence has indeed increased worldwide under the cramped and confined living conditions of quarantines and lockdowns, as already tenuous situations intensify, compounded further by tensions and strains stemming from security, health, and financial concerns. According to Komnas Perempuan, during January-May 2020, the Commission received more than 900 reports of violence against women compared to only 100 per month the previous year. The Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice (LBH Apik) has also noted a threefold increase in the number of monthly reported cases since the beginning of the pandemic, from 60 to 90 reports. Out of those 90 reports, domestic violence is the largest category with 33 cases, followed by online GBV with 30 cases. The pandemic situation has also made reporting all the more difficult due to limitations in movement and availability of services.
Thus, it is important to reiterate that in reality the numbers are likely higher as many cases go unreported thanks to barriers to access, lack of information regarding reporting mechanisms, sociocultural norms that normalize violence, and stigma that prevents survivors from reporting. It may sound obvious, but GBV is a genuine health crisis. It negatively affects women’s physical health, including sexual and reproductive health, as well as mental or psychological health — with consequences that include posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. In July, a woman in Bangkalan, East Java, and committed suicide linked to depression after being raped by seven young men (the Post July 9). Already traumatized by the attack, she received threats from the perpetrators afterward.
The combination of sexual, verbal and psychological violence prompted her to take her own life. In GBV cases, women often suffer severe physical injuries, or are even killed. They also face other risks like unintended pregnancy, pregnancy complications and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV. When a woman experiences violence, she suffers from multiple layers of injustice, which includes restrictions in mobility, access to health services and education, and opportunities to participate in public life and economic activities.
Therefore, VAW not only has negative consequences for women but also for their families, the community, and the nation at large. Indonesia ratified the Convention of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 36 years ago. As part of its international obligation, the Indonesian government will be presenting its eighth periodic review to the CEDAW Committee in Geneva in February 2021, highlighting both progress as well as challenges. Over the years, the government has made sustained efforts to advance women’s rights including among others, enacting the Law on Domestic Violence in 2004 and revising the Marriage Law in 2019 to raise the minimum legal age for girls to marry from 16 to 19 so it is the same as the minimum age for boys. These are commendable milestones by the government, supported by tireless advocacy from civil society, parliamentarians and other national stakeholders, consistent with Indonesia’s international and national commitments.
However, there is much more to be done. A genuinely comprehensive response is required to protect all women and ensure no one is left behind, during these challenging times and beyond. First, we need to keep essential and integrated services for survivors of violence running and available amid the ongoing pandemic. These include the continuum of health, police, shelter, helplines, psychological, social, and justice services.
Ensuring that staffing, funds, and other resources remain adequate to support GBV survivors, even as protocols are strengthened to prevent the virus from spreading should be the current highest priority. Second, we have to provide a more comprehensive legal framework to ensure survivors of violence are enabled to seek justice, such as the proposed anti-sexual violence bill. The bill broadly regulates acts of sexual violence and recognizes other forms sexual violence not stipulated under the Law on Domestic Violence and the Criminal Code. It allows different types of violence cases, such as cyber GBV and other forms of sexual violence, to be prosecuted. The bill also emphasizes the importance of prevention, protection and recovery, which are critical aspects of a rights-based approach to addressing GBV. Lastly, we must prioritize survivors of violence as a fundamental part of social protection plans and of investments for medium and longer-term recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. This is a critical time for women and girls, and urgent action is needed as we are quickly approaching the expiration date for achieving gender equality by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
To convert rhetoric into reality, to truly transform the lives of women and girls, to end GBV and VAW once and for all, we need to ask ourselves what we can do as human beings to speak out and take steps to stem this crisis, as well as chart out a collective vision as to what kind of Indonesia—and world—we want. For decades Indonesian women, like most women around the world, have been fighting for their rights to social justice, gender equality, and protection from violence. They simply cannot wait any longer.
Anjali Sen is United Nations Population Fund Indonesia Representative. Jamshed M. Kazi is UN Women Indonesia Representative.
The Myth of Trump’s Political Genius, Exposed
By Jamelle Bouie
Oct. 7, 2020
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true: Donald Trump is bad at electoral politics.
Yes, he is the president, which by itself would suggest the opposite. But to look at his conduct during the coronavirus pandemic is to see someone who doesn’t understand his own political interests and won’t listen to anyone who does.
The past week has been instructive in this regard. Last Tuesday, he faced off against Joe Biden in the first presidential debate. Trump, who trailed Biden in national polls and in most swing states, had one job: to bring wavering voters back into the fold. With a sufficiently competent performance, Trump could stop the bleeding and maybe even mount a small comeback. It wasn’t going to be easy, but it should have been simple — a straightforward turn that any incumbent president ought to have been able to make.
Of course, Trump blew it. He barked and ranted for 90 minutes, making the debate-that-was-not-actually-a-debate an alienating spectacle for most viewers. He demonstrated the truth of Democratic attacks on his temperament and ability at the same time that Biden dispelled the idea, pushed by the president and his allies, that Biden suffers from serious cognitive decline. The result was a rout.
The debate — an indoor, in-person affair — was also a showcase for Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Would he and his entourage take the situation seriously? Would they try to model good behavior for the public? The obvious answer was no. The venue, Case Western Reserve University, asked all attendees to wear masks. But Trump and his team refused, acting as if the virus didn’t actually exist. The president even mocked Biden for his dedication to wearing a mask. “I don’t wear face masks like him,” Trump said. “Every time you see him he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
Trump seems to believe that it shows strength to flout precautions and weakness to heed them. He seems to think the public wants this “strength” and will flock to him in support of his performance. Yet again, his vaunted political instincts failed him. When, in the wake of the debate, the White House announced that Trump and much of his senior staff had contracted the virus, the public response was something akin to “We told you so.” Sixty-three percent of Americans said the president had acted “irresponsibly” in “handling the risk of coronavirus infection to the people who have been around him most recently,” according to a CNN poll.
The most important issue right now for most voters is the pandemic, which has damaged the economy and radically transformed life for hundreds of millions of Americans, while killing more than 210,000 of us. They want solutions and assistance, not ostentatious displays of so-called masculine strength. They want the government, and the president, to be honest about the challenge. None of this is particularly difficult. Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, has had as much failure as success in handling the pandemic. His administration’s early decision to send thousands of discharged hospital patients back to nursing homes is arguably responsible for a significant portion of the state’s death toll. This might have doomed Cuomo with the public. But the power of the rallying effect is such that a serious performance of competence, as well as concrete actions to regain New Yorkers’ lost confidence, has been enough to keep him well above water politically.
The extent to which leaders across the country and around the world have been able to thrive despite high pandemic death tolls and a vicious economic downturn is a testament to how Trump could have forged a path to re-election had he treated the pandemic with any seriousness. Wearing a mask, pressing Congress for more aid, rejecting Covid-19 denialism and refraining from magical thinking — this is probably all it would have taken to spin a once-in-a-century crisis into political gold. But Trump refused, and now, if the polls are right and the forecasts are accurate, he’s just a few weeks away from what may well prove to be a landslide defeat.
Trump was the unexpected winner of the 2016 presidential election. That victory led many, including Trump himself, to believe he had some special sauce, some superpower that helped him defy political gravity. There’s no question he has some political skills. A lifelong showman, he’s good with a crowd, or at least certain kinds of crowds. He can distill an entire governing agenda into a few simple phrases. And he’s been able to build an emotional connection with a significant part of the American electorate.
But even with those assets, Trump doesn’t win the 2016 election without a huge amount of luck. Take away the WikiLeaks dump, take away the Comey letter, keep Anthony Weiner away from a computer, and there’s a very good chance that Hillary Clinton is elected president. Run the 2016 election a hundred times, exactly as it was, and Trump loses most of the time.
If the president had any appreciation for the role of luck and chance in his election, he would have governed in ways that maximized his advantages and cleared the path for an outright win. Instead, he embraced the myth of his political genius and brought himself, and his party, to the brink of political disaster. It took a fluke to put Trump into the White House, and if nothing changes, it will take another fluke to keep him there.
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