Tuesday, 22 March 2011


the indigo festival is on in hamilton, with lots of great events. there was the parade on saturday, culminating in performances in garden place. last night was the first of 3 films to be screened this week. it's called amreeka, and is a lovely story about a palestinian family that moves to america. the storyline is somewhat similar to my name is khan, but it doesn't have that bollywood melodrama attached. there will be a fashion parade later this week, and day-long fair at the hamilton gardens on sunday.

i also attended a meeting about the diversity forum which is to be held in hamilton this year. but more on that at a later date. it's been wonderful to have these positive aspects of diversity highlighted and celebrated, to see all this happening in our city, and to see so many people working hard to build a society where everyone belongs and can contribute.

so with all these positive feelings buzzing in my head, it was a real kick in the guts to come home and read this letter to the editor in the waikato times:

Young women beware
A recent TV newsclip of Sonny Bill Williams being mobbed by starry-eyed young women after a rugby match, intrigued me. I wonder if these same young women realise the man they idolise has recently chosen to follow (and presumably emulate) Mohammed.

Mohammad taught that woman are an affliction, although he himself had 14 wives, the youngest age six. He taught that men could change wives at will, provided they had no more than four at any one time, including temporary ones.

He claimed women were created as toys for men, and thus allowed for multiple sex slaves for his followers and himself, complete with female genital mutilation. Mohammed taught that women were deficient in intelligence and thus must not go to school. Newspapers recently reported that 100 schools in Pakistan were blown up and any surviving students flogged.

Muhammad taught that this intelligence deficiency must result in the testimony of one man equalling that of two women in court, and that for a woman to prove rape, she must provide four male witnesses, or she is lying.

Young women beware.

Fred Barret

i'm not going to spend any time here responding to this stuff. i just want to say how it makes me feel, but it's so hard to put into words. the first reaction is a that sick feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. then the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness in the face of such hate. this man sits there and spews out this vitriol without any concern for the muslim women who have to read it - which shows that he really isn't interested in women's dignity at all.

i could write a response, but know there will be plenty more letters than i can respond to if i bother to take that step. i could write a complaint, but not only will that lead nowhere, it will buy into the narrative of muslims being over-sensitive types who can't take criticism. but mostly, i just don't have the energy or capacity to deal with this. i feel like all the activities of the indigo festival, the diversity forum and all the other things happening around the country make so little difference.

i want to fight back, but my arms feel to heavy, as if i can't lift them. because it's not like this is the only thing that's happening. there was a similar muslim-hating letter last month, as well as a pretty nasty opinion piece by one michael cox against immigration - very nicely coded to target certain groups of immigrants by race and religion. it's the constant nastiness that is so wearying.

the only thing that gives me hope is that fred barrett is an old guy who hasn't had much interaction with muslims. perhaps he's part of a generation that's dying out, one that my children will no longer have to deal with. that maybe all this work people are doing to bring communities together will bear fruit over the longer term, and one day the fred barrett's of this world will be laughed out of the room. maybe.

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