Monday, 28 March 2011

campaigning for MMP in auckland

the downside to being a student again is that you get homework. i'm terrible at homework. i leave it til the last minute, but am totally stressed out by the fact that i haven't managed to get it done. i find it extremely difficult to motivate myself to do homework, no matter how much i might be enjoying the topic i'm studying.

and it doesn't help that other commitments keep me busy. yesterday i spent the day at the auckland international cultural festival, campaigning for MMP and here's the proof:

the weather wasn't wonderful, but it was a great way to catch up with a fair few people i knew, including the wonderful ruth, julie & her very cute & cuddly baby (who seemed to have a fascination with my bottom lip for some unknown reason), louisa wall, the peeps from the human rights commission & the migrant action trust, and sundry others.

the support for MMP seems to be quite strong, though you would expect that from the sort of people who attend this kind of event. there were a lot of people keen to get information on the campaign and please do visit the website if you want to get regular email updates or help out with the campaign.

i've had some posts up at the hand mirror over the last week: one on experiences at a hospital A&E, another on the wisdon of making a hero of someone who fought a bully, another on parental bullying, one on victim-blaming, and finally one tonight on the troublesome mr latta.

if only i could be as consistent at writing up my homework.

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.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

why i'll be avoiding the news for a bit

i can not believe that even radio nz is sounding like the women's weekly magazine today. really? we need breathless reports of what prince william is doing, every hour? now he's visited this place, now he's said that. surely i'm not the only one who totally doesn't care? more than that, what prince williams does IS NOT NEWS. it's celebrity gossip for the entertainment section, which radio nz doesn't have.

i expect this kind of stupidity from tv news, which is why i don't watch it any more. but i would have thought that any kind of reputable media outfit would give a brief report, then move on to the important stuff. like fires in the nuclear reator thingies in japan. like all the people who are homeless. like what's the latest situation in libya, and how the people in the eastern suburbs of christchurch are getting on.

i wonder if our bonny prince went to the poorer parts of the city? i haven't been listening to or watching the coverage, but i'm willing to bet there were no opportunities for the poorer of his grandmother's subject to air their grievances or to give an eye-opening account of what life is really like. the only session which wasn't to be totally managed was the meeting of the families of the pike river miners who had died in the coalmine. but of course, media weren't allowed in.

this whole trip is a combination of a PR exercise for the monarchy and a PR exercise for politicians. somehow the latter doesn't rankle as much as the former. that the monarchy gets so much free advertisement, in order to keep that institution going for as long as possible when there is no reason for it to exist at all, well yes, that makes me really angry. and it angers me when our state-funded broadcaster provides this kind of advertising, again for no good reason at all. if people are interested in that sort of thing, they should go to the entertainment media.

on top of that, there is japan's emperor, called out to make a public statement in the midst of a potentially large disaster. i don't want to be insensitive to the feelings of anyone of japanese heritage, as i understand the culture around that institution is quite different to the british monarchy. let me just say that it seems many of the people there weren't reassured by his statement, so his status didn't appear to be of much help.

i'll go back to a point i've made before: i just can not understand how these royal families convince people to accept their status and position. though the in-your-face covering-all-forms-of media unpaid-for advertising campaign goes a long way to explaining it. ergo, if i want my campaign to become queen of nz to gain momentum, i first need significant amounts of capital to pay for a kick-a** PR campaign. unfortunately, i also believe that the state should be paying for said campaign, just like it has for our bonny prince. so a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation there.

while i think about how to resolve this conundrum, i shall continue to avoid the news for the next couple of days. there's not much option really, if i want to stay sane.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

race relations report

my campaign for becoming queen of nz is gaining momentum, in that i have now doubled the number of my willing subjects from 1 to 2. a significant increase in percentage terms. now i only have to convince at least 1,999,999 other people, and i'm in there with a solid chance.

the race relations report covering 2010 (pdf) is now out, and i have received my own copy. i haven't had time to read it just yet, but i understand from checkpoint that the number of complaints by muslims has increased from fifty-something in 2009 to 71 in 2010. the trouble is that we can't tell if this represents a higher level of discrimination, or people understanding the complaints process better and/or being more willing to lodge a complaint.

my own gut feeling is that things weren't any different last year to the way the way they were in 2009. most often, the kind of nz'ers who will harass or discriminate react most to overseas events. and the community centre near ground zero did result in some pretty nasty media coverage & nastiness in public spaces on the internet. the pastor who, with his small congregation, was all set to burn copies of the qur'an probably did muslims around the world a great deal of good, due to the genral revulsion he caused.

overseas, it will be interesting to see how the unrest in northern africa and the middle east will affect local perceptions of muslims. like it or not, even though a larger number of muslims live outside the middle east than within it, perceptions of muslims are greatly determined by events in the middle east. the current round of protests have had widespread coverage in the western media, and we have finally heard the voices of every day people. i've decided that frank bunce is a wonderful person, after watching his trip through egypt on intrepid journeys (which you can watch on the tvnz site if you missed it, see here). this and news reports brought that monolith called "arab" down to ordinary people with simple dreams, and has helped westerners to identify with their struggles.

despite this, the republican party in america is doing it's best to ensure demonisation of muslims continues, with the inquiry led by representative peter king. the topic of the hearing is "the extent of the radicalisation of american muslims". that the whole thing is a farce can be seen from this article in the new york times. CAIR weren't allowed to testify orally at the hearings, but here is a copy of their written testimony. here is the testimony of representative keith ellison, a muslim:

as a result of this hearing, harassment of muslims in america is on the rise again. there are too many examples to list, but below is a video of a protest in orange county against muslims who were attending a charity event to raise money for women's shelter. i haven't watched the whole video, i couldn't do it. i stopped at hearing the chants of "go home now" in the first minute, as i found it too upsetting, so a trigger-warning for those who have difficulty watching bigotry in action:

coming back to race relations in nz, i guess we should be thankful that we don't have to suffer this sort of thing here. we're certainly way better off than our counterparts in america, and also better off than the muslims of libya, bahrain, yemen, and saudi arabia. we have peace, we are generally free from extreme harassment and violence. but even so, things are far from perfect and i reject the notion that because those in other countries have it much worse, we should be silent about discrimination in this country.

it's election year this year, and all members of minority communities brace themselves as politicians grow ever belligerent in their use of rhetoric against us. the attack is on the maori community just now, given the foreshore & seabed law is currently being debated, and ACT is right at the forefront of the worst of it. but mr peters is looking for a comeback, and as the pressure mounts, national may well join in.

hopefully i'll get around to reading the report soon. i hope you will as well.

Monday, 14 March 2011

colour of food

been a bit slack on the posting here again. but i have some posts up at the hand mirror: my speech about poverty on international women's day, a post on commercial surrogacy and why i'm opposed to it, and finally a post tonight about some wonderful women doing wonderful things on screen.

of course i've been overwhelmed, as has everyone else, by the disaster in japan. such a massive tragedy, with the potential to get worse. i have nothing meaningful to say about this, other than i feel deeply for the people affected.

there are many things to write about, but i'm too tired just now. so i'll link to this piece on the colour of food (hat tip to the lovely ruth), which looks at the inequities people of colour face in the food industry. this graph gives an inkling of the scale of the problem:

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

international women's day

well, it's been a few days since i commented here, but i have been writing over at the hand mirror. i wrote this piece about attending the launch of nz book month (and mostly i went to get my mind off things), which happened on the same day that news came out that the government would no longer fund tvnz7 after june next year. not that there was any press release from the government or any other reporting - i heard about it on facebook. and yes, since i wrote that piece last week, i'm still pretty angry.

i also wrote posts about simon power retiring, and linked to an excellent piece about the 3 cities christchurch has become in terms of the response to the earthquake. yesterday, i found myself being a sportswriter (who would have thought), writing about the assault charges against benji marshall.

this evening, i've put up a speech that was given at an international women's day event in hamilton, which had the theme "poverty, why should we give a damn". it was given by a friend of mine who is also on the board of shama, and i really liked the way she talked dealing with poverty, not on the basis of morality but on the basis of rightful demands. i also gave a speech at this event, and i'll put that up in a day or two.

there were several wonderful speakers, including julie timmins from the child poverty action group, angelina greensill, leafa williams from the waikato museum, jane stevens from community waikato, and many others. these women were inspiring advocates,

there was, however, one disappointment to the day. mayor julie hardaker was scheduled to speak. she did turn up, and she did in fact speak. for less than two minutes. and all she had to say was that we should have a positive approach, and that if we wanted change, women should stand for leadership positions.

given the depth and the passion of the speakers that had gone before her and who came after, it just sounded very glib and hollow. i'm sure she's incredibly busy, but even so, it would have been nice if she had listened to more than just part of one other speech and it would have been nicer if she had actually engaged with the topic and the real challenges all of us need to deal with. she is actually in a position to make a difference, but didn't address what policies, projects or actions she was currently undertaking or might undertake in the future to deal with poverty. in fact, she showed no interest in the subject at all, and i think it would have been much better if she hadn't come at all.

finally, i'd like to finish with this clip (hat tip to maia) in tribute to the unions and protesters in wisconsin:

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

still dealing with a death

i'm still feeling a little icky today - not a great descriptive word, but i can't seem to find anything more appropriate. i wrote yesterday at the hand mirror about a death in our community which has affected me quite deeply. but more than that, i'm still struggling with images from my participation in washing the body. i had a couple of nightmares last night, and i'm feeling somehow unsettled. i don't understand it, because this is certainly not the first time i've done this, but perhaps it's because it was someone i'm much closer to.

we had the funeral prayers at the mosque today. family members were looking a little better than yesterday, but still understandably stressed. the act of letting the body go, of watching it leave the house knowing that this person will never return, well that really is the hardest part in dealing with a death. for a christian services i've attended, i've found the most difficult part is watching the body leave the church. i've never attended a burial, i don't think i could stand it.

i know death is a part of life, we've had plenty of reminders of that this week. if not from christchurch, then from the middle east and from various other bits of news around the world.

sorry to be so depressing. on a more cheerful note, it's nz book month and a few weeks ago i was asked to write about a book that had "changed my life". i may put that up on the blog later. tomorrow is the official launch, which i'm hoping to attend.

and back to the depressing stuff, here is a link telling us why christchurch is actually three cities right now, not just won (hat tip to maia).