Wednesday, 30 June 2010


it turns out that i've been motivated to write sooner than i thought. the inspiration is the wonderful yusuf islam (or the artist formerly known as cat stevens). what follows is going to be a gushing fangirl review of the concert i attended in auckland last night. if you're not interested in that kind of thing, now would be a good time to find something else to read!

i've never been to a concert in my life - at least not one i've paid for. i've been to things like the sunset symphony at the hamilton gardens, and part of the free concert that stan walker put on in garden place. but i have never paid out my hard earned cash to go to see a recording artist perform in a stadium. yet the minute i heard that yusuf islam was playing in auckland, i couldn't wait to get my hands on tickets.

i've known his music since childhood, being one of those forced to sing "morning is broken" at school, and seeing "remember the days of the old school yard" endlessly on tv when i was little. other songs i'd not associated with him until later, like "first cut is the deepest", "another saturday night" and "wild world", because they had also been made famous by other artists covering them.

it was more in my later teenage years and my early twenties that i became a fan. of course his conversion to islam was a major factor in that. i'd seen video documentaries and several speeches by him so came to know him more as a person (at least in terms of what he was prepared to share publicly) before i was really interested in his music. everything i've heard from him and of him pointed to him being a pretty amazing person.

so of course i didn't think twice about going to the concert. i took the girls as well, cos his "best of" cd is the one they listen to the most in the car, and they love his music just as much as i do. i felt safe about taking them, because i knew the values he espouses are so close to our own that i wouldn't have to worry about any material that would be objectionable to, say, a 12 year old.

and it was brilliant, one of the best experiences of my life. i really can't rave about it enough. the music was beautiful, the stories and the sharing really special, the gentle humour just added to the magic. there was a great mix of old and new songs, and he has definitely hasn't lost his touch. his voice was as sweet as it always was, the songs as relevant today as they were when they first came out.

the most poignant moment of the concert for me was watching him sing father and son. because now he is 62 years old, with grey hair and beard, and of course he fits the role of father now rather than the role of the son which was more suited to him when the song first came out. it marked the passage of time so clearly, and brought home to me what an incredible journey his life has been (and will hopefully continue to be for many, many years yet inshaAllah).

i'm not sure if many people know, but he stopped taking money from royalties of his commercial music pretty soon after he became a muslim. all of that money goes to charity. i also know that he put a lot of money and effort into helping victims of the serbian/bosnian conflict. even the proceeds of his concert last night are "going to a good cause", in his words last night, though he didn't tell us what the cause was. which is natural, as charity should be given in the quietest way possible.

well, there wasn't an empty seat in vector arena last night. and the noise, the singing and cheering were absolutely awesome. i had a sore throat and and very sore hands and arms myself, and i sure wasn't the loudest person there! i'm really not a musical person, so i can't really give any kind of decent review of the music itself - for that, you can read this. i did think that last night's version of "tuesday's dead" was better than the recorded version. but it all sounded great to me.

his namesake, the original yusuf (the prophet Joseph) was especially known for two things: his great physical beauty and the purity of his character. this yusuf has both in abundance, and i feel privileged to have shared two hours of his life last night. peace be with you, yusuf islam.

Monday, 28 June 2010

time out

just a quick non-post really, to say that i'm busy with sports-watching at the moment. what with wimbledon and the fifa world cup on at the same time, and me totally loving both those events, what little spare time i can spare is spent on the tvnz on demand site, catching up on the matches. did i say i love the internet?! i totally love it.

and just in case you're wondering (though probably not), i support argentina for the football - though the match with germany tomorrow is going to be a tough one. not sure who i'll support if they lose. and i'm totally a fan of mr roger federer, so i'm hoping he'll win the men's title at wimbledon again. haven't yet found a woman player that i've connected with - and haven't for quite some years. no-one impresses me quite as much as martina navratilova did - that woman definitely had the perfect combination of style and talent. my most favourite men's player of the last 30 years would have to be boris becker - i just loved the way he threw himself around the court and managed some seemingly impossible shots.

so anyway, don't expect to hear anything serious from me any time soon, unless i feel really enthusiastic about something. i'm feeling like i really need this mental break right now, and these 2 top-level sports are definitely a fine way to escape.

just a catch up on my posts over at the hand mirror, i covered: the sentencing of staff responsible for the union carbide disaster in bhopal, a very short post commemorating bloody sunday, a wonderful blog i found by a teenager doing a research project of sorts on teen magazines, my experiences at the sexual abuse survivors summit, and a follow up post on the advice given by a police officer to the asian community.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

justice in ireland


Nine women - part of a group protesting at the Raytheon offices in Northern Ireland - have been acquitted of breaking into the arms manufacturing company to cause criminal damage.

The women were part of a group who protested at the Raytheon offices in Londonderry in January 2009.


The women claimed they had done so in order to protect the lives and property of people in the Gaza Strip and to stop alleged war crimes being committed by the Israeli forces.

Speaking outside court on Friday a spokesperson for the group said they were "grateful to the jury and proud of ourselves".

"The verdict represents an acceptance that what we did was not a crime but an attempt to prevent crime, a crime against humanity which continues to be inflicted on the people of Gaza by the Israeli defence forces."

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

not so smart

some not so intelligent things i've heard in the news today:

1. that business confidence is apparently up. i heard this on radio nz's on the hour news bulletins, so can't link, but there was some economist from some bank saying the biggest proof of this was the high level of people who believed that now was a good time to buy major household items. this is interpreted as economic recovery, yay!! um, did you economist people not hear about the gst rise in the last budget? does it not occur to you that people who need to buy major household items would prefer to do now, before prices rises in october which are almost certainly going to be higher than just the 2.5% increase in gst? the question is, will there be a short-term rise in consumer spending in the next couple of months, followed by huge lull that might even last through the christmas holidays? if the answer to that is yes, then things are looking quite as good as they seem. but this point wasn't considered at all in the news coverage.

2. winton reid's uncle, in amongst his happiness and gushing about mr reid's performance in the football match this morning, mentioned something about mr reid being an example for maori. well yeah, but isn't his success an inspiration for everyone? while i have no problem with mr reid or his uncle being proud of their maori heritage and wanting to emphasise it, i do get a little annoyed when people of colour who succeed in sport are somehow held up as shining examples that will somehow inspire all those other lazy, underachieving people of colour to succeed at something. or at least, that's the undertone i hear in comments like this. as if maori (or other peopel of colour) haven't been achieving wonderful things in all sorts of fields since forever. we got a lot of the same when that golfer (apologies for my ignorance) of maori descent won some major tournament. everyone benefits from having good, strong role-models, but two things: those role models shouldn't only be sporting heroes - can we please celebrate people who achieve well in other fields just as enthusiastically? and also, a maori person who succeeds can and should be a role model for white kids, asian kids, pasifika kids etc.

that's all.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


it's been a crazy day. after work i had to organise for a waikato interfaith council meeting at my home. also had a sick child to cope with & a funding application to get done. so i'm sitting there with my laptop all through the meeting, with half an ear on the proceedings and the other half of my attention going towards the funding application. luckily my buddies on the interfaith council are a very undertanding lot, and they didn't mind my partial attention to business.

so you can imagine that i'm not in the mood to write too much. i'll just link to some of the stuff i've been putting up at the hand mirror: an excellent speech by sue bradford dealing with the issue of unemployment insurance (a highly-recommened read), a change of CEO at the ministry of women's affairs, and some strange advice by a member of the police force (about which i should have a more positive update, hopefully tomorrow).

Monday, 14 June 2010

what exactly are our values?

more from the WTF files: the manukau cosmopolitan club have again decided they won't allow sikh people in their club. well, actually, the ban is on all forms of headgear. they just voted down a remit which would have allowed headgear worn for religious reasons. this means they won't allow headscarf wearing muslim women either. the only reason they can give for their stance is:

A Cosmopolitan Club member, who did not want to be named, said the general feeling of members at yesterday's meeting was that it should not bend its rules for anybody.

"Many felt that once you change the rules to let in people who wear turbans, then the next thing you know is that we will also have to let people wear hoodies and balaclavas into the premises."

uh huh. how many hoodie and balaclava wearing members have been clamouring to join this club, exactly? and what damage would it do to have a person wearing a hoodie in their club? it's all beyond me.

the fact that 75% of the club's members voted to continue with their current policy. what is equally disturbing is the response to this issue in the comments sections of media articles. if you want to read some rather unfriendly stuff, try reading the comments section here or here.

the ones that piss me off the most are those who are all "they've come to our country, so they should follow our rules". well guess what, morons, "they" are the same as "us" - this country belongs equally to all of us and we all get an equal say in how it should develop. and last i heard, our rules include the bill of rights act, which provides for freedom to practice your religion. the rules also include the human rights act, which says that you can't discriminate against someone for practising their religion.

it seems that the people leaving these nasty comments don't actually want to abide by the rules and values of this country, so maybe they should be the ones to leave our country.

is that it?

i've been following the hourly news updates all day regarding the proposed foreshore & seabed legislation. i haven't read much about it, but from what i've heard, the maori party have agreed to the national party proposal to have the foreshore & seabed in the public domain.

i'm way outside my area of expertise here, and am happy to be corrected if i got it wrong. but this seems to me to be the exact proposal on the table before the original foreshore & seabed legislation was passed. the way the numbers were falling, the then labour-led government could have gotten legislation through with the support of united future, which had the public domain option.

but that option didn't go through, because tariana turia walked. this meant that the numbers were short and labour had to go with nz first in order to get any legislation through. the result was legislation that was worse for maori than it would have been had ms turia stayed put.

so after all this time, and all her efforts in setting up the maori party and fighting on this issue, is she settling for the same deal that she turned her back on when in the labour party? is that really where it's at?

as i say, i'm happy to be corrected if i've got it wrong. but if i haven't, then i'm very disappointed at how this has turned out.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

on helen thomas

so another action-packed weekend. spent yesterday at labour party regional conference, then at the AGM of the waikato multi-cultural council (used be waikato ethnic council, but it seems that nationally, people don't like the word ethnic to describe ethnic & racial minorities, hence the name change). then spent time on skype with my overseas connections, and had a dinner engagement in the evening. today was a bit quieter, with only a shama board meeting and some work on funding applications for another community organisation to get done.

i want to carry on just a little further with the whole freedom of speech thing today. i know it's probably a little boring by now, but various things just keep leaping out at me, demanding my attention, and i just feel like i gotta share. this week, it was the speech of white house correspondent helen thomas, when she said [and i paraphrase] that jews should get out of palestine and go back to their european countries of origin. if you missed the whole thing, you can see the youtube clip here.

now i can't say that i agree with what she said. the kindest thing i can think to say about her comments is "not helpful", particularly in the current environment. as to whether she should have resigned (retired?) over these comments, yeah, i'd think she should have to face consequences. there is an interesting take at the huffington post here, particularly the fact that she has not had the opportunity to clarify or explain what she meant.

but the thing that strikes me most about this whole incident is that no-one is saying "lighten up", which is the most common response to the whole abusive cartoon drawings of Muhammad issue. there aren't arguments about freedom speech being made and her comments are predominantly seen as the hurtful words that they were. maybe if she drew what she'd said in a cartoon, then we would be having a different discussion? somehow, i don't think so. the sort of people who would defend a comment like paul henry's "cheeky darky" and tell us not to be so sensitive or PC are pretty silent here.

i'm not saying that i want to see helen thomas vigorously defended. i think people should be careful with what they say - not overly careful, but there is "bleeding obvious" and then there is "just crossing the line". the comments from ms thomas fall more in the former category, and even if she was the subject of a "gotcha" sting, i think that a person in a position of infleunce needs to be careful. i think she could have made points about the injustice of the occupation and the theft of palestinian land in a more helpful way, and i'm sure she would still have been lambasted far and wide for it, but this was a step too far.

i'm sorry that she has retired, simply for the fact that she was so brave and strong in holding various administrations to account, and a pioneer for women in journalism. at her age, there's little chance of a comeback. nor is there anyone else like her who will fill the gap.

but the next time someone tries to tell me that i shouldn't be so sensitive about drawings of Muhammad, i'm just going to say "helen thomas".

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

yeah, i heard it and it wasn't funny

so i'm still recovering from queen's birthday weekend, which turned out to be a lot busier and more stressful than i'd expected. and i had been expecting a reasonable amount of stress. but i had some positive outcomes as a result, so i wouldn't say that it was totally worth it, but almost.

it certainly made me think about how much of my life i spend actually begging for money. not for myself - i'm personally doing just fine, thank you very much. but for the various community groups i've worked with, a lot of that work involves sucking up to funders, and taking a lot of crap without dishing it back, just so the money will come in to keep the programme going. i'll tell you one thing, a result of all of this is that you lose all sense of pride. no room for egos when it comes to the begging thing. but then i look at something like shama and the number of women who are getting some benefit from the programmes we run, and i know in my heart that it really is worth it. even when things don't work out and even when i'm dealing with people who will question motives and ability. it's just hard to know what to do with all the frustration and that desire to hit back and to give as good as i got, which i know i can do, but which i also know will be massively counterproductive. i guess that's what a blog is good for! therapeutic - i can pretty safely rant here in my own space and get it out of my system.

i had been wanting to continue with the theme of my previous post, around freedom of speech issues. i don't know if i'm quite brave enough to take on brian edwards, particular after what's been going down here over the last week, but what the hell. and now that i've taken a quick look at his blog, it seems like he's out for a few days, so no time like the present!

when i added mr edward's to my blogroll, i said that he was a progressive who actually gets it. and generally he does, really well. but this post didn't sit well with me, and it's going to be difficult to explain why, given that he's put his side pretty well. it's about racist jokes, and he uses the fact that he's irish to compare with jokes about maori. he sees no difference in the two, and given that the general theme of irish jokes is that the irish are a bit wanting in the brains department, they are hardly complementary. but he laughs at irish jokes, and thinks it should be ok to laugh at maori jokes. nothing should be safe from comedy.

one of the important distinctions he makes is this:

It’s a viewpoint that fails to distinguish between a racial joke and a racist joke. A racial joke depends for its effect on our accepting that Race X has certain amusing or unflattering characteristics. They may have these characteristics in whole, in part or not at all. It really doesn’t matter. You can still make an Irish joke without actually believing that the Irish are stupid. The purpose of the joke is to amuse, not to theorise.

A racial joke becomes a racist joke when its purpose is to denigrate rather than to amuse. It’s the perspective of the teller that makes the difference. Racists tell racist jokes. The rest of us tell racial jokes. The distinction is between good-will and ill-will.

which is all very well. but there are a couple of issues. first, how can you be sure of the good-will or ill-will of the person telling the joke? in some cases you can, in others you can't.

but more important is the context. what are the prevailing conditions for the target of your joke and how does it add to those conditions. see, it's one thing to tell an irish joke now, when ireland has found stability and peace, and some economic prosperity. it's not so bad, when no-one is going to deny you a job because you're irish, and no-one is going to stop you from renting a house, nor is anyone going to be cat-calling you on the street simply for being irish. but how was it when english people were telling irish jokes in ireland a couple of centuries ago, at a time when their land was occupied and there was considerable poverty and suffering? would it have been so funny at the time?

i don't think the two situations are exactly the same. the crux of the issue is the position of power that one had over the other, and the prevailing hatred and othering of a group of people that allowed that exercise of power in a destructive way. if the jokes add to that prevailing culture, if the jokes make it that much easier to keep abusing/marginalising an oppressed group, then i'd say it wasn't a good idea.

the trouble is when we talk about one individual joke. of course an individual joke doesn't make that much of a difference. but just melissa mcewan's rape culture 101 post describes so eloquently, it's the continuous, insidious, draining little things that add up to become a huge big thing that is significantly damaging to a group that already feels powerless. and until we fight against each little thing, and point out that it is not ok, we will never change the bigger picture.

i'm not saying that i think all racist, sexist, ablist, bigotted (or whatever) jokes should be banned. but i'm saying that it's fine to take someone to task for a joke, whether it's racial or racist. because even the racial joke will be one of those little things that add up to the bigger picture. it's ok to point out to a person the impacts of their words, and what the laughter might mean. and if that person is in a position of power and privilege, then the impact will be that much greater.

i know that many (if not all) comedians think that people have no right to be offended. and there is the prevailing view amongst a lot of people in general that others should be so thin-skinned, so politically correct, so humorless (oh yeah, we feminists do get that a lot). the funny thing is though, that most of those people suddenly don't find it so funny when the joke's on them. then there all like "if i'd said something like that about your demographic, you'd call me racist/sexist [whatever]", and suddenly be all offended and defensive.

mr edwards doesn't do that however. he is happy to be laughed at for being irish. that doesn't mean that everyone has to be happy about being laughed at. i go back to my last post - everyone has the freedom to respond as they see fit (as long as they do it without abuse or violence). if you're going to tell a joke, then you have to be prepared for the response. and if you're going to be all sensitive when people criticise your joke, then best you don't tell it in the first place.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

freedom to respond

well i had a little more excitement here yesterday than i was expecting, and i'm glad that's over. just a little more on gaza, i'm greatly disappointed at the american position on this. really, it's hard to tell that the party of the left is in power in that country, because just right now they're making exactly the same noises as the last lot. that's not much of a surprise, but still disappointing.

i've been meaning to write a post about the whole andy haden thing for days, but just haven't managed to get around to it. and pretty much everyone everywhere has written about it, so don't know that it's really worth the effort. but never mind, i'll just put down what i was thinking.

this whole incident happened soon after i was on radio nz's the panel last week (afternoons, 16.35, about 10 minutes into the clip) talking about freedom of speech issues regarding the drawing of Muhammad. i don't know that that session went as well as i wanted it to, but you can judge for your self.

the main point i was trying to get across is that i agree with freedom of speech, but that freedom has consequences. one of the most simple consequences is that the party you are addressing also has the freedom of speech to respond to you. they have the freedom to tell they disagree with you, that they don't like what you said, and to call for your resignation or for any other punitive action they think are appropriate. whether those consequences actually happen is another story, and depends on the context and the support these people have at the time. but they are certainly free to ask for something to happen in response.

the people who tell muslims to "just lighten up and get a sense of humour" seem often to think that freedom of speech should be free of consequences ie that they should be free to say whatever offensive thing they like, and the other person should just laugh it off. of course if someone says something offensive to or about them, then it's another story!

and that's what i'm finding interesting about the whole reaction to the andy haden thing. he exercised his freedom of speech, and there have been some pretty strong calls for consequences to happen as a result of it - his resignation from his position as a rugby ambassador.

those calling for consequences are in two camps. the first are the people who are understandably angry at his use of the word "darkie", at his characterisation of pacific island players, and at his apparent approval of the policy of limiting the number of pacific island players on a rugby team. i'd have to say that i'd be pretty much in support of this group of people. i think that positions like mr haden's have responsibilities attached, that statements such as the ones he made have a negative impact on a group of people who don't deserve it.

the second group of people are angry that he has made accusations of a quota for pacific island players, without providing any proof. to that extent, i'd have to agree with this second group of people as well. if you're going to make accusations, you have to prove those accusations are correct. if you don't have the proof but want to raise the issue, then you call for an investigation or raise it as a potential issue that needs to be addressed. i don't think that's too difficult.

then there are the supporters of mr haden, whom i haven't really bothered to listen to. but presumably they're sayign that he should be able to say whatever he pleases, and that we shouldn't be so PC. the supporters seem to limit their comments to the whole "darkie" thing, and don't want to address the false accusation bit except to assert it's true without providing evidence, at least from what little i've heard.

i'd say those wanting mr haden removed from his position are in the majority. and yet i wonder how they stand on the cartoons issue, and whether they see any parallels re freedom of speech. it seems pretty obvious to me.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

grieving for gaza, again

i had an incredibly busy weekend, involving a 4 hour strategic planning meeting, a board of directors AGM, a drive up to auckland to listen to a lovely talk, and dealing with some difficult issues, all of these as part of my volutary work. feels like i just haven't had a break, and i'm looking forward to the long weekend. although saturday will be spent on a full day meeting and i have another meeting scheduled for monday afternoon, and i have to do my tax return some time in between, so not looking like i'll get too much relaxing done. sometimes i think i need to leave the country just to get a break.

anyway, i did manage to get a couple of posts up at the hand mirror last night, one a video on sex slavery and the other about sex & the city 2.

today i've been feeling pretty sad about the murder of palestinian activists while trying to deliver aid from gaza. there's been quite a bit written about it already, this prior to the incident by gordon campbell and this written today. a pretty lengthy discussion here at the standard, which i've only read a bit of.

there's also this at kiwipolitico which i found disappointing. pretty much a "what did you think would happen you stupid fools, you should never have sent the ships". which totally ignores the suffering of the people of gaza, where the people have some of the worst living conditions on the planet. a lack of food, a lack of medical supplies, of water, of electricity and a massive unemployment rate. the damage done by the israeli targetted strikes at infrastructure in december 2008 still hasn't been fixed. this blockade has gone on for three years, with no end in sight and a lack of will from the international community to make any serious attempt to fix the situation.

if the ship shouldn't be sent, then i'd like to know a solution to this and particularly one that will involve no loss of life. because frankly, i can't see one. israel has made it clear, well before today, that violence will be used against any attempt to circumvent the blockade. the people of gaza have been put in a position that if they try to fight back they're branded terrorists. they're supposed to just suffer and die, i suppose. and the rest of the world is supposed to look the other way, and just let it continue to happen.

that's not good enough. and the nz response is not good enough. from an earlier post, readers will know that i opposed the opening of the israeli embassy. after what's happened today, the only reasonable response is to shut the embassy and send the ambassador packing. if illegaly boarding a vessel in international waters, killing 9 people and injuring 30 others isn't enough, then what is? how many people have to die before it's a bad enough act?

the response of the new ambassador was frankly sickening, from the little i saw on tv1 news today. he really did have a half smile on his face while he was saying that this was not a "good look" for israel. i just can't understand it, i do not get how a person can be so disconnected as to not care about the people killed today and the people suffering in gaza for many years.

meanwhile, here is some other stuff to read:
- mazin qumsiyeh: of cowardice, dignity and solidarity.
- this from the christian peacemakers team, just one of the many, many instances of land grab in the occupied territories.

there will be a protest rally in auckland this saturday at 1pm, aotea square. i'm hoping to slip out of my full day meeting to attend this, and i encourage others to take part. finally, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed today, and with the long-suffering people of gaza. inna lillahe wa inna ilaihe raji'oon.