Stop Fighting on our Bodies

I spent New Year’s Eve 2015 in Egypt, one of my favorite places on the planet, a source of great inspiration and self-fulfillment; at the same time, a place of pandemic sexual harassment, a country that often has me cringing with frustration over the way women are treated inside the family or out in the public, a country that was also the inspiration for my Bachelor thesis about sexual violence against women in the political realm.

Now, on that same New Year’s Eve, Cologne in Germany became a staging ground for mass harassment and even rape of women by allegedly North African men, possibly refugees, possibly living in Germany for a couple of years already—the details remain unclear as news of false accusations surface while others are proven to be true. What is very clear, however, is the public debate that arose from this incident and the instigative way that it was portrayed in the media. Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the most read and respected German newspapers posted an image of a black arm reaching between white women’s legs (they later apologized for the racist way this could be interpreted); FOCUS, a .. well, let’s say not the most unprofessional, and equally popular German news magazine showed a similar image on their cover of a white woman’s naked body with black handprints on it.

focustitelSo returning to Germany after my holiday, I had no desire whatsoever to engage in any debates on the topic, because I knew that I was going to face a front of hysterical white people. And by white I don’t mean skin colour, being quite pale myself. By white I am talking about people who grew up in Germany and understandably have little or no experience with Arabic or Muslim societies. And whether they are ignorant racists that protest against refugees using public swimming pools, or fairly open-minded students of political sciences, most of them will easily fall for the rhetoric of the barbaric Arab man who just does not fit into our civilized, progressive culture, where women are supposedly empowered and free and respected… Continue reading

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The Great Rebellion of our age: thoughts on the Paris terrorist attacks

History repeats itself. As simple as it sounds, it never ceases to surprise me how the exact same thing happens over and over again and we choose not to learn from it.

Around the same time the killings in Paris happened, I read an article about the “Great Rebellion” or “Sepoy Revolt” in India, 1857, when 300 Sepoy—local soldiers recruted by the East India Company—insurged against their British officers, rode to Delhi and massacrated each and every Christian citizen, men, women and children alike. What followed were countless brutal battles and finally the victory of the British troops that invaded Delhi and on their part slaughtered thousands of civilians.

The roots of the revolt lay in the British imperialistic violence and their ruthless invasion of Indian soil since the beginning of the 18th century. Lord Wellesley, a cunning rhetorician, with the help of the conservative media, had managed to portray the Indian Mogul Tipu Sultan as an evil Muslim monster, a raging fanatic, a cruel enemy, to convince the British Parlament of an expensive and controversial crusade, aimed at demonstrating power over all European rivals, as well as striking preemptively against potentially hostile Muslim empires. Thus, British presence in India had developed from an economical partnership to an exploitative occupation, that not only annexed two thirds of the territory, but also portrayed the Christian colonizers as liberators, that were to free the Indians of their dark backwardness and bring them salvation. However, the Indian population’s fear of the missionaries had fueled resentment toward British rule and boosted the rise of Islamist groups eager to end the kāfir (unbeliever) regime on Indian soil. After the rebellion had been put down, the Mogul emperor, who had cooperated with the Sepoy—most of whom were Hindus—, was accused of partaking in an international Muslim conspiracy. Instead of questioning their own foreign policy, the British found the reason for all bloodshed in Islamist fanatism. As always was and until today has remained the case, the Western imperialists refused to understand that forcing a racist and hegemonial regime onto a foreign land must have two effects: to turn the population against the intruder and to offer a breeding ground for any type of extremism.

Without wanting to justify any kind of violence no matter what its history may be, I will link the bloody events of Delhi to those of Paris in two senses: (1) that the violence we have seen in Paris twice this year, in New York’s traumatic 9/11 attacks, and in various other Western cities, rose from the ruins of Western Imperialism; and (2) that the way violence is dealt with in the media and in society in Europe and the USA is something that we as the civil society urgently need to challenge. Continue reading