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From Minneapolis to Indonesia, peer policing for “deviancy” is on the rise in a trend that was first triggered by social media. In addition, across the board, social media platforms are involving themselves in state affairs to facilitate a state agenda.
Recently, Ensaf Haidar, wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, had a tweet against face veils flagged by Twitter for violating Pakistani law. Another Silicon Valley giant, Google, is hand-in-hand helping Chinese authorities crackdown on it’s Uighur (Muslim) population.
The advent of policing and censoring speech within social media platforms has normalized the idea that it is acceptable to police each other for “unfavorable” rhetoric. That concept is now moving beyond online spaces and taking up real estate in communities from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Jakarta, Indonesia.
The slow-drip of these developments, and the fact that they are stretched across territories and over time, make it difficult for people to connect the dots.
In 2016, for example, the Kansas City school board passed a resolution condemning violence and hate speech against Muslim students. In 2017, the city of Minneapolis launched a hotline to report “harassing behaviors motivated by prejudice.” Within just the last couple of years, more major cities across the U.S. are passing legislation against Islamophobia.
While hate, discrimination and violence against any group needs to be stood against steadfastly, the trouble with verbiage in these cases is that as a society we’re conflating ignorant and frowned-upon rhetoric, politically incorrect comments and other expressions of free speech with genuine hate speech that instigates violence.
The patrolling of behavior in online spaces has arguably facilitated the patrolling of speech in physical spaces. Additionally, ballooning definitions of Islamophobia have not helped the situation, particularly as any critical commentary or philosophical inquiry into Islam (or any other contentious or complex issue for that matter) is now seen as dancing on a razor’s edge of hate.
In other words, any opinion someone doesn’t like risks being labeled offensive, hateful and in some cases punishable. Particularly noteworthy is the hysterical reaction to behavior classified as “deviant.” Whether it’s America’s tech elite facilitating the fundamentalism and fascism of foreign powers or the draconian regulation of free thought and expression, we are not that different from those we claim to be better than. Not anymore.
In Indonesia, for example, the practice of peer policing has taken an additional step that now includes an app that allows people to report deviancy. Just like hate, discrimination and Islamophobia, deviancy can mean anything.
How much longer will it be before Americans are also able to peer police each other through apps with devastating consequences to life, liberty and privacy? We are already being primed for more serious stages of self-reporting through the measures already in play.
Apple CEO Tim Cook talks at the Debating Ethics event at the European Parliament in Brussels on October 24, 2018. (Photo: Aris Oikonomou/AFP/Getty Images)
On December 3rd, 2018, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that tech needs to take a moral stand against hate speech, in a move that sounded very much like a nouveau form of fundamentalism. Speaking to individuals and groups believed to push hate, division and violence, Cook said, “You have no place on our platforms. You have no home here.”
While such intentions are noble, their application is subjective and deeply flawed. It’s a known fact that political conservatives are frequently blocked and banned from social media, often doing little to nothing to trigger the exile while terror organizations and Islamist extremists continue to enjoy access to the very same platforms.
As reported in part of Clarion Project’s Silicon Valley series, “Who Has the Widest Censorship Reach in Human History,” a combination of leaked memos, whistleblowers, demonstrated behavior and now open statements such as those made by Cook, shows that Silicon Valley has a draconian behavior modification agenda masked by Orwellian “double talk” language that can best be summarized with the mantra “censorship is peace” or better yet, “silence is peace.”
Peace cannot be ushered by choking voices. Neither is peace authentic when it is forced rather than collaboratively nurtured.
As a Muslim reformer who has had to fight brick by brick against authoritarian community standards that thinks silence is peace, I am deeply alarmed by the culture of tech companies and their overpowering reach.
Of course, the fact that they have so much power is partly our fault. While we were so joyously marveling over hyper-speed advances in modern technology, voluntarily plugging data and dependency into a new evolving system, we trusted too deeply with our good faith in these organizations — without contemplating the power they would have to imprint the next phase of human civilization.
The effect of that imprint is a system that uses humanitarian ideals to push thought control and, when that fails, coerce human behavior with strategic punishment for deviation.
In other words, if Silicon Valley cannot shame you into submission culturally, it will punish you into submission. In the interim, it will deceptively use the language of freedom and other pinnacle human values of tolerance and unity to ensure intolerance and conformity.
As a nation we moan about the barbarity of Third World theocratic nations, yet we are building that same culture here. Not with one or two handfuls of fundamentalists from a Third World country, but with the most elite, well-resourced machine in known human history with access to billions of people.
Street style in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo: Christian Vierig / Getty Images)
Over Thanksgiving weekend, Clarion Project received a flood of messages from anti-FGM advocates devastated by the ruling on our nation’s first FGM case.
Last week, Clarion Project reported on the breaking news that a federal judge dismissed FGM charges against a Michigan doctor on a legal loophole. Here’s are some of the comments we received from global activists:
“We are saddened that this case has been thrown out – the decision impacts not only those affected directly, but also thousands of girls at risk of FGM in the US. Anti-FGM laws are essential for the protection of women and girls and they are an important statement of intent at both federal and state level that demonstrate that this harmful practice is an unacceptable form of child abuse.
This case has shown that anti-FGM laws in the U.S. need to be revisited and tightened so that cases brought to court cannot be thrown out on a technicality. National legislation needs to be adopted and enforced across ALL States to ensure consistency of protection and also prevent women and girls from being moved between states to avoid prosecution. We fully support Equality Now, We Speak Out, Sahiyo and Safe Hands for Girls who are now pushing for the U.S. government to appeal this decision.”
– Dr Ann-Marie Wilson, Founder and Executive Director, 28 Too Many
“While I understand that the decision was probably based on a legal technicality, I deeply regret that those guilty of these atrocities will go unpunished for this particular act. It is imperative that ALL states pass legislation to address the issue. Victims deserve justice and a message must be sent to all those who practice FGM. I wish I never had to perform another FGM reversal operation.”
– Dr. T. Wayne Bloodworth, The Surgery Center for FGM
“What is so disappointing is that justice will be delayed in this case. There is a growing, global movement against khafz/FGC [FGM] and we need positive judgments to send a strong message to our community that this practice is harmful and illegal. We must protect future generations of Bohra girls.”
– Farzana Doctor, Author and Social Worker, We Speak Out
“This judgement does not behold well for the global mission (and the United Nation’s SDG5 goal) to end FGM. It will definitely have a ripple effect on anti-FGM campaigns worldwide because it has validated the assumptions of locals and practitioners of FGM that the ‘white imperialist’ never really cared about the ‘presumed complications of FGM’ but just wanted to deprive other people of their traditions.
It just doesn’t add up and it’s somehow hypocritical – how the U.S. government that sends funds to support Global Health Efforts – including FGM – cannot be emphatic and exemplary in showing the world of their commitment to end FGM by giving a reprimand to the offenders.
It is really complicated. Already, the fear of being labeled either as racists or cultural imperialists has deterred many white people from opposing FGM! This judgement will definitely widen that side of the divide. However, we call on the U.S. government to be categorical in taking a giant step in the path to condemn FGM worldwide, because FGM is a crime against humanity!”
– Sylvia Chioma, Project Coordinator, The Girdle Network
“I was greatly saddened when I heard this news…what this judgment does is that it reinforces the practice of FGM in the US by removing the legal backing which many activists and survivors currently enjoy in the U.S. Hopefully this judgment gets appealed against because it’s simply outrageous.”
– Ugwu Somto, Lawyer on gender issues, The Society for Improvement of Rural People (SIRP)
In the season of #MeToo that has brought increased awareness of and sensitivity to women’s rights and gender violence, it is especially baffling for any American judge to fail to protect women and girls. On Monday, November 26th, Time Magazine published an article on what the “most dangerous place” is for women.
The article was a report on a recent United Nations study that concluded how, around the world, “home” may very well be the most dangerous place for a female. In addition to gender, domestic and honor violence, it should also be noted that FGM often takes place in the home. At the very least, it is a decision made by elders within the family, a structure that should offer the most protection for a child.
Home should be a sanctuary for a young girl, not a place where she will become the victim of a brutal mutilation that will negatively impact her physically, sexually and psychologically for the rest of her life.
Somalia: An FGM ‘cutter’ looks into a piece of a mirror. (Photo: Nichole Sobecki/AFP/Getty Images)
America’s first FGM trial failed to punish abusers as the judge in the landmark trial dropped charges against Dr. Nagarwala and the two mothers accused of bringing in their daughters for female genital mutilation.
Judge Bernard Friedman passed the responsibility to individual states, ruling in this judgment that FGM is a criminal act and not a violation of federal commerce laws . However, Michigan’s FGM law was enacted after Dr. Nagarwala’s after-hours back-shop butchery that involved a procedure of genital cutting on multiple girls. The newly-passed Michigan law can’t be applied retroactively against Dr. Nagarwala or the parents of the girls.
Legally, we’ve lost this battle and it’s been utterly crushing for all of us, especially survivors. But we can still win the culture war that can ensure all states pass FGM laws to make it clear that these are our values and there are the consequences for trespassing against those values.
Right now we’re in a culture war on women’s rights. We’ve gained ground with the #MeToo movement and are beginning to collectively understand forms of aggression and abuse that have historically been glossed over. It is only fitting that we not only protect women, but also emerging women: our daughters. If you can’t do that — if you can’t protect girls — you don’t get to say you care about women’s rights.
The judge’s announcement came the same day as International Children’s Day, and the U.S. legal system failed to protect American girls against a dehumanizing cultural practice that reduces a girl’s value to little more than a breeder. For the last year since this trial came to surface, activists have struggled to pass laws against FGM because what is clearly gender violence is camouflaged as a community practice and protected as such.
As a civilization we need to figure out what we’re about: We’re either about human rights or we’re not. We either protect the individual, or we’re comfortable with children being sacrificed to culture. Which is it going to be — because it can’t be both.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. The activists and survivors I’ve spoken with in the last 48 hours are shocked and devastated. The ruling undermines their stories, their pain and suffering, and has in a way silenced them at this hour.
Muslim reformer and American veteran Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, whom I discussed this issue with earlier this year, also shared his outrage:
This premature ruling is beyond egregious. It is inhuman and un-American. The judge just signaled to butchers like “Dr” Nagarwala that they can seek refuge in the U.S. federal system for their crimes against the humanity of young girls.
I understand the mental gymnastics of his federalist ruling. But the case hasn’t even been tried yet. While Nagarwala may yet end up in jail for decades due to obstruction charges, there appeared to be many other ways justice could have served those poor tortured girls she slaughtered without dismissing the entire FGM charge.
This is what happens with premature uniformed judgments on such a landmark case. The judge cannot just wrap himself conveniently in a few words of acknowledgement of the horrors of FGM.
This case was breaking new ground and it’s not clear to anyone that the feds made their case fully yet as to why they had jurisdiction and why the federal law was in fact constitutional. Instead it appears the judge just took a sweeping premature puritanical approach to his federalist concerns.
Seven- to 9-year old girls were being trafficked between states and then tortured by licensed physicians. Federal law enforcement devoted heavy national resources to the case after finding probable cause for the crimes on federal books.
It requires a suspension of disbelief for anyone to entertain an argument that FGM based in cross-state trafficking could not fit into many aspects of federal jurisdiction especially given the ’96 law.
Yet the judge predetermined the law to be unconstitutional. So if this case is about justice for young girls, there must have been countless ways to send a clear and unmistakable message about FGM regarding many counts against the perpetrators while yet leaving some room in the decision for some teaching points on “federalism.”
The U.S. attorney’s office can speak to elements of the crimes related to trafficking for abuse and harm of children or the cross-state abuse of medical practice privilege upon vulnerable children who were tortured.
Journalist Khadija Khan also had harsh words for this outrageous verdict. Khan, who covers women’s rights, minority issues and extremism, had this to share with Clarion Project:
I hoped that after having these culprits convicted and punished under U.S. law, we would move on to take further measures for the protection of these vulnerable girls who are potentially at the risk for FGM. But this decision seems to have brought us back to the square one.
Every year, more than three million girls and women are estimated to be at the risk of FGM. The mindset to control women through FGM and modesty culture lurks behind the façade of religion and custom. Therefore, labeling FGM as religious right is actually a cover-up for this heinous crime. Same goes for the rites like halala and hijab imposition for kindergarden kids.
It is outrageous that there are religious fanatics who defend this inhuman practice with impunity despite it being illegal in the USA. It has been decades since Britain and USA banned FGM, but there is very little being done to prevent this heinous crime.
Saying that it can’t be dealt under federal law because it is a “local criminal activity” and has to be done at state level is tantamount to diminishing the intensity of FGM, especially when it is happening across the USA as well as in the West.
The fear and trauma victims face during these inhuman procedures are simply impalpable. They live with lifelong scars and a mutilated body with insufferable psychological and physical pain. Therefore, these cases should be dealt without any caveat as it is done under the French law with up to 20 years in prison for performing FGM on girls/women and parents who commit such horror to their own kids are considered accomplices to the crime.
Humane values that embody equality and tolerance amongst people demand compassion and unconditional commitment to these vulnerable girls and women. Almost half of the U.S. states don’t even recognize FGM as a crime, which points to the need for more empathy for the victims and progressive law making if these girls are also considered human beings by the society. Civilized people can’t shed their skin by simply turning a blind eye to their plight.
In the days to come, Clarion Project will bring you additional voices of survivors and activists, including Muslim women, all of whom have been tirelessly working to end female genital mutilation. The fight on America’s first FGM trial is far from over. The case can still be appealed and, in the interim, every state that has still not passed a law against female genital mutilation needs to make it part of their 2019 agenda to do so.
Muslim men and women pray at a mosque (Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Even though Muslim women are winning political offices, they are still losing at mosques as they continue to face alienation in the theological sphere. They still face restrictions within their own community that limits their engagement, including entering mosques through side entrances and sitting behind a partitions or walls with unequal accommodations and access to speakers and the collective conversation.
On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, Rashida Tlaib, Illhan Omar, Hodan Hassan and Safiya Wazir all won their bids for office during the 2018 U.S. midterms. However, despite their achievements they still face a stunning misogynistic patriarchal barrier at home.
“Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will be seated behind a wall, separated from the men in 90% of American mosques if they attend next Friday prayer.” – Souleiman Ghali, Founder of YouMosque [November 7th, 2018]
Souleiman Ghali is a progressive Muslim and a founding member of the Islamic Society of San Francisco. He was also the main force behind the wall’s removal at the Darussalam mosque in downtown San Francisco. In a 2006 New York Times interview, Ghali shares why America is exceptional in providing opportunities to Muslims:
“We can discuss things that would be taboo in different countries. Here we can challenge ideas or change them, and there is no religious authority to come in with the power of the government to shut us down, accusing us of being infidels contradicting thousand years of religious norm.”
Ghali was right in that there is no religious authority with the power of the government to shut them down. However, he faced considerable backlash from his own community. Yet, he faced legal opposition from a imam he fired, after discovering the imam’s hateful stances.
Being in one of the most liberal cities in America (San Francisco) that offers absurd levels of sympathy for any minority that claims an injustice, Ghali eventually lost a lawsuit brought on by the imam for wrongful termination. Learning from the experience, Ghali recently launched YouMosque, an innovative tech solution for communities that want sermons without relying on foreign hate imams to fill those needs.
While there is no religious authority backed by government in America, we see that the Muslim community is its own crushing force. In discussing Ghali’s quote, I faced opposition from a Harvard-educated Muslim woman who shared the following:
“As an American Muslim who is involved in politics these sorts of things make me very anxious. What do my political wins have to do with what some people do at mosques? It seems quite unfair.”
Author Ed Husain drives the point home a day after Muslim women win office. Husain shared a stunningly honest status update of Facebook:
“If you believe a woman cannot enter your mosque, pray beside you, inherit equally, trigger/issue divorce, testify equally in court and cannot marry freely, then you’re wrong to be celebrating two Muslim U.S. congresswomen. Check your male prejudices.”
Husain also addresses the collectivist attitudes that a win for the individual and her community is a win for all Muslims. In truth, Muslim women win office because they’ve taken advantage of opportunities awarded to them, the same of which are not afforded to women at even most local mosque boards.
Protest over the execution of Indonesian migrant worker Tuti Tursilawati in front of the Saudi embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia on Friday, November 2, 2018. (Photo: Andrew Lotulung / NurPhoto / Getty Images)
Saudi barbarity grows bolder as the regime launched multiple execution campaigns on both foreign nationals and in foreign lands.
It’s a move that has American Muslims pushing further away from the “birthplace of Islam.”
Saudi Arabia’s Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
On October 2, 2018, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was attacked and killed in a Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi had flown in from the United States to settle paperwork ahead of his marriage to his fiance. Saudi consulate cameras show him entering the consulate, but cameras failed to record thereafter.
Saudi officials burned through a series of deniability claims, including that Khashoggi had left and also doctored video footage of his departure. They later confessed Khashoggi had died in a “fight” in the consulate, presumably at the hands of the hit squad sent in to kill him and who also allegedly cut Khashoggi into pieces and possibly dissolved his body in acid. Turkish authorities leading the investigation shared news that a 15-man hit team had flown in on a private plane ahead of Khashoggi’s arrival and departed soon after.
Khashoggi was an open and vocal critic of Saudi government and policies, but still retained hope that the regime might alter its course of action.
Saudi Arabia’s Ruthless Treatment of Foreign Workers
On October 29, 2018, the Saudi regime executed an Indonesian maid, Tuti Tursilawati, who killed her Saudi employer as he attempted to rape her. Tuti, a mother of one, was held in prison for seven years for the attack before being killed without any notice given to Indonesian officials.
Paired with on-street protests in Indonesia outside the Saudi consulate, Indonesian officials have been in an uproar about the execution, especially given the horrific conditions for Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, 18 more Indonesians are on death row in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is a country where South Asian, Southeast Asian and African immigrant labor force often have no rights or protections. They’re seen as subhuman and are expected to accept any abuse their employers choose to inflict, including sexual abuse:
Arab supremacism subjects non-Arab Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to a steady stream of abuse including Bangladeshi workers, Kenyan workers, Philippino workers, Vietnamese workers and more. Each case is a story of 21st century enslavement in a country that many non-Muslims and Arabs consider to be the “heart” of the Islamic world.
Saudi Arabia Drags Back Female Asylum Seekers
Countless stories have surfaced of Saudi women, including those within the privileged royal family, attempting to find asylum outside of Saudi Arabia. Failed efforts are followed by a desperate fear of the punishment, abuse — and often honor violence — that awaits these women when they return home.
Sisters Ashwaq Hamoud and Areej Hamoud fled Saudi Arabia to escape abuse from male family members. Their attempt to flee to New Zealand was cut short by authorities who suspected the sisters were trying to flee.
A 24-year-old Saudi woman, Dina Ali Lasloom, was returned to Saudi Arabia by authorities in the Philippines while in transit attempting to escape a forced marriage. She has already been beaten by her uncles, with evidence of bruising on her arms. She has not been heard from since. When asked about her, Saudi officials respond that it is a “family matter,” which is interpreted to mean that how her family chooses to deal with her stands as the only recognized authority. Dina’s rights and vision for her own life are not recognized.
Mariam al-Otaibi, 29, fled an abusive family, but was quickly captured and jailed. Mariam is also a fierce campaigner against guardianship systems.
Sisters Talea Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 22, were Saudi asylum seekers whose bodies were discovered in the Hudson River late last month. They were duct-taped together at the waist and ankles, and placed face to face.
In neighboring Dubai, a princess tried to flee the country by boat, only to be stopped by Indian authorities. Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum commandeered a boat with the help of friends and fled the country, only to be brought back screaming as Indian authorities handed her over.
While Dubai is not Saudi Arabia, the patterns of abuse toward dissidents, asylum seekers, royals as well as the non-elite is identical. Both in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, fundamentalism runs rampant in forms beyond jihadism and Islamism. This is institutionalized barbarity and corrupt patriarchy at its worst.
According to Human Rights Watch, under Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system, “Adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian to travel abroad, marry, or be released from prison, and may be required to provide guardian consent to work or get health care. These restrictions last from birth until death as women are, in the view of the Saudi state, permanent legal minors.”
Saudi Barbarity Undermines Saudi ‘Custodianship’ of Islam
As Saudi barbarity escalates and is demonstratively visible, more Muslims are disassociating Islam with Saudi Arabia and calling for boycotts of the Hajj. The yearly holy pilgrimage to Mecca has always anchored Saudia Arabia to Islam, despite the fact that most Muslims are not Arab.
Iran and Qatar have already begun distancing themselves from the Hajj due to political turmoil. Tunisia’s grand imam has called for a boycott over regional wars, urging instead that Tunisians use their money to improve local conditions.
Indonesian students are also pushing back against Saudi Arabia for leveraging the Hajj as a political tool, including shutting down student conferences in Indonesian because Saudis didn’t approve of the topic.
In the U.S., American Muslims eager to carve out an American Islam are taking note of the waves of conflict that Saudi Arabia has with neighboring states, including unchecked abuse, failed reform initiatives and a clamp down on free speech. These are counter to the values American Muslims cherish and are building their identity on.
At large when you ask American Muslims how they feel about the country, the responses tend to range from disdain and mistrust over Saudi barbarity. That’s something to keep in mind as the Trump administration (and American celebrities) court Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who has been hailed as a reformer for the kingdom.