Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Woman Imams in China

Apparently, in China, woman can be imams.

Don't these woman have beautiful faces, full of knowledge and compassion?

The original article is here:

"When I was a girl most of us females were illiterate. We knew nothing about the world. Taking these classes gives us so much knowledge about how to conduct ourselves as good Muslims and the right values with which to bring up our families," says Ma Fen Zhen, who, at 70, is the oldest student at these classes.

A hundred miles east of Yinchuan in the small town of Ling Wu, 50 other women, their heads covered with scarves, sit in a room reciting verses in Arabic from the Koran. They are being taught by Yang Yu Hong, one of two women imams at the Tai Zi mosque. Yang received her title of Imam from the Islamic Association four years ago. She is one of approximately 200 certified women imams in the province.

Yang's husband, also an imam, is currently studying theology in Egypt. She says that both he and other members of her family supported her decision to study religion and qualify for the title
of imam.

Yang adds that she does not see anything un-Islamic about the concept of women imams. "There are many things that are easier for women to talk about with other women. And everyone, man or woman, has a duty to study and understand the religion."

While the women are granted the title of imam they are still not allowed to lead men in prayers. Their role is more that of a teacher and their students are exclusively female. "The women imams are respected people whom the community looks up to but of course they do not have the same religious powers as men. Men and women are equal but their roles are different," says Ma Xiao.

The people interviewed in the article say that they don't suffer any government control or restriction of their religion. I'm not sure I believe that. It's China after all. But it's so amazing to see how beautiful and diverse Islam is in the world today.

Egyptian general admits 'virginity checks' conducted on protesters

Mubarak is gone, but the army is still in power. Can we hope for change?

Egyptian general admits 'virginity checks' conducted on protesters

This is their excuse:

"The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," the general said. "These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs)."

The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn't later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

"We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," the general said. "None of them were (virgins)."

Because only virgins can be raped, you see...

These women=so, so brave.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Frameline LGBT festival under attack by haters

Ohy, dear. I just received this email from someone who pretends she cares about LGBT rights, but clearly is just into the identity politics game.

For the second year in a row, the San Francisco International Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Trans Film Festival has accepted Israeli sponsorship and money. This is unacceptable to queers who are committed to promoting human rights for all people, not just narrow civil rights for some queers.

(What???? Palestinian queers go to Isarael for sanctuary. Everyone knows that)

Several months ago, we forwarded to Frameline, the presenters of the Film Festival, an open letter from Palestinian queers for BDS asking international artists and activists to respect the cultural boycott of Israeli institutions (note that the boycott does not target individual artists or filmmakers who are not representing the government or participating in "pinkwashing" of Israeli apartheid).

(The boycott absolutely does target individual- look at how many of their facebook pages have been hijacked by those pretending to care about human dignity)

It is deeply offensive that an institution which claims to promote diversity and liberation for queer people would slap Palestinian queers in the face by accepting money from the Israeli government.

(But go ahead and slap Israeli queers in the face. Thats ok, because they are Israeli. No one cares)


Please call Frameline any time on Wed June 1st and ask that they not give in to the haters and to the bullies Remind them of Israel's record of promoting LGBT inclusion. If you get a voicemail, leave a message. If you get a busy signal or no answer, send a fax (preferably) or email kcprice@frameline.org and jennifer@frameline.org

You can also FAX messages to them in addition to calling.

The Frameline phone number is: 415-703-8650 .
The FAX number is: 415-861-1404 .

Check out the GLAZE facebook page- its brand new- for more information on Israel's LGBT record

If you need talking points:

LGBT Rights in Israel

-Gays have full rights to serve in the military

-Sodomy laws were struck down in 1988

-Full civil rights for LGBT people established in 1992

-Partner benefits for all governmental employees, including the national airline, El Al

-Partner adoption rights

-In 2007 the State agreed to recognize same gender marriages preformed abroad, similar to its recognition of other civil marriages from other countries

LGBT Pride in Israel

* Pride parades take place annually in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Eilat and Haifa. Attempts by Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious groups to stop the parades, mostly in Jerusalem have consistently been blocked by the Israeli Supreme Court.

* The first transgender person to win the Eurovision contest was Israeli Dana International in 1998 with her song, "Diva". Eurovision is watched by hundreds of millions of people through Europe, Asia and Africa.

* Openly gay singer Ivri Lidder is amongst Israel's most popular entertainers

* Openly gay movie producer Eytan Fox has become one of Israel's most important film exporters to the world, with his movies "Yossi and Jagger", Walk on Water" and "The Bubble".

* Openly gay politicians have served in the Israeli Kenneset and on the city councils of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

For more information

The Agunah, Israel's main LGBT civil rights organization

Jerusalem Open House, the LGBT community Center of Israel (also serving the Palestinian territories)

Gay Middle East, covering Israel and the entire Arab world

Go gay (Hebrew language portal)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Afghanistan's accidental gay pride

Pride flags are cool in Afghanistan. But not for the right reasons

From an article by Nushin Arbabzadah in the Guardian

If you are gay and proud, Afghanistan is quite likely the last place on earth to show it publicly. How, then, are we supposed to make sense of the recent very conspicuous appearance of the rainbow-coloured gay pride symbols all over the streets of Kabul and other urban centres?

The pioneer Afghan Pajhwak news agency took it upon itself to investigate this unusual sociocultural phenomenon, sending a reporter to interview drivers who had decorated their cars with gay pride stickers and rear banners. After all, these Chinese-made car accessories had suddenly become popular, available in any garage supplying vehicle parts.

Even more remarkably, Afghan drivers seemed to have little concern about using their cars to openly advertise being gay and proud of it. In a country where social conservatism sometimes results in gay men sharing their life with their partner of choice and an arranged wife so as to keep up appearances, there was certainly something very unusual about this apparently new openness.

Needless to say, Pajhwak's reporter soon discovered that Afghans who had decorated their cars with the rainbow symbol had no idea what it stood for. For them it was just the newest car fashion accessory but, on learning of its meaning in the west, drivers immediately started removing it.

The rainbow stickers had first arrived on secondhand cars imported from Canada. Afghans had simply assumed that the colour combination was the latest fashion fad in the west, and duly adopted it.

Had it not been for the news agency's interest, the gay pride symbol would have continued to flourish in Afghanistan. Uprooted from its original cultural environment and landing in the country by sheer accident, it would have led an existence devoid of any meaning aside from showing that, like everywhere else in the world, Afghan men loved their cars.

But since Afghanistan is no longer an isolated country, imported symbols are bound to be recognised and decoded not only by globetrotting members of the middle class but also the many expatriate internationals and returnee Afghans. Once informed about the symbol's meaning, the stickers were removed en mass. One commentator even expressed the hope that the embarrassing incident would serve as cautionary tale, warning Afghans against their tendency to blindly follow fashions imported from elsewhere.

The confusion that had allowed for the gay-pride car accessories to become coveted goods in Afghan garages is not restricted to the symbol itself. Judging by the way homosexuality is debated in the public sphere, the term itself is understood incorrectly.

It is usually used as a synonym for what would be described in Europe and North America as paedophilia. Hence, on the rare occasions when Afghan writers dare to publicly tackle problems related to sexuality, we encounter the local terms hamjins baazi (homosexuality) and bacha baazi (paedophilia) used interchangeably, as if they both deal with the same phenomenon.

There seems to be little awareness of the fact that in liberal democracies of the west the term strictly refers to relationships between consenting adults.

Given that Afghanistan is an exceedingly conservative society, it is astonishing that articles openly discussing homosexuality actually exist. The content of such articles is often surprising. Hence, in what – by Afghan standards – is a frank and almost judgment-free article, one writer establishes that it is the country's social conditions that contribute to unorthodox practices. Blaming strict gender segregation, the author points out that since desire is natural to humankind, its suppression is bound to make it resurface in a different guise: "For example, monks and those who renounce worldly pleasures quite often tend to be fat, with big bellies. Their desire has resurfaced as greed for food."

Following this rather strange line of argument, the reader is then confronted with a bizarre assessment: if necessary, relations with underage persons should be conducted with girls rather than boys because even if they are physically immature, the female anatomy still renders girls more natural partners.

A recurrent theme in all such debates is a juxtaposition of European countries' treatment of the hijab with their attitude towards homosexuality. Authors are genuinely puzzled that France has banned the hijab, which in their view is a religious obligation, but protects the rights of homosexuals – which they say is banned by all religions.

Such articles as a rule make generous use of question marks and exclamation marks. These loud orthographic markers, in turn, echo the profound divide that separates the Afghans' traditional society from the liberal markets from whence secondhand cars make their journey across continents, sometimes complete with dangerously loaded but misunderstood ornamental accessories.

Egyptian Women Speak Out Against Sectarian Strife

From Nasawiyah:

A large number of Egyptian women participated in a march entitled “No to sectarian strife” which appeared with its ugly face in the district of Imbaba. They participated in this march to stress the values of citizenship and tolerance and to prevent the strife that has been witnessed in the district and in many different places in Egypt after the revolution. The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights affirms that the incidents that happened between Muslims and Christians are a clear attempt to abort the 25th of January revolution through the use of women to fuel strife.

ECWR praises women who participated in this march: they included women from all political sides and also from the district of Imbaba. The women participants in this march were from all categories: housewives, employees, female Muslims carrying the cross and female Christians affirming the values of full citizenship with their chants. ECWR thought that women’s participation in this march came to affirm their refusal to be used, and to affirm their refusal to use the religion in their name in terms of trading with religion by the two sides.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cynthia McKinney in Libya and Iran

Well, I'm back. My kid sister graduated this weekend, so I had to fly to the East Coast, do the family thing.

I got back, threw my clothes in the washing machine and made some coffee, before I checked out LezGetReal, and found out that while I was wearing high heels to make my mom happy and telling all my aunts I'd get married real soon, Cynthia McKinney was on Libyan TV. And she was not camping out to show her solidarity with the rebels, oh no, she was on state TV, Qaddafi's own personal network, calling for NATO to back off Libya and let Qaddafi kill as many of his people as he wants. She called Qaddafi a 'hero for African rights and liberation'. Akh laa! Spare me.

This is the same week that she was at some 'peace conference' in Iran, on TV there. I know some people from Iran. Let's just say that if you get on the television there...basically, Cynthia McKinney is running around, kissing up to tyrants that murder their own citizens, their own people, and acting like she should get the Peace Prize for it.

My girl Linda Carbonell at LezGetReal got real: McKinney lacks the capacity to understand which groups are being oppressed by whom. Someone needs to send her the video of Neda Agha-Solton dying in the street in Tehran and ask her who the real victims are in that country – the government that is charging ahead with plans to put nuclear plants on active fault lines or the people in the street who were protesting a repressive theocracy. Then, send her some video from Misrata so she can see what Qaddafi is capable of – the wanton leveling of a city of 300,000 to retain power.

And that's the truth.

Cucumbers for Peace. Israeli/palestinian Agricultural Co-operation

This is interesting,and its a good example of why co-operation is the way to go, and why I personally reject BDS as a divisive and manipulative tactic, and as an obstacle to peace:

The Civil Administration, in coordination with security forces and the Ministry of Defense crossings operators, works to ensure the marketing of 15,000-18,000 tons of cucumbers, which in turn supply Palestinian farmers with approximately 60 million NIS in revenue. The produce is significant to the 3,000 families of Palestinian farmers in the northern West Bank who consider cucumbers their primary source of income, as well as for Israelis wherein 60% of their cucumbers are brought from Jenin.

In order to best answer the farmers’ needs, the hours of the Gilboa Crossing have been extended during the coming weeks in order to allow all the produce gathered throughout the day to be exported, thus maintaining the freshness of the vegetables. Furthermore, the Civil Administration’s Agricultural Coordinator, Samir Muadi, has ordered agronomical examinations on the produce in order to ensure the public’s health.

It should be noted that in the last year the Gilboa Crossing was equipped with an X-ray scanner costing millions of shekels, which allows for the transfer of products without opening their packaging. This has significant impact on the quality of the product as well as the security checks needed.

Israels buy 60% of these cucumbers. What would happen if Israelis decided to return the BDS favor? Would these cucumbers rot in storage? Would other markets be found for them? What would happen to the Palestinian farmers if they couldn't find another regional market for their cucumbers?

Co-operation. Mutual aid. Interdependence. Closer , better ties. These, not BDS are the real path of peace

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Child Suicide Bomber in Tahir Square, Egypt

Originally found here

This does not give me great hope for the future of Egyptian democracy. So, what is the message when you dress a young boy up in a mock-bomb belt, pose him with a mock rocket, and photograph him smiling flashing a peace sign?

What the men of Bashar are doing to Syrian women : Rape as a weapon of war

"Let the entire world hear what is happening to us"

A widow from Homs, Syria tells her story of how her house was attacked. Her head scarf was ripped off, she was tortured with cigarettes, and she was raped by 5 men.

They threatened to kill her son, her only son. How heartbreaking.

Be strong, Um Abdullah. Be strong.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Church On Fire Is Never A Good Thing

This picture upsets me so much. It's from earlier this week, when a church was set on fire in Cairo in 'sectarian violence'.

CNN ran a whole story about what's been going on, with a lot of details.

Some of my friends were so excited about Egypt's revolution. I want to be too. But I see more and more violence against Christians, and between religions, and I wonder if this is really freedom? Is this what freedom looks like? Just people free to kill each other over religion?

That can't be what freedom means.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gay Imam Spread Message: "Homosexuality Is Not Sinful"

If I were a guy, I think I'd be in love.

South African Muhsin Hendricks is an Islamic cleric and a gay man.

He runs a foundation called The Inner Circle, which helps Muslims, who are struggling to accept their sexuality. He has come to the Netherlands to spread a simple message: “It’s okay to be Muslim and gay!”

It’s a message not everyone agrees with and the reason why Mr Hendricks is no longer officially a cleric.

Muhsin Hendricks looks a little tired. He is in the Netherlands at the invitation of the Amsterdam branch of gay rights organisation COC and he’s on a punishing schedule. There is enormous public interest in the “pink imam”, as he’s been dubbed.

But every trace of fatigue vanishes as Mushin Hendricks talks about his faith and his sexuality.

“Being Muslim and being gay are both strong identities. And I think that they are both innate identities for me. So somewhere along the line I had to reconcile the two.”

You can read the rest here.

His organization's web page is here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Photos From Gaza Unity Day Parade

Palestinians from the Gaza Strip celebrate the political unity deal between Fatah and Hamas during a rally held on May 5, 2011 in the Unknown Soldier square in Gaza City where for the first time since 2007 the yellow Fatah flag was allowed to be displayed as Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip celebrated the reconciliation deal signed by the two rival movements in Cairo the previous day.

More photos at Daylife

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lesbian Blogger in Syria Goes Underground

I can't imagine how brave this woman is, or how scared she must be. Her father sounds like an amazing man. I can see where she gets her courage from.

I pray for her and her family to be safe.

The Unsettling Story Of A Lesbian Blogger In Syria

One brave blogger has been telling her story of life as an openly gay woman in Damascus, Syria. But now she's gone underground.

Amina (whom we first heard about on Autostraddle) started A Gay Girl in Damascus in February, explaining,

"I'm [...] aware of the winds of freedom and change blowing from one end of the Arab world to the other. And I want that freedom wind to bring with it our liberation, not just as Arabs and as Syrians, but also as women and as lesbians."

She also said, "I can, because I'm a dual national and have benefits of politically connected relatives, be more visible than many women here." However, Syria has been a tumultuous place in the wake of the fall of Hosni Mubarak, and authorities have cracked down on protesters. Last month, Amina wrote that men from "security services" had shown up at her family's home, accusing her of "conspiring against the state, urging armed uprising, [and] working with foreign elements" in her writing. When her father defended her, they asked him, "Did she tell you that she likes to sleep with women? That she is one of those faggots who fucks little girls?" And one added, "Maybe if you were with a real man, you'd stop this nonsense and lies; maybe we should show you now and let your pansy father watch so he understands how real men are." Her dad's response is worth reading in its entirety, but here's part of it:

"Your father," he says to the one who threatened to rape me, "does he know this is how you act? He was an officer, yes? And he served in ..." (he mentions exactly and then turns to the other) "and your mother? Wasn't she the daughter of ...?"
They are both wide-eyed, yes, that is right,
"What would they think if they heard how you act? And my daughter? Let me tell you this about her; she has done many things that, if I had been her, I would not have done. But she has never once stopped being my daughter and I will never once let you do any harm to her. You will not take her from here. And, if you try, know that generations of her ancestors are looking down on you."

At the end of the post, Amina wrote that she and her father would stay in Syria despite its dangers: "He's staying so so will I." But then things changed. In her most recent post, dated yesterday, Amina wrote that her father had left Damascus. He told her,

"They came back for you. This time, there's nothing I can do. Go somewhere and don't tell me where you are. Be safe. I love you."

She says, "I ended up at an old friend's home in an area where it's ‘safe'," and that she's "trying to figure out the next step." She adds that she'll continue posting as she's able. We hope she's able to continue shedding light on something often overlooked in the west — the way all the events of this spring have affected LGBT people in the Middle East. But most of all, we hope she and her family are safe. In closing, here's the final passage of her most recent post, offering a note of hope amid uncertainty:

"[A]s grim as it may seem right now, the way to freedom has never seemed clearer! Our revolution will win; we will have a free and democratic Syria soon. I know it in my bones. Our greatest age is about to appear and we shall once more amaze the world. We will have a free Syria and a free nation; it is coming soon. The revolution will succeed and we will rise above sectarianism, despotism, sexism, and all the dead weight of these years of bitterness, of division and partition, of oppression and of tyranny. We will be free!"

Marriage Equality, Lebanese Style

While my friends and I are fighting for the right to marry our same-sex partners here in California, young Lebanese activists are fighting for the right to have a civil, non-religious, wedding.

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut explains this: All marriages in Lebanon are performed by a religious authority and are registered in the husband's jurisdiction of birth. Those wishing to have a civil marriage must marry outside the country. In cases of interfaith relationships, either partner can convert to the faith of the other for the purpose of marriage.

So that's okay, right? I wonder if couples flip a coin to see who gives up their religion.

I figure that Lebanon isn't going to have same-sex weddings for a long, long time, but you have to start somewhere, right?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Destroying Homes In Tyre

There's a struggle going on in Tyre in the south of Lebanon on the coast, where people are building homes illegally on public land. This isn't a strange thing. As this article explains, poor people who can't afford land often try to build wherever they can. If you read the Lebanese press, you know that this happens all the time.

This current situation in Tyre has gotten super bad. In April, two people were killed when the police fired on a crowd of people who were trying to defend their building.

Now, the builders have been told they have forty-eight hours to tear down the buildings or the police will do it for them.

I don't know if the people building in Tyre right now are Palestinians or not, but a lot of the people are who try to build illegally. Palestinians in Lebanon aren't allowed to buy land, you see, even if they can afford to, or own a house. They can't send their kids to public schools, or go into most professions. They're not second-class citizens, because they aren't citizens. They're just tolerated, until some imaginary day when Israel will have to take them back and Lebanon can wash her hands.

I don't know what to do about any of that; I can't even vote in Lebanon. But it pisses me off that people I know here in Berkeley, who walk around with kufiyat around their necks, talking big about the Palestinians don't know anything about any of this--oh, and when I tell them, they don't care.

The death of Osama Bin Laden: the feminist angle

White House senior officials were still sorting through the details today of the dramatic U.S. raid on bin Laden in Pakistan.

Counterterrorism chief John Brennan told reporters that while bin Laden had vowed to go down fighting, in his last moments alive the master terrorist hid behind a woman.

"From a visual perspective, here is bin Laden who has been calling for attacks, living in this million-dollar-plus compound, living in an area that's far removed from the front, hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield," he said.

"I think it really just speaks to just how false his narrative has been over the years, and so again looking at what bin Laden was doing, hiding there while he's putting other people out there to carry out attacks, again, just speaks to, I think, the nature of the individual he was."

The woman who bin Laden tried to use as a human shield was killed in the U.S. raid, Brennan said.

I guess chivalry really is dead.

Update 9:40
Oops. apparently mainstream media screwed up again. No dead wife. No human shield. My apologies.