All posts by Fatemeh

Fatemeh is currently finishing her master's degree. She currently runs a website dedicated to critiquing how Muslim women are portrayed in both Eastern and Western media.

#WhiteHouseIftar and the Tactics of Activism

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

 (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson via The White House Blog)

(Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson via The White House Blog)

As many marginalized groups know, it’s not a party until we’re all arguing among each other. If you caught the #WhiteHouseIftar hashtag on Twitter, you saw some intense back-and-forth among American Muslims. But I’d like to share the two best pieces that characterize the debate, rather than focus on infighting.

I enjoyed the respectful consideration from Omid Safi, who asked those invited to the White House and State Department iftars to boycott them for the following reasons:

We should, all of us, collectively, politely, and firmly, decline the State Department Ramadan and White House Iftars until the following three measures are taken:

1)   The United States immediately abandons the policy of extra-judicial drone attacks in all countries.
2)   The United States immediately releases the political prisoners who have been cleared for release at Guantanamo Bay
3)   The United States immediately abandons the policy of profiling and surveillance based on race, ethnicity, and religion. Continue reading

I’m Not Your Habibi: Thoughts on Craig Thompson’s Graphic Novel

By Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

Sir Richard Burton is most famous for sexing up The 1,001 Arabian Nights. Two centuries later, Craig Thompson has graciously provided some accompanying imagery.

I feel like I have no choice but to hate Thompson’s latest graphic novel, Habibi. I’ll admit that it was beautifully drawn, though some of the panels seem needlessly garnished with alchemy symbols or random Arabic letters. But I’ll let Robyn Creswell’s review for The New York Times handle the fact that Thompson clutters his story—my beef with Thompson is about his staggering Orientalism, which I’ll get to shortly.

Themes of longing and survival permeate Habibi. The protagonists, Zam and Dodola, long for each other, likening this to a yearning for the Divine – Middle Eastern poets have done this for centuries. Zam and Dodola endure horrible events in the name of survival, perhaps tying in with Thompson’s conservationist theme by implying that our disregard for the earth is tantamount to rape and castration of the planet. These themes, however, are often drowned out—no matter how much Thompson underlines them—by the towering gaffes of his misrepresentation. The country of Wanatolia may be fiction, but the cultures it mimics and clumsily muddles together are real.
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Obligatory Richard Dawkins Post

I Speak For Myself CoverOriginally published at Muslimah Media Watch

So Richard Dawkins is an asshat. Anyone surprised?

Here’s the comment he left on a thread that discussed sexism:

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Richard

And here’s a brief roundup of what people are saying about it.

The Atlantic Wire:

Several comments, including Watson’s own, hit on exactly what the fight’s about. Dawkins has every right to dismiss Watson’s story and to argue that she was not in a high risk situation. But his attempt to prove how insignificant Watson’s story was by comparing it with the much worse scenario of a Muslim woman’s daily life hurts his argument. The fact that something worse is going on somewhere else does not diminish whatever may be happening here. Also, as Watson points out, Dawkins is admired widely for work criticizing creationism and denouncing the use of religion as an excuse for repressing women in particular. To defend only some women from misogyny and not all, she and others argue, is hypocrtical. (sic)

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MMW Roundtable: Jonah Goldberg’s Feminist Concerns

By the staff at Muslimah Media Watch, cross-posted with their permission

A few weeks ago, Jonah Goldberg wrote an op-ed claiming that feminism’s work in the West is “mostly done” and that’s it’s time to take feminism “overseas” to Muslim women.

We disagree.

Diana: Where do you begin in tearing apart Jonah Goldberg’s “Talking feminism overseas?” I can almost see Gayatri Spivak shaking her head as she waves her finger back and forth, saying as she has before, “white men saving brown women from brown men.”  So much for novelty in the discourse surrounding “third world women.” Can someone please throw something new at us?!

Azra: I’ll admit, after reading Jonah Goldberg’s article, I had to read it again (unfortunately), as I considered the chance that it was an excellent piece of farce. If only that were the case …

Sara: Oh, please, Jonah. Feminism is hardly a completed project in the United States. Who hasn’t ratified CEDAW yet? Measuring access to rights by national boundaries is problematic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the oasis of equality that Goldberg mentions is a myth, and really only applies to certain groups. The rights of women change according to socioeconomic factors and race.  Drawing empowerment or access to rights through national boundaries or groups pushes injustice into invisibility. Saying that the “work is done” is a flat-out insult to the work of modern American feminists.

Azra: Is feminism over in the United States? Continue reading

Culturelicious: How do you feel about Hamas?

By Fatemeh Fakhraie, cross-posted from her blog

Last Sunday, I went to a local production of Jennifer Jajeh’s solo show “I Heart Hamas.” The show’s site gives a pretty good synopsis:

With the current ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, the threat of global terrorism, and the never-ending negotiations and hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by all of the bad international news. That’s exactly how Jennifer Jajeh feels. And to make matters worse, Jennifer is Palestinian. Well, Palestinian American. Or more precisely: a single, Christian, first generation, Palestinian American woman who chooses to return to her parents’ hometown of Ramallah at the start of the Second Intifada.

Join her on American and Palestinian soil on auditions, bad dates, and across military checkpoints as she navigates the thorny terrain around Palestinian identity. Weaving together humor, slides, pop culture references and live theatre, Jajeh explores how she becomes Palestinian-ized, then politicized and eventually radicalized in a fresh, often funny, searingly honest way.

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An Interview with Cherien Dabis, the Woman Behind Amreeka

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

Fatemeh Fakhraie spoke with Cherien Dabis, the director behind the film Amreeka, a story about a Palestinian woman and her son as they adjust to their new life in America.

It seems that your experiences as an Arab-American have really shaped the way you tell stories. I remember reading in another interview of yours that the story behind Amreeka is a personal one. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Cherien Dabis: The story is very much inspired by my family and the love, strength and pride that held us together during a difficult time. I grew up in a small town in Ohio where there was no anonymity. So everyone knew that my parents were Arab and that we spoke Arabic at home and went away to Jordan and the West Bank every summer. That was all it took for people to treat us differently. Mostly they were just ignorant, asking questions like: Are there cars in Jordan? It wasn’t until the first Gulf War when ignorance turned into racism. My father – who’s a physician – lost a lot of his patients because people didn’t want to support an Arab doctor. We got death threats on a daily basis. And the secret service even visited my high school because of a tip that they got that my 17 year-old sister allegedly threatened to kill the president. I was 14 years old at the time and actually lost a lot of my friends, that’s how ostracized we were. When a so-called friend came up to me at my locker one day and said, “my brother could go to war and die because of you,” I knew it had gone too far. I knew that I needed to try to do something about it. But not only is the film loosely based on what happened to my family in 1991, my family members also inspire the characters in the film. In fact, the main character Muna is inspired by my Aunt who immigrated to the U.S. with her teenaged son in 1997. What struck me about my aunt was her attitude. She was so full of hope and optimism, despite the daily challenges that she faced. She was so trusting of people that she unknowingly disarmed them. Even people who didn’t want to like her or would have otherwise been suspicious of her couldn’t help but ultimately fall in love with her. It’s this quality that inspired Muna. When I sat down to write the script, I kept thinking: If more people were like my aunt, the world would be a better place. Continue reading

When Stereotypes Collide: the Persian Jews of Beverly Hills

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

At the airport bookstore, I immediately overlooked Bruce Willis’ and Emma Hemings’ smoldering stares on the cover of this month’s W. My attention went directly to the top left: “Meet the Neighbors: the Persian Conquest of Beverly Hills.”

Knowing the history of glossies and their historic portrayal of racial ethnicities more as props than as cover stories, I was simultaneously worried and intrigued—how would W fare as documenters rather than voyeurs?

A patio party introduces us to the Persians of Beverly Hills: with lounging guests, designer duds in the pool, and lavish tents, the spread is vaguely reminiscent of a harem bath scene combined with a Sultan’s caravan theme. The font for “The Persian Conquest” is done in an Arabesque font, with sinewy flourishes and random dots evocative of the Aladdin soundtrack. “Here we go,” I say to myself.

But reading the introduction, I learn that these aren’t just any Persians W is profiling—they’re Persian Jews, who are a large part of Los Angeles’ huge Iranian diaspora.

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