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World Press on Racial Justice, UAE and Israel, Azerbaijan and Armenia: New Age Islam's Selection, 20 November 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

 20 November 2020

Teaching Racial Justice Isn’t Racial Justice

By Benjamin Y. Fong

• To Parents Of Sons From A Parent Of A Daughter

By Syeda Samara Mortada

• Uae And Israeli Settlers Find Common Ground In Jerusalem

By James M Dorsey

• As A Teacher I Need To Be Able To Talk About Racism Without Government Meddling

By Anonymous

• The Ceasefire Agreement With Azerbaijan Comes With Great Risks For Armenia

By Dale Berning Sawa


Teaching Racial Justice Isn’t Racial Justice

By Benjamin Y. Fong

Nov. 18, 2020

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the season of protests for equality and against police violence that followed, universities are seeking to affirm and reaffirm their commitments to racial justice at all levels. Administrators are drawing up institutional plans to address structural racism (my employer, Arizona State University, put out its own this fall), and faculty are reorienting their courses to greater emphasize diversity and inclusion. This overdue reckoning is welcome, an opportunity to address longstanding inequities and injustices perpetrated by the sprawling conglomerates of higher education.

But good intentions do not prevent misguided practices. Just one example: Corporate antiracism trainings are not only of questionable efficacy and dubious origin, they also provide “an opportunity for employers to exert even more power over employees.” If we are not to dilute the political energy of the moment, we must be on guard against attempts to domesticate, defuse and thereby betray the overlapping movements for racial, social and economic justice that have emerged with such force this past year.

One danger for academia in this regard pertains to the stubborn notion that the university does not merely educate students about social transformation, it is also where that transformation takes place. Many faculty and administrators believe that by educating students in the approved manner, we will transform them, politically and socially, one classroom of de-prejudiced minds at a time.

Undoubtedly students are changed in the course of critical inquiry and engagement with diverse and challenging texts. I can attest to this fact having taught liberal arts discussion seminars for the entirety of my academic career. The problem comes in thinking that these individual transformations are themselves small-scale social transformations. This belief leads to a number of worrisome consequences, the most immediate being simply an inflated sense of the university’s importance. Yes, diverse perspectives ought to be incorporated into our courses, but the future of American society does not hang on our collective syllabuses being carefully weighted for race and gender.

If that sounds cavalier, consider the following: Throughout American history, racist attitudes and structures have been changed and dismantled because mass political movements altered the balance of power in this country through protest, violence, nonviolence, organizing and political strategizing — not because people were educated in an enlightened fashion. We all know this, and yet a grounded perspective is often absent from the marvelous displays of self-flattery that are academic conversations about pedagogy today.

The bigger problem with academic narcissism, however, is that it blinds us to the real good we could do with the syllabus flexibility offered in the expendable disciplines. At best, an overriding focus on diversity and inclusion in the current paradigm teaches students that exclusionary attitudes and structures exist and that we can do our part by overcoming our individual biases, complacency and impingements on others. At worst it results in tokenism and a cynically deployed “cultural intelligence.” Think Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth” prominently displayed on a bookshelf at a cocktail party of professional elites.

This again is not to say that students do not benefit from encountering diverse perspectives and marginalized voices, but simply that such an encounter does not in itself put them in touch with the political considerations behind movements that advance the struggle for racial justice. If we free ourselves of the notion that education is social change, then we can begin to think of education about social change.

To be clear, I am not arguing that classrooms should be political spaces — the conservative nightmare wherein students are pushed into activist organizations — only that the classroom can be a space where real political concerns are considered and debated.

To get concrete, we might consider two of the most important moments of political struggle against racial injustice in America, about which every student getting a liberal arts education ought to learn: the antislavery movement of the mid-19 century, and the civil rights movement of the mid-20th. In both moments, different and oftentimes competing visions of the future of the movement sparred for dominance, and the historical, political, economic and social considerations behind these visions are ripe for classroom discussion.

For instance, in the 1850s many abolitionists became quite pessimistic and called for Black emigration out of America. But many others resisted this call, energized by growing popular antislavery sentiment and the adoption of aggressive abolitionist rhetoric by the Republican Party. Similarly, at the height of the civil rights movement, prominent leaders like A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin called for a shift “from protest to politics,” as well as a greater emphasis on economic concerns and universal social goods. A younger generation of Black activists meanwhile spurned what they saw as these ameliorating tendencies in favor of Black power, an orientation roundly criticized by the old guard.

It’s in this space of competing political orientations that the struggle for racial justice is carried out. Listen to Rustin’s speech, “Firebombs or a Freedom Budget,” delivered at Harvard University in 1967, and you get a sense of the cacophony of conflicting strategies and viewpoints that infuse a movement with real stakes. The university is not the place where these things are worked out, but it can be a place where real-life political orientations are taken up and grappled with.

Teaching the considerations of political contestation bears the additional benefit of relieving authors of color from having to represent their identities in the minds of students. As the political scientist Cedric Johnson has noted, “at nearly 46 million, the Black population in the United States is greater than the population of Canada, three times the size of the population of Greece, and slightly larger than the combined population of Oceania (i.e., Australasia, Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia).” To think that any individual author, or individual authors dispersed through time and space, could represent the “Black experience” is absurd, and yet they are too often called to do just that.

Finally, teaching in this manner about moments of radical social upheaval bears its own important lesson: that things can change. For all their intractability, racism and other forms of oppression are not static features of American society. The liberal arts classroom is a unique space within which students can engage with the strategies, conflicts, tactics and historical conjunctures of movements that changed the United States for the better. There is a place for education in the fight for racial justice, provided education itself is not confused for the fight.


Benjamin Y. Fong teaches at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University, and is the author of “Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism.”


To Parents Of Sons From A Parent Of A Daughter

By Syeda Samara Mortada

November 18, 2020

I often wonder if I would be any different, feel any different, if I were a mother to a son, rather than a daughter. Yes, parents ought to love all children in the same way and treat them the same, but recently I have begun to think that the responsibilities of being a parent to a son at this day and age far outweighs that of a parent to a daughter. And I arrive at this conclusion based on conversations I have had with many other parents of my generation. And what they say (and I agree with) is that while our generation of women have stepped out of the roles and boxes designed for them, the men of our generation have still not evolved. So, they still expect their wives/partners to carry out the same tasks that they saw their mothers perform, BUT also contribute to household expenditures at the same time. There has been much said and written by experts and activists working in the area. Today, I write and express myself only as a mother.

And that makes me wonder, how are we raising our sons, what is the environment we are moulding them in, that gives rise to such perpetrators, abusers and rapists we read of everyday? Let's face it, they are part of this very society that we live in and helped create. They are our fathers, uncles and most importantly our sons. And so, the onus of creating a "better" family, a "better" community that cuts the very root of rape culture, lies now more than ever on parents of today's children—the ones raising future generations. And by parents I do not mean mothers. For far too long women have been carrying the flag of equality, fighting the good fight, seeking justice. The responsibility does not lie with her alone, just like it is not upto a mother alone to raise her son, to give him good lessons, to teach him to respect his wife, partner or girlfriend.

The majority of perpetrators of sexual violence are men. And so, while survivors are always women and children, the ones inflicting violence are almost always men. As a woman, I have grown up watching over my shoulder, when I am walking on the streets, even at 6 o' clock in the evening, even if the street is not completely deserted; even if the street is where I grew up all my life. Throughout my life, I have been extra vigilant, extra cautious, almost as if it is MY responsibility to not get abused/harassed/raped.

But, I don't want the same things for my daughter, and I will not accept it. I want it to be okay and safe for her to walk the streets, use public transport, feel no less than her male counterparts. To my daughter, like most mothers I have said that she can be anything, do anything: a doctor, an astronaut, or an artist. But what's most important is to be a good person, to be empathetic and kind; to respect one and all, for who they are—not because they have a particular tone of skin, or because of where they come from, or because what genitalia (yes, it is a word one can utter in front of kids!) they have. I hope that's the kind of conversations parents of young boys are also having with their sons. But this is not the end; parents of boys also need to encourage their sons to play with dolls or kitchen sets, not with guns; they need to stop saying that it's okay to be naughty, and to hit others. Parents of young boys growing up need to set forth the same house rules for their sons as they do for their daughters. It can't be okay for the son to be out till midnight, when the daughter has to come back home during sunset. But most importantly, parents of young boys need to set forth good examples as parents, and act out what they are teaching their sons. They will pick up what they see, so if they see parents sharing household responsibility, if they see their fathers being more involved at home, with the children, that is what they will practice.

As a mother to a daughter, I request you, no I beg you, to hold your uncles, your fathers your brothers accountable for their behaviour, for making sexist jokes, for thinking it's okay to harass and abuse their power and positions of authority. As a mother, I beg you to have open conversations with your sons so that they can learn about their sexuality from their parents, rather than from porn or peers. Teach them about consent, and about respect. I don't want your son to protect my daughter, I want him to check his own behaviour. I owe it to my daughter to end rape culture, and so do you.


Syeda Samara Mortada is the Regional Movement Builder at SheDecides, Asia and a core member of the RageAgainstRape Movement in Bangladesh.


UAE And Israeli Settlers Find Common Ground In Jerusalem

By James M Dorsey

November 19, 2020

Weakened by Joe Biden's electoral defeat of US President Donald J. Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu risks being caught between a rock and a hard place as Jordan, the Palestine Authority and the United Arab Emirates manoeuvre for control of what is to Jews the Temple Mount and to Muslims the Haram ash-Sharif, the third most holy site in Islam.

The rivalry for control of Jerusalem's most sensitive, emotive, contested, and potentially explosive place is occurring against the backdrop of a parallel and interlinked run-up to a competition for the succession of Mahmoud Abbas, the frail 84-year-old Palestinian president.

The Jerusalem site has been administered since Israel conquered East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war by the Jordanian and Palestinian-controlled Supreme Muslim Council. Rivalry for the religious control of the site, which hosts the Al-Aqsa Mosque and is where the First Jewish Temple was built by King Solomon in 957 BC, involves multiple risks for Mr Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu's inclination to back attempts by the UAE—with Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca and Medina, Islam's holiest cities, in the background—to muscle their way into the administration of the Haram ash-Sharif could complicate relations with Jordan and widen differences with the Palestine Authority. The UAE enhanced its ability to manoeuvre by establishing diplomatic relations with Israel and rushing to forge closer ties to the country's political, security and economic elites.

In a twist of irony, the UAE finds common ground with the Israeli settler movement and the Jewish far-right in wanting to weaken Jordanian-Palestinian control of the Haram ash-Sharif and counter Turkish efforts to stoke Palestinian nationalist and religious sentiment. The settlers and the far-right are calling for internationalisation of the administration of the Haram ash-Sharif, which plays into the UAE's hands.

"Ironically, it may be the case that calls for just such an arrangement may come from Muslim citizens of countries that have normalised their ties with Israel and find it offensive that a small group of Palestinians are attempting to ban them from visiting one of their holiest sites," said Josiah Rotenberg, a member of the Board of Governors of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based right-wing think tank.

The UAE's recognition of Israel and willingness to engage not only with businesses located in Israel's pre-1967 borders but also those headquartered in Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank and invest in a technology park in East Jerusalem have fuelled a war of words with the Palestinians and sparked incidents with Emirati visitors to the Haram ash-Sharif.

"Most of the citizens of Israel, myself included, continue to... demand that Prime Minister Netanyahu apply full sovereignty to Judea and Samaria," said settlement leader Yossi Dagan after heading a settlers' delegation on a visit to Dubai to discuss business opportunities. Mr Dagan was using the biblical name of the West Bank.

The visit reinforced Palestinian assertions that the creation of diplomatic ties between Israel and Arab states prior to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would reinforce Israeli occupation rather than open the door to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The "Israeli-Emirati deal raises the concern and fear within the Jordanian Awqaf and among Palestinians, because it aims to give the UAE a new role inside Al-Aqsa," said former Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs Khaled Abu Arafa, referring to the Supreme Muslim Council.

Muhammad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, didn't need Mr Dagan's statement to come to that conclusion. Resigning in protest from an Emirati clerical group established to project the UAE as a beacon of moderate Islam immediately after the announcement of UAE-Israel relations, Mr Hussein banned Muslims from the Emirates from visiting and praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

An Emirati business delegation visiting Israel last month was verbally assaulted and told to go home by Palestinian worshippers when they went to pray at the mosque. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh scolded the Emiratis, saying that "one ought to enter the gates of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque by way of its owners, rather than through the gates of the occupation."

Responding on Twitter, Laith al-Awadhi, an Emirati national, retorted: "We will visit Al-Aqsa because it does not belong to you, it belongs to all Muslims." Saudi lawyer and writer Abdel Rahman al-Lahim chipped in arguing that "it is very important for the Emiratis and Bahrainis to discuss with Israel ways of liberating Al-Aqsa Mosque from Palestinian thugs in order to protect visitors from Palestinian thuggery."

Mr Abbas, the Palestinian president, has slowed down a reconciliation between his Fatah movement and Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, in anticipation of a more empathetic policy by an incoming Biden administration. He broke off relations with the United States after Mr Trump produced an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that endorsed annexation, recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and cut off funding for the Palestinians.

Palestinian officials suspect the UAE, backed by Israel, of positioning Mohammed Dahlan, an Abu Dhabi-based former Palestinian security chief with close ties to Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed as well as US officials, as a potential successor to Mr Abbas.

Mr Abbas could be disappointed by the degree to which a Biden administration may reverse Mr Trump's policy and find that it may not oppose broadening the administration of the Haram ash-Sharif.

In an interview with The Times of Israel, Antony "Tony" Blinken, Mr Biden's top foreign policy advisor and a former senior official under President Barak Obama, signalled that Mr Biden would, in contrast to Mr Trump, oppose Israeli efforts to annex parts of the West Bank and could adopt a more critical attitude towards expansion of existing Israeli settlements. It would likely be a position endorsed by the UAE despite the Emirates' engagement with the settlers.

Mr Blinken insisted that a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the "only way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state and also to fulfil the Palestinian right to a state of their own." With both Israel and the Palestinians "far from a place where they're ready to engage on negotiations or final status talks", he said that a Biden administration would seek to ensure that "neither side takes additional unilateral steps that make the prospect of two states even more distant or closing it entirely."

The Biden administration could well see broadening of the governance of Haram ash-Sharif as one way of achieving that goal.


Dr James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the National University of Singapore's Middle East Institute.


As A Teacher I Need To Be Able To Talk About Racism Without Government Meddling

By Anonymous

19 Nov 2020

In October, the women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch made a dramatic intervention in the House of Commons during a session commemorating Black History Month. Schools, she said, that teach students about certain ideas from “critical race theory” as “fact” were breaking the law: “We do not want teachers to teach their white pupils about white privilege and inherited racial guilt.”

The minister’s words came not too long after guidance for schools in England was published that said schools “should not use resources produced by organisations that … promote victim narratives that are harmful to British society”. It’s safe to say that these two developments, which seemed designed to have a chilling effect on discussing the uncomfortable truths of racism in Britain, have made fellow teachers and myself worried about what we can and can’t say. And the day after Badenoch’s speech, I was due to take a PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) lesson about racism.

Most of the students in my class are white, so before we even started the lesson, I knew that the racial status of whiteness in a white-majority society was going to come up. I felt unsure as to my role – I hadn’t had time yet to absorb Badenoch’s statement – but the intelligence and inquisitiveness of my students led the way. “Can you be racist towards white people, because I told my friend that you can’t?”, asked one. Others began sharing their experiences. A black student talked about how their family members had been stopped by the police in town. Two non-white students explained how a teacher got them mixed up for a year. There was no point during the lesson when any of the white students shared experiences of racism. Isn’t that discrepancy in their experiences an example of “white privilege” in action?

Schools are complex ecosystems. You might be dealing with more than 1,000 students and several hundred staff members. It became evident to me that there were many members of staff who didn’t know or maybe even care about the issues raised during Black History Month. I know that one member of staff said, “All lives matter” at one point, while another drew a false equivalence between Black Lives Matter and the BNP. This highlights both the importance of educating staff about race, as well as the fact that schools are contested spaces for social issues.

Now we are faced with the dilemma of how to teach vitally important concepts without breaking government guidance. Colleagues often have the same worrying scenario in mind: they try to have a nuanced conversation about “whiteness” or the legacy of white supremacy, and a student goes home and tells their parents that they’re learning about how racism is their fault. The government says it is against teaching certain ideas, as if they were “accepted facts”. But no concept in the social sciences is uncontested and surely Badenoch knows this, so the real consequences of her words is probably going to be a chilling effect. I am also unsure specifically what constitutes “critical race theory” or “victim narratives”, from the government’s point of view, and so feel apprehensive about the content of some lessons in the coming weeks.


I don’t want to be complicit in papering over the realities of racism by avoiding these topics for fear of repercussions from senior staff and the wider community, but I also don’t want to put my job at risk. As teachers, we have a responsibility and duty to our students to provide them with comprehensive support and guidance to give them the best chances when they leave school. Race issues and racism are extremely prevalent in our students’ lives, and children are going to have questions. “But why, Miss?” and “Yeah, but how do you know, Sir?” pop up frequently in all lessons. Am I meant to discourage a conversation about stop and search when the only teenager in the room to have experienced this is black and their white peers want to understand why?

There needs to be more resources and training to equip teachers to deliver good teaching on diversity-based topics – I know I am not the only teacher who feels that. I want to see diversity training made a compulsory part of teacher-training programmes; it should be given a similar priority as safeguarding training. Rather than shutting down these conversations and topics, educators should be better equipped to explore these issues in the classroom without fear or ignorance. Creating a climate in which teachers feel it’s safer to avoid these topics of conversation doesn’t make these questions go away – it will force students to go elsewhere in search of answers.


Anonymous author teaches in a secondary school in England


The Ceasefire Agreement With Azerbaijan Comes With Great Risks For Armenia

By Dale Berning Sawa

19 Nov 2020

The ceasefire brokered last week between Azerbaijan and Armenia has largely been cast as a means to end a decades-long territorial dispute. But, of course, reality might not be as smooth. In a region every bit as geopolitically fraught as the Balkans, the Caucasus has always been a patchwork of peoples pulled and shoved between greater powers, suffering successive waves of conquest and “ethnic cleansing”.

Zoom in more closely right now, though, and while Azerbaijanis can rightly celebrate a return to homes they were driven from 30 years ago, for the Armenian people at large, the risks could not be greater.

In signing the ceasefire agreement, Armenia has agreed to progressively hand back to Baku territories around Karabakh that it has occupied – militarily – since the 1990s. Culturally, though, it’s not so simple. The people living in these parts have, not all but in large part and since antiquity, been Armenian. It’s why they fought for independence in the first place.

They call the enclave Artsakh. Its deep-cut valleys and mountain ridges are dotted with more than 3,500 monasteries, churches, distinctive Armenian khachkars (cross stones) and gravestones. In addition to this Armenian Christian heritage, there is a wealth of pre-Christian sites and a smaller percentage of Muslim monuments, all of which have been meticulously listed. Teams are now scrambling to compile an official list of what exactly is in the districts to be handed back to Azerbaijani control.

Because, when it comes to Armenian heritage, Baku has terrible form. A report by political analyst Simon Maghakyan and anthropologist Sarah Pickman last year presented extensive details of what they termed a 30-year campaign by Azerbaijan of comprehensive “cultural cleansing” in Nakhichevan, the other territory the two states previously disputed. Satellite imagery, extensive documentary evidence and personal accounts showed that 89 churches, 5,840 khachkars and 22,000 tombstones were destroyed between 1997 and 2006, including the medieval necropolis of Djulfa, the largest ancient Armenian cemetery in the world.

The Azerbaijani response has consistently been to simply deny that Armenians had ever lived in the region. And that is precisely what observers fear will now happen across Artsakh, too. Last week president Ilham Aliyev tweeted, “Karabakh is ours! Karabakh is Azerbaijan!”, and his officials denied the historic Armenian nature of the region’s most fabled treasures. As Armenians removed bells, crosses and khachkars for safekeeping from the ninth-century Dadivank monastery in the Kalbajar district, Azerbaijan’s deputy culture minister, Anar Karimov, commented that these removals were illegal – and those items were actually Albanian.

From the 1950s, in a bid to establish links to antiquity and bolster claims of indigeneity, Soviet Azeri scholars embraced a revisionist cultural theory that drew a line between the Turkic Azeri people and Caucasian Albania, a country to the north of the Kura river. Specialists, including Danish archaeologist Carsten Paludan-Müller (a member of the Cambridge Heritage Research Centre), say that the theory is baseless. And the Dadivank monastery’s own walls suggest as much. While, according to archaeologist and Yerevan State University professor Hamlet Petrosyan, not a single Caucasian Albanian inscription has been found in Artsakh, this monastery alone is clad in more than 100 inscriptions in Armenian script.

There have been instances of monuments being Albanised (with the Armenian inscriptions removed) but doing so at Dadivank simply would not be practicable – and wouldn’t be a guarantee of the monument’s ultimate safety anyway. Experts point to the town of Agulis in Nakhichevan, and its cathedral, all of which was methodically laid to waste by the Azerbaijani military, starting in 1997. Paludan-Müller is sure we will see something similar again. “It’s going to be very difficult to avoid the destruction,” he says. “And there is a risk now that Nagorno-Karabakh will lose its Armenian population.”

Conflict in the region has deep roots. More than a third of the current Turkish population descends from the muhacir, the Muslim refugees (primarily Russian, Balkan and Caucasian) who fled persecution as the Ottoman empire collapsed. Europe and Russia’s involvement – and converse support for the Christian Greek and Armenian communities – is a humiliation that Turkey, as Paludan-Müller puts it, has never forgotten, and with which the Azeris identify.

The Armenian diaspora’s strong presence in the US, France and other western countries after the 1915–22 genocide only exacerbates the Turkish sense of a western or Christian bias towards Armenians. Moreover, Armenian scholarly emphasis on the Azerbaijani identity as a 20th-century construct belies the fact that the Azeri language, too, has ancient, pre-Turkic roots.

At the same time, Turkey and Azerbaijan deny the Armenian genocide, which saw up to 1.5 million Armenian people killed in Anatolia. And though ancient Armenian populations inhabited an area stretching from the Mediterranean to the Black and Caspian seas, it was Turkish policy until the mid-20th century to destroy Armenian heritage throughout its territory, and erase them from their maps.

In the decades following the emergence of the Karabakh liberation movement in 1988 and the first Armenia-Azerbaijan war in 1992, Armenian presence in Artsakh has engendered a remarkable body of scholarship. Art historians have delved into the wealth of illuminated manuscripts dating back to medieval Armenian monasteries; the particular regional iconography on the carved khachkars; the unusual, vaulted single-nave churches.

There was also Petrosyan’s discovery, in 2005, of the first-century BC Hellenistic city of Tigranakert and the exceptional raft of subsequent findings – agate gems, glass amphoriskos, painted burial amphoras, fourth-century Sasanian seals, a curious church entrance layout that connects it to ancient Jerusalem, and cave sanctuaries that connect it to ancient Greece. Petrosyan warns that this heritage has been targeted in the recent conflict.

His grief and anger are palpable – but with little hope that the situation will improve. The Djulfa cemetery, after all, was a Unesco-listed world heritage site before it was destroyed. “We have had neither military nor political clout. There is no difference between Azerbaijan wiping out our people or our culture. We are our culture.”


Dale Berning Sawa is a French-South-African writer based in London



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