Wednesday, October 11, 2017

As Epilogue a Feminist regards Muslim Uzbekistan

Hello Reader,
Remember your activism, back when the world was young?

I am publishing this epilogue first: It is the ending to next week’s piece, where I talk to my niece and nephew without revealing my own youthful involvement.

In London last month, on the embankment, (Bankside) at the free Tate museum of modern art, I paid to see a special exhibit of US Black political art. Outside the entrance, in the broad hall, were videos of Blacks speaking on camera: the assassinated and the dead. Of them, only Angela Davis, now out of prison, was still alive. From boyhood, I remembered James Baldwin, with great tender love, telling Ms Davis, “If they come for you in the morning, they will come for me in the evening.” I wanted to say so to the ticket taker, but my tongue faltered— I was too sad to talk to any Englishman too young to remember. I don’t regret my youthful days. The art included a door shot up by police killing a Black man as he lay sleeping. (Not the Black panther headquarters door, a different door)

At the exhibit gift shop—some shelves and counters by a cafe—I picked up a collection called Sister Outsider, essays and speeches by Audre Lorde, the U.S. Black poet and university teacher. About a decade before the taking down of the iron curtain, she went to Uzbekistan, a Soviet Socialist Republic. She wrote on page 29: 

But she talked most movingly of the history of the women of Uzbekistan, a history which deserves more writing about than I can give it here. The ways in which the women of this area, from 1924 on, fought to come out from behind complete veiling, from Moslem cloister to the twentieth century. How they gave their lives to go bare-faced, to be able to read. Many of them fought and many of them died very terrible deaths in this battle, killed by their own fathers and brothers. It is a story of genuine female heroism and persistence. I thought of the South African women in 1956 who demonstrated and died rather than carry pass books. For the Uzbeki women, revolution meant being able to show their faces and go to school, and they died for it. A bronze statue stands in a square of Samarkand, monument to the fallen women and their bravery. Madam went on to discuss equality between the sexes. How many women now headed collective farms, how many women Ministers. She said there were a great many ways in which women governed; there was no difference between men and women now in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics… 

From Lorde’s edited journal entries from her trip in 1976 as the invited American observer to the African-Asian Writers Conference sponsored by the Union of Soviet Writers.
Sister Outsider, copyright Audre Lorde 1984, 2007,  Crossing Press, Berkeley

Sean Crawford,
With lots of memories pouring in today,
Je ne regret rien,


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

After the Mullah Hated

Hello Reader,
Got poetic prose?

I am canceling my planned essay for this week, in light of the weekend terror attack in Edmonton. 

I am sure others are composing columns to bring to the newspapers, others are off talking to Muslims in public spaces, and writing for reading aloud at candlelight vigils. I have nothing to add to the voices at those places, but instead I will modestly write here on my little blog.

Note: A mosque is a Muslim church, a mullah is a Muslim preacher, who is always male.

After the Mullah hated

When the man in the mosque preached hatred of the Jews, I was not a Jew, so I did not protest.

When the man preached hatred of unbelievers, I was not an unbeliever, so I did not protest.

When the man preached hatred of Sunnis or else Shiites, I was the other one, so I did not protest.

When Sunnies and Shiites were called to mass for battle along the borders of Iran and Iraq, and all of my neighbours were caught up in the fighting, there was no time left for anyone to protest.

…In Canada, most of the Mullahs were born overseas, perhaps in lands where parents teach hatred to children. These men need our help. They know so much about religion, but what could they know of peace? I’m sure the college in Cairo has no department of Peace Studies. That would only be a Canadian thing.

Some of the mullahs will need the help of Canadian elders in the mosque to teach them that we have suffered through two world wars, and so we have learned two things, two things for sure: 
Hatred never leads to peace, 
every young man who ever terrorized, every Adolf, Benito or Hideki, first started with a feeling of hatred for some one or some group.

If every elder would stomp on every match of hatred, then the mosque would never burn down.

Sean Crawford

~The young men above, of course, are Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo.

~After using a search engine, on my 11 inch laptop, the first page of results for university peace studies is all Canadian institutions. 

~Then again, maybe our elders are as helpless as peaceful teens at my old school, where we had a problem with vandalism. Our teachers once asked, “Imagine you saw a student hatefully kicking in a door. Wouldn’t you stop him?” We were silent, because we didn’t know how to tell our teachers, “No, don’t be silly.”

Maybe I’m being silly to think that mosque elders in Canada would dare tell a mullah to stop preaching hatred. 
Because of the recent attack, I can’t go ask, not until things calm down.  

Well, dear reader, any ideas?