January 10th, 2013 marked one of the worst episode of Shia genocide in Pakistan when two bomb blasts targeting the Hazara Shia community, killed almost 200 people in a busy marketplace in Quetta. The Hazara Shias, who have been systematically and ruthlessly killed for almost a decade, refused to bury their dead and sat alongside with their bodies on the streets for three days and nights, through torrential rain and cold weather. This was a heart-wrenching protest, which drew an overwhelming nationwide response of sympathy from not just from Shia communities, but from Pakistanis of all religious affiliations. Protestors sought to highlight the injustices faced by the Shia community and the lack of state response, which can be judged from the fact that none of the perpetrators have ever been arrested or prosecuted in the last decade. One reason for the apparent inaction against the Sunni extremists seems to be a general confusion and a lack of consensus among the mainstream Sunnis themselves, regarding ways in which to respond to such incendiary vitriol spewed by such militant groups.
In the light of the imploding violence against the Shias and the atrocities taking place in the name of religion, it seems worthwhile to delve deeper into history to analyze the dynamics of Sunni militancy. Prevalent analysis on Pakistan continues to insist that the hatred Sunni militant groups bear towards Shia Muslims is fundamentally theological. In reality it has little to do with theology and everything to do with the politics of the times. Much is consequently being said about the need to accept and overcome religious 'differences' among both sects in Pakistan presently, but the exact nature or scale of these differences is hardly ever a point of reference in any meaningful discussion. In this sense, the very premise of such arguments seems intrinsically flawed, as it portrays the Shia as the 'other' with many commentators inadvertently aggregating them with non-Muslims as a 'minority.'
Coverage of the conflict that brought the end of Gaddafi's 42-year regime over Libya exposed some of the weakest points in the ways we conceive of geographical categories. Rebel forces accused Gaddafi of using “African mercenaries,” painting a racial tint to the civil conflict. In many respects, the conflict showed the limits of Libya's Africanness -- which Gaddafi emphasized in his later years -- while aggravating the very real historical tensions between Arabs and other ethnic groups in Africa. Nevertheless, the positioning of Libya as an African nation has resonated with many Africans on the continent and throughout its diaspora.
How can we account for Libya's occupation of both Arab and African fields of identity?
Satyagraha, loosely translated as noncooperation, was a non-violent “alternative to conventional rebellion,” that Mahatma Gandhi constructed in response to discrimination against Indian expatriate communities in South Africa. In Gandhi’s own words, “it is a movement intended to replace methods of violence and a movement based entirely upon truth” (Gandhi & Non-Violence, 19). The term was developed in South Africa in 1907. Gandhi, founder and editor of the local Indian publication Indian Opinion, announced a small prize for an alternative to the English phrase noncooperation, which described his unique methodology and distinguished it from similar methods of Passive Resistance organized elsewhere. His nephew, Maganlal “won with his suggestion of ‘sadagraha’ or ‘firmness for the good.’ Gandhi altered the prize-winning entry to ‘Satyagraha,’ or ‘firmness for the truth’” (Gandhi, 124).
Haji Habib was, in all likelihood, the world’s first Satyagrahi (practitioner of Satyagraha). On another September 11th in 1906, the Jewish-owned Empire Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa, was overflowing with South Asians. The crowd had gathered to plan resistance to new regulations, mandatory registration, finger printing, and papers that were to be produced on demand for all Asiatics eight years and older. Habib, a long-time elderly resident, stood up to a crowd of eager activists to make a passionate plea for faith: “We must pass this resolution with God as witness…. In the name of God, [we] will never submit to that law.”
A recent feature article published in the McGill Daily--my alma mater’s independent newspaper--recounted the detainment of Islamic Studies PhD student Pascal Abidor during a trip home to New York from Montreal via Amtrak. Abidor presented his passport to the border patrol officers as the train entered the United States, and when asked where he lived and why, Abidor explained that he was a PhD candidate in Islamic Studies at McGill University.
This was enough to arouse the suspicion of the officers, who then looked through files on his laptop and found images of Hamas and Hezbollah rallies. Abidor explained these were a part of his research on Shiism in contemporary Lebanon. Abidor was then removed from the train, handcuffed, detained, and interrogated.
NYPD surveillance of Muslims, particularly the surveillance which occurred on college campuses (including Columbia University), is controversial in part because of the strong rhetoric on both sides of the issue. The arguments weigh civil liberties with an emphasis on free exercise of religion against concerns for safety and national security. This is an old battle with many manifestations, though surveillance of Muslim students has risen to the forefront of highly charged local and national politics from an unlikely source: the implications of NYPD's own argumentation.
Mayor Bloomberg has defended the NYPD's surveillance through liberal use of the terrifying, amorphous, rhetorically convenient specter of imminent danger, which he invokes in this statement from Sept 8, 2011, reported by the AP: "If there is a community where the crime rate is very high, to not put more cops in that community is ridiculous. If you want to look for cases of measles, you'll find a lot more of them among young people. That's not targeting young people to go see whether they have measles or not." Though misdirection is often useful in debate, it has only clarified the premises upon which Mayor Bloomberg is building the case for surveillance. Not only has he compared perpetrators of crime to victims of sickness, the Mayor has suggested that the police react to perceived community realities—apparently his perception of American Muslims being that they as a whole pose a constant existential threat which legitimizes surveillance without evidence or indication of criminal activity.