Monday, August 06, 2012

Good Shit I Have Been Reading: Defining Muslim Feminist Politics through Indigenous Solidarity Activism

It's been a long time since I did a round up of good pieces I have read recently, and to be honest over the last two years in particular I just haven't kept up my reading as I once did.  But I am doing a bit more of it lately and I felt particularly moved to share this piece by Shaista Patel with you.  Do go read it all at The Feminist Wire....

Defining Muslim Feminist Politics through Indigenous Solidarity Activism:
"While we may share some histories, it is critical for us Muslims and other non-Indigenous people here to not fall into the trap of equating the struggles of Muslims with that of Indigenous peoples in white settler colonies, where Indigenous people who have been living here since time immemorial have now been outnumbered by whites through illegal land grab, dispossession, and outright genocide. Under settler-colonialism, as Patrick Wolfe asserts, “the dominant feature is not exploitation [of Indigenous peoples’ labor] but replacement” of Indigenous people by white people.[iv] Our connection as racialized people to this land is not the same as that of its Indigenous peoples, and we have to remember that they are not just a “minority” group here, like we are. In “Heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy,” scholar Andrea Smith explains how the logic of the genocide of Indigenous peoples and slavery, and continual treatment of Black people as property under capitalism, interrelate and work with the Orientalist logic of seeing Muslims and Arabs as inferior, which legitimizes constant war on their lands and bodies.[v] It is important, therefore, to understand the different but interrelated ways in which white supremacy affects and implicates us. My Muslim feminist praxis asks me not to leave this recognition of living on stolen land as rhetoric, as a mere admission, but rather to make my complicity into an urgent political and personal task. 
How does this sense of complicity translate into an everyday feminist praxis? As a Muslim feminist, fighting racism, sexism, and homophobia has been at the forefront of my agenda.  However, an understanding of ongoing colonial relations between Canadians and Indigenous peoples here makes it necessary to remember that, as several Indigenous women have patiently pointed out again and again, colonization happened precisely through patriarchal gendered violence against Indigenous women. As Smith explains in her ground-breaking work,Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide:
[I]n order to colonize a people whose society was not hierarchical, colonizers must first naturalize hierarchy through instituting patriarchy.[vi]
Drawing on these insights, I recognize that my struggles against gender violence will fail if articulated in isolation from confronting colonial patriarchal relations that continue to strengthen sexual and other forms of violence against Indigenous women, women of color, and white women. I cannot fight against the invasion of my body if my politics do not account for the ways in which Indigenous women have been constantly marked for death and disappearance. If I am angry about Mark Steyn’s anti-Muslim vitriolic cry that the “future belongs to Islam” because Muslim women are reproducing “speedily” while the Western (white) population is declining,[vii] I have to remember that Indigenous women are still seen as “better dead than pregnant”.[viii] The “Stolen Sisters” report by Amnesty International (Canada) states that a 1996 Canadian government statistic reveals that Indigenous women between the ages of 25 and 44, with status under the Indian Act, were five times more likely than all other women of the same age to die as the result of violence.[ix] Native Women’s Association of Canada reports the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women at 582 since 1980,[x] while several other Indigenous men and women report the number to be much higher, which is not surprising given the fact that colonialism works precisely through targeting Indigenous women’s bodies. If Indigenous women’s bodies are disposable and a site of everyday violence, what integrity can my body demand here?"

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