Thursday, August 23, 2012

Whoa whoa waitaminute... who's the decolonizer here?

So I was at the UNHQ last month as part of the representative delegation of NZ women's NGOs at CEDAW, and had a chance to catch up with a friend who works at the UN. We were catching up on lots of things an hour lunch can afford; so obviously, we went straight to the political situation in NZ including the emergent wave of radical activisms gaining momentum with Occupy, Blockade the Budget, student protests and the like. I was also earnestly sharing about my POC feminist punk band and my embrace of veganism, and started talking about this thing called decolonization, its relevance in facilitating a fair dialogue between indigineous and tau iwi people of colour in Aotearoa.... and then I wondered if such a thing can be contextually applied  in a country like Singapore (where I was born), and even perhaps a revivalism of Nusantara (Malay archipelago) indigeneity.

How would that work? he asks.

"Well, you know," I started. "Singapura as it has been since Independence is a mess. We (the Malays) are constitutionally recognised as the native people of the land but politically, socio-economically, we're disenfranchised, marginalised, still trailing decades behind.. " I meant this according to the steers of the global capitalist machinery of course. "The idea of utilising indigenous rights as a tool to ignite decolonisation in Singapura excites me...and why not? I mean, my granduncles were communists and they tried; some got detained, some got disappeared in the 70s, then my parents' generation probably traumatised by previous generation and the increasingly regimented government rule took the safe way but here we are, and our generation.. we have the tools at our fingertips.. "

He goes: Okay.. so in Singapore, the natives are Malay... and who would be the colonizers?

The majority.. the Chinese...

But if you talk about Nusantara,  the colonizers in Malaysia and Indonesia.. not similar is it?

He continued. "With the situation in West Papua and Indonesia at the moment.. and the political history between Bumiputra Malays, and indigenous tribes of West Malaysia.. I think it's an entirely different playing field very unlike the west.. there would surely be complexities in who can claim indigeneity..."

By this point, I listened intently to what my friend was saying. He was describing to me the Indonesia situation, since invasion of East Timor and more recently Papua, and relating how Indonesia is, in this light of day, a colonizer. How do we talk about decolonization now? Colonization which has perhaps since the late 80s/90s been interchangeably referred to as Orientalism and academically situated within a "Post(colonial)" context, has always historically been written by the west, and critiqued by the east as a legacy of white supremacy. We imagine Colonizers or those "superpower" white nations like the British, Dutch, Americans, Russians, Germans, Portugese. Yet in the history of the East, invasion from Sino/East Asian nations such as Japanese and Chinese throughout Southeast Asia is so brutally visible today not just in terms of population demographics, but the wider scale of the who's who (in economic power) in Asia...

Well, that's why I think whiteness is a privilege of colonizers, and not necessarily owned by white people in the west, I responded. In the context of Southeast Asia, I think that is still historically apt. My friend didn't look too convinced. To be honest, I wasn't too convinced of my own answer either!

Who are the colonizers today? That question took me a while to munch at. It made me tense and uncomfortable because here I was excited by the possibility of reviving indigenous dialogue with Malay communities in Singapore, thinking I could utilise international human rights language such as UN DRIP, and leverage off strategies tried and tested in the context of tangata whenua in Aotearoa for one, and then suddenly I get this reality-check smack on my head: there's still so much dialogue that NEEDS to happen and HASN'T yet happened in Asia. I bounced this question amongst other Asian migrant/descent activists as well as with an Indonesian guest speaker whom I met at a Communist League forum when I returned to NZ. Somehow, (and for me, disturbingly) consensus is the acceptance of nations such as Indonesia today as colonizers.

But shouldn't the question be why has this "colonization" taken place? Who (which nations//read: USA, Australia, NEW ZEALAND!?) are pulling the strings to make it happen? To whose interests is it to attribute a country such as Indonesia considerably renowned (for better or worse) as the largest Muslim country in the world, to gain such a reputation?

Let's begin with this. Firstly, how can we simply label Indonesia a colonizer without critically looking at the roots of white colonization. Dutch colonialism. Japanese occupation. Dutch re-colonisation attempt post 1945... Hello?!

Secondly, when we talk of colonizer-colonized characteristics, we observe colonizers generally being that of a majority in rule/ power and often an occupier ie. not the native of the land. Indonesia is ethnically diverse, not just by tribes, but also sub-sects of Hindu, Muslim, Christian all over. However Javanese are probably the largest ethnic group whose Suharto-led policies motivated inter-province migrations across various cities to an extent that they are considered the "majority" of Indonesia. But the Javanese, bio-anthropologically, a Malay race, are a people of the land, the natively Indonesian because Java is not a colony island of Indonesia. So in my view, we cannot simply compare them in the same way we do as the Chinese in Singapore.

I think that for people of colour with an indigenous affiliation in a different country such as myself, the way we frame our politics must continue to be challenged and would be required to constantly shift if we want to truly relate to the process of decolonisation. It's literally about multiplicity. Thus far, it feels like I have been doing decolonisation as an Asian migrant in New Zealand, as a member of the wider tau iwi community with respect to Maori. But I have yet to access, connect and participate as an under-recognised and under-rights protected member of the global community of indigenous people. Because somehow when we try, then something like Indonesia pops up and makes us doubt what we already know was true and real in the first place: colonization is a process historically white, historically west and still presently, true. And we really need to trust our instincts when it comes to how we communicate through this politics, this language, because at the end of the day, dude we're all trying to describe, narrate, relate in English. And we all know that there is inherent politics in itself. That must always be the first sign in where, when, how ever the conversation is happening before we, people of colour activists, come to any consensus on what decolonization means for us looking from the outside, but with roots so deep in Asia.

nasi goreng vegan - a vegan version of indonesian fried rice - heres hoping food comforts thy raging souls.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

There's doing, and there's doing

There's doing and there's doing.

One of my favourite stories about Haunani Kay Trask, was at yet another gathering where well meaning white liberals had congregated to engage on the topics of indigenous rights, white privilege and what else have you. The liberals, were then wringing their hands saying things along the lines of “Oh, it's so bad, that's just terrible, what can we do?! We just don't know what can be done, what can we do?!”.

Haunani Kay Trask replied with “Do you have a house? Well give it to us. Do you have a car? Well give it to us? Do you have a job? Well give it to us. Do you have money in your bank account? Well give it to us”.

Not quite the answer they were expecting. Because it was a rhetorical question. Or at least one where they wanted a theoretical, intellectual or philosphical answer. Nothing tangible, nothing practical, nothing that actually involves you, situates you, locates you, gets your hands dirty.

Haunani Kay Trask, was not, of course, suggesting that the effects of colonisation could be solved merely by guilty white liberals giving indigenous Hawaiians their things. She was, well I like to think, challenging their inaction, their willingness to only engage on these issues on an esoteric level, as intellectual exercise.

And here's the other side to the pendulum. And on the pendulum is not where we want to be, not on either side. And this other side is also dangerous, so I'll share two stories, so we can try and get off the pendulum.

A friend of mine was rung up one day by a well meaning white womens' health group. Well that wasn't its name, it was a womens' health group that only had white women in it. Anyhow, they rung my friend up and told her that it was soon breast feeding celebration day (or something like that) and they felt it was an international issue, so, as my friend had lots of connections with refugee women, could she gather a bunch of them to wear their ethnic clothes, and cook their ethnic food for everyone attending.

My friend told the well meaning group, that it was pretty offensive to ask such a thing in that fashion and not think about those dynamics, let alone the practicalities of lost wages, child care, and cost of transport. And that if their group was interested in cultivating a meaningful relationship that didn't involve simply trucking ethnic women along to their events to dress up and cook for them, she might be able to assist.

The womemns' group canned their idea and didn't get back in touch with my friend.

The other story I've been told, is one where well intentioned development workers went to some “developing” country, and felt aghast that the women of the village had to walk a mile or so down the road to wash their clothes. So the good intentioned development workers, got their tools together, and after some digging, channeling, rediverting etc, popped a tap into the centre of the village.

The development workers, expecting wonderful thanks and gratitude from the village, instead got an earful from the women. The women were very annoyed, as the trip to the river to wash clothes everyday, provided them with an important opportunity to meet with each other, away from their menfolk, to discuss issues, problems, and support each other. The arrival of the tap, took away that opportunity, and they were now expected to do more chores.

One part of the problem, is privileged people in dominant groups like to talk about stuff, decrying the woes of things, outlining the myriad of ways things are so screwed up, and what structural things need to change, and why they won't change. All over a hotel banquet, conference drinks, or vegan gluten free shepherds pie. No one actually wants to do anything that will put themselves out in any way. They just want to look good, like they are well meaning, well intentioned, and by discussing these difficult issues, are proving their willingness and worth. All while not really doing anything.

Another part of the problem, is privileged people in dominant groups like to get in there and fix things. They have to be “doing” something – or feel like their doing something, or look like they're doing something. And often, it has been their “doing” that has messed things up in the first place. One of the big problems here is that they're not doing what has been asked of them, because they often haven't asked what they should do, or if they have, they've not listened to the answer. They “do” things out of an entitled feeling of “I know what need to happen”, or out of figety habit and guilt. Not unalike workers when when their boss walks in and everybody tries to look busy. It's that dynamic internalised.

I'd volunteer that that meaningless unengaged “doing” (meddling) is merely a distraction, a procrastination. A short circuit that skips the required praxis part of listening, reflecting, knowing, knowing what you aren't knowing, then doing, then listening, reflecting.. so on and so forth.
Quite paradoxical, but there you have it. Doing and doing.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Melting Pot Massacre: hardcore, feminist, POC punk

Melting Pot Massacre: hardcore, feminist, people of colour, punk band, headed across the ditch to play their soul-tingling-sweet-screams at Sydney's Decolonise Punk Fest. 

Mellow Yellow caught up with them to find out how it all came to be.

1. Sydney Decolonise Punk Fest. What's that all about and why is MPM going along?

ss: I guess, being a POC band awakened from the nightmare of colonisation, the initial attraction was the word "decol" in itself. It helped when a friend who visited from Melbourne at Auckland's Decol hui in Feb 2012, recommended that we should totally play decol punkfest. That, plus the notion that Australia was willing to engage in decol politics, was, we thought, something pretty radical to begin with.
So in a nutshell, MPM went along because we assumed that the festival organisers regarded 'decolonisation' responsibly. We thought it was all these punk bands coming together to relate what decolonisation means to them.  We even half anticipated to "tolerate" white privileged acts thinking decolonisation is simply about being "anti-racist". 
(...well little did we realise how horribly naive that was!)

2. There's been kerfuffle on the FB grapevine about Sydney Decol Punk Fest being a bit of a white guilt token gig, where are you all on that train of thought?

Yeah as we mentioned before, we weren't too sure what we were getting into. I guess, we desperately wanted to believe that there would be at least one or two or a few people of colour and indigenous folks who have put all this effort and are challenged by a lack of participation from people of colour communities, that they resorted to leveraging off white male privilege, to make an epic thing happen. And then we read the FB stream of comments between various entities (some of whom are friends based in NZ whose politics we're in tune with) and we had a shock of our lives!..  So much internalised racism, and colour-blindness, denial even,  it was all a bit too much to read.. But by that time, our hard-earned flights were booked, and we were just focused on playing our music we figured, look, for what it's worth, when else would we, a self-identified poc hardcore feminist punk band get to play a festival in Sydney?     Let's just roll with this and if nothing else, show em' what decolonising punk sounds like!

3. Say “asian girl music” and people might think of pan pipes and canto pop. What's MPM all about?

ss: HAHA interesting isn't it that asian immediately triggers imagery of sino/east asian firstly! Anyway we chose punk as a genre to begin with and started using it more of as an attitude to various noise-rock genres per se...although, let it be known that some of us in the band are FANS of cantopop birl groups too (thanks to karaoke4lyf)! 
On a serious note, MPM collectively identifies as genderqueer, of 1.5/2nd generation migrant backgrounds, based in Aotearoa with roots from Asia.. if in a word, we identify as people of colour as a whole, which is a relatively new term in (post)colonial language I guess, but it does aptly address the fact that  we each hold and carry a mix of historicities through our ancestry, heritage, and familial ties through our diasporas...     I guess too often our subjectivities are constantly negotiated depending on which city, scene or people surrounding us... so in that sense, claiming as POC gives us the autonomy to position and re-position our sense of self and identity without having to constantly educate others/ justify our politics.

mz: It's also great outlet for our pent up rage that we're so often taught to just internalise.

4. Asian feminist punk music isn't exactly mainstream. How did you all get into it?

ss: well it all started with mz and I hanging out on weekends, youtube'ing vids of asian hardcore punk bands like King Ly Chee and My Precious. we were both toying with the idea of dual screamo and just experimented screaming and growling for fun! And then it got to the point when we just had to give it a good shot, get some other female friends we know play instruments, and get it started. We were all really mucking around, until we wrote our first song 'Welcome', realising that “shiit we got this sound”.
Months later, mz and me wrote and rough-recorded our second song "Behind Closed Doors" and we took the risk to just scream every single word and record it with distortion in our mate's garage. We liked what we heard. So we just kept doing more noisy stuff I guess. Having said that, we really wanted to incorporate all sorts of influences, and be "real" in our music, so having a punchy pop edge is important to some songs. I guess it's all about how we choose to deliver our message, rather than whether it reaches to mainstream or underground audiences..

mz: Shasha and I have been into punk music from a young age and we've both been in punk bands before, but I think we've have similar experiences and thoughts on the white-dominated punk scene in Aotearoa. I got into punk music at a young age cos I was sick of all the apolitical bubblegum stuff that a lot of my peers were into, and I was attracted to the attitude of defiance and rebellion against the mainstream dominant culture. But punk music was mostly played by white men and the punk scene reflected this white male dominance. When I first got into punk, there was a lot more anarcho-punks and willingness to be involved in radical politics, but soon I got disillusioned when more punks dropped out on activism and I started seeing shit in the punk scene that reproduced societal oppressions. I felt really alienated cos none of the music reflected my experience and there's such a eurocentric subcultural way of being that is so image-based it just didn't work for me, so I withdrew from the 'scene' and focused more on anti-racist anarcha-feminist stuff.  But if there's one punk ethic that we can owe the beginnings of this band to is DIY: "do it yourself" or "do it together".    There's no other asian feminist punk band in Aotearoa at the moment and we wanna see more so we just had to do it ourselves.
photo courtesy of ej tapnio.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Commemorating the Tiananmen Square Massacre

I wrote this article for Imminent Rebellion three years ago. Today marks the 23rd Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and I'm re-posting it here because it should never be forgotten. With all the recent student resistance to budget cuts, it helps to know that we are not alone. We're part of a history of student resistance internationally, and we're still fighting back.

Commemorating the Tiananmen Square Massacre 

"Unless we overthrow this inhumane government, our country will have no hope," – Cai Ling, student organiser
Twenty years have passed since the Chinese Communist state’s massacre of activists at Tiananmen Square at 1989. Twenty years ago, students and workers involved in the June 4th Movement fought against the authoritarianism, patriarchy, corruption and bureaucracy of the Chinese Communist Party. This movement emerged from a context of economic reform that caused high inflation and declining living standards. During this movement, there were many inspiring acts of dissent and solidarity with worker and student co-operation and mutual aid. There was a momentary rupture in history where the state was under threat, and its power undermined through student and worker resistance. The city of Beijing was temporarily taken over by the people and became an autonomous zone. It was a significant threat to the power of the bureaucrats in the CCP, who then ordered army to massacre of students at Tiananmen Square. The horrific violence of the state should never be forgotten or forgiven. 

I will first look at some of the conditions in China based on my relatives’ experiences and describe an oral history[1] of this event from the perspective of an ex-Beijing student who now resides in Aotearoa called Jiefang[2]. Although it is hard to completely comprehend these events without being part of the cultural milieu and “being there”, much can be learnt from people who were there at the grassroots. But I also want to go beyond description and look at how and why this concept of ‘democracy’ was employed by students; how they were represented in the west; reflect on the strategies both authoritarian communist states and capitalist democracies use to suppress and limit dissent by using each other to assert their legitimacy. 

Some background

For many peasants and workers the communist revolution brought hope of freedom and equality. The ideals of Marx, Engels, Mao and Lenin were the basis for a radical restructuring of urban and rural society in China.  My maternal grandfather, who joined the Communist Party at age 30, just after migrating to the city from the village, believed the politics of communism would be beneficial for peasants like him and my grandmother. While the revolution provided material benefits to the working class and the peasantry (initially) – with relatively equal distribution of necessities such as food and clothing – this form of authoritarian communism made many worshippers of Mao. The regime created a personality cult around Mao, making it a crime to question his words. Neighbours would report his critics, who then would be arrested. An analogy my mother always likes to make is that Mao to most Chinese people during his reign was what God is to Christians – an omnipotent and omnipresent being, who guides the people to salvation. A colleague of hers was imprisoned for 8 years for saying one of the Communist politicians “didn’t look like a good guy”[3]. My paternal grandfather was also imprisoned for three months for being an intellectual. Intellectuals or people with education were considered dangerous and threatening to the communist regime: the Party needed total control over thought and ideology to govern well.

With this all-powerful state in place, there was obviously little scope for democratising power.  Since the establishment of the CCP government in 1949, there have been major turbulent periods caused by Mao’s policies such as the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. After Mao’s death government policies began to change. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping and other pragmatists in the CCP started making economic reforms. This marked the “opening up” of the Chinese economy (改革开放), and it allowed foreign investment and greater integration with global capitalism. However, after decades of anti-capitalism, this had to be presented to Chinese people as part of the ‘socialist’ program, so Deng termed this change “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. It was a program for modernisation and capital investment to expand the Chinese economy. Consequently, the gap between the rich and poor had greatly widened in China.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Yes we all bleed red, what's your point

That's why a focus on humans, rather than feminism would be better. Because we're all humans, we're all the same, we all bleed red”.

This is a paraphrase, said by someone at a talk about “freedom of speech”, “the cost of speaking out” etc etc, within presentation content of the usual negative statistics, of marginalisation and violence against women in all realms and arenas.

And yes, I understood her intention, and it is a noble one. A verbal affirmation that all humans have worth. And that is a great feeling. It might be a good place to start, possibly even a foundational cornerstone, but it's not a strategy for world peace.

Changing a name, doesn't change where and how power sits and operates. Sometimes it just hides it.

Like government departments and NGOs who change names in time of crisis, the problem just relocates itself within a different title.

The reason I step away from the replacement term “gender equality” over feminism is because it is at best, a naïve declaration of a future goal. And at worse, a shying away from personal and collective responsibility, and a dismissing of structural inequalities and inequities.

Gender equality, when volunteered to replace “feminism”, is not a framework. We might head toward gender equality using a framework and strategy of feminism.

Usually when I hear the term gender equality suggested over feminism, it smells of misogyny, (internal and external) evasion of male and masculine privilege, and a fear to confront and meaningfully address the overwhemling inequities that female and women identified people face daily, personally, culturally and structurally.

In the same way, using “multiculturalism” to replace racism, or white privilege, doesn't work. Well it works if you don't want to acknowledge structural racism, white privilege and the large colonial project. It works if you just want nice warm hand-holding fuzzies, and back-patting congratulations, rather than addressing the mechanisms that privilege some groups over others.

It's a semantic shirking from confronting power in operation, and control in action. It doesn't pose deep substantial changes and frameworks, just lip-service rose tints. It's easier that way. No one has to feel bad or take responsibility, we can pretend that we're all in it together.

We're not all in it together. That's the whole point. We're all interconnected in some ways, but interconnection can also mean that the fish is connected to the fisherman by his hook. 

And yes, the fish and the fisherman, they both bleed red.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

some reading/viewing...

Awesome presentations, with Mimi Nguyen talking about MRR and quitting punk...

Stream Afro Punk here, soooo good!

Black Power Mixtape, with Angela Davis being amazing!!

This post, but also her whole blog is awesome too!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Being Muslim, Questioning Halal and Exploring Veganism

I've recently embraced an animal/cruelty free consumption lifestyle but many people have tried asking me why, to which I try to politely not get into because it is a complex thing to respond to. Friends who know me know I have a childhood paranoia of animals, a drilled-in fear of dogs and pigs (due to fundamental Muslim parenting that justifies dogs and pigs generally as haraam beings), and only in the last 2 years got over a fear of cats. I also do not have green fingers, so it's not so much about being a sustainability advocate; though I would like to contribute in some way.

Yes, it all came together for me at the Decol Hui on Feb 5th. At the Decolonise Your Mind hui last month, MZ and Zac presented a workshop on decolonisation and speciesism including awareness on colonialism as roots of our peoples' introduction to industrialising poultry, dairy etc. There I had brought up initial questions around the "Halal" debates within animal rights activisms, and at that point, I mentioned having been thus far comfortable defending Halal as an ethical practice in Muslims relationships' to animals, as sources of life and well-being, especially when confronted by non-Muslim vegans/animal rights activists. However curiosities threaten to kill the cat. I question at what point "Halal" was institutionalised historically, the context of who determines what is/isn't halal and according to what interpretation of which part of the Holy Quran actually promotes it. I also wondered what basis did some Muslims hold in discriminating/labelling non-meat eaters as sinners/jahilia.

I found this blog post below which touches on my most immediate sentiments when Muslim-identified people ridicule/mock or even in any sense respectfully ask me why I decided to embrace veganism. Normally I start with, "I am aware that veganism is a privileged lifestyle around choice - with class/income, access, cultural and basic human rights factors - underpinning its prevalence as a bourgeiosie way of living. I can fully relate with people of colours' resentment of the word; hence my uneasiness identifying with white vegans per se". However my beliefs, stemmed firstly from a gendered analysis of animal production industries, which later drove deeper into my own consciousness about myself as a Muslim human being, and where I draw that sense of entilement over beings that may not be able to behave or communicate their pain and suffering. This I tie in with my decolonisation, anti-racist and ableism-aware processes. This is what shook me.

Anyway, I hope this blog re-post below educates Muslims and non-Muslims alike about how Halaal is not meant to be all "holier than thou", as well as its propensity to be "holier than thou" because of the patriarchal capitalist-centred Islamic rules/regulation authorities of "Halaal". Please feel free to share/ x-post too.


To the Halal authorities
Halal food authorities; is Halal really ‘Halal?’ From a concerned Muslim

Asalaam aleikum brother or sister (s) in Islaam. I hope this is the appropriate way to contact you. I am writing to express my concerns to you regarding the various animal products that are ‘Halal’ according to your regulations.

As I am sure you will (at least in theory) agree, our beautiful Deen enjoins mercy and compassion towards all living creatures placed on this good earth; treatment which is conspicuously absent in the world that we live in.

However, until recently I never even opened my mind up to the possibility that any cruelty could be endorsed by an authority made solely to dictate which foods are lawful and which are not, and this is where my concern regarding yourselves lies.

As a result of the concerns that I shall explain I should tell you that I have stopped consuming all animal products, and have encouraged others do to so with some success. I should also warn you that equipped with knowledge others will soon follow suit. My actions are not those of an overly compassionate martyr; just someone who knows the truth but wishes he was wrong, and has tried to prove himself wrong every day but failed. Most people with a similar knowledge and an ounce of compassion would do exactly the same.

A huge responsibility lies on your shoulders; your words will decide the actions of hundreds of thousands of individuals; the vast majority of Muslims will call something Halal because you say it is so; and will regard something as haraam simply because you tell them without question; this is the trust you hold, and burden you shoulder, please consider this as I share my opinions regarding foods which you have passed off as being lawful unto Allaah.

Chickens, turkeys and ducksA great concern of mine lies in the industry of chicken flesh (my concern also applies with other poultry but I shall use the chicken as the prime example- particularly as this is the most commonly consumed bird). I am aware that ‘Halal’ chickens may die in a comparatively humane way due to the presence of a veterinary officer (as opposed to other chickens that die in ways as horrific as being boiled alive), and that they are not fed substances with the flesh of other creatures.

However, ‘Halal’ in Islaam is not simply the way the animal dies, but also how it lives! So called ‘Halal’ chickens are factory farmed; which, as I’m sure you’re aware, means that they are cramped into a space that often prevents them turning round or lifting a wing. These birds do not smell fresh air, nor touch a blade of grass.

It is also ironic that we loftily call eating the flesh of a swine ‘Haraam’ on the grounds that they live in mud amongst other reasons, yet will happily fill ourselves with a ‘Halal’ chicken carcass that lived in its own excrement and that of others for its entire life!

It is not a disputed fact that any such imprisonment of animals in a sin according to Islaam (and indeed morality according to most religions and cultures). Many such broiler chickens suffer broken legs under their unnatural bulk and die of heart failure or are trampled to death by other birds- again; clearly such treatment to animals is not compatible with Allaah’s command to show compassion to all his creation.

I am also shocked to discover that virtually no ‘free range’ chickens are ‘Halal’, and that the RSPCA (albeit grudgingly) approves of ‘freedom food’ (non Halal) chickens and has no such approval for Halal chickens!

FishThe fishing industry is one that is often overlooked by Muslims; one of the reasons being that you have not (to my knowledge) placed any rulings on it. However, I cannot stress how much I urge you to do so in light of the terrible cruelty and waste it is responsible for.

The physiology of a fish is similar to that of a mammal in terms of the fact that it has pain receptors and limited emotions. A fish in a fish farm is no happier then any other caged animal. When fish are dragged from the sea by the thousand they are crushed to death beneath one another, or failing that they suffocate, unless they are gutted alive first by the fishermen. None of these deaths is humane enough to be compatible with any of the teachings of Islaam.

There is another sinister aspect of fishing, which is wastage and unnecessary death and suffering. Fishing nets from industrial boats destroy everything in their path, including life on the sea floor. Any unfortunate dolphin, turtle or fish not on the catch list will also die and be thrown back into the sea. It is a tragic fact that a third of fish caught and killed are thrown back into the sea so the fishers can fill their freezers with the ‘desired catch.’ This already staggering statistic rises much higher with sea ‘delicacies’ ; it is not uncommon for ten pounds or greater of fish to be killed and wasted for one pound of prawns to be caught. Wasting food in Islaam is a cardinal sin, yet this could all change given just one statement made by your selves.

EggsWhile most Muslim brothers and sisters will only consume chickens of ‘Halal’ nature, there is no such limitation on eggs, and as a result, Muslims will happily consume eggs from hens of all types including battery/caged hens (who lay over 60% of eggs in Britain; generally unless otherwise stated any egg purchased will be from a battery hen). Only yesterday I was at the house of a devout Muslim sister who was making an omelette out of caged hens eggs, and I thought how can a self proclaimed servant of Allaah worship him yet cause so much suffering to his creations?

As I previously stated, imprisoning a living thing in such brutal conditions is against everything Islaam stands for (such hens fare even worse then broiler chickens- The Agricultural and Food Research Council states that one third of battery hens suffer from broken bones, due to their brutal confinement) but furthermore when chickens are unable to lay eggs they will be killed in a way that is not by any stretch of the imagination ‘halal’ (gassing to death, electrocuting and even being minced alive and fed to other chickens being amongst the most colourful yet very common ways). I understand that battery cages are to be made illegal by 2012 and replaced with ‘enriched’ cages which are barely better, but even this small step was one that I don’t recall you having any positive involvement in. Would it be too much that you could find the compassion to at least say something?Dairy

Like eggs, there is no apparent ‘Halal’ ruling on what varieties of milk a Muslim can or cannot consume. Therefore, according to yourselves, who hold the choices of many in your hands, milk of cows (and less often goats or even sheep) can be drunk without question. However, I would ask you to at least spread some awareness about the dairy industry.

While dairy cows are not always imprisoned in the grotesque manner of so many other animals, cruelties towards them are nonetheless numerous; from the breeding techniques that enlarge their udders which agonisingly weep with blood and pus after the painful process of industrial milking, to the sad reality of the calf being separated from his mother at birth, often killed for veal within the first year of its life. It is also worth recognising that these animals are not killed in any ‘Halal’ fashion either, so by consuming milk a Muslim is still subjecting animals to a ‘non halal’ death amongst other cruelties. Why can the Halal authorities not find the mercy to establish laws on Halal milk; that a cow must be treated well, must not be forced to yield so much milk, that its calf at least lives with his own mother just a few weeks longer, and that the cow lives on a herbivorous diet and so forth? This is also a requirement of Islaam -that animals to be eaten do not live on the flesh of others, and as milk is effectively liquidised beef, this rule should apply here; and so logically the milk of many cows is actually haraam as so many cows are fed with an unnatural, omnivorous diet, sometimes even consisting of pork in their feed.

I know some of these latter ideas regarding diet might be dismissed as pedantic but so many Muslims are willing to ditch medicines for the trace amounts of spirits in them, and will kick up a fuss because walkers’ crisps have an infinitesimally small trace of alcohol within! Surely such people will be more then at home with my ‘so called’ pickiness! The fact that so many Muslims actually waste their time and energy fretting over the micrograms of alcohol that might have touched their food instead of the pain, torment and obscene waste that went into their ‘Halal’ Salens and takeouts is not just ridiculous. It is pathetic.

Do not think these are my only concerns.

I have many more, including treatment towards other animals not mentioned here, health issues with eating the appalling raised animals that most of us so quickly say ‘Allah gave them to us’ without a second thought, and indirect destruction and obscene pollution upon the earth that Allaah has made us his stewards over, caused by intensive farming- to other animals and certainly humans less fortunate then ourselves (is it not absurd that the majority of grain human beings produce is fed to animals destined for slaughter when several children die of starvation for each word that I type?).

However, the above discussed problems are ones that should primarily concern you.

I recognise that radical steps, that I would have you carry out, such as speaking out against the fishing, egg and dairy industry demanding reform for it to be ‘halal’ and abolishing all factory farming, or at least giving ‘battery’ farmed poultry space to roam freely in their sheds along with sunlight and grass to tread on would in the short term, a financial disadvantage to some individuals, in the long term, we will be healthier people; more compassionate people, and closer to Allaah.

At present we are in danger of becoming the materialists and consumerists that so many of us will condemn in public (and claim that only Americans are guilty of it) but imitate in practice.

Your Brother in Islaam

The Prophet(s) was asked if acts of charity even to the animals were rewarded by God. He replied: 'yes, there is a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive.' (Narrated by Abu Huraira, Bukhari, 3:322. Muslim, Vol. 4; Hadith No. 2244

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dear White People: A How To Guide for Talking with them Ethnics

Dear White People: A How To Guide for Talking with them Ethnics
Michalia Arathimos

1. When you ask our names and the pronunciation is hard for you, it is polite to at least make one attempt at it.

2. If you try and get it wrong, that’s Ok. We’re not about to smack you on the hand with a stick for wrong pronunciation of a language you don’t know. We’re not into repeating the mistakes your culture made with our parents.

3. After we tell you our names and you try / don’t try to say them, we don’t need to hear that you think our names are ‘so lovely!’

4. When you ask us where we are from and we say, ‘here,’ we aren’t being cute. It means we were born here, like you. If you laugh and say, ‘no really,’ that doesn’t actually make sense. Because are you really from England? Or from Ireland? No. Your people might be. If you’re asking us what our ethnic background is or where our people are from, we might feel inclined to tell you. But we’re not obliged to, any more than you’re obliged to explain to us that your grandfather was a convict from Ireland and your grandmother was a barmaid who married a land-grabbing thief in the 1800’s.

5. If we say we’re born here and that we’re Greek, or Samoan, or whatever, then it’s not up to you to say whether we are or are not ‘a real’ Greek, or Samoan, or whatever. You don’t get to decide if we’re ‘authentic’ or not.

6. If you move into our neighbourhoods, we don’t think you’re really awesome and open-minded. We just think you live here.

7. If you tell us how lovely and amazing our neighbourhoods are, that they’re so interesting and truly multicultural, we just nod and smile but secretly we think you’re a tokenistic white liberal dick.

8. If you say you love it that you can walk down the road and get a kebab, or Chinese food, or Greek food, and that’s what makes the neighbourhood so ‘different’ and why you love living here, we’re thinking how sad it is that you’re so bored with your own culture that you need a kebab to make you feel special.

9. When we open a kebab shop, or Greek restaurant, or Chinese takeaway, we don’t care that you feel that we’re enriching your boring white middleclass neighbourhood with our exciting ethnic-ness. We’re just thinking about how great it is that you have to buy our food because your own food is so bland.

10. When you give us art grants to help us express our culture and to help contribute to the grand multiculturalism of the nation, we are grateful for the money. We take it, but we are not using it to build your nation of fabulous white people being benevolent to their interesting ethnic others. We take the money because we are working to represent our communities to our communities, not to you. We take it to begin the process of explaining ourselves to ourselves.

11. Maybe you could spend some time thinking about why we are so exotic and interesting, like someone else’s taonga or an ethnic souvenir you can collect and put in your pocket?

12. Maybe you would like to spend some time explaining?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Some words on Decolonise Your Minds! Hui

Decolonise Your Minds! Hui, 4-5 Feb 2012, at the kindly-gifted-at-no-cost, Ponsonby Community Centre, in Tamaki Makaurau, Aotearoa, saw just under 40 fierce, fantastic and fabulous women, genderqueer and trans folk, bubbling and raging under its rafters.

Two days of speakers, workshops and conversations covered the multiplicity of identities and communities we inhabit and partake within, and all the delightful complexities and painful tensions that come with it.

The first presentation was a showcase of Elizabeth Kerekere's art, much of it commissioned and placed in the Gisbourne court. This was a strategic positioning acknowledging that there are many Maori who don't go to art galleries, so expanding the venues where more Maori can access her art. She also recognises the courts and the prison system being a structurally violent place for Maori, and using her pieces to challenge, heal and uplift. Through her art, Elizabeth spoke to various aspects of her identity and politics sharing personal stories of her involvement in various movements and experiences of structural oppression throughout her life. It was a moving, insightful and inspiring presentation. Elizabeth's talk brought us to the multiplicities in ourselves and communities, and the healing of those wounds and disjunctures. Belinda Borell showed us through the smokescreened invisibility of whiteness and white culture, as an operating norm that plays out in indigenous and coloured tau iwi negative statistics. A wee booklet called "Understanding Pakeha Culture" compiled by the Dept of Labour in the 60's was a hilarious hit, much of it blatantly applying today. There was also a strategic suggestion that due to pakeha culture and the value it places on professionalism, social justice for indigenous peoples and learning more about NZ history, racism and structural inequity, needs to work the angle that it would be beneficial to their careers. Belinda also illustrated how the common symbols regarded as “kiwiana” or parts of “New Zealand culture” are mainly symbols of British and European culture, aspects of Maori culture are incorporated when it is convenient for Pakeha. Zac and MZ presented some of the intersections between speciesism and decolonisation. Exploring the use of animals in the process of colonisation in Aotearoa, and the status of animals as property under western capitalism, they challenged the structural violence against non-human animals in colonial settler states. They showed that animal agriculture was a crucial aspect of making colonisation possible by providing an economic base for settlers. Justifications for colonialism often reduced indigenous people to animal status to dehumanise and dominate. The dairy industry was used to illustrate the connections between colonialism, speciesism, sexism, neo-imperialism in the context of Aotearoa. Images of animalisation of people of colour were used to illustrate the symbiotic relationship between speciesism and racism. It challenged us to examine our relationships to non-human animals from our own cultural perspectives.

Decolonise the Mic, the Saturday evening, saw a diverse range of performances from poetry to punk rock, from kapa haka to acoustic folk. Thanks to all the performers who made the night so powerful, fun, inspiring and beautiful! Nga mihi nui ki a koutou. Cheers to Nga Tangata Hou, Texta, Whaitiri Mikaere, Marama Davidson, Kamea, Ellie, Giang, Takiaya and Pandie and Melting Pot Massacre!

A cruisy 12noon start time kicked off our second day.

Farida Sultana gave us a stirring/inspiring challenge to not censor or tone down our feminism in our communities, or else nothing changes and shifts. She talked about some of her struggles as an Asian migrant in Aotearoa and interactions with Maori women. She used personal anecdotes to illustrate that feminism is not just in the universities or western countries, many of her aunts in rural areas in Bangladesh practiced feminism and challenged patriarchy in their own ways without calling themselves feminists. Ruth DeSouza took us into the world of cultural safety, or cultural un-safety as more than a few workshop examples showed the damage that dominant culture acts and assumptions cause and maintain. She demonstrated the pakeha-centric discourses around maternity in her field of nursing and the way oppression impacts on the bodies of migrant mothers. A deep cutting, awkward and brightly honest exercise initiated by a number of indigenous hui participants, mapped out so clearly the costs and consequences of colonisation. An exercise showing, that while we all shared experiences of marginalisation and racism, the privileges available and accessible to coloured tau iwi within a colonial context, starkly contrasted to the colonial impacts on indigenous peoples, regarding class, poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse, education, incarceration and going hungry. It was a powerful display of some of the class differences amongst us and an exercise that brought up a lot of emotions and tensions.

The hui closed heartfelt and strongly, with challenges to reach, foster and create bridges with many groups of people not represented at the hui, as well as suggestions for a Reo component, noho styles on a marae, and for the hui to be longer.

Decolonise Your Minds! Hui 2012 would like to give the massive props, and deeply thank Rainbow Youth, Ponsonby Community Centre, The Quakers Local Peace Grant, A-Fem Hui and individual donors and supporters and helpers, for the myriad of your generous support.

Check out some audio of the presentations, kindly hosted by

A special thank you to the organisers and participants for allowing parts of the hui to be recorded and made available online.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Decolonise Your Minds!

Decolonise Your Minds:
marginalised gendered People of Colour DECOLONISATION hui

Sat 4th - Sun 5th Feb 2012
Tamaki Makaurau (Ponsonby Community Centre)
(Auckland, New Zealand)

$20 waged/ $10 unwaged, or whatever you can afford

The People of Colour Decol Hui is a two day celebration of Decolonisation, Feminism and Anti-Racism, for POC/indigenous feminists and activists, all mixed up with DIY workshops, skill share and talks.

The People of Colour Decol Hui is for marginalised gendered people of colour; including women, transfolk, intersex, genderqueers, wimmin (etc)- of marginalised cultures, indigenous and ethnic minorities in Aotearoa.

We clarify that "pale" coloured and indigenous people are very welcome at this hui. If you self identify with being a person of colour, and are happy to be in this space, then please come along.

We know that people of colour/indigenous people can have many parents/gransparents from all over, and we won't be perpetuating policing around whether someone is coloured or indigenous or not. For us this is just the kinds of things we seek to eradicate.

If you want to come but you're not sure if this includes you, please get in touch

The POC Decol Hui aims to open up space for discussion around being marginalised gendered tangata whenua and coloured tau iwi people in Aotearoa.

Examining the inherent power dynamics interwoven into our lives, connections between racism, sexism, colonisation, classism and other oppressions, and working in predominantly pakeha activist scenes... and how these things affect us and the feminist/ social justice/ peace/ revolutionary/creative work we do.

The weekend will be grounded around those main themes. There will be spaces for discusions to happen.

We hope that this gathering will enable us to share some experiences and tools for critiquing, challenging, and overcoming these oppressions.

There will be discussion forums, workshops and skill shares.

Featured discussion sessions/presentations/workshops include:

Elizabeth Kerekere: "Multiplicities: splitting ourselves across cultures, families and communities"

Belinda Borell:
"Co-opting whiteness, raced-based motions and moving targets"

Ruth DeSouza:
"The real impacts of marginalisation on bodies"

MZ and Zac: "Savage Beasts": Anti-speciesism and Decolonisation

Farida Sultana: "Asian feminism and decolonisation"

The POC Decol Hui is volunteer run.

If anyone has a workshop, skill share, discussion idea, from zine making, recipe swapping, difficult convos with family, kissing booths etc, that they would like to run please get in contact and let us know.

Further details (time, location) posted soon.Full(ish) programme will be posted in Jan 2012.

Exact info etc will be getting sussed shortly, consider this a heads up to get excited!!! Also for all our pakeha commrades out there fighting oppression, we welcome your support. Some things you could possibly do; include help with childcare, fundraising, food, places for people to stay during the hui etc. Get in touch :)

Email us any further questions.
Rego by 31 Jan 2012

(oh and please register even if you're not paying, so we know how much food to cook)

POC Decol Hui organisers: Rouge, Giang, MZ and Wai Ho

POC Decol Hui 2012 rego form:



travel assistance wanted?:
(we have some money avail for gas, plane, train or bus)

food requirements?:
(food provided)

childcare costs assistance wanted?:
(we have some money avail to pay childminders)

waged, unwaged, none/or whatever you can afford?:

any topics you would really like discussed?

(venue and toilets are accessible)

copy, paste and email rego to :

hui cost details:

Account name: W L Ho conference
Bank account number: 02 1242 0549383 032

We wish to thank The Quakers, A-Fem hui, Rainbow Youth and individual donors, for their kind support. It's much appreciated.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mellow Yellow Zines - Ready to Print Format!

Hey all, I've scanned and uploaded MY 1-4 in booklet format ready for you to print onto double sided sheets!

MY 1 -

MY 2 -

MY 3 -

MY 4 -

MY 5 - available sooooooon!

Live happy, sleep well, be kind to each other
Gong x

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mellow Yellow IV is now available for download!

Mellow Yellow IV

Contents include:

Age and Power
The beginnings of a manual on "how NOT to be an ally..."
On doing 101 again and again and again
Asian Anarchist Sisters in Berlin
T-shirt Slogans for the DIY activist
How to draw a vulva
Interspecies Interaction. A True Story.
Confessions of a workaholic
The weeping Buddha
Recognition, blindspots and stakes

+ much more!

This pdf is created in the printable format and this issue is read from right to left!

Monday, January 2, 2012

DECOLONISE THE MIC: Callout for Performers

DECOLONISE THE MIC: Callout for performers!

The Decolonise Your Mind Hui is a two day celebration of feminism, decolonisation and anti-racism held in Tamaki-Makaurau on the 4-5th of Feb 2012. We are organising a "Decolonise the Mic" night featuring people of colour performers. Performances can include but are not limited to: music, poetry, spoken word, songs, skits, raps, dances, drag etc. This event will also be open to allies. It will be held on Saturday 4th of Feb!

Please get in touch asap if you are interested: