May 10, 2011 § 3 Comments
Last weekend an event was held called No Disrespect; “an exhibition to create alternatives and opposition to the ‘say no to burqas’ mural in Newtown: a visual, aural and sensory display of creative dissent”, put on by Muslim Youth of Sydney, Justice and Arts Network and Cross Border Collective and held at the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre in Sydney. Some people claiming politically progressive views decided that the link I posted on my facebook page (I have deleted my facebook account since then) to the event was an appropriate forum to exercise their intellect, ‘valuing freedom of expression over racism’ in regards to the mural. Of my choices to either remain silent to their hurtful ignorance or to focus energy that I’d rather be putting other places into writing a response, I chose to type up the following poem in some hope of relative empowerment. It’s creative expression I wish there wasn’t reason to create.
I’d like to acknowledge that I am not a Muslim woman; I am not speaking from a perspective of lived experience, unlike most of the women who made work and spoke at No Disrespect. I speak only from empathetic observation and do not intend to represent the many voices of those affected directly by Islamophobia.
On internet intellect or Say no to bigotry
Oh internet intellectuals! I try not to let you drain my battery,
The attention I give you now is not intended for your flattery.
I’d like to ignore your ignorance but it offends my senses,
Your arrogant articulation of politically progressive pretenses.
The choice is yours to deny your place in a white supremacy
And it’s your privilege to believe in an illusion of equality.
Today it’s racism as your stimulating topic for high tea discussion,
Without enduring it daily you engage sans emotional repercussion.
You are free to discuss the complexities of others’ oppression
Without having shared their experience of derision and suspicion.
You ponder the power of a bigoted mural to spark debate,
Shielding your eyes as more fuel feeds a fire of anti-Muslim hate.
You champion ‘freedom of speech’ over oppressive behaviour
While strutting your western gender equality as all women’s saviour.
You support ‘tolerance’ to allow art’s validation of another racist voice
In a choir set to inspire undressing burqas out of fear not freedom of choice.
The politics of race and religion play out yet again on women’s bodies,
Does what you not share in experience exclude you from feeling empathy?
You safely ignore the threat of violence others face for their religious expression,
Dismiss impassioned debate as irrational with emoticons of passive aggression.
Immunised by your privilege against seeing symptoms of a disease pandemic,
Oh institutional racism! If only it was just academic ; )