From now on, I'll be posting about Islam, Islamophobia, Park51, etc etc etc, over at my main lj, dreamer_easy.

In the comments to my first post on the whole Elizabeth Moon/Park51 mishegoss, I said this:
"In the seventies, Black feminist Audre Lorde wrote to Mary Daly criticising the absence of African goddesses from Daly's book Gyn/Ecology. When she received no response, it became an open letter, which is full of respect, gratitude, and good will. It's a model of how to disagree civilly - that is, treating the other person as a fellow citizen, someone of equal worth with whom you must find a way to get along. Now I am old and weary, I aspire to Lorde's grace."
The Open Letter is well known; when Daly passed away at the start of this year, numerous obits and blog postings made mention of it.

Lorde's insights into white feminism's failings are powerful, but thing that especially struck me was her willingness to talk, despite Daly's stony silence. No self-righteousness, no "calling out", just good will and openness - while Daly was guilty of, at best, defensive stonewalling, or, at worst, arrogantly ignoring her.

As it turns out:

Lorde lied.

I'm still slightly reeling.

Her biographer, Alexis De Veaux, found Daly's response amongst Lorde's papers. Daly's letter apologises for the delay in responding (Lorde sent her letter in May 1979, Daly replied that September) and states: "You have made your point very strongly and you most definitely have a point." Daly says she's left a message on Lorde's machine and gives her own phone number; and she suggests they meet in person to discuss Lorde's criticisms. And they did meet and talk for an hour.

Lorde claimed she had never received a reply when she published the letter in 1980 and again in 1984.

I found this out yesterday (I'm reading Gyn/Ecology right now) and was so boggled that I raced into the State Library of NSW to peruse De Veaux's biography, Warrior Poet, for myself. It was true. Lorde was a liar. No, worse, she was a slanderer - like the jealous cyberbullies who spread lies about me. My heart sank and my blood boiled. (I'm lucky someone didn't call an ambulance.)

Daly later wrote: "Apparently Lorde was not satisfied [with their talk], although she did not indicate this at the time." In a 1982 interview, Lorde admitted, "I had no response that had any satisfaction to it". Which can only have been terribly frustrating - but is worlds away from being completely ignored.

What to do, then? Crumple up and throw away the Open Letter? Refuse to read anything more by Lorde?

No. And, no.

The letter's language still offers hope and grace. I invite you. I ask that you be aware. I believe in your good faith. Thank you.

What's more, the letter's criticism of white feminism is still important and useful. De Veaux suggests that, for Lorde, Daly had come to stand for white feminism and all its failings. "Mary Daly the person, then, ceased to exist," she writes, "But as an icon, Daly was an easy, if unwilling, target".

And what's even more, Lorde's work, like Daly's, has that extraordinary power that feminism has, to grab hold of my brain and shake it until the world looks slightly different than it did before. I'm really only getting started on both of them. Too many books, too few years in a life.

Besides, I am too old and too tired to police the edges of my mind, now. I need all the good insights I can get, even if they sometimes come packaged with bad insights. In any case, regrettably, I myself am racist; if I place someone beyond the pale (so to speak) for their prejudice, I'll only find myself standing there next to them.

The genuine openness to talk, the grace and hope, are there in the Carl Brandon Society's statement on Elizabeth Moon and Wiscon. The Society clearly and firmly repudiates Ms Moon's posting, but concludes:
"We ask both the Wiscon concom and Ms. Moon to take advantage of her presence at Wiscon 35 to make programming opportunities for Ms. Moon to engage in open dialogue with the community on this topic. We consider this sort of dialogue to be a primary responsibility of the Carl Brandon Society as an organization — particularly given our history with Wiscon — and we welcome the opportunity to engage in it. We also welcome other voices to work together with CBS in this dialogue."
The chances of real communication would've been slender. Sadly, now they are zero.

But I think, in this case, the last word ought to belong to Mary Daly:
"This piece ("Open Letter") has been assigned as required reading by not a few professors in academentia to students in classes where Gyn/Ecology itself has not been assigned, or a mere handful of pages of this book have been required reading. This kind of selectivity is irresponsible. It imposes a condition of self-righteous ignorance upon students, often within the setting of 'Women's Studies'. This is, in my view, a worst case scenario of pseudoscholarship. It is, even if 'well-intentioned', divisive, destructive. It functions, at least subliminally, as a self-protective statement about the purity and political correctness of the professor."
ETA: In Remembrance of Mary Daly: Lessons for the Movement
Daly, Mary. Outercourse: the Be-Dazzling Voyage. North Melbourne, Spinifex Press, 1993.
De Veaux, Alexis. Warrior Poet: a biography of Audre Lorde. New York, W.W. Norton, 2004.

PS Elizabeth, if you ever happen to see this - it would be my great pleasure to send you a copy of Waleed Aly's readable book People Like Us. His thoughts on Islam and the West partly reflect your own, but will also provide insights you may not have expected. Email me ( with a postal address (your details to be kept strictly confidential, of course).

Spirit Day

From now on, I'll be posting about bullying at my main lj, dreamer_easy.

If you feel like you want to die
Tell somebody - Call somebody - Get some help

Suicide Prevention Australia

LIFELINE Australia - 24 hours phone 131114

High school was hell for me. I'm still dealing with the damage. But I survived and I escaped. Sometimes I look at all the things that have happened since then - falling in love, succeeding as a writer - and I am so glad I'm still here.

If you're gay or bi or transgender, you may be going through far more hell than I ever did. But you too can survive and escape. And the world you escape to is s-l-o-w-l-y but surely becoming less mean and more welcoming. Hold on. The future could be amazing.

IT GETS BETTER. It really does. Really.

Veiled references

Right. Since the West is obsessed with hijab, this is the last time I'm going to say anything about the subject (with the possible exception of linking to Muslimahs' opinions). It's an issue towards which I plan to pursue civil indifference. (You may also be relieved to hear that I plan to take a break from these seemingly endless postings until November. :)

I just want to draw your attention to this paradox. In some Muslim countries, women are forced to wear hijab; therefore, in some Western countries, women are forced to not wear hijab. A French woman has been charged with assaulting a niqabi tourist, ripping off her (legally worn) veil. Her reason? The mistreatment of Muslim women. Figure that one out!

ETA: Hijab means the headscarf, but it also means modest Muslim dress in general, male and female. The BBC provides a handy pictorial guide to hijab, niqab, burqa, chador, and other styles of coverings for women.


Is Muslim Feminism More Than Just a Hijab Defense? | Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves…But Nobody Seems to Notice | Princess Hijab, Paris's elusive graffiti artist | Saudi woman beats up religious cop

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one has a rummage in Google Books

So far, my responses to Elizabeth Moon's Park51 posting have been pretty simple stuff: take a few statements from the posting and see if they stand up to scrutiny. (There's more to this than just disagreement. Ms Moon's views are shared by many folks in the West. They may change their minds if given more accurate information.)

When it comes to some of the historical and political stuff, though, I'm all at sea. The last time I studied history was Tudor England in Year 8. Getting a grip on the complexities is going to take a lot more than reading a couple of books.

So when it comes to this part of the posting, I can't make a meaningful comment; I can only ask questions.
"It would have been one thing to have the Muslim victims' names placed with the others, and identified there as Muslims--but to use that site to proselytize for the religion that lies behind so many attacks on the innocent (I cannot forget the Jewish man in a wheelchair pushed over the side of the ship to drown, or Maj. Nadal's attack on soldiers at Fort Hood) was bound to raise a stink."
As you can see, Moon's ire here is partly based on a mistaken belief that Park51 would be a memorial to Muslims killed on 9/11. (On the one hand, I can see how such a memorial could be seen as provocative and divisive. On the other hand, I can't work out at all how Ms Moon arrived at this belief.) ETA: Just wanted to point this out: a lot of online commenters say that Ms Moon's posting called the community centre a "mosque". It didn't.

The wheelchair-bound Jewish man was Leon Klinghoffer, murdered by PLO terrorists in 1985 aboard the Achille Lauro, which they had hijacked. They shot him - in front of his wife - and threw his body and his wheelchair overboard.

The murder was needless, inexcusable brutality; it's no wonder it's stuck in Moon's mind. The thing is - and here's where my lack of nous becomes frustrating - were the PLO an Islamic organisation? Was their terrorism fuelled by religion? (And if not, what does this tell us about equating "Arab" with "Islam" with "terrorism"?)

The account given in Islamic Politics in Palestine suggests that the PLO was part of a secular movement, one which competed and clashed with Islamic groups. Similarly, The Dual Nature of Islamic Fundamentalism describes Islamic groups in Palestine regarding the secular PLO as Palestine's "internal enemy". (Similarly, I recall the conflict between Fatah - part of the PLO - and Hamas - an Islamic group - during Operation Cast Lead.)

I suspect the situation's far more complicated than anything a quick poke around in Google Books can explain. I'll keep reading. In the meantime, if anyone's got any insights, please share them!


While I was in Canberra last week, I spent much of my time at the National Library of Australia, where I was able to search a database of newspaper stories from the state of Texas just after 9/11. What I was after, as you've probably guessed, was the context for this part of Ms Moon's posting about Park51:

"But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they've had. Schools in my area held consciousness-raising sessions for kids about not teasing children in Muslim-defined clothing...but not about not teasing Jewish children or racial minorities. More law enforcement was dedicated to protecting mosques than synagogues--and synagogues are still targeted for vandalism. What I heard, in my area, after 9/11, was not condemnation by local mosques of the attack--but an immediate cry for protection even before anything happened. Our church, and many others (not, obviously all) already had in place a "peace and reconciliation" program that urged us to understand, forgive, pray for, not just innocent Muslims but the attackers themselves. It sponsored a talk by a Muslim from a local mosque--but the talk was all about how wonderful Islam was--totally ignoring the historical roots of Islamic violence."
I don't know exactly where Ms Moon's local area was at the time (and it's none of my business). Some of her grievances here may be legitimate - although if so, they're the responsibility of the schools, the police, and her church, not just the mosques.

What I'd like to do here is to use some of the news stories I dug up to put her recollections into context. The weeks after 9/11 were a terrible time of shock, confusion, and fear. For Texan Muslims, on top of that, it was a time of blame and hate: bomb threats against schools, firebombs and bullets aimed at mosques, vandalism, beatings, shootings, arson, and murder, and the repeated refrain: "You're not Americans". But it was also a time of support and understanding, with people of other faiths rallying to support their neighbours, and Muslims reaching out to their community.

ETA: Looking at the dates, for Ms Moon's local mosques to have asked for protection "even before anything happened", they would have had to do so before the windows were shot out of the Islamic Center of Irving on 12 September. Well, that could be the case; the threatening phone calls probably started before any actual attacks. What is hard to believe is that local mosques didn't condemn the terrorism; the news reports quote one Muslim after another doing so. On 12 September a press release from Dallas religious leaders, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, denounced the attacks as "evil".

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(no subject)

Hatred in the Hallways: HRW responds to the bullying of gay American kids. Links to their 2001 report and suicide prevention resources.

One of the things that's struck me while doing my homework on Islam is its non-hierarchical structure, compared to more familiar religions such as the Catholic and Anglican churches. Rather than pronouncements handed down from the top which everyone's supposed to go along with, you can go to any alim or Islamic scholar and ask for a ruling. I think this one reason Westerners get confused; we expect a single "Islamic" view, and instead discover a plethora of denominations, schools, and individuals, all opining away. (That's what a fatwa is - the opinion of a religious scholar, nothing more.)

Now I don't want to overstate this comparison, as there are very profound differences, but my own religion of Neo-Paganism is also largely non-hierarchical. This was brought home to me when I tried to find out whether I could, tongue-in-cheek, call myself a mushrika. Google promptly produced several different definitions of the term and who it could be applied to. (It's clear I'm going to have to hit the books some more over this one!) There's a saying: "twelve witches, thirteen opinions", and I think the same may be true for the ulema. :)

This brings me back to Ms Moon:
"The same with other points of Islam that I find appalling (especially as a free woman) and totally against those basic principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution...I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom."
Again, it's hard to know exactly what Ms Moon has in mind here. But this idea that Islam is ultimately incompatible with freedom, especially for women, is paralleled in some Pagan thought, particularly in the Goddess movement. Some feminists are working hard to reform traditional religions such as Christianity and Judaism. Other have given up on the Abrahamic faiths as being inevitably, hopelessly oppressive, particularly for women, and have turned to Paganism as an alternative. (And quite a few people fall somewhere between the two camps.)

I thought of this when reading a Pagan response to the dreadful tragedy of gay kids taking their own lives, which several recent well-publicised examples have suddenly brought into the spotlight. That response draws in turn on a Baptist minister's call for theological change from an unspoken model where "God is at the top, (white, heterosexual) men come soon after and all those less valued by the culture (women, children, LGBT people, the poor, racial minorities, etc.) fall somewhere down below."

It's tempting to satirise some of Ms Moon's points by showing how well they apply to Christianity, her own religion, just as well as they do to Islam - to say, with some Pagans, that Christianity is incompatible with freedom, especially for women. Personally, though, I haven't given up on the Abrahamic faiths; even a glance at their histories shows how capable of innovation they are. Besides, they're not going away any time soon.

But I do want to say, with Jason at the Wild Hunt blog, that "... it is more important than ever for us to make it known that our alternatives exist. To be visible and to make common cause with those who are told to hate themselves by the dominant faith lens."

I can't speak for every Neo-Pagan or Wiccan; no-one can. I can tell you, though, that the goddess I worship, Inanna, is the patron of all sexuality. In the Mesopotamian hymns and tales she's a macho warrior and a new bride. Her clergy (as best we can tell) included gay men and cross-dressers. As the evening star, she's compared with a sex worker, hanging out of the tavern window looking for business! She's not a mother goddess; she's a goddess of sex, and without her, nobody can bothered with it. Starhawk says that the lovers taken from us by AIDS are her martyrs. She's the reason I've blogged so much about sex education, reproductive freedom, and freedom from sexual violence. If you are a slut, a fag, a queer, a whore, a tranny, a monogamous heterosexual, or a hopeful virgin, this goddess, who was worshipped for thousands of years and who has burst back to life, wants to gather you up in her huge multicoloured bouquet of life and love and joy. (Heck, if you're celibate or asexual, jump on in. It's a big bouquet.)

Jason blogs: "My 'something else' is the modern Pagan movement, but it isn't the only 'something else' out there." Hold on. Don't give in. You're part of nature too, and God loves you. You will find friends and a safe place to be yourself. Reach out for help. Don't give in. Hold on.
SHE STANDS UP AGAIN, anti-bullying

(no subject)

Originally posted by neo_prodigy at Spirit Day

It’s been decided. On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the 6 gay boys who committed suicide in recent weeks/months due to homophobic abuse in their homes at at their schools. Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality. Please wear purple on October 20th. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and schools.

RIP Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh (top)
RIP Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase (middle)
RIP Asher Brown and Billy Lucas. (bottom)

REBLOG to spread a message of love, unity and peace.

(I'm sure you'll be seeing this image many times on your flist over the next few days. I'd cut it or something, but I just haven't got the heart. T_T)