Op-Ed: For a few weeks, we heard Muslim voices. Then the free speech debate took over

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a few weeks, we heard Muslim voices. Then the free speech debate took over

 | Guest writer Opinion

 

It will always be hard to keep Muslim and migrant perspectives in the foreground as long as material support is wanting, write Mohan Dutta and Murdoch Stephens

After the mosque attacks in Christchurch, there was a strong call from media to centre Muslim responses. For a few short weeks, the voices from the attacked communities were not only heard but prioritised.

But as the weeks turn to months, there has been a change to the way we talk about voices and speech. No longer were people discussing prioritising the voices from specific communities. Instead, to the fore rode more abstract and legal questions of hate speech and free speech.

We have no problem with a public discussion on hate speech and free speech, even if it means we have to put up with myopic views of freedom to speak that exclude freedom from hate speech. However, we are concerned that this debate has overshadowed the need for medium and long term reforms that focus on whose voices are prioritised.

Two days after the mosque attacks, one of the authors of this article spoke at length to a senior member of the government who assured him that there would be government support for these communities. But as the budget came and went, there was very little to help sustain these communities other than short-term funding for mental health. Compare that to the opaque $25m spent on stopping asylum seekers arriving by boat and it feels like little has changed. Even the much needed Multicultural Hub is backed by the local council, not central government.

Prioritising Muslim voices generally meant seeking out those community members already skilled at public communication. In the medium term, we can’t expect these individuals to continue to offer commentary: most are employed in other jobs, and not always places that look kindly on advocacy and journalism.

Luckily, we already have organisations established that can provide commentary from Muslim and migrant perspectives. Consider the work by Anjum Rahman from the Islamic Women’s Council, Imam Gamal Fouda from the Al-Noor mosque or Ahmad Tani from the Canterbury Refugee Centre.

We are particularly interested in the last of these three. The day after the mosque attacks it was the Canterbury Refugee Centre and Mr Tani who hosted Jacinda Ardern in Christchurch. Tani’s organisation is one of a handful around New Zealand funded through MBIE’s Strengthening Refugee Voices (SRV) programme. SRV organisations organise hui to collect and then communicate former refugee experiences – including many new Muslim New Zealanders – to Immigration New Zealand. Though we understand there is no neat crossover between refugee and Muslim communities, the SRV programme is one way that the least heard voices from the Muslim community can be amplified.

Emerging in the third term of the previous Labour government, it is fascinating to look back on where the policy came from. Then Immigration Minister David Cunliffe, speaking to refugee community leaders, announced the SRV funding as part of an earlier $62m budget package for the area. But the allocation for these refugee community groups was only $250,000 per year. That is not $250,000 per organisation, but in total, across all resettlement centres.

More than ten years since the establishment of SRV it is time for a review. Resettlement of refugees has moved away from Auckland with five other centres – Wellington, Waikato, Nelson, the Manawatū and Dunedin – now hosting more in each case than our largest city. On top of this, the next year will see the opening of six new resettlement centres in smaller regions.

Immigration New Zealand explicitly states, on page three of their resettlement strategy, “At the heart of the Strategy is the refugee voice. The Strategy was developed by Government and service providers in conjunction with former refugees and the identification of strategic priorities is undertaken in consultation with refugee communities.”

We agree that voice lies at the heart of sustaining an infrastructure for addressing the climate of hate experienced by refugees. Building spaces where voices of refugees can be heard is integral to addressing the challenges experienced by refugees. Moreover, the broader climate of prejudice and hate is addressed through the presence of refugee voices.

Last week, Immigration NZ told resettlement organisations that SRV would be reformulated for the expanded quota. But instead of facilitating this work through the usual full year contract, the groups we talked to have been offered just six months. In addition to the actual work of engaging with resettled communities, they are now being required to do the groundwork of redesigning the programme, which one of our contacts described as “a significant workload increase”.

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In researching our just released White Paper on Strengthening Refugee Voices for the CARE centre, we discussed these issues with many interested parties. One of us met with Immigration NZ representatives in their MBIE headquarters in Wellington recently renovated for $15m. But when we met the head of a smaller resettlement organisation – not one of the original four – we had to meet in a public library. They simply did not have the funds for an office, let alone a salary. This person was tasked with coordinating and reporting on one of the largest refugee background communities on a budget of $6,000. How, we wondered, can refugee voices really be at the heart of the strategy when the material support is so wanting?

Over the coming months, the country will be doused in debates over free speech for those already affluent enough to want for nothing. Some of the newest members of our Muslim community, on the other hand, will arrive to a new land, and perhaps a new language. How, we ask, will their voices be heard?

In November 2018 Murdoch Stephens was invited to be an activist in residence with Professor Mohan Dutta’s CARE research centre at Massey University in Palmerston North. The White Paper that emerged from that residency can be found here.

Soruce: SHOUTY MCSHOURFACE. PHOTO: GETTY

Website:  https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/04-07-2019/for-a-few-weeks-we-heard-muslim-voices-then-the-free-speech-debate-took-over


 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Indigenous Farming and Sustainable Ecologies: Voices of Women Farmers

We at the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) are delighted at the recent recognition of our community partner, Deccan Development Society (DDS), with the 2019 UN-Equator Prize.

The Equator Prize is a recognition of community-led grassroots initiatives that offer solutions to sustainable development.

For the last three decades, the Deccan Development Society (DDS), has been developing culture-centered interventions in agriculture and ecology through sanghams, grassroots cooperatives owned by dalit women. These grassroots cooperatives are spaces for knowledge generation, drawing on indigenous knowledge, offering solutions to sustainable ecologies, and challenging the global onslaught of neoliberal agriculture, felt locally.

The interventions developed by the DDS have been at the forefront of offering an alternative model of agricultural ecologies anchored in indigenous knowledge. Through ongoing advocacy and activist interventions, the dalit women have disrupted patriarchal structures, caste structures, and state-corporate structures that promote neoliberal agriculture. Constituted in the backdrop of the epidemic of farmer suicides across India amid its accelerated neoliberal transformation, DDS has offered an alternative model for sustainable ecologies.

The articulations of ecologies at the heart of health formed the basis of the culture-centered collaborations developed by CARE in collaboration with DDS. Our partnership formed the basis of developing communicative interventions anchored in the voices of the women farmers. These interventions disrupted the neoliberal structures that constitute agriculture and offered alternative agrarian ecologies for health and wellbeing.

However, the centering of such linkages fundamentally disrupts the hegemonic narratives of health and wellbeing. Structures often deploy various techniques of violence and erasure in response to subaltern voice and subaltern knowledge. In our own collaborations with DDS, we have come to understand the everyday formations of structures that work actively to erase subaltern voices through techniques of neoliberal accounting. For instance, in an audit, it was suggested that the topic of suicide of cotton farmers in India did not further the objectives of CARE.

The implicit question, what does re-defining ecology and agriculture through the voices of women have to do with health, formed the basis of the violence of accounting. The narrow definition of health within the neoliberal ideology perpetuates erasures that devalue the knowledge of subaltern communities.

Our collaborators, the women of DDS, spent a week with us in a conference on Communication for Social Change, running workshops on methodologies for voice. The conference came under interrogation, based on the premise that it foregrounded the question of social change.

That more of the same, more of the same neoliberal dogma is not going to address the current ecological crisis we are in the midst of is a lesson that the dalit women farmers organised under the umbrella of the DDS voice with cognition. The recognition that we need to fundamentally overthrow the neoliberal order has to be centered in conversations on sustaining ecosystems.

CARE is now the official publisher of PRism­!

CARE is now the official publisher of PRism­ – an academic journal with a focus on public relations and communication.  The journal was founded in 2003 and is ranked B in the ABDC journal list.  Some of the world’s leading public relations scholars’ have published in PRism, including James Grunigand Robert L. Heath.

Call for Papers for two upcoming issues has been released.  This includes a special issue “Indigenous theorizing: Voices and representation”.

Please visit the official PRism website: www.prismjournal.org

CARE Activist-in-Residence for May … Dr Ihirangi Heke

CARE is excited to have our latest Activist-in-Residence Dr Ihirangi Heke join us from 28 May – 31 May 2019 at Massey University, Manawatū Campus. Please share this great news with friends and whānau and come along to the events as listed on the poster!
 
A little about Dr Heke …
 

Ihirangi Heke, of Tainui-Waikato descent, was raised in the South Island mountain adventure environment, before it was popularly known as such. A graduate of Otago University, he has lectured there and built a career based on helping athletes, both ordinary and elite, achieve goals beyond their expectations. Over the past 10 years he has been active in helping Māori and other indigenous groups abroad, build their own health and wellness activities based on their own traditional environmental knowledge. On any one day of the week you might find Ihi mountain biking with Te Arawa people in Rotorua, playing traditional games with students in Kaikohe, at a trekking meeting in the snow in Japan, or in a virtual meeting with colleagues from Auckland University, Brookings Institute Washington, and a marae in Uawa. This is all part of him joining the dots to enable Māori and other indigenous peoples to define and determine their own health pathways and solutions as defined by their local environments.

CARE Activist-in-Residence

Click on the url link for more news related articles on Ihirangi Heke

CARE OpEd: Saffron Mainstreamed Through Political and Media Discourse

To reclaim India is to reclaim both the secular and socialist roots of the nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOHAN J.DUTTA | 1 MAY, 2019

To reclaim India is to reclaim both the secular and socialist roots of the nation.

Building up to the 2019 elections, the question, “whether India will be India,” is being asked in various conversations across India, in the diaspora, and globally. The question is a powerful one and one that calls for critical reflection as India goes to vote.

What is the idea of India that needs to be defended with vigour?

And more importantly, how does this conversation on India taking place in mostly English language plaforms, often among the elite, connect with the conversations on the idea of India taking place in India’s fields, among the farmers, in the production units, among the workers, among the large numbers of unemployed youth, among the precarious workers in the informal sectors, among India’s Muslims who live amidst the everyday fear for their lives, among India’s adivasi peoples?

Going back three decades to my NCERT textbooks in the Kendriya Vidyalaya where I went to school and learned my first lessons on citizenship, I am reminded that the idea of India was never articulated as a concept in the classroom.

One took the idea of India as a given in the concepts of secularism, socialism, and democracy. The lessons in history and geography in the classroom were strengthened and crystallized in community life, in the neighbourhood, in celebrations, and in the everyday culture.

That secularism is how one simply lived and how communities breathed their everyday life was evident in the neighbourhoods, local markets, tea stalls, mosques, churches, and temples. The sound of the azaan at dawn mingled in perfect harmony with the sound of the bells from the evening prayer at the temple.

That socialism forms the democratic aspiration of people was manifest in the land reforms, strong voices of unions, the strong presence of the Left parties, and the equally strong presence of social movements.

The twin concepts of secularism and socialism formed the bulwark of democratic life. The vibrant community groups, local governance, and public participation in the democracy were guided by the calls to equality.

These key ideas defined for me the spirit of India, with its vast openness to many faiths, worldviews, and ways of thought. The Red Book stores that would be on full display in the front of the Durga Puja pandals across West Bengal reflected for me the essence of this spirit.

In the Bengal of the 1980s and 90s when I was growing up, the idea of India was marked by its absence. One simply witnessed the values of socialism, secularism, and democracy in the fabric of daily life.

The first time that I grappled with the meaning of India was in December 1991, with the image of the chariot procession of the now revived-as-a-liberal icon, Lal Krishna Advani, and the mobs that had secured access to the mosque. The images of the destruction of the mosque by saffron-waving gangs quickly transformed into stories of violence and riots as they started erupting across India.

That was the first time as a College-going student I grappled with the idea of India.

Fast forward three decades, the saffron-wearing fringe elements are now running India. One of them, selling the story of struggling out of poverty to become a leader of a democracy, is now the Prime Minister. Many accounts suggest that the same saffron-clad icon was complicit in the massacre of innocent Muslims as Chief Minister of Gujarat.

The saffron tide of 2014 that brought the extremist fringe into power was also a continuity of the extreme neoliberal policies that saw entrenched inequalities, disenfranchisement, and weakening of worker collectivization.

That the ideas of socialism and democracy, the other two anchors of the idea of India, were already disappearing under a neoliberal deluge is reflected in the full-fledged turn to liberalization. Even as the urban landscape started rapidly transforming, socialism became outdated and secularism turned into an abuse.

Programs such as Operation Green Hunt were organized campaigns that legitimized the systematic attack on India’s adivasi people to enable large scale land grab, privatization, and profiteering, all in in the name of development. For journalists fed on the neoliberal ideology, the market offered the all-emancipating solution.

The neoliberal promise, that the turn to the market would cleanse the corruption, formed the zeitgeist of this new India. Large movements promising to cleanse corruption performed public spectacles, all too appealing to the neoliberal imaginaries of the urban middle classes. The country could be free from corruption and economic growth could be achieved, placing private capital as the solution.

Paradoxically, the notion that the private sector and its profit-driven motives formed the basic infrastructure of corruption was strategically obfuscated, instead promoting reforms that were seductive for the middle classes.

This very premise of corruption-free economic development mainstreamed the saffron fringe. That economic development driven by further neoliberal reforms would present a new India was the promise offered by the saffron regime. For many of the middle classes and those in the diaspora, the saffron was unpalatable but the stigma of fringe could be set aside with the promise of “Make in India.” The promise of further neoliberal reforms, dressed up in cleansing India of corruption, and modelled after “vibrant Gujarat” worked to erase the stigma of the saffron for the Indian middle class that identified as liberal.

For a strand of the diaspora, negotiating the everyday onslaughts of marginalization, the saffron turn offered a new basis for identity. This identity, founded on the image of a strong India, was also now palatable for the middle classes in the Indian mainstream. The saffron turn, with its promise of “Make in India” would deliver economic growth, coupled with cultural revitalization. The Indian (read Hindu Indian) would now feel a sense of glory at home and abroad, attaching with brand saffron.

In the past four years, the mainstreaming of saffron has been actively achieved through political and media discourse. It is no longer fringe to want to kill a Muslim or to make a statement about killing Muslims. It is the mainstream narrative of a section of middle class India. Anyone questioning this narrative is labelled an anti-national and sent to Pakistan by the English language channels of Times Now and Republic TV, with a large middle class following.

Five years have come and gone. The empirical evidence attests to many undelivered promises. Much like the empty sloganeering of a “Vibrant Gujarat,” a “Make in India’ re-make of Indian economy remains a mirage.

It is not in this middle and aspiring class that I hold the hope for India.

The possibility of reclaiming India does not lie in my privileged voiced or the voices of experts who see the danger of a fascist politics that threatened to engulf India. We have, for most instances, detached ourselves from the people, from the struggles of the soil, from the hardships that are the everyday reality for the majority of India.

The hope for India lies in the rural, among the urban poor, among the workers, and among the farmers. The hope for India lies in its adivasi and dalit people as they turn their voices of disenfranchisement into votes at the ballot. The hope for India lies in the many farmers who have flooded the capital in protest. The hope for India lies in the many workers who have shown up in seas of red. The hope for India lies in Begusarai as we witness the possibilities of what can be. With one parliamentarian that represents these fundamental ideals enshrined in the constitution.

To reclaim India is to reclaim both the secular and socialist roots of the nation, written into the constitution.

I don’t have much hope in a neoliberal elite that somehow continues to bow to the pseudo-science of the market. I do have hope, however, for the other India that does the everyday work of making it and imagining it.

Decolonizing the Academe Through Activism That Dismantles Racism – with Associate Professor Leonie Pihama

 

The underpinning philosophy that informs my work is that of Kaupapa Māori theory and praxis, central to which is the fundamental principle that as scholars and researchers we have a responsibility to speak to issues of social injustice locally, nationally and internationally.

This presentation will speak to the obligation of academics to take on the role of critic and conscience of society and to engage with activism both academic and community based that works to dismantle racism in Aotearoa in all of its forms.

Watch the event by clicking on the YouTube link below:

https://youtu.be/kDUHIf0DQLc