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‘Welcome to my world, Ben Affleck’

‘Welcome to my world, Ben Affleck’

A Muslim who has been branded ‘an enemy of God’ berates Hollywood star Ben Affleck, above, for his ‘Islamophobia’ rant on Bill Maher’s recent Real Time show.

“Eiynah” is a Pakistani-Canadian blogger/illustrator who writes about sexuality in Pakistan, and this week – “as a woman who was born and raised in Islam” – she wrote an open letter to Affleck, saying his defence of Islam did her “a great disservice”.

Your heart was in the right place, of course, and it was lovely of you to step up and defend ‘my people’.

What you really did though, perhaps inadvertently, was silence a conversation that never gets started. Two people attempted to begin a dialogue and you wouldn’t even listen. Why should any set of ideas be above criticism, Ben?

Why are Muslims being ‘preserved’ in some time capsule of centuries gone by? Why is it okay that we continue to live in a world where our women are compared to candy waiting to be consumed? Why is it okay for women of the rest of the world to fight for freedom and equality while we are told to cover our shameful bodies? Can’t you see that we are being held back from joining this elite club known as the 21st century?

She added:

Noble liberals like yourself always stand up for the misrepresented Muslims and stand against the Islamophobes, which is great but who stands in my corner and for the others who feel oppressed by the religion? Every time we raise our voices, one of us is killed or threatened. I am a blogger and illustrator, no threat to anyone, Ben, except for those afraid of words and drawings.

I want the freedom to express myself without the very real fear that I might be killed for it. Is that too much to ask?

When I wrote a children’s book that carried a message of diversity and inclusivity for everyone, my life changed. My book, My Chacha (uncle) is Gay has the innocent anti-homophobia message, ‘Love belongs to everyone’. This was not palatable to many of my Muslim brothers and sisters.

Since that project I have been declared an ‘enemy of God’ and deemed worthy of death.

chacha

All because I want to help create a world where South Asian children too can have their stories told, so they too can know that love comes in all forms, and that that’s okay. My Muslim brothers and sisters were hit hard by this work because it addresses the issue of homophobia within our own community.

It is not something they can pass off as ‘Western’ immorality. Just like they deny that any issues exist within the doctrine of Islam, many deny that homosexuality exists amongst good, ‘moral’ Muslims. Just like that, millions of people’s existence is denied. Please do not defend people who think this way, and let me tell you Ben, many ‘good’ Muslims do think this way.

What you did by screaming ‘racist!’ was shut down a conversation that many of us have been waiting to have. You helped those who wish to deny there are issues, deny them. You became an instant hero, a defender of Islam. It’s kind, it really is. I understand because I too am plagued and affected by the issues brought about by actual Islamophobia. I have a Muslim name and brown skin, my peaceful relatives have been pushed in the subway and called ‘terrorist’ for no reason.

I get that.

We must distinguish critiquing an ideology from being hateful towards a group of people. And for this reason I think that tackling the issues within Islam should be two-pronged. They must be brought up, but simultaneously we should stress that blame for these issues cannot be placed on individuals.

In the interest of being politically correct and ‘liberal’, we silence the voices of millions. I am turning to you because you were instrumental in starting this conversation. Those of us who want reform are muted by extremists, as well as the liberals who betray us in the name of multiculturalism.

She continued:

ISIS paints a horrific picture, so I understand the knee-jerk reaction to deny any link. Most Muslims choose to interpret scripture in a peaceful way, but that doesn’t mean the raw material isn’t there for those who choose the path of violence. That material must be addressed.

Can we talk about the blatant double standards and violation of human rights, for a second? Mosques are built throughout western countries, usually without much issue. But in the hub of Islam, the heart of Islam, Saudi Arabia, no one but Muslims are allowed to officially practice their faith. There are no churches, temples or synagogues because Saudi Arabia will not permit any non-Muslim place of worship to exist. Who will hold them accountable for such injustice if we hush everyone who speaks out against Islam?

What is so wrong with wanting to step into the current century? There should be no shame. There is no denying that violence, misogyny and homophobia exist in all religious texts, but Islam is the only religion that is adhered to so literally, to this day.

In your culture you have the luxury of calling such literalists “crazies”, like the Westboro Baptist Church, for example. In my culture, such values are upheld by more people than we realise. Many will try to deny it, but please hear me when I say that these are not fringe values. It is apparent in the lacking numbers of Muslims willing to speak out against the archaic Shariah law.

The punishment for blasphemy and apostasy, etc, are tools of oppression. Why are they not addressed even by the peaceful folk who “aren’t fanatical, who just want to have some sandwiches and pray five times a day?

Where are the Muslim protestors against blasphemy laws/apostasy? Where are the Muslims who take a stand against harsh interpretation of Shariah? These sandwich-eating peaceful folk do not defend those suffering in the name of Islam, Ben, and therein lies our problem.

Maybe the points Maher and Harris were trying to make are more easily digested when coming from within the community, I can appreciate that. That is why I am writing to you, as someone who has personally been hurt by the lack of acknowledgement of these issues.

If Muslims do not critique their own atrocities, then people on the outside will and their message will not be listened to simply because of who they are. It’s a vicious cycle, one that can only break if indeed, like Harris said, true reformers are empowered.

I ask you and anyone reading this to make an effort to seek out reformers from within our community, and support them in any way you can.
If I were allowed to meet a man that is not my father, brother or husband unchaperoned, I would have loved to discuss this over drinks (which I am also not allowed to have) with you. So, you see, things must change.

• “Eiynah” blogs at www.nicemangos.blogspot.com, and tweets at @Nicemangos.

36 responses to “‘Welcome to my world, Ben Affleck’”

  1. Broga says:

    Wow! Bring on more like her. We have too many Ben Afflecks in the UK using weasel words to tiptoe round the indefensible. I have not watched Affleck’s comments yet.

    Time for the BBC to open up discussions with atheists. Plenty of airtime given to a Canadian bishop this morning. No time for a non religious opinion.

  2. Newspaniard says:

    If this woman was truly enlightened, she would see that islam is based on mythology, a hate book that was written 200 years after the non existent mohammed “died”. If big mo didn’t exist then neither does his god. Why is this woman still an islamist? I suspect that she is one of those who tries to justify her awful religion by just cherry picking the “good” bits. It’s called “taqiyya”.

  3. Broga says:

    @Newspaniard: I think we should encourage incrementally. They are not going to abandon all superstition in one leap. This seems to me to be a vigorous move in the right direction. That is comes from an Islamist makes it that much more effective.

  4. Matt Westwood says:

    The real WTF is of course paying the blindest bit of attention to any of the crapulous blether emerging from what passes for the minds of actors.

  5. barriejohn says:

    Matt: I agree. “Chat shows” have become a parody of themselves now. When I saw the trailer for Jonathan Ross’s new series I swear that a little bit of my brain died.

    This woman certainly seems intelligent and erudite; maybe she will eventually have the courage to throw off her religion – who knows? It certainly took me long enough, and I actually REJOINED my church for a brief period – something which I now fail to understand completely! More good news in a similar vein from America, though:

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/26/millennials-godless-politics-religous-conservatives

    Predictable comments from some.

  6. Paul Cook says:

    I watched the ‘debate’. Affleck just ranted and shouted. He went red in the face when not getting his own way and made himself look particularly stupid by shouting down Bill Maher and Sam Harris. He seemed out of control. But after all he can’t be that clever he nearly married Jennifer Lopez.

    The problem with people like Affleck is that they really really do not now how dangerous islam, and in the same breath all religion, actually is.

    As for this lady, well, the fatwah calling for her death, soon, WILL be issued.

  7. Broga says:

    Sometimes I wonder why I bother. I mentioned the Barry’s piece on twitter as I thought the riposte to Affleck was worth being spread. Next thing I read is that “Eiynah is asking “Can they quote me without my permission?” How precious is that? I think she may have delusions of grandeur.

  8. Broga says:

    @Matt Westwood: There is a misguided body of opinion that equates being famous, especially actors, with special knowledge or wisdom.

  9. Lizzie says:

    You used her artwork + posted her entire piece without asking or using it as a springboard for your own perspective (grappling with it piece by piece, for example) here.

    I’m aware you are promoting her stuff and properly attributed the piece , but it’s poor tact and the time to mitigate the situation is now.

  10. Renee says:

    Why does one commentator refer to her as an “Islamist”??? She’s a Muslim.

  11. Lizzie says:

    @ Broga; “Sometimes I wonder why I bother. I mentioned the Barry’s piece on twitter as I thought the riposte to Affleck was worth being spread. Next thing I read is that “Eiynah is asking “Can they quote me without my permission?” How precious is that? I think she may have delusions of grandeur.”

    I think you’re being overly sensitive + defensive about what you’re bothering to do. Speaking of delusions, you wrote on twitter “Why write if you don’t want to be noticed?”, which of course has absolutely NOTHING to do with anything Eiynah said in having misgivings about her writing + art being entirely reposted w/o permission, which is a copywright issue.

    Your other tweet on the matter was “For goodness sake. It was written in praise of you which is how I read it.”, which of course, has absolutely nothing to do with Eiynah’s misgivings about her work being entirely reposted.

    If you can only engage an position with diversions that have absolutely nothing to do with it; perhaps you should work on your own comprehension before attributing negative things to other people.

  12. Broga says:

    I read her comments as asking for publicity e.g.

    ” I ask you and anyone reading this to make an effort to seek out reformers from within our community, and support them in any way you can.”

    That’s what she got here. However it seems she wants her opinions to be spread only after the opinions she has already expressed are agreed with by the person giving publicity. She wrote an open letter. Did she want it to be ignored? It was attributed to her.

  13. Lizzie says:

    Again; Broga, this has absolutely nothing to do with her writing + art being entirely reposted w/o permission, which is a copyright issue.

  14. Lizzie says:

    “She wrote an open letter. Did she want it to be ignored?”

    NO. Nothing whatsoever to do with her point here.

  15. Paul Cook says:

    Lizzie

    You are wrong. With respect I don’t think you know what copyright means.
    Copyright belongs to an author in most countries for a certain time, usually life, plus some years after death, and they have the right to be identified as the author.
    Any one can critique any writing that is owned as copyright, even an article in it’s entirely, and reproduce short articles and comment on it. Provided the author is identified and the person reproducing it does not hold him/herself as the original author, or otherwise plagiarise it.
    As Freethinker here has identified her as the author, Freethinker has not plagiarised it, it is out for open critique and debate. It can be reproduced. It is an open letter reproduced in it’s entirety because otherwise would remove it’s entire context. And what she she wrote was an open letter, something that is copyright but something that can be repeated and critiqued or otherwise reproduced in it’s entirely – there is no issue whatsoever of copyright.

  16. Broga says:

    @Lizzie: Definition of an open letter:

    “An open letter is a letter that is intended to be read by a wide audience, or a letter intended for an individual, but that is nonetheless widely distributed intentionally.[1]

    Open letters usually take the form of a letter addressed to an individual but provided to the public through newspapers and other media, such as a letter to the editor or blog.[2] ”

    I rest my case.

  17. Lizzie says:

    And once more; your case has absolutely nothing to do with – not one word on! – her misgivings over her entire piece + artwork being entirely reposted w/o her permission.

    Nowhere, at no point; is anyone taking issue with publicity in itself, or being noticed, or has anything to do with it being written in praise – these are all total strawmen.

    Broga; just out of curiosity, did you write this article/work for the freethinker?

  18. Lizzie says:

    re: Paul Cook, fair enough, you actually grapple with what is being said and have a point – I’ll recant the copyright claim, but it’s still journalism ethics 101 not to entirely repost someone’s work + artwork w/o permission.

  19. Barry Duke says:

    Precisely Broga. I took my cue from the “Open Letter” title of the writer’s piece, and posted it in its entirely, something I very rarely do.

    I can only assume she’s now grizzling because it surfaced on an ATHEIST site.

    Welcome to the “elite club known as the 21st century”, Eiynah.

  20. Lizzie says:

    “I can only assume she’s now grizzling because it surfaced on an ATHEIST site.”

    Wow. That’s absolutely disgraceful of you.

    Anything to avoid her actual contentions; I guess.

  21. Broga says:

    @Lizzie: No, I didn’t write it or contribute in any way. But I was pleased to read the article as I thought something valuable was being given publicity.

  22. Broga says:

    @Barry Duke: You may be right, Barry. I was amazed at Eiynah’s sensitivity. I couldn’t understand why someone who seemed to want publicity, and released her views to the world, only wanted it after she had been consulted before she got it. I thought you had done her a favour and the only contact with you would have been to say thanks.

    It may be that the atheist site provided the wrong context. I hope you are not as sensitive as Eiynah or you could feel very hurt at this treatment after you generously providing publicity.

  23. Paul Cook says:

    Lizzie
    Thanks.
    The artwork for her book can also be reproduced. It doesn’t need her permission as it is part of her own article. And she identified herself as the author. Most likely seeking publicity for it.
    Copyright exists in the words and pictures. The same legal considerations apply.
    In this case, one could not ignore one without the other because it is what she herself did in the open letter.

  24. Lizzie says:

    Thanks for the answer Broga. I agree something valuable was given publicity; I just think the manner it was done was flubbed, but it’s now turned into something worse.

    The writer of the article states:
    “I can only assume she’s now grizzling because it surfaced on an ATHEIST site.”

    To other readers of freethinker; she has specifically and repeatedly stated that the reason for her misgivings was reproducing her piece + artwork in full without permission. This is her actual contention.

    She also thanked this ATHEIST site for at least providing attribution to her (“Thank you i see links to my blog and Twitter now. @FreethinkerMag”) and specifically told them “In the future id be happy for you to reprint pieces, just msg me first. Thank you 🙂 @FreethinkerMag”.

    She has restated again and again “All i would like is to b asked”

    This is followed by the writer of the article claiming:

    “I can only assume she’s now grizzling because it surfaced on an ATHEIST site.”

  25. Lizzie says:

    ” I couldn’t understand why someone who seemed to want publicity, and released her views to the world, only wanted it after she had been consulted before she got it.”.

    Because. That’s. Not. What. Happened.

    Again; her misgivings were not with people promoting her piece; it was with it being reprinted in full.

    This is a total strawman. She wants to be consulted if you reproduce her work; not for promoting her work.

  26. Broga says:

    @Lizzie: Forgot to say in answer to the second part of your question that I don’t work for The Freethinker either. I have no axe to grind, merely an opinion to offer.

  27. Lizzie says:

    That’s no problem Broga; thanks for clarifying.

  28. Lizzie says:

    Einyadh clarifies her position on use of her work:

    “individual use & public use are 2 diff things. If u’d like to post it on your fb go ahead. If ur copying for a publication let me know.Thnx!”

  29. Lizzie says:

    + “im not suing you, im just saying it is journalistic courtesy to inform the writer for a publication”

  30. Lizzie says:

    Einyadh also promotes Jerry Coyne’s blog post on the subject:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/an-open-letter-to-ben-affleck-from-a-pakistani-woman/

    Remember; without tackling her actual contentions; the writer of this article stated:

    ““I can only assume she’s now grizzling because it surfaced on an ATHEIST site.”

  31. Shadeburst says:

    Although internet law is still pretty loose, court decisions say that free access websites are not protected by copyright, although anyone reposting content is obliged to provide links and attribution.

    If you want copyright protection for your content, you have to put up a paywall. It would also be wise to make the reader confirm that “I have read the terms and conditions etc etc” before allowing them into your site.

  32. Mark Mark says:

    Fact is; the only way this woman and those like her can achieve freedom is with the complete destruction of this insane religion of hate and repression…they must turn atheist.

  33. Broga says:

    @Mark Mark: Correct. All the rest is posturing avoiding the real issue.

  34. NoGodsPlease says:

    @BarryDuke: What you need is to analyze how it was that Eiynah was able to get her piece published on an atheist web site and reverse engineer it to get religious web sites to publish your own stuff :-)…

  35. Barry Duke says:

    Brilliant idea NGP, but when it comes to that kinda of alchemy I’m totally at a loss. If any atheist Internet whiz kids are out there to help, well, this old geezer can do with it in spades.

  36. Lizzie says:

    Einyah responds to the bafflingly wrong, ethically and logically barren assumption that Barry Duke made up (while leaping over everything she actually contended);

    “I can only assume she’s now grizzling because it surfaced on an ATHEIST site.”

    “Writer of copy paste article has this to say. Assumption number one is that i am not an Atheist. Seriously dude. “