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Honoring Solidarity During Contentious Debates. . . A Letter to DAM From Lila Abu-Lughod and Maya Mikdashi

[Crop of image from [Crop of image from "If I Could Go Back in Time" video.]

Dear Tamer, Suhel, and Mahmood

If We Could Go Back in Time… we would have made even clearer that our reaction came from our deep admiration for you and our appreciation of your political and social influence.  We are, as we said, fans. Lila has sent your songs to countless people around the world and has made statements about the importance of your art publicly. As the daughter of an exile from Jaffa who lived and worked for Palestine his whole life, she is particularly thrilled with you as a strong and highly visible voice of a new generation of ’48 Palestinians.  

If We Could Go Back in Time….we would have crafted our words more carefully to make clear that we wrote about this issue of “honor killing” not to fault you but because we have learned that when women’s rights and imperial and colonial politics intersect, it is hard for all of us to position ourselves. Because of where we are based, and because we do research and teach about women and gender in the Arab world, and in Maya’s case, are activists as well, we are especially aware of the international and Western machinery that has de-politicized women’s issues. We are worried about attributing social problems to Muslim or Arab culture alone because even if this is a factor, it is not the only one. 

Your song against violence is an important intervention. But once it enters this wider field that you do not control, it takes on meanings you did not intend. The music video circulated as a statement in the ongoing debate on honor crimes. We had to enter that debate. As is clear from Nadera-Shalhoub Kevorkian and Suhad Daher Nashef's important piece, addressing violence against women in colonized contexts is complicated by the ways this violence is reproduced and institutionalized within racialized states. The standard discourse on honor crimes solidifies power relations between genders, indigenous peoples, and the states they live and die in, and between the “international” community and the types of peoples who are said to commit honor crimes. 

In fact, the way the discourse on honor crimes operates in Israel/Palestine is strikingly similar to the ways that homophobia is weaponized by the Israeli state in order to stigmatize Arabs and rationalize their continued occupation of Palestinian lands and bodies. Had a video circulated, for example, that showed a “gay killing” in Palestine and only attributed that killing to cultural intolerance, we also would have felt compelled to respond publicly. Not to do so would have been a disservice to the work that activists and scholars have been doing for years on the complex questions of violence against women and--more recently--against members of the LGBTQ community.

If We Could Go Forward in Time . . . we would continue these productive debates on the important topic of violence against women.  We would continue to push and be pushed to think, write, and research more carefully, with solidarity as our first stance. We never doubted your integrity. We hope you can also respect our integrity as sisters and comrades in the struggle for justice for Palestinians of all ages, genders, and classes. 


Lila Abu-Lughod and Maya Mikdashi 



See Also:

Tradition and the Anti-Politics Machine: DAM Seduced by the “Honor Crime”, Lila Abu Lughod and Maya Mikdashi

The Politics of Killing Women in Colonized Contexts, Nader Shalhoub-Kevorkian and Suhad Daher-Nashif

DAM Responds: On Tradition and the Anti-Politics of the Machine, Tamer Nafar, Suhell Nafar, and Mahmood Jrery (DAM)


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