Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chacha and Israel

So, I was recently approached on Facebook by a reader, who asked me what my thoughts were on the Palestine-Israel situation. I mentioned that I thought it was awful, as any minority exploitation is. The amount of violence in that region, both ways is beyond tragic.

He inquired about why I haven't raised my voice against such injustice?

I mentioned the fact that I don't really comment on the situation because;

a) The facts do get lost in a lot of religious hate. I feel like its hard to make a clear unbiased decision on whats happening because of all the 'my god is better than yours' that's going on throughout this.

b) I have some very good Israeli and Palestinian friends that might hold different opinions than me, and to pick a side and rant about the other would stir some unpleasant feelings. I assume they extend the same courtesy to me.

c) I am not a global political analyst. I am a mere sex blogger, and illustrator. My focus lies in Pakistan, and the atrocities going on there. Of which there are plenty.


He then responded, something along the lines of, "You're being hypocritical, because you have no problem offending Muslims. Your book 'My Chacha is Gay' has offended countless Muslims and you had no problem creating that. But you can't offend Jews."

Woahhh, haha I've heard a lot of crazy shit before. But this is a fresh angle.

I mean of course I've heard the conspiracy that my book was funded by Israel or 'The West" to singlehandedly destroy Islam, but not that I favour Jews because I constantly offend Muslims with my work, but refrain from offending Jews.

My work is focused on Pakistan. And my distaste for religion is universal. If conservative Jews want to be upset about a Gay Pakistani Children's book, that's fine by me... but no they haven't gone out of their way to find me and tell me I've been 'eating souls' or whatever. That's all been angry, ranty Muslims. Mashallah.

Please tell me, how on earth I went out of my way to offend Muslims by writing a children's book about love, tolerance and diversity?

If you interpret it as evil, that's on you.

I have plenty of beef with Islam, but I refrain from going into great detail about it publicly. Because I have some Muslim friends and relatives that would be deeply hurt. I don't want to go around hurting people for the sake of it. No matter what their religion is. If there is an attack on me, my morals - yes I will answer back. Some of what I say in my defence may offend you. Heck the mention of evolution is offensive to some. That's not my fault, educate yourself.

But please, know that it is not my intention to offend people of faith unless they are using their faith to kill, oppress, exclude or manipulate. Then, fuck em.

The reader who started this conversation did mention that I 'owed' it to the people of Palestine to speak up in solidarity. Come on now. Yes there are horrific things going on, and death is awful on both sides....I am truly sorry and can't stand to see the pictures of the torture. STOP SHARING PICTURES OF DEAD BABIES FFS!! They are really not helpful to share, and often times inaccurate, the purpose is to just cause blind hate, incite violent gut reactions.

I don't know if the picture of Israelis eating popcorn and watching bombs drop on Gaza is real, I don't see the whole picture... so I can't make a call. I can't say where the pictures of victims are coming from and whether they are from this war or not, so I can't make a call. I'm not saying I don't sympathise, but I'm saying it's not my place to pick a side and bash the other.

My heart goes out to minorities all over the world...

But, I as a blogger about sex in Pakistan do not 'owe' a stance or an opinion on world politics to anyone. I don't owe anything to Israelis or to Palestinians. I do, as a human being have thoughts and feelings, about so much cruelty that is happening all over the world. I try to write and draw about some of the injustices that I see in my own culture. But to approach me and ask me to pick a side on something I don't have all the information on, is unfair.

Anyhow, at the end of our little chat, he was quite understanding and did recognize that my goal is not to lash out at Muslims, while sparing Jews hurt feelings. And that I am not required to pick a side (the Muslim side). I write about sex and feminism, and on occasion I will reference Islam, I may write about Islam - and thats because its my history, and I have personal experience with it. I cannot speak much about other religions because I haven't been affected by them as much. So, I'm not picking on Islam, I am sharing my thoughts on the faith I was raised in.

I have very dear friends from both sides of the land. And I view them as individuals, not as the geographical land mass they happened to be associated with. So can we please focus on spreading love, not hate. On calling for peace and not violence, on tolerance and diversity - sharing photos of victims and calling for the death of others is awful on both sides. Human lives are human lives. I totally respect your point of view, and your right to have it, but don't force me to have your opinion.

My book was not funded by Israel, but there will be a hebrew version coming soon! Let the conspiracy theories begin.


  1. The quickest way to lose a friend is to express an opinion on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Surely the sanctity of all human life is the only opinion worth having.

    I would suggest to your critic that he tend his own garden.

  2. LGBT rights is a big enough issue to tackle without being sidetracked by unrelated topics. You are wise to stay focused.

    1. Yeah, Chacha has plenty on his plate already ;)

  3. As a big supporter of the "My Chacha is Gay" project, I was disappointed to read this post and disturbed to see Chacha's casual "pink-washing" of the Israeli occupation. Sad.

    I understand your point that you are a sex blogger and illustrator, and so therefore, you don't want to comment about geo-politics. But, that attitude ignores the ways in which the structures of oppression you are fighting against are linked. It's pretty naive to think that racial apartheid is unconnected to sexual apartheid. A genuinely progressive position needs to consider how different forms of oppression are linked, and not just see them as different fights.

    That's why the LGBT movement talks so much about the need to build "allies". LGBT people need allies among straight people, just as Palestinians need allies among non-Palestinians. To throw up your hands and say, "sorry, not my fight" is selfish and frankly irresponsible for someone who purports to be a social activist.

    Think about that the next time you ask straight people or non-Pakistanis to support the "Chacha" project. How would you feel if they said, "Sorry, I'm not gay or I'm not Pakistani, so this is is not my fight."

    1. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Any side I'd pick would upset people. People that are allies. There is really nothing that I could've said that wouldn't get me the above response. And even me just saying that human life is sacred and the loss of it horrific on both sides, is disappointing to you.

      I'm sorry to have disappointed you. There are plenty of fights in this world. My blog focuses on some of them. Mainly sexuality. I as a person hold views in my personal life, but do not have to share them on my blog. All I said was that asking me to pick a side publicly is not fair, and not my place as a sex blogger. Pakistan may not be the focus of many activists out there, but that doesn't mean their fights are invalid. There is only so many battles one can be involved in passionately at one time. If someone chooses not to support the LGBT cause, because they are not gay, I'd say that's a matter of clear cut human rights. Gay people deserve equality. Its as simple as that.

      Palestinians and Israelis deserve equality, no one is denying that either. Please point out in the above post where I might have implied that they don't deserve equality?

    2. Thanks for replying. I guess we just have a different approach towards fighting oppression. I believe in creating alliances with and fighting for other oppressed people because I see different forms of oppression as linked.

      Intersectionality has always been my approach, and with all due respect to you and your work, I am skeptical of activists who call on others to support them, but refuse to pick sides in other areas for fear of upsetting people.

      I'm sure you would not like it if I said, "Please don't ask me to pick a side on LGBT rights in Pakistan because it's not my place. There are only so many battles I can be involved in." I would never say that because I think it is my duty to speak out against all oppressions. I would never be "neutral" on LGBT rights anywhere.

      You claim that you want Palestinians to have equality, but obviously, living under occupation is not equality. Occupied Palestinians are living under an apartheid regime. For you to be "neutral" on that is tantamount to supporting inequality.

      Anyway, I don't want to say anything further. It is your right to speak out on whatever you want. Good luck with your work.

    3. Hello Eiynah,

      I am quite a fan of your blog and Chacha and I will always remain one, but I would quite respectfully disagree with you on this point. I am South-Asian and queer and I absolutely agree with what Anon said above.
      I respect your position and I get that your blog is about sexuality, but you cannot simply choose which type of oppression you are going to fight against and ignore others. Saying something like "gay people are oppressed because of a particular regressive mindset of people" and simply ending the debate there is simplistic and exclusionary. You cannot conveniently disconnect sexuality from other forms of racial, political, economic and colonial oppression. Doing so is an exercise in privilege, since indifference implies that you are not concerned about the issue because it doesn't affect you.

      For me, queer rights don't ONLY mean sexual liberation and not being discriminated against because of my sexuality. For me, queer rights means raising voice against ALL forms of oppression, no matter where they are occurring. For me, queer rights means fighting against imperialism and racism (which is what Zionist state policies are doing by the way). For me, queer rights means fighting against the economic exploitation of people and homeless queer people. For me, queer rights means raising my voice against gender discrimination and misogyny in all forms. For me, queer rights means fighting against religious discrimination and exploitation of religious minorities and the non-religious (I am atheist too by the way). For me, queer rights means raising my voice against ableism and supporting disabled queer people and people being discriminated against because of their mental health issues. Similarly, I can't simply choose to remain neutral on Israel-Palestine issue because my rights to marry who I want and dress the way I want don't count for sh** when people are being unjustly killed. My struggle for queer rights in connected in every way to the Israeli state-sponsored racism and violence.

      Lastly, I assume when you wrote My Chacha is Gay, you meant to advocate for gay rights and raise voice against discrimination for all the people around the world. I would invite you to see how Palestinian queer rights organizations like PQBDS and AlQaws raise voice for their rights in a framework of political and economic justice for everyone. You can't disconnect queer rights in Palestine from Israeli-occupation, especially in context of pinkwashing policies adopted by Israel.

      I agree with you that it's not fair to pressure people to pick sides publicly like this, but for many people and especially people of color, queer rights is not an exclusionary battle that you can disconnect from other forms of oppression.

      Food for thought: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/3560/gay-rights-as-human-rights_pinkwashing-homonationa


      And also read the twitter teach-in on queer rights for POC by 'DarkMatter Rage' under the hashtag #NoHomonationalism in May 2014.
      Here's a condensed version: https://twitter.com/jessemadeit/status/474947525430890496

      Your dedicated fan

    4. Dear Anon, I simply said that I don't have enough info to make an accurate call. I didn't say I was indifferent. If you see LGBT inequality as clear oppression then I don't see why you would remain neutral on it. But as I said, I don't have enough information, and I can't make an unbiased decision.... there are too many factors at play. And imagine if I took on the task of blogging and drawing about every single kind of oppression in the world... it wouldn't be a very focused blog, and It would be scattered, and perhaps my views and time would be very diluted because of the breadth of what I was trying to do. I feel like I am able to make more of a dent in 'something' that matters than 'everything'. And my way of contributing to fighting oppression is certainly different than yours. Not to say I don't respect your method, but I believe in staying focused on things I do know about. And I believe in reaching out to people from all over the world, and bridging the gap that way. Cheers.

    5. Dear Reader, You are a better person than I, and a better activist than I. What would you have preferred me to say on the matter? Just curious...

      Thank you for your kind words about my blog and about Chacha. Much love, E

    6. Thank you for acknowledging my comment Eiynah :) I really appreciate it.
      Like I said, it would be unfair if I (or somebody else) pressures you to pick sides or share that publicly. Whatever your opinion, I respect it, although it doesn't mean I would necessarily agree with it.

      However it's important to acknowledge that sexuality and queer (gay) rights don't exist in isolation. And having an indifferent stance (or refusing to comment) on an issue that is a major part of identities and lives of people living in that region (and also affecting lives of people in other regions) excludes important discussion about how it is affecting sexual and queer politics and fight for equal rights and social justice. Queer rights (especially in context of third-world & war-waged countries) cannot be disconnected from a framework of social, economic, political and colonial oppression. For instance, when a certain rhetoric of gay rights is itself hijacked and used as a political tool by state or other agencies to shape public opinion, I think it's only fair to acknowledge it and comment on how it intersects with sexuality and oppression of sexual minorities.
      Oppression is not isolated, in this sense. You can't look at it from only one lens. We always need more nuanced understandings. And it doesn't make sense for an activist for queer (gay) rights to raise voice against only a few chosen forms of oppression.

      Anyhow, I want to thank you for making this blog into a space where discussion is encouraged. And I don't think there is a scale to judge who is a better activist. We all stand for social justice and that's what matters :)

    7. Dear Reader,
      You are very kind and eloquent. And I thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I agree with you in many ways, and I respect your opinion. Please know that my not sharing comments on the topic is not because I am indifferent to the matter. I am just choosing not to use my blog as a space for this discussion. Of course, we cannot always agree, thats what makes us human. But the ability to listen to and try to understand perspectives different from our own is what will take us further. Respectful debates and differing opinions are always welcome here and encouraged. That is how I expect to grow as a person. I would like to learn from all the wonderful different people this blog has given me access to.

      -E xx

  4. I don't know how many Pakistani people or Muslims you may or may not have offended. I do know that you probably offended a lot of Mormons with your book. the Mormons wasted over a million bucks trying to make gay marriage illegal in California not that long ago. More recently a woman in that faith talked about equal rights for women, and wanted to be a priest in the church, she was excommunicated for her stand on that subject. religion was meant to be esoterical in nature, not political, not governmental. that is who i have a universal distaste for, politicians and governments, especially my own.

  5. Keep up the good work, it's wise to choose the battles on can take on and as you have said you do have views regarding the 'conflict' but they are your private views and you don't wanna share them in public.

    Everyone has their world views, it's not necessary that we share them with everyone, people expecting you to comment on Boko-Haram, politics in Pakistan, India and taking sides just want to satisfy their own egos

  6. Why don't people understand what real universal religion is? Show me a single so called religion, Islam, Jew, Christian. Hindu etc, in which humans do not die, do not suffer with deceases, do not suffer when they are angry, hateful, jealous, or scared. Religion is universal and it is no more a religion when adjectives like Islam, Christian, Jew, Hindu etc are attached to it. If my mind is full of love, compassion and good will, I will be at peace with myself and others. If my mind is full of hatred, jealousy, ill will, greed, fear then I am bound to suffer and make others suffer. This is universal truth. There is no other religion than this very truth.

  7. I once discussed feminism with my class-fellows and they told me it's all bullcrap. Why? Because men have to give up their seats in buses sometimes to women and have to stand up the whole way.
    Funny how they feel victimized against the backdrop of all the injustices women have to face in Pakistan.