Disclaimer: What you are about to read is pure sarcasm. The article that we are critiquing is just so outrageously Islamophobic, xenophobic and racist that the only way we felt we could point out its ridiculousness was through the use of sarcastic humour. We have made every effort to ensure respectful treatment of Aqsa Parvez herself, and the humour is only directed towards the writer and those he interviews. We may not necessarily agree with the view that her grave should be unmarked; however, the situation is complex, and we don’t have all the information about why her grave is currently the way it is. The discussion here is not about whether her grave should be marked or not, but rather about how this story is getting talked about and used to perpetuate unfair and negative views about Muslims.
What follows is a list of principles for How to Write about Muslims, inspired by this article by Joe Warmington. (Just a warning: his article is the worst Islamophobic, xenophobic bullshit we’ve come across in a long time.)
Rule #1: Always assume a Muslim woman needs to be saved, and write accordingly.
This article does this perfectly, by focusing on the “selfless” efforts of Pamela Geller, non-Muslim white woman saviour, leader of a mission to provide Aqsa Parvez’s grave with a headstone. As Warmington points out, Geller’s “main interest is making sure people knew this girl did exist,” so much so that immediately after hearing about this case, her response was, “I wanted to do something for her.” Clearly, without the efforts of Ms. Geller, Muslims would have completely forgotten about Aqsa Parvez, considering how bad our memories are, and how much we hate women. (Krista to Sobia: I hate you. Sobia to Krista: Fuck you, bitch. I’m only working with you because Fatemeh made me.) Ms. Geller was very intuitive to realise that Muslims would be doing nothing, and that as a non-Muslim, she had to step up to the plate. (Sarcasm off: See here and here for some things that Muslims are doing to honour Aqsa Parvez’s memory. Okay, sarcasm back on.)
Along with Ms. Geller, this article has also brought in the example of a brave man in the heroic form of Norm the Firefighter (who we suspect is friends with Joe the Plumber.) (Ladies, he does fire safety talks. *wink*) Warmington, a white non-Muslim man himself, has enlisted the help of another non-Muslim man in his tireless efforts to save a Muslim woman.
Rule #2: Always be confident that you know everything there is to know about Islam, and that you understand it better than most Muslims do.
Warmington brilliantly exudes such confidence, not only through his own words, but also by using the words of Ms. Geller (who we suspect may be a secret Islamic scholar, just like Barack Obama is a secret Muslim.) Her concern about “creeping Sharia law” is just so profound, and really gets to the heart of Islam. Warmington reflects an in-depth knowledge about the “traditional Muslim hijab” and its relation to violent conflict in Canadian Muslim homes. Considering the correlation between the number of number of young Canadian women who have conflicts with their parents over the “traditional Muslim hijab,” and the number of Muslim women in Canada who die every day, it seems like Warmington is really on to something.
Rule #3: In the unlikely event that you are missing any information regarding Muslims, consult a Muslim spokesperson with whom most Muslims will disagree (because Muslims generally have a poor understanding of their own experiences and cannot be trusted to provide reliable information.)
Warmington has made an excellent choice by quoting Tarek Fatah, whose brilliant sociological analysis of Muslim communities has been previously profiled on MMW. He always hits the nail on the head, especially during the moments of frustration and anger regarding the “hardline, radical Islamist approach,” at which point he can also be seen hitting his own head “against the Islamist wall” (pictured below.)
By pointing out that “the Taj Mahal was built to honour a Muslim woman,” Fatah gets at the real way in which Islamists are holding Muslim women back. The decrease in Taj Mahal-esque monuments to Muslim women is a clear indication of the global rise of Islamism. After all, as Fatah has pointed out, an unmarked grave is a hallmark of Islamists.
Rule #4: Everything Muslims do has to do with Islam and Islam alone. Their cultural background and its possible influences in their lives must be ignored.
For example, the fact that many graves in South Asia are unmarked, making this a common practice in South Asian cultures, including the Pakistani culture from which Aqsa Parvez’s family came, was successfully not mentioned in this article. This was done so smoothly that even Tarek Fatah, who is Pakistani himself, did not let out the secret.
Another secret not revealed was that South Asia is not actually covered in monuments to every Muslim woman who has ever died there.
Rule #4a: If culture is mentioned, ensure that it is clear that it is inherently barbaric and violent (especially toward women.)
Warmington reflects the feelings of so many when he writes that “It hasn’t been proved in court that Parvez was the victim of a heinous, cultural honour killing.”
(Sobia to Krista: Hey, remember that episode of Law and Order where the detectives go to arrest that Muslim guy and Detective Green says, “You are now under arrest for the crime of a heinous cultural honour killing”? Krista to Sobia: Yeah, but the jury decided to convict him for a horrible, atrocious honour killing instead. That was so disappointing.)
Rule #5: Always remember that Muslims are not real Canadians (or Americans, British, etc.)
For example, when Warmington writes about the need for a “proper gravestone,” he quotes Ms. Geller, who says that this need “appeals to basic humanity” (basic humanity, of course, is a core Canadian and American value, as is the presence of “proper” markers of graves.) As we know, many Pakistanis don’t have headstones, and as such don’t have much basic humanity, and therefore are not really Canadians. Same goes for the idea of “normal dignity”; any conceptions of dignity that fall outside of mainstream Canadian conceptions are surely abnormal and un-Canadian.
Earlier, we discussed that the familial conflict regarding the “traditional Muslim hijab” was the reason for Aqsa Parvez’s death. When Warmington says that “she was allegedly murdered for wanting to be Canadian,” he aptly correlates rejecting the hijab with being Canadian. We all know that the second someone covers their head, they might as well be throwing their Canadian passport away.
Rule #6: Be as melodramatic as possible.
For example, when describing the grave location, imply that it would be impossible to tell that it was a grave if there weren’t flowers on it. Ignore that it is, in fact, located in a graveyard.
Cite a conspiratorial plan among all who do not agree with the valiant efforts of our heroes, such as Norm the Firefighter, and instead “suddenly” stop calling him back, as did the University of Guelph. Blame further silences on most people’s lack of “guts,” and on the “politically correct police,” who can be identified by their secret handshake.
Rule #6a: Enhance the melodrama through your use of provocative language.
Warmington starts with a bang by quoting Geller, who asks, “How could they let her rot in an unmarked grave?” The use of the word “rot” really displays her compassion.
Warmington provides another great example of Geller’s use of language with the inscription chosen for the headstone: “Loved. Remembered. Free.” This wording successfully suggests that the lives of Muslim women are not free, and it is only in death that they can achieve this freedom. Conversely, non-Muslim women have zero constraints in their lives and are always, always free. Hey, 16-year-old girls in Canada can even drink legally and freely… oh, wait, no they can’t.
Rule # 7: Make a few jabs at feminists
Point out how useless feminists are when it comes to Muslim women. They should know that they are supposed to speak for all women, and that all women have exactly the same needs. Any desires to repect and honour women of diverse cultural backgrounds should be seen as incompetence.
Bonus marks: Sneak in a reference to Israel, especially when it is completely irrelevant.
Geller notes that the only places on this planet to honour Aqsa Parvez would be at her grave, or in Israel. Um… Yeah, even we don’t know what to say about this one.
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By Krista and Sobia’s Muslim Blog on the Muslimah Media Watch
Muslimah Media Watch is a forum where Muslim women, can critique how their images appear in the media and popular culture.