A Poet of Bangladesh’s Past and Present – a Tribute to Kazi Nazrul Islam on his 120th Birthday

“Of equality I sing: where all barriers and differences between man and man have vanished, where Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians have mingled together.”[i]

Bangladesh’s national poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam (*1899, †1976), sings of equality. He sings of peace. He sings, humbly, of respect and love for humanity, and for his homeland. He sings, hurt, of the divisions he has experienced, the hatred that pervades society. “I have turned mad having seen what I have seen, having heard what I have heard.”[ii] He sings, feisty, of revolt against oppression, and of rebellion against chains of ignorance. Of course, among his four thousand works, not all call out for a common humanity, but it is because of his strife for change that Kazi Nazrul Islam came to be known as the “Rebel Poet”.


His poetry is beautiful even when translated. As a non-Bengali native, it is impossible for me to know how unconceivably beautiful his language must be in his own tongue. His writings are flawless; even his earliest prose is so perfect that no effort could have improved it any further. It flows, so I was told, like a fountain, with a rhythm that wraps around the audience like a warm coat, and at the same time rallies every being to stand up for their rights, fuelling their drive to break out of the familiarity of oppression and ignorance. It is said that his language burns with a flame that is unprecedented in Bengali literature. Nazrul became Bangladesh’s national poet because of how uniquely it lets Bangladesh come to life – its nature, its objects, its symbols (both Hindu and Muslim!), its historical heroes (again, both Hindu and Muslim!), its contemporary hurt. Through his influence on new generations of poets, Bengali poetry as an art came closer to life.


Kazi Nazrul Islam was known as the “Rebel Poet” not merely because of his fiery language, or because of his desire to liberate Bengal from the British. Nazrul was a rebel because he refused to bow to anyone.[iii] It is true that he was a devout Muslim, and a proud Bengali – what he refused, however, was to be shoved into a categorization that he would have to be loyal to as an end in itself. In a speech delivered in Kolkata’s Albert Hall on December 15, 1929, he said:


“Just because I was born in this country and society, I do not consider myself to be solely a subject of this nation and my community. I belong to every country and everyone. The caste, society, country or religion within which I was born was determined by blind luck. It’s only because I managed to rise above these trappings that I could become a poet.”[iv]


Though Nazrul was not uncriticized or unopposed in his time, he gave people little reason to hate him. A devout preacher of religious symbols, he applauded religion if used as a language of love, and praised practices of various religions. Instead, it was fanaticism, superstition and ritualistic behaviour he spoke out against:


“Do consider the honour of martyrdom
more glorious than slavery,
Consider the sword to be nobler than
the belt of the peon,
Do not pray to God for anything petty;
Bow not your head to anyone except God.”[v]


“I am a poet of the present, and not a prophet of the future.”[vi] Nazrul may have claimed that his time may pass, that his writings would become outdated and inapplicable. Considering contemporary incidences of hatred in Bangladesh – riots, violent protests and extra-judicial killings – it is clear Nazrul’s dream has yet to be realized. As the national poet of Bangladesh, his poetry is taught in educational curricula, the national anthem of Bangladesh is a Nazrul song, and his person is celebrated on its own national holiday (today). Why his message has not pervaded society remains a mystery. After all, while Nazrul’s language may be magical and enchanting, his messages are never hidden. The audience need never engage long with his material. Instead, his poetry has been said to “communicate even before [it] is understood.”[vii]

It is true that his memory and dreams carry on in contemporary Bangladesh. In 2012, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister prominently declared:


“We want to build a Bangladesh as dreamt by national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam […] breaking the vicious cycle of poverty. We want to build a Bangladesh where every citizen will enjoy equal and basic rights. There will be no difference between the citizens. Women would enjoy their just rights. I urge all to work towards building such a Bangladesh. May Bangladesh Live Forever.”[viii]


On this day, his 120th birthday, we celebrate his legacy. Yet merely praising him with words is not enough, instead, our love for Nazrul should extend beyond a dull admiration, and encompass the spirit of rebellion that is so famously attributed to him. Our compassion should rise above the boundaries created by religion, caste, and social status, and should extend to joint humanness. Today, the rebel poet still has a cause to rebel for.




[i] Islam, Kazi Nazrul. Rebel and Other Poems. Sahitya Akademi, 2000, page 37

[ii] Choudhury, Serajul Islam. “The Blazing Comet.” New Age Xtra. June 1, 2006. Accessed May 16, 2019.

[iii] Choudhury, Serajul Islam. “The Blazing Comet.” New Age Xtra. June 1, 2006. Accessed May 16, 2019.

[iv] Kazi, Ankan. “Diminishing a Poet.” The Indian Express, June 14, 2017. Accessed May 16, 2019.

[v] Choudhury, Serajul Islam. “The Blazing Comet.” New Age Xtra. June 1, 2006. Accessed May 16, 2019.

[vi] Choudhury, Serajul Islam. “The Blazing Comet.” New Age Xtra. June 1, 2006. Accessed May 16, 2019.

[vii] Choudhury, Serajul Islam. “The Blazing Comet.” New Age Xtra. June 1, 2006. Accessed May 16, 2019.

[viii] Hasina, Sheikh. “113th Birth Anniversary of Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and 90th Year of His Poem ‘Rebel’.” Address, India-Bangladesh Joint Celebration, Dhaka, May 25, 2012.

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Report: ‘Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue’ at the Initiatives of Change event: ‘Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business’ PART 1

23 – 27 July 2018, Caux (Switzerland)

From the 23rd until 27 july a group of 15 Armenians, Kurds and Turks from Lebanon, The Netherlands and Armenia participated in the Initiatives of Change (IoC) program ‘Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business (AEUB) at Caux Palace (Switzerland). Amongst the 15 participants there were individuals who already knew each other from the dialogue in 2016 and 2017: the Just Governance for Human Security program of IoC. This year there were new participants who heard about the dialogue initiative from the previous years.

This year’s dialogue took place in the framework of ‘Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business’. From the introduction paper:

‘Europe in 2018 continues to face a number of challenges: migration, the rise of populism, terrorism, Brexit and relations with the Russian Federation are foremost among them, placing pressure on communities and nations within and across Europe. As a result of some of these challenges, questions of identity, nationalism, citizenship, racism, xenophobia and the legacy of colonization have arisen. Ordinary people need to feel that they can shape their own futures and make a difference.’

‘Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business’ 2018 will focus on equipping delegates with the skills needed for developing social cohesion, trust and dialogue during these tumultuous times. We have invited some inspiring thinkers and trainers from Europe and beyond who are keen to transmit their skills to those committed to developing and healing their communities.’ 

Day 1 – Introduction to Caux and all the participants

For the third year in a row the mixed Dutch group from The Hague Peace Projects joined an event of the Initiative of Change. When we took our place at the side of the main hall, the moderator Diana Damsa was asking participants ‘to say hello in their own language’. We counted 13 different hello’s. After the interaction with the participants (181 people from 32 different countries in total) the event could really kick-off.

Young Ambassadors Program & Learning to be a Peace-Maker
Several speakers from the Young Ambassadors Program (YAP) of Initiatives of Change, talked about an ‘European Peace Voyage’ (through France, Germany, Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia) dealing with the repercussions of the Balkan war in the nineties of the previous century.

The next speaker, Marwan Bassiouni with Swiss, American, Italian, Egyptian and Dutch roots (!) introduced the program ‘Learning to be a Peace-Maker’ for young European Muslims. Bassiouni: ‘We as European Muslims face challenges with regards to the essence of our religion and the tensions that spread from it between us and non-muslims. Mediation and co-existence is something we should strive for.’ A musical intermezzo took us to the year 1948. A song written by French people in Caux, to welcome their former enemies: the German delegation.

Tatjana Peric, Lord Ashdown
Right after the music the floor was open for Tatjana Peric (Bosnia), advisor on Combating Racism and Xenophobia, and working for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). ‘The first time in Caux for me was in 1996, I came as a refugee from the Balkans and was really energized by the Caux spirit. I made plans to encourage the East-West dialogue.’ Later Peric joined the OSCE, collecting evidence for reports about hate crimes in Europe. ‘Last year there were 2154 racist and xenophobic incidents in Europe… And underreporting is still a problem. In Europe we can see a dangerous merger of anti-migrant feelings with racism.’ Furthermore, Peric emphasized the importance of platforms for young people to empower them, assist each other, build coalitions between organizations and to work internationally. ‘For the work we do, prevention is the best cure.’

Lord Ashdown, a politician from the UK, talked with force about the aggressiveness and vulgarity of president Trump. He worried whether Europe would stay together. ‘Ash and blood’ would be the alternative of a possible break up of Europe. The explanation he gave for the rise of populism in Europe: shifting powers from West to East, which is also a shift of capital. ‘We are facing the ending of 400 years of Western hegemony. A multipolar world is taking form, so it’s time to return to diplomacy. We live in a deeply interconnected world, where we share a destiny with our neighbor, even if they are our enemy.’ In this context, he also mentioned ‘second-generation immigrants’ and ‘terrorism’ in one sentence. In the q&a he would be questioned about this association. Lord Ashdown acknowledged immediately that we should also be more inclusive in our language. ‘I never talk about Western values, we have universal values.’

Dinner and introduction to how things work at Caux
So Caux started with a good discussion. After dinner we were introduced to the history of Caux and how things work here. After plenary meetings, there are community groups with different themes like empathy or courage, where people can hear each other’s story in a more smaller, personal and intimate setting.

Last year we had a meet-up between Armenians, Kurds and Turks on the first day. This year we agreed to do that on the first session on Tuesday at the allocated time and place.

DAY 2 – Inspirational speeches and Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue meeting

Syrian refugees in Turkey

Emel Topçu, Associate Professor at Hasan Kalyoncu university in Gaziantep, gave a presentation about Syrian refugees in Turkey. In Kilis, for instance, before the Syrian war broke out, the inhabitants’ number was about 80.000. Now it’s a city with more than 220.000 people. Consequently, the Syrian influx has had an huge impact on the receiving Turkish society. It also led to a Turkish xenophobic and nationalistic backlash with reactions like ‘Our children are dying in the war, why are Syrians lying on the beach?’, ‘They are partying at the sea’ or ‘They must respect the owners of the country.’

Topçu blamed some media, mainly linked to opposition parties, of speculating about a ‘potential conflict’ or ‘clash’ in Turkey, due to government policy on Syrian refugees. But Topcu was happy to say that ‘we didn’t have a clash with Syrians’. She gave two reasons for the prevention of such a conflict: ‘(1)The role of relatives and (2) civil society. 1.

Topçu: ‘The first reason is that we have a shared history. 100 years ago we belonged to the same country, The Ottoman Empire, before the Sykes-picot agreement divided us. And families got split across the borders. The second factor is the role of Women volunteers who engaged in trust building activities between Turks and Syrians.’

Independent media under pressure in Ukraine
Not everybody in the room agreed with Topçu’s story, but the next speaker, Oleksiy Matsuka from the Ukraine, was already underway delivering his talk about the conflict in East-Ukraine, which started in 2014. ‘The Eastern part is occupied, and the Crimea is annexed by Russia. We don’t recognize them, and call them separatists.’ Matsuka want attention for independent media who are under pressure. ‘A lot are closed down. There are no journalists who’s life has not changed in the Donbass region. This is why we decided to come to Caux. To talk about the very polarized situation in Ukraine.’

Matsuka: ‘As a journalist, I ask questions. I changed the tone form affirmative journalism to interrogative journalism. The reactions of the speakers changed. Uncomfortable moments are many. To doubt everything is important for a journalist.’

Being a neo-nazi in Sweden
The last speaker of the morning plenary was Peter Sundin, a former neo-nazi in Sweden. His personal story was listened closely by the audience. He told the public about his single mother, with five children and her work as a cleaner. ‘We were a poor Swedish family and blamed our economic situation on foreigners, saying they took our jobs.’

He saw his older brother as a ‘role model’. A skinhead who listened to white power music. ‘We said that the holocaust was a fraud, a made-up story to sneer on national-socialism.’ He wasn’t much at school and joined the ‘national youth’, a violent movement. When they were at school, they were confrontative, ‘we felt backed up by this group.’

Not much later, he was involved in a situation which led to the worst decision in his life. They beat up a guy and Peter punched a guy in his face. He was unconscious. ‘When he gained his consciousness, I ran back and jumped full power on his back and landed on his shoulder blade. My friends tapped me on the shoulder.’

‘The next morning I got a phone call. We were on the news. That was the moment I realized it was enough. That was the starting point of a five year long journey for deradicalization. I completely transformed my lifestyle. I had to cut ties with my family. Drop the nazi belief system, and was looking for new world perspectives. I started to watch other channels, things that I called jew-news before..’

‘I spend six months in prison for assault. Now I’m helping youngsters, so they won’t commit the same mistakes I did. Behind every opinion is a human being. So don’t only see the opinion, see also the human. Lets shift the focus on the individual. To change a opinion is an individual process.’

Everybody left the main hall with all these stories in their mind. The community group for reflection was much needed.

Lunch and first Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish (AKT) dialogue meeting

After lunch, this year’s Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue started with an introduction round in which some just told their names and where they came from, and others who elaborated on, for instance, their expectations.

One participant put the emphasis on ‘young people’ and wondered ‘whether Turks and Armenians can be friends’. Another uttered strong wishes of ‘a follow up right after Caux’, and whether the discussion can ‘move beyond the blaming game and try to have a grip on the whole picture’. Furthermore, it was been said that ‘dialogue within communities’ is also important, and in addition to that, ‘that it is necessary to reach out to groups who never come together in circles like these’. Another participant complained about the problematic sides of ‘living locally’, while the world is moving on, ‘new approaches should therefore be worldwide’. The role of ‘privileged diaspora’ to put up grassroots dialogue initiatives like these was underlined and another participant ‘discovered’ that these dialogue-sessions can have a ‘healing’ effect. An ‘action-plan’ should come off the ground this year, ‘but sometimes it feels like impossible in Lebanon’. The last participant in the circle mentioned the links of Armenian and Kurdish communities in her family.

Film by Lebanese group
After the introduction round, we watched a short film made by the Armenian-Lebanese participants of 2017 of which some were partly present again this year. The film, in which all participants agreed that a genocide had taken place, triggered a question to the group ‘whether everybody in the room was on the same page about the Armenian genocide?’

An intense debate about the term genocide followed and whether ‘Armenian Muslims’, ‘who were targeted by Armenians during the genocide (according to one of the participants), were also included as victims?’
This counter-question led to another discussion whether there were actually ‘Armenian Muslims’ before the genocide, or that they were a result of the Armenian genocide, in which Armenians were forced to become Muslims and live in Muslim-households.

Since the question of recognition is one of the most sensitive issues in Turkish-Armenian dialogue, we accepted that we heard the question and that in the following days everybody can individually decide whether he or she wants to give an answer or not.

Then one of the participants said about Armenians that ‘they were stuck in 1915’ and asked ‘How is that possible?’ One answer was that the Armenian identity was almost totally based on what happened during the war. ‘As an Armenian you cannot escape it’. The need of closure is there. And that can not begin, without justice and admittance.

Besides, or linked with ‘being stuck’, is the issue of ‘global citizenship’. A lot of peoples are afraid of the outside world. Identity and national citizenship are strong and people want to keep that alive, as a defense system for the unknown outside world.

The closing statements of this first session was that the border is closed between Turkey and Armenia.

Again, we had an interesting first encounter. But in the evening, we had an informal meeting at Caux station, in which dance-styles of several regions were performed. ‘Before I went to Caux, I never thought I would dance with Turks’, was said by an Armenian participant.

Continue reading part 2 of the report!


Protests led by youth are met with violence;

attempts of dissent are suppressed.

In Bangladesh, mass outrage over two teenagers killed in a road crash escalated into a social movement, with high school students stepping out on the streets, holding placards demanding for road safety and the resignation of the Shipping Minister, Shajahan Khan. Shajahan Khan’s insensitive remarks about the death of the students sparked the outrage. Road safety is a major issue of concern in Bangladesh. Research indicates that last year more than 4200 people lost their lives in road accidents in Bangladesh.

Over the past few days, several images and videos have gone viral on Facebook, which testify to the allegations of brutal violence committed by the police and the Bangladesh Chhatro League (the student wing of the Awami League). BCL has been accused of thrashing and molesting journalists. On Saturday, August 4th, mobile internet was suspended for 24 hours and many complained about a lack of connectivity. Many believe this was done to suppress the dissent, since the issue was not being covered enough by local media and subsequently protesters and supporters of the movement went online to share updates, using Hashtags and tagging international media houses’ social media accounts. Many social media influencers reported that they received thousands of emails and messages from Bangladesh. Some social media influencers, including Drew Binsky, uploaded videos expressing their solidarity and concern.

Shahidul Alam, a renowned photographer and social activist, told Al Jazeera that the movement is not solely being driven by the demand for road safety: other issues too are causing public dissent. The latest update that Shahidul Alam was detained—as reported by Dhaka Tribune—has since been shared by many people on social media. However, according to Dhaka Tribune, the police have denied these allegations. Earlier the same day, Aparajita Sangita, an online activist, was detained but released afterwards—as confirmed from her Facebook account.

We, at the Hague Peace Projects, express our solidarity with the youngsters and condemn the attempt to suppress the voices of dissent through brutal violence, arrest and the suspension of the internet. 


‘Zeg maar niet dat je sjiitisch bent’

Op de warmste 19 april die ooit is gemeten in Nederland, bevolken grote groepen mensen de terrassen van Utrecht. Ook in de buurt van Theater Kikker, waar de paneldiscussie ‘Muslims Represent!’ zal plaatsvinden.

Bezoekers druppelen langzaam naar binnen, waar ze worden verwelkomd door meevoerende klanken uit de rietfluit van Cengiz Arslanpay. De host van vanavond is Nawal Mustafa. Zij valt gelijk met de deur in huis: ‘we gaan het vandaag over racisme hebben’. Vier sprekers zijn uitgenodigd. Maar eerst een korte inleiding van Dr. Margreet van Es, religiewetenschapper aan de Universiteit Utrecht, die het debat heeft georganiseerd i.s.m. The Hague Peace Projects.



Van Es benadrukt dat islamofobie een verzamelterm is voor, ze somt op, een onbestemd gevoel van wantrouwen specifiek gericht tegen moslims, stereotiepe beeldvorming, discriminatie, haatretoriek en expliciet geweld tegen moslims of mensen die voor moslims worden aangezien.

Hoewel ze erkent dat islamofobie een lastige term kan zijn, gaat het vandaag daar niet over. Het onderwerp is: Hoe verzet je je tegen islamofobie? En welke rol speelt diversiteit onder moslims daarbij?

Ook introduceert ze de term intersectionaliteit, wat er op neerkomt dat niemand slechts één identiteit heeft. In de wirwar van verschillende identiteiten en complexe maatschappelijke verhoudingen voeren mensen vaak verschillende battles tegelijk.

Van Es legt uit wat intersectionaliteit betekent aan de hand van haar eigen situatie. Als witte bekeerde moslima wordt zij soms door andere moslims onterecht op een voetstuk geplaatst. Aan de andere kant wekt de combinatie ‘wit’ en ‘moslim’ een specifieke vorm van agressie op bij mensen die toch al sterk gekant zijn tegen moslims en hun religie.


Eerste spreker

Halil Ibrahim Karaaslan (docent en secretaris bij het Contactorgaan Moslims en Overheid) begint door voorop te stellen dat het CMO niet alle moslims vertegenwoordigt, maar alleen de koepelorganisaties die zich hebben aangesloten, zoals Diyanet, Milli Görüs, de Süleymanci-groep en nog zeven andere koepels. Islamofobie vindt hij een lastige term. Met alle gewelddadige berichtgeving over moslims snapt hij wel dat mensen angstig kunnen zijn. ‘En met zo’n term is het dan moeilijk om legitieme punten aan te kaarten.’

Als vader is hij radicaler geworden in de betrokkenheid die hij voelt met de strijd tegen islamofobie. ‘Ik heb Turkse roots, maar mijn toekomst ligt hier in Nederland. Na 9/11 werd steeds gezegd dat onze cultuur en religie niet samengaan met Nederland. Ik wil dat mijn kinderen niet in dezelfde sfeer opgroeien, en laten zien dat het wel samengaat.’

Hij stelt drie dingen voor: Eén: Het terugkapen van termen als jihad.  De ‘jihad tegen de nefs’ (strijd tegen het ego) is de belangrijkste jihad die een individuele moslim kan voeren, aldus Halil. Twee: meer empathie in de gesprekken tussen moslims en niet-moslims. En drie: de mogelijkheden creëren dat moslimjongeren zich meer kunnen profileren in de Nederlandse maatschappij.


Ibtisam Abaaziz

De volgende spreker, Ibtissam Abaaziz (socioloog en projectleider bij Meld Islamofobie), start met een anekdote over een gebeurtenis van drie jaar geleden in Rotterdam-Zuid. ‘Het is 11 uur in de ochtend, een moslima stapt de tram binnen met haar kinderen. Op het moment dat ze zich wil zich verplaatsen, knijpt een man in haar bil en zegt: “Kijk wat ze onder die hoofddoek heeft verstopt.” Omstanders zeggen en doen helemaal niks. De enige die er wat van zegt is haar eigen vijfjarige zoon: “Blijf van mijn mama af.” Ze doet aangifte bij de politie, maar krijgt te horen dat ze van een mug een olifant maakt en dat ze het maar als een compliment moet beschouwen. De volgende dag gaat ze opnieuw met haar man. Haar aangifte wordt weer niet opgenomen. Ze geeft niet op en raadpleegt Meld Islamofobie. Alleen hierdoor raakt deze zaak bekend.’

Meld Islamofobie is drie jaar geleden, na de aanslag bij Charlie Hebdo, ontstaan. Het doel is om islamofobie in kaart te brengen aan de hand van data en patronen. Ibtissam: ‘Uit onze cijfers blijkt bijvoorbeeld dat vooral vrouwen slachtoffer worden van islamofobie en dat de daders vooral witte mannen zijn.’ Volgens haar kunnen zulke dingen gebeuren omdat islamofobie wordt gelegitimeerd door het politieke klimaat. Verder zegt Ibtissam dat moslimvrouwen een meervoudige strijd voeren: tegen islamofobie, maar ook tegen seksisme in de samenleving in het algemeen en tegen seksisme binnen islamitische gemeenschappen. ‘Onze strijd tegen islamofobie in de maatschappij is pas geloofwaardig als we ook intern de strijd voeren tegen racisme, homofobie en seksisme.’


Maame Hammond 

Maame Hammond (orthopedagoog, werkzaam binnen de hulpverlening en het onderwijs) wil hokjes doorbreken door eerst meerdere aan te vinken. Ze spreekt normaliter niet veel over haar geloofsovertuigingen, maar in haar toespraak vertelt ze over de momenten die indruk op haar hebben gemaakt of anderszins zijn blijven hangen. Zo zegt Maame tijdens de verkiezingen in 2017 geraakt te zijn door het verkiezingsprogramma van de PVV. In het verkiezingsprogramma werd gepleit om Nederland op verschillende manieren te “de-islamiseren”. Ze moest aan haar moeder denken, waarvan Maame dacht dat zij weer aan haar dochter moest denken die bekeerd is tot de islam. Daarnaast spreekt zij over de kinderen en jongeren met wie zij werkt en hoe het voor hun is om in dit klimaat op te groeien.

Binnen de hulpverlening heeft Maame enkele ervaringen gehad waarbij onbekendheid met de islam tot vervelende situaties heeft geleid voor iemand die zij begeleidde. Ondanks het feit dat Maame zich voorheen liet raken door negatieve berichtgeving, kiest zij er nu voor om dat niet meer te doen. Daarnaast stelt ze: ‘Mensen die bij voorbaat niet willen luisteren, daar hoef ik niet mee in gesprek. Ik wil gewoon mijn leven leiden. De gesprekken met mensen die oprecht interesse tonen zijn veel leuker!’


Fatma Bulaz

De laatste spreker is Fatma Bulaz, organizer bij de vakbeweging. Over islamofobie is ze helder: ‘Zoals de term homofobie niet wordt geproblematiseerd en het evident is dat het om homohaat gaat, is islamofobie voor mij gewoon moslimhaat.’ Ze pleit voor solidariteit met de slachtoffers en vertelt over haar moeder. Een zichtbare moslima die twee keer is bespuugd door witte mensen. Verder stelt Fatma patriarchale structuren binnen islamitische gemeenschappen aan de kaak. Ze voelt zich als vrouw in moskeeën vaak in haar waardigheid aangetast vanwege de kleine ruimtes die aan vrouwen beschikbaar worden gesteld.

Ook benoemt Fatma haar sjiitische achtergrond. Haar ouders zeiden vaak: ‘zeg maar niet dat je sjiitisch bent’. Op school werd ze door Turkse en Marokkaanse leerlingen aleviet genoemd, omdat ze sjiieten niet kenden. Er werden vooroordelen naar haar hoofd geslingerd: ‘jullie bidden toch tot Ali, Ali is toch jullie profeet?’ Een vriendin die openlijk alevitisch was, werd uitgescholden en voor ‘nepmoslim’ uitgemaakt. Altijd had Fatma het gevoel dat ze zich moest bewijzen tegenover soennitische moslims, en uitleggen dat sjiieten ook moslims zijn. ‘Nu heb ik dat losgelaten. Ik hoef mezelf niet te bewijzen.’



De moderator Nawal heeft iets opgemerkt: ‘Alleen Fatma benoemde tot welke stroming zij binnen de islam behoorde. De rest heeft dat niet gedaan. Ik heb dan de aanname dat jullie tot de soennitische meerderheid behoren. Klopt dat?’

‘Niet per se’, zegt Hammond, ‘Ik zie mezelf als moslim. Mijn pad heeft geleid tot de soennitische islam, maar ik wil me niet in zo’n hokje stoppen.’ Ibtissam: ‘In mijn persoonlijke beleving doet dat er niet zo toe. De diversiteit is voor mij een vanzelfsprekendheid.’

Halil: ‘Ik kenmerk mezelf als moslim. We zijn geen homogene groep. Dat is een feit. Ik irriteer me wel aan de intolerantie binnen de gemeenschap. Juist in een land waar we al een minderheid zijn, zouden we meer naar elkaar toe moeten groeien.’

Nawal: ‘Ja, maar jullie hoeven die keuze ook niet te maken. Fatma heeft die keuze niet. Zij moest haar identiteit verbergen. Het is ook een privilege dat jullie hebben als soenniet. Dan vind ik het makkelijk om te zeggen, nee, ik ben moslim. Ik verdeel niet. Dat doen jullie ook niet. Maar toch staan jullie in de machtsposities binnen de islam toch op een positie waar Fatma niet staat.’

Dat vindt Ibtissam een eyeopener en bedankt Nawal voor dit inzicht. Maar in haar eigen onderzoek naar de religieuze beleving onder oudere en jongere Marokkanen ziet ze toch dat hokjesdenken ‘een Nederlands product’ is. Halil is het daar niet mee eens: ‘Nou, Turken zijn ook hokjesdenkers. Turken zien zichzelf toch als net iets beter. En probeer maar eens thuis te komen met een donker persoon. Daar zit nog een enorme kloof.’

Ibtissam antwoordt dat bij Marokkanen de nationale identiteit veel minder een factor van betekenis is. Ze haalt haar eigen onderzoek naar voren, waaruit blijkt dat de islambeleving van jongeren veel meer is gecategoriseerd in termen van ‘salafisme’, ‘spirituele moslim’, enzovoorts.

Bij de tweede ronde wil Nawal dieper ingaan op seksisme. Hoe kaart je dat op een constructieve wijze aan, en wat voor rol hebben mannen daarbij?

Fatma Bulaz: ‘Niet zoals Shirin Musa dat doet. Leefbaar Rotterdam gebruikt haar als stok om moslims in het algemeen een zwieper te geven. Dan streef je dus je doel voorbij.’

Ibtissam: ‘Het moet met bewustwording beginnen.’

Nawal: ‘Is verbinding dan toch the way?

Ibtissam: ‘Verbinding is te beperkend. Want dan reduceer je racisme & islamofobie tot een individueel probleem en ervaringen, en als je dan maar lang genoeg verbindt, dan komt het wel goed. Nee, zo legitimeer je alle racistische incidenten, en kunnen mensen ermee wegkomen.’

Nawal: ‘Maar dan geldt dat dan toch ook voor seksisme intern, toch?

Ibtissam: Ja, patriarchale systemen kaarten we ook aan. En bewustwording kan ook heel confronterend zijn. De grote uitdaging vind ik wel hoe we seksisme kunnen aankaarten, zonder dat dit misbruikt wordt voor islamofobie?

Nawal kijkt naar Halil: ‘Wat is jouw rol als moslimman?’

Halil: ‘Mannen in dominante posities moeten zeggen dat het anders moet. En dat gebeurt dus niet. Wat gebeurt er nu? In de Turkse gemeenschap wordt bijvoorbeeld gezegd dat het gebedshuis van een vrouw haar huis is. En dat leidt vanaf het begin tot een scheefgroei. Ik wil dat mijn dochter de islam ook kan beleven zoals ik dat beleef.’

Nawal: ‘Nu, ga ik je even voor het blok zetten: hoe heb jij de afgelopen jaar benut om dit te veranderen in je eigen moskeegemeenschap?

Halil: Dat is een dooddoener. In de Islam heb je drie principes: weerspreken met je hand, met je mond en met je hart. Ik voldoe aan alle drie. En als je iemand meehebt, dan is een constructievere houding om te zeggen wat kunnen we samen doen. Ik probeer als we lezingen organiseren dat het altijd voor man, vrouw en in de Nederlandse taal is. Het werkt niet als je een strategie gaat opleggen, stel dat iemand zich inzet tegen islamofobie, maar niet tegen seksisme, is dat dan erg?’

Nawal schakelt over naar racisme van moslims tegen zwarte mensen. ‘Heel vaak wordt in gesprekken Bilal erbij gehaald, een van de eerste zwarte moslims uit de tijd van de profeet, om te zeggen dat de islam niet racistisch is. Maar dat is zo nietszeggend. Bilal is niet voldoende.’

Maame beaamt dat. ‘Het is niet voldoende om te zeggen dat racisme niet is toegestaan in de islam. Dit zou zichtbaar en hoorbaar moeten zijn in het handelen en spreken van individuele moslims en verschillende moslimgemeenschappen’.

Wellicht horen we daar meer over bij een volgende Muslims Represent!


Geschreven door Tayfun Balcik


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