Op-Ed: For a few weeks, we heard Muslim voices. Then the free speech debate took over

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a few weeks, we heard Muslim voices. Then the free speech debate took over

 | Guest writer Opinion

 

It will always be hard to keep Muslim and migrant perspectives in the foreground as long as material support is wanting, write Mohan Dutta and Murdoch Stephens

After the mosque attacks in Christchurch, there was a strong call from media to centre Muslim responses. For a few short weeks, the voices from the attacked communities were not only heard but prioritised.

But as the weeks turn to months, there has been a change to the way we talk about voices and speech. No longer were people discussing prioritising the voices from specific communities. Instead, to the fore rode more abstract and legal questions of hate speech and free speech.

We have no problem with a public discussion on hate speech and free speech, even if it means we have to put up with myopic views of freedom to speak that exclude freedom from hate speech. However, we are concerned that this debate has overshadowed the need for medium and long term reforms that focus on whose voices are prioritised.

Two days after the mosque attacks, one of the authors of this article spoke at length to a senior member of the government who assured him that there would be government support for these communities. But as the budget came and went, there was very little to help sustain these communities other than short-term funding for mental health. Compare that to the opaque $25m spent on stopping asylum seekers arriving by boat and it feels like little has changed. Even the much needed Multicultural Hub is backed by the local council, not central government.

Prioritising Muslim voices generally meant seeking out those community members already skilled at public communication. In the medium term, we can’t expect these individuals to continue to offer commentary: most are employed in other jobs, and not always places that look kindly on advocacy and journalism.

Luckily, we already have organisations established that can provide commentary from Muslim and migrant perspectives. Consider the work by Anjum Rahman from the Islamic Women’s Council, Imam Gamal Fouda from the Al-Noor mosque or Ahmad Tani from the Canterbury Refugee Centre.

We are particularly interested in the last of these three. The day after the mosque attacks it was the Canterbury Refugee Centre and Mr Tani who hosted Jacinda Ardern in Christchurch. Tani’s organisation is one of a handful around New Zealand funded through MBIE’s Strengthening Refugee Voices (SRV) programme. SRV organisations organise hui to collect and then communicate former refugee experiences – including many new Muslim New Zealanders – to Immigration New Zealand. Though we understand there is no neat crossover between refugee and Muslim communities, the SRV programme is one way that the least heard voices from the Muslim community can be amplified.

Emerging in the third term of the previous Labour government, it is fascinating to look back on where the policy came from. Then Immigration Minister David Cunliffe, speaking to refugee community leaders, announced the SRV funding as part of an earlier $62m budget package for the area. But the allocation for these refugee community groups was only $250,000 per year. That is not $250,000 per organisation, but in total, across all resettlement centres.

More than ten years since the establishment of SRV it is time for a review. Resettlement of refugees has moved away from Auckland with five other centres – Wellington, Waikato, Nelson, the Manawatū and Dunedin – now hosting more in each case than our largest city. On top of this, the next year will see the opening of six new resettlement centres in smaller regions.

Immigration New Zealand explicitly states, on page three of their resettlement strategy, “At the heart of the Strategy is the refugee voice. The Strategy was developed by Government and service providers in conjunction with former refugees and the identification of strategic priorities is undertaken in consultation with refugee communities.”

We agree that voice lies at the heart of sustaining an infrastructure for addressing the climate of hate experienced by refugees. Building spaces where voices of refugees can be heard is integral to addressing the challenges experienced by refugees. Moreover, the broader climate of prejudice and hate is addressed through the presence of refugee voices.

Last week, Immigration NZ told resettlement organisations that SRV would be reformulated for the expanded quota. But instead of facilitating this work through the usual full year contract, the groups we talked to have been offered just six months. In addition to the actual work of engaging with resettled communities, they are now being required to do the groundwork of redesigning the programme, which one of our contacts described as “a significant workload increase”.

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In researching our just released White Paper on Strengthening Refugee Voices for the CARE centre, we discussed these issues with many interested parties. One of us met with Immigration NZ representatives in their MBIE headquarters in Wellington recently renovated for $15m. But when we met the head of a smaller resettlement organisation – not one of the original four – we had to meet in a public library. They simply did not have the funds for an office, let alone a salary. This person was tasked with coordinating and reporting on one of the largest refugee background communities on a budget of $6,000. How, we wondered, can refugee voices really be at the heart of the strategy when the material support is so wanting?

Over the coming months, the country will be doused in debates over free speech for those already affluent enough to want for nothing. Some of the newest members of our Muslim community, on the other hand, will arrive to a new land, and perhaps a new language. How, we ask, will their voices be heard?

In November 2018 Murdoch Stephens was invited to be an activist in residence with Professor Mohan Dutta’s CARE research centre at Massey University in Palmerston North. The White Paper that emerged from that residency can be found here.

Soruce: SHOUTY MCSHOURFACE. PHOTO: GETTY

Website:  https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/04-07-2019/for-a-few-weeks-we-heard-muslim-voices-then-the-free-speech-debate-took-over


 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Indigenous Farming and Sustainable Ecologies: Voices of Women Farmers

We at the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) are delighted at the recent recognition of our community partner, Deccan Development Society (DDS), with the 2019 UN-Equator Prize.

The Equator Prize is a recognition of community-led grassroots initiatives that offer solutions to sustainable development.

For the last three decades, the Deccan Development Society (DDS), has been developing culture-centered interventions in agriculture and ecology through sanghams, grassroots cooperatives owned by dalit women. These grassroots cooperatives are spaces for knowledge generation, drawing on indigenous knowledge, offering solutions to sustainable ecologies, and challenging the global onslaught of neoliberal agriculture, felt locally.

The interventions developed by the DDS have been at the forefront of offering an alternative model of agricultural ecologies anchored in indigenous knowledge. Through ongoing advocacy and activist interventions, the dalit women have disrupted patriarchal structures, caste structures, and state-corporate structures that promote neoliberal agriculture. Constituted in the backdrop of the epidemic of farmer suicides across India amid its accelerated neoliberal transformation, DDS has offered an alternative model for sustainable ecologies.

The articulations of ecologies at the heart of health formed the basis of the culture-centered collaborations developed by CARE in collaboration with DDS. Our partnership formed the basis of developing communicative interventions anchored in the voices of the women farmers. These interventions disrupted the neoliberal structures that constitute agriculture and offered alternative agrarian ecologies for health and wellbeing.

However, the centering of such linkages fundamentally disrupts the hegemonic narratives of health and wellbeing. Structures often deploy various techniques of violence and erasure in response to subaltern voice and subaltern knowledge. In our own collaborations with DDS, we have come to understand the everyday formations of structures that work actively to erase subaltern voices through techniques of neoliberal accounting. For instance, in an audit, it was suggested that the topic of suicide of cotton farmers in India did not further the objectives of CARE.

The implicit question, what does re-defining ecology and agriculture through the voices of women have to do with health, formed the basis of the violence of accounting. The narrow definition of health within the neoliberal ideology perpetuates erasures that devalue the knowledge of subaltern communities.

Our collaborators, the women of DDS, spent a week with us in a conference on Communication for Social Change, running workshops on methodologies for voice. The conference came under interrogation, based on the premise that it foregrounded the question of social change.

That more of the same, more of the same neoliberal dogma is not going to address the current ecological crisis we are in the midst of is a lesson that the dalit women farmers organised under the umbrella of the DDS voice with cognition. The recognition that we need to fundamentally overthrow the neoliberal order has to be centered in conversations on sustaining ecosystems.

CARE OpEd: Saffron Mainstreamed Through Political and Media Discourse

To reclaim India is to reclaim both the secular and socialist roots of the nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOHAN J.DUTTA | 1 MAY, 2019

To reclaim India is to reclaim both the secular and socialist roots of the nation.

Building up to the 2019 elections, the question, “whether India will be India,” is being asked in various conversations across India, in the diaspora, and globally. The question is a powerful one and one that calls for critical reflection as India goes to vote.

What is the idea of India that needs to be defended with vigour?

And more importantly, how does this conversation on India taking place in mostly English language plaforms, often among the elite, connect with the conversations on the idea of India taking place in India’s fields, among the farmers, in the production units, among the workers, among the large numbers of unemployed youth, among the precarious workers in the informal sectors, among India’s Muslims who live amidst the everyday fear for their lives, among India’s adivasi peoples?

Going back three decades to my NCERT textbooks in the Kendriya Vidyalaya where I went to school and learned my first lessons on citizenship, I am reminded that the idea of India was never articulated as a concept in the classroom.

One took the idea of India as a given in the concepts of secularism, socialism, and democracy. The lessons in history and geography in the classroom were strengthened and crystallized in community life, in the neighbourhood, in celebrations, and in the everyday culture.

That secularism is how one simply lived and how communities breathed their everyday life was evident in the neighbourhoods, local markets, tea stalls, mosques, churches, and temples. The sound of the azaan at dawn mingled in perfect harmony with the sound of the bells from the evening prayer at the temple.

That socialism forms the democratic aspiration of people was manifest in the land reforms, strong voices of unions, the strong presence of the Left parties, and the equally strong presence of social movements.

The twin concepts of secularism and socialism formed the bulwark of democratic life. The vibrant community groups, local governance, and public participation in the democracy were guided by the calls to equality.

These key ideas defined for me the spirit of India, with its vast openness to many faiths, worldviews, and ways of thought. The Red Book stores that would be on full display in the front of the Durga Puja pandals across West Bengal reflected for me the essence of this spirit.

In the Bengal of the 1980s and 90s when I was growing up, the idea of India was marked by its absence. One simply witnessed the values of socialism, secularism, and democracy in the fabric of daily life.

The first time that I grappled with the meaning of India was in December 1991, with the image of the chariot procession of the now revived-as-a-liberal icon, Lal Krishna Advani, and the mobs that had secured access to the mosque. The images of the destruction of the mosque by saffron-waving gangs quickly transformed into stories of violence and riots as they started erupting across India.

That was the first time as a College-going student I grappled with the idea of India.

Fast forward three decades, the saffron-wearing fringe elements are now running India. One of them, selling the story of struggling out of poverty to become a leader of a democracy, is now the Prime Minister. Many accounts suggest that the same saffron-clad icon was complicit in the massacre of innocent Muslims as Chief Minister of Gujarat.

The saffron tide of 2014 that brought the extremist fringe into power was also a continuity of the extreme neoliberal policies that saw entrenched inequalities, disenfranchisement, and weakening of worker collectivization.

That the ideas of socialism and democracy, the other two anchors of the idea of India, were already disappearing under a neoliberal deluge is reflected in the full-fledged turn to liberalization. Even as the urban landscape started rapidly transforming, socialism became outdated and secularism turned into an abuse.

Programs such as Operation Green Hunt were organized campaigns that legitimized the systematic attack on India’s adivasi people to enable large scale land grab, privatization, and profiteering, all in in the name of development. For journalists fed on the neoliberal ideology, the market offered the all-emancipating solution.

The neoliberal promise, that the turn to the market would cleanse the corruption, formed the zeitgeist of this new India. Large movements promising to cleanse corruption performed public spectacles, all too appealing to the neoliberal imaginaries of the urban middle classes. The country could be free from corruption and economic growth could be achieved, placing private capital as the solution.

Paradoxically, the notion that the private sector and its profit-driven motives formed the basic infrastructure of corruption was strategically obfuscated, instead promoting reforms that were seductive for the middle classes.

This very premise of corruption-free economic development mainstreamed the saffron fringe. That economic development driven by further neoliberal reforms would present a new India was the promise offered by the saffron regime. For many of the middle classes and those in the diaspora, the saffron was unpalatable but the stigma of fringe could be set aside with the promise of “Make in India.” The promise of further neoliberal reforms, dressed up in cleansing India of corruption, and modelled after “vibrant Gujarat” worked to erase the stigma of the saffron for the Indian middle class that identified as liberal.

For a strand of the diaspora, negotiating the everyday onslaughts of marginalization, the saffron turn offered a new basis for identity. This identity, founded on the image of a strong India, was also now palatable for the middle classes in the Indian mainstream. The saffron turn, with its promise of “Make in India” would deliver economic growth, coupled with cultural revitalization. The Indian (read Hindu Indian) would now feel a sense of glory at home and abroad, attaching with brand saffron.

In the past four years, the mainstreaming of saffron has been actively achieved through political and media discourse. It is no longer fringe to want to kill a Muslim or to make a statement about killing Muslims. It is the mainstream narrative of a section of middle class India. Anyone questioning this narrative is labelled an anti-national and sent to Pakistan by the English language channels of Times Now and Republic TV, with a large middle class following.

Five years have come and gone. The empirical evidence attests to many undelivered promises. Much like the empty sloganeering of a “Vibrant Gujarat,” a “Make in India’ re-make of Indian economy remains a mirage.

It is not in this middle and aspiring class that I hold the hope for India.

The possibility of reclaiming India does not lie in my privileged voiced or the voices of experts who see the danger of a fascist politics that threatened to engulf India. We have, for most instances, detached ourselves from the people, from the struggles of the soil, from the hardships that are the everyday reality for the majority of India.

The hope for India lies in the rural, among the urban poor, among the workers, and among the farmers. The hope for India lies in its adivasi and dalit people as they turn their voices of disenfranchisement into votes at the ballot. The hope for India lies in the many farmers who have flooded the capital in protest. The hope for India lies in the many workers who have shown up in seas of red. The hope for India lies in Begusarai as we witness the possibilities of what can be. With one parliamentarian that represents these fundamental ideals enshrined in the constitution.

To reclaim India is to reclaim both the secular and socialist roots of the nation, written into the constitution.

I don’t have much hope in a neoliberal elite that somehow continues to bow to the pseudo-science of the market. I do have hope, however, for the other India that does the everyday work of making it and imagining it.

Public Talk: CARE’s Decolonizing anti-racist interventions- Dr.Leonie Pihama, Te Kotahi Research Institute

PUBLIC TALK : Decolonizing the academe through activism that dismantles racism by Dr. Leonie Pihama, Director, Te Kotahi Research Institute &  Prof. Mohan Dutta, Director, CARE: Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation

 

Date: Friday, 26 April 2019
Time: 12 pm onwards,
Location:
Events Central (GROUND FLOOR)
Palmerston North City Library ,Palmerston North

Live Stream on Facebook Live:  https://www.facebook.com/CAREMassey/videos/666408360446115/

 

Talk Abstract:
The underpinning philosophy that informs my work is that of Kaupapa Māori theory and praxis, central to which is the fundamental principle that as scholars and researchers we have a responsibility to speak to issues of social injustice locally, nationally and internationally. This presentation will speak to the obligation of academics to take on the role of critic and conscience of society and to engage with activism both academic and community based that works to dismantle racism in Aotearoa in all of its forms.

Follow us on:
Facebook : @CAREMassey

Twitter: @CAREMasseyNZ

Youtube:@CAREMassey

CARE Academic Freedom Study

CARE Academic Freedom Study 

CARE invites academics across the globe to participate in its ongoing study of academic freedom.

Would you like to share your experience with academic freedom at your institution?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CARE Academic Freedom Study 

CARE invites academics to participate in its ongoing study of academic freedom.

Would you like to share your experience with academic freedom at your institution?

In an ongoing study on “Faculty perceptions of academic freedom globally,” CARE is collecting narratives and experiences of faculty across the globe with academic freedom, seeking to identify the challenges to academic freedom as well as the potential solutions to it. The resulting report will form the basis of advocacy work carried out by CARE. 

Please Note: The interview will be recorded and will take between 60 and 90 minutes, conducted over Skype. Your responses will be anonymized. The recording will be destroyed after the transcription of the interview.

RSVP your details below for the CARE Academic Freedom Study to register your interest and to receive further communication regarding the study. 

Qualtrics: CARE Academic Freedom Study

 

Three Minutes Max: Professor Mohan Dutta on Global Rise in Islamophobia

RNZ aired Professor Mohan Dutta‘s opinion on Sunday 24th March 2019 on #ThreeMinutesMax: short, sharp opinions from commentators around New Zealand. Mohan Dutta is the Director of the CARE: Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and… at Massey University. He explains how the tragedy that took place in Christchurch was driven by the ‘hate industry’ and is connected to a global rise in Islamophobia

#Islamophobia #hateindustry #crime #security #Christchurchmosqueshootings #politics #conflict
#globalriseofislamophobia #CAREmasseynz #CAREmassey #Masseyuni #Antiracistinterventions
Listen here:
Follow us on Facebook: @CAREMassey Twiter: @CAREMasseyNZ

CARE Director’s article on Al Jazeera: ‘A window of opportunity’

‘A window of opportunity’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But some analysts have been more explicit in their analysis, and suggested ending the threat posed by the alt-right and Islamophobia will only be achieved by shifting existing mainstream narratives about Muslims, both locally and internationally.

“The terrorist attacks in Christchurch reflect the global rise in Islamophobia – hatred toward Muslims – cultivated by political parties, media organisations, and a wide range of hate industries,” Mohan Dutta dean’s chair in communication at the New Zealand-based Massey UniversityUniversity, wrote last week.

Dutta also called for discussions “anchored in the voices of Muslims experiencing hate” as the “starting point to halting the global spread of Islamophobia”.

Mire agreed and called on New Zealand to set the standard in battling back Islamophobia and the rise of “alt-right extremist ideologies”, which he said threaten minorities “everywhere” in the world.

“It’s sad to think that a situation like this is what drives us to have these difficult and hard discussions,” Mire said.

“But we have a small window of opportunity, right now, and we must take it in order to ensure that such events never happen again.”

Follow us on Twitter: @CAREMasseyNZ

Read the detailed news article on #ALJazeera‘s website.

#CAREDirectorsBlog– Mohan Dutta ‘s article on Al-Jazeera #Islamophobia #NewZealand
#CAREMassey #CAREMasseyNZ #MasseyCJM #MasseyUni

CARE Op-Ed: The role of communication in addressing Māori health disparities: An appeal for voice by Prof. Mohan Dutta & Dr.Steve Elers

The role of communication in addressing Māori health disparities: An appeal for voice


 

The Māori Affairs Select Committee on Māori health inequalities point to the entrenched disparities in health outcomes for Māori compared to Pākehā, highlighting the importance of examining and understanding the sources of these inequalities.

The sources of inequalities in outcomes in health and wellbeing is also the subject of the hearings of the Waitangi Tribunal, drawing on presentations that point to systemic structural racism that impact the experiences of Māori in the health system.

These inequalities in experiences of and with health and care are communicative, tied to the nature of interactions in health settings and in the various ways in which racism shapes these interactions.

In our research with the culture-centred approach to health and communication, we attend to the question of voice in the realm of unequal health outcomes. We suggest that the erasure of Māori voices in health interactions and in how the health system is constructed is integral to the perpetuation of inequalities.

Our approach therefore invites voices of those at the margins of society, voices that have been historically erased, as anchors for addressing the entrenched health inequalities.

We are honoured to be hosting Tāme Iti of Ngāi Tūhoe as our next activist-in-residence, and we will work with him in understanding this question of voice. His intervention from the Māori proverb “kanohi ki te kanohi” [dealing with it face-to-face] is a powerful solution to the marginalisation of Māori in health systems. Making the spaces for Māori voices to be heard in health systems and in spaces where knowledge is produced is a critical starting point for addressing inequalities in health and wellbeing outcomes.

When such voices from the margins of New Zealand society speak, they are meant to disrupt the unequal structures. The very act of speaking is meant to disrupt because it is only through disruption of powerful structures that erase voice can opportunities for solving inequalities be created.

Because for those in entrenched positions of power, voice is threatening, an invitation to voice is a direct challenge to the organising categories of power.

That within Universities and within mainstream structures of society a certain cross-section feels threatened with the voice of Tāme Iti speaking is a reflection of the communicative inequalities that constitute colonial structures. Under the guise of civility and appropriate conduct, voices that challenge the status quo and its inherently racist logics are strategically and systematically silenced. So for many of the free speech advocates within colonial structures, the right of an indigenous voice to speak can be sacrificed under the pretext of appropriate speech.

It is however in this very space of voice that interventions need to be made if inequalities in outcomes of health and wellbeing are to be addressed.

Professor Mohan Dutta

Director of Centre for Culture-Centred Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE)

and

Dean’s Chair of Communication, School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing

Massey University

 

Dr Steve Elers

Senior Lecturer

School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing

Massey University