Highlights for It’s Not About the Burqa

I might not have heard the word ‘feminism’ yet, but I knew that the way women and girls were treated in Saudi Arabia was wrong and that this was not the Islam I was taught, nor did it represent the home I was raised in.
I am Indian. Yoga runs through my blood, it’s as natural to me as my vitamin D deficiency.
And yet I was surrounded by a community that disapproved of this sort of independence. Any attempt to challenge the traditional roles was met with disapproval that quickly spread through gossip and manifested as social control.
Ideally the hijab mitigates instances where a woman is valued solely on her appearance and sexuality – though whether it successfully does that in such hyper-sexualized societies is a whole different discussion – rather it aims to place worth on her intellect, her actions, her character, and so forth.
hijab was and is supposed to be an expression of faith and Muslim identity – that’s where it began, and that is where it was supposed to end.
We find ourselves trying to categorize our decision by placing it in a framework that negates the idea of Islam entirely – a framework that believes religion to be contingent, merely a set of historical practices and rituals, that believes in a complete separation of religion governing our affairs; the idea we stick to because our religion dictates our way of life.
But no, I am just the frumpy hijabi on the tube, supposedly beaten into covering myself in this sweltering heat, a mute with no voice and no brain, indoctrinated by an extremist ideology and with no opinion of my own.
It was only after that appointment, once I had a name for what I was going through, that I started researching Islamic ways to cope with my emotions. But when I looked online, on social media and Muslim forums, I was struck by the overwhelming prevalence of one single idea: that you could not be Muslim and depressed, because a true Muslim would be content with what God had planned for them.
Therefore, when a Muslim whose mental health issues are tied up with one of these turns to the community, they often find nothing but judgement, when what they seek is the relief promised by the Islamic principles of mercy and forgiveness.
Muslims are constantly being reminded that we are all one ummah – that we are of one body, and when any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.
But when other Muslims see that you are not praying, regardless of the reason, they can be extremely judgemental.
But there is a problem. This perspective disapproves of the hijab, the burqa, modest culture and other key elements of the Muslim female identity.
Mainstream feminism suggests that my choices and values can’t exist within its framework – if I make the decision to dress for my faith then I must be oppressed or submissive.
I grew up in a Muslim community whose cultural understanding of Islam denied equality of the sexes and rarely left room for female voices, let alone female empowerment.
They can’t entirely explain or point to the oppressor.
I don’t know a single woman who will tell their male manager that it’s period cramps that are hampering their work, and women who need to borrow a paracetamol or a sanitary towel hardly shout it across the office.
I think my father thought that this sudden determination to wear a hijab was down to religious zeal. I can’t really remember. I only knew that wearing it meant that you belonged.
Hijab has served me well. At times, it has covered my scars, allowing me to wear long-sleeved tops without anyone questioning what was hidden underneath. Other times, it has served to cover my earphones while I avoided listening to teachers drone on in class. Sometimes, very rarely, it has kept my head warm during cold winters. My hijab gave me a way to act, a code of conduct: smile courteously at strangers, open doors for people, help the elderly carry their shopping, and politely decline drugs/alcohol/male interaction as they are ‘not allowed in Islam’. My hijab was my armour, something for me to fiddle with when people asked me uncomfortable questions. It would allow me to look down and cover the acne growing on my forehead when someone attractive walked by. At times when I was tired or frustrated, I would untie and retie my hijab. Now, I do so with my hair. It’s not the same.
The fact is, shame is one of the biggest drivers of toxic masculinity within South Asian culture and especially amongst Muslim men.
and until we stop mollycoddling Muslim men there won’t be any substantial change.
There is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt comes from recognizing one’s own mistake. Shame is heaped upon us by others. And there is a place for shame in society. It should be heaped upon the patriarchal cultures that subjugate women. It should be felt by the women who allow it to continue, both through their silence and their actions. It should be placed upon the men who stand by and allow their mothers, their sisters, their wives and their aunts to oppress women in the name of Islam, men who benefit from their privilege. And it also belongs to the men who abandon us to its effects, simply because they are too afraid to speak up.
My husband told me later that his father had an aversion to skirts and saw my wearing one as a personal affront. He had an aversion to and an opinion on many things, it would turn out.
The actual granting of my divorce was as simple as that, because Islam makes it that easy. It was culture and its contradictions that made my life complicated.
After my second divorce my father told my mother: ‘You will never stop my daughters doing what they want again.’ Having raised us as equals with our brother, he had had enough of his girls being maligned. After this, we stopped pandering to the community. Outwardly, I merged my eastern and western wardrobes, mixing kurtas with jeans and shawls. Inwardly, I stopped giving a damn about gossip. The worst had happened. I was the talk of the town and there was nothing more to lose.
My mother, of course, was still concerned. What decent man would marry me, especially now I was on TV? Nice Pakistani girls did not appear on screen.
The mindset that a woman might do the unthinkable and refuse a man, or that she could even kill a man through the shameful use of her sexuality, means that men believe women need to be controlled, and this theory is conveniently backed up by supposed theology, providing a safety blanket for a wider community that is polluted by chauvinism and fragile male pride.
I wonder if I would have been protected from the heartbreak and pain that came as a result of trying to please a community that demanded I live by their rules only.
Because women in such unregistered marriages cannot get a legal divorce, if the husband refuses to give an Islamic divorce, they are referred to as ‘chained women’.
Imams told me repeatedly that they were under pressure from their congregation not to register marriages as it would lead to women having legal rights.
People are surprised to learn that it is harder nowadays to get out of a UK mobile phone contract than it is to leave an Islamic marriage.
When Muslim women choose to take a stand and vocalize our opinions, there are always consequences to our dissent – especially because it flips the orientalist caricature of a passive, repressed woman being held hostage by the men in her community.
Timothy Mitchell, in Colonising Egypt, explains how colonial officers drew ‘a link between the country’s “moral inferiority” and the status of its women’. He explains that they regularly came back to the argument that ‘the retarded development of the nation corresponded [ . . .] to the retarded development of the Egyptian woman’.

Not verified but an interesting data point in how German civil servants don’t have that attractive a position and can get better deals working indirectly for the people ‘at the engines of the global economy’.

That makes you wonder why the engines of the global economy are not here or if they are why it’s not possible to pay civil servants competitive both in compensation and in job satisfaction. To be able to get the best talent and create the kind of state capacity that justifies having a state, the best people working in the civil service should be paid competitively with the top of society.

Property dealings in Berlin

Back when I read this exposé in November it struck me as gripping but also as something that could become messy. Turns out that’s true since the piece now has the mark “Censored” and some choice parts of text have been blanked out. I did a quick search but can’t find any updates what might have happened. If I find time later, I’ll look in the Wayback Machine to see what pieces of text disappeared.

The kind of property deals that are described in the article are par for the course in any up and coming city. Recently there was a piece about resistance to the city giving away one of its largest buildings to a private art gallery: https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/portraet-wut-motiviert-mich

The academic backroom dealings should also be considered to be normal especially in small subfields such as Turkey studies. Academics are playing funding games more than they research and the web of foundations that float around are ways to creatively bookkeep and move money around. None of this is really surprising.

This is why recent developments in fields such as Afrofuturism and Black horror are so crucial. They provide a critical alternative to the alt-right’s exterminationist fantasy of an all-white future. Just as importantly, they offer readers other ways of thinking about time that do not fall in line with the fascist dream of a history that unfolds step-by-step along the lines of the Aryan dictator’s master plan.


Anthroposophy and Ecofascism

An in-depth study of the links between Nazism and Anthroposophy by the Institute for Social Ecology with a lot of interesting bits in there.

In fact Weleda supplied naturopathic materials for ‘medical experiments’ (i.e. torture) on prisoners at Dachau.

Jazz and popular music are often scorned at European Waldorf schools, and recorded music in general is frowned upon; these phenomena are considered to harbor demonic forces. Instead students read fairy tales, a staple of Waldorf education. Some sports, too, are forbidden, and art instruction often rigidly follows Steiner’s eccentric theories of color and form. Taken together with the pervasive anti-technological and anti-scientific bias, the suspicion toward rational thought, and the occasional outbreaks of racist gibberish, these factors indicate that Waldorf schooling is as questionable as the other aspects of the anthroposophist enterprise.

And if you choose to follow the wikipedia trail lots more weird things, such as this guy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentin_Tomberg

And lots of nazis and fellow travelers or intellectual precursors in there, like this guy:

Karutz war ein deutscher HNO-Arzt und Ethnologe

That combination of professions is extremely sketchy. German Wikipedia neglects to mention this particular bit (weird how that keeps happening):

Karutz was more openly antisemitic than many of his anthroposophist colleagues. He denounced the “spirit of Jewry,” which he described as “cliquish, petty, narrow-minded, rigidly tied to the past, devoted to dead conceptual knowledge and hungry for world power.”

Well worth a read and not so long as you would think. A lot of the page consists of notes and comments.

Chasing down noise complaints for the construction site next to our house

The construction site that surrounds our house has started a bunch of space heaters this week. The devices had been there for a while but only started being annoying now that they’re turned on. These things run day and night, they make a ridiculous amount of noise (some 60 dB at our window) and because they burns diesel oil they also pollute and stink up the entire courtyard.

One of two running in the courtyard but there are more across the complex of Viktoria Versicherungen

We are used to some noise and annoyance during the day time with this construction site. Some of the noise we went through was truly unbelievable and for some periods we have received a reduction in our rent. We thought that with most external construction being done, we would finally be able to get some peace but now these things are running and will probably run all winter.

The effect they have is to force us to keep our windows closed on one side of the house. You can hear a faint droning even with the windows closed and having the windows open is extremely unpleasant.

The Site

I went to the construction office first. There a man told me he would look into it. After returning from work in the evening of course the heaters were still running and the man had not done anything. When pressed, he said they were allowed to do this (not true) and these would run all winter.

Our Landlord

First point of contact in these is of course our landlord who is our point of contact for the construction site. We’ll see what they will do for us when they take a look at this issue in the coming week. Maybe things will resolve themselves.

The city

Not wanting to leave things to chance, we also wanted to have the city check this out and resolve this issue. We are measuring 60 dB and we have a source that says only 40 dB is allowed at night (which would make sense).

Let’s go over the steps you can take in such a case and whether the local government can do anything for you in such a case.

The first step in such a case would be to call the Ordnungsamt. The Berlin service number can connect you with them but they will tell you that it’s not their deal and refer you to the Umweltamt. This is the first time I heard that this Amt exists.

Finding somebody to talk to at the Umweltamt was a bit of a challenge. Both of the contacts given to me did not pick up their phone (nobody in the city government seems to pick up their phone) but their central desk also told me to get lost and referred me to the Senate for UVK just like the Berlin service number did.

SenUVK has a special entry point for noise from construction sites with a phone number, e-mail address and web form. The webform seems to be broken because after submitting it twice both times it shows an error and does not e-mail me a confirmation of my complaint. The phone number is supposedly open between 9-11 every day to accept complaints but calling that I could reach nobody there. Both of the people given to me as a contact by the Umweltamt were of course not reachable by phone.

This being 9 in the morning as per the phone number opening times, I thought I might as well drop by there to see what’s going on. I only live a ten minute bike ride away.

I knew the SenUVK office at Am Köllnischen Park but I was told to go to Brückenstraße 6 around the corner. There I went into one building and could not find anything other than generic offices. I was going to give up but I walked up the street towards Jannowitzbrück and found another number 6 entrance to what seems to be known as the Jannowitz Center.

The ground floor of that building was a construction site. Next to the elevator it did find a plan of the SenUVK offices that listed Baulärm on the fifth floor. I took the elevator to the fifth floor only to find another construction site. Then I went down and asked the construction workers whether the entire building was a construction site. They said, nah, floors 7 and so and so are not. So I went up to the 7th floor and found the Pförtner there who referred me to room 191 on the 2nd floor.

The person with the keys

On the second floor I found a very long office corridor where everything seemed to be more or less operational. I walked all the way to the end and after some turns found the office numbered 191 which of course was closed. Not to be dissuaded that easily, I started knocking and opening the doors in that corridor which were labelled Immissionsschutz.

Then some schmuck came to me and asked me what I was doing. I told him the reason and he said he couldn’t help me and that he found it unangenehm that I just walked in like that. I told him that I found it unangenehm that the web form was broken and nobody here was picking up the telephone. The guy clearly didn’t bargain for any of this and made away quickly before I could show him the true meaning of the word unangenehm.

Then a man arrived to work at the 191 office who was actually helpful and filed my complaint. It turns out that space heaters for construction sites only get a permit when there is a pressing technical need for them which is extremely rare. This construction has already taken very long and we would really want to finish it, is not enough reason it seems. The waterpump that we could hear pumping and hissing at regular intervals at night we could probably also complain against. We’ll see next week what comes from this complaint.

He confirmed also that they were having issues with the phone line and that they are not the people maintaining the web form.

If this person is to be believed, this construction site is doing whatever it wants because the act of following up on these breaches is so incredibly difficult and time consuming. He said they can press on this complaint and check the permits but in the end there’s only so much they can do as well.

Local Government IT

After the broken web form I also was kinda intrigued what kind of systems they would have there at the Senate’s offices. The guy filled in the complaint details into the editable fields of a MS Word template. That’s it. That’s about the level of where we are at when it comes to local government automation.

I know these problems up close and they are difficult to solve even if you have access to best in class tools. But with those kind of tools at least you have a fighting chance. If you work in government without in-house IT, where you can’t procure anything useful, you don’t have credit cards and even if you found something useful you couldn’t use it because of fears around Datenschutz, there is no way you are going to get anything done.

Most of these problems could be solved by deploying Airtable and Zendesk, but they of course won’t be allowed to do that. I don’t have to mention that local government being ineffective benefits companies doing construction without following any of the rules.

Most of the time, elites do what they want, influenced by their own ideological commitments and powerful lobby groups. In times of crisis, when people do pay attention, they can be manipulated pretty easily by the media or other partisan sources.

You don’t add much to your understanding of the world by finding those with low IQs who can’t do cost-benefit analysis and adding them to the conversation.


Of course it still makes sense to defend yourself, but if you have any idea how software functions, it should be obvious that the number of known and unknown vulnerabilities in our devices number in the thousands and a lot of them are and remain exploited by all kinds of organizations.

Why would any device that you own not be fully infiltrated if a mid to high level service had an interest in it?