Monday, April 04, 2011

Affinity's and Ms Farah Pandith

Yesterday (Sunday 4th April) I went to an event held by the Sydney based Affinity Intercultural Foundation, where they hosted a speech by Farah Anwar Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim communities in the USA.She apparently reports directly to the secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

She was a very elegant eloquent lady. She spoke in length at us about the dialogue and the engagement initiatives she is currently involved in the world over as delegated by the government. She acknowledged the youth led revolution which she termed the youth quake. She mentioned that the muslim youth of the world are quite sick of having the media or others define their role or their identity for them, so they're going out there and they're defining their own identity through electronic media and social development etc...

During the whole time she spoke, I was thinking, Palestine is still the issue, how is this pretty talk fest going to change that ? At the Q&A session she was actually asked that question. She gave a very smart, very fluffy answer about how they held a youth development workshop and how there was a young 17 year old Palestinian girl who was doing amazing work in community development and how she wanted to do more and how they were able to help her and give her the tools to do that. This of course completely sidelined the question.

Palestine still being the issue means there is 1.4 million people in Gaza kept in the world's largest open air prison by the world's most fearsome, most brutal army and government supported financially, militarily, and politically by the US every year. It doesn't matter how often you engaged in those token workshops and how often you throw roses our way and tell us how awesome we are. This is still going to be an issue.

Another issue is Iraq, another issue is Afghanistan, another issue is Libya and not Bahrain, and not Yemen, and not Syria.

Usually I don't like to ask questions, as a photographer I try to keep my eye on angles and faces. Yesterday however I was burning to confront her about the non-essence of her talk. She wasn't willing to acknowledge the fact that the US has no credibility. That was the US is most interested in is the interests of the US. Actually first Israel and then the US.  They don't try to help anyone unless there is some sort of benefit for them.

The fact that they're supporting the revolution doesn't mean that they want what's good for the middle east. They just realized that the revolution is a wave that can't be stopped. Which is why it was exploding in Egypt early on. Hillary Clinton herself came out and spoke about her friendship with Mubarak and how's he's a great leader, and accordingly changed her tone when it was clear there was no turning back and that a change was imminent.

So this is what this Representative Pandith was in essence talking at us about. Forget about all the direct and indirect policies that have contributed to the destruction and damage in so many places around the world. Whether it's due to religious other reasons.

I was not able to ask any questions, but I was very happy with the audience who all seemed to understand the farcical situation we were finding ourselves in. And the Q&A session, though it did not get any A's for the Q's that were asked, was actually quite interesting. The audience asked the right questions in terms of the "war on terror", in terms of the islamophobic campaign being waged in the US currently, about the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan under false pretenses etc...

I'm sort of coming to understand that maybe the reason Affinity hosted Representative Pandith and made available an intelligent sophisticated audience made up of community leaders, academics and thinkers was actually to bring to light the the gave Representative Pandith was trying to play.

Representative Pandith is a very intelligent learned person and she seemed passionate about her cause. Though her brilliant political manoeuvrings during the Q&A session where she was asked poignant questions and managed to speak for 5 minutes for each question without giving a single answer has given her away as the politician that she is. This is my opinion at least.

I would like to thank Affinity for providing us with this opportunity. Their work is invaluable to the Muslim community in Australia and I hope to see more of their work soon.

View photos  of the event here.

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