Saturday, July 11, 2020

Alija Izetbegović: Journey from prison to Bosnian Presidency

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Alija Izetbegovic meeting with US President Clinton in Tuzla, Bosnia | Source: William J. Clinton Presidential Library via Wikimedia

In a world that still holds up the burden of racisms and prejudice, the struggle of vanquishing differences between various religious sects and political groups that emerged vibrantly back in the late 20th century sets an exemplary path for leaders today to follow.

The legendary Bosnian leader, Alija Izetbegović, who dedicated his entire life in the process of protecting human rights of Bosnian Muslims who were subjected to brutal crimes and violence by the neighboring countries, with his visionary and revolutionary thoughts played an important role during the dramatic changes that took place post the World War II.  

Born in 1925, Alija was always driven by his strong moral compass. For him, his ethics and his moral principles served him as a winning weapon in all battles. According to him, ethics added meaning and purpose to life.

He studied from the ‘University of Sarajevo’ with a degree in arts, laws, and science. His life journey began when he first appeared in the frontline as a civil right activist of an organization established by Sheikh Muhammad Kharji and Sheikh Cassim Dobreje.

It was in 1946 that he was first arrested when he was a twenty-one year old youngster. He was condemned for being a part of a group/organization that expounded religious freedom and human rights. He was sentenced to jail for 3 years. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an end to his hardship. In 1949, young Izetbegović was once again imprisoned, as per the orders received from a special military court. This time he was given a five-year sentence. His crime - active support behind the Young Muslim Organization. Izetbegović spent his youth behind the bars thinking and strengthening his spirit of establishing a multicultural Bosnia once again.  

Later in August of 1983, Izetbegović along with eleven other scholars was sentenced to 14 years in prison. It was during this time that Izetbegović wrote his book, “Notes from Prison: 1983-88”. In his book, he encompasses his experience at the prison cell and how resistance grew in him during all these years.

Izetbegović soon faced national and international Media under his virtue of engagement with the social and political affairs of the country. In 1990, he founded the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and won the elections with a majority in 1992. The man who spent years in jail yet, filled with optimism and encouragement, had made it through all the agonies and challenges life put him through. With his party gaining central power, Izetbegović was elected as the first President of the country. Later, he also announced Bosnia-Herzegovina an independent republic.

Although Izetbegović was now the president of a young republic country, an end to criticism and racial crimes was not yet achieved. During the Croat-Bosniak war in 1993, the Croats destroyed the Mostar bridge (also known as Stari Bridge). Underlining their catastrophic act falsely as strategically driven, the Croats through this destruction attacked the symbolic importance of the Bridge, which was to connect diverse communities across it.

Despite the sustained attacks and strenuous efforts of the neighboring countries to curb rising unity and ethnicity in Bosnia, the Bosnian Leader always taught his fellow countrymen and soldiers to be superior morally first. He believed that it is this superiority that will fetch them their ultimate goal. For him, instituting peace was a fundamental duty, a greater win, or “greater jihad” over any other military victory. Rising international pressure ultimately brought peace in 1995.

Finally, he stepped down from the presidential throne in 2000. After he grimly fell ill, the greatest revolutionary thinker died in 2003. His eternal story of life struggle is inspiring, making him worthy of the title “wise king”.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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