Burning it down, academic-style

The Times Higher Education tweeted: “If you could ask a v-c [Vice Chancellor] anything what would it be? Tweet us using #VCquestiontime.”

And British academics rose up in a manner beautiful and glorious. Each of these stinging responses is an analytic essay in itself.

@UnseenUniversity “When V-Cs are paid an average £268,103/yr (@timeshighered), a “pay cut” of £100,000 would still leave you grossly overpaid (@Andrew_Adonis) but could put 3 #casualacademics on proper contracts. Would you put securing #HigherEducation before your salary?”

@lwahlgrensmith “How is it possible to run multimillion businesses, charging each user 9k, & tell staff there is no money to cover foreseeable expenses like sick cover so they’ll have to do that for free? And what do you think would happen if you tried to run a small teashop along the same lines?”

@intnlandbroke “How can you justify asking nonEU staff members to pay up to 30% of a year’s salary on visas for themselves and their family, while declaring #WeAreInternational?”

@ProfessorAvi “Why have VCs not defended the values of the University and collectively resisted the march of marketization in the HE sector?”

@VianBakir1 “Do VCs see their staff as: (a) just another interest group that needs to be managed; (b) workers that cannot be trusted and hence must be maximally surveilled across their academic lives; (c) key stakeholders (without which the institution cannot function)”

@UCL_UCU “Which private interests have benefited from your tenure?If you could choose between a) pretty new building housing Office for “Vision” & b) improving salaries/job security of staff, which would you choose? (Rhetorical Q, obs).”
@HullLecturer “Where did you get the idea that low staff morale is the staff’s fault?”

@mcmwright For those VCs who get performance-related bonuses: do you think your basic pay is insufficient incentive to do your best?” 



Beyond Vietnam: the struggle here and the war there

Today in my U.S. Government class, we are examining the history of US foreign policy, listening first to Rep. Barbara Lee’s speech, courageously dissenting from the overwhelming consensus to grant George W. Bush a blank cheque for war. Then, we are listening to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s best but less known speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” where he speaks passionately to the uniting of the peace movement and the struggle for civil rights and against poverty. He was heavily criticized for this stand he took, and the NAACP issued a statement against combining the peace and civil rights movements. 

It was exactly one year later that he was assassinated.

Consider the implications for this courageous stand he took against a lengthy war for the U.S. government’s current lengthy and multi-pronged war “efforts” worldwide. 

For my academic and parent friends, here’s a useful teaching resource, with questions and primary sources (Lesson 3: The Consequences of War).


Secret aborted academic writing

writing.jpgHello, academic friends. Who else has that article, almost finished, like a shameful secret that you don’t know whether to celebrate or to bury, sitting on your hard drive for years now? The longer it takes to get polished, finished, and published, the more it gets covered in plants and barnacles, and looks increasingly worse. You mention it to others with a dismissive shrug as a piece of junk sitting in your life, taking up space, wasting your time.

But maybe, maybe, (your heart whispers), someone will discover it at the bottom of the hard drive ocean one day, clean it off, and say VOILA! the secrets of campus cultural production!

In the meantime, however, here’s another blog post. 😞


To men celebrating new Congresswomen:

To men celebrating new Congresswomen:
Thank you.
But remember:
Acknowledging your own growth is valuable.
Face your own gendered lives before you throw a parade for women in government.
As a woman, I acknowledge my youth when I accepted and even embraced erasure of women and girls, accepted and even embraced the patriarchy, accepted and embraced the notion that men were superior to women. 
I’m grateful for my growth, reading, thought, experiences, since then, with my sisters’ support.
Shout out to the sisterhood who taught us better.
And shout out to the sister pioneers, the thinkers, the fighters, the Congresswomen, the prayer leaders, when they were demonized, frowned upon, laughed at, ridiculed.
Shout out to them now, when they are honored. But what about before now? Where were you?
Let’s have an acknowledgement parade, where we embrace our growth and show gratitude to those who deserve it.
As for these sisters in Congress:
let’s not merely tokenize them for our own street cred.
Do more.
Show up for tough work.
Show up to disrupt erasure in our community, families, schools.
Change the worship spaces to celebrate your sisters.
Change the educational spaces, the social spaces.
The worship spaces, when they are unequal, are a barb in the soul.
Open up closed avenues of voice and visibility.
Let her deliver the speech,
Make the collective prayer
Be the org’s face.
Give up your podium, your inner circle, your chair, your main hall, your office.
Check your panels.
Check your agendas.
Fix your pronouns.
It’s easy to celebrate victors.
Be there for the struggle. 

That 1990s feeling

There are some songs that bring the 1990s rushing back to me.

In the 1990s, I was newly independent, living in Islamabad away from my home in Lahore for the first time ever, and working at the International Islamic University.

For the first time, I had my own social life. Don’t get any ideas. My social life was still structured around religious and spiritual passion. I’d chosen to work at the Islamic University, where I sought an emotional home along with faculty and staff that had chosen to be there as well. I had scholars and students of Islam in my network beyond anything I’d ever experienced, and beyond anything experienced by anyone I’d ever met. Chinese, Albanian, Afghan, Arab, Central Asian, African Muslim women, and we were praying, eating, chatting, learning together.

I also found Sufism.

And around that time I also realized that I yearned to love someone and be loved. A person.

When I hear the song ae meray humsafar, with a great rush of post-adolescent fervor, I remember attending evening weddings, and feeling the blossoming of romantic possibility in my heart, as a live band played and sang the song. You will laugh, though, as I explain that I was usually dressed in a silk outfit appropriate to weddings, topped by a large, opaque, matching scarf to cover my body, head, and face, with only my eyes showing. As love swelled in my heart and I wondered if someone would fall in love with my covered face, and send the requisite mother to my home with a proposal. It’s a funny image. 🙂

And when I hear Buhut pyar karte hain tumko sanam, I am rushed back to dusty rides in a mini-bus, my heart bursting with Love. Every word rang true for the One Beloved, and nothing for anyone else.

Before that, I’d spent several years choosing, with great difficulty, to completely cut myself off from popular culture, especially movies. There are still gaping holes in my knowledge of 1990s culture. But I don’t remember once thinking, God, I wish I could watch movies. My heart was much too full.

I am sad to have lost that, and sad that most of us don’t have that fullness.


IL Muslim Civic Coalition Election Recommendations

Hi Chicagoans!

If you’re like me, you want to go prepared with notes and recommendations to deal with all of your ballot. Don’t forget the judges! Here it is, via the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition and their diligent members and volunteers: 

IL Muslim Civic Coalition – Election Recommendations UPDATED 20181029

The League of Women Voters have recommendations on the referendum items too:



My first piano class

At fifty, I just had my first ever music class. Beginner’s piano. Now, when I join Beginner’s Piano, I really understand it to be for Beginners. But when an American music school has beginner’s piano for adults with “little to no experience of piano,” literally everyone except me has experience of piano. People coyly saying, “Oh, I don’t know piano. I just played 4 years when I was 7. I don’t remember anything.” “I played cello, but I don’t know anything now.” Stop it with the coy denials. I literally know nothing, and y’all are crowding my ignorance out.

dheere-dheere-machal.jpgMy knowledge of piano is desi movies where the heroine in a sari flutters her fingers pantomiming piano playing. I’m the girl whose never seen sheet music with any comprehension.

The whole lesson passed before I plucked up the courage to ask “Um. What set of keys should I be working with for this music?” Because it was never identified, and we’re 2 people sharing one piano (because there weren’t enough books). So after a whole lesson I learn the answer is: the center one. 😳

So shut up, people. You are not beginners. You are all Americans who’ve gone through American school with some exposure to music, music education, and access to instruments. I have not. The instrument I had was a CD player.

So where are the real beginners? Can I join the kids’ class where knowledge isn’t being assumed? I sure don’t want to hold up the amateur musicians with my actual beginner questions.

But since it’s not clear, I’m really excited about my first class in FOREVER and my first musical instrument.