AROC and ASATA release statements on homophobia, racism, and Islamophobia

29 March 2010
Today, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA) each released the below statements on connections between homophobia, racism, and Islamophobia.
from ASATA: “…the people–queer people, South Asian people, Muslim people–can reclaim our agency and work to end homophobia and Islamaphobia in the same breath.”
from AROC: “…we are working for the liberation of all peoples, and see our movements as inextricable from each other…”


An open letter to our communities
from the Arab Resource and Organizing Center
AROC was saddened to hear about the recent violence towards gay and transgendered people that has happened in our own neighborhood, only a few blocks away from our office at 16th and Valencia in San Francisco, including two unrelated incidents, the shooting of numerous individuals with a BB Gun, and the beating of a transgender woman.
At AROC, we are working for the liberation of all peoples, and see our movements as inextricable from each other. We must work together for racial justice and gender/sexuality justice knowing that not only do we make up overlapping communities, but also because we are fighting similar types of oppression.
AROC works to educate and organize for social justice and liberation for Arabs and for all people. Our community includes people of all genders, beliefs, and sexual orientations. Our queer and transgender Arab, Muslim, and South Asian community members will not be invisibilized by Islamaphobia or racism, nor will we tolerate racist responses such as those reinforced by the media. Painting the Arab and Muslim world as inherently and permanently sexist and homophobic fuels war efforts and takes away agency from women and queer people.
In relation to recent events in San Francisco where suspects? Muslim names were published in the media, some people outside of the Arab and Muslim communities are attempting to use violence committed by a few people to say that the religion of Islam is an intolerant religion. This invisibilizes those Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians who are queer or transgender, and also works to actively separate queer movements from Arab, Muslim, or South Asian movements.
Homophobia and transphobia are oppressive social structures present in the majority of modern societies, and need to be combated by all communities united and with regard to intersecting oppressions of racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and Islamaphobia. We are committed to fighting these multiple oppressions and ally ourselves with other organizations and communities working to great a more just world.
There is no place for hate violence directed at any community whether at the hands of individuals, institutions, or governments. AROC does not however see the solution to hate violence to be the increased criminal sentencing of those who committed the violent act. Rather, hate violence is socialized into people and our whole communities must together be responsible for the healing of the victim and the transformation of the perpetrator.
We do not tolerate hate violence in our community or directed at any community regardless of whether the perpetrators are individuals, institutions or governments. Our current responses to these forms of violence cannot lead us to liberation. Incarceration and other state and punitive community responses such as backlash and retribution contribute to the disintegration of our communities and society rather than to transformation and healing. AROC is committed to education, transformative and healing conversations, and collective community guided solutions.
We hope that such solutions can be reached in these situations as well as all situations of hate violence.
As part of this commitment we have joined as a community sponsor for CUAV?s (Communities United Against Violence) Safety Fest April 8th ? 18th. We encourage all to attend to share in building stronger, safer communities. More information can be found at www.cuav.org.
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An Open Letter to Our Communities
With Love and Solidarity
from The Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA)
We are saddened to learn about recent violent acts against members of our communities here in the Bay Area. We are equally saddened to learn about some proposed responses that will further attack our communities.
3 young Muslim men from Hayward, CA, stand accused of driving into San Francisco on February 26th and shooting several people who ?looked gay? with a BB Gun. These homophobic acts are unacceptable, and we must speak out against them.
ASATA?s leadership has included people of different sexual orientations since our founding in 2000. Even if it hadn?t, we?d still speak out now, because the liberation of South Asian people (of all sexual orientations, genders, and gender expressions) is bound together with the liberation of all people.
ASATA?s communities live at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and other markers of identity. Many of our life experiences are shaped by the multiple forms of oppression we face at these intersections. Many of these experiences are traumatic, but we persevere. We are resilient people. These experiences force us to think critically about solidarity, liberation, and responses to violence, more critically than the powers-that-be would like us to.
It is with this resilience that we also speak out against some deeply wounding responses to the homophobic acts:
The District Attorney?s office wants to incarcerate the young men using hate crimes enhancements to their sentences. The District Attorney claims that they do not want to make this a ?religious issue.? Yet the San Francisco Police Department and other law enforcement agencies are using this case to support their claims that Muslim communities are inherently violent and prone to homophobia and hate.
Some organizations outside the Arab, Muslim, South Asian, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer communities are doing the same, to promote their hateful, Islamaphobic agenda. Some media outlets are treating the police?s politically motivated sound bites as objective fact; this mistake creates a spectacle that sells newspapers, but it makes Islamaphobic violence even worse.
That messaging does not address the actions of these young men. It doesn?t help end systems of violence, such as prisons, war, and other ?punishment industries?, that depend on and secretly encourage such acts to fuel their growth.
We at ASATA are steadfast in our stance against hate and homophobia in all its forms. We are also clear that changing these insidious systems of hate will not be achieved through incarceration and support of the prison industrial complex (a system that is fueled by violence and oppression). Rather, social justice will be achieved only when our smaller communities work together in solidarity to prevent violence and to hold ourselves and each other accountable when violence does occur. We, as one large community, must be responsible for the actions of our members and must lead in taking the requisite steps to end the cycles of violence that tear our communities apart.
We at ASATA ask that the lives of these young men not be thrown away. This is an opportunity for them to unlearn their homophobia and to teach others to unlearn theirs. Through education, transformative and healing conversations, and collective community guided solutions, the people–queer people, South Asian people, Muslim people–can reclaim our agency and work to end homophobia and Islamaphobia in the same breath.
www.asata.org