Tag: diversity

Interview avec l’activiste gay tunisien Mounir Baatour

Interview avec l’activiste gay tunisien Mounir Baatour

J’avais l’opportunité de faire un interview avec Mounir Baatour du groupe activiste Shams de la Tunisie.  Je suis très fier de la communauté LGBT tunisienne pour son courage et pour lutter pour leurs droits.  Bien que la situation c’est difficile pour les gays en Tunisie, je suis un peu plus optimiste grâce aux efforts que font les activistes comme Mounir.  Merci beaucoup à Mounir pour parler avec moi.  Voici l’interview:

1) Comment avez-vous créé le groupe Shams et quel est son objectif?

Nous avons crée l’Association SHAMS sous forme d’une page Facebook qui appelle à la dépénalisation de l’homosexualité en Tunisie, on a vu qu’il ya beaucoup de réactions au sujet alors on a décidé de déposer une demande d’autorisation pour une association LGBT ce qui a été accepté par le gouvernement le 18 mai 2010.  Les Objectifs de SHAMS sont :

  • Militer pour la dépénalisation de l’homosexualité en Tunisie
  • Lutter contre l’homophobie
  • Faire de la prévention contre le suicide chez les jeunes LGBT
  • Faire de la prévention contre le MST/Sida
  • Agir devant la Cours Constitutionnelle pour l’abolition de l’article 230 du code pénal tunisien qui criminalise l’homosexualité.

2) Pouvez-vous décrire la situation des homosexuels dans l’histoire tunisienne?

L’homosexualité masculine et féminine est criminalisée en Tunisie depuis 1913 sous le protectorat Français, c’est la France qui a instauré l’article 230 du code pénal en Tunisie.

La situation des LGBT en Tunisie est la suivante :

En matière de législation et des textes juridiques :

Dans une atteinte claire à la déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme et des articles 21, 23 et 24 de la Constitution tunisienne, l’Etat tunisien n’a pas encore abrogé l’article 230 du code pénal. Cet article interdit la relation homosexuelle entre deux personnes adultes et consentantes du même sexe. La peine appliquée via cet article est de 3 ans de prison fermes. L’Etat tunisien s’est opposé farouchement à la recommandation du conseil des droits de l’homme de l’ONU en 2012 à Genève à ce sujet. En effet, Samir DILOU, l’ex ministre des droits de l’Homme de l’époque, a formulé son opposition contre la recommandation d’abolir l’article 230 du code pénal tunisien.

Pour prouver l’homosexualité des accusés, la police et le tribunal se basent sur le test anal. Une pratique qui a été classé de la part de l’Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT) comme acte de torture et contradictoire à l’Article 23 de la Constitution tunisienne ainsi que la déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme dans son 5ème article. Même la position du Conseil de l’Ordre des Médecins tunisien était claire et publique en condamnant ce genre de pratique contre la déontologie de la médecine.

Au niveau social et culturel :

Avec la tolérance législative de l’Etat envers la discrimination basée sur l’orientation, Shams a enregistré plusieurs violations sociales et l’absence très claire de toute stratégie nationale pour combattre ce phénomène. Ainsi, les minorités sexuelles sont confrontées à la menace de se faire expulser de chez eux et Shams a enregistré de nombreux cas qui ont contacté l’association pour demander de l’aide car leurs parents les ont mis à la porte après avoir découvert leur orientation sexuelle.  Avec l’absence de tout encadrement, ces personnes généralement adolescentes, se retrouvent sans soutien financier ou psychologique. Pire encore: A cause l’article 230, ils préfèrent se taire au lieu de se diriger vers l’une des structures de protection de l’enfance de peur se faire violenté ou incarcéré par les agents de l’Etat.

Dans ce cadre, Shams a enregistré via les canaux de communication directs, environ 50 cas, dont 15 mineurs qui ont été violentés physiquement puis renvoyés de chez eux à cause de leur sexualité sans qu’ils aient le droit de se diriger vers un service de protection, ou un abri ou encore moins le Tribunal pour demander ce qui leur est de droit. Ceci en résulte une augmentation exponentielle des taux de suicide chez les minorités sexuelles. Sans parler des dépassements gravissimes enregistrés dans les médias tunisiens et les mosquées incitant au lynchage et la haine contre ces personnes de la communauté LGBT.

A propos des droits et des Libertés fondamentales :

Dans un autre volet, Shams a enregistré un grand nombre d’harcèlements des personnes de minorités sexuelles dans la vie professionnelle tel que le mauvais traitement infligé par les employeurs ou la discrimination à la nomination. Cette pratique est très courante au sein de l’institution militaire. Shams a ainsi enregistré deux cas : Une fille homosexuelle a été virée du corps militaire après que son identité sexuelle a été découverte et un jeune homme dont le recrutement a été refusé sans raison valable, surtout qu’il avait toutes les prédispositions physiques pour devenir militaire. Mais ce refus vient après que son homosexualité fût aussi découverte par les militaires. Ce genre de pratique est également enregistré au sein de  l’administration et les entreprises. Ce qui constitue une violation des articles 21 et 39 de la constitution tunisienne.

L’institution pénitentiaire tunisienne applique également un traitement discriminatoire envers des personnes incarcérées et qui font partie de la minorité sexuelle (violence verbale et physique, torture, etc.) ce qui en complète contradiction avec l’article 30 de la constitution tunisienne.

Les autorités tunisiennes, et le ministère de la santé en particulier, continuent à ignorer le droit d’accès au traitement contre le HIV/Sida aux malades. Sans parler de la discrimination et du mauvais traitement (insultes, harcèlement moral, etc.) contre ces malades dans les hôpitaux et ce sans le moindre encadrement psychologiquement. Ce qui représente une violation à l’article 38 de la constitution tunisienne qui déclare l’accès aux services de santé comme un droit fondamental à tous les citoyens.

Shams a également enregistré une violation de l’Etat tunisien contre les droits des personnes transsexuelles. La législation tunisienne interdit, en effet, le changement du nom et du sexe de la personne sur les papiers administratifs et les extraits de naissance, même si c’est motivé par un dossier médical, sauf sous ordre du tribunal.

3) Est-ce que la société tunisienne est plus progressive quant aux enjeux gays/féministes que les autres pays arabes?

La société tunisienne est aussi conservatrice que les autres pays arabes quant aux enjeux LGBT, c’est une société matchiste et masculine qui ne respecte pas les droits des minorités en général, un matchisme teinté d’arrière pensée islamique sachant que l’islam est une religion homophobe.

4) Il y a aussi des groupes pro-gays au Liban, un autre pays arabe avec plusieurs francophones.  Pensez-vous que les liens avec le monde francophone ont influé les changements sociaux en Tunisie?

Je constate que sur les 127000 fans de notre page FB, il y a 108000 fans qui sont francophone ce qui prouve que l’élite francophone en Tunisie est plus sensible à la question LGBT et plus tolérante.  Nous saluons l’intervention du premier ministre canadien au 17ème sommet de la francophonie à Madagascar, qui a appelé à respecter les droits de la minorité LGBT. Mais malheureusement nous constations que plus que 30 pays francophone continuent de criminaliser l’homosexualité dont la Tunisie, le Liban, le Maroc et l’Egypte pour ne pas parler que des pays de culture arabo-musulmane.

5) Comment collaborez-vous avec les autres organisations tunisiennes, arabes, et internationales?

Nous avons crée un front LGBT en Tunisie avec d’autres associations et le réseau Euromed droit nous collaborons avec l’association Helem Montréal qui est une association libanaise basée au Canada et nous avons crée l’association SHAMS France pour les LGBT maghrébins résidents en France. Nous avons des actions communes avec l’association française ADHEOS qui nous aide pour lutter contre le discours intégriste homophobe en Tunisie.

2000px-lgbt_flag_map_of_tunisia

 

 

Jewish Prayer for Diversity

Jewish Prayer for Diversity

At a time in which politicians in the U.S., U.K., and other countries are pouring forth hatred against minorities, it’s important for us to remember the beauty of diversity as we stand beside out brothers and sisters in solidarity. I wrote this Jewish prayer out of love for diversity:

Blessed are you Adonai our G-d
Ruler of the universe
who created all types of wondrous people.

Linguisticism

Linguisticism

Linguisticism is my philosophy that the more languages you speak and the better you speak them, the better you understand the world around you and life itself.

Although not a religion in the sense of worshipping a particular deity, linguisticism is similar in the sense that it is a holistic worldview. Languages are not merely things you learn, they change the way you see the world around you and your relationship to it.

When you learn another language, you open yourself up to new ways of thinking, new cultures, and new relationships. Every language I’ve learned, regardless of how many people speak it, has enriched my life. I have made friends who speak the languages I speak and due in no small part to our linguistic connection. Because when you speak to someone in their language, a spark, a spiritual energy is created. When you speak to someone in their language, their heart opens in a way that it may not have otherwise. It is pure joy, it is connection. While you may have become friends with that person in your native language, it is doubtful that your relationship would be as strong or as meaningful.

So it is with translation. While reading translated news, literature, and poetry is better than not reading anything at all about the rest of the world, it is an incomplete view at best. So much nuance is lost in translation. There are even untranslatable words that other languages can only approximate. And in doing so, some of the meaning, the cadence, the subtleties can be lost. It could even be said that a translated text is in fact a new cultural creation because the translator’s talent should be respected as a form of art and because you can never fully capture the original text.

And so while linguisticism is not a religion, this worldview has an impact on how we understand religion itself. Because if we understand that language is a gateway to knowledge, so is it a tool by which people can better understand religion. For instance, I am a Jew. While as recently as last century, the majority of the world’s Jews spoke Jewish languages (primarily Yiddish but also Ladino, Judeo-Persian, Judeo-Arabic, and others), the majority no longer do. And if they do speak a Jewish language, it is Modern Hebrew, a relative of Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew but somewhat of a linguistic anomaly having been revived from near death.

Today’s rabbis, particularly in the United States, may speak Modern Hebrew with varying degrees of fluency (often no better than an Israeli third grader) and have some comprehension of older forms of Hebrew and Aramaic, but almost none speak Yiddish, Ladino, or other Jewish languages. Naturally this limits their Jewish knowledge. Can one really be a rabbi, a Jewish leader, but not be able to read the original Me’am Loez, a Ladino Biblical commentary from 1730 or the Yiddish blessing in the Worms machzor from 1272? And these are just the explicitly religious texts. What about hundreds of years of Jewish literature, poetry, music, political writing, and more? Is a rabbi really a good rabbi if he or she is only versed in Jewish civilization through translation (or ignorant of much of its existence)?

Because Jews have abandoned their ancestral languages, Judaism has in some cases turned towards an obsession with ritual practice rather than a holistic understanding of peoplehood and spirituality. This is not just the case with ultra-Orthodox communities. Even Reform and Conservative Jews have become so focused on the ritual aspects of Judaism that they have forgotten about culture and language. It’s nothing short of a shanda that when I emailed two rabbis about connecting me with congregants who spoke Yiddish, that neither of them could come up with a single name- out of several thousand members!

Meanwhile, there are political consequences for Jews’ forgetfulness of their languages. Just as American Jews, for instance, were losing touch with their most widely spoken language, Yiddish, they suddenly adopted Israeli Hebrew pronunciation in synagogue in the 1960s. Suddenly shabbos became Shabbat and adonoy became Adonai. Out of affinity for Zionism or a deep-seated self-hatred and insecurity, most American Ashkenazim “shed” their traditional Hebrew accent in favor of an Americanized version of Israeli Hebrew pronunciation because it was perceived as more “modern”. American Jewish institutions obsession with propping up the oppressive Israeli government (sometimes even to the consternation of left-wing Israelis) is directly correlated with the fact that American Jews abandoned Yiddish and their Ashkenazi accents in shul. They quite literally lost their tongues and so they decided to parrot someone else’s speech and politics instead of their own.

All of this is to say that when one loses his or her language, it is as if a whole world is destroyed. American Jews, in this example, lost touch with the Yiddish socialist teachings and activism that dominated American Jewish life in the early 20th century. They forgot that Judaism is also about culture, not just ritual and Zionism and waving flags. When today’s rabbis can’t even read the progressive social teachings of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations, why does it surprise us that their linguistic failure results in political obtuseness?

And so this example may be about the Jews, but it could be applied to other religious communities too. How easily do right-wing evangelicals twist and contort the Bible and yet so few of them could utter but one Hebrew word aloud? When we divorce our worldviews from linguistic knowledge, we lose a part of ourselves. We become unanchored, ignorant, and susceptible to deceit. That I can read the Bible in its original language empowers me to interpret it better than any backwards fire-and-brimstone preacher.

Language provides insight into the world around us. Religion, culture, music, poetry, politics, history. We can become more well-rounded, tolerant people if we open ourselves up to learning more languages and learning them better. Linguisticism, although it has implications for religious knowledge, is not a religion. You do not need to worship linguisticism nor believe in G-d, but you should embrace this philosophy and promote it. The world is devolving into misunderstandings and learning languages is our best hope for building bridges of communication and peace.

Take a class, find a tutor, speak your languages with pride. Don’t shy away from practicing- make mistakes, learn, grow, build relationships with people from different cultures. This is the way we’ll repair the world. Or sit at home and watch the same old English-language TV shows and listening to the music on the top 40 radio station, never venturing out and exploring, shocked and surprised when the world around you erupts in violence and chaos, wondering why people just can’t get along.

Multilingual America

In 2011, Texas State Senator Chris Harris told an immigrant rights activist that using an interpreter to translate his Spanish testimony was “insulting“.  One can find examples of this disheartening “English only” attitude in many parts of the United States, although it is particularly rich for a white man in Texas to tell someone to not speak Spanish in a place that used to be part of Mexico and where Spanish was spoken before English.

“English only” activists like this Senator would like us to believe that English has always and should always dominate the linguistic landscape of our country.  They want us to think that unlike in today’s multicultural America, in Early America, people only spoke English.

In this post, I intend to prove them wrong by demonstrating that America has always been a multilingual place, even in colonial times and the early years of our nation.

Many of our founding fathers were multilingual.  Benjamin Franklin taught himself French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, and Greek.  James Madison knew Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.  John Adams spoke French and Latin.  The most impressive polyglot was Thomas Jefferson, who spoke French, Italian, and Latin, had some reading proficiency in Greek and Spanish, and may have spent time studying Gaelic, Welsh, Arabic, and German as well.  He advocated for his daughters and young correspondents to learn French and (gasp) Spanish “because of the increasing diplomatic importance Spain would presumable hold in U.S. foreign relations.”  According to the book Language Loyalties by James Crawford, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush was also an advocate for multilingualism.  He wanted German and French taught in schools and for German to be preserved as an asset for the new nation.  He said that people who feared Germans in Pennsylvania were “narrow-minded” and that “a man who is learned in the dialect of a Mohawk Indian is more fit for a legislator than a man who is ignorant even in the language of the learned Greeks.”

1024px-Thomas_Jefferson's_Paris_house_memorial

(Thomas Jefferson’s Paris house memorial)

Early Americans used many languages besides English.  According to Crawford, “[p]rior to the arrival of the Europeans, more than 500 languages were spoken in North America.”  He notes that “[m]any churches offered services in different languages” and that there were French and German language schools, societies, and libraries in both the North and South.  In fact, none other than Noah Webster (of dictionary fame) suggested that our primary language not even be called English and said that “circumstance render a future separation of the American tongue from the English necessary and unavoidable.”  In Webster’s view, the way Americans speak would become as different from English as “modern Dutch, Danish, and Swedish are from…German.”  New Amsterdam (today’s New York) was incredibly diverse where “18 languages were spoken on Manhattan Island as early as 1646.”  In what is today New York, “English not even introduced into Dutch schools until 1774.”

The Early American press was multilingual.  In 1732, Ben Franklin published Philadelphische Zeitung, the first ever German or non-English paper in what is today the United States.  Crawford notes that “acceptance of and support of French and German newspapers” was common throughout the country.  Die Freyheits-Fahne was founded in Pennsylvania in 1814 and there were at least eight other German papers and at least two French papers in the state by the early 1800s.  Americans even founded a French language paper in South Carolina, Echo du Sud, Moniteur Francais, in 1801.  The book Language Loyalties notes that the Continental Congress even issued publications in French and German to persuade the local population to join the revolutionary cause.  One of those documents was the Articles of Confederation, which you can find here in French.

Philadelphische Zeitung

(Ben Franklin’s German paper published in Philadelphia)

In conclusion, people like State Senator Chris Harris want you to believe that speaking languages other than English is un-American.  However, our history shows that America has always been a multilingual place.  Speaking other languages is as American as Ben Franklin and as patriotic as Thomas Jefferson.

Benjamin_Franklin_plaque_Auray
(Plaque honoring Ben Franklin’s arrival to France)

I’d like to extend a special thanks to Rachel Jirka, the Research Services Librarian of the Society of the Cincinnati, who generously offered her time to help me research this piece.