Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

A Moment of Terror

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I had a moment today. Perhaps slightly influenced by something I had read earlier today by Parisa Mehran, where someone “joked” with her upon meeting her and finding out she was from Iran- that she’s a “terrorist”. Can you imagine this gross verbal violence being passed as a jokr or just microaggression ?

Actually even as I write this, I think maybe my moment was not influenced by that post, but by years of internalizing the Western gaze on me as a headscarved Muslim woman… as representing oppression and more recently terrorism.

So this was the moment. I’m in a Zoom call with complete strangers to practice a new Liberating structure called “Joining Game”. And someone (white-ish guy) talks about moments of “terror”. And he is in New York. I know he means to be talking about the terror of the pandemic, the protests, all that. He does *not* mean me. He does not mean Muslims or terrorism done in the name of Islam. He doesn’t. But it makes me so terribly uncomfortable. There’s another person in the call with an Arab name, but no one else knows it but me (and her, I presume, unless they notice how I pronounce her name – they probably don’t). I spend some time with my heart racing… wondering if I should bring it up. Then I just thought, you know, I don’t have to ever see this person again. Or should I make a statement? The moment passed and it was too late to bring it up, I think. It was a good session otherwise.

And then I had a second moment. I posted a tweet recently asking folks which #edtech thet would UN-invent, given the chance. If you’re curious, check responses to my pinned tweet. The majority of responses mentioned surveillance/proctoring tools – I will reveal everything and discuss during my #OLCInnovate keynote June 15th inshallah (livestreamed on my YouTube channel).

But the other moment (not a moment of terror, but one of reflection), is that beyond my understandable hatred of surveillance technologies for all the obvious reasons it is an awful thing to use in education (I am actually amazed whenever I have to *explain* this) there are two other levels where surveillance is highly problematic for me – the kinds of surveillance against Muslims in the US since 9/11 (I know friends in US and UK who were approached by FBI/MI5 even) and the kind that occurs locally here.

I’m done for the night.

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