If you’ve been to a bar or club in the past two years, chances are that you’ve heard a song by M.I.A., a hip-hop artist with a cool African beat to her addictive songs that are politically provocative. Her biggest song, “Paper Planes,” was upbeat and catchy even while vividly describing acts of robbery and murder. Musically, she’s just plain cool and most importantly—different, a commodity becoming rarer and rarer.
So, it’s with great regret that I have to go after her moral equivalence and terrorism apologist baloney.
In a New York Times article about M.I.A., real name Maya Arulpragasam, her family’s history of association with militants in Sri Lanka is discussed:
In the ’70s, her father, Arular, helped found the Tamil militant group EROS (Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students), trained with the P.L.O. in Lebanon and spearheaded a movement to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the country. EROS was eventually overwhelmed by a stronger and more vicious militant group, the Tamil Tigers.
The report says that her father did not associate with the Tamil Tigers, who were tyrannical, attacked civilians, used child soldiers, and became one of the top professionals in suicide bombing. As far as I know, she has not spoken in support of the Tamil Tigers (but she hasn’t condemned them either), and focuses on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. Good for her. But on other occasions, she gives the whole “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” mantra.
“You can’t separate the world into two parts like that, good and evil. Terrorism is a method, but America has successfully tied all these pockets of independence struggles, revolutions, and extremists into one big notion of terrorism. You can’t grab people by the neck and choke them and then complain they’re kicking you. If you’re going around oppressing people, they will fight back,” she said in one interview.
In the New York Times article, Ahilan Kadirgamar of the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum slams M.I.A. for her “role in putting the Tigers on the map” with her simplistic analysis of the situation—the same simplicity she accuses the U.S. of.
There’s a tendency among some, especially in Hollywood, to embrace anyone that is a proponent of a struggle against perceived oppression. If you support the Palestinian cause, you won’t condemn Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria or Iran. If you oppose the war in Iraq, you won’t condemn the Iraqi insurgents. You may condemn Al-Qaeda, but only after painting them as a horribly misguided force fighting the injustices of American policy.
And in M.I.A.’s case, she supports the fight of the Tamils for independence, so she won’t condemn the Tamil Tigers. Instead, terrorism is just the result of hurt people who can’t fight by any other means.
Going out at night is something I sometimes do so my mind isn’t thinking about international affairs for once. I’m not frustrated, and I’m too busy thinking about how cool it would be for girls to approach me since I have no clue how to do it myself. Now, whenever M.I.A.’s songs come on, I’m trapped back into the cycle of geopolitical analysis. Thanks for that, M.I.A.