Posts Tagged ‘Project Ijtihad’

Raquel Evita & Wikipedia censorship

In Biography on July 18, 2008 at 2:13 am

Why is public information about Raquel Evita Saraswati being suppressed?

A few weeks ago, we came across Raquel Evita’s entry in the Wikipedia. There wasn’t much there, so we entered a few mundane details we had read about her earlier in the day: her former surname, her alma mater, her marriage, her self-identified religious affiliations. (You can the original here and see our additions here.) These are all standard fare for Wikipedia biographies, all matters of public record, not at all controversial. You can easily find such information for similar (famous and not-so-famous) personalities like Carlos Memem, Magdi Allam, and countless other people on Wikipedia.

We were quite surprised, then, when all of this information magically disappeared just a short time later. A vandal, we thought, and reverted the deletion. Again, it was deleted. As it turns out, it was Raquel Evita herself who was deleting this information. We volleyed back and forth a few times, as you can see on the edit history page for May 12. Here’s how things panned out:

  1. Eventually Raquel Evita acknowledged that her previous surname (Seidel) should be included, though she moved it to the end of the article. (This was again later deleted, however.)
  2. She deleted the reference to her marriage, claiming that “the two are no longer together”; we suitably amended the bio to truthfully read “Saraswati married Ms. Anh Ðào Kolbe, a Vietnamese-American photographer, on August 2, 2005, though the two are no longer together.” (This too was again deleted later.)
  3. We noted that during her time at Simmons College, she “identified as a Catholic of Latin heritage and became known for her gay rights activism”, but she changed this to read “work for gay and lesbian rights in both the Catholic and Muslim faiths” and also deleted the statement that “it is unknown just when Saraswati adopted a Muslim identity”.

At that point, the mysterious ambiguous “Paul Yeratz” and the even more ambiguous Rjd0060 suddenly appeared, wiping away this information and ‘protecting’ the page so that no one can edit it for 4 months. They have refused to clarify just what BLP guidelines have been violated, even though this sort of information is present in many if not most Wikipedia biographies. Might they be part of the campaign to protect friends of Israel on Wikipedia? We don’t know, but something has clearly gone wrong here.

Intriguingly, our diva has been the subject of much mysterious deleting elsewhere on the web…

Why is this important? One of the goals of Project Ijtihad is to encourage critical thinking, accountability, and transparency. As we noted earlier, the world has too many corrupt, secretive, and less-than-forthcoming Muslim leaders and we fully agree with Project Ijtihad that everyday Muslims need to summon the moral courage to critically investigate both the claims of these leaders and the basis of their legitimacy. As Executive Director of Project Ijtihad, Rachel Evita is one of these self-appointed leaders and it is vital that she live up to these principles; Project Ijtihad’s credibility depends on it. Sadly, however, Project Ijtihad’s leadership seems just as obsessed with image control as any middle eastern dictator.