Saturday, April 4, 2015

The "Saw" of Islam (republished, originally from December 2006)

Lirun, a fellow blogger asked me how I felt about an Islamic State in Lebanon. Since I'm neither Lebanese nor Muslim, I'll change the premise slightly and answer the question as it relates to an Islamic state anywhere in the Arab world. Before the vultures start circling and accuse me of being a rampant Islamophobe, take note that the following is nothing more than my perception and a representation of what I feel; rather than a position that fits any particular agenda. My issue is with increased religiosity in general. It just so happens that the most overwhelming religiosity in the Middle East today is Islamic. I have just as many issues with what's happening in the US, but the Arab world is more significant to my personal life than the Bible Belt.
I have picked "introspection" as a label for this entry so as to reinforce the notion that my views towards the matter are in constant evolution, so do not consider any of the following to be finite but rather a reflection of how I feel about it today.

Here it goes:
Have you ever seen the "Saw" series? For those who haven't, it's a trilogy of horror films where victims are tortured and binded to bizarre and extremely painful devices. What's original about Saw is that the tortured characters have a way out, but at an incredible physical and psychological cost. In one particular scene, the standing victim's torso is trapped in a giant metal contraption with metal rings threaded into the person's spinal column. To escape the contraption, the victim has to reach into a jar of extremely corrosive acid and pull out a key. The key is dissolving fast and would disappear within minutes unless the victim is willing to burn her hand to pull it out. To make matters worse, once the key is used to unlock the device, there's no knowing the extent of the damage those metals rings will have on the victim's spinal column.

I'm afraid we are headed towards several Islamic states in the Middle East, the "key", or solution is dissolving fast and the only way out comes at the great expense to the "body of the state".

With pan-Arabism floating like the bloated carcass of a dead whale, Islam is being championed as "The Solution".

I am scared.
Not only do I already feel culturally excluded here in the West, my own Arab world, a long time insurance policy in case I ever want to go back is being pulled from under my feet.

Do not speak to me about the faraway lands of Andalusia and of the once-upon-a-time Muslim tolerance of minorities. Those days are long gone, and there's no knowing what shape Islamic rule will have in the future. Islam, just like Christianity and Judaism has its progressive and its regressive elements. Who will prevail in the end? Will nominally Christian Arabs like me be merely tolerated? or will we live as full citizens with rights and responsibilities? What about citizens who chose to be non-practicing Muslims, or Atheists? Will there be a new Fiqh (Jurisprudence) that adapts to this century?

The Islamic regimes are coming and its only a matter of time before Assad and Mubarak give way to the masses. Before you call me alarmist, how many of you have actually lived in the Arab world? How many of you arm-chair Marco-polos have actually seen first-hand the transformation in an Arab society?

Consider the following personal anecdote:
Growing up in the UAE, we used to have neighbors who were Palestinian like us and nominally Muslim just like we were nominally Christian. Every Eid, my mother would offer them a tray of 'Awameh (عوامة او لقمة القاضي) and every Easter they would bake us a cake. We used to live 2 floors apart and the visits were frequent. Almost every Friday, both of our families would congregate in either living room. Potent Lebanese Arak flowed freely amongst the adults and sometimes they would even allow us kids to have a sip.
Then the day came when their daughter, who was a pre-teen at the time decided to wear a veil. Her mother, a working mother of three, who dressed as any Levantine woman of the time, was horrified. She fought her daughter tooth and nail. But the daughter prevailed and kept her head covering. Just like the "key" in my Saw analogy, the effects were corrosive. In the beginning, the veiled daughter would not join our family evenings since alcohol was served. To accommodate her, the Arak was kept in the cupboard (الله يرحم ايامك يا ابو توما و يا غنطوس). Later on, it was the mixing of men and women that bothered her, so the men came over to our living room and the women to theirs (admittedly, her father was relieved since now he could drink his Arak un-harassed!).

Over the years, the mother started wearing the veil, first during Ramadan and later every day of the year. The father and son started attending Friday prayers at the local mosque. The girl is now married and living in Jordan, she wears a Niqab (full face covering).
What once was a beautiful friendship between our families was reduced to mere exchanges of courtesies in the building's elevator. And it all started with a simple piece of cloth...

11 years ago, when I was a student at McGill, I used to be part of what was once called the Palestine Solidarity Committee (now SPHR - Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights). Our most vocal members were girls.

The other day at an Indian restaurant, I happened to be seated next to a table with a dozen SPHR members. Half of them were girls and EVERY ONE OF THEM WAS VEILED! Will the day come when SPHR gatherings will be completely segregated? How will that effect our image and ability to influence change. Will it cement the perception that the struggle for Palestine is linked to a larger Islamic context?

If the whole Arab nation decides to veil its women, so be it. However, it will not change the fact that all of this religiosity is new and threatening to me.

It scares me.
I'm not used to it.
I miss the days when God was a personal affair and allegiance to Him-Her-It wasn't so explicit.

The Religiosity bug is not limited to Muslims. Some members of my own family have left our allegedly too sedate Melkite sect and joined the more obnoxiously proselytizing Evangelical stream.

Religiosity for me represents fissures at the family level and the greater societal levels. I haven't yet seen a manifestation of it that is inclusive of others who do not share the same opinion. I know I'm not alone to feel this way, there are millions of Arabs and non-Arabs who agree with me on this.

Unfortunately, Islam is indeed the Solution in the Arab world at the moment, as there's no other viable choice. No alternative ideology has the energy, the weight, or the unifying potential of Islam. The question is, which of the many, many versions of Islam will prevail. Will there be a regressive Caliphate or a new brew of Islamic democracies that draw from the positive and inclusive elements of the the Quran and the Hadeeth?

By the time you have finished reading this, the key has long dissolved.

May God save us -- الله يستر

pic credit:

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Days and Nights of Fatima, Part 1 of a Bedouin Trilogy

Fatima's fart woke up the goats.

"May Allah blacken your face" shouted her husband, Muhammad, from a nearby tent.

Fatima was anxious, and when she's anxious she's prone to flatulence. One of her virulent farts almost killed her 3-year old daughter Tufaha as she slept in her mother's bosom.

The source for her anxiety was tomorrow's trip to the city to see a doctor about Tufaha's persistent cough.

Give the girl a cigarette! urged Um-Muhammad, her mother-in-law and aunt. It will burn the germs in her throat and make her feel better. Fatima gave her daughter many cigarettes, but to no avail. For extra effectiveness, she recited the Quran while Tufaha smoked, then she tried placing the Quran itself on Tufaha's head while Tufaha puffed on a Marlboro red. She tried piling on two Qurans and then three on the girl's head, she even added a candle on top of the Qurans, but nothing happened. Tufaha's subborn cough persisted.

Fatima's life ended when Tufaha's began.

No ululations would pierce the desert silence on the night of her birth.

When Muhammad learned that his first child was a girl he threatened to bury her alive in the sand. Um-Muhammad intervened that day and convinced her son to keep the girl on account of the dowry she would fetch one day. He acquiesced, but showed his disgust by referring to the young baby as "Zagga", Bedouin for turd.

Fatima decided to name her daughter Tufaha, on account of her reddish face reminding her of an apple, a rare fruit she once received as a gift from her visiting uncle, Nizo Abu Issa, a renowned poet among the Bedu.

Muhammad's anger grew exponentially every day that Fatima wouldn't fall pregnant with the boy he so desperately wanted.

A year after Tufaha's birth, Um-Muhammad convinced her son to take a second wife, a cross-eyed cousin by the name of Fassoulya.

Fassoulya fell pregnant on the first night, and nine months later she produced a boy, Salem who looked just like his father, complete with a singular, thick eyebrow.

Ever since, Muhammad would share his tent with Fassoulya and their little boy, while Fatima slept with Tufaha in the goat enclosure.

Fatima drew the curtain separating her from the goats and looked up at the moon. The fresh air filled her nostrils and helped calm her nerves. She shielded Tufaha from the outside air with her bosom, and kissed her head softly, wetting her lips on the rivulets of sweat that ran down the girl's forehead. She poured herself a finjan of cardamom-spiced coffee that had been left on the dying embers of the day's fire.

Looking up at the moon, she recited a poem her uncle Nizo Abu Issa had taught her.

I sat by myself here
Under the light of the moon
Where no eye sees me
Far from genies and humans

My eye doesn't weep
For a lover who left me
For my loyal lover is here
Sitting on the hot coals

I never experienced love
Neither from the Bedouin or the city Arabs
My only love is coffee
Since my young days

I poured myself a cup from him
And my frustrations melted
He accompanied me throughout the night
Until the moon vanished

قعدت بروحي هين
تحت ضوء القمر
ما تشوفني عين
بعيد عن جان وبشر

ما تنوح العين
على خل هجر
خلي الوفي هين
قاعد عالجمر

ما جاني حب
من ورا بدو أو حضر
حبي الوحيد ألبن
من أيام الصغر

صبيت  منه فنجان
ذوب عني القهر
سامرني طول الليل
حتى غياب القمر

Tomorrow we go see the doctor, oh Allah facilitate matters and clear obstacles.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shia-Jewish Black Magic

Video  from Saudi Arabia shows men undoing an "Akd Sihir" (literally magic knot), a charm made out of hair, used to cast a spell on a victim. Video title describes the charm as a Shia-Jewish creation.

The act of undoing the charm is believed to void the magic spell.

At 1:30 one man urges the other to recite Surat Al-Falaq, a Quranic verse that specifically protects against black magic.

At 1:56, the men find the head of a bird.

More on witchcraft in Saudi in this link.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Brazilian-Palestinian Poetess

A beautiful and eloquent Palestinian girl in Brazil praises the freedoms in her new homeland while lamenting the treatment of Palestinians at the hands of Arab brethren.

She captures my feelings exactly, since I got my Canadian passport I have had free access to brotherly Arab countries that wouldn't grant me a visa when I was a Palestine Refugee.

 Translation her own, in the embedded video.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Israeli flag flies in Sana'a!

Man flies Israeli flag in Yemen's capital to protest the municipality's refusal to collect trash near his house. The flag, bearing the words "The capital's integrity" flew in the main street of Farwa neighbourhood of the capital. Security forces descended on the area and questioned several of the man's neighbours, all of whom declared support for his novel method of protesting the city's shortcomings. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

City Mouse, Desert Mouse

The contrast between Hadhar (literally "civilized", city-dwelling Arabs) and Badu (Bedouin Nomads) is a common theme in Arabic literature.

Here's a poem from a Bedouin woman about her loose city sisters:

To the beauty salon I do not go

nor do I apply any make-up

For I am not one of those who purchase beauty

I host the guests and bake bread

And kneel down to the Lord in prayer with supplementary kneelings

Nor do I go to the beach to watch the waves

For I am not one of those who give out their numbers

A bedouin woman, I walk a straight path

For I am not one to shorten my dresses

Those women who flock to the beauty salons in order to empty their husbands' pockets

They herd their husbands like cattle

And direct them as they please

And the men shut up and dare not protest

We say oh Allah, Have mercy on those men who are lost to the evils of such women

R-rated Bedouin poetry

After a 3 year hiatus, I'm back and with a gritty post or else I wouldn't be Nizo. 

Here, a Syrian girl recites some R-rated Bedouin poetry about a man who leaves behind the company of boys once he discovers women. 

"He says:

Oh boy, stop compounding my problems

or else I shall hit you with a shoe on your head and the back of your neck

A liar is he who says that you cannot be healed

The cure is available in the hips and lips (of women)

No, do not beg me, stop imploring me

Enough, I no longer want you

I shall pound the pussies and forget the asses

And leave you for the celibate men who seek you

For when I approach that girl with the sky-blue panties

She says Welcome, I am happy to see you

In her pussy I shall enter, up to my balls

The sound of our fucking, like the shooting of bullets

What is Israel's Capital City?

Hassan Nassrallah is a Shiite Matryoshka doll, open him up and this is what you will find inside.

Father's voice: Hello, what is your name

Child: Hassan Men'em

Father: How old are you Hassan

Child: 2 years

Father: What village in Lebanon are you from?

Child: Sohmor

Father: What's daddy's name?

Child: Ali

Father: What's mommy's name?

Child: Miryam

Father: Today you will name all of the Arab capitals.

Up to 2:41, the child is asked to name all the Arab capitals, including Palestine to which he responds with "Al-Quds".
At 2:41 the father asks the child to name the capital of Israel, to which the child raises his hand in the air and responds:

"There's no Israel. There is Palestine"

Moroccan Sex Ed.

Proving that Moroccans are eons ahead of the rest of the other Arabs, this sex. ed counsellor shows prostitutes how to coax and cajole customers into using protection by unrolling condoms using their mouths. Slightly embarrassed she actually demonstrates...

IDF Super Star - Druze Vs. Bedouin

The art form these two IDF soldiers are engaging in is called Zajal.

The handsome one who's sitting is from Bani Ma'aruf (an alternative way of saying Druze) and the one standing (he calls himself "Bulbul") is the Bedouin.

For those unfamiliar with Arab culture, here's wiki's description:
"Zajal (Arabic: زجل) is a traditional form of oral strophic poetry declaimed in a colloquial dialect (most notably in one of the many dialects of Arabic) with ancient roots in a number of Mediterranean cultures. The form is similar to Muwashshah... Zajal is semi-improvised and semi-sung and is often performed in the format of a debate between zajjaali (poets who improvise the zajal). It is usually accompanied by percussive musical instruments (with the occasional wind instrument, e.g. the ney) and a chorus of men (and more recently, women) who sing parts of the verse."
Here's a small excerpt of what they're saying (translation my own):
Bedouin Bulbul:
"Oh son of Kafr Smei' how beautiful is your discourse, you speak with a Druze accent but it doesn't bother me. Visit you I shall in Kafr Smei' and stand at your door, oh son of Ma'aruf, you King of men"
"Oh Bulbul, you are precious to us, you shall descend from between the trees to come see us. If you were to come to Kafr Smei' to see us, we would welcome you oh King of the Arabs"