An Impish Desire for Imperial Déjà Vu

Daniel Martin Varisco, MENA Tidningen, May 27, 2015

A recent online commentary by Robert Kaplan for Foreign Policy displays the provocative title: “It’s time to bring imperialism back to the Middle East”. The punch line surfaces in the final paragraph: “Imperialism bestowed order, however retrograde it may have been”. Retrograde? How about brutal?

Let’s see: Mussolini made the trains run on time; Hitler brought Germany out of the humiliation of a World War I defeat; Genghis Khan lengthened the Silk Road by slaughtering just about everyone along the way. So let’s bring back the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Colonel Qaddafi and all the recently demoted dictators so we can have “order” again, the kind of “order” which is imperially blessed and apparently serves American interests.

Kaplan’s view of Middle Eastern history is about as top-down and lop-sided as you can get. Take the Sublime Porte, for example: “For hundreds of years, Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Jews, Muslims and Christians, in Greater Syria and Mesopotamia had few territorial disputes. All fell under the rule of an imperial sovereign in Istanbul, who protected them from each other”, he writes. Really? What romance novel has Kaplan been reading? Was there such love for the Ottoman sultans that no ethnic group ever complained? Did all these subjugated people sleep peacefully at night knowing that the Janissaries would protect them from each other? But why stop with the Ottomans?! The caliphs in Abbasid Iraq must have been all made for a Disney Aladdin movie and their mercenaries nothing short of angels? And what barbarian would have dared speak against the glorious Pax Romana of the Caesars? Forget the out-dated Sermon on the Mount. According to Kaplan, blessed are the Machiavellian despots for only they can enforce peace in the name of order, at least in what used to be called the Holy Land. (more…)

John Esposito at the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service has just provided a unique website to chart the pace of islamophobia in the media,among the general public and in academe. Check out his new site here.

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“Photography has brought us closer, it’s enabled us to find a common language.” Photo by Ilan Assayag

The reality exposed by Bedouin women armed with cameras

Mothers and daughters from unrecognized villages empowered through photography.
By Vered Lee, Haaretz,| May 13, 2015

Mahadia Abu-Joda, 53, a mother of 13 and resident of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Za’arura, cradles a red digital camera in her hand. “The first time in my life that I held a camera and prepared to take a picture, about a year and a half ago, I held it upside down and in the wrong direction,” she says through the hijab that conceals her hair and frames her face.

Abu-Joda’s photographs appear in one of the four recently published photography books that document life in four unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev from a feminine point of view: Za’arura, Atir, Wadi al-Na’am and Alsra. The books, which are accompanied by an exhibition on display at present at Multaka-Mifgash, a Jewish-Arab cultural center in Be’er Sheva, were produced by the Negev Coexistence Forum and created during a project operated by the organization Human Rights Defenders, in which about 30 Bedouin women from the unrecognized villages participated. (more…)

Newsweek has an interesting article by Christiane Gruber, an associate professor and director of graduate studies at the University of Michigan, about Muslim cartoons against ISIS. Check it out here.

There is a nicely done satire by Sean McFate on how to take over a small country. Check it out here. Note: Only the rich may apply.

The following illustration is preserved in the New York Public Library. It features Muhammad receiving a letter from Bazan, the king of Yemen. It was created for Murad III, Sultan of the Turks, 1546-1595 by Darîr Erzurumî, fl. 14th cent.

Islamic State’s latest victims: poor defenceless Christian Ethiopians

by Samson A. Bezabeh, Open Democracy, April, 21, 2015

After all, what IS wants is to create a polarized world of Muslim vs Christians by tapping into local discontent of various sorts.

The killing was horrific for anyone with enough resolve to see the video footage. Killing a defenceless human being with no military training, with no gun or weapon in his hand, for the colour of his skin, his country of origin and/or religious faith has been the hallmark of the Islamic State (IS).

In places such as Libya and Iraq being white has become a license for being kidnapped, then tortured. The colour bar, however, has not prevented IS from further killing. The latest victims are black Ethiopians who are adherents to Christianity. The 29-minute videos which IS released show a barbaric scene where poor migrants, as defenceless as their white counterparts, are shot and beheaded while a caption reads, “ followers of the cross from the enemy of the Ethiopian church”.

Their crime is nothing other than being Christian and belonging to the Ethiopian church which has hardly gone out of its way to attack IS in any manner. Killing members of a poor minority for the faith that they are practicing does not have any honour. The many sympathisers of IS found in Africa, Europe or elsewhere in the globe should once again closely question the values that they are upholding. Every single gesture of admiration that is given IS either implicitly or explicitly, every “ like” clicked on Facebook pages, pulls the trigger on innocent Christian Ethiopians who have been butchered. (more…)

by Hind Aleryani, Your Middle East, April 29, 2013

We used to play at my aunt’s garden when we were younger…girls and boys, there was no difference… we grew up together… we used to race, play, laugh… sometimes we would fight playfully… we used to watch TV together… cry at the end of sad cartoons together… we grew a bit older… we began to study for our classes together… whenever we’d fight we used to threaten the other that we’d tell on them to the teacher… we used to play practical jokes on one another… we’d laugh with all our hearts…

And so the days went by…

My cousin and I are staring outside the window… we are looking at the garden where my male cousin and his friends are playing… this is the garden where we used to play together… they used to be our friends once upon a time… these are the boys we used to play with… what happened? Why are we prisoners at home, while they play ball outside with all freedom… what did we do? Did we grow older? Did our bodies change? Did we become an object of temptation that needs to be covered from people’s eyes? Aren’t those the boys we knew since we were children? What changed? Why are we strangers? Why do I run and hide whenever I hear one of their voices? Is it just because the pitch of his voice changed? Is that why we aren’t friends anymore? Are we supposed to act differently towards one another? Different to how we acted just yesterday? We started to act shy and anxious whenever we’d speak… we stopped playing with one another… My cousin and I began spending our spare time watching Mexican soap operas, as if we were in our 50s…

And so the days went by… (more…)

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