October 2007

What better place for the Republican wolf-no-longer-in-sheepish-clothing pack to have a demolition derby debate than Orlando, home of Disney’s fantasy view of America and chosen site for a dodgeball game with reporters (not deciders, of course) from Fox News? Not since the missing chads of 2000 has so much heat been generated in Florida over such an important outcome. Whatever round this is in the GOP run-up to the election, this time they all came out itchin’ for a good-old-boy fight, apparently ready to shed their “family values” political correctness if only for a night. All of the candidates took pot shots at Hillary, playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey until the audience fell on their conservatively smart asses laughing. Fred laid a few low blows on Rudy, who kicked back with his own street smarts. Mitt and McCain were able to raise a little cain. Then there were the also-theres, including the recent third-place values man, Governor and former Baptist minister Mike Huckabee. Taking a page out of Rudy’s play book, he played the fear card. In one of his responses he noted that the greatest threat that has ever faced America (get ready for a history lesson) is Islamofascism. In a recent online interview he laid out his apocalyptic scenario:

“There’s almost an inevitability, not just a possibility. It will happen again. (more…)

[Note: Numerous excerpts of this popular Syrian Ramadan serial can be found on Youtube, starting with episode 1. The following is a commentary in Asharq Alawsat.]

by Mshari Al-Zaydi, Asharq Alawsat, Saturday 20 October 2007

I will admit to watching the Bab al Hara (Alley Gate) series with the same fervor normally reserved for football finals. Moving from one café to another on Jeddah’s al Tahlia Street, I watched this session’s last episode. The young crowd present, dressed in t-shirts and baggy jeans, burst into a warm round of applause at the end of the show – which is quite a rare reaction among Saudi viewers.

This second-part sequel to the Syrian television series is, in fact, an undeniable phenomenon; some in Saudi even exchanged Eid ul-Fitr felicitations that were inspired by stories in the series.

But this phenomenon has reached farther and wider than just Saudi alone, many viewers in various Arab states; even Arabs living abroad, regularly tuned in and set their alarm clocks to the show’s airing time.

Perhaps this huge success is what prompted the show’s producers to make a third series for next year. Such was its popularity that even some clerics were involved in this commotion; among them was Sheikh Salah Kuftaro, son of the former late Syrian Grand Mufti Ahmad Kuftaro and the Director-General of the Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro Academy, who publicly acclaimed the show and invited its cast to a Ramadan Iftar held in their honor. Likewise, Kuwaiti Islamist MP Walid al Tabtabai also praised the series. (more…)

The demise of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime took place over five years ago. Most of the card-carrying players in the American liberation deck have been found, including the literal ace in the hole, Saddam. In a trial so lengthy and full of delays that it has dropped almost entirely out of sight in the media, the next sacrificial wolf is the man dubbed “Chemical Ali” in the West. Lacking remorse, this chemical engineer of mass killing is well aware there is nothing he can do to stop his own death. But it ain’t over until the fat lady sings and the noose tightens. If the story of Chemical Ali has faded from your memory, here is a refresher from Al-Jazeera:

Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddam Hussein’s cousin, and widely known as “Chemical Ali”, will be executed “in the coming days,” an Iraqi government spokesman has said.

Legal arguments and religious holidays have delayed al-Majid’s execution, which was confirmed on September 4 by the Iraqi supreme court and due to be implemented within 30 days.

Al-Majid was convicted earlier this year of presiding over the killing of thousands of Kurds during the Anfal campaign in the 1980s.

Asked whether he would be hanged soon, Ali al-Dabbagh said: “I think so, yes, in the coming days.”

Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, delayed the hanging of al-Majid until after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which ended on Monday. (more…)

Published in Islamica Magazine, September 2007

For seven of my twenty-nine years, my existence as an American Muslim public diplomat and human rights lawyer has revolved around being an honest public voice to the masses since the tragedy of 9/11. From high-level political delegations to regular TV appearances as the ‘Muslim Guy’ on international media (either condemning terrorism or swashbuckling notorious Islamophobes who demonize Muslims); a simple Google or YouTube search will have my record speak for itself.

I have condemned terrorist knuckleheads like Osama bin Laden & Company. Notwithstanding the categorical prohibition of suicide and civilian attacks in Islam, these murderous knuckleheads have done nothing but add madness to already existing madness in our world. From Bali to Madrid to London, my seething disgust increases exponentially each time their irreligious attacks occur. When a 9-year old child (anywhere in the world) is considered to be a ‘legitimate target’, you know that these maniacs have lost their bloody minds committing ungodly acts of mass murder. (more…)

[Note: This is the seventh in a series of translations of selected letters of the noted Iraqi poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab. For information on the poet, click here.]

Letter #8 3/4/1958


Dear Brother, Yusuf (al-Khal),

“I have a million things to do.” These are your words that I now repeat constantly. The truth is that I feel embarrassed in front of you and my dear friend Adunis due to this silence on my part. But… if you were in my place, you would both forgive me. From early morning until long after midnight, I work constantly to earn a few dirhams…I also have a personal commitment to read and write poetry.

I have read what transpired during the Thursday gathering of Shi’r Magazine. I have also read your “exaggerations.” The colloquial language – as Adunis said – is incapable of sustaining the causes that the Modern Arab Poet writes about. Only the Communists insist that the poet should write in a language and a style that the general public understands. The general public lacks cultural awareness. If we wanted to conform to the general public, then we would need to lag behind culturally and intellectually. We would have to relinquish our depth and give up art and many other things. Poetry – like all sublime arts in our present age- is not meant to be for everyone or to be a political instrument. It is neither a movie nor a newspaper article. (more…)

by Brian Whitaker

Visit an Arab bookshop and there’s a fair chance you’ll find more than a few copies of Shifra Dafinshi and the tales of Hari Butor. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m talking here about Arabic translations of The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter.

While titles such as these find a ready market in the Middle East, just as they do elsewhere, people often lament the poor state of home-grown Arabic publishing and the dearth of worthwhile books translated into Arabic from other languages. (more…)

Tattoo artists are often skilled calligraphers, but what do you do if you want a tattoo in Arabic script? If you can’t make it to Patterson, New Jersey or some hippy stranded in Casablanca, there is always the Internet. Google to the rescue:

If you are considering having Arabic writing tattooed, then you need the correct translation for the lettering as well as the outline to give to the tattoo artist. We can provide you with this service. We translate using either Syrian Arabic, Israeli Arabic, or Druze Arabic.

Ordering a translation from us is simple:

1. Go to the translation-page and make payment.

2. Include the word or phrase that you want translated

3. Within a few hours-days, we will email the translated phrase or word back to you. Your translation comes in the form of a picture (jpeg, jpg) which you can print out on your printer and take to your tattoo artist.

For Arabic you have to double your pain: the needle and pulling out your credit card to have an expert spell out “Ummi” or “Qalbi.” Just don’t let them sell you any “khara.”

By the way, when I tried the “contact” click, I found the following message:

This website is for sale.
Please send your purchase offer to:
mail at jandrewsmedia.com

The law of supply and demand strikes again. Ma’a laysh.

What might be the top story coming out of Afghanistan today? Another Korean missionary kidnapped by the Taliban, a new estimate of a bumper poppy crop, yet again a suicide bombing in Kabul? These are too obvious to be news anymore. How about the largely unused and downright laughable Kabul Golf Course? This is the front-and-center story with two color pictures on the front page of today’s New York Times. And for those who can click a mouse, there is a slide show with thirteen (not a lucky number for an amateur) photographs.

This is no ordinary golf course, which is one of the reasons it makes the first page. Here is the description reported today by Kirk Semple:

It is the Kabul Golf Course, Afghanistan’s only one, and Mr. Abdul, who picked up a putter for the first time when he was 10, is its director and golf pro.

The nine-hole course is extraordinarily rugged by any standard. (more…)

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