May 2009

Souhail Kaspar

Alwan for the Arts Presents:

Concert: Master Percussionist Souhail Kaspar and Rachid Halihal: An Evening of Gulf Music

Souhail Kaspar – Percussion
Rachid Halihal – Voice and ‘Oud
and special guest artists

Saturday, May 16, 2009 9:00 pm
Doors open at 8:30 p.m.
$20/$15 students with I.D.
Purchase tickets online here:

Watch/Listen to Souhail:

The term “Khaliji” has come to represent the culture of the Arab nations of the Persian/Arabian Gulf. The music of these nations has gained tremendous popularity throughout the Arab World in recent years. (more…)

Khouloud el-Faqeeh argues a legal point in her West Bank office. In March, she became one of the two first female Islamic judges in the Middle East.

New female judge transforms Islamic court

Khouloud el-Faqeeh is part Judge Judy, part Sunday School teacher.
By Ilene R. Prusher,The Christian Science Monitor, May 10, 2009

Ramallah, West Bank:

Khouloud el-Faqeeh has shattered the glass ceiling of Islamic jurisprudence.

After years of pushing to break into the all-male ranks of sharia judges in the Palestinian territories, she finally secured a post after scoring among the best – along with another woman – in a recent test for new jurists. They are widely considered to be the first female sharia judges in the Middle East.

Now, Ms. Faqeeh is setting a new tone in her Ramallah courtroom, where defendants are often shocked to see a woman on the bench. With a style that’s part Judge Judy, part Sunday School teacher, she’s on a mission to change her society, case by case. But sometimes, even the most progressive intentions won’t overcome powerful social forces, such as those driving Miryam Abed-Nabi, a newlywed who came to court recently to finalize a divorce. Her husband – Fahmi Awadullah, a man twice her age – took her as a second wife just a few months ago. But the marriage infuriated his adult sons, who worried about their portion of his inheritance. (more…)

The Iraq War will not go away with a whimper. There are too many callous individuals with a vested interest in suicide bombing and too little real progress in everyday security and opportunity. The pundits, some swirling like vultures and others cooing like doves, are picking apart the pieces of the Bush administration’s bungling. One of the main players, who probably was not booted out too soon, was Paul Bremer, the Old West style sheriff of Iraq from May, 2003 until June, 2004. Among the more controversial decisions made under Bremer was the dissolution of the Iraqi Army. It is hard to find anyone these days who thinks this was a good idea, given that it was an army of conscripts who were quite likely to follow orders and help restore order. But Bremer is cashing in on the pundit circuit. Here is an interview given to the newspaper Asharq Alawsat. Some of the insights are enlightening. For instance, the military found Saddam by getting information freely given by an insurgent with no waterboarding in sight. But on other matters, Bremer lives up to the old saw that history is a pack of lies agreed upon. The only problem is that few people, and certainly few historians, will agree with Bremer. There, of course, lies the problem.

Asharq Al-Awsat Talks to Paul Bremer (Part One)

By Talhah Jibril, Asharq Alawsat, May 12, 2009

Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat – Paul Bremer was the de-facto Governor of Iraq between 11 May 2003 and 28 June 2004 in his role as the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. As US Administrator of Iraq Bremer was the chief executive authority in the country and was effectively in charge of all Iraqi civil administration following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and prior to the creation of the Iraqi Interim government. Bremer’s stewardship of Iraq was plagued with controversy, particularly his decision to disband the Iraqi army, as well as his implementation of the policy of Debathification. Critics have attributed the strength of the insurgency and the worsening situation in Iraq during this period to some of his policies. (more…)

The Old Faithful of Nonsense

By Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post, Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Can’t we send Dick Cheney back to Wyoming? Shouldn’t we chip in and buy him a home where the buffalo roam and there’s always room for one more crazy old coot down at the general store?

For the final act of his too-long public career, Cheney seems to have decided to become an Old Faithful of self-serving nonsense. His latest in a series of eruptions came Sunday on “Face the Nation,” when he continued to press his revisionist case for torture — and, for good measure, counseled his beloved Republican Party to marginalize itself even further from public opinion and common sense. (more…)

Al-Midhar mosque, Tarim, Hadramawt, Yemen

by Abdulaziz Oudhah, Yemen Observer, May 7, 2009

The Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) chose Tarim as an Islamic cultural Capital for 2010, after an agreement was reached during a meeting of Islamic Cultural Ministers in Algiers in 2004. A number of Islamic, Arab, Asian, and African towns were nominated in the process to choose three towns each year to be recognized as Islamic culture capitals.

ISESCO General Manger Abdulaziz al-Tawijri, said that the Islamic capitals program aims to promote the spread of Islamic culture, renew its content, perpetuate its message, and revive the cities’ glorious culture and civilization. The capitals are chosen according to specific standards, which consider the role that they have played in serving Islamic culture, art, science, and knowledge throughout their history. The legacy of these cultural capitals is important to the construction of present and future memory, which is inspired by Islamic civilization. (more…)

For those fortunate enough to own a MAC computer there is the digital blessing of ITunes. One of the stations listed under “Eclectic” is “The 1920’s Radio Network” which features jazz and vaudeville songs from the 20s through the 40s. Every once in awhile along comes one of those “Oriental” tunes, usually riding stereotypes into the desert on a sand-blasted camel of Araby. One I recently heard manages to offend both Egyptians and obese women (not to mention any serious poet). This is Egyptian Ella, not to be confused with Ella Fitzgerald, who did not debut until four years after this tune was written by Walter Doyle and popularized by Ted Weems and his orchestra.

Egyptian Ella

by Walter Doyle

Ella was a dancing girl who started getting fat
Every day saw three more pounds on Ella
Until one day she found she’d lost her job because of that
And to make it worse, she’d lost her fella
She took a trip to Egypt to forget
And she made such a hit that she’s there yet … (more…)

by el-Sayed el-Aswad, United Arab Emirates University

The UAE has developed amenable ways of synchronizing localism with globalism. It is hard to erase specificities that create a misleading portrait of a single global culture. However, Emirati local culture transforms and appropriates aspects of the global into a unique system of local social meaning. The young generations of the Emirates, for instance, have succeeded in assimilating outside influences without deserting their heritage. They have expressed their pride generated by their ability to combine both local culture and modern, global ways of life. They speak Arabic with Emirati dialects, eat indigenous food, use incense and wear traditional costumes (including veils for women) so as to symbolically identify themselves with their traditional society, but, at the same time, they speak English and employ symbols signifying western ‘global’ modernity, such as using computers, eating Western fast food, consuming expensive perfumes, and driving extravagant four wheel-drive cars. However, it can be argued that symbols of modernity do not fundamentally alter people’s beliefs, values, or culture. (more…)

Iblis (the Devil) from The Book of Nativities (Kitâb al-Mawalid) by Abû Ma’shar, 15th Century.

by Suroosh Irfani, Daily Times (Pakistan), May 7, 2009

Jewish denial during the war is perilously instructive for Pakistan today: a country where the founding spirit of justice and democracy is blighted by falsehood and fear. Small wonder that last month, Prime Minister Gilani virtually ignored the seditious speech of Sufi Muhammad.

Noted Saudi novelist Turki al Hamad’s novel, Kharadib, has sold over 20,000 copies in the Arab world since publication in 1999. Al Hamad continues to live in the Saudi capital Riyadh, despite fatwas of Saudi clerics against him, and Al Qaeda branding him an apostate.

The reason? Hamad’s teenaged protagonist in the controversial novel dares to ponder the question of God and the devil.

King Abdullah, then the Crown Prince, reportedly offered Hamad bodyguards for his protection, while reputed Saudi scholar Sheikh Ali al Khudair, who initially censured Hamad, withdrew his fatwa in 2003.

The retraction suggests that the musings of Hamad’s protagonist on “religion, sex and politics, the three taboos in Saudi society” had triggered a rethink on an issue that Muslim luminaries like Jalaluddin Rumi (d.1273) had addressed, long before German writer Goethe cast the devil in new light in his epic poem Faust in the 19th century.

However, it remained for Allama Iqbal’s genius to bring together Goethe and Rumi in a discourse on the devil, burnishing wisdom of the past with his own insights on evil. The upshot of it all is a realisation that “evil is not mere darkness that vanishes when light arrives. This darkness has as positive an existence as light,” as Javed Iqbal, former Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, notes in “Devil in the triangle of Rumi, Iqbal and Goethe” in Iqbal Review. (more…)

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