March 2010

The Iraqi poet Sinan Antoon, attending the Split This Rock Poetry Festival in Washington, D.C. last weekend, was interviewed along with two other poets on NPR on March 10. Here is a brief excerpt, but there is more at the website.

CONAN: Careful listeners can hear another person there in the studio with you at the Radio Foundation in New York City. That is Sinan Antoon, a poet and novelist originally from Iraq, and it’s good of you to be with us today, too.

Mr. SINAN ANTOON (Poet; Novelist; Assistant Professor, New York University): Thank you for having me.

CONAN: And in your tradition, we just heard about that “Poet’s Millions” program broadcast in the Gulf area. Poetry is revered in the Arab world.

Mr. ANTOON: Yes, it is. I should say about this “Million’s Poets” program, it’s not necessarily the best phenomenon we have nowadays because it supports and promotes a certain kind of populist poetry, which is important, and it has its audience. But yes, the tradition of poetry in the Arab world is 14 centuries old, and it’s been integral for the collective identity of people.

But in the modern, contemporary period, it was a very important forum for the anti-colonial struggle, for liberation and for a lot of people in expressing their resistance against dictatorships. So being a poet in the Arab world and saying what poets should say and defending the public and truth meant that, you know, poets are taken to court and are put in prison and are exiled, so… (more…)

Area: 63,800 sq. mi
Population: 4,490,000
Government: Absolute Despotism
Scenes: Merchants Buying Carpets

previous post I began a series on coffee advertising cards with Middle Eastern themes. One of the most colorful collections is that provided by the Arbuckle Coffee Company. In my great, great aunt’s album there were several Middle Eastern and North African nations represented, but from a different series than in the Arbuckle’s 1889 series. The 1889 version of Turkey is shown above, but my aunt’s version of Turkey is decidedly more imaginative:


Taliban Increasingly Unpopular in Pakistan
Four percent say Taliban’s presence is positive influence

by Julie Ray and Rajesh Srinivasan,, March 12, 2010

This article is the first of a two-part series that looks at Pakistanis’ and Afghans’ views of the Taliban’s influence and their respective countries’ efforts to combat terrorism.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Taliban’s presence on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is largely unwelcome, but increasingly so in Pakistan, where Gallup surveys show they have lost much of the little appeal they had. Four percent of Pakistanis in a November-December 2009 poll, conducted prior to Pakistan’s current push to rout the Taliban within its borders, said the Taliban’s presence in some areas of the country has a positive influence, down from 15% in June. (more…)

View of a busy marketplace in Aden. Staggering unemployment rate of around 35% hampers serious socio-economic development of the nation. People finishing high school and possessing university degrees are affected the most and according to a government survey published in 2008, 54% of graduates are unemployed/under employed. (Photo: Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak)

There is an interesting historical study of Yemen through photographs on the Foreign Policy Journal website. Click here to see the full article and pictures. Here is the opening explanation:

Recent events in Yemen have brought the country into limelight again. While Houthi rebels in the north and northeast of the country have an on-off political agreement with the government in Sanaa, al-Qaeda affiliated groups are flexing their muscles by attacking the authorities across the country. Political forces in southern Yemen are also unhappy with the economic development the region has seen since its union with the north two decades ago and talk of secession is ripe.

Though strategically located at the junction of the world’s most important waterways, the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the channel that connects world’s western shipping lines to the east, Yemen has failed to capitalise on its potential and emerge as a regional powerhouse. Instead, the country is at the brink of political mayhem and stands at #18 in the Failed States Index 2009 [1].

This photo story sheds light on Yemen’s ancient as well as recent history and discovers the factors that have hampered the country’s economic and socio-political development and brought it to the brink of disintegration.

The Human Race as it now exists upon the earth, presents great differences, in language, in civilization, in mental power, and in bodily structure. The three principal theories as to the origin of the race are: – (more…)

U.S. Rep. David Price, left, meets with Duke Muslim chaplain Abdullah Antepli, his wife Asuman, and U.S. House chaplain Rev. Daniel P. Coughlin

Antepli Delivers Opening Prayer at US House

Duke Muslim chaplain begins Wednesday session (video)

Duke University Press Release, Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Durham, NC — Duke Muslim chaplain Abdullah T. Antepli delivered the opening prayer for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., this morning. Antepli served as guest chaplain at the invitation of Congressman David Price, D-N.C.

Antepli, who joined Duke in July 2008, is one of only a handful of full-time Muslim chaplains at U.S. colleges and universities. He is the founder and executive board member of the Muslim Chaplains Association and a member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Duke Divinity School and Duke Islamic Studies Center, where he teaches courses on Islam.

Following the prayer, Rep. Price took to the floor for a short address praising Antepli as a leader who helps to bridges faiths across the campus. Video of the session is embedded below: (The prayer begins five seconds into the video; Price’s comments immediately follow the Pledge of Allegiance.)

To see the video on the Duke site, click here. (more…)

Kajol Devgan and Shah Rukh Khan

On Sunday I finally saw the new Bollywood film with Shah Rukh Khan, “My Name is Khan.” It is well worth seeing, although the minimalist dancing and singing in the film make it more Hollywood (not Fred Astaire’s) than Bollywood. Add to this the fact that many parts of the film were made in San Francisco and California and the Bollywood connection is even more estranged. The plot of the film has gaping holes, but it is not meant as a documentary. I walked away feeling good about two aspects of the film. First, it is a stirring educational lesson in Asperger’s Syndrome. One of Bollywood’s most glamorous male stars provides a moving performance of this disability, disabling those critics who dismiss the victims of the syndrome as dumb or retarded (neither of which they are).

Second, given all the Islamophobic films out there, where jihad is the only plot associated with Islam, it is refreshing to see the tables turned. While most Americans did not use 9/11 as an excuse to go out and beat up Muslims (or Sikhs or anyone who was not “white” enough), a number of prejudicial people did. The hate was real and most Muslims have felt it, even if only the cold stare. Finally here is a fantasy that goes the other way, while making Muslims heroes and lovers of peace. (more…)

Current cover illustration by Amar Raza, “A Prayer for Protection”

There is a new online journal for anyone interested in Pakistan studies. The first issue of the second volume is now available. Here is the journal description of focus:

Pakistaniaat is a refereed, multidisciplinary, open-access academic journal offering a forum for a serious scholarly and creative engagement with various aspects of Pakistani history, culture, literature, and politics.

Though several existing journals do pay a fair degree of attention to the issues of South Asia and Postcoloniality, we feel that under the current climate of high capital and war on terror, Pakistan, often subsumed under the larger registers of South Asia or Postcolonial Studies, needs a particular space of its own in our academic and creative undertakings. Thus, Pakistaniaat aims to provide a public space on the Internet to introduce and discuss hitherto neglected aspects of Pakistani cultural and literary production and to make this knowledge available to a worldwide audience. (more…)

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