December 2010

Illustration of Prince Agib by Harry G. Theaker from The Arabian Nights


by W. S. Gilbert

STRIKE the concertina’s melancholy string!
Blow the spirit-stirring harp like any thing!
Let the piano’s martial blast
Rouse the Echoes of the Past,
For of Agib, Prince of Tartary, I sing!

Of Agib, who amid Tartaric scenes,
Wrote a lot of ballet-music in his teens
His gentle spirit rolls
In the melody of souls –
Which is pretty, but I don’t know what it means

Of Agib, who could readily, at sight,
Strum a march upon the loud Theodolite :
He would diligently play
On the Zoetrope all day,
And blow the gay Pantechnicon all night.

One winter -I am shaky in my dates-
Came two starving minstrels to his gates,
Oh, Allah be obeyed,
How infernally they played
I remember that they called themselves the” Oiiaits.” (more…)

Photographs by Boushra Al-Mutawakel

by Yazeed Kamaldien, Yemen Times, December 16, 2010

A packed crowd swarmed around the Sana’a Styles: Fashion and Identity photo exhibition and artworks event earlier this week, when it opened at the House of Culture on Al-Qasr Street in Sana’a.

Striking photographic essays plastered the venue walls. Large color portraits of Muslim women wearing the hijab, or Islamic headscarf, photos showing women in black veils surrounded by contemporary fashion and snapshots of ordinary Yemenis making a statement with their everyday clothes.

Photographer Sophie Elmenthaler showed a series of photos under the title ‘Hijab and High Heels’. These pictures showed fashion for women that would reveal skin if worn in public, but that Yemeni women would only wear in private. The images included clothes labeled the “cheapest goods from China and India” sold in Sana’a.

A short film showed Yemenis talking about the clothes they wear and what motivates their sense of style. Another series of photos showed women in various uniforms and cultural dress, commenting on how clothes ensured that individuals became part of the communities where they live.

“People with a strong sense of assertiveness accept identities of their social group,” reads the statement from this series of photos. (more…)

Dr. Hawa Abdi runs a hospital in Somalia and stands up to extremists there; photograph by Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times.

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, The New York Times, December 15, 2010

What’s the ugliest side of Islam? Maybe it’s the Somali Muslim militias that engage in atrocities like the execution of a 13-year-old girl named Aisha Ibrahim. Three men raped Aisha, and when she reported the crime she was charged with illicit sex, half-buried in the ground before a crowd of 1,000 and then stoned to death.

That’s the extremist side of Islam that drives Islamophobia in the United States, including Congressional hearings on American Muslims that House Republicans are planning for next year.

But there’s another side of Islam as well, represented by an extraordinary Somali Muslim woman named Dr. Hawa Abdi who has confronted the armed militias. Amazingly, she forced them to back down — and even submit a written apology. Glamour magazine, which named Dr. Hawa a “woman of the year,” got it exactly right when it called her “equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo.”

Dr. Hawa, a 63-year-old ob-gyn who earned a law degree on the side, is visiting the United States to raise money for her health work back home. A member of Somalia’s elite, she founded a one-room clinic in 1983, but then the Somalian government collapsed, famine struck, and aid groups fled. So today Dr. Hawa is running a 400-bed hospital. (more…)

The National Library of Medicine has a splendid manuscript collection, including an 18th century Persian text with illustrations. Here is the information from the webpage, with two of the illustrations provided here.

Anonymous Persian Anatomical Illustrations. [Iran or Pakistan, ca. 1680-1750].
Anonymous Persian Anatomical Illustrations.

The National Library of Medicine owns approximately 300 Persian and Arabic manuscripts dating from the eleventh to the nineteenth centuries. Most of these manuscripts deal with medieval medicine and science and were written for learned physicians and scientists. Among them are a number of anonymous anatomical treatises or groups of anatomical drawings.

The two featured here consist of a Persian bloodletting figure and a venous figure, probably drawn in the 18th century but based on earlier models (MS P 5 fol. A); and six early-modern anatomical drawings showing some European and Indian influences (MS P 20, item 2).

Six Early Modern Anatomical Illustrations

Six anonymous anatomical drawings occur on folia 554-559 at the end of a volume containing Tibb al-Akbar (Akbar’s Medicine) by Muhammad Akbar, known as Muhammad Arzani (d. 1722/ 1134) in an undated copy probably made in the 18th century. The paper on which these figures are drawn, however, is distinct from that of the main text, though similar in many respects. The illustrations appear to be unrelated to the accompanying text and to draw upon Indian and early-modern sources.

One full-opening of the manuscript, folia 554b-555a, contains two full-figure anatomical illustrations, one of a female and one of a male. (more…)

Swedish-Iraqi immigrants protest in central Stockholm, where a car bomb exploded two days ago December 13, 2010. The placard on left reads, “Swedish Iraqis against terrorism”. REUTERS/Bertil Ericson

The recent bomb attempt in Sweden has been linked to an Iraqi who grew up in Sweden. Not much has been written about the influx of Iraqis to Sweden, whose open door policy in the past has led to it being a haven for refugees. However, one of my students, Sarah Skiold-Hanlin conducted an ethnographic project on Swedish reactions to the Iraqi community in the summer of 2008. Her research paper, an Honor’s Thesis in the Department of Anthropology at Hofstra, is available online and I recommend it for anyone wanting more information on the subject of Iraqis in Sweden.

I attach Sarah’s introduction below, but encourage you to read her entire paper:

“One place where many Iraqis have found refuge from the war is Sweden,” stated Renee Montagne, the host of NPR’s Morning Edition. This was her opening line as she introduced the news story titled: Sweden Begins Sending Iraqi Refugees Home. The story aired March 25, 2008. Renee goes on to explain how the “many Iraqis” numbered somewhere in the range of 20,000. A momentary flash of elation followed this opening as my mind began turning over the meaning, estimating its possible weight. Perhaps Sweden, a nation with which I have close family ties, could help rectify the political actions of my country of birth. But like trying to dam the Mississippi River with a box of pop sickle sticks and a bottle of Elmer’s Glue, the flow of refugees fleeing the war in Iraq is far to numerous for one small Scandinavian country to hold. Renee’s voice fervently interjected as she continued washing away my melodic dreams of relief and solution to the persistent humanitarian crisis plaguing so many civilians. “The Swedish government is stopping that flow of Iraqi refugees and sending some back home against their will,” she reported. (more…)

Interview with Salwa al-Neimi
in al-Qantara, 7/2010

The novel The Proof of the Honey by Syrian author Salwa al-Neimi is celebrated by some as a milestone of modern Arabic literature and condemned by others as scandalous prose. In an interview with Rim Najmi, the author explains that despite the lightness of its literary style, her novel poses fundamental intellectual and political questions

Your first novel, The Proof of the Honey, attracted a great deal of attention from both readers and critics alike. The most frequent response had more to do with your “courage” in tackling one of the greatest taboo themes in Arab culture and less with the literary qualities of your novel. What do you think was the decisive factor for all the attention?

Salwa al-Neimi: Thank you for this question. I always say the success of the book is primarily based on its language and style. I make this claim even though most of the critics tend to emphasize the theme of the novel and the fact that it crosses the red line. Unfortunately, they have little interest in the actual text itself. Some critics constantly talk about freedom of expression, although this often turns out to be just an end in itself. When it comes to a contemporary text, it is often judged in terms of moral categories, which is just another form of censorship.

By Arab standards, your novel, The Proof of the Honey, sold in record numbers in only a short time. It has also been translated into many languages. What does the international publication of your work mean to you?

Al-Neimi: First and foremost, I wrote The Proof of the Honey for Arab readers. (more…)

A friend sent these photographs of Sanaa, but I do not know the name of the photographer.

By Roger Cohen, The New York Times, December 6, 2010

PERRY, OKLAHOMA — They call Oklahoma the buckle of the Bible Belt. It’s the state where all 77 counties voted Republican when Barack Obama was elected and where 70.8 percent of the electorate last month approved a “Save Our State Amendment” banning Islamic, or Shariah, law.

So I decided to check the pulse of a resurgent conservative America at the Kumback Café. The Kumback, established 1926, is a cozy, memorabilia-filled joint that sits opposite the courthouse in downtown Perry, population 5,230.

Things work like this at the Kumback: The guys, average age about 80, arrive around 8 a.m. and get talking on “the whole gamut of life”; the girls, average age too indelicate to print, gather later at a horse-shoe shaped table toward the back. Ken Sherman, 86 and spry, explained: “We’ve got to come here every day to find out what’s going on. And by the time we leave we forget.”

I asked Paul Morrow, a whippersnapper at 71, how things were going. “There’s just too much Muslim influence, all this Shariah law,” he said. “We’re conservative here, old and cantankerous.” (more…)

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