December 2011

by Samuli Schielke، “You’ll be late for the revolution!”: Samuli Schielke’s Diary of the Egyptian Revolution, December 11, 2011

[Webshaykh’s note: The following is an excerpt from an essay by Samuli Schielke “about Lenin, Tahrir, Islamists, poetry, choice and destiny in an attempt to provide some sort of theoretical synthesis of a confusing experience. It is the very slightly modified transcript of a lecture I gave at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte on 6 December 2011.” For the full essay. click here.]

The elections are now bringing a landslide victory of Islamic religious parties. I was just reading the results of the first round – we don’t have the final results because the elections take place in three rounds, different provinces voting at different times (the electoral law requires every polling station to be supervised by a judge and there are not enough judges in the country). One third of Egypt’s provinces have voted now. The results show that about sixty per cent of the vote of the party lists go to two Islamist party alliances, one of them the Muslim Brotherhood who are conservative, and one of them the Salafis who are badass fundamentalists. This has completely surprised some people, but anybody who has actually been following the situation in the streets has not been surprised at all. Actually the Muslim Brotherhood got less votes than one would think. With 36% of the vote, they actually did badly. They should have gotten 50%.

In a country that just had a revolutionary uprising against a corrupt system that was not an uprising in religious terms but one in terms of social justice, or freedom, or human dignity, why did people vote for Islamic parties? One of them, the Muslim Brotherhood, supported the revolution (but sided with the Army very soon afterwards), the other, the Salafis, were actually supporting Mubarak. Why did people vote for them? (more…)

by By Tom Finn, Time, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011

Read more:,8599,2102183,00.html#ixzz1gXKFNc14
During the day, Taiz, a mountainous municipality nestled in the basin of Yemen’s rugged central highlands, has the feel of any other Yemeni city. Scrawny teenagers with wheelbarrows filled with oranges weave in and out of the traffic dodging debabs — local six-seater microbuses — and motorbikes as they splutter up and down the city’s steep, dusty alleyways. But once the sun begins to set and the mountains surrounding the bowl of the city darken into jagged silhouettes, the wail of the muezzins soon competes with the ominous thud of explosions.

Taiz is famed for its doctors, lawyers and relative cosmopolitanism, but it was its youth who in February jump-started the movement in Yemen to oust the wily, decades-long ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh, from power. Inspired by their counterparts in Tunis and Cairo, a group of men and women — most of them students — erected a circle of tents on a dusty boulevard in downtown Taiz and named it Freedom Square. Since then they have spent months braving a barrage of bullets, batons and tear-gas canisters from the security forces, marching through the city’s grubby streets and calling for change. (See photos of Yemen on the brink.)

But in recent weeks the conflict in Taiz has taken on a more deadly twist. (more…)

In the words of George M. Cohan from about a century ago, Johnny got his gun and the Yanks went “over there” and “they won’t come back ’til it’s over over there.” Billy Murray (the singer you probably do not know) sang it on Edison Records (the blue amberol cylinders you may never have heard). American troops have been over to several other “theres” since World War I, but ironically the longest lasting one has officially ended this morning in Iraq. There are only 4,000 troops of a high of 170,000 still left on the ground, a number less than the total of U.S. forces killed during the last nine years in Iraq. But if you think this is really “over”, think twice. The U.S. embassy will be the largest in the world with 15,000-16,000 people taking over a former air base.

The lingering question, for those who are even aware that Iraq is still on the current events map, is whether or not it was worth it. What started out as a big “if” (if there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq) has made this an ever bigger “it.” As a ground war it was almost over as soon as it began. Sweeping through Iraqi territory to Baghdad was on the order of a Blitzkrieg; it was the ersatz policy for ensuring peaces that has been the problem. Iraq had no stockpiles of wmds. Yes, Saddam was a brutal dictator that most Iraqis were glad to see go, but few Iraqis have enjoyed the American occupation that ensued. The sectarian violence that continues to this day has ripped the society apart. Age-old fault lines of ethnic and religious were buried in historical rhetoric, but it was our invasion and inept mopping up that opened the wounds anew. The blood of tens of thousands of Iraqis is a legacy of this war that tarnishes any sense of having a “mission accomplished.” (more…)

Spirit of the Union (UAE)

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

Over the past forty years there have been rapid transformations of the United Arab Emirates from rural and tribal communities to modern national states. Such transformations raise critical concerns related to authenticity, heritage, and social memory and identity construction. Heritage, indicating past and authentic lifestyles that people use in the construction of their identity, can be redefined according to a modern significance. Identity refers to the continuity of inherent constituents that last through all the various transformations individuals might undergo. Identity is not a given, but an ongoing activity that people engage in all the time.

In the UAE one observes continuous negotiations over ideas of authenticity, tradition, identity, modernity, leadership, and local-national performances. For example, this year the UAE is celebrating its 40th anniversary in terms of authenticity. The official site of the UAE National Day, “Spirit of the Union”, includes such phrase as “Our Heritage, Our Pride,” “the Union shall forever remain,” and “It is the Spirit of the Union that celebrates our culture and heritage, and yet shapes our future.”

Tradition is negotiated because it enters into the construction of social identity that is based on the concept of authenticity (aṣāla). For the Emirates, aṣāla (or aṣīl) is a multiple meaning concept that can imply values of rootedness, descent, origin, nobility, honor, self-sufficiency and social status. Authenticity also refers to good manners of people, men and women, defining gender relations. (more…)

ذكرت مصادر محلية بمديرية زبيد بمحافظة الحديدة مساء يوم أمس الجمعة بأن حريقا” هائلا” تسبب في تشويه المنظر التاريخي لسقف المبنى الأثري الواقع في بوابة سهام بالجهة الشمالية لمدينة زبيد القديمة بمحافظة الحديدة ، بالإضافة إلى إتلاف كمية كبيرة من الأخشاب المزينة بالنقوش الإسلامية الأثرية جراء الحريق الذي لم تعرف أسبابه حتى اللحظة .

وأشارت مصادر أمنية بالمديرية بأن ألسنة اللهب اشتعلت في المبنى الأثري التاريخي لبوابة مدينة زبيد الأثرية المعروفة ببوابة سهام ما أدى إلى احتراق سقف البوابة بالكامل إلى جانب كمية كبيرة من الأخشاب القديمة المزينة بالزخارف والنقوش التي لا تقدر بثمن.

وأضافت المصادر بأن أبناء زبيد لم يتمكنوا من أخماد الحريق الذي تصاعد بشكل مخيف في المبنى الاثري ولا تزال التحقيقات جارية لمعرفة أسباب ودوافع الحريق.

هذا وكانت زبيد قد أدرجت في قائمة التراث الإنساني العالمي في العام 1993م , واعطت منظمة اليونسكو التابعة للأمم المتحدة اليمن مهلة للبدء في تنفيذ برنامج إنقاذي شامل لحماية ما تبقى من المعالم الأثرية في المدينة التاريخية والتي باتت مهددة بالاندثار قبل أن تباشر “اليونسكو” في إجراءات شطبها من قائمة التراث الإنساني بصورة نهائية.

Over a week ago Yemen’s beleaguered President Ali Abdullah Salih finally stepped down after taking power in North Yemen 33 years ago during a military coup. Having promised three times to sign a deal worked out by the Gulf Cooperation Council, the fourth time was finally the charm. Saudi television carried the signing ceremony live from Riyadh, with the Saudi King Abdullah calling this a “turning of a new page” for its neighbor to the south.

The final details were negotiated by UN envoy Jamal Benomar. The transition is being directed by the current Vice-President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi. The first stage is forming a government of national reconciliation within two weeks. The new ministers will include half from the President’s ruling party and half from the opposition Joint Meeting Parties, with 20% of the positions reserved for women. In each case a minister of one party will have a deputy minister from another party. The cabinet has now been formed (click here to read the brief resumes of the cabinet officers in Arabic). (more…)

The so-called “Arab Spring” has sprung a moralistic leak. The fallen dictators were hardly prime specimens of devout examples for their people. Whatever differences there were between Ben Ali, Mubarak, Qaddafi, Ali Abdullah Salih and Bashshar al-Asad, all have self identified as holding back the tide of Islamic extremism. As elections are being held in Tunisia and Egypt, it is quite clear that conservative religious parties are making the most gains. The “secular” ideals supposedly upheld by the strong men (who embraced the secular mainly to bleed the wealth of their countries and garner Western military aid) are clearly being challenged. All the hype about letting democracy bloom in these “Arab” lands is now coming back to haunt the hawks who thought democracy was just another word for approving American foreign policy. Finally given a voting choice, it seems that those who brought down the dictators prefer having leaders with more conservative religious values.

All of a sudden the Huntingtonian clash talk is gathering more momentum. The idea that any political party would hoist the banner of “Islam” is scaring Western commentators. Some journalists, who try to be sympathetic to the people they write about, argue for nuance. Wednesday Nick Kristof wrote an oped in the New York Times about an apparently with-it young woman of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, arguing that she is just an ordinary person who happens to wear a hijab. Maybe, maybe not: this is one of those situations where indeed only time will tell.

Drowning out a semblance of nuance are the Islamophobes who are having a field day with the spate of silly fatwas coming out of Egypt (and elsewhere). Within the last couple of days it seems like The Onion has been scooped by sites like Jihad Watch. The wishy-watchers on that Watch quote al-Arabiya, so we learn: (more…)

Q2 Music Album of the Week for December 6, 2011 | Free Download of “Four Critical Models: III. Catchword An Oriental Model”
WQXR, Tuesday, December 06, 2011

There’s an embarrassment of riches on Critical Models, the debut solo album by 20-something composer Mohammed Fairouz. And yet the chamber nature of the record’s six pieces lends an unshakable sense of intoxicating intimacy.

A contemporary of Gabriel Kahane and Nico Muhly, Fairouz is a composer with an equally distinguished pedigree (he was one of Ligeti’s last students), but with a different brand of sound that replaces Muhly’s unabashed exuberance for introspective intensity and Kahane’s droll humor for incisive wit. Album opener Litany starts off with a whisper of flute, oboe and clarinet, before opening into a richly woven woodwind tapestry of neoclassical rhythms and unsettling fluid lines. The composition ends palindrome-like on the same subtle note that begins the four-and-a-half–minute work.

Litany sets the tone for an album that is a study in contrasts, full of setting and implied text that forms the basis to many of Fairouz’s works. Title work Four Critical Models careens between Fairouz’s dual identities as American and Middle Eastern, traditional and modern, with distinct references to Edward Said and his brand of orientalist studies (the captivating third movement, An Oriental Model, is most effectively schizophrenic). (more…)

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