Archive for International

Violence in Yemen Shows Growing Power of Insurgency– NYT

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A separatist movement in southern Yemen has gained political momentum and grown more violent recently, with a series of demonstrations and armed confrontations that have left at least eight people dead and dozens injured in the past week… .

The most recent round of violence began last Tuesday, when government troops established an additional checkpoint in the town of Radfan, in the southern Lahij Province. Angry local men attacked the checkpoint, killing two soldiers and injuring others. In the days since, demonstrations and violence have broken out in other towns, with three people killed in gun battles on Sunday. In recent weeks, a number of political figures have begun openly demanding independence for the formerly socialist south, which was autonomous until the two Yemens unified in 1990. A brief civil war in 1994 left many southerners resentful of the north, and in the past three years grievances have steadily grown.

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“THE 99”: Muslim Superheroes

there is nothing fundamentally different between Islam and any other belief on Earth or any other way of being human… For me, in the end, the 99 attributes of Allah are attributes that not only all Muslims value, but humanity values. Things like generosity, strength, wisdom, foresight, mercy… So my point of what I was trying to do was try to bring us together, versus pull us apart.

when i first heard about this muslim comic book called The 99, i thought it was a cheesy attempt by some apologetic opportunist. but after looking into it and the writer’s background, i think it’s kinda cool. an animated version of the comic book is in the making…i’d write more about it but i’m busy at work and i just finished explaining it to a friend…so i’m just going to copy and paste our convo, links and all… you’d probably enjoy the convo more anyway…it includes munchkins…and bacon…

c: man i just want to go home but i have to go to the other place after this
c: and work till midnight
a: think of munchkins plotting to bring down humanity
a: evil little munchkins
a: with superpowers
a: the ability to sweat cheese
a: so they can stink up any room they’re in
a: and cause others to pass out
c: does this world include hallucinogens?
a: of course
c: fun world
a: a friend of mine is a teacher
a: so he asks his students on the first day of class
a: if you could have any super power what would it be
a: this guy raises his hand and says the ability to sweat cheese
a: my friend thought it was the greatest thing he ever heard
c: i would have so many questions for that dude
c: what would your power be?
a: read minds
c: hmm that is risky business
a: theres a new islamic comic book
a: with 99 superheroes
a: 99 representing the 99 attributes of God
a: which Muslims believe in
c: really
a: so each superhero personifies an attribute
a: so this one character, Noor
a: possesses the attribute of Light
a: and she can strike light and holograms anywhere but the downside to her power is
a: she can see the bad in people as well, so she develops a cynical view of the world
c: wow
a: http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/kuwait605/index.html
c: sounds interesting
a: theyre screening a documentary about the making of the comic book
a: but the film is also a look at how the comic book has caused controversy in the muslim world
a: religious conservatives hate it
a: one criticism is that its idolizing these superbeings, and only God is to be idolized
c: religious conservatives hate everything except god
a: they hate god too
a: i think its funny that many of these same imams
a: praise suicide bombers and yet believe chidren shouldn’t read about muslim superheroes
a: like if he blows his limbs off and takes out others with him, hes a hero
a: and it’s ok when muslim kids look at this and see it as a positive thing
a: but they cant read a comic book that promotes God’s attributes through his creation
a: it’s like shutup and go away
c: well put
a: i went to get a halal bacon sandwich
a: and the guy forgot the bacon
a: thats the only reason why i went to get it
c: so its just a halal sandwich…
c: i love turkey bacon
a: supposedly its really good at this place
c: go back and throw it in his face like you are a rockstar
a: word
a: wheres my bacon bitch
c: exactly
—————————————————————————–
WHAM! BAM! ISLAM! is the story of Naif Al-Mutawa and THE 99- the first comic book rooted in Islamic history and culture. Since its launch in 2006, THE 99 has been both an international media sensation and a lightening rod for controversy. An intimate look at an entrepreneur and his daring venture to build a new pop-culture for young Muslims, WHAM! BAM! ISLAM! examines the shifting definitions of the sacred and the secular across the Islamic world at the dawn of the 21st century.

For more info about Wham! Bam! Islam!
http://www.endeavorfilms.com

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stereotypes n’ truths

ive been meaning to blog about this incident for some time but never really got around to it. i meet a lot of interesting people in the area where i work and some of them leave impressions on me, although i would never blog about any of our clients. recently, a photojournalist for a well known New York newspaper came by and started discussing his work with me while he was waiting (i repeat, not a client). he showed me pictures he’s taken in the middle east, mainly of children living in slum conditions. i asked him about the places he’s been to and he mentioned Iraq.

he developed enough of a rapport with me to discuss his own beliefs but he was still nervous enough to punctuate his speech a few times with the statement “between you and me…”

“between you and me” in this particular context meaning he was privileging me with his insight and trusting me with his thoughts…

he began to talk about encounters he’s had with Saddam Hussein’s personnel and how he had the honor once of meeting the man himself, and he thought him a great leader who had the courage to stand up to the U.S. government and Israel. i interrupted at some point to ask what he thought of those who consider him a brutal dictator, and what about the experiences of persecuted minorities like the Shia. he dismissed it as American propaganda and said that Saddam in fact never went after women and children, unlike our government…and how he was forced to be a firm leader because of people who threatened his rule…nevermind the historical inaccuracies of his views which i’m not about to get into.

there was one particular incident he remembered fondly, when he got to see Saddam in person…although he didn’t get to actually talk to the man, he got to watch him swim…yea, the degree to which this guy idolized Saddam did border on creepy homoeroticism…

and if his views on saddam weren’t enough, he then thought it would be a good idea to let me in on his views on the jew. the jew, a singular thing used by bigots to describe an abstract, conspiring multi-headed monster. the jew, according to the photojournalist, is cursed by God and forever marked, hence the crooked nose. the jewish bankers and politicians are why we’re in a recession, why the economy tanked, probably the reason for every bad thing to ever occur to him since birth. and then there was his theory, although technically it isn’t a theory because according to him its been foretold in the bible…of course…that there will be another great depression, even worse than the first, and the jew will assassinate Obama in order to incite a race war that will distract people from the economic situation.

ok. so i know there are lots of crazies out there running around with their crazy beliefs…but this is still kind of surprising (and slightly horrifying) because the dude works for the popular press…and although i know the world’s kooks aren’t limted to insane asylums and the east village, this encounter still bothered me mainly because of his assumptions and the reasons behind them. he thought he could expose me to his bigoted, ignorant beliefs because by virtue of my background, i could only serve to validate them…because i guess all muslims hate jews and love saddam? what i think is even more disturbing though are the reasons for his assumptions…and there is definitely a reason for why he felt he could share his warped beliefs with this particular muslim, whom he had just met. i’m not a real person to him in the sense that he knows nothing about me personally, so his openness wasn’t due to some genuine bond or trust between us. im just another arab face he’s stereotyped and he wanted me to join him in his hate fest, to nod my head in approval, to validate every word…and he’s no doubt talked to other arabs who’ve done just that. he’s talked with enough of “us” to come to the conclusion that these are the standard views of arabs/muslims, and so it wouldn’t be presumptive and just plain wrong on his part to think he could approach any one of us and expect an affirmation of his hateful views. and that’s what made this encounter especially sad.

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Children’s Drawings

Rod Cox has initiated a cultural and educational exchange of children’s pictures between Gazan schoolchildren and schoolchildren in the U.K. Health authorities in Gaza say it is really important for children’s mental health that they maintain positive contact with the rest of the world and that this project will help them.

For more info: http://rodcoxandgaza.blogspot.com/

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WHAT WOULD YOU DO FOR THE STRUGGLE?

 

 

Victor Jara was an outspoken supporter of Salvador Allende’s populist politics and helped to get him elected president in 1970. Upon the coup of 1973 and General Augusto Pinochet’s grasp of power, Victor Jara was arrested, brought to the national stadium with thousands of others, and over three days was electrocuted, his hands broken, and finally shot to death on September 15, 1973. According to his wife, with broken hands he wrote his last poem on scraps of paper that were smuggled out of the stadium by survivors. The final words of which include:

“Silence and screams are the end of my song.”

Which begs the question: What would you do for the struggle of your people?

oj

 

P.S. “El Derecho de Vivir en Paz” means “The Right to Live in Peace”

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Daydream

 

Art by Ben Heine

Art by Ben Heine

 

 DAYDREAM

Some say I’m only dreaming, putting meaning in peace meetings

That I believe in all these things that no one else is seeing.

and I feel my heart beating when I hear the voices pleading

scream in bitter agony like a two year old who’s teething

 

All these fantasies unhealthy like eating empty calories

And it’s hard to see possibilities when planes bomb factories,

Destroy economies and all the hopes inside of me.

All this shit is killing me like clogged pulmonary arteries

 

And I can’t separate myself from it, see this struggle’s a part of me.

So that explains the pain I’m feeling, why it’s so hard to breathe

And as I step in puddles of blood, my eyes grow watery

Subtly wipe the tears away, and request you to pardon me

 

‘Cause these constant calamities have made me complicit and compliant

Find myself falling to my knees when I used to stand defiant

It might be a thousand years before all these guns become silent

So I’ll stick to these dreams as a means to free me from the violence

 

It started before they reported disorder in 1948

Before they cornered three quarters of my people and forced’em to evacuate.

It’s evil.

How one people promised the land of a second people to a third people,

Spurned people to give birth to an absurd people,

a preferred people who transfer people.

Rape and murder people,

ignore world consensus and commit human rights offenses

then hide the evidence, building security fences

claiming self defense while massacring the defenseless.

 

So I’m patiently waiting for the creation of a sovereign nation

cuz a two-state negotiations is useless if it won’t end the occupation,

So I’m basically wasting my breath on deaf and dumb populations

the situation mishandled, so dismantled like Russian space stations

 

And I see them change the information to control the debate.

Say my peace is a dream, but it seems I’m the only one who’s awake.

I’m sorry if I’m mistaken, though this situation’s got my knees shakin

I can’t accept the feeling that this whole fuckin’ time.

I was only dreaming. 

 

oj

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Seamus Darwish?

belfast11

It’s amazing how closely the Irish struggle and the Palestinian struggle parallel each other. Occupying force, internal disputes, and a tie to the land that spans generations. The pen/gun image is so prominent in both uprisings – the poem below brings out the likeness so vividly. Replace “potato” with “fig” or “olive” and this poem could easily be about Palestine.  It’s strange how the similarity has come to the forefront only recently do to George Mitchell’s  appointment and that we haven’t seen more Irish flags at Palestinian protests. 

 oj

Digging Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

 

Under my window, a clean rasping sound

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:

My father, digging.  I look down

 

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds

Bends low, comes up twenty years away

Stooping in rhythm through potato drills

Where he was digging.

 

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked,

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

 

By God, the old man could handle a spade.

Just like his old man.

 

My grandfather cut more turf in a day

Than any other man on Toner’s bog.

Once I carried him milk in a bottle

Corked sloppily with paper.  He straightened up

To drink it, then fell to right away

Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods

Over his shoulder, going down and down

For the good turf.  Digging.

 

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge

Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

 

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.

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