Saturday, 8 December 2012

The 'Arab Spring' is not over yet!

The political turmoil in the Middle East is far from being settled. Political Islam, which has come to power in Tunisia and Egypt as a result of the recent uprisings, is certainly declining towards a state of alienation and isolation. This decline is in no way surprising or unexpected especially that the Islamists lack having a vision of modern society that promotes tolerance and respects personal freedom, social justice and democracy.  This is due to an intrinsic incompatibility between highly constrained religion like Islam, that has evolved in bedouin communities, and the inescapable effects of globalisation. Moreover, the Islamists never provided any clear and coherent answers to the many pressing questions on the economy, political reforms and regional issues and conflicts. 

It is probably premature to say that the rise of secular political fronts, particularly in Egypt, will soon lead to a public consensus against political Islam, however, it will definitely narrow the gap between the Islamists' dark reality and the way they are perceived within large sectors of society. The presence of these loud secular voices will make sure that minorities are in the heart of the political struggle and not marginalised or treated horrendously. It is often forgotten or ignored that some of these minorities have been living there even before the arrival of Islam and many have contributed to the preservation and development of Arabic, the language of Qura'an!  

People in the Arab world have long sympathised with the Islamists for their suffering during the era of  ' Arab nationalists', which has arguably been exaggerated. Illiteracy, and poverty also helped in deceiving the public with the Islamists' shallow slogans and religious rhetoric.  The moment of truth has come and what's happening in Egypt could just be the beginning of the end. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

An evening with Ibrahim Nasrallah

Very few prominent Arab writers managed to combine literary excellence with deep-rooted humane principles and Ibrahim Nasrallah is certainly one of them. Meeting the author of  "The Time of White Horses" was an unmissable opportunity to get a close-up of yet another poignant Palestinian voice.
Nasrallah, as a product of the Palestinian struggle, is arguably the first writer who attempted and succeeded in transforming the many years of occupation, deportation and repression into a coherent and highly admired literary epic.

Nasrallah was invited by the History Department at Sheffield University to give a talk entitled "On Writing the Palestinian Historical Novel".  The academic nature of Nasrallah's invitation didn't prevent him from connecting with the diverse audience straight away, "heart to heart and mind to mind", as he said.

Nasrallah, as you would expect from a writer of his caliber, has an astonishing ability of forging very simple yet compelling sentences that  conveyed his message in an effortlessly beautiful way. His striking modesty and warm presence gives another dimension to his insightful words. Ibrahim Nasrallah writes for the human, irrespective of religion, race or nationality and that is exactly what makes him so special and so admired. The battle of Palestine, for him, is nothing but a battle for humanity, a battle that will eventually be victorious. That night, I had taken home  many of Nasrallah's thoughts, amongst which, one summarised the man: "I became more conscious of the suffering of other people so began to understand mine better..."