Wadi al-Safi by Mamoun Sakkal for Al Jadid

Wadi al-Safi’s voice carried over almost a century.When Lebanese singer and composer died on 11 October 2013, at nearly 92 years of age, his professional career which began when he was only 12 years old, spanned 80 years. Born Wadi Francis on the first of November 1921 to a poor family in the Mount Lebanon village of Niha in Al-Shuf district, his father, Beshara Gabriel Francis, a police officer, and mother, Shafiqa Shadid al-’Ujil, moved their family to Beirut when Wadi was nine. In Beirut, he attended a Catholic school where he began singing at its religious choir. That early experience of chanting religious hymns stayed with Wadi until his final days.

Amin Maalouf by Mamoun Sakkal for Al Jadid

Politicians recognized the position Amin Maalouf occupies in France and the francophone world well before the Academy; these politicians include the Presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy who made the author of “Leo Africanus” (Leo the African) accompany them in their visits to Lebanon. And how embarrassing it seemed when President Chirac, in his 1996 visit to Lebanon, introduced his “friend” Maalouf to the three presidents of Lebanon: President Elias Hrawi, Prime minister Rafik Hariri, and House Speaker Nabih Berri. Can you imagine that scene? Lebanese top officials waiting for a French president to convene a meeting between them and a renowned Lebanese author. Perhaps these men found it strange for a novelist to accompany presidents in political missions?

Anthony Shadid by Mamoun Sakkal for Al Jadid

The story of Anthony Shadid may not be that different from the story of most Lebanese who left Lebanon during the civil war, or even those who were born in the diaspora to Lebanese parents. Those Lebanese – Americans whom we met during our forced immigration to America, with their old-accents and unusual Arabic expressions would reminisce, during our first encounter with them in the grocery store of the South End neighborhood of Boston, about their parents’ stories of the ‘good old country,’ or their own struggles in their journeys to America, remembering with a tint of nostalgia a certain village that they had abandoned in the South or the Mountains of Lebanon.

The Taif accord of 1989 is best known for its signature accomplishment – bringing the Lebanese civil war to an official conclusion.  However, the accord had other important functions as it was sold to the Lebanese public, warring factions, and foreign-interest groups alike as an interim arrangement with the purported goal of doing away with the confessional political system. Furthermore, the document stipulated that this be accomplished in an expedient manner, so it made quick concessions such as giving legal immunity to the militias, and even rehabilitating their blood-soaked leaders as politicians.

Composer Marcel Khalife in Al Faihaa Auditorium, Damascus, during the festival of "Damascus 2008 Capital of Arab Culture." The concert was a tribute to Mahmoud Darwish under the title "And We Love Life, If we find a way to it." Photo by Jamal Saidi

Marcel Khalife’s newly released CD, “Fall of the Moon,” and the corresponding world tour in memory of poet Mahmoud Darwish come at a historic time for the Arab people. Finally, the revolution for which Khalife had been metaphorically yearning through song for years has arrived, and the will of the people has a catchy newspaper headline: the “Arab Spring.” Lebanese singer/composer Marcel Khalife has been singing the poetry of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish for decades.

"Untitled" by Mohammed Bushara

One might wonder about the title of this article at a time when Syria is paying a heavy human cost on a daily basis. The environment of killing created by the Assad regime is producing a culture of death, as many of us have witnessed via graphic images on satellite TV, Facebook and YouTube, video which amounts to some sort of terrible Reality Television.

"Hamza Ali al-Khateeb," by Carlos Latuff (via Wikimedia Commons)

In my Middle East politics class, I used to tell my students that, aside from the 1979 Iranian case, there had been no genuine popular revolution in the modern Middle East. Now, I can lengthen that list to include the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, Yemeni, and Syrian revolutions, regardless of whether they are ultimately successful or not.

Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd by Mamoun Sakkal for Al Jadid

Contemporary debates about the role of Islam in modern Middle-Eastern societies are often captive to the vocabulary of “moderate vs. extremist,” leaving little room for discussions that move beyond these black and white distinctions.  Fortunately, Mohammed Ali Atassi’s recently released documentary about the late Egyptian “liberal” Islamic intellectual Dr. Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd is a rare exception.  

Amin Rihani by Mamoun Sakkal and Gebran Kahlil Gebran by Emile Menhem

In his article “Ethnic Identity and Imperative Patriotism,” eminent Arab-American literary critic and scholar Steven Salaita explores the question: “How has the pedagogy of Arab American Studies changed?” Salaita suggests that it has changed considerably, and that Arab- American Studies now receive the sort of attention for which its scholars once clamored.

One would be hard-pressed to overstate the role of Saad Ardash as a pioneer of modern Egyptian theatre; indeed, throughout a five-decade career he was unarguably its principal architect. As a young man and founder of Egypt’s Free Theatre he was the first to introduce both traditional and experimental forms of western theatre to Egyptian audiences.

Carlos ben Carlos Rossman, a Puerto Rican Jew, is in for a surprise. When he lands in New York Harbor in 1950, he realizes that the American melting pot is more fable than fact. In many cases, diversity is likely to make one “Un-American” rather than American. Language, culture, religion, or even something as simple as a green baseball bat, when all of the other kids own plain pine bats, can result in ostracism.

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A Study in Courage: Screenwriter and Activist Fouad Hamira

Cinematic activist, Fouad Hamira, who began his career working for the National Theater, has become one of the leading voices for justice in Syrian television. Despite all attempts to silence him, this man of courage and conviction remains as vocal as ever. Since the current uprising in Syria, he has denounced injustices such as the government’s attempts to reframe the battle for Syrian freedom as a sectarian uprising. 

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In this exemplary documentary film, women (both veiled and unveiled, religious and secular) discuss the presence of Islam and secularism in contemporary Turkish ...

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Photo Courtesy of Icarus Films

The revolution documented by Stefano Savona’s “Tahrir: Liberation Square” is not the sexy revolution of the media. Instead, Stefano Savona captures an organic Egyptian revolution – one of patience, uncertainty, and fraternity. The film is shot in Cairo on January 30, 2011, six days after Egyptians took to the streets.

Author Yassin al-Haj Saleh

At the outset of his recent book “With Salvation O’Youth: 16 Years in Syrian Prisons” (Saqi Books),  Yassin al-Haj Saleh pre-empts the reader’s query regarding the genre with which this work is to be identified.  For those who would classify it as “Prison literature,” the author explains that he does not believe any of his writings fall under the scope of this particular genre. 

Beirut’s pine forest, the Horsh Al-Sanawbar, has been no less a victim of Lebanon’s social and political challenges than its citizens have.  Nominally public property since Ottoman times, the park has been shut down since the civil war. During the 1990s, its greenest and most attractive section was remodeled and replanted,

Consider that one of the main thrusts of what would obliquely be termed “Arab Diaspora Studies” is to wrest Arabs out of the simplistic dichotomy of being invisible as racially white, or visible as a problematic cultural other. Layla al-Maleh’s edited collection, 

"Street Fighting, Beirut 1976. Training for 1982," from Tony Clifton and Catherine Leroy's "God Cried" (Quartet Books 1983)

Richard Millet’s recent work “La Confession Negative” is a harrowing tale based on the author’s participation in the Lebanese civil war in 1976. Residing in a grey area between memoir and novel, the book’s central theme is Millet’s becoming an author through the experience of war. Millet has previously written of this experience, albeit in a more roundabout fashion, in his first novel, “Sur un Balcon a Beyrouth.”

Alia Malek’s “A Country Called Amreeka: Arab Roots, American Stories” is another collection ofArab American narratives in the tradition of Evelyn Shakir’s “Bint Arab” and Moustafa Bayoumi’s “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America.”

Reviewed By Lauren Khater
Reviewed By Nada Ramadan
Reviewed By Joseph Sills
Reviewed By Lynne Rogers
Reviewed By Lynne Rogers
Reviewed By Rebecca Joubin
Reviewed By Rebecca Joubin
Reviewed By Lynne Rogers
Reviewed By Frances Khirallah Noble
Ahmad's Story
"Syrians" by Gilan al-Safadi, from Arts & Freedom Exhibition, France

Over the years, we have devoted generous space to covering dissent by Arab intellectuals, especially the Syrians. We believed that most of them who were arrested and imprisoned for long periods of time (poet Farag Bayrakdar, 14 years; Riadh al-Turk, 17 years; Yassin al-Haj Saleh, 16 years) had been seen as members of different leftist and communist parties, thus posing threats to a repressive regime. But after reading Michel Kilo's stories from his time in Al Maza Military Prison (the article to follow is based on one of Kilo's stories), it is clear that even ordinary Syrians, who hardly harbor any hostile feelings toward the regime have spent similar periods of imprisonment.

Balloon seller in the park along the Orontes River, Hama, Syria, November 2010; photo by David R. Muerdter

Hama is the city where I stopped on a journey from Palmyra to Aleppo, where I photographed the ancient wooden water wheels that jigsaw the curving riverbed of the Orontes...

Poet Lahab Assef al-Jundi

I thought I would pursue a career in the scientific disciplines and I came to the States to study electrical engineering.  However, as I grew older, I began to discover my love for poetry. By age 30, I had started writing what I thought of as “love scribbles.”

From: "Art of the Middle East: Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World and Iran"

Amid so much hubbub and controversy surrounding the politics of the Middle East, one might think that the region’s visual arts are uncultivated, and the role that Middle Eastern artists play in the broader world negligible.

Remember Me to Lebanon: Stories of Lebanese Women in America

Those who know of Evelyn Shakir’s writing from her seminal 1997 book, “Bint Arab: Arab and Arab-American Women in the United States,” know her to be a skilled chronicler of the lives of Arab women immigrants and their daughters in America. By recording the words of various women across three generations, beginning with the 19th century, Shakir has given public visibility to the presence of strong, active and well-defined communities of Arab women in America.

I take my title from an essay by Salman Rushdie, in which he reflects on the need many expatriates, exiles, and just plain emigrants feel to look over their shoulder at the land that they have left behind and that now seems lost to them. And, if they’re writers, to try to recreate it in the literature they produce. But Rushdie issues a warning:  “We will not be capable of reclaiming precisely the thing that was lost.” Instead, “we will create fictions, not actual cities or villages but invisible ones, imaginary homelands.”

It was on a day, much like today (Saturday, June 30), the day of the Gay Pride Parade in Paris, that I met my friend, the writer Ilfat Idilbi, for lunch at Les Deux Magots a few years ago. I had not realized that the Gay Pride Parade would be taking place when I’d first proposed that date for our meeting – I dreaded crowds and noise, both things that did not bother Ilfat Idilbi in the least. As soon as we settled on the terrace, the parade floats began turning down Boulevard St. Germain.

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