I have read a sizable part of the literature on the Arab Spring, in addition to having watched scores of documentaries and what seems like hundreds of hours of news footage of this most unprecedented event in modern Arab history. 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.
Essays and Features
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. Indebted to the ancient Greek idea of the theatre as a means of public enlightenment, Ardash adapted the themes and mechanisms of European absurdist and epic productions to the context of Nasser’s revolutionary Egypt.
Unquestionably, the state-run Syrian media, print and TV, has become a laughing stock of most observers, including the pro and anti-Assad forces. But perhaps most perplexing in the midst of the Arab Spring have been the positions taken by sections of the Lebanese media, mainly those allied with the Assad regime.
I recently translated a book by Mohammad Arkon titled “Towards a Critique of Islamic Reason.” The title of this book is controversial, as many traditional Muslim scholars would argue that “critique” should not apply to religious thought, let alone to Islamic religious thought, and therefore would consider the book an affront against religious beliefs.
The “Arab Spring”-- the new sensational shorthand employed by frenzied observers and scholars to describe the massive cry for freedom in the Middle East-- has shown not only the cruel nature of the Arab state in its treatment of ordinary citizens, now constantly on display on Arab satellite TV stations, new media outlets, and press reports, but also its humiliating treatment of Arab intellectuals. As painful and positively nauseating as it is to see this reflexive practice of torturing and terrorizing protestors, it is much more immediately comprehensible and a little less complex than wh
Can one understand the experience of being a prisoner without ever being in a prison cell? This question might seem strange at first, but those who have met and talked with the family members of political prisoners in Syria will definitely know the answer. In a recent article, my friend and a colleague, Yassin al-Hajj Salih (in An Anahar Literary Supplement, June 27, 2004), accurately describes life inside prison, calling for bringing the prison experience into the light, in all its different aspects, until nothing remains unknown or overburdened with suppressed memory.
When you think back on your childhood, what is the first thing that strikes you?
Arab-American literature was already growing by leaps and bounds in the late 1990s, but the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacking attacks fueled an upsurge of interest in all things Arab and Muslim and helped broaden the mainstream appeal of poetry and prose by American authors of Arab descent. More Arab-American writers are getting published, and their work is finding its way into more anthologies of women’s writing and other postcolonial collections, albeit slowly.
The widespread unrest that has gripped the Middle East in recent months came as a shock, even to those of us who follow the region closely from afar. This is not so much because the events were unforeseeable or impossible, but rather because it was difficult to create a mental image of a successful massive popular uprising, much less several of them at once. Most likely out of despair, we had come to believe in the sadistic efficacy of ruling families and their dreaded Mukhabarat. Many of these leaders, if they may be so-called, have held the reins of power for several decades