The latest figures on AIDS in a global scale reported by the World Health Organization are a cause for sobering reflection. They indicate that by the end of 1997, 30.6 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS, and that 5.8 million people were infected with HIV in 1997, which represents approximately 16,000 new HIV infections per day. North Africa and the Middle East have 210,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, and in 1997 that region had 19,000 new cases of HIV infection.
Both in the Arab world and diaspora, Arabs are remembering what they refer to in Arabic as al-nakba, the "uprooting" and the "catastrophe" that befell the Palestinians when Israel was carved out of their homeland in 1948.
For a people whose love of poetry has been rooted in their land for centuries, it is no wonder that the loss of Palestine in 1948 marks the emergence of contemporary Palestinian poetry, impacting the very nature of literature throughout the Arab world, and ultimately, attracting a growing Western audience.
Half a century has gone by since the onset of the history-shattering events Palestinians refer to as al-nakba - the ‘uprooting,’ the ‘catastrophe’ that befell their homeland with the carving out of the state of Israel, the ‘disaster’ that still infuses their poetry.
There seems to be an almost surreal gap between the realities in the Arab world and the lectures, books, and conferences concerning Arabs, Islam, and the Orient that are produced in the West. For too long, Western scholars have been ignoring the types of dialogue occurring in the context of contemporary Arab cultural phenomena such as plays, journals, cinema, and intellectual discourse. This neglect of primary Arab sources affects the whole field of Arab studies, or as it is called in some places Oriental Studies.
This statement was issued by Ms. Laila al-Othman in Beirut on January 25, 2000, after her conviction of indecent writing by a Kuwaiti court. It was translated and edited into English by Elie Chalala.
Has the world become so controlled that even the birds and butterflies are not allowed to fly freely?
Have peoples' minds sat unused for so long that the lock to open them has rusted solid?
The work of the recently departed and much-loved poet Nizar Kabbani is usually treated as if he wrote in two categories: erotic poetry and political poetry. Even in his eight-volume collected works, political poetry is in separate volumes. In fact, his politics laces his love poetry, and his erotic sensibility is never far from the scene of his political poetry.
In Kuwait, two writers were given suspended two-month prison sentences in January after one was convicted of blasphemy and the other of indecency, and their books were ordered to be removed from the market.Laila al-Othman was convicted of using indecent language in her book "The Departure," which reportedly had been approved by government censors in1984. Her attorneys have said their client used words such as "lustful" in describing the relationship of one sea wave with another, but had not intended this to have a sexual connotation.
A Lebanese court has acquitted one of the Arab world's most popular singer-composers, Marcel Khalife, of offending Islam.
Khalife would have faced up to three years in prison if convicted. He was not in court in mid-December 1999 when the verdict was handed down by Judge Ghada Abu Karroum, who said there was no evidence the singer had tried to vilify the religion and instigate disdain for Islam. "He performed the song in such a way that does not violate the sanctity of the Koranic text," she said.