Essays and Features

Habermas vs. the Sheikh Zayed Book Award: An Intellectual or Soft Power Conflict!

Michael Teague

Jürgen Habermas's decision to reject the Sheikh Zayed Book Award's "Cultural Personality of the Year" prize set off a heated debate in the Arab press. The most famous remaining representative of the second generation of the Frankfurt school, despite his considerable bibliography, Habermas was not well-known at the popular level in the Arab world. After his initial acceptance and then rejection of the Sheikh Zayed award, however, intellectuals in the employ of the United Arab Emirates criticized the German philosopher vociferously. 

Can a Nation Plagued by Mass Corruption, Decaying Institutions, and Rabid Sectarianism Deliver Justice For those Lost and Victimized by the August Explosion?

Elie Chalala

One cannot miss the irony of the Lebanese officials allegedly responsible for what is possibly the third or fourth largest non-nuclear explosion in the world hiding behind “immunity” from a crime that claimed over 207 people and injured 6,000, while devastating large parts of the Lebanese capital. The Beirut Port explosion in August 2020 measured about one-twentieth the size of Hiroshima’s atomic bomb, according to the BBC. As its one-year anniversary approaches, many Lebanese are still struggling to hold accountable those responsible for the blast.

Controversy Over Mohammad Shukri’s Literary Legacy Outlives the Author

Al Jadid Staff
Many students and scholars of Arabic literature would recall the debates on the books of Mohammad Shukri (1935-2003) late last century and a part of the early 21st century. The debates centered primarily on Shukri’s picaresque approach, which included harsh depictions of repression, marginalization, deprivation, morality, breaching taboos and censorship, and of course, the banning of his books in most Arab countries. We can categorize many of his books as autobiographical, and the opposition was not to this type of literature but to the language and details he used. His spontaneity violated all technical and artistic norms in both Moroccan and Arab literature, especially in “The Bare Bread,” “Age of Mistakes,” and “Faces,” his autobiographical trilogy.

The Judiciary, Latest Indicator of Lebanon’s Impending Collapse:

A Judge Runs Amok
Elie Chalala
The collapse of the Lebanese state grows imminent as news of different sectors unraveling emerges every day. The latest crisis reached the judiciary, which — though already known for its politicization and sectarianism — currently deals with a judge whose erratic, politicized personality violates all the norms of judicial behaviors and traditions. This controversial judge is Mount Lebanon state prosecutor, Ghada Aoun.

In a Statistical Vacuum, Speculating on the Arab-American Vote, 2016 vs. 2020

Elie Chalala
While much of the country — and even the world — focused on the last U.S. election and remained engrossed even after its results and consequences, the picture of this historic event in the Arab world was unlike anything that was happening here. Regrettably, the distorted analysis and coverage by Arab media influenced to some extent the attitudes and electoral choices of many Arab immigrants in the U.S.

Nawal El-Saadawi’s ‘Daughter of Isis’ Life and Times via the Plenitude of Her Writings

D.H. Melhem

When the distinguished Egyptian writer Nawal el-Saadawi was scheduled to speak last October at the Brecht Forum as a guest of the Forum, the Kevorkian Center of New York University, and RAWI (Radius of Arab American Writers), I attended with anticipation. As she signed the books I had just bought, I was struck by her warm smile and alert gaze.  El-Saadawi wore no makeup, eschewing what she considered “a mask,” as she would note later. Like Firdaus, the heroine-narrator of her novel “Woman at Point Zero” (l983), she seemed “to look at me from the depths of her eyes,” peering below surface impressions and superficialities of language. Then it was time for her lecture.


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