March 29, 2007

Joseph Ki-Zerbo 1922-2006

"We are not exploited because we are black, we are black because we are exploited. The day we are seen as equals, people will stop seeing the colour of our skin."

Joseph Ki-Zerbo was the first African professor of History in Paris having studied at both La Sorbonne and the Paris Institute for Political Studies. Born in Burkina Faso, he later came to be involved in politics, wrote many books, among them a standard book on African History, established the Centre for African Development Studies and dedicated his life to free his continent from colonialism and later on postcolonial chains that have helped suffocate the sense of worth and respect in the peoples of Africa. He spent some time in Uppsala, Sweden due to the political unrest that sometimes erupted in his home country.

Ki-Zerbo retells a story of an african woman, something very striking which can be seen in peoples of many nations that have been colonized whether it is Senegal or India;

"An african woman went to see her doctor. He told her that he would have to make a small operative incision but assured her he would give her local anaesthetic. The woman became very scared upon hearing the word local and said, "no doctor, please, I want french anaesthetic."

March 26, 2007

Women Praying & Sultan Qaboos Mosque

The beautiful mosque, one of the largest in the Arab world was recently built in Muscat, Oman by the Sultan Qaboos. Whether it was to make up for the fact that it is commonly percieved that he killed his father, the former Sultan of Oman, I do not know. Either way, it is absolutely beautiful with large gardens and courtyards and for once, the female area was not a room with white walls and a funky smelling carpet, but rather a work of art on its own. Although not comparable to the main prayer room only the men get to enjoy.

It was even hard work getting the men to let me even enter to take a photo. Even then I kept only to the entrance.

I am still waiting for the day when I as a muslim woman can enter a main prayer room and pray there, which is my right. The way it was done at the time of the Prophet Mohammad* when no mosques had upper levels, or walls seperating the men and women.

But we live today as if that time never existed and as if the way mosques were built pre-Wahabi influence, never existed.

Look at the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus, a mosque where Imam Al Ghazali and many other great scholars of traditional Islam studied in the past; no walls. Same is the case with Al Aqsa in Jerusalem. All men and women pray together in one room, on different rows or sides of the room. Think about it next time you pray in a Mosque, what does it look like and why?

*May peace and blessings be upon him

March 23, 2007

Desert Beauty

This is the main building at Anafora in Egypt. It is basically built in the middle of dry vast lands, eqivalent to a desert with trees growing scarcely. There is sand everywhere. More can be read about it if you go to the archives and click on February.

March 20, 2007

Craft at its finest

Taken of a mosque in Alexandria, Egypt on my last trip in January 2007.

March 18, 2007

Children of Abraham

A new online project has started which is mighty exciting involving youth from Damascus, Paris, Marrakech, London, Teheran, New York, Jakarta, Montreal, The UAE and more:

"Children of Abraham seeks to build an international community of Muslim and Jewish youth that celebrates their religious identities. Through an engaging project involving a photographic exploration of Jewish and Muslim communities around the world..."

It's really a fabulous idea, using photography to build bridges. Kind of like what we have been doing on Global Themes. Check out some amazing pictures from The Children of Abraham's photo gallery.

March 15, 2007

Madhubala - A legend

Born on Valentines Day 1933, Madhubala is said to be one of the Indian filmscreen's most beautiful and charming actresses with a life story more tragic and fascinating than most of the 70 movies she acted in.

She was the 5th of 11 children in a very poor conservative Muslim Pasthun family in India and at a young age a holy man predicted that she would become very successful but her life would be filled with unhappiness.

Her greatest life work can be seen in the movie Mughal-e-Azam (1960) that took 9 years to film where she plays the role of real life historical figure and courtesan Anarkali, who fell in love with the emperor's son Jehangir (played by Dilip Kumar). It's a tragic love story that also reflects in real life. Madhubala and Dilip Kumar had a relationship/affair for 7 years and she wanted to marry him but he was never serious about her and eventually married a 20 years younger actress named Saira Banu.

She was diagnosed with a heart disease in 1950, before heart surgery was available, yet she concealed it from the film industry and continued working hard, at times coughing blood on set knowing she had a large poor family to support. Many of her friends later recount that she was never the same after her relationship with Dilip ended and many say she suffered from a lifelong depression.

She died with a hole in her heart in 1969 after being bedridden for 9 years, and was buried by her family and husband Kishore Kumar (whom she got married to in 1960).

A must see song & video:
In this scene where she sings one of the most beautiful songs in film history Pyaar kiya to darna kya - having loved what is there to fear from the movie Mughal-e-Azam you see her as Anarkali singing to Jehangir (played by Dilip Kumar, the younger man of two men on thrones in the video without a turban, her failed real-life love) and to his father wearing the turban, the emperor, who strongly dissapproved of their love. Madhubala was ill all through the making of the movie including this scene. She starts singing after about 2 minutes.

It is said Madhubala never stopped loving Dilip Kumar and watched the video to Pyaar kiya to darna kya 500 times on her death bed.

It is hard not to be moved by her song to him, whether she is Anarkali singing to Jehangir, or Madhubala singing to Dilip Kumar.

March 14, 2007

"I'd like a new cell number..."

-That will be 1,5 million pounds, please.

A buyer in Qatar recently bought the world's most expensive cell number 666 6666. So I guess we can all give him/her a call now that they have publicly announced it to the whole world, Sweden included.

The money did however go to charity, donated by Qatars national phoneoperator Telco Qtel who also arranged the auction.

Previous owners of the world's most expensive number 8888 8888 was Chinese Sichuan Airlines who payed a mere 270 000 pounds for it. Why did they want 8's? Apparently the word for rich in Cantonese resembles that of the word for the number 8.

March 13, 2007

Salam Café Australia!

A group of young muslims in Melbourne figured they wanted to give the people of Melbourne a window into being Muslim and started the tv chat show Salam Café. They are currently on season 3 and have had guests like Australian author and human rights activist Randa Abdel-Fattah and American comedian Azhar Usman and report with humor on life in Australia and highlight important events in Australia be it multicultural or interfaith based.

Watch highlights from different episodes here.

Watch an episode from season 3 featuring Azhar Usman here.

March 11, 2007

Sakina and Raya: Egyptian Serial Killers

Sakina and Raya
In the music video I posted about earlier, Egyptian singer Shams' song Ahlan Ezayek, Shams in one scene plays the part of Sakina and Raya. Concidered to be some of the 20th centuries most ruthless criminals and have inspired the makings of both movies and theatrical plays in their name.

In the year 1919 in a poor district of Alexandria called Al-Labban, the two sisters began their murder spree. They had opened several brothel like houses which they ran together. Raya would often be the one going to markets eyeing out the women with the most jewelry on them (in order to steal it) and striking up conversation using some excuse to lure them to their brothels. There both the sisters husbands would help them kill the victims through suffocation and bury them in the back yard.
One day in 1920 a man noted the authorities, he had found a skull in the grounds of his house (previously owned by Sakina). Police began sniffing a trail that literally led them to her sister Raya who was burning unusual amounts of incense in her house. Raya had 2 bodies in her grounds while 15 other bodies were found at Sakinas house. The victims were all women, mostly married, in the ages 17-50.

The death sentence, at that time hanging, had never been given to females previously. However Raya and Sakina broke that trend and were hanged in 1921, along with their husbands and two other helpers.

What I find particulary noteworthy about this piece of fascinating and disturbing history is the motivation for previously not issuing the death sentence to women as stated by the Public Prosecutor of that time, Suleiman Ezzat; "...women's crimes generally demand an element of mercy and compassion, such as crimes in which women are driven to kill their husbands' second wives or in which they poison someone who has brought them harm."

March 09, 2007

Quote of the day

Look at life through the windshield, not the rear-view mirror.
-Byrd Bagget

*Picture taken in a taxi in Cairo.

March 08, 2007

Women's Night in Bogotá

Today we celebrate International Women's Day. The Mayor of Bogotá in Colombia, Antanas Mockus, introduced a new tradition in 2001 called Women's Night. It was celebrated the night before March 8th and men were asked to stay home with the kids and contemplate over themselves and their women, and the work they do. The women in turn went out to parks and enjoyed themselves with their grandmothers while policeofficers made sure no man disturbed them.

Result: There was not a single murder on the streets of Bogotá, which normally witnesses 15 murders a night. *

Also Watch the fabulous feature documentary about Women and AIDS. A Must See!

*From the article "Aborto Libre" by Magnus Linton, 2005

Al Jazeera TV, is one of the supporting media groups for the IWD.

March 07, 2007

Cruella and The Knight in Broken Armor

A humorous "ode" to the fairy tales we have been brought up on.

Here you come riding back again,
on your limping horse, riding the wrong lane.
"I come with glad tidings", you say, so say?
But there's nothing but hot air blowing my way.

You get off your horse, the poor thing falls,
"I have your glass slipper that you left at the ball",
You must be mistaken, see it doesn't fit me?
besides this is plastic, how cheap can you be?

"I'm a knight in armor here to take you away",
but your armor is broke so now what do you say?
Nothing, there you go giving up again,
on your limping horse, riding the wrong lane.

A hundred years later you decide to return,
You have had many lessons and a chance to learn.
"Let down your hair, I wish to climb your high fort ,"
Oh I'm sorry but last week I cut it short.

March 03, 2007

Let's talk about AIDS, Ambassador

I met with the Saudi Ambassador to Sweden at the Kuwaiti National Day Celebration in Stockholm and after finding common grounds with his music taste (Abdel Halim Hafez in particular) I moved on to talk about the AIDS situation in the Muslim World with emphasis on the Middle East and Gulf Region. He seemed unaware that the fastest growing region for AIDS/HIV was the Middle East. He seemed to believe that although cases had been found in Saudi Arabia it was by far "not as problematic" as the situation in "the west".

The first case of AIDS in Saudi Arabia was detected as early as 1984! (UNAIDS) That is 23 years ago. No data on HIV testing is available according to UNAIDS. Of course not, it is stigmatized, there is little awareness and a strong belief that it does not exist in the Holy Kingdom.

He told me there is no current health plan in Saudi Arabia to battle the AIDS epidemic that will no doubt hit it very hard in a decade or more (along with the rest of the Gulf Region and the Middle East). With the increased travelling, prostitution and sexual experimentation of a lot of the married and unmarried men (and to a lesser extent women) and youth of the region with new religious fatwas supporting their new found sexual freedom of zawaj friend (friendship marriage) allowing them to have a dame in every port, and the other zawaj orf (similar to zawaj friend). *

-What do we do about it Ambassador, I asked him.
-Well, I recommend you start with Dubai and Bahrain. They are very open and would perhaps welcome the discussion because they have a lot of tourists and expatriates, he replied.

Ok, but I was actually talking about Saudi Arabia?

*The fact that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) twice forbade mut'a (temporary marriage) until Judgement Day, seems to be of less significance to them.
**Picture courtesy of UNAIDS

Poll Result: Cure for AIDS

It seems we are a positive crowd out there, 76% of us believing a cure for AIDS will be invented in the future. If it were not for hope the hearts would shatter, or so the Arabic proverb goes.

Vote in my next poll: How should one battle the spread of AIDS/HIV in the Muslim World?

March 02, 2007

A.R. Rahman sings for the UN

Now playing on Al-Baal Café: Famous Indian Artist A.R. Rahman has produced a new track "Pray for me Brother" dedicated to the UN's millennium goals. Rahman released the single through his A.R. Rahman Foundation and Nokia.

March 01, 2007

Cairo Book Fair 2007

Theme: Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian Nobel Prize
Winner of Litterature in the year 1989.