This is the video of a poem I performed last November for Words And Strings event here in Doha, Qatar.
This is the second time I perform at a poetry event. I am overcoming the anxiety of performing in front of audience. I hope next performance will be better.
If Edward Said was alive and he watched Tyrant, he would have described as “orientalism in a nutshell”
A new Fox series that focuses on a fictional Middle East monarchy in post Arab-Spring couldn’t be more offensive to Arabs and Muslims.
The show is written by Israeli writer and film director Gideon Raff and developed by Gordon Howard Homeland and Criag Wright iven that Raff and Howard have something to do with the notorious Homeland, one is led to think that it’s yet another show that takes all the possible negative stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims and make a show out of it. Yet according to Howard some Muslim and Arab organizations were consulted while developing the show in order to avoid representing Arab and Muslims the Hollywood/the Homeland way.
So I watched the pilot, and here’s some deconstruction to what it’s basically, yet another show that disgustingly perpetuates that Arabs and Muslims are impulsive, violent, lusty beasts.
The show is supposed to be taking place in Maan; A fictional kingdom in the Middle East. It seems that creators of the show don’t know that Maan is a city in Jordan. As for the kingdom itself, it’s a mix of almost every city in the Middle East, though not all ME looks the same. For example, some parts of the kingdom look like a slum in Egypt, some other look like Palestine or Jordan, but somehow it has the skyline of Dubai or Doha. That’s for the Kingdom’s landscape. It doesn’t stop there. What’s a royal despotic Arab family without its palace?! The palace has the architecture of Aladdin’s palace, the gardens of King’s Landing, the interior of a Moroccan house. And you find some Persian domes and arches.
Bassam “Barry” El-Fayed is a pediatrician living the American dream. He finds himself haunted by his and father’s past when he decides to go back to Maan to attend his nephew’s wedding. Barry has another brother Jamal who is the coward yet brutally violent Arab man. The father dies and while Bassam doesn’t want to be the next tyrant, somebody has to bring the civilized voice into the kingdom, so he stays.
1-Father Tyrant: A Saddam Hussien like figure.
2-Brother Tyrant Jamal: the man who will make you feel utterly disgusted by Arab men, he isn’t only violent and impulsive but also lusty (rapes two women in one episode).
3-The once wanna-be teenage tyrant/the remorseful, shameful, civilized, self-hating, Americanized: Bassam “Barry”.
4-The white wives: Mama Fayed a British queen, aka the sound of reason nu.1 and who,by the way, looks like Queen Noor of Jordan. Holly Fayed, the American wife who is trying to get her husband to reconnect his with his past, aka the sound of reason nu,2.
5-The Arab women: Laila, married to Jamal yet loved Bassam,who gets slapped but slaps back. Samira aids terrorists. And The American teenage daughter who is forced to make the trip.
6-The military, the generals (who happen to be extended family), the police. And the American Ambassador.
7-The terrorists: the forces of destabilization, the ungrateful commoners, the suicide bombers, basically anyone wearing Palestinian kuffiyah,
I guess by now, you would feel less encouraged to watch Tyrant. But that’s not all. The show confuses fiction with reality to make things even blurrier for the average audience. Some simple examples:
1-El Fayed,which is the family’s last name in the show, is often associated with Egyptian businessmen Mohammed El-Fayed and Dodi El Fayed. It’s known that Dodi el Fayed was Princess Diana’s boyfriend and both were killed in a car accident.
2-Having two blonde/white women that are romantically involved with Arab-men insinuates the commonly-held idea that Arab-Muslim men always have a fetish for Western-White women, It’s in Shakespeare’s Othello, it’s in Lost, it’s in Tyrant. And it’s racist.
Having a show with gross images of Arabs and Muslims isn’t a novelty. It’s not the first time that an entire region, an entire religion is painted with the same brush.
While the situation of Arabs and Muslims isn’t quite rosy, the failure to understand the complicity of a region and its people is very damaging.To be honest, sometimes you think that mainstream media will never get the narrative right, and as a result, you lose interest in keep telling people to free their minds.
But what really irritates me and offends me,as an Arab and Muslim, is that the consequences of the misrepresentation, and the arrogant and deliberate misinformation make the destruction and mass—killing of Arabs and Muslims justifiable, acceptable, and even celebratory. For instance, in episode two there’s one line that says: “Childhood in America is a different thing, terrorists are taught young here”. The line comes as some teenagers kidnap a royal princess, and Barry’s uncle wants to kill them.
The scene struck me as it comes in a time where Israel is killing,kidnapping, and imprisoning Palestinian children. While the world decried the killing of the three settlers, not much grief was shown to Palestinian children.
Against this backdrop, you can understand the dangerous propaganda that’s being insidiously fed to people who may not bother to do a simple research about the Middle East.
It’s disturbing that the show is still running despite objections. Yet what is even more disturbing is that show would have never made it, if people represented were Israeli Jews. The tolerance for such TV shows, that reduces Arabs and Muslims to either tyrants or terrorists, shouldn’t be condoned not just by us but also by any enlightened mind. It’s wrong, and it should stop. Some argue that the show may get canceled due to poor story and acting. But that shouldn’t be the reason. If Tyrant is to be canceled, it’s because Tyrant is a racist, xenophobic, and Islamphobic propaganda. And its creators, producers should be ashamed of themselves.
For Samir Issawi and all the Palestinian prisoners…
Skin striping the bones
to cover your nakedness
Water runs through throat
to save your hidden face, your shamelessness
Rub salt on this wound
to clean the stitches of weakness
Tailored dignity made from this
tattered brown clad
Iron chains only pin these hands
show the metal of this man
Rid yourselves from these flimsy rods
redeem the anguish of a mother sobs
reclaim the freedom of a land robbed
rewrite your history
on the prison walls,
Defeat your enemy
“The constants and variables of Gaza, then and now ” is a piece that I wrote was published last week on Al-Jazeera English web-site. It’s a comparison between the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008-09 and the recent one last month.
Gaza wakes up to a new dawn and a new day, blessed with fresh new hope. Gaza rises after a brutal eight-day Israeli assault, where, as usual, women, children and the elderly bore much of the loss. A ceasefire was announced on November 21 between the resistance and Israel, putting an end to Israel’s intensive bombing and the threat of ground invasion. Under this truce, Israel is obligated to stop targeted killings, stop cross-border incursions, and ease the movements of goods and people.
Full of destruction, mourning, and hope, Gaza woke up to a similar day four years ago after operation Cast Lead. Operation Cast Lead started with Israel targeting several sites in Gaza simultaneously, leaving more than 200 killed in one day. After a week of intensive bombardments, it started a ground operation that proved nothing but deadly to the civilian population.
Palestinians remained steadfast for 23 days without electricity and water. However, this time Israel’s “Pillars of Defence” was limited to larger scale bombings, though the targets were almost the same (infrastructure, civilian houses, empty lands, security compounds). Continue reading
Edward Said (November 1, 1935 Jerusalem September 25, 2003) is a Palestinian American intellectual, writer, and my inspiration. I came across this interview conducted in 2000 in which he talks about many important issues including Palestine, Israel, and the conflict. I was thinking of writing about the interview highlights, but all of the video is worth to watch and reflect on.
What I really admire about Edward Said is that he kept writing till his last breath. The interview doesn’t just tackle Palestine, but also some personal insights on his sickness and how he coped with it. The reason I keep delving into Edward Said’s writings and interviews is that I always find inspiration and motivation in them.
If you want to learn more about Palestine and its history then it’s one right source!
The emerald-colored ocean, the wind orchestrated waves, the greened mountains touching the zenith and beyond made South Africa’s Cape Town one of the dearest places to my heart. (I didn’t visit many).
Lying at the bottom of the continent, hearted between the Atlantic and the Indian oceans, this African pearl is one destination that definitely worth visiting and coming back to.Post apartheid Cape Town is a celebration of freedom and peace. I maybe having some euphoric feeling towards the city, but I did really love everything about it.
However, all this charm couldn’t stop my heart from thinking that I am seeing Africa’s beauty, what about the beauty of Palestine? The caramel sunset upon the Atlantic was breathtaking; it looked very much like Gaza’s. And every time the beauty of Cape Town took me, I couldn’t help but to think that if Gaza wasn’t besieged by Israel, it would look the same.
Gaza, a real tourist attraction
Gaza Strip, believe it or not, naturally, is a very beautiful city treasuring some real touristic attractions. The yellowish sands, the warm Mediterranean, and the hospitality of Palestinians make it a nice place for a vacation. There are some historical sites from different eras. The sea cruises feel so freshly cool, and I am sure there are many more hidden potentials. But Israel’s siege destroys any chance for this sector to thrive. Israel’s control over crossings kills the domestic tourism, the least. (Hardly any Palestinian from the West Bank can visit Gaza and vise versa). Let alone keeping the Strip a war zone doesn’t encourage people to visit. Though Cape Town and Gaza are distinctively different geographically, I keep thinking that if Gaza was free, It’d look like Cape Town.
I want to visit Palestine,
Apartheid Israel prevents Palestinians from visiting Palestine. I heard thousands of times stories about how beautiful the city of Acre is. However, I never saw any of its beauty. At school, we studied the different names of cities and what they were famous for. I learned that Jericho is the best in winter, as it is warm. Ramallah and Jerusalem were the best in summer, as they are mountainous cities. But, what we studied remained pictures in textbooks. In a free Palestine, we’d go there for school trips.
Stunning South Africa makes me yearn to see the beauty of my own country that’s deliberately is kept away from us, so we our sense of belonging is killed. I wish I were able to tour Palestine from the very north to the very south. Palestine is not so big like South Africa, so a road trip would be enough to go everywhere in there. That trip would include the scenery of the green hills, the sea, and the mountains. It’s a trip where I can stop to pray in Al-Aqsa mosque and spend as much time as I wish. A trip where there would be no checkpoints, no walls, no Israeli apartheid.
But for now the reality is different, going to South Africa is more possible than going Jerusalem. I remember there was one sign at Cape Point that shows the distances from that point to various cities around the world. Jerusalem was one of them. 7468km is the distance from Cape point to Jerusalem; I thought if I were a South African, I’d take a plane and end up in Palestine. 78km is the distance between Gaza and Jerusalem, but being a Palestinian makes Cape Point a more possible place to travel than Jerusalem.
South Africa is very dear to my heart. This Cape of Good Hope sign as much sorrow it draws, it’s also brings hope. As South Africa freed itself from apartheid, so will be Jerusalem, so will be Palestine.And then we, all, will enjoy the beauty of Palestine.
I don’t know what to write to introduce my new poem. All I can say it that it’s an accumulation.
Infinite darkness possesses the horizon,
As death falls like a hammer from the sky
to fix the nails in their coffins
Bones are pulverized, the powder
flies away by the wind carrying the mortal coils,
No flowers are growing between the shrouds of snow,
the blood is running fresh in the veins of the soil.
Time isn’t redeemed yet,
life isn’t redeemed yet,
No remedy for the unborn, the born, and dead, yet
It’s forgotten, wiped out, it’s sinking,
shut your eyes, plug your ears,
the volume of death is getting too high
death has no shame showing his crimes.
the quagmire is winding,
no end is coming,
In the shade of barren hope,
how come they see the light?
Let me join you and see the light,
Let it burn my sight to only what fear blinds
I want to see the light
to keep the fight,
to see life redeem lives,