' '
Featured post

Eshtebak (Clash) Film Review on 7iber

JFYI I wrote this review of “Eshtebak” (Clash) for 7iber. (Originally published here on May 6). TL;DR: Watch this film immediately.


In August 2013, Egyptian security forces raided a sit-in camp in Cairo filled with hundreds of protesters supporting ousted President Mohamed Morsi. According to Human Rights Watch, the ensuing clashes between the army and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood at Raba’a Square left at least 817 civilians dead.

It’s near-impossible to imagine — let alone depict — the chaos and hatred that must have permeated the air in the weeks that led up to that horrific massacre. And yet, Mohamed Diab, the talented director of “Eshtebak” (“Clash”), somehow manages to do just that, in a superb 97-minute film that’s expertly shot in and from one location: the back of a run-down police van.

Continue reading

Facebook Comments
Featured post

Mirna

150814_10150334346200153_4944251_n


It’s been two years to the day since Mirna passed away.

I was reminded of this painful reality by Facebook’s “On this Day” feature. A sad sign of the times, perhaps, to be reminded of the death of a dear friend by social media. But also an apt one, as I sometimes find myself visiting Mirna’s Facebook profile when I miss her dearly and scramble for memories of the last few times we interacted — both online and in real life.

I do, of course, have Whatsapps, text messages, emails and Instagram likes and comments to remember her by. I have viewed and re-read them countless times over the past 24 months. In each message, post and comment I find an additional sign of her determination to overcome brain cancer — a disease she never gave in to, even though it ultimately claimed her life.

At various points in our friendship, I wasn’t there for Mirna in the way that I should or could have been. The texts also remind me of my shortcomings in that respect. The guilt associated with those shortcomings is something I still struggle to contend with: I could have been more present, more communicative, more supportive. At the same time, Mirna was forgiving and loving and warm, without fail, whenever we communicated or saw each other.

***
Continue reading

Facebook Comments
Featured post

Man of the Orchard


Update: Since I wrote this piece in February, Sukoon, an Arab literary magazine, kindly republished it here. I was also asked to turn the tribute into the below podcast for Black River Press. With thanks to both Rewa and Themba. 

I  first met jeddo (grandpa) in August 1987. I was just three years old, but I have this distinct memory of him hurriedly running down the driveway of his humble orchard-home in Zahrani, barefoot, in the pouring rain, to embrace my mother. He hadn’t seen her since just before the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in 1982; they’d barely communicated in the interim. Tears were streaming down his face as he held her.

Osman “Abu Nasser” Antar was born to Zahra and Mahmoud in Sidon in 1929. He was the fifth of eight other siblings — one sister, and seven brothers. His father was a trader and a landowner who worked between Palestine and South Lebanon; he managed his finances poorly.

When jeddo was barely 11, my great-grandfather unexpectedly passed away, leaving the family of ten with very little to survive on. My grandpa was consequently forced to leave school to provide for himself, his younger siblings, and his mother. Continue reading

Facebook Comments
Featured post

FLOW CHART: How to Respond to a Terrorist Attack


By Zahra Hankir and ND*

There are so many terrorist (or kind-of-terrorist-) attacks out there these days, that it’s hard to keep track.

While we understand terrorism is certainly no laughing matter, we thought we’d put together a flow chart  to help you figure out how to respond to such attacks during these dark times.

Are you a Facebook user? A moderate Muslim? A western media organisation? Vladimir Putin? Or even David Cameron?

Florence of Arabia has got you covered.

(Click on the image to enlarge).

terrorism


* ND is a London-based ultimate frisbee player, flow-chart expert and journalist. She’s also a White Westerner. 

Facebook Comments

The Jihadi Who Found Jesus, Lebanese Calligraffiti & Palestinian Hunger Strikes: Mideast Media Recs

The Flower Salesman. Pic courtesy of Yazan Halwani

Non-fake news stories on Muslims and the Middle East from around the web, curated every six weeks by Florence of Arabia

The Economist‘s 1843 magazine ran a wonderful piece on Calligraffiti in the Arab world, featuring the works of French/Tunisian street artist eL Seed and Lebanon’s Yazan Halwani

Patrick Kingsley, now at the New York Times after leaving the Guardian, wrote this staggering Saturday profile on a jihadi who apparently found Jesus

Continue reading

Facebook Comments

Hisham Matar Takes Home Pulitzer for ‘the Return’


YES. The inimitable Hisham Matar just nabbed the Pulitzer Prize in Biography or Autobiography for his exquisite book, the Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between (Random House).

The writer beat out some tough competition from Susan Faludi for In the Darkroom and the late Paul Kalanithi for When Breath Becomes Air.

Continue reading

Facebook Comments

Me and the Muslim Ban

muslim-ban-protest.jpg

Not actually me


TL;DR: Not a serious post. Just a short, silly brush with U.S. passport control (first shared on Facebook) that perfectly marries my clumsiness and paranoia.


Finally made it to U.S. passport control in San Francisco after an 11-hour flight. I was feeling frazzled, and particularly nervous, considering the obvious.

As I approached the desk, I started formulating things to say to the customs agent in my head, just in case he decided to ask me any questions.

(‘….Yes, I was born Muslim, but I really don’t like ISIS. Yes, I’m originally from a Muslim-majority country, but it’s not one of *those* Muslim-majority countries. No, I haven‘t visited any of *those* countries in the past six years. Yes, my official name is Fatima al-Zahra, but my Western friends call me Zahra. Yes, yes, like the clothing store! Oh, I work for Facebook. That’s why I’m here. Yes, Fake News is SAD’). Continue reading

Facebook Comments

London Stands Against Trump in Solidarity with Iranian Director

thesalesman_landscape_875.jpg


All (well, a lot of) eyes were on Hollywood a-listers and the Oscars last night, particularly in the aftermath of envelope-gate.

But in London, thousands gathered at Trafalgar Square in the freezing cold for a special open-air screening of The Salesman, in solidarity with Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who boycotted the Oscars due to Donald Trump’s travel ban.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan organised the event to tell the world that London is open (and seemingly to give Trump London’s middle finger). In a speech, the UK capital’s first Muslim mayor noted that Trump would “not silence” him and that we must mobilise to oppose the US president, not simply by protesting, but by organising events that celebrate our diversity, whether we’re from “Lebanon or London.” (See part of his speech in the video below. You’ll also get to hear me cheering Khan on. #SorrynotSorry). Continue reading

Facebook Comments

AlJazeera English Q&A With Lebanese Poet Zeina Hashem Beck


I put together this neat little interview with Lebanese poet Zeina Hashem Beck for AlJazeera English when I was back home a couple of weeks ago. I adore Zeina’s poetry, and am convinced her career will continue to flourish, so this was a real treat for me (we had a fantastic discussion — thank you, Zeina). I’ve pasted the entire interview below, but you can see it as it appeared on AlJazeera English here.


Beirut – To say Zeina Hashem Beck is an emerging poet would be an understatement. At 35, the Lebanese writer has already clinched multiple awards. To Live in Autumn, her first collection, won the 2013 Backwaters Prize.

This year, Hashem Beck won the Rattle Chapbook Prize for 3arabi Song, which fuses her passion for Middle Eastern culture with the destabilising forces of war and displacement in the region. She has also been praised by UK Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.

Rattle describes 3arabi Song as “a tribute to the Arab world and Arab singers, to refugees and refusal, to hope and home, to sorrow and song”, adding, “like no other collection we’ve read, these poems feel absolutely necessary”. Continue reading

Facebook Comments

The White Helmets: A Netflix Documentary Worth Watching


Documentary: White Helmets (2016)
Director: Orlando von Einsiedel
Available on Netflix globally
★★★★

For all of the coverage of the White Helmets  in western media over the past few months, nothing comes close to this documentary brought to your living rooms by Netflix.

The short film explores the quiet yet remarkable group of some 3,000 Syrian volunteer rescue workers as they risk their lives to search for survivors at bomb sites across opposition-controlled areas of the country.

Over the past five years, the group is said to have saved more than 60,000 lives, capturing the attention of the Nobel Peace Prize committee (and, of course, conspiracy theorists/trolls*).

The makers of the documentary spent over five weeks with 30 White Helmets along the Syrian border in Turkey as they received first-responder training, filming intimate moments of their day-to-day lives. (Director and producer Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara document the experience in this piece for Indiewire.) Continue reading

Facebook Comments

The Middle East Has Lost a True Friend in Jo Cox


To so many people across the United Kingdom and indeed the world, the disturbing, tragic murder of Jo Cox still seems utterly incomprehensible.

This was a woman who very visibly cared deeply for others and whose altruism has been described by many as unblemished. Indeed, the more one learns about Jo Cox, the more one realises just how tremendous her compassion was.

Cox was a champion for the less fortunate; for the socially ostracised; for immigrants; for refugees; for women; and for diversity. She was also a genuine friend of the Middle East and the UK’s Muslim community. Continue reading

Facebook Comments

Middle Eastern States Shed Crocodile Tears Over Orlando


In the few hours after Omar Mateen shot dead 50 innocent people at Pulse in Orlando a week ago, dozens of politicians and heads of states around the world rushed to condemn the grotesque hate crime.

The “condemnations” trickling in from the Middle East were particularly interesting and unique when placed in the context of these countries’  track records on LGBT rights and their mistreatment of homosexuals (Russia could potentially be added to this list, too, but for the sake of this post, we’re focusing on the Middle East).

To illustrate the stark contrast between the condemnations and the countries’ respective policies on homosexuality, Florence of Arabia has put together the below listicle featuring Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. (Please do send in more if I’ve missed any.)

[To jump straight to the listicle, click here.]

The contrast is quite humorous and hypocritical, but on a more serious level, it reaffirms just how rampant state-sponsored homophobia is in the region. It’s worth noting that the condemnations were similarly worded and omitted any mention of the attacks occurring at a gay club or targeting homosexuals. 

The condemnations are inherently problematic in that the states are essentially players that enable or fuel the sort of hatred which motivated the very crime they appear to have condemned.

Scholar and writer Samar Habib in this piece for the Washington Post argues that the condemnations are a “start,” whilst acknowledging they are somewhat troublesome. Continue reading

Facebook Comments
%d bloggers like this: