Category: Media

The Guardian Temporarily ‘Removes’ Story on Palestinian Music Festival


** Updates to reflect that the Guardian has republished the article with editorial changes

The Guardian temporarily pulled a story on a historic expo featuring “trip-hop” and other artists in Palestine without explanation, saying it was “pending review.” The article was off the site for more than 12 hours and then put back up after being heavily edited. The edits, which I run through below, were quite clearly intended to tone down the language of the initial piece.

The newspaper notes the following at the bottom of the revised article:

This article was taken down for review on 12 April 2017, amended to correct and clarify details and republished on 13 April 2017.

Before the story was republished, I asked for an explanation on Twitter, but obviously received no response. The piece is authored by Tom Horan, a fantastic freelance journalist and culture critic who writes the occasional music story for the newspaper. (I reached out to Horan via email and didn’t hear back from him.)

I find the temporary ‘removal’ of the article fascinating on a number of levels, mostly because that sort of move couldn’t have just been a response to an army of trolls. From a journalistic perspective, an editorial decision like this never comes lightly. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

Sykes Picot as Explained by Jon Stewart & John Oliver


Western media have been aggressively commemorating the 100th anniversary of Sykes Picot, the “secret” agreement that saw British and French colonial powers carve up the Middle East into not nearly enough pieces.

The guilt-tinged coverage is understandable, considering what a blo*dy mess the region is in* (although the Economist recently [didactically] argued it’s time to move on from blaming the West for the Middle East’s ills. Definitely quite an original take.) Continue reading

ISIS Fighter Furious at Non-Muslim Millennials for Appropriating Beard Culture


From hipsters in Williamsburg to millennials in Bethnal Green, ‘big, bushy beards’ have morphed from an ISIS subculture style to a mainstream Western fashion trend.* Daoud Mahmoud of Raqqa, Syria, says he can no longer remain silent. Florence of Arabia reports.

In a series of furious Tweets on Friday, 22-year-old ISIS militant Daoud Mahmoud blasted Western millennials and hipsters for their “appropriation” of the caliphate’s beard culture, saying it was becoming “increasingly intolerable.”

Tweeting from his shelled-out flat in Raqqa, Daoud gave a brief history of ISIS beard culture, saying facial hair is a core tenet of the terrorist group’s deep-seated spirituality — so much so, men who don’t sport a suitably bushy beard are instantaneously slaughtered.

Continue reading

Words Starting With the Letter P That Arabs Can Actually Pronounce


My fave bit of journalism this week is this New York Times article on an Israeli lawmaker’s comments that Palestine can’t possibly exist because the Arabic alphabet doesn’t contain the letter P.

In the journalistic gem, reporter Isabel Kershner states that “it is rare to meet an Arab who can pronounce the letter P.”

If you’re an Arab, or if have had the misfortune of communicating with Arabs, or living in the Middle East, you’ll know this is something of a fallacy.

I say “something of,” as I acknowledge that the mispronunciation isn’t entirely unheard of. I’m fair that way.

Perhaps your grandBa called you a SuBBer Star as you were growing up, or maybe you’ve been drinking Diet Bebsi all your life, but have never actually been able to bronounce the broblematic word. Continue reading

‘We Just Want to Go to England Please’


In less than 12 months, Calais — the tiny port-city in the north of France — has become synonymous with the plight of refugees worldwide.

Situated just across the English Tunnel, the makeshift migrant camp has frequently been referred to in international media outlets as a “jungle” or a “slum.”

Thousands of refugees — mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea —  struggle to survive on charity handouts at the camp, with many planning to embark on a desperate, often fateful journey by way of lorries and trains to the United Kingdom.

At the same time, coverage of these asylum seekers has either been muted or xenophobic. Continue reading

Cameron and the Pig, Dubai Rainforest and Putin at the Gym: The Year in Review


By Zahra Hankir and ND*

It’s been a tragic and dark year in many respects: Terrorist attacks from Paris and Tunisia to Beirut and Mali; the Nepal earthquake; the Greek debt showdown; strikes on Syria and the refugee crisis; the Charleston church massacre; escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians; police brutality; Islamophobia;Trump’s vitriol. And, and, and. (Google does a fantastic job of compiling the biggest trends here. )

But it’s also been a particularly hilarious year, and we don’t want to end it on a sour note. So we’ve pored through some of the more bizarre and unusual stories of the past 12 months and have selflessly compiled them here for you in one post, in lieu of Charlie Brooker’s 2015 Wipe.
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