When Bridging Between Cultures Doesn’t Help

Image of the "Fragrant Concubine." [Source].

Responding to a question on the potential of art to transform at Jewish Book Week last year, Palestinian-Israeli writer Sayed Kashua commented: “Sometime people talk about culture and literature and art as something that can connect people together…to bridge between cultures. I hate bridging between cultures. It should be tunnels.”I was reminded of Kashua’s undercutting of too-easy attempts to celebrate the transformative potential of art by the recent revelation of a 3D cartoon which hopes t … [Read more...]

Darkest Before Dawn: Ramadan in a Time of Disillusionment

Salwa Bugaighis. [Source].

On June 25th, Salwa Bugaighis was shot dead at her home in Benghazi. A human rights activist and lawyer, Bugaighis was a charismatic figure who played a leadership role in the uprising and in the women's movement, supporting a campaign which sought to establish minimum quotas for female lawmakers in parliament as well as being vice-president of a preparatory committee for national dialogue that travelled around the country holding town hall meetings – one of the few post-2011 initiatives in L … [Read more...]

The Headwrap Expo: Shifting the Conversation

[Source].

On June 8th, the 2014 Headwrap Expowas held in Dearborn, Michigan, billed as an event on “the art of headwrapping and scarf styling,” bringing together fashion, culture and interfaith dialogue.The event was presented by Beautifully Wrapped, an organization celebrating the art of headwrapping. According to Zarinah El-Amin Naeem, founder of Beautifully Wrapped, The Headwrap Expo is intended to celebrate “fusion — looking at how different cultural aspects, different things that people wear in di … [Read more...]

The Crimes and Punishment of Apostasy and Adultery

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Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese doctor who married a Christian man in 2011, was convicted last week on charges of apostasy.  While Ibrahim has a Muslim father, she appears to have been raised Christian. Apostasy implies conversion, but as Ibrahim reportedly told the judge, "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.” By her account, Ibrahim has always considered herself to be Christian, raising the question of what it means for a court to be using “Islamic law” to sentence her when its basis for … [Read more...]

On Hany Abu Asad’s Omar and the “Missing Voice” of Women

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Hany Abu-Assad’s film Omar (2013) has been described as “a film about love in the face of grueling adversity,” with the various obstacles facing the young couple symbolized by the very literal obstacle of the separation wall  that meanders into the West Bank, cutting off Palestinian areas from each other. Omar routinely scales the wall to meet up with Nadja, but as Abu Assad puts it in an interview: “This is the outside obstacle, because the inside obstacle between the two lovers is trust.” … [Read more...]

Double Move: Rethinking Muslim Feminist Strategies

I recently read Layal Ftouni’s essay “Rethinking Gender Studies: Towards an Arab Feminist Epistemology” where the author thinks through those long-standing “stark, defined binaries between tradition, as indigenous and repressive of women; and modernity, as Western and progressive.” The essay is included in the book Arab Cultural Studies: Mapping the Field, and it is focused on feminist movements in Arabic-speaking countries. However, Ftouni’s central concern seems to be reassessing gender relatio … [Read more...]

Rediscovering Noor Inayat Khan and the Good Muslim

Cover of Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan. [Source].

I will confess that I first became aware of Noor Inayat Khan, also known as Madeline, only quite recently, that is, during the campaign in 2011 to commemorate her, before it was discovered that she had already been commemorated. I remember looking up her story at the time and coming across her biography, Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu. I did plan on reading the book, but reviews at Goodreads, which complained about the amount of detail and the tone of the first half … [Read more...]


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