White Widows, Black Widows and Jihad Janes: What Does A Terrorist Look Like?

Samantha Lewthwaite pictured on the cover of a newspaper in 2005. [Source].

The recent arrest warrant issued by Interpol for Samantha Lewthwaite has fuelled media fuel speculation that she was involved in the attack that killed more than 60 people in Nairobi’s Westgate mall. Since speculation always makes a good story, there has been an overwhelming amount of coverage on the woman dubbed “The White Widow.” The stories seem eerily familiar. Perhaps because, like Colleen LaRose (aka Jihad Jane), Lewthwaite has her own alliterative alias. Or because like Katherine Russell ( … [Read more...]

Book Review: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

and the mountains echoed

Like Khaled Hosseini’s two earlier novels, The Kite Runner (2003) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007), which spent a combined total of 171 weeks on the bestseller list, his latest novel, And the Mountains Echoed has received wide acclaim, and has been described as “heartbreaking,” “emotionally resonant,” and the writer’s “most ambitious work yet.”The novel begins with a folk tale about a div, a giant of Afghan folklore, who steals the youngest son of an impoverished family in a village blight … [Read more...]

Ramadan Resolutions, Revolving Revolutions: In One Year, Out the Other

One of the Mawa'id Arahman in Egypt. [Source].

A couple of years ago, I heard a story about an Egyptian woman who decided that she would cook the Ramadan favourites she usually cooked for iftar, but she and her family would not eat the meals she prepared. Instead, the food was distributed among the poor and they broke their fast on flat bread and fava beans. Maybe this is impractical idealism, or even (if you’re cynical) a form of poverty tourism, but the story struck me as a personal way of relating to Ramadan in a way that breaks from the y … [Read more...]

“Do You Dream?” – A Police Campaign against Honour-Related Crimes

The "Do you dream" poster. [Source].

As the summer vacation begins in Sweden, so does a campaign against a broad variety of crimes that the police have been addressing under the category hedersrelaterat våld och förtryck - “honour-related violence and oppression.” In particular, the police have focused on forced marriage, which they believe to be a “seasonal” crime, as the risk of people being forced into marriage are greater during the summer with the long leave.As one article covering the campaign put it, summer vacation is “n … [Read more...]

The Mother and the Motherland in Arab Literature

Cover of Hanan Al-Shaykh's The Locust and the Bird. [Source].

Moroccan novelist Mohammed Berrada’s Lu’bat al Nisyan (The Game of Forgetting, 1987) begins with “In the Beginning was the Mother.”   The main character in the novel, Hadi, is a leftist journalist suffering from a midlife crisis, disillusioned on the communal level by the deteriorating political situation in Morocco, and devastated on a personal level by the death of his mother, Lala Lghalya. Hadi's mother is referred to as “indispensable, like salt in food” and represented in terms that depict h … [Read more...]

Nahdet Masr: Woman, Sphinx, and the Question of Modernity

Source

In Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soeuif’s novel, The Map of Love, there is a scene that describes the statue Nahdet Masr (Rise of Egypt), a statue of a peasant woman unveiling as she stands next to the Sphinx: "The statue of Nahdet Masr rises before her: the statue at whose feet they had gathered in the days of the demonstrations...when it had seemed that the young would conquer the world and they, the students of Egypt, would be among the conquerors. They had taken Nahdet Masr as their symbol: a f … [Read more...]

Book Review: Sophia Al-Maria’s “The Girl Who Fell To Earth”

Cover of The Girl Who Fell to Earth. [Source].

The Girl who Fell to Earth is the coming-of-age story of a self-described “Qatarican” (Qatari/American) which takes the reader on a zig-zagging journey from a farm in Washington State to a Bedouin town in Qatar, and on to a houseboat on the Nile and the hustle and bustle of Cairo. The result is something very far from the usual “tone and content [of] the popular genre-memoirs of the victimized-Muslim-woman.”This book is rightly described as a memoir, but because it begins before the ambival … [Read more...]


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