Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Stop being obsessed with what women wear

I am sick and tired of people's obsessions and their self-righteousness when it comes to what women wear. It is not a woman’s burden to impress everybody in her society, nor is that even possible to do so. If she poses nude in the pages of a magazine, what’s it to you? If she is entirely covered except for her face, hands and feet behind her desk at work or completely covered while grocery shopping, what’s it to you? If she’s wearing a midriff and short shorts, what’s it to you? If her clothing and style is androgynous, what’s it to you? If she’s dressed in male clothing, what’s it to you? No – really – what is it to you? 

There are self-righteous critics from all sides of the spectrum chastising women for presenting themselves in ways they deem unacceptable.  For example, there are certain groups in society - intolerant, anti-diversity types - who criticise hijabi women for wearing the hijab in the first place, and then there are others who attack women for wearing the hijab in a way they don't approve of (they're normally from within the Muslim community). 

Women just can't please anyone, can they? There has also been a recent fuss over Egyptian woman Aliaa al-Mahdy, also known as the 'nude blogger', for posting nude photos of herself in protest of Egypt's misogyny and the shaming of women. Local figure Deborah Hutton has also been copping flack at the moment for posing nude on the cover of Women's Weekly. 

Modesty police and threat-to-our-way-of life police plague the place. And I’m tired of reading and listening to misinformed and judgmental people attempt at explaining why so-and-so lady did the wrong thing by wearing such-and-such. In an idealistic world, a woman should not have to put up with, or even expect, any kind of response to what she wears – whether it’s applause and admiration, or scathing criticism. But since our world is far from anything idealistic, I support admiration over condemnation. To hell with your obsession.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

What's wrong with being asked about your ethnic background?

I recently came across an article in the Guardian titled 'It may not be racist, but it's a question I'm tired of hearing'. The author writes about how she's frustrated at being constantly questioned about where she comes from. She says that people only ask her where she's from because she's a "bit brown"/"cashew-coloured", and by asking, those people have implied that she is "less British". 

It starts off with:

Last weekend, I had The Conversation for the 3,897th time – and this time, it took place in central London just two roads away from the hospital where I was born. As usual, it went like this:
Stranger: Where are you from? [Translation: You look a bit brown. Why are you brown?]
Me: London.
Stranger: No, where are you really from? [Translation: You are clearly telling me untruths. Brown people do not come from London.]
Me: London.
Stranger (exasperated): No, where are your parents from? [Translation: Now you're just being obtuse.]
Me: Africa and America.
Stranger (confused): Erm … so where are your family from, like, back in the day? [Translation: People who come from Africa and America do not look like you.]
Me: Iran, India, Africa, America and England.
Stranger (relieved): India and Iran! Do you ever go back?
At this point, I have to explain that it's hard to go back to somewhere you have never been. I've lived in London since I was a zygote, have a London accent and don't speak any languages except English – yet just because I'm cashew-coloured, I'm often questioned about my heritage. 

Explaining why it annoys her, she writes:

...It's partly down to exasperation at people thinking I'm less British than them because I'm brown...

Surely this author suffers from acute First World syndrome? It's melodramatic and presumptuous to believe that people only show interest in a person's cultural background to suss out or confirm how 'unauthentic' the person is. When I'm asked about my cultural background, I've never felt that the questioner is insinuating that I'm less Australian. Never have I stopped to think, "Hang on, this person must be inferring that I'm un-Australian or less Australian because I have olive skin and 'distinct' features." Asking a person about their ethnicity is a conversation starter - an ice breaker, really. I personally don't feel judged when I'm asked, nor do I feel objectified. If the questioner is probing me in a patronising way or wearing a Ku Klux Klan cloak, then I may have grounds to believe that they're not asking out of interest. Otherwise, no.

I also find it distateful how the article assumes that those who do the asking are mostly Anglo/white (the 'stereotypical' or majority Brit). I ask people what their cultural background is all the time, whether they're "cashew brown" or pasty white or unmistakably Arab. I'm curious about certain people, and I enjoy knowing/learning about a person's background and lineage. Humans are naturally inquisitive and we tend to want to find out more about people who look distinct or sound distinct. 

It's needless to feel offended by nothing much at all.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Israel threatens to cut water and power off to Gaza

Israel has plans to further collectively punish 1.6 million Palestinians living in the already impoverished Gaza by denying them access to water, a fundamental human right, and power. It seems that blockading, massacring, drone bombing and shaking up the ground in Gaza daily isn't enough for Israel. Its threats to devastate Gaza further isn't new, however. 

The Israeli government says it will cut water and power off completely if Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas form a unity government. The leaders of Fatah and Hamas, who already signed a reconciliation deal earlier this year, have been meeting recently to discuss the possibility of creating a united government.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that a unity government deal, something that many Palestinians have been urging for, "would transform the Palestinian Authority into a terrorist authority and would put an end to any hope for a peace agreement."

When Ayalon says that the Palestinian Authority will transform into a "terrorist authority", he actually means to say, "The Palestinian Authority might stop kneeling down before us". Really, you would think that Ayalon was already aware that the PA is a "terrorist authority" since it is complicit in participating in and allowing Israel to terrorise Palestinians. If Israel was Mr Burns, the Palestinian Authority would be Mr Smithers. 

Israel's plans to completely cut off water and electricity in Gaza reeks of terrible de ja vu. During the Holocaust, the Germans cut off water and power to Jewish ghettos. Does the Jewish state ever get haunting flashbacks? Do the eerie similarities ever occur to Israel - a state that uses the memory of the Holocaust to vindicate its crimes?

Israel doesn't care for a peace agreement nor does it wish to negotiate, as it often cheaply claims while approving more illegal settlements, expelling Palestinians and terrorising them daily. If Israel truly yearned for some kind of peace, it would have accepted the Palestinian statehood bid (but even then, Palestinian statehood brings no justice to Palestinians). The only kind of 'peace' Israel wants is peace and quiet from restless and occupied Palestinians, and it does so by removing them from their land and brutalising them so that it can continue to run an ethnocratic supremacist state that privileges Jews, ethnic and religious, over Palestinians. 

I can't claim that anything good will come out of unity between Fatah and Hamas for Palestinians. I can't foresee much because Palestinians, after all, are ultimately controlled by Israel, no matter which Palestinian movement governs. What's more important is the people's movement. Protests, intifida and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Where the Hell is Ehab?

Join Ehab as he dances Dabkah through 18 cities and locations in Historical Palestine during the summer of 2011. 

Gosh, I love this. It's inspired by the video Where the Hell is Matt? 

Song: Majd El-Kasem - Ysabahkoum Wa Ymaseekom

Friday, 25 November 2011

Halal Meat Is Making A Muslim Out Of You

Liberal MP Luke Simpkins yesterday claimed that Australians are "unknowingly being converted to Islam by eating halal meat." (via thewest)
Mr Simpkins told Parliament:
“By having Australians unwittingly eating halal food we are all one step down the path towards the conversion, and that is a step we should only make with full knowledge and one that should not be imposed upon us without us knowing."
“What is happening is wrong. Too often the minorities in this country are looked after without regard to the majority.”
Mr Simpkins said the results of a survey he carried out in his electorate showed that Coles and Woolworths supermarket chains were selling halal meat but were not labelling the meat halal. While I haven't seen the results of this unofficial survey, nor am I aware of how it was carried out, I do agree with the general principle that foods should be labelled correctly - where the food was imported from, whether the food is halal or kosher etc. 

But to go as far as saying that halal meat leads a person down the path to becoming a Muslim is so stupid. I'm not sure what kind of response or reaction Mr Simpkins was hoping for with his scaremongering, but everybody's laughing. Islamophobia isn't so alarming anymore - it's actually bloody hilarious. You snicker, roll your eyes and share around the crazies (Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly are faves) on Facebook and Twitter going "HAI EVERYONE, LOOK AT THIS GUY LOL!", you retell friends and relatives by mimicking what was said in an exaggerated and ridiculous voice and then it's over. You carry on with your life while people like Mr Simpkins cry themselves to sleep at night because everyone's becoming Muslim.

If you really are what you eat and halal meat makes you Muslim, then I guess:


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Why You Should Avoid Muslim Doctors

After watching a simulation of the resurrection of Jesus at a Christian-themed amusement park, Herman Cain, one of the many fundamentalist stooges running for US president, got up on stage in the auditorium to preach and speak about some of his experiences. This is what he said at one point (from Yahoo! News):

He (Cain) did have a slight worry at one point during the chemotherapy process when he discovered that one of the surgeon's name was "Dr. Abdallah."
"I said to his physician assistant, I said, 'That sounds foreign—not that I had anything against foreign doctors—but it sounded too foreign," Cain tells the audience. "She said, 'He's from Lebanon.' Oh, Lebanon! My mind immediately started thinking, wait a minute, maybe his religious persuasion is different than mine! She could see the look on my face and she said, 'Don't worry, Mr. Cain, he's a Christian from Lebanon.'"
"Hallelujah!" Cain says. "Thank God!"

Cain is right on the money to feel uncomfortable in that situation. I mean, why would you want to be treated by an alien Muslamb doctor? Seriously? They've probably jumped the queue in their medical degree somehow. Muslim medical students clock up arduous work experience hours at the local hospital by pretending to save lives and helping people, when really, they're just hiding in some first-aid supplies closet worshipping and doing that little standing-bumbs-up-onya-knees dance of theirs the entire time. If you know what’s right for you, steer clear away from Muslim doctors. They're way too foreign and so disconnected from our ways. They prescribe antibiotics and garlic sauce for all aches and pains and secretly laugh inside when infidels seek assistance.

Here are some friendly, practical tips to avoid Muslim doctors:

1. Before you make an appointment, be politely bigoted, xenophobic and intolerant by asking the receptionist about the doctor’s “religious persuasion”. People who have names that sound like phlegm being violently coughed up are not necessarily Muslim, so be sure.

2. Try and take a good peek of the doctor in question's office by pacing up and down or pretending to go to the restroom. If you see a miniature camel ornament on the doctor's desk or Arabic calligraphy on the walls, get your arse out of there, cancel your appointment and never return.

3. If you've left your investigating too late and find yourself in the doctor's office, you can always pretend to be a bomb before they go any further. In the middle of explaining your problems, jolt uncontrollably and make explosive noises. If the doctor claps, laughs and says “very nayce one, you remind me of ze homeland” then you’ve singlehandedly unveiled them (no pun) as a Muslamic. Get your arse out of there and never return.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Tahrir Tattoo

If I was ever to get a tattoo, I'd get Tahrir written in small Arabic letters somewhere. Liberation.

My new desktop background

Should we be calling the Arab revolutions the "Arab Spring"?

Does anyone else think the term Arab Spring is rather out of line? It's a very euphemistic label employed by Western commentators that, I believe, whitewashes and severely downplays the bloodshed and the challenges Arab protesters face. It also has some serious Orientalist connotations. Protesters and journalists in the Arab world don't even use it. The Middle East is seeing revolutions, awakenings, uprisings, revolts. Thawra, intifada, nahda. 

It's just as problematic as the Arab revolutions being referred to as Facebook and Twitter revolutions. The roles of Facebook and Twitter are overemphasised in order to make the uprisings a more digestible narrative for the West. Social media websites are simply today's vehicles and platforms for sharing and organising. And you can't forget that most protesters don't even have access to the Internet or those sites. Revolution is born from a state of mind and the state of the state. Not social media sites. It implies that Arabs are out of touch and are unable to find their feet without the help of western innovations.

It wouldn't be another day without western hegemony, would it?

Transcription of Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions 101

Below is a transcription of a speech I gave about boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) at a Palestinian function several weeks ago. It was an introductory speech to a largely Palestinian audience. It is introductory because I was told most are not too familiar with BDS. It was written at short notice (most of it written several hours beforehand) and there was a lot I would have loved to properly cover. This is the gist of it for those who were interested in the hard copy.

I’d like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the first Australians, whose land we occupy today. We are currently meeting on Darug land that belongs to the Burramattagal people.

It’s a real honour to be able to speak to members of my community about a cause that is important to me. I strongly believe in the Palestinian struggle for justice. 


To quote the late Professor Edward Said, because it is a just cause, a noble ideal and a moral quest for equality and human rights. Tonight, I want to address several areas. I’ll be speaking about the boycotts, divestments and sanctions movement, BDS, an incredibly important and rapidly growing global movement that aims to deliver justice for Palestine. At the end, I will open up questions to the floor specifically about Palestinian activism, especially youth Palestinian activism in Australia, and I’m hoping to have a conversation with you about the importance of a) doing whatever you can to ensure you are doing something for Palestine, because everyone can be active in their own way and b) the importance of maintaining and knowing about aspects of Palestinian culture – that includes art, music, food, film, dress, because to exist is to resist. It’s essential that when the old die, the young don’t forget. We also need Palestinians, Arabs, at the forefront of Palestine rights campaigns. We can’t have others continually speaking on our behalf – we need to speak out for ourselves.

The plight of Palestine is something that concerns and should concern all Palestinians – Palestinians living in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians living in historic Palestine – behind the green line in what is considered Israel today – Palestinian refugees living in and outside of Palestine and Palestinians living in the Diaspora, sprawled across the world, including many of us here tonight. The plight of Palestine and the struggle for justice in Palestine is something that concerns all people who want to see Israel held accountable for its crimes against Palestinians.

I could stand here and speak about every detail, inside out, of Israel’s injustices against Palestinians. I could stand here and detail the very beginning of it all, the creation, the very inception of the modern Zionist movement in the late nineteenth century.

I could speak about the invasion and dispossession of Palestine, the Nakba, one of the greatest robberies of our time, the explusion and exile of three-quarters of the population, who until this day, are not allowed the right to return to their homes and properties. I could detail the struggles Palestinians have faced for sixty-three years and still continue to face: the brutal military occupation, the checkpoints, the curfews, permit systems, the continual annexation and confiscation of Palestinian land, the continued organised ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the destruction of homes, farms, olives trees, the environment, the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements – colonies, the construction of the ugly apartheid wall that snakes its way in and around the West Bank, the blockade and the siege against Gaza, the slaughter, the imprisonment of Palestinians and the constant racial discrimination and system of apartheid imposed on Palestinians.

Why are Palestinians treated in such a way? Because they exist. Because they are Palestinian, something they have no choice or control over, something they are born into the world with. Zionism is a racist ideology that privileges Jews over non-Jews. It is like all supremacist ideologies that privilege one group of people over others; ideologies that deem others inferior to them because the other doesn't fit a certain ethnic or religious mould.

But, tonight I won’t, nor do I necessarily have to go into that kind of detail, because if you already have the slightest understanding and grasp of some of the most fundamental injustices Palestinians face daily, then that is enough to know that these injustices need to be corrected.

We, of course, need a solution. We don’t need so-called peace talks and negotiations. It can be argued that the entire ‘peace process’ that the West projects and spins never entirely existed in the first place. Talks and dialogue only create the appearance of working towards peace, when little to no progress is really happening. We don’t need nor should we be interested in interfaith and intercultural dialogues. How can we interconnect when occupation and apartheid is ignored? Palestinians cannot, and should not be the ones to make concessions – after all, it is their land that was dispossessed, it is they who are occupied, it is they who are oppressed and have few rights and freedoms, it is they who are discriminated against, it is they who are imprisoned – not vice versa. There is an occupier and an occupied in this equation, and it is Israel who needs to make the concessions. It is Israel who has to give up Zionism and give equal rights, among many other things, to Palestinians. Things Palestinians should not have had taken from them in the first place. But of course, Israel will not make those concessions. Which is precisely why we need to take matters into our own hands. It is exactly why people, activists, organisations, unions, institutions, universities, academics, governments, artists, musicians, athletes, workers, and companies all need to participate in BDS and end all ties with Israel.

BDS did not come out of nowhere. Back in 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel in order to pressure Israel to comply with international law and Palestinian rights. Over 170 civil society groups within Palestine have called on the world to participate in this non-violent struggle against Israeli colonisation, occupation and apartheid.

Again, BDS is not about diplomacy, it is about applying pressure on Israel. It’s about doing whatever we can to end ties with Israel. BDS is a campaign against the normalisation of Israeli apartheid. Israel should not, and cannot be seen as a legitimate state in the eyes of the international community as it stands today. Inequality cannot be tolerated.

So what does BDS want and how does it work?

There are three things BDS calls for. Firstly, Israel must end its occupation and colonisation of all Palestinian lands occupied in 1967. It must dismantle the apartheid wall.

Secondly, it must recognise the fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and give Palestinians the full equality they deserve.

Thirdly, it must allow Palestinian refugees awda, return, the right to return to their homes and properties as declared by the United Nations Resolution 194.

The BDS movement is inspired by and emulates the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that assisted in bringing down the apartheid regime in South Africa. When white South Africans racially discriminated, segregated and severely oppressed black South Africans, a global boycott movement flourished. The world, fortunately, woke up to the crimes of apartheid. As history has shown, BDS is the nemesis of apartheid. Further, Desmond Tutu, a South African bishop and human rights advocate, who campaigned for freedom during the apartheid era, says that the apartheid conditions Palestinians live under are harsher than what was experienced during the apartheid era in South Africa.

Boycotts target products and companies (both Israeli and international) that profit from the violation of Palestinian rights. It extends beyond consumer boycotts and includes the boycott of Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions. The BDS site states that anyone can boycott Israeli goods, simply by making sure that you don’t buy produce made in Israel or by Israeli companies. One example would be products by the Strauss group, one of the largest food and beverage companies in Israel. The Strauss group owns several chains and food items, including Max Brenner chocolate bar and Sabra hummus – which have been the target of several BDS campaigns, particularly in the US and Australia. The Strauss Group openly and “proudly” declares its support for the Israeli military – particularly two brigades, the Golani and Givati brigades. This is a military involved in heinous crimes against Palestinians. The brigades were more recently involved in the Gaza massacre in 08/09 and used white phosphorous bombs and were also involved in the 2006 Lebanon invasion. Another target of BDS is Ahava and dead sea minerals stores. Israeli companies capitalise on stolen Palestinian minerals from the occupied West Bank.

Academic boycotts and the boycotting of universities is tremendously important. The BDS website writes that “Israeli cultural and academic institutions directly contribute to maintaining, defending or whitewashing the oppression of Palestinians, as Israel deliberately tries to boost its image internationally through academic and cultural collaborations.” Palestinians living in historic Palestine/behind the green line or what is called Israel now, are also heavily discriminated against in Israel’s education system. Also, Technion University, in Haifa, for example, has extensive links with an arms manufacturer, which supplies weapons to the Israeli military. Israeli universities are involved in weapons research and development, and their strengthening of Israel’s occupation makes them complicit in Israel’s crimes.

Recently, South African university, the University of Johannesburg, ended its relationship with Ben Gurion university in Israel. There are several campaigns and the beginnings of several campaigns in the US, Canada and Australia that are targeting Technion for its collusion in criminal military activity. The largest student union in Europe, the University of London Union, also recently boycotted Israel – BDS victories keep rolling in.

In terms of cultural boycotts, prominent artists who have decided not to or have refused to perform in Israel after being pressure by activists include the late Gil Scott-Heron, Elvis Costello, the Pixies and more. Filmmakers, producers and actors have boycotted film festivals held in Israel, for example, and mainstream performers of the likes of Lupe Fiasco are making references to injustices in Palestine.

Divestment means targeting corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights. This year, for example, French corporation Veolia was cut down in size and announced massive losses because of pressure from Palestinian rights activists. Alstom, another transportation multinational, lost billions of dollars because of its involvement in the illegal Jerusalem light rail project that links to settlements in the West Bank.

The Israeli produce company Agrexco is also set for bankruptcy. This was announced two months ago, after being heavily targeted by BDS activists. Agrexco grows its produce in illegal settlements.

Other examples of recent boycott and general victories include Lush beauty products, a huge seller in the UK, declaring its support for freedom in Palestine, and also two months ago, the Swedish supermarket chain, Co-op, stopped selling Israeli home carbonation machines from SodaStream because the company operates in illegal settlements.

I’m pressed for time, but I strongly encourage you to visit to check out the latest campaigns and the latest BDS victories.

Sanctions from governments are perhaps the strongest acts and a critical part of demonstrating disapproval of Israel’s actions. Diplomatic and economic sanctions are vital. Venezuela, for example, expelled the Israeli ambassador in response to Israel’s massacre and siege on Gaza. Turkey recently cut diplomatic and military ties with Israel because of the flotilla massacre – a massacre it took no responsibility for it. Israel enjoys impunity and is never held accountable for its actions and it is necessary for states to act accordingly.

So, what’s so special about BDS? Why BDS?

Let me make clear that BDS works and Israel is already feeling the pressure. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak himself said “(BDS) will start coming at us like a glacier, from all corners.” Israel also outlawed boycotts and boycott campaigns in Israel this year. It clearly fears BDS and its effectiveness.

There are people who dismiss BDS, including some members of our community. They feel that it’s pointless but that’s precisely because they don’t understand it, they don’t understand its effectiveness so far and the rapid momentum and support it’s gaining. There will always be opposition and criticism, but we need to rise above it and push BDS in Australia. The Greens’ move to boycott Israel in Marrickville this year, though knocked backed unfortunately, really helped put BDS on the map here in Australia. We need to move forward, and the Palestinian community must play a prominent role in it.

And while I can’t go into as much detail as I’d like, there are people who strongly oppose BDS, and Zionists and Israel supporters who do oppose it, label it anti-Jew/anti-Semitic just as they do with any action or criticism of Israel - a poor attempt to delegitimise a righteous cause. And it isn’t of course, but we can overcome the smear campaigns and scaremongering by continuing to apply pressure. The typical knee-jerk response from Zionists won’t ever, and can’t, undermine and destroy something as strong as the collective will for justice and self-determination for Palestine.

I’ll have to leave it here, but I welcome questions now, and if you wish to discuss it further with me afterwards, I am more than willing to.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Brawl on Lebanese talk show about Syrian uprising

Often, when people side with the violent, they are only capable of speaking aggressively in an attempt to silence others.

From Abu Kareem:

On a Lebanese TV talk show hosting two politicians from opposing camps earlier this week, a heated argument about Syria degenerated into a shouting match followed by a near brawl. To the left of the talk show host is Mustafa Alloush, a politician from the Future Movement and to the right of the host is Fayiz Shukur, the head of the Lebanese Baathist party (allied to Bashar Al Assad). When the topic turned to Syria, Shukur asks Alloush if he had listened to Assad's speech. Alloush said "yes but I don't believe him, I think he is a liar". Shukur, taking offense as he plays the role of obedient sycophant,asks Alloush sarcastically: "who do you think you are to call president Bashar a liar". Insults are exchanged, water and pens fly across the table and then, Shukur, Bashar's man to the end, gets ready to throw his chair before he is stopped by the host. In the final seconds of the video, one can hear Shukur swearing and calling Alloush's sister a whore. 
It is a sadly comical video and I blame the uncivil behavior completely on Shukur. His behavior is emblematic of anyone working for or supporting the criminal regime in Syria. Beside the horror perpetrated on the Syrian people, their long arm reaches into Lebanon where they use their allies to threaten, harass or kidnap anyone opposing the Syrian regime. Recently they unleashed their goons to sack embassies of governments who go against them and send death threats to the head of the Arab league. 
I applaud Alloush for taking a stand against the Syrian regime, a courageous move given that it is done at the risk of his own safety. Mustafa Alloush is an old classmate from medical school. Warm, honest, soften spoken and always with a ready smile, Mustafa was liked by everyone in class. In fact this video may be the first time I see him lose his temper. Not that he is a pushover; he is short but built like a rock and has a black belt in Judo. Had Shukur, in his rage, managed to reach him, Mustafa would have taken him down in a second.


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Arabic Proverbs

(via sssictransit)

Doily dress in the 90s

After digging through some old photo albums, I found several snaps of when I was a flower girl at an aunty's wedding. Honestly, who made me wear a huge doily and why do I look so happy in it? Dressing the four-year-old flower girl in a 90s bridal dress was not the way to go. Laugh then, cry now. And smile a little while crying, I guess.

I remember walking in front of the bride and groom with another flower girl and we each both carried a candle. I also remember being afraid that the candle would shrink quickly and I would burn my hands. I'm a survivor. I've read somewhere that holding candles is a tradition at Palestinian weddings. I'm unsure of the symbolism though. I've been to a lot of Palestinian weddings here in Australia but I've never seen it. However, my aunty's wedding was in Lebanon (we travelled there to visit and attend the wedding) so I guess they're more in line with traditions and all the cultural details.

good lord

hello friend

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

6 Things Arabs Could Do Without

1. Lateness
Punctuality used to be my thing. If I was supposed to meet someone at 5pm, I would be there at 5pm – no more, no less. But then suddenly, one day, Arabness took a hold of me. It seized my soul and crushed all the punctuality and respect for time there was inside of me. It chewed it up, spat it out and then stomped on it a thousand times over. 

Okay, so I'm not that bad with time, but running late is an endemic among the Arab people. There's a long-running joke among Arabs about "running on Middle Eastern Standard Time". Running on Middle Eastern Standard Time does not add some kind of exotic dimension to being fashionably late. There is nothing hip about arriving an hour and a half to two hours late to a wedding reception. While the bride and groom anxiously wait at the back for what seems like a century before their grand entrance, Arab guests are still filling in seats. They’ll tell you that their car broke down, that they had to finish prayers, that they were sick, the traffic was terrible, they were catching up on Home and Away to find out which character was killed off this week, a game of rugby was on or they still had coal burning on their apple-flavoured shisha and inhaled, exhaled, inhaled, exhaled, until the coal was no longer of use to them.

Parties, appointments, meetings, gatherings – you name it, we’re late. If your Arab friend tells you that they’re on their way and that they’ll be over in a bit, chances are they’ve just rolled out of bed or haven’t left the house.

To make your life run a little smoother, give an Arab about an hour leeway beforehand. Meeting for dinner at 7pm? Tell them to be there at 6pm.

2. Speaking loudly

You think techtonic plates move because of convection currents in the Earth's mantle? No. They move because Arab mothers and fathers and aunties and uncles and grandparents and cousins and great-aunts and great-uncles and their neighbours and their family friends and their cousins and their cousins’ cousins children’s Arabic school teacher’s mother-in-law compete to speak over each other. Every gathering. Every time. What ever happened to enjoying tea and scones on a quiet Sunday afternoon together? What ever happened to indoor voices? (Note: Arabs don't 'get' indoor voices. Nobody does. It’s something that apron-clad mothers call out to their mischievous children in movies about a white middle-class family and their pet dog.) Anything will inflame a group of Arabs – a game of cards, politics, washing the dishes (as in, everyone offers to wash the dishes and not one of them will take no for an answer), what so-and-so did last time, how dare so-and-so do such-and-such, etc. If you ever overhear a bunch of Arabs yelling and you’re worried a brawl might break out – don’t worry. They’re probably having a friendly chat about unicorns and rainbows and stuff.

3. Force-feeding family, friends and guests

It’s customary to make sure your guests are comfortable. Arabs want their relatives and visitors to be well fed. A little too well fed, though. When your grandmother or  aunty dramatically heaps food onto a plate and then presses you to have seconds and thirds when you haven’t finished the first, you know shit’s about to go down and there’s no escaping it. Things can get ugly if you refuse to eat more food when it's offered to you, even if you’re about to explode. You might have a healthy build, but older Arab women will see a miserable bag of bones, a person battling anorexia, and they will do anything to beef you up. They are delusional and you must play along with it. They will win by guilt tripping you with “Why? You don’t like my food, ha? You don’t like the food I make? Look at my poor old body, look at it!” or they relentlessly nag you until you give in.

4. Speaking forever at the door

You and your family are visiting friends. Three hours later, it's time to leave. The hosts offer to walk you out. Suddenly, the moment you all step foot outside the front door while saying your final goodbyes, your parents and the hosts break into a super long conversation. It's as if they haven’t seen each other in years and they're eager to update each other about everything and anything. And so they talk. And talk. And talk. The three-hour stay clearly wasn't long enough and the conversation continues outside. It goes on. And on. And on. It's as though doorknobs on Arab homes release a magical lets-have-a-deep-and-meaningful-conversation-at-the-front-door agent once turned. Older gen Arabs spend more time talking at the front door (and then by the car) than they do the entire time they're inside the actual house. And if you happen to be with them, you're left standing there shifting your weight from foot to foot, waiting and wondering and eyeing your parents with a look that says “Hurry up!” 

And when you think it's all finally over, the hosts invite everyone back into the house to finish the conversation over several more cups of coffee. You just can't win.

5. Crappy sitcoms

Arabic sitcoms (mosalsalat) are bad. There are about 1000 episodes in one season and the plots don’t move anywhere during the first 999. Arabic sitcoms are dramatic, sensationalised, full of somber music and everyone’s crying (close-up shots of tears rolling down faces are included every so often). There are love triangles (hexagons, decagons even), a woman who never fails to wail every episode, a man who loses his shit every episode, an evil mother-in-law who's always plotting something, several arranged marriages, and hit-men who, almost always, kill the wrong person. Yet older gen Arabs here in the West are hooked. They sit on the edge of their seats as if to nostalgically reach out to a poorly represented homeland. And if Arabic sitcoms weren't bad enough, Arabic channels are now outsourcing their shows. Goodbye Arabic sitcoms, hello Turkish sitcoms with out-of-synch Arabic voiceovers?

6. Nationalism and pride

This is something the whole world could do without. Dear proud Arab, what are you proud of? Love, understand, appreciate and conserve your history and culture, but don’t be a blind flag-waving patriot and jingoist. After all, no-one chooses their cultural and ancestral background. Racism and a sense of superiority over others is needless and mindless. Overt pride, the 'pRo0uD 2 b3  aRaB' business, the defensiveness and the divisiveness all belong in a trash can. You are better without it. Promise to hummus.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Angry Arab

Today, I am an angry Arab. 

Feel my wrath crash down on you. 

The pain will exceed the kind of agony induced by backstroking and butterflying a thousand laps alternately in an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled with hummus and tabouli.

It will surpass the suffering felt by a shish kebab skewer being pricked into your face a million times while being trampled over by a herd of feral camels drugged up on amphetamines.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

'The' Palestinians

Note: Palestinians as a collective people are Palestinians, not 'the Palestinians'.

The 'the' only reinforces Otherness.

Al Nakba: Palestinians expelled from their homes and land

Al Nakba: Palestinians expelled from their homes and land