Monday, November 24, 2008

The Optimist is moving!

Dear Dedicated Readers,

This is exciting, I moved my blog over to wordpress! I have not been satisfied with Blogger, since its editing options and settings are inferior to the options Wordpress offers. My new home is all set up and ready to go. All the posts and your comments were moved to:

So let's move the conversation over there. Visit me at my new home, it's much fancier!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Qatar's Museum of Islamic Art

I love Qatar for many reasons and have great respect for its people, culture, and leaders. I also love the Doha Debates, Qatar Foundation, Shafallah Center, Qatar Open, and most importantly, Qatar's commendable foreign policy. There is yet another reason I can add to my "Why I love Qatar" list, which is: The Museum of Islamic Art. The museum houses the world's largest Islamic art collection, at over one thousand artifacts. Check out Aljazeera's coverage of the museum's unveiling ceremony, which was attended by one thousand dignitaries from around the world. Fantastic!

Side note: I wonder how much money it took to 'lure' renowned architect I.M. Pei out of retirement.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What Does Angelina Jolie Have in Common With Arab Leaders?

Well, other than the fact that they have all been blessed with incredible beauty, turns out she’s also a fan of censoring any criticism of her image. According to the New York Times, Jolie has been orchestrating her public image for years, successfully constructing a facade of sainthood. Many moons ago, Jolie was known for looks ,wild ways, infatuation with blood and sharp objects, and her über sexual persona—she is bisexual. She is also the woman who stole Brad Pitt from Jennifer Aniston (how dare she do that to Rachel!) However, instead of being known as a husband snatcher, she is constantly praised for her international mini-army and her humane efforts worldwide. So how did she transform her public image?

The article states that when Pitt and Jolie “negotiated with People and other celebrity magazines this summer for photos of their newborn twins and an interview, the stars were seeking more than the estimated $14 million they received from the deal. They also wanted a hefty slice of journalistic input — a promise that the winning magazine’s coverage would be positive, not merely in that instance but into the future.”

The article goes on to describe Jolie’s restrictions on what is to be reported about her: “According to the deal offered by Ms. Jolie, the winning magazine was obliged to offer coverage that would not reflect negatively on her or her family.”

Smells like Arab leaders.

Disclaimer: The aforementioned “analysis” has no intellectual merit whatsoever.

3enda Hosni Thanni

Of all the tyrants and dictators in the Arab world, Hosni Mubarak is my favorite. (If you haven't picked up on the sarcasm, pick it up and let's move on to the next point.) Hosni Mubarak has always been so dedicated to ensuring the "goodwill" of his people. He has never been a fan of nepotism or cronyism, and obviously does not go to sleep before making sure every Egyptian street child is warm and well fed. His cabinet has also been known for integrity and allegiance to the improvement of Egypt. Of all the lovely dictators in the Arab world, he has never been one to say something and do something else. Also, he is famous for his transparency and openness to criticism (especially by the Egyptian press.)

Looking at pictures of Hosni Mubarak give me tingles in silly places. Also,hearing this quote about his impression of South Sudanese people warmed my heart and made my day:

"I was overjoyed when I found out that all Southerners I met spoke Arabic because they were trained in Egypt"

Collective "Awww" pweaze. How selfless and positively affirming of him! How magnanimous is he? I especially love that no Sudanese person is treated badly under his watch, or ever brutally murdered or shot like a dog. Love him.

Some crazy people, who are pooh-poohers of every great person on earth, say that he is only interested in South Sudan because of Egypt's desperate need for the completion of Jonglei Canal, a hydro-construction project that guarantees Egypt more than two billion cubic meters of Nile water annually. I say hydropolitcal motives have no place in his tender heart!

Those people are delusional and clearly want to convince the world that Hosni Mubarak has special interests, and is not doing this for his love and sincere concern for the Southern Sudanese people. After all he did say:

"I came to Juba for the first time and it gives you an indication that we are concerned about southern Sudan".

Say Nay to silly skeptics and vindictive vendettas. Haters.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

سوداني الجنسيه
والزفه مصريه
واللبسه هنديه
ودي الرقصه غربيه
يا حليل الهويه

Awad Dakkam song by Taha Suliman

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Dichotomy Between Religion and Culture in Sudan (Part 2)

I began the first part of “The Dichotomy between Religion and Culture in Sudan” by proclaiming my love for Islam, so I thought it would only be appropriate to begin the second part by proclaiming my love and attachment to our great Sudanese culture. So here it is: I love Sudanese culture. However, many aspects of our culture sadden me, and matters only get worse when religion is used to sanctify shameful cultural practices. Being from North Sudan, I will obviously have a different view of “culture” than someone from other areas, so forgive me if I am not all-inclusive. However, I am not being divisive either, because in the broad sense, what I am writing about is applicable to any place where religion and culture are intertwined and where one is wrongfully used to justify the other (almost every non-secular country.) I do believe that the two are extremely important and fascinating aspects of life. I can not imagine a life where one is living in absolute terms of religious practices, completely ignoring cultural traditions, or vice versa. However, I find it mind-boggling that some who claim to be “religious” choose to believe in clearly anti-Islamic behaviors, and even defend culture on account of Islam.

A good example of this is marriage in North Sudan. Now this is a big one to tackle, and I will probably address this numerous times in the future, because I believe it is one of the most disappointing aspects of Sudanese life. How so? Marriage in Sudan has been historically afflicted by ancestral antagonism. Most families in the North consider it a taboo to marry from Southern tribes. North Sudanese families are so enchanted by this notion of “Nasab” and “Asal” (Lineage and tribal affiliation) that it has successfully hindered marriages between people from distinctly different tribes. I am not referring to marriage between a Muslim from the North and a Christian Southerner here, but what I am getting at is the objection to marriage between two tribes of the same religion, especially when one is considered “3abd.” Inter-tribal marriage, so to speak, is sometimes rationally justified (because people often associate better with others of similar backgrounds) so I understand that it is not for everyone. But, if you are going to say that you are a good Muslim, you can not at the same time support prejudicial notions like investigating a family’s lineage to find out if the person in question is descendants of slaves—also known as having a “3irig”-- which is utterly unacceptable and un-Islamic. You can’t be a racist and a good Muslim at the same time.

By supporting such discriminatory practices, people are hurting the culture rather than preserving it. Culture is dynamic not static, so we must be able to recognize that tribes cannot be permanently isolated and intermarriage will inevitably happen. The aforementioned case in point is only one of many where Islam is incorrectly used to validate appalling cultural practices which ironically negate Islam. It is absolutely essential to be able to recognize the distinction between religion and socially constructed cultural values, and be able to prioritize accordingly. It is also essential to admit that if you acknowledge certain un-Islamic cultural behavior, you are not to quote Islam. Having traditions and a rich culture is essential to humanity, but having the ability to discard negative cultural practices and evolve past them is, in my opinion, more valuable. Islam gave us the ability to do so, and I hope that Sudan embraces that fact, which is a far better implementation of Islam than using it as means of imposing rigid and ridiculous rules on people in the name of religion.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Those in Glass Houses...

It has become common practice for people to ridicule Americans for their sub par knowledge of geography and countries not named Mexico and Canada. I won’t deny that I have participated in such ridicule, and have always been so thankful to know that nobody in Alaska can see Russia from their house. There’s also an abundance of videos on youtube making fun of Americans’ lack of familiarity with other countries. However, I had an alarming epiphany today as I was reading an article about Bor and thought:"exactly where is Jonglei State on a map of Sudan?" The epiphany, my friends, is that a lot of Sudanese people, especially those living abroad, do not know the geography of their own country well enough.

Don’t give me the “I can locate Jonglei State on a map of Sudan.” You can’t. You also can’t name all 25 states of Sudan. I hope you knew there were 25 states. At least Americans know they have 50 states.

Until you do your Sudanese geography homework, your rights of making fun of Americans' geography skills are revoked. We can still make fun of Sarah Palin and John McCain though (everybody knows Alaskans aren’t Americans, and McCain wasn’t born in any of the 50 states.)

If you actually can name and locate all 25 states, kudos to you. Otherwise, go ahead and familiarize yourself with the lovely Sudan. Click here to get started.

You Know You Want To

You do not have to have an account anymore to comment on any of the blog posts. Anyone can now leave a comment.

So. Don't just be a spectator. Chime in.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Racism in Egyptian Movies

Have you ever put someone on a pedestal and always thought so highly of them only to discover a heinous truth about them that renders you speechless? Well, what I am going to talk about today is sort of like that, but not really, because I’m not speechless. It is about Adel Emam and other actors, actresses, writers, and producers in the Egyptian film making industry who participate in unacceptable mockery of dark skinned people.

Growing up, Adel Emam to me was the funniest man alive. I am not much of a movie person, but if there is a Adel Emam movie, I will be the first to watch it. I am also not one to laugh out loud while watching TV (Southpark,Friends, and 30 Rock are exceptions to this rule), but his humor was impeccable and I loved most of his movies. I even made sure to get front row tickets to his play (masrahiya) "The Body Guard" when I visited to Egypt. It’s been a while since I’ve watched any of his movies, and there was one movie that I did not get to watch: Al Tajruba Al Denemarkiya (The Danish Experiment) so when I found it online the other day, I was excited. However, this time, I wasn’t laughing (okay maybe a little.) The particular scene that vexed me is where a blond lady arrives in Egypt and men start following her in droves (because you know, blond girls are the rarest, most prized species.) The men follow the lady all the way to Adel Emam’s home in the movie, so Adel’s character starts kicking them out. There were Egyptian men, Khaleeji men, and one really dark. Stereotyping you say? Wait till you hear what happens next. The dark man did not want to budge, as he was so stricken by the Danish Blonde’s beauty (because you know, you don’t get beauty like that with dark women.) Then the man offers 50 cows in exchange for the woman. Watch said scene here.

That is just one incident, but this treatment of dark people is not uncommon. Another movie I (unfortunately) watched recently was “Ali Spicy,” which is the Egyptian equivalent of Mariah Carey’s mess of a movie “Glitter.” In one scene, one of the characters is busted by his friend with a woman. The woman is black, and the main character (acted by Hakim) keeps making fun of the woman and says things like “Allah yesawed lailtik zay ma sawad wishik” (God darken your nights like he darkened your face.” Granted, the woman is a prostitute, but he does not treat her badly on that account, but because of the color of her skin. He makes several racist jokes and then yells and screams at his friend and says “dool mesh neswan, dol 7ayawanat.” (those are not women, they are animals.)

Adding insult to injury, there’s this song by Mohamed Henedy. In it he is dressed as a Sudanese man and sings to dark women saying: “esmaret, we etharaget bas batata” Now this is going to really be lost in translation but it literally means “she got darker, and tanner, and burnt like a potato.”

There are many more instances of racist treatment of darker people in Egyptian movies. Especially when it comes to dark women; they are often portrayed as inferior, and their beauty is shown as well below par in comparison to their “white” counterparts. Treating dark men as imbeciles and portraying dark women as inferior in terms of beauty is not acceptable comedy.While I really do hate the whole PC movement, I think pushing for more political correctness is a must in the Egyptian media.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

“Do not be bothered by what Ocampo (ICC Chief Prosecutor) says. He is too weak for his decision is in the hands of his master: the USA, France and UK. We will never be subdued, we will never kneel and we will never be led. They are never able to extend or shorten human life. Sustenance and kingdom are never in the hands of the USA, France or America. They (USA, UK and France) are all under my shoes.”

President Omar Al-Bashir