26 Sept 2012

Mona Eltahawy reflects on her subway mission. Sort of.

Mona Eltahawy reflects on her subway mission.* 

When I woke up in the morning, a habit I had acquired while living as a young girl in Saudi Arabia, there were many thoughts running through my head. This was going to be a big day. Pamela Geller had succeeded in her stunt to attract attention to herself by winning the case to place her Islamophobic ads on the New York subway.

I hate Islamophobia. I believe in the right of Muslims to practice their religion freely in the West. But not to wear a veil obviously. That’s a symbol of male domination. In that case, I support French politicians and the French police. The universally recognized agents of women’s liberation.

14 Sept 2012

See you in Beirut, Wajih.

It's a cruel twist of fate when I have to mourn a dear friend that I have never met. I have never seen Wajih Azjouz, never heard his voice, never had the chance to have that drink with him in Beirut. We came across each other in the virtual world, that was as generous in allowing me to know him as it was cruel in informing of his premature death. Shockingly, suddenly, arbitrarily.

What I know of Wajih was distilled in his passionate and rebellious persona. His uncompromising views, his dedication to the truth, and his firm belief in justice left an unforgettable impression on me. I thought of him as a friend, but perhaps more importantly as a rare voice that refuses to submit to the tyranny of the majority. He spoke his mind, forcefully and honestly, not out of juvenile contrarianism but deep belief and conviction. Rare qualities in a country like Lebanon, and the region widely, where the pressures to silence dissenting voices are becoming insufferable.

Wajih was many things. Much more than his television job. A researcher with a deep appetite for knowledge, an activist with a fiery commitment to his cause, and, above all, a free mind. His dedication to lost causes was epitomised by his support to Liverpool football club, a delusion that we both shared. His mischievousness and sense of humour reflected within him the rebels of a bygone era that he admired, men and women that fought with an appetite for life, out of passion and curiosity. Not the dull unimaginative type that abounds today.

Wajih died in car accident early this morning, on his way to Beirut. The place of our meeting that never took place. He was 25. A quarter of a century that made him many loyal friends and, in the tradition of any self-respecting rebel, many detractors. As his friends mourn him today, people that didn't see the world through his eyes should reflect on his honesty and uncompromising views. Disagree if you will, but respect his integrity and unwillingness to shut up.

Rest in peace, Wajih my friend. See you in Beirut.

4 Sept 2012

George Galloway's imaginary reflection on his television programme

Following the first episode of George Galloway's new television programme, we imagined him reflecting on how it went.*

Al-Salamu Aleykom.

Al-hamdullilah today we have completed the first episode of my new show at Al-Mayadeen television channel, for which I will be receiving £3000 per episode. The money will go towards buying more houses that I can name after important moments in the history of the Palestinian struggle inshallah. Perhaps a villa on the French Riviera. There’s so much more that I can do for Palestine, like I keep reminding Syrians.

When the producers of the show first contacted me, I was a bit anxious. ‘Would I have to wear a tight-fitting bodysuit and pretend to be a cat?’ Somebody had told me that was haram. Also, that it made it look like I would do anything for money. They reassured me that wouldn’t be the case, I would just have to be myself. Well, not exactly myself, I decided Arabs would like me more if I pretended to be Eli Wallach playing an Arab in a spaghetti western. But for some reason, they didn’t like it when I came in dressed as Lawrence of Arabia. The headdress had to go and the camel had to wait outside.

3 Sept 2012

Radio Discussion: Can Syria's fragmented opposition come together

Listen to a radio discussion about the future of the Syrian uprising that I participated in on The Voice of Russia, with VOR's Brendan Cole, Alan Mendoza, founder and executive director of the Henry Jackson Society; Vyacheslav Matuzov, former Russian diplomat and chairman of the Russian-Friendship Society with Arab Countries; and Dr Omar Ashour, director at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter