Forthcoming

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 05.08.2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

 

"We are more alike than we are different"v  Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

Select Books

Scheherazade: Tell Me A Story

by Yousry Nasrallah, Director, Egypt
Reviewed by BN Aziz

Is this film a story about women in Arab society? Or about corruption?

Yousry Nasrallah’s 2009 film “Scheherazade: Tell Me A Story” is billed as a tale about women in Cairo. I disagree.

True, women’s lives define the narrative of “Scheherazade". But I wonder if the main message of this film lies elsewhere. The misreading of the story is important because, given prevailing images of women in Arab society, I fear that viewers in the West will walk away talking about abuse Arab women encounter at the hands of men rather than the deeper social message.

First of all, let me say that this “Scheherazade” is a powerful work and should be seen. Writer Wahid Hamed is to be congratulated along with director Nasrallah. It is a moving and brilliantly performed production, with first class acting. Shown in Egypt to wide acclaim, the film has also won several major international awards, another testimony to its excellence. Even so, New York audiences only had an opportunity to see “Scheherazade” this August, two years after its release, at the Africa Diaspora Film Festival.

In a panel discussion with the audience after the film was screened in New York, questions focused exclusively on the relation of Arab women to Arab men and their Arab society. The cultural stereotypical imprint of gender inequality in Arab culture, so deeply embedded in the western mind, threatened to dominate the dialogue. My co-panelist Ginan Rauf rightly asks: “If this were set in another place, would we not be able to see the narrative as a ‘story’ of individual lives rather than a portrayal of a culture?” She asks that audiences try to see the individual people in this story. Rauf added to our understanding with details about Nasrallah’s past work, his early training as an economist, his career in journalism and his wider philosophy. Nasrallah, she points out, has emerged as a major world director, with his special imprint.

Fellow panelist Aydin Baltaci widened the issues further with his comments on artistic strategies used by the director to achieve the dramatic effect. For him the main drama was the compelling and tragic story of three sisters who fought over the affections of a simple but opportunistic young laborer running their deceased father’s shop. Baltaci drew parallels between this and other well known dramas focused on the dynamic of three sisters.

Most of us agreed that, as portrayed in the stories told to heroine Hebba, a Cairo talk show host in “Scheerazade”, in the course of her live interviews with three women, men are domineering, cruel and selfish. All the women are engaged in a constant battle for their rights. We find no redeeming male anywhere in the story.

The three cases, relived through dramatic flashbacks, revealed by the women, each telling her story on TV, are threaded together by interludes where we witness the relation of heroine TV host Hebba and her ambitious husband, a not very successful print journalist. It is in these episodes, that the real plot of the story unfolds. Here the corruption of Egypt’s media industry is exposed. Hebba has been attacking politicians head on in her interviews, but under pressure from her husband re the danger (to his career) of these confrontations, she agrees to abandon this theme out of affection for her young, seductive husband.

Hebba continues the live TV show, but now focuses her investigations on the lives of women. The three women she chooses are bold and frank. Invariably their histories all lead back to the issue of exploitation by men, and their stories either finger prominent men in the capital or the corrupted system of family values. Although Hebba feels she is simply revealing these women’s private lives and not dealing with politics, her angry husband shouts back the truth: “Everything is political”. Meanwhile his career prospects are sinking.

The summary: three women, each from a different background, and with different experiences, find their lives are circumscribed, at one level or other, by the ambitions of men, and the wider culture of corruption in which they must operate. The women are abused—although all fight back—but the men are perhaps abused even more by their deep and direct involvement within the corrupt system, currying favor with officials and bosses, asserting their prowess.  In the end Hebba too cannot escape its grip on her marriage. For me this film as essentially a story about corruption in the male dominated society, and how, it reaches, by one means or another into every home, and into every marriage and thereby to every woman.

The redeeming message could be “women fight back, whereas men do not”, this even though women pay heavy price for their resistance. Nawaal Saadawi could have written this film. So I ask, why is it that so much good fiction, or pseudo-fictional stories on gender are produced by men?



Find Us on Facebook
Find Us on Facebook

 

A little modernity is a dangerous thing; drink deep or taste not the western spring.

quoting Poet Alexander Pope.

Ali Mazrui, professor of African Studies

Tahrir Diwan

a poem.. a song..
poem "I Knew"
Sapphire Ahmed's prose poem on Ramadan

See poems and songs list

Flash
poems
poem Azan
Call to Prayer: reciter, Mor Dior Bamba, Senegal

See audio list

Book review
Monica Ali's
Brick Lane
reviewed by .

See review list

Tahrir Team

Lynne Stewart with our interns
Read about Lynne Stewart with our interns in the team page.

See Tahrir Team

WBAI Online

Select Links