March 20; 7:45 am, B Nimri Aziz begins a new radio commentary on events around the globe and in the USA. Listen in at 99.5 fm, or online www.wbai.org where we are livestreamed.
March 8, Women's Day Radio Specials 10-11 am on WJFF Radio, 90.5 fm, and 11:am on WBAI, 99.5 New York: B. Nimri Aziz interviews director Amber Fares about her new film "Speed Sisters" --a profile of 5 Palestinian car racers. Orther segments are from 2009-2010 interviews with professional women in Damascus Syria, Nadia Khost and Nidaa Al-Islam.
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.
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
"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.
- Reviewed by BN Aziz
Thankfully, browsing bookshelves can still be an adventure.
There’s no end to new books worth reading, and those of us who enjoy literature have lists of ‘to order’ and ‘to read’. Best sellers compete for our leisure hours; literary prizes point us to new talent. Rather than preparing myself for conversations about Patrick Modiano, this year’s Nobel author, my hand rests on a volume by 1988 Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz.
Hmm; how did I miss this? “The Journey of Ibn Fattouma” (1983) by the acclaimed Egyptian writer is new to me. Eclipsed by Mahfouz’s popular Cairo series and omitted in his many online biographies, this is surely an overlooked masterpiece. So timely. This simple parable resonates especially poignantly today as we innocent mortals traverse our world of endless wars.
The universal relevance of Mahfouz’s 1983 “The Journey” is surely affirmation of his genius as a writer and political philosopher.
Several layers of morality thread through this short but complex story: there’re the traveler-merchants, protected and untouched, who journey through a series of cultures and wars, profiting as they continue unconcerned with either the morality or any suffering they witness, gliding amorally to their next marketplace. (For me they are Mahfouz’ primary target for criticism.) Accompanying them is Qindil, a young man who has left his home after betrayal by his teacher and his family. He shares the merchants’ immunity but he is more curious and so he dallies.
Qindil claims he’s in search of Gebel, a land of purported purity. Although he knows nothing of its merits and meets no one who’s been there. This traveler, himself from the unidentified, fuzzy ‘land of Islam’, confronts a series of ‘civilizations’— each a land which in its individual way, seems to be a utopia. Each claims religious integrity. Blind to their own deficits, none doubt their superiority which in the end will prove their destruction. And each nation confidently welcomes Qindil, luring him with irresistible hospitality. Is Mahfouz remarking on his society’s values? Or is the story simply a means of moving his protagonist through history? I am uncertain.
Qindil arrives first at Mishraq, a moon-worshipping pagan land of free love where he finds a partner and fathers four sons. He’s ultimately driven from there to the land of Haira –he is welcome here too--which also claims it embodies all that humans desire and need. The same in Halba, the hero’s next destiny. Then on to Aman, and finally to Ghuroub. Readers may identify Mishraq as an aboriginal society, Halba as a capitalist haven, and Aman as a socialistic utopia. Regardless, each people believe theirs is the zenith of human existence. Each proudly accepts that heading its utopia, is an authority whose rights and powers are unquestioned.
Yet war seems to prevail wherever Qindil finds himself. The land of Haira must conquer Mishraq; then Halba is drawn into war and takes control of Aman, then Ghuroub must be subdued. Each conquest seems inevitable and morally wholesome as well. Wars are acts of grace rather than of ambition or ill will.
Qindil moves naively through these lands, withholding judgment whether or not he is mistreated. Whatever love he enjoys, he is able to move on. His sole aim, he claims, is knowledge and he seeks out the wise men in each place he enters.
Predictably, our traveler never reaches Gebel, his purported goal. And he also never seems to acquire the knowledge he asserts is his noble ambition.
Read this story and decide its message for yourself. You’ll find more meanings than I’ve discerned here. And you’ll certainly be struck by Mahfouz’ message on how humans rationalize our endless wars.
The Journey of Ibn Fattouma
by Naguib Mahfouz
There is really no such thing as 'voiceless'. There are only the deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard.
Arundhati Roy, author and activist
- a poem.. a song..
- "These Words", by Lisa S. Majaj
poem from the chapbook These Words Flash
- Qur'an Surat Al-Shams
from 'Approaching The Qur'an', CD.
- Book review
- Karen Armstrong's
Fields of Blood: Religion and The History of Violence
reviewed by BN Aziz.
- Tahrir Team
- Read about Hassen Abdellah in the team page.