“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"


Nov 5, 2018 A report on two pstate NY races:--CD 19, and NY State Senate 42. From Egypt and Tunisia new films by and about women-- "Youm el-Setat" and "El-Jaida"

Sept 24 Do war memoirs really advance education? Attacks on BDS and Americans' freedom of speech continues.

Sept 17-- Sport stars and politcal dissent stemming from Kaepernick's actions. NY State's Sept 13 Primaries

Sept 10  Assessing Muslim Americans' ongoing fight for Muslim rights, and in the context of today's election cycle.

Aug 27, Where are Muslim Americans in the US administration's immigrant purge?

Aug 20 Celebrating achievements-- Sam Anderson and Rosemari Mealy. And still more published memoirs fro Middle East peoples

August 1- The inexorable struggle for Palestinian rights

July 2, WBAI Radio  Exploring EXILE in American literature:--  "Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits", and "In The Light of What We Know".

June 25 EXILE in literature: a review of the novels "Cutting For Stone" and "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers".

June 18, The vicissitudes of Nepal's fledgling democracy. And a review of White House Ramadan "iftar" ceremonies.

June 11 The rentier economy of Jordan and current public protests. How the UK and US use Jordan. And celebrities' role in news.,

June 4 "Naila and The Uprising" a film memory of Palestinian resistance. And: why is Tariq Ramadan imprisoned?

April 30 How could detante in Korea affect other conflicts? And a look at our own role in plastic pollution.

April 23  The US mission creep into Syria, and more reviews of children's books about refugees. 

April 16  Why are Islamist rebels are being escorted out of the so called liberated areas, and where are they going? and a review of new Arab American memoirs 

April 9; Saudi Arabia's long and deep times with the US film industry. And we review the plethora of Arab women's memoirs

April 2 documenting war trauma. Do some war traumatized matter more than others? 

March 26 Iraq's neglected agricultural industry, and the persecution of Swiss-Arab Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan

March 19, Iraq today. And the legal challenges facing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against apartheid Israel.

March 12,Commentary on the fall of Myanmar's Ang Sang SuKyi; and recent observations for Iraq.

Jan 8, 7:45 am Film review of "Land of the Pomegranates", and an introduction to the American organization "Muslimish"

Nov 27, Russia and Syria: commentary on this longstanding relationship in the current international scene

Nov 20. A look at the new crisis created around Lebanon PM Hariri's resignation. Comments on a culture that's infused and spilling over with sexual predators.

Nov 13 Update on Kirkuk, Iraq. Veterans Day USA: Is celebration of war heros increasing?.

Nov 6, WBAI  News of Kirkuk, N. Iraq after the failed Kurdish referendum; Accusations towards male religious figures in ongoing sexual abuse exposes.

Sept 25: Syria update: the changing status quo and resulting change in US media coverage.. The Kurdish referendum

Sept 18: Myanmar's Ang San Su Kyi's eary history; beware of simplistic sectarian analyses

Sept 11: women as pawns in justifying American "wars to protect"

August 28, 7:45 am WBAI. Linda Sarsour, Arab American and US Muslim community leader: in her defence. Margo Shetterley author of "Hidden Figures"

Aug 21, WBAI Palestinian-American Rasmea Odeh, stripped of citizenship and deported this week.

Aug 14: BN Review of the anti-Israel boycott action in the US Congress. WBAI, 90.5 fm

July 10:  Nepal just completed its first election in 20 years for nationwide local admin posts.

July 3, WBAI Radio. "All politics is local":-- the hard work of using local news resources.

June 26: WBAI Radio We ask why is there no anti-war movement in the US? And: “Martyrdom”—an archaic phrase but a concept we need to think about today.

June 19  On the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war, and Israel's seemingly unstoppable political, diplomatic and territorial march, it’s remarkable that the Palestinian voice is heard at all.

June 12  The dilemma of 'moderate Amercian Muslims; following ReclaimNY , a child of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer.

May 1, Workers Day, WBAI 99.5 fm. BN Aziz highlights the rise of the 'gig economy'

April 24, 7:45 WBAI 99.5 fm. A check on our progress as American Muslims; and, Lynne Stewart: the Peoples' Lawyer. 

See Ramzy Baroud's assessment on how our Muslim community misuses celebrity Muslims as surrogates for their own stuggle.


Monday April 17 WBAI Radio, NYC. Why is there essential no anti-war movement in the USA?

April 10;  A critical look at media coverage of the US assault on Syria; and an update on ReclaimNY.

B. Nimri Aziz weekly radio commentary on events around the globe and in the USA. Listen in at 99.5 fm, or online where we are livestreamed.

"We are more alike than we are different"

  Maya Angelou

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" and exerpts from 2009-2010 interviews with professional women in 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.

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.



"Scheherazade's Legacy: Arab Women Writing" edited by Susan M. Darraj. Foreword by BN Aziz;
by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Inevitably, a time arrives in a people’s history when a shared awakening occurs. In varying degrees of awareness, driven by the feeling that “It is up to me to tell my people’s story,” we begin.  Or, we are compelled simply to tell my own story.

James Baldwin, when he emerged as a political voice, concluded, that he could not accept what he once believed --that he was an interloper, that he could have “no other heritage (than the white heritage) which I could possibly hope to use”, and he would simply have to accept his special attitude, his special place in the world scheme. At one time, he had believed that otherwise, “I would have no place in any scheme”. (Autobiographical Notes, p. 7, Notes of  A Native Son, 1955.)

Ultimately Baldwin rejected that fate and he went on to write some of the finest prose in American literature. Today, just fifty years later he has earned a place as one of America’s foremost writers.

          There are many similarities between Arab and Black experience in the United States, and Arabs in general would gain much in our struggle for empowerment and recognition by studying our positions vis-à-vis the mainstream White society more closely. This applies to artists as well as community leaders.

          Drawing from his analysis of his heritage and how he might negotiate the world of the Black American and the dominant White culture he found so oppressive, Baldwin said: “One writes out of one thing only-- one’s own experience.” It is not easy when one finds oneself embedded in a hostile environment that is also one’s beloved home. “Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give. This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art.” (Autobiographical Notes, p. 7, Notes of A Native Son).

          Facing the sweet and bitter, tussling with disorder, hate, fear, is asserting our responsibility, a responsibility we once had left to others.

“Write or be written” is one of the three guiding principles set out in the mission statement of the Italian American Writers Association a decade ago. “Write or be written.” It’s that simple. Black Americans learned this. Italian Americans as well. Now, as demonstrated in the surge of new books by our emerging writers, our Arab community has reached this conclusion.


“Write or be written.” Because the histories we learn in school, the tales we hear in the street, the claims made on our behalf, all somehow miss the point. Or simply get it wrong. We are really not how others write us. At best we are invisible. What we witnessed and were taught was not and is not our heritage.

We may wait a generation to discover what we decide is an unbiased historian, or at least a talented sympathizer Robert Fisk, Michael Moore, June Jordan, Noam Chomsky any of the numerous informed and courageous experts who try to set the record straight. Our story will finally find its way into the public arena, we believe. So we champion these men and women, and circulate their stories.

Ultimately however, we find that those accounts, when they appear, are never really satisfactory. They may inform, but only in a qualified way. Something is missing. Even if we do not say so, we feel it. What’s missing is ‘me’. Because those friendly appeals can never embody the intimacies—bitter and sweet--of what only we know is our life and that of our ancestors. They are never quite convincing, not to us anyway. Ultimately, perhaps, as mere second hand attempts to reveal a people’s soul, other well-meaning attempts serve little purpose towards the goal to giving voice to the voiceless.

Writing one’s own story is not easy, as we are learning. When we take on the responsibility of recording our story, we have first to master the language. Yet, craft is not the foremost issue. Honesty and intimacy, often accompanied by some pain, face us when we really examine our truths. Often writers speak about this. The best overcome it.


Then there is the wall to pull down. Given the heap of misrepresentations and the patronizing tales of Arabs by generations of Orientalists, politicians and reporters, we face a barrier of half-truths that we ourselves have imbibed and perhaps believed. So we have a great deal of sorting out to do. We must decide what is really true and what is false, then negotiate those and add to this our own hidden experience.

Arab descendants in America are, to a degree, colonized. Encouraged to forget our beautiful difference, we imbibe so many of the biases and distortions around us. We become ambiguous about our heritage. And a person who is equivocal or confused can never become an artist. As Baldwin points, out the process of making order from chaos is art.

          When one rejects the falsehoods, a void often opens before us. If I am not that alien, if not that exotic, if not that mean and incompetent, that nostalgic or warring woman others write me, what am I? Who was my sitti, my grandmother? What about her made her larger and more real than an American granny. I need to find out and then imprint her arabness on everyone. 

          At one point in poet Naomi Shihab Nye’s award winning story, Sitti’s Secret, the little girl is combing her grandmother’s freshly washed hair, an uneventful gesture in a series of exchanges between the child and old woman. It was not so for me. I recognized my Arab grandmother there. Only an Arab child could know this. How? Because my grandmother too invited me to comb her hair after she had washed it. That created a deeply intimate bond between my sitti and me. I never heard of anyone else doing this. So when I read that passage in Nye’s story I was deeply moved, in part because I felt my heritage was retrieved. Nye’s account gave me pride; it did not take anything from my own grandmother and our secret. Rather, it offered a means for me to share that special moment with all little girls in the world. Perhaps other children comb their grandmothers’ hair. Because an Arab woman, Naomi Shihab Nye was the first to articulate it for me, it has greater poignancy. Art and not nostalgia made the leap.

Today’s Arab writers have the job and the will to seek out these overlooked minor details of our heritage and with them help us rebuild a fragmented, uncertain, identity.

Toni Morrison writes about her research for her stories thus: “I always think I am at some archeological site and I find a shard, a little piece of pottery and then I have to invent the rest. But first I have to go to the place, move the dirt and find out why I am there.”

All writers are such miners, sifting through the fragments, the little things overlooked or abandoned or discolored by others. This is where Arab American writers are today, first going to the place, and moving the dirt.


“They stole the little things from us,” said the composer and singer Marcel Khalife about the losses in his native Lebanon after Israel’s invasion. Historians, human rights experts and politicians may quantify the gross violations of a ravaged people--millions and millions driven from their homelands, denied succor, leaving loved ones in terrifying circumstances. What makes one story, although no less tragic, more poignant than another, lies perhaps in the ‘little things’ we are able to identify and recover. What we build from them may not overturn centuries of injustice, and it will not propel us into a position of dominance. But we can at least write our own story. As for addressing what others write, perhaps as Baldwin concluded, “truce… is the best we can hope for.”


Many committed Arab American personalities and experts have dedicated themselves to challenging erroneous and dangerous stereotypes of Arabs. These arguments may be useful in a court of law. They do not, however, make novels. Writers cannot dispute. But we can locate ourselves at that archeological site, and build new stories from the little things we reclaim.

This is an exhilarating, backbreaking, long process that distinguishes a writer from others. In the new generation, it produced the memoir “Children of Roomje” by Elmaz Abinader, Diana Abujaber’s first novel “Arabian Jazz”, and the collection “Food For Our Grandmothers” edited by Joanna Kadi. These ventures, all three from women in our Arab American community, were early individual rivulets for what would become a virtual deluge of new poetry, plays, novels and memoirs, all appearing in the past decade.

Why Arab women seem to be in the forefront of this rush of writing ourselves, I am uncertain. Possibly, we feel driven by the same spirit that led so many Black women and Asian women and Italian women to search their lives, to dig through the hoary gravesites, to imbue little things with real importance.


Among Black Americans, while the work of James Baldwin and Richard Wright are now classics of American literature, today four African American women, Toni Morrison, Rita Dove, Maya Angelou and Alice Walker are writers of tremendous talent and accomplishment. Through her writing, each one has expanded the boundaries of human experience. Doubtless, each in turn, urges other women to search, confront, and then to write. From our Asian writers-- Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan, Jampa Lahiri and Bharati Mukerjee have likewise made a whole people visible and passionate.


Every generation of writers who make a social and literary impact do so by leaping barriers. Perhaps in the case of African Americans of the mid 20th th Century, it was the confrontation on race that propelled the debate into literature. While race is still a major theme in so much contemporary writing by Black writers, Morrison’s work reaches into spheres of human exchange that take the Black American experience and every reader to new heights, accompanied by a completely distinctive music in her language.

Can the writing of Arabs in America do this? And will we build on foundations laid in English by Khalil Gibran, Sam Hazo, or Gregory Orfalea, or in Arabic by Adonis, Nizar Qabbani and Mahmoud Darwish?

Or will we construct our truths on the wings of Americans like June Jordan, and Sonia Sanchez.

In her poem, “first writing since” the incomparably forthright poet, Suheir Hammad, records her news about the World Trade Center disaster of September 11, 2001 with the words “please god, let it be a mistake… please don’t let it be anyone who looks like my brother….”  There is surely not a single Arab or Muslim man or woman anywhere who, sharing that awesome news, did not utter the same thought. Yet, we needed this especially honest women, this young writer, Suheir Hammad, to articulate that simple fear. Her words reach all men and women, universally, who at one moment in time or another, have cried “Please god, not my brother.”

          Hammad’s work represents an important step away from nostalgia and towards a face-to-face maturity of what it is to be Arab and American. The protest novels of Black writers was critical to the emergence of the Black literary voice of the 20th century. The anger of feminists linking the personal with the universal-- was also a stage in their emerging voice. And Asian American writers like Jampa Lahiri articulate the delicate, tragic edge of their people’s existence in American society.

Thus far, for the most part, Arab American writers, although we feel tormented and confused, whether by our ancestry or our tenuous place in American society or the injustices in Palestine expose little of the real conflicts we face. Our writers seem to be struggling to tolerate, to cleanse our image, to move on. I doubt if we can really advance without openly confronting the ills that afflict us, the barriers that confront us, internal and external. We are the opposite of the angry young artist at this point in our journey.

Yet, we are on course. More young Arabs are studying literature seriously with the view to mastering the skills of writing. This together with a greater readiness to examine ourselves and enter the heap of history that lies all around us and to move the dirt and paw through fragments, reclaim the little things, and invent the rest. 

Barbara Nimri Aziz , New York, 2004

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Saree Makdisi, LA Times OpEd, Nov 18, 2013

Tahrir Diwan

a poem.. a song..
poem "Land Holy" by Suheir Hammad
written for young Mohammed Dura, killed by Israel troops, at his father's side

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poem Qur'an Surat Mazzamil
Huzna Majid, NJ student, reading

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Book review
Remi Kanazi's
Poetic Injustice:Writings on Resistance and Palestine
reviewed by Sami Kishawi.

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