So far as the United States seems to be concerned, it is only a slight overstatement to say that Moslems and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. Very little of the detail, the human density, the passion of Arab-Moslem life has entered the awareness of even those people whose profession it is to report the Arab world. What we have instead is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression.
Edward W. Said, “Islam Through Western Eyes,” The Nation April 26, 1980
I thought to start this post with some words from Edward Said. It’s hard to sometimes remember sitting from the cozy but cramped confines of my office that we are a nation at war. There are no food rations or curfews, or images of the soldier coffins coming home, or even a list of names of the service men killed read out-loud. It is a strange thing when one starts to become aware of the invisible barriers erected that keep us locked out of reality, or maybe rather keep us locked into into the world of our own creation.
I am always quite shocked when I encounter anti-religious, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sentiments either on the internet or on my sojourns through the city. It’s quite easy to vilify a people, without any understanding of their culture, their beliefs, and more importantly their means of self expression. I find that our media likes to exploit blanket terms that lumps a diverse group of people under large umbrella like terms which are then use to categorize, marginalize and ostracize people.
The best example of this I can think is the word ‘jihadi” or “jihadist”. The word jihad in Arabic is translated as to strive or to struggle. In the West, the word is generally understood to mean “holy war,” and the terms are given, inaccurately, exclusively military connotations. According to the Prophet of Islam, the greater jihad is against one’s lower nature, the fight against one’s nafs is the central definitive battle in both the religious and spiritual landscape. Every muslim who endeavors to aspire to a higher station through the battle with their nafs, is a jihadist, but the frequent use of the word with its biased and military connotations really paints a different picture to the general audience.
While this blog isn’t the place to get into the nitty gritty questions many critics and thinkers on the Middle east like Said ask and attempt to answer, I nevertheless feel its good to share information that restores in many ways a humanness to the people I have heard vilified quite often over the past 10 years.
In two posts before I translated from French the first five minutes of the documentary by Alan Desjardin on the Sufis of Afghanistan, and I presented to you the AWWP (The Afghan Women’s Writing Project). Now I am happy to present you this article written by Ms. Hajer Naili: Afghan Women in N.Y. Reflect on 10-Year War .
Ms. Naili starts the article with the following line which hooked me ifrom the outset as being the son of an immigrant family I am always interested in comparing and contrasting the stories of the those who stayed home and those who left mostly because I don’t feel completely at home in either extreme.
The Afghan war marks its 10th anniversary today. In Queens, N.Y., Afghan women talk about how the country has changed in many ways for the better, but also why they prefer their new lives in the United States.
Ms Naili touches on many important topics that, for me with treading the stories of the Afghan woman from teh AWWP are starting to paint a more composite picture of a society and group of people I personally know very little about.
- The Smile of the Pomegranate Tree -From the Afgans Woman’s Writing Project http://mycaravanofdreams.com/2011/09/14/the-smile-of-the-pomegranate-tree-from-the-afgans-womans-writing-project/
- Les soufis d’Afghanistan – P1 Maitres et Disciples 1/5: Traduction Pt 2 || The Sufis of Afghanistan P1 – Master and disciple 1/5 2nd translation http://mycaravanofdreams.com/2011/07/11/les-soufis-dafghanistan-p1-maitres-et-disciples-15-traduction-pt-2-the-sufis-of-afghanistan-p1-master-and-disciple-15-2nd-translation/
- Les soufis d’Afghanistan – P1 Maitres et Disciples || The Sufis of Afganistan – P1 Masters and Disciples -http://mycaravanofdreams.com/2011/07/07/les-soufis-dafghanistan-p1-maitres-et-disciples-the-sufis-of-afganistan-p1-masters-and-disciples/