Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The bolder Soldiers

Like a baby he started drifting off when he heard him call his name from the adjoining bedroom. "Not again,"  he thought. "Doesn't he ever give up?" "What Mouktar?" He hesitated and then replied "If you sleep with me, I'll tell you a story." This was new. Never in their time together had he expressed any interest in stories. He'd never even seen him open a book outside of the L.L. Bean catalog. He hesitated long enough that he knew his resolve was weakening. He knew he hated sleeping alone and it was an obvious ploy, but "fuck it!" He thought, "this should be good."

He  padded into his room and slipped under the covers he held open for him. His arm immediately assumed it's customary position around his waist. He waited. He murmured softly,content and ready to drift off happily into sleep.
 "Oh no, you don't Mokhtar. "You promised me a story and if I don't get it, I'm leaving." That brought him back from the edge.  He felt his body tense. Again, he waited. "You don't know any stories, do you?" It was obvious to him that he hadn't even thought the possibility of actually telling a story, but he wasn't about to let it go. "Well?" 
He knew he was desperate to come up with something but he wasn't about to put him out of his misery.
"Okay, that's it, I'm going back to my own bed."
"No, wait! I know. I'll tell you the story my mother used to tell me when I couldn't sleep."

As long as he'd known him, Mokhtar had never spoken of his memories of his childhood in Iraq. His history seems to have begun with his arrival in Baghdad at 18.

And so he began his story, a cautionary tale about an old monk who late in life decided to leave his hamlet and travel on foot throughout the country side. There were frequent pauses.... He  knew he was struggling, sometimes to remember, sometimes to figure out how to translate the story into English.
He listened to him, but it wasn't the story that held his interest. It was the cadence and the sweetness and sometimes sadness in his voice as he revisited another time and place. He thought at then that for both of them the story became a metaphor for how much they had given up, although neither of them recognized it at the time.
He studied his face in the dark, a face he knew intimately and yet he felt as if  he was seeing it for the first time. He smiled and he noticed.
"What?"
"Nothing, I'm just happy. Go on with your story".
"I can't. I can't remember how it ends. Are you disappointed?"
It's been nearly six years since  he has seen Alex, and while most of their history together has faded, that for him was the defining moment of their time in Eden. He never loved him more than he did at that moment...
And no Mokhtar, he was not disappointed.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

I Believe in The Country America Used to Be

Fiction

We were sitting in the American Language Center’s yard when he suggested we move somewhere else that we could concentrate more on what we were doing. Too much noise he said, in a swollen sulky mood that I felt implied something transcending complaints. An ugly grimace was painted on his pale face. In a way, I didn’t see right through him, but I was afraid that I was gazing too much. “What else can be uglier than that what I have just seen”, I thought to myself. Being around people was something clearly that man wouldn't smile upon.


_“Caffe Jawhara would be a better place to go to” I lied. I wasn’t really enthusiastic to go there in such a cold and rainy day. I was paralyzed by the sense of how terrible to be sitting there, my ass dived for hours into those floppy chairs, then have all the time the waga dogo voice of the waiter asking us every few minutes if everything was alright. I hated it whenever he did, like if it was such a pleasant comedy showing his half broken front tooth. I would at then show him a fake smile, the kind that says “I hate the day I have seen you.”I think he was smart enough to decipher it, then call it what all the Moroccans would describe (the yellow smile). Whatever…but I have never understood what sort of terminology was that, just like the many of our blur slurs!


It was cold, pissing outrageously that morning. The sound of the siren worsened my situation and made me shiver even more. For him, it felt like being home during those days, except that he would often sleep, instead. I don’t know why, but I had  such a strong belief when I started going out with some American friends that days went slow in Morocco, a sluggish rhythm of life that one broke only by farting around somewhere or just toss themselves in bed to get some sleep. The weather and the air they breathed in here was too thick for them, full of an airborne chemical toxin called “laziness”. Why would those people just sleep instead of hanging out, for instance? Yes, Chris did farted around lots here, but all I can remember is that most of the time as it rained he married his cadaver-like body to his bed, switched off his mobile to give me some moments to enjoy his bossy sound of his mail voice. Texting him, I had to wait for days to be granted his reply which was always as short as « KISS »... « OK he must be sleeping again » I would in unreasonably frustrated mood think loud to myself ».


« TOMORROW.11 AT ALIF. SEE YA!

 As a Moroccan, that was something which was emotionally and mannerly cold. We are really the sort of mankind who like their tongues to be dragged out. Ask how a person is. What they are doing. How life is going, If he had a good day, if he was around, if, if and if.  In a bold blunt way, the “hows” unnecessarily matter lots, while the “whys” are never answered so far in this culture.


The first time I met him he was wearing a traditional woolen hat. The type you would wear only when it is very cold. We shook hands then not in a while did he start taking his hat off then put it back once again like if it was something that deserved so much more recognition on his bald head to make the perfect museumification of it . Of course he would go again and put his woolen Moroccan hat. It struck my mind that he was convinced that people knew and recognized him just when putting on his typical Moroccan traditional cloths. I have seen something like that!

He might have indulged in a war with his mind thinking why I had put things away to come to the American Language Center at 11 AM to start my week when I was supposed to be at the university.... I loved and I had the tendency to tell him actually that I was brilliant. I was doing what we all wanted to do as kids. Make headlines, be controversial, stupid, crazy, shocking... and fun living life for the run with no compass or tomorrow to plan.  I have never liked Singing praises about anybody and that what he might have thought I was doing if I had told him. May be I could have sounded more American than a Moroccan to him, and that was not really the point I bet he wanted to meet me for. Those blue eyes were reflecting a dim light shed on a rotten view toward this culture.

I used to congratulate him on his good Arabic. Well done, really! Then shut the desire up to say lots more. For sure you were making of yourself one of the finely shaped blocks to build the next generation of Orientalists”. Was that all I wanted to say? I didn’t know, but what made me think in that way after all?

When once we were warming ourselves under the light of a shy sun, I interrupted the silence when he was delighting his cigarette.
« That’s Erich, the teacher I told you about ». « He is really a great teacher ». He knows lots about the Middle East. I have never heard of Mesopotamia. It was him who once had told us about in one of his classes ».

_Really ? and do you know Juha ?

_Of course I do !

_It’s Juha’s day today by the way !

_What do you mean?

_I mean… I was advised to read short tales of ‘Juha’ to learn some vocabulary. We can also have a little discussion after reading. Look! Here is one that I’m planning to read now.

_Ah ! Ok. I thought you wanted to say that it is a day of stupidity today!

_What?! why ?!!

_Well, until now I don’t know if ‘Juha’ was a smart or stupid character, and I thought… you, you… know!!

_And is that Eric from … the States?

_Erich! It’s an E. R .I. C .H by the way. He is German- American!  I said.


An exhale, then a question as we went again scrambling and rumbling our biases and stereotypes. The fact that Erich was super  tall for he was German and that the French were such smelly people  were so far all created in our over lifted stratospheric sense of imagination may be, but at least one should stagger when the reality gets blurred, far removed. Hopefully he thought so! That’s how all nations used their condemnatory imaginative power to create fear from strangers and keep the self turning around the circle of power. We are not what you think, nobody is golden!


When we came to the point of discussing his third Juha’s tale, I realized that I was unconsciously initiating a red carpet- like way to a politically enraged and engaged voice.

I didn’t know what my question for him was but, as he stabbed his sixth cigarette into the shallow porcelain ashtray, he bragged away «…  I believe in the country America used to be. I am American. A pure West Virginian. Allergic to strangers, though I think I have started to believe in their kindness! ». His lips jerked as he tried to hold back his overwhelming laugh. When he smiled he showed a brown piece of bite on his lateral incisor.

« Sort of strange when you see something like this in a Muslim country » he said. He removed his glasses then looked at me as if I was conspiratorial character of the tale he was reading.


“Her message is be yourself, treat others with respect, radiate love may be. As God himself had no problem with the nudity of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I think it's taking a lot on us to put ourselves above God. Judging all Muslims on the basis of few of them is like eating a rotten fruit and blaming the whole tree”  I said when he was really listening to me in astonishment or may  be disapproving my way of looking at the preppy half-naked lady she walked sweeping the onlookers to her attention.


Such scenes are intolerable here aren’t they? I think you the Moroccans keep swinging between the fascination and rejection of the American culture, but in my opinion that is much better than “utopianizing” Islamo-Arabianism. Thats the genuine sense of freedom and I believe in the country America used to be.

When he took a sip, I rolled my eyes to his obnoxious sentence that started to din the world surrounding me.

“Yes”, “No”, “Ok” .I kept on sounding more monosyllabic, in a suggestion that I reached the end of the line. I was ready to conquer Jawara's door to the world outside after spending way too much time talking to him.

He was dark, and all he believed in idiotically matched with the world of fantasies that embodied every socially institutionalized attitude towards Arabs, and what about this story of   “ I believe in the country America used be? 
 It was dark, lonely and prejudiced by a suffocating patriarchy. Racism is the reason for so many past America’s shameful acts. Chattel slavery, treatment of the Indians, indifference to the oppression of blacks, internment of its own citizens during WWII, human experimentation without consent, using the A-bomb, and imperialism all existed because the American Government saw the people they subjugated as inferior human beings. All of these acts deprived non-whites of their freedom and pursuit of happiness.

_“It is getting colder, a rainy day and may be worse, but it still not like America” I said after a moment of silence. Once American boots touch your soil, they don't leave, but I was ready to leave.

_Now I don’t really agree with you geographically calling The United States “America” he said with a smile that I didn’t see the use of.

“Ah!  You believe in the country America used to be”!!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Feminism and Islam

God is bad for women?
 
"Yes. It is unfortunately true that none of the major world religions has been good for women", a statement  by "John Phillips" I still can remember from an article I have read concerning my cultural studies at the university two years ago, and the one of the things which magnetized  me to feminism studies.

Feminism is not only an ideological, political and socio-economic movement, it is also a literary and cultural movement that promotes rights and opportunities for women equal to men. Right from the beginning, feminism movement, which is also called women's liberation movement has sought to examine the situation of women in society through raising dominant issues, such as gender, discrimination, social, economic and political injustice and religion. Like any particular feminist movement, Muslim feminists promote certain principles as lots of them believe that justice and equality concerning gender in Islam are values and cardinal principles Islam  does not deny.

In Islam, it is believed that justice, equality are intrinsic values and cardinal principles, and the fact that women in Muslim countries have been oppressed and denied their rights is mainly due to patriarchy and some odd and wrong interpretations of Islam and not Islam itself.
One of the key concepts ,the Moroccan Feminist, “Fatima Mernissi” discusses is the notion of “Potentiality”. She argues that Islam, indeed granted women equal rights to men and that women are not denied justice, but the issue in our Muslim context is that there is a difference between theory and practice. So, women’s rights in this way are held hostage to our patriarchal society, which still believes in traditions that keep a huge gap when it comes to gender segregation. For “Fatima Mernissi”, there is a potential that women have equal rights, and this condition is not tied to religion more than it is tied to society with all its traditional and ritual backgrounds.

The Islamic society is oppressive to women in the way it is hierarchically constructed. Women can not have a fully admitted access to certain public and social spaces which are up till now still exclusively open just for men, especially in the middle east. In the Moroccan context and in the Arab in general,the control of women and her suppression is mainly due to “fear” as “Fatima Mernissi” puts it. The fear of the destruction of Islamic values and the “Ummah”. Hence, feminism has been always looked at with suspicions and still considered as an alien ideology that can not fit in our society. Being a traditional conservative society ensuring an equal right for women sounds to be hard, even if it is legally admitted.

Women are being oppressed also because of the wrong understanding of religion. As a Moroccan, I believe that our society is more traditional than religious. Had we gave up believing in some lame traditions, women could have achieved  a better equality to men. The problem with religion is that when we think about feminism, we try to link it with Western values. For a lot of people, especially religious scholars (Ulamma), they believe that the emancipation of women is a Western agenda to ward off the path of “Allah”. Liberating women is playing against the teaching of Islam. Such kind of interpretations or rather  a mere ideology are among the hurdles to hold back women’s liberation.

Muslim feminism as a pressing political, social and ideological movement have been struggling to achieve equal rights through demonstrating Islam’s tolerance toward women as the case of “Laila Abouzaid”, who through her postcolonial novella “ The Year of the Elephant”  she characters the figure of the “Sheikh” as an example of Islam’s authentic view toward women. She believes that justice, equality are sacred human values that Islam have granted women with long time ago, even before they were granted to Western women. However, the patriarchal structure of Islamic societies, which are formulated by traditions, ideologies, as well as the impact left by colonialism which ragged the Islamic identity by mainly trying to relate it with “Shariaa” make our feminist movement distorted and still unable to guaranty a fully unconditional emancipation for Muslim women.

Read More on this subject:

http://www.bladi.net/fatima-mernissi,359.html
http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/ReadingRoom/litserv/SPAN/36/Hall.html

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Community Service Club Resumes its activities this year with a visit to a public school.



The 2013- 2014 school season in Morocco was launched few days ago following the king’s speech about making education amileorated and one of the founding ground to boost development, so did  the ALC Comminity Service Club of Fes  which resumed its service and activities this year foregrounding education among our biggest concerns.

The 18th of Spt, the CSC had bought 30 school bags as well as received lovely school supplies from members and non-members at the ALC  that meant to be distributed to a public school in a poor neighborhood in Fes.

We all thought that it was a good idea to participate in launching  this year‘s school season and contribute to a better education for poor people. I can tell now after the visit we had to that school that we had opted for the right choice!

Friday,20th spt, the CSC young future leaders headed to “Khalid Ibn El Walid”, a primary school where we had a lovely time. The director and all the  school’s staff there were hospitable. As visitors and guesses, we were asked to sign on the “golden book” of the school in hope from the director for us to come back again to participate in other educational activities. After having explaining what our CSC was about and the kind of activities and service we are providing, we were welcomed in a big room where we delivered the school bags. The students were very pleased  to receive their bags. Most of them were between the age of 8 and 10 with a big smile that lighted up their little faces when each of us handed out a lovely bag for each of them.

“It is a good initiavitve,especially that it meant to help  students from a marginalized area of the city who can’t afford to buy school suplies for a proper education. It is a humane initiative that will make those little students always remember this day” the school’s director stated.One of the teachers in the school said that it was a good intiative for a number of poor students benefited from, and  that it should be continued in the  future time.
 

visiting a public school to help in meeting the needs of some of these students was a good idea that everybody gave a thumb up.  I have no doubt that children are the first choice you would opt for if you are asked to whom you want to give your care. They are the people one likes to see happy and that was one of our happy time too . It was really a nice experience that each of us has a story to tell about . Tarik El Falih, one of the new member to join the CSC said “ we are human and everything which is for the benefit of human beings is good, and I’m happy that I participated in this commmendable activity. As for “Ibrahim Talal, he said that it was a great opportunity to help those students who were in need and that he had a wonderful time taking part in such heartwarming activity.

Doing simple gesture to bring out the best of people is something rewarding  that shows that there are people who really care about what matters in our society. The Community Service Club which is a new born club comparing to ALC film club has set a good example of the team spirit of young leaders, replete with energy and who are still ready to give more in our future projects. We believe in a better world, we belive in the  country Morocco will be, we believe in people we are and the leaders we want to become.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

I am All For You

I am All For You
 
When you reconnect
be aware that if there is silence,
part of my watercolors on stage of life.
Just something of mindless desire ...
I will not fail to observe the grace and greed ...
not promise that I will proclaim vows
and let all cravings
injured in the shelter of a passion.
......
Awaken your joy contained in the mornings.
I will respect what you can imagine ...
While I think you will kiss my mouth.
I'll cool off with water
that can be fiery or that may interfere
the imbalance when straight to bed.
...
Do not be surprised or go spread
I want you to me.
But if such cases happen,
by chance,
to be of a form and format
my wishing well full of you!
I am all for you, all for you!
 
 

Friday, 2 August 2013

Hands off

Fiction

“Did you study today?” Asked he looking at him and wrinkling up his forehead to three ugly folds lined above his thick eyebrows that Ali noticed whenever, at the mischievous times, he caught him playing with the swarm of the kids by the reeking swamp opposite the house.  Throwing stones in and filling conserved tomatoes’ cans, plastic bottles with water to splash each other. That nasty swamp, which everybody complained about, was formed whenever it rained, unveiling one of the hundreds examples of the municipal’s nest of corruption. It was one of the things that brought the neighbors to talk about politics, politicians and being the victims of their lies during those fishy election campaigns.

Today Salah was different… and that look, a look that Ali couldn’t return and see if it was of angel or of a devil. Preoccupied by his father’s mysterious mood, Ali terribly bowed his head flinching from having his eyes met with his father’s glances.

“N’nn No” he mumbled, rubbing his palms together. He sometimes snatched glances to his mother, like if he was surreptitiously asking help from her to get him out of the sticky situation he was squeezed and felt snared in. He had never been put through such a cobweb like dialogue where a small, weak like him wouldn’t make it to survival. He had never heard his father asking him that dazzling question to which no filial behavior he had learned.

Could that all really been missed from his life to fill the gap inside that made Ali unable to compose full and steady response?

While he remained motionless, a head bowed, his chin dived in his jacket’s collar, Salah patted the yellowish ripe banana color sheep’s skin he was sitting on in a gesture for Ali to come closer, like if it was a matter of father and son discretion. An inner indecisiveness took hold of poor Ali. His fear cheated on his attempt to stand up when he felt his feet heavy. Like a baby he crawled instead to shift nearby his father’s side, and then he sat slightly touching his unzipped jacket hanging down from his stooped shoulders to his hips that started to squeak when it rubbed against his as Salah moved his arm and wrapped Ali’s little body.

“Aww Ali”! “A’liwa! Sweetie!” “You are growing up very fast!” he said in a soft voice that sounded like moaning. He brought him against his side in an affectionate squeeze with his arm, like a belt tied around his body to which Ali knew no feedback, only more time of bowing. He felt at sixes and sevens, still nervously rubbing his palms red off-white. He couldn’t feel at ease thinking what would later happen and what in the world could have happened that ripened his father’s raw emotions. As he kissed him, the boy slowly raised his shoulders up to his ears in bewilderment, sort of disgust that he didn’t want more of his kisses.

“You have become a man, and really you have to study and become a policeman. That’s how you are going to reward me son!” He said caressing his shaggy hair.

 One could easily tell that Salah’s ultimate goal was to see his son working with “Mekhzane[1]”. Like most of Moroccans he believed that if anyone wanted to live in this country he had to have a relative working with “Mekhzane”. Nepotism is all what this country about. He wanted privilege too, and more messing up on the opportunities that life could offer to someone who would be fully protected by “Mekhzane”. Since life was all about dirt, corruption in a country where nepotism is deeply rooted in its culture, why not for him?

 He was so obsessed with authority. Had he had the chance to become a policeman he would have became a real holdover that nothing could stop him from misusing his power… (To be continued)

 

 




[1] The Moroccan state system of government.