Tag: Islamic State

Foreign

Sunday, 8 November, 2015 0 Comments

Egypt’s five million Copts, the last remaining major Christian sect in the Middle East, are fearful for their future in a hostile home. Yemen is now the biggest source of refugees in Africa, and at some 25 million it is as populous as Afghanistan. Talking of Afghanistan, what if the Taliban continue to expand their territorial writ, causing even more people to flee? And what if Islamic State terrorists extend their barbaric rule across Iraq and Syria? A Gallup Poll, based on data compiled from more than 450,000 interviews in 151 countries from 2009 to 2011, found that in Nigeria, which has double the population of Germany, 40 percent of the people would leave if they could. And the lesson of 2015 — for them and millions more — is that they can.

When they cross the Mediterranean or the Rio Grande, many migrants find life in the “West” comes with a price tag, and Carol Ann Duffy, Britain’s Poet Laureate, looks at this side of the displaced experience in Foreign. As a professional user of language herself, Duffy asks us to consider the lot of migrants who are marginalized because of their lack of linguistic proficiency. The stress of thinking in one language and having to translate into another renders people inarticulate. The “local dialect” in the foreigner’s head is associated with the memory of a mother singing, while “writing home” is a desperate attempt to keep in touch with a lost world. Imagine that.

Foreign

Imagine living in a strange, dark city for twenty years.
There are some dismal dwellings on the east side
and one of them is yours. On the landing, you hear
your foreign accent echo down the stairs. You think
in a language of your own and talk in theirs.

Then you are writing home. The voice in your head
recites the letter in a local dialect; behind that
is the sound of your mother singing to you,
all that time ago, and now you do not know
why your eyes are watering and what’s the word for this.

You use the public transport. Work. Sleep. Imagine one night
you saw a name for yourself sprayed in red
against a brick wall. A hate name. Red like blood.
It is snowing on the streets, under the neon lights,
as if this place were coming to bits before your eyes.

And in the delicatessen, from time to time, the coins
in your palm will not translate. Inarticulate,
because this is not home, you point at fruit. Imagine
that one of you says Me not know what these people mean.
It like they only go to bed and dream
. Imagine that.

Carol Ann Duffy


The Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic

Monday, 16 February, 2015 1 Comment

Graeme Wood: “In September, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the Islamic State’s chief spokesman, called on Muslims in Western countries such as France and Canada to find an infidel and ‘smash his head with a rock,’ poison him, run him over with a car, or ‘destroy his crops.’ To Western ears, the biblical-sounding punishments—the stoning and crop destruction—juxtaposed strangely with his more modern-sounding call to vehicular homicide. (As if to show that he could terrorize by imagery alone, Adnani also referred to Secretary of State John Kerry as an ‘uncircumcised geezer.’)”

In his splendid, terrifying essay in The Atlantic, What ISIS Really Wants, Graeme Wood points out that this was not just trash talk on the part of Adnani: “His speech was laced with theological and legal discussion, and his exhortation to attack crops directly echoed orders from Muhammad to leave well water and crops alone — unless the armies of Islam were in a defensive position, in which case Muslims in the lands of kuffar, or infidels, should be unmerciful, and poison away.” This leads Wood to conclude: “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.”

What we are enduring is not so much a clash of civilizations but a clash between civilization and uncivilization in the guise of a belief system that draws inspiration from a poisoned well. A very poisoned well.

Copt victims of ISIS


Finalities

Sunday, 8 February, 2015 0 Comments

The past week was dominated be one image: The burning to death in a locked cage of captured Jordanian pilot Muadh al- Kasasbeh by the Islamic State. Even by the brutal standards of radical Islam, this was barbarous beyond belief. Other harrowing images from recent days came from the town of Debaltseve, where terrified people were forced to flee their homes by Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine.

In Finalities, CP Cavafy uses irony and skepticism to address the calamities that can so swiftly sweep away our certainties. His poem was written at the beginning the of the 20th century but it has lost none of its relevance.

Finalities

Amid fear and suspicions,
with agitated mind and frightened eyes,
we melt and plan how to act
to avoid the certain
danger that so horribly threatens us.
And yet we err, this was not in our paths;
the messages were false
(or we did not hear, or fully understand them).
Another catastrophe, one we never imagined,
sudden, precipitous, falls upon us,
and unprepared — there is no more time — carries us off.

CP Cavafy (1863 — 1933)