Wednesday, September 10, 2008

catching up

Though I've been reading a lot as always, I've been too busy/lazy to post stuff on here, so I'll try to get caught up. Like half of these links came my way thanks to Hoda - mad props comrade!

Maurice Sendak's Concerns, Beyond Where the Wild Things Are - if you're not down with Maurice Sendak you are a piece of shit 2k8. Plus it turns out the dude is interesting as hell. (NY Times)

Ali Eteraz: The making of the Muslim left - God, Eteraz is such a tremendous douchebag! I can't believe I used to like his blog. His vision for a Muslim "left" sounds exactly what Bush (or at least Friedman) would envision. I don't have the energy to tear this article apart, so I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader; anyone smart enough to realize that the almighty "free market" is not the solution to all of life's problems should be able to handle it. In the words of Ramallah Underground, "amputate that invisible hand!" And a note to Ali Eteraz, if he ever sees this: polytheism is forbidden in Islam, so you have to choose between Allah SWT, the Lord of the Worlds, or your other god, Capital, the Lord of Profit, whom you seem to worship more.

'The Kite Runner' Critiqued: New Orientalism Goes to the Big Screen - a critical analysis of The Kite Runner as an example of native informancy that aids Islamophobic discourses in the U.S. (applying the theories of Dabashi, Keshavarz, et al, to The Kite Runner). I found the argument less compelling when applied to a book that I so greatly enjoyed (the movie was good too) rather than more blatant offenders like Reading Lolita in Tehran, but it did change the way I see Khaled Hosseini's work nonetheless. Oh well...A Thousand Splendid Suns kind of sucked anyway! For more on this theme, be sure to read Hamid Dabashi's important article Native informers and the making of the American empire, A Genre in the Service of Empire: an Iranian Feminist Critique of Diasporic Memoirs (several authors), and Fatemeh Keshavarz's book Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran. The last, Jasmine and Stars, is not just an academic critique of the new Orientalism but a lively and engaging narrative, too. Highly recommended. (Kite Runner review from ZMag; I found it on a post at the blog "Progressive Muslims: Friends of Imperialism and Neocolonialism").

They know best - Golbarg Bashi (who contributed to the article "A Genre in the Service of Empire" mentioned above) criticizes the elitist atmosphere at Iranian Women's Studies Foundation conferences (

A modern Ottoman - on Fethullah Gülen, named the top intellectual in the world by an online poll (Prospect Magazine)

How Gülen triumphed - on the interesting Internet dynamics that led to the above result (Prospect Magazine)

Oil, Islam, and women - an argument that oil, not Islam, is responsible for the plight of women in the Middle East. It's an interesting perspective, but the article is far too short to make a serious argument. Food for thought, anyway. (Salon)

Inside Iran - a series of articles about Iran. They're well-written, but a rehash of the same tired subjects that have been covered over and over: the disparity between public and private life, the nuclear program, blogs, Ahmadinejad. Iran's such an incredible diverse and fascinating country, but why is so little written about, say, the bus drivers' unionization campaign, or the growing popularity of Korean soap operas in Iran, or Afghan poetry in Mashhad? I guess I should be thankful people are writing about Iran at all - when was the last time you read a decent article about Kyrgyzstan? (New Statesman)

Script change for neoliberalism - I've been trying to follow news and analysis of the proposed $700 billion bailout, but there's a lot to cover. This is just a short piece that makes the case for nationalizing healthcare, education, and other basic necessities, rather than failed businesses. I'll be digging deeper into SW's Economy department for some more in-depth articles. (Socialist Worker)

ali eteraz misses the point

I think Ali Eteraz gained such a popular following based almost entirely on his looks. Let's not kid ourselves here, he is goddamn handsome. Actually, he looks kind of like me...except older, Pakistani, and maybe a little hotter. Anyway, while I appreciate that he takes an 'alternative' or 'progressive' approach to issues of Islam, the Desi community, etc., oftentimes the end result with Eteraz is that he becomes similar to other so-called "progressive Muslims"-- which is to say, defenders of the Islamophobic, racist power structure in the West. Case in point is Eteraz's love for Obama. No self-respecting Muslim should support an Uncle Tom just because he supports some kind of withdrawal of troops from Iraq (but only so that he can keep bombing the everloving shit out of Afghanistan and maybe blow up Pakistan and Iran too). But I'll let my audience (do I have an audience yet?) decide for themselves. Here is Eteraz's Suicide Intellect, his profoundly status-quo, reactionary take on Ali Shari`ati. Read it, then compare with Ali Shari`ati's classic essay, Red Shi`ism (the religion of martyrdom) vs. Black Shi`ism (the religion of mourning).

Most amazing of all to me is that Eteraz could interpret Shari`ati's bold call for Shi`a to "rebel against history" and "choose justice" as nihilism. Wouldn't it be much more nihilistic to lay down and accept injustice? Or maybe justify unjust government in the name of stability, as certain autocratic Sunni states have done? At the core of nihilism lies a rejection of morality, values, and universal truth; how could that be any more different from Shari`ati's cry for a revolutionary movement steeped in Islamic morality, Qur`anic values, and struggle for al Haqq, the Truth with a capital T?

Rather than blame Shari`ati for popularizing suicide in the Middle East, we need to blame the oppressors and colonialists who push people to such desperation that suicide becomes an option. Have Palestinians who blow themselves up been more influenced by the writings of a deceased Iranian intellectual, or by the brutally unlivable conditions imposed upon them by Israel? Ultimately, I think Eteraz's beef with Shari`ati is that the latter committed the sin of daring to rebel. For as much as "progressive Muslims" like Ali Eteraz (to be fair, I'm not sure if he uses that term to describe himself or not) want to rebel against traditional, orthodox Islam, they are much more timid when it comes to rebelling against Western imperialism, colonialism and racism.

a couple good reads

From Contributions to Diaspora: Assyrians in the History of Urmia, Iran - excellent scholarly article on Assyrians in Urmia (Orumiyeh), a city in northwest Iran (

Pakistani protest music: alive and well in times of turmoil - good piece on rock and punk as protest music in Pakistan (The Guardian)

And, of course, New York Magazine's recap of the new Gossip Girl episode. Duh.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

gossip girl

I can't be an academic nerd/political militant/whatever all the time. Sometimes I just have to watch the season premiere of Gossip Girl, which New York Magazine so aptly dubbed "The Greatest Show of Our Time." No, I don't read NY Mag, except for their Daily Intel's Gossip Girl blog, which is so good. Here's their take on the season premiere.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

a few unrelated articles i read today

The End of an Odyssey - about a successful boat trip that broke the Israeli siege on Gaza (The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK, via a post on hawgblawg).

Mansur Al-Hallaj - well-written, albeit brief, Wikipedia article on the famous and controversial Sufi figure (Wikipedia)

واژه‌ها و تركيبات و عبارات مأخوذ از عربى - page detailing some orthographical issues in Persian; took me friggin' forever to read and I'm still confused about the use of ی vs. هٔ to mark ezaafe after a word ending in ه (Persian Academy)