Essays and Features

40 Year-Old Classic Remains Influential: Sadiq Jalal al-Azm’s ‘The Critique of Religious Thought’

By Elie Chalala & Michael Teague
From left to right: Adonis, Joseph Mughayzel, Sadiq Jalal al-Azm, Aref al-Rayyes, Basim al-Jisr, Abdallah Lahoud, Bashir Daouk (publisher of Dar Al Talia), and Edmund Rabbatt. Photo courtesy of Ms. Ghada Samman.

For over 40 years now, Sadiq Jalal al-Azm’s “Naqd al-Fikr al-Dini” (“Critique of Religious Thought”) has been one of the most controversial and influential books about the role of religion in Arab politics. Originally published in 1969 by Dar Al Talia and reprinted in 2009 by the same publisher, al-Azm’s work has been cited in countless articles and books about Arab politics and, according to the Qatari weekly, Al Raya, more than 1500 pages have been written about it.

Remembering Latifa al-Zayyat

By Amal Amireh

Arab cultural circles have recently mourned the loss of the prominent Egyptian intellectual Latifa al-Zayyat, who died of cancer in Cairo on September 10, 1996. She was 73 years old. Her death came soon after she had received Egypt ’s highest State Prize for literature. While the state’s acknowledgment of her achievements was long overdue, al-Zayyat had much popular and collegial support throughout her often difficult life-journey.

Arab cultural circles have recently mourned the loss of the prominent Egyptian intellectual Latifa al-Zayyat, who died of cancer in Cairo on September 10, 1996. She was 73 years old. Her death came soon after she had received Egypt ’s highest State Prize for literature. While the state’s acknowledgment of her achievements was long overdue, al-Zayyat had much popular and collegial support throughout her often difficult life-journey.

The Arab-Christian Predicament Before and After the Rise of the Islamic State

Elie Chalala

Many Mideast scholars and political groups have grown increasingly concerned with the dwindling numbers and persecutions of Mideast Christians. One Lebanese scholar, Dr. Antoine Saad, wrote a book in Arabic, “The Survival of Christians in the East is a Muslim Choice,” where he advances the flawed thesis that the survival of Christians depends wholly upon the Muslim majority (his thesis attributes the survival of the Lebanese Christians to their leadership, a topic not discussed in this essay). His work exonerates Arab Christians from any responsibility for their fate by portraying Arab Christian elites and intellectuals as helpless victims, passive players unable to influence events.

Many Mideast scholars and political groups have grown increasingly concerned with the dwindling numbers and persecutions of Mideast Christians. One Lebanese scholar, Dr. Antoine Saad, wrote a book in Arabic, “The Survival of Christians in the East is a Muslim Choice,” where he advances the flawed thesis that the survival of Christians depends wholly upon the Muslim majority (his thesis attributes the survival of the Lebanese Christians to their leadership, a topic not discussed in this essay).

The Arab Novel and Mr. Nobel: Challenges in Genre and Translation

Al Jadid Staff

Every year, prior to the Swedish Academy announcing its Nobel Prize in Literature, many Arabs anxiously wait to hear if their own unofficial candidates will win. The last time this happened Naguib Mahfouz won the prize 28 years ago. This year, not only did no Arab poet or novelist receive the award, but many felt additional disappointment with the Academy’s choice to give the prize to noted musician Bob Dylan. The award angered and disappointed many candidates, leading some to join the chorus of critics who insist the prize should have honored a writer because music does not represent a form of literature.

Every year, prior to the Swedish Academy announcing its Nobel Prize in Literature, many Arabs anxiously wait to hear if their own unofficial candidates will win. The last time this happened Naguib Mahfouz won the prize 28 years ago. This year, not only did no Arab poet or novelist receive the award, but many felt additional disappointment with the Academy’s choice to give the prize to noted musician Bob Dylan.

The Politics of Getting Published: The Continuing Struggle of Arab-American Writers

Andrea Shalal-Esa

More Arab-American writers are getting their work published than ever before, but even those lucky few who land lucrative book contracts with big publishers still face a host of problems ranging from censorship to being pigeonholed as only Arab-American writers.

More Arab-American writers are getting their work published than ever before, but even those lucky few who land lucrative book contracts with big publishers still face a host of problems ranging from censorship to being pigeonholed as only Arab-American writers.

Syrian Refugee Drama Troupe Seeks to Heal Traumas

By: 
Al Jadid Staff

It is no accident that the "Love Boat" theatrical sea journey ends in Shakespeare's "King Lear," as more and more Syrians die either under assault from Assad and Russian bombs or by drowning, desperately taking to the seas in hopes of escaping genocidal policies.

It is no accident that the "Love Boat" theatrical sea journey ends in Shakespeare's "King Lear," as more and more Syrians die either under assault from Assad and Russian bombs or by drowning, desperately taking to the seas in hopes of escaping genocidal policies.

Manufactured Expertise: Selling Out Arab News Audiences

Salam Kawakibi

As the different uprisings continued to unfold in the Arab world, the demand for TV guests called “analysts,” “academics,” and “experts” increased, despite a serious shortage of true professional experts. Faced with this structural deficit, some Arab TV stations resorted to “manufacturing” their expert news analysts, inviting virtual unknowns, and then bestowing supreme titles upon them in an attempt to create artificial qualifications without having to go through legitimate vetting processes, reviewing actual scientific or practical credentials. By contrast, the genuine experts chose to strictly confine their TV appearances within the limits of their expertise, avoiding the temptation to make claims of knowledge in areas outside their specializations or practical experiences. Still, a majority of the guests did willingly plunge into the maze of spotlights, exploiting the qualitative and quantitative shortages of truly qualified experts. Those pseudo experts emerged as “stars” of the screen, triumphing at the expense of the viewer.

 
Since the onset of the “Arab Spring,” and through the development of revolutionary phases, with their violent consequences, Arab satellite TV stations, which reach millions of viewers, persistently devoted themselves to broadcasting interviews with “analysts,” “academics,” and “experts” on the issues surrounding various national uprisings.
 
As events continued to unfold, the demand for these types of guests increased, despite a structural supply shortage of serious and professional experts.

‘The Morning They Came for Us’: Untold Stories of Syria's Most Vulnerable Victims

By: 
Elie Chalala

Ms. Janine di Giovanni, one of Europe’s most respected reporters, chronicles the hardships inflicted upon adults and children alike, telling tales both gruesome and emotional in her new book, “The Morning They Came for Us” (Liveright, 2016). 

 

Ms. Janine di Giovanni, one of Europe’s most respected reporters, chronicles the hardships inflicted upon adults and children alike, telling tales both gruesome and emotional in her new book, “The Morning They Came for Us” (Liveright, 2016). From her visits to Syria in 2012, di Giovanni gathered stories, speaking with a diverse group of people including pro-Assad nuns, regime doctors, and civilian activists...“The Morning They Came for Us” provides rich content that can be difficult to find in daily news coverage alone.

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