Essays and Features

Rima Assaf: How One Broadcaster Liberated Her Emotions with the Written Word

By 
Rima Assaf

While preparing my report on the Holocaust of Aleppo, I felt the customary format of broadcast news did not allow me to express my feelings. Thus, I have resorted to these written words in order to release my unbearable pain after watching a father breaking and clawing at stones with his bare hands in search of his children, entombed under mountains of rubbles.

Through these words I repeat those of a wounded child in Al Sukari suburb hospital as she cried out: “Mother, help me! May God support and comfort you. My heart hurts me.”

The Tarabishi — Al-Jabiri Debate

A New Book Debunks Mohammed Abd al-Jabiri’s Theory and Sources
By 
Elie Chalala

A work which would have stirred a rich intellectual debate, involving historical and methodological questions in studying contemporary Arab political thought has, instead, taken a bizarre twist. George Tarabishi's book “Nakd Nakd Al `Aql Al Arabi, Nazariyyat Al Aql" [Critique of the Critique of Arab Reason, Theory of Reason], published by Dar Al Saqi (London 1996), levels harsh criticisms at a fellow Arab intellectual, Moroccan theorist Mohammed Abed al-Jabiri in response to his work, “Theory of Arab Reason” or (Critique de la Raison Arabe), the third book of a four volume. Tarabishi focuses on both the intellectual limits of al-Jabiri and an alleged scandal, the fraudulent usage of sources, including misinterpretations and erroneous conclusions. This has not only set the stage for what has come to be known as the Tarabishi — al-Jabiri debate, but also has unleashed another scandal: revealing al-Jabiri’s sectarian predisposition when he explains Tarabishi's criticisms in terms of the Syrian author's Christian faith.

A work which would have stirred a rich intellectual debate, involving historical and methodological questions in studying contemporary Arab political thought has, instead, taken a bizarre twist. George Tarabishi's book “Nakd Nakd Al `Aql Al Arabi, Nazariyyat Al Aql" [Critique of the Critique of Arab Reason, Theory of Reason], published by Dar Al Saqi (London 1996), levels harsh criticisms at a fellow Arab intellectual, Moroccan theorist Mohammed Abed al-Jabiri in response to his work, “Theory of Arab Reason” or (Critique de la Raison Arabe), the third book of a four volume.

Aleppo: A Catastrophe Defying Poets’ Powers of Description

By 
Amjad Nasser

When talking about what is happening in Syria, I face the inability of language to express reality. My vocabulary remains limited. My ability to describe reality, the basic forms of literature and writing, remains limited.  Nothing I have written or read could be elevated to the level of one moment of the reality experienced by Syrians in their disastrous country, or in their great Diaspora into which they were unmercifully pushed.

The Syrian War Has Taken Us Prematurely to Hell!

By 
Father George Massouh

The crimes committed in Syria have surpassed what the human mind can imagine in terms of horrors and atrocities. Undoubtedly, in our cruel East, we have become accustomed to living with this reality, which plunges us down to the depths of hell. This horror lies in our acceptance of what occurs in our countries while we continue our daily lives as if nothing is happening, and justify the violence as a defense of central causes or as wars against terrorism. As if some want to convince us that terrorism can be defeated by “counter” terrorism.

Whatever is Left of the Levantine Spirit?

By 
Elie Chalala

The Arab world lives in a state of nostalgia for bygone days, when much of the hatred and intolerance of today had not set in, and the demographic minorities of what was once called the Levant were not escaping to Europe and elsewhere. But the Levant of peaceful coexistence between religious and ethnic minorities and the Muslim majority has suffered a physical blow with the rise of the terroristic Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)...Using the word Levant has raised much curiosity, both intellectual and political. Identifying the vicious and obscurantist ISIS movement with the region called the Levant, a place which historically has represented the polar opposite of ISIS ideology, causes dissonance. 

 

The Arab world lives in a state of nostalgia for bygone days, when much of the hatred and intolerance of today had not set in, and the demographic minorities of what was once called the Levant were not escaping to Europe and elsewhere. But the Levant of peaceful coexistence between religious and ethnic minorities and the Muslim majority has suffered a physical blow with the rise of the terroristic Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Rescuing Christianity in Syria!

By 
Salam Kawakibi

While the number of Christians has decreased under the Syrian government – a government that claims to be the “the protector of minorities” – from 15% in 1970 to 4.6% in 2008, the regime still insists on exaggerating the percentage to about 10%. The church itself places it at about 7%. The state’s rationale in offering a rosy picture appears clear: it provides a convenient propaganda tool from which the regime benefits in its “public relations.” 

Many factors contributed to the decreased numbers of Syrian Christians before the 2011 revolutionary uprising. These included immigration based on economic or political reasons, and low birth rates compared to other religious communities, with the latter a factor generally attributed to higher educational levels.

Europe’s New Refugee Problem Requires Explanation beyond War!

By 
Bobby Gulshan

The scenes of refugees drowning by the hundreds in the seas between Turkey and Greece as they attempt to reach Europe are harrowing . They come from all corners of the Middle East, not only from Syria, but also Lebanon and Iraq. Lebanon recently received the corpses of a family of eight who died when they illegally took a ship from Turkey heading to Europe. All this while the photo of the Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, remains fresh in the minds of the world.

 

The scenes of refugees drowning by the hundreds in the seas between Turkey and Greece as they attempt to reach Europe are harrowing. They come from all corners of the Middle East, not only from Syria, but also Lebanon and Iraq. Lebanon recently received the corpses of a family of eight who died when they illegally took a ship from Turkey heading to Europe. All this while the photo of the Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, remains fresh in the minds of the world.

‘The Secret of Being a Woman' on Etel Adnan's Quest

By 
Mona Takieddine Amyuni

I read Etel Adnan. I meet her sometimes in Beirut. I try all the time to discover the kind of writer she is, the woman she is, how she perceives herself and the world around her. She tells us that her books are the houses she builds for herself, that she settles nowhere, that she lives all over the world in newspapers, railway stations, cafés, airports. Feeling different early in life, she writes in “Journey:” “Memories are as fresh as cool water and a cool breeze floats over one’s fever.”

Etel Adnan describes a group of friends who gather frequently in Mill Valley, California, ostensibly to paint.  Instead, they are fully involved in the issue of perception. In her book “Journey to Mount Tamalpais,” she quotes one woman in this group: “To perceive is to be both objective and subjective. It is to be in the process of becoming one with whatever it is, while also becoming separate from it.” And, she adds, the moment of perception is a moment of art. 

Etel Adnan’s ‘THE ARAB APOCALYPSE’

By 
Mona Takieddine Amyuni

In a meeting with my students at the American University of Beirut on December 14, 2000, the Lebanese-American poet Etel Adnan told us that she began writing her long, prophetic poem “The Arab Apocalypse” (The Post-Apollo Press, 1989) in January 1975 in Beirut, two months before the outbreak of the Lebanese War (1975-1990).  “Then, the war took the poem over,” said Adnan, and she added: “The war wrote this poem. I started with tensions and rhythms and later wrote 59 pages corresponding to the 59 days of the Tal-el-Zaatar (a Palestinian camp in the outskirts of Beirut, destroyed by the Lebanese Forces in 1976) siege and destruction.”

In a meeting with my students at the American University of Beirut on December 14, 2000, the Lebanese-American poet Etel Adnan told us that she began writing her long, prophetic poem “The Arab Apocalypse” (The Post-Apollo Press, 1989) in January 1975 in Beirut, two months before the outbreak of the Lebanese War (1975-1990).  “Then, the war took the poem over,” said Adnan, and she added: “The war wrote this poem.

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