INGULFED

In Shanghai

Archive for arab spring

#200: Muathifakhrs Unite — Arabic Rap From (America’s) West Bank

The rerelease of this legendary and illustrious video is dedicated to Joshua “Issa” Casteel, an endlessly positive Middlebury Arabic scholar with the power to brighten every door, the kind of soldier who returns home not with enmity but with curiosity and compassion — a true Muathifakhr if there ever was one.

In 2010, a group of Middlebury Arabic School students left nothing on the rhyming fields of Oakland, California. Two years later the ornery former director of the program, who shall remain nameless in this sentence, achieved a lifelong goal and had the masterwork taken down from video sharing sites, including انتم توب. Kenneth S. Habib’s image has been removed.

But the message lives on.

On the grounds of Mills Young Ladies Seminary (as it was known in 1852), the Thalith Alif Allstars rhyme about a life with thoughts in one language and speech in another. Words divide, but they also unite, and in this grappling with confusion we can follow new pathways to understanding. Like the diverse coalitions still struggling for freedom across the Middle East, this group — which features an Arab doctor, a UN relief hero, a veteran, scholars of the Middle East, and Jews — is united in its message: we shall not be divided by language if we recognize difference not as obstacle but opportunity. And if we take silliness for what it is.

Issa, this one’s for you.


{Watch on YouTube here.}
{Watch in Germany or on a mobile device over here.}

This is INGULFED‘s 200th post!      A thousand shukran for coming back again and again.

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Osama and Me — انا و اسامة

I don’t appreciate what Osama Bin Laden did yesterday.

Everyone has someone with whom they agree to disagree. You live your respective lives at peace with the fact that there exists someone who you cannot change, whose every fiber contradicts the principles woven into your DNA. Think of your neighbor Geoff who you don’t speak to anymore and who has stopped poisoning your gardenias to flex for you, ad infinitum, his forbearing cold shoulder. Osama and I were like that — or at least I was — and just like you would for Geoff, I lived my life hoping nothing I did would ever make him happy and I cheered and high-fived people when I heard he was, as your other neighbor Lorenzo would say, swimming with the fishes.

Yesterday though, Bin Laden’s voice was given a sounding board from the bottom of the sea, and with it he praised the valiant struggle of citizens across the Middle East and North Africa — the struggle known as the “Arab Spring,” which is (curse him) valiant.

The equilibrium I struck that allowed me to stress less in his existence was balanced on the expectation that we would disagree on everything, just as we’d promised. To hear any semblance of reason from a sworn enemy of good sense was to come face to face with the fragile foundation of my inner status quo. The quo until yesterday was one in which I was more comfortable ignoring, more secure behind a wall of cultural insolation built from lazier bits of my own personality.

This is certainly a window into the other side that the reasonable can analyze for clues into the psyche of bad people with bad opinions that are wrong. It is perhaps an opportunity to come to terms with our absolutism and to engage more deeply with nemeses and the Other.

We may even humanize the world’s devils as we allow that there may be overlap — the reasonable — between our minds and theirs.

Meh, fuck it. And Osama. And screw your neighbor Geoff, too.

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