from the anecdote file

where we find the joys of being a researcher on Hizbullah

Buy one of the many cds of Hizbullah ‘chants’ (anashid). For example, the volume 12 of Firkat el Asra’,, Al Moqawama wal Tahrir. Open it, and rip the cd on Windows media player. The software checks for titles through its search engine. When you get back to your computer you find copied to your hard drive:

Artist: Snoop Doggy Dog
Album title: Doggy Style
Example of song name: Shitznit, for all my Niggaz & Bitchiz, etc.

I changed the name of the songs so as to at least remember what I am listening to. But I cannot erase the “Doggy Style”. So I get: “Hamdan lil Lah atah al Zafar” with “Doggy Style”, right under it.

Please keep in mind that at the bottom of the cd back cover there is a mention of protected copyrights.

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Front page of Al-Akhbar today

In front of the parliament, a Sukleen worker cleans…

Update: Just noticed that l’Orient le Jour had a very similar picture on its front page but with this as a caption: “une place de l’Étoile noyée au cœur de l’interminable sit-in de l’opposition et totalement déserte”…

The 112 cars

so Cara tells me that the ‘police force’ in Beirut is doing a good job with their new American gift, the nissan pathfinder. Yesterday night, they spotted two (probably Ethiopian) girls going up towards the Sofil center (in Ashrafieh Beirut), and they started harassing them, asking them for their papers, why they were there walking etc. Of course, I understand the cops, it is so rare to see two women, let alone, foreign ‘workers’, walking on a Beiruti sidewalk (virtually none existent sidewalks). It is suspicious ‘security-wise’ and so a good opportunity to flash the ‘badges’.

A linguistic theory (or perspective) to understand "Islamic" movements

Ok friends, here we go. After a couple months of ‘deep’ thinking, I got my own eureka. Here is what I think serves as a binding device for all the arguments I’m going to be making in my work. But I need to have an idea of what you think, if it makes sense, or is my eureka just a figment of my imagination (well it is one) that cannot be shared.

A couple of questions:

Is there something that differentiates Islamic movements from other movements? Is this something has to do with some “Islamic” component? If yes, how to understand this “Islamic” component?

My tentative answers respectively to each questions:

The difference is in the language used as representative of a different ‘form’ of consciousness (culture, etc.) shaped by different institutions and power relations in place. It has to do with something ‘Islamic’ in so far as the discourse and practices used to act are different and claim to borrow ‘legitimacy’ (understood as ‘linguistic coherence’) from a pool of metaphors, symbols, and clusters of meaning (of course constantly changing) derived from the spoken (here Arabic, but other languages too), and the written (Koran, etc.). The Islamic is understood as a powerful pool of meanings anchored (taking authority) from written heritage (Koran, etc.) that provides an all encompassing forms in order to direct changing practices on the social ground. The difference here between the spoken and written is crucial, I will try to explain this in a later post. The borrowing happens in hectic, unpredictable, and even contradictory way sometimes (depending on symbolically powerful actors who are at the forefront of this knowledge creation.

My argument (heavily indebted to ‘critical thought’ in general) then is: Islamic movements are resistance movements to a slowly maturing colonizing process, the one that penetrates and changes the consciousness of subalterns. The fall of the Ottoman Empire, the creation of modern state, and the entry of new forms of economic and social exploitation, all reverberating in the intrusion in the language used (here Arabic that completely changed its modes of work included new formulations, meanings, etc.), all are examples of this colonizing process. The most successful form of resistance is the one that strives to create separate forms of consciousness (different understandings (symbols, meanings, etc.) of social reality. Islamic movements to varying degrees are about that, that is their only a priori similarity, they go back to a specific articulation of the “language”, the one of the Koran for example (Gramsci rightly points out that language is a worldview). Now depending on historical, social, institutional etc. circumstances in their respective geographies, you have completely different experiences that arise. Most importantly, their relation with other forms of consciousness (like the more hegemonic, “western” form) is crucial to understand the evolution of meanings amongst these movements.

I’m not saying that Islamic movements are a ‘renaissance’ of Arabic as a language. First, this does not mean anything, just as much as the ‘Nahda’ of the XIX century was not a ‘renaissance’ of Arabic but more aptly described as a re-appropriation and development of linguistic devices to assert new forms of consciousness representing a specific social class etc. There is no aesthetic judgment in what I am saying, I’m just putting into light certain processes that I think can be derived from the reality we live in. However, I want to say that Islamic movements strive to master a certain use or practice of Arabic, one that sees specific concepts fusing in. It is like a laboratory of already existing clusters of meaning that is constantly re-worked to include the contemporaneous pressing concerns. the important thing is the artifact, the form in place (the language and its potential of asserting independent forms of consciousnesses)

Also more importantly, I’m not saying that Islamic movements are ‘regressive’ or ‘progressive’, leftist or rightists, fascists, etc. because all these are ‘western’ categorizations (meaning institutionally and historically determined in Europe and elsewhere) for political organizations. One can always compare and derive certain similarities and difference, some of them being very interesting, but remember that this categories are political programs in themselves. Fascism exists in Leftist political formations and vice versa. The dichotomy of right and left in Europe and elsewhere serves as a political disciplining device. Anyway that is another subject. And for fear of diverging too much I leave you with that.

Who?

Rare are the times when I find someone to cut my hair as I would like it. Rarer (if not exceptional) are the times when I watch the broadcasting of an explosion while I’m diligently explaining to the ‘barber’ not to go too short on my neck. The place was quickly invaded by a bunch of people from outside, as he was the only one who had TV. When the reporter said that it may be Antoine Ghanem (Parliamentary member, Kataeb, March 14) who was the target, everybody went: “who?”. Yeah who is this guy? Another anonymous elevated to “martyrdom”. At the time of writing this post, the media did not yet confirm the identity of the victim. 6 other people died and many injured. When I reached home, my mom had just arrived and told me that she was in the same street (a bit higher) when the explosion went. The explosion was not that loud she said. She looked a bit in a little shock. She was going to pray for St Rita. She said that St Rita saved her from being 1 minute earlier on the scene. St Rita and the killers all conspire to increase the burden we shoulder, the burden to re-write history. I have to put the AC on because the heat is unbearable. Funny, it has been a while since the last time I noticed how beautiful the sunset can be here towards the sea.

Pearls of Wisdom brought to you by Charles Corm

I found this book at a friend’s house (can’t name him, too ashamed of having this book at his place without knowing about it), a book by Charles Corm, someone the editor of the book labels as: “Un grand libanais”. Of course “libanais” here refers to a bunch of people who survived 6000 years of persecution, seriously, this is written in the preface. This gem is dated from 1934. Check this out friends, oh, and it is written on the page before the start of the poem “translated from Lebanese”:

Langue des phéniciens, ma langue libanaise,
Dont la lettre est sans voix sous les caveaux plombés,
Langue de l’âge d’or, toi qui fus la genèse
De tous les alphabets;

ok… moving on:

Lorsque les Libanais, seuls après les Croisades,
Devant un adversaire encor plus acharné,
En ont dans leurs rochers rompu les barricades
Et l’assaut forcené

… i’m sure you guessed who’s the “adversaire encor plus acharné”… Because here is the best part:

Mon frère musulman, comprenez ma franchise:
Je suis le vrai Liban, sincère et pratiquant;
D’autant plus libanais que ma Foi symbolise
Le coeur du pélican

Si ma ferveur s’attache au dogme de l’Eglise,
C’est qu’Elle est à mes yeux l’universalité;
Car je ne peux croire en un dieu qui divise
L’immense humanité

This guy is really a trip. I decided to quote a little verse of his book “La montagne inspirée”, everytime I feel I am losing the grasp of reality.

The connection between Romans, Jews, and Arabs

Now let’s see if this triggers a déjà-vu:

The Israeli cabinet could soon free 100 Palestinian prisoners from Fatah, the party of embattled Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, public radio reported on Saturday…
The prisoner release would come on the occasion of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, the radio said. The detainees to be freed would be those who did not take part in deadly attacks on Israelis.

Isn’t it the story of baby Jesus all over again? Substitute the Roman empire for Israel, the jews for the Arabs, the Jewish clerical establishment for Fatah, Jesus and Barabas et al for Fatah and Hamas prisonners (the selection here is crucial), Easter for Ramadan and here you go. Ever shifting roles of dominant and dominated, that is the story of human misery.