Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Lord people, I am tired. The workload at office has kept me busy till late at night for the last few days – but that’s all I’ll talk about that. Outside of work, I have Turkish exams in a couple of weeks and sheaves of homework assignments to complete. I have been making compilations of word lists and verb lists on the long train rides home when I am not reading. There’s a lot that I have been reading and watching (I am rediscovering movies!) and I have wanted to write about many of these things but have had no time!

This weekend blogging shall be about some of the movies I have seen recently. La Trahison (The Betrayal), set during the Algerian War of Independence. The Battle of Algiers, which I have not seen in a while but is one of my all time favourite movies. If you haven’t seen Gillo Pontecorvo’s brilliant film please go and rent a copy now. And Atom Eyogan’s Ararat – strangely topical given the recent Genocide bill that is making the rounds in the US Congress. I have also wanted to post excerpts from the wonderful and hunger inducing Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East on, amongst other things, why the Turkey is called so and the origins of baklava. All of this if I ever mange to get down to it, of course!

Current read is Mark Mazower’s The Balkans: A Short History. Only half way through but it’s been a good quick read and quite excellent for what is basically a short summary of the history an immensely complicated region. Here an excerpt that helps explain why the area remained hugely heterogeneous:

If the Balkans did not become another Islamic land, one reason was that the sultans had no interest in making this happen. Christians paid higher taxes, and mass conversion would have impoverished the empire…Less material factors also played a part. On the two occasions (in 1517 and again in 1647) when the Porte seriously considered the forces Islamistion of Balkan Christians, there was religious opposition to the idea on Koranic ground. In general there was no Muslim analogue to the widespread Christian impulse to drive out the infidel and heretic. On the contrary Islamic law prescribed the toleration of Christian and Jewish communities of believers. It prohibited Muslims from converting to other religions but did not insist upon conversions in the other direction. Indeed many a convert was obliged to demonstrate the desire to embrace the true faith was not prompted by materialistic or ignoble motives.

To end this largely random post via 3quarksdaily this link to an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Reason magazine. As they point out van Bakel seems to be one of the few people not letting her off the hook all that easily. I find her extremely irritating and offensive and her arguments simplistic, generic and ignorant. (Interestingly, before the Turkish election earlier this year she wrote an article arguing that the US should support a military coup in Turkey to prevent the AKP from coming to power. The mind boggles.) I have to admit I haven’t read her books. Though I think her opinions come across strongly enough in her interviews anyway, I would gather they are more of the same. From the interview:

Reason: Explain to me what you mean when you say we have to stop the burning of our flags and effigies in Muslim countries. Why should we care?
Hirsi Ali: We can make fun of George Bush. He’s our president. We elected him. And the queen of England, they can make fun of her within Britain and so on. But on an international level, this has gone too far. You know, the Russians, they don’t burn American flags. The Chinese don’t burn American flags. Have you noticed that? They don’t defile the symbols of other civilizations. The Japanese don’t do it. That never happens.

Reason: Isn’t that a double standard? You want us to be able to say about Islam whatever we want—and I certainly agree with that. But then you add that people in Muslim countries should under all circumstances respect our symbols, or else.
Hirsi Ali: No, no, no.

Reason: We should be able to piss on a copy of the Koran or lampoon Muhammad, but they shouldn’t be able to burn the queen in effigy. That’s not a double standard?
Hirsi Ali: No, that’s not what I’m saying. In Iran a nongovernmental organization has collected money, up to 150,000 British pounds, to kill Salman Rushdie. That’s a criminal act, but we are silent about that.

Reason: We are?
Hirsi Ali: Yes. What happened? Have you seen any political response to it?
Reason: The fatwa against Rushdie has been the subject of repeated official anger and protests since 1989.


bint battuta said...

On the subject of the Balkans, have you read Noel Malcolm's books? I've read the one on Bosnia, and there's another on Kosovo. He's very good.

Szerelem said...

No, I haven't....but I have seen them so next time I'll issue them from the library. I had read Mazowers other book (on Thessaloniki) and it was excellent so I thought I'd pick up this one!

gooner days are here again said...

As someone who was brought up muslim, but have turned into an Agnostic, I find Ali revolting. Her life until she was a teenager followed a path similiar to that of Iman, the supermodel and wife of David Bowie (they had powerful fathers and grew up in the same countries - though generations apart). Of course Iman has managed to go her way about the world without inciting any controversy whereas Ali is just loving the spotlight. The fact that she outed her safe location in the Netherlands in order to escape to the US and the AEI does not reflect well on her. Personally I think she is just a media whore and with neo-cons like Hitchens and Applebaum lapping up her every word. She is too flaky to be held up as some kind of role model for the emancipated muslim woman. Asra Q Nomani has more dignity and compassion than Ali. And I respect her more.