Thursday, December 31, 2009

No (Coranic) Logo!

Is there any connection with the agreement to be passed with Robert Murdoch’s very conservative and pro-zionist News Corps? To be sure, the pious commercials broadcasted by Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation on the various Rotana channels between racy videos clips have fuelled many discussions.

It is not the first time that such campaigns have been launched in the Arab media. There has been previously the Mercy campaign during Ramadan 08, or the Al-baraka bil-shabab (Youth is a blessing and/or The blessing youth) broadcasted by the MBC channel.

An interesting questions raised by such advertising campaigns, tackling “virtuous issues,” is the use of statements (ahâdith) of the Prophet Muhammad. Obviously, there is no problem at all with the message itself but the context might seem too profane and thus unsuitable to the dissemination of the sacred words.

At least it is the point of view of various Saudi religious scholars who have forbidden, some time ago, the use of Coranic inscriptions on players shirts during soccer competitions (they still remain legitimate for charity matches!) Similarly, Al-Azhar has recently condemned the use of Coranic verses for politics of business! According to a previous official national mufti, the sacred words must remain a guide for life and not a logo!

In short, No Coranic Logo! to use Naomi Klein’s motto. But such a claim might become a dead letter considering the countless stickers printed with sacred words posted everywhere in the Arab world… The religious message is everywhere but his meaning is vanishing.

With the usual link to the original post in French, one of the videos of the Al-baraka bil-shabab campaign...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Voices of the (arab) nation : Arabism, songs and linguistic adaptability

In the days of the triumphant Arabism, when Cairo was not only the unchallenged political capital of the area but also its cultural one, there was no question about it: Arab stars had to express themselves in colloquial Egyptian even if classical Arabic was used from time to time for “higher” (or less popular) forms of cultural expression.

It was thus a real symbolic turn when the famous Abdel-Halim Hafez decided in the late 60’s, dressed in the local garment, to sing various pieces from the Kuwaiti traditions (see this interesting article, in Arabic, in the daily Al-Quds al-arabi.)

Today, it’s nobody’s surprise when an Arab singer, from whatever country of the area, uses another variety of colloquial Arabic: Egyptian stars sing in a so-called “Arabic of the Gulf” (a mere fiction as there is of course a fair amount of local variations), Lebanese or Iraqui starlets whisper in Egyptian colloquial, to say nothing of many popular voices from the various Maghreb countries who sing either in Egyptian or or forms of colloquial arabic.

During the three or four last decades, the Arab linguistic map has greatly changed thanks to the always growing cultural industries with their transnational media. Indeed, the new generations have probably lost some proficiency in “classical” Arabic, but they have developed new linguistic skills, especially an unprecedented adaptability to cross-over boundaries of all local variations of the Arabic language.

Many times, this linguistic ability is a mere gimmick in order for a singer to gain the favours of a special audience. But the shifting from a vernacular to another can also be used in very conscious way, as a political gesture. Latifa for instance was born in Tunisia and has worked, among others, with the Lebanese composer Ziad Rahbani and the Iraqi singer Kadhem al-Saher, after she has become a panarab star when she left her country for Egypt.

She is now promoting her new CD with songs in “Arabic from the Gulf,” a decision in line with the political stand she took in various circumstances, for instance at the 2004 Music Awards in Los Angeles when she declared that her happiness wont be complete without the liberation of the Palestine and the Iraqi people. When asked about the issuing of her new record with songs in the colloquial Arabic used in the Gulf area, Latifa explained, according to the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar), that singing in another vernacular than you native one, when you are from the Maghreb or whatever other part of the Arab world, is a way to brake the borders drawn between the Arabs by colonialism (أحبّوا ذلك أم كرهوا، لا بدّ من كسر الحدود المرسومة بين العرب جغرافياً، فنياً وفكرياً. لأن هذه الحدود من ركائز الاستعمار).

And with the usual link to the original post in French, a rare video of the “brown nightingale” in a Kuwaiti song.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

One, two, three, viva l’Algérie!

They look “too much like Arabs” in France, but Algerians are nonetheless often considered to be too close to the Frenchies by many Arabs "surprised" by the way they live a complex identity in which colonial history and globalization merge to lead to a slogan like “One, two, three, viva l’Algérie!”

As everybody with some interest in soccer and/or politics in the arab world knows: Algeria has defeated Egypt and will be the only Arab country to participate in the next world cup in South Africa. A long-waited revenge for the Algerians who have being waiting for their turn to come in that competition for 20 years, precisely since Egypt eliminated them from the final competition 20 years ago.

In the two countries, and also in Sudan where the last match took place, the real confrontation did not occurred on the ground only but, first, in the media where experts from the two countries added fuel to the flames, then in the streets where crowds of galvanised supporters of the two national teams expressed violently their feelings against their supposed “arab brothers.”

Such clashes raise many questions. First about the freedom given to media to say and write whatever they wanted on that matter, something which is not so usual in both countries and which suggests that the authorities saw some interest in not interfering in a polemic announced well in advance by a round of shared accusations and insults among Internet users of the two countries.

A “game” in which Egypt was due to score better than Algeria, the latter not having notorious panarab TV’s sportscasters like ‘Amr Adib who performed extremely well as a fanatical and almost racist supporter of his national team. For instance, during an on-air program, he has been fool enough to call for retaliations against the Algerians living in Egypt… But the truth is that the Algerian press has not managed in a much clever and professional way.

Both Algerian and Egyptian leaders did not travel to Sudan in order to assist to the last match between the two teams, but they had sent their closest counsellors. No less than the two President’s sons on the Egyptian side, with a bunch of pop stars and movie actors. A move which has not been very successful as the disappointed Egyptian supporters turned their anger against their official representatives.

The whole story is too long and complicated to be summarized in a few lines To say nothing about a fair amount of casualties and various violent demonstrations in both countries, it is worth to mention that the two countries are engaged in a diplomatic crisis as severe as the ones Egypt has known from time to time with Israel since Camp David agreements.

Of course, countless comments in the Arab press about the “battle of Khartoum,” denouncing the politicization of these football matchs or the “ballification” of the politics (تكوير السياسة) as a way to prevent that all the frustrations of the Arab youth to get out of hand.

As usual, the link to the post previously published in French.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Murdochtana": an Arab media revolution

Saudi officials or “para-officials” started to pay serious attention to the Arab media industry as soon as the end of the 1970’s. Various panarab newspapers like Al-Hayat or Al-Sharq al-awsat were bought and (re)launched using the very first digital technology at that time. A bit later, the state took a majority control of the shares in the Arabsat program.

Saudis have also be involved with the first satellite TVs: MBC as soon as 1991, then ART in 1993, Orbit un 1994. Last but not least, Al-Walid ibn Talal became a major player on the Arab media scene when he bought from shaykh Saleh Abdullah Kamel’s (owner of ART) his shares in the top Arab channel, the Lebanese LBCI, in 2003.

Thanks to his private holding, the Saudi prince has become now one if not the Arab media tycoon whose more valuable asset is probably Rotana, a globally integrated firm with a record label where most of the major Arab pop stars have signed, more than half a dozen of TV channels from disco to religious programs as on Al-Resalah TV channel, not forgetting various societies for advertising and the organisation of events, a chain of hype restaurants and pubs burgeoning in all the major Arab cities, etc.

Entertainment is Rotana’s job. Nonetheless, politics are not very far. Being a global company, Rotana has to work on an international scale, dealing thus with the very sensitive issue of normalisation with the Israeli state, one of the implications of the agreement signed in June 2008 between Sony and Rotana which became its regional representative. As a consequence of that, some “Israelis” Internet sites (run by Palestinians) are now tops charts in a country like Tunisia because they are targeted by young Arab internet surfers aiming to download Rotana’s products.

And it is just a beginning… Whatever is its future after the financial crisis, there is no discussion about a dramatic change in the managing of the company. After endless rumours about the departure of many stars for other societies, Rotana has decided to down-size dramatically its offices in activities in Beirut for various reasons, including a serious clash between Pierre Daher, LBC’s General manager who has been preferred to Gabriel Murr, who, in turn, has obliged Rotana to pay cash the fact they had fired him!

After the many difficulties faced by Walid Ibn Talal who did not succeed in breaking the veto against a film industry in Saudi Arabia, finding a way out of the crisis, obviously is not an easy job for Rotana’s boss. This could explain the expected agreement with another global tycoon, Robert Murdoch.

A deal has been searched at least since spring 2008, when Rotana contracted with the 20th Fox Century for the broadcasting of the Fox Movies channel in the Arab world. Today, it is said that the negotiations between the two media giants could lead to the buying by News Corp of some 20% to 25% of Rotana shares (between 250 and 350 million US dollars).

Adding to the Saudi supremacy, such a deal - if confirmed - between the neocons tycoon and the “liberal” Saudi prince, owner of the major dream factory for today’s Arab youth, opens a new stage in the Arab media history.

As usual, here is the links to the two posts (1) and (2) previously published in French about Rotana.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sex & the Arab City: Arab winds of change.

Reading the countless comments in the press and on the Internet about the arrest and judgment of the “Saudi Casanova” who boasted his sexual exploits on the panarab LBC channel, gives the feeling that Arab sexuality is really an interesting topic (in the “West” at least).

More recently, female pop singers have moved once again the sexual issue to the top of the chart. In Egypt, first, when an Egyptian MP, close to the Muslim Brotherhood, protested against the coming of Beyonce, a symbol of depravation and immorality, to the rich and fancy Red Sea Resort.

Different characters but more or less the same story in Morocco after Haifa Wehbe performed at Agadir tolerance concert. Although a large number of the (masculine) audience was obviously fascinated by the "aura" of the Lebanese icon, wearing an offensive négligé, comments in the local press, for instance in the daily Al-Tajdid, close to the religious opposition, opposed violently what the perceived as a pitiful picture of a South ripping off clothes and dignity.

Such polemics are nothing new of course (see for instance this previous post) but it gives us the opportunity to mention an interesting discussion on a related topic between Brian Whitaker, the Guardian’s Middle East Editor and As’ad Abu Khalil, a Lebanese born professor of political science at California State University.

Under the title Arab Winds of Change, Whitaker underscores what he sees the real challenges in the region: “If asked where change is likely to come from in the Arab countries, I would not put much faith in "reformist" politicians and opposition parties – they're mostly no-hopers – but I would definitely put feminists, gay men, lesbians and bloggers very high on my list”.

Why? Because “In these highly stratified societies, people are discriminated for and against largely according to accidents of birth: by gender, by family, by tribe, by sect. Women, as the largest disadvantaged group, can play a major role in overcoming this and helping smaller disadvantaged groups to do the same. Once the equality principle is accepted for women it becomes easier to apply it to others. Contrary to popular opinion, most human rights abuses in the Arab countries are perpetrated by society rather than regimes. Yes, ordinary people are oppressed by their rulers, but they are also participants themselves in a system of oppression that includes systematic denial of rights on a grand scale”.

An explanation which infuriates the Angry Arab (As’ad Abu Khalil’s blog title) who denounces a “pathetic” analysis, “an insult to the people of the region.” (see his comment here, and Whitaker’s answer there.

Whatever opinion you choose, it is worth to note that discussion, for once, is not limited to the classical topics but embraces unusual topics.

Indeed, a bit like As’ad Abu Khalil’s blog, which focuses, as mentionned in the subtitle, on “politics, war, the Middle East, Arabic poetry, and art”!

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Last Iraqi Communist Comes to Heaven

“Change with the Red” (غيّر بالأحمر), is today’s slogan of the Lebanese Communist Party for its 85th anniversary, a good opportunity to recall the very significant role of the various Marxist parties in the intellectual and cultural life of the modern Arab world. A good example is Iraq where the “Red menace” is still rearing its ugly head in the literary field after democracy has been generously “given” to its native people!

Around the middle of the 20th century, various young Iraqi poets conduced the Arabic poetic revolution. Among them, Badr Shakir Sayyab (بدر شاكر السياب). Born in a modest family from the southern part of the country, Sayyab joined the (then) powerful communist party during his studies in Bagdad. Later, he publicly moved away from his former “comrades” with a collection of articles first published in the Iraqi daily Al-Hurriya, then collected in a book in Beirut under the title “I was a communist”. (The book has been recently reissued by Al-Jamal, an Arabic Publishing house in Germany.)

Also coming from the south of the country, Saadi Youssef (سعدي يوسف) may be the last « great Arab poet » after Mahmud Darwish’s death. Faithfully following the poetic innovations of the 1950’, Saadi Youssef carries on his writing year after year. Two years ago, he has published a new collection: The Last Communist Comes to Heaven. A telling title for somebody grown up in the feverish atmosphere of the communist militants a mid-century ago and now established in London when his country is occupied by foreign troops.

As the inexorable decline of poetry in Arab literature is balanced by the irresistible rise of prose fiction, the formally Iraqi poet Ali Badr will be our third example. After his first novel, Papa Sartre, which gives an ironic description of the leftist intellectual life in the Bagdag of the sixties (the book has been translated into English), Ali Badr has written other books such as Chasing the wolves (الركض وراء الذئاب), a brilliant story which relates the fate of various Iraqi communists in Africa, where they fled the Saddam Hussein’s regime.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Playing on the borders of the National Identity: Khaled under the flags

Identity for the people living in the Arab world is far to limit itself to the only Islamic and Arabic components. For instance, national identification has indeed some importance.

A fact very well perceived by many artistât (for the meaning of that word, see previous post) who play with the national feelings of their audience in order to raise the bidding. Although they can’t display the same selling points, singers very tug at the national heartstrings, for instance in displaying the national flag in all sorts of ways.

At times, playing with a national banner may be dangerous, as it has been the case with Saad al-Saghir and, at various occasions, with chebb Khaled. During his Summer tour of Morocco in 2008, the singer has had all sorts of problems because of a photography of him with the emblem of the Polisario Front. To make things worst, the Algerian pop star was politically naïve enough to also stand on a stage with an Amazigh flag between his hands.

Did the blunderer want to clear his name? Recently, an interview in the Moroccan weekly TelQuel caused uproar in Algeria. According to the Algerian press, the singer had compared the expelling of thousands of Moroccans citizens in the mid 1970’s to the deportation of Jews during Word War II!

Fortunately, the “fuss and muss” over Khaled’s alleged declarations stopped after a vigorous denial from the singer. But Al-Quds al-'arabi - Novembre 2sd - mentions that the Algerian star, repeating that politics and culture should not mix (he should read this blog more frequently!) asked again for an opening of the borders between the two countries.

Link to the orginal in French, with more details.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TV Serials between Comedy and Tragedy in Palestine

Although many Arab TV serials dealt with the Palestine issue during the last years, it has not been the case in Ramadan 09, a fact which can be explained by the economical situation of most of major Panarab channels, but also by the situation of the Palestinian political scene.

Nonetheless, one of the good surprises of last Ramadan TV programs came from Palestine where millions of TV viewers have been watching Watan ‘a watar (something like “a country on the tightrope”).

A success which is linked to the way the authors and comedians dealt with day-to-day problems with a frankness and a boldness quite unusual on the national channel. For instance, an episode was filmed at the 7th Fatah’s congress hold in Nablus in 2509 with the great-great grandsons of the actual leaders and an everlasting Mahmoud Abbas repeating in an infinite loop: negotiations, always negotiations, and only negotiations!

It is said that the President of the Palestinian Authority had a good laugh watching his own caricature. But all of this happened just before the UN Human Right Council took the decision to postpone its vote for the approval of the Goldstone report.

Sadly enough, the Palestinian officials did not make very sincere efforts in order to gain the approval of the majority at the Council. Thus they proved to their many critics among the Palestinian people how right they are when they laugh at their leaders who act and speak like the ridiculous characters of a sad muppet show.

Various links to be found in the original post in French.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

About Marriage and Divorce in the Arab World

Four posts about related questions dealing with marriage and divorce in today’s Arab societies (links to the original ones in French).

In the first one, mention was made to Urîdu hâlan (I want a solution), a movie with (and largely thanks to) Faten Hamama. An interesting example of an art production which has had a real impact on the Egyptian society. After years of discussions, the Egyptian law finally gave the women the right – under certain circumstances – to divorce their husband.

Today’s Egyptian women publicly speak not only of their legal right to divorce but of the personal satisfaction they may find living as single, after a divorce or ever-postponing a socially expected marriage. Examples of this new attitude may be found in the writings of two bloggers whose writing have been published in books. In both cases, the colloquial form for “I want”, in Ghada Abdelal’s (غادة عبد العال) I want to get married (عايزة اتجوز) and Mahasen Saber’s (محاسن صابر) I want to get divorced (عايزة اطلق) is a clear reference to the classical verbal form used by Faten Hamama’s point, thirteen years ago.

The second post was about the rising number of unmarried young people (9 millions adult above 35 years in Egypt for instance). The cost of the wedding ceremony may explain this situation, probably connected to the growing phenomenon of sexual harassment in Cairo streets and which is exploited by all sorts of crooks using internet phishing sites. It is also linked to the rising number of non-official unions with the resulting issue of thousands of children born from such unions without any legal status as women does not have the right to declare a birth according to the actual Egyptian law. Considering the great number of students who are engaged in such “unlegal” unions (almost 20% of them according to various studies), one has to think that the sexual practices of many young Arabs are undergoing a radical transformation.

An evolution which is probably conformed by the rising number of divorces in many Arab countries (data in the original post in French from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Arab Emirates and even Gaza. Even in this last case, local analysts emphasize the fact that economical difficulties only cannot explain the breaking of so many unions – and the rising number of unmarried young people. On the contrary, for a growing number of young Arabs, the need to reach personal/individual fulfilment probably becomes more important that the necessity to obey the social requirement of a “family arranged” marriage.

Nonetheless, local traditions remain very strong in many areas, as it is the case with child marriage. Here again (see last post), the increasing denunciation of this phenomenon in the Arab press can be interpreted as the sign of a change. Even if too publicized stories in the Western media like the one of the little Nojood Ali in Yemen (among Glamour magazine “women of the year” !!!”) seem to show the contrary, recent public discussions and legal decisions in Yemen Saudi Arabia or even Morocco are a clear indication that sexual habits, representations and practices in the Arab world are changing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ads and Ramadan TV

Great, this week The Arabist - a blog you must know for sure! - has donne the job for me! Here is his summary, with somme adding, of the post originaly published in french (so you'll discover who his the charming lading making an ad for Faruk's Nablus Soap there. Many thanks!

The excellent [!!!: my comment] Culture et Politique Arabes site has a detailed analysis of the commercial underpinnings of Ramadan entertainment (Al Quds Al Arabi estimates that the Holy months brings in $100 million in TV advertising revenues). The post points out that the Egyptians got the jump on other Arab countries this year–in an increasingly competitive TV market–by starting to air their Ramadan soap operas a night before everyone else. The post also mentions the lack of Ramadan spirit in the new Egyptian TV channel El Qahera wa En-Nas (Cairo Centric in English) whose yellow posters all across Cairo have been promising “Ramadan’s most daring TV.” The campaign has clearly already raised some hackles, as this article in Islam Online describes what they consider to be a controversial exchange on one of the stations’ talk shows, in which the director Ines El Daghidi, to the question “When do you think you might take the veil?” replied يا رب ماتكتها علي” (”Oh God, don’t decree this for me”–I think). What’s extraordinary is that apparently this “daring” station is considering editing the exchange out of the broadcast. (...)
Link to The Arabist original post.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cartoons in the Emirates

Hamdoon, a cartoon character, is more and more popular in the Emirates particularly among the locals who use that word as a diminutive for Hamdan, a very common name which also refers to the typically Emirati way of wearing the tarha, the head-scarf.

Supported by official institutions like the Khalifa Fund to Support and Develop Small & Medium Enterprises and the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, Hamdoon, created by Abdullah Mohammad Al Sharhan (عبدالله محمد الشرهان), is another attempt to foster the Emirati (political) identity with popular cartoon characters, popular with the young generation, like (Ajaaj in Dubai a few months ago.

Cartoons are flourishing in the Emirates, but not only for the young. The coming Ramadan should see new episodes of very successful series directed to a family audience, like Shaabiyat al-cartoon (شعبية الكرتون), by Haydar Muhammad (حيدر محمد), or Freej (فريج, for “the district”), a rather unconventional carton created by Mohammed Harib (محمد حارب) whose main characters are four aged ladies commenting the amazing transformations in the Emirates.

From Hamdoon to Freej, via Ajaaj and many others, cartoons are not at all stripped off of some political meaning.

As uasual, more links and details with the original post in French.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Arabîzî : the Romanisation of Arabic

Even if Arabizi means nothing to you, you may use it everyday when you work on your laptop or send messages from your cell-phone. Arabizi is one of the expressions for what is also called ‘arabiyyat al-dardasha, i.e. the more or less phonetic Arabic written with Roman characters in order to use various IT applications when an Arabic keyboard is not available and/or easy to employ.

– or Aralish, or Franco (for franco-arabe in the Maghreb countries) – is not anymore an absolute necessity in order to communicate in Arabic as it was in the early ‘90s with the very beginning of a widespread Internet but it remains useful at times. Above all, it has become a funny way, now adopted by many young Arabs (and marketed by advertising agencies) to express oneself with the too serious and intimidating written Arabic.

It is worth mentioning that the mere existence of Arabizi gives some credit to those who think that something like a “common Arab culture” still exists! Indeed, Arabizi has appeared and developed itself as an accepted code among all IT Arab users, without any interference of any kind from any official body.

Arabisi may be understood as a new lingua franca (the "lingua franca" was a kind of pidgin, mainly a mixture of Arabic and various Roman languages, which was still in use around the Mediterranean shores at the end of the 19th century). Promoted by the more dynamic and globalised segments of the society, Arabizi is the language of the youth, a language which has absolutely no respect for the older elites and for their command of the (difficult) written Arabic used as a tool for their “symbolic domination”.

Indeed, many (grown-up) people will condemn such a “foolish” attitude toward the Arabic language which is considered to be the core symbol of the Arabic and/or Islamic community. And sometimes they could not be blamed when you watch ads like the one which promotes Maren, one of the tools developed to type Arabic from an English keyboard: it gives the impression that nobody had never typed in Arabic before Microsoft software!

Even more, the ones who are afraid of the spread of these news tools which make easier the shift from the Arabic to the Latin alphabet remember that if the use of the Arabic alphabet in order to transcript other languages like Berber, Persian, Urdu and many others has been historically the rule, in modern times, the first example which comes to mind is, on the contrary, the romanisation of the Turkish language in 1928, shortly after another very symbolic decision by Kamal Atatürk, the abolition of the Califate in 1924.

Links to the some softwares for a “romanised” writing of Arabic to be found in the original post in French.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Price/Prize of an (Egyptian) Intellectual

Every year, the Egyptian state gives several prizes to its best intellectuals. In a very democratic way, the local intelligentsia is supposed to select itself its nominates according to rituals which do not contribute very much to the surge of new talents although they show the self-proclaimed celebration of some of the more obedient voices to the regime.

A reality that nobody really denies in fact. For instance, the celebrated Egyptian novelist Baha Tahir confessed he did not feel at ease receiving the “Mubarak prize for literature” being at the same time member of the jury.

But everybody does not share Baha Tahir’squalms about the public generous gifts. The literary critic Gaber Asfour for instance, now in charge of the “National initiative for translation” after he has been almost 15 years the General Secretary of the Supreme Council for culture, an official body who, incidentally, gave him that year one of its prizes, of some 200.000 EP (around 30.000 USD).

But Ahmad Higazi, a poet previously mentioned in this blog, has done better: he gave himself, a few months ago, the prize (100.000 EP) he organized as president of the Poetry commission at the same Supreme Council of Culture!

Fortunately enough, not all Egyptian intellectuals are able to accept anything against the regime gifts. We already mentioned how the scandal provoked by Sun’Allah Ibrahim’s public refusal of a distinction given by a state doing nothing for the Palestinian according to him.(And recently, the Egyptian press has spoken of – useless – pressures from Faruk Husny, the Egyptian minister for Culture, against Sonallah’s participation to a Literary festival in the south of France.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French. Illustration : photo by Joshua Stacher/

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The « Fourth Power » of a Rebel Diva

Some people could be surprised to learn that Mrs Malouma Mind Meidah (المعلومة بنت الميداح), the well-known singer, is also, since 2006, a member of the Mauritanian Parliament.

Elected for an opposition party, Malouma is not afraid to make her own way, in politics as in art. Thus, she does not follow the classical path of the musical traditions she inherited from her family but creates a “contemporary tradition” where the Arab and Berber local maqamat (musical modes) mix with the African rythms.

Her new blues comes from a long tradition where songs – for a celebration as for a protest – have always been a kind of “fourth power” in the Mauritanian society, at least before the coming of the modern media.

If the Arab women seem to gain some political presence in the Arab Peninsula, it must be said that they play a larger political role in Mauritania since the country achieved its independence in 1960. Today, women represent 18% of the members of the Parliament, and one third of the local elected representatives.

Recently, Malouma has had some trouble with the local authorities who seized, as she was back from Senegal were she had them printed, thousands of her CD’s, with some new songs rather critical of the regime. A sign, although she says the contrary, that her protest songs, and politically oriented art in general, has still some influence in a country like Mauritania.

Here the introduction (1'30) of a documentary film (52 min) produced by Al-Jazeera documentary and more links and information, as usual, with the more developed the post in French.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Traduttore, traditore : translation is a treachery…

A few days ago, Mr Farouk Hosny, the Egyptian minister of Culture, announced the forthcoming translation into Arabic of various contemporary Israeli novelists like Amos Oz or David Grossman. Something which has not been done before, according to Gaber Asfour, the well-known literary critic who heads the Supreme Council for Culture because of exclusively legal problems: on one hand, dealing directly with an Israeli publishing house was absolutely impossible, due to the boycott, a motto particularly effective on the cultural scene, and on the other Egypt was not willing to publish such works without an agreement of the publishing house, thus enforcing the international agreements on the copyright.

Finally, a "smart" solution has been founded and the Egyptian will make the deal with… the European publishers of the Israelis writers! But if the novels are to be translated from European languages too, the Arabic versions of the works originally written in Hebrew will be real treacheries!

But it is not the only treachery which is suspected with this initiative, and many people in Egypt and in the Arab world think that the sudden love of the Egyptian official cultural bodies for modern Hebrew literature has something to do with Hosny’s campaign in order to be elected General Director of the Unesco.

Indeed, after a rather offensive “open letter” published in the French daily Le Monde by three well-known (at least in their country) French intellectuals calling President Sarkozy to act against somebody who had said that he was ready to burn Israeli books if they were to be founded in the Egyptian libraries, Farouk Hosny thought he had to give public apologize.

Something which has been understood as one more “positive sign” – or rather concession – made by the Arab candidate in order to facilitate an election, difficult to win in case of an Israeli opposition.

Indeed, the translation of Hebrew novels into Arabic is not the first manifestation of Faruk Hosny’s “good will”. Coming after previous initiatives (see previous post), it has been written in the Arab press that the Egyptian ministry of Culture was hoping very much an Israeli participation at the “Red Sea Festival”.

And now, according to this article published in the Lebanese Al-Akhbar, there are talks about the possibility of an official Israeli participation during the next Cairo book fair, a demand always rejected by the Egyptian since the signature of the Camp David agreements in 1978…

But the next book fair will in February 2010, when the election of the General Director of the Unesco is next October…

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Women in the Arab Gulf: a Few Things to be known.

At the political level, changes in the Arab word are not to be expected in the short range, but a look at the social issues gives some reasons to be more optimistic. Even thought violence against women could be even worst than before, according to Madawi El-Rasheed’s contribution in Al-Quds al-‘arabi, such a fact could be explained as a confirmation of the reality of the threat, for some men, of the feminist acts of self-affirmation.

A feminist affirmation which takes at times unexpected paths, as with the Million’s Poet contest, on Abu Dhabi TV, a very successful program run by an woman from the Emirates, Nasha Al Rwaini. In an interview to be founded on Middle-East Online, she explained her surprise when she discovered how the Poet’s Million could pave the way for women empowerment, especially after poetess Al Jahani (photo) successively resisted pressure from her family and tribe (but not her husband!) to resign from the competition.

Regarding the very symbolic question of allowing women to drive in the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), it has been noticed that a “liberal” shaykh has recently issued a fatwa making the lifting of the ban more possible than ever, and encouraging, in the same declaration, women’s gym (in all-women clubs, of course !). Before, a group of young Saudi women had launched an online campaign called Let her get fat to protest a government decision to shut down gyms.

Foreigners may misunderstand this “Gulf women lib” where a total segregation between sexes (in coffee shops or hotels for instance) may be a way for women to affirm themselves but this “quite” (and soft) revolution should not be underestimated as day-to-day issues, linked to women’s situation, are obviously backed by some elites eager to push for political reforms (on the photo, al-Waleed Ibn Talal supporting, a few months, members of the first feminine Saudi soccer team, from Jeddah!

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Arab Women in Politics: a Quite Revolution

Ten years exactly after they got the right to vote, four Kuwaiti ladies win parliamentary seats. Despite the well-spread clichés, the last elections in Kuwait confirm a trend already noticed for instance in Jordan when a lady won in November 2007, for the first time in the country’s history, a parliamentary seat.

In Arab modern history, women’s affirmation traces back to the end of the XIXth century, a political affirmation followed a few decades later by well-known political activists like the Egyptian Hoda Shaarawi or the Syrian Nadhira Zayn al-Din.

Independence has been, in many countries, the golden age for Arab women as their participation to the political life has constantly declined since, partly because this participation has been dictated by regimes which have lost any credibility to people looking for solutions from a Islamic dictated agenda.

But the trend toward the progressive vanishing of women’s participation in Arab politics could reverse as political “modernization” has became a “necessity” in the post 9-11 world, and with a ever-growing number of young educated women aiming at more individual identity and way of life.

In the Gulf states, often caricatured for its backwardness especially regarding women’s lib issues, some positive changes have already taken place as mentioned in a previous post about Saudi Arabia. After sheikha bint Nasser al-Missned, Qatar’s first lady, was named on 2008 Forbes magazine's list of the world's 100 most powerful women in the world, it was Nura Al-Faiz’s turn to appear in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world, after she had been appointed Saudi Arabia`s first woman minister.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Arabic of the Media and the Moroccan Exception

At first glance, Moroccan TV watchers are no exception. According to local audience surveys, they love, like any other Arabs, to watch the Turkish serials dubbed into Arabic, partly, suggests movie critic Ahmed Sijilmassi, because they are perfectly suited for the cultural habits of the Moroccan housewifes.

After the previous waves of Mexican and South-American TV soap operas, the last one, with the Turkish productions, raised an unexpected linguistic issue. Before, the case was different when "local" productions, coming from Lebanon, Egypt, then Syria, used their own colloquial which was broadly understood, and accepted as a part of the whole set of shared cultural references.

There are changes in Morocco, a country where a whole range of newspapers, radio stations and even TV channels have shifted, in a unchallenged way by the rest of the Arabic speaking countries, to the local darija. For instance, 2M, the second national TV channel, has recently started the broadcasting of a new Mexican TV sopa opera, dubbed into "Moroccan" language.

It is believed that there is no political agenda behind such a decision, but only the quest for a bigger audience. Nonetheless, voices have already raised to condemn an assault on the Arabic and/or the Islamic country’s heritage.

It is a matter of fact that the Arab world, as a geopolitical concept, appeared a bit more than a century ago and that its political existence is more than ever in jeopardy. Have the peripheral states, confronted the weakness of its center, started to look for solutions elsewhere? At the Eastern end of the Arab world, the TV channels broadcast Hindi TV soap operas in country where Arabic, like in the Emirates, is already the third language after English and Urdu, and at the western one, they are more and more TV programs using colloquial Arabic…

Is the trend toward vernacular language a real threat for the Arabic language, an essential component of the political unity? For some linguists (see this post, sorry, no translation!), the extensive use of colloquial Arabic in the media remains, in the long range, the best tool for the promotion of the modern "Arabic of the media".

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

IT Revolution and Old time TV

Today, around 70% of the Egyptians watch more than 500 Arab satellite channels, and more than 30 millions Arabs are connected to the Internet.

Even if nothing of that kind existed two decades ago, it is probably not enough to make a "real" revolution in an area dominated by experienced leaders like Presidents Mubarak and Gaddafi (28 years in power for the former, 40 for the latter).

As already mentioned, the Egyptian impulse was decisive when most of the Arab League States have adopted in February 2008 a document "regulating" satellite broadcasting.

Shortly after that, the Egyptian Nilesat took Al-Hiwar, an independant channel based in London, off the air, and TV shows like 90 Minutes on Al-Mihwar had to end rapidly thanks to police intervention in the studios.

And some days ago, Libia TV, a channel linked to Saif al Islam, Moammar Gaddafi’s son, was unexpectedly nationalised as the Egyptian foreign policy had been violently criticized by the very famous and popular Egyptian journalist, Hamdi Qandil.

Is it still possible to master today’s media just like in the good old times? After its unexpected "nationalisation", Al-Libia thought to moove to places like Amman or Dubai then apparently choose London.

And it would not be surprising to discover that Hamdi Qandil’s shows will still be aired on Al-Libia, or even the Lebanese pro-Hizbollah Al-Manar according to the last rumors.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

The picture is from the cover of book on the Arab media recently edited by Tourya Guaaybess and myself.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jodhaa Akbar : far away form the Mediterranean sea

“Hindi movie”: used since a long time in a very pejorative way, will the expression take a very different meaning in the Arab world after the unprecedented success of the last serial aired by the Middle-East Broadcasting Channel?

The Dubai based and Saudi-financed channel has hit new record audience with Akbar Jodhaa, its hindi saga. Based on historical facts, it relates the story of Akbar, the muslim Moghol emperor, and Jodhha, his hindi wife, who remained an everlasting example of tolerance.

Questions raised in the Arab world after such a success: what is the reason for the lack of such works in the Arab world? If all the TV blockbuster are to be dubbed from Turkish or Hindi into Arabic, what is the future for the local productions?

But did MBC take a real risk airing a dubbed Hindi serial? Adding to the fact that a large number of Hindi speaking people already live there, many Arabs from the Gulf countries feel at ease with the cultures of the Indian Subcontinent, a place where they very often travel to for business or leisure.

At the time of the difficult launch of the ill-fated Mediterranean Union, it is worth seeing that this part of the Arab world has already started to look East, far away from the Mediterranean shores.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Images of War and War of Images in the Shiite Crescent

Since King Abdallah II’s famous declaration about the threat of the Shiite crescent, tensions become more obvious day after day. After Morocco broke its diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran last March, it is Egypt’s turn to denounce Lebanese Shiite movement Hizbollah.

The coming fights and the secrets thoughts of the political scene could easily find in the “war of images” a very fertile ground as the two main branches of Islam do not have exactly the same doctrine about the question of the representation of human faces.

In modern times, sunnism usually proscribes it when shiism shows a more flexible position. Since the XIXth century at least, Shiite artists commonly represent Muhammad’s cousin, Ali, and his two sons, Husayn and Hasan.

Because of this divergence about the question of representation, the making of Asbat, a kuwaiti financed TV serial about the first Shiites “martyrs”, has created a lot of opposition from various local authorities, especially in Syria where the work is due to be filmed.

Al-Buti, a well-known local imam, has said for instance that such a project was a very first step toward the representation of the prophet Muhammad himself. Something which is not totally unlikely regarding the making of various Iranian movies like the last Jesus, the spirit of God, a film directed by Nader Talebzadeh.

For his defence, Al-Anzi, the Kuwaiti producer, explained that the TV serial describes a period when Islam was united. He also said that distinguished religious authorities do not condemn the use of figurative images, including those of the prophets.

He could have said that even in Saudi Arabia, land of the Wahhabis who profess the more restrictive doctrine on the subject of representation, children books use such pictures, for pedagogical purposes, and that it has been a long time that royal features grace the country bank notes.

But, certainly, all Saudi kings are not holy people.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mahmud Darwish : the story of an heritage

As they have been told by Mahmud Darwish that he had a collection of poems almost ready to be published, some of his friends looked in his papers for those works, and found different pieces.

Regarding their publication, some thought they could publish a selection of the works who looked finished or almost but Elias Khury, the famous Lebanese novelist and critic, convinced them to publish everything, arguing that nobody could take Darwish’s place and choose for him what was to be published or not. It was also suggested to entitle the book “The Last Poems” instead of “The Last Collection”, in order to emphasize the different character of this last publication.

But problems appeared when Riyad El-Rayyes, Darwish’s exclusive publisher since the 1990’s, printed the book, أريد لهذه القصيدة ان تنتهي (I don’t want this poem to end) which was distributed with a little booklet, written by Elias Khury, explaining the founding of those poems and the circumstances of the publication.

Various articles published in the Arab press, sometimes by well-known poets, have mentioned quite an amount of mistakes in Darwish’s last publication, especially at the rhythmical level. Something people could notice as the Palestinian poet used to write a “cadenced poetry,” in a way opened in the 1950’ in Iraq, which only follows some of the rhythmical laws of the classical Arabic versification.

Following a bitter exchange in the press of justifications and renewed critics, the publisher, Riyad El-Rayyes, publicly declared that he could not be considered responsible of such failure, as he could not see the original manuscript as he used to do when Mahmud Darwish was alive. It was then Elias Khury’s fault, who did not give him access to the original text and who had insisted very much in order to have his own text, explaining the founding of the poems, published as a preface or a postface, something which never occurred during Darwish’s life and that Rayyes totally refused.

Obviously, the real question is that of Mahmud Darwish’s symbolical heritage, and there are people who think that Elias Khury tried to sing his own praise and at least has given the impression that he was willing to do so.

The various episodes of this heritage story must be only mentioned because they show how terrible is the lack of some real great names on today’s Arabic cultural stage. Such a desire for great cultural icons makes thus natural the project that Fares Ibrahim announced to the press some months ago: after Umm Kulthum, Ismahane and Nizar Kabbani, this famous Syrian producer of TV serial wants to make a TV novella based on Mahmud Darwish’s life…

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Lebanon: in the area, first of all!

Once again, political ads invade Beirut streets and TV screens. Three months before the coming elections, people are reminded that Freedom is in their hands according to a dubious motto: Lebanon first! Criticised in the daily Al-Akhbar, the advertising campaign depicts its political opponents as people not only radically wrong but even dangerous. According with the political grammar of today’s Arabic, those “localist” ads use “pure” vernacular Lebanese (when more “arabist” political trends are prone to use a more classical wording).

Once again, it is not difficult to find who stays behind those ads and billboards: the graphic composition, the red, white and green colors, the typographic composition were already used for previous campaigns like Independence05 or I love life… (see previous posts 1 and 2.

Nonetheless, it is interesting to note that the famous Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency officially denies to have played any role in this new campaign: even those who speak out for "Lebanon first" do not forget that there are regional realities that must be respected.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jerusalem, the “complete and united” capital of Arab culture

Since 1995, there is every year a new “Capital of Arab Culture”. After Damascus, it was normally Bagdad’s turn. Due to the circumstances, another city had to be proposed and the Palestinian minister of Culture, in the new Hamas government, suggested, in 2006, Jerusalem.

It was a real challenge to make a city under Israeli occupation – at least for the Eastern part of the city – the symbol of the ‘urûba (Arabism/ “arabity” for “Arab identity”). To be successful, such a project had to tackle various difficult issues, starting with the difficulty to deal with the occupied city of Jerusalem as a cultural capital when Ramallah has became, since the Oslo agreements, the real focal point of the Palestinian cultural life.

Jerusalem itself was a problem as one could ask which “city” had to be celebrated: the Eastern part, still reclaimed by the Palestinian authority although the Oslo agreements have enforced its “judaization” or the whole town, with the Western area on which Israel has full “legitimacy”? And who was to be involved in the cultural events: Palestinians living in the West Bank who are not allowed to go Jerusalem or Palestinian living either in the Israeli state or abroad and who are not under the “Palestinian Authority”?...

The political struggle between Hamas and Fatah made things worst as each party insisted to have its “official” committee: one has organised in Gaza, cut off from the rest of the world, its opening on March 7th, when the second had its own one last Saturday (March 28th) – plus a last one, led by Palestinians from the Diaspora, to be set on Earth Day, the 30th of March.

For the second one, Mahmud Abbas was obliged to attend the celebration, with some official who had come from various Arab countries, in Bethlehem as the Oslo agreements stipulate that the Palestinians are not allowed to have any political activity outside "their" territory.

Jerusalem being since 1980 the “complete and united” capital of their state, the Israeli authorities had no problem in cancelling a series of Palestinian cultural events in Jerusalem, as they had already done, one year ago, at the meeting for the launching of Jerusalem Capital of Arab Culture motto.

The lack of any serious protestation in the world shows that everybody is obviously convinced that the celebration of Arab culture in the Holy city is, indeed, a political matter.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Natives in Palestine

At Ben Gurion International airport, travellers are suggested to buy local souvenirs. Among them, “Ethnic sweets” packs of pastries which say with a lot of straightforwardness that Palestinians are now considered like the “Native Americans”: an almost disappeared population, without even a name.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The keffieh as a symbol

Since a previous post post written two years ago (and not translated into English), about the "globalisation" of the Palestinian keffieh and its transformation, in Western societies, to a fashion accessoire, the phenomenon has spread to the Arab world where the keffieh has been adopted by many young men and women with its trendy look (with all sort of colors and sometimes a modification of the patterns). In the “historical Palestine” for instance, Israeli Jews may wear the “new” keffieh, something unbearable for many Palestinians who see it as another spoliation of their national heritage (as it has been the case before with the hommous and the falafel).

In Lebanon too, the (now) fashionable keffieh has made a noticed apparition in the streets of Achrafieh and Ayn al-Rumaneh, areas of Beirut whose people were not precisely well known as supporters of the Palestinian cause. Thus, the traditional keffieh still to be found in the refugees camps faces the challenge of two different versions of the Palestinian symbol : that of the trendy globalised keffieh but, also, that of the Shiite Lebanese who have adopted a different similar in patterns but where the black color dominates.

For old people, the rejection of the modernized keffieh transformed in a accessoire à la mode could be less a political question than a “moral” one, as the keffieh has always been traditionally associated to masculine values. Something Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum made very clear in her famous “Keffieh” – presented at her last personal exhibit in Amman – were the apparently usual headscarf interweaves strands of women's hair with the Arab symbol of machismo.

In Palestine as in other places, the keffieh is a reliable barometer of the public opinion. After the bombardments of Gaza, the classical keffieh has made a noticeable come back on the shoulders of many stars of the Arab screen as around the neck of many demonstrators in the streets.

Is it still possible for the classical keffieh to reaffirm itself as the symbol of the Palestinian identity? Whatever is the answer, it is worth to consider that the last local keffieh factories are on the verge to disappear after the market has been flooded with cheaper products made in Asia.

Is this symbolic of the Palestinian fate?

(On the last Palestinian keffieh factory, there is wonderful – and short video - made by a French journalist, Benoit Faveley, which I founded on Hawgblawg, an always very interesting blog, in English.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Singing politics: Gaza

The consequences of the Israeli bombardments on Gaza are difficult to appreciate but, with the exception a few opinion leaders like Adel Imam pretending to defend an untenable position, most of the Arab intellectuals and artists have lined up with the Arab victims.

Nothing exceptional regarding a singer like Abdel-Rahim “Shaaboula” Shaaban whose speciality is to give “live comments” on the political actuality of the area, but something much more unusual for popular singers : Nancy Ajram for instance, whose last video-clip have been modified in order to fit with the last events, or even Tamer Hosny.

Before he paid a visit to Gaza’s hospitals, the heartbreaking star of the Arab teenagers gave a new song, officially called “All together” (Kulluna wahed) but apparently known as “I don’t know what to do” (Mesh aref a3mel haga).

Such a title may be a clear indication of the prevailing mood in the Arab opinion and many articles have been published in the press to critic the too compassionate and lachrymal tone of most of the songs, especially with regard to Michael Heart’s song for Gaza, entitled “We will not go down”.

People go even further and say that many singers are going political just to surf on the wave and to benefit from the media coverage of everything related to the Gaza events. It could be true but one has to remember that songs have been, and remain, a powerful tool for political mobilization in the Arab history which various dramatic stages are connected, in the Arab popular imagination.

Thus, the poor quality of most of the political songs written about Gaza reflects the regional political crisis as much as it is a consequence of the general transformation of the local cultural practices dominated by global mass-production patterns.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Adel Imam's star is falling when he speaks his mind on Gaza

Adel Imam, probably the most popular Arab comic actor, has publicly criticized not only the Hamas party but all the Egyptians who have demonstrated in support to it. In his opinion, Hamas was to be blamed for its senseless provocation of the Israeli forces.

Taking such a stance, at the beginning of the Israeli shelling on Gaza, the actor was adding his voice, well-known to be close to President Mubarak’s family, to that of the “Arabs moderates” who were not so unpleased to see the Israeli army doing the dirty job.

But with more and more bombardments and victims, his declarations have aroused considerable reactions. To the point that the leader of an extremist group based in Algeria and supposed to be closed to Al-Qaida has issued a fatwa saying that the killing of the “traitor” was legitimate.

An opportunity for the actor to correct the awful impression made by his first declarations, and to explain that he always considered Hamas resistance legitimate and that his critics were addressed to the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood (although there are not so many ideological differences between the two political movements).

Once a courageous defender of the Arab feelings, Adel Imam seems to have lost his political beliefs but may be also his popularity. The issue is not only that of a movie star getting older, but that of his whole generation, born in the Nasserite era, raised at Sadate’s time and active during Mubarak’s regime, whose fate seems to be sealed.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Waltz in Gaza

Ari Fomman took best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes Awards on January 11 with Waltz With Bashir, a personal documentary about Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982. The same day, as Tania Tabar’s article on Menassat reminds us, around 60 Palestinians died under the Israelis bombs in Gaza. And many more during the following days…

Tania Tabar follows mentioning that nearly 90% of the public opinion in Israel supported the war in Gaza (a statistic which does not include the “useless” opinion of the Palestinian citizens). How is this possible regarding the success, even in Israel, of an “antiwar film” like Waltz with Bashir, and compared to the thousands of Israelis who marched in the streets of Tel-Aviv as a reaction to Sabra and Shatila massacres? (Again, the 100 000 Arab Israelis who demonstrated against the war in Gaza in Sakhneen, one of the major Arab towns of Galilee, do not matter very much !)

A first explanation is the fact that Ari Folman’s film places the responsibility of the massacres in 1982 on the Phalangist militia and on Ariel Sharon who gave his green light” for the killing of civilians in the Palestinian camps of Beirut. Thus, the “naive young men (…) were only participating in a massacre because of the time and the place they happened to be” explains Tania Tabar, who also underlines that the “personal” narrative of Waltz with Bashir fails to provide a complete historical background which could explain why and how the Israeli state has been using for such a long time systematic violence against the Palestinian and Lebanese populations.

Waltz with Bashir ends with the animation suddenly shifting to real footage of the massacres which took place in the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982, and with Palestinian ladies yelling and screeming at the camera [and the viewer] : “Where are the Arabs, where are they ?”

Since Waltz with Bashir is not a political movie, but a kind of personal testimony, accordind to Ari Folman's declarations, why did he choose such an ending? asks Tania Tabar.

Indeed, the question needs an answer. As an answer is needed to many others, today, “after” the war in Gaza, as many people ask : where are the Arabs? Where are they?

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French. Illustration : We are all Gaza. Demonstration in Beirut (Al-Akhbar)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gaza under the rain...

... and blogging seems very useless... This drawing is by Mazen Kerbaj, a Lebanese artist (and musician). I suggest you visit his blog, and that you do your best to stop that criminal (and politicaly stupid) war.