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.