Friday, January 30, 2009

Found in Translation: How a Thirteenth-Century Islamic Poet Conquered America

An interesting article by Ryan Croken which uses the case of Coleman Barks, a popular translator of Rumi, to make a larger point about the mistranslation of Muslim culture in America. As Mr. Croken states:

Muslims are mistranslated everywhere, egregiously so—not just their poetry, but their faces, their character, their humanity.

While I think Coleman Barks' translations are to be avoided, they really are of poor quality, the larger point that Croken makes about mistranslations of culture, especially Muslim culture, is worth considering.

Rumi, may Allah have mercy on him, was a Muslim mystic and saint who reminded people of our connection to our Lord in ways so piercing that his words continue to enlighten centuries after his death, in languages and cultures nothing like his own.

A brief biographical sketch of Rumi is available here, and some older English translations are available online (links soon). Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

60 Minutes report on Palestine

Watch CBS Videos Online

An interesting report on Palestine by 60 Minutes, one quote from Bob Simon, the reporter:

"Without a separate Palestinian state, the Israelis would have three options, none of them good. They could try ethnic cleansing, drive the Palestinians out of the West Bank. They could give Palestinians the vote, that would be the democratic option, but would be the end of the Jewish state. Or they could inflict apartheid, have the minority Israelis rule the majority Palestinians. But apartheid regimes don't have a very long life."

The report goes on to detail how a "security wall" has been built, sometimes straight through farms owned by Palestinians, how water is diverted away from Palestinians, how Palestinians are forced to use separate roads from Israelis and the demolition of homes in East Jerusalem owned by Palestinians.

It was shocking to see the contrast between the immaculate, green, fortress-like settlements with the drab, debilitated neighborhoods of the Palestinians. Former United States president Jimmy Carter has already used the term apartheid for the treatment of Palestinians and, after watching this report, it was not hard to see why.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Take My Hand, new album by Nader Khan

I first came across Nader Khan from the Seekers Digest blog and he has a beautiful song called "Take My Hand" that is worth hearing. He also has some songs in Arabic and Urdu that are wonderfully done...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Gaza: the logic of colonial power

Nir Rosen, a journalist who covers the Middle East, has written an insightful article on the situation in Gaza in the English newspaper, The Guardian. Mr. Rosen exposes the hypocrisy of powerful states that attempt to legitimize morally inexcusable actions by holding only one group of civilians as sacred.

Just as the traditional American cowboy film presented white Americans under siege, with Indians as the aggressors, which was the opposite of reality, so, too, have Palestinians become the aggressors and not the victims.

Much like the United States in its frontier days, Israel has adopted a philosophy of manifest destiny that will not spare the Palestinians. To this day, Native American reservations largely remain symbols of despair in America, the under recognized burden of an exclusionary manifest destiny.

The international community, and America in particular, has the opportunity to prevent the tragedies of history from repeating themselves, yet it would take the kind of inspired leadership that seems lacking in Washington, Obama's election notwithstanding.