Swedish Muslim Students Responds to Hate With Baklava

In Malmö University in the city of Malmö, Sweden, a university that prides itself of being very mixed and with students from many different countries and backgrounds, a Muslim student discovered someone having posted a print of one of the Muhammed caricatures on the public notice board. These news was shared with me by Swedish journalist Nizar Keblawi, who made a news coverage about the incident in Swedish public TV, and then e-mailed me the news. The student who saw it, Lina Abu Zarour, snapped a photo, removed the print and gave it to the Students Union, who handed it over to the university’s administration. It turned out more pictures of the same kind were posted at the university, about four or five. The university reportedly took the matter seriously and launched an investigation. In media, university staff said they encourage all students to report such offences and pointed out that students from all backgrounds are welcome at the  university.

Then following the incident, Lina herself did something different. She and her friends decided to respond to the caricature by hosting an event where they handed out baklava (typical Middle Eastern sweet) wrapped in hadiths, teachings from the Quran. To Nizar Keblawi, Lina said:

“The event became a success, you can say.”

Her take on the postings of the caricatures is that people are usually scared to know of new things.

“It is lack of knowledge that’s behind these things”, she said. “People are afraid of learning about for example Islam. But you can’t judge the book just because of it’s cover.”

By sharing baklava with hadith quotes, she wanted to teach the other students more about her religion in a friendly way. And many students showed up, some of them wanting to show their support to the Muslim students at the university. Lina Abu Zarour made headlines in Swedish media with her response, and was among many things invited to an in-dept interview in Swedish radio. What more is, she was able to show the whole country a way to respond to hate and ignorance: with kindness.

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Beautiful Photos in a Dark Time

Dark times have been prevailing lately. I have commented on it in previous posts and decided it was time for another type of comment. Let me remind us all of the beauty that exists in the world,  that the world is not only darkness but also light. Here are photos of some beautiful places in the region that I like the most, the Middle East.

kstan berg

Iraqi Kurdistan in spring

iraqi kurdistan winter

Iraqi Kurdistan in winter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jordan valley in spring, Jordan

kuwait vattnet

Kuwait city at night time

Photo credit and photo copy rights: Abdulrahman Ali and Sweden and the Middle East Views

Also Me I Condemn the Charlie Hebdo Massacre, But I Don’t Glorify the Cartoons

welfare

Charlie Hebdo cartoon portraying Nigerian girls taken by sex slaves by Boko Haram to be claiming their welfare benefits

My last blog post received comments wondering if I excused the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Of course I don’t, I’m just very worried with an increasing polarization worldwide.

I think the massacre was horrifying. I have been deeply saddened and upset by the video of Ahmed Marabet raising his hands to the killers to show he’s giving up and them answering with shooting him in the head. I could hardly believe the details from the first massacre and it took time before I could read all the details from it. My stomach turned when I knew about the four innocent people killed in the kosher shop.

I don’t justify any killings of anyone, I believe you can be a dictator, mass murderer or cartoonist drawing stereotypical images of minorities, and still no one has the right to kill you. I also think that the police should have made more efforts to arrest the Kouachi brothers alive together with Coulibaly, so that they would have been held accountable for their disgusting crimes and spend the rest of their lives in prison. Getting away with death was too easy on them. But that doesn’t mean I will agree on the cartoons that Charlie Hebdo published. And republishing them in masses of newspapers in response to the massacres, or using the hashtag #killallmuslims, will probably push more young, angry and confused people into the welcoming arms of extremists.

I asked in the last blog post, written just right after the killings, if the murderers were confused young Muslim immigrant men, and they turned out to be – with the interesting addition that they were orphans. It doesn’t surprise me the slightest. I’ve known plenty of young angry men, and they are never from happy circumstances. If they were, they wouldn’t be so angry. What else is, there’s many of them and they will easily be affected by the increased polarization.

Also me I condemn the Charlie Hebdo massacre, but I won’t glorify the cartoons. They were striking towards already exposed minorities. That wasn’t the sole reason for the massacre, but nothing good comes out of it.

Gulf Women in Photos

Women from the Gulf are not very common in media and an ordinary image of a Gulf woman is her dressed in nikab and abaya, not doing anything in particular.

My Kuwaiti friend who is so dedicated in showing the world different sides of the Gulf shared these photos with me. The explanations for the photos is from him and I have sometimes found more information about a certain person myself. He himself doesn’t have copyright has but downloaded them from different websites and shared them via his own social media. Therefore the copyright is unknown.

Enjoy the view of different beautiful women in different aspects of life.

Ibtisam Lufti, Saudi Arabian singer. Ibtisam belonged to the first generation of Saudi singers and achieved great success and popularity despite her handicap of being blind. Her main career took place in the 1970s and -80s and when announcing that she was leaving the scene it caused a public outrcry. Ibtisam is portrayed in the book “Women of Saudi Arabia” by Ali Fagandash. Year of the photo unknown.

Oman late 70s

Oman, late 1970s.

Aisha Al Marta, Kuwaiti singer, performing for women at a Kuwaiti wedding. Aisha is the third women from the left in the backrow. She was a Kuwaiti singer, born in 1934. Also Aisha was blind, she lost her sight at age 7. She joined a music group at age 14, secretely so as not to have any problems with her family. Later on she worked at Radio Kuwait and became an extremely popular folklore singer, performing traditional songs from the Gulf, famous for her patriotic songs. When she died in 1978 appearantly a national day of mourning was called for, and still “Aisha Al Marta” cultural events in her honor are being held in Kuwait. A Youtube video with Aisha you can see here. Year of the photo unknown.

Saudi Arabia Al Hijaz

Woman from Al Hijaz region, Saudi Arabia. Year unknown.

Women from Jaizan province, Saudi Arabia. Notice the difference in clothing between the women in this photo and the woman in the previous one.

One of Two Oppressors in Syria

So there’s a shortage in food aid to Syrian refugees scattered around the Middle East region, and UN has made an unusual appeal for the world to help out. If aid doesn’t reach thousands of people risk starving to death during the cold winter months in under equipped refugee camps. The horrifying threat of ISIS and the other over 1.000 militia groups that are terrorizing the country have received international condemnation, internet campaigns against ISIS and a new awareness about the Syrian civil war that is now on it’s 4th year. Many seem terrified about the terrorists in Syria and the damage they have brought to the already devastated country that’s slowly falling into pieces. But what the world seems not to remember is that Syria for decades was plagued by a dictatorship where people disappeared into the intelligence service Mukhabarat’s secret prisons for having their own opinions, and young women gang raped and dumped in the sea by the ruling elite’s young men, safe in the awareness that they’re affiliation with the Assad regime would protect them from any consequences. Long before the civil war, human rights activists in Syria tried to call for attention on the ongoing crimes against humanity, unheard. Not until the bearded young men with rifles and a twisted version of Islam showed up on Youtube, the world started to react. And now it’s most likely too late. Photo credit: cskc.daleel-madani.org

Old Iraqi Photos

A Facebookpage that I follow is dedicated to show the world the old Iraq and regularly posts photos of a country many didn’t know exists. This is how the Rare Iraqi Pics page describes itself:

“Nostalgia is the only balm when we grow older… We miss our beginning as we approach the end.”

The page is popular, it has almost 40.000 followers, but the updates and descriptions are done in Arabic so many Westerners might not come across the page so easily. Therefore I decided to write about the page and share some of their photos with translations in English, with you.

Eid Mosul

Eid in Mosul, Northern Iraq, one of the cities now under control of ISIS, 1976

Tigris river

Tigris river, Baghdad. Year is unknown but the card is printed in 1955

seta

Seta Hagopian, Armenian-Iraqi singer, the photo is probably from early 1970s. Seta Hagopian was one of the first singers to combine old Iraqi songs with Western instruments. She’s still active and lives in Qatar and Canada since the late 1990s. You can find her MySpace page here.

fashin shoot

Fashion shoot in the marshes, a wetland area in Southern Iraq, 1974

Photo credits: Rare Iraqi Pics Facebook community

Ay hawar! Hawar! Hawar! (HELP US! HELP US! HELP US!)

A number of my Kurdish, Iraqi and Syrian friends in the countries and abroad are horrifyed of the ISIS terror, and at times are unable to talk about anything else. A number of websites and social media pages are dedicated to launch news about the terrorists so as to create awareness and ask the world for help. Today I stumbled upon a heartbreaking message from a Facebookpage that is updating with news from Kobane in Northern Syria that is under immense threat of being abducted by ISIS. I thought I should share their message and let it speak for itself.

From: Kurdish Resistance & Liberation community 

Our hearts are breaking at the moment. Kobane is under serious siege at the moment and our brave YPG/PKK forces are left to fight with outdated and limited weapons on the streets of Kobane. Kobane has a strategic, symbolic and psychological significance for the Kurds, but the lack of help from the west and lack of arms to the Kurds is allowing ISIS to succeed! An imminent genocide of the Kurdish forces as well as civilians is on the horizon all because they do not have the appropriate military supplies. The Kurdish forces have been fighting non stop for the past 48 hours. SHAME on the West for your inaction while these brave men and women die defending humanity, defending civilians, women and children and defend the West from ISIS. Shame!

Friends PLEASE share so that the Western community realizes that if Kobane falls it was not for lack of trying on behalf of the brave YPG/YPJ/PKK forces. It was because of Western cowardice and THEIR betrayal of humanity!

Ay hawar! hawar! hawar! (HELP US! HELP US! HELP US!)

kurdish resistance 2

Kurdish resistance 1

Photo credit: Kurdish Resistance & Liberation Facebook page, source and location unknown