Culture

 

The sound of religious discord

November 2016 – We need to reach a future in which the religious freedom of Muslims who wish to hear the call to prayer does not infringe upon the peace of mind of non-Muslims and non-practising Muslims.

Podcast: Concrete canvas

September 2016 – Like the Berlin Wall and other political barriers, the Israeli wall has witnessed an explosion of protest art on its concrete canvas.

Spiritual oasis or consumer paradise?

July 2016 – Despite having acquired some 21st-century trappings, Eid al-Fitr’s mix of religion and revelry is hundreds of years old.

Millet in the Middle East: Disunity in diversity

May 2016 – The Middle Eastern practice of assigning a faith to every citizen and a separate court system for each religion promotes division and sectarianism.

Discovering Sushi Islam

April 2016 – By following two young girls on their voyage of discovery of Sunni and Shia Islam, a new documentary highlights the insanity of Islamic sectarianism.

Podcast: The Israeli passion for Arabic music

March 2016 – Mizrahi Jews are reviving the Arabic music of their heritage and fusing it with new influences, which is proving popular with young Palestinians.

One man’s terrorist is another woman’s lover

March 2016 – The surreal “lovejacking” of an EgyptAir flight adds a new dimension to the western image of the Arab man: the hopeless romantic and dedicated lover.

Birth behind bars

March 2016 – A new Palestinian film fictionalises the plight of female Palestinian prisoners of conscience in Israel: from hunger-striking to child birth.

Podcast: Egypt’s cartoon villains and heroes

February 2016 – The battle between Egyptian revolutionary and counterrevolutionary forces is being played out in caricature.

Podcast: Palestine’s poster girls

January 2016 – The changing depiction of women in Palestinian political art reflects the shifting perceptions of their role and position in society.

Egypt’s other Great Pyramid

January 2016 – The Mogamma, that high temple of Egyptian bureaucracy, will be shut down. Welcome as it is, this will not solve the underlying problem of “el-routine”.

ISIS and the mash of civilisations

November 2015 – Counterintuitive as it may sound, ISIS is proof that the clash of civilisations is a myth. The reality is that interests clash, while cultures mix.

Reweaving Palestinian tradition

November 2015 – Untha is a rare Jerusalem-based label which reimagines traditional Palestinian fashions for the 21st century and pays tribute to Palestinian women.

Orientalism for kids

November 2015 – Despite the racism contained in Tintin and other classic children’s tales, I believe that children should be exposed to them.

Saddam Hussein: Laughing in the face of tyranny

October 2015 – In light of the continuing legacy of  Saddam Hussein’s rule and the US invasion of Iraq, is it appropriate to stage a comedy about the former despot?

Prisoners of love in Syria

October 2015 – In Syria, Amer and Raghda found liberation from political prison in love. But as refugees in Europe, their love became hostage to politics and guilts.

The liberation of dance

August 2015 – “Dance is resistance. It’s the most refined way for us, the Palestinian people, to express our cause… Dance is a form of liberation.”

The road to hell is paved with pious intentions

July 2015 – The ban on eating and drinking in public in some Muslim countries is wrong. Piety cannot and must not be imposed by law.

Omar Sharif: Actor without borders

July 2015 – The late Omar Sharif was living, breathing, walking proof that there is nothing inherently irreconcilable between the Middle East and the West.

Egyptian Jews and love triangles

July 2015 – Despite outlandish conspiracy theories, a Ramadan TV drama about Egypt’s lost Jewish community is not a missive to Israel but an ode to pluralism.

Putting Palestine on the culinary map

June 2015 – The most delicious way to a society’s soul is through its stomach, believes the creator of Palestine on a Plate.

Hagia Sophia: A symbolic bridge or wedge?

June 2015 – The Hagia Sophia must not become a mosque. If its status must change, it should become a space of tolerance, where both Christian and Muslim worship.

A Riche chapter of Egyptian history

June 2015 – For a century, Café Riche was a microcosm of Cairo’s bewildering contradictions, and a “refuge from the pain of loneliness”  for intellectuals.

The tip of Egypt’s snobbery iceberg

May 2015 – The replacement of one snobbish justice minister in Egypt with another who believes judges are lords and masters shows how deep elitism runs.

 

Making halal sexy

May 2015 – Though halal sex may sound as logical as kosher bacon, it does make ts own sense. Some Muslims are utilising the concept to break the taboo around sex.

The Viking Allah

April 2015 – A mysterious ring in a dead Viking woman’s tomb shows how Northern Europeans came into contact with Muslims and Islam before even becoming Christian.

Living in a selfie-centred world

March 2015 – The selfie fad has reached epidemic proportions, but we don’t live in more narcissistic times. Selfie-absorption is as old as civilisation itself.

Egypt’s other revolution

January 2015 – Revolutionary disappointment in Egypt has concealed the ongoing social revolution whose shifting sands are likely to result in a political earthquake.

Islam’s freedom of expression… and insult

January 2015 – Muhammad’s self-appointed defenders take offence on his behalf, but the prophet would’ve tolerated Charlie Hebdo and condemned the savage murders.

Reel life in Palestine

January 2015 – Filmmakers are moving away from the headline conflict to shed light on real life in Palestine as lived by actual Palestinians, both real and fictional.

The language of Arab (dis)unity

January 2015 – The romantic myth that Arabs share “one heart and one spirit” led pan-Arabism to talk unity while walking the path of disunity.

Arabic: The language of confusion?

December 2014 – If an Arab says he’ll kill you, don’t  worry – he wants to buy you dinner. Whether Arabic dialects are a single language is politcal, not linguistic.

The destruction of Mosul’s past, present and future

December 2014 – With ISIS’s destruction of Mosul’s heritage, it is no longer the “Pear of the North”. But it’s people will rise up and reclaim their ancient city.

Mosul’s lost diversity

December 2014 – The Islamic State’s (ISIS) destruction of Mosul’s ethnic diversity is more heart-breaking than the erasure of its architectural and cultural heritage.

A successful caliphate in six simple steps

June 2014 – ISIS really doesn’t get what restoring the caliphate means. Here’s how in six simple steps, from Caliphornian wine to cultural melting pots.

The power of Palestinian literature to write wrongs

June 2014 – The power of Palestinian literature lies in its ability to make a word of difference, gradually shifting perceptions and, through them, reality.

Beyond the rank and file of university education

May 2014 – With students caught between a book and a hard place in these austere times, they are resorting to new ranking tools to help decide where to study.

Syria and the scent of nostalgia

May 2014 – In Oh My Sweet Land, the kitchen acts as the stage where events in Syria are played out, people’s fates are sealed and political plots are cooked up.

The Arab world’s rebels without a god

March 2014 – In Egypt and other Arab countries, the atheism taboo has been broken. Atheists are rebelling against the status quo and demanding to be seen and heard.

Reimagining Palestine: Inserting the human dimension

March 2014 – The outside world primarily see Palestinians as two-dimensional heroes or villains. A new generation of artists and writers is adding a vital third dimension, the human.

Israel-Palestine: a book of the people

November 2013 – In Israel-Palestine, a peace without the people has left two peoples without peace. That’s why I’m writing a book about these most intimate of enemies.

Is atheism Egypt’s fastest-growing ‘religion’?

October 2013 – Despite the risks, more and more atheists are coming out of the closet in Egypt, emboldened by the revolution’s ethos of freedom and dignity.

إعترافات ملحد مصري

اكتوبر 2013 – رغم عدم الإعتراف بهم، الملحدين ايضاً اولاد بلد ويجب على الدولة والمجتمع ان يعطوهم حقوقهم

Buying camel’s milk in Arabic

October 2013 – Conversing about camel’s milk may not be the most useful Arabic to learn, but learning the language can open up the Arab world to Europeans.

The Christian Allah

October 2013 – Muslim and Christian bigots who don’t speak Arabic believe that “Allah” is only for Muslims. They are wrong: Allah is God and God is Allah.

Religious freedom from birth

July 2013 – Unlike eye colour and skin tone, religion is not hereditary. This reality must be reflected in Egyptian identity documents and personal status laws.

Beauty in the eye of the political storm

July 2013 – Can the skin-deep world of the Miss Israel beauty pageant help combat the ugly face of discrimination and prejudice against Palestinians in Israel?

How iSlam made the West cool

May 2013 – Those who fear Muslim influence should raise a glass to the Sultan of Style when they freshen up, don the latest fashions or enjoy dining out.

Hitler: Arab hero or villain

May 2013 – A shop called Hitler in Egypt raises some uncomfortable questions about Arab perceptions of the Nazi dictator.

Gay marriage but no polygamy?

May 2013 – If we can have gay and interfaith marriages in the West, then why not polygamous ones?

Ugly discrimination in the face of beauty

May 2013- The curious case of Arab men reportedly deported for being “too handsome” demonstrates that the beautiful can also be the victims of discrimination.

Intimate strangers in a splintering world

April 2013 – Multiculturalism is enriching and as easy as child’s play. But as the winds of intolerance blow harder, it may become a liability for my son and his generation.

The reel story of Egyptian Jews

March 2013 – In telling the story of Egypt’s vanished Jewish community,  a new documentary sheds light on a forgotten chapter of history.

Humanising the Holy Land

December 2012 – My time in Israel and Palestine, where everything is politics, has taught me that it is the human that  is holy, not the land.

The art of Palestinian resistance

December 2012 – Can art help the Palestinian struggle or is it a preoccupation those living under occupation can ill-afford?

Israel’s Wizard of Oz on the anarchy of Jewish civilisation

September 2012 – Israeli novelist Amos Oz believes that Jewish civilisation is founded on dissent and non-conformity, but how true is this?

News of revolution (part I): How the nascent print media gave birth to Egyptian nationalism

September 2012 – The spread of print media in the 19th century played a profound role in shaping modern Egyptian nationalism and its quest for full independence.

Muhammad: separating the man from the myth

September 2012 – As a clash of idiocies erupts over the depiction of Muhammad in an obscure Islamophobic film, it’s time for a sober look at the man behind the prophet.

The advantages of fast living

August 2012 – Many Muslims believe that fasting is good for their health, but is science on their side?

Holy month, holy city, unholy Egyptian

August 2012 – Even for a non-believing Egyptian, Ramadan in Jerusalem – where the three Abrahamic faiths coincide and oft collide – is a fascinating experience.

نصف يوم مع “آخِر” يهودي عربي

اغسطس 2012 – يعتقد ساسون سومخ، الشاعر والكاتب وصديق الأديب المصري الراحل نجيب محفوظ، ان الأدب  يتسامى على السياسة

Half a day with the ‘last Arab Jew’

August 2012 – Sasson Somekh, critic and friend of the late Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, believes literature transcends politics and can bridge cultures.

Behind the ‘Zion Curtain’

July 2012 – Living behind the ‘Zion Curtain’ reveals how alike Israelis and Palestinians are and how ordinary people must build common ground on this shared land.

Safeguarding Arab media heritage… in Israel

June 2012 – The world’s largest Arabic-language press archive is located in Israel. Should Arabs use it or boycott it?

The battle for the soul of the Arab man

May 2012 – The polarised debate over Arab women overlooks the fact that men can be victims of the patriarchy too and their identity is a cultural battlefield.

Shlomo Sand: “I am not a Jew. I am an Israeli.”

March 2012 – Bestselling Israeli historian Shlomo Sand identity politics, political despair, why Lieberman is right… and drowning sorrows with Mahmoud Darwish.

International Women’s Day: Empowering the average Mo

March 2012 – Arab men who do not fit the traditional ideal of manhood are often regarded as inferior, and this stereotype holds back the emancipation of women.

‘Reel’ freedom in East Jerusalem

March 2012 – The reopening of a landmark East Jerusalem cinema could provide local Palestinians with a much-needed dose of ‘reel’ freedom. Read in Arabic

The sacred right to ‘insult’

October 2011 – Jailing Egyptians for insulting religion and the military goes against the revolution’s spirit, and violates people’s secular and sacred rights.

A drinker’s guide to Islam

October 2011 – Although alcohol is ‘haraam’, Muslim societies have rarely managed to stay on the wagon, and vital parts of their culture have developed under the influence.

Egyptian in the holy land

September 2011 – As a rare Egyptian in Jerusalem, I have felt something akin to being a B-list celebrity.

Lessons in revolt

September 2011 – Although designed to instil loyalty to the regime, Egyptian schools have been breeding grounds for rebellion and revolt.

Ramadan for all

August 2011 – Ramadan is when Muslims fast and feast, but the holy month has something to offer those of other faiths, or none.

Indiana Hawass and the pharaoh’s curse

August 2011 – Zahi Hawass may liken himself to Indiana Jones, but the minister of antiquities is one artifact of the old regime Egyptians want to live without.

Atheists: Egypt’s forgotten minority

July 2011 – Egyptian atheists and religious sceptics are a minority that exists in reality but not in official statistics.

 

New Egypt, new media

March 2011 – Egyptians will no longer tolerate paying for the state-run newspapers that peddled Hosni Mubarak’s propaganda.

Tombs for the living

February 2011 – Egyptians’ lavish burial spaces offer comfort to relatives – while 1.5 million less fortunate Cairenes live among the dead.

Baksheesh and social tipping points

January 2011 – Egypt’s ‘baksheesh’ culture helps poor people get by and maintains relative social peace, but it encourages subservience.

Just say moo

December 2010 – Animal rights activists are calling for global vegetarianism, but the Middle East is not ready to sacrifice its meat-eating lifestyle.

The Arab man’s burden

November 2010 – Some in the west are more likely to believe in elves in Middle Earth than in Arab men in the Middle East who are secular and do not oppress women.

An ode to Arab love songs

August 2010 – Love is a universal theme in music, but there are good reasons for the Arab world’s preoccupation with romance.

Malta’s mash of civilisations

August 2010 – Malta’s complex heritage is living proof that cultures mash more than civilisations clash.

I say you want a revolution, Egypt

July 2010 – Activists in Egypt should look to the hippy movement of the 1960s for a successful model in bringing about long-term social change.

The freedom of non-expression

July 2010 – Advocates of banning the face veil want to take away the only choice some women have – the choice to conform.

Seeing the world through new tongues

June 2010 – Being monolingual can be limiting, so why not learn another language and get a new perspective on the world?

Miss USA 2010 and an Islamic cover-up

May 2010 – Rima Fakih’s Miss USA win is welcomed by many Arab-Americans, but some neocons denounce it as a sinister Islamic plot.

By the book

May 2010 – Following the lead of Islamists, Egyptian Christians are trying to ban an award-winning novel because it ‘insults’ Christianity.

A question of upbringing

April 2010 – In multicultural families, deciding on where to raise your child is no easy matter and has profound implications for the future.

The tunes of change

February 2010 – For a new generation of young Egyptian artists, music is not just about love.

Diagnosing the Middle East’s ills

January 2010 – Author and journalist Brian Whitaker diagnoses the Arab world’s problems.

Polygamy for all

January 2010 – A Saudi journalist is demanding that women be given the right to four husbands. Should equality mean monogamy or polygamy for all?

Tis the season to be sociable

December 2009 – The British are famously reserved, but so are the Belgians. Let’s break the ice and make the public sphere more friendly.

Faith in our children

November 2009 – Much as we’d like our children to hold the same things dear as we do, we should have enough faith in them to let them choose their own belief system.

Beauty and the bleat

November 2009 – Are Saudi Arabian beauty shows for goats as weird and outlandish as they seem?

Language: the food of understanding

November 2009 – Learning Arabic is tough but it can open you up to a whole new world of cultural experiences and opportunities, not to mention build understanding.

Algeria and Egypt play political football

November 2009 – Preparations for a World Cup showdown are getting heated, but does the animosity between Algeria and Egypt run deeper?

Beyoncé: saint or sinner?

November 2009 – As the singer prepares to visit Egypt, Christian and Muslim fundamentalists agree: Beyoncé is the root of all evil.

Egypt’s fearful development

October 2009 – Egyptians are slowly overcoming their fear of authority, but old habits die hard.

Church and state in Egypt

October 2009 – New attempts to address the divide between Egypt’s Muslims and Christians must be supported, not undermined, by the state.

Tips for survival

October 2009 – For many Egyptians, tip-based and street jobs are their only means of  survival.

Honour: Made in China

September 2009 – The ‘Chinese hymen’ may make pre-marital sex safer in a patriarchal society but a woman’s honour should not lie between her legs.

Fatwa fads

September 2009 – From fashion tips to adult breastfeeding – rulings by some clerics range from the eccentric to the downright bizarre.

The fine art of repression

September 2009 – Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny’s bid to be the chief of the UN’s cultural wing has aroused suspicion among liberals and conservatives alike.

Hijab and dagger

July 2009 – Egyptian outrage at the brutal murder of Marwa Sherbini, the ‘hijab martyr’ is understandable. But If Egyptians want better justice for Muslims in Europe, then they should demand more justice for non-Muslims at home.

Losing the plot

July 2009 – Wacky conspiracy theories cause damage by drawing attention away from the real plots being hatched by our governments.

What’s love got to do with it?

June 2009 – For Egyptian marriage offices, the search for profit has replaced the search for a perfect union.

Egypt: a society of taboos

June 2009 – Rather than encouraging people to make moral choices, religious groups in Egypt are imposing their values by law.

Israel’s other Arabs

April 2009 – A new book lifts the veil off Israel’s Arab face and shows how, like the Palestinians, Middle Eastern Jews fell victim to political forces beyond their control.

A vital medium

April 2009 – Although the Israeli-Palestinian media battlefield is bitter and deeply entrenched, journalists have a responsibility to venture into the no man’s land between the two sides, even if it means getting caught in the crossfire.

وسيط إعلامي حيوي

رغم أن ساحة الحرب الإعلامية الإسرائيلية الفلسطينية تشوبها المرارة وهي متحصنة جيداً، إلا أن على الصحفيين مسؤولية المغامرة في الأرض الحرام بين الجانبين، حتى لو عنى ذلك الوقوع في خط مرمى النار

The Middle East media frontline

March 2009 – Pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinian need to join forces and find common ground in the no-man’s-land of the media battlefield. Read talk

Secularism in a veil

April 2009 – An outward appearance of Islamism disguises the increasingly secular reality of some Arab and Muslim societies.

Attack of the killer texts

March 2009 – Rumours of deadly SMS messages are symptoms of a worrying trend in Egypt – the unstoppable rise of superstition.

All tied up in knots

December 2008 – In Egypt, getting married has young people all tied up in knots.

Shock and awe on a shoestring

December 2008 – An Iraqi journalist expressed his contempt for President Bush in a manner familiar in the Arab world: by throwing his shoes.

Egyptian men behaving badly

September 2008 – Egyptian women have broken their silence on sexual harassment and are demanding the right to go out in public unpestered.

The God veto

September 2008 – Belief in the sacredness of the holy land has long bedevilled the quest for peace. It’s time to challenge the ‘God veto’.

Inverting the pyramids

August 2008 – The world isn’t short on wacky theories about Egypt’s greatest monuments. The reality is less fun, but more illuminating.