Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Remembering Edward Said - a year later

September 25 marked the first anniversary of Edward Said’s death. This is what I wrote about him last year: It was shocking for me to hear about Edward Said's death earlier this week - he died of leukemia. For many, Edward Said is nobody, but to hundreds of Palestinians, Arabs, scholars & students of the Middle East, he is a hero. Born in East Jerusalem, and later a professor at Columbia University, USA, he was one of the very first scholars who started writing the truth about Arabs & Palestinians in the late 70's: his most famous book was "Orientalism," where he talked about how the West looks at the "Eastern" world in a racist manner, thus allowing them to colonize & dehumanize the people of the "Orient." "The Question of Palsetine" was another book that was one of the first books to analyze Zionism and give a voice to Palestinians and their cause. He was a renowed professor & will be sorely missed by his admirers all over the world. I pray that his good work continues on & May God rest his soul in peace. Ameen.

In two weeks, Afghans will be going to the polls - well, at least we hope so. The lack of security & widespread corruption does not pave the way for "free & fair" elections. The story in Iraq is no different - from Informed Comment:
"Time Magazine reports that the Bush administration had had a plan to use the Central Intelligence Agency to funnel money to candidates it favored in the forthcoming Iraqi elections. The rationale given was that Iran was bankrolling its own candidates.This plan was apparently derailed in part by the intervention of Democratic Minority Leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, who remonstrated with National Security Adviser Condaleeza Rice about it...this sort of behavior by the Bush administration fatally undermines the ideal of democracy in the Middle East."

The lack of security in Iraq is a constant problem - here's a report from The Christian Science Monitor about "six million students are expected to begin school Saturday in a key test of security...education officials cite dramatically improved teacher salaries as one of the major accomplishments of the postwar period. A primary school teacher who made 3,000 dinars a month before the war now makes 240,000 - about $165. Other improvements include new text books improvements include new textbooks in some subjects and grade levels, new teacher-training programs, dropout outreach, and accelerated learning for gifted students - some of which are programs either initiated or partly funded by the US Agency for International Development." Many parents & educators are optimistic that children will come because parents & relatives want a better future for their children & believe education will fill their despair with hope.

What worries me is that the fate of Iraqi children will be similar to those of Palestinian school children who become victims of crossfire or stray gun shots. A 10-yr old Palestinian girl,
Raghda al-Assar, who was injured by Israeli gun fire in her classroom on September 7, died a few days ago. "UNRWA's official statement issued on September 7 said that Raghda was shot by Israeli gunfire. A sea of crying and shouting filled UNRWA's Elementary C Girls School when her classmates saw blood stains sprinkled in the class. "It was the first lesson that day, Raghda put her ruler beside mine, we arranged the desk together . . . I was listening to the English teacher and she was writing. The sound of the gunshot filled the area. We kept silence for a moment, then a bullet struck Raghda in her head, her blood covered her face and neck, her English book and copybook were also tainted with spots of blood," Hanin Assaf, 10, Raghda's classmate, said."

A friend of mine published an article criticizing the Dept. of Homeland Security barring of Muslim scholars such as Yusuf Islam & Tariq Ramadan (
recognized by Time magazine as one of the 20th century’s top-100 innovators, from his position as a professor of religion, conflict and peace-building at Notre Dame University): "What more does the administration want from Muslim intellectuals? In turning away Ramadan and Islam, mainstream Muslims worldwide will understand that even those who seek peace and condemn terror are not fit to enter the United States." It looks like however, that Yusuf Islam was barred in error due to a spelling mistake in names! I've heard two versions of this department: Dept of Insecurity & Dept. of Holy Land Security - take your pick!