Clash Of Civilizations
Editorial Note In light of globalization, do we consider the whole world as one unified civilization, or an amalgamation of different civilizations with their distinct cultural and social norms? Was Samuel Hunington’s (in?)famous book The Clash of Civilizations an honest depiction of global conflict, or was it an imperial farce? In this issue, we cover the different aspects of what creates a civilization. From identity, to social norms and subcultures, to their economic systems. Furthermore, we have sought to examine the contradictions that exist between these “civilizations”, and analyze how differences such as language and religion, have paved the way to different societies and ways of living. Will the famous phrase A Clash of Civilizations, truly pass the test of time?
Editor in Chief Youssef Fahmy Managing Director Mariam Said Associate Managing Director Farida Tarek Operations Director Abdurrahman Radwan Graphic Designer Head Fatma Farrag Photography Head Yasmine El Nawawi Managing Editor Laila El Refaie Associate Managing Editor Mahmoud Fadel
Executive Assistants Seif ElDein Ahmed Mahmoud Wael Aziz Graphic Designers Alhussain Shaker Amr Remah Rawan Shaheen Yehia Khaled Photographers Nada Mohamed Sarah Shehab Farah Nour Sally El Fishawy Editors Asmaa El Nagar Lia Abdelwahab Habiba Elhadidy Hana Shama Karim Kadry Raneem Mangoud Reem Aly
Writers Habiba El Hadidy Hana Shama Kareem Younes Khaled Hamza Leila Abdellatif Mohamed Lotfy Nada Mohamed Negar Mohtashami Nour El Captan Omar Auf Reem Aly Yasser Osama Yumna Omar Faculty Advisor: Dr. Wafaa Wali OSL advisor: Rania Nafie
TABLE OF CONTENTS Does the “Clash of Civilizations” Exist? 04 Exotic? Maybe Not Very Much So 08 We Are The Pharaohs: An Inquiry Into the Cultural 12 Makeup of Egyptian Identity Who Am I?: On the Construction of Identity 16 The Religious Sinner 20 Islamic Feminism: A Contradiction? 24 Confused Backlash 28 Islam vs Capitalism: Economic Contradictions 32 One World, One Culture? 36 Class and Culture Interactions: Dismantling Rich 40 Kids Singing Shaa’bi Capitalism in the Eyes of Capitalists 44 International Schools of Imperialism 48 A Cultural Third Wheel: Life as a Third Culture Kid 50 Palestine: The Same Old Cycle 52 If Walls Could Speak 54
Does the C CIVILIZATIO Writer: Reem Aly Editor: Raneem Mangoud
A google search for the definition of ‘hysteria” will tell you that it means “exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement.” The roots of the word go back to Ancient Greece when hysteria was defined as “wandering womb” in which medical practitioners, politicians, and philosophers thought the woman’s innate irrationality came from her uterus moving all around her body and wreaking havoc on her sanity and mood. This was the gynecological standard up until the, far too late, mid 1800’s. We think of hysteria when we learn about the Salem Witch Trials, McCarthyism or even in the lead up to the Holocaust. We tend to forget that hysteria is all around us and the most potent hysterics can come from even the most learned and measured people. Samuel Huntington is something of a legend in the field of political science. He taught at Harvard, served as a key foreign policy adviser to President George H.W. Bush and he wrote The Clash of Civilizations, an article in Foreign Affairs in 1993 which he later turned to a 321- page bestselling book in 1996 after receiving fervent backlash from his own colleagues for arbitrarily lumping groups of people together on a mostly racial basis. Officially, the defined civilizations are the West, Indian, African, Asian and Islamic when reading his article, there are really two civilizations; “the West and the rest”. Essentially saying us vs. them without having to. Huntington describes a civilization as “a cultural entity”. Reading his article and book multiple times, this quote still leaves much to be desired. Upon closer inspection, he means civilizations through a lens of Westphalian nation-states in which states as we know them only began emerging after the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. Civilizations are blocs of states with large commonalities in languages,
mannerisms, “and most importantly”, religion. Hamid Dabashi, in his own journal article criticizing Huntington, For the Last Time: Civilizations, counters his thinking arguing “To us, it is quite evident that the very categorical constitution of ‘civilization’ in an Enlightenment invention for the very specific reasons and objectives, including its beneficiaries and excluding its victims”. This is all a very roundabout, academic way of saying that “the rest” never subscribed to this line of thinking; it was forced so the West could create a standing for themselves. Any form of state making that was not developed in Europe and resembling it elsewhere was never valid and therefore less than. The main criticism of Huntington’s magnum opus is that he is fearful of the “Confucian” and “Islamic” civilization to the point of farce. He fears the economic growth of China and went so far as to say that “Islam has bloody borders”. That quote alone earned him years of criticism and is most likely the sole reason why he wrote an entire book defending himself for the general public to read. He doubled down on his claim that Islam cannot modernize because “Islam does not offer an alternative way to modernize”. To Huntington, the only reason Turkey, a traditionally Muslim country, modernized was because Ataturk and his associates left Islam behind and westernized regardless of whether or not the majority of the country wanted it. Despite being the only developed Muslim majority country by far, Turkey has a severe identity crisis because nobody wants it to be European nor do they want to be associated with the Middle East. To Huntington, they’re torn. Turkey did everything it could to be accepted traditionally by European powers and yet it is the belief system that serves as the biggest, most insurmountable obstacle. Now, some embrace Islam, causing a massive push back
e Clash of ONS Exist? to religiosity while some cling onto secularism. Westernization as a means to modernization clearly does not garner the results traditional experts said they would. Huntington is indubitably smart, but he’s like your racist grandfather with a thesaurus, a PhD, and way too much influence. He did something that even the most brilliant international relations experts struggle to do, and that is to predict the actions of states going forward. He was right about regional economic blocs taking more of a foothold in today’s world. He was right about the political climate between the Middle East and South Asia when it comes to the United States in particular. He was right that civilizations clash. Surely they clash but not for the reasons he theorizes they do. Huntington is by all accounts a realist; the only thing that a realist can be sure of is that clashes happen between states in a bid for more power. It’s a key step in statemaking. Dabashi, however, impresses on us that the civilizations are constructs. Our identifiers are passed down to us and taught. This is not to say that these constructs are therefore meaningless. It is only to say that people have more power in conflicts than we think we do. States or civilizations do not clash because of massive demographic changes; civilizations clash because, as a realist would remark, it is in civilizations’ natures to clash. Huntington and his sycophants (Fukuyama and Bloom) frame massive demographic changes as dire when it’s entirely normal. Senses of identity should not come solely from DNA, language or religion; it should, ideally, come from our interactions with other people no matter where that happens to be. Mass migration in search of economic opportunity is not a crisis in of itself. A global economy or globalizing capital
is normal in its expansion. Huntington’s reactive and fearful attitude towards it makes a mountain out of a molehill, so to speak. Dabashi put it more eloquently when he concludes that “Huntington’s thesis of the clash of civilization is a disturbed reaction to this phase of cultural confusion at the heart of the globalizing capital. What he and his cohorts do not understand is that they are quite late in responding, and they are responding to something already on its way to change.” Having first decided to study political science, I was told that this book would be important whether I wanted it to be or not. Down the line, it is a continuous source of bewilderment how Samuel Huntington managed to be the way he was and still hold his influence. Likening Huntington as the moving uterus that causes chaos and abrupt foreign policy decisions would not be a stretch. Working as a foreign policy adviser tended to make most of his predictions come to fruition like a self fulfilling prophecy. The concerning part is how palatable Huntington’s writing is. The general public accepted it with no questions asked as if on impulse. The only thing that brings any sort of comfort is how wrong one prediction is. “In 1991 and 1992 many people were alarmed by the possibility of violent conflict between Russia and Ukraine over territory, particularly Crimea […]. If civilization is what counts, however, the likelihood of violence between Ukrainians and Russians should be low. They are two Slavic, primarily Orthodox peoples who have had close relationships with each other for centuries.” There are more factors in foreign policy than a common civilization.
â€œCome to me, all who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you restâ€? - The Bible, Matthew 11:28
Writer: Habiba Elhadidi Editor: Mahmoud Fadel If you’ve watched Bodak Yellow’s music video, you’ve probably had the same reaction I had when I did: confusion. What is Cardi possibly doing wearing a burqa and riding a camel, in the middle of the desert?! While Bodak Yellow’s representation of Middle Eastern culture is confusing, it would make sense depending on the viewer’s perception of the desert, or more generally, Middle Eastern culture. Another similarly confusing representation of Middle Eastern culture is Disney’s 1992 movie Aladdin. The chaotic souks, the angry guards chasing Aladdin everywhere, the palaces with piles of gold coins, and countless enchanting belly dancers—all of which are supposedly representative of the Middle East. Aladdin’s representation is, interestingly enough, very similar to one that is more than a century older: L’Odalisque à l’esclave, an 1839 painting depicting a nude odalisque, a musician, and a eunuch in a harem setting. The question that arises here is: what is it that causes that shared unrealistic representation? What do Cardi B’s Bodak Yellow, Disney’s Aladdin, and Jean-AugusteDominique Ingres’ L’Odalisque à l’esclave have in common? Orientalism. What these three different artistic pieces from very distinct eras share is that they depict the “exotic” culture of the “Orient.” While the images used in all examples do conjure up ideas about the Middle East and North Africa (i.e. the Orient), the attachment of such imagery to Middle Eastern culture can be attributed to Orientalist fantasies.
So how and where did this “exotic” representation come to be? In other words, what spurred this racialized and fetishized depiction of a culture from a distant land? One can know where it originated by knowing whose “East” these depictions represented. The Orientalist depictions all started from the West. Paintings like L’Odalisque à l’esclave and The Slave Market were the works of Western painters that never got to visit this part of the world, which means the notions of mysticism were already present by the 1830s. Prior to the 19th century, the West had minimal contact with the East, therefore Renaissance and Baroque art had very minor depictions of the region. In 1798, a French army led by Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt. After a three-year occupation, the French government published the first issue of the twenty four-volume Description de l’Égypte (1809–22), illustrating aspects of life in Egypt. It was the most influential of many works that aimed to document the culture of this region, which was previously unknown to the West. A lot of the first nineteenth-century Orientalist paintings, however, were intended as propaganda in support of French imperialism, depicting the East as a place of backwardness that had been enlightened by the grace of French rule. Similarly, British colonial expansion also created similar art that propagated British imperialism. As Edward Said put it: “the Orient was almost a European invention, and had been since antiquity a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences”. But if the Orient is a European invention, how was it able to influence
9 the movie Aladdin? Said explains that American Orientalism did not emerge until post-WWII, when Americans started taking an interest in the region and America substituted Britain and France as the dominant Western power. American Orientalism differs from its British and French counterparts by being less systematic and more politicized. The politicization of the “American Orient” is mainly due to the presence of Israel; it wasn’t until the creation of an Israeli state that the anti-Islamic and anti-Arab rhetoric was merged into American Orientalism. This situation led to the spread of demeaning stereotypes, such as the ones in Aladdin, which present the culture of Middle East as backwards, barbaric, and hypersexualized. The depiction of the “Oriental” cultures as being devoid of morality was by no means in favor of its own people, but it was very much in favor of the imperialist agenda. Since such countries lacked morality, it was only right for imperialist countries to take over, in order to guide them and show them the way to civility. It worked by presenting non-Western people as “the Other.” And little was known to citizens of countries like France and Great Britain; all they had access to was their government’s propaganda, which in turn meant giving all their support for colonial expansion. Orientalist art was a tool imperialistic powers used to justify their colonial activity. By being perceived as the beacon lighting the darkness of Eastern ignorance, colonial powers were able to justify imperialism to their people. It was, and still is, a strategy of cultural and political domination by the West; one that depends on the “disparities in power and access to knowledge production,” as put by historian Claire Gallien, between the imperialist powers and those whom they ruled. Why is this concept still lingering on, anyway? Take a speech by George W. Bush, former President of the USA, in 2003. In this speech, Bush justified the American invasion of Iraq by saying: “As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence... It would be reckless to accept the status quo. Therefore the United States has adopted... a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East [which] requires the same... idealism we have shown before.” It has been almost two centuries since the start of the French colonial expansion, but the same methods of propaganda were used here. Spread stereotypes to your citizens who have little or no previous knowledge of the foriegn culture in question, bring up your plan of invasion, or “intervention”, and then support it by giving the moral reason behind it: spreading knowledge and civility to the people who don’t have it, and finally
claim that your invasion is for those people’s benefit. Colonialism has only benefited the colonizers. What previously colonized region of the world did said colonization leave for the better, or even intact? I don’t recall any. This is imperialism: it’s not about helping the less fortunate, but about raiding them because they are less fortunate. Orientalism is a strategy based on projecting a false image. It is a notion of the culturally superior vs. inferior. Understanding this 200 year old concept could help explain a lot of what has been going on in modern politics; the notion of “we know best, therefore it’s better if we’re in charge” is still very much prevalent. Orientalism creates myths and stereotypes based on the narratives governments and institutions’ ideologies create. It distorts reality and influences the people’s perception of other cultures. And while I’m not trying to imply that Middle Eastern culture is devoid of flaws or entirely progressive, I believe that had these countries been left on their own, it would have been better. In this light, as Saïd reminds us, when we see Orientalist works like Odalisque a l’esclave, and maybe Cardi B’s Bodak Yellow music video—a more relevant and accessible equivalent today—we should ask ourselves whose “Orient” we see, and why?
"Architecture has recorded the greatest ideas of the human race. Not only every religious symbol, but every human thought has its page in that vast book." - Victor Hugo
We Are The Pharaohs:
An Inquiry Into the Cultural Makeup of Egyptian Identity Writer: Omar Auf Editor: Hana Shama Are we the Pharaohs? It seems not, though some people like to believe so. It comes back to a sense of identity. First, there is personal identity. Where personal identities overlap, there is group identity. Such a concept can be extended to the nation-state, which brings about national identity. Egyptian national identity is rich, but it’s also, oftentimes, quite confused. People have varying opinions and self-perceptions of what it is to be an Egyptian. Some build upon a rigid idea of uniform identity, claiming that Egypt is just one thing and nothing else; others believe that Egypt is many things, and there need not be a constant contest for dominance. Politically speaking, Egypt is both African and Arab, boasting seven out of eight SecretaryGenerals of the Arab League, including the current one, as well as chairing the African Union for this cycle. Geographically, Egypt is African. Geopolitically speaking, Egypt is Middle Eastern, which in itself is a vague term; the French used proche-orient or Near East for a period of time to describe roughly the same region. In terms of demography, Egypt is a Sunni Muslim-majority country with a significant Coptic Christian minority. Linguistically, Egypt speaks its own spin of Arabic with touches of Persian, Turkish, Italian, French, and an ever-increasing English influence. Our mobile or telephone numbers start with zero, we steer the direction,
wear a guanti, thank the pasha or the bey, and would like to have a shawerma with tomeya bas, without the pickles! Perhaps the last part is only me, though. To claim that Egypt is not Arab, and that there is a difference between Arab and Arabicspeaking states, is an argument which disregards cultural questions and only deals with ethnicity. Furthermore, it imposes a sort of dominating supremacy to the Arab identity which demands a repression of its sub-identities. Due to migration and intermarriage, questions of ethnicity are both largely unanswerable and of little use in today’s world. Moreover, the idea that culture within identity is a zero-sum game, has been pushed aside by intersectionality theory, and interpretation of one’s own identity has become a tool of empowerment for those stuck between identities or cultures. Why does Egypt have to be strictly Pharaonic, Arab, or African? Why can it not be a liaison between cultures, a bridge above the rifts? How can an Egyptian speak Arabic as their mother tongue, listen to Arabic (Egyptian or otherwise) music, and read Arabic books and poetry, yet somehow not be Arab? People taking this stance tend to want to break free from some customs and traditions deemed backwards, which is a justified point of view. However, one must not destroy or
disown the entire culture to break free from the traditions of yesterday - doing so suggests the creation of an alternate culture (ie. Egyptian), but such an approach is flawed as the alternate culture is heavily based on the culture being destroyed. That does not mean that we, as Egyptians, lack the autonomy to choose how we interpret and express our Arab culture. No single group of people has or should have a monopoly on how Arab culture is represented. Furthermore, considering Egypt’s significant artistic and literary output in Arabic, it begs the question: why should we shy away from adopting the culture we are helping define? In our dissociation from the stereotypical image of the oil sheikhs, why must we also abandon the likes of Nezar al-Qabbany, Mahmoud Darwish, Mostafa Mahmoud, Abbas al-Akkad, Sabah Fakhry, and Om Kalthoum? To reject Arab culture from Egyptian identity is to reject the entire Egyptian identity, not because Arab culture is all that makes us Egyptian, but because the historical amalgamation of cultures in this legendary land is what makes Egyptian identity what it is. To take away an essential element of that melange is to desecrate what it means to be Egyptian. Being Egyptian is not being something else, but rather being everything all at once. It’s not Balad el’Agayeb for nothing. From here, we can choose what parts of every culture we should keep and let go of. Ahmed Shawky once wrote:
Is it forbidden for the Bulbuls the grand trees which are permissible for all other birds? Then why should we forbid ourselves the grand trees which our history entitles us to? This is particularly the case with our association to Africa. Can one really claim that Egypt is not African? Many do. Why do we even want to associate ourselves with Africa, a person may ask, when Africa is plagued with poverty, hunger, strife, and slowed development. This line of thought has many pitfalls. Firstly, there is a gross generalization of Africa, built upon a face-value take of what is seemingly the standard image of Africa, completely neglecting
historical, cultural, and political nuance. We tend to speak of Africa as a uniform entity when it in fact houses diverse groups of people with rich cultures and varying histories. John Locke’s Memory Theory of identity posits that if one can remember something from their past selves, what they remember becomes a part of their identity. Taking this concept to a larger level, one can say that shared memory shapes a nation’s identity. This was the reason the African Union was established: to facilitate a process of decolonization. As an Egyptian, if one seeks a meaningful, mutually beneficial cultural tie that extends beyond western influence, co-opting African countries in their experience as former colonies -and thus developing economies- and helping each other grow would seem to make more sense. The question is do we even deserve to co-opt Africa in its future? Are we entitled to take pride in projects with immense potential such as the Great Green Wall, when racism towards Sudanese, Ethiopian, and Eritrean refugees is so normalized that we don’t even acknowledge it? While we are running away from Africa, in truth, we don’t even know if they want us. Yet one cannot deny influences coming from Europe, the former Ottoman Empire, and the US. The English gave us our legal system, the Italians and Greeks were a major part of Alexandrian society, Russians and Italians helped make Sharm al-Sheikh what it is today, the Albanian Muhammad Ali reformed the economy and marked the beginning of what is the modern Egyptian state. While it’s not controversial to say that Egypt is neither English nor Ottoman, it would be incorrect to say Egypt is completely not English or completely not Ottoman. This is where such a conception of national identity thrives, a place where there is room for multifaceted, rich and diverse identity and identities within identity. Egyptian identity is a cultural clash in itself, not the type which constantly destroys or creates strife, but rather the type which filters out and creates something unique of its own. It is one built on fusion and enrichment rather than negation and destruction. In the similarities between us, we, as Egyptians are united, and in the differences, enriched. In short, identity is so intersectional and multi-formed that it accepts, nay, demands to go through this back and forth of give and take - this tennis game of cultural exchange.
“O, let not the pains of death which come upon thee enter into my body. I am the god Tem, and I am the foremost part of the sky, and the power which protecteth me is that which is with all the gods forever.” –The Book of the Dead, translated by Sir Ernest Alfred Wallis Budge
Who Am I?
On the Construction of Identity Writer: Laila El Refaie Who am I? Many have asked this question at some point or another. Their confusion comes as a form of inquiry; are they in control of their identity? Have their traumas so gravely shifted their sense of self that they become nothing more than a shadow of who they “should” be? Three distinct thinkers have probed this notion: JeanPaul Sartre constructed this notion of identity through three main concepts: The Being-in-Itself, the Being-for-Itself, and the Being-for-Others. These are simply the existence of the self, devoid of any consciousness, activity, or passivity, the self as experienced by the subject, and the self as it is seen by others. In order to understand how identity is constructed, in a melange between Being-for-Itself and Being-for-Others, it is important to examine the very structure of self experience as well. Maurice Merleau-Ponty examined this dynamic through the lens of Phenomenology, exploring the intricacies of sensory experience situated in their respective environments. Finally, in an evaluation and critique of the aforementioned two, Frantz Fanon considers the construction of the Black man’s identity under colonial rule in Martinique. The ultimate goal is thus to use the work of these three thinkers to develop an understanding of
Editor: Karim Kadry how the human identity is constructed, and how it can be maintained. In his exploration of phenomenology in the context of racial oppression in Martinique, Frantz Fanon criticised Merleau-Ponty for his assumption of “historical freedom”; the notion that people are free to affect their lives and to impact history in a dialectical process. The individual affects their environment, is affected by their environment, and ultimately creates a synthesised imprint on history. While this may apply to a certain extent for the White man, the Black man under colonial rule is subjected to an entirely different situation. The Black man’s ability to construct his own socio-historical identity, through the identities of his descendents, is stifled by the overpowering nature of his “Being for Others”. The Others here, meaning the White people, construct a series of stereotypes, perceptions, and roles for the Black man to comply with, thereby shaping his entire identity around them. His Being for Itself is thus affected, and becomes distorted. As such, with the Black man being “battered down by tomtoms, cannibalism, intellectual deficiency, fetishism, racial defects…”, the White man becomes associated with the exact opposite and is given a new identity as the superior figure—ultimately “better” than his non-White counterparts. This is an example of what Fanon calls “epidermalisation”, and results in the historical identity of the Black man, ultimately constructed by the White, being ingrained in the very blackness of their skin, overpowering their own perception of their own Black identity. The analysis of this process can be applied and extended to many other examples, including gender, sexuality, and perhaps even religion. If gender is to be taken as an example, the construction of “man” and “woman” is key here. A simple example, which American philosopher Iris Marion Young posits, is the phrase: “throw like a girl”. In establishing negative connotations with the phrase, and with the culture’s
collaborative enforcement of the stereotype, boys and men are taught to perceive their masculine body as strong, while girls and women are taught to perceive their bodies as frail and weak. Marion further corroborates this by citing a study where boys and girls did indeed develop these perceptions about their bodies through their sensory experiences within those bodies. This acts as a phenomenological example of the ways in which the experiences of masculinity and femininity are shaped. In their experiences of their skin, their bodies, and the identifying features of their bodies, men and women have their identities shaped almost entirely by their Being for Others; both men and women are pushed to adhere to societal expectations. For example, “throw like a girl” makes girls ashamed of their feminine bodies, and encourages the development of a Masculine mask on a Feminine body, to parallel Fanon’s White mask on Black skin, in order to be perceived as stronger. If they choose to embrace their femininity instead, they must also perceive themselves as weak. As such, their Being for Itself is rendered almost synonymous with their Being for Others. Their identity is not theirs to control, but rather belongs to the collective societies and institutions that construct the definitions forced upon them. With two examples of the forced construction of identity, the road is paved for the most abstract level: Human identity. While it would be naïve to assume that all humans are fundamentally equal in all capacities and potentials, it would not be unsound to argue that the dynamics which govern the formation of our identities are similar. The human identity, if accepted as a result of the tension between the Being for Itself and the Being for Others, must be shaped in equal amounts by both forces. If the Being for Itself exists on its own, it constructs a person who does not interact in any way, shape, or form with their environment—a conceptual impossibility. This is primarily because it would arguably not exist unless it came into contact with the Other. If the Being for Others exists on its own, the individual is rendered a mere summation of the stereotypes and perceptions around them. As such, in order for the identity to exist in a balanced image, Fanon’s “new humanism” must be applied. The construction of individuals as “others” alienates them, making it nearly impossible for the “Being for Itself” to develop in its own domain.
As such, in disalienation, lies the freedom that Merleau-Ponty suggests and that Fanon strives for. Disalienation is Fanon’s notion of freeing the Black man from his role as The Other, or an object rather than a subject. Based on that, one could argue that disalienation from racism, sexism, or mental illness, grants the Self sufficient space to develop on its own as a Being for Itself, in tandem with the development of the identity in light of its role as a Being for Others. Here, differences can be celebrated and accommodated, while the interactions between people and environments also take their place in the human psyche. Philosophical examinations mean little if they cannot be put to practise. Disalientation comes as an ongoing process, first and foremost through an awareness that one is alienated, and then the subsequent awareness that they may be alienating others as well. Once they are aware of this dynamic relationship, avoidance is the logical next step. Taking care to acknowledge others’ selfhood, without forcing any perceptions on it, limits the infliction of narratives that build the Being for Others at the significant expense of the Being for Itself. Lastly: resistance. While it may seem as though resisting these narratives and stereotypes is in fact a construction of the Being for Others, it nevertheless allows for a certain level of historical freedom. The individual paves the way for their descendants to live in a world with fewer stereotypes, and more room for their selfhood to flourish. The imprint of those who resist is thus maintained throughout history in the freedom of their descendents. Ultimately, in balance and freedom lies the true essence of who we truly are.
I asked my dad why we’re divided If we’re humans, why aren’t we one? Why are there nationalities races We see as different as the moon and sun Why aren’t we just one country Just one unit If unity means strength, Why are we scattered up and isolated? Are we really just that dense? So he took my hand and held it up for me ‘’Your hand is divided, Can’t you see? You have five fingers Each one useless on its own. But together they make wonders On which sunlight never shone. Your fingers can make art, make magic out of thin air. And though they’re all made of bone, They’re different beyond compare. And it’s their differences that unite them. Their differences that make The never seen before. The problem isn’t that we’re divided. It’s that we think we can make magic on our own. Poem by Hana Shama
20 Sex is sinful. However, some sexual acts are less sinful than others—or so it is said. The majority of our culture identifies as religious, so it is understandable that sex, to say the least, is deeply frowned upon. This disapproval comes in different levels, ranging from honor killing to reputational disgrace. The result is that we are and have been a virginal culture. More modern outlooks on religion, apply religious principles more loosely; for some, it is because they do not identify with some or even most aspects of religion, and for others it’s a matter of reform. The “modern view” has created a new wave of Islamic culture that suggests that some sins are more sinful than others. As a result, a hierarchy of who is a better runner up contestant in the show of “who gets to go to heaven?” or what pop culture would identify as Halal-haram ratio memes has been created—whereby oral sex is more respectable than making love and weed is acceptable though illegal and alcohol is not permissible despite its legality and government regulation. It is rendered impermissible by the unholy god—public opinion. The judgment has been less about faith and more about observable habits. This is mainly why sexual acts, that do not involve intercourse, are more socially acceptable as they are more chaste. As a result, sexual behavior becomes dehumanized to a mere means of relieving frustration as opposed to making real undetached love because, realistically, how romantic can oral sex get? People tend to identify a religious person not on the basis of faith, but rather on observable and often superficial acts, which brings us to a question: considering that religion is a sociocultural institution that relies mainly on group spirit and collective behavior, at what point did faith become a matter of public opinion rather than spirituality? In our society, I believe that religion is almost always synonymous with customs, even if their principles do not particularly correspond. I would argue that the intentions behind religious worship have shifted to satisfy society, rather than the true divine entity. And I wonder how has man taken a concept as great as spirituality and religion, and turn it into a criteria or a moral code of social
Writer: Yumna Omar Editor: Laila El Refaie
judgement rather than ethics? Not only that but also the pressure to conform, regardless of belief, to what is publicly acceptable. We are more comfortable hiding behind a religious label even if it doesn’t necessarily accommodate our beliefs, than declaring ourselves non-believers mainly because theism in our society is synonymous with morality. Those who do not share the society’s beliefs are alienated and marginalized. Although the concept of religious freedom exists, there is still what John Stuart Mill called the “moral coercion of public opinion,” which creates pressure to hide behind religious labels. This explains the refusal to let go of religious identification in our culture, but not the phenomenon itself in all cultures. The term atheist Jew, for example, is quite paradoxical yet very common in Western culture, which is often explained as taking the pragmatic aspect of religion that allows them to maintain their beliefs, as well as integrate with their family culture or heritage in our society. The common belief is that the existence or non-existence of god isn’t the point. The point is, the feelings of cosmic importance and social cohesion that religion has/does create. As for atheist Jews, they feel connected to the Jewish community but not to God and thereby choose to be atheists but refuse to let go of their identification as Jewish. In their culture, Jews aren’t pressured to be Jews, but why are they holding on to the title? The greatest possibility is that they are and were treated as a race. They also
may have developed this as a mechanism of unity in opposition to their oppressors. But what about other cultures? In China, for example, everyone is pressured to disbelieve, religion is considered nonsensical and their unholy god is the government that tracks their “cultural misdeeds” by monitoring online purchases, texts, or even social media posts, which affects the ease of governmental services. Not only are the Chinese people’s behaviors monitored through what can only be defined as gamified morality or an Orwellian nightmare, they also severely prosecute religious people. For example, in the Chinese reigion of Xinjiang, mostly populated by muslims, children have been forced to go to boarding schools, where they are not allowed to contact their parents as a way to cut off their religious roots. Several other adults have been reported to be forcefully admitted into concentration camps, for “rehabilitation purposes” or “vocational training,” whereby they’re forbidden from religious worship and treated like prisoners. Thus, 67% of the Chinese population identifies as atheist. This illustrates that the pressure to believe in non-religion is just as apparent. The willingness of the people to let their liberty succumb to their social environment is more than one would think, considering that religious freedom is a globally recognized human right. Religious conformity isn’t necessarily always about history, ethnicity, or even morality, but it is definitely about acceptance, whether with a community like the Jews, within society like the Arabs, or the government like the Chinese. Which leads me to think: which god has more power over our lives: the merciful, divine and holy, or the judgmental, earthly and unholy? There is an undeniable feeling of security that comes with social institutions such as religion, as it provides us with answers that we wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere, in addition to a feeling of purpose and cosmic importance. It gives people hope that someone “up there” cares for us, loves us, and looks out for us—much like the idea of a parent. It also is and has been a great source of social cohesion. However, this shouldn’t be the cause of blind religious conformity in fear of being the nail that sticks up and gets hammered down. Religion, first and foremost, fulfills the purpose of soul/spiritual satisfaction. It is not a contest of “Who does it better?” or “Who knows more?” It is merely a way by which one can make sense of his/her world and apply whichever philosophy they feel better suits their life. Belief can’t and shouldn’t be forced; therefore, faith should be
a personal decision and not an act to be judged. Religion at its heart is of acceptance and tolerance, not a point by which people should judge each other, as this encourages fear not of the afterlife, not of the eyes of the deity, but of social perceptions of themselves. Let us all pray or hope for a world free of the pressure to conform.
Good and bad, will this game ever change? Thinking only one would last saying, â€œForever I shall stay.â€? Wait for a moment and replay Remember Satan, the one to blame? Remember Adam, the one that was tricked to play? Remember Eve , the one that watched yet played? They all played They all became what is now our art of despair. The fusion of good and bad in the creation of our only place of play Poem by Sara Shehab
a contradiction? Writer: Negar Mohtashami Khojasteh Editor: Raneem Mangoud
Islamic Feminism. A controversial ideology, an even more controversial term. To be Muslim and to be feminist is to be dry in the water or to be Iranian and to like Ben Affleck’s film “Argo”. The realm of possibility seems limited and beyond our capacity to imagine. The general perspective in the West and quite frankly any non-Muslim society is that Islam and feminism cannot coexist as they are inherently at odds. We are strung into this idea with mainstream rhetoric, that to be a woman in Islam is to be oppressed, to be silenced and at the whim of men. Feminism as a movement was shaped by the imperialist ideology. It started as a white woman’s movement and despite later sectioning off into more inclusive factions, it retains the original westernised view of womanhood. Secular feminists often propagate the oppressed Muslim women trope, the veil used as a symbol of the social and political inequalities that exist, a debasement of the real intricacies and nuance that exists within the religion. The basis for this thinking cannot only be attributed to the colonial nature of power which propagates ignorant and one-dimensional thinking across societies. There is reason to believe that Islam is a manifestation of patriarchal thinking in the Middle East. We need only to look at interpretations of Quranic verses wherein violence against women
is condoned and even encouraged. There are interpretations of the Quran which are prevalent that encourage the oppression of women and provides evidence to sustain the oppressed Muslim women trope. But we must understand that that is all they are: Interpretations. For centuries, it has been men that have read and interpreted the Quran and the will of God, and as we know too well, humankind is flawed and the social fabric in which we live inevitably affects our understanding of the world around us, particularly when we are talking about the will of the divinity. Patriarchy is no different. Some patriarchal interpretations have led to the imposition of the veil, a ban on women’s right to drive, laws of inheritance, and a condonation of violence. What Islamic feminism presents is a revisiting of Islamic texts to claim that the verses that are oppressive and sexist and applied today have been interpreted wrongly. A woman’s interpretation differs from that of a man’s and through legal reasoning and the process of ijtihad, legal interpretation. Islamic feminism challenges patriarchal interpretations and offers new ones from the same sources, retaining the legitimacy of using holy sources. In addition to incorporating women’s interpretations,
Islamic feminism contextualises the time in which Prophet Muhammad’s words were said; challenging the subjective interpretations of men who were exposed to a very specific patriarchal social fabric to recount his sayings and hence added their own understanding of the words to their meaning. In fact, if we begin to contextualise Prophet Muhammad’s words, we begin to see that women’s empowerment had always been a core part of his doctrine, which begs the question: Why does Islamic feminism even exist? In a time where women were enslaved and treated worse than animals, Muhammad’s attitudes towards women were revolutionary. It was him that recognised and acknowledged women and men are equal before God in all essential aspects, and embodied this value through his encouragement and empowerment of his wives who became leaders and teachers of Islam after his death. He explicitly taught and advocated for the equality of women and men as part of the divine will and improved the status and role of women in society greatly. Islamic feminism, one might argue, is not then an emerging or separate school of thought but it is Islam in and of itself, as women’s empowerment is a key part of the religion itself. The question that emerges then is whether or not the term ‘Islamic feminism’ is even necessary when women empowerment projects are an inherent part of the Islamic framework? It is important that we question the existence of the term and ideology itself but rather than doing it through an Imperialist Western lens, where Islam is considered contradictory to feminism, we must do it through an anti-imperialist lens that allows us to see women’s empowerment as a key part of Islam. Islamic feminism is often spoken in relation to secular feminism, as an alternative decolonial road to feminist emancipation without compromising Islamic values. But the mere fact that the existence of the term and its emergence is spoken in relative terms to secular feminism, Islamic feminism has become a reaction to colonial imposition rather than being an independent school of thought emerging from Islam’s own cultural and political history. The term itself is misleading, a clear example of a reaction to colonial imposition and is no wonder is regarded as contradictory; Islam and
feminism have been born in different cultural and historical contexts, and the combination of these two ideologies which come from inherently different roots and understandings of society is difficult to reconcile. By choosing the term ‘Islamic Feminism’ they have chosen to use the language of the colonialists. Islamic societies have seen a very different trajectory of history than that of Western societies, speaking in extremely broad terms, but their women empowerment projects have manifested in a different way than that of the West. One could argue that using the language of the colonisers is merely an effective strategy to compromise and negotiate for a better standard for women and their roles in not only Islamic countries, but non-Muslim countries where Muslim women are viewed as ‘in need of saving’ through neocolonial mechanisms. Kandiyoti, a gender relations academic, introduced the notion of ‘bargaining with patriarchy,’ exploring how women often negotiated and compromised within the framework of patriarchy, to advance their rights or improve their standard of living. Islamic feminism bargains and compromises in a neocolonial framework to empower Muslim women in all cultural contexts, a practical strategy to attract power and status in both. Islamic feminism is in its essence a bridge between these two different societies, offering a foundation for those who don’t understand Islam to get on board with it, and to shift patriarchal thinking in Muslim societies concurrently. In an age of neocolonialism, it is inevitable that various cultural ideologies meet and clash and even complement each other, leading to new schools of thoughts and ideologies, that borrow and compromise cultural components from various societies. However, the question remains for those who have been subjected to colonial exploitation to determine whether or not through the process of rethinking and reanalysing our realities, we are subconsciously compromising our value systems in an attempt to appeal to the west. Perhaps this is the best strategy forward to empower women in Muslim societies, and change the way non-Muslim societies talk about Muslim women. Perhaps a complete rejection of colonial language and a refusal to engage with the oppressor is a better strategy altogether. That is for you to decide.
Confused Backlash Writer: Yasser Osama Editor: Mahmoud Fadel
A feeling of unsettlement is often present when social movements, Feminism being just one example, gain traction or enter the public discourse. It is common knowledge that patriarchal norms and privileges are being challenged or thwarted. With that advancement comes what the journalist Susan Faludi termed “backlash”. Her book documents and discusses this phenomenon, whether in popular culture, media, or even in scientific settings and popular psychology in a US-American context. She describes this backlash as “a preemptive strike that stops women long before they reach the finish line”. Arguably, there is similar backlash against Feminist movements in Egypt that has its similarities to its Western counterpart. However, this backlash has its share of confused conceptions of the West and how it relates to Feminism. The rhetoric of this backlash takes many forms. It can be an attempt to form justifications for discriminatory beliefs and practices or frame the fight for equality as regressive for a society as a whole or women. And it can sometimes exist as unoriginal ridicule and demoralization of Feminism and feminists. Many tools are utilized towards that end. Scientific-sounding myths are formed, like the claim that women have a different “nature” or essence from men, and this nature enables each gender for a certain role. The backlash even reaches the academic domain. Easily debunked scientific research has surfaced in the US claiming that women suffered as a result of these attempts at equality. This research was amplified in popular psychology and media, and since these attempts sound like evidence-based facts, they became popular tools that could frame anyone who denies them as ridiculous.
The different interpretations of religion and their influence are targets of Feminist discourse in Egypt, since some verses and widely held beliefs provide cause and justification for misogyny. This results in a backlash against Feminism. Religious figures commonly hold debates with renowned feminists and more often than not, the aforementioned pseudo-scientific nature of gender is used to make sense of this inequality, which they do not view negatively. They claim that these differences are the source of the assigned gender roles, prescribed by religion, and they are necessary for social harmony. A woman has the natural instinct for motherhood, for example, and the nobility of that goal is to be envied by men and should not be abandoned by women, according to this line of thought. They, therefore, judge Feminism as corrosive to these religious family values. Many religious figures rightfully perceive a form of cultural neocolonialism, where the West is viewed as a superior culture to the East (even by Eastern people), with Feminism seen as an integral part of the West. Their reactions, though, are very often confused and misguided. It can be an explicit and polemic antagonism to any Feminist discourse or value. The movement is seen as a source of “moral corruption” or “degeneracy”, and a part of a poorly defined secular or liberal project that undermines what is thought of as the fundamentals of religion. And even an outwardly more benign reaction that shares the same beliefs still views Eastern Feminism as an uncritical imitation of the West. The misguided nature of this reaction is that it misses the fact the West has always been patriarchal. It is extremely reductive, therefore, to think of the West as a monolith, where this monolith is also supportive of
29 Feminism—a movement against the fundamental Western patriarchal structure. Uncritical imitation of Western Feminism is not nonexistent in the East, and is reductive as well. And it can be ineffective, especially if it adapts Feminist discourse that ignores the experiences of women from lower classes and focuses on the advancement of only particular classes. But the solution is an awareness of the different narratives in both regions and the common and different struggles. Ironically, the Western backlash claims that women there have nothing to complain about, and Eastern women are the ones who are truly oppressed. The Eastern attack on Feminism, on the other hand, argues that women in the West are the ones who are struggling under objectification and degeneracy. The higher reports of rape in the West are misused to highlight the failure of Feminism the need for “protecting” women. So, it seems that both backlashes are confused there, in their defense. Another form of backlash exists within many social and online spaces. The saying “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression” can be illuminating when it comes to these spaces. Men have many privileges in families and relationships due to patriarchal narratives and beliefs. They exercise power and control over the women in their families. The social space is home to traditionally masculine displays, performances, sexual expressions, and gazes with hostility towards all other performances. There is also a normalization of emotional and physical abuse in intimate relationships. But the women in these spaces are rightfully calling all these narratives and behaviors into question, and the men who have engaged in these behaviors are cognizant of these challenges. Not being able to wield that power, without social repercussions or call-outs, feels like oppression to them. Thus, anger, spite and ridicule seem to rule over that backlash.
In online spaces, this spite reveals itself with many memes designated specifically to it. The meme of “ ”, which translates to cuckold, has a functionally loose meaning. It can be applied to men who do not fulfill their patriarchal roles of performing as per traditional masculinity and controlling women. This has an insidious, demoralizing effect on the struggle for equality in private and public spheres. At AUC, we have seen examples of this backlash in the student-owned AUC Confessions X group with multiple confessions expressing anger against Feminism and the treatment of misogyny as the serious problem that it is. A common caricature they use is that of the spoiled AUC Feminist who doesn’t have anything to complain from with her cars and Louis Vuitton bags, while they themselves couldn’t care less about other classes (or women of other classes, who do not enter their discussions at all) and even joke about them. This shows the nihilistic nature of this backlash, as it does not care about any cause or value and is just a reaction to the privileges and dominance of their beneficial patriarchal worldview being brought into question. Indeed, this sense of irresponsibility and banality is characteristic of any backlash, by definition. Even if it points at some problems in Feminist circles, it confuses itself and misses the point for a virulent, pseudo-philosophical and egotistical victory. And while it pushes back against any progress for women in all their different experiences and struggles, they will ravish in that hypothetical victory of what it views as reason. It is, therefore, necessary to identify this backlash, figure out when and how to engage with it, and when to ignore it and carry on the necessary work. There are many important conversations to be had when it comes to Feminism. Misogynistic memes and weak justifications for patriarchy are not one of them.
ISLAM VS CAPITALISM M
ankind and their view of themselves is a paradigm with never-ending conflict, one that is best manifested in mankind’s inability to agree on a definition of what is human. Ali Shari’ati, one of the founders of Iran’s Islamic revolution, puts forth an explanation in his book: Marxism and Other Western Fallacies: An Islamic Critique, for why humans are unable to agree on how to see themselves. He points out, then, that the multiple scientific perspectives, philosophical schools, or religious beliefs reared in the envelope of mankind, will result in various definitions which will eventually clash. Humans, however, in the path of occupying the external world have forgotten their reality and have forgotten that the occupancy of the external world is not a target, but a path that leads to a better understanding of it. Mankind’s forgetting their reality is manifested in the fact that they position themselves as superior to nature, rather than equal to it in front of the Creator of all. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an author of multiple books on Islamic subjects, describes this state of forgetfulness as a reflection of the modern mankind’s adherence to Malakut Ul-Insan (Dominion of Man), which is the direct opposite of what is called Malakut Ullah (Dominion of God). Nasr’s claim is of great significance, as it is known that Western modern societies tend to construct a secular form of governance, which is the equivalent of attempting
to contain the legislative power of god (religion) to places of worship and giving human intellect the absolute power of ruling. Here, the difference between the Islamic and the Western view of the life of mediocrity, and what is associated with it, is crystallized. Shari’ati presents in another work of his, titled: On the Sociology of Islam, an idea of the Islamic view that contrasts with the materialist view of the world. In this regard, Shari’ati outlines how the world-view of Tauhid, which sees the unity of man with nature, of man with man, of God with the world and with man as constituents of a total, harmonious, living, and self-aware system which is the universe. On the other hand, he outlines the world-view of shirk, which a view that regards the universe as a discordant assemblage full of disunity, clash, contradiction, and irregularity. Capitalism can be perceived as an example of an ideology developed through the world-view of shirk. The driving force of the economic expansion, in Capitalist economics, is capital accumulation and the search for ever-expanding profits. When placing the following words together: “ever-expanding”, “competition”, “free market”, “no intervention”, and “accumulation”, a material image of the jungle comes to mind, where the man is to fight consistently for expanding his capital and making more profit by pure competition and with very loose protections of those competing and that is the Capital logic.
33 This is not an unsupported claim, as it is made clear by some writers that the alleged achievement of democracy by Capitalism’s allowance of every penny to constitute as a vote, is libeled. The rebuttal of the view of Capitalism as democratic is eventual when considering the fact that the faction of the world population that is too poor to be consumers of any significance and is prohibited from reaching its basic needs, will not have the power to vote. Within the folds of the Capitalist mindset, the reality of Malakut Ul-Insan and the worldview of shirk appear clearly, where the capitalist gives himself the authority to decide who lives and who doesn’t based on whether the subject has enough of what is materially demanded— in this case pennies. In an economic sense, this oppression creates violence, latent in the deprivation of basic needs, that performs structurally and is—as explained—unjust. Therefore, structural violence is a fundamental and persistent consequence and feature of Capitalism. On the other hand, Fahim Khan in his book: Essays in Islamic Economics, when outlining the main features of the institution of Zakah (payments imposed, religiously, by the owners of a certain amount of assets, some of which may fall in the category of capital, dedicated for the poor) says: “These payments are made for no worldly reward or compensation on return, pecuniary or
non-pecuniary.” Furthermore, “giving the needy is a normal part of consumer behaviour,” as Khan says in the mentioned book. He, also, continues to explain that the distribution of wealth, which is essential for equity in income received by the members of the society, must be seen as a part of an individual’s microeconomic decisions within the Islamic economical scope. Islamic economics are based upon the world-view or the view of Tauhid, which dictates the following of divine scripture that guides the human as of acknowledging mankind’s need for guidance. Therefore, doctrines of Islamic economics are based upon the existence of teachings within Islamic scripture, along with the framed and reigned human ijtihad (efforts of extrapolation for purposes of development and modernizing of ideals and doctrines). Shari’ati addresses the nature of man as a two-dimensional being based upon the Islamic view of Man, which revolves around the fact that the human’s soul is from God, and his physicality is from mud. Therefore, Islam sees itself as worthy of taking over and controling aspects of life. It does so as it presents itself as an advocate of disregarding the material dimension of the human and all the animalistic instincts associated with it, which appear clearly in Capitalism—as mentioned earlier in the case of the jungle, and aid his/her ascendance towards the superior dimension manifested in the approachment of God. However, in the scope of Islamic economics, self-interest is not a motivation that is completely abandoned, where it is still needed for achieving forms of competitive equilibrium. Thus, the Islamic economic system will be in conformation with some Capitalist ideas, however, it still develops a character that is neither Capitalist nor Socialist, but rather something in between. This is a true manifestation of the verse: 143 in Surat Ul-Baqara, in which Allah directs speech to the Muslim nation saying: “And thus We have made you a medium (just) nation that you may be the bearers of witness to the people …” (Shakir translation). Therefore, modesty and avoidance of profligacy in following material desires and self-interest are promoted. Alongside this fact, Shari’ati’s twodimensional view of man, which he extrapolated from Islamic scripture, is apparently respected by Islam, however never lenient towards the earthly dimension of Man (mud) and never distancing mankind from their divine dimension (Man’s soul). Islam is the middle path between the two dimensions and is the means of avoiding the conflict presented as inevitable by materialists and bearers of the world-view of shirk.
36 “Can I have your name, please?” The barista at Starbucks asks as you order your caramel macchiato, which you wouldn’t have been able to drink if the Arabica beans grown in Latin America, Africa, and the Asia-pacific regions hadn’t been exported to your hometown. This is the effect of globalization. Globalization describes the interdependence of the world’s economies, cultures, and populations, as a result of transnational trade, technology, investment, and travel. While it may seem like a positive thing on the surface, globalization today is the result of a Capitalist endeavor to expand through the integration of local and national economies into a global, unregulated market economy. This integration of economy might be harmless if all economies had an equal chance at being players in the market, but the reality is far from that.
Clearly, globalization is multidimensional; it is economic, political, and cultural. The cultural facet of globalization will be the focus of the coming paragraphs. Britannica.com defines cultural globalization as “a phenomenon by which the experience of everyday life, as influenced by the diffusion of commodities and ideas, reflects a standardization of cultural expressions around the world.” So making Nescafé when you wake up is a part of your daily routine that is shared by many others around the world. Your social media browsing session, and the memes you see while drinking that coffee, are forms of cultural globalization in
ONE WO ONE CUL
Your Starbucks coffee is an example of how some economies have the upper hand in this “free-market”. As most of us know, the most influential corporations in the world are Western. Their possession of most of the wealth relative to other economies gives them the power not just to trade their goods, but also to shape our societies as a whole, since, as we know, with money comes power and influence. Thus, when you have only one particular type of strategy (Western, neoliberal) dominating the global economy, you cease to have real diversity, and the most prevalent products across the world belong to only a single type: that of the economically dominant. Unlike in pre-modern days when international trade meant selling coffee from Ethiopia as raw Ethiopian coffee, rather than under the guise of an American chain, today, Western multinational chains swallow up resources from all over the world and regurgitate them with Western labels, thus losing any trace of the culture from the resources’ countries of origin. You most certainly do not think of Ethiopia when you’re drinking your coffee at Starbucks, and Ethiopia most certainly does not have the money nor the power to market its beans worldwide.
WRITER: NADA MOHAMED ED
action. There is no denying that internet culture helped expand cross-cultural understanding; it’s much easier today to relate to someone from Chile, for example, than it was fifty years ago. The problematic aspect of cultural globalization arises when giant multinational corporations aim to enforce their own agendas, therefore creating a sort of homogenized world that shares the same values, ideas, and lifestyles, which tend to be Western Euro-American. This is known as cultural homogenization. The increasing interconnectedness of the world and ease of trade makes it easy for Disney to broadcast its shows in Saudi Arabia and Norway alike. Major multinational corporations breed this homogeneity for their own benefit, as it is a form of cultural imperialism. When you have everyone adopting the ideas and lifestyles you promote, you’ll eventually establish your dominance, cultural or otherwise. This is somewhat reminiscent of the French colonial project’s civilising mission (mission civilisatrice) which was built
37 on the premise that it was Europe’s duty to civilize “primitive” people. Although the current endeavors towards Western cultural domination aren’t as extreme as the mission civilisatrice, nor do they particularly assume ignorance on the part of the colonized, they represent a more subtle way of doing what the French did in North Africa by imposing their language on the whole region to propagate French culture, eventually superseding their mother tongue. Colonialism paved the way for cultural globalization by leaving the colonized in a state of cultural disorientation, making them prone to further cultural invasions. A few decades ago, the
parts of human civilization starts to fade, and your appreciation for the roles different countries play in the world wanes. India gives us almost the richest variety of spices; paper was invented in China; and the printing press in Germany, to name a few. This process reduces non-Western nations’ sense of sovereignty as they are compelled to view their culture as inferior, and are susceptible to being shaped or even taken over by other cultures, thus losing their identity. This is already happening, and diversity is on the decline.
Another troublesome outcome of cultural homogenization is the commercialization of culture. Cultural goods and services have become commodities. Art, sports, music, youth, masculinity, and femininity have all been commodified. What is typically a part of someone’s personal life has been transformed into something that can be marketed bought and consumed. Additionally, this valuation of cultural elements primarily in neoliberal terms risks the loss of existent culture as people are constantly bombarded with new values, music, clothes, and the old is to be discarded since it is no longer profitable.
D EDITOR: HABIBA EL HADIDI
White man had to raid your country to ‘educate’ you; today, all he has to do is ask you to subscribe. Whether cultural homogenization is intentional or merely a byproduct of globalization, its end goal remains to create a uniform global culture so that the Western way of life becomes the dominant one. Indeed this can be seen when many of us shop at H&M and rant about Game of Thrones. We are all doing and thinking similar things regardless of where we are on the planet. The most obvious outcome of this is a loss of uniqueness. Cultures start to lose what made them distinctive, be it their various artforms, history, or a sense of national identity, which is disturbing to imagine, since culture is as old as human civilization. You recognize various peoples, modern and ancient, from their cultural paraphernalia. When you see a woman wearing a Sari you get a clear image of an aspect of India that wouldn’t be elicited had she been wearing jeans. Your awareness of one of the most integral
We are at a point in time where we’re casually watching the dissolution of the cultural diversity that has defined humanity since the beginning of civilization. We’re not noticing this as it happens because of how fast-paced everything is. This fast-paced progression of life and constant change is itself a product of the neoliberal system that breeds cultural homogenization. We definitely can’t boycott international products, but what we can do as individuals is to preserve the cultural traditions that were passed down to us from our families to keep our cultures alive. It could be as simple as humming a folk song or cooking a local dish. After all, no country has the ability nor the resources to create everything. Diversity is needed to maintain creativity and innovation. True innovation stems from different soils, not the stock market.
C L A S S A N D C U LT U R E I N T E R A C T I O N S :
through group membership), and Cultural Capital. The third form in particular is divided into three main types: The embodied state, which is external wealth converted into an integral part of the person, is exemplified in their skills and knowledge, and how they move, act, and carry themselves. The objectified state is represented in material culture-specific goods such as art pieces, books, and music, and the institutionalized state, which pertains to one’s educational background and how much recognition it grants someone. The key point here is that Cultural Capital, which is an aggregation of the aforementioned three types, can be exchanged with other types of Capital. For example, one can produce an art piece (Cultural Capital) that they then sell for money (economic capital), or put in an exhibition, where they can gain fame or notoriety (social capital). Therefore, owning Cultural Capital can give members of a society, social power, that allows one to influence the society they live in, of which culture is a part. As in, a power over resources that are valued in social relations, as Jeffery Magee aptly puts it. These resources are exemplified in the three forms of capital. What
DISMANTLING RICH KIDS SINGING
SHAA’BI WRITER: MOHAMED LOTFY EDITOR: KARIM KADRY
The term “class struggle” often invokes a sense of economic competition between lower and upper classes. Seldom, though, does one think that this struggle entails any other form of “competition”. In the case of class culture, particularly, it’s more an interaction than a struggle. To investigate that, we need to first define what we mean by “class”, “culture”, and their relation to each other. To define class, sociologist Michael Kraus asks us to consider two things: objective factors, such as: material wealth, education, residence, etc.., and subjective factors: how one perceives the social pyramid, and their rank within it. We can therefore roughly divide society into three main groups: upper, middle, and lower classes, that share both types of factors. As for “culture”, Helen Spencer-Oatey says that “Culture is a fuzzy set of basic assumptions and values, orientations to life,..., that are shared by a group of people.” As a result, we can see culture as a sort of shared “mindset”. From both the definitions of “social class” and culture, it follows that people of a class share a “class culture”. These classes are not isolated; thus, they interact. And the mechanism by which different class cultures interact can be understood through capital. The French sociologist and anthropologist Pierre Bordieu, argues that there are in fact three forms of capital: Economic Capital, represented in the material wealth that one can own, Social Capital (essentially connections and access to resources
that means is that owning Cultural Capital, allows one to set criteria that determine what is “good” or “bad” culture. This can be done through exploiting the three forms of capital. For example, economic capital can be used to buy art pieces that a capitalist deems worthy, and kept for display. Through that capitalists’ social capital, they spread the view that the art pieces they bought are worthy. This increases that capitalists Cultural Capital, particularly, the objectified state. Thus, the art-piece that the capitalist liked, is considered “good”. Conversely, a capitalist may find a certain behaviour distasteful. Through the capitalist’s social capital, they may convince their social circle of that behaviour being indeed distasteful. Then, by refraining from that behaviour, they yet again increase their Cultural Capital (namely, the embodied state). Therefore, that behaviour, is considered “bad”. In Egypt, classes interact in various ways. For example, the words “bee’a” or “sarsagy” are commonly used when referring to something that pertains to lower-class culture. Usually, this is contrasted with “nedeef” or “chic” when referring to upper-class culture. This is of course not the only way in which cross-class cultural interaction happens. Sha’bi music, for example is trivialized by members of the upper-class. I argue that upper-class teenagers, particularly males, considering that most sha’bi songs have heavy masculine themes, want to break out of their class’s “bubble” and norms, have found an outlet for them in listening to Sha’bi. In doing so, it is not often considered as a form of “true” art (recall Cultural Capital), but as an exhibit of “baltaga” (thug-like behaviour) or an expression of “poor people problems”. Sha’bi singers usually intend for their music to serve as a platform on which they can express and spread the message about lowerclass woes in life. For this music to be used in the way mentioned above, is a trivialization of the singers’ intention. We can therefore conclude that at least some lower-class cultural aspects are looked down upon. Lower-class culture is often termed “distasteful” by those that deem it inferior. This judgment of “taste”, however, is not at all arbitrary. As in, it’s not based on some abstract absolute concept of taste. But, as Bordieu argues in his book “Distinctions”, it is actually based on social power and status. The concept of “taste” classifies culture into “tasteful” and “distasteful”. Through this classification, people are classified. For example, if you listen to classical music, you’re said to be a person of “good
taste”. On the contrary, if you listen to “Sha’bi”, your musical taste is said to be poor (ironically). This is also true of food, for example; where “fool and ta’meya” are termed “poor people food”, whereas you find something like caviar lauded as “classy” food. There doesn’t seem to be any culinary standard against which you can evaluate the worth of a meal, that would tell you that literal fish eggs are somehow a better dish than beans and falafel. It is so, because upper-class individuals, through their social power, can exert an influence on society, to have it better suit their “tastes”, as I’ve mentioned in my previous examples.However, This “taste” allows them to group themselves as people of “refined taste” as opposed to those with “bad taste”. As a result, they assert their dominance over the cultural “market”, increase their Cultural Capital, by adopting the mannerisms they deem tasteful and avoiding those they do not, and enhance their social capital, by being part of an elite group that is recognized for their “good” judgment (which they’ve decided is good). In that sense, lowerclass culture is termed as “distasteful” simply in virtue of belonging to the lower-class. Because, of course, if it had been “tasteful”, the people with “good” taste would participate in it. As a result, you find culture judged based not on its merit, but against the standards that an elite group has set, to further legitimize their elite status. Because of all of this, I think that it would be much more prudent to judge these cultural pieces based on their own value, and one’s own dispositions (affected, as they may be, by the embodied state). For starters, it allows upper-class individuals to have a more accurate understanding of the lower-class. Most importantly, though, it allows forms of culture, that would otherwise be buried, to thrive. As a result, my proposition is this: it is much wiser for one to reconsider the preconceptions that would pollute their judgment, when judging the worth of a cultural piece. In doing so, they avoid doing themselves, the artists, and the cultural piece, a grave disservice.
Capitalism in the Eyes of Capitalists
Writer: Kareem Younes Editor: Reem Aly
“It is horrible to think that the world could one day be filled with nothing but those little cogs, little men clinging to little jobs and striving towards bigger ones - a state of affairs which is to be seen once more, as in the Egyptian records, playing an ever-increasing part in the spirit of our present administrative systems, and especially of its offspring, the students. This passion for bureaucracy... is enough to drive one to despair.” - Max Weber
are free to make decisions that could change their lives. Secondly, hard work provides efficiency and in a “private” and a “free market” those hard working individuals would rise. This line of thought is supplemented by the existence of many competitors in a competitive and free market with easy entry and exit procedures for businesses. There are many criticisms to these assumptions; however, the argument here does not engage with capitalism in action; it engages with the preconditions of capitalism.
his is mainly a wake up call and a challenge to Egyptians or Middle Easterners who believe in the success of capitalism in the region. Make no mistake; this is not an attempt to convert you to a certain political or economic ideology. Rather this is a confrontation between the ability of the country/region you live in to accommodate the modern understanding of capitalism. The inability of capitalism to survive in the region will be illustrated through an examination of the work of Max Weber. Weber is important to the discussion for two reasons; firstly, in many ways he thought capitalism was the most rational economic system. As a result, capitalism can be viewed through the eyes of someone who both believed in it and analysed its rise. Secondly, Weber’s work is a landmark in humanities from sociology to economics and law. His theories inspired the understanding of policy makers to shape societies and cultures into ideal forms or standard types that are “conducive” to capitalism.
Underclassmen economics and business students learn that an important rule and an assumption for capitalism is the “rule of law”. Some of the questions that should arise at this point should be. What does this law include? What type of law is this? In Weber’s view for the market to exist; law must exist first. It is also true that Weber thought capitalism can only exist in Europe because a “special” law existed there. The rule of law is a precondition to the market, that has survived until this day and age. This understanding entailed the construction of three types of law; Weber examined the legal systems in the Middle East, China, India and Europe. This construction was necessary to understand the best type of law to promote/support capitalism. It will involve a lengthy discussion to highlight a multitude of types and their positive relationship to the rise of capitalism. Instead those legal types are best simplified by the political types they gain their legitimacy from; traditional, charismatic and legal “domination”. Traditional rules rely on old customs or religion as basis for law. While a charismatic leader type involves a strong will and personality to be framed as a “savior” and is capable of constructing laws in accordance to his/her view. The latter which was categorized as necessary for capitalism, it depends on strict rules and procedures and a belief in the legal process itself. In a way this last type was created for capitalism.
Before we delve into the simple arguments going forward; it is important to loosely define the principles of capitalism an Egyptian capitalist would believe in. The capitalist would often point you to the first pages of an American sociology book that has a picture of a janitor’s daughter who is now wealthy and successful despite her father’s misfortune. This example illustrates two things about the belief in capitalism. Firstly, that people
The problem in the region arises due to the conflicting laws that exist concurrently; this region does not lack the “rule of law” if anything, there is an abundance of law competing for the allegiance of individuals. There is customary laws attached to each location in the Middle East, hovering over custom is a wide variety of religions. A simple illustrative example on the effect of this competition would be interest on loans; while it is allowed by
45 certain religious schools; however, there are plenty of people despite the religious approval who deem it to be irreligious. In fact an academic argument that I do not entirely agree with blames the historical “failure” of capitalism on the religious illegitimacy of usury. The issue with the “rule of law” is that it does not magically materialize when texts change. The fact that cronyism (Corruption/Bribery) thrived under both Sadat and Mubarak is indicative that changes in investment laws for example, are not automatically going to enhance the “free” market. Nor will people abandon their faith for the sake of a better investment opportunity. In fact as recognized by Weber; a significant part strengthening the allegiance to laws stems from psychological conditioning and by coercion.
feats; what it does lack is means; it lacks the promises of capitalism that never materialised or had materialised in the forms of factories that pollute the environment and foreign investors who funnel profits to foriegn banks.
It is important to understand that while Weber supported capitalism, he was not an apologist to neither its consequences nor to the certain conditions necessary aside from law for capitalism to succeed. An important feature of the law necessary for capitalism is dependency on formal rules and deviating away from a “substantive” criteria. To put this “formalism” in simpler terms, if you steal because you are about to die; you will receive a similar punishment to someone who steals to vacation in St. Tropez. This is highlighted by Weber in the following passage:
David M. Trubek, Max Weber On Law and the Rise of Capitalism, 1972 Wis. L. Rev. 720 1972
“Formal justice guarantees the maximum freedom for the interested parties to represent their formal legal interests. But because of the unequal distribution of economic power, which the system of formal justice legalizes, this very freedom must time and again produce consequences which are contrary to religious ethics or political expediency.” To be very clear this “substantive” argument has limits and could be abused. For example in religious or traditional systems, crimes of honor against girls receive a lesser punishment just as the thief who steals for survival will receive a lesser punishment. While Weber rejected the absolute centrality of “Marxian historical materialism”; he did believe that it constituted an important aspect for capitalism’s success, or more simply; a person needs money to make money. This is extremely relevant in our context mainly due to the consistent lack of funds from tourism or FDI. This region does not lack creativity, passion, nor talent to accomplish great
This article does not push the argument that this region for any reason is “backwards” for its inability to accommodate capitalism. Rather the aim is to provoke a discussion on how to manage resource allocations. If anything; aspects of capitalism have led to a constant increase in inequality and irreversible damage to the environment. It is perhaps best that capitalism did not succeed in the region.
Chantal Thomas, Max Weber, Talcott Parsons and the Sociology of Legal Reform: A Reassessment with Implications for Law and Development, 15 Minn. J. Int’l L. 383 (2006): read only pp. 383-402.
INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF
IMPERIALISM WRITER: NOUR EL CAPTAN EDITOR: ASMAA ELNAGAR
Picture yourself as a parent of a three year-old. They are starting school soon, and you have a plethora of choices. The most common option would be national schools. While affordable, this option typically provides the lowest quality of education. Another choice is international schools with Egyptian teachers teaching the curriculum. Or, you can go for the “best” education a child in Egypt could get: fully international. It might put you in debt, yes, but you get foreign teachers teaching a foreign curriculum in their mother tongue—English. I’m a recent graduate of one of these fully international schools. What have I gotten out of it that students in other schools do not have? Perhaps nothing but perfect English. That is not to say that my experience was wholly bad. There were, of course, other positive aspects to my years of education. I’ve had teachers who have irrevocably altered my mindset for the better, and I have learned things that some students with lower quality education have not been taught. But these are not positives which are exclusive to international schools. Any student who is lucky enough could be blessed with a lifechanging mentor, and anyone with an Internet connection could be educated in whatever area of study they wish to pursue. That is also not to say that having the opportunity to have a Western education is a bad thing. Their educational system is more developed and is globally recognized, allowing for better job opportunities and a brighter future. Opting to be educated under a good system is not something that can, or should, be condemned, but this does not excuse the elements of neo-colonialism that were present throughout my fourteen years of schooling. The term neo-colonialism refers to when a nation influences another, less powerful country through the use of political or cultural pressures. In more ways than one, my school felt like it was run like a twentieth-century colony. Speaking Arabic was forbidden, Arabic lessons were only twice a week, Egyptian staff were the ones who were treated the poorest and were known to have the lowest salaries. It was not uncommon to hear one of the foreign teachers making fun of Egypt or its culture and people. It sometimes felt as though they were trying to make the students feel ashamed of being Egyptian, as though they were trying to force the nationality out of us. They knew of the privileges they had as foreigners, and they did
49 not hesitate to showcase it. Those attitudes are not entirely different from the tactics that colonizers of the twentieth century used with the natives of the countries that they had invaded. What was the result of fourteen years in this system? Many of my classmates’ Arabic is laughable, while their English is perfect—making it their first language. They are disgusted by, and make fun of, Egyptian traditions, food, language, clothing, and people. The movies, TV, music, and other forms of entertainment that they are exposed to (and prefer) are in English. There were but a handful of Arabic songs played at our prom, and even those were not met with as much excitement as the English ones. My classmates have become the teachers that have educated them. They have grown up in an environment in which the people of their nationality—meaning the Egyptian staff—have been mistreated. They felt the need to laugh when their teachers poked fun at Egypt’s expense. This has forced them to think that the Egyptian identity is inferior, and thus, they have been conditioned to adopt the attitudes and mindsets of their teachers’ ‘superior’ nationality. Will my classmates not grow up to have kids of their own whom they will send to similar international institutions? Will they ever stop admiring the West and being ashamed of their Eastern roots? Already, we have started to see a gap forming between international school graduates and the rest of society. Beaches that ban hijabs are starting to pop up more and more with each passing summer. The hijab, which is worn by an immense amount of Egyptian women, is seen by those of a higher socioeconomic class as a sign of backwardness, one that should be banned so they could make the choice to wear their bikinis without being exposed to women who choose to cover up. This type of discrimination can also be seen with mainstream figures. During the 2016 summer Olympics, the Egypt Female Beach Volleyball team were in hijabs and covered up clothes, rather than the traditional swimwear that other teams normally wear. Instead of supporting them and showing patriotism for their country, some Egyptians made fun of the way the teams’ clothes had been different from the Western teams. Lastly, more and more gated communities advertising the Western lifestyle are being built.
What is next then? Restaurants that ban anyone who looks too Eastern? Shopping malls that do the same? Schools? Hospitals? There is a genuine fear that these new, westernized generations will establish their own communities in which Egyptian culture completely dies out and in which they can pretend they are in the country whose conditions they were raised in. And thus, will we have once again been colonized? This is a far more dangerous form of imperialism. When the British invaded us with their guns and their ships, we were able to overthrow them. But how do you rise against an invasion done with textbooks and examination booklets? How do you revolt against manipulated minds? The solution lies in finding a balance. It is no secret that the Egyptian educational system is in ruins and that has forced parents to seek a better alternative. The international schools in which the teachers are Egyptian seem to be the best option, but there will always be those who want the full international experience. The decision then lies in the hands of the educators. Are they in Egypt to positively influence young minds with more developed educational methods, or are they here to take advantage of the way they can get a good quality of living in Egypt while making it a goal to enforce a distorted image of Egypt and Egyptians? As the years go by, the gap between those proud of their Egyptian heritage and those ashamed of it will widen. Two factions will collide, one that is a rip-off of Western culture while the other is traditionally Egyptian. This path is not one that is promising. With the current state of the country, it is crucial for Egyptians to become a united force, one that cares about the well-being and development of the country. How will this be possible when entire generations are brought up being ashamed of and despising Egyptian culture? Who will help build the country up when the people with the best education dream of emigrating and working abroad? The crucial lesson that must be taught to the students of international institutions is that adopting Egyptian culture should be something that is prideful, not something that is shameful or disgusting.
Imagine yourself in the backseat of a car, passively watching the driver and the passenger in front having a deep, perhaps even amorous conversation that you are—for obvious reasons— excluded from. You guessed it: you’re the third wheel! Now, what if you lived your whole life as a third wheel? This is surely an interesting concept that may seem very irrelevant to you, but definitely not to the Third Culture Kids (TCKs) out there. The term TCK first came to existence in the 1960s when American anthropologist Ruth Useem started observing the lives of North American children who lived in India. Clearly, both cultures have very little in common, which meant that these children were often put in the situation of just watching their American and Indian cultures interact with each other; a cultural conversation that leaves the child as an observing “cultural” third wheel. Third Culture Kids usually have three forces acting on them that result in changes and developments in their personality: their parents’ cultural background, the orientation of the society they live in, and finally, their own consciousness. This cultural mix can be viewed as an embodiment of a cultural struggle, simply because the child is constantly torn apart between different beliefs and ideas. Take an Arab child living in the United States; they will most likely
struggle with the comprehension of certain concepts like sexuality. This particular concept is interesting because due to the traditional societal dictum, one’s sexuality is a crucial factor in defining them as a person and so it is likely to be a confusing task for the TCK to distinguish where they lie on the spectrum regarding a controversial topic like this. As a TCK, in all simplicity, you are in a constant game of tug of war, but you’re the rope and the two teams are society and your parents… Very painful indeed. Nonetheless, this constant pulling from both sides is what characterises the experience of each TCK, it is almost like a necessary evil; without the existence of a conflict between ideas and thoughts, there wouldn’t be any difference between a TCK and a regular homegrown kid. The cultural “war” of confusion inside TCKs makes it extremely difficult in terms of the process of self-discovery. Being a TCK is like solving a puzzle because oftentimes you would find that there are always missing pieces of the cultures shaping you. From personal experience, I think as a Third Culture Kid, you can never fully discover yourself because you always have to do everything twice—more or less discover yourself from the point of view of each culture, and then make up an opinion on it. It is very much like a never-ending group project between you and the two cultures you are simultaneously experiencing. However, your role in this group
“project” is that of a reporter, and those who make the final decisions are the two cultures; again, a cultural third wheel. Therefore, in a way, being a TCK can be both a blessing and a curse, because it can make you very introspective and open-minded since your consciousness is so deep and divided, but in other ways, you could experience the immense pressure of everlasting indecisiveness. In fact, 40% of TCKs around the world pursue post-graduate education degrees compared to only 5% among non-TCKs, however, a growing number of TCKs suffer immense mental health issues such as selfharm and suicidal tendencies, according to a study conducted by the TCK international society TCKid Now. Decision-making and our society go hand in hand, and so, when a confused TCK is constantly required to make definite decisions on fundamental beliefs, the pressure can certainly be overbearing. The last idea leads us to the third point of discussion: self-hatred in the TCK community. Imagine always feeling unsure and undecided regarding the things around you and the decisions you have to make on a day-to-day basis, how would you feel? Well, as a TCK myself, I can tell you that I would feel inadequate. Many Third Culture Kids face this conundrum of adequacy, and whether or not they are self-assured enough to make decisions. Such feelings can take a huge mental toll on a young person’s mind and may even lead them to feelings of emptiness and resentment of themselves. Nonetheless, the situation can still be viewed in a lighter manner. Being a TCK back in the day was very difficult, and it is definitely becoming easier as we are becoming more globalised to the point that the word “globalisation” itself seems old now. TCKs have the potential to form their own communities which are almost, interestingly, utopian in nature because—unlike the standard version of our society—TCKs are not defined by cultural differences. A TCK is more likely to relate to others simply because they have no set origin, and so they are like a center around which different cultures revolve. In a way, a TCK is almost the epitome of a multitude of cultures. The psychological value of being a TCK takes us back to one of the fundamental concepts in our society: judgment. While being a TCK can make you relate to the people around you, it can make you feel lost in terms of physical geography because a Third Culture Kid does not have an origin to help
them explain where they are actually from. When asked about their origin, TCKs will almost always tell you their life story as a constant passage between cultures, but can they actually tell you where they are physically from? The answer to this question depends on the judgement of society and whether TCKs are viewed as “too foreign” or not “national” enough by certain societal standards. For example, when a TCK goes back to their parents’ homeland, they can face the problem of lacking a solid connection with the culture there and their sense of “home”, which may cause a lot of judgement from those around them—the natives who haven’t left at all. This can make it difficult for a TCK to adapt and understand who they really are. However, one could view a TCK rather as a citizen of the world, which places a positive remark on how being a Third Culture Kid can be a profound example of inclusiveness.
So, in conclusion, is being a TCK positive or negative? The answer to this is very paradoxical because it could be both. The idea of being a TCK is just too abstract to be narrowed down to one feeling or concept, and so it is something that we can all have different opinions on. However, what we can all agree on, is that life as a Third Culture Kid can be a real roller coaster, much like watching a play, a dialogue, or your best friend’s relationship unfold…
Palestine: The Sam e Old Cycle Writer: Youssef Fahmy Editor: Laila El Refaie Every now and then, Israel takes controversial actions or policies that cause outrage in the world. One of its boldest decisions taken was moving its capital to Jerusalem, which was supported by the Trump administration in 2018. At the forefront of the outrage, stood Arabs, who burned both Israeli and U.S. flags in protests. After all, the primary thing that springs huge movements in the Arab world, usually involves Israel and its systematic cleansing of Palestine. But what exactly is happening here? Throughout the past 14 years, the U.S. has acknowledged Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, under different administrations. Why then do we see this sudden urge of anger and desire for change? The flag of Israel is hard to come by in the Arab world, so protesters get white towels, draw the Israeli flag on them, and then proceed to burn them. This arouses the crowd even further. Not to mention that the person who will be drawing the flag must draw it as accurately as possible. If the artist draws a defective star of David, it wouldn’t cause the same outrage. What we hate must be constructed as accurately as possible, so we can
hate it more. A reminder of how Israel disrupts our emotions to the core, but not our intelligence. “The Big Other” is the Lacanian idea of an unseen virtual regulator of our conversations. For example, imagine a 90’s soap opera in which an actor is sent on stage to recite a Shakespearean play not knowing his lines. The director gives him an earpiece, in which he tells him all the lines. The actor has the choice of reciting his lines and the play goes on, or not reciting his lines and being laughed at and booed by the crowd (representing society); the actor is forced to comply in order to avoid humiliation. It’s like refusing a handshake or a greeting. However, in this context, it’s not participating in the protests or the outrage against Israel. This blabbering hate and coercion of participating in hateful discourse reminds me of the book 1984 By George Orwell, when there was a “hate hour” in which Winston, the protagonist, had to watch videos and films of the “enemy” and how everyone must show a threshold of hate towards the “enemy” or get caught in the hands of Big
Brother. “The Big Other,” is Big Brother; inescapable social interactions, the need of participation and conformation. This needs to be understood whenever huge issues such as the Israeli occupation of Palestine are being discussed. When the U.S. announced its acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, many Arabs felt compelled to display a certain threshold of disagreement—the type and extent of that threshold depending on national identity, religion, and class. It is of course necessary to acknowledge Israel as an apartheid state created by Western powers, and it is within the interest of every Leftist, Arab Nationalist, and Muslim Fundamentalist to see it brought to its knees. However, what do these protests really do? Aren’t these protests in the Arab world a paradox? “We already know the issue exists and will not be solved in the coming years, but we will send a message anyway.” The idea of sending a message is in itself pure bombast. The protests lack any form of rationality or intelligence behind them. This seems to echo the French Revolution, at the height of the “Reign Of Terror” (1793-1794), when Maximilien Robespierre guillotined French revolutionaries to protect the Revolutionary government. He was later asked why he had committed such atrocities, and he had one main well-documented argument: “Stop shaking the tyrant’s bloody robe in my face, or I will believe that you wish to put Rome in chains!” We can surely compare this dismissive argument to the present day with the “Stop questioning the flag burning or I will believe you don’t support Palestine!.” To simplify Robespierre further, let’s rephrase this to more modern, common terms and as a question to the reader: Are you ready to join the nihilistic struggle against Israel? One that is not peaceful but violent? Are you ready to defy this globalized world for the sake of the concept of justice? And in the fight for justice, will you accept Revolutionary divine terror? It was not just Robespierre who had similar ideas, Karl Marx emphasized on the need of a vanguard party to lead the proletariat, but he also said “what are political upheavals in comparison with the invention of the steam engine?” What if we rephrase it in the issue of Palestine with “What are a few burnt flags to a technologically advanced state?” What then should we do to free Palestine from the clutches of the Zionists? We must stop with the uncontrolled hate and think! In issues of Palestine and most global problems we are always bombarded with questions like “what
must we do?!” If the idea of taking violent action is insignificant to the enemy, then one should be brave enough to say “Nothing!.” Let’s look at terrorist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. These groups kill, rape and pillage in the name of religion. Ignoring their terrible Islamist ideology, they have something we desperately need in the struggle for Palestine: the nihilistic struggle. ISIS and their affiliates are ready to give up everything in their struggle for a Caliphate. They will incessantly resist globalization and Western hegemony and will sacrifice all the materials needed for the struggle. We Arabs are not ready for this nihilistic struggle; we are all too comfortable in our homes to wage such a struggle. A minority would be brave enough to say “I will defend Palestine! Whatever it takes!” In Psychoanalysis, those sort of statements are identified as merely ideology based, meaning that the host who says such vigorous statements affiliates himself to a certain group or ideology, which makes the host, act like a member of this ideology or group. For example, we see too many people identify themselves as Communists or Socialists as it has become a trend in Humanities majors. Once they identify themselves as a “Communist,” they tend to act like one, reciting what little they know to assert themselves deeper within the ideology. When the revolution comes, will the person sharing Karl Marx quotes on Facebook be in the revolution? Will he be in the middle class securing his volatile existence? or will he cower with the bourgeoisie? The same can be said about current young Arab nationalists, Muslim fundamentalists, and many performative male feminists. To really free Palestine, we must do nothing and go back to the drawing board. How can we help Palestine when we know nothing? We must get rid of these baseless emotions within us and use our intelligence. We should sit on the sidelines and expand our knowledge. Our current struggles for the freedom of Palestine will not even cause a dent on a systematically violent state. No intifada will leave a deep wound on Israel. It is only through knowledge and the ability to influence others through nihilistic struggle that can we truly wage a “Revolutionary divine terror.”
Have you ever wondered what the walls we built would say to us if only they were capable of doing so? Would the pyramids holler with indignance whenever someone called “El king” carved onto its stones? Would the Eiffel tower admit to being a bit Writer: Hana overrated? OneShama wouldn’t even dare think about the horrors witnessed by Fadel the Easter Island statues. Since Editor: Mahmoud they were created by us, these grand buildings act as toyou our ever society, portraying thethe growth of a mirror Have wondered what walls we humankind. While researching this article, I readof built would say to us if only they were capable into the history of countless artifacts, from the Luxor doing so? Would the pyramids holler with indignance obelisks that toured called the world, to thecarved Berlin Wall, whenever someone “El king” onto but the one that stood out the most was the Hagia its stones? Would the Eiffel tower admit to being a Sophia, since it rivals all buildings as one that has trubit overrated? One wouldn’t even dare think about ly experienced a clashby of the cultures. the horrors witnessed Easter Island statues. Since they were created by us, these grand buildings act as a mirror to our society, portraying the growth of humankind. While researching this article, I read into the history of countless artifacts, from the Luxor obelisks that toured the world, to the Berlin Wall, but the one that stood out the most was the Hagia Sophia, since it rivals all buildings as one that has truly experienced a clash of cultures. Perched on the edge of two continents, this immense structure has experienced a number of integral changes close to the times when its mother city changed names. As with any great project, this magnificent building went through a few drafts. First built as the “Megale Ecclesia’’ (The Great Church) in 360 AD, the wooden church didn’t last long before it was burned down in a riot. Afterwards, a towering basilica rose to take its place in 415 AD, before it too was burned down during the Nika Revolt—an uprising named after the battle cry: “Conquer!” from those involved. Finally, Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus were hired by Justinian, the Byzantine Emperor, to lead the project, and in a remarkable span of only 6 years, an amazing church similar to the one we see today rose with the name of the Hagia Sophia or “Holy Wisdom”. An aweinspiring architectural feat, the orthodox church was a marvel of its time. In fact, the appearance of its interior and exterior is so mesmerizing that the 14th
Century Russian Traveler, Stephen of Novgorod, was quoted saying “As for Hagia Sophia, the human mind can neither tell it nor make description of it.” As soon as the church came to life, however, it was bombarded with the cruelty of the world. The population of Constantinople, nowadays known as Istanbul, became infected with the bacterium Yersinia Pestis, the predecessor to the bacterium that caused the Black Death. The Turkish historian Procopius wrote in his Secret History, that the city was bedeviled by the stench of the dead, that little soil was left undug for burying sites and that burying rituals were disregarded. Despite the disease wiping off most of the Byzantine farming industry, Justinian continued to ruthlessly demand that the survivors pay the annual taxes for themselves, as well as their liable neighbors, to be able to support the expenses needed to fortify the city against vandals as well as to build grand churches. At its peak, the Justinian Plague was said to have murdered 5000 of the city’s residents daily. Just when the Holy Wisdom thought all hope was lost, the city was dogged by conquests and sieges. After witnessing the near demise of their species due to disease, humans jumped to finish the job themselves. During the following centuries, Constantinople faced battles one after the other, battles that I sadly shall not be mentioning due to their sheer number and political complexity. What is worth mentioning, though, is the rise of the Latin empire in Constantinople due to the efforts of the Fourth Crusades. This short-lived period saw severe pillaging in the marbles and mosaics of Hagia Sophia, as well as its conversion to a catholic church. But in a turn of events, the byzantines reconquered the city and immediately returned it to its orthodox
55 roots. A dandelion is known to be able to bloom in the harshest of conditions. Similarly, despite all the pain and suffering the city had witnessed, art burst through, coloring the streets with dreams and hope. The 12th century saw an eruption of the mosaic art the Byzantine empire is still revered for to this day. Vivid, mesmerizing depictions of flora, fauna and Emperors shrouded the walls of the city, poetry and magnificent literary works such as those of Jelaleddin Rumi emerged, and dazzling silks with various masterpieces etched on them were created. During the reign of Michael VIII, the population of the city saw a growth that almost doubled its number, marking the period with a scale of prosperity unlike anything it had seen in ages. You probably wish the colors had lasted forever and the city never saw eras of plight again. But that wasn’t the case here. In the 15th century, the city was flanked from both Asian and European borders by the Ottomans and was under siege for almost two months before surrendering. As soon as they entered the city, Sultan Mehmed the Second ordered his soldiers to stop raiding the Hagia Sofia of its marble, dazzled by its architectural magnificence. In an effort to revitalize it after almost being knocked down by a number of Earthquakes, he ordered 4 large minarets to be built, each acting as a structural support as well as a beacon for the spread of Islam throughout the city. Consequently, the church became a mosque adorned with ornate disks, featuring the names of Allah, The prophet Muhammed, the first 4 Caliphs, and the Prophet’s two grandsons. Fast forward to the year 1914, a year marked by what became known as the Great War. The Ottoman Empire decided to aid the German Empire only on the basis that they, as the enemies of their enemies (Russia), must be their friends, a decision that caused the inevitable downfall of the Ottoman Empire. Before the Great War, war was pretty typical, only the instruments used to fight them differed. It is only when those instruments became devastating enough to threaten our own existence did we stop to consider whether every weapon invented should indeed be used. This is especially true for the invention of the atomic and hydrogen bomb. As U.S. President Harry S. Truman put it best: “machines are ahead of morals by centuries, and when morals catch up perhaps there’ll be no reason for it.” It was only when our species was faced with eminent and complete destruction when the US placed Missiles in Istanbul and the USSR retaliated by
placing some in Cuba, did humanity step back and for the first time we were finally able to see that the ends don’t always justify the means. Due to a decision made in 1935 by Mostafa Kemal Atatürk, the first Turkish President and the one credited with establishing the Turkish Republic, the building stands as a museum to showcase the concoction of cultures that have left their fingerprints on it. The Hagia Sophia stands as one of the oldest artifacts built by man, giving it enough time to form an opinion about us. Whether it thinks we’re bumbling barbarians or mystical creatures, we’ll never know, but what we do know is that despite all odds, even when encountered with our own demons, we prevailed. Yes, our history, like our own nature, is messy, but it is also magnificent.