Friday, February 26, 2016

Weekly Report 3: Musicians of the Arab World-Fairuz

When doing a simple search for “Musicians from the Arab World” one name that came up many times was that of the singer Fairuz. It seems that this Lebanese born musician is considered to be a singing legend by many. She was born in November 1935 as Nouhad Haddad to a poor Maronite and Syriac Orthodox Christian family, but Fairuz describes her childhood as happy, and while in high school she sang in the choir. Her father was reluctant to let her to to the Lebanese music conservatory as Mohammed Fleyfel, a teacher and musician at the conservatory who was impressed by Nouhad’s voice, suggested. Her father eventually allowed her to go, and Nouhad adopted the stage name Fairuz.

She later married Assi Rahbani who, along with his brother Mansour, were noted musicians. Assi composed many songs for Fairuz, which then launched her into fame. The two had four children together. Of the children, one died, one is paralyzed, Ziad followed his mother into music, Rima works in the film industry. Her son Ziad later composed music for her as well. Fairuz also acted in the theater and on television.

During Lebanon’s civil war, Fairuz chose not to take sides. Instead, she firmly stayed out of the conflict and used her music as a way to make a point as she toured internationally. One of her songs, “I Love You Lebanon” was very important to the Lebanese people during this time. Her political views also caused her songs to be prohibited from playing on the radio for sixth months due to her refusal to sing to the Lebanese president, as she did not want to sing for an individual person, but just for the public in general around the world. This further cemented her popularity, and she has come to be known as the First Lady of Lebanese Singing.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reflection 2: Dr. Deveny's lecture

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Dr. Deveny’s lecture over the Islamic roots in Spain was very interesting. I had previously known that there was a Muslim population in Spain during the Middle Ages, but had not realized the enormous impact that it had on the country. The country was invaded and conquered in 711, and though the Christians gradually took back the country by fighting from the north, the Islamic rule of the country proved to be a time of prolific advancements in culture and learning for Spain. During this time period (from the 8th-11th century) Cordoba was considered to be the most important city in the world.

Something that struck me was the fact that Al-Andalus (or the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula) took place during what was known as the Dark Ages of Europe, and yet culture was flourishing in Spain. Incredible architecture, literature, and innovations were taking place. For instance, under Muslim rule came what was called the “Green Revolution” in which great strides in the science of agriculture took place, as well as the introduction of many new types of food for that region, including rice, wheat, sugar, pomegranates, lemons, oranges, and more.
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Though much of Spain was under the rule of the Muslim Umayyad Emirate and later a caliphate, there were three main religions being practiced during this time. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all lived together in these cities. One of the most interesting parts of Dr. Deveny’s lecture for me was when he talked about how Muslims, Christians, and Jews all translated different important works into the common language between them all: Spanish. I thoroughly enjoy the study of language myself, and to me this shows how language can sometimes bring people together, even those with differing worldviews or religions.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Weekly Report 2: Arab and Muslim Contributions to World Civilization, Tawakkol Karman

Tawakkol Karman is the first Arab women to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and the second Muslim woman to receive the prize, as well as the first Yemeni to do so. She was born on February 7, 1979 in Yemen. Karman is a journalist and political activist, as well as a wife and mother to three children. In 2008, she set up the organization “Women Journalists Without Chains” and with this group she held weekly protests the brought such things as political prisoners and drone strikes to the attention of the general public. She carried these protests out for three years.

She is most well known for the role she played in the “Arab Spring” uprising in 2011, specifically in Yemen, where she and many others called for the removal of the then current president Saleh from office. During that time, Karman was arrested by the police and held in prison for several days. This only fueled the protests further, and she was then released. The protests continued until it resulted the president resigned. Karman campaigned for Saleh to be put on trial for his crimes and not be given immunity, but this did not happen.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
In 2011, Karman was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee for her work for peace and for women’s rights. At that time, she was the youngest person to receive the prize until Malala Yousafzi received it in 2014. When Karman received the award, it was seen as a reward for all Yemenis for their determined struggle for freedom and and equality.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Weekly Report 1: Syria

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The Syrian army is focusing its attack on Aleppo as refugees flee from the city to the Bab al- Salam border in attempts to escape the heavy Russian bombing of their city. The government forces are beginning to surround the city, capturing smaller villages. The supply line to the rebels from Turkey has been cut off, and some are saying that if the rebels lose this battle it would be a significant defeat for the rebels as well as a triumph for President Assad. There are many problems surrounding the fight in and around Aleppo. Firstly, it is causing even more refugees to flee the country. Many of them are waiting by the Turkish border to see if they will be allowed into that country. Though there are refugee camps set up for them there, it is not yet clear if these 20,000 people will be allowed into the country. Additionally, because the government forces are attacking the smaller villages surrounding Aleppo, humanitarian groups are unable to provide aid in that area. 

Another issue concerns the fact the Russians are bombing the city of Aleppo. Other countries such as the US and France are criticizing the decision to bomb the area, as it is a mostly civilian area and will not help to resolve the conflict. A result of the increased fighting in Aleppo even caused a cessation of peace talks in Geneva until February 25th. Russia has been urged by US state department spokesperson John Kirby to focus on fighting Isis, instead of bombing the moderate rebels. This is not helping to restore peace to this area, and instead is thought to stem from the government focusing on achieving a victory rather than striving to achieve peace for the country.

It is terrible that so many refugees are forced to flee from their homes, but still worse that they might not be able to actually leave their war torn country, but instead must stay in the refugee camps for an indefinite period of time. The fact that Russia is bombing the civilian populace instead of carrying out their purported mission of stopping Isis is extremely troubling. I do not think that they are helping the situation whatsoever.