يقرب الله لي بالعافيه والسلامه … وصل الحبيب الأغن
ذاك الحبيب الذي حاز الحلا والوسامه … وكل معنى حسن
ونسأل الله تعالى عودنا من تهامه … الى سفح صنعاء اليمن
لأن صنعا سقاها الله فيض الغمامه … منزل حوت كل فن

ما مثل صنعاء اليمن … كلا ولا أهلها
صنعاء حوت كل فن … يا سعد من حلها
تطفي جميع الشجن … ثلاثَ في سفحها
الماء وخضرة رباها الفايقه والوسامه … وكل معنى حسن
كم يضحك الزهر فيها من دموع الغمامه … فيا سقاها وطن

يا ليت شعري متى الأيام تسمح برجعه … إلى مدينة أزال
ونستعيد ما مضى يا سيد أفديك جمعه … وطيب بساط المطال
لأن من بعدكم ما كف لي قط دمعه … والشوق بي لا يزال
وكلما غردت ورقاء بأعلى البشامه … طلقت طيب الوسن

أهيم في عشقتك … والدمع جاري غزير
والروح في قبضتك … وانا بحبك أسير
والقلب من فرقتك … يكاد نحوك يطير
فارحم أسير الهوى من قد تزايد غرامه … إن لم تكن له فمن
لأنني لا أطيق الهجر ذا والعدامه … ولا أحتمل ذا الشجن

تظن يا منيتي ان قد نسيت أو تناسيت … او خنت عهدي القديم
شاحلف براسك بأني فيك من حين وليت … أبكي و ساعه واهيم
ولا حلى لي سواك و لا بغيرك تسليت … يمين والله عظيم
يا ناس ما حيلة المشتاق في ريم رامه … ما حيلة ابن الحسن

يا ربنا يا مجيب … عجل لنا بالرواح
لوصل ذاك الحبيب … بالأنس والإنشراح
والدهر ذاك الكئيب … قد تقضًى وراح
سهل لنا منك باللطف الخفي والكرامه … وعافنا واعف عن
صلي وسلم على طه شفيع القيامه .. والأل ما المزن شن

There is a very good Youtube video of interviews with a hundred British imams about the problems with ISIS and how it is doing damage to Islam, especially in Britain. It is well worth seeing. The video was posted on July 11, 2014.

In October, 2013, the main Yazidi religious festival at Lalish Temple in Iraqi Kurdistan was cancelled, due to security reasons. A film was made about this by EPOS and the trailer is available on Youtube.


Old photo of Eastern Kurds, 1898

by Serhun Al, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, August 12, 2014

[Note: for the Arabic version of this article, click here.]

As the Islamic State consolidates its presence in Iraq the question of an independent Kurdish state has again become the subject of heated debate. Despite a rapidly changing situation, with U.S. airstrikes supporting peshmerga attempts to push the Islamic State back, realities regarding the prospects of Kurdish independence remain largely unchanged. Potential challenges include security hurdles, disagreement among Kurdish stakeholders, and the lack of broad international support.

As aspirations among the Kurdish population for an independent, secure, and economically flourishing state within Iraq mount, rifts within Kurdish parties stand in the way of even an agreement on whether independence is viable. Rival Kurdish groups, each fearful of losing the status quo, have proven extremely divided on the question of statehood. The quest for independence is more likely to incite these rivalries than soothe them. Massoud Barzani, the president of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), has been pushing for independence, while his main rival party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), remains unconvinced. Despite its support for independence, the Gorran (Change) movement is concerned about the potential dominance of the Barzani family and the absence of democratic and accountable institutions on which a viable state could be built. (more…)

There is an extraordinary cartoon video on Vimeo that gives the historical background to the current battle in Gaza. Check it out here. And God bless Andy Williams.

The Egyptian intellectual Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 67, made a major contribution to the study of the Qur’an and other important aspects of Islam, for which he was branded an apostate in Egypt. For a summary of his life with links to videos and major works, check out the page on him in the series of “A Profile from the Archives” on al-Jadaliyya. For a film on his thinking, Youtube has the Lebanese film في إنتظار أبو زيد .

[Here is an interesting article on The Daily Beast by Clive Irving on the role of Gertrude Bell in creating modern Iraq…]

The story of the British intelligence agent who rigged an election, installed a king loyal to the British, drew new borders—and gave us today’s ungovernable country.

She came into Baghdad after months in one of the world’s most forbidding deserts, a stoic, diminutive 45-year-old English woman with her small band of men. She had been through lawless lands, held at gunpoint by robbers, taken prisoner in a city that no Westerner had seen for 20 years.

It was a hundred years ago, a few months before the outbreak of World War I. Baghdad was under a regime loyal to the Ottoman Turks. The Turkish authorities in Constantinople had reluctantly given the persistent woman permission to embark on her desert odyssey, believing her to be an archaeologist and Arab scholar, as well as being a species of lunatic English explorer that they had seen before.

(more…)

In a recent article just published in the London Review of Books, Patrick Cockburn, a veteran reporter on the Middle East, paints a disturbing picture of the rise and spread of ISIS. He notes that this zealous group now controls, in one way or another, a swathe of Syria and Iraq greater in area that Great Britain and including six million people. Here is his blunt assessment:

The birth of the new state is the most radical change to the political geography of the Middle East since the Sykes-Picot Agreement was implemented in the aftermath of the First World War. Yet this explosive transformation has created surprisingly little alarm internationally or even among those in Iraq and Syria not yet under the rule of Isis. Politicians and diplomats tend to treat Isis as if it is a Bedouin raiding party that appears dramatically from the desert, wins spectacular victories and then retreats to its strongholds leaving the status quo little changed. Such a scenario is conceivable but is getting less and less likely as Isis consolidates its hold on its new conquests in an area that may soon stretch from Iran to the Mediterranean.

While Cockburn is right to say that insufficient attention has been paid to the rapid rise of this radical group, it is premature to think this is the most radical change since the Sykes-Picot Agreement at the end of World War I. A lot of change has shaped the Middle East in the past century, not least the establishment of Israel. ISIS is not an Ibn Khaldunian Bedouin ghazwa about to overthrow either Syria or Iraq. Nor do self-proclaimed Mahdis and Caliphs have a chance to endure in the modern era. As Cockburn notes, there is a loose alliance of the hardcore ISIS group with local Sunni groups in Iraq opposed to the rule of President Nouri al-Maliki, who is likely to be replaced in the near future. Few of these tribes would welcome the ISIS rules of conduct. To be sure, the Iraqi army trained by the United States is inept to an extraordinary degree, but any attack of armored cars and tanks without air support on Baghdad would be foolhardy.

I am not a prophet, nor do I wish to be, but it is hard to imagine that ISIS can continue to advance without air support and more than captured weapons from retreating Iraqi military. As the U.S. has now begun bombing ISIS targets, they will have a difficult time using the captured tanks. The Kurds may have been pushed back from their border, but even Saddam with his superior weaponry was never able to take control of Kurdistan. Nor will the Western powers watch on the sidelines if ISIS did continue to make serious inroads. Nor will Iran, which has military prowess, allow the vehemently anti-Shia ISIS to move close to the Iranian border. The ISIS blitzkrieg has about as much chance for success as Saddam’s ill-fated attack on Khuzistan after the fall of the Shah. While the success of ISIS thus far will fill their ranks, these will be amateurs, not trained (even poorly trained) soldiers.

The seeds of self-destruction are rife in ISIS with its extreme antagonism to other Muslims, Christians and Yazidis, its draconian ideas for applying medieval punishments, the blatant sexism that includes raping women (imagine if any of the raiders in the time of Muhammad came back and reported having raped enemy women…), and inability to ever gain acceptance by major outside powers. ISIS does not present a viable form of Islam as it plays on the distorted sectarian conflict that has riven Iraq since the disastrous American intervention. Before long ISIS will be a footnote to the ongoing conflict in the region.

ISIS right now is indeed a nightmare, but the devastating impact goes beyond the people brutally slaughtered and the human rights violated. ISIS is about the worst possible thing that can happen for most Muslims. The billion and a half Muslims in the world are a diverse group stretching across ethnic groups and nation states, but very few are extreme jihadists or support a return to a medieval caliphate. Anyone who actually knows the history of the caliphate would hardly want to return to such a corrupt and unstable system of government. The damage that ISIS is doing to the perception of Islam in the West is as bad, perhaps even worse, than that of Osama Bin Laden’s attack on the Twin Towers. ISIS is a godsend to Islamophobes, who constantly focus on this kind of violence as an essential part of Islam. The fact that ISIS does not have support from major Islamic leaders or groups does not matter.

It is obvious that the rebel leader al-Baghdadi has little regard for the example of the Prophet Muhammad, who would never have condoned the kind of violence that ISIS is perpetrating. This is a political battle covered with a hateful religious veneer. Al-Baghdadi will meet his fate, no doubt in the near future, but it will not be in paradise. ISIS is not here to stay, but the damage it can do is a sad commentary on the endemic violence that has engulfed much of the Middle East and abused the image of Islam.

Next Page »