Category Archives: Society & Culture

Keeping a Moroccan Tradition Alive, One Tale at a Time

Keeping a Moroccan Tradition Alive, One Tale at a Time

Mohammad Jabiri, a storyteller for more than 40 years, at work in the Jemaa el Fna square in Marrakesh


February 27, 2006
Marrakesh Journal
NY Times

MARRAKESH, Morocco — It’s time for work and Mohammad Jabiri heads for Jemaa el Fna, the main square of Marrakesh, often called the cultural crossroads for all of Morocco.

Stooping a little, he weaves through the crowds, past the snake charmers and their flutes, the racket of drummers and cymbalists, the cheers for the acrobats and the shouting of the kebab vendors, until he stakes out a quiet spot for himself.

Mr. Jabiri is a storyteller, a profession he has practiced for more than 40 years. Every day, he conjures up a real or imagined past that is filled with ancient battles and populated with sinners and prophets, wise sultans and tricky thieves.

For this he needs few props: he puts down a small stool and some colored illustrations. The rest is performance. His eyes can grow large and magnetic and his voice booms or whispers, depending on the intrigue.

Mr. Jabiri, 71, is one of eight bards still performing publicly in the Marrakesh region of southern Morocco. But most, like him, fear that their generation may be the last in a line that is as old as this medieval city.

These men descend from the era — long before radio and television, movie theaters and telephones — when itinerant narrators brought news and entertainment to country fairs and village squares.

Yet somehow, Mr. Jabiri still manages to defy the formidable electronic competition.

“Some people feel that television is very far away from them,” he explained to a visitor. “They prefer making contact, they prefer hearing live stories.”

And so they did on a recent afternoon, as Mr. Jabiri called out a blessing, raised his right hand and began the tale of the young woman who fell in love with a saintly hermit. But the hermit rejected her as an envoy of the devil, so she decided to lie down with a shepherd who crossed her path, became pregnant and said it was the hermit’s child.

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Filed under Arabic, History, Middle East & Muslim World, Morocco, Society & Culture

Rioting in France

What’s Wrong With Europe?
Spiegel | November 7, 2005

By Rüdiger Falksohn, Thomas Hüetlin, Romain Leick, Alexander Smoltczyk and Gerald Traufetter

For 11 nights running, French police and firefighters have battled rioters on the streets of Paris suburbs — and the violence seems to be spreading. But the unrest in France is only the latest chapter in the difficulties Europe has been having integrating its immigrants.

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Lethal women: Why militant groups turn to female suicide bombers

Women bombers break new ground
By Neil Arun
BBC News

The majority of suicide bombers, like most of the world’s soldiers, have been young men.

But women involved in a series of recent attacks and attempted attacks – in Iraq, Jordan and Indian-administered Kashmir – are beginning to undermine this stereotype.

For modern militant groups, the advantages of using women as suicide bombers can override historical strictures against their involvement.

A woman is less likely to be intercepted precisely because she does not match the typical profile of a suicide bomber.

Attacks by women tend to be more surprising and sensational than the work of their male counterparts.

Moreover, their actions generate greater media coverage, boosting the militants’ propaganda battle.

Traditional perceptions of women as givers of life – rather than killers – are behind much of the shock their attacks excite.

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In the Muslim World Blame Israel

In the Muslim world it has become an unfortunate wont to blame Israel for its follies; the New York Times examines this sentiment in Jordan in light of the bombings.  

Many in Jordan See Old Enemy in Attack: Israel
By Michael Slackman
New York Times
November 12, 2005

ZARQA, Jordan, Nov. 11 – The Maktoum Mosque was crowded with worshipers for Friday Prayer as the imam sharply criticized the suicide attacks on three hotels in Amman, saying those who committed the crimes were not Muslims, no matter what they called themselves.

Afterward, on the street, people agreed that whoever committed such an act could not be a Muslim. But many meant this literally, that the attack must have been carried out by outsiders, namely Israeli agents.

“Who said it is them?” asked Ahmed al-Zawahrah, referring to claims that members of a radical Islamic group were behind the blasts. “It could be Israel.”

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Filed under Arabs & Muslims, Middle East & Muslim World, News & Politics, Society & Culture

Why We Can Torture Foreigners but not Americans

The Double Standard That Underlies Our Torture Policies.
By David Cole
Posted Friday, Nov. 11, 2005, at 12:32 PM ET

“It’s not about who they are. It’s about who we are.”

So said Sen. John McCain, in defending his amendment to a defense appropriations bill that would bar U.S. officials from inflicting “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” on detainees in the war on terror. But while Sen. McCain is surely right that how we treat those in our custody ultimately reflects back on us, this debate is also very much about who “they” are. That’s because the Bush administration’s justification for employing “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” against certain individuals expressly turns on the fact that these individuals are foreign nationals held abroad. The coercive-interrogation policy is predicated on a double standard: According to the administration, we can do it to “them” because “they” are different from “us.”

On this theory, what would indisputably be illegal if done on U.S. soil, or if done to a U.S. citizen anywhere in the world, becomes lawful when inflicted on foreign nationals held abroad. It is this theory that drove the administration to warehouse hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, under our control but technically beyond our borders. It is this theory that drove the administration to open a network of CIA-controlled secret prisons—dubbed “black sites”—in undisclosed locations around the world. Application of the theory has already resulted in multiple homicides in the course of interrogations, one of which is recounted in gruesome detail by Jane Mayer in the Nov. 14 issue of The New Yorker.

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EU court backs Turkish headscarf ban

While a coup for the Turkish government, or some organs of it anyway, this will do little for Turkish women desiring to receive an education while adhering to their faith, and less still for Turks who prior thought that they could turn to the EU for equal protection. Apparently, the EU is following the French example; there can be little doubt that France’s hijab ban has had some contribution to the past fortnight of violence, specifically in alienating the Muslim population.

Turkey can ban Islamic headscarves in universities, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

The court rejected an appeal by a Turkish woman who argued that the state ban violated her right to an education and discriminated against her.

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Filed under Europe, Middle East & Muslim World, Society & Culture, Turkey

What Bush Wants to Hear

Professor David Cole review’s The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11 by John Yoo.

Ed: The review in full is below.

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