Soniah Kamal

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'Islam is not Pakistan's religion; Marriage is'

Monday, October 20, 2008

Two Exchanges, and Letterman and McCain, and Colin Powell Endorses Obama

On NBC's Meet the Press Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for President but just as --even more-- importantly he set forth and endorsed a view that was, it seemed, sadly, sorely, despicably missing from American politics. And all the nonsense is not now okay just because one Colin Powell has good solid common sense to speak up against bigotry but it's a start and how nice if Obama had come out and said, that is if he believes so, the same thing "So What if I Were a Muslim? Why should being a Muslim imply my also being a (fill in the blank)..." Obama is an African-American, but he is also half-white, his mother was white and she and her parents raised him. Obama is a Christian, but his deceased father was Muslim. Sure, you may not lurve the places you come from but you sure understand them because you come from them. And though accidents of birth should not make us special they do make us different especially when all we've seen so far is White Man for Presidents. Not that this means of course that African Americans and Brown People or Yellow or Red or Green do or should automatically stand in solidarity. In fact they should automatically do nothing at all.

I teared up when I heard both the below exchanges-- at the Sense with relief and at the Nonsense with incredulity and anger.


Woman at McCain rally:
"I can't trust Obama. I have read about him, and he's not he's not he's a uh he's an Arab".
McCain :
"No Maam No. He's a decent family man citizen."
Yeah Arabs are just....Arabs are just.... (fill in the blanks) but certainly not decent. family. man. citizen.

Of course I was argued with that since Arabs are so rascist themselves therefore.... To that I say two wrongs do not make a right. That's like when people inform me that 'if America has problems would you want to live to Saudi Arabia or Iran?' I'm always baffled by this logic. So my house may be dirty but since it's not as dirty as (fill in the blanks) the dirt is ok.

Not okay says Colin Powell on Meet the Press.

"I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said. Such things as 'Well you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.' Well the correct answer is 'He is not a Muslim, he's a Christian, he's always been a Christian.' But the really right answer is 'What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?' The answer is 'No. That's not America.' Is there something wrong with some 7-year old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she can be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo-essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in you can see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Karim Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American, he was born in New Jersey, he was 14 at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he can go serve his country and he gave his life."

Letterman's exchange with McCain is also stellar for hammering Mr. McCain with tough questions"Assigned to demonize the opponent, Palin works the campaign trail as a politician with mud in her hands and a gift for slinging it. Palling around with GOP dirty tricksters, she slanders McCain's opponent, a sitting U.S. senator, as a fellow-traveler of "terrorists who would target their own country." Her "terrorists" is a lone and long-since reformed William Ayers, who, when Barack Obama was a youngster growing up abroad, helped found a radical anti-Vietnam war group blamed for several domestic bombings in the '60s.

Pressed about Palin's exaggerations of Obama's relationship with Ayers - both men deny they've ever been pals - Sen. McCain supported her. However, when Letterman linked the Arizona senator to his friend and fundraiser - and convicted Watergate burglar and domestic terrorist G. Gordon Liddy - McCain recoiled. After the break, he admitted: "I know Gordon Liddy. He paid his debt, he went to prison. ... I'm not in any way embarrassed to know Gordon Liddy." Liddy, who plotted to kill newspaper columnist Jack Anderson and firebomb the Brookings Institution, hosted a 1998 fundraiser for McCain's re-election. On Liddy's radio show in 2007, the senator spoke proudly of the ex-con's "adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great."

It's not likely that we'll hear Sarah Palin preaching that McCain also is "palling around with terrorists who would target their own country."
read rest here

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Adiga's White Tiger Wins 2008 Booker Prize

Anita Desai's novels were being published in India in the 60's, 70's and 80's, she says in her opinion piece in Outlook India, to no fanfare at all. Instead, rather than get excited about Indian writers writing in English, Indian readers continued reading Austen and Hardy and Wodehouse. It took major literary prizes awarded by the West, as well as big advances, for Indian readers to develop an interest and Indian-English writing (a trend which continues: it took Arvind Adiga's The White Tiger being long and short listed for the Booker Prize for it beginning to sell in India). Since then times have changed in many instances but this change comes with its own set of drawbacks. Were Adiga not short listed for the Booker and did not begin to recoup the big advance Harper Collins India gave it, would it be tough for his second novel to sell as is the case for authors whose first novels do not sell their advance out in the U.S.? Though the Indian publishing houses, still in their nascent stages in many rosy respects, may yet give their authors a second and third chance that U.S. publishers, with their look-to-the-bottom-line-only, no longer do. Will it follow that midlist American authors, finding it hard to get published in the U.S., increasingly turn to India for book deals and readers? How easy might it be for an 'American-Southern writer' to get a book deal in the Indian market? Will the book have to follow a 'Steel Magnolia'/Ya-Ya Sisterhood/Sweet Potato Queen stereotype'? Might it then be the Indian readers turn to 'exoticize' the U.S.: give us mint juleps and iced teas, give us family sagas where all the women stick together till death do they part, give us long shots of magnolias and big hair? After all 'exotification'-- be it mangos or veils or arranged marriages-- is still a challenge that South Asian writers, indeed writers from many cultures, still face-- though perhaps not as pervasively as before-- when trying to be published in the U.S.

Sales should increase even more: The White Tiger is awarded the 2008 Booker prize.

In The Guardian:
Jonathan Ruppin, of the book shop Foyles, said: "This is a refreshingly
unromanticised portrait of India, showing that a vast gulf between rich and poor
is not an exclusively western phenomenon. It's a very exciting winner for
bookshops as it's so commercial." read rest here

There will of course be many who will say The White Tiger won just because the 'West' wants to tarnish the image of India Shining. I found The White Tiger an enjoyable, fast paced read which offered a very real picture of inner India-- indeed inner any country where the rich are very rich and the poor really really poor with not many chances of upward mobility. Also the main character Balram's voice is fun:

from The White Tiger

It is an ancient and veneratedcustom of people in my country to start a
story by praying to a Higher Power. I guess, Your Excellency, that I too
should start off by kissing some god's arse. Which god's arse, though? There
are so many choices. See the Muslims have one god. The Christians have three
gods. And we Hindus have 36,000,000 gods.

And of course in the day and age of 600 page novels it is delightful to come across a short novel. However that said as delightful as brevity can be a short novel is kept short because the author chooses to tell the story from one character's point of view rather than through multiple characters. The White Tiger could have been a much deeper novel had Adiga chosen to tell the story through other characters' perspectives as well as delving deeper into how they have become who they are in the course of this novel, but this is a choice each author makes and the reader can only vote whether the author's choices have whetted their appetite fully: a not too long novel and one point of view versus a much longer read with many characters telling the story at the same time?
In the case of The White Tiger, says a Booker judge:

As Booker judges, though, we are playing the numbers game with other
peoples' art, not our own, and although we are doing our best to avoid it, with
the pressure mounting it is hard not to feel that size matters. At a judges' meeting this week, as books were mentioned round the table, it was often with a guilty ps, ‘...and it's short' or ‘... but it is rather long.' read rest here

Monday, October 6, 2008

More Alike Than Not: Jews and Muslims and Modesty

A friend's husband was complaining the other day about the way some women were dressing to Sunday Services at Church here in Georgia, USA. Tarts, he called the women in tight skirts and, according to him, too much cleavage, whores who don't know how to respect our Lord. It's not a club, he said, it's a Church. This man could neither beat nor stone nor cast out these women, I suppose he'll have to live with grumbling to his heart's content, because the law would not allow him to get away with beating, stoning or casting anyone out. I suppose we're all guilty, men and women, of a little moral policing, now and then, even if only in our hearts, but the beginnings of taking it too far could very well be the grumble here and there becoming louder and louder and angrier and angrier until it joins forces with like hearts and minds. Israeli moral police have joined those in Iran and Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. And like the Taliban and their edicts against chess playing and kite flying and song hearing, it's not just women in Orthodox parts of Israel who are being monitored but also MP4 players.

In August, a Jerusalem man was placed under house arrest on suspicion he
set fire to a store in a haredi district of the city that sold MP4 players.
"It started about six months ago. They would come into the store, about 15
of them at a time, screaming, 'This store burns souls!' and they would throw
merchandise on the floor and threaten customers," said 31-year-old Aaron Gold, a
haredi worker at the Space electronic store. One Friday night, just before the Sabbath was about to begin, "they smashed a window, doused the place with
gasoline and lit a match," Gold said. Now, a big sign behind the counter
says, "All products sold in this store are under rabbinical supervision. By
order of the rabbis, no MP4s are sold here."
...Zealots there have thrown rocks and spat at women, and set fire to trash
bins to protest impiety. Walls of the neighborhood are plastered with signs
exhorting women to dress modestly spelled out as closed-necked,
long-sleeved blouses and long skirts...The state, catering to religious
sensitivities, subsidizes gender-segregated bus routes that service religious
neighborhoods. Ragen and several other women challenged the practice in Israel's
Supreme Court after an Orthodox Canadian woman in her 50s told police she was
kicked, slapped, pushed to the floor and spat upon by men for refusing to move
to the back oAnother Beit Shemesh girl, who asked to be identified only as
Esther, said zealots threw rocks, cursed and spat at a friend for wearing a red
blouse _ taboo because the color attracts attention.
read rest here

What I'd like to know is whether men can wear red shirts and skirts?