Thursday, July 26, 2007

 

Professor Ahmed writes a play

I don’t mean to jump all over Akbar Ahmed but this puff piece in the Washington Post raises more questions than it answers:

“Ahmed says his goal is to enlighten Americans about the diversity in the Muslim world.” Akbar Ahmed's 'Noor,' a Paean to Religious Tolerance - washingtonpost.com

The impetus behind the article is that Mr. Ahmed has written a play:

“"Noor," directed by Shirley Serotsky, is the tale of three brothers who try desperately to rescue their sister Noor, who has been kidnapped by unidentified soldiers during Ramadan….Each brother represents a different ideological position in the contemporary Islamic world….The catastrophe deepens when the mother of Noor's fiance breaks off the engagement, refusing to allow her son to marry a girl who almost certainly has been raped.”

Mr. Ahmed is from Pakistan (although born in India) and is now a professor at American University. By most accounts, he is quite accomplished in his field. But please:

“He says that what the West views as violence motivated by religious extremism is actually often motivated by mainstream Muslims' attempts to defend their honor and dignity. He also is highly critical of the American media for propagating images of Muslims as mindless and bloodthirsty.”

Honor and dignity? Here’s Amnesty International about one aspect of Pakistan’s sense of honor:

“The lives of millions of women in Pakistan are circumscribed by traditions which enforce extreme seclusion and submission to men. Male relatives virtually own them and punish contraventions of their proprietary control with violence. …But if women begin to assert their rights, however tentatively, the response is harsh and immediate: the curve of honour killings has risen parallel to the rise in awareness of rights.” Pakistan: Honour killings of women and girls - Amnesty International

Amnesty International is too PC to identify exactly why honor killings are so popular there but even a non-academic like me feels comfortable in ruling out any strong Judeo-Christian influence. Mr. Ahmed’s play apparently touches on the idea that perhaps the woman kidnapped has also been raped. In Mr. Ahmed’s Pakistan however, rape is no excuse, as Amnesty again relates:

“For a woman to be targeted for killing in the name of honour, her consent -- or the lack of consent -- in an action considered shameful is irrelevant to the guardians of honour. Consequently, a woman brings shame on her family if she is raped.”In March 1999 a 16-year-old mentally retarded girl, Lal Jamilla Mandokhel, was reportedly raped several times… A jirga of Pathan tribesmen decided that she had brought shame to her tribe and that the honour could only be restored by her death. She was shot dead in front of a tribal gathering.”

My first thought then when reading the Post summary of the play was if and how the playwright addresses this issue and still somehow helps bridge the gap between our cultures. Because there are a few chasms that just can’t be bridged.

And that first thought of mine no doubt exemplifies just why the professor laments our perception of Muslim violence. Yet I’m not sure he grasps just why the perception is so. Writing last year in Newsweek, he applauded a German opera house’s decision to not go forward with a Mozart piece because of its presentation of Mohammed. He thinks it showed great cultural sensitivity; many of us instead think it was a cowardly capitulation and in any event, merely reinforced the idea that the perceived potential for nameless Muslim crowds rioting acted as a bully seeking to impose its own ideals on the West. He sees the conflict thusly:

“The West continued to insist on freedom of expression and the Muslims continued to insist on their right to protest when the central figure of their religion, that is, the Prophet of Islam, was under attack. Lives were lost and property damaged across the world.” Mozart and Muslims: What Have We Learned?

Well, the right to protest is part of our freedom of expression but when lives are lost and property damaged, we tend not to chalk it up to mere protest. Instead, it propagates an image of the protesters as “mindless and bloodthirsty.”

Good luck with that play Professor.

Sidenote: Professor Ahmed is a Muslim scholar from the Arab world who fled to the West. And part of the problems we are having between the cultures?

“What deepens the divide, Ahmed says, is the brain drain of Muslim scholars from the Arab world, many of whom have been killed or have fled to the West. "The scholarly vacuum," he lamented, "leaves thugs and tyrants."

The professor’s presence here vice back in the Arab world therefore propagates an image all its own.

Comments:
Akbar Ahmed's son used me for sex for months last year. Lying. He didn't tell me who his father was. The whole thing was really bad. I am happy to hear your views on his father as they are very similar to mine. Most people buy into the persona he has worked so hard to create. you should investigate the making of the film Jinnah.
 
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