Tuesday, August 30, 2011

9/11 Coloring Book Controversy

While the publisher of this coloring book for children maintains that it is historically accurate, I can't help but feel that the graphic images are disturbing and inappropriate for children who are young enough for coloring books. Are there other coloring books out there that depict burning buildings and people killing others? Since when did terrorism, death, and violence become suitable fodder for children's coloring books?

This can only serve to worsen the discrimination, hatred, and stereotypes that exist toward Muslims. Aren't there better, less inflammatory, ways of teaching young children about 9/11?

By the way, just last year this same publisher brought American children The Tea Party Coloring Book for Kids.

Sign the petition to discontinue the 9/11 coloring book at Change.org.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Celebrating Ramadan 2011

Palestinian women stand in front of a window decoration of Islam's crescent moon and star on the eve of Islam's holy fasting month of Ramadan in the West Bank city of Jenin, on July 31, 2011.
(Saif Dahlah/AFP/Getty Images)

As Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan, their annual holy month of fasting, enjoy this amazing collection of images of Ramadan from around the world - from TheAtlantic.com

Eid Mubarak!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Alicia Ali: A Kinder, Gentler Saudi Arabia

Alicia Ali's name might sound familiar to you if you are a regular reader of this blog. Back in June of this year, I published an interview with two "Doulas" in Jeddah, and one of them was Alicia Ali. Now I want to introduce you to another side of Alicia - her creative, artistic, and passionate side. Through her colorful, bold art and her ethereal poetry, Alicia's expressions are an inspiration for Saudis and people abroad. She emphasizes "the need to embrace culture and adopt a pluralistic outlook, and encourages Saudis to share their artistic talent with the global community."

A native of Canada with Hijazi roots, Alicia and her Canadian husband have been living in Saudi Arabia for the past ten years. This busy mom of three founded an artists' network in Saudi Arabia called Arabian Jewel, which in collaboration with vital voices, hopes to profile artists (Saudi and non) in the Kingdom. Alicia also offers holistic services and education through her website called Your True Nature.

Noting the negative images that come to mind when people think of KSA, Alicia has a passion to present "the other side" of Saudi Arabia - a kinder, gentler side, if you will. Yet she says it can only be done by when artists work together sharing the same vision. An important part of her work here is to help bridge cultural gaps between expats and locals through the medium of culturalization. Promoting art and culture has served as an excellent tool in the education process. Her carefully selected themes such as love, wine and the soul, to name a few, may raise eyebrows here, yet she says she is adamant in "crossing ideological boundaries through the art of poetic expression in order to achieve a sense of humanistic equilibrium and unity. The hearts and minds open up when words encapsulated in tablets of love touch the soul, a healing effect." All her works are expressions of her personal experience in the "Land of Love," which is the title of a poem she wrote and recites in the video below.

If you are an artist in the Kingdom and would like to get your work profiled, Alicia welcomes you to contact her personally at: essentialfitra@yahoo.ca

Alicia Ali, artist for non-violence from Tayie Rehem on Vimeo.

Embrace Culture
... A Poem by Alicia Ali

To embrace culture is to embrace humanity
Embrace humanity and live in harmony
To achieve harmony within humanity
Is to live in a state of Unity
We are one human family
With all our diversities apparent and hidden
In essence we all come from the first man.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Bravest Man in Saudi Arabia

Who is the bravest man in Saudi Arabia?

Many Saudis say that it is Khaled Al-Johani, a 40-year-old school teacher and father who has been languishing in a Saudi prison since March. His crime was speaking out in favor of freedom and democracy to a BBC News crew on the much touted (but fizzled) "Day of Rage" earlier this year on March 11 in Saudi Arabia. Although hundreds of protesters demonstrated in several cities in the Eastern Province of the country, Khaled Al-Johani is the only known person who actually showed up in the designated spot in the country's capital city of Riyadh to voice his opinions and his desires for change regarding the future of Saudi Arabia. An overwhelmingly strong and well armed police presence, along with threats of jail or loss of citizenship, discouraged other citizens from participating in the planned Day of Rage. In fact, no one at all in KSA's second largest city, Jeddah, took part. Criticism of the Saudi government is not permitted and is met with harsh consequences. While many Saudi citizens might agree with what Khaled said, they are too afraid of speaking out for fear of being jailed, tortured, or worse.

I am re-posting the below video called "Where is Khaled?" to keep his story alive. Khaled's family was not allowed any contact with him for almost two months. In May family members were allowed to visit him in prison and reported that "he had lost weight and was depressed." As far as I have read about the case, he is being detained as a political prisoner without any legal recourse.

In the video, Khaled says, "We need democracy. We need freedom. We need to speak freely. The government doesn't own us. There is no free media under a monarchy state. The media cannot report freely. They only report the statements of the Ministry of the Interior. They didn't expect that anyone in Saudi Arabia will dare to speak to the media because he or she will be jailed. We don't have freedom. We don't have dignity. We don't have justice. The whole world is free except us under this country."

My personal experience living in Saudi Arabia tells me that Saudis love their country and are extremely proud of their country. Khaled spoke out because he loves his country and wants it to be even better. Is this wrong? Should he be jailed for wanting his country to be better? A country that doesn't allow criticism of its government or policies is an oppressive government.

AOL News Article, "Imprisoned Father of Autistic Boy Called 'the Bravest Man in Saudi Arabia'"

Saudi Arabian security forces quell 'day of rage' protests (Guardian.co.uk)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ramadan Kareem

As Muslims around the world began this holy month of Ramadan, I wish all my Muslim friends and family peace, love, and prosperity.
Ramadan Kareem.