Game Over – Faith Fighter Off the Web

29 04 2009




This is another mess, really. Italian game developer, Molleindustria has taken its one-year-old Faith Fighter game off the internet after complaints by religious leaders and the Islamic Conference that it offends many people, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. It has deities from different religions, and even God himself fighting against each other.

The game isn’t really the most violent out there. From what I see, it’s almost caricature-like. If we are to talk about game-incited hatred, the list is really long and Faith Fighter is probably far down this list. 


Provoking Intolerance

Here’s the game’s pitch on the company’s website:

“Faith Fighter is the ultimate fighting game for these dark times. Choose your belief and kick the shit out of your enemies. Give vent to your intolerance! Religious hate has never been so much fun.”

It’s quite funny, really. The complaint that this provokes intolerance is probably valid to some extent. But remember also that players can choose their faith. Not all users will follow their real-life faith. It’s a game and the point is to have fun and go wild. People don’t play video games to imitate reality, but rather quite the opposite, to get away from reality.

Molleindustria already has a new game called Fight Fighter 2, a sequel, more modified version of the first one. And here’s part of the pitch:

“We regretted the use of irony and violence and this time we want to offer a positive, nonviolence educational game that teaches the universal values of tolerance and respect.”


From the Bloggers

Some bloggers pointed out that most complaints came from Muslims. This, again, reflects badly on all of us Muslims out there who don’t really care for religious insensitivity. I’m secular so my views are clearly different. What the Islamic Conference should have figured is that this would be another free speech fiasco; another stab at Islam and another proof that our religion is intolerant and backwards.

Jonathan Simeone wrote this on his American Reality blog:

“By giving into the demands of the Muslims that company was contributing to the world-wide program of allowing Muslims to determine what is and what is not protected speech…. If Muslims want to settle in the West they must understand that the West is under no obligation to go out of its way to accommodate the aspects of Islamic culture and law that limit the liberties and freedoms that define Western society.”

Profreedan wrote this on Mediasnoops:

“How about the religious lobby groups who are calling for this game to be banned get their own houses in order and sort out the nutjobs in their ranks who are creating fear of their religions before they start pointing the fingre at computer games?”


My Brother

My brother loves video games and internet games and now Xbox. He’s played them ever since he was in the one-digit age. He’s pretty experienced now, up-to-date with latest games. If you’re in my house, you would hear him screaming through his microphone, attached to his head with an ear piece. He would be yelling at my cousins at the other end of the line, or people from across the world, depending on whom they’re shooting at on Call of Duty or some other game.

Granted he gets rattled up easily. He faces accusations from my mother that these games are making him violent. But he’s no idiot. He knows that when he shuts off the game he’s in a difference world. It doesn’t carry on to his relationships with other people.

Really, people are much smarter than what these religious leaders think.


Bassem Abu Rahmeh and the Killing in Bil’in

21 04 2009


Basem Abu Rahme - Palestine Monitor

Bassem Abu Rahmeh - Palestine Monitor

A moment of silence needs to be given to all those protesters who fight for peace and freedom and die doing so.

Bassem Abu Rahmeh deserves more than just a moment. He’s been in the news lately because he was killed by a tear-gas canister thrown by Israeli soldiers that left a hole in his chest (I’m not exaggerating). He died in the car, halfway to Ramallah Hospital.

What was Bassem doing, you may ask? He was protesting in Bil’in against the separation wall that Israel has built years ago, effectively cutting villages from a large portion of farmland. He is actually a resident of Bil’in.

These are weekly demonstrations organized by a brave group of young men and women, Israelis and Palestinians, called Anarchists Against The Wall (AATW). No one can deny their courage and persistence. I have met one of the organizers and protesters during his fundraising trip to the U.S.; a nervous and quiet young man called Nir Harel. Although he did not seem like a natural speaker, his silence said more than his words; and his beliefs do more than his speeches.

In the YouTube video (you need to be more than 18 years old to view it) you see Bassem yelling at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the fence who had already started throwing the canisters. AATW reported that he was saying, in Hebrew, “we are in a nonviolent protest, there are kids and internationals…” I cannot verify that of course because I don’t speak Hebrew.

You see some of the protestors later going to talk to those Israeli soldiers. They have an argument. The Israeli soldiers walk away and then throw some more tear-gas canisters; so nonchalantly, so casually.


My view is perhaps already apparent through these paragraphs. This is cold-blooded murder; another murder that will go unpunished in Israel.

However, if my view is considered biased because I’m an Arab and a Muslim, I suggest reading Alex Stein’s comments. I have mentioned Stein in a previous post. He is a libertarian Israeli, with much to say. From his personal experience, soldiers are clearly warned that this is a lethal weapon that could kill.

LB, a blogger on Occidental Israeli, argued under this same post that stones are also a lethal weapon that could kill. Point taken, if they are 20-30kg hailed from high points. I have heard this from my Israeli professor in Modern Israel class. Like many other Israeli and pro-Israel bloggers, however, he seems to have completely brushed off the incident. More details needed, he said.

Bassem deserves the acknowledgement that he was killed by Israeli soldiers; that he was murdered, with or without details. The inhumanity of some of these comments is beyond disturbing. I doubt that LB would need more details for the death of a settler in the West Bank.


One note:

I have included a picture of Bassem because people often forget that it’s a human who has died in these situations, and mind you, not a violent human in this case.

We can become immune to these killings, and a human face to death and suffering might wake those of us who are asleep.

To those who want to deny Bassem his right for mourning, regardez-le.

Laila El-Haddad’s Plight

10 04 2009


Laila El Haddad and her family,

During the most recent war on Gaza, Laila El-Haddad’s blog was one of those most talked about. The New York Times’ “The Lede” blog wrote a long piece about it, other bloggers blogged about it.

Laila, a young Gazan freelance journalist living now in North Carolina, seemed to know some of the most intricate details and the newest news about what’s happening on the ground. She had written many pieces for Al Jazeera English and the British Guadian.

Laila’s blog “A Mother from Gaza,” also titled “Raising Yousuf and Noor: Diary of a Palestinian Woman” is especially hot these couple of days.

The mother of two children has been stranded in Egypt, locked in for 36 hours in no-where land. She had wanted to visit her family in Gaza, through Cairo Airport and then the Rafah Crossing. Since Rafah is now closed, there’s no way to get in or out of the strip. She told us yesterday that she’s being deported, “away from home.” Laila’s visa to the U.S. had expired. Her intention was to renew it in Beirut, Lebanon, after the Gaza visit.

Amira Al Hussaini wrote about Laila on Global Voices on the day of her post about deportation. You can read it here.

The Egyptian Daily News reported yesterday that the authorities had sent her and her two children back to the U.S. She is expected to have many problems with the U.S. immigration authorities, not surprisingly. 

Many, including myself, are waiting eagerly for her next blog post.

Who Are the Seven Jewish Children?

1 04 2009


Seven Jewish Children - Jerusalem Post

Seven Jewish Children - Jerusalem Post

Are you fed-up with artsy posts yet? Well, here’s one more… A long one this time.

Famous British playwright, Caryl Churchil, recently wrote a controversial play regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has received both praise and anti-Semitism accusations. Over the past few weeks, newspapers covered the play, magazines wrote about it, and bloggers typed and typed and typed.

In this post, I will give you a summary of the controversial piece, a personal opinion and finally online resources to read, for those of you who are interested. Bored already? Give it a try.



“Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza” is a short, 10-minute play, first appeared in the Royal Court Theatre, London, in early February. It reached New York several days ago, with three readings at the New York Workshop Theatre, from March 25th to 27th.  Theater J in Washington, D.C., also featured two readings with the blessing and encouragement of Artistic director Ari Roth. I’ve also read that it will be going to other international cities soon.

The play is built on seven scenes. Each depicts Jewish parents discussing what to teach their children –mainly a little girl in the form of “her” – about Jewish suffering and the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You can read the New York Times Script.

“Tell her they did it to themselves,” the lines say in scene seven, “Tell her they want their children killed to make people sorry for them, tell her I’m not sorry for them, tell her not to be sorry for them…. Tell her they’re animals living in rubble now, tell her I wouldn’t care if we wiped them out.” These particular lines are what provoke the anti-Semitism charge.

The play peaks at the end, scene seven, where Jews transform from oppressed under the Nazis to oppressors through the State of Israel. The play ends with:

“Don’t tell her that

“Tell her we love her

Don’t frighten her.”


A Personal Take

Churchill has always been clear about her views when it comes to this conflict, and it isn’t pro-Israel. In fact, she can be more outspoken than Palestinians themselves. I have noticed that the play reads a little differently than when heard and seen. Check out the YouTube video at the end of this post to get a sense.

I agree that some of the parents are portrayed as inhumane in this play, choosing security over ethics. Sometimes they look like they’re in denial; nonchalant about the Palestinians; almost racist. 

At other times, however, they feel and look like every other parent in this world: worried about the safety of their child, filled with love, wanting to protect at all costs. That is the core of humanity.

From an art point of view, this play is beautifully-written. The repetition of the words “Tell her” in each line is deliberately crafted to engrave that message of “telling.”

“Tell her” becomes a soothing sound; calming in its consistency. You begin to look forward to it.

The simplicity of the play is exactly what makes the images it evokes most horrific. The juxtaposition of this simplicity with the harsh reality makes it artistically brilliant. “Seven Jewish Children” focuses on words and emotions rather than elaborate scenes. 


Now to the super serious stuff…

I don’t believe that criticizing Israel necessarily constitutes anti-Semitism. People criticize for many different reasons, and some of us do so because we believe there’s a better way; that there’s a brighter future and all sides of the conflict are responsible for it. The recent war in Gaza, followed by Human Rights reports and soldier testimonies did nothing to modify Israel’s image. Hence, this play.

A blogger wrote that yelling anti-Semitism with regards to this play trivializes the idea of anti-Semitism. I tend to agree.  In fact another blogger wrote that censoring this play would have worked against Jews and Israelis rather than for their benefit.

One blogger wrote a long piece justifying the existence of the State of Israel and its actions as a response to this play. Most of the anti-Israel accusations are laid out and countered with a line of thinking that follows “Well, the Arabs have done worse.” I encourage and love debate. But this line of thinking has gotten us nowhere and it is used by both Arabs and Israelis, Muslims and Jews, all across the world. It’s beginning to get a little old.

Another blogger wrote that some of his Israeli friends agree with some parts of the play, that there exists demonization from the Israeli side. I believe that all sides of this conflict dehumanize all the others. Why would we be in this situation if it wasn’t so? 

One large debate is about the title of the play. Why “Jewish Children” not “Israeli Children”? The argument is that in choosing “Jewish,” Churchill casts a generalization on all Jews, therefore, becoming anti-Semitic. The only reason I could think of for this specific choice is that this play is not just about Israelis because Churchill portrays Jewish parents during WWII. They were not Israelis then.

I will leave the debate about the BBC’s refusal to air the play on its Radio 4.

But I will add one more note: plays are not created to be impartial. Plays are not created to agree with you, and some writers’ opinions can be junk. Plays and their likes are created to express an idea, from the playwright’s point of view, from the artist’s point of view. You can’t, and shouldn’t, put chains on that. Can you image where that line of thinking would lead us? Downhill, to the dungeons of undemocratic societies.


The List

Aside from the links embedded in my previous long paragraphs, here’s more for those intrigued:

1.     Michael Billington’s review on the Guardian 

2.     Playwright Sonja Linden on Free Speech Blog in response to the BBC

3.     Norman Geras’ witty review, imitating Churchill’s language

4.     The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg interviewing Theatre J’s Ari Roth

5.     The Jerusalem Post‘s article

6.     FrontPage Magazine’s article 

7.     The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephen’s response

8.     The Nation‘s article 

9.     Mark Damazer from the BBC Radio 4 blog

10.   Ben Cohen on the Z-word blog


If you can think of more that are constructive, taking different sides, feel free to add them through comments. Rants are also fine.

Here’s a YouTube video of one reading…

“I Do Not Speak For Israel” by Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore

29 03 2009


Clarissa Sebag-Montfiore

Clarissa Sebag-Montfiore

A freelance writer and a fellow blogger, Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, wrote an interesting and strong Op-Ed piece for the British Guardian newspaper, titled “I do not speak for Israel.”

In this article, Clarissa explains her frustration at having to explain and justify Israel’s actions because she is a British Jew. She writes:

“British Jews are seen as representative of, and responsible for, Israel’s actions. But many of the young today like myself – second, third or fourth generation – see themselves as British and Jewish. And British and Jewish only. This does not mean we are affiliated to Israel by default.”

Although many British Jews associate themselves with Israel wholeheartedly, Clarissa’s point is that it is a choice, not a default position.

This article strikes quite an important chord. I recall several instances where Jews were asked to explain Israel’s actions because they’re Jewish. I especially remember a political lecture in my home country in the Middle East, this past January, where a columnist expressed loudly through the microphone her frustration and anger at the silence of the country’s small Jewish population over the war in Gaza. “They have not said one word,” she said, “not one word.”

They shouldn’t have to; just as Muslims shouldn’t have to say they condemn terrorism every time they speak. 

Opinions, as Clarissa points out, are a personal choice. They may follow a certain line of thinking according to religion or gender or community, but they have a life of their own most of the time.

A libertarian’s note on Umm al-Fahm

24 03 2009

Alex Stein -

Alex Stein -

Alex Stein is one of those modern-day bloggers who would make you nostalgic for old Shakespearean English, or at least really articulate, witty and sometimes sarcastic English.

He is a British Jewish scholar who lives in a place he likes to call “Zion.” On his website, False Dichotomies, he explores different aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and many other issues, writing in this particular post an account of his day at Umm al-Fahm, the Palestinian-Israeli town that saw recent protests against a right-wing march. 

Stein had joined a counter-demonstration against the right-wingers, arriving at Umm al-Fahm on a bus with the Israeli organization Peace Now. In this light-hearted post, with the usual Stein wittiness, he tells the story of that particular day, with an anecdote here and there that would keep you awake and reading.

To those of you who are still curious about Umm al-Fahm, this should give you a unique and brief account from a witness who is neither a right-winger, nor a Palestinian-Israeli. I like Stein for this simple initiative that many Israelis show when all things collapse and become an “our side or their side” situation.