Play It from the Heart, Play It for Change

30 04 2009


How many times have I said in this blog that art heals? That when politics fail, art can bring people back to the light? I think I’ve said it a little too many times. But I’m going to bring it up again in this post.

Playing for Change is a multimedia organization, with a non-profit branch, that believes in unity through music; peace through music.

The idea came up four years ago by a few Californians. Today, they roam the streets of the world looking for musicians from all different backgrounds to join their movement, putting together CDs and DVDs and donating money to music advancement (whether through schools or just a helping hand for individual musicians).

Here are some powerful words from the organization:

“The idea for this project arose from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race. And with this truth firmly fixed in our minds, we set out to share it with the world.”

Bono is one of the 40 musicians and participants that are part of this project. They have musicians from so many countries: from Nepal to India to South Africa to Ghana to Italy to Spain to Argentina, all the way to Michigan, U.S.A.

And guess what, there is beautiful Tula from Tel Aviv, The Edward Said Conservatory for music in Bethlehem and the Nazareth Orchestra from Nazareth

The curious thing is that most of these musicians have never actually met. How about a joint concert in all areas of conflict, seriously? 

You can buy their album “Songs Around the World” on iTunes, Amazon and their official website.

Check out their video.. really. And if you want HD videos, go to their website. This is really cool stuff.


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.

Arts Briefing

27 04 2009


Mohammed Ali on the BBC

Mohammed Ali on the BBC

Because art always captures my attention, and because I know in my heart that when politics fail, arts become the alternative, here’s a list of some arts news:

1. The Palestinian Festival of Literature is going to take place in May, from the 23rd to the 28th. This is going to be in the form of a roadshow in the West Bank, highlighting the many problems that Palestinians face today. There will be 20 participants, not only Arab but from across the world. I would go to each and every event if I were there.

2. Third Generation is a work-in-progress form of play that is now featuring in Germany, combining young German, Israeli and Palestinian (Palestinian-Israeli) actors. It explores one of my favorite issues: identity, especially in the context of history. You can read Gal Beckerman’s review on the Forward, that was also on the Haaretz.

3. Palestinians filmmakers get a stage in London, and as CNN says, beating all the odds and difficulties of filming in a place that lacks cinematic infrastructure. There has been several Palestine Film Festivals, in Chicago, Toronto, even Texas. So much can be gained from art exposure. I will see “Salt of This Sea” this Friday through the New York Tribeca Film Festival and will let you know what I think.

4. Stanford University professor, Ronald Levy, becomes the first Jew to win a King Faisal International Prize (regarded as the Arab Nobel Prize), in Medicine. The prize consists of $200,000, a medal, a certificate in Arabic and English and dinner with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. I realize that this is not an arts update but it’s worth the mention. I wonder if Levy was super thrilled.

5. This is an old article that I kept in my records. Jerusalem art comes out to combine homosexuality and religiosity, called Out of the Sacred Closet – Beauty, Belief and Identity.” This is interesting and juicy. Reactions vary but artistic expression is always commendable.

6. Muslim graffiti in the UK by artist Mohammed Ali gets the attention of the BBC

Ahmed & Salim: The Funny Terrorists

23 04 2009


I’ve grown quite fond of Ahmed and Salim, the two funny and stupid young terrorists that look much like South Park characters. I keep playing the episodes over and over again.

I understand the controversy surrounding these series. Their creators are Israelis: Tom Trager and Or Paz. They depict quite a stereotypical image of Arabs and Muslims: living in a cave, having multiple wives in black, wanting to kill all the Jews, condoning suicide bombings… etc. The show has been blocked by the UAE from showing on YouTube, and there are some bloggers out there who truly believe that this represents real life and all Muslims and all Arabs, all throughout.

If you are a sensible person, you’ll see and understand that the cartoon paints an extreme case, even when it comes to the Jews (for example the curly-haired, freckled Jewish hostage in episode 2 who happens to look geeky and have a long nose).

The six online episodes are smart, funny and bitterly sarcastic. In some way, people have already started to love the two characters. They are not malicious. They’re just young and stupid.

In one episode you see their father, Palestinian arch-terrorist Yasser Mijhayeff, reading them a hateful bedtime story about the Jews. Yet, the two youngsters are far from interested in this hate. They want to play games like Grand Theft Auto and Guitar Hero. They want to watch Frasier, fall in love, and have facebook friends.

On the show’s website, the two creators wrote, “In contrary to what you may think we do not think bad of Arabs, we simply dislike people in general.”

I agree that it gets slightly more gruesome from the 4th episode on, but going over the edge is part of the fun. The characters say “George Michael” for “gay.” They say “banana” and “winker” quite randomly.

And my personal favorite line is when Salim says to his father, “Baqlawa, baba?” The translation: “Why not, dad?”

The music also reminded of old Egyptian game shows, especially during Ramadan (what was called “fawazeer”)


Satire can heal in so many ways, and in abnormal situations, a lot of people find it easier to make fun of things rather stay grim and have the weight of the world on your shoulders.

A commentator on YouTube called “GreatnessMyNamels” wrote this:

“people need to stop taking this thing so seriously its just a cartoon about terrorists and plus it has nothing to do with islam because before islamic terrorists there were irish terrorists and russian terrorists so no that doesnt mean all terrrorists are islamic just at the moment the ones we hear about are islamic”

I absolutely agree. To my fellow Arabs and Muslims who felt really offended, I say in a loving way, get over yourselves. To be offended by these episodes indicates that you see these characters as a representation of you. They don’t represent me or my thinking, so why should I be offended?

I’d love to see more of these episodes and their likes.

Really, check them out if you haven’t already.


-P.S.: I chose Episode 2 because I it’s my favorite.

No Israeli Misconduct in Gaza

22 04 2009


Reuters reported today that the internal investigations by Israel’s armed forces concluded that the IDF has committed no misconduct in its recent war on Gaza.

“The IDF operated under the international law and according to a very high standard of professionalism and moral standards,” Major-General Dan Harel, deputy chief of staff, told a news conference called to deliver results of a probe into five sets of war crimes allegations.

This should not come as a surprise. Please don’t be surprised. You are naïve if you’ve expected another conclusion.

Not to bust Israel’s chops here, but how is it that a state in a constant, 60-year-old war does not commit war crimes whatsoever? How is it, and excuse my ignorance, that 1,500 people die in three weeks and 5,000 more get injured, with hundreds of children and women make no misconduct whatsoever? None! Zip! Nada!

Did people not read, watch and hear all the separate reports from people on the ground, from reporters, witnesses, victims about what really happened? Do we not remember the UN schools that got hit, some of which required the personal apology of Defense Minister Barak? Do we not even care about those brave Israeli soldiers who came out and said that they did things they shouldn’t have done?

I bring your attention to this paragraph from the same article:

Military investigators uncovered several “operational and intelligence mistakes” by Israeli forces, Harel said. In one case, a bomb that was meant for a militant’s house was misdirected to a neighboring building, killing 21 civilians.

Please notice that this is a “mistake,” never a war crime. Please also notice Reuters’ word choice “misdirected.” And please, please, notice that it’s 21 civilians.

Human rights groups have called for a separate independent investigation. Israel, of course, has refused the UN proposal to inspect both IDF and Hamas’s actions. Tell me: if you’ve got nothing to hide, then why hide?

I rarely agree with Hamas and their ideology and vision (if they really have one, that is), but for this time, I will post a comment and agree with it.

“[Israel] cannot be both criminal and judge at the same time,” said a spokesman for Hamas.

From a legal point of view, this is absolutely right. Can’t play defendant and judge in the same court.

It is ludicrous to think that a conflict with so much hatred on both sides will have no war crimes whatsoever. Absolutely ridiculous. 

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.

Some Women News

14 04 2009


My own sense of sarcasm


I’ve read quite a few articles recently relating to women. I decided to get you in the loop with me. Here’s a light list:

1.     Journalist Iqbal Tamimi writes about Gaza’s women soccer team. A light-hearted piece; not your usual bombs and rubbles.

2.     A British girl and a South African girl combine forces to set up a cupcake business in Israel, a trend that is not yet sweeping in the country. I’m a BIG cupcake fan. I hope this spreads to the Arab countries around and enlighten people with some dessert bless.

3.     The long-awaited news from Laila El-Haddad and her ordeal at Cairo Airport and the Rafah Crossing is finally up on the web, in a long and detailed post. One beautifully and eloquently written paragraph captured my attention. Here’s what Laila writes about the Palestinian Authority “passport,”

        “It is a passport that allows no passage. A passport that denied me entry to my own home. This is its purpose: to mark me, brand me, so that I am easily identified and cast aside without questions; it is convenient for those giving the orders. It is a system for the collective identification of those with no identity.

4.     As marriage age gets higher in Israel, matchmakers face new challenges. This is an enjoyable story, hits home in a way. It combines a Middle-Eastern mentality and worried Jewish mothers, with Western more career-driven, and perhaps pickier young thinking. You’ll get a chuckle out of it. If not, you’ll at least find it entertaining.

5.     Rihab Al-Hazin dies in “honor killing” in the West Bank, in what the news characterizes as a rising trend. This is the kind of news that horrifies me, and almost every girl and woman out there.