Fake news, fake news, fake news! They are everywhere, like swarms of locusts, devouring truth and infecting people’s minds. Mainstream media along with social media platforms are alarmed, mobilizing their resources to contain this epidemic. Numerous online resource centers and information pages have been set up to help people identify fake news and protect their minds from their toxicity. Yesterday, when I opened my Facebook page, I was greeted with a link to a page that lists 10 tips to spot false news. The website of the German news broadcaster tagesschau currently operates a project against fake news called Faktenfinder (Fact Finder) which is a resource center with basic information about hot topics in the form of questions and answers to help people avoid false information being spread about this topic.
I wrote a draft of this post two years ago (March 2015) in my notebook, but only now that I have edited it and posted it online. I have avoided making any substantial changes, so that it remains true as much as possible to my thoughts back then.
Those who know me personally or have read some of my posts here (Oriental(ist) Metal Music or “Is God really Dead?”) know me as a dedicated heavy metal fan. For 15 years, almost half my life, I listened almost exclusively to heavy metal music (along with few hard and progressive rock bands). I have also been a dedicated concert-goer, sometimes travelling to other countries just to attend a metal band I like. Heavy metal was in fact more than just music for me. It was, for most of these 15 years, an identity and an influence on the way I think and behave. I even wrote my MA thesis, back in 2010, about heavy metal in Syria and for a while I was thinking about doing a PhD in this field. As a faithful metalhead I looked down at all other styles of music, especially hip hop, and bragged how heavy metal surpassed it in sophistication, authenticity, anti-commercialism, and fan-dedication. In fact, two months ago, I would not have been able to name 10 hip hop songs, and if you asked my what was your favorite hip hop song, I would have said Gay Fish.
So after all that to turn to hip hop within less than two months came as a surprise to me personally before anyone else. So I have spent the past two weeks reflecting on this “radical” change and trying to understand how come it ever happened and why hip hop and not any other style of music. What has changed in my life or my environment that helped make this transformation? I will try in this post to give some answers to these questions.Continue reading
Earlier this year, on a cold January morning, I was walking around in the snowy streets of Stockholm, not sure how to spend the few hours before the departure of my bus on an 18-hour journey to the far north of Sweden, when I came across a big brown church in a side street near the main train station. Being interested in religion, I decided to walk in and have a look in order to get an impression of Swedish churches.
When I went in, which was few minutes after it had opened its doors to visitors, there were already 5 or 6 people inside. Some of them seemed to be homeless people who spent the night inside protected from the freezing cold. They wore rough clothes and had blankets and mats with them. There were also two people praying and another person sitting near the door, who, I assume, work for the church.
Right after I published my previous post about how Dawkins is creating a cult of personality around himself and using it to scam his atheist followers, a friend of mine mentioned the following article “Richard Dawkins launches children’s summer camp for atheists,” which was published by The Telegraph in 2009. The article reported that Dawkins was setting up summer camps for children akin to those organized by churches and other religious organizations, which suggests that Dawkins “makes atheism look even more like the thing he is rallying against,” according to a spokesman of the Church of England commenting on Dawkins’ plans. This article confirms exactly what I have said in my previous post; atheism, especially the one preached by Dawkins is less the absence of religion and more an alternative religion.
Last week during my journey back from Prague to Leipzig, where I live, I had a conversation with a German lady who was sitting opposite to me in the train. When I told her that I study religion, she remarked categorically that religion for her is nothing more than a scam on a grand scale to rip people off and take their money away. It is not surprising to hear such a view from a person who grew up in East Germany—the most godless place on Earth—and it is arguably an opinion that is shared by many atheists around the world, including the neo-atheist “saint” Richard Dawkins:
Imagine a world with no religion. Imagine no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as ‘Christ-killers’, no Northern Ireland ‘troubles’, no ‘honour killings’, no shiny-suited bouffant-haired televangelists fleecing gullible people of their money.
The God Delusion, p. 23-24
I am not writing here to argue against such a view of religion. It is true that many preachers, clerics, and religious organizations collect money from people dishonestly to enrich themselves, although I believe a lot of the money raised via religious channels is used for fair and charitable purposes. I would like, however, to point out that atheism too can be converted into a scamming enterprise, and Dawkins is apparently doing just that.
Few days ago three members of the radical feminist group FEMEN disrupted an event of Berlin’s Islamic Week by charging topless into the hall where it was taking place with anti-Islamic slogans painted all over their bodies. A number of policemen seized the women and dragged them outside, while the event proceeded as scheduled. The question that I would like to answer in this post is whether this act of protest, provocative as it may be, constitutes a legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or simply a form of hate speech. I’m not concerned here with the method of protest, but the language used.
In 1869 Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev published the first version of the modern periodic table of elements in which he classified chemical elements according to the number of protons in their atoms. It is a fascinating tool to categorize and organize chemical elements. Elements which share similar physical characteristics and chemical behavior are put together in groups, periods, and blocks to make it easier for students of chemistry and scientists to work with them. As a student of social sciences, I would like in this post to give some reflections about the implications of organizing elements in this particular way.
يرتبط مصطلح “العلمانية” لدى المواطن العربي (سواءً كان مؤيداً أم معارضاً لها) بعلاقة سلبية مع الدين من قبيل الفصل أو التضاد، فالمؤيدون للعلمانية ينظرون بريبة لحضور الدين في الحياة العامة، ويفضّلون بقاءه بعيداً محصوراً ضمن نطاق الحياة الشخصية للفرد، لذلك ترتبط العلمانية بالنسبة إليهم بمفهوم الفصل: الفصل بين الدين والسياسية، الفصل بين الدين والتعليم، إلخ. في المقابل ينظر المعارضون للعلمانية على أنها أيديولوجيا عدائية تجاه الدين، بل ويربطها بعضهم بالإلحاد المطلق، لذلك تصبح العلمانية في نظرهم ضد الدين.
لا بد وأن هذا البعد السلبي لعلاقة العلمانية بالدين يرجع بدرجة كبيرة إلى طبيعة التيارات العلمانية الغربية الأكثر تأثيراً على العالم العربي، والتي ساهمت بالتالي إلى نحوٍ بعيد في صياغة مفهوم العلمانية لديه، على رأس هذه التيارات تأتي العلمانية الفرنسية (والتي تعرف في بلاد المغرب العربي باللائكية)، وقد طبق هذا النموذج إلى حدٍّ بعيد في تركيا المجاورة على يد مصطفى كمال أتاتورك (العلمانية الكمالية)، كما تم تطبيقه إلى حدٍّ ما في تونس على يد الحبيب بورقيبة، وقد أثر كذلك على العديد من الأنظمة السياسية العربية التي خلفها الاستعمار الفرنسي.
Cover for the most recent album Wa Ma Khufiya Kana A’atham (2013) by Bahrainian oriental metal band Narjahanam
Metal music has gone global. It is a fact that is recognized by most fans and followers of this genre of popular music. Many documentary films, academic books, and media features have documented excitedly the globalization of metal music tracing it to the farthest corners of the globe.
One of the regions in which metal music has thrived in the past decade is the Middle East. Following the explosion of folk metal—a variety of metal music in which folk tunes, instruments, and themes are fused with conventional metal music—in European metal scenes some 15 years ago, many Middle Eastern bands have attempted to create their own version of folk metal. The term “oriental metal” has hence entered metal nomenclature to refer to bands that incorporate “oriental” sounds with metal music.
Lizzie Velasquez, who speaks in the video above, is a writer and a motivational speaker. She was born with a very rare genetic condition that makes her unable to gain weight no matter how much she eats. She has never weighed more than 28 kg, and this makes her look very “ugly.” She narrates in this video (8:30) the pain and emotional trauma she experienced when she found out—as she was still in high school—that someone had posted a video of her on YouTube describing her as “the world’s ugliest woman.” One of the commentators told her: “Lizzie, please, please just do the world a favor, put a gun to your head, and kill yourself!”
She, however, never allowed herself to be imprisoned in the image the people wanted to impose on her. Instead of hiding behind closed doors, she decided to become a motivational speaker and confront people face to face. She also wanted to become a writer and now she is about to publish her third book at the age 24. I strongly recommend that you watch this video, which is not only about her story, and not only about “beauty” and “ugliness”, but also about how to define yourself as a person instead of letting other people define you.