ISLAMOPHOBIC? How Does It Feel to Be a Problem with Donald Trump as President?

Politicians, not terrorists, are the chief instigators of Islamophobic prejudice, and with every election it gets worse. By Moustafa Bayoumi Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast If you had told me in 2008, when How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? was first published, that ten years later the United States would be in the midst of a national debate about banning Muslims from entering the country, I would have scoffed in disbelief. Of course, I knew then, as I know now, that there have been many times in American history when the nation has turned on its vulnerable minorities. But back in 2008, I had grown optimistic about the future of the country, mostly owing to the experiences I had while writing this book. The young people I wrote about in these pages faced all kinds of problems stemming largely from being Arab or Muslim at a time when that fact alone could prompt undue suspicion from others. These were ordinary young people thrust into extraordinary circumstance, and I was fortunate to witness firsthand the creativity, energy, and commitments they found to overcome the problems they faced. Here were young people who were not only determined to make their lives better but were also, in many cases, devoted to making the United States a better, more equitable place. They inspired me and gave me hope for the future. Continue reading

Refugee from the War in Yemen: An Excerpt from Mohammed Al Samawi's Memoir

The US-backed Saudi war in Yemen rages on and the killing continues. On Saturday, August 17, 2018, when the news that 40 school children on a bus in Yemen were obliterated by a bomb manufactured by Lockheed Martin reached actor Jim Carrey’s TV screen in Los Angeles, he walked into his nearby artist studio and drew this image, publishing it on his Twitter feed with the comments "40 innocent children killed on a bus in Yemen. Our ally. Our missile. Our crime":   Continue reading

Life in the Danger Zone: An Interview with Borzou Daragahi

Reporter Borzou Daragahi covering conflict in Libya in 2011 These days it's not uncommon for journalists (and citizen journalists) to become the first casualty when it comes to investigating conflict and reporting the news. According to Reporters Without Borders, 51 reporters and 10 citizen journalists have already been killed in 2018 alone. Over 300 have been imprisoned. And when not being imprisoned or shot, reporters face skeptics who scrutinize their every word. With history's heavy-hitting dictators like Stalin and Hitler calling the press "the enemy of the people," you have to wonder what page Donald Trump is on, as he plays fast and loose with the facts while accusing the press of reporting "fake news" and insisting that the media is the enemy. Continue reading

The Sephardic Way: on Jewish Life by Joyce Zonana

Joyce Zonana, an Egyptian Jew who came to the United States as a child, has always identified closely with her Arab and African roots. In this personal essay, as American Jews prepare for the September High Holidays (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), she reflects on what it means to be Jewish in the context of the Middle East, even as American Jewish identity continues to be defined by a European Ashkenazi hegemony. —TMR * Continue reading

The Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

Gaza: An Inquest into Its MartyrdomUniversity of California Press, 2018; 440 pages, hardback, $34.95An E-book version is also available. The Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza By Eric A. Gordon “The nadir of the Palestinian struggle is now,” says distinguished but controversial scholar Norman G. Finkelstein. He spoke on March 26 at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “Nothing is happening there in Palestine. There is no mass resistance.” That explains why worldwide the pro-Palestinian cause is not drawing the crowds it once did. It also explains why the USC auditorium was at most half full. As Finkelstein surveyed the audience, he pointed to one college-age man in the front row, observing that he was by far the youngest person in the room. In Gaza today, 51 percent of the population is under 18 years of age. Half of Gaza’s people would be younger than this young man. However, if the martyrdom of Gaza seems right now to be sealed in the pages of history, “We don’t know what will come tomorrow,” says the author, on a tour to promote his newest book, Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom. “So we must keep preparing the ground.” Continue reading

A 20-Year Retrospective on Arts and Activism in Southern California

By Jordan Elgrably For more than 20 years, I brought a wealth of public programs to Southern California. As I prepare to turn 60 in what has been a rich and rewarding life, here is a look back, from 1996 to 2017. Jordan Elgrably in 2014, protesting the bombing of Gaza Support Jordan Elgrably's research & writing for his 60th birthday, 2/28/18: Contribute SOME YEARS AGO, at the tail end of a painful divorce, I was working as a journalist and feature writer in Los Angeles, when the Washington Post asked me to profile an author named Victor Perera. I hadn’t previously been familiar with his work and began to prepare for our interview by reading his most recent book, a family memoir entitled The Cross and the Pear Tree, A Sephardic Journey. Perera’s story of generations of Spanish and Turkish Jews picking up and moving to flee persecution or seek economic opportunity resonated with me. My paternal grandparents had left Morocco after World War I, looking for a better life in France, where my father and most of his siblings were born and raised. My father later emigrated to America, to get away from poverty in post-WWII Europe and Morocco. And according to family rumors, the Elgrabys had once lived in Spain and Palestine. This was a time in my life when I began to explore my own sense of belonging, particularly with respect to Arab and Jewish identity. Continue reading

In a Suspicious World, Creative Arabs, Iranians Are Having a Good Year

"Goats" a play by Syrian playwright Liwaa Yazji, at London's Royal Court Theatre   By Jordan Elgrably It would be comical if it were funny: Arabs/Muslims and Iranians have become the scapegoats and villains du jour. Everywhere these days, they represent everyman’s fear. In the United States and Europe, Muslims are either immigrants who are going to cause terror attacks—hence Trump’s anti-Muslim ban, and France’s new anti-terrorism statute—or they want to annihilate somebody. In Iran, after all, ayatollahs have the A-Bomb and want to rearrange the map of the Middle East. Naturally, it’s not only politicians and media outlets that feed this frenzied rhetoric. For too long now, the great mass of Middle Easterners have been vilified by Hollywood. It’s almost as if every Arab, every Muslim is a potential terrorist until proven otherwise. Continue reading

Yasmine Hamdan Rocks L.A.

“Her music felt sincerely unrehearsed in its apparent spontaneity, yet precisely prepared in its apparent flawlessness.” By Sami Asmar (photos by Derrick Lee, music editor at Modern popular music in the Arab world is a business of mass production in a standard mold. Producers bring together lyricists and composers and match them with singers, then after some studio magic, songs are out for mass consumption. There are few exceptions where the singer is a true artist who also participates in the development of the lyrics and composition to express herself sincerely. One of these exceptions is Beirut-born Yasmine Hamdan, who broke the mold and left her mark on the pop scene quickly and with style. Continue reading

Why Non-Arabs Should Read Hisham Matar’s Memoir, "The Return"

The Libyan American's memoir of his disappeared father imparts universal values By Jordan Elgrably  Who could fail to benefit from the humanization of the “other”? Do you remember the last time you saw a movie or read a book and identified with a protagonist ostensibly very different from yourself? Escaping from the narrow prism of your own consciousness, you became utterly empathic, imagining that the challenges and hardships faced by that protagonist were your own. You became that person. Empathy at this level stretches the spirit; it also is a practical antidote for depression, because getting outside yourself, you feel larger than your ego. You realize that you are not your feelings, but something much greater. Continue reading

The Persian Connection Reviewed

Daniel Y-Li Grove and Reza Sixo Safai’s New Wave neon Noir takes us for an exhilarating ride By Lauren Marcus The Iran-Iraq War (Alfred Yaghobzadeh) Former Iranian child soldier Behrouz (Reza Sixo Safai) has never recovered from his experiences in the Iran-Iraq war. Years later, a tortured immigrant living in Los Angeles, he turns to opium for relief. His addiction leads him into the underworlds of the Persian and Russian mafias. The visuals of the film are as important as the plot. Behrouz sports Robert Smith hair, a nod to ‘80s Goth, as New Wave music plays in the background of nearly every scene. This deliberate throwback to the 1980s reflects Behrouz’s inability to move past the era when he was traumatized. The screen is bathed in hues of rose, a significant color in Iranian culture. Fever-dream images of winding roads lit only by headlights, transitions from normal coloring—to pink and red-stained—to opaque magenta, then back to normal—render Los Angeles impossible to recognize, even for a native. Continue reading