Entries Tagged 'Culture' ↓

Ed Husain: this week’s Prester John

Ed Hussein Prester John was a fabulous Christian King of the East, famed for his power and wisdom. European Christendom could be saved from the vast ascendant armies of the Islamic world, if only word could be got to him to attack the Islamic empire from behind. Together the eastern Nestorian king John and Western knights would defeat Islam and save Europe. A letter from John, widely circulated in Europe by the clergy, added fuel to the fire. John’s kingdom of 72 states, was a crime free paradise surrounded by the Muslim horde. The small matter of John being an entirely fictitious creation of the fevered imagination of European Christianity prevented this Baldric-esque “cunning plan”.

One thousand years later, little has changed in the dynamic between the Rum and the Muslims. Now however, the western consensus is that it is the Islam at the heart of the Muslim world that is antithetical to “progress”, that Muslims must therefore be separated from a coherent understanding of Islam, and that the only person who can achieve this is someone from within the faith. A theological Saracen version of the Prester John fable.

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Arabs: The New Cool

In the last three days, I’ve counted three young men and two women — non-Arabs and presumably non-Muslim — wearing Yasser Arafat-style scarves wrapped around their necks. That might not be uncommon if one was talking about a university campus but this was just walking around the CBD, riding public transport and entering offices. Unlike the socialist types one sees around university wearing those things as a sort of political statement, these people seemed to be wearing them more as a fashion statement. Maybe you’ve noticed the same thing too.

So what does it all mean? Well, I don’t know but according to this article in Heeb Magazine, Arabs are now cool and the emergence of the keffiyeh as a hot fashion accessory is proof of that.

With keffiyehs wrapped around the necks of hipsters coast to coast, one of the hottest bands of the moment going by the name Beirut, and Comedy Central snapping up shows like the “Axis of Evil Comedy Tour” and The Watch List, it seems like America’s pop-cultural tastebuds are primed for Middle Eastern flavors—for better or worse, it’s becoming cool to be Arab-American.

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The western way of war


Jihadists are in for a rude shock when the see the poise, the steadfastness and determination on the faces and in the voices of the young lions of the west. Indeed, the WW2 generation is not dead.

I was reminded of the battle of Salamis, Alexander’s assault on Aoronos. How can anyone stand against such courage?

Aragorn: Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you *stand, Men of the West!*

Thank God for blacks and Hispanics huh?

Paul Johnson on Intellectuals

Paul Johnson, the British polymath and author, is one of my favourite writers and Intellectuals is one of his most fascinating books. I had reason to revisit it today and the opening paragraphs caught my attention:

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Iraq goes ‘pop’

Victory! Next stop: peaceRegular readers of Austrolabe may remember a previous post in which I offered a review of Allegra Stratton’s abysmal take on the modern Middle East, Muhajababes.

But to refresh, I noted early on in the piece that nowadays, the Middle East is pop culture-saturated:

I could tell that in some ways, peculiarly enough, there were people in other parts of the world who took their situation more seriously than themselves.

My feelings were confirmed when the next day I sat in front of the TV, flicking channels and finally settling on one of the many music stations taking the Arab world by storm. This one was called “Superstar”, not to be confused with the pan-Arab Idol show of the same name, and it ran music videos and concert clips 24/7, SMS messages of love and flirtation scrolling constantly across the bottom of the screen in gaudy technicolour. A family friend later confirmed that they were watching Mazzika, another of these music channels, more than Al-Jazeera. It all seemed very bizarre to me, but I concluded that in such times of trouble, no matter how misguided it seemed, music videos, with their cheeky storylines and buffed, good-looking and impossibly happy actors, obviously served as an antidote. Forget occupation and war — Nancy Ajram had a new album out.

And so it is that Iraq, a country in absolute chaos, drowning in bloodshed, kidnappings, and war, is momentarily united because of an Idol-esque show called Star Academy.

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