Everything you ever wanted to know – and less – about Syrian underwear

Mention in The Daily Star

Kevorkian’s essay is followed by an interview with the dissident author and democracy activist Ammar Abdulhamid, whose first novel, “Menstruation,” deals with a young Islamist who can smell women’s menstrual blood. It is one of the highlights of the book, with Halasa asking thoughtful, pointed questions that provoke equally thoughtful replies, which add up to a comprehensive briefing on gender relations in Syria. He and his wife now live in the US, where he is a fellow at the Brookings Institution. To no one’s surprise, he dismisses Victoria’s Secret, one of his wife’s favorites, as “lame.” Back in Syria, he says, there “is simply much, much more.”

Getting it Right!

First posted on my short-lived blog Tharwalizations. 

Getting the right to vote is not a guarantor of anything, except a peaceful transfer of power. Women will not necessarily vote for women, and the best candidate in character and message do not necessarily win. Elections are above all about organization. Kuwaiti elections have been a mixed bag, reformist candidates won, but so did Islamist candidates, while not a single female candidate got elected, despite the fact that women were voting for the very first time in Kuwait history. All in all though, another important step on the path of democratization was just taken in Kuwait, but there is still much to learn.

Muslim reformers need to shout

First posted on my short-lived blog Tharwalizations. 

In their first women conference in Hyderabad, India, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind president Dr. Mohammed Abdul Haq Ansari asserted that, “[i]n the name of liberty, women are being sexually exploited and misused for promotion of brands. But reality is that dogs are given better treatment than women in the western countries.” Continue reading

Copts, Women & Beer

First posted on my short-lived blog Tharwalizations. 

In a conference on civil dialogue that took place a few years ago, participants discussed the possibility of conducting a serious dialogue between Islamists and secularists. I remember that, at the time and in response to an Egyptian colleague who advocated dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood in his country, we coined the term “Copts, Women and Beer” to reefer to three main issues that one needs to deal with, which are: diversity issues, gender issues and privacy issue.   Continue reading

Arab Liberals: the last hope for reform

Special to The Daily Star

An interesting phenomenon has been taking place of late: coverage in the international media of the activities of Arab and Muslim terrorists has given way, for a short while at least, to a consideration of Arab liberal intellectuals and activists and their potential role in the longed-for reform process in the Arab world.  Continue reading

Manners and Customs of Modern Day Damascenes

Not sure where this article was eventually published, but it was written around 2002 as part of a travel guide of sorts.

To speak of the manners and customs of modern-day Damascenes is not an easy task, the people of Damascus are simply too varied to allow for making the necessary generalizations in this regard.

For in addition to the multiplicity of religions, sects and ethnic groups, and the multifarious levels of westernization prevalent everywhere, the Damascene stands as a staunch “rugged individualist” basking in, rather than hiding underneath, that amazing layer of traditions which he/she has to follow to keep the vestiges of a seven thousands years old culture going. Continue reading