Sunday, February 28, 2016

Weekly Report 3: Mohammad Assaf

            Many singers and artists begin their career a multitude of ways. For Mohammad Assaf, this way was by being a wedding singer in a refugee camp in Gaza; from there he went on to win “Arab Idol”. After Mohammad Assaf won “Arab Idol” he became a superstar in the Arab World, and now that he has “conquered” that side of the world he is attempting to do the same with North America.
            In 2013 Mohammad Assaf went on a nine week tour of all the larger cities in North America, from Detroit to Tampa, which have a large amount of Arab World immigrants in them. Every show was packed during this tour and tickets were very expensive, about $350 per ticket and entire extended families would go to see a show. Mohammad Assaf does not draw a specific gender or age group towards his performances. It was said that grown men rushed to touch him, and mothers in head scarves embraced their squealing daughters.” This quote alone shows that Mohammad Assaf draws in people of different ages and genders; this could be the very reason why he won “Arab Idol”. A woman who was interviewed said that the reactions of some women were very similar to that of women at a concert such as NSync; women would throw kaffiyeh, a Bedouin Arab’s kerchief used as a headdress, similar to women throwing their panties up on stage.
            There are many aspects of the music business that are hard to stay away from, especially politics. As much as Mohammad Assaf tried to focus on his music and stay away from politics, he did become entangled in them. The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, endorsed him during “Arab Idol” which then led to Mohammad Assaf being a good-will ambassador and getting a diplomatic passport. One can come to the conclusion that this is because his concerts in North America can be said to bring different cultures together.
            His story is one that many people know and is a big reason why he is so popular. It is a rags to riches story, so to speak. He grew up in a refugee camp and spent the first part of his life suffering, but now things are better for him. He is a pop star now with political influence. Moral of this story is that anything can happen.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reflection 2: Al-Andalus: Legacy of Spain

Today in class we listened to a lecture by Dr. Deveny where we talked and learned about the connection between Spain and the Arab World. The connection is much more prevalent than I had ever thought about or learned about in high school. The connection began with the Pyrenees Mountain range. Many people say that Europe ends with the Pyrenees, which would mean that they consider Spain to not be a part of Europe. Well where does that put Spain with regards to the world map? In Africa – in a way. Because of Africa’s close proximity to Spain, this left the doors open to people to immigrate. This is what leads to one of the more interesting connections Dr. Deveny talked about.

There were many topics discussed throughout the lecture, but perhaps the topic that surprised and intrigued me the most were that of the languages that surrounded this time period. The Arabic and Spanish languages are more alike than it would seem. A prime example of this is in the song Non me mordas ya habibi. There are words in the song – such as mordas, quero, and toto – that are cognates of the Spanish words muerdas, quiero, and todo. These are just a few of the examples of the cognates that can be found between these two languages. Dr. Deveny discussed with us the fact that there are words in the Spanish language, such as alfombra and ojala, that resemble the Arabic language because of the prefixes in the words. The main one that popped out is ojala. When one separates ojala into oj-ala we can see that “ala” is apart of the word. In Spanish ojala means hope and in Arabic Allah means God; in many people’s eyes, hope and God go hand in hand. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Weekly Report 2: Arab and Muslim contributions to world civilization

In 2010 Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize at the young age of 17. She is very famous not just in Pakistan, but throughout the world because she is the second person in the country to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. The only other person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize from Pakistan is Abdus Salam in 1979 for his study on subatomic particles in physics.
Malala Yousafzai is memorable for many reasons. One main reason, and the reason she won the Nobel Peace Prize, is that she is an advocate for education for girls, which later led to an assassination attempt on her by the Taliban. Many people from her homeland do not support her, which often leads to people disgracing her and criticizing all her hard work fighting to get girls the education they deserve. Many of those people also deem her “a stooge of Western interests”, an agent for the CIA, and useless. Among those who do not support Malala Yousafzai, there are those who support her, her goals, and her achievements. Those are the people who wish Malala would return back to Pakistan. However, because of all the problems those who oppose her have caused it is unlikely that she will go back anytime soon.
This article is one that is very important, and I think it is a big step forward in our world that this story was in the news. Malala was 17 years old and making a bigger contribution to the world than more people could even hope to. These are the types of stories that need the focus in today’s world. Having someone as influential as Malala gives hope.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Weekly Report 1: Syria

By the end of 2014 the opposition forces of Syria seized Sheikh Miskin, a city in the northern countryside of Daraa. However, On January 26, 2016, with the help of Russian air cover which began on December 28, regained control over Sheikh Miskin. On January 26, the Syrian Army restored security and stability to Sheikh Miskin following numerous successes where the army regained control of multiple sites including the Brigade 82 camp and al-Has hill. They were also successful in destroying headquarters of terrorist cells, destroying supplies and members. All of this was accomplished with the aid of Russian air power. 
A reporter and expert on military affairs, Kamel Sakr, reported that regaining control over Sheikh Miskin is a crucial step because of its location and size. The city links Daraa to Damascus. It is also next to the crossing point for militants. Moreover, with a population of 45,000 it is known to be one of the largest cities in the Daraa province. Sakr has also stated that having control over just Sheikh Miskin is inadequate to stop the opposing forces. Sakar went on and said that the Syrian army needs to move west to make a significant impact on the advance needed on the Daraa front. In addition, Moscow has increased its military support for the regime because the Syrian government see the progress being made on the ground as a political gain, and Russia knows that the advances being made on the ground will give Syria a better position during negotiations.
There are many reasons why the opposition force lost control over Sheikh Miskin, the main reason is the because of the 33 straight days of Russian airstrikes. Mohammed Ibrahim, a media activist, reported that over 75 raids were launched on the first day alone. According to Ibrahim, the second main reason for the loss of control in the city is because of the weather. He reported that the conditions deteriorated the resilience of the opposing forces. There was also confusion of the oppositions side which led to the undermining of their resistance, and this confusion was cause by the lack of joint operations and scattered Free Syrian Army (FSA) activity.
On February 1, Iyad Abdul Hamid al-Daws, a captain in the Yarmouk Army located in Daraa, went on television and said that the support for the opposing forces in Daraa is “modest and insufficient to achieve victory”. He also stated that they have no type of anti-aircraft missiles to compete with Russia’s air force, and while the opposing forces are preparing for a comeback it may not be possible for them to take back the territory if Russian air support continues for the regime. Similarly, on February 3 the regime lifted the opposition’s siege on Nubl and al-Zahra crities in the norther Aleppo countryside; this operation led to the possibility of the supply routes of opposition fighters being cut. Along with the supply routes possibly being cut, this may influence the government’s plans causing them to move north sooner.