Her Secret Vice

By Arjun Janah (Babui)
?What’s your hobby?? asked her friend.
?You heard me. Speak, and don’t pretend.
I told you mine was postage stamps,
A pastime I acquired from gramps.
But you have never told me. Speak.
I’ve asked you several times this week.?
She could not speak, for quite a while.
But then, she tried to force a smile.
?Your game is up.? She told herself.
?It can’t be kept to just yourself,
This thing you do, your secret shame.
Perhaps she’ll understand, not blame.? Continue reading “Her Secret Vice”

EXPERIENCE, EXPLORE, ENGAGE YOURSELF IN AUDIO-VISUAL POETRY

CALL FOR PARTICIPATION 
diwans.org is a participatory web project proposing an intercultural dialogue through artistic responses.

People around the world are invited to produce audio-visual creations inspired by the Diwan poetry of Persian poet Hafez and German writer Goethe and send their own creative interpretations. 
diwans.org is an artwork authored by everyone. Continue reading “EXPERIENCE, EXPLORE, ENGAGE YOURSELF IN AUDIO-VISUAL POETRY”

Hafez and Goethe

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DIWANS.ORG is a participatory web project proposing an intercultural dialogue through artistic responses. DIWANS.ORG is generated by people around the world who are invited to produce and upload audio-visual creations inspired by the poetry of the Persian poet Hafez and the German writer Goethe. It is a contemporary interactive poetry bundle, in which you can contribute with an audio-visual response and discover which creations are inspired by your own work. You can also go deeply into in the related contexts or simply enjoy the audio-visual poems. Continue reading “Hafez and Goethe”

?Extradite me, I?m British!?

Event | Review:  (The Rich Mix, London)

 By Samira Quraishy

On Saturday, hundreds of human rights activists, politicians, artists and concerned citizens gathered in London to highlight the plight of Talha Ahsan and other British citizens detained without trial for years and facing unjust extradition to the US. Samira Quraishy reports for Ceasefire.

Hamja Ahsan, brother of Talha Ahsan and Campaign Leader for the Free Talha Ahsan Campaign (photo: Aimee Valinski) #ExtraditeNight

?Extradite me I?m British!? the t-shirt reads as we walked into the Rich Mix! arts theatre in Bethnal Green. The venue was packed out and there were near to no seats left, but my husband and I eventually found a seat near the front. Looking around me, I saw the familiar faces of fellow activists alongside those of popular personalities currently engaged in the fight for prisoners? rights; particularly the rights of individuals incarcerated without charge in British high security prisons. Many of these prisoners are Muslims being held on trumped up terror-related charges.
The aim of tonight?s event was to raise awareness about the four men facing imminent extradition to the US should the British government continue to dance to America?s tune. The four men are Talha Ahsan, Babar Ahmad, Richard O?Dwyer and Gary McKinnon. From the films showcased and the discussions that were had, it soon became apparent that the former two are facing the arbitrary and soul crushing hand of US law simply because of their faith. But this does not mean O?Dwyer and McKinnon will have it easy either.
Ahsan?s younger brother, Hamja Ahsan, has been running a campaign with the help of family, friends and a new community of people who have been affected by the arbitrary anti-terror legislation put in place by the Labour Party under Tony Blair ? most notably the notorious 2003 US-UK extradition treaty . This is not to say that the current coalition government is free from guilt. According to David Bermingham (one of the Natwest 3 and now a campaigner against US extradition), the Tories and LibDems are worse than Labour in that they pledged to change the law should they came to power, but have failed to do so.
The evening was filled with messages of support from family members and activists alike; an open letter to Samantha Cameron, written by Talha?s mother, was read out to a quiet room, as she made a heartfelt plea, mother to mother. In a video message, Robert King, the only free member of the Angola 3, stated that ?if he (Ahsan) is sent to an American prison where he faces the possibility of 70 years, he will die in prison?if Great Britain extradites Talha to the United States, he will be executed?maybe not imminently?America has many ways to kill?. Actor and fellow campaigner, Riz Ahmed, also lent his support to the cause and short message from human rights lawyer Shami Chakrabati was delivered.
Hamja informed those present that since the unforgiving verdict on their case from the European Courts of Human Rights was delivered, he has now taken the campaign on fulltime dedicating himself to his brother?s cause and subsequently to the campaigns of other prisoners in British prisons. And this is true for all other family members and friends of those waiting extradition. When asked if he could have imagined his brother being detained 6 years ago, Hamja shakes his head emphatically stating that they had both been at a rally in support of Babar Ahmad shortly before his arrest. ?It can happen to anyone!?, he said.
The evening is dotted with light-hearted moments provided by British comedians Ahir Shah  and Jeff Mirza, but by far my favourite personality of the night was the formidable Ashfaq Ahmad, Babar Ahmad?s father. Thrown into the thick of things almost overnight, Ashfaq, or ?uncle Ashfaq? as Moazzam Begg likes to call him, has been heading the campaign for his son?s release since 2003. A man of many depths, over the years Ashfaq has won the hearts of many with his sincerity and integrity in the face of great injustices and heartache as his son essentially lost a decade of his life.
Indeed the most tear jerking moments were when we watched the documentary on extradition by the Islamic Human Rights Commission in which both Ahsan and Ahmad?s fathers are interviewed and professed their desires to see their sons walk free and rejoin their families. In the documentary, human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce, highlighted the shocking details of Babar Ahmad?s traumatizing arrest; police officers were briefed in such a way that it was deemed similar to ?activating attack dogs?.
The evening was structured in a way whereby the audience was immediately drawn in –  rather than the usual speeches, we were treated to a more relaxed and personal discussion with the key personalities sitting on stage and discussing their personal stories and perspectives, and sharing their ups and downs.
We had Victoria Brittain in conversation with Moazzam Begg;  Begg in conversation with Ashfaq and Hamja. At one point Begg mentions that ?Uncle Ashfaq is a very funny and brave man?, to which Ashfaq mumbled away from his mic, ?I?m married?I have to be brave!? ? Only the few closest to the stage could have caught his quip. While you can hear the pain etched in his voice when he talks about his son, the most notable aspect that comes through about Ahmad, and indeed Ahsan, is their ability to give strength and to inspire others.
Fellow human rights campaigner and the patron for Cage Prisoners, Victoria Brittain, talked about her conversations with the prisoners; Ahsan?s eloquence and concern for his family, and Babar?s thoughtfulness and anxiety for other prisoners are constantly eluded to by all those who have been privileged to speak to them. In fact Ahmad prioritises his replies when writing to those who have written to him ? other prisoners first, then children and then any other well-wishers.
When later asked what she thought of the event, Brittain stated it was ?an important reaffirmation for the families of the men facing extradition; that they have much support from people in the UK from many walks of life through this traumatic long waiting period. And, although the catchy title of the event focused on the British names of Babar and Talha, it was good for everyone to remember too the less well-known man in the same small deportation unit at Long Lartin prison, namely Egyptian lawyer Adel Abdul Bari, who has been fighting his extradition to the US for 13 long years.?
It seems that beyond the new development in the form of a private prosecutor who has put forward ?20,000 to try Ahmad and Ahsan here in the UK, all avenues have been exhausted in trying to get the four Brits? cases heard. However, whatever the case: whether the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) accepts this proposal or not, the families of these prisoners are not going to give up the fight.
Ashfaq Ahmad confessed that there had been several moments of helplessness in the beginning, but it was his son Babar that had made him strong enough to continue campaigning. He asserted that if his son were to eventually get extradited, that ?we are mentally prepared for it and will continue the fight [sic]?. Begg added that early on in his imprisonment, Ahmad had asked him for tips on how to survive the US prison system, and even Guantanamo if it came to that.
Throughout the evening the audience was treated to Talha Ahsan?s poetry recited by an array of speakers including Brit actress Manjinder Virk; award winning author A.L Kennedy introduced  ?The Rose Garden? by highlighting the injustice of his detention and stating five ?terrible things? he was guilty of: that he was a young active man, that he was Muslim, that he has Asperger?s, that he was actively spreading  the truth of the injustices in the world and finally, that he was a poet.
Just as the evening was drawing to a close, his brother received a note and with pride read out that Ahsan had won a Platinum award for his poem ?Grieving? in the Koestler awards (the highest Koestler award- Talha had entered into the Koestler Trust Award Writing Awards for prisoners.) Most of us left feeling a) hopeful and impassioned that we need to continue fighting this ridiculous law, and b) concerned that if they do get extradited, a precedent will be set. What?s to say we or our loved ones won?t be next?

Hafez and Goethe


This artistic web project will be publicly launched in Bozar, Brussels on Saturday 29th of September 2012, at 18h.
diwans.org is a living web project that immerses the web user in audio-visual poetry inspired by the poems of Persian poet Hafez and German writer Goethe. The universe of the site reflects an intercultural artistic dialogue and invites you to answer with own sound- and image creations. diwans.org will grow and change as we grow and change, reflecting in a poetic mode how we perceive the relation between different cultures.

Polymorfilms has the pleasure to invite you to the international launch of the participative web project diwans.org.
The project will be launched with a unique live performance taking place on September 29th  at 18h, during the Sufi Night at BOZAR, Brussels. Continue reading “Hafez and Goethe”

'Ikhras', inspired by Muntadhar al-Zaidi, Malcolm X

By rahnuma ahmed

 

'Ikhras', inspired by Muntadhar al-Zaidi, Malcolm X?? Carlos Latuff (Brazilian cartoonist)?

Ikhras, the Arabic word for “shut up”, is the name of a website http://ikhras.com/ which nominates a House Arab or a House Muslim every month, for having earned the glory of receiving the hurled at shoe, so that he does… well, precisely that. Shuts up.
Exactly what Muntadhar al-Zaidi had done to former US president George W. Bush Jr to get him to Ikhras!
Bush, while on his fourth visit to Iraq as the sitting president, was addressing a press conference at the prime minister’s palace in Baghdad (December 14, 2008). He spoke of having built “a freer, safer, and more hopeful world.” Of having shown the people in the Middle East that “America stands firmly for liberty and justice and peace.” Of having ensured that the next US president would inherit a “stable foundation for the future.”?Whoosh. “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog,” al-Zaidi yelled, as he flung the first shoe.
The second followed, within split seconds. “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.”
But Ikhras’ monthly shoe awards, as its mission statement pronounces,? is not for white oppressors but for House Arabs and House Muslims. Its editors draw on Malcolm X, Black American revolutionary leader, who, in these memorable words had distinguished between Field Negroes and House Negroes in a powerful speech in 1964 (the video has been uploaded on Ikhras’ website):
“Back during slavery, when Black people like me talked to the slaves, they didn’t kill ’em, they sent some old house Negro along behind him to undo what he said. You have to read the history of slavery to understand this. There were two kinds of Negroes. There was that old house Negro and the field Negro.? The house Negro always looked out for his master. When the field Negroes got too much out of line, he held them back in check. He put them back on the plantation. The house Negro lived better than the field Negro. He ate better, he dressed better, and he lived in a better house. He ate the same food as his master and wore his same clothes. And he could talk just like his master — good diction. And he loved his master more than his master loved himself. If the master got hurt, he’d say: “What’s the matter, boss, we sick?” When the master’s house caught afire, he’d try and put out the fire. He didn’t want his master’s house burnt. He never wanted his master’s property threatened. And he was more defensive of it than his master was. That was the house Negro. Continue reading “'Ikhras', inspired by Muntadhar al-Zaidi, Malcolm X”

By Any Means Necessary?

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By Arjun Janah

By Any Means Necessary?
By any means necessary!
That was a phrase used by Malcolm X, I believe, for which he was reviled.
But we see it in action here, as police check microphones to follow orders.
Ultimately, their orders are coming, not from their superiors in the police hierarchy,
but from those higher up in the feeding chain on which our society is based.
Free speech, demonstrations, including sit-downs and sit-ins, are fine, if in other countries
— or even here as long as they do not challenge the premises, authority and operation of
the feeding chain and its associated hierarchies.
By any means necessary? Those giving the cops their orders appear to believe in Malcolm
X’s dictum.
Note that guns were drawn and pointed by the police at regular intervals during the retreat.
After witnessing what they had just seen, many in the crowd were incensed. The police
saw that. This was a remarkably docile and disciplined crowd — of university students in
an almost rural campus (U.C. Davis, where the agriculture school used to be a major draw)
far from the turmoil of the big cities. But the situation could have deteriorated further, quickly.
I know that if I were there and seen sitting students sprayed at close quarters with burning
chemicals on their faces and then set upon and handcuffed with arms twisted behind their
backs, I might probably not have shown the restraint (or caution or wisdom) exhibited by
the onlooking students. There are such things as gut reactions beyond one’s control, at
least in my and I would hazard in many others’ cases. Guns can’t stop such things.

Photo by Oregonian staff photographer Randy L. Rasmussen

Guns have and will again be used — and people will die and be blamed for provoking their own
deaths — as the killings are justified and even celebrated by the brain-washed segments of our
population — brainwashed, by the way, by many decades of what amounts to censorship and
propaganda by the media to divide workers from workers.
Just yesterday afternoon, right after school ended and I stepped out to get a cup of coffee before
returning to the building to do the endless prep and other work there, I was harangued by an older
gentleman at a store right by the school. He insisted that a young person bloodied in a picture (on
the Daily News cover) of the OWS protest Thursday here in NY City — in reaction to their eviction
was being paid by Obama, the unions and the public workers, including teachers like me, all of whom
were socialists and parasites, with Obama being, in his words, one of those “nigger rich”. I told him
that though I was no supporter of Obama or of Clinton before him (whom he also reviled), who I thought
the real parasites were and who the true creators of wealth.
He was incensed and cursed me out as f****ing communist. This was a man who watched the TV news and
perhaps read newspapers. He quoted articles from the NY Times and the NY Post and recommended Fox
News to me. I suspect he might have heard about the newspaper articles on that channel. I had told him
that both papers were anti-union and anti-worker, with the Post only being more rabidly so.
This is what we are up against in this country — and, I suspect, in many others. Politicians — both
Tories and Labor, and no doubt the Liberals (who are not liberal in the sense used in this country)
used to bow down to Rupert Murdoch — until recently, when his spying obsession began
to interfere with, instead of support, his wheeling, dealing, blackmailing king-making one.
So now we have the systematic War on Workers, supported by other workers — as well as these
violent actions on protestors — even non-violent students staging a sit-down protest on their own
university campus.
Shades of Kent State or of Tien An Men Square?
This is America — or many another country, for that matter.
Arjun

The kindness of strangers

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By Babui / Arjun

He lived as an exile, by himself, all alone,
Far from his country, his family, his home.
And he was a loner — lacked warmth in his heart.
Of company, friendship, he knew not the art.
He lived in a city — in millions, but one,
In the city, where fortunes are lost and are won.
But even in cities, the caring heart beats.
And he was befriended by strangers on streets.
******
To the likes of the stranger, we’re wary and distant,
And yet, that may change, in the space of an instant.
The face of the stranger is shuttered and cold,
And who can observe it but those who are bold?
There are some, who are lonesome — or driven by lust;
And they, at a stranger, their gazes may thrust.
There are some, who’re not used to the city-folk’s way;
And so, at the stranger, their gazes can stray.
There are some, who have lived in the city for long;
And yet, they are innocents, still don’t belong.
And each of the ones I have listed he met,
And others unlisted — we safely may bet.
******
For the nature of humans is social — and so
We reach out to others — though others say no.
The child, she is curious, and yet she’s afraid.
She looks at the stranger, though nothing is said.
She sees in a stranger both angel and devil,
A bounty most precious — and whispers of evil.
And the parent that guards her is wary as well.
How many, the tales that the TV shows tell!
For though, in a village, the children have trust,
In the midst of the city, precaution’s a must.
No different, we, than the cats and the kittens.
For novelty scares as novelty beckons.
******
So back to the exile, abandoned awhile,
The one, who but rarely could manage a smile.
He lived by himself, did his shopping and went
Back to his refuge, increasingly bent.
And when he was aged and he hardly could see,
At crossings, he’d stand and conspicuous be.
And in less than a minute (though sometimes in more),
Along would come one, who our faith would restore.
And every such “angel” would help him across,
And leave him to carry on further with cross.
And some would have issue with term that I use.
Can one, who does duty, the others excuse?
******
But judge them not harshly, the ones who passed by,
And left him to stand there. And ask not for why.
But be like that exile. Be grateful, that some
Do still have the heart, when beckoned, to come.
And those, who had leisure and watched him for years,
They saw how he managed, despite all their fears.
For he was befriended, when all could be lost,
By strangers who helped him, and often at cost.
Strange are the ways of the world that we’re in.
We note not the virtues. We notice the sin.
And strange are the twists and the turns of the world.
A moment — and deep in the abyss we’re hurled.
******
For now he’s been taken to live in a “home”
That’s wrongly so named — and he lies there alone.
And yet, there are workers and residents there,
Who help him, his troubles with patience to bear.
And troubles are many, neglect is but one.
So easy to lose, what with labor was won!
Yet surely, without all the help he receives,
From those who give freely, his living would cease.
There are actions of kindness, with little return,
Save for the knowledge of serving, in turn.
And these are the acts, as we struggle to cope,
That say, “Where there’s heart, you have reason to hope.”
******
He once was an exile, by himself, all alone,
Far from his country, his family, his home.
And still, he’s a loner — the warmth in his heart
Is rarely expressed — as he knows not the art.
And yet, in the midst of the city of dangers,
He still is befriended, by those who were strangers.
On the kindness of strangers, he lives out his years.
They share in his joys and they share in his tears.
2011 August 21st, Sun.
Brooklyn

Poems of war, peace, women, power

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By Suheir Hammad

I will not
dance to your war
drum. I will
not lend my soul nor
my bones to your war
drum. I will
not dance to your
beating. I know that beat.
It is lifeless. I know
intimately that skin
you are hitting. It
was alive once
hunted stolen
stretched. I will
not dance to your drummed
up war. I will not pop
spin break for you. I
will not hate for you or
even hate you. I will
not kill for you. Especially
I will not die
for you. I will not mourn
the dead with murder nor
suicide. I will not side
with you or dance to bombs
because everyone else is
dancing. Everyone can be
wrong. Life is a right not
collateral or casual. I
will not forget where
I come from. I
will craft my own drum. Gather my beloved
near and our chanting
will be dancing. Our
humming will be drumming. I
will not be played. I
will not lend my name
nor my rhythm to your
beat. I will dance
and resist and dance and
persist and dance. This heartbeat is louder than
death. Your war drum ain?t
louder than this breath.

Poet With a Kodak and a Restless Eye

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By?HOLLAND COTTER

Published: September 12, 2010

WASHINGTON ? The poet?Allen Ginsberg, who died in 1997, adored life, feared death and craved fame. These obsessions seemed to have kept him, despite his practice of Buddhist meditation, from sitting still for long. He was constantly writing, teaching, traveling, networking, chasing lovers, sampling drugs, pushing political causes and promoting the work of writer friends.

?? The Allen Ginsberg LLC

?Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg?: Neal Cassady and Natalie Jackson in San Francisco, in the show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.?More Photos ?

In the early 1950s he began to photograph these friends in casual snapshots, meant to be little more than souvenirs of a shared time and ethos. Years later his picture taking ? often of the same friends, now battered by life or approaching death ? became more formal and artful, as if he were trying to freeze his subjects? faces and energies, and to show off his photographic skills, for the history books.
Nearly 80 pictures, early and late, many with handwritten inscriptions, are on view through Thursday in ?Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg? at theNational Gallery of Art here. Some are familiar; others rarely seen. As arranged by Sarah Greenough, the senior curator in the museum?s department of photographs, they form a continuous narrative. In the space of two small galleries we watch legends take shape, beauties fade, an American era come and go.
Ginsberg began his photographic chronicle of what would become the Beat generation in earnest in 1953, when he was in his late 20s and living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He had known the group?s crucial personalities ??William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso,?Jack Kerouac and their communal muse Neal Cassady ? since his student days at Columbia. He regarded them collectively, himself very much included, as a new literary vanguard. The work they were doing in the early ?50s seemed to confirm his faith. And his early pictures, taken with a secondhand Kodak, project a buoyant confidence.
We see figures who would soon enough become cultural monuments still vital and mercurial. In one much-published picture Kerouac, smoking and brooding, is already a romantic hero, but in another he?s a mugging cut-up on an East Village street ?making a?Dostoyevsky mad-face,? to quote Ginsberg?s caption.
Continue reading “Poet With a Kodak and a Restless Eye”