Monday, May 14, 2007

Project Paper

Project Partner Paper
The Harafish


The Harafish by Naguib Mahfouz chronicles several generations of the al-Nagi family. Each generation of the clan faces numerous moral dilemmas and decisions. The novel, initially written in Arabic, has been translated to English without the slightest loss of eloquence or style. "Harafish" in the context of the novel means "common and ordinary people". The majority of Mahfouz’s work, including The Harafish, focuses on the dreams, plights and moral decisions of these people. By portraying both the admirable and weak characteristics of each individual of the al-Nagi clan, the moral messages are made extremely relatable to the readers.
Although Mahfouz's literature is set in Egypt in a pre-modern time period, the al-Nagi clan deals with issues which are universal and timeless. The chronicling begins with Ashur Abdullah, later called Ashur al-Nagi. After being abandoned as an infant by his mother, a prostitute, Ashur was rescued and raised by Sheikh Afra. Sheikh Afra, a religious and moral commoner, took it upon himself to raise Ashur with Muslim ethics. While Sheikh Afra represented somewhat of an unrealistic moral standard, Ashur led a life that was more relatable and realistic due to its frequent taints, mistakes and aberrations. An example of Ashur al-Nagi’s deviance from moral righteousness was his abandonment of his aging wife for a young and beautiful prostitute named Fulla. Despite of this action, however, Ashur was eventually able to become the chief of all the harafish in the alley that he lived in. His strong presence accompanied by his extremely just and fair approach to ruling his people would forever characterize his undying legacy.
Ashur al- Nagi’s son with Fulla, Shams al-Din, was able to succeed his father as chief . Both Shams al-Din and his father firmly believed that their responsibility was utmost to the Harafish. Future generations of the al- Nagi family would not lead their lives with the same moral virtues as their beloved ancestors once did. A clear moral decline made evident through licentious behavior, involvement in murders, deceitful bargains, and frequent failed marriages took place as each generation passed. Their detestable behavior was caused by their dangerously excessive preoccupation with status, power and wealth rather than the well-being of the harafish. Ashur al-Nagi's legacy only served as a reminder of their incompetence and failure. The book comes full circle, however, when the last al-Nagi in the novel, also named Ashur, returns to ruling with moral priorities similar to that of the first Ashur al-Nagi. He was able to find his power, not through corruption, but rather in the ability to be humbly fulfilled in serving the Harafish. The glory and love for the al-Nagi family was at last restored.
Mahfouz's literature employs both allegory and parable to vocalize his moral lessons. He has managed to present a clear picture of the human condition and human behavior- all humans encounter problems concerning lust, greed, envy or desire as do the clan members in the novel. Yet all humans also bear some sort of compassion, faith and piety which, if developed, has the ability to provide clarity to such morally conflicted people. Mahfouz did not create faultless characters for his readers to attempt to emulate. Instead, he created ordinary people with weak characteristics that can be observed and learnt from.
In a sense, we are all harafish. We may lead distinctly different lives from one another, but we are interconnected through our weaknesses and struggles. Mahfouz would like us to realize that these struggles are inevitable. Yet no matter how deep our moral decline, moral clarity can recenter our focus back onto the path of a decent, moral life – a life which is unassuming, yes, but admirable nonetheless. We, the harafish, do not have to be powerful, wealthy, brilliant or physically desirable. To lead a moral life: that in itself is enough.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Edited I Believer Paper

I Believe...
In March of 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, claiming that the invasion was a crucial part of the President’s War against Terrorism. The invasion of Iraq was sold to the American people as a necessary response to the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center, for which the terrorist organization al-Qaeda claimed responsibility. President Bush, when rallying his people and gaining support for his decision to go to war said, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” I strongly believe that the invasion of Iraq was unjustified and that the United States has become entangled in a quagmire in Iraq as a result of being misled by the current Presidential administration. Furthermore, I believe that in many instances, we the American people have shown a total lack of respect and knowledge for Islamic culture. Due to this, our situation in Iraq has become increasingly difficult and has turned people in the Islamic world against the United States.
The logic behind our invasion was two-fold: Saddam Hussein had direct links to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 terror plot, and possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that he was poised to use against the United States. Yet, the U.S. military was unable to recover any WMDs following the invasion and, shortly after the invasion, the Central Intelligence Agency reported that Iraq had no ongoing programs to develop any weapons of mass destruction. Further, as was widely reported, the September 11th commission – the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States –concluded in June of 2004, just one year after the invasion, that there was in fact no link between the government of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Vice-President Dick Cheney had called the evidence linking Osama bin Ladin and Saddam Hussein, “overwhelming”. Due to this invalidation of the Bush administration’s main reasons for invading Iraq, the American people, including myself, were left to speculate if the invasion was at all necessary.
Far from helping win the War on Terrorism, the invasion of Iraq has alienated the Islamic world against the United States and probably produced, rather than combated, terrorism. Today, we have lost 3,288 American soldiers according to Iraq Coalition Casualties, and the number of innocent Iraqi civilians killed is anywhere from 61,074 to 67,015 according to US Central Command, General Tommy Franks. These deaths are often caused by bombings which are meant for the insurgents. Wounding and killing innocent Iraqi civilians does not support George Bush’s claim that this is a war of liberation, a war with the goal to improve the lives of Iraqis. So, not surprisingly, most Iraqis – 71% - would like to see the U.S. military presence out of their country within a year according to World Public Opinion. A staggering 82% of Shias and 97% of Sunnis strongly believe that U.S. military presence has provoked more conflict and violence than it is preventing. America’s goals in Iraq will prove to be extremely challenging and costly if the majority of Iraqis oppose its military presence.
The United States has wedged itself into a position that makes it a duty and responsibility to leave Iraq as a stable and peaceful nation. If our country is not able to do this, then our diplomacy will be forever labeled as impulsive, imperious and militant. Unfortunately, Iraq has proved itself to be ungovernable for decades even without the interference of American military.
The Middle Eastern region, already a place ridden with complex rivalries and ethnic and religious strife, will realistically not find peace in the near future. Aside from the deaths caused by U.S. and British soldiers, an average of 33 Iraqis die each day due to suicide bombers and other types of violent attacks by jihadis. According to Asmeh, jihadis, who claim to kill in the name of Islam, have obviously misinterpreted the true meanings of the Koran.
Asmeh also spoke over the hypocrisy that will forever stain America’s reputation. America is only left with one standing justification for its military presence in Iraq – the spreading of democracy in order to better the world. Why then do we have such close relations with Saudi Arabia – a country that lacks every aspect of democracy? It is reasonable for other countries to see America as spreading democracy in only the places that will prove to be strategic or economically advantageous. Asmeh confirmed that Pakistanis do not support America’s invasion of Iraq nor do they believe that the spreading of democracy is truly a priority.
Because the American culture and the Islamic culture clash, it has often times made this war even more spiteful and vicious. Furthermore, the conflict has sparked racial profiling here at home. Our misconstrued views of the Islamic religion has promoted intolerance and helped to expel hatred toward the Middle Eastern regions. I believe that the media, here at home, has focused on promoting fear among the American people. What this means, is that by focusing solely on the extremist and fundamentalist aspect of Islam, we are not allowing ourselves to have a positive impression of Muslims as a whole. Since Islam is the world’s second largest religion, it is important that we learn their doctrines and separate the Taliban’s interpretation of the Koran from the actual writings of the Koran.
Unfortunately, Osama bin Ladin cited the holy text as inspiration for his planed hijackings and attacks. Many Americans now associate the religion with intolerance and violence. What we should realize is that the Koran is actually a book of peace. The Koran does state that Islam should be defended and fought for. However, it stresses that when fighting against one’s persecutors, one must realize the limits of such an engagement and not involve women, children and the innocent.
Part of the reason I feel Americans are ignorant toward Muslim beliefs is because our country is predominately Christian. When we are not exposed to other cultures and other religions, there is a tendency to become somewhat chauvinistic in our beliefs. I believe that if America became more educated over the conflict and over the Islamic religion, we would become more respectful toward them and in turn, receive more respect.
President Bush had two main justifications for entering Iraq. They were that the country had links to al-Qaeda and that Saddam Hussein was harboring Weapons of Mass Destruction that were to be used against America and other peaceful nations. Since the invasion, evidence has surfaced to show that both justifications are simply not valid. In end, I believe that the core values of American society: liberty, freedom, democracy- are worth fighting for – if that is indeed what we are fighting for. However, we must ask ourselves if we have taken on a task too great, too costly and too crippling for both Americans and Iraqis.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I believe...

In March of 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, claiming that the invasion was a crucial part of the President’s War against Terrorism. The invasion of Iraq was sold to the American people as a necessary response to the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center, for which the terrorist organization al-Qaeda claimed responsibility. When rallying his people and gaining support for his decision to go to war, President Bush said, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” I strongly believe that the invasion of Iraq was unjustified and that the United States has become entangled in a quagmire in Iraq as a result of being misled by the current Presidential administration. Furthermore, I believe that in many instances, we the American people have shown a total lack of respect and knowledge for Islamic culture. Due to this, our situation in Iraq has become increasingly difficult and has turned people in the Islamic world against the United States.
The logic behind our invasion was two-fold: that Saddam Hussein had direct links to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 terror plot, and that he possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that he was poised to use against the United States. Yet, the U.S. military was unable to recover any WMDs following the invasion and, shortly after the invasion, the Central Intelligence Agency reported that Iraq had no ongoing programs to develop any weapons of mass destruction. Further, as was widely reported, the September 11th commission – the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States –concluded in June of 2004, just one year after the invasion, that there was in fact no link between the government of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. President Cheney had called the evidence linking Osama bin Ladin and Saddam Hussein, “overwhelming”. Due to this invalidation of the Bush administration’s main reasons for invading Iraq, the American people, including myself, were left to speculate if the invasion was at all necessary.
Far from helping win the War on Terrorism, the invasion of Iraq has alienated the Islamic world against the United States and probably produced, rather than combated, terrorism. Today, we have lost 3,288 American soldiers according to Iraq Coalition Casualties, and the number of innocent Iraqi civilians killed is anywhere from 61,074 to 67,015 according to US Central Command, General Tommy Franks . Wounding and killing innocent Iraqi civilians does not support George Bush’s claim that this is a war of liberation, a war with the goal to improve the lives of Iraqis. So, not surprisingly, most Iraqis – 71% - would like to see the U.S. military presence out of their country within a year according to World Public Opinion. A staggering 82% of Shias and 97% of Sunnis strongly believe that U.S. military presence has provoked more conflict and violence than it is preventing. America’s goals in Iraq will prove to be extremely challenging and costly if the majority of Iraqis oppose its military presence.
Iraq has proved itself to be ungovernable to decades. The fact is, we have wedged ourselves into a position that makes it our responsibility to leave Iraq a stable and peaceful nation. If we are not able to do this, then our diplomacy will be forever labeled as impulsive, imperious and militant. The Middle Eastern region, already a place ridden with complex rivalries and ethnic and religious strife, will realistically not find peace in the near future. Hypocrisy will also stain America’s reputation. As our guest speaker Asmeh so articulately said, America is only left with one standing justification for its military presence in Iraq – the spreading of democracy in order to better the world. Why then do we have such close relations with Saudi Arabia – a country that lacks every aspect of democracy? It is reasonable for other countries to see America as spreading democracy in only the places that will prove to be strategic or economically advantageous.
Because the American culture and the Islamic culture clash, it has often times made this war even more spiteful and vicious. Furthermore, the conflict has sparked racial profiling here at home. Our misconstrued views of the Islamic religion has promoted intolerance and helped to expel hatred toward the Middle Eastern regions. I believe that the media, here at home, has focused on promoting fear among the American people. What this means, is that by focusing solely on the extremist and fundamentalist aspect of Islam, we are not allowing ourselves to have a positive impression of Muslims as a whole. I believe that if America became more educated over the conflict and over the Islamic religion, we would become more respectful toward them and in turn, receive more respect.
President Bush’s justifications for entering Iraq were that the country had links to al-Qaeda and was harboring Weapons of Mass Destruction that were to be used against America and other peaceful nations. Snce the invasion, evidence has surfaced to show that both justifications are simply not valid. In end, I believe that the core values of American society: liberty, freedom, democracy- are worth fighting for – if that is indeed what we are fighting for. However, we must ask ourselves if we have taken on a task too great, too costly and too crippling for both Americans and Iraqis.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Haiku

Riding Through Mountains-
Red, Yellow, Tears Trickling, I
Mourn for her in Fall



Our haiku poem takes place in autumn. There are two kigos in the
poem; the first one is “Fall” and the second one is “Red, Yellow”. In
the haiku, a man is mourning the loss of his lover while riding through
the mountains. He wants to go to a secluded area where he can be alone
and mourn privately. However, once at the mountains, he notices the
beauty of the surrounding nature, and is only further reminded of his
lost lover and the beauty she herself possessed.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Ancient Voices Paper

I am betrayed by nature,
But I am more the victim of custom and circumstance.

I have much, but possess nothing.
I have no children to prove to the world my value.

I am Lakshmi, but I yield no fruit, no grain.

My lord's fields are barren, his orchards empty.
He will seek other fields to cultivate.

I am alone.

October 6, 1862
I am weary of this life. Though lavish and opulent, it is routine and
suffocating. I am consumed in my jealousy and feel that even as a
Maharani, wife of Maharaj Atma Hasan, I have no worth.

The Maharaj’s affections toward me have changed drastically since the
day of our wedding- the most splendid event that Jaipur has ever seen.
I was only 22 years old and wore a saree of a rich red pigment and
gold embroidery. My black hair was tightly pulled back and decorated
with fresh Chameli flower. Being the daughter of a Maharaj, I was
picked for my status rather than my beauty. My husband’s father was
intent on finding a princess accustomed to royal life and pleased to be
uniting his power with that of my father’s. Nevertheless, I was
beautiful on that day. The Maharaj’s infatuation with me on my wedding
day made me feel powerful and delicate at the same time. I remember
his strong gaze upon me and the crinkle of his nose as he smiled. I
remember after the ceremony, he whispered to me, “Indira, I am so lucky
to have such a beautiful bride.”

My first years of marriage were splendid. I had achieved a fair
amount of authority in my husband’s diplomatic and foreign affairs. I
had a knack for solving little disputes among the provinces and enjoyed
doing so. Once a month, I would travel to see my parents, each time
bringing them frivolous but luxurious little gifts from the palace. I
saw envy in the eyes of my sisters for they knew what a blessing it was
to have your whole life in place at such a young age. I had little to worry
about and lived each day freely and extravagantly.

I am now 25 years old and of no use to my husband because I am
sterile. Because the Maharaj must have an heir, he will soon search
for a new wife. I spend my days secluded, in strict purdah. I am only
allowed to converse with women and can rarely see even my beloved
brothers. Growing up, I never found a passion or a skill to pursue. I
was catered to, knowing that my great purpose would be to marry a
Maharaj and bear his heir. But this is now impossible. Instead I shall have
to return to live under my shamed parents. I will be no more than a
burden, a purposeless daughter

October 7,1862
Grief, boredom and frustration consume me. The Maharaj has given me
the finest gold jewelry, rose gardens, precious gems and anything else
that I have desired. However, those frivolous things mean little to me
if I do not have his love to accompany them. My fruitless existence
must shame him. I see his unhappiness in his frequent call for
concubines. As a Maharani, I will accept what my life has turned
into, but I crave his attention and devotion. I had planned to die
with my husband after a long life by committing sati, self- immolation
on my husband’s pyre. But now we grow apart, and his attentions
wander to others.
As I wander aimlessly around the palace, I avoid the thought of dying
alone. I avoid the thought of living alone without love, affection, or
esteem.
* * *
October 9, 1862
This evening, my despair has driven me to madness. I was in the
sleeping quarters when dinner was announced by a young servant girl.
Her sympathetic glance made me feel vulnerable, powerless and, worst
of all, inferior to her. It was then that I saw the Maharaj’s prized
dagger displayed in his cabinet. After excusing the servant girl, I
studied its gold case decorated with diamond cut rubies. It was
beckoning me and tempting me. Perhaps there was a way in which to end
my sorrows and grief. I ran my fingers across its cold surface.
Then, without thinking, I removed the dagger from its case and pointed
it toward my bosom. I held the dagger for a long moment in confusion.
Then, very faintly, I heard the song of a nightingale, so simple, so
pure, so fulfilled in and of itself. Instead of beckoning me into the
night, the bird’s song made me understand that my happiness and sense
of fulfillment must come from within, and that taking my life would
accomplish nothing. I suddenly felt liberated from my frustration, and
finally came to understand that the acceptance I had so long desired
from my husband and the achievement of the expectations put upon me by
society would not bring me contentment. I resolve that I will, in some
other fashion, work to attain ease and fulfillment.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Welcome To My Blog!

Hello!