Banned Arab Intellectuals Speak Out in Granada

Hay Festival Alhambra Provides the Forum

Mourid BarghoutiGranada is hosting an edition of the Hay Festival this week. This event started out as a modest book festival in the Welsh town of Hay on Wye in 1988, but has since developed into a major itinerant international cultural event. This year’s Granada version includes talks by some distinguished spokesmen for the Arab/Muslim cause, so Maureen and I went down to hear what they had to say.

The first speaker was the Palestinian poet, Mourid Barghouti, a native of Ramallah. Today Barghouti is a tall, impeccably-dressed, white-haired elder poet/statesman, an eloquent spokesman for the Palestinian cause. He was a young man finishing an English literature degree in Cairo when the 1967 Six Day War broke out. Unable to return to his homeland Barghouti spent the next 30 years in a cruel exile which began in Egypt. But on the occasion of Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Israel in 1977, Barghouti was deported and separated from his wife (the novelist and university professor, Radwa Ashour) and only child for the better part of 17 years. During this time he lived mainly in Budapest, where he was Palestinian cultural attaché and PLO representative in the World Federation of Democratic Youth.

Poet, Activist, Exile

Here in Granada, besides reciting poems and reading an excerpt from his 1997 book, I Saw Ramallah, an award-winning account of his return visit to his former home after 30 years, Barghouti sympathetically expressed the plight of his countrymen in Israel, stripped of everything by a regime which insists that “Palestine does not exist.”

As well as publishing 12 books of poetry over the past 40 years, Barghouti writes on the subject in both English and Arabic. One of his most-quoted paragraphs is this one, a formula for resisting the onslaught of the fourth-most-powerful army in the world with poetry:

One of its charming miracles is that through its form, poetry can resist the content of authoritarian discourse. By resorting to understatement , concrete and physical language, a poet contends against abstraction, generalization, hyperbole and the heroic language of hot-headed generals and bogus lovers alike….Poetry remains one of the astonishing forms in our hands to resist obscurantism and silence. And since we cannot wash the polluted words of hatred the same way we wash greasy dishes with soap and hot water, we the poets of the world, continue to write our poems to restore the respect of meaning and to give meaning to our existence.” (Originally published in New Internationalist # 359 -August 2003)

Tariq Ramadan Speaks for and to European Muslims

Tarik RamadanAt the conclusion of Barghouti’s talk we took the brief-but-inspiring Granada-spring-evening walk down the hill to hear Tariq Ramadan speak at the Auditorium Manuel de Falla. At 45, Ramadan is at the top of his game. Tall and lithe, well spoken and convincing in several languages, he is the grandson of Hassan al Banna, the Sufi schoolteacher who in 1928 founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the world’s largest and most influential Islamist political group. His father, also a prominent figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, was expelled by Gamal Abdul Nasser from Egypt to Switzerland, where Tariq was born. He took his degree in philosophy, literature and social sciences at the University of Geneva, then studied philosophy and French literature at the masters level, and Arabic and Islamic studies for his PhD. His dissertation was on Friedrich Nietzsche. Today is in on the faculty of schools in several European countries, and an advisor to governments at the highest levels. His brilliant career has suffered only one setback, and that by default. In February 2004, he accepted the tenured position of Luce professor of religion at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. With his work permit approved he moved there with his family. Then, in late July 2004, his visa was revoked by the State Department, under the terms of the Patriot Act, and he was forced to resign the position. Ramadan later commented on this black comedy of errors on his website in an article entitled My Reasons for Resigning My Position at the University of Notre Dame.

After Ramadan’s talk was over I bumped into my friend Victoriano in the vestibule, and I remarked to him, “It seems astonishing to me that the U.S. should expel a man of this stature. They’re making the same mistake they made with Bertrand Russell in 1943. Don’t they ever learn? He’s not a bomber, after all.” Victoriano, who is a little older and a lot wiser than I am, replied, “No, he’s something much more dangerous to the Americans than a bomber. He’s a teacher.”

My ongoing thanks to the Wikipedia for the background material for this post


10 Responses

  1. As to be expected, Tariq Ramdan has used you on his self adulation Website:

    Read the crap on this site, mainly in French, to realize what you have gotten yourself into.

    As if you have given him and his cohorts and their nefarious cause a certificate of approval.

  2. Root Causes of Anti-Western Islamic Terrorism -Claim of Return to Andalucia
    Al-Qaeda deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri on imperial Islamic ambitions: “Strive to establish the Caliphate; fight until the word of Allah [reigns] supreme…aspire to liberate every inch of Islamic land from Andalucia to Chechnya (December 16, 2007, the Islamist website Bin Laden and other Moslem terrorists demand the “restoration of the Muslim caliphate from Andalucia to the Philippines.”.

  3. I am glad I learned about this website and thank you for the article.

  4. The second stop of the Islamic conquest of Europe, France, after Andalusia, Spain.”

    “Jihadis aspire to ‘conquer France’:

    Al-Qaeda forum calls for jihadis to ‘complete’ medieval war and take over France the French people went to the polls to select a president, jihadi members of an al-Qaeda online forum exchanged messages discussing their aspiration to “reinvade France (and convert it into) an Islamic country.” The internet discussion appeared as Spanish security forces warned that both Spain and France were targets of al-Qaeda terror plots.

    A post that appeared on the al-Firdaws jihadi forum, submitted by a user named Faisal al-Baghdadi, contained a lengthy historical account of “the second stop of the Islamic conquest of Europe, France, after Andalusia, Spain.”

    The post took a nostalgic look at the battle of Tours in 732, in which Muslim forces, commanded by Rahman al-Ghafiqi, who invaded a portion of France, were repelled by the Frankish general Charles Martel (“the hammer”), and forced to retreat. The battle stemmed the medieval Islamic conquest of Europe.

    “The Islamic army was left with a large number of martyrs, especially the great shahid (martyr) Abdul Rahman a-Ghafiqi… this battle is mentioned in history, and is known at the battle of Tours,” the post explained.

    “We ask that Allah sends us a genuine Rahman al-Ghafiqi, to finish what he started in Europe, and conquer the Vatican as promised in our beautiful Islamic verses,” the post concluded.

    “Allah bless the writer and carrier of the message which recalls the days of glory and honor of Islam,” another user responded.

  5. […] Posted on April 13, 2008 by Mike Booth On April 4 I published on this blog a brief article reviewing a couple of events of the Hay Festival Alhambra program in Granada. In it I mentioned the […]

  6. Mr Mike Booth

    Vous êtes vraiment aveugle et inconscient.

  7. Adrian: Is this a comment or just an insult? Either way, I’m going to leave it here to remind us that there all kinds of people in the world.

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