Tuesday, May 24, 2011


If you saw some footage on NDTV today of the air strikes in Libya, it was edited by me.

There were shots of the night sky somewhere in Libya lit up by what looked (and possibly sounded) like exploding suns. There were some shots of people being rushed into a hospital. There were shots of medical personnel walking about the hospital and treating patients.

What I wasn't allowed to show you was a shot of 3 dead bodies lying on stretchers in some quiet low-priority corner of the hospital. They were the dust-covered bodies of 3 Libyan men dressed in shirts and pants. Their heads lay slung over to one side, like deactivated robots. Their mouths were open, like dead fish. The faces themselves were unrecognisable because most of the facial features had been damaged. The eyes were either closed or had no eyelids at all. The bodies looked like ancient mummies. They were still, very still. Their skin had turned to various shades of yellow and grey. Dirt was in their tousled hair, like as if a sandstorm had raged through it. The dead men looked exactly like the corpses from the movie, 'The Ring'.

Long after the PG-friendly footage that I'd edited had aired without making a dent in anyone's existence, I returned to the original footage on my computer and paused at the shot of the 3 dead men, still lying motionless on those green stretchers. I wanted to see if they would breathe again, if a dangling arm would stir to my surprise. These men hardly looked like they had ever been anything but lifeless. Only a few hours ago they had had names and favourite foods and sleeping habits and desires and facial expressions and plans for the upcoming week. Now they were just APTN footage that no channel would ever air, that no audience would ever witness. Would they ever know that I was here, that I had seen them?

I believe that people really need to see what conflict looks like. They need to see beyond the hustle-and-bustle of its living version, they need to see the stupid stillness of what dies. No wonder the mere mention of war or conflict doesn't outrage us. We've dehumanised conflict. All we see on TV, all that we're shown in the media, are endless shots of living faces and night skies lit up by bombs and tankers rolling down streets that could be anywhere - just lazy passive pictures that lie about, that conceal something that's very wrong and very frightening. What's the point of showing you imagery about an issue when the real imagery is not shown to you in the first place? Have you any idea what you've been missing?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Mirage

her hard eyes devour her reflection
proud of a body in movie star clothes
matching shoes that hide knobbly toes and dirty soles
bad skin scratched by long dirty nails
expensive lotion masks the smell of cigarettes
grey skin grey gums grey lips
lips that kiss hard words and curses
a smile that never reaches her eyes
this young woman
her soiled body
her crooked smile
her crazed eyes
a child of this city

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You heard it here first

I saw a UFO when I was in school.

At least that's what I think it was. I was 12-14 years old and in the middle of a lesson in my classroom in Muscat, Oman. Our windows that year had a view of the highway piercing through the rocky al Hajar mountains in the distance. The bright blue waters of the Persian Gulf lay unseen on the other side. That day the sky was the way the local newspapers predicted it to be the whole year round - clear to partly cloudy.

I don't remember what subject we had that period. I remember the teacher going on with the lesson and my classmates silently making (or passing) notes. I was seated at my desk in the front of the class, my upper body leaning over the wooden top, my face cradled in the palm of one hand as I looked on at the teacher with an expression of teenage boredom.

My eyes left the teacher and wandered over to the nearest window. Far in the distance, an object that looked exactly like a flying saucer was hovering above the mountains in the baby blue Omani sky. The UFO didn't move, it just stayed in that one spot for the whole 5 seconds I kept looking at it. I was still leaning over my desk, and my face was still cradled in the palm of my hand.

I shifted my gaze across the classroom and then moved it back over to the window. The UFO was gone. The mountains, the highway, the tiny cars zipping along the highway looked deceptively innocent.

Dumbed down and easy to digest

"An Islamic government is charged with supporting all religions equally. It is a twist on the American ideal of separation of church and state, which forbids government from having any role in religion. In contrast, Islam says the state must support all religions!

The Islamic government is forbidden to seize the churches, synagogues, or temples of any group, nor can the government meddle in the appointment of religious leaders by each group. The treaty Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, made with a local Christian community is very clear: No bishop can be removed from his office and no church can be confiscated.

From the time of Prophet Muhammad (p) through the last Muslim Empire of the Ottomans Muslim rulers have been particularly concerned with the welfare of their non-Muslim subjects and their religious needs. For example, in the year 1076, the Muslim ruler of Bejaya, in present-day Algeria, wrote to Pope Gregory VII about the desire of the Christians in his land for a certain priest to be promoted to bishop. The pope was so overjoyed at this expression of religious respect that he wrote a beautiful letter in response, which concluded with the words: "We pray with heart and mouth that, after a long sojourn in this life, the same God may guide you to the bosom of happiness of the holy patriarch Abraham."

Has Muslim history had its share of despots and kings? Sure it has, but so has the Christian world. What is to be judged are the principles and not how faithfully they are applied."

- Yahiya Emerick, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam, 2nd Edition"