Thursday, March 20, 2008

An Arabic anti-war "opera"

I don't want to over-use my "mérite le détour" label but this is pretty damn moving.

Juan Cole has a post up in which he begins:
The below is part of an anti-war "opera" sung by the most famous of the Arab videoclip stars (Nancy Ajram and Cheb Khalid are featured here). The whole is very long. The Zoom videoclip satellite channel is playing it repeatedly this week, apparently to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War.

It begins with a man saying "We want to live in peace. Enough killing! Enough slaughter! Enough!"


For Americans, the most touching part would probably be the Egyptian songstress Amal Maher's libretto sung over a powerful visual condemnation of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. The images of US actions in Iraq, Abu Ghraib, etc., interspersed with a denunciation of the assassination of Lebanese leader Rafiq al-Hariri and of Israeli occupation forces' brutality to Palestinians, give a sense of how the Iraq War is viewed in the region, as yet another attack on the Arab nation. But there is also a critique of the internal divisions and use of aggressive violence by that nation. (It does not condemn what it sees as resistance to occupation; but I think the underlying message is that violence just begets more violence.)

I urge my American readers to try to watch the clip below even though they cannot understand the lyrics. (Though, note to the squeamish: the explicit violence may be hard for some to stomach.) Note that a lot of the performers here are Lebanese Christians; others are wealthy members of the new upper middle classes in the region, who speak English and sometimes have signed with American labels. They are condemning violence and war and intolerance.
It is powerful. It is graphic. The music, to my ears, is beautiful though I understood only a word or two. If you are up to it, click on over. [Caution: you will see killing and death and broken but living bodies, you will see faces etched with grief, you will see people on all sides attacking each other. It is a lament, but a graphic one. Because it is so powerful I am not embedding it in this post as I believe it needs context.]

It will give you an idea of what far too much of daily reality in the Middle East is like, though the eyes of those most of us see as "the other."

O Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted; remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering--our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this, and when they come to judgment, let all the fruits which we have born be their forgiveness.

--Prayer found beside a dead child at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp (1945)

--the BB


FranIAm said...

Oh that prayer, that prayer!

Grandmère Mimi said...

Paul, I didn't watch the video. Maybe I will later. I don't know if I can bear it. I just read part of William Polk's essay at Juan Cole's blog on whether we will attack Iran - just part of it so far, and it scares the hell out of me.

That is a beautiful prayer.

Paul said...

Mimi, I understand your reticence. Not the sort of thing to watch before going to bed either (though that is exactly what I did last night).

The fervent cry for a better way that comes through the music (and the expressions on the singers' faces) helped me deal with the collage of violence.

I really think these images need to be on television in the US so we can begin to grasp what happens elsewhere in the world, raw and desanitized. Remember the impact of images from Vietnam shifting American awareness (a day late and 50,000+ lives short, but eventually nonetheless)? We are not even supposed to see flag-shrouded coffins, much less the impact on living bodies.

The prayer from Ravensbrück has always blown me away.