Sunday, August 19, 2007


What if God fails you? What if you fail yourself? What if humanity fails? Elie Wiesel’s  Night is a tale of such failures of great magnitude. It is the author’s testimony to the events of the Nazis’ concentration camps.

He speaks of the day they were lead away from the ghetto where they lived that was dedicated for Jews:

The streets resembled fairgrounds deserted in haste. There was a little of everything: suitcases, briefcases, bags, knives, dishes, banknotes, papers, faded portraits. All things one planned to take along and finally left behind. They had ceased to matter.

A man tells the young Elie and his father what was in store for them in Auschwitz the concentration camp:

“Over there. Do you see the chimney over there? Do you see it? And the flames, do you see them?” (Yes, we saw the flames.) “Over there, that’s where they will take you. Over there will be your grave. You still don’t understand? You sons of bitches. Don’t you understand anything? You will be burned! Burned to a cinder! Turned into ashes!”

He speaks of the horror of witnessing a child’s hanging and losing faith in God:

But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing…

And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished.

Behind me, I heard the same man asking:

“For God’s sake, where is God?”

And from within me, I heard a voice answer:

“Where He is? This is where– hanging here from this gallows…”

He speaks of his sorrow of not having answered his ailing father’s calls:

The officer came closer and shouted to him to be silent. But my father did not hear. He continued to call me. The officer wielded his club and dealt him a violent blow to the head.

I didn’t move. I was afraid, my body was afraid of another blow, this time to my head.”

The author was among the survivors. Yet he was never the same. Failure came in many shapes and forms: failure of God to protect his creatures; failure of humanity to prevent this great evil from taking place; his own failure to answer the calls of his father.

We often confront failure in life. The pain could be great and it may seem we are living the night’s darkest hour. But no matter how long pain persists and bleak night gets, there will always be the break of dawn.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Summer Reading 2

I have two books remaining in my summer reading list:

My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk: I heard so many good things about it and I look forward to reading it. The setting takes place in 16th century Istanbul. It is a thrilling murder mystery intertwined with cultural, religious and romantic tales. The author won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2006.

Night, by Elie Wiesel: I am inspired to read this book through the book contest announced by the people at the Buzberry blog -which is a great idea! The book recounts the author’s experience as a young Holocaust survivor. The author has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 and is a professor at my alma mater Boston University.

Happy summer reading!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


DEARBORN, Mich. — When pools of water began accumulating on the floor in some restrooms at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and the sinks pulling away from the walls, the problem was easy to pinpoint. On this campus, more than 10 percent of the students are Muslims, and as part of ritual ablutions required before their five-times-a-day prayers, some were washing their feet in the sinks.

The solution seemed straightforward. After discussions with the Muslim Students’ Association, the university announced that it would install $25,000 foot-washing stations in several restrooms.

Universities Install Footbaths to Benefit Muslims, and Not Everyone Is Pleased - New York Times.

Having studied in the US, I very much admire their tolerance and accommodation to all belief systems. Yet it seems not everyone is happy about the latest accommodation to Muslims.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Summer Reading 1

During a visit to London earlier this year, I stopped by Al-Saqi bookstore and bought a number of Arabic books. I look forward to such visits to the Arabic bookstore in London and to shop for books without any censorship! I saved the books for summer reading and following are some samplings:

عرس الزين، الطيب صالح

A short novel about an eccentric character in a Sudanese village. This character is the laugh of the village yet at the same time brings some sort of harmony to the community. The character, Al Zain, ends up marrying the most coveted girl of the village amid everyone’s bewilderment. [link]

في بلاد الرجال، هشام مطر

I found out later that this novel is originally published in English (In the Country of Men). It’s about a child telling his story growing up in Libya. One angle of the story revolves around his mother being forced to marry his father due to conservative repression. A forced relationship that grew into a loving one. However, the main angle of this novel is being subjected to political repression and violence from the child’s perspective.