Denmark-Islam Cartoon Controversy

Hey there!

What I present to you today is the introduction and conclusion of my creator Grace’s extensive research on the Middle East. After much slaving, starving and hard, hard work, she has finally finished all her source cards, research cards and paraphrasing, and is ready to present her introduction and conclusion.

Her research question was:

What were people’s reactions to the Prophet Muhammad cartoon controversy in 2006? Why were their reactions different?

Here’s her introduction:

In September 2006, a Danish daily paper named Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons. These were no ordinary cartoons: they depicted the Prophet Muhammad. What’s more, the way the cartoons were presented was offensive to many, especially Muslims, whose religion dictates that the holy Prophet should not be represented in any visual form. There was much debate about the Danish paper’s right to publish such cartoons. The Muslims largely boycotted Denmark and protested with demonstrations, riots and attacks. Many Europeans, however, along with the Danish, stated that the cartoons were published on free-speech grounds. The debate eventually escalated into a huge crisis between the West and Muslims. I decided to do some extensive research into the reactions of various people from different places, as well as learn the reasons for their varying reactions.

Now that you’ve gotten a brief insight into her research, here’s her conclusion:

Different parties had different reactions to the cartoon controversy. Majority of the Muslim populations in the world protested against the cartoons’ publication, to the extent of a paper in Jordan describing the Danish journalists as ‘scum’. However, the Danish, along with many Europeans, were defensive too. The Danish government defended the Jyllands-Posten, saying that despite causing provocation, they had done nothing illegal and therefore, the Danish government could not be held responsible for the publication(s) of the cartoons.
Their reactions were impacted by different factors. Primarily, a party’s religion affects his/her reaction to the cartoon controversy. Muslims were shown to have an angrier reaction to it than others because it deeply aggravated them and offended their religion. Also, a party’s nationality or life experiences could have an impact on their reaction. If one was from a Muslim country, one might feel differently from another who had spent time in Denmark, for example.
Through studying many parties’ reactions as well as having the chance to view the cartoons themselves, I’ve come to form a personal opinion that while there was nothing wrong with the Danish proclaiming their freedom of speech, it was morally incorrect of them, as well as the other countries which published the cartoons in their papers, to disrespect another religion. I agree with France’s Le Figaro paper, which stated that it is possible to misuse freedom of speech. To quote French chief rabbi Joseph Sitruk, the right of satire (which is what the Danish cartoons were) ends where it causes provocation. I feel that the Danish’s freedom of speech ended where what they said/published started to offend others.

There!

I hope that through her introduction and conclusion, you have started to think about the implications of misusing a basic right and how widespread the consequences of doing so can be.

With much love,

M.A.

No FB for Tehran

Other than visiting our blog (obviously!), where do you actually go when surfing the Internet?

Let me guess, Facebook!

Facebook is addicting to everyone (including my creators) and it is a good way to reconnect with friends and family in the other parts of the world. But now this opportunity is being taken away from the people in Iran. News just came out that Iran has blocked access to this popular social networking website before the presidential elections on the 12th of June, to stop supporters of candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi from using Facebook for his campaign.

Mr. Mousavi is a former prime minister, and poses one of the leading challenges to the current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. CNN staff in Tehran, Iran reported that people trying to access Facebook found a message in Farsi saying that the site was unavailable. For Mr. Mousavi’s 5000 fans on Facebook, this ban has come as a let-down. Facebook also expressed their feeling of disappointment as this is a crucial time for people to look to the Internet to find out about each candidate’s position and election.

What if this happened to you? For my creators, this would happen probably every five months or so as the  political situation is not very stable in Thailand. I don’t think they’d be able to survive without FB!

Okay, off I go to FB!

M.A

P.S. Thank you BBC for the information used in this post.

Where is where?

Hey guys,

How many of you actually know where the countries in the Middle East are on the map? Did you know that my three creators had to memorize the Middle East map for a quiz in class? Nimarta, one of my creators, tried this quiz and got 45/72 (even though she thought she had the map memorized). Let’s test your geographic skills by just going to the link below:

http://www.lizardpoint.com/fun/geoquiz/mideastquiz.html

Hope you do well!

M.A.

[/edit] Grace got 58! (Though she had to guess for a lot of them.)

How does religion affect fashion?

We all know what fashion is. According to Webster’s Dictionary, fashion is a prevailing custom/style of dress. In many places around the world, especially America, fashion is an important part of society. Ever heard the phrase ‘What you wear reflects your thoughts’? People nowadays use fashion for protection, attention, identification and, of course, religion. The latter makes a difference in fashion, for instance if you’re Muslim. The Islamic religion greatly impacts the fashion in the Middle East.

Muslims’ Holy Book is the Qur’an (Koran). It states that modesty is most important. Therefore, it is custom for men to cover their heads with turbans and hats (Persians used to call the headgear ‘dulbands’) and women to cover their heads with headdresses called ‘hijabs’. Moreover, some Islamic women cover themselves from head to toe for modesty. Women also use fashion to make a political statement-bringing Western concepts to blend in with Islamic clothing elements.

A black headscarf and lose-fitting black manteau became obligatory for women after 1979 in Iran, but nowadays women challenge the law by wearing colorful fashionable coats with an equally nice head scarf to match. In Saudi Arabia, women have had and still have access to designer clothing and make-up worn indoors during a female setting. Even though the country requires women to wear black covering from head to toe, women have found a way to keep Western concepts blended in with their everyday clothing.

As you can see, contrary to common stereotypes, not all women in the Middle East rigidly follow the rules. (So does that mean my creators shouldn’t follow their school’s dress code?) Keep that thought in mind! It’s time for me to get all the latest trends…

Bye for now,

M.A.

A Glimpse Into My Creators’ Daily School Lives

A little image we did using clip art from Google Images!To quote the spider from Charlotte’s Web, salutations!

Have you ever thought about saving someone else’s life? (By that, I don’t mean helping people with homework. That doesn’t count.) The spider Charlotte did. She saved Wilbur the pig from being slaughtered by weaving webs with messages in them, leading the community to believe that he was an extraordinary pig. Here in ISB, my creators don’t do any pig-saving… but they do save people’s lives!

How?

Through the charity organization Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Foundation, Grade 8 students at ISB help raise money for Thai kids who need heart operations. First, they find sponsors to donate money for their participation and/or every basket they shoot out of ten. Then, after the activity (which takes place TODAY, 14th of May 2009) they collect the money and offer it as a donation to the foundation.

“This yearly fundraiser by our 8th Graders raises a substantial money for the Pediatric Cardiac Care Foundation – enough to truly save the lives of many Thai yougsters.  The Pediatric Cardiac Care Foundation provides free heart surgeries for needy children.   If asked, please seriously consider to pledge and support this very special opportunity.  For more information about the Foundation, go to http://www.pcsf.org,” ISB MS’s Activity Co-ordinator Mr Straub said.

At http://www.pcrf.net/first.html, you can see how the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund helps save lives in the Middle East, just like ISB Grade 8 students do for Thai kids.

So, turns out blogging’s not the only thing my creators do in school… TTYL!

M.A.

Can philosophy help the Middle East?

Professor Carlos FraenkelWhile one of my creators, Pichaporn, was surfing on the Internet about the Middle East, just wanting to discover more information about the region, she came across a heading on Google that read “Can philosophy help the Middle East?” It caught her attention, flashing back to the time when she studied about philosophy in Humanities with Mr. Kenney.

According to the article, Professor Carlos Fraenkel, a professor at the Palestinian University in East Jerusalem, had said that yes, philosophy can help the Middle East.

“Philosophy provides a language through which people can communicate even if they do not accept each other’s religious or national commitments,” said Fraenkel, who holds a joint appointment in Jewish studies and philosophy at McGill, an online newspaper. He stated that this was also the belief of medieval philosophers and that his Palestinian students agreed with it.

Furthermore, Fraenkel stated, “Philosophy can save not only the Middle East, but all areas where there is conflict between human beings, if we are being guided in our thoughts and actions by reason and universal moral values.”

Class discussions that Fraenkel was involved in were all free of stereotypes. Students asked him personal questions, but surprisingly discussions did not have a negative influence with interactions Fraenkel has with his Jewish background and relations to Europe, Israel and North America. In his opinion, the students’ questions were ‘a kind of philosophical questioning.’

“I don’t think that the stereotypes dissolved entirely, but I think they are at least temporarily suspended in the personal encounter. And this can initiate a kind of philosophical questioning, not unlike the one Socrates advocated in ancient Athens.”

I think that philosophy is based on reason and moral values, like Fraenkel said. Therefore, it can serve as a common ground between people of different religions. Do you think philosophy can really diminish the conflicts going on in the Middle East? Leave a comment!

Got to go for now.

M.A.

P.S. ‘Can philosophy help the Middle East?’ Article – (October 5, 2006 – Volume 39 Number 04) from http://www.mcgill.ca/reporter/39/04/fraenkel/

Exclusive Interview with Helen Liu

Back to the bookshelf: my creators’ classmate, Helen Liu, was spotted reading ‘Princess‘, a novel by Jean P. Sasson. I got the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the book.

A picture of the book cover of \'Princess\'. A picture of the book\'s author, Jean P. Sasson.M: Give a brief summary of the plot, in your own words. (No stealing from the back of the book!)

H: This book is about a princess in Saudi Arabia. Her name is Sultana. She is the youngest child in a royal family. The women in Saudi Arabia are treated really badly and usually sexually abused by the men. They are only used to produce children, and it’s best if they have sons. Sons are preferred because they can become the next king and pass the family name down generations. [Helen’s caught looking at the back of the book there!] The Princess is really rebellious and she doesn’t like how women are being treated in the country. However, she can’t stand up to her father or her husband, or she’ll be killed. The women in Saudi Arabia have to wear veils and if they show their face to strangers on the street or something, it’s considered a really bad action. It’s not true (in this book) that if they show their face, they’re prostitutes. This book is mainly about how women are treated badly in Saudi Arabia, and Princess Sultana tries to change that. She tells her story to the author secretly. [The Princess’ name has been changed to protect her privacy.]

M: How does this book connect to the Middle East?

H: It’s in Saudi Arabia, which is in the Middle East. [Duh!]

M: Let’s talk about the main character. How do you relate to the Princess?

H: I can’t really relate to the Princess, because I don’t live in the Middle East and I haven’t had the experiences she’s had. [Compare yourself to the Princess.] It’s really hard for women in that country to get education, whereas it’s the opposite for me. The Princess has to have a male bodyguard with her at all times, and she can’t go anywhere with another man, if he’s not her husband, father or relative. Also, the Princess was married to her cousin. Mostly women marry before they’re 20. [Wow!]

M: What surprised you most about the book? [I mean, apart from the whole marrying-when-you’re-a-teen thing.]

H: How women were treated in Saudi Arabia. They don’t even have freedom, you know, like they’re stuck at home all the time and they can’t go to work. [How does this compare to the treatment of women that you know/see?] Everybody should be treated equally.

M: Many people stereotype that women in the Middle East are always being put down and treated as inferior beings. Do you think this book justifies that? If yes, how?

H: Yes. It describes how women were treated, how men always seem to have freedom whereas women don’t.

M: Any last words regarding ‘Princess’?

H: I recommend this book to everyone! It’s really interesting. Some parts of it (regarding history) are kind of boring, but you get to learn more about Saudi Arabia’s history. Jean P. Sasson doesn’t describe cruel things in great detail [which is great if you’re the squirmish kind, I suppose!].

“Unforgettable… Fascinating… A book to move you to tears,” Fay Weldon said of this book, which will be available in Mr. Kenney’s room (no. 315) if you want to borrow it.

Signing out for now, catch you later!

M.A.

P.S. Thanks to Google Images for the two pictures!

“Dreamers of the Day”

Random House\'s book cover for \Today, I bring to you a little bit of daily trivia mixed in with a whole ton of history.

Some of us girls might be familiar with the scenario: you and your parents at the bookstore, you eyeing the latest Sophie Kinsella while they are under the impression that you’d be better off with the latest Obama biography. Just this afternoon one of my creators, Grace, was at Central Chidlom’s B2S bookstore when that very scenario occurred. Being ‘forced’ to choose a book of a more serious nature, she stumbled upon Dreamers of the Day– a fictional book by Mary Doria Russell, set in the Middle East.

Here’s what it says at the back of the book:

‘I am sure of this much: my little story has become your history. You won’t really understand your times until you understand mine…’

Reeling from the aftermath of the twin tragedies of the Great War and the influenza epidemic, diffident schoolteacher Agnes Shanklin has taken the trip of a lifetime: to Egypt and the Holy Land.

But her arrival at Cairo’s Semiramis Hotel coincides with an event that will change history. For the year is 1921 and the Cairo Peace Conference is about to preside over nothing less than the creation of the modern Middle East.

At first Agnes becomes a welcome sounding board for the historic players -Churchill, T.E. Lawrence and Lady Gertrude Bell among them- poised to invent the nations of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and so decide the fate of the Arab world. But as the days pass, she attracts the attention of a charismatic German spy and is inexorably drawn into the duplicitous, dangerous world of geopolitcal intrigue…

Compelling and passionately felt, this remarkable novel casts brilliant and perceptive light on what lies behind so many of today’s headlines.

Sounds interesting? I’ve gathered a few little tidbits of information to help you digest the above.

Word Definitions:

  1. diffident- (adj.) hesitant in acting/speaking through lack of self-confidence
  2. sounding board- (n.) a person/group on whom one tries out an idea/opinion as a means of evaluating it
  3. charismatic- (adj.) having, exhibiting or based on charisma, a special magnetic charm/appeal
  4. inexorably- (adj.) relentless; not to be persuaded, moved or stopped
  5. duplicitous- (adj.) deceptive in words/action
  6. geopolitical- (adj.) a governmental policy guided by geopolitics, a study of the influence of such factors as geography, economics, and demography (the statistical study of human populations especially with reference to size and density, distribution, and vital statistics) on the politics and especially the foreign policy of a state

BBC\'s map of Egypt.Now, where is Cairo? It’s the capital of Egypt. Here’s a map… At the left, you can see Egypt, with Cairo’s position highlighted with a little red box. It’s really near the River Nile as well as the Suez Peninsula, and if the map were any bigger you’d be able to see the other countries of the Middle East.

And as for the Semiramis Hotel… By visiting HotelTravel.com’s review, you can see just why it was chosen for the Cairo Peace Conference in 1921. It sounds like a pretty posh place all suitable for business! Now, don’t think I’ve forgotten that I probably lost you at ‘Cairo Peace Conference’. What was it and how important was it exactly in the history of the Middle East? Before we get to that, let’s check out the leaders mentioned in the Dreamers of the Day blurb.

  1. Winston Churchill(1874-1965), British politician and Prime Minister of Great Britain (1940-1945, 1951-1955), widely regarded as Britain’s greatest 20th-century statesman, and celebrated for his national leadership during World War II.
  2. T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935), sometimes referred to as Lawrence of Arabia, British adventurer, soldier, and author who became famous for his role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
  3. Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), British archaeologist, writer, and government official, renowned for her role in the creation of the state of Iraq.

Grace’ll probably check out the other politicians as she ploughs through this heavy read. While she does that, let’s check out the Cairo Peace Conference! I know you’ve been dying to find out what it is.

Here’s what Answers.com has to say about it:

The Cairo Conference was convened by Winston Churchill, then Britain’s colonial secretary. With the mandates of Palestine and Iraq awarded to Britain at the San Remo Conference (1920), Churchill wished to consult with Middle East experts, and at his request, Gertrude Bell, Sir Percy Cox, T. E. Lawrence, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, Sir Arnold T. Wilson, Iraqi minister of war Jaʿfar alAskari, Iraqi minister of finance Sasun Effendi (Sasson Heskayl), and others gathered in Cairo, Egypt, in March 1921. The two most significant decisions of the conference were to offer the throne of Iraq to Amir Faisal ibn Hussein (who became Faisal I)and the emirate of Transjordan (now Jordan) to his brother Abdullah I ibn Hussein. Furthermore, the British garrison in Iraq would be substantially reduced and replaced by air force squadrons, with a major base at Habbaniyya. The conference provided the political blueprint for British administration in both Iraq and Transjordan, and in offering these two regions to the Hashimite sons of Sharif Husayn ibn Ali of the Hijaz, Churchill believed that the spirit, if not the letter, of Britain’s wartime promises to the Arabs would be fulfilled.

Now, that last sentence rings a bell, doesn’t it? For more information, read up on the Arab-British conflict in your War & Peace booklet. Alternatively, if your booklet’s keeping mum about it, leave a comment for me and I’ll try to suss it out!

Hoping this’s left you with a thirst to learn more,

M.A.

P.S. Thank you Live Image Search for the images, Merriam Webster Online Dictionary for the word definitions, MSN Encarta for the politicians’ biographies and Answers.com for the information on the Cairo Peace Conference!

Stereotypes

Now we all know that many of us have a lot of stereotypes about the world at large. For example, who do you think is the smartest? A blonde, brunette, or redhead? Most probably you eliminated the blonde first, just like I did. Educated guess? I think not.

If you watched the video above, you would have seen how many people scorned Britain’s Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle’s dream of becoming a singing sensation like Elaine Paige. The main reason for their disbelief was her appearance: unattractive and unsuccessful-looking. Definitely not superstar material, you’d think. But then she starts singing and lo and behold, she’s even got scowling Simon smiling!

From my previous post, it’s pretty obvious that my creators have lots of assumptions which are probably not even true. I’ve gone around and asked my creators’ classmates about the stereotypes they have about the Middle East. You’ll be shocked at their answers…

Helen: The Middle East is a dangerous place.

Mindy: Everybody there has to wear a head piece.

Joseph: They don’t have any first-world countries. The women are conservative and not treated very well.

Robbie: They are terrorists.

If your mouth isn’t hanging in a huge ‘O’ yet, read the following. I’ve asked my creators to write down what they think are some of the greatest stereotypes people harbour about the Middle East.

  • Every time you see this guy in a head piece and sunglasses sitting next to you on the plane, chances are you’ll be tempted to ask if he’s got bombs in his bag.
  • If you meet a girl who’s dressed in the most fashionable clothes and suddenly find out she’s from the Middle East, your first reaction would probably be, “Wait, aren’t you supposed to be wearing black cloth head to toe or something?”
  • It’s summer and your parents tell you that your holiday destination is the Middle East. Most probably you’d beg and beg for Paris, New York or something like that. Your reason? “I’m going to get mugged there, and maybe killed.” Ouch, stereotype much?

You know as well as I do that you have some stereotypes too. Leave a comment to spill all! If your stereotypes have already been shared here, feel free to explain more, like how you got that perception of the Middle East in the first place.

Looking forward to your tales!

M.A.

P.S. Video source: here

Joseph and Robbie’s blog: here | Helen’s blog: here | Mindy’s blog: here

Thanks to all who agreed to let me share their stereotypes with the World Wide Web ;D