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07 3172 7850
to work in
ambiguity of Homeland or Argo is a fitting
tribute to the reality of US Middle East
America's Middle East policy has been
enthusiastically endorsed. Not at the UN or
Arab League, however, but by the
powerbrokers of Hollywood. At the Golden
Globes, there were gongs for a heroically
bearded CIA spook saving hostages and
American face in Iran (the film Argo); a
heroically struggling agent tracking down
Bin Laden (Zero Dark Thirty) and heroically
flawed CIA operatives protecting America
from mindless, perpetual terror (TV series
The three winners have all been sold as
complex, nuanced productions that don't shy
away from hard truths about US foreign
policy. And liberal audiences can't get
enough of them. Perhaps it's because,
alongside the odd bit of self-criticism,
they are all so reassuringly insistent that,
in an increasingly complicated world,
America just keeps on doing the right thing.
And even when it does the wrong thing – such
as, I don't know, torture and drone strikes
and deadly invasions – it is to combat far
greater evil, and therefore OK.
When I saw Argo in London with a Turkish
friend, we were the only ones not clapping
at the end. Instead, we were wondering why
every Iranian in this horribly superior film
was so angry and shouty. It was a tense,
meticulously styled depiction of America's
giant, perpetual, wailing question mark over
the Middle East: "Why do they hate us?"
Iranians are so irked by the historically
flimsy retelling of the hostage crisis that
their government has commissioned its own
version in response.
Zero Dark Thirty, another blanked-out,
glossed-up portrayal of US policy, seems to
imply that America's use of torture – sorry,
"enhanced interrogation" – is legitimate
because it led to the capture of Osama bin
Laden (something that John McCain and others
have pointed out is not even true). Adding
insult to moral bankruptcy, the movie has
been cast as a feminist film, because it has
a smart female lead. This is cinematic
fraud: a device used to extort our approval.
Homeland was no better. It is the story of
an American marine taken captive by a top
al-Qaida terrorist who turns out, wouldn't
you know, to be Palestinian. Tortured while
detained (though I'm guessing this would be
bad torture, not the good kind used in Zero
Dark Thirty), the marine turns to Islam and,
coincidentally, to terror. Meanwhile, all
the Arab and Muslim characters in Homeland –
however successful, integrated, clever,
whatever – are all somehow signed up to the
global terror network. As Laila Al-Arian, a
journalist and co-author of Collateral
Damage: America's War against Iraqi
Civilians, puts it: "Viewers are left to
believe that Muslims/Arabs participate in
terrorist networks like Americans send
holiday cards." She describes this
celebrated Golden Globe winner as "TV's most
When challenged, the creators of these
travesties respond with pat dismissal: the
director Kathryn Bigelow pointed out that
Zero Dark Thirty is "just a movie". Ben
Affleck has spoken touchingly of his concern
that Argo might be politicised.
But why would these renditions of US policy
be seen in the Middle East as anything other
than attempts to seize the moral high
ground? It's all supposed to be a massive
stride forward in the portrayal of
complexity, made to challenge American
audience preconceptions – and a far cry from
the bad old days depicted in Reel Bad Arabs,
a documentary that shows how Hollywood
caricatures Arabs as "belly dancers,
billionaire sheikhs and bombers", according
to one reviewer.
But such slick, award-winning cinema isn't
about nuance, it's just self-serving moral
ambiguity – and in this sense it is a
fitting cultural reflection of actual US
policy in the Middle East.
Begins World's Second Largest Muslim
than a million Muslims gathered on the banks
of a river in Bangladesh recently to pray
and listen to religious scholars at the
start of the world's second largest annual
The streets of Dhaka were largely deserted
as devotees flocked to the River Turag at
Tongi, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) north
of the capital, where the Biswa Ijtema
(World Muslim Congregation) was held over
Nurul Islam, one of the chief organizers,
said canopies stretching for more than a
kilometer, erected on open ground on the
banks of the river, were filled.
"There are more than a million devotees
already here, but we hope, like last year,
that the number will pass the two million
mark at the final prayers on Sunday," he
said at the start of the event.
Special trains and ferries were arranged to
transport pilgrims to the event, while army
engineers set up dozens of makeshift bridges
and water tanks.
The devotees either slept in the marquees or
braved the chilly temperatures outside --
Bangladesh is currently experiencing its
coldest winter since independence from
Pakistan in 1971.
"Around 30,000 foreigners from more than 100
countries also joined the congregation this
year," Islam said.
Launched by Tablig Jamaat, a non-political
group that urges people to follow the tenets
of Islam in their daily lives, the gathering
at Tongi was first held in 1964.
It is the second largest annual gathering of
Muslims in the world, after the Hajj
pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
Bangladesh is the world's third-largest
Muslim-majority nation, with Muslims making
up nearly 90 percent of its 152 million
SINGAPORE — Malaysia has been rated the
world's top Muslim-friendly holiday
destination in a survey that listed Egypt,
Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia
and Singapore as runners-up.
study by Singapore-based Muslim travel
consultancy Crescentrating ranked countries
on how well they cater to the growing number
of Muslim holidaymakers seeking halal -- or
Islam-compliant -- food and services.
It used criteria including the level of
safety in a country, the ease of access to
halal food and prayer facilities, and
whether hotels cater to the needs of Muslim
On a scale of one to 10 in which 10 is the
best score, Malaysia came out number one
with a grade of 8.3 among 50 nations
Egypt was in second place with 6.7, followed
by the United Arab Emirates and Turkey both
with 6.6. Saudi Arabia was in fourth place
with a score of 6.4 and Singapore was fifth
Indonesia, Morocco and Jordan scored 6.1 to
tie in sixth place, trailed by seventh-place
Brunei, Qatar, Tunisia and Oman, all with a
score of 6.0.
Crescentrating chief executive Fazal
Bahardeen said the survey was taken from the
point of view of the traveller, meaning that
it measured the ease of access by Muslim
tourists -- not locals -- to halal food and
"Malaysia is one of the few countries where
you can find a prayer place in almost every
location -- be it a shopping mall or the
airport," Fazal told AFP.
He said that while Malaysian authorities
have been focusing on the market for several
years, Indonesia -- the world's most
populous Muslim nation -- has not done as
"The main problem for Indonesia is that it's
not straightforward for a Muslim visitor to
find halal food availability. For locals
it's probably not an issue."
Saudi Arabia figured as a holiday
destination for the first time since the
survey started in 2011 because more Muslims
use their holidays to go there to perform
the Umrah, a minor pilgrimage, Fazal said.
In terms of cities as a shopping
destination, Dubai pipped Kuala Lumpur for
the number-one spot, according to the survey
which rated the presence of halal food and
prayer facilities at shopping malls.
Istanbul, Jeddah, Singapore, Cairo, Abu
Dhabi, New Delhi, London and Doha completed
the top-10 shopping destinations.
Thailand's Suvarnabhumi Airport and the
Kuala Lumpur International Airport were
rated among the friendliest to Muslim
Spending by Muslim tourists is growing
faster than the global rate and is forecast
to reach $192 billion a year by 2020, up
from $126 billion in 2011, according to a
study by Crescentrating and another company
released last year.
Little Shaima planted a beautiful
apple tree but didn't want to share her apples. But
the squirrels and little boys stole them anyway.
Slowly but surely, she learns that sharing is good
in the children's book "The Apple Tree," the first
in a series by Mariam Al-Kalby, an Irvine-based
Growing up, Al-Kalby couldn't find
any children's books that introduced Islam in a
meaningful way. Instead, she would read about native
Americans and the "Little House on the Prairie" and
played with the American Girl dolls – feeling like
she didn't quite belong.
"I loved Samantha just because she had brown hair,
and she looked a little bit darker than the other
girls," she said.
Now a mother of two, Al-Kalby has found that the
need for children's books on Islam is still there.
She takes the Hadith, or the sayings of the Prophet
Muhammad, as her inspiration.
"When a Muslim plants a tree, whatever is eaten from
it is charity from him and whatever is stolen is
charity and whatever is subtracted from it is
charity," the epigraph of "The Apple Tree" reads.
A glossary in the back of the book helps non-Arabic
speaking readers with a few terms. Al-Kalby said the
lessons each book in her upcoming series are simple
and universal, allowing Muslims and non-Muslims to
connect with common themes.
It's also a gift to her two daughters, Maimuna, 3,
and Shaima, 1, who lent her name and looks to her
mother's first child protagonist.
And although Al-Kalby's youngest daughter stars in
her debut children's book, Maimuna will get her
chance to shine in the next one, so that the pair
can read about little girls just like them.
KB says: A very
refreshing dessert that will complement any meal
during these unbearably hot and steamy
Australian summer days. I haven't tried this
yet, but a friend suggested serving it with ice
Pineapple Jelly Desert
250 ml sour cream
250 ml fresh cream
1 225gm can of crushed pineapple
1 can condensed milk
up pineapple jelly as per directions on the box
and set it in your serving bowl for around 15
Meanwhile, mix all the remaining ingredients
together and then fold the mixture into the
this into your serving bowl and allow it to set.
Decorate with cream, pineapple pieces, and
Refrigerate overnight if possible and serve very
Q: Dear Kareema, we need help as a family. Two of
us are bordering on obesity and one actually is obese
(we’ve had our measurement taken by our family doctor).
I have a toddler too so we really need to make some
healthy changes right away. Do you have any suggestions?
A: GET ACTIVE TOGETHER.
The good news is that it’s not all doom and gloom.
Fighting obesity can actually be a lot of fun for the
Obesity is the result of an imbalance between energy
consumed and energy expended, continually over time.
So if food is fuel, what you eat can be burned off
through physical activity.
Kids love being engaged and active – pull the plug on
the computer games and TV and find a sport or activity
that everyone can take part in. 5 to 12 year olds need a
minimum of 60mins of exercise daily.
Smuggle some vegies into your meals and add extra
activities to your day (washing the car, cleaning up at
home or even gardening).
Above all stay focused and positive. Remember it’s a
lifestyle change so don’t expect results overnight,
rather over time…
Mula Nasruddin's wife was making a breakfast of fried
eggs for her husband when he burst into the kitchen.
Mula Nasruddin cried, "CAREFUL! Put in some more butter!
Oh my goodness! You're cooking too many at once. TOO
MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh
my word! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They're
going to STICK! Careful ... CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL!
You NEVER listen to me when you're cooking! Never! Turn
them! Hurry up! Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind?
Don't forget to salt them. You know you always forget to
salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!"
The wife stared at him in amazement, "What in the world
is wrong with you? You think I don't know how to fry a
couple of eggs?"
Mula Nasruddin calmly replied, "I wanted to show you
what it feels like when I'm driving."
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