While working in Afghanistan for 16 months, U.S. Navy officer, and Dari speaker, Edward Zellem learned that most Afghans enjoy art, literature and telling witty proverbs. He collected and translated popular Afghan proverbs into a unique book that educates and bridges cultures. “Zarbul Masalha” (meaning “proverbs” in Dari) features 151 translated proverbs in English and Dari, accompanied by original illustrations by high school students from the Marefat High School in Kabul.
In 2010, Navy Captain Edward Zellem spent a year and a half side by side with Afghans in Kabul and Kandahar as part of a program to develop experts specializing in the language, culture, and development of the region. While he was there, he learned how to speak Dari and realized that Afghans universally prize wit and cleverness in speech. He started collecting Afghan proverbs because of his interest in learning about the culture and language.
The effort resulted in “Zarbul Masalha: 151 Afghan Dari Proverbs”, a one-of-a-kind book that is popular around the world with Afghans and non-Afghans. The book contains proverbs like Az saad kheysh, yak hamsaya peysh (A neighbor is closer than a hundred relatives) and Khoob behpush, khoob bukhor, zendagee kotah ast (Dress well, eat well, life is short). Each page has the proverb written in Dari, an English translation, and the literal meaning in English. The proverbs are accompanied by original illustrations by young Afghan students, who won awards in a competition to have their artwork included in the book. The U.S. Department of State provided a grant to the school to illustrate, print, and distribute the book.
Captain Zellem shared his insights and motivations for publishing his book. “Zarbul Masalha is both a window and a mirror. As a window, the book helps readers gain deep insights into a culture and language that is important in international relations, a culture rich with colorful verbal communication. And as a mirror, readers can see themselves and their own cultures reflected in the universal messages expressed by the proverbs. Afghan culture is thousands of years old, and the proverbs show the depth of the people. What I enjoy most about Afghan culture is its emphasis on hospitality, good manners and loyalty to family and friends. Unfortunately, there are many negative stereotypes about Afghanistan today. These proverbs show that people all over the world are very much alike, whether they know it or not. Working with Afghans, especially the students, gave me a glimpse of what Afghanistan can again become, with the freedom to create, invent, imagine and build. What strikes me most about Afghan proverbs is how they demonstrate our common humanity”.
Captain Zellem found that while Afghans he met were surprised, and even skeptical, that he spoke fluent Dari, they were flattered that he was learning about and collecting Afghan proverbs. On a couple of occasions, tough and experienced fighters were moved to tears when they found out that an American cared about Afghan culture and respected it.
For organizations promoting literacy, development, and peace in Afghanistan, Zarbul Masalha is a powerful tool of engagement to connect to local populations. New York Times best-selling author Paula Broadwell says, “The book has been widely received by westerners as well as schools and organizations for practical purposes. The use of the proverbs can help introduce Afghan culture to foreigners. The use of proverbs can provide a bridge between cultures. For its entertainment, cultural teaching, and inspirational value, Zarbul Masalha is a must-read!”
The book is also a valuable resource for Afghan immigrants who are seeking ways to connect their children to their homeland. Afghans say this about the book: “Zarbul Masalha has three faces. It helps Afghans learn English. It helps English speakers learn Dari. And it helps everyone learn about Afghanistan’s culture. Afghan-Americans should have a copy of this book because it teaches Dari and about the treasured proverbs of Afghanistan.”
Zarbul Masalha was published May 2012 in paperback and is listed for $14.95. It is available on the publisher’s site, Amazon, and Kindle. For a limited time (through October 15th, 2012), a 30% off discounted rate will be offered on the publisher’s website by entering SERXBZHF during check-out HERE (available on publisher site only, not Amazon). 100% of all net royalties will be donated to literacy programs in Afghanistan.
BOOK WEBSITE: http://www.afghanproverbs.com/
MEDIA COVERAGE: http://www.afghanproverbs.com/zm_in_the_media
EDWARD ZELLEM ON TV: http://www.afghanproverbs.com/zm_on_tv
Sample of a proverb in “Zarbul Masalha”. Includes Dari proverb, English translation and literal meaning in English:
Tags: zarbul masalha, edward zellem, afghanistan, afghan proverbs
Fox News: When DC Comics decided to blow up its fabled universe and create a brave, diverse future, Geoff Johns drew from the past for a new character: his own background as an Arab-American.
The company’s chief creative officer and writer of the relaunched “Green Lantern” series dreamed up Simon Baz, DC’s most prominent Arab-American superhero and the first to wear a Green Lantern ring. The character and creator share Lebanese ancestry and hail from the Detroit area, which boasts one of the largest and oldest Arab communities in the United States.
“I thought a lot about it—I thought back to what was familiar to me,” Johns, 39, told The Associated Press by phone last week from Los Angeles, where he now lives. “This is such a personal story.”
Baz’s story begins in a standalone “zero issue” available Wednesday that’s part of a companywide effort to fill in the gaps or tell the origins of a character or team. Johns has no plans for Baz to fade into the background—the character in February is bound for the Justice League of America, one of DC’s premier super team books, to fight alongside Green Arrow, Catwoman and Hawkman.
Johns said he took economic as well as ethnic cues for the character from his native Detroit area, with Baz resorting to stealing cars after being laid off from his automotive engineering job. He steals the wrong car, which inadvertently steers him into a terrorism probe and, eventually, an unexpected call to join the universe’s galactic police force.
The olive-skinned, burly Baz hails from Dearborn, the hometown of Henry Ford and the capital of Arab America. His story begins at 10 years old, when he and the rest of his Muslim family watch their television in horror as airplanes fly into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Events unfold from there as U.S. Arabs and Muslims find themselves falling under intense suspicion and ostracism in the days, months and years following the attacks.
“Obviously, it’s affecting everybody,” said Johns, who grew up in nearby suburbs in a Lebanese Christian household and got into comics when he discovered his uncle’s old collection in his Arabic grandmother’s attic.
“One of the things I really wanted to show was its effect on Simon and his family in a very negative way.”
Baz is not the first Arab or Muslim character to grace—or menace, as has historically been the case—the comic world. Marvel Comics has Dust, a young Afghan woman whose mutant ability to manipulate sand and dust has been part of the popular X-Men books. DC Comics in late 2010 introduced Nightrunner, a young Muslim hero of Algerian descent reared in Paris. He is part of the global network of crime fighters set up by Batman alter-ego Bruce Wayne.
Frank Miller, whose dark and moody take on Batman in “The Dark Knight Returns” in 1986 energized the character, took a different tack in his recent book, “Holy Terror,” which tells the story of The Fixer and his efforts to stamp out Islamic terrorists. The graphic novel initially took root as a look at Batman’s efforts to fight terrorism, which grew out of Miller’s experiences of being in New York on 9/11.
A broader mission to bring Islamic heroes and principles to the comic world comes from Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of “The 99.” The U.S. educated psychologist from Kuwait has been gaining followers across the globe since the 2006 debut of the comic book that spawned a TV series. “The 99” is named after the number of qualities the Quran attributes to God: strength, courage, wisdom and mercy among them. The series gained a wide audience in 2010, when it worked with DC on a six-issue crossover that teamed the “The 99” with The Justice League of America.
Johns, who also has written stories starring Superman, The Flash and Teen Titans, said going diverse only works if there’s a good story, and he believes he found that with Baz. But don’t mistake him for a hero in the beginning: Baz disappoints both devout Muslims—his forearm tattoo that reads “courage” in Arabic is considered “haram,” or religiously forbidden—and broader society by turning to a life of crime.
“He’s not a perfect character. He’s obviously made some mistakes in his life, but that makes him more compelling and relatable,” he said. “Hopefully (it’s) a compelling character regardless of culture or ethnic background. ... But I think it’s great to have an Arab American superhero. This was opportunity and a chance to really go for it.”
Of course, Johns hopes Green Lantern fans accept Baz, who joins other humans who have been “chosen,” including Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner. The overall relaunch has been good for DC, which has seen a solid gain in sales and critical reception—as well as some expected grumbling—since coming out with the “New 52” last year.
Johns also sees the debut of Baz as a chance to reconnect with people in his home state: He’s scheduled to visit Dearborn this weekend for events related to the release that include a signing Saturday at a comic book store and a free presentation Sunday on his career and characters at the Arab American National Museum. He worked with museum staff to make sure he got certain details right about his character and the Arab-Muslim community.
“It doesn’t completely define the character but it shapes the character,” he said. “My biggest hope is that people embrace it and understand what we’re trying to do.”
Tags: green lantern, dc comics, arab muslim, simon baz
By Jessica Yadegaran
Contra Costa Times
Pakistani-American Ayesha Mattu met her future husband minutes after she vowed never again to date outside of her Islamic faith. She was heartsick after failed relationships with non-Muslim men. Then, along came Randy: White, agnostic and utterly irresistible. Mattu, a San Francisco human rights consultant, chronicles their courtship in “Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women” (Soft Skull; $15.95), a collection of essays about love, flirting, dating and sex.
The anthology, which debuted Valentine’s Day and is among Amazon’s Top 200 books, is making a splash in and beyond the Islamic community by shattering stereotypes of Muslim women as oppressed and submissive. On their book tour, Mattu and co-editor Nura Maznavi are greeting standing-room-only crowds eager to hear them and the 23 other contributors share real-life stories of lust, heartbreak and soul mates.
From chaperoned dating and matrimonial websites to college flirtations and a whirlwind international romance, “InshAllah,” which means God willing, unites gay, straight, pious and secular stories of love and longing among ethnically diverse Islamic American women of all ages.
“It’s a first and long overdue,” says Zahra Ayubi, a visiting scholar and expert on Islam, gender, and ethics at Stanford University’s Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies. “And it’s an important milestone in terms of the level of frank conversation and discourse regarding Muslim women.”
Reflecting the diversity of the nation’s estimated 8 million Muslims was important for Mattu and Maznavi, who came up with the book idea five years ago over coffee at a Union Square cafe. Maznavi, a civil rights attorney now living in Los Angeles, had just seen the movie “50 First Dates” and wondered what the Muslim version would look like. Under Hollywood’s control? Likely not accurate.
“We felt there was a prevailing image of Muslim women as silent and submissive, and that wasn’t reflective of us,” explains Mattu, 39, via phone from New York. “Most of us are highly independent, funny and opinionated. We thought it was time to tell our story in a more honest and individual way.” After a dozen publishing houses denied their pitch because it didn’t fit into one category, such as religion or chick lit, the women’s agent dumped them.
“It was pretty demoralizing,” Maznavi, 33, recalls in a phone interview. “So, we moped.” Then, in 2010, Mattu and Maznavi won the nonfiction round at San Francisco’s Pitchapalooza, the “American Idol” for budding authors. They scored a new agent that night, then received a contract with Soft Skull Press, a small Berkeley publishing house.
Their national call for submissions via Facebook and Twitter yielded more than 200 entries from women around the country, such as Tanzila Ahmed, a pink-haired Bangladeshi teenager from Southern California who fell for the frontman of a Muslim punk band. Or Najva Sol, a writer who came out to her Iranian Muslim parents at a Maryland coffee shop. Or Lena Hassan, the pen name for a Pakistani computer science major who found her husband on an Arabic website and accepted his marriage proposal over email.
Many of the issues, such as interracial dating or challenging parental authority, are universal. That’s one reason Jittaun Batiste Jones, of San Jose, loves the book. The 33-year-old African-American is a convert to Islam and has been married to her Indonesian husband for eight years. She says it is refreshing to see issues of sex and intimacy discussed so openly among Muslim Americans.
She sees the same openness and emerging dialogue in her own community, particularly when it comes to marital issues. In other words, not just finding love but sustaining it. “The community has been evolving over the years,” Jones says. “There weren’t frank discussions about sexual needs or what you’re supposed to do when resentment and problems can affect love and affection. But the second generation (of Muslims born in the U.S.) have pushed the need to address these issues.”
For instance, the Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara that Jones frequents recently recruited an Egyptian Muslim marriage and family therapist to work with couples. He helped her and her husband, Farid Alhadi, rekindle their spark and improve communication, she says. Still, change can be slow, especially about hot-button topics, such as premarital sex and homosexuality, both of which are considered haraam, or forbidden. For that reason, there has been some criticism of “Love, InshAllah” from religious leaders who believe these topics are un-Islamic, Mattu says. However, the editors didn’t set out to create a religious book. They wanted to share love stories.
“These topics are challenging for the community to talk about, but people are rising to the occasion,” Mattu says. “Muslim women in particular have been waiting a long time to talk about these things. We’re hoping the religious leaders will work with us as partners to help make Islam a living, breathing thing relevant in all of our lives.”
Tags: Love, Inshallah, Ayesha Mattu, Nura Maznavi, Muslim marriage, love
LA Times: “Work of Art” on Bravo concluded its second season on Wednesday, with the three remaining contestants squaring off in competing gallery shows. In a season that featured little drama and even less excitement, the series saved its biggest bombshell for the very end when it crowned a surprise winner.
Most of Wednesday’s episode was given over to biographical sketches of the three finalists. Simon de Pury paid visits to each of them in their homes to give a final mentoring session and pep talk. Young, who lives in Chicago, introduced his boyfriend and mother before revealing his planned exhibition, which failed to impress De Pury.
Kymia, the high-strung one inclined to waterworks that would rival Versailles, gave a tour of her New York apartment where she lives with her boyfriend. Kymia’s gallery pieces also disappointed De Pury, causing her eyes to well-up with tears.
In Brooklyn, Sara revealed her works that were inspired by secrets scribbled on paper by passers-by on the street.
Serving as guest judge on this final round was KAWS, the New York artist and designer whose signature pieces are large-scale riffs on the cartoon world.
The judges expressed admiration all around for the gallery shows. Even critic Jerry Saltz kept his usually snide persona in check for what must have been sentimental reasons.
Sara was the first to be sent packing. Her installation, featuring sculpture, performance and other eclectic pieces, was deemed creative but somewhat too disjointed.
In the end, the judges chose Kymia over the favorite Young. Both of their installations dealt with the loss of a father and were weighty in tone. Kymia not only receives a $100,000 prize, but also a show at the Brooklyn Museum and other goodies.
Will there be a third season of “Work of Art”? It’s too early to say, but judging from this season—yawn—the producers face something of an uphill battle.
Tags: kymia nawabi, work of art, winner, bravo
Afghan author Nasrat Esmaty was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and fled to Pakistan when he was seven. He immigrated to the United States and earned his degree in liberal arts and sciences from the San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, California. He returned to Afghanistan after college.
Esmaty has just released a novel called “Blue Blood Mirage”, a story of Faryal Sitam, a returning Afghan, and her adventures in Afghanistan. It is based on a true story and events. Life for Faryal and her family is far from uncomplicated. Upon their return to Afghanistan from Jordan, her father, Jalal Sitam, learns that he is no longer welcomed by his own government and that his cousins are trying to steal his property—and by extension, his future.
Romaan, Jalal’s friend’s son, asks that Faryal be granted to him in marriage. On what should have been a joyous day, Faryal is… kidnapped by Sardar, a powerful and dangerous criminal. Her family quickly agrees to pay the million dollars Sardar demands, but that is of little consolation for Faryal. Fearing more for her chastity than for her life, she makes a frantic choice, but even death cannot save her; her attempt at suicide fails. Desperate, she begs her kidnapper, a middle-aged man with two children, to marry her, to salvage what little honor she may still have.
Devastated by the news, Jalal tries to stop her marriage to the criminal, but his plans are thwarted. He must learn that even men can be pawns in the same game. This is just a glimpse of adventure in Faryal’s life. As Faryal’s journey continues and the story unravels further, it takes more unimaginable twists and turns right to the end.
When the upper class sets standards, everyone must abide by them. They see everything perfect and build a mirage in their outlooks, mentalities, and approaches, which makes life more difficult than it already is. Afghan women have suffered for a million reasons that have not been their intrinsic faults. This novel, inspired by true events, is an exploration on the cultural injustices done to women in Afghanistan.
This exciting new novel is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Blood-Mirage-Illusion-ebook/dp/B005K8WDQG
Tags: blue blood mirage, afghanistan, nasrat esmaty
On Friday, a U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed radical American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who inspired several plots to attack Americans. Last week, another U.S. citizen was charged with trying to collaborate with Al Qaeda to attack the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. This week, the so-called “underwear bomber” is going to trial for attempting to bomb a Detroit-bound airplane.
But in the midst of Islamic extremism, Arsalan Iftikhar tells NPR’s Michel Martin that a majority of Muslims prescribe to a peaceful interpretation of Islam. In his new book, Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era, Iftikhar says the Arab Spring has moved the momentum away from extremists. “Last year even, if you told Middle East experts that people like Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi would fall in the same calendar year, we would have probably laughed at you,” he says.
Iftikhar tells young Muslims to gain inspiration from the Arab Spring and choose a path of nonviolence over despair and rage. He says Islamic Pacifism stems from the desire to “use religion only for good, using the 10 commandments, using the Golden Rule concepts of loving thy God and loving thy neighbor — which beats at the heart of every major world religion today.” Iftikhar adds that a wide range of mainstream Muslim scholars have actively condemned terrorism, and people like Osama bin Laden have “essentially yanked the microphone of global Muslims.”
Tags: islamic extremism, arsalan iftikhar, npr, michel martin
Frank Miller is one of comics’ few undisputed geniuses. From Daredevil to Ronin to Sin City, Miller excels at exploring the dark side of humanity without reducing his characters to simplistic killing machines. His Dark Knight Returns was one of the game-changing comics of the 1980s, the greatest Batman story ever told, a book that rivals Watchmen in its ability to prove that comics are literature. As an artist, Miller’s forte is in stark black-and-white color schemes, yet he creates worlds where the morality is a subtle gray.
Holy Terror, Miller’s long, long, long-awaited statement on 9/11 and counterterrorism, hit comic book stores Wednesday. Longtime Miller watchers have viewed it with apprehension, hoping that his dark views about the source of that national trauma wouldn’t turn the comic into a vulgar, one-dimensional revenge fantasy. They were wrong. It’s even worse than that.
Miller’s Holy Terror is a screed against Islam, completely uninterested in any nuance or empathy toward 1.2 billion people he conflates with a few murderous conspiracy theorists. It’s no accident that it’s being released ten years after 9/11. This comic would be unthinkable during the unity that the U.S. felt after the attack.
Instead, it’s a perfect cultural artifact of this dark period in American life, when the FBI teaches its agents that “mainstream” Islam is indistinguishable from terrorism and a community center near Ground Zero gets labeled a “victory mosque.” Call it the artwork of 9/11 decadence, when all that remains of a horror is a carefully nurtured grievance.
Holy Terror, the inaugural offering from Legendary Comics, starts out with the Fixer, an ersatz Batman, enjoying a tryst with an ersatz Catwoman when they’re interrupted by a nail bomb. The culprit: a “humanities major” named Amina, an Islamist version of the psychopathic Rorschach from Watchmen, who sneers that the “haughty” skyline of Empire City is like “sharpened sticks aimed at the eyes of God.”
The Fixer’s response is to go to war — indiscriminately. “We give them what they want, minus the innocent victims,” the Fixer thinks as he opens fire. To bring the point home Miller draws 14 stereotypical Muslim faces around the righteous anti-hero. Naturally, the only way to learn more about the next attack is to torture a surviving terrorist — which Miller illustrates pornographically — even though the Scary Muslim says “pain means nothing to me,” so it’s not like the Fixer is torturing, you know, a human being.
“So Mohammed,” the Fixer says, “Pardon me for guessing your name, but you’ve got to admit the odds are pretty good that it’s Mohammed.” Naturally, the terrorists are amassing an army in a mosque, against whose walls “the night winds blow away seven centuries.” That’s the tenor of the book, though I won’t spoil the ending.
Tags: frank miller, holy terror, anti-islam
IN one of Washington Irving’s tales from “The Alhambra,” the short-story collection that rooted the great 14th-century Moorish landmark in the American imagination, a poor Spaniard and his daughter discover a hidden chamber deep within the abandoned palace’s crumbling walls and spirit away the treasure inside.
Over the last three years in a suite of galleries concealed from public view on the second floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it is as if Irving’s fable of Islam’s rich past has been unfolding in reverse. Treasures, in this case more than a thousand pieces from the museum’s extensive holdings of Islamic art, have been slowly populating newly constructed rooms, taking their places in gleaming new vitrines with Egyptian marble underfoot and mosque lamps overhead, amid burbling fountains and peaked arches framing views of 13 centuries of art history.
When this 19,000-square-foot hidden chamber is finally opened to the public on Nov. 1 with the unwieldy but academically precise new name of the Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia, it will not only represent the culmination of eight years of planning and work. The reinstallation and enlargement of the collection — one of the most important outside the Middle East — also promises to stand as a READ ARTICLE HERE
Tags: new york times, metropolitan museum of art, islam art, muslim art
The Islamic center that has sparked debate over cultural sensitivity for its proximity to the World Trade Center is set to open Wednesday with a photography exhibit of children from more than 170 nations. “NYChildren” features portraits of kids from 171 countries, all living in New York. It marks the grand opening of Lower Manhattan’s Islamic community center and mosque, built by nonprofit group Park51.
“Let’s create a physical space that reminds us to be in touch with something greater than ourselves, the unity in community and love of neighbors,” Park51 wrote on its website about the exhibit. The event corresponds with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace. The exhibit is being held at a temporary space at the site; the rest of the building has yet to be renovated.
“NYChildren,” featuring work by photographer Danny Goldfield, is set to open at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday
Tags: ground zero islamic mosque, ny children, park 51, danny goldfield
Don’t miss a very exciting book reading featuring Afghan authors Naheed Elyasi and Sahar Muradi TONIGHT at 8 pm at the National Arts Club in NYC! The event will be hosted by actor Robert Duvall!
One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature is edited by Zohra Saed and Sahar Muradi. This extraordinary collection goes beyond stereotypical impressions of Afghanistan and Afghans and speaks to the long and deep relationship between Afghanistan and the United States, the firsthand stories of Afghan-Americans and the Little Afghanistans in American cities.
When: September 13th, 2011
Where: National Arts Club
15 Gramercy Park South
New York, NYC
Tags: Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature, naheed elyasi, zohra saed, shar muradi, robert duvall