Thursday, February 25, 2016

Weekly Report 3 - Musicians of the Arab World

One famous singer that originates from the Arab world is Egyptian Umm Kulthum,  someone who has been regarded as 'The Lady' of Egypt and is known for her incredible voice throughout the Arab world. Umm Kulthum was born in a small rural village in Egypt into a poor family and was one out of eight children. Her father was the iman at the local mosque in their village and was the one who had introduced Kulthum to music and singing. As a religious leader, her father took on jobs where he was asked to religious songs for weddings or other social occasions. After hearing her father teaching her brother religious songs, Kulthum started to learn how to sing these songs as well. When her father discovered his daughter's gift of singing, he started to teach her too. Kulthum's voice grew stronger as she learned how to sing and she became an attraction of entertainment in her village. In 1923, Kulthum and her father moved to Cario to establish a singing career for Kulthum. Kulthum's singing voice quickly gained attention from the public. She had also trained with poet Ahmad Rami to improve her knowledge of literary Arabic for her singing. Umm Kulthum really rose to fame in the 1920s and 30s and her singing gave her a source of income. Her songs were heard on the radio, in films, and in television. Kulthum is known for her ability to improvise her singing in a way where her listeners can really feel the meaning of her songs. She has also been know to 'mesmerize' her listeners when they listen her songs, in that her voice had essence of the Arabic as tarab, an idea of enchantment. In this idea, Kulthum's voice was shown to capture listeners' interest by really feeling the music and entranced by it. Although Kulthum died in 1975, the presence of her music and influence still exists as prevalent as ever, as many Arabs today listen to Kulthum's magnificent voice.

Outline of Umm Kulthum's life
Voice of Egypt

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reflection 2 - Al-Andalus

Al-Andalus refers to the Islamic presence and the occupation of Muslims in Iberian Peninsula, known mainly as modern day Spain, from 711 to 1492. There is a historical saying that states "Europe ends at the Pyrenees", which is to mean there is evident divide at the Pyrenees mountains between Europe and Spain. This is an interesting statement since Spain is considered to be a part of Europe, and by stating there is a divide at the Pyrenees, it would be to state that Spain is a part of Africa, for the tip of Spain is only 14 kilometers away. However, it can be said that Spain is separated from Europe of cultural and ethnic differences. Because Spain is so close (being only 14 kilometers away), Islamic culture and the Muslims have been able to migrate into Spain, thus the territory became an entity of the Umayyad Emirate. After the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by the Umayyad, the Abd-ar Rahman of the Umayyad royal family reigned over land and Cordoba was established as the capital. By 929, Abd-ar Rahman III succeeded his grandfather and and Cordoba had become to serve as a major intellectual, cultural, and economical center, which also at the time held the largest library with approximately 400,000 books that had been handwritten by its original authors and philosophers. During this time of the Muslim rule throughout the Iberian Peninsula, there were Muslims (known as Moors) as well as Christians and Jews living collectively in the area. Because of their religious and cultural differences, there was often conflict and disharmony within these groups of people. The Caliph was able to rule over their land until 1031, where the land was spilt and broken into taifas, or city-states. Because the city-states were small and weak, there were unable to defend themselves when the Christians from the north invaded and eventually conquered them. In need of defense for their country, the taifas needed to ask help from the Almoravids, Muslims that were still in Northern Africa. After the rule of Almoravids, they were succeeded by the Almohads who continued to rule over the Iberian Peninsula until neighboring powers started invading. The last Muslim entity was Granada until it was conquered in 1492 by Fernando and Isabel of Spain. By 1609, there was an expulsion of the Muslim population still in Spain after the the war from Spain. And because of they forced to leave, much of the intellect, resources, and crops of food left with the Muslims.
Today, there is evident of Islamic influence found in Spain, as one can find many mosques and traces of Muslim culture. As the song heard in class, Islamic influences impacts Spanish music and songs by incorporating Arabic words into their music. Although the Muslims were forced to leave in the early 17 century, their influence did not leave and still exists in Spain today.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Weekly Report 2 - Arab and Muslim contributions to world civilization

One Muslim that is known for their contributions to world civilization would be Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, for her efforts in human rights advocacy for eduction especially for females. Malala Yousafzai was born in the Swat District located northwest of Pakistan, an area that was held under by the Taliban's military. Malala was very passionate about learning and going school starting from a young age, as her father ran a school from their home and an advocate for education. However, living in an area under Taliban control, it made it harder for Malala to pursue an education as the Taliban is known for their oppression of women, including the restriction of eduction for females.
From her life experiences, Malala decided to write anonymously about her daily life while living under the Taliban. These entries often described her fears of how the Taliban might blow up their school, the restrictions of television and music set up by the Taliban, and the suppression of women. Often Malala would also write about her desire to work towards eduction rights for all, especially women. 
Malala and her father had often received death threats for their advocation for education during the time Malala was writing about her experiences. Malala was actually shot in the head by a Taliban when coming home school one day, which initiated immediate responses from protestors and advocates all across Pakistan. In response to her attack, the National Assembly had ratified Pakistan's first Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill. 
During the time of her recovery, her story spread internationally as it had represented the fears and harsh realities of many girls living under Taliban rule. 
After recovering, Malala has continued to promote education rights for girls by establishing the Malal Fund, which raises awareness of the lack of eduction for girls and in hopes of giving a voice to girls who don't have one. 
Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her humanitarian advocacy and is the youngest person to do so. 

Malala Fund

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Weekly Report 1- Syria

During the rise of the Syrian civil war, the condition of the state has become more chaotic and violent in the past 4 years of war. Initially, the fighting occurred between pro-democrat protestors and governmental forces.

But it soon lead into a civil war as the Sunni majority begin to revolt against the Shia Alawite government, which have caused other surrounding states to become involved.
According to the UN, all those involved in the conflict have committed war crimes and they have been terminate the use of weapons to avoid any further death, but the number civilians casualties continue to climb.

The jihadist group Islamic State (IS) have become part of the fight in Syria and Iraq and been accused by the UN to have caused crimes and terror to those who does not accept their principles and beliefs.
In 2014, the US launched air strikes at Syria to hopefully rid of IS.

Similarly, Russia begun intervene but much of their efforts were have said to be more harmful civilians and Western-supported rebels and many accuse that Russia's intervention has actually helped Syrian governmental forces. While Russia defends that they have stopped 875 terrorist objects in Syria, their actions still ended up benefiting Syrian governmental forces by cutting into the rebel supply from nearby aiding Turkish towns. 

As a result of the civil war, it is estimated that as much as 250,000 people have lost their lives and 6.5 million Syrians are internally displaced while 11 million have been driven out of their homes. Now, it is estimated up to 70,000 may be heading to Turkey's border to take refuge to escape the fighting near Syrian city Aleppo. To help Syria, the EU, Germany, the UK, and the US have collectively promised to donate approximately $10 billion. However, these donations were halted as peace talks in Geneva were suspended.

Here's the news story