Nesrine Malik

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At the end of 2010, I was en route to Sudan for Christmas, scouring Arabic social media in search of scraps of information about a story unfolding in Tunisia; a story the Arab media was censoring and the western media was still ignoring. A street trader, Mohammed Bouazizi, had set himself on fire in protest at the government in the city of Sidi Bouzid, sparking demonstrations that spread across the country.

Weeks before the protests toppled Tunisia’s president-for-life, you could see that something about this uprising was different. There was something about the way the protests resonated in households around the Arab world, the intensity of the moral outrage and the force of the momentum that felt new and exciting.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Ethiopian migrant worker waits outside her country’s embassy in Beirut. Photograph: Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

It is just over a month since the Beirut port explosion, and the footage from that day remains as shocking as it was when it first began to appear on our TV screens and social media. In fragments of video, the world saw Beirut life freeze in confusion at the unfamiliar sound of the explosion, then shatter as its impact hit. Among those bits of film we saw one scene, captured on domestic CCTV, that was replicated across the city – an African nanny instinctively scooping children up out of harm’s way, and protecting them with her body.

Many of these nannies are now sleeping on the streets of Beirut.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Every national monument, TV news trailer, Facebook profile picture and even Uber icon wrapped in the colours of the Belgian flag, amplifies a message of the barabaric assault on a noble victim.’ Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Part of the grim reality of the frequency of terrorist attacks in Europe is that now there has become established a predictable pattern of reaction. Shock, then anger, then the recriminations and the political grandstanding. Another stage has now been added: the solidarity sneering.

It started with the Paris attacks and the partly justifiable complaint that deadly bombings in Beirut just days before had not received the same media or political attention or expressions of support. This criticism has now been extended to the expressions of solidarity with Brussels, as a manifestation of the seniority of European lives, reducing the discussion to a battle between “us” and “them”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Meriam Ibrahim has become a metaphor for Sudan’s predicament. Photograph: Str/EPA

Sudan's recent history is tainted by the names of women that have fallen victim to the country's arbitrary sharia and public order laws. Lubna Hussein, sentenced to a lashing for allegedly dressing indecently in public by wearing trousers; Intisar Sharif, sentenced to death by stoning for adultery; and now Meriam Ibrahim, sentenced to death for reportedly turning her back on Islam – her father's religion – and converting to Christianity. Of all the throwbacks to medieval religious legacies, this has been the most bizarre, and the most emblematic of religious confusion in the country.

But there is a risk that the intense western reaction to Ibrahim's case might undermine local efforts to secure her release.…  Seguir leyendo »

The defense of free speech often hides a multitude of sins. Since Brandeis University withdrew an honor it had intended to bestow on the author and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, many have flocked to her defense in the name of free expression — no matter how offensive. But implicitly they are suggesting that Islam and Muslims are worthy targets of Ms. Hirsi Ali’s scorn. And their preciousness about the right to offend won’t be credible until they advocate extending it beyond Islamophobes — to racists, anti-Semites and homophobes, too.

Ms. Hirsi Ali is no casual critic of Islam; she has built a career and brand railing against what she calls “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.”…  Seguir leyendo »

The last time the world’s eyes were on South Sudan, it was a time of jubilation. In July 2011, its secession from Sudan after decades of civil war was feted as a triumph of international advocacy. It seemed a long overdue deliverance for the people of the South, who had borne the brunt of successive Sudanese military assaults. South Sudan has always been viewed through the prism of its victimhood at the hands of its former northern neighbor.

Now, two and a half years later, South Sudan is in the news again. It has become clear that the country is not a bucolic land ruled by the freedom fighters.…  Seguir leyendo »

I would rather no one wore a niqab. I would rather that no woman had effectively to disappear, from a young age, because that is the norm in her family. I would rather that no one had to go through the discomfort and social awkwardness of dealing with a woman whose face you cannot see. I would rather that Islam be purged of the niqab and all its permutations.

But for all the controversy this piece of cloth has generated this week – from schools and hospitals to courts of law, barely has a day gone by when there has not been a story of either a woman forced to take off her veil or coerced into putting it on – I am afraid that the law does not exist to pander to personal penchants.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dubai is fast becoming the tombstone for capitalist hubris and exuberance, its hollow skyscrapers a poetic shrine to decadence and impunity. While this is a convenient image, like that of the humbled redundant banker with a whopping unsustainable mortgage, it is important to remember that Dubai is not a country, it is an emirate which, albeit independent in governance, is still part of the fabric of the "United" Arab Emirates.

Among the seven emirates in the federation, the classier and more sedate Abu Dhabi is better known to the tourist cognoscenti. Sharjah and Ajman, ruled by more conservative emirs, have been trying to fashion themselves as modern Muslim states.…  Seguir leyendo »

The trial of Lubna Hussein was postponed for the second time yesterday. Under the pretext of attempting to determine whether Hussein had truly revoked her immunity from prosecution when she resigned from her UN position, the authorities have bought more time to find a face-saving resolution to the debacle. This is looking more and more unlikely as Hussein's campaign gathers momentum both at home and abroad.

Initially, she was viewed as something of a loose cannon in Khartoum. So many before her had suffered the pot luck fate of flogging and retreated to lick their wounds in private for fear of attracting more shame and indignity.…  Seguir leyendo »

When I was a child, I was an avid fan of science fiction. The Foundation and Dune series in particular were engrossing in their depiction of a human race trying to re-establish itself after upheaval. Despite its geeky stigma, sci-fi seemed to me a genre with a philosophical belief in the tenacity of humanity and the potential of the mind. I was disappointed to find that while Arabic and Middle Eastern literature seemed replete with fantastical anthologies such as One Thousand and One Nights where mystical creatures abound, there appeared to be a dearth of truly futuristic science fiction works rooted in Arab or Muslim culture.…  Seguir leyendo »

"The martyr of the hijab" is what Egyptians are now calling Marwa al-Sherbini. The 31-year-old veiled Egyptian wife of a postgraduate student in Germany was fatally stabbed – in court – by a German man identified only as Axel W, who had been prosecuted for calling her a terrorist (among other things) while she was playing with her three-year-old son in a park. Marwa's body was interred in Cairo yesterday and her wake was attended by thousands, some of them chanting: "There is no God but God and the Germans are the enemies of God."

The case has sparked anger in the Arab world and Egypt in particular for its perceived under-reporting in the western media and a belief that the attack, described by German authorities as an isolated one perpetrated by a "lone wolf", is the culmination of consistent nurturing and legitimisation of Islamophobia in Europe.…  Seguir leyendo »