Author Archives: mlynxqualey

Nonie or Mahmoud Darwish?

By Marcia Lynx Qualey
During a recent visit to Minnesota from my adopted home in Cairo, I went to my mother’s public library in search of a translation of superstar-poet Mahmoud Darwish.
Darwish, for those unfamiliar with his work, is one of the great forces in contemporary Arabic poetry. Although he died in 2008, his voice continues to resonate: Two translations of his final work recently came out, In the Presence of Absence (Archipelago 2011), trans. Sinan Antoon, and Present Absence (Hesperus 2010), trans. Mohammad Shaheen. If I were to name two unmissable contemporary poets who wrote in Arabic, they would be Adonis (in the Khaled Mattawa translation) and Darwish.
So I was stunned to find that, when I plugged Mahmoud Darwish’s name into my mother’s public-library system, that there were no entries, not in the entire county. Not in the neighboring county, either. Instead, I was referred to works by Nonie Darwish, an inflammatory political commentator of no particular linguistic or intellectual merit.
As I searched for other Arabic literature in translation, I was thwarted at nearly every turn. Wonderful translations of work by Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury (often mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize, my recent review of his most recently translated novel in the Star Tribune here), Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour, and Moroccan novelist Bensalem Himmich, for instance, are highlights of the global literary canon. In the public-library catalog? No.
How do we get more of these great books in Minnesota’s public libraries? It’s fine to have inflammatory critical works available for those who need to read that point of view, but, for goodness sakes, we should have a few beautiful things in the libraries, too.

You can go see Elias Khoury at 7 p.m. Thu., Open Book, 1011 Washington Av. S., Mpls., tickets $10 general audience, $5 students.

Barack Obama: Global phenomenon and international inspiration

By Lolla Mohammed Nur, Engage Minnesota

n511868635_450695_4233.jpgIt is 7 a.m. on November 5th, and I am in my living room in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with the TV on. CNN has just announced that Barack Obama has won the electoral vote and is therefore the new president-elect of the United States. An endless flow of tears start streaming down my face. My tears are those of joy and victory, not of sadness.

This was the moment of victory Obama and so many others—including me—had been waiting for so long. This was the announcement of success Obama had strived so hard to achieve, regardless of the never-ending attacks that he had to endure all year long on his policies, experience, personal life, and roots. As I tried to dry my face which was proving to be impossible, I reflected on why I was crying so much. Read the rest of this entry

Proud to be an American Muslim

By Tanweer Janjua, Engage Minnesota

As a long time admirer of Barack Obama’s leadership, I was moved by his speech on Tuesday night. There is no doubt that Barack has shown his leadership again and demonstrated that he deserved to be in the highest office of the land. This is truly an historic and remarkable event and we should all cherish this.  It is truly a time of joy for those who believed that our country needed different direction and leadership. It is indeed a proud day to be an American.


Who could ever imagine this 45 years ago? It is less than half century ago, when Civil Rights Act passed and now we see an African-American heading for the White House. Barack’s success should not be perceived as anything incidental and easily achieved. Many people gave their lives, spent their lifetime in struggle, suffered humiliation, torture and discrimination but, they did it and a dream was fulfilled on Tuesday night.  

  Read the rest of this entry

Critical Thinking in the Face of Propaganda

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

The elections this year turned ugly as presidential candidate Barack Obama was continuously portrayed as a Muslim, with a hidden negative inference that being Muslim means that Obama supports terrorism, and that being Muslim means bad and ugly.

While such attacks came mainly from the Republican party, the Democratic party did not show a strong backbone to repudiate these attacks.  Even Obama showed weakness in not fighting these attacks against Muslims and Islam by proclaiming he is not Muslim, he is a Christian.  He lacked the ability to affect a change in the psyche of Americans by challenging them to not define their Muslim neighbors by negative stereotypes.

To add to the wave of insults, in many US swing states an extremist group has mailed a copy of the movie Obsession to 28 million homes via mainstream newspapers, including the New York Times.   Read the rest of this entry

Accommodation is Key to Change

By Humaira Afzal, Engage Minnesota

Minnesota is global: We neither live nor work in an insular society. We are instead part of a growing and competitive economy that demands companies be more creative and more open to diversity. Our state’s Somali population, the largest in the nation, helps give Minnesota a competitive edge.

Accommodating and capitalizing on our state’s Somali workers is one important way local companies can compete harder in world markets. Read the rest of this entry