Arabs stung by the lash of verse Moving finger writes up storm
Sunday 12 February 1995
The tumult is less surprising given that the poem is entitled "When will they announce the death of the Arabs?" and its creator is Nizzar Qabbani, one of the best known - and most provocative - modern Arabic poets.
Almost three months after it first appeared - in the London based daily Al-Naquid, and since reprinted across the Arab world - Arab nationalists are still queuing up to savage Qabbani for such lines as: "The nations who call themselves Arabs are all dead, but no one has yet dared to sign the death certificate."
Qabbani, a former diplomat who served in Egypt, Britain and Spain, paints an unflattering picture of tribes who retreated from the universal world of knowledge into "burrows of fear" and of a culture of bigotry and ignorance that "oppresses women body and soul".
Qabbani's Arabs are misruled nations, misled by newspapers that "bow down to oil-money, a tyrant ruler or a colonel who steps over the beheaded bodies of the people". In one notable verse, he writes:
For fifty years now,
I have been watching the Arabs
Thundering without rain
Entering wars without exiting
Chewing the skin of rhetoric
Nizzar Qabbani's fame - and notoriety - dates back to the late 1950s. He replaced the romantic symbolism of classical Arabic poetry with powerful erotic verse featuring graphic, often pornographic, description of the female anatomy and dashing images of passionate love-making. Defying censors throughout the Arab world, his anthologies sold by the thousands, mainly to women - as young as 14 and as old as 80.
Never one to pour oil on troubled waters exactly, following the humiliating defeat of Arab armies in the 1967 Six Day War, Qabbani composed "The Sultan's Soldiers" in which he criticised the Arabs as "idles posturing in mosques, praying to Allah to defeat the enemy". He then likened "his excellency's regiment" to an army of ostriches -traditionally a symbol of cowardice in Arabic literature. An enraged President Nasser promptly banned Qabbani and his books from Egypt
He finally alienated the mainly Saudi-controlled Arab press in Europe with his 1990 poem "Abu Jahl [the father of philistinism] buys Fleet Street", depicting oil Sheikhs as abusing their wealth to corrupt the world's cultural heritage.
Some of those who now attack Qabbani condemn him for sniping from his English exile. Qabbani has no right "to draw a map of the Arab world while staying in your London hotel" wrote one Egyptian critic.
But for others, Qabbani's poem has struck a chord, at a time of great uncertainty among Arabs, and in a form with great resonance for them. "Poets, the good ones, still play a key role in arousing [our] feelings," wrote the Egyptian columnist Salama A Salama. "They have always been the best in carrying and conveying Arab sentiments and convictions."
- 2 Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 4 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 5 Botched ice bucket challenge leaves man critically injured after plane drops hundreds of gallons of water
Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
Botched ice bucket challenge leaves man critically injured after plane drops hundreds of gallons of water
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
- < Previous
- Next >
£400 - £450 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...
£110 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Project Coordinator (SC Cleared), Cisco Go...
£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40-50K first year: SThree: The SThree group i...
£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers need...