Ajami: How to Cure a Fanatic

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Note to Reader: This is my first attempt at this kind of story style, the piece is a dual narrative, told from the perspective of both main characters. Our first character is Hala Atallah, Syrian-Lebanese-French woman in her late twenties, who resides in Beirut and is a poet, novelists, essayist and filmmaker by trade. Beautiful, petite with curves, fair skin, light brown hair and green eyes. The second character, Dina Soleymaini , is an Iranian woman, who is visiting Lebanon on vacation. Dina has dark hair and eyes, light olive skin, quite slim and also curvy. Both women have struggled with their sexuality in their own way, but in meeting this challenge is made more acute and the struggle becomes uniformed.

Near Fereshteh Street (apparently), Tehran-Iran,

A few hours before my flight and everything is packed and all my documentation is in order. Trying to avoid it, but I have time to kill and I can’t help myself when I am bored. I turn on my technically illegal satellite television, fillip through the stations until I arrive at an Arabic music station, which plays both racy Arabic pop songs and American music. Watching these American and Lebanese music videos, it hard to distinguish between them, they are both as pornographic as each other.

Iranians listen to a lot of Arabic music and love Arabic pop stars, despite the fact, most of us cannot understand what they are saying. We are Persian and speak Farsi, they are Arabs and speak Arabic, but they also look like us and we have many cultural things in common. I think because of the similarities, sometimes Iranians can see themselves in these Arabic pop stars, in a way; we cannot see ourselves in American pop stars.

Chamis (Levantines), Masariiya (Egyptians), Araqiyyens (Iraqis), Maghrebyeen (North Africans) and Arabs shaking their booties on TV. From the Mashraq (Eastern) to the Maghreb (towards the west) of the Arab world engaged in musicological galore. Oh god, Haifa Wehbe the Lebanese pop star, comes on. Her music videos are always sultry, Vallah (oh god), if even a third of Lebanese women look like that, I am going to die from continual over orgasming in the streets.

No, stop it…must resist, but can’t, pussy is becoming moist and needs gentle pressure. I must, flight in a few hours. My hand is moving towards my genes, it’s like my hand has a mind of its own. It undoes my belt, unzips my jeans and slides itself underneath my panties. Oh god, it’s on top of my outer lips and there it rests. But not for long, it’s beginning to rub itself, ahhhh ooohhh…I’m not masturbating, no I am not masturbating, I am examining my internal body temperature. Fuck, I am masturbating, no point in denying it. Ahhh..what time is it, this could take a while.

Beirut, Lebanon,

God that the third station now, why can’t I turn on a Arabic TV station, without seeing the latest Turkish soap opera being broadcast? They dub these awful TV series into Syrian street Arabic and all the Arabs seem to love it. We are not Turks! This is Turkish cultural imperialism or Neo-Ottomanism as some have called it. We fought the Turks for our independence, the Ottomans enslaved the Arab nation and allowed us to fall into backwardness, superstition and corruption, while the Western nations progressed and created a civilisation based on rational and scientific thought. Now the Arab mind is being psychologically colonized by the Turks- yet again.

I flip through the stations and land on a different channel, oh god, what’s on this channel is even worse. It’s Omar Amiralay’s propagandistic film, A Flood in Baath Country, It’s so obviously anti-Arab and anti-Syrian. Sure it’s widely acclaimed and contains important critiques of the rule of President Hafez Al-Assad and Baathist policies, but I feel there is an undertone, which aims to refute the notion of the Arab nationalism and make people doubt the validity of Baathism. Oh, somebody’s knocked at the door, I must go, and I have a conference lecture to give.

Tehran, Iran.

Gosh, I can’t believe, that I am still rubbing myself. My nipples are starting to erect too, I just need to keep the pressure up, that’s all I can do. I bet there is going to be a huge mess too. Fortunately, I have my wet wipes handy. Oh wait, here it comes, oh aaaaaahhhhhhh, ohhhhh…….yes. I feel it oozing out, it will turn into a flood soon. I feel it coming, aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh, I’m so wet, quickly need to grab the wet wipes to clean up. There you go, good wet wipes.

Lebanon, Beirut

Conference Speaker: “Our next guest does not need much of an introduction, Hala Atallah, is a French-Syrian-Lebanese writer, poet and filmmaker. She was a correspondent for Le Mode and authored 8 publications in French and 9 in Arabic, including A Brief Encounter: Conversations with Michel Foucault and her most recent release Urban Nomad: A portrait of a city dweller. Hala grew up between Syria, Lebanon and France, her late father Bassam Atallah, was a prominent Syrian writer, intellectual, bahis firmaları pan-Arab nationalist and Baathist, he helped author the Baathist constitution in the 1960’s. However, forced to flee after falling foul of the Assad Regime, he married a Lebanese woman ad eventually settled in France. Hala would you please join the stage.”

I take the stand, “Thanks for that poignant introduction and thanks to everyone for attending, this gathering shows us that Qawmiat Al-Arabiiya (Pan-Arabism) is not entirely dead and years after Nasserism the spirit is still alive. But I fear we may be the last Arabs left, before me I see a rising tide of Islamism, conservatism and anti-progressive forces. I see the noble promises of Michel Aflaq, Salah Al-Din Al-Bitar, the romanticism of Nizar Qabbani , the sober reality of Mahmoud Darwish being betrayed by despotism and repression from Bilad-a-Cham (Greater Syria) to the Sahara. We see the transformation of the great Arab project into mini-fiefdoms and self-interested nationalism. Gone are the days when Mahmoud Darwish wrote-Write down! I am an Arab- in his poem Bitaqat Hawiyyah (Identity Card).”

I take a brief pause to allow the point to sink in, “But perhaps the best representation of the death of an ideal and what could have been, was written about this city, Beirut. Nizar Qabbani wrote- Beirut, the mistress of the world, we confess before the one God that we were envious of you. That your beauty hurt us, we confess now, that we maltreated and misunderstood you, and we had no mercy and didn’t excuse you. We offered you a dagger in place of flowers! We confess before the fair God that we injured you, alas; we tired of you that we vexed you and made you cry. We burdened you with our insurrections. Oh Beirut, the world without you won’t suffice us, we now realize your roots deep inside us, we now realize what offence we’ve perpetrated, rise from under the rubble like a almond in April. Get over your sorrow, since revolution grows in the wounds of grief.”

Tehran,

Sitting on the plane as engines raw, I pull out a copy of Shahnameh (Book of Kings) by Ferdowsi and begin reading the epic poem, the poem that makes me Iranian. “Damn this world, damn this time, damn this fate. That uncivilised Arabs have come to make me Muslim.” Wait, that’s not the verse I wanted to read, especially on the way to an Arab country.

Here we go, “How shall a man escape from what is written; how shall he flee from his destiny?” That’s easy jump on a plane. Reading through the beautiful verse of the poems, I’m nearly brought to tears, but hold back until I reach Ferdowsi’s conclusions, “Much I have suffered in these thirty years, I have revived the Ajam with my verse. I will not die then alive in the world. For I have spread the seed of word. Whoever has sense, path and faith. After my death will send me praise.”

The fact he used the word Ajam, really struck me. It has multiple meaning in Arabic, ‘Non-Arab’, ‘Persian’, ‘one who is illiterate in language’ or ‘silent’ and gives the meaning of ‘foreigner’. It can be understood to be negative, some Arabs use it as a slur against Persians. It also has functional usage to mean something or someone of foreign origins, but it also has poetic and symbolic meaning, which goes much deeper. In a way, my desire for women makes me an Ajami in my own country, because my feelings are considered foreign Iranian culture.

Beirut, Lebanon

“When I founded the Arabic correctional institute, we had one aim. To purify the Arabic language of all Ajami words, that’s to say, foreign words. Words have a deep psychological impact on people, how do you think it makes the Arab people from the Mashraq (Eastern) to the Maghreb (Western) feel when they must buy the latest technological products and these inventions all have foreign names? It puts them in a psychologically inferior position, to that of which is foreign. Our language is deep, ancient and beautiful, it’s a gift to us and we should use It properly. Re-instating the Arabic language is the first step to re-instating the Arab people. The Great Abbasids were Arab Empires that united the world and now, only one great Arab Nation can re-unite the world.”

I take a brief pause, “They say I am a dreamer. They say my ideas have been tried and failed. But I put it to you my ideas have never been tried and if we do not do it, the Arab People will end up living under regressive Islamist regimes, Turkish neo-Ottomanism and Persian Imperialism, I implore you dear friends, let’s get together and do something. As Shakespeare wrote in Henry V, We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother. I urge all of you to join this fight with me and we shall shed blood together, metaphorically speaking of course. Thank you.”

The speech went smoothly, but I must admit that I did snap at one of the questioners during the Q & A session. This woman in Hijab (headscarf) began ranting and raving against my works and Arab kaçak iddaa Nationalism, being the fiery person that I am, I responded with many unkind words. At one point I called her ‘Safawi’ (Safavid), which is a slur Arabs use against Arab Shia, it means Persian Imperialist, anti-Arab or not a true Arab. Arab Nationalist has often been accused of stoking anti-Shia feeling along with anti-Persian feeling. It was not the correct response.

Later on, I found myself heading out to a bar to wash down my sorrows. It’s there that I met her, the one who became the Ajam in my life.

Dina- Landing in Beirut with the wind blowing in my uncovered hair, I know, I have reached freedom. It’s ironic that I had to come to an Arab country to experience it. I do feel a little bit ashamed, I come from a great culture, an ancient culture, I am a Persian and yet I must leave my civilised culture and come to the land of the Bedouin in order to practise my secret desires and perversions. I love my culture, but at times, it feels as if my culture does not love me. I am committing two perversions by coming to the Arab World. Sleeping with women is a unnatural perversion in my culture, but coming to the Arab world and possibly allowing an Arab to sleep with me is another kind of perversion.

Dina-Our culture has tried to purify itself of Arab perversions, because they kept us backwards and threatened to destroy our civilisation. Ferdowsi wrote the Book of Kings in pure and uncorrupted Persian or de-Arabized Persian. Reza Shah tried to reform and purges the Persian (Farsi) language of Arabic words in the 1930’s. The reasons I hate the Islamic Republic is because Islam is an Arab religion and the regime is rolling back our Persian reforms. 2, 500 years of culture and civilisation and coming to this new place, these countries, which were born yesterday, to enjoy a little privacy is the gravest insult of all. Listen to me, only just landed and yet, already I am having an internal nationalist rant. Culture shock I guess, a knee-jerk reaction to being in a foreign or should I say, Ajam environment.

Dina-a few hours later and I dress to go out to the bars, the streets are full of hot and beautiful girls. They say Beirut is the mini-skirt capital of the world and you better believe it, so many gorgeous legs on display. A sexy Mediterranean people, the Lebanese, as they go out partying. I end up in this bar and I see this beautiful Arab girl sitting there and she notices me too. We exchange glares and then she smiles as if to beckon me over. I walk over and she starts saying something in Arabic, but I do not understand, and ask her in English if she speaks English, because I can’t speak Arabic.

Hala- Oh this attractive girl doesn’t speak Arabic, she must be a foreigner, but she looks Arab. This is not going to be good, but I feel I should indulge her a little, who knows I might get some Pussy out of it. “Where are you from?” I ask in English with a mixed Syrian-French accent.

Dina, “My name is Dina, I am from Iran. Tehran.”

Hala, “Oh, I see. Well it’s nice to meet you, my name is Hala. Please take a seat and I will buy you a drink.”

Dina- I take a seat and take a good-look at this gorgeous creature next to me. Her legs are showing, her leather mini-skirt, he little sleeveless top and her striking features. “I take it you’re Lebanese?”

Hala- I look at this very attractive Persian girl, with light olive skin, dark hair, eyes and slender body. This contrasts nicely with my fair-milky like skin and green eyes, although you do have to appreciate the irony here. Arabs are Semites like Jews and Persians are meant to be Aryans, most Persians proudly exert their Aryan roots. Yet racially, I look more Aryan than this Persian girl does. Still she dresses well, nice blue jeans, short sleeve top and high heel shoes. Most Arabs think Iranians dress in Burqas or the veil. “A little bit. My mother is Lebanese, but my father is Syrian and I grew up in France. But I have Syrian and French passports.” But no Lebanese, because one of the sexist laws in the Arab world is that women cannot pass on citizenship.

Dina- I cannot get my eyes of this sexy girl. Most Iranians think Arab women all dress in Chadors or the veil and have no real culture. Actually to be fair, we only call Saudis, Emiratis, Qataris, Bahrainis and Kuwaitis, Arabs. This is because we believe they are all the same and have no real history or individual cultures, they came from the desert and will go back to the desert. We distinguish them from Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese and Egyptians who we see as historic and having their own culture, but they are not really Arabs. True Arabs are Bedouins from the desert, most of these people became Arabs later on.

Hala, “So is this your first time in Lebanon and the Arab world?”

Dina, “Yes it is.”

Hala, “Really, because many Iranians go to Dubai and some other Arabian Gulf countries?”

Dina, “Yes, Iranians do go to the other countries in the Persian Gulf,” kaçak bahis I say, but then realize how hostile I came across and so I change the subject. “So what do you do for a living?”

Hala- I detect some anti-Arab sentiment in her voice, but continue as if nothing has happened. “I am a writer, artists, poet and filmmaker and Qawimyyet Al-Arabiyya (Pan-Arab Nationalist). Sorry, but I have to say, the Iranian government is not our biggest friend. The Shah tried to destroy Arab nationalism, but when the Islamic Republic came into power things got a lot worse. The Iranians implanted Islamist politics into the Arab world and now Islam threatens the progress of the Arab nation.” I don’t know why this all came out, but it did, must have been the booze.

Dina, “What are you talking about? Islam is an Arab implant into the Iranian nation to weaken it. I hate the Islamic Republic.” I feel like storming out.

Hala, “That’s kind of interesting, but you wrong, the Arabs are more than Islam. We are a scientific people, a rational people, we conquered the Sassanid Persians and built the biggest and best empire the world had ever seen. It was an Arab, not Islamic Empire.”

Dina, “Oh really? Tell me, who lead this great Arab Empire. Most of your best thinkers were Persians not Arabs. Al-Ghazaili, Ibn Sina and many others. Most of those who constructed the Arabic language were Persian Grammarians, what’s yours is actual ours. Your scientists were our scientists, your poets were our poets.” I even begin reciting verses from Shu’ubiyaa poets who lived in the 8th and 9th century, they served for the Arabs, but were Persians and wrote verses making fun of the Arabs. So much anger was coming out of me.

Hala, “You’ve also taken a lot from us too.”

Dina, “Okay, yes I acknowledge that. There’s much good in Arab culture and we have borrowed from it too.” I really believe this and a compromise is necessary.

Hala, “My father wrote the Ba’athist constitution of 1960, he dreamed of a post-Islamic age and wrote that the future of the Arab people was in rational and scientific thought. He was influenced by French philosophy, Marxism and European Romantic Nationalism. He believed religion held back progress and if the Arabs were to succeeded, they needed to shed themselves of the ancient regimes and religion. But his beautiful idea was betrayed by the people who were meant to enforce it. In Syria, we did not get the Arab Republic, we got the cult of Al-Assad and despotism instead of freedom. He criticizes this and found himself in danger, thus he left.”

Dina- I felt Hala was telling me something profound about herself and I am grateful to her. I also want her. “So are you interested in women, you know, like that?”

Hala, “I’m not a lesbian, if that’s what you mean. I don’t like these labels, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and so on. I don’t want to be identified by what I find pleasurable. For me sleeping with a girl is a kinda of Lesbian action, but is not an identity or a way of life, it’s an act. This coming out thing, is a European thing, trying to turn sexuality into an identity is very Western thing. Sexual identity is a foreign or Ajam idea in the Arab world. People sleep with whoever they please, no need to make an identity out of it. Yes, I enjoy intercourse with girls, but I don’t want to be identified by it. I want my right to remain in the closet not come out of it.”

Dina- I can totally relate to what Hala is saying, lesbian feeling and actions, does not make me a lesbian. I refuse the label. But here saying this, makes me feel out two cultures are more compatible and alike, than either of us are willing to admit too. “I agree. But this evening will you not spend it with me in the comfort of my room or yours?”

Hala, wow, I am being propositioned and I am beginning to feel me and her are alike. “I would love that.” We both head out and talk in the streets, as we head for her hotel. Talking to her and really opening up, I feel I can really relate to her and understand her. I begin to wonder if we are the same person, same blood and same spirit. We both reflect on the irony that in-order for two Middle-Easterns to communicate, we must speak English, a foreign language to both our lands because we cannot understand other another otherwise. We both love Majnun and Leyla poem and begin reciting verses suggestively at one another. “My soul was bounded to hers before creation,” I say hinting at her.

Dina, we arrive back at my hotel room and I take this beautiful creature up to my room. Since we are both quoting from Majnun Leyla poem, I hand her a drink and look at her lips and say, “I pass by these walls of Layla. And I kiss this wall and that wall, it’s not love of the houses that has taken my heart. But of the One who dwells in those houses.” Staring at her lips, I reach forward and place my lips onto hers.

Hala- a sensational feeling has overcome my body. Dina has placed her lips onto mine and tingles go down my spine from my lips. I feel excited and very aroused. My face has gone red with arousal and my nipples begin to harden, I don’t know what it is about a kiss that is so sensational. But I do know it’s very important.

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