Qunfuz

Robin Yassin-Kassab

Posts Tagged ‘London

Street Debate

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This reminds me of the debates I saw breaking out in Tahrir Square. And it’s what TV should be like. FlipLife TV took a camera to Clapham and let the people speak.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

August 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Posted in UK

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Islam in the Writing Process

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If all goes well I will be at Notre Dame University in the US later this month for a conference on the role of Islam in contemporary European literature. I wrote the piece below for the conference.

enjoin the good

Photo by Rehan Jamil

Salman Rushdie once commented that ‘Islam’, in contrast to ‘the West’, is not a narrative civilisation. This, in my opinion, is obvious nonsense. Beyond the fact that human beings are narrative animals, whatever civilisation they live in, and that Islamic civilisation cannot be isolated from, for instance, Christian, Hindu or Arab civilisations, the Muslim world has a history of influential narratives which is second to none. These include Sufi tales, chivalric adventures, fantastical travelogues, romances and spiritual biographies written in several major languages.

Although the Arabic novel is generally considered to have developed in the early twentieth century from the experience of industrial urbanisation and the penetration of European genres and philosophies, Ibn Tufail’s 12th Century “Hayy ibn Yaqzan”, an inspiration for Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe”, can reasonably stake a claim to being the world’s first novel. The Arabian Nights (via Don Quixote) is surely another source of the European novel tradition. And Islam the religion – as opposed to the even more nebulous ‘civilisation’ – is a text-based faith. The Qur’an is the religion’s only official miracle; the first word revealed to the Prophet was ‘iqra’ – ‘read’. Those who attempt to draw a distinction between literalist scripture and free and playful literature should pay attention to verse 26 of the Qur’an’s second chapter which, immediately after the first description of heaven and hell, proclaims: “Behold, God does not disdain to propound a parable of a gnat, or of something even less than that.” In other words, the Qur’an is a text unashamed to use metaphor, symbol and a whole range of literary devices in order to point to ineffable realities.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

November 1, 2009 at 1:52 pm

In Control

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Night Windows by Edward Hopper

Night Windows by Edward Hopper

On this night I was the controller for King’s Cabs, whose shopfront office lies on the southern reaches of the Caledonian Road. I was the man who watches the phone line, directs the drivers, greets the punters. I sat under neon. I read a lot of stolen books.

The shift began at ten, in time for a plastic cupful of tea, a roll-up, and some pages of What Is To Be Done? before the pub closing rush, which had always been the only rush of the night. If it was a rush.

First action struck shortly after eleven, when a couple of red-jowled, sweaty-eyed men strolled in, bellies straining against football shirts and tongues wagging in keen debate.

“That black one, fuckin hell!”

“Nah. Sparrow tits? Nah. The fuckin Russki, I tell you.”

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

August 23, 2009 at 6:03 pm

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Arab London

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This appeared in Gulf Life (Gulf Air’s inflight magazine):

It’s August and, as well as the Notting Hill Carnival, west London is seeing its yearly influx of Arab tourists. While the visitors are here they’ll rub shoulders with a varied and well-established Arab community.

Unlike some cities, London is too mixed to be ethnically zoned. When I lived a few years ago on the Harrow Road in west London, my neighbours were Poles, Pakistanis, Trinidadians, Lebanese .. I could go on. In London there are no monocultural ghettoes, but there are cultural concentrations, and my Harrow Road bedsit was in the middle of the Arab one.

At lunchtime I would cross the canal to buy steaming bowls of harira from the Moroccan stallholders on the Golborne Road. North towards Willesden I would meet newly-arrived Iraqi refugees, each with a story. If I walked west to Shepherd’s Bush I found Syrian grocers selling olive oil from the old country, and balls of salty shellal cheese. On the Uxbridge Road I could even eat fetteh, the essential Levantine working man’s food, and I prayed with men of all sects in a basement mosque.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

August 5, 2008 at 10:21 am

Posted in UK

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