Arnesa B

Arnesa B

They ask me why I always wear black.

And I answer, “I am in mourning”.

They ask me who am I mourning.

I’m mourning my grandfather, I say.

They found his bones 10 years after his head was cut off, Quran in hand.

I’m mourning my uncle too; his remains still not found. I wonder how much he suffered.

I’m mourning my grandmother, killed by the grenades that left her son handicapped.

I’m mourning the thousands of Ahmeds, Aishas and Fatimas massacred for being Bosniaks, for being Muslim. I’m mourning my Bosnia, the land of milk and honey.

I’m mourning Palestine and her olive trees. I’m mourning Palestine and the land my friends will never get to see.

I’m mourning Palestine and her rascal children, now gone.
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at home

Eds. Note: This powerful poem was inspired by @ImPalestine’s tweet: “I look forward to surviving. If I don’t, remember that I wasn’t Hamas or a militant, nor was I used as a human shield. I was at home.”

like you were at home/
making a taco or kissing your aunt on the cheek
worrying about being childless at 35
when the roof was blown off

like I was at home
thinking about the students I teach
the one with no mother who always asks me
what I am mixed with
the one with clumps of grease in her hair
and long stilt legs who asks me for my email address
and smiles at me for no reason sometimes
what if she was gone?

What if she yelled but no one heard her
over the ambush of sound and bodies
the smoke choking the streets
the blood funneling through drains

we are just little girls with questions
wanting our mothers to pick us up
we are just single mothers without enough money
to buy a hamburger for our children
we are grandfathers with bad legs and whiskey smiles
we are grandmothers working at a donut shop
with pasty hands and glazed eyes
we are dark haired and dark-skinned people in a traffic jam
on the 110
at an Israeli checkpoint trying to go to the doctor
or have a baby
we are Aleya and Malik
our father was choked to death on a street corner
by plain clothes cops laughing that he couldn’t breathe

our mother was making baklava when fire
charred her hair and froze her hot
our brothers were watching that Drake video on youtube
our sisters were modeling with their shirts up
in the mirror and smearing lip gloss on their fingers
our spirits were dancing
while the killing was going
until it was us
at home

Nijla Mu’min is a writer and filmmaker from the East Bay Area. She is a 2007 graduate of UC Berkeley, and also attended Howard University’s MFA Film Program, where she was the recipient of the 2009 Paul Robeson Award for Best Feature Screenplay. She is a 2013 dual-degree graduate of Calarts’ MFA Film Directing and Writing programs; the only student in the institute to graduate with this distinction. Her short film Two Bodies has screened at festivals across the country, including the Pan African Film Festival, Outfest, and Newfest at Lincoln Center. Her writing appears in the critically acclaimed anthology, “Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women.” She also writes for Shadow and Act on the Indiewire Network, and Bitch Magazine. She is a recipient of the 2012 Princess Grace Foundation Cary Grant Film Award for her thesis film, Deluge, which had its world premiere at the 4th Annual New Voices in Black Cinema Film Festival at BAMcinematek in March 2014. She was recently selected to participate in the 2nd Annual Sundance Screenwriters Intensive with her script, Noor. She is currently in development on two feature films.

Running Orders


Running Orders

“They call us now.
Before they drop the bombs.
The phone rings
and someone who knows my first name
calls and says in perfect Arabic
“This is David.”
And in my stupor of sonic booms and glass shattering symphonies
still smashing around in my head
I think “Do I know any Davids in Gaza?”
They call us now to say
You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.
Your house is next.
They think of it as some kind of
war time courtesy.
It doesn’t matter that
there is nowhere to run to.
It means nothing that the borders are closed
and your papers are worthless
and mark you only for a life sentence
in this prison by the sea
and the alleyways are narrow
and there are more human lives
packed one against the other
more than any other place on earth
Just run.
We aren’t trying to kill you.
It doesn’t matter that
you can’t call us back to tell us
the people we claim to want aren’t in your house
that there’s no one here
except you and your children
who were cheering for Argentina
sharing the last loaf of bread for this week
counting candles left in case the power goes out.
It doesn’t matter that you have children.
You live in the wrong place
and now is your chance to run
to nowhere.
It doesn’t matter
that 58 seconds isn’t long enough
to find your wedding album
or your son’s favorite blanket
or your daughter’s almost completed college application
or your shoes
or to gather everyone in the house.
It doesn’t matter what you had planned.
It doesn’t matter who you are
Prove you’re human.
Prove you stand on two legs.

– Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Sunday reflection: Three awesome women

Rounding out our weekend of awesome women:

Raha Moharrak

27-year-old Raha Moharrak made history by becoming the first Saudi woman to conquer Mount Everest yesterday.

Moharrak’s ascent is the latest step in changing attitudes towards women and sports in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom fielded its first female Olympians at the 2012 Games and officially permitted sports in private girls schools for the first time earlier this month.

Read more at CNN.

Meet two more awesome women after the jump!

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Poetry Monday: Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.
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Book Review: Fast Times in Palestine


Writing about Palestine is hard. To talk about it at all, one has to issue a litany of disclaimers and clarifications before broaching the subject.  The discussion finally begins after the audience is already exhausted from listening to all the reasons why support for Palestine doesn’t automatically equal dislike for Israel or disrespect for Jewish history.

Pamela Olson’s story in Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland (Seal Press, March 2013) seeks an honest, human way around polite prerequisites. She does so through her own transformative journey while living, and later working, in Palestine. The beauty of Olson’s story is that it doesn’t begin with politics.  She arrives in Israel at the bequest of an Israeli friend she met while backpacking in Sinai.  Olson shows up as a tourist during her transitional, post-college void.

Olson, who comes from Oklahoma, was like most Americans: she knew nothing about the conflict and had no real information about Islam and Arabs (or the fact that many Palestinians are Christian).  After a day harvesting olives with Palestinians near Jayyous, she witnessed the travesty of confiscated land, aggressive Israeli soldiers, and The Wall – an in-progress physical barrier between Palestine and Israel.

“Suddenly, the conflict in this part of the world was no longer a blank horror,” she writes. “It was merely an extremely difficult series of challenges whose basic units were human beings.” Her own personal story is the focus, but her story is comprised of Palestinian and Israeli threads that give human face to both perspectives.

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Faith, Marriage, and Scrabble


My fiancé Ahmed came to the US from his native Turkey in part to escape from the societal pressures of his culture. This resonated with me, because I left small-town Oklahoma for a similar reason. We both wanted to make our way in the world unfettered by other people’s expectations.

But, when it came time for him to propose, he ran it by his family. Naturally, they asked if I was a Muslim. When he said no, they gave him the skeptical eye, which annoyed him to no end. But he loved them and wanted to explain his decision in a language they could appreciate.

“One Surah of the Quran,” he told them, “says that sometimes what seems good is actually bad, and what seems bad is actually good. Maybe you hate a thing and it is good for you, and perhaps you love a thing but it is bad for you. Only Allah knows.”

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