Our society (1/2)
In his book, “Tawq al-Hamama”, Ibn Hazam says that he was astounded to hear from the mouth of someone he knew well that he had fallen in love with a woman he had only seen in a dream one night! What would Ibn Hazam say if he knew that I am now thinking of you, a woman I only read about in books and papers? Maybe he would assail me with a string of questions, to which he’d get no answers. But I didn’t fall in love with you, to be honest. I only like you. I only feel jealous when I read about you. I only sigh when I compare you with the women I know. I only wish you were alive today so that I could see you with my own eyes and hear you with my own ears.
I would love to see you teaching me Arabic grammar at school or reading the evening news on Aljazeera TV or speaking to a reporter on Alarabiya from an al-Anbar hamlet. But –alas– I can only see you in my daydreams. You have made me a strange voyeur.
I don’t know how many men were hooked on you when you were alive. But I know one of them. It’s this poet who went crazy about you.
I wouldn’t have heard of you hadn’t you been the woman who drove this poet crazy. I wouldn’t have heard of this “crazy” poet hadn’t his poetry been so beautiful. I know that poets are more often than not more in love with their poetry than with the people they love. But by going mad this man who wrote such beautiful poems about you gave you and us all the proof that he did love you.
I too would go mad if I fell in love with a woman like you who’d refuse to marry me. But I wish there were such a woman that I could see and meet and write poems about. No, there isn’t any. That’s why I’m thinking of you.
But how many other men would you haunt the way you’ve been haunting me? Not so many, I suppose. Today you’d have to be Haifa Wehbe, Nancy Ajram or Ruby to have a place in a man’s heart. Even married men would forget all about their wives and rush to see you as you turn the males’ heads and hearts with your tight jeans and shining breasts. Even bearded men who have just come back from mosque or are at prayer would hasten to take a furtive glance at you. You would be a star wherever you go. And everybody –not only a poet or two– would love you.
Otherwise, you’d have to work as a waitress in a café. Then men, single and married alike, would rush to your café, not to have any kind of drink, but just to have a look at your beautiful body. They would be happy if you smiled or joked with them, and if they are lucky and have money, they would borrow you for a night.
I am sorry I am writing in English. Yes, I feel ashamed. I am ashamed because I can afford to say tawmun instead of thawmun, but I can’t afford to say toot instead of tooth. And yet I will keep writing in English, for I have a lot more to say.
Our society (2/2)
Ours is a tiny neighbourhood on the outskirts of a small town. Just a few houses away, there’s a welder’s shop. Despite the terrible noise that comes out of this shop all day and part of the night, no one can speak to the welder. Why? Simply because he gave a bribe to someone who gave him “permission” to open up shop in a neighbourhood that until years ago had been envied for its peace and quiet. This is what we call disorder: the wrong thing in the wrong place.
This isn’t the problem of our neighbourhood alone, though. There’s disorder everywhere: in our neighbourhoods, in our towns, in our bigger cities, in our families, in our schools, in our countries and in the whole world.
Recently a newspaper quoted people from a chic district in Marrakesh as saying that they had been fed up with the mules that roamed about the place, entered the splendid villas and filled the streets with their filth. People from Benslimane, a small town near ours, told the same newspaper quite the same thing about animals behaving like “gangs” in their streets. Why? Maybe because it’s very normal, since that happens everywhere –not only in Marrakesh and Benslimane. You’d find that in Cairo, in Manilla, in Islamabad and Haidarabad.
What’s bad is to find a stray mule roaming about a rich man’s palace or in a five-star hotel or in Al Akhawayne University. No problem if a dirty mule entered a mosque, a government school, a football stadium or even a wedding party.
See, Layla, why I’m thinking of you? I’m choking. I want to breathe fresh air. I want to read poetry. I want to dream of a better world.
No, Layla, when I say a better world, I don’t mean America. Everybody knows what happened during and after Katrina, and how thousands found themselves in a jail in which no one could tell who was there for parking a car in the wrong place and who was there for killing nine souls. Nor do I mean Great Britain. Everybody knows what happens there at Christmas time, when most divorce cases are declared. Nor do I mean China, of course. Everybody knows that if you happen to be a Chinese of thirty years of age today and you haven’t made a lot of money, you’d curse yourself and burn your nerves and tell people lies. Also I’m choking with the air in my own small town, what if I were in Beijing? No, Layla, when I say a better world, I mean something else.