the Slaughterhouse ** المَسْلَخ

Crimes Against Feminity in the Arab World

Arab poets have been worshiping women from time immemorial. The Islamic Era has produced a plethora of authors who dedicated their work to feminity and beauty. Today’s radicalization of Arab and Muslim societies, together with the totalitarian regimes they live under has yielded a “Culture of Ugliness” which describes almost everything that is beautiful as Haram (or forbidden by Islam), misusing the Koran and the religious and cultural traditions to restrict people’s freedoms and to transform their lives into an austere and monotonous experience.

In those circumstances, women are often subjugated and are the ones who pay the heaviest price, so as the society as a whole.

An example of this regression, amongst many (and I have to admit: not the worse of examples, but one that speaks to me personally) has been the recent attempt by Islamists to cancel the Cherry Festival’s Beauty Contest in the Moroccan city of Sefrou. I’ve come across this story by reading the excellent and well informed, Morocco Savvy blog. This festival has been conducted for more than 80 years in a city that was once home of a large Moroccan Jewish community and was the symbol of Moroccan traditional tolerance and integration of its religious and ethnic minorities. In recent years though, religious fundamentalists have been harassing the authorities to replace Miss Cherry with a six-year-old girl “in order not to attract men from around the country to attend the festival” (sic).

Many are quick to blame Islam or some “inherent” misogyny that Arabs may carry in their genes. I don’t buy into that at all. I believe rather that any human group, put in the same circumstances of poverty, ignorance, political use and misuse of religion, lack of democracy and the absence of basic rights would produce similar dysfunctional societies where huge pressure and social expectations are put mainly on women who feel they have to act accordingly.

**

This is a poem by Nizar Qabbani (1923-1998), the most revered and renowned contemporary Arab poet and a man I hold very dear in my heart. It sums up elegantly, the plight of women in our Arab-Muslim societies, the sheer hypocrisy that we’ve been living in for so long, the continuous oppression of human beings either in the name of the Leader or the God, the systematic destruction of everything that we hold dear, everything beautiful, everything innocent…
It’s called “the Slaughterhouse” (المَسْلَخ) :

(Sorry, I didn’t find a proper English translation for this particular poem)

ليسَ سوى مَسْلَخٍ للنساءْ

هنا الديكُ يحكُمُ وَحدَهْ.

كما الثورُ يحكُمُ وحدَهْْ.

كما القِردُ يحكُمُ وحدَه.

كما الحاكمُ الفَرْدُ في العالم العربيِّ

يُغنِّي… ويَسْمَعُ وحْدَهْ.

فلا من حوارٍ..

ولا من سؤالٍ..

ولا من جوابْ..

مُعْتَقَلٌ عَسْكَريٌّ

وكَسْرُ عظامٍ

وفيه سِياطٌ..

وجَلْدٌ..

وفيه اغتصابْ…

هُنا ..

مَصْنَعٌ جاهليٌّ قديمٌ

وتجليدِ شدو الحَمَامْ..

يتطاير ريشُ الدّجّاجْ

وتَلْمعُ، فوق الفِراشِ

عيونُ الذئابْ..

هنا الجِنْسُ..

أشْبَهُ في حَفَلاتِ (الكوريدَا)

فتُطعَنُ فيه النُهُودُ..

وتُسْفَكُ فيه الدماءْ.

هُنا.. يذبحونَ المَهَا..

وعُيُونَ المَهَا..

ولا يَسْمَحُونَ لها بالبكاءْ..

هناكَ رجَالٌ..

يرونَ النساءَ مُجرَّدَ ثُقْبٍ..

وحَفْلَةَ جِنْسِ..

هناكَ رجالْ.

لُعبَةُ سيفٍ وتُرْسِ..

يُضَاجعْنَ كُلَّ ذكور القبيلةِ

دونَ رضاءٍ.. ودونَ اشتهاءٍ.

ومن غير نَفْسِ..

هناكَ رجالٌ.

يُحبُّونَ مثلَ الجواميسِ

من غيرِ فِكْرٍ..

ومن غير حِسِّ..

أنا لستُ من هؤلاء الرجالِ

فصَعبٌ عليَّ ممارسةُ الحُبِّ
من غير رأسي


(pictures by “Aphrodite” & “Savaman“)

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