Welcome to Ideas Beyond Borders

By: Olivia Cuthbert In his student days, Ameen Al Jaleeli spent many happy afternoons at the University of Mosul’s Library. “It was a landmark at the heart of the university. I used to go there and spend hours reading and living that experience, that calmness.” Now a professor at the university, Al Jaleeli shares these memories with new students curious to know what they are missing.

“Not having a library is a serious hindrance to the teaching and learning process,” he says, but it’s also a loss to the student way of life. “Students joining now can’t have that beautiful library experience. … They keep asking me what it was like and wondering whether the reconstruction will be complete before they graduate.”

It’s been almost four years since the Islamic State, or ISIS, was expelled from Mosul, but life is still far from normal at the University of Mosul, where students pass bombed-out departments on the way to class that have yet to be replaced. (See a related article, “Iraqis Watch Antiquities Take Hit After Hit.”)

The central library—once among the largest in the Middle East with over a million books in English and Arabic—has become a symbol of the devastation suffered by the whole city, its charred columns and scorched shelves a stark reminder of the education blackout imposed under the occupation by ISIS.

Now, a new drive to replace the books and rebuild the structure is bringing hope that the former landmark will recover its prestige and give Mosul’s students a chance to connect with the world of learning once more. (See a related article, “Rebuilding Mosul’s Library, Book by Book.”)


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It was not an easy task for Egyptian women to obtain their basic rights, such as the right to education and to work. Rather they, along with many men, have been fighting and challenging the traditional prejudice of the Egyptian society against women. Among the earliest most important pioneers of Egyptian women’s liberation was Qasim Amin (1863-1908). During the late 18th century and early 19th, Egyptian women were not allowed to get an education or work, they were even forbidden from any social life outside of their homes.

The video tells the story of Amin’s fight for the rights of Egyptian women. When he called for women’s rights challenging many of the leaders of the Egyptian society and risked his social status to empower women. In the video, we get introduced to Amin’s two major books; “the Liberation of Women” and “the New Women,” in which Amin presented and refuted several traditional claims that are still used in Arab societies to perpetuate oppression and sexism against women. Yet, because of Amin and other activists after him, Egyptian women gradually achieved their right to education, work, suffrage, etc. However, the video highlights the fact that while Arab women have been able to achieve some progress and obtain some rights, we all still need to stand in solidarity fighting prejudices, sexism, and discrimination against women.

The video generated 655 shares, 570 comments, 3.8K interactions, 605K views, and 26.7K one-minute views. And it reached 770K. It triggered a massive debate among viewers. Noteworthy: the majority of comments came from female viewers, which shows that this video has been able to touch a nerve for Arab women. Many female viewers responded expressing their gratitude for what Amin had done for the cause of Arab women’s rights. For instance, Mona Yousef wrote:

“Amin was truly a pioneer. Suffice that though he was a man, he had been the first person to promote women’s liberation and rights. Yet, after a century, there are women who refuse and deny these rights for their own.”

Some viewers show their gratitude for this illuminating video, praising the strong argument and smooth narration, such as Nourhan Elmansy who stated:

“I really liked that the script is written in an easy, organized, and attractive style. The voiceover sounds great, I enjoyed it so much. Moreover, the video editing is excellent. All those elements help to make the information stick in our minds. I also liked that you mentioned the video’s sources. Indeed, you did a great job!”

Others expressed their concern that Arab women are still suffering from oppression under the auspices of religion or traditions. Amina Mostafa says:

“The status of women now is not better than in the past. In fact, the woman has now taken the responsibility for her household, working to provide for her family. Yet, she is abused and insulted by her irresponsible husband.”

Altaey Rafia Mohammed commented:

“Women will remain without rights as long as there are extremist religious leaders, ignorance, and dominance of religious thinking over society.”

Still many others, however, rejected any calls for women's liberation, claiming that those ideas are foreign to Arab culture and violate the teaching of Islam. One example is Fatma Amer, who notes:

“Frankly, it is because of Qasim Amin and his ilk that we have reached such moral decay that exists today. That was Satan’s first step in leading us astray.”

For a person calling him/herself Ya Cin, the argument for women liberation is an attempt from the West to force its rules over the Arab world:

“Women issues are a tool against Arab society. Whenever the West wants to call us ‘backward’, it uses this excuse accusing us of not giving our women their liberation. The West, however, is the one who now calls its women to stay at home.”

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Updated: May 4

Author: Karam Bassam

“They don't even care if they...

Seal the planet's fate, crimes they perpetrate

Wasting precious land, it's time to take a stand

Our only hope to breathe again, to stop the madness closing in

What will we do when all is lost, environmental holocaust..”

While this might sound like an excerpt from a motivational speech about saving the environment, it is not. These are actually lyrics from a 1989 heavy metal song called “Greenhouse Effect” by the American band Testament. The song criticizes pollution-causing industries for clearing the rainforests in South America and destroying the natural habitats of many species.

Metal music has grown to tackle a much deeper and wider scope of issues in the world due to its unique nature. Heavy metal, or metal, is a genre of rock music driven by the aggressive sounds of distorted electric guitar, loud amplification, and often shouted lyrics. In the past, it has mainly been associated with rebellious and anti-establishment lyrical themes. Its content has always been a controversial topic since the rise of the genre in the early 1980s. For many people, metal stands out from other musical genres because of its ability to discuss any topic, from mythology to politics, history to wars, religion to existence, and even animal rights. Like any art form, it provides everyone with a voice. It is a way to rebel against the norms of society and convey emotions about specific subjects. The genre utilizes the lack of censorship norms within the metal community, which makes the expression of thought easy.

As a person who has been in the scene for a long time, I can certainly say that metal music is not everyone’s cup of tea. For many people like me, it is not treated simply as music someone puts on when they are bored or on the way to work, but rather as an artistic piece that a whole culture is based on. Metal fans are known worldwide to be some of the most dedicated and loyal music fans. I still remember when I started getting into metal music, there was something in it that attracted me like nothing else; I admired its power, heaviness, and musical complexity.

Because of my love of the culture, I started doing vocal covers for metal songs about ten years ago. I created my first band Anthems of Isolation in 2012, then my second band Dead Tears in 2019. I found my passion in expressing myself through writing lyrics and singing. While I have loved being a part of these bands, being in a metal band and being from the Middle East might bring unwanted attention in specific countries. Many bands have faced difficulties performing live or even releasing music, and some to the point of becoming arrested or receiving death threats. This is due to the misconception that metal is associated with Satanism. The misconception is based on its aggressive, unusual, and dystopian image, which is merely meant to be a reflection of the world's reality, aiming to build a critical stance on important issues.

As a band, the joy of doing something you love with a sense of purpose is a great feeling. We tried to employ this in Dead Tears’ first album “Wretched Earth”, which was released in 2020. The main concept behind the album is to show the dark side of human nature that can cause horrific acts and is ultimately leading us to our own end. For instance, the song “Undeniable Existence” explains that even though humans do not have a choice where they are born, they are still arrogantly mistreating each other based on race or religion. To demonstrate real-life examples in our work, we wrote about historical events to help convey our ideas. Similar to our other song, “Psychopathic Science” used the unfortunate events and cruelties that took place at Unit 731 during World War II to demonstrate our ethical stance on the issues conveyed in the song.

At the end of the day, opinions differ, and every person has their own way to express themselves. For us metal listeners, we have chosen this form of music to take our stand. Maybe after all, inspirational speeches are not only found in TED talks but they can also be found inside those scary-looking album covers you might accidentally come across in the music store or on Spotify!

This article was edited by Skyeler Antonino

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