Boston Community News (V9-I24)

Censorship at Barnes and Noble

Bayside, NY– May 24, 2007–Barnes and Noble hosted author Susan Abulhawa to talk about her book The Scar of David, which was first published in December, 2006. A book signing followed.

The original event was to have included a reading from the novel, but Rabbi Bruce Goldwasser of Temple Beth Sholom in Flushing encouraged a call-in to the bookstore as intimidation. He claimed, “It’s an historical novel based on made-up stuff. The made-up stuff is that Israelis were forcing the Arabs out of their homes.”

Temple Beth Sholom is taking part in the Terror Free Oil campaign of Joe Kaufman, who is the Chairman of Americans Against Hate and CAIR Watch.

The incitement against Ms. Abulhawa and her book started three weeks ago when Queens Jewish Community Council President Jan Fenster and Executive Director Cynthia Zalisky circulated a memorandum throughout the Queens Jewish Community that stated the following.

“QJCC does not want to add to the publicity of this book with rallies or newspaper articles/letters to the editor, but suggests a letter writing/phone calling campaign to the Bayside Barnes and Noble stating displeasure with this author’s appearance and the lack of balance of Israel’s point of view.”

According to a Barnes & Noble spokeswoman, the store received about 15 phone calls a day, many negative, and four Queens rabbis faxed a joint letter of condemnation. CAIR faxed a complaint about the pressure tactics and asked that the scheduled reading take place.

When the Ms. Abulhawa and her literary agent Mark B. Miller arrived, they found that the space for an audience had been filled with display tables.

Ms. Abulhawa’s book is a tear-jerker in which the metaphor of the scarred stolen child stands for the theft of Palestine. Ms. Abulhawa wanted to “show the Palestinian narrative in a human light.” She said, “Art is about finding common human ground and making the connections.”

When asked why CAIR attempted to intervene, she stated, “I am a Muslim and a big supporter of CAIR. They are a civil rights group. They saw a violation.”

Ms. Abulhawa stated that the historical backdrop of her novel was accurate and some of the story–like the orphanage chapter–was drawn from her experiences.

She said, “My friends cursed me for making them cry so much.”

A Dutch studio has shown interest in producing a movie based on the book.

Sackler Museum displays Islamic tiles and metalwork

Cambridge–June 5–Everyday objects are transformed into highly decorative works of art in an exhibition called “Overlapping Realms: Arts of the Islamic World and India, 900-1900” at Harvard University’s Sackler Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Designed to be both visually and intellectually pleasurable, the majority of the objects are for eating, drinking, writing or storage. The items originate from Northeastern Iran, Southern Iran, Turkey, Spain and India, and the Muslim master craftsmen who produced them use similar design themes common in the Islamic world. Their use of geometry, interlacing, stylized leaf and floral designs, and Arabic calligraphy creates intricate and balanced designs.

The ceramic objects are decorated with rich colors such as red, royal blue, green and gold. Most of them have been inscribed with passages from the Qur’an such as a 14th century cobalt blue ceramic panel that was part of mihrab from Iranian mosque. The mihrab is a niche in the wall of a mosque, often highly decorated, that indicates the direction of Mecca. A wide band around the panel’s edges is inscribed with Arabic calligraphy proclaiming La `ilaha `illal Lah.

The metalwork, such as pouring vessels, basins, and boxes, are made of bronze or brass and inlaid with copper, silver, and gold. Two brass pen boxes, inlaid with silver, from 16th century Iran have designs that are so small and intricate, it is clear that writing was an important occupation. The one weapon on display is a highly polished steel dagger from Northern India, dating from the 17th century, with a curved jade handle.

An early 16th century hexagonal tile from Turkey, decorated with stylized blue flowers on a white background, is an example of the repeating stylized floral pattern known as arabesque. In between the blossoms are swirling clouds reminiscent of Chinese designs. Indeed the trade routes that stretched from China through Southern Europe were responsible for bringing Asian designs to the attention of Muslim artists. Other Turkish tiles from the late 16th century are decorated with a more naturalistic floral design. Tulips, roses, and carnations painted in blue, yellow, and tomato red look as though they were picked from a whimsical fantasy garden.

For those interested in Islamic art and history, a visit to this exhibition is both awe-inspiring and educational. The exhibition runs until Spring 2008.

Spring Carnival at Islamic Center of New England

Quincy–May 28–TMO attended the Spring Carnival and Flea Market of Mutanafisun Academy, an Islamic school that goes up to 7th grade located on the premises of the Islamic Center of New England in Quincy, Massachusetts. It was a hot, sunny day.

Quincy, a popular tourist destination, is one of the oldest cities in America and the birthplace of two American presidents, John Quincy Adams and John Adams.

The entrance to the mosque was decorated with balloons on this Memorial Day Monday. The many activities for children included a Moonwalk, Bungee Run, dart toss, face painting, squirt guns, ball toss, and a hammer that rings a bell. Children were given the opportunity to frost their own cupcake.

The brothers were busy on the grill outside, cooking up Pakistani style chicken and hamburgers. The sisters were busy piling the meat with rice and salad onto Styrofoam containers for families inside the masjid, along with egg rolls, and Greek spinach pies. They had a bake sale going on across the room as well as an X-Box tournament for computer game enthusiasts. The carnival offered popcorn, slushies, and cotton candy.

Firefighters showed off their fire truck to the children. There was a flea market with clothes, household rummage, and some handicrafts.

An anonymous supporter said, “The community gave us perfect support. Stop ‘n Shop, Roche Brothers, BJ’s and Brother Salim’s International Food Co. helped us.”

To play a game, the children had to buy green tickets for $1 each. Usually, they would win a pink ticket as a prize. These could be redeemed inside the masjid for candy and other prizes.

Mutanafisun Academy is a conservative Islamic community with an assortment of African and Arabic immigrant groups as well as some Bosnians and American converts.

Jessica Allison of Cambridge, MA said, “It’s neat to see old faces here.”

When asked if she was having a good time, Aicha Belabbes, the daughter of Jessica said, “I keep running out of tickets. I have to ask my Mom for more money.”


0 replies