Hopeful Desperation in an Unjust and Terrifying World

This morning I woke up to find several of my Facebook friends sharing an Arabs Got Talent video. I’ve never properly watched the show nor have I cared to. But just as I’ll click on a link to a video that any friend recommends as interesting or funny, I’ll click on a shared Arabs Got Talent video every now and then too. So I clicked on this one to see what all the fuss was about.

It was a musical group of young Palestinian children from Gaza. They trained through the recent Gaza bombings. There were days on end when they couldn’t go to school but they would train as a group nevertheless. They described how difficult it is for them to see all the destruction in Gaza as they make their way to their institute to train. They tried several times to get out of Gaza to participate in the show but they couldn’t. The border with Egypt, the only way out, is often closed. But they eventually managed to get themselves across the border, onto a plane from Cairo Airport, and into Lebanon for the auditions. “We want to show the world that there is talent in Palestine,” said the youngest of the group. The group was composed of one singer and four children on musical instruments. The singer, probably around 13-years-old, had the hugest smile on his face throughout the whole audition. They played and sang a song by legendary Lebanese singer/songwriter Wadih El Safi (1921-2013) about the return of a loved one; the implied message in this particular case being one of singing for the return of Palestine. The children played and sang the song beautifully. The judges were all very impressed; so much so that one of them, a Saudi comedian, pressed the golden button that allows them an automatic go-through to the next rounds. Gold confetti dropped all over them as they continued singing the song to its end, with the youngest player on the classical Arabian instrument, the zither, crying tears of joy.

I always have a good cry when I see people accomplishing their dreams. So it isn’t strange that I had a really good cry while watching this video. But this time was different because of the context of the past few days. I’ve had a very deep-sitting feeling of loneliness and frustration since the Charlie Hebdo attacks. I feel as if I’m not understood – by hardly anyone. I feel like I want to sit the people of the world down in front of me and slowly explain to them why it is that we’ve reached the situation we’re now in. I want to tell the Western powers-that-be what they have been doing and continue to be doing wrong. I want to tell my fellow Muslims what they have been doing and continue to be doing wrong. It’s all so clear in my head but because there are so many intermingled and complex reasons for it all, they get jumbled in the area just before my throat so that it feels like it all just comes out in a putrid spew of vomit. I can’t seem to find the energy or the willpower to put together a proper, evidence-based argument to be able to clarify things the way I see them.

I interviewed a second-year Emirati university student last week for an article I was writing related to Arab astronomy. She is so young yet she already has published research. Her pride in her accomplishment, and the pride she knew her family had for her, oozed out over the whole interview like lovely rays of golden sunshine.

I felt so proud of her. I felt so proud today after watching the video of the young Palestinian children.

Our young generations have so many dreams. But in too many cases those dreams are quashed by the tremendous obstacles placed along their way.

Millions of Egyptians of various ages and backgrounds dreamt that their revolution would finally create real change for our country. So many paid with their lives for that change to come. When Mubarak was deposed, we all had such high hopes. None of us had ever felt that way in our lives. We never expected we could feel that way. Hope had never really been an option. We had become accustomed to docile acceptance instead. For most of us, that hope has all but vanished now. And in its place for so many of us are desperate feelings of depression, frustration, and despair.

The failure of the Egyptian revolution has affected me and my family in a very profound way. I have not been able to write about the details of it because it involves other people who have their right to privacy. And because I have had to make choices I am not necessarily proud of. But it’s not only me that has been affected. Every single Egyptian and countless Arabs now live with barely any form of security to mention. The few that are able to keep moving forward and to create dreams out of vapor are our magic-makers.

This morning I saw a small ray of inspiration and hope in the video of the young Palestinian musical group. But I find it so easy to take one small step backwards and to see the reality in the Arab and Islamic worlds. And all I see is a huge, bleak, black canvas with a few, almost imperceptible specks of gold.

There are so many people to blame. None of them want to take the slightest responsibility for the situation we are all now in as a human race. For what we face in the Middle East is having a huge spillover effect onto everyone else.

This morning I woke up with so much despair over recent events that, despite the hope I felt while watching the Arabs Got Talent video, I’ve decided for the zillionth time that I need to distance myself from things happening in the world again. That decision never lasts. Ever.

More children will die in Syria and Iraq today. More young girls and women will be effectively sold off into marriage. More journalists will be jailed and killed. More innocent people will lose their lives to hunger, disease, poverty, thuggery, crime, violence, abuse, torture, and war. More injustice will be doled out onto the people of my region from Western, regional and local governments. It is no wonder that people become radicalized. It is actually quite miraculous that there aren’t more radicals than those that already exist. We’re heading full speed, as a human race, towards a very dark abyss. And I can barely see a way out.


  1. I see what you see, Nadia. But I also want to take a moment and reflect as much as it deserves on the mere fact that in the midst of all the death and destruction those children came out with music. They weren’t radicalized as would be expected. They didn’t take up arms or join any ranks. They chose music. That to me is very powerful hope. There are many like them around the world, I’ve seen many young Egyptians who have turned their despair into awe inspiring art. The only problem is that there is very little focus on those. The media doesn’t really care about them. It’s the killers and the rapists that we hear about everyday.

  2. i just stumbled onto your blog today, and have already read many of you’re post. I have never so quickly identified with someone. It is almost as if (with the exception of some details) I wrote the posts myself.
    I applaud your ability and determination to have objective point of view. I sympathize with your outlook on the state of the human race in the way that only someone sharing the same pain can.

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