Saturday, 25 July 2009

China's Great Game: Showdown in Xinjiang draws comments from across the Muslim world

Although usually the USA is bearing the brunt of present-day anti-imperialist rhetoric, it is actually China which has the dubious honour of resembling the classical empires in world history even more closely than America's noisy interventions in world affairs.

This time it is not in Buddhist Tibet, but in its more northern Central Asian possession of Xinjiang that the last remaining empire is putting its foot down. Predominantly inhabited by Turkic-speaking Muslims, most of them Uighurs, the region used to be called 'Chinese' or 'East Turkestan'. Consequently this latest chapter in China's 'Great Game', has drawn attention throughout the Muslim world.

On the Malaysian opposition website Malaysiakini, one of its columnists dedicated an op-ed piece to the recent turbulence. Egyptian-born but US-based writer Mona Eltahawy plugged the issue on her blog.

Not surprising, the issue is of particular interests to other Turkic nations. Whereas the Central Asian 'stans' have remained conspiciously silent (for which some have already been handsomely rewarded by Beijing in financial terms), the AK-led government of Turkey and its associated media have taken a much more defiant and critical stance -- notwithstanding recent efforts to establish more cordial ties with China. A good barometer for Turkish sentiments on international affairs is Zaman newspaper. Its recent issues contained coverage of China's angry response to Prime Minister Erdogan's comments on the recent fatalities and an essay by Konstanty Gebert.

For an analysis of the varied reactions across the Turkic-speaking world, see the 16 July. entry in The Economist.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

The Iranians: A People Interrupted Once Again

I have already expressed my appreciation for the view points of the US-based Iranian scholar and intellectual Hamid Dabashi (see the earlier post of 8 November 2008). So it is perhaps not surprising that I also value his recent contributions to the news media and current affairs periodicals, in which he comments on the events as they are presently unfolding in Iran. These developments only underscore -- unfortunately I would say -- how apt the title of his book on Iran's political-cultural history, Iran: A People Interrupted actually is....

This week an Iranian friend drew my attention to one of Hamid Dabashi's op-ed pieces in the weekly English-language edition of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. In this article 'People Power', Dabashi takes stock of the political fall-out in the aftermath of Iran's controversial June 2009 presidential elections.

In fact, the current turbulence has thrown Dabashi into the limelight of a media frenzy and he has become a familiar face on the mainstream networks. It appears that this demand for his views has interrupted the posting of his running thoughts on developments in Iran on his own website. Hopefully, the insightful analyses which characterize both his academic and more engaged writings (even though I am not always charmed by their tone), will leave an impact on public opinion around the world. As an example consider this commentary on the CNN website.

An interesting aside in the constellation of these events is that Dabashi is also an authority on Iranian cinema and in particular the film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who is now acting as the international spokesman for Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition candidate who is challenging the election results and has even taken his campaign to facebook.

Get Dabashi's Makhmalbaf at Large: The Making of a Rebel Filmmaker from amazon.