Arabism in El-Jakh’s The Visa

aljakhHisham El-Jakh’s popularity has been skyrocketing for a while in Egypt. His style reminds me of an Egyptian Ahmad Matar – direct, more polemical than lyrical, often sarcastic and dependent on the poetic equivalent of punchlines that might have more relevance at a certain time and in a certain context – such as the FIFA line in the poem The Visa, when Al-Jakh calls out to Dr Abdul Malik Murtad from Algeria, interrupting the flow of the poem to repeat the line, an Egyptian addressing an Algerian at the time of the Egypt-Algeria FIFA dispute. The line رعاها الله God protect them, and El-Jakh’s tone as he throws those words out, are particularly cutting.

The Visa compounds the problem of Pan-Arabism in interesting ways. Here is an Egyptian poet in a pan-Arab poetry competition, supported by fans carrying the flag of Egypt – and most poets are supported by people from their country. And yet the lines that get most applause are those that speak of unity, like the two times he mixes together nationalities and geography (an Egyptian of Mauritania). But then also, the line “Christian and Sunni and Shia and Kurd and Druze and Alawi” – that gets a huge amount of applause, although it obviously begs the question of pan-Arabism. Because even if Arab is thought of as a linguistic or cultural grouping it imposes a monolithic label which excludes Kurds among others – one might add Amazigh or Tawareg or any number of non-Arab ethnic groups. And then, the poem itself admits that pan-Arabism is an ideology promoted by the rulers (the very rulers the poem critcizes).

The view that pan-Arabism is toxic has been expressed by many such as Franck Salameh, who has described pan-Arabism as a delusion, in fact the idea of an Arab world itself is seen as a delusion in his article “The Delusion of An Arab World”. The view that it can be recuperated, or that there is a revival of it in some non-Nasserist bottom-up grassroots form, along the lines of Mohammed Bamyeh‘s argument about a shift from old nationalism to a new patriotism, has also been expressed recently. Lamis Andoni spoke of pan-Arabism’s resurrection early on in 2011. Yassine Temlali posed this as a question: Rebirth or Final Throes? 

This is obviously a huge subject and there is no easy dismissal or recuperation of this idea. Another article stressing the ambiguties by Eugen Lungu and Ragip Gokcel concludes somewhat contradictoraliy that “although pan-Arabism, as a political movement, was not present during popular uprisings in the Arab world, it will not disappear in the future.”

التأشيرة هشام الجخ

اسبح باسمك الله
I praise you God in your name
وليس سواك اخشاه
And I fear none but you
واعلم انى لى قدرا سألقاه .. سألقاه
And I know I have a destiny that I will inevitably meet

وقد علمت فى صغرى بان عروبتى شرفى
I was taught in childhood that my Arabness is my honor
وناصيتى وعنوانى
My badge and my banner
وكنا فى مدارسنا نردد بعض الحان
And in school we would repeat these rhymes
نغنى بيننا مثلا
And sing amongst ourselves
بلاد العرب أوطانى – وكل العرب اخوانى
The Arab world is my homeland/And all Arabs are my siblings
وكنا نرسم العربى ممشوقا بهامته
We would draw the Arab tall and strong
له صدر يصد الريح اذ تعوى
With a chest that would block the wind if it howled
مهابا فى عبائته
Powerful in his mantle
وكنا محض اطفال
We were just children
تحركنا مشاعرنا
Moved by our feelings
ونسرح فى الحكايات التى تروى بطولاتنا
Lost in tales told of our heroism
وان بلادنا تمتد من أقصى الى أقصى
Believing that our land stretches from one end to another
وان حروبنا كانت لاجل المسجد الاقصى
And that our wars were for the Aqsa
وان عدونا صهيون
And that our enemy the Zionist
شيطان له ذيل
Is a devil with a tail
وان جيوش امتنا
And that the armies of our nation
لها فعل كما السيل
Are a force to be reckoned with…

سأبحر عندما اكبر
I will set sail when I grow up
امر بشاطىء البحرين فى ليبيا
I’ll pass by Bahrain’s beach in Libya
واجنى التمر من بغداد فى سوريا
And pick the dates of Baghdad in Syria
واعبر من موريتانيا الى السودان
And pass from Mauritania to Sudan
اسافر عبر مقديشيو الى لبنان
And travel through Mogadishu to Lebanon

وكنت اخبىء الاشعار فى قلبى ووجدانى
And I hid these rhymes in my heart and soul:
بلاد العرب اوطانى وكل العرب اخوانى
The Arab world is my homeland/And all Arabs are my siblings

وحين كبرت
And when I grew up
لم احصل على تأشيرة للبحر
I did not get a visa to the sea
لم ابحر
I did not set sail
وأوقفنى جواز غير مختوم على الشباك
I was stopped by the unstamped passport at the window
لم اعبر
I did not cross the border
حين كبرت
When I grew up
لم ابحر ولم اعبر
I did not set sail and I did not cross the border
كبرت انا
I grew up
وهذا الطفل لم يكبر
But this child did not grow up

تقاتلنا طفولتنا
Our childhood is at war with us
وافكار تعلمنا مبادئنا على يدكم ايا حكام امتنا
And ideas we learned the principles of at your hands oh rulers of our nation
تعذبنا طفولتنا
Our childhood torments us
وافكار تعلمنا مبادئها على يدكم ايا حكام امتنا
And ideas whose principles we learned at your hands oh rulers of our nation
الستم من نشأنا فى مدارسكم
Were we not brought up in your schools?
تعلمنا مناهجكم
Did we not learn your curriculums?
الستم من تعلمنا على يدكم بان الثعلب المكار منتظر سيأكل نعجة الحمقى اذا للنوم ما خلدوا
Didn’t you teach us that the sly fox is waiting to eat the sheep of the naive if they fall into slumber?
الستم من تعلمنا على يدكم بان العود محمى بحزمته ضعيف حين ينفرد
Didn’t you teach us that sticks are protected when in a bundle and weak when separated?
لماذا الفرقة الحمقاء تحكمنا
Why then does foolish division rule us?
الستم من تعلمنا على يدكم ان اعتصموا بحبل الله واتحدوا
Aren’t you the ones who taught us “hold fast to faith in God and unite?”
لماذا تحجبون الشمس بالاعلام
Why do you cover the sun over with your flags?
تقاسمتم عروبتنا ودخلم بينكم صرنا كما الانعام
You’ve divided our Arabness between yourselves and among you we have become like animals

سيبقى الطفل فى صدرى يعاديكم
The child in my heart will remain your enemy
تقسمنا على يدكم فتبت كل ايديكم
We have been divided at your hands, may all your hands perish (references the Quran, Surat Abu Lahab)

انا العربى لا اخجل
I am an Arab, unashamed
ولدت بتونس الخضراء من اصل عمانى
Born in green Tunisia of Omani origins
وعمرى زاد عن الف وامى ماتزل تحبل
I am more than a thousand years old and my mother still gets pregnant
انا العربى فى بغداد لى نخل
I am an Arab, I have palm trees in Baghdad
وفى السودان شريانى
And arteries in Sudan
انا مصرى موريتانيا وجيبوتى وعمانى
I’m an Egyptian of Mauritania, Djibouti and Oman
مسيحى وسنى وشيعى و كردى ودرزى وعلوى
Christian and Sunni and Shia and Kurd and Druze and Alawi
انا لا احفظ الاسماء والحكام اذ ترحل
I do not learn the names of the rulers as they leave
تشتتنا على يدكم
We have been scattered at your hands
وكل الناس تتكتل
As other people are gathering
سئمنا من تشتتنا وكل الناس تتكتل
We are sick of being scattered as other people gather
ملئتم فكرنا كذبا ووتزيرا وتأليفا
You have filled our thoughts with lies, forgery and falsehood
اتجمعنا يد الله وتبعدنا يد الفيفا
Does God’s hand unite us and FIFA’s hand divide us?
هجرنا ديننا عمدا
We have deliberately forsaken our religion
فعدنا الاوس والخزرج
We have returned to being the Aws and the Khazraj
نولى جهلنا فينا
Our ignorance looms within us
وننتظر الغبا مخرج
So we see stupidity as a way out

ايا حكام امتنا يبقى الطفل فى صدرى يعاديكم
Oh rulers of our nation the child in my heart will remain your enemy
يقاضيكم
Your judge
ويعلن شعبنا العربى متحدا
Declaring our Arab nation unified
فلا السودان منقسم
Sudan is not divided
ولا الجولان محتل
Golan is not occupied
ولا لبنان منكسر يدواى الجرح منفردا
Nor is Lebanon broken, treating its wounds alone

سيجمع لؤلؤات خلجينا العربى فى السودان يزرعها
Our Arabian Gulf’s pearls will be gathered and planted in the Sudan
فينبت حبها فى المغرب العربى قمحا
And their seeds will grow as wheat in the Maghreb
يعصرون الناس زيتا فى فلسطين الابيه
The people will press oil in proud Palestine
يشربون الاهل فى الصومال ابدا
And families will drink in Somalia forever
سيخرج من عبائتكم رعاها الله
Emerge from your mantles, God protect them
للجمهور متقدا
For public burning
هو الجمهور لا انتم
He is the public not you
هو الحكام لا انتم
He is the ruler not you
اتسمعنى جحافلكم
Do your retainers hear me?
اتسمعنى دواوين المعاقل فى حكومتكم
Do the diwans and strongholds of your government hear me?
هو الحكام لا انتم ولا اخشى لكم احدا
He is the ruler not you, and I fear none of you
هو الاسلام لا انتم فكفوا عن تجارتكم
He is Islam and not you so quit your trading (with religion)
والا صار مرتدا
Or he’ll become an apostate
وخافوا ان هذا الشعب حمال
And be afraid, for this nation is patient
وان النوق ان صرمت
But if the camel is cut
فلن تجدوا لها لبنا ولن تجدوا ولدا
You will not get its milk nor get its calf

انا باق وشرعى فى الهوا باق
I will remain and my poetry remains in the air
سقينا الظلم اوعية
We have been given droughts of injustice in jugs
سقينا الجهل ادعية
We have been been given droughts of ignorance in prayers
مللنا السقى والساقى
We have become tired of the drink and those who pour it
احذركم
I warn you
سنبقى رغم فتنتكم
We will remain despite your seditions
فهذا الشعب موصول
For this nation is connected
حبائلكم وان ضعفت
If your ropes are weak
فحبل الله مفتول
God’s rope is steadfast

ساكبر تاركا للطفل
I’ll grow up and leave the child
فرشاتى والوانى
My brush and my paints
ويبقى يرسم العربى
And he will remain painting the Arab
ممشوقا بهامته
tall and strong
ويبقى صوت الحانى
And the sound of my rhymes will remain
بلاد العرب اوطانى
The Arab world is my homeland
وكل العرب اخوانى
And all Arabs are my siblings

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