Titus and the Gnat

Aug. 12 2022

After the Roman general, and later emperor, Titus razed Jerusalem and plundered the Temple—according to a talmudic legend—God punished him by sending a gnat via his ear into his brain, which eventually drove him to madness. Cynthia Ozick transformed the tale into a poem in 1982, published for the first time last week. It opens thus:

Wicked Titus (the name the Rabbis gave),
Commander-in-Chief
of Roman arms,
strategist of bloody harms,
took Jerusalem in fief,
razed the Temple to its grave,
and Zion brought to grief.

The flame of the Ark
brutally he blew to dark
shaped of its tapestry a sleeve,
loaded it with loot.
For holy Zion, no reprieve.
Then homeward went the Roman boot.

At sea, up sprang a gale.
It shook the Roman masts to sticks.
“This God of theirs can play these tricks
on water, but the land is dry,
On land He can’t prevail.
Just let Him try!”
Thus spake that master of detritus,
Zion’s ruin, Wicked Titus.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Ancient Rome, Cynthia Ozick, Poetry, Second Temple, Talmud

 

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam