Posts Tagged ‘ali shakir’

A meeting with the author Ali Shakir about his book “A Muslim on the Bridge: On Being an Iraqi-Arab Muslim in the Twenty-First Century”

Yesterday, I had the luck of participating for the first time in my life in a book club. The name of this book club is “JCI Book Club – Amman” (You can read more details about the club and my experience in this post: Are there English Book Clubs in Amman? There is the JCI Amman Book Club and here is my Experience!). At my first participation, I had the luck that the club had a Mr. Ali Shakir to talk briefly about a book that he had recently published.

It was my first time ever to know of Mr. Shakir. Mr. Shakir is a New Zealander-Iraqi author. He recently published a book called: “A Muslim on the Bridge: On Being an Iraqi-Arab Muslim in the Twenty-First Century”. This book is the first book ever written by Mr. Shakir and the JCI Amman Book Club hosted him to talk about his book.

Book's Front Cover - A Muslim on the Bridge: On Being an Iraqi-Arab Muslim in the Twenty-First Century

Book’s Front Cover. Source: Book’s page at amazon.com.

Who is Ali Shakir and what is his book about? These questions are answered concisely and precisely at the back cover of the book:

The Book's Backcover - A Muslim on the Bridge: On Being an Iraqi-Arab Muslim in the Twenty-First Century

The Book’s Backcover. Source: Book’s page at amazon.com.

From the book’s back cover, I just want to highlight that Mr. Shakir lived most of his life in Iraq until 2006 when he moved to New Zealand.

During the entire event of JCI Book Club Amman, Mr. Shakir was very quiet. He spoke in a low voice, which he said he could not “increase”. Mr. Shakir introduced himself very briefly and talked in less than 10 minutes about his book. This was certainly not enough. I liked very much the “etymology” of his book’s title.

He told us that the main landmark in Baghdad is the Tigris river نهر دجلة. He explained that there are many bridges crossing this river to connect the parts of Baghdad at its both sides. When he used to live Iraq, he liked a lot to go above these bridges and watch the city of Baghdad. In his opinion, this gave him a very good view of the city of Baghdad at both sides of the river. He thinks that he could not have got this view were he not to stand on these bridges! In a similar fashion, I understood that he is now lost between his Muslim and Arab identity and western point of views. Therefore, he wrote this book to give a better view of the difficulties that he, along with other Iraqis and Muslims in general, are having (N.B. I am not sure how precise I remember his words).

Tigris River, Baghdad, Iraq.

Tigris River, Baghdad, Iraq. Source: A flickr account of James Gordon.

Tigris Rive, Baghdad, Iraq. Source: A flickr account of James Gordon.

Tigris River, Baghdad, Iraq. Source: A flickr account of James Gordon.

I do not know a lot of information about the author or about the book. Nonetheless, I sensed a tone of sadness in the voice of Mr. Shakir.  I sensed that he had a lot inside of him and he wanted to express it but could not. Could it be that this book was enough? Is there a story of suffering somewhere in the life of Mr. Shakir? This is why I quickly became very interested to read the book.

The floor was opened for discussion. One person asked about the source of Mr. Shakir’s information in the book and whether he depended on certain resources. Then a person asked a question that diverted the conversation to the situation of Iraq and Baghdad nowadays. Finally, I asked the last question 🙂 and gave my opinion regarding what Mr. Shakir had begun his brief talk by. Mr. Shakir had said that “he is against a writer speaking about his/her book” and that “a good book will speak about itself.” I told Mr. Shakir that I would have most probably not known about his book if he had not come to that event. I then told him that although communication skills are important, but that strong ideas can convey the greatest bulk of a person’s opinion. I finished my comment by saying, “If I were you and were invited into an event to discuss my book, I will go.”

Questions ended. Then, a young woman of JCI’s administrative people asked a very interesting question:

“If Mr. Ali Shakir’s book was available today at Book Readers, who will buy it?”

I raised my hand. It was not though a very high rise. The reason is not that I did not want to buy the book. I found the book very interesting. The reason is that I would have bought it not as paperback but as an e-version. I no longer prefer reading paperback books. I then thought very frightened, what if they told us that the book is available and they wanted to make it a surprise? I do not have enough money to buy it. Yes, I did not have more than JD 10 in my pocket. My salary as an intern in the ministry of health is only JD 96.5 ($136.26). “I want 10 people to raise their hands.” The young woman said again and then started counting those who had raised their hands. My hand was not lowered enough and I was counted among those “lucky” people who will have the chance to buy the book that night. However, not for very long: “Mr. Ali,” The young woman said. “We would like to inform you that a secret person has told us that he will buy 10 copies of your book and donate them.” Mr. Ali then immediately asked, again in low voice, “Who is this person?” The young woman refused to answer. Then the beautiful surprise came:

“We want to give these ten books to the ten people who raised their hands.”

I was very happy. This meant that I would have a free copy of Mr. Shakir’s book. What a very good surprise! I think it is the most expensive prize (if I can say) that I have ever won in my life! The paperback version of this book costs $15.19. I have never won a prize that is worth more than 15.19$. The person who decided to donate the books. I really respect him/her. It certainly shows that Mr. Shakir’s book had touched this person’s mind and/or heart!

The book will arrive at Book Readers in about two weeks. I am looking forward to reading it!

Are there English Book Clubs in Amman? There is the JCI Amman Book Club and here is my Experience!

Are there English Book Clubs in Amman?

Are there English Book Clubs in Amman? Source of photo: a Flickr account of infowidget.

I was recently invited to two book clubs in Amman. However, both of them only discussed Arabic books. No, I am not against Arabic books. I am just against one not doing the best to improve his/her knowledge of English! By reading in English, certainly, a person will dramatically improve his/her English. There are other less important reasons why I prefer the English language. I discussed them in this post: Why is it a huge disadvantage to Blog in any language other than English? And yes, am I traitor? ““Moa’bite, why are you using English not Arabic? You should be faithful to your mother language” Am I traitor?

Therefore, I decided to search google for an English book club in Amman, Jordan. I have never participated in a book club in my life. After all, I do not think they are many here in Jordan. I searched google for “English book club in Amman” and “English book club in Jordan” and I was amazed not to arrive at only one club. This book club is called the JCI Amman Book Club. Is it possible that there are no more English Book Clubs in Amman? Or are they simply not appearing in google search results? This is highly unlikely as I think that my above search terms should lead me to any English book club in Amman.

Do you know of any English book clubs in Amman? If yes, can you make a comment on this post? Can I conclude that JCI Amman Book Club the only English book club in Amman? 

The JCI Amman Book Club:

Logo of JCI Amman - Book Club

Logo of JCI Amman – Book Club

The info page of this Book Club says that this club was “founded” in “2012”. In addition, it provides some general information about this club. Howver, it does not answer the question of the origin of the acronym JCI. JCI Amman is part of an international organization called Junior Chamber International (JCI) which was founded in 1944. Wow! This is a very detailed Wikipedia article about JCI.

Information about JCI Book Club Amman

Source: Facebook Page of JCI Amman Book Club.

JCI Amman has a facebook group. I applied for membership yesterday and I am waiting to be accepted into it. You can find the group here.

In the past days, I read a post in JCI Amman’s facebook page announcing about a coming event. The event took place yesterday at 7 o’clock in Readers Bookshop, Cozmo’s 7th circle branch, Amman.

JCI Amman Book Club Event on 29.02.2014 in Readers Bookshop Cozmo

A post announcing for yesterday’s event from JCI Amman’s facebook page.

A friend of mine and I decided to go. We arrived approximately in time. About 10 people had already arrived.  A young man and a young woman who are of the managing committee of the club welcomed us with big smiles. Before asking us who we are, the man asked, “How did you know about our club?” I answered very concisely, “From facebook“. The young woman was very happy about this method in which we came to know about their club. I then wanted to give more details. I told how I had googled for an English book club in Amman and only found their club. “You are the only English book club in Amman!” I said. A young man then quickly commented on my description of the club: “Well, we discuss English books. However, we discuss Arabic books too!“. After I had heard this answer, I was a little bit disappointed. Nonetheless, “something is better than nothing”. We then we sat down and waited for the event to begin. Gradually, the number of attending people increased to be between 25 and 30.

The event started. In turn, about 7-8 persons were given chances to speak for 10 minutes about any topic they chose. Some discussed books, others read poems, and quotes. I think that approximately half the speakers spoke in English. Nonetheless, this was mixed with a lot of Arabic. After each presentation, the floor was opened for very brief but very beautiful discussion. All the discussions took place in Arabic.

At another part of the event, a young man presented a short biography about the life of Martin Luther King (totally in Arabic). I understood at each meeting they choose a person to talk a little bit about his/her biography. Martin Luther King was chosen for this time because his birthday was a few days ago; his birth was on 15/01/1929 (you can read more at the Wikipedia article about him).

The last speaker, and this was the most beautiful part of the event, was a New Zealander-Iraqi author called Ali Sahkir. He was hosted to discuss a recent book that he had published. The book is called “A Muslim on the Bridge: On Being an Iraqi-Arab Muslim in the Twenty-First Century”.  Although this part of the meeting lasted for less than 15 minutes, but I liked it very much. I discuss this important part in a separate post and I also explain how through it I won the most expensive gift in my life [A meeting with the author Ali Shakir about his book “A Muslim on the Bridge: On Being an Iraqi-Arab Muslim in the Twenty-First Century”].

Mr. Saleh Al-Hanash, President of JCI Book Club Amman 2014 صالح الحنش رئيس الغرفة المحلية عمان الأردن

Mr. Saleh Al-Hanash, President of JCI Book Club Amman 2014

With Mr. Ali Shakir, the event became to an end. Later, I went and talked with the person who is the president of JCI Amman, Mr. Salih Al-Hanash. Mr. Al-Hanash welcomed me very friendly in the club. I asked him about the steps in which a person can become a member of JCI Amman. He told me that a person need to come for at least 2-3 times to show us his interest. After that, he can register in return for JD 59 annual subscription. Mr. Al-Hanash told me that there are benefits from this subscription. He talked about courses and reminded me of a discount that an employee from the Book Readers bookshop had announced earlier that night. However, I did not inquire more as it was already very late and every one wanted to leave.

JCI Amman Meeting Review, Wednesday 8.1.2014

All in all, it was an interesting event although English was not used more than third of the time. I would love to go again and try more. However, some of the events that JCI Amman holds are to discuss Arabic books. I will probably not attend these. But, for example, about one month from now, they nominated four English books and one Arabic book for the members to choose one of them. I think that an English book will be chosen. I will read it and most probably go. Will you go too?

Update 27/02/2014:

It turned out that I had a misunderstanding. Yesterday, I attended the monthly book discussion in JCI Amman. Although the discussion was for an English book (The Happiness Project), I was surprised when I found out that more than 90% of the discussion was in Arabic. In other words, if a person who do know Arabic attended the meeting, he would not have understood anything. I talked with the president of JCI Jordan about my disappointment and that I had thought that the JCI Amman Book Club is an English Book Club. Or at least, when English books are chosen, then the conversation should be in English. He told me very friendly that the goal of JCI Amman Book Club is to increase knowledge and spread the culture of reading. This does not necessarily take place all in English. I showed understanding as I think that not all members of the club would love the discussion to be all in English (We are Arabs… we have our culture… our language…). Moreover, I am not sure how many of the members can understand and speak English very well. Because these members are afterall members of a Jordanian Arabic book club that also discusses Arabic books.

Finally, I thanked the president a lot for the two nice meetings that I had attended at JCI Amman. The board members are very intelligent, funny, and most important friendly. The discussion was very interesting. However, I do not have a lot of time and improving my English is a priority. I do not think that I will attend another book discussion by JCI Amman. Nonetheless, I highly recommend attending this book club as it is the only available option in Jordan when it comes to book clubs discussing English-written books.