Opinion

Ali Makki's controversies

November 21, 2023

By Ibrahim Abdullmajeed*

This book is engrossing not only due to its compilation of interviews with prominent figures in Arab culture, which many journalists may find to be the case, but also due to the thought-provoking questions and occasionally contentious topics that yielded numerous crucial responses.

The book was published several weeks ago in Beirut by the Publishing House Jadawil. It has 350 large-size pages. Ali Makki, a Saudi journalist and writer who has served as an editor for prominent Saudi newspapers and co-founder of others — including Al Watan, authored the work in question.

Ali Makki is the author. He is currently employed as a media specialist at King Abdullah Bin Saud University of Science and Technology (KAUST). His passion in journalism began in high school and continued after he graduated from university.

Reading the interviews will help those who are unfamiliar with him understand how Abdulmohsen Youssef, the former editor-in-chief of Okaz newspaper, describes him in his introduction to the book “In the Love of the Master of Boldness, Argument, and Grand Designs.”

When he was barely out of his twenties, how did this young man conduct interviews with prominent thinkers? He was born in 1973 and started his professional journalism career with Okaz in 1992. The editor-in-chief, Hashim Abdo Hashim, admired him. The interviews are cultural and intellectual masterpieces that serve as journalistic beats.

They were conducted with the participation of 25 intellectual and literary figures, the majority of whom will be identified when discussing the book and the issues it raises. I will focus on the most recent and exciting cultural clashes. Readers are encouraged to continue reading the book’s interesting section on writers.

Ali Makki was told before his interview with Mahmoud Darweesh that he was like a snobbish peacock who would refuse to meet him and demand some kind of payment for the interview. Ali Makki interviewed him in the lobby of the Ramses Hotel in Cairo in December 1997 and found him to be completely the opposite of what had been said about him.

“This brought back memories of our initial interview conducted in the lobby of the same hotel,” says Ali Makki. This took place in 1984. He had never met me or read any of my writings. He was taken aback by my strong desire to have “The Hunter and the Doves” published in Al-Karmel magazine. We discussed my previous works. He received a copy of the novel and published it in the subsequent issue. This introduced me to the Arab audience on a large scale.

Most of the interviews are divided and carried questions specifying their contents. Darweesh who moved from a country to another was asked where he finally settled. His answer was as admirable as his poems. He asserted that a part in Galilee remained that preserved its breathtaking pristine natural attributes and inexhaustible magnificence.

In response to the inquiry regarding the potential decline of true poetry, Darweesh stated that the ongoing development of the novel served as an indication of cultural prosperity. The prevailing dominance of a single genre within the literary sphere indicates that we continue to lag behind the times. Ali Makki will continue to inquire about this matter in his discussions with poets and authors.

Subsequently, the poet Mohammad Ali Shams Ad-Din responded to the inquiry as to whether the decline of poetry was attributable to that of ideology. He eloquently responded, “On the contrary, ideology was expelled from poetry, and the poetry that had previously served it fell with it.”

Some individuals purported to have allegedly compared Mahmoud Darweesh to a large peacock, he was informed of following a series of inquiries. Do you have any recent observations of a similar nature?” inquired Mahmoud Darweesh. The response from Ali Makki is “No.” “Defend me and dispel this erroneous impression,” Mahmoud Darweesh instructs him.

We gain insight into Adonis’ worldview, Arab culture, and poetic sensibilities. In a given society, freedom is defined by an individual’s unrestricted ability to express his views on all existential and critical matters. A person will function as if he was a mere object or a machine in the absence of this liberty. As writing is reproductive and time is limited, it is also commendable that he voiced his aversion to narrative or story-based novels. His emphasis on the significance of artistic construction was undoubtedly evident.

In our interview with Hisham Sharabi, we discussed the major issues of structuralism, deconstruction, modernism, and patriarchy, which denies the emerging generation of opportunities. Emil Habibi places significant emphasis on the value of folklore when discussing heritage. I interrogated him regarding his reluctance to accept an Israeli award, his dilemma surrounding its acceptance, and his rationale for agreeing to accept the award.

Poet Baland Al-Haidari, with whom we also spoke, believes that we are currently experiencing two major conflicts. It will be either a failure on the part of the Arabs to prevent Israel from establishing its vast state, which will be predicated on the fragmentation of the region into sects and mini-states and pose a grave threat, or preservation of their cultural unity, which would benefit Israel.

A pre-thought interview is conducted with Mohammad Jabir Al-Ansari, an individual with expertise in the composition of poetry and stories. He was questioned regarding the demise of ideologies, including the manner in which and reason for the disappearance of one type of them. As with scientific facts and knowledge, ideology is now an integral part of the lives of nations. Although the culture of the Arab world is diverse, subcultures vie for dominance. The authentic spirit of every culture is tolerance.

Then, he encountered difficulty during an interview with Salih Almani, a renowned translator whose name was derived from the village of “Alma” in the Palestinian Galilee, his place of origin. An engaging dialogue ensued regarding his selection of translations and his personal encounters with the novels he had translated.

An interview is conducted with Sobhi Hadidi, whose publications are scant despite his prolific output. I inquired about his perspective on the Booker Prize for fun. He argued that rather than compromising Arab sensibility, it diminished the desire to read novels. Additionally, poetry and music are strongly linked to Arab aesthetics.

The name of the Global Booker Award was changed from the Arab Prize to the “International Prize for Arabic Fiction.” It was something I had never heard of before. As a result of the Booker Prize’s internal regulations, which may be among the worst arbitration procedure rules, the initial award was renamed.

Hadidi’s refusal to approach the unpublished works of Mahmoud Darweesh subsequent to his demise is an additional advantage. In what way was it possible for him to distribute manuscripts that the author himself had not yet published and which might have been unfinished drafts? Numerous individuals assert that they have unearthed manuscripts and that they are solitary compositions for financial gain. However, judgment is founded on the content that the author publishes.

Samir Atallah, who in addition to prefacing the book, serves as the daily article’s final line of defense. His account is published daily in the Lebanese newspapers Asharq Al-Awsat and An-Nahar. Additionally, he detailed his method for plagiarizing stories: assuming the persona of an imaginary foreign author. When the editor-in-chief of The Arab Weekly learns of this, he begs him to withhold the truth.

A poet named Shawqi Bazi’ is interviewed. Amidst numerous consequential inquiries, one pertains to Beirut: Is it feasible for it to regain its former status as a hub of Arab culture? Beyond a mere urban center, Shawqi Bazi’ argues, it functions as an enduring symbol of freedom and innovation, as well as a prospective undertaking. As well as a national necessity, Beirut will continue to be an Arab necessity. Shawqi Bazi’ was incredibly candid!

I subsequently conducted an interview with the Mauritanian philosopher Dr. Abdullah Al-Sayyid Walad Abah. The individual asserts that the discourse concerning the religious legitimacy of the state is fruitless due to its foundation on erroneous assumptions, including a nation-state modeled after Europe. Due to its irreligious stance, such a state must undergo Islamization through the implementation of Islamic law in every facet of existence. Nevertheless, religious pluralism is permitted in such a state on account of its neutrality.

The esteemed critic, Dr. Abdullah Al-Ghadhami, recounts his fervent interest in literature during his youth, his connection to the distant city of Jeddah, and the transformation it went through to become his personal paradise.

Mishal As-Sudairi and I discussed his origins and the correlation between his writings’ sarcasm, color, and drawing. The interview is replete with humorous and sarcastic replies. Two interviews I conducted with Al-Abnoudi regarding colloquial poetry and his poetic aspirations were exemplary. Following that, an intense interview ensues featuring the writer Hassan Al-Huwaimil, who consistently engages in turbulent discussions with modernists and regards them as a disgrace to Islamic politics. He affirms his unwavering opposition to modernism and defines his position regarding a number of Saudi intellectuals.

Interviews were conducted with Syrian poet Salman Al-Issa, writer and political theorist Turki Al-Hamad, and Ibn Khaldun Center director Saad Ad-Din Ibrahim. The latter, who opposed the Egyptian regime, regarded his trial as one that concerned the entirety of civil society.

Abid Khazindar, a Saudi critic, was questioned regarding his sentiments toward particular poets and his disagreements with others. Ali Makki concludes with two interviews, one of which is with Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, a critic and professor at the UAE University.

He boasts about his achievements, including the establishment of the 24-News website. Furthermore, he underscores the critical role that the Internet has assumed in the global effort to combat terrorism. He emphasizes the significance of social networking sites and describes how extremist groups misled the public and seized control of the Arab Spring through the use of radical rhetoric. He provides illustrations to support his claim that Islamists employ rhetorical strategies that are in direct opposition to their own principles and beliefs.

He further asserts that Salafism, as an illustration, encompasses a multitude of manifestations, a portion of which are virtuous and others of which are malevolent. Malicious Salafism that exploits the phrase “the righteous predecessors” is forewarned by him. It is not implied by the term “Salafism” that all Salafists are identical. Alongside the Muslim Brotherhood, deceitful Salafists have spawned terrorist religious organizations.

Ali Makki’s work culminates in an interview with Dr. Ibtihal Al-Khatib, an academic affiliated with Kuwait University who grapples with the challenges and assaults she encounters mentally. An example is her advocacy for sexual education in schools. Secularism, according to her, is antagonistic to extremists because it undermines their extremism. Furthermore, it disapproves of the violent ideology that they advocate.

A magnificent journey through the works of a constellation of eminent thinkers and thought-provoking inquiries that are beyond the scope of this discussion concludes the book.

(*) Egyptian writer and novelist


November 21, 2023
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