One small voice can still be heard
In the darkest place on earth
Music and Lyrics by J. Brooks and A. Kasha
I've been reading a number of blogs from Iraq recently, not the least of which is Iraq the Model by the now famous Iraqi bloggers (and, by some accounts, conservative shills), Mohammed and Omar Fadhil. I've also been reading posts by soldiers and other Iraqi citizens. It's curious but most blogs seem to avoid politics. And most don't discuss the fighting. Perhaps they are just too weary.
Recently Mohammed and Omar caught a lot of flack in the "Progressive" blogosphere for posting that they were about to go enjoy some barbecue and beers with friends on a Friday night. These so-called liberals (and these writers are a lot of things and liberal isn't any of them) simply insist that in real life all Iraqi's are scraping for food, cowering in corners or planning their next heroic Che Guevara style attack on the American occupiers.
Guess what, it's just not true. Even on the worst day of sectarian violence, 95% of all Iraqis' are going about their daily lives that are not a whole lot different from all the rest of us around the world. And frankly a whole lot better than the displaced millions in Darfur.
Of course there are terrible hardships and discomforts cause by both the American occupation and the sectarian violence. And there is fear in many areas because of the risk of al Qaeda violence.
There are areas of Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. where life and daily risks are comparable. That certainly doesn't make it right, and we need to fix both Iraq and the poverty stricken, gang infested parts of the United States, but real life does go on in both cases, barbecues and all.
This was really brought home to me because of the incredible success one young Iraqi
girl is having in bringing the entire country of Iraq together for two hours each Friday night. The young girl is Shada Hassoon (or Shatha Hassoun) and she seems to have more peace making ability than any member of the coalition or the Iraqi government.
The source of her incredible power? She is a contestant on a Middle Eastern version of American Idol, a television program called Star Academy, based in and broadcast from Lebanon.
When Shada made the Top Twelve contestants in the competition that includes singers from Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, and throughout the Middle East, the Iraqi citizens were overjoyed. No Iraqi had ever made it that far in the four years of the television series.
When Shada performs all Iraq comes together as one. Like American Idol, contestants success comes from votes phoned in (by cell phone). Iraqi's buy extra cell phones so they can vote more and more often. And Shadamania crosses all sectarian divides with equal support from Shiites and Sunnis.
National Public Radio did a wonderful piece on her and the Star Academy phenomena Friday on Morning Edition. You can link to and listen to the broadcast here.
While I'm giving you links, here is a link to several You Tube videos and a link to a story about Shada in USA TODAY.
|Viewers can use their cellphones to send text messages that scroll across the bottom of the TV during the show. On one recent program, messages included "The swords of Al Mujahedin are in the hands of Shada," and "Al Mahdi Army fighters support Shada."|
Sunni insurgents call themselves mujahedin, and the Mahdi Army militia is loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. At last, the warring factions seem to have found something they agree on.
Recently, Hassoon prepared to sing Baghdad, a famous old song by the Lebanese singer Fairoz that describes a great city of moonlight, riches and beauty. She wept during the televised rehearsal.
Text messages from viewers started scrolling across the TV screen. "Don't worry Shada," one said. "It will be beautiful again."
And the wonderful news today is that after all the outpouring of love and affection and all the purchases of extra cell phones and prepaid calling cards, Shada won the contest! Here's the news from REUTERS:
|Shatha Hassoun, 26, fell on her knees on stage and wrapped the red, white and black Iraqi flag around her shoulders after learning she had garnered the biggest share of the public vote in the reality show, which is broadcast from Lebanon and is one of the most popular programs in the Middle East.|
The announcement came shortly before midnight in Iraq. In Baghdad, a power cut meant many who had been following Hassoun's fortunes over the past four months were unable to see her beat her three remaining classmates, from Lebanon, Tunisia and Egypt.
But in those areas with power generators, cheering erupted from many homes along with the sound of celebratory gunfire, which began slowly at first and then intensified as the news swiftly spread by phone and text message.
While Hassoun, the daughter of a Moroccan mother and an Iraqi father, lives in Morocco, many Iraqis saw in her an opportunity to forget their own troubles in the war-ravaged country and restore some national pride.
"I voted for the government and they did nothing for us. She deserves the vote more than the government does," Um Farah, a store owner in Baghdad's dangerous, mainly Sunni Yarmouk district, told Reuters.
In an emotional interview with Iraq's al-Sharqiya television station shortly after her win, Hassoun said: "I thank Baghdad and I thank Iraq."
Members of both Sunni and Shi'ite sects claimed her as one of their own.
"Her win is evidence of the unity of Iraqis supporting each other," said Hassan Kadim, a cosmetics shop owner in the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf, referring to the public vote by paid text message and telephone.
Perhaps one small voice can change the world. And perhaps we're not all that different from one another after all. Kelly Clarkson, Shada Hassoon, Fantasia Barrino.... it is a small world after all.
You can hear some of Shada's music on Wizard Radio and we're working hard to get more of her performances.