For Freedom of Press’s Sake

With internet censorship and privacy becoming a growing issue each day, the implementation of Turkey’s new law is shocking. The law will tighten the state’s grip on the Internet and changes the majority of original Turkey internet law from 2007. Street protests and campaigns against the new law have been in full force since the law approval on Sept. 9th.

President Abdullah Gul of Turkey sanctioned the controversial legislation, but hurt his public identity in the process. A Twitter campaign – #UnFollowAbdullahGul – was launched and his follower count promptly dropped by more than 100,000 in two days. The public is so concerned and outraged with this new law because it will allow Turkey’s telecommunications authority, Telecommunication Directorate (TIB), to block websites without first obtaining a court order, block specific URL’s (unlike the 2007 law), and regulates the amount of information saved and tracked through the internet. Even though a court order is necessary within 24hrs of a website being blocked, it will stay that way until the court makes a decision, which could take a long amount of time.

Turkey Law

This is worrisome because news reports and other sources of information can be blocked immediately when uploaded. As an American, I know our freedom of the press is protected and we value it greatly; what are the political and social implications of having news continuously blocked and censored? Is it truly “helping the citizens of Turkey”? A primary example of the cultural impact this could have is seen in the blocking of YouTube from 2007 until 2010 for videos against Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. This changed the entire outlook of internet and social media usage.

One of the many reasons this law was adopted so quickly was because of leaked phone recordings that have evidence of “document corruption in state tenders and bribery involving businessmen and the Turkish government.” The head of TIB is appointed by the government, so it is speculated that the government may be working to control this situation more than they will admit. Their response to the public outrage is that the law was necessary for reasons of “national security, to protect public order, and to prevent a crime from being committed.” It sounds reasonable, but time will tell if this is truly why the law was enacted.

“The real problem and the bitter truth, which is mostly ignored, is the excess of power to undermine the judiciary and providing juridical immunity to government officials.” (Source)

The Republican People’s Party, the opposition to the Turkish government, released a statement stating that “the AKP government, striving to restrict freedom in every domain, is stepping up its pressure on the Internet, which is becoming increasingly important in our daily lives.” I cannot imagine not having freedom of speech, which is (as I understand) the primary concern in Turkey. This new law is seen as a severe form of censorship and puts citizens out of touch with the rest of the world. News in Turkey can become extremely biased and distorted only certain coverage and reports are allowed.

Summed up, the latest amendments mean that the Turkish government can now “legally” hold information about all Internet users in Turkey, including which websites they visit when and for how long, and have the power to block websites and URL’s whenever they deem necessary. This is an issue that needs to be addressed, for the sake of free speech and free press.

References: Turkey’s Main Opposition, Turkey’s Top CourtNew Turkish Internet Law, Online Freedom vs. The Red Flag, Turkey Pulse, New Internet Law In Turkey Sparks Outrage

Side note: Andy Alexander, an Ohio University Alumnus, was part of a group of American journalists representing the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI) in Turkey. See the news article here.

Expression through Henna

For over five thousand years the art of henna (Arabic) or mehndi (Hindi) has been used as a way of enhancing beauty. Legend has it that Mohammad used henna to dye his beard and that the henna flower was the Prophet’s favorite. The plant has since been associated with positive magic and “provides a link to an ancient age full of good and bad spirits.” It holds a place in religious, magical, and cultural practice.

Arabic Henna

Enough though there is some controversy over the creation of henna as a dying agent, the earliest clear evidence of henna application appears on the hair and nails of Egyptian mummies. It is believed that the henna plant, Lawsonia inermis, originated in Persia and is now found throughout parts of Asia and the Middle East. Henna has also been used for medicinal purposes, to dye cloth and leather as well as hair, and to color the manes of horses and fur of other animals.

Feet Henna

In Arab weddings, brides would, and still, participate in a traditional henna ceremony. Henna is a symbol of good luck, health, and sensuality and thus used for marital purposes as well. Typically, the bride’s hands and feet are painted with intricate designs with a paste of dried henna leaves. Black henna is reserved for the soles of feet and hands while red henna is used for the tips of fingers and toes (as seen above). It is carefully applied and needs to dry for long periods of time without being removed, bumped, or otherwise touched; this is when the staining happens. (The longer the paste is left to dry, the darker and deeper the stain will be.) Henna can be used in the actual ceremony as well. What is the religious implication of henna in weddings? As I see it, each culture’s take on henna is different, but the purposes are similar.

Each henna artist usually has a personal recipe and apreferred technique. Some artists will use toothpicks, plastic cones, Henna Handsor tools from henna kits; all of these make the application easier, but require different skill sets. The paste is also made according to the artist’s skill level – if the paste is thicker, then it is harder to apply and if it is thinner, it is easier. The designs range from simple to intricate in every culture, but can have many distinct differences. Arabic henna designs are usually large, floral patterns on the hands and feet. Indian mehndi involves fine, thin lines for lacy, floral and paisley patterns covering entire hands, forearms, feet and shins. African henna patterns are bold, large geometric designs.

Modern day Arab women still use henna for body adornment, but in a more fun 2014-10-14 16.25.46and decorative way. Western societies have also adopted henna as a way to temporarily tattoo oneself (as seen right by the University Program Council at Ohio University) in addition to other methods of self-decoration. What is the cultural implication of henna as used in present day societies? I personally have gone to a party with henna and my friends and I match our henna designs. For me, it’s used as a personal bonding measure between my closest friends. Have you ever tried henna? What’s your favorite design?

                             References: Henna: An Enduring Tradition, Customs of Middle Eastern Makeup and Decoration, HennaArt Connection, Henna, Silk and Stone, Earth Henna

Saving Muslim Women?

We are always told never to judge a book by its cover, but I find it very hard not to jump to conclusions when I see certain pictures. There are specific images that work really well on covers to help them sell (of course there are others that do not sell). An example that comes to mind is the “White People Almost Kissing” book jacket that author Nicholas Sparks uses on almost every novel he writes. It can be expected that these images will vary from author to author, especially in different cultures. In Arabic literature, there are also “go to” types of images such as “Tiny Men Walking” or “Women Looking Out Over Water”; One in particular, though, has been used often – “Saving Muslim Women”.

Muslim Women Books

It’s understandable that book covers help us choose a book (it’s natural to go to what intrigues you), but with this type of consistent marketing there is no room for choice. The “Saving Muslim Women” book covers not only become repetitive, but it may also change the way and perspective from which the book is read. The meanings and themes in one novel are almost never exactly the same as another sitting right next to it; however, the covers give that perception. While most of the novels cover sexual abuse, there are other aspects of a Muslim woman’s life that have been written about as well.

Lila Abu-Lughod, author of Do Muslim Women Need Saving?, explains that these types of books were “published by trade presses, reviewed widely, and adopted by book clubs and women’s reading groups, a lurid genre of writing on abused women – mostly Muslim – [which] exploded onto the scene in the 1990s and took off after September 11.” One of the more notable “memoirs” written in this genre is the story of Hannah Shah in her novel The Imam’s Daughter (this is one of the more brutally honest novels out there). Even so, English translations of Arabic novels were virtually nonexistent until the 20th century, so it makes sense that Americans may have a narrow view (if one at all) of Arabic literature. Why is it, as observed by myself, that Americans are more likely to pick up an Arab based novel, but not read an Arab based news article? Is it possible that they only think in terms of fictional work that is becoming increasingly popular?

As I have learned from research, writing in the Middle East can be dangerous and potentially deadly if seen as a threat by publishers or censorship reviewers. Even though previously banned books may now be reconsidered, censorship plays a large role in what can be written about. Sex, religion, and politics are typically topics that get a novel in trouble; this is no surprise then that books about the lives of Muslim women may be controversial. It has been said that the books have “reduced Muslim women to a stereotyped singularity, plastering a handy cultural icon over much more complicated historical and political dynamics”.

Since the reading culture is not a large part of some Middle Eastern regions, it can be especially hard for Arabic literature to grow. It is odd that this “Saving Muslim Women” theme is one of the only ways the focuses of the brilliant novels and memoirs about Middle Eastern life, particularly because struggles and abuse are discussed heavily in other cultures as well. Why was this particular topic chosen to be the focus, especially in America? There are so many other ways to portray subject matter – even comically! – And having the same book jacket over and over could potentially reduce the impact of the book if it is solely on a particular struggle. There are plenty of Middle Eastern based novels to read – even more so if they’ve been banned! “Saving Muslim Women” is not always an applicable focus for Arab literature; we are learning there is much more to their lives than that.

References: Why So Many “Saving Muslim Women Book Covers?”Do Muslim Women Need Saving?, Nicholas Sparks Books Have One Thing In Common, Six Banned Middle Eastern Books You Should Read, Hannah Shah, Don’t Judge Books By Their Cover

Elegance In Writing

When I found that calligraphy is the highest form of visual art in Islamic cultures, I was completely intrigued. Calligraphy isn’t present in Western art (or even culture) and I ended up scrolling through countless Google images of beautiful Islamic calligraphy. Calligraphy script is clearly revered because of the lettering in the Quran. I, and countless others, have used this basis as an association with the culture. It can be both decorative and symbolic of knowledge, resulting in its wide range of uses.

One of the reasons calligraphy is regarding so highly in Islamic culture is because there are no images of people orIslamic Art animals allowed in their art. It was written that “those who paint pictures would be punished on the Day of Resurrection and it would be said to them: Breathe soul into what you have created.” (Sahih Muslim vol.3, no.5268). This is especially important when it comes to depictions of God (Allah) and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him). Beautiful writing became imperative for transcribing the word of God and for creating sacred Qur’ans. The text remains the focus of art pieces and usually comprises of Quran quotations, other religious texts, poems, and/or praise for rulers. I found this extremely special considering how much American culture promotes free speech and there are very few, if any, admired pieces of work dedicated to our President or other government figures.

As parchment was replaced with paper and the reed pen was replaced with an angled nib, the calligraphy styles evolved but never lost their grace. They are simply gorgeous on their own and stand out even more so with a little extra decoration. Calligraphy can be scribed onto anything from parchment to wood to metalwork to stained glass and are usually vibrant in color. However, there will never be an artistic interference with the work itself; the extra details should never distract from the content of the text. Islamic societies regard calligraphers as highly prestigious citizens. They train for many years before they can be considered calligraphers in order to create exact replicas of certain models and texts.

This traditional process paid off! I’m sure that anyone visiting the the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem or the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, can’t help but stand in awe of the writings and decorative architecture. The images speak for themselves (if the pictures below aren’t proof enough – check out this Pinterest page!) Even though I cannot read Arabic, it is still truly amazing and I can see why it would quickly be incorporated into so many other artistic forms. The simple elegance of plain black script is enough for me to want the artwork everywhere around me. After looking at multiple museum web sites, it seems that these striking words appear on almost every precious object, as I would expect! Seeing images of all these magnificent buildings made me put the destinations on my bucket list instantly. Breathtaking!Dome of The Rock

Spain PalaceI’m definitely enthralled with Islamic art now, but I still do not know as much about calligraphy and its importance in Islamic culture as I’d like to. Is calligraphy still used in Islamic art today even with the ease of computers and printing? Is calligraphy still used involving religious texts or has it been involved with propaganda-type materials?  Do you think calligraphy styles will continue to evolve, or will they continue to be preserved within the ancient text styles?

                                                          References: About Islamic Art, Calligraphy in Islamic Art, The Spirit of Islam: Experiencing Islam Through Calligraphy, Islamic Art Collection

Danielle Valaitis:

Absolutely amazing dish! She was genius to try this!

Originally posted on :

BROCCOLI-QUINOA CASSEROLE


 You remember this dish… from every church pot luck, community cookbook, and Gramma’s table.  Yes, THAT broccoli-rice casserole.  Bubbly, cheesy, rich, and so very good.  Old-fashioned comfort food, personified.

Since I love using quinoa in everything calling for rice (less starchy, more protein) I thought I’d give it a try in this one.  And it worked just as well.  As you can see in the second photo, it’s the same creamy-dreamy texture and flavor we loved before – only this time it’s not full of rice-carbs that can wreck havoc with blood surgar.  AND the quinoa gives added protein.  How ’bout that?!

I can’t believe how great this turned out!  It’s the perfect side dish for all your meats or a vegetarian option on it’s own.  The old version was a favorite in our house – and now this will DEFINITELY be!

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Chocolate Filled Strawberries!

Everyone loves the classic chocolate covered strawberry. They happen to be my absolute favorite! However, I have two gripes every time I eat them. Number one, the chocolate shell always falls off when you take that first bite. And number two, there is never enough chocolate!

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Not So Classic Chocolate Filled Strawberries

 

Ingredients

15-20 strawberries (the larger the better) and 1 bag of Milk Chocolate chips (I use the 11.5 oz Guittard milk chocolate chips)

Directions

1. Cut the stems off your clean strawberries and carefully scoop out the top of the berry. The deeper you scoop the more chocolate it will hold. I used large strawberries so I scooped about an inch down.
2. Pour the entire bag of chocolate chips in a glass bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 second intervals. Make sure to take your bowl out every 30 seconds to stir the chips. Continue until all chips are melted.
3. Place your strawberries in an egg carton so they sit straight up. You could also use little Dixie cups. Now you can either spoon your melted chocolate into the berries or use a funnel or piping bag. I used a little baby spoon and it worked fine. Your choice.
4. Place in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes until they harden a bit. Enjoy! :)

Note: As someone noted there is a small chance that salmonella could be found in an empty egg carton so if this concerns you it is safer to use an ice cube tray or mini muffin tin to hold the berries while the chocolate hardens.

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Powerful Presentations and Speakers

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(Top then left to right)

Between Carol Guzy, Kevin MCCarthy, Malika Bilal, BJ Koubaroulis, Greg Wyshynski, and Steve Klein, there is no way I could choose a favorite speaker. I met all of them today and before I knew it, there were 6 or 7 different views of journalism and the media flying around in my brain! It’s incredible how quickly a person can influence you, let alone an entire group.

I think there’s something to be said for their committment to their industries. Carol Guzy is a four-time Pulitzer Prize winner for her stunning photographs. Kevin McCarthy has been done entertainment reporting for years, even though he is only 28. BJ Koubaroulis and Greg Wyshynski cover sports; Malika Bilal covers social media and global trends. And Steve Klein just reports on anything and teaches at George Mason University. All of these different perspectives made for a very interesting day at the Journalism Conference. I have to say my favorite speaker was probably either Kevin or Carol. Solely based on their work, definitely Carol. She is inspiring and has the best eye for subjects in her photos. But Kevin connected with the younger generation easily and elicited reactions from the crowd with simply giving personal advice and a comical story behind it.

That’s what I’m taking away from this conference. All of their advice about the world and how to be a great journalist, while still maintaining humanity and emotions. With them, I am a more educated citizen and a better individual overall. I love hearing from people in this business and famous people in general! They truly have an impact.

Where’s your role model/inspiration? What made you decide your career path? I’m just getting started!

xoxo -Danielle