Author Archives: russellm

Mona el-Tahawy on Lack of Women’s Progress and the Firestorm that followed

Here is an article that appeared in Foreign Policy, which sent Twitter, FB, and all forms of social media buzzing:,0 discussing “the real war on women.”

For an example of a response, see

A Self Proclaimed Hero in Leila Khaled’s My People Shall Live

In Leila Khaled’s My People Shall Live, Khaled tells of her journey as a Palestinian soldier on a mission to bring justice to her people from the Israelis.  As the narrator, Khaled tells the story in such a way that she seems to be trying to convince the readers that she was justified in the actions she took for her people’s independence. For many years, the Israelis controlled Palestine and forced Khaled and many others into exile.  Leila Khaled was a Palestinian soldier who took on the challenge to complete a mission on an El-Al flight, as well as on a TWA 840 flight. The intention of the missions was to show the Israelis that Palestine shall be liberated, and Khaled did so by, what she thought of as, performing a “revolutionary duty against the enemy” (146). Khaled narrates the story to portray the idea that she is inherently causing others no pain through the actions she chooses to take in order to liberate Palestine; however, Khaled fails to recognize that although she is not causing any physical pain, she is causing emotional pain at the expense of her enemy.

During the El-Al mission with Patrick, although Khaled and Patrick were the ‘terrorists’, they were very clearly putting themselves in a dangerous situation, as well as the passengers. At one instance, Khaled informs the passengers on the flight that the mission is to bring the Palestinians back to the country they rightly deserve. Although Khaled’s intention is to calm the passengers down and allow them to realize that she is not going to blow up the plane, she has also already shown them the weapons in their possession; Khaled “had two hand grenades; Patrick had one hand grenade and a pistol” (187). As a passenger, danger was undoubtedly seen no matter what Khaled and Patrick told them was happening. Khaled is not necessarily causing any physical harm to the passengers at this time, but the emotional pain that they endure as the plane they are on is hijacked is an incomparable feeling to the physical pain they were expecting to have been subjected to.

After the plane had landed and Khaled was taken into custody at the prison, she was quoted many times speaking is such a way as to justify her previous actions. Personally, I do not feel that the actions taken were necessary to get the point of wanting complete liberation of Palestine across to the enemy. Although the hijacking definitely got people’s attention, bringing weapons such as hand grenades and pistols on board and telling the passengers that the intent was not to harm them is not so convincing, or necessary, in my opinion. Khaled said “my people, my land, my Palestine! For thee I shall resist, for your honor I shall accept pain” (149). Although the Zionists forced Khaled and her people into exile, essentially causing them pain, the actions Khaled executed on the missions were not justified. Pain was returned to the enemy for the pain Khaled had been given, but the method of “an eye for an eye” is not always the best way to solve such situations.

Khaled believed that she was doing a favor for her country by hijacking the plane and blowing it up once it had been evacuated. If her true intention was not to harm anyone, she would not have felt the need to take weapons on board with her. If anything had gone wrong during the mission, the plane still could have blown up from the hand grenades and everyone would have died. Khaled’s actions were not justified for the goal she was trying to achieve; she ultimately caused pain to all of those who were involved, even if it was not physical pain.

 Lindsey Westphal

A Subjective View of the Iranian Revolution in Dalia Sofer’s The Septembers of Shiraz

Dalia Sofer recreates her heartbreaking childhood story illustrating the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution in her novel, The Septembers of Shiraz. Sofer’s story is inspired by her own childhood story and takes place in the 1980’s in the United States, after her family emigrated from Iran. The Sofer’s story portrays the emotional torment and distress that the Iranian Revolution caused families during this time to undergo, as well as the consequences such distress had on relationships between family and friends. Isaac Amin, the father in the book that is inspired by Sofer’s father, is arrested and imprisoned after being falsely accused of being a spy. As a result of the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution and Amin being incorrectly incarcerated, Amin’s family encounters emotional torment and distress as they search for Isaac in an attempt to restore his status. The Iranian Revolution and the events that took place allowed the Sofer’s to show their true loyalty for each other.
        Farnaz is the first family member that illustrates her loyalty to her family. Isaac Amin is a Jewish rare-gem dealer in Tehran. After the fall of the Shah of Iran, many people are wrongly accused of pursuing activity that the government does not allow people to partake in. Although the armed workers of the prison beat Amin and his fellow inmates in order to get them to confess such activity, few inmates became willing to reveal anything. Unfortunately, Amin is caught between a rock and a hard place because he has nothing to confess. As Amin undergoes his own personal struggle while in prison, his wife, Farnaz, struggles with shielding the harsh truth from their children, showing the love and loyalty she has for them by keeping such sad news about their father from them. 
        Secondly, other family members also show the loyalty they have for their family. Being as The Septembers of Shiraz tells of the author’s own story, many things are revealed about Dalia Sofer throughout the text. Some of these aspects about Sofer include her exploration of loss and loyalty throughout the harsh situations that she and her family encounter on their journey. Although Farnaz attempts to keep the truth about Isaac Amin private from Shirin, the character who represents Sofer, she also has another son that lives away from home who struggles with what his father is experiencing. Each member of the family struggles with issues of loyalty because all they had throughout their struggle was each other. Much of the community stood their distance from them because of the accusations held against Amin, so they each had to stay loyal to one another and understand that Isaac did nothing wrong.
Specific situations that reveal characteristics of loyalty about Sofer and her family include when Farnaz goes to the prison in search of Isaac, and when Sharin attempts to save people who have been falsely accused by making their files “disappear”. As Farnaz and Habibeh enter the prison together to search for Isaac, they are nastily greeted by guards who are not very willing to release any information to her, including a guard with a “black beard so thick that it darkens the entire southern hemisphere of his face” and a “rifle hanging from his shoulder” (72). Despite the terrifying sight, Farnaz continues to ask questions in order to find out where Isaac really is, no matter the consequences. Typically, anyone that came to the prison searching for answers was immediately turned away, or imprisoned themselves. Farnaz was not imprisoned, and some of her questions were answered. The courage it took for Farnaz to enter such a terrifying place, knowing full well that she may not ever leave, shows the loyalty the Amin family had for each other during this hard time.
          A belief spoken of in the novel is that “if you withhold information in order to protect someone, God won’t punish you” (94). Sharin seems to constantly be thinking about this, especially when she goes into the armoire to make some of the files disappear. Sharin is aware that the men who are listed in the files are “destined to disappear” and her loyalty towards her father is reflected in her act of attempting to save as many people as she can (95). Sharin knows that even if she could only “make one file disappear; she could be saving one man’s life” (95).
        These instances portray the testament of loyalty that the Amin family exudes for each other in the story. I predict that by the end of the book, the family becomes closer from going through these struggles and is able to overcome even the most difficult of obstacles.

Lindsey Westphal

Kansas bill heats debate over rights of Mothers to be

What happens if the ultrasound technician see something wrong and decides NOT to tell you: 

As someone who has felt that nervous glide of the ultrasound many times–wondering if all was OK, I understand the ramifications of this bill.

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