DAY 206: Birds

February 25th, 2017 § 0 comments

As you can imagine, there’s a lot more in the pipeline, with new aggressions against refugees across the north of France, and in Italy and repressive measures in place everywhere including, of course, on the U.S.-Mexican border. But before I get on to these pressing matters, there may be time for a moral story.

My sister Liz, to whom I’ve referred before in these pages, is currently obliged to do the footnotes for a work on the place of animals in late Abbasid literature. We all have  our chores. As a result (she said), she naturally had to deal with the twelfth century Sufi Farid al-din Attar’s poem Mantiq al-tayr (‘The speech of birds’). Gosh! (or

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 10.13.40

 something like that) I exclaimed, is that work related to Chaucer’s The Parlement of Foules? It turned ou that Liz didn’t know about the Chaucer text, any more than I knew about Mantiq al-tayr. So there was an immediate gain. But much better, a quick google revealed that there was indeed a connection – as revealed in an article: ‘The Influence of Farid al-Din Attar’s Mantiq al-Tayr (The Conference of the Birds) on Western Writers: from Chaucer to Peter Brook’ by feminist Islamic scholar Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf .

Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf

As you can imagine, the intellectual exercise involved in working out all these connections was a pleasure in itself, and took our minds off  the latest horrific acts committed by the authorities in France, Italy, Greece, Britain and all the


Bedsit thought suitable for a refugee family by G4S in Leicester

other places I mentioned at the outset; the children housed by G4S in appalling conditions; the rocks placed by the Paris  Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 14.53.57

authorities to prevent asylum-seekers from sleeping at all, or to block the actions of subversive organisations like Secours Catholique. And as we research the poetry and the painting of these different people (I mean the medieval ones who write about birds) we have time to think about what we share with our fellow humans and indeed birds, and what we owe to them. I won’t say more for now.

But I can for once add a relevant poem; since it seems that Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf, referred to earlier in relation to birds, has written some, of which this is one:

It’s just a piece of cloth

It rocks the world

It shapes a civilisation

A civilisation misread

It’s trapping, says the untutored

It’s oppressing, echoes the unlearned

The veil is my body

The veil is also my mind

The veil defines my cultural identity

The veil is who I am

Your slurs and instructions

That I rip it off my head

Is a rape of my body

An invasion of my land

It’s just a piece of cloth

But after Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Maluku, Kosovo

This is all I have.


Having been, in my own terms, relatively generous on the poetry front, I’m going to try to get away with an Iranian recording of the nightingale, or bulbul. I hope that will satisfy my demanding readers.

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