The poet. The Amir. The ‘crime’. The sentence. Our outrage. Solidarity with Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami.

December 10, 2012 | Author: | Posted in Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s Article Archive

by  Dr. Jeffrey Lant.

Author’s program note. In 1798 a young English poet named William Wordsworth (1770-1850) took time to consider the momentous events then transpiring in France, events that toppled an ancient dynasty, its great nobility and engorged prelates more interested in living the good life than emulating the simplicity and humanity of Our Saviour.

And so as poets will do, he directed his unbridled enthusiasm to paper giving us thereby his celebrated sentiment on the matter of the French nation casting off its system of oppression for liberte’, egalite’, fraternite’… the necessary and profound elements for a government of the people, by the people, for the people, the only lasting formula for stable governance and individual freedom.

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very Heaven!” (“The Prelude”; XI. France (l. 108-109).

Thus Wordsworth did what all good poets do. He gave us brilliant insights in an acute precision of language. Such insights might well unsettle the status quo… not at all because of their lyric beauty but because of their truth, profound, uncomfortable, inconvenient. This is the essential work of poets… far beyond cadence and rhyme. As such we need them and their abiding search for the veracities always in short supply. Thus we must venerate them, for all their missteps and misstatements. For they are about God’s work… and we must never forget it.

But in the wobbling government of a far-away place called Qatar, a place where yesterday is their favorite place, the powers that be did forget… and so because of a handful of hot words, words of hardly any artistry but of undeniable honesty, resolve, and commitment, a dynasty quaked… its representatives rode rough shod over their nation’s constitution, and a man of words, of truth, of honesty, of peace found himself in solitary confinement, not for a day or week… but for the duration of his life. Thus does a government with the full panoply of powers, coercions, personnel and armaments show beyond cavil or doubt just how potent “mere” poets can be… and how right they are to fear them.

This is the story of one such poet, what he did, what was done to him, and what we must now do for him.

But first I give you the music that accompanies this article, the theme from one of the truly great films, “Lawrence of Arabia”, released in 1962. Directed by David Lean, produced by impresario Sam Spiegel, it featured the brilliant score by master songsmith Maurice Jarre. Oscars and a constellation of other awards rained upon it and brought renewed attention to Col. T. E. Lawrence, a man whose erotic proclivities caused a lifetime of confusion and anguish. He was a significant player in the break-up of the massive Ottoman Empire, from whose degradation many countries were carved, including Qatar. Go now to any search engine and be overwhelmed by the great music so right for this story.

A poet’s inspiration.

Starting December 18, 2010, the entire world turned its fickle attention to the awe-inspiring events in the Middle East, unprecedented and unexpected, called “Arab Spring.” These events, ironically often transpiring with the help of Qatar’s rich Amir and his government, resulted in the fall of four dictators, thereby producing an explosion of hope, optimism, and a joy which touched the heart of every freedom-loving person on Earth. It was a subject no true poet could possibly ignore…

And so Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, Wordsworth like, sat down and wrote of these transforming events. He called his effusion “Jasmine Flowers”, after a popular plant of profound cultural significance. It is used in rituals like marriages, religious ceremony and festivals. As such it appears in one of the loveliest of songs, “Night of My Nights” from the musical “Kismet” (1953). There jasmine is linked to rose to create the intoxicating scent for the caliph’s wedding night. The poet had chosen well…

“Jasmine flowers scent of Tunisian Jasmine flowers is invigorating as well as exhilarating. Scent of Tunisian Jasmine flowers pervaded across Egypt and invigorated each Egyptian. And it all of a sudden injected invigorating Jasmine fragrance into the veins of the tired Egyptians and acted like an energy booster and each drew inspiration. Rage of the day down almost three weeks.”

And so it went, a chant, a recitation, an intonation, an exultation, an admonition, a condemnation…. gathering momentum, power and bliss as it surged to these sentiments:

“We are all of Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite”, summing up the remaining Arab monarchies in this unrestrained insult:

“If the sheikhs cannot carry out justice, we should change the power and give it to the beautiful woman.”

Having said his say and said it with sincerity and purpose, al-Ajami did what all expectant poets do these days and so posted a video, in Arabic, online. And there under ordinary circumstances his contribution would have remained for posterity, unheard, unconsidered, unknown. However, these are not ordinary circumstances…. if they were some wise sheikh, conversant with the “Thousand and One Nights” would have showered the poet with a cascade of gold, a good dinner, and a biddable wife of curvacious attraction, secure in himself, his regime, and the favor of Allah.

Rather, the rulers of the Arab old regime took umbrage, their amor propre affronted, their masculinity and potency challenged and ridiculed. And so they decided to do that which starkly exhibited and confirmed their fear and gnawing insecurities. The powers that be tripped, made a bad decision, thereby exhibiting the very unfitness al-Ajami had proclaimed. Such a poet, so pernicious and dangerous, must be stopped — for good.

Thus in November 2011, he was arrested as a proven menace to the nation’s security and for traducing the august name of his sovereign, Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalilfa Al-Thani. What followed was not merely a travesty of justice; it was the strongest possible proof that in Qatar, no one at all but a member of the reigning elite could expect justice… that the very idea of justice was no part of a nation suddenly thrust backwards into barbarism and organized inequity.

Item: The “trial” was held in secret.

Item: al-Ajami was not allowed to testify, instead being kept in solitary confinement.

Item: His defense attorney, Nagib al-Naimi, was barred from making oral arguments or even seeing his client.

Under such circumstances, where the result was pre-ordained, the poet, aged 35 at the time, had no chance whatsoever. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and considered himself fortunate; the tribunal might have conferred death. This was a situation only the most repressive regimes could countenance. Something must be done in favor of the poet, and quickly, too.

First the clueless people who took this severely ill-advised step, deciding to kill the messenger along with his message, must be informed how such an incident is perceived amongst the peoples and nations valuing free speech. They react with immediate outrage, horror and rightly righteous indignation. No Amir is worth the curtailing of this fundamental right. And no words are too forceful denouncing those who do and wishing them gone.

Thus, before she leaves her office in glory, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should advise our Ambassador to visit the Amir with a supportive group of his diplomatic peers, together to urge amnesty. Alternatively Secretary Clinton should contact the Amir and urge him to move and move fast to right this wrong and right it at once.

Ironically, the poet himself has provided the necessary means to save the royal face. Thus, as  al-Ajami told Reuters, he believes Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to be “a good man” who must be unaware of his plight for otherwise, for a certainty, he would act. Thus has a “mere” poet pardoned a prince who needs now to pardon the truly princely man.

Thus, I remind His Highness of Qatar of what Prince de Talleyrand once said about one of the Emperor Napoleon’s most egregious errors, the murder of the Duc d’Enghein. “This is worse than a crime; it’s a blunder”.

Your excellency, the generous poet has given you an apt way to correct this disenchanting incident so inimical to your reign whilst there is still time and occasion for you to do so… and while your people and the world still have patience.

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today.


This author has published 72 articles so far. More info about the author is coming soon.

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