Holy War Poetry
Elisabeth Kendall and Sigurd Falkenberg Mikkelsen
Poetry is central to the politics of daily life in the Arabic speaking world. Less known is perhaps the many militant Islamist leaders with an intimate relationship to poetry: Osama bin Laden wrote poetry, as does today’s Al Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, while the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who wrote his PhD about a medieval Arabic poem on Qur’an recitation. Today, jihadist poetry is spread through social media and reaches more people than before. Suddenly, Arabic poetry is a field about which we need knowledge.
That was not the case when Elisabeth Kendall decided to study Arabic in the 80s, wanting to one day read the Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz in the original. Even though the academic circles she became a part of put Arabic poetry in high esteem, her chosen field did not seem very important to those outside in the “real” world in the West.
As extremist groups and terrorist acts mushroomed in the 2000s, the world started searching for explanations, and suddenly, Kendall’s experience from the field in Yemen and explorations of the connections between Arabic poetry and radicalization was of great interest.
Can poetry be used also as an anti-jihadist tool? Does poetry hold the power to soften the hearts of extremists? And how can a Professor in Arabic literature help us understand the situation in Yemen today? Elisabeth Kendall will meet Sigurd Falkenberg Mikkelsen for a conversation, a foreign correspondent for many years, and the writer of Arabisk høst [Arab autumn].
The conversation will be held in English.