"Yemen's new notoriety doesn't surprise me; what does is how all the warning signs went unnoticed for so long," wrote Kamal Al-Solaylee in last weekend's Globe and Mail.
"I saw it in my own flesh and blood: An open-minded family defined by its love of arts and culture embraced hard-line interpretations of Islam and turned its back on social progress and intellectual freedom. Whatever happens next in Yemen, my family there, and no doubt millions of other middle-class Middle Eastern families, has been losing the war against extremism."
In his article, From bikinis to burkas: A Yemeni memoir, Mr. Al-Solaylee wrote about how his family has changed along with his homeland. Mr. Al-Solaylee was born in Yemen and spent part of his childhood there before his family sought exile in Beirut and Cairo.
Mr. Al-Solaylee joined us on Thursday for an online discussion about his story. He was joined by The Globe's Middle East correspondent, Patrick Martin, who is in Yemen. To leave questions in advance please use the comments function below.
Mr. Martin travelled to Yemen to report on the growing threat of al-Qaeda after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian man, tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner with explosives concealed in his underwear on Dec. 25. Mr. Abdulmutallab trained as a terrorist in Yemen.
Based in Jerusalem, Mr. Martin is serving for the second time as The Globe's Middle East correspondent, the first being from 1991-95. In between postings, the former host of CBC Radio's Sunday Morning program served as The Globe's Foreign Editor and Comment Editor.
Mr. Al-Solaylee is an assistant professor at Ryerson University's School of Journalism in Toronto. He was a theatre critic for The Globe and Mail (2003-2007) and a production editor at Report on Business magazine. He holds a PhD in Victorian literature from Nottingham University in England. In addition to The Globe and Mail, his byline has appeared in the National Post, Eye Weekly, Chatelaine, Elle Canada and Canadian Notes & Queries.
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To read our previous discussion, click on the replay button below
Read a transcript of the discussion:
Thank you for joining us, Kamal and Patrick. This is Jill Mahoney, I'll be moderating our discussion today. Kamal, let me open by asking why you decided to write this article?
12:01 Kamal Al-Solaylee: I've been disturbed by the tone of coverage about Yemen since the Christmas Day failed airline bombing. Part of me wanted to put a human face on the country and part wanted to put its history in some context. I wanted to tell this story for a long time and the timing was right.
12:02 Globe and Mail: Patrick is experiencing some technical glitches at his hotel in Yemen and may join us a bit later.
12:03 Kamal Al-Solaylee: Interent access in Yemen can be erratic.
12:03 [Comment From Lilith]First, may I say Kamal, I am a huge BIG fan of your work. There is something that has always confused me - how does it happen that a liberal, educated family can (apparently so easily) become the apparent opposite of the values they had previously held? As someone privileged enough to live in Canada all my life, what am I missing, here?
12:07 Kamal Al-Solaylee: Thank you, Lilith. What happened was a gradual process. In the case of my family, there was the move from the more liberal Cairo to the very conservative Sana'a. You can't underestimate the impact of the dominant culture on individuals. Also, so many things happened that hardened previously soft lines: a civial war in 1994, increaing unemployment and poverty. We all live in such privileged and safe socities in Canada that we don't always understand the weight and impact of history on people.