In January 1998, unidentified gunmen entered a movie theater and small mosque near Algiers and massacred 120 men, women and children.

By the hunger of the children of Iraq
By the sound of frantic running in Kosovo
By the swollen bodies in a river in Rwanda
and Afghani women and the writers of Algiers,
I am a disbeliever

in everything that refuses to kiss full on the lips
the ones still living
and receive them in the bosom of the self,
no matter the religion or the nation or the race
I am a disbeliever in everything
that does not say “How was the movie? I love you”

I need a body outside my life to travel and kneel
on the sidewalk beside a movie theater in Algiers
over the bodies of the supple children who will never be my children’s playmates or marry them
over the bodies of the men and women who
will never phone me from Algiers —
“How was the movie? I love you. I love you.”

I need time outside the world
where I can whisper in the ear of each of them,
By God, you will never be forgotten
By God, I will make sure the world
buries its face in your beautiful hair,
sings to you, learns your name and your music,
lifts you up in the crook of its arm like a gift

I am a disbeliever
in everything but the purity of the bodies
of those men and women — with or without the veil,
with or without the markings of the right identity —
in everything but the suppleness of the children
I am a disbeliever in every scripture
in the world that leaves out
“How was the movie? I love you. I love you.”

How to cite this article:

Mohja Kahf "Disbeliever," Middle East Report 214 (Spring 2000).

For 50 years, MERIP has published critical analysis of Middle Eastern politics, history, and social justice not available in other publications. Our articles have debunked pernicious myths, exposed the human costs of war and conflict, and highlighted the suppression of basic human rights. After many years behind a paywall, our content is now open-access and free to anyone, anywhere in the world. Your donation ensures that MERIP can continue to remain an invaluable resource for everyone.


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