The View From the Hajj and a New Look for Lenin: The Week in Global-Affairs Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about the world

Muslim pilgrims gather on Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat. (Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters)

Russian Communists Rebrand to Attract Young Supporters
James Marson | The Wall Street Journal
“The Bolshevik leader, clad in jeans and clutching a laptop, is cutting a youthful figure on posters and in campaign pamphlets for the opposition Communist Party of the Russian Federation, ahead of parliamentary elections here Sunday.

It is all part of the party’s latest revolution. For years a shrinking haven for retirees nostalgic for the Soviet past, the party of the proletariat is appealing to young voters by rejuvenating its image. Other campaign literature features Joseph Stalin smoking an e-cigarette and Karl Marx wearing a leather jacket and declaring: ‘I’ll be back.’”

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Postcards From the Hajj: The Crowds
Diaa Hadid | The New York Times
“As just one of two million pilgrims, Diaa Hadid, a correspondent for The New York Times, battled huge crowds to perform the sacred rites of the hajj, even as a V.I.P. treated to helicopter rides and other perks.

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Tensions Simmer as German Jews Fight Over Whether to Welcome Refugees
Eetta Prince-Gibson | Haaretz
“Like most everything in Jewish-Germany, attitudes toward the refugees stem from the conclusions that different individuals and groups draw from the Holocaust.

Erika Stein, a PhD student in sociology researching attitudes toward the refugees, explains to Haaretz, ‘Those who believe that the Holocaust places a moral burden on Jews continue to want to help the refugees. Those who believe that the Holocaust has given us the right to worry about our own welfare are worried about how the refugees will affect the Jewish community. Those who think that Germany has changed and learned its lessons view working with the refugees as an opportunity. Those who think that Germany really hasn’t changed at all are worried that the resentment against the refugees will spill over onto the Jews.’”

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Hong Kong Will Throw Out a Million Mooncakes This Mid-Autumn Festival
Selina Cheng | Quartz
“For those who aren’t familiar with the tradition, mooncakes are a savory, dense, and greasy Chinese delicacy, synonymous with the Mid-Autumn Festival. Families typically gather for dinner, eat mooncakes, then take late night strolls outdoors to enjoy the sight of the full moon. The Cantonese mooncake is a traditional pastry with thick lotus seed paste, wrapped around one whole salted duck egg yolk (or two), and covered with a thin crust that is baked often with lard.

Families, friends, and colleagues are expected to offer mooncake gift boxes to each other prior to the auspicious date, even though they often do not want to receive them themselves. Re-gifting is common, but even then there’s a lot more mooncake being purchased than anyone really wants.”

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Typecast as a Terrorist
Riz Ahmed | The Guardian
“To begin with, auditions taught me to get through airports. In the end, it was the other way around. I’m an actor. Since I was a teenager I have had to play different characters, negotiating the cultural expectations of a Pakistani family, Brit-Asian rudeboy culture, and a scholarship to private school. The fluidity of my own personal identity on any given day was further compounded by the changing labels assigned to Asians in general.

As children in the 1980s, when my brother and I were stopped near our home by a skinhead who decided to put a knife to my brother’s throat, we were black. A decade later, the knife to my throat was held by another ‘Paki,’ a label we wore with swagger in the Brit-Asian youth and gang culture of the 1990s. The next time I found myself as helplessly cornered, it was in a windowless room at Luton airport. My arm was in a painful wrist-lock and my collar pinned to the wall by British intelligence officers. It was ‘post 9/11,’ and I was now labelled a Muslim.”

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It Takes a Village to Kill a Child
Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin | Foreign Policy
“Life had gotten harder in Madriya in recent years. As Boko Haram pursued its stated goal of establishing a caliphate in the Lake Chad region, it destroyed virtually everything in its path. Militants looted and burned villages, kidnapped children, and brutally murdered thousands of people. They mined fields and killed farmers as they tended their crops, strangling trade routes and hampering humanitarian access. Local markets dried up, and, like most of his neighbors, Aboubacar Yunnus was able to plant less and less each year. Food stocks dwindled, and neighbors increasingly talked about how people in nearby villages were dying of starvation.

Still, the family clung to a tenuous routine. Aboubacar ate and slept. Halima braided Houwa’s hair, the infant resting in his sister’s lap. Aboubacar Yunnus worked the fields and checked his Nokia phone. For the first eight months of Aboubacar’s life, things continued like this, hunger and uncertainty forming the backdrop to daily life. Then came the violence of Boko Haram.”