If you subscribe to the ‘Foreign Policy’ list, and think that Malala Yousafzai and Aung San Suu Kyi (who is happy to turn a blind eye towards the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar) are ‘global thinkers’, then you are clearly not living on the freethinking planet.

It was one of Orson Wells’ most iconic creations, Harry Lime, who made the point that culture thrives on conflict and antagonism. And if you view art to be a refined expression of culture, then you’d be hard pushed to find a better example of Lime’s words than the achievement of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi.

According to the old adage, history repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce. Personally, I think history is not that particular about order and precedence. History, after all, is in the eye of the beholder or, more precisely, the historian. And one should never overlook the possibility of simultaneity, that things are both tragedy and farce at one and the same time.

I began to think about the past as I opened an old box where I kept my journalistic articles. I found a series of interviews I had conducted with more than twenty women, entitled ‘Portrayal of prominent Lebanese women’.

He does not come across as your run-of-the-mill infidel. In an interview just before his untimely death, widely available on YouTube, Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd (1943–2010) sports an affable smile. He is mild-mannered and erudite. One would be hard-pressed to imagine how such a genial man can be deemed devilish rather than a dervish.

The lowest point for the regime of former Sudanese President Gaafar Nimeiri (1969–1985), if not for the whole of modern Sudanese history, came on the morning of Friday 18 January 1985. At that fateful hour (around 10am), a seventy-seven-year-old man was dragged in chains to the gallows, with tens of thousands of people watching, most of them cheering with glee.