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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

Score for the opponents of peace

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

From the BBC:

At least 16 people have been killed in suicide bombings on two buses in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, police and medical sources say.
More than 80 people are reported to have been injured, some of them seriously, in the blasts. Palestinian militant group Hamas has claimed responsibility for the almost simultaneous attacks. (Continued)

Another win for those who don't believe in peace. As expected, calls for non-violent protest made by Mahatma Gandhi's grandson last week fell on deaf ears. There are many Israelis of conscience who are opposed to the occupation and have made hard efforts towards peace and a just solution the conflict. But every time a misguided Palestinian decides to kill innocent Israeli civilians, it is merely a victory for their opponents. Expect to read about Palestinians being fired on by tanks and helicopter gunships as a response in the coming days.

Another day of mourning for the world. Another day of embarassment for Muslims.

Another blackout

Not a power blackout, but another media blockout. Sorry, I missed this news item from yesterday since it wasn't in any of the Bahraini papers (obviously). Apparently the six detainees are to remain in custody for a further 15 days, without having being charged (and having completed their original 45 days in custody already). In addition, the media blackout on the details of the case is to continue. This media cover-up really bothers me. What is it that the authorities are so desperately trying to hide from the public?? The case will be decided by already appointed judges -- not by a jury of citizens who might be influenced by the media to cause an unfair trial. I hope that Bahrain's community of journalists will try to challenge this arbitrary ruling.

Anyways, here is the AP report from yesterday's Khaleej Times:

MANAMA - Bahraini authorities have placed a gag order on publishing details on the investigation surrounding six detained terror suspects, who were ordered by a court yesterday to remain in custody for a further 15 days, their lawyers said.

The detainees, who have not been charged, were first arrested June 22 in relation to alleged plots to attack targets in Bahrain, and contacts with foreign terrorist organisations. Authorities, however, released the men a day later, but re-arrested them on July 14 after investigators searched their computers and allegedly found documents on making and using bombs and poisons, the Interior Ministry claimed. On July 15, the prosecutor’s office said the men would be held for 45 days.

Tempers flared during yesterday’s court hearing after the judge upheld a prosecution request for the men to be held for 15 more days. Several suspects screamed at officials as their female relatives, wearing head-to-toe abayas, burst into tears. It was unclear why the court extended their incarceration. Lawyers Farid Ghazi and Abdullah Hashim, representing five of detainees, said the men had been ordered to remain in custody, but did not elaborate on the extensions. Prosecution officials could not be reached for comment.

On July 20, Bahraini authorities issued a gag order barring media outlets from reporting on the investigations into the case of the six suspects. It was unclear when the order will be lifted. An Interior Ministry statement released last month said the six, plus another man who is in Britain, had been in contact with terrorist organisations abroad and had finalised plans to attack targets in Bahrain.

Keeping out the wrong Muslims

I'm sure that at least some of you have been following the recent case of Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss Muslim scholar, having his work visa to teach at the University of Notre Dame being revoked by the US Department of Homeland Security. Really, it is quite laughable (or 'cry-able'). While I'm not his biggest fan, Ramadan has spent his life trying to get European Muslims to integrate themselves into secular Europe rather reject it for extremism. He has done this by reinterpreting the texts and by positing new frameworks for the European Muslim to think in. The cost of this has been to attract the ire of the Muslim right who are opposed to any change, and who don't want to see Muslims as active citizens of European countries. To now think that he is being viewed as a terrorist threat speaks volumes about the level of influence that certain interest groups have over the decision-making at Homeland Security.

On his part Ramadan had a column printed today in Canada's Globe and Mail responding to these events. Here is an excerpt:

Lately, I have been going through an interesting experience. I am constantly being told "the truth" about who I am: "You are a controversial figure"; "you engage in double-talk, delivering a gentle message in French and English, and a radical - even extremist - one in Arabic, or to a Muslim audience in private"; "you have links with extremists, you are an anti-Semite"; "you despise women" etc.

When I ask about the source of this information, invariably the response is: This is well-known, it is everywhere, check the Internet and you will find thousands of pages referring to this.

A closer examination reveals that what we have is journalists or intellectuals quoting each other, conclusively reporting and infinitely repeating what others said yesterday, with caveats. Rather than using this as an occasion for reflection, the response to this finding is usually: "Well, there has to be some truth in all that."

Ramadan here is possibly making a reference to Daniel Pipes, and his column from a few days back, who accuses him of all sorts of things. Reading Pipes' colums I almost sense some jealousy; that his foreign Muslim arch-enemy has been able to get a teaching position in an American university, whereas Pipes has still not been offered tenure anywhere. Or maybe I'm just imagining things.

While it is entirely within the right of the US authorities to keep Ramadan out of the country if they so desire, the problem I see is that it is a much needed opportunity lost. Second-generation American Muslims are at the stage where they are questioning their multiple identities and trying to come to terms somehow. Prior to 9-11, the Salafi mindset was prominent in most Muslim student organizations, since they had few other alternatives as Muslims. 9-11 forced these Muslims to try and create a space within the ideological framework of the America for American Muslims. Having no real academics in the US to help them, many turned to the example of European Muslims, and specifically Ramadan's writings. (I subsribe to a number of Muslim student mailing lists where I've observed them debating such ideas for several years). Having Ramadan lecture in an American institution would really help to accelerate the contruction of a secular American Muslim framework, which is desperately needed to keep Muslims from rejecting outright the US and the West. Keeping Ramadan out is a huge victory for the narrow-minded Muslim elements in America who are set on exploiting the current perceived gap between the American and Muslim identities.

Kuwaiti fantasies

Monday, August 30, 2004

Mama Fusla across in Kuwait has put up a list of hilarious fantasies:

  1. 'Shute down liberation towers in a Niqab & 3abat.
  2. Repel down Water Towers in Bayan wearing traditional old diver's customs (remember Yamshi 3ala Al Danna v-clip?)
  3. Storm into the Parliment during MP's naptime, wrapped up in Kuwaiti flag, blow some gas horns and walk out.
  4. Storm into 99.7 at 7:00 AM on a weekday, dressed up as a Nissan Altima and have a head-on collision with Linda.

I'd love to see someone apply No.3 to our own Parliament in Bahrain. Or maybe pull a No.4 on Krazy Kevin.

On another note, Kuwait has a really active blogging scene. You can see the entire list of Kuwaiti blogs at KuwaitBlogs.com, but some of my favourites among them are:

And I'm sure there are many more that I haven't checked out yet. But they have some really interesting and funny discussions about Kuwaiti culture. Worth a read.

Nationalized sports

Ahh... another Olympic Games completed. It's always such a joy to watch this collection of the world's best athletes come together and display their skills every four years. But one thing that gets to me is the way that whenever an athlete wins an event, the first thing they do is get their national flag and run around waving it. Well okay, I understand there are many people who do love their countries. And when the medals ceremony is taking place the national flags of the medal winners are raised, and then the national anthem of the gold medal winner is played on the loudspeakers. And actually, if you want to participate in the Olympics at all, you have to be a member of an Olympic delegation from a specific country.

When I think about it, not only do the Olympics illustrate the stranglehold of Nationalism over our lives and minds, but it also reinforces the stranglehold every four years. We are fed this type stuff from when we are babies, and by the time we are adults we are mindlessly waving a piece of cloth as though it makes us better than everyone else.

But what if someone wanted to compete in the Olympics, not on behalf of their country, but on behalf of all of the world's bloggers, for example? There would be an official Bloggers Olympic Team that would take part in all of the events (but given that most of us are lazy slobs who sit in front of our computers all day, I doubt we would have much success). Or what if someone wanted to represent just him or herself? Or if they wanted to participate under the flag of Humanity?

Well, the logistics of organizing the Olympics under all these incongruous categories would make things pretty difficult. Ah, but that's what makes Nationalism, and the system of States so lethal in this way perpetuating itself. We resign ourselves to accepting this current system because it seems so convenient right now. Once the system of States has a reasonable control over something, it tolerates nothing in its midst save other States. Why? It makes life easy -- they're territorialized and institutionalized... what a nice way to organize ourselves... a perfectly packaged pretty little discretized State. But what if I don't want organize myself according to this scheme? Do I have any other choice?

Okay, I know I'm not the first person to express these concerns by any means. But I'm always amazed and in awe of States whenever I come across another example of the way in which they sneakily perpetuate their existence (like the Olympics). Is there a way out?

More barbarism

I know this this is a couple days old, but still. Enzo Baldoni, rest in peace. My condolences to his family and friends.

Really, how low and spineless do you have to be to kidnap and murder a Red Cross aid worker, of all people? I am completeley embarassed that I happen to call my religion by the same name that these shameless murderers do.

Another condemnation, but have I actually done anything?

Evil labourers

Sunday, August 29, 2004

This is pretty sad. It seems like some youths with too much spare time on their hands have been influenced by Murtadha Bader and his theory that foreign labourers are the source of all Bahrain's evil. From the GDN:

FIRE damaged part of a labour camp, in Naim, after three Bahraini teenagers burst in and set fire to the workers' clothes. It was the third time that they had raided the same building in one night. When the youths broke in the first time they beat up one of the workers, who required hospital treatment for his injuries. They returned half-an-hour later and stole the labourers' safety shoes. However, when they went back a third time they piled up the workers' clothes, doused the pile in kerosene and set it on fire. The labourers managed to put out the blaze, but only after it had destroyed their air-conditioner, refrigerator and carpets.

"It all started when the Bahrainis barged into the labourers' residence at 10pm," said Bangladeshi mechanic Mubarak Muslim Mia, 27, who lives in the building. "They entered one of the rooms exclaiming that they are Bahrainis and have a right to be anywhere they want to be. One of the residents asked them what they wanted, barging in so late at night, but the Bahrainis shouted at him and beat him up really bad. We rushed him off to hospital to get treatment for cuts in his hand." (Continued)

Sadly, stories like these are not unheard of. Although these actions are usually provoked by unemployment and having too much spare time on one's hands, there are many Bahrainis among the recent generations who seem to lack respect for Asian expats. From my experiences this doesn't seem to be the case among the older generations of Bahrainis (especially the traders) who are quite comfortable being around Asians, be they employees or customers.

Karachi: City of contradictions

Saturday, August 28, 2004

A few days back I asked people to take a guess at which city this photo was taken in. I only got one response (weep), but it touches on an interesting subject so I've quoted it below, followed by my reply. Says Mr Anon:

I thought it was one of Pakistan’s more liberal cities because I assumed that was a church steeple in the background but on closer look it seems to be a Victorian style clock tower – either way I’d imagine that in one of Pakistan’s really conservative cities there’d be attempts to cover (or blow) it up.

The city in question is actually Karachi. I don't really know what exactly makes a city "conservative" or "liberal", but Karachi is one that would fit in both or neither of those boxes. On the one hand it is the most modern, and most commercial (more billboards than New York) city in the country. You can go to underground parties where the girls are dancing in very skimpy outfits, and drugs and alcohol float around freely. On the other hand Karachi is also home to a wide variety of religious organizations, including conservative militant ones. It was also the place where Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered, not coincidentally.

These two extremes in Karachi feed off of each other. Youths who are sick and tired of being told what to do and not to do by the mullahs often reject Islam completely, except in name. At the other end, youths who are put off by the extreme materialism of Karachi, and the constant hammering of American culture through satellite TV often turn to religion, and sometimes militant Islamism. After visiting Karachi it becomes easier to understand when Olivier Roy says that Islamism is very much a product of modernism, not a reaction to it. It is not surprising then that several of the foreign Al-Qaeda militants captured in Karachi were actually being given refuge by some residents of the city's most posh and elite district.

Finally, I should let you know that there are many beautiful churches and cathedrals left by the British in most of Pakistan's cities. Certainly, there have been a number of disgraceful attacks on churches in Pakistan, but for the most part these buildings remain intact and visible.

Purify your life

Friday, August 27, 2004

So there's this TV commercial that has been running on MBC2 which I find quite interesting. For those of you not from the Middle East, MBC2 is a satellite channel part of the MBC TV Network which also runs Al Arabiya. MBC2 is an English language entertainment channel showing the latest movies, sitcoms, and TV series from the West (almost always American).

So now about this commercial which came on while I was watching Ally McBeal. It shows a young man (probably in his early twenties) dressed in Western clothing (jeans and a T-shirt), sporting a stylish hairstyle and a fashionable beard/stubble. He looks at his watch and realizes something. He starts running to get somewhere ignoring everything and everyone that comes in his way (even his Mum). Finally we see him raise his arms in takbeer as we hear the azan, and we realize that this fellow was in such a hurry to pray at one of the obligatory times. At the end of it all the catchprase is shown on the screen: qamu salatak, tasfu 7ayatak which translates to something like "Get up for your prayers, Purify your life".

Hmm... very interesting that it was shown on an English language entertainment channel and its hero was a trendy modern guy. I do wonder who is behind this and why. I don't really have anything against it. When done right, prayer can be quite introspective and healing to the individual. And I'm glad that the commercial tries to attract people to it in a positive manner, rather than threatening people with hellfire as is done by many mosque preachers. But somehow, I feel that in the current circumstances of the Muslim world, public announcements coming from the religious establishment need to do more than tell people to pray. How about a catchprase something along the lines of: "Don't behead innocent civilians, Purify your life", or maybe "Don't rape your housemaid, Purify your life". Those are messages that I would like to see. But I'm not holding my breath. In the meantime, I'll stick to Ally McBeal.

Muharraq Summer Festival

So I went to the Muharraq Summer Festival that I mentioned in my previous post, and I thought I'd share a few pics. It was mostly fun for kids, but I still enjoyed it. And there were loads of local goods on sale also. Whenever they have these types of events, the thing I enjoy the most is the Khaleeji (Gulf) music band that they usually have at these things, pictured above. There are lots of drums playing head-jerking polyrhythms, both of which seem to be influenced by African traditions. And curiously, I've also noticed that most of the musicians in the local Khaleeji bands seem to be of African origin also. Any ethnomusicologists out there that can explain what's been going on? There's also a dude there playing an improvised melody on a reeded wind instrument (sorry, I forget the name). And then of course there are the chorus singers/dancers who also appear to be enjoying themselves:

And some kids:

What's going on

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Alright, let's see what's going on on the island then. The best news of the day is that our beloved Ministry of Information is finally being axed. Hurrah! It's good to see that the government sees the need for change, and is ready to gradually take out the Old Guard in the process. I do hope this means support for private media outlets on the island, among many other changes. Read Mahmood's take on it.

There is also a hunger strike taking place today to show support for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The hunger strike started at 9am this morning and is taking place outside the UN House in Hoora. There will also be a general protest which starts 8pm this evening. I'll do my best to go and see what exactly their stand is. But I must say, I find it rather difficult to support a group that calls itself the Bahraini Society Against Normalisation with the Zionist Enemy. That said, there's no harm in hearing what they have to say. (Read the GDN report).

I've also just been made aware that there is another sit-in taking place at Ras Rumman mosque, in Manama, between 4pm and 10pm. This protest however is to "express solidarity with Iraq's Shiite religious authority, or marjaiya, as the top cleric there headed for the troubled holy city of Najaf." By this I assume they mean supporting Ayotallah Sistani's efforts in Najaf. (Read the AFP report)

Finally, there's the Muharraq Festival which has been going on for several weeks now, and will be ending on Friday. Sounds like fun.

Gmail invites up for grabs

I finally got a gmail account account along with 6 invites to give away. If any of you want one of the invites then send me an email (to my new address, of course: chanad@gmail.com) and tell me you want it. I'll update this post when I've given away all 6 invites.

... and in a flash I'm back!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Just got back this morning. My trip ended up being slightly longer than I planned, due to unforeseen circumstances. But thankfully that meant I missed yesterday's blackout that took over the island. There's far too much to blog about, and just not enough time. For now though, I leave you with the above picture. Can anyone out there guess where I was based on the photo? I'll tell you about my trip in the next few posts. Ta ta.

Leaving again

Monday, August 02, 2004
Just wanted to let you know that I'm leaving the island again tomorrow. I'll be gone for about three weeks and I don't think I'll have much internet access asides from being able to check my e-mail once a week. So I don't expect anything until I get back. Take care, and enjoy the humidity and the ripened dates while I'm gone.