Monday, February 28, 2005

2 more moderators detained

My question in the post below has been answered. Mohammed Almosawi, 21 years old, and Hussain Yousif, 23 years old, both university students and moderators on Bahrainonline, have been summoned to the General Prosecutors office for questioning tomorrow at 9am. But when they went to receive the summons from Hoora police station they were both detained.

Seems the whole bahrainonline crew will be taken in...shame I couldn't be there to join the reunion ;)

Makes you wonder, if you knew u were going into custody, what would you pack in your suitcase? Would you be cocky or cooperative? Would you prefer solitary confinement or shared cells with fellow prisoners?

Speaking to the guys though, they're taking it all in their stride, either they don't realise the seriousness or are very confident. One joked that the only thing he'll miss is sheesha.

Hope they stay strong and keep their heads held high. That royal decree number 53439843 should come soon...

Beware of propaganda

As was to be expected the government propaganda machine was in full force with all the newspapers having the hard work of regurgitating the Ministry of Information's press statement: Bahraini arrested for inciting hatred and threatening to destabilise the country.


The above news piece is another example of poor journalism. Firstly, there was no tip-off. The Ministry of Interior has been building a case against BahrainOnline since 1998, and your clue is as good as mine as to the specific pieces of writing they are using as evidence. Whether they will use something written by Abdulemam directly or by the members is also unknown. Secondly, Ali Abdulemam did NOT admit to the charges - he did however, admit to owning and setting up the, but denied responsibility for what was written on there. He was shown a few articles that he had posted under his name (i'll try and find out which ones) and confirmed himself as the author.

He is facing the following charges which can carry a maximum life sentence:

1- المساس بالذات الملكية
2- التحريض على كراهية النظام.
3- نشر أخبار تزعزع الأمن الوطني.
4- مخالفة قانون النشر.
5- مخالفة قانون الأتصالات.

1. Questioning royal status
2. Inciting hatred against the regime
3. Spreading news that destabilises national security
4. Violating the press law
5. Violating the communication law

The pulse from the forum is that the majority of users feel responsible for Abdulemam's incarceration as he is taking the flack for what they write. Meanwhile registered members have gone up to 20,000. It is a known fact that the government agents have also tried to participate in the forum at times to sway debates. The government fails to realise that BahrainOnline cannot be closed down, it has only increased its popularity. There are another 30 moderators who now run the site. Will they go down too? Some of their names came up in the interrogation.

The government fails to realise that the internet is an information medium beyond their control. Arresting Abdulemam will severly backfire on the them and the so-called reforms. Protests have been organised and another martyr born. Im almost sure the Parliament will not raise this severe breach of freedom of expression and carry on with scaremongering the nation.

Yet another scene to the political play. This time are they serious or will another Royal decree save the day? Ladies and gentleman, the curtains have been drawn, welcome to Bahrain - the model of Arab democracy.

Mon Feb 28, 2005 12:48 PM GMT

MANAMA (Reuters) -

Bahraini police have detained a man who runs a Web site seen as critical of the Gulf Arab state's government and royal family, activists say

They said 27-year-old Ali Abdul-Imam, who runs, was held on Monday for allegedly stirring hatred against the government and spreading false news that could jeopardise state security

Officials were not immediately available to comment

The Web site, a forum where users often post views critical of the government and the royal family, has been banned by the government

It is blocked by Internet provider Bahrain Telecommunications, but it frequently changes its Web address to circumvent this

Bahrain, the Gulf's banking hub and home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has introduced some reforms, but the opposition, led by the country's majority Shi'ite Muslims, want more rights in the Sunni-ruled island state

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Bahraini blogger interrogated/arrested

It finally happened- what every free-thinking individual dreads. Fellow Bahraini blogger and friend, Ali Abdulemam was summoned for interrogation today in the General Prosecutors office. As of time of writing, no one knows if he is arrested or will be released.

Ali Abdulemam, 27 years old, is the owner of one of the most popular site in Bahrain, which has been blocked by Bahrain’s ISP, Batelco, for over 3 years. This discussion forum has over 17,000 members and over 80,000 hits a day. It is the beacon of free speech for those who manage to find a proxy to get in from Bahrain, voicing highly critical opinions of the government. The admin of the site and Batelco have been in a cat and mouse game, with the admin constantly generating new proxies for the site, which Batelco is in a race around the clock to block. Whether you agree with some of the things said or not, Bahrainonline’s fast pace and people-controlled dynamics is an invaluable source of information in a country with a beleagured media sector and draconian press laws, which Abdulemam was determind to challenge fearlessly. You can find the press release in arabic here. My translated version is below.

Arrest of BahrainOnline Moderator (Ali Abdulemam)

Bahraini authorities this morning, 27 February 2005, issued orders for the arrest of the general moderator of BahrainOnline discussion forum (, Ali Abdulemam, 27 years old. Security forces had gone to his home to arrest him but he was not there at the time. His sister, who works at a government school, was arbitrarily taken from there and later arrested.

On the back of this arrest warrant, Ali Abdulemam is among the first Arab citizens to be arrested for online internet activities. Noting that BahrainOnline has been blocked several times by Batelco, Bahrain’s telecommunications company, following orders from government authorities without any legal basis whatsoever. This has been condemned by several human rights organisations as a breach of freedom of expression (see January 18th Statement below).

This arrest reinforces the underhanded authoritarianism that is stifling Bahrain, highlighted by many political and human rights societies and non-governmental organisations in the country. Countless articles, statements and studies have reproached the laws and decrees which have restricted citizen’s natural rights. The implementation of an austere penal code and press laws, legacies from the State Security laws, have served as tools for public clampdowns by the government.

The management of BahrainOnline rejects this government action and considers it a dangerous threat to the right of expression that have been ratified in international laws and conventions. It calls upon the security authorities in the country to release Ali Abdulemam immediately and unconditionally. It also calls upon all those concerned in the human rights situation locally and internationally to heed the danger of this punitive action and to confront it directly in order to prevent further escalation.

The management of BahrainOnline electronic forum

Closure of Bahraini website again on the internet.

In one of the first tasks carried out by the new cabinet headed by the Prime Minister, and with the forthcoming Second Constitutional Conference not far away, Bahrain’s telecommunications company (Batelco) has blocked all access to the electronic discussion forum, “Bahrainonline” without any prior warning. It is reminded, that Batelco-the sole internet provider in Bahrain- following orders from the authorities, had blocked the official web address ( nearly 3 years ago, along with several other Bahraini websites. The new measures taken yesterday blocked all other known proxies to this site. This policy of blocking internet website is continuing today with no legal proceedings to legitimise such actions. This insistence on blocking all other proxies to these websites, is considered a clampdown on freedom of expression which stands against the freedoms allowed under the country’s constitution and international law.

Bahrainonline is one of the biggest Bahraini sites on the internet, and famed for the space it provides for free speech on all issues of national and cultural interest inside and outside of Bahrain. A number of political and legal bodies have issued past statements that ‘reject the repeated closure of the website, and ask for the authorities to allow visitors inside Bahrain to browse this site freely and to seek civilised means of legal proceedings rather than carrying out arbitrary security decisions and measures’.

Bahrainonline, 18th January 2005

I'll update you as soon as I hear anything. The following statement which I read on the forum really made me think:

مشكلتنا كعرب نتحرر عندما نعتقل ؟!!

أو لا نذوق الحريّة إلا في المعتقل ؟!!

"Our problems as arabs, is that we are liberated when we are incarcerated, and we taste freedom only in the prison cell"

Friday, February 25, 2005

Why the hijab makes perfect sense

Many girls feel that it is some sort of impediment to wear a headscarf (hijab) and that by wearing it they would reinforce the image of the oppressed muslim woman, that somehow NOT wearing it gives the image of a more modern progressive liberal woman who has rebelled against backward social norms. So u might not get into a nightclub with it on, or pull as many guys, but here I offer a few advantages, other than the fact that it is a religious obligation in Islam:

Ok so those were just the benefits of the bit of cloth on ur head. I would also add that how you carry yourself, your style, your presence, your charisma, your elegance are also as important for the image. The combination of all of these leads to the optimal solution.

The scarf is part of my identity. I’ve been wearing it since I was nine. Its not an issue. In fact, its not even something I give a second thought in the mornings. No thats a lie, I do take approximately 30 seconds to decide which colour matches my outfit. In my personal experience, being a 'mit7ajba' has only ever been a positive force of good in my life.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Faces of Ashoora

Outside Matam Zabar 7th Muharram

Marching band, renewing a musical tradition

Unfortunately I managed to get to the candle just as it burnt out. Measuring 73 metres in length this candle entered the Guiness Book of Records, in addition, 6000 males called Hussain had the pleasure of lighting the candles. 10th night of Muharram.

Ba9mat alwalaa2 lalhussain.... a world record number of fingerprints on a banner that reads "labayka ya hussain" which will be sent to Karbala

Almarsam Alhussaini for Islamic Art

The 'marsam' was one of the really interesting ideas to emerge over the last two years which attempts to use art as a means of expressing the Hussaini message. It provides budding artists all the tools and space need to paint and display their art and everyone is welcome to go see them at work. These are some of the quick snaps I took of the ones that I liked the most. I think the artist was called 'Alsaari'. All the paintings are up for sale. The place is definitely worth a visit.

Another was this breathtaking scene that I came across whilst driving through manama:

Its a life-size sculpted scene of 'almashra3a' in Karbala. The man on the horse is Imam Hussain as he returned to the tent for the final time to bid farewell to the women.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ashoora Albahrain

تبكيك عيني لا لاجل مثوبة ..لكنما عيني لاجلك باكية
تبتل منكم كربلاء بدم...ولاتبتل مني بالدموع الجارية

Ashoora is a national festival that unites people in sadness. What has recently been termed as 'collective conspicuous grief' in the West (a la the public reaction after Princess Diana's death) has existed in Shia culture since the events of Karbala in which the Prophet's grandson, Imam Hussein and his family were left in the desert for over 3 days without water and then massacred over a thousand years ago. Bahrain, for its minute size however, seems to have a historical comparative advantage in commemorating this event in terms of organisation and innovation. Speaking to many friends, the way this event is held surpasses other shia hotspots like Iran, Iraq and Lebanon by far.

In 1891 Muhammad Mirza Ismail, a Persian merchant, used his position as agent for the British India navigation company to lead the procession in front of the Ma’tam bin Rajab, one of the oldest of the city. This was a momentous event for Manama’s Shi’i communities. People flocked behind an heavily armed Mirza Ismail who confident of British protection made his way through Manama streets defying the veto imposed by the Sunni rulers on public manifestations of Shi’i devotion.

This annual event has become so entrenched in Bahraini identity and culture that the government has recognised that this event is untouchable, the only thing it can do is to support it, a hard lesson learnt by the late Amir after his attempts to ban loudspeakers in the 90s. The amount of effort and preparation that goes into this event is flabbergasting. From the minute you set foot in Manama you can feel the hussaini spirit, the spirit of sacrifice and giving and also the hussaini spirit of defiance. Quite frankly, sociologists and anthropologists could have a field day analysing the way this event resonates socially.

Firstly, weeping, beating the chest are simple symbolic rituals for most which, for some bizarre reason, is looked down upon by outsiders possessing a superficial outlook on things. But believe me, it is second-nature to the shia and has come to serve a dual purpose as a group physical exercise and creating a rhythmic beating sound to which a eulogy of Hussain can be sung. It is not a meaningless self-mutilating action. I mean, how else would you explain why 20,000 men in mowkib ma'atam Saloom do this till the early hours of the morning? For others, it is almost a form of group 'dancing' if I dare say so. It gets the testosterone and the adrenaline going and provides a strong sense of belonging. The sound it generates is the beat to which the 'shayyal' or the lamentor sings his eulogies to. Questioning the 3azza to me is like questioning the reason why people clap - both actions simply make a continuous, collective, rhythmic sound which is louder the more people there are or questioning why certain communities do things in a particular way. To do so requres looking deep into social evolution rather than a passing judgement.

Secondly, creativity in the development of non-traditional mourning activities such as art exhibitions (marsam), the longest candle in the world (73 metres=number of Hussain's companions), largest number of fingerprints on a banner, theatrical plays (with real tent-burning), marching bands, english hussaini recitations, massive blood donation campaigns in nu3aim, high quality publications that all serve to spread the Hussaini message:
“I learnt from Hussain how to attain victory while being oppressed”
Mahatma Gandhi

Thirdly, people-watching. 100,000 people descend onto the dark alleyways of manama. It is inevitable that you will bump into your third cousin who you haven't seen in years or that old childhood friend. This is one of the few events where the elderly and young unite, oh yes and the teenagers. Those damn frisky teenagers who keep getting caught kissing in that dark alleyway. My friend was showing me the hotspots unfortunately i didn't find the time to go on a spy mission. Just switch you're bluetooth on and you'll get at least a list of 25 names on it. What bigger event is there in which to check out the opposite sex?

Fourthly, commercialisation of ashoora with respect to tourism, 3azza recordings, and merchandise especially. It was hard to miss all the saudis, emaratis, kuwaitis and even omanis who have come to Bahrain to participate in the ashoora event. Such outward celebration of this ancient shia event is confined to indoor ma'atams in these countries. The number of shops that sell the recordings of 3azza lamentations easily outnumber shops selling music tapes in Manama souq. There is a whole shop dedicated solely to the Iraqi Bassim Alkarbalaei recordings with his posters plastered everywhere. Indeed there is intense competition and rivalry between the these lamentators. Personally, my favourite is Sheikh. Hussain Alakraf, and I don't deny that I felt kinda excited when he sent me an autographed copy of his latest CD. In addition, there is reasonably good market for al-malaley or 'mulla's' but not in the common meaning of the word. The mulla in Bahrain is the guy who gives a short lecture and does the traditional lamentation 'mowaal' style recitation, the most famous mullah of all who started a unique genre was Al-waely who died a couple of years back. Word has it, that some of these mullahs earn as much as BD 7000 for the 10 days of ashoora, especially the foreign ones. The latest superstar is a 12-year mulla. Watch the video for a little taste.

Fifthly, with a discerning eye you might even spot an increasing number of sunnis who also come to Manama, if not to take part than at least to watch from the sidelines- the minority of sunnis who didn't go to the effort to plan their holidays in the period where the shia 'go crazy' :)

Lastly, the highlight of the event is the food. There is enough free food going round to feed a small African country. Now for all those who cry out in disgust at the though of matam-food, I am living proof that matam-food is safe. I ate absolutely everything I could get my hands on just to prove the latter statement. U name it, I ate it- bacha (bahraini delicacy consisting of all the undesirable parts of a carcass namely, tongue, head, hooves, eyeballs boiled and water used to soak '7ubz irani), balaleet, harees, chappati, shawarma, cocunut cake, hot saffron milk with ba'79am, ma7alabia, 9aloona, na'7aj basheer, samboosa, baryani...u get the picture. No seafood was on offer unfortunately but i think that is just due to the difficulty in producing good seafood en-masse. All those stories of hairy men sweating into the 'gudoor' and cooking the food the night before didn't put me off. Anyway I believe that would only add to the flavour.

The only like-minded person who is courageous enough to go on this adventure of the stomach is my uncle. My mother's theory is that somehow me and him have developed an immunity to food poisoning. There is a very small chance that this could be true as we were about the only ones who didnt suffer bouts of vomiting and diarohhea, but I put that down to weather not 'something they ate'.

As for the nutters who defy all common human logic and insist on self-flagellation, I can assure you, they're days are numbered, if not now then in the hereafter, by carrying out an officially prohibited action. Frankly, I don't give a rats arse if they beat themselves to death, but I do care when it is done in my religion's name. In Iraq this year this phenomenon almost disappeared after last years disgusting display following the clear prohibition by Sistani. Unfortanetly, pure ignorence still prevails in Bahrain. I heard the shouts of 'haidar haidar haidar' in the distance and as I got nearer I spotted 3 gir3aan beating themselves crazy and i'm telling ya it was sick and beyond comprehension. The only reason I could concoct is that they were in a trance of some sort that didnt feel bits of they're flesh flying off. The other explanation my friend offered was that the 10 tequilas he downed beforehand knumbs u a bit.

Charles Dickens said the following about Imam Hussain (AS):

"If Hussain fought to quench his worldly desires, then I do not understand why his sisters, wives and children accompanied him. It stands to reason therefore that he sacrificed purely for Islam."

Friday, February 11, 2005

Public Notice

This blog is currently experiencing short-term problems in it's commenting system after the owner decided to experiment with a dodgy BloggerHack, which has now totally screwed up. The owner took this risk totally at her discretion and insists that she was sober when she made the decision.
Having no time to fiddle with HTML, the owner is now at a total loss as to how to remedy this problem.
Any suggestions please email the owner at
Meanwhile, BEWARE that any comments you make will be lost when you click on the Send button.

UPDATE: PROBLEM RESOLVED...wasn't as complicated as I thought

رحم الله امرئ عرف قدر نفسه

I feel I have been severly under-utilizing this blog space for ranting and raving, hence this post will attempt to boost my rant-ratings and also get something off my chest that has been brewing for a long time.

Men are better than women when it comes to number-crunching and most quantitative sciences. Biology, medicine, geography don't count. Thats a fact in my book. I don't have time to be politically correct on this issue.Yes, it is a gender-stereotype- who cares. I've been around long enough in the sciences to see that it is true. Thanks to the President of Harvard university for coming out and also expressing women's "innate inability" in this field, although i don't think that if a woman were to come out and say the same thing, half as much controversy would be caused. Feminists- eat your hearts out.

I study in male-dominated environment. The only thing the odd female secratary is good for is boosting the gender equality ratings. Ok so there are exceptions, like the double-D lecturer who gets the highest turnouts in her seminars and also has a brain, the rest of the women with moustaches don't count.

Anyway, its really bugging me that I have to struggle to grapple with theories that the opposite sex can regurgitate instantaneously. I'm really getting sick of these nerds who read the material once and never need to read it a second time. Guys are just 'quicker on the ball', thats just the way they're genetically programmed. They read a book cover to cover in a few hours and have managed to retain 80% of the information. It takes me like a few days to read the same book, with 20 coffee breaks, and re-reading the page ten times, and i'm still only a quarter through. When I take a book back to the library, it is in tatters.

Another thing, I need a pen and paper when I do my calculations otherwise I totally get lost half way through. Unfortunately, i've just come to realise that i'm in a field where you're not allowed a pen and paper- you're supposed to think 'spontaneosly'. Well, since im innately unable to do so, then if i don't get given that pen and paper, I think this would qualify as sex discrimination. Otherwise, I'm incorrectly construed as slow and dumb.

The sadder thing is, if I were to measure my own progress compared to other women's, it would be outstanding! But if I were to compare my progress to my male counterparts, it is pathetic. The thing is, all I have is the latter benchmark to compare to at the moment, so as you can tell, im really depressed. I'm always lagging and trying to catch up.

At last I realise the source of my ignorance - a genetic predisposition. I think if I repeat the last sentence enough times I might actually start believing it.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Calligrapher in the family

My 20 year old cousin does what most engineering students studying abroad do in dorms in their spare time; practises arabic calligraphy, writes proper arabic poems and paints. Im proud of him and happy to see a classical Arabian art nurtured in a passionate and loving manner.

He also comes in useful when you want to write a birthday card!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

What Sistani Wants

He refuses a new air conditioner, yet his office is Internet-wired. He wants women to take political office, but not to shake the hands of men outside their families. He is easily the most powerful man in Iraq. Yet he's an Iranian


Interesting article. Despite my admiration of Persian mystics, philosophers and thinkers, my religious marji3 is Fadlallah of Lebanon. The latter gaining such wide respect in Lebanon, that even Sunnis follow him. Sistani, although also highly knoweledgeable was known to be a bit orthodox in his edicts. In the shia-ijtihaad system every believer should carefully choose an elevated scholar to be a living religious reference throughout their life. I'm pretty ok with this, as it requires each believer to read the scholar's published articles and hence places significance on research, re-evaluation, re-thinking, and new insights into religion in a contemporary context. Its very much like the way the academic world works, the shia mujtahids are pretty much high-ranking professors, maybe even deans and provosts. Only a handful of them exist in the world.

The marja3's basically weigh up the Quran, the hadeeths, and past rulings in the face of new issues that arise as time goes by. Nothing is static in this life, so the way such references are interpreted should also not be static. The argument goes that there are some very clear rulings that are perpetual and permanent, yet there is also wide scope in certain areas which are adaptable to modern day. Those who are allowed to do this however, are the mujtahid's because they possess all the tools and superior knoweledge and have gained credibility to issue edicts. What I liked about Fadlalla is that he uses a panel/committee of other experts to help him weigh up certain issues, like doctors, psychologists, politicians, etc. As religion is all-encompassing, then so should their insights.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

La mata?

When the news first came out that a Bahraini was killed in the shoot-out that happened yesterday, everyone was quick to bundle him with the suspects and an entire fabricated story somehow emerged of him providing a ‘safe-house’. He was guilty, before anyone even had the facts, he was already a dangerous salafi terror-suspect that was on the loose but had finally been hunted down and killed.

Turns out he was just a normal (quite good-looking) young student in Kuwait on holiday, simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yes, sad story once the truth came out, all of a sudden the contemptuous comments turned to ‘oh that’s bad, shit happens’ type remarks. Everyone was ready to retract (but not to apologise) for their immediate labelling. Im really sorry, you're name had to get dragged through the mud like that Mahmood.

And the funny thing is, no one realises they are doing it. Why? Cos they’re on the backside of the media bandwagon which has been one tool in entrenching fear in our psyches. When you hear a terrorist has been arreseted/shot dead, there is a comfort that our ‘world is a slightly safer place’.

_Terror_ is around every street corner, behind every beard, the roots are Islam.

Everyday in the media we read front-page headlines “Terror-suspects arrested”, “Terrorist killed in shoot-out”. Do we actually ever hear of terrorists being convicted?

FACT: Between 11 September 2001 and June 2004, there were 561 arrests in the UK under the Terrorism Act. But only six convictions. Most of these were Irish.

FACT: not a single Qaeda related conviction in the US. On Sept. 2 2004 a federal judge in Detroit threw out the only jury conviction the Justice Department has obtained on a terrorism charge since 9/11.

Now I don’t know the truth about what is happening in Kuwait or anywhere else that seems to have been witnessing ‘terrorist activity’, but I know one thing. Put a name like Al-Enezi+Salafi+Terrorist in one sentence and hey presto, one down in the War_Against_Terror. Kuwiat will get a few brownie points in the global league table of With-Us_Against_Them. Did I hear anyone say evidence, trial? Oh yeah give us a few years to sort something out while Terrorist-suspect and co. rot in jail.

I’m not passing any judgements here, all we know is what has been said in the media, and all they know is what the police have told them. I’m just talking about the need to uphold basic civil rights. What happened to not revealing a person’s identity in the media till a trial is over, what happened to Guilty till proven Innocent, how does this ensure a person gets a fair trial? I know where these have gone - straight out of the window.

My emphasis in this post is the word SUSPECT. Once they are convicted, I assure you, they deserve everything they get.

Why am I bothered? Well, I’m seeing my friend whose had to raise her kids alone for 4 years while her husband, a ‘terrorist’ has been languishing in jail without trial under US orders somewhere close to home. Can she say anything? Can she utter a word? Does she know how long he’ll be in there for? Does she or even he know WHAT he is in there for? FOUR bloody years. And you know what. No one knows, he’s not even a statistic. Apparantly if any human rights organisation gets a whiff of this (there are around 400 arrested in this particular country I’m talking about) they’ve threatened to sentence them to life imprisonment. You open your mouth woman, you’re husband will pay dearly.

Innocent lives lost, innocent families torn in a war with no end.

Allah yir7amk ya Mahmood wa yisakink fasee7a jannateh.