Saturday, April 30, 2005

Ditzy by nature

Im so glad this week is over, it had its fair share of downers; speeding ticket, outbids on ebay, blog-haters, pms, college strife, hosting guests, and a family member having a physical accident. In addition my close friend left this morning, and it feels a part of me was on that plane.

Often, when I have alot of things on my mind the ditziness kicks in big time, and my auto-pilot mode can screw up during the conduct of everyday human activity. Today after having enjoyed what I thought was a mug of lemon-flavoured tea (even though I used the usual Earl Grey teabags I have every morning), I later found out that it was in fact, a mug of limescale remover left in the kettle and not water. Im ok so far, no stomach cramps and being hospitalised right now for chemical poisoning might bring a much needed stomach flush. How better to detoxify? Although I noted that 'the tea tastes slightly tangy', I added another spoon of suger and consumed the whole thing.

Previous bouts of ditziness included booking an airplane ticket under the wrong name, forgetting valuable rings in a pubilc toilets on a few occasion, ransacking an entire building in search of a master key which was in my handbag all along, getting locked out of a car with the engine running, breaking 3 laptops by spilling various refreshment drinks on them, crashing into the neighbours parked car, always breaking a cup or a plate when I attempt to wash dishes. These are just some of the incidents I remember, my mind has a tendency to block the really embarrassing situations i've put myself in. Oh yeah, this one I never heard the end of, as I was turning off Mothercare in Mahooz this guy hit me from behind, he said it was his friends car and I was in a rush and didn't have time to call the muroor, so I gave him some money and got on my way. My family went can u get hit from behind AND pay the guy to fix his car!! I'm still scratching my head over that one myself. ... wait .. there's another one.. how could i forget this one ... my parents packed us off one summer to Dubai to visit relatives. Getting off the plane and making our way towards passport control, I realise my passport is missing. I get on one of those buggies in a frantic panic and rush back to the plane as that is the only place the passport could be. Bugger, once passengers leave the plane regulations state they arn't allowed back on. After much pleading they allow me on, I tell ya it was a sight to behold; stewerdesses, stewerds and pilots were on their hands and knees in search of the passport, even the pilot came to help out finding the whole affair quite funny. Luckily someone finally found it stuck down the side of a chair. Phew... ditzy episode over....i'll leave the story of the lost bag in Damascus airport another time...what the heck i'm on a roll...I had to get on the luggage conveyor belt, out on the tarmac, where the Syria's efficient system of baggage handling means there piles upon piles of bags which I had to sift through. No luck, bag not found and had to survive off other people's clothes for two weeks.

I feel really sorry for my parents though, they've had to endure their accident prone daughter and would be first to tell everyone "bitna imfahya", "inteen filim" (you're like a film). At school, I was known to be dopey and always the first to get holes in her new tights, and paint stains on the white shirt. Now, i've slightly improved although incidents like todays, and the fact that I drop my mobile at least twice a day and hope that it lives to see the next day, make me wonder why i'm still so ditzy way into adulthood. It has its advantages for sure, you can get away with a lot more cos people just expect u to cock up somewhere. Now when I cock up, I laugh or cry depending on how much its gonna cost. Of the downers this week, I laughed off all of them except the last two (which were no fault of my own!).

Friday, April 29, 2005

Jahanam or Jail...

Warning: "D" word repeated MANY times...long...but needs to be said and understood...i'm probably not saying anything new but what the heck...its my rubyatain... or think of it this way, read it as the last words of a dying blog...

An article in this week's Economist called Should the West always be worried if Islamists win elections? hit the nail on the head. The argument that is propogated by most Arab governments, Bahrain being no exception, is that we don't deserve democracy because democracy will bring islamists to power, islamists are backward, and should have no place in the modern world. In fact they are enemies of democracy, and they would use the democratic channel to create an islamic state. Islamic states are anti-western, they breed extremism blah blah...increasingly trying to picture islamism as the anti-thesis to democratization. Hence, we should all be grateful for pro-western corrupt autocratic states, because of course, no one wants religious police and segregation. Citing Algeria 1990 only too often. In my opinion this argument is seriously flawed. Extremism itself is a product of oppressive regimes who are make this case against democracy. The Economist concurs and asks, are islamists such a threat?

Indeed, the wave of islamism over the last two decades, has clearly influenced the outcomes of the limited elections that have occurred in the Arab world (examples cited in the article from Morocco to Iraq), even in Bahrain, the likes of Alsaeedi and co. gained parliamentary seats. The autocratic state then argues that its either us or the islamists, portraying the notion as a choice between Jahanam or Jail (as Akbar Ahmed puts it); the choice between the wrath of the mullah or the prison of the dictator, has led to certain disillusionment amongst the youth, and u get endless diatribes like this and this, questioning whether we deserve democracy at all. The Economist argues, that some islamist movements are actually quite progressive and understand the modern day needs of people whilst trying to preserve their islamic values.

One of the basic tenets that should be encompassed in a democratic system is that of pluralism and tolerance meaning that distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present and tolerated within a society- be them the BNP or Monster Raving Loony Party (extreme parties in the UK). I personally do not fear the emergance of islamist groups/societies/parties/candidates. They have the right to stand and to participate in a democratic system like anyone else. Their influence and power will depend on the collective ignorance or awareness that exists in society, which will eventually come to understand and to judge those who represent their interests and vote on that basis. The emergence of islamists as a strong social force isnt an argument for ruling out democracy at the outset.

Abdulkarim Saroush, also contends that even the enemies of democracy should have a place in a democracy in the pluralistic sense. It is necessary to read the debate on political islam raging between Iranian thinkers especially, such as Hussain Nasr in the US, and Suroush in Iran, based on the their living Iranian experiment reconciling democracy with the religious establishment. This debate can get highly philosophical going back to Ibn Rumi and Hafez who may view pluralism as positive (differences occur as a result of the richness of truth ) or a negative (differences occur because of ignorence). The question can then be put forth, is democracy a function or a value. In the Arab context, I think democracy is a function. As a function, we can adapt it to suit our specific political situation and sensitivies. Although I have diverged somewhat, this leads me onto another issue.

In the midst of the debate about democratization, an invaluable point often missed by everyone in general, and the state in particular, is the emphasis on the role of civic society in underpinning democracy. Democracy, as proposed by the West, has only too often appeared to be the magic pill that is supposed to solve our predicament. Unfortunately, this pill isn't blue and doesn't have instant effect. People need to understand what civic participation is and their role in society, how to organise themselves in action groups, institutions, lobbying etc. However, I still go along with the thesis that disproportionate growth in the state's strength vis-a-vis the society leaves the latter still at the former's mercy. The major obstacles to inaugurating democracy are the presence of strong states and weak societies, where not only are there no effective groups and associations to limit the state's power but also the majority of people remain poor and uneducated. The first thing as a state, if you are true in democratising is you need to allow social dynamics to work freely with no impediments in order to build a strong civial society NOT threatening to close societies down, or needing permission for gatherings of more than 5 people. Generally however, Bahrain despite state interference, has a long tradition of civic society, as witnessed by the proliferation of societies since people were given room to breath in 2001 even if they largely relfect social divisions or what Khalaf (2003) describes as the policy of vertical segmentation. Generally the civil liberties movement over the last century has not ceased and was a peaceful one even if it was quashed over and over again by the state and coloniolists (see last post)

Homer proposed the concept of "cohabitation", which from what I understood assumes a half-half equation of power between the nation (x) and the state (y) in which their will be a perpetual crisis due to the inherent conflict of interest (an agency problem). Hence, even if there is total support for this imposed bicameral parliamentary system in place, this conflict will simply move to the four walls of the parliament building and al9afria palace. Clearly, this system or parliament will not resolve the political conflict in this case. Its not hard to see that this equation needs to assign different coefficient ratios to the two parameters (math's speak). The solution to the problem is not x=y (cohabitation), but either x greater than y (democracy) or x less than y (autocracy).

Democracy is not just a ballot box and a few puppet MPs, as Imran Khan kindly pointed out in a recent BBC interview mentioning Bahrain. The winds of change are blowing strongly, and will soon blow the putrid stench of corruption and despotism away from the desert lands of Arabia... we need a steadfast civic society ready to takeover when it does. Civic participation starts with you and me, you don't like a society out there, then go start you're own.

I don't have a degree in political science, but that is my take as inspired by today's Economist and if you've managed to read this far then well done.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


In the last post I talked about the recursive historic pattern of uprisings decade upon decade over the last century, manifested as mass street protests. I now contend that within each cycle of uprising there first comes a period of expansion of freedom (allowing civic participation eg in the 50s, 70s and 2002), and before people get too used to it, a sudden or gradual contraction of this freedom (arrests of activists, dismantlement of civic institutions eg sudden dissolution of parliament in 73 etc) which then leads to an uprising (protests, resistence, opposition etc) which then leads to human rights abuses etc. When the situation reaches this state of deadlock, after a period we may see the government under intense, domestic and international pressure, allow a degree of public freedom, hence going back to the beginning. This cycle has happened over and over again.

If this cyclical theory is true, then I would say that right now we are most definitely in the 'contraction' part of the cycle. Unfortunaly, my fellow bloggers seem to jump the gun a bit too quick and failed to read the rest of today's newspaper (alwasat) beyond the article regarding the orders for every webmaster to register their site inside or outside of bahrain (I agree this sucks). In today's issue also, 'terrorists' laws are about to be introduced that carry the death penalty and include criticism of the constitution, and another law that bans the disclosure of names of defendents to local or international media prior tothe final court verdict (eg Free Ali campaign is totally illegal). So if it's not going to be failing to register your site with the MoI, then the content of the site may easily be judged as breaching 'terrorist' laws AND if you get arrested (if not executed), then you're family or any human rights organisation cannot reveal ur identity or campaign on ur behalf!! WOW i think we've just hit a triple whammy!!

I also further argue that this decade, although sharing the cyclical charecteristics of previous times, is facing a unique predicament in that what is essentially happening right now, is that autocracy is being ENSHRINED in law before our very eyes; through the constitution, royal decrees, press laws, law 56 etc, that have outwardly stated that one man rules this country. This is a precedent. Whereas before, the situation may have been more chaotic and ad-hoc, NOW I feel it is concerted and is clever enough to emerge behind different facades like a lizard changing his skin and cunningly gaining a degree of legitimacy under the banner of 'democracy'. This is much more dangerous as such laws will be very difficult to reverse and could easily drag the political crisis on for many years to come in the absence of the true will to reform this country.

That's my simple opinion, don't give in, our forefathers never did.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Notice a pattern?

One of the first lessons in forming an opinion is building it on good understanding and awareness using a zoom-in zoom-out approach- focus in on the small details, and focus out on the big picture. You can apply this to any aspect of your life, personal, social, or political issues.

You may have noticed that I have avoided politics as much as I could recently despite events unfolding, and news emerging on a delay basis. I consider the everyday goings on as the odious details of a much bigger situation and there is no point getting bogged down in it or at least blowing it out of proportion. If you concern yourself with these details, you lose perspective, you lose hope, unnecessarily burden your mind and hence probably die-young (especially if you happen to be working on a news desk in a local paper!).

Let us zoom-out, build an overview of both the global and the historic context of our domestic issues. You'll be surprised at how everything falls into place. So much so, that certain events are pretty much predictable. Knowing this will then balance the way you deal with everyday shenanigans such as imbecilic laws and clampdowns, tit-for-tat politcs etc etc this then prevents u getting caught up emotionally in the hullabulloo of it all and then endlessly ranting about it, although naturally at times, emotions will takeover.

Now lets apply this exercise, by Zooming-out and assessing the present political quagmire in a chronological historic context. See if you can spot a pattern, events that seem recursive, in the simple time-line I now present:

In 1938, a group of leading personalities representing the main trends and sections of society in Bahrain, led a movement calling for the establishment of a parliament reforming of the newly established police force and other related demands. The leaders of that movement, amongst them Mr. Sa'ad Al-Shamlan, were forcibly deported to India (then under the British Crown).



A more powerful and broadly-based pro-democracy movement appeared between 1954 and 1956. A network of 120 dignitaries elected eight representatives to form the "High Executive Committee" representing all sections of the society. The movement demanded an elected parliament, a unified written law, formation of an appeal court and the freedom to form trade unions. Both the ruler of Bahrain, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa and Sir Charles Belegrave refused to respond to the call for political reforms.

In December 1956, a "state of emergency" was declared and the British army was deployed, leading to the shooting and killing of several people by security forces during street clashes. Later, the three senior leaders of the movement, Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Bakir, Abdul Aziz Al-Shamlan (son of Sa'ad Al-Shamlan who was deported to Indian in 1938) and Mr. Abd Ali Al-Ulaiwat were all forcibly exiled to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean. A battle was fought in the British House of Commons as to the legality of British involvement in that forcible deportation. The three were then released in 1961 and given compensation by the British Government, while the other leaders remained in detention for the rest of the Sixties.


Courtesy of Reflections from Canadamasa
In 1965 an uprising erupted calling for freedom of speech, the right to form trade unions and other demands of social justice. Again the British army was deployed to restore the situation and several people were shot dead by police during mass demonstrations. Those who were killed include: Abdulnabi Mohammed Sarhan, Abdulla Saeed Sarhan, Abdulla Hassan Bu-Naffor, Abdulla Saeed Al-Ghanem and Faidsal Abbas Al-Qassab. No independent enquiry ever took place. However, in 1966, the Special Branch was restructured and another Briton, Mr. Ian Henderson, was called in to head the security apparatus.

Black era- Amir dissolves parliament and the 1973 constitution, promulgates State Security Law. The country enters the worst period in Bahrain's history, thousands arrested, tens killed, thousands deported. A pro-democracy movement started to develop with the main call for the reinstatement of parliament and restoration of the suspended articles of the constitution. The government began a process aimed at concentrating the powers in the hand of few persons from the ruling family and for this to be achieved the interior ministry was given free hand for persecuting the opposition.

The 1980s witnessed an escalation of repression and sectarianism.


September 25, 1995- outside Sh. Aljamri's house

1994 the biggest uprising Uprising, demonstrations, petitions

The millenium

2005 Sitra protests calling for constitutional reform

The Parliamentary Human Rights Group Report on Bahrain 1996 by Robert Wilkinson

The point of the post was to make you realise that this is a cycle that is apparant on an eerily consistent basis, decade by decade over the last century. When will the people and the ruling family settle on a mutually satisfactory relationship? Or is THIS the equilibrium steady-state that has been so entrenched in the collective psyche that no only are we part of this cycle, we even self-fulfil it?

We must be the only country in which taking to the streets has had no direct domestic influence on authorites only when it gains international media attention. However, with all possible forms of clampdown, threats, arrests, tear gas, rubber bullets, generation after generation continue this protesting tradition. Hell, I can't even remember the first protest I ever went to, riding high on my father's shoulders.

With this approach you see, that even if the flavour of the decade changes (nationalism, communism, islamism) the contentions between the nation and the state have prevailed throughout time. Is it social, economic, religious, driving this contention? I answer you very simply that it is a combination of all factors that prevent you living with DIGNITY on you're own land.

PS anymore photos are most welcome...I'd really like to see ones from the seventies especially - when the Afros and bell-bottoms hit the streets of manama :)

Friday, April 22, 2005

Meet Shahad...

What a cute little rosy-cheeked 3-year old. I could just imagine playing with her although she does look like she’s in a bit of a sulk… now read her profile here:

Shahad, is my sponsered orphan, and I knew about her in a little pack I received this morning.

I was at a conference a few of weeks back featuring Nizam Yacubi, the Bahraini scholarly King of islamic banking, and an organisation called MuslimHands had set up a stall and u know what its like; you walk past it thinking oh its just another charity, just another collections box, wrist bands, ribbons..there is no escaping. This time though, I thought no, let me face up to my responsibility for once. Once I got chatting to the guy, he reminded me of a salesman attempting to flog off a catalogue of goods. This wasn't really the situation, but the sponsership schemes and projects that you can choose to send you're money to, leaves u with hard decisions to make. Do you go for the orphans, teachers, elderly, disabled, or student sponsership schemes?

"I think i'll go for orphans" I replied.

The guy then asked me, "what country would you like your orphan to come from?". What a question I thought to myself, but in a hurry after offering me a list, I chose "Palestine", this seemed the natural answer at the time. What makes an orphan in Palestine more worthy than an orphan in Iraq, Kashmir or even Senegal? Anyway, he then asked me for any other preferences regarding age or sex etc. In all honesty, I wasn’t really concerned with the details, I told him I prefer you just take the money and give it to whomever you deem most in need of it. I didn’t want to begin envisioning or putting a face to these people or they're dire circumstance. There are endless worthy causes and countless needy people, Im not in a position to start evaluating and judging, whether the tsunami victims need the money more than Ethiopians.

That attitude simply changed when I subsequently received the pack from MuslimHands containing all the information and background about Shahad, including a Polaroid photo and her correspondence address! The small monthly amount that I send her covers her school fees, clothing & footwear (inc. school uniform), books & stationary and travel costs, and at the price of what? At the price of a 3 course meal at an average restaurant that I would usually have, or 3 trips to the cinema (I've almost quit both by the way).

Well since it is the Birthday of our beloved Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) I think this is as good a time as any to send her some sort of gift. Shahad, your pressie is in the post darling!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

All hail...

Tis the day Bahrania had chosen to change her handbag. On this auspicious occasion, all divine blessings shall reign down on mankind.

It is said that on this day, when Bahrania awoke at 7.36am, opening her eyes to a ball of white light, it was as if an angel was sent from heaven above to inform her that she must sacrifice her black leather saddle bag on the same day otherwise she would face the wrath of fashion connoisseurs worldwide. The time had come, the message had been received. With a new season, comes a new bag. The ultimate test of material obedience. The bag, beleagered from months upon months of heavy use across continents and seas, had to GO.

Friends, family and common folk gathered as Bahrania carefully removed the abundant items from her old bag. Thereupon she discovered deep at the bottom beneath the lining numerous items that have been missing for some time. Alas, she had at last discovered the explanation surrounding the mysterious increase in weight of this item holder. The bag had been swallowing up various valuable items that treasure-seekers, gold-diggers and explorers have been searching for. The bag had devised an intricate plan; smuggling the items through a tiny hole in the bottom corner and concealing them under the unbecoming lining, undetectable with the naked eye. She recovered 2 flash memory sticks, pens, lipsticks, coins, business cards, and the most valuable item of all, 2 sets of house keys. This cursed bag had caused the misery not just of Bahrania, but all those who were falsly accused of misplacing and even thieving these objects.

For never was a handbag so bestricken. You were her companion, at her side wherever she went, the protector of her belongings, the guardian of her possessions, her credit cards, her IDs, her makeup, her life! For never will freedom-loving women trust a handbag again after this day.

Another version of the story relates the curse back to the original time and place the bag was purchased. The immigrant seller who had pestered Bahrania, that late Autumn night as she wandered the cobbled streets of the Brera district in Milan, some say, may have used African Black magic to pass the curse onto the buyer. Fearing for her safety, she had unknowingly purchased the bag for a few euros if only to lose the trail of the seller, even though the unique design and elegant style had caught her attention in the first instance.

The ultimate fate of the handbag remains unknown. Some say, the bag lies in an unknown location somewhere near Bahrania's place of birth, others say Bahrania in that moment of rage had given it away to charity. We shall never know.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

What would Jesus do? Part II

I've been sitting on this for a few days now, and i'm not to sure what Jesus would do on this one.

Imagine this scenario, you accidently come across a piece of information that could 'potentially topple' a high-ranking public official - destiny has led you to discover a deep dark secret. In a democratic context this could lead to something of Watergate proportions; the resignation of a discredited humiliated MP/minister/officer, a public enquiry, and even changes in the law. What do you do?

(1) do you leak this information to the press, hope that (alsul6a alrab3a- the fourth authority) makes such a media frenzy that the government, MPs and opposing political factions have no choice but to pressurise this person to leave office for everyone's sake.

(2) do you approach the official concerned, blackmail him for the greater good of society and hope he changes his corrupt ways by forcing him to use his powers in office to make real change, in return for you're silence.

(3)do u just pretend you know nothing and turn a blind eye. In our culture, such a scandal would seem disrespectful to an older person, you fear future repurcussions against you.

(4) do you hide you're tracks, pass the information onto someone else who would then have to make decision (1)-(3) and may decide to use it to further their own political agenda?

Just in case you're wondering whether this is a true situation, well, yes and no. No, I don't think in the Middle-East context this would be a scandal, in fact, a major-coverup situation would probably ensue, and as the source of information, you'd probably be hassled for the rest of your life for revealing the truth and exposing a fallacy. Yet would u wish to see the public downfall and humiliation of someone you know, and bear the responsibility of exposing them? What is worse, living with a secret or with the burden of exposing it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Old Bahrain Photos on Flickr

Got these by email and felt obliged to upload and share them with you. Click here for a slideshow to see all of the fotos. If anyone has an idea about the dates and places of the fotos then please do share. Maybe there a few dinosaurs out there who might even recognise some faces too!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Rome and Mecca

ٍٍSome sad bugger thought it would be funny to sign me up to Father Frank's weekly sermon mail-list. I don't have a clue who this Father Frank is. After a while of reading a few of these sermons, I realised that FF is a pretty cool guy. His latest sermon about "Rome and Mecca" draws a comparison between the millions of pilgrims descending on the Vatican and on Hajj - St. Peter's square being like the Ka'aba:

Rome and Mecca

“I am afraid: it puts me in mind of Mecca…I’d never thought people in Rome would resemble Muslims.” What an interesting remark. Quoted in the Italian left-wing weekly L’Espresso. By an unnamed Milan woman terrified by the amazing masses devoutly mourning the Pope’s death. What she imagines Muslims to be like, I wonder. Prayerful? Disciplined? Fervent? Hope so. How surprising, though, the fearful lady should have presumed those were not Christian qualities, as well…

Come on, Fr Frank. Perfectly obvious what she meant. You were in Rome yourself last week and witnessed it all. A bit like the Haj. Four million pilgrims descending on the Holy City. Italians and foreigners alike. Of all ages. An invasion at once peaceful and well-behaved. A flood of pious humanity thronging stations, roads, bridges, squares, the Metro, everywhere. Like around the Ka’aba, St Peter’s Square and surrounding streets filled solid with people. All of them willing to queue obediently, to stand in serried ranks for as long as twelve hours to pay their last homage to John Paul II. Modern, hedonistic, fat and secular Rome transformed into the irrational Holy City of the Middle Ages. Plenty to worry the non-religious, no?

Man, it certainly was memorable. Staying in the Domus Romana clergy house less than 800 yards from St Peter’s, I was right in the eye of the cyclone, so to speak. Probably half a million people processed under my second floor window every night on the way to see John Paul’s body. (White nights, yep, don’t laugh.) Most of them young. No fanatics. Actually, I managed to chat to a few people.

Dogmatic secularists determined to damn all forms of religious piety would call the Quakers fanatical. Maria Letizia, the doctor, certainly was no bigot. She combined admiration for the Holy Father’s personality and dissent from his strict moral teaching. Which brings me to an important point. It is too soon to draw a balance of this pontificate. Media hype is sensational and superficial. To call John Paul II ‘the greatest Pope in history’ is hyperbole, not sober judgment. Realistically, there are shadows, as well as lights. John Paul, giant as he was, did not manage (how could he?) to roll back the devastating ‘wild free-marketism’ and consumerism which, spreading like a plague from the West, are fast enveloping large parts of God’s globe. It is not spirituality which has possessed Holy Russia after communism’s collapse but another, pervasive, lethal form of materialism. Moreover, relations with the Orthodox Church are at a low ebb. Moscow’s Patriarch Alexei snubbed the funeral, sent a stooge instead. Paradoxically and, to some, painfully, John Paul’s prestige seems higher amongst Muslims than amongst many Eastern Christians…

Oh, yes. The Mecca connection. But is it real?

It depends. John Paul’s personal, indomitable opposition to Western assaults on Muslim lands such as Afghanistan and Iraq must not have passed unnoticed. And he is the first Pope in history to have kissed the Qur’an. Good Muslims also appreciate his strong, traditional Catholic stance on sexuality. Perhaps because our two religions share similar problems. Many of the same nice young people in Rome who grieved for the death of their beloved Father in God are unlikely, I suspect, to abide by Catholic morality on pre-marital sex. Likewise, an Iranian diplomat confided in me what is happening to his country’s youth in cities like Teheran. A fluent Italian speaker, he admitted, candidly: “Oggi le nostre belle citta’ sono diventate case di puttana” It made sense. Rome and Mecca may have a common battle to fight, it seems.

Fr Frank, so, what was the secret of the Pope’s popularity?

Oh, it’s simple. I figure it must boil down to his having been a good man. And his final, personal calvary. The way he bore his painful, humiliating last illness. All religions, Christianity especially, (the Cross!), offer hope, release from pain, from the horrors of illness, disease, decay and death. John Paul made himself into a living icon of how a frail, sick old man can bear, and so overcome, all that, openly, publicly, without fear of shame. He made an offering of his own person. A thing of enormous significance for us all.

Father Frank

Hey Father Frank, tell me which parish you preach in, I'd really like to attend you're Sunday service. I've made pilgrimage to both Mecca and St. Peter's square, the former for my God, and the latter to pay homage to historic Italian art.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


I dedicate this post to a good friend of mine called Michael, he is Greek, a right-wing social introvert and a living breathing genius at that, and one of the few acquaintances who bothers to read this blog. The funny thing about Michael is that he doesn't like talking face-to-face, most of the time he tells me to not disturb him with my idle chatter. Yet I insist on pestering him and now he stopped coming into uni cos of me. He often grimaces in despair at some remarks I make and shakes his head in embarrassment. But on MSN messenger, he is more than chatty! I had this MSN chat with him this morning (totally uncut!):

Michael says:

hey Freedom blogger, what's up?

Bahrania says:

nothing much

Michael says:

i'll tell you what

Michael says:

i'm afraid you are getting westernized

Michael says:

now you like Handel?

Bahrania says:


Michael says:

AND you read Dostoevsky

Michael says:

I think you're converting

Bahrania says:

converting to westernarity?

Michael says:


Bahrania says:

thats good isnt it... easternarity is mean to be backward and barbarian?

Michael says:

according to Shariah TV there is conflict between the west and islam

Bahrania says:

how can u have a conflict between a geographic entity and a religion

Bahrania says:

what is the 'west'?

Michael says:

well, broadly speaking European/north American styles of governments, capitalism, enlightment, renaissance, European values (and some will say the Christian faith)

Bahrania says:

hmmm what about the western value of eating fish with a fork?

Bahrania says:

that is civilized right?

Michael says:

look, personally, I don't think the west is more civilized, or that the rest of the world is more 'barbarian"

Bahrania says:

in the east we eat rice with a spoon?

Bahrania says:

i really think there is a clash here!!

Anyway the conversation degenerated incoherently from here on, i'll spare you the details.

MICHAEL U R A LEGEND. I will buy you an Egg Mayonnaise sandwich if you leave a comment on my blog!!

Saturday, April 09, 2005


سقطت حروفك من فمي

و أنا الذي


لم ادري كيف تبعثرت

و دمي تعهد


هل شوقها للانطلاق و للحياة

أم عشقها للانطلاق من القيود

و كسرت القيود

و سافرت

و ما استطعت منعها

و رأيتها

مزدانةً ..... ريانةً

في كل يوم

في الشروق

و في الغروب

لتخبر الاكوان

إنها أنطلقت


و ما طلقتها

و بأنها


و أنا الذي


و أنا الذي أهديتها


على و جناتها


و ياءٌ

ثم نون حروفها

سقطت مني

فكونت ....

..... إسمها

We have our own
Bahraini poet blogging now online... (in arabic), romanitic and political yet extremely passionate.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I am suffering from an identity crisis which lies in my fear of adulthood; broken hopes of a utopian society; dashed dreams of an arabian prince charming; unattainable ambitious career plans; spiritual disengagement in the face of this adversity; the vulgar reality of humankind; the never-ending quest for happiness; ageing and mortality...

the first thought when i wake up every i thankful for another day of life or sorry for the delay in meeting my maker... one day I will not wake up though...i'm only too conscious of this... death is nothing to fear

this isnt a suicide death wish just in case you're wondering and i'm not depressed either...i just don't like being so aware... awareness eventually consumes you as it leads to the perception that you are no more than an ant with an intellect...a hiccup could kill you and there is 100% probability that you will be a smelly corpse in less than 100 years time...ta3addadat al-asbab wal mowt wa7idu. So to know the meaning of life, you have to know the meaning of death...

is this normal, or just the what they call the twenties-crisis?!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Freedom Blog Awards

Moi is honored to have her blog nominated (among 60 others including fellow Bahraini blogger Chan'ad) for RSF's Freedom blog awards for defending freedom of expression. I won't deny that it is flattering to get acknowledged by such an NGO even though my modest efforts pale in comparison to the tremendous role they played in campaigning for the release of the Bahrainonline trio last month. Alongside are other general household bloggers that form the Middle East blogerati, such as Baghdad Burning and Digressing.

To vote click on the icon below:

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The dilating Bahraini Archipelago

A useful clear map of Bahrain, click to enlarge:

Map of Bahrain today

Courtesy of

Future map of Bahrain with all proposed plans of dredging and land reclamation:

Are there no international regulations regarding dreding? What are the environmental effects of this? Can man play with nature like this? My friend was telling me that there is a high chance all this reclaimed land can sink in the sea in the future? What if the sea level rises?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Baba Yohanna Bolis II

My condolences to all Catholics at the loss of a great man who has only been a force of good over the last 26 years. Im not a Christian, but he is my own symbol and role model for how spirituality and faith can be a strong anchor in a turbulant and dangerous world. Promoting Christian values in dangerous political situations like Palestine, Soviet Union and Ireland helped put many things in perspective. What moved me the most was the way he kissed the guy who tried to assassinate him, the ultimate gesture of mercy and forgiveness.

I can only repeat the poignant prayer he made on his historic visit to Palestine:
"Today and always the Palestinian people are in my prayers to the One who holds the destiny of the world in his hands. May the Most High God enlighten, sustain and guide in the path of peace the whole Palestinian people."
and his prayer for Christian/Muslim dialogue:

"May the hearts of Christians and Muslims turn to one another with feelings of brotherhood and friendship, so that the Almighty may bless us with the peace which heaven alone can give. To the One, Merciful God be praise and glory for ever. Amen. "

The spirit of enlightened people always transcends life and transcends death.

May he rest in peace

صوت صفير البلبل

The other day, I heard a Saudi student recite a poem that made all of us in the audience laugh hysterically. Quite frankly at the time we didn't understand a word but were tickled by how he had managed to memorise this tongue-twisting poem in the first place. I've tried reading it myself a few times and have failed miserably. I really hope all arabs will try reading this at a decent speed.

The really fascinating thing about classical arabic poetry is that it often comes with an imaginative mythical or romantic story that is equally as interesting as the peom itself. I give two examples below by a poet called Alasma'i (الاصمعي) . The first one is slightly dubious and some say is wrongly attributed to this poet. But the story goes like this; the Abbasid caliph, Abu Ja'afar Almansur makes a deal with each poet who visits his court, "I will give you your due on the condition that i have not heard the poem before". Poets come from near or far to recite very long poems over one, two or three nights, which if the Caliph asserts he has not heard before gives them the poems weight in gold. He uses a trick, when the poet recites his poem once, the Caliph memorises it and repeats the poem saying he heard it a long time ago. He then brings forth his pageboy who after hearing it twice has also memorised it and recites it and claims he also heard it a long time ago. Then the Caliph calls on the maid, who by then has heard it three times (by the poet, the Caliph and the pageboy) and then recites herself. This way the poet then starts suspecting himself and the poem he supposedly wrote. He gets no money, and is sent away.

The Caliph does the same to all the poets who visit him, and earns a notorious reputation for this. Upon hearing this, a famous poet called Alasma'i takes the challenge of the Caliph upon him and composes a linguistically complicated poem designed to trip up the Caliph. He goes to the Caliph's court one day in disguise, to which the Caliph asks him "do u know the rules" and Alasma3i replies "yes", reciting the following verses:

صوت صفير البلبل
صـــوت صـفـيـر الـبـلـبـل * * هــيــج قـلـبـي الـثـمـل
المـاء والـزهـر مــعــــا * * مــع زهـــر لـخـط المـقـل
وأنت يـا ســـيــد لـــي * * وســيــدي و مـــــولـلــي
فــكــم فــكــم تـيـمـني * * غــزيــــــــــــل عــقــيــقــــــــل
قــطــفــتـه مــن وجـنــة * * مـــن لــثــم ورد الخـجـل
فـــــقــــــــال لا لا لا لا * * و قــد غـــدا مــهــرول
والــخـــود مــالـت طــربا * * مــن فـــعـــل هذا الرجل
فــولــولــت و ولـــولــت * * ولــي ولــي يـــا ويـــــــلـلـي
فـــقــالـت لا تــولــولـي * * وبــيــنــي الـلـــــــــؤلــــــــؤلــي
قــــالــت لـه حـيـن كــذا * * أنــهــض وجــــــد بـالمـقـل
وفــتــيــة ســقــــــــونــنـي * * قــهــيـــــــــــوة كــالـعــسـلـلي
شــمــمـتــهــا بـأنــفـــــــي * * أزكـــــــى مــــــن الــقــرنــفــل
فـي وسـط بـسـتــان حـلـي * * بـالــزهــر والــســـرور لـي
والــعــود دنــدنــدن لي * * والــطــبــل طـبـطـب طـبـلي
طـــبــطــب طــبــطـــــــــب * * طــبــطــب طــبــــــــــطـب لـــي
والــرقــص قــد طــاب لـي * * والـسـقـف ســقــسـق سـق لـي
شـــوا شــــوا وشــاهــش * * عـلـى ورق ســــفـــرجــــل
وغــرد الــقــمــري يـصيح * * مـــلـــل فـــي مــلــلـــــــــــي
ولــو تــرانــي راكــبــــــــــــا * * عـلـى حــمــــــــــار أهـــــزل
يــمــشــي عـلـى ثـلاثـــــــة * * كــمــشــيـــــــة الــعــرنــجــل
والـنـاس تـرجـم جـمــلي * * فــي الــســوق بالــقـلـقـلـلـي
والـكـل كــعـكــــــع كـعـكـع * * خـلـفـي ومـن حــــويـلـلـي
لـكـن مــشــيــت هــاربـــا * * مـن خــشــيــــة الــعــقـنـقـل
إلـــــى لــقــــــــــــــاء مـلـك * * مــعــظـــــــــم مـــبــجـــــــــــــــل
يـأمــــــــــــر لـي بِـخِـلـعَــةٍ * * حـــمــراء كــالـدم دم لــــي
أجـــــــــر فــيــهـا مـاشـيا * * مــبــغــــــــددا لـلــــذيــــــــــــل
أنـــا الأديــب الألـمــعـي * * مــــن حــــي أرض الـمــوصـل
نــظــمــت قــطــعـا زخـرفـت * * يــعــجــز عــنــهــا الأدبـل
أقــول فـي مـــطــلــعــهـا * * صــــوت صــفــيــر الــبـلبل

The Caliph couldn't memorise it the first time round, he called his pageboy who also couldn't memorise it fully, likewise the maid. So the Caliph in defeat asked the poet to bring what he had written the poem on so that he can give him its weight in gold. The poet told the Caliph that he had inherited a marble column from his father on which he engraved the poem. The column is on the back of the camel and needs four soldiars to lift. The Caliph was horrified and emptied his coffer and all that was in it to give to the poet. As he was leaving, the poet revealed his identity as the infamous Alasma3i, the Caliph understood the point he was trying to make and they made a deal that the in return of the Gold, the Caliph would give poets what they deserve from then on.

Second story attributed to Alasma3i is about a stone he came across in the desert with a line of poetry written by a heartbroken which a few exchanges were made in the following days. On the final day, Alasma'i found the grief-striken man dead near the stone with the final line of exchange. Aaaah sad. How romantic and creative they were back then!!

حكى الاصمعي قال: بينما كنت اسير في بادية الحجاز اذا مررت بحجر قد كتب عليه هذا البيت !
أيا معشر العشاق بالله خبروا *** اذا حل عشق بالفتي كيف يصنع ؟

فكتب الاصمعي تحت ذلك البيت:
يداري هواه ثم يكتم سره *** وخشع في كل الامور ويخضع

ثم عاد في اليوم الثالي الى المكان نفسه فوجد تحت البيت الذي كتبه هذا البيت !
وكيف يداري والهوي قاتل الفتى *** وفي كل يوم قلبه يتقطع؟

فكتب الاصمعي تحت ذلك البيت:
إذا لم يجد صبرا لكتمان سره *** فليس له شيء سوى الموت ينفع

قال الاصمعي:
فعدت في اليوم الثالث الى الصخرة فوجدت شابا ملقى تحت ذلك الحجر وقد فارق الحياة وقد كتب في رقعة من الجلد!

سمعنا اطعنا ثم متنا فبلغوا *** سلامي الى من كان للوصل يمنع
هنيئا لارباب النعيم نعيمه *** وللعاشق المسكين ما يتجرع

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Not the promised land thankfully

I bet no one knew that Bahrain was nominated as a potential Jewish homeland before Palestine was even suggested in the Balfour Treaty of 1917. No this is no April Fool's joke. This revelation comes in a book called "Bahrain and the Palestinian Issue 1917-1948" by Bahraini author Khalid Bassam.

Had history taken a different course, Bahrainis would not exist as a people under occupation, or displaced across the Arabian peninsula and Iran. It could have just as easily been us now bombing ourselves into oblivion *cringe*.

Funny this news comes on the same day that Bahrainis celebrate Black Saturday when Bani Jamra came under seige and people were shot dead. This may sound extreme, but for a long time people have made a comparison between the Israeli government and Alkhalifa on policies of discrimination (apartheid), demographic change and the use of live ammunition against unarmed protestors.