All Posts By mahmood

Ethnic Cleansing?

It looks like some neighbourly sorts took umbrage [Arabic] with the display of some murals and traditional black flags in some of Bahrain’s villages [example], took matters in their own hands by removing said flags in Sanad. In Busaiteen, a sleepy village in the Kingdom of Muharraq, they went a step further and torched a couple of houses which had the temerity of displaying their heritage by way of a couple of black flags on their houses.

These acts did not go without a reaction – thankfully – so Sanad villagers took to the street in an authorised protest:

Sanad villagers protesting against the removal of their Ashoora flags. Photo credit: Al-Wasat

While it’s not clear yet who the perpetrators are, it is relatively safe to say that it is people who aren’t happy about “having that sort of thing” in their neighbourhoods. Put bluntly, they don’t like the Shi’a to be in their neighbourhoods. The Shi’a being there from time immemorial is beside the point. Now that they’re living there, hell, it’s their patch! I guess that the thought of living comfortably and peacefully with each other doesn’t cross their mind.

Unfortunately Bahrain is getting to be like this with more incidents which escalate the canton-like existence. People, from both sides of the divide, demonstrate against “foreigners” coming to live in government developed housing estates in the vicinity of their village. The “foreigners” in some cases are none other than indigenous Bahrainis who lived just a few kilometres away. No, only sons of their own village would be welcomed. Parliament seem to have gotten in this particular sectarian dance, with some standing with those villagers, while MPs from the other sect taking up an opposing view.

Integration is key to bringing the Bahrain of old and the only way for us to prosper in the future. We have always lived together regardless of our religious differences and backgrounds and we should be actively encouraged to do so even more, rather than what the current situation has become, little closed villages virtually surrounded by high walls to keep the others out. If “infiltrated” and one dares to show some sort of personal belief differing from those in the area, daggers – or kerosene – come out.

These situations should be brought under control by applying the law and by encouraging community activities. This is probably a good start which leaders within the community themselves should undertake without government interference. Elders within the community can and should bring their communities together to ensure that this sort of strife does not happen again.

However, judging by how seemingly systemic these incidents have become; that is, politicising every event befalling the country or community, the issue could be much larger than that. The general feeling is that people suffer from social injustice, discrimination and marginalisation. Even if these feeling are just perceptions, they must be addressed at the state level and addressed immediately.

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Bloody Durazis!

Homies in Duraz wanted to exercise their inalienable right of self flagellation by way of swords, but others in the same village had a different idea.

Duraz, is a small village to the west of the capital Manama. Its population is in the thousands. It’s minute when compared with others in the world, but huge when you consider Bahrain’s size and constitution. It is said that it was once an ancient capital of Bahrain. More importantly, it’s current claim to fame is the fact that it counts the leading cleric in Bahrain – Shaikh Isa Qassim – as one of its residents.

Anyway, Haidar, as you will see from the picture below:

Photo credit: Mazin Mahdi via Flickr

is the act of slitting one’s head allowing a profuse flow of blood. Gory. Unhealthy. Gross. Unnecessary. But some people believe that it’s a legitimate way to express one’s abject grief for the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson, Imam Hussain bin Ali in Karbala, modern day Iraq in 680AD.

The slit is normally administered (in Bahrain at least) by a medic and the swords are really just for show (normally) where they are used to pound on that slit with their flat sides to keep the flow of blood and prevent it congealing, otherwise it will defeat the purpose. Obviously.

The Duraz-Haidar-Homies got slashed and started their precession within the village, shouting “HAIDAR” as they walked – a blood chilling war cry when you’re close, believe me – much to the chagrin of those who don’t believe in such a thing because their clerics think of the tradition as “haram”. It’s not a thing of health or even consideration for the martyr whose memory they want to preserve; it reads to me at least, as a power play between those who ally themselves with one cleric who condones haidar and other forms of flagellations against those who chose to follow another who doesn’t.

It is my understanding that Shaikh Isa Qassim doesn’t condone haidar and prefers a more sedate forms of expressions of grief. Being the religious supremo in the country as far as some of the Shi’a are concerned, and enjoying the following of the vast majority of Durzis, his opinion counts. Essentially then, this incident was down to religious political power interpretation first and foremost.

So a fight erupted! Hot-heads (some bleeding) started with a shouting match which escalated to hurled rocks, the use of sticks to beat each other with and some cars and other properties got damaged in the way.

Picture credit: Al-Wasat

Why they didn’t use their swords to hack each other with is surprising and confusing! Were they actually just some of those retractable rubber thingies? Or just didn’t work? Too blunt maybe? No idea. In any case, it’s a brave person who actually – basically – calls a bloody sword wielding man a chicken and engages him with sticks and stones! I wonder if anyone filmed the incident. It would be interesting to watch!

A couple of days after the incident, Al-Wasat carries a piece that the Shura Council member Ali Al-Asfoor who (I think) hails from the same village is now offering to compensate anyone who suffered damage due to the fracas! [arabic link]

Excuse me Ali, if you do that, how the hell are they going to take responsibility for their stupidity? Both in performing Haidar and for those involved in the fight and mayhem? Or is this a publicity stunt on your part to drag more people to your side of the fence? Are you (or your family/dynasty/whatever you want to call it) jealous of Qassim’s power in the village and country and you want to get some of it back? What’s the motive behind such a grand gesture then?

Anyway, this Haidar and self flagellation business is not going to go anywhere soon. My betting is that Haidar and the controversy and passions surrounding it will appear again next year, in the same villages, in the same occasions, and it – like a lot of other things taking over our lives in Bahrain – is more about politics and power than anything to do with religion or culture and tradition for that matter.

The good thing; however, is that some opposition to engrained customs and traditions is occurring. Maybe this is a sign of cultural progress. Who knows, maybe the next step could actually be the adoption of dialogue to resolve differences.

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Tweeting wisdoms and dead kings

One of the things I love about Twitter is the occasional “wisdom” one picks up, or a nice idiom or even a pithy and sometimes sarcastic remark that enhances your understanding, or even better puts that niggling question in your mind that makes you search for an appropriate answer.

This morning, intrepid Tweeter funaki who is also a Bahrain-based blogger, tweeted this:

“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”
Denis Diderot

Brilliant quote! Wasn’t there something similar in the Quran or Hadith which says approximately the same thing? In that “whenever a king enters a village, he corrupts it” or something to that effect?

Isn’t it therefore ironic that the majority of Kings and the most ardent clerics remaining in the world, inhabit Muslim lands?

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Blog upgraded, finally

Due to a 6-year-old database (dinosaur by blogging’s standard) which was subjected to hundreds of plugins and optional component installs and uninstalls, plug various other caching and theme components whose developers thought it best to write their preferences in the database and neglected to remove those entries on uninstallation, the site’s database got to be a huge 310MB in size! Being fat, I can tell you, is not a good idea at the best of times.

So, days after the installation, I finally got the time to deal with this properly. For those interested who might be in the same situation, my remedial steps to properly upgrade to WordPress version 2.9 from 2.8 are as follows:


1. I manually went in and removed the no longer needed tables (after backing up the database of course)
2. I manually edited the db version number in the options table (as given above, thanks!) to 12329 to force going beyond the forced upgrade page
3. I went to the admin panel, downloaded, installed and activated the "Clean Options" plugin.
4. I got the plugin to remove all the hash rss entries (over 8 thousand of them!)
5. I got the plugin to evaluate all the remaining entries in the table to determine the most likely unneeded entries and double checked them all. Selected the ones I know to be unneeded and deleted them.
6. The above operation reduced the database size from 310MB down to 58MB!! Serious weight loss ;)
7. I re-edited the options value to put in the old database version of 11548
8. Went to the Admin panel again /wp-admin
9. Clicked the "upgrade database" button, and then within seconds the upgrade was reported successful and I have my blog back!

I’m so glad that the site is up and running again. I am also even happier that the database has finally slimmed down which seems to have affected the response of the site too to the better.

Silver lining? I guess so.

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Bahraini Views – Abdulla Al Mabad – Raising the Bar

Not succumbing to frustration of having to wait for games to be brought to Bahrain and then made available at extortionist rates, Abdulla took matters into his own hands by researching the games market in Bahrain more thoroughly to take established businesses head-on. A challenge he was happy to take.

He successfully gained the representation of the largest games distributor in the region giving him the opportunity to release games on or before their international debut: even at 1 minute past midnight – resulting in queues of gamers waiting in the dark outside his shop to lay their hands on the latest release at the games suggested retail price or even lower, equating to less than half of what they were regularly sold at his competitor’s!

Abdulla talks here about the birth of Game District and his plans for it in the future.

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Aloe Vera Pokers

Aloe Vera Pokers

Aloe Vera Pokers, originally uploaded by malyousif.

I planted many aloe veras by the old frangipani last year, I’m reaping the rewards this year as they all flowered and the scene is gorgeous in that area. The pokers themselves are enough I think. Pretty happy!

I wish you a continued peaceful long weekend and a happy new Hijri year.

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Bahraini Views – Aisha Al-Alem – Living the Moment

Would you stick with a job that you discovered that you did not like? Would you leave the security of that job to the unknown to chase another dream? Would you stand against common wisdom to reach that dream?

That’s what Aisha decided to do; she threw caution to the wind and pursued a career which is not unfamiliar to Bahraini ladies. And now she’s living her moment being happy to have taken that brave decision.

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