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Barack is a TERRORIST!

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Barack is a TERRORIST!

Barack is a TERRORIST!, originally uploaded by malyousif.

We happened across this woman protesting in front of a Starbucks cafe yesterday morning. Her message is interesting; she contends that:

“Barack Hussein promised “change.”

What type of change?

Black Supremacy.

This is worse than September 11, 2001. Black Panther Islam unite to destroy whites & those who side with whites!

Obama is a TERRORIST.”

I don’t agree with her views, but having the opportunity for a lone protestor not to have to get an approval from a government agency which must be presented with five signatories who reside in the area she wishes to protest and having to do so at least 72 hours before the event and is contingent on many other factors is very refreshing.

Nothing charged me up, ever, like being on this trip to Washington, DC and New York (particularly). I am convinced that the more of us Arabs visit this great country and others like it who espouse the values of democracy, the faster we too will adopt them.

It is very hard to explain democracy to people who never experienced it. They will never appreciate it and will almost always revert back to rhetoric that “our way is better”.

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“The Protection of Traditional Values”

I cringe whenever I hear or read those words. Why? Because they are always used as a pretext to restrict an intrinsic freedom or used as a justification for trouncing all over a basic human right.

It is as if “Traditions” are sacrosanct, enshrined and set in gold. They – we are led to believe – are the very essence of perfection.

This is not so of course, just like any other society on Earth, we do have traditions which are shameful, ones that we should diligently work at eradicating. But if we are faced with this oft-used mantra of “protection of our traditional values”, we might as well forget about the rest of the world and be content in our own little cocoon. Our isolation, in this case, is completely voluntary and well deserved.

We all know of course that protection of traditions or values are farthest from their minds. What they want to protect Рnot to put too fine a point on it Рare their well exposed derri̬res!

Witness the latest “protection” visited upon us by the two old stalwarts of human rights and personal freedoms and democracy: Saudi Arabia and Egypt. They have successfully towed 21 other countries – this valuable rock amongst them – to put their thumb-prints on a document restricting broadcasting – sorry, sorry, it’s not restriction, but really at attempt at

organization and putting rules and restrictions to increase the investment opportunities in these channels and ascending by the presented informational message.

Ah yes, of course. The minister of disinformation of Egypt continues:

Al-Fiqi said that there is a state of randomization in the satellite channels which don’t differentiate from the random housing in some countries. The examples of such randomization are many, such as transforming the channel possession without rules and its deviation from the registered form, besides the programs of jugglery and nakedness and so on.

Other than suddenly and categorically understanding what actually ails our own beloved BNA, I have no idea what they guy is going on about. Click the link and have some comic relief, maybe you’ll make head or tails of that erudite piece of journalism. Oh, and his wit and effervescent personality, of course.

The document being non-binding is moot of cousre. Yet, only Lebanon specifically opposed it, while Qatar is “studying” it. The others, well, they follow the piper.

Remembering all of these organisational efforts which we have signed into, you can imagine the tears of mirth pouring down my face while reading Al-Waqt this morning. You see, our illustrious Shura Council are discussing legislation for the establishment of private radio and television stations! [translate]

Now, with “organising” measures which

allows authorities to withdraw permits from satellite channels deemed to have offended Arab leaders or national or religious symbols.

Who in their right mind is going to establish anything in these countries, let alone enter into the highly unpredictable and treacherous world of visual and aural media?

Ah well, let me just be on record in thanking Ebrahim Bashmi & Co. in the Shura Council on their valiant efforts over the last 6 years in trying to codify modern and fair press and media laws which will elevate and protect the basic and most important human right, the freedom of expression, and humbly tell them to not bother. The high blood pressure they and other honest persons endure, is really just not worth it. Leave it to the Internet to give them real heart-burn!

What they want; really, is nothing more than the traditional noddy dog backed by the various excellent musical themes of Monty Python on their screens.

Let them have it, and a wise company would take its money elsewhere.

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Winograd, from another perspective

The following cartoon appeared in Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper (thanks to Jaddwilliam for the heads-up) reflecting an alternate perspective on the findings of the Winograd Commission. However, it failed to stop me in my tracks.

Winograd cartoon in Al-Quds newspaper

The bubble says: “They admit their defeat and they hold their negligent accountable!! God curse the Zionist fads which intrude on our genuine Arab traditions!

I am unfortunately very familiar with this situation, as is the case with almost every other Arab, I suspect. Our situation is that if we do identify grave negligence or even culpability in nefarious initiatives which could destroy whole societies and puts whole countries in turmoil, is elevate those implicated and pretend that the situation never actually happened. We just continue to spout useless platitudes about our “true Arab heritage” and that “those fads are not of our make-up”. What’s more is that the very people who were elected to ensure the application of proper oversight actually become tenacious defenders of the offenders! They methodically destroy any chance at our progress as a responsible human race.

Sweeping things under the carpet is an age-old tradition.

Maybe it’s high time that we did away with old and completely bankrupt ways and learnt to face our problems head-on in order to learn from experiences and get on to a better future. If that lesson comes from whom we call enemies, then so be it. But for God’s sake let us be courageous enough to at least attempt to solve our problems.

Without accepting and recognising failures, success will continue to be elusive.

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Bahraini Government acts as a Religious Policeman

Love is very precious. It is the one thing that fills you with immense happiness and allows your spirit to soar beyond traditional boundaries without any regard to cultural taboos, if left unhindered, of course.

People also have been known to do really stupid things in the name of love. But regardless of how others feel about actions due to matters of the heart, it is ultimately a personal decision that should not be interfered with, especially by whole governments who position themselves as protectors of a person’s conscience.

Maya and Yadavendra’s wedding photoThis certainly seems to be the case of Maya (née Maryam) who fell in love with an Indian boy whom she subsequently married, much to the chagrin of the Bahraini embassy in India who unilaterally confiscated her Bahraini passport; thus, perpetrating a clear human rights violation as the grounds of that surely illegal action was based on interference in one’s choice of faith.

Maryam converted to Hinduism on her marriage to Yadavendra.

That – to the clerks in the Bahraini embassy who should be reminded that they are installed there to protect and serve Bahraini citizens – is grounds enough for Maya to be excommunicated. Evidently reaching that decision on behalf of the State.

Maya’s passport has not been returned to her even after 20 years of it being confiscated. A fact that suggests full and unwarranted culpability of the government of Bahrain, resulting in her virtual incarceration and much hardship.

I urge the MPs and human rights activists to take up her case and render her the service that should be accorded to her as a Bahraini. Give her back her passport.

It is not up to the government to decide on an individual’s matters of faith, let alone those of the heart.

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The infallibility of mortals

People would be excused for thinking that Isa Qassim, leader of the Ulama (Clerics) Council, has lost his way when they hear that he compared “true clerics” – himself included – to Allah, the Prophet and his apostles. So much so that he plainly affirmed that whoever defies said clerics has recanted against Islam and God.

In one fell swoop, the respected gentleman has positioned himself and other men of the cloth – at least those he brands as “true” – not only as intermediaries between man and Creator, but by association, infallible. They must be unquestioningly obeyed and whoever dares to question them is deemed apostate.

Islam, we thought, is one religion that does not require priests for God to accept our supplications.

Isa Qassim pictured in Sitra, Bahrain

Stranger still, is that Duraz, the seat of his power, seem to be completely under his influence. There is not a street nor alleyway in that decrepit village not decorated with his oversized pictures. The walls which could barely support their own weight and showing their age, groan further under the weight of banners and placards extolling his and other clerics’ virtues.

Their stature is further reinforced by idle idol worshippers; a cabal who are ready to pound those who object to this newest level of grandiosity as counter to the very Islam they claim to serve and represent.

In politics it is more worrying still. By Qassim’s instructions, Al-Wefaq was elected by riding on his affirmation that they are indeed the “party of believers”, the party of God. Hence, excluding all others from an already questionable field and allowing them to be swept into parliament. Their saving grace – in his book – is not their individual expertise nor experience or even perceived potential; rather, it is their piety and blind and exclusive obedience to him. A fact confirmed by his political branch’s leader – Ali Salman – who categorically confirmed that Qassim’s opinions will always take precedence.

How might one criticise, given that now these clerics are no longer simple mortals? How are we to outline faults in their logic or even person if they are presumed infallible? Or, on a practical level, how is one to point out even one of their simple mistakes or dare to have a differing opinion if the reward is a blackened eye or a burnt house?

Our community, I am sorry to say, will simply continue to elevate clerics to a much higher level than they actually deserve and will continue to acquiesce to their every request. They will continue to abrogate their responsibility in uncovering flaws due to a tired premise that even if a cleric errs, he is still promised some bountiful reward. It is, they believe, on the cleric’s shoulders that their sins are discharged and as such they will rise pure to the hereafter. If questioned, the inevitable and encouraged response is that they were simply following orders.

What’s the way out of this quagmire? I have no quick answer.

We have been wrestling with this particular issue in one way or another since time immemorium; yet we realise that this worship of personalities is corrosive and unproductive. It is no wonder that we find ourselves adrift in a highly turbulent sea. Instead of these personalities recognising the fact that it is their responsibility to encourage their adherents to the creation of solid institutions and promote good governance or even self improvement – all of which require solid, constructive, harsh and sometimes plain ugly criticism, we find them competing with each other on superficial pursuits; appear bigger and grander than each other, in all probability using collected alms, to engender and propagate their personality into inviolate cults.

It is no wonder; therefore, that I hear a new phrase being bandied about in Duraz these days: Shaikh Isa Qassim, the Nasrallah of Bahrain!

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Bush can dance!

President Bush and King Hamad dancing the Ardha in Sekhir Palace in Bahrain - Photo courtesy of Al-Wasat newspaperIt was thrilling seeing Bush dancing the ‘Ardha with our king this afternoon! The guy just pulled that sword out like he was born to it. At last, though, Bush found someone to impart him some culture.

But my opinion doesn’t matter here, tell me what you think if you witnessed the event of the century! (if you haven’t, I’m sure it’ll be on YouTube before too long)

[POLL=14]

Thanks to RedBelt, here’s the video:

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The Most Expensive Art Exhibit in Bahrain!

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My friend Hameed and I had the good fortune to attend an art exhibit by the world renowned artist Mohammed Omar Khalil at Al-Bareh gallery in Adliya last night.

We both readily confess that we are not art connoisseurs, contrary to popular belief, but we like art. But the collection we witnessed at Al-Bareh was quite a bit away from our artistically beaten path. I guess you can call the art displayed as collages created by the use of different material, stuck on large board covering huge wall areas, which in itself, requires a large home to be displayed in. Or a museum more like.

The artist, who lives in New York and taught my own late father in Aseela in Morocco at one of his workshops, is certainly pure genius. His pieces are vibrant, thought provoking and uses completely ordinary material to create things which are completely out of the ordinary. Little wonder, then, that his work is highly sought after by world-class collectors and is included in the top collections in the world.

One might raise an eye brow when one first sees the price list, but when put in context, they’re not that high really, in fact, they are decidedly good value for money – if you are one of the investment art collectors that is.

I did a few quick calculations which might interest you; they certainly interested me!

  • The average size of the painting (of the 32 exhibited) is 108 x 111 cms
  • Average price is BD14,863 (US$ 39,423)
  • Average price per square centimetre is BD 1.2 (US$ 3.08)
  • Most “value for money” piece exhibited is ‘So What II’ priced at BD 38,000 (US$100,529) and measures 244 x 244 cms
  • While the least value for money piece is ‘The Curse’ priced at BD3,000 (US$ 7,937) and measures 44 x 31 cms
  • As all of those exhibited were produced in 2007, and assuming these are his total production for that year (I know it’s not, it is actually higher), then the artist produced 3 pieces per month, on average
  • If we assume that he started producing these works of art at age 30 and further assume that he will carry on doing so until he is 80, then he could produce 1,600 paintings in his lifetime
  • That possibly means a revenue of BD 23, 780,800 (US$ 63,079,045) over his production lifetime

Pretty useless (and completely unscientific) stats, but it was fun doing them too!

If you have a chance, nip over to Al-Bareh while the exhibit is still on. It will be worth your while. At the very least you can boast to your children that you actually attended an exhibition in Bahrain in 2008 where the total value of the exhibits was BD 475,600 (US$ 1,258,201)!!

Hameed and I did discuss starting a workshop slapping a few pieces of cloth, old metal dustbins and copious amount of washed sand on big canvases in our garages and hoiking them over to a gallery in New York to sell them for insane amounts of dosh, but then we thought better of cutting Mohammed Omar Khalil’s livelyhood.

We’re really good that way. That’s why we’re both Rotarians!

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The 7 Negotiation Rules

There are a lot of stereotypes about us Easterners, one trait that receives a lot of attention, especially from embarrassed Westerners, is our love for negotiation. It doesn’t matter if the price is printed on the goods and there is a big sign in a prominent location in the store which declares that the prices are fixed. We always ask at least if “this is the best price” or “are the prices really fixed?”.

To help our friends understand, let me bring these seven negotiation rules to your attention:

  • Rule #1 – The true price of any item is what you pay
  • Rule # 2 – Try for 70% off
  • Rule # 3 – Make them show lots of merchandise
  • Rule # 4 – Offer on one item at a time
  • Rule # 5 – Wait for the pad of paper
  • Rule # 6 – Say “TOO HIGH”, a lot
  • Rule # 7 – Imply a bundled purchase

For an excellent explanation of what these rules means, please read How to Negotiate like an Indian by Tim Ferris. I am sure you will enjoy your forthcoming souq trip a lot more if you keep these simple rules in your mind!

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Equitable solutions

Name any country that does not recognise the sacrifices of its citizens, and I’ll guarantee that its government has no real legitimacy in the eyes of their own constituents.

Sure they rule, but that is most probably due to the use of oppression to perpetuate their authority. Their tenuous hold on power promotes the culture of fear. Theirs is the law of force, rather than the force of law. That government will not last too long, but even if it did, it would do so on a bed of unrest and strife rather than stability.

This is not the situation which we have signed up for when 98.4% of us voted for the new charter, whose central tenets are human rights and modern institutions of governance. How different we are today – a mere 6 years hence – of those days of hope. What we are now left with is confusion and mistrust which feeds the continuous skirmishes we suffer from at almost any occasion.

There seems to be no end in sight. Each side is steadfast in their refusal to listen. Theirs is the view of “not giving in”, as if this is a battle in which an exclusive winner is declared. They fail to realise that the only losing side in this equation are the normal people who have grown tired of this predictably contentious state of affairs.

The resolution of this condition couldn’t be simpler – to me at least. All must recognise those who fell in the defence of this country and its people’s aspirations by at least anointing a single convenient and mutually agreeable date at which their memory is commemorated. That would be a celebration of national pride and will go a long way at inculcating the missing feeling of true patriotism.

The country’s National Day would lend itself completely to this cause. Isn’t it the day that nations all over the world lay wreaths at their martyrs’ graves and at symbolic locations? This act draws the whole nation together, further cementing their sense of belonging to their land. It is by no coincidence that some countries also observe a minute of silence. One in which remembrance is a natural result of contemplation.

What’s so different with us that we cannot fathom a route to that goal? The disparity in positions suggests that there is something intrinsic to this impasse. Could that difference be a disagreement on the definition of the word martyr?

The dictionary’s definition is rather bland, it does not taken into account the cultural aspects of this word. But although the difference in interpretation is wide – one’s martyr is another’s terrorist – the common denominator is rather static: it is the sacrifice of one’s life for one’s belief.

Taken in this context, it is easy to understand the somberly lavish commemorations in laying wreaths at the foot of the Unidentified Soldier to remember the dead in a bygone wars and other calamities. They are all in the past, though.

Our situation is different. Ours is the commemoration of lives lost during a current reign. Having the rulers to agree to this is akin to their acknowledgment of their own culpability in the demise of those we are paying tribute to. This, I feel, is the crux of the problem. It is why laws like the General Amnesty for Crimes Affecting National Security have been promulgated and tremendous efforts exercised to brush these issues under perennial carpets.

As the various conflicts at every martyrs commemoration activity since 2001 attest, this is not a wise resolution. Much needed closure is missing.

A new way of thinking is required to resolve this issue. Another set of sacrifices is needed by the disparate parties to achieve the status of equitable equilibrium. All need to honour the memory of those who laid their lives to provide the foundation for this country. Their memories should be made into a recognised beacon guiding current and forthcoming generations not to take things for granted.

Thirteen civil societies intimately and correctly recognise this condition and its dire need for closure. They proposed a program through which truth and reconciliation is pursued. We know that this works from experience gained from countries which have trodden this path before us. Their enacting such commissions took great courage that paved that difficult road with further necessary sacrifices. The end result; however, was their ability – finally – to turn over a brand new page. It allowed them to go forth into their futures with an assurance that they made peace with their past. From those hard lessons they gained tremendous strength that proved to be a bedrock of their stability.

Isn’t it high time that we consigned tired and empty platitudes to the rubbish heap and boldly trod the courageous road to an equitable future?

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