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Islam: a Cultural Adornment?

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A hadith from the Prophet Muhammad clearly states that even if a man were to walk in on his wife committing adultery, he cannot take the law into his own hands. But Islam for these people is a cultural adornment that justifies un-Islamic tribal values and not an ethical system that promotes justice and mercy.


I don’t want to go into a discussion of honour killings here, suffice it to say that I am categorically against such brutal and primitive punishments, and as the article referred to above clearly states with references that it is completely against Islam.

What I wish to highlight here however is the application of Islam in the Muslim world today. Shahed Amanullah, the author of the above article aptly describes the Islam that is applied today is just a “cultural adornment“. How very true.

This is the main problem that faces Islam and Muslims today as so called Islamic governments haphazardly apply what suits them of Islam and ignore the rest of this great and fastest growing religion. This “standard” is what will slow and retard the advancement of Islam if nothing is done to clearly change the ways of these governments, education systems, the way that Islam is taught in schools and the way it is preached in mosques and religious schools. Once these issues are addressed, the general world perception of Islam and Muslims will invariably change.

The events of 9/11 clearly shows how misguided some Muslims can get, but as that was “over there” we continued to feel quite safe thinking these acts of terror will never happen to us. After all, we are Muslim countries and immune from these things. The saddening thing is that directly after the attacks on the twin towers, the Muslim world in general were first stunned, followed immediately by “conspiracy theories”, then when we saw the world’s reaction we entered into the denial phase, then it was regarded as a “media thing” that will go away. The attacks on both Riyadh and Casablanca put paid to these thoughts. Not surprisingly, the conspiracy theorists continued in their favourite pastime of blaming all ills on the “great Satan”.

Until we can face facts, interpret our religion in a fair and modern way, respect the rights of man, unshackle the press, and have our own first amendment we will continue to suffer and continue to propagate wrong messages that Islam never preached or sanctioned. We will continue to stay in the dark ages and create new traditions that will masqueraded as Islam.


SNATCH a brillian movie!

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My wife normally doesn’t allow me to watch movies that she thinks I might find funny by myself. She says that the way I laugh and how my face turns various shades between purple and red, and the way that I sometimes wheeze and get out of breath, she’s terrified that I’ll just drop down dead!

It wouldn’t be too bad a way to go. I can think of many other ways that I do NOT want to go, so laughing myself to death seems to be fine, at least to me!

I absolutely loved Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I watched that one completely by chance, late night and nothing better to do except for flicking the channels, then at 2am I caught part of it and fell in love with it.

Then, by another not too dissimilar chance I spotted Snatch and loved it even more! Now I’ve got both DVDs and still watch them from time to time.

Technically I think both films are beautifully crafted. Wonderful camera work, brilliant if skewed dialog with truck-loads of profanity, criminals with comic-book style names: brick-top, bullet, four-fingers, the head, and the rest. There’s hardly a moment in the movie where someone doesn’t get killed, burnt, gutted, or worse fed to the pigs.

The furious cuts, “cheap” wipes, really work to enhance the pace of the film altogether, fast and furious. Even the title sequence received a fantastic treatment, just that by itself is worth buying the DVD for.

The cast is well selected, Brad Pit as a gypsy is really good and funny, although I have to switch on the subtitles to understand what the hell he says.

I highly recommend this film to anyone who wants to watch something that is completely different from the general lovey-dovey, or super-human movies that abound today. This one most arguably is a “man movie.” Get it, buy it or rent it!

It’s 1:30am here and I’m watching it for the 15th time, but this time on the Movie Channel on TV!


and the “moron of the week” prize goes to…

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A Malaysian city has kicked up a storm after fining non-Muslim couples for holding hands in public in a drive its mayor says to keep his town morally clean.

Authorities in Ipoh, Malaysia’s third biggest city, have booked about 30 couples in recent weeks for indecent behaviour, city officials said on Tuesday.

But a newspaper reported that some of the couples were fined 30 ringgit (4.80 pounds) for holding hands in a park, sparking an outcry from human rights groups and media.

Malaysia’s official religion is Islam but the constitution allows freedom of religion among non-Muslims, who account for less half the population.

“I think this is ridiculous,” said Cynthia Gabriel, director of human rights group Suaram. “We are a modernising society and there’s nothing wrong in expressing affection for each other.”

“Regardless of Muslims and non-Muslims, we feel that holding hands in public is not an indecent behaviour,” she told Reuters.

Wong Chun Wai, columnist at Malaysia’s top-selling English daily the Star, also criticised Ipoh mayor Sirajuddin Salleh.

“It is certainly not Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Iran,” he wrote. “Religious zealots have no place in Malaysia.”

But the mayor stood by his decision.

“It is not the hobby of the city council to fine people for no apparent reason,” he told a newspaper, adding that the 400,000-strong Ipoh residents should keep the city “morally clean.”

We really need this law in Bahrain as well. Why not? We’re a Muslim country too aren’t we? This law will most certainly increase our visibility in the world and display to the multitudes how “moral” we are.

Gimme a break!


So you want to stop people from viewing your hard-worked-at Xaraya templates?

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Here’s a good suggestion picked from the Xaraya lists posted by Paul Crovella:

For those in the know it doesn’t take much to figure out where your .xt files are located. The web server will send these out in plain text if you point the url at them.

I don’t know how to do this with IIS or any other web server, but if you’re using apache just drop the following into your .htaccess file:

order deny,allow
deny from all

This should keep apache from serving these out directly.

Thanx Paul, I tested it here and it works!!



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The fantabulous engine behind this site. To me, Xaraya is the ultimate content management platform, let me know if I can help you deploying your own Xaraya…


Ugh… don’t feel like working today

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It’s 4:20pm and I feel like I have achieved nothing today. Contacted a few people – those who were good enough to take my calls – and did a bit of work for the bank, prepared to place an order with one of my suppliers, re-negotiated a contract with one of my customers, and tried to look up information for another customer. Now I’m totally bored and will be going home in a few minutes, just one more cup of coffee (I’ll ask Sangeetha one of these days to keep a tab on how many mugs I actually ingest every day!) and then I’m off…

I think tomorrow I’ll take the Porsche for the re-registration test. Why the hell do we have to do this every single year? The traffic department should work out something to authorize a few garages to do this test on their behalf. Stupid waste of time..

what else? Oh, I advertised on for a job opening I have for an Avid engineer, a couple of the respondents were way way too qualified for the job, yet most of the others are kids looking for a break, obviously no experience and some never have touched an Avid system before… some have got to go back to school to learn how to apply for a job, why the hell should I email them back asking them for a CV? Isn’t that a given when you apply for a job that you provide your credentials so that you would initially be evaluated? Some of them have no skills whatsoever in writing simple emails, so how can I expect them to write a report of a customer visit? I guess they expect me to send them to school on my expense for them to acquire this skill. Thanks but no thanks.

hmmmm, just realized that I blew almost a whole pack of cigarettes since I left home! Shit, I’ve got to take care of this habit. Just changed brands as well, so my chest is complaining a bit. I’ve had a headache all day and I have no idea what’s going on in that department. Maybe it’s in sympathy to my wife’s headache, that’s how close we are!

She’s been to a course this morning with a visiting expert on crystal healing. Seems to have enjoyed herself and benefited from it somewhat. She’s going again for another session tomorrow followed by the finale on Wednesday night.

Can’t wait for the weekend to come, seems to be really slow this week…


2.5 hours for years 5 and 6 summer concert?

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That was long. A couple of nights ago Frances and I also attended Hanan’s class concert (years 7 and 8) and that went for more than 2 hours as well.

A lot of the kids on both nights were clearly very talented and worked hard at getting to the excellent levels they achieved with their respective instruments. But even the older kids were turning a bit green at the gills by the end of the nights’ concerts. Not to mention those horrible plastic seats provided. Just having a look around at the parents after the performance, they all – yours truly included – looked like they were severely suffering from the “numb bum syndrome”!

I think the school should seriously consider if they want to highlight that many students – and they should – they need to split the concerts into individual years and make sure that the concert doesn’t go beyond an hour. These kids were between 7 and 13 years old and the concerts finished about 10:15pm for Hanan and 10pm for Arif (tonight) and they’re expected to go to school the next day!

I think they will have a lot of sleepy and grumpy kids tomorrow, so God help the teachers! 😉


June 2nd, 1932: Oil is discovered in Bahrain

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On June 2nd, 1932 Major Frank Holmes, a New Zealand engineer, strikes oil for the first time in Bahrain. I guess we can also peg this date as the start of the Modern Era in Bahrain.

It’s worth noting that oil was discovered in Bahrain quite a few years before any other Arabian Gulf state and started exporting it a couple of years after the discovery.

The original field is still productive, albiet with very little output (about 40,000 barrels per day) when compared to any of the other oil fields in the Gulf. Bahrain gets most of its oil now from off-shore wells.


About Mahmood

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Who is Mahmood?

It’s very hard to summarize your life isn’t it? What can you really say about yourself other than born on whatever date and in wherever country or town? What schools, college or university you went to? So what? Just about everybody on the planet does the same – give or take.

I guess you’re here because you want to know a little bit about me, that’s fair enough. You want to know who is behind this site, or just feeling voyeuristic.

I am a person.

Enough? No?

Ok, I’m also male.


My achievements so far include being a husband of 16 years, father of two girls and a boy. Have two stupid dogs, 3 cars one of which is up for sale. I’m my own boss. I own and operate a company that attempts to make life easier for creative professionals to tell their stories better and faster, so they can produce more. At this moment I’m enjoying moderate success, but put in another place I could do a lot more. I’m certainly not as financially stable as I want to be.

I have always excelled in my studies and enjoyed maths and science most.

I’ve had many hobbies through my life and still participate in most I started a long time ago, the format might have changed, but the enjoyment is still there. I have always been fascinated by the visual arts having a father who is one of the founders of the contemporary art movement in this area of the world is bound to rub off on you.

At school I started the first ever photography club. I have entered just one photography exhibition in Bahrain, and won 2nd prize. I should do more and participate in these exhibitions more often.

I’ve also am fascinated by computers and their potential. Especially communication and how that marriage can bring disparate peoples together. I started one of the first BBS (bulletin board service) in the Gulf in ’86. Called it Stray Cats BBS and proceeded to commandeer my wife’s monthly salary to pay the telephone company! I put a stop to that in ’91 I think much to my wife’s happiness!

I became an aircraft avionics maintenance engineer, did that for 10 years, realized that I wasn’t going anywhere fast so I went to the States and came back 3 months later with a commercial pilot’s license. The 2nd Gulf War started soon after my return, so employment opportunities for pilots disappeared.

Started my company and left the airline industry behind.

Now I try to dispel the image that Muslims and Arabs suffer from – mostly by our own doing I have to say – in the rest of the world. I am no missionary and don’t want to be. I run several internet websites that are geared to do just that, create a better understanding that we’re not all nuts hell-bent on world destruction.

I hope that I will be judged that I made a small difference.

Mahmood Al-Yousif
1st June, 2003


Tariq Khonji of the GDN sent me ten good questions to answer for his “60 seconds interview” spot in the paper, published on 6th February 2006, obviously there wasn’t enough space there to publish all of my replies, but reading it in print gave me the idea that it would be good to attach these to my About page:

1. How long have you been blogging and how did you get into it?

Since 2001. I got into it simply to test internet technologies I was helping develop together with over 40 programmers around the world; specifically that development created the Xaraya content management system which is available free to whoever wants it. The blog was just simple entries to test the system. As people started to visit the site and interacted with those “posts” by entering comments, Mahmood’s Den took a life of its own.

2. How popular is your site? What kind of visitors do you get and how many?

Mahmood’s Den’s popularity surpassed all my expectations. It currently receives an average of 4 million hits, about 1.2 million page views and around 175,000 unique sessions a month! The cross section of visitors, judging by the comments entered, belong to a wide cross-section of political and social backgrounds and I am thankful that for the most part, they are courteous and genuinely interested in understanding this part of the world which they see through my eyes.

3. What is your background and how did you become so politically outspoken?

By training I was an aviation electronics engineer, I’ve changed my career twice since then and now am a businessman dealing specifically in broadcast equipment and professional systems.

To understand my outspokenness you have to understand what a blog is: in its basic form, a weblog is nothing more than a personal web-based diary or journal in which a person records his or her thoughts and discusses issues that person is interested in.

My posts reflect my hopes and frustrations with the socio-political environment in Bahrain and the apathy and insincerity of some parliamentarians whom we have wrongly elected to the first parliament of my era, coupled with my frustration at the dogmatic interpretation of Islam by extremists which has sullied its good name in the international and national arenas and I find unrepresentative of the tolerance that Islam is.

4. Are you pleased that the blogging scene has grown so rapidly in recent years? How does it feel to be the first?

I am always happy to welcome another blogger into the burgeoning Bahraini blogosphere. We are an active bunch with disparate backgrounds, ages and disciplines. The one thing we have in common is our passion for our convictions.

Being the first is neither here nor there. I am privileged to have inspired many a friend and site visitor to start their own blogs and start discussing their own points of view. This has increased Bahrain’s awareness of the world, and conversely the world’s awareness of Bahrain as one of the pioneers of free speech in the Arab world.

5. How did the handle ‘The Blogfather’ come about?

You have to thank my good friend Nader Shaheen for that honour. I have no idea what brought that term into his head while he was entering a comment a while ago; it seems to have stuck and was further perpetuated by my other good friend Amira Al-Hussaini. It does make me feel old however!

6. Do you think that some of the blogs out there are being too negative? What do you think a blogger’s responsibilities should be?

A blog is a personal space. You cannot force that space’s owner to be a good person if he or she doesn’t want to. Peer-reviews normally will take care of overly negative spaces just as happens in real-life. They would simply be shunned if their writing does not hold any water, nor contribute positively or constructively to a situation. They will simply be forgotten.

They will not be forgotten; however, if they receive unwarranted and heavy-handed attention by official channels by closing those sites down or restricting their access as a disciplinary action, in fact experience has shown that their popularity will sky-rocket. Time will take care of them. Their freedom to voice their opinions, even if negative in the extreme, should be respected. People are intelligent enough to make their own mind up whether to return and re-visit that blog or just move on… most will choose to move on, there are millions of blogs out there to choose from.

7. Why do you think blogging has grown so much in popularity?

In this new era we are experiencing, people have found their voice. Although quite a number of them continue to blog anonymously, a lot more have chosen to write under their own name, especially in Bahrain. More so now under the assurance of his majesty King Hamad in the interview published in the local press on Feb 4th in which he categorically stated that freedoms of expression are sacrosanct; much to the detriment of the archaic and stringent laws which our elected parliament is trying to foist on us.

I think every writer, citizen and resident of this country should be thankful for having such an enlightened leader who has proven time and again that he himself accepts constructive criticism, and that feature has now started to slowly percolate throughout the establishment.

So blogging, with the easy-to-use interfaces and mostly free availability of hosting engines, was chosen as platforms of choice by individuals to voice, organise and discuss their thoughts.

As people love to discover other places, peoples and minds, blogging has become the excellent bridge between cultures and is quite a popular way to disseminate “real” information distanced from official channels and traditional news sources.

8. You obviously invest a lot of your time on the blog. What do you do when you are not blogging?

Feel guilty that I should do some honest work to put food on the table. That feeling soon passes and I return attention back to blogging!

9. What does your family think about the blog? I understand that your daughter sometimes gets embarrassed when you write about family life.

They’ve gotten used to it. It did generate unwanted attention sometimes as people who read my blog assume that by reading my writings they know me personally and regard me as a friend, or enemy, which I do not mind and welcome. Unfortunately a minority extend that familiarity further by assuming that they know my wife, children and dogs too and expect them to reciprocate!

10. Are there any funny incidents involving your blog that you would like to share?

By having the blog, I have gathered quite a number of new friends both in and out of Bahrain whose company I seek and cherish. They have certainly give more value to my life and I am privileged to know them. There are hundreds more of course who are still anonymous and would like the opportunity to meet them, in their own time, one day.

One of those anonymous friends stopped me at the Seef mall a while ago and asked for my autograph. I know how a celebrity must feel now! Not an unpleasant experience and I was flattered by it.


The ressurection of Art

new statue replaces Saddam'sAs if it was ever dead? It might by necessity hide for a while but never dies, even in the most hostile environments you will find art flourishing. Look at Iraq: intermittent electricity, untreated water, medical services on the blink, people without jobs, without steady income, but with all of these predicaments we have a group of artists erecting a new statue in place of that despot’s. This statue symbolizes two great civilizations: the Sumarians and Islam.

Although art is no where near the top of the list Iraqis have on their minds, it is vitally important as it maintains the people’s pride, preserve their real heritage, and gives them a glimmer of hope that no American tank or presence can.

In all conflicts the “puppet” art is the first to be replaced like breaths of much needed fresh air, maybe that will remind people in the next few difficult months and years that life will go on and become much better than what was left behind. So in a way, Art is the first stage of reconciliation for a broken country and society, the first flower of spring.

We don’t have enough artistic impressions in our countries, we tend to wait for catastrophic events to happen and then real artists shine and bring their thoughts to the fore. Those puppet art creators invariably fade away like their creations with loss of face and respect. You can immediately recognize that kind of art and artists. They – like their work – look very temporary and insignificant. Art that endures even catastrophes is invariably that creation that speaks directly to the soul.

I am one of the fortunate ones who can appreciate art, my dad being one of the founding fathers of art in this area of the world. True he didn’t follow the stampede of others in the ’70s and ’80s to buy land and build buildings, he was more concerned with building generations and preserving history. He continues to be an inspiration even now after 9 years of losing his sight completely, he overcomes his disability and continues to produce thought inspiring etchings, using only his fingers for feel, and his soul for vision.

The “Najin” (survivors) group of artists in Iraq have all my respect. They should be encouraged, nurtured and protected, for they are the real keepers of the scrolls of Iraqi dignity and history.