Tag Archives Culture

Ministry of Information no more?

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According to this, it looks like the good lady has had her way.

The Ministry of Information & Culture neé Ministry of Information has now transformed into the Ministry of Culture with the information part devolved into an authority under the leadership of Shaikh Fawaz Al-Khalifa, the ex president of GOYS. Shaikh Fawaz will also inherit the main departments of the erstwhile MoI: Radio & TV, Artistic affairs (?), Foreign Press, the Bahrain News Agency and Press & Publications subdivided under new sections headed by assigned director generals. Although not named yet, if these DGs are the old undersecretaries (who effectively ran the ministry) then we can safely say that no real change will be forthcoming. Sites will remain to be blocked and the freedom of information will continue to be at their whims.

But, let’s wait a few weeks to find out how the chips will fall in that erstwhile ministry.

Another thing which will be closely watched by those inside and outside BRTC; however, is what will happen to those very highly paid Lebanese “experts” who were inducted in droves by Shaikha Mai Al-Khalifa at the complete chagrin of everyone there. Will they remain in their vaulted towers to continue to dictate how “the locals” run their affairs by forcing in obsolete and expensive methods and incomprehensible technologies at odds with the broadcasting world norms, or will they, like her excellency be given the boot?


The Stake is Ready. Bring on those Saudis!

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When I first heard of the MTV production Resist the Power, Saudi Arabia my thoughts were running along the lines of the effect of such a program on those featured in it. But I respect them for their courage and their undoubted sacrifice. Frivolous and young some people might find them to be, yes, true, but like Rima Faqih, they are pushing established boundaries. The more young people “rebel” against established cultures and traditions, which are designed or have evolved to marginalise whole swathes of society (women, religious minorities, expatriates, etc.) and societies that skews basic human rights under cloaks of religiosity, the better our future will be.

Cultures and traditions never were static. By necessity they must change and be attuned to the current era. Resisting the inevitable shift in cultures and traditions is futile and counterproductive and results in nothing but either being left behind or even extinction.

The risks for these young people are huge, or course. Our particular society is a complex one which still revolves around nationalism and tribalism. Therefore, I was particularly touched by the featured young men and woman and their recognition of the situation that they are sure to find themselves in, and the sacrifice they were making in just appearing in such a program. I was sure that immediately such a program hits the airwaves, the wave of anger will start and as usual, “the righteous” will start hurling epithets aplenty and baying for blood. Those calls will definitely accuse them of being “traitors and kuffar” at worst, and questioning their nationalism and loyalty at best, while belittling the issues they discussed. After all, they should never have aired dirty laundry, should they. No, for us, laundry even if it stinks and festers, it should never be aired. Because we could do no wrong.

As I expected, the outpouring of anger and righteousness started barely a day after the video was made available:

The majority of Saudis who watched the video was offended and said it was a major insult to their traditions and customs.

Arab News

There you have it. The standard all encompassing answer. Insult to traditions and customs.

But I wish it would stop at that. Some even more righteous gents took serious umbrage at the situation and now are hunting the featured young persons to take them to court:

مقاضاة سعوديين بتهمة “المجاهرة بالمعصية” في برنامج أميركي

قالت صحيفة “الحياة” السعودية الصادرة إن مجموعة من “المحتسبين” يعتزمون رفع دعوى قضائية لدى المحكمة الجزائية في محافظة جدة (غرب السعودية) ضد شابين سعوديين وفتاة، ظهروا أخيراً في برنامج تلفزيوني أميركي عنوانه “الحياة الحقيقية” (True Life)ØŒ ووجهوا في الحلقة التي شاركوا فيها انتقادات إلى التقاليد والعادات السعودية، ووصفوها بـ “التخلف”ØŒ فيما جاهر فيها أحد الشابين بعلاقته بإحدى الفتيات، وطالب بمنح الشبان والفتيات فرصة إقامة “علاقات متبادلة مماثلة لما يتم في أوروبا”.

DP News

Saudis to be prosecuted on charges of “committing sins openly” in a U.S. program

The Saudi newspaper “Al-Hayat” stated that a group of religious police (mutawwas) planned to lodge a case at the criminal court in Jeddah (western Saudi Arabia) against two young Saudis and a girl who appeared in an American TV show entitled “True Life”, and criticised the traditions and customs of Saudi Arabia, and describing them as “backward”, while one of the participants declared his involvement with one young girl, and called for “creating opportunities for boys and girls to meet and have relationships similar to those occurring in Europe.”

I have no doubt that these young people will be hung out to dry. And it won’t stop there, their families will also be ostracised and their collected lives will be made hell. They have committed a cardinal sin: they dared to criticise their country, and showed their frustrations with engrained traditions and customs to the outside world. Unfortunately, I suspect that they will be made an example of.



Do you think that if we continue to live as we currently do that our countries and societies will continue to be sustainable? I personally don’t think so. The only thing that sustains us now is our natural wealth. Once that disappears, we shall too.

Unless, that is, we accept radical changes to our way of life.


Burqa, modernised.

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bqBoys, be prepared for this as it promises to be the next best best thing for girls. I personally can’t stand the huge shades they put on their faces at the moment, this is going to be even bigger, but hey, to each his/her own.

Dubai’s hot new trend – burqa-shaped sunglasses

Emirates women are very stylishly dressed. The burqa is part of the Emirates culture, even if it hasn’t been worn since my grandmother’s generation.

Finding sunglasses that aren’t too big or too clear, to go with the burqa would be pretty tricky. These glasses manage to retain our elegance and respect our culture at the same time. It’s a clever way of combining both fashion and tradition.


American Soldier

Some people say that you can’t tell a story with just pictures. I say if done properly, you can tell multiple stories and evoke so many emotions with a few good pictures. The mark of a good photographer is his or her ability to encapsulate that emotion in a photograph.


I think the series of “An American Soldier” which follows a young American man for 27 months of his life really encompasses that.

Brilliantly told. Brilliantly photographed.

This is how an American soldier is made.

For 27 months, Ian Fisher, his parents and friends, and the U.S. Army allowed Denver Post reporters and a photographer to watch and chronicle his recruitment, induction, training, deployment, and, finally, his return from combat.

Follow the pictorial of Collected Photos at the Denver Post.


And let THAT be a lesson.

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Here ye! Hear ye!

You do bad bad stuff in Saudi and you’re a foreigner, you get your ‘ead chopped off. But if you don’t believe that, then, well, y’know, the very contemporary authorities in the other Magic Kingdom have devised quite a novel approach to deter those who contemplate jiggy-jiggying with it and do some “bad stuff” as determined by their impartial and equitable and divine and – well – just Saudi justice system. Like this:

Saudi Arabia has put the bodies of four Sri Lankans beheaded in Riyadh on display in public in an effort to deter a rising crime wave by foreigners.

crucifiedbacklitSee how creative that is? I am absolutely convinced that as Saudi – home of Islam’s two holiest sites – have now set a precedent for the rest of the Muslim Umma to follow, especially as this new deterrent is approved, condoned and sanctified by their highest authorities; therefore, I warrant that crucifixion after the Shari’a compliant beheading shall be the new norm. I expect that ardent followers of this generous interpretation of our religion, especially those in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other “Key US Strategic Allies” shall perfect this new form of deterrent in order to reduce crime.

Believe me that won’t take too long. Expect new announcements and pictures of this very contemporary form of deterrent to appear on your news sources very soon. And it’s about time too, because:

“There is a pressing need to review many of the negative practices of foreigners in the kingdom,” al-Riyadh quoted Abdel-Rahman al-Luweiheq, who teaches at the Imam bin Saud University, as saying.

“Foreigners in the kingdom are implementing criminal plans made abroad,” he said, referring to mafia-like outfits. [source]

Which is a contention oft repeated by our very own lawmakers. Those illustrious doyens of faith, protectors of our morals and upholders of Islam and protectors of our culture and traditions against the unwashed uncouth heathen hordes who do not know their place within our pure race. Without our preeminent lawmakers and their symbiotic clerics, our divine ascendancy to Heaven must surely be interrupted if not derailed completely. After all, we can never know what is best for us nor can we make our own minds up as to what is right and what is wrong.

So ye foreigners be warned! Thou shalt not sully our purity! Thou shalt not dare think yourselves equal to us, the chosen people of Allah! Thou shall get your just deserts, as determined by our most learned and most just – in a contemporary form, of course, lest the world think of us as heinous barbarians.

But we don’t give a damn about what the world thinks of us anyway. We know better.

[edit: link to today’s story: Saudi beheads and crucifies murder convict#2]


Soufi Music by Konya Turkish Ensemble

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I’ve not experienced Soufi music nor did I attend any of the Whirling Dervishes before the performance the Konya Turkish Ensemble gave on March 30th at the Cultural Hall as part of the recently concluded annual Spring of Culture. I was in for a nice – and spiritually uplifting – surprise.

The unfortunately incident in which a misguided soul barged into a mosque on the Bahraini-Saudi Causeway and proceeded to serenade humourless security staff (and some worshippers I should think) reminded me that I had recorded the Turkish Soufis on my mobile phone and I had them unprocessed and untouched on my computer.

I broke out Audacity and cropped the three recordings into size, cleaned them up a bit and am presenting them to you as a gift. I hope that you will excuse the wanting quality of the clips and that you will understand that I am providing them here to enthuse you enough to go out and buy their and other Soufi music CDs – if they are available – or even demonstrate to you that Islam comes in various flavours, and song worship is in fact one recognised form.

[MYPLAYLIST=1] download the mp3 parts: [one] • [two] • [three]

The rituals of the Whirling Dervishes are among the most enduring and exquisite ceremonies of spirituality. The ritual whirling, still practiced today by the dervishes of the Melevi order, is an act of love and a drama of faith. Sufi music is closely connected with religious music and the lyrics are mainly taken from poems of Mevlana Celaleddini Rumi. The Konya Turkish Sufi Music Ensemble was formed in 1990 by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey and mainly performs during annual commemorations of Mevlana but also perform Sufi music and Sema rituals in Konya throughout the year. The forty member Ensemble is headed by Omer Faruk Belviranli
(vocal) and its art director is Yusuf Kayya (nay). The Ensemble plays an important role for the promotion of Turkish culture around the world.

Have a wonderful and peaceful evening my friends.


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!


Calling Muharraq!

Could anyone who lives in or indeed anyone who knows about the traditional festivity of Girga’oun in the Kingdom of Muharraq please let me know where should one go to best capture the mood and festivities of this special occasion?

I would very much like to travel to the Kingdom and shoot some of the goings on, particularly kids going door to door getting sweets and the Fraisa and anything else that happens during that night.

Ta very much.


Renewed official stance on corruption


Like everyone else in Bahrain, I was thrilled to read our Crown Prince’s unequivocal statement that corruption will no longer be condoned and that even if a minister was implicated in corruption, he or she will get their just desert.

I also remembered that our parliament has discussed this issue and the committee tasked with formulating that new law has rendered its decision1 to approve a parliamentary discussion of this law. I hope that with the Crown Prince’s push, that law will see the light during the forthcoming new term.

This re-enforced political will is wonderful to behold especially in view of the accelerating corruption cases brought against various managers in government-owned companies like ALBA, Gulf Air and most recently ASRY. I hope at the very least these people being brought to justice will at least get those corrupt officials to sit up and feel a bit embarrassed and take their thieving hands out of the cookie jar for a while at least. One would hope that this new political will will also force them to refill those jars from whatever that had stuck to their nimble fingers.

Unfortunately however, these kind of promises have been heard before but never sufficiently followed up; or at least if they have been followed up no conviction was been meted out to the corrupt. On the contrary, in some cases, people implicated in corrupt activities were actually promoted, as we have most recently witnessed in someone who was implicated in the infamous Bandargate fiasco.

Cases like the Housing Bank, GOSI and others are still fresh in people’s minds. So calls like these – with all due respect – need to really be followed up and convictions of the corrupt be levied in order for this political will to have some legitimacy and for it to regain its credibility.

Let me remind you that corruption is not only monetary, but other forms do exist as well which must be taken care of. In Bahrain for instance, the financial corruption might not exceed other forms of corruption like nepotism, patronage, influence peddling, avoiding the law, etc. However, corruption is no longer just restricted to these traditional arenas, it is more completely defined as:

Corruption obtains when an official transfers a benefit to an individual who may or may not be entitled to the benefit, in exchange for an illegal payment (the bribe). By taking the bribe, the official breaks a legally binding promise he gave to his ‘principal’ (usually the state administration or a private company) to allocate the benefit to those entitled to it. Corruption is neither a property of a social system or an institution, nor a trait of an individual’s character, but rather an illegal exchange. Nowadays scholars have abandoned the classic view of corruption as the degradation of an individual’s ethical sense, or lack of moral integrity. If corruption is a type of exchange it can, at least in principle, be the subject of empirical, cross-country examination. For data, scholars turn mainly to three sources, the German-based NGO Transparency International; the World Bank, and, to a lesser extent, Freedom House. These agencies all produce large cross-national surveys and ranking of countries, although the data come with a variety of biases. Naturally, illegality makes it hard to measure corruption.

Which brings me to the last few years’ CPI rating for Bahrain which has degraded appreciably. One only hopes that with the affirmation and bluntness of the Crown Prince this time, that things will really get moving in the right direction. Finally.

If I may suggest a few small thing to aid in inculcating the culture of anti-corruption: create a provision in law to protect whistle-blowers, cancel that heinous Press and Publications Law 47/2002 to allow news reports to out corruption and its benefactors and let’s see some sentences handed down against high-profile corrupt public employees and appropriate their misbegotten wealth. I am sure that should these things be enacted, our CPI rating will most certainly rise. Much more importantly of course, Bahrain’s credibility both national and international will be much enhanced, and people’s lives here will be bettered.

Now what’s the Anti Corruption Hotline number again?

[1] pdf document in Arabic



high resolution video here on Stage6

Thoughts on belonging and patriotism and their relationship with a person’s locale.

Though I recognise that there are other aspects to consider – which you are more than welcome to discuss here – and are just as valid, my thinking is that a person cannot get that feeling of “belonging” unless he has an appreciation for his environs and its history.

This was supposed to have been uploaded yesterday, as is traditional with my Friday Video, but unfortunately Batelco prevented me of doing so due to their unreasonable “broadband” limitations.