Tag Archives Culture

No stranger to the sword

Minister bin Rajab with a sword dancing the ardhah

نعم يا بو حسن… من سيوف الحيدر لسيوف العرضى!

Another celebration took place yesterday in Rifa’a in honour of our PM’s UN prize, mounted this time by the central governate’s municipal council. I am very glad to see that the executive branch, represented by the Honourable Mansour bin Rajab, Minister of Agricultural Affairs and the Municipalities not only taking part in it, but leading the celebrations by participating in the traditional Ardhah dance.

The Right Honourable Gentleman is no stranger to the sword, him having handled it countless times in the Hussaini processions – the Aza – thus demonstrating his multifaceted personality and skills.

Excellent Good News™ your excellency.

And I am also undisappointed that once again I see his picture in the national papers, vying with the appearances of the Minister of Commerce whom he will soon surpass or tie with in the Guinness Book of Records for the “daily appearances in local papers” metric.


The Elders

Nelson Mandela

Within our culture, as is present in others, there is quite a lot of respect for the elders of a family, village, and country. They are always accorded much respect and their words of wisdom sought especially at difficult times. When they speak, people listen and disputes are generally resolved.

It is with this vision that Sir Richard Branson and Peter Gabrial launched a tremendous initiative to sponsor a council of elders to include much respected world figures where it is hoped that they will tackle difficult subjects by exercising their moral authority.

“The Elders” which has been launched yesterday during Nelson Mandela’s 89th birthday celebrations also includes luminaries like retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson. It will ultimately consists of 12 people, none of whom hold a current public office and all of whom are recognised for their passionate work in human rights and are deeply concerned for the world and our environment and have tangible contributions in their own countries and the world at large. They are beyond personal egos.

Although their mandate is yet to be fully announced, some statements have already been made to frame their work:

Mandela states in remarks prepared for Wednesday that the fact that none of The Elders holds public office allows them to work for the common good, not for outside interests.

“This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken,” the remarks state. “Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair.”
IHT – 17 July, ’07

I do wish them much luck in their much needed endeavours and salute Richard Branson and Peter Gabrial for their vision and humanity. They have demonstrated that everybody can made a difference.

I hope that The Elders will cast their eyes on this turbulent region and through the exercise of their moral authority spread peace and maybe also entice some of our errant leaders to relinquish their control and let our people live with some happiness and dignity.


Breaking new grounds by human rights organisations in Bahrain

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I can’t stand this, even more Good News™!

In a precedented step, the effervescent Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society has broken new grounds in human rights work by organising and overseeing a huge party in Ramez Shopping Centre in Rifa’a to celebrate our PM being enrolled in the UN’s Scroll of Honour in Human Development.

Apart from that intrinsic human rights activity, they – together with Akhbar Al-Khaleej’s journalists – have also unequivocally demonstrated that our children are educated much beyond their tender age and are patriotic to the bone; as all children should be.

وقد قالت الطفلة لطيفة محمد واسرتها من الرفاع الشرقي لقد أصررنا على المشاركة في الحفل الشعبي لإيماننا بمدى تضحيات الشيخ خليفة لشعبه ورغبتنا في رد جزء من الجميل إليه فهو الذي عمل الكثير لوطنة ولشعبة وان السكن الذي نحن فية من فضل الله سبحانه وقيادتنا السياسية الحكيمة، في حين عقب الطفلان زينب رضي واخوها مكي من مدينة حمد إن سموه يستحق كل تقدير وثناء من الجميع ويستحق جوائز أكثر لعمله الدؤوب في سبيل تنمية الإنسان والاقتصاد البحريني فمملكة البحرين وضعت على الخارطة الدولية بفضل عزيمة شعبها والتفافه حول قيادته.
أخبار الخليج – ١٨ يوليو ٢٠٠٧

I would like to personally profusely thank the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society and its members on elevating human rights work and showing the world how it should be done.

More Good News™: The publisher of Akhbar Al-Khaleej, Mr. Anwar Abdulrahman has been admitted to hospital

where he is recovering, thank God, especially after being visited by Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, our prime minister and the deputy PM in hospital. May Allah give you strength Anwar, and keep you from all bad tidings.


أثلجت صدري يا شيخ

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Bahraini thinker Sayed Kamel Al-Hashimi

Sayed Kamel Al-Hashimi ripped the religious turbaned lot a huge new one in a debate in Al-Wasat published this morning, I agree with what he says and wish that we had many more like him. Maybe if the other religous “leaders” were to loosen their turban a little bit, maybe blood will reach their dormant and solidified brains to enable them to evaluation positions and thoughts like Al-Hashimi:

«تفغيص» القوى الفاعلة في الساحة

– الهاشمي: هناك مشكلة كبيرة، وهي الموازاة بين الذوات والحقائق يا شيخ صنقور، وهذا خطأ فضيع يحصل عند العلمانيين والمتدينين، فذاك يقول «أنا الدولة والدولة أنا» وذاك يقول «أنا العلمانية والعلمانية أنا» وذاك يقول «أنا الشريعة والشريعة أنا» وآخر يقول «أنا الدين والدين أنا»، كلا شيخ صنقور، أنت لست الدين ولا أنا الدين، ولست أنت الشريعة ولا أنا الشريعة.

– صنقور(مقاطعاً): نحن لم ندعِ ذلك، ونرفض هذه المغالطة، ونحن لم نقل إننا نمثل الدين ولا يستطيع أحد أن يقول انه يمثل الدين، وإنما نقول هذا هو الدين، وليس للعباءة أية قداسة ولكن عندما يتوجه الإقصاء لأصل الدين فهذا ما نرفضه إطلاقاً.

– الهاشمي: شيخنا العزيز، دعني أكمل كلامي…المشكلة الأخرى هو انغماسنا لتبرير الأخطاء حينما يخطأ رجل دين، وأنا لست منهمكاً في تبرير الأخطاء، فما حدث هو زلة وجل من لا يخطأ، ووجهة نظري معروفة في العلمانية، ولكن يجب أن نوجه نقدناً للمتدينين، والله سبحانه وتعالى في القرآن الكريم لديه تعبيران، وعلى المتدينين أن ينتبهوا إلى التعبير الثاني الذي يخصهم حينما يقول عزوجل: «يا أيها الذين آمنوا لا تتخذوا الذين اتخذوا دينكم هزواً ولعبا» (المائدة:57)ØŒ والذين هم بحسب فرضكم العلمانيون الذين اتخذوا دين الإسلام هزواً ولعباً.

– صنقور (مقاطعاً): وأنت ماذا تقول في مصداق الآية…

-الهاشمي: شيخنا تدبر آيات الله عزوجل والتفت إليها، وان الآية أعابت على مجموعة من الناس اتخذوا دينكم، وهذا أمر طبيعي، لان كل إنسان يعتقد بصحة دينه، ويقول الإمام الصادق(ع): «ثلاثة لا يقول امرؤ منها إنه على خطأ: دينه الذي يعتقده وعمله الذي يفعله ورأيه الذي يراه»، وهذا أمر طبيعي، فكل إنسان يتخذ دين الآخرين هزواً ولعباً، لأنه يؤمن بصحة دينه.

ولكن في الوقت ذاته لدينا تعبيرٌ إلهي آخر يقول فيه الله سبحانه وتعالى للنبي الكريم(ص): «وذر الذين اتخذوا دينهم لعباً ولهواً» (الأنعام: 70)ØŒ وأنا اعتقد أنّنا نلعب بالدين أيضاً ونلهو به حينما لا نقيمه على أساس صحيح. وأنا اسأل المتدينين قبل أن اسأل العلمانيين: هل انتم تؤصلون أم تعطلون الحالة الدينية بتصرفاتكم وسلوكياتكم مع الناس والرأي العام، وربما مبدأ نواياكم هو تأصيل الدين ولكن النتيجة هي تعطيل الدين والرواية عن الرسول الأكرم(ص) تقول: «إن هذا الدين متين، فأوغلوا فيه برفق، ولا تكرهوا عبادة الله إلى عباد الله»، وكم من عباد الله كرهوا الدين بسبب المتدينين، وأنا اعتقد أن هذه مسألة لا أحتاج النقاش فيها بعد بروز القاعدة والتيار السلفي التكفيري، فقد صار الناس – بسبب هؤلاء – يخرجون من دين الله أفواجاً كما كانوا يدخلونه أفواجاًَ، فنتمنى ألا نكون «كالراكب المنبث، فلا ظهر أبقى ولا سفر قطع».



Shaikha Mai Al-Khalifa has done good by the Bahraini culture and art, there is no one who could deny that, regardless of your stance with respect to the recent Spring of Culture. She is a lady that I have held with very high regard. Therefore I note with hurt and much surprise her seemingly irresponsible attitude toward our Tree of Life, or at least indifference she exhibited when asked about it. As far as she is concerned, the Tree is a none-entity and whether it survives or dies, it is just a tree! It is just part of the local lore and some say – according to her – the tree is only 45 years old!

I expected a lot better than this attitude from Shaikha Mai.

At the very least, take the trouble to ascertain its age and use it to inculcate the feeling of history, culture and national pride. Don’t just dismiss it as you have done.

Some art, Shaikha Mai, could only be done by the hands of nature. And there is no guarantee that left unprotected, will just continue to be there for this and future generations to marvel at.

Oh, I’m sorry, that’s not really of concern.


National Pride

Over the last few years, an allegation has been thrown at all and sundry questioning their loyalty and patriotism to their country, Bahrain. Some sections of society have been singled out, even, to levy that allegation onto that they – the accused – had to prove time and again their love and undying devotion. But all of that – as far as I am concerned – doesn’t really mean anything. Loyalty does not happen by chance. It is not a serendipitous concept, it is something that must be nurtured in all of us to arrive at the shores of patriotism. It is, then, a process where your pride in your country is inculcated within your being by concrete actions by the main actors in society: rulers, government and citizens; the respect for human life and their dignity, the prevalence of security, the equal opportunities and representation, the non-discrimination, the freedom to express oneself and the freedoms of assembly.

Patriotism is the ultimate feeling that pushes a person – voluntarily – to stand in the line of fire in selfless defence of ones country.

How is that arrived at though? It sounds like a very romantic and surreal concept. The stuff of novels. But people actually do stand in the path of danger to protect ones country willingly and without the least bit of hesitation. It is like a deep religious zeal. That, I do think, is not arrived at lightly. It is the result of a lifetime of experiences, a lifetime of the feeling of belonging, a lifetime of being embraced by ones country, a lifetime of being proud of ones national symbols and identity.

It is all of those that make one really be a patriot.

What destroys that patriotism; however, is very little. The witnessing of the wanton destruction of a national symbol with the realisation that no one really cares is one factor which can greatly contribute to the dissolution of that noble state.

This is what is happening to our beloved Tree of Life, one of the oldest trees in the world, is not shown the respect it deserves, nor the protection it needs to survive and continue to be the national symbol for our descendants.

I thought I would pay it a visit this afternoon to greet it and I was fully prepared to jostle with a crowd of fellow Bahrainis who are concerned about its welfare, taking into consideration the recent news of arson perpetrated against it. But that was not to be. When I finally arrived at the tree, what I did find is a group of people zooming in and out and about the tree with abandon, with nary a single thought to the sanctity of the place. I was angry and sad to see such a place being actively desecrated.


National Treasure Burnt

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Tree of Life

The Tree of Life symbolises Bahrain to me much more than any other symbol. It has been around for hundreds of years and has become known throughout the world, justifiably, as one of its wonders; a tree right in the middle of a desert with no water in sight not just living but flourishing in its harsh location.

So why would anyone wish to burn this national treasure?

This is totally inexcusable.

We should protect this national treasure, not just for us, but for the world’s future generations.

It would be nice to border the whole knoll it is on and not allow anyone to approach it and strict rules should be put in place to penalise vandals and litterbugs.

It shouldn’t take too much to establish an unobtrusive guard post in that location and provide a few guides to educate people about this natural wonder. Hopefully when people know its fantastic story and what it signifies to us, it will be respected and left it alone.


An exquisite dinner

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A meal, normally – at least most I have been familiar with – do not last more than 30 minutes, with the first 20 probably trying to call everyone to the table and then messing about with plates and cutlery, etc., then 10 minutes to wolf it down and then back to whatever we were individually doing again.

I suspect that this is the same story for a lot of people, that’s why when I first heard from a French friend that every Sunday his family gather in their kitchen and start cooking from around 10 or 11am and then start eating around noon and that the meal actually habitually extends to 5 or 6pm I was skeptical to start with, but then the more we chatted that skepticism turned to incredulity; “How much can these people eat?” and another more urgent question was “What the hell do they talk about for all of that time, and they are family!”

That was a few years ago, Daniel Esperanza has since gone back to Paris and we did cross paths at exhibitions once or twice. He probably does not remember that conversation but I do, as it stuck in my mind since. I continued to have hurried meals, with probably the longest at the table being our traditional Eid and Christmas dinners – those extend to about an hour, max.

Last night, Frances and I approximated Daniel’s experience and we both rather enjoyed it.

Chaîne des Rôtisseurs logo

We were fortunate enough to be invited to a special dinner by our friend Ian Fisher (yes, the one and only!) to the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs function which this time was held at the Diplomat’s Kontiki restaurant. The chefs have excelled in creating a Pacific Extravaganza consisting of eight courses for us to enjoy which in itself was a wonderful journey through which we savored the culinary delights of the region.

The food was good of course as was its presentation; however, what made that a much better experience was the people, the conversations, the new friends all of which contributed greatly to a fantastic atmosphere and made time fly. Four hours of chatting and eating felt like not more than 30 minutes!

Now I know what Daniel was talking about and I believe him. I look forward to recreating this experience at home and abroad often. The experience taught me that food was not just for eating; it also serves as a catalyst for building and maintaining good relationships. That cannot happen in a hurry.

Frances and I wish to thank Ian and Rosemary for their hospitality and hope that we can return the favour one day.