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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.


Truth & Reconciliation

Bahraini king meeting human rights societies

News reports out today suggest that the king has given his blessing to convening a Truth and Reconciliation Workshop by human rights societies in Bahrain which was previously blocked by authorities, with several provisos;

  1. Don’t involve foreigners
  2. The reconciliation is deemed to have already taken place by the inculcation of laws 10 of 2001 and 56 of 2002 which provided a general amnesty and allowed the expelled to return home
  3. The Complaints & Grievances office’s door has always been open through which issues are resolved and brought to the attention of his majesty

In a reaction to the meeting, the human rights activist Abdulla Al-Durazi said:

من جهته أكد نائب الأمين العام للجمعية البحرينية لحقوق الإنسان عبدالله الدرازي دعم عاهل البلاد لجهود الجمعية البحرينية لحقوق الإنسان في عقد ورشة (مشروع الحقيقة والإنصاف والمصالحة في البحرين)’’، لافتاً إلى ‘’مباركة الملك لتشكيل لجنة وطنية للإنصاف’’. وقال الدرازي بعيد لقاء عاهل البلاد بأعضاء جمعيتي البحرين لحقوق الإنسان وجمعية البحرين لمراقبة حقوق الإنسان ‘’عرضنا على الملك تشكيل لجنة لإنصاف ضحايا الحقبة السابقة تشكل بأمر منه، لكنه أشار إلى ان المصالحة قد تمت، ولكن ذلك لا يمنع ان تتشكل اللجنة وان تعملوا فيها معتمدين في ذلك على الخبرات التي تتمتعون بها’’.

The Deputy Secretary General of the Bahrain Human Rights Society Abdulla Al-Durazi asserted the monarch’s support for the efforts of the Bahraini human rights societies in convening the Truth, Redress and Reconciliation Workshop in Bahrain, pointing out the king’s blessings for the formation of a national committee for redress. Al-Durazi said shortly after the king’s meeting with the Bahrain Human Rights and the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Societies that we suggested that the king would give his order to form a Committee of Redress of victims of the previous era, but he declined and said that redressed has already been effected, but there is no objection to the formation of such a committee which should only utilise Bahraini expertise.

This is progress. Hesitant and half hearted as it may seem, but progress none-the-less. We can now start building proper truth and reconciliation mechanisms in order to bring justice to those who suffered for over 80 years in this country and with that we can truly turn the page and start working on integrating this society and remove the sectarian thinking which has ripped the community apart.


What goes around, comes around

Adel Al-Moawdah is down on his luck these days. He has been sidelined by the organisation he led, the Salafist Al-Islah Society when he was removed from heading it, he was not given the guaranteed 2nd Deputy Speaker’s seat in this parliament – while he occupied the 1st Deputy’s seat during the last term, and now he has been branded an apostate by a new group in Bahrain calling itself Ansar Al-Khulafaa (Champions of the Rightly Guided, the 4 who ruled after the Prophet – pbuh).


MP Adel Al-Moawdah

Apart from my differences with the good MP, he does not deserve to be branded a “kaffir” – an apostate – by anyone, for if he – a man of religion – is branded so, how would the rest of us be counted?

This of course is a very dangerous situation and it shows that our society – or at least elements in it – have descended to a very dangerous level in which death is their game, and that they happily and lightly apply to anyone who differs with them on opinion or thought.

This phenomenon is what started various wars and tore whole societies asunder, this is what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is what happened too in countries like Saudi, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan, Egypt, India, the Philippines and even the UK with the end result is the disruption of a way of life for the individual and communities because of these very grievous accusations.

This is a dire sickness which must be immediately treated. It is a cancer that should the community and authority leave unchecked, will lead to suicide murderers, bombs and strife to grip our country with untold innocent lives lost. It will completely remove any hope of progress and windows of opportunities from our future.

All for a difference of opinion.

We have a duty now more than ever to propagate the idea of tolerism in our society and that we can do by unashamedly standing up to those who condone violence as a way of life and who are so close-minded that they believe that it is them only who have the exclusive keys to Heaven. Their ideas are not inclusive, but exclusive and based on marginalising everyone else as unworthy; to them if you do not share their particularly thwarted view of life, then you just don’t deserve it.

Is it not high time – as Muslim countries and communities – that we rid ourselves of this mentality of cultural and religious terrorism, should there not be very stringent laws which criminalise this practice and punish those who choose that extremely dangerous weapon against dialogue and cultural understanding?

What does this mentality serve anyway? Accusing people of apostasy because they have “insulted Islam” only proves one thing and one thing only: that Islam is a weak religion that even a personal insult can bring it tumbling down. I don’t think it is, I think that Islam is a great religion which survived for more than 1,400 years and will continue to grow much beyond our own lifetimes – but only if we look at it with fresh eyes and seek the beauty within it and ostracize the violence.

It would not have survived this long had it been “defended” by the wholesale fatwas of apostasy against thinkers, writers and philosophers or even normal individuals. Islam does not need that kind of protection.

And every time we get a furore like this one, or like the wave of objections against the author Salman Rushdie being knighted or a scientist asserting that Earth is actually a sphere or any number of issues deemed “offensive” by the takfiris, Islam does get perceived to be a weak and ailing religion, one whose only method of survival is the killing of its critics!

It’s time for Muslims – in all their guises, disciplines and interpretations – to grow up and stop these continuous unnecessary temper tantrums and their idea of “protecting our noble religion”. It doesn’t need protection. What it needs are courageous people who could re-interpret ancient texts and try to punch holes in it without the fear or death – literally – hanging over their heads.

Our prophet said that a Muslim’s main facet is his mind, which he deemed much more important than all other rituals; isn’t it high time that we engaged ours then?

In closing, I offer my full support to Adel Al-Moawdah against the takfiris in Bahrain and call upon everyone to stand firm against those criminals.

It is high time to reclaim our community and religion back.