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Eating Snakes

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I’ve never noticed “the gulf” magazine before. It’s normally thrown at our door-step with our GDN subscription. It (like others delivered with the GDN) meets the inside of our recycling bin unopened. But having nothing better to do this morning while waiting for this site to upgrade to the latest and greatest release of WordPress, I rifled through it, looking at the pictures to come across this rather daring gentlemen with some sort of jute sack on his head vigorously biting into an uncooked piece of jerky.


Closer inspection revealed that the delicacy the young (ferocious?) gentleman is enjoying is non other than a snake!

Why would such a picture make it into such a publication in the first place?

Well, your guess is as good as mine, but from experience with the copious output of the august Hilal Publishing Group, you and I would be forgiven for guessing that it’s for filling space, fattening yet another non-descript magazine contributing to the further depletion of the world’s national resources, for the purpose of generating mo money for its publishers.

Why else? Does such a picture (or any of this particular magazine’s contents for that matter) add any value? I personally don’t think so. Though, I fully understand that such enterprises are not produced for the education of the masses (or add a valuable insight for those “7,500, mostly among senior executives and policy makers based in the Middle East or with an interest in the region.”) If it’s distributed by default with the local rag, one would be excused for having serious reservations about the purported reach of such a publication. But, I guess some morons fall for it and spend their company’s hard earned cash to advertise in such slop, which is the object of the game. Smart.

But that’s not why I chose to share this picture with you. The reason was to simply ask why would our highly regarded (cough!) military forces (cough!) find it necessary to demonstrate their “toughness” (persistent cough!) by killing, skinning and then biting into a snake! Is it to scare our enemies? I don’t see the Israelis quacking in their boots because of these demonstrations, do you? The IDF would probably laugh themselves to death looking at this picture. Oh hang on a minute! Maybe that is the plan! Kill Israeli soldiers with laughter and incredulity!

God save us.

This is not the first instant where I watched an image of Arab military prowess. I seem to remember another disgusting episode where a Bahraini military person catching a hapless snake in their military graduation and gnashing into it in front of dignitaries. I remember thinking of several things then which remain unanswered: (1) were the dignitaries able to stomach their lunches or dinners after seeing such gastronomic delight? and (2) where the bloody hell did they find that snake from? Living in Bahrain all my life I’ve only come across one crossing a country road and another little puny thing a friend caught on a farm and stuffed in an old Pepsi bottle. Did they buy that particular one from a pet shot I wonder and released it just in time for the toughie to catch and crunch? Was it the same scenario with our Saudi cousins too? It’s the desert for f**&^k’s sake, any and all self respecting reptiles are underground keeping away from the harsh sun!

Oh I remember an even worse scenario. Yes. Before Saddam finally fell and went slithering into his hole underground, images were broadcast on our televisions showing the undefeatable Revolutionary Guard (or some crap artists like that) chasing down a wolf, catching it and then ripping it apart chewing at it with their bare hands. That was to demonstrate their prowess I’m sure, and to scare off the Allied Forces too. And look what happened to them.

So my humble suggestion to our illustrious armed forces is this: please leave our wildlife – little as it is – the bloody hell alone! They didn’t do anything to you, and the age of having to twist the neck of a little kitten to scare your wives on your wedding nights, or killing a reptile or another animal as your right of passage in your graduation ceremonies is really not required. We all know how tough you are and we are scared even without you having to demonstrate your murderous traits by such kills. We know. We are scared. But, my friends, they aren’t and never have! With these actions, you’re (to them of course, to us we know better) just a laughing stock. So change that right of passage please. Maybe you can consider demonstrating your literacy by writing your name on a board or something for graduation? I don’t know…

Anyway, if anyone knows the gentleman depicted in the picture above, could you please ascertain whether snake tastes like chicken?


Faisal Shahzad, yet another dimwit falls for it.

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I’m still trying to get my head around this dickhead and his attempt to blow up Times Square, apart from being one of my favourite spots in the world, had this incompetent fool (something we should be thankful for) succeeded, the tragedy would have been immense. Countless innocent lives would have been lost, and our world – the so called Muslim nation – would descend further in the quagmire of international scorn and isolation.

Times Square Car Bomber Faisal Shahzad
Admitted terrorist Faisal Shahzad was so eager to tell how he plotted to kill Americans in Times Square, he went to court with a prepared statement.

U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum refused to hear him read it Monday, instead challenging the Pakistan-born American citizen to just say “what happened.”

In an unapologetic, matter-of-fact courtroom colloquy that followed, Shahzad offered chilling details about how he trained with the Pakistani Taliban to build bombs, then returned to the U.S. to launch an attack that would avenge attacks on Muslims by U.S. forces overseas.

“One has to understand where I’m coming from,” he said in an unusual departure from tightly scripted guilty pleas, with his defense attorney and prosecutors sitting in silence in federal court in Manhattan. “I consider myself … a Muslim soldier.”

A Muslim what?

I think the dimwit should plead insanity. Ask his wife, she’d confirm, I’m sure.

The guy comes from a wealthy and privileged family. He was a relatively obscure and unnoteworthy student in both his native Pakistan and in the USA, but he was lucky to land a job and gain a “green card” to stay in the country he claims to have become to hate. The bitch got full US citizenship 3 months before he decided to blow it up.

And he calls himself a “muslim soldier.” I’m not sure if this idiom comes from Islam, but colloquially we have a saying which states that only a dog flips his dish after he’s eaten. That typifies the ungrateful, and disloyal, and turncoat. To me, Faisal Shahzad is nothing less than the definition of these terms and an awful lot more.


We have to ask ourselves why would people like Faisal Shahzad and hundreds more from all strata of our society succumb to this meaningless violence? How is it condoned and why is it permitted to fester amongst us?

I used to think that its simply because of a person’s ignorance of “the true interpretation of Islam” that allows him to veer away from the correct path. But incidents like these shake my belief in that premise, leading to think of the possibility that it’s not the interpretation that’s awry, but maybe, just maybe some of the fundamentals are wrong, or maybe at least are mis-applied or even no longer relevant.

Could it be that the literal interpretation of the Quran without putting it in a proper frame of reference is at the source of these troubles which we are facing on a daily basis? Not a day passes, it seems, without one act of terror or another being launched at innocents around the world. All for what? To establish the supremacy of Islam. To build an Islamic super-state. To re-establish the Khalifate of old, completely and willfully forgetting the intrinsic difference of the world 1500 years ago and the present day.

We have to stop making excuses.

We have to come down on these terrorists and their incubators like a ton of bricks. Let’s recognise the very source of the problem and annihilate it. Not by continuing to put on the kiddie cotton gloves, but remove them from our midst as a surgeon does with cancerous tumours.


There are no short term solutions of course. We have to change mentalities and modes of thinking and this will take a long time, generations probably, but we have to start now!

I believe a modern education system is critical. Emphasis on humanities, science and engineering. Emphasising and encouraging critical thinking without the “red lines” of not criticising religion or state must be taught and nurtured. Criticism must be encouraged and the protection of people’s right to information, and ensure the freedom of the press, inculcate accountability and transparency and inshrine those principles with the milk a babe drinks. Only when these take place and people start to not just accept them as a given, but fight for their protection with their lives, will we put a stop to this spreading cancer.

Yes it is a difficult proposition and I know that huge waves of opposition will be raised. But I can’t see another way of dealing with these acts of orchestrated violence. We tried to blame them on anything and everything, but never approached the real cause.

It’s time to call a spade a spade and be done with the literal interpretation of old texts and apply the spirit of the religion. I’m sure this is what the essence of Islam or any other religion is in any case.


Vehicle tracking, another Big Brotherly gesture?

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I don’t know where this country is going as far as personal freedoms are concerned. They’re just about non-existant at the moment, and whatever remains, the government, Parliament, and the religious establishment are methodically chipping away. If this doesn’t result in a society filled with nothing but directed androids, I’m not sure what is.

The latest salvo in this depreciation of personal freedoms comes this time courtesy of the Ministry of Interior. No surprise there. It’s Traffic Department is introducing new number plates, unimaginatively justified to “fight crime”:

The new number plates are part of a raft of measures designed to tackle car crime, which include the introduction of hi-tech registration badges that will allow police to monitor the movement of every vehicle.

GDN · 9 June 2010


Is this really necessary in such a tiny country as ours? Aren’t we already robbed of every semblance of privacy without any recourse to a law that protects our identity and rights? What happened to the right of information and data protection laws? Must we be followed, spied on and harassed by the state in every single facet of our miserable lives to end it now with a completely unwarranted invasion of privacy?

This country is just getting from the ridiculous to the obscene.

Is it ever going to end?

No, it won’t.

Because this country doesn’t seem to have any person who cares any more. We deserve what we get… for the price of the apathy we have excelled at toward public affairs, cannot but result in being ruled by evil men.

May your soul rest in peace Plato.


Amsterdam reflections

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Blackcat, originally uploaded by malyousif.


After a very hectic but immensely satisfying week, I am back home again. It’s good to be with your family and good to sleep in your own bed again.

In the week we’ve been away, we produced two news reports [1·2] which were aired on the same day they were shot, while another 3 are in progress and shall be released soon based on the footage we acquired during the Power-Gen Europe exhibition and conference at the RAI.

It was a nostalgic trip as well. I’ve been going to the RAI to attend the International Broadcasters Convention for years. I just missed the last 2 years due to my changing the business direction of the company. It was good to be back in Amsterdam. It was different this time too, Apart form going to the city centre on the first and last day of the stay there, we spent all the other time near the RAI. An expected thing really as we started work at around 5.30 am and didn’t finish until about 10pm every single day!

Just by chance, while the exhibition was being set up in the RAI, a smaller hall there was hosting a Tattoo Convention. I didn’t require much encouragement to take some time off and visit! I met some very interesting people there. Some even allowed me to take videos of them being tattooed and others pleasantly posed for my photographs. Unfortunately all I had with me then was my iPhone. I know. Ironic, considering what we were commissioned to do in Amsterdam! I’ll finish and post the video once I get some time. Enjoy the pictures for now though…

I am absolutely proud of my crew. Every single one of them pulled an ace out of their hats and worked well under immense pressure and succeeded to deliver fantastic products which exceeded the client’s expectations.

It’s fantastic working with clients who continuously challenge us and allow us to innovate and push the envelope. We’re looking forward to two more international productions with PennWell Corp; Doha and Singapore are coming up in October and November this year. We can’t wait!


[MtvSM] Amsterdam, here we come!

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We’re off to Amsterdam for a week to produce 5 (yes, five) corporate videos in 7 days!

Needless to say, we’ll be a bit busy. So please hold the fort while I’m away. I’ll try to pop in as often as I can, but expect delays in responses and posts please.

Until my return, and in the spirit of the Den, The Mahmood’s Den Scapegoat of the Moment shall be….

The protestors and crew of the Feedom Flotilla.

Pay your respects, admiration or anger in the comments.


Freedom flotilla

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I didn’t have any doubt at all that the Freedom Flotilla would be attacked by Israel. I am surprised that this has resulted in so many deaths; however, I probably was a bit naive to think that the Flotilla might just be prevented from entering into the Gaza harbour, but never thought that such a prevention would be meted out in such a barbaric fashion.

My heart goes to those brave people who put their lives on the line to help the destitute and confined 1.5 million people – human beings – with hardly enough to sustain them. Some of whom have now paid for their humanitarian effort with their lives.

Thanks should be given to the cowardice of our governments as well of course. Egypt in particular, for closing its border crossing for so long, deepening the suffering of those cornered and disenfranchised people in Gaza whose suffering will continue unabated.

Follow Twitter’s #FreedomFlotilla for more immediate news, and the usual news sites for updates.


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.


A different kind of Muslim

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Rima Faqih.

You don’t know that name yet? Well, you shall, courtesy of Wikipedia, The Guardian, The Daily Star, and of course my favourite, Mona Eltahawy who’s comments appear in the following video:


Change to the Muslim world seem to be coming from Muslims in the free world. But can that counter the growing extremism and verdant sectarianism we experience in the lands of Islam? Could people like Rima Faqih and Aziz Ansari be the harbinger of change?

I don’t have the answer to this important question, I think no one does. However, more and more we witness Muslims spreading their wings and becoming politicians (Obama is still regarded as a Muslim in these hereabouts, on a cultural basis at least, thus illiciting some affinity), scientists, businessmen, media personalities and now a crowned beauty queen too. The common denominator is a free society with guaranteed personal rights and freedoms who are given a chance and are judged on their merits rather than the tribe they hail from and the sub-sect they belong to. It is only right that we look up to these people and to the environment which allowed them to excel.

Is it too much to just wish and even demand the same freedoms and nurturing environment in our countries too? Given half a chance, we too can be role models and live our lives to the fullest for the benefit of humanity.

Congratulations Rima. And Aziz of course, and the rest of the Muslims who have made it on their own recognizance. May you always inspire.


And the penny drops… Bahrain-Qatar wise

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Over the last few weeks, tensions have been running high between Bahrain and Qatar, with the latter apprehending and in one case shooting Bahraini amateur and professional fishermen. 106 of them are said to be put on a mass trial in the Qatari capital Doha soon.

I reflected about both countries strained relations before and have received countless suppositions as to the reason for this worsening condition, but none really made sense. Until I woke up this morning and saw the following piece of information plastered on all of our local papers:

Bahrain has nominated Dr Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani for GCC secretary-general’s post with effect from April 1, 2011, it was announced last night. The decision came in response to a letter His Majesty King Hamad received from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah

GDN 27 May 10

What happened to Al-Mutawa who was nominated before? Why the sudden fall from grace? Why this deal? [background, Arabic]

Well, Reuters reports that:

Analysts say Mutawa is disliked by Qatar because, as information minister, he had led Bahrain’s publicity campaign against Qatar during the territorial dispute over the Hawar islands.

Has the penny dropped for you now too?

What goes around comes around…

But playing with one-hundred-and-six families “to get your own back” and force a country to back down is not just infantile, but also abhorrent.