Tag Archives Miscellany

Water Lily – dedicated to Alan Johnston

Water Lily

Water Lily, originally uploaded by malyousif.

This is the first ever water lily in my care. It has just opened this morning! I am really happy with it and love its colour.

I am so glad that Alan Johnston has been released in Gaza after 140 114 days in captivity.

This lily is dedicated to him and all journalists who put their life on the line to keep us informed.

Have a wonderful day!

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Discordant Voices

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Languishing in bed a bit longer on Saturdays has become a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of life. Paper delivered, people trudge to their gates to collect their weekend infusion of worldly news and views to imbibe with their morning cup of tea.

It never fails, too, to increase dormant blood pressures or further deplete recharged batteries when repeatedly exhausted words of wisdom are read which – barely a day old – emanated from supposedly learned gentlepersons; fire and brimstone await unbelievers, especially those secularists hell-bent on changing entrenched ways of life of subservience to beturbaned and unrestrained ghutra wearers whose tenuous claim to education is the diligent pursuance of ancient text with nary an attempt to comprehend that the only permanence in this world is change.

Curses! Everlasting curses are on those secularists who are the very discordant voices in our Muslim societies. Expel them. Ignore them. Incarcerate them. Kill them. Marginalise them even for we are Muslims first and foremost and to hell with everyone else. The circle closes here and now, it is the protection of our way of life!

Yet, in their next breath copious complaints emanate from the very same snarly lips against a sect being actively marginalised and ignored!

Blinkered minds are a danger to themselves and to all of those around them. Look at London and Glasgow, someone was doing the Lord’s bidding – according to them.

But sheep will blindly follow a leader to the slaughter and if they happen to die, so be it, they died martyrs and virgins await. Collateral damage is to be expected and even those will be martyrs, so what have they to complain about?

Life in the hereafter. The universe was concluded some 1400 years ago.

A hex unto thee, secular discordant voices.

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The caravan is in motion and the dogs are barking

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Sometimes, privilege given goes to the head and unfortunately the meandering brainfarts get believed by their perpetrators to be gems of wisdom. They even convince themselves that they are the only people – the chosen ones – who heard the person in authority right and everyone else is wrong. Given the benefit of the doubt, that position could just be a case of mistaken interpretation; however, if that person or group then take it upon themselves to not only steadfastly refuse to believe reality but change it forcefully into what they believe their superiors actually require of them, then they have lost the compass completely and are just wandering listlessly in their own private thought-inhibiting deserts.

The shame of course is that those people have been placed in the highest chamber in the land to do good for and by the people. But what they actually do is just contribute to the noxious gases in that chamber. Gases which seem to have addled their brains but never touched their conscience. Like others before them in history, the pain of survivors is not their concern.

They might be masochists and enjoy such conditions, which is fine, it is their right to choose the manner in which they will be ultimately remembered, but when those people deter a whole country and people from finding the path to salvation, the path to ameliorate feelings of pain, destitution, subjugation and torture and incarceration and gross disregards for human dignity and rights, then it is plain that they are part of the continuing problem.

So out of 38 they get one representative, copiously living in privilege unashamedly uncaring of an adopted society which welcomed them with open arms, perpetuating a private dream that the translation of a leader’s perceived wishes is what constitutes the modus operandi of human rights work; while an other, a co-conspirator, transcribes uninformed and idiotic plans to derail the efforts of those who choose to protect the sanctity and honour of this society and heal its wounds.

They get rewarded, of course, by seats they could never fulfill, yet think that they will never vacate. Hence, they have never had the reason to put forward any germane idea or wish to better the society which embraced them, but continue to solely pad their nests by ascribing to their own perception of a noble goal: that of subservience to a master on which their fervent hopes and aspirations is to be noticed in order to bask in his largess.

All for a handful of silver.

As if that shiny metal is going to rub away the tattooed numbers, the missing fathers, the raped mothers and daughters, the tortured and wronged.

My dear cousin, this is our holocaust. We need to deal with it so we can move forward.

Will you be kind enough to move aside so the caravan can pass, or would you rather be trampled and thrown to the rubbish heaps of history as you so richly deserve?

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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.

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Why is ‘Sorry’ such a difficult word?

I’m not sure why this is the case, and am not sure why is it so difficult to understand that in order to move forward as a society some truths must be recognised and reparations made.

Iman Shwaiter at the Truth and Reconciliation workshop at Waad

Iman Shwaiter crying in memory of her husband (Hashim Al-Alawi) who was kidnapped, tortured and killed by Bahraini security forces in the 90s this was during a workshop on Truth and Reconciliation by 11 political societies, human rights organisations and activists in Wa’ad’s premises on 23 June ’07

Sayid Alawi Sayid Hassan at the Truth and Reconciliation workshop at Waad

Sayid Alawi Sayid Hassan with his nephew Mohammed Al-Nasheet (left) assisting him to speak of his suffering at the hands of State Security’s apprehension, imprisonment and torture.

It is an inescapable fact that every single on of us Bahrainis knows of the torture stories which were prevalent in the 70s through the 90s. Every one of us probably has a relative who suffered at the hands of torturers resulting in either deep psychological scarring or in more than 40 cases, death.

We also recognise that some violence perpetrated by citizens resulted in unfortunate ends, be that causing the death of individuals or damage done to property.

In either case, why shouldn’t an independent commission be convened to open those festering wounds, clean them up and restitch them again so that they can heal properly and we can move forward with our lives? In almost all cases a word of recognition and apology is all that is required. Even if monetary reparation is to be done to the people who suffered, that compensation should be paid in order to invest in a better future.

These feelings are one major source of strife in Bahrain and I am surprised that they are not ameliorated by the inaction of proper programs to relieve that pain.

Yes, some would argue, as has already been done, that the National Charter and the General Amnesty Law are enough. I contend that they are not as they came from one side only. They most definitely provide the basic framework from which redress and reconciliation could be started; however, truth should be sought and facts broadcast in order to recognise the depth of the problem and work toward resolving them.

We have ample examples in the world which we can emulate. South Africa is the most successful attempt at proper truth and reconciliation and so is the Moroccan commission to a large extent. We should learn from them and not just hide our head in the sand by stating that those are “foreign experiments” that we should simply ignore. If we accept that attitude, we might as well forget about all the planned reforms as they all depend on foreign experience to ensure their success!

So come on, for the sake of Bahrain, let us just get this much needed commission inaugurated and give them all the tools that they require to out truths and seek reparations in order to insure a better, fuller and more cohesive Bahrain.

Please.

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Corporate social responsibility

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Loki suggested that I am unfair in singling out Batelco for criticism, while (s)he suggests that I should have my beef rather with the TRA.

I think I should lay out here why I do put the blame on Batelco, and why I do hold it at a higher elevation than other companies in Bahrain. This started out as a response to Loki’s comment but I thought it deserves a post on its own as it discusses other point worthy of consideration.

In the original comment (please take the time to peruse our exchanges in the Batelco feeling the heat thread) (s)he says:

Fair point, but I would argue that your beef should be with TRA not Batelco. If you were the CEO of Batelco would you actively make life easier for your competitors?

You see, this way of thinking is what I classify as “the old way of doing business“.

I think that as the business environment changed appreciably now to be more aware of their surroundings, environment and community as successful businesses actually derive their success from those factors directly and indirectly, it is therefore incumbent on the businesses to be more socially responsible to give something back to their benefactors; this will allow them to become more sustainable.

All of this is typical of “knowledge based businesses” and this is the virtually the only type of business that will survive in the future; their “value add” must be knowledge based, rather than “hardware based” where a product is sold and forgotten. Selling hardware is simply an enabler to provide an even more involved knowledge-based product: how to benefit from the product most, how to use and utilise it to make other products, etc. If one takes that approach, then no longer will the thinking be of competition, but rather cooprition where a business will cooperate and compete with others to provide a more creative and knowledge value irrespective of the hardware. Therefore, businesses will recognise that they do not have to re-invent the wheel, they will no longer have to “keep” the customer close to their bosoms (the customers are much more knowledgeable anyway) and be afraid of “losing” them.

In fact, another of my theories will come into play: the boomerang effect which I can explain as the more valuable “content” and “knowledge” you provide your customers (who should be regarded as partners anyway) and the more you actually lead them to a competitor of yours who can provide them with a better service in a specific way that you cannot (for any reason) the more they will actually come back to you and bring in more of their friends as the level of trust will increase appreciably!

Putting it rather simply, don’t you just hate sites that forces you to follow links in a new window? What does that tell you as a visitor? That they are afraid that you will leave and never come back to their site or that you are simply too lazy to hit the “back” button, in either situation it denotes a level of mistrust in themselves and you.

That is why I put the blame not on the TRA completely, but on Batelco squarely because they have had 25 years in which they could have developed the country a lot more if they embraced their role as an enabler and as a socially responsible company.

They should have talked to Abdulrahman Al-Sayyid or Jawahry for tips, but somehow I do not think that they ever will think in that way. Their social irresponsibility is so ingraned and typified in their arrogance.

That company SHOULD be broken up. We would be doing the country a big favour if it were to be broken up if only to show others coming into their traditional environment (big corp) that they have a role to place within the community and recognising that is simply good business practice.

What did Batelco achieve by their capping their bandwidth offering, for instance, other than provide the basis for other telco operators to simply copy its lead? Did it engender creativity? Did it engender competitiveness? No, all it did is allow the others to make silly capped offerings at slightly higher benefits.

And who benefits from those? No one. But if one does, they are simply labeled “trouble maker” and simply sidelined and the “drummers” continue to praise their benefactor without stopping for an instance to evaluate the position as far as the community and the country is concerned. Batelco just sets the lead and the others – even its competitors – follow like beaten sheep! And why shouldn’t they? It’s easy money, no one complains and no one demands a better service. “Good enough” is okay and the reward for mediocrity as excellence continues. This has almost become a cultural phenomenon.

Do we, for instance, have any real e-commerce solution? A gateway to accept credit card transactions?

No!

Why?

Because Batelco has entrenched the lead in greedy and irresponsible corporate culture. There is no reason to innovate whatsoever, because they have killed competition with the government – whose main responsibility should be the raising of standards and the performance and competitive bar – aiding and abetting it.

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While I value the role of some members of the ruling family are doing in the development of this great country and their countless philanthropic activities which I know they are not waiting to be thanked for because they see these efforts as their duty, I have noticed that some ministers have started posting non-discreet “thank you notes” signing them with their personal names rather than that of their ministries at least; take this for instance:

Bin Rajab thanks to her majesty the Queen

I value His Excellency The Minister Mansour bin Hassan bin Rajab’s [Abu Hamad née Hassan] diligence in thanking Her Majesty the Queen for patronizing the opening of the Andalus Garden in Manama – which I am anxious to visit and benefit from in gardening ideas as a budding gardener myself – but my question here is: is it appropriate for His Excellency the Minister of Agricultural Affairs and Municipalities to sign such a thank you note personally? I’ve notice that His Excellency has done the same with thanking His Highness the Prime Minister in a road-side hoarding in Muharraq on the old airport road on which only The Minister’s name was present in “the credits”.

Unless of course he paid for these himself from his own personal funds, then I have absolutely no problem with it whatsoever, He is free to utilise his own money how He sees fit. However, if He used the Ministry’s funds to do so, I would have thought that there are rules and laws against that which might go into the mismanagement of public funds and position areas.

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Ma3ak

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I’ve had the privilege to meet with Dr. Saad bin Tifla Al-Ajmi several times through the various conferences we happen to attend together, and the panels we shared at those conferences. The most recent one was a preparatory meeting for the forthcoming FIKR6 to take place in Manama in December 2007. The convened panel this time included some of the luminaries I have long admired like Al-Ajmi, Muneera Fakhro, Rola Dashti and other thinkers and personalities from around the Middle East.

As usual, we exchange cards, get to know each other better and continue to discuss topical issues during the breaks and through the conference. Of course we also exchange business cards so that we have each others’ latest contact details. I have just finished updating the details in my address book and that’s when I noticed that Saad wrote a new URL I was not familiar with on his card, but as he is involved in various youth, political and intellectual programs in Kuwait I thought it surely will be interesting to investigate further, and I was right and very happy to have come done so.

The site in question is Ma3ak.org whose front page immediately started the bells ringing and the lights to go on in my head when it finished loading!

Ma3ak logo

مظلة العمل الكويتي (معك)
تجمع اجتماعي سياسي تشكل يوم السبت الموافق 2 / 6 / 2007 من مجموعة كبيرة من الشباب الكويتي، يحملون هموم الوطن ويسعون إلى تعزيز الوحدة الوطنية وتكريس عمل مؤسسات المجتمع المدني من خلال تشكيل فرق عمل تعنى بمتابعة قضايا محددة في مجالات الشأن العام المختلفة كالتعليم والبيئة والصحة والشباب وحماية المستهلك ومحاربة الغش التجاري …إلخ.

إن الشباب في مظلة العمل الكويتي (معك) يؤمنون بأن العمل السياسي مفهومه أشمل مما هو متداول على الساحة السياسية الكويتية، فعلى الرغم من أهمية ما يدور في مجلس الأمة من قضايا، فإننا نعتقد بأن الوضع الصحي والسليم هو أن يكون البرلمان انعكاس مباشر لنشاط مؤسسات المجتمع المدني لا العكس.

لذا، فإن مظلة العمل الكويتي (معك) تعمل على تقديم رؤية جديدة للمشاركة في الشأن العام من خلال الاهتمام بمختلف القضايا التي تهم الوطن والمواطن.

This is a new political society “created by Kuwaiti youth and concerned with national issues and seek to promote national unity and consolidating the work of civil society institutions through the formation of task forces on and follow-up specific issues in the areas of public affairs, education, the environment, health, youth, consumer protection and the fight against commercial fraud”.

Wouldn’t it be great to form something like this in Bahrain? Wouldn’t this be a natural progression to the “Just Bahraini” campaign? Isn’t it time to start something that is non-sectarian and whose main motivation is to promote the same principles to ensure that we all live for a better and more comprehensive and unified Bahrain?

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Got summer travel plans?

You might want to consider a new Global Peace Index released by the Economic Intelligence Unit in which it ranked the peacefulness of 121 countries and gave them index points. The results – if you follow the news – are relatively obvious:

peaceful nations index

Norway came out on top, followed by New Zealand (2), Denmark (3), Ireland (4), Japan (5). As for the Gulf countries Oman came out on top occupying the 22nd spot, Qatar ranked 30th, UAE (38), Kuwait (46), Bahrain (62), Saudi Arabia (90), Yemen (95), Iran (97) and Iraq bringing up the rear at the last position of the index.

Other countries worth noting are the UK at 49, Libya is 58th (4 positions better than Bahrain!), Jordan is 63rd, while the USA occupies the 96th position, ranking one position lower than Yemen!

The rankings were developed by basing them on 24 “drivers” and indicators looking at various things which might affect the stability of a country. It does not take into consideration the history of conflict in a country, which I think reflects the currency of the report, rather than basing it on what could be irrelevant contexts.

It is worth reading and understanding the report; governments as well as NGOs should take note of its content which can provide a basis for working together to achieve better stability in order to create a sustainable peaceful existence and obviously a wealth generating platform for the community as a whole.

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Supercop Escapades, part 1

The benevolent Don Quixote

and we thought that parliamentary work, and being elected, is simple. Hah! No way José! Look at what is expected of you:

You get calls at all hours of the night, even when a concerned citizen spies a drunk public sector worker and expects you to take care of the situation, as you should. So into that brandspankynewlexis you get – with a Don Quixote refrain playing at the back of your mind and race – not stopping at those frivolous red lights, you’re an MP, a representative of the people now – to get to the scene of the crime and have a proper foot-stomping-fist-banging-lung-gutting fit and demand – as is your complete and full right – that the accused submit a blood sample for analysis to determine the quantity he has purportedly imbibed and thus, determine there and then, as a judge, jury and executioner that he be thrown out and as a head of a committee tasked with finding out the transgressions of that public sector, you can now allay any self-guilt and not suffer any insomnia for executing your job as best you could.

Bahraini MP and supercop Mohammed Yousif Yaqoob Al-Mozil - photo credit: Al-Waqt newspaper

Of course, there is that little thing in that book called the constitution which somehow talks about the separation of powers and that this sort of thing might be better done by the judicial authorities, but hey, you’re Don Quixote, not that stupid Sanchez! So it doesn’t apply to you.

Who looks at that book anyway, it’s only good for being used as a doorstop or propping up an unbalanced table or something like that

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