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The USA is no longer a destination of choice

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On 21st March the TSA and Homeland Security are expected to announce their banning of electronic devices larger than a mobile phone on some flights to and from the USA. This ban will be in effect on certain airlines and countries. There appears to be ten airports from eight Muslim countries affected, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan and Egypt.

On first read, I feel that this is a funny joke of the day. Yet another brainfart of a failing administration.

The serious stuff; to me at least, is that the USA is no longer on my destinations of choice list. If at all I can avoid going there for business or pleasure, I shall do so. There are more destinations – welcoming destinations – all over the world that I will endeavour to visit and enjoy instead.

The US can stay for Trump, Inc. for all I care.

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#JohnKerry in Bahrain

#JohnKerry in Bahrain

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John KerryAs I type this, there is a joint press conference by the foreign secretaries of the US of A and Bahrain.

Here’s what I expect #JohnKerry to state. Ready? Here goes:

Blaaah blah blah bla. Blaah bla bla bla bla bla bla blaaaaah bl #IRAN blablablablabla bla blaaaaah bla bla bl blaha blahhhhh #ISIS bla bla blaaaaaaah bla bla #IRAN bl #SYRIA #bla bla bla blaaaaaah bla #YEMEN bla (human rights) bla bla blaaaab ablallaballbalbabhhh bla blaaaaa #IRAN!

#lunch? ehm, yeah, sure. ehm, let’s go!

Thank you for your visit. Bye bye.

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Terrorism Will Not Win.

Terrorism Will Not Win.

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My thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the dead and injured as a result of this heinous crime against humanity. Terrorism doesn’t serve anyone and attacking the innocent doesn’t serve ANY any cause. The intention to do the maximum harm was quite evident in the selection of the Boston Marathon as a theatre of their hateful operations.

To all my American friends, you have my full support and sympathy. While I do not have the answers, I encourage you not to hate, because if you do, the dark forces behind this and other terrorism attacks win. I applaud the statement and reasoning of the US President who promised that “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups, will feel the full weight of justice.” which shows the humanity of that nation and its respect for human rights and due process, rather than go into an automatic collective punishment.

I do hope that those responsible are caught and they do feel the full weight of justice. As I hope their sources of sustenance do too because they are just as complicit in this as the perpetrators of the crime themselves.

boston-blast

My complete and unfettered sympathies. This is yet another sad day for peace loving people.

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[Vlog] NY Winter – Fun at Bryant Park

[Vlog] NY Winter – Fun at Bryant Park

A friend suggested that I should go visit Bryant Park before I leave NY as they have an ice rink as well as an “even better holiday market” in her words when comparing what Bryant Park had to offer with that of Union Square. I enjoyed watching the ice skating and making this film. I must confess; however, that the market at Union Square is – to me – much better! Regardless, I enjoyed the couple of hours I spent at Bryant Park, having fun watching people having fun. Fantastic! Thanks Sarah! 😉

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[Vlog] WanneBe Dragon Monster

[Vlog] WanneBe Dragon Monster

One of the things I really love to do is go to various holiday and flea markets to while away the time, and get some inspiration as well sometimes. New York never disappoints in these areas, as you might expect.

I went to the Union Square market this morning and came across a nice little stall that sells special dragon monsters. Special because their background story is very nice and very inspirational too. Watch this video to discover more!

Please take the time to comment and give me feedback if you would. Oh, and go to http://facebook.com/MahmoodsDen and like it!

Many thanks and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

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Not in MY name!

Not in MY name!

The events in Libya attacking an embassy and killing some of its inhabitant simply for a stupid movie is not only a heinous act and completely inhuman, but does Islam a complete injustice. Allah and His Prophet do NOT need anyone’s help and assistance, thank you very much, so keep your violence and your disgraceful attitudes and criminal behaviour out of peoples’ lives.

My condolences to the family of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and all of those who died in this heinous act, and my sympathies are with those who suffered from this in any way. To those who perpetrated this act do get my complete and unfiltered condemnation.

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The Source of Instability

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Secretary Clinton encouraged both Bahrain and Saudi to embrace the Arab Spring. I do hope that they do because it IS in their best interest t do so. What we actually see on the ground now; however, is abstinence and a deep sense of denial. It’s almost as if some in both countries’ administration are refusing to believe that the Arab Spring has arrived at their shores and that it could never happen to them. For those still in disbelief, she had these wise words:

“The greatest single source of instability in today’s Middle East is not the demand for change,” she said, “It is the refusal to change.”

ArabianBusiness.com

These words should have jerked them awake to the fact that the US administration (and the democratic world) recognizes that they are the biggest rocks in the path to democratic change. To me, what’s veiled within them as well is the somewhat diplomatic warning that if they don’t embrace such change and acquiesce to their public’s legitimate demands, the US might well not stand by them but for once actually stand on the “right side of history” and gladly watch them fall.

The whole Arab world, not just Bahrain, needs to embrace change and use the positive energy within change to forge forth with a better more inclusive and democratic future in which institutions rule, rather than the whims of individuals.

Clinton continued:

Clinton said the United States would continue to have “frank conversations” with long-time allies such as Bahrain, where the Sunni ruling family brought in troops from Sunni allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help crush a protest movement earlier this year.

“Mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away,” Clinton said, saying the tiny Gulf country’s monarchy had made public promises to begin political dialogue and investigate abuses.

“We intend to hold the Bahraini government to these commitments and to encourage the opposition to respond constructively to secure lasting reform,” she said.

Reuters

Good. I know that intrinsically everyone wants to be on the right side of history, ultimately, but some need to be judiciously encouraged to tread a path in that direction. This pressure by a major power which has a vested interest in this region as well as the local political opposition groups are good manifestations of the much required pressure. The momentum of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya will gain strength and the laws of motion will take root. Whether the remaining Arab countries will use that momentum for their benefit, or get rolled over and discarded in the process remains to be seen.

Eid Mubarak!

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The Ambassador Speaketh

The Ambassador Speaketh

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Interesting interview in Al-Wasat this morning in which its editor-in-chief interviewed the departing American Ambassador to Bahrain Mr Adam Ereli. The interview had three axes: reflections on his tenure in Bahrain, Freedoms of Expression as exercised (or lack thereof) in Bahrain and the Internet in particular and lastly human rights. It’s surprising and refreshing to read some straight non-diplo talk once in a while, and this interview is largely that, though judging by some of the responses the article received, a lot of people found his responses are a direct interference in the internal issues of the country while others were vehement in their refusal of everything American painting them as the Great Big Satan wherever they landed.

left to right: Rachel Graff, US Cultural & Media Ataché, Ambassador J. Adam Ereli and Dr. Mansour Al-Jamri

I must confess that I’m pleasantly surprised by the responses and his uncloaked advice to the government and his comments on the Gulf Air / Wikileaks exposé:

ليس هناك ما أخجل منه أو أخفيه، وكوني سفير الولايات المتحدة يعني أنني يجب أن أدافع عن الشركات الأميركية، وأعتقد بأننا نريد للشركات الأميركية أن تأتي للبحرين وتستثمر وأن تكون جزءا من الحياة الاقتصادية في البحرين، وهذا أمر جيد أن يتحقق لكلا البلدين، لأنها توفر فرص عمل وتعمق العلاقات الاقتصادية بين البلدين. ولكن إذا كان هناك من يعتبر أن الصفقة فيها تدخل سياسي، فهذا أمر يعود للبحرين فيما تريد فعله، أما بالنسبة لي فأنا أتحدث باسم الشركات الأميركية، بينما من حق الحكومة البحرينية أن تقرر ما تريد القيام به بسيادة تامة على قراراتها.

 

There’s nothing for me to feel ashamed of or hide, being the ambassador of the United States means that I have to defend the interests of American companies. I believe that we want American companies to come to Bahrain and invest in it and for them to be a part of the economic life of Bahrain. This is a mutually beneficial facet for both countries, because it promotes job creation and entrenches the economic relationship between both countries. But if there is anything that suggests internal interference with this deal, then this is for the Bahraini government to deal with, as for me, I speak for the American companies; however, it is within the Bahraini government’s rights to determine what its response should be within its own sovereign dictates.

and

وفي اعتقادي أن آليات التعامل مع المواقع الإلكترونية يجب أن تتسم بالشفافية والإعلان بوضوح عما هو مقبول أو غير مقبول والعقوبات التي يمكن أن تنتج عن ذلك، حتى تكون العملية واضحة، مثلما هي واضحة في قانوني التجارة والعقوبات على سبيل المثال، وإذا كانت هناك مبررات عدم وجود قانون ينظم استخدام الإنترنت لأنه شيء حديث، ولكن حين نرى مواقع أو نشرات جمعيات سياسية تغلق قبل الانتخابات من دون سبب واضح، فلاشك أن الناس ستصل إلى تفسير خاطئ في هذا الشأن.

 

وحين تغلق المواقع الإلكترونية لأفراد من دون مبرر، سوى بحسب ما تدعيه الحكومة من أنها تروج للطائفية أو تحرض على الكراهية، من دون معايير واضحة، أو أنها كانت عبارة عن مجرد قرارات اتخذها مسئولون في يوم ما من دون مبرر، فإن ذلك يعيدنا إلى مسألة ضرورة الالتزام بالشفافية في التعامل مع هذه الأمور.

 

I believe that transparency must be the mechanism to be adopted for dealing with Internet websites and [the government] must declare what is and isn’t acceptable in a clear manner and the determine the legal repercussions in order for clarity to prevail, just as in the commercial and criminal laws for example. If there are excuses for not having such laws governing the Internet due to being new, but if we witness websites or political societies publications being banned before the elections without a clear reason, then people will arrive at the wrong conclusion in this matter.

 

And if personal websites are banned without cause – either by what the government’s claim that the website propagates sectarianism without clear guidelines, or it haphazardly applies officials’ individual order without cause, then this brings back the question of the importance of the application of transparency in dealing with these matters.

as to the human rights situation:

حقوق الإنسان شيء مهم للولايات المتحدة، وجميع الأحداث الأخيرة تتم متابعتها بدقة من الولايات المتحدة، وباعتقادي أن ردة الفعل الدولية لما حدث في شهري أغسطس/ آب، وسبتمبر/ أيلول الماضيين (2010) في البحرين، تعطي مؤشراً واضحاً على ما تعنيه البحرين للعالم. كما أرى أن الحكومة البحرينية مهتمة بحقوق الإنسان من أعلى هرم فيها إلى أسفله، فاحترام وحماية حقوق المواطنين هو أمر مهم وأولوية للقيادة السياسية في البحرين.

 

ولكني أؤكد أن السرية لا تنفع في إدارة مثل هذه الأمور والشفافية مهمة حتى يعلم الناس ما يحدث في واقع الأمر، لأنهم إذا لم يروا شيئا، فمن الصعب عليهم الفهم ولكن من السهل أن يفسروا ما هو أمر غير صحيح، وقرار الحكومة بالسماح للمجتمع المدني بحضور المحكمة هو أمر مهم.

 

Human rights is very important to the United States and all the recent events were closely monitored by the United States, and it is my view that the international community’s repercussions to what has happened in August and September of 2010 in Bahrain gives a clear indication as to the high regard given to Bahrain by the international community. I see that the Bahraini government is interested in human rights from the top of its pyramid to the bottom, as respect of the citizens and their security is a matter of high priority to the political leadership in Bahrain.

 

But I emphasise that secrecy does not work in managing these issues and transparency is important so that people know the reality of what is happening because if they do not see something, then it becomes very difficult for them to understand but becomes easy to be lead to the wrong conclusion. The government’s decision to allow civil observers to the [so called terrorism] trial is important.

Impressive! I can’t add any more to this as his views – surprisingly – tally with my own and I have expressed them as such over and over again in my various writings. I wonder how the government is going to deal with this one. We’ll see how the barometer lies tomorrow by the headlines in the other local papers. Should be fun!

How long does he have before leaving again, and will that be accelerated due to this piece?

Note: the above are my imperfect translations but are current best efforts. I’m sure that the American embassy will probably translate the transcript and make it available on their website or to whomever asks.

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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.

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Dig!

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The normal sight in Bahrain for people handling shovels and breaking ground is this:

Photo credit: Gulf News

This morning, we see how this image can easily be transformed for a US$580 million project, the labourers in this case, are of a higher class, uniforms and bishts:

Photo credit: US Navy

Not that the higher-end personages don’t know the value of manual labour or anything like that, but it’s good seeing them do what some might term “honest work” now and again. Even if they use gold-plated shovels in the process.

I’m glad to see that the American Ambassador (middle) seems to be quite adept at shoveling dirt, though he seems to be transgressing on the Bahraini in the process, or is it the other way around? No matter. All seem to be enjoying the experience. A few are definitely at a loss while others are putting far too much into it, thinking maybe that it is this – their effort – is really key to the start of the 28 hectare facility, signaling the intention of the US Navy to stay here ad infinitum.

Welcome welcome!

What say you we have a caption competition on the second picture? Care to share?

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