Friday, October 06, 2006
I've been trying so hard to get my blog up and running these past few months, but it just wasn't working out. Long gaps in between posts and random fillers have weakened the punch i originally intended this blog to have.
And that's when i realized my problem: I don't know what i'm doing.
Which is completely natural. I'm a beginner at this. I don't really get all of the stuff that makes the blogsphere go round. Now, i know that there isn't a set of rules that ensures blogging success. But knowing some of the tricks of the trade certainly helps.
University life has affects on my blogging too. I'm trying to find my way through it with my poor, lost and confused freshman class. But i'm learning. On so many different levels. I come out of every week light years ahead of where i was the week before.
But what's having the most impact on my blogging is this: my lack of vision. Who am i writing to? What am i writing about? Why am i writing? I have answers for all of these questions, but very vague and general ones. Enough to have gotten me writing, but after getting over the excitement that i'm writing, i'm stuck. If i'd built this blog on a better foundation, i wouldn't have had to go through this. But again, this is what being a beginner is all about.
So, due to all i wrote above, i've made a decision. This blog will be temporarily shut down. I'm hoping to start it back up anywhere from a semester to a year from now.
In the meantime, i'll be devoting my time to university and the other personal projects i've had going on other than my blog. My Arabic needs some quality learning that i'll never get unless i give it some quality time. And the same goes for my poetry. I believe i can be good - real good. But with the twenty million things i try to stuff into my schedule, i tend to just skim my talent's surface.
So, as you can tell, i'm trying to cut down on my daily load here. This blog is just one of the many goals i've put on hold. I want to concentrate my efforts on a few major things in my life and get them right. As soon as that's done, i'll be ready, willing and able to move to the next level. Some definite soul-searching will be taking place these next few months as i try to find my place as a Western/Arab/Muslim girl in this world. Pray for me, and wish me luck.
Thanks to all my readers out there. I'll be preparing myself for a whole new round of blogging, and when i come back you'll be impressed. This is gonna be worth the wait. So till then, enjoy the blogsphere!
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Yes, i do know that my last post was ridiculous. It's just that it's the only way of reinforcing my presence on this blog for now.
I'm working out a way to blog more effectively. I need to get more substance in this thing. I'm gonna try a new experiment: I'll commit to one post per week, and that post'll be something really special. How about that? I think that's reasonable with my current schedule. I'll try it.
Expect something interesting soon!
Monday, September 11, 2006
In a disgustingly short summary:
- Muslims feel discriminated against.
- Westerners feel threatened.
- Governments are abusing these feelings.
And Westerners, lets keep trying to bridge the divide.
Governments, stop obsessing over power and do things right. (lol.. that's jokes.)
Ack, university is taking up wayyy too much of my time. I've gotta figure out a way to organize blogging around it. Bear with me here. Love ya.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
University was the light at the end of high school's dark tunnel these last few years. That i'm finally here and living it is, in all seriousness, a dream come true. I was never a big fan of high school. I had good friends and all, but i hated the system. Especially at the school i was in. No room for real advancement or creativity. Thank god that's over with.
So, university. I'm doing pretty good. I managed to make new friends very quickly, so between them and my old high school friends, my social life is covered. The two major changes now though are that i'm in a co-ed environment, and i don't have to wear a uniform. I grew up in a mixed school in LA, but these last 4 years of high school were basically girl-only years. It's nice to be back in a more natural social atmosphere.
I hated uniform when i was in high school, and i still do. People complain about having to pick out outfits every morning, but that's perfectly okay with me. So it takes about 10 to 20 minutes of extra work. It's worth it. I like expressing myself, and clothing is one way to do that.
Student clubs and stuff all start up next week. I'll be joining the Syrian Culture Club for sure. I can't decide on whether i want to join the university's newspaper or Realms, the creative writing club's publication. I can't do both cuz of the whole time issue. I'm susposed to be studying for 5 courses too, ya kno.
Which brings me to my academic life. My courses are basically all introductory courses since i'm a freshman. They're not too hard, but interesting nonetheless. My favorite course is already my composition course, WRI 101. The professor’s pretty strict on work, but she knows what she's doing. I'm looking to come out of this semester a much better writer than i am now.
Another course that's pretty interesting is my Astronomy course. I had to pick a class for my science requirement, and this one caught my eye. I'm glad it did, because i love it. It's completely different than anything i've done before. It gives science a philosophical twist. Awesome.
Ah! All this and i haven't even said what i'm majoring in. I'm a Mass Communication major, with a Journalism concentration. People thought i should have gone into English literature or something, but i wanna do more than just write in my career. I wanna work with other forms of media too, like TV, film, and radio. So this major should have that all covered. I'm thinking of doing a minor in International Relations, but i can't declare a minor till next semester. So i've got a while to think about it.
And the phone's ringing. My dad's coming to pick me up. (I'm at the university library.) I have to go home and read Chapter 1 of my biology book for tomorrow. (Yes, i'm taking two sciences this semester. Long story.) I'll have practice my "critical reading skills" as i do it. Wish me luck.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
When most people first hear "Saudi Arabia", they immediately think "oppression, violence, extremism" and just about every negative adjective that can cross their mind. My American friends, especially, would ask me if i had to stay in tents when i was there and would worry about how i was going to dodge all the car bombs laid out by bloodthirsty terrorists. It was very hard for them to understand how i could possibly have fun there, like i always claimed to.
Saudi Arabia (or Saudi, as its called by many English-speaking Arabs) is not the battle field people imagine it to be. Malls, fast food restaurants, theme parks, and resorts are an essential part of today's Saudi culture. Yes, all the woman go out in black abayas and can't drive, but that's slowly but surely changing. And the thing is, many woman are okay with the way things are right now. The abaya is a sort of cultural costume, like a kimono for the Japanese. And it's really comfortable, actually. Makes life easier. No need to worry about your outfit every time you go out. Not to say that the abaya prevents people from making fashion statements. There are all kinds of beads and designs sown into the black cloth, leaving plenty of room for expressing your personality and individuality.
But before people attack me with comments on how i could dare defend "oppression", let me just say that i'm not. I think its wrong for someone to force people to wear something (or not wear something for that matter). Force itself is wrong, and even with the best of intentions, it never yields very pleasant results. I'm just explaining the point of view of many people in Saudi.
But not allowing women to drive is absolutely ridiculous. It makes no sense religiously, socially, or economically. That's just backward cultural leftovers from an era now long gone. And now there’s a general consensus that women should drive, even in the government. Its just a question of how to introduce it into the culture and make it socially acceptable.
Durrat Al Arus, a tourist village located north of Jeddah, is a live example of change in Saudi. This summer was the first time i went to it. How i managed to be ignorant of this 8 million square meter resort all this time, i have no clue. According to arabnews.com, the village has "conference halls, luxury villas, recreation centers, an equestrian club with a school for teaching equestrian skills, a golf club, a boat and yacht club and gardens". And lets not forget the "1,500 housing units in the area", or the shops and restaurants that line the boardwalkish street on the beach.
All this is impressive, but what really got me was this: the moment i stepped inside, i got to shed not only my abaya, but all of the restrictions associated with Saudi Arabia.
Waves of people swept up and down the street, shockingly multicolored. After the all-black of two weeks, seeing so many women in jeans and skirts was almost foreign. But not all the women chose to uncover. The amount of clothes people had on ranged from all-encasing black to bikinis on the beach. I, like many others, went half way. A jeans skirt and a cute long sleeve shirt, topped by a matching hijab. That's the look i go for anywhere other than Saudi, so it wasn't weird to wear it. What was weird though, was that i was wearing my "outside-Saudi" look in Saudi.
Oh, and who could forget the guys? Okay, they have wayyy more freedom here in regards to dress, so they were in their usual baggy jeans and shirts. They were out in packs, unused to mingling so freely with girls. Although the actual rules about interacting with girls were gone, the social norms they grew up with were hard to break. The guys (and girls) were just able to pole through those norms every once in a while with a quick hi or a pickup line. The concept of innocently talking to someone of the opposite gender doesn't exist. The culture there (which the youth contribute to) doesn't recognize that. Its either sexual or nothing.
Of course, there was music and a live show, which would have been great had the singer been any good. I was praying he would shut up every time i passed him with my friends. God chose to ignore that plea. I guess you can't get them all.
Overall, the trip to Durrat al Arus was fun. I loved being able to go around with my friends in an open atmosphere, chatting and laughing and having fun. But it left me wondering. Why is it that freedom has to equal sexual promiscuity? Youth see one side of the Western model of freedom, and think that's the only way freedom is expressed. Its a shame, because the freedom that's pushing its way through the Middle East could be used for so much more than makeup and endless music channels. Everything is good in moderation. We have countries and a civilization to build here. If we demand the rights and pleasures of freedom, we must be willing to take on freedom's responsibilities as well.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Monday, July 31, 2006
Information and Links
- Not in Our Name
- Lebanese Business Council launches 'Support Lebanon' campaign
- 'With You Lebanon' Campaign Generates Donations Worth AED 50 million
How To Help
Sunday, July 30, 2006
I ended up writing in my journal while waiting for my mom in the car. I thought it might make an interesting read, so here goes nothing:
We’re entering the American Embassy in Riyadh.
For a moment, as we neared the armored cars and checkpoints and soldiers with machine guns, I felt my pulse quicken. It was like a scene in those movies where the happy family is casually talking about the day’s plans and suddenly getting blown to
smithereens. It was a weird feeling, because I consider myself a rational person, and I don’t get randomly scared. But I held my breath as the guard let us through, and the moment passed.
We had to park far from the embassy and Mama had to walk there. On top of that, the road to the embassy wasn’t marked. We had to ask around once we got inside the complex it was located in.
Baba said the American embassy in Jeddah closed down after the attack two years ago.
And so we sit here in the car and wait.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
at the moment, i'm in saudi arabia. i got here yesterday after a week-long vacation in vienna. it was a very nice experience. i haven't seen an open countryside in ages. (i can't remember the last time i saw even a stretch of farmland. there wasn't anything like that in LA.) so when i boarded a train that took us across austria, i was spellbound. velvet green hills that went on for miles, cotton candy clouds, and a blue sky you could swear was painted on a canvas. the occasional red roofed houses were a delight. they looked like they came straight out of a fairytale with their rainbow colors and big, bright windows. i was in some sort of writer's heaven on that train, gushing out sticky-sweet, emotional descriptions of everything i saw and chugging out snippets of poetry. i "literally" got drunk on the scenery. haha! (let's pretend that was funny...) as you can tell, i'm still a bit hung over from it.
vienna's cobblestoned streets and gothic buildings worked a different kind of magic on me. here, i saw the affect of limitless human potential. vienna is a beautiful city. although it's really touristy, it's managed to keep its original charm and not turn into a mutant plastic metropolis. and i might be seeing more of it than i originally expected. why? it hosts the third largest UN center, after New York and Geneva. and i'm planning to somehow incorporate the UN in my career later on in the future. hey, working for all this humanitarian, good stuff has its perks after all!
Good for me! I managed to write up a post on vacation! But don't get your expectations up too high.. This might just be a fluke. And i'd better get off before people who may be trying to call the house think we're all dead or something. I've forgotten how annoying dial-up is!
Thursday, July 20, 2006
From Vienna, that is. I’ve been vacationing for over a week, relaxing… you know, all that good stuff. I’m only back in the UAE for one day. Tomorrow, it’s straight to Saudi Arabia for a, you guessed it, family reunion!
The only annoying thing is that i have to pack all my stuff in one day. And help clean the house. And buy last minute presents. And recharge cameras and iPods and all other forms of electrical equipment people take on vacations with them. And finish reading my book to start the next one. And reorganize my closet. And send out the poems i’ve been working on for the last month to the Atlantic Monthly. (Yes, you did read that last sentence correctly.)
So that’s that. I dunno how often i’ll be able to update my blog from now till I get back from Saudi. That is, if i’m able to update it at all. So let’s just say i’m on leave until the 18th of August. I’ll try to post some things up though. But if i don’t, don’t kill me!
Oh, before i forget! Some people were giving me shit for traveling at a time like this. You know, with the whole “war” going on between Lebanon and Israel. Well, if you build your whole life around a cause, and spend all year working for it, regardless of the amount of media attention it gets, you deserve a break once in a while. That way, you can recharge your energy and come back to work even harder.
Even during this “break”, you keep expanding your horizons by learning about other people and cultures so you can form better relations with them and get a blueprint for improving your own society. And on top of all that, you take this as an opportunity to be a sort of “ambassador” for your society, showing the rest of the world that no, not all Muslims or people of Middle Eastern descent are women abusers and suicide bombers.
You see, it’s all about how you approach the idea of a “vacation”. Just because someone thinks long term doesn’t mean they’re ignoring what’s going on this second. We’re working on getting this thing at its root, not randomly hacking off evergrowing branches at the whim of media attention.
So till next time, whenever and wherever that happens to be.
Friday, June 30, 2006
Mohamed is trying to connect to all of his audience, as his creation of Jana shows. And that's great. But not all girls are forced to wear the scarf, Mohamed. In his interview, he divided the girls in today's society into two groups: those "who come from open-minded families who don't have to cover up, who go out and have fun", and those who come from conservative families and "have to cover up and don't do the same things as the other girls". That's a bit too black and white. Lots of girls who are hijabis come from open-minded families. They themselves choose to wear the scarf. (And yes, they still have fun.) There are plenty of instances in which the mother in a certain family is not a hijabi, but the daughter is. Or two sisters from the same family (even twins), one wearing the scarf and the other not. So it really is a matter of choice. Or at least, that's the way it should be. There are girls out there, especially in the Gulf, that are forced to cover, and that's a pity. So thanks is due to Mohamed for addressing their issue.
Oh, one last thing. Mohamed said that he wanted to inspire hijabi girls, so that they could think, "Although I am in the abaya and the shaila, in my mind I can be a superheroine". That's sweet man, but.. "in my mind"? I'm planning to be a lot of things, and not just in my mind. And so are thousands of other hijabi girls. Let's not forget to keep that in mind.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
I know, i know, that paragraph totally contradicts itself and the enthusiasm in my last post. I still am enthusiastic about this comic, but... how can i explain this?
Okay, you know when you see a reproduction of a famous painting? Let's take the Mona Lisa as an example here. You still enjoy it and admire it. But the fact that it's a reproduction, a copy of someone else's work, makes it loose some of its value. (Or, in the case of the Mona Lisa, a lot of its value.) Let's say the artist painted a picture of a different woman, like the "Angelina" or something. It would be a different picture, but if he did it with the same talent that Leonardo did his work, it would become a classic in its own right. Both paintings would be a picture of a woman, but each one would be valued for its own reasons.
With this example in mind, wouldn't it be interesting to see something completely different come out of "the UAE's first homegrown superheros"? I mean, do all comics have to rest on the prototypes of Superman and the Fantastic Four? Take Japan as an example: they've got their whole manga thing going on. Manga is, when it boils down to it, a form of what Americans call "the comic book". But at the same time, it's very unique from the traditional American comic. Manga has its own styles, rules, forms, and customs. That's what makes it special. Its originality gives it appeal. And manga, being a Japanese form, is the best medium to present Japanese culture. The same goes for American comics. Since they're created by American minds, they best transmit American culture.
Every artist knows that the detail of each brush stroke, sentence, and note makes a huge impact on a piece of art. What is art, after all, other than an accumulation of details brought into one "entity"? Art lives when created properly. Sentimental, but true. It speaks for its creator, its environment, its circumstances, its culture. Do Arabs need that today or what? Imagine, an Arab form of the comic book to explicitly capture Arab culture. No need to try to squeeze in bits that don't fit or cut loose ends.
"But they're just comics, for heaven's sake!"
Yeah, but look what manga did for Japan. It's a whole industry! Money and national pride. What more could a country want?
And plus, this is just an example of a greater idea, or principle. It's the tip of a philosophical iceberg. I could go on and on... but i'll probably end up making myself dizzy. So enough for now. There's plenty of time to come.
Monday, June 26, 2006
"The Petronians", created by Abdelrahman Mohamed, are your average UAE residents. They are highschool and university students, busy with studies, friends, and family. But after realizing that they've been biologically modified by a rare form of petroleum, they come together to fight the baddies of the comic, "The Revolutionaries". And this all takes place in "Pearl City" - an alias of Dubai 10 years from now. By that time, all of the projects in the city (like Burj Dubai and the Palm Islands) will have been completed, making it the perfect backdrop for the comic. Interesting, no?
In creating his comic, 21 year old Mohamed was faced with the "problem" of creating heroines that would appeal to all factions of his audience. He first created what he called a "new age" Emirati girl, who wore a tank top instead of the traditional black abaya. In response to feedback from his more conservative audience, he created Jana, a covered Saudi superheroine with telekinetic powers. Doing so allows both sides of his female audience to relate to the comic.
There's more to the whole superheroine issue. Actually, to this whole topic! But i'm too tired to get into that tonight. I'll keep that for the next post. Can't wait to see how this little experiment is gonna turn out.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
After yesterday's embarrassing defeat of 0-4 by Ukraine, it became blindingly clear that the Saudi team just isn't ready for the World Cup. The Saudis manage to play beautifully amongst their Arab and Asian "brethren". But the moment they step out of Asian borders, things just tend to go wrong. Yes, i know, it has to do with experience and talent and all that stuff, but i'm not a sports fanatic, and this is no sport blog. This blog tends to deal more with culture. Something the Saudis seem to have a problem with.
Unlike (for example) their Korean and Japanese counterparts, the Saudis have a rather low level of confidence in themselves when they're outside of their comfort zone. The Koreans and Japanese are proud of their culture and comfortable with their identity. They know who they are, and therefore what they can become. The Saudis, on the other hand, are a bit confused when it comes to cultural identity. Their country is now gradually opening up to the world, and so their values and defining cultural traits are undergoing significant changes. This shifting cultural identity doesn't make the greatest of foundations, but despite its negative aspects, it's part of what all developing nations have to go through.
On top of all that, East Asian culture is more accepted and respected in the West, partly due to the fact that it's more assimilated into Western culture. Saudi Arabian culture (and Arab culture in general) doesn't exactly have that big of a fan base in the international arena. And it's quite obvious what a lack of acceptance and respect (no matter how subtle) can do to a person, much less a nation.
No wonder the Saudi team sucks when they leave Asia. Out there, they're playing with the big boys, which would be wonderful if they didn't feel like they were no more than the big boys' squirmy little brother. Lack of confidence can work wonders.
No, Saudi Arabia won't do well in the World Cup until they figure out just who they are and where they stand in the world. And no international team or fan base will give them the acceptance and respect they're looking for until they're confident enough to win it. (The respect, not the Cup... but hey, i guess if you dream, dream big.) Perhaps some of the changes that'll happen over the next four years'll be big enough to change the "rankings" in not just the world, but also in football.
Lol, small wonder people love this game. It's connected to everything. Freakishly so.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
- Finished reading "Cloud Atlas". Now that was a good read. All about human nature and what civilization can lead us to. Yummy. Now, (as you can see from my "Current Literary Escapade" section in the sidebar) i'm reading Gabriel García Márquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude". I've had my eye on that book for a while. We'll see how it goes.
- From the BBC: "Palestinian views on travel curbs"
This here's an article on how Israeli travel restrictions affect the daily lives of Palestinians, particularly in the West bank. Its always interesting to see how large scale politics affect the average joe on the street. Plus, after finally getting my driver's license last week (woohoo!), i can empathize with their complaints (not woohoo).
Watch those American kids as they take a stand against military recruiters for the war in Iraq. And some Arabs call America the devil. Pshshshshsh! Lets see how far we can get the average Arab youth away from their "Superstar" shows, let alone start a movement of some social/political worth, before we judge, eh?
Monday, June 12, 2006
Since my background is a bit complicated, i've developed two answers to the "origin question". The short version is, plainly: I'm American/Circassian/Syrian. (In no particular order here other than alphabetical.) The long version, is... Well, you might wanna get comfy. This may make an interesting read, especially for history-lovers like me.
Here in Dubai, my mom is what we call a "mix". Her father (my grandpa) is from a little village in Syria, and her mother (my grandma) is a white American (of European descent). They met while my grandpa was studying in the U.S., got married, then moved to Syria, where my mom was born. Since she grew up in Syria, my mom identifies a lot more with Syrian culture, and considers herself Syrian.
My dad is a different story. He's from a rather fascinating people known as the "Circassians" in the West. They're from the Caucasus region in what is now south-western Russia, and the name they give themselves is Adyghe. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Circassians began migrating from their homeland into various parts of the world due to war and persecution by the Russians. With a return to Russia a difficult and unlikely route, much of the Circassian diaspora remains scattered all over the world. My father is from the Circassians of Syria. Culturally, he is more Arab than Circassian, having lived amongst Arabs all his life.
Now, about little old me? I was born in, of all places, Saudi Arabia. After a few years there, i was whisked off to America and the American dream. After a brief spell in Chicago, i finally landed in Los Angeles, the place i now consider my childhood home. There, i became an American, legally and culturally. Those years in LA bound me to America in more ways than most people know.
So now, after years of my parents' hoping and planning, i'm back in the Arab World. The good ol' UAE, to be exact. Around the world in 18 years, eh? I guess all this moving around is what created my love for culture, language, history, and travel. If i follow family tradition, i wonder where my kids are gonna end up? China? Venezuela? You never know. It is, to quote a famous Disneyland ride, "a small world after all".
Thursday, June 08, 2006
This might look like a weird obsession to an outsider, but to Arabs, it's as natural as eating cheese is to the French. The reason for this is that the Arab World is spread out over a nice little stretch of land, spanning Western Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and North Africa. Naturally, the distinctness of "Arab" culture varies throughout the region; each area has its unique traditional dress, cuisine, music, and dialect (let alone political, social, and economic systems). So you see, Arabs have a lot to discuss when it comes to their origins.
To add to this already extensive list of variables, there is the whole issue of living outside the Arab World. What are you exactly when you come from Morocco but have a British passport? You've lived in Britain all your life, and only step foot inside your "home country" during two or three month-long vacations at most. The British would (legally, at least) consider you British. Arabs would immediately classify you as Arab, regardless of how well immersed you are in Arab language or culture. Actually, Arabs get offended if someone clearly of Arab heritage claims to be of any other nationality. "What, we're not good enough for you?" is the general reaction that seems to generate.
An example: At a wedding yesterday (my friends' older sister's) my friends and i were in the elevator with the bride's (Arab) hairdressers. Of course, we were asked where we were from. Although we had all lived in "the West" and had Western nationalities, we replied with straightforward, Arab answers. All except one girl, who said she was from New Zealand. The hairdressers looked at her strangely.
"You don't look like you're from there..."
"Yeah, my parents are from Jordan, but i was born and brought up in New Zealand."
"Oh, so you're Jordanian. How can you be from New Zealand if your parents are from Jordan?" They looked at her, eyebrows raised, before leaving the elevator.
A bit of an unpleasant situation for most Arab kids. On one hand, they don't want to reject the country that gave them sanctuary, an education, and a way of life. On the other, they don't want to betray the culture they've been brought up to think of as "home". Where exactly do we, as both Arabs and Westerners, draw the line?
Or should we even be drawing a line? Maybe blurring the line holds the answer? Having straddled both worlds, we can't be just Arab or Western. We'd be incomplete if we adopted only one culture. Perhaps it's about time that we created our own culture: a mixture of the best of both worlds.
This new culture can be what today's international community really needs. A bridge between East and West, a vantage point all can relate to, a platform for civilizational dialog and understanding.
Hey, not too bad an idea. I'm all for it. Anyone wanna come along for the ride?
Monday, June 05, 2006
I know this happened a while ago, but i have to put up the results for the priest-imam friendly match. This picture was posted online, with the following excerpt from Reuters:
"Protestant pastor Roland Herpich (R) and imam Taha hold a trophy after a soccer match to promote friendship and understanding of the religions in Berlin May 6, 2006. A team of Christian priests thrashed a group of imams 12-1 to win Germany's first soccer cup between religious leaders on Saturday, but it was all hugs and smiles after the match to promote tolerance."
According to this article, the players, along with the 100 or so spectators, said "they just wanted to get to know their neighbours without emotionally-charged debates about religious issues or international conflict". Rabbi Walter Rothschild summarized the crowd's outlook on the event, saying that it was "very different, very refreshing and just a very normal way of spending a day".
I mean, how much more normal can a day in which there was were "plenty of goals, unholy swearing and a jersey swap" be for such a religiously and culturally diverse event?
It's things like this that'll end up bringing people of all backgrounds together. Good thing this game is going to become an annual event! So for now, good game priests! And imams, better luck next year!
Saturday, May 20, 2006
I found this particular masterpiece (a Levi's ad), while walking through Deira City Center. In the original ad i saw, the words "Be Original" were pasted next to the model. After googling it at home, i discovered that this new advertising campaign is all the rage in both the real and cyber worlds. Sigh.
I mean, for heavens sake, they're telling us all to buy the same pair of jeans to "Be Original"! And we're buying it! Literally.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
The match is supposed to be part of a British-sponsored workshop on racism in football. Sounds good to me! But get this, the game should be this Saturday (today i believe), but things are a bit confused because it'll end up clashing with the Jewish Sabbath.
“It’s been difficult to find a rabbi who will referee on the Sabbath,” sighs the
Rev Christopher Jage-Bowler, “but we are trusting in God.”
LOL! Ah, how i laughed when i read that line. You gotta love religion.
On a side note, something i read in that article i linked to above was a bit off. In trying to figure out a day for the game, Friday was ruled out because it was the Muslims' "day of prayer". Very considerate of the officials to think of that, but umm, contradictory to what some Muslims may mistakenly believe, there's no Sabbath-like concept in Islam.
Our "day of prayer" is every day. The only time Muslims have to close down businesses is during the Friday prayer itself, which is usually around an hour long. Any work or play can be done before or after it.
So yeah, just wanted to clear that up. Can't wait for the game! It should be starting sometime now, because of the time difference between the UAE and Germany. I'm rooting for the imams. What'll they be called, The Crescents? The Turbans? The Bushy Beards? Hey, ya never know!
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
But anyhoo, i came online to check out my blog, and would you look at that! I got a bunch of comments on my posts! Well, "a bunch" being more than i usually get.. like 1. So of course, i immediately went to check them out, then i went to their authors' blogs (if they had any). It's nice to see that people are actually interested in your writing. And the people you "meet" through blogging can be pretty fascinating. Its funny to think that just transferring my thoughts to the internet can be so rewarding.
So yeah, this was a real pick-me-up. I'm gonna be pretty busy starting next week though, cuz of finals and stuff. (22 more days till summer!) I'll try to keep posting, but if i lag a bit behind like i did this week, you'll know why. Pray for me!
Oh, and chew on this bit of food for thought till my next post.
"The Right to Cover" Petition To The United Nations
Any thoughts? Leave a comment.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Ha, the "evil" Danish people allowed a hijabi on their TV sets! Interesting way to follow up the Muhammad Cartoon Controversy. And for those of you who may stress on the fact that Islam "is not recognized by the [Danish] state unlike Christianity and Judaism", no, i'm not saying they're saints. But this shows the political controversy and the wide range of social attitudes that Western countries tend to deal with.
So you go, Asmaa! We're rooting for you all the way.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
I saw this picture at the Palestinian section of AUS's Global Day last weekend. It left me breathless. I couldn't resist the impulse to whip out my camera and snap a photo.
How many of us can challenge Death like that for the sake of showing people the Truth? Would i be able to do that? Would you?
Endless thanks and prayers for those who can, and are.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Personally, i wear the scarf (called hijab in Arabic). Thankfully, i was never pressured by my family to wear one or not. It was my own choice. And like many other hijabis (the Anglicized name for girls who wear hijab), i've had moments when i loved it and moments when i wanted to do nothing short of rip it off of my head. So why haven't these girls and i, especially those of us who weren't pressured into it, gone ahead and done so? In short, the answer is this: Because we believe in hijab and what it stands for.
Hijab is the Muslim woman's show of modesty. There are many different ways of wearing it and different beliefs as to how much skin a woman should cover, but the general idea is the same. Covering up your hair and your body in public. I don't wanna get too into specifics here, so for details, click here.
"But oh my god, don't you get hot in that?"
The number of times a hijabi gets that question is uncountable. The physical aspect of wearing the hijab isn't too hard. It's more the social aspect that can get...uncomfortable, so to speak. And the thing is, it's not the hijab's fault, it's the people's! There's a general trend in Arab society that separates the hijabis from other, non-hijabi girls. I call it 'Hijabism'.
Hijabis are usually thought to be less outgoing, less creative, less modern; and more passive, more submissive, more traditional. And this is Arab society, not 'the West'. Hijabis are underrepresented in all forms of Arab media, from movies to TV to radio. The ratio of hijabis in the media to the number of hijabis in the Arab world is very small.
The other day, my friend made a remark that really summed up what i'm trying to say. "The 'popular' girls here ignore hijabis like the plague." And what's funny is that back in 'the West', it's not like that. Who you hang out with isn't dictated by whether or not there's an extra piece of cloth on your head.
Lemme give you a little scenario i took part in to give you a better understanding of what i'm saying:
At AUS's Global Day, there was a Syrian traditional dance going on, called a 'dabkeh'. I jumped in, grabbing the hand of a poufy-haired, makeup-y girl. Now, i don't have anything against girls with that description - when they're nice. But this one totally tried to ignore me. She was barely holding my hand, practically ruining the dabkeh, and then halfway through, she ran to the other side of the dabkeh where some other poufy-haired, makeup-y girls were.
Now, why exactly did she do this? Because i wasn't as poufy-haired and makeup-y as she was. I promise you, if i'd been wearing a miniskirt and full on makeup and had my hair done, she would've stayed next to me. But no, being a hijabi is just not cool enough. Actually, being anything short of a sex toy is not cool enough.
Now that that's said, i have to turn around and say that the situation isn't always like that. Most non-hijabi girls are as sweet as can be; one of my closest friends isn't hijabi. But we've gotta recognize this issue, this 'hijabism' in Arab society. If we want to be recognized in the West, then we've gotta be recognized in our own countries first.
Friday, April 07, 2006
"Chain blogs" (is that even what they're called?) are spreading faster than any illess i've seen at work. And i've caught the bug! (Courtesy of Mathew.)
So, here goes nothing:
Four jobs that I’ve had:
- Class President (...does that count?)Four movies that I could watch over and over:-
- The Last Samurai
- Lord of the Rings (okay, i'd have to have at least a month's break between each veiwing.. that trilogy is LONG!!)
Four places I’ve lived in:-
- Jeddah, KSA
- Los Angeles
- Sharjah, UAE
Four TV shows that I like:-
- Layali Alsal7iyeh (Syrian show set in the early 1900s)
- Honey and Clover (Yes, i added an extra one.. i couldn't not put it on!)
Four places where I’ve vacationed:-
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Sedona, Arizona (The Grand Canyon!)
Four of my favorite dishes:-
- The Blondie @ Applebees
- Tuna Melt
- Ships & Pasta (this little contraption has neither ships nor pasta, it's a Circassian dish. "ships" is the name of this porridge-like stuff, and the "pasta" is sticky, rice stuff.)
- Halava (another Circassian dish. basically it's triangular shaped pastries stuffed with potatoes or cheese.)
Four sites that I visit daily:-
- Yahoo! Mail
- Saudi Jeans
Four Books that I’ve read lately:-
- "A Fine Balance" by Rohinton Mistry
- "A Fortune-Teller Told Me" by Tiziano Terzani
- "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mireille Guiliano
- "The Ode Less Travelled" by Stephen Fry
Four Bloggers that I’m going to tag with this:
(don't know four, heehee)
Alrighty then. That's all for now. I have to catch up on the two math lessons i missed this week. Wish me luck.
Friday, March 31, 2006
The hall was packed when we entered; the buzz of chatter pulsed in the room as people waited for the next speaker to come up. Due to the huge turn out, we ended up sitting on the stairs. I was all attention, ready to take in whatever would materialize on the stage below. A white-robed man came onstage, and the noise level in the room dwindled to a hush. The man began speaking (in Arabic) about the Palestinian people, and how they are stranded in the world, alienated by even their fellow Arab countries. In true Arab style, there was lots of whistling and applause from the audience after every few sentences. The same scenario was repeated with each new speaker that came up.
Basically, what i understood about Land Day is summarized in the following paragraph:
Land Day, known as ‘Youm al-Ard’ in Arabic, commemorates the bloody killing of six Palestinians in the Galilee on March 30, 1976 by Israeli troops during peaceful protests over the confiscation of Palestinian lands. It has since become a painful reminder of Israeli injustice and oppression against the Palestinian people, and a day for demonstration linking all Palestinians in their struggle against occupation, self determination and national liberation. (1)Let me tell you something, the whole "linking all Palestinians" part of that definition is true, to put it lightly. Arabs are generally very nationalistic, but in nationalism, Palestinians can beat all the other Arab countries combined. After the speakers finished, a folklore musical group comprised of the university's Palestinian Cultural Club sang and danced us through the next hour. And that's when the people started really getting crazy. In a good sense though. There was clapping and chanting and jumping in the hall, especially from the shabab (young men). Everyone was genuinely having a good time. By the end of the event, we were exhausted, but ready to keep going if the band started up again.
Land Day was a very interesting experience for me. Although i'm not Palestinian, my Arabness gives me just as much of a right to love that plot of land. Arabs everywhere cry for and dream of Palestine. After all, the "nations" we've adopted are just lines drawn by imperialistic hands a few decades back.
Despite the general success of the event, there's a comment that i heard someone say that disturbed me. My friend's friend came up to us while the band onstage was singing, asking when we'd arrived. We replied that we came a bit late, just before the singing and dancing. The girl laughed, saying, "Oh that's good. Better than sitting through all those speeches."
And we all agreed.
Hmmmm... that's not too good of a sign for the upcoming generation of Arabs. Lets hope it's just a phase that we'll get over soon.
(1) Miftah.org Fact Sheets; http://www.miftah.org/Display.cfm?DocId=3410&CategoryId=4
Friday, March 24, 2006
This was one of the questions i had on last year's history final. I remember sitting in the examination room, racking my brain for an answer. I found an answer all right, but got a little more than i bargained for in the process.
The invention of the printing press led to the Reformation. Printing gave all people access to the Bible and other books; access to information. Printing also allowed people to record their own thoughts and send them out for the rest of the masses to read and discuss. People within these masses could in turn write their own views or comments, and print them. Here we had the exchange of ideas. This allowed reformers like Martin Luther have their voices heard, leading directly to the Reformation.
Writing that answer got me thinking. Before the printing press, Europe was rotting its way through the Dark Ages, a period where life is best described as “nasty, brutish, and short”. Power lay in the hands of corrupt and often cruel leaders, who cared nothing for the masses' situation and used the masses' ignorance to their own advantage. Then this printing press came out of nowhere, and through it the course of history was altered.
For the past two centuries, the Arab and Muslim world was living its own Dark Ages. With the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the once blooming culture of the Middle East was reduced to mere ignorance. Then came a period of Western colonialism that lasted until the first half of the 20th century. Independence, though, did not save the Middle East from the clutches of its Dark Age. Cruel, corrupt leaders took the place of the colonial powers, and thrust the people even further into the well of ignorance.
The few who had escaped the grasp of ignorance in their newly formed countries could do little to better the situation of their societies. They were scattered in different parts of the world, and any type of communication that threatened those in power meant permanent exile or even death.
So what's our way out of this Dark Age? Europe got the printing press. What about 21st century Middle East? What do we get?
And that's when it dawned on me. The internet.
This new technology, barely a decade old, was the answer. With the internet, people on all sides of the world could communicate quickly and efficiently. Once an idea got out there, no group could attempt to shut it down, because it was part of the intangible world called cyberspace. These groups could stop people from physically meeting and discussing new, “dangerous” thoughts, but they could do nothing about the millions of emails sent and articles written and websites posted everyday. It was out of their hands. The exchange of ideas could occur, leading to a major change in society. People could read about things they didn’t have access to previously, discuss them, then write their own ideas for the rest of the cyber-world to see. It was unstoppable. And I realized with another shock, it was already beginning.
Emails, forums, blogs, and websites touching all aspects of Arab and Muslim life are sprouting all over the internet. Sites like Muslim Heritage and blogs like Saudi Jeans are just two examples of the wealth of information and ideas out there. Better yet, the freedom of speech on the internet has leaked into mainstream media outlets. It’s contagious!
A Revolution is bubbling underneath the shrouds of ignorance. It will not happen overnight, but everyday is a step closer to it. I recently discovered an Arab blog network called Toot, yet another step towards our "Revolution". This network is a window into the new world of Arab blogging, in which Arabs from all over the world can interact, reading each other's blogs and publishing their own. (Ah, the power of globalization.) And not only does the site have great packaging, but, can you believe it, substance! Its stuff like this that the Arab and Muslim world needs to move forward in today's world.
For future notice, when i say "Revolution", i don't necessarily mean overthrow-the-government-in-a-bloody-coup type of revolution. I mean an intellectual revolution, a social revolution, a religious revolution, a cultural revolution. Preferably, a peaceful revolution. The world's already lost too much blood. We've got to save whatever we can of it.
So, on that note, out of the Dark Ages we go!
Sunday, March 19, 2006
It took me a while to recognize the noise as thunder. Living in the desert makes you forget the whole concept of storms. While putting on my school uniform for the first day of my last term, i heard a soft "pluck" on my window, followed by a series of tiny thuds. I tried to look outside, but water on the window's glass smeared my vision. Rain!
For the past three days, the weather here in the UAE has been... odd. Friday and yesterday were my first experiences with sand storms. We were going to Dubai with some family friends for dinner at Applebee's. The wind had been blowing all day, raising with it the Emirati sand. While in the car, i didn't realize sand was what fogged up my vision. I assumed it was, well, fog. My misguided assumptions were immediately corrected though, when i stepped out of the car. Fog doesn't attack you with sticky little grains of "stuff" every time the wind blows.
The sand stuck on my face got me thinking. There i was, on Sheikh Zayed Road, between high rise buildings, in the middle of a desert. A generation ago, the pavement i was standing on didn't exist. There was just sand. Dunes and dunes of it. Bedouins walked here, with their camels, customs, and folded up tents. Maybe they unfolded them, set up camp here to hide from sand storms similar to the one i was in.
Wow, Outlandish wasn't wrong. Life really is a loom.
Monday, March 13, 2006
It's weird to think that i'm finally part of the "marriable" generation. 18 was always my "marriage number". I remember always dreaming about it when i was younger. I thought that the second i turned 18, i would get myself married to some Prince Charming and go off into the sunset. (A French sunset, if you please.) The funny thing is, the closer i got to 18, the further back i pushed my "marriage number". At the moment, the label is stamped on 22, a snug 4 years away. You never know what'll happen, but that's how i'd plan it if it were in my hands.
Despite my thoughts on marriage numbers, there is an obvious consensus among the mothers of the Arab world on the number 18. Every Arab girl my age has experienced the extra-wide smiles and bubbly conversations with Arab mothers on the prowl for potential wives for their sons. Not that these women are evil or anything, they're sweet! A little too sweet, maybe. Saying "No" takes some effort. You don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Despite the stickiness of these situations, it's always fun to talk about them later. Exchanging "khtoobeh" (engagement - or in this sense, potential engagement) stories is a favorite pastime of Arab girls. We tend to get a kick outta them. The stickier the story, the more it gets retold in times of boredom. Way to keep our ancestors' oral tradition of storytelling going.
But no, seriously. I realized that i'm getting old! Or at least older. All the guys i used to think were cute on the Disney Channel are suddenly too young for me. And about two weeks ago, my friend had a baby! Okay, she's 5 years older than me (putting her at around 23, i think), but still! I'm part of her generation! Ai. Where does the time go? I flashed through high school so fast...will college be like that? Weird to think.
Even with it's quirks, growing up is exciting. New places, new people, new experiences. New is good. But i can't let my childhood get too far away from me. Apparently, it's essential for an artist. Part of the Muse's balanced breakfast, i take it. And i didn't make that up. An old person told me.
“Arguably, no artist grows up: If he sheds the perceptions of childhood, he ceases being an artist.”
- Ned Rorem
Monday, February 13, 2006
But before you turn away in exasperation ("that girl's gonna try to keep us reading?"), lemme revert to the one thing we all do in times like this: excuses.
On coming home from two wonderful weeks in LA, i was bombarded with projects and tests and the SAT. All the good stuff we lucky high school seniors have to deal with. My school works on a trimester system, and instead of having finals at the end of the second term, we have to turn in projects. Easy, you think? It's not. Imagine, 8 projects to turn in. Eight. Ai yai yai. Not fun. And they're all due when? In the first week of March. Which is in two weeks.
So you see, i haven't just been bailing out on this blog. I had reasons. Today, i took an environmental science test and presented my history project to the class. When i came home, i realized that, shockingly enough, i had no homework of any type to do. (Minus the three math problems i'll be doing on the bus tomorrow.) So, i went online and started typing this thing up.
Okay, now that my excuses are out of the way, i can get to writing about what i want to write about. This whole Denmark issue.
The Muslim world basically went berserk when news spread about how a Danish newspaper published offensive pictures of Prophet Muhammad. After hearing about all the trouble they'd caused, i looked them up online to see just how "bad" they were.
Let's just say i was a bit disappointed. Although some of the cartoons were what i, as a Muslim, would consider offensive, 7 out of the 12 cartoons (over half) were very witty, insightful, or just plain pretty to look at. The Muslim outrage over these pictures seemed completely overblown. Now, Islamically, Muslims do not portray pictures of Prophet Muhammad. This is a precaution, because over time, humans have a tendency to deify anything of importance to them; and artistic rendition of that "important thing" can be passed on from generation to generation until it becomes idolized. I believe that if the Danish paper had known this, they might have approached the subject differently.
Speaking of "the subject", the whole point of the Muhammad cartoons was to break away the bonds of "self-censorship". The Jyllands-Posten (the name of the Danish newspaper that published the cartoons) believed that people were becoming too afraid of Muslims to say what they really thought of Islam, and therefore inhibiting their right of free speech. The paper "invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Muhammad as they see him." Many Muslims outside the West already thought that Westerners were anti-Islam, so the 5 negative cartoons of the Prophet shouldn't have been surprising. It would have been nice though, if the Muslims had at least acknowledged the other, more perceptive pictures.
Had they seen them at all. I discussed the Muhammad cartoons with many people here in the Middle East, and very few had actually seen the cartoons themselves. The governments here banned the pictures from the local media, and many Muslims don't want to look them up on the internet because they believe they shouldn't see visual depictions of the Prophet's face. (For the record, i'm just stating a fact, not implying an opinion about it.)
Then there are those Muslims who are too lazy to look the cartoons up, but have the ability to go around yelling about how the West is against Islam. Many of these particular Muslims tend to be very "Westernized"; dressing, eating, talking, and acting like "the West". Speaking out against the West in this situation makes them feel that they haven't wholly betrayed their religion, language, and culture.
Protecting the moral and humanitarian values taught by the Prophet is a huge undertaking. Especially when the majority of the world is busy violating them. Instead, the Muslim world chooses to pick on a few, scattered details in an attempt to soothe its aching conscious. That way, when the question of why the Muslim world is in such a sorry situation comes up, Muslims can say "Hey, we let the West know it's bad to show the Prophet's picture. We're trying!" Excuses, Excuses. And yes, with a capital E. Wasting all this energy on a bunch of cartoons when people all over the world are dying from poverty, occupation, and natural disasters.
A cartoon hits closer to the true spirit of the Prophet than it's artisan may have realized. Two red faced "Arabs" running with swords in hand are checked by "the Prophet", who says, "Relax guys, its just a drawing made by some infidel South Jutlander." Let's not let the aforementioned Excuses get any more out of hand, shall we?
Below are some links for further reading:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyllands-Posten_Muhammad_cartoons_controversy (An in-depth look at the "Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy", along with a description of each of the cartoons.)
2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4693292.stm (An article describing what each of the Muhammad cartoons display. Kudos to the BBC's professional and mature portrayal of the issue.)
3. http://cryptome.org/muhammad.htm (WARNING! This is a link to actual images of the Muhammad cartoons. They are not censured in any way, so for those of you who would not like to view the cartoons, please read a description of them at one of the above sites.)
Here are links to some sites that were published as a result of the "Muhammad cartoon" controversy:
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Whoa, lemme rephrase that. Sorry, the excitement is just too much to handle. What i meant to say was, ahem, that i'm going to LA tonight.
...exciting, eh? I'm soooo excited. We only confirmed that we were going yesterday. ("We" being my family and i.) We planned the trip a couple weeks back, but my dad couldn't book tickets because he wasn't sure exactly what day he'd be able to get off work. Until yesterday that is. So yeah, it was a bit of a gamble on our part, but it worked! That's why a lot of our friends back in LA don't know that we're coming. Imagine the looks on their faces when we show up at Eid Prayer on Tuesday. Heeheehee.
But yeah, joking aside, this trip is gonna be very interesting. I haven't been in LA for over 2 years now. I wonder how different everyone is gonna be. We left everyone as kids, and now we're coming back adults. The couple of inches that we grew are gonna give us a very different perspective of LA, i think. I just hope its for the better.
Two quick notes before i go. (And yes, i must go. I have loads of packing to do, and our flight's tonight!) The first is that i tend to be a very family-oriented person, so you may be hearing about my family in the most random of times in this blog. When discussing my family, i tend use the term "we" (like i did two paragraphs above), but usually, i don't put an explanation as to who "we" is. So from now one, when you see "we" pop up randomly in my blog, know that it's me talking about my family with myself included. When i just say "my family", i'm talking about my parents and brother, myself excluded. Got it? Cool.
The second note is that, as you've noticed, i don't capitalize my "I"s when they come in the middle of a sentence. The reason for that is that i'm used to typing in email jargon, as in im used to typin w/o carin about spellin n grammer rules n stuff. But for this blog, i wanted to write a bit more "properly" so that the blog could be easier to read. I'm capitalizing every sentence for you and following grammer rules (when i see fit), so spare my poor pinky the trip to the shift button every time i write the letter "I". Hey, you rub my back, i rub yours.
So now that those two things are explained, i'd better get off the computer. My bag is calling, begging to be packed. And plus, i'm hungry. Breakfast time!
Sunday, January 01, 2006
I've been wanting to start up a blog for a while, but never got around to actually doing it. There were always too many other distractions when i got on my laptop. As 2005 was dwindling to an end, i decided i'd add creating a blog to my already extensive list of resolutions. One more wouldn't hurt.
So it's the first day of 2006, and i'm at my computer as promised, typing away. First resolution of the year, accomplished. Not too bad, eh? All i've gotta do now is keep this thing going. I'm thinking a post a week should be fine on average; sometimes more, sometimes less. Depends on my mood.
So what should you be expecting from this blog? A little bit of everything. What does a girl-turned-adult from nearly every country in the world have to say? And a Muslim one at that?
Questions, questions... you just wait and see. I'll give you something entertaining, don't you worry. But for now, i've gotta get off this laptop. I've got half an hour to read "The Master of Petersburg" before going to bed, and i plan to savor every second.
Till my next post!