Mutawwa-ing Second Life

22 08 2009

As reported by Al-Watan newspaper on the 17th, the mutawwas and the PVCV of Saudi Arabia are growing in the virtual world of Second Life. Apparently, there are going to be lectures and “methods to excite the young people” on the virtues of Ramzan and its benefits. Also, apparently, (apparently coz I’m depending on Google Translate), using computers and Internet for this purpose was an Islamic no-no, but it was justified since “Arithmetic has a very large value in Islam”.

Declared the island “Middle East” in a “Alexand Live” that for the first time will be held on Tuesday a lecture by a senior official in the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, has been the world’s second default under the title “Ramadan guys” to raise awareness of spirituality to seize the holy month.
The lecture will be delivered by Director General of the religious police in Mecca, Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, the default in the mosque, which was inaugurated recently in the “taste of Arabia” island “Middle East”, which belongs to participants from Saudi Arabia.”

Nice! Now virtual lectures on how women should keep only one eye uncovered, why they should not drive, how to claim to be the bastions of Islam in the world and at the same time destroy all evidence of the objects present at the time of the Holiest figure of Islam. (article from 2005, even more damage now)

Historic Mecca, the cradle of Islam, is being buried in an unprecedented onslaught by religious zealots.

Almost all of the rich and multi-layered history of the holy city is gone. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades.

Now the actual birthplace of the Prophet Mohamed is facing the bulldozers, with the connivance of Saudi religious authorities whose hardline interpretation of Islam is compelling them to wipe out their own heritage.

It is the same oil-rich orthodoxy that pumped money into the Taliban as they prepared to detonate the Bamiyan buddhas in 2000. And the same doctrine – violently opposed to all forms of idolatry – that this week decreed that the Saudis’ own king be buried in an unmarked desert grave.

A Saudi architect, Sami Angawi, who is an acknowledged specialist on the region’s Islamic architecture, told The Independent that the final farewell to Mecca is imminent: “What we are witnessing are the last days of Mecca and Medina.”

According to Dr Angawi – who has dedicated his life to preserving Islam’s two holiest cities – as few as 20 structures are left that date back to the lifetime of the Prophet 1,400 years ago and those that remain could be bulldozed at any time. “This is the end of history in Mecca and Medina and the end of their future,” said Dr Angawi.

The driving force behind the demolition campaign that has transformed these cities is Wahhabism. This, the austere state faith of Saudi Arabia, was imported by the al-Saud tribal chieftains when they conquered the region in the 1920s. Read the rest of this entry »





Kill ’em Infidels!! The Fatwas

12 07 2009

(from Part 1)

The prevalent attitude of the Saudi ruling family pertain to something like “do what you want to do, just let us do what we want to do. If you interfere in what we want to do, you get snapped”. Consider it a zero-tolerance, mutual existence governance. In order to defer the responsibility of running the country, the govt has many councils and committees who act almost-independently, working to keep the country running, while the Saud family do what they do best. This manifests itself as a collection of organizations that are one another’s peers and have their own fields of activity, working independently, sometimes overlapping. Conflicts are often resolved on a case-to-case basis, often with the intervention of a Saud family member, since no governing rule exists. Placeholding rules are there, but they are precisely that, placeholders.

This has given the CPVPV (and other councils/committees) a very free hand to do whatever they want to do. And since the CPVPV has learnt which toes not to step on, they run pretty much scot free. The fatwas they decide to get implemented, they do themselves, since they have their own force, no police co-op required. And since words are cheap, they say pretty much whatever they want to. Add to this mix the cold-war with the al-Azhar university to become the official voice of Islam, and you have a plothera of fatwas, left and right. Below are some of the more wonderfully stupid samplings. Note: I do NOT follow, believe, nor promote these in any way. Sources might be biased. Make your own decisions.

Shias are infidels. The scholars are definitely infidels, the people, unknown.

...unislamic pic unrelated...

All Shias are infidels

Pokemon is haraam.

Saudi Women must cover one eye.

Pet animals are a threat to morality

OK to slap wives

Pigeon-breeding forbidden: act of sodomites

Soccer is forbidden.

Mice are to be exterminated: Mickey Mouse is haraam

Travelling haraam during Swine ‘flu

International Jihad haraam

Women-only health clubs haraam (arabic)

Women cannot go online without a male guardian

Women can hit back: outrage over fatwa

Cheating on non-Muslim wives/women okay

Islamic banking unIslamic (okay, this one is from Pakistan)

and so on…

I’m sure if there are any reader from the Kingdom, they’ll attest to the day-to-day challenges and issues that arise out of a simple inconvenience of following rules and regulations that are quite unique in the Islamic world. True, that following the Islamic law to the spirit is not very prevalent in the current world scenario, but there are places where that does happen, and it does not look anything like what SA has going on.

The ruling hierarchy in SA most often than not turns a blind eye on these rulings. In individual cases, their acts can overrule the religious fatwa (such as the release of the film produced by a Prince, support for soccer, traveling to the USA during swine flu season etc), but not vice versa. Also, they have the luxury of getting fatwas issues, such as fatwas against a few writers who were critical of the Saudi regime. After all, they are the rulers, right.

But the religious faction is all set to exercise its ruling rights too. Sweeping powers to issue laws and get them implemented does get to the head after a while. Currently, the Saud family has managed to curb the need-to-rule of the religious fraternity, but this need has previously, and again shall rise. The religion-fuelled activities in the wake of 9/11 led to some activity which was squashed. Something might gel them again. Think of it as two balloons with equal length strings in the same hand, both trying to occupy the same place and constantly bumping into one another.

The Saud family’s bump is currently stronger.

-FK





How many Gulfs?

24 05 2009

That is an assumption of course. Since the Europeans created the Euro, the Gulfians should create the Gulf; and maybe have its symbol to be a stylized  G (okay, maybe not a G with a strikethrough!)

But still, what would it be named?* What would it look like? What would it show? Colors? Size? There are obvious problems. The GCC has 6 member countries and 6 local currencies. These are the:

Bahrini Dinar

Kuwaiti Dinar

Kuwaiti Dinar

Omani Rial

Omani Rial

Qatari rial

Qatari Rial

Saudi rial

Saudi Rial

UAE Dirham

UAE Dirham

So there are 5+7=12 heads of states that could look for space on the note; the color ranges could be from a soothing blue to a neutral gray to a rich red; the denominations could be as low as .005 of the base unit upto 500 of the same etc etc.

I’ve often thought, who decides such things? The Omani note, forex. Gray! Steel Gray with white! White on a currency note? Anyone expected it to remain white? And the dimensions? Following international standards, I think. But still!

As for the other issues, there are many toothsayers saying all sorts of things. GCC common curreny doomed. UAE plays its card. UAE move shows underlying differences. Currency on brink of failure. & the UAE itself is leaving options open.

I think its not as decisive as it should’ve been could be. The UAE obviously wants all matters pertaining to incoming funds within its jurisdiction at the moment. And the current crunch, if nothing else, tells them the imprtance of having cash-in-hand. On the other side, SA can use its behemothical size to roll this way or that and make the currency happen with or without UAE.

Oman, otoh, I think, has once again shown something that is much better, much deeper and much more decisive than all the other member states. I again do not know who makes these policies (the originators, the one fiscal expert who thought this up, “Let’s not join”), but this basically shows off a “good move” on the part of the country. After all, no one is going to tax Oman or levy any ‘late fees’ if we join later, right? The country has a good, solid 25-year plan going in full swing. The targets decided upon are very much on track, the proper assets are in the proper places to start all engines, but there is essentially no pressing need. Yeah, it would be swell to have tonnes of money and assets floating around, but we have a bit more than we want currently. So no rush. The UK was reviled and pointed at and accused of missing out on something ‘wow’ but they stood their ground and kept the Pound and still joined the EU. Years on, while they are not on top of the world, but they are not hurting either.

But I still think we should move away from the USD peg.

-FK

*A little birdie told me they’re planning to call it the ‘Khaleeji’. Expect all South/East Asians to call it a “Kahleeji” (with a ‘K’ intead of the throaty ‘Kh’)

Proposed Symbol

Proposed Symbol

The Arabic word ‘khaleeji’ (خليجي ) stands for ‘of the gulf’ thus the ‘G’ symbol with the by now customary central bar . And just as the ‘$’ symbol once so aptly stood for ‘ unit of silver ‘ letthe Khaleeji be understood as a ‘unit of gold’? The most convincing argument for such an interpretation is that having a gold/silver backed currency is considered the final leg to remove Riba (ربا ‘interest’ or ‘usury’) from the financial system, which is forbidden arcording to Islamic economic jurisprudence . Or, we can just use the Arabian affinity for gold.

O_O





(Ir+Om)an

18 05 2009

My algebra’s a bit rusty. However I think this works. It equates to Iran + Oman.

And that’s what’s going on. Oman and Iran are pretty much becoming an item!

There are many news articles on this appearing. Mostly low-key. As if the authorities are saying  we’ve got ‘a good thing going, but lets not make much noise about it’.

Iran is, and has been, since the 1979 revolution, a very predominantly Islamic state with the letter of the shari’a followed in word and spirit. While this is not something very unique in the Islamic world, Iran is the only country in the world where the followers of the Shiite sect of Islam are in absolute majority in the population (as much as 98%) and in the government. This marks Iran to be very different from the rest of Muslim world. The only country that comes even close is Iraq, with 58% of its population being Shiite, but this majority had been opressed and prosecuted under the rule of Saddam. Also currently, with the power-sharing schemes and %age-wise representation schemes being discussed for governance in Iraq, Shiites have a shot at being in and around the corridors of the government there too. As a side note, Iraq and Iran are traditional pilgrimage centers of the Shiite sect by virtue of being home to the shrine of the Im’ams or Leaders of the Shiite sect. Out of 12 Leaders of the Shiites, 1 has his shrine in Iran in the city of Mashhad, 6 shrines are in Iraq (Baghdad, Kadhimiya, Samarra, Najaf and Kerbala) and 5 are in Saudi Arabia (in the area known as Jannat-ul-Baqi)

Oman is a low-key, predominantly Sunni Ibadhi country at the north of the south of the Middle East. Oman is a stone’s throw from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen by land; and Pakistan and Iran by sea. Oman is predominantly lived-in by Sunni Ibadhi-muslims who are a mixture of the alongwith Orthodox Sunni, Shiites, miniority Wahhabi and Kharji groups. Oman’s claim to fame have been the ancient seafarers from the country’s generous coastline. This made this area a thoroughfare for ancient pilgrims to Mecca from overseas, a landing/rest area for people involved in the booming trade routes between India and Africa and a safe niche for people, mostly refugees, from the Persian, Roman and MidEastern conflicts and wars.

Oman and Iran, both, have had a ressurection in the late 1970s. In Iran this was manifested in the form of the Islamic revolution. In Oman, this was the emergence of a new ruler from the sands of the desert that blew across and obscured the non-national activities going on in the Dhofar region. Where Iran took the agressive role of taking upon the world, holding (and shaking, kicking and screaming) the bull by its horns (in the form of the American Embassy thingy and its national stance), Oman slowly and steadily built shop, arranging the shelves and laying the carpet and decorating the walls; removing the shroud, one step at a time.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Like a kid running blindly over stones and uneven ground, Iran has emerged from the past 30 years way ahead, up on top of the hill, well on the way to progress and being considered a regional power. But this kid is panting and heaving, his clothes are in tatters, he has bruised and injured his knees from when he fell over in the Gulf War. His knees are recovering, but he is still running in the same careless way as before.

Oman, like the proverbial tortoise (or maybe the green turtle of R’as al Hadd), walked along the same path at a slow and stately pace. In the way, Oman took time to find a sturdy walking stick, whittle and shape it properly. It acquired proper walking shoes, selected the clearest path, managed to avoid getting his robes soiled, generally remained unscathed and has just started climbing the hill.

Now, the kid at the top of the hill’s knees are giving way. He needs shoes, a shirt, but he is at the top. He can see for miles around. He can feel the breeze. The kid at the bottom cannot see much around, but he has the walking stick and clean robes. The two are reaching out to one another. “Find me a stick like that, I’ll tell you what I can see”. “Let me have some walking shoes and I can warn you of the terrain here”, and so on a so forth.

And that, dears, is what is going on.

Even More (google)

Oman navigates between Iran and Arab Nations (NYTimes)

Iranian FM in Oman (BiW – 14/5)

Public Authority for Craft Industries visits Iran (today, 18/5)

Oman seen close to Iran (KT, April 09)

Oman-Iran discuss ways to strengthen ties (March, 09)

Iranian Naval Drills in Gulf of Oman (dec 08)

I’m not done with this yet….!!

-FK





Just Noticed…

16 04 2009

This is not new news, maybe a new review of an old news, but still not new, just something I noticed now. Better late than ever, eh.

This site has an article that is pretty pointed about the Doha Summit that took place recently. Whilst I shall not comment on the other things, this statement strikes me as pretty odd:

This year’s Arab League summit meeting, held in Doha, capital of Qatar, was intended to promote Inter-Arab reconciliation following Israel’s violent invasion of Gaza at the end of last year. A united front was also sought to take a stand against the spread of Shi’ism sponsored by Iran.

Huh?! A united front against spread of Shi’ism? Why? Is religious freedom wrong on an Arab level now? Or is it just that Shi’ites are a particularly nasty brand of  species? Searching for appropriate texts on the Doha Summit, I could not find any news that corroborates this statement. Of course, I could go and try and read through the transcript of the meeting, but not now.

Still, are such things still discussed at head of state level meetings? “Oil, Economy, Israel, and oh yeah, lets also do something about this 15% of the population”. Okay, our brotherly northerly neighbours have had an official stance against these people. Saddam also officially took offence. Persecution of Shi’ites is nothing new, but still.

*shaking head in wonder*

-TFK





Terrorism or Sectarianism?

13 04 2009

It is clear that the only thing in common between the Pakistani Shia community and Western diplomats based in Islamabad is that they both face a common threat. Like Western diplomats, the Pakistani Shia community is increasingly being targeted by suicide bombers and other terrorist and militant organizations in urban regions of Pakistan.Since the beginning of 2009, three major suicide attacks have targeted Shia religious gatherings in Pakistani cities causing dozens of deaths. Two of these suicide bombings took place in the small towns of Dera Ghazai Khan and Chakwal in the Punjab; both towns have a large Shia community and a history of sectarian tension. The third suicide attack took place in the small town Dera Ismail Khan in the North-West Frontier Province [NFWP] which borders Pakistan’s tribal areas, and where sectarian tensions have recently reached alarming levels. Another took place in Peshawar.

Suicide bombings are not the only threat to the Shia community in Pakistan; the Taliban have also led armed attacks against Shia communities in remote areas. Shia religious organizations claim that eight prominent Shia leaders and public figures have been assassinated in various parts of the country since the beginning of 2009 (also in 2000, 2001 and 2003).

Since the establishment of the Pakistani state in 1947, the Shia community has attained all the characteristics of a religious minority in the Sunni dominated country. They have separate religious institutions and ceremonies that evolved over centuries in the Indian subcontinent, and they also maintain a distinct religious identity, despite the fact that they have never been declared an official religious minority in Pakistan

Many people maintain that while the aim of the Taliban are not Shias, they offer an easy target. Moreover, the financiers and management of the al-Qaeda hardliners are strict followers of the Sunni faith, which has its differences with the Shias. So if al-Qaeda can whip a woman for going out with her father-in-law, they can very well kill Shias for being a Shia.

The problem is not a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence. There are numerous instances and lists online of targetted killings, individual and group violence, that seem targetted against this miniority.

There are objections on the Shias about garnering support from Iran. Indeed, in the 1970s, when the then-ruler of Pakistan Ayub Khan announced sweeping religious laws, the Shias were able to gain religious exceptions (basedon their beliefs) with ample support from Khomeni & the Iranian Regime.

However, thers emerges this disturbing pattern amongst the terrorism in Pakistan.

-TFK






Read it, liked it

12 04 2009

(The title is read it, as in ‘red it’ and liked it!)

Was sitting and searching for a specific sentence of the Qur’an which was used as a reference in a book that I’m reading nowadays. During that, found these sentences, that, for some odd reason, I’m liking very much today.

“Your Lord, Allah, has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to [your] parents whether one or both of them attains old age in your life. Say not to them a word of contempt nor repel them but address them in terms of honor; and out of kindness lower to them the wing of humility and say,”My Lord bestow on both of them Your mercy as they cherished me in my childhood.” (17:23-24)

Amen!

-TFK