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





Mixing it up…

1 07 2009

DSC00956

… at the ROP traffic police office in Qurum. The window, for women only, being ‘manned’ by women, had 2 male customers! OTOH, he ‘did’ have his wife/a female with him, I suppose.

Lately, I’ve noticed that seeing the tiny queues and exclusive counters for women, some men just melt into the background and send the womenfolk to get whatever done. I’ve seen this happening at ticket counters and a lot at govt. offices. What gives? Is this ok?

P.S. Is it allowed to take photos in govt. public service offices?

-FK





“To be Pissed or not to be Pissed”

23 06 2009

That’s what I get paid. Obviously, I’m generalizing. And then again, it might not be true, but still.

My current dilemma/pissed-offness stems from a query whether I’m being paid by my company (company 47) for the time I spend on my seat? Am I being paid for the work that I do? Is my payscale determined by my job responsibilities? Or by my job profile @ 8 hours per day?

If I were to lean to time-based payments, then there would be an overtime policy in-place. But there isn’t. I can work my ass off and go home at 12 pm and return at 7 am continuously, and I won’t be paid a single dime extra for it. But if it is work based, then there are no major milestone policies in-place. (There is something initiated and loosely applicable within my department only, but that’s something we’ve implemented ourselves, just to help the annual employee evaluation process be transparent-er). It is not something at the corporate/company level.

So, time or work? There are circulars floating around requiring not to leave before off-time and to come at on-time. There is also a card/fingerprint timing system in place. So that means it is time-based. But then why no overtime?

Associated problem: The management is not required to use the timing system, nor are they required to be in on time. That comes with the fact that official functions can, and do, carry over into the night, often requiring 12/14 hour days. But I have a management-member-boss who implements to 9-5 on himself. He is there, bright and shiny, always before 9, and leaves after 5. He mentions that whenever he leaves his office, he does mention it to his boss (who is the penultimate boss, btw); so he expects us to do the same. So, governed by management rules, I am not required to follow the 9-5; governed by boss-rules, I’m expected to follow the 9-5, strictly, and the mgmt-member-boss always has himself as an example.

Come end of month this month, I see red-marks all over my presence sheet. Asking for an explanation gets me the “I come at 8:30” mini-speech,  and now I’m stuck, weirded out, and pissed.

What to do?

-FK





Muscati in New York Times

17 05 2009

There is, undoubtedly, interest in Oman at the moment. The international media, having ravished itself on the UAE, dissed SA, ogled Kuwait & Qatar, beaten the Iraqi and Irani dead horse, are now turning their eyes on another niche of the center of the world.

This interest is manifesting itself in the form of articles about Oman in international dead-tree media.

NYTimes has a not-so-positive article. That’s the bad part. I won’t rant on the article, coz its ‘so’ rantable that I’d have to forget all semblance of completing my work today and then ‘urgh-ing’ all the day tomorrow.

But the point of notice of this post is:

A recently amended law allows the government to prosecute anyone associated with a Web site or blog that posts anything objectionable, not just the writer.[…] A blogger was sentenced last month to 10 days in jail after posting on a public forum a confidential government document[…]

This links to Muscati’s post in Omanforum, circa 1999.

Yayy!! Lots of hits!

-FK





Inflation: Down, Reserves: Up

27 04 2009

Oman has lots ‘o’ money. Which is good, ‘coz inflation drops. And it did (bottom half). As for the budget surplus, I really can’t tell what to do with it. Medical services is one field that comes to mind. I’m still being harangued by these private medical clinics whose interest lies more in the bottom line rather than sick people. I really do think that education (specially higher and professional education), medical services and emergency/civil services are very much no-go areas for private companies. NO, at all costs. Since in these areas the quality of service provided HAS to be dependant on nothing, not something as stupid as the bottom line, comparatively. A person’s knowledge level/mental treatment, physical treatment and saving lives has no value. Private entities are going to squeeze you for it. Who can easily stop using a medicine or forego the fire brigade just ‘coz he/she can’t pay for it?

Anyhooo, we have a surplus. Maybe we can get a govt-run hospital where expats are allowed? Allowed peace of mind?

This should be apicture of a newspaper clipping!

This should be a picture of a newspaper clipping! http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/09/04/13/10303653.html

Menafn reports that Oman’s inflation index has decreased from 9.4% to 7.9%. They say this is due to lower prices of crops, fuel and other thingies. The break down of the General Index is interesting:

Jan 2008: 9.4%  v/s  Feb 2009: 7.9%

Jan 2009: 8.1%  v/s  Feb 2009: 7.9%

Foodstuff, soft drinks & tobacco:  -1.7%

Crops & Products to:  -2.1%

Meat & Poultry:  -1.5%

Oil & Fats:  -2%

Fisheries:  -5.3%

Milk & Products:  -2.7%

Transport & Communications Group:  -0.1%

Personal commodities & other service:  +4.9%

Textile, readymade garments, shoes, medical services & education services: +-0%

House leasing, electricity, water and fuel:  +0.2%

Furniture & Households:  +0.4%

Recreational & Cultural services:  +0.2%

Go Fish!

-TFK





Omani Blogger Trial – Released

25 04 2009

Ali al-Zuwaidy has been released. Gulf News managed to get a few words out of him:

“I have mixed feelings,” Ali told Gulf News later but pledged that he would continue Blogging albeit with some more restraint.

“The judge in his judgement did say about freedom of expression but also added that it must come with responsibility and authenticity,” Ali said, adding that henceforth he would be more guarded.

At the same time, he added, he would not hesitate to criticise.

Ali said that the trial period was tough and yesterday morning before the verdict, his blood pressure went up considerably. “I am relived now and have already posted an entry on Sablat,” he revealed.

He said that he was unlikely to appeal his conviction. On his acquittal, he said he was happy that the judge exonerated him. On possibility of Omantel or Dr Al Woahibi appealing against his acquittal in the first charge, he said that he doesn’t see that happening. “Dr Al Wohaibi is no longer the Omantel CEO and I think the matter has ended here,” he reckons.

He, however, wondered about the true identity of the Blogger Booz Allen, who posted the entry accusing and criticising the Omantel CEO. “I have feeling it was some insider and close to him and with excellent IT knowledge,” he believes. The authorities’ efforts to trace his IP address led them to Berlin as the Blogger had cleverly masked his IP.

“When the post was first blocked by me I was reminded of my belief in freedom of expression by the other Bloggers and I ran it,” he says about the post that put him in prison for 11 days and had to endure the trial period.

So much for listening to others. Carry on kiddo!

-TFK





Omani Blogger Trial – Verdict

23 04 2009

We have a verdict. As expected, no news in the local papers. As expected, the international media knows more than we do. As kinda unexpected, websites are copying the same news article (1) (2) (3) (4)etc.

Anyway, the verdict gave us mixed results. On the two counts that he was indicted on, Ali was found Not Guilty of defamation in the allowing-the-anonymous-post case. It might not be easy peasy, but it is certainly not very impossible to get hold of the anonymous poster who posted that post (eh!). But I don’t think the effort and amount of work justifies the target. He was acquitted, right.

In the 2nd, kinda into the mix mixed case of the leaked Ministers Council memo, Ali was found Guilty, albeit it was Lightly Guilty since he was fined 200 R.O and 11 days in prison. And on top of that he was allowed to walk since he has already been in gaol for 11 days previous following his arrest.

Whilst the defamation case was brought on and tried because it was a legal case filed with the Public Prosecutor’s office, the memo case was not legally filed by anyone. Or maybe it was filed in a high-level phone call. And since the Omantel CEO has left office, maybe the case was allowed to fizzle out. But a statement needs to be made about leaking memos and tryna make things transparent! What were you thinking Ali??! I was of the impression that we competed with SA and Kuwait for media freedom, but after Muscati and a review of the stories their press publishes, I stand corrected. They even can give headlines like “Woman Beheaded for Killing Hubby“.

Not much of a Hubby if you not only kill, but behead him, eh!! *shudder*

Edit: There’s a comment thread going on at Muscati’s blog. My comment has ballooned so I’ll post it fully here.

Suburban says:Words fail to describe how dissapointed I am with the government, and the MOI in particular, with this case. I really thought we were different from Saudi, Egypt and China. I fear this is the thin end of the wedge.

I don’t think so. After all, we ‘are’ talking about Oman here right. Its not as if this was some landmark human rights case where the rights of ‘journalists’ was on the line. It was more of a strict scolding from Big Brother on the little one getting out of line. “Didn’t delete the post? Make that a option next time. Leaked the memo? Bad Boy! 2 spanks on the butt”

While I’m not downplaying the importance all this holds, but you really can’t hinge rights, principles & laws on majorly (kinda) impromptu trials, sporadic trial sessions and vague ambiguous laws that are open to interpretation both ways. Obviously Big Brother is going to get the final say.

Of course, it would have been landmark & groundbreaking if we knew that no matter what Big Brother’s preferences, if the verdict based on facts was pointing against BB, it would be announced and the case decided as such.

Since I can’t go through the al-Shabiba article without crutches, moral support and a bottle of Tylenol, so I’ll just use Google Translated version here.

Before sentencing the judge said in a speech addressed to the presence of most of the writers and literary freedom of expression in the country, stressing that the laws that have been developed not to stifle freedom of expression, but to regulate [it].

Now, can someone tell me what regulation does to freely expressed speech? Stifles it? “Corrects it to be socially and morally acceptable”?

Alkiomip smile and have a lawyer at the Zweidi satisfaction of government as a victory for freedom of expression and said that this demonstrates the impartiality of the judiciary Oman.

The lawyer smiles Alkiomi that it expected the patent to the first charge and the second was expected with a conviction, noting that the judge did not disappoint them to defend it

The General of the Omani writers and literary in a statement issued yesterday that the rule of Oman through the elimination, and with full transparency, the high awareness on the Elimination of Oman and is based on the deepest understanding of the spirit of the law, and a genuine vision of the breadth of many of the texts.

Of course! Why not! Obviously!

-TFK





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





Healthcare? What healthcare?

15 04 2009

It pisses me off. It really, royally pisses me off.

In the near past, I’ve had to spend some time in a hospital room. Mom had a bout of food     poisoning (probably) followed by weakness, resulting in dehydration, shooting of her blood-sugar level (darned diabetes), blood pressure and hospitalization. Called from work by a very flustered sister and being the nimbnomcoop that I am, I took Mum to the great Badr al-Sama’a in Ruwi.

Were sent to the emergency ward/room. The inital emergency saline drips were attached and  lots of blood extracted for tests. That is fine. Apparently.

After initial reports, the case is referred to Dr. S. He arrives, looks around for someone with her, spots me, confirms if I am with her, and in a very important voice proclaims “There is severe dehydration and weakness. Blood sugar is high, we shall try to control it. Also there are many ketones. We shall have to admit her for atleast 2 days”. I hmm & huh in the right places, say ok, confer with dad, consider our options and decide, ok, lets continue here itself. Mistake # 1.

Then comes up nurse # 1, hands me a slip of paper and vanishes. I stare at it, at the place where she was and then figure maybe I need to get Mum registered as a patient, after all, the “paperwork”! So I go to the reception, state the case, present our medical insurance cards, get a stare and get a :

“Where’s the patient?”

“In the Emergency Room”.

“Who are you?”

“Her son.”

“Whose medical card is this?”

“Hers”

“What is company name?”

“Xyzabc ltd”

She then proceeds to press 20 keys, the spacebar 5 times, looks around twice and asks 2 people something in her native language. Rest assured I don’t understand a word! She then calls the company, asks for a relevant person, gets Mum’s profile, rank/grade/file and get a confirmation of the medical coverage. After being satisfied *phew* she proceeds and processes us. What if it had been after-office hours? What if the relevant person had been unavailable?

“Show me Labor Card”

Okay. I show her mine.

“Is this the patient?”

“No, this is me!” *Duh*

“Want patient’s card”

“I have no idea where it is, at home, in her purse. I can find it and bring it later. You need it now?”

“Yes, now”

“We came in an emergency, kinda. Can’t it wait?”

“Now”

Luckily Mum had her purse alongwith her with her card innit. Another What If…?

Anyway, we get a room, transfer Mum, do the first round of settling in. Get a couple of close relatives to know what’s happening, get a few essentials from home, I volunteer to be the permanent attendant (I have never trusted the nursing staff, sorry). Then begins the ordeal.

We stayed there 3.75 days. I was there with Mum the whole time. In 24 hours, there are 3 different nurse shifts of 2 nurses each for the in-patients. The evening shift 5pm-1am has 3 to cope with visitors & extra load & all. Out of 7 professional nurses in an Arab country with multinational citizens in a medial clinic only “one” was kind enough to understand and speak “a bit of” English.When I asked for a spare blanket, I got a bedsheet. When I asked if there was some facility to re-heat eatables/any microwave ovens, it was something like a conversation between  2 deaf mutes, sorry, but seriously:

“Can we reheat this?”

“Huh?”

“Do you have some thing to heat this?”

“Huh?”

“Do you have a pantry? A kitchen?”

“No tea. Tea downstairs.”

“No, no, no. Do you have a microwave?”

*blank stare*

“Can I make this *pointing to dish* hot? For eat?”

“Ah! Hot!”

*enters the bathroom, opens the hot water tap*

“Ergh” *facepalm* “Forget it. Thanks”

In the end we got one of those electric hotplates.

And then there was Dr. S. He made his rounds twice a day. Only 2 rounds for an inpatient with an in-doctor (don’t ask me how I know, but he lives in the same building. 3 days in place teaches you lots.) Apparently more money is made treating out-patients. So he comes in at 9 am, when the patient is invariably asleep. But no problem, his 9 am can be as late as 11 am, no worries. He sees the blood/sugar reports, sugar/bp/medic log of the past 24 hours, the nurses and he converse in their local lingo (tamil/malaya/telgu no idea).  And then leaves. Only because I interrupt his Snape-like sweep of his coat to return, does he consider telling me something, “Blood sugar is high, we’re administering Insulin. These drips shall continue. We are giving medicines for blood pressure. Ketones are still there”. Another Snape-movement. “Doc. Till when do you expect to have her here? I need to fix things with her office and mine.” “I shall wait until stability is there.” And then Gone! Leaving me staring at the door open mouthed! (This was my 2nd encounter only. I was numb by the 8th time).

Being the way that I am, out comes the trusty P1i and Wikipedia and I search Ketones. Apparently they are something that forms when body nurtition is low. And, apparently, they are not much of a big deal. Whenever you skip a coupla meals, ketones appear. But whatever the doc says.

To cut a long story short, Mum came home. Alhamdulillah. The company footed a bill of 370-something rials. But atleast Mum was home. Albeit with 9 tablets to have per meal. For 3 days. After 3 days, the weakness is still there, blood sugar is still high, blood pressure is still high & now, her taste system is wrecked. Everything tastes ultra-salty. So we go back. Dr. S, in his infinite wisdom, increases the dosage.

“You were taking 2 tablets of Diamicron per day? Now take 2 in the morn & 2 at night!. Take 2 multivitamins.”

“For how many days?”

“30”

O_O

The same night, after the 2 multivitamins, some weird sort of swellings, alomst like insect-bites, on the whole of her arm. So at 3 am, we go back to the Great Badr alSamaa. The doc on duty, bored out of life, looks, sees the prescription of his colleague and tells the nurse to prepare a syringe with something. I dare to ask,

“Is this an allergic reaction?”

“Maybe”

“Maybe? Can it be something else also?”

“She has taken no medicine that can be allergic”

“Ah! So you’re injecting an anti-allergy?”

“Hmm.. yeah”

“Fine!”

But when repeated home-checkings of BP & blood-sugar show no improvement even on the double dosage, my non-spidey sense tingled. So did Dad’s. We took Mum to our almost-family doc, a very nice guy, his own clinic, inner Muttrah. We also take the Badr al-samaa file. He sees the list of medicines and then starts,

“This injection they billed you 8 rials. Its actual price is 300 bz”

“This injection they billed you 12 rials. Its actual price is 700 bz”

“This tablet they billed you 1 rial. Its actual price is 200 bz”

“This drip they billed you  1 rial. Its actual price is 150 bz”

“This anti-allergy he injected for 9 rials. Its actual price is 3 rials and that is because it is NOT an anti-allergy, it is a steriod”

!!!!

So this doc does his own tests, decreases the amount of tablets to be taken to 2 per day, enforces a strict diet regime (the previous one had allowed almost everything except obviously sweet things). He called Mum back everyday for 5 days for tests then is satisfied with her progress. Alhamdulilah, its been 2 weeks now, the sugar levels have dropped 50 points (but are kinda hovering around the 170 mark), Mum is back in her swing and is fast gaining on her nutritional levels.

And this latter doc, he charges us 7 rials only & 1 rial for every subsequent test.

GOD I am so anti-Badr al Samaa. Atleast make mindless profits but don’t be lax about our healths. Especially since we, being expats, cannot go to proper hospitals and have to stick to clinics.

Pray for us all.

-The Fark Knight





Traffic of a different kind

13 04 2009

Yup, Human trafficking.

Last year there was quite a lot of hulabaloo on a US State Dept report that somehow stated that our beloved law-enforcers had not done enough to stop human trafficking. Mr. Times of Oman as usual had a front-page opinionated article about that and the pros and cons of the affair were discussed, really and virtually.

human-wrists1-copy

For instance, there was this news report, which is pretty representative of the general opinions raised.

Gulf countries, mentioned in the US report which accused 16 countries of human trafficking, have unanimously agreed that the information included in the human rights organizations’ reports is inconsistent. The Gulf countries stressed that they took many necessary measures in recent years to protect the rights of their citizens and those of the residents, and that their countries are always open to human rights and judicial organizations.

In Oman Sultanate, the president of the General Union of the workers Abdulaziz Bin Abbas al-Bahrani said that: “Human trafficking and forced labor do not exist in Oman, these issues do not exist at all. However, the liberties, the right to demonstrate, to strike and the freedom of worship are guaranteed to all by Omani laws.”

An annual report issued by the US Department of State the day before yesterday accused Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Burma, North Korea, Cuba, Guinea, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, The Sultanate, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Syria & Venezuela of being the worst countries in combating human trafficking.

The report included three tiers; the first tier includes the countries who comply with the minimum of US standards. The second tier includes the countries that make intensive efforts to comply with these standards while the third tier includes the countries that neglect to comply with the minimum of the US standards to fight human trafficking or to make tangible efforts to improve their records.

Either in relation to that, or independently, we saw some activity in this regard by the proper authorities. Wikipedia says:

Despite criticisms … the U.S. State Department’s 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) notes that Oman is making “significant efforts” to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking ... The Omani government has undertaken a number of positive actions to combat these challenges.

Oman has taken numerous actions to prevent human trafficking, such as increased military and police patrol of borders to prevent illegal entry into the country, increased resources to improve monitoring of maritime and land borders, and introduction of a special visa regime applicable to particular countries to “thwart the international sex trade.”[2]

In addition, Oman responded positively to the Special Rapporteur of the UN‘s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and extended an invitation for a visit in 2006.

Bilateral relations were also used with convenient sources of trafficked-humans to better improve the situation. In November, when the Indian PM was here, bilateral MoUs were signed “to check illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

On the 25th of November 2008, Royal Decree No 126/2008 was passed which increased the penalties of people convicted of human trafficking to up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 R.O. Also occurring at the same time was formation of the NCCHT (National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking headed by Lieutenant General Malik bin Sulaiman Al Ma’amari, Inspector General of the Omani police) which comes under the purview of the autonomous National Commission for Human Rights, set up in November 2008, following a clean chit given by the United States to Oman on the issue of human-trafficking.

BUT, there is something amiss here. The 2008 Human Rights report of the US State Department (which purpotedly gave us a clean chit) has again used ‘words’. And the Trafficking in Persons report for 2008 is not flattering either (~p. 67).

Now these reports are, seeimgly, not inline with what other reports have been coming out of the US. And then there are the efforts and the NCCHT and the NCHR working. But the tier graph in the TIP looks something like a waterslide to be installed at the under-construction Dubailand project.

Maybe the exit passes will help? 😦

-TFK