Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ramadan: body and soul

A.Akak has invited us on his blog to recap the Ramadan experience, and knowing what a blabbermouth I am, it's better to just answer him and elaborate in this page.

From the various comments he received the main points I gleaned were:

(1) Ramadan in a non-Muslim country is difficult and does not have the same taste as back home (but may carry more Ajr because of the effort one is making).
(2) People have become more materialistic in Libya.
(3) Blood has thinned in Libya.

( you are welcome to share your point on all three).

As for my personal Ramadan experience? It is my favourite month of the year and comes exactly at the time you need it. The time you save while you don't have to worry about the other meals during the day is spent usefully catching up on a number of things that you wanted to do including most importantly your faith if you are spiritually inclined.

The number of days is just right, not too much and you are bored and not too little and you don't have the time to settle in.

I love Ramadan in any Muslim majority country but Ramadans are the nicest in Arab countries, call me biased if you wish but that's how I feel most comfortable. However...

if you are fasting with some friends in a foreign land it maybe possible to feel OK as well.

The TV shows are always nice in Ramadan because they are all fresh and it's the season (not sure why it became so but hey I'm not here to dissect that aspect). I also know that the rest of the year they will be rebroadcast. Many bloggers have written about TV in Ramadan in the Arab world, critical, for, indifferent or even advocating a boycott.

Apart from the spirituality, family ties and to do list I usually enjoy watching a few Ramadan shows - not too many as I don't have time for TV, but one or two at most.

Not since " Places in the Heart" in 2005 have I watched a TV show with such interest, I even remember doing a Ramadan TV series post.

This year I've been watching Bab il Harra Part III, I have missed the first two parts in previous Ramadans but I know that there is Bal il Harra fever all over the Arab world. The best description of this series I found was by blogger 'on the edge' :

"My favorite show we watch each night (making Moe translate anything I might miss) is Bab AL Hara . It is about a old town in 1929 Syria .Much like the British soap opera East Enders , it is centered around a neighborhood and it's residences .There is something for everyone ; murder , intrigue against the French colonial government , gun running , romance , neighborhood fights ,deaths , weddings ,family problems that people are still facing today such as spousal abuse , drug addiction , and divorce .The characters are all strong even the women , which I like because they are not wusses ! The men show tender sides which most Arab men try to hide but are known to have now and then , lol .And like I said before , there are many relevant issues featured , that are you still have in this modern life . The show is so popular that it is in Wikpedia ".

In case you are not hooked, MBC channel's website is offering you to watch it online free as well the next day if you missed some episode. I decided to check for myself how this worked and ended up being hooked on my second show for this year the Egyptian soap opera Ba3d il furaq (after the separation). In one week I watched all 19 episodes online then was all caught up with the TV and could follow it daily. Nothing special it's just another romantic story with star crossed childhood sweethearts.

So if you livve in Europe or the US and do not have access to satellite reception you can watch your favourite Ramadan series online here, just let the episode cache then it's cool ! enjoy without the advertisements :)

Tomorrow Monday is the last day of Ramadan in Libya, and since I hardly go out I have no comments about shopping or bad manners that others have experienced.

Though I'm satisfied with my Ramadan, I wish that I had more time to do extra duties for my eternal soul as one never knows when God will take the gift of life he has entrusted to us and I am not 100% sure that I will deserve his heaven and not sure that I will see another Ramadan either. After all we are growing older.

Eid Fitr Mubarak to you all!

Update 30/9/08

I received this cartoon about the Ramadan series in the Arab world - from left to right : Syria, Egypt, Gulf countries :P Enjoy

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Omar Mukhtar and the legacy of colonialism

Web statistics constantly remind me that my Omar Mukhtar and Italian occupation posts remain the main reasons for which people come to my blog.

But just in case I had forgotten, a text message sent by Al Madar company on the eve of this anniversary endeavoured to remind us about this date in history while my youngest brother brought it also to my attention when we were chatting last night... both these instances did not seem like a coincidence especially that I've been trying to ignore recent events related to that painful era...

Omar Mukhtar represents to me and to others Libyans of various generations all what heroism is about. Libyans have not forgotten their martyrs we celebrate each name in our way because their are too many to list. Our heroes are well and alive in the memories of their grandchildren and Omar Mukhtar no longer is famous for himself only but he has come to symbolise the Libyan unsung heroes of the colonial era whom foreigners may not know and for whom a list of names and tribal identities mean nothing. That is why Omar Mukhtar is doubly special.

In 2004 I mentioned the main components of Libya's demands for compensation from Italy, which I am copying again here for easier reference:

a-Italy should acknowledge its historical crimes against the people of Libya
b-Furnish all details about the thousands of Libyans forcibly exiled onto some Italian islands
c-Furnish maps showing where thousands of Italian landmines were laid in Libya
d-Pay full compensation to the families of all victims of Italian terrorism
e-Return all historical treasures and artifacts stolen from Libya

Let's look at what happened to these demands in light of the recent world developments last month.

a-Italy did acknowledge its historical crimes against the people of Libya with some saying that Berlusconi kissed the hands of Omar Mukhtar's son !

b- If someone has read anything about this let me know.

c- The news mention that mine clearing was brought on the table, but I was hoping for some more concrete hard fact like, equipment, expertise, maps and cash. It is worth noting that "according to reports compiled by the Libyan police, 11,845 landmine casualties were recorded between 1940 and 1995, including 6,749 people killed and 5,096 injured" that is a high number for Libya. Bearing in mind the alleged mines planted during the border war with Egypt and Chad (in 1977 and sometime in 80s) it is the WWII legacy which is inflicting the damage and even with maps it is difficult to locate those mines because of the shifting sands.

d- The compensation consists of a total of 5 billion US$ to be paid in investment deals over a period of 25 years. My only comment would be to check here.

e- From all the treasures stolen from Libya one sole statue has finally been returned.

Omar Mukhtar and our grandparents sacrifices have not been in vain, but the farcical compensation is not fooling anyone. A British acquaintance the other day was laughing and saying this is colonialism from a different door - I guess he knew what he was saying after all aren't the Brits the masters in the art of colonialism? The gentleman may not have been far from the truth because "in return for its gesture, Italy expects to reap great rewards, in the form of multi-billion dollar contracts, and tighter security controls over flows of illegal immigrants", but also COMPENSATION for the descendants of the Italian colonialists who have been expelled from Libya!

But I have not written about Sheikh Omar for a while so why now? because by association with Italy's occupation I came across this great article on Hafed's blog from which I have already quote above, whereby one specific paragraph epitomises all what ails the Middle East and North Africa region - better known as the Arab world :P

"A major reason for the mess and mediocrity that define so many Arab-Asian-African countries is their unnatural birth at the hands of retreating European colonial midwives। Because they were manufactured by fleeing European occupiers, many countries in our region have enjoyed neither the logic of a sensible balance among natural and human resources, nor the compensatory vitality that comes from self-determinant and truly sovereign states."

This is a powerful statement! Look at us in Libya we are still affected by colonialism decades after Omar's death, imagine the compounded effect in the other countries ? It does not mean we should take that as an excuse not to do anything for our betterment but it does mean we should acknowledge this fact when discussing our inadequacies . We should remember that even though many of us are aware of our appalling shortcomings we still need to go through a natural birthing process then things will fall into place. Patches and induced labour can be not only painful but lethal sometimes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The US 2008 Elections: a cloning apparatus ( updated)

I know, I know it's not the sequel to the Health in Libya post, but many have emailed me and others have commented to ask about my opinion on the US election, so it's time to insert my token post about these elections :

In another life and another election I complained that we should be allowed to take part in US elections because the person in the Oval Office yields so much power that has the potential to negatively or positively affect the rest of the world.

I also followed and actually tried to makes sense of political parties and candidates.Four years later my disillusion is complete to the point where I do not even follow the elections anymore. Moreover my conclusion in 2004, does not wildly differ from 2008.

Look at it this way, Ms Condoleeza Rice was here a few days ago and apart from a couple of American mums -bloggers living in Libya, I have not seen any Libyan blogger bother to comment about this visit. That should be telling no ? Four years ago I would have written a long post about it....

But I am digressing ...some of my American friends will not be voting because they do not like the choice of candidates available. And although I think it should no longer matter to us in the Middle East who is president -because the policy has never changed at its core- I kept encouraging my friends to vote for the person who will do most good to their economy and internal affairs. However, when someone asked " hey Highlander what do you think of Obama ? I'm sure you are glad there is a black candidate right?" No, I don't care what colour the president is but would it be surprising to say all US presidential nominees and their running mates seem like clones to me.

Too many bloggers and pundits have written about Mc Cain and Obama so I won't bore you about that but apparently the stakes are a bit different with the appearance of Governor Palin on the scene. Her speech was supposedly cathartic. I listened to some tidbits here and while the sound bites resonate well, she also has the oil connection :)

Yet, it does not matter who wins to me, because any would be president or president who pledges allegiance to Israel is a lost cause in my book even if he/she were a member of my own tribe. Newcomer Palin has not escaped this circle and has joined the queue :P. at AIPAC.

The day I see a US candidate not trembling before Israel is the day I know that America is in good hands again because I am not convinced that one needs to stand by Israel to be patriotic.

Oh and don't anyone dare label me as anti-Semitic although you are welcome to share with me with civility where you think I'm wrong/right . Also do not compare democracies and non-democracies or America's system of governance and that in Arab world ( despite it not being homogenous) as that would be off topic.

This was my personal two cents about the topic not that of Libya, Libyans, the Middle East, North Africa, the Arab World or even the Muslim world. All these entities I'm sure have a differing view.

If it sounds pessimistic that's my view lately :P So may the best man/woman win.

Update 12/9/08

Khalid did blog about Ms Rice visit here. My blog reader is not doing it's job of updating my reads properly :P

Friday, September 05, 2008

Five years, Five Ramadans!

Though I've been on blogs since August 2003 it was only in September that I made my first post.. it's been five whole years full of laughter, tears and tough but useful learning processes.

It has also been five Ramadans, and the first week of Ramadan 08 is almost coming to an end already. Mashallah!

Thank you to those of you my friends who have sent me their congratulations that is really appreciated from the heart.

I would like to take the opportunity of this podium to wish everyone a Blessed Holy Month of Ramadan to you and your families.