Friday, 26 June 2015

Ramadan, a blessed month.

A post perhaps mainly for those who have doubts, who perhaps cannot grasp the concept of fasting or indeed for those many who consider Muslim fasting extreme:
Heralding in the month of Ramadan in 1901
There's far more to Ramadan than abstention .. Giving of yourself and giving to others is what counts and the idea is to ease hardship for the person fasting (through the devotion expressed which is reward onto itself) and to ease hardship for those in need by giving alms & nourishment. Doing both should be the aim but if someone feels unable to fast they must ensure they do the latter. Illness and travel are seen as two of the most plausible of extenuating circumstances that relieve a person from the otherwise obligatorily felt fast.
 
Mindset should be present to induce serenity through abstention. There is usually a psychological build-up to Ramadan which helps this process, which is at best accompanied with an eagerness to experience the holy month's blessings. If there is anger or frustration present then attempting to temper the mood would count towards the beneficial self-discipline acquired while fasting. Although that does happen, to some more than to others, it is however unlikely to occur often or even at all if fasting is purposefully intended and not begrudgingly embarked upon. Furthermore, it's a month where bad habits may well be kicked aside quite easily; addictions may become dissolved to a great extent. However, perhaps it would be correct to say: the human condition is as weak as it is strong and therefore the fast is not always as beneficial as it should be or as it is mapped out to be, especially so if over-indulgence after breakfast occurs. 
The famous Shakespearean quote "The  fault ... lies not in our stars..." comes to mind
Apart from regular prayer times, the reading of the Qur'an is another practice that many strive to abide by during Ramadan, requiring considerable resolve and perseverance and contributing considerably to the spiritual motivation of the physical fast.
 
The fast may well feel obligatory for all who abide by its principles, however it is important to understand that there can be or rather that there should be no coercion involved, only guidance. After all, if forced to fast, some may well think of drinking or eating when no one is looking and disregard the fact that then their fast would become null and void and that they have only managed to cheat themselves. 
In fact, when people ask that question: What happens if you cheat? 
It's a question that  truly makes no sense at all to anyone who fasts. 
The answer would involve a spiritual awakening rather than an explanation.
 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

DDS (***see new link added)

Egypt unveils plans to build new capital east of Cairo 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02pgF7L-hnY

"Egypt’s direction of development is vitally important, though who will benefit from it remains an open question. For all the buzzwords at the conference regarding shared benefits and economic inclusion, Sisi has so far adopted a wearily familiar austerity playbook; although foreign investment could potentially be harnessed for the good of Egypt’s 90 million-strong population, as long as the state and its economy continues to be under the iron grip of military generals who brook no opposition and corruption continues to run rampant, it is hard to see how Sisi’s open-for-business Egypt will turn out any different from Mubarak’s."
Read more:

DDS: The Dreaded Dubai Syndrome. First criteria: Build higher. Build higher. Build higher.

Before I get reprimanded for coining this phrase I should make it clear: Dubai (so I hear) may well be a grand and wealthy habitat for many a native as well as for many a visitor, perhaps even a very welcoming one at that~ and although I hurl no abuse of any kind towards it, I do HOWEVER ask it simply to contain itself.
The DDS is not Dubai's fault.
Dubai strives to endorse its own measures of progress, meriting its own rewards and therefore far be it from me to spurn its efforts or belittle them.
The DDS is the fault of those who follow it blindly and who furthermore defy the rules of nature in order to do so.
The ones who both willfully even if unwittingly ignore the solid, beautiful, wondrous nature of their own environment and wish to replace it with glitz and plainly speaking: a show of pseudo-wealth.
Those bedazzled followers who see an elegant space and convert it to one that screams affluence; those who see the classic features of a hotel as one to crank up a notch by giving it that DDS vibe; those who see a functional and purely styled office space as one that must necessarily include visibly expensive upgrading and an eye-catching feature or two or else forever be disqualified.
 
Dubai: The invention of artificial pearls in 1926 and the Great Depression in 1929 caused a collapse in the international pearl market, which resulted in Sheikh Saeed looking for an alternative source of income and Dubai becoming one of the leading re-export ports in the world. In 1966, oil was discovered in Dubai, which changed the country beyond recognition and led to Dubai becoming the vibrant, modern, business-centred city-state it is today. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Dubai
Visibly sophisticated both in technology and decor, Dubai has earned the above phrase. However there we have it. Perhaps it was that turnaround in economy that allowed it to sweep itself into the sky as if effortlessly led by a vision but one thing is more often than not left unsaid: that very direction it chose was only one of many it could have followed. 
For some time now, just as icing is to an already too sweet cake Egypt appears to adopt wherever it can that debilitating concept of high rise in the most disastrous fashion imaginable, brash and inharmonious with environment and even more alienating to the humans who have to endure being cut off from light and ever encroaching walls of cement.  

My responses are purely intuitive and naturally affected by what might indeed be discerning taste albeit acquired on a less than intellectual level. However there are those who can explain this phenomenon in a processed and well-linked up manner relating to their particular field of expertise. There are architects, designers and artists who avoid the DDS like the plague, knowing full well that it harbours germs of all that is non-organic and that more often than not go against the laws of simplicity and elegance, two prime features of harmony and well being intrinsic to purity of design. There are those who indeed abide by that, however they do not match up in number to those who don't.

And now here we have it: Cairo, a city so ancient and prolific in its history, so magnificent in its heritage, so opulent and wealthy in ways measured not only by strict, time-enduring criteria but by echoes that resonate in every Egyptian heart and in many who have visited and felt its energy. A city indescribably invigorating in spite of all the chaos that envelops it. It does not begin to compare with so many other far less inspiring capitals of the world. 
Yes, a capital it is and it appears inconceivable how any one in their right mind could possibly wish to take that title away from it.
 
All those who wish to escape the capital City of Cairo... by all means do so. By all means build new complexes, new resorts where some of the elite may set up and call it home, where the same wonderful weather and other favourable conditions Egypt offers all year, year in year out continue to exist; where traffic jams are minimised and where only the best services exist. Build yourselves the high rises you aspire to and see as a mark of progress and modernity so infinitely grand so as to come close to the Dubai you choose to so idolise. Build yourselves an idyll and call it what you will.

BUT PLEASE DO NOT CALL IT A NATURAL PROGRESSION FROM THE CAPITAL CITY OF CAIRO. 

 
I could even add that perhaps, with just a little good will involved, some of the profits of a new city may reach the ghetto left behind... the capital written off, derelict and neglected, left to pick itself up with nothing but its own drained resources to rely upon. But saddest of all is the infinite emotional loss felt through such an extraordinary lack of appreciation expressed in the mere thought of its replacement.

It is that feeling of abandonment that hurts most. Amid plans to build that new metropole a rasping scream drifts across the sands: CAIRO, lie still ~ along with your treasures buried. Buried due to a lack of faith in your heritage and your incredible potential. 
Cairo, a city among cities, sucked dry by those who are out to exploit and abuse, pilfer and contaminate, trash...  and who have no desire to do other than just that. 
Cairo... be still, we hear you no more and perhaps if you just lie there and wait we might filter a little across and save you ~ but not before we have had our fill and not before we can convert you with our tender loving care linked affectionately to our so highly prized DDS.
*** https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTsP2SL_uZ0
Friday, April 12th 2013 AUC Tahrir Square Learning from Cairo: Panel 1: Urban Political Change: Southern Perspectives Video of Presentation by Khaled Fahmy.
Photo by: João Bolan *


** pic shared on FB by


*Photo submitted by Sara Habiba FB
via

'Go Back to God'


Facebook statuses and links:

“It’s not Islam; it’s a perversion of Islam, and to label these militant externalities as Islam is to legitimize their actions."
 “If you don’t have religious fallibilism, you have immense problems. This is what happens when you have these exclusivist, self-righteous monsters out there who are absolutely certain and who think their God given certainty enables them to act with impunity.”
“The Prophet said there will be people who look like us and speak with our tongue, but they are preachers at the gates of hell.” He added, “We’re not denying the fact that these people are motivated by ‘religion,’ but it’s a perversion according to our own tradition.”
Read more...  much more, here in this lucid article:
http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/03/05/3630340/prominent-islamic-scholar-refutes-claims-isiss-links-islam/

~~Old Syrian woman stands up to ISIL
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7H00OUf1lA

~~I don't think I can repeat this often enough:
"Out of inhumane conditions, inhumane responses are born." WHY should Muslims all over the world who follow Islam in the spirit of surrender and peace feel ISIL is any more linked to them than it is to those who actually commit nothing but violence and coercion of some kind without mentioning it being in the name of their particular religions? Wake up world, when people become so warped there is an underlying problem that needs addressing and the matter is POLITICAL.
The way the world is condemning Islam for all atrocities and violence committed by ISIL is not just abysmal but actually quite an easy way out. They would rather have every Muslim swear upon the Quran that they do not condone it than address the matter in any depth whatsoever. It adds insult to injury to the principles held by all ordinary law-abiding Muslims and targets a faith that promotes only good-living and never EVER condones the killing of any innocent civilian whatever be their religion, whatever be their race, whatever be their personal and reserved inclination.
Look around you world ~ I mean LOOK and then look again and see what the world has become and how people are suffering... Forget 'IN THE NAME OF WHATEVER' an atrocity is committed.. of which there are so many names in so many guises~ subtle and subtler still ...
Think beyond the last one highlighted by the media, and then ... in the words of the brash interviewers grilling Muslims just for being Muslim: 'WORLD, GET OVER YOURSELF!'

Here is the link referred to above:http://www.doamuslims.org/?p=1807 
Shared by B. El-Wakil :
"Apparently, unless actively stated, Muslims advocate beheadings because you see, we don't have blood in our veins, but rather a venomous ooze designed to kill one thing: your freedom. So glad this Sky news anchor told me that. Now I can "get over myself".
"I would like to ask her though if she advocates slavery and the economic destruction of Africa. I hear some British people did that. I don't think it's racist to presume she's identical and interchangeable with all white people, right?"

How Muslim of them..! .. ?! Islam teaches us to respect talent and God-given gifts and never to waste them
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/iraq-isis-take-sledgehammers-priceless-assyrian-artefacts-mosul-museum-video-1489616


All Muslims who truly feel Islam running through their veins will not give it up because of a few murderous ignorant blood thirsty people to whom for one reason or another so many are drawn.
ISIL does not and cannot represent Islam in any shape or form, however much they may believe their actions to be in the name of Islam they just cannot be. Islam does not promote any killing of any innocent who are no threat whatsoever and therefore no entity who does so, be it ISIL or any other with political agenda, can be one that conducts itself in the spirit of Islam itself.
ISIL is just another evil personified ~ I am getting to the point i wish to make, please bear with me:
We look into the eyes of evil everyday everywhere and this evil just takes on different forms. In Religion and I here refer to Islam, Allah asks us to beware of him, the evil one, known by so many different names. It alerts us to how it will change its form and creep stealthily into people's minds through whispers and warp their will to its own ends. (Almost there, please continue reading..)
And so I ask you: Why wouldn't it (that evil with so many names throughout the history of mankind) perform its evils in the very name of Islam that threatens its success? Why wouldn't it attempt to break down the very religion which poses as a threat to it?
It can only triumph if it meets its ends which is the renouncement of faith itself.
Yes, Islam is a threat to arrogance, hypocrisy and injustice, all the things evil tends to exhibit all over the place all over the world and in ISIL Islam is its prey: It whispers: 'You are the true Muslims who fight in its cause and who are thus entitled to do the most atrocious of acts in the name of Islam.'
It directs the wills it has subjugated in order to discredit the faith worldwide.
There will be a turn around however, one day,whether we personally witness it or not..
Of that every true Muslim is secure.


Monday, 2 February 2015

Marmite.


You either love it or hate it. 

Marmite is the thick spread covering Egypt today.
Although my personal preference is irrelevant I do declare and solemnly swear:
I love Marmite.
An oath for all to abide by lest we are put to the stand and are sworn in, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Before reading any further, the Marmageddon path must be averted ~ its rich texture not overlooked
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WufZK3xpz0Y
There will always be those who turn a blind eye to injustice, who either do not care or see it as well-deserved. But there is a constant that remains at the heart of the matter; what can possibly justify the jailing of journalists who do nothing other than their job?
Ecstatic, relieved, grateful?
All of the above. Peter Greste is released after a grueling 400 days of imprisonment for 'aiding and abetting a terrorist group, so officials said.'
However it should be noted that although formerly it was declared that the matter was entirely a jurisdictional one, Peter was freed through presidential amnesty.
Now, Egypt awaits the release of the other two, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, jailed for similar offense, though no evidence stands up in court.

"The timing of Greste's release came as a surprise, just days after Egypt suffered one of the bloodiest militant attacks in years. More than 30 members of the security forces were killed on Thursday night in Sinai, and ensuing comments from Sisi suggested he was in no mood for compromise." http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/01/us-egypt-jazeera-idUSKBN0L51JJ20150201
Either way: Opportune Release. And it must be repeated, we are truly grateful, relieved and indeed ecstatic. Thank you.



Timing is everything in politics.
Peter Greste is released, just as the fate of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto is so cruelly sealed by the murderous gang ISIL. The world is watching and sees all in black and white. With evil so clear, a contrasting action glows whiter than white.
May the release of the other two journalists, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy follow. After so many days, weeks and months ~ all once released, even if falsely accused, must declare themselves free of resentment ~ grateful for small mercies.


But just to squeeze a little more out of the marmite metaphor, let us see how large a surface it can cover. Perhaps we should try mixing it in with a flavour-enhanced milkshake, it might even become more palatable for those who cannot appreciate it in its pure state.
In place of the holier than thou religiosity there is now a frothy holier than thou patriotism, with a franchise for national pride and identity.
Anything that remotely questions authority of present rule is condemned and labelled as a negative influence and a threat to national security. There can be no parties grouping in order to eventually instigate a democracy, there can be no allegiance to any thoughts or ideas of reform that do not abide by that general consensus: the sanctity of Military Rule. For any free thought to exist there must be a consequence, for marmite in its pure state is no longer deemed fit for consumption.


Egypt may appear to be back to square one. Tahrir Square now remains etched in the memory of a few as a fleeting moment  in time; one free of milkshakes but then again one of so many in the course of Egypt's history that its after taste may well be considered negligible.*

And yet, beneath that frothy surface a pulse continues to beat, inaudible to those who have added a deaf ear to the blind eye, a pulse that beats even though silenced by fear. Somewhere among the glory lies an abyss ... where hope and despair merge.

A faint whisper is carried by desert sands where once a spring of hope sprang ... 'Free all detainees'

"Oh gosh! I'm watching a few sunsets ... I haven't seen those at all for a very long time... watching the stars... feeling the sand under my toes... the little things... this has been like a rebirth and you realise that it is those little beautiful moments of life that are really precious and spending time with my family of course too...THAT'S what's important.. not the big issues." 
Peter Greste in his first interview after release.
 "If it's appropriate ~ if it's right for me to be free, then it's right for all of them to be free and for those who are convicted in abstentia to be free of these convictions."
For video link click:  
http://egyptianstreets.com/2015/02/02/watch-first-interview-with-peter-greste-after-his-release-from-an-egyptian-prison/ 
 
 


*For a rounded summary of what appears to be Egypt's eternal struggle, following some notable figureheads may aid general perspective. 
In no particular order: eminent historian Professor Khaled Fahmy~ Short story writer, novelist and political and cultural commentator Ahdaf Soueif, ~ among other notable journalists, writers and figureheads such as Bilal Fadl, Yosry Foda and Alaa el Aswany; for although some may have lost general appeal and popularity they nevertheless retain immense credibility through their astute and insightful, long-term observations and acknowledgement of the fact that there is no, can be no, easy fix.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Arabic, not just another language



I feel such affinity for a share so beautifully written by Hani El-Masri ~ Artist,Concept and show designer at Walt Disney Imagineering and Storyteller at Self ~ I felt compelled to say just a little of what I feel in reciprocation. Perhaps I should rephrase that: my reaction is 'a glimpse' nothing more. His Facebook status, in Arabic, you can find here: 
https://www.facebook.com/hani.el.masri.51/posts/10152480089145966 

The following is quite naturally a very personal point of view from an angle that relates to little things that count. To be understood by another experiencing life abroad, which is what the status share refers to, it would need to be tailored, quite individually.


At the risk of appearing banal, I would nevertheless feel disingenuous if I didn't start with the following: Egyptian niceties.

Niceties are so over-used in Egyptian circles so that they appear inane and superfluous and one tends to dismiss their value. Yet, without them altogether, our sensibilities feel greatly impoverished.
Leaving them behind could never erase them from spirit. On the contrary, not hearing them all around me made me wish more and more fervently to introduce them into British culture if not language. I had got used to foreigners in Egypt taking to the terminology so easily and willingly that I found the British nationals' distanced reactions whilst appearing somewhat bemused, quite unsettling.
Words such as 'Mabrouk' (blessings with its various nuances) and 'Haneyan' (wholesomeness for food and  beverage) and indeed 'InshaAllah' (with the Will of Allah) among so many more, have no one-word equivalent in the English language and phrases used to explain them lose out considerably, sometimes they even risk distorting the inherent meaning since similar phrases, already in use, have very different connotations so that, for example, the hopefulness and assurance carried in the term 'InshaAllah' could contradictorily, when interpreted, convey a pessimistic streak and imply being on a downer. 
My need to converse with Egyptian friends of a similar background living in Egypt became ever more pertinent to my spirit and with the 2011 revolution I began to feel an ever-increasing need to highlight that connection. Egypt was awake.


With this I come to my feelings for Islam (which although born into I felt become truly tangible only through phases linked to trials of a very deep and pertinent nature). Well, these feelings come to the fore considerably on becoming distanced from a land where the essence of Islam is a natural and everyday part of everyone’s outlook and vernacular. 
A religion with all its grace; words such as‘Hamd', ‘Reda’ and ‘Taqwa’, are mere examples of so many more quite impossible to translate fully with just one word in any other language. However, attempts to do so are many and are all part of the exercise in reaching out and therefore worth pursuing for anyone interested to do so.


Here, I would like to focus upon ‘Tawak’kul’, a reassuring and affirmative stance, an invaluable viewpoint in that it combines responsibility with submission, acceptance and surrender, in perfect ratios. With ‘Tawak’kul, a pursuit through faith, so contrary to its rampant soul-destroying counterpart ‘tawa~kul’ (a mere diphthong away) that shrugs off all responsibility and accountability, leaving only an aftertaste of despair, I could not but feel the former’s priceless value in my heart upon coming face to face with exhibits of overly controlled aspirations. For indeed many a Westerner even those who may well have 'Tawak’kul' in their hearts, having no word to describe it seems to obscure a vital attribute of spiritual ethos where human exploits and planning are concerned. 
As for its closely related yet ever so distanced counterpart referred to above, we could perhaps attribute to it much of the inertia or worse still slapdash attitudes, enveloping altogether too many aspects in Egypt.


Perhaps it was due to such realisations that I felt a wholesome perspective could be obtained; one into which zealotry and self-righteousness could not possibly fit and thus, with no struggle whatsoever, I most thankfully never felt confused. 
Having a need to dismiss the intolerance of religious zealotry is essential and understandable, however far too often that act of dismissal doesn’t know where to draw the line and sadly, I found, many would tend to 'throw out the baby with the bath water'. When that occurs it regrettably leads to another kind of intolerance, equally distasteful and equally damaging.


Every day in the UK I sense and cherish my Egyptian roots that have intensely shaped my outlook on life, that keep on enriching it over and over again, so that it is always so natural for me to alert others to it whenever I feel it relevant. Having been to a British school in Egypt, integration into the UK was pretty straight forward and quite effortless, however, over time insights come to the fore and take on different hues. For myself, finding harmony in approach, in address and in direction, together with balance within, counts for almost everything.


With inference from the insightful Facebook status that propelled me to jot these thoughts down, with regard to my personal feelings about needing to prove myself over and over again upon being perceived as something of a foreigner I could add a yes to it being quite a struggle at times. However, presenting yourself  just as you are, without labels being attached left right and centre to the paraphernalia of existence, can feel so liberating, like pressing the refresh button when too much clutter clouds up a space. Having said that from a very personal viewpoint, it may well be that for people with a heightened professional background it may indeed feel less so and could well present challenges that require immense determination and endurance.

On another note I soon realised that whereas I would perhaps be perceived as discreet and even slightly detached by nature in Egypt, I found that I actually came across as unusually friendly here in the UK just for making an effort and genuinely asking how people were. At the start that felt perplexing to say the least. Gathering up the courage to ask why people in the South East tended to look down on those who did not limit their conversation to the weather and how come it was that I was accepted for so-doing, I remember receiving this reply: 'It's ok for you to do so because you're foreign.'
Albeit that was by someone who was more of a short-term acquaintance than long-standing friend. Dynamics change in our world and true friendships established since are blessings.



*
Due to a background filled both cognitively and subliminally with diverse cultural influences, I have always regarded myself as a fish swimming in air if not water and always seen it as an asset rather than a hindrance, so to bring this  bit of writing to an end: Perhaps, for all of us, the need we feel to reach out~ gifts us with more than just an enhanced grounded outlook… It allows us to breathe.