Monthly Archives: January 2011

American-Made Tear Gas Canisters and Egyptian-Hope for Reform

American media coverage to Egypt’s turmoil is maybe 20 times more than that of Tunisia during their revolution that led Bin Ali, the former president of Tunisia, to flee the country. Although, there are more than 20 Arab countries spread throughout West Asia and North Africa only two the majority of the world are aware of; Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Every Arab country insists on its  importance on the political map (border to Israel) or on its tallest European architecture built towers (Burj Khalifa)  but the reality is Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the heart and mind of the Arab world, respectively.

Egypt makes quarter of the Arab population dominating 90% (if not more) of the film industry in the Arab world. It is like Hollywood of Arabia. Hence, the Egyptian dialect is the only dialect among the other 20 plus Arab dialects that is almost fully recognizable and understandable by all Arabs. Through their films we learned their culture and tradition. Egyptian films are not the only thing we grow accustomed to but also Egypt’s stream of knowledge. Egypt didn’t just provide entertainment to the Arab world but an ooze of scholars, writers, and thinkers. And when it comes to religion, Egypt becomes one of the most influential in the Muslim world giving us Al-Azhar religious school and one of the most controversial Muslim-political groups the Muslim Brotherhood, both have millions of devoted Muslim followers not just in the Arab world but worldwide.

Yesterday while covering Egypt’s riot the American mediae mentioned repeatedly the tear gas canisters labeled ‘Made in U.S.A.’ I applaud them for that. Americans need to be educated about their government’s, republic or democrat, foreign affair which sadly most of them believe it is all about going after the bad people. The FACT is it is not. America supported Sadam, the Ba’ath dictator ruler, during his war with Iran and went after him when he won the war. The Talibans were good while fighting against communist Russians but became bad after winning their war. I wonder when Husni Mubarak will be a bad guy? Even after the bloody Egyptian riot and being a president for close to 30 year, Obama called Mubarak to tell him “you still a good man to us, you can stay”. This is how I imagine the conversation went. And you don’t need a Harvard or a Princeton Political or Law Analyst Professor to tell you why Mubarak, at 82 year old, is still good for the US. The fear of Islamists up rising and Israel’s border, am I right?

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[Click on the picture to play video]
NBC’s Richard Engel, reporting from the streets of Cairo, holds up a used tear gas canister, labeled “Made in the USA.”

 

Egypt is no Tunisia, Yemen or Jordan. Any decision the US makes regarding Egypt will affect the entire Arab world. Siding with Mubarak against Egyptians means siding against the entire Arab world. As I mentioned earlier Egypt is the brain of the Arabs. Knowing that the US sends yearly 1.5 Billion in Aid to Egypt including these tear gas canisters makes the US look very bad. An image that is already destroyed by the never ending “war on terror “ in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the first time in decades news about the Arab world are no longer about the conflict in the Middle East (Israel-Palestine). The conflict has risen to a new level now. I wonder what the end of 2011 would be to the Arabs.

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The Life is Good Award

So, I have been tagged by the always funny Rand, who is well known among the Jordanian bloggers with her delightful but sometimes shocking lists, with the “Life is Good Award.” I always avoided tags for no reasonable reason. But since this tag is getting a lot of attention and almost every Jordanian blogger is being involved it becomes inevitable to answer it. But I also have another reason for answering this tag; it is because after four years of blogging anonymously I decided to blog with my real name. So this is the new me.

1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this? If you aren’t anonymous, do you wish you started out anonymously, so that you could be anonymous now?

I have been blogging anonymously since I started this blog in 2007. I wanted to be anonymous so I could express myself openly and write freely. I am a graduate student and also a teaching assistant and so I didn’t want my students, lab mates and professors to read my blog.  Except for couple of friends, none of my family or relatives or friends in Jordan and the US knows about my blog.

But, couple of days ago I decided to write my real name in the “About” page and write my real name in my twitter account. This post is actually the first one after revealing my identity. I still don’t know how it will be but I hope I don’t regret it.

 

2. Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side.

I could hit rock bottom and no one around me sense it. Living alone for many years one learns to be really stubborn.

 

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?

I see nothing but a handsome gentleman. Joke aside, I see a man with potentials, I believe in myself.

 

4. What is your favourite summer cold drink?

Water is my favorite drink during all seasons. I drink water a lot during the day because I enjoy it. My other drink that I enjoy during the summer is Frozen Mocha (Velvety chocolate & icy espresso, topped with whipped cream & chocolate syrup), a whopping 570 calories.

 

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?

One of the following: 1) Cruising in my car through the beautiful greenery scenes of Missouri while listening to my iPod. 2) Reading non-fiction books. 3) Writing. I have close to 70 draft posts waiting to be finished and published. 4) Watching independent or European movies. Thank you, Netflix.

 

6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life?

Still? This question seems to be targeting people over 65. Since first thing first, defending my PhD dissertation would be my priority now. I have many dreams but one that I hope I can accomplish one day is to generate my own money. That is not slaving for someone waiting him to give me my salary at the end of the month. 

 

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person, or always ditching?

In my elementary and middle school I studied in private schools, I was the shy person and things went smoothly. I had no complains during that period of school. But things changed drastically in secondary (high) school when I moved to a public school in Irbid. You simply can’t survive there being shy. When you see your friends jump over the school’s wall during the mid-day break to eat at Yaseen El Fawwal (Irbid’s version of Amman’s Hashem restaurant) you have to do what they do or else you should fear the consequences.

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what would you see?

I see bad decisions crumpled on top of each other but I open my eyes and start thinking of a new “bad” decision that I am eager to take.

 

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog, or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people and events?

No, it is not easy for me to share my feelings not even to my close friends. I hardly talk about my problems with others.

 

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?

I hate speaking on the phone. I don’t like it when I don’t see the person I am talking to. That is why I never chatted on line. If I have to choose between reading a book or chatting on the phone I would choose reading. But if the question is to choose between sitting with a friend or reading a book I will of course rather having a good conversation with a friend in this case.

 

Done. My first time to answer a tag Smile

 

I think most of the bloggers I know had been tagged but to keep the stream running I think Naddoush and Social-double-standard still not. So how about you two go ahead and tell us more about yourselves Smile

A Song by Souad Massi

Sometimes you hear a song and you just can’t stop listening. Raoui (the story teller) is a song by by an Algerian singer Souad Massi. The album was released in 2001 but only this year I got to hear this beautiful song and angelic voice.

 

[English Translation:]
Oh storyteller tell us a story
Make it a tale
Tell me about the people of old
Tell me about 1001 Nights
And about Lunja daughter of the Ghoul
And about the son of the Sultan 

I’m about to tell a story
We’ll be far from this world
I’m about to tell a story
Everyone of us has a story in his heart

Narrate and forget we’re adults
In your mind we’re young
Tell us about heaven and hell
About the bird that never flew in his life
Make us understand the meaning of the world

Oh storyteller tell it just as they told you
Don’t add anything, don’t leave anything out
We could see into your mind
Narrate to make us forget this time
Leave us at once upon a time

يا راوي حكي حكاية
مادابيك تكون رواية
حكي لي على ناس الزمان
حكي لي على ألف ليلة وليلة
وعلى لنجة بنت الغولة
وعلى ولد السلطان 

حاجيتك ماجيتك
دنا بعيد من هادي دنيا
حاجيتك ماجيتك
كل واحد منا في قلبه حكاية

حكي وانسى بلي احنا كبار
في بالك رانا صغار
حكي لنا على الجنة حكي لنا على النار
على طير اللي عمره ما طار
فهمنا معانى الدنيا

يا راوي حكي كما حكوا لك
ما تزيد ما تنقص من عندك
كاين نشفوا على بالك
حكي لنسينا في هاد زمان
خلينا في كان يا ما كان

The Curse of Humiliation is Defeated

A Tunisian woman waves the national flag
Photo by Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images

Since the victories of the European Revolutions of 1848 then the rise of the Empire on which the sun never sets and later the accession of the United States of America as the only world power, Arabs are preached on Democracy.

We had our ups and downs during French, Italian, and British colonization and Arab-Israel war. Mostly humiliations and defeats but we had our victorious moments. We will never forget the battle of Algiers or the Libyan hero Omar Mukhtar , or may be the 1973 war. But what happened after 1973? I was born in 1973, since then Arabs are walking head down. We were told we are weak and we were accused of being terrorists and Jews haters.

When I have children I don’t want to read them bedtime stories form 1001 nights or Kalīla wa Dimna. I want to tell them a heroic story that I knew and experienced; one that happened during my life time. I want to tell them how excited and happy I was during the events of this story. I want to tell them the story in detail, try to make them visualize every single scene the way I watched it on Al-Jazeera*.

Three hundred million Arab are in a state of ecstasy, except for few for obvious reason. Arabs are happy now! It is not because the Tunisians toppled their government or because they kicked their dictator leader out of the country. Arabs are happy because finally they defeated the curse of humiliation. For once after 38 years Arabs had a good story to tell their children and to  tell the world. They now can look straight in the eyes of Europeans and Americans and tell them we don’t need to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of civilians and waste trillions of dollars for the sake of democracy.

Yes, democracy needs lives to be sacrificed. That is what Lebanon learned after its civil war.  But for once Arabs prove they can take matters by their own. For now I want to feel the happiness the man in the video is experiencing and I want to cry out of happiness like the the woman shooting the video. I didn’t stop watching it since I first knew about it, two days ago. It is a very emotional clip that made every Arab weeps like a baby. Nothing is compared to feeling free. Happiness in contagious.

Here is my translation to what the Tunisian man is shouting about:
The Tunisian people got their freedom
The great nation of Tunisia
Long live Tunisian people
Long live Tunisia
O free people of Tunisia, you are free now
There is no criminal named Bin Ali now
Bin Ali the criminal fled. He fled the Tunisian people
Bin Ali the thief. Bin Ali the dog
Fear no one, raise your heads
We are free
The Tunisian people are free
Tunisian people will not die
The great nation of Tunisia
Long live Tunisia
Glory to the martyrs
Freedom for Tunisians
O Tunisians the immigrants
O Tunisians who were tortured
O Tunisians who were beaten
Long live Tunisia
Bin Ali fled, Bin Ali fled
The criminal fled…

 

O people of Tunisia, thank you for making us restore our dignity back. May Allah be with you and grant you wisdom during this transition.

 


* I will never forget how on Friday Jan 14th I nervously switched between Fox, CNN, and MSNBC TV channels trying to hear the story of Tunis. Alas, a story of Arabs peacefully rioting against their government and eventually causing their dictator leader to flew away was not a story worth showing to the American viewers. American media’s motto is clear to me now; don’t show news about Arabs if they are not blowing themselves up. Typical to the American media, the story is worth covering now. Arabs are trying to restore order while looting their country, this is a headline Americans want to read. Shame on you, American mediae. I am mad at you, shame on you. You lost a viewer to Al-Jazeera.

Journaling

I treat this blog as my not so private journal. It helps me record segments of my life and thoughts. I have another two blogs one for my teaching and another one for my research. The one for teaching I use to update students by posting new notes, algorithms, assignments, etc. I found the dynamic blog to be better than a static website. Students like it. I knew that from the students’ end of semester evaluation forms. My research blog is not as good as it should be. I found that blogging is not the best way to keep a journal for the research. I use other tools to keep track of my research work.

The most I like about writing in my journal is it reduces stress. I use it as a relaxation tool. It is a way for me to vent. Although, when things get really bad and while I am wearing my black hat I vent into my spiral notebook. Some thoughts are better kept hidden from the public.

Many bloggers left for a younger trendier social media called Twitter. But I don’t think Twitter can replace blogging. Twitter is very helpful when it comes to know something about everything. My best usage of Twitter is to follow the news media I usually browse their websites. Instead of browsing each individual media website, now I can read the latest news headlines from one place and decide what I want to read, skim or ignore. Of course, there are more useful usages of Twitter. I am trying to discover or like them one by one, slowly.

I am still a fan of blogging. I enjoy reading concise one page posts. The Chronicle has a good article about different types of journals and the benefits of journaling:

Journaling regularly relieves stress

Journaling help you keep a list of things you are grateful for

Journaling can help you record your short-term goals to help you achieve them

Journaling reminds yourself of your intentions

Journaling reminds you of your mistakes (to show you how you overcame them)

Journaling allows a place for honesty

Journaling helps you overcome writer’s block

Journaling records the highs and the lows of your year

Journaling provides an outlet for pent up emotions

Journaling gives dreams and ideas a place to grow and be respected

Journaling allows you to gain clarity as you sort through the constant deluge of daily life

The article also provides some helpful links about writing. It also includes some tips on how to start a journal. One suggestion is to start blogging, an idea that I found very useful when I start this blog. When you treat your blog as a journal finding topics becomes much easier. Some topics would find readers others not. Blogging is a very good way to improve your writing. When I read some of my early posts I found many mistakes that I try to correct when I write my newer ones.

Blogging is good. Hopefully to see more Jordanians write blogs. The more the merrier. More blogs means more topics and more diversity. It is good to find some specialized blogs in local affairs, arts, design, advertisements, entertainment, politics, etc.

My half day photo album

In case you didn’t hear the news today 49 states are covered by snow. When I read the news I though Hawaii would be the exception but it turned out Florida is the lucky state although parts of the state saw snow earlier.

I feel bored sitting in one place for hours so during the day I usually switch places between my office, student center, coffee shops and one of the libraries. I am lucky I am not doing my PhD in Chemistry or Biology or else I would be stuck in the lab.

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My apartment complex parking lot — A view from the library

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Heating system forms a beautiful shape — Empty library. Undergrad students are on break

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It was too cold to go to the mosque so I prayed in the campus’ chapel. Since it is a public university, they can’t dedicate a room or a place for a group of people based on religion. The chapel is supposed to service all religions. Although, it looks like a church it is not, no crosses or symbols of any religion.*

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Going for lunch then changing place of study

* A Christian friend from India once told me an amazing story. She said in the past when some Indians converted to Christianity they didn’t like going to the church. The clergymen didn’t know why the church is not popular among the newly converted Christians. After investigating the matter they came up with a clever idea. They replaced the church’s seating with carpet and used more candles. It was redecorated to look similar to a temple, a place Indians were more familiar with. I liked the story; I think it was very smart move from the clergymen.

Most if not all universities, hospitals and airports in the US have chapels. They all are designed to look like a church from inside. The crescent, minaret, and the dome have nothing to do with Islam and none is a symbol of Islam. Yet in some mosques millions are wasted on building very tall minarets and humongous domes. Millions that could have been spent on more useful mosque related programs.

Mind Like Water

I bought Getting Things Done last year hoping to get some serious help with my procrastination problem and learn a way to organize my stuff. Doing research for many years, the pile of research papers I accumulated online and offline are beyond getting organized. I have read about the book and that it is a national bestseller so I decided to give it a try. As I said I bought it early last year, I read half of it applied couple of things and then never open it again. Today, I decided to read it again and really put my mind into it.

I will try to post some excerpt from the book, hopefully it will help me and you apply some of the techniques mentioned in the book. Here is an excerpt of a concept called “mind like water.” I liked its meaning:

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In karate there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.

… Anything that causes you to overreact or underreact can control you, and often does. Responding inappropriately to your e-mail, your staff, your projects, your unread magazines, your thoughts about what you need to do, your children, or your boss will lead to less effective results than you’d like. Most people give either more or less attention to things than they deserve, simply because they don’t operate with a “mind like water.”

Where No One Stands Alone

First time I heard this song was in the True Grit trailer. The singers are the Peasall Sisters. Beautiful voices and nice song.

Once I stood in the night with my head bowed low
In the darkness as black as the sea
And my heart was afraid and I cried,
Oh Lord, don’t hide your face from me.

Hold my hand all the way, every hour, every day
From here to the great unknown
Take my hand, let me stand
Where no one stands alone.

Like a king, I may live in a palace so tall
With great riches to call my own
But I don’t know a thing in this whole wide world
That’s worse than being alone.

Hold my hand all the way, every hour, every day
From here to the great unknown
Take my hand, let me stand
Where no one stands alone…

Why Tanning, Barbie and God Forbid Belgian Chocolate may Disappear in the Future?

sevenThe answer is because white people will account for less than 5 percent of the future population growth*. Fertility rate in Europe ranges between the lowest 1.2 in Slovakia to the highest 2 in Iceland [pdf]. Africa has the highest fertility rate that reaches up to 7 in Niger [Source].

The first picture below depicts developed countries (mainly North American, Europe and Australia)  in blue and the second picture shows the fertility rate in the world. Notice that USA’s fertility rate is higher than Europe for many reasons. One of these reasons is that number of non-white families is higher than in Europe. Russia’s population is falling from 148 million in the 1990s to 142 million [National Geographic].

developed

fertility rate

Source: Wikipedia

 

Below is a graph that shows the difference of population growth between developed and less developed countries.

population growth

Source: Population Reference Bureau

 

Now, can you guess in what country the picture below is taken?

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Source: National Geographic

Most probably you didn’t guess right but these Indians are at a Sikh festival in Barcelona.

You can read more about “how your world will change” and see some pictures in National Geographic latest issue (January 2011) or check this link.

Do you think if Europeans stayed at this low fixed propagation rate they may disappear in the future? Why do you think they have low birth rate although they are the richest in the world?

 

* “The less developed world will account for more than 95 percent of future population growth” National Geographic Magazine, January 2011.

Living among Christians

Although close to three decades had passed but I still remember Miss Najla. She was the teacher accompanying the students on the school bus. I knew Miss Najla between the age 5 to 10 when I was a student at Fajer Al-Sabah School in Kuwait. The school is managed by the Rosary Sisters and known in some Arab countries as the Rosary Sisters School.  Miss Najla used to like me and always asks me to sit on the front seats of the bus because that section is were polite students sit. She also used to think that I am an Egyptian (don’t know why) and since she was an Egyptian I never corrected her. Besides being super nice to me, I clearly remember two things about Miss Najla. She had waist long black hair and always wears a big cross necklace. Miss Najla was Coptic. But she wasn’t the only Christian teacher in my elementary school.    Fajer Al-Sabah

Being his first child and wanting the best education for me, my father decided to send me to the private expensive Rosary Sisters School. This might not impress anyone but not when you know my Muslim conservative background. My father has a Master’s degree in Islamic Studies from Egypt. His father, who studied in Syria, was a Mufti in the Arab Legion who then taught Quran and Islamic Religion in different schools in Irbid, Jordan. Before learning Islam, my father wanted me, at an early age, to learn and acquire something that is very valuable and will pave the road for me to better learn my religion. He wanted me to learn obedience and discipline. Two characters of a devoted Muslim that I learned in my Christian School. I don’t know how my father knew that this school would be the best for me but I am glad I was there in kindergarten and elementary education level. Unfortunately, this school is female only after the elementary stage so I moved to another private school but again not an Islamic School. My father knows the importance of Islamic teaching and so he made sure that I don’t learn it from anybody just because he is a teacher in school.

The Principle in Fajer Al-Sabah school was very much like Sister Aloysius Beauvier character in the movie Doubt, a role that was played extraordinarily by Meryl Streep. Not only students used to fear her but teachers as well. The kids in school believed that when the principle wants to punish a student she sends him or her to the mice room. We never knew any student who went to this torture room but we believed it existed. I never saw her beat any student but I for sure feared her. She taught us discipline not in a dictatorship way but in a motherly way. If we meet I will for sure give her a big hug.

During my 15 years in Kuwait I lived in Salmiya, an area known of its huge multi-culture demographic. The kids I used to play with are from Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. Names like Cecilia, Peter, and Paul weren’t foreign to our group. I even became more accustomed to such Christian names during my yearly summer visit to my Syrian aunt and uncle in Damascus. They both live in a Christian majority resident close to Bab Touma (Saint Thomas’ Gate). The gate is named after one of the twelve apostles and is one of the historical walls of the city. My Muslim aunt’s favorite neighbors were “tante” Janette and “tante” Antoinette. I will never forget this trio’s enjoyable company. While sipping Turkish coffee this trio can gossip more than a twitter account with 2000 followers. Besides, where can you find a social media network to read your coffee cup when you are done and for free.

Christians in the Arab world are my playmates, neighbors, teachers, and students. They are mothers, fathers, grandparents, patients and doctors. You can never generalize Christians in the Arab world because they are poor, middle class and rich. They speak Arabic and love their countries. When I once asked my Jordanian Christian friend how come he didn’t get a visa to the USA, thinking they have priority over Muslims, his answer was “because I am an Arab.”

Every Muslim knows the story of the second Caliph Omar Bin Al-Khattab when he wanted to pray a thanksgiving prayer after entering Jerusalem. He was invited to a church but he refused to pray there, on the ground that it would set a precedent for the Muslims of the following generations to forcibly convert churches into mosques. Something unfortunately happened during the Ottoman Empire. Omar Bin Al-Khattab one of the best companions of prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and one of the best Muslim scholars wanted to keep churches safe while some brainwashed Muslims of today want to eliminate the existence of Christians in the Arab world. There are tens of stories like Omar’s but unfortunately those brainwashed don’t want to learn about Islam.

Christians were and should always be an essential texture of the Arab culture.