Monthly Archives: February 2013

Balls vs Eggs

In America, they say “she/he got balls”  when referring to a person as being bold or brave. In some Arab countries they refer to these same balls as eggs. Although, it used to mean the same thing by the time it lost its meaning. Now, “he got big eggs” for example doesn’t mean the person is brave instead it means he is in power. Because some Arab countries are plagued by corruption and nepotism politicians, CEOs, and people alike in power are referred to, including their acquaintances of course, as having “big eggs.” So, it is no longer about being brave rather it is about having “Wasta” (nepotism).

Unfortunately, this new meaning of balls, or eggs, brought shame and disgrace to the Arabs. Decades ago the Arabs were castrated and lost their balls. Maybe, this is why we call them eggs. Americans on the other hand have the biggest balls.

The U.S. changed the course of the world after September 11, 2001. It created new laws, regulations and policies after that day. And that was not enough for them because they forced the entire world to take new measures even against some of these countries’ well. They went to war hunting their enemies everywhere on the planet. Why? Because 3,000 of its citizens lost their lives in that attack.

Did Americans lose their mind after September 11? Yes. Did they overreact? Yes. Did they oppress some innocent people in their “war on terror”? Yes. But at least they go to bed not feeling guilty for doing nothing. They are satisfied that they did their best for their fellow lost citizens.

Almost every Arab country lost tens or hundreds of thousands of its citizens; Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, and Kuwait. But no one did anything. Now, while the daily killing of civilians takes place by the Asad’s regime in Syria, Arabs are looking to the U.S. to do something. Besides the Arabs, I doubt any nation or race would keep silent while their people are being massacred. How about Gaza? Two millions have been imprisoned by Israel for years.

So, what keeps Arabs from having dignity? Maybe because of these three things:

  1. To compensate for our castration or lack of balls that is, we are erecting very long towers. And of course we are depending on others to erect these very long things.
  2. A large number of Muslim scholars are busy collecting money from Arab TV stations to act stupid. These gold diggers will say the stupidest most appalling thing to guarantee themselves more hours on TV. From breastfeed your male co-worker day to fully cover female infants from their fathers to it is okay to rape non-Muslim women, to what Arab actresses should wear and whatever nonsense there is.
  3. Although the Arabic governments through the years did their best to deprive the citizens of their freedom of speech and dignity, they are not the only ones to be blamed. Arab countries are among the top nations with the least number of readerships. In addition, we are the worst when it comes to doing our work with honesty.

So, what is the purpose of life for a man who doesn’t read and doesn’t work hard?

A castrated man lives an apathetic life!

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Secret Intelligence, El-Mukhabarat and Freedom

In the Arab world, the most feared people or organization is the secret intelligence, called El-Mukhabarat*. Unlike in the U.S. El-Mukhabarat doesn’t come to the wanted person, instead they call the wanted person and ask him to come see them. El-Mukhabarat in the Arab world sometimes has a sense of humor because when asked why they need to see a person they answer “We just need him to drink tea with us.” The fear level of El-Mukhabarat in the Arab world is different from one country to another. In Syria and Libya they used to be the worst and in the Arab Gulf countries they are not bad. In Syria, for example, the person may never return back after his tea party with El-Mukabarat. And when his family asks about him they will simply say he didn’t show up, as simple as that.

For non-Arabs the best description of El-Mukhabarat and what they do is to think of it as communist Russia and Eastern Europe. It is that bad or maybe I have to say it was that bad before the ‘Arab Spring’.

But what about the land of freedom, USA and Western Europe?

In the U.S., they have a very controversial law called ‘Indefinite Detention’ without trial. The best example is prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Many activists asked the American government to relocate the prisoners to the USA but they refuse.

In 2002, a Jordanian friend of mine, who was working in the States, was jailed for three months without a trial. This happened after a woman called the American “Mukhabarat” to inform them that she saw two ‘Arabs’ driving a truck loaded with propane cylinders. Both men were actually workers at a gas station and they went to fetch propane cylinders to be sold at the gas station**. Unfortunately, my friend had an expired visa (or proper immigration documents) so he was detained. If he wasn’t a Muslim he would have been either asked to fix his immigration documents until a trial is being scheduled or in the worse case deported. But he was detained without any charges. His lawyer couldn’t do anything because there were no charges. After three months he was told he will be deported to Jordan but they refused to give him or his lawyer a date. Fortunately for him he was working on his Canadian immigration papers and was approved. I am not sure if having the Canadian documents expedite his release or not.

So, for those who don’t know in America its Mukhabarat can detain someone indefinitely without a trial, like the prisoners in Guantánamo Bay.

In an interesting Ted Talk Mikko Hypponen, a computer security expert, talks about online attacks. He demonstrates how even in West Europe the government snoops on its citizens:

In the 1980s in the communist Eastern Germany, if you owned a typewriter, you had to register it with the government. … And this was done so the government could track where text was coming from. … And we in the West couldn’t understand how anybody could do this, how much this would restrict freedom of speech. We would never do that in our own countries.

But today in 2011, if you go and buy a color laser printer from any major laser printer manufacturer and print a page, that page will end up having slight yellow dots printed on every single page in a pattern which makes the page unique to you and to your printer. … And this is an example of the ways that our own governments are using technology against us, the citizens.

Remember how USA, after September 11, used  to (and maybe still) send people to some Eastern European and Arab countries as well to be ‘interrogated’. It seems America liked the way these countries ‘interrogate’ their prisoners and it has nothing to do with intelligence if you know what I mean. In these countries, the secret intelligence service is above the law. They do whatever they wish without anyone questioning them.

Although the West is full of itself about freedom of speech and the right of every person to have an opinion, Mr. Hypponen has a different opinion:

What about Arab Spring and things that have been happening, for example, in Egypt? Well in Egypt, the rioters looted the headquarters of the Egyptian secret police in April 2011, and when they were looting the building they found lots of papers. Among those papers, was this binder entitled “FINFISHER.” And within that binder were notes from a company based in Germany which had sold the Egyptian government a set of tools for intercepting — and in very large scale — all the communication of the citizens of the country. They had sold this tool for 280,000 Euros to the Egyptian government.

So Western governments are providing totalitarian governments with tools to do this against their own citizens. But Western governments are doing it to themselves as well. For example, in Germany, just a couple of weeks ago the so-called State Trojan was found,which was a trojan used by German government officials to investigate their own citizens. If you are a suspect in a criminal case, well it’s pretty obvious, your phone will be tapped. But today, it goes beyond that. They will tap your Internet connection. They will even use tools like State Trojan to infect your computer with a trojan, which enables them to watch all your communication, to listen to your online discussions, to collect your passwords.

Of course intelligence service agency (or El-Mukahabarat) is very important for any country’s stability and safety. But when it terrorize its citizens it will eventually destroy itself and country it tries to protect as happened in Eastern Europe and now in the Arab world.

* In the Arabic language, “EL” and “AL” precede nouns to mean the. The difference between both of them is grammatically only.

** In USA, propane cylinders are sold at gas stations.

What is next for Jordan?

Ten years later I did not recognize my hometown, Irbid, it felt like a different city. The population tripled if not more. There are apartment complexes everywhere although Jordanians used to live in houses because ten years ago there were not that many people.

Jordan became THE HUB for its war torn neighboring countries. Many of them, Iraqis and now Syrians, settle in Jordan, if they cannot leave for U.S. or Europe. Jordanians’ hospitality was and will forever be Insh’Allah a safe haven for refugees. It started before there was even a country called The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan back in the late 19th century when Muslim people of Chechnya fled the Caucasian war. In 1948 and again in 1968, Palestinians were also forced to leave their land to settle in Jordan. During and after the first Gulf War about 500,000 Jordanian and Palestinian expatriates had to return to Jordan for good because both supported Saddam and were against the American presence in the Gulf. In the second Gulf War, about one million Iraqis left for Jordan. Now, tens of thousands of Syrians are also finding refuge in Jordan.

I am very proud of my fellow Jordanians for welcoming people and sharing the little they have. Here is a paragraph from Wikipedia about refugees in Jordan:

In 2007, there were 700,000–1,000,000 Iraqis in Jordan. Since the Iraq War many Christians (Assyrians/Chaldeans) from Iraq have settled permanently or temporarily in Jordan. They could number as many as 500,000. There were also 15,000 Lebanese who immigrated to Jordan following the 2006 War with Israel.

There are 1,200,000 illegal and some 500,000 legal migrant workers in the Kingdom. Furthermore, there are thousands of foreign women working in nightclubs, hotels and bars across the kingdom, mostly from Eastern Europe and North Africa.

Jordan is home to a relatively large American and European expatriate population concentrated mainly in the capital as the city is home to many international organizations and diplomatic missions that base their regional operations in Amman.

According to UNRWA, Jordan was home to 1,951,603 Palestinian refugees in 2008, most of them Jordanian citizens. 338,000 of them were living in UNRWA refugee camps. Jordan revoked the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians to thwart any attempt to resettle West Bank residents in Jordan. West Bank Palestinians with family in Jordan or Jordanian citizenship were issued yellow cards guaranteeing them all the rights of Jordanian citizenship. Palestinians living in Jordan with family in the West Bank were also issued yellow cards. All other Palestinians wishing such Jordanian papers were issued green cards to facilitate travel into Jordan. [Source]

Maybe it was a blessing from God that Jordan is poor and not like its oil-rich gulf neighbors. Although, they are very rich they do not welcome Arab refugees. Sharing the wealth is not in the humans’ DNA. To be fair they always financially support poor Arab countries and they send money to Jordan to help its refugees.

So, why one of the smallest and the poorest Arab countries became a hub and a home for Arab refugees?

Here are some theories I have been hearing from other Arabs:

  1. The British created Jordan as a buffer zone between Israel from one side and Iraq and Syria from the other side.
  2. Sharif Hussein bin Ali who was the Emir of Mecca was promised (by the British) a land of his own (i.e., Jordan) if he revolts against the Ottoman Turks.
  3. King Hussein was a traitor who made it possible for Israel to defeat the Arabs. This theory is widely adopted by people who see Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt as an Arab hero.
  4. The British colony created Jordan to eventually be the land of Palestinians. Since Jordan gave citizenship to Palestinians-when other Arab countries forced them to live in refugee camps- other Arab rulers considered King Hussein to be working with the Israeli government to facilitate moving as many Palestinians to Jordan so they forget about their land.
  5. Because of its scarcity in resources, Jordan government welcomes Arab refugees to collect money from the Gulf countries, USA, and Europe.

There are many conspiracy theories about Jordan, one of the oldest inhabitants in the world. I do not know if any of these is true or not. Actually, I do not care because I do not believe in ‘conspiracy theory’ in general. What I see is what I believe. I see Jordan and its citizens have been welcoming others for a long time and I hope Jordan continues to be a safe haven for its citizens and for others who want to settle in Jordan.

So, the question everyone is asking is there going to be a revolution in Jordan?

But my concern and question is what do people of Jordan need?

To Be Cont’d…

So God Made a Farmer

Last Sunday, was the NFL Super Bowl XLVII (47th). The Super Bowl in the US is like the World Cup for the rest of the world. 100-million viewers watched the game. Not all the 100-million are football fans but the Super Bowl became a social event. Also, many people watch the game because of the commercials. It is known that the best commercials are screened during the Super Bowl. Unlike soccer, an American football game lasts at least three hours, although the actual playing time is about 60 minutes only. This is because the game could be interrupted by the second. During the three-hour period many commercials are shown.

This year, the most liked commercial was for the Dodge Ram Trucks. I also liked it so much because of the narrator’s voice. He has a voice made for radio for sure. The narrator, Paul Harvey, was a radio broadcaster. He delivered his speech “So God Made a Farmer” in 1978.

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.'” So God made a farmer. [via theatlantic]

Girls Lead in Science Exam, Especially in Jordan

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/02/04/science/girls-lead-in-science-exam-but-not-in-the-united-states.html?hp
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/02/04/science/girls-lead-in-science-exam-but-not-in-the-united-states.html?hp

“We see that very early in childhood — around age 4 — gender roles in occupations appear to be formed,” said Christianne Corbett, co-author of the 2010 report “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.” “Women are less likely to go into science careers, although they are clearly capable of succeeding.”

Researchers say these cultural forces are strong in the United States, Britain and Canada but far less pervasive in Russia, Asia and the Middle East, which have a much higher proportion of women in science and engineering. In Jordan, for example, girls score more than 8 percent better in science than boys do.

“For girls in some Arab countries, education is the only way to move up the social structure,” Mr. Schleicher said. “It is one way to earn social mobility.” [source]

Although girls in Jordan scored much better than boys their score is much less than girls in many other countries. Nevertheless, this difference says a lot about women in Jordan. I salute their determination to become better and improve their lives.

Who is supposed to give the Dowry?

One of my lab mates is going back to his country in Africa to get married. Me and him are the only non Americans in the group. Our all male group members were shocked to know that the dowry system works different than in the USA. I always thought that the dowry is paid by the groom (or the groom’s parents) to the bride (or the bride’s parents) except in India.

One of the Americans noted that giving money to the bride’s parents is like selling your daughter. According to my American friends the bride’s parents should pay for the wedding.

It is a very interesting subject that I was hoping to learn more about from the Americans. I want to know what is their perspective about the dowry system and why they believe that the bride should pay the groom not the other way. Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish our discussion so hopefully I can hear your perspective about the subject.

Who should give the dowry? And why you think he/she should do that not the other way around?

Is there a contract between American Christians between the bride and the groom like Muslims do? In Islam, the contract should specify what the bride is offering and the responsibilities of both sides. In addition, it includes the amount of Nafaqa in case a divorce happens.

I wish also to hear what Christians in the Middle East do. Who give the dowry?