Omani Born Confused Arab

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Today's Interesting Facts (29/12/05)

1 - There is an 8th-13th century Cypriot dialect of Arabic called Christian Maronite Arabic.

The unwritten dialect (or language?) is confined to a village of 1,200 people called Kormakiti, and has transformed over the years to the extent that Arabic speakers would not understand it. It is only used at home and for religious purposes. It is said that the dialect came to Cyprus with Lebanese Maronites who accompanied the Crusaders there.

I wonder what radical ultra-nationalist Lebanese-Maronite advocates of replacing the Arabic language and script to Phoenician or Latin scripts, have to say about this.

2 - American students prefer to study Arabic in Israel rather than the Arab world

Two-thirds of Americans choose to study Arabic in Israel rather than the Arab world. Why? Arab states don't have very encouraging educational institutions, many of these Americans are Jews and would rather go to Israel, the Arab world 'isn't secure enough' and Arab Americans don't do a good-enough job in promoting their countries.

Agreed, the Arab world isn't so secure, but isn't it more secure than Israel?! Also, I'm not too surprised about Arab Americans. Many Arabs in the US have chosen to leave their countries because of the regimes that rule them. Why would they encourage others to go?

3 - UK's top Jewish group apologizes to Palestinian charity

In a foot-in-mouth incident, the UK's top Jewish group has presumably made a fat donation to the Palestinian cause. In an out-of-court settlement (whose terms have not been made public), the Board of Deputies of British Jews has agreed to issue an apology for calling the charity, Interpal, a "terrorist organization" and has promised not to do it again.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Bigots in America, Part 1

Because Arabs and Muslims are more of a risk as drivers than drunkards and junkies, the American 'Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License' has issued an ad campaign depicting them as terrorists. The banner shows men/boys dressed in military uniform and one in a kaffiyah holding a bomb. Of course, there's no mention of Arabs but to make their implications less ambiguous, the Coalition has pasted random Arabic letters at the top of the banner (God bless Character Map).

The Arab American Institute says the following:

The billboards unfairly conflate the question of immigration and national security and cast a shadow of suspicion on Arabs and Muslims, unfairly equating them with terrorism and encouraging an environment that can lead to prejudice and hate crimes. In doing so, the ads utilize false stereotypes and racist rhetoric to promote an anti-immigrant agenda.

and urges you to:

Contact the President and the Governors of North Carolina and New Mexico urging them to denounce the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License’s bigoted attack on Arabs and Muslims and reject efforts to deny driver’s licenses based on immigration status

So sign and send the prepared letter here

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Move the UN to Montreal?

Here’s an article in the International Herald Tribune that suggests moving the UN headquarters. Where, you ask? Montreal, wonderful Montreal:

Is it necessary for a cash-strapped organization whose mandate is to preserve world peace and fight poverty to occupy one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in one of the world's most costly cities?

.. the new site should be in a developed, foreigner-friendly democracy with a good infrastructure and communication network in an uncongested environment where English is either spoken or commonly understood.

And guess which city he has in mind:

Such a site exists, less than 400 miles from New York - I nominate Montreal

Why I think this is a superb idea:

1- It would be in a city whose official languages are two of the six official languages of the UN (not to mention how widely-spoken 3 other official languages are – Chinese, Arabic and Spanish).

2- It would be in a country that is known for its peace-keeping, not for its wars; one that actually respects international treaties and resolutions.

3- America’s enemies won’t be barred from attending UN events because they can’t get American visas.

4- It would be outside the P5, whose dominance of the UN I cannot stand.

5- For a change, the UN will be not be hosted in a country that has caused the biggest blow to its credibility, whose ambassador to the organization doesn't even believe in it.

6- Most importantly, the fact that it will be off American soil would help the UN convince the world that it is not controlled by the US (good luck).

Oh, and:

7- Montreal’s the best place in the world.

Any more ideas?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The racism that Google promotes

I subscribe to Google News alerts for certain keywords. What it does is send me a daily email with all the news reports that contain those keywords. It’s a really effective way to follow certain topics. I’ve been subscribing for a couple of years now and have recently noticed one news source which seems to be an Iranian blog that tries to present itself as a news site. Initially, I wrote to Google thinking they added it by mistake when I noticed how amateur the writing was. I got a thank-you reply (besides the autoresponder) and assumed that it would be removed but I continued to get some of the most racist articles from the source in my Google alerts. I wrote to Google a couple of times more and got a reply once again. Nothing happened.

My patience ran out last night when it popped up in my inbox again. The site was Persian Journal and the article was titled De-Arabization of Iran: a Mission for all Iranians. This is how it goes:

Iranians are not Arabs. The people of Iran do not care what is happening in Palestine. Even if they do, their feeling is in the same level as they care for the "Chechens in Russia". The feeling is mutual. Arabs look at Iran as another Israel. They do not see Iranians as Muslims. Iran is not admitted to any gathering of the Arabs.

The ‘article’ goes on about how Iranians have a unique culture very different from that of the Arabs and that they don’t have much to do with Islam “i.e. the nomadic Arabs who invaded Iran” and how “it is an important mission for the Iranians to make this distinction known”. It even mentions the “treacherous” Islamic regime in Iran and how it has sold the Iranians off to the Arabs.

Okay, I’ve heard these arguments from Iranians a lot but it never got this racist. Here’s what the author suggests Iranians do:

1- Take out Arabic words from your language as much as possible.
2- Do not listen to any speaker who uses too many Arabic words, especially the Mullahs.
3- Try to explain for as many as possible people around you, starting from the family members, and extending to the people you meet at work place, neighborhood and so on and take any occasion to explain that Iranians are not Arabs.
4- Explain your Iranian sentiments about the nomadic Arabs who invaded Iran in every occasion.
5- Do not let the issues about Islam, as a religion, which is like any other, block your view about the barbaric Arabs who plundered Iran and changed the fate of a civilized nation to the course of nomadic Arabs.
6- Find new ways to do this task and let others know them.

The most shocking, even from the most radical Persian nationalists, was this:

(The city in the center of the image is Ahwaz, an oil-rich, ethnically-Arab Iranian city close to the Iraqi border, which has seen some unrest recently)

So here’s how you can get in touch with Google:

Call, fax or snail-mail them at:

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View CA 94043
phone: (650) 253-0000
fax: (650) 253-0001

Or go to the following site and launch a complaint:

Hit ‘problem with news source’ (only appropriate option) and complain away.

Google News should understand that it can’t attempt to run a news site without being accountable for the content it carries. I wonder how much faster Google would have acted if the source was American and the targets were Black or Jewish.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This National Day...

I attended the Sultan's School's national day celebration tonight. It was well organized and very entertaining, but very different from our days. For one, the show no longer starts with the reading of the Quran. It has also apparently become more conservative. I was told by one of the performers that the Board of Trustees demanded some last minute changes so that young girls weren't seen to be 'shaking' too much. In our days there was some real traditional dancing, not just 'shaking'. Tonight's show kept the audience entertained though.

One more thing I noticed was how incredibly nationalistic the annual event has become, probably because Oman celebrated its 35th national day this year. There were countless songs and performances about Oman and how much the school and its students have and will continue to contribute to this country. It reminded me of how the headmaster, at the beginning of every year, used to parade the incoming KG1 class in front of the rest of the school as ‘Oman’s future’. He was very optimistic about them. Perhaps too optimistic.

If the situation remains as it is today, most of the brightest students coming out of the Sultan’s School – and it has been known to produce some of the brightest – will probably work abroad, in Europe or North America, even Dubai, and possibly settle and immigrate there. If I think of the top five students from every class (that I have known) that has graduated from the Sultan’s School I can hardly count any that work in Oman. Can we blame them? Individually, it is a personal and pragmatic choice for most of these people, but collectively it is a disaster. This brain drain is worse for the country than many of us think.

I was sitting at a café the other day and I noticed that more than half of those sitting at the table were unemployed. Many have daddy’s deep pockets to rely on to continue to live lavishly, but what about those whose daddies don’t have such deep pockets?

Oh, and the English choir was absolutely amazing. The last solo-kid sang like a rockstar. I'd like to see where he is in ten years.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mustafa Akkad

Those responsible for the November 9th hotel bombings in Amman might be relieved to know that one of their victims had been trying hard to show the moderate face of Islam, as opposed to the monstrous one they are racing to put forward.

Mustafa Akkad, the director of The Message (الرسالة), was the victim.

Arabs like him don't come every generation.

For the past twenty years, Akkad had been looking for someone to finance an international, English-language epic about Saladin/Salahiddin, and had his eyes on top actors in the English-movie industry for the lead character.

He was specifically considering Sean Connery:

"He likes the Arabs and is familiar with our history. He always tells me off for having chosen Anthony Quinn to star in two of my films and always reminds me that he is looking forward to work with me."

The screenplay, written by an American and confirmed by Muslim scholars, was ready. Considering English-movie viewers' familiarity with Akkad and his chosen actors, and his credibility in the Muslim world for The Message, this movie could have really worked. I mean, after movies like Kingdom of Heaven and Paradise Now made it to Western cinemas and got good reviews, one can expect movies such as the one Akkad had in mind to successfully send a strong and refreshing message to the world, and of course, give us another epic to enjoy:

he explains that his main aim has been to shed light on the Arab historical heritage. “In the light of unjustified accusations of terrorism directed towards the Arab world, Saladin is—in my perspective—the most suitable character to present to the West as our mouthpiece. Is there a more barbaric example of religious terrorism than the medieval Crusades that Saladin confronted? However, nobody accuses Christianity of breeding terrorism.”

The same Crusades that Al-Qa'eda can't stop ranting about.

Mabrouk, Al-Qa'eda.

Mabrouk Saudiyya!

Another Arab state, this time a regional giant, has been forced to reluctantly embrace Israel:

Amity with Israel opens WTO door

Saudi Arabia has agreed to end all economic boycotts of Israel, allowing the World Trade Organization (WTO) yesterday to admit the oil-rich kingdom as its 149th member, diplomats said

Why haven't I seen this in newspapers?

"I am very satisfied with the fact that Saudi Arabia has complied with all the rules of the WTO," said Itzhak Levanon, Israel's ambassador to the global trade body

Anything to make Israel happy.

What are we going to do next? Sell the Ka'ba?

Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi

I want to know what was going through this woman's head. Any TV stations care to interview her?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Unicef shows burning smurfs to evoke sympathy

What has our world come to?

According to the BBC, UNICEF has decided to air advertisements showing injured and burning smurfs on Belgian television late at night to have a "positive reaction" with viewers to evoke sympathy for young victims of war.

What's it going to be next, children dying? Oh, but we see that already on TV. We're just too numb to it.