Monday, October 29, 2007

Don't eat infront of me. Can't you respect my religion

I should have written this during Ramadan but for some reason I never got around to doing so.

When I was too young to fast my mother/aunt/grandmother would prepare my meals for me and chase me around the house in an attempt to make me eat my lunch/breakfast etc. But once we were outside before iftar I was continuously reminded that I should not eat in public for my actions will insult others who are fasting. If this confuses a child then you can imagine how as an adult I am still perplexed!

Why is it illegal to eat in public during Ramadan? More importantly, is there any mention in the Holy Scriptures regarding this restriction? I have been through the Quran and the Hadith ( sahih bukhari) but I still haven't found any references to this. If I have missed something PLEASE do refer me to the right sections/paragraph/text/book.

Are peoples faith so brittle that they will be tempted to break their fast just because someone else is eating in front of them? Is the mother that prepares lunch and breakfast for her children tempted to break her fast? Definitely not.

Will fasting be an impossible feat to achieve if people ate in public? Then the millions of Muslims in India, Europe, North America who do not have this luxury must have thrown in the towel.

Is the act of consuming food during daylight hours really an attempt to mock a Muslim's efforts and entice them to succumb to their basic instinct to eat?

Or is it a way to control the masses and ensure that Islamic principles are adhered to and that deviance from it does not manifest itself on a macro level?

I am still confused!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

WHAT! did this place exist back then

"So you've been here your whole life. WOW! I didn't think people came out here twenty five years ago" LOL ;-)

That is pretty much the reaction most people I meet through work have when I tell them how long I've been here. On a corporate level it fascinates me that an outright majority of people I interact with have moved here within the past few years. But the funniest is when they talk about the good old days of late 90s. I just crack up and laugh when they think that was a long time ago and how they know how the 'real' Dubai was like loool.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Utopia! Impossible but we can still dream about it.

Dubai has, what I think, the highest concentration of half-castes anywhere in the world. I do apologise if any of you got offended by the term half-caste, it was only recently that I found out that I could be considered as a derogatory term. But I have never considered to be so and in fact did not know of any other words that I could use. This is one indication of the multi-ethnic aspect of the city. This characteristic of the society is also extended to the dating scene. In school, and even now, I knew a lot of people who were dating someone who are not from a similar backgrounds, be it religion, nationality, ethnicity or a combination of them. Personally, I have never dated someone from similar scio-ethnic backgrounds.

Some end in a break up and some eventuates into a marriage. But what do you think would happen if we spice up this typical scene. What if a female emeriti were to date a Subcon. What if, they wanted to get married? I asked the same question in a previous entry but here is one response from moviemania, a female Emarit blogger, on her blog:-

.....we were just discussing this and my mom said mixed culture marriages never work.

"Well, they are difficult, but I mean.. It's easier if an Eastern person marries someone from another Eastern culture. Like, I could marry an Indian person, I don't see their culture as too different from ours." I added.

"What? No, never! I would never allow that to happen! Indian? Are you kidding! They're different!" my mom snapped back.

In fact this behaviour, albeit it a xenophobic, is not limited to one ethnic group. I have notice a similar pattern across the sociological divide in Dubai. This conflict seems to extend from the cultural gap that exists between the generations: Parents who moved here decades ago and their localexpat children. These kids, just like me, have probably attended an ethnically diverse school where in some cases you had students from over 50 nationalities attending the school. I still remember how race and ethnicity had a small influence on who you would date (or wanted to date) at school. The main factor was ‘’popularity’’ and “coolness’’, typical of most high school kids around the world ;-) Growing up in such an environment has left its mark on me even to this day. I have rarely considered race, ethnicity, skin colour or religion to be an issue when selecting my dates, friends, colleagues or any individual that I have to interact with.

Mind you, I am not ignorant of the fact that culture and background does have a significant influence on the relationship between people. But what it shouldn’t do is be the sole determinant or as one of my friends put it: The filter. The vast majority of people have a filtering system whereby they prejudicially filter people they interact into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘like’ and dislike’(also called negative stereotyping). Here is a scenario typical of numerous companies in UAE:-

  • At work

Assistant 1:Hey, I just got this application for the vacancy we have in the office should I show it to the boss

Assistant 2: They meet the criteria?

Assistant 1 : To me he does.

Assistant 2: Where is he from?

Assistant 1: Syrian.

Assistant 2: Oh don’t bother. You know that the first thing he will consider is the nationality and then reject the application without even bothering with his qualifications just because he can’t stand Syrians.

As much as I recognise how ubiquitous prejudice and negative stereotyping is among all cultures of the world, I can’t help but hope and believe that this should not be the case. I believe that prejudice and negative stereotyping should not play a role in forming first impressions or relationships. I hope that this will be so.

Because even I recognise that what I am preaching is truly unattainable.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


The chill out month.

That is what I call it. And I am not referring to month long stay in Amsterdam 'chilling out’ at their ‘Herbal Cafes’. I am obviously referring to Ramadan. This is a month where every thing gets chilled out. Your work, your social activities, your daily routines even your driving. I sure do enjoy the atmosphere .

It is month when people are that extra bit more charitable. When spirituality momentarily overtakes materialism in peoples lives. When people spend more time among family and friends. And it’s also a time when shisha cafes make a fortune off people like me who spend countless hours after iftar smoking their lungs into oblivion J

But it is also a month of hypocrisy.

I see it everywhere I look. Among friends, family and colleagues. It is a month where most people also become that extra bit more religious or conscious of religion to be precise. I know many people who live a very liberal life throughout the year. Engaging in all sorts of activities that are considered to be forbidden in Islam: Drinking, clubbing, not praying, engaging in sexual activities e.t.c. Then the holy month starts and initiates a complete transformation in people’s behaviour. I know people who only for the month of Ramadan they :-

  • Stop drinking from 40 days before Ramadan and then have a reservation ready at Trilogy (a nightclub in Dubai ) for the first day after the end of ramada.
  • Decide not to have sex with their partners during the holy month. Some even go to the extent of not having any form of physical intimacy with their partners.
  • Give up listening to ‘western music’ and viewing ‘corrupting shows’ on TV and focusing on Quran recitals.
  • Wear the Hijab.
  • Pray regularly ( 5 times a day)
  • Donate to charity

The piety list goes on and on and on. The remarkable thing is not the nature or the intention of the act, but its duration. And the blatant hypocrisy I see. Personally I am rather liberal in my religious views and a secularist at heart (for those ignorant people, this DOES NOT mean that I am an atheist or anti-religion). What I am advocating is not an orthodox extremist view that would require people to maintain their religious fervour throughout the year. Nor am I advocating the opposite extreme end of the spectrum: not participating in any rituals of organised religion.

Choice and consistency.

If you want to practice your religion you are free to do so as long as you are not physically or mentally hurting others. Your level of devoutness is your own choice. Whether you go to a mosque 5 times a day or a brothel 5 times a day, I have no right to judge which is more excessive. You choose. And whatever you choose, be consistent. What is the point of giving up drinking or wearing the hijab just for one month. Keep drinking. You will never see a devout Muslim taking a off their hijab just for a month to go clubbing with you. If you don’t want to drink for a single month out of fear of insulting god, then what about the other 11 months of the year? You really think he wouldn't notice?

Don’t change your behaviour, either way, just for a month. Chose and be consistent.