December 27, 2005

new line of defence

The reactions in the daily press -which is more preoccupied by shattered airport glass than broken citizens' bones- continue.

Today’s Alwatan, in a newly differentiated division of ideological labour between the benefactor and the beneficiary, devotes a full page with six photographed knights in bearded armour at its core and centre.

One of these, a former president of the authentically-and-certifiably Salafi political society expressed astonishment that “there exist people in the country with this level of thinking” in reference to protestors at the airport. This comes from the very same guy who had previously ruled that democracy is a vice that could only be entered into in order to stave a bigger vice.

But the most up-front, frank statement of the day came from the current president of the same society who declared that “anyone not satisfied with the priorities of the state should seek somewhere else”.

Should you care? Well, this current president of this movement - ingeniously cloned from our neighbors- has the same surname – make that the same tribe name- as the freshly appointed Chief of the Prosecution Office (with a first degree in Police Science). So when he talks, you better listen.

But in case people with that level of thinking are not listening, they may be better reminded again that the priorities of the state have always been made abundantly clear for everyone with two eyes: first and foremost is you know who, then the allied tribes, then the surrendered tribes, then the rich and famous of families, and so on until we reach your priority.

These priorities may also require that a voter in a southern area gets the same number of MP as 33 of non-neighborly voters in a northern less-prioritized village, as this southern area is inhabited by vintage tribal stock with distinguished priority, and who are fortunately represented by a municipal council headed by a third figure from the same aforementioned tribe.

If you thought this case is a good example of over-prioritized tribes, then you should make it a priority to adjust your level of thinking about the glorious history of the fine and noble in the region. This knighted Arabian tribe for example was part of two victorious alliances (amongst many) which they can take to the bank anytime and in no queue: the first was in the conquest of Bahrain in 1782, and the second was with King Abdul Aziz in the conquest of Al-Ahsaa (and with it whole Eastern Arabia) in 1913.

December 26, 2005

a world first for our airport

The country’s international airport is back at its old job as the first interdiction point for rogue citizens. This resumption of duty did not happen without landing yet another global first for us in the annals of international aviation.

An early Boxing Day comes to town

7:44 PM Early arrivers were busy looking for a parking near Al-Wefaq headquarter ahead of a meeting on the upcoming municipal elections, when news broke out on the country’s most popular -but banned and blocked- discussion forums that Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammed Sanad was being detained in a boxed cabin at the airport upon his return from Iran, en rout to his annual pilgrimage with a local group.

8:20 PM Al-Wefaq’s president goes inside to join a select group discussing a seats-eyeing strategy, few minutes after the head of the Islamic Action Society entered the next-door building which houses his society for internal fissures- control meeting in the wake of the decision to register under the new societies law, while hundreds of activists exchange messages calling for a rush towards the airport in a bid to show solidarity with the forcibly-grounded Ayatollah. A Boxing Day-like crowd converges on the airport.

11:00 PM The Arrivals Hall is packed with hundreds of protesters unconvinced by an officer’s line that the Sheikh has already been taken to Manama for questioning. They chant slogans for his release in a sit-in in front of a line of an Anti-Riot Squad readying itself for an offensive position.

11:28 PM A first report of tear gas and batons in action against the protestors inside the Arrivals Hall. Probably a world first. Mayhem at grand scale as boxing face-offs ensued: chairs fending against batons. Several are reported injured and taken to Salmaniya Hospital. The forum that provided a complete minute-by-minute gets increasingly out of reach due to extraordinary traffic. More than 17 thousands in 3 hours.

11:57 PM Al-Jazeera TV talks to its correspondent, a former BTV announcer and the holder of the first license for a private radio channel, who repeats verbatim the Ministry of Interior statement.

1:15 AM The forums broadcast the news that the sheikh has just been released.

2:15 AM Al-Jazeera interviews Sheikh Sanad himself who says he was charged with inciting the population against the regime.

3:06 AM The Office of the Sheikh issues a statement on the net thanking the fidels for their sentiments and troubles and praying for the safety of the injured and detained.

Monday Morning: the Sheikh is still due to appear before the General Prosecution Office. Akhbar-Al Khaleej newspaper talks about apprehending a certain individual by the name Khaled Sanad. The founder of the forum gets a nice present for a job well done: his first newborn baby.

December 25, 2005

that time of the year

Christmas is here. And with it comes this annual tinge of a southernist envy of Christmas at our neighbours' to the north.

For Christmas in northern lands is a celebration by relatively free citizens, who lead their lives in relative peace with their public managers, in harmony with their private religious choice, in safety and relative immunity from the nearest police station, the farthest airbase (or airplane carrier) or any foreign invasion or covert action to install the corrup or the corruptible, and who enjoy the fruits of a relatively blissful economy and a civilly urbanized environment.

And it is a celebration of a narrative that walked on earth but managed to keep a redemptively inspiring essence, despite the vicissitudes of times, kings, church and scholarship. Though we have to concede that scholarship in this case was more sympathetic –yet very rigorous- than in the case of other religious traditions.

But it is the lights, sounds and colours of the celebratory acts itself that is the most endearing about it, a testimony to a human and earthy success in creating a uniquely festive experience, capable of stirring the imagination of the young and a warm spark of splendour even for the old.

A blessed Prophet Jesus Birthday for co-religionists, and -for whoever stumbles here due to a tricky search engine- a Merry Christmas in health and peace.

December 22, 2005

give them their daily voucher

Life is getting prettier by the day on this island. The considerably fortunate are setting up a common charity front to come to the aid of the considerably unfortunate, a move that can only be considerably applauded. Big business is finally assuming its role in sharing the burden alongside the public and social sectors. As the mildly fortunate come increasingly to depend on a system of intermittent but considerably effective acts of grace and favours by the government (makramaat), and the harshly unfortunate resort ever more to the considerably extensive network of communal charity funds (present in each town, village and sectarian affiliation), the stage is now set for a considerably integrated three–pronged public policy, by which citizens –old, new and soon to be- have never been so spoiled for charity and choice.

Some sensible souls may feel considerably affronted by a plan of perceived condescension towards a whole swathe of society to turn the hitherto considered excluded and deprived but with with rights to salaries and jobs, and lump them all into a now officially sanctioned category of rabble and lumpen class, dependent -in almost a counter-rev. way- on the upper classes for their daily bread, but that’s a considerably discredited outlook. To be fair, big business is just trying to lend a helping hand, and it can not be held liable for the unmitigated and unintended positive spin-offs from its stratagem, such as in enhancing public image and tidying up public discourse.

So, if you are still in vertigo over that statement by the former head of chamber of commerce – and a son of a billionaire family- that BD 100 is indeed a fair and sufficient monthly wage for an adult islander living with parents, then you might regain your composure in knowing the extent of his contribution towards building a health centre right in your own village. And if you still feel a bitter taste over the public relations article in your local Arabic daily featuring a bright businesswoman in the centre of a half-circle of upward of 17 well-dressed managers, all but one hail from a cherished but distant part of the same continent, then you might do well to note that the son of your maternal uncle’s seventh neighbour will soon receive his long-awaited gift voucher for an expensive dental procedure, stamped and sent from that multiple-storey, expatriate-filled office building.

For long, it has been a weak argument blaming the business community for being nothing more than an equal opportunity employer open for all who are superbly committed and extremely cost-effective. Now, there is every reason to suspect this argument will soon be washed over as new awareness seeps in that it is better to keep one’s mouth wide open, not for voicing criticism, but in anticipation of the charitable offerings to start to pour in. Business is following the lead of government: if you can’t beat them, beg them.

December 17, 2005

accession day

If it were not for his affable, good-natured character, the young man from Sanabis would be inconspicuous enough. But today he looked uncharacteristically preoccupied. Last night, the call went out about a rally planned for this evening. And not being a habitué of organized events or groups, he wasn’t sure what to expect. To be there or not to be there, was the question all day long. Later in the afternoon, he would confide his worry and unease to a close friend. Would people get hurt? In a serious way? The friend did not sound reassuring. The stakes are high, he said, and he himself will not be attending. They walked along, seemingly in concurrence on not participating. But then he paused and asked: Is it a sin if he stayed at home while others took the brunt of it? The friend had no answer for him.

Later in the evening and as it happened, the 24-year old university student found himself at the first rows of the demonstration. As the helicopters hovered above, the crowds grew larger below. As the air thickened with tear gas, the chanting got stronger. The anti-riot squad reached for the rubber-covered bullets. And then there was the crack of live ammunition. A bullet whizzed her way to his chest.

Hani fell. December 17, 1994.