January 26, 2006

Vikings in Vindaloo

I've always been a fan of languages and especially enthralled by one theory that all languages initially had one source. Some linguistics would argue that it is not true since Greek is not related to any other language and has its own linguistic stem yet we find words such as portokalos meaning orange, with a similar burtuqal in Arabic. It could of course be the case that one borrowed from the other.

Another fascinating find for me being half Swedish and Pakistani (Pashtoon), is the resemblanbce of a few Pashto words to Swedish. The word for mother in Swedish is mor (pronounced moor), and the same in Pashto is mor (pronounced more). Father is far, and the Pashto equivalent is plar.

Then we have the Italian word basta, meaning enough. In Pashto we say basde, Arabic has a similar bas, so has Urdu.

The idea of finding similar words in other languages is perhaps not shocking or even strange, for indeed there has been major exchange during the past centuries between cultures but some exchanges never took place, or atleast not to the same extent that woud entail a linguistical swap, such as one between Pashtoons and Swedes, or Pashtoons and Italians.

Reading about languages also made me stumble upon the origins of the Finnish language. Apparently Finnish is directly related to Turkish. Something that also fascinated me about Finnish is its strange connection with Arabic in the sense that for many Arabic words, there is an exact same word yet with a totally different meaning, in the Finnish language.


The Arabic word raha meaning rest, in Finnish means money. There is no word in the whole Swedish, Norwegian or Danish language that even sounds remotely close to the word raha. Yet our Scandinavian neighbour is filled with such examples. Finland and the Arab world haven't exactly had major interactions in the past so one cannot explain it through such reasoning.

One of the world's probably most globally influenced languages is Swahili. With words borrowed from Urdu, Arabic, Portuguese, English, Farsi, German and Bantu, Swahili sure is a linguistic melting pot.


Gari meaning car, borrowed from the Urdu word.
Meza meaning table, borrowed from Portuguese.
Baisikeli meaning bicycle, borrowed from English.
Kamusi meaning dictionary, borrowed from Arabic.
Achari meaning pickle, borrowed from Persian (Farsi).
Shule meaning school, borrowed from German.

Wether or not the Turks were in Finland, or the Finnish in Saudi Arabia or the Pashtoons have kinship traced back to the Vikings of Scandinavia (they have the same temper I might add), languages will continue to hold answers about more than meets the eye for whomever has the time and energy to find the key.

January 24, 2006

Lesson 1: Envy of the green kind

In many cultures, the symbol for envy has been the eye, or evil eye rather. Each culture has its own way of warding off envy of the malicious kind. I'm talking about the kind where you not only wish you had what that other person has, but you also wish for it to be taken away from them.

We've all been envious at one point or the other, perhaps in different ways, and of a different kind. Religiously speaking words have been implemented in order to admire without envy. Most Muslims will say "masha'Allah" (the way God wanted it to be), after paying a compliment to someone. Some are so passionate about not being envious that they leave you in no doubt of their...lack of envy.

"Mash'Allah Sarah you really look great in that outfit masha'Allah, I mean masha'Allah if I would wear it, it wouldn't look that great as it does on you masha'Allah."

Ok, relax...

Mash'Allah is also widely used by Christian Arabs, so one wonders if it is said by Muslims more in a cultural or linguistic context rather than religious?

The Greeks found another way, a less verbal one, of warding of evil spirits. One that requires an umbrella.

"Erifteria *spit* you look waaannderrfol *spit* in that outfit, *spit*"

Hmm... Ok, why not.

Often we have had envy depicted to us in colour. "He was green with envy". Colour or no colour, envy is a strong force that seems to overwhelm us bringing forth emotions that at times can be beyond propriety. Why are some more envious than others? And are some cultures or religions more aware of envy than others?

Across both the Middle-East and North Africa, a picture of the all-seeing eye hangs in cars, homes and around people's necks. The idea that this symbol can physically and spiritually protect you and your property from evil eyes is according to some unscientific and others might even say heretic, but it is nonetheless fascinating to see how some cultures have developed more sophisticated expressions, symbols and ways to deal with envy than others.

Another classic in the Muslim world is the Arabic phrase "Haaza min fadli Rabbi" (this is from the bounties/blessings of my Lord). You can find this on stickers stuck on people's cars, outside their homes and in shops. Imagine seeing that on Mr and Mrs Johnson's front door... it would most likely be perceived as over pretentious and even be met with an air of "who do they think they are?". Cultural context always has and will be a fascinating phenomena.

In Pakistan however, another type of expression has emerged. "Bud douaa". This basically means, "bad prayers", meaning bad wishes. It is no secret that a lot of people in Pakistan believe in some sort of black magic or evil wishing that could result in damage, and some even practice it. You frequently hear stories of beautiful girls getting married and loosing their hair after marriage because according to some "her in-laws performed black magic on her". Perhaps it's true, or perhaps her sister-in-law spiked her shampoo with weed control...

In Sweden, a few decades ago, it was customary to hang a horse-shoe above the entrance to the house. That was in order to hinder evil spirits from entering ones homes. I am not sure what horses have got to do with evil spirits, I should think bears are scarier than horses...and we have plenty of bears here. Then again, bears don't wear shoes... yet...

The word for jealousy in Swedish is "svartsjuka" which translated means "black sickness". Another colour... interesting. The word for envy is "avundsjuka", again, mentioning the word sickness. In spiritual Islam, envy and jealousy are classified as sicknesses of the heart.

Nowadays however, it is not widely spoken of in Sweden and the horse shoe, when practiced, is more to do with cultural heritage like "mom had one up there so we sort of kept it". Could it be that secularization or the lack of it has something to do with how envy is perceived in different parts of the world?

Whichever way it is, we continue to be engulfed by envy like fire eats up wood* and I will try not to forget to say mash'Allah and *spit* (just in case), next time my best friend shows up wearing the shoes I want...and I might even hit her on the head with a horse shoe, after all, I wouldn't want her thinking I'm sending out "bud douaa" for her.

* The Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said: "Envy devours rewards as fire devours firewood."

January 18, 2006

Can I have a fatwa?

I would like to share some new statistics that were brought to my attention earlier today from IIF, Islamic Information Center in Gothenburg, Sweden. Apparently they have kept track of the number of Swedish converts from the year 1996 til present day that have been in contact with their Center.

What caught my eye was not so much the statistics themselves for we always get to hear the usual chant "Islam is the fastest growing religion" etc etc. They have also presented their statistics from both a gender and ethnic perspective which makes it more interesting.

The total amount of Swedish citizens who embraced Islam between 1996-2006 at IIF in Gothenburg were as late as January the 16th 2006, 100 citizens. Out of those 100, 62 (!) were female. The ethnic backgrounds of the men and women were as follows:

Swedish: 74
Latin American: 7
African: 6
Finnish: 5
French: 2
Lebanese: 1
Iraqi: 1
Irani: 1
Serbian: 1
Phillipino: 1
Chinese: 1

Muslim women in general are often portrayed (by media as well as hardline Marxist Iranian immigrants in Sweden who have unresolved trauma that should really stay between them and Khomeini and not take it out on muslim women) as being unable to make decisions for themselves, unintelligent, don't have a mind of their own and ofcourse let's not forget the most common; opressed.

So then what are the possible conclusions to be drawn from the statistics IIF presented?

1: All the 62 women in question met a dazzling Arab or Asian muslim man and converted to his religion. (I can see the upperclass white Swedes over coffee nodding their heads in agreement)

2: All of those 62 women are self destructive and are drawn to anything that will afflict them with pain and misery. (Whoever thinks this is the case: ever heard of the saying, it takes one to know one?)

3: God felt that men are messing up Islam so much He saw no other choice but to make sure more women convert in order to lead the way... (ok, I see that look of unbelief on your face. Who says it can't be true?)

Perhaps neither of the above is true, but it doesn't matter does it...people are still thinking it and almost establishing it as fact, wether they believe in option one, two or even three (fair enough I admit I'm probably the only one thinking option 3 is true).

What fascinates the world so much about the muslim woman? Any thoughts?

Truly no other woman is talked about so much as the muslim woman, both by muslims and non muslims, for better and mostly worse I might add. It is almost as if she's a creature of another world...Venus, was it? No that's not far away enough...must be Afghanistan..yes..that would be right, where they have Talibans and Burqas.

I propose we talk more about the muslim man... Why does he not cover his knees and thighs...yes...let's talk about that...when he plays football he shows his knees and part of his thighs... I would like a fatwa please...anyone? Hello? Where did everyone go?

January 14, 2006


There is nothing to take me further,
away from the torment that lives,
inside of the heart of the other,
that takes while nothing it gives.
Your black smoke it covers my horizon,
but it doesn't cloud my eyes that see,
there's more than braveness to a lion,
and you'll know there's more to me.
Have I once ever told you about it?
What draws me further away?
I will bare my soul and I will admit,
when I find the courage to say.
There is nothing to take me further,
from the stones that are cast my way.
There is nothing to bring me closer,
to the words that I cannot say.

January 12, 2006

Seven wonders to make you wonder

I remember when I was a little girl studying 4th grade social studies in Pakistan, and we got to learn about the Seven Wonders of the World. Even though The Hanging Gardens of Babylon no longer existed, imagining they did was still alluring to a 10 year old. I feel ever so inclined to nominate my own idea of the seven wonders of this world, but will do so further down on this post.

The seven wonders once chosen by Philon of Byzantium more than 2000 years ago were indeed fascinating architectural accomplishments however very Eurocentric or perhaps Mediterranean.
Among the seven wonders only one remains still today; The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt. The other six; The Lighthouse at Alexandria, The Temple of Artemis, The Statue of Zeus, The Colossus of Rhodes, The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and The Hanging Gardens of Babylon all remain in posterity only through our imagination.

Founder of The new 7 wonders Bernard Weber felt that it was high time to name seven new wonders of the world and after a process of nomination, 21 candidates were presented. Anyone can vote.

The Muslim world is finally represented in an area of positivism with candidates of the likes of Al Hambra in Spain, Haga Sophia in Turkey, The Taj Mahal in India and Timbuktu in Mali. Then there are of course other more ancient constructions nominated that lie in Muslim countries but were built in a pre-Islamic era such as Petra in Jordan and The Pyramids of Egypt.

A wonder that makes you wonder is the nomination of The Statue of Liberty. Whatever it once meant in America has eroded today. I say we move it to Cuba! Wouldn't G W B love that!

Anyway, I thought I'd present the seven wonders of my world:

1. The rickshaws in Pakistan: tiny, three wheeled yet carries up to a total of 4 grown ups, still maintains a high speed and manages to re-arrange your entire organ content, ending up with your heart literally in your throat, for a mere price of 15 rupees.

2. The taxi cars of Cairo: some have doors, some don't. Some have windows, some don't. And should they have windows, they don't have the device needed to wind it down. But they all come equipped with your own state of the art driver who manages to make even atheists call to God for help once in their life.

3. The donkeys of Petra: I lay my life in their hands and surprisingly I survived. Taking a ride on a donkey up a steep, narrow mountain is something of a death wish, but these donkeys knew exactly where to go without needing their master show them. Props to the donkeys! Which is more than I can say for Jordanian cab drivers...

4. PIA (Pakistan International Airlines): or Perhaps I'll Arrive... I once took a flight from Lahore to Islamabad that later was bound for London but after landing in Islamabad, picking up a few passangers, it went back to Lahore again. Why? They said they had to fill the tank...need I say more?

5. The Pakistani People: Whenever the son or daughter gets married and it's time to "move out", they always amazingly enough manage to find the only available apartment or house in that city at that time, directly placed in front of their own. Sometimes it's so close that you can actually look into each others living rooms and wave!

6. Microsoft Word: Can you believe that the word "Kaaba" (I also tried Kaba) doesn't exist in its "dictionary". The most famous and holy building for Muslims. Instead I got the suggestion of "Kaibab" and "Kabala". However when I try writing the Jewish words "Kibbutz" and "Bar Mitzvah", there is no problem whatsoever. I am happy for the Jews, don't get me wrong. It's great to be represented with words that are of significance to your faith or culture. Still, it sure makes you wonder. Microsoft... Get a grip.

As for the seventh wonder, I invite my readers to come up with suggestions... now be fair...

January 10, 2006

What's all the fuss about?

Well if you happen to live next door to a muslim, you will surely notice that things are not business as usual at the Khan's or by all means converted Johnson's. Today is what is called Eid ul-Adha. An often three to four days long feast. Now if you're lucky and the country you live in does not forbid the ritual slaughtering of animals you might even recieve a piece of grilled meat and some sweets from your next door muslim neighbour.

Samosas? Anyone?

The reason muslims slaughter a goat or sheep for Eid ul-Adha is basically to remember the day when God asked the Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son. However God was testing his Prophet's obedience and even though Abraham agreed to do it, God had recieved the proof He needed and later on told him to instead sacrifice a sheep.

Gardens of Eden? Ok maybe not...

Now since Sweden doesn't allow ritual slaughtering or Halal slaughtering for that matter, I won't be giving you any meat this year (a reason to start lobbying the law makers?). Don't be alarmed if you happen to hear strange noises coming from your Pakistani neighbour, he's probably just slaughtering some sheep and chicken in his garden.

To all muslims around the world, Eid Mubarak! Happy Eid!

January 06, 2006

On Love...

Why is it that man’s largest purpose in life it seems, is to have experienced love, even if it was entailed with loss?

The word’s of Khalil Gibran come to mind as he writes; “love is sufficient unto love”. Perhaps love is in the driver’s seat and we are merely passengers designated to ride in the back alone or perhaps in company? Regardless, it keeps on driving.

So much has been written about love, so many poems, songs and volumes all trying to capture its essence, purpose and mystery. Shakespeare wrote in his Sonnet 116; “It is not love that alters when it alteration finds, nor bends with the remover to remove”.

I ask myself; then what have we all been doing so far? I see love bending everyday. I witness love changing with circumstance, even disappearing. Such love that is idealized by Shakespeare seems fit only for the world of sonnets. He finishes by saying; “If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ nor no man ever loved”.

No doubt, "Romeo and Juliet" has been, is and always will be the ultimate epitome of a classical love story. The Arabs have “Qays wa Leila”, the Indian Subcontinent have “Leila Majnu”. It can only be fair to say such stories must have affected the way societies view love and perhaps idealized it into some sort of higher state of being that extends and lives way beyond our sense of time and space. Suddenly the idea of a hereafter is given a greater purpose; one to reunite loved ones.

In our world of “common sense” where love is nothing but “chemical reactions”, the flare and magnitude of such epic depictions such as the likes of "Romeo and Juliet" have become reduced to nothing more than a work of art preserved for posterity due to its historical importance rather than perhaps its inspirational. Whereas in other places like India, the story lives on everyday through the mass-producing Bollywood movie industry where forbidden love and dramatic circumstances where love lives beyond the realms of time all are common place.

One might wonder if the rationalized west is less romantic than the east. Or perhaps societies with a great belief in the hereafter or reincarnation depict love in many more dimensions than one? Dimensions that seem like hogwash to someone who doesn't believe in anything but the empirical and scientific.

Julia Roberts may have gotten the object of her affection in “Pretty Woman”, but nearly a decade later she was left without as she watched the love of her life marry someone else in “My best friend’s wedding”. What brought on this sudden twist of fate in the modern day Hollywood love genre? We always used to love watching our onscreen love heroes and heroines reunite. Or perhaps not.

Maybe the complexity of love doomed to fail strikes a cord of realism and ability to relate in our hearts, just like it always did. Maybe there’s a reason why “Casablanca” still remains among the top ten voted love stories of the past century, and people still sing “Love Hurts”.

It can be said, that no matter what opinion we should hold about what love is, an opinion we hold, nevertheless...

When man ceases to be human(e)...

"Oh look! A real terrorist!"

It's a new year and I'm sure you haven't made plans for the holidays yet. Some of you will go visit your families and others will probably end up somewhere warm with a beach, but those of you who find life's normality a tad bit grey, here's the trip that will guaranteed spice up your life!

Shurat HaDin, or the Israeli Law Center, arranges three trips per year under the name "The Ultimate Mission to Israel". Swedish journalist Peter Kadhammar writes about his trip in an article in Aftonbladet. During six days you get to travel near the border of Lebanon staring Hezbollah in the eye, and you also, among many other exciting things, get to witness the trial of a suspected terrorist to the background music of his mother and father crying. 10 000 Palestinians enjoy the comforts of Israeli prison and 750 are currently in administrative prison which basically means they haven't committed a crime but might do so. Better to be safe than sorry ey? Why not just imprison all Palestinians, then we can all live safely?

Perfect photo op! Father of 8, Iad Abiat charged with membership in a group who killed 2 civilians.

Later on one gets to enjoy a moonlight boat cruise on the Sea of the Galilee followed by dinner at Decks, the finest restaurant on the Sea of the Galilee. It's important to have energy enough to be able to continue contributing to a better world or as The Israel Law Center themselves further explain:

Participants are also required to make a tax-deductible donation to Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center to aid in the fight against Arab terror.

Next on the agenda is witnessing how Israeli police arrest and shoot potential terrorists (all staged of course).

After that one will be taken to an extremely important lecture by the Israeli Secret Service's former Head of the Department of Interrogation, Chaim Ben Ami. After 9/11 he was brought in by the US Administration to advice on methods of interrogation. Ben Ami explains that he doesn't like the word torture.

-The first thing I said to them (the US Administration) was; stop using the word torture! What is torture? To prevent someone from sleeping 24 hours? 48? 72?

-No!!! yelled the audience.

Ami continues to explain the legal term "necessity according to needs". You see sometimes fighting terrorism can be tedious and complicated. E.g. when a Palestinian terror group was about to commit an act of terror in Tel Aviv, two Palestinians were caught wandering the Jordan River and the Police quickly and effectively interrogated them. But, what were they to do with them later? It couldn't be known that they were missing or arrested for that would warn their group. Ami stretches out his arms demonstrating how he holds someone down with his hands.

- Blub blub blub, he says.

The audience laughs.

-Blub blub blub.

Drown them! That's a solution- it looks like an accident.

But this is all so academical, it's a holiday after all and even though the thought of Israeli police drowning terror suspects is extremely amusing (apparently), let's continue enjoying the sights and sounds of this modern day Colosseum...

...No, these are not Roman citizens cheering on their Emperor as he signs with his hand indicating the sign of death for the Gladiator on stage. These are American-Israeli tourists, nurses, dentists, lawyers, "citizens of civilization" on a mission...the ultimate mission...

In an article in The Washington Post, the following was written about the trip:

People are really giving it a bad rap -- unfairly," complained Yehoshua Klein, who heads the Gush Etzion Tourism Association. "So people are coming, visiting settlements, looking at what's going on here, taking a Jeep tour. It is not like they are going into some Arab village and shooting at people."


Ps. Iad Abiat recieved 21 years in prison, to the cheers and applauds of everyone in the group.

January 05, 2006

Genetical Privilege

Living in a country with monarchy very much rooted in society, the idea of being born with a silver spoon in ones mouth isn't too hard to grasp. Don't get me wrong, some people are born with wealth and some achieve it later and there is nothing wrong with being rich however it seems that with the trail of money, an elitist air surrounds the rich and powerful.

That a person inherits wealth from his late parents or relatives is not very shocking, but it seems that a person today can also inherit a title, a certain respect or position simply on a name basis, and not because he or she participated in that which made the name or legacy famous in the first place.

I was particularly reminded of this while visiting the Opera in an otherwise very socialist Sweden. We hadn't purchased "the best" of tickets available, so we were told, (kindly mind you), to take the stairs to the left and not the main staircase like most posh people did (including our foreign minister whom I spotted).

Well up on the third floor, we took to our seats which overlooked the whole Opera Hall and faced the stage, what more could one want? I took out my tiny but elegant opera glasses and started eyeing the place. Orchestra looked nice, always loved the harp, beautiful lamp, I wonder how they change those bulbs...balcony overlooking the stage... wait a minute...balcony overlooking the stage! Three exquisite fossils sat there in chairs covered in gold and red velvet. I took a closer look and figured they must be royalty. I asked my grandma sitting next to me (who knows a thing or two about royalty in Sweden) and she said she never saw them before in her 86 year long life.

Juliet once asked Romeo, "What is in a name?" Well Juliet, a whole damn lot I tell you. The balcony seats can never be accessed by common working class people such as myself, never mind the fact that the old man sitting on it slept through half the second act. No, one has to be born into the world of "balcony privilege", you don't really have to do much else. It is all in a name.

An Arabic proverb came to mind, which actually is part of a poem written by the fourth caliph, Ali bin Abi Talib (ra):

Inna'l fata man yaqoolo ha ana za
laysa'l fata man yaqoolo kaana abi

This basically means, (poorly translated I'm afraid),
"Verily the (real/true) man is the one who says; this is me,
Not the man who says; my father was (so and so)."

It is something to reflect upon, that the very man who wrote those words was related to the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and yet was not chosen to be the first caliph after the death of the Prophet (pbuh), on the same account; it is not your kinship that will determine who you are (thus not enabling you to inherit a position), but the person you have made yourself into.

Equally mind-boggling is the fact that even in the year 2006, across the world, people still inherit positions of power, as if it was something in the genes.

Naturally a poem by Ali bin Abi Talib would not work wonders on the rich and fabulous of Sweden, however there are countries and people out there who would gladly quote the Prophet (pbuh) or the caliphs (ra) in many other matters of life, yet, seem to have overlooked this "small" detail and brushed it under the carpet.

Ah well, I guess the rest of us deadly and genetically deficient beings will have to be satisfied with sitting on the third floor at the Opera and having to watch the father, then son and even holy ghost, rule a country.

January 03, 2006

The white man's burden, ever so much the same

More than a year ago the debate about Turkey entering the EU was big in Sweden and all across Europe I should imagine. Elections for Swedish representatives to the European parliament were on the go and each political party had something to say about Turkey entering a predominantly Christian Europe.

The liberal party here invited me to one of their debates in the Swedish parliament and there alongside me was their candidate for the EP, a man with roots in Iran, and another guest debater, a secular Turkish man who called himself an agnostic. On the agenda was "Islam and Europe: Turkey's role in forming the new EU". I confess I reluctantly agreed to participate seeing as in general these sorts of happenings are not only monotonous but also seldom borne out of a true wish to understand Islam or Muslims in Europe.

There had recently been an article in the Swedish papers about the mosque in Stockholm preaching out doubtful messages at one Friday sermon. I had not attended that particular sermon so I could not vouch for it nor attack it. However it's not the first time media takes things out of their context nor the first time a Muslim imam (leader) messed up, so I kept an open mind.

Naturally the first question that came up during the debate was regarding the Friday sermon, and I answered plainly that I had not attended it and had not read the article where the sermon apparently had been written and translated from Arabic by a journalist working at the newspaper. So, like a good, objective, critically thinking, indpendent "western girl", I simply answered that since I had not done the above, I could not be sure as to what exactly was said and in what way it was said nor if the newspaper article had accurately understood what was said (mind you it was a tabloid and not a newspaper).

The first reactions that came from my fellow debaters were "so you mean that the journalist who wrote that was lying?"
I quickly reassured them that this was not what I meant but that I don't make judgements on things I have not myself read and even then it is not easy to make such a judgement without having been there and hearing it for yourself. There is something called language-, cultural- and religious context.

More did not have to be said... the civilized world had spoken and the rest of us should know our place. Mind you, being half white/Swedish myself, it is of course harder for them to exercise their "intellectual veto" on me, however being Muslim compensates for that and I get the full civilized man's blow; censured, misunderstood, guilty till proven innocent.

Before going to the debate, which in all other ways ended well (because thankfully the audience had more sense than my fellow debaters and moderator), a poem by Rudyard Kipling had come to mind which I think defines the world timelessly. The idea of a Eurocentric world, the first world, the world of the "civilized" (read Europe and North America) whose ideas "far surpass" those of any other third world religion or philosophy. Colonialism still exists, perhaps not in a geographical sense but very much in an ideological sense.

"You are either with us or against us". If you happen to have an opinion about matters that go against that of the present dominating super power, it would be deemed, per se, uncivilized, alien and even in some cases terrorist. Forgetting that the civilized world once introduced the idea of democracy, difference of opinion, agreeing to disagree in a peaceful manner.

Iraq, Afghanistan the whole of South America not to mention Africa, have all had to suffer being "saved" by the west who, like the British, French, Portuguese and more, always felt this need to spread their ideology to "primitive peoples" with inborn "evil" in them that needs to be exorcized out of them through bombing them and making sure they realise how so much better the "super size me" culture is. Because you see, the third world just doesn't know what's best for them, just like children in need of a Super Nanny.

From colonialism, the period when the poem was written, to post-colonialism, the world we live in today, one set of values based on who the ruling party is, still are deemed superior to another and people still take on The white man's burden .

An excerpt from the poem:

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.

"The white man's burden"
By: Rudyard Kipling

January 02, 2006

History: A teacher of what kind?

Many times we wish we could freeze time, little moments in our life that meant something more than the rest of the charade that is life. Other times, we wish we could erase time or even change it.

Throughout history and still today, we produce time capsules in the form of books, pictures or even films. Who knows, this blog might still be around in 20 years? (or perhaps not). With such extensive coverage of the world's events and one day never the same as the other, one still finds a red thread in the lives of mankind.

Be it the slaves of Pharaoh, victims of Pol Pot, Hitler, various presidents/prime ministers of so called free democratic countries, one thing is the same no matter where in the world it takes place or what period of time; mankind is still mankind.

What do we then learn from history, and what awaits us? Some would say that history teaches us to better identify the wrong in the world, however this not automatically meaning "improved methods of solving and preventing". We are very keen on establishing and defining events in the world. What is genocide and what isn't, what terrorism is and what isn't, what a democracy is and what isn't. Naturally even here history becomes our reference, the terrible holocaust, the massacres of innocents in Bosnia, the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. Yes, it was all a case of genocide and now we proudly say that we have established that Darfur in Sudan is also a "clean cut" case of genocide because history says so, the books say so and so do all the experts who dedicated their lives to better defining what the problem is, after it's already taken place.

In all fairness though, it is said that the first step to solving a problem is defining it. The next step would be finding out the reasons for it. Perhaps it is there our carriage comes to a halt, our wheels stop spinning. We find it hard to agree on why there is a problem and can therefore never get to the part where one sits down and solves it. For how do you solve a problem that in fact has two faces that are not identical twins?

Nuclear proliferation:

- "A" says it is due to nations wanting to demonstrate power and instil fear in "enemy" nations that subscribe to the "western way of life".

- "B" says it is due to nations feeling scared and insecure with unstable neighbours, some war struck and therefore initiate nuclear programs in order to maintain "stability" in the region they reside.

- "C" says it is because of the major super powers of the world having nuclear programs and thus not setting an example for the Lilliputs of the world who feel it is nothing but hypocrisy denying them nuclear capabilities when the same people criticize them for it have it themselves.

Nobel Peace Prize winner IAEA and Mohamed ElBaradei perhaps did not win on accounts of solving the problems of nuclear proliferation. Perhaps it is so that the sole reason they won and deserved to win is due to their accurate definition of the problem. A definition not shared by the key players and thus hampering the process of nuclear disarmament. I know that there exists many more dimensions to the definition of both history and the world as such today and you can read all about it in the various time capsules of yesterday and today. Still I would like to believe that we have something positive to say in the capsules left for tomorrow, and that we will move closer to some sort of state of peace or respect for human life in this world.

An interesting project going on initiated by Swedish journalist Mats Omne called City Signs caught my attention today. Basically it is meant to be a time capsule of the world in the year 2000 documented in writing, pictures and on film by visiting ten major metropolises, bringing ten canvases and ten different coloured paints asking the same 28 questions to each city's population. The answers are both surprising and disturbing.

A young Russian boy answered the question about what he hopes for the future by saying; "I hope all ni**ers and dark skinned people will disappear. Russia is for Russians only", and on the canvas he drew the Nazi symbol. Another new Yorker in his early 40's answered the question about what he thinks will happen in the future by saying "I don't mean to be pessimistic but it seems we don't really learn much from history, it's just a bunch of mistakes really". Ones repeated it seems...

Question is, should we take the approach of Singapore where they have stopped teaching history in schools saying that it only teaches children resentment and leads to conflict? Or is history perhaps just like all teachers can be, detrimental to some and essential to others?

January 01, 2006

A New Year's Resolution for the world

I am sure some of you have made the usual "loose weight", "quit smoking" resolutions. I confess I break all such resolutions, even though I don't smoke. Anyway, this year, I wish to present to you in the form of a poem, a few suggestions on New Year's Resolutions that I hope atleast some of us would adher to for the rest of the year, and perhaps beyond.

Simple truths

Don't speak words that you cannot compliment with actions.
Don't hide truths that you cannot bring to light with explanations.

Don't do things that you later cannot justify.
Have good intentions and you won't be afraid to testify.

Don't express emotions that your heart denies.
To others and yourself you lie.

Don't make promises you later have to break.
Don't accept more responsibility than you're able to take.

You cannot change what you haven't acknowledged.
Be patient, you never know what might've been if you waited.

Emotional Pollution

This is my letter to a certain President of a certain country...you know who you are. Happy New Year. Try avoiding blowing us all up in the air this year, I am sure there are other ways to entertain yourself, how about go-cart?

Emotional Pollution

Where is the war but in your own hearts?
And who are those targets that you fill with darts?

One man's errors do not represent a nation's,
And spreading hate for revenge is no justification.

A man's dark side is no darker than the darkest in you,
Misplaced hate will only bring out his hate anew.

Set an example for generations to come,
Hate breeds hate, even more in some.

We are only liable for the things that we do,
Just like I'm not liable for the wrong in you.

Explain to the child that has no knowledge of hate,
That because of one man she will meet with her fate.

An eye for an eye, and a life for a life?
Where's the logic in vengeance for strife?

The world has a way of giving back your contribution,
Once and for all stop the emotional pollution.

A collection of My Poetry

  • Cruella and The Knight in Broken Armor

  • As time goes "bye"

  • Hall of Philosophers

  • October 8th, October Quake

  • When all is forgot

  • On hills where nothing grows

  • September El(now we can get)Even

  • Home

  • Wither Not

  • A silent world

  • The Bonfire

  • Le concept de "Tu"

  • Bosnia

  • Franglaise

  • Untitled

  • Hope

  • 15

  • If lights go out

  • Truth, I recognize you not

  • Muse of Self

  • Orphan?

  • War Child

  • As the summer dawned