December 25, 2006

Al-Baal One Year

On exactly this day, one year ago I started Al-Baal, now known as Al-Baal Café. The idea was to create an atmosphere like that of Al-Baal Café in Damascus which I used to frequent many moons ago. It was a café where people would meet and discuss life, music, art, religion. Share both happy and sad moments with friends, while music played in the background.

I'll be going away for quite some time and will see you all hopefully sometime next year God willing. I might have some particularly interesting pictures and articles to post so do look out for that.

Thank you to all my readers and dear fellow bloggers for making it a pleasure to blog.

Eid ul-adha will take place most likely in the end of december so I wish everyone a Blessed and Happy Eid, and to those Muslims who have partaken in the Hajj, may God accept your efforts and prayers and I hope you all prayed for a better world for Anandeep, Carlos, Sergej, Nkosi, Zahra, Maria and all the other children that have not been named.

How about we make a collective new years resolution? Avoid jumping to conclusions. Which will lead to avoiding judging people wrongly. Which will avoid injustice. And ultimately lead to a better world. Simple, huh? *laughs*

Take care everyone.

December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays

Al-Baal wishing all its readers who are celebrating the Holidays,
a peaceful and happy Christmas together with near and dear.

A swedish tradition during the holidays is to insert small cloves into an orange.
Not only does it look decorative, it sends out a sweet and musty aroma
throughout your apartment.

December 22, 2006

"If Dubai can do it , why can't we?"

Little Dubai has more tourist visitors than the whole of India!

National Geographic writes about the tax-free emirate and how it went from a fishing village to a world class business investment zone.

In their Did you know? section you can read about the making of the Dubai Palm Islands.

As time goes "bye"

When things around you have always been black,

Recognizing white takes time.


When your heart is a minefield,

No one can approach you without getting hurt.


When you don’t know which way you want to go,

No compass will lead you.

December 19, 2006

"Circumsize me!"

According to a statement by UNAIDS, WHO, UNFPA and UNICEF, male circumcision can decrease the risk of being infected with HIV.

Campaigns taking into account religious and cultural sensitivites will be launched around the world as a consequence. Men will be standing in line ready to go under the knife. The question is; will news like this help decrease the spread of AIDS or will men assume that they are now next to immune and indulge even more than before?

Although the report presented by the previous mentioned organizations has taken into account the risks of spreading such information and thus has emphasized the need to stress that circumcision by no means is a protection from HIV/AIDS but merely a complementary source of protection, one still cannot help but worry about the effects of word of mouth.

I can imagine a conversation between two Muslim men in a poorer area of Casablanca:

-I heard that men who are circumsized don't get AIDS.
-Come on Amin, who said that?
-What? Are you saying I'm lying? A nurse told Boubakir and he told me.
-Wallahi? You see! The wisdom of Islam. God has protected us from AIDS*...

Update: Interactive AIDS map.
*Since circumsicion is obligatory for all boys in Islam. Converted adult Muslims do not have to do it.

December 18, 2006

Saudi PhD in Sweden

Dr. Mazen Matabakani recently toured cities in Sweden lecturing at state libraries and other institutions on Muslim peace culture. He teaches at both King Faisal Centre for Islamic Studies and King Bin Saud University, both in Saudi Arabia.

He specialized in Orientalism or al- istishraakiyyah as it is called in Arabic, and had the following facts presented at one of his lectures in Stockholm;

-In 1873 the first World Congress of Orientalists was held in Paris. Every 3 to 5 years a new one has been held in different parts of the world.

-Kyoto University in Japan has recently composed a volume on Islamic Political Thought from past to present.

-A Danish Institute has been set up in Damascus following the controversy of the demeaning Muhammad Caricatures printed by Jyllands Posten in the fall of 2005.

After his lecture was over, I couldn't help myself but ask him about issues that had nothing to do with orientalism but more to do with the enigma that is Saudi Arabia.

I mentioned the AIDS situation outside Aqaba (read previous post) and how unfaithful Saudi men are at risk of being infected by HIV and unknowingly carrying it on to their wives. His comment to that was, "We deserve it."

December 15, 2006

"I am an immigrant, I am a Muslim"

Earlier this month, two Bosnian artists Lejla Porovic and Alija Isanovic held an exhibition called "I am an immigrant, I am a Muslim" in Kista Shopping Mall, Stockholm. It was sponsored by the one and only anti-discrimination bureau in Sweden that has been established by Swedish Muslims.

Old man looking into a broken mirror in the video

In the middle of the shopping mall, you noticed a tv had been set up playing a film in black and white of different immigrant Muslims walking up to a broken mirror watching their distorted faces. Under the tv a thin film had been glued to the ground covered in black and white photographs of the very same immigrant Muslims.

To the right: Lejla and Alija discussing their work

I asked Lejla what the pictures on the ground signify;

-The feeling of being a newly arrived immigrant in a country is a bit like starting at the bottom, being stepped on, not noticed. And the video complements that feeling by showing how one looks in the mirror and not quite recognizing oneself anymore. The photos in black and white represent a feeling of nostalgia for our past. There are even coffee stains on them to give them that used feel.

First Pic: A visitor avoiding stepping on Alijah Isanovic
Second Pic: A visitor walking all over the whole foto display

The most interesting part was watching how the Mall visitor's reacted to the pictures on the ground. I found there were three types of people; the one that as he/she noticed the pictures, made every effort not to walk on the faces. The second type that would walk around the pictures. The third type that wasn't bothered at all and walked right over everyone.

December 13, 2006

Swedish-Iraqi Lucia

Every year on December 13th, Swedes celebrate St. Lucia Day, marking the beginning of the christmas season. A girl is chosen to play the role of St. Lucia, donning a long white dress with a crown of lit candles on her head.

I attended the Lucia Concert today in Blåhallen, a beautiful old hall, that was arranged by The Culture School (Kulturskolan). I spotted a young girl wearing the headscarf participating in this semi-Christian/Swedish event. Something unthinkable when I grew up in Sweden many moons ago.

A great effort had been made to make it a multicultural Lucia for everyone by choosing a Swedish-Iraqi girl as Lucia that later danced to an oriental tune played in typical Swedish folk-music style with flute.

Classical music and other Swedish folk-tunes were sung by children along with latin chamber music and at the end of the event the most enjoyable part was listening to the older Swedish people saying; "well I think it is nice how they mixed all those cultures".

December 12, 2006

Turkish Bath in Stockholm

Near Stockholm's main mosque, a turkish bath or hamam as it is generally known as, is very likely going to be built and ready for use around 2008. The bath has been purposely chosen to be built near the mosque because hamams in Turkey and many other Muslim countries are generally always built next to the mosque.

They are now looking at having 1 or 2 days a week reserved only for women. Swedish culture however promotes a very lax attitute towards having men and women together in baths due to the Scandinavian sauna culture.

New Blog: Global Themes

Global Themes is finally launching its Photo Blog!

Contributors from all over the world, Dubai, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Boston, Abu Dhabi and more, will post pictures on a weekly theme. This week's theme is Water.

This is a chance to see the world and different issues from diverse perspectives while global music plays in the background like "The Gypsy Girl" by Nikos Kypourgos.

Join us over at Global Themes!

December 11, 2006

Ridiculous Rumours

In Sweden we have had many cases of girls and now even boys being killed by family members because of alleged love affairs (physical or emotional). Primarily Islam is being attacked for this primitive, barbarian behaviour.

So what's it all about?

To think that this is a male invented phenomena would be to laugh in the eyes of all victims off honor killings. The fact of the matter is, men and women are both in on it, maintaining and executing.

In Jordan, honor killings are given a milder sentence. Thanks for such a legal view can be given to France, where the idea stems from. Crime de passion (crime of passion) as it was once labelled. In France it was used in a context where often a man had killed his wife out of jealousy. Because of the "upsetting" circumstance, he was not to be held as harshly accountable for killing her.

In Jordan this year 15 people (mostly girls and women) have been murdered by family members. Often a brother, father or uncle. Only recently a 21 year old girl and her would be fiancé according to Jordan Times.

Her own mother had heard from their neighbor that the young couple were having a sexual relationship. She then told her husband, the girls father, who later called the boy's family over pretending to want to finalize an engagement. He asked to speak privately with the boy and his daughter and fired 14 shots at both daughter and boy killing them.

He "defended the family honor." Medical reports later showed the girl was a virgin.

It is irrelevant whether she was a virgin or not. Whether she had sex with the boy or not. How do you kill your own daughter? There can be nothing but a sick society and culture that would encourage such behaviour.

Playing devil's advocate, had he not killed his own daughter, he would be put under great pressure by his surroundings, both men and women. And as the Pakistani saying goes, he would have "lost his shalwar" (meaning lost his pants, become shamed).

This sense of honor exists in many cultures, and although nothing in Islam has ever and will ever support such behaviour, Muslim men and women continue to make a case against themselves for being the most primitive bunch of lunatics on the planet. A legacy every Muslim (particularly in the west) is forced to bare whether they agree with it or not.

December 06, 2006

World Lullabies

In the sub-continent and many parts of the Muslim world, children fall asleep to the tunes of la ilaha ill'Allah* sung often by their mothers.

Every country has its own traditions of lullabies. One thing they all have in common is a soothing effect on recipients of even an older kind. Playing on Al-Baal Café is the song Cancion para dormir by Beatriz Pichi Malen from Argentina.

It can be found among many wonderful world lullabies on the Putumayo Record, Dreamland.

*Arabic for There is no god but Allah. The Islamic testimony of faith.

Russian Spy died a Muslim

"Litvinenko's father, Walter, said in an interview published today that his son - who was born an Orthodox Christian but had close links to Islamist rebels in Chechnya - had requested to be buried according to Muslim tradition after converting to Islam on his deathbed.

"He said ’I want to be buried according to Muslim tradition’," Mr Litvinenko told Moscow's Kommersant daily."

-Article in Times Online.

December 05, 2006


A testimony to a people, language or culture's influence in another language or culture, can be found in the world of linguistics.

We all know that the Muslim and Arab contribution to science, philosophy, medecine and more, has been majorly ignored by all of our western school curriculums. The dark ages in western history were the ages of light somewhere else.

The Renaissance was aided by the fact that Muslim scholars translated and reinterpreted the old works of Aristoteles, Socrates and others into Arabic, which became the language of intellect in many parts of Europe (Spain), Africa (Mali to Morocco) and Asia (Iraq). These texts were later translated into other european languages thus paved way for The Renaissance, or re-birth of the ancient philosophies.

Back to linguistics. The english word Carmine, meaning crimson red, has an interesting etymology. It dates back to Medieval Latin (1712), and is a mix of the Latin word minium and the Arabic word qirmiz.

It does somehow speak volumes about the influence of the Arabic language and Muslim contribution to our western heritage and highlights that there in fact can be no "western" void of the mention of Islam. The two are united.

1001 Inventions Exhibition in Cardiff, Wales

December 02, 2006

The Red Ribbon

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10... someone just died of AIDS.

December 1st was the International World AIDS Day. The Red Ribbon featured everywhere as tv channels and regular people donned it in support of the today 39.5 million people living with HIV.

Most of those affected by AIDS are women who got infected by unfaithful husbands or partners.

9 million children in Africa lost their mother to AIDS. What if you were born an African?