October 19, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Returns...

..and so does mayhem. More than 100 human beings with families, jobs and lives, killed in Karachi. The spread of extremism is just increasing day by day, the longer the war on terror goes on and the longer one ignores the socio-economic reasons for the spread of extremism, the bloodier Pakistan will get.

I avoid writing about politics in general because I am no politician, no conoisseur of the political life and thought. I have a general naivity or dismay for politicians...not the desired ingredients of a commentator on politics.

Having said that, I don't have to be a plumber to know a clogged drain.

I always liked Bhutto. The few years I spent in Pakistan as a young girl while she ruled as PM, I saw her as a positive figure, a Muslim woman (the first Muslim female leader in the Muslim world) amongst men, charismatic and elegant.

But the truth of the matter was, Pakistan under her and subsequently Nawaz Sharif was a big disaster with corruption allegations left right and centre. In NWFP where I lived time stopped. And the rich got richer, and corruption flourished. Looking back on it now I am reminded that she, as a woman, never did a single thing to change the faulty Hudood ordinance for rape victims (the one where supposedly a woman has to produce four witnesses to prove a rape case). She had two terms as PM to do something about it and never did.

In an interview she says:

“I am a female political leader fighting to bring modernity, communication, education and technology to Pakistan.”

Musharraf however, being the dictator he is, did something about it and the law was modified earlier this year (with the help of Dr. Hassan Hanafi of Cairo University whom I met with earlier this year). Whether he did it to score browny points or not, I will never know.

Democracy, yes. It is important, it is vital and it should be the goal. I hope to see it in place in Pakistan again. But Pakistan has had it for decades and each leader that came hid behind it and sucked Pakistan even more dry than before, and as Bhutto steps out of her plane with a decade old corruption charges against her, waving her heavily bejeweled hands, sparkling with gold (after her 8 years in Dubai), a feeling of worry hits me.

Have the cleaners come back to Pakistan?

October 18, 2007

A cracked olive branch

I had dinner with a friend of mine the other day. She had been to see her relatives in Betlehem over the summer and served a bowl of green olives from her Grandmother's 30 year old plantation. As she served me some she told me that this is the same plantation that doesn't exist anymore after it was bombed by the Israeli Military last summer.

We ate those olives like they were the last olives on earth. "I'm really sorry," was all I could bring myself to say. I didn't know what else to say to her, and she herself said nothing more on the matter.

She doesn't hate Jews or Israelis, and we often talk about the situation "down there" and more than often is she critical of "her own" people, in particular the new trend of being a "hamsawiyyeh" (follower of hamas) or not being one.

But I cannot help but react to the stories I hear from her and many other friends who visit or try to visit their family in Palestine. The harassment at the airport in Tel Aviv, not even being sure if they will be let in or not. The resentment that is created cannot be good for the future of the land?

I want to understand.

October 17, 2007

11 000 year old paint

Those of you who have followed my blog from the start know how much I love Syria and its people, food, culture and language. So I am happy to present to you what is believed to be the oldest wall painting in the world, 11 000 years to be exact, found in Jaadet Al-Maghara. Like the article in NG suggests, it does look like modern art!

"Researchers uncovered the prehistoric artwork while excavating the dwelling near the Euphrates River some 280 miles (480 kilometers) north of Damascus (see map)."
-National Geographic Online Continuation of story...

*Photograph by Directorate of Museums and Archeology/HO/AP

October 16, 2007

Main Vari Vari

In 2005, Bollywood produced a historical film by the name of Mangal Pandey : The Rising. It refers to what the British historians (many of them til this day) called The Mutiny in 1857, but which in reality was a revolt against the opressive rule of the British Raj.

The music which can be credited to A.R. Rahman (whose website in itself is a treat!), is truly a delight to listen to and one song and video in particular stands out; Main Vari Vari (click to listen to it).

But it is best heard together with the amazing classical indian dance video with english subtitles.

A fellow blogger has uploaded the whole movie to his/her blog and can be watched here.

How many villas can a person have?

Founder of SOS Children's Villages, Hermann Gmeiner
together with children in Poá, Brazil
Photo: Alexander Gabriel

Henning Mankell, one of Sweden's most popular authors, whose books have been translated into many languages, decided that it was time to do something about the 800 000 orphaned children in Mocambique, so from his own quite large pocket he extracted 15 million Swedish crowns, which is roughly 1,5 million Euros. Together with one of my favorite organisations SOS Children's Villages, he is building a village for 150 orphaned children in a country he has spent almost 25 years living in off and on.

According to Svenska Dagbladet Mankell was surprised that more people with larger fortunes didn't do the same.

"How many villas can a person have?" he replied.

You can follow Charles Kiyimba, official SOS Children's Village Blogger as he with words and pictures unfolds the reality and everyday going ons at the Children's Village Gulu in Uganda.

October 15, 2007

Don't be such a turtle!

In Tanzania or Tanganyika as it is called in Swahili, a large population of Muslims live. Being almost half of the country's population, Ramadan of course does not go unnoticed.

Not every Muslim Tanzanian fasts, and for those that pretend to be fasting while secretly eating anyway, the Swahili speaking Tanzanians have given the name of Kasa which means Turtle. Perhaps because the turtle is both on land an in water and has a shell to hide under?

Human before Muslim

There used to be a blogger by the name Human before Jewish on blogger many moons ago. She lived in New York and on her blog Jews of different opinions met, along with me, and it was a learning experience for me to be able to listen in on how some Jews feel about being Jewish or being Americans or Israelis. The fears, the moments of joy and celebration, the suspicion, the voices of calm and resoning all collected in one spot.

I suppose it is not different for a non-Muslim joining a gathering of Muslims. One may find similar ingredients in the conversations and thoughts of the people in that particular gathering. We are all different, yet the same. But we should all be Human, and view everyone else as human, before anything else we or they may be.

This particular blogger stopped blogging unfortunately but her spirit is still with me and the more one sees of the world today the more important it feels to have to say; I am human before Muslim.

*Photo taken at the exhibition "I am an immigrant, I am a Muslim" in Stockholm.