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Archive for March, 2010

Another “Stairway to Heaven”

 A few days ago I received an e-mail about two sculptures at an exhibition that angered Jews and Israelis and is now angering Muslims, who found out about it through email circulation. A quick search online reveled that this incident was reported in the news on 18 Feb 2010.

To summarize the news report: During an exhibition in Madrid Spanish artist Eugenio Merino revealed a sculpture of a Rabbi standing on a priest kneeling on a Muslim worshipper, who was also in the kneeling position “sojood”. Merino denied that his sculpture “Stairway to Heaven” was to provoke. “The aim was to display the wonder in the co-existence of the three religions, each making a common effort to reach God.”

A statement was issued by the Israeli Embassy in Madrid “In the body of this Spanish artist’s work there are elements offensive to Jews, Israelis and undoubtedly others as well… An offensive message doesn’t stop being offensive simply because it aims to be a work of art.” The embassy, however, did not seek to remove of the works because Israel is not a state that suppresses art.

The work was sold to a European art collector for 50,000 Euros.

To read more about the story:

 http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3850893,00.html

 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1150830.html

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“Stairway to Heaven” can be viewed from different angles. Perhaps the artist really meant to express unity in religion. All three religions complete each other and only through tolerance and “brotherhood” can we achieve peace. Yet, not everyone shares Merino’s view about his creation.

Machine Gun with a Menorah:

 Perhaps tolerance would have been the message if politics hadn’t made its way to the second piece, adjacent to the first sculpture. The second piece is of a machine gun with a Menorah shooting out of its barrel. Unfortunately, I have minimum knowledge of Judaism to think of different interoperations of the sculpture… But I would understand the piece to mean that Judaism is a bullet that harms people? Or that breeds hate…. Could the gun shooting upward resemble it was aimed towards God or the Heavens? Is it symbolic for its aim to destroy the world?

 This does not suggest a message of peace and tolerance!!

 Putting the Machine Gun and Menorah aside, there isn’t much for Muslims to be offended at. Sadly, many Muslims were very much insulted and viewed the piece of art with a victim’s mentality and a belief in a conspiracy theory.

 Every religion could find something to feel offended at. A good presentation of the different views could be read in: http://laurachiesa.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/stairway-to-heaven/

 One might suggest that feminists group should also feel offended because they are represented by men.

Could lack of critical thinking and to some extent art appreciation be the main reason why some Muslims couldn’t keep an open mind about Stairway to Heaven?

Some asked: why couldn’t the Muslim be on top? All they saw was that the Muslim was on the ground and was being stepped and stomped by a Christian and a Jew.

Many Muslims, especially Arab Muslims, are not raised with the concept of Art appreciation, especially not sculpture and figures because their Islamic views have deemed such as discouraged if not permissible. In Addition, while Arabs, in general, pride themselves with how well they can recite Arabic poetry or songs this pride has not yet jumped into artwork, (paintings, sculptures… etc). it is still strange to their culture. Therefore, they see no value in any human figure sculpture.

 Lack of critical thinking has made it almost impossible for them to consider that all the three figures took the position they would normally be in when praying. Artistically and logically, a kneeling Muslim, or a Christian as a matter of fact, cannot stand on the shoulder of a person without interrupting the praying posture.

Then the second question comes: why not just put them side by side instead?

Of course, a simple answer as “because then there would be nothing special about it” or that it wouldn’t convey the artist’s message are not sufficient.

So how do you answer such question in a few seconds? How do you explain that people have different views on God, religion and life in general How can you show a person that life is not all black and white especially when the e-mail, perhaps subconsciously, carried an altered statement, of the Israeli Embassy. “…and undoubtedly others as well” was removed and instead there was emphasis on the gun and the Menorah as being the reason for Israelis and Jews to be offended.

 All hell’s doors would have broken loose had the Islamic world known about it sooner…

 There are many way to interoperate the sculpture and these interoperations are influenced by our surroundings. Sadly, most of those who got offended, regardless of their religious point of view, got offended because of their culture that refuses to see things in the shades of gray and where tolerance is confused with mandatory acceptance.

And finally, in the words of the infamous Stairway to Heaven: “Ooh, it really makes me wonder”

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Taking Reading for Granted

Here is something about me: I LOVE reading and collecting books. Yes, there is difference between the two.  Some books you buy belong on the shelf and never to be opened, or perhaps used as a night stand. Other books grab your interest; you read them and might recommend them. A third category is a mix of the first two. Books lose your interest after a few pages and then go on the shelf. Finally, some books might make it straight to the bin!

“Sigh” There is nothing like walking around a bookstore or library and looking at titles and book covers. But that’s just me.

I have a self-pity friend. Probably you have one, two or a dozen of them. You would like to help them help themselves but they never listen and always leave you drained. (The two topics are related. I promise). My friend, a divorcee, has never worked a single day of her life.  She constantly complains of boredom and emptiness. So, on numerous times I suggested reading for her.  She indicated that she liked the idea but never did anything about it.

She called me up one evening and after 10 minutes of giving me all the latest gossip on people I don’t know or care about she told me she was at the bookstore. Out of the hundred of choices, she picked up the book on scandals and Facebook. I felt aggravated that she was wasting valid time in the bookstore on a meaningless conversation with me.  But on the bright side, at least she got to look a book.

A few days later, it occurred to me that I had taken the ability to enjoy hunting and reading book for granted.  Growing up, I remember our long family trips to the bookstore. During my early teens my father tried to tempt me to read grown-up books by inviting me to borrow a book from his “grown-up” library. At that time I found his books to be BORING and his attempt humiliating but today I am thankful for it My mother never refused to spend money on a book I had chosen, even when it was son Elvis being back from the dead.

Today, I can find my way in almost any bookstore or library and when it comes to history and literature I know a thing or two. I can even pick a readable book or two within minutes.  

My friend, however, did not have that kind of experience. Her father is an avid reader but he never shared his books. As usual, child rearing was left to the mother, who didn’t care much for reading and so she never encouraged her children to read. Other than school requirements and the Holy Quran, my friend does not recall buying or reading a book in her life. Today, she is raising a child who will grow up not caring much for reading either…

Now, I tend to think that my friend’s phone call might have come from a moment of desperation. She had made an attempt and found herself a stranger in a foreign land. She simply did not know how to walk around in a bookstore and I simply took for granted the privilege of growing up in the bookstore.

What’s Wrong with Marrying a non-Saudi Man?

   In theory? Nothing! Especially if he posses the qualities of a good “human being”, though it’s a subjective concept, the couple is compatible and gets along fine with each other. But, we don’t live in the perfect world or in a land where theories are always applied.  

Unfortunately, we live in a far-from-perfect world. The right to marry a non-Saudi male becomes a difficult task filled with major consequences. But thankfully, there has been a lot of media exposure about the lack of choice in marriage. Maybe in the near future things will chance.    

Growing up, I remember hearing about a Saudi female who married a US citizen. She was the talk of female gatherings. I wonder if they ever had the decency to say something in her face. The most comment I heard over and over again was “oh the poor thing! No Saudi wanted her so she married a foreigner”.  The husband was African-American, which translated into: She couldn’t even find a white American to marry! Equality of Muslims, whether black or purple, was thrown out of the window. (But this is another topic)

This was the only time that I came across social implications of Saudi women marrying non-Saudis. A few years back a Saudi man, mid to late twenties, told me he was thinking of gathering  his friends to beat up a non-Saudi for daring to date a Saudi girl. Apparently, this is a huge blow to his self-esteem, as a privileged male Saudi. To my knowledge the non-Saudi was not beaten up but this gangster’s attitude is not born out of nothing.

Marriage comes with a responsibility, especially towards children. Whatever the parents’ choices are will, sooner or later, reflect on the children. This is even more so when the parent is from another country or culture, and more specifically when the father is the one who is non-Saudi.  

The law is clear on the aspect of citizenship, which is based on a paternal Jus sanguinis principle, Latin for “right of blood” and contrasts with jus soli (Latin for “right of soil”). People are born Saudi because their fathers are Saudi; a Saudi man needs permission to marry a non-Saudi female; she is eligible for citizenship after four years of marriage or when if she gives birth; and a Saudi woman needs permission to marry a non-Saudi. Her foreign husband will always carry a permit status, not automatically up for renewal, and her children will not inherent her citizenship or any of her assets (though I heard this has changed). By law, the children would be treated like Saudis in to education and priority in employment. But in our not-so-perfect world laws aren’t always fully applied.

This is what makes marrying a non-Saudi non-favorable. Laws don’t change easily. So until then, A Saudi woman should think twice before getting married in general and ten times before marrying a non-Saudi.  This is especially for the Saudi girls who think life is just as in the movies “Love Conquers All” and life in the west is about having a good job and drinking coffee with your BFF at the local coffee shop or during lunch after shopping for designer clothes.

I think it is wonderful that such news is making headlines, but on the other hand, Saudi men are somewhat forgotten in this quest for rights to marry. It is true that they still have it better than their female citizens but at the end of the day we live in a society where a family is judged by the individual’s actions. In many tribal families, for a man to take a non-Saudi wife is such a big ordeal that his sisters might not get marriage proposals as a result of his “holy union”. Again the female is the victim.  For a man to take a non-Saudi wife is an indicator that he was rejected by Saudi families for health or moral reasons and so the family becomes unsuitable to have marital ties with….

Marriage is a complex issue in Saudi Arabia.

When We Lose Ourselves

How does it happen and when? Could we actually know that we have lost something without knowing we possessed it in the first place? If we listen closely to our instincts could it lead us to what we have lost? Should we even bother looking it or just start over again?

As children we have dreams and visions of how our lives will be when we grow up…many of us can’t wait to grow up… but then we do and the magic of being a grown up disappears…

Does it happen that on a day one wakes to notice: I don’t know the person i am looking at in the mirror. Then we spend a life time trying to remember who we were before we became the person in the mirror we don’t recognize.

Is that part of the glory of  being a grown up?

Perhaps we lose ourselves gradually, as a result of cumulative experiences. Then, life turns us into busy creators who don’t have time to journey into the soul and reflex more often . That is until we stumble against the new  and unrecognized us, who is  yet again able to take us through unfamiliar territory . Exhausted,  some  get to that point where we do look around and wonder : where have I gone? Who is this person I am looking at in the  mirror?

Before Defending the Prophet of Islam

Again today I received an e-mail with a link to visit a website on the life and teachings of Prophet Mohamed… and again I checked it out, though I already knew of its contents, and again I found myself getting upset and then deterred away from the website.

Following the Danish controversy, many Muslim groups came to the conclusion that they need to fix their “image”. While the effort is needed I wonder if it is in its place… Those who invested in the webpage still see matter from their point of view and this is where their arguments stem from.  This also makes for very weak arguments.  Who are the audience of the website  

In theory Islam is a wonderful religion, but Muslims fail miserably when it comes to application and practice…

The website does not teach Muslims, who are in desperate need of, tolerance or acceptance of others who are different. They continuously compare Islam to Judaism and Christianity. This, they believe, will strengthen Islam’s position as the one and only true religion, while in reality it just preaches superiority and intolerance.  For example, in the website, Jews of Al-Madina are still seen as infiltrators who “had it coming”. One rule of managing/ mediating conflict is never to dig into history because it will only make matter worse. This apparently is the case with the Jews of Al-Madina. Both Muslims and Jews refer to a 1400 year old incident in order to defame the other.  So, why not put history to the side for change, or at least see matters from different perspectives!

On another page, which deals with, or rather glorifies, polygamy, “He used to spend one day and one night with each wife except when Lady Sauda Bint Zam’a reached old age and no longer had sexual desire.”  Those with some sense would instantly question at what age does a woman lose her sexual desire? Science will defiantly not support such claim. Unfortunately such narration does not defend the Prophet, nor gives a clear image of Islam. Instead, it portrays Islam as a sexist and misogynist religion and the Prophet as a man driven by his urges.

It is also peculiar that many Muslims, who work under the motto “defending the Prophet”, make a distinction between Mohamed, as a person or a prophet, and how Islam is understood, interpreted and applied today. The two, however, represent the same thing.  Prophet Mohamed and his teachings represent Islam. He is a role model for Muslims. Subsequently, when Islam is misunderstood, so is its Prophet, and vice versa.

What many Muslims refuse to understand is that the Danish caricatures, and its likes, do not target Mohamed, the Prophet, specifically, as much as it targets a religion seen as hateful and intolerant. Non-Muslims have a negative perception of Islam because of how it is interpreted and represented. To them, the Prophet is a symbol of everything that is wrong with Islam… To me, the Prophet is a symbol of a religion misinterpreted by it followers and non-followers alike.   

A remaining question would be, whose fault is it that Islam and the Prophet are misunderstood? But perhaps that question is not as important as what Muslims are willing to do about it?

Women Free Paradise

This is why blogs are a good idea…. They help release words before they explode…. If this would have been an article submitted to a newspaper, as if they would print it anyway, I would have taken the “emotion free “ road and discussed reason, if such thing exists …. (And of course  i would have done more proof reading)

A day after the world celebrates 100 years of Women’s Day,  Alarabiya  news wrote that Dar Al ifta in Egypt prepared a study on reasons why Islam grants men, and not women, the right to divorce their spouses.  According to the study, men, unlike women, can control their emotions and have far more life experience than women!!!! (Yes, this is why we have far more men abusing their wives) Of course, no study on Islamic fiqh will be complete unless a misogynist Hadeeth is present, so today’s hadeeth condemns women who seek divorce without a solid reason (isn’t this contradicting to the Hadeeth that allows women to seek divorce even if her only reason is that she can’t stand her husband ??? Besides, isn’t  the term “solid reason” a very subjective  matter?). In the same line, the article wrote  that the Prophet has “warned” Muslim men from manipulating and abusing divorce… Great, women are banned from entering Paradise and men get away with a warning (and that should be fair how EXACTLY) at the rate Muslim scholars are going….  Paradise will be a women free zone

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2010/03/09/102586.html

Day and night we hear how Muslim men have hijacked Islam, but what about Muslim women? It seems they just sit around and let their God-given rights pass them by…

It is articles/ studies like these that make me doubt, even if little, Islam’s greatness… My reason, logic and knowledge on Islamic history don’t always find way to defend my Islam…. 

It’s been said that we live in  man’s world and sometimes it seems that there is no escape from it…

On a brighter note, in Saudi Arabia, a lady was granted a divorce from her husband of 20 years because he took a second wife. According to the marriage contract the wife had added a clause that the marriage is annulled if her hubby took a second wife… and it happened….  And the court recognized it …. Victory?!

Hello world!

Hello world…  Happy woman’s day….

My first post on my new blog… that’s right… I started a new blog.. I wonder how many posts I will write before I completely forget about  the blog  AGAIN .. (YES I did it before .)

so why start a blog anyway?

1) Because I am dead bored and my friend Robyn says “you are bored because you are boring” so.. to prove her wrong.. I am finding something to un-bore me….

2) I am stuck to  a desk for about 10 hours a day (aha yeah I have that kinda job) and  working on a  blog makes me look busy….

3) I am full of myself and believe I have valid thing to say/ write share … thus the name “Riemism” , which is derived from my name Riem Duh…. (in case you’re wondering about the spelling of my name  .. this is because special people have a special way of spelling  their names”  :p

I guess I can go back to work now …..

Later….