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Archive for April, 2010

Thou shalt not Fear God

When I was a youngster, around 4 years old, I asked my father how God looked like. I don’t remember the exact answer he gave but I recall that he calmly said that no one knows how God looks like and therefore i  shouldnt bother with such a question. I felt puzzled. I wanted an adult to reaffirm that the image in my head was indeed of God’s. I wanted to know if all shared the same picture of God. Today, I would suggest that perhaps I wanted to know if my God was  everyone else’s, especially that we lived in a multi-religous society

Without giving much detail, my God was genderless with the softest and kindest face one could imagine. I took my father’s advice and carried this unspoken-of image with me throughout the years.

During that time, I found about the man in the moon. My mom explained the myth of a man who gathered sticks on a day he wasn’t supposed to and therefore was banished to the moon.  I found it hard to believe because the face was almost always smiling at me. Wasn’t he angry at what was done to him?  The man in the moon became an image or a symbol of a gendered God.  Today, the face in the moon has become genderless.

In the introduction of the book The Fall of the Imam, Nawal El Saadawi’s had an interesting observation. People imagine God according to how religion is  represented to them. She recalls of a  girl who believed God resembled her uncle’s angry and mean face.  Her uncle used to threaten her with God’s curses and eternal damnation if she wasn’t a “good girl”. Young Nawal couldn’t understand this  because her God was loving and peaceful, just like her father.

Putting images to the side, it may  be observed that people’s feeling towards God is linked to how religion is passed on to them. It is also shaped through their relationship with the authority figure they grew up with and whom they learned the basic principles of God/ religion  from. Many people are terrified of God because punishment is what is emphasized on. They tend to avoid acts which may anger God out of fear of retribution. Their good deeds are of selfish reasons, to satisfy God and gain a spot in Heaven.  They may also fear the authority figure they grow up with, i.e. one or both parents. While this may work for some, others escape religion because they cannot deal with an angry God and the feeling of helplessness of not being able to please an angry and demanding God. “Damned if I do… damned if I don’t” is their motto. Fear, anger and punishment carry negative emotions which in turn would affect a person’s views on life.

Other people grow up with a religion or belief that emphasizes on God’s nurture and loving side. Their good deeds might be motivated by wanting to please God and in the spirit of love and kindness, both as godly and positive  attributes, towards others. Even if fear is attached, it almost never over weights love. This might also indicate that their relationship with their parent(s) is built on respect and adoration rather than fear and punishment. Their motto is “I do this because I want to … not because I must”.

Of course this is not built on scientific proof but a mere observation which might be wrong….

Your thoughts???

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To Boobquake or not to Boobqauke. That’s the Question

Mid April, Iranian Cleric Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi blamed earthquakes on women.

“Calamities are the result of people’s deeds . . . Many women who dress inappropriately … cause youths to go astray, taint their chastity and incite extramarital sex in society, which increases earthquakes.”

There is nothing new in his statement. Not so fast in blaming Islam. It seems that almost every religion in this world has/ is blaming women  for the world’s disasters. But  one US college student decided to challenge Sedighi’s claim. Jen McCreight identifies herself as “a liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted atheist feminist trapped in Indiana.”

Through her blog http://www.blaghag.com she announced the birth of “Boobquake”.

On Monday, April 26, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. … I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that’s your preferred form of immodesty.

 “I’m asking women to wear their most “immodest” outfit that they already would wear, but to coordinate it all on the same day for the sake of the experiment. Heck, just showing an ankle would be considered immodest by some people. I don’t want to force people out of their comfort zones, because I believe women have the right to choose how they want to dress. Please don’t pressure women to participate if they don’t want to. If men ogle, that’s the fault of the men, not me for dressing how I like. If I want to a show a little cleavage or joke about my boobs, that’s my prerogative.”

Would you join her?

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Boobquake and the Cutefication of Feminism

Beth Mann does not share the enthusiasm of the 14,000 who confirmed their participation through Facebook event.

On her blog she writes that this is not like the bra burning movement because it

“…there was a statement there, full of boldness and righteous anger…..Women have been objectified to such an extreme point that even our so-called feminist undertakings include more objectification…”

http://open.salon.com/blog/beth_mann/2010/04/22/boobquake_and_the_cutefication_of_feminism

She point out that not only does this objectify women, but also adds insecurities  to the already poor body image effected women.   Maybe she is right?

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What will happen on Monday 26 April?

Will the world fall apart? Will a divine message be sent from above to confirm that women are indeed the cause of all evil in this world? Or will the message come from the ground? Maybe nothing will happen  except for a few laughs? Are the likes of Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi praying to God to punish those involved?

Boobquake could be deemed an interesting experiment, although I wonder how many girls will take this event for granted and turn it into  girl’s gone wild. Perhaps Beth Mann is right about the  difference between burning the bra and Boobquake…

Some boys must be very excited and nervous over Boobquake.   I wonder many new videos will be uploaded on YouTube on that day?

 PS: Living in a conservative country, I challenge these clergies and their man-made statements everyday. Not by walking naked or showing my boobies but  by choosing not to submit  to their man-made “God fearing, good Muslim female attire ” while still dressing according to society’s norms.

Was Aisha a Child Bride?

One of today’s most fascinating controversies among Muslims and non-Muslims is the debate over Aisha’s ages when she married the Prophet and subsequently if that made him a pedophiliac or not.  

Putting the age debate to the side for a moment, If Prophet Mohamed were in fact a pedophile why would he settle for only one child?  Unless perhaps Aisha was not 9 years old has history has led us to believe.

All Islamic sources and historians claim/ agree on the following Islamic timeline:

570: Prophet Mohamed’s Birth.

610: Year of the divine revelation

615: Migration to Ethiopia

622 (01 H): Muslims migrated from Makah to Madina  

632 (10 H): Death of Prophet Mohamed at the age of 63

These sources claim that Aisha was only seven when she was wed to Mohamed, and 9 or 10 when the marriage was consummated right after the Prophet’s arrival to Madina, in 622. (Almost three years later) …

Accordingly she would be born in the year 612 (if she were 10 in the year 622)

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However, the follow events (taken from the same sources) show a contradiction in Aisha age:  

1)     a- Aisha was among the 12 Male and 12 Female Muslims to migrate to Ethiopia. She was identified as one of the 12 females and not an infant/ child though according to the sources (if she were born in 612) she would have been only 3 years old.

b-  Aisha recalled that she remembers how the Prophet used to visit her father on a daily bases, after the revelation and before the Hijra (migration) to Madina. She also recalled the migration to Ethiopia. Either she had a 3 year old’s über-memory or a big miscalculation has occurred.

2)      Aisha’s sister, Asma, is 10 years her senior. Asma was 14 old during the revelation (in 610). Accordingly, Aisha would be 4 years old in 610 and thus born 606, while Asma born in 596. (This makes Aisha about 9 years old when she went to Ethiopia and 16 when the marriage was consummated)

3)      Asma died at the age of 100 following tragic events in the Islamic history in 692 (73 H). Accordingly, she would have been born in 592 and Aisha 602. (Adding 4 years to her age in point 2)

4)      Aisha died in 678 at the age of 65… Accordingly, she would be born in 613. However; at the time of her sister’s death, Asma would be 75 and in 692 (year of her reported death) she would be 89 years old. (Where did the 11 years difference go?)

5)      Aisha was already a Muslim when Omar bin Khattab converted to Islam in 616….. If she were indeed born in 612, that would make her 4 years old during Omar’s conversion… In this case, it is very doubtful that she would be considered a convert but a child reared in a Muslim household. However, emphasis on Aisha’s Islam, in comparison to Omar’s, might indicate that she was already practicing and aware of a new religion in Makkah.

If she were born in 606: that would make her 10 years old when Omar converted. At that age a child becomes accountable and is required to perform religious duties. Thus, making it obvious that Aisha was a Muslims rather than a child whose parents are Muslims.

The first youngest known person to convert was the Prophet’s 10 year old cousin, Ali. This was in 610. So, where does baby Aisha fit into this? Wouldn’t she have taken the lead as the youngest convert, had she been only 4 years old? Islamic history is pretty good in listing the first converts and it does not shy away from mentioning the female pioneers. So, there would be no reason to exclude Aisha from the list of child pioneers. Unless she wasn’t a child

This would also lead to another question: Could children be considered converts? Although a 10-year-old child 1400 years ago might be more mature than today’s 10 year old, they were still considered children.  

6)      Fatima Al-Zahra’ a, prophet Mohamed’s daughter was born five years before the revelation (605). She is said to be five years older than Aisha, who would then be born in 610) another inconsistency with the above “sources”.

These are just a few of the argument presented by some of those who oppose the traditional view on Aisha’s age. It’s been said that the first person who presented this new calculation was as Egyptian writer Abbas el-Akkad (1889-1964), and again by other such as Saudi Human Rights activists Suhaila Hamad, journalist Islam Biheri.. etc

Perhaps this inconsistency does not give a clear indication of Aisha’s age. But if anything it shows that there is a further need to reexamine history with an objective perspective.

It is believed that one of the main reasons for the union between Aisha and Prophet Mohamed is to legitimize her stay in his house and thus learn from him and recite his hadiths (saying by the Prophet) . It has been reported that she narrated around 2210 but only 174 Hadith are commonly agreed upon by religious scholars. Yet Islam from a female’s perspective is nowhere to be found. Where are the rest of the hadiths? Until this day, there is perhaps only one, and very hard to find, book, that addresses these hadiths. So, why aren’t there more efforts to publish these hadiths and make them known?

Before the Man-Made World

Long ago, before history was made, before there was a man-made world, there was a woman made world. Back then, they weren’t called females, women, the softer sex, or the weaker sex. They were their own identity, far away from man or male. They watched over children, plants and cattle as their men went hunting… They used their brains as they invented agriculture, while their men showed off their muscles…

Goddesses were believed to rule the earth and control the destiny of people on earth.

Then man learned the alphabets and…

It became a man-made world.

I Stand on the Ocean

During my post-graduate years in conflict management, and as an elective, I signed up for a seminar on Project Management in Peace Building.

As an ice breaker, the instructor thought it would be great if we all formed an imaginary world map and we would stand in the country we are from. It seems that automatically everyone got up and made their way to stand on where they deemed they should stand. 

I looked around and thought : where should I stand? On my father’s country? My mother’s? country of birth? … etc. Could i play twister and put my right foot in one country, the left in another and one of my hands in a third? Can ethnicity simply be put in a passport? Do I really have to accept society’s limitations and their narrow understating of identity? Do I really have to choose one culture over the other?

Then, I decided to refuse to be marginalized, labeled and made to pick a country. It isn’t a matter of a confused identity, on the contrary, it is about an identity that refuses to be caged and confused by territorial division.

While my eyes wandered around observing people’s reactions they bumped into my French/ Mexican/ German (order not important) colleague who was standing in an unrecognized territory. She was smiling as she looked around. I asked her where she was standing and she simply replied : “the ocean. It’s everywhere”

So I finally made a choice! I stood on the Ocean.

 Since then I have been determined more than ever to enjoy my multiethnicity rather than adherent to a monoethnic system.

Thank you Ana Cristiana

My very Disapointing 4 year Employment at the UN.

Ever since I could remember, I dreamt of working for the UN. The UN was the star I aimed to reach. I thought it was my only ticket to work in humanitarian relief.  By my 18th birthday I was already living in the US, where I was given great opportunities to do volunteer work and become aware of the world outside Saudi Arabia. 

As soon as I decided to move back to Saudi Arabia, with in a BA in psychology in my one hand and an accumulated work experience in the other, I started applying to the UN office in Riyadh.  I am fluent in three languages and frankly thought “with my skills and passion I am sure to land a position at the UN”

Two and half years and 5 job applications later, I was only called once for a job interview. It was for the position as a receptionist, which turned out to be filled through an employment agency and not the UN.  I never heard from them again regarding the position. An Arab expat friend who at that time used to work at the UN told me that they were not interested in hiring Saudis. There was practically only one Saudi gentleman working there. When I e-mailed UN headquarters asking them for fairness they replied that employment at the UN is autonomous and there is nothing that can be done about it.   

Finally in Oct 04 I reached the stars and I was hired at the UN office in Riyadh as an assistant to the Security Advisor in the safety and Security Department. Later I found out that the Saudi Government had taken a stand to insure qualified Saudis also got an opportunity to work at the UN. 

Two years later I joined a Masters program in Intercultural Conflict Management in Germany. I thought, surely with such a degree I would advance and maybe even work at a UN office abroad. 

During my unpaid leave in summer 2007, a fresh University graduate came to the department as an intern to cover my absence. She was the daughter of an Arab expat and a European lady. Through her mother’s connections she was able to study at King Saud University, which only admits Saudi nationals  and those with Saudi mothers.  Since I was in Saudi when she started interning I took the liberty to train her. Truth be told I liked her. My supervisor was right. She was both smart  and beautiful. Until this day I wonder if we could have been friends had not what followed happened. A few months later she was given a temporary service contract.  This was odd considering that as per UN regulations once interns have finished their internship period they would have to wait a period of six months before they can be hired. 

Then, in Aug 2007 and by pure coincidence I found out that according the UN system I was registered as a clerk although my employment contract stated otherwise.   

At first I went through the proper channels but was given answers such as “ohh you didn’t know? No one told you?? How did that happen??? We are so sorry about this but there is nothing we can do about it. However, we will give you a chance to fix it”  

It was agreed that an announcement would be made both within the UN departments and in the local newspapers for the position of an assistant. Everyone was welcome to apply. Short listed candidates would take an examined and if passed, will be invited to an interview. I was told not to bother because these were just formalities. So I applied to the position, which by law I held, and took the exam which basically was to test on knowledge on searching for information online, writing a paragraph on word, adding numbers in column in excel sheet and translating to and from English and Arabic) it was  a piece of cake. I was told I received top score.  An interview followed. 

I did not get the position, but the beautiful and very petite intern did. 

So, the next thing I knew was that I had to report to a child, who had no work experience and was over eight years my junior. By then, I had accumulated over 13 years of job experience in both the US and Saudi Arabia, was a few months away from graduating, and had started working on my theses on the religious right of non-Muslims and the challenges, limitation and applicability of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. 

Through the advertisement I found out that the minimum requirements for the assistant position was a high school diploma and three to five years of job experience. Surely I was overqualified and she was unqualified.  

And so I fought for my right. As a consequence my job performance appraisal for 2007 was very low and critical. Among the many negatives comments and claims my supervisor wrote was that for the past year the intern did all the work while I did nothing. 

A committee was formed, two of the members where from the interview panel, to address my appraisal dispute with my supervisor.  During the meeting, I addressed my supervisor’s claim. “Why now? Where was he all year-long?” To this, a “supposedly un-bias” committee member answered irritably:  “Stop blaming your boss”. How does one reason with such committee that has made it obvious whose side they were on?  Sadly, this same person, a supposedly proclaimed feminist, did not bother when I mentioned that my supervisor had taken a liking in the intern and wanted to take her as a wife for his older son. Then they claimed that Human Resources caught me cheating in the job entry exam yet they were nice enough to let me sit in and finish the exam. 

From there on the lies grew even more. 

When I did not get the post, I promised the UN that if the issue was not resolved in a timely manner that I would ask the intervention of Saudi Foreign Ministry and then the Media. I kept my promise. And when my requests came unanswered I went to Saudi Foreign Ministry. They were very welcoming and supportive. They contacted the UN accordingly and asked them for an explanation and ways to resolve the matter. 

To the ministry, the UN continuously lied that we are reaching to an agreement. To me, they insisted the ministry had not contacted them. Their insistence didn’t stop even when I showed them an official memorandum from ministry to the UN asking about my case. 

Months went by and my family decided to start taking steps to move to another city. I was offered a good position at the city of destination and so decided to put the UN behind me and move on. But before I would do so, and to keep my promise, I agreed to be interviewed by a local news radio that took an interest in my case. 

The UN was not thrilled when the interview was aired. The  Regional Representative, the highest position within the UN duty station in a country, called me in to his office to give me a long religious lecture on how he does not approve of “thulm” – acts of injustice- because God does not approve such act. He advised me to take this opportunity and move on with my life. In return he would insure and facilitate that I would receive a good and pleasing recommendation letter, where it would state I was an assistant. I agreed.  I requested the letter of employment only to give the UN an opportunity to redeem itself with a very small gesture. 

Three weeks later the letter of employment, which the Human Resources staff didn’t know how to write, was ready. The letter stated that I was a clerk! 

Another broken promise by the UN. Should it have been a surprise? During a heavy argument the letter was taken away from me only to be given back on my out but with a minor change. Instead of a clerk, I was now a clerk who performed the tasks of an assistant! 

The UN has once again put itself in a legal loophole. Not only has the UN confirmed that it does not abide by a legal and binding contract but it also assigns staff duties beyond their position.  Both actions are not only unjust but are against the International labor laws, which the UN claims to follow. Another international law broken by the UN. 

Months past and I did not receive my promised pension return. So, I e-mail the UN.  Moments later I received an e-mail that my e-mail cannot be delivered to the recipients because the UN has blocked my e-mail address. So I e-mailed them from my other account. 

I finally got my pension exactly a year from my resignation. Through it, I broke off all contacts with the UN. 

 It has been almost two years since I left. Sometimes I wonder if I gave up too soon… Maybe I should have stayed and fought to the bitter end but there was no longer much i can do . The UN enjoys diplomatic immunity, which means they cannot be sued or taken to court. This is how the UN operates. 

Today I relay on karma and I surely hope it works…. 

Conclusion and moral of the story is left to the reader. One lesson to be learned from this: a problem will not go away by lying or pretending it does not exist.  One day I hope to add: what goes around comes around…. 

   

26 Sep ’10:  I know the article is FILLED with mistakes. One day I will be able to read and properly edit it… But for now I choose not to… Denial is a river in Egypt