Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Dark Side of Dubai: Part 1

Dubai has been in the news for a long time now for various reasons. Many a times we hear about the “city with the tallest building in the world”. At times we hear things that tell us that there is a city in the Middle East that was built “unlike any other city in human history”. The tales are told of Dubai. Dubai is used as an example to be followed.

There is no doubt at all that Dubai has transformed itself into a 21st century city in no time. However, this transformation, though it looks amazing and awesome, does not feel that great when you look at the reality on ground and that’s what I want to emphasize with this post. But I don’t want to write about something that has already been covered in great detail and the writer has done a far better job than I am even capable of doing. So please read this very insightful article by The Independent’s writer Johann Hari (it is, of course, illegal to read or publish either this article or Johann Hari’s name in the UAE).

Along with this article I also want to share a little story of my own just to add more weight to the above mentioned beautifully written article:

About a couple of weeks ago I was having dinner at the mall and I noticed the guys who clean up the trays in the food court. After I finished my dinner I went up to one of the guys and asked him how he was doing. He looked a little confused like, “why the crap is this guy talking to me?” I didn’t even wait for his answer and I asked, “How much do you earn every month?” He told me he earned 800 AED ($217) a month. As the conversation went on he further told me that he was from Bangladesh and he was only able to talk to his family once or twice every 2 months as he didn’t have enough money to buy phone credit. I pulled out 25 AED ($6.8) and told him, “here, take this and call your family tonight.” The guy almost broke in tears while looking at me in disbelief. To me that amount of money didn’t really mean much but it seemed that to him it was something really huge. After he took the money all he could manage to say was “thank you sir.” I said, “Don’t worry about it” and I walked away.

That’s just a little story of how only about $7 can do so much for someone here. This guy, who works as a cleaner at the food court of a mall, actually earns more than an average construction worker whose wage is about 650 AED ($176) a month. These are the people who make up a huge chunk of the population of Dubai and these are the people you never hear about when you hear about Dubai.

I will soon write part 2 of this post with another story that reveals more about the UAE.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Am Back

I understand that I have been away for a while now. I can't even remember the last time I actually wrote an article. Anyway, I am back and I hope to stay for a long while.

I just wanted to tell those of you who used to follow my writings what I've been upto. Around the time that I left, it was really hard and suffocating for me at my home. Things just seemed to go downhill and I couldn't take it anymore. To be honest, it was so hard that I was giving up and just wanted an easy way out. I had lost the will to fight on and I finally gave up writing.

During this time of absence a lot changed though. I got a job, my first ever job, at a bank. I was working for its call center, listening to people rant all day long--I hated it.

I moved out of my house last year to live with some people from church for a while (oh I go regularly to a church now). I stayed in the house of one of the families while they were away and then in the maid's room of another family.

Then I changed my job and joined an Airline as cabin crew. This new job was better because I got my own accomodation and it keeps me away from my family and gives me the freedom to do whatever I want to do. It also takes me to different corners of the world where I wouldn't even dream of going if it wasn't for this job (for example: When I went to Germany, I went to the concentration camp in Dachau near was the most depressing place I have ever seen but I am glad I went there because it backs up what I have read in history books and watched in historically accurate movies.)

I also met the most beautiful girl in this world about 2 years ago. We got engaged March 31st of this year. She is such a blessing in my life and is always so uplifting. She is the reason I even thought about coming back to blogging. She helped me gain the strength that I had before--to never give up and to keep fighting on. She helped me realize that I might not see it but maybe in some corner of this world what I do does make a difference. She has been my support all this time never leaving my side even when I was most miserable and weak.

During all this time, I have had to take a lot of "leaps of faith" but my fiancee has always been there to support me and keep me going and God has always come through, never giving me any reason to doubt that He is looking after me.

I left the blogging world all broken and bruised thinking my job here was done and that I needed to take care of myself first but as everyday passes I feel the need to write again. Things are going from bad to worse and I don't see this trend changing. Now is not the time for me to be a wuss. I think right now is the time when I should be speaking up the most. I will try to write as regularly as possible but can't make any promises right now. As I start to write, I think I will get more and more regular.

Thank you all for your support over the years and for yours prayers. I am back now hoping to make a difference together with the teams at PI and IBLOGA.

Terrorist Group Destroyed, "International Community" unimpressed

The past few days have seen the end of one of the most vicious terror groups on the planet. The so-called 'Tamil Tigers', a group that was dedicated to the partition of the island country of Sri Lanka, has been decisively defeated by the military forces of the Sri Lankan Government. The Tigers' weapons have been destroyed or captured and its leaders have been killed after over 25 years of civil war. The Tigers were prolific users of suicide bombers (especially female suicide bombers), child soldiers, civilian shields, bombings of civilian targets, and assassinations of political leaders (including Rajiv Gandhi). Clearly, the destruction of this group is a cause for celebration for civilized people everywhere.

Only that isn't happening. The International Community--who will not and cannot claim any credit for this victory over terror--are too busy wringing their hands over 'human rights' and the 'safety of civilians'. These supposed guardians of the moral high ground seem to have forgotten that in their never-ending quest to safeguard 'human rights' and to 'protect civilians', they actually prolonged the agony of Sri Lanka's brutal war. That may not have been their intention, but it was most certainly the net effect. The Tamil Tiger's exploitation of the UN, western NGOs, ceasefire monitors and others--never mind the sympathies these very same parties had for the Tigers--was ruthless as it was commonplace.

So, if you are fighting people like the Tamil Tigers, you should use the following strategy:

  • Use Brute Force–often
  • Forget About Negotiations–unless a temporary cessation of hostilities is tactically useful
  • Understand that Collateral Damage Is Acceptable–especially when it happens to people who are sympathetic to the people you’re fighting
  • The Press Should Shut Up. Hint to them that there is a very good chance that they too stand a good chance of being part of that Collateral Damage that they despise so much.

And last but not least...keep the "international community" at arm's length. At best, they will be a nuisance, and at worst, they are in bed with your worse enemies. Either way, they aren't going to save your posterior when the wolf is at your door. Just ask anybody in charge in Colombo about that.

Sounds like these are some good lessons to remember in this Age of Jihad. Aren't they?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Saturday, May 02, 2009

"Freedom of speech"

RPK’s latest introspection on Islam in Malaysia is, if nothing else, and as usual, a fascinating read, consisting of the usual heady bromide of refreshing bluntness, with a leavening of shameless apologetics for his faith. It goes without saying that Muslims of course, in RPK’s view, are guilty of any number of crimes, which may or may not be committed in the name of their religion. But as always, Islam is itself entirely blameless.

On the other hand, those non Muslims who dare to ‘whack’ Islam with alleged ‘cut and paste’ jobs from ‘anti Islamic websites’ are, in RPK’s opinion, instantly suspect. Never mind the content of their arguments—RPK cannot be bothered to examine any of that, let alone rebut it. The methodology alone is what matters.

I suppose in RPK’s mind, one may only criticise something after receiving formal training in said field. Or, in his own words:

“…I whack those non-Muslims who try to give an impression that they are experts on Islam and then make uncomplimentary or negative statements about Islam. These people, the non-Muslims, have never gone to a madrasah or Islamic college or university to receive tutoring in Islam. But they talk as if they have a diploma or degree in Islamic studies.”

So, on one hand, RPK (as he has stated previously) correctly identifies Islam as a major facet of public life in Malaysia, thereby making it everyone’s business, both Muslim and infidel alike. A few paragraphs later, he has performed a head-snapping 180 degree turn, declaring in essence that only formally-trained scholars graduated from a madrasah, Islamic college, et al. have the ‘right’ to critically examine Islam. This decree pretty much rules out every kafir in Malaysia, and a lot of the Muslims as well. Naturally, RPK and his co-religionists would welcome complimentary or positive statements about Islam from any and all, no degree required. If this isn’t the epitome of chutzpah in action, I don’t know what is.

But it only gets worse. RPK has decreed that there is some sort of difference between ‘commenting’ and ‘insulting’ religions:

“But what is comment and what is insult? I can comment, but I should not insult. And this is where many do not understand the difference between the two. They feel that commenting also means the freedom to insult. And this is when the problem begins.”

Pray tell, sir, what are the differences between a comment and an insult? RPK, alas, has left that little part out. While anyone can consult a right proper dictionary to get the book answer, in the end the difference between the two terms is moot. And the reason is simple. Since anything but the most innocuous comment regarding Islam may be eventually interpreted by a third party as an ‘insult’ to that faith, the insidious result of discouraging the aforementioned ‘insults’ is what we have seen happening all along in Malaysia. Namely, relentless self censorship, a stifling of public discourse, a lack of any meaningful freedom of expression, no freedom of the press worthy of the name, and a pervasive and undeniable undercurrent of fear have all long been prominent features in Malaysian society.

The same tragic and predictable dynamic has played out in virtually every Muslim country time and time again, from Morocco to Malaysia and beyond. The same holds true now even in many non Muslim countries also. Whatever you do, one mustn’t ‘insult’ Islam, or you may suffer something far worse than RPK’s tut tutting. Does RPK ever wonder why criticism of Islam is consistently hazardous to one’s health? Maybe because Islam’s core teachings have consistently taught that such behaviour is a grave crime?

Lastly, lest RPK or his numerous fans presume otherwise, let me say this. I have no truck with arguments against Christianity, or the many websites, groups, etc. that are devoted to whacking Christianity or its followers. They are absolutely entitled to express their thoughts, comments and, yes, even their supposed ‘insults’ to Christianity, no matter how reprehensible I may find such views. After all, Christianity, like any other religion, is an ideological system that can and should be poked, prodded, chewed on, and spit out if need be. And while everyone worries about notoriously thin-skinned Muslims who can and do take offence at the slightest pretext, no one seems to worry too much about offending Christians. Does RPK or any of his ideological cohorts ever wonder why that is? I suppose not.

Freedom of speech is meaningless unless one has the actual right to say things that might offend other people. The alternative to that freedom is a toxic political culture that spawns petty tyrants like the ones of UMNO, a society of the politically deaf, dumb, and blind that continues to reign supreme in this country. It’s really too bad that one of Malaysia’s leading intellectual lights fails to grasp this essential truth.