Sunday, November 20, 2005

The trip to Bethlehem – An Arab in Diaspora! - Part 2

“We must return to values and honesty of discussion. There can be no military solution to what ails us, Arabs and Jews alike. This truth leaves only the power of mind and education to do the job that armies have been unable to accomplish for over half a century” Edward Saiid (2001)

is it?

I wondered….

But did I have a choice?

I don’t think I did….

(Long ago during my childhood, I watched on TV the story of “The Green Chicken” “El Katkoot El Akhdar”. Unlike all its yellow feathered brothers it had green feathers. They lived and fed together in their beautiful little cage and everyday a beautiful little hand would slowly sprinkle corn over their heads until they wake up and start eating, dancing, and playing. Until one day The little Green Chicken decided to leave the cage. He wanted to see more, to know more, he did not want to wait for the corn sprinkled every morning by the little beautiful hand. He left the cage to discover a whole new world that I discovered passionately with him. I still remember and feel how he felt when he visited the scientist, the carpenter, the peasant, the worker, the engineer and the doctor. I still remember how he used to sing and dance after every visit celebrating his “new discovery” and celebrating the few millimeters added to his little red comb that stood elegantly on top of his head. I still remember how he felt when he decided to go back to visit his brothers in the little beautiful farm and they still waited for the little hand to sprinkle the corn every day. I still remember how it felt seeing they did not grow any red combs on top of their heads unlike my heroic Little Green Chicken. I remember deciding to take the path of the Little Green Chicken.)

Just like a blind man lost in the desert I was willingly accepting any guidance on where I should go. Dazzled by all the thoughts I did not have a clear vision of what I should do. A map in my hand of a land I never set my foot on, a wisdom of an old man resonating in my mind, and a big question waiting to be answered… “what should I do to end my diaspora?”

Queensway… a nice West London neighborhood known for its Arab restaurants and bookshops. The usual tiny London streets that are slightly louder than the rest of London but not as loud as Edgware road. Arabic is frequently heard and falafel is always few shops away. Its spirit is always fueled by an endless supply of immigrants coming in search of money, food, freedom, and beauty. Each searching for what is lost at his part of the Arab land, each believing in the London promise of providing what is longed for.

There in Queensway…. One night….. few months ago…. I attended a lecture by Abdel Bari Atwan (Editor in Chief of Al Qods Al Araby newspaper). He was talking about the usual “Arab – Israeli” conflict (it feels like a compulsory topic that each and every writer, politician, professor…etc. should “talk” about – it’s always the “talk” that annoys me, that frustrates me, my diaspora started because of a “talk”, it prospered through “talk”… it is living the age of the “talk”). It was a chance to take my questions, my concerns, my feelings…. Maybe he knows a way…

As usual…. Endless supply of words, comments, opinions, debates, disagreements but it all had the very same theme of “what’s happening there” (oh my God… there… I wonder what is Emilia doing there now) and “what we should about them”. But what is “there” and who are “them”? do I really know? Do I really understand? And why do I always have to listen to “talk” about “there” and “them” and why do I always have to be a prisoner of discussions, debates, and words? Will I be another yellow feathered Chicken waiting for words to be sprinkled on top of his head every morning? Did it really save me from my diaspora? The thoughts wandered in my mind for a while then I realized that I never asked the right question and I never asked the right people and that lecture was another proof. I went to that lecture carrying with me the wrong set of questions and the worst of mindsets. It felt like playing tennis with a rock, in the same manner the rock couldn’t bounce off the court my questions couldn’t bounce off his mind. Instead, it just fell to the ground… motionless.

“Why can’t I go to Jerusalem and Bethlehem?” I asked him. “if I have a claim there how can I just talk about it and not go there and claim it back?” I continued. “How can we leave it completely in their hands with our families under their control without even the attempt of being there?” …. “isn’t my physical existence there in itself a claim of my ownership?”… “isn’t my mere existence among the besieged Arabs a support?” ….. “What is preventing me from going there?” ….. “is it just a visa stamp that carries a six pointed star?” ….. “is that it?”….. “is that all?”….. “is this why I’ve been deprived of my there and of my fellow them?”…. “why can’t I just go to help?” …. “why did Emilia my Jewish friend had the right to go and help while I’m stuck in your words?”……

While I was letting it all out, and while all the questions were hitting him one after the other I noticed his eyes…. They were moving quickly, once to the right and once to the left (I wondered why?)… his eyes were sensitively reacting to every sound and every move in the hall (did he hear me?)….. he probably heard my question…. (but did he listen to it?)……

Those confused eyes suddenly focused on one target… my face…. And they started getting narrower and narrower, and then he waved his hands with disapproval and spoke to the audience with extreme wonder… “From all the cities of the face of this Earth you don’t want to visit except Jerusalem and Bethlehem!!” he said with apparent resentment. “Can’t you just hold yourself back for a while from tourism until we get our rights back?” I felt so betrayed by his apparent lack of concentration, I felt so misunderstood, I kept on trying to correct his misunderstanding but his dominating sharp voice and his violent body language stood firmly in the way of my hopeless shouts.

And it was over…. Or …. I thought it was over……

Few minutes afterwards she raised her hand…. I met her one time before and we had a brief chat. I never really read any of Ahdaf Soueif’s books but I read some of the articles she wrote in “Mezzaterra”, I was not a fan of very long novels and I generally preferred politics so “Mezzaterra” was the my perfect read for her as it was a compilation of political essays she wrote in different occasions. She raised her hand and it seemed everybody was wondering what would her question be…..

“First of all!” she said “I’d like to clarify the point of my Egyptian colleague who was asking about visiting the occupied land, I think what he meant was related to activism and volunteering to help the Palestinians and Arabs living in the occupied territories. Lots of our youth are deprived of the opportunity to be exposed and involved in the conflict and a great part of this deprivation comes from the fact that it became socially and politically unacceptable for them to go to the occupied land.”

“Second of all!” (and I did not really concentrate with the second of all as I was so much under the effect of the nausea of the ‘first of all’ … I felt ‘understood’ and ‘appreciated’). I felt a smile slowly taking control over my face while I was looking towards her with appreciation. As soon as she finished her comments she turned around and looked at me then tilted her head downwards a bit with her eyebrows moving upwards as if to draw a question mark while murmuring a word that I imagined would be “tamam keda?” I left the answer for my smile to take care of and obviously my smile did the right job of saying “thank you” as she turned her smiling face away again swiftly in approval as if to say “anytime!”

Unlike with my questions, his wandering eyes were focused this time on Ahdaf and showed extreme interest and concentration. Her comments were of course followed by approval and affirmation by Atwan who did not find anything wrong with what she said. (I guess it was my fragmented thoughts reflected in my bombarded questions that prevented him from understanding what I really wanted to say….)

For some reason I came out from that lecture with a new understanding of the Edward Said words as if I saw it in a new light that I never discovered before. The extreme contrast between the Said liberal approach and the Atwan traditional use of vocabulary that is limited to phrases of praise and attack magically highlighted one word that was there all the time but I never really concentrated on understanding and implementing it ….. “Educating” …. This is the key …. “Educating” …. This is what I need at the moment…

From “Education” to Bethlehem…

Let my soul reside in my thoughts rather than in my body, let it be what I aim for, let my whole existence mingle with it in an eternal blend of satisfaction (I wish). However, I need to make my thoughts worthy of my soul; I need to make them comprehensive, deep, challenging, and mature. They will not be comprehensive unless I learn, they will not be deep until I think, they will not be challenging unless I question, and they will not be mature unless I communicate them to other souls.

Where can I do that? How can I do that? And the answer kept on climbing my brain cells from the deepest of my mind as if it was already there from long ago waiting for me to call upon it. “Go there!” suddenly took control of my reasoning and guided me to what I had to do next (there was this inner conflict that was tormenting me… do I want to do it only to prove to myself that I can? Do I want to do it only because I am jealous of Emilia? Do I have a strong argument of why I want to do it? Do I know its value added?…. I never really tried to answer any of those questions and I do not think I can, I just decided to make the best out of the energy that I have without looking at its origins, to use the flame without knowing its fuel. It is wrong I know, or ‘maybe’ it is wrong, but I guess I still have to learn more about the inner energy that moves me, is it jealousy? Adventure? Challenge? Cause? Belief? I realized that until I resolve my inner conflicts I just have to get the maximum value added out of what I had at the moment).

“Go there” had to develop to a plan, to a clear goal, to a maximum utilization of resources. I had to blend the inner energy not only with emotions but moreover with pragmatic reasoning (will I build thoughts strong enough to sustain my restless soul?). My starting point was my own personal qualifications and how I can relate them to “education”, what is it that I can have that could add value to others? What is it that I can “contribute” with? How can I become part of the solution and not just another ‘tourist’ of the problem? I realized I have a relatively good background with youth development and that this experience could be one of my tools to become an “agent of change” rather than a “tourist”. The starting point has got to be an “active participation” and I realized that Edward Saiid had put the proper framework for this “participation” (I hope he had been alive to talk to me but I did not think he would have wanted me to want to talk to him, ‘act upon what you believe in’ I imagine is what he would have advised me to do). This framework is “education” with all it carries of “knowledge” and all what it implies of “strength”.

Simple search on the internet was my path, keywords like “Palestine”, “refugees”, “camps”, “development”; “youth” were my hints. Few days passed with no clear result for my search, I found so many articles, analysis, reports, but it seemed there was nothing that would give me a chance to be an “active agent of change” as I wished to be. At the very end and after I consumed a great portion of my rather limited supply of patience I came across what I believed and still do believe would be my ideal ‘entrance’ to the problem. Not just to becoming part of its solution, but first to properly understand it and ‘relate’ to it in a manner that would make me look with a more ‘comprehensive’, ‘deep’, ‘challenging’, and ‘mature’ eye.

The location was Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. The organization was a youth run NGO that was established by the camp youth to actively encourage the refugees be part of the solution to their problem. They organized a yearly international camp for the refugees and international volunteers to maximize the exposure of the refugees and to show the international volunteers the ‘real picture’ they never really saw. “This is it…” I said to myself, and a complete clear picture of how I could contribute presented itself persistently in front of my eyes that it took control over my concentration to the extent that I could not be anymore the ‘multi-task’ person I am used to be and I had to put everything aside for a while until I deal with my ‘new discovery’. (I wish you were here my dear Little Green Chicken, I know you would have been proud of me)

Diab was one of the organizers of the camp and a member of the NGO, he was the first one I got to know from the team. I called him and explained all what I want to do. “A workshop about Self Development” I explained to him…. “two workshops actually… one for High School students and the other for university students… the final aim is to try to find out with the youth how is it possible to develop oneself in spite of the occupation, the curfews, the raids, and the limited resources”. I realized that my experience at university and during my volunteer work after graduation would be of great value added to those youth, I had a strong belief that they could find a lot of useful tools, thoughts, ideas, or maybe just hints within what I had to say. I strongly believed as well that self development is immune to the worst of circumstances and the toughest of challenges; I strongly believed that self development stems from a strong will, proper vision, and stamina. I wanted to share with them what I believe in and try to find out with them if it true or not. I sent a full proposal with all my ideas, intentions, hopes, and motivations. (Did I really understand what Edward Saiid wanted me to do? Am I really doing what he would have wanted me to do?)

They welcomed the idea very much and officially invited me to organize the workshops during the international camp in Bethlehem that was due to start in a month time from the day I sent the proposal. (How easy it was to leave the ‘audience’ and join the ‘struggle’! All it needed was a ‘motivation’, ‘action’, ‘idea’, and ‘patience’. How come I was always a prisoner of such a ‘thin’ barrier of ‘passivity’ that deprived me of doing what I really wanted to do and achieving my inner self? How come I was always a prisoner of others ‘words’, ‘opinions’, and ‘judgments’ that I lost the sense of what I really wanted to do? How beautiful it felt to realize how ‘thin’ this barrier is and how ‘invincible’ I used to perceive it with my old eyes? How encouraging it felt to replace one yellow feather with another green one)

The Six Pointed Star Visa…

Had my grandparents known that their grandson was planning to get a Six Pointed Star Visa in his passport they would have had prevented that even if it meant not planting the seeds of life to his parents. They would have probably preferred dying with no children at all rather than seeing their children giving birth to an Israeli Visa holder. I thank God they all died before having to witness that day and I thank God my only chance of meeting them is a promised heaven when I would have all the time to explain, elaborate, and challenge.

The procedure to get an Israeli visa from Egypt was very well known to me. Go to the Tahrir Complex; submit a request to get the Visa, issue a temporary Passport and deposit your original passport with the government, then finally apply to get the Israeli visa. However, I live in London and I could not go to Egypt during the month I had to get the visa before the camp, and this meant that my only chance was to get the Israeli visa from London (it still felt very humiliating though to have to get this visa to enter my land, it felt like the whole history of the struggle is to be summarized in the one stamp to be printed in my passport). There had to be an alternative procedure for those who live abroad I imagined, I had to check with the Egyptian Consulate to see what I should do in order to make sure I “Go There” following the proper procedure (I did not want to break all the taboos at one time, I still do not think I could take the sinister looks and attitudes if I do not follow the procedure)

Lina is a friend of mine who is working at the Egyptian Consulate, I explained to her all the usual procedure and I wondered if she could help me find out about the procedure that would apply from those residing abroad. She heard me with great admiration and a smile that never parted her face, I felt a sincere motivation to help and a real understanding of where my thoughts stemmed from. She promised she would check with the deputy and explain to me exactly what I should do.

and there was a surprise I never expected….

Lina called me the next day on my work phone from her office phone and told me that we cannot speak on that phone, she said would call me on my cell phone from her cell in a while (what? What is this? Is this a kind of a joke?). She called few minutes later on my cell phone (from her cell phone this time not her office phone) and she said “what I am going to tell you at the moment is not official” (her voice sounded embarrassed which made me feel she is carrying bad news). She then explained…. “There is no specific procedure for Egyptians living abroad to visit Israel, you normally have to go to Egypt to get security approval, however, I explained to the deputy your cause and what you want to do and the fact that you are going to a workshop in the occupied land. He told me ya Ahmed that the best you could do is to come to the consulate and tell us that you lost your passport then we would issue you a new one. You can then use this new passport to go and when you come back just inform us that you found your old passport and we will tear down the new one.” (Oh my God! This explains why this deputy did not want to give an official reply, this explains why they did not want the phone call to be recorded, this explains her embarrassment!) What the intelligent deputy did not understand however that every Egyptian living in the UK is carrying a Visa in his passport and to leave the country with an empty passport is a disaster in itself and this is besides the fact that I would have to use two Egyptian passports to travel. At that point I would have thought that I am just a victim of the usual ignorant deputy who did not know much about his job and about the regulations, however, a very interesting advice that he passed to me through Lina revealed more than just a lazy employee. Lina added “Ahmed, to be honest.. he asked me to tell you that what you are intending to do is not wise, he wanted to remind you that ‘what your home needs should not be given away to the mosque charity’.. you should rather try to help Egypt with its problems rather than trying to help the Palestinians”. She finally added “the deputy said that they are not going to be responsible for you in any away when you go there or if you face any problems in Egypt.”

I realized how easy it was for the deputy to justify for himself his passivity and to decorate the walls of his little prison of words with a nice frame carrying the “mosque charity” quote on it. It was not just the fear of helping or taking responsibility (this is very understandable in the case of government employees who are usually taught how to give up on abusing the capabilities of their minds or discovering new ideas with their senses) but moreover, it was the fact that he had to justify for himself what he said and decorate the little prison of “talk” and “words” they created for him with quotes that are wrongfully used for a fake cause. I thanked Lina very much for her help and we both realized that proceeding with the workshop meant that I had to go to the Israeli embassy directly without the consent of the Government and which would prevent me from visiting most of the Arab countries if I do get the stamp on my Passport and not on a separate paper (which they do sometimes).

It was such a painful experience to have to explain to Diab what happened and before that it was such a disgusting feeling to realize that you could be controlled by those who are less understanding, less tolerant, and less exposed. My father told me once what a colleague of his at the army used to say “Egypt will never progress as long as the most stupid are ruling the most intelligent.” But I do not think this is the case, rather, there will be no progress unless each and every person realizes his/her potential. The point in time when individual potential realization is achieved is the same point when progress naturally follows. Thus, intelligence is second to ‘will’, ‘tolerance’, and ‘education’.

I did not feel bad, and I still do not feel bad about what happened. It might have been annoying and oppressing for a while but I then realized that I had gained a new understanding of what Edward Saiid had wanted me to do, and I realized I managed to escape from the little prison they created for us, the little cage with their words sprinkled on top of our heads every morning while we eat, dance, and enjoy. Maybe I did not make it all the way through to where I want to go yet, and maybe I still do not know the way by hard; but at the very least I know I can make it.

I will “Go There” one day, maybe not now, but I will do it because I know I can and because the more I know the stronger I get and the less they can stop me.

For now, there is a brand new path to follow, I would have never imagined that the failure of this trip could have opened the door for this brand new path. A path I never imagined I would ever take to try end my diaspora. It is true a door was closed but I have a better understanding of my diaspora now and I stepped my foot unto a whole new path.

I will not give up and will pursue my new path till the very end, maybe it will save me from my diaspora, and if did not, I will take a new path with delight and hope.

Will tell you more about the new path soon.

Friday, November 18, 2005

When my friend migrated to Israel! - An Arab in Diaspora - Part 1.

Make sure you empty your mind from any estranged thought….. make sure you use the deepest routes of your brain and the warmest veins of your heart to let my words pass through them, maybe you can help me, maybe you can guide me out of my diaspora…. Yes… diaspora…. And not just a physical one…. But a mental one as well…. A diaspora that was capable of provoking my thoughts all around me just like the Cairo March winds provoke the yellow dust and colors the sky with this light orange canopy that soaks the water out of your throat and leaves you in need of a single drop of water. So will you be my single drop of water?

I was not intending to tell this story until I find myself capable of doing something about it as it was totally occupying my existence and I was wholeheartedly sparked to defy my diaspora, the diaspora that Emilia helped me discover.

During one of those periods when a certain thought or mood completely controls you and shapes you inner self that you lose contact with the time dimension and leave the thoughtful dimension to rein your life for a while I experienced two incidents that changed how my soul sits within my body.

The first stroke…..

It all started back in Berlin when we were all gathered together to study philosophy, literature, and arts. From all around the world were our origins and thus were our dreams, hopes, and imaginations. it was eighty of us or maybe a bit more confined together in the largest of mindscapes and the smallest of landscapes. Two weeks into our experience the eighty started dividing into smaller and smaller groups until I ended with a nice but challenging group that never stopped asking, wondering, and comparing. It was my very first time to deal with a Jew on a personal level. Emilia was an American Jew who came for the very same reason that we all came for (or maybe we pretended to come for). Our talks took us from politics to religion to arts to philosophy to sports to jokes and for every story there was always a Spanish, an American, an Arab, and a German version. It was like the very first time I saw a white beam of light splitting itself into seven harmonious colors in our dark wooden school lab, the same excitement and the same anticipation with each one of us looking at the beam of light and trying to understand the works of nature and the wonders of God. I suddenly realized I was not the white light I believed I was, I turned out to be just one color of the spectrum and the world around me the rest of the spectrum. Our conversations were like the spectrum making a full turn and penetrating the prism from the opposite side to form a one strong beam of white light again. Only then that I saw the real white light.

Emilia and myself, two colors of the spectrums who I thought would be full of repulsive charges pushing them away from each other got closer and closer like any other friend I would have had back in Cairo. My interaction with her helped me understand the striking fact that I discovered before my travel to Berlin that a major Arab philosopher who lived in Arabic Spain called Moses Maimonides (Moussa Ibn Maimoon) was Jewish. It made me understand how it was possible for him to contribute to the “Islamic Philosophy” though by definition he was not a Muslim and when I say “understand” I’m just referring to the “feeling” associated and not the “thoughts” as our relationship was not that deep, it was a mere casual friendship at that point in time. We frequently talked about politics and of course it did include the Arab – Israeli conflict but it never reached the stage of opposition or extreme conflict as she never mentioned Zionism and I never mentioned my Arabism. Those discussions were hovering around the political situation at that time, certain events and misfortunes but it never went into the ideology. I always perceived our relationship as the healthy relationship that should exist between a Moslem and a Jew, and “healthy” in my mind meant a relationship between two human beings who enjoy mutual respect and always keen on extending bridges between their minds and wisdom between their hearts. It was my very first time to discover and enjoy the separation between Jewish and Zionist.

At the end of our studying program which lasted for around two months we became a close group and we vowed to meet again. Six months later it became possible for a brief reunion in Cairo that lasted for around a week as we were all attending a conference. I invited them to stay at my family’s place in Cairo as I thought it would be an outstanding chance for my family to meet my friends and particularly what I thought my precious discovery of the American Jewish friend. Our outings and tours of Cairo included lots of my Egyptian friends as well and it felt satisfying to expose them to what I was exposed to in Berlin.

Emilia stayed at our place for an extra three days after my other friends left and she spent lots of quality time talking to my parents (especially my father) and some other relatives. She integrated easily both inside the house and in the street to the extent that she knew where and when to bargain and she showed an outstanding capability of negotiating really low prices. My family enjoyed her stay and she left a nice memory.

During those three days it was the very first time that ideology came into the picture and it was the very first time that she realizes the Arab nationalist tendencies of my family and myself, she discovered that my father fought with the Egyptian Air Force in Yom Kippur (1973). I sometimes noticed the hidden shock on her face that she tried to hide and I sometimes wondered if her continuous questions were a reaction to the shocks she was getting from what she heard. She maintained a consistent silence however about her ideologies and I did not really bother to uncover anything she did not want to unravel.

After Emilia left we all stayed in touch through an e-group that gathered us together and sometimes through personal emails. We shared our thoughts, our stories, our development, our comments… etc. This e-group witnessed our enthusiastic reactions to what happened around us, sometimes it was a venue for action proposals, sometimes venue for projects, sometimes for the mere sharing of thoughts and ideas. It witnessed our travels as well from one country to the other and I was lucky to stay in touch though I changed countries 3 times during that period. The e-group maintained its role for around three whole years until a day that I would never forget.

It was a usual morning when I checked my email to find the usual messages from the different e-groups I’m subscribing to, I skimmed through the titles as I always do to see which one had a “no subject” title to check them first as I always think they carry surprises and because they provoke my curiosity to uncover their sender’s intentions and thoughts. Afterwards I skimmed through the senders and I found an email from Emilia to the group titled as I remember “Hello Hello”. The email seemed like a boring one with the usual beginnings of the “hellos” …. “kisses”.. etc. then there was a very brief paragraph that nearly read as follows:
“I decided to migrate to Israel, I’ll be working with the government on a social development project, I’ll be living in Jerusalem and will be waiting for all of you to visit… Shalom”

Up till this moment I failed in describing to others how I felt at that point in time because I couldn’t find the right words to draw the exact image of the feeling that were stirring within the inside of me. It was a very disturbing moment in terms of my sudden realization of a hidden aspect of a person I thought I knew well enough (or maybe a hidden development in the life of this person that I failed to notice). The other source of confusion was my sudden bombardment with “this is unfair” “what will I do” “do I tell others?” “do I tell my family?” “is the line I drew between what is Jewish and what is Zionist imaginary? Does it exist only in my mind?”

There was a feeling of “shame” a feeling of “helplessness” a feeling of “idiocy” a feeling of “weakness”….. but I never found the word to describe the combination of all of them together…. Maybe it’s “frustration” but frustration does not really reflect shame… maybe it’s “disgrace” but it does not really reflect weakness….. I’m just trying to find the word to convey it well to both your hearts and your minds……

How come a person I thought I knew so well is suddenly “on the other side?”

How come she has the right to go to the land I always dreamt of stepping my foot on and I can’t?

How come she gets to actively contribute to her cause and I can’t?

How come I’m left alone?

How come I feel so weak?

What will I do?

I then realized my defeat, I then realized my ignorance, I then realized I know nothing about myself when I claimed to know all about my enemies and my friends.

I’m an Arab in diaspora……. A diaspora of thoughts, a diaspora of will, a diaspora of imagination…… with no control over my present nor over my future…..

Emilia (my friend) is there right now adding value to the cause that I dreamt all my life of facing, challenging, and defying. I did not even get a chance yet to face the ideology but how can I do the same? Am I just reacting to her migration? Am I just reacting to this evident betrayal? So what!!!! Maybe it’s just a reaction but maybe I can build on it….. (how can I build on it when I don’t even know enough about myself, my history, my existence?)
Can I go there? I don’t think I can…
But have I tried….??? I never did…
Can I help without going?... I don’t know…..

This is not fair….. this is not right…… .

The second stroke…

And in the midst of my confusion and in the midst of my tension and as if I was doomed to be punished for my ignorance, indifference, and diaspora another arrow came straight across my existence. As I was watching the doomed “Al Jazeera” and during one of their reports from the holy sacred city of evil and dreams, the city of nightmares, the forbidden city by the laws of the cowards and the powers of the filthy….. Jerusalem…… they interviewed an Israeli academic who was commenting on the political aspect of the conflict (a mid fifties white man with light grey hair shining under the studio lights and a double chin slightly coming off his chemise as if to warn him of an expected fatness. He was wearing a metallic pair of glasses that further highlighted his apparent sophistication and a beige suit with a dark tie and a light blue chemise). As the anchor finished the question and during the usual silence between the question and the answer that reflects the usual “time difference” I was anticipating him to take a while until the translator finishes his job of pouring the words into his ears in Hebrew….. instead…… my whole existence was entirely shocked to find the respected expert replying in perfect Egyptian Accent Arabic….. a perfect colloquial Egyptian that reflects something further more than a shrewd student caring for the tiny details of a foreign language…… it reflected a perfected knowledge of a native….. yes …. A native….. oh my God…. This man is Egyptian….. no sorry… this man is Israeli…… no no… sorry…. This man is !!! is what?
Who is this man? One explanation arises from the bottom of my messy brain….. then it knocked on my head with a heavy hand…..

a migrant…..

this man used to be with “us”… among “us” …. Then suddenly he’s “on the other side”….. The side we knew so little about until we developed the fear of knowledge then the fear of knowledge ignited the fear of power….. then the fear of power expelled our brains into the diaspora….. and here I am an Arab in diaspora…..

Ooh my God.... I feel so weak… I feel so helpless….. I feel so alone….. I feel like I’m sliding off the slope of a magnificent mountain and I’m approaching the edge….. here it is coming…. Here it is coming…… there is nowhere to hold to the mountain…. Not a single crack to capture with my hands…. Not a single protrusion to hold to….. sliding strongly against the rocky slope and feeling the pain of each and every friction with the sharp stones….. with the provoked dust all around me… all inside me…. All within me…. No alternative to the free fall at the end of the slide….. no alternative to the deadly end of my diaspora….. until suddenly …..

A stick….. a wooden stick….. my hands caught a wooden stick hammered to the steep slope…. The wooden stick started shaking but it was strong enough to hold me ……. (where did it come from?) …….. it’s Salman Abo Setta….. he hammered the wooden stick to the sliding slope…. (will it hold me long enough)….. it is holding me strong enough…… at the very least up till this moment…….

Salman Abo Setta….. a magnificent man….. a shrewd geographer…. He offered me the very first hint to find my way out of my diaspora…… it took him ten years….. ten years to end his diaspora…. (But how long will it take me?)…. It is true he is still in physical diaspora outside of his own land… but at the very least he ended his mental diaspora….
“The Atlas of Palestine in 1948” was his route to salvation. He froze history, he gave me the very first hint to where I should go…. He unraveled all the misleading covers of reality.. he faced all the molesting of history… he showed us the place we left …. The place we left both mentally and physically…. He gave us the right name of the place to go back to… with all its villages, its towns, its tiny alleys, even its description….. Salman abo Setta was strong enough to endure ten years of extensive research.. his loyalty to the cause fed his stamina until he provided us with a map to where we want to go… until her provided us with a photograph that once seen nobody can take from us….. he provided us with “knowledge” and knowledge provided us with “Ownership”……
I met him in the House of Commons while he was talking about the ten years journey and he pulled me off the sliding slope (I still feel it won’t handle me for too long)… I came out of the lecture with one aim in mind….. to get a copy of the atlas of the truth… the atlas of the real Palestine as we left it…. (is it enough to sustain me? Do I just need the atlas?)….. I managed in getting one of the last two copies in London at that time…. I opened it and on the very first page it said:

“To the people of Palestine…. Past, Present and Future.”

Salman abo Setta, a mid sixties Palestinian whose face never complained from carrying this modest calm smile. A smile that inspired me to strive to end my diaspora… I look at the elegantly presented and comprehensive atlas and wonder….. what next? What will I do? Now I have the atlas in hand, I have the reality in hand, I know where I want to go back to…. But how will I go? Then…. A new realization came to mind….

It’s all about the starting points…… when “the other” actions always starting with a full thorough knowledge of those who happen to be “us” …. A full detailed knowledge stemming from the fact that many of them were once among “us” and stemming from the fact that the rest came from the “audience” of “us” and “them”….. whereas our starting point is always…… “observations”… “analysis” …. “studies” …… but never a direct exposure…. Never an “experience” ….. never a “certainty”…….

I will not give up to the myths and restrictions….. I will go to the land…. I will learn the language….. I will acquire the “knowledge”….. the Arab Nationalist guides did not help me… the Islamists promises did not satisfy me….. the Amr Khaleds of this world did not end my misery……

I will end my diaspora with my own hand…… and will tell you very soon about it…..

proudly so…..

An Arab in Diaspora

Tunisian thoughts

Hello All,

Time to leave Tunis….. Suddenly I started thinking of what I’m taking with me and, of what changed deep inside within me. I wouldn’t really tell you what changed as I didn’t really realize it yet. I just hope it’s for the good. I could give you some hints instead and you figure out what could have happened.

Hint 1:
two years ago, walking into my hotel room shortly after my arrival, hungry, tired, opened the menu and chose lots and lots of dishes thinking I can eat their entire stock. Afterwards, I opened the door to find the waiter with a smiling face asking me if I was Egyptian, I go ‎”yup” then he goes “Om el donia, please remove 50% off the total price, I checked with my boss”.

Hint 2:
Walking in the street on my way to work. I found her firmly pointing to the cars to stop so that I could cross the road then she gave me a nice smile, I smiled back in gratitude. She is beautifully firm and standing in control of the whole square. Not a single driver could disobey her firm smile while she’s pointing her finger with an un-negotiable order to stop.

Hint 3:
Lunch time, in a restaurant. Moataz is in his late forties. He sat in front of me. He accused me of wasting it, but I didn’t, I swear I didn’t, it wasn’t there when I was born, it was lost before I came to life. They both died before I was born but he said it doesn’t need them to survive, it needs YOU to survive. “where did this beautiful singing go?” he said, “Egypt the great now listens to ruby and ihab tawfik after it listened to Om Kolthoum and Halim”. “It is not my fault” I go (could it be?) “I’m not responsible for what all the Egyptians do” (am I not?) “I just don’t listen to them”.

Hint 4:
Drinks, in a pub. Hind Sabry is a young Tunisian actress. We were sitting with some other friends. I told her “Tunisians don’t like you because you speak with an Egyptian accent, they say you are ashamed of your origin, the government spent lots of money on you to represent the Tunisian version of the Arabic culture but you ran after fame and started acting only using Egyptian accent.” She goes “tell them to go o hell, at least I speak in Arabic, they speak in French in their own Tunisia to show how sophisticated they are”

Hint 5:
At the office, Ahlem, my French professor said “What is this Arabic culture you are talking about, Tunisia is not an Arab country in the first place, we are a Mediterranean country, what we have in common with Italy is more than what we have in common with Libya or Algeria” I go “do you think the whole of Tunis is more Mediterranean than just the city of Alexandria?” she goes “no” , “I don’t think ya Ahlem that there is a Mediterranean culture, rather there are some Mediterranean properties that are in common between all the Mediterranean cultures or else Egypt would definitely be more Mediterranean than Tunisia whereas Egypt is an Arab country.”

Hint 6:
At the office, Nabil affirms “Ahmed, Tunisians are anything but Arabs, we just speak Arabic.” …. “Nabil, looking back at history I find that the major contributors to the Tunisian race if we assume you are not Arabs are first the Phoenicians who built Carthage and those originally came from Lebanon and their descendants are known as the Ghassasna who are a branch of the Arabs and second the Berber who existed in very small numbers and are not a major contributor to the current Tunisian race, thirdly and most importantly are Beni Helal who conquered Tunisia and they represent the major contribution to the current race, forth are the Spanish Arabs who moved from Andalusia 600 years ago. Putting aside the Turks, Italians and French who moved to Tunisia, I don’t think you could deny the Arabic genes in you but maybe you could argue that you don’t feel Arab.”

Hint 7:
Imed, my mentor…. “My older brother is a fan of Nasser, we have a big poster of him at home, he used to tell me about the times when they used to listen to his speeches in the radio and how they used to react to the speeches, he told me about the 1967 war and how people went to the streets and broke into the shops and bars of the Jews and started destroying everything. Most of the Jews left Tunisia then and those who stayed are now living in the Djerba island in the South and they have a monopoly of the jewelries trade, they started moving into land acquisitions.”

Hint 7:
Mme. Fawzeya, the wife of my landlord Dr. Mounir Hannablia “I can understand the Egyptian accent very well ya Ahmed but I can’t speak it, my husband prevented me from using it and from watching Egyptian movies, even the kids are not allowed to watch them. Mohamed my son has the complete collection of (Ragol Al Mostaheel) and he had to collect it discretely without his father’s knowledge.”

Hint 8:
Mokhtar, a work colleague “I saw the movie El Lemby, I am so shocked not just at the low quality of the movie and the acting but to the fact that the belly dancer was Egyptian talking with the Tunisian accent and was acting like a whore, is that how you represent Tunisian women?”

Hint 9:
Olfa, a friend from the Leo Club “ Youth are much more active in Egypt and they have much more exposure to the outside world. You have much more opportunities to express your opinions and interact together. Our interests have greatly shifted towards sports and cheap culture, added to that the fact that we don’t have a real civil society reduced the chances of our youth to develop. I wish we could have your opportunities.”

Hint 10:
Nabiha, our finance department secretary “Egypt, it is like a dream, it is the dream of every Tunisian to visit Egypt, we know it by heart through the movies and soap operas, it is part of our childhood and love stories.”

Hint 11:
A Café, sitting with Hagar, a graphic designer and her dad is a one of the powerful elite ruling the country “I’ve been to Beirut, I didn’t like it, I generally don’t like the East, your countries are so dirty and not organized, honestly I prefer Paris.” She then added “you have lots of veiled girls as well and I totally resent the veil and how you treat women in the East.” … so I go “but Hagar, regardless of whether you resent veil or not, women in the East and specifically Egypt have the freedom to choose to wear it or not but here you don’t” … she goes angrily “who said we need them to choose, Tunisian are not qualified to choose yet, they go only by the stick and that’s how they should be treated”

Hint 12:
Hagar Miladi, a friend who visited Egypt once with me “Ahmed, I have to be back from Egypt 3 days earlier than you and Hassan” …. “Why ya Hagar?” …. “Because I have to vote for the president” …. “What?? Do you really believe in the elections??” … “No I don’t but the democratic party called mama and told her she’s been nominated for the parliament and they won’t take her unless all of her family votes to the president and that’s why I have to be back… we have to vote for him or my mom won’t get into the parliament.”

Hint 13:
Reda, the son of my new landlord “why should I be back, I am a very successful lawyer in France and there are very limited chances in Tunisia. It is true that the country needs qualified people to develop but …… “ silence.

Hint 14:
AbdelBary Atwan, Editor in Chief of Al Kods Al Araby “ We need Egypt, we need this Giant to wake up and act.”

Hint 16:
Lamia El Jouini, a friend “We are planning to either call our baby Ryan or Adam, both names could go as Arab and European, we do not want our boy to have any problems when migrating to Europe if it’s known that he is an Arab.”

Hint 17:
A cheap restaurant, downtown, after paying the cahier did not have any change so he took a thick paper from in front of him (we use these papers to dry our hands after washing them) and he wrote on it “I hereby abide to either pay you or give you the value of 500 millimes in food. Siganture: Haj Mohamed. Tunis 10/05/2004”

Hitn 18:
The road to the beach, I got stopped by a policeman “You are not supposed to wear a t-shirt with Che’s photo on it, he was a dictator who encouraged youth to pursue violent acts.”

Hint 19:
Anonymous, “I love your president, he is so funny, I try to listen to his speeches as much as I can, he speaks in the same way we usually see Egyptians talk in soap operas. You can’t tell he is a president, you could easily confuse him for a regular guy.”

Hint 20:
The Egyptian Counselor in Tunisia “Egyptians are naturally attracted to four Arab countries Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Morocco. We have a lot in common and we are the most educated among all the Arabs”

Hint 21:
The Tunisian National Anthem
حماة الحمى يا حماة الحمى هلموا هلموا لمجد الوطن
لقد صرخت في عروقنا الدماء نموت نموت و يحيا الوطن
إذا الشعب يوما أراد الحياة فلابد أن يستجيب القدر
و لابد لليل أن ينجلي و لابد للقيد أن ينكسر

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Thought in Pain !

my thoughts once complained to me......
during one of those nights when you're left alone with them and the darkness.....
they pop out of your head and start drawing colorful strings on the inner side of your closed eye lids......
you watch them move and try capturing them or at the very least explain what they mean and why they move in such an irrational manner forming different colorful objects that quickly change from one formation to the other...... triangles changing squares then to circles before suddenly bending into sprials that are moving very fast in random directions....
you start feeling your eyes' movement.... and you start realising that you're staring at nothingness..... you open your eyelids to expose your eyes to a bit of relaity away from your crazy thoughts... however.... your eyes are exposed to darkness that prevent it from seeing the reality around it and you're left again with your thougths and this time they haunt you with your eys fully opened and your attention at its peak.... nowhere to run.....
so at one of those nights.... they spoke to me..... they told me so many stories...... but i remember only one of them.....

a thought came to me and told me....
"once upon a time i was just an idea.... then you saw me with your eagle sharp eyes..... and in no time your whole existence was determined to capture me and transform into something bigger, and you did.... you captured the idea .... then you hosted me in your spacious mind long enough for it to feed on the values, principles, teachings, and morals that were kept there.....
the idea fed and grew steadily until it became a well built and mature "thought" waiting for a mid wife to deliver it to the world.... i kept waiting for so long to be delivered to the world but it just never happened..... i started knocking on your eyelids every night to remind you i'm still there... i'm alive... i'm waiting for a mid wife to pull me to the world......

and one day you decided to let go of me.... you decided to free me from your mind to the world of endless opportunities..... you started pushing..... and the mid wife started pulling..... and a new thought was about to be delivered to the world... a new thought was about to come and take the chance of changing the world.....

however.... the new thought (myself) came out deformed, weak and not capable of breating in the world of opportunities..... just like a fish jumping from the water to capture a bird in the air before falling on the shore with the bird in its mouth..... the bird eventually flies while the fish dies away...... "

i'm sorry my dear thought..... i killed you... i know i did..... i didn't give you a fair chance..... i raised you in my mind since your were an irrelevant idea until you became a mature thought and forgot to tell you that you can't breathe except arabic because that's where you lived and because that's how you matured...... you breathed arabic all the way through...... and when it was time to release you... i released you to the world where you can't breathe but english..... you choked, struggled, fought for a word of english that would express you the way you were intended to be..... but your efforts were all in vain... you became a prisoner of a language that wanted to define you in its own manner away from the way you were intended to be...... away from the way you wished to be..... you were born arab but forced to speak and act english......

forced?? no YOU ARE not.... no I AM not......

i'm the one who created the barriers... i'm the one who provided you with nothing but a foreign air to breather from..... i deprived you from the air you wished for... the air you were breating as an idea and as a growing resident of my mind..... i did not prepare for the exit.... i did not tell the mid wife where to take you to after she pulls you away from my mind...... and you were completely deformed.... with your character and spirit molested by the effect of the foreign storm....

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

London Blasts - An Encounter

It was a very normal day except that i was a bit late to the tube station... As i approached the Balham station i noticed it was a bit cramed more than usual and then i saw one of the Tube staff standing facing a crowd at the station entrance (that was completely shut down) and telling the people that there is a signal fault on the northern line and we have to find alternative routs, (what the hell is this, everytime there is a siganl fault they allow us into the station and we wait a bit longer for the trains, why aren't they letting us in.??!) i call ibrahim my housemate.... he was 10 minutes ahead of me.. he got the Train instead of the Underground from the same station "Balham"..... i check the trains entrance and it is cramed with tens of londoners trying to get a ticket or trying to get through to the platforms..... checked the screens.... delays ... delays.... and none of the trains would go to Waterloo "the heart of london"...... then no alternative but the bus..... and the bus it is.... standing at the bus station, everybody is upset and annoyed.... eveyrbody is late for work.... people make the usual phone calls to their offices to inform their colleagues they were going to be late..... i call the office as well.... and got informed others said they'd be late..... (it looks like a horrible morning.... lots of deadlines to meet..... and i'm still at the bus station).... i waited for an hour... 2 buses passed by... fully packed.... first bus stopped but allowed only 2 people on board..... the second one did not even stop..... ( it seems the bus is not an option at the moment.... better head back to the station ) ... walking back to the tube station.... oh God... all cleared.... station opened again..... so i enter the station ..... take the escalators down to the plarform... the platfrom is packed ..... the electronic sign saying 2 trais r coming... everybody is cursing the underground system..... (thinking of the few trades to be missed, the deadlines to be compromised, the bonus to be wasted)..... suddenly... another announcement .... "no northern line service today..... please leave the station immediately"..... cursing... shouting...... people rushing again as they all realise they are thinking of the same thing ...... "the trains".... if the underground is not working the trains are the second best options all the time.....
we rush towards the train platform entrance..... all with bitterness towards the station staff... they stop us for a while... afterwards.. they let us in...... still no trains to waterloo..... trains going only to victoria..... i can just take the train to victoria and then take the tube to waterloo...... i got into the train with some others until it was completely packed..... then the usual stuff happened.... few started talking... few reading and few kissing..... finally we arrived vitoria after around 20 minutes in the train.....
victoria station.... huge.... busy..... in total chaos..... i got a phone call from sherif my housemate..... he stayed at home..... he spoke of some kind of explosions..... somethnig that has to do with "power surge" that caused fire in a tube station.... as i was talking to him on the fone.... i checked the victoria underground station.... it is closed...... sherif confirms...... the underground is entirely closed...... i looked around... confusion everywhere...... went outside the station... disasterous..... people, buses, cars, all occupying a very little space in front of the station.... all cramed in a very tight area in a "cario style" chaos..... so much not like london......
in the middle of all that i saw a bus with "waterloo" on its front.... i got in it... asked the driver if he is still going to waterloo.. he confirmed..... the bus was not that full though there were lots of people outside the station waiting to go to central london..... ("lucky me" i thought... but wait a sec... why didn't they take the buses?) ..... in the bus..... street is jammed still.... called sherif... he said there were explosions in variuos tube stations and then he mentioned an bomb on a bus..... a bus!!!..... it wa\sn't confirmed though..... i stare at the people around me..... should i tell them what sherif has just said?? .... not a good idea i thought... there is no need to frighten anybody...... a guy beside me started speeking to us.... he was wondering if we knew what was happening.... he turned out to be a reporter with financial times..... a lady beside him spoke about explosions in the tube..... (will she mention buses?) ..... we all start looking at eachother and ask each other where we r heading..... (will we get there?).... we start chatting and everything seems normal when a lady got a phone call and she says something about a bomb on a bus..... (shoudl i leave the bus?)..... we were approaching waterloo bridge...... about to get to the station but it was so crowded.... the bus stopped and the lady and few other left..... i stayed.... don't know why but i stayed..... it's probably a rumor about the bus just like the "power surge" ...... few minutes later...... the driver gets a message from teh central station .... we all heard the message very clearly..... "park your coach immediately, passengers should leave the bus at once, check if there are strange devices on board"..... the message was very clear..... we all looked at each other and started laughing..... (was it disbelief? or maybe a sudden realization of what could happen to us?).... the driver kept on driving.... we were starting to realise slowly our situation.... i started to realise that it could very well be the end..... just like it was the end of some others who took another bus confidently and felt very lucky they were not caught up in the tube...... and they just very simply ceased to exist in a fraction of a second.....with all their dreams, hopes and fears....
(will it explode? i kept thinking..... will it happen?..... will i be just one the images u see everyday on ur tv screen? will i just be another bloody piece of flesh mixed with some metal debrie thrown on the ground? will people know that there is a lot more behind me than just a rotten body? then i wondered... do i realise and feel those images on tv? do they transcend their "image" format in my mind to their "human" form?)..... brain squeezed...... others started to panic..... i felt cold..... i didn't want to die..... no no... i don't mind dying... it's a fact of life.... i didn't want to die in this way.... unnoticed.... unidentified...... just died in a blast!..... just a piece of flesh to be photographed from different angles and published in different newspapers without any care for my dreams, hopes, fears, ideas.....
but i had to reach a resolve.... at least until i get off the bus..... i don't care..... if it has to happen this way then i don't mind..... i didn't have a choice after all......
we left the bus at waterloo..... complete disorder everywhere..... have to cross the bridge to get to work.... a helicopter is flying over traflagar square..... a policeman with a machine gun right beside me.... (will it be a battlefield?)...... didn't want to go through the main streets..... preferred to get to work through the park..... for the first time since the morning things seemed in order..... the trees where they r...... doves seem not to be disturbed..... only thing left of the outside chaos is the police, ambulance and emergency sirens......

got to work..... everything seems perfectly ok... people a bit late.... but "business as usual"... deadlines not changed.... people trading... discussing.... arguing.... as if nothing happened...... "business as usual" is the rule and it reins as long as u r still breathing..... only a single interruption when blair delievered his speech..... afterwhich things returned to normal again.... except for some looks i got.... or some looks i thought i got.... (where they looks of wonder? or blame? or maybe questioning? or just my imagination and reaction to the situation? ... or maybe the "bat7a" on the head that i might have developed for being arab or maybe for being moslem... i don't know..... )

here i am..... stuck in central london still.... heard of some abuses of some arab looking pedestrians...... one options seems available to go home... the bus.... again..... (lucky me... lucky me)

Monday, November 14, 2005

إن شاء الله

It's very sad how the laziness and irresponsibility that is currently in full control of our culture could have a major influence on the way we understand religion. It is very sad how this could affect how others see our religion through us. We become like rusty tubes conveying the waters of heaven, however beautiful and pure the water is it becomes a poison to anyone drinking it.

A Hungarian friend of mine who was a trainee in Tunisia through AIESEC asked me to attend one of her fights with the AIESECers. She wasn't paid by her company as the company transferred her salary for some reason to the AIESEC bank account. The AIESECers manipulated her for a while and were trying to give her the money in the form of installments. Anyways, she took me with her to the AIESEC local committee president and the following dialogue took place.

"I'm trying my best to get you the money but the transfer is taking too long"
"Transfers are the same everywhere in the world, they are not supposed to take that long"
"I know, I aslo need the signature of the AIESEC finance vice president and she is in the South now"
"This is not my problem, it is yours and you should solve it"
"I contacted her and she'll be here on tuesday, you should thank me, I'm trying to help you"
"When will I get my salary?"
"Wednesday inshAllah"
"Don't say that word again"
"What? What word?"
"Everytime you say it nothing happens"
"I can't, it's my religion"
"In my country things happen without using this word, it's enough that you give a word"

Thursday, November 10, 2005

3 years ago it was just a "fish" and "shark"! can u believe it?

Long ago I wrote the email below (i think it was 3 years ago)...... yup.... 3 years ago.....
i was going through my documents and apparently i was preparing a draft before sending it......
i read it now and i started laughing at how things dramatically changed.....
i felt myself so much a function of history......
so little and so irrelevant to how things develop.......
in my mind it was just a stupid game between some of the neo religious clerics ... the ones who carry the motto (heaven guaranteed or money back)... but now it's not just a "fish" and a "shark"..... it's a whole set of "wild life".....
how naive i was when i wrote those words! how come things were so different? yes.. they were different.... very different from what i see now around me.....
disoriented.... maybe.... i don;t know.....
all i need to say.... i learned how to pray my 5 daily prayers in a church...... !!! (i miss u Pere Jules! i wish u were here to help.. or maybe i need to help myself.... )
read below.......
Hello everybody,

During my last stay in Cairo I noticed a very alarming phenomenon. I guess many of you might have guessed what I’m talking about from the subject, anyways, I’ll give a brief introduction for those living abroad who might not know what my title refers to.

Few years ago (I think 4 years ago), some churches started distributing some stickers to be put on the back of cars. The sticker is of a simple fish drawing. By asking my friends about the meaning of the sticker I got the following historical explanation. During the roman colonization of Egypt, Egyptians suffered a lot from the roman humiliation due to their belief in the new religion, they had to hide their conversion to the new religion as they were tortured whenever the occupiers knew about their conversion. Therefore, in order to identify each other and at the same time hide their identity from the Romans, our ancestors invented this logo that they used instead of the Cross. It was not doing the function of the Cross, it was just a mean to identify each other and fool the Romans.

Anyways, for some reason, somebody decided 4 years ago to start printing the logo and they started distributing it to the public through their offices. Without going into the reasons for doing so which I think is irrelevant as we can never know how were they thinking when they did so (to be honest, 2 possibilities came to my mind, first it could be something to remind of the past suffering to encourage youth to stay away from the bad doings or in other words to increase their attachment to religion just like the other Moslem stickers of No God but Allah and these sort of things, second I thought may be some extremists were trying to pass a message of ‘it is the second roman age of humiliation’). It did not really make a difference for me what the explanation was as I think that any religious stickers for whichever religion is very demeaning and reduces the value of this religion into a bunch of stickers. In other words, what would a sticker of a Christian or Moslem slogan or loge really add to the person who is using them? For me it just reflected the superficiality of those using them as it did not really have a value added to the person or the society, some were using it to say ‘watch out, I’m religious’ others (and those are the majority) were just the masses who follow without really thinking deep about it and our society is a very fertile land for those who just follow without questioning, those are the ones as well who are usually made to feel very guilty by extremists about matters concerning religion and therefore they usually follow in order not to feel the guilt planted by the extremists.

Anyways, the Moslem extremists saw a chance in this to get another message through. And they started using the same technique and distributing this time the logo of a shark (of course a shark, that’s how narrow minded our society is). The words No God but Allah is written on the shark. The message is clear, the shark eats the fish. Some stickers even have sharks with fish in their mouth (to portrait strength and superiority).

Therefore, our religions were reduced by some extremists (or to be politically safe let me say by some narrow minded cheer leaders) into some stickers and stupid slogans.

This stickers mania is now taking a new shape and it is abused by some extremists to try divide our society into teams and groups of different interests, I mean in the past I’d have refused it but I’d have understood the fact that most people are not really aware of it and they are just probably imitating others, but now, they have to understand how they are being manipulated by the narrow minded Christian and Moslem extremists.

Thinking with my friends about a way to counter attack the extremists, we found that the only way to do that is to deprive those logos of their meanings. The fish is no longer valid as it had a specific historical notion that does not exist (assuming the one who started them did not have an ugly idea in mind) and the shark is a very stupid imitation that reflects how empty minded its initiators are.

Therefore, we decided that we are going to put both stickers on our cars in order to send a clear message to all those proud of being a ‘fish’ or a ‘shark’. One of my friends volunteered to provide the fish stickers and another to provide the shark stickers. We discussed the fact that some idiots might think we are saying the shark is eating the fish if we put them side by side so we agreed to put one sticker on the right corner of the back of the car and one on the left corner.

The only disadvantage about this is that we have to use the stickers which is against our beliefs in the first place but we couldn’t think of a better way to reduce the meaning of the stickers to nothing.

I encourage you all to do the same or think of a better idea to face this flood of superficiality that is streaming though our society. If you need the fish or the shark let me know and I’ll give you the contact.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


"It often happens in the history of nations that a conflict of opposing forces which seems destined inevitably to end in the triumph of the stronger party is given an unspecified twist by the emergence of new forces which owe their emergence to that very triumph." from The Arab Awakening by George Antonius