Category Archives: Culture

Kingdom of Delights: ‘Pokemon Go’ Declared a Heretic, Banned by Fatwa…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“The decree was issued by General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars on the website of the General Presidency for Scholarly Research and Ifta, Arab News reported Wednesday. The edict actually updates an existing ban on the Pokemon card and video games before they morphed into the mobile phone virtual reality game that has swept the world. The clerics issued the old fatwa, (No. 21,758), 16 years ago, declaring the original Japanese game a form of gambling, which is forbidden in Islam, Sheikh Saleh Al-Fozan, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said the virtual reality version of the game is the same as the old one. The game has not been officially released regionally………….”

MuftiSaudi The Mufti vs. Pokemon Go

A Fatwa is a religious edict often issued by Muslim clerics, whether they are authorized or not, that aims at one of several things: (1) keeping the faithful, and the unfaithful, away from sin and abominations (not always the same); (2) making life a bit harder, making sure not everybody is having more fun than they should be decently having (excluding the princes and their minions); (3) making the faithful and the unfaithful aware that the particular cleric exists (not exactly: I Fatwa, ergo I am).

The Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaikh Al Al Shaikh finally had his group issue a fatwa asserting the ban on Pokemon Go in the Kingdom of Fun and Delights. No news about the fate of Pokemon Go in Iran yet: the mullahs have not opined yet. On the other hand, why would they need Pokemon in Saudi Arabia when everybody is having so much fun already?

Meanwhile, in the ultimate Salafi Wahhabi realm, in the Caliphate of Islamic State, I hear they are looking for Pokemons to behead in public in Raqqa and Mosul. You see, Pokey is suspected of being a Shi’a, hence a heretic who is behead-able, whose throat is slit-able by Salafi standards.

FYI: Gambling, gaming, and other types of sin, are banned in Islam, except for princes who can travel to Europe and Las Vegas. Having a palace with walls also qualifies one for exemptions, without reducing their chances at deferred heavenly delights.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Beards and Zeitgeist: Leftist Beards, Zayed Beards, Islamist Fuzz, Lice and Orangutan……….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

It seems that the fate of the facial hair we call the “beard” is often tied to the political atmosphere of the period. Part of the Zeitgeist.
Decades ago, a young man with a beard in the Americas or in Europe was considered a radical, a suspected follower or admirer of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, (or even Dobie Gillis and Bob Denver). In fascist-ruled places like Chile, Argentina, and Greece they were thrown into prison or just disappeared on suspicion of radicalism or impiety or non-conformity. In some West European airports, bearded youth were often questioned more carefully. That was then, long before the world ever heard of Radical Islam.
At the same time, in Saudi Arabia any man who was ambitious grew a goatee beard (like the one Bob Denver and Dobie Gillis sported). From the king on down, they all flaunted the goatee (some Arabs called it saksooka). But that beard was not a radical political statement: just a show of solidarity with the eternal Saudi conformity rules.

FYI: I suspect that “goatee” drives from “goat“, which means these guys admired something about their goats. Maybe just the looks.

Then two events happened in 1979 that altered the history and shape of the beard for a generation to come:
First: the Afghan war erupted, with the Western secular governments and Arab Wahhabis aligned with the reactionary Afghan tribes against the God-less Communists. That war created a whole new generation of Islamic guerrillas. Al Qaeda started in Afghanistan, with Saudi money and Arab volunteers and American (Reagan) weapons. We can also say that it was the genesis of the Taliban and ISIS and Al Nusra and other cutthroat groups. The first Afghan war gave us the shaggy unruly lice-infested Wahhabi beard so loved by our Persian Gulf Salafists. One more complication: many Salafi elders, to show that they are among the top elite, tend to die their beards, often a bright red (Orangutan) color, as rusty as their brains. Maybe it is to appeal to their wives. A few let them let it go gray.
Second: the Iranian Revolution succeeded in February 1979. Mullahs with shaggy beards and heir followers with trimmed beards took over in Tehran, replacing the clean shaven men of the Shah, King of Kings, Light of the Aryans, etc, etc. An Iranian form of conformity has spread since then: all men of importance in the regime sport a short beard. Not the shaggy lice-inviting type the Salafis have, but a more trimmed grizzly beard. Long enough to be noticeable but too short to invite the lice or particles of food.

Other Muslim countries have their own variation of these two extremes of beards. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE) many influential officials now sport the trimmed neat Zayed-Brothers beard. So named after the seven or dozen (or more) brothers who own Abu Dhabi and rule the UAE. In Egypt a beard is okay if it is the shaggy lice-inviting type, for it indicates the man is an ordinary Salafist who can be bought and not a Muslim Brother. In Syria, well, no matter what kind of beard you have in Syria, it can get you killed, or worse, by any group of armed Jihadis, liberators, invited foreign guests, un-invited foreign guests, cutthroats, or just plain regime forces. You can also get bombed by Syrians, Russians, Americans, British, or Israelis.
Who was it who said: “Hands Off Syria“?

So, in any struggle in our Middle East region today, even in my native Gulf region, you need to scrutinize the beard carefully. You also need to understand the nuances and differences between the various kinds of beards and if they are dyed and what color. Your career, fortune, and life could depend on it.

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

Middle East Humor: Looking for Smiles in all the Wrong Places………

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“Here’s something that has always puzzled me, growing up in the U.S. as a child of Russian parents. Whenever I or my friends were having our photos taken, we were told to say “cheese” and smile. But if my parents also happened to be in the photo, they were stone-faced………… He found that in countries like Germany, Switzerland, China, and Malaysia, smiling faces were rated as significantly more intelligent than non-smiling people. But in Japan, India, Iran, South Korea, and—you guessed it—Russia, the smiling faces were considered significantly less intelligent…………..”

I have occasionally commented in my posts here on the humor or lack of it in the Middle East. Anyone who reads my posts on humor would know that the region between Waziristan through the Persian Gulf and all the way to Algiers suffers from an acute lack of humor. With a few possible pockets of ‘some’ limited humor in the region.

I have often comment about humorless Jordan. But the rest of the region is not far behind. Syria was never known for her humor, and no doubt it is much worse now. The same applies for the Lebanese who are great cooks but suck at telling jokes. Iranians and Israelis are no better. Even American Jews who move to settle in Israel manage to lose any sense of humor that they might have had. As for the Turks, they take the second prize (after Jordan): ask any Turk, male or female or transgender, about humor and they will most likely respond “what is that?

Which brings me to Egypt, the once jewel of Middle Eastern and African humor. It used to be the most, possibly the only, Arab country with a sense of humor. Not anymore. Egyptian humor was famous under Gamal Abdel Nasser, and it survived Anwar Sadat. Under Mubarak it weakened, perhaps a by-product of increased Wahhabi influence. Now under General Field Marshal Sisi humor seems to have vanished from Cairo, even as Wahhabism is going mainstream. Thousands of political prisoners, many disappearances and a rising campaign of terrorism can do that to a society.

As for my native region on the (Persian) Gulf. I recall when I first graduated from college in America and went home. I was used to people smiling at me or smiling back at me in public places in the USA. Even the dogs in the parks would try to lick my hand or hug my leg tightly and in a suspicious way, if you get what I mean.

Back home, whenever I stopped at a red light and looked at the car next to me all I saw was a frown, mostly a scowl and a silent growl. Whether I looked to my right or my left, I was always rewarded with a scowl. Later on I realized that it was just a result of insecurity and some suspicion, not hostility. Many people on my Gulf often feel that they would not be taken seriously or respected unless they scowled at others.
Nowadays it has gotten even more complicated. Other factors have entered the equation: by the time they figure out which tribe or religious sect you belong to, it is too late to smile.

Still, I never respected someone who answered my smile with a scowl anyway. But the scowls worked: I stopped smiling at strangers back home.


Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

 

Humor and Aguafiesta Violence from Early Islam to……

Al Azhar and the Academic Laws of Physics: Sharia Rules on Human Gases

Arab Media…..

WTF: Railway Link to Yemen, from Funny GCC to Asinine GCC…..

 

Sex and Starbucks in Riyadh: Wahhabi Logic ……..

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 ا

Some Arab media report that the Saudi Commission for the Propagation of Vice (the Religious Police/Vice Squad) has issued an order banning women from entering Starbucks cafes. Saudi women who have a hankering for a latte or mocha now have to send their drivers (usually unrelated Asian males) into the shop to purchase what they need. A sign on the window of a Stabucks would read “Please no women allowed entry. Send your driver to get your order“.

So the woman are not allowed entry because there are also men in the cafe, yet the woman is allowed to be “alone” with a driver in a dark and “very private” car or SUV. Saudi women are not allowed to drive cars or ride motorcycles or bicycles or mopeds or skates. And we all know what happens when a Saudi woman in Burqa or Niqab is alone in a dark car or SUV with a male foreign driver. Satan will not be far! According to Wahhabi logic, the Devil will make it a threesome.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Valentine in the Middle East: Swine Flu, Stag Kissing, and Excommunicating Barbie…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2

They report that a Lebanese minister has advised the people of his country this week to reduce the amount of kissing on Valentine’s Day this year. Which makes me wonder what type of neighbors does he have: I mean hygiene and not just looks. But he is worried about the spread of “Swine Flu” aka H1N1.
Yet we kiss a lot in the Middle East, in Arab and Muslim countries, much more than they do in the West. And almost always it is kissing in public rather than in private. We probably do more public kissing than the French do French-ing in Paris. Everybody does it, even the Salafis, Wahhabis, Shi’as, Sufis, Sunnis, Haredim, Vegans, Christians, Evangelicals, and possibly Jews (oddly I haven’t seen many native Jews on the Gulf in recent years for some reason). But the difference is that it is not heterosexual kissing, it is same-sex kissing, at least the public part is.

In Iran, there are reports that the police have warned against spreading Valentine’s Day culture in shops. Yes, shops. A warning which a lot of people and most shop owners will typically ignore, as they do every year.

In Saudi Arabia, red color on February 14 can send you straight to hell, even if you are not Shi’a- Safavi- Rafidhi-Jew-Christian-Animist. The Vice Squad (religious cops) are also cracking down on dolls (Barbie, etc) that expose too much plastic than is considered decent by the clerics. Barbie, of course, was famously excommunicated (by Fatwa) by a religious sheikh and professor (or Dean) of Sharia in my own hometown some years ago.

A few years ago in Gaza some vendor painted an ass red (no, I mean a jackass, donkey) on Valentine’s to promote his business. This year Egypt’s Al Sisi wants the Gazans to have a bit more red in their Valentine: he is opening the Rafah pass to the ‘qualified’ Gazans. But only for February 13 and 14, only for Valentine’s. He will close it back shut right after that, but still it is sweet of the Generalissimo.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

UAE: Ministry of Tolerance, Ministry of Happiness, Ganja, Ganja, Ganja……

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 ا

“New post of Minister of State for Tolerance created to establish tolerance as a fundamental value of the UAE society. A board of Emirati scientists, researchers and academics set up to provide scientific advice and knowledge to the government. The Ministry of Cabinet Affairs has been tasked with devising future strategies and will become the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future. New post of Minister of State for Happiness created to channel policies and plans to create a happier society…………”

Good and in fact cute idea to start with. But will this happiness idea include the overwhelming majority of the people in UAE (about 90%) who are citizens of South Asia, Philippines, Nepal, among other places?
All I can say about the “happiness” bit is that Timothy Leary is dead, but still: Ganja, Ganja, Ganja……

P.S.: now the Saudis feel under pressure to try and match this. They can probably appoint their first female minister: Ministeress of Beheading and Flogging and Crucifixion. As for a ministry of Tolerance, it might work in diverse UAE, but as for Saudi Arabia: forget about it. Tolerance is a truly dirty, and often dangerous, word in Riyadh: it can get one beheaded. The clerics say so.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Tale of Two Civilized Cities: Stockholm vs. Riyadh…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 ا

“Is there a sharper knife that tears at the fabric of society than the threat of physical violence on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, gender or political affiliation? The recent images of young men, wearing hoods and dressed in black, roaming the streets of central Stockholm looking for “north African street children” to “punish” for their mere existence reminded Sweden and the world of the worst elements of European history. People immediately took to social media to express their shock that this could happen in a country like Sweden. Or, to be more accurate, Sweden as they imagine it to be………..”

Media reports increased incidents of physical attacks on “dark” people or people who look “foreign” in some European cities. Even in Stockholm. Especially in Stockholm, capital of Sweden. The latest was a report of a hundred or so masked people beating up people who looked foreign at train stations. Which means it was probably organized, premeditated.
Now let’s go to Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, a country I often criticize strongly for its human rights abuses and intolerance. A country most Europeans consider so different that it is “barbaric” to them, even as they happily take its money as they forget their own much more barbaric recent past.
Nobody gets attacked by mobs of masked men at a bus station for looking “different”, not even in intolerant Riyadh. Unlike cities in Europe, where foreigners are being assaulted from Paris across to Budapest and Athens. Nobody wears funny bed sheets and burns crosses in front of “others” homes in Riyadh either, even if crosses are banned.
Could it be that instinctively bigoted Europe is going back to its old habit of a few hundred years ago, especially when times are hard? When “others” were persecuted, tortured, and killed for being “different”? It could, it could.
Civilized” is truly a relative term, it is in the eye of the beholder………
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

A Dummy’s Haiku Guide to Free Speech in the Middle East: from Islamic to Nomadic to ……..

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2

Haiku:
About Free Speech…
Can it be free at a price?………..
Tell our leaders…….

So what is this “free speech” that many constitutions claim to allow but few actually do? Especially in the Middle East:

  • The Arab League considers free speech, to the extent that it considers anything seriously, as whatever each existing government in power wants it to be. Especially those regimes with deep pockets.
  • In Egypt, free speech is whatever does not criticize the president and insult the armed forces (apparently there is some difference), or mentions Mohammed Morsi without adding the term “deposed” as a prefix. Or anything that does not point out that Egypt (or even Cairo) are not, as the natives and a few Arabs claim, Mother of the World.
  • Al-Azhar sheikhs in Cairo define free speech as their interpretation of the  Holy Quran, the Hadith, and more importantly whatever the current president of the country says.
  • Less stable and more violent Arab countries have a more flexible definition of free speech. In Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, free speech is more nomadic: it depends on which part of the country you are in (and on who you are). Which might be considered by some as an improvement over what it is in other Middle East countries.
  • In Somalia, Sudan, and Djibouti, also considered “Arab” countries, you ask anyone about free speech and he or she might respond: WTF is that?
  • Free Speech in the whole “Persian-American” Gulf region will be covered in the next post, right after this one.
  • Western powers consider free speech in the Middle East as whatever encourages the ruling avaricious oligarchs to spend more money on weapons of death and repression.
  • Ist das klar?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

What Is In a Name: Saudi Society from Alice to Nasser and Netanyahu and Toto………

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2

Saudi authorities have issued a new list of names that are banned, verboten, for new-born infants in the Wahhabi kingdom. The names include: Alice, Rama, Sandy, Abdul-Rasoul, Abdul-Nasser, Abd El-Nabi, Allen, Gabriel, Malika, Iman, Amir, Lauren, Yara, Malik (King), Benyamin. Among others.
I like this last one, Benyamin: they may want to forestall anyone naming their child after Bibi Netanyahu, who can be a potential hero to some Wahhabi potentates. That depends on whether Bibi joins the paid Saudi coalition currently bombing Yemen, or maybe he could take some more action to help the Wahhabi side in the Syrian war.

It is not clear why only these particular names were banned. Does it mean all those unlisted names are acceptable? Oddly, many eligible names are not listed. For example: Stalin, Trotsky, Mao, Adolf(lol), Winston, and Pol Pot are not among the banned names. Nor is Woody Allen or Gertrude Stein or Khamenei. Nor is Whoopie (as in Goldberg) or Anais (as in Nin) or Toto (as in Kansas).

What about Kim Jong-Un? What about Sayed Qutub and Mohammed Morsi? What about Hamdan Qormut?

Better yet, how about Al Thani?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter