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A tragic week in Bahrain and the Gulf

It's been a tragic week for the Arabian Gulf; several hundred pilgrims died while performing the Hajj, the 6th son of Bahrain's monarch died in a car crash and just yesterday Shaikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, the 13th ruler of Kuwait died at the age of 78 after a long illness. Needless to say Bahraini bloggers’ commentary on these events were plentiful covering all three aspects, the most contentious of which was the pilgrimage disaster which was seen universally as avoidable:

More than 500 people have died in this year\'s Hajj (pilgrimage) in Makkah in 2006 The Joker starts the ball rolling and suggests that pilgrims are not treated equally as proscribed in Islam, where everyone should be equal. This is further demonstrated by the strict uniform and rites pilgrims undertake – but in actual fact they are treated according to their ethnicity, with 3rd world pilgrims treated in a much more derogatory fashion unlike the Saudis and other Arabs who perform the Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage). The solution he poses for this recurrent problem include the limitation of the numbers of people allowed to perform the Hajj – a theme universally taken by all commentors; hiring professional organisations to oversee crowd control and flow during the various stages of Hajj, and lastly the “ticket price” allowing people to perform the Hajj should be proportional to their prosperity.

Mohammed Al-Maskati blogging at emoodZ agrees and further amplifies on the theme by stating that once again, the Saudi authorities put the blame unfairly on pilgrims’ disorganisation and impatience, rather than the Saudi Hajj authorities’ incompetence. He goes further in suggesting that Sunni clerics should follow their Shi'a colleagues in re-interpreting some of the set tasks of the Hajj and making them more flexible, especially that the main bottleneck has been the “stoning of the devil” task. The Shi'a allow their followers to stone the devil at any time at the end of the Hajj, while the Sunnis only allow their followers to do so after the point of noon on the last day of the pilgrimage and has a time limit associated with the task. As all rites must be performed in strict sequence, if any pilgrim does not finish all these tasks, his or her pilgrimage would be regarded as null and void if these tasks are not completed. This interpretation adds to the frustration and hastiness of the pilgrims as they literally fight against time to finish their Fifth Pillar of Islam.

Mahmood finds himself in complete agreement with both of the above, and argues for more drastic measures: Hajj should be declared optional rather than mandatory, and clerics should find other ways in which Muslims can atone themselves of sins. He receives a lot of flack and some support for his thoughts.

Shaikh Faisal bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, 6th son of the Bahraini monarch, 14 years old, died in a car crash in Bahrain. Practically every Bahraini blog offered condolences to his majesty the king of Bahrain on the tragic death of his 6th son: Shaikh Faisal, who was just 14 and died as a result of a car accident. Shaikh Faisal is remembered by his friends as an avid equestrian and is full of life. Some commentors however wanted to break the norm and politicise this tragic event, especially as controversial forums like the recently lauded BahrainOnline.org, which mysteriously is on a 4 day maintenance regime! Hassan Al-Khozai (Arabic) was disgusted by some of the black-hearted comments on “some” Bahraini forums who seemed to revel in the extinguished young life just because it belonged to a royal, and this comes from someone who could only be described as opposition. However Hassan is certainly not unique in this respect, he has proven his humility just as other traditional government opponents have: Abdulhadi Khalaf, and Manama Republic have conveyed their condolences with the politeness, respect and humility this situation demands.

Shaikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, recently deceased, Kuwait 13th ruler. Passed away on 15 Jan 2006 The sympathies were extended universally once again to the Kuwaiti people and royal family on the death of their 13th Amir; Shaikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, after a long illness. Shaikh Jaber was much loved in Bahrain not only for the various infrastructural and community projects he and his government have done in Bahrain through the Kuwaiti Development Fund, but also for the shared history of the two countries and the closeness of their peoples.

In other activism news, non other than GV's MENA Uber Editor Haitham Sabbah launched a campaign to include the country name Palestine in the drop-down lists of online blogging services. He has met with some success so far in at least getting the blogging services to listen to his point of view and effect the required changes. While Strav highlights RSF's latest campaign targeting conrporate responsibility. Tawfiq Al-Rayyash (Arabic) recalls the troubles and civil unrest that Bahrain went through in the 1990s and questions whether those methods are still applicable today in civil disobedience demonstrations. He concludes that those methods most definitely will not work to put pressure on the establishment, and asks what method would be most effective in this day and age. He was also in a reminiscing mood last week offering us a glimpse of Bahrain in 1954 showing a picture of one of the Hussaini processions, and tells us about Sami Yusuf, who is a “devout practicing British Muslim who sees songs as a means of promoting the message of Islam and encouraging the youth to be proud of their religion and identity.

Silver Girl declares her love and admiration for Israel and suggests that Arab leaders should emulate Sharon. She also touches upon the very thorny Bahraini subject of what is regarded as illegal naturalisation when she highlights a column by Reem Khalifa, a journalist at Al-Wasat Newspaper (Arabic).

Homesickness is a very powerful emotion, as copiously discovered by a very Silly Bahraini Girl, no matter how much she protests that she's not and quite likes the weather in Toronto, Canada, where she has exiled herself for the time being! However, that doesn't stop her from highlighting alleged corruption within the justice system in Bahrain.

Routine and structured ways of life is reflected upon by Mo at Random Blog. Mo is a final year medical student in Ireland who loves football, Xbox and PlayStation games which he sometimes writes about. It is a very random blog, but thankfully it provides us with a glimpse of what goes on with medical trainees in foreign lands! He even has some fashion advice to “manly” men this time: “They're plain and black, by the way. Just the way they should be. *manly grunt* ” he says in describing how he succumbed to the cold finally and bought some garments he wouldn't have been seen dead in only a few months ago!

The Joker finds out that his feelings for Dr. Phil are anything but platonic; he riles against this “Colonel/Psychologist” because he was aghast at his temerity of exhibiting a family whose child has suffered at the hands of a pedophile to public display on one of his shows. He further explores the quality of these shows and concludes that they are nothing but entertainment with station managers having no regard to their viewing public by sandwiching irreverent adverts in between program segments which he thinks should be treated with better respect, considering the sensitivity of their content and subjects.

If you were a university that has doctoral studies, would you accept a PhD dissertation in which 200 leading intellectuals branded as heretic? Well, Jaffar Al-Omran continues to shine by bringing us controversial subjects which are worth discussing. He has unearthed one Sa'id ibn Nasser Al-Ghamdi whose doctoral dissertation was submitted and accepted at: “Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University. In his dissertation Al-Ghamdi made a list of 200 Arab intellectuals accused of heterodoxy and deviation, the accusation, which is punished by death in his doctrine.

Book signings? Yes, we have them in Bahrain too, thanks to our very own Ali Al-Saeed, the only Bahraini English-language novelist. Ali had a book signing event which took place at the most famous shopping malls in Bahrain in which he met with some of his admirers. He was good enough to also post some pictures of the event.

Bahraini Rants is back! I, for one, missed his rants, I'm sure those of you who peruse his archives will become as addicted to this gentleman's writings as I have; and if you're like me, a person who likes his or her food, then don't miss out on his excellent Argentine Asado recipe. You will most definitely forget your diet when you read his descriptions because you will want to fire your BBQ immediately to try it out!

Back to the present, BahrainiRants now takes us on a trip down his musical memory lane and reflects on the music he mixed himself with painstaking attention to detail, as well as the smells and sights that music conjures up when he re-listens to some of his recordings now.

Two new blogs have become active of late: Samir, a Pakistani gentleman who lives in Bahrain has a blog he calls 1Pakistan in which he discusses issues pertaining to both Bahrain and Pakistan. The other is Asish Gorde, an Indian gentleman who has lived almost all of his life in Bahrain I am told, and is a lecturer in media studies at the University of Bahrain. Ashish's blog is Eureka Express and is well worth your visit.

More next week! Have a good one.

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