Bahrain: Incense-wafting Journalism

This week in Bahrain bloggers have been preoccupied with topics including sycophancy, the welfare of foreign labourers, and the culture of alcohol consumption. But let's start with Tooners, who describes in detail an argument she had with her sister-in-law about child care, which resulted in her telling her sister-in-law exactly what she thought of her:

I have not been able to stand this wannabe princess/demonic thing since the very beginning but have held my tongue for the sake of the family and for my husband, but since he was fine w/ my telling her what I thought…. well…. I can't tell you the weight it took off of my shoulders.

And she has decided to take refuge in her nationality:

This argument has done a couple of really good things. One, I don't have to pretend to like the demonic thing any more and two, everyone knows now that I'm not playing around any more, and I guess they can look at me as the rude American… because now… I will say what I think. So be it….. I guess I'm rude and an American… Lord help us.

National and cultural stereotypes don't always help, though; Bint Battuta, a non-Muslim, is having a hard time persuading her Bahraini friends that she doesn't drink:

what I find strange is that the few Bahraini friends I have who do drink are almost evangelical about trying to persuade others to do so. … I just don't recall being lectured about not drinking in Europe; sometimes friends will push a little, because they want you to ‘loosen up’ in the way they do, but I've never faced people arguing for drinking in the way I have here. The arguments people make have revolved around alcohol's ability to let you fully experience life, to really harness your creativity, to make you write well, to really connect to your inner thoughts, even to release the child within… (Bear in mind that I have been given these little lectures by people who are artistic or creative in various ways.) I have even been told that one cannot really be a writer without drinking.

Maybe Abu Nuwas would have agreed; Cradle of Humanity reminds us that alcohol was once celebrated in Arab poetry:

Never had I read anything that referred to alcohol with such passion. The amount of love described surpasses that in a lot of orthodox love poetry. Abu Nawas is indeed a unique and an interesting historical character to investigate. Indulgence in alcohol, homosexuality and fornication are his main poetry subjects, with verses that do not shy away from explicitness. … Abu Nawas has earned himself a prestigious seat in “Mujun Poets”, or indecent poets.

Mujun poets were the rebels of their time, against social and Islamic norms they called for indulgence in pleasures- in public- with no shame. Given the amount of obscenity Mujun literature can be considered pornography.

It is inconceivable how a society which was tolerance enough to allow pornography to develop into a literature and poetry genre, can be in its state today. Blasphemy was inseparable to it, shocking the society into tolerance. Some Sukhf (ridicule) literature was the South Park of its time, rich in parody and satire.

Lulu writes about another Arab tradition, that of wafting incense around a leader, which she feels has taken on another form:

The Arabic term translates roughly into: holder of the mubkhar (incense burner). Traditionally, this would be the semi-servant person who hangs around the heads of the tribe, burning Oud and incense for them and telling them how great and amazing they are, they who do no wrong!

Nowdays, with the advances of nano-technology and all, the incense burner took a new form: words! Yes! Somehow, centuries later, we ended up with this semi-servant mentality in our press, parliament, and even business community. … It's more than sad and annoying! It seems that a good portion of our journalists and public figures are treating the political system in Bahrain as if it was a big continuous PR party!

Mahmood is not impressed with another aspect of Bahraini society today. He starts by wishing us ‘Happy May Day':

But only to the Bahraini workers.

Those who are in the private sector to be exact.

Let’s forget those in the public sector, as they are not allowed to form trade unions, they’re unimportant and can’t be counted.

Let’s also forget the Asian workers: Indians, Pakistanis, Bengalis, Filipinos and others who we simply don’t want to see, especially amongst our neighbourhoods, regardless of the fact that it is them and their ancestors who built all of our countries in the Gulf and continue to do so. Let us forget that it is them who keep our streets clean, who man and manage our transport systems, transfer of goods, build our houses and palaces, and manage a large sector of our commerce.

Of course Asian workers helped construct Bahrain's Formula 1 circuit, which Mohammed AlMaskati reports is shortly to be put to another use:

You know it's Bahrain…when a World Open Beach Volleyball Tournament is being held in a concrete jungle…

Bahrainis certainly like watching sports, but it seems they are not too keen on exercising themselves; they apparently some of the slowest walkers in the world. Babbling Bahrania
takes issue with how the findings of a report that has just come out have been interpreted:

Local press decided that our rather ‘unrushed’ walking speed is actually a virtue of our lifestyle, compared to the fast-paced living of urban-dwellers in other countries facing ‘all kinds of diseases’. Do the people who constructed this index not understand the cultural differences between these countries? Living in Bahrain, one fails to see the point of walking at all. The lack of pavements testifies either to lack of demand for walking or the cause of a walking-deficient nation. It seems our legs have been created to perform essential manoeuvring duties rather than general transportation.

Whether you'll be rushing non-stop, or taking a leisurely stroll through the following days, I'll see you back here next week for more news from Bahrain!

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