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Bahrain: Getting It Out of Your System…

We have a world of contrasts in Bahrain this week. The summer vacation is over, which makes some bloggers happy, and others miserable. Religious scholars – respect or despise them? One blogger compares blogs in the USA and in the Arab world. And our star post this week is a description of how to detox, Bahrain-style…

Here we go again…
Schools and universities opened again this week, and a number of Bahrain's bloggers have posts on educational matters. Ahmed describes an interesting phenomenon he has noticed:

اليوم كان اول يوم دراسي .. و لكنه كان هروباً جماعياً
لماذا تهربون من المدرسة في اول يوم .. هذا اليوم هو يوم التعارف على المدرسين و الطلبة .. ليس للهروب و الذاهب إلى الكفتيريا
قال لي احد المدرسين : رأيت اليوم ابناء الأجانب(الهنود) يركبون الباص و ابواتهم ينظرون لهم .. و لكن هناك فرق كبير بين ابنائنا و ابناء الأجانب(الهنود) لأن ابنائنا يذهبون إلى المدرسة للنوم و اللعب .. و لكن ابنائهم يذهبون للجهد و الإجتهاد
‘Today was the first day of classes but it was a mass escape. Why would you escape from school on the first day? This is the day you get to know your classmates and teachers and isn't the day you escape to the cafeteria. One of the teachers told me: ‘Today I saw the foreigners’ children (Indians) getting on the bus with their parents watching them..but there is a big difference between our children and theirs because ours go to school to sleep and play .. while theirs go to work hard and excel,'” he writes.

Shaima Al Watani is concerned about increasing incidents of violence between school students, and thinks something should be done about it as soon as possible:

ومهما كانت الأسباب فإن العلاج السلوكي والاجتماعي والنفسي واجب يجب اتخاذه للقضاء على هذه الظاهرة كذلك فإن العقوبات الرادعة والعلاجات الناجعة يجب أن تأخذ مسارها الصحيح نحو القضاء على هذه الظاهرة حتى لا تتحول مدارسنا إلى ساحات قتالية تسيل في أنحائها الدماء البريئة.
“Whatever the reasons are, behavioural, social and psychological treatment is a duty in order to overcome this phenomena. Deterrent punishment and successful remedies should also be implemented to end this trend so that our schools don't turn into battlefields tainted with the blood of innocents,” she explains.

One in a Million has a very succinct post:

It’s only nine more months till the next summer vacation!

Coping with life in Bahrain
Students may be lamenting the end of summer, but Seroo (who recently moved back for an extended visit after years of living in London) can't wait for hers to be over:

It's been a good summer because I love Bahrain. I love hanging out with my family and my childhood friends. I love cocktail Kuwaiti from Burair and drive-thru everything. I love the simple life here that can get you as far as you need. It's great, isn't it? My friends abroad leave me jealous facebook messages on how sunny life must be here and how wonderful it all is.

What I don't tell them is that after a whole summer here I've now got an itch that no matter how much I scratch will not go away. Who was I kidding, a whole summer here and I was expected to stay sane? With no special exhibitions in museums, no parks, no outdoors activities, no long walks, no intellectual stimulation, no anything new and no character to anything around me, was I supposed to be just fine and not feel useless?

For some more opinions on why life in Bahrain is frustrating, read a post by another blogger here (please be warned, the post is full of profanities!).

Blogging here, blogging there
Butterfly sometimes tours blogospheres in different parts of the world, and has some comparisons to make with Arab blogs:

هذه الجولات قادتني إلى اكتشاف يتعلق بمدوناتنا البحرينية والعربية بشكل عام وهو ان غالبية المدونات العربية تنحصر في الشئون السياسية، الدينية ، الادبية والاجتماعية
اما المدونات الاجنبية والامريكية بشكل خاص فهي بالاضافة الى كل ذلك تتطرق إلى أمور أخرى مثل البحوث والدراسات الاكاديمية، الصحافة والاعلام فضلا عن الامور والهوايات الفنية مثل التصوير الفوتوغرافي والديكور والرسم والزراعة وغيرها.
“Those tours have led me to a discovery related to our Bahraini and Arab blogs in general and it is that the majority of our Arabic blogs deal with political, religious, literary and social affairs. Foreign blogs and Americans especially, deal with other issues as well, such as academic studies and research, journalism and media and artistic hobbies such as photography, interior design, painting, gardening, etc,” she notes.

Faith – and disillusionment
We turn now to religious matters, and Rayyash explains the background to a call for ‘death to secularism’ made by a senior cleric in Bahrain:

عندما يتحدث أي رجل دين عن العلمانية فإنه لا يتحدث عنها بشكل إيجابي مطلقاً لأنه ملتزم إسلامياً والعلمنة لا تتعاطف ولا تنسجم مع الالتزام الاسلامي ، لأنها ترى في الاسلام ديناً وتعتبر أنه لالا علاقة للدين بحركة الواقع ، سواء على مستوى الحكم والسياسة أو القانون وما الى ذلك، بينما الاسلام هو دين للحياة في كل مواقعها لذلك لا تتوقعون أن يتحدث العالم الديني عن العلمانية بشكل إيجابي
“When any cleric speaks about secularism, he doesn't speak about it in a positive light because he is committed to Islam while secularism does not sympathise nor is it consistent with Islamic teachings. This is because it sees Islam as a religion and considers there is no relation for religion with reality, whether in terms of governance, politics or law. However, Islam is a religion for life and therefore, don't expect religious scholars to speak positively about secularism,” he writes.

Mohammed AlMaskati is not feeling at all charitable towards religious scholars:

نعم أريد أن أكون رجل دين، أزوج و أطلق ليل نهار مستلماً مبلغاً من هذا و مبلغ من هذاك مقابل ورقة زواج يلعنها الطرفان ليل نهار لسنين طوال قادمة، نعم أريد أن أكون رجل دين، لا هم لي في السياسة و أهوالها، لا أعلم شيئاً عن أحوال دنيا اليوم أدفن رأسي في كتب غلب عليها الغبار أنقل رواية عن فلان عن فلان علها لم تقرأ على المنبر من قبل، نعم.. نعم.. رجل دين، لا قروض لا هموم المواطن، بل الكثير من البكاء و النياح طوال العام، قليل من الأفراح و الأشعار في بعض الليالي وهو كل ما أعمل..
نعم رجل دين، تفوح مني رائحة المسك و البخور، لا أحتاج أن أحلق لحيتي اللعينة صباح كل يوم كما أفعل الآن، أطلقها فهي من علامات التقوى، نعم رجل دين أفتي ما أفهم فيه و ما لا أفهم، أتكلم العربية الفصحى , أنقل رواية ضعيفة عن هذا و إسرائيلية عن هذاك، فما أدراني.. فما أنا إلا رجل دين
“Yes, I want to be a religious cleric , who gets people married and divorced in exchange for money from this person or that for a marriage contract, which the two parties will damn for long years ahead. Yes, I want to be a religious man, who doesn't care for politics and who doesn't know about the affairs of life and who buries his head in books covered with dust, to read about a story transmitted through word of mouth, and which may have not been read from a pulpit before. Yes, yes.. a cleric, without loans or a care in the world for the problems facing people, but with an ability to cry and wail all year long – a few weddings and poetry on certain nights – that is all I do. Yes, a religious scholar, who smells of musk and incense and who doesn't need to shave his damned beard every morning like I now do. I would let it grow as a sign of being religious. Yes, a religious man who passes judgment on things he knows and doesn't know, who speaks classical Arabic, who speaks about a weak story from someone and an Israeli tale from someone else. How would I know any better? I am merely a man of religion,” he rants.

The urge to purge
Ramadan is about to begin, and Bahraini Rants describes a traditional method of ‘detoxing’ before the month of fasting:

Historically, the last Wednesday before Ramadan has always been a busy time in Bahraini homes… Bahrainis, being the cool holistic cats that they are, cleansed and detoxed their systems to ring in the coming holy month properly. They used to drink a strange combination of leaves, roots and branches called “ishrig”, mixed up by the local Hawaj (apothecary) and brewed into a god awful drink to help cleanse your system. In other words, a diuretic with the devastating outcome reminiscent of raging cyclone steroids, nice enough picture for you?

A couple of years back, right before the start of Ramadan, I jokingly mentioned to my father about wanting to cleanse my system before fasting. He replied with giving ishrig a try, and I said, why not. My why not was met with a very disdainful scoff and grave statement that will forever ring in my ears, “if you do take ishrig, you will not leave the house for a while, and you will feel pain, insurmountable pain”. He then regaled me with stories of his childhood on attempted escapes from the clutches of his house to avoid drinking the stuff. Let me tell you, the ol’man has a pretty high tolerance for weird herbal remedies, and if he’s adding a disclaimer to ishrig, then this stuff was pretty bad.

But of course me and my father have this very XY chromosome chest thumping dare double dare contest perpetually going on, and we agree to drink ishrig together and deal with consequences (a previous contest between us was betting the waiter at an Indian restaurant on how hot they could make their lamb vindaloo and then who was man enough to eat it all – end result, a very painful evening with no real winner). His claims of me not being able to handle it were met with my pointing out his old age and inability to re-hydrate fast enough.. In keeping with traditions and all gentlemanly rules, we set the date for the last Wednesday before Ramadan to cleanse our systems, and see who’s made of mettle and who’s a yellow belly baby…

Perhaps you can guess what happens next… This post just has to be read in full, so I will leave you with bated breath (and perhaps churning intestines). Ramadan Kareem, and more from Bahrain in a week!

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