Ending

I hate endings, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.” This academic year was unique in every aspect. I practically didn’t have any holiday since the previous academic year. I spent my whole summer doing an internship to fulfill one of my degree requirements. Despite this fact, I came back ready. I’m not sure what was the exact reason for that. I think, though, that it was because I knew I was spending my last year here.

I met so many great people, such as Ms. Dima Khatib, who inspired me and gave my life another meaning. Some of these people were around me for the past few years, but I didn’t get to know them. It is sad to meet them just before leaving the country.

Yesterday, I was talking with my best friend about memories and remembering people who made an impact in our lives. We were talking on how you wish to meet them, but borders before anything else separate you from them.

In this spirit, Ms. Dima, you have no idea how greatly you’ll be missed. I’m counting on you to come and visit me in Bahrain so I can show you around. Maybe you can convince my mom that she shouldn’t push me to get married as well. I could use any help :p

Classmates, I knew most of you, but not others. It was a pleasant spending this semester with you in this great course that we choose to take. It was also a nice change to have Dana fighting for the class rights, not me. I can retire in peace now :p

Readers of this blog, I can’t believe you made us reach over a 2,000 view! We have been writing and writing. Your support meant a lot!

Lastly, I can’t conclude this post without thanking Mrs. Sophie Boutros  and Dr. Carol Melhem Moufarrej for making this possible. You have been there for us so many times and listened to our demands and worked hard to make them true. You have no idea how much we appreciate that! I’ll miss both of you a lot :(

P.S. “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ― Ernest Hemingway

* This was originally published in Fish N Write.

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Is There A Box?

I’m not sure if we have any Indian readers, but let me start by saying happy holi!

Ms. Dima wants us to write something creative for this week, but I think my real challenge isn’t to think about a creative topic or writing a topic in a creative way. Rather, my real challenge is in being open about my feelings. As I mentioned in earlier posts, it’s not an easy thing. I can tell people how much I appreciate them, but forget the word “love.” Sometimes I feel it’s a forbidden word for me. I simply can’t say it no matter how hard you try to drag out of me (assuming I love you of course :p).

What I tell people “my mom in specific” is that it doesn’t matter if I say the word love. Instead, what matters is the actions I take to express that love. I do believe in this of course, but I believe in the importance of saying “I love you.” So, if I believe in this, then why don’t I say it?

I rather answering a question about one of the mythologies I studied this semester that I barely understand than trying to answer this question, but let me try.

Many people broke my heart during the 21 years I lived on this planet. I, sadly, trust people easily. I always try to see the best in them. I hate to be unfair with anyone, even people that I don’t know. It always costed me a lot. After a while, you just lose faith. You don’t show any emotion so you would avoid being hurt, again.

Now just before I conclude this post, I’ll share with you a funny story that I needed to be creative at. I was taking a videojournalism course last year. Instructors asked us to do assignment about a revolution in the UAE. I refused for many reasons, including that the Arab Revolutions didn’t hit the UAE!  I argued the topic! They tried to say it doesn’t need to be political and I kept arguing that covering a revolution in the UAE is simply not possible (Ms. Dima knows how stubborn I’m!).

I didn’t win the war! I thought of a ‘revolution’ to cover and remembered a TEDx talk I heard at one of the events I attended in Dubai. I remembered the struggle of the founder. I liked her story a lot. I knew then that this is my UAE revolution! Instructors approved it and we got our revolution.

It’s nice sometimes to think of things out of their original context, or should I say the context we labeled them at? Speaking of which, I hope people who know me in person are all alive and didn’t die out of a heart attack due to my holi picture 😉

* This was originally published in Fish N Write.

Let me sleep!

It’s 4 AM. I barely managed to sleep at around 3. It was a very long day at work.

Phone rang. I answered. “Abdulla, we need you to come back.” No! I just slept. I’m dead tired. “You have to come. It’s urgent.”

What is it that made them wake me up at 4? What is it that made them need me? Am I a soldier or a journalist?

I washed up quickly and left. I opened the application in my phone and made it play the recent tweets on my timeline.

“There was a bombing. Police arrived shortly after the expulsion. Reasons are not clear yet.”

Ya Allah. Another bombing? These terrorists doesn’t have a heart. They kill in the name of religion. They must be out of their mind. Can’t they see the harm they are causing?

I have been covering this for a while. They weren’t satisfied with my work. I started a program to host victims to speak about their injuries. Those are lucky. I hosted parents and friends of some victims who died. I thought that maybe, maybe those terrorists will realize the harm they are doing and they would stop.

I received many threat letters, but I’m a journalist. These letters didn’t stop me from doing my job.

Oh, wait. Someone is waiving at me. What is this person doing in the middle of the street at this time? Let me see what is wrong with him. I opened my window: “Hi, what is wrong? Do you need any help?”

He saw my face. He made sure that it’s me. He shoot me with 5 bullets. One of those bullets came straight at my heart, the same heart that tried to make him realize that what he was doing is wrong.

I’m not the first, nor the last journalist that will risk his life for the sake of positive change.

* This was originally published in Fish N Write.

Rarely Boring!

In 2010, I took my first journalism course at AUD. It was a course to learn the media writing skills. One day, our professor gave me and my classmates an assignment, to go and cover Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) press conference. We were not only asked to cover the conference, but also interview someone. We had a deadline which was (If I’m not mistaken) two hours after the end of the conference.

We all went together. We weren’t sure if we will be allowed enter as we weren’t invited. We entered and took the escalator down. The receptionist was looking at us. One of my classmates said: “They caught us! They caught us!” We still walked in confidence as real journalists. When we crossed, the receptionist stopped us and asked: “Are you here to cover the conference?” We replied: “Yes.” She guided us into the hall where all journalists were having refreshments. We felt assured that we won’t be kicked out. Thus, we told her that we are students and we need her help to get interviews after the conference is over and she promised to help.

We stood there having few refreshments till the conference starts. We were trying to look around and see what we are supposed to do. Nothing much really happened until the conference room was opened. We sat almost at the front. We weren’t sure if we should set there, but since we weren’t kicked in the first place then this one should be fine too :p We also asked for the statement that will be given. We were acting as real journalists. Let me paraphrase, we became real journalists.

After the end of the conference, many of us secured interviews by our own. We got big names as well like the head  of DIFF and Dubai Studios City managing director among others. The experience overall wasn’t bad.

Today, we’re not as shy as we were at that time. We became much more outgoing. As a matter of fact, we’re working on our capstone projects right now. That experience as frighting as it was helped us to gain confidence.

It’s not easy to be a journalist, but it’s fun. Your days as a journalist are rarely boring!

* This was originally published in Fish N Write.

Racism and the hypocrisy of Israel’s advocates

This week, I would like to share with you this article and maybe we can have a talk about it at the comment section?

Racism and the hypocrisy of Israel’s advocates

The vital fight against anti-Semitism is “cynically abused to defend Israel’s institutionalised racism”.

Two recent episodes serve as useful illustrations of the hypocrisy of Israel’s apologists in the West and their approach to racism.

Firstly, there was the outrage that greeted Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon in The Sunday Times and which forced an eventual climb down by the newspaper. Some did not hesitate to call the cartoon anti-Semitic – others were more ambiguous but explained why others could think it was anti-Semitic.

Of course, not everyone agreed with that analysis, seeing the cartoon as “an image critical of Binyamin Netanyahu’s policies in the West Bank” and the chorus of condemnation as “an exploitation of Jewish historical trauma”. But the dissenting voices were drowned out.

Yet the same people who wrote blog posts, opinion columns, and appeared on TV and radio to denounce a cartoon were silent about the Israeli army murderingSameer Awad by the Apartheid Wall in Budrus just two weeks before Scarfe’s cartoon was published (and the Wall is bloody indeed).

The second example: during the furore over an event at Brooklyn College about the boycott of Israel, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) compared the talk to the sociology department co-sponsoring an event with “members of the Ku Klux Klan who were going to talk about why America must remain a white-dominated country and how non-white people were ruining the country”.

Here, the ADL associates the demographics-obsessed racism of the KKK with a non-violent movement of solidarity with a people struggling for their basic rights. However, the KKK comparison is relevant – for understanding Israeli laws and government policies. Consider the following examples:

  • “We are the majority in this country and we have the right to preserve our image… Every state has the full right to preserve its character” – Labour and Social Affairs Minister Shlomo Benizri, 2002.
  • Palestinian citizens are the real “demographic problem” – Then-Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, 2003.
  • “Prevent[ing] the spread” of Palestinian citizens is “a national duty” – Housing Minister Ariel Atias, 2009.
  • “We want to Judaise the Wadi Ara area… The state wants to put this place in order so that the Arabs won’t rear their heads” – Nissim Dahan, state-appointed local council head, 2008.
  • “It is a national interest to encourage Jews to move to” places where “the Arab population is on the rise” – Chair of Knesset Lobby for Housing Solutions for Young Couples, 2010.
  • It is “a matter of concern when the non-Jewish population rises a lot faster than the Jewish population” – Then-Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, 1998.
  • Non-Jewish “illegal infiltrators flooding the country” could grow to a number “that threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state” – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, 2012.

Remember that these kinds of remarks do not come from a fringe hate group in Israel, but by the highest level officials. Yet the ADL, and every other pro-Israel group in the West – including self-professed “liberals” – fail to see the inconsistency in calling a KKK member’s demand for America to “remain a white-dominated country” abhorrent, while Israel “remaining a Jewish country” is a “red line”, consensus issue.

Moreover, it is not just rhetoric – it is policy. Imagine the response by the ADL and other groups so eager to shout and blog about alleged anti-Semitism if Jews in Europe or the US were barred from hundreds of communities on the grounds of “social suitability” – or if official government planning goals aimed to prevent Jewish communities from attaining territorial continuity. Or imagine if British Jews were prevented from living in the UK with their non-citizen Jewish spouse – in order to defend the non-Jewish majority.

Yet change “Jews” to “Palestinians”, and this is what is happening, right now, under Israel’s apartheid regime – the same international law-defying regime defended by those who meet demands for equality by Palestinians with cries of “Hate speech!”

The abuse of the charge of anti-Semitism to shield systematic human rights abuses and to smear activists, while tired and transparent to many, is still a favourite tactic. There is the continuing use of the discredited European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC)’s “working definition of anti-Semitism”, or the targeting of “troublesome” human rights defenders, no matter how tenuous and trumped up the justification.

In the words of Antony Lerman, former Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and author, organisations whose views are seen as the views of the organised Jewish community are repeatedly guilty of “doubtful and often damaging politically-motivated interventions in public debate”. The responses to the Scarfe cartoon and the Brooklyn College BDS event shine a spotlight on the way in which the vital fight against one form of racism – anti-Semitism – is cynically abused in order to defend Israel’s institutionalised racism.”

*The origical source of the article.

* This was originally published in Fish N Write.

Kal Ho Naa Ho..

It was a normal working day for me until I knew: Uncle Hasan passed away. My reaction was: “May Allah have mercy on his soul.” He suffered for a long time from cancer. I was supposed to see him in the past few days before he died. I didn’t because I was postponing the visit. I was doing an internship that took a lot of my time. As a matter of fact, that’s where I was going when I knew this news. I went to work for few hours until the time of the burial. I regretted the fact that I didn’t see him for the last time. I saw him alive for the last time two months before his death. He was so weak. All you can see in his body were his bones. All these things didn’t make me think that the day will be a very different day in my life.

When the time of the burial approached, I left work. I was ‘normal.’ Even at the cemetery, I stood with people outside. I was feeling sad, but interacting as usual. It broke my heart seeing his sons and grandsons. It broke my heart seeing all those people who loved coming to say goodbye for the last time. Still, I was ‘normal.’

My family and friends know that I’m not good with expressing my feelings. Actually, I rarely do. And until those moment I was the ‘normal’ me. With all those tears, sad faces, and broken hearts I was able to control myself. I was sad myself, but I’m used to keep my feelings to myself. At least, until a certain point.

My uncle, who’s name is Hasan too, asked me if I saw uncle Hasan. I said no. At that time, men from the closet members of family have already seen him for the last time. I didn’t go because I didn’t want to be rude. My uncle asked me if I wish to see him. I said yes. I went and I saw him. I kissed his forehead. He was peaceful. You can see how cancer has really drained his power. My mom, aunts, and his daughters came at the same moment. They hugged him and kissed him. They were crying. I felt the tears on my eyes but I thought ‘hold yourself.’ I tried. I really did. I’m a person who lives with struggle and pain everyday. I’m a person who used to deal with sorrow since a young age. I’m a person who when he needs to cry go to hide in his room, under his bed cover, and cry loudly. Cry as loud as no one can hear and express all those unexpressed feelings away from everyone and anyone. But not at that moment. My tears started falling. We took him to pray on him before the burial and still I couldn’t hold my tears. People, including my father, were looking at me shocked. ‘This is not Abdulla (without h) that we know,’ they think. I could care less, especially on those moments. I calmed down a bit as we carrying him to his grave, but I was still crying. After the burial, I went to pay condolences to my grandfather, his sons, sons-in-law, and grandsons. As all of the men came to pay condolences, women went to the grave. I waited my mom and aunts, who were with them, to finish. When they finished and came back, I paid condolences to them. I hugged my mom really hard and cried as I never did before. She, who’s the only person in my life who saw me in my weakest points, was also shocked. She tried to calm me down and to remind me that we’re all dying. She tried to remind me that it’s better for him. He suffered for a very long and at least now he can rest. She promised to take me to my grandmother (whom I never met because she died when my mom, aunts, and uncle were very young and actually uncle Hasan and his wife helped my grandfather to raise them) for the very first time. It was something I always wanted to do and she was right when she thought it would help calm me down a bit.

After the burial, I went back home. I went to my room and locked the door. I only saw my mom for few minutes when she came back as she insisted to see me. I didn’t go to work in the next three day. I didn’t go anywhere, even for the funeral service. I simply wasn’t prepared to see anyone. My mother was pushing hard to see me, but I needed to be alone. I needed to deal with my pain. It wasn’t the first time with me to deal with death, but this one was very different.

Uncle Hasan was a very good man. He was one of the few good ones. When my grandmother died, as I mentioned, he and his wife helped my grandfather raising my aunts and uncle. He’s not related by blood to my grandfather, but he was surely more than a brother to him. I used to go to his house when I was young. We used to gather for lunch on Friday. He was so generous. I’ve never heard someone complaining that he harmed anyone. Anyone who met him must have loved him.

If you read this post then please share your feelings with the people you love. Don’t think ‘I’ve time’ because you never know what might happen. Don’t be afraid of expressing your feelings like I do. It’s something to be ashamed of. It’s important to express love in action, but it’s also important to express it in words.

*Kal Ho Naa Ho means there may or may not be a tomorrow. It’s actually the name of a movie starred by the awesome Shahrukh Khan.

* This was originally published in Fish N Write.

LSAT .. I’ll be ready!

Last November, I went to Cairo. It was my first trip outside the Arabian Gulf. I didn’t go there for tourism nor protesting! I went there to do the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in an attempt to peruse masters after graduating in few months.

So, despite the fact that my finals were coming in around 3 weeks and I had a lot of work to do in Dubai, I had no choice but to go to do the test. I needed to do it at that time because most scholarships deadlines (I won’t be able to do the masters otherwise) are in January. I left Dubai Wednesday night to Doha where stayed for a night and met two of my friend briefly. I went to Cairo the next day in the afternoon.

When I went to Cairo, I met my best friend (who happens to be Egyptian) for the first time since 2009. He used to live in Bahrain, but he went back to Egypt after his graduation from high school. That day was historical as it was the last day for the constitution committee meeting and it was aired on Radio. It was nice to witness that day there. I didn’t do much on that day, and tried to get some rest as barely slept in Doha.

On Friday morning, I opened my laptop. There was an email which was sent after my arrival to Cairo the day before to inform me that the test has been canceled! I lost my temper. I tried to call the Bahraini Embassy to seek help and they promised to try. I sent an angry email to the center telling them that what they did was completely unacceptable. I basically did my best to do whatever I can to take the test the next day which is the original day for the test!

A lot of things happened till Saturday morning, but there wasn’t any solution. I had no choice but to go back to Dubai without doing the test. However, I was informed Friday midnight (technically Saturday) that there’s a test center at my university! That was 12 hours before the test! They offered me to take it there! Just Imagine!

I kept fighting when I went back to Dubai to do the test ASAP. Nothing happened. They told me I can only do it on Feb 9th. Now, I don’t have many options left!

Anyways, I need to spend the next few days killing myself to prepare for the next LSAT which I’ll do next Saturday with a believe that whatever happens then Allah knows what’s the best for me 😀

* This was originally published in Fish N Write.