5.11.18

A minority in my own town

This article was earmarked for publication under a nom de plume, however, the publisher had a change of heart and I decided that I should publish it on my blog

Amman, Autumn 2015

Today was just one of those days that has to be recorded, I don't know why, but it has to be recorded.

First I took my baby daughter to get her vaccines , a "Hexa Vaccine", which I really, really didn't want to because I read somewhere that some babies die because of it! Which is the exact opposite of what you want to read about a vaccine. 

We were also planning a "Rota Virus Vaccine," which has a chance to cause her intestines to collapse like a -you couldn't make this stuff up- telescope,  However remote the chance, you still don't want to hear about it!

With that in mind I walked into the health center -partially renovated by USAID funds- this morning and processed our turn and paid our dues. A few minutes later, we get called into a room, and the pediatrician looked at our paperwork and told her assistant that there are many Jordanians visiting the center today. 

Semantics dictate that the deduced norm is: not to have many Jordanians on any given day. I laughed and asked, and yes that center was usually overwhelmed with Syrians, because "they are the ones with all the kids." In an instant there was a range of emotions running through me.

I was proud that the center in sweileh is among many that have been trying to offer Syrian refugees in Jordan a chance at decent medical attention while running away from their war-torn country. Immediately followed by a -probably unnecessary- fear from over population or changing demographics,then a second later by a need to act. 

I wanted to do something, the war in Syria has gone on long enough, surely these refugees deserve to go home, if only we could do something. Maybe the Jordanian government and people should back one of the sides, perhaps the resistance, or the regime. Anybody, to conclude the bloodshed and help tip the scales.

The resistance shouldn't be helped because we don't want the weapons to reach ISIS, or is that what the regime wants us to think. Are there true freedom fighters? or Are they all just terrorists? The regime has shed thousands of lives, damages countless areas and communities because it wants to stay in power and doesn't believe in freedom, or is that what the resistance wants us to believe. Are there not external forces trying to manipulate the resistance and damage Syria? Are these opposition forces not traitors by conspiring with outside forces? 

I don't know, but it needs to stop!

It was to be expected with the influx of refugees from Iraq, that there will pop-up some restaurants with a slightly tilted menu, or eateries that cater almost exclusively to a different tongue palette. But to have a waiter in one of the oldest restaurants in Amman (Jabri) call one of my favorite dishes by its Iraqi name Dolmah, was a bit too much, especially since he was Egyptian and the Egyptian name is very similar to the local name. Isn't it time that an inclusive democracy happens in Iraq? or maybe another Saddam should come in and settle the place down, either way, shouldn't Iraqis have a better life than trying to carve out an existence in the foreign cities of the world. 

Later in the day, I walked into the Civil Status and Passports Department(CSPD), in their new(ish) offices, to get a passport for my baby girl, walking up-to the front desk, I show the clerk my paperwork and he asks me one surprising question. "Are you Jordanian?"

Ofcourse, I am, am I not? I mean, the whole deal with this building was to provide paperwork to Jordanians and of-course some minorities who live here, but mainly Jordanians, no?

Well, it turns out that "Yes," is not a sufficient answer, I was further prodded on with " Jordanian Jordanian?" and yet again my head nodding and my feverish "Yes," didn't do it, I had to get asked a third time "Jordanian and a national number" which immediately brought more meaning to the words he was asking. 

See in Jordan, a national ID number gives you a 5-year passport, while those with ties to Palestine and claims on other identities have 2-year passports that require much more intensive paperwork and a much more time-consuming process. Others still have different claims and get different identification documents which could have burdensome procedures. This all warrants more visits to the CSPD.

Obviously, therefore, the majority of people visiting the CSPD would not be "Jordanian Jordanian" as the clerk so eloquently put it. They even have whole floors to their affairs. I felt bad for those too, and I wanted someone to act, if Syria had taken long enough and Iraq needs a solution then Palestine is ridiculous. Maybe then Amman will be inhabited by a large majority of Jordanians and foreigners will be a novelty again and Ammanis will stop their xenophobia and go back to their xenophilia for which they were once famous.

21.6.18

The conspiratorial mind of the Arab. Part 1

Conspiracy theory is rife in the Arab world, I have no numbers to back this up, but I think more than half the people I sit down with believe there is a secret shadow government that runs the world. In fact, I would dare say that the majority of people in the Arab world attribute many things from daily government business to 10-year-plans to the same entity.

This has reached the level were people believe that everything in politics and government is fait accompli

Patrick Cockburn and Robert Fisk are two journalists who work for "The Independent." They have been based in the Middle East for decades on end. They made a home of it and lived in it. When they write something, I may not agree with it, but I understand where it came from.

The same cannot be said about the likes of Thomas Friedman (no hyperlink included) of the New York Times with his excuses for the regimes of the west. Any layman on the ground in the Middle East, reads Friedman as fiction or as part of proving to his tea drinking mates that there is something in their country that they don't see, but he read about it from a "Formidable Jew"

I tend to sit down with these crowds and I live by the age-old adage "listen more and talk less." I hear the multitude of conspiracy theories they spew out. The more elaborate and outrageous, the more some people buy into it. When Friedman tells us that there is a possibility that Iran and Israel are heading for their first war. My Arab readers think this means Israelis are preparing to bomb Iran.

Others will read it as a cover-up to the conspiracy that is running their lives.

Just to push my point through, here is one from an old Ba'athist (all translated ideas):
  • Iran and Israel are in cahoots (I am trying to translate, bear with me) to destroy the Arab World.
  • Since Khomeini stepped down the stairs of the Air France B747 and he has been working with the CIA to destroy Iraq. That is why the US pushed Saddam to invade Iran and after destroying his military might, told him to invade Kuwait. This is when they stabbed him in the back and planned to take over his oil.
  • Next comes Syria, the strongest economy and the most self-sufficient power in the Middle East. The Israelis founded ISIS and funded it just as they did with Hamas. They then created a power vacuum which looks alluring to both Saudia and Qatar, where they can spend billions fighting it off.
  • Saudi funded some people, Qatar funded other factions and this allowed Israel to destroy the next threat to its existence.
  • These scenarios means that the Arabs allowed Syria, Iraq and all the Persian Gulf national wealth to evaporate, all in a span of a few years.
  • The Kurdish state will be funded by Israel to take parts of Syria and Iraq as their own and then ally themselves with Israel and therefore form a barrier against Turkish meddling and stop the Turkish empire resurgence 
This scenario above was so ludicrous that I had to leave behind my silence and ask
  • Was Syria ever a threat to Israel? Since 1973, have they ever fired a bullet towards Israel? (Syria was apparently waiting for the right time)
  • Aren't Iran closer to the Israeli border now? (I was sorry I asked, apparently this was the plan, to have an Israeli-Persian belt to prevent Erdogan from taking over part of the Middle East and kicking Israel out.)
  • Don't Israel rather have stability in their neighborhood and a regime that is rational rather than a couple of rouge terrorist factions? (Ofcourse not, the Ba'athist taught me, de-stability is how they plan to start taking over the Middle East)
Conspiracy theories thrive in fluidity; any evidence to the contrary is void and any piece of evidence needed to support the argument can be made up. There are people who make this stuff up for a living, like the vulgar and self-proclaimed Editor-in-Chief Osama Fawzi (no hyperlink and don't even google him, it's not worth it) and other conspiracy theorists.

The above was one example of many that Arab conspirators swear by.

More importantly, it is important to look at the cultural influence of the Islamists. They spent years as a proselytizing force that was an important feature especially in the gulf region. This was important in the early years of Jihad, when Jihadis in Afghanistan were actually encouraged by the CIA.

I read this book and realized that this was not a conspiracy theory, it was in fact the intention of the Arab Governments and the CIA to create a boogy-man called "The communists"

 I recall quite vividly a cassette that was being pushed by the religious establishment when I was growing up.

The verse I recall is: 

شيوعيون جذراً من يهود... صليبيون في لؤم الذئاب

Which translates into:

"Communists rooted in Judiasm ... Crusaders as vile as wolves"

You can't make this stuff up

It was by a "Sheikh" called "ٍSa'ad Al Ghamidi", for those with a conspiratorial mindset, I don't think they are related to the two Ghamidis who participated in 9/11 but I can't be sure. The cassette was titled "Conspiracy woven against the youth." I googled it and was not surprised to find different "covers" of the same song on Youtube.

Here is one posted in 2008

Just the fact that I am calling it a song might get me in trouble, it is actually a "chant". Since these sheikhs interpretation of Islam prohibits all kinds of musical instruments, even some that were used in the times of the prophet, they "chant" with no musical backing and rely on acoustics to make the sound passable.

Another version below shows some of the clergy catching sellers of pendants with anchors in them, you need to understand that the anchor contains a hidden cross, therefore it must be a conspiracy to get our youth to wear a cross.

A picture shows a cloth that contains hexagons, therefore it must be an attempt to get people to wear the Israeli hexagons. A T-shirt with the words "Sister for sale" is also caught as a conspiracy to get our youth to start practicing prostitution in their own families.

This wasn't a small operation, these cassettes were copied in the thousands and were available from the UAE and Kuwait to Qatar and Saudia Arabia. The clergy in the video are most probably in Saudia. They are the official government censor office which have authority to confiscate such media.

I recall vividly as a young kid that there was an image of a pig in one of our textbooks. The censorship team came into class one day and asked us for all the books so they can use their black markers which were notorious in the UAE of the late 1980s and early 1990s. They used the markers on the pigs, as if they shouldn't exist. 

My father found their act shameful,  perhaps they should take their markers to the Quran, because the animal is mentioned in it.

To be continued...