I watched this video, and it made me think of the infinite power that writers possess. What really shook me the most is Adnan Ibrahim saying that the average Arab reads of his own free will for approximately three minutes a year – an utmost tragedy. Yet, I can’t help but wonder who is to blame. The Arab himself for not trying to find the tools to his own liberation, or the government for making the tools seem unappealing? I know people who HATE reading. Even more who actually can’t read. 18 year old full-blooded Arab students who stutter over their words in Arabic class, and use terms like “imaginating” in English class. It would be one thing if they compensated for their lack of Arabic fluency with their English skills, but it’s a total embarrassment when they can’t speak either of the two. Then again, I do have to say that schools, in this case, are partially to blame. When the material presented is deathly-boring and dry as a dead man’s bones, the student won’t show any interest and won’t feel encouraged to learn the material. But if you present him or her with poetry, or stories, or articles, or literature that they can relate to and will grab their attention, it’s almost guaranteed that he’ll want to take part in the class – and there you have it, he’s learning! I sometimes sit in my Arabic class while the teacher is talking about grammar, and I hide my poetry book under my desk and read. And to be honest, it feels like I’m learning more while I’m reading that book than while I’m listening to my teacher – my appreciation of language is deepened, my understanding of certain concepts expands, my own writing develops. How else can you be a better writer if you don’t read?
Almost every intellectual will tell you that he only managed to liberate himself through reading. And the ones in Kuwait will tell you they did it by reading many, many banned books. Adnan Ibrahim also mentioned self-critiquing; I along with several other writers I know have made this a habit through our writing. Keeping a journal to keep yourself in check is the best way to see how much you’ve grown from day to day. It gives you easy access to the person you were last night, or last month, or last year. That way, you can compare the ‘two people’. You can also compare yourself to the characters you read about, whether in fictional or in non fictional books. Read books that insult you, read books that provoke you, read books that make you squirm and feel uncomfortable and queasy. Those are the only books that challenge your frame of thought; if by the time you reach the last page, you still don’t agree, then your beliefs are firm. If not, then you’ve acquired new, better beliefs that would make you more comfortable with yourself. Read books that tell you to question everything, to doubt, to inquire, to aspire, to love, to fight, to rebel. Rebelling does not necessarily have to be violent. Simply by carrying a set of values and beliefs that opposes your society’s, you are rebelling. Simply by reading books that your society has deemed to be inappropriate, you are rebelling. And most importantly, by writing, you are rebelling.
In 1984 by George Orwell the main character keeps a journal. He’s afraid of keeping a journal, because he’s not allowed to – the ‘Thought Police’ arrest anyone who keeps track of his own thoughts or feelings or memories. Yet he writes, with a trembling hand and a quivering pen, he writes to remember. He writes so he can later assert the truth. He writes of his dreams, his secret desires, his childhood memories, the country he knew before it turned into a totalitarian state. Of course, later he is arrested – but it takes so much to break him after he had liberated himself. Books were also banned in this state, so when his new-found lover gives him books that discuss liberty and freedom and innate rights, he’s introduced to a completely new world. All of a sudden he’s awestruck with intimacy being an expression of love rather than a duty, with education being enlightening rather than evil, with family being sacred rather than a group of people put together to worship Big Brother. Of course, because he’s so enlightened, he’s caught. Intellectuals are always outcasts in these societies, and rejected because they think differently.
People of Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Arab world altogether – write. Write about the injustices you experience, the disrespect you’re forced to tolerate, the discrimination you witness, the hopes you dream of for our future, your ambitions, your goals, your disappointments, your expectations, your demands, your sadness, your happiness – whatever that may be. You’ll be surprised to find that you’ll experience your own epiphanies while you are writing. Do it through poetry, fiction, non-fiction, articles, books, editorials, blog posts, anything. Write for you, write for your people, write for freedom, write for rights. Bring back the true power of the pen. Pour your heart and soul on paper and then share it. I’ve finally realized that the only reason the radical religious figures are more influential than the liberals is because they are organized and the liberals are dispersed and afraid of speaking out, for more often than not, they are already social outcasts.
But yesterday with the Paint to Freedom incident, I was surprised to see how many people seemed to share the same thoughts. Once you get your ideas and concerns out, I guarantee you will find at least one more person who feels the same way you do. And it’s always good to find someone who’s on the same side as you are.
A few hours ago, Apple finally announced the long-anticipated iPhone. According to my Twitter timeline, Apple users are not happy. Everyone was expecting an iPhone 5/V with a completely new exterior. Instead, Apple kept the iPhone 4 exterior, and completely reformed the interior.
Personally, I’m not happy that Apple made us customers wait longer this year for a product that wasn’t what we expected. I know a lot of people who have put up with their Blackberries falling apart for the past few months because they kept saying “I’m getting the iPhone 5 in October”. But since my Blackberry has developed a mind of its own lately and likes to make a point of taunting me, I will be pre-ordering the iPhone 4S from iCity sometime this week. It’s going for $399 and should be on sale October 12th.
Apparently a large number of tweeps have decided to boycott the popular Kuwaiti TV show, Bu Qtada w Bu Nabeel. The show criticizes our society in a humorous way, and is shown annually on Al Watan TV, usually airing 30 episodes — to fit Ramadan. They also have cartoon strips that they publish daily in the Al Watan newspaper, covering whatever is the biggest social or political story on that day. It’s a very clever and light way of addressing serious matters through animation. The tweeps have decided to boycott anyone that watches the show or reads the comic strips by unfollowing them. Personally I don’t really find that to be a painful blow, I find it silly that these people get huffy whenever someone criticizes them by discussing reality and telling the truth. We all love the country. Denial won’t help us improve it, and it certainly won’t help solve our problems. Once we acknowledge them, and take criticism with an open mind, only then can we progress properly.
3eidkom Mbarak! 🙂
Since today was the first day of Eid, it was also the last day of Ramadan TV shows; most of them aired their finales today. I’ve only been keeping up with two shows, the rest were too dramatic for my liking. It seems like every year, there’s a certain theme that all the directors and writers agree on. Last year it was how men are unfaithful cheaters, the year before it was domestic abuse, and there was that one year where homosexuality and AIDs were pretty popular on TV (of course, Shujoon was the carrier), etc… This year, though, it’s ‘the evil mother’: the mother who won’t let her son marry the girl he loves because of the difference in social status, the divorced mother who won’t allow her children to see their father, and so on. There’s also the middle-aged woman having a midlife crisis by getting involved in a relationship with a man 20 years younger than her (Al-Malika), but that’s another story altogether.
The one show I’ve been consistently keeping up with is Banat Al Thanawiya, and that’s because I’ve read the book before by Mohammed Al Nashmi. The book is sold at Virgin Megastore in Marina Mall, but from what I’ve heard it’s not allowed in public schools; students are punished if a teacher finds a copy of this book with them. I wasn’t all that impressed with the story, I found the plot to be rushed and uninteresting, because the events were very cliche. The main characters, Mohamed and Samar, fell in love way too quickly — in both the book and the series, which were drastically different from one another. In the book, Mohamed holds Samar’s hand the very first moment he meets her. I can see why Kuwaiti channels banned the series, I suppose, but the writer has stated that most of his story’s plot was twisted to suit society’s views. Censorship committees probably considered the book to be breaching certain traditional values, and thought it would spark too much controversy.
The novel’s story is as follows: Mohamed and Samar meet at a shady ‘gathering’, a double-date of sorts. The moment Mohamed meets Samar, he takes her hand, and she moves away — because she didn’t expect the ‘relationship’ to begin so quickly. Of course, it is conveyed that Mohamed and his buddy do not have ‘pure’ intentions, and that’s proven when Mohamed holds the hand of a perfect stranger the moment he meets her, and scolds her when she moves away. The relationship escalates, and they find themselves falling in love with each other, surprising themselves — they expected it to be nothing more than a fling. Strangely enough, they don’t know each others’ full names; they are on a first name basis for months. They grow physically intimate, and the writer describes these scenes in his book. The couple even rent an apartment on Valentine’s Day for one night. Of course, that would explain why the story was changed; according to Middle-Eastern traditions, physical intimacy before getting married is inappropriate. Samar also takes up smoking, which she picks up from her ‘bad girl friends’ — but this wasn’t shown in the series.
As their relationship develops, Samar starts fantasizing about what it would be like to have children with Mohamed, but doesn’t say so out loud. To her great joy, Mohamed is having the same thoughts; he throws hints at her numerous times, how he’s relying on her to help their son with his homework. At this point, they still aren’t aware of each others’ last names…until one day, Mohamed takes her out for ice-cream at a local ice-cream store. She waits in his car as he goes down to the store to get their ice-cream, and as she’s waiting, curiosity gets the best of her when she sees his civil ID on the floor. She picks it up, and when she reads his last name, it changes everything. She goes home and cries later that night, not telling him what she has just found out.
She finds out that Mohamed comes from a Shiie family, while she comes from a Sunni family. It breaks her heart because she knows they will not be able to marry each other in the future, as the union of Shiia and Sunna in marriage is usually very difficult to convince both families to accept. She can’t hold it in for more than a few nights, and she does end up telling him. He hangs up on her, but only because he’s angry she went through his things rather than just asking him. After they kiss and make up, they sit down and discuss their future plans. Mohamed tells her he plans on speaking to his mother and seeing what she thinks. So he does, and his mother tells him she has no problem with it, and would like to speak to Samar’s mother. Samar’s mother, on the other hand, expresses undeniable rejection of giving away her daughter to a non-Sunni. When the mothers speak, Samar’s mother tells Mohamed’s mother that she would not have a problem with their marriage, as long as Mohamed would ‘convert’. Mohamed and his mother are both open to the idea, but his father strongly opposes it, along with all of his uncles. Long story cut short, he goes against his father and his uncles, and he converts. Mohamed and Samar marry each other, both as Sunna.
On their wedding night, they stay at a hotel. As they are settling in, Mohamed gets a call from his mother and his sisters, saying his father won’t let them in the house until he has seen Mohamed (to basically yell at him and tell him what disgrace he has brought on their family). Mohamed apologizes profusely to Samar, tells her he won’t take more than an hour and he’ll be back. Samar is understanding, tells him it’s fine, she’ll wait for him. He drives over to his house, deals with his father, and gets his mother and sisters in the house. As he’s leaving, he calls Samar, tells her he handled everything, and is on his way to get some knafa for them to have for dinner. An hour later, he still hasn’t returned. Samar calls him, and he doesn’t pick up. She spends the entire night calling him, and his phone is off the whole time. When the morning came, Samar still hadn’t slept, and she hears a knock on the door. Her mother and sisters are there, and they tell her Mohamed died in a car accident. Samar laughs, tells her mother, “No, he’s on his way back, he’s just bringing us some knafa.” Personally I think the knafa was an a w f u l touch. It made the death scene turn into a comedic moment rather than a sad one! Granted, most of these writers absolutely suck at properly creating grievous scenes, but knafa just ruins the whole thing! I was actually telling a friend of mine the book’s story the other day, and he laughed his heart out. Knafa and death should never, ever be on the same page!
I didn’t find the show’s ending to be realistic whatsoever. I understand that they were attempting a ‘happy ending’ sort of deal, but if the happy ending isn’t realistic, kill the main character and get it over with. Mohamed’s mother suddenly turning into a saint and hugging the girl she once referred to as a low-class trashy peasant just doesn’t register in my head. Whatever floats the audience’s boat, I guess…