Thursday, March 30, 2017

MY POEMS OF OMAN: To Muslim Lands

TO MUSLIM LANDS

What is hijrah?
There is no hijrah any more.
When even the Muslims
Define themselves by borders
And nations, and skin, and sects;
By tribe or by what you drive:
There is no hijrah...

Only a slow decay,
Rather than a sure breaking.

Still, I would rather be worn
Than broken and beaten,
Spat upon and cursed.
I don't know if I am coward
Or just of patience fled,
But I am tired of the lies
On which we Muslims are fed.
There is no Muslim country,
But ever to Allah belongs
Both the East and West.
Hush now, and I'll tell you a secret:
That world was never taken.

So in ease I pray and dress,
While some fool protests

For Shariah Law in a Non-Muslim
Majority country: for he is a fool.
He cannot even rule himself.
These are my so-called leaders, so I laugh...
For no vote had they from me.
Muslim lands have thin borders,
Difficult for mortal eyes to perceive.
Muslim lands are but as wide as our deeds
And as vast as the strength of our belief---
For the country of Islam is but the body
Of men who believe.

MY POEMS OF OMAN: Heaven is Under Her Feet

HEAVEN IS UNDER HER FEET

"Heaven is under your mother's feet!"
The shorta says to me,
"Just give it some time and be a good girl,
Say that you're sorry, you'll see."

Yes, I blew breath in her face,
That was a mistake, I yield.
But I fought off her steel knife with only
A wooden spoon for my shield,

And had her hands around my neck,
Squeezing 'till I saw the stars!
So I kicked and broke a couple ribs:
My old cradle, now my prison bars.

A mother is the darkest jail. You can't escape
Her even when you're out. Allah put care of you
To her, and see. That debt you cannot pay.
So if she needs, what you can, you must do.

So if she needs money I get it,
If she needs friends, I find those no doubt.
And if she were ever ill I would tend her
But beyond that, good Sirs, I am out.

Insanity is doing the same thing
Over and over, expecting different results.
And I am done with crazy.
Islam is not one of those  'suffering' cults.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MY POEMS OF OMAN: If not I?

IF NOT I---or "the advice my father gave me"

If not I then who to stand,
For other men, when the castle gates are falling?
I could say wait! For whence another fit
To answer boldly to those calling
Sure will come! I could say this not my place,
These are not my kin, nor these my halls;
Still we could walk safely out from underneath these smoking,
Blackened ramparts. No oath spoken galls
My conscience: for no folk of mine are these!
High-speech was never my speech. The trouble and pain
Is not worth the enemies-making that is sure to follow!
Yet if not I, then no man is noble says my brain,
And all oaths of men are hollow. A man
Who does not do just what he can
To ruin, or the world’s red ending come
For right; he is not a man.
So because I can, I will stand,
Between this night, and the hope of day.
So remember me in darkness, Daughter!
When of hope of victory, or glory, there is not a ray:
A man without rare skill or great goodness in me
Who laughs at heroes, and young men who think themselves brave;
I am the blood of those of little reach and no reaching say
Before, as Kings and Queens, I burn my pagan ship for the grave.
Yet great things are only done by good men
And power corrupts those great.
You cannot always be strong; Instead, Sweet Child, be brave!
And if it is in you: do not be the one the one who waits!


A poem inspired,  not necessarily by Oman, but my father's advice when it comes to doing the right thing, even when he's worried about me over here in Oman, fighting for some lost cause, and making myself friends;). He is ever the one other people turn to, when they need someone to be strong beyond words. I'm good at words, but in my father, I see what true strength means. And I'll never forget the day it was a mob-to one-odds, and he stood up for those he didn't even necessarily like or agree with, but only because it was the right thing to do. He had a girl dressed in a princess dress behind him, and all the boys were hiding inside, leaving it to that one "old man".

"When the kid is bigger than you, you're allowed a stick," my father always told me.  "What about when there is more than one kid?" I asked my father. "Get a bigger stick," he told me.

...But when there was a whole sea of them, red faced and wanting to burn that house down, my father stood in the doorway, barring their entry, armed with just a stick. "So what do you do, when you can't possibly win?" I asked my father. "Go for the leader," he advised me of mobs. "The rest are usually cowards." "And if that doesn't work?" I wondered. "Act crazy," he told me simply with a shrug, prepared to fail, but not prepared to let stupid, angry, blind wrong pass him without a fight. "Crazy is scarier than a gun to your head sometimes." Those fighting words have as of yet, not let me down.

So with him for a father, is it no wonder, I can't just say nothing at times? Or let another do what I could?

MY POEMS OF OMAN: The Mountain Man

THE MOUNTAIN MAN

A man of the mountains, unyielding, unmoved,
Hard as red iron-stone to sharpen blades,
And tradition-bound to the hilt of your bones.

I cannot walk with surety that I shall be loved
In that green place between the mountains,
Clutching what crumbles, and tripping on stones.

You dutifully drink from the well-spring of stone,
Without fear of taint or sickness come,
Filling that flask, collecting the wood, lighting the fire.
We shelter from the sky, purple with rain
And the wind blows up from the wadi below,
And the echoes of our own footsteps urge us on higher.

Thunder warns that the rain in your country is deadly
But you make love to it all the same, such is the thirst 
Of the parched eyes of men; they are happily drowned. 

It is in you to climb, and your feet are wretchedly sure
While snagged on thorns the dress I've hitched is torn,
But alike in us is the hunger is to see what is up, around.

There is but one bird and a thousand caves,
Countless bends and canyons carved, with rushes
Lined, and always another horizon rising up.

Still, I fear to drink from the cup I do not know,
Or invite great hosts to swarm my halls, who would
Have me changed, a slave to them, to but sew and sup.

I cannot spend all my days talking these same subjects
Over in-houses. Like you I would climb and hike, and swim
In the impatient pools tickled by the pink wisps of flowers.
 There, I would be your happy wife for hours,
 A woman who laughs freely into the wind
And makes the screaming sky, the roof o'er her bower!

Would that you and I could but dwell up here in stone and mud,
No guests to come a'callin'. I would let you lead me to the sky:
Above myself, and beyond my eyes, 'tis the mountain man I'd follow.

...But go the trail of goats, and the tired ways of other men,
And to places often seen before, no matter how fair the view
Or pure the spring: it is not a drink I'm fool enough to ever swallow.

Friday, March 17, 2017

More Thoughts on Women's Rights in Oman After Reading Dhofari Gucci's Last Post

I just finished reading Dhofari Gucci's post on Women's Day, and women's rights in Oman. My Omani husband always says, "well, at least we don't live in Dhofar"... but then....I've seen major abuses of women's rights even in Muscat.

I saw one girl who was denied access to her own ID, and passport, by her father, and they live in Al Amerat in Muscat. She went to the police with this, because the law does support freedom of movement for Omani women. Nonetheless, the laws were not enforced, and no one gave the woman her ID. She was effectively imprisoned in her family home. I have never, ever heard from her, or seen her, again.

When I have visited the women's protection section of the courts, I saw incompetence (no follow-up by case-workers even in cases where violent abuse is a factor) and the attitude of "the family always wants what is best for a girl" prevailing. Case-workers also were racist.

Families don't always want what is best for a girl. Believe me.

My own mother once tried to stab me with a knife and the police told me "heaven is under her feet" so I should give it time, and try to make that relationship work.

If I had grown up as an Omani girl, where my family controlled my ID cards, I wonder if I would be able to move away and escape them? Would I be able to work and support myself? Would I be able to live by myself?

All the laws in Oman, support these things supposedly, but the enforcement of the laws then, is not there.

And there are some things in Oman a girl cannot do because of the lack of enforcement, because of her family.

I am sure my mother (not Muslim, not Omani) would have loved the ability to control what I studied, who I worked for, and to be able to choose who I married. I know for certain my own thoughts and best interests would never have even occurred to her. She would have used me to improve her lot in life, or to make herself look good to other people, and what I needed or wanted would not matter if it didn't do those things for her.

Even my father, bless him, for he has always wanted nothing but the best for me, would choose someone totally unsuitable for me. Someone who wouldn't beat me or abandon me, and who would be financially stable, those would be his goals, but that would sort of be my minimum for myself, and not really amount to my emotional happiness. He'd choose someone I could live well with, not necessarily love or be fully loved by. Not because he wouldn't want what is best for me, but because he simply doesn't know what is best for me. There's a reason  Islam gives a girl a yea or a "no, I don't think so", to every marriage, even if the law in Oman, really does not ask for her signature on her original  marriage contract, or even on notice-of-her-divorce papers.

That is something society in Oman needs to learn to accept. Not every family knows what is best for their girls. Not every family is the same. Your father might actually be great at picking out a husband for you, but that doesn't mean that mine is good at the same for me. And your mother might be the sweetest, most selfless soul that breathed, while another woman's mother would sell her daughter for a head of lettuce, or another might enjoy controlling more than loving (,ie see the Fairy-tale "Rapunzel" to get that lettuce reference).

As I apply to be Omani, I know I should apply for Canadian citizenship for my daughter. As an Omani girl, the law simply does not give her all the rights that she should have under Islam. So at the same time, my readers might wonder why it is okay for me to give up my Canadian citizenship to be Omani? Well, you see, I don't need a family or a tribe for anything, to fight for me. I can fight for myself, apply for things myself. Not every Omani woman, however, can, as long as she has a family with male Muslim relatives to hold her back. These men are supposed to protect her, but even they aim to do that, they may not always know what is best for her,

If there is no choice in something, there is no freedom to it.

This remains an important issue internationally, concerning hijab, the Muslim woman's headscarf.

There is no law in Oman that says you have to wear hijab, or in Islam that says one person can punish another for not wearing it. But try to not wear hijab in Oman (even non-Islamic hijab but hijab that your family or tribe think a girl or woman should wear, and see how free and Islamic hijab is in Oman). It is reduced from the beautiful, religiously significant symbol of freedom and belief that I wear---and fight to wear---for the sake of my belief in Islam, to a piece of cloth worn to hide, for a husband, or a father, or a tribe.

Like, for example, I remember this one time I got so mad at my husband I went outside to yell at him (he's a good guy despite everything I blog here about, really) and forgot to put on my headscarf/shayla...and he was so upset, like really mad at me. Not for being mad and yelling at him, which I'd respect if he had been mad about that, but he was mad about the state of my forgotten hijab.

[Note: I get really, really mad sometimes, leading to things I regret later, like hitting people, and like, forgetting to wear clothes. Being mad in Islam? Is bad. Guess that's why. But anyways]

I was like, "what are you mad about? I don't wear hijab for you! Did I wear it in Canada, to hide? To be what some man wanted me to be? No. So, if, like, you divorced me because I took off my scarf I would stop caring for you that instant. I wear my scarf for Allah. If I feel bad about what I did, I'll ask Allah to forgive me for it, it is not something I have to answer to you for. Of course, I feel bad about it, I should never be that stupidly angry from the first, so I ask Allah to forgive me. But I won't ask forgiveness of you, I won't care if you are mad.I am not a child. I should care for the sake of Allah, not any other human being."

So my husband, being the man that he is, then got it: Hijab is between a woman and Allah, and if she isn't wearing it for that reason, as her own choice, for her own reasons, then she isn't really wearing hijab---she's just wearing extra clothes.

Also, the neighbours everyone has trouble with in our 'hood? They were keeping everyone awake until 3 am. So, of course, I went outside and asked said neighbour to be quiet.

I barely stepped out of my yard. I was respectfully dressed. The street was filled with construction workers. We were not alone.

Still, this man tried to make my husband mad by saying to my husband: "I talked to your wife in the street at midnight."

My husband, at first, wanted me to see that my behaviour should be changed, but in the end, he realized, it is this mindset that needs to be changed.

Why can a woman not speak up for her own rights? Why must a man speak for her? Why is it shameful for a woman to speak publicly to a man of things she is allowed to speak about? Why is it shameful for her to go out of her home and be on her own street if she needs to do something, no matter the hour? Does a man have to do everything for a woman? And, if there is a man who can do something for a woman, and she still insists on doing it herself, is she shameful? Should a man be ashamed that this willful woman "belongs with him" "in his home" "under his roof?"

So it is the culture that made my husband feel "ashamed" he was not there to speak for me. As if being a useful human being who can do things for herself, was a shameful thing for his wife to be, as if it made him any less of a man....

Rather than it being "shameful" and "immature/backwards" for the neighbor to imply there was anything untowards in my sinless behavior.

Alhamdulilah, my Omani husband gets it. He forgets sometimes. Culture runs deeps. But he gets it. He sees which way is right, and which is backwards, mere tradition, tradition that shames, rather than tradition that builds.

So...until that sort of culture changes in Oman, then laws will continue to do naught but pay lip-service to the status of Omani women in Oman.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Random Thoughts About Life in Oman: how people park their cars and what they do with shopping carts

Generally, I can tell what kind of person someone is (Oman, Indian-expat, White-expat) by how one parks their car, and what they do with their shopping cart here.

Before I became friends with other women, I wish I could see ahead of time how they park their car, and what they do with their shopping cart/trolley after buying groceries.

PARKING THE CAR

My general observation is that drivers who steal other peoples' spots (where another car has been waiting for the spot) don't care to understand or put themselves into the shoes of others. I've yet to see a person who turns out to be contrary to this.

People who take up more than one spot, or don't notice the disabled sign, are not necessarily uncaring people, but careless, forgetful, and often arrive-late-for-things kind of people.

People who park behind another car, blocking them in, for more than five minutes. These people are always jackasses, swear, think the rules don't apply to them, that they're "special". I've never met a "nice" "good" person who did this. Ever.

There's those people who are okay with driving around for hours looking for a spot in the first three rows, even though they could park and walk a bit. They are usually inefficient people, or lazy. Not always but if they have to do this all the time, then yes.

I like the people who park far away and walk. Especially if they walk fast. They are usually the people who get stuff done. Without bothering others. Without asking questions. Independent thinkers.

WHAT PEOPLE DO WITH THEIR TROLLEYS

My general observation is that people who ask the 3rd world country worker in the store to push their trolley for them when they are not unhealthy, unreasonably burdened already, or disabled, are either privileged to the point of being spoiled, or ignorant of basic life concepts. Like, all the women I know who do this, think someone is poor if she can't afford 70 omr for a new abaya every month or new gold bangle.

And those are the nice girls. They are usually bad with money, sometimes naively sweet about politics and social issues, might have heart-of-gold, but no grounded concepts of how to do good. The bad ones? They are usually racist, prejudiced, and feel superior to others.

Then there's that person who leaves their cart in a parking space or touching another person's car. These people, again, usually don't care to understand or put themselves into the shoes of others.

And then there's the people who return the carts even across a blistering hot parkade. These people are usually thoughtful, kind, tip the 3rd store workers if they do get help. Maybe they don't return them all the way, but at least they get them off the road, in a place where it is easy for the cart collector-guys to get them.

Maybe I am over-psycho-analyzing the whole parking and trolley return habits of Omanis and better-paid expats in Oman, but generally, I've seen this in people I know over and over again.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

New Vogue Arabia cover released: I have high hopes

The new Vogue Arabia is about to be released. I am excited. I hope it is better than AD MiddleEast. With a genuine princess for editor-in-chief (and that Princess being Deena, who is superbly modern and yet modest) I personally have high hopes. And Gigi Hadid is very pretty, even if not my favourite "Arab" or "Arab model" but I am loving the "re-orienting perceptions" promise from the English cover.