Monday, July 27, 2015

Defending Muslims, Defending Arabs/Omanis (Mainly Saudis), and Defending Non-Muslims and their Countries: a rant

I am very tired of defending myself from Omanis who know me well, who should know me well enough to know I think no nation superior in intellect or manners to another overall, or that English is a more pleasing language to Arabic (beyond my own personal preferences) etc... Just as I am bloody well tired of defending Muslims, Arabs in general, Omanis at times (though people from most places in the world only know where Oman is if you say its near Dubai), and especially Saudis (who Allah knows have enough wrong within their country not to add to that with misconceptions from those outside the fold of KSA who have no Saudi female friends, Islamic religion, or say in the running of that country and its people) from the ignorance and Colonial orientalism of others.

I know, I should be patient. I should possibly even change myself. But Arabs and Muslims take offense too easily, regarding a comment about one wrong thing in their way, to be that we Westerners are looking down on them as a whole, and think we are better than them (this is a foolishness but that is the culture---I should know that and deal but I am tired).

And I love wearing black abayas. Please, stop saying oh Saudi men get to wear white and the women wear black yada yada. It is women performing the female circumsions in this part of the world, it is the women judging the dress of other women that make it okay for me to wear leopard print trim on an abaya or no abaya at all, or something ghastly dreadful out of fashion and bland. Not men in KSA, thanks be to God/Allah for that. North Americans. You drive me bonkers, as if scarves and robes and cloth were the important social issues Arabs/Muslims truly have to deal with.

My rant precedes from the following. The incident went like this.

"Oh look that's a famous Omani actress," says OMANI WOMAN #1 to OPNO.

OPNO: "?"

"She thinks we're all looking at her," says OMANI WOMAN # 2.

OPNO: "Is she very famous? I don't know her at all."

OMANI WOMAN # 1: "Well excuse us. I guess Oman isn't as high and mighty as your country [Canada], we don't have anyone as famous as Celine Dion or anything."

OPNO: "You guys have Sinbad the sailor, the original one."

Both Omani woman #1 and #2 glare at OPNO.

OPNO (trying to fix this): "Would I know her if I was a Saudi woman, who speaks Arabic. and watches Arabic dramas?"

(Apparently not the right thing to say, both both Omani woman #1 and Omani woman #2 stop speaking to OPNO for about an hour).

Which, of all the childish pathetic things, led to me being called a racist eventually, even though that is ridiculous. My Omani husband calls me racist sometimes, because I don't like to listen long in Arabic. And apparently I am even more racist to say I am glad I never have to listen in "german".

Yes, I do know much of English is a Germanic language. however some accents grate me ears. I don't think that's racist, it is just like and dislike. Not better and worst. Now if people get that much into a huff about an Arab actress, imagine how much more so that they do when you confront their understanding of Islamic practice, their cultural rudenesses, etc... It is a very hard line to walk and to live a life of self-balance in such a society.

In my own land, far and away, I have to insist to people that Muslims are put upon.

My own Uncle argues with me, that I must be exagerating, that I was never harassed walking down the street, or hurt by someone, for my religion. He, not a Muslim, me, both someone who once was not, and now am a Muslim.

My father defends me, havng witnessed but twice, the hate people gave me for dressing as I do, and my Uncle insists my father's testment is not enough. Apparently I am at fault, even though religious dress is included in my country's rights and charters of freedoms, for dressing as I do, as anti-of-the-country-I-am-from and that's like asking for bad stuff to happen to me. Although I myself, would think actually it to be far more unpatriotic of me, to bend to the will of ignorant others, and not stand up for those rights in the charter of freedoms by trying to please ignorant and violent others who do not embody the ideals of my nation-of-origin.

It doesn't matter to me much. But then, this was a goodbye visit, with both the Oman (my new nation) and the land-far-and-away, and I wonder if there is a place someone can truly belong to without offending anyone, and yet being true to one's own self and ideals.

Many nations expouse values that are in line with the ideals I hold for myself, and that my religion extolls for myself, and yet those nations themselves seem not to recognize their own ideals in practice. I should end this rant with that, and say that while I know it, I do not 100% accept it, and I suppose that shall always bug me. Since there is no way ranting about thise will change anything , should I delete this post?


Since I all too much like the sound of my own voice it seems:) so inshaAllah got that off my chest for the moment.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Eid Mubarak Oman

Eid Mubarak Oman, may this holiday be safe from crazy drivers, odd weather, and may it also have a dose of peace amid the chaos of too much meat and fruit and nuts and coffee and guests. Allah help us all, ameen. This Eid I am thankful, that I do not know violence, that I do not know suppression or oppression, and nor do my children, and all of these have their health. I pin pictures of dream homes and dream vacations, while some people cling to memories of lost children or spouses, sift through the rubble of houses, dream of education or refridgerators or food. I am very thankful for every blessing, and wish we could all want for others what it is we want for ourselves.

Eid Mubarak Oman, country that I love. I dearly, dearly miss you, as great as it is to have a break from village Eid;)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Cross-Cultural Marriages: Born-Muslim versus Became-Muslim Ramadan Mornings

If you are a born Muslim, you break your fast with dates. Generally speaking, dates, or dates, either dried or fresh. Maybe water. If you are a revert (Western---not all I am sure but this is true enough to make me laugh) we prefer stuff other than dates. I don't really care if the sunnah WAS dates. I fasted. Or I am going to fast. Dates aren't gonna cut it for me. I don't like them THAT much. When I am fasting, I am never ever like, oh I miss, a date.

My Omani husband has to have dates before the first fajr morning prayer is called.

I have to have a. a mug of coffee + b. eggs + c. toast. At least. I'd be okay with french toast or waffles if someone would get up early enough to make those for me;). I often settle for toast and water.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Family Debate: Absolute Monarchy and Democracy in Oman, the War of the Roses, and Sects in Islam

When you have a family who loves history and politics and debate as much as my own, very likely some very peculiar (and pedantic) subjects will come up....

For some reason my Uncle (who resents houses that are in the National Trust of the United Kingdom), will come to the end of his tirade against the Canadian government (usually a particular Premier who was born owning too much silverware for his liking) and the British monarchy with sentiments about the War of the Roses and Reformation, blah blah. This is one thing.  As I live now in an absolute monarchy (Oman) this subject always comes up and I am declared a royalist. Which I myself wonder about. Since I am "sunni" as a Muslim, many Muslims also could think of me as a "royalist" as well, as the Ummayyid caliphates did tend to favour their tribes when it came to government, I guess, though my rationalizations for what manner of school of thought and section of Islam I come to defend have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with history and "right and wrong" idealism, I guess. I am also declared "very female" for that, and wonder not if I should be offended?

Somehow, as we discuss the "cousins war" from now medieval British history, and contemplate the complex tapestry woven of Islamic Party/Sect control of majority Muslim history through out history, I am always discussing with my family what side I would have been on. As my family had no history that we are aware of in England, during the war of the roses, or neither any in Flanders, or Burgundy, and little to none beyond being ignorant crusaders in the 12th century, and I am certainy the only Muslim of my family line, discussing whose side we would have been on seems, I don't know, silly. And yet, alas, that is what the Muslim world does to this day, with terms such "sunni" "shia" "ibadhi" "Isis" "wahabi" blah blah blah on the mouths of people who do not know the origins, the history, the connotation, of the sect they have chosen, and cannot differentiate from what it has become and modernly encompasses, from what it began as and originally meant.

Back to the cousins' war. If I was a royalist, tried and true, I must always have been for King Henry and Queen Margaret and their heir (Lancastrians) to the end, and I would have lost and suffered (supposing I was landowning and had anything great to lose). It is always my opinion that from the 13th century onwards owning enough land but not too much to be of armed consequence was quite a good thing, because a King who overthrows your king could forgive you for supporting his rival and you could change your colours always as if nothing had ever happened. Which happened a great deal in the cousins' war. But then, with King Edward (a plantagenant) on the throne, and in his reign, while there was war, there was some manner of law for those lesser than princes that was consistent, and I think this would have won my loyalty. I am not sure, but I think I would have been a York supporter. The best qualified should always be in charge. Someone who runs the general country best, safe passable roads, trade, education, law and courts, etc.

Which is kind of, an Ibadhi thought for Muslims, I suppose, rather than a Sunni thought. Keep in mind, I am a Sunni.

But I may have switched back to the Lancastrian side, once Edward died, as I would have seen Richard the III's imprisoning the two princes in the tower as a great betrayal, despite perhaps Richard the III being better for England than a couple of boys. I don't know. It is hard to tell what one would have done, depending on who one would have been, what would have been of value, and who one had to protect (i.e. Elizabeth of York who had to marry a man who would murder her brothers).

Which makes such games so silly, although we play them on the modern stage, with Islamic history now in our medieval period, our dark ages, as the War of the Roses and Hundred Years' Wars were for European Christian history.

I am a Sunni, in the manner of Ibn Abbas, so while I would have been declared a Sunni in the time period, I would have stood to fight with neither Ibadhi and Shia (modern-day Shia are more to me, like the absolute monarchy people, saying Islamic leadership is tied to a bloodline, rather than the best qualified) nor with the Sunni (Muawiyah). (Whereas, Muawiyah, let's face it, was definately not the best qualified and if you had a choice between Ali R.A. and Muawiyah, you wouldn't have wanted him to lead your government unless you were of his tribe and allied tribes) (and thus there are Ibadhi). I would have said, we should not be fighting, we should not divide ourselves, we are but one house, and that would have been me, back then, I think. I would have walked out on them all, like Ibn Abbas, for killing another Muslim unless they have left Islam completely, is a sin, so such fighting is declared by law of the Propet Mohammed, unjust.

To me, everything that comes from that battefeild in ancient history, every prejudice, every hate, every innovation,  every division, every injustice, is regrettable and avoidable. It is ancient history now. I wish, we wouldn't still be choosing sides, for a battle that should never have had to have happened. It's not like we've got a back-up Princess Elizabeth of York to wed a Lancstrian King and we can put it all behind us or anything.

Most Muslims don't even know their own history to know which side they would have been on. They proclaim ideals out of line with what, historically at least, they are supporting.

This subject comes up with my family a lot, and any non-Muslims, with questions about Islamic modern politics playing out on the global theatre.

Oman being an absolute-monarchy, I am asked by family to compare that to my Islamic political leanings. And to describe how dangerous a description could be if it were written in Oman, as in the days the speakers of our parliamentary government (we are a constitutional monarchy) being killed by order of the King.

I fear no death from my words by Sultan Qaboos, lol, although I don't think he'd agree with everything I write on this blog. I know the two of us have different opinions about which apsects of citizens' lives country-law should rule over, such as who one can marry, basically derived from differing opinions about the benefits and construct of such laws. I also think that I am more scared of parliament in Oman, than I am of a monarchy, as the majority of Omanis who have the power to vote,  have opinion (perhaps uneducated ones) that I think contrary to the benefit of the nation and the people (i.e. let's all get nationally mad about a small expatriate pajama party but who cares about Omanisation of the unskilled labour and poor anti-cheating measures in the education system in the country). As much as I do support perhaps a constitutional monarchy in Oman's future, a doing away with the Council of Ministers and integrating that with the Shura somehow, I think the "monarchy" in Oman will have to be strictly defined if Oman wanted to go this route.

I have been called out by others, and it has been said of me, that I am a liar, for knowing some Princesses and Princes in the middleeast. I laugh at this, since really it is no big deal here. It is hard NOT to meet someone in government or someone from a royal family in the MiddleEast in many professions. My own mother, who Omanis like to politely call "Bedouin" for her lack of propriety and manners, knows many diplomats and government people, because they liked to frequent PDO club's bar. So you can even meet Royalty in bars in Oman, go figure.

The royal families of Gulf states are huge, and in Oman at least, some have no power whatsoever, and few privellages. All the people I know are totally normal people who do totally normal things. You might have seen them shopping at Al Fair. In fact, they seem less inclined to be spoiled than low-lier "classed" Omani women I am also friends with, who delight in brands, and housemaids etc... and they certainly talk about "wasta" less. They may be better travelled and bettered educated, but that is the only difference. Their education doesn't always exceed my own, and I had a very modest middle-class upbringing and education. Even wrting this makes me feel "class" ist and racist lol. But people are very much the same, no matter what. Divisions like wealth and education exist, and those are entirely of our own making and could be remedied. Any other divisions, are made up and fantasy, I swear, at least with all the working royals I know. People defer to them and "embrassingly" court their favour, but that's about it, in way of a difference I notice. I think they are as embarassed as I am when this happens.

"When you are an Omani citizen then you can me 'Your Highness'," one Royal tries to calm some people we are sitting with, as I am referring to her without a title. "Like that will ever happen," I laugh, and she grins, but the people we are sitting with look HORRIFIED. Some Omanis, obviously, still want a monarchy.

And looking at my little daughter, I can't blame them, despite my Islamic political beliefs. Who doesn't love a pretty princess, and a handsome prince, or diginifed looking King? There's a romance to it. It makes for great stories. Especially for young men who grew up on tales of tribal warfare and honour and all that... defending a Princess from possible attack in the parking lot seems to appeal to them, as laughable as that always comes across to me.

...But then, no Cinderella story for me, I am famous for a time I was supposed to meet someone very famous in the royal family of Oman and my shoe broke (I wore a nice pair of heels) and ended up just wearing the ugliest pair of rubber flip flops... which he did notice and grinned about, and I got a wink, so... I have to wonder if his Majesty Himself does not own a cool pair of flip flops.

So defining the royal family in Oman COULD PROVE DIFFICULT for Oman if Oman ever decided to have a consitutional monarchy. Which family members to include and which to disclude...and where to create line for direct lines... like do we only include firstborns? Males? Whatever... that whole old highly sexist and classist monarchial bloodline thing.

That's one drawback.

But the biggest so far is voter's education... Shura has made some crazy assertations... So if, Oman did have a constitutional monarchy, they would definately need a much better constitution (and clearer) than anything they currently have got, and the court system would need to be revised....and the Minster Council needs some form of integration (I guess they are like a senate and parliament in one). I can't imagine how to do that easily, really I can't.

I am glad I am not a Minister or His Majesty because, I get a headache just thinking about it... I can't help but feel that Sultan Qaboos has it in his head that he'd like to go this route from statements he's made in past interviews, but his fears and knowledge of the country should be deeper than mine, and I understand I guess to say, why he hasn't.

I don't think that makes me a "Royalist" still. I wouldn't fight and die for a bad Sultan, just because they bore a name. But I wouldn't trade a decent one for a government of those selected (not all but enough) to appeal to popular prejudices and imprudent aims.

Beyond Islamic complexities, politics and conditions of government are things, which I do confess, I forget about entirely when I am away from my family, I have too many friends of differing backgrounds to be of fixed opinions about anything I suppose. Any friend I know who owns a "vast English estate tucked away in the countryside" is far more impoverished and enchained than I am in my life. My experiences have taught me that people with titles and wealth--- at least European ones, have far more responsibilities than I do, and I wouldn't trade lots with them for more than a weekend, ever. Or marry one of them, no offense if any one of "those kind of people" read this lol. So I have a healthy respect for "nobility" and "monarchy". At least the responsible and goodly kind.

Which of course, enrages my Uncle, and then we discuss for several hours why communism really does not work either, as a form of government (he fought in the Vietnam war, of course, in the side against communism, ironically).

What form of government is best? For any country or for Oman? I could not say. At times a monarchy works well, and a constitutional monarchy still presents the same old flaws at times as an absolute one. A republic, I confess, I do not like much, and find too much rule of ignorant masses therein, and it can become fascist. Communism, we know its err is that men are all perfect, and are content to be the same as others, and that is not so of our character... and the same error is that of so-called Islamic Law for all the Land, I suppose. Someone greedy will always get hold of it, and pick and choose what they want of it, and then we'll be Saudi Arabia or Iran, and I can't see myself well there, though I can't speak for all Omanis on that.

Maybe it is best I won't be staying with my family too long... thinking these thoughts remind me almost ashamedly of the ghost of the old me, the rebel, the fighter, the thinker, the doer, the crusader, that I buried, since that woman was far too an idealistic but fatally pragmatic creature, too divided and unsure of her own leanings to succeed in much action, yet unable to sit still. Muscat is far too easy and slow a place to accomodate such a person. So much is possible there, that possible things become impossible, and I smile and laugh too much now, to take serrious the serrious things.

I wonder if my family notices? How I no longer burn bridges and howler and yell, over past nothings and ancient history, and care little about the future, as if I could never catch it aright anyways, and focus instead on the day.... They say I have not aged, but that in it to me, is proof that I have. When Oman's Shura can say the same of itself, I suppose then we'll be ready for something like constitutional monarchy.

Allah hu allim "God knows best".

Friday, July 3, 2015

Eid Link List for How to Live Like an Omani Princess

Neither OPNO will be in Oman for this upcoming Eid--- we are celebrating Eids in Singapore and Canada this year (weird huh?) so [by request] here are the links to some previous Eid posts;). Hope your Ramadan is going well.

WHAT IS EID in how is it celebrated in OMAN?:

LAST EID AL FITR (eid after Ramadan) for one OPNO blogger:
EID AL FITR controvery in Oman

Eid al Fitr 2013 for one OPNO blogger:

Eid al Adha 2013 in Muscat for one OPNO blogger:

Eid as a single gal in Al Athaiba, Muscat:

Eid gift guides:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Things Oman Lacks part 1: Bookstores

I have visited real bookstores. I mean, real actual bookstores. Forget about postal service, Other Oman in the US of A;) [ ]. Bookstores are what are really missing from Oman.

Dear Oman, a real bookstore sells books. They do not sell (at least not primarily) stationary, they do not sell toys, they do not sell school supplies. They sell books, paperbacks, hardcovers. Depending on the bookstore the books can be used or new, the bookstore can be specialized (antique tomes, children's, or fiction or travel etc.) or general (as in an assortment of everything). But they still sell books. Real, live actual books. And I have been buying books... too many of course, so scary thought for my suitcase... but how I have been reading again since I have been here. I think I read more in one week than I do in a year in Muscat, and I read and write for a living in Oman...

People ask me how I know a little about so much about so much (at least in Oman among people who've always lived in Oman) and its because I read. As a child I used to be baby-sat by the library... I read everything about everything, especially history, design, archeology, religion, military tactics, ancestry, and literature (with a good dose of fiction thrown in for good measure because it is so enjoyable). Why do people in Oman not read very much or know less than some other places in the world? Because there is nothing to read beyond the internet, I swear! Media is too limited to trust TV to teach much in any way of variation of subject matter.

Unless you order it online, stuff is just not available, and... books are heavy. Shipping sucks. Back to Other Oman's post, postal service sucks. Getting a PO box... can suck.
I loved used bookstores the most... that's where I find the greatest treasures...
 And quaint little specialized bookshops have their charm too of course...
We even have a "haunted" bookshop... back in the land far and away (pictured with green awning behind the local band). It was closed when I got to it, but maybe I'll go back? I've never seen a ghost before;) but I've been in their store... Its slection is pretty solid.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

In the land far-and-away, on their National Day

My last post resulted in some responses, and I guess I used to care about government.. in fact once I tried out a life in politics. Serriously. Wasn't me. There's still holes in parliament carpet from my stillettos. Not exaggerating. But happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadian expats in Oman. I spent my Canada day long weekend at the Lt. Governor of Canada's (or some province) house (ironically-this was the last place I visited while deciding politics wasn't for me over tea and cucumber sandwiches). I came for rose gardens, but wound up in the ballroom which I'd never seen). I guess if you take citizenship they have a swearing-in ceremony here? As far as I know, Oman's interior ministry has nothing of the kind...