|Vol XXVIII||NO. 253|
Freedom? It's your choice...
Apparently the fight is now on in Bahrain to protect personal freedom and safeguard the very values the reforms of 2002 are based on.
These include respect for human rights, adherence to international conventions ratified by Bahrain over the years and giving people a shared responsibility in the decision-making process, by electing their own representatives to parliament and municipal councils.
On paper, all this looks great, but something is amiss. People are not happy with their representatives or the decisions being shoved down their throats.
Where have we really gone wrong?
What has happened now which has made people think that those very rights which have been granted following the National Action Charter referendum of 2002 are infringing on personal freedoms and hurting the very economy they were supposed to have catapulted to new heights?
We can continue to stick our heads in the sand, or we can take a good look at ourselves and assess the situation and see how it has reared its head and turned against us, the very people yearning for freedom, respect and equality.
We can't and shouldn't blame it on Islam, because at the end of the day it was us who elected these people to office.
Before someone jumps the gun and attacks me and my religious beliefs, let me make a few things clear: Islam is a great religion. It is an encompassing way of life.
If followed properly - the way Allah decreed and not the way practised by power grabbing men who have twisted it over the centuries to meet their petty selfish needs - is a very balanced way to live life to the fullest while respecting others, protecting human rights and even complying with contemporary international conventions and charters.
Islam isn't the opponent to progress. It isn't that ugly hairy monster which comes in handy for parents wanting to scare their children and should not be abused as such.
The choice is after all up to the people of Bahrain. They can make or break their country.
With 2006 round the corner, I really do hope that people will think with their minds and not their religious affiliations when they entrust another 40 men and hopefully women, with running their affairs.
Amira Al Hussaini now lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 246|
When natural instincts took a back seat...
BY AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
It started as a drizzle. A little bit of rain won't harm I told myself as I resisted getting under the umbrella, held by my beloved husband as we walked from what we hope will soon become our apartment to a nearby mall.
"Amira. Come under the umbrella now," said a cautious Amer.
"It's only a little bit of rain. Water doesn't kill," I replied smugly.
Very soon, the drops were getting bigger and before I knew it, it was raining camels and donkeys!
It was then a mad dash for safety from the furious drops, which were attacking us relentlessly, and the gusts of wind that were blowing the umbrellas away from the crowds running for shelter.
I was awed. In Bahrain, there is hardly ever any rain and I have never brandished an umbrella in my life. Here, it seems to be an essential.
A necessity, in fact, and I only realised its importance after I was soaked.
Not that the umbrellas would have been useful in that sort of a storm.
I wasn't prepared for that 10-minute downpour, nor were my feet - which got drenched and are now angry with me for not wearing boots.
To be honest, nobody in the whole of Hamilton, my new home, was ready for the onslaught.
But at the mall, it was business as normal.
You wouldn't have noticed that there was a storm outside, people running for safety and - unbeknown to us at the time - a tornado-like, full-blown attack on Upper Gage Street, which is two blocks away from where we are now staying with old friends from Bahrain.
The angry gale tore through a few blocks, wreaking havoc, uprooting trees and blowing off the roofs of the homes and a school - full of students in class - in its path!
What annoyed me most was that we had driven up a section of that street a couple of hours after the storm and didn't notice anything different. I saw an uprooted tree, but didn't make much of it.
"Maybe it has always been there!" I mused, knowing that something was amiss. Unlike the swamped roads of Bahrain after a few millimetres of rain, the roads here were dry - as if the earlier storm was a figment of my imagination.
What made me furious was that I only knew about the fact that it did happen and the extent of the damage it had caused some seven hours later, when I heard names of familiar streets on the 11-o-clock news!
And to think that I was once the news editor of Bahrain's leading newspaper!
Where has my nose for news gone and my natural instinct to be at the centre of events as they unfold?
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 238|
BY AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
SO much for all the lip service we have been given for years on the virtues of online banking.
According to legend, the days of queuing up at the bank and carrying sackloads of money are over.
Historians claim this practice is outdated and associated with the barbaric activities of cavemen from a bygone era, that the modern world moves around using plastic money.
It is no longer classy or safe to be seen with cash in your wallet in chic places.
The myth is that thousands - if not millions - of dinars are transferred from one account to the other at the click of a button every second of the day, 24/7; that the globetrotting rich and mighty flash their platinum cards as they shop till they drop from Milan to New York to Tokyo; and that it is only the nouveau riche who carry embarrassing amounts of cash to boost their self-image and remind themselves every waking minute that they really have money.
When I left Bahrain to my new home in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, last month all I took with me was a bunch of cards - which have since proved to be useless.
"Why should I carry any cash on me?" I thought smugly to myself.
I don't know if it was me or my traditional, technically challenged mindset - which is still adamant that a computer is for writing articles and editing stories.
Somehow I jinxed all my prospects of accessing my accounts in Bahrain when I called the helpline number in a moment of panic as I was doing a last minute check on my way to the airport.
A frantic husband asked me where my Internet banking details were and after a thorough search I gave up and declared them missing.
I then called the helpline number, where the operator told me he couldn't help me as the system was down and to try in an hour.
Fearing that the access code would fall into the wrong hands, I called up my bank directly and begged a more helpful banker to cancel my account and mail me a new access code number.
The number took 10 days to be mailed from the bank's Adliya branch to my A'ali home address and a day to be faxed to me in Canada.
I now have the codes, but still no access to my bank accounts. Three weeks have passed and the efficient Internet banking system is still down.
I don't know how long it will take me to figure that one out.
At moments like this I ask myself why I did not resort to tradition and put all my money in pockets on a belt around my waist.