Monday, August 31, 2009

Arab Bloggers to the Fore

Blogosphere of influence

The Emirati blogger Ali Gargash, the author of Dubai Nights, says he sees no place "destrcutive criticism" in the blogosphere. Randi Sokoloff / The National

The internet has thrown up a lot of ugly coinages since it emerged 20 years ago, but for sheer gruesomeness, few can rival the colloquial name for online diaries, the “blog”. “Blogosphere”, admittedly, runs it a tight race and its other derivatives – blogger”, “vlog” (a blog on video) and so forth – aren’t much better. Yet the thing itself is a marvel: a literary form and public medium unrivalled in history for flexibility and ease of access. User-friendly writing platforms such as Wordpress and Blogspot have made pundits out of everyone with an internet connection and two thoughts to rub together, a fact that has changed the shape of news media, political discourse, academic research and a good deal else. The rise of the blogger was a watershed moment in the internet age. And yet... “blog”.

Lucky Arabic speakers, then, who get all the medium’s reverberating power and not too much of its naffness. Online diaries are known in Arabic by the rather graceful word moudawanat, and you can expect to hear a lot more about them as the moudawanosphere continues its rapid expansion. A recent study undertaken by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University identified 35,000 Arabic-language blogs, plus several thousand more in a mixture of Arabic and other languages. Bloggers from across the Arabic-speaking world offer anecdotal evidence for the explosion in blogging’s popularity over the past few years. “When I started five years ago we were like a bunch of 10 or 15 people blogging from Saudi Arabia about Saudi Arabia,” one interviewee told me. “Today we have more than 10,000 Saudi blogs, so it’s quite different now.”

Who are the Arabic bloggers? According to the Berkman report Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere: Politics, Culture and Dissent, they are mainly male, mainly young and mainly Egyptian or Saudi.


Moreover, to judge from the paper, the biggest surprise for the researchers was that the Arabic blogosphere doesn’t really see itself as a Pan-Arabic phenomenon at all. “Those that write about politics tend to focus on issues within their own country,” it claims. “Domestic news is more popular than international news...” It notes, however, that the situation in Gaza is a major topic of interest across the Arab world. And there was one discovery that must have reassured its American readers: to appearances, the bloggers aren’t, for the most part, terrorists. “Across the map,” the authors explain, “Arab bloggers are overwhelmingly critical of violent extremists... We consider this a positive finding”. Alas, the flies in the ointment for potential terror targets include the plausible thought that those with violent inclinations might prefer not to announce themselves on Livejournal, and the old quibble about who qualifies as a terrorist as opposed to a freedom fighter. As the report suggests: “This complex issue merits additional research.”

In lieu of violent radicalism, it turns out that the Arabic blogosphere resonates to quite homely concerns. Personal, diary-like entries are typical. Religion is a popular topic across the region, but again, generally in a personal, autobiographical spirit. Poetry, art and literature are discussed; pop culture isn’t so much.

Like many bloggers in the Arab world, Ahmed al Omran is young, male and Saudi. Unlike most of them, however, he writes about politics. Al Omran produces the popular English-language journal Saudi Jeans (saudijeans.org), which offers progressive views on Saudi politics. “My focus is Saudi Arabia,” he explains. “I might occasionally write about regional issues or stuff like that, but my main focus is Saudi Arabia and I try to maintain that focus... Even if I have the goal of reforming the region or the Middle East as a whole in mind, I think it’s best to start with your own country first. Then you can move forward from there. Charity begins at home, right?”

The blog is outspoken on the role of Saudi’s religious police, gender issues, ecological problems and a good deal else. “I’ve got people who are very impressed and like what I’m doing,” al Omran says, “and people who find it damaging to the kingdom.” Saudi’s blogosphere is less regulated than its traditional media – “we have more space,” as al Omran puts it, “to play with the red lines” – but the red lines are present nonetheless. Last year, Fouad al Farhan, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent bloggers, was arrested over his writing. Not that al Omran is deterred. “Reforming this country and changing it to be a better place is a noble goal,” he says. “It’s worth taking a risk for.”

The UAE’s approach to regulation is much softer than that of Saudi Arabia. One is unlikely to be yanked off the street for posting an off-message opinion, for instance. “Basically the worst that can happen,” says one UAE blogger (screen name: “Emirati”), “is that Etisalat decides to block you.” Emirati writes the feisty comment blog An Emirati’s Thoughts (aethoughts.blogspot.com). Despite his pugnacious style and rabble-rousing self-identification as “the sheikh of controversy”, Etisalat has so far left him in peace. He seems almost disappointed. “I am sceptical regarding the power of bloggers,” he tells me. “There hasn’t been an acknowledgement where a blogger has got arrested somewhere, you know, like in Bahrain or Egypt.” The stance of the government towards the UAE’s blogging community is, he says, “like the elephant and the antelope in the jungle... They’re just ignoring each other, drinking from the water hole, you know?” For Emirati, the archetypal UAE blogger is someone well educated but poorly connected – someone who lacks the power to “get things done in the wasta way”, in other words. For such a person, keeping a blog supplies the opportunity to “vent”, as well as the “hope that it will carry influence in some kind of way”.

In truth, Emirati’s writing is less seditious than it is robustly critical: it displays a sort of impatient patriotism, one moment bemoaning the non-existence of a UAE motoring industry, the next questioning the feasibility of Abu Dhabi’s 30-year development plan. It is also, unusually if the Berkman report is to be believed, quite global in focus. One essay reproaches the Muslim world for its lack of interest in the plight of Russia’s Chechens. Another speculates on the possible consequences of a second Iranian revolution. In the end, the mood is that of a lively conversation that has adjourned from coffee shop to internet – and perhaps, for certain minority-interest topics, the web beats the cafe as a place to hash out one’s thoughts. “You have lots of ideas,” Emirati says wistfully, “but eventually there are only a certain amount of people who are interested in your ideas. So blogging gives you a wide audience, especially in the UAE.”

One of the most remarkable things about the UAE’s blogosphere – or at least the English-language portion of it – is how even-tempered it all is. Ali Gargash, the author of the Dubai Nights blog (dxbnight.blogspot.com) recalls the incendiary spirit in which he began his blogging career four years ago, when he was still in his teens. “When I first started I thought I’d be extremely controversial and all that. I thought that I had to blog under a secret name and everything,” he says. He still uses the handle 3li, but more from force of habit than any lingering desire to conceal his identity. In fact, he is looking for a job in finance at the moment. “I never really considered that an employer would read my blog,” he says. “But I always have talked about finance. If someone did take a look, I’m sure it would help my position.”

Gargash concedes that the blogosphere can be a good deal looser-lipped than the press. “There are a lot of things,” he says, “that won’t be talked about in the newspapers, that are talked about when you sit in a coffee shop. And after he’s been to the coffee shop, a local guy goes to his blog and puts it in there.” Still, as informal as it may be, the blogosphere is no place for negativity in Gargash’s view. “If it’s destructive criticism no good can come out of that,” he says. “But if you have constructive criticism, by all means talk about it and create awareness.”

His view is echoed by the blogger known as BuJ al Arab. “People who are controversial always hide the point underneath,” he tells me with a sigh. “Something went wrong at some point and they are expressing it in a certain way, unacceptable to people.”

BuJ recently took a year-long hiatus from blogging at bujassem.blogspot.com. “It got too political and I shut it down,” he tells me. But the lure of online debate proved too much for him and the site is now active again. “I don’t like to think of my blog as my mouthpiece for opinions or anything like that. It’s a type of mechanism or medium to understand what people think,” he explains. “If something happens I’ll blog about it, and then I’ll see what people think – if they agree, disagree, see what their opinions are.”

He writes in English so as to address the largest possible audience. Indeed, he says that the UAE’s Arabic-language blogosphere is generally too trivial to interest him. “It tends to be just like a personal diary, rather than the kind of interactive blog which I like,” he says. “For me, if you don’t get along with a person like that, there’s no point reading their blog.” When I ask him why the Arabic portion of the UAE’s blogosphere should be any narrower in its concerns than the English, he says: “You really limit yourself if you just write in Arabic. To write exclusively in Arabic, it’s either if your command of English is not that strong, or you just don’t want to address people who speak English.” BuJ’s site may not be his mouthpiece, but he wants the world to know what he’s saying all the same. It seems to be working: he estimates that his site gets 1,500 visits a day, an impressive figure. The only trouble is, few of them leave comments. “If you like what I’m writing and you have an opinion, you should share it,” he says. “That’s what blogs are all about.”

Perhaps the desire to reach a wide audience is a natural concomitant of the urge to write in the first place. In the UAE, many Emirati bloggers seem to view their sites as an extension of their social lives – a sort of masked ball in which one can try out identities and opinions for size. A growing readership suggests your literary persona is working. Elsewhere in the Arab world, however, the blogosphere provides an opportunity for much more purposeful outreach.

Laila el Haddad, a former Al Jazeera journalist, has lived in the US since 2006. She’s stuck there: since 2007 she has been unable to return to her home in Gaza. That makes it difficult to see her parents – though after months of trying, they have just managed to get out of Palestine to see her. But it also messes up the premise of her blog, gazamom.com, begun in 2004. “I had to find a way to adjust because I didn’t want to just end my blog,” she says. “So I had to think of a way to make that transition. Obviously it wouldn’t be about living in Gaza, but rather Gaza living in me, if you will, and continuing to live our lives as Palestinians in exile.”

Today, her blog mixes anecdotes, reflections on the Middle East, and thoughts on food and culture. When she started it, however, it provided a window on life under occupation. She recalls an episode when she and her family were detained in Cairo for 55 days before being readmitted to their country. “I began to blog more and more about our situation, being stuck there, the constant waiting and how that affected us personally,” she says. “It was at that point that I realised that the personal is political for Palestinians.” Once she got back to Gaza, the daily struggle to pass checkpoints or obtain groceries became grist to her writing. “A lot of Palestinian blogs attempt to be very politicised, and I guess the point of mine was to show you didn’t need to exert any effort: politics was a part of everyday life for Palestinians,” she says. “Occupation was very invasive, down to what kind of diapers were available for you to change your son that particular week.”

El Haddad has readers all over the world. During the elections of January 2006, The Guardian asked her to post about the scenes in Gaza. She became Gaza’s answer to Salam Pax, the celebrated blogger of the second Iraq war. Her journal helped publicise the Palestinian situation. That’s why it’s a mystery to El Haddad that very few of her countrymen have followed her example. “It seems like Palestinians use social networking forums and other chat forums more than they do blogs,” she says. “The Berkman report talks about it being a more sort of local dialogue and private dialogue. It doesn’t have the same effect as a blog would.” But she recalls a friend of hers who was driven to stop writing by abusive commenters. “You do get a lot of vitriol,” el Haddad says, “and a lot of things that people say – they will attack you personally.” In the end, she says, her friend “just stopped. She said: “I can’t take it any more.” Presumably if one is already living under Israeli occupation, the last thing you need is a horde of internet trolls on your back. Besides, the rise of the moudawana might have done a lot to democratise journalism, but not everyone has the write stuff. El Haddad is sympathetic to this thought. “Living in Gaza and the occupied territories is an act of resistance in and of itself,” she says. “If you can just survive and go about your daily life, you’ve done a major task right there.”

elake@thenational.ae

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Merdeka Itu Apa?

Aroma membusuk mencerna kesedaran
sejarah hitam dari topengan realiti
menghiasi bayangan imej-imej
babak-babak sandiwara nasional
jenuh kitar semula mewarnai suasana
setiap ogos merayakan simbol-simbol
sebagai perlambangan superfisial
sebuah negara bertuah yang tiba-tiba
menganjak ke belakang
dibawah demokrasi caca-merba

Terperangkap anak-anak generasi
menilai persaingan kehidupan
dari bawah tempurung kebangsaan
janji-janji lapuk pembangunan
serendah moral komersial
apabila kepimpinan rendah akhlak
terus bobrok dengan kuasa
demi survival politik
dan ketuanan elit
yang rakus dan haloba
membuncitkan kekayaan haram

Tanyakan pada tugu dan pusara
pahlawan silam tanpa nama
merdeka itu apa?
Apakah sekadar ulangtahun
perarakan satu pesta pembaziran
untuk terus diperbodohkan
demi 1Malaysia?

Fudzail
30 Ogos 2009
Dubai, UAE

A Visit with the Lockerbie Bomber



Al-Megrahi's Father: If There Was Any Evidence I Would Have Killed Him Myself

Despite his deteriorating health, Abdul-Basset al-Megrahi still manages to climb up the stairs each day to the second floor of his two-story house in the New Damascus district in west Tripoli. The man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing spends his freedom heavily sedated lying on a bed in his hometown.

It is now the holy month of Ramadan in Libya, and throughout the entire Islamic world. Al-Megrahi has received thousands of visitors since his return, and his family and friends convince these visitors to return to the al-Megrahi home at sunset, after iftar [break of fast]. Once everybody has eaten in the tents which the al-Megrahi family has set up for just this purpose, Abdul-Basset al-Megrahi waits in the hospitality room for his visitors.

Visitors meet Al-Megrahi in groups of 5, and they are asked by the family not to try to engage Abdul-Basset al-Megrahi in conversation due to his ill health, but merely restrict themselves to shaking his hand and bidding him salaam. The guests are also asked to leave quickly in order to make room for the hundreds of others who are waiting to visit with al-Megrahi.

When Asharq Al-Awsat visited al-Megrahi on Monday, he was sitting down with his body titled backwards; he was wearing the traditional Libyan white robe and golden embroidered vest. Al-Megrahi's face was pale and drawn, and he did not stop to smile for any of his visitors, but rather replied in an automatic manner and in a low voice to every handshake "Allah ya'salimak [God bless you]."

At around 9.30 pm, following Aisha prayers, the number of guests arriving at the al-Megrahi house increases. The guests are offered cups of tea and coffee and bottles of water. At around 2am, food such as rice, pasta, vegetables, and meat, are also offered to the guests, in preparation for Fajr prayers and the beginning of the next day's fast.

The visitors wishing to see al-Megrahi did not stop, and each hour brought even more guests from all across Libya who wished to congratulate Abdel-Basset al-Megrahi's wife on the safe return of her husband.

Abdul-Basset al-Megrahi's wife informed Asharq Al-Awsat "Abdul-Basset was a political hostage; he paid 10 years of his life to support his country. It is the right of the Libyans to celebrate his return to his family. God puts right every injustice."

Ali al-Megrahi, Abdul-Basset al-Megrahi's father, believes that the United States of America and Britain are responsible for the false accusations and the imprisonment of his son. He revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that his son was supposed to be revealed with the other man accused of the Lockerbie bombing Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima [who was found not guilty by a specially convened Scottish court in the Netherlands], but the US intervened to prevent this and influence a sentence of life imprisonment.

Asked for the reasons behind his son's imprisonment, Ali al-Megrahi said that all of this happened in order to blackmail Libya for its oil resources. He said "What happened to my son could have happened to any citizen that belongs to a country that has oil, like Kuwait or Saudi Arabia" adding "after what happened, I no longer trust the British or the Scottish governments."

Al-Megrahi's father also informed Asharq Al-Awsat "I gave my son the best upbringing, and what he was handed over for trail I was certain of his innocence and that he would return to his home, his family, and his children. If there was even one piece of evidence that he was responsible for blowing up the airplane, I would have killed him with my own hands. Everybody in the neighborhood knows his character since he was a child, and many of the neighbors have named their children after him, for his fame amongst the tribe and family, his politeness, his love for the people, his commitment to morality and integrity, and his non-aggressive [nature] towards others."

Ali al-Megrahi also revealed that the disease which his son is suffering from is not as dangerous as some in the media are portraying it, saying "he was diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago, and we would bring him medicinal herbs from the Chinese herb market in Britain, he was also treated with other medicine in prison in Scotland." Al-Megrahi senior added "a relative was diagnosed with a similar disease [prostate cancer] and he was treated and recovered completely. We hope that Abdul-Basset recovers his health as well."

He said "I see that he is getting better day after day, and [his health] is much better than the first day that he returned to his homeland. I think that the sick are not just cured by medicine, but also by having a high morale and a sense of freedom, and these were not available to Abdul-Basset in prison."

Asked whether he spoke to his son about the Lockerbie bombing case, or whether Abdul-Basset al-Megrahi intents to write his memoirs and tell the true story of what happened, Ali al-Megrahi tells Asharq Al-Awsat "These matters are all premature. These days we are hardly able to rest due to the large number of visitors who come to the al-Megrahi home to congratulate Abdul-Basset on his return. These large crowds may continue to visit the house for another two weeks. We will wait and see."

Abdul-Basset al-Megrahi has four brothers; Abdul-Halim, Abdul-Nasser, Mohamed, and Saleh. The brothers met with guests who congratulated them on the return of their brother.

The eldest al-Megrahi brother, Mohamed Ali al-Megrahi said that the thousands of people who traveled from across Libya to congratulate the family on the safe return of Abdul-Basset al-Megrahi, was a public response that had nothing to do with politics but was rather a popular reaction to the return of a Libyan "who sacrificed ten years of his life to lift the economic blockade on his country, Libya."

He said that his brother spent a decade imprisoned in Scotland to prove his innocence, facing a very difficult time there, adding "Abdul-Basset's release represents a step towards finding out the truth behind who really blew up the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. In this case, my brother was the innocent who was convicted."

Mohamed al-Megrahi, who accompanied his brother when he was handed over to British authorities ten years ago, said "we sympathize with the families of the British, American, and other victims…but we emphasize that our son is innocent of the blood of their loved ones. We are keen on good relations between [different] peoples; governments change but people remain."

Mohamed al-Megrahi told Asharq Al-Awsat "We, as Libyans, strive towards a future where cultures converge, especially the Eastern and Western cultures, away from hatred and enmity"

Mohamed al-Megrahi went on to say "Ever since Abdul-Basset was handed over to the British on 6 April 1999, I lived with the hope that he would return, but days turned into years, and I realized that my brother had become ensnared in a political [case], not a criminal one, and so did not receive a fair trial."

The Lockerbie bombing took place in 1988, when Pan Am Flight 747 which was traveling from Frankfurt to New York by way of London exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. 270 people from 21 different countries were killed in the explosion.

The US promised to investigate the attack, and bring those who were responsible to justice. This investigation took three years, and in 1991 the US State Department accused two Libyans, Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima and Abdul-Basset al-Megrahi of working for Libyan Intelligence and being responsible for the attack

Libya's problems with the West, and particularly the US, can be traced back to this point. However, in recent years Tripoli has pursued a different policy with regards to the West, settling outstanding issues and attempting to reconcile in order to enter a new phase of joint cooperation.

Abdul-Basset al-Megrahi has 5 children, four sons in various stages of education, and a married daughter. His sons are Khalid, 22, Mohamed, 17, Ali, 15, and Al-Mutasim, who is 10 years of age. During his imprisonment, the al-Megrahi family experienced tough times, living off the salary of their mother, who works as a teacher in Tripoli.

Abdul-Hamid al-Megrahi, Abdul-Basset's nephew reveals to Asharq Al-Awsat that the family lived on these two salaries, refusing to borrow money from anybody. He says that Abdul-Basset's absence adversely affected his immediate family, and he recalls the family's sense of sadness at Abdul-Basset's absence from family occasions.

Speaking of his uncle's illness, Abdul-Hamid said "I visited him in prison in the Netherlands in 2001 and he was in very good health. This disease has had an impact on him, however if he was not diagnosed with the disease, he would not have continued with the appeals process…and proven his innocence. There was no credible evidence for his conviction."

Abdul-Hamid revealed his wishes for his uncle's recovery to Asharq Al-Awsat, saying "I hope that he returns to how he was, and lives his natural life," He says that his uncle was sociable by nature, and enjoyed visiting family and friends and attending weddings and other celebrations.

The family estimate that no less than 25,000 people have visited al-Megrahi since his return last Thursday, and that these visitors have come from all across Libya to do so. Al-Megrahi was also visited by the former Libyan airlines employee who was his co-defendant in the Lockerbie bombing case Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima. Fahima, who was cleared of all chares by the Scottish court, visited al-Megrahi a number of times, and expressed his happiness at al-Megrahi's return.

Al-Megrahi's family also said that the celebrations at al-Megrahi's return was not an official state position, and that the Libyan leaders who celebrated this, including President Gaddafi, were only following Libyan culture and traditions of congratulating other families and tribes on happy occasions.

The Libyan guests at the al-Megrahi house did not hide their disdain for the US criticism that al-Megrahi was given a hero's welcome upon returning to Libya, and al-Megrahi's nephew, Mohamed Ahmed al-Megrahi said "Abdul Basset's reception [at the airport] was spontaneous. There was no official planning to mobilize the people, for if the Libyan state had done so…no less than two million Libyans from all across Libya would have gone out to greet him."

He added "We believe his return is a victory for truth. The Lockerbie case is a battle that the Libyan people won due to the wisdom of the Libyan leadership."

All of Libya is watching the reaction of Arab and foreign countries in order to determine the position of each individual country. The majority of Libyans believe that the West's desire for their oil resources was the true motive behind al-Megrahi's incarceration.

Abdul Ali al Zawi, one of the guests of the al-Megrahi family, told Asharq Al-Awsat "Everybody wants to put pressure on Libya for the sake of its oil. Yes, we know this, they held Abdul-Basset as a hostage for this reason."

Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader who played a leading role in securing the release of al-Megrahi, has seen his popularity increase amongst the Libyans.

Mustafa al-Najiz, from central Tripoli, told Asharq Al-Awsat "Thanks to the Leader of the Revolution [Colonel Gaddafi] and thanks to Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi [President of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation]. Saif al-Islam promised Abdul-Basset that he would visit him one day outside of prison, and that is indeed what happened."

However the question remains; Where is the al-Megrahi family getting all of this money to enable them to receive all of these visitors, and - following Arab custom- provide them with food and drink?

Mohamed al-Megrahi said "Abdul-Basset's family shares in the expenditure. However the state also contributes to a percentage of the expenses, but what is this percentage? This question is premature, what is important is that we provide for our guests, and that we treat them in a good manner. People are rushing to help us, but we are still able to fulfill our duty for those who wish to celebrate Abdul-Basset's return for days to come."




Tripoli, Asharq Al-Awsat

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Arab's most popular Pariah

Libya’s popular pariah

Hamida Ghafour

The biog

June 7, 1942 born into a peasant family near the Sirte desert.

1966 returns to Libya from England’s Joint Services Command and Staff College as a commissioned officer in the Signal Corps.

September 1, 1969 leads military coup against King Idris I.

1970 proclaimed prime minister.

1986 survives an American air raid of his home, but his adopted daughter Hannah is killed.

1992 hit by UN sanctions for failing to hand over two suspects in Lockerbie bombing.

2003 gives up his nuclear and biological weapons programme.

2006 US restores diplomatic ties.

Kagan McLeod for The National

On Tuesday, the biggest party Libya has ever seen will begin. Tripoli is being scrubbed up for the occasion: palm trees have been planted, heaps of rubbish trucked away, crumbling buildings torn down.

Billboards and posters that read, “Without You the Impossible Would Not Happen”, pay homage to the ego of the man at the centre of it all, Col Muammar Qadafi.

Nearly every head of state has been invited to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the bloodless military coup that brought Qadafi to power.

The occasion is also meant to be a showcase for the careful transformation in recent years of Qadafi’s image, from “mad dog of the Middle East” fame and international outcast to acceptable, if oddball, statesman who brings his own Bedouin tent to sleep in during state visits to European capitals. A statesman whose country happens to have vast oil reserves.

How many of the invited guests will turn up to the party remains to be seen because the blossoming love affair between Qadafi and the West has hit a sour note as of late, thanks to the al Megrahi affair.

Abdelbasset Ali al Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence agent and only person to be convicted of the 1988 Pan Am airline bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people, was given a hero’s welcome in Libya after being released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds earlier this month.

The British government hoped al Megrahi, who is suffering from cancer and has been given three months to live, would arrive quietly and the business of doing business with Qadafi would continue.

But it seemed Qadafi, who has built an entire career, indeed a brand, on standing up to real or perceived bullies, couldn’t help himself. Al Megrahi was flown home on a private jet and met by a jubilant government delegation on the tarmac.

International outrage was swift and predictable.

It was a classic Qadafi moment.

Qadafi was born in 1942; his father may have been a goat herder, and he grew up near the Sirte desert. As a young man he admired the Egyptian leader and pan-Arab nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser. After graduating from a military academy in 1965 he was sent to England to attend what is now the Joint Services and Command Staff college to train as an officer.

He returned to a Libya angry at the corruption of the pro-western monarchy, humiliated by Israel’s victory over the Arab armies in the Six Day War of 1967 and bitter over Italy’s colonial legacy.

On September 1, 1969, he led a group of military officers and overthrew King Idris I. Barely a shot was fired.

Libyans were jubilant. The band of officers chanted slogans of “unity, freedom and socialism”, but as a taste of what was to come, added that anyone who disputed these ideals would be “crushed ruthlessly and decisively”.

The Italians were kicked out and the bones of their colonial ancestors dug up and tossed away.

Qadafi was 27.

The following year he took the title of prime minister, although today he does not actually hold any office and is officially referred to as Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution.

The Brother Leader, wearing his favoured safari suits, spent the 1970s refashioning Libya according to the principles of his Green Book, which advocated a blend of socialism, nationalism and Islamic values.

The philosopher-king envisioned a nation governed by thousands of committees which were supposed to debate the future of the country so long as they refrained from criticising the system. Instead it prompted a long economic and cultural decline and bureaucratic chaos. Public services are still in a terrible state and corruption rife.

If the first decade of his rule was defined by his attempts to merge Libya with various Arab countries, including Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and bizarrely, China, then the 1980s was the period where he truly became a pariah.

Britain and America accused him of financing and arming the IRA and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, as well as a host of African despots terrorising their countries.

Britain cut off diplomatic ties in 1984 when Yvonne Fletcher, a police officer, was shot dead while patrolling anti-Qadafi protests in front of the embassy in London.

His relationship with America was personal and torturous. After the 1986 bombing of a Berlin nightclub which killed three US military personnel, Ronald Reagan, who gave him the “mad dog” nickname, retaliated. US air force bombers hit residential and military areas of Tripoli and Benghazi, killing 101 people.

Qadafi survived an air raid on his own home, but his adopted daughter was killed. He was shaken by the event.

The UN slapped sanctions on Libya in 1992 for failing to hand over al Megrahi and another suspect in the Lockerbie attack. The sanctions hit the country deeply but he could hardly turn to Arab countries for help.

Indeed, no Arab League summit has ever been complete without a piece of Qadafi theatre: he has worn a white glove to avoid shaking the bloodstained hands of Arab leaders; his female Amazonian bodyguards have tussled with Egypt’s mustachioed security men; he throws insults at Saudi leaders.

In the first decade of this century he has sought to make amends for the past. When al Megrahi was finally handed over and found guilty in 2001 by a Scottish court, the detente with the West began.

The UN voted to lift sanctions in 2003, the same year he agreed to give up Libya’s weapons of mass destruction programme. With the money pouring in from oil, he compensated French relatives of those who died in a passenger aircraft shot down over the Sahara, as well as the victims of a Berlin nightclub bombing.

The relatives of the Lockerbie attack received US$2.7 billion (Dh10bn) from Libya, although Qaddafi has never actually admitted to having a role in the tragedy. Rather, he took responsibility for the “actions of its officials”.

The returns for Libya have been great.

A queue of prime ministers and presidents from France, Britain, Canada and Italy, with dozens of executives in their wake, have cut a path to Tripoli to do business.

British Gas, BP and Dutch Shell have all signed billion-dollar deals. Italy, once the hated colonial overlord, is now Libya’s biggest trading partner.

When the self-proclaimed “simple Bedu” travelled to the European Union in 2004 for his first official visit he arrived with two aeroplanes – one for his entourage and second for his white stretch limousine. During one lunch he was served date soufflĂ©, perhaps a gesture of the West’s willingness to meet him halfway.

“Libya, which led the liberation movement in the third world, has decided to lead the peace movement all over the world,” he declared. With his raven locks, dark glasses and flowing robes, Qadafi resembled an ageing African rock star.

He has also turned away from uniting the Arabs and instead, in his capacity as head of the African Union, wants to see a “United States of Africa”, with one passport, one currency and one leader.

America and Britain have restored diplomatic ties.

The anti-imperialist socialist became a capitalist. Human rights groups, however, have complained that economic liberalisation has not resulted in political freedoms. Dissenters are not tolerated.

But no matter.

Qadafi has been astute enough to capitalise on the West’s angst about the links between poverty and religious fanaticism. When five Bulgarian nurses and their Palestinian colleague were released in 2007 after being accused of deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to give Libya access to nuclear technology. Greenpeace criticised the decision.

“If we do not give the energy of the future to the countries of the southern Mediterranean, how will they develop themselves? And if they do not develop, how will we fight terrorism and fanaticism?” Sarkozy asked.

Qadafi released the nurses and doctor on the condition that they serve jail terms at home. So he was incensed when instead they were greeted by an EU delegation and the president of Bulgaria.

It explains why al Megrahi, who has maintained his innocence, was given the red carpet treatment: Qadafi’s Arab pride was injured.

“Why didn’t we hear these objections on the exoneration of this condemned team? Are we donkeys but they are humans?” he asked.

The French gritted their teeth when he lectured them about human rights, the Italians were bemused when he turned up in Rome with a photograph pinned to his chest of a Libyan guerrilla fighter hanged in 1931 by Italian colonial rulers.

But when his son and possible successor, Saif al Islam, said that Libyan-British business deals were on the table during every discussion of al Megrahi’s release, it was a step too far.

Whether or not al Megrahi will attend the 40th anniversary celebrations next week and stand on stage with Qadafi is a matter of much speculation. If he does, it will be a sign that Qadafi’s transformation, perhaps, is not yet totally complete.

Friday, August 28, 2009

7 practical tips for praying Qiyam Al-Layl

Qiyam means standing and Qiyam Al-Layl means standing at night. In the Islamic terminology, both words refer to the voluntary night prayer, whose time extends from after Isha prayer until dawn.
Other common names for Qiyam Al-Layl are Salat-ul-Layl (the night prayer), Tahajjud (from hajada, meaning remained one who awake at night), and Taraweeh (resting).
A widespread misconception is that Tahajjud is a different night prayer than Qiyam or Taraweeh. It is important to clarify this misunderstanding and to make clear that the voluntary night prayer is known by different names.

1. Ikhlas (Sincerity)
Allah’s Help is required not only for worldly affairs but also for our worship. And Allah helps those who are sincere in their hearts. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “If you are truthful with Allah, then Allah will deliver to you what you wish for.” (An-Nasa’i, Al-Hakim and Sahih Al-Jami’’)
Therefore, one should have a sincere intention to pray Qiyam Al-Layl. One should seek the pleasure of Allah alone and avoid any desire of praise or fame. Allah says:

“And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, and worship none but Him Alone…” (Qur’an, 98:5)

Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “The degree to which a person is helped and aided by Allah depends on the degree of his intention, drive, aim and hopes. Help from Allah comes to people in proportion to their drive, intention, hopes and fears. Failure comes to them in a similar manner.”
2. Know the virtue
Knowing the virtues and rewards of worship encourages us to perform them. The virtue of praying at night during Ramdan supersedes the virtue of praying any other night during the year. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) encouraged the people, without making it an absolute command, to perform Qiyam during Ramadan. He (peace be upon him) used to say: ‘Whoever stands (in Qiyam) in Ramadan out of faith and expectation (of Allah’s reward), all his previous sins will be forgiven.’ ” (Sahih Muslim)

3. Take a nap
Taking a nap before or after Zuhr Salah will reduce stress and give you sufficient energy to wake up late at night to stand in front of your Lord. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Take a nap, for the Shayateen (pl. of Shaytan) do not take naps.” (At-Tabarani, Al-Sahihah, no. 2647)

4. Sleep as per the Sunnah
• Sleep early! It’s a healthy habit and it was the practice of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). He would sleep immediately after performing the Isha prayer. Abu Barzah Al-Aslami said the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to prefer to delay Isha, and he did not like to sleep before it or talk after it.” (Al-Bukhari)

• Sleep in a state of taharah (cleanliness). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Purify these bodies and Allah will purify you, for there is no slave who goes to sleep in a state of purity, but an Angel spends the night with him, and every time he turns over, (the Angel) says, ‘O Allah! Forgive Your slave, for he went to bed in a state of purity.’ ” (At-Tabarani, Sahih Al-Jami’, no. 3831)

• Choose a suitable bed. Extreme luxury and very soft mattresses provoke laziness. We tend to sleep more and become negligent. Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated that the pillow of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was made of leather stuffed with palm fibers.” (Abu Dawood and Musnad Ahmad, Sahih Al-Jami’, no. 4714)

• Keep the bed clean and lie on your right side. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When any one of you goes to bed, let him clear his bed by hitting it with his garment, for he does not know what may have come onto it. Then let him lie down on his right side…” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

• Recite the Adhkar (supplications) mentioned in the Sunnah before sleeping. Among the Adhkar are reciting the last two verses of Surah Al-Baqarah; reciting Surah Al-Falaq, Al-Nas and Ikhlas and blowing in the palms and wiping as much of the body as possible – starting from the head, face and then the front of the body – three times; and saying Subhan Allah 33 times, Alhamdulillah 33 times and Allahu Akbar 34 times. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

5. Don’t eat too much
Eating and drinking too much are the main obstacles that make one lazy and negligent of Qiyam Al-Layl. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Man fills no vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to have a few mouthfuls to give him the strength he needs. If he has to fill his stomach, then let him leave one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for air.” (At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, Sahih Al-Jami’, no. 5674)
Abu Juhayfah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to a man who burped in his presence: “Stop your burping, for the people who eat the most in this life will be the most hungry on the Day of Resurrection.” (Al-Hakim, Sahih Al-Jami’, no. 1190)

6. Exert yourself
Exert yourself to get up and pray. Rise above your desires. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And as for those who strive hard in Our Cause, We will surely guide them to Our Paths. And verily, Allah is with the Muhsinoon (good-doers).” (Qur’an, 29:69)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The Mujahid (one who strives in the Cuase of Allah) is the one who strives against his own self for the sake of Allah.” (Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Sahihah, no. 549)
He (peace be upon him) also said: “When a man from my Ummah gets up to pray at night, striving against his own self to get up and purify himself, there are knots on him. When he washes his hands in wudu, one knot is undone. When he washes his face, another knot is undone. When he wipes his head another knot is undone. When he washes his feet, another knot is undone. Then Allah says to those who are veiled (in the Unseen): ‘Look at this slave of Mine, he is striving against his own self and asking of Me. Whatever My slave asks of Me shall be his.” (Musnad Ahmad, Sahih Al-Targheeb, no. 627)

7. Regret if you missed it
Qiyam Al-Layl is a great blessing of Allah. He has kept numerous spiritual benefits and rewards for the believer in this prayer. Therefore, one should regret if he misses this great opportunity of achieving rewards and the Pleasure of Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“O you who believe! Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the morrow, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what you do.” (Qur’an, 59:18)

Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim said, “If the slave is responsible and accountable for everything, even his hearing, sight and innermost thoughts, as Allah says, “…Verily, hearing, sight, and the heart of each of you will be questioned by Allah.” (Qur’an, 17:36), then he should check on himself before he is brought to account.” – As-Sunnah

Ref: ‘The Night Prayers’ by Muhammad Nasir-ud-Deen Al-Albani

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dubai's Saga Continues with Mounting Debts

Interesting to read this article from The National (Abu Dhabi).

Dubai will have to learn to live with its debts

Frank Kane

As the saying goes: “In the midst of life, we are in debt”, and never was this more true than now.

The state of having a financial obligation to somebody else is so commonplace these days that the old fiscal rectitudes have gone for good, replaced by a willingness to pile on the debt in all aspects of life.

We drive from our mortgaged houses in hire-purchase cars fuelled by credit-card petrol on bond-issue roads and never give it a second thought.

Even before the credit crisis, which was sparked by the mismanagement of debt on an enormous scale, the natural tendency of consumers was to load up with credit – the mirror image of debt – in all its forms.

The bursting of the credit bubble has left the world struggling with a debt mountain that will take generations – our children and grandchildren – to pay off. Nobody believes the poor things will ever actually pay it. They will just become used to having even higher levels of personal debt than us, and pass that on to their offspring.

From the micro to the macro, the debt phenomenon is universal. As individuals have become used to debt-dependency, so governments will also have to adjust to the new financial morality. And none more so than Dubai.

The very first US Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, said a couple of hundred years ago: “A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be for us a national blessing.”

Back then he saw the benefits that countries, like individuals, could derive from having access to debt funding: instant access to investment cash for a new and growing country, as the US then was. The codicil, “if it is not excessive”, is the crucial point.

The senior echelons of Dubai Inc must be pondering these considerations right now as they grapple with the emirate’s most urgent financial issue: how to deal with the enormous levels of debt that have arisen from the global financial crisis.

The credit crunch caught Dubai midway through an ambitious growth plan, funded partly by the legacy of oil wealth, although more significantly by a far more traditional system of licensing, rentier revenue and profit sharing.

This was accelerated further in the early 21st century by access to cheap capital from the international markets – debt, to you and me.

The end of the global party of cheap credit has left Dubai with a severe headache. Exactly how severe has become a matter of acute conjecture in the past couple of weeks, as international lending institutions try to put a figure on the emirate’s overall indebtedness.

For most of the past year, the figure of US$80 billion (Dh293.84bn) has been accepted as the benchmark for Dubai’s debt, but now that is being queried. Some analysts have suggested it has gone up a few billion to about $84bn; others say it could be as high as $150bn.

It is worth looking at how the original $80bn estimate came about. It was first mentioned almost impromptu by Mohammed Alabar, the chairman of Emaar, in a speech at DIFC week last November. Maybe not the place for such an important pronouncement, but at least worried financiers had some guidance.

It was later reaffirmed by Nasser al Shaikh, then the head of Dubai’s finance department, in the emirate’s first attempt at a transparent budget, in January.

Mr al Shaikh set it in context with a detailed explanation: it comprised $10bn of government debt, with a further $70bn of debts from government-related enterprises (GREs). On the credit side of the balance sheet, he identified government assets of $90bn and GRE assets of $270bn.

The message was as clear as could be in the opaque world of Dubai public finance: the debts were big. In fact, they amounted to about 140 per cent of the emirate’s GDP. But they were far outweighed by the emirate’s assets. Reassurance all round.

Doubts about the reliability of the $80bn figure have been rising for weeks. When the Central Bank backed a $10bn bond issue in February, some analysts simply subtracted that from the $80bn, although of course the bond should have been added to Dubai’s liabilities.

Another issue was, and remains, the status of Dubai Holding, the huge conglomerate owned personally by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Were its considerable liabilities included in the original $80bn estimate? In January, Mr al Shaikh seemed to suggest they were not. There has been no further clarification on that important question since.

Most disturbing of all was the statement to NASDAQ Dubai recently to the effect that Dubai World, the other big GRE, had liabilities of nearly $60bn.

If Dubai World accounted on its own for such an amount, surely the overall level of indebtedness must be much higher, some analysts argued, even as much as $150bn if Dubai Holding is included. At that level, Dubai’s debt is testing the parameters of Hamilton’s rider, “if it is not excessive”.

Maybe the exact figure is not that important. Debt only becomes an issue when it has to be repaid suddenly, and perhaps Dubai can manoeuvre its way through a long-term repayment and rescheduling process over the next few years, fuelled by a recovery in the world economy and a resumption of the Dubai growth strategy.


But I suspect Dubai, like all of us, is going to have to learn to live with, and even love, its debt mountain for years to come.

Three Million cups of Zamzam daily

Been long time I have not not been to Makkah, last time was in 2000 (for hajj) and 2001 (for umrah with family).

It would be good time for another trip.

http://www.dhushara.com/book/sakina/haj/hajj2_files/zamzam_water.jpg


Three million cups of Zamzam water are consumed daily at the Grand Mosque during the month of Ramadan, said Director of Zamzam Water Distribution in the Grand Mosque Aifan Al-Juaid.

“More than 1,800 cubic meters of water are consumed inside the mosque and 270 cubic meters in the courtyards outside each day this Ramadan,” said Al-Juaid in a statement.

Pilgrims can drink Zamzam at 90 drinking points consisting of 1,100 taps inside the mosque and 43 drinking areas of 100 taps outside.

Al-Juaid added that new drinking areas have been constructed in the basement, on the first and second floors, and on the Masaa. More drinking facilities have also been arranged in the northern courtyard.

Pilgrims and visitors are keen to drink plenty of Zamzam water, which is a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Zamzam water is also supplied to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah at a daily average of 274 cubic meters, the official said.

The late King Faisal showed considerable interest in improving the system of Zamzam water distribution to pilgrims, said Al-Juaid.

The erstwhile Ministry of Haj and Endowments laid down financial and administrative statutes for the distribution of the holy water and established the Zamzam United Office in 1982. It was about that time that the distribution of Zamzam became a collective function instead of continuing it as an individual pursuit.

The new Zamzam office has been striving to upgrade Zamzam distribution so that pilgrims, particularly during Haj and Ramadan, do not find any difficulty in getting desired quantities.

Friday, August 21, 2009

New Zealand employers are hiring

Hays report shows New Zealand employers are hiring
The latest report from recruitment specialist Hays reveals an increase in the number of New Zealand employers looking at hiring new staff in 2009, in different industries. Whether you work in accountancy, construction, engineering or IT, there are a number of opportunities waiting for you in New Zealand. Read more about the results of the survey for different industries.

Accountancy and finance – commerce & industry

“Over the last twelve months many businesses have struggled with the effects of the local recession, which forced many to focus on cost management and cost reduction programmes. This in turn has increased demand for experienced costing and performance analyst specialists,” states the report.

Employers in this industry are in need of management and cost accountants, and financial and business analysts with a NZCA qualification. Employers are also on the lookout for newly qualified financial accountants with two to three years commercial experience, as well as assistant accountants with New Zealand commercial experience who are working towards their professional qualifications. Credit controllers and payroll clerks with specific software experience are also needed.

“The caution seems to be lifting somewhat and New Zealand's accountancy and finance recruitment market should become more active than in recent quarters,” adds Hays. Salaries are expected to remain steady, due to the ratio of supply and demand of candidates.

Construction and property

There are opportunities in this industry for estimators for permanent roles and quantity surveyors for temporary assignments. Operative and supervisory staff will also be sought for temporary assignments. In a localised hotspot, Wellington needs planners/programmers.

Contact centres

Demand for telesales candidates has increased, as well as demand for collections candidates, since more people are missing their repayments or are not paying off their debt. Senior customer service candidates are also sought.

Energy

Demand will rise for electrical engineers due to infrastructure upgrades for New Zealand's national electricity grid. The same reason applies to the increased demand for SCADA and communications skills.

Hays expects salaries in the industry to remain stable, with potential increases for traditionally skills shortage areas for which remuneration is used as an attraction strategy.

Engineering

According to Hays, Wellington needs transport planners and engineers for highway upgrade and government infrastructure projects. Utilities engineers (water, waste water projects) are also required for maintenance upgrades and treatment plant design for councils. Auckland employers, on the other hand, seek senior bridging engineers with ten or more years experience on large projects. Finally, experienced rail design engineers are needed for the CBD rail loop project but few candidates with rail experience exist in New Zealand.

Facilities management

If you are an industrial refrigeration engineer, there are several opportunities waiting for you in New Zealand. The commencement of several significant projects in addition to the continued skills shortage in this area create an ongoing need for these professionals. Companies have indicated that their need for staff for temporary assignments will increase. Employers currently prefer to employ temporaries to avoid headcount increases and to allocate costs back to specific projects.

Information Technology (IT)

Business analysts and applications support/analysis professionals will be sought throughout the rest of the year. Hays adds that Business Intelligence and data warehousing candidates are also sought given the increased business scrutiny to improve existing systems and gain increased value at minimal outlay. Linux and virtualisation/storage is also a hotspot. The shortage doesn’t end there: software development candidates are in demand and good MS and Open Source skills as well as niche technology skills will always be in valued.

Hays states that “many employers are indicating they will use new financial year budgets to recruit. Thus we expect increased recruitment activity this quarter, which could potentially trigger longer-term positivity in the market as a result of increased business confidence and spend.”

Legal

The economic downturn has created new opportunities in the legal industry. Litigation, particularly construction and insolvency, is the prime hotspot of candidate demand at present.

Hays expects vacancy activity to be positive this quarter, with new roles being created, particularly at the senior level.

Oil & gas

Although demand across this sector has reduced, vacancy activity is still happening for business-crucial functions. Additionally, it seems like better times are ahead, with oil prices showing signs of recovery. Hays expects new vacancies to be created as the market steadily improves over the quarter. Salaries will remain constant or increase slightly.


Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature

This article could be deemed controversial...however, it could be enlightening as well...but I like no. 9...It's natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they're male)

Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature

Human nature is one of those things that everybody talks about but no one can define precisely. Every time we fall in love, fight with our spouse, get upset about the influx of immigrants into our country, or go to church, we are, in part, behaving as a human animal with our own unique evolved nature—human nature.

This means two things. First, our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are produced not only by our individual experiences and environment in our own lifetime but also by what happened to our ancestors millions of years ago. Second, our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are shared, to a large extent, by all men or women, despite seemingly large cultural differences.

Human behavior is a product both of our innate human nature and of our individual experience and environment. In this article, however, we emphasize biological influences on human behavior, because most social scientists explain human behavior as if evolution stops at the neck and as if our behavior is a product almost entirely of environment and socialization. In contrast, evolutionary psychologists see human nature as a collection of psychological adaptations that often operate beneath conscious thinking to solve problems of survival and reproduction by predisposing us to think or feel in certain ways. Our preference for sweets and fats is an evolved psychological mechanism. We do not consciously choose to like sweets and fats; they just taste good to us.

The implications of some of the ideas in this article may seem immoral, contrary to our ideals, or offensive. We state them because they are true, supported by documented scientific evidence. Like it or not, human nature is simply not politically correct.

Adapted from Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa, to be published by Perigee in September 2007.

  1. Men like blond bombshells (and women want to look like them)

    Long before TV—in 15th- and 16th- century Italy, and possibly two millennia ago—women were dying their hair blond. A recent study shows that in Iran, where exposure to Western media and culture is limited, women are actually more concerned with their body image, and want to lose more weight, than their American counterparts. It is difficult to ascribe the preferences and desires of women in 15th-century Italy and 21st-century Iran to socialization by media.

    Women's desire to look like Barbie—young with small waist, large breasts, long blond hair, and blue eyes—is a direct, realistic, and sensible response to the desire of men to mate with women who look like her. There is evolutionary logic behind each of these features.

    Men prefer young women in part because they tend to be healthier than older women. One accurate indicator of health is physical attractiveness; another is hair. Healthy women have lustrous, shiny hair, whereas the hair of sickly people loses its luster. Because hair grows slowly, shoulder-length hair reveals several years of a woman's health status.

    Men also have a universal preference for women with a low waist-to-hip ratio. They are healthier and more fertile than other women; they have an easier time conceiving a child and do so at earlier ages because they have larger amounts of essential reproductive hormones. Thus men are unconsciously seeking healthier and more fertile women when they seek women with small waists.

    Until very recently, it was a mystery to evolutionary psychology why men prefer women with large breasts, since the size of a woman's breasts has no relationship to her ability to lactate. But Harvard anthropologist Frank Marlowe contends that larger, and hence heavier, breasts sag more conspicuously with age than do smaller breasts. Thus they make it easier for men to judge a woman's age (and her reproductive value) by sight—suggesting why men find women with large breasts more attractive.

    Alternatively, men may prefer women with large breasts for the same reason they prefer women with small waists. A new study of Polish women shows that women with large breasts and tight waists have the greatest fecundity, indicated by their levels of two reproductive hormones (estradiol and progesterone).

    Blond hair is unique in that it changes dramatically with age. Typically, young girls with light blond hair become women with brown hair. Thus, men who prefer to mate with blond women are unconsciously attempting to mate with younger (and hence, on average, healthier and more fecund) women. It is no coincidence that blond hair evolved in Scandinavia and northern Europe, probably as an alternative means for women to advertise their youth, as their bodies were concealed under heavy clothing.

    Women with blue eyes should not be any different from those with green or brown eyes. Yet preference for blue eyes seems both universal and undeniable—in males as well as females. One explanation is that the human pupil dilates when an individual is exposed to something that she likes. For instance, the pupils of women and infants (but not men) spontaneously dilate when they see babies. Pupil dilation is an honest indicator of interest and attraction. And the size of the pupil is easiest to determine in blue eyes. Blue-eyed people are considered attractive as potential mates because it is easiest to determine whether they are interested in us or not.

    The irony is that none of the above is true any longer. Through face-lifts, wigs, liposuction, surgical breast augmentation, hair dye, and color contact lenses, any woman, regardless of age, can have many of the key features that define ideal female beauty. And men fall for them. Men can cognitively understand that many blond women with firm, large breasts are not actually 15 years old, but they still find them attractive because their evolved psychological mechanisms are fooled by modern inventions that did not exist in the ancestral environment.

  2. Humans are naturally polygamous

    The history of western civilization aside, humans are naturally polygamous. Polyandry (a marriage of one woman to many men) is very rare, but polygyny (the marriage of one man to many women) is widely practiced in human societies, even though Judeo-Christian traditions hold that monogamy is the only natural form of marriage. We know that humans have been polygynous throughout most of history because men are taller than women.

    Among primate and nonprimate species, the degree of polygyny highly correlates with the degree to which males of a species are larger than females. The more polygynous the species, the greater the size disparity between the sexes. Typically, human males are 10 percent taller and 20 percent heavier than females. This suggests that, throughout history, humans have been mildly polygynous.

    Relative to monogamy, polygyny creates greater fitness variance (the distance between the "winners" and the "losers" in the reproductive game) among males than among females because it allows a few males to monopolize all the females in the group. The greater fitness variance among males creates greater pressure for men to compete with each other for mates. Only big and tall males can win mating opportunities. Among pair-bonding species like humans, in which males and females stay together to raise their children, females also prefer to mate with big and tall males because they can provide better physical protection against predators and other males.

    In societies where rich men are much richer than poor men, women (and their children) are better off sharing the few wealthy men; one-half, one-quarter, or even one-tenth of a wealthy man is still better than an entire poor man. As George Bernard Shaw puts it, "The maternal instinct leads a woman to prefer a tenth share in a first-rate man to the exclusive possession of a third-rate one." Despite the fact that humans are naturally polygynous, most industrial societies are monogamous because men tend to be more or less equal in their resources compared with their ancestors in medieval times. (Inequality tends to increase as society advances in complexity from hunter-gatherer to advanced agrarian societies. Industrialization tends to decrease the level of inequality.)

  3. Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy

    When there is resource inequality among men—the case in every human society—most women benefit from polygyny: women can share a wealthy man. Under monogamy, they are stuck with marrying a poorer man.

    The only exceptions are extremely desirable women. Under monogamy, they can monopolize the wealthiest men; under polygyny, they must share the men with other, less desirable women. However, the situation is exactly opposite for men. Monogamy guarantees that every man can find a wife. True, less desirable men can marry only less desirable women, but that's much better than not marrying anyone at all.

    Men in monogamous societies imagine they would be better off under polygyny. What they don't realize is that, for most men who are not extremely desirable, polygyny means no wife at all, or, if they are lucky, a wife who is much less desirable than one they could get under monogamy.

  4. Most suicide bombers are Muslim

    According to the Oxford University sociologist Diego Gambetta, editor of Making Sense of Suicide Missions, a comprehensive history of this troubling yet topical phenomenon, while suicide missions are not always religiously motivated, when religion is involved, it is always Muslim. Why is this? Why is Islam the only religion that motivates its followers to commit suicide missions?

    The surprising answer from the evolutionary psychological perspective is that Muslim suicide bombing may have nothing to do with Islam or the Koran (except for two lines in it). It may have nothing to do with the religion, politics, the culture, the race, the ethnicity, the language, or the region. As with everything else from this perspective, it may have a lot to do with sex, or, in this case, the absence of sex.

    What distinguishes Islam from other major religions is that it tolerates polygyny. By allowing some men to monopolize all women and altogether excluding many men from reproductive opportunities, polygyny creates shortages of available women. If 50 percent of men have two wives each, then the other 50 percent don't get any wives at all.

    So polygyny increases competitive pressure on men, especially young men of low status. It therefore increases the likelihood that young men resort to violent means to gain access to mates. By doing so, they have little to lose and much to gain compared with men who already have wives. Across all societies, polygyny makes men violent, increasing crimes such as murder and rape, even after controlling for such obvious factors as economic development, economic inequality, population density, the level of democracy, and political factors in the region.

    However, polygyny itself is not a sufficient cause of suicide bombing. Societies in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean are much more polygynous than the Muslim nations in the Middle East and North Africa. And they do have very high levels of violence. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from a long history of continuous civil wars—but not suicide bombings.

    The other key ingredient is the promise of 72 virgins waiting in heaven for any martyr in Islam. The prospect of exclusive access to virgins may not be so appealing to anyone who has even one mate on earth, which strict monogamy virtually guarantees. However, the prospect is quite appealing to anyone who faces the bleak reality on earth of being a complete reproductive loser.

    It is the combination of polygyny and the promise of a large harem of virgins in heaven that motivates many young Muslim men to commit suicide bombings. Consistent with this explanation, all studies of suicide bombers indicate that they are significantly younger than not only the Muslim population in general but other (nonsuicidal) members of their own extreme political organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. And nearly all suicide bombers are single.

  5. Having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce

    Sociologists and demographers have discovered that couples who have at least one son face significantly less risk of divorce than couples who have only daughters. Why is this?

    Since a man's mate value is largely determined by his wealth, status, and power—whereas a woman's is largely determined by her youth and physical attractiveness—the father has to make sure that his son will inherit his wealth, status, and power, regardless of how much or how little of these resources he has. In contrast, there is relatively little that a father (or mother) can do to keep a daughter youthful or make her more physically attractive.

    The continued presence of (and investment by) the father is therefore important for the son, but not as crucial for the daughter. The presence of sons thus deters divorce and departure of the father from the family more than the presence of daughters, and this effect tends to be stronger among wealthy families.

  6. Beautiful people have more daughters

    It is commonly believed that whether parents conceive a boy or a girl is up to random chance. Close, but not quite; it is largely up to chance. The normal sex ratio at birth is 105 boys for every 100 girls. But the sex ratio varies slightly in different circumstances and for different families. There are factors that subtly influence the sex of an offspring.

    One of the most celebrated principles in evolutionary biology, the Trivers-Willard hypothesis, states that wealthy parents of high status have more sons, while poor parents of low status have more daughters. This is because children generally inherit the wealth and social status of their parents. Throughout history, sons from wealthy families who would themselves become wealthy could expect to have a large number of wives, mistresses and concubines, and produce dozens or hundreds of children, whereas their equally wealthy sisters can have only so many children. So natural selection designs parents to have biased sex ratio at birth depending upon their economic circumstances—more boys if they are wealthy, more girls if they are poor. (The biological mechanism by which this occurs is not yet understood.)

    This hypothesis has been documented around the globe. American presidents, vice presidents, and cabinet secretaries have more sons than daughters. Poor Mukogodo herders in East Africa have more daughters than sons. Church parish records from the 17th and 18th centuries show that wealthy landowners in Leezen, Germany, had more sons than daughters, while farm laborers and tradesmen without property had more daughters than sons. In a survey of respondents from 46 nations, wealthy individuals are more likely to indicate a preference for sons if they could only have one child, whereas less wealthy individuals are more likely to indicate a preference for daughters.

    The generalized Trivers-Willard hypothesis goes beyond a family's wealth and status: If parents have any traits that they can pass on to their children and that are better for sons than for daughters, then they will have more boys. Conversely, if parents have any traits that they can pass on to their children and that are better for daughters, they will have more girls.

    Physical attractiveness, while a universally positive quality, contributes even more to women's reproductive success than to men's. The generalized hypothesis would therefore predict that physically attractive parents should have more daughters than sons. Once again, this is the case. Americans who are rated "very attractive" have a 56 percent chance of having a daughter for their first child, compared with 48 percent for everyone else.

  7. What Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals

    For nearly a quarter of a century, criminologists have known about the "age-crime curve." In every society at all historical times, the tendency to commit crimes and other risk-taking behavior rapidly increases in early adolescence, peaks in late adolescence and early adulthood, rapidly decreases throughout the 20s and 30s, and levels off in middle age.

    This curve is not limited to crime. The same age profile characterizes every quantifiable human behavior that is public (i.e., perceived by many potential mates) and costly (i.e., not affordable by all sexual competitors). The relationship between age and productivity among male jazz musicians, male painters, male writers, and male scientists—which might be called the "age-genius curve"—is essentially the same as the age-crime curve. Their productivity—the expressions of their genius—quickly peaks in early adulthood, and then equally quickly declines throughout adulthood. The age-genius curve among their female counterparts is much less pronounced; it does not peak or vary as much as a function of age.

    Paul McCartney has not written a hit song in years, and now spends much of his time painting. Bill Gates is now a respectable businessman and philanthropist, and is no longer a computer whiz kid. J.D. Salinger now lives as a total recluse and has not published anything in more than three decades. Orson Welles was a mere 26 when he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane.

    A single theory can explain the productivity of both creative geniuses and criminals over the life course: Both crime and genius are expressions of young men's competitive desires, whose ultimate function in the ancestral environment would have been to increase reproductive success.

    In the physical competition for mates, those who are competitive may act violently toward their male rivals. Men who are less inclined toward crime and violence may express their competitiveness through their creative activities.

    The cost of competition, however, rises dramatically when a man has children, when his energies and resources are put to better use protecting and investing in them. The birth of the first child usually occurs several years after puberty because men need some time to accumulate sufficient resources and attain sufficient status to attract their first mate. There is therefore a gap of several years between the rapid rise in the benefits of competition and similarly rapid rise in its costs. Productivity rapidly declines in late adulthood as the costs of competition rise and cancel its benefits.

    These calculations have been performed by natural and sexual selection, so to speak, which then equips male brains with a psychological mechanism to incline them to be increasingly competitive immediately after puberty and make them less competitive right after the birth of their first child. Men simply do not feel like acting violently, stealing, or conducting additional scientific experiments, or they just want to settle down after the birth of their child but they do not know exactly why.

    The similarity between Bill Gates, Paul McCartney, and criminals—in fact, among all men throughout evolutionary history—points to an important concept in evolutionary biology: female choice.

    Women often say no to men. Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them. Men have built (and destroyed) civilization in order to impress women, so that they might say yes.

  8. The midlife crisis is a myth—sort of

    Many believe that men go through a midlife crisis when they are in middle age. Not quite. Many middle-aged men do go through midlife crises, but it's not because they are middle-aged. It's because their wives are. From the evolutionary psychological perspective, a man's midlife crisis is precipitated by his wife's imminent menopause and end of her reproductive career, and thus his renewed need to attract younger women. Accordingly, a 50-year-old man married to a 25-year-old woman would not go through a midlife crisis, while a 25-year-old man married to a 50-year-old woman would, just like a more typical 50-year-old man married to a 50-year-old woman. It's not his midlife that matters; it's hers. When he buys a shiny-red sports car, he's not trying to regain his youth; he's trying to attract young women to replace his menopausal wife by trumpeting his flash and cash.

  9. It's natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they're male)

    On the morning of January 21, 1998, as Americans woke up to the stunning allegation that President Bill Clinton had had an affair with a 24-year-old White House intern, Darwinian historian Laura L. Betzig thought, "I told you so." Betzig points out that while powerful men throughout Western history have married monogamously (only one legal wife at a time), they have always mated polygynously (they had lovers, concubines, and female slaves). With their wives, they produced legitimate heirs; with the others, they produced bastards. Genes make no distinction between the two categories of children.

    As a result, powerful men of high status throughout human history attained very high reproductive success, leaving a large number of offspring (legitimate and otherwise), while countless poor men died mateless and childless. Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty, the last Sharifian emperor of Morocco, stands out quantitatively, having left more offspring—1,042—than anyone else on record, but he was by no means qualitatively different from other powerful men, like Bill Clinton.

    The question many asked in 1998—"Why on earth would the most powerful man in the world jeopardize his job for an affair with a young woman?"—is, from a Darwinian perspective, a silly one. Betzig's answer would be: "Why not?" Men strive to attain political power, consciously or unconsciously, in order to have reproductive access to a larger number of women. Reproductive access to women is the goal, political office but one means. To ask why the President of the United States would have a sexual encounter with a young woman is like asking why someone who worked very hard to earn a large sum of money would then spend it.

    What distinguishes Bill Clinton is not that he had extramarital affairs while in office—others have, more will; it would be a Darwinian puzzle if they did not—what distinguishes him is the fact that he got caught.

  10. Men sexually harass women because they are not sexist

    An unfortunate consequence of the ever-growing number of women joining the labor force and working side by side with men is the increasing number of sexual harassment cases. Why must sexual harassment be a necessary consequence of the sexual integration of the workplace?

    Psychologist Kingsley R. Browne identifies two types of sexual harassment cases: the quid pro quo ("You must sleep with me if you want to keep your job or be promoted") and the "hostile environment" (the workplace is deemed too sexualized for workers to feel safe and comfortable). While feminists and social scientists tend to explain sexual harassment in terms of "patriarchy" and other ideologies, Browne locates the ultimate cause of both types of sexual harassment in sex differences in mating strategies.

    Studies demonstrate unequivocally that men are far more interested in short-term casual sex than women. In one now-classic study, 75 percent of undergraduate men approached by an attractive female stranger agreed to have sex with her; none of the women approached by an attractive male stranger did. Many men who would not date the stranger nonetheless agreed to have sex with her.

    The quid pro quo types of harassment are manifestations of men's greater desire for short-term casual sex and their willingness to use any available means to achieve that goal. Feminists often claim that sexual harassment is "not about sex but about power;" Browne contends it is both—men using power to get sex. "To say that it is only about power makes no more sense than saying that bank robbery is only about guns, not about money."

    Sexual harassment cases of the hostile-environment variety result from sex differences in what men and women perceive as "overly sexual" or "hostile" behavior. Many women legitimately complain that they have been subjected to abusive, intimidating, and degrading treatment by their male coworkers. Browne points out that long before women entered the labor force, men subjected each other to such abusive, intimidating, and degrading treatment.

    Abuse, intimidation, and degradation are all part of men's repertoire of tactics employed in competitive situations. In other words, men are not treating women differently from men—the definition of discrimination, under which sexual harassment legally falls—but the opposite: Men harass women precisely because they are not discriminating between men and women.

Author:
Alan S. Miller
Satoshi Kanazawa
Published on Psychology Today (http://www.psychologytoday.com)

Culture of extravagance and significance of Ramadan

Ramadan is festival kind of atmosphere here....unlike in Malaysia which the eid songs or lagu raya are already part of Ramadan....it is become a culture thing to play eid songs during ramadan to remind about Eid while forgetting that fasting is for a month while Raya/Eid is only for a day!

The Muslim world goes topsy-turvy in Ramadan. Eating, sleeping and socialising routines are turned back to front – the first meal is eaten as the sun sets. The initial morsel of food into our mouths will usually be a sweet, succulent date, according to the Islamic tradition. But are the hours that follow really that religious?

Contemporary changes to the Ramadan culture mean that the spiritual significance of Ramadan is slowly being lost. Abstaining from physical intake during daylight hours – which means food, drink, and sex – with the intention of getting closer to the Divine, has a myriad of philosophies and meanings.

It allows appreciation of the suffering of the poor and hungry, a chance to devote less time to the physical and more time to the spiritual, a recognition that we can live happily and successfully with less than we have.

Come nightfall, these good intentions are put to one side, as though Ramadan is for daylight hours only, and the revelling begins.

Mothers cook sumptuous meals for their families. The food is indulgently calorific to the point that many Muslims say they actually gain weight rather than lose it as one might expect. The philosophy of restraint and frugality adhered to during the day has its mirror image in the excessive culinary indulgence after dark.

One of the religious traditions of Ramadan is to feed others at the time of iftar in order to gain reward. Dinner invitations thus abound, and these iftar gatherings are warm social events. But in many places they turn into arenas for showmanship, outdoing friends and family with ever extravagant menus. “People will announce at the end of the meal how much it cost,” said one Egyptian woman to emphasise the one-upmanship that dominates what should be an occasion of sharing and community.

Once the iftar is over, there is a wide choice of entertainment. Those who are extrovert will find their way to newly erected Ramadan tents, to smoke shisha and chill out with friends for the whole night, going from party to party until dawn. Other families will stay at home to watch the multitude of soap operas which dominate Ramadan. In Saudi Arabia last year it was claimed that there were 64 such soap operas broadcast each night, staggered over time so audiences could watch as many as possible.

This is not a comment on the values or quality of the soaps, or the claims by some clerics that they are “debauched”. It is simply an observation that these soap operas prey on the communal feeling that is generated in Ramadan and profit from it. The audience is understandably drawn towards the high level of entertainment but inadvertently becomes distracted from the sweet pleasures of contemplation and social intercourse of Ramadan.

And let’s not forget the shopping. Shops are open later than ever, and it seems that Ramadan is not a time of midnight contemplation, but rather just a prelude to Eid, a day to show off your new clothes. Ramadan shopping festivals are becoming more common, as is the compulsion to purchase and give Eid presents to a wide circle of acquaintances.

Instead of cutting back on the desire to consume, we end up with heightened consumption in these 30 days, whether that be in restaurants or in retail.

This is not to say that the Muslim world has become a month-long consumerist orgy – far from it. The social and spiritual temperature of Muslim communities is high and mosques teem with passionate worshippers.

What may surprise many who live in majority Muslim countries is that this sense of community and faith is particularly acute in countries where Muslims are minorities.

In these countries, if you are fasting you have to make an active choice to go against the grain of mainstream society. You still have to go to work where you can stare longingly at your colleagues drinking coffee, or attend meetings which run across the iftar time. You have to really know and understand why you are fasting, rather than just being swept up in the maelstrom. There is a sense of community purpose in these countries and an overwhelming push towards spiritual success.

The energy is so focused that I have known Muslims who come to Britain leaving Muslim countries behind in order to have a more spiritually profitable month.

As Ramadan’s religious significance is slowly eclipsed by its commercial and cultural status, then it is voided of its meaning, and ultimately of its importance. That is exactly what happened in 1960 when the president of Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, wanted to cancel Ramadan. He felt that although Ramadan was a “beautiful custom”, it “paralysed our society”.

He appeared on national television with his cabinet eating during the day and tried to get senior Muslim clerics to issue fatwas to say that it was permissible not to fast. Of course, this did not happen, but it is a salutary tale of how, when religious occasion turns into culture, it becomes vulnerable to elimination.

There are some who will say I am being a killjoy and too pious. Others will say that if mothers want to spoil their families with delicious food after working hard on their fasts all day, then that is their right. There are those who will say that spending the night chatting away in shisha bars or comparing notes on soap operas, increases the sense of community and social cohesion.

These outcomes are all good things – part of the magic of Ramadan, no doubt. And of course there is no compulsion in how you spend Ramadan. You do not have to sit on a prayer mat all hours of the day. But I do see a worrying trend when you piece each of these actions together. Each one may be justifiable because everyone has choice, but if you step back, you start to see that the meaning and context of Ramadan is slowly being lost.

If we accept these justifications then we must be wary of opening ourselves to the charge of hypocrisy.

Ramadan and Eid are not the only occasions to have suffered this slow and insidious dilution of meaning and impact. Practising Christians in the western world complain that Christmas has been sucked dry of its religious meaning.

Other festivals, too, have lost their meaning. Easter was about rebirth and renewal, but now focuses on chocolate eggs and cute bunnies. And Lent, which was a 40-day period of frugality and restraint – almost akin to Ramadan itself in its ethos – has been distilled down to Mardi Gras, pancakes and gaudy carnivals.

Some people will bristle at the comparison of the way that Christmas has been usurped by consumerism with the contemporary experience of Ramadan. But the similarities are striking as the evidence above shows.

You do not have to be religious to appreciate that the social and ethical meaning of festivals such as Christmas, Ramadan and Eid have a great deal to contribute to the morality of human society.

For this reason, Muslims add their voices to these complaints, as part of the faith communities who share a concern about the sapping of meaning and moral compass from these occasions. However, it often turns into pointing fingers at the West for becoming “godless” or “decadent” due to the excessive commercialisation, while turning a blind eye to the same challenges in the Muslim world.

Is this a case of pot calling the kettle black?

Ramadan does not have to be, and should not be, sober pious asceticism. Of course not. Enjoyment, sharing and happiness in our togetherness are critical components of Ramadan. But Ramadan should be about more than gluttony, shopping and vacuous entertainment.

We do in fact need to recognise and acknowledge the place of Ramadan’s material pleasures. By being honest about the importance of the physical, we can de-prioritise it in favour of the spiritual and moral at least for the 30 days of Ramadan.

This de-prioritisation is what makes Ramadan special in the first place. By withholding the importance of the physical self, Ramadan is about recognising the importance of our individual spirit, and about finding our place as souls, not bodies, in the society in which we live.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is a British commentator on Islam and author of Love in a Headscarf, a new memoir of growing up as a Muslim woman

Ramadan Is Here Again...and I love Ramadan

This is my 10th Ramadan in the UAE....alhamdulillah, time flies and may this Ramadan be the best of all Ramadans....

Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Ramadan has come to you – a blessed month. Allah has made obligatory upon you its fasting. In it, the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hellfire are closed and the devils are chained.

To Allah belongs a night in it, which is better than a thousand months. Whosoever is denied its good, then he has been deprived.” (Musnad Ahmad and An-Nasa’i).
This Hadith gives the good news of the coming blessed month of Ramadan for the righteous servants of Allah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) informed his companions of its coming and it was not just a simple relaying of news.

Rather, his intent was to give them the glad tidings of a magnificent time of the year, so the righteous who are quick to do good deeds can give the month its due.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained the ways of seeking Allah’s forgiveness and good pleasure in this month. He mentioned what Allah has prepared for His servants.
So whoever does not attain Allah’s forgiveness and mercy during the blessed month of Ramadan, then indeed he is deprived of the utmost reward.

He who takes advantage of this blessed month by doing what is prescribed in it from the acts of obedience really achieves happiness. He may perhaps be showered with blessings and saved from the torment of the Fire.
Being able to witness another Ramadan is itself a magnificent bounty, bestowed on those who make use if it, by standing in prayer during its nights while fasting during its days.
Such a person returns to his Lord – from disobeying Him to obeying Him, from neglecting Him to remembering Him, from remaining distant from Him to turning towards Him in submissive repentance.

A Muslim must acknowledge this bounty and be conscious of its gratness. For indeed, many people are prevented from fasting, either because they die before it or because they are not capable of observing it or because they turn away from it.
One should therefore exert himself as much as possible in doing good deeds. We should ask Allah to guide us to fasting and standing up for night prayers; we should ask Him to give us enthusiasm, strength and energy during this month. May Allah awaken us from heedless oversleeping so we may take advantage of this blessed time.
It is unfortunate that many people neither know the value of this auspicious month nor do they consider it to be sacred. So Ramadan, for them, is no longer a significant time for obedience and worship like reciting the Qur’an, giving in charity and making remembrance of Allah.
Instead, to such people Ramadan is a month to to prepare and relish different types of dishes. Others spend Ramadan sleeping during the day and meeting people and attending gatherings during the night.

Some even sleep past the time of the obligatory prayers, thus not praying in congregation or at their proper times. This is the extent to which views (of Ramadan) have changed.
Some of the pious predecessors used to say: “Indeed Allah, the Most High, has made the month of Ramadan as a competition for His creatures, in which they may race with one another to attain His pleasure, by obeying Him.

Thus, one group comes first and so they prosper and another group comes last and so they fail.” (Lata’if-ul-Ma’arif of Ibn Rajab, pg. 246)

Also, one does not know if this is the last Ramadan he will ever see in his life. How many men, women and children fasted with us last year, and yet now they lie buried in the depths of the earth, depending on their good deeds. And they expected to fast many more Ramadans!
Likewise, we too shall follow their path. Therefore, it is upon Muslims to rejoice at this great opportunity of doing good deeds.

They should not neglect it, but instead be busy with what will benefit them and what will lead them to reap its everlasting fruits. –

By Abdullah Bin Saleh Al-Fowzan
ARK magazine