Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

I would highly recommend the The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. It is relatively short and telling work of fiction. It revolves around a Pakistani youth studying and later working in the best of places in the US. He gets involved in an emotionally challenged relationship with an American girl. Then comes 9/11 and throws everything out of balance. The main character becomes torn between his roots in the East and the Western dream he came to live.

I liked the narration of this work of fiction which is in the first person form: the main character tells his story to a companion in a local cafe in Lahore.

There are few passages that I really liked (without giving it away). He describes his relationship with his girlfriend:

It occurred to me that my attempts to communicate with her might have failed in part because I did not know where I stood on so many issues of consequence; I lacked a stable core. I was not certain where I belonged– in New York, in Lahore , in both, in neither– and for this reason, when she reached out to me for help, I had nothing of substance to give her.

He describes the stages of romantic breakup:

There is in such situations usually a moment of passion during which the unthinkable is said; this is followed by a sense of euphoria at finally being liberated; the world seems fresh, as if seen for the first time; then comes the inevitable period of doubt, the desperate and doomed backpedaling of regret; and only later once emotions have receded, is one able to view with equanimity the journey through which one has passed.

In one instance the main character hears words from another person that “plunged [him] into a deep bout of introspection.” I must say anyone reading this book will get his or her share of introspection. A great read!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Harmony Please

PYONGYANG (Reuters) - The United States' oldest symphony orchestra played an unprecedented concert on Tuesday in hermit North Korea that both sides say they hope will bring a little harmony to relations between the bitter Cold War foes.

North Korea tunes in to New York Philharmonic - Yahoo! News.

Why don’t they come play in Kuwait? Why don’t they come play in our parliament? We desperately need a bit of harmony! It seems our parliament in constantly engaged in some sort of war either with the government or amongst itself: election laws, salary increases, segregation of sexes, accusations of disloyalty and it never stops.

Then we are faced with this seemingly 50 day break of National Day and Liberation Day. We are finally to be liberated from this boredom tomorrow. Rather than clogging the streets and spraying foam why can’t we enjoy proper celebrations? Why can’t we have fireworks? Let the music play. Let some harmony take place.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Religion and the Law

In every democratic and more-or-less secular country, similar questions arise about the precise extent to which religious sub-cultures should be allowed to live by their own rules and “laws”. One set of questions emerges when believers demand, and often get, an opt-out from the law of the land. Sikhs in British Columbia can ride motorcycles without helmets; some are campaigning for the right not to wear hard hats on building sites. Muslims and Jews slaughter animals in ways that others might consider cruel; Catholic doctors and nurses refuse to have anything to do with abortion or euthanasia.

Faith, law and democracy | Defining the limits of exceptionalism |

Should the legal system give room to different religions or sects to have their own laws? Kuwait’s courts work by this principle when it comes to personal affairs laws. Issues such as marriage and custody of children are subject to which religion or sect you belong to. This seems to be a fair arrangement as long as it is not abused or offensive to society.

However, lately there has been much controversy when Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury in the UK, suggested that British laws should accommodate for Muslims. Apparently there is nothing wrong with the principle, but perhaps great apprehension about Islam and Muslims who are now associated with terrorism.  

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Say No to Flirting

Prosecutors in Saudi Arabia have begun investigating 57 young men who were arrested on Thursday for flirting with girls at shopping centres in Mecca.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Saudi men arrested for 'flirting'.

Coming back from a one day trip to Riyadh -not sure I could have stayed longer– I found the above piece of news interesting. Flirting could happen anywhere, let alone in Mecca! The question is what causes this flirting to get out of control and become an annoyance -try the harassment at Gulf Road and any Mall?

The conservative answer to this question is that it is a by product of the open society. If this is the case, then how do you explain the Mecca incident? Probably the liberal answer is closer to the truth which is due to the closing up and segregation of society. This explains why flirting and harassment happens in Kuwait and Saudi but not Dubai.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

StickK to Your Goals

WHEN two tubby graduate economics students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology decided to lose some weight, they employed the profit motive to help them succeed. Dean Karlan promised to pay John Romalis $10,000 if he did not lose 38lb (17kg) by an agreed date. Mr Romalis made a similar pledge. If both failed, the one who failed by least would get $5,000. Happily, both succeeded in shedding pounds not dollars, and the initial deal was replaced with a “maintenance contract” which allowed either economist to show up unannounced to check the weight of the other and collect $5,000 for each pound over an agreed weight.

An idea for Lent | Carrot and stickK |

The still slim Mr Karlan went on to launch A really cool site to help people stick to their goals based on the same concept above of signing commitment contracts. Check it out!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

This message is brought to you by your local Islamist MP. Spread the love!