Arab Films Showcase Turbulent Year

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Regan Doherty

DFI-DTFF_englishDOHA (Reuters) – The Arab Spring of pro-democracy uprisings features prominently — both directly and more subtly — in the selections at the third annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival, kicking off in the Qatari capital this week.

The festival, launched in 2009 in the tiny Gulf Arab state, seeks to showcase the work of Arab filmmakers who this year were able to draw on the momentous political changes in their own countries for artistic inspiration.

Highlights include “Rouge Parole,” set in the tumult of revolutionary Tunisia, which charts the expulsion of its president and the country’s first steps toward democracy.

Sherif El Bendary’s “On the Road to Downtown,” set in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, follows the lives and hopes of six people connected in different ways to the city’s downtown core.

“Our selection of documentaries provides for reflection on political change. But we also offer a number of films that look into private worlds and subtler aspects of the Middle Eastern experience that are not always evident to political observers,” said the festival’s Chief Arab Programer, Hania Mroue.

“The Virgin, the Copts and Me” takes on an otherworldly subject in investigating the appearance of the Virgin Mary to millions of Egyptians via a videotape on which only true believers can see her image.

“This is a very important film for post-revolutionary Egypt, as it sheds light on the Coptic community, which was taboo to do a few years ago,” Mroue said.

The Algerian title “Normale” examines what happened in the Algerian street as neighboring countries’ dictators were being toppled.

“The youth in Algeria felt they could now express themselves more freely. The film addresses the revolution in a very subtle way,” she said.

Lina Alabed’s “Yearning” focuses on the lives of women in Damascus and their approach to personal freedom in a society dominated by men.

Women are also the focus in two sports documentaries that examine the taboos surrounding women and boxing in Tunisia (“Boxing with Her”), and the life-altering experience of a young women’s basketball team in northern Iraq (“Salaam Dunk”).

Other headliners include the world premiere of “Black Gold” with Antonio Banderas, set in the 1930s at the dawn of the oil boom and the first major motion picture shot in Qatar.

Laila Hotait Salas’ “Crayons of Askalan” recreates the powerful story of Palestinian artist Zuhdi al Adawi, imprisoned at the age of 15 in Israel’s notorious Askalan jail.

Qatar launched the film festival as a partnership between the Doha Film Institute and Tribeca Enterprises, which also operates New York’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Created as a way to rejuvenate lower Manhattan after the September 11, 2001 attacks which destroyed the World Trade Center, the Tribeca Film Festival in New York has become a showcase for international films with a political edge.

Organizers said the Doha event aims to do the same, using the festival to shine a spotlight on Arab cinema.

“We don’t want to focus only on the big names, we want to give a space also for new voices, especially from the region,” Mroue said.

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Mastering Home Economics Essential to Personal Freedom

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

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The best time for teaching basic home economics is when children are young. Yet many of us reach adulthood lacking some of the essential skills for comfortable living. In a well-run household, people’s basic needs are taken care of, so that thoughts and conversations can dwell on higher things. When people experience a sense of calm and security in their homes, they can focus on their work better, and enjoy their leisure more completely. When a person embarks upon the adventure of living away from their parents, whether it’s because they got married, went off to college, found their dream job, or simply needed to “find themselves,” some challenges always arise. In order to wear that new-found freedom gracefully, one needs to attain competence in the realms of finances, cleanliness, and health.

Financial Organization

People who become delinquent in paying their bills very often had the money to pay them, but they became disorganized. Keeping order in your financial life is essential to the smooth transition into adulthood. Some people become obsessed with increasing their income, not realizing that budgeting your money is far more essential to living within your means. Many millionaires fall into debt, while many poorer folk lead simple yet debt-free lives.

Managing finances effectively only requires a basic knowledge of addition and subtraction. But first things first: you need a place, such as a special drawer, where you keep unpaid bills and you need a place where you keep paid bills. Ideally you should keep a set of files separated by topic such as cable bills, utility bills, medical records, pay stubs, etc.

When money comes in, before you start withdrawing cash or buying the latest computer software, pay your bills in order of importance. Don’t delay. Always pay your bills first. Some people avoid the “pain” by refusing to know how much money they have compared with how much they spend. This bad habit needs to end immediately, to avoid lifetime enslavement to creditors. You may need good credit someday, if you ever plan to buy a home or car or have a serious emergency.

As soon as your paycheck clears, sit down and make your payments. Start with your rent or mortgage. Next, pay anything that charges a late fee such as credit card statements, and anything that is a legal requirement such as insurance. Utilities usually do not charge late fees but are essential to normal life so pay those next. After that, fill up your car’s gas tank. Now, check your balance: Do you have enough money left for food and supplies? If you cannot catch up in a month’s time, you need to find a cheaper place to live, get a roommate or find a second job, because you are not earning enough to survive.

Hopefully, you do have something left over, so whether it’s $15 or $150, that is your spending money. A single person can survive on amazingly little money, as long as they never leave home. Once they start going out, there is no limit to what they can spend on clothes, restaurants and entertainment. So, with the spending money you have left over after bills, stock up on groceries and whatever supplies you need to get by. If there is anything left after that, this is your money to do with what you like, whether it’s going to the mall or taking a weekend trip to the next Islamic conference. If you don’t have anything left after buying shampoo, stay home. It seems simple, but it’s not for many of us.

Cleanliness

Many young people use their new freedom to stop picking up after themselves. However, living in disorder not only creates health hazards and invites mice, but the Prophet (s) advised us that even looking at filth is demoralizing. These are my basic priority guidelines for home cleanliness.

First, clean up anything that is considered filth in Islam: Feces and urine should be laundered with hot water, while blood or sexual excretions should be washed in cold water. Cleaning the toilet should be done as soon as it becomes necessary.

Second, clean up anything that smells bad: take out the garbage, launder rancid towels. Open all the windows at least once a day to let out the old cooking smells, smoke, and germs lingering in the air. If it’s winter, it’s best to air out the house when you leave, so you don’t freeze.

Third, clean up the clothes laying on the floor, hang up coats, fold blankets. Textile messes tend to take up a lot of space, and while not being hazardous, cleaning them up makes a big difference to the look of a room.

Fourth, pick up and put away or throw away whatever garbage or other objects remain on the floor, then vacuum and/or mop.

Fifth, clear off tabletops and dust them because the sight of clean surfaces calms the mind, and enables you to actually use the tables and counters. If you have a lot of time, it makes more sense to dust first and then clean the floors, but if time is an issue then clean floors are more important.

Health

Many young adults express their new independence by ignoring their bodily needs. If you cannot be bothered to cook, at least eat a salad every day because living on bread and coffee alone will cause your health to deteriorate fast. Living within your means also means living within your energy level. You may have to place limits on yourself in order to stay strong enough to maintain your independence. Get enough sleep.

There are limits to freedom. Those who are able to limit themselves to what is halal – meaning, you can afford it and it is beneficial, will maximize their comfort in this life.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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Saudi Arabia: Difficult Choices

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Khalid Alnowaiser

We must keep our country safe and united at a time of regional upheaval

I realize that Saudi Arabia has many challenges and issues of concern in light of recent political upheavals in the region. Yemen is next door and remains a troublesome neighbor; Bahrain has significant domestic challenges which cannot be ignored, given its strategic importance to the Kingdom; and Syria and Lebanon have always been a source of worry. The events in Egypt erupted like a volcano that no one was expecting and it needs more time to recover after the fall of Mubarak. Tunisia is another unexpected development and Libya seems to be on the verge of a difficult political transition. Iran poses a threat not only for Saudi Arabia and the region but for the entire world.

As the undisputed leader of the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia has a great responsibility, especially with its strategic location, oil and other natural resources. Saudi Arabia is not a Zaire or Myanmar, but a country of immense size and importance. Yet, the Kingdom’s internal situation is very complicated and demands that we examine the choices facing the country. The religious establishment still lives in the past, but its powerful role cannot be disregarded or underestimated. Further, our young people have numerous concerns including jobs and more personal freedom. The issues of terrorism and the need to maintain safety and security in such a huge and important country require serious attention.

Now, I am fully aware that theory is one thing, but reality is quite different.

As we consider these challenges, we must always put ourselves in the shoes of the political decision-makers and the pressures they face daily. So, what can be done to maintain and advance Saudi Arabia’s unity and stability while it exists in such an explosive region that is experiencing extraordinary and unprecedented turmoil? It seems that there are only three possible options.

First Option: Count fully on the United States to support Saudi Arabia in the event of any crisis that may erupt in the country regardless of its cause or nature. This option may have merit if the danger were external, but let’s be clear: America will not intervene to protect our country or any other nation if the threat is internal. The proof of this is how quickly America abandoned its closest allies such as Iran under the Shah, the Philippines during the regime of Ferdinand Marcos, and now Mubarak in Egypt. This should not come as any surprise since all nations focus solely on their own interests and strategic goals. Therefore, it is not realistic for Saudi Arabia to rely on the United States, in spite of the special relationship that currently exists between our two countries.

Second Option: Try to enhance the power of the religious establishment and depend upon its support and influence on all aspects of the life of the Saudi people to protect the country from all challenges. Certainly, this option has legitimacy for two reasons: First, Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and the nation was born out of the Muslim religion. Secondly, there are political, legal and ethical commitments toward the religious establishment that can never be disregarded or ignored which exist since the first day of the country’s foundation. However, although this option may be appropriate in the near future, it will pose a major danger to Saudi Arabia in the long run because of the following:

1. The religious establishment is outmoded and soon is expected to lose its control and domination over the lives of Saudi citizens, especially in light of modern technology and unprecedented international media openness. It is obvious that its approach is based on custodianship, creatorship, suppression of personal and social freedom, and infringement of the rights of women and young. The young will likely explode one day and reject the pressure on them. With time, such an attitude will engender more resentment toward religious authorities, especially among young people. Given the rapid pace of modern life, this failure to change and be flexible will harm rather than help our country.

2. The religious establishment also is likely to become too powerful, and the only goal for it is to seek more political power. Islamic history is full of evidence where power corrupts absolutely. Osama Bin Laden, for example, started as an individual who had a noble religious message but as time passed on, his political ambition was so obvious and he used (and indeed abused) Islam to try and further his political objectives.

3. If the level of religious doctrines and dosages imposed for certain purposes in everyday life increases in any society beyond the normal mental and spiritual capacity of human beings in modern life, which seems to be the case in the Kingdom, it will certainly backfire such as what happened in the 1980s during the call for jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Third Option: Rely on openness, transparency, democracy, human rights, and personal freedom in building the civil and political institutions for Saudi Arabia and speak to the new generation in truth about what is facing them today and not sometime in the past. We must also continue to maintain positive international relations with all nations, including the United States and developed nations, and de-emphasize the influence of the religious establishment over the lives of Saudi citizens so they can breathe normally and live a healthy and productive life. This can happen only if religious authorities are challenged by the Saudi government to moderate their role in society and not simply control the people. Of course, the religious establishment should be treated with respect, but it has to realize this is the 21st century, not the Dark Ages.

There is no question that the Saudi people fully support and are loyal to the royal family from the great founder, King Abdulaziz, to the age of King Abdullah. However, our country must search for alternative ways of planning to implement this third and final strategic option in order to keep the country safe, secure, stable and united while the region is going through such drastic political changes.

I sincerely hope that Saudi Arabia is ready to embrace this choice even if it takes many years.

— Dr. Khalid Alnowaiser is a columnist and a Saudi attorney with offices in Riyadh and Jeddah. He can be reached at: Khalid@lfkan.com and/or Twitter (kalnowaiser)

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