Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Local Dubai Opinions on the Economic Downturn

Over the last year I've been informally polling various friends in business and industry here to ask about the economic downturn and whether things are changing; getting better or worse.  Sometimes it's difficult to tell from the local media reports.

Here's a quick and brief sampling from friends...

Experienced Safety Engineer

"Our company is very precarious financially..."
"(The Dubai economy) will not get better... it cannot."

Experienced Industrial Designer

"Many companies were trying to hold on until after Eid to see if business picked up but there's just not enough to go around.  There are some 'big players' in the market that are going to go under soon... or just pull out."

Higher Education Administrator

"Enrollment is down significantly this year"

Taken together, these opinions paint a pretty bleak picture.  We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wedad Lootah: A Progressive Emirati Marriage Counselor and Author

There was a fascinating article in the Gulf News this past weekend.  It really pushed the boundaries for publishing in this region in my opinion.  The article is about a female marriage counselor who has stirred things up in local society here by publishing a book about Emirati marriage problems with a big focus on sexual problems.  The article is written in a stilted style and seems like it might have been poorly translated.  Nevertheless, it's worth a read to get a glimpse of what's "rocking the boat" here in the UAE and about some interesting cultural practices and norms in the society.  Here's an excerpt:

I always feel that the bedroom is the base for happiness in marriage. When bed and love are combined, it will be the climax of marriage happiness. And even if there is no love, treating the woman well also leads to happiness. But what is not acceptable is when there is neither love nor is the man taking care of the woman.

A recent example of this is the case of a woman who came to me asking for a divorce because she said her husband had abandoned her in bed for nine years. Other counselors might take the words and submit an "abandonment case". But I talked to her and told her she was like my daughter. She said she didn't want to live with him anymore, and she couldn't. I explained to her that I want to do her a favour and talk to her husband, which I did though she said 'No need'. When I called him, he laughed and told me it is she who refused to share the bed with him. He came to me and we discussed the case in person...

Read the article here

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Post Ramadan "Exhortation"

For those of you not familiar with an Islamic view of what Ramadan should accomplish in a Muslim's life I've cut and pasted an exhortation from a local Islamic learning center near my home.  The people there are kind and I've visited a few times before.  It will give you a sense of what Muslims feel Ramadan is and should be.


Assalamu  Alaikum Wa Rahmathullahi Wa Barakathuh.

Ramadan is over.

Yes, here we go again: Back to our "normal" lives, away from the obedience of Allah and back to disobeying Him, away from working towards the Hereafter back to working for something in this temporary glitzy world.

To attain Allah's Forgiveness and His Pleasure (i.e. Paradise).
Take Islamic classes as this will keep you in a religious environment. Volunteer in some Islamic/charity centre (okay, I'm heading somewhere with this, see below) so that you can continue to benefit others.

One of the signs that our Ramadan was accepted is that we continue to do good deeds after it, and one of the signs that our Ramadan was NOT accepted was that we continue with our pre-Ramadan ways and show no signs of improvement after Ramadan.

The Islamic Learning Centre has some ways for you to continue the "Ramadan spirit":

a) Send your children to our kiddie classes: Teach your child the beauty of Islam and complete your responsibility as a parent.

Aged group:  3yrs-4yrs. twice a week ; 3.30p.m.- 5.30p.m.(days will be notified later)

Aged group 5yrs - 6yrs.  twice a week; 3.00p.m. - 5.00p.m.(days will be notified later)

Aged group 7yrs - 13yrs (girls) & 7 yrs - 10yrs. (boys)  Saturdays 9.00am.-1pm.

 Please call us for further information and register your child.
 b) Volunteer to teach the kids: We are looking for committed volunteers, with  knowledge of Islam and Arabic Language. You must be patient (you're dealing with kids, after all). Creativity is a bonus. Those interested are requested to email ____  giving a brief note on their credibility. Do remember an excellent command of the English language is a must.
c) Join our Arabic and Tafseer classes: One of the aspects of Ramadan was that it is the month when the Quran was revealed. It was revealed so that we could apply it and how can we apply it if we don't understand it? Arabic is a must as is understanding the explanation of the Quran (tafseer). Don't say "Tomorrow, insha-Allah". Say: "Today, insha-Allah!"

  • Classical Arabic Module I starts on 3rd October, 2009
    Fee AED 3500/-/per module 
    Time  2pm. - 5.00p.m. every  saturday

    All those interested are requested to make the payment and join us for this course.
  • Tafseer class will resume on Tuesday 29th September 2009 at 7.30p.m.

    Remember that there are only three things that will continue after we die:

    1) A righteous child that does dua for us - How will he/she be righteous if they don't have any knowledge of the religion of Allah?

    2) Beneficial Knowledge - For example, you take lectures and then teach others. Teaching kids is another way to benefit others with your knowledge.

    3) Ongoing charity - Perhaps you can help out at the centre in some way.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Great Quote: Yearnings for Paradise

What a great quote from C.S. Lewis!

A man's physical hunger does not prove that that man will
get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the
Atlantic. But surely a man's hunger does prove that he comes of
a race which repairs its body by eating, and inhabits a world
where eatable substances exist. In the same way, though I do
not believe (I wish I did) that my desire for Paradise proves
that I shall enjoy it, I think it a pretty good indication that
such a thing exists and that some men will. A man may love a
women and not win her; but it would be very odd if the
phenomenon called "falling in love" occurred in a sexless
... C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), The Weight of Glory, and other
addresses, Macmillan Co., 1949, p. 6

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Good Quote: Bringing People to a Point of Decision

[St. Paul] always contrived to bring his hearers to a
point. There was none of the indeterminate, inconclusive
talking, which we are apt to describe as "sowing the seed." Our
idea of sowing the seed seems to be rather like scattering
wheat out of a balloon... Occasionally, of course, grains of
wheat scattered out of a balloon will fall upon plowed and
fertile land and will spring up and bear fruit; but it is a
casual method of sowing. Paul did not scatter seeds, he
planted. He so dealt with his hearers that he brought them
speedily and directly to a point of decision, and then he
demanded of them that they should make a choice and act on
their choice. In this way he kept the moral issue clearly
before them, and made them realize that his preaching was not
merely a novel and interesting doctrine, but a life. [Continued
... Roland Allen (1869-1947)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Amazing Video Model of the Spread of H1N1 (Swine Flu)

There is a lot of concern here in the UAE about H1N1. It is an international place with many people traveling through from other countries. When we arrived from holiday we were scanned for fever with a special video camera that could see body temperature. I think there are 6 reported deaths here in the UAE so far.

Gulf News: Value of Prayers Increases in Final Week of Ramadhan

This article in the GulfNews paper highlights the importance of the last 10 days of Ramadhan for all Muslims. I suggest you read the whole (short) article but here are a few interesting quotes:

Article Link

"...The last 10 days of Ramadan have been chosen by Allah to be the peak of self-control, worship and abstinence...Muslims should spend the last 10 days at the mosque if they can possibly do so. This should not come at the cost of slacking on household, marital or work duties. They should spend time reading the Quran, praying with fellow Muslims and refraining from saying any bad or hurtful words to anyone."

"The purpose is to emerge from Ramadan with a cleansed spirit."

"Ramadan is the month that people will be closer to Allah and the rewards are doubled."

"Laylat Al Qadr is a celebration of when Allah bestowed the Quran to the people during that period in Ramadan. This makes devotion in Ramadan equivalent to a thousand months of worship."

Entire article below:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Great Quote: Unfinished Work (from a Great Man!)

I knew Charlie Hummel. I met him as a student at the University of Tennessee. What a humble and wise servant of God he was. Great words here to take to heart.

Jesus did not finish all the urgent tasks in Palestine or
all the things He would have liked to do, but He did finish the
work which Gad gave Him to do. The only alternative to
frustration is to be sure that we are doing what God wants.
Nothing substitutes for knowing that this day, this hour, in
this place, we are doing the will of the Father. Then and only
then can we think of all the other unfinished tasks with
equanimity and leave them with God.

... Charles E. Hummel (1923-2004), The Tyranny of the
Urgent, Chicago: Inter-Varsity Press, 1967

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Stoplight Scolding During the Ramadan Fast

When Ramadan rolls around every year I always endeavor to not be an insensitive expat here in Dubai. I want to not cause offense to my Muslim hosts and friends by not eating in front of them if at all possible. Most restaurants are closed during the day but you can still find some open in the "free zones". Nevertheless, you can be arrested for eating in public during the Holy month.

So as my wife and I got into the car yesterday I thought to remind her about eating or drinking in the car since she had a small package of salted pumpkin seeds in her hand. I didn't say anything and, more than that, began to pop them into my mouth and chew as we drove down the road.

About 10 minutes into the drive I pulled up to a stop light, reached down to grab a few seeds, then began to chew them. I casually glanced to my left and promptly saw a man dressed in dishdasha glaring at me. He raised his hand and wagged his finger at me in disapproval. I was embarrassed and immediately wished to apologize in some way. I stopped chewing and swallowed. As I looked back at him he thrust his hand up in exasperation as if to say, "what are you doing eating during Ramadan?... you're obviously another insensitive non-Muslim unwilling to consider your host culture".

I wish I could apologize to the man. I have no desire to cause offense.

But later I began to think more about it. What is the good of fasting if all the "temptations" to eat are prevented by law or social convention? Why is it considered an offense if I don't participate in the practice of another religion; one in which I don't believe?

Again, I don't wish to offend and yet it seems inevitable that offense will be taken if we believe different things and live by them.

Your thoughts?