Hope all full of the joys. MB is back in Saudi Arabian desert, dressed once more like Omar Sharif.
After last weekend’s trip to Dubai. MB walked like a clumsy robot for few days after the 10k run. Then the lactic acid disappeared from the muscle tissue and MB assumed his graceful athletic poise once more. And walked tall. And looked the world right in the eye, to quote some mushy song that MB seems to remember from days past.
Dubai looked good. Very good. Unlike most of the Middle East Dubai is clean. It’s important for the image. And helps to attract tourists. Who go ‘wow’ when they arrive. And spend the dollars. The last days of the month-long Shopping Festival were in frantic action and all the malls were open until 1am. The festival is organised by some Dubai Ministry (probably the Shopping Ministry) and all participating shops & malls must have big discounts on offer. To attract the pilgrims. Who flock from all over the Middle East and beyond to relax, take a break for a few days, and shop ’till they drop. Happy smiley bag laden shopping pilgrims.
Then back to Saudi for MB. Which is not clean in many parts. Construction work is haphazard with nothing finished off to Dubai quality. Kerbs missing or broken at the edge of roadways, rubble never cleaned up, nothing finished properly it seems. Or very little at least. Seems many inhabitants have no trouble throwing rubbish out the car window as they drive. Or take the opportunity at a red traffic light (if they bother to stop) to clean out the empty plastic water bottles or fast food cartons and tip all onto the street through the open window. Hey presto, clean car. Magic!
Indian guy and Ethiopian guy visited MB at work earlier this week. MB informed Ethiopia guy that his countrymen took eight of the top ten places in the Dubai marathon last weekend. The money places. Big bula bos for Ethiopia! Ethiopia man told MB that Ethiopians are a proud people. India man said something similar of his people. MB informed both that he had traveled to Africa in the past and that the natives were even worse than many Saudis for throwing rubbish all over their countries. And MB sees their fellow countrymen spoiling Saudi Arabia ever day, just like the locals do. Everyone’s proud of their country said MB. But if you throw rubbish all over it then your pride is just a bullshit pride. Meaningless pride. A nothing pride. Ethiopia man said it comes from low education. MB said he mostly didn’t agree. No. Pride. Real pride. Said MB. Both hung their heads a little as they shuffled out the door. Hopefully to think twice next time they lower the car window.
Speaking of pilgrims and pride, MB went to hear a famous Muslim preacher man last night giving a public speech on ‘The Quran & Modern Science‘ in a large auditorium in Riyadh. MB has often heard Muslim friends refer to how the Quran holy book proved 1,400 years ago (when it was written) many scientific facts that were only discovered in more modern times. And according to the faithful, new scientific discoveries continue to have some link with Quranic verse and continue to support the Islamic ’cause’. So MB’s antennae went up earlier this week when two work colleagues (Indian Muslims) invited MB along to the event. The Muslim preacher man in question was the very famous (in the Islamic world) Zakir Naik from India. A qualified medical doctor and scholar of Islamic scripture. ZN has presented over 2,000 public speeches around the world, has a vast knowledge of the scriptures of other religions, and can refer to chapter and verse of the Quran at will by number reference. In short a very educated man who presents his case with great conviction, confidence and with reference after reference to scripture to support his position. Or maybe it would be more correct to say ‘to his interpretation of scripture’.
ZN was well know to MB before he receive this week’s invitation, as another Indian Muslim friend of MB presented MB few years back with hours of ZNs debates and speeches on DVD, presumably hoping MB would be impressed and who knows what next……!
Anyway, MB listened to ZH for two hours or so last night, going through astronomy, geology, nuclear science, biology, and more. And finding many verses in the Quran that ‘explained‘ the newly discovered principals hundreds of years before modern science worked them out. MB was not convinced. Most Crossers will have heard of the predictions of Nostradamus. And how so many of them came to pass. But when you look at the predictions and how they are supposed to explain subsequent events, then you realise that it’s all a ‘maybe’. Maybe it does. Or maybe it doesn’t. Depending on how you interpret the prediction and the wording. You could easily take the opposite view that the prediction actually didn’t prove the later event at all. So some stretching of the imagination is necessary to make it all fit, if you want to make it fit.
And MB felt last night that ZN was mostly using the Nostradamus ‘stretching it’ theory to link scientific discoveries to verses from his holy book. Of course the vast majority of the attendees last night were Muslims and he was mostly preaching to the converted. Who were a little in awe of the legendary ZN, breaking out occasionally in celebratory clapping when their hero made a particularly strong point, as they saw it. And of course if you can ‘prove‘ that hundreds of verses of your book are supported by modern science then you might say, as ZN did last night, that mathematical probability shows the holy book with a 100% score, and no other book can score 100%, therefore the holy book must be the revelation of Allah. So that was generally the gist of ZN’s speech. In a different country with a different audience the logic of ZN would have been subject to far greater analysis and questioning. But not last night. Not in the heartland.
So in the end, no ground-shattering revelations that would have MB rushing to sign up. None at all. Even if he was that way inclined.
MB was surprised on arrival to be asked at the door what his religion was. Maybe the white skin/blue eyes (yes, blue eyes ladies!) was bit of a give-away that MB wasn’t one of the ‘brothers’, and was therefore a potential convert to the cause in the eyes of all the brothers who were organising the event. So the door lads got MB to fill in a form with his name, email, mobile number, and religion. Upon completion MB received a gift bag (white in colour – maybe the lads were having a laugh!) and MB was informed that the white bag was like a VIP ticked that would get him a front row seat along with all the other non-Muslims in attendance. MB’s two Muslim friends (lesser beings) clung onto MB as if they had superglue on their hands as all headed for the front row seats. Allah u akbar!
A Q&A session followed the talk and it was open house for all to ask any question on any topic. Non Muslims were especially encouraged. MB headed to the microphone. With question on his brain to put to ZN.
MB’s question – Should Islamic countries have a minimum age for marriage?
MB’s question had political as well as religious angles to it. But MB just asked it straight. And in Saudi Arabia the question is politically very loaded – as its a topic of much debate here in recent years. The Saudis have no minimum age for marriage, and thousands of child bride marriages take place every year. Some 5,500 in Saudi last year from an article MB read last year. In neighbouring Yemen it’s far far worse, with the majority of marriages of a ‘child bride’ variety – 65% of girls get married under the age of 15 – http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/yemen/65-of-females-in-yemen-marry-underage-1.1282224. Consequently Yemen has one of the highest maternal childbirth deaths in the world, if not the highest. Stories like that on the following link are not uncommon: http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/yemen/yemeni-12-year-old-dies-while-giving-birth-to-a-stillborn-1.539240
In his speech earlier last night ZN had referred to the human fetus and pregnancy. And the fact that he is a qualified doctor gave MB’s question some added ingredient. MB was hoping that ZN might give some modern thinking on the topic. And that his answer might even influence the debate in Saudi, such is his authority in the eyes of many clerics. And there were lots of Saudi religo/politicos present last night who were hanging on his every word. He had it within his grasp to influence events, if he wished to do so.
ZN answered MB’s question in the following words, more or less:
“The Quran states that when a girl reaches puberty she is eligible for marriage. The age can differ with different girls of course. And that is my position“.
You could read that reply very analytically and say that he didn’t actually answer the question, but gave a very very clever answer. But let us assume that that was not his intention as we can not prove that it was. MB did not expect any different answer from him. As MB already knew what the Quran says on the topic.
Some Muslim countries however have a minimum age by law, and citizens can not use their religion to over-rule the law. But ZN is a very intelligent man and he knows that if he deviates from the holy book on one matter then the same type arguments can be made elsewhere. Some more ‘modern’ Muslims try to argue that the holy book was written 1,400 years ago and some of it should be reviewed in more modern light in certain respect. But ZN knows well that that particular road is a slippery slope and he will not travel on it. It was interesting that ZN’s answer to MB was the briefest of the night. On every other question ZN waxed lyrically to elaborate and enhance and impress those present with his knowledge and eloquence. But on this one he was briefer than brief. Only stating the above line. MB wondered if he was being careful with his answer given the location we were in. ZN is a medical doctor and must know the human devastation the ‘puberty’ rule results in for thousands of young girls. But MB must take ZN at his word. MB asked a straight question and ZN gave a straight answer. End of story.
Overall, MB would not be a fan of ZN’s way of the world, but would acknowledge that ZN’s beliefs are ones of 100% conviction and belief, and he is unwavering. But MB cannot accept ZN’s position on, for example, Muslims who convert to another religion. Even though it was not aired last night, the Islamic scripture and the majority of Muslims (it seems) believe that such converts must be killed. If MB has misinterpreted the Islamic rule in this regard then he would welcome some correction. He really would. So feel free to comment or give some refs to MB for further research. The Islamic sin of Apostasy – Google it if you wish to know more,
ZN’s position of record on Apostasy is that Muslims who convert to another faith need not be put to death – unless they preach against Islam after conversion. If they do, then they must be killed. So it’s ok to believe in something but you must stay silent. With respect to ZN – MB disagrees.
So that was MB’s Thursday night in Riyadh. Interesting for MB – Yes. Revealing for MB – Yes. Enlightening for MB – No!
A few pics from last night follow.