Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Power of Names

"What's your last name?"

It may seem silly, but I dread this question. I dread questions that would lead to a long and involved answer which is something I don't like to partake of, especially when the interrogator is a (friendly) stranger. You see I don't exactly have what you might call a traditional Jawa last name. Not technically anyway but I'll expand on that bit in a sec. So what is a traditional Jawa last name? In 99% of Jawas in this country you can tell where they come from simply from knowing their last names. Indonesians and Malays in general don't have surnames in the Saudi sense. So when they migrate to the magic kingdom most of them use their point of origin as the surname. Felimban, Kalantan and Banjar are amongst the most wide spread. While most of us Jawas have very tenuous links with our ancestral homes, we still carry the old monikers.

I don't have one of those. Or rather I do but they're not on my identification papers. Long story short: when my father was naturalized some government regulation made him drop the surname (Or maybe dad just dropped it on his own. I don't know. He's not around anymore for me to ask) so we're using my great grand dad's name as a family name (which is actually more in accordance to how it's done in the old country). I have to go through that whole explanation every time someone asks about my surname and getting confused about it. Gets annoying and tedious after a while.

Recently however, I noticed my little brother using our long forgotten Jawa name whenever he could. Always identifying himself as an Ampenan. He also hinted to me once that he would like to make it our official surname.

While I didn't explicitly agree (didn't explicitly reject either), I could understand where he was coming from. Names have power. They tell you who you are, where you come from. Gives you a sense of identity and history, and anchors you firmly on solid ground. It says you belong, are part of something larger. Especially in a country like Saudi Arabia where tribal law still rules the community. "Who are you?" is almost always followed by "Who are your people?" in this land. I've learned through the years not to let it bother me much. Yet still, like an itch that longs to be scratched, the longing is there.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More on the Eid Crescent

As I wrote in an earlier entry many people have been distressed about the fact that it was astronomically impossible for Eid to be on the 12th of October, but now it seems it isn't just us crazy immoral liberals who have taken note. Several Saudi religious scholars lead by Abdullah Al Munaie (member of the Grand Council of Ulema) have made clear their suspicions. "Blindly accepting that the views astronomers are invalid puts the whole community on the Judiciary Council's conscience." Al Munaie wrote. "Even if we assume that astronomers are a bunch of dissolutes whose testimonies should be investigated first, that does not mean we have the right to completely not hear them." he continues.

But of course this is Saudi Arabia. The head of the Judiciary Council stated that "astronomy remains an inaccurate discipline" preferring the use of the naked eye to a science that is older than the pyramids. "How are we to ignore the testimonies of eyewitnesses and listen to a a man calculating in his home?" he adds. Like my dear departed father used to say: "They still think science is some kind of djinn operated magic."

Still, the fact that there is a rift between the high ranking Saudi ulema over the matter gives one hope that maybe sometime in the (hopefully) not too distant future we can stop being the laughing stock of the world.

For a full article over the matter (in Arabic) visit Al Arabiya

Monday, October 22, 2007

Craving Burgers

There's something about hamburgers that is just so damn addictive. Every day during Ramadan I'd spend the day light hours craving burgers, promising myself a quick trip to the nearest McDonald's as soon as the sun sets. Yet, like most stuff I crave during fasting, I change my mind when night comes (stomach still groaning from the traditional Ramadan breakfast) and postpone my date with patty for a later date.

So now it's Shawwal, and nothing was getting in between me and my burger. Ah but since I was in Jeddah now during the day and not fasting I thought I'd have a special burger. While I like fast food style burgers just fine, I adore the burgers made by local chain Capo Grillo (Don't you just love sites that use the Comic Sans MS font? *gouges out eyes*). What I like about Capo's burgers is that they both look and taste like they were freshly made, as opposed to the frozen stuff you get in most fast food joints. And they cost just as much as their fast food cousins. Win-win in my book.

So there I was at Capo Grillo's licking my chops, bringing a friend along (I hate eating alone), waxing poetic about how good their burgers are, when the friendly cashier lets loose the bad news. Capo have switched to frozen burgers. A whole month craving the damn thing. For nothing. I ended up having a grilled chicken breast sandwich (which was pretty good, and healthy), leaving my burger addiction unanswered. Guess I'll just have to pony up the cash and visit Fuddruckers. At least I still know their burgers are still good. I hope so anyway.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Eid Crescent Controversy

For people who have been following the new crescent debate (whether Ramadan and other Hijri months should be determined astronomically) this Eid has presented a rather delicate situation. You see, Saudi Arabia and Libya are the only countries to have sighted the new moon on Thursday (and thus had Eid on Friday). Many Muslims, including me, have chosen to follow that edict for conformity's sake. The problem stems from the unarguable fact that it is astronomically impossible for the new moon to have been born on Thursday. The fact that people from the majority of the other countries started Eid on Saturday only strengthens the already overwhelming pile of evidence. It's this sort of problems that give strength to the case of switching over to the more scientific method of moon sighting, rather than on the faulty vagrancies of human vision.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Eid Mubarak

كل عام و أنتم بخير

Happy Eid

Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri