The Benevolence of Tyrants

I still remember; after not being able to put the book down, Yann Martel’s Life of Pi had left me in a mental and emotional funk.

One of the things that had me mesmerized was his carnivorous island. The strange island, where “meekness rules” and the wildness in you is made to jump through hoops, works well as a metaphor for organized religion. Butgulf when I was in the middle of Martel’s book-scape, if you will, I connected the island with the experience of living in the Gulf States. The mirage like appearance, its promise of nourishment, its abundance, and contentment – all irresistible.

There are online groups whose sole objective is remembering childhood in these mysterious islands of plenty. Images of candy in old wrappers, plastic footwear, school snacks. These conjure up something deep for us diaspora kids who couldn’t plant our feet firmly in the shifting desert sands. Our parents loved being the lucky ones who got jobs and a sense of stability in a place that looked and smelled like the first-world. In their yearly exodus to the homeland over summer break, amid mosquitoes and stomach bugs, the children of expats also learned that they were the lucky ones. We were the privileged underclass, and apparently the notion sticks.


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Nothing like clarity to shake off tears for cheese puffs in tin lunch boxes. Who needs civil liberties and a civic conscience when there are cool shopping malls under the hot, hot sun, and evening picnics at the corniche. Life is easy when desperation is deported or confined to labor camps. Getting thrown out of the garden of Eden has an upside; you go someplace else. Someplace that doesn’t require people to be sentimental, self-centered fools.

Pi left.

And so did his wild thing.

But not till after he saw things for what they were. He watched pools of fresh water devour life.

He watched like people after Friday prayers.

I wonder if they proclaimed god’s greatness.

I discovered that many Muslims are against public floggings.



Now, you can confidently say; – NOT FROM THE QURAN.


This punishment is mentioned in verse: 24:2 which says;

“The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with hundred stripes; let not compassion move you in conducting the affairs of ‘Deen’ – (System of the Islamic State), if you believe in God and the Last Day: And let a PARTY OF THE BELIEVERS witness their punishment.”

 Here the Quran says: “A PARTY OF THE BELIEVERS – not the public in general.

The Arabic word translated in this verse as:  A PARTY is ‘Taifatun’ which has got several meanings. It is used for Security-Guards, Patrol-Boats, Physically Strong Persons, and A Section of People Working Together for Common Cause etc.

In view of the depth and vastness of meanings, the best meaning of ‘taifatun’ could be the State Authority who executes the punishment. This punishment, like any other punishment, must be carried out in the presences of State Authority. It may consist of a Judge, a Doctor, Police and Prison Authorities. Also, it may include the family members of the victim.


Why does reading apologia from Muslim scholars almost always look like monkeys flinging poo and clearly missing the mark?


We hope that the Saudi King will pardon Raif Badawi for “insulting” Islam.

When you identify with someone like Raif Badawi, then you stand afraid and angry with him. Some offered to split his remaining 950 lashes among themselves. The rest of us hope for the benevolence of the tyrant. Because those of us who have lived in Gulf States know there are short cuts and favors to be had. Some local official may decide to come in to work one day and decide, again, to sign something; or take a look at the tears on a woman’s face and say “khalli walli” or “mafi mushkila”, hakuna matata style, and she is out of whatever bureaucratic hell she was in.

Standing with Raif Badawi is hard. You don’t ask questions. Like how exactly did he “insult” Islam? Are clerics and theology one and the same…where rules and rulers are one and the same? You don’t ask because it’s all touch and go.

je suis

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