Sunday, November 09, 2008

What Muslims can expect from Obama (in his own words)

Dubai World Chairman leads UAE team to glory in Malaysia

Chairman Dubai World, His Excellency Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, a former Asian Games Equestrian medallist, once again proved his riding skills at the 12th FEI World Endurance Championships held at the Terengganu International Endurance Park in Malaysia on Saturday (Nov.8). Mr. Bin Sulayem won the bronze in the individual event, adding to the glory of the UAE, which won the team gold in style.

Mr. Bin Sulayem, riding Tazoul El Parry, covered the 160-kilometre distance in 9 hours, 19 minutes and 31 seconds behind Spain’s Maria Alvarez Ponton and Argentina’s Augustine Vita.

This is the latest of the many triumphs Mr. Bin Sulayem has achieved at the national and international levels. He had bagged the bronze medal at the Doha Asian Games in 2006.

Team UAE Crowned Endurance Champions

Team UAE stayed the course to be crowned champions for the first time in the World Endurance Championship, capping their overall domination of the 12th edition of this competition when Sultan Bin Sulayem finished in third place overall.
Spain’s Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton claimed the individual title with a commanding performance which saw her lead from start to finish except in the second of the seven loops.
But her near flawless performance was overshadowed by the clinical efficiency of Team UAE who executed with almost clockwork precision what seemed a perfectly scripted plan to capture a title which has eluded them since the inception of this competition.
Spurred on by Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, the four-member UAE team comprising Shaikh Majed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Mohammed Ahmad Al Subose, Mubarak Khalifa bin Shafya and Abdulla Thani bin Huzaim made it a ‘no-horse’ race at the end with a high level of consistency throughout the gruelling 160km ride.
Such was their stranglehold on the championship held in the night for the first time, that Qatar finished with only two riders to take second place in the team event while the early challenge of countries like Spain, France and Argentina fizzled out like the rain which lashed Terengganu International Endurance Park during the night.
The UAE riders stood tall while other contenders fell by the wayside for various reasons with some even losing their way on these treacherous trails which were battered by a thunderstorm during the second stage on Friday.
There was consternation for the organisers as the lightning damaged some computers causing a slight delay in proceedings.
But the UAE riders were unfazed by these minor distractions as they were determined to bask in glory and write a new chapter in the history of endurance riding. The result seemed a foregone conclusion as far as the team title was concerned when the penultimate stage commenced at the crack of dawn as if ushering in a new era.
Shaikh Hamdan dedicated this history accomplishment to His Highness the President Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
“I was confident before the race that we would win because we had a good team. We had experience of winning many titles in Europe. I’m happy that I took part only in the individual event because the team would have lost as my horse went lame,” said Shaikh Hamdan.
“The advise I received from His Highness Shaikh Mohammed was also crucial in our victory,” he added.
“It was fun winning,” quipped the UAE team captain Shaikh Hamdan who relaxed only after the mission was accomplished as he brilliantly marshalled all the resources at his disposal to ensure there were no hiccups this time. Bahrain’s Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who finished ninth overall, warmly congratulated Shaikh Hamdan on their victory.
“We did not wait for luck to come to us. We grabbed the chance to create history. It was a fine team effort,” added Shaikh Hamdan who himself made a crucial tactical decision of opting out of the team in pursuit of individual honours after his nominated mount Jazyk failed the veterinary test.
However, he showed his determination to lead from the front taking second place in the opening phase on Kaysand Farrazah, a 12-year-old Arabian gelding. He dropped to fifth at the end of the third loop although maintaining an average pace of above 17kph and was unfortunate to be eliminated when Farrazah was detected with lameness when he was presented for re-examination before the start of the fourth phase.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he focussed his full attention to directing team operations as a crew member and planning strategy which finally brought them that elusive team title.
Shaikh Majed riding Spenda Crest Kamouflage, a 11-year-old Arabian chestnut gelding, was also among the front runners in the overall individual title. He maintained an average speed of 17kph and made a significant contribution for the team’s victory.
“It was the best performance of my career,” said Shaikh Majed who won the Arabian endurance championship in Cairo last November.
“The weather was nice with the rain softening the trails and making it good for the horses. I enjoyed every moment of it,” he said.
Al Subose riding Koum Des Jamets, a 10-year-old Arabian chestnut gelding, bin Shafya astride Zakah Zahara, a 12-year-old Arabian gelding, and bin Huzaim aboard Castlebar Kadeen, 11-year-old Arabian mare, rode in tandem to ensure an emphatic victory for UAE.
Bin Sulayem riding Tazoul El Parry, a 11-year-old Arabian gelding covered himself in glory after taking third position with a consistent performance. He also maintained a healthy average speed of over 17kph to finish just 15 minutes behind Agustin Vita of Argentina on Baraka Ibn Al Tamah, a 10-year-old Arabian chestnut gelding.
Spain’s Maria became the 10th woman to claim the individual title at the world championship aboard Nobby, a 13-year-old Arabian gelding. She could not hide her delight at the finish with Shaikh Hamdan being one of the first to congratulate her. “It’s unbelievable. The horse is the winner and it was an amazing victory,” she said after her magnificent triumph.
Later, according to WAM, the King of Malaysia, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni Al Marhum Sultan Mahmud, called Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid the ‘godfather of world endurance horse racing’. His words were translated into an award and it was received by Shaikh Hamdan on behalf of his father from Sultan Mohammed, the brother of the Malaysian king, during a short but colourful ceremony.

Living in Boxes - The other side of Dubai

Naif box spaces offer solace to workers

Four men share a one-by-two metre windowless room in one of the many shared accommodations in Naif.

Since the length of the room is only slightly larger than the height of an adult male, the workers have to make vertical arrangements by having two sleep on a two-level bunk bed while the other two sleep on the tiles beneath. A fan is attached to a wall to keep them cool.

This is one of thousands of rooms in overcrowded illegal houses in Naif area that are rented out to low-income workers for Dh300 to Dh500 a month per bed space. Although the size of the rooms and number of occupants vary, the living conditions in most of the rooms are the same.
It was in one of these town houses that the fire which claimed 11 lives broke out in August. Officials attributed the serious nature of the incident to overcrowding and illegal extensions.
Illegal extentions
There are more than 200 houses and buildings with illegal extensions in Naif area alone, according to Dubai Municipality statistics.
Many of these houses have illegal extensions such as additional floors, bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens. The extensions are often made with material such as plywood, which pose a fire hazard. Some of the houses have makeshift kitchens consisting of mobile stoves and the gas cylinders a few inches apart in corridors.

Upon entering the houses, one is greeted first by piles of shoes - about 30 pairs. Multiple water and electricity meters can be seen attached to the walls, indicating the consumption of water and electricity.
The authorities have tried to curb overcrowding and illegal extension building partly by cutting utilities to the buildings but tenants have found ways to reconnect it through a simple fuse-replacement procedure.
Landlords taking advantage of the rent situation in Dubai are adding rooms and putting partitions in the houses without licensing in order to maximise their profits, according to Omar Abdul Al Rahman, Head of the building inspection department at Dubai Municipality. They use cheap material which poses a serious fire and health hazard such as plywood and asbestos, a banned cancer causing material.

Despite the dangerous conditions of these houses, many low-income workers have to pay up to Dh5,000 to real estate agents or watchmen in commission to get a bed space.
A Pakistani worker who spoke to Gulf News on condition of anonymity shares a room in Naif with seven people. The three-by-four metre room has four bunk beds, all occupied, while another two workers sleep on the floor. Strict rules of having the TV and lights switched of at 11pm are set to avoid fights between roommates.
"I work throughout the day and at night I come to this overcrowded small room. I feel like I have been transformed into a machine that works during the day and is put into this box at night," he said.
Taken from GulfNews

Terowong Waktu

Obor dalam terowong
kabur mencari penghujung
pintu keluar dalam imaginasi
cahaya dikepung halusinasi
setelah kegelapan waktu
memanjang dan membeku

Suara dari balikan
memanggil satu kepulangan
mengimbas ruang perjalanan
berdendang anak perantauan
dengan kesunyian jiwa
menangis batin dalam ketawa

Mengheret lagi jasad berusia
sentimental dan nostalgia
setiap langkah berputar
kembali realiti dalam litar
menyesat minda yang tercalar
dikurung bayangan tercemar

Satu hari, musim lain
mungkin meriah tempat bermain
mengharung kembali suasana
merentas ruang yang berbeda
bersama awan dan mentari
panas rindu ke hujung hari!

Dubai, UAE
9 Nov 2008

Queuing up for 'terrorists' money

Remember the DP World fiasco and all the fuss they made about “the terrorists” taking over their ports? Suddenly, “the terrorists’ money” is sacred now when it suits them.
This is why the Arabs must take advantage of the extraordinary opportunity presented by this extraordinary crisis. For far too long, injustice has ruled the world. It’s time to end their dispossession and that of the rest of the world. History will not forgive Arabs if they fail to do so.

At the height of the Asian financial crisis and meltdown of Russia in 1990s, a pundit said that Boris Yeltsin went to bed drunk and Brazil woke up with a hangover.
The Asian crisis was little more than a patch of rough weather, compared to the current financial catastrophe. This may be the biggest financial crisis the world has seen, even bigger than the Great Depression of 1929. The Great Crash was largely confined to the US and the world was not as globalised and networked as it is today.
For once one finds oneself agreeing with eminent American columnist and author Thomas L Friedman. The world is indeed flat. Which is why from Asian tigers to India and China, and from the old Europe to the Latin America, no one seems to have emerged unscathed from the recent carnage on the Wall Street.
Although Middle East countries have taken some real hard drubbing, the region has largely managed to protect itself from the total collapse as the US, European and other economies have experienced. This is not necessarily thanks to some clever thinking and plans on the part of Arab states. It’s because of the fact that the region fortunately or unfortunately is still not entirely integrated into the global financial system.
Which is how you have the Arabs patting themselves for managing to hold on to their assets and investments. The value of Arab and Gulf investments in the US and Europe may have substantially shrunken overnight after the crisis. But they will survive.
The Arabs have been saved by their long-term investment in their own countries and elsewhere and of course the recent windfall of oil revenues, riding on high energy prices.
So it’s rather gratifying to see British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other global movers and shakers queuing up for the Arab money.
Many a pundit including yours truly has been prophesying for some time about the imminent shift of wealth, power and clout from the West to the East. But one did not anticipate the change to come so early and so swiftly.
Brown’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf emirates is particularly sobering considering the fact the empire on which the sun never set till recently ruled the world and practically controlled the region.
What an exponential turn of fortunes and what a remarkable shift this has been! There are lessons in this for powers that be everywhere. Power comes and goes, just like that. What ultimately survives is how you make use of it.

I don’t have anything against Prime Minister Brown. In fact, I rather like the man for ridding us all of the misery of watching his predecessor’s antics. He may not have the gift of the gab of a Tony Blair. But Brown is the first Western leader to respond swiftly and decisively to the Wall Street crisis. Compare this with the bumbling disaster across the Atlantic and you’ll know what real leadership is all about in times of great crises.
And now Brown wants Arab states to help and rescue the European countries and the world economy with their money, investments and direct contribution to the IMF.
So what should the Arabs do? They should of course do all they can to help Brown’s Britain and other European and Western economies. But all financial aid and transactions come with conditions. Ask the Bretton Woods twins -– the IMF and World Bank. And this desperately needed Arab help must come with strings attached too.
The Arab leaders need to tell the West that they would part with their money only if it puts an end to the continuing injustice and exploitation in the region.
If you want the Arab money, then act to end the suffering of the Palestinians and persuade Israel to return what belongs to them.
For far too long, the West has protected and ‘palled around’ with Israel -- as Sarah Palin would put it -- while it has made a proud and independent people prisoners in their own land.
Visit the UN history and see how many resolutions by the so-called international community urging mercy for the Palestinians have been trampled by Israel over the past six decades.
Also, note how many times America has vetoed the UN resolutions demanding action against Israel for its crimes against a helpless, defenceless people.
Israel’s friends in high places haven’t even allowed a polite and perfunctory UN appeal begging the Zionists to please behave.
It was cold fury and helplessness in the face of Israeli aggression and the contemptuous indifference of Western powers that forced the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Shaikh Zayed of the UAE and other Arab states to resort to the Oil embargo during the 1973 Arab-Israel war.
While the Americans pretended to be friends of Arabs and enjoyed their oil at dirt-cheap prices, they provided military and monetary support to Israel against the Arabs in the ’73 war.
The Oil embargo brought the US and the Western powers to their knees effectively illuminating the awesome 
power Nature has put at Arabs’ disposal.
If necessary and if the Arabs want, they could use that power all over again with unimaginable consequences for the global economy.
But they do not have to do that. There are other ways of making their voice heard today – and not just on the Palestine question. The current financial crisis offers the Arabs an extraordinary opportunity to take charge of their destiny. This is a historic opportunity that comes once in centuries.
Economics has never been my thing. But even a layman like me can see that what we are witnessing right now is an exponential economic power shift.
And the Arabs are uniquely placed to lead and be part of this amazing revolution.
They must now make use of their wealth of resources and oil revenue investing it judiciously and strategically in areas that helps them get a reasonable say and role on the world stage. Their time has come.
Speaking in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, Brown held out the carrot of seats at the high table for Arab states in IMF for their contribution.
But why only IMF? What about the World Bank? What about the United Nations and other august bodies that have been sitting in judgment on the fate of Arabs, Muslims and other dispossessed around the world? As any good banker would tell you, there are no free lunches in this world.
So why should the Arabs offer their money without being assured of substantial returns? Especially when until recently our American friends were not prepared to touch it with a barge pole. Remember the DP World fiasco and all the fuss they made about “the terrorists” taking over their ports? Suddenly, “the terrorists’ money” is sacred now when it suits them.
This is why the Arabs must take advantage of the extraordinary opportunity presented by this extraordinary crisis. For far too long, injustice has ruled the world. It’s time to end their dispossession and that of the rest of the world. History will not forgive Arabs if they fail to do so.

Aijaz Zaka Syed is a senior editor and columnist of Khaleej Times. Write to him at