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  • ivanildotrindade 12:51 am on May 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: brazil soccer apparel, Cleveland Clinic, international friends, Kuwait, , Skype   

    Kuwait via Lodi, OH 

    Not too long ago my wife and I were shopping at a mall not too far from our home. While there, we spotted a young man wearing full Brazilian soccer apparel. We both thought he was from Brazil but it turned out he was from Kuwait. He just loved Brazilian soccer that much!

    Well, we connected well with him and I invited him to come to our house and share a meal with us. Instead, he surprised me and invited me to come to his house in Cleveland. After getting lost, I found the apartment where my new friend, Ahmed, lived. I was ushered into the multi-apartment complex where he lived (400 apartments!) and was brought inside a unit that looked like it was empty.

    Soon, his friends began to arrive. They were family members, acquaintances, even a rental car agent who came to do business as we were talking. Turned out the entire apartment complex was filled primarily with people from the Middle East, whose relatives were being treated for various conditions at the Cleveland Clinic. In Ahmed’s case, he had a younger brother who was treated for a brain tumor, and he also had an uncle, whom I got to meet that evening, who was back in the U.S. for a follow up visit one year after his heart surgery there.

    I found out that the Kuwait government-funded the entire trip for Ahmed and several of his siblings, including two of his sisters and his mom to accompany his brother. And all their expenses were paid, including the apartment they were living in and the one where I found myself, which was used only “to receive friends”!

    We sat on the floor, all the men were smoking and speaking in Arabic, and I was being introduced to everyone who came in. I tried to sit cross-legged, and finally gave up, asking politely if I could spread my legs away from everyone’s view, which they allowed me to do, not without laughing at my feeble attempts to feel comfortable in that position.

    The only time I saw the women was when they came into the room to bring the food – freshly made lamb, salads, breads, tea, rice, etc. – a veritable feast. I sat there with my new friends, taking in the sight, enjoying the food, which I ate with my hands like everybody else, and then stayed a long time afterwards until my wife called me to see if everything was okay.

    I came home, not expecting to see Ahmed again, but soon before he returned to Kuwait, he invited me to another feast. Months later, as I was checking my messages on Skype, I got a live connection via video with Ahmed, all the way from Kuwait. I still think and pray for my friend Ahmed and his family on a regular basis. Maybe one of these days I will go see him in Kuwait. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

  • ivanildotrindade 11:09 pm on April 29, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Atatürk, , Islamic Action Front, Jordan, Kuwait, Kuwait University, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, progress for women, Turkey, women in turkey, women's voting rights   

    Women in Islam — One Step Forward, Two Steps Back 

    To be sure, there have been some progress in the treatment of women in some Muslim countries, but as always, it’s the proverbial “one step forward, two steps back” dance.

    In Jordan, for example, the Royal Family has taken a courageous step condemning “honor killings” (in all fairness, a problem that goes beyond Muslim countries), but the government, fearing reprisals from conservatives, has done nothing to approve a proposal that would eliminate laws that are lenient to men who kill for “honor.” One conservative group, the Jordan’s Islamic Action Front, a powerful political party, has issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, saying the proposal would “destroy our Islamic, social and family values by stripping men of their humanity when they surprise their wives or female relatives committing adultery.” If that doesn’t get your hair to stand on end, I don’t know what will.

    Another example of progress fraught with obscurantism comes from Kuwait. In 1999 In 1999 the Emir of Kuwait, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, bravely issued a decree giving women the right to go to the polls for the first time and to be candidates for the Kuwaiti parliament. Conservatives in parliament, however, blocked its implementation. They did more — they voted to segregate the sexes at Kuwait University.

    The law was finally approved in May of 2007, after 8 years, with 35 votes for and 23 against. Tribal and Islamist members of Parliament had consistently blocked it, insisting that Islam prohibits women from occupying positions of leadership.

    When it comes to civil liberties to women, no country with a majority Muslim population beats Turkey. Turkey went so far as to strip man of his role as the only authority over the home, solely responsible for making decisions about his wife and family. And recently Turkey changed the minimum age for women to marry from 15 to 18, again not without opposition from conservative elements in Parliament.

    The achievements in Turkey are due in large part to the tenacity of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of modern-day Turkey. If you are not familiar with this man, you should read about him. Against all odds, he succeeded at bringing Turkey from obscurity into the sunshine of modern civilization, to the delight of some and the horror of others who still hate him.

    His words about women and politics are now famous: “There is no logical explanation for the political disenfranchisement of women. Any hesitation and negative mentality on this subject is nothing more than a fading social phenomenon of the past. …Women must have the right to vote and to be elected; because democracy dictates that, because there are interests that women must defend, and because there are social duties that women must perform.”

    The only question is: will there ever be a Kemal in Saudi Arabia?

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

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