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Jan. 26 2010 — 4:22 am | 302 views | 0 recommendations | 5 comments

Dubai Growing Up Just Fine

One of the big stories in the global economic downturn has been the immense amount of scrutiny given to Dubai’s burst real-estate bubble, much of it without providing any context. The shrieking, often schadenfreude-filled, coverage of Dubai’s economic woes, lasted through the majority of the winter of 2009. (It got so bad that I saw astrologers evaluating Dubai’s bust). One of the main themes that I noticed in much of the so called analysis was the concern among Western banks and lenders regarding Dubai’s legal system. It was alleged that Dubai’s corporate law was arcane or out touch, and therefore, the main culprits in the real estate bust, would end up evading any accountability.

This has not come to pass. Dubai’s legal system is demonstrating its internal cohesiveness and ability to evolve, and proving that most of that western “concern” was really just ignorance mixed with panic mixed with soft bigotry of lowered expectation. Dubai Informer reports that Dubai recently had its first foreclosure case, and it involves a Western bank.

Barclays recently won Dubai’s 1st foreclosure case in a local courtroom. The decision, based on a 2008 law, paves the way for others to pursue claims. Lenders hold $16 billion of residential mortgages. Tamweel P. J. S. C., Dubai’s largest home loan bank, has a number of foreclosure cases pending. ” Banks will be more aggressive, ” says Antoine Yacoub, a Dubai – based banking analyst at Moody’s Investors Service. ” As soon as they see a precedent has been set, they will be encouraged to push more cases through.”

The article goes on to point out that foreclosure is probably not going to be the preferred way of going further:

Lenders might be selective in applying the new law. Britain’s Standard Chartered Bank, a big mortgage lender in Dubai, says foreclosure is “a legitimate course of action” but not its “preferred approach”. As in the United States, financial institutions are reluctant to dump foreclosed houses on the market for fear of driving down prices, says Saud Masud, a Dubai – based real estate analyst at UBS. New projects, started before the bust, will add up to 30,000 housing units to the market in 2010, according to Deutsche Bank. ” Mass auctions might reprice the real estate market in a meaningful way, ” Masud says. ” It’s a slippery slope.”

The place where Dubai’s real estate boys really went wrong was not necessarily in dreaming big, but in relying on a Wall Street CEO to lead their investment arm, a guy who just happened to have learned his trade at, you guessed it, Lehman Brothers. (A firm that doesn’t exist any more). This CEO leaves his job with his former company, Dubai World, $22 billion in hole, off to “pursue other opportunities.” Dubai World, meanwhile, will avoid going into bankruptcy.

Jan. 19 2010 — 4:20 pm | 199 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Pakistani Pop Singer’s Love Song to the Prophet

I am not much in touch with the Pakistani pop scene but I recently came across a Youtube video of Pakistani pop sensation Atif Aslam — my teeny-bop cousins looove him – singing something very un-pop like in Punjabi — at the Hajj, wearing the ahram. I tracked down the lyrics and discovered that it is an old Punjabi devotional by Pir Meher Ali Shah. This thread at the Atif Aslam official forums seem to confirm that he was at Hajj.

Enjoy my meager attempt at transliteration and translation below.  (I am not fluent in Punjabi nor do I have any training so if you can do better please comment).

aj sik mitraN di vadheri ae
kyun dilrhi udaas ghanayri ae
loo loo vich shawk changayri ae
aj naina layan kyun jharyaaN

why is my yearning for the beloved so intense today?
why is there such longing in my heart?
why does separation penetrate every ounce of me?
why do my eyes shed tears like stormy rain?

mukh chund badr shashani ae
mathay chumkay laat nurani ae
kali zulf tay akh mastani ae
chittay dand vich moti diyan haan laryaaN

His face shines full like the moon
From his brow radiates brilliant light
His hair is black and eyes bewitching
His teeth are white like a string of pearls.

ae soorat noon main jaan aakhaaN
janaaN kay jaane jahan aakhaaN
such aakhaan tay rab di shaan aakhaaN
jis shaan thay shaanaaN sub baniyaN

Should I refer to his visage as my life?
Or the life of the whole universe itself?
Truth is that he is the glory of God
From the glory all glories emanate.

Here he goes back to the opening stanza.

Jan. 8 2010 — 9:00 pm | 90 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

The Concept of Near Far Part II

A while back I suggested that we start utilizing the idea of “near-far.” It describes something that is emotionally near but physically distant. It would be of value to believers, to those in long distance relationships, and to parents that miss their children. In the previous write-up I shared examples from the Urdu poet Parveen Shakir — who uses the notion of scent — and the classical Arab poet Abu Tammam — who uses the notion of distance.

Today I am pleased to share one more example of the idea of near-far. It is also from Arabic poetry, specifically the master Abu’l-’Alaa’ al-Ma’arri (d.1057 A.D). His two lines are as follows:

Be neighborly to the fair maiden
and consider her a sister of the Virginis stars
despite the proximity of her abode.
We are like our eyes that will never meet
although they are separated
only by a wall
a small wall.

That is the story of people in the Ghurbah (diaspora; expatriation; being away from home, the beloved, and the loved ones).

Nov. 26 2009 — 2:15 am | 565 views | 2 recommendations | 32 comments

Muslims Should Raise the Other Finger

During the salat, or prayer, Muslims raise their index finger to bear witness to the oneness of God. In America today, with all the calls for Muslims to condemn every little act of violence committed in the name of their religion, Muslims should start raising up the other finger. The middle one.

There is no need for one Muslim to condemn the crimes of another. Collective responsibility cannot, and should not, be accepted. Where one accepts collective responsibility one opens the door to collective punishment. Are Muslims individuals? Or are they one singular marionette that pirouettes each time its string is pulled?

One of the most egregious acts of kowtowing to the “massa” occurred recently in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings. At Huffington Post, Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Salam al-Maryati wrote an article directed to Muslim-Americans, extolling them to “amplify our Muslim American identity.” No thanks. The only thing I’ll amplify is the length of my middle finger. A law-abiding American-Muslim has no need to do anything, one way or the other, when someone with a Muslim sounding name goes off the rail. The reason for this abstention-from-condemnation is not because “Christians don’t do it” or “Jews don’t do it.” It is nothing communal. Rather, it has to do with individual dignity, and individual accountability. We are all, each one of us, responsible for our actions, and liable for our mistakes. The ambit of our accountability cannot be allowed to extend beyond that. Why are the boundaries between one Muslim and another blurred and the individualities fused together? Muslims are not inkblots.

I have been against the notion of Muslims having to condemn this or that for years now, but previously my tone was restrained as I felt that calm persuasion was the right way to go about presenting this position. Not any more. Next time someone asks me to tell them why x or y Muslim murderer is evil I will bear witness in ways that are rated R.

Now in the name of Allah I’m going to go slaughter a turkey.

Ali Eteraz is the author of a work of prose that may or may not suck.

Nov. 9 2009 — 1:37 pm | 21 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Seeing Sufi in America

Newsweek/Washington Post’s “On Faith” section recently published my article about American Sufis.

For all of us melancholics and obsessives and loners and miscreants, with our spiritual gastroenteritis and Nietzschean dyspepsia, the existence of the Sufis is thoroughly soothing, even if we never join their orders or learn their prayers.

Some of these are stories/characters that did not make the final cut of my prose work Children of Dust.

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    I am the author of the prose work Children of Dust published in 2009 by HarperOne. It was called "compelling" by Washington Post and "a heavenly read" by Oprah's O Magazine which placed it on its Fall Reading List. It was also picked as one of New Statesman 2009 Books of the Year ("a funny and frightening narrative of life").

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