Middle Eastern millennials, social media and the ‘evil eye’

Middle Eastern millennials, social media and the ‘evil eye’
Emad Arshad is a Dubai-based YouTuber. (Supplied)
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Updated 31 July 2020

Middle Eastern millennials, social media and the ‘evil eye’

Middle Eastern millennials, social media and the ‘evil eye’
  • Some say it’s just superstition, while others believe intention, humility and authenticity can help thwart ‘hasad’

DUBAI: In season two of Hulu’s hit television series “Ramy,” viewers get a glimpse into the widely-held, yet rarely publicly explored belief that publicizing your good news puts you at risk of attracting the ‘evil eye’ — a concept known as hasad in Arabic and nazar in Urdu.

“Ramy,” written by and starring Egyptian-American actor Ramy Youssef, explores the fictional life of an Egyptian Muslim living in the US whose journey of self-discovery involves the ever-present struggle of finding a balance between the customs and culture of his parents and those of Western society.

One episode focuses on Ramy’s sister, Dena (played by Bahraini actress May Calamawy), who quarrels with her mother after announcing her law-school scholarship on Facebook. Instead of congratulating her, Dena’s mother admonishes her for posting the news on social media, and warns her that she’s now vulnerable to envious ill-wishers. Paranoid that her hair loss is a result of the evil eye, Dena turns into a miserable mess. This wasn’t a completely fictional tale. The episode was loosely based on Calamawy’s real-life experiences of dealing with hair loss and feeling she was cursed.

Many young Middle Easterners and Asians are similarly caught between the modern-day norm of posting attention-grabbing updates on social media and cultural traditions which advise hiding good news from others. Dubai-based YouTuber Emad Arshad, who has lived between the UAE and Canada and is an avid social-media user, faced a similar ordeal to the experience portrayed in “Ramy.”

“A few years ago my wife got sick, then I got sick all of a sudden and my kid got sick, and this started happening around the time when I had released a travel vlog about our family trip to Turkey. My family pointed out that I released this vlog and was now getting nazar. We constantly have these debates — I agree and disagree with them,” he says, verbalizing the inner battles faced by many of his peers.




Nabeela Ismail is an artist and photographer of Zanzibari descent. (Supplied)

A recent poll on Instagram of 165 millennials of Middle Eastern and Asian heritage revealed that 76 percent of them worried about, or at least contemplated, possible nazar-related repercussions when posting about their lives on social media. While some add the distinctive eye-bearing amulet (a symbol culturally regarded as protection against the evil eye, but also referred to as nazar) emoji to their captions, or type “#mashallah” (stressing that their good fortune is the will of God) in the hope that will cover them, others avoid posting potentially envy-inviting images altogether.

Many, of course, simply dismiss the belief in nazar as paranoia and superstition. “I think it’s sad how much it scares people,” says Algerian-Finnish Safi Ahmed-Messaoud. “It allows others to hold you back and affects your life for no reason.”

But beliefs about hasad and nazar are deeply rooted in both religion and culture across Asia. The Qur’an, in an invocation of protection from evil, states: “Say, ‘I seek refuge in the Lord of daybreak…from the evil of an envier when he envies.” And a Prophetic hadith — Sunan Abu Dawood 4903 — condemns malicious envy, stating, “Beware of envy, for verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood.”

And it is by no means solely an Islamic belief — in Judaism, the evil eye is known as “ayin hara” and casting off the evil eye is also engrained in Hindu traditions.

Historically entrenched customs however, are often at odds with modern-day trends — particularly those that involve posting exciting personal updates on social media.




Emad Arshad has lived between the UAE and Canada and is an avid social-media user. (Supplied)

“I constantly face that question about how much should I post, and the fear of the evil eye. I firmly believe that it exists,” says Arshad, who describes his family as “Orthodox Muslim”. Nonetheless, he spends hours creating content to share his adventures and thoughts through his YouTube channel, Evlogs. “It allows me to share my creativity, and helps me connect with friends, family and people with similar passions to me,” he explains.

Author Shelina Janmohamed uses the phrase “Generation M” to refer to the young Muslims finding ways to balance faith with modernity. “These Muslims are not rejecting modernity, they are shaping it,” she writes in her book, “Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World.” “Affordable, accessible and democratic, the Internet, mobile and social media are tools for Generation M to achieve their aspirations and become part of a worldwide network of peers who share their values.”

From fashion bloggers to business owners, social media is employed as a necessary marketing tool by entrepreneurs, and apps like Instagram are being used by countless other Middle Eastern and Asian millennials, who post about everything from the food on their plates to the shoes they’re wearing.

Nabeela Ismail, an artist and photographer of Zanzibari descent who works with The Threelancers — a Middle East-based content creation and photography platform for restaurants and cafés — believes that there’s a balance between using Instagram to inform and engage with fellow users, and becoming an outright exhibitionist on it, which may very well attract negative vibes from envious followers.

“I think there is a fine line between seeming like you’re showing off or showing something simply because of the fact that Instagram is a visual platform,” she says. “As a creative you want to create content and aesthetically pleasing pictures — it’s such a tough balance. But, I definitely do say a little prayer more often now, when I post something.”




Sidrah Zahid is the founder of lifestyle and accessories brand Aina. (Supplied) 

Arshad meanwhile, checks his intentions before making a post. “If anything has remotely to do with showing off or showing that I may have a better life than someone around me then I’ll hold off,” he says. “For example, we were just on a staycation, so I didn’t want to vlog that entirely because there are a lot of people who may not be able to afford it. Things are tough during COVID, so I try to show the reality of things, and not just the fancy, bling-bling of everything.

“My intention is never to portray something that’s fake,” he continues. “I try to always keep things very real and honest, and try to stay humble so my audience connect with me on an authentic level.”

Dubai-based Sidrah Zahid, founder of lifestyle and accessories brand Aina — which has been producing face masks since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, also believes intention is key, and she believes social media and faith can coexist without negative repercussions for entrepreneurs.

“In this day and age, it is essential to use social media for your business to flourish. It’s really one of the main ways to create brand awareness or attract any sort of attention to your product,” she says. “I do believe in the evil eye because it exists in our religion, and I do believe it can impact your life, personally or workwise. But I also believe the power of God is bigger than all of those things and if you just have enough faith and maintain positive energy around you, and have a very strong belief that the intention (behind) your work is pure and positive, then God will save you from that evil eye.”


Saudi Pro League title race swings Al-Hilal’s way after heavy defeat of Al-Shabab

Saudi Pro League title race swings Al-Hilal’s way after heavy defeat of Al-Shabab
Updated 40 min ago

Saudi Pro League title race swings Al-Hilal’s way after heavy defeat of Al-Shabab

Saudi Pro League title race swings Al-Hilal’s way after heavy defeat of Al-Shabab
  • The reigning champions are now three points clear with four matches left in pursuit of a 17th championship

RIYADH: The Saudi Professional League title looks to be heading in a familiar direction after Al-Hilal took a huge step towards a record 17th championship on Friday night by beating Al-Shabab 5-1 in Riyadh.

The two teams started their top of the table clash level on points but now, with four games remaining, the defending champions are three points clear with a hugely superior goal difference. There is still plenty to play for, but if Al-Hilal lift that trophy they will look back at the few minutes at the end of the first half as a turning point.

As the clock reached the 45minute mark, Al-Hilal were 2-1 up in what was an entertaining end-to-end clash, but two incidents in stoppage time changed the course of the match.

First, Al-Shabab’s Argentine playmaker Ever Banega received a second yellow card to reduce the hosts to 10 men, and then moments later Al-Hilal’s Argentine star Luciano Vietto scored with a delightful chip to make it 3-1. There was no coming back from that. Al-Shabab had their moments in the second half but were caught out by the leaders to receive what can only be described as a thrashing.

Al-Shabab coach Carlos Inarejos was left lamenting Banega’s red card.

“The match was finely balanced and both teams were creating opportunities to score but Banega’s dismissal made it difficult for us,” said the Spaniard. “We have to remember that Al-Hilal have been playing in the AFC Champions League while we have not had a competitive game for 27 days, and that period affected us.”

The win will be celebrated by new Al-Hilal coach Jose Morais, even if the Portuguese boss, appointed last week to replace Rogerio Micale, was not on the sidelines. Jose Mourinho’s former assistant is still in quarantine after arriving in Riyadh, leaving coach Abdullatif Al-Husseini in charge on the pitch.

Al-Hilal’s one-man advantage in the second half meant that they did not have to worry about fatigue after the hectic schedule of six games in two weeks.

“I am pleased with our performance,” Al-Husseini said. “Banega’s dismissal did make it easier for us but we were superior from the start, I thought.”

Al-Husseini, who revealed he had consulted closely with Morais on video, said that he understood the fans’ feelings after the disappointing performances in the Champions League.

“We know we can do better and the players had a strong desire to win and to show the fans what they are made of, and they did that from the first minute,” he said.

Al-Hilal’s star striker Bafetimbi Gomis opened the scoring after three minutes with a fine header from a corner, though almost instantly Fabio Martins swept home from the edge of the area to make it 1-1. Midway through the first half, Hassan Tambakti handled in the area and Gomis made no mistake from the spot to become the first foreign player to score 100 goals in all competitions for Al-Hilal in just 126 games for the club.

Ten minutes before the break, Al-Shabab had the chance to level the scoreline but striker Christian Guanca chose to pass when through on goal and Al-Hilal snuffed the danger out. Soon after, Banega was dismissed and Vietto scored and the contest was virtually over.

“The referee killed the game but I don’t want to talk about that,” said Odion Ighalo, Al-Shabab’s striker, who arrived in January from Manchester United. “We played well in the first half but when you play with 10 men against a team like Al-Hilal, then you are going to find it very difficult. There is still a lot to play for, however.”

Next Friday, the two teams are in action again with Al-Shabab going to Al-Ettifaq and Al-Hilal hosting Al-Batin.

Coach Inarejos is still optimistic about Al-Shabab’s chances of winning their first championship since 2012, which would be their seventh overall.

“The league is not over yet,” he said. “There are four matches remaining, and we still have a chance of winning the title. We will bounce back from this.”

But the ball is now in Al-Hilal’s court.

“I told the players in the dressing room that nothing has been decided yet in terms of the title but we are delighted with the result and the performance,” said Al-Husseini. “From now though, every game is like a final for us.”

 

 


Model Imaan Hammam prepares meals for the less fortunate this Ramadan

Model Imaan Hammam prepares meals for the less fortunate this Ramadan
The model teamed up with a restaurant in Amsterdam to prepare meals for the needy. Instagram
Updated 08 May 2021

Model Imaan Hammam prepares meals for the less fortunate this Ramadan

Model Imaan Hammam prepares meals for the less fortunate this Ramadan

DUBAI: This week, Moroccan-Egyptian-Dutch model Imaan Hammam teamed up with Amsterdam-based restaurant The Wild Room to give back to those who need it most by helping to prepare meals for the most vulnerable in the community this Ramadan.

“Last 10 days of Ramadan! What a beautiful healing month! So sad it’s coming to an end,” the 24-year-old shared with her one million Instagram followers, alongside a carousel of photos depicting her pouring tomatoes into a pot, surrounded by bags of prepared meals and getting ready to pray.

“Today these women and I worked so hard to prepare meals for those in need. Helping others is not only important but also a GOOD thing to do. It makes us happier and healthier too. Giving also connects us to others, creating stronger communities and helping to build a happier society for everyone. And it's not all about money — we can also give our time, ideas and energy. I want to thank all the strong women today who were involved from the bottom of my heart. I am so grateful to be part of this initiative. May Allah bless you all,” she added.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

“My hope is that we all work to inspire each other to spread love and give support. Help people around you, because you can. That’s what this is all about.”

Since the Holy Month is a time for kindness and charity, Hammam makes sure to take the opportunity to give back to those in need each year.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

Last Ramadan, the catwalk star, who was born to an Egyptian father and a Moroccan mother, revealed that she donated to two mosques and She’s the First, a non-profit organization that fights gender inequality through education that Hammam is an ambassador for. 

The model also donated funds to a mosque in Fisher, Indiana, to help them develop a prayer space for women and to the Islamic Cultural Center of New York.


Dubai hub private jet traffic quadruples as Gulf high fliers return to travel

Dubai hub private jet traffic quadruples as Gulf high fliers return to travel
Updated 08 May 2021

Dubai hub private jet traffic quadruples as Gulf high fliers return to travel

Dubai hub private jet traffic quadruples as Gulf high fliers return to travel
  • After years in the doldrums, the private jet sector is rebounding strongly as Gulf operators report rising bookings and plane makers unveil new aircraft

DUBAI: Private jet traffic at one Dubai airport more than quadrupled in the first quarter as the sector rebounds strongly amid reduced commercial airline capacity.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Aerospace Hub in Dubai South recorded a 336 percent increase in private jet traffic in the first three months of this year, totaling 4,904 charters, it said on Saturday.
"We look forward to sustaining the momentum of aircraft movements as Dubai gears up to welcoming the world to Expo 2020 in October," said Tahnoon Saif, CEO of Mohammed Bin Rashid Aerospace Hub.

After years in the doldrums, the private jet sector is rebounding strongly as Gulf operators report rising bookings and plane makers unveil new aircraft such as Dassault's $75 million 10X that has been dubbed "the flying penthouse."

The Falcon 10X will be the company’s most powerful model when it goes into service in late 2025, with a range of 13,890 kilometers, and compete with high-end models offered by Canada's Bombardier and General Dynamics unit Gulfstream. It will come equipped with Rolls-Royce Pearl engines designed to run entirely on sustainable aviation fuel.

Regional carriers including Qatar Airways are also promoting their private jet charter units as scheduled air travel remains under pressure because of pandemic-related flying restrictions.

Charter jet movements at the Dubai hub’s VIP Terminal come from its four operators Jetex Executive Aviation, Jet Aviation, DC Aviation, and ExecuJet Middle East.
US-based firm General Dynamics said last week it recorded a surge in demand for private jets, in part due to increasing hopes of economic recovery following mass COVID-19 vaccination drives.
The company’s business jet deliveries increased to 28 units from 23 a year earlier, as travel restrictions gradually ease.
India has also become a lucrative market for private jet charter companies as wealthy expatriates seek to escape the deadly spike in COVID-19 infections in the country.
New Delhi-based JetSetGo has seen rising demand among the country's rich.
The company’s bookings jumped 900 percent in recent weeks, CNBC reported


Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
Updated 17 min 56 sec ago

Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
  • The ministry renewed its stand with the country’s people, and supported all efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia rejects Israeli plans to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and impose Israeli sovereignty over them, Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry stressed the country’s condemnation of any unilateral measures and violations of international legitimacy decisions. It also denounced anything that might undermine the chances of resuming the peace process to achieve security and stability in the region.

The ministry renewed its stand with the country’s people, and supported all efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.

It has also shown its support in enabling the Palestinians to establish their independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international legitimacy decisions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

A night of heavy clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem left more than 200 Palestinians wounded, medics said Saturday, as the city braced for even more violence after weeks of unrest.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates has also condemened the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli authorities, stressing the need for them to assume responsibility in accordance with international law.


British-Muslim entrepreneur brings Ramadan to a close performing adhan over London’s Tower Bridge

British-Muslim entrepreneur brings Ramadan to a close performing adhan over London’s Tower Bridge
Updated 08 May 2021

British-Muslim entrepreneur brings Ramadan to a close performing adhan over London’s Tower Bridge

British-Muslim entrepreneur brings Ramadan to a close performing adhan over London’s Tower Bridge
  • “I am just an ordinary individual and for me to be blessed with such an opportunity is humbling,” Rahman said
  • Last year, he performed the adhan in Canary Wharf, the heart of London’s financial district

LONDON: A British-Muslim entrepreneur serenaded London’s Tower Bridge with the adhan as the sun set over the British landmark on the last Friday of Ramadan 2021. 
Kazi Shafiqur Rahman, 35, delivered the adhan in the style of the Grand Mosque’s head muezzin, Sheikh Ali Ahmad Mulla, wearing a white thobe and Saudi ghutra on Friday as part of an interfaith virtual iftar.
It is a style that he has perfected since childhood and has fueled the British-Bangladeshi’s passion for performing the adhan in public. 
Mulla has been a muezzin at the Grand Mosque since 1975 and his voice is recognized by Muslims worldwide regardless of whether they have visited Makkah.
The adhan at Tower Bridge marked the end of an iftar hosted by Tower Hamlets Homes, the East London Mosque & London Muslim Center and Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum.
Rahman spoke of the huge satisfaction he gets from delivering the adhan in public and how grateful he felt for being given the opportunity to deliver one from Tower Bridge.

 

“I am just an ordinary individual and for me to be blessed with such an opportunity is humbling,” he said.
Although Rahman has been performing the adhan in mosques and at events for more than two decades, this is the second time he had delivered it at an iconic London location.
Last year, he performed the adhan in the heart of London’s financial district, Canary Wharf, and the video of his performance was watched millions of times.
Rahman added he hopes to deliver the adhan at “other global iconic locations such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
“After delivering the adhan in Canary Wharf last year, I realized that the call to prayer is such a strong message and that I was sending it out across the world via social media,” Rahman said.  
“It had such a huge reach even on LinkedIn, and many non-Muslims said how mesmerizing they found the adhan, and were asking about what it actually was,” he added.


Rahman said he was initially shocked at the amount of traction the video of last year’s adhan received. “But then I realized that this is the word of God and the call to prayer and therefore it’s bound to reach that many people,” he said. 
“The impact of last year’s adhan was just unbelievable. The video reached millions of viewers.”
Ahead of performing the adhan at Tower Bridge, Rahman told Arab News he was nervous as he wanted to live up to last year’s performance. 
“I don’t want it to go wrong and I want to live up to expectations. However, I am also reminding myself to do this for the sake of God only. With social media, it’s easy to get sidetracked and think about the traction that this delivery of the adhan will get. But that shouldn’t be my intention. I keep reminding myself that I am doing it for the sake of God and for Him alone.”
London-based Rahman said he thanks God for giving him this opportunity and a melodious voice.  
“I am just an ordinary person but I feel like God has favored me with such a voice and such an opportunity, both of which I am grateful for. It gives me a sense of satisfaction that the adhan I am delivering is being appreciated all around the world. It makes me praise God even more.”