An Englishman’s journey to the truth

An Englishman’s journey to the truth
Updated 23 September 2014

An Englishman’s journey to the truth

An Englishman’s journey to the truth

The fact that this book was published by Arabian Publishing, a reputable publishing house, speaks for itself. James Budd, for his part, has written a fair and honest account about a country he had reasons to dislike. However he never gave in to a desire of vengeance after he was removed from his teaching post in Aneiza. Incidentally this oasis town ten hours away from the capital Riyadh is written several ways: Anayzah, Onaizah, Onizah and Unayzah.
Dr. Ibrahim Abdulrahman Al-Turki, Cultural Affairs Editor of Al Jazirah mentions James Budd’s controversial removal in his incisive introduction. A group of determined critics opposed the arrival of the English teacher because they feared the intellectual impact the teacher might exert on the young people. This triggered a war of suspicions and intrigues which eventually led to James Budd’s departure from the Kingdom.
“Many a dark cloud has a silver lining and in this case those who wrote the first chapter of this story were not the ones who wrote its conclusion. The fortunes of yesterday’s outcast were reversed and today it is James who has emerged triumphant.”
While some people could not believe that James Budd was genuinely interested to master a language he loved, in the end his honesty, integrity and determination proved them all wrong. After leaving Saudi Arabia in 1970, he lived in Kuwait and Qatar until 1983 and then left for Muscat where he worked for the Omani News Agency from 1992 until 1998.
During all those years, he never forgot his Saudi friends and kept regularly in touch with them. He returned to the Kingdom in 1996 to perform his pilgrimage in the company of one of his old students. And finally, in 2011 he made a long awaited return trip to Aneiza. Forty-one years after his first stay he felt that very little appeared to have changed.
“The town still has an unhurried, intimate atmosphere, as well as the same easy sociability that I remember from the days when it was less than a fifth of its present size and in the company of its present day inhabitants I felt almost as though I were carrying on a conversation which had been broken off only a day or two previously, rather than forty-one years earlier”.
This book goes beyond its title. It is more than an Englishman’s journey from Aneiza to Makkah. It is first about a man’s journey to the truth. It is also about a man’s sincere desire to learn Arabic and live in an Arab country. Thirdly, it is about a fascination for the Arab world which never faltered.
James Budd tells us he read Wilfred Thesiger’s classic, “Arabian Sands” when he was sixteen. And I am sure this book resonated in his mind when he lived in Aneiza, which is approximately a ten hours drive from the Nafud desert, the Kingdom’s second largest desert after the Empty Quarter. This book crystallizes the feelings created by “The Deserts of Arabia” to a point which to this day has never been equaled. Wilfred Thesiger was the last adventurer to cross the Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world in the late 1940’s.
“Since leaving Arabia I have traveled…to remote places…I have seen some of the most magnificent scenery in the world…None of these places has moved me as did the deserts of Arabia”.
Thesiger’s powerful account echoes the feelings expressed by James Budd and many foreigners who have lived in the Kingdom. A passage to Arabia often leaves an imprint of the desert, creating a never ending yearn to return.
Unlike many books written by non-Saudis on the Kingdom, “Half Past Ten in the Afternoon” is accurate. It makes a positive contribution to the history of a period which is not well-known.
The author admits that it was unfortunate that he never wrote a journal about the years he spent in Aneiza from 1965 to 1970.
“At the time I believed I had an infallible ability to recall facts and events and that keeping a diary would be pointless drudgery, but today, over forty years on, I realize how wrong I was”.
However, James Budd managed to recall a number of anecdotes. One of them which is related to his name is extremely funny and is definitely one that cannot be forgotten.
One day during a gathering, as he was giving his name, “James” the mere sound of it provoked a hearty laugh: “Jumsi, like the lorry!!”. The author of the joke, a certain Hamad, had indeed never heard this name before but he was familiar with the popular GMC Trucks which were and still are extremely popular to this day.
The people living in Qassim are known to be very traditional however, the author is right in noting that: “Many of its inhabitants had experience of the outside world and some of its leading families had long-established business connections in Mumbai, Basra, Zubair and the Gulf”.
Budd also gives some excellent descriptions of the “majlis”, a special room where Saudi men hold their friendly gatherings during which the traditional coffee is made following strict rules. In the past, this important ritual among the Bedu was followed by a recital of poetry described in this book. However, the author justly remarks that today visitors are no longer entertained in the house majlis but in an “istiraaha”, a small guest house whose décor recalls a Bedouin tent or even in an actual Bedouin tent.
I was deeply moved when the author mentioned Saad Abdullah Sowayan whom I have met. He is an eminent expert on the traditions of the Bedu. His book on Nabati poetry is a classic and it includes a masterful description of the coffee making ritual which he says: “is not just an ingredient of hospitality but its more important and ceremonious part”.
Eighteen years after he left the Kingdom, James Budd embraced Islam, something that one of his employers, Abu Sami had envisioned: “I have a feeling you will become a Muslim one day. You will probably not believe me now, but I have an idea that you are closer to Islam that you think, closer in fact, that many Arabs who are nominally Muslims”.
In an age when Islam is being defamed and defaced by Muslims themselves, it is gratifying to read James Budd’s touching and sincere account of both his journey to Islam and to Aneiza. Islam stands for peace and the author by his wise, forgiving and calm nature highlights the true nature of a Muslim. This book which gives a moving account of his life should be read by anyone wishing to know the truth about a country and a religion which are both still deeply misunderstood.

Email: [email protected]


Masks come off as Israel vaunts virus victory

Masks come off as Israel vaunts virus victory
Updated 19 April 2021

Masks come off as Israel vaunts virus victory

Masks come off as Israel vaunts virus victory
  • The vaccination of close to 5 million people has sent Israel’s coronavirus caseload tumbling from some 10,000 new infections per day as recently as mid-January, to around 200 cases a day

JERUSALEM: Israelis stepped into the streets without masks on Sunday for the first time in a year, a key milestone as the country vaccinates its way out of a coronavirus nightmare.
“It’s very strange but it’s very nice,” said Eliana Gamulka, 26, after getting off a bus near the busy Jerusalem shopping boulevard of Jaffa Street and removing her face covering.
“You can’t pretend that you don’t know anyone any more,” she smiled.
With over half the population fully vaccinated in one of the world’s fastest anti-COVID 19 inoculation campaigns, the Health Ministry announced on Thursday that masks would no longer be required in public outdoor spaces.
For Gamulka, a project manager, the good news came at the perfect time: Just two weeks before her wedding.
It will be “very nice to celebrate with everyone, now without masks,” she said. “The pictures will be great! I’m very relieved. We can start living again.”
The vaccination of close to 5 million people has sent Israel’s coronavirus caseload tumbling from some 10,000 new infections per day as recently as mid-January, to around 200 cases a day.
That has allowed the reopening of schools, bars, restaurants and other indoor gatherings — although masks are still required in indoor public spaces.

HIGHLIGHTS

• With over half the population fully vaccinated in one of the world’s fastest anti-COVID 19 inoculation campaigns, the Health Ministry announced on Thursday that masks would no longer be required in public outdoor spaces.

• The vaccination of close to 5 million people has sent Israel’s coronavirus caseload tumbling from some 10,000 new infections per day as recently as mid-January, to around 200 cases a day. That has allowed the reopening of schools, bars, restaurants and other indoor gatherings.

Israel just months ago had the world’s highest infection rate, a coronavirus outbreak that left 6,300 people dead among 836,000 cases.
But the country sent its coronavirus caseload tumbling after striking a deal for a vast stock of Pfizer/BioNTech jabs.
In exchange, it agreed to pay above market price and share data it gathers on the recipients, using one of the world’s most sophisticated medical data systems.
Since December, some 53 percent of Israel’s 9.3 million people have received both doses of the jab, including around four-fifths of the population aged over 20.
As recently as January it was registering 10,000 cases per day.
But as the effects of mass vaccination kicked in, by March it was able to implement a gradual reopening.
“There’s no better advertisement for Pfizer,” said Shalom Yatzkan, a computer programmer who had been in quarantine after catching the virus.
“I was sick for three days, I had neck pains and felt weak,” he said as he walked through central Jerusalem. “I just hope the new variants don’t catch up with us.”
Another Sunday landmark in Israel’s exit from coronavirus restrictions was the full resumption of the country’s educational system, without restrictions on the numbers of pupils in classrooms.


How Jewish women married to Arabs were regarded as a threat to Israel: Haaretz

A picture dated March 1, 1940 shows new immigrants wahing their laundry at the immigrants camp near Kibbutz Na'an. (AFP/File Photo)
A picture dated March 1, 1940 shows new immigrants wahing their laundry at the immigrants camp near Kibbutz Na'an. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 18 April 2021

How Jewish women married to Arabs were regarded as a threat to Israel: Haaretz

A picture dated March 1, 1940 shows new immigrants wahing their laundry at the immigrants camp near Kibbutz Na'an. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Israeli newspaper Haaretz details cruel treatment they faced from their own community
  • Researcher: ‘Ostracism, denunciation and shaming gave way to violence’

LONDON: During the formation of Israel in the late 1940s, hundreds of Jewish women were branded as enemies for marrying Arab men, resulting in exclusion, isolation, and in some cases murder, according to stories buried in the country’s archives. 

The histories of the “lost” Jewish women — those who married and assimilated into Arab culture — have been revealed by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which details the cruel treatment they faced from their own community, including “harsh opposition from home, ostracism, labeling, and opprobrium and social alienation.”

Hanania Dery, chief rabbi of Jaffa at the time, traveled to refugee camps in the newly occupied Palestinian territories to search for Jewish women who had married Arab men and converted to Islam.

He reportedly discovered about 600 Jewish women living in Hebron, Nablus, Gaza City, Khan Yunis and East Jerusalem, and encouraged them to return to their Jewish roots.

The subject of interfaith marriage has long been a taboo subject in Israel. Idith Erez, a graduate student in the Israel Studies department at the University of Haifa, has detailed the plight of the “lost” women, and their treatment at the hands of authorities and underground paramilitary groups.

She said two of her own relatives married Arabs, and “the responses in the family ranged from acceptance and reservations to total rejection.”

Erez was warned by colleagues about the lack of material on the subject. She discovered Jewish references to relationships between Jewish women and Arab men from 1917 to 1948, but found that “writers sought to play down the ‘forbidden stories’.”

Erez said: “One can assume that what was perceived as a family or personal stigma, or as national shame, was excluded from the collective memory, relegated to the warehouse of the darkest secrets and remained hidden there.”

But she found stories hidden away in newspapers, and also detailed records of surveillance operations targeting the “lost” women.

Archives from underground Zionist organizations — including Haganah, Lehi and Irgun — revealed that the women were viewed as a threat to the Jewish community, and were targeted as potential spies.

One notable case is detailed in a report sent by a Haganah member to the organization’s intelligence branch in 1942. He outlines a plan to deploy a Jewish woman to spy on senior Arab figures.

“I am thinking this week of getting in touch, to obtain information, with a Sephardi girl from Tiberias who has intimate relations with Kamal Al-Hussein. He likes to waste a lot of money on her,” the member wrote.

The stories discovered by Erez share one common feature: The hostile attitude of Jewish society toward the relationships.

“The phenomenon was perceived as a threat to the resurgent Jewish collective in Israel, as crossing a national and religious border and as the violation of a social taboo,” she said.

“These relationships were seen as the ultimate threat, serious and significant. They were perceived as having the potential to turn the Yishuv (Jewish community) into a Levantine society, to bring about religious conversion and assimilation into Arab society.”

Many Jews saw interfaith relationships as a deviation from the norm, and the women involved as “whores”, “traitors”, “enemies of Israel” and a “national disgrace,” Erez said.

As tensions between Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine grew, reactions to interfaith relationships became more extreme.

“Ostracism, denunciation and shaming gave way to violence in the family and violence perpetrated by security organizations,” Erez said, adding that some women were even murdered.

Esther K. and Mahmoud Al-Kurdi first met in a Jerusalem cafe that the latter owned, and soon fell in love and married, despite not receiving parental agreement.

Their case went to court, where Esther was told to return home. She told Al-Kurdi: “Never mind, a few months will go by, I’ll turn 18 and come back to you, my dear.” It then emerged that she had fallen pregnant and was forced to have an abortion.

Al-Kurdi said following the case: “I loved her so much. I would do anything for her. People are cruel. Why are they trying to take my blood from me?”

Chaya Zeidenberg, 22, whose Arab lover was Daoud Yasmina, was murdered in early 1948 by Lehi.

In a statement, the paramilitary group accused her of “treason against the homeland and the Jewish people and of collaborating with Arab gangs.”

Lehi members raided Zeidenberg’s apartment and drove her to an unknown location, where she was interrogated and shot dead.

She was buried without her surname on the headstone. The local Jewish burial society registered her as a “spy.”

Erez said of her research: “The women involved were opinionated and strong, unwitting feminists who were ahead of their time and defied the social order, the mechanisms of regimentation and the establishment’s balance of forces. 

“They ignored public opinion and the Zionist ethos, which expected the Hebrew woman to nullify her personal yearnings and serve as a ‘sacrifice,’ if needed, on the altar of the nation.

“The steep price paid for maintaining a relationship with an Arab man did not keep them from conducting the relationship.

“These women did not flinch from harsh reactions, and they saw no contradiction between their choice of an Arab man and their national loyalty or religious affiliation.”


Prince Harry’s son was never entitled to a royal title — and it has nothing to do with Meghan

Prince Harry’s son was never entitled to a royal title — and it has nothing to do with Meghan
Updated 17 April 2021

Prince Harry’s son was never entitled to a royal title — and it has nothing to do with Meghan

Prince Harry’s son was never entitled to a royal title — and it has nothing to do with Meghan
  • Title protocol dates back to 104-year-old decree issued by King George V

LONDON: US TV star Oprah Winfrey’s high-profile interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry left many viewers with more questions than answers.
One major controversy covered in the interview concerned the title of the couple’s son Archie, full name Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.
Despite being seventh in line to the British throne, Archie was not granted the title of prince, which has angered Megan and her fans.
But Archie’s lack of title at birth is to be expected, given the precedent established by a royal rule dating back 104 years.
In 1917, King George V issued a decree stating: “The grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have and enjoy in all occasions the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes of these Our Realms.”
Because Queen Elizabeth II is the ruling sovereign, her children and grandchildren receive royal titles.
But her great-grandchildren — including any children of Megan and Prince Harry — will only be titled Lord or Lady Mountbatten-Windsor.
This also means that Archie did not receive the title “his royal highness” (HRH). His parents decided to use the title “master.”
Despite Megan’s expectation that her son would assume the title of prince upon becoming a grandson when Prince Charles takes the throne, she was told that “protocols would be changed.”
So why did the children of Prince William and Kate Middleton receive the royal titles? Because Queen Elizabeth demanded it.
As a direct heir to the throne, their son George was always entitled to be a prince, unlike his siblings Charlotte and Louis.
But when Kate was pregnant, Queen Elizabeth issued a letters patent giving the prince or princess title to any of William’s children.
This led to Megan arguing that her son “was not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be.”
Several of the queen’s grandchildren, including Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn, could have been provided with royal titles when they were born, but their parents requested otherwise so that they could pursue normal lives.
So even though Queen Elizabeth decided to avoid extending the HRH title, it might be a silver lining for Megan and Prince Harry, given that they have since chosen to step back from royal duties altogether. 


Sydney man finds snake in lettuce bought at supermarket

Sydney man finds snake in lettuce bought at supermarket
Updated 16 April 2021

Sydney man finds snake in lettuce bought at supermarket

Sydney man finds snake in lettuce bought at supermarket
  • Alex White bought lettuce from ALDI supermarket Monday and bicycled home with salad and snake in his backpack
  • ALDI is investigating how a venomous pale-headed snake could have found its way into a supermarket

CANBERRA: Alex White thought he was watching a huge worm writhing in plastic-wrapped lettuce he’d just brought home from a Sydney supermarket — until a snake tongue flicked.
“I kind of completely freaked out when I saw this little tongue come out of its mouth and start flicking around and realized it was a snake because worms don’t have tongues,” White said on Thursday.
“I definitely kind of panicked a bit,” he added.
It was a venomous pale-headed snake that authorities say made an 870-kilometer (540-mile) journey to Sydney from a packing plant in the Australian city of Toowoomba wrapped in plastic with two heads of cos lettuce.
The refrigerated supermarket supply chain likely lulled the cold-blooded juvenile into a stupor until White bought the lettuce at an ALDI supermarket on Monday evening and rode his bicycle home with salad and snake in his backpack.
White and his partner Amelia Neate spotted the snake moving as soon as the lettuce was unpacked onto the kitchen table.
They also noticed the plastic wrapping was torn and that the snake could escape, so they quickly stuffed the reptile with the lettuce into a plastic food storage container.
White phoned the WIRES rescue organization and a snake handler took the snake away that night.
Before the handler arrived, White said WIRES had explained to him: “If you get bitten, you’ve got to go to hospital really quickly.”
ALDI is investigating how a snake could have found its way into a supermarket.
“We’ve worked with the customer and the team at WIRES to identify the snake’s natural habitat, which is certainly not an ALDI store!” the German-based supermarket chain said in a statement.
WIRES reptile coordinator Gary Pattinson said while the snake was less than 20 centimeters (8 inches) long, it was “as venomous as it will ever be.”
Pattinson is caring for the snake until it is returned to Queensland state next week, following the WIRES policy of returning rescued wildlife to where it comes from.
“It’s the first snake I’ve ever had in sealed, packed produce,” Pattinson said. “We get frogs in them all the time.”
Neate, a German immigrant, said her brush with a venomous snake in a Sydney kitchen was a setback in her efforts to assure relatives in Europe that Australia’s notoriously deadly Outback wildlife was nothing to worry about.
“For the last 10 years or so, I’ve told my family at home that Australia’s a really safe country,” Neate said.
“I’ve always said I’m just in the city; it’s totally fine here,” she added.


Kyrgyzstan pushes poisonous root as virus cure

Kyrgyzstan pushes poisonous root as virus cure
Updated 16 April 2021

Kyrgyzstan pushes poisonous root as virus cure

Kyrgyzstan pushes poisonous root as virus cure
  • Health Minister Alimkadyr Beishenaliyev took sips of the solution that contains extracts of aconite root in front of journalists as he talked up its healing properties
  • Alimkadyr Beishenaliyev: ‘You need to drink it hot, and in two or three days the positive PCR test result disappears and the person immediately becomes better’

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan is promoting a poisonous root as a safe treatment against the coronavirus as the country battles a new wave of infections despite health warnings.
The health ministry unveiled the remedy at a news conference on Friday, claiming the impoverished country’s leader has used the herb to cure “thousands” of sick inmates when he served jail time last year.
Health Minister Alimkadyr Beishenaliyev took sips of the solution that contains extracts of aconite root in front of journalists as he talked up its healing properties.
“There is no harm to health,” Beishenaliyev said after gulping the potion.
“You need to drink it hot, and in two or three days the positive PCR test result disappears and the person immediately becomes better.”
Aconite root is used in traditional medicine even though it is considered highly toxic.
The authorities have said that a third wave of Covid-19 cases is beginning in the Central Asian country of 6.5 million people, which suffered a difficult summer as the virus overwhelmed hospitals last year.
Ahead of the presentation, President Sadyr Japarov took to Facebook late Thursday, releasing a video that appeared to show the remedy being bottled by a team of men who were not wearing protective equipment.
The label on the bottles called the drink effective “against coronavirus and cancer of the stomach” but warned that drinking the solution without heating it up might result in death.
The World Health Organization on Thursday criticized the decision to promote the remedy.
“A drug that has not undergone clinical trials cannot be registered and recommended for widespread use by the population,” the WHO said.
Beishenaliyev claimed Japarov had successfully treated “thousands of prisoners” using the solution prior to being released from jail by protesters and catapulted to power during a political crisis last year.
Japarov is not the first leader to claim a herbal cure for the coronavirus.
In Turkmenistan, another Central Asian country, leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov hailed licorice root as a cure for the coronavirus, a disease he insists has yet to touch his isolated country of six million people.
Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina has promoted a locally-brewed infusion, based on the anti-malarial plant artemisia, to fight the virus.