Saturday, April 27, 2013

Islamic Public Spaces..

In a response to a discussion on Religion (Islam) in Urban Public Spaces; launched on Linked-in by Nadia Qureshi; Architect, Urban Planner and Urban Designer, Pakistan

I would like your comments on the said topic. You can look at it from any point of view. To guide the discussion, i have raised a few questions.
Do religious beliefs and practices change the way that public spaces are designed and used in Muslim countries?
How is the meaning of a public space interpreted in Religious countries?
Can public spaces remain inclusive (i.e. include people from other reliogions, male female, etc) and lively?
Does urbanization effect the construction of (sacred) places or religious practices in a city within a religious country?
How can urbanization and the design of good public spaces be used as a tool to fight extremism in religious countries?



The public do not draw public spaces, but get inspired by.. This is a role; which often goes reversed.. The global noise on democracy and rights of expression had confused many urban planner and city managers; who perform in response to public trends and likeliness.. Yes, people should have a say in issues that materialize their life, but when it comes to spiritual and inspiration, people inevitably look around for leaders of thought, and leaders of actions.. Public spaces in all cities were not a demand of the public, but ideas had the strength and resilience of their inventors; whom often are politicians and public servants.. Even today, the massiveness of Kazakh or Chechen capitals were decisions made by leaders not by any public visionaries..

Therefore, religions, as correctly commented earlier are personal packages, not a public one.. Therefore, their implications on drawing the public spaces is supposedly limited.. If the community is driven by totality or suppressive ruling powers, which would happen to be religious; then we have an issue to define.. Nevertheless, urban outcomes from such authorities will be in parallel to the local taste of religion rather than the overall mythical or theological concepts..

Practically speaking; the Malls in Western Christian cities are political rather than religious, except in some old cities, where were part of public media and influences.. The Courts in Islamic cities are mostly deserteous, without soft landscape, except in equatorial cities and Spain.. In both examples, funds, acquisitions and authorities were not short.. In both examples, the phenomenon has little to do with public orientation, as was mostly inspired, planned and maintained by managers.. Yet, the implications of public characteristics of discipline, aesthetics and coherence are notable and dominating..

This will eventually takes us back to the most critical elements of the urban business: Training and Governance..

How far both Urban Planners and Designers are well-trained to deliver the intended service.. Is it only a degree with some graphic skills, or true competences to define, innovate and deliver a better built environment for living..

How the Civic Bodies are functioning and truly in-command.. Are they sincere obedient to politicians in-powers who would instruct “stupid” changes to meet their personal favorites, interests and benefits.. or they have their independent and “public” powers to support the righteousness..

A great dilemmas; which are not Islamic, nor un-Islamic.. it is life..
Thanks for the inspiring discussion..

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Makkah 2013

Naïve questions from an urban enthusiastic..!!

1.       Although how exhausted and stressed the Agency of Makkah Metropolis; why there is no an urban story-telling of The Holly City?

2.       It is obviously notable the absence of urban grading; why commerciality, favoritism and profitability rule the urban planning?

3.       There is no shortage of funds, why there is no soft landscape, trees and grass in the open public spaces and courts around The Holy Mosque?

4.       Referring to the ugly architectural beasts; why skyline is viciously provoked by high-rise trend; despite both religious and emotional contents advise humiliation, shyness and simplicity?

5.       Instead of flatting or removing mountains, why they are not used for low rise buildings and boutiques; which can be more profitable, yet less logistically stressful?

6.       For the 30-50 thousand new visitors per day, and double staying daily; where are the reachable public toilets to balance the incredible number of Zamzam taps?

7.       They already sunk some roads; avoiding complexity of LRT; why they can’t provide ring tram-routes around The Holy Mosque?

8.       There is a silent army of managers, engineers, technicians and labors behind the scene; yet, why some areas are ill-equipped, poorly fitted and architecturally downgraded?

9.       With the growing number of folding-seat-searches, what is the reference that Muslims should seat on the floors, apart from performing Salaat?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Building High..

Edward Young
inscribed in one of the architraves of the Library of Congress Entrance Hall

Sunday, April 7, 2013

In the Bazaar of Sexes

Documentary Film on Temporary Marriage in Iran


The phenomenon of temporary marriage in the Islamic Republic of Iran is explored in the documentary In the Bazaar of Sexes. The film's female director, Sudabeh Morterzai, gives viewers a rare insight into a very complex society. Marian Brehmer watched the film
It is said that Muhammad once advised his followers to enter into temporary marriages while travelling. According to tradition, the Prophet approved of such short-term alliances under certain circumstances, such as during wartime or while on pilgrimage. In Arabic, this practice of temporary marriage is called mut'a (pleasure); in Farsi it is known as sighe.

A quick panning shot to Tehran. A middle-aged mullah in a black turban and cloak sits behind a desk. He seems to be extremely well versed in the matters he's being questioned on. The man leans back and launches into his explanation: "A virgin may only enter into a non-sexual type of temporary union, and there mustn't be any penetration, either front or back." Slightly embarrassed, he scratches his ear and laughs, revealing some missing teeth. "All of this is provided for by the holy law of Islam."

Authentic encounters such as this one in a cleric's office are the hallmark of the film In the Bazaar of Sexes. For this documentary, which probes the phenomenon of the sighe in contemporary Iran, the Austrian-Iranian filmmaker Sudabeh Mortezai met with members of the clergy and the middle class as well as young people and interviewed them on a topic with which all of them are very familiar.

From the Shia point of view, temporary marriage was already practised before the advent of Islam, and then also during the Prophet's lifetime. The Sunni orthodoxy, however, quickly abolished the mut'a. It was the third caliph, Umar, who regarded temporary marriage as condoning fornication and declared it banned. In the eyes of the Shia, this was an intentional intervention in a tradition endorsed by Muhammad. For their part, the Sunnis accuse the Shia of encouraging prostitution under the pretence of sighe.

Image from the poster for the film 'In the Bazaar of Sexes'

A little legal loophole

Temporary marriage is hence practised today only in Shia communities, mainly in Iran and occasionally also in Iraq. Originally, sighe in Iran was geared toward widows. Although frowned upon by society, it today constitutes a loophole in the often rigid law, which young people often take advantage of. Theoretically, a young couple with a sighe can pursue their love life even without conventional marriage vows.

For every temporary marriage, the man has to pay a pre-determined sum to his short-term wife. The duration of a sighe is set out in the marriage contract. From just a few hours to several years; anything is possible. There is only one restriction: after each sighe, a woman must wait two menstrual periods before marrying again.

An aged mullah in the film finds this rule sensible: "If a woman is constantly getting married, then what is the difference from prostitution?"

Whenever clergymen speak in the film, they seem to be speaking from their own private universe. Their statements stand alone, without commentary. The viewer also rarely gets to hear the questions asked by the director, which lends the film greater immediacy.

With great subtlety, Sudabeh Mortezai manages to capture a number of different situations that reveal the alienation of society from the clergy. There is, for example, the young mullah on a taxi ride from Tehran to Qom, the city known as a training ground for clerics in the Islamic Republic. When the driver puts on a pop music CD ("move your hips"), his passenger requests silence. "That is problematic," the mullah says hesitantly, unable to suppress a grin as he points out the moral issue at stake.

The problems facing middle-aged men like the taxi driver from Isfahan are the focus of another scene. He must be over forty, but is unmarried and childless. As an older single, he has difficulty renting an apartment. This is why his ex-sighe wife advises him to enter into another temporary marriage.

Still from the film 'In the Bazaar of Sexes' (photo: W-Film.jpg)

Dismal state of mind

Later, we meet the bachelor again, this time with another man. They are standing in an empty apartment and talking about women. The friend is already divorced. Next time, he says, he wants an uneducated woman, "a housewife type". Says the taxi driver: "I know someone. My aunt. She is 70 and unattached. Totally uneducated!" Cigarettes are lit and a love song wails out from a mobile phone. The two men gaze at the barren apartment, which looks just as dismal as the current state of mind of many Iranians.

It is important to note that In the Bazaar of Sexes was shot over three years ago, at a time of crippling sanctions and tremendous inflation that further increased the already enormous pressure on Iran's population. The film makes palpable how Iranians are torn between the conflicting demands of the law, private life and social conventions.

At the same time, however, it sheds a more nuanced light on the Iranian clergy, introducing us to a wide range of different characters: from the young cleric who is often unsure of himself, to the smug mullah in the robe, to the bearded ayatollah in Qom. In the course of practising their tradition-steeped profession, they are all confronted with a reality that increasingly challenges their leadership.

The final scene demonstrates this all too clearly: a clutch of giggling women in a restaurant – made up like Barbie dolls, smoking a hookah, their headscarves pushed as far back as possible – loudly pokes fun at a young mullah at the next table. The poor cleric is obviously at a loss. With difficulty, he focuses his eyes on his plate, mustering a tormented smile.

Is this a victory of modernity over the medieval clergy? Even if Western commentators would sometimes like to think so: Iran is just not that simple.

Sighe could be regarded as the peg on which the director has hung her image of Iran. It is a cheerless but honest picture. We must remain aware, though, that even this picture is ultimately nothing more than a single part of what can be called the "reality" of such a complex country.

Marian Brehmer

© 2013

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Muslim Bikini Model

Maryam Basir 

All religions had the same path; from the unknown to the glory.. Yet, all of them had faced the same destiny; confusion and fade out..
Religion were made as “Manuals” for Mankind to believe, practice, and behave; targeting one only purpose, which far beyond the temptation of life and pleasures of senses..
Islam is no different.. Not only by its linguistic probabilities, but also as came last to set final proposition..
The New World, since the exploration of Americas, had dated the decline of conventional religions, and launch of man-made ones..
Can any “Device” sets up its own “Manuals”..??

End of Men..!!

Old man (© WestEnd61-Rex Features)

In the last few years various experts have come up with predictions for the 'end of men'.
What they tend to mean is that traditionally male qualities - strength, single-mindedness, machismo - are less important in the modern world. By the 'end of men' they really mean the end of traditional male roles in society.

So what’s scary about the latest expert prediction is that she really does mean the end of men. As a gender, we’re finished physically, she claims. And it’s all down to biology.

What does she mean by the end of men?
The prediction of male extinction was recently made by Professor Jenny Graves, a scientist at Canberra University in Australia, who believes the inherent fragility of male genes has put us on a slippery slope to a man-free world.

She cites the state of male and female chromosomes to back up the theory. The female X chromosome contains a healthy 1,000 or so genes and women have two of them.
Compare that with the male Y chromosome, she says, which started off with as many genes as its female counterpart, but today boasts less than 100. The rest have fallen away over millions of years of evolution.

What’s more, men only have one Y chromosome and one X, which means each finds it harder to repair itself than the twin X chromosomes women possess.

“The X chromosome is all alone in the male but in the female it has a friend, so it can swop bits and repair itself,” said Professor Graves. “If the Y gets hit, it’s a downward spiral.”

She also described the remaining genes on the Y chromosome as being mostly “junk”.
So what does this mean for men? Well, she reckons that in five million years or so ‘man’kind will be no more, and women will have won the battle of the sexes in the most fundamental way.
Five million years sounds a decent innings, admittedly, but the worry is that the process is already well under way. Some experts blame chromosomal differences, and the weakness of the Y chromosome, for the difference in average lifespans between men and women.

Other meanings of 'the end of men'
That longevity gap between the genders has also been blamed on male self-destructive behaviour, from drinking and smoking too much to driving fast cars and getting into fights. And what many social scientists believe is that some of these behaviours will get worse as the other interpretation of the 'end of men' comes increasingly into play.

Men won’t actually go extinct, but our future looks less than rosy, they say. Women are doing better at school and university than men. The jobs of the future will be increasingly about good communication skills and emotional intelligence, and less about strength and dominance.
“It may be happening slowly and unevenly, but it’s unmistakably happening: in the long view the modern economy is becoming a place where women hold the cards,” writes Hanna Rosin, author of The End Of Men.

The result is that, already, men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives. They’re more likely to be dependent on drugs or alcohol. They’re more likely to be unhappy loners without supportive social circles.
In other words, there are now two distinct but overlapping theories about the end of men. In one, we will eventually become extinct because of an inherent biological weakness that already affects our longevity. In the other, men won’t die off, but we will become increasingly irrelevant.

Men will bounce back
That’s one way of looking at it, at least. But others claim predictions of the end of men are wildly overplayed.
Even in Professor Graves’ gloomy scenario, five million years is a long time for medicine to catch up and shore up our dodgy Y chromosome. Professor Graves herself thinks men may not actually die out, but morph into an entirely new species of human, with a new chromosome taking the place of the crumbling Y.

And it seems that men are beginning to address their self-destructive impulses and counteract the effect a weak Y chromosome has on longevity. The latest research suggests that a boy alive now can expect to live to 87. It also suggests that, if current trends continue, in the near future men will have the same life expectancy as women.

Explaining these findings, professor Leslie Mayhew of City University, London, said: “There has been a huge decline in the numbers working in heavy industry, far fewer males smoke than before and there is much better treatment for heart disease, which tends to affect more males than females,”
In other words, the end of traditional male jobs might actually be doing us some good.
Of course, our supposed social and economic irrelevance seems more of a worry, but even here there are signs that men are adapting to their changed circumstances. In some academic areas, boys are beginning to close the gap again with girls at school and college, and unfair though it is, men still earn, on average, 15% more than women in the UK.

On top of that, British psychologist Dr Mark McCormack believes men - and young men especially - are adapting psychologically, too. They’re forming more “emotionally rich” friendships and “embracing their softer sides”, he says.
So is it the end of men? In five million years, perhaps. But for now, weaker chromosomes or not, it seems unlikely. Many men face grave challenges in the new social and economic order, but slowly, steadily and without fuss (in a very manly way, you might say), men may be starting to bounce back.

Happy man (© Image Source-Getty Images)