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Monday, February 20, 2006


Having arrived back for well over 10 days, everything about Munich from public transport efficiency to the cold, frosty weather, feels like it's all a dream.

So basically, it leaves me with very little to write!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Prodigal Son

For now, my adventures in Munich are on hold.

Against the odds of dozing off on my way to the airport or the afternoon blizzard, which was spectacular but dangerous for air traffic control, I returned back home late this early morning.

To my utter surprise, when rushing out of the coach to Stratford Underground station, I saw my former Business Professor, a German originally from Berlin standing at the edge of the platform - one of the fewest people around with a Discman instead a white mp3 player! After the customary handshake, it did alert my tired senses that commuters found it unusual to see an Asian guy speaking in German inside the carriages.

I haven’t been commentating too much about Bavaria only because the international frenzy about those caricatures are still on the minds of many. The papers are just full of it and they somehow manage to develop new angles on the same theme – This week’s Die Stern have made it a cover story and the Independent are focusing how a caricature – drawn in September, is stirring up hatred in February 2006.

The January month was certainly a good one - we managed to touch the surface on German culture, realised that there are plenty of nice and friendly people around and we tasted a sample of German football.

Garmisch, small Bavarian towns, the capital city and neighbouring international cities still a waits.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

When East and West collide.

Imagine yourself returning to secondary school. Inside the chemistry lab, a pupil is on the verge to combine two chemicals together but the teacher sees this, runs across the room and grabs him from the shoulder. She says: No, you don't do that, you will cause an explosion. But because the pupil thinks highly of himself he thinks: Sod it, I'm gonna do it anyway, nothing is gonna happen!

What does happen though?

The lab is on fire, flames spreading everywhere and the entire school building is evacuated. Well-done school pupil. 'You git'.

It was exactly this sort of thinking that the journalist of the Danish newspaper had wanted to achieve; to know what the reaction may cause among Danish Muslims in Denmark.

' Well, Danish journalist with a pint of Carlsberg, (or maybe a few empty glasses on his news desk) you've managed to strike a nerve. A nerve of some billion people worldwide'.

I blog and I really enjoy it but I am not a student of journalism neither politics but as far as I can remember, cartoons found in newspapers usually arouse a satirical laugh or chuckle. But when I saw these images in the German newspaper, Die Welt; I did not find them amusing at all but rather insulting. If I did, I would not be online writing this entry and the world would not be in questioning what is right or wrong.

The Times summed up the situation very nicely and I quote: “The Times would, for example, have reservations about printing a cartoon of Christ in a Nazi uniform sketched because sympathisers of Hitler had conducted awful crimes in the name of Christianity.”

I think The Times is holding the line between freedom of expression and stirring racial hatred. They hesitate to publish such images.

I just wonder how the West would respond if the above quotation were true. EU ministers would be staying up all night, their doors locked, laptops open, instant messaging away to colleagues of parliament, as well as to other European counterparts, expressing their dismay with emoticons. As soon as a few hours have passed, the West would express their bitterness and anger - the world audience watching with interest.

It makes perfect sense to suggest that if these caricatures reach the Islamic world, where countries like Palestine, Iraq or North Pakistan are unstable as well as irrational, then it is not surprising to expect an irrational and fanatical response.

I condemn the burning of the Danish flag and an attack on the Danish embassy but I do sympathise, especially if their role models like mothers, fathers, teachers, doctors, brothers or aunties etc have either been shot by the enemy, missing or attacked by the wrath of Mother Nature. If victims have survived this tragedy, in need for a new role model, as well as mental and physical rebuilding, they will turn to their faith of Islam which would embrace them as well as provide hope and determination. Suddenly to their complete horror, they see cartoon images of ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as a terrorist or suicide bomber.

Have everyone forgotten the victims of the Tsunami? They too are Muslims and it is wise to assume that their self-confidence is probably shattered, courtesy by the Danish newspaper.

If we all take a crash-course in learning to adapt to an environment without economic growth, destroyed homes or living in tents in minus temperatures, I wonder, if we would react the same way?

But in this matter of controversy, the West needs the East and vice versa.

The first steps of rebuilding that trust have already taken place. The Newspaper responsible for this nastiness, has made a sincere and through apology in English as well as Arabic.

The majority of rational, respected and affluent Muslims should accept this apology and move on.

For me, the feud is over.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Muenchen - The review.

It was exactly the way the Spiegel (weekly German political magazine) wrote it: A group of American athletes returning from the Bierstube (ale house) and saw another group of so called "athletes", who needed help in climbing over the fence.

It turned out that they were never athletes in the first place at all but terrorists.

The rest tells its story. They called themselves "Black September". A horrible way of fighting a believing cause.

The movie then takes the perspective of showing the response by the Israeli Government; tactically blasting the crap out of 6 of the 11 terrorists involved. In 2006, there is still 1 out of the 11 terrorists still alive today; hiding in Africa, claims Wikipedia.

Despite the trendy 1970s street-fashion, it was the fewest qualities that I found interesting. The rest was... confusing, pointless and endless cunning ways of blowing up the enemy. Both the Arabs and Israelis were distasteful as each other. Maybe that was the point of the movie?

They should have never called the movie "Muenchen" in the first place. Initially I was hoping to identify street names or locations Ah, I've been there.... and down there. But no, not at all.

This movie did teach me something though. Avner, our protagonist realised that all this killing were just going to bring replacements who will become bigger, meaner and deadlier and despite defending his beloved country, he chose to live somewhere else. For him, home was not Israel, but his family - his beautiful wife and his cute little daughter.

The movie is also 3 hours long, which is totally unnecessary. And it's not that controversial, as some people have deemed it to be. Brave attempt by the director though. If anyone could pull it off, it would of been Steven Spielberg, but if you've been living on the planet Mars for the last 60 years, which I believe you haven’t, it's nothing that you already did not know.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wanted dead or alive.

I strongly believe that's these cute, adorable, tiny, little Kinder Schoko-Bons should come with a health warning. I'm serious. Somehow I've managed to eat not one or two, but the entire packet which consisted of about twenty-five today.

Indeed, Germany is very much renowned for it's chocolates.

Tomorrow morning I have to run it off at the Englischer Garten. Lucky, lucky me.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Week in Review...

As always, the weeks in Munich just zoom past me, like a car speeding 100mph on a Pedestrian road. Where do I begin? What do I comment on? Shall I be personal?

I don't know!

Well, let's begin with the positive and I before I write this segment I'm sorry to the female audience having to read so much about football. Anyway... Liverpool won! They beat a team so insignificant in England that it is not even necessary to name who they are. (Sorry Portsmouth)

My week encompasses on an intensifying theme, which I find myself strangely defending: Islamophobia in continental Europe. I've learnt that across these shores of Europe away from the British Isles lies a gradual unrest of people's opinions in countries like France, Holland or Denmark. It is understood that certain themes of inequality in France among French born Musllims, the freedom of expression in Denmark and the generalisations of the Islamic faith in Holland are all taken in as negative; possibly from reports by the Western Media or by one's personal narration.

However while continental Europe are "confused" about the spirituality of Islam and also its relation to nationalism, I turned to BBC Question Time recorded on 19th January on the ideology of "British Day". Salma Yaqoob who was invited onto the QT Panel, which featured other highly respected and well-regarded politicians, was asked this very question. Her reply:

"I was born here, I love being British; there is no place where I want to be, my children are born here, my parents live next door but aren't born here, but I am no less British for that... My suggestion for British Day would be the 15th June, that’s the day when Magna Carta was actually sealed, that gave the whole world including Britain, a document which guaranteed freedom and human rights and finally our contribution to the world and let's uphold that"
BBC Question Time.

In a way, I was hoping the incompetent people at CNN who hosted "Identity Crisis" on the very theme of Islamic minorities in Europe, would have at least some sort of decency to stage an unbiased view. Oh, well....

Reiterating my earlier posts on a great idea to read a novel based on the very theme of Munich, the novel 'Straight into Darkness' is unfolding into an epic. I recollect the current chapter I'm reading which reveals the main character called Berg, Inspector of the homicide department of the Police squaring off with the NSDAP leader. The stupid man's view on Jewish people and his choice of lexis are erratic. Screaming, spitting, shouting away in his 'simplistic' language to the German working class people in the Kellnerhaus. 'What a plonker' I thought. I'm so disgusted by his expired views that I won't write his name on my blog but nonetheless it's a riveting read!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

When the five of us decided to watch 22 men kick a ball inside a freezer.

Sky television broadcasted a one-hour documentary on Liverpool's Champions League triumph over AC Milan in Istanbul last May. As a Liverpool supporter, it was clearly one of the most outrageous and heart-thumping matches, I think, I have ever seen. I can imagine drinks being spilled all over the floors in pubs for when fans would spontaneously jump and scream of joy or big beer-belly, bold men crying like babies. But also the utter horror of AC Milan’s supporters, watching their team shatter a three goal lead at half time.

I do not want to spend too much blog-time to go on and on about that evening which sent one million Liverpudlians to the streets of Liverpool, watching, saluting and cheering their heros at the team's parade. I can even recall a guy calling up on BBC Radio 5 Live, who was drained from all emotions of the game - screaming, crying, laughing until he finally revealed that he wasn’t even a Liverpool fan, let alone a supporter of football. But I envy those fans that saw the final and experienced a six-goal thriller up until extra-time in Istanbul.

It was exactly thouse thoughts that occurred to me when I stepped inside that awesomely-weird looking Allianz arena with Dog, Snake and Reddragon and OBVIOUSLY Big Monkey to watch Bayern Munich take on Mainz. That game had 5 goals to boast about.

Everything about the evening was supreme. It didn’t take long to organise amongst the five of us and despite being squeezed into a tin of sardines on the U-bahn, it was still an experience that we enjoyed and made the most out of.

However when watching the game from ours seats for over 2 hours, I was thinking of what a packet of frozen peas felt like in the freezer. Sitting down at minus sixteen in the stadium, we all felt like a packet of frozen peas.