Category Archives: Oman in the News

BBC World Service – “Accepting the Other” – Faith in Oman (Episode 1 of 2)

Image                                                         The podcast (radio) series from BBC titled “Heart and Soul” “explores the role of faith, spirituality and religious practice in the lives of people around the world.

In the last episode, they discussed religious tolerance in Oman which “puts the country in sharp contrast to its neighbour Saudi Arabia, where the public practise of any religion other than Islam is banned.”

Listen to the 1st episode of this 2 part look at Oman.  It is 29 minutes long.

Here are some of the parts which I found fascinating:

  • Douglas Leonard is a protestant minister from the Reformed Church in America. He runs the Al Mana Center for Interfaith Understanding in Muscat.” “We have every kind of Christian church imaginable that worships here throughout the course of the week; so about 9 different Orthodox congregations, the Catholic Church and about 60 different Protestant congregations worship here throughout the course of the week. We’re hearing hymns coming out of the Orthodox church to our right, and to our left we can hear the preaching of I believe a Filipino congregation, so yeah, we can hear the sounds of ecumenism all around us.”
  • In Nizwa (at 13:10): “We are in front of an old building, built of mud. Can you tell us what it is?” Doug Leonard: “Yeah, this is a traditional Ibāḍī mosque and ibadi mosques were constructed in a very simple way, very austere. So you can see that this is just a simple square structure. Now this mosque is thought to be one of the oldest mosques in all of Oman. It’s Called “The Mosque of the Kibotane” because there are 2 directions of prayer; there is the direction of prayer towards Mecca, but this mosque is so old that originally when this was created as a mosque, the direction of prayer was Jerusalem. Currently, this building is dated at about 1500, so it’s a little over 500 years old. So this is not the original building, but it’s located on a footprint on a foundation that was the original Kibotane, the original, oldest mosque. And archaeologists also think this was a temple before Islam, that it was probably a temple both dedicated to the worship of many gods.” “I could still see a loudspeaker at the top. Do people still pray in this mosque?” “Yeah, people still pray in this mosque and actually, traditional ibadi mosques, instead of a minaret, the imam would just go on top of the roof and call with his voice to the people in the community.”
  • The Assistant Grand Mufti, Kahlan al-Kharusi: Tolerance and coexistence are not tactics Oman is playing for particular…political gains or because of particular pressure. They are principles that they believe in. They believe that their own existence is actually based on these principles and values. That’s why they do insist on being tolerant to believers of other faiths.”
  • -(At 19:40) “This Protestant church (my church!) in Muscat has a multi-national congregation of hundreds from all five continents and again, all of them are expatriates as Oman has virtually no indigenous Christians.” (The reporter was very wise to use the word “virtually” because there are in fact Omani Christians.) “Like the other churches here, this church sits on a plot of land donated by the Sultan, and here, too, the basic mood is one of genuine enthusiasm for the freedom and support Christians enjoy in Oman, but it was here that I also heard some mild discontent…”
  • One of the restrictions is proselytization; so in other words you cannot try and convert another person to one’s own religion.” Douglas Leonard, “Interestingly, that prohibition is equal for Christians as it is for Muslims and the reason is Oman wants to be very careful and responsible in protecting against religious division and strife and what they realize is that if a person aggresively starts to go out trying to convert someone else to their religion, it’s going to cause religion and strife. It’s going to cause a problem.” (I strongly disagree here. Omanis often prostelize and they would never be discouraged from doing so. I have received many pamphlets and books from Omanis trying to get me to convert. This prohibition is not equal for Christians as it is for Muslims at all!)
  • “But what about what many western observers see as the ultimate test of religious freedom in the Muslim world? Apostasy, or abandoning Islam in favor of another faith or no faith at all. I put the question to Ahmed al Mohani from the legal firm, Seslaw. I cannot remember seeing the penal code a crime defined as apostasy. The law is not entirely based on sharia. Law sharia forms a basis of legislation but we have other codes like the penal code, the commercial code, the banking code, that are not entirely in line with sharia, but what I know, that apostasy, if it happens as an individual affair, between you and God, it’s up to you. But the moment you turn that individual affair into a campaign, to ask people to leave their faith, particularly Islam, then you will be accused of causing public disorder, and that is a punishable crime.” “Any individual who takes such a decision is not obliged to declare this publicly.” The Assistant Grand Mufti, Kahlan al-Kharusi: “When it becomes public, or it becomes associated with insulting other sacred religious symbols, then, yes, in this case it is going to be taken to court.”
  • “If a Muslim, an Omani Muslim, decides to embrace Christianity instead, and decides to go to church instead of the mosque on a Friday, is that considered a private matter or a public declaration? “Yes, it is a public declaration although it is not associated with insulting his own previous religion, so it is considered in this case apostasy and it is dealt with through the judiciary. Such an answer is unlikely to satisfy campaigners for religious freedom abroad but no cases of apostasy have been reported in Oman in recent years.”

National Geographic Video on Oman

Extreme Sailing Series – Muscat, Oman – March 18-21

ImageMy apologies for not posting this before.  Extreme Sailing is taking place right now at Al Mouj Golf Course at the Wave in Muscat, Oman! I was out there this morning and it’s truly a gorgeous day to be outside watching the boats and enjoying all the fun activities taking place like camel riding, football competitions and more…in addition to watching expert sailors from around the globe compete for top prize!  You might want to consider going out there tomorrow with the family.  The Extreme Sailing series started Wednesday but there are still 2 days left.  Here is the schedule for the last 2 days of the sailing series, today and tomorrow:                                                                                    Image             I put this up to focus on “on the water entertainment“.  Please ignore the Extreme Club column as this was originally intended for invited members of the media.  I was invited to be on one of the sailing boats during one of the actual races but I did it last year so I declined the offer to allow others the opportunity to enjoy such a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime event.  Here’s the post where I included video I took during the actual race last year!ImageIf you haven’t been to Al Mouj Golf Course, there’s no better opportunity than during the exciting extreme sailing series!  It’s on November 18th street on the right hand side of the highway a kilometre or 2 just before the main Wave entrance.  Just keep your eyes out for the excellent signage in place.ImageMy buddy, Geoff, scouting out a good spot for the Red Bull team photoshoot.  My main purpose for being out at Al Mouj this morning was helping Geoff with the equipment and lighting.  The last time I was out there was when they was only a 9-hole course.  They are now a full 18-hole course and it is gorgeous!ImageFrom the media invitation, “With vessels reaching top speeds in narrow stadium courses the Extreme Sailing Series has become a benchmark in the sailing world. Oman features a great sea-faring tradition and has once again been chosen to host the sailing elite including Austrian double Olympic champions Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher who are part of the Red Bull Extreme Sailing team.  We are very pleased to welcome all Media for the Extreme Sailing Series, Oman 2014 (19-22 March). We look forward to seeing you as they battle it out in the regatta.”  Here’s a great video including yesterday’s highlights: Image                                 RACING SCHEDULE 2014

Act 1: ASIA (Singapore) February 20-23
Act 2: OMAN (Muscat) March 19-22 
Act 3: CHINA (Qingdao) May 1-4
Act 4: RUSSIA (Saint Petersburg) June 26-29
Act 5: UK (Cardiff) August 22-25
Act 6: TURKEY (Istanbul) September 11-14
Act 7: TBC (Mediterranean) October 2-5
Act 8: AUSTRALIA (Sydney) December 11-14

If I did it right, this should give you live coverage of the race going on right now:ImageI love seeing these smaller sailboats out on the water.ImageImageImage Where the “grass canopy” meets the rocks.  Interesting…ImageCamel riding – Fun for the whole family!ImageImageImageSo what are you waiting for? Head on down to Al Mouj now while the action is on! A big thanks once again to Stacey Ross, Red Bull Communications Specialist, who always does her best to bring fine entertainment to the residents of Oman!

153 Year Old Man Dies in Oman?! (Example of Poor Journalism in Oman)

Image                                                         Check out this short “news article” from Feb. 27th in which Oman Observer claims that a 153 year old man from Shinas, Oman died.  There is absolutely no indication of how his age was determined, just a short quote from one of his 300 grandchildren.  Is that picture supposed to be of when he was living or after he passed away?  If the man was that old, why would they wait until his death to claim that he was 153 years old?! Why have we heard nothing about such a person until now?  This story is SO fishy!  I’ve also heard that the Arabic version of the story claims that the man was 135, not 153!  (So now a fishy story + a dyslexic writer?!)

Misao Okawa from Japan (born March 5 1898) is currently the oldest living person in the world whose age can be verified. Don’t you think Oman Observer should have a done a little more reporting on such a story if we are we to believe that a man of 153 years of age (born in 1861?!) recently passed away rather than just explain it away with “well…you know, he used to eat fresh food particularly locally-made margarine and honey, dates and fish.” Okay! That should be enough for us then!

100X100 Art for Cancer Charity

Image One more week to see the 100X100 art exhibition at Bait Al Zubair (in Gallery Sarah) and consider contributing to cancer charity in Oman.ibrahim from facebook pageIbrahim Gailani is the main force behind this noble cause.  I was trying to come up with the right words to explain the significance of this exhibition when I suddenly came across this wonderful interview by Lakshmi Kothaneth who is a broadcast journalist at Radio Sultanate of Oman – 90.4 FM:

  • 100 pieces of art
  • 100 OMR each (around $250 US)
  • 100% for Cancer Charity

As Ibrahim explained, “They use it for all the activities they do on awareness, on spreading education about cancer and for the initiative of Dar al Hanan which is the home for families whose children are going through cancer treatment.”

This is the 2nd year of 100X100. Here is a great video from last year’s event that was put together by Wadah Musafir:

I like how Lakshmi ends the interview in the 1st video which is an appropriate ending for this blogpost: “And this is where we’re going to leave you because you have to come and visit the exhibition at Bait al Zubair and find the story that will truly touch your soul and maybe even make a difference, maybe by taking one painting at least to your own home.”

(They sold 30 pieces on opening night, Feb. 4th!)