Thursday 24 February 2011

Forgive me Iphone for I have sined...

New age religion: The theological bodies are so desperate for disciples that they are prepared to make concessions and even embrace the new digital social medias to grab the young and the lapsed faithful back into the bosom of the church.

Part of the new social digital media the Catholic church has embraced is “Confession” a new Iphone application, a Roman Catholic App to be precise where in an attempt to facilitate faith practices for the "Hip" faithful or bring back the lapsed Catholics, this new application has been thought out and sanctioned by the US Catholic church, it allows Catholics to confess their sins via touchscreen and repent their sins.

The Vatican is apparently not impressed by this new age technology to replace a physical meeting with a priest by a digital confession and is warning disciples that the confessions will not count.
The Pope draws the line at a Facebook page and YouTube channel.

I am revendicating an Islamic counterpart, I thought Islam hit a new age by embracing technology in the way we pay our zakat (Alms) online and Sadaka (Charity).

Can technology be used to practice faith or worship?

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Algerians in UK Government

Very impressed to find out that on the 20th May 2010 (I am a bit late on the news side), Ms. Mouna Hamitouche was appointed the new Mayor for the Islington borough.  She is therefore the very first Arab female mayor in the UK and first Algerian at that too.

I was so glad to also read that she was the founder of the Algerian British connection (ABC) charity.

I wish I could work for a charity, I researched this ABC association many times and longed to volunteer with them but my blog (amongst other things) keeps me busy

Any Algerian out there involved with a charity or an NGO?

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Where are you from?

Anywhere in the world you go, one of the first ice-breaking questions you're asked upon meeting someone is "where are you from?" well in the case of a lot of Algerian it’s the Ice-maker not the ice-breaker.

Algerians are a VERY proud nation (a little too proud if you ask me) and are very proud of being Algerian but due to recent events, social unrest, tainted picture of terrorist related activities and islamophobia that is spreading like the plague, some Algerians are more reticent about admitting their nationality openly or without hesitation and a close study of the reaction of the interlocutor.

Apart from the tainted image we Algerians have been left to deal with after the black decade of terrorism and civil unrest we lived through and have been renowned for, in London I noticed there are other reasons for this, the large number of Algerian over-stayers or illegally residing in the UK are shy about presenting their Nationality as and when asked.
How many times I found myself dancing Salsa with an Algerian (How did I know he is Algerian? its like asking if the sky is blue) who when I return the Nationality question to him, says he’s from Portugal and that his name is Maurice only to confess he’s actually Algerian when I say casually “me? I am Algerian” so Maurice do you speak Portuguese? No? OH really well I never….

At least lie about a Nationality you have some knoweldge of, like maybe the geographical location or a few words to save your life. 
Maurice: Si si Grazie Senorita
Me: Maurice, thats Italian...

Question: Why does Maurice, Tony, Pascal (swapping their Arabic names for European ones) and co ask people where they are from, if they can’t handle the question being returned to them.

I am so bored with this question, I am so over it in fact we need a new ice-breaker and no “what’s your name” wont do…we need to come up with something new.

Sitting at a restaurant once, my friend asked our waitress where she was from, whilst I was rolling my eyes at the question, the waitress sheepishly says “I am polish, sorry”

This shocked me to my core…people are now apologising for being here, for being born? Of course I felt so bad; I was extra nice to her and tipped her like Charles Bronson would.

Certain Nationalities have a bad reputation or are usually misrepresented, thank you to the BBC and The Evening Standard for convincing the very naïve UK audiences that we (foreigners) are here to take their jobs, their men and their money.

I will always remember the puzzled looks I get when I freely and casually drop the bomb that is my Nationality on people, some give me sad looks, some give me half smiles and some are so daunted by the revelation they start stuttering silly questions like, so what language do you speak there? I dutifully inform them that we speak Chinese and that we are located near Guantanamo Bay as it’s very convenient for us to visit our relatives. Do you practice Islam there? No we practice Islam anywhere. YOU?

I will continue actively discouraging people from asking this question and will from here on ignore it unless I am feeling generous or am at the Air Algerie boarding gate where words are unnecessary,
This question should be considered rude and categorised with the likes of how old are you and what size are your trousers! Hello????

Monday 21 February 2011

Social Climbing

I have been inspired recently to write this after having met a couple of my friends, whom I had always known to be MAJOR social climbers aka KAZABEEN (1)
Not here to judge really but when this social behaviour is at my expense since I may be the subject of the social climb or considered a barrier that has to be used (to climb) or pushed aside then something has to be said.
We have all seen, lived or experienced this but the fact is we dont even pay it much attention because it is something we grew up with and has become a natural occurence like watching the duspin men collect the rubish you see it but you dont pay it a second thought or analyse it. Well this is about to change, I am hoping that once you have read this you will start making observations in your surrounding groups and acknowledge this social phenomenon.

We’re all subjected to different group’s dynamics or hierarchy in any society, town, city or village, there is always someone rich, someone average and someone poor.

Some groups have a “flat” hierarchy and people are treated as equals or at least chose to treat their peers equally, whereas a number of groups have a more perpendicular hierarchy, where you’ll find members of different social classes and of course always always the social climbers forever striving to attain a higher personal status or the illusion of higher social status by faking his way up the social ladder.

In Algeria social climbing is achieved through the same channels as anywhere else in the world, however being referred to as la ChiChi (2) aka posh or rich is a key. Let’s analyse this…

...How does social climbing work…

Identifying the Target

This is the step where the Social climber identifies his/her target based on certain criteria such as money, fame, high recognition and social prominence, business relations, family connections and anything that puts this target in the high social cast that allows access, knowledge and can be identified as someone who would benefit the social climber in any way.
In Algeria the criteria for being considered la Chichi is completely unrealistic, anybody who speaks French and doesn’t practice Islam (if you are a practicing Catholic you'd still be regarded as superior) could be considered la Chichi…harsh? Ok Let me start again…if your father is a government official (Minister, General, Colonel, director of some sort etc...) if you have money, land and reside in a villa, if you express yourself well and often in French instead of Arabic or Berber, if your mother is not illiterate (she drives a car or teaches...etc) and doesn’t wear the Hidjab, if you drink alcohol or aren’t adverse to it, travel domestically or internationally(my fingers will bleed should I choose to continue typing this list) then consider yourself CLIMBED.


Upon identifying the target, the social climber then proceeds to establishing contact which isn’t easy as the high social cast can be unapproachable. This is where the grooming comes in. By practicing the many rituals of grooming, compliments, gifts, favours (offered not requested) the peacock spreads his plumage as it were and lets you approach and admire.

Once the peacock opens up its tail, more attention and grooming is expected, the behaviour of the target changes from accepting attention to demanding it and shunning anyone who doesn’t offer it. Whereas perhaps this very same person was more humble and accepting of other people from lower social classes, they become more scrutinising and impenetrable; the grooming effort gets more intensive, subsequently when feeling rejected the protagonists feel pressure and proceed to over-grooming just to prove worthy, thus becoming  social climbers themselves.

Maintaining proximity

Rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, connected people, people with money, people in power, government officials and Industrialist, Business men, Highly educated people and of course name dropping and using the right lingo and generally using obsequious behaviour help establish the social climber as a connected person who is in the know and seen as one of the rich & famous.

This obsequious treatment extends to the offspring as well, sons & daughters of hotel tycoons or a government personality (president, minister…etc), TV stars and artists.

A lot of Algerians practice this by associating themselves with la “Jet-set”(3), so much energy is spent on looking the part, be seen with the right people, several methods are employed such as forming romantic relations or dating (dating up or marrying up), offering gifts, free dinners, singing praises and generally kissing ass, it could also be a work relation where the “social climber” renders services to the “rich & famous” or by working as an assistant or be their run around person, driver etc...

So proximity to the “rich & famous” opens opportunities for the social climber or gives them access to “Club des Pin” (4), to be seen with important people, make use of their all-access status, it could be to clubs or to discounts, making use of their holiday homes, yachts and simply popularity, enjoy being whisked away to exotic destination as their assistant etc, advantages can of course extend to the children, where pushy parents can practice social climbing to widen their children’s opportunities, get them into the right schools and exclusive sporting clubs.


Whilst aiming high and only looking up, the social climber will inevitably need leverage and that is sadly often other members of the social group that are less affluent or people he/she perceives as his peers. Rumour spreading, limelight hogging, lying, and sabotaging anyone perceived as a rival or competitor to the rich & famous’s affections.

This activity the social climber engages in can be done consciously or unconsciously, but its consequences are the same, pushing him/her up the social ladder, getting isolated from friends of equal social standing or even higher social standing but are not high enough for him/her to envy or desire so they end up being pushed aside, damage their reputation or relationships with the higher cast of the society.

In Algeria, the sabotaging is rife, the rumour spreading and gossip are a national sport and elbowing “competitors” is a just the way we walk, so social climbing in Algeria is a hobby, people are obsessed with this unattainable high social cast and envy is a terrible thing so if you can't beat them do like them, and so they do and believe they are like them…or at least pretend they are.

NB - Please note this does not only apply to Algerians but it’s a universal social reality
(1) Kiss ass, brown nose-rs
(2) Anyone with a high living standard (lifestyle that includes hobbies) and has money
(3) What Jet-set???? Perleaaaaase
(4) Restricted access government area – Our own Area 51 but with beaches, babes and high concentration of la Chichi

Monday 14 February 2011

Bleddard vs. Émigré

Some call them les émigrés, we respectfully call them les Algeriens de France (or Belgium...etc), they call us les Bleddards derived from Le bled (1), a derogatory term which has a connotation of the under-developed, illiterate man.

Back in the 1980's, France-born Algerians came in heaps as they flood through our ports in their estate cars and their "Sacs de Marseille" to see their cousins and visit their parent’s villages, go to the beaches and spend their time playing the white man in Africa at our expense! with their Tati (2) wardrobes and their condescending behaviour towards the local Algerians, sporting their favourite LeCoq sportif tracksuits and bringing their leftovers to their "needy" cousins who would welcome them with open arms and accept gifts graciously not mainly because they need them but also because anything coming from FRANSSA is obviously superior (Colon complex etc).
Thought: Algeria circa 1980s reminds me of Economical-embargoed Cuba circa now.

Having grown up getting visits from our cousins who resided in the 50th Algerian province “Marseille” they  visit us on summer holidays and we visit them during winter holidays. We were required to bring date, couscous and they would bring the items Algeria didn’t have but craved mainly fashion and bananas! Oh les bananes weshbik!

Now that Algeria has opened up to the international scene (and bananas are available) and our generation has grown up, we realise our naivety and childish obliviousness to our cousins’ condescendence and false superiority which has now transformed into an inferiority complex...

Algerians of post-independence Algeria grew up in their own land, enjoyed free education and suffered no discrimination or bigotry from any oppressor like the France-born Algerians did whilst growing up in France, where they were never welcomed and were in fact treated like 2nd class citizens, always made to feel unwelcome and never really at home regardless of the length of their presence or the fact they were born there.

This same treatment was mirrored in Algeria, the feeling of not being at home when they visit their parents' homeland and however much they might feel Algerian at heart, they can’t help but be part French and therefore different to us or at least they are made to feel it from the same Algerians they used to play White colon in Africa with. Revenge or inevitable consequence?

Now in 2011, living in the UK, we meet theses same Émigrés who used to look down on us, well tried to anyway, being in the UK which is a neutral ground for the French, les Émigrés and the Algerians, we are all the same, UK rules apply to all of us although to a different degree in certain areas like border access and passport control but that is not the main concern of this blog. I spoke to a number of Émigrés and they all confess to feeling at ease here in the UK where they can belong or just be themselves, they can choose to be French, Algerian or both whenever it suited them.

Though, I noticed their behaviour towards the Algerians has changed and an inferiority complex seem to have developed as suspected, they feel that the Algerians enjoyed a better life and were/are able to make a good life for themselves here or anywhere they may go, great adaptability and integration into any society whereas they have a harder time integrating when they grew up in a segregated group, growing up as 2nd generation Émigrés, born in poor families with predominantly illiterate parents who came to work the factories in France and re-build Paris after the World War II not able to offer many prospects for their children especially in a racially prejudiced society like France where they were not encouraged to integrate and were labelled “Les Musulmans, Les Arabes” which has become almost synonymous with under-developed, unemployable and in some cases dangerous.

Why do they (les émigrés) treat Algerians with such despise and arrogance?

As a sweeping generalisation and my humble social analysis and view, it is because in their own opinion or in the opinion of the average émigré (Miloud, Othmane, Zoubir and Faroudja): They lived in France, they are European and should therefore systematically be our superior especially since we were their African cousins they used to give their leftovers to and come to take us to the beach with them and buy us Ice-dream, because they can speak French better than us, which isn’t necessarily true and absolutely doubtful in some cases and because despite all their “advantages” we Algerians still come out on top with better jobs, better development prospects, better travelling opportunities, better family values, better traditions or use of AND better English accent.
Le bonjour chez vous Mouloud, Zoubir, Othman et Faroudja (3) and no offence!
(1) Le bled: Country, used in Algeria to reffer to the ancestral village or origin
(2) Tati: French couterpart of Primark
(3) Common Algerian names - Fictional in this blog of course!

Tuesday 8 February 2011

F*cking Country

Which one? Algeria or England? euuu Algeria do you even need ask!

Why? hmmm why? Let's see...because since 1962 we've had about 10 years of good life and abundant food, jobs and total security, because until now with all the economical reforms that Bouteflika has undertaken we are still suffering HUGE inflation, unrealistic property prices and unemployment has reached a staggering 30% (slight exaggeration on my part perhaps) and insufficient infrastructure and never ending state of emergency that is causing havoc in the capital including constant traffic and air pollution.

And then you have the Algerianism which is a way of being and living and talking only Algerians are capable of...
- People's constant stares, why are people looking at me? do I look different? probably not and even if you didn't they would still rape you with their stares and excessive curiosity, at this point I want to teare at my hair and scream STOP FUCKING STARING YOU WEIRDOE but instead I take out my phone and start typing an angry whinge to my English mate who is married to an Algerian and compare notes with her...she gets it!

- You are invited to a wedding! who? someone’s lost uncle's daughter is marrying a pilot! oooohh a pilot weshbik! Or perhaps he’s her cousin and nobody wants to admit it.

You get dragged to the wedding party, music blaring from a DJ who doesnt know where to look there's so many half naked girls around, you try to talk to the guests at your table and you end up just nodding and smiling or shouting to make yourself heard "I cant hear you and no I DO NOT want to bloody dance" my mother giving me evils that are supposed to order me to smile and that spell "behave you're embarrassing me", the bride dressed in multicoloured traditional extravaganzas, her hair fashioned in a way only the angels or a pair of scissors could entangle, giltter all over her skin, big black smoky eye make-up a la Libanaise apparently, right so you weren't going for the Goth look? Well you look lovely..Mabrook(1).

Bride and everybody else: Lakouba lik inchallah(2)
Me: Merci
Everybody: well say Inchallah
Me: I said it in my fuck off.

Multicoloured cakes are served, they are all made from the same pastry and filling, almonds scented with rosewater, covered with different coloured sugar coating, served with mint tea that is so sweet it could induce instant coma or some luke warm كَوْكا كَوْلا or Coka.
Whilst we eat, the bride struts around the hall showing off her "beautiful" gowns, people stare with half smiles and some break into deafening ululations, a feel of hypocrisy fills the space, I feel so awkward when she comes near my table so I start to smile beamingly in an attempt at expressing "wallah am not jealous" hoping not to be categorized with the other group of young girls dying to be married and are apparently giving her the evil eye. I like the Carakou and le Caftan I thought, leaving the party.

- Sitting in a Salon de Thè in Algiers as they do...Iiiih we have Oil and it doesn’t show, Morroco is better, Tunisa is amazing and we have a LOT of money but a lot more vultures, thiefs...Heard it all before!
Where are you spending the NYE? Me: Sahara, bourgeois mate: Paris and another is talking about I see....

Other table: have you seen that girl? They're talking about me I think...she is from elhih (abroad) clearly I don’t belong because my hair isn’t straightened to rival that of the Chinese, I am not wearing 3 layers of makeup or even 1 and I go out in flipflops, but the girl with them says: what? You call that style? She can at least make an effort with footware and maybe loose some hmmmmm

- At the airport, all the people on the queue for British Airways are eying each other, trying to guess each others story, that one is going on holiday, another is going for business, another is trying too hard which means local Algerian trying to look "HIP" to be able to pass immigration which means he's never going back, others are hiding their passports, mine is red, his is green! Ahh mercy!

Whilst still at the airport, we are all still Algerian staring but discreetly, doing "El Watan" crosswords, once we get on the plane we all become British, all pick up "The times" or for some its "The Sun", polite to one another and only address each other in English and smiling to your neighbour is a NO NO. Once in Heathrow, no eye contact, all on their mobiles and promptly ignoring each other.

The pilot announced the weather, unboundedly lousy, cold and rainy upon which time I hear myself say: Fucking country...which one Algeria or England! This time its England; back home, it's sunny, couscous is abundant and all our cakes are almond filled (tough luck to the allergic), The Sea is blue albeit polluted, you can eat grilled sardines and go your own peril.

We're doomed I tell ya!
(1) - Congratulations
(2) - Your turn next...

Wednesday 2 February 2011

One Two Three...Viva l'Algerie

Women don’t usually hold strong views about football, unless its a big tournament, All Algerian women follow football when Algeria is involved in some championship or tournament so I guess that's a rare occasion because lets face it folks, we never qualify for anything!

We qualified for the world cup last year and we thought hurrah Algerian football is going to put Algeria back on the map, well that didn’t last beyond 3 games and it put Algeria back on the map but for the wrong reasons, yes yes I hear you and all those Football critics or analysts or what ever the term to describe them is say we played good ball, we have a young team that needs more games together to be ready to face world class teams such as England etc...But the world attention shifted from our football "skills" to the Algerian masses getting on planes and conquering Africa to support their team, our patriotism and nationalism took over all our senses as our hooligans spread across Africa to Egypt, Sudan and then South Africa to follow their players for support but most of all to prove the Egyptians wrong. Egypt our football nemesis although the football related hate has taken over other areas and covered our hate for Egyptian movies, Egyptian food, Egyptology and Sharm El Cheikh, even now amid the violent riots and revolution taking place in Egypt we Algerians support their cause but you wont find one Algerian putting the Egyptian flag on their Facebook profile picture as they did for Tunisia.

Coming back to my initial thought on women and Football, during the very high tension games of the first round of qualifying games of the WC, I realised why women don't watch football, I did some research in fact and found that women just do not have the stamina to watch a football match not because the players are not wearing pink and we don’t get a snog every time a gooal is scored (wish) but because its too much tension, myself, I had a heart rate of someone climbing Kilimanjaro and I was fidgeting until the 1st half was over and knew instantly I couldn’t last through the 2nd half of the game, it simply isn't bearable whereas men keep quite and watch in such adoration and patience...I am sure their anguish is more than they let out!

Add: I forgot to mention what the slogan is about for our non Algerian readers, One, Two, three viva l'algerie or as postcards in Algeria depict it One TOW three Viva l'algerie. is a football chant started by a hooligan in Algeria years ago and it was a street and stadium kind of cheer until it became mainstream and official during the 2010 world cup. I love it :)

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Diversity & Tolerence in Algeria

Growing up in Algeria for the most part, we have not observed a high rate of tolerance and diversity, Diversity as a subject is not taught in schools nor is it a major media-visited subject, in spite of the many incidents where people rose against the power to assert Cultural Diversity and gain acceptance for their cultural identity. Even though Algeria is culturally diverse in its people, dialects, colours, geographic and demographics, this diversity remains very much contained and to a certain extent acknowledged but not celebrated.

Due to Algeria’s strategic position within the Mediterranean basin and the strong movement of invaders, travellers and slavery throughout history, our nation is a melting pot of Mediterranean races, colours and features from Turks, Romans, and Arabs to Berbers, our Berbers are so diverse they can be Kabyle from the North east to Chawis in the high plateaux or Mozabite in the south east and last but NEVER the least the Touareg in the extreme south. Algeria boasts such diversity in its people that you could feel in a different country every time you reached a town or a city, you'll find a different dialect, different culinary traditions, social dynamics and race, feeling this if you are a foreign or a tourist is perfectly acceptable, but to experience this feeling being an Algerian…well is an issue I beleive.

Cultural Diversity is celebrated in Algeria only through music and even that is a relatively new trend, with Rai music going international it is much more recognised and notable as part of the Algerian heritage, Gnawa(1) music on the other hand is the new marvel in the Algerian music scene, it is widely heard, loved and celebrated by the people and the government alike where dedicated festivals are held every year to celebrate and promote the Gnawa culture.But racial diversity doesn’t seem to have advanced much in Algeria.

A simple case of mixed marriages could be a barometer for the situation and we see a very negligible number of mixed marriages in Algeria. Between black and white is a rarity and between Berbers and Arabs is certain to cause family problems albeit to a less degree nowadays in big cities but in the Berber regions (Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia mostly) non Berber marriages are usually unacceptable.Berbers in general and Kabyles in particular have a clear no-mixing policy aimed at preserving their language and race. Chawis it seems are more tolerant but Mozabite are absolutely non cooperative with non-Mozabite people in terms of social mixing, Mozabite celebrated their uniqueness for centuries through their unique architecture, language, costumes, they even practise faith separately from the rest of the Muslims, their sect or Madhab is Ibadite.Algerians can be very discriminatory amongst themselves, they compare regions and colours, accents and dialects, this comparison is usually prejudiced and used to ridicule and make fun rather than to acknowledge and understand.

As an example, generally in Algiers everyone who is not from Algiers the Capital is an outsider and therefore not accepted, mocked or even ridiculed, this phenomenon is duplicated throughout Algeria and other cities where people from the big cities subjugate people from small towns and villages as outsiders. This phenomenon has been going on for as long as I can remember and I have seen this continued here in the UK between Algerians albeit to a lesser extent. Another prominent example of this intolerance is the blatant and very obvious treatment of the Arabs by the Berbers when on their own turf, should you visit say Bejaia for your summer holiday unless you have very fair skin and could easily pass for a kabyle or spoke Berber you will be sure to be treated badly or refused service in restaurants obviously some places are more welcoming than others and aspire to do business rather than politics. But the feel of being an outsider overwhelms you in these regions and makes you feel very unwelcome.

This segregation between the Arabs and the Berbers is very obvious, Berbers rebel against the government for lack of recognition of the Tamazight (2) language (the Tamazight Language was recognised as an official language in 2003 and is taught in some schools but it doesn’t have equal status as an official language alongside Arabic) and the struggles of the Berber people by rejecting the Arabs, their language, politics and religion. More and more Berbers are converting to Christianity through catholic missionaries who live in the mountains in the Berber region, most of the Berbers do not speak Arabic or with a very heavy accent like a foreigner who is just getting used to the vowels, and so to avoid ridicule or perhaps because it is easier they would communicate in French.

Algerians are a nation that is torn and segregated by their languages, traditions and colours, what should make our nations power and unity is in fact dividing us. Whose fault it is that Algerians lack tolerance? Is it the educational system? How can such deeply nationalistic nation who would unite and swear solemn allegiance to ALGERIA for football cannot unite to help our economy and social standing prosper?
(1) - Gnawa = descendents of black African slaves from the Sahara
(2) - Tamazight: the indigenous languages of North Africa, it belongs to the Afro-Asiatic family and is related to ancient Egyptian and Ethiopian.

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