Tuesday 27 September 2011

Will you be my third wife?

The word itself sounds like a game to me, like Monopoly or Scrabble, a mouthful of a word for a lot of women, Polygamy. 
You might think where does she get this stuff from, but not to sound overdramatic, recently, another misguided attempt at match-making by another so called “friend”(1), who insisted on setting me up with a friend of his who was an interesting party and had all the qualities I was looking for apparently, however he omitted to mention the fact that this Gentleman was actually MARRIED.

A happily married man at that, who also has a girlfriend whom he loves dearly according to him and three children in school, this PERFECT gentleman proposed marriage to me. Initial reaction would have been to stomp my feet and scream in indignation but instead I just lost speech hence no posts for over a fortnight.
After getting over the shock and my nerves reassembled themselves, I sat thinking about Polygamy…

I thought, or perhaps hoped it had disappeared like the plague or became as rare as dying from syphilis and consumption, but it seems as present as HIV and as funny as Cancer, a real dilemma for certain women, a daily living situation for some and a constant battle for others. Where would I even start?

Why would anyone want more than one partner? And how is this still allowed?
Polygamy is still widely practiced amongst Mormons and Muslims, albeit to different degrees, in Islam a man is allowed up to four wives, Mormons a lot more although the justifications are somewhat different.
In Islam Polygamy was allowed centuries ago at the time of the crusades and wars, when men died in battlefields leaving behind their young brides and children with no one to fend for them, multiple marriages were allowed for social reasons and to give these wives and children protection, food and shelter. There is a great emphasis on polygamy being allowed but not encouraged, and subjected to conditions, and if the man lacks those material and moral conditions, or he is not competent enough to satisfy all of them, then he should not be legible to have more than one wife, such conditions as the absolute equality between the wives and children, being able to provide for them and above all the agreement of the wife for the next marriage although the latter is often disputed and not always recognised.

Polygamy is still practiced in some regions of the Middle East and some rural areas of North Africa; though I never thought it would come so close to home for me.
In the rest of the world, Polygamy is regarded as a crime punishable by law, the Christian secular church prohibits it, even though the Old Testament allows it, it was only later on made illegal in most secular churches.
The Mormon Church also known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, allows and encourages polygamy; it is a way of life for the Utah based church, although prohibited in the rest of the American states.
This practice that was created and allowed in times where the need for multiple marriages was honourable or helpful, no longer exists, why are men still allowed in this day and age to take on multiple wives and start multiple families?
Arguably, it is the word of God in the Quran and the old testaments, but if polygamy is allowed based on its origin, then should be the case for other practices that have no place in the modern day judicial system that claims is based on religious values and Islamic teachings. Why don’t they treat the sex traders with the treatment devised to them according to the Books?

From a diffrent angle, Polygamy has been viewed as a solution to low births and low marriage rates, as was the case in Russia when Ultra-Nationalist politician Vladimir Jirinoski suggested legalising polygamy as a solution to nationality problems in Russia "if we helped just five per cent (of these couples) we would have around 200,000 extra births per year", he said.

Others like some Muslims in the UK use polygamy as a mean to collect benefit from the government by having multiple wives and marrying them through the spiritual ceremony "nikah", whereupon these wives are considered single mothers and are therefore entitled to a full range of "lone parent benefits".  Although the government is aware of the issue, as concerns have been voiced from the predominantly Asian communities where these practices are taking place, cultural sensitivies stop politicians from addressing the problem.
Other polygamists or bigamysts (two wives) find themselves in this situation due to their illegal alien status in the host country, the plygamist would marry a women who would grant him the right to remain, and as soon as allowed to return home for a holiday, would then take up another wife, with very high chances of abandoning the first wife or keeping both unbeknown to either parties.
God may have allowed Polygamy and I am no one to argue, but it is being used for means that are outside of its rightful time and mean. Women are treated with very little respect, exchangeable and divorceable and used as statistical tools, to produce babies to boost numbers,  to reap benefits from the welfare system and for men's pleasure and divertissement.
Being a Woman, a Muslim, Algerian and a UK foreign National, I find myself insulted by the very concept of polygamy and I would lobby against it in Algeria and here in England and so help me God if anybody else "proposes" again this year!

Dz-Chick…does not like to share!
(1) no longer the case

Saturday 10 September 2011

Trilingual Illiterates: Algeria's Language Crisis

How many of you (Algerians) get interrupted by eavedroppers questioning what language you're speaking or how many languages are you using at the same time? and how many of you get embarassed by this? or perhaps you feel proud?

You want to learn Algerian? hmmmm
This is not an impossible task but it sure is not an easy one.

First you need to learn Arabic then learn French then have some knoweldge of Berber, then you need to forget all that you've learnt about grammar and syntax and start conversing in all three languages at once and never appologise for it, and never make sense to any other but Algerians and perhaps other North Africans, namely Tunisians and Morrocans who thankfully share a bit of our Burden-Gift.

So you would say things like: Azul, Ca va chwiya? Hamdoulah. wenta bien? ok Ciao a bientot, oui oui Bye
A phrase containing no less than 5 languages, would you say this person is talented or a multi-tongue illiterate? or Trilingual Illiterates as they call us in the confidential report released through Wikileaks (see below).

We Algerians are either extraordinarily talented and gifted for languages or we can't master one language completely and fully.
A real linguistic indigence we suffer from, not many Algerians can start a sentence in the same language they finish it in, even the one who claim to be "Arabisant" will undoutedly use a couple of words like "ca va" and think they just spoke in Arabic.

It may seem all fun and cool to speak 3 to 5 langagues at the same time, but it is not fun when you find you can't express yourself in any of these languages alone. Have you ever wondered how this came to happen? have you ever stopped to think what the ramifications of this are?

Despite the Goverments best efforts to "unify" the national language, declaring Arabic Official lanaguage and Berber co-official. French though not an official language, is regarded as de facto co-official language as it is widely used by goverement officials, newspapers etc... having three official languages and perfecting none is where the dilemmas lies.

Not a huge number of Algerians will master all 3 languages, some master Arabic, some French and only the berbers will speak berber, even though it is taught is a number of schools, it remains largely marginalised and underdeveloped.

So I tried to do some research on the subject, and it reaped no result, there is no Algerian phrase book or a guide to the Algerian language, a dictionary would be out of the question.
Having considered writing a phrase book myself, I realised what an arduous task it was going to be and prompty gave up (probably also due to my a-peut-priste side). Algeria being so large, wide and diverse boasts so many dialects, accents and idioms it would take a team of people and a couple of years to finish.  By that time and with all the new linquistic additions and introduction of English words and so on, my project would be irrelavant.

I won't pretend to offer solutions or a conclusion, I can barely go three words in Arabic without uttering two in French but I fear for the desintegration of our language (bomb dropped). I will strive to finish my stences in the same language I started them in, I think that would be a good start or perhaps teach my children Arabic or is it Algerian? or French? (this is going to be harder for me than for them, I am just not going to have children)

I will leave you with the Algerian slogan that embodies everything said above all in 4 languages:
One..Two...Three...Viva l'ALGERIE

A MUST READ: What Wikilaks has on the subject: http://www.cablegatesearch.net/cable.php?id=08ALGIERS1121

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Little Algiers N4

My train alights at Finsbury Park station, too absorbed by my book and practicing the ever annoying read & walk, I hear a couple of Algerian guys whinging behind me “jat’ha leqraya hadi”(1) I control my reflex and manage not to turn around and acknowledge their protest or indeed acknowledge I understood what they were saying, I walk on thinking….and so it begins

What was I doing here again? My mind is mangled with the plotline of my book and it takes me a few seconds to readjust my mind and my bearings, it comes back to me, I am here to view a flat, as I punch in the post code into my Google map I quietly pray it indicates a minimum of 2 miles away, but it doesn’t, it’s showing 0.8 miles to destination to the ghetto more like I thought, dear Lord I have to walk through Black Stock Road, the notorious little Algiers known to all Algerians as the Algerian ghetto and to the police as a hot zone or red, I am not familiar with coppers’ terminology.

So I brace myself, put my sunglasses on, button my shirt up, lower my jacket to hide my curves, I stand in front of a shop window frantically looking at my reflection, trying to alter details to avoid looking remotely attractive, Algerian or interested, I pray to god I walk the length of that road until the moving little blue dot says you are here.

I walk decided, take fast and determined steps, I fix my gaze on the horizon, my phone clenched in my palm, my thumb hurts, I am pressing too hard, my muscles are tense, I feel indignant, why must I feel uneasy and apprehensive walking down little Algiers, surely I wouldn’t have felt the same in big Algiers…

I feel eyes on me, stares, somebody points his chin in my direction to bring his mates attention to me, I continue walking with a firm step and a security about me that is supposed to deter any harmful intentions, after a few hours walking down this road, actual time 3 minutes, I start to feel at ease, I am in Algerian territory here and above all in England, surely I am safe, so I start taking in the surroundings all behind the safety of my shades;

Young men lining the walls all along the road, some in congregations laughing aloud, some in twosomes gesticulating something passionately, I notice the customary position, one leg on the floor and another bent backwards to lean on the wall, not without leaving dirt marks, some huddled around a small box of Chemma (snuff) taking it in turns to put a small dollop onto their upper lips, producing a fat lip that brings back my initial angst;   A coffee shop, two tables on the terrace/pavement, five men huddled around a single cup of espresso, passing it to each other in what looks like a very odd coffee ritual, I do a quick survey and count 5 out of 7 fat lips, 3 tracksuits and all wearing trainers, Oh I am sure they have a football game later, they wouldn’t be hanging out in sports gear for no reason…or so I’d hope.

I check my phone quickly as I reach my destination, a beautiful Victorian house, ground floor flat conversion with garden, I curse the Algerians and grudgingly inform the agent that the area is not suitable for me and that I hadn’t checked the location prior to accepting the viewing and for that reason, I am out, I dare not mention that I would refuse to live in this beautiful Victorian house in this “once” lovely area because my “own” people claimed the area and turned into little Algiers.

I wondered if houses around this area were difficult to rent out due to the high concentration of Algerian around and if the property values have decreased for the same reasons, I dare not ask him as I am sure he would not dare comment, but if he did, I wondered if I would take offense or agree…

I resume the 0.8m walk back to the station and make sure to walk on the opposite side of the road, I pass a “patisserie” and couldn’t resist the urge to go in and buy Garantita(2) , the croud of young men gathered aimlessly in the shop all look at me in unison and their loud chatter quickly becomes muffled she is Algerian I felt like I had just walked into Harrods sporting a shell suit with Burberry trainers, I ordered in Algerian attini 2 garantita(3) please so the waiter all smiles proceeds at cutting a huge baguette and starts inserting the pieces of Garantita into it, I assumed it was someone else’s order so I stood there scanning the display of cakes and patisseries from the 90s with think creams and strawberries, do you want harissa khti?(4) I politely decline just the garantita thanks, The waiter shakes his head in disapproval and mutters something under his breath, I look around the other tables, baskets of bread on every table, ahh that love affair Algerians have with bread, I recall seeing a man pick up a piece of bread from the floor, kisses it lightly then puts it on top of a bin or a higher surface from the ground, as an Algerian, witnessing that doesn’t shock me but it makes me smile fondly. Ok I will take the bread khouya (5)

200 yards to the station, I glance over the other side of the road where that single espresso was being turned around like a joint of Hashish, the espresso was still there, I realise there sips didn’t qualify as such, they are barely touching their lips to the glass and making a swift sucking sound to make the pleasure last, I will not pretend to understand this odd phenomenon but I find it highly amusing and couldn’t help but smile inwardly of course – no facial movement when walking down Black stock road.

Back in my neck of the woods, I feel relieved then irritated by my feelings of apprehension in the midst of the Algerian community, where I should feel safe and right at home, but I was safe and it was like being back in Algiers, perhaps a more rough area of Algiers, but Algiers nonetheless, apart from a few stares and harmless albeit annoying whistles my trip to little Algiers was a reminiscent of a trip down Belcourt (6) but I question what deters us from living near little Algiers, or be seen there, is it because of the dodgy antics some of our fellow Algerians are getting up to there and some extremist views or because it reminds us of things we wanted to get away from ourselves

It remains amazing to see how the Algerians in London have claimed their own little area and made it their own and ours even if some of us tend to avoid it like the plague/hate it or snob it, every single Algerian will find him/herself drawn to it at some point in their London life.
Think of it as a tourist attraction the little Algiers of London, full of character and multi-cultral atomsphere that makes London so Unique.

Dz-Chick …she likes her garantita sans Harissa
(1) Expression to say: She got the urge to read this lass…but it holds a more condescending connotation
(2) Chick pea flour based pizza/flan …yum!
(3) Can I have 2 slices of Garantita
(4) Do you want Chilli paste sis?
(5) My brother- a more polite way of addressing people, I wasnt trying to talk ghetto
(6) A popular district in Algiers

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