Sunday, June 14, 2015


The temptation to pronounce this like a distraught hippie is fortunately resistible - O Marn is a closer phonetic.

A feudal world, run by a sultan, it was once the predominant state in the Gulf of Persia and the Indian Ocean. For decades, from the 1930s, it chose to become a closed country, isolated from the rest of the Arab and Moslem world, but in 1970 Qaboos Said deposed his own father, and tore the silk curtain open, making strenuous attempts to bring the country into the modern world with schools and social services as well as a more western-style economy, rooted of course in oil. Part of the reason for the isolation was the brand of Islam practiced in Oman, known as Ibadi, created before either Shi’a or Sunni, but very much in conflict with them as Arab and Moslem renaissance took place in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Ibadi also call themselves "ahl al-istiqama", which is a statement of purity, equivalent to Cathar in the Catholic world.

Where almost every other Middle Eastern state was affected by the Arab Spring, and either collapsed into revolution followed by anarchy or revolution followed by a right-wing backlash, Omanis merely staged a minor demonstration to demand more jobs, to which the Sultan responded by agreeing they were needed, and immediately put in place a national job creation plan; after which he called municipal elections, insisting that he needed the advice of municipal councils in the running of local districts. Can you imagine if such an attitude to popular demands should catch on? Where would the despots and dictators of the world be then? How would authoritarianism survive if it were discredited in this manner? No wonder Oman is seen as a kind of distraught hippie among the conservative rulers of the Arab world.

Sadly the Sultan fell ill in 2014, and had to leave Oman for medical treatment in Germany; amazingly the country has not fallen apart in his absence, another very, very bad example to be setting politicians.

Marks for: 0.1 (the percentage of the Omani population which is Jewish - and yes, I know it's so few as to be negligible, but look at the figures for the rest of the Middle East, which are now effectively and deliberately Judenrein)

Marks against: 14 (the average age at which Omani children, boys and girls, end their education)

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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The Argaman Press

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