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The Arrival of Ramadan

The Quran says: ‘Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness.’ (Quran 2:183)

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. … In addition to abstaining from eating and drinking during this time, Muslims abstain from sinful relations, speech and behaviour. As a saying that I read elsewhere: By experiencing the absence of pleasure, we are able to experience the pleasure of absence.

The month of Ramadan has arrived and Muslims the world over will be looking forward to the ‘month of spiritual infusion’ that allows us to change our lifestyles and to build that spiritual character within us.

The truth is before every Ramadan, many of us think about the long days ahead. Some of us are ‘absolutely’ terrified. Then it arrives…Bam! It hits us, and the strange thing is…we survive every time.

So it is with so many of life’s trials. The anticipation is the worst part. Many of us have come to terms with Ramadan being ‘difficult’; it can be in the beginning, it is supposed to be while the body gets used to the ‘change’. Without doubt Ramadan takes a physical and emotional toll on many of us. It is supposed to. If it was plain sailing, why would Allah give it His personal recompense, as He declares, “The fast is for Me, so I will give the reward for it.”

Life is full of trials and tests, and like all tribulations, there is hardship and ease. Ramadan comes, and then goes. Unlike other trials however, when it leaves, it may sound odd but there is a sense of regret and sadness, for whilst Ramadan may well be demanding, its blessings are plentiful, particularly in this modern age.

Whilst we may try to avoid its impact, so much of our existence revolves around entertainment. Movies on TV, advertising, computer games, even our newspapers are filled with the escapism of the Hollywood/Bollywood story line and the title-tattle of wags and celebrities. We can suspend our reality and live in the world of ‘reality TV’.

We can escape to fantasy, and leave our own often mundane chores, often troublesome, lives behind. Then Ramadan comes along and gives us a huge dose of reality in one swift shot: the reality of hunger and thirst, which tries one’s patience. The month asks us not to escape from reality, but to escape into reality—to focus on the travails of life. The month asks us to see and feel the daily lives of the world’s poor for whom hunger and thirst is a daily routine.

In addition, unless we are up all night playing computer games and watching movies, Ramadan should also give us a much-needed detox from the grip of our regular entertainment. Ramadan allows us to free our over-bombarded senses, and instead ‘feed’ them with a sense of wonder and humility.

By depriving our bodies of food and drink, we heighten our sense of being. By depriving our ears and eyes of the constant over-stimulation, we allow ourselves to experience the natural world. By experiencing the absence of pleasure, we are able to experience the pleasure of absence.

Ramadan, by putting a physical strain on the body and mind, requires us to slow down. By embracing each moment at a slower pace, we are able to absorb much more of the detail. In a speeding train, all you see is a blurred scene. But when it slows down, the view becomes clear; you see the detail, the beauty and the variations of the landscape you are passing by.

So much of our lifestyles in this modern world is about the destination, about getting there, that we forget the journey itself, and forgo the potential to enjoy and learn. There is a period of development and change in everything, and we twist and alter it at our own risk.

Into this chaotic world comes Ramadan, and asks us to assert and take control over ourselves, to regulate our desires and improper conduct and instincts, and to conquer them. By doing so, we are better able to know ourselves, and our relationships—with people, with our society and our environment. We have a clearer insight, a deeper understanding, and a broader and wider view and outlook.

Of course, we can miss all of this. We can sleep through the day, and party at night. We can go shopping, watch films, play games, chat with friends, eat, and smoke shisha. Do this all night long, and then sleep during the day—basically inverting the normal routine. And all we will gain from fasting, as the Prophet Muhammad warned, is “hunger and thirst”.

A successful system and routine of physical fitness requires endurance. Ask an Olympic athlete—they have been in training for months already. Likewise, for our souls to be enriched, they too must endure. Ramadan is a test. For me, it is a giant test that many of us ‘fear’ every year.

Yet, once it is here, I believe the more we embrace it, the more we will grow; and surely that is the point of our existence, “Consider the human self, and how it is formed in accordance with what it is meant to be, and how it is imbued with moral failings as well as with consciousness of God! To a happy state shall indeed attain he who causes this self to grow in purity, and truly lost is he who buries it in darkness.” (Qur’an 91:7-10)

And so, despite our fears and our trepidation, with Allah’s Grace and with His Help, I pray Ramadan comes into our lives again this year. I pray that we are able to fast for Him, to take time to reflect on Him, to experience fully the presence of the Merciful in our daily life; and to be thankful that every year we have this opportunity to grow and build our spirits a true follower of Islam.

I wish all the Muslims Ramadan Mubarak and that we all look forward to changing our inner selves so that we turn to our Lord and Creator in sincerity.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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