A reward and punishment VR system – imagining the future Black Mirror style


The future might be both, beyond our wildest dreams, and so much familiar where it manifests many of our beliefs and traditions. With the exponential advancement of AI and technology, it would be near impossible to predict what is coming our way.


But understanding the power of human beliefs and imaginations and how persistent it can be, and coupling that with the powers of our future technologies of AI, VR and censoring, let’s imagine the following scenario:


For those who still believe in heaven and in hell, who believe in reward and punishment in a world where aging does no longer exist and death is far more rare. You don’t have to worry!


I have a solution.


We can run a mini experiment and create the world you think is fair and true. To assist the angels on your left and right shoulders, we will create artificial invisible angels, planted on your shoulders to log whatever action you do. They will be ran by an advance AI that can asses every single action, collect data from your body and brain activities, and determine if the action should be logged in your deeds or sins records.


This can start any moment, from the day of your birth, or the day you subscribe to our service. It will also have a time limit. We recommend 100 years. After which, your judgement day will arrive. But don’t worry, we can do it in groups, or patches, so it can feel real, with a real judgment day for all. And we can keep the date a secret that no one knows.


On your judgment day, the AI will measure your balance and how it tips. It will determine if you have been a good person or a bad one. And accordingly, it will channel you to one of our afterlife chambers; the VR chamber of Hell or the VR chamber of Heaven.


In Heaven, you will be seated comfortably in a perfect room and you will delve into an experience of joy that you have never thought of. Your body will be monitored all the time to ensure your safety. Your mind will be constantly induced with happy hormones. And your imagination will be living the Heaven you always dreamt of and longed for. You will not feel time, because there is not time in Heaven.


In Hell, we will burn you “virtually” to atone your sins. You will be tortured to the highest levels your body can endure. We will repeat that constantly, every time till you lose your consciousness, and reset once you wake up again. All in a safe environment, with your body tightened into a comfortable chair and sensors that can guarantee you would never die.
Who is up for this? Add your name in the comments!


– This can either be a Black Mirror episode or a blue print for a sequel for my Heaven on Earth

Joker – a wake up call for social justice


The Joker is in the back of my head as I come today to office. I greet the security guard and the office boy with a smile, and with a part of me that feels sad, reflecting on the emotions of Joaquin Phoenix who knew exactly how to portray the feelings of someone enduring social injustice.


That’s the core message of this strong film. Social injustice that we grew to accept as a natural state of life, embracing the status quo and brushing off the harsh reality of the lives of many people living with us.


And while, enduring the daily struggle of living at the bottom of the social ladder, or the invisible side of it, is a valid reason for someone to develop contempt towards this society, the Joker has been lucky to combine that with a history of abuse and mental illness. A formula that built a character we grew to love and admire at the end.


The film doesn’t glorify villains as some critique claims. In the contrary, it raises an alarm. It is a strong wake up call. It is a call for every single one of us to pay more attention, to be nicer and look beyond our own needs and vanity. The Joker, hasn’t been a villain in this film, not to me, and not even towards the end when his character develops into enjoying killing other people. And to be honest, the minute he shots the first person is a turning point in the film. Not because he pulls the trigger, but the effect of it on him. The empowering look on his face, the liberating feeling and the healing from the psychological pain he endured for so long.


It is not right. I know. But I accept it because it is a film. There is a part of me that can’t handle the sight of psychological struggle of other people. I wish to help and I know that I fall short in many times. But that same part, played on by the film makers, made me cheer to the Joker as he took those lives. Yes, smile. I wanted to see him smiling and clapped when he did. Yes, dance. I loved how he danced and wanted to dance with him.


Be happy. I wanted to see him happy but that didn’t happen. And that is unreasonable to expect at the point he reached. He is broken beyond repair and his actions are no longer to seek justice or take revenge, but more of becoming mad to fit into the craziness of the world he found himself in.
And here, I can’t ignore the connection my mind made between the Joker and Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, triggering the Tunisian revolution and the Arab Spring. One might find this film dark and heavy, but looking at our reality and the state of the region since Bouazizi burnt himself, shows us clearly that more than often, reality is darker than fiction.

Dividing gender based on height? My next project!


I miss blogging. It has been a while since I wrote anything on my blog, and even when I did, it has been more of an announcement or photos without much of written words or ideas or opinions like I used to do back in the days.

Keeping a blogging habit has been challenging in the past few years, and I don’t think that I am ready to overcome this challenge anytime soon, but I feel the urge to write something today and happy to use this platform. And as I have been doing lately, using it as a platform to talk about my writing projects, I feel like pitching the idea of the next novel I am working on, with a working title ‘Khait Hareer’ (A silk thread).

I am not sure how well the title goes with the idea and how well it will be weaved in the storyline. I have actually finished writing 9 chapters already and working on the 10th. It is kind of exciting but challenging, more challenging than writing my previous books as I am trying to imagine a fictional world. I have done this before with ‘Heaven on Earth’, and it was challenging too, but I think it was a bit easier, because in that book I tried to imagine the future, but in the new one, I am trying to imagine a parallel society.

So here is the pitch in simple terms. I am trying to imagine a society where gender is divided based on height, not sex. I know, it might be a tough sell, as not so many people understand the concept of gender and how much it is related to sex. For me, I understand that gender is a social construct, it is a sectioning system that divides people into two categories based on their perceived sexual organs. On top of the sexual division, comes a huge burden of dividing every single human attribute in an attempt to exaggerate the sexual organs distinction and make clear divisions between two types of humans – in our world today we call them men and women.

In a nutshell, we build on a single human characteristic our main human classification. And we divide all of the other thousands of human attributes, that are irrelevant to our sexual organs between the two types of humans we created. It is the most dangerous classification of humans in our history, one that most believe is natural and has always been their in every single human society. A division that clearly over simplifies the sexual organs shape and size spectrum and ignores the power of nature in brining in a wide range of manifestation to every single human attribute.

Sex is not different than height. The sexual organs come in all shapes and sizes. And if we can hold a knife and cut human populations into two sexes based of the state of development of male/female sexual organs, hiding a big portion of human beings that fall under what we call ‘intersex’, then we can use the same knife into cutting human populations into two heights (tall and short people) and hide those of middle height.

And yes, like what we do top our sexual organs distinction or dividing other attributes between two sexes, we can do the same, and divide human attributes based on the height of a person. In my story for instance, tall people will have to be thin and weak, while short ones will be thick, stocky and strong. It is not physical attributes that I divide, but also psychic ones, same like we do men and women. I even outline a dress code, a behavior code and strict gender roles that these tall and short human beings have to adhere too.

It is a very exciting practice trying to imagine how such humans would behave under these constraints. How they build their life and how they define things! There is a lot to explore and I might fell short in bringing up all of the angles such a drastic change might mean to us. It is a challenge that I decided to take, one that I am pleased with its outcome so far.

The most challenging aspect of imagining such society, is the language to use in describing it. I am writing the story in Arabic, and for those familiar with the language, it is pretty much gendered. For Arab speakers, everything has a gender, even unanimated objects. It is either a thing is feminine when it has the ta’ at the end of the word, or is masculine when the ta’ is not there. Yes, we have queer objects, but thats not the rule of the language.

In their world, their language is gendered too, and it is gendered based on height. But inventing such a language is beyond my capacity. I can outline it, and maybe try writing few phrases, but even then, no one would understand it. So I had to come up with a twist for the book, one that I hope will give you an “aha” moment and a smile once you get to it.

Not sure if I succeeded in pitching the idea, but if you got what I was trying to say, please let me know what you think. Try to imagine that society and let me know what comes to your mind. That would help me adding to the story.

WOMEN CROSSING BORDERS: SHEREEN ABOUELNAGA, HUZAMA HABAYEB & FADI ZAGHMOUT


Saturday 2 March, 6pm-7pm

Al Ras 1, InterContinental, DFC

Authors: Fadi ZaghmoutHuzama HabayebShereen Abouelnaga

Don’t miss this session at Emirates Literature Festival. I look forward to seeing you all there and look forward to a wonderful discussion with these amazing and inspiring ladies.

What is the nature of boundaries that women in novels have to contend with? How do these boundaries reflect the real world? Who sets boundaries? And is there a big difference between boundaries facing men and women? What is the difference between boundaries imposed on men and those imposed on women in the contemporary narrative experiment?

Dr Shereen Abouelnaga is an Egyptian author, literary critic and professor at Cairo University – Egypt.

Huzama Habayeb is a Palestinian novelist and winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature 2017 for her novel “Velvet”. 

Fadi Zaghmout is a Jordanian author who started writing in 2006, motivated by desire to achieve social justice and challenge narrow gender roles.

Language: Arabic with English translation

Book your ticket now!

رؤيا لم تخطيء.. التوعية الجنسية مطلوبة ولو في برامج فكاهية ساخرة


من المحزن أن يؤدي الرهاب الجنسي في الأردن إلى قتل كل ما هو جميل وناجح في هذا البلد. نتفهم الخوف من الجنس في ظل غياب توعية جنسية في المدارس، سياسة فصل الجنسين في المدارس، وثقافة شعبية تربطه بالشرف. ولكن الهوس في تحديد جنسانية الفرد وتجنّب الخوض في الأمور الجنسية في النطاق العام (للبالغين) تضخمت لتطال كافة جوانب الحياة الطبيعية الأخرى، وأضحت حجة لقمع أبسط أشكال التعبير من فنون وموسيقى وطريقة ارتداء الأفراد لملابسهم ولهجتهم وطريقتهم بالكلام والحركة. ومن الطبيعي، في مجتمع تضخمت فيه الذكورية، أن تدفع المرأة والأقليات ثمن التراجع الثقافي والبلطجة الشعبية.

فالفيديو الذي تم عرضه على قناة رؤيا، وفيه ايحاءات جنسية، مطلوبة في سياق نقد الرسائل الجنسية في برامج الأطفال، لم يكن ليقابل بمثل هذا الغضب الشعبي لو لم تكن مقدمة البرنامج فتاة. فترسيخ المرأة على أنها سلعة جنسية في كافة البرامج التلفزيونية والدعايات والأغاني العربية والأجنبية منع المتلقي من رؤية الرسالة النقدية من خلف البرنامج، ليقرأها على أنها مقدمة كإثارة جنسية من قبل مقدمته. فلو كان المقدم رجل، لما هبّ من هب ليدافع عن محافظة المجتمع المزعومة. فالرجل مسموح له بالتعبير عن جنسانيته، كان ذلك في الشارع، أو البيت، أو أية مساحة خاصة أو عامة، ومجتمعنا يجب أن يعرف بأنه مجتمع ذكوري لا مجتمع محافظ. حجة أنه مجتمع محافظ تستعمل فقط لتقنين جنسانية المرأة وتحديد حرياتها وحركتها. كذلك فإن الأصوات الطائفية التي ربطت مقاطعة القناة ب”الإسلام” ونعتت مالكها بأنه “نصراني” (لا يوجد نصرانيين في الأردن، هنالك مسيحيين). تدل على دفع الأقليات ثمن التراجع الإجتماعي والتضخم الذكوري.

وبالعودة إلى البرنامج موضوع الطرح، ونقده الموضوعي، ووجود ايحاءات جنسية به. ما هي طبيعة الإيحاءات الجنسية التي وجدت في البرنامج؟ المقدمة لم تقم بأي تمثيل يدل على إغراء أو أي حركة في وجهها أو جسدها أو حتى في لباسها تدل على رغبتها في إثارة المشاهد جنسيا. كل ما قدمته هو قراءة لقصة تهدف إلى توعية المشاهد إلى وجود بعض الإيحاءات الجنسية في المواد المقدمة إلى أطفالنا. فالبرنامج لم يقدم “ايحاءات جنسية” كما زعمت الصحافة، بل قدم نقدا مباشر لتلك الإيحاءات الجنسية في قصص الأطفال. فلو قدم البرنامج “ايحاءات جنسية” حقيقية، بمعنى لو قلدت المقدمة هيفاء وهبي مثلا في فيديو كليب “بوس الواو” لما كانت ردة الفعل بهذه القوة. وذلك يذكرني بردة الفعل الشارع “المحافط” (اقصد الذكوري) لحملات التوعية بمرض نقص المناعة، فالتوعية بطرق الوقاية من المرض مرفوضة ولكن تجاهل انتشار الجنس غير الآمن مسموح! وهذا يدل على تناقد صارخ في الفكر الذكوري يغطي عن تفشي آفات اجتماعية عميقة طالمة قشرة “المحافظة” براقة وتحمي الميزات التي ينالها الذكر في هكذا مجتمع.

ولكني أتساءل هنا، متى سيتصالح الأردنيون مع جنسانيتهم؟ ومنى تكف تلك الحساسية في التعامل مع احدى أهم الصفات التي تعرف الإنسان؟ متى سننضج ونحسن التعامل مع الإنسان؟ اليست الايحاءات الجنسية اليوم أفضل من ايحاءات العنف والكراهية والقتل؟ وأين المشكلة إن كانت تلك الايحاءات تقدم لكبار بالغين متصالحين مع أنفسهم ومع طبيعتهم وهويتهم الجنسية؟

لم يكن على رؤيا الإعتذار، بل كان عليها أن تنتهز الفرصة وتقدم لنا برامج أخرى ترفع من الوعي الجنسي وتصالح المجتمع مع الجنس، ولو قدمت هذه البرامج بشكل فكاهي ساخر أو ترفيهي.

نحتاج اليوم إلى ثورة جنسية تعيد الحيوية إلى المجتمعات العربية، فقمع الحقوق الجسدية والحريات الجنسية يعد من أكبر الأبواب اليوم التي تستغل لقمع الفرد العربي. وصحية المجتمعات تبدأ بتصالح المرأة مع الرجل وتصالح الإنسان مع جسده. 

My Kali Interview, Celebrity of the week and Alef book club


Photo shoot My Kali Magazine

Photo shoot My Kali Magazine

It feels good to see the buzz of Arous Amman is still going through the country after more than two years of its debut. On thursday, I was hosted by Lama Zakharia for her radio show “Celebrity of the Week” on Beat FM. The interview was great, went super smooth with Lama being smart, spontaneous and professional as her audience know her. I am a big fan of her myself since I saw her performing last year in the Christmas’s musical of Dozan Awtar. I have also posted a while ago a video for her fighting sexual harassment by singing. She has an amazing voice and great talent. Watch out for her next projects. My interview will be aired next Thursday.

My interview with my kali magazine is published today after  much anticipation. These guys are really talented. We are blessed to have such artistic styled magazine in Jordan. The write-up is really good from the mutli-talented Mike Derderian. Mike is another one to admire, he is an artist who produces amazing illustrations, he is a brilliant writer and a great radio show host as well.  Along with the interview, my kali ran a stylised photo shoot for me. The photographs was taken by the wonderful Hiba Juda, make up by Amer Atta, hair by Ahmad Al Sa’ady, the making of video by Ala’a Abu Qasheh, and the cover/promo design by Atef Daglees. I feel so blessed to get to know all of these talented people. I also would like to dedicate a special thank you to Kali himself for putting the efforts into sustaining this magazine.

I like the smart headline of the interview “Here Comes the Groom!” in reference to me, the one behind the brides in Arous Amman.  And from the interview, I specially like these few lines:

Of course, don’t just take my word for it! It is a brilliant social commentary on an Arabian society filled with mothers, daughters and sisters; working women; married women; divorced women; women pursuing academia; sexually active women; and forlorn spinsters dreaming of the perfect Arab catch. Of course it also sheds light on the misogynistic Arab man; the oppressive father; the married man; the cheating husband; and the self-righteous cousin, who is looking for an excuse to burst the bubble of any of the over-achieving females in his tribe. The main controversy surrounding Aroos Amman most probably erupted from within the pages of the chapter in which a man thinks aloud after making love; making love to another man. I have to admit it was a shocking instance to read in a book written by an Arab Jordanian writer; almost as shocking as the rape scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, back in 1994.

I also had a very nice discussion around Arous Amman with Alef book club at the Good Bookshop. The discussion was complimented with a homosexuality debate. Before the debate started I had the chance to give a short presentation about gender and sexuality.  The issue was discussed openly from social, scientific and religious perspective. The event was organised very well and the crowd were respectful and polite. I was pretty much impressed by those youth (around 40 from both genders) discussing such matter openly and logically with full respect to each other opinion. At one point there was a veiled girl arguing against homosexuality talking closely to an openly gay man. Both were addressing their points of view genuinely with no sense of hatred towards each other. When the crowd were asked if they are with giving homosexuals their rights, most of them raised their hands in agreement! That’s something one doesn’t expect to happen in Jordan where a recent stat shows that 97% that society shouldn’t accept homosexuality! My Kali videoed the whole event, they should be posting it soon. I would also like to seize the chance and thank Tarek Abdo and Sanad Nowar for running this book club and organisation this event. That is courageous of them to tackle such issue.

Through Arous Amman I got to know about many book clubs in Jordan. I am happy to see these book clubs growing everywhere. I have to admit, Alef has just became one of my favourites. I wish them all the best.

One last good news, we are almost run out of copies of the 2nd edition of Arous Amman and will be working on a new print.

سي السيد لتامر حسني صحوة أخيرة لرجل يحتضر


من الممكن قراءة كلمات أغنية سي السيد الجديدة لتامر حسني على أنها خطاب ذكوري متخلف يدعو إلى الإعلاء من شأن الرجل وإعادة القوامة له على المرأة في شكل الشخصية النمطية لسي السيد بطل الثلاثية الروائية لنجيب محفوظ: بين القصرين، قصر الشوق، والسكرية. فعلا، فالواضح من الكلام هو خطاب تامر الأستعلائي في الأغنية كزوج فاض به الأمر ولم يعد يتحمل معارضة زوجته الدائمة له فقرر لعب ورقة الميراث الإجتماعي المبجل للذكر وتذكيرها بأنه سي السيد، وبأن كلامه هو “اللي هيمشي”. كلام مهين لكل من الرجل والمرأة العربية المعاصرة لأنه يصور المساواة والندية بين الجنسين على أنها منحة أو هبة من الرجل للمرأة يستطيع سحبها متى شاء، لا أنها حق انتزعته المرأة بعد سنوات عديدة من النضال مازالت تصارع للحفاظ على مكتسباته. كما أن الكلام مبتذل، وكذلك خطير، لأنه يصور المساواة بين الجنسين على أنها أساس المشاكل الزوجية ويحمل المرأة مسؤوليتها ويصورها على أنها ضحية لقيم غربية شوهت الحقيقة البديهية المزعومة في الثقافة الاجتماعية العربية لتفوق الرجل وسموه على المرأة.

سي السيد تامر حسني، كاتب الكلمات ومغنيها، فاته بأن المشاكل الزوجية المعاصرة يعود سببها الأكبر هو تمسك بعض الذكور بعقلية سي السيد الرجعية ومحاولتهم البائسة للحفاظ على ثقاقة شعبية أكل عليها الدهر وشرب. الحياة العصرية الحديثة لم تعد تعطي أفضلية للرجل، وذلك النموذج الذكوري لم يعد يمجد سوى بالفانتازيا الجنسية لأشكال تامر حسني وغيره من الذكور ممن يخلطون بين خيالهم الجنسي الخصب في غرفة النوم وبين الحياة اليومية. الوعي الإنساني تطور اليوم ليقر بالمساواة بين الرجل والمرأة في كافة مناحي الحياة. المشاكل الزوجية الحديثة لا تحل بالهروب إلى الخلف ومحاولة إحياء سي السيد بل بالتقدم إلى الأمام وترسيخ مبادىء المساواة الجنسية وقتل ما تبقى من عناد ذكوري مازال لا يستوعب مبدأ المشاركة في الحياة الزوجية.

بالرغم من الرجعية التي تحملها كلمات الأغنية إلا أني أقرأها بشكل إيجابي على أنها صحوة أخيرة لرجل يحتضر. سي السيد على وشك الإنقراض، وذلك لربما ما يفسر الهجمة الذكورية التي نجدها في بعض الأغاني الشعبية المعاصرة. قد يكون نجاح أغنية “جمهورية قلبي” لمحمد اسكندر هو ما شجع تامر حسني على كتابة هذه الأغنية. لكن ذلك النجاح هو نجاح مرحلي، قد يعود جزأ كبيرا منه لفكاهية الطرح لا لمحاكاته للرغبة الشعبية، ولكنه كنجاح لن يطول، بل سيدفع ثمنه شعبية كل من اسكندر وحسني على الأمد الطويل مع تزايد الوعي الشعبي لخطورة هذا الخطاب.

للأسف حاولت أن أجد شخصية ذكورية معاصرة تصلح لتكون بديلا لسي السيد لكني لم أجد. أعتقد بأنه هنالك ضعف في الأدب العربي بشكل عام من حيثية رسم شخصية رمزية للرجل العربي بعيدا عن سطوته وهيمنته على المرأة.