Messing Around with Bad Deeds

Ad in Thursday’s newspaper

“Haraam” people say here when something bad happens.  Technically, haraam actions are those that violate Islamic prohibitions.

The kiraaman kaatibeen are the angels who sit on our left shoulders and record our haraam or bad deeds.  But, it is not only angels who notice haraam things.  If I tell a sad story, such as a friend having breast cancer, then the listener will say “haraam” to express their agreement that it is a sad situation.

When I first moved to Bahrain I remember chatting with a Bahraini store clerk.  It was clear he was unhappy with his job working in the mall.

“Haraam”, he said without a smile when I told him my family had just moved here.

“You think Bahrain is haraam?” I asked.  “Why haraam?  You have a job.  The government pays for your schooling and health care.  You live with your family.  Bahrain is a nice, peaceful place.”

“The whole Middle East is haraam right now.  I don’t know when things will get better,” he told me.

I walked out feeling bad for him and his hopeless outlook.  Bahrain was his country and he was young.  He was not willing to give up everything and take the risk to start over, as a nobody, somewhere else.

This region is filled with expatriate workers who take a huge risk to come here.  Most laborers are so poor and with little hope for work in their own country, that, for $150 per month, they pay an agent a job-finding fee and leave their families to pick up garbage.  Nine years later, I remembered my conversation with the young man when I read about two Bangladeshi, street cleaners killed by a homemade explosive, hidden in a trash bin.

The angel on my shoulder cringed.

“Haraam,” he said.

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