Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My first town hall meeting..

I have never attended a town hall meeting before. Few weeks age a colleague at work forwarded me an email that was sent to him and to all his church members asking them to attend this particular town hall meeting. In this meeting the city council will vote on permission to build a big islamic center in Saginaw. Similar email have circulated from the Jewish community here asking for attendance. No wonder I had to struggle for a parking space in the usually empty parking lot of the city hall. Finally I parked at the police station facing the hall (this would make it easy to pay the ticket if I get one!). I was few minutes late, the hall was jam packed as well as the corridors and there was few people outside. I guess they preferred the outdoors over hearing nothing in the corridors. I managed to sneak further in and I managed to hear the heated discussion. One of the city council members pointed out that there has never been such attendance in the history of the city!.. some one answered "put interesting agenda like this one and we will come!" a lot of people commented on the interesting topic..few voiced their objection; some claimed the the noise of the call for prayer will annoy them, others voice their concern that the city by permitting the Islamic center to be built at the proposed site will reduce the farm land and hurt the environment! One guy complained that the increased traffic expected with this center will make it hard from him to sleep as he is sure the headlight of cars entering and leaving the center will hit directly through his bedroom windows. One man even suggested to build a hill to surround the center and isolate it form the nearest neighborhood! another guy insisted on getting an answer regarding who many prayers a day in Islam and what time each one is conducted! One lady demanded a written contract that a microphone will not be used in the center!
And the finale of stupid comments came from a man who said the center is close to his house and that area has drainage problem and was wondering where would all the shit go with expected sharp increase in toilet use if the center is built!!
Americans are way more outspoken!! People in the middle east are more likely to shut up then show their ignorance..
If you noticed I referred to the comments above as "few voices" because the majority of Americans attended the meeting were there to support the Islamic center. The circulating emails that I talked about were a call for the church members and the Jewish community to attend and show support to build the Islamic center. Avery straight forward council women described the earlier comments as "shameful" and " you would not dare make the same comments if a church is being proposed" .
Finally it was time to vote.. all those in favor raise hands and say Ayyyyy.. all the city council members raised hands and all said "Ayyyyyyy"


At 12:42 AM, Blogger Mahmood Al-Yousif said...

welcome back!

I wonder if we:

1. would ever have a Town Meeting with our elected Municipal Councillors;
2. whether anyone of the public would actually demand such a foreign thing; and
3. if there ever was an application to build a synagogue or church in Barbar, Hamad Town, Muharraq or Manama the answer would be a resounding AYYYY from co-religionists.

I doubt that any of the above would come to pass in our lifetime.

It's nice to experience public democracy, isn't it?

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Haitham Salman said...

Hi Mahmood,
1. Not very soon..
2. It is a nice setup for ordinary people to voice their openions regarding decision affecting their town. The word foreign is very convenient. Remember that democracy is "foreign".
3. Don't go this far..it is hard to build a shiat moseque in mixed towns..My openion it should a mosque and not a sunni or shia mosque..on another thought I thing in Bahrain we have enough..


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