Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Thou Shalt Cross The Pig

In the Middle East education was funny. Our teachers, particularly in The School I attended, tried to make us lead a very sheltered life, assuming that school was the only place we would learn of the world, and pretending TVs and non-school text books did not exist.

One of our English books when we were kids was the Junior English series by Haydn Richards. It often had excerpts from famous books for English exercises, and once during Grade 6 the book for that year had a few passages from the Treasure Island, and it contained that famous phrase, "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum".

Our teacher, a certain Ms. Faiza Yasmeen, if I remember rightly, was mortified.

"Boys," she instructed the class. "Pick up your pencils."

We did so.

"Now cross out the word 'rum' there. Rum is a very bad drink. Rum is haraaaaaaaam in Islam. From now on, I want you all-" she looked sternly at us, "-to read this word as 'ORANGE JUICE'."

"Yes, miss." We all replied in monotone.

So for the rest of the term, the right answer to "what phrase did Long John Silver's parrot used to say?" was:

"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest--
...Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of orange juice!"

Of course such misguided attempts to protect our imaan did not stop there. Our science text books were notorious for having pictures of pigs. Oh, the horror! We were encouraged from an early age by The School to take a red pen and cross out every picture of a pig we see in our book, so as to affirm our oath of not eating pork. Me, being me, would cross the picture with a pencil, which could be erased later. I mean, why spoil a perfectly good book?

The fun intensified in Grade 10, during our O Levels Biology course. There was a rumor that the chapter on Human Reproduction had vivid diagrams. As soon as everyone got the books, all the students dove straight for page 180.

And they were bitterly disappointed.

There was a biological diagram of the process, including the "moment" (when two becomes one). Unfortunately for the students, Mr Gazali of the Bookstore had taken considerable pains to use a black marker to completely shade out the offensive material on the 40 or so textbooks. Not a square inch of the diagrams were visible, such was his diligent devotion to his job.

There were however five textbooks which did not have such shading. They all belonged to the Bangladeshis in our section, who being smarter cheaper, had obtained the book from Bangladesh during the holidays.

At first I couldn't figure out why they wanted to borrow my textbook for a few minutes. Then one Arab student told me.

"Ah," I nodded. "You might wish to turn to page 184." Post birth topics, including breast feeding. And it had pictures! Wallahi! It was like striking gold.

All this was brought to my mind as I was reading this post of Suroor.

We cover up so much, yet we are so indecent.
We know, yet we are uneducated.
Islam wants us to learn, yet the Muslims want to be ignorant.

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of orange juice!

Related Links:

Suroor on Sexual promiscuity amongst Muslims
Haleem on Sex Education in Bangladesh


Anonymous said...

That is hilarious. Its interesting that they have doctors in the Middle East. How would they learn? Or is it they study hard and get accepted to med school to see what's on page 184?

Anonymous said...

Or Mezba, the boys went to 'All Prints' on the weekend and stared long and hard at pg 184 in the unedited books!!! What a shame!

Here's to the three little pigs! (With OJ of course!)

mezba said...

Mousehunter: most doctors in the Middle East are foreigners. The local doctors, I guess once you are in univ they do have to ease up on the black marker, right?

I hope.


Don't get sick in the middle east.

Suroor: hahaha... I forgot about All Prints. Do you know (you must know) they still have that store! And it's in the same location too! Alas the corniche is no more, where I used to live.

PS. We NEVER studied about the three little pigs, eh? We have had our own nursery rhyme,

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
How did Allah make you what you are...

and so on.

Of course that lasted only one year until the parents complained.

mezba said...

Or is it they study hard and get accepted to med school to see what's on page 184?

Just got that, mousehunter. LOL.

Rezwan said...

Hahaha! As eloquent as ever. Thanks Mezba for hitting hard to the point.

Anonymous said...

heh very funny indeed.

no wonder everyone ends being so much more curious about the opposite sex. !

'liya said...

LOL to the orange juice and pigs. I can almost picture your disappointed face at page 180 :D

I wonder about the biology diagrams though. Many muslims seem to be SO uneducated about their bodies... my younger brother's friend's parents were horrified to find out that their 12 year old son was learning about human reproduction at public school. I think it's necessary. They'll hope for him to reproduce one day right? How will he know what to do...isn't it best he learns it at school rather than off the net or from his friends? Or on his wedding night does he just expect to undress his wife and know EXACTLY what to do :S It's a shame that muslims try to cover up so much rather than teach and educate and in that way become people who know less about their religon.

Anonymous said...

Poor kids...i went to an all arabic school, things were much more hush hush and we never had to worry about *english* nursery rhymes and haramish stuff.


أبو سنان said...


We are instructed not to eat the pig, not to HATE the pig.

Anonymous said...

So I'm guessing Charlotte's Web was never part of the curriculum them?

mezba said...

Rezwan, thanx!

liya, lol. Actually, when I found out my classmates' books were ... censored, and mine wasn't, I felt like Di Caprio must have felt on that scene from the Titanic.. "I AM THE KING OF THE WORLD!!!"

Maliha, aww.. you missed out on a lot of blogworthy experiences!

Abu Sinan, we are destined to become what we hate. Is it any wonder why pigs are so hated in the Muslim world? And we don't even have the excuse of illiteracy and poverty in the Arab world.

Ruby, you are guessing right. There was a school in Dubai following the Bangladesh medium. I was there for sometime and we studies Charlotte's Web. Then I moved to The School (some combo of Islamic/British education) and the mere pocession of Charlotte's Web was heresy. Thank God I moved out of here to a proper English school later on.

Anonymous said...

I remember my friend's dad who worked in saudia who would at times bring tapes with the woman's picture scribbled off with this marker. I always wondered why it was so. Imagine getting "Pretty Woman" video with Julia R's face and legs(which were bare) covered by that hideous black marker. I think due to all that "haram,haram" thing going on there, the pple there are just "hungry" for any naked/bare skin. I was once in dubai at a souk during ramadhan,there was suddenly this "silence" and when I turned to look what it was, well, it was 2 young women, dressed in these bodytight kinda clothing with so much make-up on their faces and the pple there just had their mouths open, it was just disgusting. They are getting too "westernized" too fast since they had "sheltered" lives and have no idea how to process all the stuff in a short time. sf

Anonymous said...

hahaha... a gem of a post, truly!!!

Your post bought back memories of my education in Saudi Arabia as well. But our books had nothing hidden or covered. I guess the bookstore head thought, why hide it, when these people are going to see it all in more detail "live" in a few years anyway.

But our grade 10 biology class was hilarious. It could be that our teacher was a "single" indian male in his early 30's and he himself took great pride in teaching the female reproductive system. (*if he were to concentrate on that topic a lot here in Canada, then he would be termed a pervert ;)*)

I remember, at one point he said in one of the classes, " The female reproductive system is the best thing ever. See how everything is interconnected...the output from the male reproductive system becomes the input for the female reproductive system..."

Needless to say, the whole class burst into laughter at his sentimental statements :)


Rawi said...

"the Bangladeshis in our section, who being smarter cheaper, had obtained the book from Bangladesh during the holidays."

Damn. I was one of those smart/cheap kids :-)

But dude. I'm pretty sure I know which book you're talking about -- the most widely used Biology text. And that page, oh boy, wasn't it the most-opened page amongst the O'Level boys!?

Recovering D said...

LOL! Well I guess to a certain extent I went through something similar in America. When I was in 3rd grade we went on a LONG bus ride somewhere and started singing "99 bottles of beer on the wall." Our teacher got really upset and made us sing 99 bottles of ROOT beer. Needless to say the song lost its appeal after having to add the "root." I think we quit singing by bottle 70.

mezba said...

sf: can you imagine that there is actually someone in Saudia whose JOB it was to take a black pen and manually censor (no, color bare skin and other 'offensive' material) stuff?

Hi Abdul what does your dad do?
Oh he works for the Ministry of Promotion of Maruf and Prevention of Munkar.
Yes, what does he do actually?
Oh, he takes this black pen...

Behbood: HAHAHA....

Oh man that was funny. Sounds like a computer tech guy. Too bad he didn't talk about sex like "Garbage In Garbage Out" terms..

Our grade X bio was taught by a white dude actually, some Mr Workell or something.
And he had NO idea what he was dealing with. All the Arab students used to be rowdy in his class, but when he started to talk about the big O, there was pin drop silence.

And then one guy, "Yaani, ustaaz, Sir, what do you do after that? And... what is.. this...zee-spot?"


Arafat: I did O levels under Oxford, and as far as I remember it was BS Beckett. It was sometime ago, so can't remember exactly. I remember the page number though!!!

ABCDLaw: I guess you were in the conservative heartland of the south?

Anonymous said...

haha... well, sometimes kids of that age can really get into making life fun for their classmates and a hell for their teacher.

There used to be a straight faced student who used to ask the dumbest questions like,
"Sir, why cant I see the bottom clearly", "Sir, what is this thing that looks like a Y inside the female system", etc etc... Ofcourse he knew the answers to the questions, but he just wanted to have some fun and the sir, being innocent and so "into" the subject matter, took great pride in explaining all the features and parts.

Aaah...werent those times fun?


mezba said...

Sonia (sorry, I missed you in the original reply): I would assume one of the reasons why they get so hung up on any thing is because so much is so taboo. An abaya where the ankle is revealed becomes a sex object.

Behbood: I also would sometimes ask "those" questions.

Anonymous said...

wait, Im still reeling over the fact that 'rum' was crossed out and "ho" was let go! :D

but I guess back in those days, a 'ho' was just...well, an innocent... santa's .... friend?

*wicked grin* sorry, mez, I couldnt, just couldnt hold back!!!

mezba said...

OMG Isheeta, you made me repeat my Maghreb prayer thrice!!! I checked my comments right before the prayers, and had to repeat because I burst out laughing.. lol it was that funny.

Hahahaha.. or should I say hohohohoho

M&M said...

another thing i heard of from friends, that it was a pain buying any comic books there as well, apparently everything from Archie to Superman to anything was covered black.

al-maraya said...

As the product of a US public school education, I can tell you that the "in"famous black marker has seen its day here as well. When I read James and the Giant Peach in elementary school, my copy of the book had several words marked out by the censor's pen. My mother became so outraged that she checked out the book from the library so that I could read it in its uncensored form. And, oh, what a stir it caused when I took the library copy to school with me instead of the one my teacher gave me!

Anonymous said...

K, I just remembered this. One day, during our assembly in the morning, the teachers just didn't show up,they went into every classroom and searched our bags/desks for anything that was not suppossed to be there. Many *items* were found,it was one heck of a day, I was not worried coz I had *nothing* in my bag. I think Maliha would remember this day. Things like love letters,condoms,a bottle of vodka(I think?)and some other crazy stuff which here in the west would be considered *harmless*.I remember the pple who had the love letters were told to get their parents AND the guy who wrote that letter. BTW, this was not in ME.It was a strict catholic school.HEHEhehehehehe :) sf

singlemuslimah said...

This is hilarious. Muslims really have to get it together. The more overboard you go with the censorship, the more curious kids become.

ABCDlaw: I remember the 99 Bottles of ROOT Beer song. It was so annoying. You just got tired of trying to remember the censored version and stopped singing; which was what they really wanted.

Aisha said...

LOL @ the post and the ensuing discussion. We had to say "99 bottle of milk on the wall" That was fine by me. Infact as a teacher I had my students do that too. No need to get them all brainwashed into singing about booze at the age of 7! :)

Also, I get very irritated when people get all freaked out about saying the word pig. One Msulim teacher I know wont read Winnie the Poo to her students because she'd have to say piglet in it. When she says pig she has to spell it. Its ridiciolus. My own memory of thiwa s as a five year old I was refusing to color in porky pig because he was a pig when my Muslim coloring companion said to me, "but we are not supposed to eat them. we are not supposed to hate them". Glad I learned that leasson at 5.. aparently some have not learned this and have passed on through to adulthood!

Baraka said...


This entry is hilarious, except that it's also horrifying.

We cover up so much, yet we are so indecent.
We know, yet we are uneducated.
Islam wants us to learn, yet the Muslims want to be ignorant.



Asmaa said...

well maybe the fact that the teachers were dealing with little perverts played a role in their covering up of these pictures.

mezba said...

m&m (God you have such a sweet name!): I remember getting Spiderman comics ('coz those were my favorites) but I used to get them from B'desh because the ones there would have pages blacked for no reason but that Mary Jane was in her nighties (she was shown lying awake worrying about Peter).

Al-maraya: I can just imagine ... actually I lived through ... the stir of having Charlotte's Web found in my bag. Oh the horror!

sf: I gather you and Maliha are school friends :-D Condoms and vodka? ho ho... I love that you had to clarify this was not in ME... it would not be out of place there too.

Single Muslimah: exactly. Or as Alice in Wonderland goes, it will get curiouser and curiouser.

Aisha: I hated that whole "99 bottles" thing. Got so tiring. btw what happened when you got to 1 bottle left? I never knew ...

Baraka: Walaikum assalam. I am glad you saw that point. If you lived in the middle east you would know truly how desperate and dangerous the situation is.

Asmaa: The question is, they were little kids. What made them perverts? Is it because the society marked anything feminine or of the opposite sex as taboo? And is that why even simple talking to the opposite sex is a matter of thrill, let alone seeing her ankle? I say it is the policy of segregation and complete ignorance of the opposite sex that is a high cause of unhappy marriages, divorce and oppression of women in the Muslim countries.

Asmaa said...

You know what's funny? That you think you can summarize an entire society in a few sentences. I'm not defending Saudis, they're a pretty messed up people. But then so are most, if not all other powerful nations.

At least they care enough about modesty and Islam to do these things. I mean, their intentions are probably good but their application kind of sucks, that's a given. But you making sweeping generalizations never really benefits anyone :)