Letters | Sunday, 11 October 2009

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Global war. On the toilet.

The word Al-Qaeda evokes fear and terror in the collective psyche and it immediately brings to mind the most wanted and feared terrorist of our age and founder of this infamous terror network, Osama Bin Laden. Such fear is fuelled by a decade-long media onslaught that never stops reminding us of how dangerous this organisation is.
But few people know exactly what the word Al-Qaeda actually means. Some news agencies freely misinterpret the word as meaning ‘The Base’. But this is not actually the full and proper translation of the ominous term. Al-Qaeda is in fact a derivative of the Arabic verb ‘Qa’ada’ (bil-qiegħda in Maltese) which means ‘to sit’ on a specific type of base namely the toilet bowl. Indeed, in Arabic there are three terms for three different kinds of toilet: ‘Hamam Arabi’ or Arab toilet, a hole in the ground very common in Arab countries, a potty used for children called ‘Ma Qa’adia’ or ‘Little Qaeda’ and ‘Hamam Franji’, more commonly called ‘Al-Qaeda’ or foreign toilet, which is the familiar toilet with a base prevalent in most western countries. ‘Ana raicha Al Qaeda’ is a colloquial expression for ‘I’m going to the toilet’, so that Al-Qaeda is the noun which literally translates into ‘the toilet’.
So does this mean that the Global War on Terror and Al-Qaida all boils down to a Global War On ‘the toilet’? Besides, why on earth would a terrorist organisation ever call itself ‘the toilet’? And why would Osama Bin Laden ever want to be associated with a toilet attendant, with due respect to the people in the profession? And why therefore should the whole world be so scared of ‘Al-Qaeda’ in the first place? Or is it the case that we are all suffering from a psychopathic condition which we could call ‘Collective Toilet Phobia Syndrome?’
While I struggle to try and make sense out of this absurd situation I start feeling the urgent need to do to Al-Qaeda what I usually do in situations where such riddles start upsetting my bowels. So do pardon me please but I really need to be excused!


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