Saturday, January 31, 2009

Teaching English in Saudi Arabia: job-opening

Raytheon Company

Position: Technical English Language Instructor
Salary: $40,000 to less than $60,000
Location: Multiple locations

Raytheon Company, with 2007 sales of $21.3 billion, is a technology leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other US government markets throughout the world. With a history of innovation spanning more than 85 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and command, control, communications and intelligence systems, as well as a broad range of mission support services. With headquarters in Waltham, Mass., Raytheon employs 72,000 people worldwide.

Raytheon Middle East Systems (RAYMES): RAYMES currently provides the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces (RSADF) a wide variety of support in areas such as program management, technical services, training, and logistics.

The Royal Saudi Air Defense Force Institute, located in the cosmopolitan city of Jeddah has emerged as the most leading edge, dynamic, forward-looking ELT programs in Saudi Arabia integrating the latest technology, methods and materials to implement a unique, customer-driven curriculum. The rapidly evolving program is seeking the next generation of ESL/ESP specialists who are creative classroom teachers, team builders and innovators in curriculum development, multimedia language learning, and testing to continuing driving our program forward.

Technical English Language Instructor - Technical Librarian II
Job Description: Teaches English as a Second Language to Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces (RSADF) personnel and cadets in a classroom environment.

The individual will conduct English Language classes and labs in accordance with the established Program of Instruction (POI) and review progress of assigned class or students. The individual will administer and evaluate tests and examinations, submit attendance and grade reports, prepare materials and reports, and counsel students as necessary. The position also includes participation in scheduled functions, training seminars, meetings, orientations, visits, and performs other related duties as required or directed.

All offers are contingent on the candidate’s ability to meet requirements for a Saudi Arabia WORK VISA. Depending upon the location, the candidate may be required to pass additional medical test, credit checks, and/or other requirements. These additional items are required for the company to comply with the various laws and regulatory rules.

Basic Qualifications:

· Bachelor’s Degree with at least four (4) years of formal experience teaching English is required if the instructor has a Bachelor’s Degree or one (1) year of formal experience teaching English if the instructor has a Master’s Degree in English as a second/foreign language, Education, Language or Linguistics.

· Must have practical knowledge of methods used for teaching English as a second/foreign language.

Desired Qualifications:

· Familiarity with CALL and Multimedia teaching/learning environment preferred.

· Background in English for Specific Purposes and Technical English.

· HTML-based multimedia materials writing, PowerPoint lessons, and SmartBoard(tm) use.

· Experience in teaching all levels of students.

· Familiar with Interactions Access or DLI Curriculum.

Raytheon provides secure housing, fully furnished with amenities including basic cable and internet; on site recreation center with restaurant, convenience store, bowling alley, swimming pool, gym, library, and IT lab; company transportation and beach access to the Red Sea. Raytheon offers highly competitive salaries, full medical, generous holiday package, round trip airfare, relocation and storage allowances, performance sharing, signing and contract completion bonuses, company 401k plan, COLA, and other salary perks.

Raytheon is an equal opportunity employer and considers qualified applicants for employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, disability, or Vietnam era, or other eligible veteran status, or any other protected factor.

Job code: IDS112617
E-mail :
Web Site :
John L’Ecuyer
Training and Technical Support Analyst
880 Technology Park Dr
Billerica, MA 01821

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pastor of house church in Saudi Arabia threatened with death

A prominent foreign pastor in Saudi Arabia has fled Riyadh after a member of the mutawwa’in, or religious police, and others threatened him three times in one week. Two of the incidents included threats to kill house church pastor Yemane Gebriel of Eritrea. On Wednesday (Jan. 28), Gebriel escaped to an undisclosed city in Saudi Arabia.

A father of eight who has lived and worked as a private driver in Saudi Arabia for 25 years, Gebriel told Compass that on Jan. 10 he found an unsigned note on his vehicle threatening to kill him if he did not leave the country. On Jan. 13, he said, mutawwa’in member Abdul Aziz and others forced him from his van and told him to leave the country.

“There was a note on my van saying, ‘If you do not leave the country, we will kill you,” Gebriel told Compass by telephone. “Three days after that, [Aziz] said, ‘You’re still working here, why don’t you go out of the country?”

Aziz, another member of the mutawwa’in and a policeman had waited for Gebriel shortly after 9 p.m. A sheikh at a Riyadh mosque, Aziz raged at Gebriel for about five minutes, accusing him of being a Christian and trying to change the religion of others, said a Christian source in Saudi Arabia.

“He finished by telling Yemane to get out of the country or ‘measures’ would be taken,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons. He said Gebriel was in genuine danger of losing his life. “In meeting with me on the morning of Thursday, Jan. 15, Yemane himself was clearly very frightened,” said the source.

That night (Jan. 15), Gebriel told Compass, four masked men – apparently Saudis – in a small car cut off the van he was driving. “They said, ‘We will kill you if you don’t go away from this place – you must leave here or we will kill you,’” he said.

Gebriel subsequently took temporary refuge in a safe house in Riyadh, and after consulting with consular officials from four embassies on Tuesday (Jan. 27), the pastor was whisked away to another city the following day.

In 2005, the religious police’s Aziz had directed that Gebriel be arrested along with 16 other foreign Christian leaders, though diplomatic pressure resulted in their release within weeks.

“No doubt Sheikh Abdul Aziz is still burning,” said the local Christian source. “Nor may such type of death threat be possibly idle words. The current situation and circumstance remind me very much of the machine-gun murder of Irish Roman Catholic layman Tony Higgins right here in Riyadh in August 2004.”

Raids Feared

Gebriel, 42, led a church of more than 300 foreign-born Christians, though because of work obligations only a little over 150 are able to meet regularly in his villa for Friday worship. He fled without his family, as his wife and children had managed to relocate in Egypt in August 2007.

More on Compass Direct.

Conversion story of Saudi convert who was arrested on 13 January

Five months after the daughter of a member of Saudi Arabia’s religious police was killed for writing online about her faith in Christ, Saudi authorities have reportedly arrested a 28-year-old Christian man for describing his conversion and criticizing the kingdom’s judiciary on his Web site.

Saudi police arrested Hamoud Bin Saleh on Jan. 13 “because of his opinions and his testimony that he had converted from Islam to Christianity,” according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI). Bin Saleh, who had been detained for nine months in 2004 and again for a month last November, was reportedly being held in Riyadh’s Eleisha prison.

On his web site, which Saudi authorities have blocked, Bin Saleh wrote that his journey to Christ began after witnessing the public beheading of three Pakistanis convicted of drug charges. Shaken, he began an extensive study of Islamic history and law, as well as Saudi justice. He became disillusioned with sharia (Islamic law) and dismayed that kingdom authorities only prosecuted poor Saudis and foreigners.

“I was convinced that the wretched Pakistanis were executed in accordance with the Muhammadan laws just because they are poor and have no money or favored positions, which they had no control or power over,” he wrote in Arabic in his Dec. 22 posting, referring to “this terrible prejudice in the application of justice in Saudi Arabia.”

A 2003 graduate in English literature from Al Yarmouk University in Jordan, Bin Saleh’s research led him to an exploration of other faiths, and in his travels he gained access to a Bible.

“My mind was persistently raising questions and desperately seeking answers,” he wrote. “I went on vacations to read about comparative religion, and I got the Bible, and I used to give these books to anyone before going back to Saudi, as going back there with such books is considered an unforgivable crime which will throw its perpetrator in a dark jail.”

After reading how Jesus forgave – rather than stoned – a woman condemned for adultery, Bin Saleh eventually received Christ as savior.

“Jesus . . . took us beyond physical salvation as he offered us forgiveness that is the salvation of eternal life and compassion,” he wrote. “Just look and ask for the light of God; there might be no available books to help you make a comparative study between the teachings of Muhammad (which are in my opinion a series of political, social, economical and human disasters) and the teaching of Jesus in Saudi Arabia, but there are many resources on the Web by which you might get to the bosom/arms of the Father of salvation. Seek salvation and you will reach it; may the Lord keep you from the devil’s pitfalls.”

With the Quran and sayings of Muhammad (Sunna) as its constitution, Saudi Arabia enforces a form of sharia derived from 18th-century Sunni scholar Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab that calls for the death penalty for “blasphemy,” or insulting Islam or its prophet, Muhammad. Likewise, conversion from Islam to another faith, “apostasy,” is punishable by death, although the U.S. Department of State’s 2008 International Religious Freedom Report notes that there have been no confirmed reports of executions for either blasphemy or apostasy in recent years.

Saudi Arabia’s ruling monarchy restricts media and other forms of public expression, though authorities have shown some tolerance for criticism and debate since King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud officially ascended to the throne in 2005, according to the state department report.

A spokesman for the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, D.C. would neither confirm the Jan. 13 arrest of Bin Saleh nor comment on the reasons for it.

Previous Arrests

Writing that both Islam and Saudi Arabia promote injustice and inequality, Bin Saleh described himself as a researcher/writer bent on obtaining full rights of the Christian minority in Saudi Arabia.

He noted on his now-banned Web site (“Masihi Saudi,” at that he had been arrested twice, the first time in Beirut, Lebanon on Jan. 18, 2004. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees office there had notified Saudi authorities that he had been accepted as a “refugee for ideological persecution reasons,” he wrote, but a few days later intelligence agents from the Saudi embassy in Beirut, “with collusion of Lebanese authorities and the government of [former Prime Minister] Rafik Al-Hariri,” turned him over to Saudi officials.

Read HERE was happened further.

Moroccans in Netherlands angry at ban on berber names

Moroccans in the Netherlands are not allowed to give their children any Berber names any more. In this way, Islamic identity is being stressed, Trouw newspaper reported yesterday.

By far the biggest group of Moroccans in the Netherlands are of Berber origin, a region in the mountainous north of Morocco. "They will now be forced to give their children a Moroccan-Islamic name," according to Trouw. "Morocco wants to secure the Moroccan identity of its nationals in this way, including the Moroccan Dutch."

The Moroccan government in Rabat sent all embassies and consulates abroad a list of banned name this week. Christian names were already forbidden. "We forbid Berber names because they conflict with the identity and because they open the door to the spread of meaningless names," said Idris Bajdi, a top official in Morocco, in the newspaper.

Labour (PvdA) MP Samira Bouchibti, a Moroccan national (by royal Moroccan decree) like all other Moroccans who moved to or were born in the Netherlands, is angry. "We must get rid of these lists of names and this interference. I want to be able to decide myself how I name my children. This is discriminatory."

Bouchibti also criticised her party leader Wouter Bos, who said at a PvdA party meeting earlier this week that dual passports "belong in the Netherlands." Bouchibti: "Bos has no enforced dual nationality and therefore does not know what it means in practice." Bos considers dual nationality can foster intergation.

Found on Muslims againt Sharia.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Debate rages in Algeria over proposed death penalty ban

Algerian clerics and human rights groups are locked in a vigorous debate over a death penalty ban proposed by Parliament. While the law allows it, Algeria has not executed a prisoner since 1993. Said Jameh writes for Magharebia in Algiers:

[Said Jameh] Cheikh Abderehmane Chibane of the Algerian Association of Muslim Scholars says a ban on the death penalty would be a "big mistake."

Debate is heating up in Algeria between clerics and human rights activists over a proposed ban on capital punishment in the country. Religious leaders accuse legislators of denying society a punitive measure prescribed in the Qur'an, while supporters of the ban believe the death penalty is a human rights issue and should not be approached from a religious or philosophical perspective.

The controversy began when the opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) proposed the legislation, and worsened when the National Consultative Committee for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH) organised a two-day meeting on January 12th-13th between clerics and human rights advocates.

Discussion from both sides has been carried widely by the Algerian press. Human rights activist Kamel Rezak Bara called for the abolition of the death penalty, citing a de facto moratorium in place in the country for many years. While judges continue to issue the death sentence – particularly in cases related to terrorism – Algeria has not executed a prisoner since 1993.

Bara called on judges to suspend their use of the death sentence, resorting instead to life in prison for existing capital crimes.

Algeria was the only Arab nation to vote in favour of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 62/149 of 2007, which called for a moratorium on executions. In the Maghreb, Libya and Mauritania opposed the initiative and Morocco abstained from the vote, while Tunisia was absent.

More on

Google helps Saudi Arabia oppress the Church

Saudi blogger Hamoud Bin Saleh has been arrested for being a Christian. Yes, Saudi Arabia is called a 'moderate Arab state'. That country should have been invaded instead of Iraq... There was more liberty for the Church in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, than in Saudi Arabia.

Google's blogspot platform has actually helped Saudi Arabia: the blogspot of Saleh cannnot be accessed. Have a look here al Saleh's website!

Is becoming a Christian a 'possible terms of service violation'? Or is Google worried that Saudi Arabia may take action? Sure, business must go on, throw another Christian into the lion's den. Maybe we have to be more careful with our SrFrancisMagazine blog?

Funny is, that we can use Google's own cache to undermine its censorship. See what Saleh wrote before he was arrested: click here. Well, that is what I wrote originally; today. on 31 January, the cache can no longer be accessed. Google took action and also blocked the cache. This is the message there:

Sorry for the bad quality picture; but you may see the progress. Google now says that the blog is in violation of Blogger Terms of Service. It would be interesting to know which one? Conversion from the Islamic faith to the Christian faith?

Barry Rubin: Virtually Unnoticed: A Totally New Middle East

It can certainly be claimed that no world area is more closely-even obsessively-watched than the Middle East. This is quite understandable for many reasons, including the fact that many of the world's crises, much of the world's violence, and most of the world's diplomatic energies are connected with that region. And yet, despite all this, a tremendous transformation has happened in that nexus of global interests while being most incompletely comprehended. In short, the Middle East is totally different from the way it had been for the preceding half-century in ways that will profoundly affect the United Kingdom and every other country in the West.

To comprehend how much the region has truly changed, we need only consider its main features from the 1950s until well into the 1990s and even just past the last turn of a century. In those days, a trio of critical factors defined the tale.

First, the Arabic-speaking world was dominated almost totally by Arab nationalist doctrine, with all regimes and large movements being of that persuasion.

Second, much of Middle East politics consisted of dizzying maneuvers and mutual subversions among nationalist regimes seeking regional hegemony-usually Egypt, Iraq, and Syria-or those trying to play off the elephants to survive-Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the rest.

Third, Arab regimes lined up in two blocs, with more radical, anti-status quo military regimes and their client movements siding with the USSR, and more conservative monarchies seeking Western support in self-defense.

By the 1990s, this regional order was unraveling in the face of evidence that Arab nationalist ideology and regimes had failed. After all, they hadn't built a united Arab nation from Morocco's Atlantic coast to Saudi Arabia's Persian Gulf shore. Nor had they expelled Western influence, destroyed Israel, or generally brought their people high living standards, much less freedoms.

The winds of change were blowing, but in which direction?

It was easy to believe in the 1990s that moderation was on the ascendant. Iraq's defeat in Kuwait, the fall of the radicals' Soviet bloc sponsors, and start of an Arab-Israeli peace process all seemed good omens. Some dreamed democracy would replace dictatorship, outrun Islamists, and bring bright tomorrows.

That was not, however, what happened. The culprit was not Western policy errors or insufficient effort. Rather it was the continuing power of traditional ideas, the regimes themselves, and the societies over which they presided. The very few liberal voices were overwhelmed by a message with far more mass appeal, that of the Islamists.

Both opposition groups agreed that the existing order had failed but had opposite solutions. Moderates proposed peace with Israel, cooperation with the West, democracy, women's rights, and modernization. After all, this was the blueprint used successfully in much of the world and held as an ideal by those yearning to imitate that outcome. But it didn't work that way in the Middle East.

For rulers, reform portended anarchy and the specter of Islamist takeover. For the largely traditionalist masses, liberal solutions were too dangerous and unfamiliar. To Islamists, it represented treason. They argued that failure arose from too much, not too little, Westernization. In effect, they proclaimed: you may have been hitting your head against a stone wall; your mistake was not doing it hard enough.

Thus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ushered in the new era with an August 15, 2006 speech to his tame Journalists' Union. The West, Israel, and moderate Arabs, he claimed, wanted a region "built on submission and humiliation and deprivation of peoples of their rights." Instead there would be, "A sweeping popular upsurge...characterized by honor and Arabism...struggle and resistance."

This result is the new Middle East of Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

First, everywhere Islamists seriously challenge nationalists. In seeking to seize state power and not give it back. This rivalry is spilling over among the growing number of Muslims in Europe, especially since Islamists are far more proportionately stronger there than back in the Middle East.

Second, two blocs contend for regional power. The better-organized, more coherent side is led by Islamist Iran, with junior partner Syria, Lebanese Hizballah, Palestinian Hamas, and Iraqi insurgents. Also on the Islamist--but not Iranian--side are Muslim Brotherhoods and al-Qaida. All want to destroy Western influence, Arab regimes, and Israel.

The other grouping consists of the other Arab states, Israel, and the West. Yet this alignment is weak, disorganized, and full of internal conflicts.

Fourth, the "moderate" side's adherents have parallel interests in containing Iran, preventing Islamist revolution, and countering high levels of terrorism and instability. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean these forces are cooperating.

In an interview with journalist Bob Woodward, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice senses the change but is over-optimistic about it. Rice argues there is now a high level of cohesion among regional American allies, even if those countries don't want to speak or act publicly.

Yet Arab regimes are timid. They know their own people accept many radical notions (taught them by the Arab nationalists themselves for decades) and want to avoid confrontation with radicals if possible. Thus, for example, much of the nationalists' "anti-terrorist" rhetoric is a plea for gunmen to slay Israelis or Westerners rather than attack governments and institutions where they live.

Consider the bizarre politics of Iraq, where-despite parallel U.S. and Saudi interests in stopping Iran-the Saudis help Sunni insurgents who kill American soldiers and try to force them out.

Quite possibly, the greatest danger of Iran getting nuclear weapons is not that they would be fired at Israel-though this is a rather chilling prospect-but that these arms will turn the balance in the two-bloc struggle. Once Iran has atomic bombs atop long-range missiles, Arab states will rush to appease Tehran, Western countries be even more prone toward appeasement, and Muslim masses likely to queue up in front of the radical Islamist recruiting stations to enlist on what they perceive as the winning side.

This massive struggle, not al-Qaida's sporadic terror attacks, is the real main issue for the region, perhaps the world, in decades to come. The battle will be fought out more in Arab states through terror civil war, and revolution, than on the Israeli or Western fronts. Western ability to influence events will be limited.

A solution will not come from concessions to a side which is roughly the Middle East equivalent of German-led fascism or Soviet-spearheaded Communism. Struggle, steadfastness, and strategic alliances are keys to victory and survival. Fresh from musings about history's end we've been thrust into a new era of traditional international power politics and ideological contention which seems set to become the twenty-first century's main feature.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center in Herzliya, Israel, and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His books include The Truth About Syria; The Tragedy of the Middle East; and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East.

First published on Right Side News, 28 January 2009

Professor Barry Rubin

Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
Editor, Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal
Watch on the Middle East
Editor Turkish Studies,


(Compass Direct News) – Following a brutal raid on six Christian brothers and their café because they had opened for business during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, a judge on Jan. 22 sentenced them to three years in prison with hard labor for resisting arrest and assaulting authorities. Last September, 13 police officers raided the café in Port Sa’id, a city in Egypt’s Nile delta, overturning tables, breaking chairs and smashing glasses and hookah pipes, according to the Coptic Christians’ lawyer. They beat the brothers with sticks, leaving two with broken arms and a third needing 11 stitches for a head wound.

“The police attacked these people and assaulted them unjustifiably,” said Ramses el-Nagar, the Christians’ lawyer. “Police did not want to see people eating during Ramadan. This is unfair, because whatever people’s beliefs are, the law is something else and they should not be mixed.” There is no law in Egypt under which the brothers could be prosecuted for opening their café during Ramadan. When they tried to defend their café, the brothers, all in their 30s, were arrested on Sept. 8 and charged with resisting arrest and assaulting authorities.

The names of the imprisoned Christian brothers are Ashraf Morris Ghatas; Magdy Morris Ghatas; Osama Morris Ghatas; Nabil Morris Ghatas; Walid Morris Ghatas; and Hany Morris Ghatas.

Was the prophet of Islam a transvestite?

Father Zakaria Boutros continues to amaze the Arab world. One of his latest TV programs on LifeTV was on the sexual appetites of Muhammad, prophet of Islam.

In this episode, he began with the prophet’s “transvestite” tendencies. He read from several hadiths, including Sahih Bukhari—Fr Botros claims that there are no less than 32 different references to this phenomenon in Islam’s books—wherein Muhammad often laid in bed dressed in women’s clothes, specifically his child-bride Aisha’s.

Fr. Botros: “Perhaps Muslims think that he only dressed in Aisha’s clothes? Being that she was his “favorite,” perhaps after being intimate with her, he would merely lay in bed with her clothes?” (Here the priest put his face in his hands lamenting that he had to talk of such shameful things.)

Then he offered an interesting and revealing hadith, from Sahih Bukhari (2/911), which records Muhammad saying, “Revelations [i.e., the Koran] never come to me when I’m dressed in women’s clothing—except when I’m dressed in Aisha’s,” implying that it was something of a habit for the prophet to dress in female clothing.

Fr Botros next moved on to some commentaries in the Tafsir of al-Qurtubi—an authoritative exegesis in Islam. He read one anecdote where Aisha said that, one day, while Muhammad was lying naked in bed, Zaid came knocking; Muhammad, without getting dressed, opened the door and “hugged and kissed him”—in the nude. Elsewhere, Qurtubi concludes that, “the prophet—prayers and blessings upon him—was constantly preoccupied with women.”

Fr Botros to Muslims: “So this is your prophet—the most morally upright man? Instead of being preoccupied with, say, prayer or good deeds, he was preoccupied with women?”

He next read from Faid al-Qabir (3/371), wherein Muhammad is on record saying, “My greatest loves are women and perfume: the hungry is satisfied after eating, but I never have enough of women.” Another hadith: “I can hold back from food and drink—but not from women.” After reading these hadiths, Fr Botros would just look at the screen in silence, shaking his head.

He next read an interesting narrative (contained in Umdat al-Qari and Faid al-Qabir). Reportedly, Allah sent Gabriel with some sort of celestial food (called al-kofid) to Muhammad, commanding the latter to “Eat!”—identical to when Gabriel came to Muhammad saying “Read!” (i.e., iqra, the word for Koran). The report goes on to quote Muhammad saying that the food given to him “gave me the sexual potency of 40 heavenly men.” Fr Botros next read from the Sunan of al-Tirmidhi, where it says that the “heavenly man” has the sexual potency of 100 mortal men. More HERE.

JORDAN: Al Qaeda-linked group accused in attack on choir

An Al Qaeda-linked group was allegedly responsible for a violent attack on a Christian choir group in the Jordanian capital of Amman last July, authorities revealed Tuesday. The incident took place in a downtown Amman neighborhood.

A gunman opened fire on a bus full of tourists, wounding six, including four Lebanese musicians from a university choir. After months of investigation, a group of 12 Jordanians of Palestinian origin were put on trial Tuesday on charges that included July's shooting. Their indictment alleged that the group's mastermind, Shaker Khatib, was trained by a Lebanese offshoot of Osama bin Laden's organization. He was supposed to be sent to fight the jihad in Iraq. But the 28-year-old man had allegedly returned to Jordan instead to establish his own militant cell.

Khatib and the other men were also accused of hurling Molotov cocktails at a Christian church and possession of illegal weapons. The charge sheet stated that the men decided to unleash their anger against Christians in Jordan after they heard word of a young Christian man sending mobile phone messages profaning Islam's prophet Muhammad. According to an Associated Press report, the trial was postponed until Feb. 3 because the suspects did not have attorneys to defend them. If convicted, the men could be sentenced to death. Jordanian authorities say they have thwarted several attacks by Islamists in the last few years. In 2005, an Iraqi female would-be suicide bomber and associates from Al Qaeda in Iraq were sentenced to death for carrying out simultaneous attacks at three hotels in Amman killing more than 60 people.
From the Los Angeles Times

al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: up or down?

The media wing of one of al Qaeda’s Yemeni franchises, al Qaeda in Yemen, released a statement on online jihadist forums Jan. 20 from the group’s leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, announcing the formation of a single al Qaeda group for the Arabian Peninsula under his command. According to al-Wuhayshi, the new group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, would consist of his former group (al Qaeda in Yemen) as well as members of the now-defunct Saudi al Qaeda franchise.

The press release noted that the Saudi militants have pledged allegiance to al-Wuhayshi, an indication that the reorganization was not a merger of equals. This is understandable, given that the jihadists in Yemen have been active recently while their Saudi counterparts have not conducted a meaningful attack in years. The announcement also related that a Saudi national (and former Guantanamo detainee) identified as Abu-Sayyaf al-Shihri has been appointed as al-Wuhayshi’s deputy. In some ways, this is similar to the way Ayman al-Zawahiri and his faction of Egyptian Islamic Jihad swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden and were integrated in to al Qaeda prime. More on this on Stratfor Global Intelligence.

Indonesia's fatwa against yoga not very effective

Four days after the fatwa went out, students continued to fill the yoga mats in the classrooms of Jakarta's Jakartadogyoga Studio. On Jan. 28, the influential Indonesian Ulemas Council issued a religious edict forbidding all Indonesian Muslims from practicing yoga that incorporates pre-Hindu religious rituals such meditation and chanting. And while students at the yoga studio admitted they had heard about the proclamation, which only allows yoga for the purpose of exercise or sport, they say it won't deter them from attending classes in the popular Indian practice. "Issuing a fatwa is not the way to settle a controversy — if there really is one," says Sita Resmi, a yoga student and practicing Muslim. "If something endangers the public then I understand, but this doesn't so it doesn't make much sense to me." More in Time Magazine.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Decoding Egypt: The broken wings of Egypt's propaganda machine

Since the beginning of Israel’s war on Gaza, the official Egyptian propaganda machine has been working at full capacity, but what it has produced is a mixture of sheer lies and half-truths. There is a political and moral imperative to evaluate the basic arguments of that machine. Dr. Nael M. Shama, a political researcher in Cairo, criticizes Egypt:

1. Hamas is responsible for the war

Hamas was the result of the lingering Palestinian-Israeli conflict, not the cause of it. The clock of Egypt’s propaganda machine, however, started ticking on Dec. 19, 2008 when Hamas rejected an extension of the truce with Israel if its unjust conditions are not amended, particularly the lifting of the blockade imposed on Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinians. Israel’s aggressive intentions need no elaboration; it had fought the Arab world five times (in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982) and occupied the land of four Arab states (Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt) before Hamas even existed.

Shama's complete article is published HERE, in the Daily News - Egypt.

SUDAN: Darfur suffers “worst violence in a year”

The recent aerial bombardment by the Sudanese government and ground offensive against the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) marks the worst violence in Darfur in a year, an analyst said.

"Sudan is in a state of high tension at the moment, and we face a dangerous month ahead," Sudan expert Alex de Waal, said. "Parts of Darfur are again in flames, with the worst fighting in the region since the beginning of 2008."

The fighting, which started in mid-January around Muhajiriya in South Darfur, has forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes, with many heading north of the town, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). MORE of this story on the Website of OCHA.

Saudi Christian Blogger Arrested

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reports that on 13 January 2009, Saudi police arrested Hamoud Bin Saleh and blocked access to his blog -- "Masihi Saudi - " -- because of his opinions and his testimony that he had converted from Islam to Christianity. According to ANHRI, Hamoud Bin Saleh is incarcerated in the infamous Eleisha political prison in Riyadh, reports the World Evangelical Alliance.

ANHRI reports: "The 28-year-old alumni of the al Yarmouk University in Jordan has been arrested twice before; for nine months in 2004 and last November [2008]." On that occasion (November 2008) Saudi authorities released Hamoud prior to the Saudi-sponsored, UN-run "Culture of Peace" conference that was held in the UN Headquarters in New York on 12-13
November 2008. King Abdullah did not want to put his public relations coup at risk, and clearly it would have been inappropriate for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to stand up and lament mankind's "preoccupation with differences between the followers of religions" (see link 2) while his religious police were abusing a young Saudi intellectual detained purely for his different religion. However once the Saudi-sponsored "Culture of Peace" conference had passed, Hamoud Bin Saleh was re-arrested for professing a different religion.

ANHRI holds great fears for Hamoud's life, concerned that the Saudi authorities might seize the opportunity to make an example of him while the world's eyes are fixed on the situation in Gaza.

As ANHRI notes: "The young man committed no crime and the only thing he has done is exercising his normal right to express his opinions and beliefs, which must not be violated under whatever pretext.

"ANHRI condemns Saleh's arrest and holds the Saudi government fully responsible for his safety. It also demands his immediate release and calls on the Saudi government to meet its commitments and the Saudi king's statements about the respect of freedom of expression and
religious tolerance."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wall Street Journal: How Israel helped create Hamas

Surveying the wreckage of a neighbor's bungalow hit by a Palestinian rocket, retired Israeli official Avner Cohen traces the missile's trajectory back to an "enormous, stupid mistake" made 30 years ago.

"Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel's creation," says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994, Mr. Cohen watched the Islamist movement take shape, muscle aside secular Palestinian rivals and then morph into what is today Hamas, a militant group that is sworn to Israel's destruction.

Instead of trying to curb Gaza's Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat's Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, even as he was laying the foundations for what would become Hamas. Sheikh Yassin continues to inspire militants today; during the recent war in Gaza, Hamas fighters confronted Israeli troops with "Yassins," primitive rocket-propelled grenades named in honor of the cleric.

Read the whole article in the Wall Street Journal.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Morocco's discriminatory Arabization policies

Human rights organizations in Morocco lashed out at the government for refusing to issue birth certificates with Berber names under the pretext that they contradict Moroccan identity.

The Moroccan civil registry recently rejected 13 Berber names after receiving a list from the Ministry of Interior with specific Berber names considered in violation of law 99-37 that determines names fit for males and females. "The same list was distributed in Moroccan embassies and consulates abroad," said administrative authority officer Idris Bajdi. "The names on the list contradict the Moroccan identity and it opens the door for the random spread of meaningless names," he told

According to law 99-37, names of new born babies should be Moroccan in essence. Names that the law rejects include those made up of more than two parts, named after a city or a village or a tribe, or having an indecent meaning. More HERE on al-Arabiya.

Quran-only movement persecuted

There is a war being waged in Egypt against Muslim reformers. These reformers call themselves "Koranists" because they focus solely on the Koran and advocate a modern interpretation of Islam that rejects Shariah law. The International Herald Tribune has an article on this matter by Ahmed Subhy Mansour (picture) of the International Quranic Center in Washington. He writes:

These self-declared leaders of the "Islamic Reformation" number in the thousands and are connected globally through the Internet. For nearly a decade, as this movement has gained momentum, they have come under increased attack from the Egyptian government for their religious ideas. Al Azhar University, which is based in Cairo and is the leading center for conservative Sunni learning in the world, has rejected the views of the Koranists and has sought to systematically dismantle the movement.

To curry favor with this influential religious establishment, the Egyptian government has brutally cracked down on members of the Koranist movement, leading to the imprisonment and torture of over 20 members and the exile of many more. This unique collaboration between the government and Islamic traditionalists refutes current claims by the state that Egypt is secular and that it is working to fight extremism and terrorism.

In the latest effort to destroy this fledgling reform movement, a young Koranist blogger named Reda Abdel Rahman was arrested on Oct. 27 and charged with "insulting Islam." Rahman's popular blog criticizes the religious establishment - largely based on his training at Al Azhar. His blog calls for widespread religious and political reform in Egypt and the larger Muslim world. According to Rahman's lawyers, his arrest was requested by the head of Al Azhar after Rahman refused to suspend his blog. He was then detained and tortured in an unknown location for over a month until international pressure forced the government to disclose his whereabouts. More HERE in the IHT

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Daily Star Lebanon is broke... painful!

The Arab world's most storied English-language newspaper has suspended publication because of financial woes. Lebanon's the Daily Star, which is distributed throughout the Middle East inside the International Herald Tribune, has been in trouble for quite some time. Still, nobody expected the fall of Lebanon's only English-language daily so abruptly.

One morning last week, without notice, the Daily Star was simply no longer available on newspaper stands. And it has not been published since that date, Jan. 14. The website has not been updated either.

The decision to shut the newspaper was made by a court order after months of financial hurdles with a Lebanese bank over a debt amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, the newspaper's publisher and editor in chief, Jamil Mroue, told The Times today. More HERE

Brief history of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

According to ecclesiastical history and tradition, St. Peter the Apostle established a bishopric in Antioch and became its first bishop and was succeeded by Evodius for the converted Jews and St. Ignatius the Illuminator for the converted Gentiles.

After the martyrdom of St. Peter in Rome, was succeeded by St. Evodius and St. Ignatius respectively. Likewise, St. Peter was succeeded by a line of distinguished Patriarchs, most of whom amazed the world with their sanctity, wonderful writings and other accomplishments in many fields. The See of Antioch then becomes the first, the oldest, and the most famous Church in Christianity. It was the foundation of the Christianity in the East and mother of the gentile churches and the headquarters of Christianity in Asia.

It’s proud to be the origin of the word Christian; it was in Antioch, after all, that the followers of Jesus Christ were called Christians as we are told in the New Testament, “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26). For more HERE

Hardliners strengthened after the Gaza-war

Time Magazine has a good article on the political and religious situation in the Arab World after the Gaza-war. Here the whole article.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia invited three feuding Arab leaders to a reconciliation lunch this week. The rulers of Syria, Qatar and Egypt, in Kuwait for an economic summit, turned up at King Abdullah's residence in Kuwait City for some Saudi hospitality. But it will take more than meze and grilled lamb to heal the gaping divisions in the Arab world. "If these breaches are so easy to solve by having lunch, then they should be having breakfast, lunch and dinner," said Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Center of Lebanon at the American University of Beirut. As Palestinian survivors of the three-week military onslaught in Gaza scooped out the dead from the rubble, Khouri says the Arab world's squabbling rulers have never looked more "collectively mediocre."

After war, Christians in Gaza express fear of emboldened Hamas

Christians and moderate Muslims quietly expressed concern about what their place in the Gaza Strip would be now that Hamas remains strong after a three-week Israeli offensive, according to Catholic News Service. Several businessmen who spoke to Catholic News Service questioned the outcome of the war, which began with Israeli bombardments Dec. 27 and ended with separate unilateral cease-fires -- declared by Israel Jan. 18 and Hamas Jan. 19.

"Hamas is still in government and there are guns everywhere," one businessman noted, hinting that Israel's offensive to destroy Hamas' power base was a failure.

Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist militia and political party that states as its goals the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state in all of historical Palestine, remains armed. News reports said Israel failed to destroy the Hamas network of underground tunnels into Egypt.

At first Christians cautiously told CNS that although they were concerned about the future until now the Christian community had not been troubled by Hamas. But as the conversations continued, they recounted how unknown extremists had killed a member of a Baptist church in 2007 and there had been numerous violent attacks against Christian institutions and businesses, such as Internet cafes, viewed as Western.

All those interviewed by CNS expressed concern for their safety and insisted on complete anonymity. "There is a lot we want to say but we are afraid," several said. If European countries would offer them political asylum, they said they would accept it. MORE HERE.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Former head of Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt dies at age 89

Cardinal Stephanos II Ghattas (on photo right), the retired head of Egypt's largest Catholic community, died in Cairo Jan. 20, just a few days after his 89th birthday.

For almost 20 years before retiring in 2006, the former patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church led a community of about 200,000 members, a small fraction of Egypt's total population of more than 80 million people.

Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, but Christians have maintained a presence there since the time of the apostles.

Despite sporadic violence by Muslim extremists in the past -- including attacks against Christians in some parts of the country -- Cardinal Ghattas consistently played down disputes and highlighted interreligious cooperation.

For example, when 20 Christians were killed in a southern Egyptian village in 2000, he did not use the deaths to press Christian complaints about religious discrimination. Instead, he later praised all sides for restoring calm to the village and defusing the violence.

More on this on Catholic News Service, in a story by Carol Glatz.

Catholic Newspaper in Malaysia had the guts to use the word Allah for God

The government of Malaysia has expressed regret that Catholic weekly Herald has defied the government’s ban on the use of word “Allah” as a translation for “God” in its publication.

While calling for a stop on public debates regarding the matter, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said he will ask the ministry’s legal division to see “what can be done” against the newspaper.

“Usually, we will study what happens when there is no compliance. Religious issues are very sensitive. That’s why I avoid debating about it. But if one religion decides to show its strength and all sort of things, it is a bit dangerous.

"To me, it is best (that) we sort it out in an environment which is not confrontational - an environment of goodwill and understanding. That’s why we have taken this approach. "We did not take action, (but) we gave conditions so that they would not create problems,” he told a press conference after the ministry’s monthly assembly today.

Syed Hamid said the newspaper should have waited for the court’s decision, scheduled Feb 27, instead of acting according to its own judgment and defying the Cabinet’s decision to lift the ban imposed on the Malay edition of Herald. MORE IN THESUNDAILY.

In Malaysia, there is ofcourse also much discussion among Muslims about this issue. Have a look here for instance.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Saudi Arabia creating laws against Islamic Sharia

Steps are being taken in Saudi Arabia to set the minimum age for marriage at 16, according to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) there. Commission chiefs say the kingdom's Ministry of Justice has started to study ways to set a minimum age and that brides will have to be 16 or over for the marriage to be legal.

“The Justice Ministry’s initiative is a good sign and we absolutely welcome and support it. We will join all efforts to eliminate this phenomenon,” said Zuhair Al-Harithy, the HRC’s official spokesman in comments published by Arab News on Tuesday.

This is a radical issue in Saudi Arabia, as it means that they are legally admitting that marrying girls of 6, or 9 years old, is immoral. What about their own prophet Muhammad and his Ayesha? Ahhh... but that is different. He was perfect. That is why God permitted him things that other human beings cannot do. MORE HERE.

The Quran is a fabrication

Western scientists, Islamologists, Arabist and others (and not all of them Jews or Christians) are not convinced that the text of the Quran as we have it today, is similar to the texts that came into existence at the time of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Traditions about how the Quran was created are distrusted and often rejected by these western (and eastern) experts.

Not so by Muslims. Any critique of the Islamic view of how the Quran was created, are rejected vehemently, and if needed, with the force of government, imprisonment, or worse. Here a description of an orthodox Muslim about how the Quran was created, for our instruction. Have a look HERE.

Rick Warren trying to please Muslims in the USA

Our Muslim friends, if they watched Rick Warren's prayer at the inauguration of B. Hussein Obama, cannot have missed his references to Islam. First, he addressed God as the Compassionate and Merciful - al-Rahman al-Rahim. And in the end, he used the names Yeshua, Isa, Jesus, to close his prayer.

I appreciate that public prayers in a nation that cannot favor any religion, are a headache. But this was a strange effort to please Muslims. The fact that Warren began by addressing God as Father made this immediately a prayer totally outside the pale of Islam, and likewise his end with the Lord'd Prayer. And mentioning 'Isa made it even stranger, after Yeshua and before Jesus. What sort of hotchpotch is this? Not convincing, my dear brother Warren.

New edition of St Francis Magazine

Next week, the new issue of St Francis Magazine will be published HERE. This is the first issue in the new year - and a special one as we now publish a new issue every 2 months. Come back next week and see the new interesting articles. Some extra focus will be on issues of Reconciliation. Not wholly irrelevant in our context of the Arab World.

Shiite scholar in Kuwait acquitted in Prophet companions defamation charge

The Arab Times reports that the Court of Appeals Monday ruled in favor of Shiite scholar Mohamed Baqer Al-Fali (left picture) and overturned the verdict of a lower court which had fined him KD 10,000 for defaming some close companions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The court also acquitted him of the charge.

After the verdict was issued, one of the defense attorneys Khaled Al-Shatti told the Arab Times this verdict is a slap in the face of malicious people. Attorney Shatti added the verdict will be written in gold water and recorded in the white pages of the Kuwaiti judiciary. “I was certain there are people in this country with minds that can prevent sectarian sedition,” said Shatti.
“I appeal to the authorities to stop such people from continuing in their attempts to promote sedition which can lead the country on the road to hell” added Shatti.

During a previous session, 10 lawyers — Khaled Al-Shatti, Ali Al-Baghli, Jalil Al-Tabbakh, Adel Qurban, Abdul Aziz Taher, Abdul Majid Khuraibet, Khalil Ahmad, Hussein Al-Khashawi, Hamad Al-Mola and Saleh Zakariya — defended Fali.

Monday, January 19, 2009

MALAYSIA Catholics Pray In Wake Of Battle Between Church Weekly And Government Over Use Of Allah

Parishioners here have held all-night vigils the past two weekends to pray for a favorable outcome to a long-running battle between their Catholic weekly and the government on the use of the word Allah, writes the Union of Catholic Asian News. On that website we read:

For the past few years, Herald has been engaged in a dispute with the government on the use of the Arabic word for God in the section of the weekly printed in Bahasa Malaysia, the national language. The Home Ministry has maintained that Allah refers exclusively to the God of Islam.

Parishioners of the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur, have prayed overnight in the church on Saturdays, from 7.45 p.m. until 6 a.m., starting on Jan. 10.

One parishioner, who requested anonymity, told UCA News their action intends to show not only the government but also Catholics that all people have the constitutional right to call God Allah.

"It is like forbidding us to call our father 'Daddy,'" she asserted.

In its Jan. 11 issue, Herald informed readers that on Dec. 30, 2008, the eve of the expiry of its publishing permit for that year, the ministry prohibited the printing of the Bahasa Malaysia section until the case is resolved by the High Court. The court has set Feb. 27 for the hearing.

The front-page article said the weekly's publisher, Archbishop Murphy Pakiam of Kuala Lumpur, notified the ministry in a Jan. 2 letter that the restriction is in "clear contravention of the spirit and intent of the National Language Act 1967."

According to the report, the archbishop warned that the Church "shall be constrained to seek legal redress in the courts" in the absence of any response.

Published on behalf of the bishops of peninsular Malaysia, Herald is available also in Sabah and Sarawak, the states comprising eastern Malaysia.

In its Jan. 18 issue, it reproduced a Jan. 7 letter from the Secretary of the Quran Publication Control and Text Division of the Home Ministry, addressed to Archbishop Pakiam. The letter said the ministry had reviewed its earlier decision and would allow Herald to print its Bahasa Malaysia section provided the word Allah is not used until the matter has been decided in court.

In the meantime, Archbishop Pakiam has applied for a judicial review of the ministry's directive.

Jesuit Father Simon Yong In, the St. Francis Xavier parish priest, responded by e-mail to queries from UCA News. "We are praying that God will be favorable to us in the sense that we feel our right to practice our religion has been curtailed," he said. "We are not happy and we've spoken, but it does seem that our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. God can move hardened hearts. When Jesus wanted to select the 12, he spent a night in prayer."

The priest added that that the prayer vigils show Catholics' resolve in asking God for help after depending for too long on their own strength.

According to 2008 government estimates, the country presently has about 27.7 million people. Previous government figures have indicated that about 60 percent are Muslims, 19 percent are Buddhists, 9 percent are Christians and 6 percent are Hindus.

The Jan. 11 issue of Herald put the number of Catholics in the country at nearly 900,000. It said at least 600,000 of them are from Sabah and Sarawak, and "communicate mainly in Bahasa Malaysia."

Is the black death killing members of al-Qaeda?

Would that be divine revenge... The disease, which struck Europe in the Middle Ages killing more than 25 million people, has swept through a training camp for insurgents in Algeria. The arrival of the plague was discovered when security forces found the body of a dead terrorist by a roadside, the Sun reports. The victim belonged to the large al-Qaeda network AQLIM (al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb).

A security source told the paper: "This is the deadliest weapon yet in the war against terror. Most of the terrorists do not have the basic medical supplies needed to treat the disease. "It spreads It spreads quickly and kills within hours. This will be really worrying al-Qaeda." Black Death comes in various forms and was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history when it struck in the 1340s killing 75 million people across North Africa, Asia and Europe.

Bubonic Plague is spread by bites from infected rat fleas. Symptoms include painful boils in the groin, neck and armpits. In Pneumonic Plague, airborn bacteria spread like flu. Without medication it can be deadly.

The new epidemic began in the cave hideouts of AQLIM in Tizi Ouzou province, 150km east of the capital Algiers, the Sun reports. The group, led by wanted terror figure Abdelmalek Droudkal, was forced to turn its shelters in the Yakouren forest into mass graves and flee.

The group now fears the highly-infectious disease could have spread to other al-Qaeda training camps or Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, the paper said. A source said: "The emirs (leaders) fear surviving terrorists will surrender to escape a horrible death." See The Telegraph.

Fear of fragmentation of northern Sudan

An historian presented a report during a visit to Washington last week contending that “some of the factors unifying Northern Sudan have been seriously weakened” and that conflict is emerging in several regions of the country, reports the Sudan Tribune.

“The main lesson of Northern Sudan’s recent history is that diverse but mismanaged religious and ethnic identities are fragmenting under the pressures of a dominating centre,” wrote Dr. Edward Thomas in the report on safeguarding the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), published by the British think-tank Chatham House.

Time is running out for a peaceful transformation of Sudan before the interim constitutional period ends thirty months from now, he indicated in the report, referring to challenges ahead as a “gathering storm.”

Trial of Hassan al-Turabi soon

The leader of the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP), Hassan Al-Turabi, detained without any charge since last Wednesday, will go on trial within days, according to the Sudan Tribune.

Al-Turabi was taken into custody two days after a call to the Sudanese president to assume his political responsibility on Darfur crimes and to face the charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes filed against him by the ICC prosecutor. However since his arrest the security services didn’t make a statement indicating why Turabi, 76, has been detained.

According to the Kuwait news agency, the opposition leader is held on charges of inciting JEM rebels to continue the escalation of violence in Darfur and to incite members of his party to join the group. Al-Bashir recently accused JEM of being the military wing of the PCP something Turabi has firmly denied. The Darfurian rebels staged a bold attack and fought fierce battles with the Sudanese army on the outskirts of the capital before they were repulsed.

Further, Turabi is also arrested for the numerous contacts with some of the political forces, which rejected the request of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to arrest the Sudanese President, in order to persuade them to reverse their position and support Al-Bashir’s indictment.

Sudanese opposition parties voiced their rejection to the charges against Sudanese president urging Khartoum to sign peace deal with rebels and try officials or militia leaders who committed crimes in Darfur. Turabi who was the mentor of the president since the 1989 to 1999, is the first Sudanese opposition leader to publically support the ICC move saying the national judiciary is not competent to try these crimes. Since the public filling of the application of charges against Al-Bashir on July 14, 2008, Sudanese authorities raised the press censorship and detained several rights activists and others over accusations related to the ICC and Darfur crimes.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Arab World on the verge of collapse

In a joint press conference in Kuwait, Saudi FM Sa'ud Al-Faisal and Arab League Secretary-General 'Amr Moussa said that the Arab world was on the verge of collapse and anarchy due to the rift within it, the intra-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli aggression and occupation. 

I think these Arab leaders are mistaken.  It is not the Arab world that is collapsing, but the ideal of a united Arab world that has been blown to smithereens by the divisions over how to respond to the Palestine issue.  And the one think the leaders did not mention, was the role of Iran in this.

A summit held in Doha on January 16, 2009 was attended by representatives from 13 Arab countries, as well as by Hamas Political Bureau Head Khaled Mash'al and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to some sources, the attending Arab states were not informed in advance of Mash'al's and Ahmadinejad's participation.

Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, January 17, 2009

Mass detention of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

Egyptian police detained at least 350 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, the group and security officials said on Sunday to Reuters.  This was the largest such round-up for months. The detentions took place on Saturday after a large protest in central Cairo organised by the Islamist group against the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.

One security source estimated 620 of the group's members had been detained on Saturday and Sunday, and said they were being held on suspicion of inciting demonstrations and membership of an illegal organisation. The Brotherhood is Egypt's strongest opposition group and has historical and ideological ties with Hamas Islamists in Gaza. It said Saturday's detentions brought the total number of its members held to above 1,050.

The detained men were from several provinces, and had come to Cairo for the demonstrations on Saturday where Egyptian police used batons to beat protesters.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Shia Islam on the move: Southern Iraq

Now we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin, sings Leonard Cohen. Shia Islam is on a similar march. Iraq's biggest Shiite party is hoping for a big win in elections on 31 January across the oil-rich south when voters across the country choose members of ruling provincial councils.

The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council needs to win control of Najaf — which it wants as a future capital of an autonomous southern Iraq. A good victory now will jump-start its campaign for a self-ruled region — a move that would transform Iraq and, critics say, give Iran its biggest prize since the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

No wonder the Arab World is anxious. We must see the manner in which Saudi Arabia, fearful of the influence of Iran, likes to see Iran's image wane, hence Saudi's happiness with Hamas being given a good beating.

The greatest myth: Muslims united

You did not think mighty Saudi Arabia would allow Qatar to steal the show with an Arab summit? No... Palestinian lives are one think, but the Arab disunity must at all cost be maintained. Media in Saudi Arabia have now begun to accuse Qatar...

Al-Arabiyya TV (the station of King Fahd's brother-in-law) aired a report that the US bases in Qatar have been on high alert to protect Israel--whatever that means. The station added that US military bases in pro-Saudi countries are good bases, and US bases in Qatar are bad bases.

The rift between Arabs and Israel is deep; deeper though are the ravines between the Arab States. And I believe all of that is because the Arabs look mostly at one thing: internal stability. The whole farce of Arabs who do nothing to save Palestinian lives is another chapter in the saga of the Great Laugh. Arab unity... the greatest myth on earth: Muslims united

Monday, January 12, 2009

Moroccan Trinity: God, homeland, king

DRIVE into Morocco’s countryside and you are likely to come across neat piles of white stones stacked on hillsides, forming giant Arabic letters that spell out the country’s motto, “Allah, al-Watan, al-Malik” (God, the Nation, the King). These words are officially sacred: any challenge to what they represent is punishable by law. King Muhammad VI’s Morocco has made much progress towards freedom of speech, but his regime still enforces the three-word motto with alacrity.

McDonald’s, America’s fast-food giant, recently discovered the limits of that tolerance when it was forced to apologise after distributing a map of its restaurants in Morocco without including the disputed Western Sahara as part of the kingdom. Despite calls for a boycott in the nationalist press, the chain’s swift self-abasement sufficed to quell the row, perhaps because it had already proved its commitment to national integrity by marketing a “McSahara” hamburger. MORE HERE in the ECONOMIST.

Jesus is soon to return... the islamic way

Many Christians (mistakenly, in my opinion) see the events in Israel as a sign of the immanent return of Jesus Christ. You want to watch a website about the return of Christ? Harun Yahya created a beautiful site that shows us in details how Muslims view the return of Christ. See HERE.

Hassan al-Turabi warns for massive civil war in Sudan

Hassan al-Turabi is one of the few stable elements in Sudanese politics. The man is intelligent and, it seems, one of high moral caliber, certainly compared to the rulers of Northern Sudan. Presently, Turabi is the most iconic opposition leader of Northern Sudan; he has inspired Islamist movements across the world. Today he warned that Sudan is at risk of becoming worse than Somalia should central authority break down.

The situation could be more dramatic than in present Somalia, as Sudan consists of over 100 tribes and languages. Sudan has been engulfed in civil war since 1991; no central government has been strong enough to impose its authority. More here on AFP

Egypt's problematic situation due to the war over Gaza

The Jerusalem Post has an insightful article that explains Egypt's problems due to the war over Gaza. It loves to see Hamas destroyed, but it cannot be seen as taking a non-Arabist stance.

The semi-official Al-Ahram daily laid bare the dilemma at the root of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's position in an editorial last week: "Israel's loathsome crime with Hamas assistance," reads the headline.

Alongside a scathing attack on Israel, the paper emphasized the fact that had Hamas not fired missiles at Israel, the war would not have taken place. Egypt does not hesitate to blame Hamas, but at the same time it must pay lip service to Arab public opinion by accusing Israel of barbaric behavior against the Palestinian population in Gaza.

Egypt is the biggest Arab state and does not want to relinquish its position as the leader of the Arab world. This is a fact that should never had been forgotten, and this is the mistake the Israeli government made when, pursuant to the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the defense of the Philadelphi Corridor was entrusted to Egypt - which it accepted reluctantly. It did not relish the idea that it would appear to be defending Israel against the Palestinians of Gaza.

The smuggling of weapons is the main problem in this war on Hamas. Without the supply of explosives and missiles, Hamas would lose its capability to harass Israel and therefore its avowed Islamic vocation to fight against Israel. This would take from Hamas its raison d'etre.

More from the Jerusalem Post.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Foreigners in Sudan warned that they may be targeted

Sudan's security chief has warned foreigners that "outlaws" might target them if President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was indicted for war crimes, state media reported on Sunday, according to reports by Reuters. Sudan has been trying to stop a possible International Criminal Court arrest warrant against Bashir on charges of genocide in Darfur, where rebels have been fighting Khartoum's rule since 2003.

National Security director Salah Gosh's statement is the latest of a series of warnings from government figures, who have also accused the United States, Britain and France of using the court to force concessions out of Khartoum.

"He highlights he could not predict what kind of reaction outlaws could undertake if ICC issues a resolution. He suspects they may possibly target some aliens," the Sudanese Media Centre quoted Gosh as telling a meeting of senior newspaper editors.

Gosh was quoted on Saturday as saying his agents had been in touch with militant organisations in Sudan but he stopped short of accusing Islamic extremists of planning the attacks. His words were the most specific warning yet that foreigners and foreign organisations could bare the brunt of public anger after the court ruling, which is expected this month.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Egyptian authorities torturing a Christian

(Christian Freedom International) -- Egyptian authorities have deliberately starved two young children belonging to Martha Samuel, a Christian woman, because she refused to return to the Islamic faith.

Samuel, whose name had been placed on a list of people who are barred from leaving Egypt, was arrested last month with her husband and children at a Cairo airport as they tried to flee the country for Russia. According to local reports, Samuel claimed that she was fleeing relentless persecution and death threats by police and extended family members, which she and her husband had been enduring ever since she converted to Christianity five years ago. Samuel was charged with forging official documents and changing her name after converting from Islam to Christianity.

Following her arrest, Samuel was beaten, tortured, and sexually assaulted by police as a means of coercing her to denounce her faith. Her children, ages 2 and 4, were also detained by authorities and denied food in an attempt to increase the pressure on Samuels to return to Islam.

According to a report from the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights, Coptic Christians in Egypt have been harassed, tortured and murdered by Muslims for over 1,400 years. Because the country formally recognizes Islamic Shariah law as the source of justice, Christians are routinely subjected to a variety of hate crimes. More than 5,000 Christians have been killed in Egypt in the past 10 years alone, and hundreds of Christian businesses, homes and churches have been looted, burned and destroyed.

Hamas encouraged by its end-time views

The eschatological view of Islam motivates Hamas fighters in Gaza, is what Damanhuri bin Abas from Singapore argues. In that view of the endtime, Muhammad's main opponents, the Jews, figure large. Interesting reading, and in a sense very much the mirror of certain Christian eschatological views that make them support Israel through thick and thin. I am glad that the realities in life are a bit more complicated: even though certain Muslims and Christians hold endtime views in which Israel plays a major role, I am glad that most of them do not live up to those religious beliefs. Phew...

Okay, Mr Damahuri speaks:
Muhammad s.a.w. said in a hadith that the Al-Masih Al-Dajjal (The False Messiah) will appear as the King of the Banu Israil at the end times and lead them to what will eventually be their final punishment from God al-Mighty for a people that continuously rebelled against Him and killed the Prophets that were sent to them. The recent events this past week in Palestine again remind us of that future foretold by the Prophet, which also frighteningly describes an accurate picture of the condition of Muslims in the world today.

For the Palestinians facing the bombardment of the Israeli army, the statement of the final Prophet gives a powerful hope for justice. It promises the suffering that the people of Palestine is facing may merely be another chapter to end the fate of a rebellious people, and through which a tremendous reminder will be given to all mankind of their gross disbelieve in God and to ultimately return their servitude to the One God, Allah swt. The Prophetic description of the upcoming event to take place in the land of the Anbiya features a prominent role for the Banu Israil, who will be misled by the ultimate deception that they self-create due to their own wish-fool believe in the coming messiah whom they insist has not arrived for them.

Their arrogance to reject Isa Al-Masih (Jesus, the true Messiah) is what seals their own fate as they have for all the years held on to a false believe that the Messiah has not come. And that believe has shaped all the efforts and actions that led the Banu Israil to the land that will witness their final punishment from Allah at the hand of the real Messiah, Isa Al-Masih who will return to fulfill the prophecy of Rasulullah s.a.w. He, Isa (Jesus, the true Messiah) will kill the King of the Jew, Al-Dajjal (the False Messiah), and with that the false system of life championed by them will be destroyed by Isa who will rule the land in peace. Dajjal will be supported by the army of Ya’juj wa Ma’juj who originated from eastern Europe and today can be symbolically described as the forces that supported and brought the Jewish people back to Palestine into the country they now call Israel. Their destruction will be in the hand of God al-Mighty.
Here more of this article.

Occupation is the root cause

Here a good description of the debilitating situation that Israel enforced on Gaza in the past years, by Frances ReMillard of Utahns for a Just Peace in the Holy Land. Two months ago she traveled to the occupied Palestinian Territories with two fellow Utahns. Their purpose was to witness first hand the current situation in Israel and Palestine and to attend a peace and justice conference. The travel plans included a visit to the Gaza Strip. Here Karen's story:

I applied for a permit to visit Gaza well ahead of my visit. I had planned to take a donation to the Episcopal Church's Hospital in Gaza and discuss with them how our group here in Utah might help.

The Israeli border guard denied me entry, telling me that Israel was only allowing humanitarian help into Gaza. Next, he denied entry to my traveling partner, a reconstructive surgeon who had 30 patients in Gaza waiting to see her. This was mid-November and the fifth week in a row Israel denied her entry. "Humanitarian cases only," he repeated. Read More.

Danger of Sudan peace to collapse

World powers must step up efforts to ensure a landmark 2005 Sudan peace pact is fully implemented, a report said on Friday, warning that its failure could lead to Darfur-style crises erupting elsewhere in the country.

The peace agreement was signed in January 2005 by the Sudanese government and rebels, ending a 21-year conflict in the south in which an estimated 2 million people died.

A report by the London-based thinktank Chatham House, published on the fourth anniversary of the pact's signing, warned that the peace agreement was at a critical juncture.

A breakdown in the agreement would have devastating effects for all Sudan, the report said, adding that the oil-producing country faced a serious risk of fragmentation after decades of mismanaged and unequal development. Read more in International Herald Tribune.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Malaysia: Christians still not allowed to use the word Allah

Malaysia will allow the Malay edition of a Catholic newspaper to resume publication, lifting a ban imposed for its use of the word Allah, a move likely aimed at assuaging the anger of minorities in this Muslim-majority country. But The Herald, the country's main Roman Catholic newspaper, will still not be allowed to use Allah as a translation for God. Thus spoke Che Din Yusoh, a senior official with the countries publications control unit. Read: censorship office.

But Mr Yusoh, may I explain, once again, the word Allah is not a translation for God. Both words are a translation for Elohim (Old Testament) or Theos (New Testament). Malaysia's Islamic authorities are subjecting Christians in that land to their subjective (and in my view defective) view of religion and history.

How do these Muslims in Malaysia think they got the word Allah? They got it from Christians and Jews in the Middle East, who used the Hebrew Elohim, the Aramaic Alaha. And what did Arab Christians use, long before Islam was created by M.? Those Arabic Christians used Allah as the designator for the Supreme Being. That is where Muslims got Allah from.

But truth is not what counts in Malaysia. It is power. And fear. Fear that Muslims may be confused and become Christians. But al-hamdu lillah, Muslims can always count on their rulers to uphold the one and only true faith, by the sword. But just imagine that the sword is no longer present... what might happen to those poor Muslims who can be so easily confused.

Gaza Hospital: Statement by Suheil Dawani, Anglican bishop of Jerusalem

At a time when great tragedy is occurring in the Holy Land in Gaza, I want to share some insight into what we are experiencing on a moment to moment basis. Our Diocese has one of 11 hospitals serving a population of 1.5 million residents in the Gaza Strip. The Al Ahli Arab (Anglican) Hospital has been in operation for over 100 years and has a very dedicated medical staff of doctors, nurses, technicians and general services personnel.

During the best of times they are stretched to their maximum meeting the medical needs of this populous community. Now, during the current military conflict with its heavy toll on human life and material, the hospital faces even greater responsibilities and challenges. The result is growing strain on the hospital's resources. Every day since the beginning of military operations, the hospital has received 20-40 injured or wounded patients. A large proportion of them require hospitalisation and surgery. These patients are in addition to those with non-conflict-related illnesses. About one-fourth of the patients are children.

In addition, the conflict has brought new types of medical and surgical conditions. For example, patients with burns and acute, crippling psychological trauma, are being seen more frequently. Because it is not possible for aid workers to enter Gaza at this time, the hospital's staff is working around the clock, struggling with the effects of exhaustion and against limited resources in a conflicted area of ongoing military operations.

Many medical items are needed, especially bandages and supplies for burns and trauma. The hospital's windows have all been blown out or shattered from rocket and missile concussion and cold permeates the entire premises. Plastic sheeting to cover the windows could alleviate some of the cold but is unavailable now. Food supplies are scant throughout the Gaza strip and maintaining patients' nutritional needs at the hospital has been difficult, especially for the most vulnerable. Some medicines and supplies for the hospital have been generously donated by USAID, but it has not yet been possible to deliver the items.

Efforts to help alleviate some of the shortages are underway and we hope that the shipments will arrive quickly. Through the ICRC limited amounts of diesel fuel are being delivered to keep the electrical generators functional for life saving and other essential equipment. We are working with a number of related governmental and international voluntary agencies to speed up the delivery and steady supply of needed medicines and food. We are also working to ensure to the fullest extent possible the physical safety of the Hospital staff and campus.

On a "normal" day, approximately 600 life line trucks a day bring supplies to the Gaza Strip. Many are under the auspices of UNRWA and international relief agencies because about two-thirds of Gaza's residents are refugees and living in UNRWA camps. During this time of conflict, that number of trucks is not seen in a week or more. Because of the reduced deliveries, medical items, nutritional food, and other basic supplies are now scarce items, if available at all, for our brothers and sisters in Gaza.

I ask you to join with me in prayer and by offering whatever financial support you can for our hospital and heroic staff of the Al Ahli Hospital – and other such humanitarian endeavours. Thankfully the hospital plant remains intact at this time. While several among our staff have suffered loss and injuries within their own families, they are representing all of us as a witness of God's love to all people – "come unto to me all you who are heavy laden and I will refresh you". As we continue to pray for communal Palestinian and Israeli peace, we especially remember these dedicated individuals who cannot leave, but most importantly do not want to leave, but continue to do all they can to help.

Our Lord's imperative in St John's Gospel during this epiphany season gives each of us the new hope for a new dawn of light, life and communal conciliation – "I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly".

This is the text of a statement released by the Bishop on his website yesterday

Musalaha: A Christian view of the situation in Palestine

To both Israelis and Palestinians, the current conflict in Gaza has brought nothing but pain and suffering. It has also caused friction among some believers as they choose to pledge sole allegiance to their own people group. Some are even expressing an unabashed hatred for the other side through articles, e-mails and graphic content on Facebook.

From the Israeli point of view they pulled out of the Gaza Strip in the name of peace and an Islamic regime took over. Israel’s justification for going to war was to protect its citizens against Hamas launching rockets on the communities in the Negev. Soldiers continue to mobilize along the Gaza border as they prepare to defend their people and country against terror. They claim that others would have acted more quickly and aggressively. Their reasoning is that it is necessary to attack now before Hamas has longer-range missiles.

The Palestinians claim that though Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2006, the army is still controlling the borders making it the biggest open-air prison in the world. In the last 18-months, 1.5 million Palestinians have been under siege and were prevented from receiving sufficient water, medical aid and food supply. For the Palestinians, Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza was just an excuse to expand their control in the West Bank and build further settlements. The Palestinians also believe they have a right to self-defense. For them, the Israeli reaction is disproportionate. The number of Israelis killed cannot be compared to the hundreds of Palestinians killed.

Each player in the conflict places the full responsibility of the cycle of violence on the other side. There is a general unwillingness to enter into peace talks on ideological or political grounds. For example, Israel will say Hamas is an ideological religious organization that doesn’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinians, on the other hand, say the Palestinian Authority has entered into concessions and nothing substantial has evolved; all that increased were settlements and checkpoints.

So, what is our role as believers in this situation? How can we be a model of Messiah as we move forward in the reconciliation process? Are we too busy challenging the moral and ethical position of the other side that we are unwilling to take responsibility? Because our societies have chosen war and violence, there is a great need for reconciliation. We can accomplish this through taking on a priestly role of intercessor and prophetic role of speaking the truth.

While the conflict has divided some believers, there are those taking a stand and fulfilling their priestly role. I was greatly encouraged last week to hear a Messianic pastor lead his congregation in a prayer of repentance, especially emphasizing that in a time of war, repentance is necessary from both the Israelis and the Palestinians. We must begin by examining our own sins, failures and shortcomings and seek God’s forgiveness and direction.

Applying Joel 2, he read, ‘Return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity’ (Joel 2:12-13). God desires us to grieve from within and turn our hearts back towards him. As we as believers intercede on behalf of the people in our societies we need to invoke the nature of God and beg for his mercy and compassion to fall upon us because we have sinned before him. We must also cry out for God’s mercy and compassion to fall upon the other side.

In time of war we are also called to take on a prophetic role. The prophet was a representative of God who brought a message primarily to effect social change. The prophet spoke the truth and reminded us to care for the widow, orphan and stranger. When speaking the prophetic word, we need to be blunt without any hidden messages, and we need to have the courage to speak out when our people are wrong. In the prophetic role we are reminded that we must not only speak out against the injustice which has been committed against our own people, but also against others. We have a duty to speak out against the misuse of power and the blood of the innocent shed whether it is Israeli or Palestinian.

The world views war as war. Some will say, ‘in war the innocent also die and we cannot help it.’ My son was greatly distressed when his friend told him exactly this. I shared with him that in war we need to speak up for the innocent. We cannot justify the act of killing innocent people and say it was in self-defense. Yet, we cannot justify killing someone with a weapon just because they are holding a weapon. Even killing in war for self-defense should be taken with caution and reverence. The enemy carrying the weapon is also a person who has also been created in the image of God. Especially in a time of war we need to speak louder and clearer against the misuse of power by our governments and their justification of power and violence. War doesn’t mean giving a free hand without any moral and ethical boundaries and limitations.

So, while we are in the midst of war, we need to honestly seek the will of God and be discerning. We must become intercessors for our nation, our leaders and the other side and ask God to pour out his mercy and compassion. We must also become the prophet and convey that message of injustice happening in our societies. We need to attempt to relieve the pain of the innocent even if we feel our side’s reasoning for war is justified. Instead of pointing the finger, let us look within ourselves and repent. Then let us look at the other side with compassion and love, with a love that transcends societal boundaries, rocket fire and airstrikes.

Salim Munayar
Director of Musalaha
Tel: 02-6720376
Fax: 02-6719616