Sunday, May 31, 2009

Islamists are losing ground in the Arab World

The results of Kuwait's elections last month -- in which Islamists were rebuffed and four women were elected to parliament -- will likely reinvigorate the movement for greater democracy in the region that has stalled since the hopeful "Arab spring" of 2005. It also puts pressure on the Obama administration to end its deafening silence on democracy promotion.

Although ruled by a hereditary monarch, Kuwait is the most democratic of the Arab countries. The press is relatively free, parliament has real power, and politicians are chosen in legitimate elections. However, Kuwait is a part of the Persian Gulf, where the subordination of women is traditionally most severe. Historically, Kuwait's political process was for males only. But in 2005 parliament yielded to female activists and approved a bill giving women the right to vote and hold office. THE WHOLE STORY IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Role of Egypt and Sudan in managing the Nile diminished

Failure by Egypt and Sudan to come up with a common stand during the Nile Council of Ministers’ assembly in Kinshasa, DR Congo, frustrated their attempts to block a new pact to govern the use of River Nile waters. To the disappointment of the two downstream countries, the pact was adopted and will soon be signed and ratified by Nile Basin governments.

This paves the way for establishment of a permanent River-Basin Commission to implement development projects.

Egypt and Sudan had asked for “historical rights and uses” of the river to be recognised through placement of an article in the new pact. But other Nile Basin countries — Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda — had not agreed on this.MORE HERE

Al-Azhar begins its own TV satellite program

Egypt's seat of Islamic learning, al-Azhar, will launch a satellite channel to give the world a better understanding of Islam and counter some Islamic outlets preaching "extremist dialogue", its architects said on Sunday.

Sheikh Khaled Al-Guindy, a scholar at al-Azhar mosque and university, said the new channel would reach out to the world's 1.5 billion Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Al-Azhar, one of the oldest institutions in Sunni Islam, is headed by Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, who is selected by Egypt's president. The institution receives most of its funding from the Egyptian state.

"In the Age of Obama we realized it was time to look at new ways to deliver our message," Guindy said, four days before U.S. President Barack Obama visits Egypt to address the Muslim world. The launch is planned for the start of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and religious reflection, that begins in mid-August.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Obama’s message: I have a dream for Islam

As the US president Obama prepares for a key speech in Cairo, Andrew Sullivan on Times Online gauges his plan for a new Middle East:

It is, almost certainly, the most important speech of his presidency. On Thursday Barack Obama will address the Muslim world from Cairo University. And no one quite knows what he is going to say. There is speculation, of course. Last week the Arab press was a-twitter over Obama’s last-minute decision to visit Saudi Arabia en route to Egypt. Was this a swipe at Egypt? Did it signal an endorsement of the Arab peace initiative? Or was it the usual American brown-nosing of the royal autocrats who have all that oil? HERE the whole article

Suadi Arabia beheads an crucifies a criminal: sharia indeed

RIYADH, May 29 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia executed a man for double murder on Friday and displayed his body in public as a deterrent, state media said. The body of the man, beheaded by sword, was put on a cross in the Saudi capital Riyadh, state news agency SPA said, quoting the interior ministry.

Rights activists said authorities only rarely use this form of deterrent in a bid to stop crimes spreading. Ahmad Adhib bin Askar al-Shamalani al-Anzi had been convicted of killing a man and his 11-year old son in a shop in Riyadh, SPA said.

Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally, usually carries out executions by public beheading for murder, rape, drug smuggling and, increasingly, armed robbery.

Saudi Arabia says it is implementing Islamic sharia law to the letter and that sharia ensures full rights for Muslims and non-Muslims, who must abide by the laws of the desert country....

Indeed Sharia: "The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom." -- Qur'an 5:33

CN writes THIS

Friday, May 29, 2009

International Crisis Group: Report on Yemen

Away from media headlines, a war has been raging on and off in Yemen’s northern governorate of Saada since 2004, flaring up in adjacent regions and, in 2008, reaching the outskirts of the capital, Sanaa. The conflict, which has brought about extensive destruction, pits a rebel group, known generically as the Huthis, against government forces, says the International Crisis Group.

For their complete report on Yemen, published this week, click HERE. You will get a pdf file.

ICC: Bashing Omar al-Bashir

He is hurt, angry and hunted by the International Criminal Court. He is also the first sitting president of a country to be issued with ICC arrest warrants -- in March this year. Amid resplendent chandeliers, I visited Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, in his palace in Khartoum in April.

Eschewing his field-marshal's uniform, and wearing traditional white flowing robes and a turban, the President said: "When Morgan Tsvangirai raised his hand to take the oath of office in the Zimbabwean government of national unity -- with Robert Mugabe -- all the international pressures and legal threats were forgotten. Maybe I should ask Tsvangirai to raise his hand here as well?"MORE HERE

Paul Moorcraft (picture) of the Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis in the UK writes in The American Spectator why he does not agree with the ICC and its indictment against the Sudanese president.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Armenian Media in Lebanon

Between 1915-1920, Armenians living under the Ottoman Empire were part of a genocidal policy that took the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people and led to the emigration of hundreds of thousands of survivors to the Levant. They settled in countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine to become an important cultural component of the region as a whole. Armenians in Lebanon are seen as the swing vote in this years June parliamentary elections. That is why MENASSAT surveys the Armenian media sector in Lebanon.SEE HERE

Malaysia court forbids church to use name 'Allah'

A Malaysian court on Thursday refused to give permission to the Roman Catholic Church to use the word "Allah," thus upholding a government ban that has caused controversial religious tensions in the country.

The Malaysian government has banned the non-Muslims from using the word "Allah" as a translation of God in their publications, saying it would confuse Muslims in this multiethnic, Muslim-majority country.

The High Court rejected an appeal by the church's main publication in Malaysia, the Herald, to have the ban suspended while waiting for a court decision on the ban's legality on July 7.
The Herald serves a nationwide readership, but is focused mainly on the tribal communities in Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo Island who had converted to Christianity more than a century ago.

Christian groups say the ban is unconstitutional, arguing that the word "Allah" predates Islam.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Deterioration in Gaza - view from an insider

The situation in Gaza is not getting better; if you want to hear the inside story, here an interesting blog worth visiting. See HERE

Three great documentaries on christians in the arab world

Al-Jazeera Documentary Channel has produced some great programs on Christians of the Middle East in ARABIC:


Monday, May 25, 2009

what Muslims find so miraculous about the Quran

William Shakespeare, who was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language, is often used as an example of unique literature. The argument posed is that if Shakespeare expressed his poetry and prose in a unique manner – and he is a human being – then surely no matter how unique the Qur’an is, it must also be from a human being.

However there are some problems with the above argument. It does not take into account the nature of the Qur’an’s uniqueness and it doesn’t understand the uniqueness of literary geniuses such as Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare composed poetry and prose that received an unparalleled aesthetic reception, the literary form he expressed his works in was not unique. In many instances Shakespeare used the common Iambic Pentameter (The Iambic pentameter is a meter in poetry. It refers to a line consisting of five iambic feet. The word “pentameter” simply means that there are five feet in the line.)

However in the case of the Qur’an, its language is in an entirely unknown and unmatched literary form. The structural features of the Qur’anic discourse render it unique and not the subjective appreciation of its literary and linguistic makeup. MORE HERE

Stoning: Does It Have Any Basis in Shari`ah?

Dear scholars, as-Salamu `alaykum. I have heard that the punishment specified for the person who commits adultery is 80 lashes. I would like to ask, from where did you get the punishment of stoning to death. Moreover, if you say that it is based on the Sunnah, I can say that how to depend on Sunnah in this regard. Isn’t it a fact that the Qur’an is the source of legislation for all Muslims? Jazakum Allah khayran.

Interested in the answer? Read HERE.

Major victory for Egyptian opposition

An appeals court overturned a two-year prison sentence against exiled Egyptian dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim on Monday, after he had been convicted of defaming Egypt.

The court's decision was welcomed by Ibrahim, who has been in exile in the United States for the past two years.

"I feel happy. I got the first call from my wife to tell me about the news. I hope this is the beginning of a period of reconciliation with the regime and the entire Egypt opposition," he said over the phone from Cambridge, Massachussets. MORE HERE

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Egypt: time to set Father Mattaos free

Father Mattaos Wahba is the priest of Archangel Michael Church at Kerdasa, Geza, Egypt. He is a pious man of God who encourages his congregation with Jesus' message of loving one's enemy, blessing those who curse you, doing good to those who hate you, and praying for those who despitefully use and persecute you. (Mathew 5:44)

Fr. Mattaos is a model Egyptian citizen that has not ever committed a crime or seen the inside of a prison other than in the context of ministering to inmates.

Recently Father Mattaos' life abruptly changed overnight. He was arrested, charged and tried for aiding a young Muslim woman in getting an ID card that had falsified data indicating her religion as Christian rather than Muslim. The ID card was said to enable her to marry a Christian man and to flee the country. On October, 2008, the court found him guilty and sentenced him to 5 years of hard labor. MORE HERE

Palestinian Christians want freedom too

I have always been proud of being a Palestinian Christian, born and raised in Bethlehem, the holiest town in all Christianity, writes Fadi Abu Sada (picture), editor-in-chief of the Palestine News Network (PNN).

Even before the start of the first intifada, when I was ten years old and before knowing about Christianity and Islam, I knew that two of my uncles were in Israeli prisons along with a couple of young guys from my neighborhood. I was very proud of them. They were in jail for resisting the occupation by reading and educating themselves.

Several figures in the Palestinian leadership are Christian as are many civil society leaders. Twenty-five thousand Palestinian Christians head non-governmental organizations, sharing their work with another 22,000 Christians, according to a survey by the World Council of Churches.

In other words, the influence of Palestinian Christians far outweighs their number, two percent of the total population. Nevertheless, the question has to be asked, why so few? What's the reason for the high rate of Christian emigration? MORE HERE

How the world views Egypt's campaign against pigs

The garbage collectors of Cairo live in neighborhoods spilling over with trash. The children play with the trash and in the trash, when they are not helping to sort or collect the trash. The women sit right in the trash, picking out rotten food with their hands and tossing it to their pigs, which live right there in the neighborhood with them.

It is a world of shocking odors and off-putting sights. But it is their world, the world of the zabaleen, hundreds of thousands of people who have made lives and a community by collecting Cairo’s trash and transforming it into a commodity.

It is their very identity, and they are afraid the government is going to take it away. “It is not a job, it is a life,” said Isat Naim Gindy, grandson of one of Cairo’s original zabaleen, who now runs a nonprofit organization to help educate the children of garbage collectors. MORE IN THE NYT.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Polisarion begins TV in opposition to Morocco

The Polisario officially launched Wednesday its first television channel TRASD-V to break the media embargo imposed by Morocco on the conflict in Western Sahara, said the Director General of the television. La RASD-TV, which was officially inaugurated Wednesday broadcasts since April 2. The inauguration coincides with the 36th anniversary of the outbreak of the armed struggle in Western Sahara, explained the Director General of the SADR TV, Mohamed Ahmed Salem Labaeid.

RASD TV will cover the entire continent of Africa, Western Europe and an important part of the Middle East, he added. This new building of the information will help alleviate the media blackout imposed by Morocco, to raise awareness around the Sahraoui cause, to reinforce the message of the Sahraoui people struggling through the image and make its voice heard in the world whole, he said. RASD TV is intended to show the world the suffering of the Sahraoui people in refugee camps and in the territories occupied by Morocco, said Lebaeid. MORE HERE

Republic of Hizbollah

The job of an American vice president was once to attend foreign funerals. Joe Biden was in Beirut on Friday to show support in advance of an election that may see the death of a Western democracy.

While we've been fighting for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab world's oldest and most dynamic multicultural democracy, Lebanon, has been dying a slow and painful death. A neighbor to Israel, the Switzerland of the Middle East has been sucked into a conflict it would have preferred to have avoided.

It's been fought over by Israel and the PLO, then Israel and Hezbollah, which has used Lebanon and its people as a human shield behind which to pursue the dream of Hezbollah's Iranian and Syrian masters to destroy Israel. MORE HERE

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Forgotten Christians of the Holy Land

Easter in Jerusalem is not for the faint of heart. The Old City, livid and chaotic in the calmest of times, seems to come completely unhinged in the days leading up to the holiday. By the tens of thousands, Christians from all over the world pour in like a conquering horde, surging down the Via Dolorosa's narrow streets and ancient alleyways, seeking communion in the cold stones or some glimmer, perhaps, of the agonies Jesus endured in his final hours.

Every face on Earth seems to float through the streets during Easter, every possible combination of eye and hair and skin color, every costume and style of dress, from blue-black African Christians in eye-popping dashikis to pale Finnish Christians dressed as Jesus with a bloody crown of thorns to American Christians in sneakers and "I [heart] Israel" caps, clearly stoked for the battle of Armageddon. MORE HERE IN NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reports say Iran is not that great of a threat to the world

A 230-page report by the Rand Corp., the result of political and military research for the U.S. Air Force begun in 2007, found Iran a less formidable adversary than some believe.

The report notes "significant barriers and buffers" to Iran's ambitions because of the reality of regional ethnic and religious politics and "its limited conventional military capacity, diplomatic isolation and past strategic missteps." MORE HERE

At the same time, Egypt is being villified in the Arab World for saying that the nuclear programs of Israel and Iran are equally dangerous to the Arab World. See HERE

Monday, May 18, 2009

Egyptians are more African than Arab

Ah.. a hot potatoe... but very interesting. Have a look at the results of this DNA research that was done among Egyptians around Luxor, where old upper Egypt was located. A recent DNA study by Cruciani that focused on the Y chromosome E-M78 revealed that it was ’born’ in North East Africa, not East Africa as previously thought. This means, that an Egyptian with an m78 Y chromosome has had a male line ancestry reaching back to the Pleistocene inhabitants of Egypt; as far back as the Halfan culture about 24,000 years ago.

Southern Egyptians Y Chromomses are mainly native to Africa, both sub and supra Saharan. This makes a grand total of 80.3% definitively African non-Arab ancestry in the upper Egypt region. Y chromosomes possibly attributable to Arab males are very much in the minority in this area. A rough estimate (since no women invaded Egypt) is that about 5% or less of this population are from non dynastic Egyptian peoples, and not all of these would be Arabs. MORE HERE

Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi: Arab League must leave Cairo

Predating the United Nations, the European Union, Asean and almost every other regional body is an institution based in Cairo known as the Arab League.

Since its founding in 1944 the, League has found itself in several unenviable situations. It was first shaken when one of its members disappeared from the world map with the arrival of European Jewry in the 1940's. In the 1950's it was shaken again when its founder, King Farouk of Egypt, was overthrown by Gamal Abdel Nasser in a military coup. In the 1960's it presided powerless over the loss of Jerusalem, which Arabs still lament. READ MORE

Islamic radicals taking Somalia

Islamist insurgents in Somalia have captured another town to the north of the capital, Mogadishu. Insurgents took control of Mahaday on Sunday after seizing the nearby town of Jowhar earlier in the day.

Jowhar and Mahaday are located about 20 kilometers apart, roughly 100 kilometers north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The towns had been held by the Islamic Courts Union, an Islamist militia that backs Somalia's fragile government in its struggle with hard-line Islamist militias. MORE HERE.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Human rights groups in the Arab World

In case you need to find out about human rights, treaties, and organizations working in this realm in the Arab World, here a good list.

Dangerous profession of journalism in the Arab World

It’s with hindsight that we can also analyze how war shapes images and content. For journalists working in Iraq during the height of the conflict, it became a profession of high risk and danger. The following entry looks back at some of the Iraqi journalists who risked their lives - some murdered - to write the stories on human rights.

Sahar Hussein al-Haideri must have understood the dangers. The threats were there, the intimidation and angry cold stares of unfamiliar faces along with it. In early 2007, she moved her husband and children from their home in Mosul to Syria. Haideri stayed behind to work on her stories for Voices of Iraq news agency and the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR). The stoning to death of a 17 year-old Yezidi girl had caught her attention. Not long after its publication at IWPR, she was shot dead in front of her house by Ansar al-Sunna insurgents. Guilty of being both an Iraqi and a journalist, her slumped body is a fate shared by many. MORE HERE

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Algeria clamping down on free satellite TV access

An interesting article on Magarebia - on how the rules for satellite usage in Algeria are changing. No longer can people easily access their most beloved channels for free. See HERE

Friday, May 15, 2009

Can Secularism Save the Islamic World?

Book review by Christian C. Sahner of Dan Diner, Lost in the Sacred: Why the Muslim World Stood Still (Princeton, 2009):

What the Muslim world needs is not Western-style secularization that stresses the privatization of religion, but a form of authentic faith at ease with modernity

For the past fifty years, Western Europe has been gripped by secularization, a process where society is separated into “discrete spheres of inner and outer, private and public, holy and profane.” Now imagine a world where the prevailing cultural momentum moves in the opposite direction; where instead of delimiting the sacred, the sacred is allowed to spill out into the streets, sometimes creating a mess. This is the portrait Dan Diner paints of the Muslim world in his new book, Lost in the Sacred: Why the Muslim World Stood Still.

Lost in the Sacred, first published in German in 2005 and appearing in English translation earlier this spring, attributes the crisis of the Middle East to an “overflow of the sacred.” For Diner, “the sacred” is not a strictly religious category; it refers to “the burning omnipresence of transcendence in all areas of life.” Drawing examples from modern-day Baghdad, Istanbul at the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, and Medina under Mohammad, Diner shows how divinity permeates spaces that the Western tradition never sees as “sacred”: from language and financial transactions, to conceptions of political authority and the home. MORE HERE

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Saudi Arabia vital for Yemeni stability

a prominent hadith, the Prophet Mohammed said: "If disorder threatens, take refuge in Yemen." The Prophet was referring to the prosperous and civilized Yemen. But today disorder and radicalization in Yemen are beginning to infect Saudi Arabia, and thus the safety of the world's largest oil producer.

The Prophet's hadith about Yemen has enjoyed new resonance ever since the 1980s, when Saudi Arabia - in line with American policy - sought to export domestic dissenters, most prominently Osama bin Laden, a Yemeni of Saudi birth, to fight Soviet infidels in Afghanistan. Although dissent was mostly diverted to Afghanistan, bin Laden's most trusted companions (his wife, too) have remained mainly in Yemen. MORE HERE in the DailyStar-Lebanon.

Wall Street Journal: Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt Falters

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is on the defensive, its struggles reverberating throughout Islamist movements that the secretive organization has spawned world-wide.

Just recently, the Brothers' political rise seemed unstoppable. Candidates linked with the group won most races they contested in Egypt's 2005 parliamentary elections, gaining a record 20% of seats. Across the border in Gaza, another election the following year propelled the Brotherhood's Palestinian offshoot, Hamas, into power.

Since then, Egypt's government jailed key Brotherhood members, crimped its financing and changed the constitution to clip religious parties' wings. The Brotherhood made missteps, too, alienating many Egyptians with saber rattling and proposed restrictions on women and Christians. These setbacks have undermined the group's ability to impose its Islamic agenda on this country of 81 million people, the Arab world's largest.MORE HERE

History of the Ark of the Covenant: Islamic perspective

Q. I wanted to know more about the Islamic history of the Ark of the Covenant. How is it that the Ishmalite Mahdi will inherit it when it contains the relics of the family of Moses and the family of Aaron (and not the family of Prophet Muhammad)? How can you justify his inheritance of a treasure, which does not belong to him, nor his father as per your own Quran?

A. The Ark of the Covenant in Islamic traditions has a different origin than the Ark of the Covenant mentioned in the Bible. It is referred to as Tabut al-Sakina in the Holy Quran (al-Baqara, v.248).


The Ark of the Covenant is the name of a Heavenly treasure chest, which was used as a weapon of war by the Prophets, including Moses, Aaron, David and Solomon. The Holy Quran states... MORE HERE

Iraqi Christians escaping their country in large numbers

Iraq has lost more than half the Christians who once called it home, mostly since the war began, and few who fled have plans to return, The Associated Press has learned.

Pope Benedict XVI called attention to their plight during a Mideast visit this week, urging the international community to ensure the survival of "the ancient Christian community of that noble land."

The number of Arab Christians has plummeted across the Mideast in recent years as increasing numbers seek to move to the West, saying they feel increasingly unwelcome in the Middle East and want a better life abroad.

But the exodus has been particularly stark in Iraq — where sectarian violence since the U.S.-led 2003 invasion has often targeted Christians. MORE HERE

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Egypt fears return of millions of manual laborers from the Gulf

Egypt has become concerned over the prospect that millions of expatriate laborers would return home. Officials said millions of Egyptian laborers in the Gulf Cooperation Council could lose their jobs during the current economic crisis. They said the biggest concern was that Egyptian construction workers would be fired in such GCC states as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. MORE HERE

Israel closes Palestinian Press office in East Jerusalem

A Palestinian press office in East Jerusalem opened to serve journalists during the papal visit was closed by Israeli police in the early hours of May 11. The grand mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, and retired Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem were scheduled to speak at a May 11 press conference at the Palestinian Media Center about Pope Benedict XVI's visit and his meeting with interreligious dialogue leaders later that day.

The Palestinian Media Center is also operating in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, coordinating media coverage for the pope's visit to Bethlehem.

"We know there is a political agenda behind this. There is a clear and constant attempt (by the Palestinian Authority) to carry out events (in Jerusalem)," said Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld (photo). He said a warrant to close the office was issued by the minister of internal security. MORE HERE

Monday, May 11, 2009

King of Jordan warns Israel: peace-treaty or a war within a year

The King of Jordan has warned there will be war in the Middle East in a year if the peace process doesn't re-start. King Abdullah II said he was proposing a '57-state solution' where every country in the Muslim world would recognise Israel in exchange for peace and a Palestinian state.

'We are offering a third of the world to meet them with open arms,' said the King. 'The future is not the Jordan river or the Golan Heights or the Sinai, the future is Morocco in the Atlantic and Indonesia in the Pacific. That is the prize.'

But the King said if the new Israel government, which refuses to acknowledge a Palestinian state, didn't agree to peace terms war would begin. King Abdullah told The Times: 'If we delay our peace negotiations, then there is going to be another conflict between Arabs or Muslims and Israel in the next 12-18 months.' The King said the new US Obama administration was working on a comprehensive peace plan for the Middle East. MORE HERE

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi: Muslim and Christian Arabs should visit Jerusalem

This year Jerusalem was chosen as the Unesco Arab capital of culture. What Unesco doesn't understand is that Arabs only honour Jerusalem in their minds and with their rhetoric, and that there is no real support for the Holy City.

Recently the Egyptian minister of religious endowments, Mohammed Hamdi Zaqzouq, called upon Arabs and Muslims to visit Jerusalem, that mythical place that exists in the minds of hundreds of millions of my people. I say mythical because as far as we in the region are concerned, it exists only on television and from stories we hear from travelers and visitors. In our minds Jerusalem is no different from El Dorado, Shangri La or Atlantis. In the last few decades there has been an encroachment by Jewish Israeli settlers around the city's Arab districts. Jerusalem is losing its identity as an Arab and Islamic capital. We must finally admit that a large part of the blame rests on our shoulders. MORE HERE

Pope: Arab Christians need courage

The Mass that Benedict XVI celebrated today in the Amman International Stadium turned out to be a festival of faith for Jordanian Catholicism: Some 30,000 attended the event out of an estimated 109,000 Catholics in the nation.

The Pope exhorted the Middle Eastern Christians to stay in the Holy Land and give testimony to Jesus in this region so plagued by conflict. The Jordanian government decreed that today would be a vacation day for Christians -- normally Sunday is a workday in Jordan -- and stores and businesses followed suit.

"Fidelity to your Christian roots, fidelity to the Church's mission in the Holy Land, demands of each of you a particular kind of courage: the courage of conviction, born of personal faith, not mere social convention or family tradition; the courage to engage in dialogue and to work side by side with other Christians in the service of the Gospel and solidarity with the poor, the displaced, and the victims of profound human tragedies; the courage to build new bridges to enable a fruitful encounter of people of different religions and cultures, and thus to enrich the fabric of society," the Holy Father acknowledged.

And, he said, fidelity for Middle Eastern Christians also means "bearing witness to the love which inspires us to 'lay down' our lives in the service of others, and thus to counter ways of thinking which justify 'taking' innocent lives." MORE HERE

Impressions of the visit of the pope to Amman and Jerusalem

Father Caesar Atuire, the delegate administrator of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, calls the first day of Pope Benedict's visit to Jordan a success (Zenit News):This trip is important, Father Atuire said, "because he is arriving in a moment in which this land is trying to find a way of living in peace among the various peoples and the Pope truly arrives as a pilgrim of peace." ...

Father Atuire affirmed: "This trip has begun very well with a lot of serenity -- because as always, before all of the Pope's trips, there are a lot of worries, there is a lot of conflict that some people want to stir up. But what we have seen is that the Pope has arrived truly as a messenger of peace. MORE HERE

It is OK to slap Saudi women who spend too much, according a Saudi judge

Husbands are allowed to slap their wives if they spend lavishly, a Saudi judge said recently during a seminar on domestic violence, Saudi media reported Sunday. But o, if the pope dares to say something negative about Islam...

Arab News, a Saudi English-language daily newspaper based in Riyadh, reported that Judge Hamad Al-Razine said that "if a person gives SR 1,200 [$320] to his wife and she spends 900 riyals [$240] to purchase an abaya [the black cover that women in Saudi Arabia must wear] from a brand shop and if her husband slaps her on the face as a reaction to her action, she deserves that punishment." MORE HERE

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The pope did NOT speak of deep respect for Islam

It is quite unbelievable how the international media give the impression that Pope Benedict XVI spoke of his 'deep respect' for Islam. Are these guys so thick? The pope always chooses his words carefully - and he spoke of 'deep respect for the muslim community'. That means, he says positive words about people, not about the religion they adhere to.

Read the quote and see it in video on the website of BBC.
The 82-year-old Pope praised Jordan's "respect for religion". The visit, he said, "gives me a welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community".
So why then so dumb to say that the Pope spoke of his 'deep respect' for Islam? You would think that the religious editors worldwide would be able to interpret the words of the pontiff better.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vatican wants the Last Supper Room back from Israel

IT IS held to be the site of a seminal moment in history, the Last Supper. Today, however, the arched room in a white stone building on Mount Zion symbolises a festering dispute between Israel and the Vatican, which threatens to become a thorn in the side of Pope Benedict XVI's impending "peace pilgrimage" to the Holy Land.

Vatican officials had hoped the Pontiff's visit next week – only the second trip made by a pope to the Jewish state – would soften Israel's position over the Last Supper room.

The Vatican insists the room belongs to the Church and must be "returned", because Franciscans controlled it from 1342-1551, when the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent expelled them. MORE HERE

Quran-only Muslims harrassed

Ahmed Mansour is the leader of a Muslim sect known as the Quranists. Mansour now lives in America and was one of the defendants in the Islamic Society of Boston lawsuit. Like all those with unconventional views, the Quranists have become a persecuted minority in that country, jailed, beaten and prevented from leaving the country. Ahmed sends in this update with their latest disturbing news:

Hereunder you will find details of a very disturbing news from Egypt regarding my brother, companion, and fellow scholar Abdellatif Saied. He invited to speak at a conference, organized by the Center for Study of Islam and Democracy, in the U.S. about the future of relations between Egypt and the U.S. After having his passport stamped for leaving at the airport, Abdellatif was called upon by security officers. He was interrogated for a while, and was finally prohibited from leaving the country, although there are no judicial rulings against his travel. His name, however; was on the not to travel list just because the state security does not want him to leave!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Importance of the pope's trip to the Holy Land

One of the most important challenges for Benedict XVI as he visits the Holy Land this week will be to present the face of Christ to Jews and Muslims, according to Father David Neuhaus.
Father Neuhaus, the patriarchal vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics ( in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, spoke with ZENIT ahead of the Pope's May 8-15 journey to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian National Territories.

In this interview he talks about how Israel is preparing for the visit, the major challenges facing the Holy Father during his journey, and the historic importance of the event.

Q: How is Israel preparing for the visit of Benedict XVI? In particular, how are the Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel preparing?Father Neuhaus: Israel, as a country, is preparing to greet a very prominent guest. The Vatican flag is flying in the streets through which the Holy Father will pass. Security and other measures are already palpable in the places where he will visit. The press is full of stories about Pope Benedict, about the schedule of the visit, about aspects of the life of the Church, and perhaps most significantly about the local Church, which generally receives little attention in a country in which Christians are just 2% or 3% percent of the population. MORE HERE

Taliban threaten Pope Benedict XVI

The Taliban on Thursday threatened "harsh reprisals" if Pope Benedict XVI does not immediately intervene to stop Christians proselytising in Afghanistan. In a message posted on their official website, the Taliban made the threat against the pope and Christians for spreading their faith. MORE HERE
The message followed video footage aired on Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera earlier this week apparently showing Christian soldiers proselytising outside the Afghan capital, Kabul, and handing out copies of the bible in Pashtun.
"We are sending out a message to the most important personality in the Christian world - Pope Benedict XVI," read the message.
"If he does not immediately stop these stupid and irresponsible acts of proselytism by the crusaders, our reprisals and that of the Afghan people will be very harsh.

Christian Hospital in Egypt serving Muslims

A hospital in Egypt is challenging the inter-faith friction which has seen the country's Christians pitted against Muslims in sectarian disputes. Around 10 per cent of Egypt’s population are Coptic Christians, while the other 90 per cent are almost all Muslim. Tensions between the two communities often flare up in the form of attacks, riots and occasional killings.

However, one hospital run by the Anglican Diocese of North Africa is changing that. The Christian-run Harpur Memorial Hospital is serving the local Muslim population in the Nile Delta town of Menouf, reports Voice of America.

Unusually for a hospital, Harpur receives no funding from the government. Despite this, and the religious differences, people come from all over the region to be treated at the hospital owing to its good reputation.

Samir Bakheet, the gynaecologist who runs the hospital, said, "All the people here, most of them, are Muslim but they prefer to come here because they trust the hospital," reports Voice of America. HERE WHOLE STORY

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Beauty pageant in Saudi Arabia: Miss Morality

Here she comes: Saudi's Miss Beautiful Morals. Sukaina al-Zayer (see photo) is an unlikely beauty queen hopeful. She covers her face and body in black robes and an Islamic veil, so no one can tell what she looks like. She also admits she's a little on the plump side.

But at Saudi Arabia's only beauty pageant, the judges don't care about a perfect figure or face. What they're looking for in the quest for "Miss Beautiful Morals" is the contestant who shows the most devotion and respect for her parents.

"The idea of the pageant is to measure the contestants' commitment to Islamic morals... It's an alternative to the calls for decadence in the other beauty contests that only take into account a woman's body and looks," said pageant founder Khadra al-Mubarak. MORE HERE

New peace proposals for Israel-Palestine soon to come

The US-led Quartet of Middle East mediators is working on a new strategy for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and is expected to present it in five to six weeks, Quartet envoy Tony Blair has said. The plan is being devised by the Obama administration, with input from others, Blair told Palestinian reporters. MORE HERE

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Increase of censorship in Syria

Syrian authorities have tightened their "mighty grip" on the media and Internet since ties improved with the West last year, the author of a new report on censorship in the Arab country said on Sunday. "With Syria breaking free from its isolation, the need is greater than ever to ease the mighty censorship and grip over the media, which have only contributed to spreading ignorance and corruption," Mazen Darwich, head of the Syrian Media Centre, told Reuters.

Mockery: US army mixing bombs and gospel in Afghanistan

A former Afghan prime minister has called for an inquiry after Al Jazeera broadcast footage showing Christian US soldiers appearing to be preparing to try and convert Muslims in Afghanistan. Ahmed Shah Ahmedzai said there must be a "serious investigation" after military chaplains stationed in the US air base at Bagram were filmed discussing how to distribute copies of the Bible printed in the country's main Pashto and Dari languages.

In one recorded sermon, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, tells soldiers that, as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him". MORE of the AlJazeera story HERE.

I find this thing totally distasteful. Do Christians in the US military not see how they make a mockery of the Gospel if they preach that in a US army uniform in Afghanistan? See this comment for instance.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Book Review: The Crisis of Islamic Civilization by Ali A Allawi

Reviewed by Spengler

A grim assessment of Islam's survival prospects concludes this book-length essay by a prominent Iraqi politician who recently served as minister of defense and finance in the American-backed Iraqi government. Unless Muslims can restore Islam as a "complete way of life" embracing the public as well as the private sphere,
The much heralded Islamic "awakening" of recent times will not be a prelude to the rebirth of an Islamic civilization; it will be another episode in its decline. The revolt of Islam becomes instead the final act of the end of a civilization.
These are the last words of Ali W Allawi's book and might serve as Islam's epitaph, for the restoration of the Islamic civilization he proposes seems fanciful. Allawi dismisses the notion that Islam might evolve into a personal religion of private conscience. Islam, he insists, offers an all-or-nothing proposition. Muslims either will "live an outer life which is an expression of their innermost faith" and "reclaim those parts of their public spaces which have been conceded to other world views over the past centuries", or "the dominant civilizational order" will "fatally undermine whatever is left of Muslims' basic identity and autonomy". HERE THE WHOLE BOOK REVIEW

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Christians in Israel and Palestine between hammer and anvil

More than 170,000 Arab-Christians live in Israel and the Palestinian territories, divided into 13 denominations. Over 120,000 of them live in Israel, around 50,000 in the West Bank, and another 1,000 in the Gaza Strip - and according to at least one expert, they are in a 'precarious position'.

In Israel itself, says Daniel Rossing, Director of the Jerusalem Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations (JCJCR), they find themselves forced to live as a minority within a minority, a reversal of the usual Christian-Jewish demographics.

In the West Bank and especially Gaza Strip, Arab Christians have to 'walk a tightrope' with the local Muslim fundamentalists, notably the Islamic Hamas movement, which administers the Gaza Strip.

'Protesting Hamas actions toward them can be suicidal. Protesting against Israel can be far more effective, but it creates a skewed picture,' Rossing notes. MORE HERE

Saudi Arabia wanto to develop tourism

Saudi Arabia is drawing up a plan to boost tourism in the country, can be read of Read that story HERE. Great! So then we can finally visit the monuments of old churches? There must be many. Visit Mekka maybe with the family? Do some gambling and dancing in the night? Sun-bathing with my family on the beach? I bet my wife gets a great tan.... We will go strolling through Riyaad, do some shopping in Jeddah. My family just loves the idea.

Ah daddy, no, please, we do not want to go to Thailand, no, not to Austria, no please not to Spain. We want to go to Saudi Arabia! Yeah!

Fear that Yemen becomes another Afghanistan

The cave tucked in the remote Saudi mountains near the Yemeni border was clearly a way station for Islamic militants, Saudi police say, pointing to the stock of guns and ammunition, nooks for holding hostages and cameras for filming them.

It even had buckets of sugar, rice and flour, as well as boxes of charcoal, candles, pasta and beans _ supplies for a long stay by al-Qaida fighters moving across the border to prepare attacks in the kingdom.

The discovery in early April reinforced a growing fear in Saudi Arabia: that Yemen could become another Afghanistan right on its doorstep, an out-of-control state where al-Qaida runs free and exports violence into its neighbor. MORE IN THE WASHINGTON POST

Yemen heading for another civil war

Calls for separatism and acts of sabotage and chaos targeting Yemen's unity and security have been set aside for rejection by the whole Arab world. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa stressed on his alert of Yemen's unity and stability, and said that Yemen's unity characterizes one of the significant accomplishments in the region.

"Arab League certain that Yemeni people are able to confront all attempts targeting Yemen's unity and stability," said Amr Moussa during a phone call with Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Girbi said. "Yemeni people are able to accomplish civil peace and social solidarity among the sons of one homeland," Moussa added.

In the same context, Arab newspapers editor in chiefs called on the Arab states to take a decisive stand against the calls for separatism appeared lately in Yemen. They stressed on the necessity of the Arab's efforts to eradicate such a word of separatism from the Yemeni society and the Arab countries as well.

In this regard, Al-Sharg Al-Awsat editor in chief, Tarig Al-Hamid, warned the Arab States that separation Cancer in the Arab World was waiting for people who could motivate it under the disloyalty to the homeland. "The idea of segregation in Yemen must have an end," Al-Hamid said. "The differences inside the one country whatever its size mustn't be ended by the demolition of the temple." MORE ON YEMENPOST.NET

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Western scholars and Muslims make new movie on Islam

Quran Contemporary Connections is a new Islamic movie that is currently generating great buzz on the internet. From Israel to Indonesia, China to Canada and the United Kingdom to the Unites States, the blogs are constantly buzzing. Some condemning it, others condoning it.

Quran contemporary connections is a film of immense historical and global importance as it examines the Quranic themes in an urban and contemporary background and establishes their compatibility with Western values. According to the film maker, Faruq Masudi, the Quran is already being played out in the Western societies, day in and day out. The film establishes the Quranic message as a universal truth that the West has already adopted, though involuntarily, and is not at loggerheads with it. The basis concepts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are same and are reshaped and rephrased in the film.

It says: Allah is not a Muslim specific God. Muslims do not have monopoly on him. He is not a Christian God. Christians do not have a monopoly on Him. He is not a Jewish God either. Jews do not have a monopoly on Him. His is just The God. Call him by whatever name you will. MORE HERE

Deep rift in the Arab World

Last month, Egypt broke up what it called a terrorist cell linked to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi'ite militia. Nine captured suspects were charged with spying for Hezbollah, working for a foreign state, and seeking to harm Egypt's national security. The arrests were attention-grabbers. But even more astonishing were the public denunciations of Hezbollah and its patron, Iran, issued by President Hosni Mubarak.

The incident cast light on what is becoming the central rift in the Middle East, pitting Sunni Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Morocco against Iran, its allies Syria and Qatar, its proxy Hezbollah, and the Palestinian movement Hamas. As President Obama develops policies for Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he cannot ignore this reality.

In a speech, Mubarak plainly accused Iran and its agents of trying to harm Egypt's security. "We will not allow any interference by foreign forces . . . who push the region towards hell out of a desire to spread their influence and their agenda on the Arab world," he said. More on this in the Boston Globe

Tentmakers in the UAE

Looking for a job in the UAE as a tentmaker? This website may be of help.