Monday, June 29, 2009

Egypt arresting leaders of Muslim Brotherhood

Egyptian authorities have detained seven members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest Islamic opposition group. The arrests on Monday, which included three senior leaders, were part of a security crackdown on the organisation, Abdel Moneim Abdel-Maksoud, the group's lawyer, said. A security official, who was not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed the arrests but gave no reason. No charges were filed, Abdel-Maksoud said. More on AlJazeera

Thursday, June 25, 2009

3 years prison for Moroccon amazigh rights activist

The sentencing today of the human rights activist Chekib el-Khayari to three years in prison is a stark reminder of Morocco’s tenuous and uneven progress on human rights, Human Rights Watch said. El-Khayari, who had criticized public officials for alleged complicity in drug-trafficking, was convicted of “gravely insulting state institutions,” and of minor violations of regulations governing foreign bank accounts and currency.

El-Khayari is president of the Association for Human Rights in the Rif, an independent organization based in the Mediterranean coastal city of Nador. Before his arrest on February 17, 2009, el-Khayari had made numerous statements on drug-trafficking from northern Morocco to Europe, both to the international media and in conferences in Europe, accusing some officials
of complicity in the trade or laxness in combating it. El-Khayari is also an activist for Amazigh (Berber) rights and has spoken out against mistreatment of migrants and abuses by both Moroccan and Spanish security forces at the border with the Spanish enclave of Melilla. All of these factors make the Rif region a sensitive issue in Morocco. MORE HERE

Arab activists watch Iran and wonder... why not here?

Mohamed Sharkawy bears the scars of his devotion to Egypt's democracy movement. He has endured beatings in a Cairo police station, he said, and last year spent more than two weeks in an insect-ridden jail for organizing a protest.

But watching tens of thousands of Iranians take to the streets of Tehran this month, the 27-year-old pro-democracy activist has grown disillusioned. In 10 days, he said, the Iranians have achieved far more than his movement has ever accomplished in Egypt.

"We sacrificed a lot, but we have gotten nowhere," Sharkawy said. More in the Washington Post

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yemen's forgottten war

Restricting access to information can be as serious a threat to journalism as overt censorship or government persecution. The ongoing insurgency in Yemen’s northern governorate of Sa‘ada (picture) is one example of how a state’s attempt to enforce an information blackout has helped hide and sustain a conflict that has festered over four years, killing thousands and leaving a city destroyed, and continuing to stoke fears of a return to violence. The Sa‘ada governorate, located in Yemen’s mountainous northern region on the border with Saudi Arabia and home to around 750 thousand people, has witnessed stop and go wars since 2004.[1] Precise numbers of the dead and wounded are unknown because no organization, national or international, has been allowed full access to the area to make an independent account of the violence, although most estimates put the death toll well into the thousands. MORE HERE

Fear of Massacre Grips Christian Village in Egypt; Crops Destroyed

We hear of shocking problems in Egypt; as Christians who live in democratic countries, we must lift there brothers and sisters up to God. Fears of an impending massacre has gripped the Christian Copts in the village of Ezbet Boshra, El Fashn, which was scene to Muslim mob attacks on Copts on Sunday (AINA 6-22-2009).

Egyptian State Security has placed only Coptic villagers under curfew since the Muslim assaults on Sunday. According to correspondent Mary Bassit of Copts United, The terrified villagers fear that being confined to their homes, while Muslims are free, might encourage Muslim fanatics to massacre them, especially with the bias of the security forces.

Lawyer Makkar Watany, who was detained with the 19 other Copts after Sunday's events, told Coptic News Bulletin on 6/23/09 that they were mistreated during police detention, with several Copts suffering broken limbs and wounds. "I was singled out as the police knew that I am a Coptic activist and have connections with the NGOs in Cairo. I was beaten by a junior office, in spite of being a lawyer." he said. "The other Coptic detainees told the police that they 'are ready to die as they have nothing more to lose.'" More HERE

Muslim mob attacks Christians in Egypt

An Egyptian Muslim mob attacked a church on Sunday, 6/21/2009 in the village of Ezbet Boshra-East, El-Fashn, smashing its windows and assaulting Copts with clubs and white weapons, wounding 25 Copts, in the presence and with the instigation of the State Security.

On Monday 6/22/2009, El-Fashn prosecution issued an order for the village priest, Reverend Isaac Castor, to appear before them, on charges of sectarian sedition after three Muslim women accused him of hurling stones at them from inside the church. More on AINA

Leaders of the Islamic Revolution have turned against the system

At this point, only the short-term future of Iran's clerical regime remains in doubt. The current protests could be repressed, but the unelected institutions of priestly rule have been fatally undermined. Though each aspect of the Islamic Republic has its own dynamic, this is not a regime that can last many more years.

When it comes to repression, Iran has a spectrum of security instruments that can be used synergistically. The national police can take care of routine crowd control; riot-police units can beat some demonstrators in order to discourage others; the much more brutal, underclass Basij militiamen enjoy striking and shooting affluent Iranians; and the technical arm of the regime can block cellular service to disrupt demonstrations, as well as stall Internet services. MORE on the Wall Street Journal

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jordanian poet gets year in prison for using Quran

A Jordanian court has convicted a poet and sentenced him to one year in prison for using verses of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, in his love poems. The court said Sunday that Islam Samhan published his work without approval from the Jordanian government. Jordanian law bans publication of books that could be seen as harmful to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
Samhan was charged with slandering Islam by combining sacred words of the Quran with sexual themes.
(c) AP

Who is qualified to speak for Islam?

“You are not qualified to talk about Islam.” How many times have I heard and read that same line, again and again?

And, more often than not, the same sentence is uttered or written by precisely the sort of self-trained autodidact whose own knowledge of Islam came from whatever he or she read on the Internet or some cassette he bought at the local market.

It has become rather commonplace for conservative Muslims – as well as conservative Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews – to claim monopoly over the discourse of Islam and to try their best to close off the space of public discourse on all matters religious for the sake of protecting the integrity and sanctity of that discourse.

Or so we are told. HERE MORE

Friday, June 19, 2009

Understanding the Arab blogosphere: great report!

In light of what’s happening in Iran at the moment, and the role of social media in connecting people, a new report on the Arabic blogosphere makes for interesting reading.

While Iran isn’t an Arab country, its location and influence in an area of the world constantly in the news makes the report all the more interesting.

The report, by the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society at Harvard University analyzed some 35,000 active Arabic language blogs in 18 different countries. MORE HERE

And HERE the whole report. (A pdf file)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Algeria militants 'ambush police': 24 killed

Islamist militants have killed 24 Algerian paramilitary policemen - in one of the worst single attacks this year, according to reports.They were ambushed near the settlement of Mansoura, east of the capital, said Algerian newspapers. The convoy was reportedly escorting Chinese workers. MORE HERE on BBC

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Two Germans killed in Yemen were Bible School Students

SANAA (ANS) -- Two German bible school students have been kidnapped and murdered in Yemen. Anita G. (24) and Rita S. (26) were studying at the evangelical Brake Bible School in Lemgo (West Germany), as director Matthias Ruether confirmed to the evangelical news agency idea, June 16.

Both nurses were on a short-term internship at the Al Jumhuri hospital in Saada (North Yemen). It is supported by the humanitarian agency Worldwide Services in the Netherlands.

Anita G. and Rita S., members of a Baptist Church in Wolfsburg (North Germany), were abducted June 12 north of Saada on an excursion with a German couple and their three children, a British engineer and a South Korean teacher.

The two German women were first stabbed and then shot. Young-Sun I. (34) was also murdered, while the fate of the other hostages remains unclear. According to some unconfirmed press reports they have also been murdered.

Brake Bible School is in deep shock about the murder of the students. They were dedicated in their desire to help the needy. That was their sole motivation to go to Yemen.. Both women belong to a Baptist church made up mainly of ethnic German emigrants from Russia.
(c) ANS, Wolfgang Polzer

Egypt does not allow conversion to the Christian faith

Our most recent prayer request concerning Maher, a believer from a Muslim background (BMB), was issued on 16th April. Maher is involved in a legal battle to officially change his religious registration from Islam to Christianity so that both he and his daughter may be identified as Christians.

We regret to report that on Saturday 13th June an Egyptian court ruled against him.

According to human rights advocates present at the trial, Maher's application failed on both procedural and substantive grounds. Firstly, the certificate of conversion given to him by a Coptic priest had not been certified by the Coptic Orthodox Church, making it invalid. Secondly, while Egypt's Civil Code provides a procedure for the amendment of identity cards, the procedure requires submission of legal documents substantiating the need for any amendment. Because conversion from Islam to Christianity is not a legal concept, there is no competent body to offer Maher the necessary documents.

The judge accepted a State Council report which states that the religious conversion of a Muslim is against Islamic law and poses a threat to public order. A member of Maher's legal team commented that the State Council report fails to recognise both the Civil Code provisions and Egypt's commitments under international law to uphold religious freedom, and is instead based solely on Islamic principles and the concern to preserve public order

Maher's legal team is preparing to appeal this ruling. National human rights groups are confident of an appeal succeeding based on the fact that the judge's interpretation of the Civil Code was very restrictive.

Egyptian Christians request our prayers that:
a. Maher and his daughter will know the presence and peace of Jesus each day
b. All parties involved will act with integrity
c. Maher's legal team will know God's wisdom and enabling
d. The case will ultimately be successful, allowing them to have their identity cards changed and setting a precedent for other BMBs
e. All officials involved will be exposed to the claims of Jesus and be drawn to His offer of love and life.

(c) Middle East Concern

Bubonic plague in Libya

Egypt has decided to close its border with Libya following confirmed reports that 16-18 people have been infected with bubonic plague in the Libyan costal city of Tubruq.

The Egyptian Ministry of Health has decided to place Sallum, the port city bordering Libya, under quarantine, and health checks are being conducted on everyone returning from Libya. Tubruq is located 93 miles from the border with Egypt. MORE HERE

HERE the report by BBC

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran: the West also plays a role in skrinking number of Christians in Middle East

The Iranian website has an interesting article about why Christians are leaving the Middle East - read the Iranian perspective!

A century ago, Christians constituted 20 percent of the population of the region. Today, the percentage has shrunk to 2-5 percent. The Christians in the Middle East are disappearing from the region with such a speed that the Catholic archbishop of Baghdad, Rev. Jean Benjamin Sleiman, has said he "fears the extinction of Christianity in Iraq and the Middle East.

Pope Benedict XVI, on 12 May 2009 in a Mass at the foot of Jebel az-Zeitun or Mount of Olives, in east Jerusalem Al-Quds spoke about the tragic reality of the departure of so many members of the Christian community in recent years. READ HERE THE WHOLE ARTICLE

Situation in Yemen

Christians in Yemen have requested our prayers following the kidnapping on Friday of nine foreigners, including three children. Yesterday (i.e. Monday 15th) it was confirmed that three of them have been murdered. There are reports that others have also been killed, though these reports are unconfirmed. Of the nine who were kidnapped, seven are German, one British and one South Korean. The three confirmed as killed are two German ladies, Anita (aged 24) and Rita, (25), and the South Korean lady, Young-Sun (34).

Kidnapping foreigners has been common in parts of Yemen in recent years, though the usual pattern is that the hostages are released unharmed. This latest incident occurred in the northern province of Saada where there has been unrest for several years. The fifth war between the Houthi rebels and the government ended with a signed peace agreement with the government in July 2008. Generally the agreement has been kept by both parties, but violence has continued on a small scale in pockets. The Yemeni Government has accused the Houthi rebels of carrying out the abductions and murders, while other analysts consider that al-Qaeda may have been responsible. No group has yet claimed responsibility and the Houthi rebels have denied involvement.

Recently there have been increasing protests in southern provinces of Yemen, some of which have become violent. These are generally motivated by a feeling that the federal government in Sana'a is not giving some them a fair share of national resources. In view of these developments many expatriate Christians working in Yemen have been reviewing their security arrangements.

One new concern amongst expatriate Christians is that the murder of the South Korean might lead the Korean government to change the status of their current warning against travel to Yemen from 'advisory' to 'binding', effectively making it a closed country for South Korean nationals. (This currently applies to travel to Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia). This would force the significant number of Koreans working in Yemen to leave, which would have an impact on several Christian ministries.

Expatriate Christians in Yemen request our prayers that:
a. The families and colleagues of Anita, Rita and Young-Sun will know the comfort of Jesus
b. The perpetrators will be convicted by the Spirit and drawn to the forgiveness, love and true life offered by Jesus
c. All expatriate Christians in Yemen will know the Lord's guiding and protecting at this time
d. The South Korean government will not prevent its citizens from working in Yemen

(c) Middle East Concern

Monday, June 15, 2009

Internet Islamic Texts Archive

Have a look at this website for your Islam-studies. Great texts made available on the web!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Secrets of Algeria’s wealthy people

Algeria is a young country run by a old men. Just take a walk in the administrations of the major companies in the country to discover the unchallenged domination of the old and the almost total absence of young people at the helm of these companies, whether they are public or private. Young people have realized that the world of finance and business is no longer based on work and knowledge but rather on authoritarianism, corruption and plunder. Omar Rebrab, CEO of Hyundai Motors Algeria (Photo)

Known for his sincerity and frankness, Omar Rebrab, CEO of one of the most important representative of a commercial vehicle brand in Algeria “Hyundai”, told us about his experience in the world of investment and business. He was able to make a name as one of the young investors who have managed to run a modern company based on the international economic criteria and standards and skilled Algerian youth trained by Algerian universities. MORE ON ENNAHAR ONLINE

Iran: No longer can anyone pretend theocracy and democracy are compatible

Having won re-election amid allegations of fraud, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday tried to show that he also controlled the streets where the Khomeinist regime first seized power in the 1979 revolution.

The show was less than impressive. Despite efforts by the Ansar Hezbollah (Militants of the Party of God) and security services to manufacture a large crowd, the massive Maydan Vali-Asr (Hidden Imam Square) was unfilled. The official news agency put the number at "several hundred thousands" while eyewitnesses reported tens of thousands.

Even then, scuffles broke out on the fringes of the crowd as groups of dissidents tried to force their way in with cries of "Marg bar diktator!" (death to the dictator). That slogan may be on its way to replacing the normal greeting of salaam (peace) in parts of urban Iran. MORE in the WSJ

Netanyahu defies Obama with harsh conditions for Palestinian 'entity'

Binyamin Netanyahu threw down the gauntlet to the US last night, grudgingly agreeing to a limited Palestinian state that would be demilitarised and not in control of its airspace or borders.

The hawkish Prime Minister insisted that Israel would never give up a united Jerusalem as its capital, and said that established Jewish settlements in the West Bank would continue to expand — despite explicit objections from Washington.

In a keynote speech that referred to a Palestinian “entity” far more frequently than an actual state, Mr Netanyahu tried to advance elements of his economic peace plan — whereby the Palestinians would get increased investment but only limited sovereignty — while still conceding to US insistence on the creation of an independent Palestinian country.

The right-wing Israeli leader said the moderate Palestinian leadership in the West Bank must agree to recognise Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, as well as fight the Islamic hardliners Hamas, who now control Gaza, in return for the resumption of peace talks. MORE HERE on Times Online

Egyptian government changes name of Coptic village

The Egyptian Government, In a new step in long-term and premeditated process of obliterating Coptic identity and history, has decided to change the name of the Coptic village of Deir Abu Hennis, in the Upper Egyptian province of Mallawi, Minya. The village was founded in the 4th century AD on the grounds of the Monastery of St. Hennis the Short, a much revered Coptic Saint. The new name chosen by the Government is "Valley of Peppermint."

More than four thousand Coptic villagers demonstrated on Thursday June, 11 against this forced change, vowing to fight to the end to keep the name of their village. They carried banners with slogans such as 'Let us all die and May Abu Hennis live for ever' and "We, the inhabitants of the village refuse the change in the name of our village and we want it to remain as it is. It is our right and our demand" MORE HERE

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Maher al-Gohari does not get a new ID card

The disappointing verdict by the High Administrative Court in Cairo today has dealt a severe blow to Freedom of Religion to Muslims who would like to come out of Islam and convert to Christianity in a country who persistently and relentlessly claims to be secular and apply “civil Laws”. The judge Hamdi Yaseen rejected Maher Ahmed Al-Mo’tasem Bellah Al-Gohari application to change his religious affiliation from Muslim to Christian on his ID card; the verdict was based on the Islamic Sharia which prohibits conversion of Muslims to any other religion and “disruption to Public order”. The Egyptian constitution carries the two paradoxical statements, article 2 stipulates that Islamic Shari’a, which prohibits conversions to any other religion is the main source of legislation while article 46 of the constitution states that the State guarantees the “Freedom of Religion” In today’s court case, again, the converts to Christianity in Egypt have fallen victims to the Egyptian government appeasement to Islamist radicals to say the least.

The Egyptian government agents, the court in today’s case, are considered in the eyes of the international law as “Agents of Persecution” which can open the door open to an era of international condemnation of the Egyptian government position regarding Freedom of Religion. Al-Gohari and his daughter Dina 12, live in hiding in continuous fear since radical Islamists such as Sheik Youssef El-Badri and Dr Hamid Sardiq incited Radical Muslim mobs to kill Al-Gohari for his apostasy. (c) United Copts

20 mile queue of trucks between UAE and KSA

Thousands of trucks have been held up at the border between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates because of Saudi border formalities, the UAE's official news agency WAM said on Saturday.

WAM said drivers were queuing in temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) without access to basic facilities at the Ghuweifat border crossing as they "wait to complete formalities" to enter the kingdom.

It quoted Saleh Mohammed al-Mualla, secretary general of the UAE Red Crescent, as saying the aid agency was providing food and water for drivers stuck in the 32-km (20-mile) queue.

"The suffering of those truckers calls for the immediate removal of obstacles they face primarily during this difficult summer time," al-Mualla was quoted as saying.

The queue began forming three weeks ago, according to local media, with some speculating that a new finger-printing system introduced by Saudi customs was the cause.

A Saudi customs official told Reuters the Saudi authorities were investigating the reason for the delay. (c) Reuters, reporting by Raissa Kasolowsky; editing by Andrew Dobbie

Will Netanyahu announce that he can live with a Palestinian state?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a major shift, will accept the notion of a Palestinian state -- a policy pushed by the Obama administration but resisted until now by Mr. Netanyahu, Israeli officials and Americans briefed on the Israeli leader's thinking said.

The policy reversal, which is expected to go public this weekend, could help restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and allow the Israeli leader to steer a course between Mr. Obama's view and those of his own hawkish base. MORE HERE in the Washington Times.

Ahmadinejad wins again, and western observers wrong again...

Abbas Barzegar, a PhD candidate in religious studies at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia (USA) wrote a good piece for the Guardian on the election results in Iran. Why do the 'western experts' misjudge the situation in Iran so badly?

I have been in Iran for exactly one week covering the 2009 Iranian election carnival. Since I arrived, few here doubted that the incumbent firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad would win. My airport cab driver reminded me that the president had visited every province twice in the last four years – "Iran isn't Tehran," he said. Even when I asked Mousavi supporters if their man could really carry more than capital, their responses were filled with an Obamasque provisional optimism – "Yes we can", "I hope so", "If you vote." So the question occupying the international media, "How did Mousavi lose?" seems to be less a problem of the Iranian election commission and more a matter of bad perception rooted in the stubborn refusal to understand the role of religion in Iran. MORE HERE

Thursday, June 11, 2009

'Seeing Allah' in Islam

Sadaf Farooqi writes an interesting comment in the Saudi Gazette on 'seeing God'. His mystical vision of God - when seeing human beings in their beauty - sounds rather Sufi. In Wahhabi Saudi Arabia?
Who doesn’t enjoy beholding something beautiful? So much of our time is spent in beautifying things, places and our bodies, that it must indeed be worth the extra effort to incorporate beauty into any endeavor. Whether it is a bunch of cilantro leaves adorning a dish, a long-stemmed rose in a vase accentuating a dining table, a scenic watercolor painting giving life to a bland room, or blooming flowers livening up a lush green garden during spring, a thing of beauty, as they say, is “a joy forever.” So much so that, one of the best traits of a believing Muslim wife is that when her husband beholds her, he is pleased. MORE HERE

Opportunities in construction in Libya

Forty years of isolation has left Libya desperate for reconstruction and rolling in money. So it’s spending billions on national renewal, and if you’re clever you’ll help it out. Oh, it helps if you like coffee

Colonel Gadaffi knows how to celebrate. This September is the 40th anniversary of the military coup that brought the Libyan leader to power, and to mark the occasion, billions of pounds worth of infrastructure, housing and other construction projects will get under way.

This might appear to be the type of self-aggrandisement one would expect from the world’s longest-serving dictator, but it is also an indication of something more: the long-awaited Libyan construction boom. MORE HERE

Sudan 'allows aid agencies back' into Darfur

Sudan has authorised four aid agencies expelled from the country in March to return to troubled Darfur, says the UN's humanitarian chief John Holmes.The four groups - named as Care International, Save the Children, Mercy Corps, and Padco - were among 13 organisations expelled in March. MORE HERE ON BBC

Saudi Arabia Finds New Political Muscle in Region

With the weekend election victory of its political allies in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia's traditional clout over Middle East politics appears to be on the rebound, after years of frustration in Riyadh over Iran's regional ascendancy.

Invigorated Saudi influence could be an important crutch in the Obama administration's emerging strategy on Middle East peace. The staunch U.S. ally is seen in Washington as perhaps the only regional powerhouse that can bring unruly Arab neighbors, in particular Syria, into line with the U.S. goal of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal. MORE HERE on Wall Street Journal

Egypt: Police Asks For Information about visitors of ‘Political Websites'

After detaining more than 100 blogger in 2008 alone, Egypt is now using a new technique in controlling the internet freedom, as police officers asked an internet café owner to spy on his customers.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said that state, few days ago, security officers forced an owner of numerous internet cafes in Egypt to inform police officers with the name and ID number of those customers who browse “political” websites.

ANHRI released a detailed statement reporting that security forces raided an Internet cafe in Cairo and asked for the visitors' registration book with all details on visitors activities from the beginning of the café's work, the statement adds:

When the owner of the place told police that there are no books; they had taken his ID card and the license of the café. Moreover they confiscated the equipments of internet service, and took him along to the Security Directorate in Giza. There he was forced to sign a minute charging him of practicing ‘an activity without a license

This act has roots since 2005, as reportedly the state security officers forced the owners of Internet cafes to register the names and identity numbers of those who visit the cafes frequently. Usually the officials don't deny such an act, meanwhile there is no law or governmental decision for that.

Good to note that there is a big number of internet café all over Egypt, where people can access the web for entertainment, research and blogging; especially that internet prices are really cheap (1EGP=20cent/Hour). SOURCE: Global Voices Online

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Egyptian who advocated burning Israeli books stumbles in bid for UN post

Egypt is pushing hard to get its culture minister named as the head of the UN agency promoting cultural diversity. But as Farouk Hosni heads to Paris Wednesday to campaign for the job, he has to overcome controversy over his comments vowing to burn any Israeli books in Egypt's famed Library of Alexandria.

Hosni made the remarks in April 2008 to Egyptian lawmakers to defend himself against charges of being soft toward Israel - and Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel and Jewish activists seized on them, warning in late May that Hosni was "a danger" if named to the UNESCO post.

The flap illustrates the role Hosni has played in 22 years as culture minister in an authoritarian nation where he must negotiate a path between liberals and conservatives, knowing who to appease and when.

As the longest-serving member in Egypt's Cabinet, the 71-year-old Hosni has won a reputation as a slippery political survivor. MORE HERE IN HAARETZ

Our Muslim friends give us 11 proofs of Muhammad's prophethood

Abd al-Rahman given us 11 'proofs of Muhammad's prophethood' in an article on IslamOnline. With his article, he does not want to address Muslims alone, but 'every man and woman all over the world'.

Many people have the following questions in mind: Was Muhammad a liar? Was he just a social reformer? Did he invent the teachings of Islam by himself? Or was he a true prophet like all the Noble Prophets that preceded him? To prove Muhammad's prophethood 'beyond doubt', the article highlights '11 logical proofs'.Read them HERE

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Satellite TV Spurs Evolutionary Democracy in the Arab World

The right of citizens to freely elect representative governments is the hallmark of democratic societies. While this right is not widely enjoyed in the Arab world, democratization in Arab societies has nevertheless taken root — bolstered by media technologies that bypass government control and put the potential for change in the hands of the people.

Along with the Internet, satellite broadcasting has enabled remarkable change in the way that Arab societies, which tend to favor traditional and group-oriented values, engage in discussions about politics and society. Since the early 1990s, satellite broadcasting in the Arab world has proliferated to yield more than 200 channels reaching an audience of approximately 325 million. In 22 countries spanning from Morocco in North Africa to Yemen in the Persian Gulf, this Arabic-speaking audience has a combined population accounting for a quarter of the Muslim world. HERE the whole article

Monday, June 8, 2009

End to Bahrain's liberties

Every weekend, bumper-to-bumper traffic blocks the causeway into this small island nation as visitors from nearby Saudi Arabia flock to delights unavailable at home: movie theaters, bars and, for some, commercial sex.

With few other attractions, Bahrain's booming tourism industry thrives on the island's reputation as a freewheeling oasis just a short drive from major Saudi cities. Bahrain has little oil of its own; tourism, mostly by the four million Saudis who cross the causeway each year, accounts for a tenth of its economy.

All of this is endangered, as Bahraini legislators press to scrap the country's drinking laws -- currently the most liberal in the Persian Gulf -- and to impose near-total prohibition. MORE HERE IN THE WSJ

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lebanon's pro-Western majority declares victory

Lebanon's pro-Western coalition declared victory early Monday, as local television stations reported the faction had successfully fended off a serious challenge by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and its allies to grab the majority in parliament.

Official results for Sunday's election were not expected until later Monday, but the winners were already celebrating by shooting in the air, setting off fireworks and driving around in honking motorcades.

The election was an early test of President Barack Obama's efforts to forge Middle East peace. A win by Hezbollah would have boosted the influence of its backers Iran and Syria and risked pushing one of the region's most volatile nations into international isolation and possibly into more conflict with Israel. THE WHOLE AP STORY HERE

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Quick and dirty guide to Lebanese elections

The Lebanese elections will occur on Sunday June 7. Despite the rather convoluted and twisted nature of Lebanese democracy, the endemic corruption and the continual pushes for changes in nature of the electoral system, the results of this election are very much up in the air.

Latest election polls show that a few seats and districts either way could swing the results from the government to the opposition. (For considerations of space, I'm leaving out a lot of detail but I'd like you to finish reading this diary before the elections tomorrow!) Follow me below the fold as I go through the players and give my views on likely outcomes. HERE THE COMPLETE GUIDE

Friday, June 5, 2009

Church growth in Chad

Benedict XVI has elevated the apostolic prefecture of Mongo to an apostolic vicariate, since the number of Catholics in the region has increased by 15% in the last 20 years. In the Central African nation, which has some 10 million inhabitants, 53% of the population is Muslim. Two decades ago, Catholics numbered only 5%; now they are 20% of the population.

Bishop Miguel Ángel Sebastián Martínez of Lai, Chad, spoke of the rapid growth of the Church in his country when he addressed the synod of bishops last October.

He explained the importance given to the Word of God and the Eucharist, noting that Catholics cannot always attend Mass each Sunday because of a lack of priests, but that they gather to read and pray the Bible, and to seek "what they should do to change that in their lives which is not in conformity with the Gospel." Source:

The Pope named Jesuit Bishop-designate Henri Coudray to be the first apostolic vicar of Mongo. The French bishop-designate has been the apostolic prefect in Mongo since 2001. He is a specialist in the Arabic language, Islam and interreligious dialogue. Henri Coudray was born in 1942 and studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, the Sorbonne, and received a licentiate in Arabic and Islamic studies in Lyon. He was ordained a priest in 1973 and made his profession in the Society of Jesus in 1980.

The Catholics of the vicariate, some 6,000 out of a population of 1.7 million, are distributed in six parishes, attended by nine priests, 13 women religious, five men religious, eight lay missionaries, and two seminarians.

Different responses in Arab World to Obama's speech

The day after the June 4, 2009 address to the Muslim world by U.S. President Barack Obama, at CairoUniversity in Egypt, the government Saudi, Egyptian and Palestinian press reactions were diverse. In their editorials, some papers called it an historic speech heralding a new world order based on justice and human rights, and called on the Arab world to heed Obama's call for partnership, to improve relations with the U.S., and to advance the Arab peace initiative. Other newspapers discounted the importance of the speech, stating that Obama's policy should be judged by his actions, not his words. MEMRI gave a good summary, including some unique cartoons. See HERE

Battle for the votes in Lebanon

Billboards have become battlegrounds across Lebanon, but the highway north of Beirut bristles with them. This is the start of the Christian heartlands of Metn, then Kesrouan, two of the few districts where heated competition is expected in the general elections on 7 June.

At the Dora junction, the image of a woman in designer sunglasses and orange lipstick, pouting Je vote orange, is ubiquitous. Orange is the colour of popular Christian leader Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, which has arguably led the billboard war in appealing to its largely middle class, youthful support-base. MORE HERE

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Interview with Priest Zakaria Butros

I am a Copt. In my early 20s, I became a priest. Of course, in predominantly Muslim Egypt, Christians—priests or otherwise—do not talk about religion with Muslims. My older brother, a passionate Christian learned that lesson too late: after preaching to Muslims, he was eventually ambushed by Muslims who cut out his tongue and murdered him. Far from being deterred or hating Muslims, I eventually felt more compelled to share the Good News with them. Naturally, this created many problems: I was constantly harassed, threatened, and eventually imprisoned and tortured for one year, simply for preaching to Muslims. Egyptian officials charged me with abetting "apostasy," that is, for being responsible for the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. Another time I was arrested while boarding a plane out of Egypt. Eventually, however, I managed to flee my native country and resided for a time in Australia and England. Anyway, my life-story with Christianity and Islam is very long and complicated. In fact, an entire book about it was recently published. HERE the whole interview

Full text of the speech of Barack Obama in Cairo

I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. Complete text here.

Robert Fisk: Could it be al-Qa'ida is missing Bush?

President Barack Obama was received in the Middle East with the usual grovelling Saudi plea for help in taming the Israelis and an incendiary threat from Osama bin Laden that America will pay the price for his role in displacing a million Muslim refugees in Pakistan. It wasn't difficult to see why Obama warned the world not to expect too much from his attempt to "create a better dialogue" with Muslims. MORE HERE in The Independent.

Elections in Lebanon offer false hope

Lebanon’s 7 June elections risk offering a false hope. That the parties agreed to shift their conflict from street to ballot box is surely a good thing, but it should not be misinterpreted. The results almost certainly will be close and so replicate the schism that divides the political arena into two irreconcilable camps. With the crisis that pushed the country to the brink of new civil war in 2008 apparently past, the parties are reverting to form, thus reviving rather than resolving the underlying conflicts. Regardless of who ultimately prevails – the Hizbollah-dominated alliance or the pro-Western coalition – forming a viable government and agreeing on a common program will in the best case be time-consuming and require difficult compromise from all. Read the whole article of the International Crisis Group HERE

Speech of Obama in Cairo

US President Barack Obama on Thursday vowed to forge a "new beginning" for Islam and America in a landmark speech to the world's Muslims, evoking a vision of peace after a smouldering cycle of "suspicion and discord."

In what may be a defining moment of his presidency, Obama laid out a new blueprint for US Middle East policy, vowing to end mistrust, forge a state for Palestinians and defuse a nuclear showdown with Iran.

"So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace," said Obama, who was greeted with a standing ovation as he stepped up to the podium at Cairo University. MORE HERE

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Western Sahara: Treading a mined path to freedom

Hot with anger and clutching a stone, Brahim Labid abandoned caution and charged straight into a minefield towards the defences of the Moroccan army.

“When I got close I tried to throw the stone and at that moment the explosion happened,” said Mr Labid, 19, a refugee from Western Sahara.

The accident happened in April, when Mr Labid joined a protest march beneath a security barrier that seals most of the desert territory annexed by neighbouring Morocco in 1975 as Spanish colonisers departed following the death of the dictator Francisco Franco.

The march ended in disaster when an anti-personnel mine blew off most of Mr Labid’s right foot. “I knew there were mines,” he said from a hospital bed in the nearby city of Tindouf, Algeria. “But when you see the berm up close you just lose your patience.”MORE HERE