Friday, July 31, 2009

Why a private television channel in Palestine

A state-run television channel and a few domestic terrestrial stations, which mostly re-run programmes from other satellite channels, are almost all that is on offer in the Palestinian Territories. Two other outlets — Al Aqsa, set up by Hamas in Gaza, and Al Quds, which many brand as Hamas-light — are partisan stations. The private sector, so far, has shown very little interest in television broadcast, probably due to the uncertainty that characterises the situation in Palestine and the considerably high risks involved in launching a private television channel.

Today, after years of state-run or partisan media outlets in Palestine, the time has come for a new satellite television channel that is entirely private: a channel that does not belong to a particular political party or governmental body but one that aspires to reflect the interests of the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, those living in the Palestinian territories and in the Diaspora. Such a channel would also provide the Israeli enemy/neighbour with a unique window onto aspects of Palestinian society with which it is completely unfamiliar. MORE HERE

Islam and pluralism are not incompatible

Dr Maher Y. Abu-Munshar writes in the Daily Star (Lebanon) about Islam and pluralism:

There is a pervasive view in the media today that Islam does not support pluralism. Sadly, we often hear how difficult it is for non-Muslim minorities to live in peace and harmony in Muslim countries. Violent extremists who misuse Islamic theology to justify terrorist attacks have exacerbated prejudices against Muslims and today many people think that Muslims do not believe in pluralism and diversity.

By contrast, history reveals that Islam – as preached in the Koran and exemplified by the life of the Prophet Muohammad and his companions – actually accepts, celebrates and even encourages diversity.

It should be noted that the term “minority” has no place in Islamic law. It has no place in Sharia (or law based on Islamic principles) and jurists have never used the term. Rather, it emerged from Western societies, which use it to distinguish between ethnic groups.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nile Water Deal rejected by Egypt and Sudan

Hopes that the 10 Nile Basin countries would sign a water-sharing agreement at a meeting in Alexandria to settle one of the planet's most contentious water issues have been dashed -- for now at least -- after Egypt and Sudan rejected any cuts in their traditional quotas.

But the prospects of a long-term accord on an equitable share-out of the waters of the 3,470-mile Nile, the world's longest river, remain dim, largely because Egypt, the largest user, refuses to surrender its veto powers and its historic rights over the river that has been its lifeblood since time immemorial.

The river provides 87 percent of Egypt's water resources. An Egyptian government report in July warned that the country's water requirements would exceed its resources by 2017. MORE HERE

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Debate in Indonesia about new bible translation

The Indonesian organization Yayasan Lentera Bangsa has published a new translation of the Bible in Indonesian. Allah does not appear in the Kitab Suci Indonesian Literal Translation (KS-ILT). Instead, the publishers transliterated Hebrew terms (such as Elohim) and substituted some less-common Indonesian names for God.

"Coincident with the forbidding of the use of Allah by non-Muslims in Malaysia, we think it is the time for us to release ourselves from the dilemma," said editor Jahja Iskandar.

Mainstream churches, however, have been hostile to the KS-ILT. Neither the Bible Society of Indonesia nor that of Malaysia has approved the translation. The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) of Malaysia issued a statement "strongly opposing" the translation. "We continue to maintain the right to use Allah as it has been so used for over 300 years in Malaysia," the group said.

Evangelical observers support NECF's move. "Theologically and missiologically, Allah is a very appropriate way [for Southeast Asian Christians] to refer to God," said Ajith Fernando, national director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka. MORE HERE in Christianity Today

New Book: Vivienne Stacey on Spiritual Warfare

We are finishing a new textbook on Spiritual Warfare; this will be a compilation of Vivienne Stacey's best writings on the occult and Spiritual Warfare as it relates to the Muslim World.

Vivienne Stacey (b. 1928) has been a missionary in the Muslim world for over 50 years. She began her career in Pakistan, but her work developed into a global ministry of teaching and writing. She has written much to help Christians understand Islam and to minister to Muslims, and also on the role of women in mission. Her most unique contribution, though, has been her writings on spiritual warfare. These are based on her understanding of, and experience with, the spiritual forces of evil. This book contains Vivienne Stacey’s best on that theme.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Islam's Civil War - by Barry Rubin

I’m reading a good book by Richard Dowden, a veteran reporter on Africa who now heads the Royal African Society. It’s entitled Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, published recently by Public Affairs press. Especially interesting from a Middle Eastern standpoint is his chapter on Somalia:

“Somalis are Sunni Muslims, but always followed the Sufi tradition….Their religious spirit is tolerant…and is mixed with elements of Somali’s pre Islamic Cushitic beliefs....In recent years their culture and religious practice have been undermined by Arab Wahabi preachers and Saudi money. Until recently Somali women played a major role in society, dressed in bright colors and did not cover their heads or arms. Today Somali women are expected to dress in the full Saudi black niqab and obey their men.” MORE HERE

Saturday, July 25, 2009

China taregets the Arab World with new TV channel

China Central Television (CCTV) launched an Arabic-language channel for the Middle East and Africa on Saturday as part of the government’s efforts to expand its relations with the Arab and Muslim world.

The 24-hour channel will air in 22 Arabic-speaking countries, reaching a total population of nearly 300 million people, CCTV said in a statement at the launch of the new service. The new channel is available through Nilesat and Arabsat services for viewers in the Middle East.

“This is the fourth foreign-language channel we are introducing, after English, French and Spanish,” the official spokesman from the embassy in Riyadh told Arab News. MORE HERE

Friday, July 24, 2009

Increasing religious turmoil in Egypt

HUNDREDS of Egyptian Muslims tried on Friday to set on fire the home of a Coptic Christian in southern Egypt after he announced plans to turn it into a church, a security official said.

The Christian had angered Muslims in the village of Hawasliya, near the southern town of Minya, earlier this week by saying he would turn his four-storey house into a church, he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Residents complained to the authorities arguing that the Copt did not have the proper permit to carry out the transformation and their anger boiled over after Friday weekly Muslim prayers, the official added.

Emerging from mosques, around 500 Muslims gathered near the house to try to set it ablaze but the police prevented it. MORE HERE

Here the Arab Human Development Report

The Arab Human Development Report is out. It can be found HERE. Worthwhile reading - Rami Khouri says this about the report:
It’s bad enough for ordinary Arabs to sense large gaps in their personal quality of life and widespread dysfunction in the public management of their societies. It is much more painful – though always useful – for such self-awareness to be documented in a credible report by knowledgeable and honest Arab analysts.

This is the case with the publishing this week by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) of a painful new report on the condition of the Arab world that, most importantly in my view, highlights the spectrum of interlinked deficiencies that retard meaningful and sustainable Arab development. The “Arab Human Development Report 2009: Challenges to Human Security in the Arab Countries,” is the fifth such UNDP text since 2004, and the best one so far, in my view.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Arab health ministers to ban elderly, young from pilgrimage

Arab health ministers agreed on Wednesday to ban certain people including the elderly and young children from pilgrimage to Mecca in an effort to contain the spread of swine flu.

"Hajj and umrah will continue with some conditions," Ibrahim al-Kerdani, World Health Organisation spokesman in Egypt, said after a meeting of Arab health ministers in Cairo.

"Some groups will be excluded from hajj: people over the age of 65, people under the age of 12 and people with chronic illnesses," he told reporters. MORE of this AFP story HERE

HERE what REUTERS writes

Monday, July 20, 2009

Turmoil envelops Antiochian church in the USA

When Bishop Mark Maymon of Toledo (picture) attended a recent regional conference in Cincinnati for the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, local police were on guard because of threats made by a member of the denomination's board of trustees.

The threats by e-mail from Walid Khalife of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., accused the bishop of being a "traitor," a "liar," and a "dictator," and said the bishop needed to be "taught a lesson."
Mr. Khalife also threatened and insulted other Antiochian clergy via e-mail, and Sgt. Keith Schoonover of the Sharonville, Ohio, Police Department, which provided the security at the conference July 1-5 in Cincinnati, said "the suspect has been contacted" by police in his hometown.

Bishop Mark, who was enthroned in 2005 as bishop of Toledo and the Midwest Diocese, said in an interview that the police and FBI were notified because "you don't know what's going on in a person's mind" and "you want to protect them from doing harm to themselves and you certainly want to protect the people who are coming together at the hotel." MORE HERE

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Major step in Saudi liberalization cancelled

Only a few months ago the plan to hold an annual – and high profile - festival for Arab filmmakers in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah was being hailed as a major step forward in the country’s liberalisation policy. But the festival, due to open on Saturday evening, was cancelled at the last minute. The establishment of cinemas, and the festival, has been backed by Prince al Waleed bin Talal. Until late last year there were no cinemas in Saudi Arabia.

Some of Saudi Arabia’s more conservative voices see movies as violating a religious taboo, and as being inconsistent with the teachings of Islam. DVD piracy is widespread in Saudi Arabia. Cinemas have been banned for almost 30 years.

The festival would have been the 4th to have been held and plans were to feature about 100 Arabic films, including animations, documentaries and shorts as well as full-length movies, 45 of which were entered from Saudi Arabia.

© Rapid TV News 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Egypt and Israel cooperate - message for Iran

A common view is that Iran poses greater threats to Israel and western powers than to the remainder of the Middle East. However, actions by Egypt suggest many Arab nations fear Iran’s development of a nuclear program as much as do western societies. The passage of two Israeli warships through the Suez Canal sent an Egyptian message to Iran that it would work with Israel if Iran demonstrated an ability to employ nuclear weapons. Arab countries do not regard Iran as “Arab” and view the growing military power of that nation as a direct threat to the remainder of the Arab world. The vast majority of Muslims are Sunni, but Iran represents the most powerful Shiite society in the world. Hezbollah leaders were furious that Egypt cooperated with the Zionists instead of being its enemies. MORE HERE

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Churches in Iraq targeted by bombers

Bombs have exploded outside four churches across Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, killing at least one person and wounding more than 20 others, police have said.

A car bomb placed outside a church on Palestine Street in the east of the city on Sunday killed one person and injured 14 others. MORE HERE

Why Arabs are different from Iranians, according to Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed

Abdul Rahman al-Rashed (picture) is the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai. In an article in al-Sharq al-Awsat he explains his rather anti-Iranian view:

Although both the Arabs and the Iranians occupy the same geographical region, and the majority of them are members of the same religion, and they share a thousand years of history, the Iranian experience is different from the Arab one. Before looking at modern-day Iran, and examining what is taking place in Tehran, we should try to understand the special circumstances that affect Iran. Unlike the Arabs who are comprised of various nations and who number more than two hundred million people and are spread over two continents, the Iranians live in a single country, and speak a language that they share with only a few minorities beyond their borders.

It is therefore not difficult to understand why for two thousand years Iran has looked westwards to the Arab world and beyond as a way of escaping its single state cage. Expansion was an ambition of the Shah who built up his military arsenal to the point that Iran was recognized as the region's policeman, and had a large say in the issues of the Arab region. These ambitions were revived following the Islamic Revolution but under a different guise, the goal this time was external expansion in order to give Iran a large say in its [own] regional affairs.MORE HERE

Friday, July 10, 2009

Seven christians beheaded in Somalia

Seven Somalis accused of renouncing Islam and spying for the government were beheaded by Islamic insurgents today in a brutal reminder of the rebels' growing authority.

The killings were carried out by the extremist al-Shabaab group, which is fighting the interim government in Mogadishu and has implemented a strict interpretation of Islamic law in those parts of the country that it controls.

“Al-Shabaab told us that they were beheaded for being Christian followers and spies,” a relative said after the executions were carried out. A witness described seeing the decapitated bodies lying in the back of a truck in the town of Baidoa.

Today's killings were the largest number to take place at one time. But there were only the latest in a series of beheadings, amputations and stoning to death ordered by al-Shabaab, which is accused of having links to al-Qaeda and is listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States. MORE HERE

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sheik Khaled of al-Azhar: give churches more land

A top Egyptian preacher has called on the government to allocate more land for Christian’s to build churches and blamed sectarian tension in Egypt on extremists from both sides, press reports said Tuesday.

Sheikh Khaled al-Gindi said in an interview with the London-based Asharq al-Awsat that the government should allow Christians to build churches the same way Muslims expect to be able to build mosques in the West.

“All citizens have the right to practice their religious rights,” Gindi said. “As we demand that the West allows us to build mosques, we have to do the same here (in Egypt) with churches. This is what Amr ibn al-Asdid.”

Gindi went on to say that the tension between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt does not mean there is a sectarian strife but rather communication problems, for which he held extremists on both sides accountable.

“These problems have always existed, but did not come to the surface before. Extremists who incite hatred are more dangerous to Muslims than they are to Copts,” Gindi said, adding extremists were behind the clashes that have erupted over the years between Muslims and Copts. MORE on this HERE

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Curfew on Egyptian villages because of religious violence

_41564186_copsix Clashes between Muslims and Christian Copts recently spurred Egyptian security forces to impose curfews on two towns in the governorates of Bani Swaif and Dakahlia.

In Kafr El Barbari in Dakahlia, mayhem broke out Tuesday after 18-year-old Mohamed Ramadan Ezzat, a Muslim, was apparently stabbed to death by John Emile Gerges, a Christian grocer, in a dispute over the price of a carbonated drink.

After Ezzat's burial later that same day, 25 people were injured as hundreds of angry Muslims attacked Gerges' and other Coptic residents' houses, throwing stones and trying to set the homes on fire. The violence spurred many to flee the town, which is inhabited by about 1,000 Copts and 3,000 Muslims.

Most Copts are staying at home in fear of other possible attacks. After the incident, dozens of security vehicles, firefighters and ambulance personnel formed a security barrier around the town as police forces tried to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the village. Security forces attempted to intervene to bring peace between the town's Muslim and Coptic leaders, and financially compensating Ezzat's family was being suggested as a possible resolution to end the conflict.MORE HERE

Friday, July 3, 2009

Syria wants better ties with Arab World and with USA

Syria's leader sent a July 4 message full of praise to President Barack Obama on Friday and invited him to visit Syria — the latest signs Damascus is hedging its bets in Mideast politics, warming up to its rival the United States at a time when its longtime ally Iran is in turmoil.

The United States and its Arab allies have been hoping to pull Syria out of the fold of Iran and Islamic militant groups in the region.

Damascus so far appears unlikely to take such a dramatic step, but it does appear worried about Iran's reliability and the long-term impact of that country's postelection unrest. Also, its Lebanese ally Hezbollah suffered a setback when its coalition failed to win June parliament elections, beaten out by a pro-U.S. bloc.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has been expressing hopes for better ties with Washington for months. But the latest developments may make dialogue look even more attractive. HERE THIS WHOLE AP STORY

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Egypt: Power Has Already Been Transferred

Last week, the daily newspaper al-Shorouk reported that important figures in Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party (N.D.P.) are meeting to decide the name of the party's 2011 presidential candidate. The article didn't cite any sources, and the N.D.P. issued a flood of statements denying the occurrence of such a meeting. However, the rumor has caused the issue of succession in Egypt to resurface. It doesn't matter how hard the N.D.P. denies the speculation and conjecture, it is going to have to name a candidate in the near future.

Although President Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal (picture), managed to make a quiet, backroom entry into the political scene, his emergence as the N.D.P.'s next candidate is clear. He gives major speeches, tours poor villages and has a say in all the economic, social and political issues. As Egypt has always been run as a one-man show, the elite usually reflect the ruler's ideology, identity and beliefs. Egypt's economic, political and social trends indicate that Gamal Mubarak already has a wide breadth of influence. MORE HERE

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Book Review: James Maskalyk, Six months in Sudan

Charles R. Larson, Professor of Literature at American University, Washington, D.C, reviews James Maskalyk, Six Months in Sudan: A Young Doctor in a War-Torn Village (2009). He calls it 'a disturbing and utterly brilliant book'.

Sometimes you start writing one book and end up writing another. Nowhere is this more apparent than in James Maskalyk’s painfully honest account of his six months as an emergency physician in a remote area of Sudan. Answering the call for Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), Maskalyk served as a doctor in a town called Abyei, trapped—one might say—at the crossroads of the warring factions within the country. His account of his duties is often disturbing, particularly in the details of the horrors he encountered virtually every day. But the real story is the transformative nature of the experience itself, which exposed him to the depths of his self, and packed such an emotional wallop that he will probably never be the same. MORE HERE