Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Lebanon: Proxy Battleground for Foreign Powers

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Al-Quds al-Arabi, June 12, 2012

This cartoon is running in today’s Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.  The caption at top right reads: “Lebanon and foreign acts of interference.”  Lebanon has a long history serving as a proxy battleground for contending foreign powers supporting contending local interests.  These outside powers  include Syria, Israel, the Palestinians, Iran, and the United States.

There are signs that the troubles in neighboring Syria are beginning to spill over into Lebanon.

More on Lebanon

The Price of Arab Blood and the Price of Arab Oil

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

Al-Quds al-Arabi, June 9, 2012

This cartoon is running in today’s issue of Al-Quds al-Arabi.  “The price of Arab blood” on the left and the “the price of Arab oil” on the right are both declining. Notice which one the guy in the middle, labeled “the international community,” is paying attention to.


Kuwaiti Man Jailed for Blasphemy

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

A Kuwaiti man has been sentenced to ten years in jail for “blaspheming” Islam on Twitter.  The man is a Shiite.  Kuwait’s population is 85% Muslim:  70% of those Muslims are Sunni and 30% are Shia.

Story at BBC

More on Sunni Islam

More on the Shia

The Understanding of Democracy in the Arab World

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Majd Kayali wrote recently about the challenges facing the budding democracies of the Middle East in the wake of the “Arab Spring” revolutions.  Here is a key passage from the column, which appeared on on May 25, 2012:

هذا ما يفسّر أن الديمقراطية عندنا تبدو ناقصة، أو غير ناضجة، أو مختلفا عليها، والسبب يكمن في ضعف أو تشوّش مفاهيم الحرية والفردية فيها، على عكس وضعها في أوروبا. وبديهي أن الحلّ يكمن في تحقيق التلازم بين الديمقراطية والليبرالية، وتأسيس المجتمعات على أساس المواطن باعتباره الوحدة الأساسية في المجتمع، لا الجماعات الدينية أو الإثنية، وإعلاء شأن الحريات الفردية في الدساتير، فهذا وحده ما يضمن تخليص مجتمعاتنا من واقع التسلّط والاستبداد والفساد، ومن سياسات الهويات المغلقة والمتناحرة والمتنازعة والمتمايزة، ومن شبهات تسلط أكثرية ما   على أقلية ما

“This explains why democracy for us seems incomplete or immature or different.  The reason lies in weakness or confusion over the concepts of freedom and individualism, as opposed to the place of these concepts in Europe.  It goes without saying that the solution lies in realizing the inseparability of democracy and liberalism and establishing societies on the basis of the citizen as the fundamental unit of society, not religious or ethnic groups, and upholding individual freedoms in the constitutions. Only this can guarantee our societies will be rid of overweening power, tyranny, and corruption along with policies of dark and obscure origin that lead to characteristic internecine slaughter and rivalries. It is also the way we shall be rid of mutual suspicions between majorities and minorities.”

(my translation)

Majd Kayali, “The Arab Revolutions in the Context of World Revolutions: An Initial Approach,”, May 25, 2012


Fatwas Are Political

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Fatwas, the opinions on just about everything issued by Muslim clerics that Muslims believe define what is permissible and what is forbidden under Islam, have always been political to some extent.  However, one prominent Arab columnist thinks things have gotten a little out of hand.


The Sheikh of Al-Azhar has issued a fatwa urging Egyptians to cast their votes in the presidential elections. He warned that to stay away from the polls is “forbidden by Sharia Law.”  Before this, there were sheikhs who said it was forbidden to vote in the elections.

Concerning the visit to Jerusalem a month ago [by Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa], Sheikh Sabri ‘Akrama, the preacher [ khatib ] of Al-Aqsa, said the visit was forbidden by Islam [ haram ], while the Mufti of Egypt responded by saying it was permitted under Islam [ halal ].  Both sheikhs have connections to different political camps…

These fatwas for the most part are political in nature and have nothing to do with religion.

Today it isn’t easy to tell the difference between some clerics and some businessmen who wear fine clothing, ride around in expensive cars, and live in palaces. Of course, this is their choice; but by behaving this way these clerics have brought disgrace upon themselves in the eyes of society. Their love of appearances has corrupted them as has competition between them to please the politicians. Their rivalry keeps pushing them to keep issuing fatwas and counter fatwas.”

Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed, “Halal Haram, Halal Haram (!حلال حرام حلال حرام“Permitted, Forbidden, Permitted, Forbidden!”), Al-Sharq al-Awsat, May 27, 2012

(My translation)

A Guarantee of Political and Cultural Equality for Minorities is Essential

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Writing in today’s Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Ghassan al-Imam says,

“There can be no Arabism and no Arab character without a guarantee of political and cultural equality for religious and racial minorities, the more so as these minorities grow to accept a mutual national coexistence that is not based on ethnic foundations.  Aspirations in favor of separatism, grouped under the banners of “sovereignty” and “independence,” examined carefully as the Arab nation was torn apart in the wake of the departure of colonialismو have only led to paralysis.”

(My translation)

غسان الامام, “تعريب الصراع السني- الشيعي,” الشرق الاوسط, 22 مايو, 2012

Ghassan al-Imam, “The Arabization of the Sunni-Shia Conflict,” Al-Sharq al-Awsat, May 22, 2012


Revolutionary Romanticism Meets the Harsh Light of Day

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Adel al-Tarifi wrote an opinion piece in Al-Sharq al-Awsat on May 9, 2012 entitled “Revisionists in ‘The Arab Fall.’”  His main point is that as Islamists rise to power, overtaking and displacing the more secular goals of the original revolutionaries such as “civil society” and “human rights,” hope is giving way to apprehension and even fear.


الآن بات بإمكانك رصد تصريحات وكتابات متشككة في نتائج «الربيع العربي» على مستقبل الحريات والحقوق في تلك البلدان. أي أن دعاة «المجتمع المدني» والحقوقيين باتوا يدركون أن المبادئ والأحلام التي تعلقوا بها، قد تحولت إلى كابوس مرعب بسبب صعود الإسلاميين المتشددين إلى سدة الحكم.

“We are at the point now where you can observe statements and writings that are skeptical about the results of the ‘Arab spring’ and skeptical about the future of freedoms and rights in those countries. This is to say that advocates of ‘civil society’ and rights have begun to realize that the principles and dreams that had become attached to them, have turned into nightmares because of the rise of radical Islamists to the gates of power…

لا شيء، الإنسان هو من يعطي القوانين أو الأنظمة قيمتها وليس العكس. قد تتمكن من عزل الرئيس ورجاله وتسمي ذلك ثورة، وقد تتمكن من تغيير الدستور والأنظمة، ولكنك لن تنجح في تغيير حياة الناس إلى الأفضل، إذا كان ذلك على حساب أمنهم ومعاشهم.

Obviously, it is mankind who bestows value or legitimacy upon laws or regulations, not the reverse. You may be able to depose a president and his men and call it a revolution, and you may be able to change the constitution and change regulations, but you will not succeed in changing people’s lives for the better if it comes at the expense of their security and their livelihoods.”

(My translation)

Religion and Democracy in the Arab Spring

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Raghida Dergham, a Lebanese columnist for Al-Hayat, writes about religion and democracy in the “Arab Spring”:

Article in English

Article in Arabic


Is the Syrian Regime on its Last Leg?

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, April 30, 2012

That’s what this editorial cartoon suggests.  Label on the  chair reads “The Syrian Regime.”  The single remaining leg supporting that regime reads “Damascus.”

Arab World’s Fear of Iran

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Sign reads "Arab Nations" - Al-Sharq al-Awsat, April 24, 2012

In an Op-ed piece in today’s issue of Al-Sharq al-Awsat (“The Middle East”), Arab columnist Tariq al-Hamid is nervous about Iran’s growing influence over Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite dominated government and the growing threat that represents for the predominantly Sunni Arab world.