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.
Archive for the ‘Media’ Category
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 Al-Jazeera.com 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
During the first round of talks between Iran and the world powers on Saturday, Iran declared that it wanted to work toward preserving its nuclear capabilities for civilian use only and also help to work toward disarmament. The Iranian negotiator suggested that “ Iran can serve as a successful precedent in the promotion of the motto “nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapon for none” for all other countries.” Iran’s cooperation is a welcome change considering its reluctance to hold talks in the past several months.
Do you think Iran is sincere in its declaration or is Iran simply buying the time it needs to secure a nuclear weapon? Is there a reason for the United States to be suspicious?
A Chinese insurance company has stopped covering Iranian oil. On April 5th the China P&L Club announced that it would no longer insure tankers carrying Iranian oil. Sanctions set forth by the EU have impacted the way the Chinese receive their end of the oil trade; many Chinese importers of Iranian oil depend on European re insurers. As one of Iran’s most powerful allies, the fact that the Chinese have begun to walk away from the Iranians is indicative of the success that the sanctions will have.
Iran arrested the operatives of an alleged terrorist organization that they believe is sponsored by Israel. The group, People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), is allegedly financed and trained by the Israeli secret service. Officials denied any US involvement, but one senior official confessed that the group had been privy to American intelligence reports.
Headline: “Copts Withdraw From Drafting Egypt’s Constitution”
Picture caption: “Copts reject what they call “Islamist domination” of the Constitution Drafting Assembly”
In a development that bodes ill for political stability in Egypt’s near future, the country’s Coptic Christians are pulling out of the group charged with drafting a new constitution dismissing it as useless ( “عديمة الجدوى” ). This news falls hard upon the withdrawals of two other prominent representative groups: Egypt’s Liberals (widely credited for starting the revolution in the first place) and Al-Azhar, one of the Muslim world’s leading sources of legal authority and the oldest institution of Islamic learning in the world.
UPDATE — Later same day — Articles in English – See Heba Saleh, “Egypt’s Copts Withdraw From Constitutional Panel,” Financial Times, April 2, 2012 ; See also Reuters, “Egyptian Copts Abandon Constitution Talks,” via Euronews, April 2, 2012.
UPDATE — April 10, 2012 — The BBC is reporting that an Egyptian court has suspended the constitutional assembly — Details.