Greater Middle East
An informative and insightful, if somewhat problematic, commentary from Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly. Anjali Kamat argues that the cartoons are not merely "offensive" but propagandistic, and that leaving racism out of the simplistic "free speech/Islamic intolerance" equation is to miss the critical point:
From the website of The Muslim Brotherhood [Ikhwan]:
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Statement
by Khairat el-Shater, Feb. 7
"Rage spread all over the Islamic world over defaming caricatures of Prophet Muhammad PBUH published in a Danish newspaper. We emphatically believe that those who allowed this dispecable behavior on assumption of freedom of expression, are indeed tarnishing the concept of liberty, in whose name such repulsive and shameless acts are committed. We, however, appeal to Muslims not to let their furor drag them to attack properties, to expand the scope of protest, or to turn it into a clash between civilizations. Enraged Muslims should adhere to the Islamic ethics and principles in showing their outcry. Presently, the world suffers from an evil band that dedicates its capacities to ignite religion and civilization clashes, hoping to exercise further economical and political domination. We, in addition, express our hope that this mishap triggers an international initiative on passing a U.N. law that makes the respect of holy symbols of all nations and cultures binding. Therefore, such acts will not recur."
The real issue behind Druze leader Walid Jumblatt's latest political clash with Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud appears to really be continued perceived Syrian domination of the country. Tensions between the Druze and the regime have dramatically escalated since late December, with Jumblatt openly calling for US military intervention against Damascus.
A statement from the Kurdistan Free Women's Movement—on the German-based website Hezen Parastina Gel, apparently linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerilla movement in eastern Turkey—notes the passing of Comandante Ramona of southern Mexico's Zapatista National Liberation Army:
A Dec. 6 commentary by Jalal Ghazi on Pacific News Service notes that last month's Jordan suicide attack killed a film director beloved throughout the Arab world—making Arab commentators more vocal and daring than ever in condemning terrorism.
A Saudi secondary school teacher has been ordered imprisoned for three years for blasphemy, and sentenced to 750 lashes, to be delivered—50 a week—in the public market of the town of al-Bikeriya. Chemistry teacher Muhammad al-Harbi of Qassim province was charged with mocking Islam, favoring Jews and Christians, promoting "dubious ideologies," and studying witchcraft. The judge in the case, Abdullah Dakhil, reportedly accused the teacher of "trying to sow doubt in a student's creed." The charges were filed against him by a group of students and teachers from his school.
The apparent identification of a suicide bomber in the Jordan hotel attacks as an Iraqi who had been detained by US forces in Iraq adds a new dimension to reactions in the Hashemite kingdom. Authorities say three Iraqi men died in the blasts, and an Iraqi woman survived when her explosives vest failed to detonate. Knight Ridder newspapers reported that the name of one of the male suspects, Safaa Mohammed Ali, matches that of a man who was detained for about two weeks during clashes between insurgents and US Marines in Fallujah. (UPI, Nov. 14)
Egypt's Coptic Christian minority is to launch its own satellite television this month. After deadly riots in Alexandria Oct. 21, many Copts see the creation of the channel as an essential tool to assert their long-repressed identity. But some fear the church's patronage of the channel could fan sectarian strife. Aghapy TV—from the Coptic word for "love"—is due to start broadcasting Nov. 14 on Telestar 12, a US-operated satellite network which spans Egypt and several African countries.