Greater Middle East
In a London Times opinion piece Aug. 11, "Muslims unite! A new Reformation will bring your faith into the modern era," author Salman Rushdie begins by applauding Sir Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, for admitting that "our own children" had perpetrated the 7-7 London bombings. Rushdie writes "it was the first time in my memory that a British Muslim had accepted his community's responsibility for outrages committed by its members. Instead of blaming US foreign policy or 'Islamophobia', Sacranie described the bombings as a 'profound challenge' for the Muslim community." But Rushdie notes that this is the same Sacranie who, in 1989, said that "Death is perhaps too easy" for the author of The Satanic Verses (i.e. Rushdie, then facing a fatwa ordering his assassination by Iranian mullahs). Rushdie protests Tony Blair's decision to knight Sacranie and treat him as the acceptable face of "moderate" Islam, calling the move "either a sign of his Government's penchant for religious appeasement or a demonstration of how limited Mr Blair's options really are."
Turkey's Kurdish separatist guerillas, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), officially ended a five-year truce in June, and eastern Turkey has since seen a series of bombings and skirmishes. Most recently, five Turkish soldiers died after a bomb blast ripped through a busy street in the town of Semdinli, Hakkari province, near the border with Iran and Iraq, on Aug. 5. (Turkish Weekly, Aug. 6)
Jane Fonda, AKA Hanoi Jane, AKA Beirut Jane is back in the news. She has chosen a rather uncontroversial moment to oppose the Iraq war, doing a bus tour with Iraq veterans' families. According to the BBC,
An extremely insightful commentary on al-Qaeda and the new terror wave from Al-Jazeera. Soumayya Ghannoushi cuts through the propaganda that the attacks are unrelated to Iraq or any other legitimate grievances—without loaning the slightest degree of legitimacy to either criminal tactics or totalitarian ideology. However, we take issue with the comparison to 19th-century anarchists and post-1960s leftist urban guerillas—who, even in their most misguided bomb-throwing phases, never contemplated anything as grandiose as the serial acts of mass murder attributed to some entity known as "al-Qaeda."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) runs a July 13 piece from the Florida Times-Union, "Muslim Leaders Condemning Terror to Deaf?" in which columnist Mark Woods speaks to CAIR's new chairman Parvez Ahmed and finds that such Muslim condemnations are in fact widespread—but never seem to be sufficient:
Jeez, will people please stop blowing other people up already? This is really getting old.
Minibus Explosion in Turkey Leaves 5 Dead
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - A bomb tore apart a minibus in a popular Aegean beach resort town Saturday, killing at least five people, including two foreigners, the second explosion in a week aimed at Turkey's vital tourism industry.
This analysis from Lebanon's Daily Star, July 12, online at Kurdish Media, makes clear the dilemma of the Syrian Kurds. The fact that they are disenfranchised by the Damascus regime makes them a convenient football for White House hawks. And their demands for basic political rights are all too likely to be used as a lever for "neoliberal" reform: privatization, austerity and the rest. Or, if tensions finally explode in Syria's corner of Kurdistan, for actual "regime change" in Damascus. Apparently the issue was grappled with at Syria's recent Baath Party congress.
Just as Bush is trumpeting claims that Syria is planning to re-intervene in Lebanon, comes a disturbing June 8 story from the New York Sun, claiming that the familiar "regime change" formula is about to be applied to Damascus:
At the State Department, the Bureau of Near East Affairs and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor have asked Congress for explicit legal authority to fund liberal opposition parties inside Syria through regional initiatives that have hitherto focused on reforming American allies such as Jordan and Egypt, two administration officials told The New York Sun.