Thursday, August 30, 2007

Saudi Arabia Must Be Culturally Open, or It Will Turn into a Taliban State

by Sa'ud Al-Balawi from Al-Watan/MEMRI

"...Last Tuesday, Al-Watan reported that eight extremists had threatened to disrupt vocal concerts organized as part of the annual Jeddah festival, after trying to persuade the public not to enter the concert hall ... What do these people actually want? Do they doubt the extent of religious [commitment] in [Saudi] society? Or maybe they want the kind of religious [zeal] that would turn the Saudi society into a Taliban one - i.e. following the Taliban model of Islam, which completely discounts the individual by controlling his freedom of choice within the already limited range of choices available in that eastern Islamic country [Afghanistan]. Why do they want to compel others to act according to their [extremist] convictions? This is a controlling mentality, stemming from rigid views that do not tolerate either objections or challenge. [Worse still, such people] believe that they have the right to murder in the name of their ideas. It is this kind of extremism that has led to [the emergence of] terrorism, which has brought grief to both our people and our motherland."

Saudi Arabia continues ban on newspaper

by Andrew England from The Financial Times

There are “red lines” the press does not cross, including criticism of the royal family and religious issues, and self censorship is common. Many had hoped that after King Abdullah succeeded his brother two years ago there would be an increase in reform in the kingdom. Iyad Madani, the information minister has been considered by some as one of the more modernising cabinet members. However, reformers have criticised the pace of change and alluded to a struggle within the royal family, liberals and conservatives over the need for reform. “Now there is some pressure to narrow the margins of freedom,” said one advocate of reform. Al-Hayat is owned by Prince Khaled bin Sultan, the deputy defence minister and son of Crown Prince Sultan. The al-Hayat source said Prince Khaled bin Sultan was insisting that the paper is independent and should be able to write freely.

Don’t base definition of Islam on actions of a few extremists

by Rev. John Darlington from The America Muslim

Mohamoud Hamud serves the public as an “Islamic Religious Counselor” at Saint Marys Hospital. Like the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish chaplains in his office, he is gentle and compassionate in his mannerisms, respectful of others, but strong in his convictions. He reminded me that the Rochester Islamic Center Mosque is open every month on the last Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for dialogue with the people of Rochester, MN. Non-Muslims are encouraged to voice concerns or raise questions with the goal of eradicating negative stereotypes and bringing the community together. Hamud is quick to admit that there are Wahabi and other Arab Muslims who twist the intrinsic “Way” of the Qu’ran to conform to their own narrow and destructive purposes, just as there are Christians and Jews who do the same with their own Holy Book.

Move and Countermove: Ahmadinejad and Bush Duel

by George Friedman from Stratfor

At his press conference, Ahmadinejad reached out to the Saudis, saying Iran and Saudi Arabia together could fill the vacuum in Iraq and stabilize the country. The subtext was that not only does Iran not pose a threat to Saudi Arabia, it would be prepared to enhance Saudi power by giving it a substantial role in a post-U.S. Iraq. Iran is saying that Saudi Arabia does not need to defend itself against Iran, and it certainly does not need the United States to redeploy its forces along the Saudi-Iraqi border in order to defend itself ... Saudi Arabia is caught between a rock and a hard place and it knows it. But there might be the beginnings of a solution in Turkey. Ahmadinejad's offer of collaboration was directed toward regional powers other than Iran. That includes Turkey. Turkey stayed clear of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, refusing to let U.S. troops invade Iraq from there. However, Turkey has some important interests in how the war in Iraq ends. First, it does not want to see any sort of Kurdish state, fearing Kurdish secessionism in Turkey as well. Second, it has an interest in oil in northern Iraq. Both interests could be served by a Turkish occupation of northern Iraq, under the guise of stabilizing Iraq along with Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Breaking The Cycle

from StrategyPage.com

The Western media has generally ignored what is really going on in Iraq. Rather than see what Iraqis, and U.S. troops are actually dealing with, an attempt by the Sunni Arab minority to win back power via a terror campaign, Western journalists and politicians ran with the "Western imperialism" angle. Very 19th century, but an illusion that even many Moslems in the region quickly discarded. The thousands of dead Moslems, victims of Islamic terrorists, horrified those closest to the carnage. Also getting little attention from the media was the dynamics of how Sunni Arab neighbors of Iraq (mainly Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) provided varying degrees of support for the terrorists. That support is waning, now that it's clear how reviled the terrorists are. Al Qaeda went to war in Iraq, and lost. Ask any Iraqi, or American soldier there. But that's not news back home.

Plan for Terror Screening of Aid Groups Cut Drastically

Walter Pincus from The Washington Post

The Bush administration has decided to sharply scale back its plan to screen U.S. foreign aid contractors around the globe for potential terrorism connections, deciding instead to begin with a pilot program involving aid recipients in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip before expanding it worldwide. An official of the U.S. Agency for International Development had earlier promised to defer the program, which initially was to have taken effect Monday The global screening program, initially described in a July 17 Federal Register notice, would have required that all nongovernmental organizations seeking funds from the agency provide detailed information about key personnel, including phone numbers, birth dates and e-mail addresses. That information was to have been reviewed by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, to ensure that there were no connections with individuals or groups associated with terrorism or threats to national security. It would have affected thousands of individuals in nonprofit groups, charities, religious organizations, colleges, universities and private corporations.