Wednesday, September 5, 2007

NYC's Controversial Arabic Academy Opens

by Marcia Kramer from WCBS New York

Opponents of the Khalil Gibran International Academy held a vocal protest on the steps of City Hall Tuesday. They claim it will be a "madrassa," or a school to help train Islamic radicals. Even some 9/11 families are opposed to the school. Protestors say they have been unable to get the Department of Education to reveal the school's curriculum or the textbooks it will use, which some say will come from Arab countries. "It is well known that many of the texts emanating from countries like Saudi Arabia are filled with anti-American, anti-Zionist rhetoric," says Irene Alter, who has been teaching foreign language in the city for 30 years. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended the school, saying in addition to Arabic, students will learn regular subjects like English, math, and social studies. The hope, he says, is that the students become fluent enough in Arabic to have all their classes taught in that langauge. Right now the school holds 60 sixth graders, but the plan is to expand to 600 in grades 6-12.

Saudi prince shocks royal family

from Associated Press

Prince Talal bin Abdul-Aziz, a half-brother of King Abdullah and the father of Saudi Arabia's richest private business tycoon, criticized the monopoly on power by one faction within the Saudi royal family. Apparently referring to some of the country's most powerful princes - Crown Prince Sultan, Interior Minister Prince Naif and Riyadh governor Prince Salman. Prince Talal holds no government post and is considered something of an outsider within the royal family, because of his past pushes for reform dating back decades, which forced him into exile briefly in the 1960s ... In the AP interview, conducted outside Saudi Arabia, Talal also criticized the jailing of pro-reform advocates within the kingdom, and said they are welcome to join his party when it is established. He wants the party to break a power monopoly by some members of the family who have been "holding executive power for some 70 years."

Beirut Routs Bin Laden Allies

by Nicholas Blanford and Nahr Al-Bared from Time

Despite the Lebanese army's triumph against Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared, many Lebanese are worried about further violence from militant jihadists, both home-grown and foreign, who could be enticed by Lebanon's worsening security environment. In the poorer Sunni areas of Lebanon, Osama bin Laden remains a symbol of popular defiance against the West and the United States in particular. In the impoverished Tebbaneh quarter of Tripoli in north Lebanon, graffiti praising bin Laden and former al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are scrawled on the walls of drab apartment blocks alongside posters of Saddam Hussein ... "Islamic extremists don't have to go to Tebbaneh to recruit people, Tebbaneh goes to them," said Sheikh Ibrahim Salih, a prominent Salafi cleric in Tripoli.

Sunni Rule Again in Iraq?

by William M. Arkin from The Washington Post

Yesterday, Bush met with hand-picked Sunni leaders, who shook hands and smiled and probably assured the president that they want exactly the same thing he does: for America to leave ... Iraqis surely noticed not just the president's meeting with sheiks who not long ago were Saddam's elite and sustenance, but also that he summoned Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to Al Asad. Maliki has been under attack of late by Washington; so in the conspiratorial Iraqi mind, now it all makes sense: The Sunnis return to power with American connivance and Saudi and Jordanian assistance. Shiites are suppressed and shunted aside. War with Iran is the final showdown.

Investment Banks Can Capture Growth in the Middle East With Local Offerings

from MarketWire

According to The Boston Consulting Group's latest quarterly "Investment Banking and Capital Markets" report, attractive opportunities for growth lie in the GCC countries -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Corporate and investment banking revenues in the region exceeded $3 billion in 2006, with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia accounting for more than 80% of the total. Fixed-income products, including project finance and Islamic finance, are particularly attractive, given the capital requirements of large projects and the strengths of global players ... "Investment banks will need to adapt their operating models to suit the region," adds Schwetlick, a partner in BCG's New York office. "They should customize products to meet local needs -- perhaps by developing sharia-compliant offerings -- and establish a local presence to build credibility ... The report's performance index tracks the profits of ten leading investment banks -- Bear Stearns, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and UBS.

The Gulf Boom

by Mshari Al-Zaydi from Al-Awsat

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) upholds that, “Oil has enabled the Gulf States to reap huge sums [of money] over the past five years, reaching US $1.5 trillion.” It appears that matters will continue to progress along the same course: “By the end of 2007, the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] will have acquired an additional US $540 billion – a figure that exceeds the exports of Brazil, India, Poland and Turkey combined,” according to the IFC ... According to Georgetown University’s Jean-Francois Seznec, Saudi Arabia is moving towards becoming the number one producer of petrochemicals in the world. He estimates that it will attain this rank by 2015. The Saudi private sector currently contributes 60% to the GDP of the Gulf States – after a former 10% in the 1970s.

Arab Christians: A lost modernity

by Tarek Osman from

Today, the role of Arab Christians is diminishing. A number of factors have combined since the 1970s to produce this outcome: the waning (if not defeat) of Arab nationalism and the meteoric rise of Islamism; the missionary spread of zealous Saudi Wahhabism, backed by unprecedented wealth; and the reorientation of millions of Egyptians and Levantines who traveled to the Gulf in pursuit of better work opportunities. The accumulating result was a change in the psyche of the Arab world: nationalism retreated, leaving significant ground to religion; national identity retreated and the religious advanced; the traditions that were imported from the west during the decades of modernization and enlightenment were gradually replaced by values centered around religion, spirituality and conservatism; political Islam became the force which young people started to identify with and advocate.