Thursday, September 27, 2007

Saudi Asks Israel to Abandon Barrier as a Gesture to Arabs

by Helene Cooper from The New York Times

Israel should stop work on a security barrier in and along the West Bank and halt settlement activity there as a good-will gesture to assure Arab states that it is serious about comprehensive peace talks, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said yesterday. The minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, stopped short of making his demand a condition for Arab attendance at a planned Middle East peace conference. And he said that in recent days, he had become encouraged about the prospects for the conference, which the United States is to sponsor in November. But he would not promise that Saudi Arabia would attend, a major Israeli objective ... Prince Saud said that for any peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians to work, Hamas must be brought into another national unity government with Fatah. He said that if the international community had accepted the Palestinian national unity government in February, when Saudi Arabia brokered an accord establishing the government, Hamas might have eventually renounced violence against Israel. He called that "water under the bridge now," but added that Saudi Arabia still wanted to establish another national unity government between Hamas and Fatah.

Middle East corruption escalates

by Dylan Bowman from Arabian Business

In its 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Transparency International ranked the degree of public sector corruption as perceived by business people and country analysts between zero and 10, with 10 being the least corrupt. The UAE (5.7) and Qatar (6.0) were judged the least corrupt countries in the region, being ranked 32nd and 34th respectively. Transparency International put Saudi Arabia as the most corrupt Gulf country in 79th position on a score of 3.4, while it judged Syria the Middle East nation with the highest level of corruption, giving the country as score of just 2.4 and placing it 138th. The least corrupt countries on the list were New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Singapore and Sweden. The countries with the highest levels of corruption were Somalia and Myanmar. Transparency International said there is a strong correlation between corruption and poverty.

Christianity Returning to Arabian Gulf

by Jenny Coutinho from Mangalorean

The 100,000 Catholics in Qatar have been for the last 20 years seeking permission to build a church, and in 2006 land on the outskirts of the capital Doha was donated by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The construction of Christian Church was earlier opposed by the Wahabi majority who saw them as an extension of the Holy Land. The church will not have a spire or freestanding cross, like most of the churches here in the Arabian Gulf. Christians are forbidden by the Dhimmi laws to display crosses. The government permits freedom of worship to the Christian but prohibits conversions. Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Arabia under whose region comes countries ranging from Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, to Saudi Arabia, is looking after the development of the Qatar Church project. In Saudi Arabia, where the holy city of Mecca is located an estimated million expatiates Catholics can be found.

Anti-al Qaeda base envisioned

by Willis Witter from The Washington Times

"Suppose you have here [in the United States] a base to counter al Qaeda in the war of ideas?" exiled Egyptian cleric Ahmed Subhy Mansour asked during a recent luncheon at The Washington Times. "You could convince a large number — millions of silent Muslims. We can convince them very easily that the real enemy is not the United States. It is not Israel. The real enemy is the dictators in the Muslim world and the culture of the Wahhabis and Muslim Brotherhood," he said, referring to the dominant arbiters of Islamic orthodoxy in Saudi Arabia and Egypt respectively. "Killing people just because they are not Muslims, they have a Hadith for this. To kill a Muslim like me after accusing him to be an 'apostate," they have a Hadith for this. To persecute the Jews, they have a Hadith for this. "All this is garbage. It has nothing to do with Islam. It contradicts more than one-fourth of the Koranic verses," Sheik Mansour said ... in May and June, Egyptian authorities arrested five leaders of his movement, including his brother, on charges of "insulting Islam" and began investigations of 15 others, with the intent, he said, to destroy the entire movement.

Assessing the Six Year Hunt for Osama bin Laden

by Michael Scheuer from Terrorism Focus

Based on the region's history and informed speculation, the northeastern Afghan areas of Konar province and Nuristan and the adjacent Bajaur Agency in Pakistan lend themselves far better to bin Laden's security needs ... The Konar-Nuristan-Bajaur Agency area also has been a region on which Salafi missionaries from Saudi Arabia and other Arabian peninsula states have focused their proselytizing efforts for several decades. Saudi fighters were allowed by the population to train in the region during the war against the USSR, and today it stands as one of the most—and perhaps the most—Salafi area in South Asia. As a Salafi himself, bin Laden would be sure to find the area both welcoming and religiously comfortable. This shared Salafism, moreover, would add another measure of security for bin Laden as his co-religionists are unlikely to cooperate with those seeking his apprehension.

Fight tyranny, Bush says

by William Douglas from McClatchy Newspapers

Bush said the United States was doing its part for human rights by imposing new sanctions against the military dictatorship in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, where tens of thousands of demonstrators are currently in the streets protesting. "Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma, where a military junta has imposed a 19-year reign of fear," Bush said. The president also had sharp words for Iran, North Korea, Belarus, Syria, Zimbabwe and Sudan for having "brutal regimes" that "deny their people the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration" of Human Rights." And he noted that the long "cruel" rule of an ailing Fidel Castro in Cuba "is nearing its end." "The Cuban people are ready for their freedom," Bush said. The president, however, omitted any reference to repressive regimes allied with his war on terrorism, including Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China.

Monk if you love freedom

from The Christian Science Monitor

Revered for self-sacrifice, Buddhist monks in Burma are standing up to the guns of a selfish regime. The protests also serve as a reminder of religion's historic role in shaping the kind of moral concern for others that is the root of democracy ... Not all religious movements lead to democracy. The ruthlessness of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the social power of the Wahhabi clergy in Saudi Arabia, and the claim to rule by Iran's clerics reveal a type of Islam that imposes religious values by dictate rather than by the kind of mutual respect that breeds democracy. In Iraq, Sunni fears of domination by the majority Shiites have stymied efforts to form a united, democratic government. But any democracy relies on the majority caring enough to have laws that protect minority interests. That way, the minority won't simply opt out of democracy. That's a value straight from the golden rule.