Wednesday, October 17, 2007

UAE shows The Kingdom other Gulf states ignore

by von Simeon Kerr from Financial Times Deutschland

Hollywood's The Kingdom blockbuster has been banned by some Gulf states for tackling the politically sensitive topic of terrorism in Saudi Arabia, but the film is being run in cinemas in the United Arab Emirates ... The audience cheered as actor Jennifer Garner stabbed an Islamist militant in the neck, though there was a tense silence as the film's terrorist mastermind called for infidels to be driven out of Muslim lands ... Now Abu Dhabi's media ambitions are growing. The town last month pledged $500m for co-productions with Time Warner in a deal that will see the US group set up a theme park ... With the lure of oil money, several Hollywood film-makers are descending on Abu Dhabi to seek funding - with the mogul Harvey Weinstein addressing a finance conference. But one taboo remains: Israel. Abu Dhabi's Middle East Film Festival had to drop an Israeli film once its listing came to light. The UAE has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

Sinopec close to selling ethylene unit stake to SABIC

from Bloomberg

China Petroleum and Chemical Corp., Asia's biggest refiner, is close to an agreement to sell a stake in a $2.8 billion ethylene plant in northern China's Tianjin city to Saudi Basic Industries Corp. The partners will build the plant that will produce 1 million metric tons of ethylene a year, Tianjin Vice Mayor Liang Dongliang said in Beijing today. SABIC, as the world's biggest chemical maker by market value is known, plans to expand in China to tap the nation's rising demand for products used in the making of auto-parts, packaging and plastics. China will account for 25% of global chemical demand by 2015, according Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's biggest publicly traded oil company.

Two women recount ordeal as sex slaves in Saudi Arabia

by Jeannette Andrade from The Philippines Inquirer

Nearly three years after they were allegedly turned into sex slaves by a Saudi Arabian prince, Lina, 19 and Anna, 20, (not their real names) talked about their ordeal at a press conference yesterday organized by the Kanlungan Center Foundation Inc. and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) Asia-Pacific in Quezon City. The two said they were promised jobs as chamber maids in a hotel in Saudi Arabia in January 2005. The two claimed they were taken to a hotel owned by the prince where he allegedly raped them repeatedly ... Jean Gutierrez of CATW Asia-Pacific said "Hundreds of women, like Anna and Lina, with the simple desire to alleviate their plights are being exploited by recruiters," stressing that they been receiving threats because they are seeking justice. The victims have been charged with estafa, libel and perjury by the recruitment agency.

It's the resistance, stupid

by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times

A true Iraqi national pact is in the making - coordinated by VicePresident Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, and blessed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani himself. The key points of this pact are, no more sectarianism (thus undermining US strategy of divide and rule); no foreign interference (thus no following of US, Iran, or Saudi agendas); no support for al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers; and the right to armed resistance against the occupation. Last Friday Grand Ayatollah Sistani finally confronted the occupation in no uncertain terms. Via Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala'i, his representative in the holy city of Karbala, Sistani called for the Iraqi parliament to rein in Blackwater et al, and most of all the "occupation forces". He has never spoken out in such blunt language before ... As far as all the key Sunni and Shi'ite factions in Iraq are concerned, they all agree on the basics. Iraq won't be occupied. Iraq won't hold permanent US military bases. Iraq won't give up its oil wealth. And Iraq won't be a toothless pro-Israel puppet regime.

Borha mosque plan sparks row

from The South Africa Times

MP Waleed al-Tabtabai of the hardline Salafi group threatened to quiz Kuwait’s Minister of Islamic Affairs Abdullah al-Maatuq in parliament if he does not withdraw his request to allocate government land for the mosque. Tabtabai said the mosque plan violates "Sharia (Islamic law), country laws and national interests," and questioned whether the Bohras, an offshoot of Shiite branch of Islam, were true Muslims. Several other Islamist lawmakers and hardline clerics welcomed the rejection and cast doubt on the Bohra faith. Kuwait is a conservative Sunni-ruled state but about one-third of its native population of one million are Shiites.

Christians to Pray for 'Secret Believers' in Islamic Countries

by Michelle Vu from The Christian Post

"This year, which marks the 10th anniversary of The International Day of Prayer , our focus is on ‘secret believers,’" wrote Dr. Carl A. Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, in a letter. Secret believers are Christians who have left Islam to follow Jesus in countries where Islam is the dominant religion ... Christians should realize that "[i]f we lead people there to Jesus, they will be shunned by their societies and their family is honor-bound to kill them – that is the real situation," said the Open Doors founder Brother Andrew. Six of the top ten spots on Open Doors’ 2007 Persecution Hot Spots list were countries where Islam is the major religion: Saudi Arabia (2nd), Iran (3rd), Somalia (4th), Maldives (5th), Yemen (6th), and Afghanistan (10th).

Eritrea ranked last for first time while G8 members, except Russia, recover lost ground

from Reporters Without Borders

For the first time, Saudi Arabia (148th) has climbed out of the bottom 20. Saudi journalists enjoyed something of a respite in the past year. But the controlled exercised by the information ministry’s media surveillance committee prevents the Wahhabi-led kingdom from rising higher in the ranking. Of the 20 countries at the bottom of the 169 country index, seven are Asian (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Laos, Vietnam, China, Burma, and North Korea), five are African (Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Somalia and Eritrea), and four are in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Palestinian Territories and Iran).

Rupali Bank shares soar 57%

from The Bangladesh Daily Star

The share price in Rupali Bank on the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) yesterday soared by 57.26%, on the latest news that the state-run bank's future owner Prince Bandar will finalise the deal with the government next month. According to the press reports, Saudi prince's adviser Frank Peters visited Rupali Bank on October 9 and assured the bank management that the prince will finish the Sales-Purchase Agreement (SPA). The government that owned 93.6% shares of Rupali Bank had decided to sell the stakes at the suggestions of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which conditioned their loans with the country's banking sector reforms. In March of 2005, the government assigned the Privatisation Commission to sell the bank.