Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Abdullah to receive frosty welcome

by Jonathan Isaby from The Telegraph

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is making a state visit to Britain at the end of this month, but he won't receive a warm welcome from every quarter. More than a dozen MPs, led by Labour Left-winger John McDonnell, have proposed a parliamentary motion condemning [King Abdullah's] administration as "a barbaric regime" and they intend making their feelings clear during the visit: the one-time Labour leadership hopeful and his cohorts will be picketing the Saudi embassy in London on Oct 31. "Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive societies on earth, with no political parties, free elections, independent media or trade unions," says McDonnell.

It's all in the translation

by Leslie Scrivener from The Toronto Star

Chapter four, verse 34, with its prescriptions for managing "rebellious" women, is one the most controversial sections in the Qur'an. Here are three English translations - the first, by American scholar Laleh Bakhtiar, takes a woman's point of view, the second is a traditional interpretation from Saudi Arabia, and the third is generally regarded as a "progressive" translation by Muhammad Asad, who was a convert to Islam and esteemed for his efforts to illuminate Islam for the West:

But those whose resistance you fear, then admonish them and abandon them in their sleeping place then go away from them; and if they obey you, surely not look for any way against them; truly God is Lofty, Great.
The Sublime Quran, translated by Laleh Bakhtiar

As to those women on whose part you see ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly if it is useful); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.
The Noble Quran, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Da'wah and Guidance

And for those women whose ill-will you have reason to fear, admonish them (first); then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!
The Message of the Qur'an, translated by Muhammad Asad

Saudis need time to complete review of textbooks

from AFP

Saudi Arabia wants a couple of years to complete a review of its school textbooks criticized for religious intolerance, the US State Department said Friday. Saudi Arabia has been on the State Department's religious freedom blacklist for the last three years but Washington granted the Middle East ally a reprieve last year and discussed steps to promote religious freedom and tolerance. But the independent US Commission on International Religious Freedom charged in a report this week, following a fact-finding mission to the country, that there was little transparency in the textbook revision process and "intolerant and inflammatory elements" remained in the books. The panel is appointed by the US president and Congress leaders.

Saudi Arabia: Embassy Spokesmen Refutes Religious Textbooks Criticisms

by Talhah Jibril from Asharq Al-Awsat

Dr Abdul-Muhsin Ilyas, deputy director of the Saudi Media Office, told Asharq Al-Awsat, "I can absolutely confirm that all textbooks at the academy do not include contents that offend any religion. We extend an open invitation to all US and non-US media to visit the academy, verify the validity of this, and closely examine the subjects that are taught and also the books used by the students ... Abdul-Rahman al-Ghafuli, director of the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax, Va, told Asharq Al-Awsat, "We teach US curricula." One of the members of the academy has alleged that they [commission members] tried to obtain information about textbooks through Saudi government agencies, but they were unable to do so. Al-Ghafuli said that some of the materials, which are considered to be the subject of debate in the United States, have been removed.

Criticism of the Religious Discourse in Saudi Arabia

by Y. Admon from MEMRI

Khaled Al-Ghanami from Al-Watan wrote: "Until recently, people [in Saudi Arabia] did not know much about the issue of heresy and did not delve into it, while today everyone is exploring this important subject in depth... Why? Because we speak so much of heresy - in books, research, pamphlets, and sermons preached in mosques... [Heresy] is an ill that is spreading and [becoming] an all-encompassing evil that will aggravate the problem [of terrorism], and will never lead to its solution."

Sa'ud Al-Balawi from Al-Watan wrote: "The root of the problem is that the religious discourse claims that it alone can deliver the public from its problems and crises, while in reality it amounts to nothing but pompous language and offers no feasible solutions. In addition, it fails before most of the political and non-political crises that have occurred and are still occurring in Islam."

The Uproar of a Council Member

by Jamil Thiyabi from Al-Hayat

Doctor Abdullah Al-Tuweirky wrote in the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan two consecutive articles that he entitled "Media Accountability Law." The media have the right to monitor the performance of state apparatuses, to highlight positive behavior and to expose negativities in the hope of achieving reform. This is as long as reporting does not offend or threaten the regime, the constitution, or the nation's faith, security and stability. This right is equally protected for the TV series "Tash Ma Tash" or any other honest work of art.

Nigeria: Jigawa Seeks Aid to Fund Education

by Taiwo Olawale from This Day

Professor Ruqqaya Ahmad Rufa'i, the state commissioner of education disclosed that the Jigawa state government first approached U.N. agencies with the problems in the education sector. A delegation led by Governor Sule Lamido then visited Saudi Arabia to discuss the problems with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO). "We made presentations on the problems facing the sector and highlighted the areas where we need urgent intervention", she said ... Already, she disclosed, the ministry of education has completed about eight different proposals worth about $12 million (U.S.) for IDB intervention.

Bush Penalizes Countries for Trafficking

by Anne Gearan and Ben Feller from The Associated Press

President Bush on Thursday punished two perennial adversaries - Myanmar and Cuba - for alleged "human trafficking," the forced labor and prostitution that the United States calls a modern-day form of slavery. He approved partial punishment, in the form of financial sanctions, against Iran and other nations where the United States holds out hope that limited cultural or educational outreach may deter abuses ... Countries on the list are subject to sanctions for not doing enough to stop the yearly flow of some 800,000 people across international borders for the sex trade and other forms of forced and indentured labor. About 80% of those people are female, and up to half of them are children. Bush waived all sanctions against eight countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan - all on the same grounds that doing so would serve the United States' strategic interests with these countries.

Fighting jihad by following the money

by Laina Farhat-Holzman from The Santa Cruz Sentinel

Almost immediately after the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States began to "follow the money" - to see who was financing jihad and how it was being transmitted. This started a long process that is still ongoing, but it has encountered many roadblocks. One of these roadblocks is a Saudi billionaire, Khalid bin Mahfouz, who has either sued or threatened to sue 36 writers who have fingered him as a major financier of Islamist mayhem. He has taken them on in British courts because England has libel laws that favor individual rights over public rights ... This is an issue that ought to be protected by congressional reinforcement of the First Amendment with a new statute prohibiting enforcement of foreign libel judgments in the U.S., whenever American authors and publishers report responsibility on terror-related and other national security threats.