Wednesday, November 14, 2007

When Sunni become Shiite for women's rights

from AFP (France)

Nada had no choice. The Sunni Muslim Lebanese woman decided to become a Shiite because that branch of Islam guarantees that her daughters will one day be her sole heiresses. "If I became a Shiite it was not out of conviction." Had she not converted, the girls' uncle would receive the bulk of her inheritance when she died, in line with Sunni laws ... Sheikh Mohamad Noqari, director general of Dar al-Fatwa, the highest Sunni religious authority in Lebanon, confirmed that some Sunnis were becoming Shiites. "It is true that some Sunnis are doing this," he said. "But if someone converts from one Muslim confession to another for material reasons, it is not really correct." But for Sheikh Jaafar Fadlallah, from the Shiite Sharia Islamic Institute, "nothing should prevent a Muslim from converting to the (Islamic) branch that suits him best." Shiite authorities said that about 350 Sunnis become Shiites every year in Lebanon, where the Sunni and Shiite communities each form slightly less than 30% of the country's four-million population.

Egyptian Journalists Up In Arms Over Al-Azhar Sheikh's ‘80 Lashes for Slanderers’ Fatwa

by D. Lav and L. Azuri from MEMRI (US: Washington DC)

On October 17, 2007, the liberal Saudi daily Al-Watan published an article by columnist Abdallah Al-Mutairi criticizing Sheikh Tantawi's statement and wrote of the need for comprehensive reform: "In the 1960s, the Catholic Church made peace with modernity and stopped accusing it of apostasy. It recognized all of the Age of Enlightenment's freedoms and accomplishments, and recognized the other religions and freedom of belief ... In the Islamic [world], this development has not been achieved. Perhaps this is because the struggle has not yet reached the level of the Church's struggle with free thought. The events of 9/11 may be one of the forms of this struggle or clash with the world, but the ideological struggle has not yet materialized in a form that can help shatter fundamentalism and as a result develop [new] Islamic thought." ... On October 19, Sheikh Tantawi told Al-Arabiya TV that his comments were not specific to journalists, but against anyone spreading false rumors. He added that that this was Allah's law, not a law of his own invention. Salah Al-Din Muhsin, a liberal secularist Egyptian author who spent three years in prison on charges of offending the religion, wrote on the left-wing Modern Discussion website that there was no sense in blaming Sheikh Tantawi, as the real problem lay in Islamic shari'a and its role in Egyptian public life.

Cinema ban sparks debate in Saudi Council

translated by Sonia Farid for Al Arabiya (UAE)

The debate started when the Council's Culture and Media Committee presented a draft law on a memorandum of understanding between the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information and the Russian Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography, the Saudi edition of Al-Hayat reported on Tuesday. Member Ahmed al-Turki stressed the necessity to benefit from Russia's experience in cinema arts. He called on religious scholars to find a way to allow movie theaters without contradicting the principles of Islam. Sources who spoke to the newspaper on condition of anonymity explained why Council Chairman, Dr. Saleh bin Hamid, discontinued the debate: "This doesn't mean he was siding with anyone. He was using his right to direct conversations in the Council and ensure they don't digress to side topics." Regular theatres are not allowed in Saudi Arabia because movies are considered incompatible with the teachings of Islam, as they promote the mingling of sexes and show examples of immoral behavior.

Putin Meets Leaders Of Muslim Organisations

from Government of Russia via Scoop (New Zealand)

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Thanks to the state and your direct involvement, we just recently established a Fund to support Islamic culture, science and education. We have drawn on different channels to put 60 million in this Fund ... I would like to say that we are not only referring to administrative and financial support but political support in the fullest sense of the word, because during all our contacts with our colleagues from Saudi Arabia, with the leadership of Saudi Arabia, and other States where there are Muslim holy places, we have always raised the issue of the need to expand these quotas. And as we see, as a result of these very good intergovernmental relations, these problems are being solved.

Fort McMurray of the Middle East

by David Ebner from The Globe and Mail (Canada)

Petro Rabigh, a 50-50 joint venture between Saudi Arabian Oil Co. (Aramco) and Sumitomo Chemical Co. Ltd. of Japan, has an astounding 38,000 workers on the site. Yet the project has been several thousand workers short for more than a year and the cost of employing them, even at the relatively low wage rates here, is rising. But in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the 15 million or so nationals don't dirty their hands in matters such as actually building major industrial projects. All of the 38,000 workers on the job are foreign, many from India, Pakistan and China, and all of the technology employed is foreign. The only stamp of Saudi Arabia on Petro Rabigh is senior management and the billions of dollars in oil money to build it. Still, it marks an advance for Saudi Arabia. its massive economies of scale with the existing and connected 400,000-barrel-a-day refinery and its central location to ship products worldwide, Petro Rabigh looks like it will instantly be a significant player in Saudi Arabia's first foray into a new international market.

Gulf countries will need 5 million new homes in the next ten years

from Business Intelligence Middle East

The GCC countries will need five million new housing units in the next ten years to cater to rising national populations and to accommodate expatriates coming to the region for jobs amid high economic growth. Supplies of new homes are projected to be 2.9 million units during the period, leaving a gap of 2.1 million units. "The biggest gap will be in Saudi Arabia at 67%," said Blair Hagkull, Middle East and North Africa Managing Director of real estate consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle ... The shortage of new homes is particularly severe for buyers and tenants whose monthly income is less than AED 12,000, while in the luxury and top-end category the supply-demand gap is the narrowest. The real estate market is experiencing a distortion in most segments with oversupply in the luxury segment and undersupply in the low-income bracket, according to Jones Lang LaSalle.

Sri Lankan maids face abuse in Gulf: rights group

by Lin Noueihed from Reuters

Abuses often begin with labour agents in Sri Lanka, who charge heavy fees and often misinform the women about jobs, it said. Once abroad they typically work 16-21 hours a day. The New York-based watchdog said labour laws in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Lebanon exclude migrant domestic workers from the protection offered to other labour, including limits on work hours, paid holidays and a weekly day of rest ... "Governments in the Gulf expose Sri Lankan domestic workers to abuse by refusing to guarantee a weekly rest day, limits to the workday freedom of movement and other rights that most workers take for granted," said Jennifer Turner, a women's rights researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW). More than 660,000 Sri Lankan women work in homes abroad, almost 90% in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Lebanon, the group said in a statement marking the release of a 131-page report on the treatment of Sri Lankan domestic workers ... The Saudi labour ministry has acknowledged that there are problems with workers' rights, but the government often also says that Islamic law ensures protection for both Muslims and non-Muslims and reminds foreigners that they are guests.

Minimum pay set for Indonesian workers

by Habib Shaikh from The Khaleej Times (UAE)

The Indonesian government and labour agencies have agreed to a minimum monthly wage of SR800 ($214) for new Indonesian migrant workers in the Middle East, in particular Saudi Arabia, which has some three million Indonesian workers. Saudi Arabia is the main importer of Indonesian workers in the Middle East. The majority of Indonesian workers are employed as maids and in the construction and mining sectors. In Saudi Arabia workers must also endure longer working hours of up to 18 hours per day. By comparison, Indonesian maids working in Hong Kong are paid HK$2,000 a month and are entitled to one day off a week. Indonesia’s labour attache in Jeddah, Agus Suwandi, said the Indonesian Embassy would not negotiate the decision with Sanarcom. “The embassy will only approve contracts with the new minimum wage,” he said. Earlier, the Saudi National Recruitment Committee, a non-governmental organisation of labour recruiters, rejected any move to declare a minimum wage for maids until problems concerning the status of maids were resolved.