Monday, November 19, 2007

Insurgents attack Ugandan troops in Somali capital

by Aweys Yusuf from Reuters

Islamist rebels firing grenades attacked Ugandan peacekeepers early on Saturday in Mogadishu and briefly entered their base, but a spokesman for the African Union force said it suffered no casualties. The overnight raid, which set off a 90-minute battle, took place two days after a fugitive Islamist commander believed to be al Qaeda's man in the Somali capital ordered his fighters to target the Ugandans and kill their officers. About 1,600 Ugandan soldiers have been in the city since March to support a fragile interim government backed by the West, the United Nations and regional power Ethiopia. The local authorities and their Ethiopian military allies have faced an Iraq-style insurgency of roadside bombings and political killings since the start of the year when they drove a hardline sharia courts group out of the capital ... Islamist commander Aden Hashi Ayro, in hiding since the Islamists were routed in January, accused Ethiopia and Uganda of invading and said all other African troops sent to Somalia would face holy war.

Hezbollah Rebuilds South Beirut

by Bassem Mroue from The Associated Press

The muslim militant group Hezbollah has launched a massive project to rebuild south Beirut, devastated in last year's war with Israel - and it's paying for much of the construction with international donor funds that were meant to strengthen its top rival, the Lebanese government. Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's government has been distributing the funds as compensation to families whose homes were destroyed by Israeli bombardment so they can build anew. The money going into the government's family compensation program comes mainly from Islamic and Arab nations, chief among them Saudi Arabia - a strong supporter of Saniora and opponent of Hezbollah - which has given $570 million, said Sanaa al-Jack, government spokeswoman for relief and reconstruction projects ... A Saudi Foreign Ministry official said his country has "nothing to do with how the government distributes the money." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Social dislocation feeds Maldives Islamism

by Praveen Swami from The Hindu

According to a 2006 United Nations Children’s Education Fund report, NGOs have estimated that there are some 8,000 drug users in the islands of Maldives, with atotal population is just some 300,000. Islamist groups have been quick to cash in on the discontent, offering the rigours of religious practice as a cure for the strains of cultural and economic change. “Many parents,” says Male journalist Ahmed Nazim Sattar, “are delighted that their wards turn to religious groups, since it keeps them away from drugs and gangs. Very few understand where this journey might take their children.” Bookstores selling the Islamist vision to new recruits have proliferated. Perhaps more important than ideology, Islamist groups are able to provide new recruits tangible material inducements. Traditional elites on the island Male — in the main merchants and traders — have proved energetic sponsors of Islamist networks, hoping to regain the political influence they have lost to the new rich. Young Islamists are offered jobs, loans to start up businesses, and access to commercial networks that stretch into India and Pakistan.

Shi’a and the Shortage of Sheep: More Perspective on Gang-Rape in Saudi Arabia

by Faruq ‘Abd al Haqq from The American Muslim (US)

When I studied in Saudi Arabia twenty years ago, I was told by the other students not to talk to the seven students who were packed into a dormitory room designed for one person. When I asked why, they whispered, “Because they do not have souls.” This intrigued me, because I had never met humanoids without souls. I asked, “Do you mean that they are monkeys, or apes, or baboons, or orangutans that merely look like human beings?” The other students were confused by my question, because apparently they had never thought about it before. Finally they replied with what for them was the simple answer that cut off all questioning: “They are Shi’a!” [NOTE: the 19 year old rape victim is a Shia muslim]

Factors That Stifle Saudi Women’s Creativity

by Maha Al-Hujailan from Al Arabiya

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Saudi women’s success is restricted to literary fields that don’t involve so much creativity. Their success in applied sciences is still very rare. In fact, conservative men in closed societies are still skeptical of the achievements of women in scientific and related fields. You find them discouraging their daughters from studying natural sciences. Some men refuse to marry women who work in such jobs ... If we want a bigger number of creative Saudi women in different fields of life, it is not enough that we provide them with education and work. Most important, we need to force society into discarding certain fears and worries about women’s participation in businesses and other nontraditional areas. How can we expect a Saudi woman to be creative in medicine and sciences when society tells her that she’s neither a good mother nor a good wife because of the nature of her work?

GCC Business leaders criticise education

by Robert Ditcham from Gulf News

Leading figures at some of the Gulf’s top companies and institutions say the majority of job candidates emerge from high education lacking the skills and risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit needed in the cut-throat world of private sector employment. "The education system is not producing what the economy needs," Mutlaq Al Morished, VP of Corporate Finance at Saudi Arabian petrochemicals manufacturer Sabic, said during the Leaders in Dubai Business Forum. The need for a talented workforce is not restricted to white collar. The national population of countries such as Saudi Arabia should take jobs such as painters, welders, machinists, rather than relying on foreign labour, said Al Morished ... Despite its oil wealth, the MENA region has a 12%-15% unemployment rate and will see its population double to more than 820 million by 2050.

Middle East and Africa to fuel Cisco's future growth

by Wael Mahdi from

De Simone, a former vice president of GE and Lucent technology, said that Cisco has big plans for Saudi Arabia, its major market in the Middle East, as the country is becoming a major hub for the company. Part of this investment will go to expand the existing Cisco Systems Networking Academy program by establishing a "Netversity" in Saudi Arabia that Cisco will use for training students from all over the Middle East ... The creation of the Technology and Entrepreneurship Innovation Center in Saudi Arabia will help Cisco to shorten the gab of qualified business managers. In addition, Cisco is supporting King Abdullah University for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and the School of Government in Dubai to develop more skills in the region. Cisco is the world's biggest maker of the switches and routers that direct internet traffic.

Siraj Capital eyes $250 mln U.S. Islamic bond sale

from Reuters

Saudi Arabian-owned investment bank Siraj Capital said on Sunday it is in final negotiations to arrange a $250 million Islamic bond sale for a U.S.-based company. The deal would be the second Islamic bond sale, or sukuk, for a U.S. entity after the $165 million sukuk sold by Texas-based East Cameron Gas Co earlier this year ... "It is for an oil and gas company operating in South America and listed on the New York stock exchange," Bey said, declining to identify the firm. The funds would be used to partly finance exploration, Bey said. "The credit crunch has forced CFOs of firms in the U.S. to look for alternative finance vehicles," said Bey. "A sukuk can do that and taps into the high liquidity in this region." The majority of investors in the East Cameron transaction were New York-based hedge funds looking at diversifying their capital market portfolios, Bey said.