Friday, December 7, 2007

The Real Issue Raised by the Qatif Verdict

by Dr. May Al-Dabbagh from Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

This is the time to seriously consider the scope and purpose of our judicial reform. The legitimacy of our entire justice system is unquestionably a matter of public policy. There are thousands (if not more) of undocumented stories of injustice in our courts. Not all are as wretched as the fate of the Qatif girl but all are dishearteningly unjust. The King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue should take it upon itself to address this issue as a national priority and a matter of public service. There is a real need to document the experiences that women and men have had in our courts (both as defendants and lawyers) to understand how we can better improve this public service. Never has there been a more appropriate time to present and implement an alternative transparent regulatory legal framework that does not depend on the discretion of an individual. Let us dream of a country that truly feels safe and inclusive — a country that we can call our own.

Why we stay mute on Islamic sex apartheid

by Pamela Bone from The Australian (Australia)

An international outcry has persuaded the Saudi Justice Ministry to review the sentence. It's rare for such cases to attract such attention, and the only reason this one did was the bravery of the young woman and her lawyer in going public about the case. Good on Clinton. Good on the 35 German female lawyers who wrote an open letter to the Saudi king calling for the sentence to be dropped ... I would like to be able to say, good on the thousands of Western feminists who rallied across the world for the cause, except that they didn't ... Muslim feminist groups such as Women Living Under Muslim Laws are raising their voices against the misogyny of sharia laws but, with some honourable exceptions, there is no rallying by Western liberals against the gender apartheid under which women in large parts of the Islamic world live, as there was against racial apartheid in South Africa. Is it the fear that by speaking out they will become targets of Islamist threats too? I don't believe so. More likely it is, as Andrew Anthony described it in his recent book The Fallout, the new phenomenon of "Islamophobiaphobia": the great fear of being seen to be critical of Islam, of being seen to be racist, as if race had anything to do with it.

Moscow’s first Muslim clinic opens

from AsiaNews (Italy)

Moscow’s first private clinic based on Sharia law opened its doors yesterday. “The policlinic will strictly abide by Sharia law by observing, above all, gender differences in its services,” said Anna Kisko, a spokesperson for the health network responsible for the facility. The new centre women will be served by female specialists; men by male specialists, spokesperson Anna Kisko told the Interfax Religion agency. The administrative personnel will also be dressed accordingly to Sharia law, i.e. the doctors will only have their hands open and female doctors will have to wear headscarves or possibly hijabs. The opening of a Halal cafeteria and a prayer room with a screen separating men from women should also be available at the policlinic. In addition, all medicines used at the policlinic will have to conform to Halal principles and not contain any alcohol. The creation of a Muslim hospital is backed by Russia’s health ministry and the Mufti Council of Russia ... Co-operation between Russia’s Muslim community and the country’s political authorities has improved and the Mufti Council of Russia has promoted the creation of a movement called “Muslims for Putin.”

Terror hand in stock market under watch: Chidambaram

from the Times News Network (India)

Finance minister Chidambaram candidly admitted that government was tracking at least one case of suspected terror-stained money on the bourses. "Yes, recently one case has come to our notice. It is suspected that it may be linked to a person [Khalid bin Mahfouz] under watch. I cannot divulge further details." This sparked intense speculation and inquiries, but the admission tallies with the assessment first revealed by national security advisor M K Narayanan ... Sources said intelligence agencies were currently investigating the links of the Saudi billionaire in India as well as his networks and investments abroad. However, so far, the agencies have not met with much success to nail the tycoon with interests in a leading satellite phone company."

US panel concerned at Malaysian temple destruction

from Agence France-Presse (France)

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom urged the administration of President George W. Bush to raise the matter with Kuala Lumpur and "insist that immediate measures be taken to protect sacred sites and prevent further destruction." The commission said it was "concerned" by recent Malaysian government actions against the ethnic Indian Hindu minority "curtailing their human rights, including the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion ... At least 8,000 ethnic Indians protested in the streets of Kuala Lumpur about two weeks ago to highlight racial and religious discrimination by the Muslim Malay-dominated government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ... The US commission, a non-partisan panel appointed by the US president and leaders of Congress, noted that in late October, Malaysian authorities demolished a 100-year-old temple and reportedly assaulted its chief priest. Just this week, another temple in Malacca state was demolished by local authorities despite having received a "stay order" from state officials, the commission said. The commission also said that Kuala Lumpur's Islamic courts have expanded their jurisdiction in recent years, threatening secular Malaysia's civil courts and the country's commitment to religious pluralism.

Asian Finance Bank Expands in Indonesia

from The Associated Press

The Asian Finance Bank, which is owned by Middle Eastern financial institutions, started operations in January in Malaysia. It was the third foreign Islamic bank to set up shop in the country. It said in a statement that its entry into Indonesia underscored its long-term strategy to have full representation in the region. There is great potential in Indonesia's Islamic banking sector which has grown at a compounded annual growth rate above 65% in the last four years, it said ... The bank is owned 70% by the Qatar Islamic Bank, 20% by Saudi Arabia's RUSD Investment Bank Inc. and 10% by Kuwait's Global Investment House. The Asian Finance Bank will "continually expand its footprint across the region for a share of Asia's Islamic banking sector," the statement added. Islamic banks operate under Shariah laws, which ban investments that pay interest or that derive profit from alcohol, tobacco, pork, gambling or weapons.

Protecting America’s Far-Flung Oil Supply

by Allison Krant from The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (US: Washington DC)

The National Petroleum Council (NPC) report came two years after Defense Secretary Robert Gates, then president of Texas A&M University, led a team of former White House officials in an exercise to simulate a presidential cabinet that would deal with the expected economic and security consequences of an energy crisis. The event was called “Oil Shockwave” and in the report’s introduction, Gates wrote: “First, the economic and national security risks of our dependence on oil – and especially on foreign oil – have reached unprecedented levels. The threat is real and urgent, requiring immediate and sustained attention at the highest levels of government. Second, if we wait until a crisis occurs to act, the nation will have access to few, if any, effective short-term remedies.” In his July 17 Washington Times op-ed “U.S. energy options; New report doesn’t face some facts,” Maj. Daniel L. Davis, a U.S. Army officer who fought in Afghanistan in 2005, referenced Gates’ exhortation: “Despite these stark warnings regarding our country’s vulnerability to oil-supply reductions and [Gates’] clarion call to action, the government did nothing. Already two years have passed since his warning, resulting in no meaningful government or industry action. This may be our last chance.”

U.S. To Propose $20B Mideast Arms Sale in Chunks

by William Matthews from Defense News (US: Virginia)

The department notified Congress on Dec. 4 of proposed sales of missile defense systems to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and upgrades to UAE radar planes. In all, the sales would be worth about $10.8 billion ... Separating the missile defense system sales and the E-2 upgrades from the precision bomb kits probably increases their chance for congressional approval. So does the timing of the notification. Once formal notification occurs, lawmakers in both houses have 30 days to pass resolutions of disapproval; otherwise, the sale goes forward. Congress is expected to be in recess for Christmas and New Years during most of the 30-day period. Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike opposed the sale of precision-guided bomb kits and denounced Saudi Arabia for having “not been a true ally in the war on terror or furthering the United States’ interests in the Middle East.”