Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mom reunites with daughter spirited away nearly 14 years ago

by Sara Jean Green from The Seattle Times (US: Washington)

The airport reunion Tuesday afternoon was the first time Ginger Mayes had seen her daughter in nearly 14 years, since the day her ex-husband spirited Zarminah, her older sister and younger brother away to Saudi Arabia ... "I never had freedom there. I've been wearing that black thing for 14 years ... and I just want to walk without the abaya," Zarminah said, referring to the traditional garment Saudi women must wear in public in accordance with Islamic laws of modesty. "I will respect Islam, but I don't have to cover up." According to the U.S. Department of Justice, family members abduct more than 200,000 American children each year, though it's unclear how many are taken overseas. And while more than 60 countries are parties to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction — which gives parents a legal mechanism to reunite with their children — Turkey is the only Muslim country to participate.

Pakistani Canadian kills daughter for not wearing hijab

from Indo-Asian News Service (India)

Sixteen-year-old Aqsa Parvez was strangulated by her father Muhammad Parvez in their home in the suburb of Mississauga, police said ... Aqsa's classmates at the local Applewood Heights Secondary School said the girl had problems with her family for some time as she refused to wear the hijab, the headdress worn by Muslim women in some countries ... The incident has shocked modern Muslims across Canada. Toronto-based Sonia Ahmed, who runs the Miss World Pakistan and grooms Pakistani-origin girls for Miss Bikini and other pageants, said angrily: "The hijab was never a part of Pakistani dress. It is an Arab imposition. This should be banned all over North America. This killer father will now think that he has done the 'right thing', and he can now go to heaven and claim his 70 virgins. Hang him." For various reasons, she said, Pakistanis don't want to blend with Indians "whose culture is all dance and song. So they end up with the Arab immigrants. Hence this Arab culture and hijab among Pakistanis". "But we Pakistanis are South Asians and the South Asian culture is different. Zia-ul Haq started the hijabisation of Pakistan when started his Islamisation drive. He invited Arab Wahabi scholars who married Pakistani women and started the hijab tradition."

Dr. J CAIRs - A jihad against jihad

by Kathryn Jean Lopez from National Review Online (US: New York)

Dr Zuhdi Jasser: In the recent past, with the domination of dictatorships in the Muslim world today, often the only venue for any political discourse became the mosques. So it is not surprising that political Islam has especially flourished in the past century under the despotic regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran to name a few. This is why the removal of these despotic regimes is so central to the deconstruction of political Islam. One cannot happen without the other. Along the same vein, many Muslims simply don’t have the understanding of Islamic theology and jurisprudence, and especially Koranic Arabic, in order to defeat the Islamists. The central nucleus of success of the Western enlightenment was education and infectious discovery. This desire to question authority with knowledge and thirst for freedom has yet to re-infect the Muslim mind en masse in over 500 years. Thus the intellectual voices of anti-Islamism are going to be less common. But with support they will awaken and triumph.

Fair election not possible

by G Parthasarathy from The Daily Pioneer (India)

Mr Musharraf will count on the Americans declaring that though not "perfect", the election was "fair". Saudi Arabia has also entered the political scene to ensure that the Americans can hedge their bets. The Saudis, who are traditionally revered in Pakistan, earned the wrath of Pakistanis at large when they unabashedly collaborated with Mr Musharraf to have Mr Sharif exiled to Saudi Arabia when he returned to Pakistan. Shortly after the British announced that Mr Sharif should be allowed to participate in the poll, the Saudis insisted that he should enjoy a level playing field with Ms Bhutto in the election. King Abdullah made an aircraft available for Mr Sharif to return and bullet proof cars for him to travel within Pakistan for electioneering. The Saudi Ambassador is the only individual granted permission to meet sacked Chief Justice Chaudhry. Thus, should Mr Sharif do unexpectedly well in the coming election, the Saudis can always ensure he plays ball in the "war on terrorism".

Saudi sends envoy to Qatar, signalling thaw in ties

by Andrew Hammond from Reuters

The apparent rapprochement has raised concern among observers that the Arab network, the most popular in the region and one of the few to cover news seen as critical of Saudi Arabia, is toning down its coverage of Saudi affairs. Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's leading political and economic power, withdrew its ambassador to Doha in 2002 partly in protest over Jazeera shows on Saudi politics. Riyadh was also angered by Qatar's independent role in the Gulf, establishing ties with Israel and offering Washington military facilities ... Jazeera has been a thorn in the side of Arab governments because it covers sensitive issues generally avoided by state media, who omit news that would offend the Saudi government. The kingdom owns or influences most of the Arab media, and Jazeera has been seen as one of the few voices outside the grip of Saudi control. The channel gave prominent coverage to accusations of corruption reported in the British press in 2007 involving a Saudi royal and the billion-dollar "al-Yamamah" oil-for-arms sales. Since then it has said little about women who protested against the indefinite detention of their husbands, arrest of pro-democracy activists, or a rape victim sentenced to lashes.

Rich Countries Funding Big Banks

by Robert Lenzer from Forbes (US: New York)

This global flow of funds is growing by $1 trillion a year, thanks in part to $90 a barrel oil and Chinese exports. Such a radical reversal in the flow of funds is bound to be controversial. When their assets are added to those of central banks stuffed with petrodollars, these new investment phenomena are truly the fastest-growing institutionalized wealth in the world ... But, while they may be coming under more intense scrutiny, sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) should not be seen as a nefarious influence in global markets. They run the gamut from government investment funds, state-owned companies and central banks to wealthy individuals like members of the Saudi royal family and even private companies owned by Arab potentates. One reason they are controversial, as Diana Farrell of McKinsey, the consulting giant, pointed out the other day at the Council on Foreign Relations, is they are "a challenge to the Anglo-Saxon model." What this means is that these investors are not as transparent as giant private equity firms, public pension funds or mutual funds around the globe. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, for example, does not reveal the holdings in its portfolio to the public. I challenge you to understand what the Saudi central bank owns. All the more reason why SWFs must act responsibly.

Saudi Arabia's economic liberalization

by Erlend Paasche from ISN Security Watch (Switzerland)

Dr Steffen Hertog of Princeton University, an expert on Saudi Arabia, takes a more cautious stance, stressing the need to differentiate between different aspects of the economy when discussing the relative success of Saudi economic reforms ... However one chooses to assess the success of Saudi economic liberalization, the country's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) last year is an important breakthrough, propelling the Saudi state into international economic competition and expanding its market for petrochemical exports. Dr F Gregory Gause of the University of Vermont, another expert on Saudi Arabia, said joining the WTO should help the kingdom improve financial transparency, but may not have a broad enough impact on shadowy practices. "[I]t is so hard to get real data [on corruption]. The anecdotal data is that there have been efforts from the top to curb the more egregious corrupt behavior. But there is a whole range of behaviors by politically connected Saudis in the economic realm that those who live in more transparent economies would consider corrupt. I doubt they are going to change."

Annapolis: The morning after

by Adel Safty from The Gulf News (UAE)

As delegates at the Annapolis meeting listened politely, Bush repeated his support for the Israeli position. He called on Israel to evacuate the "illegal West Bank settlement outposts" sidestepping the fact that all West Bank colonies - not just the outposts - are illegal. Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal elegantly expressed the Arab position on another core issue: the right of return of the Palestinian refugees: "I mean, here's an issue where people not from Palestine come to Palestine, occupied land in Palestine that happened to have people living there, and now they want to consider these people illegal in a purely Jewish homeland. Why?" Prince Saud said. "If you come to a neighbourhood by your choice, you have to live with the people in the neighbourhood."