Middle East

Saturday, 10 January 2009 19:00 Shourideh Cherie Molavi Editorial Dept - Middle East

No matter how the current war plays out, it is certain that Israel has made a big historical mistake in entering Gaza.

On Saturday night, one week after the start of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli ground operation began. Israeli Forces began deploying combat units to surround Hamas' main power base, the declared goal of which is "not to chase after and destroy every last rocket launcher, but rather to break the Hamas' resistance."

Israel believes that the ground incursion into Gaza will significantly damage Hamas' standing army and give its leadership a clear sense of the threat to their rule.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was clear from the beginning. "The state of Israel, and a government under me, will make it a strategic objective to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza," she said at a meeting of her Kadima party almost a week before the war began. Indeed, the call to remove Hamas is reiterated by most of Israel's prominent political figures.

Sunday, 28 December 2008 19:00 Yacov Ben Efrat Editorial Dept - Middle East

Israel's military operation called Molten Lead started on Saturday, December 27, 2008 and took more than 200 lives in its first day, much to the satisfaction of the Israeli public. Already on Friday there were cries of "Go get 'em!" from the columns of the leading newspapers, and on Saturday the Gazans got what Israelis have long been wishing them. This was no spontaneous operation, no mere response to the recent firing of rockets on the towns of the Negev. In the preceding half year of calm, while warning that Hamas was arming itself, Israel carefully planned the attack to extract the highest possible price.

Officially, the campaign was intended to return that calm to the area under conditions more favorable to Israel. But the aims go farther. Israel is trying to bring Hamas back to the negotiating table with Egypt on terms that will be good for the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its president, Abu Mazen. Hamas failed to use the six-months calm "constructively" by reaching a deal with Abu Mazen, and now it is paying the price. Israel wants it to end armed resistance, recognize the legitimacy of the Oslo Accords, and accept the terms of the Quartet. In other words, Hamas is supposed to yield its control over Gaza and blend into the PA as a minor partner.

Saturday, 27 December 2008 19:00 Sheharyar Shaikh Editorial Dept - Middle East

'This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog', the young man shouted as he threw the first shoe at the American president, George Bush. 'This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq', he hurled the second shoe.

In seconds, the Prime Minister al-Maliki’s security guards and US secret service agents pounced on him and began beating him violently before he was whisked away to an unknown location. This incident occurred on Dec 14, 2008, at a press conference held at the Prime Minister Palace.

The 29-year old, Muntazar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi broadcast journalist from al-Baghdadia TV and no stranger to his fellow Iraqis for his journalistic contribution, thus became an overnight global hero. At the time when Zaidi who could be heard screaming outside on account of the beating that left a large trail of blood behind him on the carpet, Bush sadistically remarked: “That’s what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves”.


Sunday, 03 August 2008 20:00 Roni Ben Efrat Editorial Dept - Middle East

Accompanying its verbal escalations over the Iranian nuclear project, Israel ventured on an extraordinary air force exercise in early June. According to the New York Times, this included more than 100 F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, which flew west 900 miles and returned—the same distance that would be required for an attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities at Natanz.

Israelis like to claim that they will be the main victim of Iranian nuclear development. They hark back to the scuds of Saddam Hussein, which fell on Tel Aviv in the first Gulf War when they had no direct part in the conflict. So too, this time—Israelis say—they will be in the crosshairs, and this justifies pre-emptive action.

Yet three major obstacles impede an Israeli attack.

1. The biggest is America. We are no longer in the heady days of George W. Bush's first term as president, when Veep Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove all pushed the theory of "preventive war." Today's White House licks the wounds it continues to suffer in Afghanistan and Iraq. Robert Gates, Rumsfeld's replacement, together with Admiral Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs, and many others in the Pentagon, vehemently oppose an attack on Iran. In their view America must pull forces out, not sink ever deeper in Middle Eastern mud.


Wednesday, 23 July 2008 20:00 Sheharyar Shaikh Editorial Dept - Middle East

'Please don’t judge someone’s Iman (faith)' - is what we often hear in social circles, as was the main message of some email responses I received. I’d like to challenge this statement by arguing that we not only judge other’s Iman when it is called for, but, as a Quranic principle, this is exactly what we ought to do.

Of course this should not give way to attacks on basis of suspicion or hearsay, but it also does not mean that we become blind to others’ Iman as reflected in their expressed thoughts and actions. An ideal Islamic social system awards the right to citizens to marry, give court testimony, join public office or the military, narrate a hadith etc. – all dependant on the judgment based on one’s professed thoughts and actions (reflecting Iman) beyond any other consideration.

What should matter most is for one to see whether the criterion one employs to judge Iman is tenable Islamically or not. If we feel embarrassed or fearful of speaking the truth about our Deen when called upon to do so then why should we feel upset when accused of being deficient in our Iman? Let me be clearer:


Monday, 14 July 2008 20:00 Sheharyar Shaikh Editorial Dept - Middle East

People should be very free with sex; they should draw the line at goats. - Elton John

About a week ago I received a news story of an interview of a prominent gay activist with a mission to reconcile his 'gay-ness' and those of others with God’s final message of Islam. He established and now directs an organization whose objective is to empower gay Muslims. Welcome to al-Fatihah: A US-based non profit gay support organization founded in 1998 that started out as an online discussion group and now runs over ten chapters in three countries.

Its founder, the 28-year old Faisal Alam, says that at the age of sixteen he began to realize that something was wrong – 'something I didn’t have a word for'. Alam was attracted to his own gender. A few years later he began venting his homosexual urges at local gay clubs during his university days in Boston where he would be 'Muslim by day and homosexual by night'. 



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