Middle East

Saturday, 24 November 2007 15:40 Roni Ben Efrat Editorial Dept - Middle East

Marking the third anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death, Fatah's big show of power on the streets of Gaza (November 12, 2007) drew an extremely violent reaction from Hamas. Its security forces killed seven demonstrators and wounded sixty or more. It was the first major Fatah rally since the Hamas coup in June of this year.

With about 200,000 participants, it took many by surprise: who would have thought that there were still so many Fatah adherents in Gaza? What brought them into the streets, no doubt, was the image of Arafat, symbol of the lost and longed-for Palestinian consensus. But no one imagined that Hamas would react so hysterically. The disproportionate response shows the pressure it is under.

Part of that pressure stems from the Annapolis Conference, set for November 26. Hamas will be a present absentee. Absent in the flesh, it will be strongly present as an obstacle.

The idea for the conference began as an American attempt to blur the debacle in Iraq by presenting a show of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front. Such a conference would have been impossible before the schism between Fatah and Hamas. The split freed President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) from any need to please the Islamists. The unbinding, however, cost him authority. Gaza is lost. In the West Bank he remains a weak reed. The disconnection from Hamas is now the first great impediment for him or anyone seeking to end the conflict.


Sunday, 18 November 2007 19:00 David S. Devor Editorial Dept - Middle East

IsraelA recent survey of Israeli scientists, which explored their personal relationship to the creative process, points to a high correlation between spirituality and creativity.

The survey, the first of its kind in Israel and possibly the world - solicited over 3300 scientists in universities and research institutes to probe their perception of the role of creativity in their professional pursuits. Over 60% of the respondents, 237 in number, indicated a strong belief that they had "experienced creativity as a spiritual process.

The survey, conducted by the Israeli pollster, TNS Teleseker, was commissioned by the Project Mind Foundation, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to breakthrough methods in creative acceleration of scientific development. It is the first in a series of international surveys on scientists and creativity.

Tuesday, 02 October 2007 19:00 Sheharyar Shaikh Editorial Dept - Middle East

If you are a Muslim parent concerned about your child's well being in this world and the next, a contentious issue to be decided in the upcoming provincial elections concerns you. The gist of the issue is: Should the Ontario government fund faith-based schooling as it funds catholic schooling with the public tax dollars.

The present political leadership of Ontario believes that it is justified to support the education of catholic students, numbering 600,000 in the province, but not 53,000 students mostly of Jewish, Hindu and Muslim backgrounds. A fear mongering campaign is being waged to ensure the status quo which the UN brands as discriminatory towards other religions.

As Muslims, however, this discriminatory policy is not what troubles parents the most. It is the fact that the children, their prime possessions, are being influenced by a school culture and education that promotes values in clash with those of the faith professed by the parents. When it is said that the Canadian system of education is second only to Finland's, one is being fair to ask: Who is to judge? 

Thursday, 13 September 2007 09:13 Eric Koo Editorial Dept - Middle East

In July 2005, at least 50 people were killed and nearly 700 hurt in bomb attacks targeting commuter trains and a double decker bus in London, Britain.[1][i] The Al Qaeda group, or at least elements inspired by its philosophy, were implicated and held to be responsible.

The Al Qaeda, as well as its associate organizations, is an amorphous terror group that has staged successful attacks thus far in Britain, the USA, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, and Indonesia, to name a few countries in which the group was and probably still is, active.

In 2003, an Osama bin Laden audio tape surfacing again on an Islamic website, in which the Al Qaeda leader praised the failed militant attacks on the US consulate in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, is the latest attack in conjunction with its global insurgent strategy by this international terrorist network.[1][ii] Since then audio tapes featuring either Osama himself or his deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, has made frequent video-tape appearances.

Sunday, 09 September 2007 20:00 Sheharyar Shaikh Editorial Dept - Middle East

The Role of the Military (Part I)

As the dust from the Red Mosque slowly settles on the ground and the decapitated body parts of Jamia Hafsa’s female students are sullenly picked up from the smoking rubble, the prevailing mood in Pakistan is anything but jubilant. An army reared to protect and serve the country deliberately used brute force against a largely innocent people caught in the imbroglio.

Moreover, many who had been following the Red Mosque crisis for days are now left with dozens of unanswered questions surrounding the official version of the event. Reports are now surfacing that General Musharraf had planned to raid the mosque complex back in February but then decided to delay it so as to bring maximum PR advantage to his government – a government heavily discredited inside the country for failing its people and which now readies, after having won a shameful victory, for an undeclared war against its citizenry. 

A recent Stratfor report predicts that the Red Mosque operation ‘is likely the beginning of a long confrontation’ and such operations will inevitably lead to a clash involving ‘nationwide social unrest’. Way to go, General Musharraf!


Sunday, 09 September 2007 14:15 Sheharyar Shaikh Editorial Dept - Middle East

Let there be the news of a terrorist incident in the city and instantly watch a Muslim freeze, hold his breath and inwardly pray the same words: "O God, please don't let a Muslim name be in this".

More often than not, he is proved wrong. Whether the successful bomber reaches his coveted paradise or not - we may never know - but he certainly leaves the world slightly more hellish for the majority of us Muslims in the West who face the brunt of Islamophobic backlash the next day.

Go through the personality profiles of the perpetrators of 9-11, 7-11, the Theo Van Gogh killing, the Madrid bombing, the Seattle incident, the recent Toronto arrests and a disturbing revelation will hit you. The stereotypical terrorist is young, second (or even third) generation immigrant, male, fairly well-educated - and Muslim.

What is going wrong? This question stands before us as community and stares us in the face - yet, at the community level, our reactions much less our remedies are as inane as ever. What would cause the community's intelligent, educated men, its most precious asset, brimming with life, to become willing volunteers to hurt, kill and maim their innocent fellow citizens in a particularly brutal manner and die in the process? On one hand we have the modernists with their exhausted mantra of blaming the mosque Imams - the tamest sheep of the flock - thereby inflaming the societal fear of turbaned men and veiled women; on the other hand, we hear abject denial and neglect of the issue by our community representatives either through silence or by calling it "mere acts of youthful folly common to all communities". Both positions are dangerously wrong.


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