Middle East

What Great Friends

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What great allies we have in our quest nurture flourishing democracy in the Middle East!

From an article in the NY Times by Jane Perlez and David Rohde titled "Pakistan Rounds Up Musharraf’s Political Foes":

The government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, making no concessions a day after seizing emergency powers, rounded up leading opposition figures and said Sunday that parliamentary elections could be delayed for as long as a year.

Police officers in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, stood outside a press club Sunday. Journalists vowed to resist the crackdown.

Security forces were reported to have detained about 500 opposition party figures, lawyers and human rights advocates on Sunday, and about a dozen privately owned television news stations remained off the air. International broadcasters, including the BBC and CNN, were also cut off.

The crackdown, announced late Saturday night after General Musharraf suspended the Constitution, was clearly aimed at preventing public demonstrations that political parties and lawyers were organizing for Monday.

“They are showing zero tolerance for protest,” said Athar Minallah, a lawyer and a former minister in the Musharraf government.

Another NY Times article by David Sanger and David Rohde is titled "U.S. Is Likely to Continue Aid to Pakistan."

From an article in The Sunday Times by Nick Fielding and Sarah Baxter titled "Saudi Arabia is hub of world terror":

[In Saudi Arabia King Abdullah] is regarded as a modest reformer who has cracked down on home-grown terrorism and loosened a few relatively minor restrictions on his subjects’ personal freedom.

With oil prices surging, Saudi Arabia is growing in prosperity and embracing some modern trappings. Bibles and crucifixes are still banned, but internet access is spreading...

Yet wealthy Saudis remain the chief financiers of worldwide terror networks...

Extremist clerics provide a stream of recruits to some of the world’s nastiest trouble spots.

An analysis by NBC News suggested that the Saudis make up 55% of foreign fighters in Iraq. They are also among the most uncompromising and militant.

Half the foreign fighters held by the US at Camp Cropper near Baghdad are Saudis. They are kept in yellow jumpsuits in a separate, windowless compound after they attempted to impose sharia on the other detainees and preached an extreme form of Wahhabist Islam.

In recent months, Saudi religious scholars have caused consternation in Iraq and Iran by issuing fatwas calling for the destruction of the great Shi’ite shrines in Najaf and Karbala in Iraq, some of which have already been bombed. And while prominent members of the ruling al-Saud dynasty regularly express their abhorrence of terrorism, leading figures within the kingdom who advocate extremism are tolerated.

With friends like these...

Jerusalem Tolerance Museum Sparks Fight

From an article of the same title (subtitled "Even Unbuilt, Jerusalem Tolerance Museum at Center of Fight Between Jews and Muslims") by Matti Friedman on abcnews.com:

The Museum of Tolerance started off with good intentions, over $100 million in donations, an eye-catching design by architect Frank Gehry, a 2004 kickoff ceremony attended by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a great piece of Jerusalem real estate.

But underneath that real estate, it turned out, there were Muslim graves. As a result, instead of bringing this contentious city's warring tribes together, the museum has sparked a fight with political, religious and historical dimensions between Muslims and Jews and all this before it has even been built.

Months of arbitration have ended in deadlock, the site is enclosed in aluminum walls, and the dispute is now before Israel's Supreme Court. Even if the court gives the go-ahead, however, the Museum of Tolerance could well remain permanently tainted by allegations of intolerance.

Kuwaiti Women Vote

From an AP story on MSNBC.com:

Kuwaiti women voted and ran as candidates for the first time Tuesday in a municipal election in the conservative country’s capital, but initial reports indicated not many women were casting ballots.

The vote to fill a seat in the city’s Municipal Council came almost a year after parliament passed a bill enfranchising women and enabling them to run for office. It was seen as a preview of how women might fare in the parliamentary elections due next year in this oil-rich state.

Women candidates were disadvantaged, both by prejudice and tradition, such as the fact that no female faces adorned the huge electoral posters plastered outside polling stations. It would be considered indecent for a woman candidate to advertise her face.

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