There is concern that the congressional approval of the bill that compels the State Department to create a special office to monitor anti-Semitic abuses around the world and compile annual reports rating countries on their treatment of Jews could be turned into one that opposes Arab rights in their conflict with Israel.
Excellent editorial from Abdulrahman Al-Rashid, Director General of Al-Arabiya TV, on how Arabs need to start paying attention to the words they use and the concepts they toss around. Too the point and well worth reading.
JEDDAH/NEW YORK, 30 October 2004 â€” Over 2,500 Muslim intellectuals from 23 countries have signed a petition to the United Nations calling for an international treaty to ban the use of religion for incitement to violence.
It also calls on the Security Council to set up a tribunal to try â€œthe theologians of terror.â€ The petition is addressed to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and to all members of the Security Council and its current chairman.
Here’s an article about Muslims calling for reforms within Islam, starting with the banning of the intolerant preachers. It names names–including the problematic Sheikh Qaradawi. Certainly worth reading.
In one of those political pirouettes in which ideologues excel, Kuwaitâ€™s right-wing Islamist deputies appear to have abandoned their life-long opposition to the enfranchisement of women. Well, not quite, but sort of abandoned. They are offering a compromise under which women would be allowed to vote but would be denied the right to also stand for public office.
It takes minimal skills in reading between lines to figure out that while this Arab News editorial is talking about Kuwait, it is also talking about and to Saudi Arabia. The political role of women, as voters and as candidates, is not stoppable, though it can be delayed.
Kerry Media Ads Insulting, False
Over the past few weeks, John Kerry, the Democratic National Committee, and “527″ groups have been running TV and radio ads in the “swing states” most important to this year’s presidential election. One set of ads attempts to “defame” George Bush on the basis of his relationship with Saudi Arabia.
I’m certain that it comes as a surprise to Saudis that they’ve “received special favors” from the Bush Administration. During my years at the US Embassy, after 9/11, I heard very few complimentary words about Bush from Saudis. The Saudi media were full of stories about how Bush was preventing them from visiting the US, obstructing visas, imposing embarrassing procedures at ports of entry.
The only reason these ads are running is because John Kerry believes that he can gain political mileage by playing to prejudices on the part of some Americans, prejudice that is largely fed by false and misleading information. The ads claim that some Saudis “got special treatment” in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, being permitted to fly out of the US while no Americans were permitted to fly. This falsehood was put paid by the 9/11 Commission Report, but because many Americans now consider “Saudi” to be a bad word, it might work.
The ads, in the manner of Michael Moore, put two things together and suggest–without every really saying so–that there is some sort of connection between them. Guess the middle term here:
If you guessed “oil” or “terror” or “money”, you win the prize. The ads are pure pandering to the lowest common denominator: the uninformed voter.
If you think John Kerry as President would be better than Bush for the US-Saudi relationship, think again.
…For almost four decades Arafat has symbolized both the best and worst of Palestinians. He represented more than anybody else their will not to surrender his peopleâ€™s right to their patrimony, their history and their future, no matter how overwhelming the odds were. He fought Israelâ€™s war machine, betrayal by his allies and friends, diplomatic isolation, assassination attempts and every other trial that would have broken a lesser man. But for his indomitable will and ability to snatch survival from the jaws of certain destruction, if not victory from certain defeat, it is doubtful if the Palestinian struggle for self-definition would have persisted.
He also symbolized some of the worst aspects of the Palestinian struggle that, many believe, have contributed to the tragedy that Palestine is today. His reluctance to delegate authority and his insistence that he should control all the levers of power have had the result of reducing the entire Palestinian struggle, its government, its political organizations and socials movements to a one-man show. Whatever his intentions, the result has been nepotism, corruption and denial of rights to his people. There have been times when one got the impression that the Palestinian people were under a double occupation.
This Arab News editorial captures very well the Arab attitudes about Arafat. It’s fairly balanced, though I think it shies away from laying the bodies of murdered Israelis and others at his feet, if not in his hands.
When Arafat dies, there will certainly be a power-struggle within the Palestinian communities. Whether that leads to civil war, though, is a different matter. While I honestly would not be surprised to see a few assassinations, I believe the Palestinian people want the 50-year horror to end. Without the weight of Arafat–the albatross of missed opportunities–around their neck, I think they can move swiftly into democracy.
My optimism, though, can readily be proved wrong if Hamas tries to assert its own supremacy on the terms of a peace settlement. I hope that can be avoided, as the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shows that to be a dead end.
Somayya Jabarti, Arab News
JEDDAH, 29 October 2004 â€” Does any male guardian have the right to prevent his beneficiaries who are members on his â€˜family cardâ€™ from accessing their official identifications as a means of discipline or according to his whims?
Another pointed article by Ms Jabarti! Here she discusses the problems and paradoxes that abound when it comes to the issue of women’s identification cards. While women were authorized to obtain them three years ago, most Saudi women do not have them. The article notes some of the reasons why they do not.
Women’s lack of ID cards was one of the reasons used to explain why women would not be voting in the upcoming municipal elections. Clearly, until the ID card issue is resolved, there’s not going to be much progress on the electoral front. Articles like this one, though, keep the pressure on.
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News
JEDDAH, 29 October 2004 â€” The King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Center in Riyadh is drafting a charter on womenâ€™s rights, its President Saleh Al-Hosayn said. The charter will be considered a reference on women in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi women have been taking part in a series of meetings to publicly discuss their public, social, and political desires. This is a good thing, clearly. What’s a bit jarring–at least for a western audience–is that men will make decisions about what’s good for women. Yes, the culture has strong differentiation between men and women and their roles in society. But that differentiation needs to be argued and debated by all, not just women; not just men. Women–whose lives it concerns most directly–should have the final say.
Maha Akeel, Arab News
JEDDAH, 29 October 2004 â€” Effat College, a well established private college for girls in Jeddah, received a grant jointly with Duke University in North Carolina from the US State Department to produce the first engineering curriculum for Saudi women.
The realm of the possible for Saudi women has opened its door another few inches. This program, carried out under Colin Powell’s “Middle East Peace Initiative”, is an example of a program that meets the mutual needs of both the US and Saudi Arabia. Through it, Saudi women gain rights in a new and important field. Saudi Arabia gains new engineers who are far more result-oriented than some of their male counterparts. Both gain because as more women become more involved in the economic activity of Saudi Arabia, greater pressure toward self-representation and identity is exerted.
Abeer Mishkhas, firstname.lastname@example.org
It was no surprise when Saudi-owned MBC TV stopped broadcasting the Arabic series, â€œThe Road to Kabulâ€ after airing only 8 of the 30 episodes. What was surprising was the reaction of Arab audiences.
I confess that I don’t know quite what the problem with this program–or its broadcast–is. Various media reports say the program was pulled due to legal/financial problems, to censorship by the Qatari government, to censorship by the Saudi government, or censorship by the American government. Not having seen the entire program, I can’t comment on the content. Not being in the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation’s office in Dubai, I don’t know what the real story is. And that’s exactly the problem this article points out.
With lack of transparency, the field is open to all sorts of interpretations, including the favorite sport of conspiracy theory mongering. What I find noteworthy is that Arab audiences are getting tired of the lack of transparency. They want to know what’s going on, what they’re not being told, and how to evaluate just what they are being told.
Somayya Jabarti, Arab News
JEDDAH, 28 October 2004 â€” Reactions differed among religious teachers, imams and students to the minister of Islamic affairsâ€™ call for preachers to learn foreign languages.
This is a great article discussing the issue of foreign language education in a closed society. Religious traditionalists resist it because with a new language comes a wider world outlook. When it’s suggested that that’s exactly what they need, they resist. Ms. Jabarti has caught an important battle in the war of re-definition that is now going on in Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh: In the four years since President George W. Bush took office, US ties with ally Saudi Arabia have eroded, war has reached Saudi borders and tension has grown over the US war on terror and Middle East policy.
Nevertheless, diplomats say Riyadh is quietly hoping Americans will give Bush another four years in the White House when they vote in next month’s presidential elections.
This Reuters wire story, carried by Gulf News says that the Saudi government would rather deal with Bush for another four years than with Kerry. Part of this, I’m sure, is due to the way that Kerry finds the Saudis an easy target for cheap shots.
Mahmoud Ahmad, Arab News
JEDDAH, 27 October 2004 â€” Actors of the popular Saudi TV serial Tash Ma Tash have come under death threat from terrorists after the highly popular episode â€œAnd life continuesâ€ was telecast.
Tash Ma Tash is a Saudi-produced TV series that airs during Ramadan exclusively. It’s one of the most popular programs in the region because of its sharp social satire. This year, it takes a hard look at terrorism and its effects on Saudi life. Apparently that look was a little too sharp as those involved with the program are now receiving death threats. I guess the word is still sharper than the sword.