Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Still Sick

Probably the best thing to do is to subscribe to my RSS feed. Hope to be back soon. Thanks for all your good wishes.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Yes, I'm still alive. I've been pretty ill, but I'm getting better now. Let me tell you, this has been one hell of a year for getting sick. I think I'll be back by this weekend.

Also - don't forget to VOTE!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Running Late

I'm a little under the weather, but there's lots of news so I'll post soon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What's Wrong with Muslims?

Seriously, what's wrong with Muslims? Campbell Brown of CNN has a commentary on the McCain supporter who called Obama an Arab. And I agree with her. So what if Obama was an Arab or Muslim? What would it matter? When did being an Arab or a Muslim become an insult? If I said I wouldn't vote for someone because he was black or because he was Christian, people would think I was some kind of crazy racist. But apparently some people think it's legitimate to not vote for someone because they're an Arab or a Muslim.

First of all, most Muslims are not Arab, they're South/Southeast Asian. Secondly, not all Muslims or Arabs are terrorists! Calling all Arabs terrorists is like saying all Hispanics are drug-dealers because of the cocaine coming from Columbia (I think that's decreased a lot recently). It's a stupid stereotype that has become pervasive in America since 9-11. After Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, people didn't say that all white former military men were crazy sociopaths. When wacko Christians blow up abortion clinics and murder doctors and patients, no one says that all Christians are terrorists. But if someone with darker skin does something wrong, it seems to tap into this crazy white-person fear of people who are different. Let's hope a black president can change this shit.

All About the Emirates

First, the fun news. Abu Dhabi Media Company is teaming up with National Geographic to produce 10-15 films with some actual money behind them.

The bad news. The Emirates are cracking down on everything. This is mainly in Dubai. Dubai has been billing itself as very open and accessible for everyone, not some scary Muslim place. But if you remember, a boy was raped there last year [can't find my post], and several people have gone to jail for drug possession, even for something as stupid as poppy seeds off a bagel. Now, two Brits have been accused of having sex on the beach (for real, not the drink) and sentenced to 3 months in jail and a fine.

The BBC even has a little video of what you can do in Dubai.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Top Stories 10/13

Al-Ahram (Egypt): Post-Eid freefall - The economy in Egypt is taking some hits.

Haaretz (Israel): Labor Party, Kadima sign coalition agreement - "A coalition agreement to bring Labor into a cabinet headed by prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni was signed Monday after over 18 hours of talks and two days after a draft agreement was formulated between Labor Party chairman Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Livni."

Hurriyet (Turkey): Turkey intensifies contacts with regional administration in N. Iraq - Turkey should be meeting with the Kurdish administration of northern Iraq tomorrow.

Yemen Times: Yemeni farmers threaten to swap grapes for qat - Apparently the farmers weren't able to sell all their raisins because of Chinese raisins being smuggled into Yemen and sold for cheap. So the farmers are threatening to start growing qat. Qat is a plant that is legal in Yemen, but not in a lot of other countries. It's a stimulant that can be addictive, and I've heard it's pretty endemic in Yemen.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's the Economy, Stupid

Yes, an old Clinton line. BBC News had an article earlier this week about how the Middle East stock markets are falling. And a brief glance at a few Middle East news sites show headlines about the economy. This is definitely world-wide now, which makes sense as so many economies are globalized. Who knows where things will go from here.

The Jewel of Medina: Update

More news. I hadn't realized that Random House was the original publisher, who had decided not to publish the book. It was subsequently bought by Beaufort Books. They're trying to publish the book in the US before any violence starts. Link to an article on Beaufort Books' website from All Things Considered (NPR).

The UK attack story made the Khaleej Times out of Dubai. They also have a Reuters article from September that says the book had already been released in Serbia, was pulled after complaints, but will now be released again. There's also a really good article about Freedom of Speech, by a Muslim who was at UC-Berkeley when The Satanic Verses was published.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

McCain is an Idiot

Again, he's talking about Ahmadinejad attacking Israel. First of all, Ahmadinejad is the president of Iran, but he does NOT run Iran. The clerics run Iran, and the leader is Ayatollah Khamenei. In layman's terms, Khamenei has his finger on the button NOT Ahmadinejad. Secondly, Ahmadinejad is a blow-hard. He's specifically antagonizing the US and Israel with his talk about a "stinking corpse." It's a great distraction for the Iranian people so he can rally them and keep them from seeing their internal problems. To put it another way: it gives him street cred; he's standing up to the man (the US).

Next, the entire purpose of diplomacy is to sit down and talk to each other so that you don't go to war! So what the hell is wrong with talking to Iran? McCain keeps harping on Obama sitting down without preconditions. Personally, I think it makes McCain look like an idiot to keep repeating this phrase that most Americans probably don't even understand. And yes, in the interests of disclosure, I am in favor of Obama (if you couldn't tell by now).

No Cold War!

Hey, you heard it at the debate! McCain says there will not be another Cold War with Russia. (What does this have to do with the Middle East? The Middle East was one of the areas being fought over during the Cold War.) I seem to remember from my course work many years ago, that a bipolar world is pretty stable. And that's what we had during the Cold War - 2 poles, the US and the USSR. Then we went to a more unipolar world. Now, we're getting multi-polar: US, Russia, EU, China, etc. And I seem to remember that is fairly unstable. We live in interesting times.

The Jewel of Medina

That's the name of a new book coming out any time now. It was originally going to be published in England first, but the publisher's office was attacked. So what's the big deal? Well, this is the story of A'isha, the Prophet Muhammad's favorite wife, who was only about 9 years old when they were married. This is not a scholarly work, it is a novel, and I've heard it referred to as "historical fiction." The big problem is that in the book, Muhammad consummates the marriage immediately.

Now, is that historically accurate? I don't know. I will say that from a historical viewpoint, there were many cultures and societies that arranged marriages with underage children, and usually the marriage was not consummated until the child was of age. This was still going on in Egypt in the twentieth century. I will also say, that in some cultures and societies a girl became a woman once she started menstruating, which could happen at a young age. Remember the young girl in Yemen?

My personal opinion is that the marriage was probably not consummated until A'isha was considered to be the proper age. I don't know what that age might have been at that time. But the marriage itself has been used as an attack against Islam. Right after 9-11, the Southern Baptist Convention referred to Muhammad as a child molester, because of A'isha's age. I guess it's too much to expect that they've ever read any historical documents or marriage records.

So, the big deal is that in this book Muhammad has sex with a 9-year-old girl. Many people are going to offended by that. And some are going to believe it's the truth, even if it's not. Just look what happened with the Da Vinci Code. Now, I'm not advocating censorship; I believe in Freedom of Speech. But as I've said before, just because you can say something doesn't mean that you should. But this is bound to set off massive protests in the Muslim world, and anyone writing about Islam in this day and age ought to be aware of that.

So I really have to wonder about the author's motivation. Why would you intentionally write something that might even set off attempts on your life? Remember Salman Rushdie? How many years was he in hiding? (Or is he still in hiding? I can't keep track.) So we have another wave of Islamic protests set to go off with the release of this book. [If they don't protest at first, they will once Westerners who read the book start bashing the Prophet Muhammad.] If I was a conspiracy nut I'd say it was a plot by the Neo-Conservatives to increase Islamophobia in America and sway the election. But I'm not that nutty.

Cars for Women

Woohoo! Women everywhere will be happy to find out that Iran is designing a car just for them. This car should be available in pretty feminine colors and even has a nice jack that won't get grease all over you. And there's even a modest bicycle, although I haven't found any photos of it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Top Stories 10/06

Asia Times - Hockey moms and capital markets - As I've said before, the US economy and the election are big news everywhere.

Gulf Daily News (Bahrain) - Call for Calm - "The Premier yesterday urged calm in the face of a GCC and global credit crunch. "

Jordan Times - Kidnapping - There was a kidnapping in Lebanon. The connection is a little iffy on their site.

Turkish Daily News - Turkey '68: A painful path toward revolution - Interesting article about a leftist movement in 1968. The leaders were hung a few years later.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Hate Crime?

A 10-year old girl in a mosque was pepper-sprayed, but apparently that is not a hate crime. This happened in Dayton, Ohio not long after a DVD called Obsession was sent out in newspapers. This DVD talks about the threat of radical Islam, and was sent out by a non-profit organization, in advertising packs that are part of newspapers. But this only happened in election swing-states.

I watched a few minutes of the trailer, to see what it says. Some of it is actually correct: there are Muslim extremists out there who are attacking the West. But the best moment is a quote from the adult daughter of a martyr, who was interviewed for the film. She says the best way for extremists to couch a jihad is in terms of self-defense. Quote: "We are defending ourselves. There is an enemy out there who wants to get us." Hmmm. There is an enemy out there (radical Islam) and it's out to get US. Hey, as long as this movie keeps us safe from 10-year-olds, then I'm all for it.

Update: A lot of newspapers are getting flack for the DVDs.

Muslim Women in Thailand

There's a new movie about a Thai teacher. She started teaching in the Muslim part of Thailand and was kidnapped and beaten by Muslim women. She spent 8 months in a coma and then died. The film follows her story and the investigation into the attack. From the article, it sounds like it wasn't a personal attack; the women were attacking the Thai government. But that doesn't change the fact that a teacher who wanted to help is dead.

Tourists Snatched in Egypt: Update

I'm a little late on this one, but here are the update links.
Tourists released, Freed Western tourists back home, and Europeans describe kidnap ordeal.

The FBI Get It Right

If you read the online news, you've read about a number of FBI busts for terrorism that wouldn't have even been feasible without the FBI informant pushing the event forward. Well, this time they got it right. A man was arrested when he tried to buy grenades to set off by a shopping mall. The FBI had him under surveillance, and the guy he tried to buy the grenades from was also FBI. Kudos.

Saudi Eyes

This is just weird. A cleric in Saudi Arabia thinks that women should wear a full-face veil that only shows 1 eye. Because when women show 2 eyes they want to wear mascara and eye make-up and look sexy! Aside from the practical aspects of trying to walk with only 1 eye (but hey, you can't drive anyway!) I would like to suggest that the problem is not female but male. It wasn't that long ago in the US that a woman who had been raped was asked if she was wearing sexy clothes, as if it was her fault that she was raped (it probably still happens). I have no problem if your religion or your tradition wants women to cover up a bit; in the US, Pentecostal women don't cut their hair or wear pants. But I do have a problem when you force your rules on other women. Lately I've gotten the impression that having women cover up in Saudi Arabia is more about the men. If the women cover up, then the men don't have to have any kind of self-control; they don't need it. Why should they be forced to act like adults?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Movie News

There's a new film being made in Hebron by a young Israeli film-maker. You might want to check out the article. The film-maker said she's trying to illustrate what goes on in Hebron, because most Israelis have no idea about the restrictions placed on the Palestinians living there.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

US Politics

I've tried to stay out of this and continue with Middle East topics, but I'm a bit annoyed now. I'm watching the vice-presidential debate and Sarah Palin just said that the central area of the War on Terror is Iraq. She's wrong. Let me start at the beginning. Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with 9-11. NOTHING. There was no Al-Qaeda in Iraq until AFTER we invaded. And we didn't get rid of al-Qaeda in Iraq - it was the people of Iraq who had been supporting them who finally decided that al-Qaeda was the greater evil and at that point we started making headway against al-Qaeda. Most of the terrorists seem to be in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area, but Sarah Palin thinks Iraq is where the terrorist battlefield is located.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Turkey Roundup

A Turkish singer is in hot water for daring to suggest that perhaps there should be some kind of solution to the Kurdish problem, instead of more deaths. Turkey is an interesting state: it's secular, parliamentary, and yet run by the military. And sometimes they get a little annoyed. My favorite part of the story is that the singer is a transsexual, which doesn't seem to be a big deal. At least something is going right in Turkey.

This is an older story, but amusing. A hotel owner in Turkey fired all the male employees - because they were having sex with the female guests. Apparently there is quite a large tourist-sex trade going on in some areas. Who knew? (I feel so naive.)

A Turkish woman has designed a new mosque for Istanbul, and it's currently under construction. She's the first Turkish woman to do this. The article has a picture of the design.

Tourists Snatched in Egypt

Last week a group of European tourists was kidnapped in Egypt. There were 11 tourists and 8 Egyptian guides. They were in southwest Egypt, in an empty section near the borders of Libya and Sudan. On Thursday the BBC said the group had been moved to Libya after being in Sudan. Sources said that the kidnappers sounded like Darfuri rebels. The BBC said the tourists were freed today, after a lucky break when the Sudanese army killed some of the kidnappers.

I'm glad the tourists made it out alive. Hopefully the guides are safe too. I don't want to place blame, but when you go out into basically the middle of nowhere, an area that's not that far from Libya and Sudan (which has been having a lot of problems) then you are taking your life in your hands. You have to pay attention to these things.

Top Stories 09/29

Arabian Business - US bailout rejected, fears seizes markets: Yes, the US economy is on everyone's minds these days.

The Daily Star (Leb) - Explosion in Tripoli kills five people, including four soldiers: A parked car exploded as a bus full of soldiers drove by. Thirty-three were injured.

The Egyptian Gazette - Sudan's army kills 6 blamed in desert abduction: A group of tourists in Egypt were kidnapped last week. The Sudanese army killed some armed men supposedly involved in the kidnapping. I'll relate this story in separate post.

Haaretz (Israel) - Israel slams fresh Arab move to isolate it at IAEA: Arab nations want a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, but Israel has nukes. But many of these same Arab nations don't even recognize Israel, so it's a big mess.

Hurriyet (Turkey) - U.S. lower house rejects bailout in shock vote, fear seizes markets: Again, the US economy is big news around the world.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Top Stories 09/22

I've posted a poll about the Top Stories on the right side-bar. Please take the poll so that I can have some kind of feedback about these postings. Thank you!

Algeria Daily (WN Network): 'China repression grows', says US - It's getting worse over there.

Middle East Newsline: Iraq Army Crosses the 200,000 Mark - Just what it says. (Note: this is a subscription site. You only get a small article preview.)

Oman News Agency: Air Blue is offering direct flights from Lahore, Pakistan to Muscat.

Tehran Times: IAEA has become a tool of the U.S. - Iran says that documents about their nuclear program are fake, and the US is using the IAEA for its own purposes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Update: German Anti-Islamophobia

Things are getting pretty violent over there. While I applaud protesters wanting to stop Islamophobia, violence is not the answer. Let's hope things settle down.

All Things Yemen

On the 17th the Yemen Times updated about the US Embassy attack.

Remember the little girl who got divorced (see my post Yemeni Child Brides)? She's back in school now, though not the first one she applied to. The first school thought she was too knowledgeable about certain affairs and might disturb the other students. But she found a school and is doing well.

A Yemeni comic was released from prison. He was in jail because a government official was offended by his political commentary, but the comic refused to cave in and was released. It wasn't the first time he'd been in jail for his comedy.

An opinion piece in the Yemen Times, about the US elections and culture. The column is called Common Sense. He refers to Sarah Palin as the "newly found ignoramus of a running mate."

German Anti-Islamophobia

There's also some Islamophobia going on in Germany, but they appear to have a good anti-Islamophobia movement fighting it. They had the Islamophobists on the run (literally).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Italian Islamophobia

The Turkish Daily News has an interesting article on Islamophobia in Italy, courtesy of Reuters (the article, not the prejudice). Apparently the Northern League (a political party, I think) is trying to stop mosques from being built in Italy. Because everyone knows that all Muslims are terrorists. In all seriousness, some of the quotes in the article are disturbing:

"I consider this to be an unfettered colonisation of our culture." (on the number of mosques built)

"Why do they have to stay here in the middle of all the people? People have their homes here. They should go away, into the country somewhere."

I find all of this really disturbing.

Yemen Attacks

You've probably already heard that the US Embassy in Sana'a was attacked. Here's a lot of different articles about that: BBC, Yahoo!, Gulf News. I couldn't find any mention of the attack in the Tehran Times or the official Iranian news agency.

The Yemen Times updates every few days, so there should be information available there tomorrow.

Trans-Saharan Pipeline

Not exactly the Middle East, but close and gas-related. The EU is helping Nigeria on their end of the pipeline. And Russia is trying to butt in as well.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stress Relief!

No ranting about the Middle East today! This is fun stuff:

Last year they found giant camel bones in Syria. This year they found 1 million year old camel bones.

If you live in Petah Tikva (near Tel Aviv) then you better curb your dog! They're setting up a doggie DNA database, so if your dog poops on the street, you better pick it up. Otherwise they will find you. I'm not making this crap up (pun intended)!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Top Stories 09/15

Asia Times: Lehman and the end of the era of leverage - Yes, the top story is Lehman Brothers and the US economy. I'm always amused at how much the rest of the world knows about America, while America knows little about the rest of the world. Did I say amused, I meant depressed.

Khaleej Times (UAE): Iran blocks probe of alleged atom bomb work: IAEA - Just what it sounds like.

Syria Today: News Update - This is their weekly news roundup. It contains everything from Palestinian refugees to the UAE banning a Syrian soap opera to the new Syrian ambassador to France.

Turkish Daily News: A Shaky Life under Dusts - Residents of a neighborhood in Istanbul are being covered in dust because of nearby stone quarries.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Medicine in Gaza

If you need medical care in Gaza, then I wish you luck. Things are getting worse and there's even partisan strikes taking place. This is part of the Hamas-Fatah power struggle, but as usual, it's innocent people who pay the price.

Oh those Saudis...

Apparently there are still crazy people in Saudi Arabia. Don't like all that sin on your satellite TV? Don't turn it off - just kill the people who make it! I can't wait till that one makes it into the Republican Party Platform. Seriously though, this is a real problem. I understand that not everyone wants to see scantily-clad women on TV, especially during Ramadan. But not everyone celebrates Ramadan, and not everyone thinks women's entire bodies and face should be covered when they're in public. This man may be the religious authority for Saudi Arabia, but he is not the religious authority for the entire world. If they don't like these programs in Saudi Arabia, then maybe they should look at blocking them. I'm sure a little muscle would convince the satellite companies not to sell certain channels in the Kingdom.

Israel & Iran...

...but not together.

Article about the implications of the Oslo Accords (15 years ago) and what's happening today. Written by the then-chief negotiator for Israel.

BBC video - People in Tehran are not all that happy with Ahmadinejad.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Israeli Stories

These popped up recently too:

Separate but equal? School woes in East Jerusalem.

An American dancer with an Arabic first name traveled to Israel with a dance troupe and had to dance at the airport, to prove he was legit. And hey, it happened to him in the US too.

An Israeli cabinet member, who was involved in the Eichmann kidnapping in 1960, has suggested kidnapping Ahmadinejad. Personally, I think that would just make things worse. Ahmadinejad is a blowhard. I don't think he actually believes a lot of what he espouses, but it gets him airtime, and it helps him to keep the Iranian people from looking at their own problems.

Random Stories

I found a few interesting stories the past 2 weeks so I thought I'd just put them all here.

A guy hacked into UN e-mail in Abu Dhabi and tried to blackmail the owner.

Apparently there's a lot of sexual harassment in Egypt. That seems kind of odd for the Middle East. I mean, in some areas if you don't dress appropriately men may assume you are a prostitute. But women are generally fine if they dress correctly. But not in Cairo.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Top Stories 09/08

Al-Ahram (Egypt) - Not business as usual - More info on that murdered pop star.

Tehran Times - Iran nuclear reactor launch 'irreversible' by February: Russia - Looks like the nuclear plant is a "go."

Yemen Times - Yemen among the world's most vulnerable states - Yemen is on the list of Failed States, meaning that it has features that could make the state fail. Most people think of Middle Eastern countries, especially the ones on the Arabian Peninsula, as being rich, but Yemen is not.

AME Info (business) - Tatweer restructures operations to reflect conglomerate's robust growth trajectory - Tatweer is a subsidiary of Dubai Holding.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pay No Attention to the Terrorist Behind the Curtain

Condi Rice is initiating a new phase in US-Libya relations. No, really. I remember a time when the US didn't deal with terrorists or people of their ilk. Unless they worked for us (Bin Laden) or they were a brutal dictator (Saddam Hussein) or they were in charge of an area we needed to deal with (Yasser Arafat) or they were in charge of a country and we didn't feel like ousting them at that time (Milesovic). But the US still likes to declare that terrorists are bad and we won't deal with them. Especially if they are democratically elected (Hamas). Yes, the Gator is a bit snarky today.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Top Stories 09/02

Yes, I know it's Tuesday. Labor Day holiday confused me this week.

Algeria Daily - Algeria death toll 130 says Al Qaeda - There have been several attacks in Algeria lately.

Azzaman (Iraq) - Iraq will not expel Iranian exiles - There are Iranian anti-government forces in Iraq, since before the US entered in 2003. The US and Iraq differ on what should be down about them.

Khaleej Times (UAE) - Egyptian tycoon charged in murder-for-hire case - This is just weird. Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim was murdered in late July, in Dubai. The man accused of hiring the killer is an Egyptian tycoon who is also on the Shura Council. BBC article.

Syria Today - Back in Business - Syria's standing in the world has changed, because of its actions to things like the Doha Accord. What does this mean to its relationship with the US?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Turkish Traveller

Turkish man Eren Eruc crossed the Atlantic in a rowboat and tried to cross the Pacific. He didn't make it all the way, but set a record for being out there so long. [I just thought the article was interesting.]

Maids in Trouble

Scary article on maids in Lebanon. A large number have died during the past year, either of suicide or from falling off buildings. It sounds like they're being held captive by their employers. This isn't a Lebanese problem - it happens in the Gulf States too. And it's been known to happen in Western nations as well, before anyone starts thinking this is an "Arab" problem. This is a money and societal problem. People with money hire poor women from third-world countries and treat them like crap. In the US it mainly happens with women from Latin America, but in the Middle East, it's generally south Asians and Africans (edit: forgot to add Africans).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Top Stories 08/25

Al-Ahram (Egypt) - Sifting through the embers - article about a fire destroying the Shura Council building.

Asia Times - Let's talk about World War III - apparently I'm not the only one wondering about some kind of escalation happening with Russia in the Caucasus.

Gulf Times (Qatar) - Beijing bids farewell to 'exceptional' Olympics.

Turkish Daily News - Balancing atop Kurdish trapeze - "exclusive" interview with Ahmet Turk of the Democratic Society Party about the PKK (Kurdish Workers' Party).

The Gator Is Back

Yes, I am back in the US. I'll start posting tonight. I had a great time on my trip, but it's really good to be home.

Friday, June 27, 2008

internet problems

I am in the Middle East right now, and I've had problems getting internet access (sometimes lack of internet, sometimes too busy with work). I won't be posting much until early September, since i don't know when I will have access. Sorry about that. Please subscribe to my RSS feed to see when I return.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Top Stories 06/16

Asia Times - Iraq takes a turn toward Tehran: an interesting look at the pressures on the Iraqi PM .

Gulf News (UAE) - they don't really have a "top story." They have news updates by time, and then top stories by region, etc. Here's the local top story - Dubai panel to probe learner drivers' failurese.

Yemen Times - Bani Hushaish residents' lives deteriorate as security measures escalate: this area is being blockaded because rebels (Houthi's) are hiding out there. Here's a quote from the government: "When they begin to starve and their source of income is interrupted, they will eventually hand over the Houthis in their area.

Tehran Times - Islamic world must have permanent Security Council seat: Leader:
the Ayatollah is calling for an Islamic country to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Currently, there are 5 permanent members: US, UK, Russia, France, China. That's because this dates back to the end of World War II. The winners got the Security Council. I think Italy is also making noise about wanting to be a permanent member.

Homesexuality in the Middle East

Weird court case in Switzerland. An American man says he was assaulted by an Emirati prince, when he rejected the prince's advances. The prince admits to a scuffle, which he says was after he was accused of being gay. This got me thinking about homosexuality in general. In the Middle East, the subject is pretty taboo. In some countries it's also punishable by death. That doesn't mean it never happens, of course. You hear stories of Saudi princesses being able to have fun when they're out of the country. That made me think of homosexual princes doing the same thing.

The Risks of Blogging

Blogging can be a risky business in some countries. You've seen the link to Fouad al-Farhan on this blog, and luckily, he was released. Many are not. The BBC has an article about the increase of blogging and arrests for blogging.

Terror in the UAE?

The United Arab Emirates is a very rich country, and somewhat modern. So far they've managed to avoid terror attacks at home. Now the British government is warning its citizens that they may be at risk. Frankly, I have wondered in the past why attacks take place in certain areas. Yemen has an al-Qa'eda cell and gets attacks. The same for Saudi Arabia. When the US was attacked on 9/11, that was a "big message" from the terrorists. Dubai is a major symbol of modernity and wealth in the Arab world. So why hasn't it been attacked yet? Is it that difficult, or is some of the funding coming from there? I'm not a psychologist, but I would think that Bin Laden would see Dubai as a symbol of Western decadence, or something like that. Yet things seem to be peaceful over there. So is Dubai a ticking time-bomb or a source of terrorist funding?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bahrain's Jewish Ambassador

I missed this one while I was on vacation. Bahrain appointed a new ambassador to the US, and it's a woman - a Jewish woman. For those who don't know, yes, there are still Jews living in Arab countries (though not as many since 1948). There's speculation about what this means: is Bahrain trying to make a statement, hoping to cover up other human rights abuses? See Mideast Youth article, BBC article.

Saudi Sportswomen

Yes, Muslim women do participate in sports. Of course, in Saudi Arabia, they have to do it unofficially. I think women should be allowed to participate as much as they want. If they are strict Muslims, they can cover up and still participate, except for events like swimming. But I cannot understand why some scholars still don't think women should be allowed in sports. This BBC article suggests that perhaps Saudi women will be allowed in the Olympics in London, if the right people suggest that the men might not be allowed to compete without them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Discoveries Galore!

Panorama (a BBC investigative show) says that $23 billion (yes billion!) is missing in Iraq. Stolen, lost, missing, etc. $23 BILLION. But we can't discuss it, because of a gag order in the US. How dare we discuss that missing money and who may have absconded with it! It probably breaks national security or something.

A cave in Jordan may be the oldest Christian church ever found. They're still discussing the issue.

And some Iraqi antiquities, confiscated in the US, are on their way home to Baghdad. The looting of antiquities was a big problem. Loss of life is the worst tragedy, but after the big stuff like that, the loss of history in Iraq is really appalling.

Iran Knows Geography

They just created some kind of Islamic geography software:

"79 books with their contexts in two languages of Farsi and Arabic in theme of general geography, biography of personalities, city maps( 3548 cities) and travel books"

And at some point they'll put it up on the Internet.

Will you marry me? Today?

A strange one out of Iran. One of the state-owned companies has decided that its employees need to be married. And they have until September to do it. Supposedly there are a lot of prostitutes around, and this will help get rid of them. I guess if you're married, you've got sex at home.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Another update

Now that I'm back, I'm getting ready to travel to the Middle East for a while. :) I will be blogging while I'm there, but if you've been paying attention, sometimes access to Blogger/Blogspot gets shut down every now and then. So don't be alarmed if you don't hear from me occasionally. Hopefully my normal schedule of blogging will continue, or even pick up!

Top Stories 06/09

Yes - I'm back!

Turkish Daily News - No art allowed in front of Art Basel: Art Besel is "world's largest international contemporary art fair" but a street singer was removed because she wasn't registered with the fair.

Al-Ahram - Bottomless basket: article on the Arab-Israeli conflict and where it may go next. Supposedly Olmert may invade Gaza.

Gulf Times (Qatar) - Protests over rising fuel prices spread: Women protested in India, and truckers protested in other countries.

Syria Today - SIIB continues to expand: Syrian International Islamic Bank opened some new branches, and opened headquarters in Damascus.

Monday, May 26, 2008


There's a ton of stuff going on right now, but I'm packing for a small vacation to visit my parents, so I thought I'd leave you with the main link to the BBC Middle East section. I get a lot of my news from them, because they actually cover a lot. I should be back by the end of next week. My apologies for not posting more today. I'm really tired and I really need a vacation. I hope to return refreshed and ready to write!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sniping the Koran: Update #1

See original post here. According to the BBC, President Bush apologized for the incident. And the incident set off a protest in Afghanistan that killed several people. Using the Koran for target practice is just a bad idea, and pretty damn rude too.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Top Stories 5/19

Turkish Daily News: Iraqi Kurdish prime minister visits US

Yemen Times: State Security Court jails Al-Banna - you may want to check this story out. Al-Banna is on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list. Apparently he showed up in court, on his own, when he was accused of attacks. Then he showed up at court again, and paid bail. And then he surrendered to the president of Yemen? And then the Court decided to put his butt in jail. I feel like I should say "only in Yemen..."

Azzaman (Iraq): U.S. troops bomb hospital and refuse to pay for damages

Khaleej Times (Dubai, UAE): Hamas officials in Egypt for Israel truce talks

More Baha'i Arrests

Iran just arrested 7 Baha'i leaders. The Baha'is are a religious group that started in Iran in the 1800s. From what I've read (and I have Baha'i friends), they are pacifists and they believe the Baha'i religion is the next revelation from God after Islam. And that all religions are basically one: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are the main ones, I think. They're very peaceful and nice and the conservatives in Iran can't stand them. I think it's because most Baha'i's in Iran probably started out Islamic and then converted - and converting away from Islam is illegal. If you want more information, here's the World Baha'i website.

Sniping the Koran

Okay, this one really ticks me off. A US sniper in Baghdad was using a Koran for target practice. The US general in Baghdad had to personally apologize for that. I don't understand how someone could do something like this. I mean, would this sniper have used a Bible or Torah for target practice? And if not, then how could he do it to the Koran? The Koran is the Islamic Bible. And Islam is from the same family as Christianity and Judaism. I don't know why so many people think Islam is some weird, heathen religion, when it is based on the same principles as Christianity and Judaism. It even has the same prophets! And, assuming that the soldier didn't know or care about Islam, using the Koran for target practice while you're in an Islamic country is just plain stupid!

Kuwaiti Elections

Kuwait had elections over the weekend. Yes, an Arab country with elections - they do exist. This is a relatively recent phenomenon and it's still pretty new to them. The conservatives won a bunch of seats, but no woman won a seat. That is a problem in a lot of countries - men thinking women should stay at home and take care of the kids and not get involved. And before I get anyone telling me "that's the problem with Islam" I would like to point that it's also "the problem" with Christianity. There are a number of US politicians (male) who think that their wives should stay at home and take care of the kids and not get involved. The US has had a parliament (Congress) since before the US was a country - and yet, today, we still have only a handful of
women in office. But we expect countries that have never had a parliament to suddenly allow voting and elect women overnight.

Lebanon is Breaking

The factions went to Qatar to talk things over. Qatar proposed a unity cabinet, but it doesn't seem to be going over well. Let's hope this doesn't descend into another civil war.

Will This Story Ever End? More on BAE.

Yes, I have yet one more article about the BAE-Saudi-US scandal. Here are the previous posts, and here's the new article. Two executives flew into the US and were "briefly detained." Not much seems to have happened, but the article summarizes what's been going on.

[Edit:] Apparently they received subpoenas at the airport, and if you've been paying attention, they can now copy your laptop (and anything else electronic) when you enter the country. So these executives probably had their laptops copied.

Info on Palestinians

The BBC has been doing a lot of articles on Israel and Palestinians, since the state of Israel just turned 60. Inside a Palestinian Refugee Camp has maps, interviews, a slide show, and key figures. And if you haven't checked out the Jerusalem Diary, you might want to.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Top Stories 5/12

Al-Ahram: Bittersweet medicine: State employees will get a salary increase - 30%!, but it 's being paid for with a gas tax.

Asia Times: Another D-Day for Pakistan over Militants: Just what it sounds like - al-Qaeda and Pakistan face off.

Gulf Times: North Field output set for major expansion: Expanded output from Qatar's natural gas field.

Tehran Times: Iran protests against Britain's decision to remove MKO from terrorist list: Again, just what it sounds like. Apparently Britain still thinks the MKO is a terrorist organization, but it's being removed from the list. Your guess is as good as mine about why.


BBC has an article about Zionism: Has Zionism Worked? since it is the 60th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bye-Bye Beirut

Well, Beirut is heading back into civil war. I was so happy when the fighting stopped in the the early 90s. Beirut used to be a beautiful city - it was basically the Paris of the Middle East. It's been recovering since the early 90s, and then there were the problems with Syria, the fighting between Hizbollah and Israel, and now this mess. I was hoping to be able to visit there soon, but apparently not.

The Story That Just Won't End - BAE

Yes, it is still going on. Read my old posts here. Now the US is worried that top secret American technology might get out there. This is a huge fiasco on all sides.

The Story That Just Won

Monday, May 5, 2008

Top Stories 5/05

Islamic Republic News Agency - Iran ready to play active role in promoting peace in Horn of Africa: Mottaki - this is about Eritrea.

Syria Today - PM opens tourism fair - the Fourth International Tourism Investment Market Forum in Damascus opened on April 29th.

Yemen Times - Minister of Local Administration calls on Yemeni's to help governors' elections succeed - the first governors' elections are on Wednesday.

Middle East Newsline - Syria Orders Mig-31 From Russia - Syria is upgrading its air force with some new Russian fighters.

Malaysian Travel Restrictions

Malaysia has decided that women can't be trusted to travel abroad on their own. They should get written permission from their families or employers. Supposedly, this is because single women are being used by gangs to smuggle drugs. What I want to know is, how would a permission slip stop this? They seem to think that if the family agrees to a trip and gives a woman written permission, then somehow she's not involved with drug smuggling. What?!? So if a women is pretending to go abroad for a conference, now all she has to do is tell her family that and get a permission slip signed. And she can still smuggle drugs. I really do wonder if this is for real, or if it's an attempt to restrict female travel and they needed some kind of excuse for it.

Yemen's Woes

If you've paid any attention to Yemen, they've had a lot of problems over the last few years. And not all of it is al-Qaeda. There's been a tribal uprising in the north, and now Qatar is trying to mediate between the government and the Shi'ite rebels. So it's also a religious problem. I believe the current government is Sunni. These rebels are Shi'ite - but they're not the same type of Shi'ite as Iran. Iran is 12er Shi'ite (they believe in 12 Imams) and the ones in Yemen are Zaidis, which is 5er Shi'ism. Qatar is Sunni and Shi'ite, but I believe they are 12ers.

Happy Anniversary?

Next week is the 60th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel. The BBC has an article looking back at the creation, and brief interviews with people living in Israel. It's part of a series called Jerusalem Diary - if you go to the article, the right side links to the other "diary" entries.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Top Stories 4/28

Al-Ahram (Egypt): Can Bush attack again? Article about the possibility of the US attacking Iran, while Bush is still in office.

Turkish Daily News: Turkey mediates peace between Syria and Israel. This hasn't happened yet, but apparently the Turks are volunteering.

Gulf News (UAE): Iran discusses 'serious' nuclear ideas with Russia. Iran is right across the Gulf from the UAE, so they're always watching what goes on.

Tehran Times (Iran): Pakistan, Iran finalize gas pipeline deal. Nice photo of Musharraf and Ahmadinejad. They look a little odd.

Is Barbie Bad?

Iran wants to ban the Barbie Doll, saying it's bad for the morals. Personally, I find the whole thing amusing. Especially, considering how Barbie has occasionally been bashed in the West for her unrealistic body and for saying things like "Math is hard." We'll see if anything comes of this, or if it's just more posturing.

Free Fouad - Fouad Freed!

A friend sent me this article from the Christian Science Monitor on Sunday, but I didn't get a chance to post it. Here's the BBC article.

Fouad has been freed!!!!!! I'm very excited about this. Officially, I think the government was near or just past the time where they could hold him without charges. That doesn't mean he still couldn't end up in jail, but for now he's at home with his family. I hope this hasn't scared him away from blogging. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next week or two.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Top Stories 4/21

Yes, it has been a while, but Top Stories are back! For new readers, these are the top stories from papers around the Middle East:

Gulf News

A lot of news from the Gulf this week.

*Women in Saudi Arabia. Human Rights Watch says that the way their rights are curtailed, they're treated like children.

*Who needs GMT when you could have Mecca Time! Some scholars think Mecca should replace GMT, especially as it's a product of colonialism that was imposed on them by the British. Also some info about a Mecca Watch that shows the direction of Mecca. No pictures, unfortunately.

*Condoleezza Rice is in the Gulf too, for the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) meeting in Bahrain.

*And Ethiopia has broken it relations with Qatar, claiming they are funding rebels from Eritrea.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Yemeni Child Brides

Okay, this is just freaky! A Yemeni girl went to court to get a divorce. But she's only eight years old! In some societies it's not uncommon to have a marriage contract for children, but they don't actually do anything until they're of legal age. Well, Yemen's legal age appears to be puberty. And it looks like the marriage was consummated (he's in his twenties). This is just so wrong I really don't know what to say about it. Women's groups are trying to get the government to pass a minimum age law, but nothing has happened yet. Read the Yemen Times article here.

More BAE Nonsense

This is the story that does not end. See my previous posts. Here's the link to the latest update. In short, BAE (a British company) was going to supply fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. Apparently, though, these jets contain many American parts. So the US government is getting involved. The linked article is an interesting summary of what's been going on. The whole thing is a fiasco.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lefty Jews Get Voice

The US has a new Jewish lobby. The current big lobby, AIPAC, is pretty conservative and the new lobby is more left-wing. They're called J Street, and the executive director was an adviser to former President Clinton. I wish J Street good luck.

Pope Parody Pulled

The Metro website in Washington took down an advertisement that parodies the pope, after the local Archdiocese contacted them [edit: see video on the linked site]. The ad was to convince people to ride the metro, and had a bobble-head pope taking an escalator. Metro's excuse for removing the ad is that the bobble-head used was not "authorized" merchandise, and the pope's robes were not correct on it. Hmm.... I'm pretty sure that the Islamic prophet Muhammad did not wear a "turban" and it certainly did not look like a bomb. The West has been screaming Freedom of Speech for all the anti-Muslim cartoons, but we can't do a simple goofy advertisement with a bobble-head pope? What's controversial about that?

Pay no attention to the man in the brothel

Fun news! The chief of police for Tehran (Iran) was caught red-handed with 6 naked women in a brothel. But wait - there is no prostitution in Iran! At least not officially. Apparently prostitution is growing though.

One more thing on Sderot

Former President Jimmy Carter was in Sderot recently, and he condemned the rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. He also met with Hamas, which has gotten him a lot of flack. I would like to point out a few things though: First of all, the US and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist organization, not everyone does. Secondly, Fatah was also a terrorist organization and the US worked with them and Arafat. Thirdly, the entire world led freaking Milosevic stay in power for years! But we can't try and deal with Hamas.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Gaza & Sderot

One quick link. Just found this blog about Gaza & Sderot:

Health Problems

You may have noticed my blogging has been hit or miss recently. I'm having a few health problems, so it will probably be that way for at least another week, maybe two. If you don't want to be checking back all the time, subscribe to my RSS feed. I hope to be back soon, because there's a lot going on in the Middle East right now.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Is Peace Possible?

Two women have been corresponding, one in Palestine and one in Israel, through the BBC. The first letter was published in March, the second was last week. To me, reading their letters is indicative of the entire problem. Both sides have valid points, but can't seem to relate to what the other is saying. There's an expression in the US, put yourself in someone else's shoes - neither side has been able to do that. And I don't think peace is possible until both sides can.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Yarmulkes Oppress Jewish Men!

Religious Jewish men are forced to wear small skull caps on their heads. The more conservative are even forced to grow longer locks of hair over their ears. This is degrading and oppressive. How dare Judaism force this upon them!

If you can't tell, this is satire - I am NOT serious. This topic came up in a class recently and it got me thinking. Substitute hijab for yarmulke and Islam for Judaism. So women wearing headscarves is oppressive, but men wearing yarmulkes isn't? What about Penecostal (Christian denomination) women who are only allowed to wear skirts and can't cut their hair. Is that oppressive? Someone please tell me what the rules are so I know who's oppressed and who isn't. Oh wait - I guess I could ask individual people how they feel about wearing a hijab or yarmulke or long skirt. Nah - it's easier to just condemn their entire religions.

Qur'anic Snuff Film: Update II

UN chief Ban Ki-Moon has condemned the film. I'm glad to see common sense and good taste has prevailed. In general, I believe in everyone's right to believe whatever they want. But when they believe something that is not only hateful but completely WRONG, then I have a problem. If you want to hate someone, hate them for legitimate reasons.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Qur'anic Snuff Film: Update I

Remember the Dutch guy who made the propaganda film about Islam? Last week his website was shut down. And now, according to this BBC article he's posted it on a video website where you can watch it.

First of all, I included the link because I do believe in freedom of speech and some people may want to watch it. Secondly, I do not lightly call this a propaganda film - that is exactly what it is. He has graphic footage of terrorist attacks interspersed with the rantings of some radical Muslims and Qur'anic verses taken out of context. Are there some violent verses in the Qur'an? Yes. There are also violent verses in the Bible. And I don't mean in the Old Testament. Even the New Testament mentions the wrath of God for non-believers and Judgement Day, etc. But somehow I doubt that the filmmaker would have bothered to make an anti-Christian film featuring the IRA.

How's this for propaganda: a 3-year-old Muslim girl saying that Jews are apes and pigs because the Qur'an says so. While I haven't read the entire Qur'an, I am fairly confident that is does NOT say that. And a 3-year-old hasn't read the Qur'an either. But now there's a group of people who will think that the Qur'an does say that. How convenient.

I only made it about halfway through the film before I was so disgusted that I had to stop. Now, I'm not trying to say that there aren't radicals out there who are crazy and anti-Western. But the majority of Muslims are not! There are some crazies, and they do horrible things in the name of God. And their numbers have dramatically increased since the US entered Iraq. As for anti-Jewish feelings, most of that goes back to 1948 and the creation of Israel. Most Muslims are good, decent people trying to live their lives as best they can. And propaganda shit like this makes it harder for them and easier for the radicals, because then the radicals can say "those Westerners hate Islam and are trying to destroy us" and they'd be correct. Hate crimes against Muslims have increased in the US.

As a last thought, let me leave you with this: Would you judge all Christians by David Koresh, or the people who blow up abortion clinics, or the IRA, or Warren Jeffs? Koresh and Jeffs had/have good size followings, and the IRA was responsible for a lot of deaths. But Christians aren't judged by that. But if you're not a Christian, then you're judged by whomever in your religion can talk the loudest. And nothing is louder than a terrorist's bomb.

Monday, March 24, 2008

News Round-up Again

Gee, I take a few days off for Spring Break and hordes of things happen.

Remember that guy in Morocco who pretended to be a prince (link and update) on Facebook? Well, he's been freed.

The Foreign Minister for Switzerland, who happens to be female, caused a scandal because she dared to wear a headscarf when she visited Ahmadinejad in Iran. Gasp! Wait a minute, isn't that the law in Iran? And if she hadn't worn it, she probably wouldn't have been able to move around or even see Ahmadinejad? But I suppose it's better to condemn her because headscarves are cruel and oppressive.

Saudi Arabia has decided to "retrain" about 40,000 prayer leaders, in an effort to fight radical Islam. We'll see how that goes. And if I can find the link, Saudi Arabia has also just opened up the first all-female hotel, for women.

And in more Gulf news, Air Emirates will now allow you to use your mobile phone to make calls in flight.

Canada is having a battle over free speech. Personally, I'm kind of split over the issue. On the one hand, you have a major newspaper columnist spouting hate speech, which is his right (but should it be printed?). On the other hand, you have Muslims who are tired of hearing the hate speech. What do you do? One thing I like to do is to change the wording to focus on other groups. Sometimes words may not seem racist or prejudiced, but if you change the target group, then you can see the bigotry. If you want a good example, see this case (YouTube clip), which involves a state representative in Oklahoma saying that gays are ruining the country and are a threat worse than terrorism or Islam, and then claiming that's not prejudiced (bashing gays, not bashing Muslims). A blogger from her state switched the word "homosexuals" for the word "Jews" to show how bigoted her statement was.

Last, but not least, the BBC has video interviews with 5 Iraqis.

Monday, March 17, 2008

News Round-up

I'm back! I missed a lot this past week, so I'm just going to do a news round-up (unless mentioned, these are from BBC News).

The Middle East's Assymetric War (Palestine-Israel)

'National Crisis' for Iraqi Women

BBC Pictures Click on picture #5 for Iraqi policewomen, veiled. Click #6 for Iraqi girls playing football/soccer. Yes, Muslim women can work as police officers and they can play athletics.

Saudi Women Make Video Protest

Qatar Pushes for Universal Health Coverage (Gulf Times)

Turkey and Iraq Take a Step at a Time (Asia Times)

Markets Await Top Court Action (Turkish Daily News) - yes, the US market affects a lot of countries, and weird stuff is going on in Turkey.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Got several deadlines this week, so blogging may be slow.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Islamophobia on Primetime

Primetime, a news show on ABC (if you can call any of them "news" shows these days) has been doing special What Would You Do? episodes. They set up situations and see how ordinary people react. There was one a week or two ago about Islamophobia. A woman in a hijab walks into a bakery and the clerk refuses to serve her because she's Muslim and might be a terrorist.

If I remember their results correctly, I think 12 people stood up for the woman, and 6 people said the clerk was right to refuse service. What's more disturbing to me is that over 20 people stood by and did NOTHING. Maybe they didn't care, or maybe they were scared of what others might think of them if they did stand up for a Muslim. That bothers me.

Check out Primetime's Common Misunderstandings About Muslims.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Top Stories 3/03

Al-Ahram (Egypt): Days of Fury - there's an Arab League meeting coming soon, and the Arab nations are becoming more polarized.

Middle East Newsline: Syria ordering MiGs from Russia.

Azzaman (Iraq): Baghdad sees unprecedented quiet during Ahmadinejad's visit.

Yemen Times: Peasants plight ongoing despite protest - a human rights organization is staging a sit-in.

Female Wedding Official in Egypt

I saw this a few days ago but haven't gotten around to posting it until now. A woman in Egypt has been appointed as a wedding official: she officiates at weddings. It's described as being something like a notary, and she might be the first woman to do this. She also has a Master's degree in Law, which probably helps. Her name is Amal Soliman and she's 32 years old. Kudos to Ms. Soliman!

Gaza Quick Roundup 3/03

Tons of Gaza articles on the Beeb: interviews with Palestinians, options for Israel, and the ongoing operation in Gaza, and the articles I posted a few days ago.

Who says men have all the power?

Humorous news out of Iran. When you marry, there is a marriage contract between the man and woman, and the woman's dowry is listed. She can ask for it at any time, or if she wants a divorce. A woman just went to court to force her husband to pay the dowry he owes her - 124,000 roses! His apartment has been confiscated by police until he pays up. I feel for the husband, but he shouldn't have agreed to that dowry if he couldn't afford it.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Gaza Going Up?

Things are deteriorating over in Palestine/Israel. Israel was attacked by a bunch of rockets from Gaza, so they responded. About 7 Israelis were hurt, and over 150 Palestinians. Abbas has broken relations with Israel - which is interesting since he's Fatah and Gaza is controlled by Hamas. People in Gaza are pretty upset - more info on the situation. Info on the attack by Israel. Israel has threatened to invade, and Hamas says they are ready.

Al-Ahram (Egypt) says a third intifada may be close. Gulf Times (Qatar) article. Turkish Daily News - protests in Gaza.

Islam and Freedom

A few stories of interest:

Iran has been targeting activist women's groups.

A new study says that Muslims do want freedom and democracy, but they don't want it forced upon them. Wow, what a concept. We want freedom, but we don't want someone else telling us what it means or forcing us to accept what they want (because that's not really freedom is it?). I am taking this study with a little grain of salt. It's part of a book, and one of the authors sometimes comes across as a bit of an apologist.

The US is sending a warship to Lebanon! This is "a show of support for regional stability." Nothing says stability like a warship off your coast! (Yes, the Gator is a bit snarky today.) It's a little disturbing that the ship is the USS Cole (the one that was bombed in Yemen years ago).

Friday, February 29, 2008

Gulf Quick Roundup

Bahrain is having some problems. They are majority Shia, but the government is Sunni. There were some protests in December demanding compensation for abuses committed in the 1980s and 1990s. A protester died, which sparked more protests, and over a dozen men were arrested. They claim they've been tortured, and this is sparking more protests. Articles from BBC and Gulf News (Note: I can't find the article now. The title was "Lawyer demands medical tests for 'tortured' Bahraini Shias").

Gulf Workers (read "cheap immigrant labor") are trying to get more rights. Some have been sent to jail for protesting. In the rich Gulf countries, most of the actual work is done by laborers from Southeast Asia. They aren't paid well and they're quite often treated like crap.

Gaza Quick Roundup

Israel is still trying to halt the rocket attacks out of Gaza. And the water authority in Gaza has issued a warning, because they're out of things like chlorine, to clean the water. They've issued a boil warning.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Human Chain in Gaza

BBC has some interviews with people who took part in the human chain protest in Gaza. I think what annoys me the most is that Americans don't seem to be paying any attention to what it going on over there. Yes, some of these people are terrorists - but not all of them are! And everyone is paying the price. They are trapped in their own "country" and are slowly starving. How can we support this?

Turkey Revises Islam

This is pretty interesting. Turkey is having scholars look at the Hadith and revise it. The Hadith are sayings (hadith) that supposedly come from Muhammad. They have been looked at and studied and analyzed. They are usually accompanied by a list of names describing the transmission of the statement. Example: Abdul said that his father heard this saying of Muhammad from Samir who heard it from his uncle Ali, etc. etc. Scholars have looked at them and tried to determine their accuracy. For instance, by checking out the people involved: Abdul's father had a good reputation, but Samir's uncle Ali didn't, so this saying might be true, but we're not sure. Or Ali had a great reputation as an honest man so it's probably true. That's how the Hadith came about.

Well, Turkey is taking another look at them. Some people are even comparing this to the Protestant Reformation. Personally, I think they do need another look. A lot of old religious works (including the Bible) are often taken out of context, because times have changed a lot since they were written. The Turks even give an example of their own: one of the hadiths says that women should not travel on their own. But that was written at a time when it was not safe for a woman to travel alone - it's not a religious requirement. But today some governments and men use this to control women's movements. I'm hoping this new look will help Islam and not cause a backlash, since the Turks have a secular reputation.

Update V: To Headscarf or not to Headscarf

This is the story that just won't end. The headscarves have been approved, but not everyone is following the new law. Also, headscarf means a scarf that ties under the chin, not the hijab or a some bigger covering. And the Turks are freaking out over this! I would find the whole thing amusing if I wasn't so concerned over the outcome.

Education in the Middle East

More info on education - specifically Egypt and Syria. BBC News has short interviews with a man whose daughters are being educated in Syria, and a woman educated in Egypt. Both have dual British-citizenship, and a British parent.


BBC News has a fascinating article on transsexuals in Iran. Apparently homosexuality is illegal and condemned, but transsexuality is a disease. And the treatment is a sex-change operation. That doesn't necessarily mean the family approves, but hey, they don't always accept it in the US either. I found the article really interesting. I had assumed that transsexuals would face the same discrimination as homosexuals - legally, I mean. Socially is a different story.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Top Stories 2/25

I think I'll make this a weekly feature: the top stories from various newspapers.

Algeria Daily (part of the World News Network) - OPEC will meet in March to decide what to do about their oil output levels.

Asia Times - article about Turkey going into Iraq after Kurdish terrorists. A rather convenient distraction from the headscarf issue.

Gulf News (UAE) - also about the Turkey-Kurdish situation and how the Kurds feel about US involvement.

Syria Today - Syria has completed its first section of the Arab Gas Pipeline.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Kuwaitis Shouldn't Go To Lebanon

Kuwait is following in Saudi Arabia's footsteps by advising it's citizens not to travel to Lebanon. There was a threat to the Kuwaiti embassy and they've had some trouble in parliament. I may discuss the situation in Lebanon in a different post.

Update IV: To Headscarf or not to Headscarf

The president of Turkey just signed the new law so that women can wear headscarves at the university now. More info in my earlier posts:
Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4

Don't Pretend to be a Prince: Update I

Here's the original post. The update is that the guy did get jail time. He says he was beaten in jail, and Moroccan bloggers held a day of silence for him.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Women Should Drive

Two Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia have publicly stated that there is nothing in Islam to prevent women from driving. They say a few more problems need to be worked out, but women should be able to drive.

It's the Gays' Fault!

Bizarre story out of Israel. A conservative religious MP is blaming the earthquake activity there on homosexuality. Apparently tolerating gay people has angered the Almighty.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Top Stories 2/18

I thought I would try something different today. Here are the top stories (physically at the top of the website) from a variety of newspapers across the Middle East.

Al-Ahram (Egypt): 3rd anniversary of the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. Things are heating up in Lebanon.

Asia Times (no update today because of holiday): Iraq's oil minister Shahristani.

Gulf Times (Qatar): the ruler of Qatar got an award for outstanding Islamic contribution from the Grand Mufti of Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Tehran Times (Iran): Iran & UAE are trying to improve ties.

Turkish Daily News (Turkey): Should alcohol consumption be banned in the media?

Don't Pretend to be a Prince

A man in Morocco is under arrest and will probably go to jail. Apparently he set up a Facebook account in the name of a Moroccan prince. Sounds like he's in pretty hot water.


Israel arrested some Palestinians in Gaza.

And the UN is really worried about what's going on in Gaza. Yes, there are terrorists there, but do you have to starve the population to get to them?

Saudis in BAE, but not in Lebanon

There's an update on the whole BAE-Saudi Arabia scandal. See Post 1 (Jan 2007), Post 2 (June 2007), and Post 3 (June 2007).

Also, Saudi Arabia is telling its citizens not to visit Lebanon right now. Who knows what's going to happen next in Lebanon. It's getting crazy.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Free Fouad Top Post

I wanted to keep this near the top. Please read my post on Fouad al-Farhan and Fouad's Week.

BBC article on Fouad

Media Code Bad

Al Jazeera is speaking out against a new media code that the Arab world has come up with. See their article here. Basically the new code says that if a satellite news company does something against "the rules" then the government can suspend their license. But these rules are somewhat vague. As in, don't "damage social harmony." There are 22 member states in the Arab League and so far only Qatar and Lebanon are speaking out against it. Al-Jazeera is located in Qatar.

Qur'anic Snuff Film

Iran wants the Netherlands to ban a new Dutch film. The film's creator, who is a member of the Dutch Parliament, "says his film will show the Muslim holy book is an inspiration for murder." Well, so is the Christian Bible. But if this movie was about the Bible, first of all, the Pope would weigh in. Then the many Christians in America would lobby and boycott it. And most people in the US wouldn't take it seriously. But if you make this movie about the Qur'an, then most Americans will go, "oh, so that's why they're so violent over there. That's why they're all terrorists." And no, I'm not exaggerating. I teach at a university. One semester I gave extra credit for students who went to one of several lectures on Islam and wrote a little essay on it. Quite a few of those essays came back with "I had no idea all Muslims weren't terrorists" or "I had no idea Islam is actually a peaceful religion." It was frightening how little is known about Islam in America.

Friday, February 15, 2008

More Muhammad Cartoons

A newspaper in Denmark has reprinted those cartoons that ticked off the Muslim world last year two years ago.

UPDATE: See this article about the issue making it onto Facebook.

I firmly believe in freedom of speech. But I also believe that just because you CAN say something doesn't mean that you SHOULD (or print in this case). It wouldn't bother me quite so much except that I heard (no actual facts) that the newspaper in question had previously rejected a cartoon of Jesus. And in America there is a large religious group that would be extremely offended if they saw a cartoon of, say, Jesus in bed with another man. But when it's Muslims, we tell them they can't take a joke. I guess my final comment is that the cartoon shouldn't be printed, because it is SO offensive to a lot of Muslims. We should have enough sensitivity not to make tacky jokes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


This one still blows my mind. A woman in Saudi Arabia was accused of being a witch and found guilty and sentenced to death. At one point an appeals court decided she shouldn't be sentenced to death, but that was changed. Human Rights Watch is appealing for her. She's illiterate and was originally detained by the religious police in Saudi Arabia. This is one of those stories that you hear about and just can't quite believe it's happening in the 21st century. Hopefully the king will do something.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Free Fouad Top Post

I wanted to keep this near the top. Please read my post on Fouad al-Farhan and Fouad's Week.

Terrorist Killed

I'm sure you've all seen this by now: Mughniyeh was killed/assassinated in Syria. This guy was a well-known terrorist, and no great loss to the world. The only question is: Who did it? So far suspicion is on the US and Israel. Personally, I'd bet on Israel. This wouldn't be the first terrorist they've killed, and they have a lot more incentive than the US.

An Arab City in Israel

Israel's Interior Minister has come up with an idea to build an "Arab City" in Israel. There are a number of Arabs who are Israeli citizens; about 20% of the population or 1.2 million according to the BBC article.

I'm really split on this issue. On the one hand, a new city sounds great. On the other, my cynical side says "this is a way to get rid of some of the Arab population." Think about it. How would you feel if the US Interior Secretary, a white man, said he wanted to build a "Black City" north of Washington, D.C.? You'd be screaming racism. So is it different for Arabs?

Let's All Blame the Terrorists

A friend pointed this out to me: Did terrorists cause the housing mess? At first I thought it would be on Fox Faux News, but it's actually on MSN. It's not a completely crazy propaganda article, it's actually serious and thought out. That doesn't mean I agree with it. I doubt that al-Qaeda timed the attack for economic reasons. The actual economic mess probably isn't even icing on the cake for them, more like sprinkles on the icing. Economics isn't my strong suit so I'll let you judge for yourself.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Archbishop of Crazybury

What the hell is going on with the Archbishop of Canterbury? First he says that Britain should allow some people to use Sharia law if they want to. Then the former Archbishop disagrees with him. Then the Archbishop says he meant what he said, but some people misunderstood him.

I, for one, do not think Sharia law is "unavoidable" in Great Britain. I also think that the law is the law and should apply to everyone. If you start allowing Sharia, where will it end? Will other religions want to have their rules applied? What if there's a cross-religious event? Then which law would you use? This is such a can of worms, and it should never be opened.

What's in your Laptop?

This is sort of Middle East related. Apparently some people are being screened more than others when they enter the US. Their laptops, mobiles, etc. are checked and possibly copied? They don't know what happens to them. And it sounds like it's mostly those darn brown-skinned people who are affected. Remember, all brown-skinned people are terrorists. Or is that all Muslims are terrorists? I have trouble keeping those straight.

Saudi Arabia Bans Valentine's Day

Well, not really the day, but everything associated with it. They claim it's un-Islamic, and it encourages unmarried men and women to fraternize. Remember, unmarried women and men can't intermingle in the Kingdom.

British Pakistanis Claim Islamophobia

Okay, this one annoys me. If you read my blog, you'll notice that often I'll explain what's going on in the Middle East and why it's not crazy or weird. Well, this is one of the opposite times. A British minister made a comment about how first-cousin marriages cause more birth defects. Apparently the Pakistani community in Britain took offense to that. The Muslim Public Affairs Committee even asked the Prime Minister to fire the guy.

Analysis: This is totally ridiculous!!! It is well known that when you marry your first cousin you are more likely to have children with birth defects. Just because your culture allows and even prefers that, does not change the facts. And claiming Islamophobia just detracts from the REAL cases of Islamophobia. Get a clue! They also have valid statistics showing that the Pakistani community has a much higher percentage of birth defects than the rest of the British population. This is so ridiculous it's almost painful.

Emirati News

1) Abu Dhabi is trying to create a Green City: no cars, no waste, no carbon. We'll see how that works out. Some people are claiming it's just a stunt.

2) Be careful when you visit the United Arab Emirates. Dubai has arrested a number of people lately for carrying drugs. And when I say drugs, I mean tiny tiny amounts of marijuana, for example. One guy had something like 0.003 g in the tread of his shoe - so it probably wasn't even his. One woman was in jail for 2 months while she proved she had a prescription for codeine. One guy had poppy seeds from a bagel on his shirt. A lot of Europeans think that if you are caught with marijuana, you just plead guilty at trial and get deported. Not in the UAE - you get caught, you go to jail. The moral of the story is: don't carry any illegal drugs. If you carry legal drugs, even non-prescription ones, you might want to take only what you absolutely MUST have to survive. And get a detailed not from your physician saying what you are taking and why. Fair Trials International is trying to help some of these people. They also have a list of drugs/medications to avoid.

Poisoning Children in Iraq

This is so reprehensible it amazes me. Somebody made 2 cakes with thallium, a major poison, in it. And then several families ate the cakes. Several children died, and the British government flew in some antidote. Hopefully the rest will recover.

Coptic Convert Victory

More good news for Egyptians. In Islam, it's good to convert to Islam, but to convert away from Islam is considered apostasy, and that can really cause problems. Some Coptic Christians who converted to Islam, then wanted to convert back to Coptic Christianity, will be allowed to do so. Unfortunately, they're being allowed to do so because they were "born Christian." So not everybody can convert away from Islam.

Update: To Headscarf or Not To Headscarf? III

Yes, more news on the headscarf debate. Parliament approved an amendment to allow them in universities. This is a very divisive issue in Turkey. And Europe is weighing in on the issue since Turkey wants to join the EU. Turkey straddles Europe and Asia, and some Turks see themselves as European, not Middle Eastern. I have a friend who lived in Turkey for a number of years. He swears that the army is not about to overthrow the government. I'm not so certain.

Immolated Kurdish Women

Things aren't all rosy in Kurdistan. There are a number of women trying to commit suicide by burning themselves to death. Read the BBC article here.

Where to begin?

I had intended to leave up the Free Fouad II post all week, but there is so much going on I feel the need to post about it. Please read the post about Fouad al-Farhan, though, and sign the petition. I would also like to address the dearth of postings on Iraq. I haven't been ignoring Iraq, but there is so much information in the mainstream media that I only post when something extra interesting happens.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Free Fouad II

This week is Fouad's Week. You may have noticed the quotes on the right side of my blog. They're all from Fouad al-Farhan. He's a blogger from Saudi Arabia, who blogs under his real name, not anonymously. He was arrested 2 months ago and it still being held in jail without being charged with a crime. I'm participating in Fouad's Week because he asked that he not be forgotten. Please go to his site and sign the petition to free him.

This is a copy of his post Why Do We Blog? (in English) :

Why Do We Blog?
  1. Because we believe we have opinions that deserve to be heard, and minds that should be respected.
  2. Because societies do not progress until they learn to respect opinions of their members. And we would like to see our society progressing.
  3. Because blogging is our only option. We do not have a free media, and freedom to assemble is not allowed.
  4. Because we want to discuss our opinions.
  5. Because we think.
  6. Because we care.
  7. Because blogging has had a positive effect on other societies and we want to see the same result in our society.
  8. Because blogging is a reflection of the life of society members. And we are alive.
  9. Because blogging is gaining increasing attention from media and governments. We want them to listen to us.
  10. Because we are not scared.
  11. Because we reject the cattle mentality.
  12. Because we welcome diversity of opinions.
  13. Because the country is for all, and we are part of it.
  14. Because we want to reach out to everyone.
  15. Because we refuse to be an “echo”.
  16. Because we are not any less than bloggers in other societies.
  17. Because we seek the truth.
  18. Because our religion encourages us to speak out.
  19. Because we are sick and tired of the Saudi media hypocrisy.
  20. Because we are positive.
  21. Because blogging is a powerful tool that can benefit society.
  22. Because we are affected and we can affect.
  23. Because we love our country.
  24. Because we enjoy dialogue and don’t run away from it.
  25. Because we are sincere.

Friday, February 8, 2008


Many people haven't heard of the Baha'i faith. They're a relatively new religion that started in Persia. Just like Christianity descended from Judaism, and Islam descended from those, the Baha'i faith is another offshoot. It's a universal faith that accepts Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and some others as being paths along the way to the final true religion - Baha'i.

The Baha'is I've met are very nice people and the religion is very peaceful and pretty tolerant. Unfortunately, the Baha'is are being persecuted in several Muslim countries, especially Iran. Islam allows people to convert to Islam, but you're not supposed to convert to something else. That's a crime (and before you start bitching about Islam, think about what could happen to Christians who wanted to convert to a different religion). So the Baha'is in some Muslim countries are former Muslims and face persecution. Well, they just won a small victory in Egypt.

The Egyptian government only allowed Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to be listed on identity cards (this started in the 1990s). So if you wanted an ID card, and weren't one of those 3 religions, you either had to lie or just not get one. But if you're stopped by the police they can demand that you produce an ID card, and if you don't have one that's a criminal offense. Well, the court in Egypt just changed that policy. Now you can get an ID card that does NOT list your religion. Hopefully the government won't appeal. This is good news for any Egyptians who aren't members of the Big Three religions.