Conservative Muslims believe that women should cover their heads to hide their beauty and not tempt the men who see them. Such instructions are spelled out in the Koran, the Islamic holy book.Spelled out? I don't think so.
I asked to invite these human rights organizations [that had reported on the abuses in Sinai] to come to the Council and give us a testimony about their report, to see how we could respond or interact with this report, and take a stand as a council against what was happening. He [Secretary General Mukhlis Qutb] refused to do this. He said that because the [Complaint] Committee's quorum was not complete-- only five out of 13 were present-- it's recommendation was invalid. This is not his decision. This is the decision of the council... He hasnâ€™t the right to intevene.At yesterday's meeting members also accused the government, specifically the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, and the general prosecutor's office of failing to respond to complaints from the NCHR. Abu Saada said that the Council has sent an estimated 2,500 complaints regarding specific human rights abuses to various government bodies. The government has responded to only 100 of those complaints, and those responses have been casual dismissals of the original complaint. The Interior Ministry, by far the recipient of the most complaints, has yet to respond to a single complaint, according to Abu Saada. Abu Saada said:
If you look at the replies that weâ€™ve received from the government there are no solutions to the problems. All they say is this man has no right to complain, or this man must go to the court. And we haven't received any reply from the Minister of Interior which is the main complaint for violations committed by the police, or regarding illegal detentions, or the situation in the prisons.As far as trying to gauge the National Council for Human Rights' independence the Sinai case is a telling example. It wouldn't be surprising if Abu Saada is right about the Council's leadership squashing any attempt to broach the issue. The human rights abuses in Sinai, and the alleged large-scale arrests and torturing of Bedouins there, was and continues to be a very sensitive topic. Remember that one of the more popular theories as to why the editor of Al Araby Al Nassery was abducted, beaten and left naked in the desert, was that he had tackled this subject in his weekly column. When I interviewed Nawal al Saadawi a few weeks ago she talked briefly about the National Council for Human Rights and summarized the matter very simply. Said Al Saadawi:
How can the government protect human rights and then violate human rights? The government is violating human rights. So how can the government establish a council to protect human rights. This is a contradiction.
CAIRO (Reuters) - One man died and two others were injured in uncertain circumstances in southern Egypt, a police source said on Thursday, in the latest in a series of clashes between Muslims and Christians in Egypt.
The source said the clash took place on Wednesday when dozens of Muslims threw stones at a private building in Damshaw Hashim village, some 240 km (150 miles) south of Cairo, which they believed a Christian resident was turning into a church without state permission.
Police arrived at the scene and fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd, the source said.Al Hayat reported that the Musim villagers blamed the Copts for the violence, and the Copts blamed the police officers for the shooting. I haven't been covering this story, but based on assorted conversations I've had with people who have been following it more closely than I, it seems the Copts are not really winning this battle from a public relations perspective. This is a purely anecdotal analysis mind you, but generally there is an inclination on our parts to sympathize with the Copts as the oppressed minority. However, this whole affair, beginning with the conversion of the bishop's wife, and the protests, and her being pressured to convert back, and the pope going into seclusion in protest, and now this... well there doesn't seem to be much public sentiment with the Copts, even among people are inclined to side with the Copts. There is a sense that the pope overreacted, and that, throughout this affair the Copts have shown themselves to be just as fanatical as their Muslim counterparts.
Tantawi told Al Masry Al Yom following the announcement that Dr. Nawal Al Saadawi had declared her candidacy in the upcoming presidential elections: It is the right of a woman to become president of any state in the world, as long as that is compatible with her special nature, because the Islamic Sharia does not deny the woman the right to hold any specific positions or employment. It only stipulates that the work must be appropriate to her nature.The following day, last Monday, Al Masry Al Yom reported that Ali Gomaa, the Mufti of Egypt, and Yussuf Al Qaradawi had rejected Tantawi's fatwa. Here is a translation of their response as reported by Al Masry Al Yom:
Gomaa said: Reality reflects the ability of the man to be president of the state effectively, and to make difficult decisions.
Qaradawi said: It is not acceptable for a woman to be president of the state at all, because her nature does not allow her to carry out the tasks of the presidency, or to adminster the affairs of the country, or to oversee the needs of the people. A woman's emotions overcome her mind, and this is why her testimony in Islam is only half that of a man's testimony, as evident in the saying of the prophet: "If there are not two men available, then bring one man and two women."
Qaradawi added: The pain and the physical tiring that a woman suffers from during her monthly period prevent her from carrying out her duties and following the affairs of her subjects.
To stress his opinion rejecting Tantawi's fatwa Qaradawi cited the prophet as saying: "A people will not succeed if their leader is a woman."
Gomaa and Qaradawi agreed on rejecting the candidacy of Dr. Nawal Al Saadawi, and indicated that if it was okay for a woman to be presdient, it wouldn't be Nawal Saadawi.Defending these people as moderates is a disservice to Islam. When people who have no exposure to Islam except what they read in the Western media see people like Qaradawi repeatedly deemed a moderate, they conclude that the backward ideas mentioned above are really what Islam is about. Of course Qaradawi does not deserve to be in the same category as a Zarqawi or a Zawahiri, but I cannot bring myself to consider him a moderate. I also want to respond to Tantawi's fatwa. He said that it is acceptable for a woman to be the president, but not a sheikh at Al Azhar. In other words, a woman can be the political leader of Muslims, but cannot be their spiritual leader. But from it's earliest days Islam endowed its political leader with spiritual authority. The political leader and the spiritual leader were one and the same. The early caliphs had both temporal authority and spiritual authority.
Even Hicham Chehab, news editor of the Beirut Daily Star, a newspaper obviously dedicated to Arab interests, was forced to admit early this month that "During the controversial visit to Britain last July by Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, himself accused of sanctioning suicide bombers, Ramadan defended Qaradawi on the BBC television program 'Hard Talk.'"This implies that a) even the Daily Star was forced to admit something negative about Ramadan, as if he's not controversial at all in the Arab world; b) Ramadan defending Qaradawi automatically makes him pro-suicide bombers; and c) doesn't even examine the controversy about what Qaradawi actually said (again Abu Aardvark has a lot on this.) I am not a fan of Tariq Ramadan. I do think he is more dangerous than some people say he is, but not in the way that is usually thought of. Ramadan poses absolutely no danger to the US or to the students of Notre Dame University -- indeed, he would have been an asset, as he is an extremely intelligent and articulate Islamist thinker who can express his thoughts in other languages than Arabic with probably much greater ease than most Arab scholars. I also think that America is better than banning someone for what essentially is a "thought crime" -- after all the man hasn't done anything illegal or violent. That being said, any real danger that Ramadan poses is with European Muslims. Taking France as an example, it is remarkable that the most prominent French Muslim institution, the Conseil du Culte Musulman, is dominated by Moroccans and Algerians but espouses a distinctly international form of Islamism akin to the thinking of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. That's where Ramadan's influence comes in. The fact is that Arab immigrants to Europe who are religious have practically no choice but to turn to mosques dominated by thinkers and preachers whose ideas are the highly abstracted, intellectual kind of the Muslim Brotherhood rather than Islam as practiced by their parents and grandparents. This article [French] in the Moroccan weekly Le Journal has the details. This does not mean that I link Ramadan with the violent, extremist trend in European Islam, but simply that he represents a kind of Muslim Brotherhood-type thinking that I absolutely reject. Furthermore, as a Moroccan I think it's a shame that religious Moroccan immigrants don't retain the "popular" Moroccan Islam (with its strong animist and Sufi influences) rather than adopt these ideas. But of course, that is their choice -- although it is limited by the dominance of a Ramadan-like discourse among European Muslim thinkers. There are a lot of interesting comments below the Agonist article which take issue with some of these issues and others, it's worth reading them -- but it's a shame the author of the article chose to rely on the above sources. My own feeling in the "Is Tariq Ramadan a reformist or a fundamentalist?" debate is that he is both, and many people don't seem to get that this is not a contradiction. P.S. I've just received an advanced review copy of a French book on Ramadan, called Tarek Raman devoilé (Tariq Ramadan Unveiled) which claims to be a five-year investigation into the man. From the blurb I suspect it's mostly negative, and I'll post a small review once I've had the chance to read it.
The president, James Wolfensohn, said the bank is not imposing conditions, but that international donors want to see conditions improve to make the aid more effective.
"The donors, essentially, today, having gone through the intefadeh (Palestinian uprising), are going to want to feel that if they put in an additional $500 million (a year), that it's being done seriously and with an opportunity for a viable area," Wolfensohn told the Israeli daily HaaretzPerhaps the bank and other donors should reform the way they give aid to the Palestinians rather than link to abstract issues like "Palestinian reform" -- we are talking about an area where the authorities are not really in control of the situation. In the meantime, it seems a bit callous to delay aid when the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, are going through one of the worst humanitarian crisis in their history.
The survey found 44 percent favored at least some restrictions on the civil liberties of Muslim Americans. Forty-eight percent said liberties should not be restricted in any way.
The survey showed that 27 percent of respondents supported requiring all Muslim Americans to register where they lived with the federal government. Twenty-two percent favored racial profiling to identify potential terrorist threats. And 29 percent thought undercover agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations to keep tabs on their activities and fund-raising.
Cornell student researchers questioned 715 people in the nationwide telephone poll conducted this fall. The margin of error was 3.6 percentage points.Unsurprisingly:
The survey conducted by Cornell University also found that Republicans and people who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims' civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious.Arab-Americans, who are traditionally Republican, should remember this the next time they vote. If they will still be able to.
It had been assumed that Britain was also well-disposed towards Dr ElBaradei, who has said he plans to seek a third term next year as IAEA chief, but a well-placed Whitehall source revealed that officials had secretly backed US moves to replace him. The Foreign Office gave its support to the plan weeks ago, and the Department of Trade and Industry, in charge of Britain's nuclear regulation, was also behind the move, according to the source.
Dr ElBaradei has angered Britain and the US by contradicting their claims that Iraq was seeking to reconstitute its nuclear programme. The Foreign Office refused to comment, but behind the scenes it is justifying its decision to back the Americans on a technicality known as the "Geneva rule". This says senior UN officials should serve no more than two terms, which would bring Dr ElBaradei's tenure to an end next summer.Remember that a few weeks ago diplomats were leaking info to journalists in Vienna to discredit Baradei, even suggesting that he was helping covering up an Egyptian nuclear program. But we haven't heard anything since, have we?
Egyptian journalist Abdou Al Maghrabi, who works for the Sout Al Umma ('Voice of the Nation') broadsheet, faced a violent attack by a police officer in Abd el Moneim Riad square, next to Cairo's main square, Midan Al Tahrir, on Saturday night. The area was tightly guarded as Gamal Mubarak, son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, was due to pass by the area, and as passage of pedestrians was being checked and double-checked, by the time Al Maghrabi came to pass in front of the police, one officer grabbed him by the neck - unprovoked, and without confirmation of his identity - beat him, and threw him to the ground. All the while, the reporter was repeating the words "I am a journalist!", in the hope that the officer would stop. The officer went on unaltered.
Al Maghrabi went to register a complaint at the nearest police station, and made his way to the hospital.
From Sunday morning onwards, Al Maghrabi has staged a sit-in at the journalists' syndicate. He also organised an unannounced protest during which the lack of safety for all Egyptian citizens, including lawyers and journalists, was denounced. In particular, the protest condemned Gamal Mubarak as potential leader of Egypt - note that the Western press paints him out to be far more lenient and democratic than his father, but factors on the ground do not seem to indicate that this is true. Gamal Mubarak is being 'groomed' for the presidency.
On Monday morning, posters in the press syndicate annoucing Al MAghrabi's sit-in - which included a slogan "defend journalists' dignity" - were torn down. It is as yet unconfirmed whether central security was responsible.
The sit-in is still going on.This comes quite soon after Abdel Halim Qandil, the editor of Al Arabi, was taken to the desert outside Cairo, stripped and beaten up by unknown assailants who told him to stop writing about powerful people. It sounds like this latest case was not a targeted operation, but is telling of the lack of discipline and brutality of Egyptian police.
Authoritative sources directly involved in the matter revealed that the U.S. State Department had accused the UNDP of publishing "false accusations" against the U.S. in the third report, which is finalized and ready for printing. The report has been held up since October due to this political problem. Last year the U.S. cut its funding of the UNDP by $12 million, to $89 million, making it clear that the cut reflected its displeasure with some of the contents of the Arab Human Development Report (AHDR).
UN officials believe that the report as it stands now is factual and fair. It has already been heavily edited to meet normal UN standards of fairness and accuracy, and in its present form it describes the impact of the Israel-Palestine and Iraq situations on sentiments and public opinion in the Middle East. The UN's dilemma is that it could never edit or change the text sufficiently to reflect Washington's view that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is "a man of peace" and that the American presence in Iraq is an act of "liberation," as one person involved in this matter noted privately. Yet publishing the report as it is would lead to a severe funding cut.Khouri suggests that one option being considered is publishing the report under another institution. But either way, he says, the UNDP stands to be the major loser from this. In the meantime I will be meeting one of the report's main author's today or tomorrow. Stay tuned.