Friday, April 27, 2007

Will Peace Come to the Middle East?

Warning: Soap Box Moment

Without oversimplifying the complexity of the issues at play, I often think about whether I truly believe peace will come to the Middle East and the world as a whole.
Speaking specifically about the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is overshadowed by the events following the Neoconservative project that was to be Iraq, if one had asked me during the summer of 2003 I would have immediately replied, "Yes, peace will come."
On any given day now, one would be as likely to hear me mumble a "no, probably not" as realism sinks in after the events of the past year. I have a few shards of hope (you know who you are) but I've become increasingly cynical.
Hopefully I will be proven to be wrong. However, I think this is increasingly unlikely.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Aftermath: Sadr City, Baghdad

An Iraqi holds the remains of a page from a Qur'an at the site of a car bomb explosion in the Shi'i district of Sadr City, Baghdad. The blast was one of a series of bomb attacks which struck mainly Shi'i areas of the Iraqi capital city, leaving at least 120 dead last week.
[Photo by Wissam Al-Okaili/AFP/Getty Images ]

Thursday, April 19, 2007

In Memoriam

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Ordinary Lives in the Shadow of War

A young Afghan boy looks up with concern when he and his father are confronted by a member of the country's new security forces.

Since the fall of the Taleban in 2001, a number of home-based schools have started up, like this one in a village near Jalalabad. "We still lack everything," said one village teacher. "We need more school buildings, books and pens."
Students with handicaps face huge difficulties in Afghanistan. "They are normally shunned by society here and are rarely given the opportunity of an education," explains Karima Sorkhabi, from the International Rescue Committee which manages a programme to integrate blind and deaf children into ordinary schools. Seven-year-old Akhbar Hussein Anwar (left) is one of those to have benefited.

Saeema's husband was shot dead in a local dispute five years ago. "It was terrible," she says. "My children lost their father and I couldn't support them. I was forced to beg in my village."
An aid project has since provided Saeema, 32, with a cow that enables her to sell dairy products in the market. Today she gets nine litres of milk per day from her cow, earning her up to 6,000 Afghanis ($100) per month. She can also provide her children with fresh milk and cheese.

[Source: Pictures and script by Peter Biro, from the International Rescue Committee ]

Friday, April 13, 2007

Hundreds of Thousands of Iraqi Shi'a Rally Against U.S. Occupation

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis answered the call of Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr on April 9 to protest the continued American occupation of Iraq. Marching from the town of Kufah to Najaf in southern Iraq the protestors were read a statement by al-Sadr and proved, yet again, that they are a potent socio-political (and potentially paramilitary) force.
"Iraqi flags are evidence of Iraqis' unity, their pride in their country and their rejection of the occupation."
-Nassar al-Rubaie, chief al-Sadr faction parliamentarian

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Faces of Islam

An young Indonesian Muslim girl adjusts her mother's headscarf during congregational prayers at the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia on April 8. [Source: Reuters]

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Catholic Holy Week Processions in Seville

Semana Santa, or 'Holy Week', is the seven days for Christians from Palm Sunday through to Holy Saturday leading to Easter, and has been one of the most important celebrations in Seville, Southern Spain for centuries. The Cofradías (brotherhoods or fraternities) march in repentance through the narrow streets of the city from their church to the Cathedral of Seville and back, taking the shortest possible route as decreed in the rule of the ordinances by Cardenal Niño de Guevara in the 17th century.
In 2007, the Holy Week is from April 1 to April 8, with 57 brotherhoods paying religious visits to the Cathedral of Seville, the largest of all Roman Catholic cathedrals. Los Nazarenos [above], or Nazarenes, are members of the fraternities which make up the procession. They each wear an antifaz, the piece of cloth covering their faces, and a capirote, the cardboard cone inside the antifaz, keeping it upright on the head. The brotherhoods became the main bonding element of the neighbourhood or the parish. [All text from al-Jazeera]

Monday, April 02, 2007

New Kuwaiti Education Minister Takes Oath without Veil Despite Islamist Opposition

Kuwait's new education minister was greeted by protests as she took the oath of office, after she refused to wear a headscarf in parliament. A number of MPs shouted and jeered as Nuria al-Sbeih, Kuwait's second female cabinet member, completed her oath.
Reforms in May 2005 gave women the right to vote and run for office, but the law requires them to abide by unspecified Islamic rules. Many Kuwaiti women wear the veil, but Islamic dress is not mandatory. (Source: BBC News)

Commentary: It is a sad fact that many Muslims, male and female, continue to confuse personal piety with a head scarf (hijab) and/or the "face covering" (niqab) or even the cape-like Iranian chador or the Afghan/Pakistani all-enveloping burqa. Personal piety cannot be equated with 36 square-inches of cloth. Bravo to Minister Nuria al-Sbeih for rejecting the calls of those in the Kuwaiti parliament whose understandings of Islam and religious piety are so shallow.

Portrait of an Orientalist

British-born arch-Orientalist Bernard Lewis, whose superficial generalizations of the Middle East and Muslims belie his linguistic skills. Lewis was the intellectual backer of the Neoconservative plan to "democratize" Iraq and has been proven tragically mistaken in his severely flawed analysis. The darling scholar of the administration of current U.S. President George W. Bush, Lewis has a rabid if incredibly small cadre of supporters including Daniel Pipes and the transplanted Israeli ideologue Martin Kramer as well as Reul Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute.
However, he should be happy having recently received the Irving Kristol lifetime achievement award from the hard-right American Enterprise Institute.