Monday, February 27, 2006

On the attack on the shrine of shii Imams

Last Wednesday was a very sad day for millions of Iraqis, both shia and sunni, and millions of shia muslims worldwide. A major shii shrine in the city of Samarra has been blown up in a horrific attack that transformed the beautiful golden dome that used to adorn the city's skyline into shambles [click here for pictures of the shrine before and after the bombing, and here for a overview of the history of the shrine]. Despite calls from Grand Ayatollah Sistani for restraint, angry shii gunmen have reportedly attacked sunni mosques, killing several dozen people. (According to the author of the Iraq the Model blog, angry shia mobs targeted mosques that are known to be attended by takfiri/wahabi/salafi groups, and did not harm mosques belonging to the more traditional iraqi sunnis.)

An image that will remain in my memory for a long time: the one of Abdulghafour Samarrai, a sunni sheikh, leading a protest in Samarra after the explosion, weeping. Thank you sheikh. Your tears came from the heart and gave a good example of how genuine solidarity between fellow muslims across the sectarian divide expresses itself during difficult times. I am sure that, in the absence of salafi zealots [part1, part2], who inflict atrocities on iraqi shia almost everyday, Iraq's problems would find a straightforward way to peaceful settlement.

Update, February 28: Interesting article by Jihad al Khazen in today's al Hayat on the situation in Iraq after the shrine bombing.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad : the controversy goes on

Before I go to sleep, a quick update: the editor in chief of Jyllands-Posten, Carsten Juste, has written a public apology [english, arabic] for the offending cartoons of Prophet Muhammad published by his newspaper last September. While the cartoons have been reprinted by several European newspapers, the Editor-in-chief of the Frech daily France soir has reportedly been fired by the newspaper's owner, Egyptian magnate Raymond Lakah.

I now have to go to bed. More to come tomorrow. In the meantime, you are welcome to post any thoughts or comments you might have :-)

Update - Friday, Ferbruary 3, 2006
[I had written this update yesterday, but for some reason it did not get published :( - sorry for the inconvenience]

The uproar over the offending cartoons now has spread to most of the Islamic world (click here for a slide show on protests that took place in Asia). In Gaza, gunmen burst into hotels in search of westerners to take as hostage, reports the Associated Press. For its part, the U.S. State Department has condemned the drawings and urged for tolerance. And while Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said EU leaders have a responsibility to "clearly condemn" insults to any religion, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy with his usual, despicable arrogance said that he preferred "an excess of caricature to an excess of censorship".

On the religious side, Sheikh Youssouf al-Qardawi has issued a statement calling on arab countries to put pressure on the Danish government so as to ensure that such insults do not take place again in the future. On the other hand, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has issued a statement calling on muslims to react to these odious caricatures which debase our most fundamental beliefs. The statement acknowledged that the actions of a devious minority of extremists have given non-muslims a very bad picture of Islam, and has provided the bigots with an excuse to distord the truth and bash this religion of peace and justice. I personally found this last statement to be very balanced, as it did not shift all the blame on the West, but put part of the responsibility on the muslim extremists as well.

And last, but not least: two opinion pieces I found interesting. The first one is by a western political activist, and the second one by a Syrian diplomat. Happy reading!

Second Update - February 7, 2006

So now, after angry rioters have set the Danish consulates in Beirut and Damascus ablaze, in an ironic twist of events it incumbed to the Syrian and Lebanese governments to present their apologies to the Danish people, not the other way around.

Today, an iranian newspaper has indicated that it will hold a contest on cartoons about the holocaust, to see whether the West can uphold the same standards of freedom of speech in its attitude toward this historical event as it did with the offending cartoons. I think we already know what will the reaction of the west be, one that is full of contempt and hypocrisy.

And, according to Jihad al-Khazen, these same muslims who are reacting so violently to these cartoons have missed out when it came to reacting to the organized campaign of islamophobic propaganda waged against them and their governments in the West. Muslims: waaaaaaaaaaaake upppp!!!

Prominent Jewish leader condems the offensive caricatures about Prophet Muhammad

In today's issue of al-Hayat, an interesting article by Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, about the offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which appeared in a Danish newspaper a couple weeks ago. The caricatures had sparked outrage from the muslim community in Denmark as well as from muslims all over the world. In his article, Mr. Bronfman argues that freedom of expression should not be used in a malicious way to ridicule or insult the religious beliefs of others, especially when those targeted are in minority status. While I might disagree on Mr. Bronfman's position on the middle-east conflict, I think this article is a noble moral gesture of support for the muslims in these difficult times, and as such is worthy of respect.