Category: World News & Politics

King Abdullah Of Jordan: Monarch In The Middle Of Controversy

King Abdullah IIA feature on The Atlantic about King Abdullah II of Jordan, “The Modern King in the Arab Spring”, was all the fuss on Tuesday all over Jordan’s news sites and on social media.

As someone who lived, studied, worked and got married in Jordan; there’s always a little place in my heart for the country, and I tend to try and catch up on what’s going on there every now and then.

I only got to read the full feature, which is pretty long, yesterday; and whoa, was that something!
The full feature can be found here “The Modern King in the Arab Spring”, and for some quick highlights, you can check out the New York Times’ article.

The article basically lays out what the king thinks of the internal players in Jordanian politics, the tribal leaders (whom he calls Dinosaurs), the General Intelligence Department (GID), the royal family, regional leaders, the Muslim brotherhood and more, painting them all mostly in a negative light.
Now all of these things aren’t that shocking in the sense that the king or anyone else thinks that way, heck I agree with most of the opinions in the article; what’s more shocking is that they’re released and made public this way, bypassing any of the usual PR or diplomacy filters we’ve gotten so used to from political leaders and their offices.

After the article was published, the Royal Hashemite Court responded saying that the article included “many fallacies and took matters out of their correct context.” Jeffrey Goldberg, who wrote the piece, confirmed on Twitter that both he and the royal court have recordings of the interviews, and that they’re well in context.

All that in mind, I’m going to lean more towards thinking that the Royal Hashemite Court is just scrambling to contain and get rid of this internal nightmare situation, while the article remains mostly accurate.

Many people think that maybe the king’s comments were made off the record, and they do really seem like things that would be said off the record, rather than on the record; but I don’t think that’s the case, I actually think the king intended these comments to come out exactly the way they did.
Why he’d do that? What exactly the reasoning and objective behind it is, isn’t that clear; but what’s for sure is it’s quite a gamble.

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We Should Choose The Right Path, Not Just The Easy Path

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.

Barack Obama, ‘A New Beginning‘ Speech in Cairo

Robert Fisk: Leaders lie, civilians die, and lessons of history are ignored

We’ve got so used to the carnage of the Middle East that we don’t care any more – providing we don’t offend the Israelis. It’s not clear how many of the Gaza dead are civilians, but the response of the Bush administration, not to mention the pusillanimous reaction of Gordon Brown, reaffirm for Arabs what they have known for decades: however they struggle against their antagonists, the West will take Israel’s side. As usual, the bloodbath was the fault of the Arabs – who, as we all know, only understand force.

Robert FiskLeaders lie, civilians die, and lessons of history are ignored

[Via: AquaCool]

Wallys Izis, The First Car Entirely Built In Tunisia

A well kept secret, the “Wallys Izis” is the first car entirely built in Tunisia. For 18 months Zied Guiga was secretly conceiving and building in a workshop at La Marsa, north of Tunis, the prototype of what has already become a success story.
Inspired from Chrysler’s Jeep “Willys”, the car was recently shown at the Paris auto show (Salon Mondial de l’Automobile) where it has attracted considerable attention from both visitors and specialists.

With the exception of the engine, manufactured by Peugeot, the car was not only made in Tunisia, but used Tunisian made car parts (cables, body, joints, chassis, and mechanical parts). The manpower behind its building is also 100% Tunisian.

Wallys Izis

The “Wallys Izis” is a 3,25 m long, plastic panelled car with a 75 horse power Peugeot 1, 4 litre petrol engine. The engine is Euro 4 compliant and has a NCAP rating. It is ideal for off road leisure activities and boasts a 39 degree angle in climbing mode. Moreover, the car’s steel chassis has a 14 year anti- corrosion guarantee and its plastic body a lifetime guarantee. An electric version is available with a 90 km range.

The car’s sales manager for Europe is Rene Bosch, the inventor of the Dallas in the 80’s and a friend of Zied Guiga’s father. Incidentally it is a meeting with Rene Bosch that will trigger Zied’s urge to design and build the car.

The car comes at a price of 10,000 Euros (about 18,000 dinars) and its inventor hopes that the car will meet with similar enthusiasm from the Tunisian public during the forthcoming Tunis car show, next June, when a four door version of the off-roader will be presented to the public.

[Source: Tunisia Online News]

Islamic Finance Rides The Storm?

Yesterday, @deenworks sent me an interesting link on Twitter about how Islamic finance has been doing a lot better in these hard financial times.

I personally can’t claim that I have a full understanding of how Islamic finance works in detail, or how much difference there is between it and other financial systems; neither do I know if the difference is significant or not when it comes to the problems the financial world is facing these days; so I prefer not to analyze things from my side and just stick to sharing the article with you.

…Sharemarkets in London and New York are a third off their peaks. Dow Jones’s Islamic financials index, in contrast, rose 4.75 per cent in the most recent September quarter and lost a modest 7 per cent in the previous year.

Not only has the industry been resilient; it’s also on the cusp of serious expansion. It is growing faster than any other subset of world banking, at 15 to 20 per cent a year. The Economist estimates Islamic assets under management are worth $US700 billion ($1000 billion). This figure could hit $US1 trillion – about the Australian sharemarket’s current value – by 2010.

What’s more, all this growth has come from a model of lending that rejects interest payments and shuns speculation and heavy borrowing.

In short, Islamic finance bans some of the excess that has brought the West’s financial system to its knees, and is looking wise indeed, or at least lucky.

Islamic finance takes its guidance from sharia.

The biggest markets are in the Middle East and Muslim countries, but global banks have opened sharia-compliant branches. Locally, the Muslim Community Co-operative is one of a few lenders offering the service.

Justice, partnership and opposition to excessive risk are the main principles guiding Islamic banks. Outright speculation and dealing with any party that has a balance sheet more than a third of which is debt are forbidden, as are investments deemed unethical by Islamic scholars, such as casinos.

But if these rules sound tough, the biggest difference is a ban on interest.

Charging interest is immoral because it does not take into account how changes in the value of the loan’s security can affect the borrower, sharia says. Home owners who bought near the peak are now experiencing this harsh reality: interest gives banks a steady payment from the borrower, regardless of the property market’s state.

However, profit is fine, and Islamic banks have devised ways to make money from lending. Instead of demanding interest, they buy the asset outright on behalf of the borrower. The borrower pays off the loan (the principle) and a fee for using the asset (rent, for example) until the amount is repaid and ownership transfers to the borrower.

[Full Article: Business Day]

Nakba

In my name, and in the name of Jewish people throughout the world, an indigenous population was almost completely expelled. Village names have been removed from the map, houses blown up, and new forests planted. In Arabic, this is called the Nakba, or catastrophe. In Israel, this is called “independence.”

This land was theirs by Hannah Mermelstein; The Jewish Advocate, 24 Apr 2008.

[Via: Lawrence of Cyberia]

One Yeshiva Boy Worth More Than 1000 Arabs

… The life of one yeshiva boy is worth more than the lives of 1,000 Arabs

Rabbi Eliyahu

This is from the same guy who said the Tsunami was God’s punishment for disengagement from Gaza; that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment to the US for supporting it; and who now advocates carpet bombing Gaza.

Do I really need to comment on this?
Normally, I shouldn’t even have to bother; I mean, obviously this guy is known for his outrageous and mad statements, and nobody should care about a thing he says.

But, as a former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, you can’t but wonder how many people do listen to his words, follow his teachings and believe in his vision of things. The more they are, the less probable peace becomes.

[Source: ynet news]
[Also: Hou-Hou Blog (FR)]

Queen Rania, A Vlogger On YouTube Against Stereotypes

Queen Rania - YouTubeQueen Rania of Jordan, has launched a YouTube channel in an attempt to reach out to the west and break down Western stereotypes about the Arab world.

Queen Rania, an outspoken advocate of women’s rights and education reform in the Arab world, aims to start a conversation with people in the West through this YouTube channel to try and break down negative stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims that have become especially widespread over the past years.

The conversation will go until August 12, which is International Youth Day.

The introductory video, that has been watched over 80,000 times since being uploaded last Sunday, can be viewed here.

“In a world where it’s so easy to connect to one another, we still remain very much disconnected. There’s a whole world of wonder out there that we cannot appreciate with stereotypes,” she says. “I want people to know the real Arab world – to see it unedited, unscripted and unfiltered – to see the personal side of my region – to know the places and faces and rituals and culture that shape the part of the world I call home.”

I think it’s a great and brave initiative from Queen Rania, who deserves nothing but the utmost respect for her efforts, and all the time and energy she has invested in some very important issues for Jordan and the Arab world.

[More: AquaCoolThe Black IrisReadWriteWeb]

Islam Surpasses Roman Catholicism As World’s Largest Religion

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano announced yesterday that Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world’s largest religion.

Catholics accounted for 17.4 percent of the world population, a stable percentage, while Muslims were at 19.2 percent.

Monsignor Vittorio Formenti attributed the change to Muslim families having more children, while Catholics have tended towards fewer offspring.

When considering all Christians and not just Catholics, Christians make up 33 percent of the world population.

[Source: Yahoo! News]
[Via: Truemors]

The World In The Eyes Of The Media

news heatmap

Above is a heat map of the world according to the attention each country gets in the New York Times’ coverage.

This is one of several heat maps developed in a project to indicate the regions that some of the major western media outlets, and the blogosphere, give more attention to.

These maps allow you to grasp several media trends at a glance. First, traditional newspapers are highly selective in their coverage of world news. Looking at the three British dailies, editors favour countries that are bigger and more populous, but also closer to home and better developed. They also give more room to the countries of origin of British immigrants, especially if they are white (look at the size of Australia and New-Zealand). Hardly surprising, but still disheartening, especially when you consider that the only brand that does not advocate objectivity, The Economist, covers the world more equally.

Second, we see that web-only outlets do not offer such a different view of the world. That makes sense, considering the narrowing of the news agenda on the web that was described in the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s latest report. Their lack of resources forces them to contract their scope. Smaller issues are better covered by the blogosphere, which seems unbeatable at providing niche news.  

[Via: The Black IrisBoing Boing]