These are all the Blogs posted on Thursday, 3, 2013.
Thursday, 3 January 2013
Islamic province bans women pillion passengers from straddling motorbikes to protect their 'morals' in Indonesia
A city in an Indonesian province which follows Sharia law is to ban women from straddling on motorbikes behind male drivers. Leaflets have been sent to residents and government offices in the city of Lhokseumawe to inform them about the new rules.
The mayor of the city, Suaidi Yahya, said the change in law is to save people's 'morals and behaviours'.
According to Mr Yahya, women will only be allowed to sit side saddle. He claimed that when women straddle the bike seat it violates Islamic values. Speaking to the BBC he said: 'When you see a woman straddle, she looks like a man. But if she sits side-saddle, she looks like a woman.'
Mr Yahya admitted that if women do not follow the rule, they could face punishment. 'Once it has become a by-law, automatically there will be sanctions,' he said.
A number of Muslim activists have criticised the regulation. Ulil Abshar Abdalla, based in Jakarta, said: 'How to ride a motorbike is not regulated in Sharia. There is no mention of it in the Koran or Hadiths.'
I have seen women riding pillion in two places. First in the 1960’s on holiday in Spain, near Barcelona. The local girls sat sideways on the back of their boyfriend’s motorbikes. An English girl in our hotel got a date with the hotel’s waiter and set off on his machine riding pillion astride. The next morning she described the date to my father and me. The waiter was a gentleman but they were stopped by the police several times regarding her legs across the pillion. Every time, once the police realised that she was English (the ginger hair should have been a clue?) they were allowed to proceed as they were.
And 20 years later I was in a taxi in Cairo. A family on a small Czech-made Jawa overtook us. I had never seen Jawas on the road before that trip; in the UK they were a specialist Speedway racer. Dad was piloting the bike, a small boy sat in front of him astride the petrol tank, Mum in a long skirt and scarf (not a niqab – I don’t recall seeing one in Cairo in 1987) sat side-saddle behind them holding a baby in her lap. On the way to the airport they overtook my taxi three times, which is how I was able to see them so clearly.
Having spent a week the previous month at the Isle of Man TT in a leather jacket, stout trousers, boots and helmet I was flabbergasted at how dangerous it looked.
Essam al-Haddad, a foreign relations aide for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, met Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani in Cairo from Dec. 26-30 to discuss Suleimani's expertise in exercising control over state security, unnamed sources said, Dr. Jacques Neriah, reported Jan. 3. Muslim Brotherhood leaders arranged the visit, angering Egypt's Interior Ministry, sources said.
Clare Lopez, Senior Fellow at the Washington, DC – based Center for Security Policy commented:
STRATFOR earns kudos for this scoop about the recent visit to Egypt by Iranian Qods Force commander Qassem Suleimani but evidently missed its true significance. Suleimani has no direct responsibility for 'state security' inside Iran but he does hold the portfolio for external liaison relationships with Iran's jihadist partners: al-Qa'eda, HAMAS, Hizballah, the Taliban -- and now, it appears, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Suleimani's discussions with Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood representatives signal the revival of historically close relations between these two pan-Islamic jihadist organizations: the Khomeinist regime that has ruled Iran for 33 years and the Muslim Brotherhood that has now seized power in Egypt. The ideology of both prioritizes Islamic unity for the sake of jihad against Christians, Jews, and all not yet subjugated to Islamic Law.
This is an alarming development that should sound a tocsin across the region as well as the West and especially in Washington, D.C.
While some 90 percent of Egyptians are Sunni Muslims, the number of Shia in Egypt has been estimated at up to 2.2 million, including “Twelvers” and Ismailis. A Shiite dynasty, the Fatimids, conquered Egypt in 969 and ruled the country for 200 years.
[. . .]
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership has consistently sought to avoid entanglement in the Sunni-Shia controversy and has downplayed Shiite efforts to convert Sunnis as marginal. They have further claimed that Sunni-Shia strife has been instigated by the U.S. as a way of dividing Muslims. The Sunni and Shia, they argue, comprise one Muslim nation that must unite in order to confront “the American Zionist project that seeks to eradicate Islam.” The standard Muslim Brotherhood position has been that the Shia are Muslims for all intents and purposes, and that the differences between Sunni and Shia pertain to matters of jurisprudence that are of secondary importance, not to principles of faith. But this general formula became insufficient in view of the Shiite conversion debate and virulent attacks on Shiite beliefs and practices.
Historically, as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has downplayed religious differences between Shia and Sunni, they have argued that Twelver Shiism should be recognized as an acceptably orthodox school of Islamic jurisprudence. Thus, the Brotherhood effectively serves as a counterbalance to the Wahhabi/Salafi-led campaign to vilify Shiism. In this way, the Brotherhood’s ecumenical approach has helped make Sunni society increasingly more open to Shiite religious proselytizing.
Lopez commented to this author that a 1958 Al -Azhar fatwaheld Shi'a Islam was as valid for a Muslim to follow as Sunni. Moreover, the Iranian Islamic Republic Constitution recognized the Four Schools of Sunni Jursipurdence (Fiqh); Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki and Hanbali.
Thus, pan-Islamism trumps the alleged Sunni Shia divide. Moreover, despite the contretemps exhibited over Syria by Morsi at the Non –Aligned Movement Summit in Tehran in August 2012, Morsi and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have aligned themselves with the Shia Mahdists in opposition to the US and the West. This looks like another ‘foreign policy success’ by the Obama Administration inadvertently forging a unified Jihadist Middle East following the fundamentalist uprisings across the region in the Arab Winter.
Why would the Alawites, fighting for their lives, dare to risk Israeli retaliation by taking any measures to help Iran? In 1967 Syria lost the Golan Heights, when it went to war against Israel. In 1973, Syrian forces were mauled n the most significant (though hardly the largest) tank victory in history, that of greatly-outnumbered Israeli tanks against Syrian tanks in the area of Mt. Hermon. In 1982, Syrian airplanes made the mistake of challenging Israeli warplanes; the result was 82 Syrian planes shot down, with not a loss of a single Israeli plane. The Alawites, who have wrapped themselves for decades in the mantle of being the leaders of the anti-Israel "Resistance," continue to play that chord, strum that theme, but they don't mean it. They know that of all their neighbors, the one least desirous of a Sunni Muslim regime in Syria is Israel, and that Israel has no quarrel with the Alawites, nor with the other minorities in Syria that view a Sunni Muslim takeover with fear and horror. If Syrian forces were to help Iran, then the Israelis would reply with such a crushing blow that would weaken the Alawites fatally, and leave them helpless before their real enemies, the Sunni Muslims. They may be glad for Iran's support, but not glad enough to commit suicide.
Here is the story, telling us the obvious:
Syria 'would not join Iran in war against Israel'
Iran's ability to retaliate for any Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities has been "dramatically" reduced by the disintegration of President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, an Israeli intelligence report has said.
Iran has supplied Hizbollah with about 50,000 rockets and missiles, all targeted on Israel with the aim of retaliating for any assault on the nuclear plantsPhoto: REX
This assessment, from the intelligence department of Israel's foreign ministry, predicts that Syria's army would not join its Iranian ally in a war against Israel because of the 21-month uprising.
Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shia movement armed and funded by Iran's regime, would face an acute dilemma over whether to intervene.
Iran has supplied Hizbollah with about 50,000 rockets and missiles, all targeted on Israel with the aim of retaliating for any assault on the nuclear plants. But these weapons reached Hizbollah using Syrian territory. If those supply lines were severed either by Mr Assad's downfall or continuing civil war in Syria, Hizbollah might be unable to replace any rockets that were fired.
Iran's presumed ability to use Hizbollah as to strike back over Israel's northern border has been cited as an important factor deterring any Israeli attack. But the report, presented to Israeli ambassadors in Jerusalem this week, suggests that Syria's crisis has constrained Hizbollah's options.
"Iran's ability to strike Israel, in response to a strike of ours, has gone down dramatically," the newspaper Maariv quoted an official as saying. "The Iranian response will be far more insignificant than previously anticipated had the northern front continued to exist."
The foreign ministry report also predicted that Egypt would stop Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement, from helping Iran by launching rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah leader, acknowledged on Thursday the pressure his organisation was under, warning that Syria was heading for collapse into separate "emirates" or religious fiefdoms. "We fundamentally and ideologically reject any form of partition or division of any Arab or Islamic country," he said.
But experts said the Israeli assessment was excessively rosy. "Hizbollah will strike back with everything it has because if it doesn't, it will lose Iran's financial support," said Meir Javedanfar, an Iran specialist at the Inter-Disciplinary Centre in Herzliya, an Israeli university.
Five (Or A Bit More) Little Peppers And How They (Almost) Slew
Killer peppers from Israel start a frenzy in Lebanon:
From Arutz Sheva:
Israeli Peppers Enrage Shoppers at Lebanese Supermarket
The Lebanese army received calls from distressed shoppers, after several items made in Israel were found on supermarket shelves.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
In yet another farcical incident emanating from the Arab media, the Lebanese army received calls from distressed shoppers on Tuesday, after several food items labeled “made in Israel” were found on the shelves of one of the country’s largest supermarkets.
While shopping at a supermarket in the coastal city of Sidon, a man, who requested anonymity, discovered a bag of yellow peppers labeled “made in Israel,” the Lebanese Daily Star reported.
The seemingly outrageous and contemptible incident led the man to contact local authorities who then contacted the Lebanese Army to investigate the perturbing event.
Military intelligence and police officers quickly arrived at the scene to discover 13 similar bags containing yellow peppers with the word “Israel” printed on the sale tag.
Police also noticed that the international bar code for the items was scratched with a blue pen and a new code was handwritten on the bag, according to the Lebanese daily.
The case was then referred to the military judiciary for investigation regarding how the products managed to pass through security and arrive in the country undetected.
A similar incident occurred at the same supermarket almost ten years ago when shoppers discovered mugs made in Israel on the store’s shelves, the newspaper reported.
Laws in the country stipulate that Lebanese citizens are categorically forbidden to enter into business agreements, direct or indirect, with Israeli suppliers.
Lebanon has also banned all international companies that have branches in Israel or commercial agreements with Israeli companies.
BAGHDAD — Attackers killed at least 32 pilgrims in Iraq on Thursday, the police said, in what appeared to be a spate of sectarian-motivated violence as the country continued to struggle with a political crisis in its fractured government.
At the culmination of one of Shiite Islam’s holiest rituals, at least 28 people were killed and 35 were wounded when a car bomb exploded in central Musayyib, a police official in Babil Province said. The apparent targets were pilgrims returning from the holy city of Karbala, where Shiites observe the end of the 40-day annual mourning period for the death of Imam Hussein ibn Ali, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
In another attack in southeast Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded as a minibus carrying Shiite pilgrims passed, killing 4 people and wounding 15, the police said.
The Shiite pilgrimage to commemorate the imam’s death, banned while Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, has flourished since the American-led invasion overthrew him in 2003. Millions travel to Karbala, where the imam is buried, or to neighboring areas each year. Attacks on the pilgrims reflect some of the sectarian frictions that have plagued Iraq in recent years. At least 27 people were killed in 2010; about 52 in 2011; and 53 in 2012 in attacks related to the pilgrimage.
Tensions have mounted in recent weeks with demonstrations in Sunni-dominated areas against the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. On Thursday, protesters in Ramadi continued to block some main trade routes leading to Syria and Jordan, and there were demonstrations in Salahuddin and Kirkuk as well.
Some progress may have been achieved this week on one of the demonstrators’ demands. A Justice Ministry official said Thursday that a committee instructed by Mr. Maliki to investigate the cases of female prisoners announced that 11 of them would be released, in addition to 2 teenagers. Other female prisoners will be transferred to locations in their home provinces.
It was not clear whether the steps would do much to calm tempers inflamed after a raid last month by security forces on the office and home of the Sunni finance minister, Rafie al-Issawi, and the arrest of 10 bodyguards, fueling accusations that Mr. Maliki was moving to monopolize power and sideline his political opponents before provincial elections scheduled for the spring.
Sadoun Obeid al-Shalan, the deputy chairman of the provincial council in Anbar, where most of the protests have been held, said that three of the released detainees were from that province. “The protesters have welcomed the initiative and demanded the release of the others,” he said.
Mr. Maliki, who appeared on state television on Thursday marching alongside some of the Shiite pilgrims, told demonstrators this week to stop their protests or face government action, saying they had been exploited by various groups for their own interests to the detriment of national unity. His critics, including the Shiite leader Moktada al-Sadr, have said that Mr. Maliki alone is responsible for provoking the unrest.
The speaker of Iraq’s Parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, lashed out in a statement on Thursday against what he called Mr. Maliki’s threats, saying that “the people” were Iraq’s highest authority after the end of the former government.