Thursday, March 31, 2016

Saudi Arabia Uncovered

    Thursday, March 31, 2016   No comments
With undercover footage and on-the-ground reporting, FRONTLINE reveals a side of Saudi Arabia that’s rarely seen, and traces the efforts of men and women who are working to bring about change.

Watch on Frontline

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Jordan's king accuses Turkey of sending terrorists to Europe; Turkey is deliberately 'unleashing' Isis terrorists into Europe, says Jordan's King Abdullah

    Sunday, March 27, 2016   No comments
Turkey is exporting Isis-linked terrorists to Europe, according to King Abdullah of Jordan.

The monarch's remarks came in a meeting with members of the US Congress, in which he said that Islamist militants were being "manufactured in Turkey" and "unleashed" into Europe.

He also used the debriefing, held after a cancelled rendezvous with US President Barack Obama, to remind the US politicians of Turkey's alleged complicity in buying Isis oil....

King Abdullah of Jordan accused Turkey of exporting terrorists to Europe at a top level meeting with senior US politicians in January.

The king said Europe’s biggest refugee crisis was not an accident, and neither was the presence of terrorists among them: “The fact that terrorists are going to Europe is part of Turkish policy and Turkey keeps on getting a slap on the hand, but they are let off the hook.”

Asked by one of the congressmen present whether the Islamic State group was exporting oil to Turkey, Abdullah replied: ”Absolutely.”

Abdullah made his remarks during a wide-ranging debriefing to Congress on 11 January, the day a meeting with the US president, Barack Obama, was cancelled.

The White House was forced to deny that Obama snubbed one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, attributing the cancellation to "scheduling conflicts," although Obama and Abdullah met briefly at Andrews Air Force Base a day later.

Present at the meeting in Congress were the chairmen and members of the Senate Intelligence, Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, including Senators John McCain and Bob Corker, and Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, the Senate Majority and Minority leaders respectively.  ...

Friday, March 18, 2016

UN: Most civilian casualties in Yemen were caused by Saudi Arabia's attacks

    Friday, March 18, 2016   No comments
The UN human rights chief has accused the Saudi-led coalition of causing twice as many civilian casualties as all the other forces fighting in Yemen.
Zeid Raad Al Hussein condemned "the repeated failure" of the coalition to prevent deadly incidents.

He said air strikes had caused almost all the coalition's civilian casualties.

More than 6,000 people, about half of them civilians, have been killed since Saudi Arabia launched a multi-national campaign against rebels in March 2015.

Saudi Arabia has denied causing large-scale civilian deaths, saying it is making every effort to avoid hitting civilian targets.


Mr Hussein's comments come three days after some 106 civilians were killed in what medics and witnesses said was an air strike on a market in Mastaba, north-west Yemen, in one of the deadliest incidents of the war.

source: BBC

Friday, March 11, 2016

#IslamicSocietiesReview: Obama: "Saudis heavily funded Wahhabist madrassas, seminaries that teach the fundamentalist version of Islam favored by the Saudi ruling family"

    Friday, March 11, 2016   No comments
...
In private encounters with other world leaders, Obama has argued that there will be no comprehensive solution to Islamist terrorism until Islam reconciles itself to modernity and undergoes some of the reforms that have changed Christianity.

Though he has argued, controversially, that the Middle East’s conflicts “date back millennia,” he also believes that the intensified Muslim fury of recent years was encouraged by countries considered friends of the U.S. In a meeting during apec with Malcolm Turnbull, the new prime minister of Australia, Obama described how he has watched Indonesia gradually move from a relaxed, syncretistic Islam to a more fundamentalist, unforgiving interpretation; large numbers of Indonesian women, he observed, have now adopted the hijab, the Muslim head covering.

Why, Turnbull asked, was this happening?

Because, Obama answered, the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs have funneled money, and large numbers of imams and teachers, into the country. In the 1990s, the Saudis heavily funded Wahhabist madrassas, seminaries that teach the fundamentalist version of Islam favored by the Saudi ruling family, Obama told Turnbull. Today, Islam in Indonesia is much more Arab in orientation than it was when he lived there, he said.

“Aren’t the Saudis your friends?,” Turnbull asked.


Obama smiled. “It’s complicated,” he said.

Obama’s patience with Saudi Arabia has always been limited. In his first foreign-policy commentary of note, that 2002 speech at the antiwar rally in Chicago, he said, “You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East—the Saudis and the Egyptians—stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality.” In the White House these days, one occasionally hears Obama’s National Security Council officials pointedly reminding visitors that the large majority of 9/11 hijackers were not Iranian, but Saudi—and Obama himself rails against Saudi Arabia’s state-sanctioned misogyny, arguing in private that “a country cannot function in the modern world when it is repressing half of its population.” In meetings with foreign leaders, Obama has said, “You can gauge the success of a society by how it treats its women.”

His frustration with the Saudis informs his analysis of Middle Eastern power politics. At one point I observed to him that he is less likely than previous presidents to axiomatically side with Saudi Arabia in its dispute with its archrival, Iran. He didn’t disagree.

“Iran, since 1979, has been an enemy of the United States, and has engaged in state-sponsored terrorism, is a genuine threat to Israel and many of our allies, and engages in all kinds of destructive behavior,” the president said. “And my view has never been that we should throw our traditional allies”—the Saudis—“overboard in favor of Iran.”

But he went on to say that the Saudis need to “share” the Middle East with their Iranian foes. “The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians—which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen—requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace,” he said. “An approach that said to our friends ‘You are right, Iran is the source of all problems, and we will support you in dealing with Iran’ would essentially mean that as these sectarian conflicts continue to rage and our Gulf partners, our traditional friends, do not have the ability to put out the flames on their own or decisively win on their own, and would mean that we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor of the Middle East.”

One of the most destructive forces in the Middle East, Obama believes, is tribalism—a force no president can neutralize. Tribalism, made manifest in the reversion to sect, creed, clan, and village by the desperate citizens of failing states, is the source of much of the Muslim Middle East’s problems, and it is another source of his fatalism. Obama has deep respect for the destructive resilience of tribalism—part of his memoir, Dreams From My Father, concerns the way in which tribalism in post-colonial Kenya helped ruin his father’s life—which goes some distance in explaining why he is so fastidious about avoiding entanglements in tribal conflicts.

“It is literally in my DNA to be suspicious of tribalism,” he told me. “I understand the tribal impulse, and acknowledge the power of tribal division. I’ve been navigating tribal divisions my whole life. In the end, it’s the source of a lot of destructive acts.”

Monday, March 07, 2016

Early Medieval Muslim Graves in France: First Archaeological, Anthropological and Palaeogenomic Evidence

    Monday, March 07, 2016   No comments
On the outskirts of the ancient Roman city of Nimes in southern France, archaeologists have discovered the graves of three Muslim men that date back to the 8th century.

The finding, reported Wednesday in PLOS One, suggests the early medieval presence of Muslims north of the Pyrenees was more complicated, and perhaps more welcome, than previously thought.

The medieval history of Muslims in Spain and Portugal is well established, but information about the experience of Muslims in France during the same time period has been more difficult to find.

According to historical documents, around the year 719, Muslim troops from the Umayyad army crossed the eastern Pyrenees and occupied the region around Narbonne 530 miles south of modern-day Paris. But the occupation was short-lived. By 760, the Franks, who came from the north, took over the region known as Septimania.
Very little known is about these early invaders. Historians cannot say for sure whether they lived in garrisons or created more long-term establishments, or what cities they could be found in. They don't even know if the occupiers were Arabs, Berbers or converts.

And that's why the three Muslim graves that date back to this time period are so valuable.

"They could start to answer these questions," said Yves Gleize, who studies archaeo-anthropology at the University of Bordeaux and was the lead author on the study.


Abstract

The rapid Arab-Islamic conquest during the early Middle Ages led to major political and cultural changes in the Mediterranean world. Although the early medieval Muslim presence in the Iberian
Peninsula is now well documented, based in the evaluation of archeological and historical sources, the Muslim expansion in the area north of the Pyrenees has only been documented so far through textual sources or rare archaeological data. Our study provides the first archaeo-anthropological testimony of the Muslim establishment in South of France through the multidisciplinary analysis of three graves excavated at Nimes. First, we argue in favor of burials that followed Islamic rites and then note the presence of a community practicing Muslim traditions in Nimes. Second, the radiometric dates obtained from all three human skeletons (between the 7th and the 9th centuries AD) echo historical sources documenting an early Muslim presence in southern Gaul (i.e., the first half of 8th century AD). Finally, palaeogenomic analyses conducted on the human remains provide arguments in favor of a North African ancestry of the three individuals, at least considering the paternal lineages. Given all of these data, we propose that the skeletons from the Nimes burials belonged to Berbers integrated into the Umayyad army during the Arab expansion in North Africa. Our discovery not only discusses the first anthropological and genetic data concerning the Muslim occupation of the Visigothic territory of Septimania but also highlights the complexity of the relationship between the two communities during this period.

Source

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Majoritarianism-driven democracy and the rise of authoritarianism in Turkey

    Sunday, March 06, 2016   No comments
Turkey has become a rogue state - and even Erdogan must face up to the fact

Under the AKP government, in power since 2002, Turkey risks not only being regarded as a rogue state but its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also risks being branded as a rogue president. Erdogan -  who is already known to meddle with the rule of law, the size of families, young people’s sex lives, smoking, drinking alcohol, art and architecture - has this time excelled himself.

The Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that to hold two journalists in pre-trial detention for 92 days because of their coverage of a covert shipment of weapons to Syrian insurgents was a violation of their rights, and also of their freedom of expression and of the freedom of the press.

When the Turkish secular daily Cumhuriyet last May published video footage of trucks belonging to the Turkish intelligence organisation MIT and their contents, Erdogan vowed that those responsible for the story would “pay a heavy price” and filed a lawsuit against them.The two journalists were released (they will still stand trial for charges that include espionage and seeking to overthrow the government), but Erdogan stated he would neither abide by, nor respect, the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Responding to UNSC expression of "grave concern for the worsening situation in Yemen", Saudi Arabia says: no dire humanitarian crisis

    Friday, March 04, 2016   No comments
Saudi Arabia has been accused of committing war crimes in Yemen
Saudi Arabia's UN ambassador said Friday there was no need for a UN Security Council resolution to address the dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is waging a military campaign.

"We don't think that a resolution is needed at this time," Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi told a news conference.

His remarks came after the 15-member council expressed grave concern for the worsening situation in Yemen, where the coalition launched air strikes nearly a year ago...


The council is considering a new resolution to press for more humanitarian aid deliveries and to stress the importance of protecting hospitals from attacks.

The United Nations says more than 80 percent of the population is in dire need of food, medicine and other basic necessities and the crisis ranks as a "Level 3 emergency", the most serious in the UN system.


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