Saudi clerics took an unprecedented stand Tuesday against forcing women into marriage, saying that fathers who try to force their daughters to marry should be jailed until they change their minds.
The kingdom's mufti, Sheik Abdul-Aziz bin Al al-Sheik, who has ministerial rank, issued a statement saying the board of top clerics had ruled that coercing women into marriage is "a major injustice" and "un-Islamic."
"Fathers who insist on making their daughters marry those they do not desire should be punished by imprisonment, and should not be released until they change their minds," al-Sheik said.
According to Saudi newspapers, about half of all marriages end in divorce, and many believe the high number of forced marriages is to blame.
The status and restrictions on Saudi women have long provoked criticism. Women cannot drive a car, mix with men in public, or leave home without covering themselves from head to toe. A Saudi woman typically marries the person her family chooses.
As part of a recent campaign of limited reform, the authorities have taken steps toward giving women more rights and jobs. However, women are barred from running or voting in this year's landmark municipal elections.
Maoist rebels killed Lal Bahadur Khadka with a butcher's care. In the early evening, as darkness seeped into the cold November sky, the assassins stormed his home and dragged him to a nearby pine forest. They sliced open his thighs, chest, arms and face, squeezed citrus juice into the incisions, and waited as his body bled dry.
His offense was popularity, say his neighbors. Khadka was a loud critic of the insurgents sweeping through his village of spare, clay cottages tucked within the mountain folds of middle west Nepal. People liked him and listened to him. His widow, Nanda Khadka, 29, sits barefoot on the hard dirt of a nearby Red Cross camp and nurses her newborn son, the youngest of six children, all younger than 11. With another son screaming by her knee, she lowers her chin and begins to sob feebly.
"They are a black scar on our life," says Pahal Bahadur Sunar, 59, another villager at the camp, where 57 families huddle on a bare hillside of blue tarpaulin tents. "We'd rather starve to death in this place than return and be killed by the Maoists."
Since King Gyanendra's Feb. 1 sacking of Nepal's parliament, which he blamed for failing to quell the insurgency, his royal army and its Maoist adversaries have been left to pursue a strategy central to both of their campaigns: brutality.
Heggy's most important contribution is to shed light on the mind set of a culture responsible for the attacks of 9/11. He describes a society in part held hostage to the "Big Talk" syndrome, a situation in which a society is beholden to exaggeration, inflated rhetorical flourishes and bragging as individuals and groups strive to outdo each other in verbal displays of superiority. While in the modern age, "there is no room for big talk, only for moderate language that tries as far as possible to reflect the unembellished realities of science and culture," Heggy observes that in the Arab world, "our culture … has a long tradition of declamatory rhetoric that places more value on the beauty of the words used than on their accurate reflection of reality." Such a cultural trait hampers critical assessments and contributes to a failure to understand lack of progress and defeats such as those suffered in the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Instead, the "Big Talk" syndrome promotes an indulgence in nostalgia to escape from the demands of the present and punishes individuals who break the collective code of honor. Heggy explains,His thoughts on Tariq Ramadan's book:Of all the nations of the world, we sing more loudly and frequently of our history, our past glories, and our superiority to others … This leads to the prevalence of subjectivity rather than objectivity and ultimately to the formation of judgments from a purely personal perspective.
Politics under these conditions encourage demagoguery and extremism and repress moderation. Conspiracy theories thrive. Realists live in fear of the radicalism of those who view subjects in absolute terms. This makes for a society of despots and demagogues. In shedding light on the sensitive aspects of a people's culture, Heggy's book illuminates how problems of a stalled society in the Muslim world have contributed to politics uninhibited in the use of terror.
But Ramadan cannot entirely shield himself from critics who charge him with relativism, arguing that in the attempt to find a common ground between Islam and the West, he descends a slippery slope of diluting Islam to the point of compromising its authenticity. Muslim reformers have invariably found themselves trapped in this conundrum and have consistently been undone by the logic of traditionalists.Ramadan's inordinate pride in his ancestry from Hasan il Banna is his undoing, as he can't credibly serve the cause of Islamic coexistence in the West while remaining within the limitations of honoring Banna. Finally, from his review of Akbar Ahmad, my favorite so far and someone I never heard of until now:
What Ramadan does not do is to break the intellectual straightjacket that disallows any challenge to the traditionalists' definition of Islam, faith, and history. Traditionalists maintain any dissent from their collective judgment is misleading and an opening for error. The probable reason for his inability to make the break and engage in real reform is biography. Ramadan is bound by his own loyalties and shies away from the more demanding post-9/11 task of explaining how Islamists have gotten away with defiling Islam without generating apposite outrage among Muslims. To engage in such an accounting would require placing responsibility first on the practices of traditional Islam that laid the ground upon which Islamists nurtured, and second, on mainstream Muslims who have reacted with silence and refusal to banish Islamists from their midst, thus making them accomplices. The reality of the post-9/11 world is mutual suspicion between the West and Islam. Western Muslims, whom Ramadan addresses, will have to decide where their loyalty rests. Ramadan's experience in being denied entry to the United States should demonstrate to him that space for accommodating Muslims who are not unambiguous about their loyalty to the country where they wish to reside has greatly shriveled in the West.
Akbar Ahmed's writings are fine examples of an attempt to reconcile conflicting beliefs as an aid in understanding and explaining the turmoil of the Muslim world. An anthropologist by training, Ahmed does not hesitate to reflect on his own experience in order to examine the internal disorder of Muslim society. In Islam under Siege, he weaves a tapestry of explanations to unmask how and why a civilization that once shone a beacon of light on the world became a seedbed of terrorism, bigotry, and war.It is, indeed, a moral, religious, and existential crisis in Islam that has led us into this mess. The only thing for us to do is create the conditions for a moderate Islamic renaissance and political freedoms in Islam's heartland; this we're doing. Meanwhile, in the West, our Islamic academics in exile are performing the same service in Islam's dark ages that Islam performed for the West in its own dark ages: keeping the flame alive until its hearth can host it once more.
Islam under Siege attempts to explain the 9/11 attacks as a product of the decaying political reality of the Muslim world. The siege, Ahmed argues, is primarily internal to the society. On one hand, there is a widening gap between Muslim societies and the rest of the world. On the other hand, there are rising expectations within Muslim societies, which have simultaneously experienced a demographic explosion and the declining effectiveness of governing institutions. The effects of accelerating global change and internal population pressures have undermined the traditional social and cultural cohesion of Muslim societies, setting them adrift in the modern world.
Ahmed, who holds the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, in fact leans heavily on Ibn Khaldun, the great North African scholar of the fourteenth century, to explain the breakdown of the Muslim world's social and moral order. Using Ibn Khaldun's notion of ‘asabiya—"group loyalty, social cohesion, or solidarity"—he describes the making and breaking of a closed circle of authoritarian politics in the Muslim world. Ahmed, also, cites Ibn Khaldun's belief that "social organization is necessary to the human species." Without organization, Ibn Khaldun argues, "the existence of human beings would be incomplete. God's desire to settle the world with human beings and to leave them as His representatives on earth would not materialize." Ahmed elaborates: "Social order thus reflects the moral order; the former cannot be in a state of collapse without suggesting a moral crisis."
China's premier has told Japan to "face up to history" and Tokyo's trade minister called China "scary" as a dispute over Japan's wartime past rumbled on after violent weekend demonstrations.
Thousands of Chinese took part in the protests over what many in Asia see as Japan's failure to own up to atrocities before and during World War Two and Tokyo's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told reporters in New Delhi that Japan must "face up to history squarely" and that the protests should give Tokyo reason to rethink its bid for a permanent council seat.
"The strong responses from the Asian people should make the Japanese government have deep and profound reflections," he said.
"Only a country that respects history, takes responsibility for past history and wins over the trust of the people in Asia and the world at large can take greater responsibility in the international community," he added.
China overtook the United States as Japan's biggest trading partner in 2004 with about $178 billion (94 billion pounds) in trade. Japanese corporations sank about $9.2 billion into China that year.
Japanese Trade Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said he was concerned about the impact of Chinese anti-Japanese sentiment on Japanese companies.
"Yes, I'm worried ... they're a country that's trying to become a market economy and we need them to take a proper response," he told a news conference.
"It's a scary country."
The weekend protesters burned the Japanese flag, smashed Japanese-made cars, targeted Japanese businesses and broke windows at the Japanese embassy in Beijing while police stood by.
On Tuesday, the Chinese protests spilled over into Hong Kong, with teachers and students writing letters to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi telling him not to gloss over Tokyo's wartime atrocities.
Representatives of some 60 Chinese and Japanese friendship groups including lawmakers from both countries met in Tokyo and issued a joint appeal for dialogue to resolve the disputes.
"Based on the spirit of facing the future while using history as a mirror, problems, differences in opinion, and disputes that exist between the two countries and their citizens should be resolved appropriately through friendly discussions," they said.
Tokyo demanded an apology and compensation after the weekend violence and urged China to protect Japanese firms and expatriates but repeatedly urged dialogue as the best solution.
Beijing has not apologised.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang reiterated that the government did not approve of the "overreaction of some individuals" but added the protests showed Chinese citizens were "not satisfied with the wrong attitude of Japan toward history".
Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, who is to visit China this weekend, said the demonstrations were regrettable and urged China to take action.
But he added: "I think it is important to have an honest mutual exchange of opinions particularly when there are issues and when the problems are large."
Some concern emerged about possible repercussions in Japan.
The Chinese embassy in Tokyo urged the Japanese government to take adequate measures to ensure security for Chinese people and facilities in Japan, Kyodo news agency reported.
It made the request after an office building in Yokohama housing a branch of the Bank of China was shot at on Sunday, Kyodo said. Police confirmed that glass had been cracked and that metal pellets had been found on the ground nearby.
In another incident, a bullet casing was mailed to the Chinese consulate general in Osaka on Monday, prompting a police investigation.
Japan has apologised for pain and suffering caused by its past military aggression in Asia, but many in countries that were victims feel the contrition is not sincere.
Sino-Japanese ties soured after Koizumi took office in 2001 and visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where war criminals are honoured along with Japanese war dead.
Japan's approval last week of a school history textbook that critics at home and abroad say glosses over Japanese wartime atrocities ignited passions in China and in South Korea, where resentment runs deep over Japan's brutal 1910-1945 colonisation.
North Korea's Foreign Ministry denounced the new textbook on Tuesday as "a grave insult to the peoples of Korea and the rest of Asia", adding: "This betrays philistinism peculiar to Japan, a vulgar and shameless political dwarf."
Of 1,000 Chinese in major cities surveyed in a telephone poll by the independent Social Survey Institute of China, nearly all said the textbook move was an insult, with most saying it was "open provocation".
Japanese media said the weekend demonstrations were the biggest anti-Japanese protests since 1985, when then-prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone visited the Yasukuni Shrine.
A STATEWIDE alert has reportedly been issued to Victorian police after death threats were made by the family of a man shot dead in a police raid.
Mohamed Chaouk, 31, was shot dead by a Special Operations Group officer during a dawn raid on a house in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
Distraught relatives of Mr Chaouk attacked police outside the house hours after the shooting and threatened to take revenge.
Police took the threats seriously and erected a screen around the crime scene to protect officers from the possibility of a drive by shooting.
Now an email has reportedly been sent to police warning that the death threats are to be taken seriously.
In an extract of the email published by The Age newspaper today police are warned that the death threats are to be taken seriously.
"The Chaouk family and associates are well known to local police and have displayed violent behaviour and extreme hatred to police on a number of occasions and have access to firearms and other weapons," the extract read.
A police spokeswoman would not comment on the email this morning.
The Office of Police Integrity (OPI), run by the state Ombudsman, will conduct an investigation into the shooting and into other fatal police shootings over the past two years.
The Police Association today condemned the new investigation.
The association's assistant Secretary Bruce McKenzie said there were already inquiries into the shooting being carried out by the Homicide Squad and the Ethical Standards Department.
"Just how many more inquiries must we put our members through," he said.
"Through his actions the Ombudsman is undermining the process which Victoria Police is currently going through and is sending a message of distrust in the existing process to the Victorian public."
The dead man's father Macchour Chaouk, 48, and his brothers Ali Chaouk, 25 and Matwali Chaouk, 21, were arrested in Tuesday's raid and are facing numerous charges.
Corrections Victoria yesterday refused the three men permission to attend Mohamed Chaouk's funeral.
One of the criticisms of Islam, is that some interpretations of it are fairly reactionary - so, no different to other religions then. However, even its most fanatical followers appreciate the awesome power of technology. Their interest in air-liners, SAM missiles, AK47s and even exploding trainers bears witness to this.Go read the rest: Eric the Unread: Religion in the modern age
However, Islam has taken a great leap forward, with the Meccatronics digital Quran.