Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Many Faces of Islam

Most of us are perfectly capable of making distinctions within the Christian world. The fact that someone is a Boston Roman Catholic doesn’t mean he’s in league with Irish Republican Army bomb makers, just as not all Orthodox Christians have ties to Serbian war criminals or Southern Baptists to the murderers of abortion doctors.

Yet many of our leaders have a tendency to see the Islamic world as a single, terrifying monolith. Had the George W. Bush administration been more aware of the irreconcilable differences between the Salafist jihadists of Al Qaeda and the secular Baathists of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the United States might never have blundered into a disastrous war, and instead kept its focus on rebuilding post-Taliban Afghanistan while the hearts and minds of the Afghans were still open to persuasion.

Op-Ed Contributor - Sufis - The Muslims in the Middle - NYTimes.com

Interesting insights on how the West, perhaps the world, perceives Islam.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Can We Learn from This?

US President Barack Obama has staunchly defended controversial plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York.

Opponents have protested against the construction of an Islamic cultural centre and mosque several hundred feet away from the site of the Twin Towers.

Mr Obama acknowledged "sensitivities" surround the 9/11 site, but said Muslims have the same right to practise their religion "as anyone else".

"Our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable," Mr Obama said.

BBC News - Obama defends right to build mosque near 9/11 site

Can our Members of Parliament learn from this?! I remember a while ago when certain MPs raised hell on non Muslims celebrating their religious occasions in Kuwait. Let's not take as example countries that infringe on Muslims' freedom (France with banning the headscarves and Switzerland banning minarets for example). Let's look at the bright examples of religious freedom and welcome people to practice their religion here, the same way Muslims (citizens or not) are welcomed to practice their religion abroad.

Monday, August 02, 2010

What Arabs Need

In the past few centuries the Arabs, once pre-eminent in a host of skills, from astronomy and algebra to architecture and engineering, have seen their societies stagnate and fester. Though blessed with natural resources, especially the oil that has enriched Arab dynasties and their subservient elites while often leaving the masses in penury, few Arab countries have seen their non-oil economies flourish or their people enjoy the public services or freedoms taken for granted elsewhere.

Arab autocracy: Thank you and goodbye | The Economist

Democracy is not strictly holding elections. Even though it is a step forward, holding elections on their own do not build a democratic society. This can be seen clearly in Kuwait where in the past few years parliament has been more an obstacle to progress than help. What's required as stated in The Economist article:

Elections, though vital in the end, are not an early panacea. What
the Arabs need most, in a hurry, is the rule of law, independent courts,
freeish media, women’s and workers’ rights, a market that is not
confined to the ruler’s friends, and a professional civil service and
education system that are not in hock to the government, whether under a
king or a republic. In other words, they need to nurture civil society
and robust institutions. The first task of a new Saudi king should be to
enact a proper criminal code.

In the Arab lexicon, the concept of justice means more than
democracy. In the end, you cannot have the first without the second. But
the systems that now prevail in the Arab world provide for neither.