Latest News

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 14:56
by Joseph Mayton 27 March 2012 Nasik, India - It is the day after Holi, the Hindu festival of colours celebrating the Spring season and a good harvest. Coloured powder from the previous day’s events still adorns downtown Nasik, a city of 1.5 million about three and a half hours east of Mumbai. A group of youngsters, all dressed in traditional Indian long shirts and trousers, are working hard to collect the rubbish left over from the celebration, placing it in black plastic bags which they haul to a nearby truck. The women are wearing a more traditional outfit – pants and a long shirt, or shalwar kameez, which reaches down to their knees. Across the street, a young boy yells out for Aisha and a young girl turns and waves back. From my years in the Middle East, I know that Aisha is predominantly a Muslim name. As I investigate further through conversations, I learn that this group of young people is a mix of Muslims and Hindus. They all celebrated the festival...Read More
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 14:55
by Mubashir Khan 27 March 2012 London - Can love really bring people together, crossing boundaries and breaking down barriers? It sounds like the stuff of fairy tales and movies, but recently in a little corner of London that’s exactly what happened. In a trendy Indian restaurant that used to be a pub, people of different faiths and backgrounds got together for a meal to celebrate that crazy little thing called love. The event was organised by the Islamic Society of Britain in partnership with the Christian Muslim Forum to launch the start of the 19th Islam Awareness Week, which ran from 12-18 March 2012. Every year for the past 19 years, Islam Awareness Week has been an opportunity for people across Great Britain to meet, eat, listen and understand each other better. Organisers of the week pick a theme that is of common interest to people of all faiths, such as looking after our neighbours, celebrating the best of Britain or remembering our common heritage. This...Read More
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 14:54
by Nada Akl 27 March 2012 Beirut - On 6 March micro-blogging service Twitter announced the launch of its Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu versions. It all started with the grassroots #LetsTweetInArabic campaign by a handful of users who wanted Twitter to be available in more languages. While many communities are still disadvantaged when it comes to digital resources, translation initiatives like these are a great first step in making the web a more democratic space, especially for non-English speakers. With these four new additions, Twitter is available in a total of 28 languages. On its blog, Twitter representatives said that right-to-left languages posed a “unique” technical challenge that was overcome by its engineers. The translation itself was made possible thanks to the participation of over 13,000 volunteers who helped translate Twitter’s menu options and support pages. The company explained that those who donated their time and skills are a diverse...Read More
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 14:52
by David Cortright 27 March 2012 Notre Dame, Indiana - The Obama administration is under mounting pressure to accelerate the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. The US-led coalition plans to hand over security responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014. The military withdrawal shouldn’t mean that the international community walks away from Afghanistan entirely, however, or ceases support to local civil society –especially when it comes to preserving the hard-won rights of Afghan women. How is this possible? To search for answers, my colleague at Notre Dame University’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies Sarah Smiles Persinger and I authored the report Afghan Women Speak, based on dozens of interviews in Afghanistan with female parliamentarians, activists, researchers, health workers and NGO leaders. This past October I visited Kabul to assess the latest developments. All the women we interviewed said they want the war to end. They cannot...Read More
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 14:50
by Sahar Namazikhah 27 March 2012 Washington, DC - Iranians and Israelis should mark 14 March 2012 on their calendars – it is the day that the "Israel loves Iran" campaign began to unify the voices of Israelis and Iranians through the path of peace, despite the messages of war that political leaders have conveyed. Since last week, inspired by Israeli graphic designer and teacher Ronny Edri’s "Israel loves Iran" campaign, Iranians as well as members of other nations have reframed the narrative of war to one of a “love bomb”. Edri designed posters that read “Iranians: We will never bomb your country. We [heart] you.” And Iranians responded in kind. This messaging is changing nightmares of war into hope that there will be solidarity between the people of Iran and Israel – creating a movement to wipe out fear, instead of each other. The unique characteristic of this campaign is how ordinary people have...Read More
Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 15:17
by Ariel Katz 20 March 2012 Brighton, UK - When we ride public transportation, we are simultaneously moving and stuck. As an American traveling in Israel, I have started to use this time to become unstuck – to understand more about the people living there instead of relying on stereotypes. Riding the bus from Eilat to Tel Aviv last month, a young freckled soldier takes the seat next to me. I ask him where he is serving. He is vague and says he can’t tell me, it is highly classified. Written, it sounds ridiculous, as if he is pretending to be a spy, but in person it is said so politely and casually, I believe him. He is boyish, young but mature, lovely, thoughtful. He has a red beret tucked neatly in the epaulette of his army uniform, which has two bars on the shoulder. I know this means he is a captain in a paratrooper unit – so young-looking, yet a captain. He asks me what brought me to Israel, shifting the focus of the conversation away from him. At...Read More
Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 15:16
by Ramakant Vempati and Justin Sykes 20 March 2012 Doha - The Arab world today is home to millions of young people with hopes, plans and the desire to work. With more than 100 million young people between 15 and 29, representing 30 per cent of the total population, the region is facing an unprecedented “youth bulge”. This reality has led to many challenges when it comes to youth employment – but it can also be seen as an opportunity to foster youth-powered positive change, using social networks and technology to create much-needed impact. Today, there simply aren’t enough jobs for youth coming into the region’s labour markets. Public sector jobs are no longer a guarantee for graduates, and the private sector is unable to grow fast enough. For example, in Egypt 600,000 young people enter the labour market each year, but only about 250,000 of them find a job. The result: millions of young adults are forced to make a living on their own...Read More
Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 15:15
by Jens Juul Petersen 20 March 2012 Beirut - Many female Muslim football players are celebrating a recent decision by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), football’s international governing body, to allow them to test a specially designed headscarf. The decision will be reviewed after a four-month test period. FIFA has prohibited headscarves since 2007, but this new decision, which the UN pushed for, will hopefully allow more girls and women around the world to take part in the game. During a recent qualifying match for the Olympics, FIFA prevented the Iranian women’s football team from playing a match against the Jordanian national team because the players refused to remove their hijabs, or headscarves. The headscarves, which covered the players’ hair, broke FIFA’s strict dress code, which had been officially implemented for safety reasons. As no hijab-related injuries have ever been reported and headscarves have been...Read More
Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 15:14
by Khalid Al-Badawi, Muhammad Al-Taip and Mohannad Awn 20 March 2012 Tripoli - As natives of Tripoli in our mid-twenties, we are part of the second generation of Libyans to have known no other authority than Muammar Gaddafi’s. When the Gaddafi regime collapsed, the world saw rebels fighting for control of the streets – while we felt chaos in our souls. Since those traumatic days we, like many of our friends, have been rethinking our identity and purpose in life. After the fall of the regime, we began dreaming about the possibility of a free, dynamic Libya, advancing at lightning speed to catch up with a world that left us behind decades ago. But what could we do to help make that dream a reality? We felt that what the Libyan people needed most were education and inspiration – and that the most effective way to deliver these would be through broadcast media. We decided to start a radio show and call it “Rough Talk”. In our native dialect,...Read More
Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 15:13
by Barbara Slavin 20 March 2012 Washington - After months of sabre-rattling rhetoric by Iran, Israel and the United States, there seems to be a collective, and welcome, time out. Since President Barack Obama’s 4 March speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), all sides have been stressing non-military means to try to resolve the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program. While asserting that he is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Obama spent much of his AIPAC address decrying what he called “loose talk” of war. He spoke eloquently of the costs of military conflict for a nation that has fought two wars in the last decade. His message to visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was clear: I am not going to start another war and you are not going to drag me into one. Netanyahu, for his part, appeared to bow to several realities. A savvy politician, he is recalculating the odds that Obama will be re-...Read More
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 14:58
by Emmanuelle Hazan 13 March 2012 Geneva - Dr Raz Somech is one of the main figures in the deeply moving documentary Precious Life which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2011 and serves as a powerful image of hope in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2008, a four month-old baby from Gaza, Mohammed Abu Mustafa, came to the paediatric unit Dr Somech heads in a large Tel Aviv hospital. The baby was suffering from a genetic disease and needed a bone marrow transplant. This is how a saga that is at once political and profoundly human began. In the film Precious Life, we meet Raida, Mohammed’s mother, who at the beginning of this journey had hoped that her son would become a martyr. It also follows Shlomi Eldar, the Israeli television journalist who led the campaign to raise the money needed for the transplant and directed the film, even as he expressed doubts about whether it was right to have gotten himself involved. More than anything, the film illustrates...Read More
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 14:56
by Natalia Simanovsky 13 March 2012 Tel Aviv - Last month, United Kingdom Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles described multiculturalism as the "politics of division”. He criticised previous administrations in the UK for allowing communities to lead separate lives and not promoting integration with mainstream British society. As the UK and European countries grapple with how to integrate minority populations, including Muslim communities, it would be worthwhile to look to Canada as a successful model. In Canada, multiculturalism is deemed by the majority of society to be a successful government policy precisely because it promotes, among other things, national unity. For the most part, multiculturalism in Canada fosters social cohesion by placing all cultures on an equal footing. It creates common values, such as tolerance, that can be shared by the many different members of society, despite the fact that many citizens...Read More
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 14:54
by Dr Julie Macfarlane 13 March 2012 Kingsville, Ontario - Recently, Florida’s House of Representatives passed a bill (which later died in the state Senate) to ban the use of “foreign law” in domestic courtrooms. Such a bill may seem innocuous but according to the Miami Herald, flyers have circulated in Senate offices describing sharia – Islamic principles which are part of a voluntary system of personal obligation – as “radical Islam’s threat to the US Constitution”. I saw these same uninformed attitudes in the reactions of some of my colleagues to my four-year qualitative study of Islamic marriage and divorce in North America. Their response was often an amazed “Do they have divorce in Islam?” When I explained that while Muslim women are treated differently from men (who have unilateral access to divorce in classical Islamic law), and that they do have the right to ask for divorce on a wide range of grounds (...Read More
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 14:52
by Dawoud Abu Lebdeh 13 March 2012 Jerusalem - It’s been over a year since the start of a wave of revolutions that brought down the rulers of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, one after another. In Syria dozens die by the day, hoping to achieve the same goals of freedom and dignity under a democratic regime. Many Palestinians are now wondering what effect this past year’s developments in the Arab world will have on their own struggle for independence. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which marked the dissolution of a pan-Arab identity, many Palestinians came to feel that their struggle was theirs alone. A recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) shows that Palestinians have not changed their perceptions of how their cause is viewed by the greater Arab world. Of those polled, most (65 per cent) feel that the Arab Spring will have a negative impact on the Palestinian cause. Dr Nabil Kukali, President of the PCPO, says that most...Read More
Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 13:29
by Marium Sattar 06 March 2012 London - While sitting across from me in a café near the British Museum in London, a British Iraqi friend recently told me, "I've lived here all my life but I don't feel British." Her words surprised me, but echoed the sentiments of other second generation British youth I have met. Many young people of immigrant backgrounds do not feel like they are truly a part of the UK and struggle to reconcile the identities they received from their parents with those they encounter at work or school. Jawaab, a new grassroots organisation, is giving young British Pakistanis the tools to integrate the two by providing them with safe spaces for dialogue. Statistics show that the age profile of British Muslims is significantly younger than the overall population, which means addressing cultural issues and those of national identity among Muslim youth in the UK is essential. A 2001 census found that one third of Muslims were under the age...Read More
Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 13:28
by Aziz Abu Sarah and Talia Salem 06 March 2012 Jerusalem - Shira Nesher, an Israeli, stands alongside Fakhira Halloun, a Palestinian, as Nesher tells her story about life in a conflict zone to a group of American university students who are hanging onto her every word. “My family members are Holocaust survivors, and as an Israeli I grew up in an environment of fear and conflict. When I was 18, I enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces, where I eventually became a military tour guide and an educator…” When she is finished, Fakhira follows with her own story. “I am a Palestinian Christian with Israeli citizenship. I grew up in a Druze village, as a minority among minorities, with stories of the nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe, in a place where identity limits access and mobility. Now, I devote my life to finding freedom in my native land.” These two speakers are tour guides with the Middle East Justice and Development Initiative (MEJDI);...Read More
Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 13:20
by Mustafa Abdelhalim 06 March 2012 Cairo - Recently, Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt have repeatedly made calls for a new coalition government, which would represent all parties in parliament. Can Egypt benefit by adopting the concept of coalition rule? The answer, I believe, is yes. Building a coalition simply means inviting parties who would be in opposition to each other to share power as well as responsibility. Several European countries and Turkey use this model. So why not Egypt? The political climate in post-revolutionary Egypt demonstrates that the country is in need of parties joining together to share power and responsibility. Islamic political parties, seeking a formal role for Islamic ideas within the political system, won overwhelmingly in Egypt’s November-January elections and were consequently guaranteed a free-floating majority in the newly-formed parliament. Conversely, liberals and left-wing parties ended up with few parliamentary seats and...Read More
Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 13:18
by Khaled Diab 06 March 2012 Jerusalem - In East Jerusalem, the occupation has affected the city’s cultural landscape. Chronic underinvestment, expanding settlements and a massive wall – which Israel says it has constructed for security purposes and Palestinians allege is a land grab – have had the effect of squeezing the life out of the Palestinian quarter in Jerusalem and shifting the cultural centre of gravity to Ramallah in the West Bank. In addition, it seems many Palestinian Jerusalemites have not been able to shake off the curfew mentality of the intifada, which ended almost seven years ago. In the past few years, however, efforts have been launched to revive and enrich East Jerusalem’s modest cultural topography. The latest of these is the reincarnation of the old al-Quds cinema, which closed down a quarter of a century ago during the first intifada (which lasted from 1987-1993). Now it is the state of the art, though still unfinished,...Read More
Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 13:17
by Beena Sarwar 06 March 2012 Boston, Massachusetts - Pakistan’s online community erupted in virtual cheers as Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy received an Academy Award (or Oscar) recently in Hollywood for co-directing the Best Documentary (Short Subject). A Tweet by Pakistani blogger Anthony Permal summed up the feelings of many of his compatriots: “A woman from Pakistan, who made a film about women, won an Oscar. In your face, world.” The expression “in your face” may well have been an intentional pun on the title of Obaid Chinoy’s award-winning film, Saving Face. But some complained that because the film highlighted a particularly horrific form of gender violence (using acid to attack and disfigure women), it gave Pakistan “a bad name” – and so led to the country “losing face”. This in effect sums up the bittersweet reality of Pakistan’s first-ever Oscar. The award meant international acknowledgement for...Read More
Friday, March 2, 2012 - 10:31
by Altaf Husain 28 February 2012 Washington, DC - The Associated Press discovery that the New York Police Department (NYPD) monitored Muslim college students both within and outside the city limits in 2006 and 2007 has sparked outrage from university officials and students. The surveillance included Baruch College, Columbia University, New York University and the State University of New York campus in Buffalo and Syracuse. NYPD also monitored students at Rutgers, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University. None of the students who were spied upon had ever been suspected of nor have subsequently been found to have committed any wrongdoing. Agents filed briefs marked “secret”, identifying students by name and reporting their activities such as white water rafting, praying, discussing religious matters and forwarding conference announcements. In moving forward, there are lessons for law enforcement officials. First, let’s examine what research tells...Read More

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