Latest News

Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 12:52
by Radwan Masmoudi 06 December 2011 Tunis - The 23 October elections in Tunisia were as important and as historic as the revolution itself. I saw with my own eyes masses of people crying from joy and pride as they cast their votes in the decision on who would represent them in the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), feeling the dignity of participating in an election for the first time in their lives as truly free citizens. A free nation was being born anew. Today, Tunisians are working on negotiating a relationship between religion and politics, an issue which has only become more pressing as extremists on both sides, secularists and Islamists, have been using their new-found democratic freedoms to push for more radical views. However, compromise and prioritising the nation’s interests are essential ingredients for a successful transition to democracy, and must take precedent over partisan bickering. Not surprisingly, Al Nahda, an Islamic party with a focus on...Read More
Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 12:51
by Camilla Schick 06 December 2011 London - Camilla Howalt, Mohamed Negm, and Orly Orbach’s art piece Thresholds is an inspiring reflection on the nature of faith in the contemporary world. Together the artists represented the three Abrahamic faiths through an abstract, dream-like triptych depicting the thresholds at the doorways of houses of worship as spaces of risk and uncertainty, requiring a prayer or a blessing before entering. For the UK’s National Interfaith Week from 20-26 November, the Three Faiths Forum (3FF), one of the country’s leading interfaith organisations, invited the public to celebrate the artistic results of its experimental Urban Dialogues programme in London. The art competition, now in its second year, fosters collaboration between artists of different belief backgrounds, enabling them to use their work as a means of promoting closer understanding and cooperation between communities. This year’s competition brought together...Read More
Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 12:49
by Katherine Marshall 06 December 2011 Washington, DC - The deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers on 26 November during NATO operations at two border posts inside Pakistan was, as US President Barack Obama observed, a tragedy for the soldiers’ families and for their nation. It would be another tragedy to miss the opportunity that this crisis offers to step back and reassess what is clearly a tangled web of troubled relationships between Pakistan and the United States. Relationships between these two countries are among contemporary diplomacy’s most complex. Powerful common interests and many shared values have brought Pakistanis and Americans together time and again, but all too often relationship talks take place in the face of raw tensions that resurface with every new crisis. The diplomatic dance is accentuated by Pakistan’s pivotal position in the intricate geopolitics of South Asia, including those of Kashmir and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s nuclear...Read More
Monday, December 5, 2011 - 11:18
  As poll results begin to trickle out, heart of Egypt's protest movement appears to have shifted beyond the square. Malika Bilal Last Modified: 01 Dec 2011 11:04 Cairo, Egypt - The once-bustling streets of this city's Tahrir Square have largely fallen silent, empty of the hundreds of thousands of anti-military protesters who recently filled its confines with angry chants. Amid those chants came a call from some to boycott the country’s first parliamentary elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak - elections which activists said were illegitimate under military rule. But as results begin to trickle out following a peaceful two-day start to the multi-stage voting process, the heart of the protest movement appears to have shifted beyond Tahrir. A smattering of tents defiantly inhabited by protesters who refuse to move, remained perched across the square on Thursday, but the numbers have dissipated. Still, activists say...Read More
Monday, December 5, 2011 - 11:15
  Boycott by Taliban and Pakistan of international conference in Germany expected to hurt chance of peace breakthrough. Last Modified: 04 Dec 2011 16:32 The Taliban's boycott of the Bonn conference on Afghanistan, 10 years after they were absent from its precursor, raises grave doubts about what progress can be made towards peace, experts have said. The leaders of the country's brutal, decade-long insurgency will not attend Monday's much-heralded international talks in Germany, saying the meeting will "further ensnare Afghanistan into the flames of occupation". Pakistan is also boycotting the event after an air strike by NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last week. Islamabad is considered key to bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table due to its historic ties with the fighters. The absence of two major players has dampened expectations of progress on reconciliation...Read More
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 15:21
with USIP Board Chairman J. Robinson West November 2011 | On the Issues by J. Robinson West November 29, 2011   This past year offered fresh proof that the world we live in is ever dynamic. Fundamental change can come from something as extraordinary as a fruit vendor’s act of defiance in Tunisia to popular revolts by reform movements across the Middle East. At the same time, a decade of war and the weak U.S. economy dictates that there must be new ways to think about the role the U.S. will play in the world in the coming years.   We asked USIP leaders, from board members to senior staff and experts, to explain the effect that events around the world and here at home will have on the U.S., and the contributions the Institute can and does make during a time of tremendous challenge – and opportunity.   Robin West is the chairman and founder of PFC Energy. He has advised chief executives of leading national and...Read More
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 15:11
 By Dan Zak, Published: November 27   Baghdad — In a darkened room on the second floor of a government building, 100 young Iraqis conspired to revolutionize their country. School curricula should employ interactive Internet games to stimulate learning, said a 28-year-old Web developer. April 1 should be a cultural holiday to promote Iraq’s bygone status as a cradle of intellectualism, said a 23-year-old government employee. Women should harness social media to bridge the gender gap, said a 22-year-old activist. And on it went, a parade of young people auditioning for a prestigious conference. Each shared hopeful but vague ideas that envisioned a rosy future beyond Iraq’s turbulent present. The unspoken challenge, though, was turning dreams into plans, and notions into demands. “We are free, and this could not have happened without the U.S. But now we are fighting to grow,” said civil engineer Abdul Ghany, 27, a...Read More
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 11:20
by Franz Magnis-Suseno S.J. 29 November 2011 Jakarta - Violence against Christians in Indonesia frequently makes news headlines. However, acts of violence targeting Christians should not obscure the fact that the vast majority of Indonesia’s Christian communities live and worship free from fear and interference in a Muslim majority country, and that religious conversion has never been prohibited. In the past few years, however, the level of religious freedom has declined. The government must have the courage to stop this trend and protect Indonesia’s religious minorities to continue to uphold religious freedom. During the first nine months of 2011 alone the Jakarta Forum for Christian Communications counted 31 instances of interference with Christian churches. In 2010 they counted 47 incidents. In many regions it is virtually impossible to build new churches and when Christian communities celebrate their Sunday services in unauthorised places they are often...Read More
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 11:18
by Marwa Helal 29 November 2011 New York, New York - The Learning Channel (TLC) recently aired the new reality television programme, "All-American Muslim", amid a great deal of buzz both within and outside the Muslim American community. Set in Dearborn, Michigan, a city that is well known for its large Muslim and Arab populations, the series focuses on American-born Muslims and aims to answer the question: “What is it like to be Muslim in America?” America’s Muslim population is diverse in ethnicity, class and religious expression. Attending a Friday prayer or better yet, an Eid celebration showcases this diversity at its best – Turkish Americans next to Bosnian Americans, next to Bangladeshi, Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian, Pakistani, Palestinian and African Americans –the list goes on. There are those who attend mosque regularly and others who show up to socialise during the holidays. While TLC does not claim to represent all...Read More
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 11:16
by Moriel Rothman 29 November 2011 Jerusalem - Recently, two frightening bills were approved for a first reading in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. The first, sponsored by members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, proposes limiting donations from foreign governments to “political” Israeli NGOs to 20,000 shekels (approximately $5,000). The second, sponsored by Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman’s far right-wing Yisrael Beitenu Party, suggests a 45 per cent tax on all donations from foreign governments to Israeli NGOs. These bills without question specifically target left-wing organisations, as right-wing NGOs in Israel are either funded by private donors, or by the Israeli government itself. They are an example of worrying developments in Israel as right-wing extremists gain confidence and power. These bills also threaten to weaken some of the most inspiring and praiseworthy aspects of Israel. Indeed, there are incredible...Read More
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 11:14
by Syed Mohammad Ali 29 November 2011 Lahore, Pakistan – While media attention is riveted on potential implications of the recent NATO strike, which claimed the lives of 24 Pakistani soldiers, there are significant political developments in the country which also merit attention. After decades of military rule and ineffective governance by Pakistan's two main political parties – the Pakistan Peoples' Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N – the country is witnessing the somewhat rapid political ascendency of Tehreek-e-Insaf (the Pakistan Movement for Justice, PTI) party leader and former cricketer Imran Khan. This begs the question: does Khan’s rise in popularity signal a shift in Pakistan’s political playing field? Khan formed the PTI in 1996 and, despite being a member of the national parliament from 2002 to 2007, his party never managed to garner much popular support. After languishing in the political wilderness for years, a recent PTI...Read More
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 11:11
by Tarek Atia 29 November 2011 Cairo - The media is painting a grim picture of Egypt’s future right now. Images of violence predominate, and some worry that the revolution will succeed only in replacing one dictator with another. However, no matter who wins Egypt’s parliamentary elections, a fundamental fact will be re-affirmed: nothing can ultimately stop the movement for change in Egypt and the wider Arab world. The long lines at polling stations in Cairo from the earliest hours of the morning of 28 November – the first day in a series of voting days nationwide that will culminate in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliament by early January – attest to the fact that Egyptians are hungry to play a major role in the future of their country. Similarly, this March, 18 million people turned out to vote in a referendum on constitutional changes. Of course, the current elections are not without controversy. There are fears there will be violence,...Read More
Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 14:34
28 November 2011 By Rayhan Demytrie BBC News, Almaty More than 100 Peace Corps volunteers have left Kazakhstan, after the US organisation announced an abrupt end to its programme.   The Peace Corps cited "organisational considerations" as the main reason for halting its programme after 18 years. Some reports have suggested the pull-out was prompted by security concerns and a rising number of sexual assaults. The Kazakh authorities said it was a logical step as the country is not poor and does not require such help.   The volunteers, who had been working in different parts of the vast country, were summoned to Almaty and sent home over the weekend.   The organisation has not given an explanation for its departure.   Volunteers' concerns But blogs written by volunteers suggested it was the rising number of sexual assaults and security threats that had prompted the Peace Corps to wrap up its programme.   One volunteer, who did...Read More
Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 11:53
  Some say elections under military rule represent a useless step in the wrong direction. Evan Hill Last Modified: 28 Nov 2011 13:25 CAIRO, Egypt - The focus of the international media on the first day of Egypt's parliamentary elections is on the long queues outside the polling stations. But away from the spotlight and the elections, a boisterous band of activists ranged against military rule are hellbent on boycotting what is billed as the country's first free and fair polls since Hosni Mubarak's ouster.  State-run media's get-out-the-vote campaign have failed to budge them from their decision to boycott the polls. In their view, any election under the present circumstances would represent a useless step in the wrong direction, possibly heralding a powerless and illegitimate parliament. The reasons for their dischantment are diverse. Many do not trust the military, while...Read More
Thursday, November 24, 2011 - 11:30
Diplomats Should Systematically Monitor Terrorism Trials November 21, 2011 (Nairobi) – The Ethiopian government should cease using its overly broad anti-terrorism law against journalists and peaceful political activists, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today. On November 23, 2011, the trial of 24 people charged with terrorism offenses on November 10 will continue. Those charged include six journalists and two members of the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party. Sixteen of the 24 are being tried in absentia. Several other terrorism trials of journalists and opposition activists are ongoing. “The Ethiopian government is exploiting its vaguely worded anti-terror law to crush peaceful dissent,” said Rona Peligal, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009 includes an overbroad and vague definition of terrorist acts and a definition of “encouragement of terrorism...Read More
Thursday, November 24, 2011 - 11:18
Violence, Delays in Transfer of Power Fuels Protesters’ Rage November 22, 2011 (New York) – Egypt’s military rulers should immediately order riot police to stop using excessive force against protesters and to reduce their presence in the areas surrounding Tahrir Square to a level that allows for the maintenance of security while permitting free assembly, Human Rights Watch said today. Riot police and military officers have shot live ammunition and rubber bullets into the crowd, beaten protesters and otherwise used excessive force in the demonstrations that began in Cairo on November 19, 2011, according to numerous accounts from witnesses. The Office of the Public Prosecutor – the civilian judicial authority – should conduct a transparent investigation into the use of lethal force and military involvement in the abuses, and military command and control over the riot police, Human Rights Watch said. “With parliamentary elections a...Read More
Thursday, November 24, 2011 - 11:03
  by Elaine Pearson Published in:  The Jakarta Globe November 21, 2011   “ Now we are vilified,” an Ahmadiyah imam told me last week at a mosque outside Jakarta that is threatened with closure. This is not the Indonesia that US President Barack Obama described last year on his visit to Jakarta, when he said, “Even as this land of my youth has changed in so many ways, those things that I learned to love about Indonesia — that spirit of tolerance that is written into your Constitution, symbolized in mosques and churches and temples standing alongside each other, that spirit that’s embodied in your people — that still lives on.”  In Bali this week, Obama should urge President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to protect the rights of religious minorities and take urgent steps to protect religious freedom.  Religious tolerance in Indonesia is in danger. There has...Read More
Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 12:42
by Chris Wilder 22 November 2011 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Over the last few years, low-income residents of inner-city neighbourhoods all over America have been getting pushed out. As new residents move in, racial tensions sometimes result in cities with a dynamic like that of Philadelphia, where the majority of displaced people are black and the newcomers are mostly white. Although this phenomenon is primarily linked to income levels, when established communities are faced with an influx of people who have different cultures and interests, there is potential for conflict and tension. Co-operative living, government subsidies, and effective community organising are potential solutions to help overcome these challenges. The phenomenon described above is called gentrification. In the 1960s, urban geographer Ruth Glass first used the term gentrification, describing how dilapidated properties in working class neighbourhoods were purchased and renovated by middle-class...Read More
Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 12:37
by Idil Aybars 22 November 2011 Ankara - Turkish women were among the first in Europe to exercise political rights with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1924, but 87 years later Turkey ranks 122nd of the 135 countries in the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index. Women’s rights in Turkey have a complicated track record. Turkish women gained many of their current social, cultural and political rights in the 1920s and 1930s after the establishment of the Turkish republic. In 1934, before France and Switzerland, Turkey recognised women’s right to vote and run for public office. And along with political rights, a number of important legal reforms in the 1920s and 1930s aimed to provide Turkish women with equal rights in the educational, family, work, social and legal spheres. Today, however, there are pressing problems when it comes to gender equality in Turkey. These problems do not harm only women, but also men and society at large. Gender equality is...Read More
Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 12:13
Despite improvements from last year, the United States is far from a regional favorite By Jessica Rettig November 21, 2011   Public opinions in the Middle East have become more favorable toward the United States and the Obama administration since a year ago, according to a recent regional survey. But compared to other countries and other world leaders, America and President Obama are far from regional favorites.   On Monday, the Brookings Institution and the University of Maryland released the results of a poll conducted late last month in five countries throughout the region: Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Lebanon, and Jordan.   According to the poll—which was overseen by Middle East expert Shibley Telhami—despite improvements in favorability around the region, the United States still ranks low in the region among other world powers. It remains unclear whether this year's so-called...Read More

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