Reuters blog archive
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
The Egyptian uprising contains much that is familiar to Pakistan - the dark warnings of a coup, in Egypt's case delivered by Vice President Omar Suleiman, the role of political Islam, and a relationship with the United States distorted by U.S. aid and American strategic interests which do not match those of the people.
President Hosni Mubarak cited Pakistan as an example of what happened when a ruler like President Pervez Musharraf - like himself from the military - was forced to make way for democracy. "He fears that Pakistan is on the brink of falling into the hands of the Taliban, and he puts some of the blame on U.S. insistence on steps that ultimately weakened Musharraf," a 2009 U.S. embassy cable published by WikiLeaks said.
Comparisons with Pakistan tend to make you somewhat sceptical about the chances of Egypt's uprising turning out well.
Yet there is something quite new coming out of Egypt that has the potential to be transformative across the Muslim world. And that is the rejection of all forms of old authority, including, significantly, religious authority.
(Photo: A protest against U.S. President Barack Obama in Jakarta November 9, 2010/Dadang Tri)
President Barack Obama's pledge on Wednesday in Jakarta to strive for better relations with the Muslim world drew skepticism in Cairo, where last year he called for a new beginning in the Middle East after years of mistrust.
Seventeen months after Obama's Cairo University speech, al Qaeda is still threatening the West, peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians remain stalled over the issue of West Bank settlements and U.S. troops remain in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When U.S. President Barack Obama first addressed the Muslim world in its traditional heartland last year, his speech was laden with references to the past, to Islam and to the tensions plaguing the Middle East. Updating his speech on Wednesday on the far eastern fringe of that world, his upbeat remarks about Indonesia's democracy, development and diversity spelled hope for the future. (Photo: President Obama greets the audience after his speech in Jakarta November 10, 2010/Jason Reed)
But they were also veiled reference to autocratic Muslim countries. He held up Indonesia as an example for others to emulate, praising the progress it has made from dictatorship to a vibrant democracy tolerant of other religions.
Word clouds are graphic games that sometimes tell more than a plain text. Look at the results below for U.S. President Barack Obama's "speech to the Muslim world" today in Jakarta and his first such address in Cairo last year. I've analysed the two in a report here, but word clouds tell the story a different way. (Photo: President Barack Obama in Jakarta, 10 Nov 2010/Barbara Walton)
Judging by the frequency of the words, today's speech was much more a speech about Indonesia than anything else. The message to the greater Muslim world -- here's what the world's largest Muslim country can do! -- only comes through between the lines. But it was clear enough when Obama strung these words into sentences.
from Global News Journal:
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak says he has embarked on a series of radical economic reforms. In reality it feels as if he has unleashed a barrage of incomprehensible acronyms on the unsuspecting public of this Southeast Asian nation.
The charge for economic reform is being led by the snappily named PEMANDU. As well as being the Malay word for "driver" it stands for the government's Performance Management and Delivery Unit.
A giant clock on a skyscraper in Islam's holiest city Mecca began ticking on Wednesday at the start of the fasting month of Ramadan, amid hopes by Saudi Arabia that it will become the Muslim world's official timekeeper.
The Mecca Clock, which Riyadh says is the world's largest, has four faces each bearing a large inscription of the name "Allah." It sits 400 metres up what will be the world's second-tallest skyscraper and largest hotel, overlooking the city's Holy Grand Mosque, which Muslims around the world turn to five times a day for prayer.
Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar marked with fasting and prayer, is also an uplifting time for stock markets in predominantly Muslim countries, according to a study by the University of New Hampshire. (Photo: A woman displays dates, a traditional food to break the Ramadan fast at sunset, in Amman on August 8, 2010/Muhammad Hamed)
Stock markets in Oman, Turkey, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia generated average returns of 38 percent during the month of Ramadan over the years 1989 through 2007, according to the report, compared with their average 4.3 percent returns the rest of the year.
(Photo: Al Azhar mosque in Cairo, 10 March 2010/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Egypt's al-Azhar's satellite channel that seeks to promote moderate Islam launched four language services to extend its reach to millions of Muslims worldwide, its designers said on Sunday.
Al-Azhar, one of the oldest seats of Sunni Islamic learning, will target viewers in English, French, Urdu and Pashto besides its now running Arabic programs, in a renewed effort to further U.S. President Barak Obama's call for greater religious tolerance. The station was launched to coincide with Obama's visit to Cairo in mid-2009 and his call for better ties between the Muslim world and the United States.
Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, who as the head of Egypt's most prestigious seat of Islamic learning al-Azhar was Sunni Islam's top authority, died of a heart attack on Wednesday on a visit to Saudi Arabia, religious officials at al-Azhar said. He was 81.
Mohamed Wasel, Tantawi's deputy, will temporarily take charge of the Sunni Muslim institution until Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak appoints a new head. Wasel has been heading al-Azhar's committee for inter-faith dialogue.
If you've ever been confused by Muslim names you read in the news or unsure who's important in the Islamic world, help is near. A new book entitled "The 500 Most Influential Muslims - 2009" lists prominent Muslims from different fields -- politics, religion, women, media, even radicals -- with informative short biographies explaining who they are. It starts with an overall "top 50" list and then surveys the most prominent Muslims in their fields. Here it is in PDF.
The book, edited by Professors John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin at Georgetown University in Washington, is the first in what is planned to be an annual survey of the top Muslim personalities around the world. It's a joint effort by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. Esposito is director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center and Kalin is spokesman for the Common Word dialogue initiative we've written about on this blog before.