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from FaithWorld:

Did Bahrain’s Shi’ite opposition squander its democracy chance?

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(Thousands of protesters gather at Pearl Roundabout in the heart of the Bahraini capital Manama February 15, 2011/Hamad I Mohammed)

As martial law comes to an end in the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain this week, opposition activists are wondering whether they threw away what might have been the first real chance for democracy in the Gulf Arab region.

Shortly after young Bahrainis, inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, converged on a roundabout in early February, the government offered dialogue with opposition parties on political reforms. But the talks failed to get off the ground. After weeks of behind-the-scenes discussions during which sectarian tension worsened between the Shi'ite majority and Sunnis who saw the ruling Al-Khalifa family as protection, Saudi troops poured in on March 15, martial law was declared the next day and the roundabout encampment was broken up on March 16.

Critics say the leading opposition party Wefaq, headed by Sheikh Ali Salman, failed to show leadership during the unrest, allowing hardliners within the ruling family and among the Shi'ite opposition to steer events. "What a massively missed opportunity. Wefaq should have had the conviction to stand ahead of the others and sit at the table. I'm sure they rue it," one Western diplomat said. When talks eventually resume, he said, "the ceiling will be lower" and reforms could have been set back by a decade.

from FaithWorld:

Bahrain Sunni says majority Shi’ite opposition must change leaders

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(An anti-government protester waves a Bahraini flag during a rally in Manama March 3, 2011/James Lawler Duggan)

Bahrain's opposition must change its leadership for the divided Gulf Arab state to move on with political reconciliation after crushing a pro-democracy movement led by majority Shi'ites, a Sunni cleric said on Saturday. Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Mahmoud said the democracy movement, which began in February when protesters inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt occupied a roundabout in Manama, had been hijacked by Shi'ite opposition leaders with a sectarian agenda who were in contact with Iran's clerical leadership.

from FaithWorld:

Bahrain Shi’ite leader backs the royal family, rejects alleged Iran links

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(Head of Al Wafaq Society, Sheikh Ali Salman, speaks during an anti-government protest at Bahrian's Foreign Ministry in Manama March 4, 2011/James Lawler Duggan)

The leader of Bahrain's main Shi'ite opposition party said on Sunday his goal was to help bring political reform, rejecting accusations of taking orders from Iran or seeking to install Shi'ite religious rule. Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the opposition group Wefaq, said his party supported the Al Khalifa family as rulers and wanted to help the government with constitutional reforms.

from FaithWorld:

Egyptian Christians to end two-week sit-in protest

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(Coptic Christian women protest after clashes between Christians and Muslims in downtown Cairo May 8, 2011/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

Egyptian Christians holding a sit-in in downtown Cairo agreed to end nearly two weeks of protests on Friday, state television reported, after authorities promised to meet some of their demands. Witnesses said some of the protestors had begun preparing to go home after one main protest leader, Father Metyas Nasr, an Orthodox priest, agreed to a government offer to free five young men detained on Thursday following clashes outside a church in the eastern Cairo suburb of Ain Shams.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Letting the qat out of the bag…

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Blog Guy, I read with interest your item about the goofy protesters in Yemen. You know, the snake-biters, the bread-heads and so on.

So have they made progress since they started getting goofier? I’ve seen plenty of photos of angry crowds over there.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Call it a tokin’ effort?

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Lamar, get in my office! Are you the one who approved the permit for those people to hold a huge Global Marijuana March in the streets here over the weekend?

Aren't you aware that some folks blame marijuana for things like difficulty in concentrating, slowed reaction time and altered time perception? I can't believe you let them march!

from FaithWorld:

Rare rally tests Vietnam’s religious tolerance

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(Catholic seminarians attend Easter Sunday Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi April 24, 2011/Kham)

Vietnam has deployed troops to contain a rare mass protest by ethnic Hmong people that is testing the government's tolerance of minority Christians, just weeks after human rights activists accused leaders of persecuting another hill tribe. As many as 7,000 Hmong people began to gather several days ago in the far-flung mountains of Dien Bien Province, near the northwestern border with Laos and China, apparently for religious reasons although some were advocating an independent kingdom, according to diplomatic, government and other sources.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Get out your daggers, kids!

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Okay staff, we've been hired by the anti-government faction over in Yemen to get some publicity for their cause.

It seems that what with Bahrain and Egypt and Libya and all, nobody is even paying attention to the poor protesters in Yemen.

from FaithWorld:

Syria’s Assad retrenches into power base of his Alawite Shi’ite sect

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(A supporter of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad holds aloft a photograph of the president at Hamidiya market in Damascus April 30, 2011/Khaled al-Hariri)

President Bashar al-Assad is increasingly relying on his Alawite power base to crush pro-democracy protests that have posed the boldest challenge to the Assad family's 41 years of rule over Syria. Assad, an Alawite, sent army and secret police units dominated by officers from the same minority sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, into mainly Sunni urban centers to crush demonstrations calling for his removal for the last six weeks.

from FaithWorld:

Days of protest after Christian governor named in southern Egypt

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(A Coptic Orthodox church in Cairo, April 18, 2009/Tarek Mostafa)

Muslims in southern Egypt protested for a third day on Sunday over the appointment of a Christian governor, saying his predecessor, also a Christian, had failed to solve their problems. Thousands rallied outside the governor's office in Qena and prevented employees from entering, blocked highways leading to the town and sat on a railway line into the province demanding that the appointment of Emad Mikhail be reversed.

Egypt's interim military rulers, who took control when President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising, selected Mikhail last week as one of several new appointments to replace officials associated with his autocratic regime. The protesters say Mikhail's predecessor, Magdy Ayoub, failed to stem sectarian violence and address poverty and unemployment, which grew during his tenure. Witnesses say some Coptic Christians joined the protest as well.

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