Reuters blog archive
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.
Their use of tanks to shell the city of Deraa last week, storming of mosques and attacks on unarmed civilians -- as reported by residents and activists -- have raised the stakes. Reports say that Sunni conscripts, Syria's majority sect, refused to fire at their co-religionists.
The 45-year-old president, who has kept the Soviet-era political system he inherited from his father intact, has hinted repeatedly that the protesters were serving a foreign conspiracy to spread sectarian strife. Security forces have shot dead at least 560 civilians in attacks on protesters, human rights groups say. Hundreds more are missing, many feared killed, and thousands have been arrested, adding to thousands of political prisoners. But Assad may have struck a chord among members of the Alawite sect, who rose to prominence in the army under French rule, when the colonial administration used "divide and rule" tactics to control Syria.
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.
France's ban on full face veils, a first in Europe, went into force on Monday, making anyone wearing the Muslim niqab or burqa in public liable to a fine of 150 euros or lessons in French citizenship.
France's ban on full face veils, a first in Europe, went into force Monday, exposing anyone who wears the Muslim niqab or burqa in public to fines of 150 euros (£131.90). France's five-million-strong Muslim minority is Western Europe's largest, but fewer than 2,000 women are believed actually to wear a full face veil. Many Muslim leaders have said they support neither the veil nor the law banning it.
French police have arrested 59 people who turned up for a banned protest over the banning of the Muslim full face veil, a police spokesman said. The measure goes into force on Monday and prohibits wearing the full veil, the burqa, in all public places, with a 150 euro ($216) fine for offenders.
from India Insight:
Even as Anna Hazare’s protest demanding an anti-draft bill gains nationwide momentum and nears a solution, there has been some criticism of the methods the veteran social activist has adopted in his crusade.
While everyone seems to agree with demands of more transparency in the system and more accountability in governance, Hazare’s fasting to force the government to accept his demands has led to some calling his tactics as being unconstitutional and unreasonable.
Syria has lifted a ban on teachers wearing the full face veil and ordered the closure of a casino, moves aimed at placating conservative Muslims in the tightly-controlled country that has seen weeks of unrest. Last month pro-democracy protests erupted in the majority Sunni Muslim city of Deraa and later spread to other cities, including the religiously-mixed port city of Latakia, posing the greatest challenge to Assad's 11-year rule.
Egyptian clerics and employees of state Islamic religious bodies are demanding an end to what they say is rampant corruption by senior officials who manage religious endowments. No official figures exist for the sums donated to Egypt's top Islamic institutions to help manage and build mosques and pay imams, but independent estimates suggest they run to the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Hundreds of young Shi'ite men marched down a commercial street in the Saudi city of Qatif, near the heart of the kingdom's oil industry, pounding their fists in anger over their country's military intervention in Bahrain. "With our blood and soul we sacrifice for you, Bahrain," they chanted as they walked, according to videos of a recent protest posted on the internet. Some wore scarves to conceal their faces. Others waved Bahraini flags.