Witness – Writing on the walls in the Holy Land

June 21, 2010

bethlehem wall 1 (Photo: A Palestinian near the Israeli barrier in the Aida refugee camp in the West Bank town of Bethlehem November 9, 2009/Darren Whiteside)

Alastair Macdonald has been Reuters Bureau Chief in Israel and the Palestinian territories for the past three years. As a foreign correspondent over the past 20, he has previously been based in London, Paris, Moscow, Berlin and Baghdad.  As he ends his assignment in Jerusalem, he reflects in the following story on how he has watched people in the region build an array of barriers, both physical and emotional, to cut themselves off from each other.

Secular Lebanese protest against Muslim-Christian sectarianism

April 25, 2010

beirut 3

About 3,000 people marched in Beirut on Sunday to demand a secular system in place of the Muslim-Christian sectarianism that permeates politics, employment and family status matters in Lebanon.  “Civil marriage, not civil war” was among the banners carried by the mostly young, educated protesters who gathered in response to a campaign on Internet social networking sites. It was Lebanon’s first such demonstration in favor of secularism.

Hezbollah cuts Islamist rhetoric in new manifesto

December 1, 2009

nasrallahLebanon’s Hezbollah group has announced a new political strategy that tones down Islamist rhetoric but maintains a tough line against Israel and the United States.

Guardian blogger picks up on “takfir” where we left off

March 3, 2008

Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah during an interview with Reuters in Beirut, 5 Sept. 2007/Jamal SaidiThanks to Haroon Siddique over at the Guardian newsblog for doing some work I left unfinished last week. On Feb. 26, I wrote a post about a leading Muslim seminary in India declaring terrorism to be un-Islamic and noted that the news got almost no coverage in western media. “So the statement, which was backed by several thousand Islamic scholars, looks like it will end up like the tree that falls in the forest with nobody around to hear it,” the post added. The next day, our Beirut bureau reported that Lebanon’s Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah — one of the most respected clerics in Shi’ite Islam — had denounced the practice of Muslims charging others with non-belief as “one of the most dangerous issues” faced by the Muslim world. This practice, called takfir in Arabic, is used by radical Islamists as a justification for killing other Muslims.