FaithWorld

Bahrain aims to control vote amid Sunni-Shi’ite tension

bahrainBahrain’s elections on Saturday are unlikely to bring change to an assembly with little clout, but the government is leaving nothing to chance as it tightens security and makes it tougher for majority Shi’ites to vote.

Critics say densely populated Shi’ite areas are not represented in parliament according to their share in Bahrain’s 1.3 million population, and in some cases Shi’ite voters, of whom 300,000 are registered — have been moved to Sunni areas where their votes have less impact. (Photo: Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, December 15, 2009/Stephanie McGehee)

“The types of rules and laws that are passed still favour the Sunni elites over the majority Shi’ite population,” said Theodore Karasik of Dubai’s Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “The Shi’ites are angered because they want more inclusion in decision-making and they want more jobs in government ministries, but these kinds of legislations don’t come up.”

The Gulf Arab state’s largest Shi’ite political group Wefaq, holding 17 out of 40 seats in the current assembly, is competing with Sunni Islamist groups and secular group Waad for parliament seats in a country whose stability is important for Washington.

Shi’ites say they have witnessed discrimination in housing, healthcare and access to government jobs. They also say the government has settled foreign Sunnis to offset Shi’ite numbers.

Egypt stops TV channels, Islamic trend seen a target

satellite dishesEgypt has temporarily shut 12 satellite channels and warned 20 others for reasons ranging from insulting religions to broadcasting pornography, although an analyst said the real target seemed to be strict Islamic trends.

The government last week tightened TV broadcast rules, a move critics said was part of a crackdown on independent media before a parliament election in November and a presidential poll next year. Four channels were closed. The government denied any political motivation. (Photo: Satellite dishes, 3 April 2004/Jack Dabaghian)

Analysts said the latest decision to temporarily shut the satellite channels and warn others, announced late on Tuesday, seemed to be mainly to stop the spread of strict Islamic Salafi teaching that might boost support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Christian exodus hurts Middle East: Muslim official

muslims at synodChristian emigration from the Middle East is impoverishing Arab culture and Muslims have a duty to encourage the presence of Christian minorities, a Lebanese government adviser has told a Vatican summit. (Photo: Muhammad Al-Sammak (R) at the synod for the Middle East bishops, October 14, 2010/Osservatore Romano)

Mohammad Sammak, a Sunni Muslim who is secretary general of Lebanon’s Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue, told a synod of bishops on Thursday the declining number of Christians in the region was a concern for all Muslims.

“The emigration of Christians is an impoverishment of the Arabic identity, of its culture and authenticity,” said Sammak, who is an adviser to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. He added that maintaining the Christian presence in the Middle East was a “common Islamic duty.”

Christians in Lebanon fret despite privileged role

lebanon christiansAfter a panicky mass flight from his Christian village, Sami Abi Daher watched from across the valley as Syrian-backed Druze fighters burned and looted it. That was back in 1983 when battles forced tens of thousands of Christians from their homes in the Aley and Shouf hills near Beirut in a bloody postscript to Israel’s 1982 invasion. (Photo: Supporters of Christian Lebanese Forces commemorate the Lebanese Resistance Martyrs in Jouniyeh, north of Beirut, September 25, 2010./ Mohamed Azakir)

Abi Daher, a former Christian militiaman, has never returned to live in his village, Rishmaya, instead working and bringing up his three children in a Christian district of Beirut.

Twenty years after the 1975-90 civil war, Christians formally enjoy a reduced but still disproportionate weight in Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system. While under no specific threat, as a community they are weak and divided.

Former Iranian chief justice rises to senior Shi’ite rank, eligible to be next leader

ayatollah 1The former head of Iran’s judiciary has attained a senior Shi’ite clerical rank, joining a handful of men eligible to become supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, according to Iranian websites.

The Kalame opposition website said Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, who ran the justice system from 1999 to 2009, had become a marja-e taqlid (source of emulation), meaning that people may choose him as their personal spiritual guide. (Photo: Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi in Tehran, January 11, 2005/Raheb Homavandi)

“Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi announced himself as a source of emulation on Tuesday. He issued his resaleh (thesis interpreting Islamic law),” the website of opposition presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi said on Thursday.

Pakistani Sunni militants stoking sectarian rift against Shi’ites: minister

quetta (Photo: Volunteers help injured after suicide attack on Shi’ite procession in Quetta September 3, 2010/Rizwan Saeed)

Pro-Taliban Pakistani militants are trying to fuel a sectarian rift, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Saturday, as a new wave of violence piled pressure on a government already struggling with a flood crisis.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for bomb attacks on two Shi’ite rallies that killed nearly 90 people in the cities of Quetta and Lahore in the past three days. The attacks ended a lull after devastating floods which affected 20 million people. Pakistani officials had said before the attacks that any major violence at such a difficult time was likely to cause deep popular resentment against the militants.

Malik said after taking a beating in their strongholds in the country’s northwest in a string of military offensives, al Qaeda-linked militants were adding a religious color to their activities to whip up sectarianism.

Q+A – Why are militants attacking Shi’ites, Pakistan now ?

lahore 1 (Photo: Men gather near dead bodies after bomb attack on Shi’tes in Lahore, September 1, 2010/Mohsin Raza)

Suspected Islamist militants exploded three bombs at a Shi’ite procession in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Wednesday, killing 33 people and piling pressure on the government already overwhelmed by floods.

Here are some questions and answers on implications of the attacks which came after a lull in violence during floods.

WHAT MILITANTS ARE UP TO?

WHY DO THE MILITANTS TARGET SHI’ITES?

HOW IS THE GOVERNMENT HANDLING THE PROBLEM?

Read the answers in a Q+A by Zeeshan Haider here.

lahore 2 (Photo: A woman weeps next to the body of a relative after bomb attack on Shi’ites in Lahore, September 1, 2010/Mohsin Raza)

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Britain removes Fadlallah eulogy from blog of its envoy to Lebanon

fadlallahBritain has removed a blog from the website of its ambassador to Beirut in which she praised Lebanon’s late Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. In her blog, titled ‘The passing of decent men’, Frances Guy wrote that she was saddened by Fadlallah’s death and that the world “needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths.”

Fadlallah was revered by many Shi’ite Muslims across the Middle East and Central Asia, and was known for his moderate social views and for trying to minimise Muslim sectarian differences.  But he was designated a terrorist by the United States and Israel because of his links to Hezbollah and his support for suicide attacks against the Jewish state. (Photo: Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim women supporters of Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah wave to his coffin during his funeral in Beirut, July 6, 2010/ Sharif Karim)

A British Foreign Office spokesman said Guy’s blog had been removed “after mature consideration.” The criticism of her blog followed the firing of a senior CNN editor for Middle East news who published a Twitter message that said she respected Fadlallah.

CNN fires veteran Mideast editor over tweet on respect for Fadlallah

fadlallah picCNN has fired a senior editor for Middle East news after she published a Twitter message that said she respected a Lebanese Shi’ite cleric branded a terrorist by the United States, U.S. and British media said on Thursday. The Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, one of Shi’ite Islam’s highest religious authorities and an early mentor of the militant group Hezbollah, died in Beirut on Sunday. (Photo: Supporters of Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah hold posters after his death in Beirut, July 4, 2010/Khalil Hassan)

Octavia Nasr, a 20-year CNN veteran based in Atlanta, wrote on Twitter: “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” Some supporters of Israel saw the Twitter posting almost immediately and took issue with it, the New York Times said.

The Times cited Parisa Khosravi, the senior vice president for CNN International Newsgathering, as saying in an internal memorandum that she “had a conversation” with Nasr and that “we have decided that she will be leaving the company.”

Hundreds of thousands mourn Lebanon’s Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah

fadlallah burial (Photo:  Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims carry coffin Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah in Beirut, July 6, 2010/Sharif Karim)

Lebanon’s Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah was buried on Tuesday, mourned by hundreds of thousands who paid homage to an early mentor of Hezbollah who became one of Shi’ite Islam’s highest authorities.

Fadlallah, who died on Sunday aged 74, was a revered marja’a, or source of emulation, for many Shi’ites across the Middle East and Central Asia. He was seen as the spiritual leader of the militant movement Hezbollah when it was formed after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. When the group was blamed for abduction of Westerners in the 1980s and attacks on U.S. and French targets in Lebanon, Fadlallah repeatedly called for the hostages to be released, saying he opposed kidnappings, and he later distanced himself from Hezbollah’s close ties to Iran.

Fadlallah was known in Shi’ite circles for his moderate social views, especially on women. He issued several notable fatwas, or religious opinions, including banning the Shi’ite practice of shedding blood during the mourning ritual of Ashura.