Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Ten days have passed since Pakistan cut a deal with Islamists to enforce sharia in the turbulent Swat region in return for a ceasefire, and we still don't know many details about what was agreed. The deal made international headlines. It prompted political and security concerns in NATO and Washington and warnings about possible violations of human rights and religious freedom. (Photo: Supporters of Maulana Sufi Mohammad gather for prayers in Mingora, 21 Feb 2009/Adil Khan)
In the blogosphere, Terry Mattingly over at GetReligion has asked in two posts (here and here) why reporters there aren't supplying more details about exactly how sharia will be implemented or what the doctrinal differences between Muslims in the region are. Like other news organisations, Reuters has been reporting extensively on the political side of this so-called peace deal but not had much on the religion details. As Reuters religion editor and a former chief correspondent in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I'm very interested in this. I blogged about the deal when it was struck and wanted to revisit the issue now to see what more we know about it.
After consulting with our Islamabad bureau, reading other news organisations' reports and scouring the web, I have the feeling -- familiar to anyone who has reported from that part of the world -- that the more you look at this deal, the less you see besides the fact of the deal itself. The devil isn't hiding in the details because there aren't many there. He's playing a bigger political game.
First, look at the deal that made all the headlines. On February 16, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government agreed with the local Swat Islamist leader Maulana Sufi Mohammad what was essentially a sharia-for-peace swap. The short text was all of two paragraphs in the original, as reported in the Urdu daily Roznama Express (Daily Express, below). The MEMRI Blog has the Urdu original (click here) and a translation that says they agreed that:
Pakistan has agreed to restore Islamic law in the turbulent Swat valley and neighbouring areas of the North-West Frontier Province. What does that mean? Sharia is understood and applied in such varied ways across the Muslim world that it is difficult to say exactly what it is. Will we soon see Saudi or Taliban-style hand-chopping for thieves and stonings for adulterers? Would it be open to appeal and overturn harsh verdicts, as the Federal Sharia Court in Islamabad has sometimes done? Or could it be that these details are secondary because sharia is more a political than a religious strategy here? (Photo: Swat Islamic leaders in Peshawar to negotiate sharia accord/16 Feb 2009/Ali Imam)
As is often the case in Pakistan, this issue has two sides -- theory and practice. In theory, this looks like it should be a strict but not Taliban-style legal regime. As Zeeshan Haider in our Islamabad bureau put in in a Question&Answer list on sharia in Swat:
from Africa News blog:
How times change. Somalia’s new Islamist president has been feted in Ethiopia, whose army drove him from power two years ago - with Washington’s backing - when he headed a sharia courts movement.
Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was greeted with a standing ovation from African Union leaders at a summit in Ethiopia, which pulled the last of its troops out of Somalia last month, leaving the government in control of little beyond parts of Mogadishu. The hardline Islamist al Shabaab militia control much of the rest of southern Somalia.
Who remembers the Google Wars website that was doing the viral rounds a few years back – a mildly amusing, non-scientific snapshot of the search-driven, internet world we live in?
It lives on at www.googlebattle.com where you can enter two search terms, say ‘Lennon vs. McCartney’ or ‘Left vs. Right’, and let the internet pick a winner by the number of search hits each word gets.
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
Voices get loud and excited over the radio Reuters news crews use in Gaza to call in the latest information. Some people complain there are no “Western reporters” inside. But we all work for Reuters, a global agency that sets the international standard.
After two full weeks of bombardment we are all worried about our families but we work and work the story. We hope it will stop.
from Africa News blog:
The withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia has left a nation beset by conflict for nearly two decades at a crossroads.
Ethiopia invaded to oust Islamists from the capital, but insurgents still control much of southern Somalia and more hardline groups that worry Washington have flourished during the two-year intervention.
Saturday is my day off from being Reuters correspondent in Gaza and I usually sleep until noon. This Saturday things didn’t go to plan.
My 7-year-old son Abdel-Rahman and his sister Dalia, who is 12, came home early from school, as they have been doing their mid-term exams, to wake me up and ask me to take them for breakfast at a seafront restaurant not far from Gaza’s port.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has blamed a group with "external linkages" for coordinated attacks which killed more than 100 people in Mumbai. The language was reminiscent of the darker days of India-Pakistan relations when India always saw a Pakistan hand in militant attacks, blaming groups it said were set up by Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, to seek revenge for Pakistan's defeat by India in the 1971 war.
An attack on India's parliament in December 2001 triggered a mass mobilisation along the two countries' borders and brought them close to a fourth war. That attack was blamed by India on the Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed - hardline Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda. Both have been associated with the kind of "fedayeen" attacks -- in which the attackers, while not necessarily suicide bombers, are willing to fight to the death -- seen in Mumbai.
Islamist militants imposing a strict form of Islamic law are knocking on the doors of Somalia’s capital, the country’s president fears his government could collapse — and now pirates have seized a super-tanker laden with crude oil heading to the United States from Saudi Arabia.
Chaos, conflict and humanitarian crises in Somalia are hardly new. It’s a poor, dry nation where a million people live as refugees and 10,000 civilians have been killed in the Islamist-led insurgency of the last two years. A fledgling peace process looks fragile. Any hopes an international peacekeeping force will soon come to the rescue of a country that has become the epitome of anarchic violence are optimistic, at best.
Did the "Bali bombers" end up as martyrs or monsters? That's what many must be wondering after the three young men convicted of the Bali nighclub bombings in October 2002 were executed in the dead of the night last weekend in an orange grove on Java. (Photo: Funeral of bomber Imam Samudra, 11 Nov 2008/Supri)
The run-up to the executions turned into a media circus. The three men from the Jemaah Islamiah group -- Imam Samudra, Mukhlas, and Amrozi -- were interviewed extensively by domestic and foreign media before they faced a firing squad last Sunday. They were defiant to the end, calling for more attacks like the one they perpetrated that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists. They had, in fact, become media celebrities and the public was fascinated with them. But as monsters or martyrs?