French cartoons insulting Islam condemned as 'fuel on the fire'
As Muslims across the globe continue to protest the US-made film that insulted Islam's Prophet Muhammad, a French weekly called Charlie Hebdo published a series of cartoons of the prophet, sparking a new wave of rage in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Press TV reported that the cartoons were denounced by both Egypt's al-Azhar Mosque and the Vatican as "fuel on the fire," and Al Jazeera reported that a number of French embassies and schools would close today for fear of violence.
According to BBC Arabic, anti-blasphemy demonstrations have spread to South and Southeast Asia, specifically the capitals of Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, while Pakistan experienced deadly Friday protests after security forces opened fire on demonstrators.
This Week in Syria: 'Friends of Syria' meeting, 'massacre' in ar-Raqqah, and fears of chemical attack
New TV reported a massacre by the Syrian regime in ar-Raqqah on Thursday, while Holland hosted a meeting of representatives of the group known as "Friends of the Syrian People," which includes 60 countries and the Arab League. Meanwhile, IBA reported on Tuesday that the Syrian army flew in members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to witness firing tests for chemical weapons at the country's largest chemical weapons research center. Newly-defected Major General Adnan Sillu, who was the head of the Syrian weapons program, also said that the Assad regime had plans to conduct a chemical weapons assault on the rebels, as well as transfer missiles with chemical warheads to Hezbollah.
Large-scale IDF exercises in Golan Heights, as Israeli air strike kills two Hamas officers in Gaza
IBA reported surprise large-scale military exercises involving top IDF brass amid the Jewish High Holy Days. The exercises simulated a deteriorating security situation in the Golan Heights. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reported that an Israeli air strike resulted in the deaths of two Hamas security officers near the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, saying that the officers were on an official mission near the tunnels by the Egyptian-Palestinian border. IBA, on the other hand, reported that the deaths were of Hamas operatives who were tasked with securing smuggling tunnels for explosives, and were planning a terror attack against Israel.
Image: A girl is photographed as she attends an anti-U.S. demonstration with religious students in the compound of the Red Mosque in Islamabad September 22, 2012: REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood
American film offensive to Islam sparks anti-US protests across Muslim world
Adding to the death of the American ambassador to Libya and members of his staff in Benghazi on September 11, demonstrations condemning a film that insulted the Prophet Muhammad have spread to Egypt, Yemen, Iran, Lebanon, Gaza, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco, and Mauritania, leading to four deaths in Yemen. Other Western embassies have also been attacked in Sudan.
IBA reported that the film that was released on the Internet and sparked the protests is called "Innocence of Muslims," and was produced by a California-based Jewish writer and producer. Most of Mosaic's broadcasters have reported that he is an Israeli American, leading to further anti-US and anti-Israel sentiment among Muslims.
Israel quickly denounced the film, with New TV reporting on Wednesday that the Israeli Foreign Ministry called it "unbearable extremism." Press TV noted that US President Barack Obama condemned the killings, but stopped short of condemning the film.
In addition to depicting the prophet Muhammad, which is strictly taboo in many interpretations of Islam, the film struck a nerve in the Muslim and Arab worlds for being American-made. Al Jazeera English discusses the nature of the protests, touching on the deep-seated anger of some citizens in the region regarding US foreign policy, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Syrians come out for another round of Friday protests after a week of heavy shelling
As the new UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi visits Damascus for the first time since his appointment, cities and villages across Syria have continued to endure heavy army shelling, especially in and around Aleppo and Damascus. Algerie TV reported that the most recent statistics from the UNHCR indicate the number of Syrian refugees has surpassed 250,000, with 85,000 currently in Jordan.
Despite the daily attacks, BBC Arabic reported that on Friday, anti-regime demonstrations took place across Daraa, Idlib, the countryside of Damascus-- which the Syrian government says still harbors "terrorists" that they are trying to pursue-- and al-Hasaka Province, which has a Kurdish majority.
Newly-elected Somali president escapes assassination attempt
Hassan Sheikh Mahmud, who hails from the same tribe as departing president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, is the first Somali president to be elected within the country in more than two decades. However, BBC Arabic reported that just days after his election, he escaped two bombings that targeted the Mogadishu hotel in which he was residing. He was was meeting with Kenyan Foreign Minister Samson Ongeri at the time of the attack, which came as a surprise given the number of Somali and African Union forces protecting his hotel and convoy.
Image: Tunisian protesters burn the U.S. flag during a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in Tunis September 12, 2012. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Last week, BBC Arabic reported on a conference held in Istanbul on Muslim-Christian relations entitled, "The Arab Awakening and Peace in the New Middle East." During the conference, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan commented, "What happened nearly 1,300 years ago in Karbala is the same thing happening today in Syria."
Erdogan was referring to the Battle of Karbala, a pivotal event in Islam during which Hussein bin Ali, grandson of the prophet Muhammad, was killed. Hussein and his supporters were traveling to Kufa to confront Syrian Caliph (Khalifa) Yazid I on his legitimacy as a successor to Muhammad, but were grossly outnumbered by the caliph's forces.
By comparing the current conflict in Syria to the Battle of Karbala, Erdogan may have also implied a reference to similarities between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Yazid I. Yazid inherited power from his father Muawiyah I, a detested figure amongst Shiites and some Sunnis for seizing the caliphate from Muhammad's two grandsons, Hassan and Hussein, who Shiites believe are the prophet's true successors.
The Imams of the largest branches of Shia Islam claim to have descended from the prophet Muhammad through Hussein. The Sunni kings of Morocco and Jordan (and previously the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, and Iraq) claim to have descended from the elder of the two, Hassan.
The date of Hussein bin Ali's martyrdom, or the Day of Ashura, is a holy day in Shia Islam. On Ashura, Shiites make a pilgrimage to Hussein's grave in the Iraqi city of Karbala, and the term Husseiniyat refers to the congregation halls in which Shiites mourn him.
In Iraq, Al-Iraqiya reported on Thursday that three Husseiniyat in Kirkuk were attacked using car bombs, claiming multiple lives. This was followed by a wave of bombings over the weekend that killed dozens of people, including a number of Shiites in the southern city of Basra. These are the latest in a series of attacks on Iraqi Shiites this summer. Most have been blamed on the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni umbrella organization affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, Al-Alam reported that a large demonstration was held in the eastern city of al-Qatif to demand the release of Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a Shia scholar. Al-Nimr was originally arrested in July following a sermon in which he criticized the royal al-Saud family and called for rejoicing in Crown Prince Nayef's death.
Shiites make up about 15 percent of Saudi Arabians. They reside primarily in Eastern Province, sharing a sea border and cultural ties with Bahrain. Most of the country, including the royal family, follows a conservative branch of Sunni Islam and considers Shiites to be apostates. As such, Shiites have been historically marginalized in the country, and unlike Iraq and Lebanon, Saudi Arabia has never had a sizable Shiite elite. Members of this long-disenfranchised group have been the primary participants in Saudi Arabia's Arab Spring demonstrations.
Image: A Shi'ite pilgrim walks to the holy city of Kerbala to mark Arbain in Baghdad's Doura District January 9, 2012. Arbain falls 40 days after the Shi'ite holy day of Ashura. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani
Was Yasser Arafat killed by polonium poisoning?
Al Jazeera - The Institute of Radiation Physics at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland found abnormally high levels of polonium on the personal belongings of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. If an analysis of Arafat's remains produce similar results, experts say it proves that the Palestinian leader was poisoned with this material, since it is usually only produced in nuclear reactors. The Geneva-based Forum for Human Rights and Development indicated that it is ready to send an independent investigative team that includes experts in forensic medicine and criminal investigation to find out if the late Palestinian leader was assassinated.
Sudanese activists protest for third week in hope of sparking popular uprising
BBC Arabic - Sudanese activists organized new protests today dubbed "Vagabonds Friday," in response to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's description of protestors as a handful of rogue vagabonds with no prospects. This is the third week of protests in Sudan, which is witnessing unprecedented popular anger due to deteriorating living conditions in the aftermath of the government's attempt to implement austerity measures, in response to worsening economic conditions, especially after the secession of the South one year ago.
Syrian Republican Guard General Tlass defects to Turkey
New TV - A high-level Syrian security source confirmed that Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, the brigade commander of the 105th Republican Guard, has fled to Turkey. Tlass is the highest ranking officer to defect from the regime. The source added that Tlass is an important witness to the crimes of the Syrian regime, and that rejected the destruction that killed thousands in his city of al-Rastan.
Libyans set to vote in first post-Gaddafi election amid fears of violence
Dubai TV - Amid fears over the inability of Tripoli's government to maintain security, Libyans are preparing to hold their first free general elections in over half a century. Nearly three million voters will head to the polls tomorrow to elect 200 foundation council members out of the 3,700 mostly Islamist candidates. However, the election process is facing significant challenges, mot notably security threats and anti-election groups, which include pro-federalism protestors who closed the eastern oil port of Ras Lanuf in protest of the allocation of seats in the General National Congress.
Egypt's Morsi orders investigation into killing of protestors
Al-Alam - Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi issued a presidential decree ordering the formation of a fact-finding committee to investigation the killing and injury of protestors during the January 25th revolution. The decree orders a review of the investigations and a reexamination of sites that witnessed acts of violence and killings.
Image: A Palestinian woman walks past a mural depicting late leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza City July 4, 2012: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Libyan court revokes law banning Gaddafi glorification
Al Jazeera - Libya's Supreme Court ruled that a law, passed by the National Transitional Council, was unconstitutional. The law criminalizes the glorification of Gaddafi and his ideas, and punishes with a prison sentence anyone who harms the February 17 Revolution. The court's ruling ended the debate between the law's opponents and proponents. Some viewed the law as a restoration of the former regime's tools of governance, while others considered it a rupture with the Gaddafi era.
Egypt's high court dissolves parliament two days before presidential elections
New TV - Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved parliament, and confirmed the presidential run-off elections will be held on time. the struggle between Egypt's judges and the dissolved parliament seems ongoing, after parliament insulted and defamed the Egyptian judiciary and Judge Ahmed Rifaat, who presided over Mubarak’s case. This led the chairman of the union of judges to respond in kind, as the battle continues between the legislative and judicial powers. The ruling also found the disenfranchisement law invalid, keeping Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential race.
A look at Gaza after five years of Hamas rule and Israeli siege
BBC Arabic - Tuesday marked the 5th anniversary of Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip following an internal battle with its opponent Fatah, that lasted many months and shaped the beginning of the Palestinian political division. Attempts to remedy this division continue today. It also paved the way for an economic blockade by Israel on Gaza's crossings, the price of which is being paid by Gaza’s residents.
As rhetoric intensifies, the Syrian conflict nears global proxy
Al-Alam - In light of the on-the-ground developments of the Syrian crisis, and as clashes continue between armed groups and government forces while a political solution is still lacking, the positions of European and world capitals have differed on the situation in Syria. In contrast to the UN position expressing concern over the eruption of a civil war in Syria, France's position explicitly urged an escalation of the situation in order to topple the regime. It also threatened to impose harsh sanctions on Syria.
Tunisia arrests dozens of Salafi Islamists rioting over art show
BBC Arabic - Clashes in some areas of the densely populated capital continued until the early morning hours. According to the Interior Ministry, the clashes erupted overnight between security forces and groups affiliated with Salafi forces, and vandals in several neighborhoods of the capital Tunis. Vandalism, burning and looting affected security and judicial institutions, and syndicates. Protesters say the reason is the display of portraits they considered offensive to Islam.
Image: Judge Kamal Bashir Daham, head of Libya's Supreme Court, and members of the court panel meet to approve the constitutional invalidation of a law that will criminalise the glorification of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi or any of his supporters in Tripoli June 14, 2012. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny
(LinkAsia: June 8, 2012)
The relationship between Pakistan and the US is at an all-time low. Pakistan is denouncing the United States' continued use of drone air strikes in the country. The complaint follows the latest US attack in the country that killed Al Qaeda's second-in-command. The disagreement over drone strikes is driving another wedge into the already tense relationship between the two countries. Here's NHK with that story.
NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: June 6, 2012
The air strike was carried out on Sunday. According to the Pakistani government, 16 militants were killed by unmanned aircraft in the country's northwest region. Those killed include Abu Yahya al-Libi, a close aid to current al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The Pakistani government summoned US Deputy Ambassador Richard Hoagland on Tuesday to protest the attack. Pakistan claims that action was not only illegal, but also violated the nation's sovereignty. Despite Pakistan's objection, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday that US drone strikes have been an effective means of combating al-Qaeda.
Jay Carney, White House Spokesperson:
There is now no clear successor to take on the breadth of his responsibilities. And that puts additional pressure on al-Qaeda's post-bin Laden leader, Zawahiri, to try to manage the group in an effective way. This would be a major blow.
Carney said al-Libi's death is the harshest blow to the new leadership of the group since the killing of Osama bin Laden. Drone strikes by the US have caused civilian casualties in Pakistan and are fuelling anti-US sentiment among its people. But the air strikes are still frequent, averaging one every two days during the past two weeks. Pakistan's parliament is demanding an immediate halt to such actions. Hideki Yui, NHK World, Islamabad.