November 2007


Looking for the perfect Christmas or Eid present? Well, if you have little spare cash but love rare books, why not mortgage the farm and go for one of the most beautiful illustrated manuscripts of all time, The Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasb Safavi in its Houghton manuscript form. This facsimile set of two volumes was edited by Martin Bernard Dickson and Stuart Cary Welch in 1981 and published by the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University. And it is available for only $1495.00 plus shipping. Here are the details and it can be ordered by clicking here:
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Bird Flu Measures in Place

by Faleh Al-Thibyani, The Saudi Gazette, Sunday, 25 November 2007

RIYADH – Measures will be in place to prevent an outbreak of avian flu in Makkah and Madina during the upcoming Haj season, a Ministry of Health spokesperson said.
Pilgrims coming from the Central Region, where the disease broke out last week, will undergo stringent medical checks, the spokesperson said.

Health Minister Dr. Hamad Al-Manie is due to attend a meeting of the Haj Preparation Committee in this regard Sunday.

Minister of Agriculture Dr. Fahd Balghunaim, meanwhile, said the public would be promptly informed about ongoing efforts to prevent the disease from spreading further.

So far, 3.5 million chickens and other birds have been culled since the disease was detected at a farm in Al-Kharj, and the ministry would not hesitate to eliminate all chickens in the Kingdom in order to protect its citizens and residents, Dr. Balghunaim said. (more…)

by Gregory D. Johnsen
The Boston Globe, November 9, 2007

RECENT CONFUSION over the status of Jamal al-Badawi, one the masterminds of the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, illustrates the difficulties of containing an increasingly fractured jihadist movement. Badawi, who escaped from prison early last year, had surrendered to the Yemeni government in early October, only to be released as part of a plea deal. These events have sparked confusion and anger in the United States.

In Yemen, meanwhile, authorities have continued to make misleading and ambiguous statements about his whereabouts. It would be easy to assume, as many have done, that the country’s reaction was that of a reluctant ally eager to shirk its responsibility in the war against Al Qaeda. This reading, as Rudy Giuliani suggested, demands that the United States threaten Yemen with a reduction in aid.

But what to the United States is a cohesive organization bound together by a common hatred is to Yemen a fragmented movement that is rife with infighting and dissension. (more…)

By Clayton Swisher, Al-Jazeera, November 26, 2007

The decision by all Arab governments – including Saudi Arabia and Syria – to partake in the Annapolis meeting is a significant advance, and likely to form a footnote in history. Unfortunately, I believe that is as far as it will go.

There are three primary reasons why I do not believe the Annapolis meeting will succeed in establishing a Palestinian state by the end of the US president’s term in office.

The first is that this is not George Bush’s clearly stated objective. Whatever Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, may intend, it is the president who is in charge.

Little understanding

Bush’s beliefs are steadfast, and they reflect little understanding of Palestinian realities: On the one hand, Bush seeks mileage out of the false claim that he is the first US president to call for the creation of a Palestinian state, and he emphasises his plans to “lay the foundation” for the said state. (more…)

by Robert Fisk
The Independent, 24 November 2007

In Beirut, people are moving out of their homes, just as they have in Baghdad.

So where do we go from here? I am talking into blackness because there is no electricity in Beirut. And everyone, of course, is frightened. A president was supposed to be elected today. He was not elected. The corniche outside my home is empty. No one wants to walk beside the sea.

When I went to get my usual breakfast cheese manouche there were no other guests in the café. We are all afraid. My driver, Abed, who has loyally travelled with me across all the war zones of Lebanon, is frightened to drive by night. I was supposed to go to Rome yesterday. I spared him the journey to the airport.

It’s difficult to describe what it’s like to be in a country that sits on plate glass. It is impossible to be certain if the glass will break. When a constitution breaks – as it is beginning to break in Lebanon – you never know when the glass will give way. (more…)

[Editor’s Note: there is an interesting new post by Hamid Hussain on Saudi Debate about the current strife in Pakistan and its relation to the situation in Afghanistan. Here is an excerpt from the end of his commentary, the full version available at http://www.saudidebate.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=952&Itemid=181.]

In general, Pakistani society is in a state of denial refusing to acknowledge the looming threat to the very national fabric of the society. Majority see current conflict only through the prism of anti-Americanism. In the absence of reliable information, opinions are being formed on the basis of rumors, suspicions and conspiracy theories. On one end of the spectrum is the opinion of use of overwhelming force to crush the challenge to government authority and on the other end some are advocating that government simply abandon its primary responsibility and pull out all security forces. Everyone is mute about what will happen next; i.e. after large scale destruction from a sledgehammer approach or after pulling security forces out without any mechanism in place and giving free hand to militants. Average citizen wakes up every morning to see another horrific case of brutality and wanton violence. (more…)

Consider the opening line of the lead story in yesterday’s New York Times:

BAGHDAD — Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials.

In the long durée, as Napoleon might say if he were alive today, politics makes strange embedded fellows of nation states. There are three nations at play here in the field of lording over by the world’s reigning super power. Iraq and Libya had European imposed (and later revolution-deposed) monarchs at mid-stream in the 20th century. At the same time Saudi Arabia’s royal line evolved an iconclastic religiously mandated kingship that has withstood toppling and seems likely to do so far into the security based future. All three states are where they are today largely because of the world’s thirst for crude oil. The same three states, should Iraq survive de facto federation, face a future defined by a mega-politicized war on terrorism, a war with no state-like enemies being fought by a coalition of nation states willing to arm themselves to the teeth with conventional weapons and make airline passengers take their shoes off each and every time they fly. Two centuries from now a future Napoleon, whatever his or her nationality, may look back on the current political climate and have a hindsight sense of déjà vu, or will it be more of the voodoo politics mass mediated today? (more…)

By Khalid Kishtainy
Translated by Ramsis Amun

Goodday!

My first intellectual foray as a child was an attempt to discover what happiness was and how I could find it. I was thirteen years old when I borrowed “The Story of Greek Thought”, hoping to find answers to this question from Greek philosophers. I was sorely disappointed. All I found were a few short paragraphs on the subject and I discovered that these philosophers only tasted misery in their lives and that one of them – I think his name was Socrates – ended his life by drinking a cup of hemlock. I closed the pages of the book and spent the next three months suffering from headaches. I still suffer from headaches and, of course, from that sickness called the search for happiness.

In my intellectual journey I came across many further speculations on the subject, of course. The English said that the happy man is one married to a Japanese woman, and who lives with her on the French Riviera, and employs a Chinese cook. I am still uncertain of the third stipulate. Do they mean to cook Chinese meals or to fulfill the needs of the Japanese woman? The Chinese themselves have their own view of happiness. Why not? Are we not enjoined as Muslims to “seek knowledge even in China”? The Chinese say that if you wish to be happy for an hour you need to drink a glass of fruit juice, and if you wish to be happy for three days, get married, and if you wish to be happy for eight days, slaughter a sheep and eat it, and if you wish to be happy for a lifetime, become a gardener! (more…)

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