Drought Hits East for Forth Year Causing More Distress

Anyone interested in the Peace Talks should watch this al-Jazeera show: Empire looks at the Israeli-Palestinian talks and asks what it will take to reach the promised land. Rob Malley, John Mearsheimer, Nabil Shaath. Once the first seven minutes are over, they get down to a very interesting discussion of the realities and strategies of each side. Skip to 7 minutes into the show. See Philip Weiss for commentary on the video.

Syria droughts devastate crops, livestock: UN
By Rim Haddad (AFP)

DAMASCUS — Four consecutive droughts since 2006 have triggered “significant losses” of crops and livestock in Syria, mostly in the northeast of the country, a UN official said on Tuesday.

Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food said who has been in Syria since August 29, said the droughts have left Syrians reeling and are having serious effects beyond purely economic ones.

“As a result of recent droughts … between two and three million” Syrians are now “living in extreme poverty in the country,” compared to 2.02 million in 2003-2004, Schutter told a news conference in Damascus.

He added, without elaborating, that this figure “remains tentative.”

Schutter said that “since 2006, four consecutive droughts have affected Syria, with the drought in 2007-2008 being particularly devastating.”

“The losses from these repeated droughts have been significant for the population in the northeastern part of the country, particularly in the provinces of Al-Hasakeh, Deir Ezzor and Al-Raqqa,” he said.

“In total, 1.3 million people have been affected, 95 percent of which live in these provinces and 800,000 of which were severely devastated,” he added.

In June, the World Food Programme started delivering food aid to nearly 200,000 people in those three provinces in the second such initiative since the United Nations launched a plan last year to combat the effects of the drought.

“The situation is really bad” in northeast Syria, WFP official Selly Muzammil said in June.

Schutter said those most affected are “small-scale farmers,” and that the situation of many “further worsened in 2010 as a result of the yellow rust disease affecting the soft wheat production.”

Meanwhile, small-scale herders have lost around 80-85 percent of their livestock since 2005, he said.

Schutter noted that the droughts force many families to migrate to urban areas, leaving behind unattended farm land while their children dropped out of school as families tried to ends meet.

The United Nations estimates more than a million people have left the northeast, with farmers simply not cultivating enough food or earning enough money to sustain them.

Fifty thousand families are expected to leave rural areas for urban ones this year, compared to 29,000-30,000 in 2009.

Schutter said the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria after the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq was “another stress placed on Syria.”

He also spoke of the “decrease of water table levels in Syria” and described that as “a serious source of concern.”

Wheat production, a key strategic resource, is believed to have fallen this year to 2.4 million tonne from from 4.1 million in 2007, while consumption has risen to 4.0 million tonnes annually, the ruling party’s newspaper Al-Baath reported in June.

“We are going to import wheat for the third consecutive year,” the daily said.

Elie Elhadj writes on Syria’s Water Problems:

For a clearer picture of Syria’s water problem, it ought to be noted that Between 1988 and 2000 the Syrian government spent, I estimated a few years ago, $15 billion on irrigation projects of different kinds. Despite this, however, reliance on capricious rainfall was not reduced and food self-sufficiency unrealized, despite false claims to the contrary.

In 1989, wheat production was 1 million tons; in 1995, it jumped to 4.2 million tons; in 1999, it dropped to 2.7 million tons; and in 2007, it increased to 4.1 million tons. Estimates for 2008 were around 2.5 million tons, and for this year 2.4 million tonnes.

Why was the reliance on rain water not reduced? Because huge resources were invested where the return was meager. The Tabqa Dam, for example, failed to achieve its targets. The plan was for the dam to increase the irrigated surface in the Euphrates Basin by 640,000 hectares by 2000. However, by 2000, only 124,000 hectares were irrigated in this salt-affected and drainage-poor Basin. Gypsum in the soil caused the irrigation networks to collapse. In the Euphrates Basin, 43 percent of the land was identified by the World Bank as having drainage problems or potential to develop problems in the future.

The World Bank concluded that Syria’s government “will need to recognize that achieving food security with respect to wheat and other cereals in the short-term as well as the encouragement of water-intensive cotton appear to be undermining Syria’s security over the long-term by depleting available groundwater resources.”

Had Syria invested in low water using manufacturing industries, instead of irrigation projects to generate the forex to import high water using foodstuffs, Syria would be today, I contend, in a better position in terms of per capita GDP as well as ground water volume and quality.

Schutter …. also spoke of the “decrease of water table levels in Syria” and described that as “a serious source of concern.”

Describing the decrease of water table levels as a serious source of concern is too diplomatic.

Irrigation extractions beyond the volume of renewable water have led to negative balances in five out the country’s seven basins; thus, reducing the quantity and degrading the quality of the remaining water reserves. This situation explains the serious challenge Syria faces in providing sufficient drinking and household water to most cities, a challenge that will grow over time as cities grow, if serious and major remedial steps are not taken immediately.

Veteran Syrian director takes on Muslim “extremism”
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Tue Sep 7, 2010

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – A veteran Syrian director who has shocked audiences by portraying a religious zealot who abuses women says his popular television series could help stop an Arab slide towards extremism.

Najdat Anzour’s “What your right hand possesses,” whose heroine Leila is forced by her brother Tawfiq to wear the full veil while he has illicit affairs, is being shown on television stations during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Oman and Libya.

The 30-episode series, set in Syria and France, has attracted a wide following, as well as criticism by some Syrians who see it as unfairly targeting the highly devout — especially since its title is taken from the Koran.

Mohammad al-Buti, a government backed cleric who teaches Islamic law at Damascus University, initially described the series as a cancer and a mockery of God, though he later retracted his remarks saying he had not seen the work.

“When I film Damascus from the mountain I count thousands of green lit mosques and only a handful of theatres and cinemas,” Anzour told Reuters.

“Balance in society needs to be restored. My target is those remaining in the middle and who have not yet turned into extremism,” said the 56-year-old director of pan Arab fame.

Anzour argues for wider political freedom in the Arab world and says “wrong” interpretations of Islam cannot be allowed to dominate Arab media and television, with Saudi Arabia controlling major outlets.

“Lack of confidence in Arab regimes is opening the door to the spread of religious and extremist ideas. Our duty is to put the spotlight on the extremists to try to preserve the Middle ground. We dissect what they are saying and show that it has nothing to do with Islam ,” Anzour said.

Syrian television drama is big business by Arab standards, attracting millions of dollars in investment and adverts and vying with Egypt for audiences across the Middle East during the month of Ramadan, when new productions make their debut.

While the issues raised can stir controversy, they are usually in line with the policy of the government, which has been controlled by the Baath Party since it took power in 1963, outlawing opposition and imposing emergency law still in force.

The state, which crushed the Muslim Brotherhood as well as secular opposition parties in the 1980s, has recently made it clear that it does not favour having fully veiled women in the education system.

But the authorities have been tolerant of other Muslim religious displays and support the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah Shi’ite movement.

“NOT MOCKING ISLAM”

Anzour says the series does not exclusively criticise religious characters, and shows unsavoury secular figures as well.

Leila’s devout father opposes her brother dictating how she dresses, as well as his decision to whip her after he catches her with her boyfriend — despite a medical examination showing she was still a virgin.

Impervious to contradictions, Tawfiq gets a high school girl pregnant and starts an affair with a wife of an Islamist militant who died fighting in Iraq.

The series, which ends this week, shows Tawfiq espousing violence as hints of his private transgressions become known to his family. He preaches that violence should be used to make people adhere to what he regards as strict tenets of faith and that it is a duty of the faithful to topple non-Islamic systems.

“I think some were premature in their judgement. The more episodes people see the more they realise that it does not mock Islam but searches for real Islam in the society,” Anzour said.

“…Syrian society is a mural and I see these people are outside it,” he said. “Political conditions will play a main role in reversing the structure of society and the terrorist thinking that is being spread.”

Anzour’s work in recent years has focussed on religious themes, including a defence of Islam in “The ceiling of the universe,” following the outrage over a Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet. In “Passers by,” he described how Arab emigrants in Western societies could turn to violence.

In his current series, Leila eventually marries a good man and moves with her husband, who subsequently dies, to France, where she removes the veil totally but remains a devout Muslim.

Anzour, a Circassian who grew up in the once cosmopolitan city of Aleppo, said he was not against the veil but women should have the freedom not to wear it.

“Out of the thousands you see walking in Damascus 90 percent are now veiled. This was unthinkable several decades ago,” he said. “Are the women wearing the veil out of conviction or out of pressure by families and surroundings?”

LA Times [Reg]: LEBANON: Supporters stunned as Hariri says Syria didn’t kill his dad
2010-09-07 14:59:13.654 GMT

Praise, skepticism, betrayal, and mere confusion. The list of reactions is long in Arab media commentaries and on blogs and Web forums to Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri retracting his accusation against Syria in the 2005 assassination of his father in …

AFP:

….All you have to do is read the history of Lebanon to understand that there are no solutions in Lebanon without Syria,… Officials in Lebanon cannot be against Syria,” Makdisi told AFP. “That is just not an option, and Hariri has realised that.”

Hariri initially accused his then-foe Syria of the February 14, 2005 bombing that killed his father, ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, and 22 others in Beirut, at a time when Damascus retained a tight grip over Lebanon…. on Monday, the prime minister was quoted as saying he had erred. “At some point, we made a mistake, … At one stage, we accused Syria … That was a political accusation, and that political accusation is over.”

Hariri’s retraction, which one Lebanese daily dubbed a “political bomb,” comes amid high tension in Lebanon over pending indictments by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a UN-backed probe into the assassination.

Preliminary reports by a committee of The Hague-based tribunal concluded there was evidence implicating Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services in Hariri’s murder, but there are no suspects in custody.

The tribunal is reportedly set to implicate Lebanese Shiite party Hezbollah in the murder…..

Fadia Kiwan, head of the political science department at Saint Joseph University, argues that one party stands to gain from Hariri’s political metamorphosis: Syria. “After a difficult phase from 2005 to 2007, Syria’s power is once again consecrated,” Kiwan told AFP. “This will also put Syria’s allies in Lebanon in a position of even more power. “We should have expected this position since Hariri’s first visit to Syria,” she added. “It’s a natural stop in changing his political path.”

Syria: Mobile feast
16 September 2010
Economist Intelligence Unit

Telecoms companies have been waiting for a long time for the Syrian mobile market to open up. They have finally been granted their wish

The Syrian government has approved plans for the entry of a third mobile-phone operator and for the conversion of the build-operate-transfer (BOT) contracts of the two incumbents into fully paid-up licences. The opportunity to enter one of the least developed markets in the region is likely to elicit strong interest, particularly given the recent improvements in the perception of Syria as an investment destination. It could also provide a tidy windfall for the Syrian Treasury.

The way was opened for the award of a new licence when parliament passed a telecoms law on May 18th, which provided for the creation of an independent regulator, with the discretion to issue licences, and for the transformation of the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE) into a state-owned corporation. The telecoms minister, Imad Sabouni, told Al Watan, a local newspaper, that the process of awarding the licence will take between five and seven months from the issue of the tender invitation, which he said would take place in the next two weeks. The process will entail two rounds of pre-qualification followed by a public auction. The ministry has used the services of Detecon, a German consultant, to prepare the terms of reference for the new licence and to advise on the conversion of the BOT contracts into licences.

Level playing field?

The two existing operators are Syriatel, controlled by Rami Makhlouf, a prominent businessman and a cousin of the president, Bashar al-Assad (he also happens to be Al Watan’s proprietor), and MTN, a South African firm that entered the market in 2006 through acquiring Beirut-based Investcom. The BOT contracts were awarded to Syriatel and Investcom in 2001 for 15 years, with the option of extending for a further three years, and with a guarantee that no new operator would be authorised for at least seven years. They have about 9m subscribers in total, with Syriatel leading with a share of about 55%. The contracts oblige the two firms to pay a 50% share of their gross revenue to STE. This amounted to S£41bn (US$890m) in 2009, making up a significant portion of the public-sector surpluses included in general budget revenue.

Mr Sabouni said that Detecon’s studies had shown that the state would reap a better return from the sale of the licences and through a new revenue-sharing arrangement than that which it gets from Syriatel and MTN.

The government has not yet provided details about the conversion of the BOT contracts. One option would be to oblige the two incumbents to pay the same fee as the winning bid in the auction—this would at least assure the new operator that the system is based on fair competition. Another critical question for new entrants will be the role of the regulatory authority, which is expected to start its operations in January 2011. The two operators have so far been subject to the supervision of STE.

Gulf operators keen to expand

Several regional telecoms companies have already expressed interest in taking up any opportunity to become the third operator in Syria. Bidders can be expected to include the major players in the Gulf, such as Etisalat of the UAE, Saudi Telecom, Qatar Telecom and Kuwait’s Zain, as well as the leading Turkish operator, Turkcell, which had previously been reported to be considering a bid to acquire Syriatel. There could also be some interest from Asian or Russian operators, and possibly from west European firms. Egypt’s Orascom Telecom would normally be expected to pursue an opportunity of this sort, but it could be deterred by its experience as the original partner of Mr Makhlouf in Syriatel, a relationship that quickly soured and which was eventually broken off.

Syria comes fairly low down the regional rankings for mobile penetration, according to figures provided by the International Telecommunication Union, with 44 users per 100 inhabitants (see Database, p.12). It lags behind most of its regional peers, with the exception of Sudan, Lebanon and Yemen (the figure for Lebanon is oddly low, perhaps because most mobile-phone users subscribe to networks in third countries rather than paying inflated fees for the state-owned service). To judge by comments on local news sites, Syrian consumers appear to be keen to see new entrants offering the same sort of packages and special deals that are widely available in the Gulf, and which are considerably more generous than those provided by Syriatel and MTN.

The opening up of the Syrian telecoms market is part of a wider effort to attract investment and to develop the private sector. Besides stimulating growth in the telecoms sector, it could also to provide a boost to the fledgling Damascus stockmarket, as both the incumbents and the new licensee are likely to offer shares to the public to help cover some of the costs of the fees.

FACTBOX-UN issues human rights report on Syria
07 Sep 2010, Reuters

Sept 7 (Reuters) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a rare report on Syria, calling on the government to intensify its response to a severe drought and stop discrimination against the Arab country’s Kurd minority.

Here are key points of the report…..

IRAQI REFUGEES

– Syria receives high marks for opening its public services and education system to Iraqi refugees, of whom 150,000 are registered with the United Nations.

– The refugees, however, are not allowed to work in Syria, which drives them to the underground economy at below minimum wage salaries and exposes them to employer abuse.

– Allowing the refugees access to the formal economy would “reduce the risk” of Iraqis competing with Syrian workers because they would then be given equal pay.

RIGHT TO FOOD

– Syria has a food subsidies programme supplying 10-15 percent of food demand. In theory the system is open to all Syrians, but many families cannot register if they have a male member who did not comply with mandatory military service.

– Programme should be extended to cover lentils, chickpeas, eggs and more fruits, vegetables and dairy products for children and pregnant women. If funds are lacking, the United Nations suggests that the programme could be limited to those falling below a defined poverty line.

DROUGHT IN EASTERN SYRIA

– School enrolment in northeastern Syria fell by 80 percent as a result of internal displacement driven by the drought.

– Government is focusing on schemes to make irrigation more efficient but also on big projects that could further deplete groundwater. More help is needed for vulnerable small farmers, who could benefit from low-tech but sustainable solutions, such as rainwater gathering techniques.

GOLAN HEIGHTS

– Territory held by Israel since 1967 is still home to 20,000 Syrians.

– Israeli settlers farm 80 square km (31 square miles) compared with 20 square km farmed by Syrians, although the two groups are comparable in size.

– The Special Rapporteur suspects “gross disparities” between the water usage allotted to the Israeli settlers and the Syrian inhabitants.

(For a story on Syrian treatment of the Kurdish minority, click on [ID:nLDE68619Y])

(Writing by Khaled Yacoub Oweis;

Syria treatment of Kurds “unacceptible” -UN official
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS, Sept 7 (Reuters) – Syria’s denial of citizenship rights to its Kurdish minority is “unacceptable” and the government should improve their treatment to help build national unity, a high-level U.N. human rights official said on Tuesday.

Comments (27)


1. Elie Elhadj said:

Re. “Syria droughts devastate crops, livestock: UN”

“Since 2006, four consecutive droughts have affected Syria, with the drought in 2007-08 being particularly devastating.”

For a clearer picture, it ought to be noted that Between 1988 and 2000 the Syrian government spent, I estimated a few years ago, $15 billion on irrigation projects of different kinds. Despite this, however, reliance on capricious rainfall was not reduced and food self-sufficiency unrealized, despite false claims to the contrary.

In 1989, wheat production was 1 million tons; in 1995, it jumped to 4.2 million tons; in 1999, it dropped to 2.7 million tons; and in 2007, it increased to 4.1 million tons. Estimates for 2008 were around 2.5 million tons, and for this year 2.4 million tonnes.

Why was the reliance on rain water not reduced? Because huge resources were invested where the return was meager. The Tabqa Dam, for example, failed to achieve its targets. The plan was for the dam to increase by 2000 the irrigated surface in the Euphrates Basin by 640,000 hectares. However, by 2000, only 124,000 hectares was achieved in this salt-affected and drainage-poor Basin–gypsum in the soil caused the irrigation networks to collapse. In the Euphrates Basin, 43 percent of the land was identified by the World Bank as having drainage problems or potential to develop problems in the future.

The World Bank concluded that Syria’s government “will need to recognize that achieving food security with respect to wheat and other cereals in the short-term as well as the encouragement of water-intensive cotton appear to be undermining Syria’s security over the long-term by depleting available groundwater resources.”

Had Syria invested in low water using manufacturing industries, instead of irrigation projects to generate the forex to import high water using foodstuffs, Syria would be today, I contend, in a better position in terms of per capita GDP as well as ground water volume and quality.

Schutter …. also spoke of the “decrease of water table levels in Syria” and described that as “a serious source of concern.”

Describing the decrease of water table levels as a serious source of concern is too diplomatic.

Irrigation extractions beyond the volume of renewable water have led to negative balances in five out the country’s seven basins; thus, reducing the quantity and degrading the quality of the remaining water reserves. This situation explains the serious challenge Syria faces in providing sufficient drinking and household water to most cities, a challenge that’ll grow over time as cities grow, if serious and major remedial steps are not taken immediately.

Re. “Veteran Syrian director takes on Muslim “extremism”

It is pathetic that Mohammad al-Buti, who teaches Islamic law at Damascus University “initially described the series as a cancer and a mockery of God, though he later retracted his remarks saying he had not seen the work”.

Such a professor is a disgrace to the teaching profession. That Damascus University allows such character on its its staff is indefensible. Al-Buti should resign his teaching post in shame for attacking a show that he never watched or a book he never read. If he has not the self respect and the moral courage to do so, he should be fired. Such teachers spread the poison of ignorance and darkness around. That Al-Buti is “a government backed cleric” proves the moral bankruptcy of the palace ulama. It does not say much about the government that backs such incompetence either.

Not even a college freshman would do what this university teacher has done. A college freshman would earn a big zero for a term paper in which he/she criticizes a book that he/she never read.

However, it is not surprising. The great Syrian thinker and philosopher, Sadek Jalal Al-Azem, exposed many of those holier-than-thou hypocrites who condemn books that they never read in his “Thihniyyat Al-Tahreem”, or to translate the title literally as best as I can: “The mentality of Prohibition”.

Najdat Anzour is to be congratulated for his courage and positive contribution to changing archaic societal discourse for the better.

Elie

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September 8th, 2010, 5:46 am

 

2. Mr. President said:

Elie,
After reading your analysis I have to conclude that you may have some similarities with fundamentalist Wahhabis. Fundamentalists insist on a strict linguistic interpretation of the Holy text. They insist on such interpretation using TODAY’S version of the Arabic language and refuse to admit that languages like people grow, evolve, and change. Sometimes you do to by quoting and insisting on such linguistic interpretation. Islam/Quran can be interpreted using a combination of tools. This is to include linguistic, symbolic, reason based, system based, logic based, environment based, goal based… throughout history Islamic scholars have used a combination of what I listed and more. This practice produced diversity and many wonderful sects within Islam. Such diversity helped Islam survive for long time, weather tremendous storms, and create many wealthy civilizations. I recommend to you to start exploring beyond the Wahhabi’s version of Islam. Maybe you want to read another interpretation of the Holy Quran, El Futuhat El Makieh/Inspirations in Makah by the Andalusian scholar Ibn Arabi. He totally focuses on the symbolic meaning. The city of Damascus is filled with the tombs of great Sufi scholars. One can only conclude that the majority of the Greater Syria Muslims followed their tolerant teaching in the past. You should also know that many Muslims died fighting this extreme Wahhabi movement during its early days 200 years ago. Muslims were successful in stopping it on every occasion. Two reasons allowed it to resurface again. The West sponsored it as a tool to destroy the Unified Islamic Ottoman Land and second it was given, by the West, control of the petro dollars.
Let us look at this Misyar/Traveller short term marriage that you do not like (as if it is any different than you having a girlfriend. The girl does not live with you and still in the back of your mind have no intention of committing to her for the long term 😉 ). Using the reason/environment based interpretation it makes sense fully. What do you expect a person travelling on foot for six months or few years to do? The only choices are either to call a prostitute or to get into a negotiated, contract based, and known-to-public intimate relation between him and a woman. Refraining from sexual behaviours (the act of putting on the altar, as a sacrificed gift to the Divine, a precious human natural and healthy pleasure/Tayibat) is not acceptable in Islam. It is part of your Christian/Western value system but not in Islam. Why you ask? This is because usually Muslims do not put too much emphasis on the Original Sin like Christians do ( = sex is bad). Sorry but yes, as many said before, Maybe you lack some very basic understanding of Islamic principles and teaching.

You claim that many types of intimate relationships between a man and a woman in Islam are prostitution. That was very offensive. Yet you failed to define prostitution and you keep looking down at it.

As you may know in Islam, most intimate relationships between a man and a woman are valid as long as it is based on a witnessed agreement between the couples. (The West recently has stolen this concept from Islam and called it a prenuptial agreement. This is because secularism produced yet another failed system called Marriage-for-ever/made-in-Heaven/Love-does-not-die,…). Why witnessed you may ask? This is for the sake of the children and the women. If kids are born out of the relationship someone is responsible for them. Also the rights and needs of the woman are fully protected in the agreement. It could be as simple as that. Yes, it seems that many, including you, forget that in Islam women are not only wives. They are very well protected, respected and cared-for sisters, mothers and daughters.

Sorry for the draft format.

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September 8th, 2010, 7:48 am

 

3. Elie Elhadj said:

MR. PRESIDENT,

You said: “After reading your analysis I have to conclude that you may have some similarities with fundamentalist Wahhabis.”

In answer, may I please ask you to apply your “linguistic, symbolic, reason based, system based, logic based, environment based, goal based” approach to deal with the following two matters:

First, could you please tell me how my analysis and conclusions are different from your own analysis and conclusions on the one and the same subject, whatever the subject might be. Please indicate the verse that I quoted, the tradition, my conclusion, your own analysis and conclusion based on your approach just quoted.

Second, on sex, prostitution, and marriage could you please explain whether the difference between misyar (mut’a for Shiites) and adultery warrants ulama’s blessing for the former and death by stoning for the latter?

Also, please explain, using your liguistic, symbolic…. approach, as to why it is that the Quran orders 100 lashes for each adulterer while the Sunna orders stoning to death. Which penalty in your opinion, if any, should be followed and why?

Also, please tell, again using your linguistic… approach, whether marrying four wives and divorcing any of them without giving cause by the male is not equal to unlimited polygamy, for which the pre-Islamic Arabs were condemned?

Elie

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September 8th, 2010, 10:34 am

 

4. majedkhaldoun said:

I fully agree with Mr. President
Elie is dedicated against religion,and particularly against Islam,rather than see him wasting his education promoting hatred and division I would very much prefer to see him promoting better interfaith relationship,both christianity and Islam are great religions, both work for peace denounce violence and extremism,both against torture,they deal with social and moral issues,work hard to fight hunger,diseases,and help with natural disasters. I like to see more cooperations betwean faith, frankly I see it here in USA, many christians are supporting building the famous mosque in New York,many christians are against burning Quraan, these are greatly appreciated,both speak a lot about how good are both religion,both religion support freedom.
In contrast Elie support his version of secularism, the one that spew hatred, support building many prisons, support goverment full control over people,thus supporting dictatorship,I wish God guides him to be a better person,and makes good of his education.

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September 8th, 2010, 11:16 am

 

5. Shami said:

Elie ,as Mr President said ,islam is not a monolithic bloc even inside the salafi wahhabi trend ,there are different views ,i think that most of salafi shouyoukh are against misyar marriage .
As for Mutaa ,which is not comparable to misyar ,it’s rejected by the majority of shia people ,despite that it’s recommended by their ayatollahs as part of their duties towards shia’ism.
Here is the opinion of Qardawi about it:
http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=Islamonline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503544160

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September 8th, 2010, 1:20 pm

 

6. Elie Elhadj said:

MAJIDKHALDOUN,

May I suggest to you that you answer the questions posed in 3 above as well as MR. PRESIDENT.

Further, I had solicited your opinion on a very important issue in my comment 86 to Norman:

http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=5517&cp=all#comments

You did not respond. I wish you do. In dealing with such an issue we might have a good basis to conclude that, yes, Islam DOES call for democratically elected representative assemblies of the Muslim community and that those Muslim states that hinder the emergence of democratically elected legislative chambers in their systems of governance, like Arab kingdoms, are in violation of the subject Hadith, notwithstanding their declarations that the Quran and the Sunna are their constitution.

You express the wish that I work on bringing peoples of different religions and persuasion together. 86, I believe, is such an effort, creative and original effort, I should hope. It’ll show Islam in a beautiful light in today’s world.

I am pleased that LEOLEONI took the trouble to consider this argument. Here is his comment in 87 and my response in 88 on:

http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=7037&cp=all#comments

Might you and others deliberate the significance and the fantastic policy implications of the subject Hadith? The conclusion might very well put an end to my own belief, as things stand today, that Arab democracy is a mirage. I do look forward to changing my mind on this matter.

In answer to your comment in 4 above, in which you support MR. PRESIDENT in 2 above, which addressed misyar and mut’a at some length, I would like to go back to what you said in your 34 on:

http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=7147

You said, among others, that I “keep inventing Islam the way you want then you condemn it”

In response may I ask you again: Are you more correct in saying that misyar and mut’a are not a part of Islam than Shiite ulama, on the one hand, who sanction mut’a and, on the other hand, more authoritative on misyar than their eminences Bin Baz and Tantawi as well as the Islamic Jurisprudence Assembly who approve of it in well known fatwas? I do not think so, the readers should not think so, above all you yourself must not think so. Please note that I am aware that Sunni ulama, like Qaradawi, are against mut’a. They would be. Would they not!?

You, sir, should not level accusations against me. I have not invented anything. I merely reported facts. You should level your accusation in this regard against their eminences Ibn Baz, Tantawi and the Islamic Jurisprudence Assembly.

Elie

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September 8th, 2010, 1:33 pm

 

7. majedkhaldoun said:

Elie
Mutaa and mysiar marriage is not mentioned in Quraan,nor directly by the prophet,you have not been truthfull when you consider them part of Islam Mutaa is banned in Islam as god said Muhsineen ghayri musafiheen. it is clear that musafiheen meens adultery and it is not santioned in Islam.
Mysyar marriage in Islam depends on intension,which is very important in Islam,if the intention is a permanent marriage then it should not be called mysyar ,it is regular marriage,if it was done for adultary it is forbidden in Islam,so ,I said this before and you want me to repeat it, people are tired of your persistant attempts to distort and invent Islam the way you want then you criticise and condemn what you invent,your persistance indicate malice on your side,I am sure you know Islam ,I speak for sunnis I do not speak for Shiite so stop mixing the two togather.

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September 8th, 2010, 2:14 pm

 

8. Elie Elhadj said:

MAJIDKHALDOUN,

Please argue your position not with me but with the Shiite ulama, with the followers of Iin Baz, and Tantawi as well as with the Islamic Jurisprudence Assembly.

With your unsubstantiated accusations, you have reduced the discussion to the level of personal attack because you cannot deal with the facts.

Please move on to something more constructive like what I suggested in 6 above, if you wish.

Elie

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September 8th, 2010, 2:47 pm

 

9. Innocent Criminal said:

majedkhaldoun,

you make absoultely no sense. You critcize Elie because mesyar is not mentioned but the Quran is not everything in Islam. Sunnah is a guideline and so is Uluma’s interpertation about new social factors that the Quran could not have considered in it’s time. I mean is stripping naked on a webcam when other’s are watching on a computer a sin? according to you it’s not because it’s not mentioned in the Quran. Or what about taking Xtacy? is getting high off that OK too? Fatwas are necessary to guide contemporary muslims to live a moral life. the only problem is there is not one instution to suprecede all others. which brings us to the problem we have in the muslim world today. each so-called sheikh can make fatwas as he feels fit even if he is 1 hit on the head away from mental retardation.

Your disagreement with Tantawi’s fatwa is completely based on your personal interpertation of Islam. but many MANY more so called muslims take his word along with other moronic sheikhs as an islamic rule which translates to God’s rules. Please stop attacking Elie as a person and start reading what he is telling you and try to counter argue with common sense.

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September 8th, 2010, 3:09 pm

 

10. Majhool said:

Again, how is the issue of Misyar a public policy issue? Is the Syrian Society impacted by this?

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September 8th, 2010, 4:12 pm

 

11. majedkhaldoun said:

Inocent criminal;
I go by Quraan and what the prophet said

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September 8th, 2010, 5:13 pm

 

12. Ahmed G. said:

Syrian Muslim here. I agree with Elie and agree with Innocent Criminal. Majedkhaldoon and others like him are emotionally driven to defend, irrespective of the facts. What Elie is presenting is valid (to me anyway) and merits an objective response and reasonable dialogue, not prickly defensiveness.

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September 8th, 2010, 8:34 pm

 

13. Ahmed G. said:

Syrian Muslim here. I agree with Elie and agree with Innocent Criminal. Majedkhaldoon and others like him are emotionally charged and driven by a need to defend, irrespective of the facts. What Elie is presenting is valid (to me anyway) and merits an objective response and reasonable dialogue, not prickly defensiveness.

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September 8th, 2010, 8:38 pm

 

14. Norman said:

So let me see if i understand this , Mesiar and Metaa marriages are not part of real Islam as Majid says , Ellie thinks that they are the invention of the uloma that shoot from the hip and make fatwas or current day laws , which apparently everybody thinks that they should not and that these laws like showing ones self on the Internet naked or using Ecstasy should be made by law makers and as long as they do not contradict the Quran then they are permitted and needed in present day life ,

It looks to me that you all agree more than you disagree , !

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September 8th, 2010, 9:54 pm

 

15. LeoLeoni said:

Majed Khaldoun,

You said “I go by Quraan and what the prophet said”

Well, to sum it for you, neither the Qura’an or the Sunna could offer anything constructive in terms of politics and the organization of society in the 21st century. You may think otherwise and you are free to do so, but you have to know that whatever approach you come about will most certainly end up as being illiberal, undemocratic, and most probably a violation of basic human rights. Unless your interpretation of Quraan is liberalized and you come to reconcile 21st century ethics with it, then the gap between Islam and modernity will continue to increase, rendering it futile.

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September 8th, 2010, 10:16 pm

 

16. LeoLeoni said:

I would like to take a shot at it and propose some ideas. Please feel free to comment and discuss any of these points.

First, I would like to say that surprisingly, that I am a firm believer that conflicting fatwas are good for Muslims. Fatwas are not binding and are not part of the 21st century legislative process in any country. They are simply opinions, and any opinion, as long as it doesn’t incite for hatred/crime against a distinguished group of people, would fall under freedom of speech. Throughout history, Muslims were exposed to variety of different views and fatwas, taking what they seemed reasonable and necessary, and ignoring what’s not. The Sunni tradition (majority of Syrians and Arabs, do not follow a marji’ and their theology does not adhere to the concept of taqlid (imitation). Thus, it is a way for Muslims to practice critical analysis (which is much needed these days) to realize that some of the crap that people with long beards say is absurd. Only by practicing over and over would they be able to develop a sense of what is right or wrong, independent of what the Sheikh or the Ayatollah or the political establishment has to say on that matter.

Brian Whitaker couldn’t sum it better
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/16/fatwas-saudi-king-islam?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Now as for marriage, a marriage is a contract. A contract is an enforceable agreement. All contracts should be bound and enforced by civil courts. Now, a Muslim couple want to get married, so they sign a contract along with the witnesses, the parents, and the sheikh. They can also enter into a prenuptial agreement adding a clause that deals with dowry (payment before or after marriage) and adding anything they like, including limit on support in case of divorce etc (since most Muslim couples refuse the idea of splitting their wealth in case of divorce, they can specify that the dowry acts as a replacement). Contracts can be very flexible in that sense, and religious sensibilities are taken into consideration in most liberal countries, but they should be written clearly, preferably by a lawyer (as my grandfather used to say, they are getting married, not buying kees batata). In the case of disagreement, the couples can try to reconcile and seek divorce peacefully, but if that is not the case, then they can resort to the civil court and the civil court will try to rule according to the contract. Generally most courts uphold the contract, unless there are issues of unconscionability or where one side never assented to that agreement, etc., In general, these things should run smoothly. Now my question to those who refuse the civil marriage concept in Syria and the rest of the Arab world, on what basis do you refuse the concept of civil marriage, since Civil courts would uphold clauses that stem from religious convictions? Does it matter if the judge is not a Shiekh? Judges are usually very experienced professionals with a law degree and high ethical and moral behavioral standards, shouldn’t we expect them to uphold justice for the benefit and order of society in matters of personal status disputes? Please tell me what a Sheikh or a Khouri and their religious court can do that a judge in their civil courts can’t do?

As for Mutaa “marriage”, I have a hard time seeing them as marriage contracts. What exactly is there to be enforced? I am afraid to say that a Mutaa contract could constitute a written contract for a prostitution transaction, simply because the parties choose the contract to be valid for a specific time period and then would be nullified after the time has expired, in return for a payment to the women. I come to see this more of offering a sexual service than an actual marriage, and thus would go into more complicated issues of whether this service transaction is legal and if it is legal then taxes would apply etc. Imagine the man and women write a mutaa contract. Man pays the women in advance and then expects to have sex in the next 5 hours before the contract term expires. The women takes the money and runs away. Man sues for breach of contract, would the court in that case agree that there was a contract? What are the remedies, would the court oblige the women to pay back the man? (Imagine if the Mans asks for specific performance in that instance, IE: obliging the women to perform her part of the contract LOL) In reality, courts in the North America refuse to hear cases when such personal problems arise (“husband promised to buy me something and he didn’t”, or “wife promised to have sex with me on that day and she didn’t”, etc.) I totally agree with Elie el Hadj in asking the purpose of the Mutaa marriage.

As for Misyar and those who claim it to be a contract, I also don’t see what exactly is there to be enforced? The man and women live in different places, and there are no duties for any side to perform anything. Fair enough, write a contract, bring in your witnesses, and say that you are now “married” but without any duties to perform. I just don’t see the point in going through all that hassle of hiring a lawyer/notary etc, but if they decide so nevertheless, then so be it.

*Note that anything not specified in the marriage contract would be subject to statutes that deal with the personal status law. These statutes shall not discriminate based on religion, race, or sex.

Also, I am against the idea of criminalizing adultery or premarital sex. We as societies have grown out of those outdated notions. If a spouse commits adultery, then by all means feel free seek divorce.

Norman,

If an adult wants to be naked on the internet, then we shall have no right by law to prevent him from doing so. After all, we have the choice to switch the page or close the chat. Unless of course they keep harassing by bombarding pictures of them in your email, then you can seek injunction, but it would be more economical if you simply block.

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September 8th, 2010, 11:52 pm

 

17. majedkhaldoun said:

leoleoni said
” but you have to know that whatever approach you come about will most certainly end up as being illiberal, undemocratic, and most probably a violation of basic human rights”
NO, I strongly support freedom,and believe freedom comes before religion,and democracy is the shaddow of freedom, I said this several times before on this SC
The society should decide those matters,that come about,but whatever decision is made we should not stick it to Islam or christianity,and we should be able to change it according to the society thinking at the time,for example divorce rulings,it is not against religion to allocate division of money and properties berween the divorcee,I talked about this before,and women and men can vote equally,other issues can be discussed,but the societies should decide them.
We should always be honest and truthfull,when we do not do that ,we open ourself to painfull criticism.

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September 9th, 2010, 12:02 am

 

18. LeoLeoni said:

Majed said:

“NO, I strongly support freedom,and believe freedom comes before religion,and democracy is the shaddow of freedom.”

It is always great to see more Syrians fighting for the side of freedom. But tell me my dear Majid, what do you think we should do with people who leave Islam and choose to adhere to other faith or no faith at all. What is your position on Syrian atheists and those who have no religion?

You said “I go by Quraan and what the prophet said”

Okay, so what does the Quraan and prophet say in this regard?

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September 9th, 2010, 12:33 am

 

19. douglas martin said:

Give all Kurds citizenship; is not the sculpture of the horsemen warriors depicted in front of the Damascus Citadel Kurdish?

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September 9th, 2010, 2:32 am

 

20. Badr said:

Majed my dear, you have set yourself a trap. Do you need help? 🙂

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September 9th, 2010, 7:17 am

 

21. majedkhaldoun said:

leoleoni
Everyone should be free to choose the religion he chooses,if muslem converts to christianity or christian wants to convert to islam they should be free.

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September 9th, 2010, 8:16 am

 

22. LeoLeoni said:

Majed said:

“Everyone should be free to choose the religion he chooses,if muslem converts to christianity or christian wants to convert to islam they should be free.”

It is great to see a conservative fellow Syrian put aside hadith that says “Mn badal dinah faktoolooh” (Kill whomever changes their religion) and “Ahkam al rida” (Rules against people who convert away from Islam) found in the Sharia and move towards more humanistic values. The Quraan somewhat touched upon that in the verse “La ikrah fel deen” (No compulsion in religion), but this was mainly interpreted for the Non-Muslims not to be compelled into Islam, but never for registered Muslims or people with Muslim parents to convert to other religions or no religion at all. Nevertheless, it’s good to see that verse being interpreted to include a bigger group of people.

Since many, including very conservative Muslims that I discuss with, have no problem with people choosing the faith they want or no faith at all, why do the governments in the most of the Arab speaking and muslim majority countries, including Syria, register people upon their faith? Should they? Well, people would argue that the main reason the STATE registers people’s faith (only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Druz are recognized in Syria) is to make the RELIGIOUS personal status courts (Courts dealing with marriage, divorce, etc..) function properly. Now please read my argument on 14 regarding civil courts v. religious courts. What can religious courts offer that civil courts can’t? Why does the STATE have to finance so many different religious courts and divide us into different visible official groups (Different sects have different courts) when all Syrians can be looked upon equally under law and having the liberty to engage marriage contracts that they could consider religious? And If I have the right to believe in whatever faith I choose, then why doesn’t the State recognize my faith just like it recognizes the others. Is that because my faith doesn’t have many adherents within the country? Well then what is the minimum amount of adherents of a particular faith are needed until their faith becomes recognized? (By the way, this is a big problem that the Bahais in Egypt are suffering from.) We have a solution for all these questions that would make most of us happier and make Syria a more stable country but only if we are willing to listen and think rationally about them.

Religious personal status laws in Syria are discriminatory. A Muslim man could marry from all faiths but a Muslim women can’t. All Syrian women regardless of their faith should oppose this inequality, even if she is Muslim and has the conviction that she would only marry a Muslim man, she should still oppose a law that restricts that right from her and her fellow women. After all, that law would contradict the principles of any person who believes in freedom of religion since they adhere to the principle that every person has the right to change their religion. The law in Syria allows the Non-Muslim to convert to Islam, but the on the other hand a registered Muslim is prohibited from doing so. The president also has to be Muslim, yet historically we have had Christian Faris al Khury as Prime Minister and even the Muslims admit that he was an extraordinary statesman. How can we be against someone like Faris al Khuri to become a president in the future simply because he is not a Muslim? Do we really expect to create a modern developed state with such lame discrimination found even in our constitution. Allowing civil marriages is a viable option we have to reduce sectarianism and create a national unity. We can start there, as we need to start somewhere.

PS: Majid, This comment is not directed to your per se, but to all fellow readers and everyone should feel free to criticize my ideas and proposals

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September 9th, 2010, 11:08 am

 

23. 5 dancing shlomos said:

“21st century ethics with it, then the gap between Islam and modernity ”

20th and 21st c ethics flows with movies, tv commercials, sham advice by fakes, agendas by deceivers.

just what is modernity? plastic bags? war is peace; hate is love; oppressors are victims? shit as gold? screwing on screen? wearing thongs in public? rudeness and incivility, vulgarity, tastelessness? belching and farting as comedy? lies and commercials as news?

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September 9th, 2010, 11:33 am

 

24. 5 dancing shlomos said:

also

at one time i sympathized with the kurds and their situation.

but

if the kurds of syria (or turkey or iran) are like the kurds of iraq: hand-in-hand with israel, screw ’em.

dont know their history. did the kurds like the jews provoke, cause the attacks by the victim others against themselves?

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September 9th, 2010, 11:45 am

 

25. 5 dancing shlomos said:

@23 i meant cursing not belching. probably not much difference

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September 9th, 2010, 11:48 am

 

26. jad said:

Hi leoleoni
You wrote an excellent rational comment that I fully agree with, thank you!
The only problem I see is that you are speaking the language of reason while religions doesn’t. The state should speak your language, the language of reasons, however, the Syrian government doesn’t have the needed strength or the will to pull such great plan, we all (religious and non-religious) are hostages of the weakness of our government, nothing will change as long as GOD and MONEY partnership is our state leaders, while Science and Philosophy are the enemy of that ‘powerful’ partnership.

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September 9th, 2010, 12:10 pm

 

27. jad said:

Husam,
I’m surprised and disappointed of your quick give up, what do you think you achieved in that? Nothing!!
You gave up your voice instead of making it heard.
I hope to see your comments back, if not I wish you and your family all the best in everything you all do and I hope that your kids have a better future than ours.

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September 9th, 2010, 12:14 pm

 

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