Honesty In Qatar-Jordan Ties.
Tension between the two Arab states erupted on Sept. 28 as Qatar cast its vote for South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon. The official said: "During the Security Council straw poll, the Qatari representative did not vote for Prince Zeid bin Hussein, even though the Arab League unanimously backed his candidacy".
Ban appeared almost certain to succeed Annan as secretary-general, after an informal poll revealed that he had the near unanimous support of the UNSC, including its five veto-wielding members. If Ban, 67, is chosen as expected in a formal vote set for Oct. 9, his selection will have been marked by unprecedented speed, consensus and calm. The choice of Ban, strongly backed by the US and its allies, has to do with the stand-off between them and North Korea which has recently indicated that it will test missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.
"Jordan is initiating a row with Qatar for no obvious reason or justifiable grounds", said al Raya newspaper in Doha, Qatar, adding: "Amman has launched an unjustifiable verbal campaign against Qatar that is escalating... Qatar believes that common interest should prevail over casual disagreements". Al-Watan another Doha daily said Qatar had remained silent for too long while Jordan was verbally attacking the GCC state. Al-Sharq said Qatar had earlier committed to support the candidacy of the South Korean delegate and would have stuck to it despite good relations with Jordan, adding: "The two countries should uphold the kinship ties that link them together and tone down the rhetoric".
Qatar is the only country in the Arab world which maintains cordial relations with Israel, as well as with the Iran-led axis including Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, etc. Qatar has been in constant feuding with Saudi Arabia since June 1995, when Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani toppled his father in a palace coup. Qatar finances al-Jazeera, a pan-Arab TV network which has occasionally allowed Saudi dissidents to denounce the royal regime of Riyadh.
A senior Amman official told AFP Jordan was considering punitive measures against Qatar, hinting that Qatar's "negative attitude" towards Jordan was due to Amman's "rapprochement with Saudi Arabia". Commenting on the issue, Shaikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani, Qatar's first deputy PM and Foreign Minister (widely described as arrogant and dishonest in the Arab world), said told al-Jazeera on Oct. 3 that Qatar was "surprised and regretful" but would respect Jordan's decision. "We are really surprised that Jordan is blaming Qatar for the failure of its candidate when 13 other members of the UNSC also voted for the South Korean candidate". He said Arab states had decided six months ago to back Thailand's candidate and Jordan announced the candidature of Prince Zeid only later. He said Qatar had already shifted its backing to Ban, adding: "We feel regretful of such a matter and we know that there are certain states that seek to complicate the relationship [between Qatar and Jordan]".
Social activist Abdul-Aziz al-Ansari invites Qataris to engage in polygamy to solve what he calls "the serious problem of unmarried women". Telephone calls from irate Qatari women have poured in to the local media, stirring a debate on Ansari's public appeal. Al-Sharq, which published some of the protests it received, quoted a Qatari woman as saying: "Social stability is at stake. Ansari is destroying families". The paper quoted another woman as saying: "Ramadan is a month of austerity and self-restraint, but Ansari is only harping on about marriage. He should be stopped".
Women voiced their concern after Ansari delivered a Friday prayer speech in a mosque in Doha following noon prayers on Sept. 29. However, Ansari, who has been running a non-profit marriage bureau for the past six years, has constantly promoted polygamy. In his last public appeal, he called on Qatari men to marry more than one woman to help curb the growing number of unmarried females. Ansari told al-Raya: "We are getting more inquiries for marriage from women than men, so finding a suitable match for each woman is a major challenge. It is a social responsibility to find a match for each woman willing to marry. If we neglect this area it can bring about serious moral problems". He said more than half the number of women of marriageable age in Qatar were unmarried. He said the problem was so serious there were 30-40 unmarried women, including widows and divorcees, for every 2-3 eligible bachelors. He added that his objective was to help young people get married and not indulge in immoral behaviour.
Qatari women regard the matter much differently. In a local survey women questioned the way Ansari was propagating polygamy in public and through the mosques, and said polygamy could only be practised by following strict rules. A lady was on Oct. 2 quoted as saying: "Ansari should utilise Ramadan for fasting and for the sincere worship of God and not to spoil our family life". Ansari said he will continue his propaganda "for the benefit of his country".
To encourage polygamy, he is preaching that a man's dowry to his bride can be as low as 25,000 riyals - a statement which Qatari women have found outrageous. A woman was on Oct. 2 quoted as saying: "Some of our husbands have already two wives. If the dowry amount is so low, they will not hesitate to marry a third or even a fourth wife".
Polygamy is regulated by Islamic law, Shari'a, which allows men to have up to four wives with the strict provision for equal justice for all. However, some modernist scholars argue that the Qur'anic norm is monogamy and polygamy is permissible only in exceptional cases. Ansari says: "It is a social responsibility to find a match for each woman willing to marry. If we neglect this area it can bring about serious moral problems". (The official religion in Qatar is a relatively more moderate version of Saudi Arabia's Wahhabism - a Salafi branch of Sunni Islam).
Saudi Media Against extremism: The Saudi media are using Ramadan to tackle the sensitive issue of Islamist extremism, with TV soaps ridiculing militants and clerics crying foul at the way their religion is depicted. (During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, but the evenings are a time for celebration when TV channels across the Arab world dish out dramas and comedies offering a chance to tackle difficult social issues. Reformers in the Saudi royal family want to use the media to promote liberal policies in a country where Wahhabism exerts a strong influence). Long-running Saudi comedy Tash Ma Tash this year broke taboos with its depiction of Neo-Salafi extremists at a school for militants jokingly named the Terrorism Academy, named after the popular global TV franchise Star Academy.
Reuters on Oct. 3 quoted liberal activist Hussein Shobokshi as saying: "The programme pushes the envelope and we need it to be pushed. These issues have been addressed in the past but it's more direct now. People are being challenged to differentiate between the human and the divine part of religion. It's on the human side that we need to work".
Wahhabi clerics and others are furious, saying the humour ridicules Islam itself. The believers at the school are depicted as simpletons robotically repeating mantras about "infidels", which are in fact part of mainstream Saudi religious discourse. Wahhabi scholar Shaikh Abdul-Rahman al-Shathry recently said in one of many edicts against the show: "Media in the Islamic world must not adopt people who deride God's religion, its holy men and their supporters, or who produce such drama serials and propaganda". But Wahhabism has been under fire since 9/11 when 19 young Arabs, including 15 Saudis, killed 3,000 people in the US.
In 2003 Wahhabi radicals in Saudi Arabia - following a violent Neo-Salafi ideology - launched a violent campaign to topple the Saudi royal family, which has been closely allied to Washington for decades.
Underlining sensitivities, Saudi state TV has declined to air the show. It is being carried on MBC, a popular pan-Arab network, whose Saudi owner is close to the Saudi royal family. In one scene, the two main characters are in a Cairo nightclub on a secret sex weekend away from their wives. "But we couldn't have this sort of thing in our country, could we?" one says, as if trying to convince himself. "Oh no, we have something special", the other replies. The idea that Saudi Arabia has "something special", or khususiyya in Arabic, is often cited by Islamists to hold back liberal reforms.
Honesty In Yemen's Nuclear Ambitions: President Ali Abdullah Saleh, re-elected to a second seven-year term on Sept. 20, on Oct. 2 said Yemen will use nuclear energy to cover its shortage of electricity in co-operation with the US and Canada. "We will generate...nuclear energy in co-operation with the US and Canada", he said in an iftar banquet held at the Republican Palace. The event is an annual tradition during Ramadan, when devout Muslims should reaffirm their honesty and refrain from lying. Addressing his guests, who included religious scholars, government officials, tribal shaikhs and social figures, Saleh said: "In the first stage, we will generate 20,000 MW, this is no longer election propaganda, it is serious".
However, the leaders of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMPs), the opposition alliance, did not attend because they accused Saleh's ruling General People's Congress (GPC) of having rigged the elections.
President Saleh, in power since the late 1970s, said the government would work on finding solutions for the scarcity of water in some Yemeni cities, adding: "One of the biggest problems we are facing now is the water scarcity, I would urge citizens to organise and rationalise the use of water because this issue has become a big problem and there should be awareness programmes about it. Searches are underway and negotiations are going on with a number of friendly countries for desalination of sea water for drinking purposes, not for irrigation, to solve the water scarcity problem in San'a', Ta'iz and other cities".
Saleh criticised using large quantities of water for qat plantations, calling on the concerned bodies to organise awareness programmes to educate people in general and youngsters in particular about the harmful effects of qat. He said: "About 35 to 40% of water goes on qat irrigation, so people need to be aware how to preserve water and spreading awareness is the responsibility of all. It's too difficult to abolish this plant, but treatment of this issue should be gradual, by reducing it, and by educating people about it. Fathers and mothers have to educate their children to give up the habit of chewing it".
Saleh said the qat habit was one of the reasons behind corruption, noting: "There are many people getting paid about 20,000 Yemeni rials (Dh400) as a monthly salary and they pay about 5,000 rials daily (Dh100) for qat, where does this money comes from?" He said people must be breaking the law in one way or another to obtain the money for qat.
Saleh also pointed out the deteriorating situation in Iraq and Somalia, saying that Yemeni people supported "security and stability" by voting for him in the last presidential elections. Saleh said his GPC would fulfil all its promises it gave to voters and the government would draw a detailed plan to translate his election programme into reality. He said fighting corruption would be his top priority.
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|Publication:||APS Diplomat News Service|
|Date:||Oct 9, 2006|
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