Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sunni & Shi'ah Muslims:The Roots of Hatred

The history of Islam is quite mute or partial about the First Muslim civil war, which divided the Islamic Empire and community the Prophet Mohammed founded. Many Sunni scholars refused or simply reject any notion of Mohammed's intention of his successor. Shi'ah Historians insist that Mohammed proclaimed his cousin and son-in law Ali bin Abi Thalib as his successor or Khalifah during his last Haj.

Mohammed died at his beloved wife Aishah's house,the community was deeply hurt and there were loud jeremiads about immortality of their beloved messenger of God. Abu Bakr, respected friend of Mohammed and father of Aishah called the community and gave one of the most memorable speeches, he concluded that "Mohammed was a man, and mortal, those who worship him, he is a dead man, if you worship to your creator, the God of the earth (Allah) is alive and never dies". Community buried Mohammed and gave allegiance to Abu bakr as the Khalifah.
Ali and his wife, the only surviving offspring of Mohammed were not happy, the entire propinquity of Mohammed's Bani Hashim clan were disappointed considered leadership will remain among Bani Hashim clan, besides Ali's knowledge of Islam was ahead of all the remaining comrades of early days of Islam. Ali the first Muslim and close companion of Mohammed was considered as his successor, Ali was a General, a Poet, and strong handsome man, His talents and closeness to the Prophet earned him many enemies.

Abu Bakr ruled a few years, he appointed his successor, Omar bin Khatab, old friend of Mohammed and great warrior,Abu Bakr died in his home,only leader who was not assassinated until the rule of Ummayids. Omar ruled the golden age of Islam,his generals conquered Quds, and ruled with iron fist and Justice. Omar was assassinated while praying. Ali was offered to become a leader but turned down, after conditions he demanded were not met, so it was offered old companion of Mohammed's named Osman bin Afan of Ummayid dynasty,Old man in his eighties, his clan Umamyids were and remained secretly the archenemy of Mohammed and his Banu Hashim clan. In the early days of Islam,Ummayids fought Mohammed harshly and killed Mohammed's Uncle Hamza. Ummayids were natural rulers of Arabia,Elite politicians and considered their position to rule new Islamic Empire. They converted to Islam and forgiven by Mohammed upon conquest of Makkah.
Osman appointed positions of his government to his clan of Ummayids. When disgruntled Muslims killed the Osman, Muslims went to Ali's house and pledged allegiance, Ali was still able man, although his wife Fatima the daughter of Mohammed died. He hesitated but accepted to save what he called Mohammed's community from civil war,and corrupt regime.

Ali became leader 25 years after the death of Prophet, immediately his rule was challenged by Ummayids, their leader who was Governor of Sham ( Syria) Mu'awiyah Ibn Abu Sufiyaan, son of Mohammed's number one enemies; his parents Hinda and Abu Sufyan ibn Harb were notorious enemy of Mohammed. The father of Mu'awiyah never accepted Islam except to save his life and property.
Ali inherited anarchy and disorganized regime, some old companions of Mohammed pledge allegiance, some refused to give oath to Ali, the conspiracy against him was not secret,influential families were among them, Ali refused to use force and waited time for truce, The biggest challenge came from Mu'awiyah, The Governor of Syria. Muawiyah refused to obey the new Khalifah for a reason that the killers of Osman were still free, as long those responsible are not caught and punished, he will not pledge no allegiance, and suggested that Ali Party (Shias) were behind the assassination of Osman. Two of old companions of Mohammed ( Zubayr and Talha ) broke their oath to Ali and declared open insurgence against Ali.
Enemies of Ali and the Prophets Family included the beloved wife of the Prophet, Aishah who encouraged open antagonism toward Ali and Banu Hashim clan.

Ali's loyal supporters called themselves,( Shiata-Ali) or Party of Ali, and remain loyal to him and the blood family of the Prophet, after Ali was killed by disgruntled supporter, The entire Islamic Empire split in two, Powerful Muawiyah and Ummayid dynasty who ruled from Syria, and small despised but gradually achieved prominence in Iran and Iraq, Shia Muslims, who believe that The Prophet and his family are rightful rulers of Muslim Empire and mourn till today the assassination of Ali and Massacre of His children in Kerbala,Imam Hussein's death, the Ashurah. Muslims of Umayids killed all those who had any blood relation to the Prophet, after Ummayids were defeated by another clan of Bani Hashim, certain uncle of Prophet Mohammed's Abbas Bani Hashim. The new rulers Abbasids moved to a new Capital they founded in Baghdad, persecution against Prophets descendents never ceased, they were hunted and killed. Muslims who stayed loyal to Ummayids are what they called Sunnis, who are majority of 1.5 Billion Muslims of the world, Shia Muslims are majority only in Iran, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and almost half of Population in Lebanon.
Sunni historians and dissemenator damaged and mendacious called Ali loyalist as fake Muslims who worship not to Allah but Ali, there is no evidence any Shia's except small minorities who believe Ali was the Prophet,many contribution of Shia Muslims were ignored, such as Azhar University, which was founded by Shia Muslim rulers of Egypt,The Fatimds, but today is center of Sunni Muslims learning.
Although many claim as descendents of Mohammed or Ali, there is no evidence that anyone who have blood relation to the Prophet is alive, Sunnis make sure they killed them all centuries ago. Direct abuse and discrimination Shia Muslims face in Islamic countries is beyond comprehension, Majority of Sunnis consider Shias as infidels and worst, Shias has been persecuted in Saudia,Kuwait, Bahrain and the biggest butcher of Shias's Saddam Hussein who killed,tortured Shias without any condemnation from Sunni Muslims. The Taliban regime massacred Shia communities in Afghanistan, this hatred toward Shia's were nurtured by sunni scholars last thousand years, even Syrian Sheikh Taymiyah wrote, "Ali and Muawiyah conflict were solved through sword, it's behind us"
I wonder if revered Sheikh is aware that silence means acceptance, that we accepted murder of Ali and his son Hussein who was butchered unkind and viciously with his family in Kerbala was grandson of the Prophet, and was killed by Yazid bin Muawiyah shameful ways, I think the Sheikh Taymiyah popular nowadays among radicals has no feelings between right and wrong, but only the victories one is with God, one fails because God is not his side, Thousands of years produced silence of majority Muslims about crimes committed against our beloved Prophet's family, it's farce to see same people who slaughtering and committing every incendiaries in the name of Prophets cartoons are the ones who never acknowledge the history of persecution against our Muslim brothers, the Shia's. Another evidence of Sunnis hatred toward Shias was the bombing of the Mosque of Prophets Grandson in Iraq, The Sunni midget King of Jordan is alarmed by Majority Shia in Iraq with good relationship with powerful Iran, and openly advocating more power for sunni minorities in Iraq.
This is prove that Sunnis never let go suspicion and hatred toward Shias, and coming weeks or so we will witness the power of Brutes such as Moktada al Sadr and other radicals of both sides, who are anticipating another civil war, with new weapons and more technology it will be catastrophe was right those who don't remember the past and condemned to repeat it.
This history's long and needs more detailed version will be available upon finishing my Historical Novel, ( Ali). If you need more info or comment contact me, and I am a sunni Muslim, whatever that means.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Book Reviews

This Week we reviewed Books from Arab countries and next week will be African. All the books are available in English.

Yassir Arafat, Bassam Abu-Sharif, Beirut: Riad El-Rayyes Books, December 2005. pp482

The author of this biography of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Bassam Abu-Sharif, was for many years one of Arafat's closest advisors, and he is therefore uniquely well-placed to write Arafat'spersonal and political story. Driven from Jerusalem by the Israelis as a child, Abu-Sharif spent most of his life fighting back: dubbed "the face of terror" by the American magazine Time, he was a member of the politburo of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,in which capacity he allegedly masterminded a series of airplane hijackings, survived a letter bomb from the Israeli secret services,losing several fingers and an eye, and went on to become Yasser Arafat's confidant and spokesman. His books include September Papers (1979), Political Settlement (1980) and, most controversial of all, Best of Enemies(1996), written jointly with Uzi Mahnaimi, a former Israeli spy master,whom Abu-Sharif met in a London restaurant in 1988. This meeting not only produced this book but also led to a collaboration that "helped move the peace negotiations forward and set the stage for the Arafat-Rabin hand shake of 1993," as the publicity for the Best of Enemies claims.

It is therefore interesting to see what Abu-Sharif has to say ten years after the appearance of this much-publicised book and more than ayear after the death of Arafat, especially since many Arabs believe that Arafat was killed by his Israeli partners in the "peace of the brave" that both Arafat and Abu-Sharif believed in. Indeed, the bookends with Abu-Sharif describing Arafat's last days, when, not longbefore he died, he told Abu-Sharif that "we were betrayed by the Americans, but they will regret it one day, as there will be no stability in the region before our people attain liberty and independence." Abu-Sharif says here that at the beginning of October 2004 he noticed a rapid deterioration in Arafat's health, and, though Arafat said he had flu when asked what the matter was, Abu-Sharif says he began to suspect that he was being poisoned. On October 25 he contacted the French consul in Jerusalem to urge his help in transferring Arafat to France, which was done on 29 October. The rest is history.

Ending with Abu-Sharif's final encounter with Arafat in 2004 and beginning with his first meeting with the man in 1973, this book reveals many intimate stories from the life of this most influential and enigmatic of all Arab leaders, weaving personal information about what food or dress Arafat liked and disliked with some of the most momentous political events in the modern history of the Arab world. The book also reveals many hitherto unknown secrets regarding, among other things, pressures exerted on the PLO to change its political programme in 1988, and what happened in the corridors of the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, which itself led to the discussions that issued in the Oslo Accords and the 1993 hand shake on the White House lawn.

Fairuz wa al-Rahabnah: masrah al-gharib wa al-kinz wa al-a'jouba(Fairuz and the Rahbanis: Theatre of Strangeness, Treasure and Wonder),Fawwaz Trabulsi, Beirut: Riad El-Rayyes Books, January 2006. pp240

There are many books in Arabic ó and perhaps other languages as welló on the legendary Lebanese singer Fairuz, who celebrated her 70th birthday a few weeks ago. However, this recent book is unique in that it has been written by a leading Lebanese political activist, Fawwaz Trabulsi, who has written extensively on Arab and Lebanese politics since 1969 when his first book Socialist Lebanon: Socialist Activism and the Contradictions ofthe Lebanese Situation appeared. Trabulsi has also translated many works into Arabic, including books by Antonio Gramsci and Edward Said.

As a result, Trabulsi brings rare insight to his study of Fairouz and the Rahbani Brothers, and one that weaves together politics, artand the wider cultural context. Fairuz wa al-Rahabnah investigates Lebanese reality as this is depicted in the Rahbanis'musicals, which were written for and performed by Fairuz. Casting a fresh look at these striking examples of Arab musical theatre and re-reading what has been written on Fairouz and Rahbanis against the political and cultural background of Lebanon and the Arab world in the second half of the 20th century, Trabulsi finds that though "the Rahbanis have concentrated their efforts on rejuvenating Lebanese patriotism by means of poetry, dialogue, music and scenery, many commentators have tended to ignore the fact that they have also done their utmost to reconcile Lebanese patriotism with wider Pan-Arab belonging."

Trabulsi continues that "suffice it to remember in this context that they visited Cairo in 1955 during the rule of Kamil Shamoun [in Lebanon] and in the same year that the Baghdad Pact was launched. This invitation came from Nasser, who had been so charmed by the voice of Fairuz that he wished she were Egyptian." Nevertheless, despite the reconciliation that the Rahbanis attempted between Lebanese patriotism and Pan-Arabism, Trabulsi comments that their brand of Pan-Arabism was"one that concentrated on the Lebanese-Syrian-Palestinian union, though they were ambivalent on that front too."

This is a remarkable book, and it is one that should be read by anyone interested in the matchless influence of Fairuz and the Rahbanis. This influence Trabulsi attributes to four elements: the superb voice of Fairuz; the musical and poetic ingenuity of Assi andMansour al-Rahbani; the ability of the singer to become a national cultural phenomenon; and the way the art of the Rahbanis has become entrenched in the popular culture of Lebanon.

Al-'irak wa rahan al-mustaqbal (Iraq and the Challenge of the Future), Maitham al-Janabi, Damascus & Baghdad: Al-Madaa Publishing Company, 2006. pp390

Numerous books on Iraq have appeared since the US-led invasion ofthe country in 2003, many of them by Iraqi scholars who lived in exile during the rule of Saddam Hussein. This book, the latest publication ofIraqi political scientist Maitham al-Janabi, examines the origins ofthe Iraqi nightmare past and present. In his view, while the US-led invasion and on-going occupation of Iraq have compounded the country's problems, much of what we are witnessing today in Iraq has its roots in the country's complex history. Indeed, al-Janabi notes that, "when a Sufi was asked 'from whence comes this cry of pain,' he answered 'from everything,' a saying that aptly reflects what remains of Iraq today."

Al-Janabi divides his study into six chapters, the titles of which give the flavour of his analyses: "Iraq and the Problematic of the Nationalist Idea"; "Iraq and the Problematic of the Patriotic Idea","The Legitimate Alternative State"; "Civil Society and the Building of National Reconciliation"; "Philosophy of an Alternative Culture"; "The Philosophy of Education". He believes that there is an inherent paradox in the Iraqi ordeal as this is being witnessed today. "While the totalitarian regimes that have ruled the country have succeeded in alienating Iraqis from their history, crushing any sense of meaning or optimism for the future," he writes, "this in a sense has also opened the way towards a future unfettered by the absurdity of what took placein Iraq during most of the 20th century." In the author's view, Iraq needs a "new construction" and not just reconstruction, the latter implying only restoration. But, al-Janabi argues, there is little intoday's Iraq that is worth restoring.

The challenge for the future, al-Janabi feels, is to build anew,constructing institutions and Iraqi citizens alike from the ground up.This, he admits, will be a difficult task and one that can only be achieved by work on five fronts, simultaneously taking in the eradication of totalitarian residues in state institutions, the deconstruction of extremist mindsets, the promotion of moderate social and political thinking, and the consolidation of a liberal and rational culture through the building of civil society institutions able tocounter traditional modes of thinking. Finally, the fight against social marginalisation in Iraq will require the reintegration of social forces into economic and social production.

Al-izdouaj al-thaqafi wa azmat al-moa'rada al-masriya (Cultural Dualism and the Crisis of the Egyptian Opposition), Ibrahim Mansour,Cairo: Dar Merit, 2006. pp283

Twenty years have elapsed since Ibrahim Mansour, who died in 2003,conducted the interviews published in this book. A leading Egyptian intellectual and a gifted writer of fiction and critic, Mansour commanded the love and the friendship of many generations of Egyptian writers, and the interviews in this book with leading Egyptian writers including Naguib Mahfouz, Youssef Idris, Amal Donqol, Fouad Zakaria and Ahmed Fouad Negm, among others, reveal his rare qualities of depth and intimacy.

In all these interviews with 11 leading Egyptian intellectuals,Mansour was preoccupied by a major hypothesis that he put to the test in his dialogues: namely that a cultural dualism, or "schizophrenia,"as he sometimes described the phenomenon, exists in Egypt whereby the elite, be they political leaders or intellectuals, live in isolation from the masses or from the ordinary man in the street. In testing this point of departure, Mansour engages his interlocutors in heated and spirited discussions that often sound like verbal duels and in which the issues at stake are discussed with vitality and verve.

When Mansour asks Naguib Mahfouz, for example, about the influence of popular Egyptian culture and heritage on his writing, Mahfouz answers that "when I began writing novels I made use of the available techniques employed in writing the novels of the period, those techniques naturally being taken from Western literature [...] True, we read books of Arab heritage, but when we sat down to write we did not want to write like the Thousand and One Nights, as the model we wanted to emulate 50 years ago was a European one."

Mansour asks about the validity of this kind of imitation in hindsight, and whether emulation of this sort is not an error. Mahfouz replies that "it was not an illusion, but I could not say whether it was wrong or right. All I know is that if someone had told me in the past that I wrote like Balzac, then I would have been pleased to no end, as if I had been a student who had succeeded in solving a difficult mathematical problem. Now, however, I am not so sure I would be pleased." Why, asks Mansour, should this be so, to which the novelist replies that this is because "I want to be myself, even if that means I am less of a writer than Balzac."

What is most extraordinary about these interviews from the 1980s is that many of the controversial and problematic issues discussed arestill with us today, and they still do not have the prospect of any satisfactory resolution. Indeed, one of the disturbing conclusions one draws after reading this enjoyable book is that the "cultural schizophrenia" that Mansour identifies and discusses with his interlocutors is one that still besets many Arab intellectuals.

Al-imara fi al-a'sr al-amoyi: al-injaz wa al-ta'oil(Architecture in the Umayyad Period: Achievement and Interpretation),Khalid al-Sultani, Damascus & Baghdad: Al-Madaa Publishing Company,2006. pp389

This book by Khalid al-Sultani of the Danish Royal Academy of Arts deals with a very important juncture in the development of Islamic architecture, the Umayyad period, which the author describes as the founding moment from which much of what we now identify as Islamic architecture developed. "Any analysis of architecture during the Umayyad period," al-Sultani writes, "the most important juncture in the development of Arab-Islamic architecture, must take as its point of departure two major elements: achievement and interpretation. For the primary function of any form of architecture lies in the value of whatit achieved in terms of constructions and buildings and then in how far these achievements lend themselves to a number of interpretations and kinds of explanation."

The Umayyad dynasty was founded in 661 CE following years of political uncertainty,and division of Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims. The political centre of Islam was shifted to the dynasty's capital of Damascus, surviving for around a century before being overthrown in turn by the Abbasids, whose capital was established at Baghdad in 750. However, during the hundred or so years of its existence the Umayyad dynasty was able to use the resources of the new Islamic state to foster the arts and architecture: the Dome ofthe Rock in Jerusalem (691) and the Great Mosque of Damascus (706) are among its most important architectural achievements, it being said that the Caliph Abdel-Malik set aside the tax revenues of Egypt for seven years to pay for the former, while the later was built using revenues drawn over a similar period from Syria.

While Umayyad architecture drew elements from previous architectural traditions, among them Roman and Byzantine, mosque architecture in particular necessitated a new use of space, and gradually anarchitecture that was distinctly Islamic in character emerged.Al-Sultani divides his scholarly study of the dynasty's architectural achievements into five parts, looking at architectural space in the first part, before cataloguing a hundred years of architectural activities and achievements and reviewing the architectural context ofthe period. He also provides a useful survey of the architectural worksof the Umayyad period and a general introduction and conclusion.

In his conclusion, al-Sultani writes that his study has sought "to be a preliminary and modest contribution towards the gigantic effort of re-evaluating the different stages of past Islamic architecture, the study of which to a large degree is limited to historical periods as ifeach period were an 'isolated pocket' containing no traces from the past or influences on the future." In contrast, the wider and more comprehensive treatment of the whole of the Islamic architectural heritage that al-Sultani is proposing, and of which the present volume is designed as a part, would, he says, "afford us a wider scope [in understanding] a continuum that continues to the present day."

Soa'l al-thaqafa: al-thaqafa al-arabiyya fi alim moutahoil (The Question of Culture: Arab Culture in a Changing World) Ali Oumlil,Casablanca: Arab Cultural Centre Publications, 2005. pp159

This book, the latest by the prominent Moroccan intellectual Ali Oumlil, professor at the Mohamed V University, Rabat, is a stimulating study of Arab culture and the wider context within which this culture is practiced. It focuses on issues such as the challenges western information technology imposes on Arab culture, the impact of neo-liberalism on Arab societies, and the pros and cons of the much-discussed "dialogue of cultures". Regarding this last issue in particular, Oumlil argues that for a useful dialogue between Arab-African culture and the West to take place mutual recognition must take place first, something that has not yet happened. Mutual recognition of this sort faces two major obstacles: the first being an Islamic fundamentalism that reduces Arab culture to religion, and then reduces that religion to a fundamentalist creed; the second being western fundamentalism, which perceives modernity as the West's creation and over which the West has a monopoly.

However, besides diagnosing the ills of Arab culture and its interaction with the wider world, Oumlil attempts in the six chapters of his book to answer a number of pertinent questions. He discusses,for example, what the Arabs need to do if they are to produce educational policies able to generate human resources capable of integrating into and competing in today's world. He examines which Arab values are conducive to a modern mindset, and he discusses how the Arabs should inculcate a respect for human dignity and for human rightsin the younger generations.

Finally, Oumlil discusses the impact of Muslim immigration to the West on western societies and especially on Europe. He believes that European Muslims have developed their own identities, and these will allow them to take matters in hand in those areas that concern them.Muslims living in Islamic countries should not interfere in the affairs of Europe's Muslims, or consider them to be "brethren living in alien countries." On the contrary, Oumlil argues, claims of brotherhood should not entail patronizing attitudes: the future of Europe's Muslims is their own business, he writes, and they should be allowed to formulate that future without outside interference.

40 Pyramids of Egypt and Their Neighbours, Photographs by SherifSonbol and text by Peter Snowdon, Cairo: Cyperus Press, 2006. pp96

This beautifully produced book of photographs by the internationally acclaimed photographer Sherif Sonbol and the accompanying text written by Peter Snowdon(Fo is a treasure-trove that would delight all Egyptologyfans. In 40 Pyramids of Egypt and Their Neighbours, Peter Snowdon writes "Egypt is home to more than 100 pyramids, many of which have long since disappeared or collapsed, leaving nothing but a faint impression of their previous existence in the sand. The photographs inthis book are of those pyramids which have weathered the sand storms,looters and the ravages of time and remain yet standing."

Of Sonbol's photography The New York Times wrote "Rare is the photographer who looks at familiar art form and shows it in a newlight. But Sherif Sonbol's stunning and revelatory photographs demonstrate a particularly agile eye, frequently abstracting shapes into dynamic and explosive bursts of colour... Even when Sonbol concentrates on stillness, he exemplifies the adage that a pause is not a pause but 'an act of accomplishment.'"

UAE Donated $1 Million to Bush Library

United Arab Emirates contributed at least $1 million to the Bush Library Foundation, which established the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University in College Station.

The donations were made in the early 1990s for the library, which houses the papers of former President George H.W. Bush, the current president’s father.

The list of donors names of late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (President of UAE) and the people of the United Arab Emirates as one donor in the $1 million or more categories.

The amount of the gift grants them recognition on the engraved donor wall in the library entrance or on the paving bricks that line the library’s walkways, according to library documents.

Roman Popaduik, chairman of the Bush Library Foundation that collects donations, said he could not discuss details of the gifts except to say the amount category and whether it was before or after 1997.

The chief executive of the Dubai Ports World, Ahmed bin Sulayem, did not donate individually.

The hundreds of large donors include longtime Bush associates, including Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials as well as business titans - such as Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay - and big Republican donors.

Other Arab donors include the state of Kuwait, the Saudi Royal family and Prince Bandar bin Sultan family, the Sultanate of Oman, King Hassan II of Morocco and the Emir of Qatar. The former South Korean prime minister and China also gave tens of thousands of dollars to the library.

The Respect of A Cousin

After the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s 12 caricatures of the prophet Muhammad were republished in European newspapers, riots erupted in Damascus, Gaza, Beirut and elsewhere throughout the Muslim world. The violence is an extreme manifestation of the deep hurt felt by virtually all Muslims.

As we condemn the violence on the streets, perhaps we should take a moment to understand the hurt in the hearts of the great majority of Muslims who did not engage in violence.

For Muslims, the mere rendering of an image of Muhammad is sacrilege. The portrayal of Muhammad in a pejorative fashion is to them an inconceivably offensive desecration, on the level of what would be for us the defilement of a Torah scroll. Because it was done in newspapers across Europe, it was a slap in the face repeated thousands of times.

Perhaps it’s a question of respect, not freedom. Freedom of expression theoretically protects the right of a non-Jew to desecrate a Torah scroll. Yet we would all view freedom of expression as a hollow defense to such a vile act.

Some say Muslims can’t take criticism and simply don’t understand freedom of the press. In my own limited experience, that has not been the case. For the past year I’ve written a column in a Muslim newspaper, Muslims Weekly, in which I’ve criticized suicide bombing, the treatment of Jews under Islamic rule, the anti-Jewish rantings of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and even Muslims Weekly’s own reporting about Israel. But it was all done with respect, an informed appreciation of the wonderful benefits that Islam conferred upon the Jewish people, along with a willingness to look at our own imperfections together with those of the other.

Regardless of whether or not the European press was constitutionally free to publish the offensive images, the act was a blatant and vulgar act of disrespect to Islam. Such insults no doubt contribute to the frightening specter of a clash of civilizations.

What can we do as Jews to lessen the hostilities? Perhaps, just perhaps, a little respect would help. Rather than ripping the wounds wider with editorial musings extolling freedom of speech and condemning violent protests, is it not time for a bit of healing?

The pages of this Jewish newspaper present a place for a small start by showing Muslims right here that though we too have the freedom to say anything we like, we choose to convey respect to our Muslim cousins. Printing something positive about Muhammad best does this.

There is a space between romanticizing the past and vilifying it. There is a time to focus on the dark side of history and a time to view the other in the best light. There is a time to cull from our rabbinic writings the good our sages saw in Islam and there is quite a bit of such sentiment recorded. We Jews need to learn to be more flexible, pursuing the claims of Jews expelled from Arab countries and criticizing anti-Jewish TV programs and cartoons in the Muslim media, while at the same time displaying gratitude for all the good Islam did for us. There is a time to jump over our pain and see the humanity of the other. That time is now. Let us start:

There is a Hadith (oral tradition concerning the words and works of Muhammad) recorded by Bukhari in the name of Amer Bin Rabiha that reads as follows:

“A funeral procession passed us and the Prophet stood up for it. We said, ‘but Prophet of God, this is a funeral of a Jew.’ The Prophet responded, ‘rise.’ ”

One can search the writings of the ancient non-Jewish world for a more powerful example of a public display of respect for the humanity of the Jew. There simply is no more powerful statement than the single word uttered by Muhammad nearly 14 centuries ago.

Some readers will bombard this newspaper with reams of material showing a darker side to Islam, as if it were just too much for them to hear one good thing. But it is there, it is a sacred part of their tradition, it is good and we should hear it and respect it.

When you give respect you get it. When you take criticism, you earn the right to give it. Perhaps this article will be republished in Muslim newspapers, compete with its critical comments about the pain we feel in the face of anti-Jewish cartoons and worse in Muslim media. Muslim readers may come to understand that an article by a Jew, in a Jewish newspaper, was one of respect, telling its audience: “We know that the one mocked in newspapers in Europe is the one who had the humanity to tell his companions to rise for the funeral procession of a Jew.”

Edward Miller, a local attorney, is active in efforts to reconcile Jews and Muslims.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Israel Destroyed a US Funded Public Park

The Israeli Army, using a bulldozer, destroyed a US-funded public park, including a children’s playground and swimming pool, in a West Bank village yesterday, witnesses and officials said. The bulldozer, protected by a force of Israeli soldiers, demolished the park in Azzun, close to the northern town of Qalqiliya, on the grounds that it had been built without permission of the Israeli authorities in the occupied territory.

Construction work on the park had begun in November last year and was almost completed, the mayor of Azzun, Ihssan Abdellatif, told AFP. He said that the project, which cost around $120,000, had been financed by the US Agency for International Development.

“I can confirm that the park that was destroyed today was funded by USAID,” a spokeswoman for the agency, Anna-Maija Litvak, told AFP. The spokeswoman added that USAID (US Taxpayers) had contributed around $80,000 toward the cost.

Meanwhile, Iran offered yesterday to help finance a Palestinian Authority run by the Hamas group, state radio reported in Tehran. Israel promptly warned the Palestinians that if they accepted Iranian money, they would be aligning themselves with an “international pariah.” The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, announced the offer after a meeting with Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of the Hamas, in Tehran, the radio said.

“The United States proved that it would not support democracy after it cut its aid to the Palestinian government after Hamas won the elections. We will certainly help the Palestinians,” Larijani said, according to the radio.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said: “The incoming Palestinian leadership has to decide if it wants to be part of the legitimate international community or if it wants, through its own actions, to align itself with international pariahs.”

Rice Struggles to Find Support for Mideast Policies

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice faced an uphill struggle trying to reconcile Washington's push for democracy and concerns over rising Islamism as she pressed on with a tour of Mideast allies. Washington's top diplomat held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak which focused on the aftermath of Hamas victory last month in the Palestinian parliamentary elections.

During a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit on Tuesday, she reiterated the tough stance of her administration, which lists Hamas as a terrorist organization."You cannot have one foot in the camp of terror and another foot in the camp of politics" she said, adding that the international community expected the Islamist movement to recognize the Jewish state's right to exist.

Hamas has used softer language since its resounding electoral victory over the mainstream Fatah but has stopped short of considering normalization with the Jewish state. But Egypt has argued Washington had to respect the outcome of the democratic Palestinian elections and should not rush to boycott a government led by Hamas.

We should give Hamas time, Abul Gheit said. I am sure that Hamas will develop, will evolve. We should not prejudge the issue, Abul Gheit said. The United States has threatened to cut aid to a Hamas-led government if the militant movement did not recognize Israel and end violence.

Egypt is an important voice at this time of change and choice for the Palestinian people" said Rice, who held talks earlier Tuesday with Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Hamas which was asked by Palestinian President and Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to form the next government, dismissed Rice's comments and argued Washington's tough talk could only backfire.

The United States still haven't learned that the language of threats doesn't work with Hamas, the movement's spokesman Mohammed Nazzal told AFP.

The more the United States pressures Hamas, the more the Palestinian people will support Hamas, he said after meeting one of Suleiman's deputies, Mohsen Al-Naamani. Nazzal interpreted Rice's remarks as a sign of US "nervousness;.

Before departing to Saudi Arabia, Rice also had brief meeting with members of Egypt's civil society ( Not known members of Islamic party-Muslim Brotherhood) who exposed their ideas about means of promoting democracy whilst at the same time countering the rise of Islamism.

Eliminating the Muslim Brothers is totally non-democratic. The issue is how can we compete with them,; intellectual Tarek Heggi told her. He urged Washington to be more specific in promoting democracy in the region.

Since the victory of Hamas, Washington is hesitant to promote democracy in the region, Islamist are very strong In Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Palestine, it seems that democracy in the region will help the enemies of United States, whether the Bush administration will continue to support democracy in Islamic world is questionable.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Facts about Dubai Ports World

Dubai Ports World is at the center of the Washington controversy over whether the firm, owned by Dubai, should take over managing six major ports in the United States.

Here are facts about Dubai Ports World:

Dubai Ports is owned by government of Dubai,The ruling Family of Dubai Al-Maktoum Family, Head of the family, current Vice president of UAE, Prime Minister and Minister of defense of UAE, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rachid Al Maktoum is very generous to many Washington insiders,and he is very shrewd businessman.

Share holders at Britain's P&O, who had been managing the ports, voted last week in favor of Dubai Port’s multi billion dollar bid, giving the firm control over the management of P&O’s global operations, including in the US ports of New York and New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia,New Orleans and Miami.

The deal made Dubai Ports World the world’s third-largest ports group.

Dubai Ports World purchased the global port assets of US freight rail company CSX Corp. In 2005 for $1.15 billion. US Treasury Secretary John Snow is a former chairman of CSX, but left the company a year before the Dubai deal.

One of DP World's top executives, David Sanborn, was nominated by President George W. Bush in January to become the administrator of the Maritime Administration in the US Department of Transportation. At least one senator plans to hold up Sanborn’s confirmation until more questions about the port deal are answered.

Dubai Ports has international operations in the Dominican Republic,Venezuela, Germany, Romania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, India,China, Malaysia, South Korea and Australia in addition to the UAE.

Book Review: Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red

Novelist such as Mr.Pamuk comes once in a lifetime, (b. 1952, Istanbul). He was brought up in Nisantasi. He attended Roberts College (1970) In Istanbul and then Istanbul Technical University, Faculty of Architecture for some time.

He graduated fromIstanbul University, Institute of Journalism (1977). He did hispostgraduate studies at the institute he graduated from. At twenty-two, he gave up everything and took up writing as his sole occupation.

He embarked on his career in literature with his poems published in thereview Yeditepe (1970). Later, he focused on writing short stories andnovels.He came third at a competition held at the Antalya FilmFestival.

He ranked first with Mehmet Eroglu at the MilliyetNovel Award in 1979 with his novel Karanlik ve Isik (Darkness andLight) and thus became well known. He collected the Orhan Kemal Awardin 1983 and the Madarali Award in 1984 with his novel Cevdet Bey veOgullari (Cevdet Bey and His Sons).

He received the Prix de la Découverte Européenne in 1991 with the French translation of his Sessiz Ev (Silent House).

He gained international fame with Beyaz Kale (The White Castle), which was published in 1985 and translated into many languages in 1990. He attended Columbia University in New York as a visiting scholar between1985-1988.

He collected the Prix France Culture award in 1990with the French translation of his novel Kara Kitap (The Black Book).The only screenplay he wrote was filmed in 1991.

His novel Benim Adim Kirmizi (My Name is Red, 1998) received many awards,including La Prix Du Meilleur Livre Etranger in France, the GrinzaneCavour in Italy in 2002 and the International Impac in Dublin in 2003.The latter award was accompanied by an award of €100,000 from the city of Dublin.

My Name is Red ( Vinatage paperback $22.95)is a feast of pleasure, One never bores or stops reading until the end. Based on Mystery of a beautifully written tales of magic and power. tales such as Arabian Nights of sixteenth-century Istanbul. When a Sultan commissions a book of forbidden subject, all Istanbul and mystery of the books leads to hidden secret of miniaturist, a murder, forbidden love and desires,Art, Religion, sex, nothing goes unnoticed by this Master storyteller. this Book one cannot have enough, do yourself a favor, and a get a copy of My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk.

His works have been translated into thirty-two languages. His statements on the Kurdish and Armenian problems have been matters of debate and criticism. He refused the highest award in Turkey.


NOVEL: (Darkness and Light, 1980), (Cevdet Bey and His Sons, 1982), (Silent House, 1983), (TheWhite Castle, 1985), (The Black Book, 1990), (NewLife, 1994), (My Name is Red, 1998), (Snow,2002).

SCREENPLAY:(Hidden Face, 1992).

MEMOIR-ESSAY: (Other Colors, 1999), Istanbul (Istanbul, 2003.)

Zogby Says Saudis Need Better PR Strategy in US

— The Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia (Royal family)needs to hone the communication skills of “smart Saudi women” to put across its message effectively to the American audience, said a prominent Arabist intellectual from the US during a press conference here yesterday.

“The country is wasting its resources in trying to reach out to the Americans through their media. Such a strategy has turned out to be counter-productive,” James Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute (AAI), told mediapersons at the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce & Industry (CSCCI).

Pointing out that Saudi Arabia should review its communication strategy, Zogby said talented Saudi women from the mass media could be mobilized to explain the Saudi point of view to the target audience, such as the American youth, the elite, opinionmakers and other influential people in the US.

Zogby also disclosed that current thinking in the US administration was in favor of relaxing visa restrictions for students and businessmen wishing to visit the US. “They do realize that they were overreacting to events in the aftermath of Sept. 11. New procedures would be put in place by the State Department. As a result, the restrictions would be eased somewhat,” he said.

He said it was a smart move on the part of the Saudi government to try to send more students to the US. This would increase pressure on the State Department to rationalize the visa procedure for both students and the business community.

At the press conference, Zogby distributed a copy of the presentation that the AAI made to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who will be visiting Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries to urge them not to give aid to Hamas and also help in the reconstruction of Iraq.

“USAID (Agency for International Development, the main organ for foreign aid from US public funds) programs strengthen Palestinian civil society, empowering moderates to affect change in their government,” states the letter. “Withdrawal of US financial support as punishment for the results of a democratic election it actively supported could cause a breakdown in civil society. This vacuum could lead to civil war or increased interference from regional players.”

Asked about the US double standard in dealing with the Arab states vis-a-vis Israel, Zogby said: “Double standard in the US is not the issue. Asymmetry in the balance of power is the main problem. When one side is much stronger than the other, it speaks from a position of strength and defines the debate. That’s how George W. Bush succeeded in defining Sen. John Kerry as a weak candidate in defending America’s security interests, even though John fought in the Vietnam War and Bush did not.”

By the same token, said Zogby, the Israelis have succeeded in defining their conflict with the Palestinians as one concerning the war on terror.

“An Israeli delegation visits the US every week for interaction with influential sections of the society,” he said. “They have also hired an American PR firm for giving them expert opinion on how they should handle their media campaign. Thus, a large number of Americans have been locked in place by negative perceptions about the Arabs.”

He said Saudi authorities should design a new communications strategy that relies on people-to-people contacts, and visits to places in the US other than Washington and New York in order to explain the Saudi perceptions.

“It’s true there are Americans who appreciate what Saudi Arabia has been doing as a responsible member of the international community,” said Zogby. “But there is still an information gap which has not been bridged by the advertising campaign.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ahmadinejad: Palestinian Nation's Will Greatest Power to Solve Mideast Crisis

Iran's Radical President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said here on Monday in a meeting with Head of the Political Office of Palestinian Resistance Movement Hamas, Khalid Mashal that the Palestinians now have the strongest position in the Middle East peace process.
Ahmadinejad stressed, "Today the Palestinian nation's will is the greatest power in the Middle East and by voting in favor of Hamas the Palestinians emphasized their ideal of resistance till the liberation of their country and the enemies cannot confront that will." Speaking to Dr. Mashal and his accompanying delegation, the IRI President said that the Palestinian nation's support for Hamas is your greatest political asset, adding, "The Palestinians' vote in this election was to the liberation of the entire occupied territories through continuation of resistance and the establishment of an independent Palestinian country."

He said that the victory of Hamas meanwhile reflected the historic will of the Palestinians for choosing a new path and for leading a new type of life, adding, "The Palestinian nation's will annulled the Oslo Agreement, the Road Map project, and all previous plans for Middle East."

The President added, "Hamas victory proved the Palestinian nation's will for deciding their fate independently, despite the opposition of the superpowers and Western countries."

Emphasizing that the philosophy behind the existence of the Zionist regime has been put under serious question today, Ahmadinejad said, "The occupying regime of Holy Qods was established on a sad day when the Muslim nations were unfortunately asleep."

He added, "That regime's establishment and its sixty-year aggressions against the Islamic countries have all been at the service of ensuring the interests of the West, but today we have the wave of Islamic awakening, and the gradual collapse of the hegemony of the West, which is the reason why the occupiers do not feel at ease within the occupied lands."

Referring to the plots hatched by enemies for halting the process of the victories of the resistance movement by depriving them of the opportunities, Ahmadinejad warned, "You should be aware not to fall prey to political fractions within Palestinian groups and beware that our popular government is taking shape under such conditions that a large part of your country is still occupied."

The head of the Political Office of Hamas Khaled Mashal, too, during the meeting referring to the "astonishing victory" of his resistance group in recent elections said, "Hamas has said ever since the early results of elections were being announced that the Palestinian nation's victories can continue from now on."

He said, "Hamas would soon take responsibility as the Palestinian Authority and push forth the Palestinian nation's ideals despite all hardships ahead, and we are determined not to yield to the mounting pressures that are already evident."

Khaled Mashal meanwhile stressed that Hamas would never retreat from its basic stand of not recognizing the legitimacy of the usurper Zionist regime, to keep insisting on the basic right of all Palestinian refugees to return to Palestine, and for freedom of all Palestinian inmates from horrendous Israeli prisons.

Iran's ruling conservative clergy offered Millions of Euros to help the new Hamas led government, Thanks for high oil prize and booming economy in Iran, also Mr.Mashal met Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, and chief of intelligence.

The New Rise of Islamic Radicals

Since President Bush called democratization in the Middle east, the Islamic radicals used this alien weapon to achieve the power, either with ballot or bullet. Lugubrious mood of west and the new life of Islamic radicals are blamed to democratization of Muslim world.
Hamas won and is bound to rule Palestinians under Israeli subjugation, US, European ever attentive to Israelis demands refused and cut off all the aid to Palestinians, which in due course will find other sources of income such as Iran, rich Oil Arab countries, and exiled Palestinian Diaspora. Hamas leaders are sharp and clever and achieved their success through patience and terror, Now that they won the election, they will need to govern with moderate views, as long they don't seem to betray those who elected them. Isolating Hamas will not help no one, besides let them rule and fail if necessary.
Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Jordan and many other countries Islamic Radicals are using Hamas strategy of bullet or ballot.

Recalcitrant Islamic courts in Somalia are encouraged by Hamas, they are consolidating their power through bullet, they already have the poor majority of population support, simply, the Islamic Radicals with all their faults are no corrupt. Who is funding them? Iran? Saudi? Al-Qaeda?
The answer is far beyond those countries, Islamist are better organized than so-called secularist, and they found new blood to reinvent their popularity through risible cartoons of the our beloved Prophet Mohammed(MPUH).

I assure you Pres. Bush is not mistaken by Democracy in middle east, only real representative of the people can negotiate with the West, not corrupt obese leaders of our so-called friends. United States must respect the wishes of the majority of Muslim People, and become honest broker of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Latin America: 21st Century Socialism?

The victory of the Left-wing forces in several Latin American countries, and an emotional speech by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez about the advent of the "era of 21 century socialism" in the region have shown that it is increasingly turning red.
Leftism is nothing new in Latin America. In the second half of the 20th century it was dubbed a "red continent". But at that time the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba were competing with each other in proletarian internationalism, supplying Latin American countries with Communist propaganda and money. This is now a thing of the past. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia has lost even its economic contacts with the region. After the collapse of its donor, the U.S.S.R., Cuba had to think about its own survival rather than a regional revolution. Having overcome Mao's radicalism, China has not abandoned Latin America, but gives priority to economic interests just like any other country. The current "reddening" of Latin America is very different from what it was in the past.

The prestigious Le Monde Diplomatique has described the situation as a complete failure of neoliberalism and subsequent social tensions. This conclusion is correct but not without reservations, since it makes a generalization for the entire continent, where the situation in every country is determined by its own set of problems and its leaders.

In addition, the continent is divided into opposite economic groups. Mercosur, the Southern Common Market, unites Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and, since late 2005, Venezuela. It may soon be joined by Bolivia, led by the recently elected first Amerindian President, Evo Morales. Mercosur is against globalization and the economic blockade of Cuba. It blames major transnational corporation for all trouble in Latin America, which are eating the best and biggest pieces of the Latin American pie, ignoring the interests of the local people.

The philosophy of the US-established North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), joined by Canada and Mexico, is poles apart. These are aggressive advocates of globalization, which defend the interests of big business, and are overtly trying to pull all Latin American nations into their orbit. There are also other economic groups, like the Andes Group, but the nations that remain indecisive, are most likely to be drawn to one of the two strongest magnets. The strength of one magnet is obvious - money. The strength of the other one, Mercosur, is both populism and assertion of social rights and justice in entire Latin America.

Not all Left-wing leaders are as radical as Hugo Chavez, who has recently threatened to discontinue oil supplies to the U.S. if it dares touch Iran. Some regimes are more of a shade of pink than red. But many find the general choice of the palette alarming. Experts are concerned over the presidential elections in Brazil, Mexico, and Nicaragua in 2006, where the Leftist forces are likely to win. Previously, Chavez with his rhetoric looked like an outcast, whereas now that Evo Morales promised to nationalize the Bolivian gas industry, the soil for radical populism in the region has become fertile.

But the diagnosis by Le Monde Diplomatique is only partially convincing. It is true that neoliberalism has failed to solve Latin American problems. But it is also true that in the last century Latin American countries tried almost all political and economic mechanisms, but nothing worked.

Virtually every country flirted with left-wing phraseology, including "guerrilla". Some countries, for instance Columbia, are still in a guerrilla state today. Finally, while Latin Americans have witnessed numerous coups d'etat, on many occasions they did not resort to military or guerrilla assistance when they ousted the presidents whom they had elected themselves through democratic procedures. In other words, Latin Americans went from democracy to dictatorship and back a hundred times. For many decades they have been pegging their hopes now on the U.S., then on themselves, now on big business, then on small entrepreneurhsip. During some periods South America believed in the magic of Harvard boys, during others Karl Marx be came its favorite. It produced its own magicians as well, but eventually they were ousted with rotten tomatoes. Neoliberal ideas were just one more failure in a long list of other abortive attempts at achieving prosperity.

It appears, that Latin America suffers from some chronic ailment, which cannot be cured with either Left, or Right, or centrist pills.

Incidentally, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) stayed in power in Mexico longer than others - from 1917 to 1994. A candidate from the ruling party made a statement at an election meeting, which was endlessly repeated as a joke: "We are neither the Left, nor the Right, nor the Center. We are the opposite!" Maybe, this ambiguity suited the country for some time, but eventually those obscure heroes also left the scene.

This leads to a classic question: who is to blame? The U.S. seems to be the only factor that has been permanently hovering over Latin America. For this reason, I will dare put the blame with U.S. President James Monroe. It was the Monroe doctrine that defined the continent and all its sovereign countries as a "zone of American interests".

It is difficult to count how many times Washington used military force to change the course of political developments in its favor, thereby preventing the region from developing naturally, and learning from its own setbacks and successes. American influence is bound to have some positive features, but they are negligible compared to negative ones. It is wrong to try to impose one's own values and morality upon millions of people of another civilization. This is detrimental to both sides.

If the U.S. recognized the rights of Latin Americans to live without its dictate, it would be the best remedy against the current manifestations of radicalism in the region. But this is not realistic. Judging by the current U.S. foreign policy, the White House will not be satisfied until the rest of the world toes its line.

U.S. Missed an Opportunity With Iran

- In May 2003, shortly after the U.S. military destroyed the army of Saddam Hussein, a fax arrived at the State Department with an Iranian offer to open talks that would include a discussion of weapons of mass destruction.

The one-page document was written by Sadegh Kharrazi, Iran's ambassador to France and nephew of Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and passed on by the Swiss ambassador to Tehran, who represented U.S. interests in Iran, a former administration official said.

The official, who saw the document, said it indicated that Iran wanted to negotiate a grand political bargain with the United States that would include everything from Iran's nuclear program to its support for groups that Washington regards as terrorist.

"The Iranians acknowledged that WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and support for terror were serious causes of concern for us, and they were willing to negotiate," said Flynt Leverett, a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council who said he read the document. "The message had been approved by all the highest levels of authority. They wanted us to deal with sanctions, security guarantees, normalization of relations, and support for integration of Iran into the World Trade Organization."

The fax was one of a series of informal soundings that emanated from Tehran in the months after the United States invasion of Iraq. Iran's envoys to Sweden and Britain also began sending signals that the regime was ready to negotiate a deal, according to a former Western diplomat closely familiar with the messages. Iran was sending messages through other back-channels as well, according to Paul Pillar, who served as the CIA's national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005.

"There were several other informed intellectuals who visited Iran at the time," he said. "They were being used to receive and deliver similar sorts of messages. There was an interest in Tehran in engaging and talking."

But the Bush administration was in no mood for conversation or grand political bargains, the former officials said. According to Leverett, who left government in mid-2003, the administration rejected the Iranian probe and instead sent a complaint to Swiss Ambassador Tim Guldimann, saying he had overstepped his role as an intermediary by passing it on in the first place.

Critics, including the two former Bush administration officials, European diplomats, and policy experts, say the United States may have squandered an opportunity to negotiate an end to Iran's nuclear program by not talking with Tehran. According to both Leverett and Pillar, the administration's priority was to avoid negotiations with the regime, out of concern it would imply acceptance of its continuation in office. Since then, Iran's government has become even more conservative, making the prospect of further negotiations more problematic.

"No one at a senior level was willing to push Iran on diplomacy," said Leverett. "Was there at least a chance that we could have gotten something going? Yes, there was a chance."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Unity, Now a Must for Palestinians

Israel and the U.S. are reportedly poised to adopt a range of reprisals intended to isolate a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority as the Islamist faction is being sworn into parliament for the first time. The package of measures under discussion will allegedly seek to separate Israel gradually from a Palestinian Authority dominated by Hamas.

In the face of the plots led by U.S. and Israel, Hamas leaders have gone on a diplomatic offensive. The exiled supreme leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, has been meeting diplomats and politicians in Turkey. Russia has also formally invited Hamas leaders to talks in Moscow, scheduled to take place early next month. Hamas leaders are also visiting Muslim countries including Egypt and Iran.

The big victory of Hamas was a “political quake” hitting the Middle East. Consequently, peace talks between Israel and Palestine are entering a new phase. Hamas will also face fresh challenges as Israel, U.S. and the West are seeking their own objectives. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have called on Hamas to renounce violence while the U.S. Congress has voted to cut 400-million-dollar annual aid from Washington to the Palestinian Authority. Israel has imposed bans on the Palestinians willing to move between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The new-look Palestinian parliament, in which MPs from the radical Islamist faction occupy 74 out of the 132 seats, will be inaugurated today following Hamas's massive election victory last month.

Notwithstanding their own slogans of democracy, the West and the U.S. do not respect a democracy-based election in the Middle East. Hamas favors a coalition government in the occupied lands, reaching out to other movements including Fatah.

Under the present circumstances, Palestinians need more unity in helping the future “government of resistance” or would face new crises escalated by their foes.

Mahmoud Abbas will ask Hamas to form new goverment Today.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Banned Book of Egyptian Novelist ; Children of the Alley.

Children of the Alley, which was among the four works that qualified Mahfouz for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, has never been published in book form in Egypt. With the work having been banned several times by Al-Azhar, Mahfouz still insists he will not print it without the official endorsement of the seat of Sunni religious learning.

But a recent announcement that a state-owned publishing house would print the novel here for the first time has reignited a debate in intellectual circles on the role of the oldest Sunni institution in regulating literature.

According to Mahfouz’s lawyer, Ahmed Awadein, the Nobel Laureate will agree to have the novel published here in Arabic (the English version has long been available from AUC for LE 65) if Al-Azhar explicitly allows it —and if an Islamist thinker agrees to write an introduction for it.

And it may not be enough for a publisher to satisfy those conditions, Awadein adds, saying Mahfouz isn't certain now is the time to publish the novel.

The black market book

“He does not want to publish it now because the climate is not ready for it and people have a wrong idea about it. They think it personifies God,” says Awadein. “Publishing the novel is contingent upon having an appropriate climate in which the book would not be resented as it was [in the past].”

Children of the Alley made its first appearance in 1959 as a serialized novel the state-owned daily Al-Ahram. Interpreted by many as an allegory of the three monotheistic religions, it features a father named El-Gabalawi who casts his sons out of his house for disobedience. The storyline revolves around feuds that erupt among El-Gabalawi’s descendants as they give up what the novelist calls their ‘human values.’

Its publication drew immediate fire from religious scholars who claimed El-Gabalawi character was a blasphemous personification of God.

“Mr. Naguib is still committed to that agreement, although the climate has changed,” he says.

According to Abdel Zaher Mohammed, the head of the Publication and Translation Department at Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy (IRA), the novel is officially banned in Egypt. He explains that in cases where authors seek the endorsement of their works by Al-Azhar before publication, they are sometimes required to omit parts that allegedly contradict the Islamic faith.

Under the law, Al-Azhar is authorized only to regulate publications that relate to the Qur’an and the Sunna. However, this role has been extended in practice to include all artistic works that touch on religion. Outside Egypt it's another story: The novel has been in print in Lebanon since the 1960s. Attempts to import the Lebanese edition resulted in a 1968 IRA decree forbidding its circulation.

Twenty years later, IRA issued a similar fatwa banning not just the printed book, but also audiovisual works based on the novel. The fatwa came in response to an adaptation of the novel into a radio series by the state-owned Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU). ERTU’s president heeded the decree and cut the broadcasts short.

In addition to AUC’s work, international publishers have translated the book under the titles Children of the Alley and Children of El-Gabalawi.

Coupled with his courages outspoken support of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Mahfouz’s controversial novel won him condemnation from Islamist extremists who have accused him of heresy and condoned his execution. In 1994, two fundamentalists stabbed him in the neck outside his Cairo home in the Agouza district.

Early last month, Magdy El-Dakkak, editor-in-chief of the monthly magazine Al-Hilal, dropped a bombshell by announcing that he would print the forbidden novel whether Mahfouz gave his okay or not. But after a warning from the privately owned Dar El-Shorouk publishing house, which bought exclusive rights to print Mahfouz’s works in Arabic in 2000, Dar Al-Hilal promptly retracted the announcement.

The retraction was cemented by a letter from Mahfouz objecting to the publication of his work without his permission.

El-Dakkak, who also heads Dar Al-Hilal’s editorial board and vets the printing of one book each month, says he wanted to challenge what he calls ‘the imaginary ban’ imposed on the novel.

“I wondered how a work by an Egyptian novelist like Naguib Mahfouz, who is known worldwide, could be banned in Egypt,” he claims. “I also wondered how this ban could last for almost 40 years. I found it unacceptable that Egyptians cannot read one of Mahfouz’s most important works,” says El-Dakkak, who adds that he also wanted to challenge Al-Azhar ‘guardianship.’

In the meantime, the editor-in-chief admits that he had no qualms about publishing the novel without Mahfouz’ permission.

“I appreciate Naguib’s stand and I understand his reasons for refusing to print the novel, but Children of the Alley is no longer the property of Naguib Mahfouz. It is part of Egypt's heritage, and we have the right as a people to have it printed by an Egyptian publishing house and to read it in Egypt. I respect his creative works and rights, though,” says El-Dakkak.

Speaking with Islamist thinker Ahmed Kamal Abouel Magd about Children not long after the 1994 attempt on his life, Mahfouz shrugged off charges of blasphemy, stressing his belief in Islam.

“All my old and new writings hold onto these two tenets: Islam is the source of good values for our nation, and science is the means to achieve progress and development in the present and the future,” Abouel Magd quoted Mahfouz as saying in a 1994 column in Al-Ahram. “And I would like to say that even Children of the Alley, which was misunderstood by some people, did not drift away from that vision. The great moral crowned by the events of the novel was that when people gave up religion, symbolized by El-Gabalawi, and thought they could manage their lives relying only on science, symbolized by Arafa they found out that science without religion turned into an evil weapon and subjected them to the tyranny of the ruler and stripped them of their freedom. Thus, they looked back to El-Gabalawi,” Mahfouz is quoted as saying.

“The problem with Children of the Alley from the beginning was that I wrote it as ‘a novel’ while people read it as ‘a book.’ The novel is a literary construct that combines truth and symbol, reality and fiction. And a novel should not be judged according to the historical facts that the author believes in. ,” added Mahfouz.

Yet Dar El-Shorouk lawyer Hossam Loutfi claims Mahfouz had already agreed with his publisher to release the novel in January without Al-Azhar’s endorsement, then got cold feet at the last moment.

“The novel is ready, and the introduction has been written by a prominent Islamic figure, and Mr. Naguib has approved it,” Loutfi alleges.

Awadein flatly denies Loutfi’s claims, maintaining that his client never gave the go-ahead to publish without Al-Azhar’s approval.

While most writers insist that the novel should not be published without Mahfouz’s consent, they categorically disagree with the author about seeking Al-Azhar’s endorsement.

“I am against this concept because Al-Azhar is not a body entitled to ban or approve works,” says El-Ghitani. “Literature has nothing to do with Al-Azhar. I respect his [Naguib’s] wishes, but it does not prevent me from disagreeing with him.”

Author Youssef El-Koied, another of Mahfouz’s close friends, shares El-Ghitani’s view.

“Religion means the Qur’an and the Sunna, and Al-Azhar should be held responsible for those two. Al-Azhar has nothing to do with a novel, movie, play or a video clip. Since when does Al-Azhar interfere with literature and art?”

El-Koied contends that, “Reading a literary work from a religious or a political perspective is unacceptable.”

El-Ghitani goes a step further, saying that banning books is absurd in this day and age: “I believe that now is the best time to publish it because there is nothing that could be banned now. The concept of banning [works] is obsolete. What is banned can be read on the Internet,” he points out, adding that the novel is already sold on the black market.

While both El-Ghitani and El-Koied refuse to accept what they call Al-Azhar’s interference, the two authors see no reason for the recent rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to pose a threat to any plans to print the book. “It makes no difference whether they [the Brotherhood] are with the novel or against it because they are not in power. It is the state, represented by Al-Azhar, that showed more backwardness in this case,” says El-Koied.

The banned-but-tolerated Brotherhood established itself as the main opposition bloc in the People's Assembly by securing 88 of the new parliament's 444 elected seats late last year. Brotherhood-affiliated MPs have consistently opposed on the floor of Parliament the circulation of literary works they claim contradict Islamic norms.

Little wonder, then, that it came as a surprise then when a prominent member of Al-Ikhwan’s (Muslim Brotherhood) Guidance Bureau paid Mahfouz a visit in December on the occasion of his birthday. Abdel Moneim Abouel Fottouh stressed the group's appreciation of the novelist's works and the organizations commitment to freedom of expression. He had reportedly condoned the publishing of Children of the Alley in Egypt, but maintains that he disagrees with the content of the novel.

Either way, Mahfouz’s position has certainly pleased Al-Azhar’s scholars. Former Mufti Nasr Farid Wassel hailed the writers insistence on seeking the body's endorsement as ‘wise.’

“He [Mahfouz] understands the current circumstances and tries to maintain his intellectual role and does not want to drift away from his society and religion,” believes Wassel, who is currently an IRA member.

Wassel maintains that his institution has a responsibility to safeguard the integrity of faith. The IRA usually issues decrees against books it sees as undermining Islam. To Wassel, those edicts hardly count as censorship, as the oldest Sunni institution plays an ‘advisory’ role and has no effective authority to enforce its fatwas on the ground.

“We do not exercise any censorship,” says Wassel. “Al-Azhar is keen on uniting [Muslims] and the nation, having people adhere to their religion, achieving social and familial peace and achieving peace between the ruler and the ruled. It [Al-Azhar] only makes recommendations, saying whether [a work] is beneficial or not whether it can foment a sedition or not,” he adds.

“Al-Azhar has the right to check and endorse books that relate to religion or speak about issues of creed or religious symbols,” says Ali Abouel Hassan, a former head of the fatwa committee at the IRA.

Abouel Hassan explains if the IRA determines that a book contradicts Shariah, it issues a statement recommending the ban of that book and sends it to the police unit responsible for confiscating banned works.

“Publishing a book [contrary to Al-Azhar’s wishes] is considered a crime,” he adds, saying the same applies to movies, songs and videos, among other forms of expression.

Abouel Hassan dismisses accusations that Al-Azhar impedes literary creativity.

“Why would [critics] bring accusations only against us and not against those who verify books for political and security reasons?” wonders Abouel Hassan. “This is not a form of guardianship, but a right granted to specialists in order to monitor and regulate what circulation.

Children of Gebelawi is story about Gebelawi and his children, he is absent or rather a figure of self exiled Father, and the rest of characters are four of characters some assume is based on Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. The book is written with simple prose and is feast of guess who? Naguib other marvelous novels such as Middaq Alley are subject of many Taboo's in Islamic society, but at heart I believe he is one of the best novelist in the World. It is shame not to publish openly in Middle east, except Lebanon.
All Naguib Mahfouz books are available in USA.
1-Children of the Alley or Gebelawi
2-Middaq Alley.
3-Trilogy of Naguib Mahfouz.
5-Fountain and Tomb.

Iran N- Program & US, Israel and Saudis.

— A senior official of the Washington-based Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation has defended Israel’s nuclear program yesterday, saying that it is one of three countries in the region that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“If you are speaking about any double standard, you have to remember that Pakistan, a Muslim country, also possesses nuclear weapons. But we cannot say that the nuclear programs of India, Pakistan and Israel are illegal, because they do not have the treaty obligations,” Stephen G. Rademaker, acting assistant secretary for the bureau told a limited press conference.

Rademaker was in Riyadh as part of his swing through the Middle East to ratchet up pressure on Iran, which has reportedly resumed its nuclear-enrichment program. During his stay, he had talks with Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Assistant to the Minister of Defense and Aviation Gen. Prince Khaled ibn Sultan.

“If you want to say that the US policy is inconsistent vis-à-vis Israel, you also have to say that US policy is inconsistent toward Pakistan. At the same time, both are major non-NATO allies of the US and also recipients of the US aid,” said Rademaker in response to allegations that the US has a double standard with respect to Israel’s nuclear arsenal and Iran’s potential N-weapons capabilities.

According to the US-based non-profit Center for Defense Information, Israel is estimated to have 100 to 200 warheads; India is suspected of having at least 60 warheads; and Pakistan has 24-48 warheads.

“Iran’s nuclear program is not just a threat to the United States or Israel. I don’t know why the Arab world continues to believe that Iran will only use its nuclear weapons against Israel,” he said.

Rademaker said the US policy has been consistent all along. “We want India, Pakistan and Israel to sign up to the NPT. In all three cases, they have resisted our advice,” he said. “We would like every country in the world to join the NPT.”

He added that the best way to encourage Israel to join the treaty is not to support more Arab states to go nuclear. “You want to persuade Israel to give up its nuclear weapons, while you allow Iran to go for the nuclear option. This is a wrong way to approach the issue,” he said.

“Today Iran is giving Israel the best possible reason not to give up its nuclear weapons. Moreover, Iran’s president wants Israel to be erased from the map.”

The US official claimed that Iran was close to having nuclear weapons. In this context, he referred to the concern that the 27 members of the 35-member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board meeting expressed recently over Iran’s nuclear program.

“This is profoundly threatening under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he said. “Iran is not the Netherlands or Japan. In other words, it cannot be trusted given its record of nuclear activity.”

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Muslim Scholar Calls Muslims to Adopt a Critical Intellectual Distance

Muslim Academic and Scholar Tariq Ramadan called on Muslims not to fall in the trap of emotional reactions which lead to the clash of civilisations.

Ramadan stressed the idea that Muslims, whose religion calls for the respect of all Prophets, should not fall in the trap of emotional reactions which lead to the clash of civilisations.

“I have called on Muslims to avoid violent demonstrations. I have also condemned the calls for reprisals against European interests. The message Muslims should pass is that the caricatures hurt them, and that we, Muslims, don't draw pictures of the Prophets and don't insult them. After the message is conveyed, we should move to another issue,” he said.

Ramadan warned that the polemic raised by the issue would lead to extremism on both sides.

“What is going on today is that the extremists of both parties are trying to use this polemic to serve their own interests,” the scholar said, stressing that the best way to avoid the current clash is to make both parties focus on their common values rather than their differences.

As an alternative reaction, Ramadan called on Muslims to adopt a “critical intellectual distance”, by avoiding emotionally-driven answers to the provocations.

Since the age of Enlightenment, Ramadan explained, the West has developed a culture of satire towards religion. This has become one of the traits of the Western civilization. But on the other hand, he stressed, the West should respect the limits of freedom of expression, as “freedom of expression doesn't give the right to say anything against anyone”.

Ramadan added that the best way to get out of the trap opposing the Islamic Civilisation to the Western one is to concentrate on the two sides' shared values rather than differences.

“It is imperatively necessary to place common values in the centre of our interests. Both our civilisations accept freedom, but not irresponsible freedom,” he insisted.

The Swiss scholar was born in 1962 in Geneva. Holder of a PhD in philosophy and another in Islamic studies, Ramadan has taught religion in many universities, including the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, US, and the University of Oxford as a visiting professor.

Ramadan is known for his moderate, but sometimes controversial positions concerning the position of Muslims in the West. He supports integration rather than alienation from the western societies where they live.

In Sep. 2005, he was invited by the government of Tony Blair to join a task force supporting moderate Islam in the UK.

Mr.Ramadan is the grandson of the Founder of Radical Muslim Brotherhood ( Al-Ekhwan Muslimum) in Egypt, Hassan Al-Banna.

US daily urges Bush to scuttle UAE port deal

A conservative US newspaper ( Washington Times) yesterday urged President George W Bush to scuttle a deal between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, under which a UAE firm will run six major US ports.
The US Committee on Foreign Investment, which is part of the Treasury Department, approved earlier this week a 6.8-billion-dollar deal between the ports' current British manager and Dubai Ports World, that will make the UAE firm manager of the facilities in New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, Miami, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
"Do we really want our major ports in the hands of an Arab country where Al-Qaeda recruits, travels and wires money?" The Washington Times asked in an editorial.
It went on to say that the UAE was home to Marwan al-Shehhi, a September 11 hijacker, and the country remained a transit point for Al-Qaeda operatives and a hub for Al-Qaeda's financing activities.
"We should be improving port security in an age of terrorism, not outsourcing decisions to the highest bidder," the editorial said. "President Bush should overrule the committee to reject this deal. If that doesn't happen, Congress should take action."
UAE Goverment or Dubai goverment had no comment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Book Review:"Robert Graves and the Twelve Caesars" by Gore Vidal

Tiberius, Capri. Pool of water. Small children... So far so good. One's laborious translation was making awful sense. Then... Fish. Fish? The erotic mental image became surreal. Another victory for the Loeb Library's sly translator, J.C. Rolfe, who, correctly anticipating the pruriency of schoolboy readers, left Suetonius's gaudier passages in the hard original. One failed to crack those intriguing footnotes not because the syntax was so difficult (though it was not easy for students drilled in military rather than civilian Latin) but because the range of vice revealed was considerably beyond the imagination of even the most depraved schoolboy. There was a point at which one rejected one's own translation. Tiberius and the little fish, for instance.

Happily, we now have a full translation of the text, the work of Mr. Robert Graves, who, under the spell of his Triple Goddess, has lately been retranslating the classics. One of his first tributes to her was a fine rendering of The Golden Ass: then Lucan's Pharsalia; then the Greek Myths, a collation aimed at rearranging the hierarchy of Olympus to afford his Goddess (the female principle) a central position at the expense of the male. (Beware Apollo's wrath, Graves: the 'godling' is more than front man for the 'Ninefold Muse-Goddess.') Now, as a diversion, Mr. Graves has given us The Twelve Caesars of Suetonius in a good, dry, no-nonsense style; and, pleasantly enough, the Ancient Mother of Us All is remarkable only by her absence, perhaps a subtle criticism of an intensely masculine period in history.

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus - lawyer and author of a dozen books, among them Lives of Famous Whores and The Physical Defects of Mankind (What was that about?) - worked for a time as private secretary to the Emperor Hadrian. Presumably it was during this period that he has access to the imperial archives, where he got the material for The Twelve Caesars, the only complete book of his to survive. Suetonius was born in AD 69, the year of the three Caesars Galba, Otho, Vitellius; and he grew up under the Flavians: Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, whom he deals with as contemporaries. He was also close enough in time to the first six Caesars to have known them intimately, at least from Tiberius on, and it is in this place in time which gives such immediacy to his history.

Suetonius saw the world's history from 49 BC to AD 96 as the intimate narrative of twelve men wielding absolute power. With impressive curiosity he tracked down anecdotes, recording them dispassionately, despite a somewhat stylized reactionary bias. Like his fellow historians from Livy to the stuffy but interesting Dion Cassius, Suetonius was a political reactionary to whom the old Republic was the time of virtue and the Empire, implicitly, was not. Bit it is not for his political convictions that we read Suetonius. Rather, it is his gift for telling us what we want to know. I am delighted to read that Augustus was under five feet seven, blond, wore lifts in his sandals to appear taller, had seven birthmarks and weak eyes; that he softened the hairs of his legs with hot walnut shells, and liked to gamble. Or to learn that the droll Vespasian's last words were: 'Dear me, I must be turning into a god.' ('Dear me' being Graves for 'Vae') The stories, true or not, are entertaining, and when they deal with sex startling, even to a post-Kinseyan.

Gibbon, in his stately way, mourned that of the twelve Caesars only Claudius was sexually 'regular.' From the sexual opportunism of Julius Caesar to the sadism of Nero to the doddering pederasty of Galba, the sexual lives of the Caesars encompassed every aspect of what our post-medieval time has termed 'sexual abnormality.' It would be wrong, however, to dismiss, as so many commentators have, the wide variety of Caesarean sensuality as simply the viciousness of twelve abnormal men. They were, after all, a fairly representative lot. They differed from us - and their contemporaries - only in the fact of power, which made it possible for each to act out his most recondite sexual fantasies. this is the psychological fascination of Suetonius. What will men so place do? The answer, apparently, is anything and everything. Alfred Whitehead once remarked that one got the essence of a culture not by those things which were said at the time but by those things which were not said, the underlying assumptions of the society, too obvious to be stated. Now it is an underlying assumption of twentieth-century America that human beings are either heterosexual or, through some arresting of normal psychic growth, homosexual, with very little traffic back and forth. To us, the norm is heterosexual; the family is central; all else is deviation, pleasing or not depending on one's own tastes and moral preoccupations. Suetonius reveals a very different world. His underlying assumption is that man is bisexual and that given complete freedom to love - or, perhaps more to the point in the case of the Caesars, to violate - others, he will do so, going blithely from male to female as fancy dictates. Nor is Suetonius alone in this assumption of man's variousness. From Plato to the rise of Pauline Christianity, which tried to put the lid on sex, it is explicit in classical writing. Yet to this day Christian, Freudian and Marxian commentators have all decreed or ignored this fact of nature in the interest each of a patented approach to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is an odd experience for both a contemporary to read of Nero's simultaneous passion for both a man and a woman. Something seems wrong. It must be one or the other, not both. And yet this sexual eclecticism recurs again and again. And though some of the Caesars quite obviously preferred women to me (Augustus had a particular penchant for Nabokovian nymphets), their sexual crisscrossing is extraordinary in its lack of pattern. And one suspects that despite the stern moral legislation of our own time human beings are no different. If nothing else, Dr. Kinsey revealed in his dogged, arithmetical way that we are all a good less predictable and bland than anyone had suspected.

One of the few engaging aspects of the Julio-Claudians was authorship. They all wrote; some wrote well. Julius Caesar, in addition to his account of that famed crusade in Gaul, wrote an Oedipus. Augustus wrote an Ajax, with some difficulty. When asked by a friend what his Ajax had been up to lately, Augustus sighed: 'He has fallen not on his sword, but wiped himself out on my sponge.' Tiberius wrote Elegy on the Death of Julius Caesar. The scatterbrained Claudius, a charmingly dim prince, was a devoted pedant who tried to reform the alphabet. He was also the first to have a serious go at Etruscan history. Nero of course is remembered as a poet. Julius Caesar and Augustus were distinguished prose writers; each preferred plain old-fashioned Latin. Augustus particularly disliked what he called the 'Asiatic' style, favored by, among others, his rival Marc Antony, whose speeches he found imprecise and 'stinking of far-fetched phrases.'

Other than the fact of power, the twelve Caesars as men have little in common with one another. But that little was significant; a fear of a knife in the dark. Of the twelve, eight (perhaps nine) were murdered. As Domitian remarked not long before he himself was stuck down: 'Emperors are necessarily wretched men since only their assassination can convince the public that the conspiracies against their lives are real.' In an understandable attempt to outguess destiny, they studied omens, cast horoscopes, and analyzed dreams (they were ingenious symbolists, anticipating Dr. Freud, himself a Roman buff). The view of life from Palatine Hill was not comforting, and though none of the Caesars was religious in our sense of the word, all inclined to the Stoic. It was Tiberius, with characteristic bleakness, who underscored their dangerous estate when he declared that it was Fate, not the gods, which ordered the lives of men.

Yet what, finally, was the effect of absolute power on twelve representative men? Suetonius makes it quite plain: disastrous. Caligula was certifiably mad. Nero, who started well, became progressively irrational. Even the stern Tiberius's character became weakened. In fact, Tacitus, in covering the same period as Suetonius, observes: 'Even after his enormous experience of public affairs, Tiberius was ruined and transformed by the violence influence of absolute power.' Caligula gave the game away when he told a critic, 'Bear in mind that I can treat anyone exactly as I please.' And that cruelty which is innate in human beings, now give the opportunity to treat others as toys, flowered monstrously in the Caesars. Suetonius's case history (and it is precisely that) of Domitian is particularly fascinating. An intelligent man of some charm, trained to govern, Domitian when he first succeeded to the Principate contented himself with tearing the wings of flies, an infantile pastime which gradually palled until, inevitably, for flies he substituted men. His favorite game was to talk gently of mercy to a nervous victim; then, once all fears had been allayed, execute him. Nor were the Caesars entirely unobjective about their bizarre position. There is an oddly revealing letter of Tiberius to a Senate which had offered to ensure in advance approbation of all his future deeds. Tiberius declined the offer: 'So long as my wits do not fail me, you can count on the consistency of my behavior; but I should not like you to set the precedent of binding yourselves to approve a man's every action; for what if something happened to alter that man's character?' In terror of their lives, haunted by dreams and omens, giddy with dominion, it is no wonder that actual insanity was often the Caesarean refuge from a reality so intoxicating.

The unifying Leitmotiv in these lives in Alexander the Great. The Caesars were fascinated by him. He was their touchstone of greatness. The young Julius Caesar sighed enviously at his tomb. Augustus had the tomb opened and stared long at the conqueror's face. Caligula stole the breastplate from the corpse and wore it. Nero called his guard the 'Phalanx of Alexander the Great.' And the significance of this fascination? Power for the sake of power. Conquest for the sake of conquest. Earthly dominion as an end in itself: no Utopian vision, no dissembling, no hypocrisy. I knock you down; now I am king of the castle. Why should young Julius Caesar be envious of Alexander? It does not occur to Suetonius to explain. He assumes that any young man would like to conquer the world. And why did Julius Caesar, a man of the first-rate mind, want the world? Simply, to have it. Even the resulting Pax Romana was not a calculated policy but a fortunate accident. Caesar and Augustus, the makers of the Principate, represent the naked will to power for its own sake. And though our own society has much changed from the Roman (we may point with somber pride to Hitler and Stalin, who lent a real Neronian hell to our days), we have, nevertheless, got so into the habit of dissembling motives, of denying certain dark constants of human behavior, that it is difficult to find a reputable American historian who will acknowledge the crude fact that a Franklin Roosevelt, say, wanted to be President merely to wield power, to be famed and to be feared. To learn this simple fact one must wade through a sea of evasions: history as sociology, leaders as teachers, bland benevolence as a motive force, when, finally, power is an end to itself, and the instinctive urge to prevail the most important single human trait, the necessary force without which no city was built, no city destroyed. Yet many contemporary sociologists and religionists turned historians will propose, quite seriously: If there had not been a Julius Caesar then the Zeitgeist would have provided another like him, even though it is quite evident that had this particular Caesar not existed no one would have dared to invent him. World events are the work of individuals whose motives are often frivolous, even casual. Had Claudius not wanted an easy conquest so that he might celebrate a triumph at Rome, Britain would not have been conquered in AD 44. If Britain had not been colonized in the first century... the chain of causality is plain

One understands of course why the role of the individual in history is instinctively played down by a would-be egalitarian society. We are, quite naturally, afraid of being victimized by reckless adventurers. To avoid this we have created the myth of the ineluctable mass ('other-directedness') which governs all. Science, we are told, is not a matter of individual inquiry but of collective effort. Even the surface storminess of our elections disguises a fundamental indifference to human personality: if not this man, then that one; it's all the same, life will go on. Up to a point there is some virtue in this; and though none can deny that there is a prevailing grayness in our placid land, it is certainly better to be non-ruled by mediocrity's than enslaved by Caesars. But to deny the dark nature of human personality in not only fatuous but dangerous. For in our insistence on the surrender of private will ('inner-directedness') to a conception of the human race as some teeming bacteria in the stream of time, unaffected by individual deeds, we have made vulnerable not only the boredom, to that sense of meaninglessness which more than anything else is characteristic of our age, but vulnerable to the first messiah who offers the young and bored some splendid prospect, some Caesarian certainty. That is the political danger, and it is a real one.

Most of the world today is governed by Caesars. Men and more and more treated as things. Torture is ubiquitous. And, as Sartre wrote in his preface to Henri Alleg's chilling book about Algeria, 'Anyone, at any time, may equally find himself victim or executioner.' Suetonius, in holding up a mirror to those Caesars of diverting legend, reflects not only them but ourselves: half-tempted creatures, whose great moral task it is to hold in balance the angel and the monster within - for we are both, and to ignore this duality is to invite disaster.


Conservatives question Bush's conservatism

Hard-line conservatives, among President George W Bush's staunchest supporters, question whether he is conservative enough when it comes to government spending and growth, leaders of the movement say. "What conservatives have realised during the last five years is that we have not elected a conservative president," said Bill Lauderback, executive vice president of the American Conservative Union. "Nor do we have a conservative majority in either the House or Senate." Conservatives gathered at a Washington hotel this weekend for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, where they assess the status of their movement and what they think of government policies. President Ronald Reagan remains the champion of low-tax, small-government supporters even after Bush's re-election and the dominance of Republican lawmakers. They are quite unhappy with some Bush administration initiatives for example, the multibillion-dollar prescription drug programme for the elderly and the No Child Left Behind education law and special spending projects from Congress that have ballooned the cost and scope of the federal government. "We are in danger of becoming the party of big government," said Rep Mike Pence of Indiana, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. Pence said he and his allies in the US Congress plan to make sure that trend is reversed. "The era of big Republican government is over," Pence said, adding the word "Republican" to the memorable phrase used by President Bill Clinton in his 1996 State of the Union address. Many conference participants feel that limited government overrides all other issues such as gun rights, anti-abortion policies and conservative judges. Yet, despite their unhappiness, Bush remains popular with this group, especially for his court appointments and handling of terrorism. "They like Bush," said David Keene, chairman of the ACU, which runs the conference. "But they are frustrated and disappointed with some things the administration has done. And the frustration is deep because government spending and growth of government are at the core of beliefs of many people here." Keene said conservatives are starting to look ahead at future leaders, accepting that they've gotten some of what they want from Bush. In a straw poll for presidential favourites in 2008, Virginia Sen George Allen received 22 per cent of the vote. Arizona Sen John McCain garnered 20 per cent, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani 12 percent and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice 10 per cent, according to results from Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates. Those who attended the conference were given an opportunity to offer their preferences as they checked in, but the results do not represent the sentiments of all those present. Still, McCain's strong showing suggests that he is faring better with a group that was cool to his White House bid in 2000. The campaign against terror and not economic policy has become the glue that binds the conservative movement, said Brent Bozell, founder and president of the Media Research Centre, a conservative media watchdog group. "We're ready for a candidate to assume the Reagan mantle," he said. "Bush has done an extraordinary job on the war on terror. But on economic policy, he fiddles while Rome burns."