The death of teenager Michael Brown at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., has been getting plenty of attention beyond U.S. borders, and Arabic-language media is no exception. It has made Ferguson front-page news, while Twitter users have transliterated "Ferguson" into an Arabic hashtag. A recent Al Jazeera article, filed under its website's "human rights" section, focused principally on comments from top UN human rights official Navi Pillay about the events in Ferguson. Originally from South Africa, Pillay said in an interview earlier this week that "there are many parts of the United States where apartheid is flourishing." Commenters on the Al Jazeera article variously offered legal suggestions and lamented the failure of what one described as "civilized America … number one in freedoms and human rights." One reader insisted that the only solution in the Ferguson case was to pursue the death penalty for the officer involved. Others elaborated on what they viewed as further manifestations of America's racism. One commenter linked America's support for Israel to the "racism that underlies each [country]." Another described America's treatment of Native American Indians as "one of the great curiosities of our age," saying they are forced "to live on reserves like wild animals." An Algerian commenter argued that the source of American racism lay in the original of Americans. "American people came from Europe, fleeing from hunger, poverty and misery. ... We all know when the poor man becomes rich what he will do to those who were like him." Twitter users have been equally vocal about Ferguson, retweeting photos and links to videos of the shooting aftermath and of protests. Some Arabic-language users echoed refrains from the Arab Spring, such as this young man: “#Ferguson: Down, down with military rule!” #ÙÙŠØ±Ø¬Ø³ÙˆÙ† ÙŠØ³Ù‚Ø· ÙŠØ³Ù‚Ø· ØÙƒÙ… Ø§Ù„Ø¹Ø³ÙƒØ± ðŸ˜ — ÙØ§Ø±Ø³ Ø§Ù„ÙØ§Ø±Ø³ (@Lettermore_) August 22, 2014 Others went so far as to directly link events in struggling Egypt to what's happening in Ferguson. This photoshopped image of protesters from Ferguson shows one young woman holding a sign with a mantra of Arab Spring activists, "Dear Obama … the revolution is not finished." Photo: NeBoCHadNaZZaR via Twitter One young Egyptian woman put it plainly: Time for a revolution in the USA let it be the #americanspring #ÙÙŠØ±Ø¬Ø³ÙˆÙ† #Ferguson #FergusonShooting #Ferguson livestream — nouran diaa elsayed (@nourandiaa63) August 17, 2014 In line with intense international concern over the destruction of churches in Egypt and the violent persecutions of Christians in Iraq, other Twitter users retweeted an image of Ferguson's Greater Saint Mark's Church. "American police raid a church in #Ferguson under the pretext that the protesters were sleeping there, despite the fact that pastors confirmed that the site was a field hospital," the Twitter account of a Kuwaiti news site explained. Ø§Ù„Ø´Ø±Ø·Ø© Ø§Ù„Ø§Ù…Ø±ÙŠÙƒÙŠØ© ØªØ¯Ø§Ù‡Ù… ÙƒÙ†ÙŠØ³Ø© ÙÙŠ #ÙÙŠØ±Ø¬Ø³ÙˆÙ† Ø¨ØØ¬Ø© Ø§Ù† Ø§Ù„Ù…ØªØ¸Ø§Ù‡Ø±ÙŠÙ† ÙŠÙ†Ø§Ù…ÙˆÙ† Ø¨Ù‡Ø§ Ù…Ø¹ Ø§Ù† Ø§Ù„Ù‚Ø³Ø§ÙˆØ³Ø© Ø£ÙƒØ¯ÙˆØ§ Ø§Ù†Ù‡ Ù…Ø³ØªØ´ÙÙ‰ Ù…ÙŠØ¯Ø§Ù†ÙŠ . pic.twitter.com/8FkiJgwySn — Ø¬Ù‡ÙŠÙ†Ø© Ø§Ù„Ø¥Ù„ÙƒØªØ±ÙˆÙ†ÙŠØ© (@johenaq8) August 21, 2014
Since their country's 2011 revolution, cynical Tunisians say a laundry list of ills have plagued them: an incompetent president who refuses to wear ties; a self-interested Constituent Assembly that is charged with creating a new constitution; high inflation and a rapidly devaluing currency; and a deeply uncertain security situation. But Al Jazeera has recently reported about yet another dismal national problem: a "remarkable" increase in drug consumption and addiction. The Al Jazeera report ties the increase in drug consumption to Tunisia's rising unemployment rate, and to the disappointment of a population that expected great things from a revolution that has so far yielded so little. Al Jazeera takes its viewers through Tunisian back streets and into the homes of drug users, including that of a man who hides his face with a Guy Fawkes mask and tells how his once-occasional habit spiraled into an addiction. When this anonymous Tunisian was later jailed for marijuana consumption, he says he imagined he would stop. Instead, he found himself smoking more pot in prison than he had ever been able to get on the streets. According to Al Jazeera, marijuana comprises a full 92% of the drugs consumed in Tunisia. Popular culture seems very much attuned to this statistic. A recent, wildly popular Ramadan series, Mektoub, featured the story of a promising young man imprisoned for seven years after police officers found him trying pot — for the first time. After getting caught up in dirty prison politics, the young man ends up with even more years added to his sentence, pushing him to suicide at the very end of the season. Mektoub displayed the most graphic portrayals of drug use, police abuse and prison corruption ever seen on Tunisian television — outraging some, prison guards in particular, who called a strike to protest the show's broadcast. Watch an excerpt here. Civil society has not, in the meantime, remained silent. Tunisian activists in the post-revolutionary moment have been pushing for the repeal of what they regard as an overly strict, repressive "Law 52," staging protests and flooding twitter with hashtags (such as #FreeAzyz), urging the release of those imprisoned for minor drug-related offenses.
GAZA — A dramatic video has emerged that captures — in a very different way — the horror of Gaza parents facing the death of their children in the ongoing assault by the Israeli military. In this video, (SEE BELOW) posted late Wednesday by al-Quds news in Jerusalem, a Gazan mother finds her young son, alive and well, in a local clinic after she had been informed earlier that the boy had been killed in Israeli air strikes. Medics try to calm the shocked mother as she incredulously hugs and then examines her son's entire body for wounds. The young boy, sobbing softly and looking rather shocked, is tugged in the midst of doctors and nurses and scattered family members. The mother breaks down in tears, wailing her grief and surprise at this sudden moment of luck in the midst of death; the boy and his aunt promise her that he really is okay. A male family member appears and urges the mother to try to calm down: "You are scaring the boy; this isn't the time for it." But she can't control herself and collapses into her son's lap. More than 132 children have died since the start of Israel's military offensive against Hamas in Gaza, on July 8. The Palestinian death toll passed 700 on Thursday, while Israel has lost 32 soldiers since the beginning of the conflict.
IQALUIT — A wealthy Saudi couple will soon begin building a mosque in one of the least hospitable corners of the globe: near the North Pole, in Iqaluit, Canada. The mosque, which will be the northernmost mosque in the world, will face extreme Arctic weather conditions, including lows of -40 degrees Celsius. The town of Iqaluit is reachable to the outside world only by boat or airplane. According to Al Arabiya, the mosque will, for the moment, serve mostly immigrants who have come to the Arctic for work from Arab countries, as well as from India and Somalia. Iqaluit’s population is composed primarily of Eskimos, of which only one, a 26-year-old fireman, has converted to Islam. Out of a local population of 8,000, 80 residents are Muslim. The husband-and-wife Saudi benefactors, Dr. Hussein Qusti and Dr. Suzanne Ghazali, may hope that, with a new mosque in town, the local Muslim population will grow. In an interview with Al Arabiya, Qusti recounted the stories of six Eskimo women he knew who had converted to Islam upon marrying Muslims living in their area. Despite evident challenges, the Iqaluit mosque is not the Saudi couple’s first adventure into “extreme” mosque building. They have previously built other mosques in Canada’s arctic climate, including in the region of Manitoba, where temperatures can reach -40 degrees Celsius. (Photo - Aaron M. Lloyd)
The Sunni jihadist group ISIS continues to conquer territory in Iraq, while its leaders have declared an Islamic caliphate — in a bold bid for power across the Muslim world. But back in Syria, where ISIS has been a growing presence for more than a year, a citizen-reporter for an independent Syrian news site recounts day-to-day life under the group, looking at everything from local prison conditions to women’s dress to World Cup attendance. Tahrir Syria’s reporter Abu Ibrahim describes how the jihadist group is maintaining dire conditions in its prison, which is located in the basement of the city’s municipal building and features a torture chamber, complete with an electric chair and various tools of the trade. Out in the sun, day-to-day life for most civilians in Riqqa appears stable, though uncertain. To begin, ISIS members come from all corners of the world and adopt sometimes divergent attitudes: In Abu Ibrahim’s telling, a Saudi ISIS member reportedly saved one local from getting arrested, while Tunisian militants remain the most extremist and aggressive. Along with Saudis, Egyptians are reputed to be the most lax of all ISIS militants. Like the sometimes contradictory attitudes of the militants, new laws introduced by ISIS in Riqqa have also been a source of confusion and tension for locals. Militants also reportedly seem to follow different rules than the rest of the population, often living better than most other Riqqa residents. One notable example came at the beginning of the World Cup, which, as would be expected, interested both sides. Locals told Abu Ibrahim that only militants were allowed to watch the games, while civilians were prohibited because it would "distract from the remembrance of God." Whole families in Riqqa were allegedly prevented from watching, while cafés were raided and “viewing equipment” confiscated.
There was much coverage of the announcement earlier this month of Bashar al-Assad's amnesty to commute or reduce sentences for thousands of prisoners in Syria, including some with connections to the ongoing uprising against the regime. But there was one untold case of a freed prisoner who has no connections to current events — and certainly no blood on his hands. Adnan Kassar was released from a Syrian prison this month after serving more than 21 years. His crime? In 1993, Kassar won a horse race against Bassel al-Assad, son of then president Hafez Al-Assad, who was being groomed to take over from his father, Al Arabiya reports. Kassar’s unlucky win would put him behind bars through two decades of transition in Syria that would include Bassel’s own death in 1994, when his Maserati slammed into a roundabout. President Hafez Al-Assad died six years later, succeeded by his other son, Bassel’s brother Bashar, the ophthalmologist-turned-politician widely denounced for human rights abuses and his ruthless hold on power. It was in fact Bashar who granted Adnan amnesty this month, following elections that granted him another seven-year term as president. The winner of that race, of course, was never in doubt. Photo: Portrait of Bashar al-Assad's Bassel — Source: James Gordon
The Saudi Embassy in Tokyo is closely following the case of a Saudi citizen studying in the country, recently arrested for breaking four 300 year-old Buddha statues at a temple in the capital. The embassy has reportedly condemned the statues’ destruction as "contrary to the principles of Islam," and has reached out to the temple's director. The head of Saudi Arabia's department of information at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs promptly condemned the student's act on Twitter. In an effort to promote a national image of tolerance, he retweeted one prominent Saudi professor’s praise of the embassy’s response: “A tribute to our embassy in Japan for its good actions and its efforts to protect the image of Islam and preserve its name.” ÙˆØ§Ù„ØªØÙŠØ© Ù„Ø³ÙØ§Ø±ØªÙ†Ø§ ÙÙŠ Ø§Ù„ÙŠØ§Ø¨Ø§Ù† ÙˆØØ³Ù† ØªØµØ±ÙÙ‡Ø§ ÙƒÙŠ ØªØÙ…ÙŠ ØµÙˆØ±Ø© Ø§Ù„Ø¥Ø³Ù„Ø§Ù… ÙˆØªØØµÙ† Ø§Ø³Ù…Ù‡ @kalsuhail @aziizturk @OsamaNugali — Ø¹Ø¨Ø¯Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‡ Ø§Ù„ØºØ°Ø§Ù…ÙŠ (@ghathami) June 16, 2014 In the meantime, a Japanese student tweeted an angry message along with an image of a broken statue: @tbuddhaproverbs RT the Japanese never forgive a Saudi Graduate student who destroyed four Buddha statues pic.twitter.com/d3OklpeDwC — åœ¨æ—¥å¤–å›½äººã‚’æ—¥æœ¬ã‹ã‚‰å¾¹åº•æŽ’é™¤ã—ã‚ˆã† (@Laune_Katze) June 13, 2014 Saudi Arabia’s ruling family follows a Wahhabi version of Islam, in which images or statues are thought as idolatrous or blasphemous. Wahhabism was born in the 18th century as a religious revival movement, focused on a return to the scriptures and on the strictest interpretation of monotheism and the absolute uniqueness of God. The founder of this radical branch of Islam particularly forbade the construction of statues — even for Muslim religious figures — out of fear that Muslims would forget that the statues only represented divine figures and were not, in themselves, objects of worship. “Associating partners to God” is a serious transgression, described in Arabic as shirk. Photo: Screenshot from ANN Japan TV showing the destroyed Buddha statues in Tokyo.
ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), the jihadist group wreaking havoc in Syria for more than a year, has gained control of the Nineveh province in its country of birth - post-US invasion Iraq. Reports late Wednesday said the extremists had taken control of the city of Tikrit. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki had asked parliament Tuesday to declare a state of emergency after jihadists overran further swathes of the country, including half of Nineveh’s capital city of Mosul, the second largest Iraqi city after Baghdad, sending more than 500,000 people fleeing. On Wednesday morning, Al Jazeera reported in its headline story that ISIS fighters had taken control of an oil refinery in the city of Baiji and was on the move towards the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Twitter was alive with graphic pictures and videos as well as predictions for how ISIS's growing influence might be curbed. An ISIS sympathizer in Qatar tweeted an image of Iraq, with ISIS controlled territory in black. “The banner (there is no god but God and Muhammad is His prophet) of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is spreading thanks to God.” ØªØªÙ…Ø¯Ø¯ Ø¨ÙØ¶Ù„ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‡ Ø±Ø§ÙŠØ© Ù„Ø§ Ø§Ù„Ù‡ Ø§Ù„Ø§ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‡ Ù…ØÙ…Ø¯Ø§ Ø±Ø³ÙˆÙ„ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‡ Ø§Ù„Ø¯ÙˆÙ„Ø© Ø§Ù„Ø§Ø³Ù„Ø§Ù…ÙŠØ© ÙÙŠ Ø§Ù„Ø¹Ø±Ø§Ù‚ Ùˆ Ø§Ù„Ø´Ø§Ù… pic.twitter.com/839AnZGLDA — Ø¬Ù„ÙŠØ¨ÙŠØ¨ ï£¿ Ø¨Ø§Ù‚ÙŠØ© (@joulaybib_dawla) June 11, 2014 In the meantime, jihadi expert Aaron Zelin tweeted pessimistically about the possibilities of stopping ISIS’s march. The only local power that can take on ISIS in Iraq is Iran & it's proxies. There will be consequences for that when it becomes more overt. — Aaron Y. Zelin (@azelin) June 11, 2014