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In the footsteps of Mohamed

JAKARTA: The birth of the Prophet Mohamed is celebrated every year by Muslims around the world though there was no particular instruction by the Prophet to do so. During the festive celebration, the story of his life is retold and verses praising him are sung everywhere. A question arises: to what extent is the ummah, …

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Alam Simsim celebrates its ten-year anniversary

CAIRO: Mere moments after turning on the television, you can see that four-year-old Khokha has an ingenuous exuberance. Her perennial questioning is almost as inextinguishable as her imagination. As she sings about her career ambitions (the short list includes becoming a lawyer, an astronaut, a doctor, and a truck driver) Khokha’s resourcefulness and passion for …

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Israel needs a new approach to the prisoners issue

Last June 25, when Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit was abducted by Palestinians from Israeli territory, Israelis knowledgeable about the history of prisoner exchanges between the two sides remarked that either Shalit would be returned within weeks – or the process would take years. A similar prognosis was offered immediately after the July 12, 2006 abduction …

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Early Al-Qaeda rumblings in the Maghreb?

Same place, but different game? This was the question in the heads of leaders in Morocco and Algeria last week. First, there was the suicide or killing of several Islamists in Casablanca on April 10. This was followed a day later by simultaneous car bombings in Algiers that killed 33 people and posed a direct …

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The price of inaction in Darfur

Three years ago this April, my predecessor first brought Darfur to the attention of the United Nations Security Council. And now this April, I too have gone before the Security Council to brief them on the ongoing tragedy of Darfur following my recent mission to the region. The cost of inaction continues to be paid …

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Arab peace offer faces formidable obstacles

Reuters BEIRUT: A renewed Arab offer of peace with Israel if it returns occupied land has won mild interest from Israelis and their US allies, but no commitment to revive negotiations aimed at ending the Middle Eastern conflict. The political weakness of the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, coupled with Washington s focus on the war …

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Pragmatic Russia can help moderate Arabs and Israelis

For the last five years, Russia’s role in the international search for peace in the Middle East has been realized within the framework of the Quartet. Moscow made the decision to join the international mediators for several reasons. In 2002, Russia had no great ambitions in the region. The Middle East was not high on …

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Turning the camera on the insurgency

CAIRO: A 275-seat theater in North Carolina last weekend was the site of the world premiere of a new American and British-directed documentary on the Iraqi insurgency, “Meeting Resistance , that one commentator has already called “the single most astonishing documentary yet on the Iraq war. Set to premiere next week in Doha, Qatar, at …

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Serious talks must start with a prisoner exchange

When it comes to a prisoners exchange between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, there are still difficult negotiations lying ahead. The internal dynamics on both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides will be a hindrance. Nevertheless, one should expect that, perhaps sooner rather than later, there will a deal to exchange Palestinian political prisoners for …

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Japan is changing, but few seem to be noticing

Mention Asia, and most people think of the region’s fascinating, rising giants, China or India – or both. Or people think about North Korea’s nuclear program, some terrorist incident, or the humanitarian consequences of the latest earthquake or tsunami. But often overlooked – or at least underestimated – is Japan. This is odd, given that …

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Tourism meets terrorism in Morocco

The three suicide bombings on April 10 in Casablanca, and two more on April 14, not only called attention to Morocco’s rising terrorism problem, but also exposed one of the big paradoxes of Morocco’s political economy. The country’s depressing shantytowns, so characteristic of modern cities in developing countries, threaten to cut back the substantial tourism …

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Egypt's push to diversify trade partners

CAIRO: In a flurry of activity since failing to sign a free trade agreement with the US last year, Egypt is expanding beyond the traditional Anglo-American trade umbrella and to seek new trade partners in the East and South, while not overlooking key regional and African partners. In the past few weeks, Egypt singed trade …

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Elections without politics in Syria

Apart from some posters and banners scattered across the streets of Damascus announcing parliamentary elections yesterday and today, there were few signs in Syria of the sort of election fever seen in some Arab countries recently. Candidate posters were no more than a photo with a slogan underneath: “Vote for the faithful son of Damascus …

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The UN's membership in the Quartet has been a success

It’s in the nature of things for the United Nation’s role in any conflict to be attacked by people on both sides, and when you work for the UN there is often a temptation to take that simple fact as evidence that you are doing something right. By that easy test, the UN’s membership of …

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Youth Views: Are we asking the right questions?

BOSTON, Massachusetts: Emerson College sponsored an event last Tuesday to promote America at a Crossroads , the series of documentaries running this week on PBS analyzing the challenges the United States now encounters in the post-9/11 world. The audience – a paltry 50 or so Emerson College students, faculty and administration – viewed excerpts of …

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Body of Egyptian victim of Virginia Tech massacre comes home for burial

Associated Press SHARQIYA: Scores of mourners and women in black swarmed around a minibus that brought the coffin of the young Egyptian scholar, killed in the Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 32 lives, home for burial on Saturday. Waleed Mohammed Shaalan s body arrived aboard an Egypt Air flight from New York, according to an …

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Nigeria's Defining Moment: 2007 Presidential Elections

Nigerians go to the polls on April 21 to elect both a new president and national assembly, in an election which is widely perceived as the most significant test for democracy in Africa s most populous state and also its leading oil exporter. The elections would mark the first time, in the turbulent history of …

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Just Jerusalem: Vision for a place of peace

It is often said that the future of Jerusalem depends in large part on the future of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. While this is undoubtedly true, change and improvement in Jerusalem can be achieved independently of any final peace agreement. In fact, transformation in Jerusalem may actually aid the resolution of the larger conflict. For this …

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Wolfowitz's troubles may bring change at the World Bank

Will World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz’s troubles finally catalyze real change at the World Bank? Will there finally be an end to the archaic practice by which the president of the United States unilaterally appoints the head of the world’s most important development agency? Facing an extraordinary rebuke from the Bank’s ministerial oversight committee and …

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Wrestling Federation backs up controversial Olympic champion

CAIRO: The Egyptian Wrestling Federation vowed to keep its faith in Olympic Champion Karam Gaber to retain his gold medal in Beijing 2008, subject to the wrestler s commitment to a set training program as well as undergoing doping tests. Despite the remarks Gaber recently made against the Federation, we will still maintain our faith …

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StanChart Islamic to arrange benchmark bonds

Reuters MANAMA: Standard Chartered Plc will arrange two benchmark-sized Islamic bonds by June and is eyeing Africa for expansion, the bank s Islamic operations chief said on Thursday. Standard Chartered Islamic operations head Afaq Khan also told Reuters the firm would launch options contracts that comply with Islamic law by June. We will be arranging …

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Hypertension: Blame the brain

Dubbed the silent killer, high blood pressure, or hypertension, creeps up on patients until it is often too late, causing heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. Over 600 million people suffer from high blood pressure worldwide and in over 90% of these cases, the cause of hypertension is unknown. Previous mechanisms of hypertension have focused …

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YOUTH VIEWS: Beyond mere tolerance of other faiths lies true spirituality

JAKARTA: It has become customary in Indonesia for different religious communities and state officials to attend the celebrations of another faith s holy days. Such acts are commonly put forward as examples of religious tolerance. However, it is a fact that attending another faith s religious celebrations is considered a sin by some, so that …

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Mixed reactions to court decision on income tax

CAIRO: Speculations were still rife on Wednesday over the constitutional court verdict ruling unconstitutional article 96 of the income tax law. The court ruled on Sunday that the tax base of profits from commercial or industrial activities according to article 96 has already been subject to direct taxation, which constitutes a burden on the financers, …

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Iraq chaos will hurt Middle East before US, says Gates

Reuters CAIRO: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Middle Eastern states on Wednesday to help stabilize Iraq, warning them that chaos in the country would harm the region well before it hurts the United States. Speaking at an American Chamber of Commerce event in Cairo, Gates said countries should set aside disputes over the U.S.-led …

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German company to sponsor primary schools

CAIRO: RWE Dea announced yesterday, in a press conference at the Conrad Hotel, plans to sponsor primary schools in Greater Cairo as part of its Social Activities Project, which focuses on improving children’s lives through education. The German natural gas and crude oil exploration and production company is an international operation. RWE Dea has maintained …

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UNHCR conference demands international support for displaced Iraqis

GENEVA: The United Nations is holding a two day conference in Geneva to focus attention on the plight of Iraqi refugees. More than 2 million Iraqis have fled to neighboring countries and almost that many again are displaced inside Iraq. Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner of the UN Refugee Agency chaired the conference scheduled to end …

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Open your eyes and make a wish

Stargazers are in for a treat this April with sightings of the Lyrid meteor shower CAIRO: Keep those wishes on hand because throughout the whole of next week, with the beginning of the meteor shower season, lucky stargazers will get a chance to wish upon that transient shooting star. As many as 40 asteroids will …

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Prepare for less attention in Paris

Jacques Chirac still has some weeks left in office, but as of this Sunday, when France votes in the first round of its presidential election, the president will begin emptying the closets at the Elysee Palace. Chirac’s final act, however, may be to see through a major endeavor of his in recent months: ensuring that …

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