In a comment piece for the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat, Mohammed Ali al Hurfi criticised the lack of action by the Sudanese government and by Arab countries to contain the crisis in Sudan and avoid imminent division. Meanwhile, the US, through its envoy, Scott Gration, was publicising the importance of splitting Sudan peacefully. For this purpose, he was flirting with various factions, either in Khartoum, Darfur or Juba, presenting the case as a fait accompli.
The Americans have economic and strategic interests in the region known for its mineral wealth and geographic position. Sadiq al Mahdi, the head of the National Umma Party, is reported as saying that the US would like to have a foothold in Sudan, and from there to control East Africa and keep a watch on the Gulf. Similar interests bind Israel to the south of Sudan, where oil and diamond reserves are concentrated. For assuring their presence, Israelis were reportedly providing military training to the Sudan People's Liberation Army in Eritrea, and currently many of their experts are very active in Juba, the capital of the South. Arabs have done little to intervene against the division that is looming ahead. They have remained inactive although such a situation would likely create a new geopolitical status. The north of Sudan and Egypt would be hit, for example, by any change in water policies from the south.
The debate in Jordan about the thorny issue of national identity is becoming more intense as the Israeli authorities keep promoting the idea of Jordan becoming the "alternative state" for dispossessed Palestinians, stated an editorial by the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi.
This debate reached its apex when a group of retired Jordanian military officers issued a statement strongly opposing the naturalisation of any more Palestinians. Large numbers of displaced Palestinians were granted Jordanian nationality after the mass exoduses of 1948 and the 1967. "What is so serious about this development is: first, its timing, and second, its serious aftereffects, threatening to undermine the country's national identity."
Jordan is currently facing Israeli pressure as more right-wing Knesset members are calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state within the Kingdom of Jordan. Observers of Middle East affairs agree that the current standstill in the peace process increases the chances of a massive "transfer" of Palestinians to Jordan, especially after a recent Israeli law was passed to remove 75,000 Palestinians from the West Bank under the pretext that they do not hold ID documents. For his part, King Abdullah II of Jordan considered the deportation of Palestinians as "a red line" that, if breached by Israel, will lead to war.
In an opinion piece for the UAE daily Al Ittihad, Turki al Dakhil wrote about the phenomenon of the disintegration of religious awareness. "Religion was clearly reformatted during the 1980s and 1990s when a new kind of fanatic speech was widely diffused to steer people away from ordinary everyday joys."
These radical discourses were aimed at alienating people from the beauty and pleasures of life. Religion was transformed into a form and a structure that must be conformed to as a sign of piety. Radical speech coincided with a prolific production of audio cassettes which were used by Islamists as a medium to propagate their ideology. They resulted in the creation of religious obsessions. This narrow factional Islamist discourse was able to besiege society. Many theme parks were shut down and athletes were badgered into relinquishing sports and "repenting".
"The fever that swept over society has started to lift, but it is too late." Millions of minds have been poisoned with the virus of life-hatred. There is a need to increase efforts, for decades to come, to reverse the effects of the "cassette era". "Until that day, generations of people will die without having known the real pleasures of life. They will die scared, shivering and afraid of the slightest breeze of joy."
"I am wondering on what basis Hamas issued a statement deploring the approval of a visit by Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar Dr Ahmed al Tayeb and the head of the Egyptian Church, Pope Shenouda III, to Jerusalem under occupation," wrote Sharif Qandeel in a comment piece for the Saudi newspaper Al Watan. It appeared, however, that Hamas's political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, rushed to judgment, without inquiring into the veracity of the news. In fact, both men stand firm against a visit which they consider would further serve the occupation.
There are conflicting statements released by senior Egyptian and Palestinian officials concerning the much-talked-about visit. While Dr al Tayeb rejects this kind of invitation, Dr Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq, the Egyptian minister of religious endowments and Islamic affairs, called for such an initiative. In Jerusalem, the Al Aqsa mosque imam Sheikh Ekrima Sa'id Sabri objects to the idea of visiting the Holy City, while the Palestinian minister of Islamic affairs, Mohammed al Habash, promotes it.
But ministers are not eligible to decide about such a visit. This is not their preserve. Only heads of state or muftis can make such a decision. * Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi firstname.lastname@example.org