Sectarian rift boils to the point of explosion in Lebanon

Sectarian rift boils to the point of explosion in Lebanon and provide a vent for tension in Syria

Lebanon is experiencing a state of sectarian agitation that was thought to have been quelled once and for all since the signing in 1989 of the Taif Agreement that put an end to 15 years of bloody internal fighting, said the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial.

Last week, the city of Tripoli, often referred to as the country's second capital, was rocked by fierce battles between radical Sunni and Alawite groups from the city's residents that left eight dead and dozens wounded.

No sooner had the security forces managed to contain the situation and impose a most tenuous ceasefire, than the country was shaken once again with news of a Sunni religious cleric being shot down at a Lebanese army checkpoint as he was on his way to a protest organised by the anti-Syrian Future party.

"It is natural that the escalating tensions in Syria would reflect on the Lebanese neighbour in one way or another in light of the sectarian polarisation. But for matters to spiral into bloody altercations is a clear indication that the country is heading towards a new civil war that could trudge for years and could be even more aggressive than the last war."

All this is happening amid official Syrian claims that Lebanon has become a passageway for weapons and anti-Assad jihadists. They accuse Gulf states, mainly Saudi Arabia, of financing them.

Lebanon's Shiite community and the March 8 coalition, which includes Hizbollah and its Christian allies led by General Michel Aoun, sympathise with the Assad regime and publicly support it. Therefore, it's only natural that their rivals, the March 14 bloc, led by former PM Saad Hariri, would align themselves with the Syrian opposition that enjoys the support of the GCC states as well as the US, Turkey and Europe.

"The deadlock in Lebanon has boiled to the point of explosion. All it needs is the stroke of a match and at this point, the Sunni cleric's murder on Sunday may very well be the detonator," added the paper.

Most telling perhaps was the unexpected travel warnings to Lebanon issued by the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar on Saturday night, reiterated yesterday by Kuwait. All four states warned their citizens against visiting Lebanon and even urged those who are there to leave immediately. It implies that a bloody explosion is about to take place in the country in the coming few days.

These countries have been waging a fierce political and media battle on the Syrian regime and have all but adopted the Syrian opposition. They must possess confirmed information about scenarios being plotted for Lebanon and Syria.

The Syrian regime and its Lebanese allies are pushed ever so more into the corner. An eruption in Lebanon could be just what they need to relieve some of the pressure in Syria.

Egypt's election is no magic wand

As crucial as they are, the Egyptian presidential elections due to start Wednesday should not be seen as a magic wand able to resolve Egypt's deep-rooted problems in one fell swoop, wrote columnist Amjad Arar in the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

"Next Wednesday, over 50 million eligible voters will decide the first president of post-revolution Egypt. However, every Egyptian should be cognisant of the fact that these elections will not be the apex of change they all want for their home country."

Toppling the head of the regime, no matter how strong he may be, is not equivalent to the toppling of the entire regime. The latter requires a historical "process of a large-scale popular action that transcends elections".

Change is not about changing individuals. One year into the Egypt's revolution and there is no guarantee out there that an individual in the opposition is better than another in power.

An election is not the only mechanism to build a country ruled by law. Such a country needs a long time to crystalise, and entails continuous improvement of mechanisms from drafting the constitution, through building international relations, to every decision that affect citizens' daily lives.

The first election after decades of dictatorship will carry a few frustrations, but no doubt it will usher in a new era of proximity to citizens.

Israel celebrates while Palestinians suffer

As Israel celebrates the 45th anniversary of Jerusalem "reunification", a report has revealed that 78 per cent of Palestinians live below the poverty line in Jerusalem including 84 per cent of Palestinian children, wrote columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

The source, Association for Civil Right in Israel, showed a deficiency in employment opportunities, a massive deterioration of the educational system, and a chronic decline of economic infrastructures.

The main cause of poverty in East Jerusalem is the high rate of unemployment. The report also highlights how deeply Israeli authorities have neglected Palestinians: there is only one industrial zone in East Jerusalem, and yet it is now at risk of being shot down.

Poverty among Palestinians has been exacerbated by the separation barrier between the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as by checkpoints and entry permit requirements.

The neglect with which the Israeli authorities have treated Palestinians has extended to affect the education system. In addition to the congestion rampant among Palestinians' schools, the dropout rate for 12th graders in East Jerusalem is 40 per cent, which is why very few of them pass the Israeli high-school examination.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk

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Navdeep Suri, India's Ambassador to the UAE

There has been a longstanding need from the Indian community to have a religious premises where they can practise their beliefs. Currently there is a very, very small temple in Bur Dubai and the community has outgrown this. So this will be a major temple and open to all denominations and a place should reflect India’s diversity.

It fits so well into the UAE’s own commitment to tolerance and pluralism and coming in the year of tolerance gives it that extra dimension.

What we will see on April 20 is the foundation ceremony and we expect a pretty broad cross section of the Indian community to be present, both from the UAE and abroad. The Hindu group that is building the temple will have their holiest leader attending – and we expect very senior representation from the leadership of the UAE.

When the designs were taken to the leadership, there were two clear options. There was a New Jersey model with a rectangular structure with the temple recessed inside so it was not too visible from the outside and another was the Neasden temple in London with the spires in its classical shape. And they said: look we said we wanted a temple so it should look like a temple. So this should be a classical style temple in all its glory.

It is beautifully located - 30 minutes outside of Abu Dhabi and barely 45 minutes to Dubai so it serves the needs of both communities.

This is going to be the big temple where I expect people to come from across the country at major festivals and occasions.

It is hugely important – it will take a couple of years to complete given the scale. It is going to be remarkable and will contribute something not just to the landscape in terms of visual architecture but also to the ethos. Here will be a real representation of UAE’s pluralism.

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