In support of France's ban of the niqab

'Nicolas Sarkozy must be thanked for banning the niqab and describing, quite rightly, women who wear the burqa as "prisoners behind a fence".'

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"Nicolas Sarkozy must be thanked for banning the niqab and describing, quite rightly, women who wear the burqa as 'prisoners behind a fence'. Thanks must go to the French parliament as well, which is about to ratify a decision denouncing the burqa and the niqab as 'abusive to the values of the nation and to the principle of equality'," wrote Aisha al Marri, an Emirati writer, in the opinion pages of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

Al Marri said congratulations also go to the Belgian parliament for being the first to ratify legislation banning the niqab in public spaces. Although the reasons behind the ban are politically motivated and have hardly anything to do with defending the rights of Muslim women, the ban on the niqab is entering into effect and women who wear it will be fined and men who impose it will be sued, the writer said. Historically, the niqab in the Gulf is a social tradition inherited from a patriarchal society that forces women to hide to please the man's ego. "This is not a call for impropriety, it is a call for the respect of the humanity in women; a call for breathing air through no covers," she concluded.

"Targeting public resources, acts of sabotage, hijackings, bombing buildings - these are the key targets of the historic fatwa that was signed last month by senior clerics in Saudi Arabia, who are practically the most important religious reference in the Muslim world," wrote Abdul Rahman al Rashed, in a column for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

The fatwa expressly criminalises the acts of terrorist organisations that claim allegiance to Islam and fight in its name. Normally, since it is the most important fatwa on terrorism to date, one would expect it to be widely disseminated and publicised, but it was not. It is still underreported and under-circulated, thus under the radar of the general public for whom it was issued. More importantly perhaps, this fatwa must be binding for all government officials operating in the religious field. Imams, preachers and theologians must explain it in mosques and defend it in every other religious venue. Those who disagree are doing all they can to smother it.

"Defining terrorism and judging it haram scares extremists; it threatens their financing, stands in the way between them and their potential recruits, and breaks their ties with the Muslim community."

In a comment piece for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat, Elias Harfoush addressed the statement by the Lebanese premier Saad Hariri about adopting equal Muslim-Christian participation in government as "the final formula" for maintaining national balance in Lebanon. "In a region overwhelmed by sectarian conflicts, Mr Hariri's declaration comes as extraordinary and perhaps historic," the writer said. Mr Hariri said: "We want this to be a country for Christians and Muslims alike notwithstanding the number of sects." His statement doesn't come from nowhere, for Lebanon is not immune to other forms of sectarian unrest in the region. The new discourse of "this young Sunni man in power", as the writer described him, stems from his eagerness to defend Lebanon as "an oasis of integration, moderation, tolerance and dialogue among religions and cultures".

The Taif Agreement, which put an end to the civil war in the country, consecrated the equal participation of Christians and Muslims in parliament. Mr Hariri confirmed that this equation is the ideal settlement for country's survival.

The Doha framework agreement on Darfur, which was signed between the Sudanese government and rebels, did not come about easily. Quite the contrary, it was a complicated process to pave the way for a settlement between the two parties, the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan stated in its editorial. It took a long time and a huge amount of concerted mediation efforts. When Chad joined in as a third party to the conflict, the agreement appeared to be solid enough to be translated to the ground. "But as things stand today, only three months after the signing of the agreement, the once-significant achievement is about to face a major setback, if not total collapse," the newspaper said. As relations are deteriorating between the central government and the rebels due to escalating confrontations, the reconciliation project now teeters on the edge of a cliff.

Peace talks between Khartoum and the Justice and Equality Movement were due to be held this week in the Qatari capital. The confrontation that occurred on Saturday between government forces and the rebels in western Darfur, leaving dozens dead, are now casting a question mark over the anticipated negotiations and, worse, the agreement as a whole. * Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi