New York's King, or the rebirth of racism

New York Republican congressman Peter King has many followers who are trying to talk him into running for president in 2012. If he wins, that would be the ultimate affront to Muslims the world over, according to Aisha Abdullah Tareem in Al Khaleej.

"All Islamist terrorists are Muslim, and terrorism is our first enemy today, so why don't we judge people on the basis of their religion?" This is just a snippet from the load of offensive statements typical of the New York Republican congressman Peter King, according to Aisha Abdullah Tareem in the comment section of the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej. "A member of the national security commission, King has been using the theme of terrorism to unleash his hatred for Islam." He even criticised the Obama administration for not using the word "terrorism" enough. In 2008 he called for the boycott of an advertising campaign on "Islamic awakening" meant to inform people about various aspects of Islam.

After the failed attempt to blow up a Northwest Detroit-bound airplane last December, Mr King predictably endorsed the decision to reinforce security measures in US airports. But what caused a major shock in the ranks of the American Muslim community was Mr King's statements during a radio broadcast when he proposed a special law to scan Muslims only, including a full-body X-ray for whoever bears a Middle Eastern name. Mr King has many followers who are trying to talk him into running for president in 2012. If he wins, that would be the ultimate affront to Muslims the world over.

The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has scolded China for its restrictions on the use of the search engine Google and declared the US commitment to defend freedom of speech in cyberspace, wrote Tariq al Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

Given that the US congress is currently pushing for a decision to ban Arab satellite channels that allegedly foment terrorism, one has a hard time making sense of this freedom that the US secretary of state is talking about. "Aren't the internet and satellite channels means of communication and expression that ought to be equally free?" During the post-election riots in Iran, Mrs Clinton considered as "a bill of indictment against the Iranian regime" the pictures circulated on the internet of the murdered girl, Neda, who bled to death after being hit by bullets from the Iranian security forces. The US labels the broadcasting of material calling for resistance against the wrongs of the Israeli occupation as incitement to terror.

"This is a real predicament for the US administration. It sticks up for free speech on the web but urges Arabs to shut down satellite channels that are purportedly inciting terrorism. Where exactly is the line drawn between freedom in TV space and cyberspace? And who can define 'freedom' and 'incitement' in today's super-tangled world?"

France is keenly interested these days in issues related to Islamic attire such as the hijab, the niqab and the Afghan burqa, wrote Mohammed S al Abboudi in the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan. It is only a matter of days before the French parliament passes a law banning the Afghan burqa, an all-body garment that Afghan women have worn since time immemorial to cover themselves when they go outside. This article of clothing has become like any other national dress: the dishdasha, the abaya, the western suit, the Moroccan caftan, the Japanese kimono, the Hindi sari or the Scottish tartan.

In fact, this war of fashion - which excludes the chic European necktie or the essentially-worn-by-nuns headscarf that Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe used to sport or any other item worn by European men and women - actually started 20 years ago in France when a conflict over the hijab worn by some Moroccan girls at school topped the headlines. The ban on the Afghan burqa will not, however, be effective only within government schools, but throughout the French territories because, according to parliamentarians, it goes against the republic's motto: liberté, égalité, fraternité. "It's a fashion war after all, but would Arabs and Muslims, who are keenest on French clothes, ever retaliate?"

Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, the prominent Egyptian cleric and president of the international association of Muslim scholars, has been targeted by an intense media campaign conducted by parties from within the Arab world over the past few days because he has condemned the steel wall that the Egyptian authorities are building on the border with Gaza, commented Abdelbari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi.

The main accusation levelled at Sheikh al Qaradawi is that he is politicising religion. His detractors seem to want him to "either stay within the confines of his little mosque, unconcerned by the Israeli carnage in Gaza and the chaos in Iraq or indeed get involved in politics. He is only to put his seal on all government decisions and sanction the blockade on Gaza." "Yes, we are in favour of the separation between religion and politics, but only when there are political leaders who want to see their nations move towards a more prosperous and dignified future."

* Digest compiled by Achraf A Elbahi aelbahi@thenational.ae

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