Random fatwas are exhausting Muslims

Breast-feed male colleagues, don't watch the World Cup: wacky religious rulings make Muslims feel accused for no other reason than being a Muslim.

Muslims have not yet recovered from the shock of a series of a wacky fatwas, wrote Mohammed Khalfan al Sawafi in the comment pages of the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad. One urges women to indirectly breast-feed a male colleague to legitimise gender-mixing in the workplace. Another calls for the reconstruction of the Mecca mosque to enforce the separation of men and women in the holy places. A new one from an Algerian preacher labels as "haram" the game recently played between Algeria and the US in the World Cup.

"We have learned from experience that any fatwa that comes out simply generates a long sterile debate among religious scholars." Naguib Mahfouz, the late Egyptian Nobel literature laureate, survived an assassination attempt that was prompted by an arbitrary fatwa banning one of his books. More recently, two people in Somalia were executed because of a fatwa that prohibits watching football matches. "Fatwas proscribing normal things have exhausted Muslims.The Muslim person now feels 'accused' for no other reason than being a Muslim. It has become obvious that we can't let any issue stand naturally on its own without subjecting it to religious ideology. The big worry is that everything in our lives may simply become part of a long list of taboos."

The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, recently inaugurated a $300 million wind-powered electricity station in the Melusa region, south of Tangiers, considered to be the largest in Africa, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat reported yesterday.

The project is part of Morocco's $20 billion strategy to increase clean energy by 42 per cent. According to the report, the government allocated $9 billion for solar power projects, $3.5bn for wind energy and the rest for various alternative energy projects, especially oil shale resources. The Moroccan capital, Rabat, is expected to save around $750m annually when all projects are completed in 2020.

Speaking to local and foreign officials, the Moroccan minister of energy, Amina bin Khadra, said: "The world is witnessing radical changes that will breed a totally new system of production based on renewable and clean energies in order to reduce greenhouse gases and counter climate change." Morocco aims to produce 6,600 megawatts an hour from clean sources. Experts said the country will be the first in Africa and the Middle East to generate this amount of clean energy, which will enable it to curb reliance on fossil fuels and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Morocco is not an oil or gas producer; it imports 96 per cent of its energy sources from abroad, which accounts for 15 per cent of all its imports.

Reactions to the recent assault on Sudanese refugees by Lebanese security officers have not yet abated, neither did the repercussions from the racist expressions that were used, wrote Othman Mirghini in the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

"There are manifestations of racism in our Arab societies that we deny, either out of ignorance, nonchalance or plain insensitivity to the fact that what we are saying is hurtful and demeaning to the other." This does not only apply to this particular incident or to Lebanon alone. A plethora of social aspects and practices in Arab societies undeniably fit in with even the crudest of definitions of racism. "Consider the widely-circulated jokes that poke fun at a certain social or ethnic groups and you would notice that they are harshly divisive without anyone really being aware of it."

Now, in the wake of the Lebanon incident, some have started asking questions like: who are the true Arabs in the first place? What is their common denominator? Is it race, colour or language? Arab states have always comprised rainbows of ethnicities, faiths and colours, from Kurds to Amazighs, Armenians to Copts. The last thing they need today is race-based divisions to compound their already deep political schisms.

Recent developments show that Turkey's recent positions toward Israel were not merely spite tactics, but rather implications of a strategic choice made by Ankara against Israel in all domains: politics, trade, military and cultural exchanges, wrote Mazen Hammad, a columnist with the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.  "When Turkey denied an Israeli military airplane passage through its airspace several days ago, it wanted to make it clear that the sanctions it has determined to take against Israel will remain in force as long as the Israelis do not yield to a number of conditions set by the Turks. This includes a formal apology for the attack on the Freedom Flotilla and an international probe to go with it, plus lifting the blockade on the Gaza Strip."

The move has marked a new escalation between the two states, and came as further proof that Turkey is bent on carrying out its "disciplinary" programme for Israel, heedless to various pressures, especially from the US which wants Ankara to turn the page with Israel as soon as possible. No one can convincingly claim that Turkey and Israel are going to war, but one can safely say that Ankara is consummating its eastern comeback.

* Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi aelbahi@thenational.ae