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Showing posts from September, 2017

Women’s driving: Saudi ultra-conservatives lick their wounds

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By James M. Dorsey
Saudi Arabia’s lifting of a ban on women’s driving raises a host of questions that transcend the issue of women’s rights and go to the core of the standing of the kingdom’s religious scholars and its impact on conservative opposition to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic and social reforms.
There is little doubt that the scholars’ endorsement of the lifting of the ban amounted to the latest of a series of incidents in which Prince Mohammed imposed his will on scholars who long successfully opposed liberalization of religious and social codes based on the teachings of the 18th century ultra-conservative preacher Mohammed ibn Abdul al-Wahhab as well as Bedouin culture.
Adding insult to injury, Saudi Arabia’s Shura or Advisory Council voted days after the lifting of the ban to allow women to issue fatwas or religious opinions, long a preserve of male Islamic scholars, for the first time.
Islamic scholars, many of whom enjoy celebrity status on social media, …

Stick to Sports? No Thanks. (JMD on Press Row)

Stick to Sports? No Thanks.From: Press Row 1013 hours ago 8 PLAYS 2 DOWNLOADS 00:00 55:45 LIKE

Malaysian launderette owner stirs Asian hornet’s nest

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By James M. Dorsey
Uproar about a launderette owner’s decision to bar non-Muslims from using his service has focused a spotlight on broader discriminatory attitudes in Malaysian society as well as elsewhere in Asia that are reinforced by Saudi-inspired ultra-conservative interpretations of Islam.
In contrast to many Asian leaders who have been reluctant to confront-ultra-conservatives head-on, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Sultan Iskander, the sovereign of the Malaysian state of Johor, did not mince his words in forcing the launderette owner to rescind his ban on non-Muslims and insist that Johor was “not a Taliban state.”
The silver-lining in the launderette owner’s controversial move is the fact that it sparked debate about discrimination in Malaysia. Malaysian opposition member of parliament Teo Nie Ching announced that she was considering introducing legislation to strengthen anti-discrimination in the country’s legal code. It was not immediately clear whether she would tackle Malaysia’s …

Repeal of women driving ban tests Saudi reform drive (JMD quoted on AFP)

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Anuj Chopra 27 September 2017   

A woman walks down a street in Riyadh on September 27, 2017, after Saudi Arabia decided to allow women to drive from next June More
Saudi Arabia's historic lifting of a ban on women driving will be a litmus test for its king-in-waiting, who has sought to sideline the kingdom's arch-conservatives as he accelerates reforms, analysts say. The kingdom will issue driving licences to women from next June, in the most striking reform yet credited to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite the risk of a backlash from hardliners. But after his recent crackdown on dissenters, including prominent clerics with huge followings, experts say the prince may face only a muted opposition. "The lifting of a ban... will likely serve as a litmus test for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ability to introduce economic and social reforms despite conservative opposition," said James Dorsey, a fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of Interna…

Women’s driving: Saudi Prince Mohammed’s litmus test

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Source: Middle East Eye
By James M. Dorsey
Saudi Arabia’s long-awaited lifting of a ban on women’s driving, widely viewed as a symbol of Saudi misogyny, will likely serve as a litmus test for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ability to introduce economic and social reforms despite conservative opposition. 
It also distracts attention from international criticism of the kingdom’s war in Yemen and charges by human rights groups as well as some Muslim leaders that the kingdom is fostering sectarianism and prejudice against non-Muslims.
If last week’s national day celebrations in which women were for the first time allowed to enter a stadium is anything to go by, opposition is likely to be limited to protests on social media.
To be sure, thousands welcomed the move as well as the lifting of the ban and Saudi media reported that senior Islamic scholars, who for decades opposed expanding women’s rights and some of whom criticized Prince Mohammed’s effort to expand entertainment opportuni…

Washed up: Malaysian launderette refuses non-Muslim customers

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“For Muslim customers only. Leave your shoes outside,”
By James M. Dorsey
The owner of a self-service laundrette in the historic town of Muar in the Malaysian state of Johor likely had little inkling of the hornet’s nest he would stir up by putting up a sign barring non-Muslim from using his services. Yet, the sign that went viral on social media reignited debate about the nature of Islam and Malaysian culture in a country struggling with creeping Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism.
By implication, the owner, who declined to be identified, adopted in justifying his decision concepts of puritan interpretations of Islam inspired by Wahhabism and Salafism, understandings of the faith propagated by Saudi Arabia.
“For Muslim customers only. Leave your shoes outside,” read the sign in front of the launderette.
“If we look at the issue from an Islamic perspective, cleanliness is very important to us and something we must strive for at all times. There are other laundrettes available nearby. So,…

Shaping Eurasia’s future: Unintended consequences of abrogating Iran’s nuclear deal

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Source: Nuclear News Net
By James M. Dorsey
US President Donald J. Trump’s targeting of a two-year-old agreement curtailing Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons could not only spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, but also tilt European-Chinese competition for domination of Eurasia’s future energy infrastructure in China’s favour.
As Mr. Trump keeps the world in suspense by declining to disclose how he intends to correct what he calls an embarrassment, Iranian leaders are betting against the odds that European signatories of the nuclear agreement will persuade him to stop short of pulling out of the nuclear deal and avoid steps that would effectively undermine the accord.
In doing so, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is relying on common interests with Europe: a desire to keep the deal in place, prevent Iranian hardliners from getting the upper hand in his country’s power struggles, avoid a nuclear arms race, and ensure a European role in shaping the future architecture o…

Testing the waters: Saudi women get one-time access to a stadium

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By James M. Dorsey
Saudi Arabia's 85th birthday could prove to be historic -- one that could put to the test opposition to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's reform plans, even if he has cracked down on potential critics in recent weeks.
Saudi women, barred from stadia, are being allowed into Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium for the first time. Granted not to watch a soccer match from which they remain banned, but to attend national day celebrations. The move comes six weeks after Saudi Arabia announced that physical education for girls would for the first time be included in school curricula.
To accommodate the kingdom’s strict gender segregation, sections of the stadium are being delineated into sections for men and for families, much like what happens in other public spaces. The notion that if women can attend national day celebrations, they can also watch soccer matches will strengthen the hand of long-time proponents like the head of the Saudi Arabian Football Ass…