May 2009 Archives

Guest Voice  |  May 12, 2009 8:08 AM

Somalia Adopts Islamic Law

By Hussein Yusuf

The Somali parliament last month unanimously passed a bill to adopt Islamic law as national legislation. The real issue is not the adoption of Islamic law alone, but how it is interpreted and implemented, and whether there can be a national consensus on what exactly constitutes Islamic law in Somalia.

This move, initiated by the Somali transitional federal government on March 10th, appeared to appease an umbrella group of influential and politicized Islamic organizations (led by the recently formed extremist group Al Shabaab, meaning "the youth"), which are leading an insurgency effort against President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's fragile federal government.

Discussions between the federal government and Al Shabaab have been highly secretive, with little information released about the nature of negotiations and how judges should actually interpret specific rules and guidelines in the newly adopted system of Islamic law. Overall, the nature of how Islamic law will take shape in Somalia remains ambiguous.

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Panelist View  |  May 22, 2009 11:57 AM

A Failing Business, But A Still-Admired Model

The Current Discussion: American newspapers are in dire financial straits. How are newspapers faring where you are? Are you concerned about the future of journalism in America or in your own country? What does that future look like?

Even before the current international financial crisis, newspapers in the Arab world were struggling to survive and remain somewhat relevant in the face of diminishing financial resources, shrinking advertisement, and reduced distribution. The plight of the print media in the Arab world has been exacerbated by the incredible proliferation of satellite television, the growing penetration of the Internet, and the recent expansion of the blogosphere. Today most Arabs, like most Americans, unfortunately get their news from television and other new media.

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Guest Voice  |  May 27, 2009 1:47 PM

Biden's Unfinished Balkan Business

By Gülnur Aybet and Florian Bieber

Vice President Joseph Biden last week paid a visit to the Balkans' troublesome triangle: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo. The visit displayed the Obama administration's reengagement with the region after it dropped from America's list of priorities after 9/11. Could the Western Balkans be catching Washington's attention once again even as Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan dominate much of the foreign policy agenda?

There is plenty of unfinished business from the early 1990s, issues significant to the U.S. and to the EU's role in the region. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe's integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions was considered essential to democratic governance, free markets and human rights. NATO and EU enlargement were seen as tandem processes in the grand design of "Europe whole and free." The Western Balkans have been struggling to keep up with this process, with only Bulgaria and Romania as members today of both organizations. Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo face a series of inter-linked obstacles to accession, which is why Biden's first visit to the region was confined to those three countries.

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Guest Voice  |  May 29, 2009 12:14 PM

Israel Shouldn't Sign the NPT

By Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman

North Korea's newest nuclear blast raises many questions, but also provides a discomfiting answer to a big one: Is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty working? The answer is no. Over the years, Pyongyang has made a mockery of U.N. and U.S. non-proliferation efforts. Neither then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's charm offensive with Kim Jong-Il nor the subsequent Bush Administration's diplomatic offensive through six-power talks have restrained North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

The newest nuclear and missile testing are an unmistakable slap at President Obama's call for broader dialogue. What's also particularly galling to U.S. officials is that Pyongyang signed the Nuclear Treaty and then proceeded to render it virtually meaningless. Meanwhile, treaty non-signatory Pakistan followed non-signatory India in unleashing the nuclear genie on the Subcontinent while doing nothing as Sir Ahmad Khan proliferated nuclear weapons technology from Tehran to Pyongyang. Today, the world is left to hold its collective breath as the Taliban nips at the gates of Islamabad--too close to Pakistan's growing nuclear arsenal.

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