Monday, January 11, 2010

UAE's Shaikh Eisa trial verdict

Al Ain: Shaikh Eisa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has been acquitted of assaulting an Afghan merchant after the Al Ain Court of First Instance found him not responsible for his actions which were videotaped and put on the internet last year.

The court also cleared Shaikh Eisa of endangering the life of the Afghan merchant, M.S., and of sexually abusing him with a stick.

The jury also granted M.S. Dh10,000 in temporary compensation against libel damages which he claimed he incurred after two American brothers posted the videotape on the internet.

The merchant had sued the American brothers, G.N. and B.N., for libel and claimed Dh100,000 in temporary compensation.

The brothers were sentenced to five years in jail each after the court convicted them of possessing drugs to carry out a criminal act, endangering the life of Shaikh Eisa (they mixed the drug with his drink and served it to him), defamed and insulted Shaikh Eisa by broadcasting what the bill of charges termed as "slanderous videotape".

In absentia

"We are pleased with the judgment… because my client's acquittal shows that he was a victim of a conspiracy," Dr Habib Al Mulla, the lawyer of Shaikh Eisa, told Gulf News.

The court imprisoned a 40-year-old Syrian, identified as Y.K., one year after he was incriminated of assaulting and abusing the merchant.

Meanwhile, F.I., a Palestinian, and N.M., an Indian, who are both at large, were sentenced in absentia to three years in jail each.

The court found them guilty of sexually molesting and abusing the Afghan and assaulting him as well. A Nepali suspect, C.G, who was also accused of the same charges, was acquitted.

In an earlier hearing, a doctor from Abu Dhabi's Forensic Laboratory testified before the Al Ain Court that the medication given to Shaikh Eisa at the time when he allegedly assaulted the merchant may lead to loss of memory and uncontrollable behaviour.

Dr Al Mulla handed over to the jury the reports from Tawam Hospital confirming that the medication given to Shaikh Eisa has severe side effects on the nervous system and may lead to aggressiveness, uncontrolled behaviour and loss of memory.

Dr Al Mulla protested his client's innocence and presented to the jury medical reports confirming that the medicines given to Shaikh Eisa caused him to lose his free will. Shaikh Eisa pleaded not guilty to the charges of assault and endangering the Afghan's life.

Dr Al Mulla defended: "B.N. and G.N. plotted the whole incident. They gave my client nearly 66 medicines, some of which contained drugs and mind-affecting substances, over a long period."

Divorce on the Rise in Arab States

Last year, a report mentioned that 40 % of Emirati couples end up getting divorced. The UAE has the highest divorce rate in the entire Arab world! The article said that infidelity is the major reason why marriages don't last long in the UAE. One of the things the article mentioned was online infidelity, i.e. looking at pornographic web sites and chatting with women online.

The below report by Olivia Olarte in Khaleej Times, said that Egypt has the highest divorce rate, with every six minutes, there will be a divorce!

Divorces in Saudi Arabia, a highly conservative 'Muslim' nation soared 30% in 2008 over 2007, 24,428 divorces!

ABU DHABI - Despite the social stigma attached with divorce, official figures indicate that divorce is a rising phenomenon in the Arab society.

According to the January issue of ‘999’ magazine, a publication of the Ministry of Interior (MoI), out of every thousand marriages in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), there are 33 divorces.

Egypt has the highest rate, with divorce taking place every six minutes. Egypt is followed by Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Morocco, said Khalifa Mohammed Al Mehrazi, Family Relations advisor at Dubai Courts.

In the UAE, there is no comprehensive study on the exact number of divorce cases, however, according to the Minister of Social Affairs Mariam Al Roumi, estimates show that there are some 18,000 divorced women and widows in the country.

Statistics in Sharjah show that divorce cases increased to 34 per cent in 2008 from 26 per cent in 2001. UAE nationals made up 60 per cent of the cases.

‘999’ reported that the Ministry of Social Affairs is planning to conduct a study on the rise of divorce cases in the UAE after mounting concerns on this issue was expressed by the Federal National Council (FNC).

“The main cause of divorce is debt,” stated Dr Mohammed Suleiman Al Faraj, Fatwa (Islamic Verdicts) advisor at the Abu Dhabi Courts Department, Family Guidance.

“Other causes are bad treatment, family interference from outside, violence and drunkenness and living with the family of one of the partners,” added Dr Al Faraj.

The difficulty of the woman to balance work and family commitments, conflict in nationality and social traditions and suspicions about the partner’s behaviour are also contributory factors to divorce, said Al Faraj.

In the first nine months of 2009, the Family Guidance division at the Abu Dhabi Courts dealt with 4,970 cases of family dispute in which 4,656 or 94 per cent of the cases were resolved. During the same period, 3,550 new cases were registered, out of which 29 per cent ended with no solution while 12 per cent found an out of court settlement.

Al Mehrazi said many of the divorcing couples are often ignorant of how they want the marriage to end and how they want to live after the divorce.

“Divorce sometimes creates bigger problems than the marriage itself. It can take five years for the situation to resolve itself, in two thirds of cases (and) the main victims are the children,” he said.

He added that divorce can be particularly traumatic for women who face the challenge of not knowing how to best deal with the crisis as well as the uncertainty of their role after the divorce.

However, Al Mehrazi said “Many divorcĂ©es have proved themselves capable of overcoming the ordeal and living successfully and helping their children achieve their potential too.”

He advised divorcées take the opportunity to continue their university studies, become active in social and charity organisations and encourage their children to do the same.

“We have to change the prevailing concept about divorce and its consequences. Divorce should be regarded as a new beginning in life and not the destruction of the life of a woman and her children. Any woman can make a new start and Islamic law has taken care of divorce and its aftermath,” Al Mehrazi concluded.

Humam Khalil al-Balawi - The CIA Triple Agent

Asharq Al-Awsat Visits Home of CIA Triple Agent


By Mohamed Al-Du'ma

Amman, Asharq Al-Awsat-The Jordanian authorities have imposed a security cordon around the family home of Humam Khalil al-Balawi, the alleged triple agent who killed seven CIA officers in a suicide attack at a US base in Afghanistan. This residence is located in the residential al-Nuzha district, close to the Jabal al-Hussein Palestinian refugee camp in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

Asharq Al-Awsat visited the al-Nuzha district yesterday and spoke with the alleged bomber's brother. The brother claimed that Humam al-Balawi is being detained by the security authorities, and he told Asharq Al-Awsat that he does not want to reveal any more than this to the media because the family needs to clarify its position. He said "We have not held a funeral reception for my brother."

One of Humam al-Balawi's relatives, who asked for his name not to be disclosed, told Asharq Al-Awsat "There is only one person in the world whose name is Humam Khalil al-Balawi, and he is my relative." He added "we do not shy away from admitting his [al-Balawi's] death [if this is the case]."

Humam al-Balawi's elder brother, Sheikh Ayman, who is an Imam of a nearby mosque and holds a PhD in Islamic Law, declined to talk to Asharq Al-Awsat.

One of Humam al-Balawi's neighbors expressed his surprise that Dr. Humam al-Balawi was involved in the attack that killed seven CIA agents, and a Jordanian liaison officer. He said "I think Humam would be the last person to undertake an operation such as this, for he did not speak about religion or politics."

AFP quoted Dr. al-Balawi's mother, Shanara Fadel al-Balawi, as saying that she had not heard from her son for ten months. She also stressed that "he prayed and read the Koran, but [he] was never an extremist. He never shared extremist views."

Humam al-Balawi was born in Kuwait on 25 December 1977 to a middle-class family of a nomadic Bedouin clan, which has branches in Jordan and the West Bank. Al-Balawi has six brothers, and three sisters, including one identical twin brother. His family moved from Kuwait to Jordan in 1991, against the backdrop of the Second Gulf War.

Shanara al-Balawi, age 64, also said that she was not certain that her son was truly responsible for this attack, and that the al-Balawi family had received no official news in this regard.

She said "He told us he was going to Turkey to get his original diploma, in late February. But we [later] realized he never went then to Turkey"

His mother also revealed that Humam al-Balawi was married to a Turkish national who he met whilst studying at a medical school in Turkey, and that they have two daughters, Laila and Lina.

One of Humam al-Balawi's relatives said that Humam had deceived them all, with regards to his intentions and beliefs, as he told his family that he was returning to Turkey to see his wife and children, and to complete his studies.

Dr. al-Balawi is accused of carrying out the most lethal attack against the American intelligence community since the Beirut embassy bombings in 1983, killing seven CIA operatives at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan.

According to US sources, the US had recruited Humam al-Balawi to work for them after he was arrested by Jordanian intelligence. He is reported to have been a CIA asset, and according to many US media sources, al-Balawi never abandoned his loyalty to the Al Qaeda organization, and was receiving orders from them.

If it is confirmed that al-Balawi was in fact a triple agent, this raises questions about the CIA's ability to infiltrate Al Qaeda, and turn former member into assets. The Washington Post quoted two former US government officials as saying that al-Balawi lured the CIA agents to meet him, claiming to possess new information about the Al Qaeda leadership. The two sources also claimed that al-Balawi was allowed to enter the US base without being searched due to his credibility with US and Jordanian intelligence.

Jordanian authorities have denied that al-Balawi was a double or triple agent, saying that he was an occasional asset of Jordanian intelligence with no formal role as an intelligence officer.

A former US counter-terrorist agent also told the Washington Post that al-Balawi "was someone who had already worked with us" and that he was jointly managed by the US and Jordanian intelligence agencies, and had provided them with "actionable intelligence."

Prior to this, the top US and NATO intelligence officer in Afghanistan, US Major General Michael Flynn criticized the US intelligence operations in Afghanistan. In a 26-page report published on Monday, Flynn said that US intelligence officers and analysts are "ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced, incurious about the correlations between various development projects and the level of cooperation among villagers, and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers."

Michael Flynn's report was published by the Center for a New American Security think-tank, and described US intelligence as being "clueless" and lacking in concrete information.

Another of al-Balawi's brothers who works as an engineer in Dubai and who preferred not to disclose his name, told the AFP news agency that his brother Humam was "very angry" at the Israeli military operations conducted against the Gaza Strip. He said "The Israeli military operation in Gaza affected Humam and he wanted to join doctors of the Jordan Medical Association as a volunteer and go to Gaza."

Al-Balawi also revealed that his family only learnt of Humam's death after receiving a telephone call from Afghanistan. He said that his father received a phone call last Thursday at 7 am from an individual who spoke weak Arabic, and who informed him that Humam had committed a suicide bombing at the US intelligence base in Afghanistan.

However Humam al-Balawi's mother told AFP " We hear the news about my son Humam Khalil Mohammed al-Balawi but I don't know if he is dead or not."

Are Arabs only footnotes in history?

Not according to Jonathan Lyons, author of “The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization” (Bloomsbury Press, 2009). “Arab science and philosophy” he writes “helped rescue the Christian world from ignorance and made possible the very idea of the West. Yet how many among us today stop to acknowledge our enormous debt to the Arabs, let alone endeavor to repay it?” Jonathan Lyons was a long-time editor and foreign correspondent – mostly in Islamic countries - for Reuters.

His fascinating book joins a growing corpus of studies on the mighty role of Arab scientists and philosophers in the development of Western civilization. These books will influence scholars and educate laymen on the Arab roots of the civilization we all share. “The House of Wisdom” will be released in paperback in March 2010.
The “House of Wisdom” (Bayt Al-Hikma) was one of the greatest intellectual centers in the history of the world. It was founded in Baghdad during the early years of the illustrious Abbasid Caliphate (749 -1258). The “House of Wisdom” was an ecumenical home to brilliant scientists, philosophers, translators, mathematicians and astronomers.

Jonathan Lyons introduces us to many of these intellectual giants, such as mathematician Al-Khwarazmi (c. 800-47), philosopher Al-Kindi (c. 801-66) and translator Hunyan ibn Ishaq (808-73).
Their achievement was to “absorb, master, and build upon classical knowledge,” according to Lyons. They followed all the clues of knowledge left in the languages of Persian, Sanskrit and Greek.
The great works of Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Galen, Euclid and Ptolemy were all translated into Arabic, which replaced “Greek as the universal language of scientific inquiry.” The “House of Wisdom” gave the Abbasid dynasty reason to beam with pride in “the religious superiority of Islam” because Muslims “had the good sense to recognize the genius of ancient Greece.”

A passionate spirit of inquiry also defined the important works of Persian physician and philosopher Ibn Sina (980-1037) and Andalusian philosopher Ibn Rushd (1126-98). Known as the “Father of modern medicine,” Ibn Sina wrote “The Canon of Medicine” (1025), which was a leading text in the West for nearly half a millennium.
Ibn Rushd - who appears in Raphael’s Vatican fresco “The School of Athens” - exercised enormous influence over the philosophical debates on the compatibility of faith and reason by leading medieval Christian philosophers, especially Thomas Aquinas.

Lyons also shows how the early Arab critique of Greek astronomy and cosmology paved the way for the foundation of the scientific revolution in the West. Specifically, Lyons posits a plausible theory that Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) might have relied on the work of Arab scientists for many of the critical theorems in his historic book, “De Revolutionibus” (1543).

The revolution that Copernicus inspired changed the scientific world forever, but, as Lyons notes, it was contemplated long before by Greek and Arab scientists.

Lyons laments the way in which Arab contributions to philosophy and science have been deliberately marginalized: “The West’s willful forgetting of the Arab legacy began centuries ago, as anti-Muslim propaganda crafted in the shadow of the Crusades began to obscure any recognition of Arab culture’s profound role in the development of modern science.”

He also criticizes Western historians, who “cast the Arabs as benign but effectively neutral caretakers of Greek knowledge who did little or nothing to advance the work of the ancients.”

It is clear that the “House of Wisdom” marked a turning point in the history of philosophy and science. The Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258 may have destroyed the physical structure of the “House of Wisdom,” but its vision still survives. In Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) was founded to carry on the original mission of Bayt Al-Hikma.

At its opening in September 2009, King Abdullah stated that KAUST “shall be a beacon for peace, hope, and reconciliation and shall serve the people of the Kingdom and benefit all the peoples of the world in keeping with the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, which explains that God created mankind in order for us to come to know each other.”

Jonathan Lyons’s book is a fitting tribute to the Arabs in their search for knowledge and meaning in history. Their journey has transformed the world as we know it. - SG

Joseph Richard Preville is an American writer living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.