I’ve been watching for news out of Libya, and have been surprised at how little there has been – and then this. This is not a good sign. This is not Libyan; this is outside influence. Similar destructions are going on in Mali; an intolerant branch of Islam beieves saints shrines to be idolatry. From today’s AOL /Huffington Post News:
TRIPOLI, Libya — Attackers bulldozed a Sufi Muslim shrine and mosque in the Libyan capital on Saturday, one day after hardliners razed a similar shrine and library elsewhere in the country.
It was not immediately clear who was behind Saturday’s attack, the third on a Sufi shrine in Tripoli in recent months, although officials have blamed past vandalism on Islamic hardliners, some of whom are followers of the ultraconservative Salafi doctrine.
Libya is a deeply conservative Muslim nation, and Islamists were heavily repressed under longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was captured and killed in October after an eight-month civil war. Since then, there has been a string of attacks on shrines across the country belonging to Muslim sects.
The campaign appears to be aimed mainly at shrines revered by Sufis, a mystical order whose members often pray over the tombs of revered saints and ask for blessings or intervention to bring success, marriage or other desired outcomes. Hard-line Salafi Muslims deem the practice offensive because they consider worshipping over graves to be idolatry.
Libya’s Grand Mufti, Sheik Sadek al-Ghariani, condemned the vandalism and said it was the government’s responsibility to protect the graves.
“No group outside of the government should use weapons and it is the responsibility of the government to provide security and prevent religious strife and division,” he said in a statement Saturday.
Resident Abdullah Zakaria said he saw the bulldozers destroy the Sufi tombs Saturday morning. Hours later a group of men bulldozed a mosque in the same area that also contained tombs.
Security officials closed the road leading to the shrines and mosque but did not intervene to stop the men from attacking the mosque hours later. Police were seen instead protecting a nearby hotel.
Interim President Mohammed el-Megarif said in a televised speech Saturday called the actions “unacceptable” and vowed the perpetrators would be prosecuted. He also called on citizens and the security services to be more vigilant in preventing disruptive behavior.
Following the civil war, Libya has been largely without a military or police force and has relied on disparate militias to provide security and protect government installations.
Libyan writer Fathi Bin Eissa, a Sufi, said he had hoped the police would investigate who ordered past desecration of the shrines and wanted answers as to why security forces moved to protect the hotel, but did nothing as the mosque was being bulldozed before their eyes.
A security official said the police were ordered only to ensure violence does not break out.
Other attacks have taken place in the past against shrines in the eastern cities of Darna and Benghazi.
More recently, extremists on Friday bulldozed one of Libya’s most important Sufi shrines and Sufi libraries in the city of Zlitan, 90 miles (145 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli.
Security officials say the attackers took advantage of deadly clashes between tribes in Zlitan this week to attack the more than 500-year-old shrine and library.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
LONDON — A female judo fighter from Saudi Arabia will be allowed to compete in the Olympics wearing a form of headscarf after a compromise was reached that respects the “cultural sensitivity” of the Muslim kingdom.
Judo officials had previously said they would not let Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani compete in a headscarf because it was against the principles of the sport and raised safety concerns.
But an agreement was reached after several days of IOC-brokered talks between the International Judo Federation and the Saudi Olympic Committee that clears the way for her to compete Friday in the heavyweight division.
“They have a solution that works for both parties, all parties involved,’” International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said. “The athlete will compete.”
The agreement was later formally announced in a joint statement by the judo federation and the Saudi committee.
“Working with the IOC, a proposal was approved by all parties,” the statement said. “The solution agreed guarantees a good balance between safety and cultural considerations.”
Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, the judoka’s father, declined to describe what changes – if any – will be made to his daughter’s head cover for the competition.
He told The Associated Press his daughter has been training with women at a special facility in London for an hour and a half every day since she arrived with her parents and her brother. Shahrkhani said his daughter, who has a blue belt in judo, is preparing for Friday’s fight in seclusion.
“It’s her first time in competition and it’s the Olympic Games, so she is focused on that,” Shahrkhani said.
Saudi Arabia, which had never sent female athletes to the Olympics before, brought its two first female Olympians to London on condition they adhere to the kingdom’s Islamic traditions, including wearing a headscarf.
Shahrkhani’s participation was thrown into doubt last week when judo officials said a headscarf could be dangerous because of chokeholds and aggressive grabbing techniques.
Without giving precise details, Adams said the headscarf agreement is in line with Asian judo rules and is “safety compliant but allows for cultural sensitivity.’”
“In Asia, judo is a common practice so they asked for something that would be compliant with that, and the judo federations have reached a compromise that both are happy with,” he said.
Asian judo federations have previously allowed Muslim women to wear the headscarf, known as a hijab, during major competitions. Headscarves are allowed in taekwondo, but taekwondo fighters also wear a headguard, which covers the headscarf.
Shahrkhani may be the first judoka to fight at the Olympics who does not hold a black belt in judo, a Japanese martial art. She did not qualify for her Olympic spot like most of the other judo fighters. The IOC extended a special invitation for her to compete as part of negotiations to bring Saudi women to the Olympics for the first time. The other Saudi female athlete to compete in London is 19-year-old Sarah Attar, a California-based 800-meter runner.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei had been the only three countries that had never fielded female Olympians in their teams. With all three now including women, these are the first Olympics in which every competing nation – 205 – is represented by female competitors.
“Our aim is that we want to have women from all national Olympic committees competing in the games,” Adams said. “Clearly one of those that is new is Saudi. We want to make sure we give a maximum chance for women from every NOC to take part in the games.”
When I told my niece I had become thoroughly engrossed in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, she asked me if I had read her book Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. I hadn’t.
Meanwhile, I had started re-reading George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords, so I’ll be ready when HBO does Season Three, and while there is no redeeming value, I sure enjoy the escape, and like my sister Sparkle, sometimes I forget it isn’t the real world, it’s not history, it’s FICTION. I enjoy every minute.
But now I am reading Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, and from the opening pages – where the main character is living in Zambia – I have been totally engrossed.
Frances and her husband Andy move to Saudi Arabia. It’s 1985, Andy is going to build a Saudi ministry headquarters, but it might well been the late nineties, when we lived there. Her flight into Saudi Arabia whipped me back to those days, and to all the loud-mouthed drinkers who kept the rest of us awake.
Frances goes in with preconceptions, but also with a spirit of adventure, and is quickly stifled by the claustrophobic apartment, the limited social opportunities and the lack of free movement as a woman. The heat is oppressive, the clothing rules arbitrary and annoying, and Frances finds all the cockroaches good company during her long lonely days while her husband works.
Her situation was not mine. I lived on a compound, with bus routes that took women shopping every day, twice many days. We had a pool, and a small store, and a video rental kiosk. I had more options, and I probably had more fun. AdventureMan was good about taking me down to the souks at night; it was exotic and interesting. It was also, as Frances describes it, stultifying. It was oppressive. Sometimes the phone worked just fine. Sometimes your dial-up access to the internet functioned. Even on a compound, where some women did drive, walking on your own invited ogling and comments from non-Western men. Living in a country where your sponsor holds on to your passport, and where you need to ask permission to leave the country, and where laws are enforced sometimes, and sometimes not, and where women cannot drive but 12 year old boys have their own cars – it’s La La Land, it’s crazy-making.
Even though I had options and friends, Hilary Mantel captures the time alone. You spend a lot of time alone. In my case, I got used to it . . . we also had a lot of time on our own in Qatar and in Kuwait, where you are more free, where women can drive, but where you can only go to the malls and souks so many times; even when the heat isn’t enough to knock you over, there really just isn’t that much to do. You learn to amuse yourself, you develop a talent for creating, you learn to like your own company.
Then you get back to the USA and the availability of so many options makes you feel semi-autistic, bombarded by so much stimulation you quail and retreat.
I haven’t even gotten to the meat of the plot; I’m about a third of the way in, and I’m feeling hot and sticky and restless and she has totally taken me back to expat life in Saudi Arabia.
Sometimes it depends on the country where you are living. Wikipedia tells us this:
Many Muslims insist on the local physical sighting of the moon to mark the beginning of Ramadan, but others use the calculated time of the new moon or the Saudi Arabian declaration to determine the start of the month. Since the new moon is not in the same state at the same time globally, the beginning and ending dates of Ramadan depend on what lunar sightings are received in each respective location. As a result, Ramadan dates vary in different countries, but usually only by a day. This is due to the cycle of the moon. When one country sees the moon, mainly Saudi Arabia, the moon travels the same path all year round and that same moon seen in the east is then seen traveling towards the west. All the countries around the world see the moon within a 24 hour period once spotted by one country in the east.
Each year, Ramadan begins about eleven days earlier than in the previous year. Astronomical projections that approximate the start of Ramadan are available. It takes about 33 years for Ramadan to complete a twelve month move across the yearly calendar plus 5 days. As Ramadan March 28, 1990 to Ramadan March 22, 2023.
Thank you, John Mueller for this article from The Press:
PressTV – Iran Majlis condemns merger of KSA, Bahrain
The Iranian Majlis (parliament) has condemned the Saudi proposal for merger with Bahrain, saying the “unwise” measure will further destabilize the region and multiply its problems.
The Saudi plans to annex Bahrain “will extend the Bahraini crisis to Saudi Arabia and push the region toward further unrest,” a statement, signed by 190 Iranian lawmakers, read on Monday.
The statement asserted that political force and pressure cannot silence the frustrated Bahraini people who have been holding anti-government demonstrations since mid-February 2011 and calling on the US-backed Al Khalifa family to leave power.
On March 14, 2011, more than 1,000 Saudi troops entered Bahrain to assist the Manama government in suppressing the peaceful popular protests in the Persian Gulf Island.
According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds have been arrested in the Saudi-backed regime crackdown.
In a report released on April 17, Amnesty International criticized the Bahraini regime for continuing the violation of human rights and the excessive use of force against the anti-regime protesters.
“The authorities are trying to portray the country as being on the road to reform, but we continue to receive reports of torture and use of unnecessary and excessive force against protests. Their reforms have only scratched the surface,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director.
The Iranian lawmakers concluded by expressing their “all-out support for the brave nation of Bahrain as well as the independence and territorial integrity of the country.”
Saudi Arabia is reportedly seeking to merge with Bahrain in line with plans to unify the six Arab member states of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC).
The council members, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, are expected to meet and discuss closer union among the six countries on Monday.
In December 2011, Saudi King Abdullah called on the council member states to move “beyond the stage of cooperation and into the stage of unity in a single entity.”
However, some members of the council have expressed concern about Saudi Arabia’s possible dominance over the other five countries if the [P]GCC becomes unified.
So here we segue back to the Petrified Forest, and it may not seem logical in a linear, chronological sense, like time-as-pearls-strung-together-on-a-string sort of thing, but in terms of like things, the next chronological entry is going to be on 700 years of culture, the Ancestral Puebloans who used to be called the Anasazi, but before I go there, I want to show you some petroglyphs.
(I’m putting in a lot of links in case you are as big a petroglyph nerd as I am, and want to read more)
I always imagine the problems with being early man. Imagine they are smart, and spend a lot of their days figuring things out, most important being 1. What are we going to eat? 2. How are we going to keep dry/warm? 3. How do we protect ourselves from our enemies? They have the same problems we have, only on a much more basic level, and with fewer resources.
Have you ever thought about how easy it is to get information now? (The hard part being sifting through so you get the most reliable, most relevant information). Imagine a world where you have to figure it out for yourself, every day.
Early civilizations fascinate me. I am always interested in little tiny things that can be very important, like how did they fasten skins together to keep themselves warm? How do you poke a hole in a sharp bone so you can use it as a needle? How do you make a button, or make strips that can be used to tie clothing together?
How do you fasten a spear head onto a spear, or an arrowhead onto an arrow?
Early man was a problem solver, and I am fascinated by petroglyphs, which are either early attempts at documentation, or early attempts at communication, or maybe both? The first petroglyphs and cave paintings I ever visited were the Font de Gaume Caves near Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, and they took my breath away. I didn’t even hesitate because it was a cave, I wanted to see them so badly.
I want you to look at this photo of a fairly early dwelling in Les Eyzies de Tayac-Sireuil and hold it in your mind before we move on:
Later, living in Saudi Arabia, one of the most fun day trips ever was to a rock formation called Graffiti Rock, which had no protection, so very old petroglyphs mingled with modern carvings, but some of the older carvings were so interesting, so intriguing.
Coming across petroglyphs in the Petrified Forest was a delight.
Here is part of what the national parks website has to say about petroglyphs found in the Petrified Forest:
In 1977 a spiral petroglyph at Chaco Canyon National Monument was discovered which displayed a precise interaction with sunlight at the time of summer solstice by means of a narrow shaft of sunlight that moved down a shadowed rock face to bisect the center of a large spiral petroglyph. Subsequent observations found that on winter solstice and equinoxes there were intriguing interactions of sunlit shafts with the large spiral and a smaller spiral nearby. No other example of a sunlight interaction with prehistoric or historic petroglyphs was known at this time. However, there was a tradition of Pueblo sun watching in historic times, particularly of the varying sunrise and sunset positions throughout the year, to set the dates for ceremonies.
As a result of the Chaco Canyon find, Bob Preston initiated a research project to determine whether other petroglyph sites in the Southwest functioned as solar “observatories.” Over the last 16 years he has identified about 120 examples of similar solstice events at more than 50 petroglyph sites in Arizona, New Mexico and southern Utah. Evidence indicates that the phenomenon may have been spread over as much as a 1000-km region. These findings show clearly that certain petroglyphs were used by early pueblo cultures to function as calendrical markers for the winter and summer solstices. Petrified Forest National Park contains the greatest known concentration of solar calendars, with 16 of the sites being in or immediately adjacent to the park, and has been key to understanding their nature.
Shadows and sunlit images are found to move across petroglyphs due to other rocks being in the path of the sun’s rays. As the sun’s path across the sky changes throughout the year, the positions of the shadows and sunlit images change on the petroglyph panels. In many cases the petroglyphs have been placed on the rock faces in just the right position so that specific interactions occur on the solstices. The most common types of petroglyphs on which solsitial interactions have been identified are spirals and circles. The key to determining that these were intended and not by chance is that interactions are seen from site to site, and occur on the solstices more frequently than on other days of the year. These consistent interactions may involve a point of sunlight or shadow piercing the center or tracing the edge of a spiral or circular petroglyph; or shadow lines may suddenly appear or disappear at the center or edges of the petroglyph; or they may move up to the center or edge and then retreat. It is not uncommon for a single petroglyph to display multiple interactions of this type, either on the same solstice or on each of the solstices. In fact, at one site, there are five circular and spiral petroglyphs that show 15 interactions on the both solstices.
An intriguing question is whether types of petroglyph images were involved with specific dates. In several cases similar sunlight and shadow interactions occur on spiral and circular petroglyphs on the equinox, and distinctive interactions occur with other petroglyphs on the solstices and other dates. Clearly much of the puzzle remains to be unraveled.
There was a WEALTH of petroglyphs. I’m just going to show you a few of those we found:
Early people in widely separated parts of the world carved and painted on rock, probably for a number of reasons, maybe keeping track of solar activity and seasons, maybe magical/religious thinking for a good hunt or nostalgia for a good hunt, maybe just someone who, like today’s blogger, just has to document in some way . . .
Thank you, John Mueller, for contributing this fascinating piece on the reported – and then unreported – ‘coup attempt in Qatar’. We were there when this happened the last time. It was bizarre – there was nothing. No increased military or police presence, just the same quiet and relaxed day-by-day. It was all a lie, created to stir the pot, and to create a perception – based on nothing.
BREAKING; Qatar Military Coup “Rumours” Stir Bad Blood With House of Saud
by Finian Cunningham, April 17, 2012
The rumour mill is churning in the Persian Gulf with unconfirmed reports of a failed military coup against the Qatari ruler.
There were even media reports that American military helicopters had whisked the Emir and his wife to a safe unknown destination in the aftermath of the failed putsch, said to be have been attempted by high-ranking officers.
Saudi news channel Al Arabiya reported earlier today a coup bid against Qatari Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani. However, by midday, the story appeared to have been removed from Al Arabiya’s English-language website.
Iranian news channel Press TV toned down its early headlines of a coup and later speculated that Saudi-owned Al Arabiya may have been engaging in disinformation to undermine the Qatari regime, indicating a power struggle between the Houses of Saud and Thani.
The FARS semi-official Iranian news channel, however, insisted that sources within the Qatari royal entourage had confirmed earlier this week that there was a foiled coup in Doha.
Not surprisingly, Qatari-owned Al Jazeera news site ran no information on the alleged plot.
Whether the reports of this week’s failed coup turn out to be rumour or something more sinister, there is nevertheless no disguising the fact of underlying bad blood in the Gulf Arab enclave, both between and within the Gulf monarchies.
That may at first seem at odds with the “thick as thieves” appearance of the six states that form the Gulf Co-operation Council: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman. All are Sunni monarchies that have aligned with the US-led NATO powers’ aggressive policy of isolating Shia Iran.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have emerged in particular as militant allies of US/NATO geopolitics across the Middle East. They played instrumental roles in paving the way for NATO’s aerial bombardment and regime change in Libya; and they have been most strident in denouncing the Syrian government of Bashar Al Assad, calling for his overthrow and arming mercenary forces that are accused of committing atrocities and sabotage.
But herein lies the potential for rivalry and enmity. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, and Qatar, the number one exporter of liquefied natural gas, are bankrolling mercenaries and jihadis from Iraq, Libya, Lebanon and elsewhere in a bid to be top dog in a fissile region. The region is being inflamed with sectarian tensions precisely because of self-serving Saudi and Qatari power politicking.
The Gulf monarchs have also been funding election campaigns of Islamist parties in Egypt and Tunisia, aligned to the conservative Muslim Brotherhood, in line with Western powers using these same parties to shunt and blunt popular calls for greater democracy.
The rapid growth of Saudi-backed satellite TV channels broadcasting across the region – several of them spouting Saudi theocratic rhetoric – is indicative of a rivalry for influence with Qatar, which originally pioneered the Arab medium with the Al Jazeera station.
While on the surface, Riyadh and Doha may appear joined at the hip in terms of advancing the US-led Western imperialist agenda for hegemony, that service generates tensions between and within the royal houses.
In Qatar, there are reported tensions within the Al Thani ruling family and other powerful clans over what critics of the Emir call “his excessive alignment with US foreign policy and breaking of Arab ranks”. There are also domestic problems of corruption owing to the Al Thanis monopolising Qatar’s lucrative property market.
And despite the apparent alliance with Saudi Arabia, the present Qatari Emir will be mindful that the Saudi rulers have been implicated in previous suspected coup attempts against him in February 2011, 2009, 2002 and 1996.
The present Qatari ruler came to power after he led a coup against his own father in 1995 while the latter was holidaying in Europe. The following year, the Saudi and Bahraini rulers backed a failed counter-coup to reinstall the older Emir.
In 2010, the coup plotters were released from jail by Emir Hamad after a request was made by Saudi King Abdullah.
So in the Arab enclave of the NATO camp, all is not as cosy as it may seem. Washington and the other Western powers no doubt think they have a clever Arab cover from the Gulf autocrats to redraw the Middle East political map according to their imperialist designs. But in all such intrigues of deception and power lust, the band of thieves have to watch their backs.
Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent
Unfortunately, I can no longer find the video sent me by John Mueller on U-Tube; it has been removed, but you can see it for yourself here:
What the Saudis are investigating – and yes, there were men and women present – is a game of musical chairs, a game even children play at birthday parties.
Hospitals are a high stress environment – and these are sweet young people having a good time. Lord have mercy, and “investigation.”
Saudi health authorities have opened an investigation into three films published on U-Tube showing Asian nurses dancing at a mixed-gender birthday party inside a government hospital.
The three separate films showed several male and female nurses were involved in the concert that included music and dances, which are strictly banned at Saudi hospitals and other public facilities.
The films showed the party was held at King Fahd Hospital in the eastern town of Hofouf and the participants were apparently from the Philippines and Indonesia, according to Saudi newspapers.
One film was titled in Arabic “a scandal at King Fahd Hospital in Hofouf” while the heading of another video read “in the absence of supervision at King Fahd Hospital”. The third read “a dancing party for a nurse’s birthday.”
“We have been instructed to open an investigation into these films to determine whether this party was really held at King Fahd Hospital,” said Ibrahim Al Hajji, information director at the Health Department.
Hajji, who was quoted by Sharq newspaper, did not elaborate on what measures would be taken against those involved in the party.