Egypt and Syria appear to be falling apart in similar ways. But J.J. Goldberg explains why one crisis (Egypt) is political while the other (Syria) is sectarian, making it much less solvable.
Pope Benedict has said in an address to pilgrims outside his summer residence in Italy that his upcoming trip to Lebanon should be seen as a “pilgrimage of peace”. He also urged the international community to step up reconciliation efforts in the region to end what he called the sufferings of people in the Middle East. The planned visit next week comes amid fears that fighting in neighbouring Syria will spill over into Lebanon, where tensions are already running high between Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities. Last month, violence broke out between opponents and supporters of the Syrian regime in Lebanon’s second largest city of Tripoli, leaving 17 people dead and over 100 wounded. During his three-day trip, the 85-year old pontiff plans to hold an open-air mass in Beirut and to attend getherings with Lebanese youth.
With the end of Ramadan festivities, the time has come for Iraqi residents to get back to normal life, yet some appear unwilling to revert back to the everyday, in particular in regards to what they wear. Reports are emerging of an increasing cultural rift between Islamic traditionalists and large numbers of Iraq’s youth, some of whom are keen to explore new Western styles that have been seeping into the country since the US invasion in 2003. But since Ramadan ended on August the 20th, fashion police in the capital Baghdad and the Shiite city of Diwaniyah have been keen to stifle new trends, sticking up posters and painting red crosses on photos of women in trousers. They have also reportedly been lobbying local leaders to institute a ban on unveiled women, although the government has said no such ban will be effected. Earlier this year rights activists complained that youths dressing in the ‘emo’ style popular in the West were being targeted by Shia militant groups; at least 14 youths are said to have been killed. But despite the risks, Iraqi youths seem determined to continue wearing trendy styles,and insist that choosing their look is a personal decision.
There was a heavy military presence on the streets of Tripoli on Thursday, following clashes which have been ongoing since Monday between rival pro- and anti-Damascus gunmen in the northern Lebanese city. Armoured personnel carriers and troops could be seen on the street of the Bab Tabbaneh neighbourhood, which is mostly populated by Sunni Muslims. At least six people have been killed since Monday in clashes between Bab Tabbaneh and neighbouring Jabal Moshen, which is populated mostly by followers of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Prominent New York Rabbi Marc Schneier has returned from the Bahrain claiming a major advance in Jewish dialogue with Islam: a promise by the Gulf state’s ruler to convene a first ever meeting of religious leaders from both faiths in the kingdom.