Saturday, January 21, 2006


Item: (Christian Science Monitor) Stretching newfound democratic muscle upon their first chance to elect a full-term government, Iraqis overwhelmingly threw their support behind religious parties defined along sectarian lines and ethnicity.

A bloc of Shiite religious parties close to Iran has, according to results released Tuesday, attracted the largest percentage of voters.

Here in the capital, a national barometer because it is the most diverse of Iraq's 18 provinces, the United Iraq Alliance - religious Shiites who dominated the interim government formed in May - won about 58 percent of the vote.

A Sunni Islamist alliance comprised of politicians who have defended the insurgency campaign against US troops came in next, with close to 19 percent.

Trailing in third is Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite who was favored by the US and Iraqi moderates hoping to rise above the country's rising sectarianism. Mr. Allawi, billed as a man who could unite parties and crack down on terrorism, received less than 14 percent of the vote.

Comment: Let’s get this straight; we’ve fought, died, killed and spent in Iraq for the end result that the two groups most opposed to what many of us in the US take for granted as the essence of freedom, gain the majority of power in Iraq.  Yes, Shiite Islamists friendly to Iran and the political supporters of the insurgents are in the best position while secular, US-friendly parties are a small minority.

Truly, is this an outcome worth what we and Iraqis (particularly Iraqi women) have gone through?  Answer: Not likely.  The ultimate answer will need to be tested in time, but the odds are good that theocracy and patriarchy, alignment with Iran and civil war are in the cards for I raq.

Item: (AP) Indian tennis star Sania Mirza insists she opposes premarital sex, a statement that came as crowds burned effigies of the 19-year-old Muslim over her earlier remarks advocating safe sex.

Mirza already has been criticized for her tennis clothing, usually a short skirt and midriff-revealing T-shirt.  Sections of orthodox Muslim clergy say she is leading astray young Muslims, especially girls.

The protests were triggered by her remarks at a leadership summit earlier this week in New Delhi.

"So there are two issues here, safe sex and sex before marriage," she said. "You don't want me to tell you that you have safe sex, whether it is before or after marriage.  Everyone must know what he or she is doing."

Her statement angered Muslim clergy.

"If she has said these things, she would have nothing to do with Islam," Haseeb Hasan Siddiqui of the Sunni Ulema (religious leaders) Board was quoted as saying by the Pioneer newspaper.

Earlier in the day, small groups of protesters from the student wings of mainstream Hindu nationalist political parties demonstrated and burned paper effigies of her in Hyderabad and three other towns.

India's Sunni Ulema Board, a Muslim organization, issued an edict in October demanding Mirza cover up during matches.  The group described her tennis clothes as "un-Islamic."

"As long as I am winning, people shouldn't care whether my skirt is 6 inches long or 6 feet long," Mirza said at the leadership forum.

"How I dress is very personal thing," she added.  "It is scary that every time I wear a T-shirt, it becomes a talking point for the next three days."

Comment: Such is the state of open debate for many Islamic women!  All this and Ms. Sania Mirza has harmed no one!  In Islam in many places men can have multiple wives and easily divorce them, women often have fewer rights, and, though not limited to Islam, many women are subject to FGM in the name of religious purity.  And of course, in many places, it is a crime to leave Islam or speak out against it.  Morality loses all its meaning in the hands of the zealously devout of any stripe.

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