In January, Erik Voeten of the Washington Post posted the findings of a recently-published survey in a piece entitled, “How widespread is Islamic Fundamentalism in Europe?” The study in question compares not only the religious “fundamentalism” of Muslims and Christians, but also their hostility toward out-groups. Voeten, who in Europe generally finds the study credible, writes that the survey shows there are troubling attitudes held by Muslims in Europe that “cannot be ignored”.
I recently wrote an article for Aslan Media pointing out the hypocrisy of criticizing Iranian holocaust-denial without mentioning the fact that Turkey, Israel, and the US engage in the same behavior. None of these states recognize the Armenian Genocide. Check it out.
In stark contrast to the chaos and violence that has engulfed Arab Spring countries like Syria, Egypt, and Libya, Yemen is a place that has seen comparatively little political violence since the start of its uprising in 2011. Several Western commentators have pointed to its National Dialogue Conference, a six-month meeting among stakeholders from across the political spectrum, as a potential model to be emulated in the wider Arab world. Yemenis themselves seem to be more skeptical, pointing out that chances are slim that the delegates will be able to solve any of Yemen’s political and economic problems, even if direct violence is avoided. With enormous obstacles in place, even cautious optimism towards the NDC may be unwarranted.
This is the opening to a piece I wrote which was recently posted on Aslan Media.
Coincidentally, an interview with Farea al-Muslimi (whom I quote in my piece) was posted on the site a few days after mine. Though the interview was about drones, he commented on the political transition of Yemen and his words demonstrate well the point I was trying to make on the problems with the NDC: “It was a deal imposed by the GCC and the west, which ended up excluding a huge segment of the Yemeni population.”
As the Jerusalem Post recently put it, the cable “concluded that it was Israel’s stubborn position that was holding back peace.”
The cable suggested that Israel was “disingenuous” when it claimed that Arab states would never agree to give security guarantees for Israel, and thus couldn’t relinquish control of the territories occupied in the ’67 war. It specifically points to the “Arab decision in Algiers to give de facto recognition to Israel in its 1967 borders” and that this decision gave Israelis “almost everything they have ever asked for since 1948.”
Included in the cable was the claim that even Egypt and Syria, Israel’s primary adversaries at the time, “yearn for peace.”
A rarely mentioned event in the peace process is the January 1976 UN Security Council Resolution, backed by the PLO and the Arab states with the Soviet Union, calling for a two-state solution based UN Resolution 242 and the international consensus, vetoed by the US.
The last month of “The Great Escape” (mid-November to mid-December) hasn’t made it on my blog yet. Not sure if any of it will. I zipped through Croatia, made a slight detour into Bosnia/Hercegovina (my second), before heading up through Slovenia, eastern Italy, Austria, and finally Germany. Much of December can be summed up in two words: Christmas markets. They were really the highlight of this part of Europe. When snow and the cold weather get you down, nothin’ like a hot mug of mulled wine and beautiful Christmas lights hung above the various food and beverage booths to cheer you up.
All of these pictures, as I’ve said before, were taken with my 2mp camera on my iPod touch. Though I’ve now upgraded, I’m glad to have been able to take all these pictures with such a small device. Another post will be dedicated to some thoughts on what I’ve learned about packing on this trip.
Tirana, the capital of Albania, is currently experiencing some inclement weather. Because of this, and the fact that it is dark after 4 pm, I am staying inside my hostel and not exploring the city. But the weather looks like it will be opening up tomorrow.
I spent the last two days in a city known as Elbasan, a mid-sized city with not a lot to offer when it comes to standard tourist attractions, but much if you want to see how normal Albanians live. It was my first stop in Albania, and I’m glad I chose it. A few Peace Corps volunteers are living there, and I was able to couchsurf with one. I’ve been in the “Balkans” for a few weeks now, but I just recently realized that while this word can often be interchanged with “the former Yugoslavia,” this is not always the case. The “Balkans” refers to the mountain range and, as some Croatians and Serbs told me, a certain mentality. But while Slovenia what part of Yugoslavia, it is not considered to be a Balkan state. Albania is the opposite. Though it is a Balkan state, it turns out it was actually an independent (and fairly isolated) communist dictatorship up until the early nineties.
Albania has a noticeably different feel than the former Yugoslavia (which is why my first impression of it was good – “Something new!”), and it took just a quick Google search to find out why. Its people and language are not slavic and, like the now de facto independent state of Kosovo, its inhabitants are mostly Muslim (as are Bosniaks, who make up 48% of Bosnia/Herzegovnia), though in practice very secular like most former communist states. It is also poorer than the rest of the Balkans. The food seems to be quite similar because of the Ottoman influence (example: burek). They also drink a similar homemade alcohol called raki (rakija in the slavic version). I still know very little about the country, but am slowly getting a feel for it and hope to learn more in the next few days. Unfortunately, that is all the time I am able to spend here.