Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Arab Press Criticism Spurs Increased Muslim Aid

Apparently responding to some surprisingly harsh criticism from the Arab press, Saudi Arabia today announced that it would thriple the $10 million in aid pledged by the Kingdom to the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunamis, upping its current donation to $30 million. Riyadh's additional pledge comes one day after the New York Times [registration required] (January 4) reported that, on Monday, a Kuwaiti newspaper, Al Qabas, ran a front page editorial questioning the Kuwaiti government's miniscule donation of $2 million. The article noted that Kuwait, like most Gulf states, is currently enjoying increased revenues as a result of the rising cost of oil and will post a $10 billion budget surplus this year.
"We have to give them more; we are rich," Waleed al-Nusef, the editor-in-chief Al Qabas, said in a telephone interview. "The price of oil doubled so we have no excuse."
Until today, most Islamic countries had made only paltry contributions to aid efforts, even as Western nations tripped over each other in an apparent competition become top donor. Australia currently holds that title, having pledged almost $700 million in aid.

According to the New York Times, the editors at Al-Qabas also questioned the manner in which some Muslim charities had responded to the crisis.
In Kuwait, some charities drew fire by advertising that they were collecting money for Muslim victims. Indonesia, the hardest-hit country is the most populous nation.

"I don't know why only Muslims, when disasters do not differentiate between religions in choosing their victims." Muhammad Mousaed al-Saleh, a columnist wrote in Al Qabas. The daily paper published a religious ruling, saying donating to non-Muslims is permissible."
It is unfortunate that the paper needed to publish such a ruling in order to assure its readers that giving aid to stricken non-Muslims is acceptable - and the fact that they felt it a necessity underscores the enormous philosophical chasm separating Islamic moral parochialism and Western moral universalism. Nevertheless, the fact that an Arab newspaper had the courage to question their government's response to the crisis, and that that criticism seems to have produced an effect, represents a salutary development. A free press is essential for driving reform. If such is emerging - however fitfully - in the Muslim world, so much the better.

In a side note, the New York Times also noted that many Islamic clerics were exploiting the tsunami tragedy to promote their twisted religious beliefs...
The view that wanton behavior provoked the was the subject of Friday sermons in Saudia Arabia and of other religious commentaries.

"Asia's earthquake, which hit the beaches of prostitution, tourism, immorality and nudity," one commentator said on an Islamic religious Web site, "is a sign that God is warning mankind from persisting in injustice and immorality before he destroys the ground beneath them."

Walid Tabtabai, a member of the Kuwaiti Parliament, said the earthquake was a message.

"We believe that what occurs in terms of disasters and afflictions is a test for believers and punishment for the unjust," he wrote in a column in the newspaper Al Watan.
Unforunately, this sort of nonsense isn't confined to the Islamic world. Many Christians in the West believe exactly the same thing. Recall that the fires were still burning at the fallen WTC when the Rev. Jerry Falwell accused "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America," for bringing the attack upon America. Rev. Falwell, sensing that he'd gone to far, at least apologized. Don't expect any apologies from the Islamic clerics currently delighting in the deaths of so many infidels.


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