Reading the Middle Eastern and South Asian Press

Editor's Note: This roundup assembles from regional news sources a collage of headlines and viewpoints that have gone missing in action in the U.S. press.

Fallout from the war on terrorism is strongly felt in the countries of the Middle East and South Asia. Western media often overlook important stories from these nations. This roundup assembles from regional news sources a collage of headlines and viewpoints that have gone missing in action.

Sharon Seeks 'Transfer' of Palestinians

Jordanian political analyst Sultan al Hattab says that Ariel Sharon has an agenda to transfer Palestinians to Lebanon, Jordan and Gaza. Hattab said Sharon's plans had been frozen because many of the Arab countries where the Palestinians would have been forced to go had signed peace accords with Israel. But if the current crisis destroys the Oslo accords, Israel's agreements with the other Arab countries could go too. -- Al Bawaba, Amman, Jordan, April 25

Hindu Party Reportedly Paying Youth to Say They Rioted

The Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has reportedly been paying poor Hindu youths to say they were rioters in the recent communal violence in the Indian state of Gujarat. The VHP hopes to help the state government, which has been accused of colluding with the rioters and has come in for severe criticism in India and abroad. "The police are doing their duty by making arrests," the Gujarat home minister said. "Whether the VHP is deliberately sending innocents to jail for money is something only the VHP can answer." -- Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India, May 3

Krishna Cakes Upset Hindu Nationalists

Hindu activists in London are outraged by the Selfridges store's decision to sell iced fruit cakes decorated with likenesses of Indian gods. Images of gods such as Lord Ganesha and Lord Krishna frolicking against a backdrop of pink icing have been described as mocking the Hindu pantheon by groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which said it would never represent Jesus Christ that way. The half-Indian founder of Seriously Scrumptious, which manufactured the cakes, said the cakes were meant as an offering to the divine. In fact, part of the proceeds go to villages in Vrindavan, holy to Hindus for its association with Lord Krishna. --, Mumbai, India, May 3

EU Names Terrorist Organizations

The European Union has moved to block the assets of 11 non-European terrorist organizations and seven individuals. All 15 EU member nations must now freeze the assets of those on the list, which includes groups in Spain, Peru, Japan, Colombia and India, as well as Kurdish separatists in Turkey and Iraq-based guerillas fighting Iran. U.S. officials welcomed the move, saying Washington did not want to be alone in designating terrorist groups. -- The Hindu, Chennai, India, May 4

Saudi Arabia Cracks Down on Non-Regulation Cloaks

The Commerce Ministry in Saudi Arabia is cracking down on factories producing abayas (all-covering black cloaks for Muslim women) that violate religious regulations. The cloaks should be thick, loose and devoid of any decorations. Recently, non-regulation abayas have been worn increasingly by women in some cities in the kingdom. Now the Commission for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice is working with the ministry to destroy offending abayas and take punitive measures against factories producing them. -- Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 2

Syrian Businesses Kick Out Americans

A boycott of U.S. products is gaining strength in Syria, where many view American support for Israel as one-sided. Now Americans themselves are being barred. Some restaurants have taken to writing in English upon their menus, "Entry is Forbidden to Americans." One university student said he was switching to French from American cigarettes. However, an American woman studying Arabic in Damascus said her life was continuing normally. -- Al-Jazeera Television, Doha, Qatar, May 1

Syrian Meeting on Mideast Peace Mulled

An unidentified Western diplomat said contacts have been ongoing this week between Syria and United Nations officials around the idea of convening a meeting in Syria in June on the subject of Middle East peace. Syrian President Bashar Asad and U.N. Middle East envoy Terje-Rod Larson met recently and Asad agreed without restriction to such a dialogue. The United States has been calling on Arab states to take a more proactive role in resolving the conflict in the Middle East. Israel is not keen on such a conference. -- Al Hayat, London, U.K. May 1

U.S. Business Ties a Liability in Arab World?

One of the world's richest men thinks that a key ingredient of his success -- close relations with American firms -- might be a liability now. Kuwaiti tycoon Nasser al Kharafi, whose business empire is valued at $5.7 billion, went out of his way to tell investors that his company Americana had nothing to do with the United States, and said that its owners and employees were all Arabs. Americana, which owns 13 franchises for popular American fast food chains, had been hit by boycott calls from Arabs angry at U.S. policies in the Middle East. -- Gulf News, Dubai, UAE, May 5

Islamic Group Invites Philippines as Observer

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has for the first time extended an invitation to the Philippines to attend its meeting of deputy foreign ministers as an observer nation. Philippine officials regard this as a positive step in their quest for a political solution to the conflict in Mindanao in the southern Philippines, which involves groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front. The MNLF already has observer status in the OIC. -- Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 3

Abu Sayyaf Aide Captured

A senior aide of the head of the kidnap-for-ransom gang Abu Sayyaf was captured near General Santos city in the southern Philippines. Salip Abdullah faces 61 counts for kidnapping and murder, including the abduction and killing of a Catholic priest, the Rev. Roel Gallardo, two years ago. Abu Sayyaf leaders are reputed to be taking refuge in places such as General Santos to escape joint Philippine-U.S. counter-terrorism exercises on Basilan Island. -- News International, Karachi, Pakistan, May 4

Prize-Wining Arab Photographer Stranded in Gaza

Israeli authorities prevented a Palestinian photographer who works for Reuters from leaving from Gaza to receive an international prize for his coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ahmad Jad Allah was awarded the press photographer prize for this year from the Arab Press Prize in Dubai. Jad Allah, like many other Palestinians, has been unable to leave Gaza since 1994. Israel denied him permission to leave for what it described as security reasons. His prize-winning photo showed a middle-aged Palestinian mother weeping after Israeli forces killed her son in Gaza's Rafah city in September 2001. -- Al Jazeera Television, Doha, Qatar, May 2

Oil Prices Drop With Arafat's Release

Oil prices retreated sharply after Israel ended the blockade of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, which reduced market fears of an expanded crisis in the Middle East that might disturb the supply of oil. Meanwhile, when asked whether OPEC was thinking about increasing production this year, OPEC President Rilwanu Lukman said even if the price reached $28, $29 or $30 per barrel, OPEC would not necessarily increase production. -- Al Jazeera Television, Doha, Qatar, May 2

PNS Associate Editor Sandip Roy ( is host of "Upfront" -- the Pacific News Service weekly radio program on KALW-FM, San Francisco.
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