Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Islam on stem cell research

Stem cell research is a hot topic during this election because it is seen as a possible cure for heart diseases, diabetes, Parkinson's. Ahlzeimer's, etc. There are two types: adult stem cell research & embryonic stem cell research. The former is merely taking cells from a living adult and matching his/her cells to another person. The latter however requires the destruction of embryos (fertilized egg). Bush is against it because he thinks it is paramount to abortion, while Kerry supports this scientific advance. Interestingly, according to Shiite Islamic law, embryonic stem cell research is allowed. As long as the embryo is extracted before it attaches itself to the uterus (few days after a sperm has fertilized an egg) it is not considered a baby - it is also within this time, that Shia Islamic law allows abortion. Once the embryo has been implanted in the uterus, it is considered a baby and it is a sin to destroy it. This I believe is a Sunni perspective which is similar: "According to the Shari’ah we should make a distinction between actual life and potential life. Also we should make a clear distinction between the fertilized ovum in the dish and the fertilized ovum in the womb of its mother. Indeed an embryo is valuable. It has the potential to grow into a human being, but it is not yet a human being. Similarly there is big difference in having something in a test tube or dish or something in the body of a human being. Our answer is that the embryo in this stage is not human. It is not in its natural environment, the womb. If it is not placed in the womb it will not survive and it will not become a human being. So there is nothing wrong in doing this research, especially if this research has a potential to cure diseases. However, it is important that we establish strict rules against the misuse of embryos."

This may come as a surprise, but from BBC, Bush says he would accept an Islamic Iraq: "I will be disappointed. But democracy is democracy," he said during an interview given on Air Force One."If that's what the people choose, that's what the people choose," he said...Correspondents say Mr Bush's comments appear to clash with earlier remarks from his administration which rejected calls soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime for the creation of an Islamic state similar to that of its neighbor, Iran."

Unfortunately, kidnappings of important officials continue. This time the victim is a woman from
Care International, "Margaret Hassan, who holds British, Irish and Iraqi citizenships,was seized early yesterday on her way to work in western Baghdad after gunmen blocked her route and dragged the driver and a companion from the car...Ms Hassan, who is in her early 60s, is among the most widely known humanitarian officials in the Middle East and is the most high-profile figure targeted in the wave of kidnappings that has swept Iraq in recent months...Ms Hassan has helped to supply medicines and other humanitarian aid in Baghdad, where she has lived for three decades, and spoken out about Iraqis' suffering under international sanctions during the 1990s." According to the Associated Press, Care has suspended operations but its staff has not yet been evacuated.

LA Times: "Republicans are making a strong play for one of the nation's most reliably liberal and Democratic constituencies: Jewish voters. But the president's firm support for Israel and his aggressive response to the Sept. 11 attacks - and concerns about the Democratic commitment to these causes - have earned Bush a second look from some Jewish voters...Sen. John F. Kerry, the Democratic candidate, is not taking Jewish voters for granted. During a swing through Florida on Monday, Kerry vouched for his record on Israel, saying he had steadfastly supported the country...Not everyone agreed that Bush's support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had been good for Israel, or that U.S.policy toward the Jewish state was the most important issue."Bush has done a lot for Israel," said Norm Foxman, an optometrist. "But a lot of us feel Bush has done a lot of negative things for the United States." In reality, neither of them will withdraw support from Sharon because it would be political suicide.

Whenever the topic on Palestine & Israel arises, politicians talk of the "two-state" solution. However, many scholars in the field are rejecting the idea because it is impossible with the growing number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The solution? One state for Israelis & Palestinians. Jordan is very concerned that the failure of a two-state solution would have a negative affect on the country. An interesting perspective from
The Jordan Times: "The Jordanian concern stems from the fact that if a Palestinian state is not established in the West Bank and Gaza "another solution will be sought at [Jordan's] expense", in Muasher's words, which, according to Haaretz's interpretation, might mean that "[the Palestinian state] will ultimately arise in Jordan...The Palestinian National Authority has also repeatedly voiced its concern over the slipping opportunity for a two-state solution, and warned that Palestinians may shift their strategy from seeking independence to demanding annexation in a single democratic binational state. But it is obvious that any such threat is often meant to urge Israeli attendance to the changing peace plans rather than truly opting for the single state option...The strongest opposition to the idea of the single binational state comes from Israel because this idea destroys the Zionist dream of creating in Palestine a purely Jewish state, without sharing the "promised land" with any other people." In addition to an ideoligical standpoint, Israel fears that due to the higher birth rate of Palestinians, Jews would become a minority. Demographics plays a huge role in Israel's policy towards the Palestinians.

In other news, from
AP: "The federal government rejected a plea Monday by Muslim groups that wanted a list of preapproved Islamic charities to which they could donate without being suspected of helping fund terrorism. Federal scrutiny has many Muslims in the United States wary of giving to Islamic charities because of raids on high-profile organizations by federal officials who claimed the groups might have been funding terrorism. The request and rejection Monday came in the opening week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a period when Islam requires giving to the poor."

An interesting
story from a Wall Street Journal reporter: "Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference. Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls."

Is Blair trying to sway the US elections in Bush's favor? According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor: "British troops currently deployed in south-central Iraq are likely "heading for an area called the Triangle of Death" to assist US forces battling to impose order in the strategic region just south of Baghdad...Opposition MPs as well as "several of Blair's most ardent Labour Party loyalists" expressed their worries that such a move could be seen as "the Bush administration... seeking greater British participation as an election ploy to demonstrate to US voters that there is international support for the Iraq campaign," reports the Washington Post. Fear exists among many British MPs that Mr. Blair "is being dragged into a Vietnam-style quagmire by his close ally, President Bush," writes the Post. The redeployment of British troops would free up US forces for an all-out assault on the city of Fallujah, thus implicating British forces with what some believe is the "reckless disregard for Iraqi civilians" shown in the past by US forces."

For more objective news Iraq, I would refer you to Informed Comment by Juan Cole.