Connecting Some Middle East Dots

“So, be patient, perseverant, and stationed,” al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula commander Tariq Dhahab said in early January. “The Islāmic Caliphate is coming, with permission from Allah, and it  will be established, even if we sacrifice our own skulls, money, children and  homes.”

Calls for limiting freedom of expression to prevent denigrating attacks on Islam are being made at the United Nations. Foreign ministers from Algeria and Malaysia say such limits are needed after the violent demonstrations provoked by a video produced in the U.S. that mocks Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad.

Some two dozen people died in the violence, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, one of his staffers and two Navy SEALS.

The head of the U.N. Organization of Islāmic Cooperation says such offenses should be equated with hate speech. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of Islāmic Cooperation, says demonstrations throughout Muslim countries this month provoked by the video “Innocence of Muslims” underscores why legislation is needed.

Ihsanoglu said that while he strongly condemns the violence, a balance had to be struck between free speech and incitement adding that considering the reverence 1.5 billion Muslims have for their religion’s founder, any offense to the Prophet Muhammad’s character should be considered with the gravity given hate speech. His call echoed the views of other Islāmic scholars and leaders, who have urged the U.N. and international bodies to define global standards on religious expression and to help prevent incitement.

As leaders called for a ban on free-speech, hundreds of Libyans converged on a main square in Benghazi and another in Tripoli in response to a call from the military to hand over their weapons, including armored personnel carriers, tanks, vehicles with mounted anti-aircraft guns and hundreds of rocket launchers. The call by the Libyan chiefs of staff was first promoted on a private TV station in August.

It gained traction however in the wake of the attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The incident has been followed by a popular uproar against armed militias which have increasingly challenged government authorities.

In response, the government called on all militias to disband or join a command center coordinating between the army and the militias. The government had relied on many militias for security during the turmoil following last year’s ouster and murder of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The government previously estimated over 200,000 people in Libya are armed.

And while Libyan’s rally, Italy’s foreign minister says the option of an Israeli attack against Iranian nuclear facilities is a concrete possibility. Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said that added pressure on the Islāmic Republic from the European Union is expected in coming weeks, which could help jump start negotiations over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

The card of military intervention by Israel to hit Iranian nuclear sites…is certainly a card that is still on the table,” Terzi told The Associated Press. “I consider it an option of last resort.”

European nations are seeking to agree on a new round of sanctions against Iran at a meeting next month. Meanwhile, Iran insists its program is solely for peaceful energy and scientific research purposes.


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