“Majorities want U.S. forces out of Islamic countries,” declares a survey on Muslim public opinion just released by WorldPublicOpinion.org. Its lead researcher, Stephen Kull, informed Congress on May 17 that “very large majorities believe the United States seeks to undermine Islam” (an average 8 in 10), and “spread Christianity in the region” (an average two-thirds of Muslims). That’s the bad news, which therefore dominated the headlines. But there was plenty of good news in the report as well. Overwhelming majorities throughout the Muslim world endorse globalization as “a good thing” — no fewer than 92 percent do so in Egypt. […]

LAHORE, Pakistan — “The only time I wore a burka was at a fancy-dress ball,” says Unver, a Pakistani painter hailing from an upper class Pakistani family. Speaking to a group of friends, he recounts sending his driver to the market to buy him the cheap, all-enveloping veil sealed with a face grill that many of Pakistan’s most conservative women wear on sorties outside the house. “After forty minutes of wearing that thing, I was drenched in sweat. Next time I saw my driver, I asked him how his wife can wear that thing all the time. He just looked […]

From May 16-17, Shanghai hosted an annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB). The Bank’s decision to meet in Asia for the first time in its history testifies to China’s growing hold over the African continent. During the past decade, China’s political, economic, and military presence on the continent has surged. Notwithstanding Africa’s declining share in world commerce, trade between Africa and China rose approximately 30 percent during each of the past five years. It now exceeds $50 billion annually, making China Africa’s third-largest trading partner. Sub-Saharan Africa currently supplies about 30 percent of […]

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — It is too early to measure the social effects of tighter restrictions on alcohol sales introduced early this month by Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov’s government. However, beyond their purported social function, the laws appear politically motivated, aimed at depriving the country’s opposition from gaining funding from major alcohol producers in what, until very recently, was a largely unregulated local industry. Among other things, the new regulations ban the sale of alcohol near schools, and in health care and sports facilities, railway stations, bus stops and airports. Political analysts contend that while one motivation of Uzbek authorities may […]

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs is a new occasional feature covering the world’s major human rights-related happenings. It is written by regular WPR contributor Juliette Terzieff. FOMENTING FEAR — Amnesty International released its annual report Wednesday with cautions over the growing influence of the “politics of fear” and the increasing participation of established democracies in widespread human rights abuses, and called on countries to invest in human rights institutions. “In 2006, short-sighted, fear-mongering policies undermined the rule of law and human rights, fed racism and xenophobia, fueled discrimination, suppressed dissent, intensified conflict and sowed the seeds of more violence,” Amnesty’s […]

KATMANDU, Nepal — Tucked away in the forests of eastern Nepal, acres of neatly organized bamboo huts accommodate the victims of one of the world’s most intractable refugee situations. For 16 years, tens of thousands of Bhutanese refugees have languished in seven overcrowded camps, relying on international aid for food and shelter, and slowly losing hope. Today, many are pinning the last of those fading hopes on an offer from the United States to resettle 60,000 people. But the offer has also caused a schism amongst the refugees. While many see this as the only viable option to move on […]

Grossly unpopular and legally questionable changes to the constitution didn’t do it. Neither did a farcical referendum to secure legitimacy, nor festering resentment over the economic and social woes that plague the Pakistani population. Instead, Pakistanis have united in a vocal groundswell of opposition to President Pervez Musharraf due to the suspension of a judge — a rather routine political technique in Pakistan that has unexpectedly morphed into a nightmare of historic proportions for the leader. It should have been a simple bait and switch. Musharraf’s goal was to remove an authority figure ill-disposed to acquiescence in the general’s leadership […]

“St. Lucia is a sovereign state; an independent nation; we’re a democratic country, therefore what is the fuss all about? China or Taiwan, which one should it be? Which one should we tie? We must tie-one. I say we must tie-one.” — Edmund Estaphane, St. Lucian MP, speaking to parliament, April 30 SHENZHEN, China — Two different tussles took place in the Caribbean in the months of March and April; both involved the island-nation of St. Lucia to some degree, and both had such an air of inevitability that the final result elicited few gasps of surprise. One was the […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — Bloggers United Malaysia 2007, Malaysia’s first national meeting on blogging, will be aimed at promoting blogging with a series of talks and workshops. However, when Malaysia’s tech-savvy meet at Petaling Jaya’s Lake View Club May 19, there is little doubt that the most pressing topic at hand will be how to stave off a government push to crack down on online expression. Blogging has taken Malaysia by storm, rapidly becoming an alternative voice to the state-controlled media. Washington-based Freedom House ranked Malaysia at 150 out of 195 nations surveyed in its latest global survey of press freedom. […]

BANGKOK, Thailand — Iranian money is behind a strategic oil pipeline to be built across Malaysia with the aim of linking the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea — and eliminating a militarily vulnerable shipping bottleneck via Singapore. Almost half the world’s oil tankers pass through the narrow Strait of Malacca bound for East Asia, not least China, on their way from Middle Eastern and North African oil fields. Now the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) is helping finance an estimated $14 billion land transshipment route across northern Malaysia, ostensibly to save three to four days of sea travel […]

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Editor’s Note: Corridors of Power is written by WPR Editor-at-large Roland Flamini and appears every Monday in World Politics Review. MUSHARRAF GOING? — (See last week’s Corridors for a related item.) While some knowledgeable expatriate Afghans believe President Hamid Karzai may be on the way out, there are now indications that the thinking in Kabul and New Delhi is that it should be Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf who goes. Some Washington sources are wondering whether the continued violent demonstrations against the recent dismissal of the Pakistani chief justice should be seen in this context. Karzai’s government has developed close ties […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — As the 45 million Filipinos eligible to vote get ready to make a choice in their country’s May 14 mid-term election, the Philippines political landscape has been disturbed by the sound of guns, and filled with a mix of celebrities, rebels and political dynasties. Several actors, a current boxing world champion and a certain “Bin Laden” are among the nearly 87,000 candidates vying for 17,000 national and local positions, which include all of the 250 seats in the House of Representatives and half of the 24 Senate seats. In the meantime, reports indicate that up to 80 […]

BANGKOK, Thailand — When Iran looks west, it faces trade sanctions, political hostility and military threats. So now the vilified government is turning to the east, where energy-hungry Asia is embracing it as a regional partner. Trade and investment between Iran and Asia is exploding, with Asia’s booming economies keen to buy Iranian oil and natural gas, and Iran desperate for Asia’s advanced technology. “Asia needs our energy and we need their technology,” said Iran’s ambassador to Thailand Moshen Pakaein, from Iran’s newly expanded $5 million diplomatic compound in Bangkok. Behind the ultra-modern frosted glass and concrete building — which […]

KATMANDU, Nepal — In the thin air of Mount Everest base camp last week, a group of five American activists thumbed their frozen noses at the Chinese Government by holding their own “opening ceremony” on behalf of Tibet. They unfurled a banner that parodied China’s Olympic slogan: “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008,” it read. As a cameraman sent live images via the Internet, the activists even lit their own torch and sang the Tibetan national anthem — minutes before Chinese border guards took them into custody. The stunt was the latest effort to use next year’s Olympic Games […]

Last week’s two-day summit between President George Bush and Shinzo Abe, who was making his first visit to the United States as Japanese prime minister, provided an opportunity to take stock of the profound changes occurring in the bilateral security relationship. Despite Japanese-American differences over several regional security issues, the two countries have continued to strengthen their bilateral defense ties in several dimensions.<<ad>>Under the auspices of their bilateral Security Consultative Committee (SCC), the two governments have engaged in a major effort to restructure their defense alliance. For several years, the SCC has been issuing joint statements articulating the two countries’ […]

Gunmen launched a brazen pre-dawn raid on an oil field in southern Ethiopia on April 24, killing 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese workers in their sleep. The attack was the direct result of the spreading instability on the Horn of Africa, where the violence in Somalia following Ethiopia’s invasion is bleeding across the border, back into Ethiopia. While the attack was apparently not aimed at China, it highlighted the growing backlash against China across Africa. As part of Beijing’s “Go Abroad” strategy, under which Chinese firms are encouraged to invest around the world to help fuel China’s rapidly expanding economy, […]

TOKYO — In February 1946 the U.S. forces occupying Japan drew up a new constitution for a country that had been left shattered by the Pacific War. Many Japanese cities were left in ruins, with vast swathes of them reduced to ash by intensive American firebombing. Fast-forward six decades to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit last week to Washington, and Japan presents a very different picture. Despite a more than decade-long slump, Japan’s economy remains the second largest in the world. It is a respected member of the international community and was found in a BBC poll in March […]