Inside the Middle East
May 15, 2012
Posted: 1501 GMT

The Kuwait Times is reporting that an appeals court yesterday upheld a 10-year jail term for a tweeter found guilty of insulting the nation's ruling Emir and calling for the overthrow of the regime. Orance Al-Rasheedi was tried on charges of "spreading false news about Kuwait to undermine the oil-rich country’s image and calling for regime’s overthrow in video footage on YouTube." It said he had also used the social networking site Twitter and YouTube to publicly insult the Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who is protected against criticism by Kuwait’s constitution.

According to the same article but in an unrelated case, a Kuwaiti man charged with defaming Islam's Prophet Muhammad on Twitter as well as insulting the rulers of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will stand trial on May 21 and plead not guilty.

The article says the case of Shiite Hamad Al-Naqi, who faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted, has caused uproar in the state, where dozens of Sunni activists and lawmakers have protested against his alleged crime in the streets. Some have called for him to be put to death. Blasphemy is illegal under Kuwaiti law as is libel.

Naqi was arrested in March and charged with defaming the Islamic faith and Prophet Muhammad, as well as his companions and his wife on the popular micro blog. Prosecutors later charged him with insulting the rulers of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on Twitter too. Naqi has told police that he did not make any of the comments and that his account was hacked. Earlier this month, lawmakers endorsed a legal amendment that could make such crimes – if committed by Muslims – punishable by death.

Naqi’s lawyer said the amendment should not affect his client however. “The new law does not affect this case because it happened in the past,” his lawyer, Khaled Al-Shatti, told Reuters. “The new law will only take effect in the future,” he said. If Naqi is found guilty of endangering state security the maximum penalty he could face would be 10 years in jail, Shatti added. Twitter is extremely popular in Kuwait. One million accounts were registered in the country of 3.6 million as of April, a two-fold rise in 12 months, according to Paris-based Semiocast, which compiles Twitter data. Read full article...

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Filed under: Kuwait •Religion •Social Media •UAE

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May 14, 2012
Posted: 1129 GMT

The title was won at the Etihad Stadium. The players wore shirts emblazoned with the Etihad Airways logo – the Abu Dhabi-based airline. And the match was watched by an estimated TV audience of 4.7 billion people.

It was, in short, the brightest indicator yet of the Middle East's growing influence within European football.

So how much did Manchester City's dramatic victory on Sunday, that snatched the English Premier League championship from bitter rivals Mancester United, pay back the hundreds of millions of dollars invested by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan?

Caroline Cheese examines the numbers and looks at the Gulf's growing influence in "the beautiful game".

Full story

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Filed under: Sports •U.K. •UAE

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May 13, 2012
Posted: 809 GMT
Supporters of the jailed rapper wear symbolic gags and T-Shirts saying 'Freedom for Al Haqed.' PHOTO:
Supporters of the jailed rapper wear symbolic gags and T-Shirts saying 'Freedom for Al Haqed.' PHOTO:

A Casablanca court on Friday sentenced a Moroccan hip hop artist to one year in prison for hurting the image of the police.

Mouad Belghouat, better known as "Al Haqed" (could be translated as "The Sullen One," "The Engraged One," or "The Contemptuous One") has been in custody since late March when he was arrested for his song "Kilab Al Dawla" or "Dogs of the State" where he criticizes the police for corruption and an online music video set to his lyrics that shows a policeman with a donkey's head (he says he didn't make the video.)

“You are paid to protect the citizens, not to steal their money,” say the lyrics. “Did your commander order you to take money from the poor?” The song asks the police to arrest the wealthy businessmen who he says have divided the country up for themselves.

The 24-year-old Al Haqed (often spelled L7a9ed in the alphanumeric interpretation of the Arabic letters)  comes from a sprawling slum on the outskirts of Casabalanca and has become one of the key voices of the youth involved in the pro-reform February 20 movement.

The conviction has drawn an outcry from Al Haqed's supporters on his website and on social media as well as criticism from Human Rights Watch among others.

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Filed under: Human Rights •Morocco

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May 10, 2012
Posted: 1159 GMT

The Kuwait Times newspaper is reporting that five MPs have proposed a law that would disqualify women from being appointed as judges or prosecutors.

The current law says a judge or prosecute must be ‘a Kuwaiti Muslim,’ but the suggested amendment would add the term ‘male’ to the statement.

A memo attached to the draft amendment says “the aforementioned item in its current state might exclude women from assuming judicial posts; a much debated move from a religious standpoint.”

“In a bid to prevent any misjudgment that calls for nominating female citizens to judicial posts, this draft law clearly seeks to add a condition according to which only a Muslim male citizen qualifies to be appointed as a judge or prosecutor,” the memorandum reads.

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Filed under: Kuwait •Women

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Posted: 1103 GMT
Rima Maktabi with renowned Iraqi oud aficionado Naseer Shamma at his music school in Cairo.
Rima Maktabi with renowned Iraqi oud aficionado Naseer Shamma at his music school in Cairo.

Inside the Middle East team is in Cairo this week as the show celebrates its 100th episode with a special look at education, focusing on the ways Egypt, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates are developing their future generation of leaders.

Check out these behind-the-scenes photos on our Facebook page.

From Egypt's bustling capital, Cairo, to the coastal city of Alexandria, Rima Maktabi meets several young Egyptians who explain the challenges of studying – or simply learning how to read – in a nation currently undergoing a rocky transition to democracy.

The program then travels to Beirut, and learns why most Lebanese students are not taught some of the basic history of their nation's 15-year civil war.

In Cairo and Abu Dhabi we meet up with the world famous Iraqi musician Naseer Shama, a man devoting his life to teaching young people the history and melodies of the oud, a traditional Middle Eastern guitar heard in most songs across the region.

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Filed under: Egypt •Iraq •Lebanon •UAE

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May 9, 2012
Posted: 937 GMT
PHOTO: Al Jaber Optical
PHOTO: Al Jaber Optical

When it comes to Dubai, we're use to hearing stories about the "biggest," "tallest," and "most expensive."

Now eyewear meets jewelry as a pair of 18 carat gold reading glasses, being billed as the most expensive in the world, are being sold for almost $75,000 by Al Jaber Optical in Dubai Mall (which is, of course the biggest mall in the world and stands in the shadow of the tallest building in the world.)

Apparently only a limited edition of 300 pieces of the CliC Golds are being made.

Probably the best glasses to wear while flicking through the 24-carat gold-plated iPad available at the same mall... Only in Dubai.

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Filed under: UAE

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May 8, 2012
Posted: 1234 GMT

Open any newspaper in the United Arab Emirates and you'll find a story on 11-year-old Loujain Hussain.

The seventh grader remains in hospital recovering from a brain hemorrhage after being severely beaten by four boys in the playground of her private school in Abu Dhabi on April 19.

It is a story that has sparked widespread outrage and prompted calls to action in this Gulf nation. There are reports today that the private school where the beating took place is being investigated and could be shut down.

A local article last week quoted school officials as saying the four boys who conducted the beating were not suspended from the school as they have no “bad history.”

A wake up call for many parents and educators as the issue school bullying enters the spotlight.

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Filed under: UAE

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Welcome to the Inside the Middle East blog where CNN's journalists post news, views and video from across the region. This is also a place where you can start the discussion so please keep your comments coming. We highlight not only current news stories but also anecdotes and issues that don't always make the top of the headlines.

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