February 13 to 17, 2012

Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari could pay dearly the fact he addressed directly the Prophet via Twitter. Considered blasphemous, his tweets on 4 February 2012 have raised the ire of thousands of Muslims, compelling him to flee his country. Arrested in Malaysia, the young man of 23 years was extradited to Riyadh and now faces the death penalty.

One year since the anti-Gaddafi revolt erupted, Libya is battling challenges ranging from how to tame rowdy militias who fought his forces to establishing a new rule of law in the country. On Friday, Libya marks the first anniversary of the revolution against Moamer Gathafi, which was ignited in the eastern city of Benghazi on February 17 and ended on October 20 with the dictator’s killing. No official celebrations have been organised at a national level, but local councils are planning commemorations and have been warned to be on the alert against possible attacks by Gathafi supporters.

Thousands of Syrians are rallying to demand Bashar al-Assad’s removal even as the Syrian president’s forces continue their heaviest pounding yet of the opposition stronghold of Homs. They turned out after the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly backed an Arab League initiative on Thursday calling on Assad to step aside, and shortly before a visit by a Chinese diplomatic envoy. In Homs, rockets crashed into opposition strongholds at the rate of four a minute, according to one opposition activist who said the central Syrian city was facing a humanitarian crisis.

The Islamist party that leads the new Egyptian Parliament is threatening to review the 1979 peace treaty with Israel if the United States cuts off aid to the country over a crackdown on American-backed nonprofit groups here. Leaders of the Brotherhood have said that they would respect the American-brokered 1979 treaty, and the seriousness of their new threats is hard to assess. However, ther are  internal domestic reasons to respect the treaty, mainly because it ensures peaceful borders at a time when Egypt can ill afford the cost of a military buildup and its economy teeters on the brink of collapse.

the incoming New York Times correspondent for Jerusalem has already been judged as antisemtic after a tweet she drafted. The incident is part of a broader rash of pouncing-upon from rightwing pro-Israelis. Yet the real danger in all this is that the rush to throw charges of antisemitism at people who criticise Israel will desensitise vigilance over the real thing. Such tactics are meant to intimidate and paralyse, choke and divert the discussion over Israel’s occupation and policies in the Middle East.