December 2, 2012
Posted: 1150 GMT
American reality TV star and all-around celebrity Kim Kardashian can't seem to please anyone in the Middle East these days.
Just weeks after causing a Twitter outrage with her comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kardashian's appearance in Bahrain Saturday to open a branch of a milkshake franchise prompted street protests.
While throngs of adoring fans paid up to $1,200 to attend her appearance at a mall in the tiny Gulf kingdom, about 100 hardline Islamists protested outside where, according to reports, police used stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
One protestor held a particularly crude banner that read "Syria receives martyrs while Bahrain receives whores."
Last Tuesday a group of conservative Bahraini parliamentarians put forth a proposal to ban Kardashian from visiting the country, citing her "bad reputation," but the motion gained no traction and was not put to a vote.
The buxom brunette, who is prolific on social media, paid no heed to the protests, instead focusing on her fawning fans and tweeting multiple photos of herself – seeming to take particular delight in all things camel – posing in front of camels in the desert and holding a glass of camel milk.
During the official opening of Millions of Milkshakes at a mall south of the capital Manama, a local paper quoted her praising all things Bahrain – from its women: "I love the girls here; their make up and hair are beautiful"... to promoting the country as a tourist destination "People from the States should come here because the country and the people are so amazing and welcoming that I am planning to be back here on my vacation."
However it was her praise for Bahrain's ruler that sparked an outpouring of angry responses on Twitter.
The island nation has seen intermittent unrest since February 2011 as violent clashes have broken out between security forces and opposition protesters on numerous occasions, including government crackdowns that have drawn the ire of international rights organizations.
Just weeks ago, Kardashian stirred up another controversy in Twitter-verse by saying that she was "praying for Israel" during the eight days of Israel-Gaza violence that left over 150 people dead, the vast majority of them Palesitnian. She later tweeted that she was also "praying for Palestine," but the compounded backlash caused her to remove both tweets and apologize on her blog: "The fact is that regardless of religion and political beliefs, there are countless innocent people involved who didn't choose this, and I pray for all of them and also for a resolution."
It may be asking too much to expect an American reality TV star to familiarize herself with the Middle East's political complexities. Political blunders aside, Kardashian has maintained her fan base in the region.
If nothing else, she's got people talking.
June 26, 2012
Posted: 1115 GMT
Chocoholics beware! There's a new take on the idea of "getting a chocolate fix."
The Dubai Municipality has issued a stern health warning against buying or consuming (or presumably injecting!) chocolate-filled syringes after the photos above were circulated among UAE residents via blackberry, smartphones and social networking sites.
The photos show rows of syringes filled with what looks like chocolate, carrying the familiar label of the hazelnut chocolate spread Nutella. Regional distributors of the Nutella brand have issued fervent denials to the press that their product is in any way connected to these syringes and that there is no way they would be marketed or sold to consumers.
In a statement released by the municipality yesterday, the head of the food control department at Dubai Municipality said the civic body was working with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment to take necessary action.
Posted June 15, it tells buyers to hurry up and get their choco-shots! Only 10 Dirhams! (about $2.70)
We called the number on the ad and got through to 17-year-old Abu Dhabi resident Salem Al Mihri. He told us that it was indeed him who was selling the candy contraband online.
"But what about the Dubai Municipality health warning?" I asked.
"What health warning?" Al Mihri asked. He hadn't read today's papers.
He claims he came up with the idea a few months ago while hanging out with friends – he considered it an entrepreneurial inspiration. Al Mihri says he bought the syringes from the pharmacy, filled them with Nutella spread and added and label and voila!
He says he sold all 30 of his creations to cousins – not the general public . Since our conversation, the photo on the ad has been updated to say "Sold Out."
Oh, and he was very insistent that the syringes were totally "sterile" and did NOT have hypodermic needles attached.
"It's a fun way to eat them, squeeze them out of the syringe, of course I didn't mean it as an injection!"
Al Mihri assured us this was an one-off idea done for fun. So the Dubai Municipality and the general public can rest assured that these fake products are NOT for sale (no guarantees that there won't be another copycat with an "entrepreneurial spirit")
Al Mihri says he'd like to go to university where he hopes he'll learn to be a businessman and where we hope he'll learn about trademark infringement and food health & safety.
Meanwhile, our final thought on the matter might be best reflected in this tweet...
May 16, 2012
Posted: 1106 GMT
It is not unusual to see (usually female) tourists and expats in Dubai's malls and restaurants dressed in fashions that could be called short, tight, strapless or generally "revealing."
Now some Emiratis are saying Respect Our Culture. An online campaign launched by two Emirati women shocked at the liberal dress code of many foreigners has gained momentum. The hashtag #UAEDressCode is trending on Twitter, local media is asking the question "how short is too short?" and even the British ambassador has weighed in, calling on tourists to respect local culture.
Although the overwhelming majority of those living in this Gulf nation are expatriate, Emiratis themselves are generally conservative and abide by Islamic customs and traditions. Tourism sites welcoming visitors to the country describe it as "conservative but tolerant when it comes to dress code."
Perhaps tolerance has its limits!
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...
August 5, 2011
Posted: 1019 GMT
He is a vocal proponent of Israel's foreign policy and his no holds barred approach to diplomacy has bought him many critics, but love him or hate him, it is hard to ignore Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
With an extremely high-profile on the web, Ayalon, a member of Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beiteinu nationalist political party and a former Israeli ambassador to United States , has been recognized by Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the leading politicians around the globe utilizing social media.
Whether spending his time tweeting in 3 different languages, openly voicing personal opinions on his Facebook wall, making new friends on Google+ or posting videos and publications on his slick website , Ayalon has earned himself thousands of followers around the globe.
Ayalon's most recent and controversial social media venture is a new YouTube video titled "Israel Palestinian Conflict: The Truth about the West Bank" in which he attempts to poke holes in what he says are some common misconceptions regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and vigorously advocates Jewish presence in them. The video has drawn some quarter of a million views and not surprisingly has attracted a mix of comments of condemnation and praise.
March 29, 2011
Posted: 1643 GMT
In the preceding post we wrote about the controversy over the Facebook group page that called for a third Palestinian intifada. Now Facebook has pulled down the page in question. For more read our story here.
March 28, 2011
Posted: 1724 GMT
After publicly calling for the removal of a Facebook page it said promoted "wild incitement," the Israeli government says it is now satisfied that the social media giant is effectively monitoring the "Third Palestinian Intifada" group page for compliance with its terms of service.
Gal Ilan, a spokesman for Israel's Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, told CNN that following a letter of complaint sent last week to Facebook founder and chairman Mark Zuckerberg by Minister Yuli Edelstein, the internet company had done a better job at policing and removing content that in some instances promoted "the killing of Israelis and Jews and the 'liberating' of Jerusalem and of Palestine through acts of violence."
In that letter Edelstein wrote:
"As Facebook's CEO and founder you are obviously aware of the site's great potential to rally the masses around good causes, and we are all thankful for that. However, such potential comes hand in hand with the ability to cause great harm such as in the case of the wild incitement...I turn to you with the request that you order the immediate removal of this Facebook page. I write to you not only in my capacity as Israel's Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs who is charged with monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, but as someone who believes in the values of free speech, and knows that there is a difference between freedom of expression and incitement. "
February 10, 2011
Posted: 903 GMT