Friday Headlines

Islam: A Religion At War With Itself
From the Syrian civil war to the turmoil raging in Yemen, the chaos engulfing today’s Muslim world is rooted in both theological and political conflicts, between Sunni and Shia sects, as well as between fundamentalists and reformists, says Shahid Javed Burki, a former Finance Minister of Pakistan and Vice President of the World Bank.

The challenge of resolving these differences is monumental for two reasons. First, the genesis of the divide between the Islamic sects goes back to a Sunni-Shia schism that dates back to the year 632, when the Prophet Muhammad died without indicating how the fast-growing Islamic community should pick his successor, he notes.

Secondly, the Muslim population is widely dispersed from the Middle East to Asia and resides in equally disparate cultures. But, Burki maintains, closing the chasm will depend upon the ability and willingness of moderates and reformers to gain influence.

“Whether the sectarian divide can ever be bridged most likely depends on whether reformists can gain sufficient influence in both camps. If not, the conflict will continue to rage, accelerating the breakdown of regional order we now see,” he concludes.

Syrian Peace Talks Will Not Resume Next Week
The U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that peace talks won’t resume in Geneva on Feb. 25 and contended talks should only resume when the US and Russia have settled on a concrete plan to resolve the Syria crisis.

In an interview, de Mistura said, “We need real talks about peace, not just talks about talks. Now the Americans and Russians must sit down and agree on a concrete plan on the cessation of hostilities.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s UN envoy urged Syrian President Bashir al-Assad to follow its lead and engage in the peace process.

Vitaly Churkin said that if the Syrian authorities wanted to get out of the crisis with their “dignity intact” then they participate.

“But if in some way they are knocked off that path — and this again is my personal opinion — then a very difficult situation could arise. Including for the Syrians themselves,” Churkin said adding that “it was the effective operations of Russian air forces that allowed them (the Syrian army) to push their opponents back from Damascus.”

Is Copenhagen A Case Study In Effective City Government?
The Brookings Institution puts the spotlight on Copenhagen, Denmark in order to examine how it earned its reputation as a sustainable urban landscape.

According to Bruce Katz and Luise Noring, Copenhagen has set forth to achieve some laudable goals, such as becoming the first carbon-neutral capital in the world by 2025, to bolster its record of innovation in the field of renewable energy and mixed-use neighborhoods.

“Copenhagen’s success as an innovator is grounded in its ability to leverage this local power and capacity in long-term planning, in collaboration with the national government and the private and civic sectors. This ability reflects a gradual shift in urban politics and governance in Copenhagen from a predominantly inward-looking to an outward-looking approach,” they write.


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