Syrian rebels in the city of Aleppo have banned croissants as symbols of “colonial” oppression.
Syria is a former French colony, so some there apparently associate this culinary symbol of Frenchness with France and with imperialism more generally.
The sharia committee specifically targeted croissants, al-Arabiya reports, because the pastry’s “crescent shape celebrates European victory over Muslims.”
A fatwa against croissants might seem ridiculous, particularly in a time and place where bread shortages can be common. But there’s a serious side to the edict. Rebel-held regions of Aleppo are increasingly dominated by extremist elements, further marginalizing more moderate rebel groups and putting some Syrians at the groups’ mercy. In some areas, hardline Islamist groups have moved off the battlefield and begun setting up administrative councils and other governing and charitable bodies.
Syrian rebels in the city of Aleppo have banned croissants as symbols of “colonial” oppression
Two groups in particular – Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, both affiliated with al-Qaeda – have begun to dominate rebel-held areas of the city, bringing with them a strict interpretation of sharia law. The ISIL, an affiliated group, claimed respnsibility for breaking hundreds of insurgents, including several senior al-Qaeda detainees, out of prison in Iraq.
The extremist element in previously moderate Aleppo threatens to further divide Syria’s rebel factions, which are fractious enough already. And the West is unlikely to send much-needed aid to rebels who mix with al-Qaeda – particularly when those al-Qaeda-affiliated groups are condemning even the most tangentially Western things.
In recent weeks, sharia committees in the area have also banned make-up and tight clothes for women and threatened a year in jail for anyone who fails to fast during Ramadan.
The much-repeated legend that seems to be behind the anti-croissant fatwa – that a baker in Budapest invented the treat after the city repelled an Ottoman invasion – has been debunked by food historians several times over. Most agree the bread migrated to France by way of Austria in the early 1800s. And while France did rule Syria for a period before World War II, Austria obviously never did. Then again, Syrian extremists aren’t exactly known for their nuance.
Public prosecutor in Egypt has frozen the assets of 14 Islamist leaders, according to judicial sources.
The Muslim Brotherhood head Mohammed Badie and his deputy Khairat al-Shater are reported to be among them.
Mohammed Badie and other Muslim Brotherhood figures are already the subject of arrest warrants, while the ousted President Mohamed Morsi remains in custody.
On Sunday, army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi defended the decision to remove him from power.
In a speech, he said he had urged the Islamist president to hold a referendum on his rule days before he was overthrown.
“The response was total rejection,” he added.
Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said no group would be barred from politics: “Every political force… must realize that an opportunity is available for everyone in political life and no ideological movement is prevented from participating.”
Mohammed Badie and other Muslim Brotherhood figures are already the subject of arrest warrants in Egypt
A temporary government is tasked with leading the country under an army-backed “road map” to restore civilian rule.
The decision by Egypt’s public prosecutor Hisham Barakat to freeze the assets of senior Islamists comes amid an ongoing investigation into deadly clashes that have happened since President Mohamed Morsi was ousted.
Dozens of people have died during major demonstrations by pro- and anti-Morsi protesters in the past two weeks.
According to Egypt’s state-run Channel 1 TV, the leader of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party Mohammed Saad al-Katani has also been affected by the asset freeze, along with senior figures in rival Islamist groups.
In the meantime, Egypt’s new interim PM Hazem al-Beblawi has begun appointing people to senior cabinet posts.
Ahmed Galal, a liberal economist with a doctorate from Boston University, is to be finance minister. Nabil Fahmy, a former ambassador to the US, was named foreign minister.
Mohamed Morsi’s supporters, many of them members of the Muslim Brotherhood, have been staging a mass sit-in Cairo since their man was removed from power on July 3.
They are demanding his reinstatement as president and say the military’s removal of him amounted to a coup.
The army says it intervened to remove Mohamed Morsi in response to protests by millions of Egyptians who accused him of becoming increasingly authoritarian and failing to tackle economic difficulties.
Libya has made several arrests in connection with the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed.
New Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shaqur said the investigation was making progress.
The attack happened on Tuesday during protests over a US-made film that mocks the Prophet Mohammed.
Similar protests have spread across the Middle East and North Africa. Further unrest is expected at Friday prayers.
Clashes between riot police and protesters continued overnight in the Egyptian capital Cairo, where Islamist groups and others have called for a peaceful “million-man march” later on Friday.
US President Barack Obama has promised to do whatever is necessary to protect US citizens abroad and said he was urging foreign governments to guarantee their security.
A White House statement said he had thanked Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi for condemning an attack on the US embassy there and for launching an investigation.
“President Obama expressed appreciation for the co-operation we have received from the Yemeni government and underscored the importance of working together to ensure the security of US personnel,” the statement said.
Libya has made several arrests in connection with the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi
In Benghazi, US and Libyan officials are investigating the possibility that heavily armed militants used the protest as a pretext for a co-ordinated assault.
Libyan officials say those arrested are being interrogated on suspicion of having instigated the attack.
Four embassy staff died, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
PM Mustafa Abu Shaqur blamed the attack on “criminals” and said anger against the film could not justify it.
“The people, they don’t understand that such a case like this, the American government has nothing to do with it,” he said.
“Somebody made a film and they put it on YouTube. It was very offensive for sure but that doesn’t justify taking this wild actions against Americans or American embassies. People can come out and demonstrate and express their opinion peacefully.”
Following the attack, some Libyans have taken part in rallies in Benghazi and Tripoli denouncing the violence.
Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif told reporters that those arrested had been taken from their homes on Thursday but gave no further details.
No group has said it carried out the attack and Wanis al-Sharif said it was too early to say if those arrested belonged to a particular organization.
Meanwhile, further protests against the US-made film are expected on Friday.
In Yemen, demonstrators briefly stormed the grounds of the US embassy in Sanaa on Thursday and burnt the US flag before being driven back by security forces.
A White House spokesman said all those working in the embassy were safe and accounted for.
In Egypt, 224 people were injured in protests outside the US embassy in Cairo on Thursday, with some demonstrators demanding the expulsion of the ambassador. Police vehicles were set alight.
Egyptian media said that as night fell on Thursday, police were continuing to fire tear gas at stone-throwing protesters.
Calls for a million-man march in Cairo came from The Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafist al-Nour party and non-religious groups including the “Ultra” fans of Zamalek football club.
They said they had invited Muslims, Coptic Christians and all Egyptian citizens to join them.
President Mohammed Mursi said Egyptians rejected “any kind of assault or insult” against the Prophet Muhammad, but appealed for calm.
Small protests have also been reported in Bangladesh, Iraq, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia, and security has been increased at US embassies and consulates around the world.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned the film, entitled Innocence of Muslims, as “disgusting” and “reprehensible” but said it was no excuse for violence.
The film was shot in the US and posted online earlier this year. It depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and the bloodthirsty leader of a ragtag group of men who enjoy killing.
However, the film’s exact origin and the motivation behind its production remain a mystery.
Some of the actors involved have since condemned the film, saying they had no idea it was to be used as anti-Islam propaganda.