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>JN Feb. 25, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 32

Developing Relations Between Israel and Yemen

Secret contacts between Israeli and Yemenite government representatives have yielded fruit. The two will open offices in each other's countries, and Yemen will allow 10,000 former Yemenites to visit their birthplace. Yemen's Foreign Minister Ibrahim Iriani said that his country will allow Israeli companies to invest in Yemen, and that it also foresees Israeli agricultural cooperation.


Arafat Signs Trade Pact with European Union

By John Fraser (VOA-Brussels)

Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat signed a new trade and cooperation agreement with the 15-nation European Union Monday, which will give goods and products from his territory favorable access to the world's largest market. Arafat also used his visit to Brussels to repeat his condemnation of Israel's new settlements in east Jerusalem and to seek European backing for his stance.

The agreement between the EU and the Palestinians is a further step in a complex process designed to bring together in a new partnership the countries bordering the Mediterranean.

Arafat says the new accord is important both economically and politically and will cement the deep-rooted special relationship between the Union and the Palestinians.

He says his people started with less than nothing, but are now building up an infrastructure in the territories they have won back from Israel. He says he is grateful for the aid that Europe has given to assist in the construction of the Palestinian Authority.

European Commission President Jacques Santer says the agreement extends beyond trade into a new political dialogue, as well as cooperation on employment and culture. And he says it forms a basis for a lasting partnership between the European Union and the Palestinians, based on a joint commitment to stability and to democratic values.

Arafat used his visit to Brussels to again attack new Israeli settlements in Jerusalem, which he says are causing problems not just for the Palestinians but also for other Arabs and the Christian and Muslim communities. He says the settlements could threaten the peace process, for which former Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin gave his life. And Arafat says the action by Israel is a breach of UN resolutions.
This view was supported by Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union. He says the EU has consistently condemned the settlements, which, he warned, pose a threat to the peace process. He says representations will be made (by the EU) to the Israelis to halt the settlements.


The Sears-like Catalog of Islamic Clothing

By Victor Beattie (VOA-Washington)

In a sign of increasing Islamic cultural influence in the United States, two clothing catalogs are offering traditional Islamic merchandise to a growing clientele. There is increasing interest in conservative Islamic clothing among America's estimated 5 million Muslims.

Norfolk, Virginia-headquartered "Caravan Xpress" and Connecticut-based "Modesty" offer an array of clothing for Muslims who like to dress according to the dictates of the Koran.

Islamic catalog shopping made its debut in late 1994 with the first issue of the "Caravan Xpress" catalog. Founder and owner Dawn Anderson -- a former college science teacher -- began the service after being unable to find traditional Islamic clothing except to send for it overseas.

She says the reaction from American Muslims has been very positive -- noting clients in 1994 totaled 200 and reached 25,000 last year. She hopes for 50,000 clients by the end of this year. Anderson says clients get in touch with her service by dialing a toll-free number to order clothing or a catalog.

"Our catalog follows the same format as a normal, everyday catalog from other vendors, but our clothing is geared towards an Islamic target market. We offer Islamic clothing for men and women and household items for family members."

She accepts credit cards, but encourages shoppers to pay charges promptly to avoid interest -- condemned by Islam as usury. Modesty only accepts checks or money orders.

Ibrahim Hooper of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations says American Muslims are having a growing impact politically, socially and economically.

"In any major urban area, I go to the local mall or shopping areas it's likely the customers are wearing a headscarf or a kufi, the Muslim skull cap, as well as the sales clerk might be wearing the same thing. The bus driver that takes me home is Muslim. Muslims are becoming quite commonplace in levels of the society."


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