Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110201

Financial Crisis
»An Economic Government for the Euro Zone?
»Chrysler ‘Reborn’ Says Fiat Chief
»Greece: Tax on Business Profits Over 100,000 Euros
»Greece: Doctors on Strike, Tension in Front of Health Ministry
»IMF Raises Spectre of Civil Wars as Global Inequalities Worsen
»Spain: Inflation Highest in 2 Years, Up Yearly 3%
»Spain: 93 Bln in High Risk Credits for Savings Banks
 
USA
»D’Souza: Obama May See Muslim Brotherhood as ‘Good Guys’ [Video]
»‘Jihad Jane’ Terror Suspect Pleads Guilty in Pa.
»Tea Party Congressman Clashes Over Islam at Town Hall
»US Lawmaker Rebuffs Plea on Muslim Hearings
»Who is in Charge at Community Center and Mosque Near Ground Zero
»WikiLeaks: FBI Hunts the 9/11 Gang That Got Away
 
Europe and the EU
»Algeria: Minors Sent to Spain Illegally, Minister
»German Politician Faces Jail for Calling Sarrazin an ‘Ass’
»Italy: Three Moroccans Arrested in ‘Terror Probe’
»Italy: Best-Selling ‘Gomorrah’ Author Ditches Berlusconi’s Publishing Group
»Melanie Phillips: Paul Berman Rides Into Battle
»Netherlands: Catholic Order Admits Abuse, Is Preparing Compensation
»UK Advised Libya on Lockerbie Bomber Release, Papers Show
»UK: BA Worker ‘Plotted With Terror Preacher Anwar Al-Awlaki’
»UK: Islamic Extremist Landed Job With British Airways ‘In Terror Plot to Blow Up a Flight to the U.S.’
»UK: Imam Guilty of Raping Boy at Mosque
»UK: Muslim Minister Mohammed Hanif Khan is a Rapist
»UK: Stoke-on-Trent Imam Guilty of Sexually Abusing Boys
»UK: WikiLeaks Files Reveal ‘Cold, Callous and Brutal’ Behaviour of Ministers
»UK: WikiLeaks: 9/11 Gang With Pilot Uniforms Fled to London
»Vikings’ Crystal Clear Method of Navigation
 
Balkans
»Fiat: 940 Million Euros Investment in Serbia in 2011
 
North Africa
»Algeria: Two Members of Al Qaeda Killed
»Algeria: Explosion in Tebessa, 2 Soldiers Critical
»Algeria: Students Protests in Kabylie for Rule of Law
»Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Mutes Its Religious Message for Protests
»Egypt: 1 Million in March, Protesters Gather in Tahrir Square
»Egypt: Zewail Returns, Credible Post-Mubarak Figure
»Egypt: Pro-Mubarak Demonstration Also Seen in Cairo
»Egypt: Coptic Bishop in Italy: We Support Mubarak
»Egypt: Mubarak to Announce He Will Not Stand, Al Arabiya
»Egypt Treasures Looted, But Public Strikes Back
»Egypt: Hosni Mubarak Won’t Seek Re-Election, Urges Speedy Elections
»Egypt: The Turning Point, The Regime’s Plan on What to Do Next
»Guestview: Unrest in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood
»Hardtalk — Mortimer Zuckerman: Muslim Brotherhood Would be a Disaster for Egypt [Video]
»Inside the Muslim Brotherhood’s Plans for Egypt’s Future
»Muslim Brotherhood: ‘Prepare Egyptians for War With Israel’
»Netanyahu Says Radical Islamic Groups May Try to Exploit Egyptian ‘Chaos’
»Obama Urges Mubarak Not to Run Again, American Diplomats Say
»Stakelbeck: Who is the Muslim Brotherhood?
»Synagogue Torched in Tunisia: Jewish Leader
»Tonight: Radical Muslim Cleric’s Take on Egypt [Video]
»Total Internet Blackout in Egypt, Google to the Rescue
»Tunisia: Kasserine, Public Buildings Attacked
»Tunisia: Incidents in Central Tunis
»Tunisia: Gafsa: Demonstration of Young Jobless
»Tunisia: Situation Still Tense in Le Kef, Schools Attacked
»Tunisia: Arsonists Burn Synagogue in Southern Tunisia
»What the Future May Hold for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood
»WikiLeaks: Diplomats Worry Who Will Succeed Gaddaffi
 
Israel and the Palestinians
»Egypt: HRW: Hamas Bans Demonstrations in Gaza
 
Middle East
»After Protests, King Abdullah II of Jordan Dismisses Government
»Arab Emirates: Oman Spying Accusations ‘Categorically’ Denied
»Assad Says Syria Immune From Unrest Roiling Egypt
»Egypt Crisis: Israel Faces Danger in Every Direction
»Iran: An Islamic Middle East Against Israel
»Jordan: King Appoints New Prime Minister to Carry Out Reforms
»Netherlands: Lower House Supports Freezing Contacts With Iran
»Obama Has Failed to Fulfill His Mideast Promise
»Secularism, Globalization and Poverty Feed Crisis in Arab States
»Spengler: Food and Failed Arab States
»Tunisia: Ben Ali’s Son-in-Law in Qatar, Abused by Tunisians
»Turkish Army to Train Syrian Army
»US ‘Particularly Troubled’ By Hanging of Dutch Iranian Woman
 
South Asia
»Pakistan: US Calls for Release of Diplomat Suspected of Killing Two
»Pakistan Judge Blocks Moves to Hand Over US Gunman
»Pakistani Teen Jailed for Blasphemy in School Exam
»Sharia Brutality on a Raped Girl in Bangladesh
 
Far East
»North Korea ‘Has at Least One Undeclared Secret Nuclear Facility’
»Tajikistan to Lease Farmland to Chinese Guest Workers
 
Immigration
»Canadian Immigration — Only the Shadow Knows
»France Fears Surge From Tunisia-Egypt
»Greece: 500:000 Illegal Workers in 2010
»Italy: Demand for Migrant Workers Outstrips Quota on ‘Click Day’
»Sweden: Immigrant Kids Prone to ‘Special Needs’ Label
 
Culture Wars
»EU Ministers in Discord on ‘Christianity’ And Persecution
»Swedish Schools Run by Convicted Paedophile
»Turks Don’t Need Condoms, Universiade Organizers Say
 
General
»‘Al-Qaida on Brink of Using Nuclear Bomb’

Financial Crisis

An Economic Government for the Euro Zone?

Merkel’s Plan Could Transform the European Union

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to stabilize the euro through a “pact for competitiveness” that would force EU members to coordinate their national policies on issues like tax, wages and retirement ages. The plan would transform the EU if it becomes reality, but resistance will be fierce — including from within Merkel’s own governing coalition. By SPIEGEL Staff

It was intended to be a pleasant evening. At their meeting in the German government’s guesthouse in Meseberg near Berlin last Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso had set aside plenty of time to resolve their dispute on how to save the euro. The comfortable fireplace room had been prepared, with sparkling wine and beer ready to be served. Only their closest advisers were allowed to attend.

Barroso began with a correction. The Portuguese politician said reports that he disagreed with the chancellor on the euro rescue fund had been incorrect. He said that he had been misunderstood. Although Merkel had a different impression, she let the matter rest.

She was interested in a productive atmosphere for talks because she wanted to win over Barroso for a far greater plan. It is a plan that has evolved slowly — Merkel had to warm up to the idea herself — and she knows that it won’t appeal to the head of the Commission. Dubbed the “pact for competitiveness,” the plan that Merkel has in mind could permanently change the structure of the European Union.

The idea, which the chancellor conveyed to her guest in English, calls for closer cooperation among the member states of the euro zone. It would entail more closely harmonizing their financial, economic and social policies. Merkel hopes that this would prevent the economies of the euro countries from diverging as much as they have over the past few years. If fully adopted, it would take European cooperation to a whole new level.

A New Merkel

Above all, it would mark the emergence of a new German chancellor. Up until now, Merkel has shown herself to be exceedingly hesitant in dealing with the euro crisis. After all, she has never been a fully committed supporter of the European project. During her early life in communist East Germany, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Merkel was mainly interested in West Germany and the US, which she regarded with a sense of longing. Yet she didn’t lend nearly as much attention to the region that lay between these two countries.

As chancellor, Merkel saw it as her duty to protect Germany’s coffers. When the financial crisis erupted in September 2008, she said, during a flight to St. Petersburg, that the Germans would not bail out ailing Irish banks. That set the tone for her approach to crisis management at the time, and also during the current euro crisis. She has had reservations about aid for Greece and hesitations with regard to the European euro rescue fund. When it comes to safeguarding the European common currency, Merkel has always seemed like a politician who reacts, not one who acts.

But now she intends to fundamentally change things. With her plan, the chancellor wants to do more than just go on the offensive politically. She has also set out to rectify the weakness that the former long-serving Commission President Jacques Delors considers a basic “design flaw” in the monetary union: Although there is a common currency in Europe, there is no corresponding common economic policy.

The Merkel pact aims to remedy this shortcoming, at least in part. According to the plan, the euro-zone countries would coordinate their economic policies far more closely in the future, thus playing a leadership role within the entire EU. What Merkel has in mind is essentially nothing other than the “two-speed Europe” that her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, similarly proposed many years ago.

Political U-Turn

Merkel has made a political U-turn that is virtually as dramatic as the change in course made by her predecessor in office, Gerhard Schröder, when he introduced his radical — and hugely unpopular — “Agenda 2010” reforms of the labor market and welfare system. Just as Schröder, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), abandoned what he saw as the outmoded social policy positions of the SPD, Merkel has discarded a number of her fundamental convictions about Europe.

Until recently, the chancellor had strictly opposed any closer cooperation among the 17 countries in the euro zone. She wanted to include all 27 EU member states. Her concern was that this would otherwise lead to a union within the Union. Her fear was that countries that are not members of the euro club, such as Poland, could be sidelined.

As recently as May 2009, Merkel said in a speech given at the Humboldt University in Berlin that she would oppose any “divisions in Europe.” She went on to say that she was also against “often ill-conceived demands for more intensive coordination of economic policies” in the euro zone.

Now it’s a different story altogether. Now Merkel wants to make the center of the current crisis, the euro zone, into the focus of efforts to combat the common currency’s woes. That notwithstanding, the pact is intended to be open to all EU countries, not just the members of the euro zone. That’s something which is important for Merkel.

Her plan is ready, but there is still discussion about how to make it reality. Barroso told Merkel during last week’s meeting in Meseberg that the European Commission wants to direct the process. Merkel, on the other hand, claims this role for herself and the other heads of state and government. There was reportedly a heated discussion concerning this point. “I will not allow the European Commission to be sidelined,” Barroso told his aides afterwards. At least Merkel assured him in Meseberg that the Commission would oversee progress toward the plan’s goals in the individual countries. She also said that he could attend meetings when the leaders of the euro-zone countries convene in the future..

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Chrysler ‘Reborn’ Says Fiat Chief

Results ‘beyond expectations on product and financial fronts’

(ANSA) — New York, January 31 — Chrysler has been “reborn” under Fiat’s lead, the CEO of both companies, Sergio Marchionne, said Monday after the US car giant posted better-than-expected results for 2010.

“The results achieved by Chrysler last year, both on the product and financial fronts, have surpassed expectations,” Marchionne said after the Detroit-based company closed 2010 with an operating profit of $763 million on earnings of $41.9 billion.

“We have kept our promise of launching 16 new vehicles over the last 12 months. These vehicles bear witness to Chrysler’s rebirth,” said Marchionne.

Chrysler upped its US market share from 8.8% in 2009 to 9.2% in 2010 and increased its slice of the Canadian market from 11% to 13%. The company, which filed for bankruptcy protection two years ago, issued a statement saying it expected to close 2011 with a net profit of $0.2-0.5 billion and earnings of $55 billion.

It said it saw a positive cash flow of $1 billion.

Marchionne cautioned, however: “Our work is not over”.

“We still have a lot to do to reach the goals of our five-year plan”.

Chrysler was recreated as a new company in June 2009 after it filed for bankruptcy two months earlier. Fiat took a 20% stake in the company as well as management control.

Once Fiat meets established benchmarks, including the production of Fiat Group vehicles in America, it can take a majority stake in Chrysler, something which Marchionne recently said was “possible but not probable” by the end of this year.

It raised its stake to 25% from 20% on January 10.

Fiat’s trendy 500 city is already in American showrooms and will be followed by Alfa Romeo models.

The option to boost its stake to 50% or more kicks in once government bailout loans are paid off.

Marchionne has said Chrysler will return to the stock market in the second half of 2011, although exactly how this will be done has yet to be decided.

The operation will be done in stages, he added, “because the American market does not like mega initial public offerings (IPOs)”.

The Chrysler turnaround has been made possible by deals with auto unions which now have a stake in the company.

Back in Italy the most left-wing car union FIOM is still fighting factory-specific deals it says fly in the face of historic national contracts.

The deals were struck with more moderate unions after Marchionne threatened to take production out of Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Greece: Tax on Business Profits Over 100,000 Euros

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 31 — Greece has introduced an additional tax for companies that booked more than 100,000 euros in annual net profits in the year 2010. The Finance Ministry announced that that payment of the tax can be spread out over a 12-month period, but that all instalments must total at least 1,000 euros. The measure involves 16,922 firms, of which: 11,904 with net profits between 100,000 and 300,000 euros; 3,571 between 300,000 and 1,000,000 euros; 1,146 with profits between 1,000,000 and 5,000,000 euros; 301 with profits of more than 5,000,000 euros.

According to the Ministry, the operation will generate 1.2 billion euros in State revenues.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Greece: Doctors on Strike, Tension in Front of Health Ministry

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 1 — Tension and incidents occurred around midday in front of the entrance to the Public Health Ministry between the doctors of the Social Welfare Office, who are on strike today, and law enforcement officials, who tried to prevent the demonstrators from entering into the ministry. According to sources in the media, during the clashes, the President of the Order of Doctors of Piraeus was injured and taken to the hospital. Doctors occupied the conference room in the ministry, threatening not to move if not allowed to meet with Public Health Minister, Andreas Loverdos.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


IMF Raises Spectre of Civil Wars as Global Inequalities Worsen

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF’s chief, said the economic rebound across the world is built on unstable foundations, with many rich nations still strapped in job slumps while the rising powers of China, India and Brazil already facing the threat of overheating. “It is not the recovery we wanted. It is a recovery beset by tensions and strain, which could even sow the seeds of the next crisis,” he said. “Global unemployment remains at record highs, with widening income inequality adding to social strains,” he said, citing turmoil in North Africa as a prelude to what may happen as 400m youths join the workforce over the next decade. “We could see rising social and political instability within nations — even war,” he said. The IMF has published a paper entitled Inequality, Leverage and Crisis arguing that the extreme gap between rich and poor — with echoes of the US in the late 1920s — was an underlying cause of the Great Recession from 2008-2009.

The paper, by the Fund’s modelling unit, warned of “disastrous consequences” for the world economy unless workers regain their “bargaining power” against rentiers. It suggests radical changes to the tax system and debt relief for workers.

Mr Strauss-Kahn said the toxic global imbalances that caused the financial crisis are re-emerging, naming China and Germany as the two arch-sinners that rely on export surpluses to power growth at the expense of the US and other deficit countries. “The most important question is to deal with the recurrent problem of some countries’ large external surpluses,” he said, warning that failure to curb excesses will lead to global clashes and rising protectionism in trade and finance.

In a veiled warning to China and other countries holding down their currencies for commercial advantage, the IMF chief said “exchange-rate adjustment should not be resisted”. Nor should capital controls be imposed to stop the inflow of funds…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Spain: Inflation Highest in 2 Years, Up Yearly 3%

(ANSAmed) — ROME , JANUARY 31 — Inflation is rising in Spain, reaching a two-year high in January. Consumer prices increased by a yearly 3% after December’s 2.9% rise, according to the harmonised European index. This is the highest figure since October 2008, according to a statement from the Spanish statistics office quoted by Bloomberg.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain: 93 Bln in High Risk Credits for Savings Banks

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 1 — There is 93 billion euros worth of problematic and “toxic” assets in Spanish savings banks, according to the latest estimates by Spain’s central bank, which are based on new transparency rules on exposure to property risk.

New credit unions created by the merger of old banks have 76.4 billion euros in assets that the central bank considers potentially problematic, with coverage of only a third of the risk.

The added assets of savings banks that did not take part on merger processes take the figure up to 93 billion, excluding credits no longer considered collectable.

Banks already involved in mergers have property derived from credits worth 38 billion and their significant presence in budgets has caused concern among international investors concerning the health of the Spanish financial system.

El Pais says that there are 17.2 biillion euros worth of assets in properties that have depreciated hugely. On top of this, 43.3 billion worth of assets in already merged savings banks have guaranteed public property.

Figures suggest that the group of banks led by Caja Madrid and Bancaja and chaired by Rodrigo Rato has become the leading Spanish property group and the main owner of public property, with exposure of 7.4 billion euros and coverage of 33%.

Out of more than 11 billion euros of property owned by the group, half (5 billion) is represented by land. Group assets classed as “potentially problematic” by the Spanish central bank total more than 26 billion euros, an unparalleled figure in the Spanish financial system, with a specific coverage of 32% of property risk.

Presenting the results yesterday, the chair of Caja Madrid, announced the next stock exchange outing for the Finance and Savings Bank (BAF), namely the merger of credit unions leading the way with 52%, together with Bancaja (37%). For the transformation of the structure into a bank, Rato did not rule out the creation of a “bad bank” in which to separate property business and toxic credits from the future listed company. Rato said that assets relating to property total 41.28 billion euros, 18% of the bank’s credits.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

USA

D’Souza: Obama May See Muslim Brotherhood as ‘Good Guys’ [Video]

President Barack Obama may think of radical Islamists as “freedom fighters . . . like his dad” in a way, says Dinesh D’Souza, author of ‘The Roots of Obama’s Rage.’ D’Souza told Newsmax.TV…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


‘Jihad Jane’ Terror Suspect Pleads Guilty in Pa.

A suburban woman who was the live-in caretaker for her boyfriend’s elderly father calmly told a U.S. judge Tuesday that she had worked feverishly online under the name “Jihad Jane” to support Islamic terrorists and moved overseas to further her plan to kill a Swedish artist who had offended Muslims.

Colleen LaRose, 47, faces the possibility of life in prison after pleading guilty to four federal charges, including conspiracy to murder a foreign target, conspiracy to support terrorists and lying to the FBI. LaRose, who spent long hours caring for the father, was also building a shadow life online from 2008 to 2009. According to prosecutors, LaRose “worked obsessively on her computer to communicate with, recruit and incite other jihadists,” using screen names including “Jihad Jane,” “SisterOfTerror,” and “ExtremeSister4Life.”

LaRose returned to the United States in November 2009 and was immediately taken into FBI custody at Philadelphia International Airport. She remained in secret custody until March, when her indictment was unsealed hours after Irish authorities swept up an alleged terror cell that included another American women, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, 32, of Leadville, Colo., and her Algerian husband.

LaRose and her co-conspirators had hoped her all-American appearance and U.S. citizenship would help her blend in while carrying out their plans, prosecutors said.

“Today’s guilty plea, by a woman from suburban America who plotted with others to commit murder overseas and to provide material support to terrorists, underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General David Kris.

Speaking clearly but quietly, the 4-foot-11 LaRose told a judge Tuesday she had never been treated for any mental health problems and was entering her plea freely. She whispered a few comments to her lawyers, some of them prompting a smile from public defender Mark T. Wilson. Wilson declined to comment afterward.

“We’ll have a lot to say at sentencing,” he said. LaRose and Paulin-Ramirez are the rare U.S. women charged with terrorism. Paulin-Ramirez has pleaded not guilty and her lawyer, Jeremy Ibrahim, declined to say whether she will enter a plea or head to trial on May 2.

However, he believes LaRose’s plea will benefit his client’s case. “With LaRose’s plea it removes some pretty prejudicial evidence from coming in at Jamie’s trial, evidence of making plans to kill someone, evidence of using the Internet to recruit enemies of America, that might otherwise become difficult for a jury to segregate in their minds who did what,” defense lawyer Ibrahim told The Associated Press. In e-mails recovered by the FBI over 15 months, LaRose had agreed to marry an online contact from South Asia so he could move to Europe. She also agreed to become a martyr, the indictment said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Tea Party Congressman Clashes Over Islam at Town Hall

Freshman Republican Congressman Allen West clashed with an advocate for Muslim-American civil rights at a sometimes-rowdy town hall meeting Monday night.

The tense exchange drew boos from a standing room only, largely Republican crowd.

The confrontation came as West, an Iraq War veteran who was backed by the Tea Party in last November’s election, took questions from constituents. Nezar Hamze, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Miami, stepped to the microphone and accused West of making anti-Muslim comments in the past. “Me and my children choose to follow the faith of Islam. You consistently insult it. How can we expect you to defend our right and practice Islam as far as the Constitution is concerned?” Hamze asked. “I will always defend your right to practice a free religion under the First Amendment,” West said. “But what you must understand, if I am speaking the truth, I am not going to stop speaking the truth. The truth is not subjective,” he continued to loud applause. West’s comments on Islam have stirred controversy in the past. He recently said Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, represents “the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established.” The new GOP congressman pulled no punches commenting on the political crisis in Egypt, drawing parallels between the chaos in that country and the 1979 revolution in Iran. West said the U.S. must stop the Egyptian militant group, the Muslim Brotherhood, from seizing power. “President Carter, President Obama, Iran, Egypt, the Shah, Mubarak, the Ayatollah, the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a scary parallel. We cannot allow the Muslim Brotherhood to fill the void of leadership that can occur in Egypt,” West said.

Monday night’s event was one of the country’s first town hall meetings since the near assassination of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a constituent event in Tucson, Arizona, in January. The tragedy was followed by calls from Republicans and Democrats to tone down political rhetoric.

Determined to meet with his constituents once a month, West says he is taking his own precautions to stay safe. West, who has a permit to carry concealed weapons in Florida, also suggested to reporters he will be armed at some of his events…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


US Lawmaker Rebuffs Plea on Muslim Hearings

The chairman of a key US Congress committee on Tuesday rebuffed an appeal to expand planned hearings into radicalization of US Muslims to include all groups seen as potential domestic terrorism threats. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, who has drawn fire over his plans, said the panel’s investigation would remain “focused on the radicalization and recruitment of people within the American Muslim community by foreign Islamic terrorist groups, primarily al-Qaeda.”

The Republican lawmaker, in a statement emailed by his spokesman, also said the hearings would look into “the extent to which American Muslim leaders cooperate with law enforcement.”

His comments came after the committee’s top Democrat, Representative Bennie Thompson, urged King in a letter to “broaden the scope” of the hearings, which have been criticized as stoking anti-Muslim sentiments in the United States.

“Islamic extremists aren’t the only ones willing and able to utilize sophisticated devices intended to kill many Americans,” Thompson wrote. The Democrat cited a US Department of Homeland Security survey of state law enforcement agencies that found that Islamic radicals were seen as a threat in 31 states, while neo-Nazis were labeled a serious threat in 46 states.

“I hope you share my belief that in the final analysis, the ideology of the bomb maker matters less than the lethal effects of his creation,” said Thompson…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Who is in Charge at Community Center and Mosque Near Ground Zero

Two weeks after the developer of a controversial Islamic center and mosque planned near ground zero distanced himself from the imam who co-founded the project, the imam has raised confusion over who is in charge by suggesting that he would move the center to a less contentious space if an opportunity arose.

The imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, told the editorial board of The Buffalo News last week during a speaking tour in upstate New York that if someone offered another site, “I would move; I would move because my whole life is about improving relationships with people.”

Sharif el-Gamal, the real estate investor who owns the property and co-founded the project, known as Park51, with Mr. Abdul Rauf in 2009, has insisted that he will build the community center and mosque as originally planned: at 51 Park Place in Lower Manhattan.

Despite vociferous opposition from families of 9/11 victims and others who have said it would be insensitive to build an Islamic center two blocks from the site of the terrorist attacks, the plan has received site approvals from the city’s Landmarks Commission and the neighborhood community board. Mr. Gamal acknowledges, though, that fund-raising for the $100 million project is in its early stages.

Differences between Mr. Gamal and Mr. Abdul Rauf, which were apparently papered over during a summer-long storm of opposition to the project, led to their recent split, which Mr. Gamal announced unilaterally on Jan. 14. In a statement then, Mr. Gamal said Mr. Abdul Rauf would no longer raise money for or speak on behalf of Park51, though he would remain one of four on its board of directors.

On Monday, Mr. Gamal issued a statement reiterating his independence from the imam: “As we have been stating for over a year now, Park51 is not moving its location under any circumstances. Imam Feisal has no authority or control over this project, over its board of directors or over Soho Properties, which controls the real estate. Park51, the Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan, is more than any one personality or imam.”

In a brief interview on Monday, Mr. Abdul Rauf said he had accepted his lower profile in the Park51 project, which he has always referred to as Cordoba House. “Because Sharif owns the real estate, he has taken this responsibility upon himself,” Mr. Abdul Rauf said. “So I have decided to concentrate on broader issues, interfaith dialogue, which has always been my work.”

He said his remark about his willingness to move the center, which was in answer to a question, was consistent with his previous statements. In past interviews, Mr. Abdul Rauf has sometimes said he opposed moving the center, and sometimes said he was open to the idea.

A new imam, Abdallah Adhami, was to take up Mr. Abdul Rauf’s role in leading Friday religious services in a temporary prayer space at the project site, a former clothing store, Mr. Gamal announced last month.

But a week later, Park51 spokesmen distanced themselves from statements made by Mr. Adhami, too, after NY1 reported that he had said in a taped lecture that homosexuality was usually caused by abuse in childhood…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


WikiLeaks: FBI Hunts the 9/11 Gang That Got Away

The FBI has launched a manhunt for a previously unknown team of men suspected to be part of the 9/11 attacks, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Secret documents reveal that the three Qatari men conducted surveillance on the targets, provided “support” to the plotters and had tickets for a flight to Washington on the eve of the atrocities.

The suspected terrorists flew from London to New York on a British Airways flight three weeks before the attacks.

They allegedly carried out surveillance at the World Trade Centre, the White House and in Virginia, the US state where the Pentagon and CIA headquarters are located.

Ten days later they flew to Los Angeles, where they stationed themselves in a hotel near the airport which the FBI has now established was paid for by a “convicted terrorist”, who also paid for their airline tickets.

Hotel staff have told investigators they saw pilot uniforms in their room along with computer print outs detailing pilot names, flight numbers and times and packages addressed to Syria, Afghanistan, Jerusalem and Jordan.

On September 10 they were booked on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Washington, but failed to board. The following day the same Boeing 757 aircraft was hijacked by five terrorists and crashed into the Pentagon.

But, instead of boarding the American flight, the Qatari suspects — named as Meshal Alhajri, Fahad Abdulla and Ali Alfehaid — flew back to London on a British Airways flight before returning to Qatar. Their current location is unknown.

Investigators are also hunting a fourth man, Mohamed Al Mansoori, who they say supported the alleged terrorist cell while they were in the US.

The man, who is from the United Arab Emirates, previously lived in Long Beach, Los Angeles. His current location is also unknown, and US officials recommended that he is put on an international terror watch list because he “may pose a threat to aviation in the US and abroad”.

The details of the secret 9/11 team have emerged in a secret American government document obtained by the Wikileaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph. It was sent between the American Embassy in Doha and the Department for Homeland Security in Washington.

The document, sent on 11th February 2010, states: “Mr Al Mansoori is currently under investigation by the FBI for his possible involvement in the 11 September 2001 attacks. He is suspected of aiding people who entered the US before the attacks to conduct surveillance of possible targets and providing other support to the hijackers.”

Details of the unknown 9/11 alleged plotters has never previously been disclosed. An official inquiry into the 9/11 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people, indicated that the hijackers may have received assistance in Los Angeles but investigators did not publicly provide more details.

The 9/11 Commission report, published in July 2004, states that at least two of the hijackers previously visited Los Angeles but, at the time, investigators appeared to have little information on their movements. The report states they had a “brief stay in Los Angeles about which we know little”.

Only one person — Zacarias Moussaoui — has been tried and convicted over involvement in the 9/11 attacks as all the terrorists died in the crashed planes. Moussaoui, accused of being the twentieth hijacker, was sentenced to life in prison.

The secret American document contains detailed information about the movements of the three alleged Qatari plotters.

They took BA flight 185 from London to New York on 15th August, 2001, and the memo alleges that they subsequently conducted “surveillance” on potential targets ahead of the 9/11 attacks. It states: “They visited the World Trade Centre, the Statue of Liberty, the White House and various areas in Virginia.”

They then flew on an American Airlines flight from Washington to Los Angeles, arriving on 24th August and checking into a single room at a hotel near the airport. They paid for the room with cash and during the last few days of their stay requested that their room should not be cleaned.

The cable states: “Hotel cleaning staff grew suspicious of the men because they noticed pilot type uniforms, several laptops and several cardboard boxes addressed to Syria, Jerusalem, Afghanistan and Jordan in the room on previous cleaning visits.

“The men had a smashed cellular phone in the room and a cellular phone attached by wire to a computer. The room also contained pin feed computer paper print outs with headers listing pilot names, airlines, flight numbers, and flight times.”

While in the US, they were aided by Mohamed Ali Mohamed Al Mansoori. The secret document also states that the three Qatari men spent a week travelling with Mr Al Mansoori to “different destinations in California”.

The Qatari men were scheduled to board American Airlines Flight 144 on September 10th from Los Angeles to Washington but did not turn up.

They instead boarded a British Airways flight to London, before flying back to Doha on another BA flight.

The following day the same American Airlines aircraft, flying on route AA77, was hijacked as it returned from Washington and crashed into the Pentagon, killing 184 people.

It is not known whether the FBI believe that the men were simply assisting the hijackers or were a fifth cell who pulled out at the final moment. Alternatively, they may have been planning an attack on the West Coast of America or even London which was abandoned or went wrong.

Mr Al Mansoori has never been publicly named in connection with the 9/11 attacks. The three Qatari men were included on an FBI list of more than 300 people who were wanted for questioning in connection with the 9/11 attacks, which was leaked in 2002.

At the time, the FBI stressed it was not a list of suspects, but merely parties they thought might have information useful to the investigation.

The US embassy cable obtained by the Daily Telegraph was written by Mirembe Nantongo, the deputy chief of mission in Doha. It was marked “priority” and sent to the office of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the CIA.

Mr Al Mansoori’s visa was revoked after the information about him came to light, but “his name was not watchlisted in the class system”, suggesting he may have managed to leave America.

A spokesman for the FBI declined to comment.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Algeria: Minors Sent to Spain Illegally, Minister

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 31 — “Some parents send their underage children in the boats of the harraga [illegal migrants],” in order to “make the most of laws” existing in Europe, and particularly in Spain. This is according to the leader of the Algerian community abroad, Halim Bentallah, who has been speaking on national radio.

“Copying a practice used in other nearby countries, parents try to make the most of the friendly laws in countries that take charge of minors,” Bentallah said.

“They send their children on the boats,” he said, and once the children arrive on the European coasts, “they refuse to take them back, and prefer that their children remain there and cut all telephone communication”.

Bentallah, who did not provide any other details, said that this “deplorable” phenomenon “is spreading”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


German Politician Faces Jail for Calling Sarrazin an ‘Ass’

A regional politician in Germany has been sentenced to pay a fine of 1,500 euros or spend 50 days in prison because he allegedly called Thilo Sarrazin, the author of an incendiary book about Muslim immigrants, an “ass.” If he loses his appeal, the Left Party official has vowed to opt for the jail term.

A regional politician has been fined €1,500 ($2,060) or 50 days in jail for allegedly calling Thilo Sarrazin, the author of a controversial book criticizing Muslim immigrants, an “ass.”

Helmut Manz, 43, the deputy spokesman of the opposition Left Party in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, was overheard uttering the word at a demonstration outside a convention hall in the city of Dortmund where Sarrazin was speaking. Sarrazin filed a legal complaint when he heard about the insult.

The demonstrators were holding up a straw doll with a photo of Sarrazin’s face stuck on it. Manz has appealed against the ruling by the Dortmund district court, the Left Party said in a statement.

‘All Racists … Are Assholes’

In an interview published on Tuesday, he told the mass-circulation Bild newspaper: “I’m not aware of having said that. It wasn’t in my notes.” But he added: “All racists, which therefore includes Mr. Sarrazin, are assholes.”

Manz has said he plans to opt for the jail sentence if his appeal is overruled.

Sarrazin, a former Bundesbank official, triggered a heated public debate about immigration last year by claiming in a best-selling book “Germany Does Itself In” that Germany was in decline because of the rapid growth of its Muslim immigrant community.

The act of using expletives to curse at others is a prosecutable crime in Germany that can result in steep fines. Just flipping a person off while driving can lead to a fine of between €600 and €4,000.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Italy: Three Moroccans Arrested in ‘Terror Probe’

Imam, son and other man accused of ‘training recruits’

(ANSA) — Catanzaro, January 31 — Three Moroccans including a Muslim cleric and his son were arrested in Calabria Monday on suspicion of training recruits for international terrorism, Italian police said.

The imam of Sellia Marina, a small Ionian coast town between Catanzaro and Crotone, was arrested at his home with his son.

The third arrestee is part of the Moroccan community of Lamezia Terme near the Tyrrhenian coast of southern Calabria, police said.

Police say the three used the Internet to get and send “multimedia documents about arms and explosives training” as well as software that “could be used to sabotage computer systems”.

The homes of a further nine individuals were searched.

The sweep came at the end of a “complex” probe carried out by Digos security police and Italy’s postal police, judicial sources said.

A fourth man was arrested for drugs possession after some marijuana and a scale were found in his house.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Best-Selling ‘Gomorrah’ Author Ditches Berlusconi’s Publishing Group

Milan, 25 Jan. (AKI) — Roberto Saviano, author of the best- selling book Gomorrah’ about the Naples mafia, has ditched his long-standing publisher Arnoldo Mondadori controlled by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Fininvest holding company.

Saviano’s next book, due out in March, will instead be published by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, the Milan-based publisher said, stating that it was ‘proud’ to be publishing the anti-mafia author’s work.

The book will contain the dialogues from the unusual and immensely popular four-part television show Saviano co-hosted, called “Vieni via con me” (“Come away with me”) and which aired last year on Italy’s state-run RAI TV.

Rather than the usual acrimonious debate of Italian political talk shows, where participants yell and insult each other, hosts Saviano and his co-host Fabio Fazio invited guests simply to read lists of events, people or reflections that had meaning for them.

In a preface to the book, Saviano will reflect the show’s huge impact and the protracted behind-the-scenes battle he and Fazio fought with politically appointed RAI executives to win the right to the four episodes.

Mondadori played down Saviano’s tie-up with Feltrinelli. “Saviano is and will remain an important author for our publishing house,” said Riccardo Cavallero, director general of Mondadori’s trade books.

Saviano last week clashed with Mondadori Chairman Marina Berlusconi, the premier’s daughter, after publicly expressing his support for Milan prosecutors who are investigating her father in an underage prostitution case.

Marina Berlusconi said she was “horrified” at Saviano’s remarks.

Silvio Berlusconi in April 2010 accused Saviano, who lives in hiding under police protection, of giving the mafia “publicity”.

‘Gomorrah’, which gives a shocking account of the Naples mafia or Camorra, was also made into an award-winning film with the same name.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Melanie Phillips: Paul Berman Rides Into Battle

I have recently finished reading Paul Berman’s latest book, ‘The Flight of the Intellectuals’. It’s terrific. The first part is an evisceration of that Islamist in westernised clothing, Tariq Ramadan. By the time Berman has finished with him, there’s not much left of his reputation as the western establishment’s poster-boy for modernised Islam. The second part is an evisceration of two prominent western intellectuals who fell for Ramadan’s propaganda, Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash. There’s not much left of them either.

What Berman shows up so brutally about Ramadan, the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Hassan al Banna, is that he is the direct heir — both familially and intellectually — not only to the ideologues of jihadi Islamism but also to the axis of European fascism. Drawing on accounts already published of the alliance between the Brotherhood and the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s — an alliance centred in the person of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al Husseini — Berman emphasises the shared aim of both the Nazis and the Brotherhood of destroying the Jews. While a number of Arabs and Muslims condemned the Axis and even fought on the side of the Allies, Hassan al Banna supported the Mufti, calling upon the Arab League in 1946 to welcome the Mufti’s escape from his enemies in Europe as having a divine purpose — namely to defeat ‘Zionism’ just as Hitler had attempted to do.

And as Berman points out, whereas in other parts of the world the supporters of the Axis went down to defeat after World War Two, the Arab zone

ended up as the only region in the entire planet in which a criminal on the fascist side of the war, and a major ideologue to boot, returned home in glory instead of disgrace. In that one region of the world, the old categories of supernatural phantasmagory about Jews and conspiracies continued to reign over the political imagination of huge and powerful political movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, and other movements as well.

Yet as Berman goes on to show, Tariq Ramadan fails totally to repudiate this aspect of his grandfather’s history. Quoting Caroline Fourest, he dwells on her disclosure that Ramadan actively misleads by omitting to mention al Banna’s admiration for Mussolini or invocation of the German Reich. He goes on to emphasise how Ramadan also supports the supporters of mass murder of Jews and others — venerating the ‘spiritual leader’ of the Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who has boasted that he is

‘the enemy of Israel and the Mufti of martyrdom operations’

and that he will

‘shoot Allah’s enemies, the Jews’.

Devastatingly, Berman concludes about Ramadan’s prevarications and obfuscations over terrorist violence:

The whole problem lies in the terrible fact that his personal milieu — his grandfather and his father, his family contacts, his intellectual tradition — is precisely the milieu that bears the principal responsibility for generating the modern theory of religious suicide-terror.

..Ramadan’s final message, therefore..is a message in four parts. To wit: 1) Ramadan condemns terrorism. 2) he wants to understand terrorism, though not to justify it. 3) He understands terrorism so tenderly that he ends up justifying it. 4) He justifies it so thoroughly that he ends up defending it.

And then just as devastatingly, Berman shows in unsparing detail

how systematically Ramadan’s avoidances are themselves avoided in the friendly publicity that comes his way

by the useful idiots of the western intelligentsia who have fawned at the feet of this most manipulative of Islamists.

This book should be compulsory reading, not only for British politicians but for the security establishment which has also been bewitched by the talented Mr Ramadan, to such disastrous effect.

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Catholic Order Admits Abuse, Is Preparing Compensation

A Dutch religious order has admitted its guilt in the Catholic sex abuse scandal and offered its deep regret to victims, the NRC and Radio Netherlands report on Monday.

The Salesian order has written to victims saying it is preparing a ‘generous’ compensation package without legal procedures, the news organisation say.

‘It is clear that Salesians are also guilty of committing sexual and emotional abuse and we condemn this unequivocally,’ the letter states, and goes on to acknowledge the failure of the order to prevent or respond to abuse.

It is almost a year since the scandal broke in the Netherlands with revelations that three Catholic clerics from the Don Rua cloisters in ‘s Heerenberg, Gelderland, had abused at least three children in the 1960s and 1970s.

Since then, a government commission has had reports of almost 2,000 cases of abuse within religious institutions. A number of cases will be taken to court.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


UK Advised Libya on Lockerbie Bomber Release, Papers Show

London (CNN) — British government ministers secretly advised Libya on how to get convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi released from a life sentence in a Scottish prison, American documents published by WikiLeaks allege.

A Foreign Office official explained to the Libyans how to apply for compassionate release for Megrahi after he was diagnosed with cancer, according to an October 2008 U.S. Embassy cable newly published by WikiLeaks.

The British government believed Scotland would be inclined to grant the bomber compassionate release, the cable says.

Megrahi, the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270, was released in 2009. He is now living in Libya.

Then-Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell wrote to Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Abdulati al-Obeidi in October 2008 to explain how to apply for compassionate release, a British official told the U.S. Embassy in London, the cable says.

The Foreign Office in London and the office of Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond in Edinburgh did not respond immediately to CNN requests for comment.

The British government has always said it was not its decision whether or not to release Megrahi, but that of the Scottish authorities because the bomber was imprisoned in Scotland. Scotland has some control over its own affairs, including justice, but London runs British foreign policy.

Some American senators, led by New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, have been furious about Megrahi’s release. They said in a report in December that his medical condition did not justify setting him free.

The leaked U.S. Embassy cable says Megrahi had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and that the average life expectancy for someone with his condition was 18 months to two years. It noted that he could have as long as five years to live.

The October 2008 American cable is broadly consistent with hundreds of documents about the case declassified by Scotland after Megrahi was released in August 2009.

Those documents and American diplomatic cables published earlier by WikiLeaks show that Libya was determined to win the release of Megrahi, warning London that it would react badly if the bomber died in jail.

The British have consistently denied that commercial considerations — such as oil giant BP’s desire to drill in Libya — played a role in Megrahi’s release.

           — Hat tip: MP[Return to headlines]


UK: BA Worker ‘Plotted With Terror Preacher Anwar Al-Awlaki’

In secret email exchanges with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Bangladeshi Rajib Karim, 31, shared details of his BA contacts and access from his home in Brunton Lane, Newcastle, the court heard. Karim, who came to the UK in 2006, worked for BA in the city and had access to the airliner’s offices there and at Heathrow. Today, Woolwich Crown Court heard Karim established a deep cover, joining a gym, playing football and never airing extreme views. All the the while, the prosecution allege, he was communicating with a terror cell and al-Awlaki who has never been caught and is believed to be hiding in the mountains of Yemen.

The defendant is accused of plotting to blow up a plane, sharing information of use to hate groups such as al-Qaida, offering to help financial or disruptive attacks on BA and gaining a UK job to “exploit terrorist purposes”, which he denies.

The jury of seven men and five women were told today that Karim has already pleaded guilty to three terror charges…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


UK: Islamic Extremist Landed Job With British Airways ‘In Terror Plot to Blow Up a Flight to the U.S.’

An Islamic extremist landed a job with British Airways with the aim of carrying out a ‘spectacular’ terrorist attack on the UK, a court heard yesterday.

Computer expert Rajib Karim, 31, is accused of plotting with terror mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki to commit an atrocity that would lead to ‘widespread loss of life’.

Desperate for martyrdom, the Bangladesh-born fanatic volunteered to train as cabin crew in the hope of blowing up aircraft, it was alleged.

The software engineer is also said to have planned to hijack BA computer systems, grounding flights, causing chaos for millions of passengers and millions of pounds of damage.

Karim had already started to build a terrorist cell in Britain, recruiting baggage handlers from Heathrow Airport and security guards who worked in UK hospitals it was claimed.

Woolwich Crown Court heard that in the last e-mail he sent the radical cleric before his arrest last February, he said he would speak to his brothers ‘to find out the possibilities of shipping a package to a US bound plane’.

Yesterday the jury was told that Karim acted as a terrorist mole for American-born al-Awlaki- the commander of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)- passing him crucial information on the airline’s IT systems, airport security and x-ray scanners and even cabin crew names and addresses.

The zealot came to Britain in December 2006 with his British wife, Zijarin Raja to take advantage of the NHS, seeking treatment for his baby son, now five, who was ill with suspected cancer at the time.

But from the first day Karim was ‘entirely committed to an extreme Jihadist and religious cause,’ said Jonathan Laidlaw, QC, prosecuting.

‘He believes that terrorism, including the murder of civilians, is permissible to establish, as he views it, a true Islamic state.

‘As you will see from his own writings, Karim was anxious to carry out such an act and he was determined to seek martyrdom — to die and to sacrifice himself for his cause.’

Karim, a member and fund-raiser of the terrorist organisation Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), which is linked to Al Qaeda, began plotting with the Yemeni cleric in a series of encrypted emails after being introduced to Al-Awlaki by his younger brother, Tehzeeb, also a committed terrorist within the JMB.

The father-of-one begun working for BA’s graduate training programme in Newcastle in 2007, becoming a software engineer in ‘as good a job as could be obtained’ for terrorist purposes.

His pass gave him access to BA’s call centre on the Newcastle Business Park as well as ‘unsupervised access’ to the engineering base at Heathrow.

From there, BA’s website, e-mail system, crew roster system, engineering systems, HR and finances was run.

Karim ‘deliberately set about establishing a lifestyle which would not attract attention’, joining a gym, playing football and never airing extreme views, the jury was told.

But secretly he planned ‘the sort of spectacular attack which all terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda aspire to,’ Mr Laidlaw said.

‘Karim believes that terrorism, including the murder of civilians, is permissible to establish, as he views it, a true Islamic state.’

‘An attack of the sort which might result in the wholesale loss of life, consequent economic loss and, importantly from the terrorists’ perspective, widespread feat and uncertainty in the face of the renewed threat from Islamic extremists.’

In late 2009, Karim became depressed that he had failed to achieve his attack and offered to wage war on British and US forces in Afghanistan or join the terrorists in Yemen.

But in late 2009 his brother travelled from Bangladesh to Yemen and sought out Al Awlaki to tell him of Karim’s position.

Al-Awlaki immediately wrote to Karim in January last year, saying: ‘My advice to you is to remain in your current position.

‘Depending on what your role is and the amount of information you can get your hands on, you might be able to provide us with critical and urgent information and you may be able to play a crucial role. I pray that Allah may grant us a breakthrough through you.’

The cleric asked him for ‘limitations and cracks’ in airport security systems.

Karim responded days later saying he had ‘knowledge of key people in BA’, including top management and members of his own IT department, as well as key IT hardware locations, which if targeted could bring huge disruption to flights.

He wrote that he could erase data from BA servers which ‘could cause disruption and financial loss.’

He mentioned there were two sympathisers, one who worked as a baggage handler in Heathrow and another in airport security, who could provide support but who would not sacrifice themselves.

Karim also spoke of ‘another brother’ who had worked as a security guard in London hospitals and could be recruited to apply for an airport security role, it was alleged.

Al-Awlaki responded again on February 12 last year telling him to stay ‘at the front line’ and instructing him to train as cabin crew.

He wrote: ‘Our highest priority is the US. Anything there, even on a smaller scale compared to what we may do in the UK, would be our choice.

‘So the question is, with the people you have is it possible to get a package or a person with a package on board a flight heading to the US.

‘If that is not possible then what ideas do you have that could be set up for the UK.’

Al-Awlaki also asked if Karim’s contacts had training on the airports’ x-ray scanners.

Following strike action by cabin crew in 2009 BA sought volunteers from their ground staff to train as cabin crew.

‘Colleagues who knew him described him as mild mannered, well educated and respectful.’

But before he moved to the new job, the intelligence services swooped and arrested him at his desk at the BA call centre in Newcastle in February 2010.

His arrest stunned colleagues who ‘knew him described him as mild mannered, well educated and respectful’, Mr Laidlaw said.

‘He was observant, praying and fasting as required. He attended both the Grange Park mosque and the University of Newcastle mosque.

‘He was not associated with any group at either mosque and he was not known to hold or to have expressed any radical views.

‘The defendant belonged to a gym and played football. It was as far as anybody could tell a perfectly ordinary life he was living.’

Police found a hard drive at his rented flat in Newcastle with encrypted messages from his brother and Al-Awlaki which suggested Karim had received ‘terrorist training’.

They included messages sent to his brother Tehzeeb when it is believed he was in a terror training camp in Yemen.

Only a month before his arrest, Karim had completed an application form for naturalisation as a British citizen, having been given indefinite leave to remain in the UK on January 15 2009.

Karim has admitted fundraising for the purposes of terrorism, possessing a document useful for terrorists — the chemistry of explosives — and three counts of engaging in conduct in the preparation of terrorism attacks.

He admits producing the video of JMB to inspire terror attacks, fundraising for terrorists in Yemen and offering himself to terrorist training for insurgent activities or encouraging others to do so.

He denies four counts of engaging in the preparation of terrorist acts.

This includes seeking work to acquire information useful to terrorism, contacting al Awlaki and providing him with information, and acquiring information from BA to disrupt airline activity or place a bomb on an aircraft.

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Imam Guilty of Raping Boy at Mosque

A Muslim cleric has been convicted of raping a young boy as he attended Islamic education lessons at his mosque.

Mohammed Hanif Khan, 42, was also found guilty by a jury at Nottingham Crown Court of sexual activity with a child, as well as the two counts of rape.

The charges relate to two boys who attended the mosque in Capper Street, Stoke on Trent, where he was imam, in 2009.

Prosecutor Tariq Bin Shakoor told the jury part of Khan’s job was to lead prayers and give Islamic education lessons to boys at evening classes.

He told the court one of the boys claimed in police interviews that he was singled out by Khan after evening prayer on several occasions. He was sexually assaulted in various areas of the mosque which were not covered by CCTV, Mr Shakoor told the court.

The other boy was assaulted when he was an overnight guest at Khan’s house, the jury of six men and six women were told. But in his evidence to the court Khan, of Owler Lane, Sheffield, said he had a close relationship with the youngsters because he tried to help them with their unruly behaviour, adding that he would often be more lenient on the boys if they were late or did not turn up for classes at the mosque because he was aware they had issues at home. Khan’s lawyer, Robert Woodcock QC, asked him who had invited him to get involved in the family’s business and he said it was mainly the mothers of the two boys who asked for his help.

Khan, who told the court he travelled to Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, India and Cyprus to complete his imam training, showed no emotion as the jury delivered its verdicts…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


UK: Muslim Minister Mohammed Hanif Khan is a Rapist

ONE of Britain’s most respected Muslim ministers was behind bars last night for raping a boy of 12 and abusing another. Mohammed Hanif Khan — honoured by Princess Anne at Buckingham Palace for his work — preyed on the lads when they went to his mosque for religious lessons.

Imam Khan, 42, play-wrestled with one boy after prayers then raped him. He told his terrified victim: “You’re my bitch.”

The boy told his father — and a 15-year-old cousin revealed he had been abused. Furious relatives attacked father-of-four Khan before he was arrested.

The twice-wed holy man, whose mosque is the largest in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs, was the Prison Service’s first full-time Muslim minister. Khan was convicted at Nottingham Crown Court yesterday of rape and a sex act…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


UK: Stoke-on-Trent Imam Guilty of Sexually Abusing Boys

A Muslim cleric has been found guilty of sexually assaulting two boys at a mosque in Stoke-on-Trent.

Mohammed Hanif Khan, 42, had denied charges of rape, attempted rape and sexual activity with a child.

A jury at Nottingham Crown Court found Khan, of Owler Lane, Sheffield, guilty of two counts of rape and one of sexual activity with a child.

The offences took place at the mosque on Capper Street between July and October 2009.

Khan has been remanded into custody and will be sentenced at a later date.

Religious education

The jury could not reach verdicts on other charges against the imam and were discharged from doing so.

Nottingham Crown Court heard Khan was imam of the mosque, where he led prayers and delivered religious education lessons to boys at evening classes.

Prosecutor Tariq Bin Shakoor had told the court one of the boys claimed in police interviews that he was singled out by Khan after evening prayer on several occasions.

He was assaulted in areas of the mosque not covered by CCTV, Mr Shakoor said.

The other boy was assaulted when he was an overnight guest at Khan’s house, the jury heard.

In his defence, Khan said he had a close relationship with the boys because he tried to help them with their unruly behaviour.

‘Exploited trust’

His lawyer, Robert Woodcock QC, asked him who had invited him to get involved in the families’ business and he said it was mainly the boys’ mothers.

Don Knapper, district crown prosecutor, said it was a case of abuse of young boys by a man who they and their families trusted.

“Khan was in a position of trust and exploited the access he was afforded as their teacher to abuse the boys,” he said,

After the verdict, Det Insp Tim Martin from Staffordshire Police said it had been a thorough inquiry, and he realised the case had been cause for some “understandable concern” in the community.

[Return to headlines]


UK: WikiLeaks Files Reveal ‘Cold, Callous and Brutal’ Behaviour of Ministers

Documents obtained by the Daily Telegraph show that a Foreign Office minister sent Libyan officials detailed legal advice on how to use Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s cancer diagnosis to ensure he was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds.

The Duke of York is also said to have played a behind-the-scenes role in encouraging the terrorist’s release.

Susan Cohen, whose only daughter Theodora, 20, was one of 35 students from Syracuse University who died, said: “I am not surprised by this latest news but I am glad it is out there.

“I almost feel like laughing. This confirms everything that we have been saying, that business and oil deals were being done behind the scenes.” Mrs Cohen attacked the Scottish Government’s request for families of the victims to contribute in the lead-up to the decision, noting that the new documents suggest ministers had already made up their mind to approve Megrahi’s return home.

“How cruel that was to put the families through that,” she added. “It shows how cold, callous and brutal this whole affair has been. The Libyans closely followed the advice which led to the controversial release of Megrahi — who was convicted of the murder of 270 passengers on Pan Am Flight 103 — within months of the Foreign Office’s secret intervention.

The Daily Telegraph today publishes more than 480 American documents detailing international relations with the Libyan regime over the past three years.

The documents — obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to this newspaper — provide the first comprehensive picture of the often desperate steps taken by western Governments to court the Libyan regime in the competition for valuable trade and oil contracts. Any perceived political slight on the part of the Libyans often leads to western companies losing lucrative contracts with Gaddafi’s erratic behaviour a major problem in maintaining good relations. Last year, the British Ambassador is recorded as telling his American counterparts in Tripoli that he had to negotiate with the Libyans “on their terms” and should “not be frightened by the name Gaddafi”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


UK: WikiLeaks: 9/11 Gang With Pilot Uniforms Fled to London

Pilots’ uniforms, laptops, a smashed mobile phone and lists of air crew names were hardly typical holiday luggage, but nor did the hotel workers feel it was enough to merit calling the police. But the day after the guests checked out of the hotel, their odd behaviour suddenly seemed to make sense, to the horror of those who had witnessed it.

On September 11, 2001, as it became clear that Islamic terrorists were responsible for hijacking and crashing four aircraft with the loss of almost 3,000 lives, the hotel staff no doubt feared that their guests were among those responsible.

In fact, as we now know, the three Qatari nationals were all still alive and keeping abreast of the world’s worst terrorist attack from the safety of a hideout in London.

They had left Los Angeles on Sept 10 and flown to Heathrow on an overnight British Airways flight, then laid low for two days before taking another BA plane to Doha, where they quickly disappeared. The emergence of a secret US embassy dispatch, which detailed the three men’s extensive contact with a suspected fixer in the 9/11 attacks and visits to the eventual targets, raises the disturbing possibility that the US narrowly escaped further carnage because of a last-minute hitch. Meshal Alhaji, 35, Fahad Abdulla, 36, and Ali Alfehaid, 35, had all been booked on a flight to Washington on Sept 10, 2001, but for some reason failed to board the aircraft. The following day, the same Boeing 757 crashed into the Pentagon.

Were the Qataris a fifth suicide team tasked with attacking another target, such as the White House or the Statue of Liberty, both of which they had visited?

The US embassy cable from Doha, which was obtained by the WikiLeaks website, makes it clear that the FBI would very much like to find the men, together with their alleged fixer, to ask them that question. The fact that the Qataris flew to and from America via London also throws the spotlight back on Britain’s role in the 9/11 attacks. Three of the hijackers, including the ringleader, Mohammed Atta, had watched videos of speeches by the London-based cleric Abu Qatada, while Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker”, worshipped at the Finsbury Park Mosque when it was controlled by the notorious preacher Abu Hamza.

Exactly why the three Qatari men named in the Doha embassy document in February last year were not mentioned in the exhaustive 9/11 Commission report is unclear. But they did appear in an FBI list of more than 300 people investigators wanted to speak to in 2002, and the two-page embassy cable, typed in block capitals and sent in February 2010, leaves no doubt that US investigators believe they could have been part of the plot.

The Qataris, in their mid-twenties at the time, arrived in America on Aug 15, 2001, on a BA flight from Heathrow to Newark, New Jersey. Over the following nine days, they followed the tourist trail on the east coast, visiting the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty in New York, and then travelling on to Washington DC, where they went to the White House “and various areas in Virginia”. How the FBI knows of the men’s movements is not disclosed in the cable, though one possibility is that photographs were discovered on laptops or mobile phones that the men might have left behind. By the time the Qataris arrived in the US, the 19 men who went on to carry out the 9/11 attacks were already in America, where several of them had spent months at flight training schools so they could take the controls of the hijacked aircraft. There is no suggestion the Qatari men had any contact with any of the 19 hijackers. On Aug 24, the Qataris flew to Los Angeles on American Airlines flight 143, where they checked into an unnamed airport hotel, paying cash for a three-bed room with a checkout date of Sept 10. At first, they allowed hotel staff to clean their room as normal, and maids could not help but notice the unusual array of items they had brought with them.

As well as pilot-type uniforms, there were cardboard boxes addressed to Syria, Jerusalem, Afghanistan and Jordan; several laptop computers, one of which was attached to a mobile phone by a wire; a smashed mobile phone and pin-feed computer printouts with headers listing pilot names, airlines, flight numbers and flight times.

The fact that air crew routinely stayed at the hotel perhaps allayed the staff’s worst suspicions of the men, though their concerns were heightened when, during the last few days of their stay, the Qataris “requested that their room not be cleaned”. Investigators later discovered that the three men had spent a week travelling around California with Mohamed Ali Mohamed al Mansoori, a 19-year-old from the United Arab Emirates.

Although he has never been named before in connection with the 9/11 attacks, the secret cable discloses that: “Mr Al Mansoori is currently under investigation by the FBI for his possible involvement in the 11 September 2001 attacks.

“He is suspected of aiding people who entered the US before the attacks to conduct surveillance of possible targets and providing other support to the hijackers.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Vikings’ Crystal Clear Method of Navigation

Viking sagas may have been more truthful than we realised. Crystal “sunstones” could have helped Viking sailors to navigate even when cloud or fog hid the sun. Vikings navigated using sundials calibrated to show the direction of the North Pole. While there is no physical evidence for the navigational techniques adopted on cloudy days, there are references in the Viking sagas to “sunstones” being used.

In 1967, Danish archaeologist Thorkild Ramskou suggested that sunstones may work by creating a pattern of light that revealed the hidden sun’s location — although sceptics countered that the method is unwieldy, if not unworkable. It is only within the last 10 years that Ramskou’s theory has been put to the test, and the results, summarised in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0194), claim to demonstrate that the sunstone method does work in cloudy or foggy conditions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Fiat: 940 Million Euros Investment in Serbia in 2011

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 31 — Fiat will invest a total of 940 million euros in Serbia this year, with the launch of two new models. This is according to the Serbian paper, Vecernje Novosti, which quotes the head of Fiat Automobili Srbija, Giovanni De Filippis, Bloomberg reports.

Fiat aims to produce 200,000 vehicles in Serbia in 2012, though the figure could reach 300,000. 95% of vehicles will be for the UE and American markets, the paper adds.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Two Members of Al Qaeda Killed

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 31 — Two members of armed groups affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have been killed by the Algerian army in Oued Foudda, not far from Chelf in the West of Algeria, a report by official news agency APS says.

According to the same source, two Kalashnikov rifles and two clips were recovered during the operation. The bodies are now being identified.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Algeria: Explosion in Tebessa, 2 Soldiers Critical

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 1 — Two soldiers were seriously injured when a hand-made device exploded in Tebessa, near the Tunisian border.

Local press reports, citing security sourcesm, say that the bomb was remotely activated as the army passed through an area near El Mazraa.

Security forces have been involved in a counter-terrorism operation in the region for the last ten days. Armed groups close to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are known to be hiding out in the mountains of the Ergo.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Algeria: Students Protests in Kabylie for Rule of Law

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 1 — Thousands of students peacefully protested this morning in Tizi Ouzou , in Kabylie, demanding “a real university” as well as “democratic liberties and a rule of law,” local sources told ANSA. The demonstration, organised by the students of the Mouloud Mammeri University of Tizi Ouzou were also supported by opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy Party (RCD). Law enforcement officials, said the same source, “did not intervene” and “no incidents occurred”. The group of students, which according to some witnesses numbered 5000 in total, marched on the main roads of the Berber capital. The demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Criminals in power”, as well as “Stop the corruption” and “Bouteflika get out!”, in addition to others about the university and school.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Mutes Its Religious Message for Protests

The Islamist opposition group backs Mohamed ElBaradei, a secularist with Western democratic principles. Longer term, it’s unclear how its ideology will fit in a new Egypt.

Reporting from Cairo — The medical students marched and sweated in protest.

“The fear is broken,” yelled Bahaa Mohammed. “We want freedom.”

“And Islam,” said his friend. “We need Islam.”

“Yes,” said Mohammed, hushing the young man. “But first freedom and the will of the people.”

The exchange in the streets of Cairo between the students, both members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, is a telling glimpse into the Arab world’s largest Islamic organization as it joins other opposition groups seeking to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak. The Brotherhood is muting its religious message amid a popular revolt that is not driven by Islam or politics.

The organization’s strategy became more apparent Sunday when it announced support for opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei as a transitional president if the Mubarak government is toppled. The move was recognition that ElBaradei, a secularist with Western democratic principles, is the most potent symbol for change in a nation desperate for fresh voices.

“The revolution does not belong to any one group,” said Esam Shosha, a movement member. “We are one country. It’s not just about the Brotherhood, at least not now; it’s about all Egyptians.”

Whether that attitude survives in a post-Mubarak era is uncertain, but it suggests that after a week of uprisings the Brotherhood understands the emerging dynamics of Egypt. The organization, which runs religious and social programs across the country, believes that backing ElBaradei for now is the best chance to further its political ambitions.

“They don’t want to appear as if they’re using this revolt to seize power,” said Wahid Abdul Magid, an analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “What they want is free and fair elections to allow them to take power transparently. This would show their real popularity in the Egyptian street.”

The question is whether the organization’s religious agenda fits easily into an Egypt that is more tolerant and susceptible to Western-style liberalism and hip TV preachers. The Brotherhood’s beliefs are moderate when compared with many of the world’s more militant Muslim organizations. But it rejects the idea that a woman or a Christian could be president of a Muslim country, and would tilt the nation’s laws toward stricter Islamic codes. And it would certainly ban alcohol and topless beaches at the resort of Sharm el Sheik.

“The Muslim Brotherhood has always been a concern for secular and even religiously devoted Egyptians because of fear that their Islamic ideology could damage the country’s image and hurt tourism,” said Emad Gad, a political analyst.

Founded in 1928 by a teacher in the Nile Delta, the Muslim Brotherhood has had a history of bloodshed and intrigue in a nation where many have embraced its form of Islam while the government has labeled it a terrorist threat. Its radical wing was accused of attempting to assassinate President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954, and it has long supported the radical group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Estimated to have 600,000 members, many of them educated and middle class, the Brotherhood said it rejected violence decades ago. Its social and health programs have filled gaps in the state’s failing public services in this nation of 80 million people. During the 30 years under Mubarak’s rule, thousands of its members have been arrested. It has been further weakened by internal divisions over its role between religion and politics.

In 2005, after then-President George W. Bush urged Mubarak to allow freer elections, the Brotherhood won 20% of the seats in parliament. The result left Washington and Cairo worried that Islamic parties were on the rise across the region. The Egyptian government responded by purging the organization, culminating in the Brotherhood’s defeat in last year’s legislative elections, widely regarded as rigged by the ruling party.

The organization, politically isolated, debated strategies. Then in mid-December, the Tunisian uprising started, eventually forcing President Zine el Abidine ben Ali from office this month. A similar fervor ignited in Egypt, and the Brotherhood, careful not to officially endorse street protests for fear of another crackdown on its leaders, urged its young members into the streets alongside secular groups such as the April 6 movement.

It also asked its young rank and file to keep diaries of their thoughts on the gathering revolt. Their involvement in Tuesday’s protest drew accusations from Mubarak’s security forces that the Brotherhood was instigating violence and sedition. But by Friday, the organization, calculating that the president was vulnerable, sent thousands of its young and old members marching through Cairo, Suez and other cities.

“It was a revolution that started with young people with no political agenda. It was important for the Brotherhood to send its youth,” said group member Shosha, 31, whose cellphone holds videos of Egyptians who were beaten and shot during protests. “Our young members are probably more educated and more knowledgeable in demonstrations and how to handle police tactics.”

Mohammed Bedeir, a 23-year-old member, said: “We’ve been told to take part in the protest to pile the pressure on the regime. We’ve been telling the soldiers in the streets, don’t side with the government or at least don’t attack us. We’re asking them to stay in the middle and let us demonstrate.”

What surprised the Brotherhood and other traditional opposition groups was a protest movement without slogans, news releases and position papers. It came from the people, students and middle class at first, then swelling across economic and social lines. It has forced the organization to recalibrate its message in a world where the old boundaries have shifted.

That may not be easy.

“A Christian Copt or a woman cannot be president of a Muslim nation,” said Shosha, a broad-shouldered man, who sat in the Brotherhood’s headquarters in Cairo watching the protests on TV. “This is a religious point, not a political one. But it will be the Muslim leader’s role to protect the rights of Copts and women.”

Shosha said he was 12 when he befriended older Brotherhood members at a neighborhood mosque. Their message was to suffuse all aspects of life — job, family, politics — with Islam.

“Then I grew up and entered university, and I started thinking if the Brotherhood only wanted power it wouldn’t have lasted so long after all the state oppression against it since 1950s,” said Shosha. “It’s still here doing the work of God.”

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]


Egypt: 1 Million in March, Protesters Gather in Tahrir Square

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 1 — A number of anti-government demonstrators are gathering in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square at the start of the day of the “march of a million” announced yesterday, Arab media outlets report.

The destination of the march is the presidential palace. There is a heavy military presence in Tahrir Square, with army officials observing the gradual arrival of protesters, who are already in their thousands.

Internet connections remain frozen throughout the country, with the last provider still in service, the Noor group, blocked yesterday. The American giant Google has announced that it has teamed up with Twitter to create a system allowing tweets to be sent without needing to connect to the internet. Trains are also at a standstill, as the government attempts to stem the flow of protesters arriving in Cairo.

Meanwhile, the main opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei, has called for Washington’s policy to be reviewed. “Confidence must be built in the people, not in those who oppress them,” said the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The appeal to the US President, Barack Obama, came in an interview with CNN.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Zewail Returns, Credible Post-Mubarak Figure

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 1 — Ahmed H. Zewail, one of the strongest candidates for the post-Mubarak Egyptian Presidency, is expected back in the country today, and is due to land in Cairo at 3:00 this afternoon.

Zewail, who is 54, is one of the main figures mooted to lead Egypt after Mubarak, alongside Mohamed ElBaradei and Amr Moussa, among others.

Two days ago, Zewail underlined his solidarity with protesters in an open letter to the daily Al Shorouk newspaper. He claimed that the people “are determining their own destiny”, adding that Egyptians “have lost faith in the system” and in the regime.

Announcing his return to the country, Zewail said that he would join a committee for constitutional reform alongside Ayman Nour, Mubarak’s rival at the 2005 presidential elections and a leading lawyer.

Zewail was born near Alexandria I 1946 and moved to the California Institute of Technology, in the U.S., upon completing his studies. The Egyptian chemist won the Nobel Prize in 1999 for his research in the field of high-speed lasers used in the study of chemical reactions. The studies also earned him the 1993 Wolf Prize for chemistry.

Zewail was the first Egyptian, and indeed the first Arab, to be awarded a Nobel Prize for science.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Pro-Mubarak Demonstration Also Seen in Cairo

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 1 — Thousands of pro-Mubarak demonstrators are gathering along the Nile in front of the Foreign Ministry. They are chanting slogans in support of the leader, such as “Mubarak man of peace and war” and “Mubarak we love you”. A demonstrator explained that Mubarak’s supporters want the president to stay in office until the elections scheduled for the end of this year so that the country does not fall into chaos.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Coptic Bishop in Italy: We Support Mubarak

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 1 — “We are supporting Mubarak because we do not know what lies behind this demonstration and because he has done a great deal for Egypt and has always been on the side of peace”. Barnaba El Soryani, the Coptic Bishop of Italy, is explaining the position being taken by Egypt’s Coptic Christians towards the President being targeted by the street demonstrations in Cairo and other cities in the country.

Born in 1959 in the village of Dandara, in the Governerate of Qena, El Soryani has been in Italy since 1990. “I spoke to Mubarak on Friday,” he said, “we called him to find out how he and his family is. Egypt in a state of anarchy and unrest: we are very concerned”.

The idea of El Baradei taking over power is not one that he finds convincing: “He has only just returned to Egypt and has been away for too long. In truth, he doesn’t understand our country any more; the situation of the youth. It would be too early for him to take on a position of responsibility “.

But has Mubarak defended Christians in Egypt? “These are not my words, but those of His Holiness Shenuda III”, the Coptic Pope.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Mubarak to Announce He Will Not Stand, Al Arabiya

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 1 — According to a leaked story on Al Arabiya, Egypt’s President Mubarak’s speech tonight will include the statement that he will not be standing as a candidate in the next general election but that he will remain in office until then in order to respond to the demands that have emerged from the wave of protest.

Further, President Mubarak, is apparently intending to stay in power until the next elections.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt Treasures Looted, But Public Strikes Back

To save sites, citizens and researchers form human chains and get inventive.

In Cairo on Friday, looters broke into the Egyptian Museum, which was “not well guarded,” according to Egypt’s top antiquities official, Zahi Hawass. The museum is home of some 120,000 historical objects, including a famous gold funerary mask of King Tut (picture), officials say. The looters damaged—but didn’t manage to steal—dozens of artifacts, including a statue of King Tut standing atop a panther and two royal mummies, whose heads fell off during the raid. (See pictures of King Tut tomb treasures.)

“A lot of the things that were broken off were gilded wood, so I think they were after gold,” UCLA Egyptologist Willeke Wendrich told National Geographic News. “The restoration of those objects, even if all the parts are still there, will be very difficult, time consuming, and costly,” she added. “This is really fragile wood.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Hosni Mubarak Won’t Seek Re-Election, Urges Speedy Elections

Crowds Gathered For Largest Day of Protests Yet Demand Mubarak’s Immediate Removal

Egypt’s embattled President Hosni Mubarak, today announced he will stay through his term but will not run when the elections are held in the next few months, a promise that did little to appease protesters calling for his immediate removal.

“My first responsibility is to restore the security and stability of the homeland, to achieve a peaceful transition of power in a way that will protect Egypt and Egyptians and that will allow for responsibility to be given to whomever the people elect in the forthcoming elections,” Mubarak said in his second speech to the nation since the protests began a week ago.

A stoic Mubarak announced that he will ask the new government to speed up elections, which are scheduled to be held in September. He vowed to fulfill people’s demands, to protect the citizens honestly, and end corruption.

Striking a patriotic tone and emphasizing his military background, the 82-year-old, who has held on to power for 30 years, defended his own record and suggested he will die on Egyptian soil even when he steps down from power.

“I never wanted power or prestige, and people know the difficult circumstances in which I shouldered responsibility. … I have spent enough time preserving Egypt,” Mubarak said. “History will judge me.”

Crowds jammed shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, in Cairo cheered loudly as Mubarak made his announcement. But while the mood was jubilant, Mubarak’s message wasn’t enough as protestors shouted “Go now! Go! Go!” and “We Will Not Go. You Go Mubarak.”

Demonstrators, now in their eighth straight day of protests, vowed to stay in the square until Mubarak leaves office…

[Return to headlines]


Egypt: The Turning Point, The Regime’s Plan on What to Do Next

By Barry Rubin

In 1978 and 1979 I followed the Iranian revolution on a daily and hourly basis. Even before the hostage crisis, recognizing the importance of this event, I began work on a book. The title? Paved with Good Intentions. This came from the expression, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

This is precisely might be what is happening now. Out of “good intentions,” the United States is headed—though I hopes it can still be averted—the biggest catastrophe in the history of its relations with the Middle East. Thirty years after Iran’s revolution produced a similar situation, nothing has been learned by U.S. policymakers. Nothing.

Let me be clear: Removing Mubarak is NOT the problem. There is little doubt that he will lose power personally, something that would have happened within months any way given his age. The most hated and corrupt figures will flee the country.

The question is whether the regime—the current system—will survive. As of this moment (for reasons you can read four paragraphs down) I believe that the regime that has ruled Egypt for 59 years is finished. Is that a good thing? Well, it depends on what happens.

It is not inevitable that the Muslim Brotherhood will take over. Even the Brotherhood doesn’t want that in the near future. It is far more likely, though, that Egypt would become a radical, anti-American state perhaps with some restraint (see point 1, below). The army will play a critical role one way or the other.

But nobody should neglect the reality of public opinion. Here’s a report direct from the massive demonstration in Cairo today by a friend interviewing people there:

Demonstrators in Tahrir Square are increasingly saying this is not a fight against Mubarak. This is a fight against Israel and the United States whose interests he’s implementing.

But, many will say, isn’t it the fault of these countries for supporting Mubarak? The answer is: And would the situation be better if they had never done so? At any rate, it is January 2011 and, like it or not, one has to deal with the existing reality.

We now have for the first time a glimpse of what the Egyptian establishment is planning, from a source very close to the vice-president Omar Suleiman, who is the closest thing to someone running the country. His plan is to dissolve parliament; write a new constitution; call new parliamentary elections; and later hold presidential elections.

Suleiman is a very positive force. He has wanted to be president for a long time, hated the idea that Gamal Mubarak, the son, would succeed Husni. If anyone in Egypt can save the situation, he’s the man. For his candid views, read this Wikileaks document. Of course, precisely because he understands the Iranian and revolutionary Islamist threat, the opposition will want to get rid of him as fast as possible.

This is probably the best that can be expected. Notice that this would all be organized by Suleiman and the regime-appointed officials. If this could be implemented there would be some hope. If the incumbent ruling party and army can hold together, perhaps some continuity could be possible. Of course, a critical question is how many votes the current ruling party might muster. Would Egyptians fearful of extremism vote for those associated with Mubarak? Or would extremist Egyptians put an extremist government into office?

But note also that this plan is carefully formulated. Mubarak doesn’t want to go and the establishment either doesn’t want or fears confronting him. This plan, then, goes around the problem. Mubarak stays and after a year or so there would be a new election, by which time he might have died, been disabled, step down, or choose not to run. One can see the army liking this plan.

Yet for this very reason—Mubarak stays on for a while—the opposition, smelling blood, might reject it…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


Guestview: Unrest in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Jonathan Wright is a longtime Reuters correspondent in the Middle East who is now a translator and blogger based in Cairo.

By Jonathan Wright

As in the case of Tunisia, a succession of commentators have remarked on the small role the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have played in the unrest in Egypt. One of the latest I have seen came from Michael Collins Dunn, the editor of the Middle East Institute. “Do you see any beards? Well, maybe a few beard-and-mustache looks of some young hipsters, but not the beard-without-mustache ‘uniform’ we associate with the Muslim Brothers,” he writes.

I think Dunn is mistaken here on several counts. For a start, Muslim Brothers come in many guises, and the ‘beard-without-mustache’ look is hardly a Brotherhood uniform. He may be confusing Muslim Brothers with salafis, while the two groups are quite distinct, though with some overlap. From my own experience on the streets (see my earlier reports on my blog), I believe people are underestimating the level of participation by members of the Brotherhood, though I will readily concede that they have not taken part at full strength and at a level which reflects their demographic weight.

There are several possible and obvious reasons for this. Let me offer a few of them:

  • The Brotherhood, from long experience of confrontation with the Egyptian authorities, is always wary of commitment to street protests. It will calibrate its level of participation to its assessment of the chances of success. If it overreaches, it runs the risk of a massive crackdown. For the moment, probably rightly, it is not convinced that the protests will overthrow the regime.
  • The Brotherhood knows that the world (especially the United States and Europe) are watching events in Egypt closely. If the protests appear to be Brotherhood-led, the government will feel free to use much more brutal methods to disperse protesters. For the moment it suits the Brotherhood’s interests to give the impression that there is a broad coalition united against Hosni Mubarak, including liberals and leftists. This explains why Brotherhood members who have taken part in the protests have refrained from chanting slogans with religious connotations. The impression of a broad coalition also helps domestically — if the Brotherhood take the lead, it would frighten off some of the other groups.
  • The Brotherhood, like Islamist groups in many Arab countries, has cold feet about governing. It does not feel it is ready. This is reflected in its official strategy of concentrating on a political reform agenda which it shares with many other groups — free and fair elections, rule of law, a new constitution with checks and balances and so on. What the Brotherhood wants most in the short term is the freedom to organize and promote its ideas in a democratic environment, regardless of who is in government. The Brotherhood believes that, given freedom and time, it can win over Egyptians to its long-term agenda.
  • The current state of sectarian (Muslim-Copt) tensions in Egypt, especially after the bombing of the church in Alexandria at the New Year, is not conducive to a protest movement in which Islamist slogans and objectives are prominent. Such slogans would be a distraction and could backfire against the Brotherhood.

    I’m not going to venture a guess at the level of Muslim Brotherhood participation but, judging from my chance encounters with protesters, any assertion that the movement is absent or very thinly represented is probably wishful thinking. By the way, many Brothers are clean-shaven, wear suits and ties and are physically indistinguishable from other Egyptians of the same class.

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]


Hardtalk — Mortimer Zuckerman: Muslim Brotherhood Would be a Disaster for Egypt [Video]

Mortimer Zuckerman is a US billionaire and influential member of the American Jewish community.

He owns the New York Daily News and is a prominent commentator on US policy in the Middle East.

He says if the opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood were to come to power in Egypt it would be a ‘disaster’ and enormously damaging to US interests in the region.

Stephen Sackur asked him if it is time for the US to rethink its strategy in the Middle East…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Inside the Muslim Brotherhood’s Plans for Egypt’s Future

The Islamic organization’s new chairman Dr. Badie, and another top Brotherhood official, tell La Stampa that Mubarak must go, so the people can choose their leaders. What if they choose an Islamic state?

Paolo Mastrolilli

“My husband would have been very happy to speak to you, but he’s in jail.” The wife of Essam El Erian, the spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, sounds distraught on the phone, but not desperate. Banned by the government, the Brotherhood and their families have gotten used to roundups by the authorities. “They took him on Friday, after prayers. I haven’t heard from him since. If you want to speak to Mohammed Badie, the best thing is to go to the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters in person.”

We take El Erian’s advice and head straight for the Manial district, and a beautiful residential street along the river, called El Malek El Saleh. Waiting for us at the top of the marbled front steps are two security guards dressed in black. We explain that we have an appointment, but they already know: a quick security search, and we find ourselves in the waiting room on the first floor. In a gentle Arabic cadence, a secretary lets us know that Dr. Badie, the new Muslim Brotherhood General Guide, is expected at a meeting of opposition leaders and will only be able to offer us a few minutes of his time. We head up to the second floor, where a carved wooden door leads to his dark offices. This organization is officially banned in Egypt, as President Hosni Mubarak’s regime has equated them with Al Qaeda, thanks in part to their old links with Osama Bin Laden’s deputy, the Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri. Still, the nameplate on the door does not try to hide who they are: first in Arabic and then in English, it reads “Muslim Brotherhood.”

Badie, 67, a trained veterinarian, who last year became the eighth supreme leader in the history of the organization founded in 1929, is said to want to focus the Brotherhood on more social activities. He hails from the more traditionalist wing of the organization. Bearded and wearing a traditional fez, he lays out their view on the unprecedented challenge to the Egyptian president’s 30-year reign: “Our line is clear: the regime has failed and is now collapsing. There is only one way out: Mubarak must listen to the people and resign. Then the people will decide how they want to be guided.”

We ask if the sudden swell of the protest has caught him off guard. “It does not matter. What counts is that it’s happening and that we support it.” Will the revolution be used to create an Islamic state? “This is something the people must decide.”

Before leaving for his meeting, Badie introduces us to Sherif Abul Magd, an engineering professor at Helwan University, who led the Muslim Brotherhood in Giza: “He speaks for me.”

Abul Magd wastes no time, and in perfect English goes on the attack: “Mubarak is stupid, or he is getting bad advice. The regime is finished. The people on the streets are demanding his resignation, and what does he do? He names (Omar) Suleiman as Vice-President and (Ahmed) Shafiq as Prime Minister, two men from the military. Is this the message he wants to send? Doesn’t he understand that to salvage the situation he should at least have chosen civilians? Anyway, these are his problems. For us, he’s finished. “

For now, however, Mubarak is still in place. But as he shifts on the couch that faces out the window toward the river, Abul Magd explains the strategy: “Continue the protest until he resigns.” The tanks worry him, but ultimately he believes that “the army will line up with the people, and against the dictator. In any case, the protest should not challenge the military: we do not want a bloodbath. The protesters should peacefully demonstrate every day to repeat their demands: the government will not hold on for long. What can he do? If tomorrow Mubarak blocks access to Tahrir Square, we’ll go elsewhere. Stopping the demonstrations is easy, all he has to do is resign.”

If this happens, the Muslim Brotherhood already has a plan in place. Abul Magd explains: “The Constitution states that in such cases the leader of the Parliament assumes the interim presidency. In our opinion, it is not enough. He should be surrounded by five highly respected judges from different backgrounds, to create a presidential committee. This committee should make changes to the Constitution in favor of more democracy, and then hold parliamentary and presidential elections within two months. At that point the power will be back in the hands of the people.”

Before being arrested, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Essam El Erian had told us that the protests had caught the organization by surprise, a sign that it is not all-powerful in Egypt. “This should reassure the West,” Abul Magd says.

But do they have the power to create an Islamic state? “We are convinced that Islam is the best model of life. Just look at our laws, 80% of which are inspired by Muslim principles,” Abul Magd says. “The Islamic state is not in conflict with democracy, but it must be up to the people to choose it.” And if you are chosen, will the peace process with Israel continue? “Why a peace process? Israel only wants to impose its will, with the help of the Americans and (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud) Abbas. The PLO no longer represents the Palestinian people. Peace is impossible without an agreement with Hamas.”

Abul Magd shrugs off the suspicion that the Muslim Brotherhood is an offshoot of Al Qaeda: “Al Qaeda no longer exists. Maybe it existed years ago, but now is just an invention of the CIA to justify the war on terrorism. “

It is time to leave, for Abul Magd to join Badie at the summit of opposition leaders, and he offers to accompany us in his car. On the way, we encounter a roadblock of vigilantes, who block the road with sandbags, “You see? This is the fault of the police, who have disappeared,” he says. “They’ve also opened the doors of the prisons to send the criminals in the city. It is part of a plan of the Ministry of the Interior to terrorize the people, and give Mubarak an excuse for his crackdown.”

Abul Magd says the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters will not be intimidated. “These leaders are traitors who deserve to face a court-martial. But meanwhile, our people already controls the streets.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Muslim Brotherhood: ‘Prepare Egyptians for War With Israel’

A leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt told the Arabic-language Iranian news network Al-Alam on Monday that he would like to see the Egyptian people prepare for war against Israel, according to the Hebrew-language business newspaper Calcalist.

Muhammad Ghannem reportedly told Al- Alam that the Suez Canal should be closed immediately, and that the flow of gas from Egypt to Israel should cease “in order to bring about the downfall of the Mubarak regime.” He added that “the people should be prepared for war against Israel,” saying the world should understand that “the Egyptian people are prepared for anything to get rid of this regime.”

Ghannem praised Egyptian soldiers deployed by President Hosni Mubarak to Egyptian cities, saying they “would not kill their brothers.” He added that Washington was forced to abandon plans to help Mubarak stay in power after “seeing millions head for the streets.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Netanyahu Says Radical Islamic Groups May Try to Exploit Egyptian ‘Chaos’

Israeli leaders are concerned that radical Islamic groups will take advantage of popular protests in Egypt and elsewhere in the Muslim world and try to seize government control.

“The sources of the instability, the central source, does not stem from radical Islam, not in Tunisia or Egypt,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday in Jerusalem at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “But it is true that in a situation of chaos, an organized Islamist entity can take over a country. It’s happened in Iran and at other places as well.”

Israel has been watching protests in the Arab world this month starting with Tunisia, where leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled on Jan. 14 following mass demonstrations. Yemen has also been the site of anti-government rallies.

Israel’s shekel tumbled to a more than four-month low against the dollar during trading yesterday as investors sought the relative safety of the dollar. The currency dropped as much as 1.4 percent to 3.7498 per dollar, the lowest level since Sept. 16, and traded 0.3 percent lower at 3.7080 per dollar as of 10:25 p.m. in Tel Aviv.

Egypt’s upheaval could have a “seismic” impact on the region and no country will feel it more acutely than Israel, analysts say.

‘Big Blow’

Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel in 1979, has been cooperating with Israel to restrict arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Hamas Islamic militant group. Egypt and Israel share a 130-mile border and they also share a concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“This is a big blow,” former Israeli trade minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Israeli Army radio on Jan. 30. Ben- Eliezer, the Israeli politician closest to President Hosni Mubarak, spoke to the Egyptian leader over the weekend. Mubarak is “the only leader that I know who identifies himself, in a clear way, with the importance of the peace agreements with Israel,” the former minister said.

Mubarak on Jan. 29 named intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as vice president, the first time in his 30-year rule that he has named a deputy, and former air force commander Ahmed Shafik as prime minister.

Suleiman as Mubarak’s replacement “would be the positive scenario” for Israel, said Eli Shaked, the country’s ambassador to Cairo from 2003 to 2005.

‘Paving the Way’

He’s “committed to peace with Israel, the special ties with the U.S., and the heritage of Sadat-Mubarak,” Shaked said. A likely scenario was that he would be a transitional figure, “paving the way for the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

“We will be changing one dictator with another — one who will be very anti-American, anti-West,” Shaked said.

Jonathan Alterman, director of the Middle East Center at the Center for International and Strategic Studies in Washington, said such a change in Egypt would mean “the way Israelis calculate their entire strategic position is going to change.”

It “could be a seismic change on the size of the Iranian Revolution of 1979” that brought conservative religious leaders to power, said David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute for Near East’s Policy Project on the Middle East.

Israel established an embassy in Cairo, its first in any Arab country, in 1980, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. About 50 normalization agreements have followed, largely economic and cultural, to enhance that peace, according to the Israeli ministry.

Contain Hamas

Mubarak’s hostility to Iran was on full display in 2008 diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, in which he calls Iranians “big, fat liars” who “justify their lies because they believe it is for a higher purpose.”

Israel and Egypt have cooperated to contain Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and smuggles weapons into the territory through tunnels from Egypt. The U.S., EU and United Nations consider Hamas a terrorist group.

Israel and Egypt also have both been targeted by the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah. Egypt arrested 49 alleged Hezbollah militants in April for planning to obtain explosives, among other things. And Egypt has come under attack from al-Qaeda, a branch of which attacked the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh in 2005.

“They’ve seen the world more commonly than they’ve differed,” Makovsky said.

Gaza Strip

“Israel has to be concerned about how Mubarak’s downfall could affect the situation in the Gaza Strip,” said Yoram Meital, director of Ben Gurion University’s Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy in Beersheba. If the Egyptian army halts cooperation with Israel, it could allow more heavy weapons, such as anti-tank missiles, to be smuggled into Gaza, Meital said. “That would make a difference in any future military action that Israel may take in the future,” he said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Obama Urges Mubarak Not to Run Again, American Diplomats Say

President Obama has told the embattled president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, that he should pledge publicly not to run for another term this fall, effectively withdrawing American support for its closest Arab ally, according to American diplomats in Cairo and Washington.

The message, conveyed by Frank G. Wisner, a seasoned former diplomat with deep ties to Egypt, was not a blunt demand for Mr. Mubarak to step aside now, the diplomats said; rather, he was told to allow free and fair elections in September to elect his successor.

The message, authorized directly by Mr. Obama, appears to take the administration beyond the delicately balanced calls it has already issued for an “orderly transition” to a more politically open Egypt.

[Return to headlines]


Stakelbeck: Who is the Muslim Brotherhood?

With fears that the Muslim Brotherhood could gain power in Egypt, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a short CBN report on the group’s roots, ideology and goals.

My hope was to get the average American up to speed on why a Brotherhood-led Egyptian state would be so dangerous to American and Israeli interests. You can watch by clicking the link above.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]


Synagogue Torched in Tunisia: Jewish Leader

Arsonists set fire to a synagogue in the southern Gabes region of Tunisia, a leader of the local Jewish community said Tuesday. “Someone set fire to the synagogue on Monday night and the Torah scrolls were burned,” Trabelsi Perez told AFP, criticising the lack of action by the security services to stop the attack.

“What astonished me was that there were police not far from the synagogue,” added Perez, who is also head of the Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba, the oldest synagogue in Africa…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Tonight: Radical Muslim Cleric’s Take on Egypt [Video]

Tonight on Parker Spitzer, we will talk with radical Muslim cleric Imam Adjem Choudary about the situation in Egypt.

The last time he was on the show, Eliot Spitzer confronted him, saying, “You are a violent and heinous terrorist.” Click here to watch that video from Oct. 29, 2010…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Total Internet Blackout in Egypt, Google to the Rescue

The search engine provides three phone numbers through which you can call to send messages to Twitter, a microblogging site.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) — On the day that promises the march of the million on the streets of the capital internet has been totally blocked in Egypt, along with public transport, in an attempt to prevent those involved in the protest from communicating between each other. Even the provider Noor Group, the only to remain active in these days, has been disconnected, throwing the country into complete isolation. On January 27 Link Egypt, Vodafone / Raya, Telecom / Etisalat Misr and Egypt — the main companies — were shutdown.

Google, in response to the blocking of the Internet in Egypt, has created a way to send messages to the Twitter microblogging service, by making phone calls. Voice messages left at +16504194196, +97316199855 or +390662207294 will be instantly converted into ‘tweets’, messages, and posted on the Twitter platform with a ‘hashtag’ #egypt identification. To listen to the messages, people can call the same numbers or connect to twitter.com/speak2tweet.

The creators of the initiative Abdel-Karim Mardini, product manager at Google, and Ujjwal Singh, co-founder of SayNow, said: “We hope this can help the people in Egypt in some way to keep in touch, in such a difficult time” .

The Renesys analysis centre based in New Hampshire reports that the Noor Group shut down began at 20.46 GMT yesterday.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Kasserine, Public Buildings Attacked

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 31 — The southern Tunisian governorate of Kasserine has for some hours now been the scene of a series of attacks by a band of criminals. Gangs have attacked the delegation of North-Kasserine, the House of the Youth, the headquarters of the Polytechnic and the Cattle Rearing office of Kasserine, with the population in a state of terror. According to the TAP press agency, “the absence of law enforcement officers and the inability of the army to bring the explosion of violence in the region under control have contributed to a further deterioration of the situation”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Incidents in Central Tunis

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 31 — Police have intervened this afternoon using teargas to disperse groups of youths who had been gathering in front of the headquarters of the Interior Ministry in Avenue Bourghiba. After calling on the demonstrators to disperse, the police charged the group after some of the protestors had started attacking nearby shops. In the same area this morning, a demonstration was held calling for the dismissal of police officers who had connections with the previous regime. The situation calmed down after a cloudburst brought torrential rain to the city.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Gafsa: Demonstration of Young Jobless

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 31 — Young and unemployed high-school graduates came together this morning at the government building in Gafsa. They claimed their right to work and expressed their concerns about the future. The group made it clear that the 150 dinars per month (around 70 euros) paid by the State while the graduates are waiting for a stable job are not sufficient for their needs. Later they formed a procession which crossed the city’s streets. Similar demonstrations were organised in other centres in the region.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Situation Still Tense in Le Kef, Schools Attacked

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANAURY 31 — Tension remains in the Tunisian city of Le Kef and in other towns in the governorate. A group of people yesterday attacked the Le Kef offices of the Union Générale des Travailleurs Tunisiens (UGTT), setting the building on fire, though the blaze was quickly brought under control and material damage kept to a minimum.

School officials in the area, meanwhile, have asked for “protection and security”, with schools being attacked by unknown factions. The regional secretary of the UGTT says that the attacks have been provoked by groups loyal to the erstwhile President Ben Ali.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Arsonists Burn Synagogue in Southern Tunisia

Arsonists set fire to a synagogue Monday night in the southern Gabes region of Tunisia, damaging the synagogue’s Torah scrolls, a Jewish community leader said.

AFP — Arsonists set fire to a synagogue in the southern Gabes region of Tunisia, a leader of the local Jewish community said Tuesday.

“Someone set fire to the synagogue on Monday night and the Torah scrolls were burned,” Trabelsi Perez told AFP, criticising the lack of action by the security services to stop the attack.

“What astonished me was that there were police not far from the synagogue,” added Perez, who is also head of the Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba, the oldest synagogue in Africa.

Twenty-one people were killed, including 16 European tourists, when Al-Qaeda bombers attacked Ghriba in April 2002.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


What the Future May Hold for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood has been Egypt’s largest opposition group for years.. Now, with the regime of President Hosni Mubarak wobbling, the organization could find its way into power — and is doing its best to look legitimate. A Koran, two crossed swords and a message: “Prepare yourselves.” The crest of the Islamist Egyptian group Muslim Brotherhood is nothing if not martial. Perhaps even a bit too martial for the international press. On the first floor of a shabby apartment building on El-Malek El-Saleh street in downtown Cairo, the group — which for years has been Egypt’s largest opposition movement — is receiving a gaggle of scribes from abroad. And the official symbol is nowhere to be seen. Even verses from the Koran or photographs of the holy Kaaba in Mecca, of the kind that hang in living rooms across Egypt, are absent. Instead, visitors are confronted with desks piled high with fliers, packed bookcases and cabinets full of file folders. The message is clear: The Muslim Brotherhood is but a normal political party, right down to the business cards, water fountain and chalk board.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


WikiLeaks: Diplomats Worry Who Will Succeed Gaddaffi

Succession is not straightforward, not least because of the ambiguous role of Col Gaddafi, who does not hold any public office or title. Officially, Col Gaddafi — who reportedly suffered a stroke in 2007 — is referred to as leader of the “Jamahiriya”, an Arabic term meaning “state of the masses”.

However, without a formal constitution, there is no legal mechanism for passing on power to a new leader.

The clear favourites are his sons Saif al-Islam and Mutassim, followed by Khamis, Hannibal and Saadi, and his daughter Aisha. Saif’s repeated calls for political-economic reforms in Libya have also endeared him to Western governments.

With a £2 million house in north London and a non-governmental body based in Switzerland, he is portrayed as a civilising influence, His main rival is Mutassim, who wields enormous influence as the country’s national security adviser.

He accompanied Col Gaddafi on visits to Russia and Italy in recent years, and in 2008 asked the state oil company for $1.2 billion (£749m) allegedly “to establish a military/security unit akin to that of his younger brother, Khamis”. The cables noted that “it is historically not a good thing when rival Libyans have armed militias at their disposal”. In March 2009, one cable said “the current level of discord among Gaddafi’s children is acute”, with Saif and Mutassim not speaking “for months”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Egypt: HRW: Hamas Bans Demonstrations in Gaza

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, FEBRUARY 1 — Hamas officials in Gaza have banned any demonstration of support for the Egyptian people in their fight to bring down the regime of Hosni Mubarak, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The organisation has learned that dozens of demonstrators coordinated a meeting on Facebook and gathered in a Gaza park yesterday, where they planned to express their solidarity with the Egyptian people. Hamas police forces, however, stopped them from demonstrating. Six women were arrested and forced to sign a document saying that they would no longer take part in unauthorised protests, HRW reports.

Hamas officials in Gaza have so far been very reserved with regard to the revolt ongoing in Egypt. “We hope that calm will soon return and that the Egyptian people will be able to express its demands freely,” said Salah Bardawil, a local Hamas representative, a few days ago.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

After Protests, King Abdullah II of Jordan Dismisses Government

Jordan’s Royal Palace says the king has dismissed his government in the wake of street protests and has asked an ex-army general to form a new cabinet, the Associated Press reports.

The move by King Abdullah II comes after thousands of Jordanians took to the streets — inspired by the regime ouster in Tunisia and the turmoil in Egypt — and called for the resignation of Prime Minister Samir Rifai, who is blamed for a rise in fuel and food prices and slowed political reforms.

[Return to headlines]


Arab Emirates: Oman Spying Accusations ‘Categorically’ Denied

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, JANUARY 31 — The United Arab Emirates (UAE) are “shocked” by the arrest of an alleged spy for the UAE secret services by the authorities of Oman. “The UAE categorically deny any knowledge of links with the alleged espionage network mentioned in the press”, the Foreign Ministry announced in a statement released this morning in the local press. An official of the Sultanate of Oman was quoted yesterday by press agency AFP saying that the security forces had dismantled an UAE espionage network that was working on the mechanism of succession of the Sultanate. Oman is governed by sultan Qabus bin Said Al Said since 1970 after he deposed his father, and has no wife or children. In the absence of direct heirs, the succession will be entrusted to the royal family or the Council of Oman. “The UAE”, the statement concludes, “offer their full cooperation to the investigations to find out the truth and to unmask this complot which is aimed at damaging the good relations between the two countries”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Assad Says Syria Immune From Unrest Roiling Egypt

Syria’s president said Monday that his nation is immune from the kind of unrest roiling Tunisia and Egypt and said the leaders in Middle East must “upgrade” themselves and their societies to keep up with the demands of their people.

In a rare interview, Bashar al-Assad was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as acknowledging that the toppling of Tunisia’s longtime ruler and the protesters that have left Hosni Mubarak’s government teetering in Egypt signaled a “new era” in the Middle East.

But he said Syria was insulated from the upheaval because he understood his people’s needs and has united them in common cause against Israel. He also blamed the trouble on the West — primarily the United States — for failing to push through peace between Israel and the Arabs and for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Anger feeds on desperation,” he was quoted as saying.

The Syrian leader said it was too early to judge impact of events in Egypt and Tunisia on the region, but he said the situation in his own country was stable.

“We have more difficult circumstances than most of the Arab countries, but in spite of that Syria is stable. Why? Because you have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people,” al-Assad said, according to the paper. “This is the core issue. When there is divergence .. you will have vacuum that creates disturbances.”

He said Arab societies had become more closed-minded since the 1980s, leading to extremism and less development and openess. The challenge for leaders was how to open societies and build up institutions.

“If you didn’t see the need of reform before what happened in Egypt and Tunisia, it’s too late to do any reform,” he said, cautioning however against rushing through reforms in response to events in those two countries. “You have to upgrade yourself with the upgrading of the society. This is the most important headline.”

al-Assad, a 45-year-old British-trained eye doctor, inherited power from his father, Hafez, in 2000. He is seen by many Arabs as one of the few leaders in the region willing to stand up to arch enemy Israel. And his support for Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups opposed to Israel as well as his opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq has won him more support among his people than other Arab rulers.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Egypt Crisis: Israel Faces Danger in Every Direction

The Middle East is in ferment at the moment — but despite the general excitement, the outcome could be a grim one for Israel, and for the West more generally.

In the past few weeks, we have seen a president ousted in Tunisia. We’ve seen protests in Yemen. We’ve seen Iran essentially take control of Lebanon, where its proxy, Hizbollah, has ousted a relatively pro-Western prime minister and inserted its own candidate. We’ve seen the King of Jordan rush to sack his cabinet amid escalating protests. We’ve seen reports that similar demonstrations are planned for Syria, where the president, Bashar Assad, will find it far harder to get away with gunning down the crowds than his father did in 1982. And most dramatically, we are seeing the regime in Egypt — the largest, most important Arab country — totter, as President Mubarak faces unprecedented popular protest, and the likelihood that he will have to step down sooner rather than later.

It is tempting to be smug. Egypt’s blink-of-an-eye descent into instability underlines afresh the uniqueness of Israel, that embattled sliver of enlightened land in a largely dictatorial region. Those who like to characterise it as the root of all the Middle East’s problems look particularly foolish: the people on the streets aren’t enraged by Israel, but because their countries are so unlike Israel, so lacking in the freedoms and economic opportunities that both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs take for granted.

Yet the country is deeply concerned. The main worry is over a repeat of the events in Iran a little over 30 years ago, when popular protest ousted the Shah, only to see him replaced by a far more dangerous, corrupt, misogynist and intolerant regime. Iran is plainly delighted by what is unfolding. With peerless hypocrisy, a government that mowed down its own people less than two years ago is encouraging the same spirit of protest in Egypt. Its allies in the Muslim Brotherhood are well placed to fill any leadership vacuum — and, for all the group’s dubious claims to be relatively moderate, it embraces leadership figures deeply hostile to Israel and to the West. The Muslim Brotherhood, it should not be forgotten, gave birth to Hamas, the terrorist group which now runs Gaza, after killing hundreds in its takeover.

The danger for the Egyptians is that, when the protests are over, their brave efforts will have replaced Mubarak not with a leadership more committed to freedom and democracy, but quite the reverse. Yet for Israelis, it underlines the challenges we face when it comes to peacemaking…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Iran: An Islamic Middle East Against Israel

(ANSAmed) — TEHRAN, FEBRUARY 1 — The overthrow of regimes in power in a number of Arab countries, including Egypt, would lead to an improvement in their relations with Iran and the creation of “an Islamic and powerful Middle East capable of opposing Israel”. The comments were made today by Iran’s Foreign Minister, Ramin Mehman-Parast.

“The great popular action that we are seeing in the Middle East and North Africa is aimed at putting an end to dependence on the major powers,” said Mehman-Parast in his weekly press conference. “It is an Islamic reawakening and its outcome will depend on the situation in the region and on the people”.

Tehran broke off diplomatic relations with Cairo over 30 years ago, after Iran’s Islamic revolution, in protest against the Camp David peace treaty signed by the then Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat and Israel.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, said yesterday that he was afraid that a radical Islamic regime, similar to that of Iran, could emerge in Egypt.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Jordan: King Appoints New Prime Minister to Carry Out Reforms

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, 1 FEB — King Abdullah of Jordan on Tuesday dismissed prime minister Sameer Refai and appointed former army general Marouf Bakhit to head a new government that will seek reform, according to palace sources.

“The new government will lead efforts to carry out real political reform that reflect a vision of reform,” said a palace statement.

The appointment of the Bakhit, a former prime minister, comes surprising the opposition which has been pushing for a wider reform. “This is a disappointing news. We did not expect that,” said Jameel Abu Baker, spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood.

King Abdullah has been recently engaged in meetings with top figures in the kingdom on hope of finding means to overcome pressure on his regime following the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Jordan has witnessed a spat of protests in the past three weeks demanding political and economic reforms.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Lower House Supports Freezing Contacts With Iran

THE HAGUE, 01/02/11 — The Lower House is supporting the decision of Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal to freeze all official contacts with Iran. The Party for Freedom (PVV), small Christian parties ChristenUnie and SGP and also the Socialist Party (SP) consider this step does not go far enough.

Last weekend, it emerged that the Dutch-Iranian woman Zahra Bahrami had been hung in Iran. “The Netherlands is extremely shocked by this execution, this outrage,” said Rosenthal. “We did our utmost to prevent this act of barbarism.”

The day before the execution last Saturday, “I learned from ambassador Abadi that proceedings were still ongoing in Ms Bahrami’s case,” Rosenthal fumed. “I very much regret the fact that Iran has not kept its word and that we had to hear this appalling news from the media.”

Rosenthal has frozen all official contacts with Iran. “This and other measures reflect the horror felt in the Netherlands at the execution”. The Iranian ambassador Gharib Abadi was summoned to the ministry on Saturday, where he confirmed Iranian media reports that Bahrami had been hung.

The Iranian ambassador in the Netherlands will now only receive limited access to the Dutch authorities. Dutch-Iranians have been advised against travelling to Iran. Incidentally, Iran has also meanwhile called the Dutch ambassador to account.

As well as the conservative (VVD) and Christian democratic (CDA) cabinet parties, Labour (PvdA) and centre-left D66 support the minister’s steps. So do PVV, ChristenUnie, SGP and SP but they do not think they go far enough.

Only the leftwing Greens (GroenLinks) considers the reaction inappropriate. “Freezing contacts and doing nothing is no option,” according to MP Arjan El Fassed.

PVV leader Geert Wilders considers that “the Iranian ambassador must be expelled immediately.” MP Joel Voordewind of ChristenUnie also terms Rosenthal’s measures “not yet adequate” and urges the recall of the Dutch ambassador from Tehran. “Let the Netherlands also take the lead in Europe now by, like America, introducing an entry ban for eight Iranian officials for their role in the bloody oppression of the peaceful demonstrations about the elections,” he added.

SGP leader Kees van der Staaij also urges the recall of the ambassador. SP MP Harry van Bommel is less unequivocal. “Recalling the ambassador for consultations appears to me necessary.” On the other hand, he says that freezing all official contacts with Iran sounds tough, “but I want to know what exactly Rosenthal means by this.”

VVD and CDA are not against the recall of the ambassador, but “there are more Dutch nationals in Iran, and it is also important to support the family of Zahra Bahrami,” according to VVD MP Atzo Nicolai. “I can imagine that the ambassador cannot be recalled because he can support the family.”

PvdA MP Frans Timmermans supports Rosenthal’s decisions. “I want talks with him soon on the followup, so that we can chart what further measures are necessary, for example in the EU context. D66 leader expressed similar views.

The embassy of Iran in The Hague says Bahrami has been convicted of delivering cocaine from the Netherlands to Iran and opium from Iran to the Netherlands. “She was also a member of an international drug trafficking organisation. It is worth mentioning in this context that she has been travelling to various countries using three different Iranian, Dutch and Spanish passports with different personal information in each passport.”

The embassy of Iran says “we all regret the fact that an Iranian citizen has committed a crime that resulted in the capital punishment”. The embassy maintains that Bahrami “has gone through a lawful judicial process and has enjoyed duly all her legal rights”. The case is “an internal issue” and “should have no impact on the mutual relations” between the Netherlands and Iran.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Obama Has Failed to Fulfill His Mideast Promise

A Commentary by David J. Kramer

In recent months, the Obama administration has shifted its focus away from the Middle East. This approach might be justified if the situation were getting better there, but things are getting worse. Of the people living in the region, 88 percent live in countries that lack honest elections, a free press and rule of law.

A few months into his presidency, Barack Obama delivered what still ranks as the most ambitious foreign policy address of his administration. Presented at Cairo University, the speech set forth the outlines of a “new beginning” between the United States and the Muslim world.

While many of the president’s words focused on contentious issues like Iraq and Iran’s nuclear program, he also spoke eloquently about the centrality of democracy to the Muslim world’s future. He said the United States would support “elected, peaceful governments” and endorsed democratic values like free expression, honest government and “freedom to live as you choose.” He spoke of a “single standard for all who would hold power.”

By his words, the president demonstrated that he, like President George W. Bush before him, understood that the Middle East’s “democracy deficit” contributes in important ways to the strategic problems that feed regional instability and pose threats to the rest of the world. Put another way, governments responsive to the popular will would not serve as incubators for jihadis.

Obama Fails to Fulfill Vision

Unfortunately, President Obama’s subsequent actions have failed to fulfill the promise of his Cairo vision, especially when it comes to confronting concerns over repression when committed by autocracies of the Middle East, to say nothing of China or Russia.

This pattern was established during the protests over the 2009 Iranian elections when the administration mustered little more than a pro forma objection to the suppression of the opposition movement. It continued with the administration’s non-response to last November’s sham elections in Egypt, in which the ruling party orchestrated results comparable to those in such obvious dictatorships as Syria and, until recently, Tunisia. And we witnessed it in the initial reactions to the latest developments in Tunisia and Egypt in which senior US officials came across as supportive of unpopular authoritarian regimes out of a false sense that those governments were best for stability and security in the region or because they mattered for energy interests or the Middle East Peace Process.

The risk to such a pattern, of course, is that we become associated, fairly or not, with propping up repressive leaders who could, before we know it, be on their way out.

An American president can certainly employ other tactics to nourish the spirit of freedom in authoritarian societies. There is quiet diplomacy through which the American government tries to persuade autocrats to loosen political control and release political prisoners. In this regard, the WikiLeaks documents suggest that US diplomats in authoritarian countries were shrewd, concerned about growing repression, and often sympathetic toward the political opposition. The United States also helps promote freedom by supporting local activists working for women’s equality, press freedom and minority rights. But nothing substitutes for clear public statements from the Oval Office affirming support for freedoms of expression and association and condemning those regimes that violate fundamental human rights.

A Dismaying Record

If freedom was gaining headway in the Middle East, the Obama Administration’s shift in emphasis away from the region and its less active approach might be justified. In fact, things are getting worse. According to Freedom House’s latest report on global freedom, fully 88 percent of the people in the region lived in countries where honest elections, a free press, and the rule of law are unknown, a grim record that is actually worse than five years ago. The Middle East ranks at the bottom on each of the indicators that measure a country’s level of freedom. Of the 20 countries ruled by “leaders for life,” five are from the Middle East (the number was six until Ben Ali fled Tunisia).

This is a dismaying record, but we should remember that societies with equally dismaying environments have overcome tyranny and attained stable democracy. The Middle East, however, has no regional model to look to; indeed, the Assads and Mubaraks understand that freedom in one country is a danger to all the rest and will act accordingly.

Those who are on the streets in Tunis and Cairo understand that large segments of their own elites regard their actions with hostility. They have put aside the grievances of the recent past because they regard America as their principal ally whose solidarity is critical to the success of their democratic revolutions. Many of their placards are in English, and in interviews they direct their appeals to the United States. It is crucial that their voices are heard, their cause embraced, and that the Obama administration take the steps necessary to fulfill the spirit of Cairo.

David J. Kramer, 46, served under George W. Bush as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. Today he is executive director of Freedom House in Washington. The organization’s research director, Arch Puddington, also contributed to this article.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Secularism, Globalization and Poverty Feed Crisis in Arab States

Egypt, the most important of the Arab states in danger of collapsing under the weight of social unrest. Other Arab countries like Jordan, Syria and Yemen face the same fate. Francesco Zannini, an expert on Islam in PISAI explains to AsiaNews the reasons for the riots, inherent in the formation of Arab States and the juxtaposition of the western model of democracy and Islam. For the scholar, the secular nature of the riots is an opportunity for change and also a good opportunity for Egyptian Christians to integrate into society. However, “the absence of alternative to the regimes and spontaneous nature of the protests, could divert tensions from real change and the result of the protests will be seen only in the long term.”

Rome (AsiaNews) — The wave of social unrest that started mid-January in Tunisia, has spread to Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Yemen. Since January 25, in Cairo, Alexandria and other Egyptian cities hundreds of thousands of people continue to patrol streets and squares, demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. The Rais, thirty years in power, shows no sign of giving up and in recent days has promised reforms and a new government, but meanwhile has cut off all internet communications and deployed the army. Since the beginning of the protests around 150 have people died in the clashes. Currently in Amman, Sana’a and other Arab cities, the situation remains under control and there have been no serious clashes.

What is the future of the protests? Will Islamic extremists ride the institutional crisis in Egypt and other countries. Will there be a domino effect elsewhere in the Islamic world? AsiaNews asked Francesco Zannini, an expert on Islam and professor at the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies (PISAI), about the reasons that triggered the riots. According to the scholar, globalization, the economic crisis and emptiness of Islamic fundamentalism have combined to create what appears to be a real crisis of Arab States.

“You can not approach the Arab world, in the same way as the West — says Zannini — democracy in the West was forged in the sixteenth century. Through five centuries of experiments, failures and revolutions it has come to today’s democratic forms and the declaration of universal human rights. The Arab world has had to travel this path in less than 50 years. This is a very important factor that explains the crisis of Arab States and the recent riots. “

Zannini identifies the creation of nation states as another factor related to the current crisis of Islamic countries. “It took place in a very fast — he said — and with a divergence of views between government and governed. The revolutions that led to the independence of the Arab states were conducted by secular leaderships, who then ruled over people still deeply tied to religion”. According to the Islamic scholar it is this difference that has created, in the past, a basis for conflict, particularly in cases where the secular government has not been able to keep its promises.

“In Egypt — he continues — the transition from the Turkish rule to democracy was only a formal step. The old feudal masters were replaced by political lords. Now many Islamic countries are governed a series of ‘kings’ who dominate according to feudal rules typical of the Arab world. “ Zannini recalls that “in these countries, elections are only a formality and the circles of power are tied to a single party, or the dominant groups.”

The role of the West in supporting regimes

In recent years the role of the Western world has been another factor. Zannini says that the West “entered Islamic countries through economic neo-colonialism and supported the political leaders. Its excessive interference has created an unstable economic and social situation. “ “And in this humus — the scholar underlines — Islamic fundamentalism was born.”

“The first to latch on to this wave of instability — he adds — were, in fact, the fundamentalists. They have imposed the principles of Islam as a utopian alternative to capitalism and mass socialism, riding the discontent of the population. The extremists have come out against the exploitations of the West, guilty of having contributed to the creation of a non-egalitarian Islamic society and different from that described in the Koran. “ According to the scholar, fundamentalism is not able to change anything politically, it only affects the masses, but with some success in Sudan and some Asian countries.

Zannini stresses that so far “the only one to have obtained some results was Khomeini.” “During the regime of the Shah — he says — the Iranian ayatollah drew on popular discontent of a social nature. Who really ousted Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was the intellectual socialist and communist opposition, the first to strongly criticize the regime. Khomeini, thanks to his charisma, was able to take advantage of the socialist ideal amalgamated with the Islamic religion. “ According to Zannini the population would not accept the religious ideal without the support of socialism already present and rooted in the intellectual and bourgeois.

Globalization and secularism, the crisis of Islamic fundamentalism

Except for Iran, according Zannini the project of radical Islam to impose at a political level the principles of the Koran as a guide to the rebirth of the Arab countries has been seriously undermined, mainly because of the terrorist drift.

“The idea proposed by Islamic radicals — says the scholar- does not have strong roots in traditional Muslim culture and it is only an ideological and practical attempt to respond to the contemporary world. Unlike the great philosophies such as Marxism, Islamic fundamentalism can not evolve into other forms, because it is tied to a particular situation. Indeed, it has been successful at a social and cultural level, but has failed at the political level, where it has had to adapt to find consensus, changing its rigid nature. “ Zannini points out that after the success of Khomeini, the fundamentalist Islamic ideology is now landlocked. “The first element — he says — is the absence of a leader able to embody Islamic values. The second is the excessive extension of its field of action which, in fact, includes most Islamic countries. The third element is a media and cultural globalization. “ According to Zannini students and the middle class, while remaining linked to religion, are absorbing the principles of secularism thanks to the Internet and the media, which change their conceptions in an unconscious way. “This — he said — is very important because secular principles, in addition to separate religion and state, get rid of leaders. In Islamic culture these represent traditional spiritual continuity with the prophet that the people must obey. “ “In the past — he continues — many political leaders were supported by the mullahs, who through the Koran allowed them to maintain power. Today, secularism, thanks to globalization, has the power to break the aura of leaders invulnerability. “

The political and institutional fragility of Islamic states

The structure of the Muslim nation is unclear from the very beginning. The scholar points out that Muslim countries are born with mixed constitutions which juxtapose parts of sharia and parts of Western law are very different from European constitutions that have been obtained from a slow merger of Christianity with secular philosophies. “The concept of nationhood — he adds — is juxtaposed against the Islamic religion, the sacred concept of the state. The leadership that led to the independence of Arab States has reinterpreted the structure of Islam in a nationalist light. “

The scholar believes that this confusion has led to a series of institutional problems, the relationship between secular and religious elements, management of political and economic power, that has bankrupted both national regimes and fundamentalist forces. Added to these in recent years the economic crisis and the awareness by the population that they are being ruled by corrupt leaderships. Zannini says that all these have combined to give rise to the riots that have broken out in Tunisia and Egypt.

The risk of a domino effect. The future of the revolts

According to the Islamic scholar Muslim countries are like fragile mountains that risk collapsing one after another. “In Tunisia — he says — people did not merely protest, but spread their ideas on websites, facebook and other social networks, affecting the populations of other States, as far as Yemen.”

The future of the revolts, however, is uncertain and it is impossible to understand how they will evolve. Zannini says that “at the moment the situation is like an erupting volcano, the problem will come when the ashes settle. Who will be the new leader in Tunisia? In the case of a fall of Mubarack will ElBaradei be able to lead Egypt? “

Despite the uncertainties, this crisis situation, however, could give hope to the Christian world. “In Egypt — he adds — the possible overcoming of hostilities between Muslims and Copts, linked more to cultural than religious reasons, would give Christians the possibility of greater participation in society.”

Another scenario is related to the entry into play of Islamic extremists, who have already started profiting from the popular dissent, but according Zannini they are deterred by the erosion of the same fundamentalism, which has reduced its influence on the population. “In times of confusion — he says- there may always be danger and al Qaeda could take advantage of the crisis.”

In this scenario, the role of the West has been severely reduced. According to Hussein Majdoub, a Moroccan journalist of the newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi, counting on the Western world has now become a pure “political fantasy. “ He stressed that the Islamic world must be able to bring about their own change. “The absence of alternatives to the regimes- claims Zannini — and the overly spontaneous nature of the protests, however, are likely divert attention to change and the result of the revolts will only be seen in the long term.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Spengler: Food and Failed Arab States

Even Islamists have to eat. It is unclear whether President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt will survive, or whether his nationalist regime will be replaced by an Islamist, democratic, or authoritarian state. What is certain is that it will be a failed state. Amid the speculation about the shape of Arab politics to come, a handful of observers, for example economist Nourel Roubini, have pointed to the obvious: Wheat prices have almost doubled in the past year.

Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer, beholden to foreign providers for nearly half its total food consumption. Half of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day. Food comprises almost half the country’s consumer price index, and much more than half of spending for the poorer half of the country. This will get worse, not better.

Not the destitute, to be sure, but the aspiring and frustrated young, confronted the riot police and army on the streets of Egyptian cities last week. The uprising in Egypt and Tunisia were not food riots; only in Jordan have demonstrators made food the main issue. Rather, the jump in food prices was the wheat-stalk that broke the camel’s back. The regime’s weakness, in turn, reflects the dysfunctional character of the country. 35% of all Egyptians, and 45% of Egyptian women can’t read.

Nine out of ten Egyptian women suffer genital mutilation. US President Barack Obama said Jan. 29, “The right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny … are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.” Does Obama think that genital mutilation is a human rights violation? To expect Egypt to leap from the intimate violence of traditional society to the full rights of a modern democracy seems whimsical.

In fact, the vast majority of Egyptians has practiced civil disobedience against the Mubarak regime for years. The Mubarak government announced a “complete” ban on genital mutilation in 2007, the second time it has done so — without success, for the Egyptian population ignored the enlightened pronouncements of its government. Do Western liberals cheer at this quiet revolt against Mubarak’s authority?

Suzanne Mubarak, Egypt’s First Lady, continues to campaign against the practice, which she has denounced as “physical and psychological violence against children.” Last May 1, she appeared at Aswan City alongside the provincial governor and other local officials to declare the province free of it. And on October 28, Mrs Mubarak inaugurated an African conference on stopping genital mutilation.

The most authoritative Egyptian Muslim scholars continue to recommend genital mutilation. Writing on the web site IslamOnline, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi — the president of the International Association of Muslim Scholars — explains:

The most moderate opinion and the most likely one to be correct is in favor of practicing circumcision in the moderate Islamic way indicated in some of the Prophet’s hadiths — even though such hadiths are not confirmed to be authentic. It is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to a midwife: “Reduce the size of the clitoris but do not exceed the limit, for that is better for her health and is preferred by husbands.”

That is not a Muslim view (the practice is rare in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan), but an Egyptian Muslim view. In the most fundamental matters, President and Mrs Mubarak are incomparably more enlightened than the Egyptian public. Three-quarters of acts of genital mutilation in Egypt are executed by physicians.

What does that say about the character of the country’s middle class? Only one news dispatch among the tens of thousands occasioned by the uprising mentions the subject; the New York Times, with its inimitable capacity to obscure content, wrote on January 27, “To the extent that Mr. Mubarak has been willing to tolerate reforms, the cable said, it has been in areas not related to public security or stability.

For example, he has given his wife latitude to campaign for women’s rights and against practices like female genital mutilation and child labor, which are sanctioned by some conservative Islamic groups.” The authors, Mark Landler and Andrew Lehren, do not mention that 90% or more of Egyptian women have been so mutilated. What does a country have to do to shock the New York Times? Eat babies boiled?…

[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Ben Ali’s Son-in-Law in Qatar, Abused by Tunisians

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 1 — Sakhr el-Materi, Ben Ali’s son-in-law and the object of an international search warrant, is living in freedom in Doha, Qatar. Business news reports that he has been seriously abused and attacked in a shopping centre in Doha by some Tunisian residents in the country. The police has ended the dispute and has arrested two Tunisians, who spent a night in prison.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkish Army to Train Syrian Army

Turkey and Syria have agreed for the Turkish military to provide training for the Syrian army, diplomatic sources said Monday.

Sources talking on condition of anonymity said Turkey’s Deputy Chief of General Staff Aslan Güner visited Damascus in December and discussed the training of the Syrian army.

During his visit, Güner participated in the Turkey-Syria High-Level Military Dialogue Meeting. Sources said the two countries debated the training of armed forces during the meeting. In this context, the two countries also discussed in detail the training of Syrian soldiers by Turkish soldiers.

Military experts think the Syrian army, which was an ally of the former Soviet Union for years, could transition to a more Western style if Syrian soldiers were trained by Turkish soldiers.

The Turkish and Syrian armies came to the brink of war in 1998 because Syria harbored members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. However, the two countries arranged to cooperate against the PKK with the Adana Agreement signed that year, seen as a turning point of Turkish-Syrian relations. After the agreement, Syrian security forces staged many operations against the terrorist organization.

Relations between the Turkish and Syrian armies have been boosted with reciprocal visits of officers, and the two armies have taken part in joint exercises in recent years.

Syrian lawmakers headed by Ismet Mahli, the head of the Syrian-Turkish Parliamentary Friendship Group, is set to meet with the Turkish co-chair of the group, Mehmet Sandir. The lawmakers will visit the northwestern province of Bursa on Thursday and then proceed to Istanbul.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


US ‘Particularly Troubled’ By Hanging of Dutch Iranian Woman

The United States said on Monday it is ‘particularly troubled’ by the execution of a Dutch-Iranian woman found guilty of drugs smuggling.

‘The United States is deeply concerned that Iran continues to deny its citizens their human rights,’ state department spokesman Philip Crowley was quoted by news wires as saying. ‘We are particularly troubled by the recent execution of Dutch-Iranian national Zahra Bahrami, who was denied access to Dutch consular officials.’

‘Her execution is one of dozens carried out in recent weeks amid serious questions about the motives of the Iranian government and whether these prisoners were granted their rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,’ Crowley said.

Previous convictions

Meanwhile, current affairs show Nieuwsuur reported on Monday evening that Bahrami had a previous conviction for drugs smuggling in the Netherlands.

In 2003, she was found with nearly 16 kilos of cocaine in her luggage and sentenced to three years in jail with one suspended.

Foreign minister Uri Rosenthal said news of the sentence had no bearing on her trial in Iran, according to the programme.

Bahrami was hanged for drugs smuggling following her arrest in 2009 for taking part in anti-government protests. She was in Iran to visit her family.

Since the execution, the Netherlands has frozen contacts with Iran and advised other Iranian-Dutch nationals not to travel there.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan: US Calls for Release of Diplomat Suspected of Killing Two

Washington, 1 Feb (AKI) — The US State Dept. has reiterated its call for Pakistan to release an American diplomat suspected of shooting two people dead, saying Raymond Davis acted in legitimate self-defence and is shielding by international law that guarantees diplomats immunity from prosecution.

“He is a member of the embassy’s technical administrative staff and therefore entitled to full criminal immunity. He cannot be lawfully arrested or detained in accordance with the Vienna Convention,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley has said.

“In our view, he acted in self-defence, when confronted by two armed men on motorcycles,” he said, echoing Davis’ version of events that left two people dead.

Davis, “had every reason to believe that the armed men meant him bodily harm. And minutes earlier, the two men, who had criminal records, had robbed money and valuables at gunpoint from a Pakistani citizen in the same area,” said Crowley.

Earlier a Pakistani lawyer called for the American who shot dead two men last week to stand trial for murder despite US legal claims of diplomatic immunity.

Local lawyer Saeed Zafar filed the petition under public interest laws, claiming that Davis must stand trial in Pakistan and should be blocked from being handed over to the US government.

The US embassy in Islamabad has claimed diplomatic immunity on behalf of Davis, described as a consulate employee, who is under investigation on double murder charges after the shooting in Lahore Thursday.

Pakistan’s courts have so far refused to release the gunman.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Pakistan Judge Blocks Moves to Hand Over US Gunman

A Pakistani court on Tuesday blocked any move to free a U.S. government employee under investigation for double murder as Washington stepped up calls for his release, citing diplomatic immunity.

The U.S. consular employee, whom Pakistani police identified as Raymond Davis, was arrested last Thursday after shooting dead two motorcyclists, claiming that he acted in self-defense, fearing that they were about to rob him.

A third Pakistani was knocked down and killed by a vehicle from the U.S. consulate in Lahore that tried to rescue Davis. The American was instead arrested by police on suspicion of double murder.

The incident has aroused huge controversy in Pakistan, dogged by rampant anti-Americanism over Washington’s alliance with an unpopular government, the war in Afghanistan and U.S. missile attacks targeting Islamists in the northwest.

A senior Pakistani judge in Lahore on Tuesday blocked any move to hand the American over to U.S. authorities and put his name on the exit control list.

“I am restraining him [from being handed over to U.S. authorities]. Whether he has or does not have [diplomatic] immunity will be decided by the court,” ruled Lahore high court chief justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry. “An order is issued to put his name on the ECL [exit control list]. The case is adjourned for 15 days.”

A Pakistani lawyer had petitioned the Lahore high court under public interest laws to block any move to hand Davis over to the United States.

Washington says its employee belongs to its U.S. embassy’s “technical administrative staff” and is therefore entitled to “full criminal immunity.”

The Pakistani government has yet to confirm publicly the American’s diplomatic status, but some Pakistani lawyers and officials argue that immunity should be waived in cases of the most serious crimes.

Representing the Pakistani government in court, deputy attorney general Naveed Inayat Malik asked the judge to give “time” to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry to determine whether Davis has diplomatic immunity or not.

The United States on Monday again called for the American’s release, saying that he acted in legitimate self-defense.

“He cannot be lawfully arrested or detained in accordance with the Vienna Convention,” U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

Visiting U.S. congressmen on Monday asked Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to free Davis. The head of state told them, “It would be prudent to wait for the legal course to be completed,” according to his office.

Washington is adamant that Davis is being held unlawfully and supports his version of events that he was confronted by two armed men on motorcycles.

Davis “had every reason to believe that the armed men meant him bodily harm. And minutes earlier, the two men, who had criminal records, had robbed money and valuables at gunpoint from a Pakistani citizen,” said Crowley.

But serious questions remain about why he was driving around with a gun, the precise sequence of events and how the American came to see the motorcyclists as a threat. Neither have U.S. officials confirmed his name.

The Pakistani lawyer who brought the private petition, Saeed Zafar, argues diplomatic immunity can be waived for the most serious crimes.

Khawaja Haris, the advocate general of Punjab, the chief law officer in the province where Davis shot the motorcyclists, told the court that the Vienna Convention provides immunity to diplomats “within certain limits.”

Dr. Fakhar Zaman of Lahore’s Mayo Hospital conducted a post-mortem on the two motorcyclists and told AFP that they were hit mostly from the back.

He said Mohammad Faheem received bullets to the brain, left of his back, left arm, chest and abdomen, apparently fired through the windscreen of a car. He said Faizan Haider was shot in the chest, back and kidney.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Pakistani Teen Jailed for Blasphemy in School Exam

Police have arrested a Pakistani teenager accused of writing insulting comments about Muslim prophet Mohammed in a school exam, a senior police official said.

Police arrested 17-year-old Sami Ullah in Karachi after receiving a complaint from the local board of education, said Karachi police official Qudrat Shah Lodhi.

Lodhi declined to say what Ullah wrote in his high school exam for fear of violating Pakistan’s blasphemy laws himself. The controversial laws say whoever defiles the name of the prophet shall be punished by death or imprisoned for life.

The laws came into sharp focus late last year when liberal Pakistani politician Salman Taseer was gunned down after leading a public campaign to change them

Taseer said the laws were being misused to persecute minorities. Ullah — the latest Pakistani to be accused of blasphemy — is a Muslim, according to police.

He wrote the alleged blasphemous comments when taking a school exam in April 2010, police said.

It’s not clear why it took months for the board of education’s complaint against Ullah to reach police…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Sharia Brutality on a Raped Girl in Bangladesh

A teen-aged girl named Hena [14] was murdered by local Sharia Committee at Shariatpur in the southern part of Bangladesh. According to report, Hena, daughter of poor farmer named Darbesh Kha was forcefully abducted and raped on January 30, 2011 during late hours of the night by one Mahbub [40]. During this inhuman sexual abuse, villagers came on the spot at the hue and cry of Hena. At the same time, imam of the local mosque named Mofiz Uddin and a few teachers of Madrassa [Koranic School] led by Saiful Islam also came on the spot and instead of taking any action against the rapist, the Muslim clergies took Hena inside the Madrassa and locked her in a room. On the following day, the same imam and a number of members of the Sharia Committee in the village sat for trying Hena in accusation of ‘immoral sexuality’ before marriage. Later the committee decided to punish Hena with 200 slashes, while they took financial penalty of TK. 10,000 [US$ 150] only from the rapist.

During slashing, Hena became unconscious and she was rushed to the nearly village hospital where the attending doctors declared her dead.

After lodging of a murder case with the local police station, a few influential members of the local mosque committee as well as Sharia Committee are telling members of media that, Hena was involved in ‘immoral activities’ and the villagers caught her red-handed while she was having physical relations with a villager. Later the Sharia Committee punished Hena for such anti-Islamic and immoral activities. They denied admitting that Hena died due to slashing. It is further learnt that, a few political leaders of the locality are frantically trying to save the rapist and the members of the Sharia Committee.

Sharia Committees are gradually becoming influential in a number of Muslim nations in the world. Though such under the provisions of local laws, such committees are totally illegal, there has never been any action against such groups by any of the governments, as these Sharia Committees comprises influential leaders of the locality as well as members of various political parties and fronts…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

North Korea ‘Has at Least One Undeclared Secret Nuclear Facility’

North Korea is also continuing to proliferate nuclear and missile technology, most recently to Iran whose own nuclear program is causing growing international concerns, diplomats who had seen the report have warned.

The report to the UN committee monitoring sanctions against Pyongyang comes as momentum grows to restart talks between the two Koreas after a year of bloody military exchanges and heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.

South Korea’s president Lee Myung-bak said on Tuesday that he was open to a summit with the North’s ailing dictator Kim Jong-il, but only if Pyongyang apologised for its recent attack on the South and showed it was serious about nuclear disarmament.

UN diplomats told the Reuters news agency that the report contained information from a US nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker who visited North Korea last November and was left “stunned” by the sophistication of North Korea’s uranium enrichment facilities at Yongbon. “There’s no way they could have outfitted the centrifuge facility between 2009 and now without there being additional secret sites,” the diplomat said.

The report is expected to call for tighter implementation of UN sanctions imposed in 2006 and 2009 after the North’s two nuclear tests, and lengthening the blacklist of companies and individuals involved in Pyongyang’s illegal procurement activities.

The report will also call for “more vigorous export controls” by North Korea’s neighbours, a clear reference to China which has been accused of failing to implement strict enough controls on the North’s exports to Iran passing through its ports.

North Korea has already detonated two plutonium-based nuclear devices, which were only partially successful, but announced last year that it was now embarking on uranium enrichment, ostensibly for civilian purposes.

Analysts fear that if North Korea’s uranium program advances too far, it will make it increasingly difficult to monitor Pyongyang’s nuclear development since uranium — unlike plutonium — will allow the North to credibly claim it is for peaceful purposes.

After a sudden cooling-off of the rhetoric between the two Koreas before Christmas, momentum is building for a resumption of dialogue, with colonel-level talks due on February 8, paving the way for a meeting of the country’s defence ministers later in the month. “I don’t deny it,” said Mr Lee when asked during a live television interview if progress at forthcoming talks could lead to a summit between the two leaders. “We can have a summit if needed.” North-South summits were last held in 2002 and 2007, but relations soured after President Lee took office in 2008 ending a decade of aid to the North — the so-called ‘Sunshine Policy’ — and refusing to negotiate with Pyongyang as long as it refused to give up its nuclear arsenal…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Tajikistan to Lease Farmland to Chinese Guest Workers

Last week’s decision by the Tajikistan government to lease Tajik farmland to Chinese guest workers is already sowing seeds of discontent, according to a report.

Locals are outraged at the prospect of Chinese farmers arriving to work Tajik land, following Dushanbe’s decision last week to lease out 2,000 hectares of land to the Uighur Autonomous Region in western China.

That deal has added to simmering anger over the Tajik parliament decision just a week earlier to cede some 1,100 square kilometers of Tajik land, or about 1 percent of the county’s total land area, to China.

Many Tajiks, including Bakhtiyor, a young man interviewed by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service on the streets of Dushanbe who gave only his first name, reacted sharply to the decision.

“Why do they give land to China? There are no Tajiks [interested in it]? They do not give land to Tajiks. People live in desperate conditions … They should give land to our poor people,” he said.

The government has defended its decision, saying the mountainous and unpopulated land along Tajikistan’s eastern border contains little of value, with no farmland, minerals or other resources.

That hasn’t stopped Tajiks like this man from Dushanbe, who declined to provide his name, from openly questioning the way the government is parceling out Tajik land.

‘No Good Consequences’

“This trend has no good consequence,” he said. “Today, Tajiks themselves are facing a land shortage. Look at Dushanbe and its suburbs, at how many people need land and are not happy with land distribution. The government should not ignore this.”

The new land-lease deal, which will bring 1,500 Chinese farmers to work the fields in the Kumsangir and Bokhtar districts of southern Khatlon province, is building on such sentiments.

The Tajik government, which has not said much publicly about the lease agreement, has reasons for taking this step. Tajikistan’s unemployment situation is so dire that hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, most of them men, are driven to work in Russia. Some stay for part of the year, some for several years, some never return.

This leads to a shortage of manpower in rural areas, which results in some land being left fallow, as appears to be the case with the land the Chinese are coming to farm. According to Tilomurod Daniyarov of the Agricultural Ministry’s international affairs department, the Chinese are promising to introduce drip-irrigation methods and other contemporary farming techniques to the regions and share their expertise and technology with neighboring Tajik communities.

Tajikistan is 93 percent mountainous, and not all of the remaining seven percent is arable. The vast majority of rice and cotton they grow is exported. Considering that food and staples are often scarce in Tajikistan, the thought that outsiders would be allowed to till their soil is highly unpopular.

First step

Tajik sociologist Rustam Haidarov warns that the entry of Chinese farmers is only the first step toward something bigger.

“It is China’s strategy to resettle its people in different countries. It’s China’s policy,” he said. “They occupy slowly, cautiously. They realize their own goals in Tajikistan and affect our economic policy. In time this will lead to an influence in politics.”

Haidarov added, “Where thousands of Tajiks have left to go to Russia, the Chinese will fill the vacuum. Some [Tajiks] even marry Chinese.”

China has invested some $4 billion in Tajikistan in recent years, and is participating in a number of joint projects. But China for the most part sends its own workforce to implement such projects, meaning unemployed Tajik laborers get no relief.

Tajikistan’s labor migration service says there were some 30,000 Chinese migrant laborers in Tajikistan in 2007, most working on roads, electricity substations and at mining sites. There are claims that some Chinese workers do not return home when the project is completed. By 2010 they numbered some 82,000.

More and more merchants

Some of the newcomers are merchants. By some accounts there are some 100 Chinese merchants selling goods at the main bazaar in Dushanbe and more are coming all the time. Other areas see a similar trend. Some Tajik merchants have said their Chinese rivals are provided with discounted wares in China so that they sell them at reduced prices that their Tajik counterparts cannot match. Once driven out of business, these homegrown merchants have little choice but to join the ranks of migrant laborers in Russia.

Tajik officials vow they will limit the number of Chinese farmers to 1,500, but they have not yet specified what exactly the country will receive in return for leasing its farmland.

Kazakhstan’s president proposed a similar deal to China at the end of 2009, but it proved so unpopular that the idea was quickly dropped.

Tajikistan’s president did not make any announcement prior to the recent land-lease deal, nor apparently did any other Tajik official, leaving the agreement to come as a surprise.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Canadian Immigration — Only the Shadow Knows

For anyone over 50, you will remember the radio show: The Shadow! For only The Shadow knows!

And what does The Shadow know?

In this continuing series, Canadian environmental expert Tim Murray becomes The Shadow. How can Canada keep relentless immigration without dire consequences?

“The things that CBC Pravda and the mainstream media won’t tell you!” said Murray. “They won’t tell you that population growth cannot be decoupled from habitat and farmland loss or green house gas emissions!

“They won’t tell you that Canada can’t add 350,000 consumers to its population every year without inflicting massive ecological damage! They won’t tell you that Canada has the highest population growth rate in the G8 group! They won’t tell you that mass immigration accounts for more than two-thirds of this growth, and that Canada has the highest per capita immigration intake in the world!

“They won’t tell you that only 5% of Canada’s land surface consists of arable land, and that the best of it lies in the south and half of that in Ontario, which lost 600,000 acres in the decade after 1996! They won’t tell you that about 20% of the more than 15,000 square kilometres of irreplaceable farmland that was lost to urbanization was classified as “Class 1”—-the very best!

“They won’t tell you that most species-at-risk are found at the perimeter of growing urban centres, a growth substantially fuelled by immigration! They won’t you tell that Canada is a big “little” country. That like Antarctica, it has a large land surface, but not the means to support a large population! Or that Yellowknife in the North West Territories lies at the centre latitude of the country, a country of frigid temperatures! They won’t tell you that three scientific reports-report No. 25 of the Science Council of Canada, a confidential report to the Privy Council in 1991 and the Healey report of 1997—-all documented the stress that population growth is putting on ecosystems and agricultural land!

“They won’t tell you about Peak Oil and the implications it has for our food security! And that even if we preserved the farmland we have, its productivity would fall drastically without fossil fuel inputs!

“And most of all, they won’t tell you that mainstream environmental organizations are paid not to understand all of this! That the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF), for example, has taken money from the Royal Bank of Canada, whose chairman, Gordon Nixon, has publicly lobbied for an immigration intake 50% higher that its current stratospheric level! Or that the DSF has accepted donations from Encana, the natural gas giant, while accusing climate sceptics of being “shills” for the oil companies! And they won’t ask the BC Sierra Club why it accepts money from the TD bank!

They won’t tell you that David Suzuki told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Australia is over-populated, but has not said the same thing about Canada on the CBC-even though he has been heard to confess that in more private settings!

“They won’t tell you that the corporate money trail can be followed right into the coffers of major environmental organizations, and that by some strange coincidence none of these organizations will challenge the corporate agenda of importing cheap labour and expanding the number of consumers and mortgage holders!

“They won’t tell you that the CBC and the corporate media are mouthpieces for the growth lobby, and that the CBC has betrayed its mandate to fairly represent every strand of opinion found in Canadian society, but instead has acted as an employer of first-resort for the graduates of the Carleton school of journalism, a boot camp for political correctness! No wonder Canada has no Washington Post! No Johann Hari! No Christine MacDonald! No wonder investigative journalism in Canada is MIA! No wonder Canada’s corrupt money-grubbing corporate lackeys in the environmental movement get a free pass from the Canadian mainstream media!

[Return to headlines]


France Fears Surge From Tunisia-Egypt

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 1 — France fears a surge in immigration from Tunisia and Egypt, said the President of the French Office of Immigration and Integration, Dominique Paillé, speaking today on French TV station, LCI. When asked if he feared the consequences of the events in Tunisia and Egypt on immigration, Paillé said: “yes”. A popular revolt in Tunisia forced President Ben Ali to leave the country on January 14, while protests calling for the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak continue today for the seventh consecutive day in Egypt. “Each time a regime collapses, whichever it may be, especially if it is an authoritarian government, there is immigration mainly towards France,” said Paillé. “We expect a surge in immigration from Tunisia and Egypt, but also from elsewhere since we are only at the beginning of a process,” he added. Paillé also underlined that the immigrants will be “taken in according to the current laws,” which “must be the same for everyone”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Greece: 500:000 Illegal Workers in 2010

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 31 — In 2010, 500,000 people worked illegally in Greece, without being registered. The was reported by the Labour Inspectorate based on a study carried out on a sample of 27,538 companies, which represent about 3% of the number of active businesses in the country, employing 77,666 workers. The study showed that 19,435 workers were not registered at the relative labour office. Of this figure, 6,687 (31.54%) were foreigners, while 12,784 (22.58%) were Greek citizens. The regions that registered the highest numbers of illegal workers are the following: East Macedonia/Thrace (36.25%), Attica (26.29%), Thessaly (24.66%), Epirus (19.21%) and Crete (17.21%). Businesses that were found to be in violation of labour laws paid fines worth a total of 9,368,500 euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Demand for Migrant Workers Outstrips Quota on ‘Click Day’

Govt says system promotes legal entry, associations sceptical

(ANSA) — Rome, January 31 — Demand for migrant workers outstripped the quota available many times on Monday, the first of the government’s ‘click days’ for employers to make internet applications to legally hire non-European Union staff.

The Interior Ministry said that by midday it had received 293,000 requests after it started accepting them at 8am, almost six times the quota of 52,080 set for the day.

After collecting all the requests, the government will set quotas for each Italian province, where the police will then asses them on a first-come-first-served basis before giving the employers the green-light to recruit.

The next stage is for the overseas workers selected for the jobs to go to Italian consulates in their countries to collect their visas to travel to Italy and their residence permits.

The government says the aim is to create a fair system for the legal hiring of foreign workers with quotas to ensure the country’s capacity to absorb newcomers is not exceeded.

Monday’s first quota of 52,080 entries is for non-seasonal workers from countries that have migration-cooperation agreements with Italy, including Albania, Moldova, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Morocco and Senegal.

But some have criticized the system, including farmers’ union CIA which described it Monday as a “desperate lottery that will not be able to satisfy companies’ and families’ demand for foreign workers”.

Civil rights association Equality Italia said it was “sceptical about the procedures being used to manage an economic and social problem of such dimensions”.

“The political world seems to keep using immigrants as commodities for electoral trade,” said Equality Italia President Aurelio Mancuso.

“A serious discussion on prime-time TV is needed on the results of this initiative and its debatable handling. “The state broadcaster (RAI) should organize a debate with the economic and social forces involved and the immigrants themselves”.

The provinces with the highest number of requests in the first hours of the debut click day were Milan (37,000), Rome (22,500) and Brescia (18,800).

The highest number of requests was for workers from Bangladesh (48,000), followed by Morocco (44,000) and India (36,000).

Italian families with small children and elderly members in need of assistance have a big demand for domestic workers.

Italian businesses also rely heavily on migrant workers, especially the agriculture and building sectors, where they are often hired for manual jobs domestic workers increasingly avoid.

The next ‘click day’ takes place on Wednesday, when 30,000 entries for domestic workers will be up for grabs.

Another will be held on Thursday to allocate 15,000 residence permits to non-European Union citizens who have undergone special training courses in their countries of origin or who are already in Italy on study, work experience or seasonal-work permits.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Immigrant Kids Prone to ‘Special Needs’ Label

Several government agencies have directed criticism at 30 Swedish municipalities for placing children at special schools based on erroneous grounds.

All 30 municipalities that were reviewed were criticised for serious shortcomings and lacking a legal basis and the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) is now demanding that municipalities complete or conduct new inquiries.

“It is shocking that the investigations have revealed such low quality,” the agency’s director-general Ann-Marie Begler wrote in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) daily on Monday.

The agency’s investigation shows that many students are placed into these schools on dubious grounds and indicates that pupils with a foreign background are over-represented among pupils in currently attending special schools, with the proportion increasing over the last 15 years from 1 percent to 1.4 percent.

There are currently about 12,000 pupils in these schools.

The reason for this should be investigated further, according to the agency, which fears that the municipalities, with their inadequate investigation methods, may have misread the problems that newly arrived students may have at school.

The municipalities have not yet found a way to properly investigate and make decisions about special schools that complies with the law. It is serious and damages the rule of law for both students and parents, according to the agency, which believes that municipalities appear to take their tasks too lightly.

It now proposes that the county councils conduct the psychological and medical investigations instead of the municipalities.

Begler refused to speculate on the number of children who have been wrongly sent to special schools.

“It is not because all parents who currently have children enrolled in special schools are now going to be terribly worried that they have been incorrectly enrolled, but because one must ensure that these children are properly examined and that they get the proper schooling that they are entitled to have,” she said.

She added that parents who are concerned about their child’s placement can have their children reassessed.

There will soon be an additional investigation on special school placements in other randomly selected municipalities.

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting, SKL) is concerned about the results of the investigation.

“The municipalities’ aim is to handle the decision in the best possible manner and the decisions that were criticised for faulty grounds will be investigated again,” SKL wrote in a statement on Monday.

In addition, it appears that the municipalities in some cases were criticised for tasks that they are not obliged to perform. The municipalities were criticised for not having performed social investigations in all cases, even though they are not an absolute requirement, according to SKL.

The shortcomings of the assessment are a breach of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to children’s rights organisation Save the Children.

In Article 3 of the convention, it states that the child’s best interests always come first, which the investigation has now shown that Sweden does not live up to.

According to Save the Children, these are a type of abuse that the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child will highlight in their observations of how Sweden lives up to its intentions.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

EU Ministers in Discord on ‘Christianity’ And Persecution

A row over specific references to Christianity has prevented EU foreign ministers from agreeing a joint declaration condemning religious persecution, despite a recent spate of attacks on minorities in Iraq and Egypt. Instead, a draft text which called on EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to come up with “concrete proposals” to boost freedom of religion was sent back to the drawing board on Monday evening (31 January). Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini led opposition to the text which “firmly” condemned the “acts of terrorism targeting places of worship”, claiming the document showed an “excess of secularism”.

“The final text didn’t include any mention of Christians, as if we were talking of something else, so I asked the text to be withdrawn,” he told reporters in Brussels. France reportedly backed Italy on the need to include references to specific minorities, including Christians and Shi’ite Muslims. A number of Nordic countries and the UK were uncomfortable with references to specific religions however, fearing a “clash of civilisations,” one diplomat told AFP.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Swedish Schools Run by Convicted Paedophile

A Swedish pedophile received permission to open three schools despite having a previous conviction for having sexual relations with a child, according to a television news report on Monday.

“It is of course extremely serious. It perhaps suggests that legislation in the future needs to be clearer,” Ingegärd Hilborn, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) general counsel, told TV4.

Despite the man having a prior conviction for having sex with a seven-year-old girl, he received permission to open three independent high schools in Stockholm in 2000, according to TV4.

Furthermore we was subsequently sentenced in 2007 to six years in prison for several more sexual crimes, including the aggravated rape of a child.

The Swedish government now wants to change the law so that the Schools Inspectorate can verify whether a person has previously committed a crime.

The agency’s lead counsel told Swedish television channel TV4 on Monday that it does not check up on whether a person has committed a crime when he or she applies to start a school.

When the man began his prison sentence and could no longer manage the schools, he placed them in the care of two individuals, one of who is a woman who had a prior conviction, and had served two years in prison, for pimping.

The firm remains in charge of the operation of three schools in the Stockholm area.

The Schools Inspectorate looks primarily at the principal’s financial suitability to start a school. It was not aware at the time that the three high schools were run by convicted criminals.

“There should be a law that ensures that those who are convicted of these kinds of crimes do not receive permission,” director-general Ann-Marie Begler said on Monday.

The agency currently does not have access to information in the crime registry and to ring around to all of Sweden’s courts to request verdicts is not practical, Begler argued.

“Then we would have several years of processing time. We need a better system that puts a stop to these kinds of possibilities,” she said.

Education Minister Jan Björklund agreed and announced plans to immediately move to change the law.

“It is shocking and I am upset at the naïveté that we have in Sweden about this. When the agency receives an application, it should be able to ask for information from the crime registry. If one has a license and is sentenced, the court should notify the authorities,” he said.

A new law could come into effect within a year, Björklund forecast.

“Already when the [current] law was established, we should have thought about this. However, we could not have imagined then that this could happen,” he said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Turks Don’t Need Condoms, Universiade Organizers Say

Authorities removed condoms from Turkish athletes’ rooms at the Winter Universiade Games Village on the grounds that they do “not belong to Turkish culture,” daily Habertürk reported Tuesday.

The daily said that condoms, which were left in the athletes’ rooms in the Games Village at the 2011 Winter University Games in the eastern province of Erzurum, were taken from Turks’ rooms.

Kemal Tamer, the head of the University Sports Federation, said the authorities were aware of the collection.

“That does not belong to our culture,” said Tamer. “That means, in a way, to encourage illicit intercourse. That is why we collected the condoms from our kids’ rooms.”

Meanwhile in the Games, Russia continues to dominate the competitions, leading the medals table as of Monday night.

Russia has won seven gold medals in addition to four silver and three bronze medals at the Games, followed by South Korea (five gold, three silver, three bronze) and China (two gold, two silver, two bronze) respectively. The Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia are three other nations with two gold medals, while Germany, Japan, Italy, France, Kazakhstan, Switzerland and the United States all have one gold medal each.

Turkey’s poor results also continued at the tournament, with the men and women’s ice hockey teams being on the wrong end of humiliating routs.

Women’s team suffered an agonizing 32-0 against Finland, while men’s side was beaten 26-0 by Russia on Monday.

The men’s team suffered 16-0 and 18-0 routs at the hands of the Czech Republic and Japan in previous games.

The women’s national team lost 10-0 to Great Britain and 15-0 to the United States and 20-0 to Slovakia previously.

Turkish women’s curling team lost 12-4 to Japan on Tuesday, a day after losing 8-7 to Germany.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

General

‘Al-Qaida on Brink of Using Nuclear Bomb’

Al-Qaida is on the verge of producing radioactive weapons after sourcing nuclear material and recruiting rogue scientists to build “dirty” bombs, according to leaked diplomatic documents.

A leading atomic regulator has privately warned that the world stands on the brink of a “nuclear 9/11”.

Security briefings suggest that jihadi groups are also close to producing “workable and efficient” biological and chemical weapons that could kill thousands if unleashed in attacks on the West.

Thousands of classified American cables obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph detail the international struggle to stop the spread of weapons-grade nuclear, chemical and biological material around the globe.

At a Nato meeting in January 2009, security chiefs briefed member states that al-Qaida was plotting a program of “dirty radioactive IEDs”, makeshift nuclear roadside bombs that could be used against British troops in Afghanistan.

As well as causing a large explosion, a “dirty bomb” attack would contaminate the area for many years.

The briefings also state that al-Qaida documents found in Afghanistan in 2007 revealed that “greater advances” had been made in bioterrorism than was previously realized. An Indian national security adviser told American security personnel in June 2008 that terrorists had made a “manifest attempt to get fissile material” and “have the technical competence to manufacture an explosive device beyond a mere dirty bomb”.

Alerts about the smuggling of nuclear material, sent to Washington from foreign U.S. embassies, document how criminal and terrorist gangs were trafficking large amounts of highly radioactive material across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The alerts explain how customs guards at remote border crossings used radiation alarms to identify and seize cargoes of uranium and plutonium.

Freight trains were found to be carrying weapons-grade nuclear material across the Kazakhstan-Russia border, highly enriched uranium was transported across Uganda by bus, and a “small time hustler” in Lisbon offered to sell radioactive plates stolen from Chernobyl.

In one incident in September 2009, two employees at the Rossing Uranium Mine in Namibia smuggled almost half a ton of uranium concentrate powder — yellowcake — out of the compound in plastic bags.

“Acute safety and security concerns” were even raised in 2008 about the uranium and plutonium laboratory of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear safety watchdog.

Tomihiro Taniguchi, the deputy director general of the IAEA, has privately warned America that the world faces the threat of a “nuclear 9/11” if stores of uranium and plutonium were not secured against terrorists.

But diplomats visiting the IAEA’s Austrian headquarters in April 2008 said that there was “no way to provide perimeter security” to its own laboratory because it has windows that leave it vulnerable to break-ins.

Senior British defence officials have raised “deep concerns” that a rogue scientist in the Pakistani nuclear program “could gradually smuggle enough material out to make a weapon”, according to a document detailing official talks in London in February 2009.

Agricultural stores of deadly biological pathogens in Pakistan are also vulnerable to “extremists” who could use supplies of anthrax, foot and mouth disease and avian flu to develop lethal biological weapons.

Anthrax and other biological agents including smallpox, and avian flu could be sprayed from a shop-bought aerosol can in a crowded area, leaked security briefings warn.

The security of the world’s only two declared smallpox stores in Atlanta, America, and Novosibirsk, Russia, has repeatedly been called into doubt by “a growing chorus of voices” at meetings of the World Health Assembly documented in the leaked cables…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

1 comments:

Egghead said...

Under South Asia, the article entitled "Sharia Brutality on a Raped Girl in Bangladesh" explains everything that anyone ever needs to know about Islam, Sharia Law, and the dire plight of oppressed Muslim women and girls.

As many are aware, under Sharia Law, rape is almost impossible to prove - unless four male Muslims witness a rape that rape is termed as "fornication" - with the raped girl being labeled as the Muslim criminal.

In this article, a 40 year old man forcibly abducted and raped a 14 year old girl who cried out in terror - which caused multiple Muslim men in her village to respond to her cries for help.

Yet, even in this rare case where presumably four male Muslims actually witnessed a bona fide Muslim rape at the time of the rape, even then it was the victimized girl who was labeled as the criminal and later slashed to death by the male Muslim witnesses and their friends in the community.

This is WHY Sharia Law can NEVER be compatible with Western law....