Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111121

Financial Crisis
»Buffett Doubts Euro Survival; Says System is Flawed
»Crisis Election Changes Political Landscape in Spain
»Cyprus: “It’s Austerity or a Bailout”: Minister
»Deficit Panel Leaders Fail to Reach Deal
»Doubts Rise Over Euro Rescue Fund as ECB Pressure Grows
»Eurozone Crisis Has ‘Chilling Effect’ On British Economy: PM
»France’s Top Credit Rating at Risk: Moody’s
»German Debt to Stay High ‘For Many Years’: Central Bank
»Growing Concerns in the Balkans Over Eurozone Crisis Repercussions
»Hungary Seeks Financial Help From the EU, IMF
»Market Gloom Dampens Spanish Right’s Election Joy
»Myth of German Economic Discipline
»Pooling Risk: Merkel Under Pressure to Say ‘Ja’ To Euro Bonds
»Saving Spain: Honeymoon Unlikely for New Prime Minister
»Why E.U. Collapse is More Likely Than the Fall of the Euro
»A Fatal ‘Box-Canyon’ For the G.O.P.?
»Agents Seize Painting From Brera, Plundered by Nazis
»Finding Ways to Ease Tensions in US With Muslims
»Newburgh Mosque Offers Free Health Clinic
»Canada Must Assist Religious Pilgrims, Jailed Imam Says
»Reality of Islam Hard to Dispute
Europe and the EU
»Again: Belgian Parties Fail to Form Government
»Boar Causes Panic in French Record Store
»British Muslims: Active Players in UK Counterterrorism Efforts
»Denmark: Sharp Rise in Home Break-Ins
»Dutch Gov’t Ally Opposes Turkish President Visit
»Electricity From Turkey for Greek Islands
»Italy: New Environment Minister Positive to Idea of Nuclear Power
»Italy: Camorra Bust in Rome, Naples
»Italy: Fiat Chief Gives Monti Vote of Confidence
»Italy: Milan Court Hears First Day of ‘Ruby Trial’
»Italy: Fiat to Scrap All Collective Labour Deals From January
»Italy: Former Parma City Managers Arrested for ‘Rigging Tenders’
»Light Pulled Out of Empty Space
»Netherlands: Verhagen Lashes Out at Wilders
»Norway: Beware the ‘Pirate’ Cabby: Oslo Police
»Pakistani Family Stand Trial for ‘Honour Killing’ In Belgium
»Seeing is Believing the Beauty of the Netsukes
»Switzerland: Catholic Church Issues Mea Culpa on Apartheid
»UK: Pickles and Warsi Wrestle for Control of Government Strategy on Anti-Muslim Hatred
»UK: The Desecration of St Paul’s
»Young Swedish Girls in Home Invasion Horror
»EU Organ Harvesting Probe “Confidential” : Report
»Kosovo: Dialogue Today, Pristina Team Already in Brussels
North Africa
»Egypt: Fresh Clashes in Tahrir Square, 22 Dead Since Saturday
»Egypt: Riots in Cairo: Sentiment Growing Against New Wave of Protests
»Egypt: At Least 40 Dead, Shortage of Coffins
»Egypt’s Civilian Government Submits Offer to Resign
»France: Rachida Dati’s Brother Arrested at Orly Airport
»‘How Can Egypt Vote Under Such Conditions?’
»Muslim Brotherhood Spiritual Leader Orders Egyptians Not to Vote for Secularists or Non-Muslims
»Strict Muslims Stake Claim on Egypt’s Political Scene
»Wives and Children Dumped in Morocco
Israel and the Palestinians
»Greek Air Force Held Joint Exercise With Israel
Middle East
»CIA Spies in Lebanon and Iran Captured, May be Killed
»Exclusive: CIA Spies Caught, Fear Execution in Middle East
»Internet Filter in Turkey Sparks Fears of Censorship
»Saudi Arabia: Is Mecca Looking Like Manhattan?
»Darth Vader Claims Land Plot in Ukraine
»Meeting With Muslim Clergy
»Putin Boo “Mystery” At Martial Arts Contest
South Asia
»COIN Colonel: Changing Religious Mindset May Not be Realistic Goal in Afghanistan
»India: Lay Christians and Demand Justice for the Nun Murdered by the Mafia Coal
»India Registers Highest Number of Road Fatalities in the World
»India: Kashmir Pastor Arrested for Baptising Seven Muslims
»Pakistan: Taliban Claim They Are in Peace Talks With Islamabad
»Singapore Probes Soldier’s Anti-Islam Web Comments
»Thailand: Jihad Against Buddhist Monks Collecting Alms
Far East
»Cambodia: Long-Awaited Trial of Khmer Rouge Leaders Gets Underway
»Philippines: A Harvest of Muslim Indie Films, And a Call for Submissions
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Rwanda: Muslims Welcome Pilgrims Back Home
»Flemish Party Calls for Integration or Remigration of Turks
»Give Illegal Migrants Equal Access to Health Care: EU Agency
»Sweden: Russian Migrant Freed by Armed Men
Culture Wars
»Catholicism ‘Main Target’ For Religious Abuse in Scotland
»Did Neanderthal Man Die Out Because He Was Too Smart for His Own Good?

Financial Crisis

Buffett Doubts Euro Survival; Says System is Flawed

The crisis in the euro zone has exposed the flaws of the 17-member currency union, and its leaders will need to take urgent action if they want the euro to survive, veteran investor Warren Buffett told CNBC on Monday.

“The system as presently designed has revealed a major flaw. And that flaw won’t be corrected just by words. Europe will either have to come closer together or there will have to be some other rearrangement because this system is not working,” Buffett said in an interview. Asked whether the union would survive this crisis, Buffett said: “That’s in doubt now.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Crisis Election Changes Political Landscape in Spain

The Spanish conservative People’s Party (PP) regained power and fringe groups did well in elections on Sunday (20 November). The PP as predicted won an absolute majority of 186 places in the 350-seat lower house — the best result in the history of the party.

Its leader and Spain’s future prime minister, the softly spoken Mariano Rajoy, said he would run an inclusive government to restore the country’s reputation after the outgoing Socialists presided over a massive surge in unemployment and a slump in market confidence comparable to Greece.

“Nobody needs to worry. There will be no enemies but unemployment, economic stagnation and the crisis,” he told a cheering crowd from the balcony of the PP headquarters in Madrid. “Spain’s voice must be respected again in Brussels and Frankfurt. We will stop being part of the problem and will be part of the solution.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cyprus: “It’s Austerity or a Bailout”: Minister

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, NOVEMBER 21 — Cyprus’ government is pushing for a freeze in the state payroll for two years as part of additional austerity measures that also include taxing high incomes in the private sector and a small levy on companies with domestic activities, it was announced Friday. The measures aim at restoring Cyprus’ access to the international markets for its financing needs, lost after successive downgrades by all ratings agencies. “Otherwise, Cyprus joining the EU support mechanism should be considered a given,” Finance Minister Kikis Kazamias said. Kazamias said the state payroll freeze would save the state around 355 million euros in 2012 and 2013. The freeze includes pay scale rises and cost of living allowance payments.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Deficit Panel Leaders Fail to Reach Deal

WASHINGTON — After one last bout of fitful but futile talks, Congressional negotiators conceded the obvious: that the joint Congressional committee charged with drafting a deficit reduction package would miss its deadline this week. But they did not quite give up the ghost of a chance that a solution might be found later.

“After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline,” said a statement issued late in the afternoon by Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the panel’s Republican and Democratic co-chairs.

“Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve,” they said. “We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee’s work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.”

[Return to headlines]

Doubts Rise Over Euro Rescue Fund as ECB Pressure Grows

Economists are increasingly questioning the relevance of the eurozone rescue fund as pressure builds on the European Central Bank (ECB) to lead a lasting and massive debt crisis response. The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which uses 440 billion euros of government guarantees to borrow on markets for subsequent lending to bailed-out Greece, Ireland and Portugal, “has no credibility” with traders, said Belgian economics professor Paul De Grauwe.

The fund, worth $595 billion at current exchange rates, was born out of the first phase of the Greek debt crisis 18 months ago but has constantly appeared behind the curve as financial market contagion sucks in country after country. Eurozone leaders decided at a summit late last month to “leverage” its lending capacity up to a trillion euros just as Italy’s 1.9-trillion-euro debt mountain pushed it to the top of investor concerns.

A new “technocratic” government has taken power in Rome, with its public finances put under EU-IMF surveillance while France — the second-largest eurozone economy — is the latest to see its borrowing costs under pressure. That means a timeframe announced by Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker for an upgraded EFSF to be partly operational in December, and fully ramped up in February, is looking increasingly irrelevant, the economists say.

Britain, France and the United States have each urged Germany to allow the ECB to emulate the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England by funding governments and pumping liquidity into the eurozone, in effect printing new money in an effort to get the economy moving again.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Crisis Has ‘Chilling Effect’ On British Economy: PM

The eurozone sovereign debt crisis is having a “chilling effect” on Britain’s struggling economy and there is no “silver bullet” to fix the country’s problems, Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday.

Cameron, addressing the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry, said his government would soon unveil credit-easing plans for small businesses, alongside measures to combat record youth unemployment.

The CBI is calling this year for the government to help boost exports, especially to emerging markets, so as to drive a struggling economic recovery that has been hit by the eurozone crisis.

“Paralysis in the eurozone is causing alarm in the markets and having a chilling effect on economies in many countries — including our own,” Cameron said in a keynote address to the gathering in London.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France’s Top Credit Rating at Risk: Moody’s

An increase in French government borrowing costs, slowing growth and the eurozone debt crisis threatens the country’s top credit rating, Moody’s ratings agency warned on Monday, adding to market jitters. France is fighting desperately to retain its triple A credit status and has slashed spending and tightened up on tax revenues in an effort to stabilise its strained public finances, but the markets are not convinced.

“Last week, the difference in yield between French and German 10-year government bonds breached 200 basis points, a euro-era record amid increased economic and financial market uncertainty in the region,” Moody’s Investors Service said. “Elevated borrowing costs persisting for an extended period would amplify the fiscal challenges the French government faces amid a deteriorating growth outlook, with negative credit implications,” it said in a website statement.

Even though the spread between German and French borrowing costs has since narrowed slightly, France still pays “nearly twice as much as Germany for long-term funding.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Debt to Stay High ‘For Many Years’: Central Bank

The debt levels of eurozone powerhouse Germany will stay elevated for several years to come, its central bank warned on Monday, as Berlin insists its European neighbours cut their own debt piles. Germany is expected to have “a debt level above 60 percent (of gross domestic product) for many years,” even without taking into account the current crisis, the powerful Bundesbank cautioned in its monthly report.

With a rapidly ageing and shrinking population, a “loss of confidence” in the solidity of Germany’s public finances could not be ruled out if “further costs” arose, the bank added. This demographic factor “will soon get considerably worse”, the report said, which will automatically push up the debt levels if decisive action is not taken.

As an ageing population retires, tax revenues decline and pension and healthcare costs rise, pushing up a country’s deficit, which is then added to its debt pile. Germany’s debt is set this year to decline to 81.1 percent of GDP, compared to 83.2 percent last year, according to federal government figures.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Growing Concerns in the Balkans Over Eurozone Crisis Repercussions

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, NOVEMBER 21 — Concerns are growing in the Western Balkans over the consequences that the Eurozone debt crisis, especially as concerns Italy and Greece, will have on the economies of the countries in the region. The concern, underscored the World Bank in a report released over the past few days, concerns in particular a possible reduction in investment flow and trade, the probable drop in remittances from the diaspora, and a decrease in banking activities, Italy and Greece, alongside Austria and France, are the countries hit the hardest in the banking sector of the Balkan region.

As underscored by the World Bank, last year 58.2% of the total export of the six Western Balkans countries (Serbia, Bosnia-Erzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania) was mainly headed for EU countries, especially Italy and Germany.

Also in Croatia, which will officially become part of the European Union in July 2013, concerns are similar.

“Most foreign banks in the region are from EU countries, and especially Italy and Greece, and an intensification of financial tensions could lead to a decrease in credit-related activities in the region,” said Ronald Hood, a World Bank economist.

Serious concerns on the matter have been expressed in particular in Serbia by President Boris Tadic and Economy Minister Nebojsa Ciric. “We fear that the crisis in Greece and Italy could also hit us,” said Tadic ,who believes that “if the debt crisis hits Italy, we could also be severely affected.” In the first nine months of 2011, Italy was the second top destination for Serbian exports and third as concerns imports.

Minister Ciric says that there is a real risk that the economic and financial crisis in Italy could have a negative impact on Serbian exports due to a drop in demand, although in his opinion there are not likely to be consequences on Italian investments and the projects already started in Serbia.

Italy is one of the largest investors in Serbia, where it is present with large groups (Fiat, Benetton) as well as with hundreds of SMEs (clothing, footwear) which provide jobs for over 20,000 people, and has a leading position in the banking and insurance sector.

The World Bank predicts growth in the Western Balkans of 2.5% in 2011 and 2.1% in 2012. However, if the Eurozone crisis becomes worse, this outlook will be revised downward.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hungary Seeks Financial Help From the EU, IMF

In a dramatic policy U-turn, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has asked the European Union and the International Monetary Fund for “possible” financial assistance in the face of economic woes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Market Gloom Dampens Spanish Right’s Election Joy

Markets pounded Spain’s stocks and bonds Monday despite a thumping election win by the right and its promises to fix the country’s economy and finances. Spanish stocks slumped and borrowing costs rose, while the new government faced ongoing financial instability and the prospect of social protests when its planned austerity measures hit home.

Conservative leader Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party won by its biggest margin ever in Sunday’s election after promising to ease Spain’s 21.5-percent jobless rate and rescue it from the eurozone debt crisis. His triumph sparked street celebrations by voters desperate for relief from Spain’s economic pain. But the party did not last long.

Spain’s borrowing costs rose as the investors who help finance the eurozone’s fourth largest economy day-to-day appeared to take no comfort from Rajoy’s victory. The interest rate charged on Spanish 10-year government bonds climbed to 6.500 percent in late morning trade from 6.345 percent at the close on Friday.

The debt risk premium — the extra interest charged on Spanish bonds compared to safe-haven German debt — widened to 4.58 percentage points from 4.33 points Friday. Madrid’s IBEX 35 index of leading shares fell by 2.33 percent to 8,116.1 points in mid-morning trading, dragged down notably by shares in big Spanish banks. Spaniards had turned in huge numbers to the conservatives to fix the stalled economy after more than seven years of Socialist rule.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Myth of German Economic Discipline

Der Spiegel, Hamburg

Germany is selling itself during the crisis as a haven of stability — and the financial markets even believe it. But, in truth, it’s hardly better off than the others. And its public role of disciplinarian is arrogant and dangerous, writes Spiegel Online.

Stefan Kaiser

Financial market investors and German politicians don’t really have a lot in common. Normally, the former don’t understand why the latter need so much time to implement the decisions they reach at a crisis summit. Conversely, the investors serve the politicians as the scapegoat of choice when it comes to who caused the crisis of the day.

There is one point, however, where both are unusually united: in their view of Germany’s fiscal policy, regarded as solid and a role model for all the southern countries in debt. Even when the facts look very different, it’s a boat no one really wants to rock.

And so the Christian Democratic Union’s chief whip, Volker Kauder, recently got away with declaring at the CDU convention that “Europe is speaking German now”. With this bit of chauvinist swagger, Kauder neatly summed up the politics of his Chancellor. Since the euro crisis broke out early in 2010, Angela Merkel’s mantra has been that if everyone could just save like the Germans, there wouldn’t be any problems.

You have to grant it to Merkel: apparently, she’s been rather convincing. In any case, the investors in the financial markets seem to believe the Federal Chancellor. While they’re demanding higher interest rates to buy government bonds from almost all the other eurozone countries, they’re giving their money to the German finance minister virtually at zero cost.

Germany is not saving

It’s hard to explain this rationally. Anyone who looks just a little deeper, of course, will naturally observe that countries like Spain or Italy are not nearly as badly off as the high interest rate spreads suggest. But he will certainly also discover that Germany is not the savings poster boy it claims to be.

In its latest 2011 forecast for Germany, the European Commission estimates a debt ratio of 81.7 percent of gross domestic product. That’s significantly more than the 60 percent the European stability pact sets out as the debt ceiling — that pact that the federal government regularly uses to beat the southern European countries about the ears with, and that it wants to swing even harder. A country that wants to bring in other tough rules would do well to stick to them itself first…

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

Pooling Risk: Merkel Under Pressure to Say ‘Ja’ To Euro Bonds

Chancellor Angela Merkel hates the idea of euro bonds. But with the European Commission set to present a feasibility study on Wednesday, pressure is mounting for her to change her tune. If she doesn’t, say some, the debt contagion will simply continue to spread.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Saving Spain: Honeymoon Unlikely for New Prime Minister

Spain’s conservative Popular Party has won an historic election victory. But the incoming prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, will not have much time to savor his success. He will have to impose tough austerity measures to sort out his debt-ridden country’s finances. They could lead to massive protests.

Outside the headquarters of the conservative Popular Party in Madrid, supporters enthusiastically waved the Spanish flag and light-blue flags with the party’s white logo on Sunday night. But the election winners did not want to be seen celebrating their triumph excessively. Their country, after all, is mired deep in crisis.

PP leader Mariano Rajoy, 56, who is set to be Spain’s next prime minister after his party won a convincing victory in Sunday’s election, immediately announced a “concerted effort” by all Spaniards to fight the debt crisis. Rajoy, who was twice defeated in previous elections by the Socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, told his cheering supporters in Madrid that, given the difficult economic situation, “no miracle” could be expected. Spain would have to “win back respect” in Brussels, he added.

Not since the death of dictator Francisco Franco exactly 36 years ago has a Spanish prime minister and his party possessed as much power as Rajoy and the Popular Party does now. Since the municipal and regional elections in May, they control most of the major cities, half of all municipalities and 11 of the country’s 17 autonomous communities, as Spain’s states are called. And now, the PP has also easily secured an absolute majority in parliament.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Why E.U. Collapse is More Likely Than the Fall of the Euro

By Niall Ferguson

European politics has become a giant Jenga game. Since June 2010 governments have fallen in the Netherlands, Slovakia, Belgium, Ireland, Finland, Portugal, Slovenia, Greece and Italy.

Many people assume that the tipping point will come when one country — most likely Greece — leaves or is ejected from Europe’s monetary union. But the scenario that worries Eurocrats is different. They fear that a country could leave the European Union itself.

This is by no means an irrational anxiety. Under E.U. law, it would be much easier for Britain to leave the European Union than for Greece to leave the euro zone.

Thus the process of European integration has reached a richly ironic point: The breakdown of the European Union is now more likely than the collapse of the single currency that was supposed to bind it together.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


A Fatal ‘Box-Canyon’ For the G.O.P.?

Fred Grandy is one of the smartest — and certainly most respected men — in Washington. He achieved that reputation the old fashioned way: He earned it as a former Congressman, successful non-profit business executive and long-time top-rated talk radio show. So when he warns Republicans that they have entered a potentially fatal “box canyon,” they should listen.

In conversations on the “Secure Freedom Radio” show we co-host, Fred has been warning for some time about the Budget Control Act of 2011. He has described it as the legislative equivalent for his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill as a box canyon, meaning the sort of naturally occurring, dead-ending geological formation used by Indians and desperados in the Wild West to trap and snare their prey…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Agents Seize Painting From Brera, Plundered by Nazis

(AGI) Miami — A painting by Girolamo Romano, also known as Romanino was seized by US agents in Florida as it is believed to have been stolen by the nazis. The “Christ Bearing the Cross Dragged by a Rascal”, had been on display in the Mary Brogan Musem in Tallahassee, Florida since May as part of exhibit loaned from the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, Italy. The painting has been removed by security agents to “protect it until the ownership can be determined.” ..

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

Finding Ways to Ease Tensions in US With Muslims

AMESBURY — More than 10 years have passed since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania forever altered the way millions of people across the country viewed the Muslim faith and those who practiced it. And in many ways, those alterations have been purely negative — producing hostile and discriminatory feelings toward Muslims living in the United States. As a way of combating those negative feelings and learning more about Islam in general, the Amesbury Friends Meeting invited a renowned authority on Muslim-American relations to speak yesterday at the Friends Peace Center off Friend Street. About 50 people packed the meetinghouse to hear Dr. Mohammed Lazzouni, chairman of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations at Merrimack College and a visiting scholar in Islamic studies, give his thoughts about how to ease those pressure points.

Lazzouni spoke for about an hour, offering a brief history of Muslims in North America and detailing the tensions that already exist, as many non-Muslim Americans resent the power Middle Eastern countries have over the United States in terms of oil production. He quickly switched gears to discuss the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and how relations have hit an all-time low since. “Just as bad as you can have them,” Lazzouni said. “Things haven’t been really well at all.” Lazzouni places much of the blame on the immediate and subsequent reaction of the United States, including the use of military action, assassination, political disruption and the erosion of human rights that makes many Muslims feel they are guilty until proven innocent. Such methods, he argued, have alienated many Muslims to the point where they don’t feel like Americans anymore.

Later in his lecture, Lazzouni said he believes there are roughly 7 million Muslims living in the United States and of those, they can be broken down into distinct groups. The largest group, representing about 60 to 70 percent, form the “silent majority,” those who don’t profess their faith openly and live anonymously. Another 15 to 20 percent he called the “progressive or moderate” group, who are vocal about their faith and offer their opinions. The smallest group, less than a percentage point, he said, are “radicalized voices” who believe in mayhem, destruction or killing. For the purpose of his lecture, Lazzouni focused on improving relations with those in the “silent majority” and what they need to do to be legitimate in the eyes of the rest of the country. For that to happen, he said, those in the silent majority need to clearly define their positions on violence, terrorism, women’s rights, religious rights and what it means to be a Muslim in America. If those positions are clarified, it will open the door to more productive discussions, he argued.

Lazzouni also said Muslims need to earn their status in this country, much like other religious groups or ethnic groups did years earlier. “You have to strive to win a seat at the table, there are no hand-me-downs in this country,” Lazzouni said. Before Lazzouni took to the podium, Amesbury Friends member Sam Baily said his group has been committed to learn more about Muslims in America as a way of trying to prove that with increased knowledge comes a way to combat hostility, discrimination and ignorance. “These are things that we felt aren’t really America, not the America that we believe in,” Baily said. It was a strategy employed by the Amesbury Friends last year when they focused on the Israeli-Palestine issue through a serious of lectures and events throughout the year.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Newburgh Mosque Offers Free Health Clinic

Free flu shots, cholesterol and blood-pressure checks, and diabetes tests were among services offered at a no-cost health clinic Sunday at the Masjid Al-Ikhlas mosque in the City of Newburgh. Doctors with different specialties were also on hand to talk one-on-one with participants and answer questions. Tina Boykin, left, prepares to give Abdul Majed, center, a flu shot, while mosque Imam Salahuddin Muhammad speaks with him. Amanda Rodriguez is at right. The clinic may eventually become a weekly service of the mosque.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Canada Must Assist Religious Pilgrims, Jailed Imam Says

EDMONTON — An Edmonton imam who was “strangled” by religious police and jailed for 36 hours during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia wants the federal government to ensure the safety of the 10,000 Canadians who make the annual trek. Usama Al-Atar, who is also a researcher at the University of Alberta, said many countries form delegations to provide support to residents making the pilgrimage to Mecca. He wants Canada to do the same, he said at a Sunday news conference, and has offered to help establish such a delegation.

Al-Atar returned home to friends and family Friday — his wife Dhamya is expecting the couple’s second child within days — after finally completing a traditional Islamic pilgrimage undertaken by millions of Muslims around the world known as the hajj. If the Canadian government had support staff in the city for visitors, Al-Atar believed his time in custody would’ve been far shorter. They could’ve immediately begun working on his release, he said. “Had there been a hajj delegation present in the city of Medina during my ordeal I would have been released almost instantaneously.”

His ordeal began on the morning of Oct. 30 when Al-Atar was approached by religious police as he recited prayers to a group of 15 Canadian and British Muslims. Members of the religious police are from a particular sect of Islam that is considered extreme, but Al-Atar said he’d never encountered problems on eight previous visits. “I was told to leave, basically,” Al-Atar said. “And I said, ‘Look, we’re visitors here and we’re only here for a couple of days. There’s a big group with me here that is not fluent in Arabic and cannot conduct these (prayers) on their own. We’re not intending any harm.’ “ The police started to shout at Al-Atar, and the harassment quickly escalated to physical force. “I was strangled,” he said, adding he offered no resistance. He said although there was a group of officers it was one in particular who assaulted Al-Atar while the rest watched. He was taken to a small kiosk located outside the mosque and confined for 20 minutes before being handed over to the Medina police, whom he characterized as “professional and polite.”

He was arrested and charged with assault. That charge was subsequently dropped.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Reality of Islam Hard to Dispute

by Peter Worthington

TORONTO — Last week, on Michael Coren’s Agenda show on Sun News TV, Steve Emerson discussed realities of Islam in America in a way that is seldom heard, but is hard to dispute. Coren, himself, seemed somewhat shaken by his guest’s knowledge and warnings about the future. Not many speak with Emerson’s authority. According to Emerson, something like 95% of the mosques and Muslim organizations in America, are dominated or influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the largest Islamist party and extends throughout the world with links to terrorism and jihadism. Started in Egypt in 1928, the MB began as politically activist involved in Islamic charities. Its slogan “Islam is the Solution” viewed Sharia law as the basis of society. Although it preached peace and non-violence, the Brotherhood has been linked with terror and assassinations. It has been banned in some countries (Syria, for one, Russia for another), but its tentacles are everywhere.

Emerson is Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, and is arguably America’s most knowledgeable expert on terrorism and Islamic extremism. His books and TV documentary Terrorists Among Us(itls) (updated after 9/11), stress that while most Muslims are moderate, Islamic extremism (or radicalism, or jihadism), are America’s greatest threat — not only to Jews, Christians and democratic institutions, but to moderate Muslims who resist the call to wage holy war.

Emerson has long been on jihadist death lists.

During the Coren interview, he noted that Canada has largely escaped — or resisted — Islamic extremism. That is, the pervasive influence of radical Islam has not achieved the same traction in Canada as it has in the U.S., Britain and Europe. Perhaps that is because Muslim numbers here are not as great as elsewhere. Then again, perhaps it is because life in Canada is more balanced and accommodating than other places. Or perhaps Islamic extremists don’t have the same support here — especially when we have moderate Muslims with the courage to stand up, like Tarek Fatah founder or the Muslim Canadian Congress, and Farzana Hassan who (among other things) opposed the idea of a $100 million, 13-storey Islamic Centre and mosque near the site of New York’s Ground Zero. Would that the Canadian media and politicians were as resolute as Fatah and Hassan and other quieter Muslim voices of restraint and sanity. Emerson’s books, documentaries and research have put him in the bullseye of jihadists. He routinely testifies before Congressional and intelligence committees. Even the New York Times(itls) defers to him as an expert of Islam activities in America, despite preferring to avoid apocalypse thinking when it comes to Islamic extremism.

Emerson rarely pulls punches.

He thinks U.S. President Obama is more sympathetic to Islam than he should be, and notes that when he assumed office, Obama’s first goal was to build bridges to the Islamic world. Fair enough, but he says Obama has never, not once, used the phrase or condemned “radical Islam.” Obama’s gestures towards Islam (witness his speech of conciliation in Cairo, prior to the “Arab Spring” rebellion and ousting of Hosin Murbarak) have largely been unproductive, and reduced America’s influence. I first came across Emerson at the time of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre, which the Clinton administration insisted on treating as a domestic crime and not as an international terrorist incident. With some difficulty, I got Emerson’s phone number and we talked about the 1993 World Trade bombing. He was reasonable and factual, with none of the paranoid fixations that conspiracy buffs often have regarding their convictions. He was adamant that downplaying the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing was wrong, and a guarantee that something similar would happen again — as it did on 9/11.

Emerson is basically a journalist, having worked for U.S. News and World Report(itls) and CNN as an investigative correspondent, concentrating on security and terrorism. He’s also been an investigator for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Some 20 years ago, Emerson discovered that what was being discussed and preached in mosques was contrary to the benign façade that was displayed to the public. His watershed 1994 documentary, Terrorists Among Us(itls), provoked the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to call it “a wild theory about an Islamic terrorist network in America.” The FBI wasn’t so dismissive, and informed Emerson that a militant Muslim group in South Africa was intent on sending a hit-team to assassinate him.

In 1996, Emerson testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that something called the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) was the prime fund-raising body in the U.S. for Hamas. Eleven years later, in 2007, charges were laid against the Holy Land Foundation for funding Hamas and terrorist organizations. Then, in 2009, the founders of HLF were given life sentences for directing $12 million to Hamas. Richard Clarke, former boss of counter-terrorism for the U.S. National Security Council, has called Emerson “the Paul Revere of terrorism.” Not a bad description. Some newspapers in the Arab world have accused, or blamed Emerson for “Islamaphobia” they think infects the West.

In response, Emerson’s documentary, Terrorist Among Us(itls) (available from points out that as a faith, Islam condemns acts of terrorism. It’s Islamic extremists who wage jihadist war who are as great a threat to moderate Muslims as they are to those they regard as infidels (i.e. Western countries). One hopes Michael Coren and Sun TV have Steve Emerson on again — Canada needs periodic doses of realism. It’s unlikely the CBC would give Emerson a platform. It prefers CAIR.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Again: Belgian Parties Fail to Form Government

(AGI) Brussels — The date for the formation of a new Belgian government has been delayed again. The kingdom has been without a government for 526 days. At the end of all night negotiations, the six main parties were not able to come to an agreement on how to cut 11.3 billion euro from the national debt by next year and 20 billion by 2015. Negotiations for a coalition government centered around government reform, which has been the focus of tensions between French-speaking Walloons and Dutch-speaking Flemish for decades. The lack of a government worries European institutions, who have launched an appeal for both sides to come to an agreement and bring the public debt below 3% of GDP from its current 4.6%.

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

Boar Causes Panic in French Record Store

Saturday morning shoppers in the southern city of Toulouse were sent flying when a wild boar charged through busy streets. The animal, which is believed to have found its way to the city after fleeing a hunt, made its way through the city’s streets before entering the central shopping area.

The boar was then captured on video surveillance footage entering and racing through the Virgin Megastore as panicked shoppers fled in all directions. “I thought it was a huge dog,” Virgin employee Gautier Petit told the news channel BFM TV. Another shop owner recounted how the 80 kilogramme (176 pounds) animal tried to get into his store.

“All of a sudden there was this crash against the window,” said Emile, the owner of clothing store Groucho Vintage. “The boar then got up and fled in the other direction. It was pretty surprising.” A police officer told local newspaper La Dépêche that “people were terrorized, the boar as well.” The frightened animal fled in the direction of the famous Canal du Midi waterway, where it jumped in. After debating whether to rescue it or put it to sleep, police eventually decided to kill the animal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

British Muslims: Active Players in UK Counterterrorism Efforts

LONDON: Earlier this year British Prime Minister David Cameron criticized “state multiculturalism” for encouraging people of different cultures, including Muslims, to live separate lives. While this does not in itself sound harmful, the speech went on to suggest that it was time for “less passive tolerance” and “more active, muscular liberalism” when dealing with extremism — either advertently or inadvertently linking extremism with culture. His target seemed to be community-based counterterrorism programs, which he felt were accepting government funding but doing little to prevent extremism.

Community-based counterterrorism, however, has a proven track record in preventing terrorist incidents, with the communities themselves being the first to condemn criminal activity in their desire for peace. For example, Muslim communities in the United States have helped foil close to a third of Al Qaeda-related terror plots since September 11, 2001. Likewise in the UK, Muslim activists have worked for many years to cooperate with police, empowering their communities and helping shape the debate against extremism within them.

Rather than seeing British Islam as a political and security problem — undermining civil and religious liberties — the British government should view it instead in the context of diverse cultural expressions within its stated policy goal of promoting community cohesion. Much of Britain is profoundly ethnically segregated with different communities leading parallel lives, as Paul Thomas, Senior Lecturer in Youth and Community Work at the University of Huddersfield, notes in his 2010 article, “Failed and Friendless: The UK’s ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’ Program”.

Instead of winning hearts and minds, some government initiatives have led to a significant growth in surveillance of Muslim communities. It is deeply offensive to British Muslims to know their mosques are being spied upon by intelligence agents who consider Muslims the “enemy”, which has the opposite effect of achieving social cohesion by focusing on Muslims and antagonizing the very communities they are trying to win over. One approach has been to fund new organizations and promote them as the voice of contemporary, mainstream British Islam. Successful community programs, such as Channel — which works with at-risk youth — and those which prioritize work with Muslim women and children, may continue to be an effective alternative to isolation and disaffection amongst British Muslims.

A survey in 2009 on the attitudes of British Muslims showed they identified strongly with the UK and had a high regard for its institutions, including higher education. If this respect is to continue, then attention must be paid by the discerning public to the standard of contemporary scholarship regarding multiculturalism, which is not always academic or impartial, and the prevalence of harmful terminology in popular media and culture. The British people are continually being warned about the threat of Islam, “Islamic extremism”, “Islamic radicalization”, and the lack of cultural integration from a variety of sources: the media, right-wing think tanks and sometimes even the government. According to the University of Exeter’s European Muslim Research Center, “these reductionist and populist portrayals of Muslims in Britain don’t do our society any credit. Politicians need to be braver — and reject cheap votes for real political engagement.”

Negative terminology is being steadily countered by work at many different levels. For example, cultural programs, funded either directly or indirectly by the UK government, are empowering Muslim voices calling for understanding, integration and harmony through the Muslim press, Arabic-language television programs, which at the same time are strengthening links with non-governmental organizations, and building religious and educational initiatives. A positive sign of Muslim participation in political power is that the number of Muslim Members of Parliament in Britain continues to rise, with eight Muslims elected to the British Parliament in the 2010 election, including three women. For example, incumbent Shahid Malik, who lost his seat but remains an active participant in British-Muslim dialogue, has emphasized that the perpetrators of the June 2007 attack should be described by the media as “criminals”, not “Muslims”. It is this important distinction and its accompanying attitude that must be encouraged as the British government moves to defuse the Islamophobic undertones of the debate on multiculturalism and violent extremism.

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a fellow and member of the Board of Directors at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding, former Research Scholar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and World Fellow at Yale University. Visit to read more of his articles and follow him on Twitter (@AzeemIbrahim). This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

[JP note: I don’t believe a word of it — Islam has only one purpose: conquest. All else is mummery and mudara.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Sharp Rise in Home Break-Ins

Burglary is on the rise on both sides of the Storebælt, leading police to try a new text message hotline, among other efforts

Police in northern Zealand and eastern Jutland are reporting an extraordinary rise in the number of house break-ins in recent months. Last weekend alone police received 130 separate reports of residential break-ins and stolen goods from houses or apartments in the suburbs north of Copenhagen.

The same trend of a dramatic rise in residential break-ins is being reported in Aarhus this year. A study by the Østjyllands Politi revealed a 26.5 percent rise in the number of thefts between the first half of 2010 and the first half of 2011. Authorities in Aarhus said the trend was especially vexing, because more police were already on special assignment to deter the breaking-and-entering robberies.

“We are already making a big effort to reduce break-ins, but we have nothing to show for it,” police superintendent Mogens Brøndum told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Police in northern Zealand were also nonplussed by the sharp rise in break-ins. “To my recollection, I can’t remember that we have ever had so many break-ins at private residences,” Henrik Suhr, a spokesperson for Nordsjællands Politi, told public broadcaster DR.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dutch Gov’t Ally Opposes Turkish President Visit

Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, a key ally for the ruling Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition, said on Saturday he opposed a planned visit by Turkish President Abdullah Gul because Turkey is an “Islamist regime”.

Wilders, whose party is the third-largest in the Dutch parliament and opposes closer ties between Europe and Turkey, backs the Dutch minority government in return for tougher immigration and integration rules. Gul has been invited to visit the Netherlands next year, when the two countries will celebrate 400 years of relations. (Reuters)

           — Hat tip: The PVV[Return to headlines]

Electricity From Turkey for Greek Islands

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — A new plan by Greece’s Energy Ministry to provide electricity to the furthermost Greek islands by connecting them to the Turkish electricity network could prove a positive step towards resolving the age old enmity between the two countries, whose already tense relations deteriorated recently following controversy over hydrocarbon prospecting being carried out by Cyprus off its own coasts, a move that has been met by criticism from Ankara.

The project to connect the Greek islands to the Turkish network was mooted last weekend by the Greek Minister for Energy and the Environment, George Papaconstantinou, during the third Black Sea Energy and Economy Forum, which was held in Istanbul. “We had already spoken to Turkish officials in the past about the chances of connecting the Greek islands to the Turkish electrical network, and we are still considering this project,” the minister said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: New Environment Minister Positive to Idea of Nuclear Power

(AGI) Rome — The newly appointed environment minister, Corrado Clini, speaking on RAI2 TV show “Un Giorno Da Pecora” said, “A return to nuclear power is an option on which a great deal of reflection is needed, although events in Japan have discouraged us. Generally speaking, nuclear technology still remains a key one at a global level.” According to Clini nuclear power is a possibility, “under certain conditions and is a technology one must assess.” .

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

Italy: Camorra Bust in Rome, Naples

110 ‘Ndrangheta members convicted in Milan

(ANSA) — Rome, November 21 — Italian police on Monday arrested 24 people linked to the Neapolitan Camorra mafia accused of trafficking drugs from Naples to Rome.

Police said Camorra members based on the coast south of Rome “passed cocaine and hashish onto other criminals” in the capital.

The 24 are also suspected of trafficking in counterfeit goods, especially knock-offs of tools for farming and construction, police said.

At the weekend a court in Milan sentenced 110 members of the Calabria-based ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate to up to 16 years in jail for crimes linked to their infiltration of the northern Italian economy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat Chief Gives Monti Vote of Confidence

‘We could not have had a better candidate’ says Marchionne

(ANSA) — Rome, November 21 — Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne said Monday that newly appointed Italian Premier Mario Monti was the best person for the job. “With Monti, we could not have had a better candidate,” said Marchionne. “Monti has the full support of Fiat and the industrial sector”. The Fiat chairman voiced hopes that Monti, who received votes of confidence from the Senate and the House last week after former Premier Silvio Berlusconi stepped down, would remain in office until the end of the legislative period in 2013. “The only thing that could put rescue efforts at risk is irrational political interference. The world is watching us.

This time, no nonsense”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan Court Hears First Day of ‘Ruby Trial’

Additional 29 young women added to list of plaintiffs

(ANSA) — Milan, November 21 — A Milan court decided Monday that 29 young women would be considered civil plaintiffs in the case surrounding allegations that former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi paid for sex with Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan runaway and belly dancer also known as Ruby, before she turned 18.

The announcement came on the first day of a criminal trial for three people suspected of procuring women for the former premier’s alleged sex parties: Berlusconi’s former dental hygienist, ex-showgirl and now Lombardy regional councillor Nicole Minetti, the PdL official who was sent to a Milan police station to collect El Mahroug last year after a theft allegation; a veteran news anchor at one of Berlusconi’s TV channels and close personal friend of the former premier’s, Emilio Fede; and a bankrupt showbiz talent scout who managed a stable of aspiring starlets, Lele Mora.

The additional civil plaintiffs, who are over the age of 18, are said to have attended parties at the ex-premier’s Sardinian villa. It was the decision of the court and not the young women to include their names in the list of plaintiffs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat to Scrap All Collective Labour Deals From January

Carmaking moving to controversial factory-specific contracts

(ANSA) — Turin, November 21 — Fiat said Monday that it was cancelling all of the nationally negotiated labour deals in force at its Italian plants as of January 1.

The move is aimed at paving the way for the introduction of controversial factory-specific contracts like those agreed with moderate unions for its Mirafiori plant in Turin and its Pomigliano d’Arco plant near Naples.

In the letter sent to unions announcing the move, the carmakers said it was ready for talks on reaching “better” deals. CGIL and its engineering workers arm FIOM have clashed fiercely with Fiat over the last year and half over its drive to introduce these revolutionary production deals, outside the country’s long-established system of nationally negotiated collective contracts.

CGIL and FIOM say the deals, which feature reductions in break times, increases in shifts, measures to cut absenteeism and limits on the ability to strike, breach labour rights and they are waging legal action.

“Extending the Pomigliano agreement to all the 72,000 Fiat group workers (in Italy) does not just entail extending a bad agreement, it changes the whole nature of the trade union organization,” said FIOM chief Maurizio Landini.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne says these deals are necessary to make Fiat’s Italian facilities profitable.

Fiat recently withdrew from Italy’s powerful industrial employers’ confederation Confindustria, under whose aegis the collective deals were agreed.

Marchionne also said on Tuesday that the planned merger of Fiat and Chrysler would not take place next year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Former Parma City Managers Arrested for ‘Rigging Tenders’

‘A great deal of fraudulent behaviour,’ police say

(ANSA) — Parma, November 21 — Two ex-managers for Parma city council were arrested Monday on suspicion of rigging tenders for personal gain.

Stefania Benecchi 40, and Ivano Savi, 47, are accused of “a great deal of fraudulent behaviour, affecting the fairness of some public works already completed and others still being carried out,” police said.

Up till a few months ago the pair had top jobs in the city’s finance and urban-planning departments.

Among the tenders involved, police said, was a planned community centre for the elderly whose failure to get off the ground had sparked polemics in the northern Italian city.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Light Pulled Out of Empty Space

YOU can get something from nothing — as long as you are moving close to the speed of light. The discovery confirms a 41-year-old prediction on how to pull energy from empty space and produce light. The phenomenon relies on the long-established fact that empty space is not at all empty, but fizzing with particles that pop in and out of existence (see “Out of the ether: the changing face of the vacuum”). This is down to the laws of quantum mechanics, which say that even a vaccum cannot have exactly zero energy but must exhibit small fluctuations of energy. These fluctuations show themselves as pairs of short-lived particles.

The presence of these “virtual” particles, usually photons, has long been proved in experiments demonstrating the standard Casimir effect, in which two parallel mirrors set close together will feel a pull towards each other. This happens because the small space between the mirrors limits the number of virtual photons that can appear in this region. Since there are more photons outside this space, the radiation pressure on the mirrors from the outside is larger than the pressure between them, which pushes the mirrors together.

Now Chris Wilson at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, and his colleagues have gone a step further, pulling photons out of the void in a process called the dynamical Casimir effect. “It was a difficult technical experiment,” says Wilson. “We were very happy when it worked.”

“This is a significant breakthrough,” says Diego Dalvit, a physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The energy of virtual photons is cosmologists’ best guess of what lies behind the dark energy that is causing the universe’s expansion to accelerate. The experiment will “open possibilities for doing table-top experiments of cosmology”, Dalvit says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Verhagen Lashes Out at Wilders

Dutch Deputy Prime Minister Maxime Verhagen lashed out at Freedom Party PVV leader Geert Wilders, telling him, “the time for easy decisions is over.” Mr Verhagen, who is also interim leader of the governing CDA, was responding to statements by the PVV leader. Last week, Mr. Wilders repeatedly announced that his party would not support any new spending cuts unless the government agreed to slash €4 billion from the development aid budget.

The PVV agreed to support the minority coalition on economic policies in return for tighter controls on immigration and cuts to cultural subsidies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Beware the ‘Pirate’ Cabby: Oslo Police

Get into a “pirate taxi” and you’re taking your life into your own hands, Oslo police are warning those looking for a fast trip home from a night on the town. The drivers of 17 of 19 pirate taxis reported to police in 2010 already had serious criminal backgrounds. “They’ve been reported for violence, sexual assault and robbery,” said Oslo Police traffic boss and night patrolman, Øystein Laegdene, to broadcaster NRK.

Many a newcomer to Norway has blindly followed Norwegian friends into a pirate — or unmarked and unregistered — car understood to be a taxi substitute for those not wanting to brave half-hour line-ups in the biting cold. Among the 53 reported rapes in this year’s sexual assault wave in Oslo, police say three are connected to pirate taxis. “One takes a big risk,” Laegdene said, adding, “I’m pretty surprised people dare expose themselves to it.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pakistani Family Stand Trial for ‘Honour Killing’ In Belgium

Belgium’s first “honour killing” trial opened on a note of high drama Monday when a young Pakistani man suddenly confessed to the murder of one sister and the attempted murder of another. Mudusar Sheikh, 27, is standing trial along with his parents and younger sister for the murder of his sister, Sadia Sheikh.

The law student, who defied the family by living with a Belgian and refusing an arranged marriage, was shot dead by three bullets allegedly fired by Mudusar on October 22, 2007. Her parents and sister are accused of aiding and abetting the killing which took place when the student visited her family in the hopes of patching up their quarrel.

Mudusar has admitted to killing his sister while saying the rest of the family were not to blame. Questioned by the presiding judge at the jury trial, he surprised his own lawyer by suddenly confessing to the attempted murder of his second sister, Sariya, now 22 and on trial herself in the case.

“I am confronted by two acts, one that succeeded — that eradicated a person, Sadia — and one that failed, on my sister Sariya,” who was wounded by a bullet to the arm in the 2007 shooting. “I want to tell my family this,” he went on. “I wanted to kill Sariya. I don’t dare look you in the eye.” “I left you for dead,” he added to his sister beside him in the dock as his parents broke into tears.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Seeing is Believing the Beauty of the Netsukes

Charles Moore reviews The Hare with Amber Eyes (Illustrated edition) by Edmund de Waal (Chatto and Windus).

Although first published only last year, this book is already, rightly, famous. Through the history of 264 netsuke — “a very big collection of very small objects” — it tells the story of a family, and of civilisation and barbarism. The Ephrussis were Jewish grain traders from Odessa, who established themselves in the 19th century as bankers in Paris and Vienna. They became almost as rich and powerful — and as intellectual — as the Rothschilds. Their bank, their palace and their art in Vienna were grabbed by the Nazis after the Anschluss in 1938. The Ephrussis fled. Victor, the son of Elisabeth Ephrussi by her Dutch husband, became the Anglican Dean of Canterbury. His son, Edmund, became a distinguished potter, much influenced by Japan. Edmund wrote this book. The netsuke, including the hare with amber eyes, first left Japan because of the craze for “Japonisme” in Paris in the 1870s. Charles Ephrussi, a connoisseur, bought them. The French poet Jules Laforgue recorded the room — Charles’s study — in which they came to rest. They shared the space with paintings by Sisley, Pissarro, Monet, Renoir, Manet and Degas.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Catholic Church Issues Mea Culpa on Apartheid

The Catholic Church in Switzerland dealt with apartheid “hesitantly” and allowed itself to be influenced by business interests, a church-commissioned study has found.

Historians looked into the church’s approach to South Africa’s racial segregation regime between 1970 and 1990 and found “a cautious and rather hesitant approach towards the issue of apartheid” prevailed.

Church leadership often reacted defensively and with foot-dragging to demands to tackle apartheid more robustly, according to the report commissioned by the National Justice and Peace Commission of the Swiss Bishops Conference.

“The position of the church leadership reflected the circumstances in Swiss society at the time,” historian Bruno Soliva, co-author of the study told

“The Catholic Church was firmly rooted in the conservative milieu; the church leadership in particular was linked to the middle classes and took up their interests, partly subconsciously,” Soliva said.

From 1980 there was a new tendency in the Catholic Church towards more conservatism, “also through the Polish Pope John Paul II”, Soliva said. “This strengthened the position of those circles that feared a communist revolution in South Africa.”

At the presentation of the report in September, Abbot Martin Werlen, speaking on behalf of the Bishops Conference, said that from today’s viewpoint it was regrettable that the Swiss church leadership did not act more forcefully and courageously against apartheid.

The Swiss Catholic Church was also influenced by its counterpart in South Africa which never took a clear position on the use of sanctions as an instrument against the apartheid system.

Christian caution

The centre-right Christian Democrats, which rejected a boycott against South Africa, also played a braking role on the issue of apartheid. It is difficult to establish whether the party had an influence over the church leadership, according to Soliva. There are fewer written sources on this matter than oral witness statements.

“There were meetings between the church and the Christian Democrats but the issue of South Africa was seldom discussed. The political centre in Switzerland did not really concern itself with apartheid. It was an issue with the Social Democrats, on one side pushing for sanctions, and the Radicals and the Swiss People’s Party on the other side against sanctions.

“Christian Democrat parliamentarians were often on the boards of large or medium-sized banks. There were also Christian Democrat politicians in bank management, “although this was mainly the preserve of Radicals”…

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

UK: Pickles and Warsi Wrestle for Control of Government Strategy on Anti-Muslim Hatred

Warsi and Pickles clash over Muslim Leadership Council

Eric Pickles and Sayeeda Warsi are battling to win control of the first-ever Government initiative to tackle anti-Muslim hatred — which is due to be launched this week as part of a new Coalition integration policy. At the heart of the struggle is a fledgling group strongly favoured by Warsi to be called the Muslim Leadership Council or Panel (MLC). Some of its members have not been cleared for working involvement with Government by the Home Office and other departments. Some MLC members have unmissable connections to the Islamic Society of Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain, which the Government has ended engagement with — as the Conservative Party did at the time of the Daud Abudullah controversy. Three of the 13 MLC names put to other Departments for views or clearance by Warsi are connected with the three mainstream political parties, two are senior BBC employees and one is an Ismaili. Of the remaining seven, one is linked to the ISB, one to the MCB and one to both.

Sources claim that one MLC name has been rejected by the Government

The tussle between Pickles and Warsi raises questions about which Ministers have charge of the initiative, the nature of the new council, and who represents British Muslims — if anyone. Sources insist that one original MLC name — Sir Iqbal Sacranie — has been rejected by the Government. They say that Warsi is pushing for the council to be strongly represented in a new Government working group on anti-Muslim hatred. I revealed plans for the launch of the latter during the summer. They also claim that the MLC is attempting to take the lead — and win the backing of government — in the formation of a new Muslim equivalent of the Community Security Trust, which is regarded by the Government as a partner in the fight against anti-semitism. Pickles, however, is determined to ensure that CLG retains control over the working group, and is insisting that only one member of the MLC is represented on it. He and Warsi are apparently due to meet some of its members shortly.

Which Department is in charge?

The war of manoevre between Warsi and Pickles points to unresolved tensions within the Government over practical questions — such as which Department controls the combat against extremism in general and anti-Muslim hatred in particular. Pickles’s CLG is officially in charge, since it covers faith and integration — of which countering extremism is a part. The Home Office is responsible for Prevent, and thus mans the frontier between violent extremism and extremism more broadly. The Foreign Office has overhauled Labour’s Engaging with the Islamic World programme. The Education Department has a new counter-extremism unit. And above the whole structure sits Downing Street. Warsi has shown a broad interest in Government in cohesion-related matters (see her recent speech on anti-semitism) and a special one in anti-Muslim hatred (her speech on Islamophobia was a curate’s egg). But there is no obvious reason why the Cabinet Office should be involved at all.

The party’s view in Opposition was that no single group represents British Muslims…

There are questions about philosophical matters as well as practical ones — and comparing British Jews and Muslims helps to highlight them. Jews in Britain have a venerable institution to help represent their views to government — the Board of Deputies, established as long ago as 1760. The Board of Deputies is part of the Government’s working group on anti-semitism — on which the new one on anti-Muslim hatred will be modelled — as are the Community Security Trust (CST) and the Jewish Leadership Council. The presence and status of these three has won widespread acceptance among British Jews, but the organisations would presumably agree that they cannot represent to governent the variety of views of domestic Jewish communities, let alone individuals. British Muslims are arguably even more diverse than British Jews — being differentiated by a wider variety of languages and national backgrounds. The most authoritative polling to date has found that 51 per cent believe that no Muslim organisation represents their views.

…But has it changed its mind?

This is why in opposition the Party was careful to emphasise that no single group can possibly represent the multifariousness of British Muslims, who lack the equivalent of a long-standing Board of Deputies. It also opposed government granting groups special recognition. For example, Warsi said that a women’s group set up by Hazel Blears was “dividing communities and is patronising because it says to Muslim women, “You can engage with us only as Muslim women and not as individuals”. One prominent Muslim Labour politician went further, suggesting that British Muslims lacked the social and political capacity of British Jews. Sadiq Khan, then Labour’s Cohesion Minister, said of sharia courts that “I don’t think there is that level of sophistication that there is in Jewish law”. For the Government to grant special favous to any Muslim group would therefore mark a change of course by the Coalition, if not a U-turn by the party itself. The MLC seems to have no website at present, but the names of its members were circulated by the Cabinet Office earlier this year.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie and the Union of Good

Sacranie is a former Secretary-General of the MCB and was knighted under Labour. He is a trustee of the Union of Good, a coalition of charities headed by the hate preacher Yusuf Al Qaradawi, who was banned from Britain by Gordon Brown after pressure from David Cameron in the Commons. This perhaps accounts for the rejection of his name by the Government after it was advanced as part of the MLC by the Cabinet Office. He is also a trustee of IEngage, which MPs voted to remove as the Secretariat of the All-Party Group on Islamophobia during the summer. The Union of Good was established to provide money for organisations belonging to Hamas, and has been designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group by the United States Treasury. The charity Interpal was directed by the Charity Commission in 2009 “to end the charity’s relationship with the Union for Good and ensure that no trustee holds office or has a role within the Union for Good”.

The Union of Good and the MLC

Two other members of the MLC are linked at one remove to the Union of Good — Iftikhar Awan, a trustee of Islamic Relief Worldwide, and Jehangir Malik, the Director of Islamic Relief UK. This is because Islamic Relief Worldwide and Islamic Relief UK are both members of the Union of Good. However, Islamic Relief has good relations with Government Departments, including CLG, International Development and the Foreign Office, which was reported to have sponsored its 25th Gala dinner in 2009. An Islamic Relief video was shown at the 2009 party conference, featuring a social action project sponsored by the party and Islamic Relief. It is unclear whether the Coalition’s view of the Union of Good either differs from that of the United States or is simply not resolved. Sources claim that funding for the MLC project comes mainly from Shabir Randeree, the Chairman of the European Islamic Investment Bank. Randeree sits on the Business Department’s Asia Task Force committee..

The MLC, the ISF and the MCB

Other MLC names put forward by the Cabinet Office include Akeela Ahmed, the Chief Executive Officer of Muslim Youth Helpline, the journalist Sarah Joseph and Peter Sanders, one of the few photographers given permission by the Saudis to photograph the sacred mosque at Mecca. Muslim Youth Helpline’s sponsors include Government departments and it is an MCB affiliate. Sarah Joseph is a long-standing activist in the Islamic Society of Britain, which itself is an MCB affiliate, and was formerly an MCB official. Kamal el-Helbawy, the British-based Egyptian Islamist who “served as the official spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West from 1995-1997”, has said that the Islamic Society of Britain was established by the Muslim Brotherhood. Ed Husain, author of “The Isalmist” and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, has named the ISB as one of a number of “groups whose leading members include supporters of hardcore Islamist ideologies”.

A Muslim equivalent of the CST could help fill a Muslim leadership gap…

However, he added the qualifying words “with some exceptions”, and it is important to bear this in mind. The ISB is pulled back and forth between its Islamist roots and progressive elements. This tension is reflected in its statement on identity and loyalty. The question of which Muslim group or organisations are represented on the working group, and which win Ministerial backing for the formation of new Muslim equivalent of the CST, could prove decisive in the continuing story of British Muslims. The latter initiative in particular could begin to fill a leadership gap which has existed since the arrival of Muslims in Britain in substantial numbers. When I revealed plans for the launch of the Government working group, I wrote that move was sensible. I have previously suggested that the DCLG Select Committee should examine anti-Muslim hatred and violence, and believe that a Muslim equivalent of the CST is welcome in principle — an expert body that can collect, analyse, respond to and publish statistics relating to violence and hatred.

…So Ministers should proceed with care

It may be claimed that the MLC is extreme because of its links with the Union of Good. It is true that two of its members are senior members of charities operating under the Union of Good umbrella. However, the Government is not well placed to lecture organisations on the matter given the lack of clarity of its own position. Furthermore, no body that contains Hamira Khan, a former Conservative candidate, and Fiyaz Mughal, an adviser to Nick Clegg, can be described as extreme. The key point about the MLC returns us to where we began — to the difficulties inherent in privileging any one organisation. The names forwarded by the Cabinet Office are neither representative of all the strands of British Islam nor institutionally linked to mosques. So Ministers should proceed with care. The Government must establish which department is to make the running — especially since it’s not clear why the Cabinet Office is involved at all. And Downing Street should keep a watchful eye on events.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: The Desecration of St Paul’s

The Guardian reports today: ‘Desecration, defecation and substance abuse are among the issues St Paul’s Cathedral has had to cope with because of the protest camp in its churchyard, according to legal documents filed by the City of London Corporation ahead of its attempt to evict activists from the area.’

In a letter to the Corporation a cathedral official, Nicholas Cottam, has reported: ‘“Desecration: graffiti have been scratched and painted on to the great west doors of the cathedral, the chapter house door and most notably a sacrilegious message painted on to the restored pillars of the west portico. Human defecation has occurred in the west portico entrance and inside the cathedral on several occasions. Noisy interruption has occurred to spoken and sung Christian services, after repeated requests for quiet. Foul language has frequently been directed at cathedral staff. Noise has frequently carried into the cathedral to the extent that services have been difficult to sustain in any meaningful way.”

‘Cottam added that alcohol “and other stimulants” appeared to “fuel the noise levels day and night”. The cathedral authorities are thus recording grossly uncivilised, antisocial behaviour which, in their own words, is desecrating the holy space of St Paul’s Cathedral. And yet, as we all know, the same cathedral authorities have refused to take action to end this affront to decency in their own churchyard. They have washed their hands of it and in effect dumped the entire mess into the lap of the City of London Corporation, so that the church can continue to show that its own heart bleeds for the poor. Not only is this egregious hypocrisy, but it tells us more clearly than ever before that when it comes to defending a civilised society against its wreckers — indeed, when it comes to defending the church itself against sacrilege and desecration — the Church of England will be on the wrong side.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Young Swedish Girls in Home Invasion Horror

Two young girls were left locked in a toilet while burglars raided their home in Gothenburg on Monday morning. “The girls are in shock and have been taken to hospital,” said police spokesperson Stefan Gustafsson to news agency TT. The two girls, who are sisters and both under 15 years of age, were at home alone when the burglars struck. After being locked in together in a bathroom, one of them managed to alert the police on a mobile phone.

When the girl spoke to the police she didn’t know whether the perpetrators were still in the house, but when the officers arrived shortly after, the thieves had scarpered. They are currently being sought by police. According to the officers, one of the girls was “partly tied up” and had been exposed to some violence but neither had sustained any serious physical injuries.

Police are still not clear on what might have been removed from the house in connection with the burglary or if there was anything specific that the robbers were after. Neither are they aware of any specific threat against the family.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


EU Organ Harvesting Probe “Confidential” : Report

An EU task force probing a Council of Europe report linking Kosovo Prime Minister Hashin Thaci to organ trafficking was conducting a confidential investigation on the ground, a report said Monday. “Investigations of this nature will be subject to a strict level of confidentiality,” task force spokesman Juri Laas was quoted as saying by Kosovo’s Daily Express newspaper.

Laas said no details of the probe into the report by the Council of Europe that Thaci had headed a Kosovo guerrilla faction which controlled secret detention centres in Albania as “this might seriously damage the investigation and as such risk the lives of the witnesses.” “This would be a complex international investigation that will require a long time to complete,” Laas said.

The EU rule of law mission (EULEX) in June set up a task force to start a preliminary investigation into the report alleging that organ trafficking took place in the aftermath of the 1998-99 war between the Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas and Serbian forces. The task force is composed of prosecutors and investigators and led by US prosecutor Clint John Clint Williamson, who is based in Brussels for the probe.

The war ended after a NATO air campaign ousted Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic’s forces from the territory, paving the way for the establishment of UN administration over Kosovo. EULEX was launched in Kosovo only months after it unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Dialogue Today, Pristina Team Already in Brussels

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 21 — After a two-month stall, EU-brokered dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade has resumed in Brussels today. The Kosovan delegation led by the Deputy Prime Minister, Edita Tahiri, has already arrived in Brussels, but talks are not expected to begin before this afternoon at the EU Council’s Justus Lipsius building, where talks will be held with the delegation led by Borko Stefanovic, the political chief of Belgrade’s Foreign Ministry. To reach the target of new deals, European sources have not ruled out the possibility of talks being extended to tomorrow.

The most delicate issue up for discussion concerns the “integrated management of borders”, which is behind the recent dispute that began at the end of September in northern Kosovo, where the Serbian population has been protesting at the presence of Kosovan Albanian police and customs officers at two border crossings with Serbia. The Serbs, who do not recognise the independence of Kosovo, do not accept the presence of Pristina representatives at the crossings of Brnjak and Jarinje, as they are not considered border crossings. Belgrade’s major concern now is that the concession of European Union candidate status is hand in glove with the resumption of dialogue with Pristina, as is a potential start to accession talks. Issues due to be discussed at the meeting also include energy, telecommunications, Kosovo’s participation in regional forums and university degrees.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Fresh Clashes in Tahrir Square, 22 Dead Since Saturday

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO — Cairo’s Tahrir Square is once more packed with protesters today, following clashes yesterday and in the early hours of this morning, during which police attempted to disperse crowds firing tear gas and rubber bullets. The latest official figures say that 22 people have died and 425 have been injured, while unofficial medical reports say that more than 1,700 have been injured since incidents began on Saturday afternoon. A truce agreement was announced in the early hours of the morning between the police and the Imam of the Great Mosque of Omar Makram (behind Tahrir Square), a deal apparently based on the handover of one senior official and four policemen taken hostage by protesters yesterday evening. Yet a short time after the handover, police carried out a new heavy-handed operation to clear part of the square, where a tent has again been set up.

The closure of the major road network in the centre of the city means that there are significant traffic problems, with drivers forced to use alternative routes and more difficult roads. Speaking at an impromptu press conference in Tahrir Square, General Said Abbas, the assistant to the region’s military commander, moved to ensure protesters that the sit-in is a guaranteed right as long as it does not harm the public interest. The official also said that there are no police or military officials in the square, but rather a special order has been set up to protect the area where government ministries, the Interior in particular, are located. Abbas also said that he had asked protesters if they felt that the army should provide services to guarantee their safety.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Riots in Cairo: Sentiment Growing Against New Wave of Protests

This weekend’s street battles in Cairo, which resulted in at least 20 deaths, could be costly for the protest movement. Many Egyptian people fear the riots will jeopardize precisely what the spring protest movement originally called for: free parliamentary elections that are slated to begin next week.

A new front formed in downtown Cairo on Sunday evening. “Go home, you useless people,” one man called out. “Let me go to work — my children are hungry,” cursed another. Passers-by and car drivers stuck in traffic lashed out at the protesters on Tahrir Square — at times even coming to blows.

The reactions are telling. For the last three days, some 5,000 revolutionaries, primarily made up of young men, have been protesting on the square. At times, the demonstrations have erupted into running battles with riot police. And the protesters, it would seem, are rapidly losing the support of the people. They have, after all, brought large parts of this city of 20 million residents to a standstill.

They have also, once again, turned the heart of Cairo into a battle zone. Since Sunday, at least 20 people have been killed in the clashes, according to the Health Ministry. The Associated Press on Monday quoted a morgue official as saying the death toll may even be as high as 33. Since the protests began on Saturday, at least 1,750 people have been injured.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt: At Least 40 Dead, Shortage of Coffins

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO — The total number of dead from the clashes in Tahrir Square has risen to over 40. The figure was reported by a source from Cairo morgue, on condition of anonymity. “We are looking for cars and coffins, because we don’t have enough,” added another source while a doctor, Mona Mina, reported having seen at least 15 people dead with gunshot wounds.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Civilian Government Submits Offer to Resign

After three days of increasingly violent demonstrations, Egypt’s interim civilian government submitted its resignation to the country’s ruling military council on Monday, bowing to the demands of the protesters and marking a crisis of legitimacy for the military-led government.

The step was reported by Egyptian television, and it remained to seen whether the military would accept or reject the offer of the resignation, which followed the most sustained and bloodiest challenge to military’s hold on power since the fall of Hosni Mubarak as demonstrators clashed with security forces around Tahrir Square and across the country. Egyptian troops had been heralded as saviors when their generals ushered out President Mubarak on Feb. 11, but on Sunday they led a new push to clear the square. The Health Ministry said Monday that at least 23 people had been killed. Since Saturday, more than 1,500 people had been wounded, the ministry said.

By Monday evening the crowd in Tahrir Square, the symbolic epicenter of the Arab Spring uprisings, had swelled to a size even larger than the night before, easily exceeding 10,000.

[Return to headlines]

France: Rachida Dati’s Brother Arrested at Orly Airport

(AGI) Paris — The brother of France’s former Justice Minister Rachida Dati has been arrested at the Orly airport. Djamal Dati, the brother of France’s former Justice Minister and MEP Rachida Dati, was arrested at the Orly airport, near Paris, at around 2:45pm, when he was boarding a flight bound for Oran, in Algeria. The 40-year-old man was sentenced to one year in prison for “aggravated violence” against his ex-partner last June, and is not entitled to have his sentence reduced. In 2007, he had been sentenced to 12 months in jail in Nancy for drug possession and purchase.

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

‘How Can Egypt Vote Under Such Conditions?’

Egypt’s military leaders on Monday faced another explosion of protests demanding an end to army rule. The official death toll from the most recent demonstrations rose overnight to 22. German editorialists hope next week’s historic national ballot will not be derailed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Muslim Brotherhood Spiritual Leader Orders Egyptians Not to Vote for Secularists or Non-Muslims

After Youssef Qaradawi — whom Western academics portray as a “moderate” — commands Egyptian Muslims to vote only for Islamic parties and avoid non-Muslims, he hypocritically asserts his support for “every person of the Syrian people, including the Alawites, the Druze, and the Christians.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Strict Muslims Stake Claim on Egypt’s Political Scene

On a beach-front wall in Egypt’s second city where courting couples often stroll are scrawled the words: “Would you accept this for your sister?” and “Be in fear of God.” For frequenters of Alexandria’s shores, the authors of the disapproving messages are clear: Salafis, ultra-conservative Islamists who have overcome their distaste for politics to stake a claim on Egypt’s future after Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow. “What we want is the complete commitment to Islamic sharia law… The minimum is the constitution and then establishing a system of good governance,” said Abdel Monem el-Shahat, a scholar and spokesman for Alexandria’s leading Salafi body.

This port city with its historic seafront cafes serving wine and beer, a testimony to Alexandria’s cosmopolitan past, is a stronghold for Salafis whose newly-formed parties are campaigning in a parliamentary election that starts on November 28. The Salafi presence cannot be missed. Banners of Al-Nour (Light), seen as the biggest Salafi party, hang across streets urging women to take the Islamic veil, or hijab, already worn by most Egyptian women. Others announce medical help for the poor. Their candidate lists feature men with long beards and shaven upper lips in the style Salafis believe the Prophet Mohammad favored, and women whose faces are hidden by veils or replaced by symbols, at the women’s request, the party says.

The growing Salafi presence particularly worries Egypt’s Coptic Christians who make up about a tenth of Egypt’s 80 million people. Alexandria has one of Egypt’s largest Coptic communities, making campaigning in the city a tense affair. But many Muslims also fret about changes to a Mediterranean city they once cherished as an outward-looking, liberal hub.

“Alexandria isn’t the same any more … It’s losing its character and it will be unfeasible for it to return as the center for political and cultural freedoms,” said Sarah Hegazy, a Muslim woman who teaches at Alexandria University.


[JP note: Watching BBC news or Sky News over the weekend, you would not have guessed that the Tahrir Square protests had been organised by the Muslim Brotherhood — a peculiar instance of obfuscatory omission on the part of the broadcasting authorities (evidence of an emerging Mecca Nostra?) who seem determined to portray protesters as peace-loving democrats wherever they might sprout — Oakland, St Paul’s, etc.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Wives and Children Dumped in Morocco

Around 80 Moroccan-Dutch women a year report that they have been dumped in Morocco during a visit from the Netherlands, Amsterdam-based daily reports. Accompanying them are more than 100 children. The women have previously emigrated to the Netherlands and acquired a Dutch residence permit through marriage to a spouse with Dutch citizenship. But when the marriage fails, their husband lures them to Morocco under false pretences only to leave them behind, stranded with neither a passport or residence permit.

The figures come from the Moroccan Women’s Association Netherlands MVVN and the Support Re-emigrants Foundation SSR, the two organisations to which the women are able to report their situation. But those who do come forward are most likely only the tip of the iceberg, the groups conclude.

The abandoned women have often been exploited, abused and kept socially isolated during their marriage in the Netherlands, reports. And there are even men who dump one woman after another in Morocco. There is no law under which the women can appeal to the Moroccan police for help, and the Dutch police are powerless to intervene in Morocco.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Greek Air Force Held Joint Exercise With Israel

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 21 — In a sign of ever strengthening ties, a four day joint military exercise between the Greek and Israeli air force were concluded last week in southern Israel, as the online edition of Athens News reports.

From November 14-18, the Greek air force held joint exercises with Israel at the air base of Ovda, in the Negev desert.

Greek-Israeli military ties have been developing in recent years and will continue to do so under the Greece-Israel 2011 Military Cooperation Programme. Similar air force exercises between the two states have taken place in recent years causing concern in some nations including the Islamic Republic of Iran. A statement released by the Israeli military said “the Israeli air force regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel”. Athens and Tel Aviv have gone through a rapprochement in recent years which was triggered in part by Israel’s relations with Turkey which plummeted as a result of the Gaza war in 2008/09 and hit rock bottom after the Mavi Marmara incident resulting in the deaths of nine Turkish activists. In the latest round of military exercises, that took place in central and southern Israel, five F-16’s took part, while participating on the Israeli side were also F-16 and F-15 warplanes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

CIA Spies in Lebanon and Iran Captured, May be Killed

(AGI) Washington — Dozens of spies working as informers for the CIA in Lebanon and Iran have been discovered and captured.

Their capture is seen as a further blow to the United States’ credibility in the Middle East. Washington now fears that the spies might be killed. It was reported by TV network ABC that quoted US intelligence officials. The spies were paid to provide information on the Iranian regime and Shia militant group Hezbollah, the most powerful political and military formation in Lebanon, supported by both Syria and Iran.

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

Exclusive: CIA Spies Caught, Fear Execution in Middle East

In a significant failure for the United States in the Mideast, more than a dozen spies working for the CIA in Iran and Lebanon have been caught and the U.S. government fears they will be or have been executed, according to four current and former U.S. officials with connections to the intelligence community.

Robert Baer, a former senior CIA officer who worked against Hezbollah while stationed in Beirut in the 1980’s, said Hezbollah typically executes individuals suspected of or caught spying. “If they were genuine spies, spying against Hezbollah, I don’t think we’ll ever see them again,” he said. “These guys are very, very vicious and unforgiving.”

Other current and former officials said the discovery of the two U.S. spy rings occurred separately, but amounted to a setback of significant proportions in efforts to track the activities of the Iranian nuclear program and the intentions of Hezbollah against Israel…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Internet Filter in Turkey Sparks Fears of Censorship

Turkish telecommunications authorities will soon introduce a new Internet filter that would ban pornographic and separatist material online, despite numerous demonstrations decrying the move as censorship.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Is Mecca Looking Like Manhattan?

It is Islam’s most holy site and millions make a pilgrimage to the Grand Mosque at Mecca every year. But Mecca is also now being compared to Manhattan with the pace of high-rise buildings that are dotting the skyline. Luxury hotels are being built by the local authority to provide accommodation for the rich visitors that come to the city. But some Saudi archaeologists are angry than historical sites and buildings are being destroyed to make way for them. Ahmed Maher, from BBC Arabic Television, reports from the city.

[Video clip — 2mins 41 secs.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Darth Vader Claims Land Plot in Ukraine

Welcoming the local authorities’ move to the dark side, Darth Vader has asked for a land plot in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa to park his space ship.

An Odessite dressed as the “Star Wars” villain visited the mayor’s office last week to claim a free land plot citing Ukrainian legislation that grants every citizen the right to own 1,000 square meters of land. His visit followed a decision by city authorities to grant attractive land plots along the seacoast to a group of people for free, prompting public concerns about corruption, according to local media.

The mayor’s office has since said the move was a mistake but has not yet canceled it, according to a local news web site,

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Meeting With Muslim Clergy

Measures to prevent the spread of radical and extremist ideology, the elimination of religious illiteracy, as well as issues topical for Muslim communities were discussed.

Before the meeting Dmitry Medvedev visited First Cathedral Mosque of Ufa.

* * *

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon,

It’s as if we never even parted, seeing as it was only not so long ago that we last met. It is good that we have such opportunities to meet quite often on this kind of regular basis. I wish a warm welcome to all of the muftis here today. Friends and colleagues, not so much time has passed by since we met in Nalchik in July. These meetings are useful for both sides, for you, and for me too, because they help us to set our society’s course, taking into account the complex nature of our large ethnically and religiously diverse country. These meetings help us to work out the most appropriate ways of addressing the Muslim community’s problems. We discussed these things in Nalchik, and we will talk today, too, about what has been accomplished so far and what we want for the future.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the active civic position you take and the part you play in the moral and spiritual education of our people, and especially our young people. The future is in their hands after all, and in the case of Muslim youth, it is you, your values and your words, that serve as their guide and example. You have undoubted authority in their eyes, and this is very important for the interests of our country as a whole. The Muslim community is developing quite actively now, as, indeed, is our civil society in general. According to my information, at the start of the 1990s, there were only around 90 mosques in the whole of Russia (correct me if I’m wrong), but that seems plausible in the circumstances of the time. As for Muslim educational institutions, there were none at all. Today, there are around 7,000 mosques and prayer houses, and 96 Muslim educational institutions have been registered, including 7 universities. The difference is obvious and visible.

Over the last four years alone (according to information from religious organisations), 320 mosques were built around the country. This is taking place in every part of Russia, in the central regions and further afield. For obvious reasons, construction of mosques is proceeding actively in Bashkortostan, Chechnya, Daghestan, Tatarstan, and in the other Caucasus republics. Work on building large Islamic religious and educational centres is underway in Kabardino-Balkaria and Ingushetia. You had some particular requests to make of me. I have specifically examined these matters. This year, we concluded a separate agreement with Saudi Arabia and can now send another 2,000 pilgrims to make the Hajj. In total, 22,500 people from Russia visited Mecca this year. This is a big figure, bigger even than the numbers from some countries where Muslims make up the majority of the population. I think this is a positive thing.

Let me say that I think the state authorities and the country’s leadership must have it clear in their heads that only clergy preaching the Islam traditional for our country can create the ideological barrage against radicalism and extremism. Ignorance of the basic foundations of religious culture leave young people exposed to all kinds of radical and extremist currents. Ignorance is a dangerous thing in general, but religious ignorance is doubly dangerous because it often leads to problems not just in the head, but later also to problems in people’s acts. We have consistently and unswervingly fought these dangers and will continue to do so. There are results, but there also big difficulties. Unfortunately, the criminal groups that use religious slogans to further their criminal aims are still active.

We see this reflected in events in the North Caucasus, where several influential religious figures who steadfastly opposed the spread of extremist ideology, have been killed over recent months. They died for their people and, we should recognise, for their faith. This yet again underscores the importance of your mission as spiritual leaders who can help to separate true faith from attempts to manipulate people’s religious feelings. We will continue to support the development of our country’s diversity, and we see Islamic education as a part of this diversity. We are carrying out a programme in this area and have put in place the conditions for qualified training of specialists, which was not the case during the 1990s, or during the Soviet period, when such training was not possible at all. Ensuring a higher quality of training for specialists in Islamic history and culture, and fully integrating Islamic educational establishments into the Russian education system are certainly important tasks.

For the first time in our country’s history we have approved a state standard for higher professional education in Islamic theology. I think this is an important step. This makes it possible for state universities to have faculties training Islamic clerics. We have a programme for training such specialists and this work will continue. We have earmarked money for this work. This year’s budget and the 2012-2013 budgets allocate substantial funds — almost one billion rubles — for these purposes. We need to decide now how to spend this money as rationally as possible. I hope you will have some good proposals to make on this matter today. Proposals so far include developing academic methodological support, training programmes carried out by distance learning, and a number of other areas that could be developed.

Our country is on the eve of big political events right now, which are a part of democracy, and at this time it is important to remember that we are a country of great ethnic and religious diversity, but we must also feel an identity as a unified nation and citizens of a great country. How to combine these things is probably the most difficult task. Obviously we cannot take the same road that was taken during the Soviet period, although I met recently with senior citizens from various republics, from Daghestan and a number of others, and we discussed the particular ethnicity-related problems. It is essential today that we do not lose the traditions of living together that we formed over the centuries. Any attempts to sow ethnic and religious hatred must meet with a firm and appropriate response, no matter where in our country they manifest themselves, in the central regions, in the Caucasus, or in the Far East. There must be no regions exempt from our laws in this area. We realise that these kinds of problems exist on all sides, and we must respond to them in appropriate fashion.

On the subject of where we go from here, the foundations are laid during childhood, during the school years. I think that the school course we have introduced on the basics of religious culture and secular ethics, tied to the specific conditions of each particular part of the country, could produce good results. The course is already running in 21 regions now, and we plan in principle to extend it to the rest of the country, giving parents, and the students themselves, the chance to decide which course they wish to attend.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Putin Boo “Mystery” At Martial Arts Contest

(AGI) Moscow — Vladimir Putin, presidential favourite for 2012, has received the worst public reception of his political career. The Russian prime minister was attending a martial arts meeting and, after the victory of the Russian fighter Fedor Emelianenko, climbed into the ring to congratulate him.

However, as soon as he approached the microphone, the audience started to boo. However, his supporters claim the boos weren’t meant for him.

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

South Asia

COIN Colonel: Changing Religious Mindset May Not be Realistic Goal in Afghanistan

by Diana West

It happened again. There we were, going from one happy-dappy government account of COIN success in Sangin District at DVIDS —

With the use of counter insurgency operations, or COIN, the Marines are finding new ways to remove the insurgent networks from areas and assisting local villages in creating the peace the people of this area desire.

“We’re going to go out there and get with the people…the population is the objective,” said 3rd Recon Bn. Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Travis Homiak ….

— to another happy-dappy government account of COIN success in Garmsir, Helmand Province, at DVIDS, which reports on a similar uptick in tips from locals that lead Marines to IEDS and weapons caches, when the dark side of reality intruded, for a brief moment, like a rain cloud passing the sun.

Even as Marines go above and beyond even the call of COIN — helicoptering local elders to the Marine base to hold shuras for them??? (“There is only so much we can do for the people,” said an Afghan partner-commander, a little incredulousness perhaps showing through) — even as Recon Marines go Oprah for the cause (Afghans “just want somebody to talk to. Once you get them to open up and they get to tell you … how bad their lives are, the Marines lend them an empathetic ear. So, we’ve gotten a lot out of being nice to people.”), there is doubt lurking ahead in a second DVIDS story.

Noting a dramatic decrease in violence and an improvement in the capabilities of Afghan forces around Garmsir, Lt. Col. Sean Riordan offers his COIN explanation, echoing that of his brother officer in Sangin (who is all about “going to go out there and get with the people…the population is the objective”).

“Instead of focusing on 400 IEDs, we focused on the Afghan people,” said Lt. Col. Sean Riordan, 1/3 battalion commander and a native of Montclair, Va.

And how. In discussing the overall wonderfulness of the Helmand locals in a by-now familiar account of how frequently Afghans are, once again, tipping off Marines to the locations of IEDs and weapons caches, we learn, once again, what that focus looks like.

Hold onto your wallet…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

India: Lay Christians and Demand Justice for the Nun Murdered by the Mafia Coal

All appeals denounce the “shameless” link between the powerful coal companies and the State. Fr. Cedric Prakash, director of the Center for Justice and Peace in Ahmedabad Prashant: “The Martyrdom of Sister Valsa is a challenge for the Church in India.” Sajan K George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC): “The government, led by Hindu extremists, is the real culprit.”

Dhumka (AsiaNews) — It is a matter of “national shame” that the “profound link between the powerful coal companies and the state machine has cost the precious life of a woman who was working to ensure the basic rights of the marginalized.” Secular and Christian associations condemn the murder of Sister Valsa John, 53, the nun of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary shot dead by a group of 40 men on the night of November 15. A native of Kerala, the nun for 20 years had dedicated her life to the Santal tribal region Dhumka (State of Jharkhand), fighting for their rights and against the expropriation of their land by powerful coal lobby.

“The lobby of the coal mines — said Fr Cedric Prakash, Jesuit director of the Center for Justice and Peace Prashant, Ahmedabad — have become increasingly powerful. Their relationship with police and politicians is shameless. No one has the courage to touch them. The Martyrdom of Sister Valsa is a wake-up call for the entire country and a challenge for the Church in India. Christianity, here, clearly must be lived alongside the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed and exploited. The Church must support them in a practical way in their struggle for a more equitable, just and humane society. Demonstrating a resolute courage, even at the cost of losing privileges. Jesus did just that. “ The Jesuit then cites the encyclical of Benedict XVI Caritas in Veritate: “Love — caritas — is an extraordinary force which drives people to commit themselves with courage and generosity in the field of justice and peace. It is a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth. “

Sajan K George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said: “The GCIC believes the State Government, led by Hindu radicals, is responsible for the brutal murder, and demand a CBI investigation into the murder of Sister Valsa John. “

The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) and the National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (Nffpfw) signed a joint communique in which they demand an investigation of the likely connections between the murder of Sister Valsa and death threats that she had received from the coal mafia.

“Sister Valsa — reads the statement — Sr. Valsa had been under constant threat from Panem Coal Ltd. and had voiced the same to friends and family. The Superintendent of Police has confirmed that she had filed an FIR three years ago where she reported that she was facing death threats. To defend their rights to the land and its resources, the Santal community has created the Pajad Rajmahal Bachao Andolan with the help of Sister Valsa. Despite the agreement signed in 2006, tensions in the area recently increased, culminating with the murder of the nun. Sister Valsa received constant intimidation from Panem Coal Ltd. The Superintendent of Police confirmed that three years ago, the religious filed a complaint against death threats. But the state never intervened, and has even tried to discredit her figure with the media. “

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

India Registers Highest Number of Road Fatalities in the World

India registers the most road fatalities in the world. As World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims is marked, experts call for stricter regulation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

India: Kashmir Pastor Arrested for Baptising Seven Muslims

The region’s grand mufti accused Rev Chander Mani Khanna, of All Saints Church, after a video appeared on YouTube. Police beat the seven young converts to get them to accuse the pastor of forced conversions. In early November, the grand mufti summoned Rev Khanna to appear before a Sharia Court.

Srinagar (AsiaNews) — Police in Kashmir arrested Rev Chander Mani Khanna of the All Saints Church after the head of the Kashmir Shariat Court accused the Christian clergyman of converting Muslims in exchange of money. The case began on 8 November when Grand Mufti Bashir-ud-Din summoned him to appear before the court to explain the alleged conversions.

To back his accusation, the Grand Mufti used a video that appeared on YouTube that shows Rev Khanna baptising seven young Muslim men and women. The same video was then linked by other online platforms provoking an avalanche of verbal attacks against the clergyman.

“Rev Khanna’s arrest is an attack against religious freedom,” said Predhuman K Joseph Dhar, a scholar who translated the Bible in Kashmiri. “The situation is tense and there is great concern that someone might threaten his life.”

“Having failed to do what we asked you to do, we are forced to take measures based on the Sharia,” the Grand Mufti said in a letter to the clergyman.

Afterwards, “police arrested seven people, the seven men and women who are baptised by rev Khanna in the video. According to witnesses, police beat the seven in order to testify against the pastor.”

The Jammu Christian Federation called on the government “to release the pastor since administering the baptism on consenting adults is his prerogative.”

“The rights of Christians are being sacrificed on the altar of political expediency and convenience,” said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). “Christians too are entitled to minority rights. Allowing a Sharia Court to enforce its laws on Christians represents an end to the rule of law and equality of Indian citizens.”

Kashmir does not have any anti-conversion law. In fact, police arrested the clergyman under Articles 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code (1860). (NC)

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

Pakistan: Taliban Claim They Are in Peace Talks With Islamabad

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed they are holding exploratory talks with Islamabad. A senior Taliban commander said the talks are in an initial phase but ‘could be expanded to try to reach a comprehensive deal.’ According to intelligence officials in Pakistan and a senior militant commander government intermediaries have been holding talks with the Pakistani Taliban over the past few months.

“Yes, we have been holding talks but this is just an initial phase. We will see if there is breakthrough,” a senior Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters. The revelations that Islamabad has been secretly holding peace talks with the militants may not go down well with Washington, which provides billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan to combat the Taliban and other extremist groups.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Singapore Probes Soldier’s Anti-Islam Web Comments

Singapore police are investigating alleged anti-Islam statements posted by a soldier on his Facebook page. The Singapore Police Force said Monday in a statement that it is investigating Christian Eliab Ratnam, who is serving his two-year mandatory military service. The state-owned Straits Times said Ratnam’s Facebook page had pictures with anti-Islam statements. Ratnam’s Facebook page has since been deactivated. The Defense Ministry said in a statement it was cooperating with the investigation. Singapore enforces strict laws against public speech regarding race or religion in an attempt to maintain harmony among the country’s ethnic groups. Muslims account for about 15 percent of Singapore’s 5.1 million population.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Thailand: Jihad Against Buddhist Monks Collecting Alms

Three monks, three policemen and three local residents were slightly wounded after a homemade bomb went off in front of a laundry on Charoen Pradit Road in Pattani’s Muang district on Monday morning. The monks from Wat Khajorn Pracharam, guarded by three policemen, were collecting alms when the three-kilogram bomb, hidden under a flowerpot near Nuch Laundry Shop was detonated by remote control and exploded when the group was about five metres away, said Muang Pattani Police Station Superintendent Pol Col Somporn Meesuk.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

Cambodia: Long-Awaited Trial of Khmer Rouge Leaders Gets Underway

The war crimes court in Cambodia has started the trial proper of three Khmer Rouge leaders. It has recognized nearly 4,000 civil parties for the case, which is described as the most complex since the Nuremberg trials. Three defendants were present in court on Monday to hear the array of charges read out against them: genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

They looked on impassively Monday as the prosecution presented harrowing stories of execution, rape, torture and suffering. In effect the defendants are accused of devising the policies that led to the deaths of as many as 2.2 million people during the Khmer Rouge’s rule of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Philippines: A Harvest of Muslim Indie Films, And a Call for Submissions

In certain parts of Mindanao, a different kind of shooting has been going on for months. Armed with the least lethal of metal field equipment, namely digital video cameras, young Muslim men and women in places such as Lanao del Sur and the far-flung islands of Tawi-Tawi have been weaving stories and crafting documentaries on the subject of peace.

This small but growing army of youthful peace advocates in Mindanao has adopted modern audiovisual technology and the strategy of filmmaking to address their leaders who would care to listen, and their compatriots who would care to watch the short movies they have produced. They may have been doing this for some time now, probably inspired by the success of some Davao-based independent filmmakers who have been joining festivals in Manila and all to the way to the Indie capitals of the world, but the pioneering works of these young Muslim filmmakers came to public notice for the first time when the Film Development Council of the Philippines brought its Sineng Pambansa (National Cinema) Filipino Film Festival to Marawi City in June this year, followed by a similar event in September at the capital town of Bongao in Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost province of the Philippines.


[JP note: More like a call for submission.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Rwanda: Muslims Welcome Pilgrims Back Home

Members of the Muslim community, yesterday, gathered at the Islamic Cultural Centre in the Kigali suburb of Nyamirabo to welcome 84 of their colleagues who have just returned from the annual pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Addressing the gathering, Kigali City Imam, Yunsu Musumba, reminded the pilgrims of their responsibilities. “When you go against the Islamic principles or engage in any other illegal activities, the public will not judge you as an individual. Instead, Islam will be criticised since you are Hajat or Hajji,” Musumba said. He explained that to ensure a successful pilgrimage, it should impact pilgrims not only to live up to the Islamic virtues, but also to play a significant role in building the religion.

Speaking on behalf of the pilgrims, Hajji Isaac Munyakazi, appreciated the Rwanda Muslim Association (AMUR) for ensuring their journey to and from the three-week ritual went on smoothly. “A pilgrimage may seem to be costly, but the money you spend cannot be compared with what you gain,” Munyakazi said. Each pilgrimage paid close to US$3,000 to embark on the trip. He called upon Muslims to work hard, reminding each of them that their turn to visit Mecca would come as well. Hajjat Zamzam Kalume said: “When you get there, you realise there is a big change in your life considering the faith one develops while there, especially after witnessing things you have been learning and reading about.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Flemish Party Calls for Integration or Remigration of Turks

Turks and Flanders gathered in Brussels’ Schuman Square to condemn the PKK’s attacks in southeastern regions of Turkey.

The Vlaams Belang party of Belgium, a right-wing political party that aims for an independent Flanders, has started a campaign of remigration in order to convince those immigrants who do not adapt to Flemish society to return home. The Turkish motto of the campaign the Flemish party has been conducting is “Emirdað’ýn sana intiyacý var,” (Emirdað needs you), while the general motto addressing all immigrants is “Return happily to your home country.” Fliers carrying the mottos have been distributed to thousands in Flanders.

Three party members from Ghent, Flanders’ third biggest city, who are in Turkey to introduce the campaign, talked on Tuesday with Volkan Bozkurt, president of the Foreign Affairs Commission in Parliament, and Mehmet Tekelioðlu, president of Parliament’s EU Integration Committee, as well as with some deputies from the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Members of the Vlaams Belang party will tomorrow travel to Emirdað, where the major portion of the immigrants in the city of Ghent emigrated from, and will have a talk on Thursday with Cengiz Pala, the mayor of Emirdað, who they talked with in Belgium in October. The group also plans to visit some villages in Emirdað.

Johan Deckmyn, who is one of the group members and a member of parliament in Flanders, said at a press conference held in Ankara on Wednesday they are in favor of remigration of immigrants who cannot integrate in society in Flanders. “If Turks don’t want to re-migrate, they should integrate into our society,” he stated. Asserting that they were not anti-Turkish or racist in any way, Deckmyn has complained that there are too many immigrants in Flanders and that the immigrants do not integrate into Flemish society. “A lot of Turks in Ghent have problems adapting and learning the language. There are Turks who have been living in Flanders for thirty years and don’t speak Flemish,” he complained.

Deckmyn also noted that Turks in Flanders have been complaining about Roma arriving in large numbers from Bulgaria and Romania in recent years, the newcomers being criticized for not adapting to the ways of the local society.

The Vlaams Belang party, which has 15 percent of the vote in Flanders, believes incentives should be offered to those who decide voluntarily to return to their home country and is in favor of the creation of a “fund for voluntary return. The party thinks those who would agree to re-migrate could also make use of the funds of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The right-wing party was criticized early this year by Turkish authorities for having prepared an election banner on which a drawing of red sheep with Turkish and Moroccan flags is kicked out of the European Union by a white sheep that represents the EU.

The right-wing party, which calls itself “Euro-critical,” is in favor of a confederate Europe and against the membership of Turkey in the EU; their conception of Europe is based mainly on geography and Christianity. The party prefers to see Turkey as a privileged partner in economy and defense. The immigrants are believed to constitute 10-15 per cent of the total population of Belgium, which also feels the pressure of economic difficulties covering most of Europe. There are approximately 200,000 Turks living there.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Give Illegal Migrants Equal Access to Health Care: EU Agency

Illegal migrants should enjoy the same access to health care as European Union citizens while their children should get free education too, the EU’s rights agency said on Monday. Illegal immigrants are more vulnerable to exploitation at work, lack access to health care and their children are often prevented from getting into schools, the agency said in a report.

The fundamental right to health care is “unevenly protected” in the EU for illegal migrants, with children and pregnant women often not getting free treatment that a European Union citizen enjoys, the report said. The right to education for irregular migrant children “remains unclear in many countries,” with free access to state schools only available to them in five of 27 EU states, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights said in a report.

The requirement for children to show a residency permit or medical certificate often prevents them from accessing the public schools, the 112-page report said. “We employ irregular migrants as cheap domestic workers to clean our homes. We eat the fruits and vegetables that they pick,” said the agency’s director Morten Kjaerum.

“But despite their contribution to our societies, when irregular migrants try to access health care or education services, or try to seek justice in case of abuse, they often face a closed door or, worse, deportation,” he said. Irregular migrant children should be allowed to enroll in primary school for free while illegal migrants should benefit from the same fundamental rights as EU nationals when it comes to health care, the report argued.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Russian Migrant Freed by Armed Men

A Russian man was freed from the Migration Board’s (Migrationsverket) detention centre in Gävle in northern Sweden on Sunday by a group of armed men. According to staff reports, shots were fired during the break out. “A rope appeared over the fence and into the exercise yard where there were two members of staff. I don’t know at this point exactly how many inmates there were. When one of them climbed up the rope an employee tried to stop him, but then a person appeared on the fence with a pistol-like object. The staff member then let go and ran away and thought he heard shots,” said Jürgen Büttner at the centre.

“The staff are feeling okay under the circumstances,” he said to news agency TT later in the evening. Inmates at the detention centre are offered the chance to exercise twice a day, for a total of three hours. Escapes have happened, but never with weapons involved. The centre is located in the Södertull area of the city and all of those held there have been issued with a deportation order. “It is very probable that this is the reason behind the escape,” said Büttner.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Catholicism ‘Main Target’ For Religious Abuse in Scotland

Roman Catholicism was the focus of abuse in 58 per cent of all charges for religiously motivated hate crime in Scotland last year, according to a study.

The figure was revealed in an analysis of charges in 2010-11.

Protestantism was targeted in 37 per cent of cases, while Judaism and Islam were each the focus in 2 per cent of charges.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Did Neanderthal Man Die Out Because He Was Too Smart for His Own Good?

We like to think our superior brainpower led to their demise. But it seems the real reason the Neanderthals died out may be because they were too clever for their own good. Researchers say that rather than being outwitted by the superior intellect of modern man, our caveman cousins were every bit as sophisticated.

Neanderthals and modern humans lived alongside each other for thousands of years during that time, before the former became extinct 30,000 years ago. The study suggests that as the two peoples roamed further in the search for food, the Neanderthals were slowly absorbed by the more numerous modern humans, until they disappeared as a recognisable population. The interbreeding meant that their own line died out, said Professor Julien Riel-Salvatore, of the University of Colorado, adding: ‘In many ways they were simply victims of their own success.’

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]