Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120327

Financial Crisis
»Obama Praises Italy, Monti for Economic Progress in EU
»Spread Drops, Draghi Lauds Italy’s Progress
»Brooklyn Bridge Gunman Admitted He Wanted to Kill Jews
»Frank Gaffney: Leading With No One Behind
»Hard Questions From Supreme Court Justices Over Insurance Mandate
»Muslim Group Launches Shariah Campaign
»Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan to Speak at Alabama A&M University
»Woman Who Fled Iraq Suffers Brutal End in US
Europe and the EU
»Environmentalists Label Rome Most Wasteful Italian City
»Europe’s Islamic Future Has Arrived
»France: Don’t Blame Islam for the Toulouse Killings
»France: Merah’s Father Threatens Complaint, Sarkozy Indignant
»France: Marine Le Pen: Of Home-Grown Terror and Islam
»France: At Toulouse Killer’s Mosque, Doubt Reigns
»In Secular France, Can Faith Carry the Election?
»Italy: Venice is Still Sinking, Study Finds
»Italy: Margherita Party Treasurer: Leaders Knew of “Embezzlement”
»Italy: Green Areas: Lucia Mokbel and Husband Investigated in Rome
»Norway: Mullah Krekar Jailed for Five Years in Norway
»Norway: Foreign Minister Under Attack
»Qaradawi: Now Banned From France
»Sicily Lures Tourists With Wine
»Spain: Presumed Member of Al Qaeda Arrested in Valencia
»UK: “It’s Just Ken Livingstone Being Ken Livingstone”: The Labour Party’s Own Nuremberg Defence
»UK: Another Bleak Day for British Liberties
»UK: David Cameron is Paying the Price for His Decision Not to Appoint a Proper Tory Party Chairman
»UK: English Defence League Tries to Rally European Far Right
»UK: Ken Livingstone Stands by His “Wealthy Jews” Gaffe
»UK: Ken Livingstone: “Writer is Wrong to Snub Me — and I’m Not Anti-Semitic”
»UK: Leeds JSoc Row Symbolises Wider Split
»UK: Police Hold Surgery at Watford Mosque
»UK: Scottish Jewry: Hiding Our Identity ‘To Avoid Abuse’
»Wales: Student Jailed Over Muamba Comments
North Africa
»Egypt: Activists and Liberals Leave Constituent Body
»Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Issues New Covenant That Gives Hope — Op Ed
»Jew Beaten to Death With Hammer in Morocco
»Libya: Ex-NTC Premier, The West Abandoned US
»Moroccan Islamists Flex Muscles in Rabat March
Israel and the Palestinians
»The Crisis of Jewish Leftist Islamism
Middle East
»Turkey: Hitler Shampoo Commercial Pulled Off the Air
South Asia
»Afghanistan: British Servicemen Shot Dead by Rogue Afghan Army Officer
»Another Tragic Episode in Britain’s Afghan Adventure
»India Boat Shooting Jurisdiction Ruling Put Off to Friday
»Pakistan: Indiscriminate Murder: Preacher Shot Dead Inside Mosque
Far East
»Asia is the World’s Top Importer of Weapons
»China: Manufacturing and Employment Continue to Decline
Australia — Pacific
»Classics Return at New School
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Nigeria Forecasts Famine in Boko Haram Areas in 2012
»Somalia: Mortar Attack Kills Father, Son, Journalist Attack Condemned

Financial Crisis

Obama Praises Italy, Monti for Economic Progress in EU

‘Country has had a very important role’ says US president

(ANSA) — Seoul, March 27 — American President Barack Obama said Tuesday he was happy with Italy and the eurozone for making economic progress in a short amount of time.

“Italy has had a very important role,” said Obama ahead of a plenary meeting at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit. The American president added that Italian Premier Mario Monti was at the forefront of the positive measures taken in Italy and the eurozone, sources in Seoul said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spread Drops, Draghi Lauds Italy’s Progress

‘Country has shown determination’ says ECB chief

(ANSA) — Milan, March 26 — The spread between the Italian 10-year bond and its German equivalent reversed an upward trend Monday and fell to 307 points. The spread, which was over 500 points earlier this year, had been falling steadily before rising to 318 points Friday.

Premier Mario Monti’s emergency government is largely credited for fixing Italy’s bond market by passing austerity measures and presenting structural economic reforms since taking over a government of technocrats in November. “The new governments of Italy and Spain have shown determination in the fight against fiscal and macroeconomic imbalances,” European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said Monday. The yield on Italian 10-year bonds, a second key indicator of market confidence in Italy’s ability to weather the eurozone debt crisis, dropped to 5.03%. The Milan stock market closed up 0.81% at 16,619 points.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Brooklyn Bridge Gunman Admitted He Wanted to Kill Jews

A Lebanese-born man who shot at the young Chasidic passengers of a bus on the Brooklyn Bridge in March 1995, killing a 16-year-old boy, later admitted that he deliberately targeted Jews. Ari Halberstam, a yeshivah student, was killed when Rashid Baz opened fire on the 15 passengers on the bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Two others were seriously wounded. The bus had been taking the group home after a visit to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, then in a Manhattan hospital for minor surgery. Baz, a Lebanese immigrant, was convicted of murder. He maintained that the motive was a traffic disagreement. But it has now emerged that he also told police at the time that the murder was planned and that his victims were targeted because of their race. He reportedly told detectives that he had followed the bus in his car, adding: “I only shot them because they were Jewish.” Baz was sentenced to a minimum of 141 years behind bars, so the new information will not be used to pursue a hate crime charge. When he was sentenced, the judge who presided over the case said he would recommend “against the release of this defendant on parole”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Leading With No One Behind

In Seoul, South Korea on Monday, President Obama enthused once again about his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. It’s a dream he has had since he was a radical leftist studying at Columbia University in the early 1980s. And, in the hope of advancing it now as Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America, he declared that — since he was convinced we had more of these weapons than we need — he is going to reduce our arsenal. According to some accounts, he has in mind cutting it to one roughly the size of Pakistan’s.

In his address at Hankuk University, Mr. Obama suggested that he would get the Russians to do the same. That surely will come as a surprise to their once-and-future president, Vladimir Putin, since he has been quite aggressively beefing up the Kremlin’s nuclear forces. In fact, Putin recently unveiled a $770 billion defense modernization plan which would, among otherthings, buy 400 new long-range ballistic missiles. It is a safe bet that they will be outfitted with modern nuclear weapons, probably multiple, independently targetable ones at that…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Hard Questions From Supreme Court Justices Over Insurance Mandate

With the fate of President Obama’s health care law hanging in the balance at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, a lawyer for the administration faced a barrage of skeptical questions from the four of the court’s more conservative justices.

[Return to headlines]

Muslim Group Launches Shariah Campaign

by Herbert London

The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) announced a national Shariah education campaign to promote “religious freedom and combat Islamophobia.” This campaign will include an education tour to introduce Islamic faith to the American public, as well as billboards, college campus seminars, radio ads, and a national hotline to address questions about Shariah.

Shariah education and interfaith events and town hall forums are scheduled for 25 cities. According to Dr. Zahid H. Bukhari, president of the ICNA, “The First Amendment guarantees religious freedom for every citizen. Muslim Americans are asking for the same fundamental rights to observe Shariah, a component of the Islamic faith, in our personal, familial and religious affairs within the boundaries of the United States Constitution and all local, state and federal laws.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan to Speak at Alabama A&M University

Huntsville, Alabama — — Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, has accepted an invitation from a coalition of student groups to speak at Alabama A&M University on April 10, The Times’ news partner, WHNT News 19, reports. The Alabama A&M Poetry Club and the Alabama A&M Democrats were two of the student groups who invited Farrakhan to speak, according to WHNT. Poetry club president Kris Taylor told WHNT the Farrakhan appearance, which comes on the heels of anti-Jewish comments by the Nation of Islam leader, is intended to “uplift” and bring “positive energy.” “There’s going to be positive energy coming from this,” Taylor told WHNT. “I don’t believe he’s going to come here and bash the Jews…There should be no division when you’re trying to uplift and bring positive energy to something.”

Alabama A&M University spokeswoman Wendy Kobler said this morning the university is not sponsoring the event, which she said was coordinated between the Nation of Islam and student groups as part of a Farakkhan tour of historically black colleges and universities. The university’s involvement only extends to renting the Elmore Gym to the groups for the event, she said. “We are not sponsoring him. We are not bringing him,” Kobler said. “They are just utilizing the facilities on campus, just like any outside organization would.”

Farrakhan stirred controversy last month when he said Jews had control of the U.S. government and media in what he called “an agreement with hell and covenant and death,” WHNT reported. He has also previously referred to Jewish groups as a “synagogue of Satan,” WHNT reported, and called white people “potential humans who have not fully evolved.” The Jewish Federation of Huntsville-North Alabama said they plan to meet with Alabama A&M officials and ask them to reconsider allowing the event, WHNT reported. “All I can say is shame on A&M for allowing him (Farrakhan) to come,” said Etz Chayim synagogue member Max Rosenthal told WHNT. “We [Jews] are related to Satan according to Mr. Farrakhan…Mr. Farrakhan is a rabid hate-monger, a rabid anti-Semite, and I think all he’s going to do is try to poison the minds of the A&M students. It’s a real disaster to the community, and I believe it’s going to be very divisive.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Woman Who Fled Iraq Suffers Brutal End in US

El Cajon: Shaima Alawadi and her family fled Iraq nearly two decades ago as Saddam Hussein crushed a Shiite uprising, settling in the US so they would no longer face persecution, a family friend said. Alawadi, 32, grew up in the country’s largest Iraqi enclaves, wore the Muslim headscarf and volunteered at the mosque. Now, after her body was found severely beaten in her suburban San Diego home, police, the FBI and members of the Iraqi community are wondering whether her death was a hate crime or something else.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Environmentalists Label Rome Most Wasteful Italian City

(AGI) Rome — Legambiente has labeled Rome the most wasteful Italian city with 234.3 litres of water used per person every day, but also because of the 68 cubic metres per one kilometre pipeline of water that are leaked each day (sources Blue Book and Mediobanca), amounting to 27% of all water in the system.

Data for Lazio was revealed by Legambiente as the March 22nd World Water Day approaches, with the presentation of the 2012 Rapporto Ambiente Italia published by Edizioni Ambiente for Legambiente and the Istituto Ambiente Italia. “The municipal assembly should reject Alemanno’s choice and say no to the privatization of ACEA,” emphasized Lorenzo Parlati, president of Legambiente Lazio, “Rome and Lazio need new policies for this resource needed for survival, a resource that must be protected, preserved and defended, and not be considered a money-making asset to be managed by private companies.” He also added, “Citizens made this very clear with the referendum demanding a stronger and more determined attitude from the state in the choices made and the management of companies.

These are decisions that must be made now so as to overcome the environmental crisis but also the financial crisis by aiming for a better future for citizens.” The rest of the region is not doing any better than the capital. Viterbo is among the last in the list of smaller cities consuming 209.6 litres a day per person as is Latina with 62% of its water lost due to leaks in the system .

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

Europe’s Islamic Future Has Arrived

by Soeren Kern

“Jews should not emigrate; anti-Semitic Moroccans should.”

In country after European country, the post-modern charade of the bliss of multiculturalism — the idea that all cultures are equal and can coexist peacefully side-by-side in any given country, and that Muslim immigrants should be allowed to keep their cultural traditions rather than integrate into wider European society — is unravelling. Consider just a few of the following Islam-related controversies that jolted Europe during March 2012, a month that not only exposed the deadly consequences of decades of politically correct multiculturalism, but also brought into stark relief the moral confusion that now reigns supreme among much of Europe’s political class.

In France, a 23-year-old Islamic jihadist named Mohamed Merah confirmed the threat of homegrown Muslim terrorism. Merah, a French citizen of Algerian origin, killed three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi with close-range shots to the head. He filmed himself carrying out the attacks that began on March 11 to “verify” the deaths. Merah later died in a hail of gunfire on March 22 after a 32-hour standoff with police at his apartment in the southern French city of Toulouse. In an extraordinary display of moral callousness, an indifferent Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s ‘Foreign Minister’ and member of the British Labour Party, declared that “what happened in Toulouse,” — the deliberate murder of the Jewish children — was morally equivalent to the accidental war deaths of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip. Then, in a clumsy effort to blunt the outrage engendered by Ashton’s spectacle, her spin doctors released a statement to “clarify” her remarks by amending the official transcript of her speech.

Ashton made her contentious comments at none other than a pro-Palestinian activists’ conference in Brussels, the self-styled “Capital of Europe” and also the most Islamic city in Europe. She hosted the event, entitled “Palestine Refugees in the Changing Middle East,” in an attempt to convince the world that the European Union is an “honest broker” in the Middle East. Not surprisingly, the Hamas terrorist group applauded Ashton, saying “she deserves thanks, appreciation, and support in the face of Zionist attempts to terrorize and pressure her.” Meanwhile, in Geneva, Switzerland, the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 19 extended an invitation to Hamas’s very own Ismail al-Ashqar to speak to the 19th regular session of the body. The UN reluctantly rescinded al-Ashqar’s invitation at the last minute on fears that his appearance might further undermine its own credibility.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

France: Don’t Blame Islam for the Toulouse Killings

by Ed West

It’s always a mistake to comment on terrorist atrocities before all the facts are clear. Last summer when news emerged of a bomb attack in Norway, a country embroiled in the 2005 cartoon saga and with troops serving in Afghanistan, many assumed that the perpetrators must be Islamic.


I agree. Many people kill in the name of jihad but they do not represent Islam or Muslims, the vast majority of whom will be horrified by the Toulouse killings. It is not religion that turns some young Muslim men in the West violent, but the sense of alienation and frustration that inevitably comes from being a second-generation immigrant. Confused and angry young men easily attach themselves to something greater than themselves, especially a strong, confident inter-national identity historically opposed to the West from which they feel so rejected.


[Reader comment by Chris Ar on 25 March 2012 at 05:33 pm.]

This article is rife with misinformation, including some glaring inaccuracies about what the Koran commands the faithful to do to infidels and apostates. Yes, you should blame Islam for this. Islam created this killer. Islam drove him to kill. Others will use Islam to justify it. Wake up Europe. Ignoring the cancer will not make it go away.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

France: Merah’s Father Threatens Complaint, Sarkozy Indignant

To lodge formal complaint against France for son’s murder

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 27 — French president Nicolas Sarkozy has today expressed his “indignation” over the threat made by the father of Toulouse killer Mohamed Merah to make a formal complaint against the French state for his son’s killing.

“It is with indignation,” Sarkozy said before police officers and magistrates, “that I have learnt that the father of a man who killed seven people wants to lodge a formal complaint against France for his son’s death.” “I will hire the most important lawyers and work the rest of my life to pay the expenses. I will make a formal complaint against France for having killed my son,” Agence France Presse was told by Mohamed Benalel Merah, adding that “France is a large country which had the means to arrest my son while he was alive.

They could have stunned him with gas and then arrested him, but they prefered to kill him.” Mohamed Merah’s father reiterated that he wanted to bury his son in Algeria. “I have decided to bury my son in Algeria, inshallah,” said Mohamed Benalel Merah, interviewed by Agence France Presse in Algeria. “His brother Abdelghani called to reassure me that they are doing whatever is needed to bring him back to Algeria. Mohamed has an Algerian passport and has been registered with the Toulouse consulate since his birth,” he added, saying that during his last stay in Algeria Mohamed “had an Algerian passport like my five children who have double nationality,” Algerian and French. Merah’s father, who lives in Algeria, has been separated from his wife since 1994.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Marine Le Pen: Of Home-Grown Terror and Islam

IN THE aftermath of the Toulouse killings, President Nicolas Sarkozy has been careful to keep the focus on counter-terrorism and security, not immigration. Not so Marine Le Pen, who went in for crude electioneering at a weekend rally, thundering: “How many Mohamed Merahs in the boats, the aeroplanes, that arrive each day in France?” I wonder if she hasn’t misread the national mood. Until now, Ms Le Pen has run quite a clever campaign. The mistake of some observers has been to see the far-right National Front leader as merely a female, telegenic version of her father: crudely anti-immigrant and anti-Islam. In fact, Ms Le Pen’s success (and note that, even though her numbers have dropped back, she is still polling better at this point before voting day than her father did in 2002) is that she has been more subtle than this.

Her objection has been not to Islam or immigration per se, but to what she calls “Islamificatio n”. So she has challenged not the construction of mosques in France, but the holding of Friday prayers in the streets, which she once described as an “occupation”. Her concern, she has often claimed, is not about Muslims but “Islamism”: hard-line Salafists operating in France. Last week, she took care to speak out against confusing Muslims and militants. One of her most powerful comments after the Toulouse shootings was to say that Islamic fundamentalism in France has been “underestimated”. This point rang true to many people beyond Ms Le Pen’s support base, including those who consider the rest of her views toxic.

Next to such subtleties, however, her cheap weekend sloganeering-deliberately confusing immigration and terrorism-could turn out to be a tactical mistake. Mohamed Merah was not an immigrant but a French citizen, as the French know perfectly well. Three of the soldiers Merah murdered were of north African origin, and two of them Muslim. All were French citizens who served in an elite unit of the French army, a choice that was brought home to French viewers watching televised images of their military funerals.

For an excellent analysis of what Merah’s shooting spree actually says about Muslims in today’s France, take a look at Olivier Roy’s weekend article in the New York Times. A French Islamic scholar with a close understanding of his subject, Mr Roy points out that:

For every Qaeda sympathizer there are thousands of Muslims who don the French Army uniform and fight under the French flag-including, of course, in Afghanistan….It suffices to look at the list of the dead or to watch videos of military funerals to confirm this. Yet the fact is seldom acknowledged because it does not fit with the usual perception of Muslims as dissidents.

By way of conclusion, he adds:

In fact the growing presence of Muslim recruits in the army (including elite paratrooper units) is a sign of the growing integration of Muslims in France.

The funerals revealed to France its own changing face, and have made Ms Le Pen’s comments look not just wrongheaded but out of touch.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

France: At Toulouse Killer’s Mosque, Doubt Reigns

TOULOUSE, FRANCE-At the end of the “A” subway line, far on the northern edge of this city, and tucked to the side of a vast, garbage-strewn parking lot, is the mosque that Mohamed Merah attended. The El-Hoseine Mosque is not easily identifiable as a mosque. There’s neither a minaret, nor any architecture to speak of. Actually it’s fashioned out of a pre-fabricated work trailer, with an outdoor awning twice the area of the inside. It’s there that most of the adherents must gather during crowded Friday prayers, even in winter.

Merah, the 23-year-old self-professed Al-Qaeda ally who confessed to seven murders and was himself killed in a shootout last Thursday, was an off-and-on member here. Several people either didn’t remember him, or remembered seeing him but never spoke to him. Others had limited contact. Whatever their recollection of the young man with the affinity for motorbikes and stunting on two wheels, what they seem to have in common is a strong suspicion of the official version of events. And a strong denunciation of the current state of affairs in their communities and their place as Muslims in French society.

“I’m not sure what happened, but at this moment I have my doubts about it,” said Mamar Messaoui, 34, a resident of the neighbourhood, called Basso-Cambo, one of France’s countless suburbs, or “banlieues,” distinguished by their endless expanses of concrete, bunker-like apartment blocks, and their poverty. “What I do know is that it seems to benefit the president.” “I’m not a conspiracy theorist,” added another member, clad in a pristine black tunic and skullcap. “But nobody saw what went on inside the apartment. No one has heard his voice or seen any pictures. Everything was locked down tight.”

Merah’s makeshift mosque is one of hundreds in France whose inadequate facilities attempt to service the growing Muslim population, now at over 6 million, more than 50,000 in Toulouse alone. In the wake of the Merah terror spree, they are also a source of worry for many local and banlieue mayors of all political stripes, who fear radicalization in their midst. It’s a fear whose cause is championed by the right and the extreme right in the presidential campaign, set for its first-round vote April 22. Front National candidate Marine LePen said she wants intelligence to “infiltrate” these areas and their mosques. She vowed to bring radical Islam “to its knees.”

No one at the El-Hoseine here said they condoned what Merah did. The general feeling, rather, seemed to be uncertainty over exactly what that was. Merah’s life came to a bloody end last Thursday in a shootout with police who stormed his apartment. He’d been under siege there for 32 hours. Police said he confessed to killing three paratroopers, a rabbi and three Jewish schoolchildren, all at point-blank range, and filming it. He told siege negotiators his actions were to avenge dead Palestinian children and to protest France’s presence in Afghanistan. He travelled there and to Pakistan twice in the last two years, where he said he was trained. He’d amassed a sizeable weapons cache, including machine guns and automatic pistols.

The 32-year-old mosque member in the black tunic, a convert to Islam in his teens, said he spoke to Merah once in a while. He wouldn’t give his name fearing any consequences of a link to Merah. One anecdote sticks out in his mind: A few years ago, Merah’s father had a car accident and was badly injured, the man said. Merah and his older brother Abdelkader visited him there. But later, when the man asked how his father and brother were, Merah replied that he didn’t know, he’d not seen them in a while. “It was a completely broken family,” the man said. To his mind, this once again puts doubt in the notion that Abdelkader, already known to French intelligence authorities as holding fundamentalist beliefs, groomed Merah and helped him behind the scenes, as authorities now believe.

An anti-terrorist judge laid preliminary charges against Abdelkader Sunday night. The El-Hoseine Mosque is one where, its members say, “orthodox” Islam is practiced. But it’s not radical in the sense that in none of the imam’s teachings does he counsel hatred, they say. The cleric, Mamadou Daffé, in fact, is a respected researcher in biochemistry at the Centre National de la recherché scientifique. Daffé was out of the country during the Star’s visit to the mosque last Sunday, but members said last Friday he used his sermon to warn that the Qur’an cannot be used to commit injustice. In fact, as with some other mosques in France, whose clerics have spoken out and even hired bodyguards, there are more radical elements in the Muslim community demanding a harder line at this mosque.

In this presidential campaign, even before the Merah affair, Islam has been top of mind, and the many different and diverse Muslim communities in France have felt targetted.

President Nicholas Sarkozy said there were “too many immigrants on our territory” and promised to cut the numbers in half. One of his ministers said that “not all civilizations are equal” and cited the full facial veil worn by some women. Politicians railed against the proliferation of halal meat. Since the Merah incidents, many now feel these controversies and debates will become even more widespread among the populace, something Messaoui said is driving more second- and third-generation Muslims to strongly embrace their faith in response. “Identity is at the heart of things,” Messaoui said. “The current debate says this, ‘Be proud to be French, if you’re not Muslim.’ That’s at the heart of things. All they talk about is Islam,” he adds. “Look at our schools, they’re terrible. Look at the services around us, they’re terrible.” Ironically, Messaoui said he’s trained to help the unemployed find jobs, as an “insertion counsellor,” but is currently una ble to find a job in his field.

With these sentiments, then, a mistrust of the central government is perhaps not so hard to understand, its version of what happened with Merah included. Messaoui asks the conspiratorial question, that with the centre-right Sarkozy’s campaign flagging, could a terrorist threat rally support? Such feelings are not limited to the mosque. At a public assembly earlier this week to remember the victims, a group of several young Muslim women also expressed doubt in the state’s version of what happened with Merah. It’s by no means universal, however. Linda Saidia, 19, at first thought the killer was a right-wing extremist. When it became clear Merah was inspired by radical Islam, she was simply saddened. “He was lost. A Muslim would never kill children,” she said. In the wake of any tragedy there is always soul searching. Within France’s mosques and political backrooms, this could not be more obvious.

[JP note: A Muslim would never kill children? That’ll be the day.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

In Secular France, Can Faith Carry the Election?

Do France’s Catholics, Muslim and Jews choose their president depending on their faith? A sociologist tells FRANCE 24 why Catholics flock to conservative Nicolas Sarkozy while Muslims and Jews favour Socialist François Hollande.

By Ségolène ALLEMANDOU (text)

In staunchly secular France, the common assumption is that religion is best kept out of politics. Analysts tend to look to age, profession or gender when trying to gauge voter behaviour. But according to sociologists, religion plays a key part when it comes to casting a ballot. Claude Dargent, a researcher at Sciences Po’s Cevipof institute, argues that religion is more influential in voters’ decisions than social class.

At 57.2%, Catholics make up the majority of voters in France. Muslims (5%) form the second biggest religious group, followed by Protestants (2%) and Jews (0.6%). Some 30% of French voters describe themselves as having “no religion”.

Claude Dargent specialises in research on French voting patterns and has published reports on both Muslim and Catholic voter behaviour ahead of next month’s presidential election.

FRANCE 24: The Muslim electorate has expanded massively in the past decade. How do French Muslims tend to vote?

Claude Dargent: In 1997, Muslim voters in France made up only 0.7% of voters, whereas in 2007 [at the last presidential election] they had reached around 5%. This is because of the increasing numbers of Muslims on the electoral roll, most of them having been born into Muslim families of foreign origin.

French Muslims are largely left-leaning — 95% of them voted for [Socialist candidate] Ségolène Royal in the first round of the 2007 presidential election, while only 5% voted for [conservative, UMP party] Nicolas Sarkozy.

Around 75% of French Muslims are working class, but the French working class as a whole does not vote in the same way. In fact, they span left, right and far-right circles. Because of this comparison, we can deduce that French Muslims tend to vote left-wing because of their membership of a religious group rather than their social class.

F24: What about the Catholic vote?

C.D.: Practicing Catholics are five to six times more likely to vote right-wing than those who describe themselves as “without religion”. In the first round of the 2007 election, some 49% of Catholics voted for Nicolas Sarkozy, against only 12% for Ségolène Royal. According to a January survey carried out by TNS-Sofre’s for [Catholic weekly] Le Pèlerin, 50% of Catholics plan to vote for Sarkozy this time round while just 13% will support [Socialist candidate] François Hollande.

Interestingly, Catholics have not been won over by the far right. In 2007, [former National Front leader] Jean-Marie Le Pen experienced his lowest score among French Catholics.

[Centrist candidate] François Bayrou also rates poorly among Catholics, at just 14%, despite belonging to the Christian Democrat family.

F24: And Jewish voters?

C.D.: It’s very difficult to assess the behaviour of Jewish voters because they make up less than 1% of the electorate, meaning that the margin for error is a potential game-changer. We do know however that French Jews are more likely to vote left than right. Although in 2007 some of them seem to have voted for Nicolas Sarkozy. But it’s difficult to know why because their vote is clouded by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

F24: Do Protestants follow the same pattern as fellow Christians?

C.D.: Historically, Protestants have tended to side with the left. But this tendency has weakened in recent years, with some rallying behind Sarkozy in the last election. According to surveys, those Protestants who did vote for him soon regretted it, particularly after the infamous ‘Fouquet’s’ episode [when Sarkozy celebrated his 2007 victory at an extravagant restaurant, earning the nickname ‘bling-bling president’].

F24: Will religion play a part in the 2012 election?

C.D.: The religious vote is grounded in values, which explains why it varies remarkably little. It is not new to France, the only difference now being that Islam has made it a focal issue.

The “religious question” was already being discussed in 1905 when church and state were separated. By the mid-20th century, pioneer electoral sociologist André Siegfried claimed that “religion is the central question for French voters”.

I think little will change in this election. We will still see the Catholic/right, Muslim/left divide, and the Protestants will probably find a suitable candidate in François Hollande.

F24: Could Sarkozy suffer?

C.D.: The religious question has remained an ongoing theme during Sarkozy’s five-year term.

The nationwide debates he promoted on secularism and national identity played out badly for Muslims and will likely affect their choice in the polling booth. On the other hand, Sarkozy appeased religious conservatives when he said in 2007 that “the teacher will never replace the priest or the pastor” during a speech against gay marriage.

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

Italy: Venice is Still Sinking, Study Finds

Foundation also tilting

(ANSA) — Venice, March 21 — Venice is still sinking and the foundation is tilting slightly eastward, a new study has found. Despite previous studies that showed that subsistence had leveled off, a forthcoming article in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems shows Venice to be sinking on average of one to two millimeters per year.

Venice’s 117 islands are also slipping deeper into the lagoon, with those in the north dropping at a rate of two to three millimeters per year and those in the south at three to four. The study also found that Venice is listing slightly eastward, meaning the western side is higher than the rest, a previously unnoticed phenomenon the researchers detected using a combination of GPS measurements and data from space-borne radar (InSAR) from 2000 to 2010. High tides routinely wash over the city’s banks flooding its streets and squares. The reasons Venice is sinking are both natural and man-made.

Decades of pumping groundwater caused significant damage to the delicate foundation before the practice was called off. Weather experts say the high-water threat has been increasing in recent years as heavier rains have hit northern Italy.

Other possible explanations for the phenomenon include the sea floor rising as a result of incoming silt and gas extraction in the sea off Venice undermining the islands.

According to the new study, plate tectonics is also to blame as the Adriatic plate is sliding beneath the Apennine Mountains, causing the area to drop in elevation. Scientists have conceived various ways of warding off the waters since a catastrophic flood in 1966 and a system of moveable flood barriers called MOSE is near completion after years of polemics.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Margherita Party Treasurer: Leaders Knew of “Embezzlement”

(AGI) Rome- The Margherita party’s former treasurer Luigi Lusi said the party leaders “knew everything” about the misplaced funds. Lusi apparently told magistrates in Rome’s public prosecutor’s office that the Margherita’s top men were aware of the goings-on with the party coffers which resulted in accusations of embezzlement.

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

Italy: Green Areas: Lucia Mokbel and Husband Investigated in Rome

(AGI) Rome — Lucia Mokbel and her husband are also under investigation in the fraud case of gardens managed by private persons. Among those in the sights of the Public Prosecutor’s Office for the matter of the “Punti Verde Qualita’“ is Lucia Mokbel as well, the sister of Gennaro, the Neopolitan businessman already being tried for international money laundering which has also involved the former directors of Fastweb and Telekom Italia Sparkle. Also among those investigated is the husband of Lucia Mokbel, the owner of the “Luoghi del Tempo” company, which was assigned the management of Parco Feronia. The company was subjected to a search by the Financial Police on the order of the Prosecutor’s Office. In the search warrant the crimes of fraud and corruption are listed. . .

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

Norway: Mullah Krekar Jailed for Five Years in Norway

Mullah Krekar, the Kurdish founder of radical Islamic group Ansar al-Islam, has been sentenced to five years in jail in Norway for making death threats against officials and others.

Mullah Krekar, 55, came to Norway as a refugee in 1991. Krekar, who says he is no longer involved with Ansar al-Islam, said in court he would appeal the ruling. Ansar al-Islam, which is based in northern Iraq, is regarded by the UN and US as a terrorist organisation. Mullah Krekar was found guilty of threatening the life of Erna Solberg, an ex-minister who signed his expulsion order in 2003 because he was considered a threat to national security. He was also found guilty of threatening three other Kurds living in Norway who had burnt pages of the Koran or insulted it in another way. Mullah Krekar — born Najm Faraj Ahmad — has lived in suburban eastern Oslo with his family since 1991 when he was granted refugee status in Norway. From this base, he founded Ansar al-Islam, which Washington blames for attacks on coalition forces in Iraq. In 2006, the UN added the cleric to a list of people believed to have links with al-Qaeda. The Kurdish cleric says he stepped down as leader of Ansar al-Islam in 2002 and denies any links with al-Qaeda. He remains in Norway despite the deportation order against him because of the security situation in Iraq.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Norway: Foreign Minister Under Attack

He’s long been regarded as Norway’s most capable and respected cabinet minister, but Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre is suddenly facing harsh criticism on several fronts. On Monday he was being assailed as “arrogant and superior.”

“The Foreign Ministry has been like a pressure cooker in terms of Støre’s arrogant and superior leadership style,” Petter Gottschalk, a professor at BI Norwegian Business School, told newspaper Dagsavisen. He thinks the “pressure cooker” is about to explode.

“What’s happening now is that people who are sitting on unfortunate information about Støre are coming forward via the media,” Gottschalk said. “This isn’t surprising.”

Since taking over as foreign minister for the Labour Party in 2005, after Labour won enough votes to form Norway’s left-center coalition government, Støre has ranked second only to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in terms of power and popularity, and many have viewed Støre as Stoltenberg’s possible successor as a Labour prime minister. In the past week, though, there’s been a series of stories about Støre in local media that have put him in an unflattering light.

Støre, for example, has been accused of favouring an old friend when the ministry allocated funding for a foundation in northern Norway. Newspaper Dagbladet carried stories about the funding, raising questions that Støre was guilty of a conflict of interest, also when he allegedly pressured environmental authorities into granting the old friend, shipowner Felix Tschudi, some needed permits.

On Sunday, newspaper VG reported that the foreign ministry has granted NOK 1 million to author and journalist Simen Ekern to write a book about global trends in the future, with the ministry deciding who will be interviewed and what themes will be covered. Støre will figure prominently in the book, and take part in all the interviews.

That set off quick criticism from opposition politician Ine Eriksen Søreide, leader of the parliament’s foreign affairs committee for the Conservative Party (Høyre). She told VG that “taxpayer’s money shouldn’t be used for the branding of Støre,” while Gottschalk blasted the book project as well.

“You can’t be more conceited,” Gottschalk told Dagsavisen. “Støre is acting like a ‘sun king’ and has no scruples about being part of a book project where he’ll be portrayed as a sun king, and even get his job to pay for it.”

Gottschalk believes many “resourceful persons” in the foreign ministry (utenriksdepartementet, UD) have long been “provoked” by what he calls Støre’s “one-man’s might.” He thinks more potentially embarrassing news about Støre will be leaked to the media in the weeks to come.

“If he had a normal leadership style, his staff would have cleaned up after him if mistakes were made,” Gottschalk claimed. “But the sort of things Støre is being hit with now are a result of his staff getting tired of not being heard. They stop cleaning up.”

Støre defends himself

Støre has denied he knowingly tried to help his childhood friend Felix Tschudi and rejects reports he helped Tschudi get permits. He reportedly didn’t respond to requests for comment on Gottschalk’s claims but told VG on Monday that he sees no need to have his impartiality in the Tschudi case examined by the Justice Ministry, as several other professors have recommended.

Støre stresses that the funding in question did not go to Tschudi or his shipping company but to a foundation backed by Tschudi. Støre declined comment on the book project but Ekern, an award-winning author, said it would focus on Norwegian foreign policy with him interviewing “central international players” about how they think the world will look in 2030. Støre will take part in the interviews, Ekern told VG.

The ministry’s communications chief, Ragnhild Imerslund, said the project was initiated by the ministry and that Støre agreed the book, which will be called Norge i verden 2030 (Norway in the World 2030) should be financed through its “Reflex” project. That will involve an amount exceeding limits for external projects that Reflex generally aids. Imerslund said Ekern would lead the interviews, form the questions and have literary control over the book, due to be published by Cappelen Damm either later this year or early next year.

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Qaradawi: Now Banned From France

Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a hate preacher who admires Hitler and who hopes one day to be able to complete his work:

Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them — even though they exaggerated this issue — he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers. […] To conclude my speech, I’d like to say that the only thing I hope for is that as my life approaches its end, Allah will give me an opportunity to go to the land of Jihad and resistance, even if in a wheelchair. I will shoot Allah’s enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus, I will seal my life with martyrdom. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. Allah’s mercy and blessings upon you.

He was banned from entering the United Kingdom in 2008. And now he has been banned from France.

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday that influential and popular Egyptian preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi was “not welcome” in France.Sarkozy was speaking four days after an Islamist gunman who admitted to killing 7 people in southwest France was shot dead in a gunfight with police. Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, claimed to have received terrorism training in Pakistan. Al-Qaradawi, a well-known Sunni Muslim cleric with links to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, had been invited to a meeting of the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF) next month. Sarkozy said he had told the emir of Qatar “this man is not welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”Al-Qaradawi has a diplomatic passport from Qatar, according to Sarkozy.

Not everybody is happy:

The statement has shocked much of the Middle East, especially here in Cairo, where many Islamic leaders are not sure what to make of the move. “I don’t get it because Qaradawi, even though he is conservative, has never been supportive of violence,” said an al-Azhar professor. He added to that he was concerned that France was responding to the attack “of one man” as a means “to attack and entire religion.” He said it was “unacceptable.”

It is not true that Qaradawi has “never been supportive of violence”. As you can see, he hopes to participate in violence against “God’s enemies, the Jews” himself. As the favoured religious authority of the genocidal terrorist group, Hamas, Qaradawi has published a religious ruling which permits the suicide murder of Jewish civilians in Israel, who he regards as all fair game.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sicily Lures Tourists With Wine

Flagship Nero d’Avola is a hit with visitors

(ANSA) — Palermo, March 27 — Sicily is emerging as one of Italy’s top tourist destinations as a growing number of tourists discover its spectacular scenery, rich history and unique cuisine. Now the wines of Sicily are beginning to get the attention they deserve. Sicily’s flagship wine is the hearty Nero d’Avola. Like the Sicilian white wine Insolia, Nero d’Avola is among the most popular Italian wines, with sales just behind the famous Chianti and Lambrusco from the mainland in 2010. “Nero d’Avola is the most popular wine in Sicily,” Francesca Planeta, marketing director of her family’s company, told ANSA. “This wine is produced in every part of the island. There are many producers with different varieties but this is the most popular wine. It is really a symbol of Sicily”. Planeta is one of the leading wine estates on the southern Italian island and has vineyards stretching from Menfi and Sambuca in the west, to Vittoria and the Baroque town of Noto in the southeast. It also has a new estate called Sciara Nuova in the vulcanic soils surrounding Mount Etna, north of Catania. “At the beginning of 2000 Sicily started to get more popular, it started to become fashionable and so did its indigenous varieties,” Planeta said. But that wasn’t the case when Planeta was founded in 1995 by cousins Alessio and Santi Planeta and their uncle Diego.

Francesca is Diego’s daughter and plays an important role in marketing the wines in Italy and abroad. “When we started in 1995 it was very hard to sell Sicilian wines, they didn’t have a good image and a lot of wine was sold in bulk,” Planeta said. “Sicily wasn’t a place where you would look for quality wine. We looked to promote the brand name and introduced international varieties such as chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon and two blends”. Planeta established a name for itself as an innovator because it matched local soil types to both native Sicilian wine varietals and international grapes. She said Sicilian wines have now come into their own and winelovers no longer talk about a ‘Sicilian Nero d’Avola’ for example, but identify a specific Nero d’Avola from a particular region. “Our origins are in the Sambuca area in southwest Sicily,” she said. “In 1998 when it was hard to sell Nero d’Avola we went to Noto in the southeast, and we started planting. “Today this work is starting to develop in the identification of territories, we now talk about a Nero d’Avola from Noto or from Vittoria or Menfi, not just from Sicily”. Now Planeta’s wines are sold around the world and sales are strong in Germany, the US, Switzerland, Canada, Japan and the UK. Planeta encourages winelovers to visit its six boutique wineries starting with the family’s beloved Ulmo estate near Sambuca that dates back centuries. Today tourists can visit the estate and tour its vast vineyards, ancient olive groves and the ruins of an Arab castle.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Presumed Member of Al Qaeda Arrested in Valencia

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 27 — A Saudi Islamist has been arrested by the Civil Guard in Valencia today, on suspicion of being a member of Al Qaeda and of spreading audiovisual material over the Internet encouraging terrorist attacks, sources from the Spanish Interior Ministry report. The man, who has been identified by his initials, M.H.A., was arrested between the areas of Benicalap and Campanar, in the north-east of the city. The investigation leading to his arrest began in February 2011 and was coordinated by the preliminary investigation section 5 of the Audiencia Nacional. The arrest comes a few days after the death in France of Mohamed Merah, an alleged member of Al Qaeda who confessed to killing 7 people between March 11 and 19. Before his death, Merah, who was killed by special police units in the flat in which he was holed up, circulated videos of his attacks on the Internet.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: “It’s Just Ken Livingstone Being Ken Livingstone”: The Labour Party’s Own Nuremberg Defence

by Dan Hodges

So he’s admitted it. Ken Livingstone has finally confirmed he believes Jews will not vote for him because they’re rich. Caught off-guard yesterday by a journalist from the Camden New Journal, Labour’s mayoral candidate finally dropped his false denial, and said “every psephological study I’ve seen in the 40 years I’ve been following politics shows the main factor that determines how people how vote is their income level. It varies, a lot of people vote against their own economic interest very often, but that is the main factor and it’s not anti-Semitic to say that.”

In Britain, in 2012, that is the pitch coming from a mainstream political candidate to his supporters: “The Jews are opposed to me — and us — because of their wealth.” Just to be crystal clear on this point, here is what Livingstone said when first presented with the allegations, following a letter of protest from prominent members of the London Jewish community to Labour leader Ed Miliband: “[the letter is] a bit of electioneering from people who aren’t terribly keen to see a Labour mayor.” What people, Ken?

There is an old saying in politics that if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a huge one, because the sheer audacity of the statement will lend it credibility. Livingstone has just used a similar technique, though in this instance not to dissemble, but to denigrate.

The stereotype of the rich, socially divisive Jew is so offensive, so burdened by historical prejudice, that it is on a par with the ignorant but sexually virile black or the scheming, untrustworthy Oriental. And yet it has not been evoked by Nick Griffin or one of the English Defence League’s plastic stormtroopers, but Labour’s official candidate. And what has the reaction been from the party that claims to be in the vanguard of the fight against prejudice? Silence. Actually, more shameful than silence. Tacit approval.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Another Bleak Day for British Liberties

by Alex Massie

Should you receive a jail sentence for being an idiot on Twitter? Apparently so! Liam Stacey, the 21 year old who tweeted “LOL, F*** Muamba. He’s dead” after the Bolton Wanderers’ collapse at White Hart Lane is off to spend 56 days in prison for this and other (unpleasant) “racially offensive” tweets. Cue much outrage everywhere. The boy appears to be a moron, but should that be an imprisonable offence? I cannot see what crime has been committed here, save the trumped-up charge of causing needless and witless offence. Tedious as this may be it ought not to be a matter for the authorities. So I agree with everything Nick Cohen writes here:

I’ve no doubt that he’s a vile man, who by the sound of it was drunk at the time he posted, but what remains disturbing about the case is that the Crown offered no evidence that Stacey had incited racial violence or any other crime. That his speech was racist was enough to send him down. […]

[T]he authorities neither trust nor respect the rest of the population. They do not understand that society has its own sanctions, and does not need detectives and prosecutors to police free speech. As it turned out, Stacey’s followers were more than capable of denouncing him of their own accord. Their condemnations were so robust he tried first to delete his posts, and then deny that he had written them. Far from being latent racists, willing to don the white hood at the first opportunity, his followers proved themselves thoughtful citizens.

The British state has moved far beyond the good, old advice that ‘the best answer to bad arguments is better arguments’. The danger of its power grab is not only that our illiberal ‘liberal establishment’ will use their excessive power to censor speech in the public interest — although it does just that in the libel courts all the time. As worrying a possibility is that its assaults on free speech — even repugnant and boorish speech — will strengthen the monster it wishes to tame.

Quite so. Those people endorsing this prosecution — and this conviction — should be ashamed of themselves just as Mr Stacey should be ashamed of his own actions and prejudices.

PS: Apparently Mr Stacey pled guilty. I do wish someone would test these people’s nerve by pleading not-guilty in these kinds of case.

[Reader comment by Noa. on 27 March 2012 at 4:10pm.]

We are now experiencing the full, bitter fruits of the speech and thought control legislation that Labour put in place to facilitate its policy of mass third world immigration into the UK.

Leo McKinstry’s forebodings in 2003 remain as cogent now as then.

[Reader comment by Barry on 27 March 2012 at 4:44pm.]

Fear not, Alex. Someone has already tested it. Ambaro Maxamed and her merry band of Somalian nutters kicked an innocent passer by up and down a street whilst screaming “white slag!” They were duly found guilty (thanks to CCTV footage), but the Law decreed that the attack ‘was not racially motivated, because the muslim ladies in question were not used to the effects of alcohol.’ They were given a 6 months suspended sentence. Words fail me

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: David Cameron is Paying the Price for His Decision Not to Appoint a Proper Tory Party Chairman

by Iain Martin

Baroness Warsi, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, has been notable by her absence since news of the “Cash for Cameron” affair first broke. Instead it has fallen to a tag team of Francis Maude and Michael Fallon to go from studio to studio explaining why this is a “bit of nonsense” (in Maude’s words) which simultaneously the Conservative party leadership takes seriously. Warsi’s co-chairman, Lord Feldman — Andrew Feldman, ennobled by his close friend David Cameron — has not been seen either. This is less surprising, as Feldman is the Cameroon’s fund-raising lynchpin and keeps a low profile. He was interviewed for the Financial Times recently as part of a profile on Cameron’s first two years as PM. Feldman explained that his friend was good at his job and works tremendously hard, but does look a “little tired” (in contrast to many millions of Britons who commute, work to keep their heads above water, do not have access to two grace and favour homes and look completely knac kered).

“Cash for Cameron” has underlined the absence of a proper old-style Tory party chairman. Matthew Barrett (“Where’s the Party Chairman?”) spotted this yesterday, when Fallon and Maude were doing the 10,000 metres media relay. He suggested that Cameron needs to get himself a chairman to lead from the front pronto. Equally, that person would have seen it as part of his or her job to protect the party leader from donors and insulate him from potential scandal in the first place. “We are in a mess on Cruddas,” a senior Tory told me yesterday, “because we haven’t got a strong party chairman who is experienced in the ways of politics as well as being experienced in the ways of the world.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: English Defence League Tries to Rally European Far Right

Anti-fascists plan counter demonstrations against EDL meeting in Denmark at which hundreds are expected to attend

Far right and anti-Islamic groups are due to hold a rally in Denmark on 31 March organised by the English Defence League (EDL) which it claims will be the start of a pan-European movement. The rally will take place a few weeks before the start of the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the far right extremist who has confessed to the murder of 77 people in Norway last July, and is expected to attract supporters of at least 10 anti-Islamic and far right groups from across the continent. It is the second time the EDL has tried to hold a meeting in Europe. In October 2010 about 60 supporters turned up to a planned rally in Amsterdam and were attacked by Ajax football fans and anti-fascists. The EDL claims the 31 March event will be bigger. It is expected to attract several hundred people drawn from defence leagues and other far right groups that have emerged around Europe over the past two years.

Observers are divided over whether the event is a significant step towards a coherent European far right movement but the possibility has raised concern. Nick Lowles from Hope not Hate, which campaigns against racism and fascism, said he was not expecting a big turnout but added some key figures from emerging far right groups would be there. “The march in Denmark will bring together many of the leaders of the so-called ‘counter-jihad movement’ and it is another sign of the growing international anti-Muslim networks,” he said.

The EDL says the Denmark rally will discuss the formation of a European Defence League with representatives from far right and anti-Islamic groups in Italy, Poland, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Norway expected to attend. Lowles said: “Their focus on the threat of Islam, presenting it as a cultural war, has a far wider resonance amongst voters, especially in northern Europe, than old-style racists. They conflate Islamist extremists with immigration and in the current economic and political conditions it is extremely dangerous.”

Claude Moraes, the Labour MEP for London who chairs the all-party group on racism in the European parliament, described the demonstration as a critical moment and said there was widespread complacency about the threat posed by groups such as the EDL among mainstream European politicians. “They have missed what is a fundamental change in the way the far right is working. Despite all the evidence of the growing influence and importance of these proxy groups there is still a real complacency about how they are operating, how deeply embedded they are becoming and how they are shaping the debate,” Moraes said.

Last year, a report from the thinktank Demos found a new generation of young, web-based supporters who embrace hardline nationalist and anti-immigrant groups. It concluded that far right and anti-Islamic groups were on the rise across Europe. The exception appeared to be the UK where the British National party failed to make any breakthrough last year in parliamentary and local elections. In a separate report, Matthew Goodwin from Nottingham University and Jocelyn Evans of Salford University found that a hardcore of far right supporters in the UK appears to believe violent conflict between different ethnic, racial and religious groups is inevitable, and that it is legitimate to prepare even for armed conflict.

Breivik claimed he had contact with the EDL ahead of the attacks, adding that he had “spoken with tens of EDL members and leaders”. In response to the killings, the league issued a statement condemning the Norway killings and adding that it had no contact with Breivik.

The EDL, which emerged from Luton in 2009 to become the most significant far right street movement in the UK since the National Front, claims to be a peaceful, non-racist and set up to protest against “militant Islam”. Many of its demonstrations have descended into violence and Islamophobic and racist chanting, attracting known football hooligans and far right extremists. In the last year it has staged demonstrations in communities with large Muslim populations including Bradford, Leicester and Tower Hamlets in London. However, it has been hit by divisions and internal rows and some of its supporters have been involved in smaller, but often more violent activities, such as targeting trade union meetings and anti-racist groups. A big turnout of anti-facists from Denmark and other European countries is expected in protest at the rally in Denmark. Projekt Antifa, a Danish coalition of anti-fascist groups, has booked coaches to take protesters from Copenhagen to Aarhus where the demonstration is being held, describing it as “the capital’s biggest anti-fascist mobilisation for more than 10 years.” British anti-racists are also planning to travel to the rally. Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism said he would be travelling to the event with 30 supporters.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ken Livingstone Stands by His “Wealthy Jews” Gaffe

It is quite clear, from the trajectory of the discussion over the last few days, that there are some people who simply see nothing wrong with Ken Livingstone’s “Rich Jews” statement.

The leaked letter records the following:

Ken toward the end of the meeting stated that he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels

Make no mistake about this. What Ken is saying is not simply that richer people tend to vote for “right wing” parties. He is specifically claiming that “the Jewish community” as a whole will not vote for him, because Jews are rich. “The Jewish community” is not rich. There are sufficiently high numbers of Jews with average, modest and poor incomes to make this universal judgement politically meaningless. Communities in any case don’t ordinarily vote as “blocs” — not unless they’ve been pushed into sectarianism. And that, of course, is precisely Ken Livingstone’s electoral strategy. However, it is antisemites who trade on the stereotype of the rich Jew.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ken Livingstone: “Writer is Wrong to Snub Me — and I’m Not Anti-Semitic”

MAYORAL election candidate Ken Livingstone claimed this afternoon (Monday) there was nothing anti-semitic in his comments about the likelihood of rich Londoners snubbing Labour at the polls. Speaking to the New Journal during a campaign event in Russell Square, he said he was surprised by the nature of a hard-hitting article by Guardian columnist Jonathan Freeland published over the weekend in which the writer said he could no longer bring himself to vote for Mr Livingstone because he came across as uncaring towards the Jewish community. In his column, Mr Freedland said he had been at the private meeting on March 1 during which, it has been claimed, Mr Livingstone suggested rich Jewish residents would not vote for him. “As it happens I was at that meeting and I can confirm that the former mayor did make precisely that argument, linking Jewish voting habits to economic status, even if he did not baldly utter the words ‘Jews are rich’, a phrase that would have been additionally offensive,” Mr Freedland wrote. The Jewish Chronicle reported last week how a letter of complaint had been sent to Labour leader Ed Miliband following the meeting.

Mr Livingstone denies making the assertion and his team said sensational headlines had not captured his true sentiments, but Mr Livingstone said today he stuck by his view that voting habits were often linked to wealth. “To be brutally honest, I was surprised at the line he (Jonathan Freedland) took because every psephological study I’ve seen in the 40 years I’ve been following politics shows the main factor that determines how people how vote is their income level,” he said. “And it’s not anti-semitic to say that.” Privately, Labour officials often, when asked about any negative comment pieces or news coverage in the Guardian towards the party, make reference to the paper’s decision to encourage readers to vote for the Liberal Democrats ahead of the 2010 general election. But the issue of Labour making sure its traditional, core support come out to vote on May 3 in a close contest with Boris Johnson has been thrown into sharp focus by niggly stories in recent days a bout how members are supposedly unenthused by Mr Livingstone’s campaign. His running mate for deputy, Mayor Val Shawcross, said today that she “did not recognise” the picture conjured up by polls claiming 31 per cent of Labour supporters would not be voting for Mr Livingstone this time. Mr Freedland wrote in his article that he did not want to see Mr Johnson re-elected but added: “People will wrestle with their own dilemmas. Some will conclude that only Livingstone’s policy positions on transport or housing matter, I’m afraid I’ve reached a different conclusion.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Leeds JSoc Row Symbolises Wider Split

The squabbling over Leeds JSoc’s withdrawn invitation to American lawyer Brooke Goldstein is a further symptom of an as yet unreported broiges bubbling away under the surface of intra-community relations. For some time now the traditional Jewish communal bodies of the Union of Jewish Students and Board of Deputies — the “establishment” if you will — have experienced some feather-ruffling from what they see as impudent, trouble-making upstarts, particularly on and around campuses. Ms Goldstein’s tour was organised by a trio of these independent groups: Stand With Us, the British-Israel Coalition and UK Lawyers for Israel. The efforts of such organisations, and their leading activists — such as Sam Westrop, Gili Brenner and Hasan Afzal — have raised questions over who is best placed to lead British Jewish students’ efforts to combat antisemitism and anti-Israel activity. The dispute reflects in some ways the arguments between Board of Deputies’ delegates and the Jewish Leadership Council over whether democratically-elected representatives or independent activists should lead the way.

In another instance, the acquittal in January of a man accused of biting a pro-Israel campaigner’s cheek at SOAS was met with silence by UJS and the Board, despite outrage from Stand With Us officials, who had supported the campaigner. Why did they keep shtum? After the biting incident took place in March last year, senior Board members and student leaders told me of the efforts they made in advance to warn Stand With Us against attending the event. The traditional groups felt the newcomers were too provocative, too reckless. The subsequent scuffle and injury was, some claimed, inevitable. Had the pro-Israel campaigner followed a UJS approach, the incident might have been avoided, they argued. Some credit is due to Mr Afzal, Mr Westrop, their supporters and other groups. Their work is, at times, creating positive results and holding others to account.

When Federation of Student Islamic Societies president Nabil Ahmed wrote in the Guardian last month of the need for Jewish and Muslim students to work together to combat antisemitism and Islamophobia, it was not UJS which pointed out the hypocrisy of his comments. It was Mr Afzal. Freed of the shackles of a democratic electoral process, he spoke his mind, and has immediately been proved right — Fosis hosted Azzam Tamimi and Daud Abdullah at a conference last weekend. UJS, on the other hand, treads carefully, forced to weigh up case-by-case the possibility of working with Fosis in the future, against the need to speak out. The underlying friction that this creates is obvious. The underlying tension between the old and the new, the traditionalists and the unconstrained, will not go away anytime soon. The fear is that its continuation will divide students and create a fractured response to the threats faced on campus — a situation that suits no one.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Hold Surgery at Watford Mosque

Police have hailed the success of a neighbourhood surgery, which was held at a Watford mosque. Officers attended the North Watford Mosque on Friday to meet worshippers, give out crime prevention advice and field questions. There was over 250 worshippers at the mosque and more than 30 people signed up to neighbourhood watch schemes. PC James Irlen from the North Watford Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “Beat surgeries are held in all areas to give our residents an opportunity to meet us and find out what we’re doing to keep the area in which they live safe, as well as letting us know what concerns they have so we can take that information away and try to resolve them. “This is the second of its type we’ve had at the mosque and it’s proving extremely beneficial. It was the most successful beat surgery I’ve ever conducted. We’re doing lots of work in the area to build engagement between the public and the police, and the feedback from these events is really positive. We’ve receiv ed an invite from the Mosque to return and carry out another event, which we will arrange in the near future.”

[Reader comment by Roy Stockdill on 27 March 2012 at 12:01pm.]

There is nothing whatsoever racist in stating an opinion that many Muslims do not wish to integrate into British society. The evidence for this is overwhelming and it has been shown time and time again that they wish to remain separate from the rest of us. Indeed, the more militant and medieval among them have made it plain that they expect us all to embrace their religion and that it is their long-term aim one day to see the flag of Islam flying over Downing Street. To bandy around terms like “racist” is such a cheap and dishonest form of argument since its sole intent is to prevent the other person from expressing his or her freedom of speech. Politically correct so-called “liberals” who chuck allegations of racism around cheaply are, in fact, the most intolerant and illiberal people I know! They will not prevent me from expressing my views.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Scottish Jewry: Hiding Our Identity ‘To Avoid Abuse’

Scottish Jews hide their religious identity to avoid abuse and attack, a wide-ranging survey has found. Israelis living in the country reported that they often pretended to be French or Turkish to “avoid uncomfortable situations”. Being Jewish in Scotland was compiled by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. The organisation spoke to 240 Scottish Jews across the country to gauge their views on topics including culture, religion, food and education. Report author, Fiona Frank, said: “We believe that the inquiry has already contributed to making the scattered Jewish community of Scotland feel safer and stronger, both by the simple fact of reaching out to them, and by signalling that there is somebody here to listen and help.” She said making people recall experiences such as being forced to eat non-kosher food during a hospital stay or singing a Christian hymn in a school choir was vital in understanding how Jews lived and worked in Scotland.

SCoJeC’s interim report, published this week, found that among non-Jews there was a lack of understanding about Jewish issues, with many respondents claiming that they were often told they were “the first Jewish person” a non-Jew had met in Scotland. The survey reinforced the commonly-held belief that Jewish communities were being depleted by the departure of young graduates who left home and did not return, and further hampered by their parents soon following them, usually to London and also to Israel. Abusive behaviour at schools was highlighted as a particular concern, with the study revealing that “you Jew” was often used as a general derogatory term in playgrounds. Parents reported that when they had requested that their child was exempted from a school’s Christian services or Christmas activities, teachers had responded with “incomprehension — or worse”. Further problems were experienced on university campuses. Anti-Israel sentiment made Scottish Jews “feel insecure and vulnerable”. Community members said they wanted to see better kosher food provision, wider Jewish education and more social activities outside Glasgow, the country’s largest Jewish community.

Ms Frank said the findings might also be used to help other minorities.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Wales: Student Jailed Over Muamba Comments

Welsh university student Liam Stacey (21) was jailed for 56 days today for inciting racial hatred after posting offensive comments on Twitter following the collapse of the Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba.

The 23-year-old midfielder was left fighting for his life after suffering a heart attack during an FA Cup tie on March 17th.

Fans watched live on TV as he fell to the ground during the quarter-final clash at Tottenham Hotspur.

Police were inundated with complaints as members of the public reported the student’s comments on Twitter.

Stacey, a Swansea University biology undergraduate, was quickly tracked down and arrested.

Last week he admitted inciting racial hatred when he appeared briefly at Swansea Magistrates’ Court and today he was jailed for 56 days at the same court. Stacey was close to tears during his appearance before magistrates last week.

The first of his messages began with “LOL (laugh out loud). **** Muamba. He’s dead!!!”

A number of people then took him to task for his views and he responded with a further string of offensive comments aimed at other Twitter users.

Last week’s court hearing was told Stacey admitted to police he had sent the tweets after getting drunk watching Wales v France in the Six Nations rugby match.

He told officers he “didn’t know” why he had made the comments, stressing he was not a racist as some of his friends came “from different cultural backgrounds”.

The court also heard the defendant later texted a friend saying he said “something about Muamba I shouldn’t have”.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Activists and Liberals Leave Constituent Body

Coptic woman teacher also goes, too many Islamists

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO — The exodus is continuing from Egypt’s Constituent Assembly by liberals and activists, appointed only two days ago.In addition to the eight who resigned yesterday, today another well-known people left.They include Amr Hamzawi, liberal MP, teacher, researcher and human rights activist and Ahmed Harara, an activist who lost his sight in clashes with security forces last year.

He left the body, dominated by people chosen by the Islamist movements, along with Mona Makram Ebeid, one of six women in the one hundred-member Constituent Assembly.A Copt and an MP for years, currently professor of political science at the American University in Cairo, Makram is active human rights and women’s organisations.” I am leaving due to the Islamic connotation and the minimal presence of women,” she wrote on Twitter.

The Egyptian Constituent Assembly will meet for the first time on Wednesday and events have been announced by the movement to protest against the massive presence of Islamists on the body that will rewrite the Constitution.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Issues New Covenant That Gives Hope — Op Ed

by Joshua Landis

The Muslim Brotherhood has issued new Covenant. It is being praised widely on the Gulf TV stations by Christians such as Michel Kilo and others. They say that the Muslim Brotherhood has now embraced the notion that political authority emanates from the people and not from God. Human law should be the arbiter of human affairs and not divine law. Sharia is finished for the Muslim Brothers, who state that they embrace equality of all citizens without distinction between religions or gender. Although they neglect to state it outright, they leave open the possibility that a Christian, Alawi, or Druze could have the constitutional right to be president of Syria.

A dirty “Google translation” of the most important paragraphs of the new charter give this:

This Covenant and Charter has a national vision, and common denominators, adopted by the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, and provides the basis for a new social contract, establishes the relationship between national contemporary and safe, among the components of the Syrian society, with all its religious, sectarian, ethnic, and intellectual trends and political rights. Adhere to the Muslim Brotherhood to work to be Syria’s future:

1 — A modern civil state, based on a civil constitution, emanating from the will of the people of the Syrian people, based on national consensus, established by a constituent assembly which must be freely and fairly elected, and protect the fundamental rights of individuals and groups from any abuse or excesses, and to ensure equitable representation of all components of society.

2 — State of deliberative democracy, pluralism, according to the highest conclusion reached by the modern human thought, with a republican parliamentary system of government, which the people choose their representatives and governed, through the ballot box, in the elections free, fair and transparent.

3 — State of citizenship and equality, where all citizens are equal, with different ethnic backgrounds and religions, sects and attitudes, based on the principle which shall be the basis of citizenship rights and duties, any citizen access to the highest positions, based on the bases of the election or efficiency. As even where men and women, human dignity and to be eligible, and enjoy the full women’s rights. …

7. A state that respects the institutions, based on the separation of powers, legislative, judicial and executive branches, the officials in the service of the people. ….

9. State of justice and the rule of law, no place for hatred, where there is no room for revenge or retaliation . Even those who contaminated their hands with the blood of the people, of any class they are, it is entitled to fair trials before impartial judiciary free and independent. …

There are only a few phrases that raise some concern. One is the statement, that the new state will be “committed to human rights — as endorsed by heavenly religions and international conventions — of dignity, equality, and freedom of thought and expression…. equal opportunities, social justice, and to provide basic needs to live decently. …”

Here the covenant defines human rights to be “as endorsed by ‘heavenly religions” […] The definition of human rights provided by the “heavenly religions” is a bit problematic. The “heavenly” religions are the Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Their divine books were revealed from the heavens by God. The other religions of the world are defined by Islam to be “non-heavenly.”


[JP note: ‘Oppit.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Jew Beaten to Death With Hammer in Morocco

An elderly Jewish man was murdered by an unknown attacker with a hammer Monday in the city of Fez.

The 74-year-old victim, whose name has not yet been released, worked in property management for rentals owned by other Jews.

According to reports in Moroccan media, the elderly victim was seen being hit repeatedly by a man wielding a hammer.

The murderer fled the scene. Police are investigating to determine whether the attack was nationalist or criminal in nature.

Critically injured, he died as he was being rushed to King Hassan II University Hospital.

Earlier Monday, thousands of demonstrators stormed the parliament building in the capital city of Rabat. The protesters torched Israeli flags and expressed anger at the presence of Israeli envoy David Saranga, who was in the city to attend a meeting of the Euro-Mediterreanean Partnership (EUROMED), in advance of the Global March to Jerusalem set for this Friday, an event scheduled for the Arabs’ annual “Land Day” protest.

Saranga, who was expected to remain in the country until nightfall before flying to Brussels, instead was quietly escorted through a side door from the building. He was taken to the airport and immediately boarded a flight for Paris instead.

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom[Return to headlines]

Libya: Ex-NTC Premier, The West Abandoned US

(AGI) Bruxelles — Mahmoud Jibril, first ad interim NTC premier lead the fight against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. Today, he fears that after toppling the Colonel, the West forgot his country. “It is a fatal mistake to abandon Libya”, he warned.

“When the regime fell, the state fell as well. And when it happened everyone disappeared”, Jibril concluded

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

Moroccan Islamists Flex Muscles in Rabat March

RABAT — Tens of thousands of Moroccans staged a pro-Palestinian march in Rabat on Sunday in a show of force organized by an Islamist group seen as the main opposition to Morocco’s monarchy.

A Reuters reporter in the Moroccan capital said at least 40,000 people joined the march called by Al-Adl Wal Ihsan (Justice and Spirituality). A senior police officer put the number at 11,000 while organizers said 100,000 had turned out.


It was Al-Adl’s first march since December when it pulled out of pro-democracy protests, inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere and aimed at forcing the Arab world’s longest-serving dynasty to become a constitutional monarchy.

Morocco has not had a revolution of the kind seen in Egypt, Libya or Tunisia. King Mohammed is still firmly in charge after he offered to trim his powers and allowed moderate Islamists to lead the government after their Justice and Development Party (PJD) won an election in November.

Ali Anouzla, a political analyst and editor of news portal, said Al-Adl sought to send a message to Moroccan authorities that they remained a force to be reckoned with, even after withdrawing from the pro-democracy protest movement.

“Al-Adl’s withdrawal from the February 20 Movement has tremendously reduced pressure on the PJD. With this march, Al-Adl is trying to make a comeback and sends a message to skeptics who raised doubt about its support base,” Anouzla said.

While the protests of the February 20 Movement lost much of their momentum after Al-Adl’s withdrawal, unrest over poverty, corruption and unemployment still erupts, sometimes violently.

Al-Adl is seen as Morocco’s biggest and best-organized Islamist group. It is active mostly in universities and in helping the poor, but is banned from politics due to what is seen as its hostile rhetoric towards the monarchy.

Hassan Bennajeh, an Al-Adl wal Ihsan spokesman, said Sunday’s march was to mark Land Day, when Palestinians recall 1976 protests over Israeli expropriation of Arab-owned land.

“We have always been active on issues that touch the heart of Moroccans. While we protest here in support of Palestine, members of our group continue to be persecuted and jailed by authorities for their activism on local issues,” he said.

“Everybody knows that the Moroccan regime supports normalization with Israel and has helped thousands of Moroccan Jews to migrate to and populate Israel,” Bennajeh added.

Morocco has been a discreet broker between Israel and Arab countries and established low-key diplomatic ties with the Jewish state in 1994. In 2000, Rabat froze ties with Israel after violence intensified in the Israeli-occupied territories.

The marchers carried Palestinian flags, balloons in the flag’s black, red, white and green, and placards that read “Palestinians are resisting while Arab regimes are haggling.”

They chanted: “The people want the liberation of Palestine” and “We will never forget you Ahmed Yassin”, naming an Islamist Palestinian Hamas leader assassinated by the Israelis in 2004.

Most of the protesters appeared to be Islamists, with women wearing headscarves and marching separately from men.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

The Crisis of Jewish Leftist Islamism

There are two basic ways to resolve the “crisis” of liberal Zionism. One is to question liberalism, the other to question Zionism. The people most likely to screech “Israel Firster” at dinner parties and op-ed pieces have chosen their side. “Israel Firster” isn’t their denunciation of disloyalty to America, but disloyalty to progressive ideals. It’s an old charge delivered by Lenin and repeated by the left in its long crusade against Zionism.

Is there really a crisis of liberal Zionism? Beinart insists that there is a split between a conservative and liberal Zionism. It would be more accurate to say that there is a split within liberalism between the left and more traditional liberals. There is no crisis of liberal Zionism, there is a civil war among liberals, particularly Jewish liberal who are being edged out by the radical Anti-Jewish left.

There is no crisis of Liberal Zionism. There is a crisis of Jewish Leftist Islamism, that horrible chimeric beast which insists that cheerleading for the Muslim terrorists is somehow the essence of Jewish values, while supporting Israel is a betrayal of those values. That is the crisis which is being articulated by serious Jewish liberal thinkers. That is the crisis that Peter Beinart is covering up under a cloud of Israel bashing.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Turkey: Hitler Shampoo Commercial Pulled Off the Air

Advertisement caused protests from Jewish community

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 27 — A Turkish TV commercial using images from a speech by Adolf Hitler to advertise a brand of shampoo was pulled off the air in the wake of protests from the Jewish and international community. The website for Hurriyet Daily News, a Turkish newspaper, reports that the head of advertising firm Marka, which produced the men’s shampoo commercial, said that the campaign was pulled as a result of the backlash despite the fact that the advertisement portrayed the dictator in a ridiculous light and did not praise him in any way. On Sunday the head rabbi in Turkey issued a statement underlining how it is “completely unacceptable” to use Hitler, “the most horrifying example of cruelty and barbarism in history” to “attract attention” in an advertisement. “It is an enormous insult”, stated head Rabbi Ishak Haleva in a communiqué. In the United States the Anti-Defamation League, an organisation that fight against anti-Semitism, spoke about an “insult to the memory of those who died in the Holocaust” and wrote a letter of protest to the Turkish Embassy in the U.S., reports Hurriyet. The few-second-long commercial, whose impact was amplified by Youtube, used a clip of an animated speech by Hitler dubbed into Turkish in which the dictator says: “If you don’t wear women’s clothing, don’t use women’s shampoo. That’s it. If you are a man, you have to use this shampoo. Real men use it.” Nearly 20,000 Jews live in Turkey today, mainly concentrated in Istanbul, and are mostly descendents of the Sephardic Jews who fled from the Spanish Inquisition about 500 years ago to seek refuge in the tolerant Ottoman Empire. Turkey is already in the midst of a diplomatic crisis with Israel after Israel did not apologise after their soldiers boarded a Turkish boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists in 2010 and the incident ended in violence. Ankara, supporting the Palestinian cause under its Middle Eastern foreign policy strategy, has called for Israel to lift the anti-Hamas blockade on Gaza. Hulusi Derici, an executive for the advertising firm, said that if they had used Kemal Ataturk instead of Hitler they would have been accused of “making fun” of the still-venerated founder of the modern Turkish state in the 1920s and 1930s: “But if we use Hitler, they say that we are supporting him.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: British Servicemen Shot Dead by Rogue Afghan Army Officer

Two British servicemen have been shot dead by an Afghan army officer after an argument at the British headquarters in Helmand province.

The unnamed Britons died when an Afghan lieutenant opened fire as they guarded a gate onto the British-run provincial reconstruction team (PRT) base in Lashkar Gah, Afghan officials said. Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, confirmed the incident in the Commons. One was from the Royal Marines and the other from the Adjutant General’s Corps (Staff & Personnel Support). Spokesman for Task Force Helmand Major Ian Lawrence said: “Sadly, I must report that a Royal Marine and a soldier from the Adjutant General’s Corps were shot and killed by an Afghan National Army soldier at the main entrance to Lashkar Gah main operating base. The thoughts and condolences of everyone serving in the Task Force are with their families and friends.” Lt Gul Nazir had quarrelled with the servicemens on guard duty after they refused to allow him and several of his men onto the base to meet colleagues due to arrive on a flight.

The deaths are the latest in a spate of “green on blue” killings where Afghan forces have turned their weapons on their Nato allies. Commanders fear suspicion spread by the killings risks undermining efforts to train and advise the Afghan army and police in preparation for them to take charge of security duties by the end of 2014. The incidents have increased in recent months. Six American soldiers were shot dead by Afghan personnel last month alone, in apparent retaliation for the burning of Korans at Bagram airfield, north of Kabul.

A total of 15 Nato troops have been shot dead by their Afghan allies in the first three months of 2012 — or one in six of all coalition dead. Col Abdul Nabi Elham, provincial police chief, said Lt Nazir appeared to have become angered when the sentries had told him and his men to wait outside at around 11am. He said: “These Afghan soldiers came from another district and they had come to meet friends arriving on a flight at the PRT. The British said it was not allowed and they just had to wait outside.” Two Britons were killed and another was critically wounded, he said. Lt Nazir was also killed in the ensuing fire fight. Ghulam Farooq Parwani, deputy commander of Afghan forces in Helmand, confirmed Lt Nazir had spent four years in the army and was from Achin district of Nangahar province in eastern Afghanistan.

The killings have raised fears of infiltration by insurgents, but investigators have found many of the killings had no apparent links to the Taliban and appeared driven by personal grievance, or resentment of the foreign presence. Classified military research into the killings last year concluded there was often deep mistrust between the Nato-led and Afghan forces. Afghans saw their Western comrades as arrogant, rude and aggressive. In turn, the foreign forces often characterised their Afghan comrades as lazy, thieving and addicted to drugs. Mistrust has deepened as the killings have continued and Nato and foreign embassies warned their staff to brace for further attacks as anti-Western sentiment was stirred by the Koran burnings and the massacre of 17 civilians by a rogue American soldier in Kandahar. Hundreds of foreign aid advisers were temporarily removed from Afghan government ministries in Kabul last month after two American officers were shot dead in a joint command centre by an Afghan interior ministry driver who is still on the run. Coalition troops are increasingly moving to closely-matched advisory and training roles rather than combat as they prepare to hand security duties to Kabul. A statement from Nato headquarters in Kabul said: “An individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members in southern Afghanistan today, killing two service members. The individual who opened fire was killed when coalition forces returned fire. A joint Afghan and ISAF team is investigating the incident.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Another Tragic Episode in Britain’s Afghan Adventure

by Con Coughlin

The deaths of another two British soldiers in Afghanistan brings home the sacrifices that are still required of our Armed Forces as we undertake the Herculean task of trying to bring some sense of stability to Afghanistan. Earlier I wrote about the sobering effect of visiting the British war cemetery in Kabul, which contains poignant memorials to the casualties of two centuries of British involvement in Afghanistan. And while our experience today in Helmand cannot be compared to the horrors of the First Afghan War — when an entire British brigade was wiped out — the latest fatalities bring home the enormous challenge we face in trying to defeat the Taliban.

According to the available reports, the shootings were the result of an Afghan officer taking exception to the refusal of two British sentries to grant him access to the base. But the fact that something so trivial could result in two soldiers losing their lives is an indication of how high feelings are running in Afghanistan in the wake of the recent Koran-burning episode.

Many Afghans are still incensed that American soldiers burnt copies of the Koran — an act of breath-taking stupidity. Not surprisingly many of the Afghans I have spoken to in recent days are looking forward to the day when Nato finally packs up its kit-bags and heads for home. Having said that, though, my Afghan friends are equally concerned that, unless they have adequate support from the West, the Taliban will come marching back into power the moment Nato is gone. And that is the dilemma all sides face as we enter the challenging period where Nato gradually hands control of the country to the Afghan security forces. Clearly we are entering a very challenging period during this difficult transition phase, and what we need are cool heads rather than tragic misunderstandings such as this.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

India Boat Shooting Jurisdiction Ruling Put Off to Friday

Italian petition had ‘formal error’, judge says

(ANSA) — Kochi, March 27 — An Indian judge on Tuesday put off until Friday a ruling on whether India or Italy should have jurisdiction in the case of two anti-pirate Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen, judicial sources told ANSA.

The judge said there was a “formal error” in Italy’s petition, which he said should be re-submitted.

It is the third time this month that the ruling on jurisdiction over last month’s incident has been postponed.

Italy says it should have jurisdiction for the case, not India, as the soldiers were guarding an Italian merchant vessel in international waters.

The Italian government also believes that, regardless of who has jurisdiction, the marines should be exempt from prosecution in India as they were military personnel working on an anti-piracy mission.

Italy has said the marines fired warning shots from the merchant ship they were guarding, the Enrica Lexie, after coming under attack from pirates.

It said they followed the proper international procedures for dealing with pirate attacks, which are frequent in the Indian Ocean.

The Indian authorities, on the other hand, said the marines failed to show sufficient “restraint” by opening fire after mistaking the fishermen for pirates.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who have been at the centre of a diplomatic row between the countries since being detained last month, are in jail in the city of Thiruvananthapuram.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Indiscriminate Murder: Preacher Shot Dead Inside Mosque

KHAR: A member of the Tablighi Jumaat was gunned down by unidentified assailants when they stormed the mosque he was in Badan Kot village of Bajaur agency, political administration officials confirmed on Monday. A senior official of the political administration, Faramosh Khan told The Express Tribune that “Qismat khan belonged to Southern Districts of DI Khan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) was killed when three masked men entered a mosque at midnight where Qismat was staying with his friends and shot him.”He added that Khan was a member of the Tablighi Jamaat and was in the area for the sake of preaching. Faramosh said that six people had been arrested under the collective responsibility act of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) on the basis of suspicion. However, the motive behind the killing has not yet been ascertained.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

Asia is the World’s Top Importer of Weapons

In its latest report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute shows that Asia bought 44 per cent of all conventional weapons exports. China drops from first to fourth largest importer by improving domestic production and increasing exports.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — Asia is the world’s top importer of weapons, this according to a study released on Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Over the past five years, Asia and Oceania accounted for 44 per cent in volume of conventional arm imports, compared with 19 per cent for Europe, 17 per cent for the Middle East, 11 per cent for North and South America, and 9 per cent for Africa. China, which was the world’s top importer in 2006-2007, dropped to fourth place, not because of any pacifist change of heart but because it boosted domestic production and exports.

SIPRI monitored weapons transfers for the 2007-2011 period. Its report shows that India was the first world importer over the period, accounting for 10 per cent in weapons volume, followed by South Korea (6 per cent), China and Pakistan (5 per cent), and Singapore (4 per cent). These five countries accounted for 30 per cent of the volume of international arms imports, the report said.

“The decline in the volume of Chinese imports coincides with the improvements in China’s arms industry and rising arms exports,” especially to Pakistan, the report said. The latter bought 50 JF 17 from the mainland, plus a large number of tanks. For Beijing, arms sales to Pakistan are a way to counter India’s military capabilities and play up the Indo-Pakistani rivalry.

“In certain sectors such as combat aircraft, with the exception of certain parts like engines, China is able to put together these systems largely from their own indigenous base now,” Paul Holtom, director of SIPRI’s arms transfer program, said. By contrast, “India is still struggling there.”

At the same time, there is no let up in China’s military build-up with 11 per cent of GDP spent on defence. Economic interests, territorial disputes and foreign sales are increasingly the driving forces behind China’s military strategy. In the past five years, Beijing doubled its exports over the 2002-2007 period.

The Communist state is concerned with the United States Far East doctrine, which runs counter to its own strategic interests.

For Ni Lexiong, a military analyst at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, China is sending a warning to Washington and Delhi. Both appear bent on limiting Beijing’s scope in the South China Sea and beyond.

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

China: Manufacturing and Employment Continue to Decline

HSBC data show slowdown continues in March. Lower world demand but especially weak domestic markets are the cause. Employment continues to decline.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Growth continues to decline in China because of lower world demand but especially because of the government’s failure to boost domestic markets. In March, the Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) fell to 48.1 from 49.6 in February, the fifth monthly fall, from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics report.

The PMI is a key indicator of manufacturing activity and a reading below 50 shows it is contracting. The data comes just days after China said it expected a growth of 7.5 per cent in 2012, the lowest target since 2004.

“External demand remained in contraction territory, but the decline was at a slower pace, implying that there are no improvements in the demand outlook. More worryingly, employment recorded a new low since March 2009, suggesting slowing manufacturing production was hindering enterprises’ hiring desire,” HSBC chief China economist Qu Hongbin said.

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

Australia — Pacific

Classics Return at New School

Australia’s first “classical Christian” school is set to open in WA next year, offering subjects such as Latin, Greek, logic and rhetoric to students from kindergarten to Year 12, partly in response to the perceived “dumbing down” of modern education.

St Augustine’s Classical Christian College has received approval from Education Minister Liz Constable to be established as a school after offering private tutoring to home-schooled students in Middle Swan since 2008.

Its website says classical education is experiencing increasing success internationally “in response to the ‘dumbing down’ of Western education”.

Classical Christian education places more emphasis on character development and gaining wisdom than on teaching facts and skills to prepare students for the workforce.

Based on a British model, it was adapted for the US and is taught there in about 150 schools.

St Augustine’s principal Stephen Hurworth said a classical education was important because it helped young people connect to the great story of their civilisation.

“I think people feel very much that a lot of post-modern culture is quite tired and they’re looking at other models and asking deeper questions,” he said.

Latin was a core subject and children would start memorising Latin jingles and chants in kindergarten.

By Year 2, they would be conjugating and declining Latin verbs and by the time they reached high school they would be able to tackle Greek. Between Year 7 and 9 they would study formal logic and reasoning skills.

As well as the Bible, students would study ancient Greece and Rome, the Byzantine empire, medieval history and the renaissance.

“But we obviously try to adapt that and do that in a way that is relevant to Australia,” Mr Hurworth said.

He said children were capable of much more difficult work than they were usually given in other schools.

“The program’s not going to suit everyone,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s an elitist program but it does appeal to a particular type of student and a particular style of learning.”

Fees would range from $8000 to $12,000 a year.

Mr Hurworth said he expected to enrol between 80 and 120 students at the school, for which a site was being negotiated in the eastern suburbs.

           — Hat tip: Anne-Kit[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria Forecasts Famine in Boko Haram Areas in 2012

(AGI) Abuja — Nigeria has warned of a possible famine in the country, and especially in the North-East. The alert was given by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the country’s equivalent of Italy’s Disaster Relief Agency, in its 2012 “Report on Boko Haram Insurgency and Disasters in the North East”. “Nigeria may face famine by the end of this year, because most of the small-scale farmers and big-time farmers in the north are threatened by the Boko Haram attacks”, the report reads referring to the Islamist militant group whose attacks have left at least 1,200 people dead since 2009. According to NEMA, over the past three years “more than 65% of such farmers have already migrated to the southern parts of Nigeria, fearing that the insecurity to both lives and property, including their farmlands and livestock”. Productions of rice, beans, corn and onions have been the worst hit, but fishing in the Lake Chad area, one of the few options local populations have to integrate and vary their diet, was also affected. On the occasion of the presentation of this report, NEMA senior officials said they had been urged by Nigerian security forces to prepare, a humanitarian plan, working in coordination with the United Nations, in order not to be caught off-guard if the forecast turns out to be accurate.

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

Somalia: Mortar Attack Kills Father, Son, Journalist Attack Condemned

Mogadishu, 26 March (AKI) — At least two people have been killed by mortars that landed near a refugee camp in Mogadishu. It was the third mortar attack in the Somali capital in the past week.

A father and son died in the attack late Sunday near the presidential palace, according to reports.

The Islamist Al-Shabab militants have been largely pushed out of Mogadishu but continue to launch periodic attacks.

The group has been fighting to overthrow a transitional government supported by an African military coalition led by Uganda. Somalia has not had a functioning government for 20 years.

Separately, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) on Monday condemned Sunday’s shooting of a radio journalist marking a continuation of attacks on the troubled country’s media.

Two men armed with pistols shot and wounded Mohyadin Hasan Mohamed, “Mohyadin Husni” , who heads of the News for the Shabelle Media Network.

“We call for immediate and urgent investigation into the shooting incident and bring the assailants to a court of Justice,” NUSOJ said.

Earlier this month, radio journalist Ali Ahmed Abdi was shot dead in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based organisation dedicated to the freedom of the press, said Al-Shabab militants were suspected of carrying out the attack.

NUSOJ) said Abdi was the 30th journalist to be murdered in Somalia since 2007.

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