Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120704

Financial Crisis
»Dutch Unclear if New Bailout Terms Need Treaty Change
»ECB Staff Overworked
»Euro Crisis Fuels Debate on British EU Referendum
»German Party Leader Threatens to Axe Coalition
»Greece: Incomes Fall and Taxes Grow
»Greek 400,000 Jobless and 20,000 Homeless, EC Review
»IMF Tells Germany to Boost Internal Demand
»Merkel Faces Coalition Troubles Over Euro-Bailouts
»Poor Families Increase in Italy and Spain
»Sex Lives of Spaniards and Italians Affected by Debt
»UK Prepared to Seal Border Against Greeks
»Battling Deportation, Imam of N.J.’s Largest Mosque Files Suit for Government Documents
»Islamophobia: A Bipartisan Project
»Islam Generates Art, Not Wars: New PBS Documentary
»On July 4, Remember: We Are Not French
»On the 4th of July: We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident…
»Spirited Debate at Hearing for Proposed Mosque on Pines Bridge Road
»Mosque Update: Letter of Credit Still a Concern
Europe and the EU
»Celebrations as Higgs Boson is Finally Discovered
»CERN Scientists Announce Higgs Boson Breakthrough
»Commissioner ‘Seriously Concerned’ About Romanian Court
»Dark Matter Underpinnings of Cosmic Web Found
»French Arrest Man Suspected of Financing Al-Qaida
»Germany: Moroccan Religious Leaders in Europe Condemn Circumcision Ruling
»German Gunman ‘Kills Hostages in Karlsruhe Eviction’
»Ireland: Woman Drives Garda (Policeman) To Crime Scene in Her Personal Car
»Italy: Grillo Movement Popularity Up 0.8% to 20.8%
»Massive Fraud of EU Funds Rarely Reported by Member States
»Mayor of Limerick City, Ireland Wants Road Signs in Polish and “African”
»Physicists Ecstatic Over Possible Higgs Particle Discovery
»Security and the Radical Right in Flanders
»Slovakia: Resolve to Help Eurozone Partners Dwindles
»Switzerland: Mosque Struggles to Shrug Off Extremist Label
»Tracking Jihadists in Switzerland
»UK: Don’t Let PC Brigade Bury Ethnic Links to Sex Gangs, Warns Children’s Minister
»UK: Empowered or Radicalised? At the 2012 Federation of Student Islamic Societies Conference
»UK: Ian Brazier Sentenced for Pulling Niqab Veil From Muslim Woman
»UK: New Scunthorpe Mosque Rejected by North Lincolnshire Council
»UK: Petition Calls for EDL March in Bristol to be Banned
»UK: School Children Visit Rochdale Mosque
»UK: The Struggle to Deal With Foreign Terror Suspects
»UK: Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman Launches 14 Enforcement Officers
»Croatia to Publish List of Tax Evaders
Mediterranean Union
»40 Projects Selected Under Anna Lindh Foundation’s Call
»Spain: Economic Agendas of Islamic Actors IEMed Conference
»University: Brussels Launches Talk on Southern Mediterranean
North Africa
»Libya: In an Increasingly Unruly Country, NATO Drops Bombs to End Factional Clashes
Middle East
»Great Heights, Low Returns
»Iraq: Creative Pair Paint Mountain of Peace
»Jordan: Islamists Rally Against Elections Law
»Plans for Sustainable Abu Dhabi Eco-Mosque Get Approval
»Russia Accuses West of Distorting Syria Agreement
»Syria: Italian Field Hospital Sent to Jordan
»Turkey: Hackers Post Erdogan-Assad Photo on Ministry Site
»Turkey: Prosecutor Calls for Arrest of Journalist Ahmet Sik
»Turkey: Colonel Says Headscarf a ‘Symbol of Terrorism’ In New Voice Recording
»Turkey: Who Ordered the Murder of Christians?
»UAE: Ramadan May Begin on July 21
»Ukrainian Police Fire Tear Gas Amid Language Law Protests
South Asia
»Afghanistan: NATO Soldiers Wounded in Another ‘Green on Blue’ Attack
»Afghanistan: ‘Honour Killing’ Of Mother, 30, Beheaded by Her Ex-Husband… Who Then Decapitated Their Two Young Children Because They’d Watched
»Five US Soldiers Injured in Central Afghanistan
»Five US Troops Wounded in Latest ‘Green on Blue’ Attack in Afghanistan
»Indonesia: Sumatran City of Medan ‘Turning Into Terror Financing Centre’
»Modern Madrasahs in India Convince Opponents
»Pakistan: ‘The Jihad Against Infidels Will Continue’
Far East
»Chinese Protesters Stop Copper Plant Project
Australia — Pacific
»Crafty Alternative to Mosque Seems Likely
»Foundation of the Largest Mosque in New Zealand
»Mosque Criticism is Ill-Informed
Sub-Saharan Africa
»The International Criminal Court is Hurting Africa
»UNESCO Condemns Destruction of Timbuktu Shrines
»Australia: Asylum Seekers Accused of Using Navy “Like the NRMA”
»Rapid Growth Hits Housing Market

Financial Crisis

Dutch Unclear if New Bailout Terms Need Treaty Change

Dutch finance minister Jan Kees de Jager Tuesday told Senate that it was unclear if the recently agreed changes to the ESM bailout fund — allowing direct bank recapitalisation — require treaty change. Having “originally” heard voices saying one would be required there are now other “options,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

ECB Staff Overworked

Workers at the European Central Bank say they are being overworked, according to an Ipso union poll, with the debt and banking crisis having greatly increased the workload.The survey claims the ECB is not sufficiently staffed to handle the daily operational tasks assigned to it.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Euro Crisis Fuels Debate on British EU Referendum

With the euro zone apparently heading toward greater integration, many British are alarmed at the prospect of becoming marginalized within the bloc. Euroskeptics see the chance of forcing a referendum on the UK’s EU membership and are putting pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to commit to a vote.

The British seem to have a taste for referendums at the moment. Next year, the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands will vote on their status as a British overseas territory. Then, in 2014, the Scottish government will hold a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. Now it looks like there could be another nationwide referendum after that — on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

As the euro-zone countries push forward with greater integration as a response to the euro crisis, there are growing calls in Britain for an EU referendum. Prime Minister David Cameron is coming under increasing pressure to agree to a vote, especially from the right wing of his Conservative Party. In a letter sent to the prime minister last week, hundreds of Conservative members of parliament called on him to commit to an EU referendum after the next election in 2015.

The pressure from euroskeptics puts Cameron, who does not want to be rushed into holding a vote, in a tricky situation. In a speech to parliament on Monday on the outcome of last week’s EU summit, the prime minister said that although he is not in favor of an immediate referendum on EU membership, he does not want to rule one out for the future. He insisted that the “status quo” was unacceptable in any case. If the euro zone grows ever closer together into a political union, it will change Britain’s relationship with the EU, Cameron said.

In an op-ed for the Sunday Telegraph published the previous day, Cameron wrote that “the British people are not happy with what they have, and neither am I.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Party Leader Threatens to Axe Coalition

Chancellor Angela Merkel faces growing resistance to her European policy from within her own coalition. Horst Seehofer, the leader of the powerful CSU party, sharply criticized the outcome of last week’s EU summit, and threatened to let the coalition government collapse if Berlin makes any more concessions to ailing euro members.

Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer, the leader of the conservative Christian Social Union party (CSU) which is part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right federal government coalition, has criticized the outcome of last week’s European Union summit and threatened to let the government collapse if Berlin makes any further financial concessions to ailing euro member states.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Incomes Fall and Taxes Grow

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 3 — Greek taxpayers’ declared incomes appear to have shrunk by 10% in 2011 compared with 2010, according to the processed income tax statements. The average annual income per statement came to 16,668 euros, while the average amount of income tax Greeks will have to pay this year amounts to a staggering 1,500 euros. Given the further decline in incomes this year — as daily Kathimerini notes -, it is likely that many taxpayers will be unable to pay their dues, resulting in a new generation of debtors. For this reason, the Finance Ministry is contemplating the payment of taxes in up to 12 installments for those with low incomes or without work and up to six installments for the rest. A greater discount than is currently the case may be given to those who pay their full tax bill in one go.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greek 400,000 Jobless and 20,000 Homeless, EC Review

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JUNE 28 — European Commission Quarterly Review shows the EU labour market and social situation continues to deteriorate as writes. Greece is among the countries exhibiting the most disappointing data. The Quarterly Review indicates that although member states have continued to implement active labour market policies and measures to reduce the gap between temporary and permanent contracts, wide disparities in employment terms and conditions still remain a challenge within many countries, overall affecting the social coherence in the EU. The European Commission review, published in the Quarterly EU Employment and Social Situation Review, reveals that the gap between the South and the North is increasing. Unemployment is rising mostly in those countries that have received bailout aid, with more and more young people willing to flee their homelands and go abroad to find better job prospects: among those aged 15-35: 64% Greek, 67% Spanish and Irish and 57% Portuguese. One of the worst findings of the review is that 400,000 more people have lost their jobs in Greece resulting in a deteriorating quality of life. 660,000 jobs in Spain, 210,000 in Portugal and 180,000 in neighboring Italy vanished. The worst is that the figure of Greek homeless people has rapidly increased indicating a very ominous future for the poorest. “In 2011, the homeless were increased by 25% in comparison to 2009, when their number was 20,000 people. More than half of them (11,000 people) are located in Athens and Piraeus; 8,000 are Greeks. The social phenomenon has spread also to cities like Chania, Irakleio (Crete) and Trikala.” The review underlines also that 68% of the population in Greece lives below the poverty threshold (that is, it has an income below the 60% of the average national income) and spends more than 40% of its income for renting a home or repaying a mortgage.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

IMF Tells Germany to Boost Internal Demand

The IMF has said Germany needs to boost internal demand and free itself from depending on the rest of world, reports FT Deutschland. Its “remarkable” economic situation relies too heavily on exports, IMF economic Subir Lall said in Washington, with the IMF having reduced its 2013 economic prognosis for Germany.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Merkel Faces Coalition Troubles Over Euro-Bailouts

Bavaria’s conservative leader Horst Seehofer has threatened to withdraw support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition if more concessions are made to ailing euro-countries.

Seehofer, who chairs the Christian Social Union in Bavaria and is renowned for his polarising statements, told Stern magazine on Tuesday (3 July) that Germany’s contribution to bailouts was already “borderline”.

“The time will come when the Bavarian government and the CSU can no longer say yes. And I wouldn’t then be able to support that personally either,” he said. “And the coalition has no majority without CSU’s seats,” the party chief added.

His biggest fear, he said, is that markets will soon turn to Germany and start asking if it can cope with all the rescues: “That is the point I regard as the most dangerous of all.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Poor Families Increase in Italy and Spain

In Italy financial issue rates increased from 16 to 26%

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, 27 JUNE — European families forced to draw on their own savings or make debts to face common expenses are increasing, according to the European Commission’s EU Employment and Social Situation Quarterly review. As Brussels pointed out, the number of poorest families in Italy and Spain was subject to an “especially considerable” increase; financial issues’ rates increased from 16% and 23% in April 2011 to 26% and 33% in April 2012.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sex Lives of Spaniards and Italians Affected by Debt

Pfizer survey reveals Northen countries are better off in bed

(ANSAMed) — BERLIN, JULY 3 — The debt crisis is weighing on the sex lives of Italians and Spaniards as well as their pockets.

According to a survey by pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer reported by Apa news agency today, 34% of Spanish and 21% of Italian respondents admitted that the crisis is negatively affecting their levels of sexual fulfillment and desire.

Those percentages are far lower in the economically virtuous Northern countries, with a mere 8% of Belgians and 9% of Germans saying the crisis affects them in the bedroom. Pfizer interviewed sexually active men and women aged 36-65 for this survey.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK Prepared to Seal Border Against Greeks

The UK revealed Tuesday (3 July) it is prepared to seal its borders from Greeks and other eurozone citizens caught up in the fall-out of the sovereign debt crisis in the event of “extraordinary stresses and strains”.

“You have to plan, you have to have contingencies, you have to be ready for anything — there is so much uncertainty in our world. But I hope those things don’t become necessary,” UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs at a home affairs committee.

UK ministers have been working on different scenarios. Under the worst case scenario, reports the Guardian, a Greek exit from the euro would provoke a near-total collapse in its economy and result in many thousands seeking work elsewhere in the EU.

The prime minister confirmed, after being posed the question directly by an MP, that he would be prepared to restrict the rights of Greeks to enter the UK.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Battling Deportation, Imam of N.J.’s Largest Mosque Files Suit for Government Documents

Battling a government bid to deport him, the spiritual leader of one of New Jersey’s largest and most diverse mosques is suing the FBI and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency to force the release of any records that could bear on his ability to remain in his adopted homeland. Mohammad Qatanani, who for the past 16 years has served as imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Newark on Friday under the Freedom of Information Act.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Islamophobia: A Bipartisan Project

by Deepar Kumar

When the New York Times ran its story on Obama’s “kill list,” showing the president poring over names of people to potentially assassinate in drone strikes, it sparked a controversy. The content of that controversy was not over this extraordinary revelation about Obama’s use of power but rather over the leaking of state secrets, which Republicans accused him of doing to bolster his re-election campaign. Some liberal commentators (at Salon, The Nation etc.) were rightfully horrified and condemned such activity. But the Democrats-and much of the liberal establishment-remained silent.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Islam Generates Art, Not Wars: New PBS Documentary

by Menachem Wecker

Unlike war, the “outpouring of creativity and intelligence” and “nuance and ingenuity” of Islamic art and architecture endures. So goes the argument of the new PBS documentary Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World. “Islamic art puts a face on a lot of the uncertainties Western society has about Islamic culture, and also it sheds light on some shared histories between western culture and Islamic culture, and shows a continuity rather than a break,” says Afshan Bokhari, assistant professor of art history at Suffolk University in Boston, Mass., at the end of the 90-minute film.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

On July 4, Remember: We Are Not French

It has become fashionable to equate the French and American revolutions, but they share absolutely nothing beyond the word “revolution.” The American Revolution was a movement based on ideas, painstakingly argued by serious men in the process of creating what would become the freest, most prosperous nation in world history.

The French Revolution was a revolt of the mob. It was the primogenitor of the horrors of the Bolshevik revolution, Hitler’s Nazi Party, Mao’s cultural revolution, Pol Pot’s slaughter, and America’s periodic mob uprisings from Shays’ rebellion to today’s dirty waifs in the “Occupy Wallstreet” crowd.

The French Revolution is the godless antithesis to the founding of America.

One rather important difference is that Americans did win freedom and greater individual rights with their revolution, creating a republic. France’s revolution consisted of pointless, bestial savagery, followed by another monarchy, followed by Napoleon’s dictatorship and then finally something resembling an actual republic 80 years later.

[Return to headlines]

On the 4th of July: We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident…

On July 4, 1776 the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence, representing the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation. The sentiments in the second paragraph of the Declaration, arguing that the rights of man are natural, unreserved and not contingent upon the benevolence of the state, may seem, in our day, morally intuitive, but represented a quite heterodox, and indeed revolutionary, idea in its day.

WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

It should be our hope that the values which America represents will inspire a genuine spring in lands not yet touched by its bounty.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Spirited Debate at Hearing for Proposed Mosque on Pines Bridge Road

Supporters want place for their needs. Skeptics concerned with area’s character being hurt.

Both sides in the debate over the proposed New Castle mosque came in large numbers to the first hearing for the building’s environmental review. The Zoning Board of Appeals held the public hearing last week, which lasted nearly three hours in an overflowing town hall auditorium. During that time, there were several recurring themes on display. Members of the Upper Westchester Muslim Society, which is seeking to build the 24,690-square-foot structure in the town’s West End section at Pines Bridge Road and on the border of Yorktown, made passionate pleas for a larger space.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Mosque Update: Letter of Credit Still a Concern

The proposed mosque on Railway Avenue now awaits the approval from a newly elected leader of the Muslim Association of Canada Calgary Chapter. Once the new president is in place it is hoped that MAC Calgary will give the go ahead and sign a development agreement with the City of Brooks. Mourad Trabelsi, who sits on the planning board for the mosque, said the past president wasn’t willing to commit to the $250,000 letter of credit that the agreement calls for in case the newly elected president wasn’t supportive of the idea. “The new leader has to sign. The past leader said I can’t sign because we’re going to have a new leader what if he doesn’t like it?” Trabelsi still feels that the city is asking too much with their requirement for a letter of credit of $250,000 as security to ensure obligations in the development agreement are completed to their satisfaction. “The other developers never reach $250,000 — we are the worst-case scenario here in town. I think the city broke the line on that.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Celebrations as Higgs Boson is Finally Discovered

There’s a 5-in-10 million chance that this is a fluke. That was enough for physicists to declare that the Higgs boson — the world’s most-wanted particle — has been discovered. Rapturous applause, whistles and cheers filled the auditorium at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland.

Almost 50 years after its existence was first predicted, the breakthrough means that the standard model of particle physics, which explains all known particles and the forces that act upon them, is now complete.

A Higgs boson with a mass of around 125 to 126 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) was seen separately by the twin CMS and ATLAS detectors at the Large Hadron Collider, each with a confidence level of 5 sigma, or standard deviations, the heads of the experiments announced today at CERN.

Even by particle physicists’ strict standards, that’s statistically significant enough to count as a particle discovery.

“I think we have it,” said Rolf Heuer, director general of CERN, as he concluded a hotly-anticipated seminar, which began today at 9am local time.

Around the world the results were being watched at the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Melbourne, Australia.

Ducks in a line

Pier Oddone, director of Fermilab near Chicago, Illinois, home of the now-defunct Tevatron collider, expressed his views on the discovery in a different way. “If it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck it’s going to be a duck,” he said.

Joe Incandela of CMS and Fabiola Gianotti of ATLAS reported seeing excesses of particles that fit the profile of a Higgs with a mass of 125 and 126 GeV respectively. Both claimed 5 sigma confidence in the result — and both announcements were met by standing ovations.

That result broadly agrees with earlier, less statistically significant “hints” of the Higgs reported by the same two teams in December.

People started queuing to get into the auditorium at about 11pm last night, camping out. Many of those who started queuing this morning were turned away because there wasn’t room.

Given a flurry of rumours, leaks and hype over the past few days — and the fact that a discovery was in principle possible given the volume of data collected — the positive Higgs result is not a complete surprise, though the confidence we can have in the result is the best of the anticipated outcomes.

It’s elementary

The Higgs boson gives all elementary particles mass, allowing for the existence of matter. It is the fundamental unit, or quantum, of the Higgs field, an all pervading entity that all particles must pass through.

Some, like the photon, slip through unhindered — they are massless. Others, though, must struggle like a fly trapped in treacle. The Higgs and its field are required by the standard model, but had never been conclusively detected before today’s report.

The seminar was full of emotion and elation. An emotional Peter Higgs, who postulated the boson that is his namesake in 1964, called it “an incredible thing that happened in my lifetime”.

There was also some humour: “It is very nice of the standard model boson to be at that mass,” says Gianotti. “Because of that mass we can measure it. Thanks nature.”

The physicists were a little reticent to call the discovery a “Higgs boson”, preferring to call it the discovery of a “new boson”.

That’s because they don’t yet know its properties — and so can’t confirm how similar it is to the Higgs of the standard model. “It’s the beginning of a long journey to investigate all the properties of this particle,” says Heuer.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

CERN Scientists Announce Higgs Boson Breakthrough

Scientists at the CERN research facility in Switzerland have announced the discovery of a new subatomic particle. It could be the elusive Higgs boson, which would be a major scientific achievement.

The particle, which remains theoretical, is believed to give mass to all matter, helping explain why particles bunched together at the formation of the universe.

“This is a preliminary result, but we think it’s very strong and very solid,” said Joe Incandela, spokesman for one of the two teams carrying out experiments at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) at a press conference Wednesday in Geneva.

While more testing is needed to give more certainty to the discovery, CERN said in a statement that the discovered particle is “consistent with the long-sought Higgs boson.” It could, however, also be a variant of the Higgs or a completely different subatomic particle.

Additional analysis of data collected at CERN is expected, with a conclusive release expected at the end of the month. Looking at the preliminary data, however, reveals a result of five sigma on the scale used by particle physicists to describe the certainty of a discovery. According to CERN, a one-sigma result could be a random fluctuation in data. A five sigma counts as a discovery.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Commissioner ‘Seriously Concerned’ About Romanian Court

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding tweeted she is “seriously concerned about recent attacks on the independence of the Constitutional Court of Romania.” The recently appointed Social-Liberal government led by Victor Ponta is ignoring the court’s rulings and plans to change its composition. Romania’s justice system is under EU monitoring.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dark Matter Underpinnings of Cosmic Web Found

THE skeleton of dark matter that undergirds the cosmic web of matter in the universe has been clearly detected for first time.

We know that matter in the cosmos forms a web, with galaxies and clusters linked by filaments across mostly empty space. Filaments are made of normal matter and dark matter — the unseen stuff that makes up about 85 per cent of the universe’s mass. Recent observations have seen the normal matter in such filaments.

Now Jörg Dietrich at the University Observatory in Munich, Germany, and his team have detected the dark matter component in a filament in a supercluster about 2.7 billion light years from us, called Abell 222/223.

The massive filament’s gravity focuses the light travelling towards Earth from more distant background galaxies. The team used this light to calculate the filament’s mass and shape. X-rays from the hot gas of normal matter in the vicinity showed that this matter lined up with the filament but made up only about 10 per cent of its mass. The rest must be dark matter. This shows that the filament is “part of a network of dark matter that connects galaxy clusters throughout the universe”, says Dietrich.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French Arrest Man Suspected of Financing Al-Qaida

French authorities have arrested the administrator of an extremist French website who is suspected of playing a key role in financing and recruiting for al-Qaida and other terrorist groups in several countries, the Paris prosecutor’s office said Tuesday. The announcement was unusually dramatic for French authorities, but it did not spell out what evidence has been culled or how much money may have been involved. It is the first publicly announced suspected terrorist arrest since President Francois Hollande took office in May.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Germany: Moroccan Religious Leaders in Europe Condemn Circumcision Ruling

Berlin, 3 July (AKI) — A leading group of Moroccan Muslim legal scholars in Europe has spoken out against a German court ruling that bans circumcision on minors for religious reasons.

The Supreme Moroccan Ulema Council in Europe “strongly condemns the decision by the Cologne court on the question of circumcision,” the statement said. “The Council believes the verdict is a violation of the freedom of religion and contributes to the demonisation of Muslims and Jews in Germany.”

The court ruled that the child’s right to physical integrity has precedence over the freedom of religion and parents’ rights.

The ruling was denounced by Muslim, Jewish, Catholic and Protestants as a violation of religious freedoms but some legal experts say its intention is to delay, not ban, circumcision.

It was denounced by the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann. The case regarded a doctor accused of carrying out a parent-approved circumcision on a 4-year-old that led to medical complications.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle responded to the outcry by saying a legal debate “must not lead to doubts arising internationally about religious tolerance in Germany.”

Muslims and Jews commonly circumcise their male newborns.

Circumcision is a “religious ritual, an act of faith transmitted by parents that is guaranteed by all European laws and all the conventions of human rights,” the Supreme Moroccan Ulema Council in Europe said in its statement.

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

German Gunman ‘Kills Hostages in Karlsruhe Eviction’

A gunman and four hostages have died after a siege in the German city of Karlsruhe, police say.

The man, facing eviction for not paying his rent, had barricaded himself in his flat with the hostages. After smelling smoke, police stormed the flat where they found the bodies. All five are said to have died of gunshot wounds. As well as the gunman, a bailiff and a locksmith died, along with the flat-owner and a prospective tenant. The hostage-taking began when officials arrived on Wednesday morning to evict a man from a block of flats in northern Karlsruhe.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Woman Drives Garda (Policeman) To Crime Scene in Her Personal Car

A WOMAN whose house was burgled collected a Garda from a local station to investigate the crime because he did not have a patrol car to drive himself.

The woman had arrived home at her house in Co Donegal earlier to find it ransacked and a number of items missing.

She contacted Garda at her local station in Newtowncunningham but was told the Garda on duty did not have any transport.

She then drove to the Garda station, which was about a mile from her house, and brought the Garda back to examine the scene of the break-in. The woman discovered the burglary last week when she returned to her home in the evening.

Local TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn (Sinn Féin) has described the situation as “unacceptable” and has requested a meeting with acting Chief Supt Jim Sheridan to discuss the matter.

He said he had no issue with An Garda Siochána and said his issue was with Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

“I am embarrassed for the Garda and I’m sure they were embarrassed for this woman when this happened. It is simply not acceptable that Garda do not have transport to answer an emergency call like this.

“It simply cannot go on that crime is being perpetrated and the Garda do not have the resources to combat it,” he said.

A spokesman for the Garda press office said they did not comment on third-party reports.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents rank and file Garda, said that while it could not comment on individual cases it was concerned at shortfalls in resources.

Association president John Parker said his organisation had always believed cuts to Garda resources would affect the level of service provided.

He said the public had a right to a “first-class policing service” and that Government policies had reduced the level of resources that were needed to “effectively police” the State.

“Nearly one in every five Garda vehicles has been withdrawn and not replaced due to budget cuts for the fleet over the past two years. It is set to get worse as more and more vehicles reach the end of their life and can no longer be maintained safely.”

He said Garda numbers were being reduced to 13,000 from a high of almost 15,000 despite the GRA’s estimate that an 18,000-strong force was needed to meet policing demands.

The Government had already closed some 40 Garda stations this year and was planning more closures.

“We fear this will impact most on rural Ireland, but will negatively impact on resources available in the urban areas too,” Mr Parker said.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Italy: Grillo Movement Popularity Up 0.8% to 20.8%

Gap on top party PD now just 2.4%, poll says

(ANSA) — Rome, June 29 — Support for the populist protest movement of activist comedian Beppe Grillo rose 0.8% to 20.8% in the last week, confirming it as Italy’s second most popular political force, according to a poll released Friday.

Grillo closed the gap on the second most popular party, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), to just 2.4% because the PD’s support fell 1.1% to 23.2%, the SWG polling agency said.

According to SWG, the PD suffered because of its support for a contested labour-market reform passed this week.

Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party continued to profit from its opposition to the austerity policies of Premier Mario Monti, rising another 0.4% to 17.1%, in third place.

Grillo, who has been inveighing for years against mainstream politics, scored big in local elections last month and got a mayor elected in Parma, wresting it from the PdL and beating the PD in what was seen as a big upset.

SWG’s poll indicated that 43.0% of Italians were undecided or would abstain if they had to vote, up from 42.0% last week.

Despite increasing pressure on Monti, especially from the PdL, 59% of the sample said they thought it likely he would make it to the end of the legislative term in 2013.

As for primary elections ahead of next year’s vote, the poll said PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani was favourite to become his party’s premiership candidate and Berlusconi was tipped to make another bid for the PdL, even though he has ruled this out.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Massive Fraud of EU Funds Rarely Reported by Member States

Public authorities in member states are sealing their lips when it comes to passing on allegations of fraud, corruption, and criminal activities to the EU anti-fraud office, Olaf.

“The decrease of information from public authorities is something which is worrying us,” Olaf’s director-general Giovanni Kessler told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday (July 3).

Of the 1046 reported leaks from both public and private sources in 2011, only 54 came member state authorities. More than half came from companies, lawyers, and anonymous individuals.

Kessler noted public sources are becoming more reluctant to denounce fraud because of an inherit fear of being labelled corrupt at the EU-level.

Olaf, which audits how EU funds are spent and scrutinizes ethics within the EU institutions, said unspent structural funds attracts the vast majority of fraud and usually involves criminal organisations spread across the EU and the world.

The structural funds, which make up the bulk of the EU budget, are entirely managed by member state or regional authorities without any oversight from the European Commission.

“The mechanism of control on how the money is spent is the weakest and where we see most of the problems,” said Kessler.

Olaf’s investigations led in 2011 to the recovery of €691 million — over a ten-fold increase compared to 2010. Over €520 million of the money came directly from EU structural funds alone. In comparison, the total amount recovered from structural funds in 2010 was €32 million.

Italian mob nicks €388 million

The single biggest haul came when the investigators uncovered a racketeering scheme on a EU-funded highway construction project, near Salerno, in southern Italy’s Calabria region.

Olaf, along with the Italian investigators, found evidence of transport authorities who had written off €388 million in EU funds.

The investigators uncovered conflicts of interests where Italian officials were awarding contracts to companies they also worked for.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Mayor of Limerick City, Ireland Wants Road Signs in Polish and “African”

New city official wants Ireland’s non-nationals to feel more at home in Ireland

Mayor of Limerick City, Gerry McLoughlin, wants to see streets signs in Polish and “African” in his city, in order to make non-nationals feel more at home.

Currently, most road signs in Ireland feature English with an Irish translation but it seems this representative wants to go one step further.

The Limerick Leader newspaper says the move will embrace the city’s foreign national population, from Europe and Africa.

McLoughlin said, “I am passionate about bringing everyone together. I was an immigrant myself: I have family abroad still in Wales and Australia so I understand what it is like. We have thousands of Poles and other foreign nationals here.”

He continued, “I would like to see some Polish and African signs going up.”

This would be the first time signs in an urbanized area would be translated. However, previously in 2006, Laois County Council sought to have road signs translated into Polish to reduce the number of fatalities.

One local Polish woman Magdalena Kakol, who comes from near Gdansk, welcomed the idea.

She said, “One of my friends has been living here for more than one year and she still has a problem with the street signs. So I think this would be really good for us. It would also help a lot of tourists: my sister is coming here for two weeks later this summer, so I can ask her to meet me in different places, and she will understand.”

Limerick’s city manager Kieran Lehane said this change would need to come in the form of a motion to the council’s transportation and infrastructure meeting and it would then be investigated by the city council’s roads department.

Councillor Ger Fahy, chairman of the transport committee, also welcomed the idea.

He said “In principle, I think we should look at issues which promote the city from a national and European point of view. We do have a sizeable population of Polish people, and this should be taken into consideration. But before any decision is made, we have to look at the wider situation: if we agree to extend our signs to different language, we have to ensure it does not get out of hand.”

As well as the change to street signs, McLoughlin suggested a forum for non-nationals living in Ireland.

He said, “We have a lot to learn from them. They are also citizens of our city, so let’s embrace them. They came here as asylum seekers, they are now part of Limerick.”

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Physicists Ecstatic Over Possible Higgs Particle Discovery

Physicists are thrilled at today’s (July 4) announcement of the discovery of a new elementary particle that is likely the Higgs boson, an elusive particle thought to give all other matter its mass.

“To me it’s really an incredible thing that it’s happened in my lifetime,” Peter Higgs, the leader of the group that first theorized the particle in 1964 and after whom the particle is named, said during a press conference Wednesday (July 4).

Evidence for the new particle was reported today by scientists from the world’s largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Researchers reported they’d seen a particle weighing roughly 125 times the mass of the proton, with a level of certainty that all but seals the deal it’s the Higgs boson. The Higgs represents the last undiscovered particle predicted by the Standard Model, the reigning theory of particle physics.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Security and the Radical Right in Flanders

Security has been a major theme in the rhetoric of the Vlaams Block/Belang since the late 1980s. Their combination of strong anti-immigrant statements and simplistic proposals has been appropriated by mainstream parties in Belgium.

‘Security’ is a major theme of the rhetoric of the populist radical right in Flanders, the Dutch speaking North of Belgium and arguably played a role in its success, which by far exceeds that of the extreme right in the French-speaking South of the country. The Vlaams Blok (VB — Flemish Bloc) was founded after the split of the more radical wing of the already nationalist Volksunie (People’s Union) in the late 1970s. It was renamed Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) after having been found guilty of racism in 2004, and then became one of the most successful populist radical right parties in Europe, experiencing its zenith between the late 1980s and the mid 2000s.

‘Security’ has been an important signifier in the rhetoric of VB since the late 1980s. The party presented itself as the defender of the Flemish people’s security from a range of threats, including crimes against private property, drug use, and terrorism. Most crucially, the party has consistently connected ‘insecurity’ to the presence of people of foreign descent. VB’s electoral upsurge in the early 1990s was due to a large extent to the party’s emphasis on the ‘migrant problem’. This unspecified category includes ‘illegal’ immigrants (labelled ‘illegals’), refugees, migrants without the Belgian nationality as well as Belgian nationals of migrant origin and their offspring. Clearly, everyone living in the Flemish territory who does not belong to what VB considers to be ‘the Flemish people’ are thus singled out for opprobrium. In the following two decades, the party insisted that the presence of people of foreign descent was the cause of an increasing sense of ‘insecurity’.

Since people are organically tied to ‘their’ people, culture, and homeland, so the argument goes, when they migrate and settle in a country with a different culture to their own, they are ‘uprooted’. This uprootedness, according to VB, leads migrants to anomie and to sociocultural and socioeconomic disintegration, thus to crime. Slogans such as “Less foreigners, more security” and “Stop immigrants, safe city” show how VB constructs this direct causal link between the presence of foreigners and crime.

The solution offered by VB is quite simple: fewer aliens and more law and order. VB used to demand that all foreigners be sent ‘home’. The slogan ‘Hand in hand back to their own country’, usually combined with the picture of an airplane lifting off, gives an idea of the party’s viewpoints as well as of its ways of dealing with antiracist criticism — the slogan being a parody of the antiracist ‘Hand in Hand’ campaigns of the early 1990s. Later, the party took a somewhat milder approach , demanding the total ‘assimilation’ of people of foreign descent into what it considers to be Flemish culture. However, the party programme still includes a zero-immigration policy, the deportation of criminal migrants and the withdrawal of their Belgian nationality if they happen to have it. It also supports a decisively repressive stance against irregular migrants and undocumented refugees. In April 2012, VB launched an ‘Illegality Hotline’, asking people to report cases of’abuse’ of social security, of crime, of undeclared work, etc. The information gathered in this fashion is to serve as the basis for a document criticising existing immigration policies…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Slovakia: Resolve to Help Eurozone Partners Dwindles

Eurozone member Slovakia has said people in his country were losing patience in the face of some partners in the bloc not sticking to their budget consolidation promises. It said financial help for them might soon stop.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday that his country’s population was less and less willing to financially support fellow eurozone nations which cared little about meeting deficit reduction targets.

“Our people’s patience is running out,” Fico said amid a current debate about even more financial assistance particularly to debt-stricken countries in southern Europe. He stressed Slovakia was no longer willing to agree to more aid, if recipients kept falling short of implementing budget consolidation reforms.

“It’s getting increasingly difficult to explain to Slovaks why they should help eurozone nations in which pensions for instance were three times as high as in my country,” Fico told reporters in Berlin.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Mosque Struggles to Shrug Off Extremist Label

Accused of preaching a fundamentalist line of Islam, the Errhamen Mosque of Biel is once again in the firing line for having welcomed amongst its worshippers young men who have travelled abroad to fight jihad.

In an upstairs office of the mosque, an old building in the throes of renovation, Imam Khalid ben Mohamed, an affable political refugee from Algeria who has lived in Switzerland for 17 years, welcomes with a smile. In this interview, ben Mohamed discusses the reasons behind the mosque’s decision to restrict media access to prayer areas, and the rumours damaging its reputation.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Tracking Jihadists in Switzerland

Swiss intelligence services have observed an increase in the number of trips made out of Europe for jihadist purposes, with the internet playing a central role in radicalising young people confused by Western society.

Many unanswered questions remain, but the arrest in Kenya of a 19-year-old student from Biel has shaken the Swiss city in canton Bern and especially the Muslim community, which makes up almost ten per cent of the 50,000 inhabitants.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Don’t Let PC Brigade Bury Ethnic Links to Sex Gangs, Warns Children’s Minister

Social workers and the police must not let political correctness get in the way of investigating the grooming of vulnerable children, a minister said yesterday. Tim Loughton said ‘ethnicity’ had been a factor in the scandal of recent cases involving gangs of mostly Asian men grooming and abusing young girls. And he warned that many more cases are yet to be heard — with thousands of alleged sex abuse victims across the country.

The Children’s Minister said members of some ‘closed communities’ had been reluctant to come forward and report organised sex attacks.

As a result, these were allowed to take place ‘under the radar’ for many years, he said.

He told MPs: ‘If there is some form of political correctness around ethnicity which is getting in the way of police and other agencies investigating, tracking down and nailing these perpetrators, then that needs to be removed and we need to do something about it.’ Earlier this year a gang from Rochdale were jailed for plying teenage girls with alcohol before raping them. All but one of the gang were Pakistani.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Empowered or Radicalised? At the 2012 Federation of Student Islamic Societies Conference

by Reyhana Patel

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), the umbrella organisation for student UK Islamic Societies, has been singled out on a number of occassions as an organisation which “are training the violent extremists of tomorrow.” I have previously argued that groups like FOSIS play a major role in fighting extremism through its engagement and empowerment of Muslim students. So what exactly happens at an annual FOSIS conference? Does it involve a line-up of events and activities which promote extremism and radicalise British Muslim youths? Or is it merely a platform for Muslim students to unite and discuss issues affecting them?


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ian Brazier Sentenced for Pulling Niqab Veil From Muslim Woman

A man who pulled a niqab veil off a Muslim woman at a shopping centre in the West Midlands has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Ian Brazier, of Shirley, Solihull, had admitted racially aggravated assault after he tugged at Farhana Chughtai’s hair in Touchwood, Solihull, in March.

Brazier, 26, was told to pay his victim £100 compensation and was handed a six-week sentence, suspended for 18 months.

Magistrates in Solihull also ordered him to carry out 250 hours unpaid work.

He was also directed to complete a diversity course.

Ms Chughtai said the attack left her feeling “violated and very distressed”.

Brazier, of Berkeley Road, said he had been smoking cannabis and was “upset” at not being able to watch two films at a nearby cinema complex prior to the attack.

‘No place for hate’

In a statement, Ms Chughtai said the crime had had a lasting impact on her.

She said: “Today I remain self-conscious and worry that the same thing may happen to me again.

“I am aware of other similar incidents in the West Midlands which have not been reported to police. This should not be the case.

“Victims should report these crimes as soon as they happen.”

Ch Insp Kevin Doyle, from West Midlands Police, said: “Despite the shocking nature of this offence, reports of crimes like this are exceptionally rare both in Solihull and the wider West Midlands.

“When they are reported to us, I would like to assure victims that they are investigated thoroughly, professionally and victims treated with the utmost dignity and respect.

“Today’s sentence shows that there is no place for hate in Solihull.”

           — Hat tip: Derius[Return to headlines]

UK: New Scunthorpe Mosque Rejected by North Lincolnshire Council

A proposed new Scunthorpe mosque has been refused planning permission by North Lincolnshire Council. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association sought change of use approval for a mosque with living accommodation at Concorde House, Bessemer Way — a large, detached and purpose-built office building. North Lincolnshire Council’s planning committee — meeting at the Civic Centre in Scunthorpe — rejected the scheme. The council considered the proposal would have created an “unsustainable, poorly accessible, isolated community facility with limited access by public transport, cycle, or on foot.” This, the planners said, would have been contrary to advice contained in the National Planning Policy Framework, the North Lincolnshire Core Strategy and the North Lincolnshire Local Plan. Applicants who have planning applications rejected may lodge an appeal, if they wish.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Petition Calls for EDL March in Bristol to be Banned

A petition with more than 2000 signatures calling for a ban on the English Defence League’s march next weekend, will be handed in to Bristol City Council tomorrow. It includes names from trade unionists and faith groups across the city, asking to prevent the march taking place on the 14th of July. Similar EDL marches in Telford and Luton have been banned. There will also be a lobby outside of the Council House, College Green at 5.30pm before the Cabinet meeting.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: School Children Visit Rochdale Mosque

Almost 700 children from 19 schools visited Neeli Mosque’s of Annual ‘Primary School Programme’. The primary School programme started in 2008 and this year was the 5th year it had taken place. Each School visit went through some basic fundamental beliefs of Islam in a fun and interactive way and also got a tour of the Mosque which highlights some of the key functions and features which take place within the building. Ruhel Khan, Primary School Programme Coordinator said, “The Primary School Programme 2012 was a huge success, this was our fifth year and each time it has got bigger and better. The exceptional feedback from the schools gives us encouragement to provide more services for the local community”.

The programme took almost 3 months of planning and the demand for places is getting higher each year. The Mosque has promised in future it will work out a programme where even more Schools can participate. Mosque Secretary Imran Ahmed said “A huge appreciation goes out to all the volunteers who gave up there time to help out with the programme. The mosque has a responsibility of educating the wider community on Islam and our School Programme is just one of the many initiatives we take. I would also like to thank all the School’s who took part at this year’s programme and from my observation and feedback I received all in all, it was an excellent programme with a lot of positives”.

A teacher from Beech House Primary School said “hadn’t visited a mosque previously so wasn’t sure what to expect, the visit actually exceeded all my expectations”. Another teacher from Middleton Parish Said “the programme was very informative and well organised, a variety of short activities kept the children interested throughout”. Neeli Mosque is part of UKIM. The UKIM is one of the oldest nation-wide Islamic organisations in the UK. UKIM has different stands of work which include Relief, education, running Mosques and Madrassa as well as community cohesion and interfaith activities. UKIM is a registered charity organisation as well as one of the founding members of MCB a national umbrella body for Muslim organisations in Britain.

[Reader comment by Ifti on 3 July 2012 at 11:12pm.]

Multiculturalism is not about integration but about cultural plurality. It is not about separation but about respect and the deepening awareness of Unity in Diversity. Each culture will maintain its own intrinsic value and at the same time would be expected to contribute to the benefit of the whole society. Multiculturalism can accommodate diversity of all kinds — cultural, philosophical and religious — so that we can create a world without conflict and strife. Britain can assume the role of accommodation and concern for all peoples, for our planet and indeed for our survival. […] Iftikhar Ahmad London School of Islamics Trust

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: The Struggle to Deal With Foreign Terror Suspects

by Shiraz Maher

Abu Qatada, the Islamist cleric once branded ‘Osama bin Laden’s ambassador to Europe’, has dominated headlines in recent months as the government struggles to return him to Jordan. Theresa May wanted to take a hard line against foreign clerics operating from Britain but has found her hands tied by the European Court of Human Rights. Indeed, she pledged to deport Qatada, only to be overruled by the European courts. This setback took on added significance yesterday when the United Nations confirmed that it has removed Saad al-Faqih from the al-Qaeda sanctions list which freezes the assets of persons believed to be associated with the group. None of the fifteen member states (including Britain) of the ‘1267 Committee’, the UN group which enforces these sanctions, objected to his removal. Faqih might not have courted as much attention as Qatada, but is deeply controversial. Formerly a professor of surgery in Saudi Arabia, he fled to the UK in 1993 after being arrested as part of a crackdown against Islamists who opposed Western military involvement during the First Gulf War.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman Launches 14 Enforcement Officers

A team of 14 enforcement officers will be launched by Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman yesterday (Wednesday).

The 14 Tower Hamlets enforcement officers, will join the existing team of 16 THEOs, as they are also nicknamed. Twelve of the new recruits are all former council market inspectors whose job title is changing. The other two are team supervisors. A council spokeswoman explained that the former market inspectors will continue to focus on the borough’s markets but that their new title reflects increased powers to tackle crime and anti-social behavior. The new recruits are all being issued with stab proof vests costing £445 each or around £5,000 for all new members. While the 14 new members will not be police accredited like the existing THEOs they will have powers to seize alcohol and tobacco, and request the name of a person acting in an anti-social manner. The THEOs were introduced by Mayor Rahman in 2009 deal with problems such as street drinking, graffiti, dog fouling and littering.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Croatia to Publish List of Tax Evaders

On the internet unpaid debts for 90 days

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, JULY 3 — Croatia will publish a list of tax evaders and debtors as part of a package of measures against tax evasion. Though the publication has been slammed by many as drastic, its announcement has already shown good results.

Parliament in Zagreb yesterday voted in favour of changes to the fiscal code providing for the publication on the internet of all debts towards the state that have not been paid for over ninety days.

Croatians who will not pay personal income taxes or taxes for self-employed workers will end up on the list if their debt is over 14,000 euros while the limit for companies will be 40,000 euros.

All those who have reached an agreement with fiscal authorities on payment of their debt will not have their name published on the internet.

According to data published by the Finance Ministry, in the past six to seven years Croatia has cumulated almost 7 billion euros of unpaid debt, totalling almost half of public expenses in a fiscal year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

40 Projects Selected Under Anna Lindh Foundation’s Call

Instrument for dialogue in the Euro-Mediterranean region

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JUNE 28 — Forty projects covering themes from cultural dialogue, democracy and gender, to circus arts, dance and literature across the Mediterranean, have been selected for the first round of the Anna Lindh Foundation’s Call for Proposals programme for 2012.

The Anna Lindh Foundation’s Calls for Proposals, according to the Enpi website (, are one of the instruments to support the development of transnational civil society projects and to mobilise the National Networks. This mechanism contributes to the unique character of the Foundation as a meeting point for civil societies from both sides of the Mediterranean.

The Anna Lindh Foundation for Inter-Cultural Dialogue promotes knowledge, mutual respect and inter-cultural dialogue between the people of the Euro-Mediterranean region, working through a network of more than 3,000 civil society organisations in 43 countries. Its budget is co-funded by the EU (7 million euros) and the EU member states (6 million euros).

The list of the projects approved is available at the following link: _CFPs_2012.pdf.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Economic Agendas of Islamic Actors IEMed Conference

Seeking agenda for economic transition in Arab Spring countries

(ANSAMed) — MADRID, JULY 3 — Representatives of new Arab governments, Islamic parties, banks, public and private financial institutions, and entrepreneurs’ associations are attending a two-day conference organized by the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed), a think tank specializing in Euro-Mediterranean relations.

The objective of the conference, titled Economic Agendas of Islamic Actors, is to launch policies that will promote growth, trade and investments in the so-called Arab Spring countries, whose newly installed governments now face the challenges of guaranteeing stability and providing jobs for the new generations, IEMed sources told ANSAMed.

Conference attendees will try to come up with an agenda that will ensure a smooth economic transition in these newly liberated countries, and to guarantee their economic integration with their neighbors and with the EU.

This afternoon’s keynote speaker is IEMed Director Andreu Bassols, to be followed by Abdeslam Ballaji, Moroccan MP for the Justice and Development Party, President of the Moroccan Association of Islamic Economic Studies, and deputy mayor of Rabat; Ridha Chkoundali, professor of economics at Nabeul University in Carthage; Abdalhafez Elsawy, economic advisor to Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party, who writes about Islamic economy, regional integration and sustainable development. Tomorrow’s sessions will be dedicated to the principles behind Islamic finances and their relationship to Islamic law, and Euromediterranean cooperation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

University: Brussels Launches Talk on Southern Mediterranean

Vassiliou, institution is central in pro-democracy efforts

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JULY 3 — The European Commission has launched in Brussels a new dialogue with southern Mediterranean countries on higher education policies and programmes.

The objective of the two-day meetings which started yesterday with ministers and representatives of the southern shores of the Mediterranean is to evaluate the challenges ahead in this sector in order for the EU to boost cooperation and support these countries in the future.

‘Education is at the centre of our efforts’ said Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. ‘We must focus on youths in order to reach our aim to create a prosperous and democratic southern Mediterranean’.

‘Young people are at the centre of social and political change and are the main economic actors of the region in the future’, also said Vassiliou.

The event is an opportunity to get acquainted with new cooperation initiatives with the EU from 2014 until 2020 and bilateral cooperation efforts funding a number of programmes, from the modernization of school systems to the increase of education institutions.

Among the initiatives approved is ‘for example a programme supporting the Algerian government with a 23.5 million euro fund’, noted Vassiliou.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya: In an Increasingly Unruly Country, NATO Drops Bombs to End Factional Clashes

A few days before elections, tensions and clashes continue in Libya. In Benghazi, a rebel group attacks a polling station. Sources tell AsiaNews that NATO carried out air strikes against Zintan and Mashasha, with dozens of deaths. Libyans are opposed to Islamic extremists.

Tripoli (AsiaNews) — The future of Libya is in jeopardy because of insecurity, divisions, in-fighting and armed clashes between rebels and pro-Gaddafi loyalists. Against this background, Libyans are set to go to the polls on Saturday to elect a 200-member constituent assembly tasked with drafting the country’s first democratic constitution since the fall of the old regime. However, sources tell AsiaNews that the country is in full civil war and blame NATO for clashes and violence among rival factions.

“In various parts of Libya fighting continues despite media silence,” the sources said. In fact, NATO never left the country. “Three weeks ago, NATO planes carried out air strikes in two feuding cities, Zintan and Mashasha,” the sources noted. The former was a rebel stronghold during the anti-Gaddafi war and was supported by NATO. The latter is home to nomadic people, originally from Niger, and was built by Gaddafi to settle permanently desert communities. Its residents backed the Libyan strongman when he attacked Zintan.

“After the fall of the dictator, Zintan began revenge attacks against Mashasha, which responded by shelling its nemesis,” sources said. “In order to end the violence, NATO hit both cities, killing a number of people. The alliance said that it bombed its ally, Zintan, by mistake. All the while, media stood silent.”

NATO interference in factional divisions, the large number of weapons and the total lack of leadership in the country are increasing the chances of a new civil war as factions vie for power ahead of 7 July elections. “In a country where Gaddafi concentrated power for more than 40 years, his fall has opened the floodgates. Now it is a free-for-all grab for power and support in an atmosphere of insecurity and anarchy.”

In Benghazi, more than 300 people stormed an election office, burning ballots and other election material in order to demand more polling stations.

“The National Transition Council is not in control of the country,” the sources noted. “Each city wants autonomy to control its own resources and deal with multinationals. Such is the outcome of a costly humanitarian war carried out with the blessing of the United Nations.”

The main sign of hope is the defeat of the Islamist front, main advocate of the war against Gaddafi. At present, Libyans are trying to marginalise it.

“In recent months, Muslim extremists have tried everything to gain power and earn support, presenting themselves as an alternative to the regime, especially in view of the results in Tunisia’s and Egypt’s elections.” However, they have been thwarted by a desire of the Libyan people for change and modernity. After supporting them in the early stages of the war, Libyans are now aware of their backward anti-modern views and have started fighting them. They are tired of being used and want real change in the country.” (S.C.)

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

Middle East

Great Heights, Low Returns

Skyscraper Delivers Top Amenities, But City’s Property Slump Weighs on Prices

The Burj Khalifa, more than 60% taller than any other building in the world, has firmly established itself as an international landmark—it even played a starring role in the latest “Mission Impossible” blockbuster.

But it is thus far a flop with investors.

The building, which is more than a half-mile high and bills itself as “the world’s most prestigious address,” has seen prices drop from as much as 9,000 dirhams ($2,450) a square foot at the precrisis peak to as low as 2,650 dirhams, says David Terry, sales manager at Luxhabitat, a residential real-estate broker.

“From an investor’s point of view, Burj Khalifa is one of the least attractive investments in Dubai,” Mr. Terry says. His views are echoed by Thomas Bunker, an investment-sales consultant at broker Better Homes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Creative Pair Paint Mountain of Peace

TWO directors of a Luton-based creative agency have painted a message of peace for the town on a mountain in Iraq. ATP Media artist and creative director Ben Hodson, 26, and his colleague, storyteller Ian Rowlands, 49, worked with Iraqi artists. To get to the mountain in the Kurdish region of Iraq the pair, whose business is based at the Hat Factory, in Bute Street, travelled to Turkey, then flew to Sulaymaniyah and went the rest of the journey by car. The site had been the scene of a project in 2000 that was credited with bringing together opposing factions and kicking off the peace process. With this re-enactment and performance the agency hopes to use it as a symbol for peace. Ben is a member of the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers and hoped the message would have an effect on tensions within Luton.


[JP note: Take the mountain to Mohammed.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Islamists Rally Against Elections Law

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JUNE 29 — Scores of Islamists and independent activists took to the street in Amman on Friday to reject a recently approved elections law and called for government resignation.

The rally comes a few days after shocking victory of Islamist Mohamed Mursi in Egypt’s presidential elections, a development that emboldened Jordan’s opposition.

On Wednesday, king Abdullah instructed the government and the parliament to revisit the recently approved elections law and amend it to satisfy demands of the opposition.

The decision by Abdullah has been seen as a major embarrassment for the palace on the day it approved the elections law.

The parliament is expected to reconvene in July to amend the law, said government officials.

Islamist leader Zaki Bani Rsheid called on the government to resign after the stunning decision by Abdullah.

“What happened concerning the review of the law proves how chaotic the scene is in Jordan. The government must resign,” he told ANSA on the sideline of the rally.

Independent activists and liftists were also present as well as a strong force from the police to prevent clashes with government loyalists.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Plans for Sustainable Abu Dhabi Eco-Mosque Get Approval

With the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan set to start later this month, an architecture student in the UAE has has shown the ties between religion and sustainability with designs for an eco-Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Emirati architect Suhail Mohammed Suleiman’s plans, which were his graduation project, use a number of elements to reduce resource use. They could now be turned into reality with the proposals passing the first planning hurdle in the UAE capital. The contemporary design will use a partly translucent polymer called Corian that allows light but not heat to enter, reducing the need for air conditioning in warmer months as well as reducing the need for additional lighting.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Russia Accuses West of Distorting Syria Agreement

Russia has accused the West of seeking to distort an agreement for a political transition in Syria, after international peace envoy Kofi Annan said a ceasefire was imperative.

Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, hailed the Geneva accord based on proposals by Annan as an “important step” but said that Western capitals had read more into the final statement than what was written on paper. “These (Geneva) agreements are not there to be interpreted. They mean exactly what is said in the communique and we need to follow the agreements that were made,” he said. His comments came soon after Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Annan, told reporters a “shift” in positions by Russia and its diplomatic ally China at the Geneva talks should not be underestimated. A two-day meeting of opposition groups which has been held behind closed doors in Cairo meanwhile ended late on Tuesday with a consensus statement, according to Egypt’s official MENA news agency.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Syria: Italian Field Hospital Sent to Jordan

For 25,000 refugees. Terzi: support for Syrian people

(ANSAmed) — ROME — An Italian field hospital that will provide medical assistance to 25,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan left this morning from the airport of Orio al Serio in the northern city of Bergamo.

‘We are close to the Syrian people’, Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi said. ‘We are close to them by supporting the action of the international community which is looking for a solution to the crisis and by providing help to a population struck by a humanitarian tragedy which is increasingly unbearable’.

Italy has already sent a medical kit to Syria and Lebanon before this latest initiative, Terzi said, which was carried out by the Italian Cooperation together with the Civil Protection, a national body which manages exceptional events, and the National Alpini Association, a group of the special mountain force within the Italian army.

Terzi spoke on the phone yesterday with his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh about Italy’s humanitarian aid in a conversation on the regional repercussions of the Syrian crisis.

The talk, part of a constant political dialogue between the two countries, was held ahead of a meeting Friday in Paris of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People.

The Italian field hospital, said the Italian foreign ministry, can assist up to 100 people a day by guaranteeing cardiology, trauma, obstetric and paediatric medical aid.

Once in Jordan, the hospital will be transferred to Mafraq, an area close to the Syrian-Jordanian border some 80 km from Amman where personnel with the Italian Cooperation, Civil Protection and National Alpini Association will initially supervise the hospital.

The field hospital will subsequently be managed by Jordanian authorities and will continue to provide assistance to Syrian refugees and the local population.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Hackers Post Erdogan-Assad Photo on Ministry Site

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 3 — A group of left-wing Turkish hackers called RedHack this morning published on the website of the Turkish foreign ministry two photos taken a few years ago of Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyp Erdogan hugging Syrian president Bashar al Assad and late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi with the writing ‘ yesterday brothers, today enemies’.

‘If you want to wage a war, put your boots on and leave but we don’t want to die for you’, also wrote the self-proclaimed ‘Socialist hackers’, addressing the prime minister’s Justice and development Party (AKP) and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

After being one of Assad’s allies, Erdogan has now broken relations with the Syrian president. Tensions between the two countries are high and constantly worsening in a negative evolution of relations similar to the one recorded with Libya’s now defunct leader.

RedHack dedicated the hacking of the foreign ministry website to the victims of the carnage of Sivas, a city in Anatolia where on July 2, 1993, 36 people, mostly intellectuals of the Alawite minority group, were killed, many of them burnt alive, after Sunni militants set their hotel on fire. The group was attending a festival on Alevi poetry and literature.

A trial ended two years ago without a verdict after the statute of limitations expired for the suspects.

The group of hackers claims it will soon publish secret ministry documents on the case which are in its possession.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Prosecutor Calls for Arrest of Journalist Ahmet Sik

100 Turkish journalists incarcerated on subversion charges

(ANSAMed) — ANKARA, JULY 3 — An Istanbul prosecutor today asked for a warrant to arrest Turkish journalist Ahmet Sik, who was freed in March after a year of detention without trial, on grounds that he “threatened and insulted” public officials, according to Turkish news agency Dogan. Sik reportedly called for the arrest and trial of the police, judges and prosecutors who jailed him and dozens of other journalists and students on trumped-up anti-government conspiracy charges.

“Justice will only be made once they all end up here,” Sik reportedly said upon leaving prison in March. He was incarcerated for a year for alleged links to a subversive plot against the ruling nationalist Islami government of Premier Recip Hayyep Erdogan. The plot to overthrow the government was allegedly being hatched by top-ranking Army officers.

Approximately 100 journalists are currently incarcerated in Turkey on charges of conspiring with Kurdish terrorists or plotting to overthrow the government. Charges have also been brought against dozens of Army generals.

The Socialdemocratic opposition in Turkey has denounced a witch hunt is being carried out by pro-government magistrates and by Fetullah Gulen, an Islamic religious leader. Criticism has also come from some European institutions and human rights NGOs.

Italian National Press Federation President Antonio Natale has called on Prime Minister Mario Monti to pressure for top-level EU intervention. Turkish journalists are being incarcerated on “fanciful charges,” Natale said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Colonel Says Headscarf a ‘Symbol of Terrorism’ In New Voice Recording

Col. Ali Çakmakkaya, a judge, describes the headscarf as a “symbol of terrorism” in a voice recording, in which he also uses profanity while referring to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife, Emine Erdogan.

The voice recording was released on Twitter on Tuesday, although the date of the recording remains unknown. A caption provided with the recording says Çakmakkaya made the statements in an official military setting.

Criticizing Erdogan for not wearing a tie during his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Çakmakkaya says Erdogan had put an end to state culture in Turkey. He talks about the wives of Erdogan and Assad: “You look at the wife of the other [Assad]; she is pretty modern and [looks] European.” He adds that Erdogan’s wife is not like this, using expletives in his description of Emine Erdogan.

Çakmakkaya also compares Emine Erdogan with the wife of Qatar’s Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. “Even the wife of Qatar [Emir] looks neater than his [Erdogan’s]. Her head is covered but not with a headscarf. These [headscarves] are entirely militant symbols,” he says, adding, “This is not about faith. This is a symbol of terrorism.”

The colonel also claims that Erdogan and President Abdullah Gül live in palaces. “Did you know the prime minister has three palaces now? Dolmabahçe, Çiragan and another one,” he states. He further claims that President Gül has been given two palaces, one in Yildiz and another in Tarabya, both Istanbul neighborhoods. “Europe says that. I read it in a newspaper. They [Erdogan and Gül] are chasing the former Ottomans. They are not for the people at all. Who owned these palaces? The people. We used to visit them as museums. Now these men use them,” he says, going on to say that if people tried to enter the palaces, police officers would stop them. “They are taking over all the palaces.”

Çakmakkaya also states that the police are attacking every place like “dogs” to find evidence against Ergenekon, a clandestine organization nested within the state plotting to manipulate or overthrow the democratically elected government.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Who Ordered the Murder of Christians?

Orhan Kemal Cengiz

I was telling you the story of Ilker Çinar who was employed by the National Strategies and Operations Department of Turkey (TUSHAD), which is an undercover unit of the military, like JITEM, which also has strong connections with TUSHAD.

Çinar penetrated the Christian community and gathered a lot of information, while he was pretending to be a missionary. He became a church leader, and upon receiving another order, he became “Muslim” again and launched a campaign against missionaries across the country.

From the second indictment of the Malatya massacre we also learnt that he was also ordered to work with the Malatya gendarmerie against missionaries. From the statements of Çinar, who is now a confessor trying to receive immunity in exchange for the information he gave, we understand that Malatya was one of the centers from which psychological warfare against missionaries and Christians was being lead.

Çinar gave quite a detailed account of how both the Malatya gendarmerie conducted this psychological warfare and how they paved the way for the Malatya massacre. Çinar told us that he traveled to Malatya many times to join these “workshops.” In these workshops they produced many documents to be used for disinformation against missionaries. For example, some of these documents “prove” that missionaries are connected to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), whereas some “show” some links between them and the CIA. In fact, from 2005-2007 there were a lot of these kinds of rumors circulating in Turkey.

What is also amazing to see is how much the Malatya gendarmerie spent on this “job.” Çinar said that he was given TL 100,000 (approximately equivalent to $55,000). Whenever he came to Malatya he stayed at the most luxurious hotel, and all his daily expenses were paid. Apparently, the Malatya gendarmerie spent a lot of money to monitor missionaries and to prepare black propaganda about them. Çinar was only one of the persons they worked with.

While he was visiting Malatya for these workshops, he also witnessed preparations for another “operation.” Çinar was not directly a part of this so-called operation, but through his frequent contacts with the gendarmerie, he became familiar with some details. In one of the meetings he saw that the gendarmerie commander took out large photos of Necati Aydin, Tilman Geske and Uður Yücel, who were killed on April 18, 2007. The gendarmerie commander had allegedly stated that a strong “message” was going to be sent to all missionaries across the country through the ones in Malatya.

Çinar once witnessed Mehmet Ülger, gendarmerie commander, leave their meeting to talk to Varol Bülent Aral, who is now being tried in the Malatya massacre case for his role as an instigator. Çinar once witnessed Ülger praising Emre Günaydin, prime suspect in the massacre, for his bravery and said that he was ready for his “task.” Çinar found out that one of the workers at the Zirve Publishing House, in which the massacre was carried out, Hüseyin Yelki, was actually working for the gendarmerie as an informant. Immediately after the murders, theology professor Ruhi Abat, who was receiving a salary from the gendarmerie for his anti-missionary work, told Çinar on the phone, “We asked them to strike, but they went and killed them.” Abat is a close friend of Emre Günaydin’s father.

There are so many other details that basically show that the Malatya massacre was directly planned by the Malatya gendarmerie, apparently under direct orders by TUSHAD.

Where are we now, five years after this murder? I believe we are now at the beginning of the road, which will lead us to “truth.” For the first time I am hopeful that we can solve the puzzle of the Malatya massacre. And I also believe that if we can fully uncover the truth in this case, we will also make serious progress in the solving of the Hrant Dink and Father Santoro murders and probably others as well.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

UAE: Ramadan May Begin on July 21

Islamic Crescent Observation Project: moon will be observed on July 19 in some regions

Abu Dhabi: The Islamic Crescent Observation Project (ICOP) has announced that most Islamic countries may begin the Holy Month of Ramadan on Saturday, July 21st after moon sighting. Engineer Mohammad Showkat Awda, chairman of the project said most Islamic countries have started the month of Sha’ban on the same day in a rare phenomena. Therefore, these nations would start monitoring the Ramadan Crescent on Thursday, July 19 which is Sha’ban 29. However, the moon day would not be possible in all northern and some middle regions of the world.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Ukrainian Police Fire Tear Gas Amid Language Law Protests

Police in Ukraine have used tear gas on protesters angry about a boost in status for the Russian language. The demonstration follows scuffles in parliament about the speedy adoption of a bill to make the proposal law.

Police fired tear gas as they tried to remove protesters from the building where President Viktor Yanukovych was scheduled to brief journalists about the country’s hosting of the Euro 2012 football championship.

Some 1,000 people were reported to have taken part in the demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

Instead of giving his press conference, the president summoned leading figures in the parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, to discuss the situation.

Earlier, main speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn — a moderate who has said he opposes the bill — tendered his resignation. His signature would be needed, along with that of the president, for it to be passed into law.

Parliament had approved the contentious proposal only minutes after it was put forward by Yanukovych’s Regions Party, which has a majority in the assembly.

Scuffles broke out as members of the opposition protested that they had too little time to oppose it.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: NATO Soldiers Wounded in Another ‘Green on Blue’ Attack

A man in Afghan army uniform has wounded five Nato soldiers at a military base near Kabul, the latest so-called “green on blue” attack that comes just days after three British troops were killed.

Attacks by Afghan security forces on their allies from the US-led alliance have claimed 26 lives so far this year, with the latest incident taking the total number of such attacks this year to 19. “An individual wearing Afghan army uniform turned his weapon on coalition soldiers yesterday (Tuesday), wounding five,” Colonel Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman for the 130,000-strong US-led Nato coalition force said. “The wounded coalition soldiers were evacuated to a medical facility.” Dawlat Waziri, an Afghan defence ministry spokesman, confirmed the incident in Maidan Wardak province, a troubled region south of Kabul and said the attack took place inside a military base shared by Afghan and Nato troops. “A man wearing our army uniform opened fire on the coalition soldiers, wounding five soldiers. The attacker fled the area and we’re investigating the incident,” Waziri said.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Afghanistan: ‘Honour Killing’ Of Mother, 30, Beheaded by Her Ex-Husband… Who Then Decapitated Their Two Young Children Because They’d Watched

A 30-year-old woman and two of her children were beheaded overnight in Afghanistan’s east, police said, in what appeared to be the latest in a rapidly growing trend of so-called honour killings.

Police said they suspected the woman Serata’s divorced husband of barging into her house in the capital of Ghazni province and murdering her, alongside their eight-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter.

‘The children saw the killer take their mother’s head off, so he killed them too,’ a local policeman said, adding that the attacker had spared Sereta’s two-year-old daughter.

Activists say there has been a sharp rise in violent attacks on women in Afghanistan over the past year.

They blame President Hamid Karzai’s waning attention to women’s rights as his government prepares for the exit of most foreign troops in 2014 and seeks to negotiate with the Taliban, Afghanistan’s former Islamist rulers.

Excluding Serata’s beheading, there have been 16 cases of ‘honour killings’ recorded across the country over March and April, the first two months of the Afghan new year, according to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

This compares to the 20 cases recorded for all of last year, said commissioner Suraya Subhrang, blaming increased insecurity and weak rule of law for the sharp rise. Since AIHRC started recording such killings in 2001, there have never been more than 20 cases a year.

‘And there are many that go unreported. Men make a quick decision in their own courts to kill a girl and hold a prayer for her the next day,’ Subhrang said.

There have also been other instances of horrific acts of violence, such as a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy who were killed in an acid attack because they were friends in wasteland in the Ghazni province in southern Afghanistan at the end of March.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Five US Soldiers Injured in Central Afghanistan

An Afghan soldier has opened fire on US forces stationed in the central province of Wardak, injuring five of them, Press TV reports. According to Afghan officials, the incident took place in a US military base in Sayed Abad city, located in eastern Wardak province, on Tuesday evening. The Afghan soldier has reportedly managed to escape. The incident is considered as the 19th such attack to target foreign forces in Afghanistan in 2012.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Five US Troops Wounded in Latest ‘Green on Blue’ Attack in Afghanistan

KABUL — Five U.S. troops were wounded Tuesday in the second apparent incident of Afghan soldiers turning their weapons on their coalition counterparts in three days. A man wearing an Afghan Army uniform shot the U.S. troops in the early evening in Wardak province, according to officials with the International Security Assistance Force. The five troops were medically evacuated and are being treated at an ISAF hospital, though officials have not disclosed what happened to the shooter. On Sunday, an Afghan policeman shot and killed three British soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand province. The shooter was arrested. Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura, an ISAF spokesman, said the number of green on blue incidents is low relative to the number of Afghan troops and police working with ISAF forces, but said the coalition was continuing to work with their Afghan counterparts on safety measures when recruiting troops.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Sumatran City of Medan ‘Turning Into Terror Financing Centre’

Jakarta, 25 June (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesian officials said Medan, in North Sumatra, is turning into a centre for terrorism financing, following the arrest of five suspects with assets worth nearly Rp 8 billion (US$848,000), allegedly used to fund paramilitary training and terrorism operations.

On Thursday morning, a suspect who was already in custody led police and armed anti-terrorism personnel to seize four houses, one shop, three cars and seven motorcycles in three locations that were purchased using funds the arrested suspects got from hacking a multi-level marketing website.

The group, which had information-technology experts as members, was part of a terrorist cell in Medan.

The members bought the account numbers of bank clients in and outside the country. Some terrorist suspects posed as multi-level marketing members and sought more customers.

The country’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) chief, Ansyaad Mbai, told reporters: “The hackers transferred the credit points to their accounts, and then sold them to brokers, who transferred the money equivalent to their bank accounts.”

Rizki Gunarwan, the suspect who led police to the raids, has a background in accountancy and IT. He hacked into the website for Investasi Online, said National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli.

Rizki was one of five terrorism suspects caught last month for a church bombing in Solo on Sept. 25 last year in which the suicide bomber died and nearly 30 people were injured.

“Preliminary investigations showed that the group’s activities were in supporting terrorist operations, including paramilitary training in Poso [Central Sulawesi],” said Boy Rafli.

He said Rizki had trained there, and channeled Rp 667 million to the training. He added that the suspect is skilledin making bombs and firearms.

The raids occurred on the same day that one of the last and most prominent Bali bombers, Umar Patek, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the 2002 blasts.

Since the last major attack in 2009 against two luxury hotels here, several terrorists have been arrested, and Indonesia’s counter-terrorism efforts have earned global praise.

However, the BNPT chief warned that Medan seemed to be the terrorists’ financial hub, even as their operations spread across the country.

In March this year, police shot dead five suspected terrorists in Bali who were involved in a spate of armed robberies to fund their operations.

They were part of the group that masterminded a bank heist in Medan in 2010. The money funded an Aceh paramilitary camp, which Jemaah Islamiah (JI) spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir was convicted of helping to finance.

In 2010 alone, terrorism analysts noted, there were three bank heists in Medan, all suspected of being terrorism-related.

Banks in Medan have been targeted for nearly a decade. In 2003, Toni Togar, believed to be part of JI, robbed a Medan bank of Rp 100 million

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

Modern Madrasahs in India Convince Opponents

In the Indian state of West Bengal, many state-run madrasahs teach a modern curriculum, attracting ever more non-Muslims. Though they seem to break down long-held social divisions, they still have opponents.

After 9/11, many in the non-Islamic world began to think of South Asia’s thousands of madrasahs, the traditional name for schools where Muslim children study theology to become Islamic religious teachers, as a potential breeding ground for militant Islamists.

But in the Indian state of West Bengal, many of the more than 500 state-run madrasahs teach a modern curriculum, with about 20 percent non-Muslim pupils.

In these modernised madrasahs, young Indians are being groomed to become future engineers, doctors, scientists, bureaucrats and other professionals — rather than mullahs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: ‘The Jihad Against Infidels Will Continue’

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has vowed to fight alongside the Haqqani Network if the Pakistan Army launches an offensive against it in North Waziristan Agency.‘s Tahir Ali has received an exclusive video interview of TTP’s spokesperson Ihsanullah Ihsan, who vows to continue jihad against ‘secular forces’.

What would be the reaction of the TTP if an operation was launched against the Haqqani Network?

The TTP will fight side by side with the Haqqani Network against Pakistan’s security forces. Our first target would be Pakistani security forces posted there.

How are the drone strikes affecting the movement of the Taliban?

We have lost a large number of our companions in drone strikes but the mujahideen are neither afraid of them nor can they discourage the jihad. The jihad against the infidel forces will continue.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

Chinese Protesters Stop Copper Plant Project

Local officials in China have cancelled plans for a copper alloy plant after three days of street protests against the project. Thousands of local residents had taken to the streets over health concerns.

The government of Shifang announced on Tuesday that it had cancelled plans to build a copper alloy plant in the city in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan.

“The molybdenum-copper alloy factory will no longer be built in Shifang city,” a statement posted on the muncipality’s official website said.

The change in plans followed an earlier statement in which the municipal government had threatened demonstrators with “severe” punishment if they failed to end three days of protests against the construction plans. The government later declared the building project suspended, in an effort to placate the protesters.

However this failed to satisfy the demonstrators, some of whom told reporters that they wouldn’t stop because they were convinced that the plant would harm their health.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Crafty Alternative to Mosque Seems Likely

A MUSLIM group may soon have approval to build a “craft site” in Minto — but not a mosque. Last Tuesday night, Campbelltown Council’s planning and environment committee suggested the council approve the Australian Muslim Welfare Centre’s plan to build a craft studio at 13-17 Eagleview Road, but specified that the building could not be used as a religious centre. The group bought the environmentally protected site to build a mosque. However, they then discovered it was not zoned for a religious building and submitted a craft studio application. Group spokesman Anisul Afsar has previously told the Advertiser that he hopes the site will be rezoned soon to allow for a mosque. The council was expected to decide on the craft studio application last night.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Foundation of the Largest Mosque in New Zealand

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to lay foundation of the largest Mosque in New Zealand

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of New Zealand will lay the foundation stone of a new magnificent landmark in Manukau, Auckland on Friday 06th July 2012 after their Friday prayers. This will be the largest purpose built Mosque in New Zealand which will accommodate over 600 worshipers. Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Supreme Head of Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, approved the project which is being funded totally by the Ahmadiyya Community of New Zealand.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Mosque Criticism is Ill-Informed

Objections to new developments are a fact of life in Canberra. Indeed, for a development application to escape scrutiny in this savviest of cities would be unusual. And it’s only fair that a proposal with the potential to affect the amenity (and real estate values) of neighbours and nearby residents receives close inspection and searching inquiry by authorities and the public. A development application lodged by the Canberra Muslim community for construction of a mosque in Gungahlin is, not surprisingly, the subject of heated public discussion, helped in large part by a flyer distributed to residents last week by a group calling itself “Concerned Citizens of Canberra”. In the flyer, the group alleges that the scale and height of the mosque “will dominate the viewscape”, that it will create traffic and noise problems, and that it will have a “social impact” on all of Gungahlin’s residents.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

The International Criminal Court is Hurting Africa

Britain’s support for the International Criminal Court is wrong and undermines its credibility in African countries, writes Courtenay Griffiths.

Imagine the British Government appointed as minister for Africa a man close friends with a mercenary who attempted to overthrow an African President. Imagine this same minister was fully supportive of an international court that, during its nine-year history, had only prosecuted black Africans. Imagine that this court’s most high-profile case, against the deputy prime minister of Kenya, had been based solely on evidence from a single witness chosen by associates of his political opponent, the favourite of the British Government.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UNESCO Condemns Destruction of Timbuktu Shrines

UNESCO has vowed to mobilize different international organizations to halt the destruction of shrines in Timbuktu by Islamist group Ansar Dine.The rebels say the shrines are idolatrous.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Australia: Asylum Seekers Accused of Using Navy “Like the NRMA”

PEOPLE-SMUGGLERS are treating the Australian navy “like the NRMA”, officials fear, as an asylum boat makes its way towards Christmas Island under escort after a mayday call made closer to Indonesia than the Australian outpost.

Immigration authorities say smugglers are becoming increasingly audacious, telling asylum boat captains to phone for help hours after leaving Indonesian ports.

The latest boat was just 50 nautical miles south of Java — still more than 150 nautical miles from Christmas Island — when a satellite call was made from the vessel directly to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

The two vessels that capsized last month, with the loss of at least 94 lives, phoned for help about 100 nautical miles from Christmas Island.

“It’s scandalous. It’s like calling the NRMA,” said one senior official, referring to the NSW roadside assistance service.

“They may as well have called us from the marina.”

Asylum boats are routinely sabotaged, but the growing number of distress calls so far from Australian territorial waters is a disturbing new development.

Overnight, 162 passengers from the latest boat were transferred to HMAS Leeuwin and HMAS Wollongong and were being taken to Christmas island. Three of the asylum-seekers were receiving medical treatment aboard HMAS Leeuwin.

Independent MP Rob Oakeshott, whose compromise bill to revive Labor’s Malaysia Solution and enable the reopening of a processing centre on Nauru was blocked in the Senate last week, lashed out at the boldness of people-smugglers.

“With a mobile phone and a few dollars, it’s never been easier or cheaper to move across borders in the Asia-Pacific region,” he told The Australian.

“Combine this with a policy deadlock in the Australian Senate, and we are going to continue to see trafficking, smuggling and loss of life at sea. This issue is not going away and will only get worse while ever the Senate fails to find a compromise.”

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare conceded that people-smugglers were telling their clients to “ring Australia” if they ran into problems on the seas between Indonesia and Australia.

“I think people-smugglers put people to sea after they take their money and they tell people to ring Australia and expect that vessels will come to meet them,” he said.

“Sometimes it is a false alarm, sometimes it is the real thing. We treat every single phone call seriously, because if you don’t, people die.”

But Mr Clare’s spokeswoman said last night the advice from Border Protection Command was that there was no evidence to suggest sabotage had played a role in the capsize of either of the boats that foundered last month. “Any allegations relating to those incidents are a matter for the investigation by the (Australian Federal Police) and WA Coroner,” the spokeswoman said.

The third search and rescue mission in as many weeks comes a day after Julia Gillard and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met in Darwin to discuss ways to enhance the co-operation of Indonesian and Australian rescue agencies.

A spokesman for the Indonesian search and rescue agency BASARNAS said the asylum-seeker vessel had defied calls to turn around and was being escorted to Christmas Island.

“They said that they don’t want to go back to Indonesian waters and, as for now, they’re on their way to Christmas Island guarded by HMAS Wollongong,” he said.

“It’s not easy to help them. The weather and the waves are not friendly at all at the moment. The wave height at times is about 3m.”

After the parliament failed last week to reach a compromise and pass legislation that would have revived offshore processing, the Prime Minister appointed former defence chief Angus Houston to head an expert panel to advise the government on the best way through the political impasse. Air Chief Marshal Houston is expected to report to Ms Gillard before parliament returns from a six-week winter recess on August 14.

Tony Abbott yesterday called on Ms Gillard to “get the processing centre started” in both Nauru and Papua New Guinea and pass any legislation that was needed as soon as parliament resumed.

Refugee advocate Marion Le said she feared people-smugglers were deliberately overcrowding boats and making early distress calls in anticipation of a change in government policy.

“For the smugglers themselves, this is about money,” she said. “It gets to me that these people know exactly who to call in Australia.”

The refugee lawyer said she believed people-smugglers should be held financially responsible for tying up Australia’s strategic defence resources.

Senior Defence sources have expressed concern about the psychological toll that the recent rescues have taken on the young men and women crewing the navy ships that have led the rescue efforts, including HMAS Wollongong — which has gone to the rescue of two asylum-seeker vessels in the past month.

In the past three weeks, 12 merchant ships have also assisted with the rescue efforts, including the seven vessels that pulled survivors and bodies from the water during last month’s mass drowning of about 90 people.

Darwin-based master mariners yesterday warned of dangers posed by asylum-seeker vessels raising false distress calls, saying the issue was being discussed among Top End seafarers. “We hope this is not going to be their modus operandi — boats get within range and then they (asylum-seekers) put the call out,” one said.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Rapid Growth Hits Housing Market

It took Norway a few thousand years to reach a population of just 5 million. Another million, though, is expected just 17 years from now and cities like Oslo are struggling to keep up with demand for housing, as real estate prices soar.

Norwegian children marching in this year’s 17th of May parade will be young adults when the population hits 6 million, and likely will contribute towards more growth.

Figures released recently by state statistics bureau SSB suggest that Norway’s population will grow by 20 percent, to 6 million, by 2029. SSB described the country’s population growth as “rapid” and sees signs that the growth will continue at the same tempo for several decades before finally slowing down.

The growth is linked to Norway’s strong economy, its expanding oil industry, social welfare programs that make it easier to combine careers with having children, and immigration. Only when or if oil and gas resources begin to decline will the pace of growth slow down, predicts Helge Brunborg, a senior researcher at SSB.

Norway’s population officially hit the 5 million-mark in mid-March, with much of the growth fueled by immigration as Norway attracts job seekers from countries where unemployment rates are high, like Spain and Greece. The pace of immigration is difficult to predict, according to SSB, but its researchers think 20 percent of Norway’s population will have immigrant background by 2050.

Making room for more

The influx of more people is prompting local governments to reform zoning laws and allow more housing density to meet demand in a market where prices have soared in recent years. Despite local protests, more neighbourhoods with mostly single-family homes on large lots will see more construction of new multi-family dwellings replacing the classic Norwegian villa, to make room for more households.

Norway’s national real estate organization reported high, stable real estate prices this week based on sales in June. A large seasonal surge of supply resulted in a relatively small average price rise from May of 0.9 percent in June, after strong growth in April, but average prices in June are up 7.7 percent since June 2011…

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]