Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/26/2008

USA
Barack Obama Through Muslim Eyes
Davis Warns of a New Civil War With Southern States
From Guantanamo to Denver
Michelle Obama Sings Praises of Swedish Women
Muslim Brotherhood: the Ties That Bind Grow More Difficult to Deny
 
Europe and the EU
Fourth Blackburn Man Arrested Over Threat to Kill Gordon Brown
Huge Firearms Haul in London
London One of the Most Violent Places to Live in England
Moderates Reject ‘Misguided Benevolence’ for Immigrants
Norway Eyes Eco Investment Role for Wealth Fund
Oslo Apologizes for Beggars, Prostitutes and Drug Addicts
Revealed: Britain’s Secret Propaganda War Against Al-Qaida
Swiss Foreign Minister: We Could Negotiate With Bin Laden
Venice Museum Sorry for Veil Slip
 
North Africa
Why Did Egypt Fail at Olympics, Mubarak Asks
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Lebanon: You Attack Us, We Destroy You, Hezbollah to Israel
Palestinian Imprisons Mentally Ill Children for 20 Years
 
Middle East
Analysis: Assad’s Shopping List
Islam: Yemen; We Condemn Religious Police, Koranic Scholar
‘Maids Die Trying to Escape Employers’
Report: Senior Hizbullah Man Killed Monday
Riyadh, Marriage of Young Girls Condemned
Syria: Kurdish Writer-Activist ‘to Stand Trial’
Teen Girl Aborts Iraq Suicide Attack
 
Russia
Russia is Dangerous But Weak
 
Caucasus
Georgia: the Score
 
South Asia
Invoking the Name of Allah Enough When Swearing in Islam, Say Indonesian Islamic Scholars
Orissa: Young Woman Killed While Trying “to Save the Orphans”
Orissa: Calm Returning, More Victims Reported Overnight
Serpong Police Confiscates 2.400 Bottles of Liquor

Thanks to Abu Elvis, ACT for America, Amil Imani, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Insubria, Srdja Trifkovic, Steen, TB, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Details are below the fold.
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USA

Barack Obama Through Muslim Eyes

by Daniel Pipes

How do Muslims see Barack Hussein Obama? They have three choices: either as he presents himself — someone who has “never been a Muslim” and has “always been a Christian”; or as a fellow Muslim; or as an apostate from Islam.

Reports suggests that while Americans generally view the Democratic candidate having had no religion before converting at Reverend Jeremiah Wrights’s hands at age 27, Muslims the world over rarely see him as Christian but usually as either Muslim or ex-Muslim.

Lee Smith of the Hudson Institute explains why: “Barack Obama’s father was Muslim and therefore, according to Islamic law, so is the candidate. In spite of the Quranic verses explaining that there is no compulsion in religion, a Muslim child takes the religion of his or her father. … for Muslims around the world, non-American Muslims at any rate, they can only ever see Barack Hussein Obama as a Muslim.” In addition, his school record from Indonesia lists him as a Muslim…

           — Hat tip: ACT for America[Return to headlines]


Davis Warns of a New Civil War With Southern States

Congressional candidate Jack Davis, in a speech earlier this year, warned that increasing immigration from Mexico could lead to a new civil war between northern states and Mexican-influenced Southern states that may want to secede from the United States.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


From Guantanamo to Denver

CAIRO — James Yee, a former Guantanamo Muslim chaplain once falsely accused of espionage, believes his presence as a delegate in the Democratic National Convention marks a promising sign of change in the post 9/11 America.

“That I’m here — that shows it,” former Capt. Yee told the Seattle Times on Monday, August 25.

The 40-year-old Muslim is among nearly 100 delegates representing Washington State in the Democratic Party’s 9th National Convention, which will formally endorse Senator Barack Obama as its White House candidate.

He is impressed by the fact that the convention, held in Denver, is hosting interfaith caucus meetings for the first time.

DC Muslims in Vote Awareness Drive

Yee speaking of his ordeal (Watch)

“That they’ll now read from the Qur’an at a national political convention — that shows we have come a long way in this country.”

The Faith in Action gathering, which will proceed on the sidelines of the 4-day convention, brings together religious leaders from different faiths and includes readings from the Qur’an, the Bible and the Torah.

There are between six to seven million Muslims in the US, which has a population of nearly 300 million.

More than two millions of them are registered voters.

According to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Politics, sixty-three percent of American Muslims are Democrats or leaning in that direction.

Only 11 percent of US Muslims are Republican.

How Far?

Yee is aware that his presence at the Convention is a test for how far the US has come since the 9/11.

For weeks, he has been the center of attention from national media outlets.

“There is some worry that I might be a lightning rod,” Yee told the Times.

“‘Accused terrorist spy is national delegate for Obama,’“ he said, imagining how Fox News might broadcast his story.

Five years ago, Yee was wrongly accused of espionage, sedition and aiding the enemy while serving in Guantanamo.

For 76 days, he was put into solitary confinement before being exonerated from all charges.

Yee later resigned from the Army with an honorable discharge.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Michelle Obama Sings Praises of Swedish Women

Michelle Obama was caught slightly off guard on Monday by a reporter who asked her for a message for Swedish women, who are apparently among her biggest fans.

She quickly recovered her composure before a posse of journalists as she did a walk-through of the Denver center where she was to give the keynote speech on the opening night of the Democratic Party convention.

“Tell them thank you, and they are in my prayers,” she said, holding the hands of her daughters Malia, 10 and Sasha, seven.

But the Swedish reporter, from tabloid Expressen, heard a longer answer than his press corps colleagues.

“Oh, Sweden. Swedish women you said? You are hot and beautiful and you are in my prayers” Michelle Obama is reported to have replied.

The girls had earlier amused photographers by playing with the gavel which will be used to open the four-day jamboree set to anoint their father, Barack Obama, as the party’s nominee for the November elections.

Michelle Obama was accompanied by her brother, Craig Robinson and her mother Marian Robinson, as well as her sister-in-law Maya Soetero-Ng.

Both Craig Robinson and Soetero-Ng were also due to address the opening night.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Muslim Brotherhood: the Ties That Bind Grow More Difficult to Deny

There is a fascinating interview with Mohammed Habib, the deputy supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood where he acknowledges that the Brotherhood has a presence inside the United States.

As I have repeatedly stated, there is nothing illegal about the Muslim Brotherhood being here. What makes the groups that grew out of the Ikhwan so interesting and perplexing is their unwillingness to admit that relationship, despite the fact there is no sanction against belonging to the organization. Why act as a covert front group when you could legally exist?

Habib also defends Sudanese president Omar Bashir against the international arrest warrant issued for him, and has various other statements of interest, particularly naming Hamas (again) as a branch of the MB.

But let’s start at the beginning, the ties to U.S. organizations that those organizations have vigorously denied. It is not that this was not known. See this report for the NEFA Foundation I co-authored for a more complete picture of what the evidence is.

The Daily Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report (free subscription required) also has an archive of information on the subject.

Here is the extended key passage of the interview on this issue, so nothing is taken out of context. Read carefully, it gives an interesting and disturbing view of the MB agenda in the United States, one much more accurate than its legacy groups present…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Ahmad and James on Swedish Bank’s Blacklist

Swedish bank Skandiabanken has come under fire for a black list that hinders customers with Arabic names from using routine banking services.

Ahmad Waizy from Lindome was unable to pay a bill to a German company online as Skandiabanken’s system blocked his name. Waizy has now reported the bank to the ombudsman (DO) alleging discrimination.

“I called the bank and they told me that they had a block in their system stopping Arabic-sounding names, like mine, when conducting transfers,” Waizy told online newspaper E24.

Ahmad is a name that is common in Sweden, with 4,100 people bearing it.

Skandiabanken has confirmed that it checks names against a black list, compiled by the EU, of people suspected of connections to terrorist groups.

“Just like all other banks we have to follow the list. We are bound by law,” said Lena Hök of Skandiabanken.

The black list includes common Arabic names such as Ahmed, Hussein, Mohammed and Yacoub but also non-Arabic sounding names such as José Maria and James.

The discrimination ombudsman has sought answers from Skandiabanken on a series of questions about the incident with Ahmad Waizy, a move that is welcomed by the bank.

“It is positive that this issue is put to the test and that DO gives clear instructions on how to proceed.” Lena Hök told E24.

Waizy was eventually able to transfer the money, but only after he had removed his forename from the field on the form, on the advice of Skandiabanken’s customer service.

“I have lived in Sweden all my life and have never before felt discriminated against…I though it was only foreign banks, scared of the terrorism frenzy, that did this; not my Swedish bank,” said Ahmad Waizy to E24.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Child Violence Out of Control

The government has put forth a new plan to battle the increasing violence committed by the nation’s young people

A new report from the Justice Ministry shows that the number violent episodes committed by young people between the ages of 10-14 has more than doubled since 2000.

Police are reporting more and more cases of children carrying knives and other weapons but have few answers as to how to combat the trend.

‘We’re extremely worried about the development,’ said Peter Andreasen, detective superintendent of Copenhagen Police’s Criminal Prevention division. ‘It’s a problem we’ve discussed for a long time. Why is this occurring? Unfortunately we haven’t found the answer yet.’

In 2007, the 10-14-year-old age group committed 546 episodes of violence, while illegal weapons were confiscated 64 times from the same group last year.

Karen Jespersen, the social welfare minister, presented the government’s answer to the problem on Tuesday, outlining a 10-point social services plan to battle and prevent crime for children under 15. The proposal provides for more social support for the children but also supports harder punishment for violent crime and puts more responsibility on parents to control their children’s behaviour.

In Copenhagen, Lady Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard criticised the Justice Ministry for not promoting the implementation of more police officers on the streets to battle violent crime in general. There have been 10 shooting episodes in the city since the beginning of July alone, according to Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

‘The other night there were shots through an apartment window in Brønshøj where there was a party. The night before that someone shot the library at Blågårds Plads square. Denmark has become a country where every week we hear about another shooting episode,’ Bjerregaard told Berlingske Tidende. ‘We need a national plan.’

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Fourth Blackburn Man Arrested Over Threat to Kill Gordon Brown

A 25-year-old man was being questioned today over threats to kill Gordon Brown and Tony Blair after he was arrested on terrorism charges.

The man, who is believed to be white, is the fourth resident of Blackburn to be arrested this month in connection with posting a death threat on a recognised jihadi website.

He was arrested at 6.40am this morning. Specialist officers were continuing to carry out searches this morning in the Whalley Range area of the town, where a police van was seen parked outside an Islamic bookshop.

Three men, aged 21, 22 and 23, were arrested on August 14. Two were held at Manchester Airport as they were about to board a flight to Finland, and the third man was detained in Accrington, Lancashire.

One of the men is suspected of posting a death threat on a known extremist website and styling himself as Sheikh Umar Rabie al-Khalaila, leader of al-Qaeda in Britain. […]

No terror plot was believed to be in place, but there were calls for the death of the Prime Minister on the al-Ekhlaas website — which has been used by al-Qaeda and is monitored by intelligence agencies — in January.

The message gave warning of a wave of suicide attacks in Britain and against UK interests around the world unless the group’s demands for a withdrawal from Iraq and the release of Muslim prisoners were met.

After the latest arrest, police Community Support Officers were handing out leaflets explaining to people in the residential area of Whalley Range that anti-terror police would carry out their searches as quickly and calmly as possible today. […]

Two of the arrests earlier this month were made as the suspects made their way to Finland. It is understood that British police are concerned about the potential link to terrorist groups in Scandinavia, and officers travelled to Finland this month to carry out further inquiries.

There is no known history of Islamic extremism in Finland, but there has been an upsurge in Denmark in recent years.

The death threat, thought to have been posted by British-based extremists in January, was headed: “Statement of the Leader of al-Qaeda in Britain, Sheikh Umar Rabie al-Khalaila,” and began by offering “a truce to the British government”.

The author of the document demanded “a complete withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan and Iraq” and the release of “all Muslim captives from Belmarsh Prison”.

It specifically named Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza al-Masri, the extremist clerics, as two inmates who should be freed. The courts have since ordered the release on bail of Abu Qatada, who is now living under a 22-hour curfew in West London.

The four arrests did not appear to be connected to any imminent terrorist attack but police are concerned about the propagation of violent and extremist ideology.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Gordon Brown Faces High-Level Revolt Over Windfall Tax

“Resignation threat in energy levy row” A stark warning that Britain’s worsening economy will cause “difficult social issues” heaped fresh pressure on Gordon Brown yesterday, as more members of his Government broke ranks to demand a windfall tax.

The Prime Minister faces the prospect of the resignation of at least one ministerial aide if he fails to impose a new levy on energy companies’ profits, The Times has learnt.

A petition calling for a windfall tax has been signed by 70 Labour MPs, including three ministerial aides. Five other junior members of the Government have told The Times that they are backing the campaign. […]

David Kidney, PPS to Rosie Winterton, said that he had written to Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, urging him to find ways of forcing the energy companies to do more to help hard-up customers.

The union-backed campaign for substantial handouts funded from a windfall tax will draw further strength from a bleak assessment of the social impact of the downturn by Charles Bean, the new deputy governor of the Bank of England.

Professor Bean said that the country was set for a “tricky period” while the global economic slowdown drags on “for some considerable time”. “Household real income is very low. That will make it difficult for households and there are difficult social issues that will arise,” said Professor Bean. He said that Britain was facing the biggest challenge since the 1970s with confidence rocked by a series of financial “grenades”. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Huge Firearms Haul in London

In one of the biggest haul of firearms in Britain, the police seized “hundreds and hundreds” of shotguns as also automatic and semi-automatic weapons from a house on the outskirts of London in pre-dawn raids on Wednesday.

Most of the huge cache was recovered from a house when some 30 police officers conducted three coordinated raids in the town of Dartford, Kent, while U.S. authorities carried out a similar operation in New Jersey.

The police said the raids were not terrorism-related and were carried out as part of ‘Operation Trident,’ which targets gun crime in the black community linked to drug trafficking. One person was arrested in the U.S., while a 55-year old man was taken into custody from the house in Dartford.

Detective superintendent Kevin Davis of Operation Trident said “hundreds and hundreds” of weapons were found. “This is the biggest firearms haul we [Operation Trident] have ever had,” he told reporters..

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Islam: Cardinal Tauran Calls for Reciprocity on Worship

(ANSAmed) — RIMINI, AUGUST 25 — Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, reiterated that the reciprocity on the places of worship both for the various confessions of Christianity in Europe and for the Christians in the predominantly Muslim countries “is essential”. “In a state of law everyone has the right to have a place of worship,” Tauran said in his speech at the Meeting of Rimini today. Reciprocity is essential and I have always insisted on this subject in the latest time of more open dialogue. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Islam: Tourist With Headscarf; Ban Has to be Respected, Sbai

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 26 — “In Italy since 1975 there is a law which bans people from going around with covered faces and this guardian did well respecting it,” Suad Sbai, MP from the People of Freedom party (PdL) and president of the Moroccan Women in Italy, said commenting on the incident regarding a Muslim tourist who was invited to leave the Venetian museum Cà Rezzonico because she was wearing niqab, a headscarf which leaves uncovered the eyes only. “I read that measures will be taken against the guardian but he has my solidarity. It is the museum’s curator who is wrong and less informed. If a rule is valid for the masks during the carnival it has to be valid always. And the rules have to be known,” she continued, referring to the statement of the curator of Cà Rezzonico. Suad Sbai also commented on a bill announced recently by the Northern League, for strict rules concerning the new mosques. “This bill draws on our proposals, from the control and survey of the mosques to a school and a register for the imams, in order to avoid irreparable damages,” she said. “However, it is necessary to discuss this with the Islamic Council of Italy and the Islamic Federation,” Sbai added, referring to the federation presented recently by a group of representatives of the Islamic Council in the presence of then Interior Minister Amato. “There is already a federation of the moderate Muslims, with the mosques of Rome and another 98 mosques and I invite Minister Maroni to continue the work launched by Pisanu and Amato with all the people who contributed for its creation and want to continue on this road,” she said. (ANSamed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


London One of the Most Violent Places to Live in England

London has become one of the most violent places to live in the country after a spate of murders in the capital this year, according to figures. The list of the most violent places to live in England, published today, now includes four London boroughs.

The data from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust based on Home Office statistics shows North Manchester recorded the highest number of violent crimes per 1,000 people but the City of Westminster, Hackney, Southwark and Lewisham all entered the top ten most violent places to live this year.

In 2006/07 only one London borough, Tower Hamlets, appeared in the top ten but has now moved out of the ten most violent places. The list was compiled for the first time last year. […]

Crimes classed as violence against the person include knife and gun attacks, grievous bodily harm, actual bodily harm, murder, attempted murder and assault. Sexual assaults are not included.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust was set up after Suzy Lamplugh, 25, disappeared while working as a London estate agent in 1986. Her body has never been found. The trust, established by her mother and father, pushed for legislation over issues including registration of minicabs and help for vulnerable young people.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Moderates Reject ‘Misguided Benevolence’ for Immigrants

Sweden’s Moderates want to see a tougher line on asylum seekers. Government reforms are positive, but employment should be a priority, a parliamentary group argues.

The government has conducted a reform of immigration and integration policy and has received praised from the Moderate party. However a parliamentary working group made up of members of the party would like the reforms to go further and prioritize employment when considering asylum applications.

Clear, financial incentives are required for asylum seekers to seek residence in areas where jobs and housing are available. The same requirements should also be made of those who later apply for residence permits.

The proposals are part of demands made by the Moderate parliamentary group in a full page opinion article published in Dagens Nyheter on Tuesday. The group will present a detailed proposal in the spring 2009.

The group argues that a misdirected benevolence has led to a permissive situation where people of working age, regardless of ethnicity, live on benefits for extended periods of time instead of supporting themselves. This hits immigrants particularly hard, they claim.

Of those who secure a residence permit and take part in local introduction schemes only 20 percent are self-supporting after two and a half years with a permit. The situation is not improved by poor financial incentives and 90 percent marginal effects.

The group also draws attention to an excessive demand for “Swedishness” in the labour market, where qualified and capable people are given less opportunity than in many other countries.

Not least with regard to the public sector:

“There is a problematic fear of good, but broken, Swedish and many workplaces suffer from an international oxygen shortage.”

The article has been drafted and is signed by migration minister Tobias Billström, Stockholm social services secretary Ulf Kristersson and member of parliament Elisabeth Svantesson.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Norway Eyes Eco Investment Role for Wealth Fund

Oil-rich Norway is pushing ahead with plans to use part of its US$400 billion sovereign wealth fund to invest in renewable energy development, a deputy finance minister said on Monday.

The idea to divide the wealth fund, officially named the Government Pension Fund — Global, and siphon off part of it to invest in environmental projects has been criticised by Norway’s central bank, which runs the fund for the government.

[…] As an oil and gas producer, Norway says it has a moral obligation to do what it can to reduce carbon emissions blamed for global warming. Some environmentalists want it to put oil money into carbon capture and storage in particular.

“We believe we see a trend developing among large, institutional investors in the direction of setting up smaller funds earmarked for special purposes,” Deputy Finance Minister Henriette Westhrin told a seminar on green energy. “Environmental issues are one possible option for a special mandate,” said Westhrin from the Socialist Left (SV) party.

Norges Bank has said diverting the fund’s cash for environmentally-friendly investment would clash with its effort to base investment on financial criteria, and the government should tap its own budget if it wants to fund such ventures.

Europe’s biggest equity investor, the fund has swelled due to sky-rocketing oil prices. It invests in foreign stocks and bonds to avoid overheating Norway’s economy and driving up its currency.

Westhrin said that if Norway goes ahead with the plans, the overall objective for the fund will remain “to ensure a sound financial return for future generations.” Yet, she said the fund’s size and long-term investment horizon could make it interested in renewable energy projects not regarded as commercial by others. […]

This year the fund got a go-ahead to invest in real estate and to increase the size of its equity portfolio to 60 percent of total investments from 40 percent, at the cost of fixed income. The ongoing switch to equities, carried out during a volatile and weak period for global stock markets, badly hit its performance so far in 2008. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Oslo Apologizes for Beggars, Prostitutes and Drug Addicts

Tourists who have written letters complaining about being accosted on Oslo’s main streets are getting a two-page written apology from the head of the city government in return.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Revealed: Britain’s Secret Propaganda War Against Al-Qaida

“BBC and website forums targeted by Home Office unit”. A Whitehall counter-terrorism unit is targeting the BBC and other media organisations as part of a new global propaganda push designed to “taint the al-Qaida brand”, according to a secret Home Office paper seen by the Guardian.

The document also shows that Whitehall counter-terrorism experts intend to exploit new media websites and outlets with a proposal to “channel messages through volunteers in internet forums” as part of their campaign.

The strategy is being conducted by the research, information and communication unit, [RICU] which was set up last year by the then home secretary, John Reid, to counter al-Qaida propaganda at home and overseas. It is staffed by officials from several government departments.

The report, headed, Challenging violent extremist ideology through communications, says: “We are pushing this material to UK media channels, eg, a BBC radio programme exposing tensions between AQ leadership and supporters. And a restricted working group will communicate niche messages through media and non-media.”

Link to to audio]

The disclosure that a Whitehall counter-terrorism propaganda operation is promoting material to the BBC and other media will raise fresh concerns about official news management in a highly sensitive area.

The government campaign is based upon the premise that al-Qaida is waning worldwide and can appear vulnerable on issues such as declining popularity; its rejection by credible figures, especially religious ones, and details of atrocities.

The Whitehall propaganda unit is collecting material to target these vulnerabilities under three themes. They are that al-Qaida is losing support; “they are not heroes and don’t have answers; and that they harm you, your country and your livelihood”.

The RICU guidance, dated July 21 2008, says that the material is primarily aimed at “overseas communicators” in embassies and consulates around the world, confirming the global scale of the Whitehall counter-terrorist propaganda effort now underway.

But it also says that other partners should be encouraged to integrate this work into their communications at home as well: “It is aimed primarily (but not exclusively) at those working with overseas influencers and opinion formers.”

The first dossier of material being despatched to diplomatic posts worldwide cites condemnation of al-Qaida from Sayyid Imam al-Sharif aka Dr Fadi, a former leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and Salman Abu-Awdah, a leading Saudi scholar who has published an open letter to Osama bin Laden calling al-Qaida’s aims illegitimate and immoral. It notes that groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are now keen to distance themselves from al-Qaida.

In a section headed “AQ has suffered military defeat in …” it adds “use advisedly — avoid suggesting that AQ is no longer a threat. We are not claiming victory over AQ. We are stressing their declining support”.

The dossier says that al-Qaida has been definitively expelled from large areas of Iraq and has lost ground in Afghanistan. It quotes CIA director Michael Hayden’s claim in May that al-Qaida had been essentially defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and was now “on the defensive throughout much of the rest of the world,” but describes this as a “strikingly upbeat assessment of the organisation”.

It highlights the fact that Mohammed Hamid, who was convicted in February for recruiting and radicalising young men to fight against the west, was a former crack addict.

The document also notes that al-Qaida has to “feed its new franchises with propaganda to keep the ‘brand’ alive at all costs”. It says that it is focused on Palestine — to the discomfort of the Palestinians — because it has failed in Iraq and is now pronouncing on issues as diverse as Egyptian trade unions and climate change in a desperate attempt to remain relevant.

The “material” is a mixture of recent news reports and articles from Arabic, Middle Eastern and North African news sources illustrating the theme of “AQ is in decline” as well as articles from the New York Times, the Observer, Newsweek and British and American websites.

The RICU guidance note says the dossier has been drafted with support from Whitehall press officers “on how best to tailor such material for media engagements, presenting information to ministers, or to other stakeholders. It is in a separate, unclassified format to make it the sort of product that a minister or a press officer could use before an interview; or that could be given as a crib sheet for trusted contacts,” says the classified document.

Some info about the RICU:

Background to the project

The Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU) is a cross-governmental strategic communications resource on counter-terrorism. It is owned jointly by Communities and Local Government, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.

This project is part funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in line with its Strategic Priority 1: making the world safer from global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Fellowship

This project seeks to better understand the flow of anti-western and often militant ideology, propaganda and discourse, particularly as it impacts on the UK. This project seeks to add to this mapping of this flow, and in particular examine where particular ideologies are being promulgated, by which particular groups and through which particular sources on the net. In addition, the aim is to understand how particular extremist and violent ideas are legitimised; and the means by which they might spread into popular culture.

An emphasis will be on the information channels and mechanisms, with particular regard to new media, by which ideas and material are promulgated and demonstrating how they reach their key audiences.

The project also seeks to identify the main influences that are challenging this ideology and the means by which they are impacting on audiences. If possible the project will also attempt to understand the role, if any, popular culture plays in the dissemination of ideas and messages.

The project will help inform HMG in its communications and engagement around counter terrorism.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Swiss Foreign Minister: We Could Negotiate With Bin Laden

Switzerland’s foreign minister told top diplomats on Monday she favours direct talks with Osama bin Laden to tackle the threat of terrorism. Micheline Calmy-Rey, who has raised both eyebrows and hackles with her controversial style, told Swiss ambassadors gathered in the capital Bern that they needed to talk to “heavyweight political figures” on the world stage even if they are considered persona non grata by other powers. “This even goes as far as sitting down at the same table as Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Venice Museum Sorry for Veil Slip

Muslim tourist refused entry to gallery because of niqab

(ANSA) — Venice, August 26 — A world-renowned Venice museum apologised on Tuesday after a security guard refused entry to a Muslim tourist wearing a veil.

The woman, who was accompanied by her husband and daughter, had bought a ticket without any objections from staff at the cash tills of the Ca’ Rezzonico museum, which houses an extensive collection of 18th-century Venetian art.

But when she tried to enter the museum rooms a security guard told her she had to remove her niqab or remain outside for security reasons.

The niqab covers the face leaving only the eyes visible.

‘‘It was a decision taken alone by the security guard, who made a serious mistake,’’ said museum curator Filippo Pedrocco.

‘‘At Carnevale, for example, people who enter the museum wearing masks are asked to uncover their faces, but the rule has to be interpreted (in the correct way) and in this case the lady had every right to visit the museum,’’ he added.

The Ca’ Rezzonico museum overlooks the lagoon city’s Grand Canal and is operated by Venice city council.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Why Did Egypt Fail at Olympics, Mubarak Asks

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday demanded to know why his country’s athletes failed to win more than a single bronze medal at the Olympics in China, the official MENA agency reported.

The 80-year-old ruler “ordered the formation of a fact-finding committee to assess the bad performance of the Egyptian mission to the Beijing Olympic Games that wrapped up on Sunday,” MENA reported.

“The committee will be in charge of determining who is responsible for the Egyptian mission’s bad performance and calling them into account.

“Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif decided to form the committee led by Minister of State for Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs Dr Mufid Shehab, to compare the results of the team’s performance with its targeted goals,” MENA said.

Egypt sent a 177-strong delegation to Beijing, but only judoka Hesham Mesbah won a medal for his country, coming away with a bronze.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Lebanon: You Attack Us, We Destroy You, Hezbollah to Israel

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 25 — New threats to Israel by the leader of Shiite Lebanese movement Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, according to whom “If a war were to happen like they (the Israeli) are threatening, our victory this time will be decisive, unquestionable and final.” According to Nasrallah, cited today by the Lebanese press, the Israeli forces “will be destroyed in our mountains and valleys and homes and villages and your state, which usurped our holy land will be destroyed.” Various Israeli leaders have recently addressed serious warnings to Lebanon, especially after the formation of a Lebanese national unity government. Particularly Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatened last Tuesday that the armed forces of Israel will not hesitate to use all available weapons, if Lebanon becomes a “state of Hezbollah”. During the 2006 war in Lebanon “we had much heavier weapons than those we used because we were fighting against a terrorist organisation and not against a country. But if Lebanon becomes a state of Hezbollah, we will not impose any more limits,” he said. According to Nasrallah, these words represent “scare tactics” and “psychological warfare” which is part of “an internal necessity in Israel”. However, “we are not underestimating the threats of Israel”, but “we are not afraid,” Nasrallah added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Lebanon-Syria: Define Borders But Not of Shebaa Farms (2)

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 14 — “The definition of the borders of the Shebaa Farms cannot happen under occupation” by Israel, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said. The Shebaa Farms, a tiny piece of land of some 25 sq km at the slopes of the Syrian Golan Heights, are controlled by the Israeli armed forces and are claimed by Lebanon. According to the UN, Syria and Lebanon should provide the necessary documents to show it is Lebanese territory. During the news conference it was also announced that the committee on the Lebanese citizens missing in Syria and on the Syrian ones missing in Lebanon would start work. The two ministers also said that the agreements signed by the two states when Syria was exercising a kind of hegemony in Lebanon, which ended in 2005, would be revised. “The two parties (Lebanese and Syrian) insisted on the need of a just and global peace in the Middle East and the creation of a Palestinian state,” al-Moualem said. Lebanese minister Fawzi Salloukh said in turn that “Lebanon is not interested at the moment in having direct or indirect talks with Israel,” unlike Syria which is currently engaged in indirect talks with the Jewish state via the mediation of Turkey. Salloukh also announced that next Thursday the Lebanese government would gather to formally approve the decision to set up normal diplomatic relations with Syria, as Suleiman and Assad announced yesterday. A week later all the necessary steps to make the decision operational will be launched, he added. (ANSAmed).

2008-08-14 14:46

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Mideast: Israel-PNA, 198 Palestinian Prisoners Released

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 25 — Israel today released 198 Palestinian prisoners. They were identified in the military camp of Ofer (West Bank) early in the morning and got on buses bound for the Palestinian town of Ramallah, the military radio said. In Ramallah the former detainees are expected by Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) who will receive them today in his offices in the Muqataa. The decision for the operation, which takes place several hours before the beginning of a new diplomatic mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah of USA Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was made by the government of Ehud Olmert in a bid to strengthen the position of Abbas. According to the military radio, the release of the detainees, who have pledged to abstain from violence against Israel in the future, was also influenced by the coming Islamic fast of Ramadan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Palestinian Imprisons Mentally Ill Children for 20 Years

Siblings found in unlit dungeon during raid; man says he didn’t want people to laugh at him

Shocking discovery in West Bank: A Palestinian man imprisoned his two mentally ill children for more than 20 years in a dungeon he dug under his house because he was ashamed of them, Palestinian police said on Tuesday.

Police officers found the brother and his sister, in their 30s, in an unlit and unventilated dungeon during a raid against arms and drug dealers in the West Bank village of Beit Awa.

The father told police he has imprisoned his children because he did not want people to laugh at him for bringing “abnormal children to this world.”

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Middle East Strategy for the West

by Barry Rubin

[…]

Is democracy possible in the Arabic-speaking world? Why not, once one discounts all the actually existing political, ideological, social and organizational forces.

Will it come eventually? Probably, if eventually is long enough.

In terms of practical politics and strategy, however, these two questions are irrelevant. Democracy isn’t on the agenda.

Just to give guidelines, and remembering every country differs, I’d suggest roughly 60-70 percent of the Arabic-speaking world is still Arab nationalist, 20-30 percent Islamist, and 10 percent pro-moderate democracy. Numbers and definitions are subject to challenge but the basic proportions seem right.

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


Analysis: Assad’s Shopping List

by Jonathan Spyer

President Bashar Assad of Syria began a trip to Russia this week. Russian news agency RIA Novosti has quoted the Syrian Information Ministry as confirming that the trip will last two days.

According to the statement, the purpose of the trip is to discuss bilateral relations and the latest world and regional developments, particularly relating to the Middle East peace process and to Iraq.

Assad’s trip to Moscow comes at a particularly opportune time. Russia is in the process of completing what looks like a successful, contemptuous defiance of international will over its actions in Georgia. In the Caucasus, Moscow has thrown down a direct challenge to the US-dominated post Cold-war international order.

Syria, meanwhile, is part of an Iran-led regional bloc which seeks to issue a similar challenge in the Middle East, albeit on a smaller scale. But Assad is not in Moscow purely to compare notes with the Russians. Rather, his trip has a list of clear and practical objectives.

During the Cold War, the USSR was of course Syria’s main arms supplier. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Damascus was left with an outstanding debt of $13.4 billion to Moscow for weapons purchased. Throughout the 1990s, with Syria stagnant and Russia plunged into economic and political chaos, this outstanding debt cast a chill over relations between the two countries. This chill has now thawed. In 2005, Moscow agreed to write off 73 percent of the debt. This reduced Syria’s foreign debt to less than 10% of its GDP, allowing Damascus once more to focus on arms procurement. Large-scale purchases of arms from Russia began that same year.

Over the following two years, according to Israeli sources, Syria purchased 50 Pantsir SE-1 and Tor-M1 air-defense systems from Moscow. Sophisticated anti-tank guided weapons systems were also acquired. There are conflicting reports as to whether the Pantsir air defense systems had been fully deployed at the time of the successful IAF raid on a suspected Syrian plutonium reactor in September, 2007. The raid, in any case, undoubtedly represented a significant failure for the Syrians.

The Syrian response has been to accelerate the pace of arms purchases from willing Russia. In May, a senior Syrian delegation headed by air force commander General Akhmad al-Ratyb visited the Russian capital. The delegation secured the purchase of Mig-29 SMT fighter aircraft…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


Genesis of Shi’a Islam

By: Amil Imani

In order to understand the clerical rulers of Iran, we need to learn about the genesis of their religious faith, Shi’a Islam, and the pivotal place of the Mahdi. Examination of the vast Islamic literature shows that the present sect of Shi’a Islam has evolved from a mix of cultural, political, economic and religious influences. I shall outline, in a summary form, how the belief in the Mahdi, the revered Imam whose advent is expected by the Shi’a faithful, crystallized over time. The Mahdi is expected to appear and save the world when it has reached the depth of degradation and despair. Below is a brief chronological account of how Shiism and the belief in the Mahdi as its pivotal figure were formed.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]


Iran: Jailed Kurds Begin Hunger Strike

Tehran, 25 August (AKI) — Kurdish prisoners, all jailed for political motives in Iran, on Monday began an indefinite hunger strike to promote human rights.

The news, released by the Kurdish agency, Mokrian, was confirmed by the sister of Adnan Hassanpour, the award-winning journalist who has been condemned to death.

Hassanpour was awarded a media award in Italy by the Information, Safety & Freedom Association.

The prisoners’ hunger strike is to “sensitise Iranian and international public opinion” to “protest against the death sentences given to Kurdish representatives” and to “denounce continuing human rights violations in prison and outside prison”.

Eight Kurdish intellectuals and activists have been condemned to death in Iran, while another six have been sentenced to penalties of up to 11 years for their alleged political and militant activities.

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


Islam: Yemen; We Condemn Religious Police, Koranic Scholar

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 19 — Condemnation against the self-proclaimed religious police, which has been operating in Yemen for some time, has been expressed by a prominent Yemeni Islamic scholar, missionary news agency AsiaNews reported. “We condemn those who make a display of the halo of the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice,” Yahya Al Najar, member of the national association of Koranic scholars, said. The “religious police” are in reality a body of volunteers walking through the streets and forcing people, by beating them up, to conform to the most rigorous Islamic canons, both as regards their clothing style and their behaviour. Their activity has triggered heated protests by groups defending human rights and has been condemned also by newspapers. Al Najar affirmed that the self-proclaimed police were, in fact, illegitimate. “The promotion of virtue and prevention of vice is carried out in the mosques and not in the streets,” he maintained. He explained that they were religious who were losing followers exactly because of their rigid interpretation of Islam and were now using force to gain back supporters. Moreover, the scholar said he thought the “religious police” was receiving support by Salafist extremists who were trying to impose a system of “virtue and prevention of vice” following the model of the one in force in Saudi Arabia. In fact, some time ago the Saudi commission for the promotion of virtue and repression of vice offered its help to those Arab states which are willing to promote a similar initiative. So far the proposal has echoed in a bill submitted to the Kuwaiti Parliament and in the Yemeni groups of volunteers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


‘Maids Die Trying to Escape Employers’

Lebanon must improve working conditions for migrant domestic workers, who often commit suicide or die while trying to escape from their employers, a US-based rights group says.

Human Rights Watch said there were an estimated 200,000 maids in Lebanon, including those with illegal status, mostly from Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Ethiopia.

Out of about 95 foreign housemaids who died in Lebanon since January 2007, 40 deaths were classified by their embassies as suicides and 24 as workers falling from high buildings, often trying to escape their employers.

“Domestic workers are dying in Lebanon at a rate of more than one per week,” said Nadim Houry, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “All those involved — from the Lebanese authorities to the workers’ embassies, to the employment agencies, to the employers — need to ask themselves what is driving these women to kill themselves or risk their lives trying to escape from high buildings.” […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Report: Senior Hizbullah Man Killed Monday

A senior Hizbullah figure, Haj Jamil Salah, was killed Monday in south Lebanon under unclear circumstances, Qatari newspaper al-Arab reported.

Hizbullah sources confirmed Salah’s death but said he was killed “under normal circumstances during work, and not as result of an assassination.” (Roee Nahmias)

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]


Riyadh, Marriage of Young Girls Condemned

The Saudi Human Rights Commission is calling for a “clear and unambiguous position” from the government on these marriages, which “violate human rights by depriving a girl of her childhood”. The Grand Mufti has also spoken out against those who force their daughters to marry against their will, or give them to elderly men.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) — Put an end to the practice of marrying young girls. This is the firm request from the Saudi Human Rights Commission to the government, calling upon it to adopt a “clear and unambiguous position” on these marriages, which, according to the commission, “violate human rights by depriving a girl of her childhood”.

The request, reported by Arab News, appears to be connected to a growing movement in public opinion, which has been sensitized by a series of events that have recently come to light, related to marriages of young girls. The practice, which is widespread beyond Saudi Arabia and is especially common outside of the big cities, often has economic implications, in the sense that elderly men buy child brides from their fathers. But there are also cases of marriages involving young boys, like the one that took place a few weeks ago between 11-year-old Muhammad Al-Rashidi and his 10-year-old cousin, out of family interests.

In all of the cases, according to commission head Turki Al-Sudairy, in addition to violating international agreements signed by Saudi Arabia, “child marriages should be considered to be the same as forced marriages since valid consent has not been obtained”. Al-Sudairy also emphasizes the serious health problems that threaten a young girl who is not psychologically, physically, and sexually prepared for marriage. “Young girls are not ready for the responsibilities that come with being a wife, a sexual partner and a mother”.

The fact is that, although the woman’s consent is required, some officials who oversee marriages do not ask about it. Moreover, marriages can be divided into two phases: in the first, there is the pledge that is made by the bride to be or by the “guardian” that every woman must have — and it sometimes happens that parents pledge their daughters in marriage at just one year old — and in the second the wife, already legally married, goes to her husband’s house, but in theory only after puberty.

Although in an indirect way, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, can also be numbered among the opponents of this system. The mufti has stated that “Islam affirms that both parties must express agreement to the marriage contract”, and “the guardian may not impose his own choice on the woman” or “force her to marry someone she does not want”. Recently, he has also spoken out against the practice of giving young girls in marriage to elderly men.

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


Syria: Kurdish Writer-Activist ‘to Stand Trial’

Damascus, 26 August (AKI) — Military intelligence services have ordered Syrian Kurdish writer and prominent rights activist Mashaal al-Tammu to stand trial, Syria’s Human Rights Observatory reported.

It quoted human rights campaigners saying they saw al-Tammu entering a Damascus courthouse on Tuesday.

He had not been seen since he vanished on 15 August after leaving the northern Syrian city of Kubani, bound for Damascus.

Although Al-Tammu’s car was found close to the armed forces’ headquarters in the city of Aleppo, Syrian security services denied claims by human rights groups that they were involved in his disappearance.

Human rights lawyers are currently evaluating the situation and trying to determine if al-Tammu has been ordered to stand trial before a civilian or a military court.

Tammu, 50, is the official spokesman for the Kurdish Future opposition movement.

Freedom of expression remains tightly controlled in Syria, and security forces have sweeping powers of arrest and detention.

A total 1,500 people were arrested for political reasons in 2007 and hundreds more who were arrested in previous years remained in detention, according to rights group Amnesty International’s 2008 report.

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


Teen Girl Aborts Iraq Suicide Attack

A teenage Iraqi girl wearing a vest packed with explosives turned herself in rather than go through with a suicide bombing in Iraq. The US military said the girl surrendered to police on Sunday in Baquba, capital of Iraq’s restive northern Diyala province, where Sunni Arab al-Qaeda militants are waging war on US and Iraqi forces.

She was still wearing the vest, which police had to remove before detaining her. Iraqi police and US sources differed on the girl’s age, with estimates ranging from 13 to 17.

“Reports are that she approached the IPs (Iraqi police) saying she had the vest on and didn’t want to go through with it,” US military spokesman Lieutenant Commander David Russell said. “If she was forced to put on the vest or if she did it voluntarily, that is still being reviewed.”

Police footage obtained by Reuters showed a girl with dyed red hair talking with four Iraqi policemen from a distance, her back against a wall. After some minutes, one them approaches her and ties her arms back onto a railing.

[…] Under interrogation in a police station later, she said an older woman had strapped the vest to her and had told her to go near the entrance of a local school and await instructions from someone who would meet her there, police said.

Suicide bomb attacks by women and girls have become increasingly common in Iraq this year. US forces say al-Qaeda militants favour female bombers because they can escape detection by police reluctant to search women. […]

“The surrender of the suicide bomber indicates that the Iraqis are continuing to reject al-Qaeda and its practices,” the US military spokesman for north Iraq, Major Jon Pendell, said.

A male suicide bomber killed 25 people at a banquet in western Baghdad’s Sunni Arab Abu Ghraib district on Sunday

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Yemeni Government Uses Movies as a New Weapon Against Terror

Movies will be a new method to combat terrorism from now on, said the Yemeni deputy prime minister for defence and security affairs, Rashad Al Alimi, in an opening ceremony of the first Yemeni film on terrorism.

The 105-minute film portrays how terrorists recruit the poor, unemployed, and school drop-outs as potential suicide bombers under the name of “defenders of the religion and nation.”

“The film deals with a very important issue which is to uproot the malignant seed of terrorism, and also educates people about its ideas that have nothing to do with Islam and Yemeni traditions,” said Fadhel Al Olofi, director of the film, in the opening.

The Yemeni government says the film comes in the framework of a new strategic plan to combat terrorism. Al Qaida has an active presence in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama Bin Laden. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Russia

Russia is Dangerous But Weak

By BRET STEPHENS

‘In Russia,” wrote the great scholar of Russian imperialism Dietrich Geyer many years ago, “expansion was an expression of economic weakness, not exuberant strength.”

Keep this observation in mind as Vladimir Putin and his minions bask in the glow of Western magazine cover stories about Russia’s “resurgence” following its splendid little war against plucky little Georgia. The Kremlin is certainly confident these days, buoyed by years of rising commodity prices and a bullying foreign policy that mistakes fear for respect — the very combination that made the Soviet Union seem invincible in the 1970s.

But the Soviet Union wasn’t invincible. And here’s a crazy thought: The same laws of social, economic and geopolitical gravity that applied in Brezhnev’s U.S.S.R. apply equally in Mr. Putin’s KGB state.

Take something as basic as demography. “In the next four decades,” noted CIA Director Michael Hayden earlier this year, “we expect . . . the population of Russia to shrink by 32 million people [to about 110 million]. That means Russia will lose about a quarter of its population. To sustain its economy, Russia increasingly will have to look elsewhere for workers. Some of them will be immigrant Russians coming from the former Soviet states, what the Russians call the near abroad. But there aren’t enough of them to make up that population loss. Others will be Chinese and non-Russians from the Caucasus, Central Asia and elsewhere, potentially aggravating Russia’s already uneasy racial and religious tensions.”

Or take oil and gas production, which accounts for one-third of the country’s budget, 64% of its export revenue, 30% of foreign direct investment, and a little more than 20% of gross domestic product.

There’s bad news here, too. Oil production is set to decline this year for the first time in a decade, a decline that is widely expected to accelerate rapidly in 2010. Of Russia’s 14 largest oil fields, seven are more than 50% depleted. Production at its four largest gas fields is also in decline. Russia drilled about four million feet of new wells last year. In 1990, it drilled 17 million.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]

Caucasus

Georgia: the Score

by Srdja Trifkovic

Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia makes it imperative to analyze the situation in the Caucasus dispassionately and comprehensively. The mainstream media (MSM) treatment of the crisis has been predictably monolithic, however, almost as biased (“bad Russia!”) as it was shallow. A more nuanced story does exist, but it is not readily available.. We bring you a few samples of the commentary and analysis that you will not find in your Gannett paper or on your prime-time news channel.

Let us start with Princeton’s Richard Falk. He opens a detailed assessment, published on August 26 in Turkey’s English-language Today’s Zaman, by asking readers to imagine the American response if Russia acted comparably in Cuba or Mexico to the US engagement with Georgia in recent years:

President Bush announced that as many as 11 American naval vessels would escort humanitarian relief to Georgia via the Black Sea. We would be on the verge of world war if Russia dared to enter the American Great Lakes with warships. It is helpful always to reverse the identity of the actors when considering the reasonableness of their behavior… Saakashvili’s overt hostility to the Putin/Medvedev government seems… to have played into Russia’s hands, especially given the inability of the United States to back Georgia up with any support more tangible than strong words and humanitarian relief.

South Ossetia and even Georgia—writes Falk—are but hapless pawns in the larger geopolitical chess game that is beginning to assume alarming proportions reminiscent of the worst days of the Cold War era. We are also witnessing a collision of two contrasting geopolitical logics, he says, the interplay of which pose great dangers for regional and world peace, as well as to the well-being of the peoples of the world:…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Curfew in Eastern Orissa State After Deadly Religious Riots

Bubuneswar, 26 August (AKI) — Officials on Tuesday imposed a curfew in parts of the eastern Indian state of Orissa following deadly riots by suspected Hindu mobs that burned five Christians alive, police said.

Hundreds of police were deployed in three towns in Orissa’s rural Kandhamal district to end two days of violence in which suspected Hindu extremists set fire to an orphanage run by Christian missionaries, burning a woman to death.

Several children were also injured in the attack on the orphanage.

Four other Christians also died inside buildings torched by suspected Hindu extremists in violence that erupted after the killing on Saturday of one of their leaders, Swami Laxamanananda Saraswati.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini condemned the “grave an inexcusable acts of violence” on behalf of the Italian government.

Saraswati’s supporters suspect Christians were responsible, but the police believe he was killed by Maoist rebels.

Saraswat had been heading a local campaign to reconvert Hindus and tribal people from Christianity.

Christians in India and elsewhere have condemned the deadly mob attacks against churches and houses, and the setting alight of thousands of vehicles in different parts of Orissa.

The Vatican in a statement on Tuesday deplored the “tragic” mob violence. “All the abuse must end and be a climate of dialogue and mutal respect be restored,” the statement said.

It is not the first time Hindu extremists have targeted Christians in Orissa. In 1999, an Australian missionary and his two sons were burnt alive by a mob that set their car on fire.

Rights groups and non-governmental organisations estimate that close to 2,000 people died in communal riots between Hindus and Muslims in the the Indian state of Gujarat between February and May 2002.

India is officially secular but most of its one billion-plus citizens are Hindu. Christians make up about 2.5 percent of the population and Muslims, 13.4 percent .

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


Invoking the Name of Allah Enough When Swearing in Islam, Say Indonesian Islamic Scholars

By MOHD NASIR YUSOFF Bernama — Tuesday, August 26JAKARTA, Aug 25 (Bernama) — It is sufficient to invoke the name of Allah when swearing in Islam to prove one is telling the truth when others are doubtful, according to several Islamic scholars in Indonesia.

They were of the opinion doing this was enough to cast aside any doubts people may have on the matter sworn.

“From then on, it is in Allah’s hands,” said Dr Abdul Fatah Wibisono, the vice secretary of Majlis Tarjih PP Muhammadiyah, a religious non-governmental organisation in Indonesia.

He said any person implicated in the swearing should do likewise to clear his or her name but it was not compulsory to do so.

He added that it was up to the people to form their own conclusions when swearing is done according to Islam.

“But in terms of justice and punishment according to Syariah laws, the person making an accusation must provide evidence and witnesses,” he said, adding that he hoped the sodomy issue involving Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim could be resolved soon in order to protect the sanctity of Islam.

Anwar’s former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 23, on Aug 14 swore according Islam at the Federal Territory Mosque in Kuala Lumpur that he was sodomised by the former deputy prime minister.

Anwar has since been charged in court with sodomising Saiful and the hearing is set for next month.

A religous lecturer who did not want to be named but admitted to following developments on the issue, said Muslims in Malaysia should evaluate the swearing done by Saiful in an objective manner.

He said the practice among Malays in the region was something that has to be taken seriously as it had high implications on the morals of the society and also in one’s personal relationship with God.

“We have to ask ourselves whether we will dare to take such a step (swear in the name of God), if we are not speaking the truth,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]


Orissa: Vatican Expresses Solidarity to Victims; Indian Bishop Calls Events Shameful for the State

by Nirmala Carvalho

The Holy See has called on everyone to rebuild an atmosphere of dialogue and reconciliation. Cardinal Gracias, who chairs the conference of Indian bishops, accuses the government of being too slow in acting and the police of being ineffective. He expresses sorrow for the death of Hindu fundamentalist leader Swami Laxamananda. Violence against nuns and missionaries, who give their life for the social development of the population, is “diabolic”. Mother Teresa’s successor Sister Nirmala Joshi says that one cannot be disciple of Christ without paying the price, on the Cross.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — The Vatican has expressed “solidarity to the Churches and religious congregations” of India, victimised by violence. It has called on everyone to rebuild an “atmosphere of dialogue and mutual respect.” The Indian Church and the Sisters of Mother Teresa have welcomed the appeal for reconciliation, but in Orissa the acts of destruction, including the burning of homes, churches and Christian institutions, keep rising.

The Press Office of the Holy See issued a statement today reproving “these actions which are prejudicial to people’s dignity and freedom and compromise peaceful coexistence.”

From Mumbai, the chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of India Card Oswald Gracias said he was following “with sorrow and sadness” the unfolding events in Orissa.

For him the government bears a heavy responsibility. “How could they [the government] not foresee ahead of time such a situation and take the necessary preventive measures to avert this large scale mayhem?” said the prelate.

The prelate noted that last December similar incidents took place in the same area with villages under siege, churches set on fire and people killed.

For the chairman of Indian bishops such episodes are a “shameful for India within the international community; it is a blot on India’s image. The international community might end up seeing us as a nation where the government is slow to act and police is ineffective.”

Cardinal Gracias said he was saddened by the death of Swami Laxamananda, whose murder sparked violence by Hindu fundamentalists who blamed Christians for it.

“The Indian Church immediately condemned the murder of the Guruji. The Church has never been a party to any violence. The vendetta against Christians is pure madness.”

The prelate described the rape of a nun and the death of a lay woman missionary burnt to death as “barbaric and perverse”.

“Our Women religious have given their lives to empower the same people who are now assaulting them,” he said. “Our nuns have given dignity to these people through the social ministry of the Church and today they are brutalised by this senseless mob. This is diabolical.”

Sister Nirmala Joshi, who succeeded Mother Teresa at the helm of the Missionaries of Charity, said that “it was painful to see that the people we serve, for whom we are doing good work, can do such things . . . . We must never the less forgive and go on with the eyes focused on our mission.”

Meanwhile a hospital for the elderly run by the Missionaries of Charity was destroyed (for a second time). Some Sisters of Mother Teresa have been attacked with stones. Sister Nirmala has remained in constant contact with them.

“Pope Benedict XVI said that the Blessed Mother Teresa was a real disciple of Christ. [. . .] But without the Cross there is no Jesus. Can we be disciples of Christ without paying the price like him, on the Cross?”

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


Orissa: Hindus Torch Christian Homes and Churches, Three Die Asphyxiated by Nirmala Carvalho

Radical Hindus pursue their pogrom against Christians and their institutions. Catholic and Protestant institutions come under attack. People who fled into the forest are without food and shelter. Police imposes a curfew.

Bubaneshwar (AsiaNews) — Violence continues in the district of Kandhamal where an actual pogrom against Christians is currently underway. Three people died asphyxiated last night in the Raikia area when their homes were torched by groups of radical Hindus. With last night’s victims the death toll from the violence sparked by the death of Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s leader Swami Laxanananda Saraswati now stands at five.

In two separate incidents a woman and man died yesterday. In the first case a 21-year-old lay missionary, Rajani Majhi, who was initially thought to be a nun, was burnt alive as she tried to save the residents of an orphanage run by the Catholic mission in Bargarh. In the other case a man was similarly burnt alive in Kandhamal.

Meanwhile the number of Catholic and Protestant churches set on fire is rising. Christian homes are being torched as well after being pillaged; villages are coming under siege and schools are attacked. For many people nearby forests are the only place of safety but they lack food and shelter.

This morning a Catholic church and five Christian homes were set on fire in the village of Badimunda.

Father Dibakar Pariccha, from Justice and Peace’s Bubaneshwar chapter, has drawn up a list of violent episodes (reported elsewhere). He described to AsiaNews the urgency of the situation, saying that “throughout the state, especially in the district of Kandhamal, many families are without food, shelter and in some cases even clothing. Last night many people were hiding in the forests out in the open as heavy rain poured out of the sky. Conditions for children and women are indescribable: children cannot go to school and are traumatised by the violence; women are exhausted by the destruction of their homes and families.”

Police forces and the army are trying to restore law and order, but raids and sieges continue today, after radical Hindus called for a strike yesterday that brought traffic in the state of Orissa to a standstill.

An indefinite curfew was imposed on the district of Kandhamal. Anti-riot units have been deployed around sensitive targets like Christian institutions, schools and colleges.

Police suspects that Maoist groups are behind the assassination of Swami Laxanananda, but radical Hindu groups and leaders, especially a woman VHP member named Nivedita Miyar Cuttak, blamed Christians for his death.

Following the murder some Hindu leaders harangued crowds of fanatics, shouting slogans like “Kill Christians and destroy their institutions.”

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


Orissa: Woman Set Afire Was a “Lay Missionary”

The woman who was killed in a fire set by Hindu extremists at an orphanage in a village in the Bargarh district, Orissa state, was a lay missionary and not a nun, as first suggested. Monsignor Joseph Babu, spokesman for the Indian Episcopal Conference (IEC) told MISNA that the woman was the only one in the building when the fire was lit “she was burned while trying to escape from the flames”. Mons. Babu confirmed that there was intense violence last weekend against Christian charitable and religious institutions, as well as individuals, including a nun and two priests who were attacked and injured. The nun was in a pastoral center in the Kandhamal district and some sources have suggested that she may have been raped by her aggressors. However, monsignor Raphael Cheenath, bishop of Cuttack Bhubaneshwar, the diocese where the violence took place has denied the sexual violence rumors. Sources have told MISNA that the violence is tied to accusations against Christians of having been responsible for the death of a Hindu religious leader: Swami Laxamanananda. He was killed on August 23 aloing with five others, including two of his sons, after armed men opened fire in the ashram of Tumudibandha, Kandhamal district, on the eve of a holiday. The People’s liberation revolutionary group, a Maosit group, claimed responsibility for the attack in the media; however, the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party and the Vishaw Hindu Parishad (VHP) movement have rejected the claim, putting the blame on a Christian conspiracy. The BJP and VHP have mobilized protests, which degenerated in attacks, including the one involving the fire at the orphanage run by the nuns of Sambalpur. Archbishop Cheenath has stringly denied any allegation of violence, condemning the murder of Laxamanananda. He asked that the federal and local governments intervene to restore order and prevent further violence. The IEC and the All India Christian Council also condemned the murder of Laxamananda. [AB]

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


Orissa: Young Woman Killed While Trying “to Save the Orphans”

Rajnie Majhie, just over 20 years old, is the name of the girl killed today while trying to save the children in the orphanage of Panampur, Bargarh district, Orissa state. Father Alfonse Towpo, assistant to bishop Lukas Merketta of the diocese of Sambalpur. “The girl was killed because she stayed behind to let out all the children, while father Eduard Saquera was brutally hit by aggressors and was taken to hospital” said father Towpo. Father Towpo described Rajnie as a generous and courageous. Meanwhile, while the children appeared to have “escaped without being hurt, though nobody knows where they may be.” Father Towpo also said that in Madhupur, Bargarh district, other Hindu extremists set faire to the local church, the nuns’ residence and a youth college housing 200 kids. Everyone managed to escape, but relatives are still looking for them. [AB]

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


Orissa: Calm Returning, More Victims Reported Overnight

An indefinite curfew was imposed in the district of Kandhamal and other areas of Orissa State, where since Saturday Hindu fundamentalists attacked Christians and destroyed churches and some Christian structures and homes. “We have information about the death of three persons in Raikia area. The details are being collected”, the local police Commissioner of the Southern Division, Satyabrata Sahu, told the Indian PTI (Press Trust of India). The three died from asphyxiation after their houses were torched overnight. “The situation in Kandhamal district is very tense but under control”, he added. Police was deployed to all Christian structures. If confirmed, these victims bring the toll to five people killed in the violence, sparked by a pre-existent situation of intolerance of the extremists fomented further by the assassination of the Hindu religious leader Laxmanananda Saraswati in an attack against his ashram (or hermitage); the attack was claimed by Maoist rebels, but Hindu radicals attributed it to a ‘Christian plot’. A 22-year-old girl died yesterday when a mob set fire to an orphanage in Padampur, in the Bargarh district, and a man died in a fire in his home in Kandhamal. A statement received by MISNA from the religious active in the region confirms yesterday’s events, including the beating of the priest who runs the Padampur orphanage, and the attack against the director of a pastoral centre and a nun. The statement also indicates that two Jesuit priests in Duburi were taken away by a group of radicals and that yesterday, when the message was sent, their whereabouts were still unknown. It also refers that parishes were torched in villages of the Rourkela district.

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


Serpong Police Confiscates 2.400 Bottles of Liquor

The regional police in Serpong [in the Shariah-ruled Tangerang district, next to Jakarta], western Java, has succeeded in confiscating 2.400 bottles of liquor from a warehouse in the area.

Outside confiscating the bottles as evidence, the police also secured the two owners, only known a G.S. and S.I., of the warehouse.

The head of the regional police, Yuldi Yusman, said that confiscating the goods was an operation to prepare for the holy month of fasting [Ramadan, starting September 1]. He explained that this raid was organized after information from the public in the area of Pasar Serpong. After the raid the police searched for another location where liquor is said to be stored. “When we did the raid, the owner was denying everything, but when we found the goods he admitted,” Yuldi said.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Strike Forged Bin Laden-Taliban Bond

The U.S. cruise missile strike on an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 1998 was meant to kill Osama bin Laden. But he apparently left shortly before the missiles struck, and newly declassified U.S. documents suggest the attack cemented an alliance with his Taliban protectors.

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The State Department documents released Wednesday provide details of the evolving relationship between Taliban leader Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda chief bin Laden over four month in 1998. The period begins Aug. 21, 1998, one day after the missile attack — retaliation for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7 of that year.

Omar said publicly on Aug. 21 he would continue to protect bin Laden. But the next day, he told a State Department employee in private that he would be open to negotiating bin Laden’s presence in Afghanistan, giving U..S. officials faint but ultimately false hope the Taliban might hand him over to Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden had been in Afghanistan since he was expelled from Sudan in May 1996.

Those talks took place sporadically over the next few months in 1998, according to documents obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University through a Freedom of Information Act request.

In the interim, however, bin Laden had traveled south in Afghanistan to Kandahar. There, he would be close to Omar, who wanted to “keep a watch on him,” said a secret cable sent from Islamabad, the capital of neighboring Pakistan, to U.S. diplomatic and military posts on Sept. 9, 1998.

By the end of that October, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad was concerned the tables had turned and Omar was falling under bin Laden’s political and philosophical sway. The U.S. once had believed the Taliban’s ambitions were confined to turning Afghanistan into a Sunni Muslim theocracy. Now, however, there were signs that Omar’s association with bin Laden was driving him toward a greater goal — pan-Islamism, the unification of all Muslims under a single Islamic state.

“I believe that bin Laden has been able to get into the good graces of Omar — who is very poorly educated and unsure of foreign affairs — and to influence him in his way of thinking,” according to a cable from Oct. 22. “The potential ramifications of a Mullah Omar who is drifting toward pan-Islamism are grim. First and foremost, it could mean that the Taliban would under no condition expel bin Laden because they see his cause as theirs.”

The rest of the documents detail months of unsuccessful U.S. attempts to persuade the Taliban to expel bin Laden. “Time for a diplomatic solution may be running out. Taliban brush-off of our indictment and other evidence may indicate movement from tolerance” of bin Laden’s presence “to more active support,” said a Nov. 28 memo for then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Bin Laden remained in Afghanistan until after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he apparently was driven out by the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.. He is believed to be hiding in western Pakistan’s ungoverned border area.

After the bombings of the two American embassies, the U.S. launched 62 Tomahawk cruise missiles at two al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. It was believed bin Laden was at one of them meeting with several of his top men, but left shortly before the missiles struck.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somalian Insurgents Deny Kidnapping Nigel Brennan

Islamist insurgents in Somalia deny claims they are behind the kidnapping of Australian and Canadian journalists.

Australian Federal Police and extra diplomatic staff have been sent to Somalia to investigate the kidnapping of Nigel Brennan, reportedly by members of an armed militia.

It’s understood Brisbane-based Mr Brennan, 35, and Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Landhout, 26, were kidnapped at gunpoint about 25km from the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday.

They, and two Somalis accompanying them, were being held northeast of the capital, Mogadishu, by a militia group, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSJ) said on its website.

But a spokesman for Somalia’s Islamist insurgents said it appeared to be the work of a fringe group.

“We don’t know who kidnapped them. There is a (rebel) group which kidnaps for ransom, separate from rivals who have political objectives,” Islamist spokesman Sheik Abdirahim Isse Adow told Reuters. […]

Mr Bennett last heard from his friend about two weeks ago, when he said he was looking forward to catching up with his mates for “a beer and a fish”.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

6 comments:

Anonymous Infidel said...

Davis Warns of a New Civil War With Southern States

This is a very real possibility, how soon, I'm not sure, but if the influence of Hispanic supremacist groups like La Raza (The Race) is a great as they claim, possibly within five or ten years


Michelle Obama Sings Praises of Swedish Women

I knew it.
I've argued for some time that the vision the Obamas have for America's future is Sweden's present.

NJArtist said...

“Oh, Sweden. Swedish women you said? You are hot and beautiful and you are in my prayers....”

Is M'Obama longing to be on the Swedish womens' volleyball team?

Allah be damned. Oh, wrong kind of swearing.

Aside:
In a book I read in college about Carl Jung, it was stated that his entire theory of psychology originated from a childhood psychic trauma: at a tender age, he was walking down the street hand in hand with his mother(?) near a cathedral when he was struck by the image of God defecating on the cathedral. Being a child and probably having a set of strict parents, he could not let the image pass through his mind and be gone; instead he fought it in fear and thus clung to it.

Now, if Austria had fallen to the Muslims, what would Mohammed Jung have done?

Saharians said...

I suppose it's typical for a neocon WSJ writer to wax triumphant about Russia's demographic challenges. But the population decline there is by no means a done deal. The Russians are actually doing something about it. Which is more than we can say about the Americans, who are transforming their empire into a corrupt, poverty-ridden, chaotic, third world country at an alarming rate, while authentic Americans are rapidly declining in numbers and are being replaced by non-white populations from the third world. In coming years, I'm backing Russia.

David Gerard said...

I have a few notions how they came up with that "Al Qaeda(tm)" idea ... http://notnews.today.com/?p=42

teacher.paris said...

http://www.aftenposten.no/english/local/article2299327.ece

Four times more crime in Oslo than New York
The crime rate in Oslo has been growing at an alarming rate and recent statistics show the Norwegian capital had 20 percent more robberies last year than in 2006.

Conservative Swede said...

“Oh, Sweden. Swedish women you said? You are hot and beautiful and you are in my prayers....”

NJArtist,

Check out Sweden's Bikini Team dropping it all and showing the modoggie flag. Surely hot and beautiful, and I have already fallen to the ground in prayers:

Worth-waiting-for-link to Swenglish Rantings