Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/17/2008

USA
American Muslims Want Seat at Political Table
Muslim Parents, Willmar Schools Reach Agreement on Prayer Time
 
Europe and the EU
Catholic Poles Take Initiative to Save Jewish Cemeteries
CIA Snatch Trial Goes Ahead
German Lawmakers, Turkish Group Slam Anti-Islam Rally
Islamic Academic Row in Germany Heats Up
Schools Warned to Check Playground for Bullets
Survey: Europeans Becoming More Anti-Jewish, Anti-Muslim
UK Muslims Suffer From ‘Victim Mentality’: MP
 
Balkans
Bosnia: Foreign Direct Investments Drop
Defence: Italy-Serbia in Missions Abroad Together Soon
Labour: Croatia Raises Number of Foreign Workers Permits
Serbia: Dismay at EU’s Refusal to Implement Trade Accord
 
North Africa
Egypt: USD 281 Mln in Grants, Loans From China
Egypt: 120 Mln Euro From EU to Support Education Reform
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Hamas’ Gluttony
Hamas Minister of Culture Al-Subh: Condi Rice is a Black Scorpion
Lebanon: Violent Clashes in Palestinian Refugee Camp
Mideast: Gaza; Hamas Against Dughmush Clan, Many Victims
 
Middle East
Ramadan Helps Mental Wellbeing Says Dubai-Based German Psychiatrist
Syria: European Union Allocates 110 Million Euro
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Taliban ‘Receiving Arms From Iran’
India: More Churches Attacked in Third Day of Violence
India: Over 20,000 Christian Refugees in Orissa, Says Cleric
Indonesia, Sharia Behind Anti-Pornography Law
Pakistan: Islamic Militants Unite Against Islamabad
 
Latin America
US Puts Bolivia on Drugs Blacklist
 
General
Galloway: Mean People Have Declared Open Season on Muslims
OIC to Move UNGA Against Caricatures

Thanks to Abu Elvis, C. Cantoni, Diana West, Fausta, Holger Danske, Insubria, Steen, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Details are below the fold.
- - - - - - - - -
USA

American Muslims Want Seat at Political Table

DENVER (FinalCall.com) — American Muslims from around the country met with Joshua Dubois, director of religious affairs for the Barack Obama presidential campaign, during the Democratic National Convention, to address concerns that the Muslim community was being marginalized by the campaign.

“It’s not a smear to be called a Muslim. We have Muslim staffers all over the country,” said Mr. DuBois at a luncheon sponsored by the American Muslim Democratic Caucus.

“You will have a seat at the table,” he said, “The issues today are too critical for us not to work together.”

Those remarks were a precursor to an Aug. 26 meeting with caucus representatives.

“The meeting went very well. It was a successful event. We asked questions about the perception that the Obama campaign was marginalizing the Muslim voice in this campaign. We were assured that that was not the case. We were satisfied with his answers,” said Dr. Inayat Lalani, chief organizer of the American Muslim Democratic Caucus, which debuted at the convention with a press conference and luncheon.

Muslims have received a double dose of taint during the campaign since Sen. Obama has been accused of being a Muslim. He is a Christian.

Many in attendance at events felt Sen. Obama’s stance on Islam and Muslims had been muddied by the media and the group planned a meeting with Patrick Gaspard, the political director for the Obama campaign.

“If Barack said there’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim this needs to get out to the Muslim community. It alienates them to not have this information. The organizers here said that Barack Obama went to a mosque. Who knows this? We have to send this message to the Muslim community,” said Abdul Akbar Muhammad, who writes the syndicated Africa and the World column and hosts a radio program.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]


Muslim Parents, Willmar Schools Reach Agreement on Prayer Time

St. Paul, Minn. — A few Somali parents in Willmar complained that the public schools weren’t allowing their Muslim children to step out of class for daily prayer. Some didn’t send their children to school last week in protest.

Today, school officials said they won’t change their policy, which allows students to pray during lunch time and between classes. For now, families have reluctantly agreed to send their children to school, but the issue may resurface later in the school year.

This is the first school year Somali parents have had an issue with Willmar public schools over when their children can pray. A few children informed their parents that they weren’t allowed to step out of class to pray for five minutes.

Today, Willmar public school officials met with a Somali parent to listen to parents’ concerns over prayer time. School officials say they’re sticking to their original policy.

Mark Miley is the principal at Willmar Junior High School. He says at a meeting six years ago, Somali families agreed that their children could pray during lunch time and between periods.

“And it was everyone at the table, ‘Thank you, this will work well for us.’ Not just one year, not just two years, not just three years, not just four years, not just five years. We’re going on six years here,” said Miley.

Miley says everyone at that meeting, including parents, agreed that stepping out during class to pray would be disruptive. He says he doesn’t understand why it’s an issue this year.

“When they say to me, you don’t allow our children to pray, that’s not true. They’re provided a spot during non-instructional time,” said Miley.

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Catholic Poles Take Initiative to Save Jewish Cemeteries

About 30 Roman Catholic Poles have taken it upon themselves to preserve what they see as a unique and important aspect of their nation’s history — the crooked and crumbling markers in Poland’s neglected Jewish cemeteries.

Kamila Klauzinska, 35, has helped lead the grassroots efforts of a group of Poles who believe that preserving the nation’s roughly 1,400 Jewish cemeteries is important to remembering and preserving a shared past.

“It’s our common heritage, so how can we not try to save it?” Klauzinska said at a meeting this week of some 30 people involved in similar community efforts across the eastern European nation…

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]


CIA Snatch Trial Goes Ahead

But intelligence officers to be heard behind closed doors

(ANSA) — Milan, September 17 — A landmark Italian trial into the 2003 CIA abduction of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Omar Nasr from Milan went ahead Thursday after the judge rejected a suspension request from Italy’s former top military spy.

The request was presented by the defence team of Niccolo’ Pollari, the former head of Italian military intelligence SISMI, which is now known as AISE.

Pollari argued the trial should be halted pending the result of a suit filed by Silvio Berlusconi’s government against the judge.

The judge, Oscar Magi, ruled that there was no compelling reason for the trial to be halted.

However, he ordered that 20 prosecution witnesses, mainly SISMI agents, should be heard behind closed doors. Earlier, arguing against the suspension request, Milan prosecutor Armando Spataro highlighted the importance of the trial, the keenly awaited first judicial examination of the controversial US practice of ‘extraordinary rendition’. ‘‘We have a trial that the Council of Europe and the European Parliament want us to carry out,’’ Spataro said.

The Council of Europe, Europe’s human rights body, has called Nasr’s case a ‘‘perfect example of rendition’’.

Nine Italians including Pollari are on trial with 26 CIA agents for Nasr’s abduction.

Nasr, the former head of Milan’s main mosque, disappeared from the northern city on February 17, 2003.

Prosecutors say he was snatched by a team of CIA operatives with SISMI’s help and whisked off to a NATO base in Ramstein, Germany, on board a Gulfstream jet belonging to the Boston Red Sox baseball team.

From there, he was allegedly taken to Egypt to be interrogated under duress.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]


Exiles: Review Rome 1983 Treaty, Istrians to Frattini

(ANSAmed) — TRIESTE, SEPTEMBER 8 — “The review of the 1983 Treaty of Rome with Slovenia and Croatia is the only act of dignity acceptable for the exiles,” the president of the Union of Istrians Massimiliano Lacota says in a telegram sent today to Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. In the text Lacota explains that the Treaty “has been violated for over twenty years by Yugoslavia, Slovenia and Croatia” and “is refutable in the sense of international law”. Lacota also recalls to the minister, who meets today in Rome a Slovenian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, “the sixty years of Italian yielding to Yugoslavian, or Slovenian and Croatian, claims and the confiscations of exiles’ property forgotten by the Italian governments, which allowed Ljubljana to continue a certain form of nationalist expansionism”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


German Lawmakers, Turkish Group Slam Anti-Islam Rally

German politicians and a Turkish group appealed for tolerance on Wednesday and condemned an anti-Islamic congress, planned by a nationalist group in the western city of Cologne.

The Pro-Cologne group fiercely opposes a decision by the city of Cologne to allow the construction of a new mosque which will include a dome and minarets.

“It is high time that people in Germany raise their voices to support dialogue and peaceful coexistence and take a stand against injustice, racism and extremism,” Rafet Ozturk, of the DITIB Turkish-Islamic Union in a statement.

Leftist groups are planning counter-protests on Saturday and the Christian-Muslim Peace Initiative said it would put up 500 placards around Cologne with the slogan “dialogue and tolerance instead of aggression and fear!”.

“The events in Cologne linked to the planned mosque — of which right-wing populists’ activities are unfortunately a part — will be watched across Germany and Europe,” said Ruprecht Polenz, head of parliament’s foreign policy committee and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

The congress has also sparked anger in Islamic countries.

Earlier this month, Iran called on the French presidency of the European Union to stop the congress and summoned the French charge d’affaires in Tehran to the Foreign Ministry’s human rights department, according to the IRNA agency.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, Austrian far-right Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache and members of Belgium’s Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) party are due at the congress on Saturday, says Pro-Cologne’s website. Media have reported between 1,000 and 1,500 people are expected to join the Pro-Cologne march on Saturday.

About 3.2 million Muslims live in Germany, more than half of whom are of Turkish origin.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Islamic Academic Row in Germany Heats Up

After German Muslim organizations lost confidence in the only professor or Islam in Germany, officials decide to set up a second.

Dusseldorf — After a revolt by German Muslims, a university is to appoint a new professor to oversee the training of schoolteachers in Islamic religious studies, officials said Tuesday.

Muslim organizations said last week they had lost confidence in Professor Muhammad Kalisch, the theologian who oversaw a teacher-training program at the University of Muenster in northern Germany.

Kalisch upset the Muslim community by writing that there was no historical evidence that the Prophet Mohammed existed.

The state of North-Rhine Westphalia said it would accelerate plans to set up a new chair of Islamic education at the university.

Kalisch would keep his professorship but the newcomer would head the training courses.

Germany is preparing to introduce Islam classes for Muslim children in public schools.

The state higher education ministry in Dusseldorf said the appointments process for the new chair would be completed soon, adding that the new chair had been authorized in 2007 but had not yet been filled.

There would be close consultation with the mosque federations over the appointment, a spokesman said.

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


Schools Warned to Check Playground for Bullets

Council officials warn schools to be extra careful following shootings in Nørrebro district

The City Council is advising schools and child care facilities in the Nørrebro district to be especially vigilant in light of the recent spate of shootings involving rival gangs.

‘We are sending a letter out advising them (school teachers) to be careful to check play areas during this period,’ said Søren Thorborg, the council representative for Nørrebro. ‘There’s a risk that there are things lying there from the heat of the struggle, such as drugs and ammunition.’

The council has also met with school representatives and warned them to avoid areas where trouble and fighting between bikers and immigrants is taking place. The teachers were also advised to talk to the children about what to do if they suddenly faced a dangerous situation.

A poll of local schools by 24-timer newspaper found that many are deeply worried by the shootings on their doorstep.

Dr. Louises Asyl Kindergarten is no longer taking young children on outings to Nørrebro Park. Principal Lone Sass Mønsted has been clear in her warnings to staff members.

‘I told the staff that they can cross Nørrebrogade high street, but they shouldn’t take a stroll along it — we just don’t know where the biker hangouts are located.’

Someone has decided to make their protest against the gun violence clearer by hanging posters along the main Nørrebro thoroughfares. The posters contain images and text promoting a ‘gun-free zone’ and ‘stop shooting — children at play.’

Rådmandsgade’s School is also in the affected area. Principal Lise Egholm has written a letter to all the parents asking them to keep their children at home at night. She told Berlingske Tidende newspaper that the effect of the shootings is clearly evident in the children.

‘Two boys were just playing cops and robbers like all little boys do, but this was a little different. When I asked them what they were playing one said, “I’m an Arab and he’s a biker so I’m shooting him”.’’

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Survey: Europeans Becoming More Anti-Jewish, Anti-Muslim

WASHINGTON — Growing numbers of Europeans are holding negative views of both Jews and Muslims, a survey of countries around the world found.

The latest survey of the Pew Global Attitudes Project also found that most Muslims in countries where they are in the majority worry about the rise of Islamic extremism at home and abroad. Majorities held that view in Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria. Advertisement

Large numbers of respondents in several Muslim countries also identified struggles within their countries between people who want to modernize the society and those dedicated to maintaining fundamentalist practices of Islam.

Britain was the survey’s only European country to report no significant increase in anti-Jewish attitudes. Just under one in 10 British respondents held those views. Similar numbers of Americans reported negative views of Jews during those same years.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


UK Muslims Suffer From ‘Victim Mentality’: MP

Says they should forget about Iraq, improve themselves

British Muslims need to overcome their “victim mentality” and focus more on improving their lives than protesting about issues like Iraq, a Muslim lawmaker and junior government member said Wednesday.

Sadiq Khan, one of four Muslim members of parliament, said Muslims need to do more to integrate into British society, for example by learning English, denouncing sexism, and condemning forced marriages.

“We need to take responsibility for our own lives,” he said in a booklet for the Fabian Society, a leading left-of-centre think-tank, adding: “Muslims need to recognize childcare is as important as Kashmir.”

“We need to take more responsibility for our own families, ignore those who propagate conspiracy theories, and above all we need to leave behind our victim mentality,” he said…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Bosnia: Foreign Direct Investments Drop

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 16 — Foreign direct investments in Bosnia from January until today registered a net drop, it was announced by Haris Basic, director of the state-level Foreign Investment Promotion Agency, FIPA, adding that Bosnia attracted 430 million euro in foreign direct investments in the first eight months of the year, according to website Informest. This means that there was a 73.1% slump. Last year’s results were influenced mostly by the sale of the telephone company of the Serbian entity, Telekom Srpske, while in 2008 there were no big privatisation accords. The projections of the agency show a better result for next year, especially if the Federation makes the reforms and privatisation process faster. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Defence: Italy-Serbia in Missions Abroad Together Soon

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 16 — Italian and Serbian soldiers could soon get together in a few peace missions abroad, it emerged from the meetings which Secretary of State for Defence of the Republic of Serbia, Dusan Spasojevic, had yesterday and today with Italian Undersecretary for Defence, Giuseppe Cossiga, and with the Italian top military officials. “Serbia has a long tradition in this field and I hope that our soldiers could soon take part in peacekeeping missions side by side with the Italians,” Spasojevic said, underlying that this was one of the discussed topics during the talks. Cossiga also expressed the same wish, reminding that cooperation in the military sector between Italy and Serbia has been already operating in the field of training activity, five Serbian student officials are currently attending the Military Academy in Modena and another three officials training institutes. Spasojevic, who during his official visit in Italy was also at Interforce Operative Command (COI), met Chief of Defence Staff of Italy, Vincenzo Camporini, and the top managers of the main Italian companies of the defence sector. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU-Serbia: Serb Defence Secretary, Dutch Veto Disappointing

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 16 — Serbia is doing its part in the cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague but certainly those who live in hiding, such as General Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serbian army chief, “approved” yesterday’s stop to the trade agreement with the EU, determined by The Netherlands’ veto, said Serbia’s Secretary of State for Defence, Dusan Spasojevic, on an official visit in Italy, expressing “disappointment” with the lacked signing of the deal. Spasojevic, speaking to journalists at the end of a meeting with Italian Defence Undersecretary Giuseppe Cossiga, showed “deep disappointment with the fact that a single country stopped the development in the process of integration of Serbia in the EU”. “We made much effort for that,” he said. According to the Deputy Defence Minister, “it is completely wrong to keep Serbia out of the EU and suffocate the aspirations of the majority of the Serbian people: it is wrong from moral, political and strategic point of view”. “Our government, although not easily, has managed to arrest and extradited Radovan Karadzic to The Hague and this demonstrates our strong willingness and our strong commitment to keeping our moral and legal obligations, both national and international,” Spasojevic said. “We do not know where the general is hiding,” he said in reference to Mladic, accused of genocide by the ICTY. “However, it is certain that those who live in hiding have approved the decision” to block the agreement with the EU. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Labour: Croatia Raises Number of Foreign Workers Permits

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, SEPTEMBER 15 — Due to the workforce deficit in sectors such as construction and agriculture, Croatia has decided to raise the quota of permits of stay for foreign workers, Hina news agency reports, quoting representatives of the Zagreb government. The number of the permits, previously set at 8,400 for 2008, grows to a total of 10,242 workers under a new decree. Most of the workers can be employed as workforce in construction and agriculture while some fifty permits are planned in the tourism sector. Despite an unemployment around 12% of the labour force, or some 250,000 people, the Croatian employers have been asking for years for granting permits to foreign workers due to the lack of workforce on the national market. The majority of the foreign workers in Croatia come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Dismay at EU’s Refusal to Implement Trade Accord

Belgrade, 16 Sept. (AKI) — Serbian politicians reacted with disappointment on Tuesday to a decision by the European Union not to implement a special trade agreement with Serbia.

The Netherlands and Belgium on Monday blocked the accord, which was backed by most EU ministers at a summit in Brussels on Monday and ratified last week by the Serbian Parliament (photo).

The accord would abolish customs duties and liberalise trade with Serbia.

Belgrade had high hopes that the EU would vote in favour of the agreement after Serbia in July handed over to the United Nations’ Yugoslav war crimes tribunal a top suspect, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

But The Netherlands and Belgium remained adamant that two war crimes suspects who remain at large, should also be arrested before the agreement can take effect.

Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic and a Croatian Serb political leader, Goran Hadzic, have been on the run for years.

Serbia’s former Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica accused the new government, headed by pro-western president Boris Tadic, of subservience towards the EU.

Kostunica also criticised it for pressing for EU membership — despite the fact that most EU countries recognised the independence of Kosovo, declared by majority ethnic Albanian politicians in February.

Belgrade officially opposes Kosovo’s independence and is continuing to wage a diplomatic battle to keep it within Serbian borders.

Another opposition leader, Velimir Ilic of the New Serbia party, said it was now clear that cooperation with the UN tribunal was just an excuse for blocking Serbia’s advances towards the EU.

The real reason was that EU wanted Belgrade to recognise Kosovo before admitting Serbia, Ilic claimed.

“It is now more than clear that the EU doesn’t want to have a partnership relation with Serbia,” Ilic added.

Deputy prime minister Bozidar Djelic returned from Brussels disappointed and empty-handed, but said he hoped for better luck on the issue at another EU summit in December.

Foreign minister Vuk Jeremic played down Monday’s failure: “It was no big defeat, but a postponement of an inevitable step that will follow and that is full membership of Serbia in the European Union,” he stated.

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

North Africa

Egypt: USD 281 Mln in Grants, Loans From China

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, SEPTEMBER 8 — Grants and loans extended by China to Egypt have amounted to USD 281 million, said Minister of International Cooperation Faiza Abul-Naga. Negotiations are underway between Cairo and Beijing to get a loan of USD 200 million to establish an international exhibition city in Egypt, Abul-Naga added. The minister was addressing a joint news conference with visiting Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Fu Ziying following the signing of cooperation agreements between the two countries. Abul-Naga hailed China as a major economic power in the world. As for trade exchange between the two countries, Abdul-Naga voiced hope China would give Egyptian products more access to its markets. Egypt’s exports to the Asian country stand at USD 200 million dollars whereas Chinàs exports to Egypt top USD 1.3 billion. However, the Egyptian exports jumped by 140% in the past seven months, said the Chinese vice minister of commerce. Fùs visit to Egypt is part of a tour of some other African countries. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: 120 Mln Euro From EU to Support Education Reform

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, SEPTEMBER 16 — The European Union will grant the Egyptian government 120 million euro to support the educational reform programme. So stated the head of the European Commission in Egypt, Klaus Ebermann, reports governmental Al Ahram. According to Ebermann, the euro bloc is interested in pushing ahead Egypt’s development process putting at one million euro the total sum of the Union’s grants to Egypt in this respect. He signed out to support the Union’s ‘Children in danger’ programme, which was implemented nationwide to fight child abuse and female genital circumcision. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hamas’ Gluttony

By Tariq Alhomayed

A few days ago, a striking statement was made by Palestinian sources in Damascus through Asharq Al-Awsat, suggesting that the Hamas Islamic movement is financially thriving.

At a time when the people of Gaza were left without a loaf of bread, Hamas was paying approximately 18,000 militants who are associated with the movement- what amounts to 16 million dollars a month.

This statement comes at a time when United Nations Special Humanitarian Envoy, Mr. Abdulaziz Arrukban, highlighted to the Kuwaiti “Alqabas” newspaper the tragic Palestinian humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and how 60 percent of the population survives on 1.5 dollars per day, while 80 percent solely depend on aid for survival.

This is a puzzling matter; who should we believe? The UN special envoy speaking of a tragic situation in Gaza, or rival Palestinian sects accusing the brotherhood movement of financial gluttony?

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]


Hamas Minister of Culture Al-Subh: Condi Rice is a Black Scorpion

[Memri Video]

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]


Lebanon: Violent Clashes in Palestinian Refugee Camp

(ANSAmed) — AIN HELOUE (LEBANON), SEPTEMBER 16 — The violent clashes that erupted yesterday in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al Hilwe, near Sidon, 40 km south of Beirut, following the killing of Issam al Biqay, member of fundamentalist Islamic group Jund ash-Sham (Soldiers of the Levant), claimed another life of a Fatah leader. Fatah leader Mohammed el Saadi was shot dead by unidentified men a few hours after the end of the battles, a Palestinian official, who preferred to remain anonymous, said. This latest death increases the toll in the Palestinian camp to three victims after another member of Jund ash-Sham, Ahmed al Hassan, was killed in the clashes a few days ago. The clashes between supporters of Fatah, the movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and members of the Soldiers of the Levant also resulted in four injured, including a civilian. Meanwhile, yesterday evening three people were injured, including one seriously, by shots fired in a village in Bekaa (east Lebanon) where Sunnis and Shiites live together, a representative of the security services said. One of the three wounded was hit in the head and after being transported to hospital, he is now in critical conditions. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Mideast: Gaza; Hamas Held Secret Vote for New Council

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV/GAZA, SEPTEMBER 16 — Last month in Gaza Hamas secretly elected a new Shura, that is, the shadow council which behind the scenes elaborates the lines of its military and its political wing. The news, revealed two already weeks ago by the Israeli media, now has received the first confirmations: for example, yesterday, by Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with a news agency. However, there are various interpretations of the importance of the event. Apparently the ballot took place in mid August. Thousands of Hamas activists took part in the vote, held generally inside mosques. The vote proved the confidence in prominent personalities such as the pragmatic Ismail Haniyeh (head of the government in Gaza) and pro-Iranian radicals Mahmud Zahar, Said Siam and Nizar Rayan. However, it seems that the Shura has changed with the entrance of new faces. Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth claimed that the most famous commanders of the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades (the armed branch of Hamas) are now part of the council: “Now they will set the tone,” the newspaper wrote. According to Jerusalem Post, the relatively pragmatic representatives of Hamas, Ahmed Yusef and Ghazi Hamad, have been marginalised and have lost their places in the Shura. So far analysts in Gaza have abstained from detailed comments on the new Shura, limiting themselves to saying that it demonstrates substantial ¿continuity¿ compared with the past. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Mideast: Gaza; Hamas Against Dughmush Clan, Many Victims

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, SEPTEMBER 16 — The body count in the armed clashes in Gaza between Hamas security forces and the family clan of Dughmush is growing. Medical sources from Gaza told ANSA that at least 11 people have been killed and there are also many injured. However, so far the figures have not been confirmed officially. The medical sources said that the number of victims is particularly high because mortars and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) were used in the clashes, which occurred in a densely populated area. Combats ceased in the late morning. The incidents were provoked yesterday by the murder of a Hamas security forces official by three members of the Dughmush family who, after being surrounded by the police, decided to open fire instead of surrendering. Apparently, the three have been killed. However, the victims include several civilians uninvolved in the case. Searches for more victims are still underway in the area of the clashes. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Jordan: Italian NGO Rehabilitate Houses in Refugee Camp

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, SEPTEMBER 10 — An Italian NGO has completed a renovations project to houses in a number of refugee camps across the kingdom at a total cost of 500,000 euro, an official from the European Union said today. The project involved run down houses in Al Sukhneh, Madaba and Al Nasser refugee camps, home to Palestinian refugees who arrived in Jordan after the 1948 war with Israel. Italian nongovernmental organisation Istituto per la Cooperazione Universitaria (ICU) carried out the project, said ECHO Regional Information Officer Daniela Cavini. The project involved rehabilitating kitchens, toilets and full units to improve the living standards of some 1,300 residents, bringing the total number of units restructured since 2000 to 572 with overall funding amounting to 1.8 million euro. Around 6 million euro have been designated for different services of the European Commission to improve the living conditions of camp residents through projects implemented by ICU. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced out of their homes in the Arab-Israeli war at the hands of armed groups, and ended up being neutralized in the kingdom after they were given Jordanian passports. Living conditions in the squalid camps remain difficult, with families of an average of 7 children live in 96 sqm blocks as unemployment and poverty are common. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Ramadan Helps Mental Wellbeing Says Dubai-Based German Psychiatrist

According to a Dubai-based German psychiatrist some of the positive psychological effects of Ramadan have caused patient numbers at his neurology and psychiatry centre to drop during the holy month.

Dr Arne Brosig of German Center for Neurology and Psychiatry (GNP) in Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) explained that the fall in patient numbers is clearly a result of Ramadan.

He said: “The mental health effects gained by those practising Ramadan is a wonderful extra benefit for all those taking part in the prayers, rituals and cultural experiences involved.

“This is my first experience of Ramadan, having only opened doors in Dubai this year, but I have observed a distinct upturn in the psychological wellbeing of patients as they spend more time with their own thoughts and their family members. It’s also well documented in medical science that time spent praying or meditating can often help improve overall mental conditions.

“Fortunately we at GNP are still staying in business during Ramadan, with neurological cases such as migraine or painful neuropathy, but the number of psychiatric patients has dropped significantly, which is indeed a good sign for the wellbeing of Dubai’s citizens during the holy month.”

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]


Syria: European Union Allocates 110 Million Euro

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, SEPTEMBER 16 — The European Union will provide financial assistance to Syria with a donation package of 110 million euro for the 2008-2010 period. The intervention is relative to the signing of an agreement — the National Indicative Programme (NIP) — which will focus on four areas: support to the reforms of the administration and political reforms (30 million euro); support to economic reforms (30 million euro); support to social reforms (40 million euro); support to environment and sustainable energy (10 million euro). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Taliban ‘Receiving Arms From Iran’

Zahedan, 17 Sept. (AKI) — Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have been arming Taliban groups in western Afghanistan for the past year, an independent journalist has told Adnkronos International (AKI).

“The Iranian Revolutionary Guards have regularly been supplying arms to Taliban groups operating in the province of Herat,” the journalist, A.B., told AKI from Zahedan, the capital of Beluchistan province in southeastern Iran.

“The Revolutionary Guards actually sell the weapons to the Taliban, who apparently pay for them in drugs, not cash,” A.B. added.

“Besides sub-machine guns that can also fire grenades, the Afghan rebels are also interested in anti-tank mines manufactured in Iran,” he said.

Iranian officials deny these claims, which have previously been made by the Afghan government and by ISAF, the NATO-led security and development mission in Afghanistan.

But a Taliban commander confirmed in a recent interview with BBC that Afghan rebel forces have received Iranian arms .

“We are especially interested in Iranian Egdeha mines, which can destroy military tanks,” the commander told BBC.

An unnamed British military source confirmed that “a limited quantity” of Iranian arms have been sold to the Taliban. There was no evidence that the Iranian government has approved such sales, he said.

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


India: More Churches Attacked in Third Day of Violence

Mangalore, 16 Sept. (AKI/Asian Age) — Violence and attacks on churches and Christian prayer halls continued for the third day in southern and eastern India on Tuesday.

Media reports claim that hundreds of armed attackers stormed a police station in the Gochapada village on Tuesday and set it on fire, killing one policeman.

Gochapada village is located in the strife-torn state of Orissa, which has been plagued by religious tensions between Hindus and Christian missionaries. Hindu groups claim that Christians are bribing people to convert, a claim Christian missionaries deny.

On Monday, two prayer halls were attacked, one at Kalladka and another at Mangalore’s Jail Road, located in southern India.

Deputy commissioner Maheshwar Rao said as a precautionary measure schools and colleges in Mangalore will remain closed on Tuesday.

Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa said he would pay for the damage caused by the attackers.

“I will pay for all the damage to churches and take care of the hospital bills of the injured,” he said, warning of strict action against miscreants “without discriminating on the basis of caste, religion or the party he belongs to.”

The recent violence in Orissa began in mid-August following the killing of Hindu religious leader Swami Laxamanananda Saraswati in the Kandhamal district of Orissa.

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

Some Hindu groups blamed local Christians and violence spread to include attacks on Christian orphanages, churches, shops and homes.

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.

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]


India: Over 20,000 Christian Refugees in Orissa, Says Cleric

New Delhi, 17 Sept. (AKI) — At least 20,000 Indian Christians were living in refugee camps with inadequate aid after their homes were destroyed in sectarian violence in the state of Orissa, the Catholic Church said on Wednesday.

Father Babu Karakombil, from the Catholic Bishops Conference of India told Adnkronos International (AKI) that people were still living in fear of being attacked or coerced to renounce their faith.

“Even now people are being threatened, “ Karakombil told AKI. “In some places houses have been burned down.”

Karakombil said 50,000 people were now homeless and 5,000 homes had been destroyed. He said more than 100 churches, convents and other institutions had also been burnt down.

“People are very, very scared. In the relief camps there are not enough provisions or supplies. There are 23,000 people in ten camps.”

On Monday a mob attacked a police station in Kandhamal district in the eastern state of Orissa, killing a policeman and taking several others hostage.

The attack was reported to have been in retaliation for police opening fire on Saturday on Hindu protesters. At least four people died and a dozen were injured.

“People are living in fear of their lives,” he said. “They are being told to renounce their Christian faith and accept Hinduism. They are being coerced to leave the church.”

Orissa has been at the centre of anti-Christian violence for several weeks.

While media reports estimate 20 people have been killed, the Catholic Church says 38 have died in attacks against Christians, since a Hindu religious leader was shot dead in August.

This week the CBCI appealed to India’s National Human Rights Commission to conduct an inquiry into recent acts of violence because police were unable to guarantee safety and security.

Karakombil said the worst affected district was Kandhamal and thousands of people were still hiding in the jungles of the state.

The widespread unrest provoked condemnation from Pope Benedict XVI and the Italian government.

Karakombil has appealed to India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, last week to appeal for more action to end the violence as well as additional aid for the victims.

A night curfew is still in place in several troubled districts.

Karakombil claimed that the state government of Orissa had failed to take stringent action because it was supported by the right-wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.

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


Indonesia, Sharia Behind Anti-Pornography Law

Ethnic minorities and religious groups denounce the attempt to introduce Islamic law. The proposed law, which is not clear and is subject to various interpretations, leaves broad scope for the fundamentalists to repress “popular customs and traditions” that constitute the true “riches of the nation”.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — There is no let-up in the chorus of protests from Indonesian religious minorities and ethnic groups, against the possible approval of the “law against pornography”, better known as the Undang-undang Pornografi. They claim that the new norm, under consideration in parliament, which has been asked to decide whether to approve it by September 23, brings “national unity” into serious danger, and wipes out “cultural and religious differences” by eliminating “pluralism” and fostering “social discord”. But what is most worrying to the minorities and ethnic groups is the danger that the law on pornography is concealing an attempt by the more fundamentalist branch of Islam to introduce sharia, Islamic law.

The areas in which non-Muslim ethnicities and groups are most concentrated are the eastern islands of the country, including the island of Bali, which has a Hindu majority; the Sulawesi, which have a Protestant and Catholic majority; the Moluccas, which are also equally divided between Protestants and Catholics; Papua, which has a Catholic majority, as does East Nusa Tenggaral; Borneo, divided between Catholics and Protestants, and other districts of North Sumatra and West Nusa Tenggara.

The fear is that the proposed law could spread a climate of “anarchy”, because it does not define precisely what can be maintained as “contrary to morality”, and above all what are the “criteria” to be adopted in order to establish whether “a behavior or an artistic/cultural expression” should be censored. Chapter 21 of the draft law also leaves “free rein” for preventing possible immoral acts: “This is an especially dangerous point”, emphasizes Eva Kusuma Sudari of the Indonesian Democratic Struggle Party (PDIP), a nationalist group that has always opposed the law. “This allows people to be manipulated in order to promote anarchy and social conflicts in the country”, while fundamentalist Islamic groups would have free rein to destroy nightclubs or other gathering spots under the pretext of “preserving the purity of the holy month of Ramadan”.

The most serious criticisms are directed at the Indonesian Islamic Defender Front (FPI), responsible in the past for violent acts and, thanks to the new law, ostensibly authorized to exercise the role of “moral police” and punish any dissent or behavior contrary to radical Islamic ethics.

In order to protect pluralism and prevent the adoption of sharia, the nationalist party (PDIP), together with the Christian Peace and Prosperity Party and the Democrat Party, has begun a series of demonstrations calling for the rejection of the proposed law. This, the minorities claim, under the pretext of establishing what can be defined as “pornographic material”, is in reality aimed at promoting the “rigid observance of Islamic law”.

Sharia would be applied not only to DVDs, films, and performances that are “obscene” or contrary to “morality”, but would end up censoring expressions and traditions that are rooted in some parts of Indonesia: on the island of Papua, for example, it is common to wear only a loincloth, and for the women to leave their breasts uncovered. The Asmat, a tribal group, is characterized by its nude statues, an element typical of their culture. Finally, on the island of Bali, famous for its tourism, it would no longer be possible to sunbathe in a bikini, or to drink alcohol at the nightclubs.

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


Indonesia: Ex-GAM Rebel Leader Invited to Aceh for End-Ramadan Celebrations

Aceh, 17 Sept. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — The local government in Indonesia’s Muslim-devout province of Aceh announced it is inviting former GAM separatist rebel leader Hasan Tiro to celebrate the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“From our meeting with Deputy Governor Muhammad Nazar, we have agreed to invite Hasan Tiro to Aceh,” said a legislative council member, Mukhlis Mukhtar.

Mukhtar said it would mean a lot for the people of Aceh to celebrate together with with local hero Hasan the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr — which marks the end of Ramadan.

Hasan has lived in Stockholm, Sweden, for 25 years, from where he led the separatist GAM (Free Aceh) movement in exile.

GAM and the Indonesian government signed in August 2005 a landmark peace accord in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, which ended a 29-year conflict in which an estimated 15,000 people died.

Hasan has not yet returned to Indonesia.

Ramadan began in Indonesia on 1 September and ends on 30 September.

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


Pakistan: Islamic Militants Unite Against Islamabad

Karachi, 17 Sept. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Pakistan’s ongoing support for America’s fight against terrorism has dissolved ideological differences among Islamic militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan and they have united in a dangerous new militia war.

Under President Pervez Musharraf, a former general, the country’s military leadership had incongruous dealings with different players and lines between friends and foes were often blurred.

Those who supported a strict enforcement of Islamic law, like Afghan Taliban leaders Mullah Fazlullah and Baitullah Mehsud were called flagrant ideologues, while indigenous zealots like Haji Nazeer or Jalaluddin Haqqani were seen as good sons of the soil.

But the victory of secular democratic forces in Pakistan in February this year and the success of General David Patraeus’ strategy against Al-Qaeda in Iraq marked the end of Musharraf’s covert regional strategic agendas.

Now there are fresh battles ahead as NATO and Pakistani security forces have a single regional strategic agenda, while all Taliban groups and Al-Qaeda stand united under one policy of regional war.

In a recent controversial US drone attack, several missiles were fired at an Islamic madrassa (seminary) and the house of powerful Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani in Dandi Darpa Khail in the North Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border.

Jalaluddin, spiritual leader of the Haqqani network and a legendary figure in the Afghan mujahadeen, and his son, Sirajuddin, operational head of the most powerful component of the present Afghan resistance, were not there.

Most of those killed were women and children from the families of the Haqqanis and the attack provoked a fierce reaction in Pakistan.

In the last week in August, fighters loyal to commander Haji Nazeer attacked Pakistani security forces in South Waziristan. Haji Nazeer operates the biggest Taliban network in the neighboring Afghan province of Paktika.

This is the same good old friend of the Pakistani establishment who conducted the massacre of Uzbeks in January 2007 at the instigation of Pakistani security forces.

Haji Nazeer along with Hafiz Gulbadur, another Wazir from North Waziristan, recently tried to join forces with slain tribal chief Haji Namdar in Khyber Agency, to challenge the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Taliban’s network.

Early September saw three strikes, two on South Waziristan and one on North Waziristan, Haji Nazeer’s area of command.

“The recent drone attacks in South Waziristan specifically aimed at Haji Nazeer’s areas changed the mindset of Haji Nazeer,” a Pakstani Al-Qaeda militant told Adnkronos International (AKI) on condition of anonymity.

“The shura (consultation) discussed the issue and concluded that those attacks were not possible without Pakistan’s help and therefore it was decided to warn the security forces to leave South Waziristan or face the music.”

According to senior American officials, US President George W. Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government.

There have been at least five attacks inside Pakistan either by US drones or by US special forces in September and this clearly indicates that the US has already opened up a war theatre in Pakistan.

The assassination of Haji Namdar, a loyalist of Mullah Omar and the Pakistani security forces, has also increased the Taliban’s activities under the Ustad Yasir in the Khyber Agency.

There are now fears that the militia war could lead the country into deeper chaos like that seen during the Lebanese Civil War, several African countries and in neighbouring Afghanistan.

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


Political Motives Also Behind Hindu Fundamentalist Violence

The attacks against Christians are nurtured by the doctrines of Hindutva, extremist Hindu nationalism with historical ties to Nazism. These are especially widespread in the states governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is seeking to consolidate its Hindu electorate. The opinions of Cardinal Vithayathil and of the director of the prestigious newspaper “Satyadeepam”.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — Hatred toward Christians in the India of tolerance has religious and cultural roots, but these are above all nationalist and political. In recent weeks in Orissa (northeast India), a pogrom has broken out against Christians, with killing of the faithful and destruction of churches, homes, and social centers. The immediate reason is the accusation that Christians assassinated a radical Hindu leader, Swami Laxmanananda. Even though the police still suspect that the swami’s assassins are a group of Maoist guerrillas, the campaign of destruction against Christians and their institutions seems to be a violent response to the “violence” of the followers of Jesus.

In reality, the attacks against Christians in Orissa go back for decades. The assassinated swami himself had made the elimination of Christians one of his primary goals. The reason: to stop the conversion of tribals and pariahs from Hinduism to Christianity, because — according to him and his organization — these are obtained through deceit, force, or payment.

Radical Hindu organizations continue to claim that there are millions of conversions each year, raising the specter of an “entirely Christian” (or Muslim) India.

Speaking with AsiaNews, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil clears the field of these accusations: “Certain sections in the fringe elements make false allegations that the Church converts illiterate people either through allurements of forcible conversions, but these are baseless and absolutely false allegations. In fact, Indian government statistics have shown that the Christian population of India appears to be declining slightly. From 2.61 percent of the population in 1981, it fell to 2.53 percent and 2.3 percent in the census for 1991 and 2001. According to the latest census, conducted in 2001, 80.5 percent of India’s inhabitants are Hindu, while 13.4 percent are Muslim”.

Condemning the violence against Christians in recent days, the cardinal, who is also the head of the Indian bishops’ conference, emphasizes the presence of “powers of darkness [that] are instigating these misguided people to persecute the Church and to try to eliminate Christianity from our beloved motherland India”.

These “powers of darkness” are above all the organizations inspired by Hindutva, the nationalist extremism that sees India as exclusively Hindu and wants to eliminate Christians and all other minorities. Hindutva looks at Christians and conversions as a threat to the caste system, and therefore to society.

Fr Paul Thelakat, director of the influential newspaper Satyadeepam (the light of truth), explains to AsiaNews: “Among the upper caste Hindus especially in the cow-belt (‘Hindu-belt’ or ‘cow-belt’ of northern India), there is a feeling that Christians some way are not Indians at all. Above all they have indoctrinated many Hindu people that the constitutional right ‘to profess, practice and propagate’ one’s own faith no more exists”. The Indian constitution defends the freedom of religion and of conversion. By blocking conversions, the higher castes aim to maintain the status quo of the social and economic submission of the tribals (adivasis) and pariahs. “Every conversion”, continues Fr Paul, “has to be forbidden. It looks like the adivasis and tribals are among the cattle fold of the high class people, and have no say in matters of their religion. They cannot choose their religion, it is as if they were no longer free citizens of India, who need permission from the upper castes to convert. I, as a Christian, apparently am not allowed to spend any money or manpower to help the poor marginalized people who were the underdogs of the caste system”.

Fr pul accuses the Hindutva organizations of being “terrorist”: “I find there is no difference between the terrorists like the SIMI [editor’s note: Student Islamic Movement of India, which claimed responsibility for the attack in New Delhi on September 13] who bomb the country and the violent organization of the Hindutva who engage in violent activities and the leaders, justifying them as ‘natural reactions’. It is no secret that these people have their historical connection to the Nazis who came democratically to power with hate campaigns against the minorities in Germany”.

There are also political factors behind the hatred and violence against minorities, especially the Christians. It is no accident that the attacks against Christians have taken place mainly in Orissa, and then in Madya Pradesh, Chhattisghar, and Karnataka: all of these have been governed by the BJP [editor’s note: Bharatiya Janata Party, close to the Hindu fundamentalists] either directly or in alliance with another conservative party.

“Sadly, Christians are treated as second class citizens in many of the BJP-ruled states”, Cardinal Vithayathil explains, “and this persecution unleashed against the minority Christian community affirms this”.

““It may be true”, says Fr Paul Thelakat, “that the anti-Christian violence in BJP-ruled states is motivated by the effort to consolidate Hindu votes in the elections in March of 2009”.

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

Latin America

US Puts Bolivia on Drugs Blacklist

WASHINGTON — President Bush has determined that Bolivia is no longer cooperating in the war on drugs, placing it on a counter-narcotics blacklist along with Venezuela, as U.S. ties with the leftist Latin American governments plummet.

The two nations — Bolivia for the first time and Venezuela for the fourth year in a row — were found to have “failed demonstrably” to meet commitments to combat the production and trafficking of illicit drugs, mainly cocaine. Myanmar, a major producer of methaphetamine, also made a repeat appearance on the list.

The designations can result in significant cuts in U.S. aid but Bush spared both Bolivia and Venezuela from such penalties, citing a national interest waiver. Myanmar, also known as Burma, was not given a waiver but is already under numerous U.S. sanctions that bar all but humanitarian assistance.

Bush’s findings came in the annual release of the State Department’s roster of countries deemed to be major producers of or transit sites for illicit drugs. The same 20 nations that were on the list in 2007 made this year’s list. The only change was the addition of Bolivia to the list of those not cooperating in the drug war.

The Bolivia and Venezuela determinations were made as Washington’s relations with populist leaders in La Paz and Caracas fall to new lows. Both countries last week expelled the U.S. ambassadors, prompting tit-for-tat reciprocal expulsions of their envoys to the United States.

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]

General

Galloway: Mean People Have Declared Open Season on Muslims

“Galloway tries to defend radical islam and fails miserably”

In a segment of “The Real Deal,” watch Mr. Galloway claim that Muslims are being unfairly picked on when undercover cameras go into mosques to film the imams spewing hatred for the UK.

Watch Mr. Galloway lose the argument.

Discretion is the better part of valor; here Mr. Galloway proves he has neither virtue.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]


OIC to Move UNGA Against Caricatures

A resolution against the publication of blasphemous caricatures of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) in various countries will be presented in the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), an Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) representative said on Tuesday.

“The resolution will demand legislation against the publication of blasphemous caricatures of revered personalities and derogatory remarks against religions. It will also demand [sacrilegious] actions be declared a crime,” OIC Secretary General’s Special Representative on Kashmir Ezzat Kamel Mufti told a news conference.

Mufti said a particular group in America and the European Union had been launching attacks against Islam. “However, we should not get emotional and resort to any kind of violence, including suicide bombings,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]

1 comments:

NJArtist said...

"Sen. Obama has been accused of being a Muslim. He is a Christian."

He is not a Christian. There are too many fools running, including so-called Christians, around who do not have clue.

With all these dolts, I could start a fake church, call it Christian, and no one would recognize it to be fake. I could declare that any god that was merciful to Americans was no God; only that God that was merciful to Germans and none other was God; and these idiots would call me Christian.