Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/18/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/18/2009Sweden has decided to skip the Durban 2 conference. Sweden! Can any other Western country sign on to the circus in Geneva if Sweden finds it too much to swallow?

So far the USA is refusing to attend the opening of it. Let’s see if the UNHRC comes up with a fig leaf that will give the Obama administration enough cover to send a delegation.

Thanks to heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, KGS, SC, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Bank of Spain Asks for Increase in Retirement Age
France: Arcelormittal Cuts Internship Pay
 
Canada
Apologies Don’t Quell Anarchy
 
Europe and the EU
EU-Albania: Commission Wary of Setting Adhesion-Request Date
Islamophobe Conference in Florida
Profligacy of the New State Capitalism
Sweden to Boycott UN Racism Conference
UK: Muslim Group Tony Blair Promised to Ban Calls for ‘Jihad’ at London Rally
 
Balkans
Albania: Mandatory Label in Albanian for Home Appliances
Serbia: Negotiating Investment Loans With Russia, China
 
Mediterranean Union
TV: Euromed News Ready, EU Finances Med Network Consortium
 
North Africa
Egypt: Hezbollah Arrests, Iran Sees ‘Hidden Hands’
Egypt: TV Program ‘Hear Us’ to Run in Switzerland Competition
Human Rights: Renewed Egyptian Criticism of US Report
Muslim Music Channel Islamizes Pop Culture
 
Middle East
Arab Oral Culture and Lack of Knowledge
Islamic World Discusses Religious Tolerance Under Sharia
Israel Stands Ready to Bomb Iran’s Nuclear Sites
Jordan: Ministers, MPs Stand in Respect of Iraqi Shoe Thrower
Lebanon: Hezbollah, Not Split Into Military and Political Arms
Media: UAE Council Rejects Human Rights Watch Criticism
Middle East: First 3D Arab Cartoon on Israeli Barrier
 
South Asia
Indian Leaders’ Unlikely Slanging Match
New Afghan Law Does Not Allow Marital Rape… But Lets Men Refuse to Feed Wives Who Deny Them Sex, Says Cleric
Pakistan: Sharif Accuses Govt of Trying to ‘Buy His Silence’
 
Far East
Jackie Chan Says ‘Chinese Need to be Controlled’
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
COSATU Condemns US Stance on the Durban II Conference
Dutch Commandos Free 20 Hostages From Pirates
Somali Parliament Approves Islamic Law
 
Immigration
Australia: Cash to Halt Asylum Seekers
Danish Muslim Youth’s Unity: a Task at Hand
 
Culture Wars
Abortion: Spain, Theologians and Base Catholics Slam Church
 
General
Human Rights: Islam; OIC to Create Relevant Commission
UK: Policeman Deletes Tourist’s Bus Photos ‘To Stop Terrorism’
Video: the Hidden Economics of Pirates

Financial Crisis

Bank of Spain Asks for Increase in Retirement Age

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 16 — The Bank of Spain has shed light on the necessity to reform “beforehand” the pension system in order to face the “rapid deterioration” of the social security system’s surplus, which in 2009 will slide below par. It was the governor of the Bank of Spain, Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordoñez, to address the reforms during a speech at the Congress of Deputies. Ordoñez listed the examples of many other nearby European countries that have ‘placed restrictions on early retirement” and that are opening the way for increasing the minimum retirement age from 65 to 67 “through adequate incentives”. The governor also emphasised the necessity of a significant enlargement in the number of tax paying years used at the basis of the calculations, which would thereby reduce pensions. ‘We have a sustainability problem in the public pension system, denying this fact would be absurd”, he stated. The pension system, according to Ordoñez, will enter into a phase of increasing deficit from the year 2025. In the debate opened by the bank governor’s declarations, the Minister of Infrastructure and vice-Secretary of the PSOE, José Blanco, opened to the possibility of reworking the minimum retirement age, assuring that “a 65 year old person is perfectly capable of working”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: Arcelormittal Cuts Internship Pay

(ANSAmed) — MARSEILLE, APRIL 14 — The economic crisis is making its presence felt in France, and particularly in the Bouches-du-Rhone, an area of Marseille where 200 people have taken to the streets to protest against the loss of jobs and the erosion of purchasing power. In recent months several companies in the area have pulled down their shutters once and for all, leaving hundreds of people without work. Many small businesses are in difficulty, but so are many big groups like the metallurgy giant ArcelorMittal, which today announced pay cuts (1,000 euros to 600 euros) for 33 interns with engineering training working at the group’s Fos-sur-Mer site. The cutbacks will allow the company to save 120,000 euros, according to Jacques Laplanche, a union leader, who denounced the decision as ‘disgraceful”. Again at Fos-sur-Mer, the Dutch polyethylene group LyondellBasell has decided to close one of its three sites, where 78 people are currently employed. A union representative has called the decision ‘inexplicable” since the site in question is actually profitable, although the company’s management say that it is ‘not [profitable] enough, and ‘less than the others”, in any case. In January the chemicals group was forced to close its United States branch following a serious fall in demand and increased raw materials prices. The Fos-sur-Mer site is the first of the company’s branches to close in Europe. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Canada

Apologies Don’t Quell Anarchy

By Salim Mansur

There is gathering uneasiness across our world, a sense of things gone wrong and that we dare not give voice to our concerns or, more likely, fears.

A very young, brave and beautiful trooper, Karine Blais, dies in distant Afghanistan and Canadians search for the reason why such a price should be paid for a mission that is increasingly clouded by uncertainty.

Another young woman, a Pakistani in the district of Swat not far from the Afghan border, is publicly flogged by Taliban militia for allegedly being seen in the company of a man who is not her relative.

Her flogging is captured on camera and viewed around the world as further evidence of how utterly depraved is the society where women are routinely given such treatment.

If this is not enough, we get more of the same when some Afghan women take courage to publicly demand repeal of recently passed laws that make marital rape permissible, and are confronted by Afghan men in the streets of Kabul pelting stones at them.

There is piracy in the high seas along the Somalia coast and warnings from regional experts that Pakistan is a failed state with nuclear weapons, sliding perilously close to internal conflict along ethnic divisions and fragmentation.

In the Middle East the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can no longer mask the fault line of the much bigger regional confrontation in the making. This is the rivalry — with real fear of nuclear proliferation — escalating in the Persian Gulf area as the Shiite alliance of Iran and Syria with their surrogates — the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas — seeks dominance over the Sunni partnership of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

In Africa the death toll keeps rising in places such as Congo and Darfur, and the misery index of places such as Zimbabwe and now increasingly South Africa, tell us about a continent incapable on its own to make things any better for a despairing population.

And then there is the West with its present crop of leaders offering apology for wrongs long past, as if such public display of guilt will hold back the anarchy being let loose upon our world.

When we need a Churchill, a Reagan, a Lady Thatcher in our midst, we are surrounded by Neville Chamberlains rushing to appease warmongers such as Iran’s Ahmadinejad. When we need clear thinking and clear prose to dismantle our false sense of safety, we find instead the weakening of our critical faculties essential for discriminating between our friends and our foes.

           — Hat tip: SC[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

EU-Albania: Commission Wary of Setting Adhesion-Request Date

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 16 — Caution is being shown by the European Commission in confirming a possible date on which the application for EU membership may be submitted by Albania. It might, however, be set at the end of this month (talk is of April 28). “It will be up to the holder of the revolving presidency to reach agreement on setting the application dates for each country that wishes to submit a membership application, including Albania” was the poker-faced reply delivered by Krisztina Nagy, spokesperson for Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn, to journalists in Brussels today. “As far as the Commission is concerned, regular meetings are being held with the leaders of potential applicant countries such as Albania”. And for any country interested in joining the EU, such as Albania, “the position of Commissioner Rehn has always been that the application of constitutional reforms and the establishment of democratic institutions are essential requirements before taking any application for membership into consideration”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Islamophobe Conference in Florida

The Florida Security Council’s self-titled “Free Speech Summit” later this month is bound to be an extravaganza, one in which known Islamophobes will use the guise of free speech to lambaste Islam as a “totalitarian ideology.” The summit will feature the infamous Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders and his propaganda film “Fitna,” released last year to overwhelming international condemnation.

Wilders will receive the Florida Security Council’s “International Freedom of Speech Award,” and will be one of more than a dozen speakers, including Frank Gaffney and Americans Against Hate’s Joe Kaufman, expected to spew hate speech in a tainted exercise of the First Amendment.

The Dutch parliamentarian is currently facing trial in his native Netherlands for inciting hatred and discrimination, namely equating Islam with Nazism and the Qur’an with Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and has been denied entry into the UK.

Last week in California, while on his U.S. tour of hatred, Wilders stated that “Muhammad was a warlord, a conqueror, a pedophile and a mass murderer.” In the same speech, Wilders also praised Tom Tancredo, the bigoted former U.S. Congressman who stated his desire to “bomb Mecca.”“Tom Tancredo is one of those heroes,” Wilders said. “Last year he introduced his counter-Sharia ‘Jihad Prevention Act’ which would bar the entry of people who advocate Sharia law.

This is exactly what the West needs: brave leaders who have the courage to do something against the growing Islamization.” Adding to the growing list of Islamophobes in public office is Florida state representative Adam Hasner, a speaker at the Free Speech Summit, who has in the past not shied away from publicly endorsing films such as Obsession. Recently, Representative Hasner became worried when some Muslims constituents planned to speak with their elected officials in Tallahassee.

In February 2009, reports state that Rep. Hasner wrote an email to Jewish Tallahassee lobbyists to ask whether they “intend to be part of an information campaign in opposition to” a Florida Muslim Capitol Day organized by the Muslim group United Voices for America. “I intend to host a Jewish Caucus meeting soon to discuss this,” he added, “and would hope that you all will reach a conclusion as to whether your organization intends to provide information or participate…” The Florida Security Council’s summit is deplorable for reasons too numerous to count.

For example, Frank Gaffney, one of the event’s other sponsors, is linked to an anti-Islam group that has advocated prison terms in the U.S.

for “adherence to Islam.” It is interesting how those advocating for freedom of speech have forgotten about the freedom of religion.

As much as the speakers who are scheduled to participate may claim that their allegations and warnings of the “Islamization” of America and Europe are a result of a relatively small portion of Muslims around the world, the Islamophobes’ words and urgency inevitably blur the line that separates the extremists from the mainstream.

Wilders and company’s overgeneralization of extremists — reinforced by cherry-picked, and rightly horrendous, images and videos of violence — to the total Muslim population consequently tug at the emotional vulnerabilities of the public.

It is important to note that extremists such as Wilders propagate hatred, and freedom is subsequently abused when it is utilized to spread religious and racial bigotry.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Profligacy of the New State Capitalism

Damage wreaked on Italy’s economy by public intervention, from small municipal enterprises to major companies.

In the highly civilised city of Lucca — and not, mark you, in some feudal-minded corner of southern Italy — the municipality does not restrict itself to providing the usual local authority services. It has entrepreneurial ambitions. Lucca manages 15 or so enterprises through a municipal holding company and has even ventured into the funeral business, having acquired the Giovanni Lombardi parlour. Why a mayor should make such an investment — and in privatisation-obsessed 2005, not some remote state-centric past — is a mystery. Yet equally inexplicable is public opinion’s substantial acceptance of the fact that a company 51% owned by the municipal gas utility lost a cool 200,000 euros in its first two years of activity, in a sector that by definition is crisis-proof. That money came from taxpayers who evidently have no objection. The Lucca story is only one of the hundred told by Sergio Rizzo in his new book about the ills of public intervention in the economy. After the success of La Casta [The Caste] and La Deriva [Adrift], which he co-authored with Gian Antonio Stella, in Rapaci [Raptors], also published by Rizzoli, Rizzo sets out to be a thermometer for a fever-racked and listless public system.

ENAV savings

The list of episodes old and new is awesome. It goes from the incredible Alitalia saga to the spoils system-plagued RAI, which costs twice as much as its British equivalent, the BBC (does anyone remember we voted to privatise RAI in a referendum 15 years ago?), and Acqualatinta, a water supply company chaired by a serving senator. There is also the story of Massimo Varazzani, the public manager hounded out of ENAV, the air traffic control authority, because he wanted save the country 350 million euros. This was sacrilege to parties accustomed to the “political use” of public funds. It was also good news for taxpaying Italians who, however, kept very quiet at the time. Even in the rare cases where politics attempts to adjust its more spectacular anomalies, subterranean mechanisms kick in to steer the situation, year by year, back to square one…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Sweden to Boycott UN Racism Conference

Sweden will not send any ministerial officials to the UN conference on racism in Geneva on Monday, said Swedish Integration Minister Nyamko Subini.

“This has been a difficult and problematic negotiation that has certainly become more constructive and positive in the last week, but we have decided that Sweden will not be participating at the ministerial level,” she said.

In the days leading up to the conference, there have been intense discussions between, grossly oversimplified, “east and west” regarding differences over issues such as freedom of expression vs. religious freedom, the Holocaust and colonialism.

In the last week, the negotiations have led to the drafting of a document that has been seen by the conference as a success, according to Sabuni. But nevertheless, Sweden refuses to participate in a meeting where individuals such as the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has taken controversial stances on many of the issues, will be present. This is due to worry that it will be a repeat of the last conference on racism — which was chaotic — eight years ago.

Civil servants might still participate, depending on how the discussions unfold.

When asked by TT if she thought it might send a conflicting message to those powers who will come face-to-face with the EU during these negotations, Subini answered in the affirmative.

“Yes, and if you read the document right now, it wouldn’t be a problem. But the document is open and as a country, we must send clear signals about what is acceptable. In this case, we are not going to legitimise the non-democratic powers in place at the ministerial level in Durban,” she said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


UK: Muslim Group Tony Blair Promised to Ban Calls for ‘Jihad’ at London Rally

A leader of a radical Muslim group which Tony Blair promised to ban four years ago has called on followers to support “jihad” against Israel at a rally in London.

Dr Imran Waheed, told followers of Hizb ut-Tahrir that there could be “no peace” with Israel and urged them to “fight in the way of Allah”.

A leaflet distributed by the international wing of the organisation also called for Muslim countries to “eliminate the state of the Jews”.

The remarks increased pressure on Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Patrick Mercer, the Tory chairman of the Commons Counter-Terrorism Subcommittee, said Dr Waheed’s comments appeared to represent “incitement to violence” and accused the Government of performing a U-turn on an earlier commitment to ban it.

Speaking in Downing Street in August 2005, just a month after the London bombings, Mr Blair announced a wider crackdown on extremism, adding: “We will proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir and the successor organisation of Al Mujahiroun.”

The group, advocates the setting up of an Islamic “caliphate” or nation and describes itself as “unashamedly anti-Israel”.

But it insists that it is exclusively non-violent and denies accusations of anti-Semitism.

Critics say that the group, which has thrived on university campuses, is a gateway to more extremist groups, something which it also vehemently denies.

Addressing a rally at Marble Arch in January following the Israeli military action in Gaza, Dr Waheed — the group’s media adviser in Britain who was banned from entering Indonesia in 2007 — said that there was “no need for conferences, no need for treaties, no need for negotiations”.

In the speech, highlighted by the think tank the Centre for Social Cohesion, he added: “There will be no peace and no negotiations with the illegitimate entity of Israel.”

He went on: “There is only one solution to the occupation of Muslim lands, one solution to the cries of the widows and the orphans, one solution to avenge the death of the elderly and the children … fight in the way of Allah those who fight you. Al-Jihad.”

A leaflet available on the group’s international website, dated Jan 19 2009, criticises the governments of Muslim countries which have attended peace summits as “shameful”.

“Instead, it was their duty to eliminate the state of Jews that has usurped Palestine,” it added.

A spokesman for the Home Office said that the group’s status was being reassessed in light of the latest remarks but said that the decision to proscribe an organisation must be “proportionate”.

But Mr Mercer, said: “These comments strike me as inciting violence which is illegal.

“The Home Secretary must make up her mind as to whether the organisation is to be proscribed or not and if she is not going to proscribe it she has got to explain why the last Prime Minister said that it would be.”

He added: “There is no doubt that Hizb ut-Tahrir is a clever organisation but so far they have always just managed to keep within the limits of legality.

“I believe that the Government ought to be absolutely certain that they haven’t crossed the line this time.”

The group said in a statement: “Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non-violent political organisation that never works outside of its political and intellectual methodology anywhere in the world.

“This is well known and to portray anything to the contrary would be clearly seen to be a lie.”

It added that Dr Waheed had been calling for the armies of Muslim countries to withdraw support from their own governments and support an Islamic caliphate rather than advocating violent revolution in the Middle East.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Hizb ut-Tahrir, along with other organisations which cause us concern, is kept under continuous review.

“As and when new material comes to light it is considered and the organisation reassessed as part of that process.”

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, of the CSC, said: “Although we must recognise the vast differences between HT and al-Qaeda, we should be careful not to dismiss the threat posed by this group, especially as a gateway organisation to more violent jihadist movements.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Albania: Mandatory Label in Albanian for Home Appliances

(ANSAmed) — TIRANA, APRIL 15 — Consumers must be supplied with truthful and detailed information on power consumed by home appliances, setting the conditions for the commercialisation of quality products. The Albanian parliament has approved a bill to make home appliance retailers label their products with indications in the national language. The Italian Trade Commission (ICE) in Tirana reports that any breach of this duty will result in the application of a fine that will exceed the product’s value by twenty times. The law will not apply to used appliances. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Negotiating Investment Loans With Russia, China

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 14 — The Serbian government is negotiating investment loans with the Russian and Chinese governments, Economy Minister Mladjan Dinkic said, reports radiio B92. He told reporters at a meeting of bank officials and export companies that there are ongoing negotiations with the Chinese regarding a loan for building the bridge between the Belgrade suburbs of Zemun and Borca, adding that the project would be worth some EUR 200 milliion. Dinkic said that if the negotiations are successful, the construction of the bridge could begin next year. There are negotiations to borrow money from Russia in order to build the Belgrade, and also to support the Serbian budget, the minister said, but he did mention any figure. Dinkic said that the delegation of the Serbian government will head to Moscow in order to discuss this loan, but again, could not give an actual date for this trip. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

TV: Euromed News Ready, EU Finances Med Network Consortium

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 15 — Television is actually building a bridge between Mediterranean neighbours and becoming a sort of node for intercultural dialogue. Such is the idea behind Euromed News, a project backed by the EU and headed by France Televisions that is being launched today in Brussels. It will garner six public television networks (Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, Syria and Morocco) together with European networks already working together in the European Broadcasting Union (Ebu), plus those with Copeam (the Mediterranean area network) and the Arab States Broadcasting Union (Asbu). Euromed News aims to produce, exchange and distribute joint productions based on issues linked to the partnership between the EU and Countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean ranging from the development of renewable power sources to the role played by women in rural areas. It will cover a total of 17 hours of daily broadcasts over the next 14 months, including news reports and documentaries. The EU will finance the project with 2.1 million euros. Commissioner responsible for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero Waldner explained that “the clients that will most benefit from this project are the citizens of EU partner countries that live on the southern shores of the Mediterranean”. She emphasised the key role played by television, while Patrick De Carolis, president of France Televisions, stated that “40% of the population of the Med area comprises young people, especially women, and that is who we are addressing”. Asbu general director Salah Eddine Maaoui believes that the project represents the chance to set up a ‘dialogue between civilizations”. He will be the executive producer for programmes aired by Arab networks, ‘finally providing an image of modern Arab society”. Maaoui stated that the choice of topics and how they will be dealt with will be decided by the consortium’s board of directors, ‘according to the rules of the profession”. Euromed News could become the key to unlock press freedom in the Mediterranean area. According to Ferrero Waldner, the project “represents a political instrument to promote freedom of the press”. De Carolis added that ‘Jordan has proposed a series of documentaries on social and economic reforms, Syria suggested programmes on the development of SMEs, while Morocco wants to support female and youth employment”. Ferrero Waldner concluded that “Euromed News will enable us to reach many young people that don’t read, and the use of images will allow us to form a more open and tolerant society”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Hezbollah Arrests, Iran Sees ‘Hidden Hands’

(ANSAmed) — TEHERAN, APRIL 15 — Iran’s Foreign minister, Manuchehr Mottaki, today stated that ‘hidden hands” belonging to Israel and to powers ‘outside the region” are responsible for dozens of arrests carried out in recent weeks by Egyptian security forces against alleged members of Shiite Hezbollah Lebanese militia who have been accused of planning terrorist attacks in Egypt. Quoted by Isna agency, Mottaki said that “hidden hands from outside the region and the policies of the Zionist regime are attempting to create problems for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Lebanon. But the Zionist regime will not meet its targets and this political conspiracy will not bear fruit”. Today Iran’s parliament approved a motion to condemn initiatives undertaken by Egyptian security forces and to support the head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, a close ally of Tehran defined as a ‘courageous Arab leader” and a ‘sun which radiates light across the whole Islamic world”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: TV Program ‘Hear Us’ to Run in Switzerland Competition

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 16 — TV program “Hear Us” has been nominated to represent Egypt at Switzerland’s international contest for animation and TV programs. Hear Us has already won a trophy from the Culture Ministry as one of the best programs on Egyptian TV. A 16-episode second sequel of the program has already been shot with the participation of more than 100 children and young people in the 12-20 age category representing 12 areas in five Egyptian governorates, namely Cairo, Alexandria, Qalyubia, El-Beheira and Sixth of October. The new expisodes address very important issues, including for instance child abuse, street children, verbal sexual harassment, violence at schools, education without fear, AIDS/HIV, hepatitis-C and bird flu. The first sequel of the program, launched in Jaunuary 2008 and shown on the national TV all through the year, was a raving success. Among the issues it touched in its more than 48 episodes were those of healthy food, child education rights, drop-outs at schools, marriage break-ups, early marriage for girls and female genital mutilation (FGM).(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Human Rights: Renewed Egyptian Criticism of US Report

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 16 — The report issued by the US State Department on the condition of human rights in Egypt continues to attract criticism from Cairo. The Cairo government already rejected the findings a few days after its publication in February as “interference in the internal affairs” of the country. It is a theme that has been revived over recent days by Egyptian MP, Moufid Shehab, according to a report in today’s Al Ahram newspaper. “The US report is misleading and contains untrue statements”, Shehab told a meeting of the parliamentary human rights committee. Shaheb went on to call the US report “interference” in Egyptian internal affairs, denying reports that Egypt is carrying out investigations into certain terrorist suspects on behalf of the United States. The annual human rights report of the US State Department asserts that the human rights situation worsened in Egypt in 2008, along with ten other countries: Mauritania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, China, Sri Lanka, Armenia, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Muslim Music Channel Islamizes Pop Culture

A newly launched Egyptian music channel that aims to bring Islamic values to the MTV generation arrived on satellite channels across the Middle East and Europe in a bid to help young Muslims make the connetion between their Islamic way of life and contemporary art forms.

The channel called, 4Shbab or for the youth, is Egypt’s first contribution to the music television industry. It aims to create a Muslim domain out of the predominantly western art form of pop music as well as hip hop and is seen as an alternative to music video networks that do not promote values compatible with Muslim culture.

At the center of 4Shbab’s goals is defining the Muslim identity for young generations who strive to find a medium in pop culture that speaks to their values and experiences, something which Ahmed Abu Haiba, the founder of 4Shbab, says is very hard to do given the lack of Islamic pop culture venues.

“A divided identity is what Muslims are experiencing in these times,” Abu Haiba told AlArabiya.net. “Young Muslims are bombarded with a slew of non-Islamic cultural values through music that contradicts their life styles, and forces them to believe one thing and watch another,” he explained.

Twenty-three-year-old Sameh Ali concurs and told AlArabiya.net that he rarely finds an art form that is both respectful of Islamic Arab culture and has a modern appeal.

“It is either I watch anasheeds—traditional religious songs—or I watch 50 cents and other rap and hip hop that clashes with my values,” he told AlArabiya.net. “Muslim youth want to find something cool to engage with without compromising their Islam.”

This is where 4Shbab comes in. “It makes it possible to be Muslim and have a unique pop culture that promotes Muslim values,” Abu Haiba said.

However Abu Haiba stressed the global reach of 4Shbab, describing the project as a universal mosaic that brings together the diversity of Muslim cultures around the world.

“4Shbab follows the philosophy of Islam as a universal religion. When Islam spread worldwide, it absorbed elements of other non Muslim cultures that were complimentary to its message and this is precisely what this music channel does,” he explained.

4Shbaba broadcasts music by Muslim groups from around the world in different languages such as American Muslim rappers Native Deen, Rihan, 768, and many Arabic songs imbued with Islamic values of piety, prayer, and belief in God.

Part of the channel’s appeal therefore is the plethora of art forms and styles that collectively promote the Islamic way of life. The hiphop of Native Deen and the lyrical acapella chorus of Rihan offer a cultural contrast to Arabic songs of Sami Yusuf and the religious songs of Egyptian and Saudi singers…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab Oral Culture and Lack of Knowledge

by Sami Alrabaa

We Arabs, the majority of us, at least, rarely read. Hassan, a Syrian graduate, said, “What do you want me to read? State-controlled newspapers? Cooking books? Horoscope and dream interpreting books? That is all you can get in almost all Arab countries in terms of books.”

Most Arabs watch TV or listen to the radio. What do they watch and listen to? They listen to music and watch movies and soap opera serials. Politically-interested Arabs watch Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya for news and political discussions. Most Arabs distrust news on state-controlled radios and TVs. Viewers of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, the majority of whom are anti-Western and anti-American, enjoy the black and white picture depicted by these channels.

Very few political Muslims, the so-called Islamists, have read the Koran and Hadeeth. The majority have not, but dream of paradise on earth ruled by Al Shari’a.

Arab leaders and their affiliates do not read either. The Saudi despot, Abdullah, for example, is almost illiterate. He reads his speeches like a child who has just learned reading. No Arab leader is capable of speaking Standard Arabic fluently which all Arabs learn as a second language. To avoid using broken Arabic, lack of knowledge, and embarrassing questions, Arab leaders shy away from meeting the local and international media. At most, they prefer written questions whose answers are prepared by their aides.

A former interpreter of an Arab leader told me that he used to wrap his boss’s incoherent statements in beautiful presentable English.

Censorship is common in most Arab countries. Critical publications are forbidden, even the “One Thousand and One Night” is unavailable in many Arab bookshops. A former student of mine who works at the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information told me, “When we hear of a book that is suspicious we ban it immediately before even seeing it, let alone reading it.”

Sociologists believe that people who are poorly informed, are easier to rule and gear in the direction delineated by the regime.

The lack of interest in reading and books begins at an early age, at school. Schools and universities do not encourage reading extracurricular publications. By and large, students plagiarize when asked to prepare term papers. In the Arab Gulf region, there are offices specialized in selling these papers for a price ranging between $ 30 and $ 100. Ads to this effect can be found in almost every local newspaper.

In an effort to help teachers and professor at the Islamist Al Azhar University in Cairo/Egypt, improve their English and read international publications, the American Embassy offered establishing an English Language Center (ELRC) at this university for free. The majority of Al Azhar staff and professors at other Egyptian universities rejected the idea. Ahmed Thabet, professor of political science at Cairo University, described the project in Al Ahram Weekly (Dec. 12) as a “Gradual cultural occupation which will eventually lead to American hegemony over Al Azhar curricula.”

Azza Korayem, a sociologist at the National Social Studies Research Center in Cairo told Al Ahram Weekly (Dec. 30), “I’m dubious of US intentions for many reasons. After 9/11 the US has regarded Islam as the enemy and sought to limit its prevalence in the world, so I find it perplexing that the US opens a center to help Muslims communicate with others in order to serve Islam.” This is a typical conspiratorial theory of the Arab “elite”. Fresh air into the anachronistic curriculum of Al Azhar University should not be allowed in.

According to the UNESCO report (2006) “No more than 10.000 books were translated into Arabic over the entire past millennium, equivalent to the number translated into Spanish each year.”

Wadi, a Palestinian who has been living in Germany for over 20 years, is typical of many Arabs here in Germany. He still speaks broken German, lives on the welfare system, and does not read either. He blames the plight of his people on the “atrocities” of Israelis, Americans, and capitalism. “Palestinians are the victim of a world conspiracy.” He laments. When confronted with real instances of peaceful solutions to historical conflicts in East Timor and South Africa, Wadi and his ilk reject the same to Palestine. He claims that it is Israel which does not want peace. “Israel is feeding on Arab threat to continue existing.” Wadi believes.

Certainly, a modern knowledge society is not a panacea for all problems of the Arab countries. But it is an essential one. The majority of Arab societies are ruled by either absolute monarchies, military, or totalitarian, and to a great extent aided by fundamentalist Muslim establishments. All these regimes are setting limits on the exercise of individual freedom and modernizing existing anachronistic value and education systems. Arab schools and universities are producing parrots which merely recycle shallow information and knowledge in politics, economy, and media. Critical teaching/learning and publications are forbidden.

Over the past 15 years, the Arab regimes have found in Muslim fundamentalists the best ally to muzzle people and keep them shallowly and unilaterally “informed”. All that is happening in the name of dogmatic Islam. Both state-controlled media and private ones, especially those owned by the Saudi tycoon Al Waleed Bin Talal drum the fundamentalist Muslim discourse and the anti-Western propaganda. The gist of this discourse is “The West hates us and our Islam.”

The whole campaign is music to the ears of Arab leaders. The Arab regimes know quite well that a diversely informed and knowledgeable population would demand freedom in the way they choose to think, live, manage their affairs, and eventually demand real democracy.

Unless Arabs turn their focus on economic development, like the Chinese and the South Koreans, they have no chance of establishing a decent base for living in peace. The belligerent discourse must stop. Balanced media reporting must be established. Economic development and free speech and publications are indispensable ingredients for transition to democratic civilized societies. Otherwise the Arabs will endlessly spin in a vicious circle.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Islamic World Discusses Religious Tolerance Under Sharia

At the end of the month, 200 scholars from 60 countries will discuss topics related to the development of the modern world in the light of Muslim law, like freedom of expression, abuse within the family, the protection of the environment, and finance.

Mecca (AsiaNews) — Religious tolerance under Sharia and freedom of expression will be two of the central themes of the 19th meeting of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA), which will see the presence of experts and scholars of Islamic law from about 60 countries, and will be held at the end of April in Mecca.

At the discussion, in addition to the 200 scholars, there will be many written contributions from various parts of the world, including countries in which Muslims are not the majority, but a significant minority.

At the meeting of the IIFA, which is a branch of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the scholars will also be joined by Islamic affairs ministers from various countries. In its coverage of the news, the Saudi newspaper Arab News reports a statement from the secretary general of the IIFA, Abdul Salam Al-Ebady, who says that, together with the topics of religious tolerance and freedom of expression, there will be discussions of “wide-ranging topics, such as Islamic finance, banking, domestic abuse, health and medicine and environmental protection.” He stresses that this is an international event that sees the participation of the largest number of scholars, for the purpose of confronting the problems of the modern world in the light of Islamic law.

Some topics, like diabetes and fasting, are exclusive to the Muslim world, but others, like domestic abuse, or like religious tolerance and freedom of expression, do not involve only people of different religious convictions, but have also been and are causes of criticism and dispute toward Islamic countries on the part of international organizations and human rights groups, in addition to non-Muslim countries.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Israel Stands Ready to Bomb Iran’s Nuclear Sites

The Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government.

Among the steps taken to ready Israeli forces for what would be a risky raid requiring pinpoint aerial strikes are the acquisition of three Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft and regional missions to simulate the attack.

Two nationwide civil defence drills will help to prepare the public for the retaliation that Israel could face.

“Israel wants to know that if its forces were given the green light they could strike at Iran in a matter of days, even hours. They are making preparations on every level for this eventuality. The message to Iran is that the threat is not just words,” one senior defence official told The Times.

Officials believe that Israel could be required to hit more than a dozen targets, including moving convoys. The sites include Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges produce enriched uranium; Esfahan, where 250 tonnes of gas is stored in tunnels; and Arak, where a heavy water reactor produces plutonium.

The distance from Israel to at least one of the sites is more than 870 miles, a distance that the Israeli force practised covering in a training exercise last year that involved F15 and F16 jets, helicopters and refuelling tankers.

The possible Israeli strike on Iran has drawn comparisons to its attack on the Osirak nuclear facility near Baghdad in 1981. That strike, which destroyed the facility in under 100 seconds, was completed without Israeli losses and checked Iraqi ambitions for a nuclear weapons programme.

“We would not make the threat [against Iran] without the force to back it. There has been a recent move, a number of on-the-ground preparations, that indicate Israel’s willingness to act,” said another official from Israel’s intelligence community.

He added that it was unlikely that Israel would carry out the attack without receiving at least tacit approval from America, which has struck a more reconciliatory tone in dealing with Iran under its new administration.

An Israeli attack on Iran would entail flying over Jordanian and Iraqi airspace, where US forces have a strong presence.

Ephraim Kam, the deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies, said it was unlikely that the Americans would approve an attack.

“The American defence establishment is unsure that the operation will be successful. And the results of the operation would only delay Iran’s programme by two to four years,” he said.

A visit by President Obama to Israel in June is expected to coincide with the national elections in Iran — timing that would allow the US Administration to re-evaluate diplomatic resolutions with Iran before hearing the Israeli position.

“Many of the leaks or statements made by Israeli leaders and military commanders are meant for deterrence. The message is that if [the international community] is unable to solve the problem they need to take into account that we will solve it our way,” Mr Kam said.

Among recent preparations by the airforce was the Israeli attack of a weapons convoy in Sudan bound for militants in the Gaza Strip.

“Sudan was practice for the Israeli forces on a long-range attack,” Ronen Bergman, the author of The Secret War with Iran, said. “They wanted to see how they handled the transfer of information, hitting a moving target … In that sense it was a rehearsal.”

Israel has made public its intention to hold the largest-ever nationwide drill next month.

Colonel Hilik Sofer told Haaretz, a daily Israeli newspaper, that the drill would “train for a reality in which during war missiles can fall on any part of the country without warning … We want the citizens to understand that war can happen tomorrow morning”.

Israel will conduct an exercise with US forces to test the ability of Arrow, its US-funded missile defence system. The exercise would test whether the system could intercept missiles launched at Israel.

“Israel has made it clear that it will not tolerate the threat of a nuclear Iran. According to Israeli Intelligence they will have the bomb within two years … Once they have a bomb it will be too late, and Israel will have no choice to strike — with or without America,” an official from the Israeli Defence Ministry said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Jordan: Ministers, MPs Stand in Respect of Iraqi Shoe Thrower

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, DECEMBER 17 — Tens of Jordanian MPs as well as cabinet ministers today stood for a few seconds during an ordinary Parliament session to show their respect and support to the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush. A proposal to give a standing ovation to journalist Muntather Zaidi was made by MP Tayseer Shdeifat at the start of the session in which MPs heaped praise on the journalist. Among those who gave respect to Zaidi was minister of interior, finance minister and three other ministers. MPs called for forming a panel of expert lawyers to defend Zaidi, currently in custody facing charges of insulting president and facing two years behind bars. Jordan is one of the main allies of Washington, with the kingdom receiving more than half a billion of aid annually in military and economic programmes. Zaidi turned into a hero in many parts of the Arab world as he unleashed his shoes at Bush in a press conference in Baghdad. Amman based lawyers said they will defend Zaidi and members of the Iraqi community plan to hold a demonstration in the capital to call for his release. Jokes have been traded in the kingdom about the value of the shoes with cartoonists also taking a shot at US president for the fairwell gift sent to him on his last visit to Iraq. Zaidi threw the shoes after kissing it and saying this is a goodbye kiss to you, “dog”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Lebanon: Hezbollah, Not Split Into Military and Political Arms

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 15 — Pan-Arab press has reported this morning that the vice secretary of the Nation of the Party of God (Hezbollah), Naim Kassem, has announced that the Lebanese Shiite movement is not divided into a political and military wing, but is in fact a single organisation. In an interview published by the pan-Arab Saudi newspaper al Sharq al Awsat (based in London), Kassem said, “Great Britain has tried to justify the opening of talks with us, by pointing to a military and political wing, but this is not the truth of the situation.” In 2000, the British government placed the “armed wing of Hezbollah” onto its list of terrorist organisations, but has recently made formal contact with political leaders of the Shiite movement, which are currently part of the Lebanese government and parliament. Kassem added, “we are a united party with a single leadership guiding political, social and military action”, before declaring that “he is not at all optimistic” about new US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy. “We will have to see if actions follow his words, but what he has said about Palestine so far is not encouraging,” he affirmed. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Media: UAE Council Rejects Human Rights Watch Criticism

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, APRIL 14 — The National Media Council has spoken out against criticism from the association Human Rights Watch (HRW), which had in turn criticised the new media draft law, asking the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to reconsider its contents. Although the HRW acknowledges elements of progress in the new legislation, including an end to prison time for journalists, as requested by the Sheikh of Dubai, Mohammad al Maktum, the association stresses that the law “could encourage journalists to censure their writing, leaving space for the intervention and interference of the government.” In a statement, the National Media Council has said it hopes to see an open debate on the subject, but stresses that the criticism from the HRM “either comes from a poor understanding of the freedom of the press in the Emirates or represents an attempt to impose concepts and procedures that are incompatible with the laws and system of values in the UAE.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Middle East: First 3D Arab Cartoon on Israeli Barrier

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 16 — The controversial Israeli West Bank barrier is the subject of the first entirely Arab produced and developed three-dimensional animated short film, which is set for release today in Syrian cinemas and is soon to be distributed to other countries in the Middle East. The news comes from the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star. The animated film, ‘Wall in my heart’ (Jidar fi-l-qalb) tells the story of a Palestinian family in a village in the West Bank, who try to prevent the demolition of their home in order to make space for a stretch of the wall, which is known as the “security fence” in Israel. The 3D film is the work of a Palestinian director, Radwan Qasimiya, and was produced by the cinema production company ‘Faris al-Ghad’, based in Beirut, Lebanon. Construction of the boundary wall began in 2002, and the line traces the border between Israel and the Palestinian territory of the West Bank for 700km. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indian Leaders’ Unlikely Slanging Match

Observers were shocked this week when India’s normally mild-mannered Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, launched a furious attack on the head of the BJP-led opposition, Lal Krishna Advani. The BBC’s Sanjeev Srivastava in Delhi assesses an increasingly rancorous relationship.

In my 25 years as a journalist — during which I have reported on eight national elections — it is difficult to recall a precedent for the manner in which the prime minister and the opposition leader have launched their vicious diatribes at each other.

The exchange is all the more surprising because both the leaders have a reputation for being soft spoken, well-mannered and affable.

[…]

He chose to target Mr Advani where the opposition leader is most vulnerable.

So Mr Advani — who is desperately trying to broaden his mass base by projecting a moderate, even Muslim-friendly face — was taken to task by the prime minister for shedding crocodile tears when the 16th Century Babri mosque was demolished by a mob of Hindu zealots in 1992.

“I may be not be very strong but at least I was not crying like a wimp in one corner when miscreants were bringing down a mosque,” is how the prime minister referred to the opposition leader in one of his recent press interactions.

The Ayodhya mosque demolition is an emotive issue with Indian Muslims.

Any reminder of Mr Advani’s role in the campaign to build a temple to the Hindu God Ram in Ayodhya hampers the efforts of the BJP leader who is trying to seek a more inclusive and secular image for himself.

But what hurt Mr Advani the most was when the prime minister said: “What has been the contribution of Mr Advani to India except bringing down the Babri mosque?”

Manmohan Singh also challenged the BJP’s campaign projecting Mr Advani as a strong leader.

“It was in his tenure that the Indian parliament was attacked. What did they do?

“When he [Mr Advani] was the home minister the government handed over terrorists to the Taleban in Kandahar. And the country’s foreign minister was sent to oversee the exchange of terrorists with hijacked passengers of an Indian airliner.

“My government does not release terrorists and send our foreign minister when attacked. My government responds with commandos,” he said, referring to the attack in Mumbai last year.

The two leaders may well score a political point or two by taking on each other like this. There may be some political gains as well for both of them.

But the slanging match has not really added to the stature of either of the two.

According to observers the two men who hold perhaps the two most important posts in the world’s largest democracy should really be setting a better example of public conduct before India’s political class.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]


New Afghan Law Does Not Allow Marital Rape… But Lets Men Refuse to Feed Wives Who Deny Them Sex, Says Cleric

A new Afghan law that has drawn Western condemnation for restricting women’s rights does not allow marital rape as its critics claim, but lets men refuse to feed wives who deny them sex, the cleric behind it says.

Ayatollah Mohammed Asef Mohseni’s Shi’ite personal status law sparked controversy abroad because of a provision that ‘a wife is obliged to fulfil the sexual desires of her husband’.

This was read by some as an open door to marital rape, and together with clauses restricting women’s freedom of movement denounced as reminiscent of harsh Taliban-era rules.

The law has been criticised by Western leaders with troops fighting in Afghanistan, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who called it ‘abhorrent’.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who signed the law last month, has since put it under review.

But Mohseni said the law — which only applies to the 15 percent of Afghans who are Shi’a muslims — has been misinterpreted by critics.

Its sexual clauses aimed only to ensure men’s sexual needs were met within marriage, because Islam prohibited them seeking satisfaction with other women.

‘Why should a man and woman get married if there is no need for a sexual relationship? Then they are like brother and sister,’ he told Reuters in an interview in his recently built central Kabul mosque and university complex.

‘A man and wife can negotiate how often it is reasonable to sleep together, based on his sex drive, and a woman has a right to refuse if she has a good reason,’ said the bearded cleric.

‘It should not be compulsory for the wife to say yes all the time, because some men have more sexual desires than others,’ he said, adding that husbands should never force themselves on their wives and the law does not sanction that.

But women do have a duty to meet their husband’s needs.

‘If a woman says no, the man has the right not to feed her,’ Mohseni said.

The law allows women to work, so they could theoretically refuse sex and support themselves, but in mainly rural Afghanistan most women are dependent on husbands.

The law is milder than the severe restrictions imposed by the Sunni Muslim Taliban, who banned all women and girls from any work or study, and from leaving the home without a male relative. But opponents still consider it a step backwards…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Pakistan: Sharif Accuses Govt of Trying to ‘Buy His Silence’

Islamabad, 17 Dec. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday accused the government of trying to make him drop his campaign against the Chief Justice over corruption allegations and announced a bid to curtail the presidential powers in Pakistan. It is the first broadside against the ruling Pakistan People’s Party by any political leader since the elections in February.

Sharif (photo) told the media that Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar should resign but said the government had offered him the option of standing for a future Lahore by-election if he stops urging the government to sack Dogar.

Dogar allegedly used his influence to get better examination results for his medical student daughter Farah, according to media reports.

Sharif, who was barred from running in February’s general election due to past criminal convictions, also urged the PPP to cancel a constitutional amendment that boosted the powers of Pakistan’s president.

The 17th amendment was made by Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf, who stood down in August amid moves to impeach him for mismanaging the country.

The amendment made the president head of the armed forces, and gave him the power to hire and fire its chiefs. It also made him head of regulatory authorities such as the central bank and gave him powers to dissolve the Parliament.

PPP co-chief and President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, vowed before he won the presidential election in September that he would cancel the 17th amendment once he took office and would empower the parliament. However, he has since failed to broach the topic.

Sharif’s media conference caused shockwaves among the PPP. The PPP-led government is already under pressure from the international community to bring to justice Kashmiri militants allegedly behind last month’s deadly Mumbai attacks. Pakistan’s military establishment has also criticised the PPP’s handling of the case.

“I did not read the statement of Nawaz Sharif. I cannot comment,” PPP member and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan told a Pakistani TV channel.

Sharif should name the person in the Pakistani government who tried to buy his silence “if this is the case,” Minister for Inter Provincial Coordination Mian Raza Rabbani told the channel.

Sharif, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, withdrew his support from the ruling coalition in August, citing differences with the PPP over the reinstatement of judges sacked by Musharraf and on who should replace him as president

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Far East

Jackie Chan Says ‘Chinese Need to be Controlled’

BOAO, China — Action star Jackie Chan said Saturday he’s not sure if a free society is a good thing for China and that he’s starting to think “we Chinese need to be controlled.”

Chan’s comments drew applause from a predominantly Chinese audience of business leaders in China’s southern island province of Hainan.

The 55-year-old Hong Kong actor was participating in a panel at the annual Boao Forum when he was asked to discuss censorship and restrictions on filmmakers in China. He expanded his comments to include society.

“I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not,” Chan said. “I’m really confused now. If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic.”

Chan added: “I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

COSATU Condemns US Stance on the Durban II Conference

Largest South African trade union condems US stance on Geneva conference

South Africa’s largest trade union, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is shocked at the news of the US administration’s withdrawal from the important Durban 2 Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, in Geneva, Switzerland, from 20-24 April, 2009

This has happened despite very serious compromises being made to the original draft conference outcome text to accommodate the US and their demand to remove anything that refers to Israel’s persecution of Arabs as racism.

The text waffles around the profound issues of racism and avoids saying anything that may be seen to offend Israel, who occupy other people’s land, subject them to racist and discriminatory practices and still demands to be called a democratic, civilised state.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, welcomed this revised version, despite serious concerns by civil society that it has compromised victims of racism merely to please the US, Israel and their lackeys.

The previous version of the text led the United States, Canada and Italy announcing they would be boycotting the conference. Other EU countries, Australia and New Zealand, also threatened to boycott. These countries have been subtle sympathisers of Israel and its apartheid policies in the Middle East, whereas the US openly supports Israel apartheid rule.

In the same way that in Durban 1, held in South Africa in 2001, Israel and the US held the whole world to ransom, we are being subjected to the same blackmail by those who have openly practiced or supported racism in different parts of the world, but still demand to be regarded as champions of the struggle against racism.

The United States and Israel walked out of the Durban meeting before it ended, over a draft resolution that identified Zionism as a particular version of apartheid and therefore racist, while European and other countries stayed and ensured its final declaration dropped criticism of Israel.

Israel and American Jewish groups, led by the Republican Jewish Coalition, have urged the United States not to take part in the conference. They have called the process that took place in Durban ‘flawed’, and tried to ridicule and undermine the important decisions that were taken at that important conference. Now they have bullied President Obama to denounce the Conference and withdraw US participation in solidarity with Israel.

According to a US official, “The first clause in the new document reaffirms the declaration of Durban 1, which calls Israel a racist state, and the change is cosmetic only. The essence remains the same. This is a diplomatic ruse intended to blur matters and introduce criticism of Israel by the back door.”

It is extremely disappointing that we still have our global institutions held hostage by those who refuse to acknowledge apartheid and seek to legitimise racist occupation of other people’s lands. They use the charge of ‘anti-Semitism’ to silence those who oppose apartheid Israel’s savage policies and to stifle global debate about racism.

Many governments and people are intimidated into perpetual silence by a powerful Zionist lobby all over the world, flushing out money and threatening all who dare stand up to Israel’s arrogance and institutionalised racist rule in the occupied Palestinian territories.

We call on all trade unions, progressive organisations, faith-based organisations and NGOs, and all progressive governments to stand up and defend the integrity of the UN, particularly the coming Conference. The credibility of such institutions is at stake unless it addresses the real issues affecting humanity and victims of racism, occupation and injustice all over the world.

This battle is not an isolated instance, but an integral part of the attempt to hijack the UN system for their own narrow interests, the struggle in transforming the UN Human Rights Commission into a Human Rights Council also reflected the depth of these powerful vested interests and their agendas.

Finally, COSATU is vindicated that whilst welcoming the election of the first Black President in the US, being Barack Obama, we warned that it would not lead to fundamental policy changes in the US, because the empire is bigger than personalities. However, good his intentions, he cannot change certain fundamentals of the imperialist policies. The recent case of his refusal to remove the embargo against Cuba and free the Cuban five, illustrates just that point.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Dutch Commandos Free 20 Hostages From Pirates

Hostages had been forced to sail pirate “mother ship”

Dutch commandos freed 20 Yemeni hostages on Saturday and briefly detained seven pirates who had forced their captives to sail a “mother ship” attacking vessels in the Gulf of Aden, NATO officials said.

The sea gangs have captured dozens of ships, taken hundreds of sailors prisoner and made off with millions of dollars in ransoms in recent months despite an unprecedented deployment by foreign navies off the east African coast.

NATO Lieutenant Commander Alexandre Fernandes, speaking on board the Portuguese warship Corte-Real, said the 20 fishermen were rescued after a Dutch navy frigate, on NATO patrol, responded to an assault on a Greek-managed tanker by pirates firing assault rifles and grenades.

The Dutch ship, the HNLMS De Zeven Provincien, chased the pirates, who were on a skiff, back to their “mother ship” — a hijacked Yemeni fishing dhow.

“We have freed the hostages, we have freed the dhow and we have seized the weapons,” Fernandes said. The Corte-Real is also on a NATO mission.

He said the hostages had been held since last week. The commandos briefly detained and questioned the seven gunmen, he told Reuters, but had no legal power to arrest them.

“They can only arrest them if the pirates are from the Netherlands, the victims are from the Netherlands, or if they are in Netherlands waters,” Fernandes said.

He said an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade was later found on board the tanker, the Marshall Islands-flagged MT Handytankers Magic managed by Roxana Shipping SA of Greece.

On Friday five gunmen in a skiff neared a Danish cargo vessel, the MV Puma, in the Gulf of Aden, prompting U.S. and South Korean warships to send aircraft to the scene.

Last week, Somali pirates captured two more ships and opened fire on two others. A French naval frigate seized 11 gunmen on Wednesday, foiling yet another attack.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Somali Parliament Approves Islamic Law

Somalia’s parliament unanimously approved Saturday a government proposal to introduce sharia, Islamic law, in the country, in a move aimed at appeasing Islamists waging a civil war since 1991.

The approval by parliament had been expected since March 10, when the cabinet appointed by new President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed also voted to establish sharia, or Islamic, law.

Experts say Ahmed’s move undermines guerrillas who have been fighting the government and questioning his Islamic credentials. It will also please wealthy potential donors in Gulf nations.

Osman Elimi Boqore, the deputy speaker of parliament, said 343 MPs attended Saturday’s session.

“All of them voted ‘yes’ and accepted the implementation of sharia,” he told reporters. “There was no rejection or silence, so from today we have an Islamic government.”

Precondition to peace

Somalia’s cabinet last month endorsed the plan to introduce sharia, a key demand by hard-line Islamists who are opposed to the government and who made its application a precondition to stop fighting.

“Islamic sharia is the only option to get solutions for the problems in this country,” Information Minister Farhan Ali Mohamoud told reporters on March 10.

“This is a big day, we have been waiting this bill for a long time …. I hope this will decrease the violence in the country” Mohamed Dhere, a Somali lawmaker, said after the vote.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Australia: Cash to Halt Asylum Seekers

THE Rudd Government is expected to announce a big funding increase for Indonesian police and immigration officials as they grapple with a surge in asylum seekers from the Middle East.

Asylum seekers: Days of surgery

Dr Mark Duncan-Smith from Royal Perth Hospital talks about treating multiple burns victims after a fatal blast onboard a ship carrying suspected asylum seekers on Thursday.

New surveillance equipment and training programs for Indonesian authorities combating people smuggling are at the centre of the package, which The Sun-Herald understands has the support of cabinet’s National Security Committee.

The multimillion-dollar package is also expected to assist Indonesia to improve its stretched immigration detention facilities.

Indonesia has had an influx of asylum seekers from the Middle East since September last year. Four boats have made it to Australian waters in the past few weeks carrying about 200 people. Two other groups, who said they were heading for Australia, have been prevented from leaving Indonesia in the past week.

On Friday Indonesian authorities apprehended 70 potential Afghan asylum seekers in West Java. Last night the Government refused on “operational grounds” to comment on reports another boat carrying up to 100 was on its way to Australia.

The 44 survivors of Thursday’s fatal blast, believed to be mostly Afghan men, are being treated for injuries, some severe, in hospitals in Brisbane, Perth and Darwin; six were flown from Darwin to Brisbane yesterday for specialist treatment. Three of the men in Darwin are now in custody.

Police have begun interviewing almost 100 witnesses to the blast, which killed three. Two people are still missing. There has been speculation the passengers doused the ship with petrol in a sabotage attempt.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said on Friday the country’s borders were porous and improved security was vital.

Figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Jakarta show more than 150 people have registered as asylum seekers in the past month. Many who pay human trafficking syndicates do not register with the UN.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans seized on yesterday’s jailing of a people smuggler to demonstrate the Government was tough on border control. He said the six-year jail term given to Man Pombili, 31, by a West Australian District Court reinforced the message that people smugglers faced severe punishment.

“People smuggling is a dangerous crime that exploits vulnerable people during times of desperation,” Senator Evans said. “This has been reinforced by the tragic events of this week.”

Pombili pleaded guilty to smuggling 10 people into Australia after the boat he skippered was located south of Ashmore Reef by the Royal Australian Navy on November 19 last year.

Senator Evans denied claims he had received a report by the Australian Federal Police warning that Labor’s border protection policies would increase the number of asylum seekers.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Danish Muslim Youth’s Unity: a Task at Hand

By Amani Hassani

There are great challenges facing Muslim Danes in the future.

If someone is to sum up the situation of Danish Muslim youth in one statement it should be: There is a long way to go, a lot to do, and only a few resources.

The Muslim population in Denmark has in the recent years been embracing eager young Muslims; they are trying to establish themselves and their religion within the Danish context. However, this will not be accomplished without struggles; on the one hand, the young Muslim generation, of immigrant’s background, is not necessarily interested in accentuating the “foreign” ethnic identity. On the other hand, their Muslim and Danish identity has become the common denominator that unites this diverse community of youths who try to cross the ethnic boundaries.

In the late 60s and early 70s, the first Muslim immigrants, mainly blue-collar workers, came to Denmark. Shortly after their arrival, they established small ethnically-based local organizations and mosques. They managed to get together with other immigrants who came from the same country-of-origin; that enabled them to speak their native language, exchange memories or simply create a sense of belonging in the new country.

Within the first years of immigration, several of these young men went to their home countries to get married while others were already married. Later on, they reunited with their wives in Denmark. As a result, we see today an increasing number of Muslim youths with different backgrounds who nearly share the same story; from Danes to East Africans and from carpenters to doctors…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Abortion: Spain, Theologians and Base Catholics Slam Church

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 14 — Theologians and Catholic base communities are criticising Spain’s church hierarchies for the campaign against the Zapatero government’s abortion reform proposals and the “loss of credibility” of the Catholic church. The criticisms have been presented in two manifestos signed off on in recent weeks and quoted today by El Pais, a newspaper. The first manifesto, entitled “On Abortion”, is signed by the Base Church of Madrid, which brings together thousands of Christians. The text affirms that: “We need to recognise that not all communities hold exactly the same position on this issue and in all its aspects”. The signatories then agree that ‘the opinions of the hierarchies on abortion do not represent the opinions of the entire Catholic community”. According to the base Catholic communities, “it would be right to respect the distinction between the legal, ethical, scientific and religious planes. Abortion is not an exclusively Christian issue” and to regulate it “would require civil ethical supremacy, shared by all citizens, on religious morals, specific to every belief”. The signatories are “decidedly” opposed “to excommunication” and call for “this punishment to disappear from the Code of Canon Law”. The second document, entitled “Faced with the Ecclesiastical Crisis”, is undersigned by 300 people, including: the president and general secretary of the John XXIII Association of Theologians, Julio Lois and Juan José Tamayo; Jesuits including Juan Antonio Estrada, Juan Masià and Xavier Alegre; Dominicans like Quintin Garcia; Benedictines like Hilari Raguer; and Franciscans including José Arregui. “We are aware of the fact that this document is an extraordinary course to take, but the cause which motivates it is extraordinary as well”, reads the manifesto. ‘The loss of credibility of the Catholic institution is reaching worrying levels. This disrepute would be used as an excuse for many who do not want to believe, but it is also a cause of pain and uncertainty for many believers.” The main cause of the crisis is identified as being in the “infidelity to the Second Vatican Council and in the fear confronted by the reforms it called for”. “If serious errors have been committed in the papacies before that of Benedict XVI”, proceeds the manifesto, “it was the continued blockage of urgent reform” of the Roman Curia. The signatories say that the consequence is the “unfair power of the Roman Curia over the episcopal council which results in a series of nominations of bishops on the edges of the local churches, and which looks not for the priests which each church needs, but for faithful pawns who defend the interests of the central power and not those of the people of God”. Amongst the consequences of this indicated in the manifesto are: “the unmerciful strikes” against all the positions “related to evangelical liberty, the Christian brotherhood and equality among the children of God, which is so sensationally denied today”. Despite all this, the 300 signatories say that the objective of the initiative is not a split from the Church, but to “help towards a brave and patient faith is these black hours of Roman Catholicism”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

General

Human Rights: Islam; OIC to Create Relevant Commission

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 14 — The Organization of Islamic Conference, the 57-nation bloc of Muslim nations, met on Sunday at its headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to establish an independent OIC human rights commission. Ad reported bu AlArabiya.net, Eklemeddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC Secretary-General, stressed in a statement that “human rights and man’s dignity are an integral part of Islam and core components of Islamic culture and heritage.” Member states also discussed “refining” the OIC’s 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, which gave an overview of the Islamic perspective on human rights and stated that all of them are subject to sharia, or Islamic law. The commission will seek assistance from other international bodies such as the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Geneva Institute for Human Rights in setting up the new commission. Ihsanoglu said in his speech that such a commission would drive OIC member states to reform intellectually and politically. “An OIC human rights commission would promote tolerance, and fundamental freedoms, good governance, the rule of law, accountability, openness, dialogue with other religions and civilizations, the rejection of extremism and fanaticism, and the strengthening of the sense of pride in the Islamic identity,” he said. Ihsanoglu also suggested the compatibility of the Islamic notion of human rights and international norms, saying that refurbishing the Cairo human rights declaration will be “in keeping with the current global human rights discourse,” though he did not specify how this would be done. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: Policeman Deletes Tourist’s Bus Photos ‘To Stop Terrorism’

No tourist trip to London is complete without a set of holiday snaps.

But a father and son were forced to return home to Austria without their pictures after policemen deleted them from their camera — in a bid to prevent terrorism.

Klaus Matzka, 69, and his son, Loris, 15, from Vienna, were taking photographs of a double-decker bus in Walthamstow, north-east London, when two policemen approached them.

Austrian tourists Klaus and Loris Matzka were ordered to delete pictures of a London double decker in Walthamstow

The tourists were told it is ‘strictly forbidden’ to take pictures of anything to do with public transport and their names, passport numbers and hotel address in London were noted.

Mr Matzka was then forced to delete any holiday snaps that featured anything to do with transport.

The retired television cameraman was particularly annoyed to give up his pictures of Vauxhall underground station, a building he regards as ‘modern sculpture’.

‘I’ve never had these experiences anywhere, never in the world, not even in Communist countries,’ he said.

‘These deletions were not only enforced destruction of private property, but an infringement of our privacy.

‘I understand the need for some sensitivity in an era of terrorism, but isn’t it naive to think terrorism can be prevented by terrorising tourists?’

He added: ‘Google Street View is allowed to show any details of our cities on the world wide web, but a father and his son are not allowed to take pictures of famous London landmarks.’

Mr Matzka said he Loris enjoyed exploring cities by avoiding traditional tourist traps, but such a ‘nasty incident’ had ‘killed interest’ in any future trips to London.

‘We typically crisscross cities from the end of railway terminals,’ he said. ‘We like to go to places not visited by other tourists.

‘You get to know a city by going to places like this, not central squares. Buckingham Palace is also necessary, but you need to go elsewhere to get to know the city,’ he told the Guardian.

The Metropolitan Police said it was investigating the allegations and had no knowledge of any ban on photographing public transport in London.

A spokeswoman added: ‘It is not the police’s intention to prevent tourists from taking photographs and we are looking into the allegations made.’

Jenny Jones, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and a Green party member of the London assembly, said the incident was ‘another example of the police completely overreaching the anti-terrorism powers’.

She said she would raise the issue with the Met chief, Sir Paul Stephenson, as part of the discussion into police methods at the G20 protests, adding: ‘I have already written to him about the police taking away cameras and stopping people taking photographs.

‘[I] made the point that if it was not for people taking photos, we would not know about the death of Ian Tomlinson or the woman who was hit by a police officer.’

The Independent Police Complaints Commission have launched investigations into both of these incidents, which happened at the G20 demonstrations in London on April 1, after footage appeared on You Tube and the Guardian’s website.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]


Video: the Hidden Economics of Pirates

Peter Leeson, author of The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates, sits down with Reason.tv’s Nick Gillespie to discuss self-interested pirates, the myths of piracy, and the intersection of modern economic policy and the hidden economics of pirates.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

1 comments:

John Maszka said...

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