Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100819

Financial Crisis
»Schwarzenegger Orders Furloughs of State Employees
»Tensions Rise in Greece as Austerity Measures Backfire
»The Erosion of America’s Middle Class
»Build the Mosque
»Christian Hospitals Are Superior
»Deer Runs Into Ocean, Dies
»Does America Have a Muslim Problem?
»Drug and Gang Survey in Schools
»Ground Zero Mosque: Fact File
»Ground Zero? We’re Nowhere Near it, Say Mosque Planners (£)
»Hostility Mounts Against New York Mosque
»If a Mosque Opens at Ground Zero on 9/11 Next Year, Obama Can Kiss the White House Goodbye
»Mosque Debate Divides Democrats, Especially in NY
»Most New Yorkers Against Ground Zero Mosque: Poll
»Now One in Five Americans Believe Obama is Muslim as Ground Zero Mosque Row Intensifies
»Smart President Fails Test at Ground Zero
»Stakelbeck: A Mega-Mosque Grows in Tennessee
»Canada Marijuana Growers Use Wild Bears to Guard Pot
Europe and the EU
»German Student Attacks Hell’s Angels With Puppy
»‘Google Knows More About Us Than the KGB, Stasi or Gestapo’
»Sweden: Aide Moved Over ‘Islam is Like Nazism’ Comment
»UK (2005): Charles’s Mosque Meets a Rebellion
Middle East
»Iraq: Dazed Survivors Shake Off Blast to Rush Back in Job Line
»Last US Combat Brigade Leaves Iraq
»Qatar: HSBC Launches Premier Islamic Service
»Saudi Judge Considers Paralysis Punishment
»‘Spine-for-a Spine’: Saudi Criminal Faces Having Spinal Cord Severed After Paralysing Victim With Meat Cleaver
»Syria: Debate Over TV Programme That Alludes to Koran
South Asia
»Italy on Course for Afghan School Target
Far East
»IPhone-Maker Rallies Workers After Suicides
Australia — Pacific
»‘Muslim Witness Must Remove Burqa’ — Judge Shauna Deane
»‘Muslim Witness Must Remove Burqa Face Covering ‘ — Judge Deane
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Southern Sudan Unveils Plans for Animal-Shaped Cities
»France Begins Controversial Roma Deportations
»Nearly Half of United States Considering Arizona-Style Immigration Legislation
»Ayaan Hirsi Ali: How to Win the Clash of Civilizations

Financial Crisis

Schwarzenegger Orders Furloughs of State Employees

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said 150,000 government workers must begin taking time off without pay starting Aug. 20 following a court ruling lifting an injunction temporarily blocking the furloughs.

California began its fiscal year on July 1 without a spending plan after Schwarzenegger and Democrats who lead the Legislature remained deadlocked over how to fill a $19.1 billion deficit. The Republican governor on July 28 issued an executive order for the monthly furloughs until a budget is passed.

“The result of the Supreme Court ruling today means that the furloughs will continue until the court says otherwise,” Aaron McLear, a Schwarzenegger spokesman, said by e-mail.

A union for state engineers has sued to block the plan.

[Return to headlines]

Tensions Rise in Greece as Austerity Measures Backfire

By Corinna Jessen in Athens

The austerity measures that were supposed to fix Greece’s problems are dragging down the country’s economy. Stores are closing, tax revenues are falling and unemployment has hit an unbelievable 70 percent in some places. Frustrated workers are threatening to strike back.

The feast of the Assumption of Mary on Aug. 15 is the high point of summer in the Greek Orthodox world. Here in one of the country’s many churches, believers pray to the Virgin for mercy, with many of them falling to their knees.

The newspaper Ta Nea has recommended that the Greek government adopt the very same approach — the country’s leaders have to hope that Mary comes up with a miracle to save Greece from a serious crisis, the paper writes. Without divine intervention, the newspaper suggested, it will be a difficult autumn for the Mediterranean state.

This dire prognosis comes even despite Athens’ massive efforts to sort out the country’s finances. The government’s draconian austerity measures have managed to reduce the country’s budget deficit by an almost unbelievable 39.7 percent, after previous governments had squandered tax money and falsified statistics for years. The measures have reduced government spending by a total of 10 percent, 4.5 percent more than the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) had required.

The problem is that the austerity measures have in the meantime affected every aspect of the country’s economy. Purchasing power is dropping, consumption is taking a nosedive and the number of bankruptcies and unemployed are on the rise. The country’s gross domestic product shrank by 1.5 percent in the second quarter of this year. Tax revenue, desperately needed in order to consolidate the national finances, has dropped off. A mixture of fear, hopelessness and anger is brewing in Greek society.

Unemployment Rates of up to 70 Percent

Nikos Meletis is neatly dressed, and his mid-range car is clean and tidy. Meletis used to earn a good living at a shipbuilding company in Perama, a port opposite the island of Salamis. “At the moment, I’m living off my savings,” the 54-year-old welder says, standing in front of a silent harbor full of moored ships.

Meletis is a day laborer who used to work up to 300 days a year; this year he has only managed to scrape together 25 days’ work so far. That gives him 25 health insurance stamps, when he needs 100 in order to insure himself and his family — including his wife, who has cancer. “How am I supposed to pay for the hospital?” Meletis asks. Unemployment benefits of at most €460 ($590) per month are available for a maximum of one year — and only if he can produce at least 150 stamps from the past 15 months.

There’s hardly a worker in the shipbuilding district of Perama who could still manage that. Unemployment in the city hovers between 60 and 70 percent, according to a study conducted by the University of Piraeus. While 77 percent of Greek shipping companies indicate they are satisfied with the quality of work done in Perama, nearly 50 percent still send their ships to be repaired in Turkey, Korea or China. Costs are too high in Greece, they say. The country, they argue, has too much bureaucracy and too many strikes, with labor disputes often delaying delivery times.

Perama is certainly an unusually extreme case. But the shipyards’ decline provides a telling example of the Greek economy’s increasing inability to compete. Barely any of the country’s industries can keep up with international competition in terms of productivity, and experts expect the country’s gross domestic product to fall by 4 percent over the course of the entire year. Germany, by way of comparison, is hoping for growth of up to 3 percent.

Sales Figures Dropping Everywhere

Prime Minister George Papandreou’s austerity package has seriously shaken the Greek economy. The package included reducing civil servants’ salaries by up to 20 percent and slashing retirement benefits, while raising numerous taxes. The result is that Greeks have less and less money to spend and sales figures everywhere are dropping, spelling catastrophe for a country where 70 percent of economic output is based on private consumption.

A short jaunt through Athens’ shopping streets reveals the scale of the decline. Fully a quarter of the store windows on Stadiou Street bear red signs reading “Enoikiazetai” — for rent. The National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) calculates that 17 percent of all shops in Athens have had to file for bankruptcy.

Things aren’t any better in the smaller towns. Chalkidona was, until just a few years ago, a hub for trucking traffic in the area around Thessaloniki. Two main streets, lined with fast food restaurants and stores catering to truckers, intersect in the small, dismal town. Maria Lialiambidou’s house sits directly on the main trucking route. Rent from a pastry shop on the ground floor of the building used to provide her with €350 per month, an amount that helped considerably in supplementing her widow’s pension of €320.

These days, though, Kostas, the man who ran the pastry shop, who people used to call a “penny-pincher,” can no longer afford the rent. Here too, a huge “Enoikiazetai” banner stretches across the shopfront. No one wants to rent the store. Neither are there any takers for an empty butcher’s shop a few meters further on.

A sign on the other side of the street advertises “Sakis’ Restaurant.” The owner, Sakis, is still hanging on, with customers filling one or two of the restaurant’s tables now and then. “There’s really no work for me here anymore,” says one Albanian employee, who goes by the name Eleni in Greece. “Many others have already gone back to Albania, where it’s not any worse than here. We’ll see when I have to go too.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Erosion of America’s Middle Class

By Thomas Schulz

While America’s super-rich congratulate themselves on donating billions to charity, the rest of the country is worse off than ever. Long-term unemployment is rising and millions of Americans are struggling to survive. The gap between rich and poor is wider than ever and the middle class is disappearing.

Ventura is a small city on the Pacific coast, about an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles. Luxury homes with a view of the ocean dot the hillsides, and the beaches are popular with surfers. Ventura is storybook California. “It’s a well-off place,” says Captain William Finley. “But about 20 percent of the city is what we call at risk of homelessness.” Finley heads the local branch of the Salvation Army.

Last summer Ventura launched a pilot program, managed by Finley, that allows people to sleep in their cars within city limits. This is normally illegal, both in Ventura and in the rest of the country, where local officials and residents are worried about seeing run-down vans full of Mexican migrant workers parked on residential streets.

But sometime at the beginning of last year, people in Ventura realized that the cars parked in front of their driveways at night weren’t old wrecks, but well-tended station wagons and hatchbacks. And the people sleeping in them weren’t fruit pickers or the homeless, but their former neighbors.

Finley also noticed a change. Suddenly twice as many people were taking advantage of his social service organization’s free meals program, and some were even driving up in BMWs — apparently reluctant to give up the expensive cars that reminded them of better times.

Finley calls them “the new poor.” “That is a different category of people that I think we’re seeing,” he says. “They are people who never in their wildest imaginations thought they would be homeless.” They’re people who had enough money — a lot of money, in some cases — until recently.

“The image of what is a poor person in today’s day and age doesn’t fly. When I was growing up a poor person, and we grew up fairly poor, you drove a 10-year-old car that probably had some dents in it. You know, there was one car for the family and you lived out of the food bank,” says Finley. “In the past, you got yourself out of poverty and were on your way up.”

American Way Heads in Opposite Direction

It was the American way, a path taken by millions. “Today the image is you’re getting newer late model cars that at one point cost somebody 40, 50 grand, and they’re at wits end, now they’re living out of the food banks. And for many of them it takes a lot to swallow their pride,” says Finley.

Today the American way is often headed in the opposite direction: downward.

For a while, America seemed to have emerged relatively unscathed from the worst economic crisis in decades — with renewed vigor and energy — just as it had done in the wake of past crises.

The government was announcing new economic growth figures by as early as last fall, much earlier than expected. The banks, moribund until recently, were back to earning billions. Companies nationwide are reporting strong growth, and the stock market has almost returned to it pre-crisis levels. Even the number of billionaires grew by a healthy 17 percent in 2009.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and 40 other billionaires pledged to donate at least half of their fortunes to philanthropy, either while still alive or after death. Is America a country so blessed with affluence that it can afford to give away billions, just like that?

Growing Resentment

Gates’ move could also be interpreted as a PR campaign, in a country where the super-rich sense that although they are profiting from the crisis, as was to be expected, the number of people adversely affected has grown enormously. They also sense that there is growing resentment in American society against those at the top.

For people in the lower income brackets, the recovery already seems to be falling apart. Experts fear that the US economy could remain weak for many years to come. And despite the many government assistance programs, the small amount of hope they engender has yet to be felt by the general public. On the contrary, for many people things are still headed dramatically downward.

According to a recent opinion poll, 70 percent of Americans believe that the recession is still in full swing. And this time it isn’t just the poor who are especially hard-hit, as they usually are during recessions.

This time the recession is also affecting well-educated people who had been earning a good living until now. These people, who see themselves as solidly middle-class, now feel more threatened than ever before in the country’s history. Four out of 10 Americans who consider themselves part of this class believe that they will be unable to maintain their social status.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Build the Mosque

The plan to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque near ground zero in New York has unleashed some of the worst religious bigotry in memory from so-called political leaders.

Newt Gingrich, desperate to revive his presidential ambitions, views the proposed mosque as part of a campaign to “destroy our civilization.” Sarah Palin is whipping up sentiment against the plan by arguing it is insensitive to the families of victims of 9/11. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican candidates, who smelled opportunity in the midterm elections when President Obama spoke in favor of the mosque, have denounced the project and the imam behind it.

Exploiting anti-Muslim bias for political gain is beyond shameful. Those on the far right purport to be passionate defenders of religious freedom — apparently only as it applies to Christianity. For them, two blocks is too close to ground zero for a mosque. Well, then, how far away is tolerable for the intolerant? Six blocks? Ten? And don’t forget to shutter the other mosques that have existed in the neighborhood surrounding the former World Trade Center site prior to the terrorist attacks. Some 9/11 families do find the proposal to be a slap in the face. But other victims’ families say it demonstrates the kind of liberty that their loved ones believed in. They cannot all be lumped into one side of the debate, with Palin as their opportunistic, self-appointed spokeswoman.

The airing of different opinions is one of the things that makes America great. But disregarding one of the founding principles of our nation would do more lasting damage to the country than the harm of offending families of those who died on 9/11. Obama took an admirable stand when he said Muslims have a right under our Constitution to build the mosque. He could have stayed out of it at no political cost. Unfortunately, the president diluted his own convictions a day later by questioning the wisdom of the proposal. He should have covered the subject once, rather than offering belated caveats that seemed to be a cowed response to a political firestorm. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has studied the issue and has been very thoughtful in his support for allowing the mosque to be built.

The imam behind the Cordoba House project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, has said U.S. policies “were an accessory to the crime” that occurred on 9/11. But he can hardly be called an enemy of America. The FBI featured him as a speaker at a security forum in New York in 2003, to foster better relations with the Muslim community there. The administration of George W. Bush dispatched him on speaking tours to promote tolerance in the Muslim world. Some of the imam’s views — for example, advocating “personal status” courts to decide family law issues according to religious tenets — are not acceptable to most Americans. But a nation whose Constitution promotes religious freedom doesn’t have to agree with him to let him preach in Lower Manhattan.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Christian Hospitals Are Superior

Thomson Reuters has issued a new report that shows church-run hospitals provide better quality care more efficiently than other secular hospitals.

Jean Chenoweth, senior vice president for performance improvement and 100 Top Hospitals programs at Thomson Reuters, says, “Our data suggest that the leadership of health systems owned by churches may be the most active in aligning quality goals and monitoring achievement of mission across the system.”


Roman Catholic and other church-run health care systems in the U.S. are more efficient and provide higher quality care than their secular counterparts, according the Thomson Reuters study.

The study looked at 255 health care systems and found that Catholic and other church-owned systems are “significantly more likely to provide higher quality care and efficiency” than both investor-owned and nonprofit health systems, Religion News Service reports.

There was no statistical difference between Catholic and other church-run health systems, according to the study, which built on information gleaned from Reuters’ “Top 100 Hospitals” report.

“Our data suggest that the leadership teams … of health systems owned by churches may be the most active in aligning quality goals and monitoring achievement across the system,” the report stated.

The report was short on specific reasons for religious hospitals’ success, saying that further study will be required to understand the differences. The performance measures included mortality rates, the number of medical complications, readmission rates, lengths of stay, profitability, and other factors.

[Return to headlines]

Deer Runs Into Ocean, Dies

Police say a deer ran through downtown Laguna Beach, barreled through two stores, was hit by a car and died after it ran into the ocean.

Sgt. Louise Callus said the frenzied deer was spotted Wednesday afternoon.

Callus says the deer, which had only one antler, ran through a pharmacy and a clothing store.

An employee says the animal banged his head into a mirror as he tried to get back outside.

The deer ran into a car, then raced toward the beach, into the water and started swimming away with animal control officers following on land.

The deer got out of the water and went into a beachside cave, where Animal Control Officer Joy Falk tried to give it CPR as waves crashed down on them.

The deer later died on the sand.

[Return to headlines]

Does America Have a Muslim Problem?

You don’t have to be prejudiced against Islam to believe, as many Americans do, that the area around Ground Zero is a sacred place. But sadly, in an election season, such sentiments have been stoked into a political issue. As the debate has grown more heated, Park51, as the proposed Muslim cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is called, has become a litmus test for everything from private-property rights to religious tolerance. But it is plain that many of Park51’s opponents are motivated by deep-seated Islamophobia.

The proposed site is close not just to Ground Zero; it’s also a stone’s throw from strip clubs, liquor stores and other establishments typical of lower Manhattan. Muslims have been praying in the building for nearly a year, a fact that has got lost in the noise of the protests. But since early August, it has been the scene of frequent demonstrations, with signs saying things such as “All I Need to Know About Islam, I Learned on 9/11.” The husband-and-wife team behind Park51, Imam Feisal Rauf and Daisy Khan, seem stunned into paralysis: while opponents cast them as extremists sympathetic to al-Qaeda, they have given very few interviews themselves. Pressure is mounting on the couple to move their center to a less polarizing location. (See TIME’s photo-essay “Muslim in America.”)

The controversy has also brought new scrutiny to other examples of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim protests, raising much larger questions: Does America have a problem with Islam? Have the terrorist attacks of 9/11 — and other attempts since — permanently excluded Muslims from full assimilation into American life? Although the American strain of Islamophobia lacks some of the traditional elements of religious persecution — there’s no sign that violence against Muslims is on the rise, for instance — there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that hate speech against Muslims and Islam is growing both more widespread and more heated. Meanwhile, a new TIME-Abt SRBI poll found that 46% of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers. Only 37% know a Muslim American. Overall, 61% oppose the Park51 project, while just 26% are in favor of it. Just 23% say it would be a symbol of religious tolerance, while 44% say it would be an insult to those who died on 9/11. (See “Why the GOP Should Avoid the Mosque Issue.”)

Islamophobia in the U.S. doesn’t approach levels seen in other countries where Muslims are in a minority. But to be a Muslim in America now is to endure slings and arrows against your faith — not just in the schoolyard and the office but also outside your place of worship and in the public square, where some of the country’s most powerful mainstream religious and political leaders unthinkingly (or worse, deliberately) conflate Islam with terrorism and savagery. In France and Britain, politicians from fringe parties say appalling things about Muslims, but there’s no one in Europe of the stature of a former House Speaker who would, as Newt Gingrich did, equate Islam with Nazism. Read “Ground Zero: Exaggerating the Jihadist Threat.”

This is an abridged version of an article that appears in the Aug. 30, 2010, print and iPad editions of TIME magazine.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Drug and Gang Survey in Schools

A new survey claims that 27 percent of public school students aged 12 to 17 attend schools that are both gang and drug-infected. That means 5.7 million students attend schools which are both gang and drug dominated.

Nearly 50 percent of all public school students report drug use or sales on school grounds.

The Columbia University survey claims that one in three middle schoolers say that drugs are used, kept or sold at their school. That number is up 39 percent in the past year.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) survey compared teens attending gang and drug-free schools, teens who attend schools infected with both gangs and drugs.

It found that teens who attend schools with drug and gang problems are five times likelier to use marijuana and three times likelier to drink.

The survey found that 66 percent of high school students said their schools were drug infected, continuing a stead increase in drug-infected high schools since 2006 when 51 percent of high school students said that they attended drug-infected schools.

The survey also found that the drug-free-school gap between public schools and private and religious schools is up sharply in the past decade.

[Return to headlines]

Ground Zero Mosque: Fact File

Conservative politicians and some New Yorkers still traumatised by the Sept.. 11 attacks of 2001 have emotionally opposed a proposed Muslim community centre and mosque two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, also known as Ground Zero.

In recent weeks the project has also drawn wide national attention, including qualified support from President Barack Obama and a suggestion from his fellow Democrat Harry Reid, the party leader in the Senate, that it would be better built elsewhere.

Some facts about the project:


Cordoba House is a proposed mosque and Islamic cultural centre for lower Manhattan. In addition to prayer space, the 13-story glass and steel structure would have an auditorium, a pool, fitness centre and classrooms.


The project, also known as Park51 Muslim Cultural Center, is the creation of the Cordoba Initiative, a think-tank whose stated mission is to improve dialogue between Muslims and the West and promote engagement through education. Started in 2004, the group is headed by Kuwait-born imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, an Islamic scholar. Rauf, a Sufi Muslim, has been active in establishing a dialogue with other religions and has worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to train agents on cultural and religious sensitivity since the Sept. 11 attacks. Sufi Muslims have been targeted by violent extremists in the Muslim world who disagree with Sufis’ tolerance and strand of Islam. A Sufi mosque was attacked in Lahore, Pakistan, on July 1, killing 42 people and wounding 175. The site is owned by Sharif El-Gamal, a U.S.-born Muslim who is chief executive of Soho Properties.


The property is located at 45-51 Park Place, two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, which is under reconstruction. Once completed, the cultural centre could hold up to 2,000 worshippers.


Organizers of Park51 estimate the project will cost $100 million, which has not yet been raised. They say they plan to obtain the funds through traditional fundraising, although financing the project has become a point of contention due to fears among critics that money would come from extremist organisations.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Ground Zero? We’re Nowhere Near it, Say Mosque Planners (£)


Mr el-Gamal, the American-born son of an Egyptian father and Polish mother, is the chairman and chief executive of SoHo Properties and worships at Mr Feisal’s current mosque 12 blocks from Ground Zero. Last year SoHo Properties paid $4.85 million in cash for the site on Park Place, because Mr el-Gamal found the mosque’s facilities too cramped. He said that there was only space for 70 Muslims to pray.

“There are thousands and thousands and thousands of Muslims who live and work in Lower Manhattan. It’s gotten to a point where people are praying on the streets. There is a tremendous need for that prayer space,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Hostility Mounts Against New York Mosque

Opposition among New Yorkers to the construction of a mosque and Islamic cultural centre near Ground Zero appears to be hardening along with the political rhetoric, a poll showed on Wednesday. According to the Siena Research Institute, New York voters are opposed to the Cordoba House project, also known as Park 51, by a margin of 63 to 27 per cent. That represents a larger majority than the 61 per cent that were opposed earlier this month and a sharp shift from a Quinnipiac University poll last month showing 52 per cent against the proposal.

Although most New Yorkers oppose the idea of a mosque being built two blocks from the site of the 2001 World Trade Center attack, 64 per cent think the developers of the site have a constitutional right to build it. “A majority of every demographic group — by party, region, age, gender, political philosophy — agrees that there is a constitutional right to proceed,” said Steven Greenberg, of Siena. Debate over the issue flared after a local landmark committee said the site of the former Burlington Coat Factory building was not historically significant enough to warrant landmark protection, enabling the proposed 13-story project to move ahead.

National politicians have stepped in to what was largely a local matter a few months ago, with Republicans leading the charge against the mosque after President Barack Obama spoke out in defence of freedom of religion this week. Mr Obama said on Wednesday he had “no regrets” about his comments. Even some within the president’s own party have expressed reservations. On Monday, a spokesman for Harry Reid said that the Senate majority leader thought that the mosque should be built somewhere else. David Paterson, a Democrat and New York’s governor, has been working unsuccessfully to persuade the mosque’s developers to find a new location.

A Cordoba Initiative spokesman said it was committed to maintaining the current planned location and that the group was 30 to 90 days away from finishing its fund-raising plans.

Opposition to the project is expected to heat up ahead of next month’s September 11 anniversary. The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero is planning a protest on Sunday with construction workers, firefighters, war veterans and families of victims of the attacks expected to attend.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

If a Mosque Opens at Ground Zero on 9/11 Next Year, Obama Can Kiss the White House Goodbye

Nine years after 9/11, the site of the Twin Towers is still an open sore on the face of New York — a festering reminder of the terror attack which claimed almost 3,000 lives.

To add insult to injury, in the eyes of the victims’ families and the majority of Americans, approval has just been granted for a mosque to be built two blocks away from Ground Zero.

What began as a local planning dispute could come to determine the fate of Barack Obama’s Presidency.

In favour: America’s liberal elite. Against: 70 per cent of the American people. With crucial mid-term elections looming in November, the President finds himself marooned on the wrong side of public opinion. It could cost him control of Congress and, in two years’ time, the White House itself. At an event to mark the Muslim festival of Ramadan, Obama backed the plans for a mosque and Islamic cultural centre 400 yards from Ground Zero, saying: ‘As a citizen and a President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practise their religion as anyone else in this country.

‘That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.’

He also managed to ignite the Bible Belt and God-fearing, moderate Middle America by proclaiming that Islam was a major force in ‘advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings’ and had ‘always been part of America’.

In so doing, he displayed an ignorance of history which made David Cameron’s recent confusion over the timing of America’s entry into World War II look like a minor clerical error.

Obama’s words would have come as a surprise not only to the Founding Fathers, who established the United States on concrete Christian principles, but also to those unfortunate women being stoned to death and subjugated in the more barbaric outposts of Islam.

The President’s inept intervention hosed fuel on the flames of a furore which has been smouldering for months. His attempts to backtrack 24 hours later only made him look weak and indecisive.

This all began when an Islamic group submitted plans to convert a former clothing factory. Despite local protests, City officials could see no lawful impediment to the mosque/cultural centre being built.

In that respect, Obama is absolutely right when he talks about ‘local laws and ordinances’. He is also perfectly justified in defending America’s constitutionally protected religious freedom.

But his reaction was characteristically legalistic, when it should have been empathetic. He concentrated on process, when he should have been focusing on politics and public reaction.

When I was in the U.S. a few weeks ago, it was obvious that this had the potential to explode on to the national stage. The radio talk shows buzzed with indignation. Sarah Palin, the pin-up of the populist Tea Party movement, was busily Twittering her opposition.

After Newt Gingrich, a potential Republican Presidential candidate in 2012, likened the mosque to planting a swastika at a Holocaust memorial, or a Japanese cultural centre at Pearl Harbour, it went nuclear.

Gingrich’s deliberately incendiary analogy hit its intended target. America’s liberal elite spasmed into overdrive, branding all opposition to the mosque as being motived by bigotry and religious hatred, in an attempt to shut down debate.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused campaigners of being part of Hillary Clinton’s imaginary ‘vast Right-wing conspiracy’.

It was as predictable as Britain’s self-styled ‘liberal’ establishment’s track record of smearing anyone who expresses doubts about unlimited immigration as a knuckle-dragging, BNP racist.

At a stroke, almost three-quarters of Americans were written off as ‘bigots’. Unlike Britain, though, America’s silent majority refuses to be cowed into submission.

Of course, the crazies have come crawling out of the woodwork. Obama has always attracted conspiracy theorists who think he is a Muslim ‘sleeper’; emphasise his middle name, Hussein; and refuse even to accept that he was born in the United States.

The more extreme opponents point out that the group behind the plan want to call the project ‘Cordoba House’ — in honour of the Spanish city where medieval Islamic invaders erected a mosque on the site of a razed Roman Catholic cathedral to mark their conquest of Christianity.

But just because batty Sarah Palin is against the mosque, it doesn’t automatically mean she’s wrong.

In their determination to display their ‘tolerance’ of other religions, the supporters of the mosque have paraded their own ingrained intolerance of anyone who disagrees with them.

By proclaiming their ‘sensitivity’ towards Islam they have demonstrated their utter insensitivity to the vast majority of Americans, primarily the 9/11 families.

The establishment’s fundamental mistake was trying to treat this application as a local matter, in the hope that no one would notice. Ground Zero doesn’t just belong to New York, it belongs to all America.

Blue-collar New Jersey and bluegrass Kentucky have just as big a stake in the future of this tragic site as the wealthy bien-pensant population of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, epitomised by New York’s billionaire Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent mayor Michael Bloomberg.

It is hallowed ground, a shrine as holy as any of the Muslim ‘holy cities’ which America’s mainstream media insist are routinely violated by U.S. troops.

The enthusiasm for this mosque is contrasted starkly with the conspicuous failure to rebuild the Twin Towers after nine years; refusal of planning permission for the rebuilding of a nearby Greek Orthodox church damaged in the attacks; and failure to implement a promise to meet the health care costs of rescue workers who sustained debilitating illnesses and injuries on 9/11.

In any debate about Islam, it is obligatory to emphasise that the vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving etc. No one is arguing with that proposition.

But it remains indisputable that 9/11 was an attack carried out by Muslims, in the name of an admittedly insane form of their faith.

What seems to be forgotten in this case, as so often when it comes to dealing with Islam, is that tolerance is a two-way street. This isn’t about freedom to worship. There are already 100 official mosques in New York’s five boroughs, and more than 1,800 across America.

So the question is: Why here? Why now? Why a stone’s throw from Ground Zero? There’s no Muslim population in this part of Manhattan. It’s a business district.

New York’s Governor David Paterson has offered the mosque’s backers an alternative site, away from Ground Zero, but has so far been rebuffed. It is difficult not to conclude that the location of this project is designed deliberately to be provocative.

While Pelosi and others have questioned the motives of the mosque’s opponents, there has been little investigation into its backers.

Most of the money is said to be coming from Saudi Arabia, which would never allow a Christian church to be built in Riyadh. That should, of course be irrelevant given America’s tradition of religious freedom — but somehow, in this context, it isn’t.

The imam at the centre is Faisal Abdul Rauf, a ‘moderate’ who has advised the FBI and the State Department. But like so many ‘moderates’ this imam speaks with forked tongue, rather like some of the dubious characters seconded by our own Home Office and Scotland Yard over the past few years.

Rauf has called America an ‘accessory to 9/11’ and says Osama bin Laden was ‘born in the USA’.

Barack Obama has nailed himself to the side of this mosque and is struggling to wriggle free. Worryingly for the President, two-thirds of voters who define themselves as ‘independents’ — and who swept him to victory in 2008 — are vehemently opposed to the plan.

At a time when 56 per cent of Americans disapprove of his handling of the economy, this is one distraction Obama doesn’t need and should have been bright enough to avoid.

His own party is split on the issue, with even Senate majority leader Harry Reid coming out against the mosque, as he tries to cling on to his own seat in November.

The President’s best hope is that Imam Rauf and his backers accept the offer of an alternative site. But the fall-out will linger.

One report claims the mosque is due to open on September 11, 2011 — the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks.

If that’s true, Obama can kiss the White House goodbye.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Mosque Debate Divides Democrats, Especially in NY

NEW YORK — As vulnerable congressional Democrats weigh how to respond to President Barack Obama’s statements on Muslims’ right to build a mosque near ground zero, those in New York and closest to the controversy are staying silent or scrambling away. Democrats control both Senate seats and 27 of the state’s 29 Congressional districts, but analysts believe as many as eight House Democrats in the state may be headed to defeat this year. Republicans, hoping to ease Democrats’ grip on the state, insist the economy remains the major campaign issue but say the mosque flap could also help move voters their way.

>From eastern Long Island to more rural upstate areas, House Democrats have been opposing the construction of a $100 million Islamic center two blocks from the World Trade Center site. More than 2,700 people died there on Sept. 11, 2001, at the hands of Islamic terrorists, and the wound remains fresh for many New Yorkers who are still traumatized by the attacks or who lost loved ones that day. Developers of the planned Islamic center known as Park51 have plans for a 13-story structure featuring a pool, gym and 500-seat auditorium, as well as a mosque and Sept. 11 memorial. It’s a project of the Cordoba Initiative, a New York-based nonprofit group that promotes greater understanding between Islam and the West.

Obama told a largely Islamic crowd over Ramadan dinner last week that he believed Muslims have a right to build the mosque and practice their religion there. A day later, he said he wasn’t passing judgment on the wisdom of building an Islamic center at that location. The latest Democrat to break with Obama is Rep. John Hall, a two-term incumbent expected to face a strong challenge from Republican Nan Hayworth in the 19th district north of New York City. In a statement released Wednesday, Hall said freedom of religion was essential to democracy but that he hoped the project would be constructed elsewhere. “I think honoring those killed on Sept. 11 and showing sensitivity to their families, it would be best if the center were built at a different location,” Hall said. Hall joins three other House Democrats believed to be vulnerable in November who have announced their opposition to the project.

In eastern Long Island, four-term Rep. Tim Bishop said ground zero should be a symbol of interfaith understanding. If developers of the Islamic center are seeking such unity, they should move the project, he said.

In Staten Island, the most conservative of New York City’s five boroughs, Democratic Rep. Mike McMahon said the project was a local matter and shouldn’t come under federal jurisdiction. Nonetheless, he said he hoped it would be moved. “I believe a new location is the right compromise so that Muslim Americans can worship without eliciting feelings that push us away from our country’s basic tenet of religious acceptance while the families of 9/11 victims obtain the peace of mind they deserve,” McMahon said.

A few vulnerable Democrats have chosen to stay silent on the matter, including Syracuse-area Rep. Dan Maffei, Rep. Bill Owens in northern New York and Albany-area Rep. Scott Murphy. Murphy’s Republican opponent, Chris Gibson, posted a statement on Facebook appearing to support the Islamic center project, saying, “It’s either all or nothing — churches, mosques and synagogues should be treated the same.” He later issued a clarification, saying he didn’t think building a mosque near ground zero was a good idea.

There was a bit of a role-reversal in the Utica-area district where two-term Rep. Mike Arcuri is facing a strong challenge from Republican Richard Hanna. Arcuri was the first New York Democrat to break with Obama on the project, while Hanna initially said he didn’t have a problem with it. “This country was founded by people who were running away from religious persecution. So how can we become what we have beheld and found contemptible in other places?” Hanna said in a statement. He later switched course, saying it was insensitive to locate the project at ground zero.

Justin Phillips, an assistant professor at Columbia University who studies state elections, said the rejection of the mosque by vulnerable Democrats wasn’t surprising.

“The Democrats who are going to lose in 2010 are from moderate to conservative districts, so these are the Democrats who are trying to be very careful in their handling of this issue,” Phillips said. “They don’t want to take an unpopular position on anything right now.” Indeed, Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who faces only token opposition as he seeks his 10th term, has been one of the most outspoken advocates of the project. Nadler’s district includes the World Trade Center site.

Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who faces a feisty primary challenge from attorney Reshma Saujani, announced her support for the Islamic Center two weeks ago but is being pushed by Saujani to speak out more forcefully. The primary is Sept. 14. “This is a major debate unfolding in our city and country, and our leaders … are weighing in with lukewarm statements,” said Saujani, who strongly supports the project. The matter has even quieted the state’s normally garrulous senior senator, Chuck Schumer, who is seeking re-election this year and has yet to weigh in on the controversy that is roiling the state. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is also facing voters this fall, has issued terse statements of support for the center but said she would also back efforts to move it if community members decided to do so.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Most New Yorkers Against Ground Zero Mosque: Poll

NEW YORK: Most New Yorkers oppose a proposed Islamic centre and a mosque near the ground zero, according to a poll on the issue that has sparked a row in the country. A poll by the Siena Research Institute finds that 63 per cent of New Yorkers oppose the project, with 27 per cent supporting it. A similar poll done by Siena College, two weeks, ago showed that 61 per cent opposed the mosque and 26 per cent supported it. However, 64 per cent of New Yorkers supported the right of developers to build the mosque.

Kuwaiti-born Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the developer of the USD 100 million Muslim Community Centre called Cordoba House, insists that it is “a centre for all New Yorkers” and “its purpose is to interweave America’s Muslim population into the mainstream society.” Despite these reassurances, the past few months have witnessed considerable opposition against the mosque, which has received the green light on all legal and technical fronts. “The level of opposition to building Cordoba House remains very strong, with 63 per cent of voters opposing it and only 27 per cent supporting it,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.

Despite the legal and constitutional backing of the mosque, the nation remains divided due to how their own personal feelings about the proximity between the 9/11 site and the mosque. “Voters, however, can clearly distinguish their personal view on whether the Community Centre and mosque should be built near Ground Zero from their opinion on whether the developers have a Constitutional right to build the Cordoba House there,” Greenberg said. “Even a majority of those who oppose building the mosque agree by a margin of 51-42 per cent that they have the right to build it,” he added.

Last week, President Barack Obama came out in support of religious freedom enshrined in the constitution, and while hosting Iftar on Friday, he said that that Muslims had the right to build the Islamic Centre. “Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,” Obama said. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.” Later, Obama clarified that his remarks only related to the rights of the American-Muslims but did not address whether the mosque should be built on disputed site. “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there,” he said, during a trip to Florida on Saturday.

A recently conducted CNN poll found that 68 per cent of Americans nationwide, both Republicans and Democrats, were opposed to building a mosque near the Ground Zero site.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Now One in Five Americans Believe Obama is Muslim as Ground Zero Mosque Row Intensifies

Americans increasingly are convinced — incorrectly — that President Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Nearly one in five people, or 18 per cent, said they think Mr Obama practices Islam.

Even more alarmingly, that number is up from the 11 per cent who said so in March 2009, according to a poll released today.

The proportion who correctly say he is a Christian is down to just 34 per cent.

The largest share of people, 43 per cent, said they don’t know his religion, an increase from the 34 per cent who said that in early 2009.

The survey, conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center and its affiliated Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, is based on interviews conducted before the controversy over whether Muslims should be permitted to construct a mosque near the World Trade Center site.

The poll emerged as the mosque developers refused to rule out accepting funding for the plan from Iran and Saudi Arabia.

When asked, spokesman Oz Sultan said ‘I can’t comment on that’.

Last night Mr Obama said he has ‘no regrets’ over the comments he made about the right of Muslims to build an Islamic centre near Ground Zero.

He was asked about his comments while he was concluding a meeting with the public on the economy in Ohio yesterday.

Mr Obama sparked outrage from Republicans and the families of 9/11 victims after supporting the right of developers to build the mosque.

He inserted himself into the debate over the mosque last week when he said Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in the U.S.

A day later, he told reporters that he wasn’t endorsing the specifics of the mosque plan.

Emergency crews who dealt with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks have condemned his support for a mosque near Ground Zero and accused him of deserting them.

New York firemen, police and ambulance workers said the President was happy to speak up for Muslims but not support the crews in their fight for decent healthcare.

Since the terrorist attack by Islamic extremists, many who risked their lives saving others have been plagued by serious health problems. A bill which would give them £4.6billion compensation is stuck in Congress.

Their call came as a poll showed that Mr Obama was deeply out of step with the American people in his backing of the mosque, which will be two blocks from where the twin towers once stood.

According to the Siena Research Institute poll, 63 per cent of New Yorkers polled were against its construction and just 27 per cent were for it. But in the same poll a similar margin — 64-to-28 per cent — said the developers had the constitutional right to built it.

The mosque, previously called Cordoba House but now known as Park51, will be a 13-storey Muslim community centre costing £70million which will include a swimming pool, gym, theatre and sports facilities.

Construction is due to begin on September 11 next year — the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack.

Mr Obama last week came out in support of the right of Muslims to build a mosque on the site and last night repeated that he had ‘no regrets’ about becoming involved in the row.

But 9/11 emergency workers said it contrasted with their requests for intervention over their healthcare.

John Feal, who heads the Fealgood Foundation supporting emergency workers, said the plight of the Ground Zero workers and their diseases brought on by the toxic cloud over the twin towers had been sidelined.

‘Why have you failed us? We thought you would be our champion,’ he wrote in a letter to Mr Obama. ‘It is disturbing that you have the time and energy to speak in favour of the mosque, but not on the health crisis caused by the attacks.’

The rescuers want Mr Obama to show support for the £4.6billion Zadroga 9/11 health and compensation bill which will guarantee payments to workers who are suffering as a result of 9/11 rescue efforts.

Last month it was rejected by Congress amid accusations by the Republicans that it was a cash grab by New York.

Yesterday there were renewed calls for an investigation into how the mosque will be paid for. Reports suggest it may be funded by cash from regimes with questionable stances on terrorism.

And Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, called for an investigation into those opposing the mosque plans.

She told a San Fransisco radio station: ‘There is no question there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some. And I join those who have called for looking into how… this opposition to the mosque is being funded.’

But her campaign was immediately rejected by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as ‘un-American’.

[Return to headlines]

Smart President Fails Test at Ground Zero

by Margaret Carlson

How can President Barack Obama be so right about the mosque and yet get it so wrong? Here’s how: He is so supremely confident in his intellect that he forgets, on his way to the correct decision, to slow down and pick up not-so-gifted stragglers.

The controversy over locating a mosque close to Ground Zero in New York City created the perfect storm, putting Obama’s strengths and weaknesses into play. He’s an intellectual comfortable with abstractions, a former editor of the Harvard Law Review, a constitutional scholar, a community organizer. When convinced he’s right — which is often — he turns his head at the podium to the right and left, gazing above his audience into the near distance, chin elevated, and makes his pronouncement about what is just and reasonable. We are expected to nod.

With the mosque, he didn’t bother with feelings when he saw that the U.S. Constitution and facts were on his side. A brief summary of those facts: The so-called Ground Zero mosque won’t be at Ground Zero, as headlines suggest, but two blocks away and a world apart, amid peep shows, betting parlors and other dives. (Conde Nast, a temple to hedonism and Lady Gaga, plans to relocate right at Ground Zero.) Other mosques are nearby. The proposed new one, also a community center, is led by an imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, so moderate that Obama and George W. Bush both used him as a bridge to Islam. And of course, if we deny religious freedom, a basic tenet of America, then the terrorists have won.

Oral Arguments

Legal brief written, Obama proceeded to the White House iftar dinner, for the traditional breaking of the daily fast in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable,” he declared. “The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our founders must endure.”

Sound, rational, well-put — but the best student in the class must take an incomplete. Forget the rabid Republicans who see an issue they can ride, such as Newt Gingrich and his Nazi analogy. Obama missed what normal, non-bigoted people were wondering, like whether this is the only spot for the 15-story Islamic community center. Could it go a few blocks away? Has time run out on grieving over 9/11? If so, who decided? If it’s closure time, did anyone inform the families? Did the Japanese erect a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor?

Human Feelings

Having mixed feelings about the placement of a mosque a few blocks from Ground Zero doesn’t make you a yahoo. It makes you human. It doesn’t help that the imam in charge, moderate though he may be, once told Americans to “acknowledge the harm they have done to Muslims before terrorism can end.” Building a mosque near Ground Zero isn’t an obvious way for Muslims to build trust with Americans. It’s an obvious way to help Fox News build ratings and Republicans place a hot-button issue at the center of the November election.

Obama missed his chance, in his initial comments, to recognize the pain and anger involved here. He missed the chance to connect with the many people who view this as a time when what legally can be done is different than what should be done, constitutional protections be darned. The “writ of our founders” got edited within one day, with Obama explaining that he hadn’t commented on the wisdom of building the mosque, only on the right to build it. Maybe overnight he’d gotten down with the people and realized his oversight. Or maybe he was responding to criticism.

Democrats Scatter

But if you are going to follow polls you have to read them before you speak, not after. Otherwise, smart reflection looks like waffling. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, locked in a tough re-election fight in Nevada, was just the highest-profile Democrat to split with the president rather than hand his opponent an issue to flog him with. I’m not one of the critics who thinks Obama doesn’t get angry enough. The sheriff doesn’t have to fly off the handle at banks or BP to show he means business. I have, however, become one of those who wonders if Obama needs to find a common touch. He doesn’t need to bite his lip or grab a bullhorn, only to grasp how people feel. His coldly rational comments on the mosque were reminiscent of his remark during the campaign about people in struggling small towns who “cling to guns or religion,” or of when he said police had “acted stupidly” in arresting Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his own house during a burglary investigation. The Obama mindset is dismissive of those who have never sipped espresso in the faculty lounge. Anyone who lets emotion creep in where Obama has let reason reign is wrong. If only we’d read the Federalist Papers closely, we would see the mosque as he does.

(Margaret Carlson, author of “Anyone Can Grow Up: How George Bush and I Made It to the White House” and former White House correspondent for Time magazine, is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

[JP note: This article deserves some sort of prize for being the first to provide a gratuitous link between the Ground Zero farrago and Lady Gaga.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck: A Mega-Mosque Grows in Tennessee

The controversy raging around the proposed mega-mosque at Ground Zero is just the tip of the iceberg.

There are currently no less than 10 major mosque projects being planned from coast-to-coast: from New York to Wisconsin to California and beyond.

I recently paid a visit to one Tennessee town where locals are fighting plans to build a massive, multi-million dollar Islamic Center on 15.2 acres of land.

Like at Ground Zero, major questions have been raised in TN, chief among them: where is the money coming from to fund this very expensive project? And what is the ideology of the mosque’s leaders, at least one of whom has openly supported Hamas?

You can watch my report at the link above.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]


Canada Marijuana Growers Use Wild Bears to Guard Pot

Police said Wednesday they were astonished to find at least 14 wild black bears guarding an illegal marijuana growing operation after a recent raid on the property in westernmost Canada.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Fred Mansveld said police believe two growers arrested in the raid had used dog food to lure the animals onto the remote property in southeastern British Columbia, to deter marijuana thieves.

Police commonly find dogs, human guards or booby-traps on Canadian marijuana growing operations or “grow-ops.” In comparison, these bears did a very poor job as guard animals when five policemen arrived.

“They were tame, they just sat around watching… at one point one of the bears climbed onto the hood of a police car, sat there for a bit and then jumped off,” said Mansveld…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

German Student Attacks Hell’s Angels With Puppy

[This is two months old, but too good to miss. — Fjordman]

(Reuters) — A German student created a major traffic jam in Bavaria after making a rude gesture at a group of Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang members, hurling a puppy at them and then escaping on a stolen bulldozer.

German police said on Monday that after making his getaway from the Hell’s Angels club, the 26-year-old dumped the bulldozer, causing a 5 km (3 miles) traffic jam near the southern town of Allershausen, local police said. He then fled to his home nearby where he was apprehended by the police.

“What motivated him to throw a puppy at the Hell’s Angels is currently unclear,” said a spokesman for local police, adding that the student had lately been suffering from depression.

The puppy was now in safe hands, the spokesman added

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Google Knows More About Us Than the KGB, Stasi or Gestapo’

Germans have not proven terribly receptive to Google’s Street View service.

With just weeks to go before Google launches its Street View service in Germany, the government in Berlin has finally begun to take notice. But Chancellor Merkel’s cabinet is wary of specifically targeting the company. German commentators wonder if the private sphere is being redefined.

In a country where privacy concerns are paramount, many Germans are particularly uneasy about Google’s Street View service. The US Internet giant’s plans to launch a mapping feature for 20 German cities before the end of the year has raised the ire of many who would prefer that their homes did not feature on the service.

But on Wednesday, the government rejected a proposed piece of legislation from Germany’s upper legislative chamber, the Bundesrat, at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday because it focused too much on that particular service. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said that instead the government planned to address geographically-based Internet services in general. To that end he has invited ministers, consumer, data and privacy officials, and the companies concerned to a summit meeting on Sept. 20 to discuss the best way forward.

Google for its part has given Germans four weeks to request that their homes be pixelated, which the company says goes beyond what it is legally required to do.

German Justice Minister Sabine Leuthesser-Schnarrenberger on Thursday defended the government’s handling of the issue. She said that a “Lex Google,” would not help as it would mean that the government would constantly “trying to catch up with new technical developments.”

‘Data Protection Now’

Speaking to the Saarbrücker Zeitung newspaper, she said that the cabinet had, therefore, decided that a general reform of the data protection law was the best way to deal with these kinds of services.

Renate Künast, a leader of the opposition Greens, slammed the government for the way it had “simply slept” through the development of Street View. Google has spent the past two years photographing German streets in preparation for its service. “We don’t need a round table on Google that puts off the issue and people’s questions for another year,” she said. “We need data protection rules now.”

And Peter Schaar, Germany’s federal commissioner for data protection, urged the government to come up with new legislation to allow people to ensure their data was kept off the Internet. “It cannot be that the right to object depends on the goodwill of the individual companies,” he said on Wednesday.

German newspapers on Thursday take a look at the Google debate and many are concerned with the implications for how the public and private spheres are defined.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Aide Moved Over ‘Islam is Like Nazism’ Comment

A civil servant working under Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni will be assigned new duties after writing a blog saying that there are no good adherents of Islam and comparing the religion to Communism or Nazism.

Unions take up fight for lewd cop blogger (6 Jul 10)

The man, a non-political appointee, shared his opinion on Islam on his blog in September 2008 when he commented on an article by writer Lena Andersson in which she warned against the “religious terrorism” directed at artists, writers and journalists.

The civil servant’s own commentary on the article was that “Islam is like Communism or Nazism. There are no good practitioners — just confused or evil.”

Sabuni told the Expressen daily on Wednesday, “I strongly disagree with these views and there is of course no truth in them.”

However, neither she nor her state secretary, Christer Hallerby, commented on Wednesday on whether they consider the man man fit to work with immigration issues.

“I cannot conduct personnel policy in the media since this is something we deal with internally,” Hallerby told news agency TT. “This is something he has done outside of his duties and as I understand it also before he was hired here.”

“For the non-political parts of government offices, the same rules apply as for those in the rest of the labour market in terms of freedom of expression, job security and professional negotiations during a transfer.”

Sabuni also stressed that the man is an non-political civil servant and that she cannot keep track of what all the civil servants in the government offices think.

She declined to answer the question as to whether the man is suitable to work as a researcher in her department.

However, a written statement from Hallerby on Wednesday evening confirmed that he and the staff member had agreed that as the discussion had arisen it was made clear that the man could no longer represent the department “in the same way as before.”

The man will “change job duties within the department in the future.” A discussion of what these will entail is currently ongoing.

The man later apologised on his blog for the comments and offered a clarification of his statement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK (2005): Charles’s Mosque Meets a Rebellion

THE Prince of Wales is facing a growing public revolt over plans to build a mosque as part of a new settlement he is planning in Cornwall.

More than 100 local residents have formed an action group to prevent a consortium of developers led by the Duchy of Cornwall, the prince’s estate, from building the mosque on the southeast fringes of Newquay. They point out that there are virtually no Muslims in the area, with official government figures showing that only 33 people out of more than 22,000 are Muslims. The multi-million-pound development — variously dubbed “Kensington-on-sea” and “Surfbury” because of its location — would create a series of “urban villages and hamlets” consisting of some 1,200 new homes.

A range of community services including a “holistic” health centre and masonic lodge are also planned as part of the project, which should be complete by 2016. Personally overseen by the prince and George Hautot, a local holiday park owner, the scheme is designed to help regenerate the area and has been broadly welcomed by the local council. But residents are upset about the mosque and have joined forces in a bid to stop it being built.

In a letter published in a local newspaper last week, the 118- strong Newquay Mosque Opposition Group called for a “cinema complex/ice skating rink/supermarket/bowling alley or something for the whole community . . . that will not be out of character with the area” to be built instead. “All these facilities would generate revenue, giving us something that would generate jobs for the Cornish people,” the letter added. Objections to the proposed mosque first emerged when residents met the Prince’s Foundation and developers at a public hearing last October.

According to an internal report obtained by The Sunday Times, Ron Pooley, a local resident, said he “disagreed with (the) mosque, which would be out of place and unpopular with existing residents”. Pooley’s objection is thought to have led to the formation of the opposition group, which is now seeking 2,000 signatures on a local petition calling for the plan to be dropped. Steven Briggs, a local resident, said he was aware of strong public feeling against the mosque. “I could think of a hundred other things local people would prefer,” he said. “A mosque is the last thing they would want.”

Another resident, Viscountess Long, wife of the 4th Viscount Long of Wraxall, said she understood the mosque was a sensitive issue. “I don’t know who thought this up,” she said.

Others pointed to the 2001 census figures compiled by the Office for National Statistics, which show that in the four council wards covering the area, only 0.15% of the local population follow Islam.

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim parliament, said Prince Charles should respect the wishes of the religious majority in Newquay. “If there are hardly any Muslims there, what is the need for a mosque? There should be a Church of England church there instead,” he said. “You have to take into account the fact that the vast majority of people there are of the Anglican faith. If that is ignored there will never be fairness or tolerance in society.”

The Prince’s Foundation says the idea for the mosque was generated by “local interest” and is currently standing by its plans. However, it added that the mosque was just one of a large number of proposals and that the public consultation process was continuing. The prince himself has made no secret of his support for Islam. He has an Islamic garden at his home at Highgrove in Gloucestershire.

He once famously described himself as “defender of faith” — upsetting those who believe that the heir to the throne should identify himself solely with the Church of England.

Initial building work is set to begin by the end of the year. Using traditional materials such as Cornish granite and slate on a 250-acre site, the proposed settlement embodies Charles’s vision of Britain’s architectural future, complete with mock- Regency architecture and gentrified town squares. The development is being built a decade after the prince’s Austrian planner, Leon Krier, created Poundbury, a village on Charles’s land in Dorset. Poundbury proved a commercial and popular success but led to criticism from modernists, with Lord Rogers, one of Britain’s leading architects, dismissing it as “a questionable exercise in Hardyesque nostalgia”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iraq: Dazed Survivors Shake Off Blast to Rush Back in Job Line

Within hours of Tuesday’s bombing at a military recruitment centre in Baghdad, Iraqis seeking jobs returned to the ministry of defence offices where the explosion occurred, highlighting a simmering crisis — a chronic lack of employment.

Haider Munzer was one of the would-be soldiers who survived the blast that killed 61 people and wounded 125 others. He had arrived at the army depot early that morning, hoping his two-year-long search for work had come to an end.

Sadriya is among Baghdad’s poorer areas, and many of its young men had turned out to answer the government’s call for new soldiers.

“There are so many of us in Sadriya without work, so many in the same position as me, losing hope,” Mr Munzer said.

He described a situation in which growing numbers of his peers were turning to crime, joining gangs or working as thieves in Shorja market.

“They sometimes do kidnappings or steal from businessmen and traders who come in from outside Baghdad,” he said. “That is what people do for a job because there are no real jobs.

[Return to headlines]

Last US Combat Brigade Leaves Iraq

While most reports suggested the pullout of the 4th Brigade would take only a few hours, The Los Angeles Times said it would take three days for the 360 military vehicles and 1,800 soldiers to get down the road from Baghdad, through the Shiite south and into Kuwait.

The last US combat brigade pulled out of Iraq and crossed into Kuwait almost seven and a half years after the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, US media reported yesterday.

Television footage showed an NBC reporter travelling with the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division crossing the border around midnight local time to be followed in the coming hours by the rest of the brigade.

But the US military said there were still several thousand more US troops in Iraq that had to go before the drawdown was complete.


When it does the official name of the US mission in Iraq will change from “Operation Iraqi Freedom” to “Operation New Dawn,” said Maj Gen Stephen Lanza in an interview with MSNBC.

The pullout comes just one day after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded army recruitment centre in Baghdad killing 59 people, as violence coinciding with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan raged across Iraq.


The US troop pullouts have come despite warnings from senior Iraqi politicians and officers about the dangers of an early exit given the security situation and political uncertainty.

Iraq’s top military officer told AFP last week on the sidelines of a defence ministry conference in Baghdad that American forces may be needed in the conflict-wracked nation for a further decade.

“At this point, the withdrawal is going well, because they are still here,” Lt Gen Babaker Zerbari said.

[Return to headlines]

Qatar: HSBC Launches Premier Islamic Service

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 17 — The branch of HSBC in Qatar has launched ‘Premier Services’, the first Islamic banking service of its kind, projected to serve clients that have commercial activity in many countries of the world. The news comes from the Qatar newspaper Arraya, which adds that the service manages clients’ money according to Islamic law.

The new service is already active in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Great Britain and the United States. In addition to emergency assistance in 40 markets where the HSBC bank is active, clients of the bank and their families can, with no cost, manage their accounts and banking operations in their own country from abroad. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Judge Considers Paralysis Punishment

Saudi media are reporting that a judge has asked several hospitals in the country whether they could damage a man’s spinal cord as punishment after he was convicted of attacking another man with a cleaver and paralyzing him.

Saudi Arabia enforces Islamic law and on occasion metes out punishments based on the ancient code of an eye-for-an-eye.

At least two Saudi newspapers reported Thursday that a judge in northwestern Tabuk province asked hospitals for a medical opinion on the question.

Okaz newspaper reports that a leading hospital in Riyadh responded that it could not do the operation. Two of the hospitals involved and the court were closed for the Saudi weekend and could not be reached for comment.

[Return to headlines]

‘Spine-for-a Spine’: Saudi Criminal Faces Having Spinal Cord Severed After Paralysing Victim With Meat Cleaver

The ultra-conservative desert Kingdom enforces Islamic law and on rare occasions metes out punishments based on the ancient code of an ‘eye-for-an-eye’.

The case judge in the northwestern province of Tabuk has sent letters to several hospitals seeking their advice on whether it is medically possible to render the attacker’s spinal cord non-functional, local newspapers said.

One leading hospital said that it could not perform the operation, apparently on ethical grounds. The King Faisal Specialist Hospital — a leading medical facility in the Saudi capital, Riyadh — said in a letter of response to the court that ‘inflicting such harm is not possible’.

Another hospital reportedly said it is possible to cut the spinal cord but it was not clear whether it is prepared to do so.

The punishment can be waived if the victim chooses to accept ‘blood money’ in reparation.

The same also applies in capital cases, such as murder. There have been several instances over the years where a convicted murderer’s life has been spared at the 11th hour when his victim’s family has eventually decided to show mercy.

On some occasions the executioner was poised with his sword over the condemned man’s neck when the reprieve came.

But in this instance the victim, Abdul-Aziz Al-Mutairi, is insisting that his attacker — who has not been named by Saudi media — suffer the same crippling injury.

Mutairi, 22, said the culprit had confessed in court to hitting him with a cleaver during a fight more than two years ago, Saudi media reports.

His attacker has spent several months in jail.

Such ‘eye for eye’ punishments are rarely carried out in Saudi Arabia, and Saudi reformists are infuriated when such sentences are passed.

‘No hospital will cut this man’s spinal cord. Any doctor who did could find himself in court,’ said a senior Saudi journalist, who did not wish to be named.

‘This is part of an extremist tradition that has nothing to do with Islamic law which places a high value on mercy,’ he said.

Four years ago a Saudi court pardoned an Indian man, Abdul Lateef Noushad, whose eye was to be gouged out. He had blinded another man in a fight over money. The victim eventually pardoned the Indian after the case threatened to cause a diplomatic row. The reprieve came a day before Saudi’s King Abdullah arrived in India on a state visit.

But ten years ago, an Egyptian worker had an eye surgically removed in a Saudi hospital as punishment for disfiguring a compatriot in an acid attack six years earlier.

That was said to be the first time in 40 years that a Saudi court had applied literally the principle of “an eye for an eye”, local media said at the time.

The Egyptian’s victim had refused a blood money offer of £87,000. In 2008, an Iranian court sentenced a man to be blinded with acid after he did the same to a woman he was stalking. It is not clear if the punishment was carried out.

Human rights groups invariably describe such ‘eye for an eye’ punishments as ‘abhorrent’. They also say that trials in Saudi Arabia fall far below international standards.Trials usually take place behind closed doors and without adequate legal representation.

The Kingdom has one of the highest execution rates in the world after China and Iran. The most common method of execution in Saudia Arabia is beheading. The sentences are usually carried out in public.

But King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch, has been trying to clamp down on extremist ideology and improve the country’s forbidding image. Although in his 80s, he is a reformist. He recently banned unauthorised clerics from issuing bizarre religious decrees known as fatwas.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Syria: Debate Over TV Programme That Alludes to Koran

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 17 — Controversy and debate among Syrian artists and intellectuals have been sparked by the TV programme ‘Ma malaket aimanahum’, title which alludes to the Koran. The news is reported by the Mena agency which adds the contribution of Mohammed Said Albotay, professor of Islamic law at the University of Damascus, who asked the two satellite channels that broadcast the programme to block its transmission.

The professor, one of the most famous religious men in Syria, believes that the TV series of Syrian director Najdet Anthoor treats God, religion and religious people with sarcasm.

The series, which Abu Dhabi TV preferred not to air during Ramadan, is currently broadcasted by the Syrian satellite TV channel Almustakbel TV.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Italy on Course for Afghan School Target

60 schools built in five-year mission

(ANSA) — Rome, August 19 — Italy will achieve its goal of opening 60 new schools in Afghanistan in the five years of its mission there, the Italian army’s Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) said at a groundbreaking ceremony for the last three.

The three schools in Herat Province’s districts of Injil, Karokh and Shindand are expected to be completed by the beginning of December, the PRT said.

The work is being done by local firms and workers to help boost the economy of the underdeveloped country.

The Governor of Herat, the western Afghan city and province where the Italian contingent is based, symbolically laid the first stone of the 60th school in Shindand.

PRT Commander Emmmanuele Aresu said: “education is an absolute priority for us, especially in rural areas”.

He noted that the latest schools will raise the number of students to 80,000.

The new projects will be implemented also thanks to a partnership with the US Forces in Afghanistan — who will contribute with funds totalling 450,000 euros — and with the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development, which will provide the furniture and school items.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Far East

IPhone-Maker Rallies Workers After Suicides

Young workers who normally spend their days assembling iPhones and other high-tech gadgets packed a stadium at their massive campus Wednesday, waving pompoms and shouting slogans at a rally to raise morale following a string of suicides at the company’s heavily regimented factories.

“For a long period of time I think we were kind of blinded by our success,” said Louis Woo, special assistant to Terry Gou, the founder of Foxconn’s parent company. “We were kind of caught by surprise.”

The company has already raised wages, hired counselors and installed safety nets on buildings to catch would-be jumpers. Other changes include job rotation so workers can try different tasks and grouping dorm assignments by home province so workers don’t feel so isolated.


The rally Wednesday took place at Foxconn’s mammoth industrial park in Shenzhen, which employs 300,000 and where most of the suicides have taken place. The latest suicide — the 12th this year — occurred Aug. 4 when a 22-year-old woman jumped from her factory dormitory in eastern Jiangsu province.

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Australia — Pacific

‘Muslim Witness Must Remove Burqa’ — Judge Shauna Deane

A PERTH judge has ordered that a Muslim woman must remove a full burqa while giving evidence before a jury in a fraud case.

Judge Shauna Deane today ruled that the witness must remove her niqab, or burqa face covering, when she gives evidence to the jury.

The judge said she did not consider it appropriate that the witness give evidence with her face covered.

However she stressed she was not making a decision which was making a legal precedent, it was simply her ruling in these circumstances.

Earlier a defence lawyer had argued that the Muslim woman should remove her burqa to give evidence in the fraud trial, just as she would have to appear without the covering in an Islamic court.

But District Court Judge Shauna Deane rejected the argument as not relevant, as the matter is not being heard in an Islamic court.

The judge heard lawyers’ submissions on whether a 36-year-old Muslim woman should be allowed to wear a full burqa, also called a niqab, while giving evidence in a fraud trial.

The woman, an Islamic studies teacher, is due to give evidence for the prosecution in the fraud trial of a Muslim college director, Anwar Sayed.

In court, defence lawyer Mark Trowell, QC, said the woman’s wish to wear the burqa was a “preference she has”.

“It’s not an essential part of the Islamic faith. If she was in an Islamic court she would be required to remove it,” he said.

Judge Deane replied: “This isn’t an Islamic court.”

Defence lawyers raised concerns about how the jury could be expected to read the woman’s facial expressions if they could not see her face.

Prosecutor Mark Ritter, SC, told the court the woman wanted to give evidence but would feel uncomfortable without the burqa and that could affect her evidence.

“It goes beyond stress . . . it would have a negative impact,” Mr Ritter said.

He said the woman, who has lived in Australia for seven years, had worn the burqa since the age of 17 and went without it only before her family and male blood relatives.

Read more at Perth Now.

           — Hat tip: Russkiy[Return to headlines]

‘Muslim Witness Must Remove Burqa Face Covering ‘ — Judge Deane

A PERTH judge has ordered that a Muslim woman must remove a traditional face-covering burqa while giving evidence before a jury in a fraud case.

Judge Shauna Deane ruled that the witness, 36-year-old Tasneem, would not be allowed to give evidence without removing her head covering, known as a niqab.

The court was told the woman, an Islamic Studies teacher who will give evidence for the prosecution in the fraud trial of Muslim college director Anwar Sayed, has worn the niqab for the past 17 or 18 years.

She had only removed the covering when solely in the company of family members, or for medical or security reasons in public.

Judge Deane said that while giving evidence without the niqab may make the witness uncomfortable, she stressed the importance of upholding a fair trial and saying the head covering could be misleading for the jury when assessing the evidence of the witness.

In her ruling, Judge Deane stressed the decision “will not and cannot” be used as precedent for other courts, and said a judgment on whether the head covering was appropriate in court needed to be made on a case-by-case basis.

She said the ruling was not designed to determine the validity of garments to people of Muslim faith.

Earlier, Judge Deane acknowledged removing the niqab would be “a totally foreign experience” for the witness which could leave her “in an unusual position of vulnerability” when giving evidence.

She also said the reliability of evidence could be affected because it was likely to add stress to the witness.

But she ultimately ruled that the criminal trial process needed to be “observed and followed” and the jury needed to be considered.

“I accept that the demeanour of a particular witness, which includes the viewing of that person’s face, is not the only means by which the reliability and credibility of their testimony may be assessed,” she said.

“That could never be the case.

“The jury may or may not consider the presentation and demeanour of a witness to be of assistance, but the issue is whether, in all of the circumstances, the jury should have the opportunity to be so assisted.”

The Judge said lawyers would engage in discussions as to how to best accommodate the witness giving evidence before the trial former Muslim school director Anwar Sayed begins on October 4.

Sayed is accused of fraudulently obtaining up to $752,000 in state and federal grants by falsifying roll numbers for the Muslim Ladies College of Australia in Kenwick, south of Perth, in 2006.

The defence had raised concerns about how the jury could be expected to read the woman’s facial expressions if they could not see her face.

The first jury in the case was discharged after the estimated time for the trial blew out from 10 days to five weeks, causing attendance problems for five jurors.

While acknowledging the court needed to be “respectful and sensitive” to the beliefs of individuals, Judge Deane ruled she could not deny the jury the opportunity to determine the credibility of witnesses.

“The trial process must be fair to all concerned . . . it is regrettable that this may result in a degree of distress to individuals,” she said.

Outside the court, Mr Sayed said he had not been opposed to the witness wearing the niqab in court.

“I had no objection — I said it very clearly and categorically before. This was a legal matter in which I had no role to play,” he said.

He said he had recovered after an incident where he was hospitalised after being attacked with a bottle earlier this month.

‘Burqa case’ takes bizarre twist

On August 6 Mr Sayed was allegedly attacked as he drove to his solicitor’s office in Perth and was treated in hospital for minor injuries.

In court the day before, Sayed’s lawyer Mark Trowell, QC, said his client had received death threats via phone calls and handwritten notes over the burqa issue.

Sayed was at court today and told reporters outside that he was “much better”.

Defence lawyer argued to remove face covering

Mr Trowell had argued that the Muslim woman should remove her burqa to give evidence, just as she would have to appear without the covering in an Islamic court.

But Judge Deane rejected the argument as not relevant, as the matter is not being heard in an Islamic court.

Mr Trowell, QC, said the woman’s wish to wear the burqa was a “preference she has”.

“It’s not an essential part of the Islamic faith. If she was in an Islamic court she would be required to remove it,” he said.

Judge Deane replied: “This isn’t an Islamic court.”

Prosecutor Mark Ritter, SC, told the court the woman wanted to give evidence but would feel uncomfortable without the burqa and that could affect her evidence.

“It goes beyond stress . . . it would have a negative impact,” Mr Ritter said.

He said the woman, who has lived in Australia for seven years, had worn the burqa since the age of 17 and went without it only before her family and male blood relatives.

“Female modesty is a very important part of the religion,” he said.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Southern Sudan Unveils Plans for Animal-Shaped Cities

The authorities in southern Sudan have unveiled a $10bn (£6.4bn) plan to rebuild the region’s cities in the shapes of animals and fruit.

Elaborate blueprints for the new cities have already been drawn up.

The regional capital, Juba, will be relocated and designed in the shape of a rhinoceros. Wau, the capital of Western Bahr el-Ghazal state, is to be a somewhat unwieldy giraffe.

Bridging the gap

Southern Sudanese are due to vote in a referendum on independence next year.

In Juba, the office of the regional president is situated where the rhinoceros’s eye should be.

In Wau, the sewage treatment plant is appropriately placed under the giraffe’s tail.

There is talk that the town of Yambio will be shaped like a pineapple.

The reason for these shapes is not entirely illogical — they match the symbols that appear on the flags of southern Sudan’s states.

But how will the authorities raise the $10bn they say they need to make this plan a reality? They say they are talking to investors but it is all a bit vague.

Although there is plenty of oil in southern Sudan, people there are extremely poor.

The United Nations says more than 90% of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.

The plans for the new cities perhaps reflect the heady optimism of a potential new independent South Sudan, but whether they will ever get beyond the drawing board is another matter.

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France Begins Controversial Roma Deportations

Hardliners in France have been busy this summer. Already, authorities have shut down dozens of Roma camps in the country and they began deporting the evicted Roma on Thursday. Many suspect political calculation is behind the policy, but it may backfire on President Sarkozy.

A raid in Harmes, 200 kilometers north of Paris: the police clear out a Roma camp in the small village located in the departement Pas-de-Calais. Sixteen people are taken into custody to inspect their legal status. At the same time, 84 Roma in Tremblay-en-France, just northeast of the French capital, are forced to leave public land belonging to the city. In Bordeaux, dozens of mobile homes and caravans belonging to Roma and traveler minorities block a road in protest after having been expelled from an illegal campground.

On Thursday, France took the next step and began to expel the recently evicted Roma. A charter flight carrying 93 Roma took off for Bucharest on Thursday — the beginning of a government plan to expel hundreds by the end of the month. Most of them are from Romania and Bulgaria; both the countries are members of the European Union, but their citizens still need work permits and residency permits for longer stays in other member states.

Still, the French offensive against Roma is not free of political calculation. Many suspect that President Nicolas Sarkozy has found new scapegoat in his fight against crime.

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, one of the champions of the expulsions, recently trumpeted: “We have closed down 40 illegal camps in the last two weeks.” He said that 700 people were affected and they would be sent back to their “countries of origin” in the coming weeks. For Hortefeux, such numbers speak of a resounding success. The government wants to display stubborn resolve in its Roma policies.

A Stern Tone

Hortefeux is not alone. Fellow cabinet member Christian Estrosi, Sarkozy’s minister of industry as well as being the mayor of Nice, has likewise struck a stern tone. “Cities that don’t fulfil security regulations should be forced to pay stiff monetary penalties,” he proposed. In other words, those municipalities that show sympathy with the Roma will be sanctioned. Earlier this week, he was even more precise. He said he is particularly concerned that cities controlled by Socialist Party (PS) mayors “are not completely fulfilling their duties when it comes to crime prevention.”

France’s policy of repatriating Roma isn’t new. Last year, the country sent some 10,000 Roma back to Romania and Bulgaria, with some 70 percent going willingly after being offered aid by the French government to resettle.

But this year, Paris has seemed intent on using the expulsions as a political tool. Comments of the kind made by Hortefeux and Estrosi are useful for producing headlines. The two have kept themselves in the news throughout the summer vacation season in France, with Hortefeux, a personal friend of Sarkozy’s since early in their political careers, repeatedly demanding stricter laws.

It is a strategy which reminds observers of political strategies once pursued by Sarkozy himself. Demands for toughness, Sarkozy learned during the violent protests in the suburbs which rocked France in 2005, generate media attention. Hortefeux appears to have been taking notes.

Estrosi, for his part, looks to be content in his role as sidekick. His cabinet career has so far been less than impressive and his administration in Nice has shown a predilection for installing surveillance cameras around the city. Still, Estrosi does not shy away from directness. Headlines are the main thing — and they please Sarkozy, who has recently spoken kindly of his industry minister…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nearly Half of United States Considering Arizona-Style Immigration Legislation

Twenty-two states are now in the process of drafting or seeking to pass legislation similar to Arizona’s law against illegal immigration. This is occurring despite the fact that the Obama administration has filed a lawsuit against the Arizona law and a federal judge has ruled against portions of that law — a ruling that is now being appealed.

Next month, two Rhode Island state lawmakers, a Democrat and a Republican, will travel to Arizona to speak with Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, local sheriffs, and other officials about how to better craft their own bipartisan immigration bill for Rhode Island, which already has been enforcing some federal immigration laws.

Meanwhile, 11 Republican state lawmakers from Colorado traveled to Arizona this week to meet with officials there on how to craft legislation for the Mile High state.

In addition, Alabama House Republicans announced this week that they would seek to “push an illegal immigration bill similar to the recently approved Arizona law.” This law would “create a new criminal trespass statute that allows local law enforcement to arrest illegal immigrants for simply setting foot in Alabama,” said Alabama’s House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard…

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali: How to Win the Clash of Civilizations

The key advantage of Huntington’s famous model is that it describes the world as it is—not as we wish it to be.

What do the controversies around the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, the eviction of American missionaries from Morocco earlier this year, the minaret ban in Switzerland last year, and the recent burka ban in France have in common? All four are framed in the Western media as issues of religious tolerance. But that is not their essence. Fundamentally, they are all symptoms of what the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington called the “Clash of Civilizations,” particularly the clash between Islam and the West.

Huntington’s argument is worth summarizing briefly for those who now only remember his striking title. The essential building block of the post-Cold War world, he wrote, are seven or eight historical civilizations of which the Western, the Muslim and the Confucian are the most important.

The balance of power among these civilizations, he argued, is shifting. The West is declining in relative power, Islam is exploding demographically, and Asian civilizations—especially China—are economically ascendant. Huntington also said that a civilization-based world order is emerging in which states that share cultural affinities will cooperate with each other and group themselves around the leading states of their civilization.

The West’s universalist pretensions are increasingly bringing it into conflict with the other civilizations, most seriously with Islam and China. Thus the survival of the West depends on Americans, Europeans and other Westerners reaffirming their shared civilization as unique—and uniting to defend it against challenges from non-Western civilizations.

Huntington’s model, especially after the fall of Communism, was not popular. The fashionable idea was put forward in Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay “The End of History,” in which he wrote that all states would converge on a single institutional standard of liberal capitalist democracy and never go to war with each other. The equivalent neoconservative rosy scenario was a “unipolar” world of unrivalled American hegemony. Either way, we were headed for One World.

President Obama, in his own way, is a One Worlder. In his 2009 Cairo speech, he called for a new era of understanding between America and the Muslim world. It would be a world based on “mutual respect, and . . . upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles.”

The president’s hope was that moderate Muslims would eagerly accept this invitation to be friends. The extremist minority—nonstate actors like al Qaeda—could then be picked off with drones.

Of course, this hasn’t gone according to plan. And a perfect illustration of the futility of this approach, and the superiority of the Huntingtonian model, is the recent behavior of Turkey.

According to the One World view, Turkey is an island of Muslim moderation in a sea of extremism. Successive American presidents have urged the EU to accept Turkey as a member on this assumption. But the illusion of Turkey as the West’s moderate friend in the Muslim world has been shattered…

           — Hat tip: ESW[Return to headlines]