Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101027

Financial Crisis
»CBO Director Says Obamacare Will Drive People From the Workforce
»Germany Becomes Tax Haven for the Swiss
»Republicans Plan for Early Budget Cuts
»Alleged Would Be Terrorist Thwarted at Every Turn
»Democrat Election Fraud Openly Running Rampant
»In America: Communist, Socialist, Progressive = Democrat
»Man Arrested Over ‘Plot to Bomb Washington DC Metro’
»Nevada Voting Machines Automatically Checking Harry Reid’s Name; Voting Machine Technicians Are SEIU Members
»New Film on Ground Zero Mosque Set to Premier
»Parts of Obama Coalition Drift Toward G.O.P., Poll Finds
»Pressure Mounts on Lincoln U. Over Holocaust-Denying Professor
»Terrorist Ayers Endorses Stewart/Colbert Rallies
»What’s More Important: Liberty or the Entity That Protects it?
»Khadr Opinion Based on Muslim ‘Inbreeding’ Writings
Europe and the EU
»A Good Turk in Europe is an Unintegrated One!
»‘Bin Laden’ Voice Message Threatens France
»Bin Laden Warns France Over Afghan War, Veil Ban
»Denmark: Former Minister Guilty of Slander
»‘Discrimination, Not Islam Behind Violent Youths’
»Fairy Tale Comes True for Germany’s ‘Dragon Castle’
»Germany: Too Much Solar Power Could Overload National Grids, Warns Expert
»Italy Drops Below Rwanda in Corruption Ranking
»Multikulti: Scheitern Oder Sichereit?
»No Chance for Turkey to Join EU
»Sweden to Extend Police Powers on Data Access
»Swedish Far Right Not Welcome at Nobel Dinner
»UK: Global Peace and Unity — Extremist and Pro Terrorist Material on Sale
»UK: Julie Burchill: Poor Lauren Booth — She Would Do Anything to Get in With the Tough Kids
»UK: Mohammed is Now the Most Popular Name for Baby Boys Ahead of Jack and Harry
»UK: Minister Spoke at Event With Terrorist Accessories on Sale
»UK: Swine Flu Caused Deaths of 70 Youngsters in Nine Months, With Ethnic Children the Hardest Hit
»UK: Safety Protocol ‘Delayed’ 7/7 Fire Crew at Aldgate
»Why Are So Many Modern British Career Women Converting to Islam?
»Religious Battles in the Balkans
North Africa
»Egypt Arrests More Brotherhood Members Ahead of Polls
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel’s Right Wing Starts Its Own Tea Party
»See Where Obama’s Wrath is Headed After Midterms
Middle East
»From Israel to Iraq, A Christian Flight of Biblical Proportions Has Begun
»Holy See Condemns Tariq Aziz Death Sentence
»Saudi Budget Cut for Global Islamic Indoctrination
»Architect Seeks to Rebuild Historic Core of Königsberg
South Asia
»As Russian Troops Prepare to Return to Afghanistan in Landmark Agreement, Gorbachev Warns NATO Victory is Impossible
Australia — Pacific
»Council Rejects Use of School Hall as Mosque
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Malawi: New Testaments Desecrated by Muslim Pupils Attending a Catholic School
»Arizona Law Requiring Voters Prove Citizenship is Struck Down
»Germany: Government Takes Aim at Forced Marriages
»Germany Moves to Outlaw Forced Marriages
»Immigrants Now 7% of Italy’s Population
»Terrorism Suspect Given ‘Victim’ Status by Polish Legal Authorities
»UK: Chaos Over Restraint Rules for Deportees

Financial Crisis

CBO Director Says Obamacare Will Drive People From the Workforce

Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf said the most significant economic effect of President Barack Obama’s health care reform package will be to drive people out of the job market.

“For the economy outside the health sector, the most significant impact of the legislation will be through the labor market,” Elmendorf said on Oct. 22. “We estimated that the legislation, on net, will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by roughly half a percent, primarily by reducing the amount that people choose to work.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Germany Becomes Tax Haven for the Swiss

Switzerland’s banks have long been popular among German tax dodgers, but it turns out that an increasing number of Swiss citizens are hiding their money at southern German financial institutions, according to a media report on Wednesday.

Following a string of tax fraud scandals that uncovered hundreds of millions of euros in Swiss banks, German politicians have lambasted the country’s secretive banking policies.

But as German and Swiss officials prepare to meet this week to forge a tax deal that could bring revenue back home, the financial newspaper Handelszeitung revealed that German institutions are aggressively courting Swiss customers looking to stash their cash north of the border.

“It doesn’t interest us if they pay taxes on their earnings,” a banker in a German-Swiss border town told the paper. “The Swiss won’t get any information from us anyhow.”

While the German banks say that they explicitly advise Swiss customers to claim their money for taxation back home, in southern cities such as Konstanz, Lörrach, Waldshut and Jestetten they are also offering them rock-bottom fees, high interest rates and the utmost in discretion.

According to Handelszeitung, the Volksbank Hochrhein in the state of Baden-Württemberg alone has some €60 million in Swiss money, and gleans one-third of its savings deposits from Germany’s southern neighbours.

“Our Swiss customers are more devoted to us than ever,” a German banker told the paper.

Swiss tax dodgers don’t worry much about being caught, because unlike the Germans, their officials have never contacted the unexpected tax haven’s authorities for help with an investigation, the paper said.

But both Bern and Berlin will likely acquire new tools for pursuing their tax evaders if the two sides reach an agreement during talks this week.

According to the Financial Times, the accord will likely be similar to one forged between Switzerland and the UK that allows for a greater exchange of tax information while still maintaining the secrecy so prized by the Swiss banks.

Germans have an estimated €200 billion stashed away in Swiss banks, the paper said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Republicans Plan for Early Budget Cuts

Inquiring minds are looking at an article on Bloomberg that Repubilcans are ready to cut up to 21 percent of discretionary spending. This suggests that Republican leadership in the House is getting the message of the Tea Pary movement:

U.S. House Republicans plan to try to slash $100 billion from the federal budget as early as January if they wrest power from Democrats in this year’s midterm elections, setting up possible early showdowns with President Barack Obama on taxes and spending.

A Republican House takeover would thrust new committee heads, such as Representative Dave Camp on the Ways and Means panel, into the spotlight within weeks — or days — of seizing their gavels in early January. They would confront quick political tests that could alienate independent voters and Tea Party activists alike, analysts said.

“The major issues are going to be fiscal, and fiscal issues are always contentious,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.

Unfortunately for the professor, their is no other option other than to cut. And cut with gusto…

           — Hat tip: Bobbo[Return to headlines]


Alleged Would Be Terrorist Thwarted at Every Turn

Washington…Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, according to the FBI, traveled the world in search of jihad. But Pakistan turned him away, and Jordan did too. He tried to get into Somalia, but U.S. authorities placed him on the no-fly list. An American citizen, he visited an army recruiting station in New York’s Times Square hoping to be sent to Iraq; they did not want him either.

So, the FBI said, the 21-year-old born and raised in New York created websites and posted threats of radical Islamic violence, including one from another American expatriate, Anwar al Awlaki. Then Shehadeh flew to Hawaii and allegedly started taking target practice.

FBI agents said he wanted to join a jihadist group to learn “guerilla warfare and bomb-making.” Had he been welcomed into the U.S. army, they said, his plan was to defect in Iraq and turn against his comrades.

Shehadeh’s journeys ended last Friday. He was arrested in Honolulu and accused in a federal criminal complaint, unsealed Monday, of making false statements in an international terrorism case.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Democrat Election Fraud Openly Running Rampant

Arizona and Colorado are reporting massive voter fraud perpetrated by the Marxist groups Mi Familia Vota and One Vote Arizona. Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce writes: “I also understand that these 2 groups have signed up 20,000 states wide and they have requested that 45,000 be put on the permanent early ballot. If 65% of these last minute registration forms in Yuma are invalid, which may be more as they are still checking the rest, then what is the percentages of invalid in Maricopa, Pima and other counties?”

Aided by Socialist Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and a George Soros funded group, WND advises that poll watchers are being threatened with, amongst other things, Obama’s DOJ: “Houston Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who was seen inside the polling location electioneering and threatening to turn a poll-watcher’s name to the Department of Justice for voter intimidation.” Note: It appears that Michele Obama is not the only Marxist Democrat who is now allowed to illegally electioneer.

Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute says “All these attacks are clearly an attempt to bully and silence a group of volunteer citizens who are just trying to keep the election process honest.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

In America: Communist, Socialist, Progressive = Democrat

While every Democrat voter is not a communist yet, almost every Democrat politician is — certainly every party leader. So, why are we still pretending that there is some kind of nuanced difference between today’s Democrat Party and today’s Communists? JFK would be no more welcome in today’s DNC than Juan Williams is at NPR.

Yes, the Soviet Union fell in the 1980s thanks to Ronald Reagan breaking their bank in the arms race. Cuba, the last standing Soviet-styled communist nation, is forced lay off a million public sector employees because their bank is bust, too. Red China is on the rise, however, and Democrats have long ago introduced Marx into every facet of American society.

As Democratic Socialist of America National Director Frank Llewellyn states in his latest missive to his socialist comrades, “There are just 8 days until the election: This is not a time when progressives can stand on the sidelines.”

Note that Llewellyn did not refer to his comrades as communists, socialists or Marxists, all of which would be accurate. He referred to his comrades as “progressives.” That’s because today’s hardcore leftist is no longer considered hardcore left, but rather “progressive.”

Obama — Pelosi — Reid — Frank — Biden — Clinton — Dodd and every other Democrat politician is proud to proclaim openly the title of progressive. None of them is in the closet anymore. Bernie Sanders, a long-time card carrying Socialist, heads up the “progressive caucus” and John Conyers, a long-time card carrying Communist, formed the Black Caucus, which is not focused on Black issues, but rather the communist agenda. Both are legislative bodies under the direction of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Before Obama was repackaged as a moderate Democrat from Hawaii to become a shoe-in Senate candidate from Illinois, he was first a failed third party candidate of the New Party, a temporary front org for the Communist Party USA. But what’s in a title?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Man Arrested Over ‘Plot to Bomb Washington DC Metro’

A man has been arrested over a plot to bomb subway stations in the US capital.

Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Ashburn, Virginia was conspiring with people he believed were from al-Qaeda, the Department of Justice said.

Mr Ahmed was taken into custody on Wednesday morning. If convicted he faces up to 50 years in prison.

The suspect allegedly conducted surveillance of a metro station in Arlington, on the outskirts of Washington, DC, on four occasions.

“It’s chilling that a man from Ashburn is accused of casing rail stations with the goal of killing as many Metro riders as possible through simultaneous bomb attacks,” said US attorney Neil MacBride.

“Today’s arrest highlights the terrorism threat that exists in northern Virginia and our ability to find those seeking to harm US citizens and neutralise them before they can act.”

Officials said the public were never in danger during the investigation and that they had been aware of Mr Ahmed since the beginning.

Mr Ahmed, who was born in Pakistan, has been indicted on three counts.

These are attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organisation, collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility, and attempting to provide material support to help carry out multiple bombings.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Nevada Voting Machines Automatically Checking Harry Reid’s Name; Voting Machine Technicians Are SEIU Members

Since early voting started, there have been credible reports that voting machines in Clark County, Nevada are automatically checking Harry Reid’s name on the ballot:

Voter Joyce Ferrara said when they went to vote for Republican Sharron Angle, her Democratic opponent, Sen. Harry Reid’s name was already checked.

Ferrara said she wasn’t alone in her voting experience. She said her husband and several others voting at the same time all had the same thing happen.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

New Film on Ground Zero Mosque Set to Premier

Sacrificed Survivors: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Mega-Mosque to Debut in NYC

New York, NY- On October 28, 2010, the Christian Action Network (CAN) will release its third documentary, Sacrificed Survivors: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Mosque, which features personal stories from loved ones who lost family members in the tragic and horrifying attacks on September 11, 2001. Through this film, the surviving family members give voice to the thousands who perished by speaking out against the proposed plan to build a 13-story Islamic center-including a mosque-just two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center rubble.

The premier screening will be held in the heart of New York City at the 3 West Club. Family members of the victims of 9/11 and survivors from the World Trade Center terrorist attack will be in attendance, along with activists, civic leaders and local and national politicians.

The screening is free and open to the public. Media are welcome to attend, or they may obtain a copy by contacting Kristen Schremp at

“It is a 45 minute film that is fueled by the testimony of the survivors and the families of the victims of the attacks of September 11. It explains how they feel about the mosque being built on the site where their loved ones lost their lives,” said President of the Christian Action Network, Martin Mawyer.

“These are the people whose voices matter the most,” said Ryan Mauro, CAN’s National Security Advisor.

“The debate isn’t over whether Muslims have the right to build mosques wherever they’d like,” explained Mauro. “We’re not saying they can’t, we’re saying they shouldn’t. We hope this film will show why it’s so insensitive to continue this project without regard for the feelings of those who lived through 9/11.”

In Sacrificed Survivors, CAN reveals the inner workings of the mosque currently being used as a mosque next to Ground Zero. Their undercover cameras show the prayer room that is already in use. This exposé allows the viewer to feel like they are a part of the drama that is unfolding in New York City. The DVD is currently on sale at

“Few people are aware that Muslim prayer services are already being held at the site slated to become the Ground Zero mosque and Islamic center,” said Mawyer. “The Ground Zero mosque is already a reality.”

When: October 28, 2010 at 6:00-9:00 PM ET

Location: 3 W. 51st Street, 3 West Club New York, NY 10019

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Parts of Obama Coalition Drift Toward G.O.P., Poll Finds

Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents; all of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls.

[Return to headlines]

Pressure Mounts on Lincoln U. Over Holocaust-Denying Professor

My investigation into anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying professor Kaukab Siddique has brought Siddique and his employer, Lincoln University, under the spotlight of both the national media and Pennsylvania state lawmakers.

My exclusive report, which originally aired on CBN News on October 18th exposed Siddique’s viciously anti-Semitic writings, in which he called the Holocaust “a hoax” and accused Jews of “taking over” America by “devious and immoral means.” It also featured video clips of Siddique calling for the destruction of Israel at a rally in Washington, D.C. over Labor Day weekend

Now Pa. state lawmakers are demanding explanations from Lincoln University, and the Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education is calling for immediate answers—and action—by the school.

Read about the latest developments in this story at the link above.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Terrorist Ayers Endorses Stewart/Colbert Rallies

When comics Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced their rallies on the national mall scheduled for this Saturday, they may not have expected—or wanted—an endorsement from Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. But Ayers told the Ford Motor Company-sponsored Green Festival in Washington, D.C. last Saturday that the event will be a needed respite from the “Alice in Wonderland” world of military domination of the planet and wars waged by the U.S. “empire.”

The October 30 Stewart/Colbert rallies, dubbed “Restore Sanity” and “Keep Fear Alive,” are “worth attending,” Ayers said.

Ayers’ wife, Bernardine Dohrn, once labeled a “violent maniac” by a former gang member in congressional testimony, turned deadly serious at the Green Fest in declaring that the U.S. was no longer a “hegemonic power” because of its economic decline but that its military strength was still a major problem in the world.

Sounding as anti-American as ever, Dohrn and Ayers complained about U.S. military aid to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Israel, and U.S. backing for “repressive” regimes.


In response to a question from a European in the audience, Ayers said “we look with envy” at the protests and demonstrations in such countries as Greece and France, led by the Communists, against budget cuts. Activists in the U.S. should “learn something” from the protests, he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

What’s More Important: Liberty or the Entity That Protects it?

Let me ask readers a question. What’s more important: freedom and its undergirding principles, or the entity meant to protect it? A word of caution: be careful how you answer that question, because the way you answer marks your understanding (or lack thereof) of both freedom and the purpose of government.

Thomas Jefferson — and the rest of America’s founders — believed that freedom was the principal possession, because liberty is a divine — not human — gift.

Listen to Jefferson:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” (Declaration of Independence)

Jefferson could not be clearer: America’s founders desired a land in which men might live in liberty. By declaring independence from the government of Great Britain (and instituting new government), Jefferson, et al., did not intend to erect an idol (government) that men would worship. They created a mechanism designed to protect that which they considered to be their most precious possession: liberty. In other words, the government they created by the Constitution of 1787 was not the object; freedom’s protection was the object.

Again, listen to Jefferson: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” In other words, government is not the end; it is the means. Government is not the goal; it is the vehicle used to reach the goal.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Khadr Opinion Based on Muslim ‘Inbreeding’ Writings

Forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner told a military court Wednesday morning that Toronto-born detainee Omar Khadr is “Al Qaeda royalty” and is a risk to Canada if repatriated.

“He is angry . . . I’m not saying he is running around ranting and raving (but) he blames everyone else for his predicament,” he said under questioning by a Pentagon prosecutor.

Khadr’s lawyers raised very few objections as Welner testified about issues of recidivism, radicalization and rehabilitation prospects.

But under their cross-examination, Welner admitted basing his opinion of Khadr in part on the work of Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels.

Sennels has claimed “massive inbreeding” may have done “catastrophic damage” to the Muslim gene pool.

Welner also conceded his opinion of Khadr was not peer-reviewed, and told the court this was the first time he had done an assessment of a radical jihadist.

It was the second day that Welner has testified during Khadr’s sentencing hearing.

On Tuesday, he said Khadr has been “marinated in radical jihadism,” while detained here for the last eight years. He repeated that phrase for the seven-member military jury three times during his two hours of testimony.

Growing increasingly animated as his testimony continued, Welner also called Khadr the “rock star of Gitmo” due to his notoriety and said he had brought more attention to Cuba than “Fidel Castro.”

Khadr pleaded guilty Monday to five war crimes, including the murder of U.S. Delta Force Christopher Speer.

Speer’s widow Tabitha has sat in the front row of the courtroom beside her sister each day. She agreed for the first time Wednesday to allow a court sketch artist to include her in the court drawings.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Good Turk in Europe is an Unintegrated One!

There were two incidents that helped me to gain an insight into the problem of the integration of Turks in European countries. The first one was a decade ago.

I was walking in the street with my nephew; we were stopped by a Turkish guy who heard us speaking Turkish to each other. He wanted us to help him communicate with a television repairman to fix his television’s antenna. We acted as his translator in the store and when we went out I asked him how long he had been living in London. He had been living in London more than seven years and could not speak a word of English. Apparently, he had never left the Turkish ghetto there until he could not find what he had needed, a television repairman.

My second experience with Turkish “existence” in Europe was just a couple of years ago when I visited Amsterdam for a weekend. I have a Turkish friend there and he introduced me to Turkish youngsters from different walks of life. They were all so friendly, such nice people, and they were all second or third-generation residents of Holland. We started hanging out in Amsterdam.


The more we spoke the more I was surprised by the psychology of these youngsters. They were not like the Turkish guy I met in London. They seemed more integrated, spoke the Dutch language, were shift workers and had been born and grew up there. However, these otherwise nice and ingenuous people had an apparent hostility to the country they lived in. They were not religious fanatics or anything like that. They were living in an extremely isolated world in which they were separated by invisible walls from the rest of society.

When I came back home, I thought about these young people’s psychology a lot. Were they actually that alienated from and hostile to Dutch society, or were they trying to prove to me that they have not lost their Turkishness, or both? What were people from Turkey expecting to see in them?

At around this time, while I was pondering these questions, our Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to a group of 20,000 Turks in Cologne, Germany, in 2008. His remarks explained what Turks in the motherland expect from Turks living abroad. Mr. Erdogan addressed the crowd, saying: “I understand very well that you are against assimilation. One cannot expect you to assimilate. Assimilation is a crime against humanity.”

I remembered all these things in the aftermath of a heated debate over German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments about the end of “multiculturalism” in Germany. It is all debatable really, as we know in Turkey now, whether Germany or any other European country has ever been a multicultural society in which different cultures live and flourish side by side. It is debatable whether Europeans have ever welcomed Muslims and other cultures in Europe. Yes, we can discuss all these things. But how about looking into our own eyes in the mirror and asking ourselves the same questions?

Almost half a century ago, we sent thousands and thousands of Turks who have never seen or lived in a major city in Turkey to the heartland of Europe, and we only expected them to send hot money back to Turkey. These people — who could have experienced serious culture shock even if they had moved to Ä°stanbul or Ä°zmir and most probably would have created their own ghettos there as well, as they are doing now — have been paralyzed by deep, deep culture shock while living in Holland, Germany, Switzerland and so on. Did we do anything to understand and alleviate their pain and suffering? All we did was to continuously pump chauvinistic sentiments and ideas into this vulnerable group of people.

Turks’ integration problem in Germany, or anywhere in Europe, cannot simply be the problem of the Germans or Europeans. It is also a problem created by Turks in the homeland, who never imagined that a person can very well be a Turk and Muslim and perfectly integrated into European society at the same time, as we see is true for Turkish MPs in European parliaments.

My column’s space is finishing here and if I have to summarize it in one sentence, it is this: The Turkish official and unofficial approach to expatriate Turks cannot be the approach of a country that is a candidate for the EU and encouraging these people to not integrate into the societies they live in is itself against the very idea of human rights, since we have condemned them to live and die in the prisons they themselves created!

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

‘Bin Laden’ Voice Message Threatens France

Paris, 27 Oct. (AKI) — A man claiming to be Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden on Wednesday threatened France with violence if it didn’t pull its troops out of Afghanistan and accused the European country of oppressing Muslim women by forbidding them to wear a veil in public.

“You can’t be complicit in the occupation of our countries and the killing of our women and children and then ask to live in peace and security,” the voice message aired by Arab satellite news channel Al-Jazzera said.

The speaker referred to recently passed law barring women in France from covering their faces in public and the September kidnapping of five French citizens and nationals and two others in the west African’s Niger.

“If you think it is your right to ban our women from wearing the veil don’t you think it is right that we chase your invaders from our countries?”

“Our kidnapping of French technicians (in mid-September) is a response to the tyranny committed by France to Muslims,”

The kidnapping took place on the night of 15 Sept. in the northern mining town of Arlit and involved employees of the French companies Areva and Vinci.

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

Bin Laden Warns France Over Afghan War, Veil Ban

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden threatens in a new audio tape to kill French citizens to avenge their country’s support for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and a new law that will ban face-covering Muslim veils.

In the tape obtained by satellite television station Al-Jazeera and then posted on its website on Wednesday, bin Laden said France was aiding the Americans in the killing of Muslim women and children in an apparent reference to the war in Afghanistan. He said the kidnapping of five French citizens in the African nation of Niger last month was a reaction to what he called France’s oppression of Muslims.

“How can it be right that you participate in the occupation of our lands, support the Americans in the killing of our women and children and yet want to live in peace and security?” said bin Laden, addressing the French.

“It is a simple and clear equation: As you kill, you will be killed. As you capture, you will be captured. And as you threaten our security, your security will be threatened. The way to safeguard your security is to cease your oppression and its impact on our nation, most importantly your withdrawal from the ill-fated Bush war in Afghanistan.”

The authenticity of the tape could not be immediately verified but the voice resembled that of the terror group leader on previous tapes determined to be genuine. France’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tapes by bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri, have recently been posted on Al-Jazeera website rather than on sites run by militant Muslims as has been done for years. The shift appears to reflect the unexplained technical difficulties or closures experienced by the militant sites in recent months.

France has about 4,000 troops deployed in and near Afghanistan.

“You need to think of what happened to America as a result of that unjust war,” bin Laden said, again addressing the French and referring to the war in Afghanistan. “It’s on the verge of bankruptcy … and tomorrow it will retreat to beyond the Atlantic.”

France passed a law this month that will ban the wearing of face-covering burqa-style Muslim veils in public starting in April. Many Muslims have expressed fears the law would stigmatize them.

“If you deemed it your right to ban (Muslim) women from wearing the hijab, then should not it be our right to expel your invading men by striking their necks?” bin Laden said.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, an offshoot of bin Laden’s group, has claimed responsibility for the abductions of five French citizens in Niger and is believed to have taken them to neighboring Mali. The French hostages, as well as a Togolese and a Madagascar national were kidnapped on Sept. 16 while they were sleeping in their villas in the uranium mining town of Arlit.

“The kidnapping of your experts in the Niger is a reaction to your oppression of Muslims,” said bin Laden.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Former Minister Guilty of Slander

Court says minister’s remarks about stoning went over line

The Copenhagen City Court ruled yesterday that statements made by former social welfare minister Karen Jespersen against the spokesman for an Islamic organisation were unjustified.

In early 2009, while still minister, Jespersen said Zubair Butt Hussain, spokesman for Muslimernes Fællesråd, advocated the stoning of women. The comments were made in connection with the government’s cooperation with the organisation on preparing teaching materials about Islamic extremism.

Jespersen was ordered by the court to pay Hussain damages of 11,000 kroner.

In addition to the comments about stoning, Hussain sued Jespersen for her comments about stoning and also over her calling him an ‘extremist’. The court, however, did not believe the second remark warranted any injury payment.

But Hussain said he was satisfied with the verdict, saying it demonstrated that despite Denmark’s strong support of freedom of speech, people cannot simply say whatever they want.

He added, however, that the court’s failure to consider calling someone an ‘extremist’ as being slander was ‘unfortunate’.

Jespersen did not comment on the ruling, but stated on her website that she was not engaged in a battle against Islam.

‘On the contrary — we need to stand together with those Muslims who are supporters of the values and freedoms our society is built upon. But we shouldn’t accept that new reactionaries’ beliefs continue to spread and we can’t bow to demands for special treatment of religious considerations in the public sector.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

‘Discrimination, Not Islam Behind Violent Youths’

Vienna, Oct 27 (AFP) Young Muslims are no more likely to be violent than non-Muslims, a report by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) found today, citing discrimination however as a key differentiating factor.

In a survey of 3,000 Muslim and non-Muslim youths in Britain, France and Spain, FRA found that young people across the board were more likely to turn to violence if they had suffered discrimination.

“Young people who are discriminated against and feel socially marginalised, and those who have been a victim of violence are more likely to use violence towards others,” noted FRA director Morten Kjaerum.

“There are no indications that Muslim youth are more or less likely to resort to actual violence than non-Muslims,” added the report, which was published today.

About a quarter of those surveyed said they had experienced discrimination, ranging from bullying to physical violence.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Fairy Tale Comes True for Germany’s ‘Dragon Castle’

Schloss Drachenburg, a fairy tale castle built in the 1880s, is an architectural mishmash that contains a fake organ, a reproduction of a Louis XIV throne and tacky murals. But it has been faithfully restored in honor of its startling history — and because it represents a romantic yearning for a past that never was.

With its dreamy spires, mock battlements and square clock tower, Schloss Drachenburg palace, which stands on a wooded hill high above the Rhine River near the sleepy town of Königswinter, looks like a cross between a medieval castle, a Gothic cathedral and Big Ben.

According to German folklore, Siegfried slayed a dragon just a little further up the mountain. But the story of this spectacular building, a jumble of architectural styles erected in less than three years in the late 19th century by a wealthy stockbroker, is strange enough to become legend in itself.

The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has just completed a €31.5 million ($44 million), 15-year restoration, part of a broad investment drive to attract visitors to the Rhine region, one of Europe’s most beautiful areas, by sprucing up its sights. Drachenburg means “Dragon’s Castle,” and its fairy tale appearance would make it a worthy location for a Harry Potter film.

Over the years, eccentrics have used the building as a canvas for their grand visions. In 1910, one entrepreneur planned to convert it into a tourist resort complete with a landing area for Zeppelin airships and a concert hall to rival the Bayreuth Wagner opera festival.

In the 1970s, one owner used it for sumptuous parties during which he dressed in an admiral’s costume and treated guests to concerts he gave on a fake organ, with music played from a hidden tape recorder. He would impress tourists by filling the palace with historical artefacts of questionable authenticity, including a sculpture he claimed was by Michelangelo and a garish chair he said was the throne of French king Louis XIV.

Growing Respect for 19th Century ‘Historicism’

“Those items were all fake. We have kept some of the more entertaining ones. It’s all part of the charm of this place,” Joachim Odenthal, the castle’s manager, told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Not much about Schloss Drachenburg is genuine. But Odenthal said the government decided to purchase and save it because of mounting appreciation for “historicism,” a 19th century trend that replicated various architectural styles to create idealized historical buildings.

Across Europe, castles were refurbished or newly built to satisfy a yearning for a medieval idyll of nature, romance and knights in shining armor to counter the grey reality of a rapidly industrializing world.

“People wanted to return to the good old days and it’s no different today,” said Odenthal, who expects the Drachenburg will attract 120,000 visitors a year starting in 2011. The entire interior of the castle was reopened in July.

A world-famous example of historicism in Germany is Neuschwanstein Palace in the Bavarian Alps, built in the 1870s by “mad” King Ludwig II. It is said to have inspired Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, although Odenthal is not so sure.

“Sometimes I think one should ask whether Disney copied from us,” he said with a grin. “Besides, our castle is far more interesting than Neuschwanstein. That one just has the one view. Ours changes as you walk around it. From seven different perspectives you’ve got seven different buildings.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Too Much Solar Power Could Overload National Grids, Warns Expert

Relying too heavily on solar power could overload the power grid, a German energy expert has warned.

The move to push people into installing rooftop solar panels has been hugely successful in Germany with citizens encouraged to fit the panels and then sell any surplus power back to the national grid.

Generous subsidies from the government has also seen the uptake of solar energey soar.

But Stephan Kohler, an energy adviser to the government, has warned that the green boom could turn into a disaster for Germany’s aging power grid.

‘The network is facing a congestion due to solar power,’ Kohler told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. ‘That’s why the expansion of solar power has to be cut back quickly and drastically.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy Drops Below Rwanda in Corruption Ranking

Down from 55th to 67th in two years

(ANSA) — Berlin, October 26 — Italy fell from 63rd to 67th in this year’s Transparency International (TI) rankings of perceived corruption in the public sector, putting it below Rwanda and above Georgia.

Italy was the third-worst European Union country with only Romania (69th), Bulgaria (73rd) and Greece (78th) rated lower.

The top of the rankings saw a three-way tie between Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore, followed by Finland and Sweden, tied for fourth, and Canada in fifth.

Germany was 15th, the UK 20th, the US 22nd and France 25th.

China was 78th, India 87th and Russia 154th. The bottom four were Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar) and, last of all, Somalia.

Italy was 55th in 2008.

TI, a global civil-society organization dedicated to combating corruption, said Italy’s fall “isn’t all that surprising given 12 months marked by the re-emergence of proven or suspected corruption at various levels of government (local, regional, national) and which saw the involvement of functionaries and political exponents from all sides”. Reactions to the report were predictable with the opposition blaming the centre-right government of Premier Silvio Berlusconi, which declined to react.

“Transparency International has certified the Italian corruption disaster, after that of freedom of speech,” said the House Whip for ex-graftbuster Antonio Di Pietro’s Italy of Values party, Massimo Donadi.

(Italy ranked 49th in the world for press freedom on the basis of 2009 data, according to standings drawn up by Reporters Without Borders in May).

(Italy fell five places from the previous year, trailing most other European countries).

“The Audit Court often repeats that every year in Italy a mountain of public money ends up in the pockets of crooks, with huge economic and social harm for the country,” Donadi added.

The Italian Communists party commented on the “bitter truth” of the TI standings and added: “And what does Berlusconi propose to do, instead of launching a no-holds-barred fight against corruption? Set up a commission of inquiry into the magistrature”. TI’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) rates 178 countries on a scale of one to 10 on the perceived level of public-sector corruption based on 13 different expert and business surveys including from the World Bank, the Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Economic Forum.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Multikulti: Scheitern Oder Sichereit?

Angela Merkel’s recent assertion that multiculturalism in Germany has been an utter failure has prompted strong reaction from all quarters. Conservatives, in Germany and elsewhere, have agreed with her, nodding their heads, thanking the stars that someone finally said what was on everyone’s mind. Political correctness be damned, said they, assimilate or be gone. Progressive observers were shocked, and those still a little leery of German resurgence, found much grist for their mill.

Moving away from the cultural and economic arena, within which this debate is largely raging, let’s look at the issue from the perspective of security. Is a multikulti society more or less likely to erupt into violence? Is integration the answer, or would attempts to force it merely provide the sparks that might ignite the powderkeg formed by masses of unemployed ‘Others’ within countries like Germany, France, Britain, and America? This is not a problem for tomorrow, but one for today, as locations like Arizona—and I am not saying that they have it right—have signalled.

As an interesting starting point, we might examine the concept of ‘security community’, originally devised by Karl Deutsch in 1957, with reference to the North Atlantic Community. He believed that in such a security community large scale violence would be unthinkable. The community was founded on the

agreement on at least this one point: that common social problems must and can be resolved by processes of ‘peaceful change’, [which is] the resolution of social problems, normally by institutionalised procedures, without resort to large-scale physical force.

While Deutsch applied this concept amongst states, it must also be applied within states. Societies must also rely on processes of peaceful change, if any sense of security is to be had.

Working four decades later, Adler and Barnett amplified Deutsch’s theory, adding that in order to be a security community, there must first be a sense of community, mutual sympathy, trust, and common interests.

This, then, brings us back to Merkel’s conclusion. The idea behind a multicultural society is that there could be these things—mutual sympathy, trust, and common interests—even in the midst of co-existing groups, be they racially, ethnically, linguistically or religiously defined. Starting with the idea of ‘tolerance of difference’, but moving well beyond it to advocating ‘respect for diversity’ and then moving further still to championing the image of a modern society as a ‘cultural mosaic’, the process—the project—of multiculturalism has taken on several forms, from a legalistic liberalism to a crusading cosmopolitanism.

But has it worked? Merkel is not alone in doubting it. Belgium seems to have decided that its ‘biculturalism’ is not worth the beer, and even Canada—a nation of immigrants—is asking itself whether or not the project has been successful. What if there is no sense of community? What if vast masses of disgruntled gastarbeiter in Germany, the unintegrated inhabitants of les banlieues, or the indigent Roma in Italy cannot be trusted, and the problems which arise between ‘them’ and ‘us’ cannot be guaranteed to be resolved peacefully?

What if our societies are not, in and of themselves, security communities?

What can we do to ensure that Bradford, Luton, and Brixton do not become battlefields? What is the compromise between ensuring ‘freedom of religion’ and preventing sharia courts from punishing women for not wearing veils outside their homes?

If Merkel is right—if multiculturalism is not the answer—what is the solution?

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

No Chance for Turkey to Join EU

Germany’s domestic problem number one is Muslim manners and customs. They do have any idea of democratic principles. Four million Turks and Arabs are living in Germany, Ralph Giordano, a German writer and publicist, said in an interview with the Russia-based Vzglyad business newspaper. He pointed out their low education level.

After reading the Quran he drew the conclusion that the principal book of the Muslims is a crazy piece of literature. Muslims beat up their women, do not let their daughters attend school, and can even kill. This prevents their integration into European society, where human freedoms are the top priority, Giordano said.

According to him, you can help people only if they accept the help. Most of the Muslims do not integrate into the German society because they do not want to. The German social system allows all the natives of the Turks and Arab worlds to feel comfortable in the country. A Turkish family may live in the center of Berlin, with none of the family members working. Each of them gets the dole. However, to support thousands of immigrants, Germans have to work hard and pay taxes. But this is not the worst. Conflicts within the German society because of Muslims are a much graver problem. Muslim youths are more inclined to violence than others. The more religious the youths are the more aggressive they are. Some young Muslims have committed 40 to 60 minor crimes.

It was Germans’ blunder to allow Muslim guest workers to settle down in the country in 1960s. No one could imagine the consequences. It is not time now for being tactful and afraid of hurting Muslims’ feelings. Even Angel Merkel admitted the fact that Germany’s efforts to create a multi-cultural state failed. She admitted that Muslims do not want to study German, adopt Christian values, and work harder. Ralph Giordano is also concerned over Turkey’s position. Instead of explaining the need for integration to Turks, the Turkish Government is doing the opposite. Addressing thousands of Muslims in Köln, Turkish Premier Recep Erdogan called on them to learn German, but remain where they are, because no one can expect Muslims to assimilate in Germany — assimilation is a crime against humanity. So the Turkish Premier is for a state within a state, without, however, openly saying it, Giordano said.

According to him, about 80% of Germans share his opinion. A multi-cultural society is an illusion, especially when such cultures and Muslim and Christian cultures are in question. People in none of the Muslim countries, including Turkey, enjoy such benefits. So it has no chance to join the European Union. It does not even have a chance to become Europe’s strategic partner until the Turkish Government recognizes the Armenian Genocide, Giordano said.

Asked whether he is not afraid of voicing his opinion, the German writer aid he is afraid sometimes. On the other hand, his life has always been in danger since the Nazi regime. Giordano does not think Turks will kill him only for expressing his personal opinion, but everything may happen. He does not consider himself a Nazi or racist. Rather, he has always struggled against such people. On the other hand, he is against those who are against democracy. The owner of the shop at the corner of the building Giordano lives in is a Turk, and the writer is always ready to be first to defend this “nice man.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sweden to Extend Police Powers on Data Access

The Swedish government wants to extend the powers of police and prosecutors to access personal details from internet service providers in cases of less serious offences such as filesharing, libel and grooming.

Currently, ISPs may be required to hand over IP address and personal details of customers suspected of crimes subject to custodial sentences, but the government wants to extend the law to cover offences that are punishable only by fines.

The proposals are including in a justice department memorandum read by the TT news agency, in which is stated, “Procurement is proposed to be possible for all crimes, namely the requirement that imprisonment should be prescribed for the offence, and that according to the authority’s judgement could result in penalties other than fines, should be removed.”

Furthermore, it is proposed that the police be given access to information from mobile telephone operators detailing the location of missing persons if there is an established risk to their life or well-being.

The changes are proposed to be introduced in connection with the adoption of the EU Data Retention Directive. Sweden has previously been reluctant to implement the directive, which was approved by Brussels in March 2006.

The Swedish government was instructed by the European Court of Justice in February to adopt the measure and assured the court that the directive would be expected to pass into Swedish law on April 1st.

The directive was passed in the wake of the Madrid and London terrorist bombings. Seen as an important tool in combating terrorism, it raised concerns from privacy advocates. The Swedish justice minister Beatrice Ask has repeatedly expressed reservations over the scope of the powers that it confers.

The news of the the government’s proposals has been met with criticism from the Pirate Party.

“It is unfortunately evident that a large surveillance apparatus has been developed to be able to get at regular, honourable people who exchange films and music with each other,” wrote Mikael Nilsson of the Pirate Party in a statement on Wednesday.

The Centre Party’s Johan Linander, vice chair of the Riksdag Committee on Justice, has also been critical of the directive, which forces ISPs and mobile phone operators to save customer records for six months, but conceded that the proposed changes are positive.

“We can not have legislation which places different demands depending on the nature of the crime, this is broad legislation which gives the police access to this information,” he said to Sverige Radio’s P3 Nyheter news programme.

“To investigate sexual molestation, libel, insults and grooming, the types of internet crimes which have unfortunately become increasingly common,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Far Right Not Welcome at Nobel Dinner

Sweden Democrats’ (SD) leader Jimmie Åkesson is the only parliamentary party leader not invited to the Nobel banquet in Stockholm City Hall in December, with the Nobel Foundation citing the values expressed in Alfred Nobel’s will.

“It comes across very clearly that no consideration should be made to nationality affiliation. SD’s values stand in direct contravention of this,” said Michael Sohlman, Executive Director of the Nobel Foundation, to the Aftonbladet daily.

The decision to exclude Åkesson from the guest list for the Nobel Banquet on December 10th was taken by a united Nobel Foundation board.

“We are a private foundation and decide ourselves who we want to come to the banquet,” Sohlman said, explaining that the Sweden Democrats’ policy programme indicates a view of humanity not compatible with that expressed by Alfred Nobel.

Jimmie Åkesson expressed surprise and disappointment at missing out on the festivities.

“It is regrettable, in recent years all the party leaders have been invited,” he told the newspaper.

Åkesson described the decision as “controversial” and considered it strange for the committee to cite Alfred Nobel’s last will and testament.

“I am surprised that they choose to take this stand and take this decision to single me out and not take a general position that they don’t invite the party leaders,” Åkesson told Sveriges Radio’s P4 news programme on Wednesday.

“This seems to be a political decision. Michael Sohlman is after all a Social Democrat politician,” he said.

The Nobel banquet is traditionally attended by the Swedish royal family, political leaders, Nobel prize winners and a host of other dignitaries. Further politicians on the list for this year’s festivities include the foreign minister, finance minister, education minister and culture minister.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Global Peace and Unity — Extremist and Pro Terrorist Material on Sale

Given the parade of hate speakers and supporters of terrorism that constituted last weekend’s amusingly-titled Global Peace and Unity Event, nobody will be surprised by [Andrew Gilligan’s article below]


Why, then — knowing from past years that this conference would showcase hate preachers and supporters of terrorism — did the Metropolitan and City Police agree to be “Sponsors” of this event?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Julie Burchill: Poor Lauren Booth — She Would Do Anything to Get in With the Tough Kids

Last year I took the first steps towards converting to Judaism; also last year, I abandoned my attempt. It was partly that I find it hard to stick at any discipline, being bone-idle and highly hedonistic (for instance, I was only a lesbian for six months), and I realised that Judaism was such an extraordinarily complex and rich religion that I would really have to commit to do it properly. As I can’t even commit to Lost or any of those long American television shows, this seemed unlikely.

I also began to feel a tiny bit ridiculous trotting to shul every Saturday, in a way that I didn’t feel going to church on a Sunday, even though I found the Jewish idea of one deity far more sensible than the Father, Son and Holy Ghost free-for-all. I’m well aware that everyone who isn’t a complete self-deluding fool finds themselves preposterous at times, but I didn’t want this to happen because of a culture that I have such respect for.

I suppose what it boils down to is that I’ve always hated phoneys, and anyone who changes their name, their accent or their religion seems to me to be doing the cultural equivalent of putting a crochet crinoline lady on a toilet roll. Far better, if the religion you’re born into doesn’t convince you, to simply let it lie and act out your faith in a private capacity — for me, volunteering and giving away loadsamoney.

Of course, there is one religion which proscribes its followers under threat of death from rejecting it, and that is Islam. Which just happens to be the one that Lauren Booth (born a Catholic called Sarah) has opted for.

It’s hard to know where to start when describing the sheer ickiness of Booth. That she works as a paid stooge for the murderous Iranian regime’s television channel has to come pretty near the top. A woman, choosing to act a front for a gang of thugs who uphold the punishment of death by stoning for adulteresses! This is surely Stockholm Syndrome gone gaga.

Her entirely inappropriate addiction to the spotlight, although she was obviously designed as one of Nature’s plus-ones, is another stand-out feature. A failed actress, a mediocre hack, it’s pretty fair to say we would never have heard of her had her half-sister not married a man who became Prime Minister. And now her meal-ticket is Mohammed.

Yes, it seems that even the faith she was raised in isn’t narrow-minded, patriarchal and oppressive enough for the sensation-hungry Booth, who having tried everything else is so jaded that she can only get a kick from self-denial. (There does seem to be a particular affinity between Catholics and Muslims — Jew-hating is a great bonding agent.) And a kick it is — she describes her engagement with faith in terms that veer between the drooling of a clammy adolescent (“this shot of spiritual morphine, just absolute bliss and joy”) and that of a recovering alcoholic clinging desperately to the wreckage of her sobriety (“I haven’t had a drink in 45 days!”)

We’ve all done embarrassing things, but the spectacle of Booth attempting to rap in the celebrity jungle does seem to indicate that she is the sort of dweeb who would do anything to get in with the tough kids — who she now perceives as being the Muslims.

Maybe like a lot of Western cowards, she thinks that if she sucks up to Islamism hard enough she will be spared its rage. Personally, I prefer to aspire to the words of the great Spanish anti-fascist activist Dolores “La Pasionaria” Ibarruri; “It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Mohammed is Now the Most Popular Name for Baby Boys Ahead of Jack and Harry

The name, when 12 different spellings were included, was given to 7,549 youngsters in 2009, official statistics revealed.

Oliver was the second most popular and it was given to 7,364 boys in England and Wales in 12 months.

Jack was third, Harry fourth and Alfie in fifth place in the league table of names.

However, because official figures did not take into account the variations in the spelling of Mohammed, Oliver was named as the most popular boys’ name by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) who released the information.

Jack had been the top name for newborn boys in England and Wales for the previous 14 years.

While Oliver was beaten to first place by Mohammed, in the girls list Olivia came out on top.


1) Mohammed — 3,300

2) Muhammad — 2,162

3) Mohammad — 1,073

4) Muhammed -515

5) Mohamed — 387

6) Mohamad — 33

7) Muhamed — 27

8) Mohammod — 18

9) Mahamed — 14

10) Muhamed — 10

11) Mahammed — 6

12) Mohmmed — 4

TOTAL: 7,549

Ruby, Chloe, Emily and Sophie made up the top five list of girls’ names in 2009, it emerged today.

The official list put Mohammed in only 16th place, but when the other 11 different spellings of the same name are taken into account it is the most popular.

Mohammed was given to 3,300 boys, while Muhammad was given to 2,162 youngsters.

The name is a common Anglicised spelling of an Arabic name taken from a word meaning ‘praise’.

There is disagreement among scholars about why there are so many spellings of the same name — some argue it is because of phonetic translations while others say it is down to parental choice.

Muslim parents often use the name to honour the Prophet or to show a link to the religion.

There are 14 recognised variations of the spelling — although only 12 of them were given to newborn children last year.

Muslims make up around three per cent of the British population.

The unusual names David and Victoria Beckham gave to their three boys seemed to be boosted in the annual league tables by their celebrity association.

There were 282 Brooklyns, 78 Romeos and 73 Cruzs born in 2009, the figures revealed.


1) Oliver

2) Jack

3) Harry

4) Alfie

5) Joshua

6) Thomas

7) Charlie

8) William

9) James

10) Daniel

Six new names made it into the top 100 boys’ names this year — they were Aiden, Arthur, Frederick, Jude, Stanley and Austin.

In the girls’ list, three names moved into the top 100 this year — Heidi, Mya and Sara.

Compared to names chosen for babies ten years earlier, there was a resurgence in the popularity of names which were associated with people of the inter-war generation, or earlier.


1) Olivia

2) Ruby

3) Chloe

4) Emily

5) Sophie

6) Jessica

7) Grace

8) Lily

9) Amelia

10) Evie

Evie was the tenth most popular name given to baby girls in 2009, for example, moving up 157 places since 1999.

Ruby, the second most popular name for girls in 2009, was ranked 91 places lower 10 years ago.

Boys’ names such as Alfie and Charlie have followed a similar trend.

Six names in the boys’ top ten in 2009 were also there in 1999 — Jack, Joshua, Thomas, James, Daniel and William.

Five girls’ names featured in both lists — Olivia, Chloe, Emily, Sophie and Jessica.

There were 706,248 live births in England and Wales in 2009.

Mothers of newborn and slightly older babies are urged by the ONS to include their babies’ details in the 2011 Census, taking place next March.

‘Babies often go unrecorded in the census as new mothers sometimes don’t realise they need to enter the details of even the very newest member of the household,’ ONS spokesman William Mach said.

‘There is a strong link between filling in the census and the authorities being able to plan and provide public services in years to come — for example, in setting numbers of school places.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Minister Spoke at Event With Terrorist Accessories on Sale

Here is the full version of a story which appeared in shortened form in the print edition of this morning’s paper:

A GOVERNMENT minister spoke at an event where suicide bomber accessories and items glorifying terrorism were on open sale. Andrew Stunell, the communities minister, addressed the controversial “Global Peace and Unity” (GPU) conference in East London on Sunday. The event’s programme says its official “supporters” include the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police. A few yards from where Mr Stunell was speaking, a stall sold suicide bomber headbands and T-shirts promoting two banned terror groups.

One of the shirts showed a masked terrorist holding a Kalashnikov rifle in one hand and the Quran in the other against a backdrop of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The Daily Telegraph bought one of the shirts.

The image is the official logo of the al-Qassam Brigade, the military wing of Hamas, a terrorist group banned across the EU and United States. Underneath, a slogan in Arabic read: “The conscripts of the martyr. Here in response, O Jerusalem.” The al-Qassam Brigade has been responsible for at least 200 civilian deaths in suicide attacks since 2000.

Hooded tops with the flag of another proscribed terrorist organisation, Hezbollah — a clenched fist holding a Kalashnikov, and the slogan “Resistance” — were also on sale. Hezbollah has killed many Israelis in rocket attacks. Also available were “shahada headbands” as worn by many Palestinian suicide bombers. “Shahada” in this context means martyrdom. The headbands contain the personal testimony of the suicide bombers.

Legal experts said the items could constitute glorification of terrorism, which is illegal under UK anti-terror laws. A senior City of London police officer was listed on the programme as speaking before Mr Stunell. The items were on sale at a stall in the GPU’s exhibition area operated by a company called Wearaloud, based in a flat in a tower block in Bethnal Green. According to its website, it specialises in “Islamic,” “political” and “guns and military” items. However, it appears to have no Companies House or other registration. The website also offers for sale a garment described as an “AK47 militia fighter fun T-shirt.”

Other stalls at the exhibition distributed fundamentalist literature calling for the destruction of Israel and the subjugation of women. The GPU is one of the most controversial events in the annual Muslim calendar. Organised by the Islam Channel, a digital TV station with a number of extremist and fundamentalist presenters, this year’s event was boycotted by the Conservative Party because of deep concerns about some of those taking part.

They included Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, a Holocaust denier who has said that the extermination of the Jews was a “hoax,” and Mohammed Ijaz ul Haq, who has said that the British government’s decision to knight the author Sir Salman Rushdie justified suicide attacks. The Tory chairman, Baroness Warsi, was banned from attending by the Prime Minister, David Cameron.. However, Lib Dems, including Mr Stunell and the party’s deputy leader, Simon Hughes, were not affected by the ban. Senior Labour figures, including the party’s candidate for mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, also spoke at the event.

The DCLG said that Mr Stunell’s speech “made clear that the Coalition Government will not tolerate extremism, hatred or intolerance in any form.” Paul Goodman, the former Tory MP who shadowed Mr Stunell’s brief in opposition and has campaigned against GPU, said: “This evidence demonstrates why no minister should have gone. I hope that Andrew Stunell, the minister who did go, did deliver the robust renunciation we were promised..”

Jamal Uddeen Waitakarie, a spokesman for Wearaloud, said he thought his products were “acceptable,” adding: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” He described the suicide bomber headbands as “an identification of faith” and said: “I suppose suicide bombers wear them. But anybody wears them.”

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “There was no formal Met Police representation at GPU. The Commissioner was invited to attend or record a video message but did not. We understand a small delegation from the Association of Muslim Police attended. The Metropolitan Police Service does not support any extremist view or behaviour and would consider any allegations of criminality raised.”

A spokesman for City Police said: “We spoke at the event to raise awareness of we were doing to work with the Muslim community, and to raise awareness of fraud against hajj pilgrims.”

The organisers of the event declined to comment.

[JP note: UK authorities should have arrested the conference organizers under the Trades Description Act 1968.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Swine Flu Caused Deaths of 70 Youngsters in Nine Months, With Ethnic Children the Hardest Hit

Seventy children and teenagers died from swine flu in England over a nine-month period between 2009 and 2010, it was revealed today.

Those from Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, and with pre-existing conditions — especially neurological diseases such as cerebral palsy — were hardest hit.

However, a fifth of the young people who were victims were previously healthy.

Doctors said the evidence suggested that all children should be vaccinated against swine flu, especially those in high-risk groups.

There were 457 reported and confirmed swine flu-related deaths across the UK between April last year and March this year.

The new findings, from an investigation into the impact of swine flu on children and teenagers aged 18 and under, were published today in an early online edition of The Lancet medical journal.

Researchers said that the swine flu death toll among children was greater than that caused each year by leukaemia.

Such a high death rate for a single infectious disease was last seen in 2001 during an outbreak of meningitis.

The research was led by Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, former Chief Medical Officer for England, who collected data between June 26, 2009, and March 22, 2010.

Sir Liam now chairs the National Patient Safety Agency, a soon-to-be abolished Government quango body dedicated to improving patient care.

The study found that:

Overall childhood mortality for H1N1 was six deaths per million of population. The highest death rate of 14 per million was for children aged less than a year old.

Mortality rates were much higher for Bangladeshi children (47 deaths per million population) and Pakistani children (36 deaths per million) than for white English children (four deaths per million)

Around a fifth (21 per cent) of children who died were previously healthy or had only mild pre-existing disorders.

Overall, 64 per cent of children had been vaccinated with Tamiflu. But only seven received the drug within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms and just three before admission to hospital.

Two children who died received the vaccine too late for it to be effective.

The authors called for international data to be pooled to provided a higher number of cases for analysis.

They wrote: ‘Our findings support the vaccination of children against pandemic influenza A H1N1. Children at greatest risk of severe illness or death should be prioritised.

‘Our data indicates that risk groups include children with pre-existing illness, including chronic neurological or gastrointestinal disease, and those in ethnic minority groups (including Bangladeshi and Pakistani children).’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Safety Protocol ‘Delayed’ 7/7 Fire Crew at Aldgate

A group of firefighters refused to enter a tunnel after one of the 7 July Tube bombings because of health and safety concerns, the inquest has heard.

Police Inspector Robert Munn said there was a delay as they tried to confirm the electricity had been switched off.

He said he stepped onto the track at Aldgate and told them: “It’s this way boys. Do you want to come and join us?”

A witness has also said emerging survivors there resembled a scene from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

Shehzad Tanweer, one of four suicide bombers who carried out the 7 July 2005 attacks, blew himself up at Aldgate station, killing seven people.

The inquest is examining the deaths of 52 people who were killed by the bombers on three Tube trains and a London bus.

Insp Munn, of British Transport Police, described the situation when he arrived on site and tried to persuade one of the fire crews to walk along the track to the explosion scene.

He said: “One of them told me they weren’t allowed on the tracks until the current was confirmed as being discharged.

“At that point I stood on the third rail and said to them, ‘the power’s off’, and they said, ‘we have to have it confirmed by London Underground staff’.

“There was a member of London Underground staff on the platform who I shouted to. I said, ‘is the power off?’ and he confirmed it.

“This seemed to take forever. In reality it was probably a matter of seconds,” he added.

But he said four other firefighters were already working in the bombed carriage at the time and he admitted it was “correct protocol” to check the power was off. He also praised the work of the firefighters at Aldgate that day.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Why Are So Many Modern British Career Women Converting to Islam?

Tony Blair’s sister-in-law announced her conversion to Islam last weekend. Journalist Lauren Booth embraced the faith after what she describes as a ‘holy experience’ in Iran.

She is just one of a growing number of modern British career women to do so. Here, writer EVE AHMED, who was raised as a Muslim before rejecting the faith, explores the reasons why.

Much of my childhood was spent trying to escape ­Islam.

Born in London to an English mother and a ­Pakistani Muslim father, I was brought up to follow my father’s faith without question.

But, privately, I hated it. The minute I left home for university at the age of 18, I abandoned it altogether.

As far as I was concerned, being a Muslim meant hearing the word ‘No’ over and over again.

Girls from my background were barred from so many of the things my English friends took for granted. Indeed, it seemed to me that almost anything fun was haram, or forbidden, to girls like me.

There were so many random, petty rules. No whistling. No chewing of gum. No riding bikes. No watching Top Of The Pops. No wearing make-up or clothes which revealed the shape of the body.

No eating in the street or putting my hands in my pockets. No cutting my hair or painting my nails. No asking questions or answering back. No keeping dogs as pets, (they were unclean).

And, of course, no sitting next to men, shaking their hands or even making eye contact with them.

These ground rules were imposed by my father and I, therefore, assumed they must be an integral part of being a good Muslim.

Small wonder, then, that as soon as I was old enough to exert my independence, I rejected the whole package and turned my back on Islam. After all, what modern, liberated British woman would choose to live such a life?

Well, quite a lot, it turns out, including Islam’s latest surprise convert, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth. And after my own break with my past, I’ve followed with fascination the growing trend of Western women choosing to convert to Islam.

Broadcaster and journalist Booth, 43, says she now wears a hijab head covering whenever she leaves home, prays five times a day and visits her local mosque ‘when I can’.

She decided to become a Muslim six weeks ago after visiting the shrine of Fatima al-Masumeh in the city of Qom, and says: ‘It was a Tuesday evening, and I sat down and felt this shot of spiritual morphine, just absolute bliss and joy.’

Before her awakening in Iran, she had been ‘sympathetic’ to Islam and has spent considerable time working in Palestine. ‘I was always impressed with the strength and comfort it gave,’ she says.

How, I wondered, could women be drawn to a religion which I felt had kept me in such a lowly, submissive place? How could their experiences of Islam be so very different to mine?

According to Kevin Brice from ­Swansea University, who has specialised in studying white conversion to Islam, these women are part of an intriguing trend.

He explains: ‘They seek spirituality, a higher meaning, and tend to be deep thinkers. The other type of women who turn to Islam are what I call “converts of convenience”. They’ll assume the trappings of the religion to please their Muslim husband and his family, but won’t necessarily attend mosque, pray or fast.’

I spoke to a diverse selection of white Western converts in a bid to re-examine the faith I had rejected.

Women like Kristiane Backer, 43, a London-based former MTV presenter who had led the kind of liberal Western-style life that I yearned for as a teenager, yet who turned her back on it and embraced Islam instead. Her reason? The ‘anything goes’ permissive society that I coveted had proved to be a superficial void.

The turning point for Kristiane came when she met and briefly dated the former Pakistani cricketer and Muslim Imran Khan in 1992 during the height of her career. He took her to Pakistan where she says she was immediately touched by spirituality and the warmth of the people.

Kristiane says: ‘Though our relationship didn’t last, I began to study the Muslim faith and eventually converted. Because of the nature of my job, I’d been out interviewing rock stars, travelling all over the world and following every trend, yet I’d felt empty inside. Now, at last, I had contentment because Islam had given me a purpose in life.’

‘In the West, we are stressed for super­ficial reasons, like what clothes to wear. In Islam, everyone looks to a higher goal. Everything is done to please God. It was a completely different value system.

‘Despite my lifestyle, I felt empty inside and realised how liberating it was to be a Muslim. To follow only one god makes life purer. You are not chasing every fad.

‘I grew up in Germany in a not very religious Protestant family. I drank and I partied, but I realised that we need to behave well now so we have a good after-life. We are responsible for our own actions.’

For a significant amount of women, their first contact with Islam comes from ­dating a Muslim boyfriend. Lynne Ali, 31, from Dagenham in Essex, freely admits to having been ‘a typical white hard-partying teenager’.

She says: ‘I would go out and get drunk with friends, wear tight and revealing clothing and date boys.

‘I also worked part-time as a DJ, so I was really into the club scene. I used to pray a bit as a Christian, but I used God as a sort of doctor, to fix things in my life. If anyone asked, I would’ve said that, generally, I was happy living life in the fast lane.’

But when she met her boyfriend, Zahid, at university, something dramatic happened.

She says: ‘His sister started talking to me about Islam, and it was as if ­everything in my life fitted into place. I think, underneath it all, I must have been searching for something, and I wasn’t feeling fulfilled by my hard-drinking party lifestyle.’

Lynne converted aged 19. ‘From that day, I started wearing the hijab,’ she explains, ‘and I now never show my hair in public. At home, I’ll dress in normal Western clothes in front of my husband, but never out of the house.’

With a recent YouGov survey ­concluding that more than half the ­British public believe Islam to be a negative influence that encourages extremism, the repression of women and inequality, one might ask why any of them would choose such a direction for themselves.

Yet statistics suggest Islamic conversion is not a mere flash in the pan but a significant development. Islam is, after all, the world’s fastest growing religion, and white adopters are an important part of that story.

‘Evidence suggests that the ratio of Western women converts to male could be as high as 2:1,’ says Kevin Brice.

Moreover, he says, often these female ­converts are eager to display the ­visible signs of their faith — in particular the hijab — whereas many Muslim girls brought up in the faith choose not to.

‘Perhaps as a result of these actions, which tend to draw attention, white Muslims often report greater amounts of discrimination against them than do born Muslims,’ adds Brice, which is what happened to Kristiane Backer.

She says: ‘In Germany, there is Islamophobia. I lost my job when I converted. There was a Press campaign against me with insinuations about all Muslims supporting ­terrorists — I was vilified. Now, I am a ­presenter on NBC Europe.

‘I call myself a European Muslim, which is different to the ‘born’ Muslim. I was ­married to one, a Moroccan, but it didn’t work because he placed restrictions on me because of how he’d been brought up. As a European Muslim, I question ­everything — I don’t accept blindly.

‘But what I love is the hospitality and the warmth of the Muslim community. London is the best place in Europe for Muslims, there is wonderful Islamic ­culture here and I am very happy.’

For some converts, Islam represents a celebration of old-fashioned family values.

‘Some are drawn to the sense of belonging and of community — values which have eroded in the West,’ says Haifaa Jawad, a senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham, who has studied the white conversion phenomenon.

‘Many people, from all walks of life, mourn the loss in today’s society of traditional respect for the elderly and for women, for example. These are values which are enshrined in the Koran, which Muslims have to live by,’ adds Brice.

It is values like these which drew Camilla Leyland, 32, a yoga teacher who lives in Cornwall, to Islam. A single mother to daughter, Inaya, two, she converted in her mid-20s for ‘intellectual and feminist reasons’.

She explains: ‘I know people will be surprised to hear the words ­”feminism” and “Islam” in the same breath, but in fact, the teachings of the Koran give equality to women, and at the time the religion was born, the teachings went against the grain of a misogynistic society.

‘The big mistake people make is by confusing culture with religion. Yes, there are Muslim cultures which do not allow women individual freedom, yet when I was growing up, I felt more oppressed by Western society.’

She talks of the pressure on women to act like men by drinking and ­having casual sex. ‘There was no real meaning to it all. In Islam, if you begin a relationship, that is a ­commitment of intent.’

Growing up in Southampton — her father was the director of Southampton Institute of Education and her mother a home economics teacher — Camilla’s interest in Islam began at school.

She went to university and later took a Masters degree in Middle East Studies. But it was while living and working in Syria that she had a spiritual epiphany. Reflecting on what she’d read in the Koran, she realised she wanted to convert.

Her decision was met with bemusement by friends and family.

‘People found it so hard to believe that an educated, middle-class white woman would choose to become Muslim,’ she says.

While Camilla’s faith remains strong, she no longer wears the hijab in public. But several of the women I spoke to said strict Islamic dress was something they found empowering and liberating.

Lynne Ali remembers the night this hit home for her. ‘I went to an old friend’s 21st birthday party in a bar,’ she reveals. ‘I walked in, wearing my hijab and modest clothing, and saw how ­everyone else had so much flesh on display. They were drunk, slurring their words and dancing provocatively.

‘For the first time, I could see my former life with an outsider’s eyes, and I knew I could never go back to that.

‘I am so grateful I found my escape route. This is the real me — I am happy to pray five times a day and take classes at the mosque. I am no longer a slave to a broken society and its expectations.’

Kristiane Backer, who has written a book on her own spiritual journey, called From MTV To Mecca, believes the new breed of modern, independent Muslims can band together to show the world that Islam is not the faith I grew up in — one that stamps on the rights of women.

She says: ‘I know women born Muslims who became disillusioned an d rebelled against it. When you dig deeper, it’s not the faith they turned against, but the culture.

‘Rules like marrying within the same sect or caste and education being less important for girls, as they should get married anyway —— where does it say that in the Koran? It doesn’t.

‘Many young Muslims have abandoned the “fire and brimstone” version they were born into have re-discovered a more spiritual and intellectual approach, that’s free from the cultural dogmas of the older generation. That’s how I intend to spend my life, showing the world the beauty of the true Islam.’

While I don’t agree with their sentiments, I admire and respect the women I interviewed for this piece.

They were all bright and educated, and have thought long and hard before choosing to convert to Islam — and now feel passionately about their adopted religion. Good luck to them. And good luck to Lauren Booth. But it’s that word that sums up the difference between their experience and mine — choice.

Perhaps if I’d felt in control rather than controlled, if I’d felt empowered rather than stifled, I would still be practising the religion I was born into, and would not carry the burden of guilt that I do about rejecting my father’s faith.

           — Hat tip: Reinhard[Return to headlines]


Religious Battles in the Balkans

Recently, after a period of prolonged strife within the Islamic Religious Community (IVZ), its leader Sulejman Rexhepi publicly asked the government of Macedonia and representatives of the international community for protection from radical Islamic groups. He called in particular on the “embassy of the United States and the European Union to support the IVZ and take appropriate measures” against such groups. Rexhepi’s public cry for help echoed internationally. It was interpreted as one more sign of the rising influence of radical Islam in the Balkans.

Pressure within the IVZ has been mounting all summer. Rumors, hushed and denied, have gone on for years that the IVZ does not have effective control of all of its mosques in the capital city of Skopje, Macedonia. Late June, the Friday prayer at the Isa Beg Mosque was violently interrupted. A group of people, reportedly led by Ramadan Ramadani, attacked and chased away the Skopje mufti, Ibraim Shabani, and several other IVZ officials, preventing them from conducting the prayer. Only several days before the incident, Ramadani was revoked from his position of odza in the Isa Beg Mosque by IVZ on charges of organizing unauthorized lectures. IVZ said Ramadani was revoked after repeated warnings.

The public learned of the incident only a week later, after a tape was presented by the Democratic Party of the Albanians (DPA), one of the two major parties in the Albanian political block, currently in opposition. DPA accused its political opponent, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), part of the government coalition, of involvement in the incident.

The incident forced the IVZ, after practically years of denial, to admit that it does not have effective control over some of its mosques in Skopje. It also made it point a finger at “radical groups” that want to take control over the Islamic community in the country. The mosques most often mentioned as outside IVZ control are the Isa Beg, Aladza, Sultan Murat and Hatandzuk.

The dismissed Ramadani has denied accusations of spreading radicalism and has also disputed IVZ’s decision for his removal. “The decision is not valid. This is a first in IVZ’s history that someone is dismissed in such a non-transparent way,” said Ramadani. He argued that IVZ did not have a quorum when it made the decision. He accused the IVZ leader Sulejman Rexhepi of serious financial wrongdoings and said the rhetoric of radicalism was just an excuse. Ramadani started collecting signatures for the removal of Rexhepi from his position as leader of IVZ. He put on hold his initiative mid-August as Ramadan started, but was reported to have collected some 7,000 signatures.

Ramadani’s civic initiative cannot replace the chief mufti Rexhepi — the IVZ leader can only be revoked by the Riaset, the IVZ top body — but if the number of 7,000 signatures is accurate, it indicates a significant following.

After the June incident at the Isa Beg Mosque, IVZ asked the Ministry of Interior (MoI) for protection, that is, to help it restore its control over the mosque. The police said they can only intervene if ordered to by the court. Apparently, in legal terms, the administration of the mosque is a civil matter and the police cannot intervene without a court order (the violent incident is a separate matter and can be a simple misdemeanor). “The moment we are ordered by the court, we will intervene” said MoI spokesperson Ivo Kotevski. The ministry said its hands were tied also concerning the allegations of spreading radical teaching of Islam. As long as there is no direct incitement of racial or ethnic hatred, or direct calls for subversion of institutions of government, the police cannot intervene, was the reaction of the MoI.

Insiders explain the police’s inertia with the political interests involved. According to them, the two major Albanian political parties, DUI and DPA, are not without a stake in the entire affair. Also, according to some of those interpretations, the accusations of radical teachings are just the front for internal struggles over power and control within IVZ. Several years ago there was an even more serious, armed incident, involving known criminals, in a mosque in the village of Kondovo, apparently over who would have control over the mosque.

Institutions’ inertia can easily be explained with political backing in a country such as Macedonia. But it would be completely improbable to think that a major Albanian political party would in any way be supportive of radical Islamic elements. Politics is strongly secular in Macedonia. In addition, Albanian politicians would know better than to risk the support by the international community.

However, elements exist in support of IVZ’s claims over the spread of radical teaching. Citing the unauthorized lectures as the grounds for his dismissal, the Skopje mufti, Ibraim Shabani, in particular objected to the lectures by a local Islamic scholar, Bekir Halimi. In July, after the incident, IVZ directly brought Halimi’s name in connection with the spreading of Wahabism. Two years ago the police raided the premises of Halimi’s association called Bamsiera on suspicion of links with radical groups in the region and internationally. The suspicion was apparently caused by a small money transfers by an organization from Kuwait. Halimi was however neither detained nor charged. Some media subsequently reported the case as a mistake. Halimi himself has denied allegations of spreading radical ideas in the past. He has claimed that the local Muslim tradition is “immune to such influences” and that local priests know how to protect the believers. Ramadani, for his part, justified Halimi’s unauthorized lectures arguing that he was a recognized scholar and that it was a privilege to have him speak.

There have been no public reactions following the IVZ’s leader call upon Europe and the United States to defend moderate Islam in the country. However, after years of rumors and denials, the clash is now out in the open. Further unraveling seems imminent.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Arrests More Brotherhood Members Ahead of Polls

The authorities in Egypt arrested 70 members of the outlawed opposition Muslim Brotherhood on Tuesday as they were putting up election posters ahead of November polls, the group and security sources said.

“Police arrested around 70 Brotherhood members at dawn as they were hanging posters for a woman candidate in various parts of the Alexandria governorate,” Islamist MP Hussein Ibrahim told AFP.

A security official said 70 Brotherhood members were rounded up in and around the northern coastal city because the posters bore religious slogans in violation of the electoral law.

Ibrahim, who will be standing for re-election in the November 28 parliamentary poll, said the posters carried the Koranic phrase “Allahu akbar” (God is greater).

But he denied accusations that the traditional Brotherhood slogan — “Islam is the solution” — featured on the posters.

“The streets of Alexandria are rife with campaign posters for candidates from the National Democratic Party which carry Koranic verses,” Ibrahim said of the ruling party of President Hosni Mubarak.

The latest arrests bring to 260 the number of Brotherhood supporters who have been detained over the past 10 days, the security official said. Most of them have now been released.

A total of 508 seats are up for election in the legislature, which is currently dominated by the National Democratic Party. Another 10 seats are presidential appointees.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which fields candidates as independents to get round a ban on religious parties, won a fifth of the seats in the last election in 2005, despite a police crackdown.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel’s Right Wing Starts Its Own Tea Party

Barack Obama has become a target for the Israeli right following the creation of a pro-settler Tea Party who plan to hold a “Saying No to Obama” rally.

The new movement, which has taken inspiration from the US conservative group, is being spearheaded by disaffected former and present members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party,

When it holds its inaugural rally in Tel Aviv on Sunday, the movement’s stated target will be Mr Obama, the US president, whose call for a halt to Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank has caused anger on the Israeli right. The Likud party has long opposed the creation of a Palestinian state.

According to Michael Kleiner, a former Likud legislator who is one of the driving forces behind the movement, Mr Obama’s policies towards Israel resemble the British attitudes in eighteenth century America that caused the original Boston Tea Party.

“We believe President Obama is trying to force us to do things that most Israelis believe are very dangerous,” Mr Kleiner said. “We are being blackmailed to sacrifice our security and vital interests by another country, which is unprecedented.”

“We also believe Netanyahu is crumbling and is going to give in on the [settlement] freeze.”

The Palestinian leadership has effectively frozen its participation in peace talks until Mr Netanyahu decides whether or not to extend the settlement moratorium.

Sunday’s rally, which will draw several serving Likud legislators, will also be an uncomfortable reminder of the backbench rebellion, led by Mr Kleiner among others, that forced Mr Netanyahu to call an early election in 1999, which he then lost

           — Hat tip: ICLA[Return to headlines]

See Where Obama’s Wrath is Headed After Midterms

President holding back, believes acting now could harm Democrats

White House officials told the Palestinians that President Obama is waiting until after the Nov. 2 midterm elections to press Israel harder for a deal to create a Palestinian state, a senior Palestinian Authority official told WND.

The PA official said Obama believes pressure against Israel now could have a negative impact for Democrats in local elections, including in many districts where support for Israel has become a campaign issue.

After the midterms, the U.S. will continue to press Israel to agree to a complete halt to Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem and the strategic West Bank, the senior PA official said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

From Israel to Iraq, A Christian Flight of Biblical Proportions Has Begun

By Robert Fisk

In the centre of the rebuilt Beirut, the massive old Maronite Cathedral of St George stands beside the even larger mass of the new Mohammad al-Amin mosque.

The mosque’s minarets tower over the cathedral, but the Maronites were built a spanking new archbishop’s house between the two buildings as compensation. Yet every day, the two calls to prayer — the clanging of church bells and the wailing of the muezzin — beat an infernal percussion across the city. Both bells and wails are tape recordings, but they have been turned up to the highest decibel pitch to outdo each other, louder than an aircraft’s roar, almost as crazed as the nightclub music from Gemmayzeh across the square. But the Christians are leaving.

Across the Middle East, it is the same story of despairing — sometimes frightened — Christian minorities, and of an exodus that reaches almost Biblical proportions. Almost half of Iraq’s Christians have fled their country since the first Gulf War in 1991, most of them after the 2004 invasion — a weird tribute to the self-proclaimed Christian faith of the two Bush presidents who went to war with Iraq — and stand now at 550,000, scarcely 3 per cent of the population. More than half of Lebanon’s Christians now live outside their country. Once a majority, the nation’s one and a half million Christians, most of them Maronite Catholics, comprise perhaps 35 per cent of the Lebanese. Egypt’s Coptic Christians — there are at most around eight million — now represent less than 10 per cent of the population.

This is, however, not so much a flight of fear, more a chronicle of a death foretold. Christians are being outbred by the majority Muslim populations in their countries and they are almost hopelessly divided. In Jerusalem, there are 13 different Christian churches and three patriarchs. A Muslim holds the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to prevent Armenian and Orthodox priests fighting each other at Easter.

When more than 200 members of 14 different churches — some of them divided — gathered in Rome last week for a papal synod on the loss of Christian populations in the lands where Christianity began, it was greeted with boredom or ignored altogether by most of the West’s press.

Yet nowhere is the Christian fate sadder than in the territories around Jerusalem. As Monsignor Fouad Twal, the ninth Latin patriarch of Jerusalem and the second to be an Arab, put it bleakly, “the Israelis regard us as 100 per cent Palestinian Arabs and we are oppressed in the same way as the Muslims. But Muslim fundamentalists identify us with the Christian West — which is not always true — and want us to pay the price.” With Christian Palestinians in Bethlehem cut off from Jerusalem by the same Israeli wall which imprisons their Muslim brothers, there is now, Twal says, “a young generation of Christians who do not know or visit the Holy Sepulchre”.

The Jordanian royal family have always protected their Christian population — at 350,000, it is around 6 per cent of the population — but this is perhaps the only flame of hope in the region. The divisions within Christianity proved even more dangerous to their community than the great Sunni-Shia divide did to the Muslims of the Middle East. Even the Crusaders were divided in their 100-year occupation of Palestine, or “Outremer”, as they called it. The Lebanese journalist Fady Noun, a Christian, wrote a profound article from Rome last week in which he spoke of the Christian loss as “a great wound haemorrhaging blood”, and bemoaned both Christian division and “egoism” for what he saw as a spiritual as well as a physical emigration. “There are those Christians who reach a kind of indifference… in Western countries who, swayed by the culture of these countries and the media, persuade eastern Christians to forget their identity,” he wrote.

Pope Benedict, whose mournful visit to the Holy Land last year prompted him to call the special synod which ended in the Vatican at the weekend, has adopted his usual perspective — that, despite their difficulties, Christians of the “Holy Land” must reinvigorate their feelings as “living stones” of the Middle Eastern Church. “To live in dignity in your own nation is before everything a fundamental human right,” he said. “That is why you must support conditions of peace and justice, which are indispensable for the harmonious development of all the inhabitants of the region.” But the Pope’s words sometimes suggested that real peace and justice lay in salvation rather than historical renewal.

Patriarch Twal believes that the Pope understood during his trip to Israel and the West Bank last year “the disastrous consequences of the conflict between Jews and Palestinian Arabs” and has stated openly that one of the principal causes of Christian emigration is “the Israeli occupation, the Christians’ lack of freedom of movement, and the economic circumstances in which they live”. But he does not see the total disappearance of the Christian faith in the Middle East. “We must have the courage to accept that we are Arabs and Christians and be faithful to this identity. Our wonderful mission is to be a bridge between East and West.”

One anonymous prelate at the Rome synod, quoted in one of the synod’s working papers, took a more pragmatic view. “Let’s stop saying there is no problem with Muslims; this isn’t true,” he said. “The problem doesn’t only come from fundamentalists, but from constitutions. In all the countries of the region except Lebanon, Christians are second-class citizens.” If religious freedom is guaranteed in these countries, “it is limited by specific laws and practices”. In Egypt, this has certainly been the case since President Sadat referred to himself as “the Muslim president of a Muslim country”.

The Lebanese Maronite Church — its priests, by the way, can marry — understands all too well how Christians can become aligned with political groups. The Lebanese writer Sami Khalife wrote last week in the French-language newspaper L’Orient-Le Jour — the francophone voice of Lebanon’s Christians — that a loss of moral authority had turned churches in his country into “political actors” which were beginning to sound like political parties. An open letter to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, warning him to try to turn Lebanon into a “front line” against Israel, was signed by 250 Lebanese. Most of them were from the minority Christian community.

Nor can the church ignore Saudi Arabia, where Christianity is banned as a religion just as much as the building of churches. Christians cannot visit the Islamic holy cities of Mecca or Medina — the doors of the Vatican and Canterbury Cathedral are at least open to Muslims — and 12 Filipinos and a priest were arrested in Saudi Arabia only this month for “proselytism” for holding a secret mass. There is, perhaps, a certain irony in the fact that the only balance to Christian emigration has been the arrival in the Middle East of perhaps a quarter of a million Christian Filipino guest workers — especially in the Gulf region — while Patriarch Twal reckons that around 40,000 of them now work and live in Israel and “Palestine”.

Needless to say, it is violence against Christians that occupies the West, a phenomenon nowhere better, or more bloodily, illustrated than by al-Qa’ida’s kidnapping of Archbishop Faraj Rahho in Mosul — an incident recorded in the US military archives revealed on Saturday — and his subsequent murder. When the Iraqi authorities later passed death sentences on two men for the killing, the church asked for them to be reprieved. In Egypt, there has been a gloomy increase in Christian-Muslim violence, especially in ancient villages in the far south of the country; in Cairo, Christian churches are now cordoned off by day-and-night police checkpoints.

And while Western Christians routinely deplore the falling Christian populations of the Middle East, their visits to the region tend to concentrate on pilgrimages to Biblical sites rather than meetings with their Christian opposite numbers.

Americans, so obsessed by the myths of East-West “clashes of civilisation” since 11 September 2001, often seem to regard Christianity as a “Western” rather than an Eastern religion, neatly separating the Middle East roots of their own religion from the lands of Islam. That in itself is a loss of faith.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Holy See Condemns Tariq Aziz Death Sentence

Vatican City, 27 Oct. (AKI) — The Vatican has condemned the death penalty given to Tariq Aziz, a top former aide to late Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein. Aziz, now a frail 74-year-old who has been in detention since 2003, was for years the “international face” of Saddam’s government.

Iraq’s Supreme Court on Tuesday sentenced Aziz to death by hanging for for his role in eliminating Shia religious parties during Saddam Hussein’s regime.

“The Catholic Church’s position on the death penalty is well known. It is hoped, therefore, that the sentence against Tariq Aziz will not be implemented, “ Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said on Tuesday in a statement released Wednesday by the Vatican.

Lombardi said clemency for Aziz, who is Christian, was needed “precisely in order to favour reconciliation and the reconstruction of peace and justice in Iraq after the great sufferings the country has experienced.”

Any intervention by the Vatican to save Aziz would be “through the diplomatic channels at its disposal,” he stated.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Tuesday Aziz’s execution would be “unacceptable and the EU will seek to commute his sentence.

The Iraqi Supreme Court’s ruling angered the foreign ministers of several European countries. These included Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini, who said he “…fully supports the position of Ashton.”

Amnesty International urged Iraq not to carry out the sentences on Tuesday, while acknowledging the brutality of Hussein’s regime.

Aziz was the only Christian in Saddam Hussein’s government and served as foreign minister and deputy prime-minister.

Iraq’s president Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and its two vice-presidents, one of whom is a Sunni and the other a Shia Muslim, could overturn the death sentence against Aziz if all three agreed to to so.

In March 2009, Aziz was sentenced to 15 years in prison in connection with the 1992 executions of 42 merchants.

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

Saudi Budget Cut for Global Islamic Indoctrination

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia has acknowledged that it reduced the kingdom’s multi-billion-dollar budget to spread Islam abroad.

Officials said the Saudi government has reduced funding for Islamic indoctrination abroad. They said the decision reflected both budget concerns as well as accusations by the West that much of the Saudi money was ending up in the hands of Al Qaida-aligned groups.

“One of the oft-repeated charges against charitable organizations is that they have become a channel for funding terrorism,” Saleh Al Wohaibi, secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, said. The Islamic organization, which operates in more than 70 countries, has long been accused of being a financier of Al Qaida. Officials acknowledged that the group has been sponsored by the Saudi government.

At a news conference on Aug. 25, Al Wohaibi said his organization has been forced to sharply cut its budget for overseas activities. He cited the global credit crisis as well as Western restrictions on Islamic funding.

“Islamic charities like their counterparts in the United States and Europe must have rights to accept donations, transfer funds to foreign countries for humanitarian projects and help people in need and in hours of crisis,” Al Wohaibi said.

The United States has reported that Saudi Arabia spent more than $70 billion since the 1970s on Islamic indoctrination abroad. Much of the money was said to have been used to establish an infrastructure for Al Qaida recruitment.

The World Assembly was said to have been active in central Europe, particularly Bosnia, as well as sub-Saharan Africa. Officials said the organization promotes the needs of Muslim youth, including education, social welfare and orphan care.

“The grinding poverty, particularly in certain parts of Africa, is the result of economic oppression and exploitation worsened by ethnic conflict and regional wars,” Al Wohaibi said.

Officials said Riyad has cut back on Islamic funding in the Middle East as well. They cited a reduced budget in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and North Africa.

About 3,000 Islamic charities were said to operate in the six Gulf Cooperation Council states. World Assembly, one of five organizations that operate around the world, was regarded as one of the largest.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Architect Seeks to Rebuild Historic Core of Königsberg

An architect in the Russian enclave Kaliningrad is trying to rally support for plans to restore the historic centre of what was once the East Prussian city of Königsberg to its pre-war splendour.

Arthur Sarnitz, born in Kaliningrad to Estonian parents, wants to rebuild its urban core to resemble how it was prior to World War II, before Allied bombing and the Red Army destroyed much of the then German city.

“My plans are ready,” Sarnitz told daily Die Welt this week. “It would be the biggest project of its kind in the world.”

Following Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945, Königsberg and the surrounding East Prussian territory was handed over to the Soviet Union. The German residents were mostly expelled and Soviets renamed the region wedged between Poland and Lithuania Kaliningrad.

Die Welt reported Sarnitz envisioned first excavating the foundations of Königsberg currently buried beneath modern buildings. His first target for demolition and reconstruction would be the 7.5 hectare central district of Kneiphof including the local town hall.

“If we uncover the top layer, we see the walls of old Königsberg,” he told the paper. “That’s what we want to dig up and we’re being helped by Polish, Russian and German archaeologists.”

Though the buildings would appear outwardly historic, Sarnitz wants to outfit them with modern interiors adapted to 21st century life.

Sarnitz even hired a computer-game company to create a simulation of the reconstructed old town, where Königsberg’s most famous resident — the philosopher Immanuel Kant — strolls through the winding pixelated streets.

The ambitious architect is banking on support from the Kremlin, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose wife comes from Kaliningrad, has reportedly backed rebuilding the town’s historic castle.

However, while Sarnitz admitted financing the project will be difficult at best. “There is no money whatsoever,” he said, explaining he had pegged his hopes on Russian corporate sponsorship.

“A good cause will always find money,” he told the paper. “And the reconstruction of historic Königsberg is historically and morally a good thing.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

As Russian Troops Prepare to Return to Afghanistan in Landmark Agreement, Gorbachev Warns NATO Victory is Impossible

Russia is set to return to the war in Afghanistan 21 years after its forces were driven out of the country.

Moscow has agreed to help train the Afghan army and anti-narcotics troops — at the request of the same Western countries who helped remove Russia from the country in the late 1980s.

But Mikhail Gorbachev today warned Nato that victory in Afghanistan is ‘impossible’.

The former leader of the Soviet Union, who pulled Russian troops out of Afghanistan in 1989, said President Barack Obama is right to start withdrawing U.S. forces from the country next year.

But he warned failure to do so would result in the Americans suffering another defeat on the same scale as Vietnam.

‘Victory is impossible in Afghanistan,’ Mr Gorbachev said. ‘Obama is right to pull the troops out. No matter how difficult it will be.’

Russia has also agreed in principle to supply Nato with helicopters for use in Afghanistan and has already sold five Mi-17 helicopters to coalition member Poland, reported The Independent. The first two are to be delivered by the end of the year.

Nato officials today said the U.S. and Russia were working on a package that could see Moscow providing more than 20 helicopters to Afghan forces, thereby hastening the coalition’s exit from Afghanistan.

Nato is also thought to be exploring whether Russia would allow the alliance to ship more goods, including weapons, across its territory to Nato forces in Afghanistan.

The watershed agreement with Russia is expected to be announced at next month’s Nato summit in Lisbon, which is due to be attended by President Dmitry Medvedev.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato’s top diplomat, today said the alliance believed it was close to a new start in ties with Russia, including a collaboration on a missile defence system.

He said that President Medvedev’s attendance at Nato’s annual summit next month would boost relations, strained by Moscow’s 2008 invasion of Georgia.

In return for its aid in Afghanistan, Russia is seeking more co-operation from Nato over the placement of a U.S. missile-defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. It also wants Nato to accept its occupation of Georgia.

Mr Rasmussen told the Financial Times: ‘The summit will represent a new start in the relationship between Nato and Russia.

‘It will be a very substantive Nato-Russia summit and definitely the most important event for cooperation since the Rome summit of 2002 when we established the Nato-Russia council.’

Mr Rasmussen said the Lisbon summit could see Nato and Russia deepening cooperation on Afghanistan.

He said one of the central issues at the summit would be whether Nato and Russia could begin cooperating on the creation of a missile defence shield.

Western countries have pressed for a shield as protection from states like Iran, but early plans by Washington were rejected by Russia as a threat to its own nuclear arsenal.

Mr Rasmussen said he believed Moscow’s objections had softened and that the Nato-wide missile defence system could one day link up to Russian radars to give all participating countries better protection.

‘I would expect a decision on missile cooperation to be one of the most important outcomes of the Nato-Russia summit,’ he said.

‘Cooperation between Russia and Nato on missile defence will provide us with a very strong framework to develop a true Euro-Atlantic security architecture with one security roof.’

U.S. and British intelligence officials supplied American Stinger missiles to Afghan rebels in the 1980s, allowing them to shoot down Russian helicopters. The move helped the rebels to end the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Calls for an inquiry as details of Afghan civilians killed by British forces emerge The conduct of three British military units came under the microscope today after fresh details emerged of the involvement of UK forces in incidents in which Afghan civilians were killed or wounded.

The disclosures, which were obtained by The Guardian from the Ministry of Defence through the Freedom of Information Act, have led to calls for an inquiry into the behaviour of British forces.

The Royal Marines, the Coldstream Guards and the Rifles were each said to have been involved in ‘clusters’ of incidents in which civilians died or were wounded.

The details relate to 21 incidents between 2006 and 2009 involvement UK which were referred to in thousands of leaked US military logs posted on the WikiLeaks website last year.

They disclose that the Coldstream Guards shot four civilians in Kabul over a three-week period in the autumn of 2007, killing two and wounding two others.

Royal Marines from 42 and 45 Commandos killed or wounded civilians eight times during a six-month period in late 2008 and early 2009, while the Rifles were involved in three incidents last year.

In one incident the Coldstreams opened fire on a mini-bus which failed to halt when they signalled for it to stop, killing one person and wounding two others. In another the son of an Afghan general was shot and killed when his car was said to have accelerated towards a Coldstream Guards patrol.

The incidents involving the Royal Marines included one in which a child was shot dead in a car believed to have been driving towards them at a time when a suicide bomber was reported to be in the area.

The other incidents involving the Royal Marines were:

A man who had been ‘trying to locate his family as they had moved compounds’ was wounded by the marines who thought he had been tracking them.

A 12-year-old boy was wounded when a van sped towards a Royal Marines patrol and ‘failed to stop after verbal warnings were given’.

Two children were injured ‘in their abdomens by shrapnel’ by missiles fired from unmanned drones after the Royal Marines had called in air support strikes as they feared they were threatened by the Taliban.

The marines shot a man and a child after they believed two men were ‘reporting their progress’ in order to prepare a bomb attack.

A mentally-ill man on a motorcycle was shot and wounded after he drove by a Royal Marine checkpoint which he appeared to be observing.

The Rifles were involved in three incidents, including calling in RAF aircraft whose bomb killed an undisclosed number of civilians in Nad-e-Ali, Helmand, last September.

A MoD spokesman said: ‘We deeply regret all civilian casualties. Protecting the Afghan civilian population is a cornerstone of Isaf’s mission, and all British troops undergo comprehensive training on the strict rules of engagement.

‘This contrasts directly with the attitude of the insurgents, whose indiscriminate use of suicide bombs, roadside explosive devices and human shields cause the majority of civilian deaths and injuries in Afghanistan.

‘We will continue our efforts to prevent insurgents harming civilians and to develop the capacity of Afghan security forces to protect the population.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Council Rejects Use of School Hall as Mosque

The Australian Islamic College asked permission to use the assembly hall as a mosque for prayer (Noel Debien)

A suburban council in Perth has rejected a request by an Islamic school to allow its school hall to be used as a place of worship for Muslim members of the community.

The Australian Islamic College in Forrestfield asked permission for the assembly hall to be used as a mosque for up to 300 people for half an hour of worship on Friday afternoons.

At their meeting last night, Gosnells councillors ruled the school hall could be used for worship only by staff and students.

They identified problems with road congestion and inadequate parking as reasons for refusing.

The college’s religious leader Burhaan Mehtar says it is disheartening the council has failed to recognise the needs of the community.

“We are a community and we have some 275 families who attend the school and those parents when they pick their kids up,” he said.

“Our prayer is part of our extra curricular activities so they obviously need a place to pray.”

Burhaan Mehtar says he will continue to consult the council.

“We still need to have more meetings with the council to see if we can perhaps drive the point home that we are taking drastic measures to reduce the somewhat so called pressures,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Malawi: New Testaments Desecrated by Muslim Pupils Attending a Catholic School

Early this October, representatives of the Gideons Bible organization offered free copies of the New Testament to a Catholic primary school — a rampage ensued by Muslim pupils — the situation was recently reported by the local parish priest, Father Medrick M. Chimbwanya, in a conversation with the interbational Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

By Eva-Maria Kolmann

The school, in the traditional authority of Bwananyambi in the diocese of Mangochi, in the south of Malawi, is situated in an area where roughly 75% of the population are Muslims.

Although the school’s director had made it absolutely clear that no New Testaments were to be given to the Muslim pupils and that in no way was any student obliged to take a copy of the book, there was a subsequent uproar on the part of some Muslim youths, who tore up the New Testaments, threw them, howling at their teachers, and then threw the torn-up pages out onto the streets.

Some of the pupils, who live in a nearby Islamic hostel, denounced the New Testament distribution to their religious leaders as an “insult to Islam” and claimed they had been forced to accept them. Which in the following days resulted in Catholics fearing violent attacks by Muslim groups, said the priest.

Moreover, in a subsequent report by the local daily, ‘The Nation’, of which ACN has secured a copy, the events were falsely portrayed as though the copies of the New Testament had been distributed to the Muslim pupils as well. No Christian witnesses were interviewed in the report and none of the Muslims interviewed were actual eyewitnesses of the events. It was also asserted in the report that it was the parents of the pupils who had torn up the books.

On the day after the incident, Muslim religious leaders went to the school demanding an apology, reported Father Chimbwanya. One Muslim teacher, who had actually witnessed the events, was attacked with particular ferocity when he attempted to set the record straight. A few days later, the religious leaders were called together again to speak with the pupils who had torn up the books and to demand an apology from them.

Sheikh Disi, the religious Muslim leader in the region, called upon all the pupils to respect the faith of their fellow men. However, Father Chimbwanya explained, the other Muslims had given the impression that they were “not very happy with him as he did not really show himself to be sympathetic.”

Father Chimbwanya went on to explain to ACN that “the behaviour of the youths has been an indicator of a danger in our midst. Normally, the Primary school youth in Malawi would not have the courage to tear up any book in the presence of their teacher, let alone a Holy Book. My conclusion is that there must be some awful training given to these youths which if left unchecked, means that we may have dangerous militants in Malawi in the near future.”

He added that there was a need to initiate a dialogue at the grass roots level with representatives of Islam. Misunderstandings and incidents of this kind tended to “come and go,” he said, yet so far this has never yet led to the establishment of an organized “round table” discussion with ordinary Muslims or made it possible to conduct such discussions not only at a high level but also at grass roots level.

“I expect that there will be opportunity for us religious leaders in the area to sit together to discuss on how we can work together in this area without clashes,” he said.

Malawi is situated in southeast Africa and has approximately 14 million inhabitants, 4 million of whom are Catholic. Collectively, Christians of various denominations comprise around 80% of the population, while Muslims account for almost 13%. However, some regions of the country are predominantly Muslim.

The diocese of Mangochi in the south of Malawi has 255 primary schools, 34 kindergartens, and 27 secondary schools, all of which are also attended by Muslims. Roughly 490,000 of the total population of over 1.5 million in the diocese are Catholic and served by 59 diocesan priests.

Editor’s Notes

Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity — helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 46.5 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Arizona Law Requiring Voters Prove Citizenship is Struck Down

PHOENIX — A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down a key part of Arizona’s law requiring voters to prove they are citizens before registering to vote and to show identification before casting ballots.


Gov. Jan Brewer and Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett issued a joint statement calling the decision an “outrage and a slap in the face to all Arizonans who care about the integrity of their elections.”

“Arizona voters have made their will crystal clear — non-citizens do not have the right to vote,” they wrote. “We will continue to pursue any and all legal remedies to prevent fraudulent voter registration in the State of Arizona, as well as the right of our state citizens to craft appropriate protections.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Germany: Government Takes Aim at Forced Marriages

The German cabinet on Wednesday backed several proposed changes to immigration laws including cracking down on forced marriages by making them a punishable offence and offering better protection for victims.

The draft law from the Interior Ministry would define forced marriage as a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Current German law views such situations as a serious case of coercion. While this charge also carries up to five years in prison, the new law would ease the legal prosecution of forced marriage.

But Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger warned on Wednesday that while the laws would be clarified, the legal fight against forced marriages would remain a challenge.

“Enforcement will also have certain difficulties in the future too,” she told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, adding that new policies could not change the the private nature of the issue.

The proposal also provides for the safe return of women taken abroad for these marriages, an addition that Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said was essential.

“That is an actual change and improvement,” she said.

The cabinet discussion takes place after the immigration debate in Germany has become increasingly heated, and other topics on the agenda include better regulation of required integration courses for new German residents and the prevention of marriages of convenience.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany Moves to Outlaw Forced Marriages

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government moved on Wednesday to outlaw forced marriages against a backdrop of a growing debate about immigration and integration in the country that is home to some four million Muslims.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said forced marriages would be treated as a criminal offence with a jail term of up to five years if the law is passed by parliament. Forced marriages are currently treated as a form of coercion.

“Forced marriage is a problem in Germany and we must take it seriously,” de Maiziere said. He added it would be wrong to tolerate forced marriage and merely consider it a tradition belonging to other cultures.

The law would give affected parties more time to annul forced marriages.

There have been several high profile cases in Germany of forced marriages in Germany’s Turkish community. But the government said the problem is not limited to Islamic circles.

The government also revealed plans to put tougher demands on immigrants to better integrate them into German society.

Authorities will, for example, have to check whether immigrants have taken compulsory “integration courses” before extending their residency permits. Those who fail to take the courses may find their applications are rejected.

The proposals come after weeks of heated debate about integration in Germany — a sensitive issue in the country that saw minorities persecuted under Hitler and now tries to present itself as a tolerant, liberal society as a result.

The debate started when German central banker Thilo Sarrazin made controversial remarks about the failure of many Muslim immigrants to integrate in a book — “Deutschland schafft sich ab” (German does away with itself).

President Christian Wulff encouraged Germans to accept that “Islam also belongs in Germany,” which also stirred the debate.

Merkel said earlier this month that multiculturalism had “utterly failed” in Germany. She told Muslims they must obey the constitution rather than Sharia law if they wanted to live in Germany.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Immigrants Now 7% of Italy’s Population

Pope says immigrants must integrate into host society

(ANSA) — Rome, October 26 — The number of legal immigrants living in Italy has risen 20 fold in the past 20 years and at close to five million they now represent 7% of the country’s population, a report said on Tuesday.

The annual report on immigration from the Italian Catholic charity organisation Caritas and the Migrantes Foundation, now in its 20th edition, also found that due partly to the economic crisis fear among Italians and negative views of immigrants have also risen.

The increase in the number of immigrants taking up residence in Italy has in turn led to a jump in the number of non-Italians born in Italy, who now number almost 600,000 and represent over an eighth of the total immigrant population.

Almost one out of four immigrants, 23.2%, today lives in Lombardy, 982,225, and Milan this year overtook Rome as the province hosting the greatest number of immigrants, 407,191 compared to 405,657.

The Caritas-Migrantes report calculated that on January 1, 2010 there were 4.919 million legal immigrants living in Italy, 51% of whom were women.

Their number has risen by almost three million over the past ten years and by almost one million in the last two years.

Romanians represent the biggest immigrant group (21%), followed by Albanians (11%) and Moroccans (10.2%).

After Lombardy the central region of Lazio hosts the highest number of immigrants (497,940 or 11.8%), followed by Veneto (480,61; 11.3%) and Emilia-Romagna (461,321; 10.9%).

In 2009, 77,148 children were born to immigrant parents, equal to 13% of the national total and 20% of births in Emilia Romagna and Veneto.

There are currently close to a million immigrants minors, 22% of the national total with 24.5% of the minors living in Lombardy and 24.3% of them in Veneto.

According to the report, 13% of non-Italians living in Italy are second-generation residents, mostly minors who make up 7.5% of Italy’s student population.

The release of the Caritas-Migrantes report came on the same day the Vatican issued the text of Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the 97th World Day for Migrants and Refugees, to be marked next January 16.

In his message, the pope said that while emigration was a right, a state also had the right to regulate the flow of immigration and immigrants had the duty to integrate into the society which accepts them. “States have the right to regulate the flow of migration and defend their borders, while at the same time ensuring the dignity of each human being,” Benedict explained in his message.

Immigrants, on the other hand, “have the duty to integrate themselves into the country which hosts them, by respecting its laws and national identity,” he added. “Both immigrants and the inhabitants of a country which receives them have the same right to a dignified and peaceful life,” the pope said. “We are a family of brothers and sisters in a society which is becoming evermore multiethnic and intercultural, where people of different religions seek dialogue to establish a peaceful and fruitful coexistence which respects legitimate differences,” Benedict added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Terrorism Suspect Given ‘Victim’ Status by Polish Legal Authorities

A terrorism suspect who claims he was detained and tortured at a secret CIA site in Poland has been granted the status of “victim” by the Polish legal authorities.

The status gives credence to allegations by Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi citizen suspected by the US of involvement in the bombing of the warship USS Cole in 2000, that he was held at an airfield in Poland and subjected to harsh interrogation tactics, including being threatened with an electric drill, by American intelligence officers in 2002.

“Granting ‘victim status’ means that the prosecutor’s office is, to a great extent, convinced of the argumentation that he was rendered and held illegally on the territory of Poland,” said Adam Bodnar from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.

The legal move, which allows Mr Al-Nashiri ‘s lawyers to view evidence and appeal against decisions, comes as part of a two-year investigation by Polish prosecutors into whether the CIA operated a clandestine camp in Poland as part of its anti-terrorism operations.

Poland’s former leaders have always denied the existence of a so-called black-site.

Aleksander Kwasniewski, Polish president in 2002, said “that there were no prisons” although he conceded that US flights had landed at Szymany Airport, the suspected location of the camp, in north-east Poland.

Despite the denial, there is mounting evidence that the US operated a secret base in Poland from December 2002 to the autumn of 2003, and that detainees were subject to torture.

Last month a declassified report by the Inspector General of the CIA revealed that an agent code-named “Albert” used techniques unauthorised by the US justice department on Mr Al-Nashiri in Poland.

Legal drug Khat will encourage ‘extremism and terrorism’

Oct 27 2010

ALLOWING a dangerous drug to be sold legally in Coventry could even push more young men into extremism and terrorism, community leaders fear.

Earlier this year a Telegraph investigation revealed how the legal high Khat was imported from Ethiopia and sold at shops or restaurants across Hillfields and Foleshill.

This week members of the city’s Somali community, which is plagued by the drug, gathered with experts and local health workers to stage a Khat Awareness Day. They warned the drug had become “the enemy within” and was tearing their communities apart.

More alarming still, they fear by ignoring the problem the government could make angry, isolated young men easy targets for extremists seeking to recruit the next generation of terrorists.

Coventry doctor Aiman Alzetani said: “How many youngsters who feel they are not supported by the community and are using khat could be hijacked by these extremists who tell them, ‘Westerners are not interested in you, why not join us?’“

October 27, 2010

Border agents focused on terrorism

By David J. Hill Tonawanda News The Tonawanda News Wed Oct 27, 2010, 12:41 AM EDT

TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Much attention lately has been focused on the U.S. border with Mexico because of that nation’s escalating drug wars.

But officers stationed along the Canadian border in the Buffalo Niagara region keep pretty busy themselves, monitoring a heavy volume of passenger, rail and cargo traffic at several land border crossings and air and sea ports in the region.

Lt. Tom Rusert with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Buffalo Field Office gave a presentation on the challenges being faced along the U.S. border with Canada to nearly 50 residents Tuesday night as part of the Town of Tonawanda Crime Resistance Executive Board’s annual town-wide meeting.

Formerly a separate entity, Customs and Border Protection was integrated with the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Buffalo office, which oversees a number of ports of entry across New York State, is one of 20 field operations the agency maintains across the country.

The vast majority of people who cross the border here are everyday travelers heading to Niagara Falls, Ont., or Toronto for tourism and shopping. But as a high-traffic border crossing, “We need to weed out people who are coming here to do harm, whether it’s terrorists or drug smugglers or illegal immigration issues,” Rusert explained to the crowd gathered in the Phillip Sheridan Building community room.

The presentation offered Tuesday gave the public a look at some of the tools customs officers employ to uphold the agency’s mission of preventing terrorists from entering the country while also facilitating trade and travel.

They use some pretty high-tech stuff, including VACIS, the Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System, which allows officers to examine cargo being shipped across the border. The system is responsible for drastically reducing the amount of drugs being transported across the border, officials said. For example, in 2007, the Buffalo Field Office seized 4,000 pounds of marijuana. Last year, that figure dropped to 1,000 pounds.

Officers constantly have to be aware of new ways drivers are trying to smuggle drugs into the U.S. “It’s a game of cat and mouse. As they find more ways, we change our techniques and they change theirs,” Rusert said during the presentation.

Rusert highlighted some of the higher profile cases the Buffalo Field Office has handled recently, including that of Anthony Galea, a Toronto doctor who was indicted for smuggling banned substances into the U.S. The story has gained international media attention for Galea’s links to several prominent athletes, including Alex Rodriguez and Tiger Woods.

Another high-profile case was the seizure at the Lewiston Bridge of 200 pounds of cocaine stashed under the floor boards of a tractor trailer.

Border agents also have prevented illegal immigrants from being smuggled into the U.S. by truck drivers who can often be paid a hefty sum to engage in the illegal activity. “People are so desperate to get into this country that they’ll put themselves in harm’s way,” Rusert said, referring to illegal aliens willing to withstand the discomfort of spending hours in a stuffy, dark tractor trailer in an effort to get across the border.

In addition to preventing terrorist activity and drug smuggling, border agents also are charged with preventing unreported currency from coming across the border. Currency in excess of $10,000 being transported across the border must be reported to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Rusert explained.

Recently, officers seized $197,700 from a couple who didn’t report the currency transport.

While it’s not quite as challenging as the obstacles border agents face along the Southwest United States, officials in the Buffalo Field Office do have plenty to watch for. “They’re working their best to protect our nation,” Rusert said.

After the presentation, Town of Tonawanda Police Detective Robert Goetz explained why the Crime Resistance Executive Board hosted the border protection forum. “Awareness is really huge in helping Homeland Security. We thought this would be a good presentation to let people know that this isn’t just a little thing happening someplace in Mexico. It’s happening right within five miles of home,” Goetz said.

The town also wanted to make sure residents know what documentation is required of travelers attempting to cross the border. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative standardized the documents travelers are allowed to present to cross the border, and consist of a valid Passport and enhanced driver’s license, among others.

TONAWANDA, N.Y., OCT. 26, 2010 — Lt. Tom Russert of U.S. Customs and Border Protection conducts a meeting sponsored by the Town of Tonawanda Police Department on border crossing information, Tuesday. (101026 BORDER1 — DOUG BENZ/NEWS)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Chaos Over Restraint Rules for Deportees

Home Office accused of flip-flop on use of restraints after death of Angolan asylum seeker Jimmy Mubenga

Jimmy Mubenga died after being ‘heavily restrained’ for a deportation flight to Angola.

The government’s deportation policy has been thrown into confusion after it emerged that the Home Office banned private security firms from forcing detainees on to flights following the death of a refugee, then lifted the moratorium 10 days later.

The chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, Keith Vaz, said he had “huge concerns” over the government’s apparent indecision about whether restraint could be used against deportees and accused officials of “flip-flopping”.

His concerns were echoed by Ed Balls, the shadow home secretary, who said it was now “vital” for the Home Office to release details of the circumstances surrounding the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan refugee who collapsed and died on a British Airways plane preparing for take-off at Heathrow earlier this month.

A ban on forcing detainees on to commercial flights, which officials described as a precautionary but “unprecedented” measure, was introduced on 15 October, three days after Mubenga lost consciousness while being heavily restrained by three guards working for the security firm G4S.

The Metropolitan police have since arrested the guards, who have been released on bail.

The firm, which conducts the majority of the 10,000 forced removals each year, informed the Guardian that use of restraint at boarding by its guards had been halted at the advice of the Home Office.

All private security firms were instructed by the Home Office to halt using force while officials checked that the techniques used to restrain deportees, which are the same used in prisons, were safe.

Guards conducting deportations on charter flights, which are carried out on aircraft not shared with commercial passengers, were exempted from the ban.

The ban on the use of force was then lifted on Monday, after all escort guards were given new written guidance on how to conduct deportations safely. All escort staff were also given verbal briefings. The Home Office last night refused to release the new guidance, claiming it was “operational and sensitive”.

David Wood, the UK Border Agency’s strategic director for criminality and detention, said: “A minimum use of force is an absolute last resort, and would only ever be used when an individual becomes disruptive or refuses to comply.

“We did pause the use of restraint at boarding of scheduled removal flights as a precautionary and temporary measure. It has now been reinstated.”

The department made no mention of the ban in the last week, despite releasing numerous statements about the use of force against deportees.

Vaz said his committee would demand that the information be released to MPs. “It is essential that we have a clear and consistent policy regarding the force that can be used during deportations,” he said. “This is particularly true given the number of agencies involved in the process. I am hugely concerned that following the tragic case of Jimmy Mubenga, the Home Office seems to be flip-flopping over its decision.”

The home affairs committee will question Lin Homer, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency, about guidelines used by private companies during removals. “Parliament must be informed as to what force can be used, what guidelines are issued, and the procedures in place to ensure the safety of detainees,” Vaz said.

Balls also called for greater transparency. “I asked the home secretary for a briefing on Mubenga’s death two weeks ago, and was refused. It is now vital that Theresa May explains all the facts in the case.”

UKBA is understood to have been thrown into chaos last week after rumours spread that guards were unable to use force. Foreign nationals who informed their escorts they intended to physically resist deportation were permitted to stay.

Mubenga’s death is known to have shocked Home Office officials, who have been repeatedly warned about the safety of deportations.

Five passengers on Mubenga’s flight told the Guardian he was being heavily restrained and complained of breathing difficulties before he lost consciousness. Detectives from the Met’s homicide unit are awaiting the results of a postmortem.

Scotland Yard has opened a second investigation into G4S guards accused of using inappropriate force during another failed removal, six days before Mubenga’s death.

The Metropolitan police confirmed that a team of officers from Heathrow CID were investigating another case, relating to the attempted removal of a Colombian man. José Gutiérrez received hospital treatment after the failed attempt to remove him.

Police are investigating a claim that Gutiérrez, who had been in the UK since the early 1990s and was being deported after having served a six-year prison sentence for robbery and firearms offences, was assaulted during his attempted removal. The Met said it was investigating an allegation of assault made by a third party and that no arrests had been made.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]