Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101125

Financial Crisis
»So Who’s Next for Financial Meltdown? Spain, Portugal and Belgium Set to Follow Ireland Into Abyss as Debt Crisis Threatens to Destroy the Euro
»Franken Benefactor Backed by ‘Who’s Who’ of Left
»Helen Thomas to be Honored by Arab Group Raided by FBI
»NBC News Names Ground Zero Mosque Developer ‘Person of the Year’
Europe and the EU
»Daily Express Becomes the First National Newspaper to Campaign for Withdrawal From the EU
»Denmark: Terrorism and Satire Don’t Mix, TV Station Says
»Germany: Pensioner Builds Brick Wall and Traps Himself in Basement
»Germany: Conservatives Call on Muslims to Report Radicals in Their Midst
»Germany: Priest Jailed for Seven Years Over Sex Abuse
»Italy: Berlusconi Claims Most Voters Support Him and Says He’ll Stay in Power
»Italy: Turin Official Appeals to School Board to Ban Burqa-Wearing Mothers
»More Swedish Children Dependent on Benefits
»Politician Urges German Muslims to ‘Keep an Eye Out for Fanatics’
»Sweden: Pro-Israel Blogger Attacked for Being a Jew
»Switzerland: Black Sheep Posters Return Before Deportation Vote
»UK: ‘He Always Swore He’d Spend His Life Atoning’: Widow’s Anguish as Man Who Stabbed Headmaster is Arrested Over Street Robbery After Four Months’ Freedom
»UK: ‘Welfare Cuts Will Only Encourage the Poor to Breed’: Outrage at New Tory Peer’s Outburst Over Child Benefits
»UK: 2012 Games Have ‘Severe’ Terror Threat
»UK: Facebook Boast of Nurse Allowed Back to Work After Fatally Giving Baby Ten Times Correct Dose of Salt
»UK: Girl, 15, Arrested for ‘Burning Koran at School and Posting Footage on Facebook’
»UK: Islamists Establish a Bridgehead in Parliament
»UK: Muslim ‘Fanatic’ Exposed as a Hypocrite as He’s Jailed After £2.6m Drug Factory Raid
»UK: Terrorist Threat to Olympic Street Parties
»Vatican: Church Slow to Respond to US Abuse, Admits Pope
»Kosovo Organ Harvesting: The Plot Thickens
North Africa
»Egypt: Coptic Pope Shenuda III Deplores ‘Anti-Christian’ Violence
Israel and the Palestinians
»Italy is Israel’s ‘Best Friend’ In Europe, Minister Says
Middle East
»Barack Obama’s Grandmother ‘Prays He Converts to Islam’
»British Foreign Policy to Change Reflecting Arab Concerns on Middle East
»Hari Kunzru Criticises Turkey Over VS Naipaul Islam Row
»Shocking Images of Dead Kurdish Fighters: Turkey Accused of Using Chemical Weapons Against PKK
»The Strange Case of Turkey, Islamic History and V.S. Naipaul
»Turkey’s Top Religious Body Declares Alevi Demands a ‘Threat’
»V. S. Naipaul Pulls Out of Turkey Conference After Protests
»‘Why?’ Prince Philip Refuses to Shake Hands With 11-Year-Old and Asks Middle East Ex-Pats What They’re Hiding From
»Wikileaks: Turkey Allowed Weapons Flow to Al-Qaeda
»Putin Envisions a Russia-EU Free Trade Zone
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Pictured: Dramatic Footage of the Moment RAF Aircraft Took Out Afghan Insurgent and Destroyed a Taliban Bomb Factory
»India: Orissa: Persecution and Threats Against Christians Continue
»India Arms School Girls to Fight Militants
»Indonesia: Think-Tank Urges Action on Religious Intolerance
»Pakistan: International Jihadists Use Karachi as Hub
»Pakistan: Terror War Puts U.S., ‘Ally’ At Odds
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Failure of South African Land Reform
»Somalia: Teenage ‘Elopers’ Publicly Flogged in Central Province
»Born in the U.S.A.? Some Chinese Plan it That Way
»Migration to the UK Hits 215,000 as Britons Emigrating Falls to 11-Year Low
Culture Wars
»Hate Intrudes on Thanksgiving
»Interview With Gay Theologian David Berger
»Netherlands: House Retains “By the Grace of God”
»Swedish School Criticised for Prayer Service
»Blu-Ray? No Way: High Tech Discs That Don’t Live Up to the Hype

Financial Crisis

So Who’s Next for Financial Meltdown? Spain, Portugal and Belgium Set to Follow Ireland Into Abyss as Debt Crisis Threatens to Destroy the Euro

New fears have been raised about the future of the euro with the domino effect of faltering economies spreading today.

The latest nation to get sucked into the crisis is Belgium after market traders pushed the cost of insuring the country’s debt to record levels.

The rising cost of Belgium’s debt is now 100 per cent of annual national income. That is raising concerns the country could join Portugal, Spain and Italy on the growing list of countries that could be heading for a financial crisis along with stricken Ireland.

The eurozone was dealt a further blow yesterday after Portuguese and Spanish borrowing costs rose sharply as investors worried that their debt levels will prove unsustainable, putting them next in line for a European bailout.

As a major public sector strike in Portugal further undermined market confidence there, the interest rate on the government’s 10-year bonds broke through the 7 per cent barrier yesterday. The 10-year Spanish bonds rose to 5.08 per cent from 4.91 per cent at the start of trading.

Portugal and Spain are viewed as the 16-nation eurozone’s next weakest links now that Ireland has followed Greece and accepted a massive international rescue package. The yields have been moving higher since Ireland accepted an EU-IMF bailout this week because investors demand a higher return for lending to countries with shaky finances.

Guaranteeing Ireland’s solvency is also seen by EU governments, and officials in Dublin, London, Brussels and Frankfurt, as essential to protecting the euro as a currency.

There are fears across Europe that the Irish financial and economic chaos will spill over to other countries.

Portugal accounts for less than 2 per cent of the eurozone’s total economy but a potential bailout for Lisbon would add to the pressure on Spain, the European Union’s fourth-largest economy, and entail possibly dramatic repercussions for the entire bloc.

The euro dropped to a two-month low against the U.S. dollar yesterday on concerns about the bloc’s financial health.

Portugal’s minority government has repeatedly insisted it doesn’t need financial assistance because its austerity plan will drive down the country’s debt burden.

While both countries are not at any immediate risk of bankruptcy, those rates are making their already heavy debt loads more expensive to finance. The higher cost to roll over debt is eating away at any progress the governments make in their public finances through austerity measures.

Traders are also worried Belgium’s broken political system, which has left it without a government since April, is distracting it from tackling its worsening economic outlook. The government of Yves Leterme collapsed in April after he failed to find a resolution to a three-year internal dispute between the country’s Flemings and Walloons.

A report by a New York-based research and consulting company said that European officials don’t expect the eurozone’s problems to stop at Ireland and that a rescue plan for Portugal could be unveiled by early next year, when it is due to resume government bond sales.

But Eurasia Group said: ‘There is a strong presumption that a package will be necessary for Portugal and the related planning is underway.

‘Portugal will be pressed hard to accept a package even if the Portuguese government claims the country does not need it.’

Analysts have estimated Portugal will need at least 50 billion euros.

Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado also insisted Wednesday that Spain has no need whatsoever for a bailout like Greece and Ireland.

She said in a radio interview that the Bank of Spain’s strict rules for the country’s banks have ensured the Spanish financial system is healthy.

Though they insist their banking systems are in good order, the Iberian neighbours face similar challenges in reducing debt amid meagre growth.

Spain is struggling to emerge from nearly two years of recession, and unemployment is at a eurozone high of 19.8 per cent.

Portugal has borrowed huge amounts to finance welfare entitlements and private consumption.

At the same time it has protected jobs through outdated labour laws that make it difficult to hire and fire workers while industry has broadly failed to modernise and is chronically uncompetitive.

Portugal’s austerity package, due to be introduced in January, cuts the pay of public employees by an average 5 per cent, trims welfare benefits and hikes income tax and sales tax.

The measures, including a reduction in state investment, are forecast to stifle already weak economic growth after a recession last year.

Despite the growing unease over the success of the Irish bailout and fears that Portugal or Spain might need help soon, a senior official said today the crisis will not lead to the breakup of the eurozone.

European Financial Stability Fund chief Klaus Regling said: ‘There is zero danger. It’s inconceivable that the euro would collapse.’

Mr Regling, who has overseen the eurozone’s 440billion euro bailout fund since it was created last spring, said Ireland was not suffering from rampant speculation, but rather from a lack of buyers for its bonds.

‘We’re experiencing a buyer’s strike, not wild speculation’, Mr Regling said. ‘And there’s some uncertainty around whether the crisis will spread to other countries.’

Yesterday Ireland embarked on one of most draconian austerity programmes of any developed economy since World War II.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Franken Benefactor Backed by ‘Who’s Who’ of Left

Donor list includes communists, socialists, terror supporters, Soros groups

The Minnesota secretary of state who oversaw the recount of the 2008 U.S. Senate race that put onetime comedian Al Franken into office is backed by a “who’s who” of the radical left.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie counts among his campaign donors members of the Democratic Socialists of America, founders of the socialist New Party, members of the Communist Party USA, and even a former associate of the Weatherman domestic terrorist group founded by Bill Ayers.

Personalities from several George Soros-funded think tanks and the terrorist-supporting Code Pink also show up on Ritchie’s donor list.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Helen Thomas to be Honored by Arab Group Raided by FBI

Having received a “Courage in Journalism” award from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, former White House correspondent Helen Thomas is now scheduled to be honored by an Arab group whose executive director had his home raided by the FBI because of his alleged ties to terrorist groups.

On December 12, the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) is featuring a speech by Thomas, who has been called the Arab American Dean of the White House Press Corps, as part of its 15th anniversary fundraising event.

The Arab American National Museum, based in Dearborn, Michigan, is currently raising funds for a Helen Thomas Sculpture Project, in order to create a sculpture honoring Thomas. The Arab American National Museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

But plans to honor Thomas—and questions about how she should be treated in the history of journalism in the U.S.—have become increasingly controversial because of the questions surrounding the AAAN and its executive director, Hatem Abudayyeh. His home was raided on September 24 as part of an FBI investigation into illegal support provided by U.S.-based groups to foreign terrorist organizations in the Middle East and Latin America.

Incredibly, the raid followed a friendly visit to the White House by Abudayyeh earlier this year.


The AAAN was founded by Barack Obama friend Rashid Khalidi, who once served as a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Then-State Senator Obama was photographed at an AAAN dinner held on May 24, 1998 in Burbank, Illinois. The Woods Fund, where Obama served as a director from 1994 through 2001, approved a $40,000 grant to the AAAN for “community organizing.”


Two other Chicago-based activists, Joseph Iosbaker and Stephanie Weiner, have been associated with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, a Marxist group, and had their homes raided as well. They are said to be personal friends of AAAN executive director Hatem Abudayyeh and possibly linked to his activities.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

NBC News Names Ground Zero Mosque Developer ‘Person of the Year’

Of all the people in all the world, NBC chooses to honor the provocateur behind one of the most controversial projects in America. On Thanksgiving.

This morning I spent a few minutes on the Pat Campbell Show in Tulsa, discussing the outrageous decision by the Park51 group — the group that’s developing the Ground Zero Mosque — to apply for $5 million in taxpayer funds to continue development of that monument. That has certainly reignited the debate over the mosque project itself, which is a $100 million effort that so far has a whopping $20,000 banked.

Well, guess what? Park51 is about to get a nationally televised infomercial during the holiday. If you watch NBC’s Today Show on Thanksgiving morning, you’re likely to see host Matt Lauer interview Sharif El-Gamal. Gamal is Park51’s lead developer and front man.

He’s been named one of NBC’s “People of the Year.”

Seriously. This not an Onion headline. And yes, the interview is real. NBC has posted an excerpt prior to broadcast:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Daily Express Becomes the First National Newspaper to Campaign for Withdrawal From the EU

Since 2001, opinion polls have registered a majority against EU membership. Yet, until yesterday, not a single national newspaper, nor any of the parties represented in the House of Commons, took this view: ultimate proof of this blogâ€(tm)s obsessive contention that people are wiser than their leaders.

It depends on precisely how you ask the question but, excluding the donâ€(tm)t knows, some 55 per cent of Britons would vote to leave the EU tomorrow . But their opinion is shared by just 2 per cent of their MPs — less than one per cent if we exclude the Ulster parties.

Today, the first national newspaper added its voice to the chorus. And what a melodic voice.. In a front-page editorial, The Daily Expressmakes the case in largely economic terms, and in internationalist language:

“Taking Britain out of the EU should not be seen as a move to “Little Englandism”. On the contrary, ours is a great trading nation with markets all over the world. The time has come to develop our neglected trading links with the new global powerhouses such as China and India.”

Quite. We Eurosceptics love Europe: we know its cultures, speak its languages, admire its nations, cheer their patriotisms. We simply recognise that there is a wider world out there: a world that is growing while the EU is shrinking.

I contributed a short article to the Express, pointing out the economic disadvantages of membership. For me, the clinching statistics are those produced by the European Commission itself. Benefits of the single market: â‚120 billion a year. Cost of EU regulation: â‚600 billion a year. Go figure.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Terrorism and Satire Don’t Mix, TV Station Says

Broadcaster worried about offended advertisers and increased terror threat

TV station SBS has cancelled a new sitcom which portrays three incompetent terrorists, arguing that the satire might offend potential advertisers.

“Cellen” (The Cell) is a satire show in 12 episodes, created by Danish comedian Omar Mazouk, who is furious about the cancellation.

“It would be easy enough to create a new Muhammed-crisis, but that’s not what we’re trying to do here,” he told public broadcaster DR. “But as soon as you try to create some debate, it becomes all taboo”.

According to a spokesperson for the privately-owned SBS, Jørgen Jürgensen, the move was made out of concern that the show could offend some of the station’s advertisers. The current terror threat against Denmark is also said to have played a part in the decision not to air the series.

Two years ago, the Danish Film Institute granted SBS TV 4.5 million kroner to finance the show. Now, culture minister Per Stig Møller has warned the station that if they don’t broadcast it by next summer, they will have to pay back the money.

“We must never abstain from doing things out of fear because then whatever stopped you from doing it will win,” Møller told Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Pensioner Builds Brick Wall and Traps Himself in Basement

A German DIY enthusiast accidentally walled himself into his own basement and only managed to escape by drilling his way through to his neighbours, police said Thursday.

The 64-year-old pensioner in the eastern town of Gumperda had — inexplicably — aimed to seal off the entrance to his cellar and went downstairs armed with bricks, mortar as well as food and drink.

“Whoops, you could say,” the police station in nearby Kahla said in a statement. “He was on the wrong side of the wall when his work was finished.”

The pensioner, whose name was not released, spent the weekend trapped in the basement but on Monday decided to take action.

Using a drill hammer, he went to work not on his own wall but on the firewall separating his home from his neighbours’.

The neighbours, with whom the pensioner had already been quarrelling for months, called the police when they heard the loud drilling. Officers were waiting for the hobby handyman when he broke through to the other side.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Conservatives Call on Muslims to Report Radicals in Their Midst

As police brace themselves for a possible terrorist attack, the ruling conservatives have called on Germany’s Muslim community to root out extremists at mosques and report them to authorities.

Stefan Müller, integration spokesman for the Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union’s parliamentary group, said members of the 2,500 mosques in Germany should co-operate with anti-terrorism authorities more closely.

“In the face of the intensified situation, the mosque communities are called on to be especially watchful and keep an eye out for possible fanatics in their own ranks,” Müller told the daily Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung’s Thursday edition.

The great majority of Muslims in Germany had nothing to do with terrorism, Müller stressed.

“It is also in their interests to prevent the abuse of Islam by radicals.”

Müller, of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU, appealed to mosque-goers to “intensify co-operation with security services and pass on evidence quickly in cases of suspicion.”

The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, has previously said that many Muslims in Germany feel they are under suspicion because of their faith alone. Mosques had been subject to hate mail and material damage, he said.

Amid the debate about the sharpened terrorism threat Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has also warned against holding a “general suspicion” of Muslims. He has also cautioned against hysteria and abusing the debate to pre-judge Muslims.

The Local/dw

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

Germany: Priest Jailed for Seven Years Over Sex Abuse

A court in Hesse sentenced a Catholic priest to seven years’ jail Thursday for sexually abusing children hundreds of times over more than a decade, often filming the assaults.

The 50-year-old from a Catholic order known as the Premonstratensians admitted abusing six altar boys between 1992 and 2003, usually by handling their penises on the pretence of a medical examination.

Investigators also found child pornography pictures on the man’s computer. He was a priest in the town of Fritzlar in Hesse and his main responsibility was the supervision of altar boys.

He had targeted the vulnerability and naivety of the young to serve his own sexual gratification, lead judge Jürgen Stanoschek said.

“You used your authority and position as a person of faith,” Stanoschek said.

The man faced 164 separate charges, of which he was convicted of 155.

“This will live with the victims for a long time. It won’t go away,” the state prosecutor said during the sentencing.

She acknowledged, however, that the priest had admitted his crimes and spared his victims the need to face court and provide harrowing testimony. His jail sentence would have been up to 10 years had he not confessed, Stanoschek stressed.

The priest was relieved of his duties after the initial complaints were made in May. The Premonstratensian order has since closed its Fritzlar priory.

The priest had filmed many of the assaults with a video camera. He asked for forgiveness “from all whose trust I have abused” and to whom he had caused suffering.

He repeatedly used the same ruse to assault the boys: handling their penises on the grounds of a medical or scientific examination.

“You frightened the children,” Stanoschek said.

The defence lawyer said his client had become too closely involved with the children. But the serious crimes notwithstanding, he had done plenty of good in the community and had ended the string of crimes of his own volition.

“From 2003, he succeeded in keeping his distance,” his lawyer said.

DPA/The Local/dw

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

Italy: Berlusconi Claims Most Voters Support Him and Says He’ll Stay in Power

Rome, 24 Nov. (AKI) — Italy’s embattled prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday claimed he had the support of 54.6 percent of electors and that his coalition government would easily survive a December confidence vote in the Italian parliament.

“The latest surveys show that 54.6 percent of electors support me,” Berlusconi told journalists in Rome.

Referring to the 14 December confidence votes tabled in the lower and upper houses of the Italian parliament, Berlusconi said: “I believe the government will survive by a broad margin.”

Berlusconi said the centrist Christian Democratic Union opposition party “had an exceptional opportunity” to lend the government support in parliament.

Political instability could hurt the country’s credit rating and make it more expensive to sell bonds, he said..”Italy needs a stable government,” he said.

The government has been edging ever-closer to collapse since Berlusconi’s key former ally, Gianfranco Fini broke away from the 74-year-old prime minister in July and deprived him of a safe majority.

Berlusconi on Wednesday called on Fini, who is leading moves to topple Berlusconi’s rule, to “take a step back” at a time when when investors are shunning the debt of Europe’s high-deficit nations after Ireland said it would seek a bailout. Fini is the Italian Iower house of parliament speaker.

Political stability is key to the country maintaining its current credit rating, he said. “Italy needs to sell 250 billion euros of debt next year,” he stated.

Italy is facing surging borrowing costs from the spread of Europe’s debt crisis.

Several fresh sex scandals have tarnished Berlusconi’s image this autumn involving a prostitute and a teenage nightclub dancer who says she attended after-dinner sex games at his villa in Arcore, near Milan. The septuagenarian was earlier linked to a teenage underwear model and another prostitute.

The government has also come under pressure over its handling of Italy’s ailing economy and controversial legislation critics say is aimed at saving Berlusconi from prosecution for corruption and tax fraud.

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

Italy: Turin Official Appeals to School Board to Ban Burqa-Wearing Mothers

Rome Nov. 24 (AKI) — A government official in industrial northern Italian city of Turin has asked the local school board to stop fully-veiled women from picking up their children at school because it makes it difficult to identify them as the students’ true parents.

The request by Maurizio Marrone — a member of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative People of Liberty party — was prompted after Marrone and other mothers had seen some women dressed in full burqas picking up their children from an elementary school in Turin’s Barriera di Milano working class neighbourhood.

“Some mothers with children enrolled in the Albert Sabin elementary school in Turin have seen Islamic women wearing the full burqa picking up their children, and I have seen this as well,” Marrone said, adding that the burqa made it impossible for teachers to “verify the identity” of those picking up minors.

Marrone went on to call the wearing of the burqa, the traditional dress of fundamentalist Islamic women, “damaging to the dignity of women.” Marrone also claims the burqa “slows down the process of integration” for immigrants.

In September this year, two separate bills were presented in the upper and lower chambers of the Italian parliament which aim to end the wearing of face-covering burqa’s in Italy.

Also in September, France voted to ban the burqa. Women there can be fined or jailed if covering their faces in public.

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

More Swedish Children Dependent on Benefits

The number of Swedish children living in families that depend on long-term financial benefits has increased by around 10,000 in just over four years to about 54,000 children, government agency figures show.

Sveriges Radio’s Ekot news bulletin reported on Thursday that it was the fifth consecutive year that the proportion of children in families dependent on what were formerly known as social benefits according to statistics it compiled from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).

The proportion of children living in families on long-term financial assistance has increased gradually since 2006, with long-term defined by the board as families on social assistance for 10 to 12 months out of the year.

Often, these families also struggle with substance abuse, mental illness or crime, making these children particularly vulnerable, the report said.

According to Ekot’s compilation of the board’s statistics, in the first quarter of this year, the number of families with children on welfare rose eight percent from 2009, by five percent in the second quarter and four percent in the third quarter.

The agency also registered a sharp increase of households with and without children on long-term benefits to 65,985 in 2009 from 23,005 the previous year.

Cecilia Nauclér, press director of Children’s Rights in Society (Barnens Rätt i Samhallet, BRIS), a Swedish children’s rights non-profit organisation, pointed out children tend to not talk about financial problems when they call its hotlines, so it is difficult to gauge the depth of the financial difficulties they may be experiencing.

“We haven’t seen an increase in children contacting us due to financial problems. The family conflicts may be about money, but children don’t say that when they contact us,” she told The Local on Thursday.

Nauclér added that the financial problems are not the major challenges for the children who contact the organisation.

“There are poor children who can’t go on school outings because they don’t have the money. We have a few contacts like that, but not many. Children contact us when they have major ongoing conflicts,” she said.

In addition, Nauclér noted that unemployment, often due to psychological issues, among one or both of the parents is a bigger problem than the financial situation the family is in as a result of receiving benefits.

“The children say that the problems they are having are the parents arguing or aren’t feeling well, not the financial reasons,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Politician Urges German Muslims to ‘Keep an Eye Out for Fanatics’

Germany is on high alert after last week’s terror warnings. On Thursday a conservative politician sent a strong message to the Muslim community, urging scrutiny for “possible fanatics” attending mosques. Germany’s Muslim organization, however, argues that politicians’ rhetoric is divisive.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has urged level-headedness in the midst of escalating terror warnings. Despite his call, politicians across the board are airing their views on how to prevent attacks. In the latest development, a politician from the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrtic Union, has told Muslims to stay alert, arguing that members of the country’s 2,500 mosque congregations should increase their vigilance.

“Mosque communities are called on to be especially watchful and keep an eye out for possible fanatics in their ranks, in the light of the current situation,” Stefan Müller, a spokesman on integration issues for the two parties in the federal parliament, told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung in an interview published on Thursday.

The majority of Muslims do not have anything to do with terrorism, said the CSU politician, adding, “it is also in their personal interest to avert the misuse of Islam by radicals.” He urged the community to “intensify cooperation with security authorities and give early warning in any suspicious cases.”

But the Central Council of Muslims, one of a number of organizations in Germany seeking to represent the broad Muslim population, has warned that Muslims in Germany have been discriminated against on the basis of their religion amid the terror scare. They report that mosques have been the target of attacks and hate mail as a result.

“We appeal to politicians and the media to deal with the discussions rationally and not to mention Islamic community, Islam and Muslims and terror in the same breath,” the organization said in a press release on Wednesday.

‘General Suspicion’

Against a backdrop of concrete terrorist threats in Germany, Interior Minister de Maizière has warned against Muslims living in the country being treated with “general suspicion.”

Volker Bouffier, governor of the state of Hesse, distanced himself from Müller’s call. “A certain vigilance doesn’t harm,” the conservative politician told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper.

But he said it was an over-reaction to ask Germans to report everything which they found suspicious. “It mustn’t become a game of finger pointing along the lines of ‘I saw someone who looked a bit funny.’“

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière issued a terror alert last Wednesday, warning that Islamists might be planning an attack in Germany to take place before the end of November.

Since then, extra police have been sent to patrol airports, major train stations and public places with submachine guns. The iconic glass dome of the government’s Reichstag, the house of parliament and one of the capital’s top tourist attractions, has also been closed this week. Security has also been tightened at Germany’s world-famous Christmas markets.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Pro-Israel Blogger Attacked for Being a Jew

Besides a few short articles in the local press without any real details, this story comes only through the blogs.

The Swedish press reports (SE, SE) that On Monday evening a man was attacked in his apartment in central Norrköping, in eastern Sweden. According to the victim, two hooded perpetrators rang his doorbell and when he opened the door, they beat him on the head with a wine bottle. The man got treatment in hospital.

Swedish blog JIHAD I MALMÖ spoke with the victim, who says this was an antisemitic attack by Arabs. “The first words I heard was ‘Jewish pig’.” He was then beaten 4-5 times with a wine bottle as he lay on the floor.

A noise from a door in the stairwell caused them to run out and down the stairs, while one shouted ‘Yahood’ (Arabic: Jew). When he came back from the hospital he discovered they had tried to tear out his mezuzah, but had only managed to take out one of the screws.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Black Sheep Posters Return Before Deportation Vote

GENEVA — The posters show white sheep kicking black sheep off the Swiss flag.

They were widely condemned as racist when the Swiss People’s Party launched them three years ago. Now, as the nationalist party’s demand to automatically deport foreigners convicted of serious crimes goes before a Sunday referendum, the posters have been cropping up again in stations and squares.

Polls show the message is getting through.

A survey published last week by polling group gfs.bern showed 54 percent of voters approved the measure, which also proposes to kick out foreigners found guilty of benefit fraud. In the poll of 771 voters conducted Nov. 8-13, 43 percent opposed the plan and 3 percent were undecided.

Under Switzerland’s unique political system, any group wanting to change the law can collect 100,000 signatures to force a referendum. Last year the country drew international condemnation after voters defied a government recommendation and approved a law to ban the construction of minarets.

Critics of the deportation proposal include legal experts, who say the law could clash with international treaties that Switzerland has signed up to.

“For the same crime some people will suffer one punishment, other people suffer two punishments,” said Marcelo Kohen, a professor of international law at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.

Kohen said foreigners who have lived all their life in Switzerland, married Swiss citizens and had children, would be unusually hard hit by expulsion. Likewise, under international law refugees cannot be sent back to their country of origin if they face persecution there.

“You have to analyze the concrete situation, and this is the main problem with the initiative,” Kohen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. Other countries that have deportation laws allow judges to exercise discretion in deportation cases.

The federal government has put forward an alternative proposal that would require each deportation case to be individually examined by a judge. Voters will be able to choose between the two or reject both.

Georg Kreis, the president of the Federal Commission against Racism, said automatic expulsion, if approved, would lead to discrimination, but denied that the campaign indicated there was greater xenophobia in Switzerland than in neighboring countries.

“Direct democracy makes prejudice against minorities more visible,” he told the AP by e-mail.

The black sheep posters were heavily criticized by anti-racism campaigners when they first appeared in 2007, for their not-so-subtle depiction of blacks as criminals. The U.N.’s racism expert at the time, Doudou Diene, noted that previous poster campaigns by the party had drawn on similarly stereotypical images to paint foreigners as felons and benefit cheats.

A senior People’s Party official denied the black sheep posters were racist.

“In all four languages spoken in Switzerland, everybody understands when you’re talking about black sheep you’re talking about people who don’t stick to the rules,” Silvia Baer, who is deputy general secretary of the party, told the AP. “It’s a figure of speech, so there is no problem with the posters.”

Alexander Segert, head of the Swiss advertising agency that devised the campaign, said it was one of his company’s most successful ever.

“It works incredibly well because everybody who sees it immediately understands it,” said Segert. “It’s not about skin color.”

The company also produced a poster showing a swarthy-looking suspect from the Balkans with the words: “Ivan S., rapist.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘He Always Swore He’d Spend His Life Atoning’: Widow’s Anguish as Man Who Stabbed Headmaster is Arrested Over Street Robbery After Four Months’ Freedom

The widow of murdered headmaster Philip Lawrence spoke today of her anguish after his killer, Learco Chindamo, faced being recalled to prison after he was arrested over a street robbery.

Frances Lawrence described the incident as ‘very very distressing on many levels’.

Speaking from her home in Richmond, she said: ‘I can’t understand why Chindamo was in a position to do what he allegedly did when he is supposed to be on licence.

‘He always swore he would spend his life living quietly and atoning. I understood he was supposed to be in rehabilitation.’

Chindamo, 30, was detained by police early yesterday, only four months after he was controversially released from jail having served 14 years for the murder of Mr Lawrence.

The Italian-born murderer is alleged to have threatened violence before robbing a man in his 20s of a wallet and mobile phone in Camden, North London.

Sources said it was ‘highly likely’ that Chindamo would be recalled to prison if he was found to be in breach of the terms of his parole.

Mrs Lawrence said: ‘My first thought was, My God. I feel shock. I find it odd he was arrested so soon after the “atonement”. What does it say about the justice system and the notion of what is justice?

‘True justice surely cannot pick and choose who it supports. It appears Mr Chindamo is being given every help while my family is being hung out to dry.’

She said she had been kept in the dark about where Chindamo was living, adding: ‘The last few months have been the worst for me since Philip died.’

If convicted, it would be hugely embarrassing to the authorities and follows the scandal over toddler James Bulger’s killer Jon Venables, who was recalled to prison earlier this year for child-porn offences.

An inquiry is expected to be launched into the monitoring of Chindamo, who has been staying in a hostel in South London since his release in July. Detectives had feared he would reoffend and had vowed to keep a close eye on him.

Chindamo was jailed indefinitely for the murder of father of four Mr Lawrence outside St George’s Roman Catholic School in Maida Vale, West London, in 1995.

The 48-year-old was stabbed after going to help a pupil who was attacked by a gang. Among the attackers was Chindamo then 15, who bragged about the killing in an amusement arcade hours later.

He was convicted of the murder in October 1996, jailed indefinitely and ordered to serve a minimum of 12 years.

A judge later ruled he could not be deported to Italy because it would breach his human rights because he has spent most of his life in Britain.

Chindamo had vowed to live ‘quietly and decently’ when he was moved to a secure probation hostel in July after the Parole Board approved his release.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Welfare Cuts Will Only Encourage the Poor to Breed’: Outrage at New Tory Peer’s Outburst Over Child Benefits

One of David Cameron’s new Tory peers has been forced to apologise today after he criticised the Government’s child benefit cuts — saying they gave the poor more of an incentive to have children than the better-off.

Former party vice-chairman Howard Flight caused outrage after he said that Chancellor George Osborne’s plan to strip child benefit from higher earners was an attack on the middle classes.

‘We’re going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it’s jolly expensive, but for those on benefit there is every incentive,’ he said.

‘Well that’s not very sensible’, he told the London Evening Standard.

Mr Flight said he wanted to withdraw the comments minutes after Prime Minister David Cameron said he expected him to say sorry and disagreed with his stance.

‘I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused and would like to withdraw the remarks’, he said in a statement issued by the party.

Mr Cameron announced only last week that Mr Flight — who was sacked as an MP in 2005 for outspoken comments about spending cuts — would be given a seat in the Lords.

Asked if he would now prevent him taking his place in the upper house, the Prime Minister said: ‘I don’t agree with what he said and I am sure that he will want to apologise for what he has said, and I think we can probably leave it at that.’

Speaking to the BBC in the immediate aftermath of the interview’s publication, Mr Flight insisted his reported comments were ‘out of context’, adding: ‘I really have nothing more to say.’

But soon afterwards, Mr Cameron, at a Downing Street press conference alongside Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, was challenged to say whether he would reverse the peerage award.

Within minutes, Mr Flight issued his apology.

The ex-MP was forced to resign as vice-chairman after being taped before the 2005 general election suggesting the Tories had secret spending cut plans.

Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell said: ‘His comments are offensive and unacceptable. They are not appropriate for the 21st Century, especially when the gap between rich and poor is growing and when the poorest still have lower life expectancies.’

Labour called them ‘shameful’ and said they reflected badly on the Prime Minister’s judgment for appointing him to the Lords five days ago.

Mr Flight’s resignation comes less than a week after Mr Cameron’s enterprise tsar Lord Young was forced to quit after claiming that people had ‘never had it so good’.

Mr Flight’s ennoblement, in a list of 54 new peers, more than half of them Conservatives, was a surprise resurrection for an outspoken Right-winger who was axed as a Tory MP by Michael Howard in 2005 for making ill-judged comments in a speech.

He suggested that Mr Cameron had brought him back in recognition that his removal at that time was wrong.

Mr Flight said he suspected the influence of Lib Dems was behind the decision to take child benefit from people earning more than £43,000, costing a family of two £1,752 a year.

He also broke ranks with the coalition by criticising the plan to treble university fees. ‘Two of my nieces and nephews, both of them very bright, gave up university half way through because they didn’t want the financial burden,’ he said.

An avowed Euro-sceptic, he said he was suspicious of the influence wielded by Nick Clegg, who he said was ‘too much of a committed European’.

On his own political come-back, he said that Mr Cameron had privately hinted that the peerage was a tacit admission that Mr Howard was wrong to have dumped him as an MP five years ago.

Mr Flight, 62, was MP for Arundel & South Downs but was axed after making a speech before the 2005 election that implied the party might make harsher spending cuts than it admitted in public.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Douglas Alexander said: ‘These shameful but revealing comments cast serious doubt over David Cameron’s judgment in personally appointing Howard Flight to the House of Lords only a few days ago.

‘Last week one of the Prime Minister’s senior advisers told us we’d never had it so good and now his latest hand-picked peer comes out with these comments.’

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Howard Flight has shown himself to be an insensitive throwback to the worst of 1980s politics within days of being made a peer by the Prime Minister.

‘This is exactly the kind of remark that leads to political parties being thought of as nasty, and shows just how shockingly out of touch with the lives of ordinary low and middle-income people some supporters of this Government can be.’

Chancellor George Osborne sparked widespread anger last month when he said households with a higher-rate taxpayer would see child benefit payments axed from 2013.

The state help — currently paid universally to all families — is worth £1,000 a year for those with one child and £2,500 a year for those with three.

Critics say the cut, designed to save the taxpayer £2.5 billion a year, is unfair as some single-earner households will lose out while some with two incomes earning far more in total will not.

Around 1.5 million families will be affected.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: 2012 Games Have ‘Severe’ Terror Threat

Britain’s national terror threat will remain at a severe level during the 2012 London Olympics, the country’s national counterterrorism minister said Thursday.

The current threat was raised to the second highest classification in January, meaning an attack is highly likely in Britain.

To test the country’s preparedness to cope with a major incident, a series of national counterterrorism simulations will be conducted in the run-up to the opening ceremony on July 27, 2012.

“We must work on the assumption that [the threat] will remain as it is,” counterterrorism and security minister Pauline Neville-Jones told an Olympic security conference. “A rigorous testing and exercising program is about to start involving all levels of management and responsible parts of government.”

There are expected to be 9,000 police officers protecting London each day of the Olympics and securing the transport network. Neville-Jones, a former head of Britain’s MI5 domestic spy agency, said that will be “one of the greatest challenges.”

The day after London was awarded the Olympics in 2005, suicide bombers targeted the British capital’s transit network, killing 52 people.

London’s Metropolitan Police is also “looking to see what we would do if [the threat] moved to critical,” assistant commissioner Chris Allison later told delegates.

“We have to be aware that the terrorist threat may be there, but the impact of the last couple of weeks [with student protests sparking minor riots in London] is a timely reminder that we also have to be ready for public disorder,” Allison said.

Another area of concern is cyber crime. The 2008 Beijing Games were hit by 12 million cyber attacks per day, according to British government statistics.

“The games unavoidably are an attractive cyber target,” Neville-Jones said. “What we have got to ensure is that it is not extraordinarily a soft target … cyber threats may come from a number of sources.

“Currently the most likely threat is cyber-enabled ticketing fraud, and work is already under way to protect against this.”

However, the government is still planning to announce how it will find savings in the nearly $950 million core security budget for the Olympics. The coalition government, which came to power in May, is imposing major cuts across all departments as it attempts to erase the country’s national debt.

“I am in no doubt that efficiency savings can and should be made,” Neville-Jones said. “[But] we will not countenance unacceptable levels of risk and this will be reflected in the funding.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Facebook Boast of Nurse Allowed Back to Work After Fatally Giving Baby Ten Times Correct Dose of Salt

The mother of a premature baby who died after being given ten times the correct dose of salt has spoken of her shock at finding hurtful Facebook posts from the nurse who administered the dose.

Four-month-old Samuel McIntosh suffered ‘non-survivable’ damage to his brain after experienced nurses Louisa Swinburn and Karen Thomas gave him ten times the prescribed dose of sodium chloride in an infusion.

He died two days after the ‘dreadful mistake’.

At the inquest the nurses insisted that they could not remember what had happened on the high dependency ward at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham last year where the baby, born at 24 weeks, was being treated.

Neither apologised to the family for the blunder. And Sam’s parents, Sarah and Rob McIntosh discovered that Mrs Swinburn, 33, had posted a picture of herself asleep next to the baby’s bedside a week before his death on Facebook.

To her horror, Mrs McIntosh also found that the nurse was posting messages on Facebook about what had happened, asking friends to ‘wish me luck’ in the inquiry.

The day she was allowed back to work after her first suspension, she posted: ‘(Louisa) Has had a fantastic day! Is goin 2 treat herself 2 bottle wine!’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Girl, 15, Arrested for ‘Burning Koran at School and Posting Footage on Facebook’

A teenage girl has been arrested on suspicion of inciting religious hatred after allegedly burning an English language version of the Koran — and then posting it on Facebook.

The 15-year-old, who lives in the Sandwell area of Birmingham, West Mids, was filmed two weeks ago on her school premises burning the Islamic religious book.

Police have confirmed the video was reported to the school and has since been removed.

A 14-year-old boy was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of making threats. Both have been released on police bail.

This incident comes just two and a half months after six yobs were arrested after filming themselves dousing the Muslim holy book with fuel and setting it ablaze behind a pub in Tyneside.

It is believed the young girl was allegedly filmed setting the booklet alight while other pupils watched on.

Two Facebook profiles have also been removed from the site.

It is understood that the group who published that version of the Koran have visited the school to talk to pupils.

Chief executive officer of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, Catherine Heseltine, slammed the burning of the Koran — one of the most offensive acts to Muslims she could imagine.

She said: ‘The Koran is the most sacred thing to over a billion Muslims worldwide.

‘You can see that in the way Muslims treat the Koran — washing before touching it and in many Muslim homes you will find it on the top shelf above all other books.

‘We will never destroy the Koranic texts. We believe it is the word of God. God’s guidance for us in this life.’

Cllr Bob Badham, Sandwell’s Cabinet member for children and families, revealed he has been in constant discussion with IMAN (Inclusive Muslim Action Network) about the incident.

He said: ‘It’s not the first time this has happened — it’s almost like a copycat act.

‘It’s very easy to just press a button to put a video online without thinking about the consequences, they are almost an afterthought.

‘The girl has been arrested so it is a very delicate and serious matter.

‘One of the leaders of IMAN and I have been involved with part of the consultation at the school.

‘We’re all obviously working very hard behind the scenes but the school is operating as normal.’

Bob insisted the school is doing all it can to encourage pupils to try and put the incident behind them.

He added: ‘The council has been working hard with a school, police and the local community to maintain harmony following the incident.

‘All involved have reacted very positively and the children at the school know how serious it is. We have all pulled together.’

He added he did not believe there was a ‘deeper problem’ in the area.

In September this year, six men between the ages of 23 and 45 were arrested by police in Gateshead, Tyneside after footage of them burning the Muslim holy book while wearing tea towels around their heads was posted on YouTube.

At one point in the video, a laughing man is seen kicking what appears to be a Koran while his friends shout: ‘This is for the boys in Afghanistan. September 11, international burn a Koran day, for all the people of 9/11.’

Tracked down by the Daily Mail, the men, calling themselves ‘English nationalists’ but refusing to be identified, claimed they acted out of ‘frustration’ that there was ‘one law for Muslims’ and another law for white English people.

This recent spate of Koran burnings follows Florida pastor Terry Jones’s incitement for people to burn copies of the holy book to commemorate the victims of the four suicide hijackings that left more than 3,000 dead in New York, Washington and Philadelphia.

Mr Jones eventually backed down from his threat to burn 200 copies of the Koran after he was told U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan would be put at greater risk by his actions.

Speaking about the latest incident in Birmingham, a spokesperson for West Midlands Police said: ‘A 15-year-old girl was arrested on Friday 19 November on suspicion of inciting religious hatred. She has been bailed pending further enquiries.

‘A second 14-year-old boy was arrested on Tuesday 23 November on suspicion of making threats over Facebook. He has also been bailed pending further enquiries.

‘The local neighbourhood team have strong links with the school and have been working closely with key partners from the community and the local authority to resolve the matter locally.

‘West Midlands Police will investigate and monitor any crime reported by individuals who may have been targeted because of their disability, gender, race religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Islamists Establish a Bridgehead in Parliament

After a series of reverses in the political arena, Islamist sympathisers yesterday established a key bridgehead in Parliament.

A body called iEngage (also known as Engage) states in a press release that it will be acting as the secretariat to a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia, whose inaugural meeting was held yesterday in the Commons. The group is chaired by a Tory MP, Kris Hopkins. The Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes and the Labour peer Lord Janner are vice-chairs. Sources say that the inaugural meeting was attended by the Tory MPs Angie Bray and Eric Ollerenshaw, and the Labour MP Lisa Nandy, among others.

I’m quite certain all these people are sincere individuals who would have no truck with Islamism or extremism. Indeed, at least one of them is Jewish. But they are being used. They need to look much more closely at who they are getting into bed with.

iEngage is an organisation of Islamist sympathisers which has consistently defended fundamentalist organisations such as the East London Mosque and the Islamic Forum of Europe. It routinely attacks all criticism of them as “Islamophobic.”

It attacked the BBC’s recent Panorama documentary on racist Muslim schools — showing that some children are being taught anti-Semitism and Sharia punishments — as a “witch-hunt.” Typically, it launched its attack before even seeing the programme. It was almost alone in this criticism — faced with Panorama’s clear evidence, even some of the usual Islamist suspects kept quiet.

It attacked me for writing about the East London Mosque’s hosting of the terrorist preacher, Anwar al-Awlaki, in 2009 — advertised with a poster showing New York under bombardment. It peddled the straightforward lie told by the mosque that no-one had realised Awlaki was a bad egg at that stage. In fact, Awlaki had been identified by the US government two months before as a spiritual leader of the 9/11 hijackers.

iEngage’s chief executive, and secretary of the new parliamentary group, Mohammed Asif, wrote to the Home Secretary to protest against the ban on the extremist preacher, Zakir Naik. Mr Naik has stated that “every Muslim should be a terrorist.” But Mr Asif and iEngage said that Naik’s exclusion would “put at risk good community relations.”

iEngage publicised a grotesquely misleading report issued by another Islamist-sympathising group, iEra, purporting to show that three-quarters of non-Muslims believe Islam is negative for Britain. As I demonstrated, this result — massively more than the true figure — was only achieved bysystematically twisting the data as part of iEra’s agenda to sow suspicion and discord between communities.

iEngage has attacked the Independent columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, one of the country’s major voices of moderate Islam, for her opposition to the niqab and the burka. She is far from the only Muslim to be attacked by iEngage. It is interesting that no Muslim MPs attended the launch of the all-party group last night.

There are countless other examples.

There is no question that Muslims face substantial bigotry and discrimination in this country — although the claim, often made by Islamists, that it is “rising” flies in the face of all the empirical evidence. Hate crimes against Muslims have fallen, often dramatically (in Tower Hamlets, for instance, London’s main Muslim area, hate crimes are down by 50% in seven years.)

At this year’s elections Britain’s main anti-Muslim party, the BNP, lost 26 of the 28 council seats it held and went backwards in virtually every parliamentary seat. The number of Muslim MPs doubled, with at least three Muslims now sitting for almost entirely non-Muslim, Middle English seats such as Stratford-on-Avon. The office once held by Lord Tebbit, of “cricket test” fame — the Tory chairmanship — is now occupied by a Muslim woman. Repressive anti-terror laws which have alienated Muslims are, it seems, going to be scaled back.

There may well be a place for a parliamentary group set up to tackle anti-Muslim sentiment — which is still poisonous in parts of the tabloid press. But there is no place at all for a parliamentary group serviced by Islamists.

Because too often, the charge of “Islamophobia” has been used by Islamists to stifle and deter examination of their own actions. They deliberately conflate Islamism (followed by a tiny minority of British Muslims) with the entire faith of Islam, and accuse anyone who scrutinises or attacks their minority brand of fundamentalism of being “anti-Muslim.” That is basically iEngage’s entire purpose.

It is a deeply dangerous game and not one, I’m sure, which any MP would want to be involved in.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim ‘Fanatic’ Exposed as a Hypocrite as He’s Jailed After £2.6m Drug Factory Raid

A Muslim who dressed as suicide bomber in protest over cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammed has been jailed for 13 years for a massive drug conspiracy.

Omar Khayam, 27, was part of a gang who aimed to flood the Bedford area with £2.6million worth of heroin.

And far from being devout, his part in the conspiracy exposes him as a hypocrite as drug dealing is expressly forbidden under Islamic law.

In February 2006, Khayam, the son of a retired Urdu teacher, shocked the nation by dressing up as a suicide bomber — just months after the 7/7 bombings in London.

He was involved in angry protests outside the Danish Embassy in London after cartoons showing Mohammed had been published in Denmark.

Luton Crown Court was told two police officers stumbled across a heroin and cannabis factory in Ashburnam Road in Bedford on December 3 last year.

They had gone to arrest a man for an unrelated offence. He was not there but they noticed powder on the floor and objects covered by large plastic bags.

Prosecutor Natalie Carter said the officers returned with colleagues seven minutes later and searched the flat. Two men that were there had escaped through a window.

They recovered 26.2kg of heroin, along with 24.5kg of caffeine and 4.5kg of paracetamol to be used as ‘bash’ to cut the drugs. There was also a third of a kilo of crack cocaine with a street value of £17,500 and £124,795 in cash.

Other equipment including mixing bags, scoops, scales, face masks and a hydraulic press was also seized.

The street value of the heroin, once it had been cut, was £2.6million. The haul of drugs is believed to be the largest ever seized in Bedfordshire .

Mrs Carter said: ‘The men had left by a window. The heroin, bash and cash had been left behind.’

CCTV from the previous night showed men arriving at the flat with mixing bowls and the press. They were seen carrying items into the flat in plastic bags.

Three men are still at large, but Khayam’s co-defendant Mohammed Arfaan, also 27, was arrested after confessing his involvement to a police officer in Cambridgeshire and handing himself into Bedfordshire officers on March 17.

Khayam was arrested in a car in Milton Keynes on May 31. He was found to be in possession of 27kg of paracetamol, but was not charged with any offence in relation to this.

Both he and Arfaan pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs between May 18, 2009 and June 1, 2010. One charge related to heroin and the other cocaine.

Khayam, who appeared in the dock wearing a blue Islamic hat, had previously been sentenced to eight years by a judge at Luton on March 14, 2003 for conspiracy to supply a Class A drug and possession of cocaine.

It was reduced to five and a half years on appeal due to his previous good character.

His lawyer Abbas Lakha QC said Khayam had become involved because of a drug debt he owed and was not the main organiser.

‘He was beholden to others and was not at the top end.’ He said the stunt outside the Danish Embassy had ‘caused a considerable amount of publicity. It has affected his life for a considerable period of time.’

Arfaan’s lawyer Alex Lewis said he had been drawn into the conspiracy by Khayam, who was a school friend. She said he was no more than a ‘driver, helper and mechanic’ in the conspiracy.

Jailing Khayam for 13 years and Arfaan for six years, Judge John Bevan QC said: ‘Dealing in heroin and cocaine is an odious and pernicious trade.’

He said Khayam had dragged Arfaan, who had been a perfectly respectable man, before the court.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Terrorist Threat to Olympic Street Parties

The results of the review, released by the government, highlight the risks posed by “parallel events” run alongside the games but not part of them.

With just 20 months before the games, security officials are concerned by what they call “displacement” in which terrorists change their plans to attack well-protected Olympic venues and aim instead at softer targets.

A campaign is to be launched to get every event registered with local authorities by the end of March so that police can make an assessment of the risk, the Daily Telegraph has learned.

Details of the biggest ever peacetime security operation emerged as Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, the security minister, said the games security budget — worth £600m — was not exempt from cuts.

“Let me be clear, whilst, like almost every area of public spending, I am in no doubt that efficiency savings can and should be made in our security plans, we will not countenance unacceptable levels of risk,” she told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, in charge of the policing operation at Scotland Yard, said there was likely to be a shortage of trained search officers, explosives dogs and handlers, firearms officers, close protection officers and mounted officers.

But he said the aim was for a “blue games” involving entirely police officers apart from some limited military support from the Royal Navy.

There will be a peak of 12,000 police officers across the country and as many as 10,000 security guards at the games venues.

A special intelligence unit within the Home Office is already trying to identify risks to the games.

The security audit said that “parallel” events may in some cases draw crowds as large as Olympic venues themselves.

Lady Neville-Jones said: “We shall focus on getting the level of security right at the so called ‘parallel events, those activities running alongside the official games which will add too much to people’s pleasure.

“These can be expected all over the country and especially in London. They can take the form of big screen events, street parties, local festivals and so on — variety will be characteristic and the locations will be various too, some temporary, some permanent and they will be attended by audiences ranging from the hundreds to the thousands.

“Making sure that these occasions, which should be fun, are also not vulnerable, is also at the forefront of our planning.”

The security review said that responsibility for the security of the fringe events will largely fall to the organisers of them but it needed to be “considered alongside the wider Olympic security review.”

It added that “given the timescales there is little room for manoeuvre. This next six months are crucial and there pressure is on all those involved to make swift effective progress.”

Terrorism remains the main threat to the games according to a separate “security strategic risk assessment” also released yesterday, which promises “additional protective security” to reduce the risk to the transport networks.

Other threats to the games include cyber attacks, organised and petty crime — including ticket fraud — pandemic flu and public disorder.

Measures are even being drawn up in case of a heat wave during the games or “intense summer storm” that could flood the venues.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Church Slow to Respond to US Abuse, Admits Pope

(AKI) — The Vatican should have reacted more quickly to the United States sex abuse scandal when it shook the world in 2002, Pope Benedict XVI has said in a new book.

“It would have been the duty of Rome, to say outright to all countries: look and see if you are in the same situation. Perhaps we should have done this,” he said in ‘Light of the World’, written by German journalist Peter Seewald.

Due to be published on Tuesday, the book contains a series of interviews with the 83-year-old pontiff. Showing an increasing penchant for candour, the pope said in the book that the use of condoms would be acceptable in “some cases.”

He also said stated that he would “willingly” step down should he feel himself unable, “physically, psychologically and spiritually,” to lead the church.

Since the US scandal came to light, other sex abuse scandals have rocked the Church in several European countries, most notably Belgium, Germany and Ireland. The abuse involves thousands of victims in cases over several decades.

In the book, Benedict also expressed understanding of abuse victims who have distanced themselves from the church. “It is difficult for them to continue to believe the Church is a source of good…that the Church helps people…I can understand this,” he said.

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


Kosovo Organ Harvesting: The Plot Thickens

by Seth J. Frantzman

In his latest column (Bloody Coexistence, Nov.23), one of Israel’s leading investigative journalists explores the bizarre horror and little-known roots of the Kosovo organ-trafficking ring. Almost all those involved were respected professionals in their communities…

In mid-November, the world media reported that Interpol was hunting for seven members of an organ-trafficking ring. They were accused of operating a clinic called Medicus in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. Most news media were excited to reveal that two Israelis were among those named in the 46-page Interpol report. Less interest was shown in the other international members of the ring — Turkish and Albanian Muslims. Only one Israeli, Moshe Harel, was wanted by Interpol in connection with the ring. The other Israeli, Zaki Shapira, was listed as an unindicted coconspirator. A Turkish doctor and five Albanians were also indicted for their role in diverse criminal activities such as “trafficking in persons and unlawful exercise of medical activity.”

THE ORIGINS of the ring appear relatively recent. According to reports, Lutfi Dervishi, a urologist and professor at Pristina University, visited Istanbul in 2006 to attend a conference. At the conference he let it be known that he was looking for someone who could perform organ transplants. He was contacted by Yusuf Sonmez, a Turkish national and surgeon who has a history of involvement with illegal organ harvesting.

Sonmez maintains a website which claims he completed his residency in surgery at Istanbul University medical faculty in 1984 and was an expert in kidney transplants. According to a November 3 article in Hurriyet he also worked at the Ministry of Health. He completed his first transplant from a live donor in 1993, and by 2006 claimed he had performed more than,1,300 kidney transplants. In 2005 he was running a private hospital in Istanbul. Turkish websites indicate that his hospital was shut down in 2007 after a police raid, during which his brother Bulent was also detained. He received a suspended sentence.

Sonmez again fell out with the law over organ thefts in 2008. His medical license was revoked and he was banned from the profession for six months — which news outlets criticized as too weak a punishment. At the time Turkish articles called him the “the Turkish butcher” and Hurriyet referred to him as “Frankenstein.” In 2010, when it emerged that he was involved with organ trafficking in Kosovo, he turned up in Azerbaijan, apparently free to go about his bloody business. His status at present is not clear.

In 2006, while at the height of his power, operating his own clinic prior to the police raids, he contacted Dervishi. Sonmez then contacted a Turkish-Israeli, Harel, who according to the government of Kosovo was born in 1950 in Turkey. Harel later allegedly “identified, recruited and transported the victims, as well as managed the cash payments before the surgeries.” Sonmez, it seems, was also the contact for Shapira, who has a history of brushes with the law regarding organ harvesting. Shapira was once head of kidney transplant services at Beilinson Medical Center in Petah Tikva. He was also a member of the Bellagio Task Force on global transport ethics. In the 1990s he ran afoul of ethics charges in Israel and moved to Turkey. In 2007 Shapira was arrested in Turkey; it seems he was already connected with Sonmez’s hospital. Now Sonmez brought Harel and Shapira to Pristina to help run Dervishi’s clinic. The clinic was operated by Dervishi’s son, Arban. Illir Rrecaj, a Kosovo Health Ministry official, granted the clinic a license to do urological checkups but was, according to Interpol, privy to the actual goings on there.

In October 2008 police suspicions were raised when a poor man was dumped at the Pristina airport and it was found his kidney had been removed. A raid on the Medicus clinic discovered that the organ harvesting ring had been bringing in poverty stricken patients from countries such as Turkey and Russia, promising them 15,000 euros, and then selling their organs for upward of 100,000 euros. Rrecaj was dismissed from his post. On November 4, Harel was arrested.

BUT ACCORDING to other sources it appears the tentacles of the case go deeper…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Coptic Pope Shenuda III Deplores ‘Anti-Christian’ Violence

Shenuda III was quoted by pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi as saying he wanted to “forcibly resist action of this kind.”

He said he wanted to “work to restore calm and prevent further acts of violence in the city.”

A group of Muslims reportedly gathered in the area of Giza where some 3,000 Coptic Christians were reported to have protested outside the office of the local governor.

The Muslims reportedly set several crucifixes alight and threw stones at the Copts.

Egypt’s interior ministry said over 100 people were arrested over the violence in which one protester was killed and dozens of people were injured as police fired tear gas and the Copts threw stones and petrol bombs.

The Copts said they had permission to build the church in Giza but officials said they did not have the proper permit.

Protests on this scale are rare from Egypt’s Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the country’s 85 million population.

There has been friction in the past between the majority Muslims and Christians, who complain they do not have the same freedom to build places of worship.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Italy is Israel’s ‘Best Friend’ In Europe, Minister Says

Jerusalem, 22 Nov. (AKI) — Italy is Israel’s “best friend” in Europe, said Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini on Tuesday during a visit to Jerusalem. He confirmed his country’s opinion that Israelis and Palestinians should return to the negotiating table to hammer out a peace agreement.

“I reiterate my support,” for a resumption of negotiations, he said during a press conference following a meeting with Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has on numerous occasions expressed his strong support for Israel. In September he declared, “I’ve always been a friend of Israel. I feel Israeli.”

Frattini said it is best to take incremental steps toward a “long-lasting” peace agreement rather than aiming for an immediate pact outlining a “solution on the final status” of Palestinian and Israeli lands.

Lieberman told reporters that it is “in the interest of Israelis and Palestinians to rapidly return to negotiations.”

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

Middle East

Barack Obama’s Grandmother ‘Prays He Converts to Islam’

Sarah Omar, 88, who was on hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, told the Al-Qatan Saudi daily: “I prayed for my grandson Barack to convert to Islam”.

The paper said that Ms Omar was in Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage along with her son, Mr Obama’s uncle Saeed Hussein Obama, and four of her grandchildren.

Ms Omar told the newspaper that she could only discuss hajj matters and would not comment on Mr Obama’s politics.

The family appeared to have been hosted by the Saudi government for hajj. Saeed thanked King Abdullah for his “kind hospitality,” the paper said.

US opinion polls in August found that as many as one in four Americans believe that Mr Obama is a Muslim, a claim categorically denied by the White House which has maintained that he is a “committed Christian.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

British Foreign Policy to Change Reflecting Arab Concerns on Middle East

British foreign policy will change to reflect Arab concerns over the Middle East peace process as part of the Coalition’s efforts to seal a strategic agreement with the Gulf during the Queen’s visit to the region.

Whitehall officials said Foreign Secretary William Hague’s decision to reach out to Gulf states in an effort to secure better diplomatic and trade ties meant Britain had to “take on board” Arab foreign policy goals.

Requesting better ties would be a two-way street, not just plea for more defence contracts and exports, they said.

“It will be a six lane highway with movement in both directions,” said one diplomat. “We have to respond to what Gulf States want. If we want a long-term partnership on foreign policy, then changes in our stance have to be part of it.”

The Queen arrived in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, at the start of a five-day visit that will also take in Oman.

Both countries are long-standing allies, where the royal family also has strong personal ties with local leaders. The United Arab Emirates end of the visit was rearranged after a planned tour last year was cancelled at the last minute.

The visit to Oman is to join the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of Sultan Qaboos’s ascension to the throne.

But the visit has taken on a more significant, and unusually political context both with the change of government in Britain and increasing tensions with Iran a short distance away on the other side of the Gulf.

Mr Hague set improving relations with the Gulf and India as his first policy goals, and both David Cameron, the prime minister, and Liam Fox, the defence secretary, visited Abu Dhabi within a month of taking office.

Iran has threatened to retaliate against western interests in the Gulf in the event of a western-led air strike against sites associated with its nuclear programme. With 100,000 British residents of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the other emirates alone, and a strong British and American military presence, the MoD regards a joint approach with the UAE as vital.

To underline the point, the Queen and Prince Philip will watch a fly-past today (Thursday) of Mirage and F16 fighter jets from the UAE Air Force, joined by four RAF Typhoons. The event is ceremonial, to mark the Queen’s first visit to the country since 1979, but the Typhoons will be staying on next week along with elements of the Royal Navy for a joint Air Defence drill in the Gulf, which Tehran will be watching closely.

Officials in both Abu Dhabi and London make no bones about stressing the significance of the defence relationship as the West and its regional allies gear up to a possible confrontation with Iran.

That may mean yet further withdrawal of traditional British support for Israel, with criticism of its government already more marked under Mr Hague than it was under New Labour government.

In another indication of the Foreign Office’s new sensitivity to Arab opinion, officials admitted to The Daily Telegraph that policies on the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006, Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008-9, and its occupation of the West Bank and settlements policy were “motivators” for the Islamic radicalism that they confronted daily in the Gulf.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Hari Kunzru Criticises Turkey Over VS Naipaul Islam Row

British novelist Hari Kunzru has attacked Turkey’s record on free speech at the Istanbul literary event the European Writers’ Parliament, describing VS Naipaul’s absence from the event “regrettable”, and calling for the repeal of the notorious article 301 of the Turkish penal code.

Kunzru stepped into the breach to deliver the opening speech this morning in place of Naipaul, who withdrew from the EWP earlier this week “by mutual agreement” with the organisers following a row over his criticisms of Islam.

Kunzru referred to the Nobel laureate’s absence and said: “I feel we would be stronger and more credible if we were to deal with divergent views within this meeting rather than a priori excluding someone because of fear that offence might be given.”

The writer also attacked Turkey’s record on free speech, citing the cases brought against novelist Orhan Pamuk and editor Hrant Dink under article 301 of the country’s penal code, which makes it illegal to insult Turkey, Turkish ethnicity or Turkish government institutions.

Kunzru told the assembled authors: “Pamuk faced trial for giving the following statement to a Swiss magazine: ‘Thirty thousand Kurds have been killed here and a million Armenians. And almost nobody dares mention that. So I do.’“ He added: “Dink, one of Turkey’s most prominent Armenian voices was convicted under article 301 then murdered by a young nationalist, who was subsequently photographed in a police station surrounded by smiling officers, against the backdrop of the national flag. There are many other examples in Turkey of the weapons of offence and insult being used to silence dissent. Turkey is obviously not alone in this, but since we are here, it is important that we acknowledge it.”

Kunzru said he believed one of the most tangible and immediate results of the European Writers’ Parliament would be to call for the repeal of section 301 “and a declaration that no European writer should have to operate under the threat of similar laws”.

The novelist acknowledged that his criticisms risked causing offence, but said: “Our kind Turkish hosts have invited us here, as an international group, to air our views, and so it is my belief that we must not shy away from recognising the situation here, where we are speaking.” He added: “It would be absurd to assert freedom of speech in the abstract without exercising it in concrete terms.”

Kunzru has been outspoken in the past in defence of his beliefs. In 2003 he refused the award of the £5,000 John Llewellyn Rhys prize for his debut novel, The Impressionist, because it was then sponsored by the Daily Mail. Kunzru rejected the prize because of what he called the paper’s consistent “hostility towards black and Asian British people”, telling the organisers to give the cash to the Refugee Council.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Shocking Images of Dead Kurdish Fighters: Turkey Accused of Using Chemical Weapons Against PKK

German experts have confirmed the authenticity of photographs that purport to show PKK fighters killed by chemical weapons. The evidence puts increasing pressure on the Turkish government, which has long been suspected of using such weapons against Kurdish rebels. German politicians are demanding an investigation. It would be difficult to exceed the horror shown in the photos, which feature burned, maimed and scorched body parts. The victims are scarcely even recognizable as human beings. Turkish-Kurdish human rights activists believe the people in the photos are eight members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) underground movement, who are thought to have been killed in September 2009.

In March, the activists gave the photos to a German human rights delegation comprised of Turkey experts, journalists and politicians from the far-left Left Party, as SPIEGEL reported at the end of July. Now Hans Baumann, a German expert on photo forgeries has confirmed the authenticity of the photos, and a forensics report released by the Hamburg University Hospital has backed the initial suspicion, saying that it is highly probable that the eight Kurds died “due to the use of chemical substances.”

Did the Turkish army in fact use chemical weapons and, by doing so, violate the Chemical Weapons Convention it had ratified?

           — Hat tip: DonVito[Return to headlines]

The Strange Case of Turkey, Islamic History and V.S. Naipaul

Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul has pulled out of the European Writers’ Parliament in Istanbul, following pressure from Turkish writers who felt ‘uneasy’ about comments he had made about Islam in 2001. Naipaul compared Islam to colonialism, arguing that both had had ‘a calamitous effect on converted peoples. To be converted you have to destroy your past, destroy your history. You have to stamp on it, you have to say ‘my ancestral culture does not exist, it doesn’t matter.’

Naipaul’s comments concern the factual context of Islam’s expansion between the 7th and 17th centuries, hence the comparison with colonialism. (He continued his diatribe on Indian history by saying: ‘We should face facts: Islamic rule in India was at least as catastrophic as the later Christian rule. The Christians created massive poverty in what was a most prosperous country.’) Both are matters of historical record. Some of the Islamic historical narrative is alluded to in the Koran no less; notably, the Sura contains an account of the conquest of Mecca and the subsequent forced removal of idols and the expulsion of unbelievers. Also, the political and social aspects of the Prophet’s remarkably successful military campaigns were recorded in Al-Waqidi’s ninth century (so broadly contemporaneous) history.

Those spiritual events had temporal effects; it is blindly anachronistic to suggest otherwise. However, several Turkish writers sensed only bigotry in Naipaul’s words. The Guardian reports: ‘Hilmi Yavuz wrote in the high circulation newspaper Daily Zaman that the invitation to Naipaul was disrespectful because he had insulted Islam in the past. Yavuz asked: “Will the consciences of our writers be at ease when sitting at the same table as VS Naipaul?” The matter was picked up by the broader Turkish media and fellow writer Cihan Aktas told the press: “The disgust he feels for Muslims in his books is appalling. I cannot attend the event given all of this.”‘

Craig Brown once savaged Naipaul for loathing everyone and everything, bar himself of course. Naipaul’s Booker winning In a Free State suggests his disgust is universal — he is unsparing of the men, structures and fates that have conspired to exploit the meek. He can be as strident as medieval Islam and colonialism were aggressive; but his reactionary detractors’ success demarcates the true progress of freedom of speech and a secular conceptualisation of the past in Turkey, even among intellectuals.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Turkey’s Top Religious Body Declares Alevi Demands a ‘Threat’

Demands from some members of Turkey’s Alevi community to eliminate mandatory religious classes constitute a “threat” to the Religious Affairs Directorate, according to the institution’s strategic plan document.

The institution included the demands to abolish the classes under its threat subcategory in a document that delineates its aims and vision for the years 2009-2013.

“The strategic plan of the directorate is not important for us. We were already considered a primary domestic threat in the Sept. 12 [1980 military coup] period,” Ali Balkiz, head of the Alevi Bektasi Federation, following a Saturday sit-down protest against religious classes in the Aegean province of Izmir.

The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has previously highlighted the directorate as the body best able to solve the Alevi issue.

Alevis argue that only Sunni Islam is being taught in compulsory religion classes. Alevis, who some see as a liberal branch of Islam, remain divided over the classes, with some community groups demanding that the lessons be eliminated, while others have demanded that Alevi topics be included in course material.

The directorate needs to change its mentality toward Alevis if it is to find a solution to the problem, according to community leaders attending Saturday’s Izmir protest.

“The approach of the directorate is not even close to serving the Alevi opening,” said Balkiz in reference to the AKP’s initiative to solve the Alevi issue through a series of workshops organized in 2009 and 2010 that were designed to let the community voice their concerns.

Fevzi Gümüs, head of the Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Association, said the government’s inclusion of the directorate on the Alevi issue contradicted the goals of the opening. “The Religious Affairs Directorate is a Sunni institution,” said Zübeyde Kiliç, head of the education trade union Egitim-Sen. “The sole address for this issue cannot be the directorate. The directorate is an institution to organize one religion and one sect.”

Academic Baskin Oran, who works on minorities and nationalism, said the Republic’s ideal citizen was not simply “Turkish” but “LAHASÜMÜT.”

LAHASÜMÜT stands for the first two letters of the Turkish words for secularism (laik), then Hanefi (a Sunni school of Islam), Sunni, Muslim and the first letter of the Turkish word for Turk, Oran said, adding that groups that do not fit into this rubric are routinely discriminated against in Turkey.

In 2009, in the first step of the government’s Alevi opening, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan participated in a fast-breaking meal with Alevis, promising that the content of religion class books would be changed.

State Minister Faruk Çelik, who directed the Alevi workshops, has rejected accusations that the directorate is a Sunni-based institution.

“This [idea] is wrong. Sunnis and Alevis are not opposite to each other. The directorate has publications on the Shafi, Alevi and Twelver Shiite [sects],” he said during the 2011 budget negotiations for the directorate.

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

V. S. Naipaul Pulls Out of Turkey Conference After Protests

Naipaul had been due to give the opening address at the European Writers’ Parliament, a gathering of prominent authors who are meeting in Istanbul to discuss the future of literature.

But he made what was described as “a mutual decision”, taken with the conference’s organisers, to withdraw at the last moment following a concerted campaign against him in Turkey’s religious press.

A number of Turkish writers had threatened not to attend the event in protest at Naipaul’s portrayal of Islam in two of his 30 books as a religion that sought to enslave and eliminate other cultures.

Calls for a boycott were led by Hilmi Yavuz, a columnist for the Zaman newspaper, who wrote: “How can our writers bear to sit by the same table with Naipul, who has seen Muslims worthy of so many insults?”

Born in Trinidad of Indian ancestry, Naipaul, 78, has condemned the manner in which Islam established itself in the non-Arab world.

Converts in countries such as Iran and Indonesia had been forced “to strip themselves of their past” in order to submit to the Muslim faith, he wrote.

“It is the most uncompromising kind of imperialism,” he wrote in Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples.

Naipaul has also courted controversy by attacking Pakistan while voicing support for the Indian nationalist party the BJP and other right-wing Hindu parties. Most notably he defended the destruction in 1992 of a mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, by a mob of BJP supporters as an act of “historical balancing” — even though nearly 2,000 Muslims were killed in the ensuing riots.

The campaign to keep Naipaul out of Turkey threatens to tarnish Istanbul’s credentials as this year’s “European Capital of Culture” and other writers at the conference insisted that he had the right to be heard.

“I feel that we would be stronger and more credible if we were to deal with divergent views within this meeting rather than excluding someone because of fear that offence might be given,” Hari Kunzru, the British novelist, told delegates as the event got under way.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

‘Why?’ Prince Philip Refuses to Shake Hands With 11-Year-Old and Asks Middle East Ex-Pats What They’re Hiding From

When the barefoot Queen appeared dressed in elegant gold in the majestic setting of an Abu Dhabi mosque in today’s papers, another Royal PR coup seemed assured.

She was the first visiting head of state to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the largest in the United Arab Emirates, which she was visiting for the first time in 31 years.

But as she further cemented ties between the nations today at the unveiling of the model for the futuristic new national museum, designed by Lord Foster, things went slightly awry.

And seasoned Royal observers won’t be all that surprised by the source of a slightly embarrassing scene.

During the event the Queen was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke of York and all three royals went on a walkabout meeting hundreds of British expats who were waving union and UAE flags.

Philip appeared to be in an irascible mood and when asked by a group of people if he would shake their hands, he said ‘I’ve got to get back to work’ and walked away.

Further along the line of waving crowds, Jack Morgan, 11, who has lived in the UAE for the last 18 months with his parents, stuck out his hand and asked the royal for a shake. The Duke replied ‘why?’ but eventually relented.

Philip asked many in the crowd where they were from and when they replied he joked with them saying: ‘Are you running away from something?’.

Happily many of the ex-pats saw the funny side.

Andrew Ledger, a retired Lieutenant-Colonel from the Queen’s Royal Hussars, greeted the Duke, who is his former unit’s Colonel-in-Chief, and was also asked by the royal if he had fled to the Gulf but laughed it off, saying ‘that’s just like him’.

And the unveiling of the Zayed National Museum, which will feature five ‘steel feathers’, some up to 125 metres high, ensured the visit will go down as a success.

It will be built on Saadiyat Island off the Abu Dhabi coast.

Lord Foster said after speaking to the Monarch at the unveiling in Abu Dhabi: ‘She was very gracious and very complimentary.

‘I think this is of great significance, the national museum is absolutely central to both the culture and heritage of the United Arab Emirates.’

As the UAE’s first major national cultural institution, the museum will serve as a memorial to the nation’s founding father Sheikh Zayed, celebrating the state’s history, wildlife and people, and is expected to be completed in 2014.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks: Turkey Allowed Weapons Flow to Al-Qaeda

Turkey allowed weapons to be smuggled to Al Qaeda forces in Iraq, according to documents that are about to be exposed in the WikiLeaks website. This — according to a report Thursday in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat.

The newspaper reports that WikiLeaks — which specializes in publication of classified documents — has gotten hold of classified official documents that prove that the the Turkish authorities allowed money and weapons to pass across Turkey’s border with Iraq, en route to Al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq.

In addition, the documents allegedly show that Turkey was involved both directly and indirectly in carrying out terror acts in Iraq, including the blowing up of a bridge in Baghdad.

One of the reports mentioned by Al Hayat is an intelligence cable that appears to have been sent by an American intelligence agency. The cable says: “Large amounts of water have arrived from Turkey, large waves will hit Baghdad in a few hours. Some people are widening the irrigation canals.”

This message is believed to refer to the arrival of weapons from Turkey, that were intended for terror and warfare in Baghdad. Al Hayat also says that the WikiLeaks documents show that ammunition seized in a terrorist’s apartment in Iraq in 2009 bore the markings “made in Turkey.”

The US is mounting a diplomatic damage control campaign as it prepares for the release of the documents. State Department Spokesman PJ Crowley said Wednesday: “These revelations are harmful to the United States and our interests. They are going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world.”

Crowley said the release of secret communications about foreign governments will likely the cause the US embarrassment and damage relations with other countries. “When this confidence is betrayed and ends up on the front pages of newspapers or lead stories on television or radio, it has an impact,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]


Putin Envisions a Russia-EU Free Trade Zone

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would like to see a free trade agreement between the European Union and Russia. In a Thursday editorial for a German newspaper, he describes his vision of “a unified continental market with a capacity worth trillions of euros.”

No more tariffs. No more visas. Vastly more economic cooperation between Russia and the European Union. That’s the vision presented by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in an editorial contribution to the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday.

“We propose the creation of a harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” Putin writes. “In the future, we could even consider a free trade zone or even more advanced forms of economic integration. The result would be a unified continental market with a capacity worth trillions of euros.”

The proposal comes as Putin travels to Germany on Thursday for a two-day visit, including a Friday meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. On Wednesday, Russia and the EU reached an important agreement on the elimination of tariffs on raw materials such as wood. The deal was an important prerequisite for the EU dropping its opposition to Russian membership in the World Trade Organization. Moscow is hoping to become a member in 2011.

Putin, though, as his Thursday proposal makes clear, envisions more. “The current state of cooperation between Russia and the EU is not consistent with the challenges that we face,” he writes. “To transform the situation, we need to take advantage of the advantages which already exist and the possibilities for progress in the EU and Russia.”

A ‘New Wave of Industrialization’

In addition to the establishment of closer economic ties between the EU and Russia, Putin also envisions close cooperation on industrial policy. “In my view, we need to address the question as to how we can trigger a new wave of industrialization across the European continent.” In particular, Putin mentions ship, automobile and airplane construction, space technology, pharmaceuticals and medical technology and nuclear energy.

Putin also proposes much closer collaboration when it comes to energy. “In recent years, cooperation on energy issues between Russia and the EU has attracted much attention and, to be honest, has been much too politicized.” He would like to see European and Russian firms working together “from exploration and exploitation of energy resources all the way to the delivery to consumers.”

The offer is a sharp about-face from just five years ago when Gazprom first opened itself up to outside investment. But the vision is likely to take a hit this week. One of the topics on the agenda for the meeting between Putin and Merkel is the German energy giant E.on’s intention to sell its 3.5 percent stake in Gazprom in order to concentrate on Asian and South American markets. E.on is the largest foreign stakeholder in the Russian natural gas company.

‘Fifty Years into the Future’

Putin also proposed much closer cooperation when it comes to research and high-tech projects. “European science and education must secure its leadership position,” he wrote. “That is affordable through a close partnership.” An important step to achieving that partnership, he continues, is eliminating the visa requirement for travel between Russia and EU member states.

“The renewed principles of our cooperation could be anchored in the partnership agreement between the EU and Russia, an accord which is currently under negotiation. We should approach this treaty from a strategic perspective. We should try to think 20, 30, even 50 years into the future.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Pictured: Dramatic Footage of the Moment RAF Aircraft Took Out Afghan Insurgent and Destroyed a Taliban Bomb Factory

Dramatic videos of unmanned RAF aircraft destroying a Taliban bomb factory and killing an Afghan insurgent as he planted an explosive device were released today.

The footage was shot from Reaper aerial drones carrying out precision strikes in operations against militant bomb teams in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, where most British troops are based.

One clip shows an insurgent smoothing over dirt to hide the command wire of an improvised explosive device (IED) before the Reaper fires a deadly Hellfire missile at him.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

India: Orissa: Persecution and Threats Against Christians Continue

The authorities have not yet responded to the request to ensure the safety of Christmas celebrations. 16 thousand homeless families and in 20 villages Christians can only return if they convert to Hinduism. Archbishop Cheenath concerns.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — Two years after the bloody pogrom Christians in Orissa still live in a state of insecurity and danger. “The Christians of Kandhamal are still living in a situation of discrimination. Sometimes even the government food supplies, and other assets that should be distributed among all the poor are not delivered to the Christians. In some villages, Christian children are not allowed access to government schools. Moreover, some witnesses have been threatened not to appear in court to tell about what they saw during the pogroms” unnamed sources tell AsiaNews. Another signal ì seen as not encouraging by Christians is the fact that the Orissa High Court has got bail to Aruna Suresh, a BJP politician from the Hindu nationalist party, who was in prison from September , after a court of first instance in the district of Phulabani had convicted him of the murder of a young man, Bikram Pradham, in the violence of August 2008.

Concern is also expressed by Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of the diocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. “Some time ago there was a meeting between Christian and Hindu leaders and an agreement was reached, so that it will be possible to celebrate religious festivals and liturgies, and so since then in many parishes there were processions in the villages, and in some cases it was possible to celebrate the feast of Christ the King. This was the first time since the attacks on Christians in Orissa. This year, even though we have formally asked the authorities to ensure security in all churches and institutions for the celebration of Christmas, we have not yet been answered”.

The archbishop describes the situation in the country: “There is no violence, but there is no peace. About 16 thousand families have no homes, and Christians are not allowed to return to 20 villages, unless they convert to Hinduism. So fear strikes our people again. In many villages in the district of Kandhamal Christians live with mistreatment and humiliation every day. They are not allowed to take water from the village well, collect firewood, buy food from shops. The authorities do nothing to prevent such abuse, even if we have made complaints. Their silence is disturbing”. The archbishop adds: “We are trying to create some kind of relationship between the fundamentalists who attacked us, and Christian communities who still live in fear.”

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

India Arms School Girls to Fight Militants

Indian school girls aim AK-47s as they learn how to wield weapons and combat militants.

They may still wear braids, but living in the turbulent northern Jammu and Kashmir state, these girls are no strangers to violence.

One who lost her grandmother to a militant attack is eager to learn.

[Sunaina, Girl Receiving Training] “We have been given training to use big weapons and we have learnt a lot. We felt very nice.”

Paramilitary troops are teaching girls to defend themselves and their villages against frequent skirmishes in the disputed Kashmir region.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Think-Tank Urges Action on Religious Intolerance

Jakarta, 25 Nov . (AKI/Jakarta Post) — The Indonesian government must immediately address growing religious intolerance, particularly in areas where Muslim hardliners and Christian evangelicals were competing on the same ground, a new report says.

The report, titled ‘Indonesia: “Christianization” and Intolerance’, released on Wednesday by the Indonesia Crisis Group.

It followed a series of clashes between religious groups in Bekasi, in West Java, Indonesia’s most populous province.

“Without a clear strategy, mob rule prevails. All too frequent officials capitulate to the group that makes the most noise, and the victors are then emboldened to raise the stakes at the next confrontation,” said Sidney Jones, Crisis Group senior advisor.

The report also recorded six points that had significantly raised tension in Muslim-Christian relations. Three of these points lay the blame on the government.

The report said the government had failed to prevent intimidation of religious minorities and to promote religious tolerance as a national value.

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

Pakistan: International Jihadists Use Karachi as Hub

Karachi is the pulsating heart of Pakistan, but the city of 18 million is descending into a maelstrom of violence. While NATO uses the port to support its war in Afghanistan, international jihadism has established strongholds in the metropolis’s slums and suburbs.

The circle had to be closed with blood, in order to wipe out the disgrace of the previous day. That’s the way of life here — the way of life in Karachi.

The six men were heavily armed, and yet they still managed to get through all the checkpoints and reach Club Road in the red zone, a highly secured district in the heart of the city. The head of the provincial government has his official residence here, not far from the American consulate, two luxury hotels and the police headquarters, where the office of the young inspector Omar Shahid is located. As the head of the anti-extremism unit, Shahid was at the top of the attackers’ hit list.

The terrorists started shooting at the entrance to the police station. For 10 minutes, they fired at the guards, who returned their fire, until a vehicle packed with 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lbs.) of explosives rammed the gate of the police station. The massive explosion destroyed the three-story building occupied by the counterterrorism division and set off a firestorm.

At least 20 people, including the suicide attackers, died on the evening of Nov. 11. Some 120 police officers, residents and passersby lay bleeding under the wreckage, as well as an unknown number of members of the extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi who had already been in custody at the police station.

It was a retaliatory attack committed by al-Qaida’s foot soldiers. On the previous day, a counterterrorism unit had arrested half a dozen of their fellow terrorists.

‘They Are Showing Us that They Are There’

Omar Shahid was supposed to be one of the victims, but he happened to be on duty elsewhere on that evening. He is usually in command of counterterrorism units when they conduct raids against militant Islamists in the backstreets of Karachi neighborhoods like Sohrab Goth or Shershah Market.

“They are showing us that they are there, and that they can strike back,” Shahid says, speaking very calmly. He does not show any visible emotion. Otherwise he would be unable to deal with the situation. His office was destroyed by fire, and many of the people with whom he had been waging this battle for years are now dead.

The 32-year-old police officer has a short haircut and is wearing a white shirt over jeans. He looks athletic and a little too young for the job. Shahid refuses to be photographed for security reasons.

His living room is furnished with upholstered English armchairs and oriental rugs. Abstract paintings hang on the walls. The décor is a reflection of the owner’s personality: a loyal Pakistani citizen with a British accent and a taste for a modern lifestyle.

Shahid studied in London. He believes in justice, and he believes that the eternal cycle of revenge has to be broken. Many people all over the world feel the same way, but not in Karachi…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Terror War Puts U.S., ‘Ally’ At Odds

Washington on collision course with Pakistani military

The United States is on a potential collision course with a longtime “ally,” the Pakistan military, as a result of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s decision to allow U.S. defense officials easier access to Pakistan to take direct control of counter-terror operations, a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin confirms.

The move by U.S. officials is part of a broader Afghan war strategy to track down the Taliban members who cross from Afghanistan back into Pakistan following attacks and to hunt militant networks in Pakistani cities

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Failure of South African Land Reform

The South African government’s efforts to redress the wrongs of apartheid by buying farms from willing white owners and giving them to blacks has been a failure, with many of the new owners having little experience to make a success of it. The policy has also stirred racial tensions.

Reporting from Greylingstad, South Africa — Michael Zulu trundles a wheelbarrow along the track to his farm homestead, where chickens peck at the carpet and skinny cats curl sleeping amid the bird droppings.

He’s the farmer now, not just a tractor driver for a white farmer named Engelbrecht, like he used to be.

But he has a shirt full of holes, the roofless ruins of a dairy and a stretch of farmland whose only crop is cow manure, bagged up and stacked against a wall as a substitute for firewood.

There’s no electricity on his farm, just an hour’s drive southeast of Johannesburg. The fences and phone lines have been stolen, along with the dairy’s roof and fittings. He has to fetch dirty pond water for drinking and washing and set out rickety rabbit traps for meat.

To him, it comes down to one wrong turn: He applied to get a farm under South Africa’s land reform program.

“I thought I’d be much better off. But I think it was better with Mr. Engelbrecht. We lived high with Mr. Engelbrecht. We got money from him and we could look after our children.”

The land program had noble intent: redressing the wrongs of apartheid, when blacks were denied access to farmland, and lifting black rural people out of grinding poverty by buying farms from willing white owners and giving them to blacks.

It has done neither.

What went wrong? Ask two neighboring farmers and the answer probably will depend on their race. There’s so much bitterness beneath the competing narratives, it’s difficult to discern what is fact, what is misinformation and what is just an ingrained disinclination to see the other point of view.

There’s no dispute, however, that the government has spent about $4 billion on the effort and that most of the farms have failed, raising the specter of the kind of catastrophic agricultural collapse that Zimbabwe suffered after large white-owned farms were seized and handed to political cronies.

South Africa’s target, to give 30% of commercial farmland to blacks by 2014, has been put back a decade, and will cost an additional $10 billion.

The policy was marred by corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency. But the main problem was that, like Zimbabwe’s program, land was handed out to people who did not know how to farm.

“The government didn’t have a strategy to ensure that the land was productive. If there was a strategy, it was not backed with proper resources,” Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said recently.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Somalia: Teenage ‘Elopers’ Publicly Flogged in Central Province

Mogadishu, 23 Nov (AKI) — Islamist militiamen on Tuesday in central Somalia publicly flogged two teenagers who tried to elope together, Radio Shabelle reported. Tribal elders sentenced the teenagers to 12 lashes each. The pair, whose ages were not stated, had tried to marry secretly without their parents’ consent, Radio Shabelle said.

The youngsters were flogged on their backs in the central square in the village of Jalalaqsi in Hiran province, according to Radio Shabelle.

In October, Islamist militants shot dead two adolescents accused of spying for the transitional government in Mogadishu, the radio station said.

The Al-Qaeda affiliated Islamist Al-Shabab controls much of southern Somalia. Al-Shabab appears to have consolidated its position as the most powerful insurgent group by driving its main rival, Hizbul Islam, out of the southern port city of Kismayo in October 2009.

Since then they have openly declared their alliance with Al-Qaeda and have been steadily moving their forces northwards towards Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991.

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


Born in the U.S.A.? Some Chinese Plan it That Way

Like any responsible pregnant woman, Chen Lei (not her real name) wants the best for her unborn child. She and her husband live in Shanghai; both work for a foreign IT company, and they have more choices than their parents’ generation could even dream of.

So Chen, 30, is one of an increasing number of mainland Chinese women who are taking advantage of a loophole in American law to travel to the United States to give birth.

“Most Chinese women who go to the U.S. to give birth do so for their child’s future, for the education, and for the work possibilities. And that’s true for me, too,” says Chen, who is cautious and does not to want to reveal her identity.

“We just want to give him more choices in life,” Chen adds.

Her unborn child — a boy — will have more choices than most Chinese babies. In a few weeks’ time, she will board a plane for Los Angeles, where she plans to give birth in an American hospital.

Zhou Junxiang/Imaginechina via AP

A Chinese woman in Shanghai browses the website of a specialty tourism agency that helps Chinese expectant mothers travel to the United States to give birth.

An Affordable American Dream

According to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, anyone born on U.S. soil has the right to U.S. citizenship.

Originally ratified in 1868 to guarantee citizenship rights to freed black slaves, the amendment has been controversial more recently in the American public political debate because of poor, illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America coming to the U.S. and giving birth. An estimated 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008 were the children of undocumented immigrants, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center.

There is another group of people arriving in the United States to have children. But this group comes legally, often in first-class airline seats: mainland China’s upper class.

A whole host of middlemen have sprung up in China to facilitate the booming trade, foremost of whom is Robert Zhou, a Taiwanese businessman.

For roughly $15,000, his company can arrange the hospital in Los Angeles, the doctor, the house and car rental, and any number of other extras for wealthy Chinese parents-to-be.

For lots of Chinese people now, $15,000 is very affordable. And it’s still at least four times more expensive for a foreign student to study at an American university than it is for an American student. With a U.S. passport, there are no barriers for study or for work.

- Robert Zhou, a Taiwanese middleman who helps wealthy Chinese women go to the U.S. to give birth

“What I’m trying to do is to help Chinese mothers to realize their American dream, at a fair and reasonable price. We’re not encouraging pregnant women to go and get a U.S. visa. We say that if you already have a U.S. visa, and you’re pregnant, you can take the opportunity to give birth in the U.S. So yes, it is a gray area in U.S. law,” Zhou says.

Anti-immigration activists in the U.S. say the 14th Amendment was never meant to be applied this way. The Department of Homeland Security and the State Department have no specific regulations regarding pregnant foreign visitors like Chen.

Zhou insists his clients obtain U.S. visas themselves before they even approach him. He says they are paying for everything themselves, and not being a burden on U.S. taxpayers.

Even though there are many opportunities in China, Zhou says, there’s no doubt access to a free U.S. public school education, and reduced college costs that come with being an American citizen, are worth the investment. Children who go back to China with their parents can later return to live with relatives already in America, establishing residency and taking advantage of state-supported schools.

“For lots of Chinese people now, $15,000 is very affordable. And it’s still at least four times more expensive for a foreign student to study at an American university than it is for an American student. With a U.S. passport, there are no barriers for study or for work,” Zhou says.

America’s Allure Different For Parents

Zhou has helped as many as 600 mothers give birth in the U.S. in the past five years. Some are doing so to skirt China’s strict one-child law, which doesn’t apply if a child is born to Chinese parents outside China.

When they’ve gotten a taste of American life, Zhou says some people do want to emigrate. But the majority of parents, like Chen, don’t want to move to America themselves at all.

“We work in IT, and for people like us, it’s better to stay here in China. We have a great quality of life here, so there’s no reason for us to move,” she says.

There is one other advantage of giving birth in the U.S., Chen says.

Last Christmas, she went to a conference in Las Vegas and bought eight pairs of designer shoes, for about $200 each, half the price they cost in China. She is going to Vegas again, she says, to do some serious shopping, before she gives birth in the new year.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Migration to the UK Hits 215,000 as Britons Emigrating Falls to 11-Year Low

Almost 215,000 more people came to live, work or study in the UK last year as the number of Britons leaving fell to a ten-year low, new figures showed today.

An estimated 140,000 British citizens emigrated in 2009, the lowest since 1999 and down from 173,000 in 2008, the Office for National Statistics said.

In total, an estimated 368,000 people emigrated from the UK in 2009, down from 427,000 in 2008.

The figures will pose further problems for the Government as it seeks to fulfil its pledge to cut net migration to the tens of thousands by 2015.

To fulfil the Government’s pledge to cut net migration to the tens of thousands by 2015, Home Secretary Theresa May has said all routes to entry, including student, work and family visas, as well as the link between temporary visas and settlement, will have to be tackled.

The number of migrant workers coming to Britain from outside the EU will be cut by a fifth and capped at 21,700 from next year.

Students coming to the UK to study a course below degree level — around 120,000 last year — will be targeted, as will those abusing the study route by using it as a means to stay on in the UK.

Visas for highly skilled workers without a job offer will effectively be scrapped and replaced by up to 1,000 visas for those with ‘exceptional talent’, which will include sports people and scientists.

There will be a new minimum salary of £40,000 for firms using intra-company transfers to bring their own people into the UK for more than a year to do specific jobs, but employees staying for less than 12 months will be exempt, prompting fears that firms will seek to exploit the loophole.

Family visas will become more selective, with a minimum standard of English being introduced as a requirement for those applying for marriage visas.

The Government will also focus on the tens of thousands of people who come to the UK each year to fill a temporary skills shortage and end up staying, with settlement becoming ‘a privilege to be earned, not an automatic add-on to a temporary way in’.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Hate Intrudes on Thanksgiving

Southern Poverty Law Center smears champions of God’s sexual morality

WASHINGTON — The Southern Poverty Law Center has placed a virtual who’s who of pro-family and Christian organizations, including the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and the Traditional Values Coalition, on a list of 13 “hate groups” for opposing the homosexual political agenda.

In its freshly released Winter 2010 Intelligence Report, SPLC labels five additional groups as “anti-gay,” including Concerned Women for America, the Christian Anti-Defamation Coalition, and Coral Ridge Ministries.


“Lumping Christian groups in with violent, racist gangs is a form of ‘bracketing,’ a political tactic described in the gay strategy manual ‘After the Ball.’ It’s guilt by association and it’s meant to intimidate,” Knight told WND.

“This underscores why many of us opposed passage of the federal hate-crimes bill, which lays the groundwork for making Christian morality into a form of hate punishable under the law,” Knight continued.


“It’s disturbing that the U.S. Department of Justice takes its cue from Morris Dees’ SPLC as to which groups fit the ‘hate’ criteria. I wonder how many Americans would be comfortable with seeing their tax dollars go toward supporting a hate group like the SPLC,” Knight added.

Knight suggested the SPLC report might be timed to influence next week’s Senate hearings on the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Interview With Gay Theologian David Berger

‘A Large Proportion of Catholic Clerics and Trainee Priests Are Homosexual’

David Berger, a gay theologian who has written a book about his experiences as a senior theologian in the Catholic Church, speaks to SPIEGEL about homophobia and the church’s shift to the right.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Berger, you describe the Catholic Church as a homophobic organization. Why did it take you, a homosexual theologian, so long to resign from your offices in the church?

Berger: Because such an exit isn’t a question of days. Even as a child I wanted to be a priest, but by the time I had finished high school it was clear to me that I would not be able to live a life of celibacy.

SPIEGEL: And you became a theologian anyway?

Berger: Yes, because the church never lost its attraction for me. The Tridentine Mass was like a gateway drug for me. When I was 17, I was with the Pius Brothers in Lower Bavaria. What I saw there was a fascinatingly aesthetic baroque dream of leaf gold and Brussels Bobbin lace. I couldn’t get away from it. It only became clear to me later what I had got involved in, and the dream turned more and more into a nightmare.


Berger: Because my own life, my life with a partner, increasingly contradicted what was said and demanded in my church environment. Through my enthusiasm for the traditional mass and for conservative theology, I became increasingly involved with conservative Catholic networks of young aristocrats, industrialists and reputable academics. They utterly condemned homosexuality.

SPIEGEL: How did that manifest itself?

Berger: I kept having to listen to inhuman views. For example, Hitler was praised for having interned and murdered homosexuals in concentration camps. The point came when I couldn’t remain silent any longer ….

SPIEGEL: … after you and your career had profited for a long time from contact with these right-wing circles.

Berger: Ever since Pope Benedict XVI, at the latest, you have to be anti-modern to have a career in the Catholic Church. I criticized the relatively progressive theology and left-wing church policy of Karl Rahner. That is how people noticed me. Because I was an expert on the medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas, I was invited by almost all right-wing conservative groups to give lectures. I was in touch with the Sedevacantists, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, Una Voce, Opus Dei and the Servants of Jesus and Mary.

SPIEGEL: What went on at the meetings?

Berger: These groups are very careful about who they invite. They meet in very high-class venues, sometimes in former aristocratic residences or in luxury hotels. Old men smoke fat cigars, drink expensive red wine and eat well. It is a parallel world whose inhabitants seek to defy the modern world.

SPIEGEL: And what do they discuss?

Berger: They talk about a supposed Jewish global conspiracy or about how to keep emancipators, freemasons and gays out of the church. For many years, there were “gentlemen’s evenings” in Düsseldorf that were organized by a tax consultant. They increasingly became a focal point for a right-wing Catholic network. At one of the meetings, which were regularly visited by senior clerics, the man sitting next to me, a retired university professor, was railing against the gay parades on Christopher Street Day (in Germany): “Instead of standing in a corner, being ashamed of themselves and just shutting up, they behave like pigs gone wild.”

SPIEGEL: Why didn’t you turn your back on the church at that point?

Berger: Many gays are attracted by the clear hierarchies of the male world of Catholic rituals. Among clerics I discovered extremely effeminate behavior of the sort I knew well from certain gay scenes. People give each other women’s names and attach very high importance to clerical robes in all colors. Just think of the nicknames Bishop Walter Mixa (who recently stepped down amid accusations of violence and financial irregularities) and his housemaster friend gave each other: “Hasi,” or “bunny,” and “Monsi,” short for monsignore.

SPIEGEL: Did you get the impression that your homosexuality may even have helped your career?

Berger: In clerical circles I kept getting shown through unmistakeable looks, hugs, stroking of my upper arms and excessively long handshakes that one didn’t just appreciate my work a lot. The fact that many prelates had homosexual tendencies is certain to have made them more ready to help me get positions.

SPIEGEL: And these gentlemen weren’t homophobic?

Berger: The contradiction between evident homosexual inclinations and homophobic statements is one way in which people in the church deal with their own, usually suppressed inclination.

SPIEGEL: You must explain that to us.

Berger: Evidently those who succumb to their desires are rejected particularly vehemently by those who painfully suppress such leanings in themselves. In the course of my own close cooperation with clerics, something I had long disavowed suddenly became clear to me: The fiercest homophobia in the Catholic Church comes from homophile clerics who desperately suppress their own sexuality.

Part 2: ‘I Hope that the Church Will at Last Confront the Issue of Homophobia’

SPIEGEL: Did you feel this pressure yourself?

Berger: I published the magazine Theological Issues and was summoned by the sponsors every time a faintly liberal view was espoused. Opus Dei people were always there to observe. They said I wasn’t allowed to write “life partner;” it should instead be referred to as “fornication partner.” “Homosexuality” was too neutral, they said. One had to refer to it as “unnatural fornication.”

SPIEGEL: What finally triggered your departure?

Berger: The appearance of the bishop of Essen, Franz-Josef Overbeck, on Anne Will (a prominent Sunday night political talk show broadcast on German public television station ARD), when he described homosexuality as unnatural and a sin during a debate about sexual abuse.

SPIEGEL: Did that make clear to you that you’d been part of the church too long?

Berger: Instead of standing up for my rights and those of my partner I supported anti-democratic and anti-liberal groups that fight against these rights and in which some people dream of a fundamentalist Catholic religious state or seriously call for a Catholic jihad. I joined in this playing with fire and was then naively appalled when the whole house was ablaze. I regret that.

SPIEGEL: It sounds as if your book is a confession. But your former colleagues are not prepared to grant you absolution.

Berger: A reputable theologian loyal to the pope put it clearly: He said I was given the opportunity to discreetly distance myself from the “scene.” I was offered the chance to continue this hypocrisy and go on climbing up the career ladder. Because I didn’t want to take part in this ecclesiastic “crisis management,” I was accused of “shamelessly seeking the public spotlight.”

SPIEGEL: What impact do you hope your book will have?…

Interview conducted by Anna Loll and Peter Wensierski

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

Netherlands: House Retains “By the Grace of God”

THE HAGUE, 25/11/10 — The Lower House is retaining the sentence with which every law begins, “We, Beatrix, by the grace of God…” The leftwing parties wanted it dropped.

The House was voting on motions put forward last week during the debate on the budget for the Royal House. A centre-left D66 proposal for scrapping the words “…by the grace of God” was supported by Labour (PvdA), the Socialist Party (SP), the leftwing Greens (GroenLinks) and Party for Animals (PvdD). They have a combined 67 of the 150 seats, insufficient for getting the motion adopted.

As argument for his proposal, D66 leader Pechtold said the “by the grace of God” formulation dated from a period in which the majority of the Dutch population was still religious. Now that this is no longer the case, these words can fittingly disappear, according to Pechtold. The same applies to the phrase with which bills are always presented to the House (“We hereby commend You to God’s holy protection”).

Premier Mark Rutte had declared himself against the D66 proposal. He termed it a beautiful relic of the past. “Just let people ask themselves: What does this mean exactly? Where do these words come from? That gets them thinking” about parliamentary history, said Rutte in the debate.

A PvdA motion was however adopted calling on Rutte to come up with a modernised view of the monarchy. The leftwing parties were supported on this point by the Party for Freedom (PVV), as a result achieving a generous majority.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish School Criticised for Prayer Service

The Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) has criticised Borås municipality in western Sweden for breaching regulations banning religious services at end of term celebrations.

Pupils at Gånghester school in the municipality attended an end-of-term service in June at the local church in a service conducted by a pastor. One of those in attendance filed a complaint with the inspectorate after pupils were encouraged to join in prayer.

“It is important that schools shape the end of term so that all can take part in such a happy occasion — pupils, parents and staff,” inspectorate lawyer Anna-Lena Olsson told The Local on Thursday.

“Parents should be able to trust that when they send their children to school, they are assured that children are not affected in one or other [religious] way of thinking.”

The inspectorate has established in several rulings that holding end-of-term celebrations on church premises is not itself in breach of the curriculum or the constitution, nor is the presence of a religious leader, but it has stipulated that the occasion should not be an expression of a particular religious faith.

“The line for when end of term celebrations are to be considered an expression of religious faith has to be drawn on a case by case basis, and here we decided that prayer has to be considered to be a confessional element,” Olsson said.

In its defence, Borås told the inspectorate that the programme for the end-of-term celebrations had been discussed and decided upon within the school council, on which parents from each class are represented.

Meanwhile, the school confirmed that all religions are taught during the school year and argued that this negated the possibility that pupils could be influenced in any particular religious direction.

“The main ingredient of the end-of-term celebrations was that pupils in every class are given the possibility to express their joy and create a pleasant atmosphere by singing summer songs,” the municipality wrote in a submission to the inspectorate, arguing that the prayer element of the proceedings was “short and well adapted.”

The inspectorate bases its decisions on a series of legal documents, including the schools law, as well as the national curriculum.

The Swedish constitution stipulates that public services should work against discrimination on the grounds of, among others, religious faith. The constitution protects individuals from being obliged to reveal their position in political, religious or cultural matters.

The right to freedom of religion, as is the right not to follow any religion, is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (1994), to which Sweden is subject.

The schools law stipulates that all children of school age must participate in organised activities and according to the school curriculum end of term celebrations are to be considered part of regular teaching. The curriculum requires that compulsory schooling should be “non-confessional…objective and comprehensive.”

The inspectorate has thus criticised Borås, calling for the municipality to submit a report by February 2011 detailing measures taken to address the issue as a result of the decision.

According to the local Borås Tidning, Lena Sundbaum, the recently appointed principal of Gånghester school, confirmed that the celebration at the end of the autumn term will be held in the school’s sports hall.

Independent faith schools are permitted in Sweden and while they are able to adopt a more distinct religious character, teaching is subject to the same requirements and the schools are subject to the oversight of the inspectorate.

“Schools can have religious elements and profiles — there are a number of schools in Sweden with Christian and Muslim profiles — but teaching has to be non-confessional and objective,” Olsson told The Local.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Blu-Ray? No Way: High Tech Discs That Don’t Live Up to the Hype

They are supposed to offer films with the sharpest pictures and sound yet experienced in our living rooms.

But Blu-ray discs fail to live up to their expensive price tags, according to a consumer watchdog.

Typically, the films cost around double the figure for an ordinary DVD, while many have a recommended price of more than £20.

However, a test by Which? found fewer than one in three Blu-ray films delivered an outstanding difference.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]