Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110103

Financial Crisis
»European Nations Begin Seizing Private Pensions
»European Debt Markets ‘Face Second Credit Crisis’
»Hiding a Depression: How the US Government Does it
»Lloyds ‘Bad Bank’ Chief Andy Cumming Fears ‘Ripple’ Effect in UK Economy From Slump in Spending
»Overheating East to Falter Before the Bankrupt West Recovers
»Video: George Soros: The United States Must Stop Resisting the Orderly Decline of the Dollar, The Coming Global Currency and the New World Order
»Allen West Says New Congress Should Prioritize Threat of ‘Infiltration of the Sharia Practice’ In U.S.
»Frank Gaffney: Job #1 for Congress
»The Enigma of America’s Secular Roots
»Trial Begins for Iraqi Immigrant Accused of Killing His Daughter in Hit-Run Attack Because She Was ‘Too Westernised’
»Was Erin Brockovich Wrong?
»Who Runs Local Elections?
»Yikes! Gasoline to Hit $5 Per Gallon in 2011?
Europe and the EU
»British Terrorists Offered Safe Houses in France by Gangsters Accused of Carrying Out Robberies to Fund Al Qaeda
»Coptic Churches in Europe Report Attack Threats
»Denmark, Sweden ‘Waking Up’ To Terrorism
»Dutch Coptic Churches Threatened by Al-Qaeda
»France: Eccentric Saint-Malo Bistro, Since 1820
»German Coptics Fear Islamist Attacks
»How to Respond to Al-Qaeda ?
»Ireland: Korma Chameleon: Killer Turns Muslim for Curry
»Italy: Union Announces Strike Against ‘Anti-Democratic’ Fiat
»Italy Bans Plastic Shopping Bags
»Netherlands: 2010 Was Cold and Sunny
»Netherlands: PVV Councillors Boycott ‘Expensive’ New Year Receptions
»Only in Londonistan: The Strange Story of Gurukanth Desai, And Britain’s War Against Jihadist Terror
»Preacher Anjem Choudary’s UK Terror Warning
»Suicide Message From Stockholm Bomber Posted to His YouTube Page After Death
»Sweden: Stockholm Suicide Bombing
»Terror Trial of Eight Men Begins in France
»The Islamification of Britain: Record Numbers Embrace Muslim Faith
»Trial of French Al Qaeda Financiers Reveals Links With British Terror Suspects
»UK: Is This 4ft Beast Proof That Foxes Are Getting Bigger? Cat-Killer Trapped by Vet
»UK: Pete Postlethwaite, The Actor Spielberg Called ‘The Best in the World, ‘ Dies Aged 64
»UK: Police Hoarding Data on the Millions Who Call to Report a Crime
»With Muslims, Europe Sees No Problem, And That’s the Problem
Mediterranean Union
»EU Program Changes Spaniard’s Perception of Turks
North Africa
»Pictures: Furious Christians Bearing Blood-Stained Banner of Jesus Clash With Police After Egyptian Church Bombing Which Killed 21
»‘Tie EU Aid to Rights for Christians’ Says Frattini
»Video: Prostests in Egypt Following Explosion
Israel and the Palestinians
»British Consulate Employees in Jerusalem Linked to Terror Attack
»Israel: Gas Field, Reserves Worth 45 Bln Dollars
»Israel Arrests UK Consulate Staff Over ‘Stadium Plot’
»Katzav Said: ‘This is Happening to Me Because of Gush Katif’
Middle East
»CNN Arabic Readers Choose Turkish PM as ‘Man of Year’
»First Casino Brings Moral Dilemma to Syrian Capital
»Iraq: Christian Woman Killed in Her Baghdad Home
»Is Putin Losing His Grip?
»Church Set on Fire in Russia’s Muslim Caucasus
South Asia
»Pakistan: Asia Bibi Still in Prison. Government U-Turn on Law Against Blasphemy
Australia — Pacific
»Muslim Teenage Girl Takes Out AVO Over Clash of Cultures
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Clooney Falling Into Bin Laden’s Sudan Trap
»Sudan Secession Vote: As Referendum Approaches, Sudan’s South Savors Prospect of Independence
Latin America
»Brazil Unconcerned Italy Will Appeal Battisti Case
»Canadian Immigration Experts to Visit Czech Republic in Late January
»Dems’ ‘Rising Star’ Trained Illegals for Jobs
»Japan Keeps a High Wall for Foreign Labor
Culture Wars
»Bah Humbug! Father Christmas Banned at Children’s Centre… To Respect Faith of One Muslim Family
»The Invention of Islamophobia
»Al-Qaeda Frighteningly Predictable
»Don’t Blame the West

Financial Crisis

European Nations Begin Seizing Private Pensions

People’s retirement savings are a convenient source of revenue for governments that don’t want to reduce spending or make privatizations. As most pension schemes in Europe are organised by the state, European ministers of finance have a facilitated access to the savings accumulated there, and it is only logical that they try to get a hold of this money for their own ends. In recent weeks I have noted five such attempts: Three situations concern private personal savings; two others refer to national funds.

The most striking example is Hungary, where last month the government made the citizens an offer they could not refuse. They could either remit their individual retirement savings to the state, or lose the right to the basic state pension (but still have an obligation to pay contributions for it). In this extortionate way, the government wants to gain control over $14bn of individual retirement savings.

The Bulgarian government has come up with a similar idea…


A slightly less drastic situation is developing in Poland…


[Return to headlines]

European Debt Markets ‘Face Second Credit Crisis’

Banks alone must refinance about €400bn (£343bn) of debt in the first half of the year, but add in the more than €500bn European governments must replace over the same period, as well as further hundreds of billions of euros of mortgage-backed debt maturing and there is the potential for chaos in the credit markets.

“What we are looking at here clearly has the potential to become a second credit crunch. However, this time it would be much worse than before,” said Celestino Amore, founder of IlliquidX, which specialises in trading hard-to-price debt.

“Governments have been able to slow down the process, but the problems did not go away. There remains trillions of dollars of debt that must be refinanced or sold.”

Mr Amore predicts a rush to sell assets, much like that which kicked off the first credit crunch in the summer of 2007. However, many fund managers and other large institutional investors are looking to reduce their exposure to bonds, leading to warnings that there will not be enough demand to buy all the debt banks and governments will need to sell.

Last week the Centre for Economic and Business Research said a new eurozone crisis was its top prediction for 2011, pointing out that Spain and Italy alone must refinance more than €400m of bonds in the spring. Several banks are already understood to have created what one debt market banker described as “get ugly early strategies” in the hope they will be able to help their clients sell their bonds. “I think you’re going to see everyone rush to sell bonds very early in January, because no one wants to take the chance of missing whatever funding window is available,” said the banker. The chief executive of one major UK retail bank told The Sunday Telegraph that he thought things could get “sticky” in the first half and that his bank was accelerating its issuance plans. The European Central Bank warned in its latest financial stability review published last month of a risk of “increasing competition for funding”.

In particular, the ECB gave warning of the continued uncertain macroeconomic outlook and market concerns over the financial position of some peripheral eurozone countries…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Hiding a Depression: How the US Government Does it

The real US unemployment rate is not 9.8% but between 25% and 30%. That is a depression level of job losses — so why doesn’t it look like a depression for many people? How can so large of a statistical discrepancy exist, and how is it that holiday shopping malls are so crowded in a depression?

The true devastation is hidden by essentially placing the job losses inside three different “boxes”: the official unemployment box, the true full unemployment box, and most importantly, the staggering and persistent private sector job loss box that has been temporarily covered over by a fantastic level of governmental deficit spending. The “recovering and out of the recession” cover story is only plausible when nobody connects the dots and adds all the boxes together.

We will add together the three boxes herein — using US government statistics for all three — and convincingly show that the US economy is in far worse condition than what is presented by the government or by the mainstream media. No, we have not emerged from “recession” and there will be no “double dip” — because the first “dip” was straight down to a depression-level economy in 2008/2009, and we haven’t come back up.

Creating artificial “free money” on a massive scale that artificially boosts short-term employment is how you segment depression level unemployment into the separate boxes and hide what is really happening. It is this radical strategy that most distinguishes the current downturn from the 1970s and 1930s. The ultimate source of most of the current “free money” that hides the depression is the government risking the impoverishment of US savers and investors for potentially decades to come, with the worst of the damage concentrated on retirees and Boomers.


The answers can be found in the red and yellow bars above, representing Federal government spending and state and local government spending. Federal spending rose by $700 billion, and state and local government spending rose by $300 billion. (With the state and local spending being funded by Federal government transfers that have been netted out, so it is really almost all growth in Federal spending.) The private economy plummeted by $1.3 trillion while the government economy soared by $1 trillion, and we were left with what looks like a much more manageable $300 billion shrinkage, the kind of economic change that might be associated with a 9.8% official unemployment rate. In other words, a little over 75% of the collapse in the private economy was (and is) being covered by increased government spending.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lloyds ‘Bad Bank’ Chief Andy Cumming Fears ‘Ripple’ Effect in UK Economy From Slump in Spending

Mr Cumming, who has spent the last two years working to repair the damage done to Lloyds through its merger with HBOS, said it was likely British consumers would cut back their spending, harming the economy. “If consumers start to stop spending — and I think, probably, they will do, given all the pressures around in terms of unemployment and national insurance going up, people are going to hold back the cheque book,” said Mr Cumming.

“Once that happens you get a ripple effect going through the economy,” he added.

Fears of a double-dip recession have receded in recent months, but Mr Cumming’s comments are likely to stoke fears of a new downturn. As head of Lloyds’ work-out group, Mr Cumming is responsible for ensuring the bank gets back as much of its impaired loans as possible, giving him a detailed day-to-day view of the finances of corporate Britain…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Overheating East to Falter Before the Bankrupt West Recovers

This bear is not for turning. It would be joyous indeed if a fresh cycle of global growth were safely underway, but I don’t believe it. Sorry. Policy levers in the US, Europe, and Japan remain set on uber-stimulus with the fiscal pedal pressed to the floor and rates near zero everywhere, yet OECD industrial output has not regained the peaks of 2007-2008 by a wide margin. Leading indicators are tipping over again. We are one shock away from a liquidity trap.

The East-West trade and capital imbalances that lay behind the Great Recession are as toxic as ever. Surplus states are still exporting excess capacity with rigged currencies — the yuan-dollar peg for China and, more subtly, the D-Mark-Latin peg within EMU for Germany. Dangerously high budget deficits of 6pc, 8pc, or 10pc of GDP in countries with dangerously high public debts near 100pc may have prevented an acute depression, but they have not prevented the weakest rebound since World War Two, and they cannot continue, whatever the assurances of New Keynesians and pied pipers of debt. Cyclical bulls may see the surge in 10-year US Treasuries — and therefore mortgages rates — as a sign that growth is about to blast off: structural bears suspect it may be the first convulsive shudder of bond vigilantes dismayed at the easy willingness of Washington to spend $1.4 trillion above revenues next year, with no credible plan to contain the monster thereafter.

Can bond yields rise on “sovereign risk” even as core prices grind lower towards deflation? Yes, they can, and this baleful possibility is not in the textbooks.

Ben Bernanke made a fatal error by launching QE2 too early, with an incoherent justification, by dribs and drabs for fine-tuning purposes. The QE card cannot easily be played a third time. If he now tries to print money on a nuclear scale to crush all resistance and hold down Treasury yields, he risks exhausting Chinese patience and invites the wrath the Tea Party Congress.

Alas, my neck-sticking predictions for 2011 must be as grim as ever. This does not exclude further bear rallies over the Spring on Wall Street and Euro-bourses as institutional mammoths seek to extract themselves from bonds. Europe’s insurers have as little as 5pc of assets in stocks, against 15pc or more in the 1990s. Yet it is a double-edged sword if big funds switch en masse into shares. Bond dumping has economic consequences.

Japan will slip back into technical recession. It cannot keep raiding its foreign reserve fund to pay bills. Public debt will spiral up to 235pc of GDP. Interest payments will approach 30pc of tax revenues. Fresh debt issuance will outstrip fresh private savings this year. Dagong, Fitch, and S&P will have to act. Downgrades will come thick and fast. This time they will hurt…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Video: George Soros: The United States Must Stop Resisting the Orderly Decline of the Dollar, The Coming Global Currency and the New World Order

In the video you are about to see, George Soros talks about “the creation of a New World Order”, he discusses the need for a “managed decline” of the U.S. dollar and he talks at length of the global need for a true world currency. So just who is George Soros? Well, he is a billionaire “philanthropist” who came to be known as “the Man Who Broke the Bank of England” when he raked in a staggering one billion dollars during the 1992 “Black Wednesday” currency crisis. These days Soros is most famous for being perhaps the most “politically active” (at least openly) billionaire in the world. His Open Society Institute is in more than 60 countries and it spends approximately $600 million a year promoting the ideals that Soros wants promoted. Soros and his pet organizations have played a key role in quite a few “revolutions” around the globe over the last several decades, but these days the main goal of George Soros is to bring political change to the United States.

So exactly what is it that George Soros is trying to accomplish? Well, in a nutshell, what he wants is a Big Brother-style one world government based on extreme European-style socialism, strict population control and the radical green agenda. It would be a world where the state tightly regulates everything that we do for the greater benefit of the environment and of society as a whole.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Allen West Says New Congress Should Prioritize Threat of ‘Infiltration of the Sharia Practice’ In U.S.

Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a newly-elected member who has loudly scapegoated Muslims and campaigned on a promise to oppose religious diversity, appeared on Frank Gaffney’s radio program last week. Gaffney, who routinely says that Obama is both a secret Muslim and a member of the “Muslim Brotherhood,” asked West about how the new Republican Congress plans to “take on Sharia as the enemy threat doctrine?”

West said that, although he has not spoken with all of the new members, he hoped that Congress would focus on the “infiltration of the Sharia practice into all of our operating systems in our country as well as across Western civilization.” He explained that targeting Sharia should be part of America’s “national security strategy” and that a response to Sharia would somehow include “tailor[ing]” American “security systems, our political systems, economic systems, our cultural and educational systems, so that we can thwart this”:

ALLEN WEST: So there are many different ways we need to understand this 21st century battlefield, how we can leverage all elements of our nation’s power against — and like I said we need to get away from this nation building focus. I think that is economically hurting us.

GAFFNEY: In terms of understanding our enemy, and I think you’ve done as much as any congressional candidate to help expand the awareness for not only your constituents but others. I count on you to be carrying that on in your new capacity. What is your sense of the willingness of this new Congress to take on Sharia as the enemy threat doctrine?

WEST: Well, I haven’t had the opportunity to sit down with all of the new members, giving all the new members of the freshmen class a phone call to talk to them. I think one of the critical things that we must come together is that there is an infiltration of the Sharia practice into all of our operating systems in our country as well as across Western civilization. So we must be willing to recognize that enemy. We cannot have a national security strategy that does not recognize it in specific and understand its goals and objectives. So once again, we can tailor you know our internal goals and objectives as far as our security systems, our political systems, economic systems, our cultural and educational systems, so that we can thwart this. And it comes back to one of those strategic goals that you mentioned, reducing the sphere of influence of this Sharia you know ideology that is tied into Islam. But I think that is our most threatening part, is the Sharia philosophy…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Job #1 for Congress

By all accounts, the 112th Congress is going to be consumed with cutting government spending and creating jobs. This agenda reflects the election campaign of 2010 in which matters of national security featured not at all.

As in the past, however, when the nation and its leaders indulge in the temptation to focus exclusively on domestic matters and ignore present — and growing — dangers, there are usually nasty surprises in store. Such surprises frequently compel the federal government to give urgent attention to its constitutional mandate to “provide for the common defense,” often at the expense of fiscal discipline and other priorities…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

The Enigma of America’s Secular Roots

On 3 January 1797, 214 years ago, Joel Barlow, an American poet pressed into service as the US consul-general in Algiers, drafted and signed the treaty of Tripoli. Its article 11 states: “The government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” In 1797, to those who had drafted and signed the declaration of independence and the constitution, it seemed a statement of plain truth. American newspapers reprinted the treaty of Tripoli without igniting public debate. The US Senate approved it unanimously and without discussion. President John Adams signed it without comment.

In the past two generations, a “Christian nation” movement in the US has made article 11 of the otherwise-forgotten treaty of Tripoli’s an occasional point of debate. In a sense, article 11 is a bit of an enigma. Why was the disavowal of Christianity included in the treaty? Did Barlow intend it to mollify the Bey of Algiers and other Muslim leaders of the Barbary states, whose piracy exerted an expensive toll on US shipping in the Mediterranean? Was it meant to rally European revolutionaries, who had become Barlow’s friends and allies? Did it aim to consolidate the authority of Thomas Jefferson and other secularists in America, whose achievements Barlow prized? It is not clear, and Barlow never explained.

It may not be clear why Barlow put article 11 in the treaty of Tripoli, but it is clear that he had once had religion, and lost it. Following his 1778 graduation from Yale, he entered the ministry and, in 1780, became a chaplain in the revolutionary army. In 1784, the Connecticut general assembly even made Barlow the state of Connecticut’s official translator of the Book of Psalms. In 1792, however, after four years in London and Paris, he published Advice to the Privileged Orders, a revolutionary work which, basically, offered members of the European aristocracy their lives in exchange for their surrender.

Advice to the Privileged Orders included a polemical attack on religion. “Nations,” wrote Barlow, “are cruel in proportion as they are religious.” The jury was still out, he wrote, on whether Islam, “the crescent of the east”, was infused with “the lust of slaughter”, but he insisted it was simply a matter of the historical record that Christianity had “committed greater ravages” than any other religion. “The cross of the west,” he wrote, was “the wandering demon of carnage.”

In contrast to the militant secularists of today, whose work suggests that ignorance and feeble individual minds lead to religion, Barlow thought that sick societies led to religion. More moderate secularists today are quick to concede the formal beauty or theoretical appeal of religion. Barlow granted no such allowance. Religion is not a good idea that men corrupt, he wrote, rather “men are corrupted by the church”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Trial Begins for Iraqi Immigrant Accused of Killing His Daughter in Hit-Run Attack Because She Was ‘Too Westernised’

An Iraqi immigrant accused of killing his daughter because he believed she was too Westernised is to go on trial in Arizona this month.

Faleh Hassan Almaleki, 50, faces life in prison if convicted. The case raised awareness about incident of so-called ‘honour killings’ in the U.S.

In October 2009, he slammed his Jeep into his daughter, Noor Almaleki, 20, prosecutors said.

The woman, who longed to live a normal American life, was in a coma for two weeks before succumbing to her injuries — in a case that caused outrage from people nationwide.

Faleh Almaleki moved his family from Iraq to the Phoenix suburb of Glendale in the mid-1990s.

He and Noor had a tumultuous relationship, according to police and court records and her close friends.

At 17, she refused to enter into an arranged marriage in Iraq, enraging her father, according to a court document filed by prosecutors.

At 19, Noor moved into her own apartment and began working at a fast food restaurant but quit and left her new place after her parents kept showing up at her work, insisting that she return home, the document said.

Later in 2009, she moved into the home of her boyfriend and his parents, Reikan and Amal Khalaf.

They say that she claimed her parents had beaten her.


Almaleki is accused of regularly harassing his daughter and the Khalafs.

Mr Khalaf said Almaleki told him that if Noor didn’t move out of the Khalaf home ‘something bad was going to happen’.

On October 20, 2009, Noor spotted her father when she and Mrs Khalaf visited a Department of Economic Security office in Peoria.

She is alleged to have sent text messages to friends, telling them that her father was at the office and expressing her fear.

When the two women left the office, Faleh Almaleki allegedly hit them with his Jeep before speeding off and fleeing the country, prosecutors said.

Law enforcement soon caught up with him and returned him to Phoenix.

Noor underwent spinal surgery but died on November 2, 2009. Amal Khalaf survived.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Was Erin Brockovich Wrong?

Brockovich’s campaign in the Nineties ended with utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) paying $333 million (£210 million) in an out-of-court settlement to more than 600 Hinkley residents whose lives were allegedly affected, in one way or another, by the scandal.

It was the biggest award of its kind in American legal history.

But as Brockovich (or rather Roberts, quoting Brockovich) says in the movie: ‘They poisoned people and lied about it.’

The record payout, which made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic, was seen as a personal victory for Brockovich, a lowly clerk at a small-town Californian law firm, a divorced single mother and former pageant queen with a penchant for leopardskin mini-skirts and plunging necklines, who took on corporate America — and won. Cue the credits and Academy Awards.

Today, however, more than a decade on from one of the most celebrated ‘David and Goliath’ legal battles of recent times, a less flattering assessment is emerging.

Fresh scientific evidence has come to light that casts doubt on Brockovich’s claims that PG&E was responsible for the continuing legacy of ill-health in Hinkley.

That evidence is contained in a new survey by the California Cancer Registry and its key, controversial finding that the number of people diagnosed with cancer in the Hinkley area between 1996 and 2008 was not only not excessive, but was lower than would normally be expected for a town of its size — 196 cancer cases over the 12-year period of the study, when the statistical expectation for the region was 224.

This raises a haunting question: Could Erin Brockovich have been wrong all along?


Perhaps the real question though is whether PG&E would have agreed to pay out $333 mlion (£210 million) today in the light of the latest independent research.

‘Independent’ is the key word. The regional cancer survey, it should be stressed, was not commissioned by PG&E or any other interested party.

It was conducted by John Morgan, an acknowledged and widely respected expert in his field. He is a professor of epidemiology — the study of disease patterns — at Loma Linda University, California.

Professor Morgan has been scrutinising the prevalence of cancer in Hinkley for more than 20 years, and is in no doubt that his findings raise serious doubts about the Brockovich myth — even if it makes him unpopular.

‘I don’t blame the people of Hinkley for being sceptical about the findings,’ he told us last week.

‘Apart from anything else, they have been told to believe the opposite in a Hollywood movie. But the fact of the matter is that there has never been evidence of a “cancer excess” in Hinkley.’

Asked for his opinion of Erin Brockovich, he replied: ‘I don’t think she is a bad person, but nor does she have the training that allows her to make the assumptions she made.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Who Runs Local Elections?

I recently became aware of a stunning development in Kinston, N.C. Voters in that town decided overwhelmingly in a 2008 referendum to eliminate partisan voting. In other words, ballots would not identify local candidates by party affiliation.

Seemed like a reasonable decision. Thousands of local governments across the U.S. operate this way. After all, we’re always hearing how our politics is “too partisan.” Here’s a town that decided to do something about it.

What do you suppose happened next?

The busybodies at the U.S. Justice Department overruled the popular will of the people of Kinston, N.C.! That’s what happened.


The federal government charged that partisan elections were necessary so that blacks in Kinston could more easily determine who to vote for — meaning Democrats. In addition, the racist Justice Department proclaimed the referendum would spell the end of black elected representation in Kinston because association with the Democratic Party is their only viable option.

How about that twisted, insulting, condescending, not to mention thoroughly unconstitutional logic?

Now, keep in mind, about two-thirds of Kinston is black. Voters overwhelmingly, 2-to-1, chose to support the referendum — both white and black. An unusually high percentage of voters turned out for this little exercise in self-government — 11,000 out of 15,000.

But the U.S. Justice Department knows better than the people of Kinston what is best for them.

The Justice Department ruled Aug. 17 that Kinston’s elections needed to remain partisan because the all-wise, all-knowing federal officials determined the “effect will be strictly racial.”

Is that unbelievable?

Hold on to your hats. It gets worse.

When the City Council of Kinston capitulated to the will of Washington rather than challenge the federal government’s usurpation of its citizens’ authority, several residents of the town, including two Republican candidates for City Council picked up the gauntlet. In a lawsuit, they challenged as unconstitutional a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 that requires Justice Department approval for some 12,000 almost exclusively Southern voting districts to get U.S. approval before making any changes to voting procedures.

Guess what happened next?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Yikes! Gasoline to Hit $5 Per Gallon in 2011?

Obama continues offshore-drilling ban in favor of wind farms

The Obama administration is continuing a ban on offshore drilling in favor of offshore wind farms at a time when gasoline threatens to reach $5 per gallon — an economic nightmare the American public might well see develop in 2011, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports.

With OPEC targeting $100/barrel oil as OPEC oil ministers gathered last week for a meeting in Cairo, 2011 may see oil challenge the $148/barrel all-time high reached in July 2008.

“No amount of spin will win the Obama administration gains in public approval if gasoline tops $4 per gallon or threatens to reach $5 per gallon,” Corsi wrote.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

British Terrorists Offered Safe Houses in France by Gangsters Accused of Carrying Out Robberies to Fund Al Qaeda

British terrorists were regularly recruited and offered safe houses by French gangsters allegedly involved in the financing of Al Qaeda, a court heard today.

The sinister links between Islamic radicals on both sides of the Channel came to light at the trial of eight men at the Paris Assizes.

All are accused of carrying out post office raids and other robberies in order to raise funds to carry out terrorist atrocities across Europe.

Among them is Farid Boukemiche, a 34-year-old French Algerian who spent three years in a British prison on terrorist charges before trying to claim political asylum in the UK.

When this failed Boukemiche moved back to France where, in 2003, he opened a cafe in Roubaix, near Lille.

This ‘housed many brothers, particularly British ones’, according to prosecution documents in the current Paris trial.

A prosecution source said : ‘Boukemiche learned such good English in prison in London that he no longer needed an interpreter when he got out.

He built up numerous contacts among Al Qaeda networks in Britain and offered then a safe house close to his cafe in France.’

The terrorist case against Boukemiche was dropped in Britain following a £3million trial so as to protect the life of an undercover secret service agent in Algeria.

As a result Boukemiche and two other men were cleared of possessing articles for terrorist purposes but he admitted having false financial documents, passports and identity cards and was given a year-long sentence.

He was free to go in 2000 after spending three years on remand.

Also on trial in Paris is Ouassini Cherifi, a 36-year-old French-Algerian who in 2002 was sentenced to five years in prison for trafficking fake passports linked to terrorist activity.

Since his release he has spent a ‘great deal of time in Britain recruiting Jihad fighters to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan,’ according to the same prosecution source.

Cherifi runs a restaurant in Clichy-sous-Bois, a Paris suburb, where terrorists from all over Europe including the UK were said to meet regularly.

During a the police operation which led to the eight suspects being arrested last month police discovered an arsenal of weapons at Clichy including TNT explosives, Kalashnikov assault rifles, revolvers, and body armour.

Large amounts of ‘liquid’ cash were also found, including £7,000 worth of used notes in the possession of one of the suspect’s wives.

The eight men admit being involved in a number of robberies in the Paris area, but deny using the proceeds to finance terrorism.

Also among those being tried are Feridhi Mourad, a 39-year-old Tunisian already convicted three times for offences including armed robbery.

Terrorist judges Jean-Louis Bruguiere and Jean-Francois Ricard fear many of the suspects met up while serving time in prison.

All of the men were arrested during synchronised police raids on December 12 following surveillance operations ordered by the judges.

The Paris trial continues until January 28th.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Coptic Churches in Europe Report Attack Threats

Coptic Church leaders across Europe have revealed they have been the target of threats in the wake of the New Year’s Day bomb attack in Egypt.

A priest in Paris has made a complaint to police which has led to an inquiry by the anti-terror squad, reports say.

A senior official in the UK says threats have been “outlined” against two churches, and a bishop in Germany has called for government protection.

The Alexandria bombing killed 21 people as worshippers left midnight mass.

The security concerns in Europe come days before Coptic communities celebrate Christmas on 7 January.

‘Online threats’

Girguis Lucas, a priest at the Coptic Church of St Mary and St Mark in Paris, told AFP news agency that a member of his congregation had spoken of internet threats “from Islamic mujahideen who announced more attacks in Europe and especially in France and mentioned our church”.

The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Britain, Bishop Angaelos, said that he had discussed the threats with fellow bishops across Europe and that precautions taken after earlier attacks had been heightened.

“We take any threat as being viable,” he told the BBC News website. “There are a couple of churches [in the UK] that have been outlined.”

Bishop Angaelos — who describes the Egyptian bombing as “unprecedented” — says a general funeral service is being planned in churches across Europe in memory of the victims in Alexandria.

The German interior ministry says members of the Coptic church expressed their concerns even before the New Year’s Day suicide attack.

Bishop Anba Damian told German radio that his community had been warned by police about online threats by Islamists.


Coptic communities in Germany, France and Britain as well as Egypt were cited by Islamist websites two weeks ago, apparently accusing Egyptian Christians of mistreating female converts to Islam.

A spokesman told German media the ministry was in security talks with the Church.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has written to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak expressing her condolences for “this barbaric act of terror”.

But Stefan Mueller, parliamentary leader of the junior coalition party, Christian Social Union, called on Mrs Merkel to go further, by linking development aid to the treatment of Christians in relevant countries.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

Denmark, Sweden ‘Waking Up’ To Terrorism

A Christian convert and former member of the Palestine Liberation Organization says the recent arrest of five Muslim men in Denmark and Sweden illustrates that Europeans are finally rejecting the spread of Islam.

Jakob Scharf, the head of Denmark’s intelligence service, says an “imminent terror attack” has been foiled by his agents. Five men were planning to shoot as many people as possible at the newspaper that published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. Four of the men were arrested during recent raids in suburban Copenhagen, while Swedish police arrested the fifth in Stockholm. Scharf describes some of the suspects as “militant Islamists with relations to international terror networks.”

In response to this foiled attack, terrorism expert Walid Shoebat, who runs the Walid Shoebat Foundation, is encouraging the West to take a stand against Islamic intimidation.

“Terrorism and all its apparatus is bent on coercion. In other words, ‘if you do not submit to what we want, then we will have terrorism,’“ Shoebat explains, paraphrasing the threat. “So the West needs to basically shun this whole idea of submitting to coercion. This, by the way, is not only in Europe; it’s here in the states.”

Shoebat concludes Europe is finally saying “enough is enough.”

“This is why we have France saying ‘we don’t want the hijab.’ In some parts of Europe, they don’t want minarets because the West is finally waking up and responding,” he reports…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Dutch Coptic Churches Threatened by Al-Qaeda

Three Coptic Orthodox churches in the Netherlands feature on an al-Qaeda list of possible bombing targets, say church spokespeople.

The churches in Eindhoven, Utrecht and Amsterdam are named on the website Shumukh al-Islam, along with dozens of other Coptic churches in Egypt and across Europe. The website has called for bomb attacks on the churches during the Coptic Christmas on 7 January.

The al-Qiddisin Church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, where at least 21 people were killed in a bomb attack on Saturday, also featured on the list.

Jozef Rizkalla, the priest of the Coptic Church in Eindhoven, said “There’s nothing we can do, we can only pray and refer the matter to the police. We will go on with our celebrations.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

France: Eccentric Saint-Malo Bistro, Since 1820

(ANSAmed) — SAINT-MALO (FRANCE), DECEMBER 30 — Belle Epoque tables and dark wooden chairs, swings in place of stools along the zinc-coated counters and red-leather upholstered benches with ubiquitous, multi-coloured dolls hanging from the walls and ceiling, from all over the world and some over 200 years old: this is La Java, a nickname for the “Le Cafe’ du coin d’en bas de la rue du bout de la ville d’en face du port. La Java”, which boasts the title of the oldest bistro in Saint-Malo, running uninterruptedly since 1820. La Java is an institution, where sailors and pirates weighing anchor from Saint Malo or landing there after days out on the sea could take refuge and spend a few hours in more pleasant pursuits. It was once called “Bar de la Marine”, and was a meeting place for seamen and prostitutes with a hotel on its upper floor. In 2001 it was instead transformed by Jean-Jacques Samoy, grandson and great-grandson of brocanteur doll repairmen and — as he enjoys calling himself — “poeta-bistrotier malouin” (of Saint-Malo), an endangered species from these parts, whose inhabitants used to boast of being “neither French nor Breton, but from Saint-Malo”. He chose a wild and almost schizophrenic decor for his bistro, where to go to the toilet one must go through the doors of a Parisian elevator cabin from 1932. It is a crazy place but one rich in history, where the owner says he feels like “the last of the Mohicans”, since every other day someone suggests he sell it. “Every year,” Jean-Jacque told ANSAmed with regret, “about 33,000 bistros shut their doors forever.

Seventeen years ago there were 270,000 in the country, whereas today there are only 23,000.” At least two managers up and leave the business every day. “We are making way for shopping centres, lounge bars and ‘concept’ bars, as they are now called,” remarked the owner of this place so full of eccentricity and irony. Bistros have a long, glorious tradition: working class places which are a cross between a cafe and a restaurant, they have always been a sort of refuge for those working early mornings in the cold. “Nothing could be farther from the sandwich and take-away joints which have invaded even Saint-Malo,” he underscored, noting that even the clientele had changed. “Here there were once for the most part sailors in search of company with the urge to have a drink. The situation is more or less the same across France. Today, around the counters of Parisian bistros, workers, the unemployed and retirees have been replaced by artists, intellectuals, the unemployed, models and blase’ young people.” In the summer the fortified city which gave birth the well-known writer Francois Rene de Chateaubriand is taken over by thousands of French and foreign tourists. “Business is good, even in winter.” The charm of the Breton coastline lashed by the fury of northern winters is unquestionable, despite the freezing temperatures. In this period, Jean-Jacques noted, “we are working with New Zealanders and visitors from the southern hemisphere”. La Java is part of the French association “Cafe’s Historiques et Patrimoniaux d’Europe”, which gathers together the historical cafes of all European countries, including the Cafe’ Flore and the Moulin Rouge in Paris as well as Rome’s Antico Caffe’ Greco, Florence’s Giubbe Rosse and Milan’s Savini.

Jean-Jacques Samoy’s son will be the one to preserve this place filled with 3,074 dolls made of a wide variety of materials, 70% of which from Italy. “The hope is that young people understand that what is important in these places is human contact and exchange.” Unfortunately, however, fast food joints and aperitifs in the Facebook era (large-scale gatherings on the internet) fascinate much more than an old man sitting in a bistrot.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

German Coptics Fear Islamist Attacks

German politicians of all stripes have called for a tougher line against religious intolerance after 21 Coptic Christians were murdered in Egypt, while Copts in Germany warned on Monday they also feared violent attacks.

Bishop Anba Damian, head of the Coptic Church in Germany, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that he had asked the government for special protection out of fear his church’s followers would be targeted.

“Before Christmas, the internet was full of threats against us,” he said. “The police have warned us several times of the danger of attacks by radical Muslims. I have therefore written to the Interior Ministry and asked for protection.”

Twenty-one Egyptian Copts were killed in the coastal city of Alexandria early on New Year’s morning when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a church. A further 79 people were injured.

The Coptic Christian minority, which makes up about 10 percent of the predominantly Muslim nation, has angrily claimed the Egyptian Government of President Hosni Mubarak has long neglected to protect its followers.

This was echoed on Monday by senior German politicians from both sides of the spectrum.

Deputy chairwoman of the conservative Christian Democratic Union and Education Minister Annette Schavan called on the Egyptian government to more clearly distance itself from such religious attacks.

“Muslim authorities in Cairo and elsewhere must take an unambiguous position against all forms of violence in the name of religion,” she told daily Hamburger Abendblatt. “They must make clear that they reject violence against other religions.”

Greens parliamentary leader Volker Beck told the Frankfurter Rundschau that Egypt and other states such as Nigeria that had recently experienced religious attacks had to act more firmly to stamp out such violence.

“A condemnation of such attacks is not enough,” Beck said. “Egypt and other states must firmly confront the demon of religious intolerance.”

Egypt was effectively a dictatorship, he said. Germany and other countries had long failed to take a hard enough line against its undemocratic government because it remained a convenient ally in the Middle East.

“The West, out of foreign policy considerations, systematically looks the other way,” Beck said.

Germany had the ability to influence Egypt but had “not fully used” it, he said.

Hans-Peter Uhl, foreign and security spokesman for the Christian Social Union — the CDU’s Bavarian sister party — warned violence by Islamic extremists could spill over into Germany. He called on moderate Muslims to clearly distance themselves from such violence.

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

How to Respond to Al-Qaeda ?

How should democratic, liberal countries respond to the terrorist threat posed by al-Qaeda? In order to stop terrorism, should governments be prepared to work with people who support many of al-Qaeda’s end goals, for example the creation of an expansionist ‘Islamic state’, but who oppose al-Qaeda’s terrorist methodology? Should such critics of al-Qaeda’s terrorist acts be treated as allies or should they be challenged as people whose ideas are ultimately harmful to free and pluralist societies?

In a year when a British citizen tried to assassinate a British Member of Parliament, citizens of many European countries were reported to be attending terrorist training camps in Pakistan and several European capital cities were warned of potential ‘Mumbai style’ terrorist attacks, these questions could not be more pertinent.

As on many other issues, however, there is little consensus across Europe. One school of thought considers non-violent extremists to be a valuable bulwark against terrorist violence, whilst another school argues that the promotion of Islamists of any variety — violent or non-violent — risks making Islamist terrorism more likely. Moreover, the second school warns, the spread of non-violent Islamism within a society is divisive and ultimately undermines cohesion and creates long-term instability.

The Danish Security Services subscribe to the first school of thought: that non-violent Islamists are the people best placed to stop youngsters from engaging in terrorist violence. On the other hand, in Germany, the security service’s view appears to be that, whilst non-violent Islamist groups do not recruit for terrorism, their focus on preserving an ‘Islamic identity’ may intensify the fragmentation of society and help create a breeding ground for further radicalisation.

That is to say, although such non-violent Islamist groups may be opposed to the tactic of terrorism, their divisive message nonetheless lays the ideological groundwork for violent groups. The Dutch security services seem to agree, warning that “despite its non-violent form, this ideology is still disrupting the relationships within and between ethnic groups. This can result in radicalisation, polarisation and social isolation.”

In Britain, advocates of the first school of thinking cite the ousting of the Egyptian extremist preacher ‘Abu Hamza’ from Finsbury Park Mosque in London in 2003. Throughout the late 1990s, the famously hook-handed preacher turned this mosque in North London into a hub for violent Islamism. According to some reports, the building was even used for weapons training. Moreover, al-Qaeda operatives Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui are known to have prayed there, while other regular attendees at the mosque ended up travelling to join militants in Chechnya, Bosnia and Afghanistan.

In 2003, the Metropolitan Police evicted Abu Hamza and his followers from the mosque, installing individuals from the Muslim Association of Britain, an Islamist group with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, in their place. As such, those who see non-violent Islamists as the best opponents of militant Islamists consider the Finsbury Park case to be a triumph: supporters of al-Qaeda were supplanted by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. But the events are not as clear cut as they appear.

In the same year as London’s police force put the Muslim Association of Britain in charge of the Finsbury Park Mosque, the group also arranged a series of talks by an American Muslim cleric. In particular, they organised a speaking tour for him at various universities around the UK, allowing him to become a popular and respected preacher in some circles of British Muslim youth. His name was Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki has since been linked to several terrorist attacks, including the Fort Hood shooting, the Christmas Day ‘underpants bomber’ and the attempt to detonate a bomb in New York’s Times Square. From his hiding place in Yemen, al-Awlaki has more recently called on young western Muslims to carry out terrorist attacks against their home countries…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Korma Chameleon: Killer Turns Muslim for Curry

SERIAL killer Colin Ireland wants to become a Muslim — because he loves the curries they get fed in jail.

Evil Ireland, 56, even asked to be allowed to attend Friday prayers but was turned down.

The killer, who slaughtered five gay men, is now determined to convert to Islam from Christianity.

He told fellow inmates at Wakefield jail, West Yorkshire, his change of faith was sparked by spicy food.

A source said: “A love of curry must be the strangest reason ever to want to convert.

“Ireland really loves the vegetarian mushroom curries that are prepared mainly for the Muslim inmates in the prison.

“In his mind, the quality of the food has somehow got mixed up with Islam and the Muslim faith.”

The former soldier, who is caged on B-wing of the jail, put his name down for Friday prayers two weeks ago.

But governors rejected the application because he is a non-Muslim.

They think Ireland wants to convert for a cushy life.

Our source added: “They think Colin just wants a better lifestyle and this has little to do with religious beliefs. He can’t believe how much better the food is for Muslim inmates.”

In June, Dame Anne Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, wrote that some inmates had been converting to Islam to gain extra perks and protection.

All prisons offer a Halal menu, which some inmates regard as being better than the usual dishes on offer.

Muslims are also excused from work and education while attending Friday prayers.

In the report, one inmate, dubbed a “convenience Muslim”, is quoted as saying: “Food good too, initially this is what converted me.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Italy: Union Announces Strike Against ‘Anti-Democratic’ Fiat

Carmaker reaches deal on contracts for Pomigliano plant

(ANSA) — Rome, December 29 — The only one of Italy’s engineering trade unions fighting Fiat’s drive for separate factory contracts at its Italian plants announced Wednesday that its members will hold a one-day strike next month in protest at the carmaker’s “anti-democratic” practices.

Fiat has reached agreements with other unions for the creation of new, ad hoc companies that will take over its plant at Pomigliano d’Arco, near Naples and its historic Mirafiori plant in Turin.

These companies will offer workers new contracts and conditions outside Italy’s long-established system of nationally negotiated collective contracts for the sector.

Autoworkers union FIOM, which is part of Italy’s biggest and most left-wing union confederation CGIL, says this violates Italian labor laws.

“It’s an unprecedented attack on democracy and on people’s rights,” said FIOM leader Maurizio Landini.

“Fiat’s acts are anti-union, anti-democratic and authoritarian. It’s necessary to respond if we don’t want social barbarism”. FIOM said its members will down tools for eight hours on January 28.

Fiat says the separate, factory accords are necessary to boost productivity and efficiency to justify plans to invest some 20 billion euros in Italy over the next five years.

By not signing the Pomigliano and Mirafiori accords FIOM excluded itself from further plant negotiations on salaries, benefits and working hours.

These negotiations were successfully concluded with the other unions for 4,600 workers at the Pomigliano plant on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Bans Plastic Shopping Bags

New law comes into effect January 1

(ANSA) — Rome, December 31 — A ban on the production and distribution of non-biodegradable plastic shopping bags comes into effect in Italy on January 1.

Shoppers will be offered paper or other biodegradable bags or else will dust off the kind of sturdy baskets used by their grandparents in what farmers’ union Coldiretti on Thursday called “a revolution in the way we shop, just over 100 years since the invention of plastic”.

However, stores will be allowed to use up their existing stocks of plastic bags, as long as they are offered free of charge, the industry and environment ministries said Thursday.

“In cooperation with the competent authorities, we will be watching to see that the switchover is carried out according to the rules,” a joint statement from the ministries said.

“There is no going back”, said Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo, stressing that “producers have had enough time to prepare themselves for this change”.

The government’s plans to ban plastic bags, first drawn up in 2007, originally foresaw an end to their use starting from January 2010 before a one-year extension was granted.

This month a TV campaign has informed citizens about the ban and about environmentally friendly alternatives.

The environment minister is certain the ban will have a positive effect.

“Sustainability is made of little changes to our lifestyle that don’t cost us anything and can save the planet.” Italians have been using a total of 20 billion plastic shopping bags every year.

According to researchers, plastic bags remain in the environment for a minimum of 15 years to a maximum of 1,000 years, polluting the air, sea, rivers and forests.

A recent poll suggested that Italians are ready to do their bit, with 73% saying they would use alternatives to polluting plastic bags when out shopping.

These include biodegradable shopping bags and carrying bags made of natural fabric such as cotton, hemp and other materials.

Unionplast, an association that includes firms in the plastic production sector, criticised the ban, arguing that the European Union didn’t have specific guidelines prohibiting plastic shopping bags.

According to the association, plastic bags are not a threat to the environment because they can be recycled.

Unionplast also pointed out that alternative, biodegradable shopping bags break more easily as they are not as strong as plastic, and also cost three times as much.

However, leading Italian environmental organisation Legambiente has praised the government’s plans and echoed Minister Prestigiacomo’s comments by reminding producers that the starting date for the ban was announced well in advance, giving them enough time to plan ahead.

Several countries including Britain, the US and China have planned plastic shopping bags in the last decade.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: 2010 Was Cold and Sunny

The average temperature this year was 9.1 Celsius, 0.7 percentage points below the annual average, according to the KNMI weather bureau.

However, there were 1,765 hours of sunshine, compared with 1,550 in a ‘normal’ year. The amount of rain was in line with average expectations.

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

Netherlands: PVV Councillors Boycott ‘Expensive’ New Year Receptions

Local councillors from the anti-Islam PVV are boycotting traditional New Year receptions in The Hague and Almere because of the cost, the Telegraaf reports.

The Hague is spending €150,000 on its reception which the local PVV party has dismissed as ‘nothing more than an expensive party, using other people’s money’.

A city council spokesman pointed out that everyone could register to attend the do, which had been widely advertised last year. In addition, the budget had been cut by €50,000.

Almere’s reception will cost €60,000.

Amsterdam has scrapped its traditional New Year do because of the cost at a time of government cutbacks.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Only in Londonistan: The Strange Story of Gurukanth Desai, And Britain’s War Against Jihadist Terror

Londonistan, irate French officials used to call the city I live in and sometimes love. It’s a good name. Flying into Heathrow from South Asia, you pass through the looking glass into a wonderland where everything that existed in the world you left nine hours ago reappears jumbled up. It’s only in Londonistan that you could even imagine that there might be a jihadist called Gurukanth Desai.

Mr Desai is one of nine men held just before Christmas for their alleged role in a plot to stage attacks in London. For those of you who aren’t South Asian, his name likely has no more special resonance than the other eight.

But Gurukanth Desai is upper-caste Hindu name, suggesting ethnic origins in western India. Mr Desai, though, is ethnic Bengali and Muslim, whose parents came from the opposite end of the subcontinent. Mr Desai is reported to have earlier used the Bengali Muslim name Abdul Mannan Miah. That Mr Desai’s brother is called Abdul Malik Miah lends this credence. There’s more: Gurukanth Desai was the name of the lead character in a 2007 hit movie. Guru was loosely built around the life of Dhirubhai Ambani, a petrol pump attendant who built a industrial empire which had an annual turnover of close to £10 billion at the time of his death. Now, there are some perfectly good reasons why an ethnic Bengali Muslim once called Mr Miah might have decided to rename himself after the lead character in a Bollywood movie. Perhaps Mr Desai, the father of three young children, fell in love with someone who was Hindu and had hoped to win her family’s approval. Perhaps he feared Islamophobia would cost him a chance to build his own £10 billion dream. Perhaps he just really, really liked the movie.

It is also possible, though, that Mr Desai’s motives were less innocent. In 2006, a Pakistani-origin United States national called Dawood Geelani took the name David Coleman Headley. Dawood Geelani’s new name allowed him to acquire a multiple-entry visa, which someone of Pakistani origin would likely have been denied. Mr Headley went on, US and Indian prosecutors say, to conduct the reconnaissance that allowed ten Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists to attack Mumbai in November, 2009. The truth will doubtless out as the trial proceeds, but if it is revealed that Mr Desai did indeed have something of the kind in mind, no one ought to be surprised. Britain’s home-grown terrorists have long played a key role in the global jihad. Dhiren Barot — who, in a mirror-image of Mr Desai’s actions, changed his ethnic-Gujarati, Hindu name to Abu Issa al-Hindi — fought with the Jaish-e-Mohammad in Kashmir before participating in an al-Qaeda plot to target the US. Then there was Omar Saeed Sheikh, whose life led him from a British public school to death row in Pakistan.

From the little public-domain information available so far, the nine arrested men seem to have been linked to the London-headquartered al-Muhajiroun. The organisation was proscribed in January this year, but continues to function underground. Last year, The Telegraph reported that a US diplomat had said the UK had “the greatest concentration of active al-Qaeda supporters of any Western country.” In a superb monograph, Jytte Klausen has shown that al-Muhajiroun and its successor networks were implicated in 19 of 56 jihadist plots linked to the UK between December, 1998, and February, 2010. The bombing of the Indian Army’s XV corps headquarters in Srinagar in December, 2000; the attack on a Tel Aviv bar in April 2003; or last year’s 9/11 anniversary plot: all these involved elements of al-Muhajiroun’s British networks. The International Crisis Group has documented the flow of funds from these networks to the al-Qaeda linked Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen in Bangladesh…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Preacher Anjem Choudary’s UK Terror Warning

MUSLIM extremist Anjem Choudary has warned Brits to be on their guard against further terrorist atrocities in 2011.

The ex-lawyer turned radical believes the risk of fresh attacks on British soil will increase over the next year as tensions between the Government and hardline Muslims move up a gear.

The 43-year-old cleric said last night: “If 2010 is anything to go by, things will get worse rather than better.

“Just look at the organisations which are purely ideological and the recent arrests in Cardiff, Stoke and London.

“I do not see 2011 being less confrontational than 2010. And I think in the light of the many recent arrests across Europe in Sweden, Denmark, France and Belgium, this is a phenomenon that is sweeping across the whole of Europe.”

He added: “There is a clash of civilisations taking place between those that believe in Islam and those that want a secular society.

“We can also see this in the rise of the Far Right across Europe.

“We are reaching a boiling point in the European community, particularly in countries like Britain with large Muslim populations.

“There is now a very high chance of one of these plots manifesting itself in reality. Not to mention that the English Defence League have been talking about confronting extremism and marching through Muslim areas.

“I think this could be quite significant. You cannot blame the Muslims if it kicks off.

“Across the world people are following our example in countries such as Belgium, France, Australia and Indonesia — they are calling for the Sharia.

“People say to us, ‘We are so proud that you stood up to the non-Islamic regime’.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Suicide Message From Stockholm Bomber Posted to His YouTube Page After Death

Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly blew himself up in a street surrounded by Christmas shoppers in the Swedish capital on December 11.

Minutes earlier, the 29-year-old sports therapist who lived in Luton, had emailed an audio message to Sapo, the Swedish security service, and to the TT news agency.

The message was not released in its entirety until December 15, but two days earlier a full version of the clip, in Arabic, English and Swedish, was posted on his YouTube account, accompanied by a slide show. The suicide tape has now been taken down but the site still has a number of videos of Abdulwahab’s canaries, Julio and Toto, singing in the back garden of the family home in the Bedfordshire town, where he met his wife when they were both students.

According to Islamic writings, the souls of martyrs are contained in paradise in the bodies of green birds.

The Swedish police are continuing to hunt for accomplices who may have helped Iraqi-born Abdulwahab build his bombs, particularly after noting a mystery cough on his suicide tape.

However it also appears that his wife, Mona Thwany, still has access to the YouTube account, recently updating it with a link to make-up tips and adding a statement: “I do NOT have to justify myself to ANYONE, especially not ignorant people. I do what I please, I watch what I want and I subscribe to whoever I want. So don’t even bother leaving nasty messages, they will be removed.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Stockholm Suicide Bombing

‘He was a normal Muslim’: bomber’s wife

The wife of the Stockholm suicide bomber said she had no idea he had become radicalised and was plotting a terror attack, in an interview out Sunday.

Mona Thwany, 28, said her husband Taimour Abdulwahab appeared to be a “normal Muslim” who “never revealed his secret side” to her.

The 29-year-old sports therapist blew up himself and his car in a busy Stockholm street on December 11. Two passers-by were injured.

Thwany and Abdulwahab met at university in Luton, north of London, had been married for six years and lived in the factory town with their children aged six years, four years and two months.

In his suicide message, he apologised to his family for keeping his plot secret for four years.

“Taimour was a normal person, a normal Muslim. There were no alarm bells,” she told News of the World, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper.

“He never revealed his secret side to me. Maybe it’s a cultural thing because as a Muslim wife I was not expected to pry into his life.”

Thwany denied reports that she radicalised him and said she was “never aware” that a Luton mosque asked him to leave because of his extreme views.

“Looking back, he did get more religious,” she said.

“He was a practising Muslim, praying five times a day, fasting at Ramadan and giving to charity. He distanced himself from people around him. Fewer and fewer friends came to the house.

“Then he lost contact with some of them altogether. He began to spend a lot of time on the internet. He became very private.”

She said the pair never discussed politics, though “he was angry about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan — but not unduly so.”

Abdulwahab’s family fled from Iraq to Sweden in 1991. Thwany is from Romania and has an Iraqi father.

Abdulwahab had told his wife he was going to Sweden to see relatives and she “didn’t notice anything different about him” when he left on November 19.

“A normal kiss and a hug and he went,” she said.

He sent her an MP3 sound file minutes before killing himself but thinking it would be a song, she did not listen to it. Only when Abdulwahab’s sister called to alert her to the news did she hear the recording — his suicide message.

“I started shivering… I felt disbelief, shock and fear — I was very scared.

“He never gave off any clues that he was going to blow himself up.

“Some people said Taimour is a martyr. I don’t know whether he is or he isn’t. All I can say is that I totally condemn terrorism.

“I had no knowledge that he could do anything like that. If I had known, I would have stopped him.”

Speaking of their home life, she said: “He was a good, patient father — a very helpful, hands-on dad. He loved playing with the kids in the garden, planting flowers and herbs and things.”

She said he loved birds and at one stage had 10 canaries in the house.

His only bad habit was “leaving his dirty socks around”, she said.

“I used to tell him off for that, it was his biggest fault, being untidy.”

Thwany is living in a secret location and may take a new identity.

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

Terror Trial of Eight Men Begins in France

Eight men are on trial in Paris on charges of armed robbery to finance Islamist extremism. As the proceedings begin, there is heightened concern about terrorism in Europe.

The eight men are accused of one armed robbery and another botched attempt in the Paris area in 2004 and 2005. The attacks allegedly were intended to finance radical Islam, notably in Iraq. Prosecutors claim the eight, who include French and North Africans, made contacts with extremists linked to al-Qaida in Syria, Algeria and Turkey.

According to the prosecution, the men formed their ties in prison, where they had served terms for previous offenses. The alleged gang leader, 36-year-old French Algerian Ouassini Cherifi, already has served a sentence for trafficking false passports for Islamist extremists.

The men deny ties with radical Islam, although some admit to ordinary crime. One defendant’s lawyer, Olivier Combe, spoke to France’s RTL radio.

Combe said that while the men knew each other and shared the same religious beliefs, they had no links to terrorism. He said his client did not have the financial means to support an Islamist cause.

While the charges date from several years, concerns about terrorist strikes are high in Europe…

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

The Islamification of Britain: Record Numbers Embrace Muslim Faith

The number of Britons choosing to become Muslims has nearly doubled in the past decade, according to one of the most comprehensive attempts to estimate how many people have embraced Islam.

Following the global spread of violent Islamism, British Muslims have faced more scrutiny, criticism and analysis than any other religious community. Yet, despite the often negative portrayal of Islam, thousands of Britons are adopting the religion every year.

Estimating the number of converts living in Britain has always been difficult because census data does not differentiate between whether a religious person has adopted a new faith or was born into it. Previous estimates have placed the number of Muslim converts in the UK at between 14,000 and 25,000.

But a new study by the inter-faith think-tank Faith Matters suggests the real figure could be as high as 100,000, with as many as 5,000 new conversions nationwide each year.

By using data from the Scottish 2001 census — the only survey to ask respondents what their religion was at birth as well as at the time of the survey — researchers broke down what proportion of Muslim converts there were and then extrapolated the figures for Britain as a whole.

In all they estimated that there were 60,699 converts living in Britain in 2001. With no new census planned until next year, researchers polled mosques in London to try to calculate how many conversions take place a year. The results gave a figure of 1,400 conversions in the capital in the past 12 months which, when extrapolated nationwide, would mean approximately 5,200 people adopting Islam every year. The figures are comparable with studies in Germany and France which found that there were around 4,000 conversions a year.

Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, admitted that coming up with a reliable estimate of the number of converts to Islam was notoriously difficult. “This report is the best intellectual ‘guestimate’ using census numbers, local authority data and polling from mosques,” he said. “Either way few people doubt that the number adopting Islam in the UK has risen dramatically in the past 10 years.”

Asked why people were converting in such large numbers he replied: “I think there is definitely a relationship between conversions being on the increase and the prominence of Islam in the public domain. People are interested in finding out what Islam is all about and when they do that they go in different directions. Most shrug their shoulders and return to their lives but some will inevitably end up liking what they discover and will convert.”

Batool al-Toma, an Irish born convert to Islam of 25 years who works at the Islamic Foundation and runs the New Muslims Project, one of the earliest groups set up specifically to help converts, said she believed the new figures were “a little on the high side”.

“My guess would be the real figure is somewhere in between previous estimates, which were too low, and this latest one,” she said. “I definitely think there has been a noticeable increase in the number of converts in recent years. The media often tries to pinpoint specifics but the reasons are as varied as the converts themselves.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Trial of French Al Qaeda Financiers Reveals Links With British Terror Suspects

British terrorists were regularly recruited and offered safe houses by French gangsters allegedly involved in the financing of Al Qaeda, a court heard today.

The sinister links between Islamic radicals on both sides of the Channel came to light at the trial of eight men at the Paris Assizes.

All are accused of carrying out post office raids and other robberies in order to raise funds to carry out terrorist atrocities across Europe.

Among them is Farid Boukemiche, a 34-year-old French Algerian who spent three years in a British prison on terrorist charges before trying to claim political asylum in the UK.

When this failed Boukemiche moved back to France where, in 2003, he opened a cafe in Roubaix, near Lille.

This ‘housed many brothers, particularly British ones’, according to prosecution documents in the current Paris trial.

A prosecution source said : ‘Boukemiche learned such good English in prison in London that he no longer needed an interpreter when he got out.

He built up numerous contacts among Al Qaeda networks in Britain and offered then a safe house close to his cafe in France.’

The terrorist case against Boukemiche was dropped in Britain following a £3million trial so as to protect the life of an undercover secret service agent in Algeria…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Is This 4ft Beast Proof That Foxes Are Getting Bigger? Cat-Killer Trapped by Vet

Weighing almost two stone and measuring four feet from his nose to the tip of his tail, this is thought to be the biggest fox ever found in Britain.

Twice the normal size of the species, it was trapped and killed in a garden in the South East after apparently devouring a pet cat.

The discovery has fuelled fears that urban foxes are hunting new prey after getting bigger and bolder as they gorge themselves on leftovers, including treats put out for them by animal lovers.

The animals’ rise was highlighted last year after twin babies were mauled in their east London home.

Nine-month-old Lola and Isabella Koupparis were left scratched and scarred after a fox jumped into their cot in the night, leading to calls for the animals to be culled as pests.

The new giant was caught by vet Keith Talbot at his parents’ home in Maidstone, Kent, on Boxing Day after they told him they believed a fox had killed their black and white pet cat, Amber.

He said today: ‘Obviously, they were very upset. Amber was 19 and liked sleeping on the front door mat.

‘Dad had seen a fox come down the drive and stalk up to her a few nights before. He phoned me and said would a fox attack the cat? I said — perhaps a bit naively — I don’t think so, she would wake up and see it off.

‘A couple of days later, dad heard a commotion outside and looked up to see a fox disappearing up the drive and the next morning found parts of the cat on the lawn. Unfortunately, the family pet was no more.’

The Handbook of British Mammals says the average fox weighs up to 15lb, with reports of up to 22lb.

[Picture] Stark contrast: Foxshooter Roy Lupton displays a normal fox beside the 26lb monster shot by Keith Talbot to show the difference in size.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Pete Postlethwaite, The Actor Spielberg Called ‘The Best in the World, ‘ Dies Aged 64

Veteran British actor Pete Postlethwaite, best known for his roles in films Brassed Off and In The Name Of The Father, has died aged 64.

Mr Postlethwaite underwent treatment for testicular cancer after being diagnosed with the condition in 1990.

Journalist and friend Andrew Richardson said the star passed away peacefully in hospital in Shropshire yesterday following a lengthy illness.


Born to a Catholic family of four, Postlethwaite originally intended to have a career in the church.

In was as he served as an altar boy, he discovered his love of performing.

He started his working life as a school teacher, before focusing on his love of acting.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Hoarding Data on the Millions Who Call to Report a Crime

Millions of innocent people have had their details recorded and stored on police databases after reporting a crime, it has emerged.

Forces across England and Wales have amassed data about people who dial 999 or non-emergency numbers to report their concerns or pass on information.

Details such as age and ethnicity are being kept in databases without the callers’ knowledge.

West Midlands Police, Britain’s second largest force, holds 1.1million records of people who have reported offences over the past 12 years.

Others, including Lancashire, Cleveland, Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire, West Mercia and North Wales, hold more than 150,000 each.

Senior officers admitted the information could be used against people as part of any future police investigation.

They insisted gathering the data was necessary to fight crime, protect the vulnerable and ensure concerns were dealt with properly.

But critics said it was further evidence of a creeping database state in which information on the innocent was held alongside criminals and suspects.

Campaigners said last night that rather than protecting innocent citizens, police are treating them all as potential suspects in crimes.

The police databases have come to light following a series of Freedom of Information requests.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

With Muslims, Europe Sees No Problem, And That’s the Problem

Of all Europe’s great and present miseries, the one receiving the most uncertain remedies is the failing integration of its increasingly large and alienated Muslim communities.

The wobbling euro, the European Union’s markedly uncertain future as a unified economic force and world political player, its debt, growth and deficit levels, all get daily prescriptive counsel from thousands of experts and bystanders. The markets post minute-to-minute fever charts. Up, down, healing, worsening — the illness and the medicines are there for everyone to see.

But in terms of measurable grief, the exact degree of Western and Islamic civilization’s collisions in Europe is much more difficult to plot.

Instead, denial is their standard metric: That bomb didn’t go off here, our national soccer team is full of Muslim players, and we haven’t elected any anti-immigrant parties to Parliament, or if we have, they’re ultimately manageable. The less we talk about this stuff the better.

Then something happens. A conflict comes into focus that, beyond its particulars, raises the question of the ultimate compatibility of Islamic communities in Western environments. An issue that, most comfortably, is kept vague, suddenly demands that Europe — in this case, the Netherlands — draw the line. But where is the line?

What has taken place here is that Frits Bolkestein, the former leader of the Liberal Party, which now heads the Dutch government, has advised “recognizable Jews, orthodox Jews” that their children should emigrate from the Netherlands to Israel or the United States. He said, “I see no future for them here because of anti-Semitism, above all among the Moroccan Dutch, whose numbers continue to grow.”

The remark last month twice shocked the Netherlands.

There was the statement itself, resounding in the context of a national history in which almost the entire pre-World War II Jewish community of 150,000 was wiped out by the Nazis.

More, there was Mr. Bolkestein’s view that the Dutch state was unlikely to deal successfully with the problem and his uncertainty that the Dutch people would demand its resolution. These were matters, he told me later, that reflect his profound and overarching concern about the long-term influence of Muslim populations on all of European society.

This dark vision has particular impact here because of Mr. Bolkestein’s reputation among many of the Dutch as kind of seer concerning Muslim immigration. When he suggested in a speech in 1991 that integration had to mean compromises from newcomers concerning their old identities, he was denounced as a bigot. In the intervening 20 years, large parts of the Dutch political spectrum, and much of Europe’s, have evolved toward a position (closer to his) that regards respect of national law and tradition as more necessary than any further European accommodation to a growing Muslim community…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EU Program Changes Spaniard’s Perception of Turks

A lack of contact with a Turkish population in Barcelona led Spaniard Fernando Berges to confess to having a fairly stereotypical image of Turkey before visiting the country and meeting some Turks.

“There is a very small Turkish community in Spain. I assumed that Turkey was very similar to other Arabic countries. I imagined Istanbul to be a very crowded place, and the strongest images in my mind were that of bazaars, trade and exoticism,” he said.

However, after meeting his Turkish girlfriend during an Erasmus education program in Rotterdam, Berges said he was pleasantly surprised to find that Turkish culture was more similar to Spanish culture than he had previously expected. He said Turks and Spaniards had similar approaches to life in terms of personal relationships, ways of speaking and noted that they shared the same curiosity about learning.

After living together with his Turkish girlfriend in Spain for three years, Berges said her absorption of the culture and its language had allowed her to embrace a ‘half-Spanish, half-Turkish personality.’ Saying that he believe relationship would last, Berges added that he decided to come to Istanbul on a work placement because he wanted to join his girlfriend and engage in the process of becoming half-Turkish, half-Spanish.

During his first eight-month stay in Istanbul, Berges said he interned at the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce in Eminönü. He described the neighborhood as one of his favorite places in Istanbul, adding that the colorful bazaars with their spices and artistic merchandise matched the stereotypical image of the city that he had harbored before visiting. Berges said his lack of Turkish was at first a barrier in his work environment, explaining that if he did not raise an interesting topic, his colleagues would revert quickly back to Turkish, leaving him feeling slightly left out. He said such difficulties encouraged him to take up courses at a language school to learn the language more quickly.

The 10-second process

Despite his enthusiasm for Turkish, Berges said the process of learning the language was definitely frustrating at times. He said Spaniards were known in general to be bad at learning foreign languages and that the radically different grammatical structure of the Turkish language made it particularly challenging.

“When you learn French, Italian or German normally you can start communicating basic phrases after a few weeks. It’s not like that with Turkish, there are so many different suffixes that you have to bear in mind,” he said.

Berges said it initially took him 10 seconds before he could utter his phrases, he said things got easier once this barrier was eventually crossed.

“Turkish is difficult to pronounce, yet there is a richness in the words of this language. For example, there are different meanings held by one word and I like using expressions such as ‘Masallah.’“

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

North Africa

Pictures: Furious Christians Bearing Blood-Stained Banner of Jesus Clash With Police After Egyptian Church Bombing Which Killed 21

Hundreds of Christian demonstrators paraded through the streets of Alexandria after a car bomb killed 21 worshippers celebrating the New Year.

Bearing a blood-stained banner of Jesus rescued from the shattered church, protesters clashed with Egyptian riot police who had moved in to break up the gathering.

Christians and Muslims pelted each other with rocks and cars were also torched in the disturbances.

‘We are not going to remain silent,’ chanted the protesters. Three demonstrators were arrested and beaten up by police, according to witnesses.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Tie EU Aid to Rights for Christians’ Says Frattini

Aid should be ‘cut or eliminated’ FM says after Alexandria blast

(ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — European Union aid should be tied to respect for human rights in countries where Christian minorities are under attack, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday after a New Year’s Day church bombing in the Egyptian city of Alexandria that killed 21 Coptic Christians.

EU aid “should be reduced if not eliminated” for “those countries that do not collaborate” in protecting Christians, Frattini said.

“We have to move from monitoring to action,” said the foreign minister, stressing that Italy could not remain “isolated” in the battle for Christians’ rights around the world.

The EU “should work with those countries that collaborate and encourage them,” he said.

Italy has been saying for months that more should be done to help embattled Christian communities around the world.

On December 22 Frattini blasted the European Union for not doing more to combat Christian persecutions in Iraq and other Middle Eastern Countries.

He said United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also worried about the plight of Middle Eastern Christians, who are leaving the region in increasing numbers, especially from Iraq, where they have been the victims of a series of bomb attacks.

“Frankly, it is a little sad that Europe isn’t reacting on this issue as it should”, he said.

Italy is set to present a resolution to the United Nations on religious freedom which aims to stop this persecution and it has the backing of the EU, while several non-EU countries have expressed “great interest”.

Pope Benedict XVI, who condemned the New Year’s Day attack in Alexandria as a “cowardly attack against God,” has said Christians are the religious group that suffer most persecution around the world.

Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria are among the other countries where there have been anti-Christian campaigns and attacks. More than 80 people were killed in bombings in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Christmas Eve, sparking clashes between Muslim and Christian youths.

Ethnic and religious violence in central Nigeria has left hundreds of people dead this year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Video: Prostests in Egypt Following Explosion

Riot police in armoured vehicles were deployed outside the blood-spattered church as Egyptian newspapers warned that “civil war” could break out unless Christians and Muslims close ranks after a deadly attack on a Coptic church that triggered angry protests. The authorities said that a suicide bomber blew himself up outside Al-Qiddissin church in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria early on New Year’s Day, killing 21 people and wounding 79 others. The service was marked by the grief and anger felt by a congregation devastated by the attack, which took place Saturday outside the church’s door about 30 minutes into the New Year…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

British Consulate Employees in Jerusalem Linked to Terror Attack

Two Palestinians were charged by a court on Sunday with planning a rocket attack on Teddy Stadium, home to the Beitar football team. Three more Palestinians, two of them maintenance men employed by the British Consulate General, were arrested on suspicion of supplying them with guns. All five were arrested in November but the details have only now emerged following Sunday’s court hearing. A Foreign Office spokesman said that security and vetting procedures were being reviewed. He said all employees were vetted in co-ordination with the Israeli authorities “to a level appropriate to their job”. The Consulate-General plays an important political role in Israel and would be considered a major terrorist target, in common with diplomatic posts elsewhere in the Middle East. However, the authorities have said the men’s arrests had “no connection to their work at the consulate”. The two men initially charged over the stadium plot, named as Mussa Hamada and Bassem Omari, were said to be members of Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and is in a state of war with Israel. They were also alleged to have received financial support from the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia.

They were charged with “membership in and support for a terrorist organisation, firearms offences and conspiracy to commit a crime”.

One of the maintenance men arrested has been named as Mohammed Hamada, a cousin of one of those charged with planning the rocket attack, while the other was named as BIlal Bakhatan. The third man arrested was his brother, Oma Hamada.

No rocket was found, and the plot, concocted after the Israeli invasion of Gaza two years ago, was in its early stages, Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, said.

Omari was an Israeli citizen and a resident of Beit Safafa in part of east Jerusalem annexed by Israel. The other four, all Palestinians, also lived in east Jerusalem but did not have Israeli citizenship.

“The two went to a ridge overlooking the stadium in order to select the best place for an attack and carried out reconnaissance of the area, although the planning was not translated into action,” a Shin Bet statement said.

It said the men had acquired pistols and were trying to obtain rifles and explosives.

The Government will be concerned that the arrests will worsen relations between Israel and Britain. The two have clashed in the past year over issues including the use of cloned British passports in an alleged Mossad hit on a Hamas operative in Dubai, and over Israel’s killing of nine Turkish activists on a ship taking aid to Gaza…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel: Gas Field, Reserves Worth 45 Bln Dollars

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, DECEMBER 29 — A natural gas field totalling 453 billion cubic metres with an estimated value of at least 45 billion dollars was discovered by a business consortium off the coast of Haifa in Israel, according to the results of the most recent tests conducted in the area. This was the announcement sent today by the consortium to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange while the local media is starting to speak openly about the possibility of Israel eventually becoming an exporter of natural gas, in addition to completely satisfying its own natural gas demands. “This is the biggest discovery in our history of explorations,” said Charles Davidson, the Executive Director of American company Noble Energy, which conducted explorations and controls about 40% of the Leviathan field. The other members of the consortium are Israeli companies Delek Drilling LP, Avner Oil & Gas Ltd and Ratio Oil Exploration 1992 Lp. Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said that the deposit will provide an “important” contribution to the country’s economy. The gas reserves contained in Leviathan, which spans an area of 325 square kilometres, are double those contained in Tamar, another natural gas field discovered off the coast of Israel in 2009. More testing on the size of Leviathan will be necessary in order to have better estimates of the total gas reserves. According to experts, it is possible and even probable that an oil deposit may be situated below the natural gas.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel Arrests UK Consulate Staff Over ‘Stadium Plot’

Two Palestinian employees of the UK consulate general in East Jerusalem have been arrested over an alleged weapons plot, Israeli officials say.

The UK Foreign Office confirmed the arrests, allegedly linked to plans to fire a rocket at a football stadium.

Reports say the two men had helped obtain weapons for two other men allegedly planning the attack. Those two men were arrested on Sunday.

No rockets were found and the plot was in its preliminary stages, police said.

The consulate employees had maintenance jobs and did not have sensitive security clearance, the Foreign Office said.

Their arrests were not connected to their work at the consulate, it added.

However, the BBC’s Wyre Davis says the incident will raise concern about vetting procedures at the consulate, which is situated in one of the most politically sensitive parts of Jerusalem.

East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory under international law. Israel took over the area in 1967, then annexed it in 1981 and sees it as its exclusive domain.

Israel claims the city as its eternal, undivided capital, while Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

The international community does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and most countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv.

Launch sites

The two suspected plotters arrested on Sunday — one of whom was an Israeli citizen and one a resident of East Jerusalem — were said to be planning to attack the city’s Teddy Stadium.

The stadium is home of the Beitar Jerusalem football team and regularly hosts high-profile sports events.

Both men have allegedly been linked to militant groups including Hamas, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said.

The newspaper quoted information released by Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service, saying the two had acquired a number of pistols and were trying to build a cache of additional weapons and explosives.

They had been investigating possible sites from which to launch the rocket and gathering information about security in the area, the security service added.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

Katzav Said: ‘This is Happening to Me Because of Gush Katif’

Former president Moshe Katzav, who has been found guilty of rape charges, has expressed a belief that the charges against him are divine punishment for his role in the 2005 expulsion from Gaza (Disengagement). So writes Moshe Feiglin, head of the Jewish Leadership faction in the Likud.

In a column penned for Maariv, Feiglin wrote Sunday that a central activist in the struggle against the Disengagement met Katzav after the scandal around him erupted. “Surprisingly and of his own initiative, Katzav turned to him and told him: ‘I am not guilty of what they are accusing me of, but I know that this is happening to me because of the way I treated you [in the original Hebrew, the plural ‘you’ was used — ed.].’“

“This understanding shows that the man had more than just a thought of repentance and it certainly is to his credit and praise,” Feiglin added.

There are numerous adherents, not all of them religious, to the belief in the “Disengagement curse” — a heavenly retribution for the Disengagement, which has afflicted many of the key players in that act of violent expulsion and retreat.

The Our Land of Israel organization has distributed hundreds of thousands of copies of a list of the “curse victims” throughout Israel’s synagogues. The list includes:…

           — Hat tip: DW[Return to headlines]

Middle East

CNN Arabic Readers Choose Turkish PM as ‘Man of Year’

Turkey’s prime minister has been named “Man of the Year” by readers of CNN Arabic’s website.

According to the Dubai-based, Arabic-language news portal, 74 percent of readers voted for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, carrying him to the top position in the ranking.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad followed Erdogan on the list, getting 20 percent of the vote.

The CNN Arabic website said Erdogan had been given the “Man of the Year” title thanks to his recent success in diplomacy.

The portal pointed to Erdogan’s stance at the Davos summit, his diplomatic success in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara attack, Turkey’s role in Iraq and Afghanistan, Erdogan’s role as a mediator between Iran and the world, and Turkey’s efforts to solve problems between Syria and Lebanon.

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

First Casino Brings Moral Dilemma to Syrian Capital

Gambling just got cheaper for Syrians. They no longer have to travel hundreds of miles to Lebanon or another neighboring country to try their odds — they can bet on blackjack, play poker, spin roulette wheels and face off with slot machines in a brand new, one of its kind casino.

The Syrian capital of Damascus is the longest-inhabited city on the planet, and is largely Muslim. So it was over the objection of many residents, Muslims who considering gambling shameful, that the casino opened its doors last week.

In the freezing winter cold, hundreds of gamblers, most of them Syrians, packed the fancy new marble building housing the Ocean Casino, which rises like a fortress on the highway between the Damascus airport and the capital.

The lure of slot machines is powerful, especially now that the casinos in Lebanon or Cyprus, once popular destinations for Syrian gamblers, have become so costly.

The casino quickly filled to capacity and dozens were forced to line up outside in the cold, waiting to cast their bets.

Many of them complained about the strict rules at the Ocean; mandatory suit and a tie, and passports must be shown upon entry. Not only are the rules strict, their enforcement seemed slightly haphazard.

“This is not fair. Over the past three days since the casino was opened, I lost some $5,000, and now they are telling me I am not allowed in,” said Mohammed, a doctor in his 40s.

A Jordanian man was shouting aloud, wondering why he was not permitted in, when an Iraqi fellow managed to sneak in in front of him.

It is the first large, for-profit investment of its kind that was given the green light to open since the 70s, a many-million dollars project that with no windows and a dash of Vegas inside could be anywhere in the world.

The Ocean, which charges a $10 entrance fee, opens daily between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m., seven days a week…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Christian Woman Killed in Her Baghdad Home

(AGI) Baghdad — A new episode of violence against Christians was recorded in Iraq. Several armed men broke into a woman’s home in Baghdad, opening fire and killing her on the spot and then vanishing with her belongings. The news was reported by an official of the Ministry of the Interior. The woman, whose name was Rafah Toma and lived alone in the Al-Wahda suburb, is the latest victim of a wave of attacks against Christians in Iraq.

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


Is Putin Losing His Grip?

While the Russian economy showed signs of improvement in the first few years of the twenty-first century, Putin had time to groom his favored image, that of a benevolent dictator. He modeled himself after the Czars at home and after Soviet leaders to the world, criticizing the United States, variously sounding bellicose, and often bullying former Soviet states into pursuing policies favorable to Russia. He aimed to rebuild a Russian empire and to maintain his supreme control over it. Democracy became a shibboleth to placate parts of his domestic audience. Political control remained in Putin’s hands with opponents and their families perpetually at risk of serious consequences.

In December 2009, thousands gathered in Vladivostok to protest new controls Putin slapped on Japanese used car imports, severely limiting their salability, to encourage the purchase of Russian built vehicles notorious in for their gross inferiority. To end the protest, Putin dispatched riot police from Moscow who arrested dozens of protestors, beat up many more, and repeatedly struck a Japanese photographer who was attempting to make a visual record of the horrors surrounding him.

With the Russian economy in deep trouble, many Russians are no longer willing to ignore the brutality of Putin’s regime. Instead, they are increasingly risking violent crack-downs to protest Putin’s policies. In March of 2010, “Day of Wrath” rallies occurred in twenty Russian cities. From Kaliningrad to Vladivostok thousands took to the streets condemning Putin, state repression and corruption, and poor economic policies. On October 31, over 2,000 Russians opposed to Putin assembled in Moscow’s Triumphal Square, protesting Putin’s policies. They chose October 31 because the thirty-first article of the Russian Constitution supposedly protects the right of assembly (a provision routinely violated by Putin’s police). Protestors called for Putin’s ouster, chanting “Russia without Putin” and “Death to that dog Putin.” Nine times previously smaller numbers of protestors gathered at the square and were variously arrested, beaten, and driven away by Putin’s police. This time the numbers were too vast and assembled too quickly to be dispersed readily. Putin permitted the protest to go on for about an hour. He then sent in dozens of police vans and hundreds of armed riot forces. The police manhandled large numbers of protestors into the vans and carted them off to prison. They beat and pushed the remaining protestors out of the square. Warning protestors to avoid public gatherings, Putin declared, “They will get it on the head with a truncheon.”

On December 24 across Russia from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg, Russians stood shoulder to shoulder in public protests against Putin. They were angry over high unemployment rates, government corruption, promised but unpaid wages, government censorship, the rigging of elections, and the suppression of political opposition. Although the Kremlin has succeeded repeatedly in censoring information about prior protests, it could not contain reporting from the present protests because they were occurring all across the country simultaneously (across some nine time zones). These were the largest protests against Putin since the start of his regime.


Like the George Bush of 2001, President Obama has again made the mistake of trusting Putin. Having agreed to further, albeit modest, reductions in our nuclear arsenal on the promise that Russia will do the same (START II), President Obama took another step based on an undeserved trust in the Russian dictator. He unilaterally announced that the United States will not modernize our nuclear force. To Putin the incentive is now great for him to modernize in secret Russia’s nuclear force to raise the specter of Russian nuclear superiority.

President Obama appears to have ignored SALT I precedent. In SALT I, the United States did not require limits to Soviet multiple warheads (MIRVs) largely because the Ford administration presumed Russia incapable of mastering the technology in the short run. Russia then invested heavily in the technology and produced MIRVs within five years of the treaty signing, surprising the United States. Many then declared the Soviet Union’s MIRVed warheads superior to the American arsenal.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Church Set on Fire in Russia’s Muslim Caucasus

Unidentified attackers set a church ablaze with a grenade in Russia’s mainly Muslim North Caucasus late on Sunday, media reported, in the latest act of violence in a region where Moscow is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency.

No one was hurt in the attack on the Russian Orthodox Church, state-run RIA news agency reported, which took place at 9.30 p.m. in the town of Ordzhonikidze, in the impoverished Ingushetia region which borders Chechnya.

“A rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the church. The shell hit the church’s roof,” a police source told RIA.

A decade after Moscow drove separatists from power in the second of two wars in Chechnya, the North Caucasus is plagued by violence, where youths angry about poverty and fired up by the ideology of jihad (holy war) stage near-daily attacks.

Though rare, vandalism of churches belonging to the small Christian communities in the North Caucasus has increased over the past year.

Tension between Christians and Muslims — who make up a fifth of Russia’s population — flared in Moscow last month in a string of ethnic clashes.

Moscow police detained hundreds including young nationalists after some 7,000 soccer fans and nationalists chanting racist slogans demonstrated near Red Square and attacked passers-by who appeared to be non-Slavic…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan: Asia Bibi Still in Prison. Government U-Turn on Law Against Blasphemy

The Minister for Religious Affairs attempt to appease the Islamic parties and announces that the government does not want to amend the controversial law. Clashes between Muslim protesters and police near the house of the Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari. Lahore High Court still to fix the date of the appeal for the Christian woman sentenced to death.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — Asia Bibi is still waiting in jail for the High Court in Lahore to decide the date for her appeal against the death sentence for blasphemy passed in November 2010. In the midst of an imminent governmental crisis Islamic religious parties are stepping up pressure against the government to prevent any change to the controversial blasphemy law. In an attempt to ease the pressure, the government announced in no uncertain terms that it does not plan to eliminate or amend the blasphemy law. In a statement before the National Assembly on 1 January, the Minister for Religious Affairs Khursheed Shah said the government is not responsible for the proposal put to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Pakistan People Party (PPP) to change the law. The Parliamentarian Rheman Sherry submitted the proposed amendment to Parliament. “The government has no plans to remove the blasphemy laws … to ensure respect of the Holy Prophet is part of our faith,” said Kursheed Shah.

The minister assured the minorities that the government will take the necessary steps to ensure that the law is not misused against them. Protests by Islamic parties began when President Asif Ali Zardari announced his intention to pardon Asia Bibi, a Christian sentenced to death on false charges. The government had previously indicated their willingness to amend the law, and had formed a committee for this purpose, headed by Minister for Minorities Shabahz Bhatti.

A national strike to protest against the proposed amendment to the Act took place December 31, 2010 organized by radical Islamic parties. The protesters tried to reach the residence of President Zardari in Karachi, throwing stones and had to be charged by riot police with tear gas. They shouted slogans against Asia Bibi and MP Rheman Sherry, and in defense of Muhammad: “We sacrifice our lives, we will save the sanctity of the prophet.” Dr. Nazir Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress, harshly criticized the slogans chanted by the radicals, and even the silence of Christians MPs during the declaration of the Minister for Religious Affairs. “It ‘s a shame that they did not have the courage to walk away, but listened in silence to the minister’s repudiation,” he said.

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

Australia — Pacific

Muslim Teenage Girl Takes Out AVO Over Clash of Cultures

A MUSLIM girl caught between her religion, her parents and wanting to be a typical Aussie teenager is at the centre of an apprehended violence order against her father after he found she had a boyfriend.

Police were called to the family home after the man threatened to kill himself and the 14-year-old girl when he discovered the boy in a room of their home, Parramatta Bail Court heard yesterday.

The man, who cannot be named, allegedly told police the relationship was disrespectful to Muslim culture and brought shame on his family in the Afghan community.

The court heard he tried to detain the boy in the early hours of New Year’s Day at the house in Blacktown.

The family called police because they were scared the father would kill the boy.

After police arrived, the man became enraged because they would not arrest the boy, who had been invited into the house by his daughter.

He said the boyfriend would be killed if the incident happened in Afghanistan, the country he and his wife had emigrated from in 1998.

“The accused then stated, as the boyfriend would not be going to jail, the only thing left to do was kill his daughter and himself,” police said.

“The complainant is stuck between her religion, strict parents and wanting to be a typical Australian teenager.”

Officers claimed that on October 27 the daughter ran away from home. Her father said he would kill himself if she did not return by sundown.

When she did not return, the father attempted to hang himself but was stopped by his wife and son.

“The daughter said she fears that her father will kill her because of her actions and that if he doesn’t, she will be locked in the house unable to leave, unless he kills himself,” police said.

Police took out an apprehended domestic violence order against the father on behalf of the girl. He was charged with stalking, intimidation with intent to cause fear of physical or mental harm.

The father, who is a qualified surgeon in Afghanistan but employed as a taxi driver in Sydney, was refused bail because of his threats against the girl and self-harm history.

The matter will be mentioned in Blacktown Local Court on January 12.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Clooney Falling Into Bin Laden’s Sudan Trap

With the U.S. government and such scintillating strategic thinkers as George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Angelina Jolie, and Mia Farrow in the lead, the West is about to help rip Darfur and the rest of Muslim Sudan’s oil-rich southern territories out of the country and create an independent, largely Christian state.

Under the guise of a “referendum” (set for 9 January 2011) that will be observed by a 110-person European Union team of imperial busybodies, Sudan’s primarily Christian south will be severed from the Sudanese nation-state, setting the stage for a continuation of the decades old Muslim-Christian Sudanese civil war. The difference will be that henceforth — as is occurring in Somalia — the U.S. and the West will be obliged to protect the new nation they created by theft and oil lust with diplomacy, funding, arms, military training, and eventually troops.

And what is America’s interest in becoming involved to the hilt and inextricably in Sudan? What is so vital to the United States in Sudan that President Obama is pressing the leaders of Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and the other states of the African Union to support “our intense interest in having a successful referendum” — read that as “our intense interest in carving up Sudan to suit our imperial purposes and corner access to Sudanese oil.” (As an aside, one must admit Rudyard Obama is nothing if not an aggressive proponent of improving — that is, “Westernizing” — the lives of “our little brown brothers,” although the blatant theft of Islamic land is a rather odd component for the kinder and more gentle “Muslim outreach program” Obama announced in Cairo and Jakarta.)

The answer is that Obama, our bipartisan political elite, the mainstream media, and the rich, immature, libertine, and anti-U.S. Hollywood set lead by Clooney, et al, want to feel good about themselves by doing “good” for foreigners. For these elite U.S. citizens-of-the-world, ordinary Americans and their kids can starve, freeze, live on the streets, fail to find work, and remain illiterate forever. In essence, they can rot while Washington spends their taxes on Darfur — a place where absolutely no genuine U.S. interest is at stake.

Now, that’s a bit harsh and in one aspect even wrong. The Democrats and Republicans must ensure that ordinary Americans are kept well-off enough to keep having children who will join the U.S. military that will be used to fight the wars their interventionism start. And there can be no doubt that Washington’s leading role in championing Darfur’s secession from Sudan will intensify America’s war with Islam and the evolving Islam-vs-Christianity war in Africa. And, not surprisingly, the ever-adept Osama bin Laden began setting this trap for the United States over the course of the last decade…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sudan Secession Vote: As Referendum Approaches, Sudan’s South Savors Prospect of Independence

A pistol sits next to a battered radio while Peter Bashir Bandi, a rebel turned political leader, lounges in a gold brocade chair listening to reports about what may soon be the world’s newest, and most precarious, nation.

He speaks eloquently of democracy and stitching together a country from deserts and jungles. But his gun is seldom far from his grasp, a sign that southern Sudan has known little peace in Bandi’s lifetime, tumbling through two civil wars that spread mass graves, famine and generations of orphans across the land.

These images sustain Bandi’s aspirations as he awaits Jan. 9, when his mostly Christian and animist south will vote in a referendum on whether to secede from the predominantly Muslim north. The outcome is likely to split Africa’s largest nation in two, reviving prospects for bloodshed over oil, religion and the clashing ambitions of ethnic and political leaders.

About 3.2 million southern Sudanese are expected to cast ballots in villages, towns and outposts with no names. If they choose independence — and few suggest otherwise — the south would take with it about 80% of Sudan’s oil output, a figure many believe makes it too costly for the northern-led government of President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir to let the territory slip away.

More than 2 million people died in the last civil war, from 1983 to 2005. The ideal of a unified country has long vanished. Sectarian animosities have hardened between the lighter-skinned Arabs in the north who want Islamic law and the darker-skinned Africans of the semiautonomous south governed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

The possibility of renewed war would further destabilize a volatile region where the United States is trying to bolster poor nations against the Islamic extremism emanating for nearby Somalia. There is concern that radicals would exploit the chaos and tribal bloodshed in the event of a new conflict, especially along Sudan’s borders with Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, where twin bombings in July by an Al Qaeda-linked group killed 76 people.

Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party has tried to delay the January vote and has been accused of arming loyalist militias, much like it did in the catastrophic conflict in the western region of Darfur, and of bombing border areas patrolled by southern forces…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Brazil Unconcerned Italy Will Appeal Battisti Case

(AGI) Brasilia — The Brazilian government is not worried that Italy will eventually go to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. The move is envisaged by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in response to the decision by former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva not to extradite Cesare Battisti. Marco Aurelio, presidential councilor for the Foreign Ministry, clarified Lula’s thinking, now confirmed by President Dilma Rousseff, “the Brazilian government has taken a sovereign decision based on solid legal elements.”

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


Canadian Immigration Experts to Visit Czech Republic in Late January

Prague, Dec 30 (CTK) — Canadian migration experts will arrive in the Czech Republic in late January to check how Czech authorities protect minorities and help them integrate into society, Petra Sedinova, spokeswoman for Canada’s embassy in Prague, has told CTK.

The Czech Republic has called on Canada to lift the visas that were reintroduced for Czechs in July 2009 in reaction to high numbers of Czechs applying for asylum in Canada. Most of the asylum applicants were Romanies.

Czech diplomats have been unsuccessful in their effort to bring Canada to abolish the visas so far.

Prague sharply criticised the reintroduction of visas and it imposed visas on Canadian diplomats as a retaliatory step. Czechs asked the European Union to exert pressure on Canada in this respect. Ottawa has not met calls from the European Commission to lift the visas either, however.

Canadian representatives have set no deadline for the visa lifting.

Canada is to introduce a new asylum system in a year to prevent foreigners from misusing Canadian welfare benefits, speeding up the proceedings with unwarranted or fraudulent applications for asylum.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said last month it was hardly acceptable for Czechs to only wait for Canada to fully introduce its new asylum system.

Further negotiations are to be held next year.

Canadian ambassador to the Czech Republic, Valerie Raymond, told daily Lidove noviny earlier that Canada’s migration experts will deal with the possible reasons that contributed to the exceptionally high influx of immigrants from the Czech Republic. The experts will also be interested in the Czech government’s plans and strategies that are to help stop the immigration, Raymond said.

Canada reintroduced visas for Czech citizens already once before for the same reason as in 2009: in 1997 after lifting them for a short period in 1996. The visa duty was finally abolished in November 2007, three years after the Czech Republic’s EU entry.

However, since Canada became a target country for a number of Czech Romanies who were claiming refugee status there, it decided to reimpose the visas last year.

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

Dems’ ‘Rising Star’ Trained Illegals for Jobs

Ran program that kept aliens out of jail, cleared their criminal records

Kamala Harris, California’s next attorney general, ran a program that trained illegal alien felons for jobs, kept them out of jail and even helped to clear their criminal records.

After those aspects of the program received local news media attention, Harris corrected the system but still allowed for illegal aliens already using the program to finish her program.


Harris spokeswoman, Erica Derryck, however, said Harris’s office had in fact “assessed who would not have been able to meet” the new requirement for legal papers to obtain a job.

“We deliberated on how best to handle this group, given that they entered the program under different criteria,” Derryck said, referring to illegal immigrants.

Derryck’s comments indicate Harris’ office was aware it was providing jobs to illegals.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Japan Keeps a High Wall for Foreign Labor

KASHIWA, Japan — Maria Fransiska, a young, hard-working nurse from Indonesia, is just the kind of worker Japan would seem to need to replenish its aging work force.

But Ms. Fransiska, 26, is having to fight to stay. To extend her three-year stint at a hospital outside Tokyo, she must pass a standardized nursing exam administered in Japanese, a test so difficult that only 3 of the 600 nurses brought here from Indonesia and the Philippines since 2007 have passed.

So Ms. Fransiska spends eight hours in Japanese language drills, on top of her day job at the hospital. Her dictionary is dog-eared from countless queries, but she is determined: her starting salary of $2,400 a month was 10 times what she could earn back home. If she fails, she will never be allowed to return to Japan on the same program again.

“I think I have something to contribute here,” Ms. Fransiska said during a recent visit, spooning mouthfuls of rice and vegetables into the mouth of Heiichi Matsumaru, an 80-year-old patient recovering from a stroke. “If I could, I would stay here long-term, but it is not so easy.”

Despite facing an imminent labor shortage as its population ages, Japan has done little to open itself up to immigration. In fact, as Ms. Fransiska and many others have discovered, the government is doing the opposite, actively encouraging both foreign workers and foreign graduates of its universities and professional schools to return home while protecting tiny interest groups — in the case of Ms. Fransiska, a local nursing association afraid that an influx of foreign nurses would lower industry salaries.

In 2009, the number of registered foreigners here fell for the first time since the government started to track annual records almost a half-century ago, shrinking 1.4 percent from a year earlier to 2.19 million people — or just 1.71 percent of Japan’s overall population of 127.5 million…

           — Hat tip: Escape Velocity[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Bah Humbug! Father Christmas Banned at Children’s Centre… To Respect Faith of One Muslim Family

Father Christmas has been banned from visiting a children’s nursery after a Muslim family complained.

For the last four years, Dennis Jackson has donned a beard and red-and-white costume to hand out presents at the St Peter’s Head Start Programme in Minnesota.

But this year he was told he wasn’t welcome after objections from a Somali family.

‘It kind of burnt me up,’ Mr Jackson said, after being banned by officials at the Head Start Programme.

They had told him ‘it was against some people’s wishes’ for him to make the half-hour appearances for two classes, for about three dozen children all aged three and four.

According to the regional coordinator for the Minnesota Valley Action Council, Chris Marben, at least one Muslim family complained of his visit.

When asked about banishing Father Christmas, Mrs Marben said: ‘We have Somali families in the programme. We’re respecting the wishes of families in the program.’

She added: ‘Part of our challenge in Head Start is providing an environment where young children from many different cultures can all feel comfortable.’

Mrs Marden didn’t say how many objections were made, but said that program parents are surveyed annually to gauge their feelings toward holiday observances in classes.

She indicated that more than one objection would be sufficient to waive an observance.

Mr Jackson said he has played Father Christmas with children from other cultures before and they were fully comfortable with him — it’s just, in his opinion, some parents who are being unreasonable.

‘They’re not respecting the majority,’ he said. ‘My feeling is [objecting parents] can take their kids out of class for half an hour and let the other kids enjoy it. They should sacrifice, not rule.’

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Invention of Islamophobia

At the end of the 1970s, Iranian fundamentalists invented the term “Islamophobia” formed in analogy to “xenophobia”. The aim of this word was to declare Islam inviolate. Whoever crosses this border is deemed a racist. This term, which is worthy of totalitarian propaganda, is deliberately unspecific about whether it refers to a religion, a belief system or its faithful adherents around the world.

But confession has no more in common with race than it has with secular ideology. Muslims, like Christians, come from the Arab world, Africa, Asia and Europe, just as Marxists, liberals and anarchists come or came from all over. In a democracy, no one is obliged to like religion, and until proved otherwise, they have the right to regard it as retrograde and deceptive. Whether you find it legitimate or absurd that some people regard Islam with suspicion — as they once did Catholicism — and reject its aggressive proselytism and claim to total truth — this has nothing to do with racism.

Do we talk about ‘liberalophobia’ or ‘socialistophobia’ if someone speaks out against the distribution of wealth or market domination. Or should we reintroduce blasphemy, abolished by the revolution in 1791, as a statutory offence, in line with the annual demands of the “Organisation of the Islamic Conference”. Or indeed the French politician Jean-Marc Roubaud, who wants to see due punishment for anyone who “disparages the religious feelings of a community or a state”. Open societies depend on the peaceful coexistence of the principle belief systems and the right to freedom of opinion. Freedom of religion is guaranteed, as is the freedom to criticise religions. The French, having freed themselves from centuries of ecclesiastical rule, prefer discretion when it comes to religion. To demand separate rights for one community or another, imposing restrictions on the right to question dogma is a return to the Ancien Regime.

The term “Islamophobia” serves a number of functions: it denies the reality of an Islamic offensive in Europe all the better to justify it; it attacks secularism by equating it with fundamentalism. Above all, however, it wants to silence all those Muslims who question the Koran, who demand equality of the sexes, who claim the right to renounce religion, and who want to practice their faith freely and without submitting to the dictates of the bearded and doctrinaire. It follows that young girls are stigmatised for not wearing the veil, as are French, German or English citizens of Maghribi, Turkish, African or Algerian origin who demand the right to religious indifference, the right not to believe in God, the right not to fast during Ramadan. Fingers are pointed at these renegades, they are delivered up to the wrath of their religions communities in order to quash all hope of change among the followers of the Prophet.

On a global scale, we are abetting the construction of a new thought crime, one which is strongly reminiscent of the way the Soviet Union dealt with the “enemies of the people”. And our media and politicians are giving it their blessing. Did not the French president himself, never one to miss a blunder — not compare Islamophobia with Antisemitism? A tragic error. Racism attacks people for what they are: black, Arab, Jewish, white. The critical mind on the other hand undermines revealed truths and subjects the scriptures to exegesis and transformation. To confuse the two is to shift religious questions from an intellectual to a judicial level. Every objection, every joke becomes a crime…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Al-Qaeda Frighteningly Predictable

Months ago its Iraqi arm declared Christians in Egypt were a potential target. If it is responsible for the bombing of the Church of the Saints in Alexandria, the Egyptian authorities cannot say they were not warned. The Coptic church in Alexandria’s reaction to the conversion of two Christian women to Islam was used as a pretext to attack a cathedral in Baghdad — killing 58. But it is the very position of Christians in predominantly Muslim countries that makes the community a convenient target in a bigger battle.

Christians in Egypt and Iraq are an easy target. Already marginalised, they have no militias to defend themselves.

Yet nor do their sympathisers in the Christian world have the wherewithal to defend them either.

Any direct intervention would risk even more conflict between the West and Muslims. Yet Egypt’s ageing president, Hosni Mubarak, has lost so much credibility with his people after 30 years in office that he too is in a weak position.

The main opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, foreswears violence. But the discontent with the regime, and already simmering feuds between muslims in some areas and the Coptic minority, are an easy tinderbox to strike.

And as al-Qaeda has repeatedly shown in the last two years, it takes little effort to inspire and instruct lone radicals elsewhere to apply the match.

While al-Qaeda’s most prominent campaign is in the Pakistan-Afghanistan borders, Middle East operations are increasingly devoted to provoking a wider “clash of civilisations”.

The aim, as described in online magazines, is to cause as much psychological damage to the West for as little cost as possible in manpower or finance.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Don’t Blame the West

During the last decade of Islamist terrorism, numerous commentators, particularly those on the left, have adopted a materialist approach to explain why some Muslims want to slaughter guests at hotels in Mumbai or detonate bombs at Christmas festivals in Sweden.

Terrorism, they argue, is rooted in poverty, frustration over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and memories of western imperialism. In other words, so the argument goes, the West itself is to blame for terrorism. If only the West would apologize, make reparations, abandon Israel, leave the Middle East and Afghanistan, all would be well. Or at least that’s where the root-cause crowd’s assumptions logically lead.

The problem with this materialist view of terrorism is that it largely misses the spiritual motivations that inform Islamist geo-politics. As political theorist Barry Cooper argues in his book, New Political Religions, or, An Analysis of Modern Terrorism, the Islamists, like the Nazis and Communists, are motivated more by a “disease of the spirit” than materialist aspirations. “When ordinary human beings see themselves as specially chosen by God, or even as gods themselves, they are not necessarily psychopaths, but they most definitely are spiritually disordered.”

Cooper draws on Eric Voegelin, a 20th-century political philosopher who coined the term “pneumopathology” to account for the spiritual diseases of the modern world. Voegelin argued that some people — politicians, intellectuals, journalists, for example — prefer to see the world as a projection of their desires rather than comprehend its reality. Such fabulists effectively live in what Voegelin called a “second-order reality.” If they acquire power they all-too-often pursue extreme measures — genocide, gulags, crashing airplanes into buildings — to transform the world to suit their fantasies of perfection.

In the case of the Islamists, they imagine Islam spreading across the globe and the establishment of a worldwide caliphate based on shariah law. They see themselves empowered by Allah to bring about this new world order by destroying a civilization they regard as spiritually empty. Thus, Islamism constitutes a political religion of apocalyptic proportions.

You don’t have to look far to find hints of such second-order thinking. The New York Hall of Science is currently staging an exhibit titled “1001 Inventions” that purports to show that Islam enjoyed a Golden Age of scientific and intellectual accomplishment when Europe was wallowing in the Dark Ages. According to a New York Times reviewer, the exhibition’s promoters claim Islam’s cultural glories were later “misappropriated” by the West…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]