Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110128

Financial Crisis
»China Promises Merkel Help With Debt Crisis
»David Cameron: Immigration Was Partly Responsible for the Economic Crisis Gripping the Country
»‘Enormous Forces Are Affecting the World’
»Sarkozy in Davos: ‘Mrs. Merkel and I Will Never, Never Allow the Euro to Fail’
»Spain: Initial Pension Agreement Between Government and Union
»Spain: Unemployment in 2010 at 20.33%
»The Real National Debt is $202 Trillion
»Yemen: Foreign Debt Exceeds 6 Billion Dollars
»Are You Eating Food Sacrificed to Idols?
»Tunisia: Canada is Asked to Arrest Ben Ali’s Brother-in-Law
Europe and the EU
»Dutch Cardinal Says Sexual Abuse Not an Issue Until 1990s
»Egyptians in Sweden: Tunisia Was the Trigger
»Germany: Sex Abuse Victims Reject Church Payout Offer
»Italy: Panel Votes to Send Ruby Papers Back to Prosecutors
»Italy: Prosecutors Send Fresh Evidence for Ruby Case Searches
»Italy: Another Minor Cited in Ruby Case
»Italy: Minetti’s Anger at Berlusconi Revealed as Magistrates Send New Documents to Chamber of Deputies
»Italy: Panel Ducks Request to Search Berlusconi Offices in Prostitution Probe
»Spain: Pakistani With Links to Al Qaeda Arrested
»UK: All Faiths Are Not the Same
»UK: Banned Scholar Zakir Naik to Address Oxford Union by Satellite
»UK: Councillor ‘Should be Sacked’ After Muslim Walk-Out
»UK: English Defence League’s Kevin Carroll’s Home ‘Targeted by Shotgun-Wielding Attacker’
»UK: Islamists Establish a Bridgehead in Parliament: MP and Peer Resign
»UK: Number of British Muslims Will Double to 5.5m in 20 Years
»UK: Police Probe ‘Fatwa’ By Muslim Extremists Against Home Secretary Theresa May
»UK: Scrapping Nimrod Spy Planes Will Leave ‘Massive Gap’ In Britain’s Security, Warn Military Chiefs
»Bosnia: Mantica, Italy Concerned, Courage Needed for Reforms
»EU Urges Albania to Defuse Political Crisis
»Kosovo: Crimes Investigator Fears His Report May Remain ‘Dead Letter on Paper’
»Serbia: Benetton Interested in Partnership With Nitex, Mayor
Mediterranean Union
»Ben Jelloun: Europe to Talk Values With Southern Med
»Union for the Mediterranean Faces Its First Crisis
North Africa
»Algeria: New Protest, Opposition Divided
»Algeria: Petition Against State of Emergency Online
»Caroline Glick: The Pragmatic Fantasy
»Concerns About the Muslim Brotherhood
»Demise of Old Regime Brings Islamists Back Into Tunisian Politics
»Egypt: Twitter: Our Service Blocked in the Country
»Egypt: Writer Al Aswany, Historical Period, A New Era
»Egyptian Revolt Not Only Political But Also Spiritual and Islamic
»Egypt: Protesters Chase Police From Main Cairo Square
»Egyptian Army Moves Into Cairo as Protests Persist
»Egyptian Military Deploys in Cairo After Day of Rioting, Government Imposes Nationwide Curfew
»Egypt: Alexandria, Police Get Rid of Helmets and Batons
»Egypt: Maariv Daily Publishes ‘The Guide of Rebellion’
»Egypt: Four French Journalists Arrested
»Egypt: Vodafone Suspends Coverage on Government Request
»Egypt: Al Jazeera, El Baradei Held, Not Arrested
»Egypt: Revolt Spreads, El Baradei Returns, Govt Threatens
»Egypt: At Least 20 Members of the Muslim Brotherhood Arrested
»Egypt: Friday Protest, Internet and Mobile Phones Do Not Work
»Egypt: No Violence Against Demonstrators, H. Clinton
»Egypt: Army on the Streets, Explosive Tension
»Egypt: TV Reporting Attempted Looting at Cairo Museum
»Egypt: Mubarak Skeptical of U.S. Reform Push: Leaked Cables
»Egypt’s Day of Fury: Cairo in Flames as Cities Become Battlegrounds
»Egypt: U.S.-Funded Group Linked to Church Bombing Suspects
»Egypt: What is the Muslim Brotherhood?
»Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Leader: Every Tyrant Will Fall Due to the People’s Desire for Change
»Egypt Protests: America’s Secret Backing for Rebel Leaders Behind Uprising
»Egypt: Deaths and Injuries Mount in Cairo and Suez
»Egyptian President Asks Government to Resign
»Frattini: Yes EU Commitment But No Conditions
»How Are the Protests in Egypt, Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution Being Viewed in Iran?
»Islamists Behind ‘Protests’ Toppling Arab Regimes
»Italy: Foreign Minister Calls for ‘Crisis Mission’ To Arab States
»Tunisia: Geant Hypermarket Destroyed, Jobs Saved
»Tunisia: 11,000 Prisoners Escaped Since Ban Ali’s Departure
»Tunisia: Damage Also to Structures for Babies and Children
»Tunisia: Sidi Bouzid, Army Defending Hospital
»Tunisia: Monoprix Supermarket Chain, 10 Mln Euros of Damage
»Tunisia: Support in Tunis for Egyptian Protesters
»Tunisia: Don’t be Fooled, Returning Islamist Rachid Ghannouchi is Not a Moderate
Israel and the Palestinians
»One Quarter of Israel’s Population to be Muslim by 2030
Middle East
»Jordan’s King Fears Riots and Announces Reforms. More Than a Thousand Arrests in Cairo
»Jordan: Islamic Marches Today; King, Accelerate Reforms
»Jordanian Protesters Demand Political Reforms
»My Theory on Middle East Peace
»Saudi Arabia: Unemployment to 10% in 2010
»Saudi Arabia: Man Beats Wife After She Delivers Baby Girl
»Saudi Arabia: Text Messages to Organise Protest in Jeddah
»The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East
»Thousands in Jordan Protest, Demand PM Step Down
»Turkey: No to Christian Protection Bill, But EU Remains
»Islamists Advancing on Russian Territory
»Azerbaijan Warns Religious Extremists Against Protesting Ban on Headscarves
»Islamists Advancing on Russian Territory
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Kabul Finest Supermarket Hit by Deadly Bomb Attack
»Al Qaeda Loses a Key Media Presence
»Pakistan: U.S. Official Kills 2 Gunmen in Pakistan, Police Say
»Pakistan is Paying the Price for Arabization
»U.S. Consular Employee Arrested After ‘Shooting Dead Two Motorcyclists in High-Speed Chase’
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Snooker Dispute Sparks Deadly Clashes in Nigeria
»Netherlands: Immigration Minister to Appeal Against Afghan Girl’s Right to Stay
Culture Wars
»Germany: Court Ruling Could Mean Equal Adoption Rights for Gay Couples
»Obama Plans Tough Crackdown on America’s ‘Loose’ Gun Laws After Skirting the Issue During State of the Union Address
»UK: Ban the Bigots From Schools
»UK: Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to Cash in on Blue Movies on Expenses Row by Presenting Documentary on Porn
»UK: Internet Lies Are Destroying Us, Say Christian Hoteliers
»UK: Three More Charged With Stirring Up Homophobic Hatred
»Muslim Population Growth to Boom: Study
»Pew Study: 1-in-4 People in the World Will be Muslim by 2030
»The Mujahideen Hackers Who ‘Clean Facebook’

Financial Crisis

China Promises Merkel Help With Debt Crisis

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday that Beijing would continue to take “practical action” to support Europe in its battle to resolve its debt crisis.

“This reflects the spirit of China and Europe’s comprehensive strategic relationship and benefits the stable recovery and growth of the world,” Wen told Merkel in a telephone call, the official state news agency Xinhua reported.

Merkel thanked Wen for China’s support during the crisis, saying it had boosted confidence in Europe, Xinhua said.

No details were provided on the type of “practical action” China would offer but the country has previously pledged to buy more European bonds.

During a European tour earlier this month, Vice Premier Li Keqiang expressed support for the continent in its bid to recover from the financial crisis and promised to buy Spanish government debt.

Analysts have said China’s investment in European bonds makes sense for the export-driven economy as it seeks to diversify its world-beating foreign exchange holdings away from the dollar and support key markets for its overseas shipments.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

David Cameron: Immigration Was Partly Responsible for the Economic Crisis Gripping the Country

David Cameron today identified immigration as being partly responsible for the economic crisis gripping the country.

The Prime Minister said ‘unsustainable levels of public spending and immigration’ were among the problems inherited by the Coalition when they won the keys to Downing Street.

In a speech today to some of the world’s most powerful business leaders and politicians at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he lambasted the previous Labour government, saying: ‘Remember what we started with in the UK: an economy built on the worst deficit, the most leveraged banks, the most indebted households, the biggest housing boom and unsustainable levels of public spending and immigration.’

The issue of immigration has long been fraught for all sides of the political divide.

During the election, Gordon Brown made what was seen by many as his biggest campaign error when he dismissed the concerns of Labour voter Gillian Duffy — who had confronted him in Rochdale on the issue of immigration — as a ‘bigoted woman’.

The Government has introduced an immigration cap, which limits the number of workers who can come to the UK from outside the EU each year.

It was a key Conservative manifesto commitment designed to address public concern over Labour’s controversial open borders policy. But business leaders, and some Liberal Democrat ministers, fear it could harm the economy.

This time last year, Nick Clegg said the Conservative’s plans to introduce a cap completely ignored parts of Britain where ‘some industries were crying out for people’.

He called instead for an Australia-style area-based immigration policy, which would tie an immigrant worker to a particular part of Britain, and would not allow them to work in a more congested part of the nation.

Even Boris Johnson, the Conservative London Mayor, criticised the cap with a warning that key firms were becoming increasingly ‘hacked off’ with the restrictions on overseas workers.

The planned measure will limit the annual number of economic migrants from outside the EU to 21,700 from April.

Ministers insist they are committed to cutting net migration from its current level of 215,000 to less than 100,000 by 2015.

Earlier this month it emerged that Britain accepts more non-European immigrants than any other EU country except Spain…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

‘Enormous Forces Are Affecting the World’

The global elite are meeting in Davos this week to discuss the key challenges in the post-crisis world. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke with Paul Achleitner, the long-time CFO of insurance giant Allianz, about major global trends, including digitalization, our hurried “Blackberry society,” the rise of Asia and how the West needs to respond.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Achleitner, you’ve attended the World Economic Forum in Davos for more than 15 years. The theme of this year’s forum is “Shared Norms for the New Reality,” which sounds a bit like a new management book by the Dalai Lama. What exactly is up for discussion?

Paul Achleitner: The problem with our Blackberry society is that hardly anyone has time anymore to have an unhurried discussion about the long-term developments that will change our lives. The World Economic Forum offers an opportunity to discuss more than just what’s happening right now.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You’ve predicted that we’ll soon divide the world into two periods: “before the financial crisis” and “after the financial crisis.” Is the phase we’re currently in really as historically significant as the birth of Jesus Christ?

Achleitner: Although it won’t necessarily mean a new calendar system, we’ll have a new way of calculating time. Enormous forces are affecting the world, and we can’t possibly overestimate their importance. These include demographic developments, climate change, digitalization and the rise of Asia. And then there’s the most important one: the end of a life lived on credit. We must finally free ourselves from debt.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Politicians have been saying the same thing for decades — but without results.

Achleitner: This issue affects not only politics, but also companies and private individuals. We’ve financed the last 30 years’ worth of growth on credit. In 1980, there was as much debt in the world as there was equity capital; today, there is three and a half times as much debt as savings. We need to reverse this trend.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What do your children say when you tell them debt is bad? Is it better for them to save now and pay for the things they want later with their own money?

Achleitner: Debt is not intrinsically bad. But I make clear to my children that they should only borrow as much as they will be able to pay back.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What will be the consequences if your prediction is right and the debt era ends?…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy in Davos: ‘Mrs. Merkel and I Will Never, Never Allow the Euro to Fail’

The French President Nicolas Sarkozy passionately defends the euro in his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos and calls for a radical reform of the global economy. It is an appearance that will likely be remembered for some time to come.

The organizers of the World Economic Forum had obviously not expected this much interest. They had closed off the back third of the conference hall at Davos with five-meter high partitions. At 10:55 a.m. on Thursday, the staff then quickly created a bit more room. They were just in time, as French President Nicolas Sarkozy was about to take to the stage.

Yet the space was still distinctly less thronged than the previous evening for the speech by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. He chose to present himself as a friendly democrat and convinced advocate of a better world.

“Improving the state of the world,” that was the motto of the forum which Sarkozy was to address. In 2011 he will serve as president three times over: Of France, of the G-8 and of the G-20, leader therefore of the world’s eight most industrialized nations and the 20 most-important economies on Earth.

During a press conference earlier this week at the Élysée Palace he had already declared himself a resolute fighter against global speculation. The ambient was solemn, the words measured. However, with all due respect to la grande nation, that was only on the national stage.

Davos was something different. On the day before his 55th birthday Sarkozy traveled 1,560 meters (5,118 feet) up into the Swiss mountains, to present his vision of the world to a global public. The audience at Davos is a select one: 2,500 members of the global elite, drawn from business, politics and academia. The only requirement for taking part is membership of this elite.

And Sarkozy presented himself as a global guide and clear thinker. The leader from Paris didn’t resort to grimaces and hectic gestures, opting instead for clarity of speech. His tone was thoughtful, his content was purposeful — as he presented his to-do list for the world…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Initial Pension Agreement Between Government and Union

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 27 — After weeks of intense negotiations the government and the unions reached an initial agreement on the pension reform, prior to the final one, that should be announced in a statement broadcast by the government in the next hours. According to the agreement reported today by the media, workers with 38.5 years of contributions will be able to retire at the age of 65, while the pension age for others will be raised from the current 65 to 67. The minimum age for early retirement will be raised from 61 to 63. The draft agreement was achieved late last night in the Moncloa during a meeting that saw the intervention of the president of the government, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero; the minister of labour, Valeriano Gomez; the general secretaries of the CcOo and Ugt unions, Ignacio Fernandez Toxo and Candido Mendez, and the president of the Confederation of Industrialists, Joan Rosell. Should it be signed, the agreement will offer a breath of oxygen to the government led by premier Zapatero, which would achieve the first social agreement for the legislature during a difficult period in which, because of the crisis, it is plummeting in surveys. However, the minister of Infrastructures, José Blanco, stated that there “are still hurdles to overcome” before making the agreement official.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Unemployment in 2010 at 20.33%

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 28 — Unemployment in Spain reached 20.33% in 2010, the highest since 1997. This is what has been announced by the Spanish statistics institute, which says that compared to the previous year the number of unemployed people went up to 4.69 million. 2010 was therefore the fourth consecutive year showing an increase in unemployment in Spain even though the increase last year (370,100 more unemployed people) is less than the increase in 2009, when over 1 million people lost their jobs. According to the data, the number of families with all members unemployed in the final quarter of 2010 went up to 1.3 million, whilst families with “full employment” fell by 39,400 units to 9.2 million.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Real National Debt is $202 Trillion

Graphing the national debt and unfunded liabilities thru 2009. Dr. Kotlikoff, economics professor at Boston University, has the 2010 numbers below.

Using CBO data, Kotlikoff says the real national debt is $202 trillion.

Compare the official deficit numbers for July — $165 billion — with the numbers for all of 2002 — where $165 billion covered the deficit for the entire fiscal year.

The Congressional Budget Office whose Long-Term Budget Outlook, released in June, shows an even larger problem — Unofficial Liabilities.

Based on the CBO’s data, I calculate a fiscal gap of $202 trillion, which is more than 15 times the official debt. This gargantuan discrepancy between our “official” debt and our actual net indebtedness isn’t surprising. It reflects what economists call the labeling problem. Congress has been very careful over the years to label most of its liabilities “unofficial” to keep them off the books and far in the future.

[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Foreign Debt Exceeds 6 Billion Dollars

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 28 — Yemen’s foreign debt increased by about 57 million dollars at the end of October compared to the same period of 2009. The total figure now stands at 6.08 billion dollars.

The news comes from a report by Yemen’s central bank, which was quoted by a Saudi press agency.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Are You Eating Food Sacrificed to Idols?

American pastor sounds alarm on supermarkets, restaurants

When you bite into a delicious pizza, succulent sandwich or luscious lamb chops, are you possibly eating food that has been sacrificed to idols?

An outspoken American pastor says yes, and he’s sounding the alarm for Christians to be aware of the Islamic influence he calls “backdoor Shariah” now nibbling its way across the fruited plain.

At issue, says Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries in Bonney Lake, Wash., is eating food that’s “halal,” in other words “lawful” or “permitted” for the Muslim diet.

Muslims join many Jews and some Christians in avoiding the consumption of certain animals such as pigs and birds of prey, but those of the Islamic faith also have their meat blessed in the name of their god, Allah.

“From the Christian standpoint, Allah would be an idol,” Biltz told WND.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Canada is Asked to Arrest Ben Ali’s Brother-in-Law

(ANSAmed) — WASHINGTON, JANUARY 28 — Tunisia has officially asked Canada to arrest Ben Ali’s billionaire brother-in-law, Belhassen Trabelsi. The news was announced by the Tunisian Ambassador to Ottawa. In the meantime, the Canadian government has revoked his permanent resident status. Belhassen Trabelsi, who landed in Montreal last Friday onboard his private jet, with his wife, children and a governess, is believed to be at a hotel in Vaudreuil, west of Montreal, in Quebec.

Belhassen Trabelsi is one of Ben Ali’s wife’s brothers and he arrived in Canada with a regular permanent residency permit, not requesting political asylum. His presence in Canada has caused a sharp reaction from Canadian Tunisians, given the allegations of corruption for extremely large sums of money in his country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Dutch Cardinal Says Sexual Abuse Not an Issue Until 1990s

The Netherlands’ most senior Catholic told a court hearing on Tuesday sexual abuse ‘did not exist’ as an issue for the Dutch church until the early 1990s, AP reports.

Speaking at a hearing into the case of a man who said he was drugged and raped by his priest two decades ago, cardinal Adrianus Simonis said the Dutch Catholic hierarchy only began dealing with the issue after reports of widespread abuse began emerging from the US in the 1990s.

After a scandal broke last year, nearly 2,000 abuse claims have been made to a special commission set up to investigate.

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

Egyptians in Sweden: Tunisia Was the Trigger

Egyptians in Sweden plan to demonstrate in solidarity with protesters in their home country as Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt slammed Egyptian authorities for shutting down internet access.

Egyptians in Sweden are planning to gather in Sergels Torg in central Stockholm on Friday evening in support of the protesters taking to the streets back home.

“We put the word out via Facebook to Egyptians in Sweden. We’ve been communicating actively since the protests started in Egypt,” Kholoud Saad, and Egyptian living in Gävle in eastern Sweden, told The Local.

Saad has been living and working in Sweden since July of 2010, but has been following events in her home country carefully. She described the current protests as a “revolution”.

“It’s Muslims, Christians, moderates, liberals…Egyptians of all kinds who are fighting for their freedoms,” she said.

“We’re not going to stop until we established democratic reforms and get a government that represents the people and not their own agenda.”

The Friday night gathering in Stockholm was initiated by Hassam Selim, an Egyptian living in the Swedish capital.

“There is a big revolution sweeping across the Arab world,” he told The Local.

“We want to support them. I’m an Egyptian and it’s my country and we’re all looking for our freedom…it will be great to see 80 million Egyptians regain their humanity.”

In a statement issued on Friday, Bildt said Egypt’s decision to shut down the internet as “almost unprecedented”.

“I have not been able to come up with any previous example of this happening other than in Burma in 2007,” he said.

“Obviously, the future of Egypt cannot be shaped by closing the internet — instead it must be shaped by opening up the political system.”

Bildt’s comments come amid continued demonstrations in the Egyptian capital of Cairo and Alexandria. The protests, which began on Monday, are considered to be the largest anti-government protests since 1977.

The pro-democracy demonstrators are pushing for regime change in the North African country, which has been ruled by President Hosni Mubarak since 1981.

While Saad explained that pro-democracy forces in Egypt have been organising for more than a year, the recent political upheaval in Tunisia played a role in bringing Egyptians to the streets.

“Tunisia was the trigger,” she said.

“We saw what they were doing and said why not try to do it like they did in Tunisia.”

Egyptians are set to head to the polls in September for presidential elections which Bildt said were of “vital importance”, but it remains unclear what effect current events may have on the country’s political future.

Saad said she was looking forward to demonstrating with other Egyptians in Sweden, but admitted it was hard to be away from her home country.

“I’m boiling with anger and want to get on the first plane back so I can be there,” she said, adding that the current regime was “putting Egypt back in the dark ages” by shutting down communications.

Bildt also slammed the government’s decision to close down the internet as “downright dangerous”.

“In the long run, free access to information is better for confidence and stability than restrictions and prohibitions,” said Bildt.

“Measures such as this, that aim at short-term stability, may very well lead to more long-term suppression.”

According to the Swedish foreign ministry, around 250,000 Swedes visit Egypt annually, primarily as tourists.

While the ministry has stopped short of issuing a travel warning for Egypt, it is advising Swedes to follow developments closely and avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place.

Selim estimated that Friday’s demonstration in Stockholm would likely draw about 200 people, but that other demonstrations are being planned for next week.

“Things in Egypt are happening so fast, it’s hard to keep up,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Sex Abuse Victims Reject Church Payout Offer

Victims of sexual abuse at Jesuit schools in Germany said Thursday that the Catholic Church’s offer of €5,000 in compensation is too low.

“This sum is not at all sufficient to compensate for the damages suffered or to signal a recognition of guilt,” leader of the Eckiger Tisch victim’s group Thomas Weiner told daily Frankfurter Rundshau.

Weiner also said he found it incomprehensible that victims already known to the Church would have to file an application to receive the payment.

On Monday Klaus Mertes, rector of Canisius College, the elite Jesuit school in Berlin at which the first allegations surfaced, told daily Berliner Zeitungthat the 205 known victims would share about €1 million in damages payments from the Jesuit order, meaning each would receive roughly €5,000.

But Weiner, who attended the Canisius College along with many members of his group, said he remained uncertain of whether the offer was real or simply a declaration of intent.

Eckiger Tisch had demanded damages of some €82,000 per abuse victim.

A spokesman for the order in Munich told news agency AFP that the Jesuits had sent the offer in letters and emails to the around 200 victims who had come forward, in which it was noted that the sum “could never compensate for the suffering incurred.”

The onslaught of sexual and physical abuse revelations within the Catholic Church began in January 2010 when it emerged that priests at Canisius committed dozens of assaults on pupils in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then more than 200 cases of such abuse at Church institutions throughout the country have emerged.

But many of these cases cannot be prosecuted because they have passed the statute of limitations.

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

Italy: Panel Votes to Send Ruby Papers Back to Prosecutors

Berlusconi undaunted, says will carry on

(ANSA) — Rome, January 27 — A House panel on Thursday voted to send back to Milan prosecutors two huge dossiers supporting a claim Premier Silvio Berlusconi paid an underage Moroccan dancer and alleged prostitute called Ruby for sex.

The prosecutors filed the dossiers along with a request to search the offices of Berlusconi’s accountant.

The panel voted 11-8 that the case should have been submitted to a special tribunal for ministers since the second allegation in the case, that the premier abused his power in getting Ruby out of police custody, was connected to Berlusconi’s public office and not his private activities.

A decision on whether to OK the prosecutors’ request to search the offices will now be made by the House itself after a floor debate. Berlusconi denied new accusations from Milan prosecutors that a second minor is involved in the case, aides said on Thursday.

Sources close to the media tycoon-turned politician say Berlusconi is personally wounded by the accusations but convinced he will prove he has done nothing wrong.

Meeting close aides on Thursday, the premier also dismissed calls for his resignation, telling him that he and the government will weather this latest storm.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Prosecutors Send Fresh Evidence for Ruby Case Searches

Lombardy councillor at centre of scandal summoned

(see related story on site) (ANSA) — Rome, January 26 — Milan prosecutors sent over 300 pages of documentation to parliament Wednesday to support a request for searches in a probe into allegations Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi used an underage prostitute called Ruby.

The prosecutors also summoned for questioning Nicole Minetti, Berlusconi’s former dental hygienist who is now a Lombardy regional councilor for his People of Freedom (PdL) party and is under investigation for allegedly procuring prostitutes.

Berlusconi denies paying for sex with young women including Ruby, a teenage Moroccan belly dancer whose real name is Karima El Mahroug and was 17 at the time of her alleged relations with the premier.

The material sent to parliament regards permission to search the offices of the premier’s accountant, Giuseppe Spinelli. “Today at 13.33 the House Speaker received further documentation from the Milan Prosecutors’ Office in addition to the material sent on January 14 in relation to a request for permission to carry out domicile searches regarding the Right Honourable Berlusconi,” read a statement.

The statement was initially thought to concern a request to search Berlusconi’s home, but judicial sources subsequently clarified that this was not the case. “New elements have emerged to support the hypothesis that there are papers and documents regarding the affair in Giuseppe Spinelli’s offices,” Milan Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati said in a statement.

Bruti Liberati’s team had already sent the House almost 500 pages of evidence when first making their request earlier this month.

The House statement added that the documents had been forwarded to Speaker Gianfranco Fini and the head of a panel of MPs tasked with handling such requests. The panel had been set to examine the request on Wednesday but this has now been postponed until Thursday.

Minetti is one of the women named in the media as possible girlfriends of Berlusconi following a recent video message in which he described the allegations as “absurd”, in part because he is in a steady relationship.

She is also involved in separate allegations that Berlusconi abused power last year by pressuring police in Milan to release Ruby when she was taken into custody on suspicion of theft.

Berlusconi told the police Ruby was the granddaughter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and sent Minetti to take the teen, who is now 18, under her wing, although she ended up leaving the station with a Brazilian prostitute.

On Tuesday Ruby said she had told Berlusconi she was Mubarak’s granddaughter.

The scandal has had Italy in a state of shock and hit international headlines for almost two weeks, prompting the Catholic Church and business leaders to express concern and opposition parties to demand Berlusconi quit.

However, Berlusconi, who claims he is the victim of biased leftist prosecutors who want to oust him, said Wednesday the furore will blow over and he will stay at the helm of government.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Another Minor Cited in Ruby Case

But Iris Berardi wasn’t there when Berlusconi was, phone records show

(ANSA) — Rome, January 27 — Milan prosecutors have claimed a second minor was involved in a prostitution case in which Premier Silvio Berlusconi is already accused of having sex with an underage dancer known as Ruby.

The young woman was named as Iris Berardi, now 19 but 17 when she allegedly attended parties at one of Berlusconi’s residences in November 2009.

According to court papers sent to parliament, Berardi was “known to investigators as a prostitute”.

Cellphone records show that she was at the premier’s villa at the chic resort of Porto Rotondo in Sardinia on November 21, 2009 and at his main residence at Arcore outside Milan on December 13, 2009.

However, Berlusconi was not in his residences on those two occasions.

On November 21 the Italian premier was on a visit to Jedda, Saudi Arabia while on the second, December 13, Berlusconi was hit in the face by a statuette thrown by a mentally unstable man in Milan and spent the night in a city hospital.

Berardi, who was born in December 1991, has so far made no comments on the allegation.

Ruby, who is now 18 but was 17 at the time when Berlusconi is alleged to have paid her for sex, has said the premier never laid a finger on her and that money she received from him was a gift. Berlusconi, who denies wrongdoing, claims he is the victim of leftist prosecutors who have “spied” on him to try to bring him down.

He has vowed to change the law to “punish” them.

The premier has also said he is in a steady relationship with an unidentified woman who would never have allowed the “absurd” events prosecutors claim went on at his parties.

On Wednesday he commented: “I have nothing to say, it’s all scandalous”.

The premier, who is also accused of abuse of power in allegedly getting Ruby out of police custody, has voiced confidence the “storm will pass” so he can get down to the task of shoring up his parliamentary majority and passing a raft of reforms.

The opposition has called on the premier to quit and on Thursday the leader of the largest group, Democratic Party chief Pier Luigi Bersani, said the situation was now “untenable”.

The Catholic Church has also voiced concern about the scandal.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Minetti’s Anger at Berlusconi Revealed as Magistrates Send New Documents to Chamber of Deputies

Public prosecutors deliver 227-page file to back request for “searches regarding Spinelli”. Ghedini plays down “gossip and tittle-tattle”

MILAN — Nicole Minetti’s comments on Silvio Berlusconi are hardly complimentary in some of the phone calls tapped during investigations into the prime minister’s alleged involvement in extortion, exploiting prostitution and under-age prostitution. Mr Berlusconi is referred to as an “old man”, a “piece of sh…” and a person who “ruined my life”. The remarks are part of the new records — in a 227-page file — that the public prosecutor’s office has forwarded to the Chamber of Deputies’ board for authorisations to proceed. Prosecutors also served a summons on Ms Minetti herself, who faces charges of inducement to, and complicity in, prostitution, as well as under-age prostitution. The Lombardy regional councillor indicated through her lawyer that she intends to appear before the magistrates. “I have nothing to say on this. It’s all scandalous” was the only comment from Silvio Berlusconi in the afternoon. Mr Berlusconi’s lawyer, Niccolò Ghedini, added: “From what they say, because I haven’t been able to see the papers yet, it’s just tittle-tattle and girls phoning each other”.

MINETTI AND FEDE — Nicole Minetti is under investigation with Emilio Fede, Lele Mora and at least three others. It has also emerged from the inquiry that she owns four apartments in the Dimora Olgettina complex, where some of the young showgirls live. Together with Mr Berlusconi’s representative, Giuseppe Spinelli, Ms Minetti is alleged to have dealt with the girls’ expenses and organised the parties. The documents also contain a statement by Luigi Sorrentino, the Carabinieri officer and driver for Emilio Fede, who explained to magistrates that it was the prime minister’s escort who drove the girls home from the parties at Arcore. Mr Sorrentino also said that on Valentine’s day last year, all the girls were “wearing a red baby doll nightdress”.

““HE’S ONLY AN OLD MAN” — The phone taps reveal Ms Minetti’s resentment at the prime minister on some occasions. “He’s a piece of sh…” she says in one transcript, according to one witness who has read the latest documents sent to the Chamber of Deputies. The former dental hygienist appears to be very annoyed with the prime minister in that conversation. “If he wants see me he can call me, but if I go I’m taking my lawyers”, she is reported to have said in another tapped conversation. The conversation is with Clotilde Strada: “I don’t give a f… whether he is the prime minister or just an old man. I couldn’t give a monkey’s, I’m not going to be messed around with. He’s acting like a piece of sh… to save his flabby backside”. Other tapped conversations reveal the dismay of other girls involved in the Ruby affair: “He has ruined my life. He’s an old man” are two comments reported in the new file. Among others, there are complaints from Barbara Faggioli, who is reported to have said: “I know they’re listening in but I’m going to saying this all the same”. There is a conversation in which Ms Minetti says to Ms Faggioli: “I resign. This is stuff that ruins your life, it ruins your relationships, it wears you down. You’ve got to be callous. But I couldn’t care less about it. I want to get married, I want a boyfriend, I want kids, a home”. She goes on: “I mean, arguing with everyone every day, stitching up the people that trust you. Politics is a mess. If he falls, we go with him”. Ms Minetti is reported to say in the same conversation: “It’s in his interest to put you and me in Parliament because he can say ‘Well, that’s them sorted. The country can pay their salary’“. Ms Minetti also complains about the petition she alleges has been started against her to “boot her out”, presumably of the Lombardy regional authority. She also attacks Ruby in a phone call with Maristelle: “There won’t be many of us this evening. He said there’s been big trouble because that little sh… Ruby said things and is landing us right in it”. Ms Minetti also discusses the Moroccan girl with Barbara Faggiolo: “When he’s sh… himself over Ruby, he’ll ring up and remember us. For now, he’s pretending not to be taking calls”. New jealousies emerge with Maristelle: “But seriously has he given Fico a house? If it’s true, I swear I’ll raise hell!”

RUBY’S NOTES AND FIGURES — During their search on 17 January of the Genoa home Ruby shares with her boyfriend, investigators found handwritten notes detailing substantial amounts that she is believed to have received from the prime minister, and other sums she was due to receive. Investigators are currently examining the notes. The sums involved are of the order of several hundred thousand euros and, prosecution magistrates believe, were paid by, or on behalf of, Mr Berlusconi. There is a note of five million euros, a figure that coincides with the sum she mentioned in a tapped conversation and was to have been paid by the prime minister in a few months. In one note, Ms El Mahroug says she should receive “four and a half million from B. in two months”.

JEWELLERY AND WATCHES SEIZED — The prosecutors’ file also contains a long list of valuables and cash seized during the searches. On 14 January, officers seized “a Longines watch, a Rolex watch and an Oro Rosa ring” belonging to Concetta De Vivo. On Eleonora De Vivo’s computer, they found “three photos of Berlusconi between her and her sister Concetta, as well as jewellery”. Espinosa Aris Leida has the phone numbers of “Silvio 335xxx dad 320xxx daddy home 02xxxx”. On 14 January, various items were seized at Barbara Faggioli’s home. On the same day, officers found at Barbara Guerra’s home “banknotes for a total of €18,000 which she said were payment for the evenings”. Investigators also visited the home of Alessandra Sorcinelli, a showgirl who admitted attending parties at Arcore. They seized: “computer material, watches and necklaces. A bank order dated 9/12/2010 for €10,000 from Berlusconi to her account with the Banco di Sardegna”. At the homes of model Elisa Toti, and then Ioana Visan, officers seized: “Jewellery, envelopes containing €5,000 and other envelopes containing €5,000”.

TWELVE KILOS OF DRUGS — Illicit substances also come into the picture. Officers seized 2.8 kilos of drugs at the home of Maria Esther Garcia Polanco, again in Via Olgettina. Investigators think the drugs belong to her live-in partner, Ramirez Della Rosa, who was found driving a Mini Cooper owned by Nicole Minetti. The new documents forwarded to the Chamber of Deputies from Milan tell the story. According to these reports, Ramirez della Rosa had the use of Ms Minetti’s car while she was on holiday in the Seychelles. But Ramirez, who was found in possession of ten kilos of drugs in another apartment in Via Portaluppi, is alleged to have suggested “to Nicole” that she should “report the car”. Stolen, presumably.

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Panel Ducks Request to Search Berlusconi Offices in Prostitution Probe

Rome, 27 Jan. (AKI) — A panel of Italy’s lower house of parliament voted on Thursday to send back to prosecutors in Milan two thick dossiers supporting allegations that prime minister Silvio Berlusconi paid an underage Moroccan bellydancer nicknamed Ruby for sex and abused his office to get her released from police custody.

MPs will now debate and vote on a request to authorise searches of the offices of Berlusconi’s financial administrator, filed by prosecutors together with the dossiers.

The parliamentary panel voted by 11-8 that the case should have been submitted to a special tribunal for ministers and to send two huge files back to prosecutors in Milan.

“The majority of the panel disputes the authority of the Milan magistrates in this matter. The parliament will decide,” said panel president Pierluigi Castagnetti.

The panel argued second allegation against Berlusconi — abuse of office — concerned his public role and not his private life and should be brought before a special tribunal for ministers.

In Italy, abuse of office is punishable by up to 12 years in prison, while using an underage prostitute carried a maximum jail term of three years.

Berlusconi has denied new allegations by Milan prosecutors that a second minor allegedly attended erotic parties at Berlusconi’s residences in Arcore near Milan and in Sardinia. The young woman, Iris Berardi, is now 19 but was 17 when she allegedly attended the parties, according to mobile phone records.

The opposition has urged Berlusconi to resign over the prostitution probe centred on teenager Karima El Mahroug (‘Ruby’) but which alleges “a large number” of ambitious young women had sex with the 74-year-old premier in exchange for payments of thousands of euros, jewellery and rent-free apartments.

The leader of the largest opposition force, the Democratic Party, Luigi Bersani said the situation had become “untenable”

Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoing, and has rejected opposition calls for his resignation. After a meeting with his ruling conservative People of Freedom party leadership in Rome on Thursday, he reportedly vowed to stay in office.

He said on Wednesday he believed “the storm will pass” over the prostitution allegations and has said the “seditious” and “leftwing” prosecutors should be “punished.”

Pope Benedict XVI and other senior Catholic prelates have deplored the latest sex scandal to hit the head of Italy’s government and called for better public morals.

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

Spain: Pakistani With Links to Al Qaeda Arrested

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 28 — A Pakistani immigrant has been arrested in Barcelona on charges of links to the alleged terrorist cell that supplied documents and logistics to Al Qaeda; the cell was recently broken up in operation “Kampai”.

The news was reported by the national police in a statement.

The arrested man is Malik Imtanan Sarwar, 29 years old from Sialkot, in Pakistan, resident in Barcelona. He had been on the run since December 2010, when he escaped a roundup of the terrorist organisation linked to Al Qaeda, in particular to the ‘Laskar and Taiba’ groups and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which ended in the arrest of seven people in Barcelona and three others in Thailand.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: All Faiths Are Not the Same

Sayeeda Warsi’s speech was brave, and annoying, perhaps in equal measure.

It was brave because the subject of religious illiteracy needs tackling and, such is the nature of British discourse about race or religion, it will only command a hearing when it comes from the underdog. She grasped the poisoned chalice. It was annoying, however, because if this is the best we can do, after 2,000 years of Christianity in these islands, all the religious cataclysms of recent years, and all the educational resources at our disposal, we’re in a terrible mess.

It’s brave because Warsi is a “feisty” — as a missionary friend of mine who works in Birmingham put it — woman who clearly feels able to tell the pope what he should be doing and doesn’t fear telling us she told him.

But it’s annoying because it is illogical and intellectually reckless. “Faith” is not interchangeable with “faiths”. God is not one, as the Boston University theologian Stephen Prothero showed convincingly in his recent book: that particular discursive “rabbit hole” is a fantasy.

You cannot argue for all faiths an approach, or rights, that might be merited by one or other of them. Faiths are different from each other. We must never be afraid to explore, discuss and, if necessary, denounce what different religions actually say about themselves.

And this is where Warsi is at her most annoying. For we’re not just talking about a few criminals when it comes to unacceptable forms of religion. There are in each religion centres of influence that exert themselves through their structures that we barely know about, and to which no media correspondent is ever assigned.

The Islamic Fiqh Academy in Saudi Arabia, for instance, is a massive unifying force in Islam, a counterweight of medieval regression pulling back against the possibilities that life in the west is affording Muslims. On family laws and apostasy, it will not bend.

And what has Warsi to say about the Tablighi Jamaat, the 80 million-strong Deobandi movement seeking to build a 12,000-capacity mosque in east London to complement its other huge establishments around the country, that insists on the “black sheet” — their translation — for women?

How does this not signal repression if, as a female journalist visiting the HQ in Delhi, you wish to interview a male authority and are permitted to do so only if you sit with your back to him? (This happened to me.)…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Banned Scholar Zakir Naik to Address Oxford Union by Satellite

An Indian Muslim scholar who is banned from entering Britain is to address the Oxford Union via satellite link, in a direct challenge to the home secretary, Theresa May.

Zakir Naik, who was placed under an exclusion order last summer, has been invited by the debating society to take part in a discussion in two weeks’ time on the theme of religious tolerance.

The invitation has angered May and could provide an awkward dilemma for the Conservative party. The former shadow home secretary Chris Grayling promised to ban the use of satellite technology to broadcast the views of excluded Islamist preachers based abroad.

Naik, who founded the global satellite channel Peace TV, was the first Muslim preacher to be banned by the coalition government when he was stopped from entering the country in June.

The Mumbai-based television evangelist was invited weeks ago to take part in the debate with academics and students. Thames Valley police have been advising the union on how to conduct the meeting.

Naik told the Guardian he was delighted by the invitation. “This gives me the perfect opportunity to show the British people my true views rather than the distorted and false grounds cited by the home secretary,” he said.

He has argued that he is a moderate and is currently involved in an appeal court action to have the order lifted.

Peace TV has a huge following in the Muslim districts of Mumbai, Naik’s native city. Naik has been named as the third most popular spiritual guru in India…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Councillor ‘Should be Sacked’ After Muslim Walk-Out

THE leader of Portsmouth City Council has asked Conservative central office to sack a councillor who walked out of a meeting to miss a Muslim prayer.

Lib Dem Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson wrote to national Tory party chairman Baroness Warsi to ask her to dismiss Copnor councillor Malcolm Hey.

His letter said: ‘Not only were his actions hugely disrespectful to the Lord Mayor and the Imam, but also to the whole of the Muslim community. It plays into the hands of Muslim extremists here and across the world who want to portray the UK as somewhere Muslims are not welcome. I hope you exclude him from the Conservative Party to send a clear message the level of bigotry Councillor Hey showed is not acceptable in any mainstream political party in the UK.’

Cllr Hey walked out of the full council meeting on Tuesday, after a Christian prayer, to avoid a Muslim prayer from Imam Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo.

He returned when the prayer ended.

The Imam had been invited to pray by the city’s Lord Mayor, Cllr Paula Riches, as part of a move to reflect Portsmouth’s multicultural population.

But the leader of the council’s Tory group, Cllr Steve Wemyss, defended the councillor’s decision.

He said: ‘Cllr Hey’s decision was his to make. He feels the country is traditionally Christian and so Christian prayers should be said. I am a Christian and decided to stay, because I feel tolerance is an important tradition in the UK. But it was a matter of Cllr Hey’s own conscience. He wasn’t being racist, or disrespectful, he just didn’t feel it was appropriate to be involved in a prayer to a God he doesn’t believe in. I don’t think it was appropriate for Cllr Vernon-Jackson to make this request to the Conservative party.’

Cllr Hey, who has now been invited to say a Muslim prayer at Wessex Jamaat by the group’s interfaith director Yasin Rahim, said he would stay on as a party member and councillor as long as he is allowed to.

He said: ‘It’s just my personal view. I think the mayor was wrong, because I wonder where it would stop. I hope I can stay in the party and will continue as a councillor. I believe other religions have a role in this country but I won’t say a prayer at a Muslim meeting, because they don’t believe the same things I do and it wouldn’t have any meaning for them.’

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: English Defence League’s Kevin Carroll’s Home ‘Targeted by Shotgun-Wielding Attacker’

Kevin Carroll complained to police on Thursday night after objects were thrown at the windows of his house.

He told officers from Bedfordshire Police that when he went outside to find out what was happening, he saw a man carrying what appeared to be a shotgun.

Officers searched the area, but were unable to locate the man. Early reports on social networking sites suggested Mr Carroll was shot at, but the police said no gunshots were fired. The far-right EDL, which describes itself as a human rights group opposed to the rise of what it terms ‘radical Islam’, was founded in Luton and is planning to stage a large-scale demonstration in the town on February 5th.

A number of previous EDL events have ended in violence, with a minority of its supporters clashing with the police and protesters from Unite Against Fascism.

Some posters on the EDL’s Facebook page suggested the alleged attack on Mr Carroll’s house may have been an attempt to disrupt the Luton demonstration.

However, the group’s founder Tommy Robinson, who also uses the name Stephen Lennon, insisted the plans would not be changed. ‘They won’t stop us, we will continue. We will defend ourselves. Luton demo would still go ahead… even if one of us was killed! As always, no surrender, not now not ever,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Islamists Establish a Bridgehead in Parliament: MP and Peer Resign

In November, I disclosed how the new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Islamophobia had unwittingly appointed a group of Islamist sympathisers called Engage (or iEngage) to act as its secretariat. Engage are an extremely dubious bunch of people who have repeatedly attacked Muslim moderates and defended extremists. After I publicised the evidence on this blog (detailed below) the chair, the Tory MP Kris Hopkins, and the vice-chair, Labour’s Lord Janner, announced the sacking of Engage as the secretariat to the all-party group. Now, however, after what is described as an “orchestrated lobbying campaign,” Engage have apparently convinced a number of the more gullible members of the APPG that they are authentic representatives of Britain’s Muslim communities. They appear to have been reinstated as the secretariat.

Mr Hopkins and Lord Janner have today resigned both from their positions and from the group.

In an email circulated to members within the last hour, they say: “It is our belief that the Group needs to be seen as above reproach and political leaning in order to maintain trust and confidence in its work.

“Whilst iEngage are perfectly entitled to express their views, we did not believe it appropriate for them to do so whilst continuing to act for the Group.

“An orchestrated lobbying campaign on behalf of iEngage since we issued our statement has only served to reinforce our opinion. “However, after consulting with several colleagues since Parliament’s return from recess, it appears that this campaign has also persuaded some that iEngage should remain in place.

“Whilst it is obviously a matter for members to decide on what — if any — role iEngage should play in the Group, we no longer feel able to remain a part of it.

“We have therefore decided to relinquish our positions as Chair and Vice Chair, and our memberships, with immediate effect.” iEngage has consistently defended fundamentalist organisations such as the East London Mosque and the Islamic Forum of Europe. It routinely attacks all criticism of them as “Islamophobic.” It attacked the BBC’s recent Panorama documentary on racist Muslim schools — showing that some children are being taught anti-Semitism and Sharia punishments — as a “witch-hunt.” Typically, it launched its attack before even seeing the programme. It was almost alone in this criticism — faced with Panorama’s clear evidence, even some of the usual Islamist suspects kept quiet….

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Number of British Muslims Will Double to 5.5m in 20 Years

The Muslim population in the UK will almost double to 5.5million within 20 years, it has been claimed.

Immigration and high birth rates will mean nearly one in ten Britons will be Muslim by 2030, according to a worldwide study about the spread of Islam.

And the forecasts mean Britain will have more Muslims than Kuwait.

From 1990 to 2010 the number of followers of the Islamic faith around the world increased at an average rate of 2.2 per cent annually. Last year there were 1.57billion around the world.

The British increase in the Muslim population from the current 2.8million will be mainly driven by immigration, according to figures prepared by a Washington think tank.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Probe ‘Fatwa’ By Muslim Extremists Against Home Secretary Theresa May

Police have launched an investigation after Muslim extremists issued a “fatwa” against Home Secretary Theresa May.

The Met acted after wanted-style posters were put up in Tooting.

The posters said the fatwa — sometimes taken to mean an Islamic death sentence — was “for the abduction, kidnapping and false imprisonment” of various Muslim clerics. An accompanying website has been set up as part of a campaign to highlight what organisers claim is unfair treatment of the Muslim community.

It says they have been left with “no alternative” because their concerns are being ignored.

Spokesman Abu Bakr said the contents of the fatwa — which he insisted was an “answer to a specific question” rather than a call to violence — would be revealed on Monday.But he said Mrs May should be “held to account” for what he claimed was an orchestrated campaign against Muslims by the police and the Government.

Mr Bakr, 27, highlighted concerns over control orders and their watered-down replacement, terrorism protection and investigation measures.

The Home Office said the fatwa was a matter for the Met.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Scrapping Nimrod Spy Planes Will Leave ‘Massive Gap’ In Britain’s Security, Warn Military Chiefs

Scrapping the RAF’s £4.1billion fleet of new Nimrod spy planes will weaken Britain’s defences by leaving a ‘massive’ security gap, leading military figures and MPs have warned.

Wrecking crews have already chopped the wings off the first of the reconnaissance aircraft which cost £450million each and have never become operational.

But six ex-defence chiefs criticised the Government’s decision to destroy all nine planes to save money as ‘perverse’.

Interim measures to fill the capability gap left by axing the Nimrod MRA4s ‘fell far short’ of what was needed to protect the UK, they added.

Marshal of the RAF Lord Craig, a former head of the Armed Forces, said dismantling the planes, which have a lifespan of more than 40 years, was ‘the height of stupidity’.

Critics warned that scrapping the planes would increase the risk to Britain’s Trident nuclear sub-marines, making them more vulnerable to attack when they leave their main base at Faslane in Scotland.

It would also make it more difficult to deploy the Navy into high-threat areas, detect and sink Russian submarines, track terrorists and drug smugglers and drop life-rafts to sailors in trouble.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox admitted in November that getting rid of the Nimrods was a ‘calculated risk’. But ministers are determined to press on, claiming it will save the cash-strapped MoD £2billion over the next ten years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: Mantica, Italy Concerned, Courage Needed for Reforms

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, JANUARY 26 — Italy is “deeply concerned” about the political deadlock in Bosnia, without a government for months now. These concerned were expressed by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Alfredo Mantica, who yesterday and today met with many Bosnian political and institutional leaders in Sarajevo.

“We are pleased with the role we play and which is recognised to us, but at the same time we are deeply concerned because we can’t see light at the end of the tunnel”, Mantica told reporters after his meeting with, among others, two members of the three-party presidency, the Serb Nebojsa Radmanovic and the moderate Muslim Bakir Izetbegovic, son of Alija, father of Bosnia’s independence. More than three months after the elections of October 3, the parties still haven’t agreed on the formation of a central government. The winners of the election have also failed to form the governments of the two entities that compose Bosnia, the Republika Srpska (with a Serbian majority, close to its target) and particularly the Muslim-Croat Federation, where the situation is more confused and the cantonal governments cannot even be formed.

More than 15 years after the Dayton peace agreement, which ended years of bloody war on November 21 1995 after 100 thousand people had been killed, Bosnia now seems to be a prisoner of these agreements, which are meant to find a balance between the country’s three entities: Serb, Bosnian and Muslim. “Even though the framework of the unitary state remain obviously valid”, Mantica said, “the Bosnians themselves know that they have to change the structure at some points. They need to have the courage for a constitutional reform”. Italy sees a future EU membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina as strategic, as well as the other Western Balkan countries, and has fought in Europe for the liberalisation of visas, which came into force in December. But, the Undersecretary warned, “I’ve told all my interlocutors that if Bosnia becomes a problem for Europe, well, Europe already has enough problems to start looking for another one”. The Bosnians therefore must find the resources and the courage for reforms and stability, without waiting for the High Representative or the European envoy to pull their chestnuts out of the fire.

Italy is worried about the Bosnian deadlock because of its national interest as well. Italy is Bosnia’s third trade partner and Italian entrepreneurs who invest in the country, or have plans to do so, ask for stability and “security” for their investments. “Unfortunately, nobody has made predictions and nobody has come with solutions”, Mantica added. In short, the road to the formation of the government, or rather the governments, “is still very long”.

The Undersecretary left Sarajevo this evening headed for Bucharest, the second stage of his Balkan mission. In the Romanian capital he will also talk with political and institutional leaders, starting with the Economy Minister and the State Secretary for European Affairs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Urges Albania to Defuse Political Crisis

The European Union has urged Albania’s rival political leaders to restore respect for state institutions.

Three people were shot dead on Friday when anti-government demonstrators clashed with police.

EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak met Albanian leaders in the capital Tirana on Wednesday, in a mediation effort aimed at easing tension and getting Albania’s EU membership bid back on track.

Mr Lajcak said it was up to Albania’s leaders “to do what we ask them to do”.

Addressing a news conference, he said: “I reminded your political leaders of their shared responsibility for preventing any further violence and bloodshed… and respecting state institutions. No one is above the state institutions.”

The government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha announced the cancellation of a pro-government rally scheduled for Saturday.

Mr Lajcak (left) has moved to defuse a new crisis in the EU’s backyard Albanian prosecutors issued arrest warrants for six members of the security forces over the deaths of three men who were shot outside Mr Berisha’s office on Friday.

TV footage appeared to show shots coming from inside the prime minister’s compound.

Tension between Mr Berisha’s government and the opposition Socialists grew last week, after the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta. He was accused of corruption over a power plant tender.

In Friday’s unrest, thousands of protesters pelted Mr Berisha’s office and police with stones and eggs. Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades in response.

“I made it clear that the European future for Albania depends very much on whether the political leaders choose to do what we ask them to do, and do it now,” Mr Lajcak said after the talks.

He met Mr Berisha, President Bamir Topi and opposition leader Edi Rama.

Albania is a Nato member and applied for EU candidate status before its last parliamentary election in 2009. But the EU has highlighted the need for Albania to tackle corruption and foster a democratic political culture.

The demonstrators say the government stole elections held in 2009, which Mr Berisha’s Democratic Party won by a small margin.

They want a new vote, though none is scheduled until 2013.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Crimes Investigator Fears His Report May Remain ‘Dead Letter on Paper’

Belgrade, 27 Jan (AKI) — A war crimes investigator for Europe’s top human rights watchdog The Council of Europe said on Thursday he feared his report on alleged organs trafficking by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), may remain a “dead letter on paper.”

In an interview to BBC’s Serbian service, Dick Marty, a Swiss senator and lawyer whose report was overwhelmingly approved by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on Tuesday said he feared the report may go no further.

“When we are dealing with…someone in a high political position, or a high criminal hierarchy, we find out that there are simply no witnesses,” Marty said.

“Witnesses and their families are being intimidated and there have been murders too,” he added.

Marty’s report blamed the so called Drenica group of the KLA, who is close to current Kosovo prime minister Hasim Thaci, of removing organs from Serb prisoners during 1998/99 war and of then selling them on the black market.

He expressed surprise that his report had “triggered a scandal” in some western political circles, “while murders of witnesses which took place over the past few years have been met with general indifference”.

Marty said the international community should react, “but the problem is that that there are still too many ministers and politicians burdened by their past decisions, who would have to retract what they had done”.

He called for the creation of an international judicial structure to investigate and prosecute the alleged organs trafficking. But Marty said he was surprised by the statement of European Union chief for security and foreign policy Catherine Ashton that there was no need to appoint a special prosecutor.

Officials in Brussels have suggested that the investigation should be carried out by an EU judicial and police mission in Kosovo (EULEX), but Marty said in another interview with Serbian language daily Vesti, published in Germany, he didn’t believe EULEX was capable of doing it.

“I do not think EULEX, the way it is forced to operate today and the way it is organized, can conduct a serious investigation,” Marty said. EULEX spokesperson Irina Gudeljevic said the mission had asked Marty to supply proof to support his claims, but that the request has so far gone unanswered.

Marty said he couldn’t supply proofs and names of witnesses unless an efficient mechanism was set up to protect them. “It is known that witnesses had been intimidated and killed and I think that is scandalous,” Marty said.

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

Serbia: Benetton Interested in Partnership With Nitex, Mayor

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JANUARY 26 — Nis Mayor Milos Simonovic said that he had attended talks with representatives of the Italian company Benetton on forming a strategic partnership with the Nis-based textiles factory Nitex, reports BETA news agency.

Simonovic also said that one of the city’s obligations was to expand the existing free-trade zone to include the premises of Nitex.

“I did not want to say too much about this potential partnership with Nitex, but the talks are in their final stage and the finer details will follow very quickly,” said Simonovic.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Ben Jelloun: Europe to Talk Values With Southern Med

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANAURY 27 — Europe must speak “the language of values” with the southern shore of the Mediterranean, the only way to have an “objective” attitude towards the Arab world. This is according to the writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, who has been speaking at ANSA’s conference on the Mediterranean.

“An objective attitude is needed, one based on the values of the Mediterranean,” Ben Jelloun said. “This is the basis upon which people talk to each other. There is a need to speak using the words of these values and, if such courage exists, to defend people who do not have a say”.

The Moroccan writer laid out the serious situation in a number of countries in the area by referring to some of the dramatic events of the last few days and weeks: the Tunisian salesman who set himself on fire, the innocent man arrested and tortured in Egypt because he was an opposer of the regime, and the boat containing immigrants from Algeria that sank in the Mediterranean.

“These events show desperation in rich countries, but countries where the riches do not reach the people,” he added.

“Europe must have the courage to turn down the occasional contract out of respect for human rights. Today, thanks to the Internet, nobody can say that they don’t know what is going on in these countries. We must place our interlocutors on an equal footing in terms of human rights too. European countries should agree no longer to turn a blind eye”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Union for the Mediterranean Faces Its First Crisis

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The resignation of Ahmad Jalaf Masadeh as secretary-general of the Union for the Mediterranean (UFM) had been expected for some time, but still the moment it happened was a surprise. Tunisia is in the middle of a ‘revolution’; a dramatic protest was staged in Algeria; Lebanon is close to exploding in the (so far only verbal) conflict between Saad Hariri and Hezbollah; Egyptians are demonstrating and ask the government to step down.

Too many problems were crossing the path of this young, though already expert, diplomat from Jordan who was asked to lead the Union for the Mediterranean just one year ago, and to carry out ambitious projects. Now the organisation that has also been called the most beloved creature of French President Nicolas Sarkozy (who wanted a great celebration in Paris for the Union’s birth in July 2008), faces its first real crisis, which could make it impossible to do all that had been agreed on so far, starting with the re-launch of the Barcelona process and the dialogue between the shores of the region.

It may be an obvious remark, but the shores are not only the rich and industrialised north and the south, in the middle of a political and social identity crisis, but also the east, which seems unable to get rid of the embrace of Panslavism and the impending danger of nationalism. Officially the UFM’s wobbling structure is undermined by the continuous tensions between Israel and the PNA, which were not defused by the fact — as was possibly hoped — that the organisation’s vice secretaries include an Israeli and a Palestinian. But there are more causes for today’s failure of the UFM, like the evident problems in managing much-debated issues, like the start of the operation stage of many projects and the incapability of playing a leading role in the relations between the area’s countries. Masadeh also seemed unable to deal with the unpleasant situation caused by the continuous delays of the summit that would have moved the UFM forward from the project stage to the executive stage.

What is clear is that the foundation on which the Union’s “charter” rested (or wanted to rest), that is the relations between countries with the same approach, the same respect for human rights, nearly always remained unapplied where the northern shore selected its interlocutors to re-launch the dialogue. This created obvious difficulties for those, from the northern side of the Mediterranean, were forced to talk with governments and regimes that suffocated (or still suffocate) the desire for freedom of their own people. It is likely that Ahmad Jalaf Masadeh will reconsider, because confirming his resignation would also mean accepting the fact that he is partly responsible for the situation as it is. So the historic castle of Pedralbes, one of Barcelona’s architectonic jewels which the Spanish government has made available for the secretary-general of the Union for the Mediterranean, may have to do without its most important lodger for only a short time.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: New Protest, Opposition Divided

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 26 — After the Front of Socialist Forces (FFS), the Trotskyist Workers’ Party (PT) has also said no to the protest called by Algerian trade unions and associations, including the League for Human Rights (LADDH). Only the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), which promoted the protest repressed by security forces on Saturday, could adhere to the initiative.

Initiatlly scheduled for February 9, the day that the state of emergency was declared in 1992, the protest could be postponed until the following weekend in order to allow more people to take part, according to the Chair of LADDH, Mostefa Bouchachi.

Despite their common goals, such as the revocation of the state of emergency and the opening of the media, the Algerian opposition appears increasingly divided.

“The government must not ban the protest,” said Louisa Hanoune, leader of the PT, officially an opposition party but often a supporter of President Bouteflika, condemning the “absurd” presence of security forces during the RCD protest. However, she added, “we will not take part in the march on February 9. We are not involved”.

The FFS, meanwhile, which is determined to organise a popular rally, has turned down the invitation from associations to join the march. Pointing the finger at the RCD, its historic rival in the Berber region of Kabylia, the party led by Hocine Ait Ahmed has said that it is prepared to work with “independent and credible” partners.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Petition Against State of Emergency Online

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 26 — Intellectuals, journalists, MPs and artists, but also just normal citizens, have launched an online petition to ask for the “removal of the state of emergency, the opening of the space regarding politics, unions, associations and media,” but also the defence of social rights, such as the access to work and education. The ‘manifesto for rights and freedom’ published online has so far been signed by around 100 people, including the writer and militant for women’s rights, Wassyla Tamzali, and MP Mira Tarek (RCD).

The petition also calls for the separation of the political field from that of religion, and for the legitimacy of universal suffrage, a guarantee of alternate government, and the construction of a constitutional state which “allows Algerian men and women to live as free people.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: The Pragmatic Fantasy

Today the Egyptian regime faces its gravest threat since Anwar Sadat’s assassination 30 years ago. As protesters take to the street for the third day in a row demanding the overthrow of 82-year old President Hosni Mubarak, it is worth considering the possible alternatives to his regime.

On Thursday afternoon, Egyptian presidential hopeful Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency returned to Egypt from Vienna to participate in anti-regime demonstrations.

As IAEA head, Elbaradei shielded Iran’s nuclear weapons program from the Security Council. He repeatedly ignored evidence indicating that Iran’s nuclear program was a military program rather than a civilian energy program. When the evidence became too glaring to ignore, Elbaradei continued to lobby against significant UN Security Council sanctions or other actions against Iran and obscenely equated Israel’s purported nuclear program to Iran’s…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Concerns About the Muslim Brotherhood

Israel Fears Regime Change in Egypt

Israel is watching developments in Egypt with concern. The government is standing by autocratic Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, out of fear that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood could take power and start supplying arms to Hamas.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Demise of Old Regime Brings Islamists Back Into Tunisian Politics

Banned by Ben Ali it may have been, but the Islamic Ennahda party insists it is a benign, democratic force

SO LARGE is the congregation at El Fatah mosque that the rows of faithful spill halfway across Avenue de la Liberté, slowing the busy lunchtime traffic to a crawl.

Loudspeakers project the imam’s politely insistent voice on to the street, where men stand with bowed heads and dozens of passersby stop to listen.

“The revolution is great, but Islam is greater still,” the voice intones. “Religion is the base of economic life, of education. Without religion, life is not balanced. The press was not free, but neither was religion.”

A murmur signals the congregation’s agreement. “We must preserve this revolution . . . We must look out for one another . . . show solidarity.”

When prayers have ended, a few dozen men gather in small groups to swap stories from the tumultuous days since Ben Ali succumbed to street protests and fled the country.

“Everyone supports what has happened,” says Youssef Fekir, a middle-aged man who describes himself as a supporter of Ennahda, or Renaissance, Tunisia’s largest Islamist movement. “We’re Muslim people, but whether Islamist or not . . . we hope the revolution will prevail and go all the way. We’re all united — Islamists, leftists — we’re united.”

Although Islamist slogans did not feature in the protest movement that toppled Ben Ali, the demise of Tunisia’s police state and the dawn of multi-party politics would make Ennahda one of the chief political beneficiaries.

Secularism has been strictly enforced in Tunisia since before its independence from France in 1956. Habib Bourguiba, the independence leader and long-time president, was a nationalist who considered Islam a threat to the state. Indeed, in 1987, when Ben Ali pushed aside the ageing Bourguiba, he briefly released Islamists from jail and allowed them to run in the 1989 elections. The results surprised and worried Ben Ali. Ennahda officially won 17 per cent of the vote, coming second to the ruling party and far ahead of the secular opposition. Ben Ali responded by reversing his policy, banning Ennahda, jailing hundreds of its supporters and forcing its leader Rachid Ghannouchi into exile.

Among the faithful at El Fatah mosque, there is strong support for Ennahda’s return to the political fray, but the tone is resolutely moderate. Pride in Tunisian exceptionalism, notably the equality of women, is a recurrent theme.

“We believe in the Koran. It’s a social code,” says Souissi Raouf, an elderly man. “It’s the Koran that safeguards human rights, it’s the Koran that allows for women’s freedom.” When someone raises Turkish-style secularism as a model, others groan. “But even if we arrived at a system like Turkey’s, it would be extraordinary compared to what we lived through here for so long,” Raouf remarks.

While many in Tunisia’s secular cosmopolitan elite may be wary of Ennahda’s reincarnation, others see it as a benign force that should be incorporated into the mainstream. As we speak outside El Fatah mosque, Noura Landolsi, a well-dressed middle-aged woman wearing designer sunglasses, overhears the discussion and interjects. “We’re a moderate people. We accept the Islamists,” she says. “We have to let everyone express themselves — the Islamists, the socialists, everyone.”

Ennahda’s likely influence in post-Ben Ali Tunisia is impossible to estimate. Some believe that, having been invisible for so long — many of those at El Fatah say they have no memory of Ghannouchi, who has lived in London for more than two decades — Ennahda will be slow to rebuild. Others believe the party’s true vote in the 1989 election was 30-35 per cent and think its effect could be large…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Twitter: Our Service Blocked in the Country

(ANSAmed) — SAN FRANCISCO, JANUARY 26 — Twitter has been blocked in Egypt, with the service unavailable since yesterday, when thousands of people took to the streets to demand the removal from power of President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled the country for 30 years. This is according to a tweet from the social networking website itself Twitter says that its site has been blocked since 5:00 yesterday afternoon (Italian time), as have applications linked to the service. The website says that microblogging sites cannot be reached in the country. The site says that it has received “various information” from users of different internet services in Egypt, who say that they have been unable to connect to Twitter.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Writer Al Aswany, Historical Period, A New Era

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — “What we are seeing in these moments is something totally new for our Country and marks a turning point in the history of modern Egypt”. Ala al Aswany, author of the novel ‘The Yacoubian building’, spoke to missionary agency MISNA about the protest rallies against Hosni Mubarak’s regime. “Even though there are no official statistics it is said that at least 400,000 people joined in spontaneous demonstrations, from Ismailia to Alexandria and from Mansoura to Cairo. An unprecedented event if we take into account that in this Country there have been applicable emergency laws for more than 30 years. What is surprising is that, as in the Tunisian case, it is once again the young people, in many cases bloggers with university level education, including many women, that prompted and organised the demonstrations managing to also bypass censorship”, added Al Aswany, who believes that “Egypt’s intellectuals, though having felt the discomfort of the majority of the people, never though that they could have rebelled. And they were clearly contradicted”.

The disappointment of the common people “with the increasingly repressive policy adopted by police authorities, corruption, scandals and increasing prices for staple goods, such as sugar, bread and fuel that made most families increasingly dependent on State assistance, it grew exponentially”, stated Al Aswany.

We have come “to a point of non return, where there is no other solution than to protest in the streets, to ask for changes that the people have waited for in vain, without being taken into consideration”, according to the author and political activist whose books, before being published, passed through censorship and checks.

“In Egypt, unlike in Tunisia, censorship is not as invasive, but we certainly are not in the presence of a democratic system where freedom of speech manages to produce tangible political results. The people who sit in parliament are appointed through sham elections, there is torture like I write in my books, and thousands of people are being held illegally. What Al Aswany defines “the theatre act of conscience, set up to assuage the bad conscience of the western governments, that in effects support dictatorships disguised as republics, had the effect of stifling the hope of changing things with the vote. And this is one of the key elements of the protests that are affecting mostly the young people, unemployed and without a clear future.

You can live being poor, but you cannot give up your freedom”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egyptian Revolt Not Only Political But Also Spiritual and Islamic

Muslim intellectuals and theologians draw the prospects for a change even in Islam: the value of women and fraternisation of sexes; rejection of fundamentalist Salafism, seeking a religion of the heart and freedom, against the formalism of the veil, the beard and abstruse ritual practices. And above all, they welcome secularism, the separation of Islam from politics.

Rome (AsiaNews) — The “document on the renewal of Islam” published by the magazine “The seventh day” (see 26/01/2011 Egyptian Imams and intellectuals: Renewing Islam towards modernity) is attracting great interest on the Internet. In one day alone it was published by at least 12,400 Arab websites. Each of these sites received many comments from the public.

We must clarify one point of which we received confirmation today: yesterday we attributed the document directly to 23 figures from the Islamic world. In fact, the 23 figures are not really signatories: the document was prepared by the magazine according to indications received from more than 23 people interviewed. For each of the 22 items listed there are also comments and explanations that make it clearer and more profound.

The importance of the document lies foremost in the themes indicated by the 23 scholars and the magazine’s attempt to launch an interesting project of reform in Islamic discourse.

Of course, it is worrying to see that 88% are opposed to the document, with about 12% favourable. However among those who are against it, there are those opposed to just one or two points.

Another interesting aspect is that this project of reform of Islam was published Jan. 24, one day before the outbreak of demonstrations in Egypt. These protests have economic and political roots. This means that in addition to current politics, there is an intellectual current that is fed up with the Islam that has spread in the last 30 years in the country, an “externalized” Islam that puts the emphasis on external things (clothing, beard, veil, etc. ..). This shows that there is a global movement — both spiritual and political — in Egypt that wants to transform the country. And since it is a leading country in the Middle Eastern world, one can expect that the changes in act in Cairo will spread throughout the region. Perhaps the same demonstrations that are taking place on the streets of the capital will have an influence on this “externalized” Islam.

Now we come to our comments on some of the more important points.

Fraternisation of the sexes

Take, for example, point 3, which talks about the fraternisation of the sexes. Their commentary states that the ulema should take into account the circumstances in which this takes place and ensure it is in accordance with sharia. If fraternisation of the sexes is a necessity, then there is no problem. But if there is no need, then it is bad. They cite an example: there are male and female students in university. Since this is a necessity of study, there is no problem in the fraternisation of male and female students. The same applies to the workplace. What is absolutely sinful is a man and a woman finding themselves alone, touching, hugging.

On the contrary, hardliners reject any form of fraternisation. In Saudi Arabia, male university students sit in front of the professor; female students are in another room, and follow the lesson via television monitor.

The reformist declaration, however, argues that Islam does not prohibit all contact between men and women. Such relationships are becoming problematic in Egypt because of a “Puritan” style which is increasingly becoming the norm. Some time ago, a fatwa issued by a doctor of Koranic law (faqih) caused quite a stir. In a television program, a woman explained that for work reasons she had to be in the same office with a man. But this was forbidden by Sharia, the woman could not resign and called for help. The ulema offered a solution: the woman should breastfeed her colleague. In response to the public’s scandalised reaction, the ulema explained that by doing so her colleague would thus become “like a son” to the girl and so they could stay together in the office, without the risk of possible sexual relations (given their new familial “relationship”). The ulema defended himself from the public outrage by saying that “we must not judge with our emotions, but with the law.” This fatwa gave rise to strong reactions in the Islamic world, so much so that the ulema was in danger of losing his job.


The sixth point is jihad (holy war). According to the reformers of the document, in Islam jihad is directed against occupiers of Muslim countries “Fight against those who fight against you in the way of Allah, but do not transgress,” (Qur’an 2.190). In comments on this verse, it is clearly stated that it is forbidden to kill unarmed people, children, old people, women, priests, monks, houses of prayer. And they add: this vision — so modern — has been present in Islam for 1400 years.

The reformers, in this clarification, point out that jihad can only be defensive and only on Muslim lands. The problem arises when Muslims carry out jihad at the wrong time and in the wrong places (obviously it means that it is wrong to attack people in Europe for example, which is not “Islamic land”).

When it is done, who can do it, where it can be done: the answer to these questions makes correct jihad from Islamic point of view. In this way the reformists condemn all Islamic terrorism, the attacks on the Church of Alexandria and Baghdad. It must be said that this interpretation of jihad is classic, but unfortunately there are very contrary interpretations that justify terrorism.

Outward piety

Section 7 explains the need to “stop attacks on outward piety and the use of foreign practices that come to us from neighbouring states”. Those battling against this externalized Islam, says it is a new phenomenon, only 30 years old. This is due to the fact that many Egyptians went to work on the Arabian Peninsula and came back with foreign customs. The magazine explains that Egypt too has its own customs and ways of dressing for a few positions in Islam. But — they say — “we have recently begun to imitate the dress in the neighbouring countries [ in short Saudi Arabia — ed] with the long beard flowing to the chest, the long robe (jilbab), the veil …. Then arrived the obligation for women to use the niqab, the full veil as an expression of modesty”. And they quote the Koran 24.30: “Tell the believing men that they should restrain their gaze and be chaste.”

The document states that “the important thing is the modesty of the gaze.” It is recalled that last year there were thousands of attacks on women not dressed in an Islamic way. “The exterior — explain the expert reformers — has now become the true religion. The appearance of piety has now become the model of the believer in Egypt, without questioning the purity of heart and chastity of the eye, which the niqab can not hide. “

These emphases are fundamental and very close to the Gospel. It is a new mystical inspiration that warns: you will not be able to save the purity of the relationship between men and women by the clothes they wear.

And they add: these people — who have brought ways of dressing from elsewhere — have divided families, playing one off against the other, because the men want to impose the veil and the women rejected it. “We are now — ends the comment — a nation that takes care of the outside and that is empty on the inside”.

Separation between religion and state, secularism

Section 8, on the division between religion and state, I believe to be the most important. The document uses the word ‘almaniyyah, secularism. At the Synod on the Middle East we were afraid to use that word because it is commonly understood as “atheism”, only indicating a secular enemy of religion and therefore to be rejected.

Instead, the document uses this very word. And it explains that this is based on the idea of separation between religion and state. Secularism — they say — should not be regarded as the opposite of religion; instead it needs to be seen as a safeguard against the political or commercial use of religion. “In this context — it claims — secularism is in harmony with Islam and secularism is therefore legally acceptable. The same can be said about the control of the (Islamic) activities of the State. “

At the same time it says: “All that distances religion from ordinary life is unacceptable.” And it explains that it is necessary to affirm “the rights of God” and “the rights of the servant of God”, namely human rights.

Atheistic secularism instead regards religion as a ball and chain and therefore demands absolute freedom. This secularism is opposed to Islam, which places certain limits. Those who want to choose faith must do so out of conviction and, therefore, accept the rules of religion, and can not play with them.

It is therefore claimed that there is a extremist secularism and a good one. On the Internet, this point on secularism attracts a lot of criticism. For example, the site “The guardians of the dogma” publish the following criticism. “Everyone must know that secularism means anti-religiosity, and that anti-religiosity is the fast track to atheism. Islam has to fight it, because secularism is the seed of all evil, etc. .. “.

This point, though much discussed, shows that Egypt is developing the concept of civil society, not immediately coinciding with the Islamic community.

Attitude towards Salafism

Point 9 is also interesting. It demands the “purification of the patrimony of the ‘early centuries of Islam’ (Salafism), eliminating myths (khurâfât) and attacks against religion”.

The document states that “liberty, equality, knowledge, justice and science are the most important values that the Koran brought to us when it was revealed 14 centuries ago. They are the same values on which the society formed by the Prophet in Medina was founded. They are clear values on which there is no conflict. These values can not be minimised. We have a great need for these great values, more than in the past. “ And it adds: “Countries do not develop other than in accordance with these values and will have no Renaissance (nahda) except with the abolition of this Salafi heritage that should be considered a drag on Islamic society, in its relation to myths (= human inventions), or inventions of schisms, or aggressions of religion”.

These statements tackle the stifling practices of fundamentalism (dress codes, the pure and the impure, laws, etc …) head on, which wants to reproduce the society of the time of the Prophet. For a Salafi, for example, it is forbidden to sit on a chair because the prophet sat on the ground; it is forbidden to use common toothpicks, instead he must clean his teeth with a twig taken from a plant in Saudi Arabia (miswak)! With these criticisms, the document aims at reforming Islam pushing it towards a more spiritual religious momentum.

Final Reflection

Judging from comments found on the Internet, we see that the great majority, contrary to the document, are prey to the external, traditional, formal, self-righteous Islam. There are still many intellectuals and religious thinking in a modern way, but they do not have the support of the institutions.

In the face of social unrest and pressures for change that are occurring in several countries of the Middle East and North Africa, we must say that Salafism is somehow a kind of “opium of the people”, it focuses people’s attention on external religious and secondary practices, regardless of the development, the well-being of society,. For their part, the political powers to leave be, provided they do not involve themselves in politics.

In Egypt, the political power is not a pure dictatorship, but to maintain power it allies itself, giving ever greater concessions to Salafism. The political power shows itself to be “Islamic” to avoid becoming an object of criticism of Salafism, or the Muslim Brotherhood. But each concession reinforces this exterior Islam and results in other, new concessions.

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

Egypt: Protesters Chase Police From Main Cairo Square

Thousands of anti-government protesters wielding rocks, glass and sticks chased hundreds of riot police away from the main square in downtown Cairo and several of the policemen stripped off their uniforms and badges and joined the demonstrators.

An Associated Press reporter saw the protesters cheering the police who joined them and hoisting them on their shoulders in one of the many dramatic and chaotic scenes across Egypt on Friday.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Egyptian Army Moves Into Cairo as Protests Persist

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — The Egyptian army moved into the streets of Cairo on Friday evening, according to news reports, as the country’s authorities sought to quell escalating protests that threaten to seriously destabilize one of the U.S.’s most important allies in the Middle East. As darkness fell, television pictures showed military vehicles taking up positions at intersections and other key points in Cairo. The arrival of the army marks a potential new escalation of the government’s efforts to calm an increasingly unstable situation in Egypt. Earlier in the day security forces used water canon, tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse crowds of tens of thousands of protestors, according to media reports.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Egyptian Military Deploys in Cairo After Day of Rioting, Government Imposes Nationwide Curfew

CAIRO — Egypt’s military deployed on the streets of Cairo to enforce a nighttime curfew as the sun set Friday on a day of rioting and violent chaos that was a major escalation in the challenge to authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Still thousands in the capital Cairo defied a nationwide night curfew and were trying to storm two major government buildings — the state TV and the Foreign Ministry. Others were praying on the streets after nightfall.

Flames rose up across a number of cities from burning tires and police cars. Even the ruling party headquarters in Cairo was ablaze in the outpouring of rage, bitterness and utter frustration with a regime seen as corrupt, heavy-handed and neglectful of grinding poverty that afflicts nearly half of the 80 million Egyptians. Hundreds were looting television sets and electric fans from the burning complex of buildings used by the ruling party.

One protester was killed in demonstrations that stretched across nearly half the provinces in Egypt, bringing the death toll for four days of protests to eight.

“I can’t believe our own police, our own government would keep beating up on us like this,” said Cairo protester Ahmad Salah, 26. “I’ve been here for hours and gassed and keep going forward, and they keep gassing us, and I will keep going forward. This is a cowardly government and it has to fall. We’re going to make sure of it.”

Internet and cellphone services, at least in Cairo, appeared to be largely cut off since overnight in the most extreme measure so far to try to hamper protesters form organizing. However, that did not prevent tens of thousands from flooding the streets, emboldened by the recent uprising in Tunisia — another North African Arab nation.

Even Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the country’s leading pro-democracy advocates, was under house arrest after joining the protests…

[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Alexandria, Police Get Rid of Helmets and Batons

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 28 — Satellite television network al Arabiya reports that several policemen in Alexandria have taken off their bulletproof vests, helmets and have thrown away their truncheon to join the demonstration.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Maariv Daily Publishes ‘The Guide of Rebellion’

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JANUARY 28 — The Israeli newspaper Maariv today published a document of 26 pages on its website, with photos and illustrations. The daily presents the document as “the guide of the rebellion”, a threat that could be hanging over the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

The title of the document is: “This is how to manage the rebellion wisely”. The newspaper writes that the writers of the document want to “overthrow the regime of Mubarak, suspend the emergency regime and form a new, non-military government”. The new executive should be based “on justice, freedom and the formation of a non-military government”, the document reads. The immediate targets of the rebellion — the anonymous writers of the text add, which is written in Arabic and arrived reportedly from Egypt — are the buildings of the most important radio and television networks and the presidential palace of Mubarak. The document includes aerial photographs of Cairo and shows arrows indicating the flow of the masses towards their targets. The text obtained by Maariv also explains demonstrators how to deal with the security forces.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Four French Journalists Arrested

(ANSAmed)- CAIRO, JANUARY 28 — Four French journalists have been arrested by the police in Egypt, and an Al Jazeera reporter has been beaten, the network reports. The French journalists — working for newspaper Le Figaro, photography agency Sipa and the weekly Paris-Match according to diplomatic sources — were arrested this morning in Cairo, amid demonstrations against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. “We have just been informed of the arrest of four journalists this morning in Cairo”, said the spokesman of the French Foreign Ministry, Bernard Valero, during a press conference at Quai d’Orsay. French FM Michele Alliot-Marie, the spokesman added, “has asked our embassy to get information about the situation of our fellow countrymen, to contact the Egyptian authorities immediately and, if this information is confirmed, to ask for their immediate release”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Vodafone Suspends Coverage on Government Request

(ANSAmed) — LONDON, JANUARY 28 — British mobile telephony provider Vodafone announced today that the Egyptian government has asked the company to suspend its coverage in some of the country’s areas. Vodafone added that it will comply to this request and that the Egyptian authorities will explain the situation in due course.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Al Jazeera, El Baradei Held, Not Arrested

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 28 — Television network Al Jazeera has specified that Mohammed el Baradei is held and has not been arrested.

Meanwhile tear gas is used to stop the march of demonstrators in the centre of Cairo on the streets that lead to the main square and to the commercial area around Talaat Arb square.

While shouting “Overthrow the regime!”, thousands of people are demonstrating peacefully in the Cairo district of Nasr City, ANSA learned. The police controls the situation from a distance, without intervening. Leaving the mosques with their prayer rugs rolled up under their arm, the demonstrators have formed several processions in various areas of the city. They urge people to join them and the processions continue to grow while moving through the streets.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Revolt Spreads, El Baradei Returns, Govt Threatens

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 28 — The revolt in Egypt is spreading. A calm loaded with tension has returned to Cairo after the violent protests yesterday transformed the city of Suez into “a battlefield”, whilst for the whole day a city in Sinai was overrun with violence, which brought about the death of a young demonstrator, hit in the mouth by a bullet.

In view of the Friday of rage, called for yesterday by the opposition organisation which started the revolt on Tuesday, Mohamed El Baradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and leader of the movement for reform, has returned to Cairo. During the night, the Interior Ministry warned that it will take “decisive measures” against the protestors, “in accordance with the law.” For the first time since the start of the protests in the streets on Tuesday, Hosni Mubarak’s party, the National Democratic Party, yesterday made a public appearance with a press conference by the party’s secretary general, Safwat el Sherif, who stated that young people, their demands and their right to express themselves were in the heart of the Egyptian President “Several elements have tried to exploit the atmosphere of freedom to unleash anarchy,” el Sherif however pointed out.

El Baradei’s comments were very different. “I don’t want to take power but contribute to the democratic and peaceful transition,” he explained on his arrival at Cairo airport, greeted by a multitude of microphones and television cameras. “I am with the people and the regime must understand that it is not possible to turn around and go back. This is the moment of change,” said El Baradei. He will also take part in the demonstrations today, which will start immediately after Friday prayers in mosques throughout the country at around 1pm (midday in Italy). The leader of the movement for reform will go to prayers in the Giza quarter of Cairo. In total there are 35 places of worship indicated on Facebook by the organisers as meeting points for the demonstrations and the aim is to once again reach Tahrir Square, which the demonstrators occupied for several hours on Tuesday. The list includes many churches and includes the orthodox cathedral of Abbasseya. Officially, however, the Christian communities of Egypt are not taking part in the demonstrations.

On Facebook there was advice for demonstrators on how to behave. Such as the advice to Muslims to take their shoes with them in a bag instead of leaving them outside the mosque, as normally happens, for fear that the police will remove them in order to stop the worshippers from joining the demonstrations at the end of prayers. For the first time the Muslim Brotherhood have openly said that they will take part en masse in today’s protests. To date they have allowed their members to participate, but without giving an explicit support to the demonstrations. Meanwhile the Egyptian Stock Market yesterday recorded a nosedive of over 10%, the second worst in its history, after a brief suspension of trading in the morning to stem the negative trend.

Yesterday evening US President Barack Obama urged the parties in Egypt to exercise moderation, underlining that violence is not the right answer. Obama pointed out that he has always urged Mubarak “to make sure that his government makes progress in the field of reforms, both political and economic,” guaranteeing freedom of expression. The EU has also made appeals for the respect of citizens’ rights “to express their political aspirations through peaceful demonstrations.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: At Least 20 Members of the Muslim Brotherhood Arrested

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 28 — At least twenty members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition force in Egypt, have been arrested during the night. The news was announced by the Islamic political organisation’s lawyer. The people arrested in their homes include five former MPs and five members of the political office, including the spokesmen of the brotherhood, Essam El-Erian and Mohammed Mursi.

The Muslim Brotherhood have announced that they will take part in the protest demonstrations today against Hosni Mubarak’s regime, after Friday prayers, after having kept a low profile over recent days.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Friday Protest, Internet and Mobile Phones Do Not Work

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 28 — On the day when there is expected to be another large-scale mobilisation in the streets, coinciding with Friday prayers, the internet is not accessible in Cairo and in other parts of Egypt. Over recent days the internet has been used by the opposition to launch appeals and set up meetings for demonstrations and protests. From early this morning, the SMS service between mobile phones is no longer available in Egypt. And the same has happened, later on, with voice calls between mobile phones.

During the night, at least twenty members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition force in Egypt, have been arrested. The news was announced by the Islamic political organisation’s lawyer. The people arrested in their homes include five former MPs and five members of the political office, including the spokesmen of the brotherhood, Essam El-Erian and Mohammed Mursi. The Muslim Brotherhood have announced that they will take part in the protest demonstrations today against Hosni Mubarak’s regime, after Friday prayers, after having kept a low profile over recent days.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: No Violence Against Demonstrators, H. Clinton

(ANSAmed) — WASHINGTON, JANUARY 28 — The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has today warned the Egyptian authorities against using violence on peaceful demonstrators in the country. She defined the Cairo government’s decision to block access to the Internet and other instruments of communication as “without precedent”. Hillary Clinton called on the Egyptian authorities to “face up to the problem of social and political reform and to reach out to the requests of those demonstrating in order to guarantee a peaceful and prosperous future for the country”.

The people of Egypt, the US Secretary of State continued, “have the right to live in a democratic society that respects basic human rights”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Army on the Streets, Explosive Tension

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 28 — Street protests are engulfing Egypt which is going through a crucial day in the wave of demonstrations against the Hosni Mubarak government. News of hard-fought clashes are coming in with eye-witnesses speaking of hearing rounds of heavy artillery being fired in Cairo. Protests have been spreading to other cities such as Alexandria and Suez where, local sources say that armoured vehicles are being deployed by the army. In the capital the head office of Mubarak’s party is on fire, as is being shown by images broadcast by Al Jazeera television. The headquarters of this TV channel has been “visited” by police officers in riot gear who threatened to seize any cameras that were directed at events on the streets. A further four armoured vehicles are surrounding the state-run television headquarters.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: TV Reporting Attempted Looting at Cairo Museum

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 28 — Attempts to ransack the Egyptian Museum of Cairo have been reported. According to Al Arabiya TV, “People are attempting to protect the museum from looters” the Arab broadcaster is saying in a message on Twitter.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Mubarak Skeptical of U.S. Reform Push: Leaked Cables

President Barack Obama’s push for democratic reforms in Egypt has faced resistance from its longtime leader, in part because President Hosni Mubarak believes Washington’s past pressure for change has caused chaos in the Middle East, leaked U.S. diplomatic cables show.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking on Friday as anti-government protests rocked Egypt for a fourth day, said it was “absolutely vital” for Cairo to embrace political and social change as the United States has been pushing for years.

U.S. diplomatic cables posted on Friday by WikiLeaks show Obama has guided the United States to warmer ties with Egypt by avoiding the public “name and shame” tactics of his predecessor George W. Bush while urging political reforms in private.

But they also show U.S. pressure is viewed skeptically by Mubarak, who believes ill-advised U.S. pushes for reform in the Middle East have produced colossal mistakes, from the ouster of the Shah of Iran to the election of Hamas Islamists in Gaza.

“We have heard him lament the results of earlier U.S. efforts to encourage reform in the Islamic world,” the U.S. embassy in Cairo told Clinton in a cable before Mubarak’s visit to Washington in May 2009.

“He can harken back to the Shah of Iran: the U.S. encouraged him to accept reforms, only to watch the country fall into the hands of revolutionary religious extremists. Wherever he has seen these U.S. efforts, he can point to the chaos and loss of stability that ensued.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Day of Fury: Cairo in Flames as Cities Become Battlegrounds

When Mohamed ElBaradei arrived in Midan Giza, a traffic-snarled interchange on the west bank of the Nile, for Friday prayers, he saw a graphic illustration of Egypt under President Hosni Mubarak: neat rows of police and plainclothes security officers lining the streets to maintain calm.

By the time he left the central Cairo square an hour or so later it was in flames, doused with teargas and water cannon and with rocks flying through the air — a glimpse of what an Egypt sick of Mubarak had become.

By the evening the first military vehicles of the Egyptian army would be out on the capital’s streets, swathed in clouds of gas and smoke from burning tyres and buildings, and ElBaradei, according to reports, would be under house arrest.

It was billed on the internet by those organising the protests as a day of “fury and freedom” — a historic moment for an Egypt that has seen anger and fury aplenty. Whether it delivered freedom remains an open question. The presidential hopeful had come to the Al Istiqama mosque to pray; before he left his home he told the Guardian it would be a day of confrontation with a regime on its last legs. He had barely finished worship when the regime struck back, firing bombs and gas into the crowd and sending riot police charging with batons. ElBaradei was whisked away by supporters; thousands of others were forced to scatter into back alleys, choking and chanting amid the smoke. Egypt’s day of fury had begun.

In the narrow side streets protesters regrouped, wellwishers on their balconies threw down water for those with streaming eyes from the tear gas. “Wake up Egypt, your silence is killing us,” came the yells from below. Others shouted: “Egyptians, come down to join us.”

Their appeals were answered with people streaming down from the apartment blocks: “We are change” and “Gamal [Mubarak] tell your father Egyptians hate him,” were the cries.

They aimed for Haram Street, Cairo’s famous boulevard that stretches all the way to the pyramids. Tens of thousands more were waiting, clashing with thinly-strung lines of central security force officers who buckled and bowed under the force of the crowd…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt: U.S.-Funded Group Linked to Church Bombing Suspects

The Egyptian government is investigating information it has obtained pointing to Palestinian Authority financial support for an Islamist organization accused of carrying out the deadly New Year’s Day suicide bombing at a church in Alexandria, Egypt.

The PA is financially backed by the U.S. and European allies who supply most of the PA’s funds.

Egyptian government sources tell WND they were supplied with information showing the PA has been supporting Jayish al Islam, a Palestinian al-Qaida ally accused of the Coptic Christian church bombing in which 23 were killed.

Hamas, a rival to the PA, gave the Egyptians detailed bank account information proving members of Jayish al Islam received monthly salaries from the PA in the West Bank.

A top Hamas official in Gaza claimed to WND he is “certain” the PA finances the group in a bid to destabilize Hamas rule in Gaza.

Jayish al Islam is based in both the Gaza Strip and neighboring Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. It frequently challenges Hamas, which seized control of Gaza from the PA in 2007.

U.S. policy considers the PA to be moderate. America arms, trains and funds PA militias and provides hundreds of millions of dollars per year in financial support to the Palestinian group. President Obama, furthermore, backs the creation of a PA-led Palestinian state.

This is not the first time the PA has been implicated in funding Jayish al Islam and other al-Qaida allies.

WND reported in 2009 the American-funded PA provided financial support and, in at least one case, an official salary to al-Qaida allies in the Gaza Strip, according to information obtained by WND.

WND has learned that Abdel-Latif Moussa, leader of a Palestinian Islamist splinter group allied with al-Qaida, has been on the official PA payroll for at least one year.

In 2009, there were deadly fire clashes between Hamas and Moussa’s group after Moussa declared the Gaza Strip an “emirate,” or under strict Islamic rule, in a sermon.

Moussa’s group, Jund Ansar Allah, or Warriors of God, branded Hamas as un-Islamic and issued revolutionary statements against Hamas. Jund Ansar Allah previously has been accused of multiple deadly attacks against Christians in Gaza.

According to a PA official, Moussa, a trained doctor, had been on salary with the PA as a physician.

According to multiple sources in Gaza, however, Moussa has not practiced medicine for the past 10 years.

Last September, WND quoted informed security officials stating Fatah was providing money to al-Qaida-inspired Islamist groups in Gaza to build them up at the expense of Hamas.

The security officials said there was no official decision within Fatah to bolster the Islamist radicals, but that top Fatah officials were acting independently…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt: What is the Muslim Brotherhood?

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt this week urged its followers to protest after Friday prayers — the first time in the latest wave of unrest the group has made such a call.

What is the Muslim Brotherhood?

The Muslim Brotherhood is a religious and political group founded on the belief that Islam is not simply a religion, but a way of life. It advocates a move away from secularism, and a return to the rules of the Quran as a basis for healthy families, communities, and states. The movement officially rejects the use of violent means to secure its goals. However, offshoots of the group have been linked to attacks in the past, and critics blame the Brotherhood for sparking troubles elsewhere in the Middle East. Many consider it the forerunner of modern militant Islamism.

When was it created?

The Muslim Brotherhood has been part of the political scene in Egypt for more than 80 years. It was formed there by Hassan al-Banna in 1928. Who would fill Egypt’s power void? Suez crowds confront riot police Egypt’s ‘Friday of wrath’ Egypt’s revolution through social media Teacher Al-Banna and his followers were initially united by a desire to oust the British from control in Egypt, and to rid their country of what they saw as “corrupting” Western influences.

What is its history?

In its early years, the group concentrated on religion, education and social services, but as its membership grew, it moved into the political sphere, organizing protests against the Egyptian government. In the 1940s, an armed wing of the Brotherhood was blamed for a string of violent acts, including the assassination of Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi al-Nuqrashi in 1948 — shortly after he had ordered the dissolution of the MB.

Al-Banna himself was assassinated soon afterwards — his supporters claimed he had been killed on the wishes of the government. The movement went underground in the 1950s, and decades of oppression by successive Egyptian rulers led many of the Brotherhood’s members to flee abroad, while others were jailed.

The MB grew throughout the 1980s as part of a general growth of interest in Islam, and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 saw a spike in membership.

Why is it important in Egypt?

The Brotherhood is the oldest and largest opposition group in Egypt. However, it is illegal under Egyptian law, which bans all parties based on religion. Because of this, its members contest elections as independents.

Until last year’s polls, the party had 88 seats in the country’s legislature. But following a decision to boycott the election because of voting irregularities, its parliamentary influence was wiped out…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Leader: Every Tyrant Will Fall Due to the People’s Desire for Change

In his weekly sermon, Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Muhammad Bad’i said that the Egyptian regime, not the people, instigated anarchy with the election fraud in the Shura Council elections, and has plundered the people’s resources, sold the homeland, and murdered innocent people.

He called for continued protests and demands for comprehensive reform, even if the path was long and arduous.

He said that history proves that all tyrants end by falling due to the people’s desire for change…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt Protests: America’s Secret Backing for Rebel Leaders Behind Uprising

The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.

On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011. He has already been arrested by Egyptian security in connection with the demonstrations and his identity is being protected by The Daily Telegraph.

The crisis in Egypt follows the toppling of Tunisian president Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, who fled the country after widespread protests forced him from office.

The disclosures, contained in previously secret US diplomatic dispatches released by the WikiLeaks website, show American officials pressed the Egyptian government to release other dissidents who had been detained by the police.

Mr Mubarak, facing the biggest challenge to his authority in his 31 years in power, ordered the army on to the streets of Cairo yesterday as rioting erupted across Egypt.

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets in open defiance of a curfew. An explosion rocked the centre of Cairo as thousands defied orders to return to their homes. As the violence escalated, flames could be seen near the headquarters of the governing National Democratic Party.

Police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas and water cannon in an attempt to disperse the crowds.

At least five people were killed in Cairo alone yesterday and 870 injured, several with bullet wounds. Mohamed ElBaradei, the pro-reform leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was placed under house arrest after returning to Egypt to join the dissidents. Riots also took place in Suez, Alexandria and other major cities across the country. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, urged the Egyptian government to heed the “legitimate demands of protesters”. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said she was “deeply concerned about the use of force” to quell the protests…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Deaths and Injuries Mount in Cairo and Suez

At least 18 people have been killed in violent protests in Egypt on Friday, medical sources say.

Unconfirmed reports say up to 1,100 have been injured in clashes in Cairo and Suez.

The speaker of parliament said an “important matter” would be announced shortly on state TV. President Hosni Mubarak has yet to make an address.

The four days of street protests are posing the greatest challenge to his authority of his 31-year rule.

Tens of thousands took part in protests in Cairo, Suez, Alexandria and other cities in protest at high unemployment, corruption, and government repression.

The authorities announced a curfew from 1800 to 0700 local time (1600-0500 GMT) which was immediately and widely flouted.

The headquarters of the governing NDP party has been set ablaze, while protesters also besieged the state broadcaster and the foreign ministry.

Internet and phone services — both mobile and landline — have been severely disrupted, although protesters are using proxies to work around the restrictions…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egyptian President Asks Government to Resign

Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Friday said he had asked his Cabinet to resign in his first appearance on television since protests erupted demanding his ouster.

Mubarak said he will press ahead with social, economic and political reforms. He also defended security forces’ crackdown on protesters.

Protesters on Friday seized the streets of Cairo, battling police with stones and firebombs, burning down the ruling party headquarters, and defying a night curfew enforced by a military deployment. It is the peak of unrest posing the most dire threat to Mubarak in his three decades of authoritarian rule.

Thousands of people ignored the curfew after Mubarak’s speech to protest his statements and call for his ouster.

At least 20 people were killed in the clashes across Egypt on Friday, medics and witnesses said.

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

Frattini: Yes EU Commitment But No Conditions

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — A “social shock” threatened by fundamentalist manipulation that must be dealt with through an opening up to civil society, a form of moderation and democratisation that Europe must support, but without proposing “pre-arranged solutions” of an almost “post-colonial type”. In the Senate the Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini assessed the revolts that are shaking the Countries of the south shore of the Mediterranean and reasserted the need to deal with the terrorist threat.

Alarm for Egypt, an “irreplaceable partner” in the area, where, the foreign minister emphasised, the Muslim Brothers announced their “will to join in street demonstrations” called for tomorrow, a day that “could be especially delicate”. Tunisia is also under close observation. “There is a potential vulnerability related to the evident interest of terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda Sahara”, stated the foreign minister, explaining that the Country could be a “potential place of penetration” by Islamic terrorism, even though “fortunately it still has not happened”.

Algeria, after the experience of the “terrible scourge of fundamentalist terrorism” which in the 1990s resulted in 200,000 victims and missing persons, seems to be shielded from this, but there, Frattini stated, “the fundamentalist appeal is not with the people and the historic leaders of the fundamentalist movement tried, fortunately without success, to spur on the protesters”.

A context in which Europe’s role is still unclear. The situation in North Africa will be examined during the next council of foreign ministers of the EU, scheduled for January 31. On the occasion “we will deal with the issue of the European Union’s response to the situation relative to an area that represents a major priority for Italy as well”.

Rome will propose “the creation of a high level EU delegation for the organisation of a European mission in each Country” where the people have risen up. However the minister warned that the principle must be clear: “We Europeans cannot and must not make the mistake of indicating which is the direction to follow, which is the formula, which is the model”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

How Are the Protests in Egypt, Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution Being Viewed in Iran?

“The Islamic world is ripe with major new developments and Khomeini’s Islam is the engine of these events,” Iran’s hard-line daily “Kayhan” wrote in a January 27 commentary devoted to the recent wave of protests in the Arab world.

The daily, which often reflects the views of the Iranian establishment — or more specifically, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — added that the third millennium is witnessing “the powerful [presence] of Islam under Iran’s leadership.”

Iranian state media has been portraying the recent upheaval in Arab countries as a struggle against Western puppets in the region, while claiming that citizens who have taken to the streets in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere are taking inspiration from Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

“Kayhan” suggested that participants in Tunisia’s uprising, as well in as protests in Jordan, Algeria, Yemen, and Egypt are taking inspiration from Iran’s 1979 revolution, which led to the fall of the shah’s U.S.-backed regime and the creation of an Islamic republic.

“ ‘Death to the U.S. Death to Israel. Islam is my religion. We don’t want American rulers. We’re not afraid of martyrdom.’ Are these slogans familiar to the ears and eyes of the world? Aren’t these slogans the same that Iranian people [chanted] in the run-up to the Islamic Revolution?” wrote “Kayhan.”

The commentary made no mention of the calls for economic reforms and political freedom being voiced in the protests. There was also no mention of comparisons that have been made between Tunisia’s uprising and the mass antigovernment demonstrations that shook the Iranian establishment in 2009.

‘In The Name Of Islam’

Iran’s state broadcasts have followed the same line as that seen in the print media, according to journalist Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, who monitors Iranian state television.

“After Tunisian President [Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali] fled the country, they started reporting that the protests were taking place in the name of Islam and that they were targeting the anti-Islamic government of Tunisia,” Mirebrahimi says. “The same applies now to protests [elsewhere], including in Egypt.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Islamists Behind ‘Protests’ Toppling Arab Regimes

White House champions revolts while news media paint them as popular uprisings

Islamists stand to gain the most from the so-called popular revolts targeting the regimes of Egypt, Yemin, and Tunisia, Israeli and Middle Eastern security officials warned today.

Also, the Hezbollah terrorist organization stands poised to hijack the Lebanese government, the security officials told WND.

The security officials said the hands of Islamists can be seen in the orchestration of the street protests, which have been championed by the White House and painted by much of the world news media as popular uprisings.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Foreign Minister Calls for ‘Crisis Mission’ To Arab States

Rome, 28 Jan. (AKI) — Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini called for a “crisis mission” to North Africa ahead of massive street protests planned in Egypt on Friday against Hosni Mubarak’s almost thirty-year-long grip on power.

As tensions across the region mounted, Frattini suggested that a “high level political support team” be sent to the region to calm tensions in Egypt and other countries such as Tunisia, Algeria which have been subject to recent unrest.

“The European mission should make contact with the highest levels, beginning with the authorities in Tunisia, with civil society, mayors, and opposition parties, to collect information, not to give orders,” Frattini told the Italian Senate upper house of parliament late on Thursday.

Frattini was due to present his proposal at a Brussels EU foreign ministers meeting next Monday, as Egypt, with an 80 million faced a crucial weekend of protests.

Political change in Egypt — with a population of 80 million people — could have a massive effect on the entire region

“I do not think this can be dealt with by sporadic initiatives of this or that country in Europe, but only by a European initiative,” he added.

At least seven people have died and up to 1,000 have been arrested since the protests began in Egypt this week. They follow the so-called Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, which saw president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali flee into exile earlier in January.

In an another apparent Tunisia-inspired revolt, thousands took to the streets of the capital of impoverished Yemen on Thursday, demanding president Ali Abdullah Saleh to end his 32-year rule and step down.

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

Tunisia: Geant Hypermarket Destroyed, Jobs Saved

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 26 — The reconstruction of the “Geant” hypermarket in Ariana (in the northern outskirts of Tunis) will make it possible to reopen within 8 to 10 months, but the 1,600 employees will keep their jobs. The hypermarket was looted and set on fire in the past days.

The news was reported to press agency TAP by the executive director of the shopping centre. The director specified that the centre was damaged for around 30 million dinars (some 15.5 million euros). The offices of Tunisie Telecom and Poste Tunisienne were destroyed by the fire as well.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: 11,000 Prisoners Escaped Since Ban Ali’s Departure

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 26 — Eleven thousand prisoners have escaped from Tunisian prisons since the flight of President Ben Ali, and another 2460 have been released, the country’s Justice Minister said.

The Minister added that 71 prisoners died during the rebellion, 48 of these were killed in the fire in the prison of Monastir, in the centre of the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Damage Also to Structures for Babies and Children

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 27 — The episodes of violence of recent days also affected several structures for children in various areas of Tunisia. According to reports by French-language daily newspaper La Presse, 25 structures (crèches, nursery schools and children’s centres) were damaged. All 25 were ransacked and vandalised, but some were also completely destroyed by fire.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Sidi Bouzid, Army Defending Hospital

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 28 — The regional hospital of Sidi Bouzid is under the control of the Tunisian army as of today. The move was demanded by hospital staff, who protested this morning after suffering repeated attacks, especially at night, by unknown assailants.

In the same region, a number of demonstrations by staff from the regional education council took place this morning, with protesters demanding an improvement in social and professional conditions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Monoprix Supermarket Chain, 10 Mln Euros of Damage

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 28 — The damage suffered by the Monoprix supermarket chain during the recent unrest in Tunisia totals over 10 million euros. The supermarkets in Monastir, Carthage, Béja and Bizerte were set on fire, whilst another 13 were looted and damaged. This is what has been said, reports Webmanager, by the director general of the group, Adel Ayed, who specified that it would take at least six months for all of the supermarkets to be operational again. The director also said that the employees will nonetheless be paid. The employees who managed to stop their supermarkets from being set on fire will receive a bonus of half of their salary.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Support in Tunis for Egyptian Protesters

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — JANAURY 28 — A demonstration of support for Egyptian protesters has taken place in Tunis today. Around 50 young people gathered outside the Egyptian embassy today, displaying banners and chanting slogans against Egypt’s President Mubarak. No incidents have been reported.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Don’t be Fooled, Returning Islamist Rachid Ghannouchi is Not a Moderate

“Zionism is both alien and illegitimate in origin: it is a hegemonist and nationalist project rooted and nourished on the traditional European impulse towards expansion and domination. The founding fathers of the Zionist adventure were not in any way believers in Judaism, not even in its distorted, rabbinical form: they were in essence pragmatists who exploited the Jewish heritage as a means to achieve their nationalistic goals. All this, moreover, was done within the broader context of Western strategic hopes for the destabilizing and enfeebling of the Islamic world.”[1]

The above quotation is not from Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, or Hassan Nasrallah. It is penned from the works of Rachid Ghannouchi, the world’s favorite “moderate” Islamist Tunisian leader who has recently announced his intention to return home following a two-decade exile in London. The interim post-Ben Ali Tunisian government has annulled his life sentences, promised to release all political prisoners, and has legalized the formerly banned and repressed Islamist party, Al-Nahda, which Ghannouchi heads. Ghannouchi, once-called a “democrat” by Harvard Law Professor and Islamic studies expert Noah Feldman,[2] a “progressive” by the New York Times,[3] and a moderate by countless other analysts, has vowed to reenter the Tunisian scene in force and will be the greatest wild card in the political scene for the months to come. By pledging to participate in the political process and pontificating on his democratic bona fides, Ghannouchi has encouraged the West’s view of him as a repressed democrat. However, he is far from the liberal pluralist others claim he is. Don’t believe my words on the subject, just read his…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

One Quarter of Israel’s Population to be Muslim by 2030

The report, entitled The Future of the Global Muslim Population, shows a marked drop in population growth (from 2.2 per cent down to 1.5 per cent) over the next 20 years. Pakistan is set to become the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) — In the next 20 years, Muslims in Israel (excluding Gaza and the West Bank) will reach 23.2 per cent of the population of the Jewish state, rising from 1.3 million in 2010 to 2.1 million in 2030, this according to a report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

In the past 20 years, the Muslim population in Israel has more than doubled, going from 0.6 million in 1990 to 1.3 million in 2010, and it is expected to reach 2.1 million by 2030.

However, falling birth rates will slow the growth the world’s Muslim population over the same period, from 2.2 per cent a year in 1990-2010 to 1.5 per cent a year from now until 2030, the study shows.

“The declining growth rate is due primarily to falling fertility rates in many Muslim-majority countries,” it said. This is happening because the birth rate is falling, as more Muslim women are educated, living standards rise and rural people move to the cities.

It said about 60 per cent of the world’s Muslims will live in the Asia-Pacific region in 2030, 20 per cent in the Middle East, 17.6 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, 2.7 per cent in Europe and 0.5 per cent in the Americas.

Pakistan will overtake Indonesia as the world’s most populous Muslim nation by 2030, whilst the Muslim minority in mostly Hindu India will retain its global rank as the third largest Muslim community.

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

Middle East

Jordan’s King Fears Riots and Announces Reforms. More Than a Thousand Arrests in Cairo

The monarch wants to avoid the violence that has hit Egypt and Tunisia. Police arrest one thousand demonstrators in the streets against the Mubarack government. Demonstrations in Yemen.

Amman (AsiaNews) — King Abdullah II of Jordan has announced new programs and economic reforms, after protests against high prices in recent days in Amman. The King urged politicians and officials to be closer to people’s needs. According to local media, King Abdullah wants to avoid the climate of popular discontent resulting in riots that have hit Egypt and Tunisia.

For days, the Egyptians have been demonstrating against the 30 year regime of President Hosni Murabak and on 25 January over 300 thousand people took to the streets of Cairo. Currently, the toll from clashes with the police has amounted to six dead and about a thousand arrests. The demonstrations have also affected the economy and the stock exchange today suspended trading after sharp losses. In Egypt, about two-thirds of the population is under 30. Of these 90% are unemployed, while 40% live on less than 2 dollars per day.

In Tunisia, the first nation shaken by social unrest, the interim government has issued an international arrest warrant against former President Ben Ali, his wife Leila Trabelsi and his entire family.

Meanwhile, the riots have also involved Yemen. Today thousands of people took to the streets in the capital Sanaa and other cities to demand the resignation of President Ali Abdallah Saleh, in power for 32 years.

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

Jordan: Islamic Marches Today; King, Accelerate Reforms

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN (JORDAN), JANUARY 28 — King Abdullah of Jordan yesterday asked MPs to accelerate reforms and renew people’s faith in the institutions, on the eve of demonstrations by the Islamic opposition in favour of economic reforms and political change. “Parliament plays a key role in correcting the mistakes, accelerating political and global socio-economic reforms, and strengthening people’s faith in public institutions,” said the King in a communiqué, after a meeting with MPs. Jordanians “talk about corruption and other problems,” added the King. “Some of it is true. Other parts are not. But all the issues must be treated openly and frank answers must be given to the citizens, through a continual dialogue with the government and Parliament.” Following the fall of Tunisian president Ben Ali, there have been two demonstrations and one sit-in in Jordan, without incidents, to protest against the cost of living and to call for the government to resign. The Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition party, has launched an appeal for a large-scale demonstration today “against the high cost of living and for political reforms.” Some 25% of Jordanians live under the poverty line.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordanian Protesters Demand Political Reforms

Islamists, leftists and trade unionists gathered in central Amman Friday for the latest protest to demand political change and wider freedoms.

A crowd of at least 3,000 chanted: “We want change.”

Banners and chants showed a wider range of grievances than the high food prices that fueled earlier protests, and included demands for free elections, the dismissal of Prime Minister Samir Rifai’s government and a representative parliament.

The protest after Friday prayers was organized by the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood which is the only effective opposition and biggest party, but included members of leftist parties and trade unions.

Jordan’s protests, as in several Arab countries, have been inspired by the uprising that overthrew the Tunisian president.

“After Tunisia, Arab nations have found their way toward the path of political freedom and dignity,” said Zaki Bani Rusheid, a leading Islamist politician.

Demonstrations have taken place across Jordan calling for reversal of free-market reforms which many blame for a widening gap between rich and poor.

Jordan is struggling with its worst economic downturn in decades. The government has announced measures to reduce the prices of essentials, create jobs and raise salaries of civil servants. Protesters say the moves do not go far enough.


King Abdullah told lawmakers Thursday the government must do more to ease the plight of Jordanians and urged a faster tempo of political reforms.

“Openness, frankness and discourse over all issues is the way to strengthen trust between people and government entities,” the monarch was quoted as saying in a palace statement.

“Everything should be put in front of people. There is nothing to be afraid of,” said the 49-year-old monarch, who has faced stiff resistance from a conservative establishment to reforms they fear will empower the Islamists.

He urged the 120-member assembly to amend an electoral law criticized as designed to underrepresent cities in favor of sparsely-populated tribal areas to ensure a pliant assembly.

Under the constitution, most powers rest with the king, who appoints the government, approves legislation and can dissolve parliament.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

My Theory on Middle East Peace

The Arabs cannot abide having a Jewish state in their midst. While it’s true that the Muslim world has sometimes treated Jews better than the Christian world, that behavior was based on the dhimmitude of the Jews. This dhimmi status of infidels (Jews and Christians) segregated them and demeaned them while exorbitantly taxing them. “Infidels” were prevented from exercising their rights such as where to live, what occupation to pursue, etc. In short, dhimmi status wasn’t a condition the Muslims would have accepted for themselves.

The revulsion of Arabs, and Muslims in general, towards Israel is based on a long history of keeping the Jews in their place. Egypt and Jordan, despite their peace treaties with Israel, are nonbelligerent strictly for the money they get from America and for the respite they get from confronting Israel militarily. (That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t join in a wide- spread war against Israel.) In both countries, the elites are totally opposed to “ normalization” with Israel, which means that professionals who dare to cooperate with Israel, or even visit it, face banning from their professional organizations, or worse. Egypt’s government supports a virulent antisemitic campaign in the media against Israel. (Jordan’s government is more restrained because of King Abdullah’s need for Israeli backing.) Turkey, formerly Israel’s only Muslim ally, has now joined the Arabs in confronting Israel at every turn.

Israelis have “progressed” from total opposition to a Palestinian state to advocating one. At times, Israel even seems to beg the Palestinians to make peace, which I believe is a major mistake. For their part, the Palestinians foment hatred against Jews and Israel continuously, even encouraging their children to become suicide bombing martyrs. Most Israelis are not fond of the Palestinians, but there is no program of vilification against them. There is a small but active left-wing “peace camp” in Israel ( including Jews from the Diaspora) which wholeheartedly supports the Palestinians. You can find them demonstrating against Jewish building in Judea and Samaria, and even in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Unemployment to 10% in 2010

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — The unemployment rate of Saudi Arabia, the country that owns one fifth of the planet’s oil reserves, reached 10% in 2010. The figure was reported by Saudi Labour Minister Adel Fakeeh, quoted by the newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

Most Saudis work in the public sector. However, unlike the other Gulf countries, it is not easy for Saudi citizens to find work because the population has grown rapidly to 19 million people, according to the newspaper. In 2008 the Saudi government launched a 5-year investment plan totalling 400 billion USD, to create more job opportunities and to diversify the economy’s revenues, which are mainly based on oil.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Man Beats Wife After She Delivers Baby Girl

An Arab expatriate in Saudi Arabia stormed into the gynaecology section in a hospital, woke up his wife and beat her up for delivering a baby girl, newspapers reported on Thursday.

The unnamed husband was later overpowered and taken out by staff members and security at the hospital in the central town of Makkah.

He then accused the hospital of swapping his baby as his wife had told him previous x-rays had shown she was pregnant with a boy.

But doctors tried to calm him down and told him x-rays are not always accurate in identifying the sex of the baby.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Text Messages to Organise Protest in Jeddah

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 28 — Some Saudi activists have organised a demonstration by sending text messages. They protest against the poor condition of infrastructures in the city of Jeddah, which has possibly caused the flooding of some areas. The website of Al Jazeera reports that the protests regard the condition of the rain water drainage system in particular.

The water that came down in the heavy rains of the past days was not drained adequately, causing streets and buildings on street level to flood. The same activists are trying to organise a general strike of public and private workers, also using text messages, against the degraded condition of infrastructures in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East

Around 300 years ago, the bazaars of the Middle East were overflowing with luxury goods. The commercial centres of the region attracted all variety of fortune seekers, speaking numerous languages. There was nothing to indicate that the region would not continue to be economically prosperous. But then the trajectory changed. The Middle East nosedived into a downward spiral of underdevelopment. So what went wrong?

The major causes of the economic stagnation of the Middle East, which includes Turkey, are not colonisation, or the conservative and anti-scientific attitudes of the people, argues Timur Kuran, a professor of Islamic studies at Duke University. While colonisation certainly played a role, many former colonies, such as Brazil and India, have managed to overcome the historic hurdles of occupation. Conservatism and anti-scientific attitudes are as prevalent in Europe as the Middle East, and they have not been a barrier in the development of the West. The real cause of underdevelopment in the Middle East, Kuran suggests in this meticulously argued book, is the Sharia, or Islamic law.

When it was first formulated, the Sharia developed institutions, such as contract law, that were advanced and sophisticated for its time. But the law has not evolved and adjusted to the new world of business and finance. There have been, throughout history, many attempts to reinterpret it, eliminate ambiguities and resolve contradictions. In some areas, such as tax collection, innovations never ceased. However, the substance of the law was not transformed significantly to cope with radical changes in the range and magnitude of economic activity. The reinterpretations were seldom more than odd ripples in a pond.

Kuran identifies contract law, rules of inheritance, the ban on usury, and the death penalty for apostasy as key elements of Islamic law that thwarted economic development of the Middle East. His goal is not to rubbish Islamic law. Indeed, he takes pains to explore its positive features. But to demonstrates convincingly that lack of innovation generated negative consequences, even from the progressive aspects of Islamic law.

During the Middle Ages, business transactions were based on personal relationships. Islamic contract law, on the other hand, promoted cooperation outside family and kin. Complete strangers could come together to form a business partnership on the basis of mutual interest that was recognised in law and upheld in courts. The problem was that an Islamic partnership could be terminated at will by any partner. The death of a partner also dissolved the partnership, with subsequent profit and loss going solely to the survivor. The children and family of the deceased partner could neither inherit nor automatically take his place.

This meant that durable business partnerships that could last generations did not emerge in the Middle East. The private enterprises in the region became atomistic. When businessmen came together to pool their resources in profit-making endeavours, their cooperation was only temporary and seldom lasted more than a few months.

The problem was compounded by the egalitarian nature of Islamic laws of inheritance. These were designed to dissipate wealth in society and prevent its accumulation in fewer and fewer hands. But it also meant that business empires of successful merchants never survived after them, as their estates were divided and dispersed into several small segments. Recombination and re-emergence of the empire was almost impossible. Everything had to begin again from ground zero with new partnerships.

The ban on usury made it difficult for merchants to obtain credit and suppliers to lend money. Often, it increased the cost as both suppliers and users of credit discovered innovative strategies to bypass the prohibition. The bar on interest also meant that banks could not emerge. There was no incentive to trade shares; or any need for standardised accounting…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Thousands in Jordan Protest, Demand PM Step Down

Thousands of Jordanians demonstrated peacefully in Amman and other cities after weekly prayers on Friday to press for political and economic reform, and demanding that the government resign. AFP photo.

Thousands of Jordanian opposition supporters took to the streets Friday in the country’s capital demanding the prime minister step down and venting their anger at rising prices, inflation and unemployment.

It was the third consecutive Friday of protests following Muslim prayers in Jordan, inspired by the unrest in Tunisia and rallies in Egypt demanding the downfall of the country’s longtime president.

About 3,500 opposition activists from Jordan’s main Islamist opposition group, trade unions and leftist organizations gathered in Amman’s downtown, waving colorful banners reading: “Send the corrupt guys to court.”

The crowd denounced Prime Minister Samir Rifai’s unpopular policies. Many shouted: “Rifai go away, prices are on fire and so are the Jordanians.” Another 2,500 people also took to the streets in six other cities across the country after the noon prayers. Those protests also called for Rifai’s ouster.

King Abdullah II has promised some reforms, particularly on a controversial election law. But many believe it’s unlikely he will bow to demands for popular election of the prime minister and Cabinet officials, traditionally appointed by the king.

Rifai also announced a $550 million package of new subsidies in the last two weeks for fuel and staple products like rice, sugar, livestock and liquefied gas used for heating and cooking. It also includes a raise for civil servants and security personnel. Still, Jordan’s economy struggles, weighed down by a record deficit of $2 billion this year. Inflation has also risen by 1.5 percent to 6.1 percent just last month, unemployment and poverty are rampant — estimated at 12 and 25 percent respectively.

Members of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and Jordan’s largest opposition party, swelled the ranks of the demonstrators, massing outside the al-Husseini mosque in Amman and filling the downtown streets with their prayer lines. As they broke into a procession, the demonstrators chanted, “In the name of God, the government must change” and the Muslim holy book “Quran is our constitution, jihad is our path.”

Leftist university professor Ibrahim Alloush said it was not a question of changing faces or replacing one prime minister with another. “We’re demanding changes on how the country is now run,” he said. He accused the government of impoverishing the working class with regressive tax codes which forced the poor to pay a higher proportion of their income as tax. He also accused parliament as serving as a “rubber stamp” to the executive branch. “This is what has led people to protest in the streets because they don’t have venues for venting how they feel through legal means.”

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

Turkey: No to Christian Protection Bill, But EU Remains

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 27 — Turkey wants to accede to the European Union, although it has turned down special measures to protect Christians. Ankara has agreed to the notion of an agreement over the return of illegal migrants who make it into Greece across its borders, tempted by the prospect of a future accession to the visa-free Schengen area. Nonetheless, a vote in the Council of Europe on a resolution condemning violence against Christians has met with a thumbs down from Turkish MEPs.

Today has been a difficult day for relations between Turkey and Europe. It all began with the announcement in Brussels of a deal between the European Commission and the Turkish government over the ‘re-admission’ of migrants. Ankara accepted that it would take back those who had been expelled, irrespective of their nationality. According to Greek estimates 80% of illegal entries into the European Union pass through Turkey. Greece wants to erect a 12.5 km wall along the River Evros on its border.

In exchange the Turkish government is pushing for visa liberalisation. But while it is true that is a strategic partner for Europe’s leaders when it comes to energy policy — taking as it does the gas pipelines of South Stream, it is also the case that Europe’s governments are thinking in party political terms on the question of Turkey’s application to join the European club, which has been stranded for five years. Starting with the government under Sarkozy, who received a message from President Gul via an interview in the Figaro today to the effect that for him “the world does not stop at the European Union”.

Meanwhile, a straight ‘No’ arrived in the parliament of the Council of Europe in Strasburg on a report prepared by Italy’s Luca Volonte’ (UDC), calling for a condemnation of the violence suffered by Christians in the Middle East, which also observed how “the disappearance of the Christian communities in the Near and Middle East would be catastrophic for Islam, as it would mark the triumph of fundamentalism”.

The eleven Turkish parliamentarians present had no hesitation in voting against the motion. Aslan Cabeci, a figure in the party of Premier Erdogan, justified their choice stating that the ‘No’ came in reference to interruptions to Christmas masses in two villages in northern Cyprus occupied by the Turks. “You have put the massacres in Alexandria and in Baghdad on the same level” Cabeci said, adding that he would vote for greater respect for the minorities in Turkey “once France stops supporting despots in North Africa and when Italy stops cashing in on Libya”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Islamists Advancing on Russian Territory

Airport attack could be opening shot in war over central Asia

Reports out of Russia appear to be confirming that the suicide bomber in Monday’s attack at Domodedovo airport, which killed 35 and injured nearly 200, may have been a convert to Islam on jihad, according to a Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Authorities haven’t revealed all details of the attacker, but analysts now are raising concerns that the explosion may have been an opening shot by al-Qaida in a war over central Asian territory, including parts of Russia, it wants as its own.

Militants in the northern part of Afghanistan and central Asia appear to be trying to convince Russia that they should be in control of its predominantly Islamic southern tier provinces of Chechnya, Ingushetica, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Azerbaijan Warns Religious Extremists Against Protesting Ban on Headscarves

“In the struggle with extremely dangerous and harmful religious extremism and radicalism, all our officers are watchful and vigilant,” Ramil Usubov, the country’s Interior Minister told the official newspaper.

His comments came after several demonstrations against legislation regulating school uniforms, which effectively prohibits the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in schools in the mainly Muslim but officially secular republic.

The leader of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan was also detained on terrorism charges this month after calling for the overthrow of the government, accusing it of violating religious rights by prohibiting the hijab in schools.

Energy-rich Azerbaijan is a mainly Shiite Muslim country, but after decades of Soviet rule it emerged as one of the most secular states in the Islamic world. The countryhas a fraught relationship with neighbouring Iran, a another mainly Shiite country. Mr Usubov said that Azerbaijan was “one of the best examples of religious tolerance in the world” as well as a country where women’s rights are guaranteed…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Islamists Advancing on Russian Territory

Reports out of Russia appear to be confirming that the suicide bomber in Monday’s attack at Domodedovo airport, which killed 35 and injured nearly 200, may have been a convert to Islam on jihad, according to a Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Authorities haven’t revealed all details of the attacker, but analysts now are raising concerns that the explosion may have been an opening shot by al-Qaida in a war over central Asian territory, including parts of Russia, it wants as its own.

Militants in the northern part of Afghanistan and central Asia appear to be trying to convince Russia that they should be in control of its predominantly Islamic southern tier provinces of Chechnya, Ingushetica, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria.

Analysts even wonder if the goal is for those regions to become “separate” from Russia.

Such discussions go against the official Kremlin position, which has been infusing the region with investments while increasing Russian military action against the Islamist militants.

Russian concern is that other provinces could initiate similar rebellions and that ultimately would threaten the very cohesion of the Russian Federation itself.

“The Soviet empire died not along the periphery but at the center, when ethnic Russians decided that it was not worth fighting to hold the non-Russian republics or even concluded that Russians were spending for too much of their wealth on developing peoples who were anything but sympathetic supporters of the empire,” said Paul Goble of the Washington think-tank Jamestown Foundation.

Islamist attacks are increasing and becoming more ferocious, prompting Russian public opinion to begin to conclude that further investments and efforts to hold on to the region may no longer be worth the trouble.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Kabul Finest Supermarket Hit by Deadly Bomb Attack

At least eight people have been killed in a suicide attack at a supermarket popular with foreigners in the Afghan capital Kabul, officials say.

The bomber opened fire in the store before detonating his explosives, said police and witnesses.

Afghans and foreigners, including two women and a child, were among the dead, say reports. The Taliban told the BBC they had carried out the attack.

The blast left the Finest store, not far from the British embassy, ablaze.

The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville, in Kabul, says the supermarket is located next to a busy roundabout and a police checkpoint, and like many stores in the Afghan capital it has armed guards.


A police officer, Nazamuddin, told the BBC: “I was standing here when I suddenly heard a bang. After a few moments, I heard another bang. I didn’t go inside to find out what’s happened.”

The explosion in the heavily guarded Wazir Akbar Khan area of the city, an area frequented by foreigners and affluent Afghans, scattered debris across the road.

A witness told the BBC: “I was napping at my shop when I heard gun shots. Then we heard a loud explosion. Everyone was running around on the main road.”

An officer with the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s spy agency, told the BBC that the guards had exchanged fire with the attacker for several minutes.

Mary Hayden, a consultant who was in the shop, told the Associated Press news agency: “To my left, I heard a gunshot. A bomb went off. Everyone was running to the back of the building.”

A Reuters news agency cameraman saw three dead bodies at the scene, including two women.

“We claim responsibility for the attack, and it was carried out at a time when foreigners were shopping, including the head of a security company,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid was quoted as telling Reuters…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Al Qaeda Loses a Key Media Presence

Bekkay Harrach, the German spokesman for Al Qaeda Central (AQC), was confirmed dead in an attack on the U.S. air base at Bagram in a statement released last week by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The German-Moroccan was usually referred to by the jihadi nom de guerre Abu Talha al-Almani (The German). Rumors of his death surfaced last autumn but were never confirmed by either NATO or AQC.

Born to a Moroccan family that immigrated to Germany when he was a child, Harrach starred in several German-language AQC propaganda films and audio tapes. Harrach is believed to have traveled to Afghanistan or Pakistan in 2007 where he eventually joined AQC, and it is suspected (but has not been confirmed) that his travel was facilitated by recruitment networks active in Germany. A relatively large number of Germans, including many of Turkish descent, have traveled to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions, and joined in significant numbers two militant Uzbek groups operating in the region, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and an offshoot, the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU).

Shortly before the German federal election in September 2009 AQC’s media outlet, the Al-Sahab (The Clouds) Media Foundation, released three videos of Harrach warning the German people and government to leave Afghanistan and cease supporting the “Crusader campaign” against Muslims around the world. Pictures of him, most of them screen grabs from his Al-Sahab videos, were used prominently in a number of graphic art designs seen by the author and produced by cyber jihadis with messages threatening Germany.

The IMU statement, published in the form of a newsletter credited to German IMU member Abu Adam al-Almani, is entitled “A New Year in Waziristan.” Harrach was killed, it says, leading an attack on Bagram by 20 militants launched jointly by the IMU, AQC, and Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The exact date of this attack is not given. The Afghan Taliban claimed, and the U.S. military confirmed, a major surprise attack on the Bagram base on May 19, 2010. Videos about the attack are forthcoming, according to the statement, from both Al-Sahab and the IMU’s media outlet, Jundullah (God’s Soldiers) Studio.

The IMU statement provides additional evidence of the group’s alliance with both AQC and the TTP, a link that often figures in discussions of foreign fighters in Pakistan’s tribal regions.

Ties between the three groups are not new, and have survived changes in the IMU’s senior leadership. Last September Jundullah Studio released a video and posted a message online confirming the 2009 death of its former leader, Tahir Yuldashev, from wounds suffered in a NATO airstrike. The video featured footage of Yuldashev’s successor as IMU leader, Abu Usman Adil, meeting with the TTP’s two senior leaders, Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur Rahman Mehsud. If the IMU claims are true, TTP involvement in joint attacks on military targets inside Afghanistan are significant with regard to the military resources and reach of the Pakistani militant umbrella organization and indicates the willingness of the TTP to operate on the turf of the “largely parochial” Afghan Taliban, to use the characterization of Georgetown University professor C. Christine Fair.

Germans are frequently featured in media releases from the IMU, IJU, and Turkish militant groups and outlets such as Taifetul Mansura (Victorious Sect) and Elif Medya. The IMU’s Jundullah Studio has released a number of videos exclusively in German showing attacks on Pakistani security and military forces in the Pashtun tribal agencies such as Waziristan. Judging from their media releases, the IMU, IJU, and several Turkish militant groups have been the most aggressive recruiters of Germans in the border regions. German speakers like Harrach have thus been valuable propaganda assets to AQC, the IMU, the IJU, and Turkish jihadi groups operating there. However, the IMU, which has a number of German members who it features prominently in videos, is unlikely to be greatly impacted in its media campaign because of Harrach’s death.

Uzbek and Turkish recruitment networks have also long been suspected of operating inside Germany. In 2007 four Germans were arrested in Germany for plotting to engage in attacks in Europe in collaboration with the IJU, and a number of Germans linked to unidentified militant groups were killed last year in airstrikes in Pakistan. Moreover, Harrach was not the only prominent German jihadi to be killed last year. The young German convert Eric Breininger, who first traveled to Pakistan in 2007 to train in IJU camps, was killed in April during an attack on a Pakistani military position in Mir Ali, Waziristan. His death was confirmed in statements issued by the IJU, Elif Medya, and Taifetul Mansura and photographs of his body were also released…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: U.S. Official Kills 2 Gunmen in Pakistan, Police Say

May be charged with both murder, illegally carrying weapon

Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen said the American was being questioned by the police and may be charged with both murder and illegally carrying a weapon: a Beretta pistol. The American shot both men after they pointed guns at him at an intersection, Tareen said.

“Diplomatic staff usually enjoy a certain type of immunity, but I am not sure about murder,” he said. “We will consult the Foreign Office and legal advisers in this regard.”

Police officer Atif Meraj later said that a murder case was officially registered against the American, and another case was registered against two other Americans for killing the pedestrian.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pakistan is Paying the Price for Arabization

Wishing to build the world’s biggest Muslim country into a bastion of secular, liberal middle classes, Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared at the nation’s birth in 1947: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has got nothing to do with the business of the state …”

Sixty-three years on, and Pakistan is anything but its founder’s dream. Liberal middle classes are in retreat as fundamentalism, sectarian violence, religious bigotry and creeping Talibanization turn the country into “the epicentre of global terrorism” and put it in imminent danger of implosion.

Unfortunately, the new nation lost its script very quickly because of its founder’s sudden death in 1948. Jinnah’s successors, including his prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, showed no qualms about using religion to craft an identity. In 1956, they rechristened the country as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, bringing religion — clerics and their street power — into politics.

Once religion was incorporated to crystallize the nation’s identity, religious symbolism or Islamization became a tool for clever ruling elites — feudal politicians and the army — to appease the clergy and harness their street power to further their ends.

It was wily Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who struck the first blow for fundamentalism by banning alcohol, proclaiming Friday as a weekly holiday and declaring the Ahmadis as non-Muslims to cleverly project himself as an undisputed Muslim leader at home and on the global stage.

The appeasement of the clergy was part of his dream to gather Muslim nations around him to create a new power bloc in addition to the Soviet and Western blocs in the Cold War era…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

U.S. Consular Employee Arrested After ‘Shooting Dead Two Motorcyclists in High-Speed Chase’

A U.S consular employee in Pakistan is facing murder charges following a high-speed chase in which two gun-toting motorcyclists who may have been intent on robbing him were shot dead.

Raymond David told police he shot the two men in self-defence as they pursued his car.

A third Pakistani man was also killed, allegedly after being hit by a U.S. vehicle rushing to the aid of the American on the bustling Lahore street.

Police officer Umar Saeed said today that David had told officers he had withdrawn money from an ATM shortly before the incident, raising the possibility the two men were following him.

Others Pakistani officers have said the men were likely to be robbers and both were carrying pistols.

The issue of American diplomats or their security detail carrying weapons inside Pakistan was a hot-button subject last year among certain politicians and sections of the media purportedly worried about the country’s sovereignty.

Many Pakistanis regard the United States with suspicion or outright enmity because of its occupation of neighbouring Afghanistan and regular missile attacks against militant targets in Pakistan’s northwest.

‘“American Rambo” goes berserk in Lahore’ read the headline in The Nation, a right-wing newspaper that often publishes anti-U.S. conspiracy theories.

Western diplomats travel with armed guards in many parts of Pakistan because of the risk of militant attack, although David may not have been one of the foreign security personnel allowed to carry firearms, according to the Pakistani authorities.

Lahore has seen frequent terrorist bombings and shootings over the last two years, though the city’s small expatriate population has not been directly targeted.

Punjab province Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the American was formally placed under arrest after a complaint from a brother of one of the victims.

The case is being investigated as a potential murder, and the American may face that charge, Sanaullah said.

Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen said the American may also face a charge involving illegally carrying a weapon, a Beretta pistol.

‘Diplomatic staff usually enjoy a certain type of immunity, but I am not sure about murder,’ Tareen said.

‘We will consult the Foreign Office and legal advisers in this regard.’

In a two-sentence statement today, the U.S. embassy confirmed that a consulate staffer ‘was involved in an incident yesterday that regrettably resulted in the loss of life.’

The U.S. was working with Pakistanis to ‘determine the facts and work toward a resolution,’ it said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Snooker Dispute Sparks Deadly Clashes in Nigeria

BAUCHI, Nigeria (Reuters) — Clashes between Christian and Muslim youths in central Nigeria triggered by a game of snooker have killed four people and led to the burning of houses, churches and mosques, police said on Friday.

Residents said the dispute in Tafawa Balewa, in Bauchi state, started when a man from the Muslim Hausa ethnic group refused to pay for a snooker game on Wednesday evening.

The snooker club owners, from the mostly Christian Sayawa ethnic group, threw him out but he returned with a gang of friends and tried to set the building ablaze, witnesses said.

Several houses and places of worship were torched as rioting broke out the following morning, leading the police to call in reinforcements from the northern states of Gombe and Kano and the local government to impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

“We cordoned off the area in order to prevent a spill over of the crisis to other places,” Bauchi state police commissioner Mohammed Abdulkadir Indabawa said.

Bauchi lies next to Plateau state, where religious and ethnic clashes have killed more than 200 people over the past month, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.

There have been almost daily clashes between Christian and Muslim mobs in villages around Jos, the capital of Plateau state, since a series of bombs were detonated during Christmas Eve celebrations a month ago, killing scores of people.

The tension is rooted in decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands and for economic and political power with migrants and settlers from the Muslim north.

It is largely contained within one region of Africa’s most populous nation and does not, on its own, risk derailing presidential, parliamentary and state elections in April.

But it is likely to escalate in the run-up to the polls and gives President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration another security challenge on top of attacks by a radical Islamic sect in the remote northeast and the threat of renewed violence in the oil-producing Niger Delta, on Nigeria’s southern coast.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Immigration Minister to Appeal Against Afghan Girl’s Right to Stay

Immigration minister Gerd Leers is to appeal against a court ruling giving a 14-year-old Afghan girl and her family the right to stay in the Netherlands.

The minister said the court had not properly considered the role of the family in its 10-year campaign to stay in the country as refugees. And as this has fundamental implications for asylum policy, it needed to be looked at again by the courts, he said.

‘While I am also aware of Sahar’s individual circumstances, as minister for immigration and asylum I am responsible for upholding the refugee system,’ Leers said in a note to MPs.

‘While I want to take the greatest of care with regard to Sahar, I must also be careful in my policy towards other Afghan girls in the same situation.’

The minister has also asked the foreign ministry to prepare a report on the situation in Afghanistan for young girls who go to school. Sahar is in the pre-university stream.

Turned down

The girl has lived in the Netherlands since she was four. The family has been turned down for asylum three times.

Last week, a court said Leer’s decision to deport the family was not properly motivated. The teenager is completely westernised and there is no guarantee that the local forces of law and order will be able to protect her, the judges said.

Earlier this month, it emerged that the United Nations refugee organisation believes she should be given refugee status.

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

Culture Wars

Germany: Court Ruling Could Mean Equal Adoption Rights for Gay Couples

Gay couples in Germany are not allowed to adopt children together — only one partner goes on the papers. But a higher regional court ruling that deemed the law unconstitutional this week may change this.

While homosexual couples are allowed to adopt their partner’s own biological children thanks to a Constitutional Court ruling in the summer of 2009, the same rule does not apply to non-biological adopted children.

But the Hamburg upper regional court (OLG) called this “unequal treatment of marriage and civil unions in current adoption law” that is neither constitutional nor in the child’s best interest, broadcaster NDR reported.

Straight couples face no restrictions when it comes to adopting non-biological children together.

The ruling, published this week after it was decided on December 22, 2010, found that the inheritance and maintenance claim rights gained through adoption by both parents provide additional safeguards for children, the broadcaster said.

The issue has been sent off to the country’s high court for review, but so far no date has been set, a court spokesperson said.

Meanwhile politicians from the environmentalist Green party called for the government to quickly write a new draft law to ensure equal adoption rights for gay couples.

Parliamentarian and Green party spokesperson for human rights issues Volker Beck told NDR that Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger must “finally” make a change that “ends the discrimination of homosexual parents and their children.”

The failure to do this puts children from such families at a disadvantage, he said.

“The adoption ban for gay and lesbian couples endangers child welfare and must therefore be ended,” said Beck, who is also the party’s chief whip.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Obama Plans Tough Crackdown on America’s ‘Loose’ Gun Laws After Skirting the Issue During State of the Union Address

President Obama is set to launch a controversial bid to crackdown on America’s gun laws.

Stung by criticism that he left gun control out of his State of the Union speech, Mr Obama will unveil a White House campaign to persuade Congress to toughen existing legislation.


According to the aide, the president is planning a major speech in the next two weeks in which he will urge lawmakers to tighten the laws which came under the spotlight after the killings in Tucson.

He is expected to talk about Arizona, but to make the point that U.S. gun laws have been ‘too loose for too long’. The ease with which gunman Jared Loughner managed to buy a semi- automatic weapon -despite his eccentric behaviour — is one specific concern.

Mr Obama’s top advisor, David Plouffe, told NBC after Tuesday night’s speech that the president would not allow the furore over Tucson to pass without trying to prevent another similar tragedy from happening.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Ban the Bigots From Schools

EXTREMISTS trying to use schools to brainwash children are to be rooted out by a new Government unit.

Education Secretary Michael Gove unveiled the move amid fears of Muslim jihadists hijacking learning and Christian extremists teaching creationism.

He said the special team would monitor groups setting up new free schools, as well as checking on how existing schools are being run.

The unit will check for hardline political as well as religious views.

Mr Gove said yesterday: “A due diligence unit will monitor applications for new schools and arrangements in existing schools so there’s no risk of extremism taking hold.”

He added: “We want to help local authorities and others deal either with governors trying to hijack a school or extremists setting up free schools.

“Whether it’s religious extremism or political extremism, that power will be there.”

A report last year by the Policy Exchange think-tank warned that youngsters in Muslim faith schools were in danger of being brainwashed by jihadists…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to Cash in on Blue Movies on Expenses Row by Presenting Documentary on Porn

Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is to cash in on her dodgy expenses claims by presenting a documentary about pornography.

The ex-MP was one of the most high profile casualties of the expenses scandal after she mistakenly charged taxpayers for the cost of hiring two blue movies.

Now she is to present a documentary for BBC Radio 5 Live, entitled ‘Porn Again’, to be aired on 3 March.

The programme will investigate the pornography industry in the UK — meeting those who make, watch and comment on porn.

Ms Smith will talk for the first time since porn films appeared in her MP’s expenses claims about her own attitudes to the industry. She also speaks to film-makers and actors, philosophers and feminists, politicians and commentators.

Last night she said: ‘As I know from my personal experience, porn fascinates us — media and public alike. But we actually know very little about what it’s like to work in the industry and what porn is doing to our society, our children and our relationships.

‘In making this programme, I’ve been able to challenge my own views and attitudes and I want others to have the chance to join the debate too.’

In 2008 — months before the main expenses scandal broke — it emerged that she had mistakenly claimed for the cost of two pornographic films.

Her husband was forced to admit that he had watched the films…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Internet Lies Are Destroying Us, Say Christian Hoteliers

Standing up for their beliefs has also brought Peter and Hazelmaery Bull a hefty court fine and a string of abusive phone calls following their refusal to let a gay couple stay at their hotel.

Now it could cost Christian hoteliers Peter and Hazelmary Bull their business as tormentors take to the internet to scare off customers.

They are apparently posting bogus reviews on travel websites to take revenge for the pair’s stance on gay couples.

The messages claim the hotel is dirty, unfriendly and infested with cockroaches — with one so-called reviewer even comparing it with a Thai prison cell.

The comments were exposed as lies after Mrs Bull, 66, found those who posted them claimed to have stayed in the winter — when the hotel was closed.

She said: ‘I was moved nearly to tears when I saw the reviews. I pride myself on cleanliness and we work so hard to provide a good experience for people.

‘It’s a cruel and bitter thing to do, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time because people are now booking summer holidays. This could wreck our business.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Three More Charged With Stirring Up Homophobic Hatred

Three more men, all from Derby, have been charged with stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Ahjaz Ali, 41, Umer Javed, 37 and Mehboob Hassain, 44, are accused of distributing threatening material.

Two other men were charged on the same grounds on Thursday. The charges relate to the distribution of a leaflet, The Death Penalty?, in Derby last year.

The Crown Prosecution Service said the case was the first brought since new laws were introduced for this offence.

The leaflets were distributed outside mosques in Derby city centre in July 2010.

They were also posted through letter boxes in the city.

All five will appear at Derby Magistrates’ Court on 14 February…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Muslim Population Growth to Boom: Study

THE world’s Muslim population will grow twice as fast as the non-Muslim population in the next 20 years, when Muslims are expected to make up more than a quarter of the global population, a study predicts.

Using fertility, mortality and migration rates, researchers at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life project a 1.5-per cent annual population growth rate for the world’s Muslims over the next two decades, and just 0.7 per cent growth each year for non-Muslims.

The study, called The Future of the Global Muslim Population, projects that in 2030 Muslims will make up 26.4 per cent of the world’s population, which is expected to total around 8.3 billion people by then.

That marks a three-percentage-point rise from the 23 per cent share held by Muslims of the globe’s estimated 6.9 billion people today, the study says.

More than six in 10 followers of Islam will live in the Asia-Pacific region in 2030, and nuclear Pakistan, which has seen a rise in radical Islam in recent months, will overtake Indonesia as the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

In Africa, the Muslim population of the sub-Saharan country of Nigeria will be greater than that of Egypt in 20 years, the study projects.

And in Europe, Pew predicts the Muslim population will grow by nearly a third in 20 years, from 44.1 million people, or six per cent of the region’s inhabitants in 2010, to 58.2 million or eight per cent of the projected total population by 2030.

Some European Union (EU) countries will see double-digit percentages of Muslims in their population by 2030: Belgium’s Muslim population is projected to rise from six per cent to 10.2 per cent over the next 20 years, while France’s is expected to hit 10.3 per cent in 2030, up from 7.5 per cent today.

In Sweden, Pew predicts Muslims will comprise nearly 10 per cent of the population compared to less than five per cent today.

Britain’s Muslim population is predicted to rise from 4.6 per cent to 8.2 per cent by 2030, and 9.3 per cent of the population of Austria is forecast to be Muslim by then, compared to less than six per cent of residents of the alpine country now.

Russia, which is not a member of the EU, will continue to have the largest Muslim population in absolute terms in Europe in 2030, with 18.6 million Muslims or 14.4 per cent of the total population of the vast country.

The United States, meanwhile, is projected to have a larger absolute number of Muslims by 2030 than any European countries other than Russia and France, but proportionally, Muslims will make up a much smaller percentage of the population of the US than they do in Europe.

The Muslim share of the US population is projected to grow from its current level of less than one per cent to 1.7 per cent by 2030, making Muslims “roughly as numerous as Jews or Episcopalians are in the US,” the study says.

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

Pew Study: 1-in-4 People in the World Will be Muslim by 2030

A new study shows the world’s Muslim population will increase by nearly a billion people by 2030.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, the Muslim population will increase globally by 35 percent in the next 20 years, doubling the number of Muslims worldwide since the start of the century, and twice the global growth rate of non-Muslims.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Mujahideen Hackers Who ‘Clean Facebook’

Facebook just admitted that some high-profile public pages were hacked this week. Brian Ries talks to a group of young hackers who claim they exploited a similar bug earlier this month-erasing a batch of anti-Islamic pages.

Earlier this week, Mark Zuckerberg made a strange announcement on his Facebook fan page: His business would focus more on charity and less on profits. And French President Nicolas Sarkozy took to the site to say he would not seek reelection in 2012. Both status updates left people baffled. And both, it’s now clear, were the work of hackers. “A bug enabled status postings by unauthorized people on a handful of public pages,” a spokesperson for the Palo Alto-based company said in an email statement.Thursday. “The bug has been fixed.” But it isn’t the first time a glitch in Facebook’s Pages’ code gave hackers a chance to sniff around the social network. Just weeks ago, The Daily Beast got word of a similar vulnerability-this one allegedly allowed a group of Palestinian-friendly hackers to wipe clean the pages of their Zionist opponents.

The groups are based in Pakistan and England and while most people were drinking in the New Year, they were hacking away. As the clock ticked down the waning minutes of 2010, a 16-year-old kid named TriCk sat down at his computer in England, and pressed play on a track by the controversial rapper, Lowkey, whose lyrics include lines like, “Never worked for a Zionist, never been a Yes Man, my art is like Rembrandt painting pictures of death cams.”

Four thousand miles away, in Pakistan, a small group of Islamic hackers undertook a similar routine.

Soon, a digital flier began to appear on the Facebook walls of groups and pages the hackers say are Zionist, right-wing, and anti-Islamic. Its message: “On the evening of the 31st of December 2010 (New Years Eve), TeaM P0isoN and ZCompany Hacking Crew will clean up Facebook.” The social network, which now boasts more than 500 million active users, was not doing a sufficient enough job deleting these Pages, it read, “so therefore we are taking action.”

Starting at midnight, the two hacker groups-they called themselves “sister groups”-began working in unison. They claimed to have found an exploit-a glitch in the code much like the one Facebook admitted to today. It was unleashed when Facebook updated to its new profiles and the hackers were using it to alter the offending pages so that they appeared blank.

Members of the targeted communities began to notice that something was not right. “Can’t see any posts,” wrote one confused user. “Your page/group has been hacked… It looks like it has been deleted,” wrote another.

But strangely, Facebook found nothing on their end to suggest the attacks ever took place.

Their Facebook plan was hatched when they found thriving anti-Islamic user communities. That’s when, in Don’s words, “we decided to clean the Facebook.”

Members of Facebook’s security team said they investigated the backlog of the hundreds of Pages since first being contacted for comment by The Daily Beast, but found no evidence of malicious activity, no suspicious administrator accounts, and nothing to suggest the existence of any security vulnerabilities on the site-a total denial. “We take our statement of rights and responsibilities very seriously and react quickly to reports of inappropriate content and behavior,” a Facebook spokesperson said earlier this month.

But the hackers-and the hacked-seem to believe otherwise. “If we didn’t exploit their service,” said TriCk, who shuffled through two accounts in five days, “why did everyone in ZHC & TeaMp0isoN and everyone affiliated get disabled?” He saw it as proof Facebook knows that they had successfully breached its servers. The pages were hacked by means of a zero-day vulnerability found in the new Facebook profiles, the hackers claim. They slipped in through a crack in the back door.

“The vulnerability allowed us to stop walls from loading and newsfeeds going totally blank,” said TriCk, a founding member of TeaM P0isoN. “We didn’t get access to people’s account-we exploited Facebook.” “No software was used,” adds Don ZHC, the24-year-old leader of the ZCompany Hacking Crew (ZHC). “We exploit servers day-by-day and during exploiting Facebook’s server we saw an error and used it.” A spokeswoman for one of the targeted groups -the English Defense League -confirmed that several of their pages were indeed hacked across Facebook-including many regional divisions and an armed forces support page. “All the pages hacked were critical of Islam in some way,” she said, assuming they were targeted because of the EDL’s critical commentary of Islam and its increasing influence worldwide. Her assumptions were spot on. That was the plan all along, and confirmed when the hackers released a list featuring over 130 Pages and groups that had been temporarily silenced. It was, by their own measure, a fraction of their total take. “ALLAH U AKBAR,” they wrote. “Great start to 2011, hacked over 1000 Racist/Zionist Facebook Pages in 1 day.” “Groups like Allah is this and that, F Islam, Kick blacks out from the Europe, World without religious followers, and every page related to Israel and Zionist regimes” were all targeted, says Don, who preferred communicating over email due to security concerns. Members of the two groups, which claim members operating out of Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, the U.K., and the disputed- geographical area of Kashmir, found additional targets throughout the alleged attack. Some of the pages that made the hit list included “Islam is Evil,” “WOMEN OF THE WORLD UNITED AGAINST ISLAMIC MUSLIM SHARIA LAW,” and “A world without Islam would be a better place to live in.” Others were managed by politicians or governmental institutions with unfavorable foreign policies-the United States government included. But curiously, scattered amongst the URLs were links for the official fan pages of celebrities like Ben Stiller, Madonna, Britney Spears, Jay-Z, Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, and Zach Braff. They had been listed too. Why take down the Material Girl and the beloved star of Scrubs? “They support Zionism,” says TriCk. “It’s all public, Google it up.” Both groups are pro- Palestinian and pro-Kashmiri. ZHC is primarily Islamic. TeaMp0isoN is less-religiously oriented. But in their dreams for an Internet that exists free of religious intolerance, all say they would readily support Christians and Jews as well. In fact, they shun any hint of being labeled anti-Israeli…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]