Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110202

Financial Crisis
»Italy: Youth Unemployment Up to Record High
»Italy: Almost ‘50 Billion Euros’ In Taxes Evaded Last Year
»Jordan: Egypt Effect, Amman Suffers Huge Losses
»Portugal: Auction, Bond Revenues Still Slipping
»Spain: Catalonia “Runs Out of Cash” To Pay Employees
»Spain: EU Report, 31% Drop-Out Rate Due to Building Boom
»Spain: Salgado: Reforms Have Reduced Default Risk
»Spain: The Portuguese Exodus
»Tunisia: Electro-Mechanical Sector Employers Worried
»Chris Matthews Compares Tea Party to Muslim Brotherhood
»Driving Through Martian Storms on Earth
»US: Report on Ties Between Radical Islam and Marxism-Leninism — Must Read Report From “America’s Survival”
Europe and the EU
»Britain is ‘One of Most Undemocratic Countries in Europe’
»EU Climate Commissioner Hedegaard: ‘Reducing CO2 Emissions Early Can Save Money in the Longer Term’
»Failing Christians is Damaging EU Credibility, Says Italy
»Germany: Hesse Bans Burkas for State Workers
»Iranians in the Netherlands Say Reaction to Hanging Was Weak
»Islam and Demography
»Italy: Frattini Called to Court in Monte Carlo Flat Row
»Italy: Ruby Trial Request ‘Monday or Tuesday’
»Italy: ‘No Elections’ Says Berlusconi
»Netherlands: Wilders Aims Darts at Judge
»New Dany Boon Film Plays on France-Belgium Prejudice
»Sweden: Bildt Hails End of Mubarak Era in Egypt
»Sweden: Fire Extinguisher Behind Post Office Explosion
»Sweden: Social Services Snatch 2 Girls From Music Class
»UK Dept. Store Warns of Action Over Anti-Israel Campaign
»UK: A Medieval Mural Depicting Henry Viii Has Been Uncovered by a Couple Renovating Their Home
»UK: Rapist Walks Free as Judge Agrees Girl, 12, Looked 16
North Africa
»Algeria: PT: Bouteflika Must Authorise March in Algiers
»Algeria: LADDH Party, Power Invisible, Revolution Difficult
»Algeria: LADDH: We’ll March on 12/2 Despite Ban
»Bloodbath in Egypt: 300 Feared Dead and 500 Injured as Mubarak Mob Attack Peaceful Protesters
»Egypt: Demonstrators Want to Stay on Streets Till Friday
»Egypt: Protesters, Obama, Reject Mubarack’s Promise to Resign in September
»Egypt: Army Spokesperson, Go Home, Back to Normality
»Egypt: Pro-Mubarak Protest Outside TV Headquarters
»Egypt: Clashes Between Pro and Anti-Mubarak Groups
»Egypt: Government Rejects Appeals for Immediate Transition
»Egypt: Pro- And Anti-Mubarak Protesters Clash as the World Asks for a Transition
»Egypt: “Lost”, or Found?
»Egypt: Grand Mufti Appeals for All to Return Home
»Egypt: Swedish Journalists Attacked by Cairo Mob
»Egypt Now Fears Obama a ‘Manchurian President’
»Egypt: ‘Two Dead’ In Overnight Gunfire
»Leader Eyes Political Role for Tunisian Islamists
»Morocco: Expert Sees Seeds of Revolt But No Extremism
»Obama Quietly Builds Ties With Muslim Brotherhood
»Obama Pals Provoked Egypt Chaos
»Tariq Ramadan Interview: ‘A Point of No Return’
»U.S. ‘Held Secret Meeting With Muslim Brotherhood’
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza: Hunt for ‘Anti-Islam’ Books
Middle East
»Debated Sculpture in Eastern Turkey to be Demolished
»Is the Arab Spring Israel’s Nightmare?
»Islamic Radical Regimes and Western Ignorance
»Israel, Alone Again?
»Jordan: King Changes PM, But Opposition Not Impressed
»Middle East Turmoil Called Win for Iran
»Nearly 4 Million Turkish Women Illiterate, Report Says
»The Jews Run the Risk of Another Genocide
»The Next Domino?
»The Plight of Northern Yemen: A Life of Conflict, Dust and Ruins
»Turkey: Columnist Takes Leave of Absence After Racism Accusations
»Yemen: President Saleh, I Won’t Extend My Mandate
South Asia
»Indonesia: Bishop of Padang: Jakarta Exploiting Moral and Religious Freedom for Political Games
»Indonesia: Evacuation Taskforce Leaves for Egypt
»Pakistan: Against Judges, Muslim Extremists Call for Asia Bibi’s Death and Mumtaz Qadri’s Release
Far East
»China Catching EU on Innovation, Amid Industrial Espionage Scandals
»China’s Problems Driven Underground?
»Singapore’s Lee: We Can’t Integrate Muslims
»Singapore: On Muslim Integration
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Escalation Off Somalia: German Shipowners Turn to Mercenaries to Protect Against Pirates
»Canada: Hundreds Protest Cuts to Immigration Services
»Dominican Crackdown on Haitian Migrants Sows Fear
»Italy: Sicily Landings Resume After Tunisian Uprising
Culture Wars
»Swedish Body Finds ‘Boxer’-Clad Cartoon ‘Offensive to Men’
»Kepler Spacecraft Finds 6 New Exoplanets and Hints at 1,200 More

Financial Crisis

Italy: Youth Unemployment Up to Record High

Jobless rate among 15-24-year-olds at 29%

(ANSA) — Rome, February 1 — Youth unemployment in Italy hit a new record high of 29% in December, Istat said Tuesday.

The rate among 15-24-year-olds crept up from 28.9% in November, the national statistics agency said.

Italy has one of the highest rates for youth unemployment in the European Union and the issue was the subject of a headline-grabbing end-of-year plea from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi responded last month by saying boosting the prospects for young people would be one of his government’s major concerns. Asked if Italy could “become a country for the young again,” the premier replied: “Absolutely, yes”.

Berlusconi did not provide details on how he was planning to restore hope to what sociologists have called “a lost generation” but insisted it would be a top priority. On Monday Istat also said the overall jobless rate was steady at 8.6%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Almost ‘50 Billion Euros’ In Taxes Evaded Last Year

Rome, 1 Feb. (AKI) — Italians evaded almost 50 billion euros in taxes last year, a 46 percent jump over 2009, the country’s tax authorities have said.

Of the sum, 20 billion euros belonged to 8,850 people in employment while over 10 billion euros was sent abroad to avoid tax.

Twenty-six percent of the funds shipped abroad went to Luxembourg and 25 percent to Switzerland. The United Kingdom and Panama were also popular destinations for undeclared money.

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has promised to crack down on endemic tax evasion as a way to bolster his country’s finances.

In May, Berlusconi said that almost a quarter of the Italian economy goes untaxed, representing a loss to the state of 120 billion euros annually.

The Bank of Italy, Italy’s central bank, forecast that the country’s public deficit — the annual budget shortfall, will total 5 percent of the gross domestic product,(GDP) while public debt will be 118.6 percent of GDP.

Italy’s central bank predicts that the country’s public deficit in 2010 — the annual budget shortfall — will turn out to be below 5% of gross domestic product (GDP), but it forecasts that public debt will be 118.6% of GDP.

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

Jordan: Egypt Effect, Amman Suffers Huge Losses

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 1 — During trading yesterday, the Amman Stock Exchange lost 700 million Jordanian dinars, which is equivalent to one billion dollars, reports Al Jazeera. The uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the events in Egypt, according to economic expert Mazen Rasheed, is the main cause of the losses. The financial markets in the Gulf Region, said Rasheed, have suffered the worst losses due to the possible effects of the events taking place in Egypt on oil shipments through the Suez Canal.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Portugal: Auction, Bond Revenues Still Slipping

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 2 — Revenues on Portuguese bonds are still dropping. Today Lisbon placed on the markets 6-month bonds worth 455 million euros with an average interest rate equal to 2.984%, compared to 3.686% during the January 5 auction, and bonds expiring on January 2011 worth 800 million euros with an average interest rate of 3.710%, compared to 4.029% of the previous auction.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Catalonia “Runs Out of Cash” To Pay Employees

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 1 — The government of Catalonia is apparently on the brink of bankruptcy: “it will be practically unable to pay the wages” of public administrators and the newly-elected President, Artur Mas, is being forced to travel economy class. The news of the regional government’s financial plight has come from CiU Parliamentary Spokesperson, Oriol Pujol. The interview on Com Radio was designed to send a message of austerity to the listening public; instead, it has unleashed a wave of panic among public sector employees in the region, who are now convinced that their pay packets are at risk. Such has been the uproar that Regional Government Spokesperson, Francesc Homs, a party colleague of Pujol, was forced to intervene to correct the impression made and calm worried Catalonians. In statements cited by the Catalan news agency, Homs made assurances that the financial situation “is not dire”, but that the balance “is finely poised”. Pujol had claimed that President Mas’s economy class journey to Madrid, where he was received by King Juan Carlos yesterday, could mean one thing only: “We’re up a creek,” the CiU Parliamentary Spokesperson said, “it is a very complicated situation, speaking in financial terms and I also travel tourist class in the most no-frills way possible”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: EU Report, 31% Drop-Out Rate Due to Building Boom

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 1 — The boom in the real estate sector that took place in recent years caused serious damage in the education sector in Spain, encouraging an increase in students between the ages of 18 and 24 who dropped out of school to look for easy money in the construction industry. The drop-out rate between 2000 and 2009 jumped to 31.2% according to a report from the European Commission, cited by the media. The rate is one of the highest in Europe, on par with Portugal and lower only compared to Malta (36.8%). The goal of the Spanish government is to reduce the drop-out rate to 15% by 2020 compared to the 10% average set by the EU as the European average. Looking for quick money during the building boom, the former students, many of whom are immigrants, are former workers today, with a youth unemployment rate for the under 25 population that tops 43%. According to the EU report, 51% of Spanish students who dropped out of secondary school between 2000 and 2009 are without work today; this figure is also double the European average.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Salgado: Reforms Have Reduced Default Risk

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY — The measures that the government is adopting are reducing the risk of Spain defaulting on its debt and the need to resort to the assistance of the country’s European partners, according to Deputy Premier and Minister of the Economy Elena Salgado, interviewed today by Telecinco. “The steps that have been taken are making the idea of having to resort to the rescue fund less likely,” said Salgado, who underlined that the fact that the fund is more flexible or better equipped, “does not mean that Spain needs it”. The Minister of the Economy pointed out that the government, unions, and business owners have agreed on a “large-scale social pact”, which includes active policies for employment after the agreement reached on pension reforms last week and the restructuring of the banking system. Nonetheless, the employment situation is still difficult, with unemployment up to 20.3% at the end of December 2010 according to data from the national statistics institute. Salgado predicts that the economy will grow to generate new jobs only in the second quarter and that data on the first quarter “will not be positive”. And regarding the young Spanish citizens forced to emigrate to Germany in search of work, the deputy premier commented that “they will have more job opportunities in a country that grows more”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: The Portuguese Exodus

Jornal de Notícias, 31 January 2011

“Spanish crisis already forces 25,000 Portuguese to leave country”, headlines Jornal de Notícias. In only four years, more than a third of Portuguese citizens registered with their Iberian neighbour’s social security have lost their jobs. At the end of 2010, 51,831 Portuguese citizens were working in Spain, against 58,870 in 2009 and 77,396 in 2007. Since the crisis began in 2008, the construction sector which employs many Portuguese workers, has been most affected. As a result Spain’s Portuguese workforce is now fourth after EU members Romania (290,000), Italy (61,000) and Bulgaria (54,000). The Lisbon daily adds that Spain’s high unemployment rate — 19,8% in 2010, more than four million people — has also made the country less attractive.

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

Tunisia: Electro-Mechanical Sector Employers Worried

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 1 — There is a growing feeling of perplexity and concern among entrepreneurs of Tunisia’s IME (electrical and mechanical industries) sector, which is a strategic one for the country as it accounts for 85% of its exports.

The confusion and fears are caused by the present situation of strikes and the threat that it may continue, even though the industrial disputes are legitimate ones, pressuring for better working conditions and wages for the 70,000 strong workforce in this sector. A call for dialogue has come from the Chair of the National Energy and Electronic Federation, (Fedelec), Hichem Elloumi, who is cited by ‘webmanagercenter’ as pointing to the risk that customers will go elsewhere, especially those from the automotive sector.

In this regard, Mr Elloumi states that several European customers “have already set up their crisis groups and are looking around for alternatives in other countries such as those of Eastern Europe, who are very competitive in this area”. This results in worries about job security for around ten thousand employees over the two-year period 2011-2012, the business experts are saying. Given the fall in production and a lack of fresh investment arriving from abroad, this forecast might not be far off the mark.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Chris Matthews Compares Tea Party to Muslim Brotherhood

‘That’s the most asinine thing I ever heard’; Shows left’s ‘fear’

Was he just kidding? Or does MSNBC host Chris Matthews really believe the tea-party movement is the American equivalent to the Muslim Brotherhood, the terrorist organization currently vying for power in Egypt, Tunisia and Arabic countries throughout the Middle East?

On Tuesday’s Hardball, Matthews, a former speechwriter for Democratic President Jimmy Carter and aide to Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, devoted a segment to tea-party plans to mount primary challenges to Orrin Hatch of Utah and other Republican senators.


“So the Muslim Brotherhood has a parallel role here with the tea party,” said Matthews.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Driving Through Martian Storms on Earth

In a parched Nevada valley, scientists pursue miniature cousins of the whirlwinds that rage across the surface of the Red Planet.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

US: Report on Ties Between Radical Islam and Marxism-Leninism — Must Read Report From “America’s Survival”

Cliff Kincaid of America’s Survival has released a “must read” report on the the ties between radical Islam and Marxism-Leninism.

Kincaid urges that Congress investigate U.S. based support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Revolutionary Socialists.

The U.S. government MUST URGENTLY restore Congressional subversive investigation bodies to expose extensive internal support for foreign terrorist regimes and their networks within the United States.

For the full report click

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Britain is ‘One of Most Undemocratic Countries in Europe’

Britain may have the Mother of Parliaments, but in a new study on democracy in 30 countries it is close to the bottom of the table which is headed by Denmark.

Germany is more democratic than France, Britain and even Switzerland, according to the study by the University of Zurich and the government-funded Social Science Research Centre in Berlin.

Surprisingly Belgium is ranked as the third most democratic country in the group, even though it has now been without a government for more than seven months.

The ‘democracy barometer’ measures how well 30 established democracies implement freedom and equality.

Denmark, Finland and Belgium have the world’s best functioning democracies, while Britain languishes in 26th position and France is one place behind.

The study concludes that despite having the ‘Mother of Parliaments’, the British system has some ‘significant flaws’.

It says: ‘The problems lie mainly in three key areas: majority representation in parliament, which creates distortion between votes and actual seats in parliament, a media that is skewed by private-sector interests, and declining trust in the police.’

Project leader Wolfgang Merkel of the German research team told news magazine Der Spiegel: ‘It was designed to go deeper than whether a country holds free and fair elections, but not to go deep into individual governmental policies.’…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

EU Climate Commissioner Hedegaard: ‘Reducing CO2 Emissions Early Can Save Money in the Longer Term’

In an interview, EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard discusses the upcoming energy summit in Brussels, the need for stronger energy efficiency regulations in Europe, the inevitable use of coal in the foreseeable future and plans for a low-carbon future.

SPIEGEL: European leaders will convene on Friday for a summit on a new European Union energy strategy. Is this yet another European meeting of big talk and little action, like previous announcements to become the most competitive region in the world?

Hedegaard: Well, I hope not. It should be used as an opportunity to tell the 500 million European citizens that we have to think about energy in a new way. It’s not just about new power lines or power plants, it’s more fundamentally about how we can save and how efficiently we can use energy. At the moment, we’re wasting a lot of highly valuable energy because our machines and systems are far from being as efficient as can be. So the summit should focus European research and innovation capacities on this.

SPIEGEL: Three years ago, the EU set itself the target of increasing energy efficiency by 20 percent compared to 1990 levels. Are you satisfied with the contributions of the member states?

Hedegaard: Not at all. If we don’t change gears, we will only reach a 10 percent improvement. That’s why member states should be open to stricter and more ambitious EU regulation on the design and energy needs of electrical appliances. This is a great opportunity for European companies to put products on the market that are fit for the energy-constrained world of the future. We should see this as an investment for the future.

SPIEGEL: But in the current economic crisis, governments and citizens alike are shying away from any extra expenses.

Hedegaard: Last year, due to higher energy prices, Europeans paid a bill of $70 billion extra for importing energy from elsewhere than we did in 2009. At the moment, we just accept paying those extra billions as if we have no choice. But it’s not so. We could use this money much better to improve science and education than by sending it abroad. Saving energy and increasing efficiency are great ways to strengthen us economically and strategically.

SPIEGEL: A lot of governments, including Germany’s, oppose new regulations on energy efficiency.

Hedegaard: I think we should think more strategically in Europe. I hope the European governments will send a strong signal about improving our energy efficiency performance up to 2020. That would create a lot of jobs that can’t be outsourced to China or elsewhere.

SPIEGEL: European energy supply is still heavily dependent on coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. How quickly would you like to see that reliance disappear?…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Failing Christians is Damaging EU Credibility, Says Italy

Frattini has statement on religious minorities withdrawn

(ANSA) — Rome, February 1 — Europe’s credibility is being hurt by its inaction on Christian persecutions, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said after the European Union failed to agree to a statement on religious minorities.

Frattini had been pushing for the EU to make pledges for concrete steps for Christian minorities at a foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels Monday following a spate of deadly attacks in different parts of the world. Instead, the meeting did not even produce a joint statement, as Italy had a draft withdrawn because it condemned religious intolerance and violence in general without specifically mentioning Christians.

“I thought Europe would not have been credible if it had presented a text on violence against minorities in which the word ‘Christians’ is not even mentioned once,” Frattini said.

“I proposed that the statement be withdrawn. Europe has once again shown an excess of secularism that is certainly damaging for its credibility”.

Frattini added that EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton had promised a new statement would be discussed at a future meeting after a period of reflection. The foreign minister had been hoping the EU would back a plan of action, including proposals to have all EU embassies worldwide monitor the situation of Christian minorities and to have European aid linked to respect for minorities.

Frattini has frequently expressed frustration at EU inaction in the face of an exodus of besieged Christians from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries following attacks and limitations on religious freedom.

The attacks include a New Year’s Eve bombing in Alexandria, Egypt, where 23 Copts were killed, and a Baghdad church bombing which claimed the lives of 50 people in October.

Christians have also been the victims of episodes of recent bloodshed in India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia.

In December Pope Benedict XVI said Christians today are the world’s most persecuted religious group.

Last week Italy’s top bishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, said persecution of Christians in the Middle East has almost reached the proportions of “ethnic cleansing”. photo: Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: Hesse Bans Burkas for State Workers

The state of Hesse has banned the wearing of the burka — the Muslim dress that covers a woman’s face — by state employees during work hours, officials announced late Tuesday.

The decision was made by Interior Minister Boris Rhein in response to a worker at a local administrative office, or Bürgeramt, in Frankfurt who wanted to report for work wearing a burka.

The woman is just finishing a period of parental leave but has been given some extra time to reconsider her position.

“We have allowed her a couple more days to think about the situation,” said Frankfurt city head of personnel Markus Frank. “We want to relieve the pressure somewhat.”

The 39-year-old woman had the option of returning to work without her burka. Before she went on parenting leave, she wore a headscarf only.

But shortly before her scheduled return to work, she announced she wanted to wear a full burka on religious grounds. Daily Bild reported that there might be financial issues involved, as there had been discussion of a €40,000 settlement, though the woman’s lawyer had later talked of €18,000.

However Frank insisted the woman was not due for any kind of financial settlement. Nor is she being paid at the moment, because she is a part-time worker.

“We will not pay a cent of taxpayers’ money for this,” Frank said.

The city was following the clear rule that workers in the public service must make their faces visible. Frank said he hoped that the woman would think the matter over and return to work without the burka.

“We’re giving her another chance. Either she takes it or she doesn’t,” he said. “That is a clear limit that we are sticking to.”

Interior Minister Rhein said the state government was on safe legal ground because public service workers were obliged to be politically and religiously neutral. Veiled women conveyed the image that was not consistent with liberal and cosmopolitan values.

“What’s more, the burka can be understood as a sign of an attitude contrary to the values of the western world,” said Rhein.

The environmentalist Greens members of Hesse’s state parliament backed the decision.

“We regret the fact that it’s actually come to this debate because this abstruse interpretation of Islam by the city employee shows an image of Islam that has nothing to do with the views of almost all Muslims in Germany,” said Mürvet Öztürk, the integration policy spokesman for the party’s parliamentary group in the state.

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

Iranians in the Netherlands Say Reaction to Hanging Was Weak

A number of Dutch Iranians gathered in front of the parliament building in The Hague on Tuesday, accusing foreign minister Uri Rosenthal of weakness in his reaction to the execution of Zahra Bahrami, website reports.

The Netherlands has frozen diplomatic relations with Iran following the killing, which Rosenthal described as a scandalous act.

But Dutch Iranians said the move was ‘symbolic’ and a ‘weak signal’, because Teheran had lied about Bahrami’s detention and trial.

The woman, who held Dutch and Iranian nationality, was hanged on drugs charges, but her supporters say this was simply an excuse. She was picked up in 2009 after taking part in an anti-government protest.

The protesters, around 80 in total, called on Rosenthal to break all diplomatic relations with Iran and recall the Dutch ambassador.

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

Islam and Demography

ARE Muslims taking over the world, or at a minimum, transforming Europe into Eurabia? Whatever your hopes or fears for the future of the world’s religions, a report published this week has plenty to stoke them. “The Future of the Global Muslim Population”, produced by the Pew Research Centre, a non-profit outfit based in Washington, DC, reckons Muslim numbers will soar from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030. In other words, from 23.4% to 26.4% of the global total.

At the heart of its analysis is the ongoing effect of a “youth bulge” which peaked in 2000. In 1990 Islam’s share of the world’s youth was 20%; in 2010, 26%. In 2030 it will be 29% (of 15-to-29-year-olds). But the Muslim world is slowly heading towards paunchiness: the median age in Muslim-majority countries was 19 in 1990. It is 24 now, and will be 30 by 2030. (For French, Germans and Japanese the figure is 40 or over.) This suggests Muslim numbers will ultimately stop climbing, but later than the rest of the world population.

The authors call their calculations demographic, not political. Drawing on earlier Pew research, they say conversion is not a big factor in the global contest between Islam, Christianity and other faiths; the converts balance out. Nor do they assess piety; via the imperfect data of the United Nations, the European Union and national statistics, they aim simply to measure how many people call themselves Muslim, at least culturally, if asked.

New numbers, they say, will change the world map. As Indonesia prospers, its birth rate is falling; South Asia’s remains very high. By 2030, 80m extra mouths in Pakistan will boost its Muslim numbers to 256m, ousting Indonesia (with 239m) as the most populous Islamic land. India’s Muslim minority will be nearly as large at 236m—though growth is slowing there too. And in 2030 India’s Muslims will still constitute only a modest 15.9% of that country’s swelling total, against 14.6% now.

The report asserts no causal link between Islamic teaching and high fertility rates, although it notes that poverty and poor education are a problem in many Muslim lands. In Muslim countries such as Bangladesh and Turkey, it observes, the lay and religious authorities encourage birth control. Better medical care and lower mortality boost poor-country population numbers too.

Some bleak findings concern Nigeria, where Muslim numbers are seen rising to 117m in 2030 from 76m now, edging up from 47.9% to 51.5% of the population. Illiteracy among Nigerian women of child-bearing age is three times as high among Muslims (71.9%) as among others (23.9%). Two-thirds of Nigerian Muslim women lack any formal education; that goes for just over a tenth of their non-Muslim sisters. The fertility rate is between six and seven children per Muslim woman, versus five for non-Muslims. It is hard to prove that these factors are related, but they do seem to form a pattern.

Eurabian nights

The total Muslim share of Europe’s population is predicted to grow from 6% now to 8% in 2030: hardly the stuff of nightmares. But amid that are some sharp rises. The report assumes Britain has 2.9m Muslims now (far higher than the usual estimates, which suggest 2.4m at most), rising to 5.6m by 2030. As poor migrants start families in Spain and Italy, numbers there will rocket; in France and Germany, where some Muslims are middle-class, rises will be more modest—though from a higher base. Russia’s Muslims will increase to 14.4% or 18.6m, up from 11.7% now (partly because non-Muslims are declining). The report takes a cautious baseline of 2.6m American Muslims in 2010, but predicts the number will surge by 2030 to 6.2m, or 1.7% of the population—about the same size as Jews or Episcopalians. In Canada the Muslim share will surge from 2.8% to 6.6%.

How will liberal democracies accommodate such variety? The clarity of a written constitution may give America an advantage over many European countries, where unwritten custom has more sway. Jonathan Laurence, an Islam-watcher and professor at Boston College, thinks Europe could rise to the challenge, but failure is also easy to imagine. Europe’s Muslims should, by 2030, have become articulate and effective political bargainers. But with nativism on the march, it is also highly possible that Muslims will come to feel they have less in common with their fellow citizens than with their growing band of co-religionists elsewhere.

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

Italy: Frattini Called to Court in Monte Carlo Flat Row

Foreign minister accused of abuse of office over St Lucia papers

(ANSA) — Rome, February 1 — Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has been called up to a special tribunal for ministers for alleged abuse of office in reporting on the controversial sale of an apartment in Monte Carlo willed to the former right-wing party of House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, once apparent heir to Premier Silvio Berlusconi and now his fiercest opponent.

Judicial sources said the minister was summoned because of a petition filed by a member of Fini’s current Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) party.

Frattini has also been placed under investigation by Rome prosecutors.

On January 27 opposition Senators walked out of the Senate in protest as Frattini reported that documents his ministry had received from the Caribbean island of St Lucia proved that Fini’s brother-in-law, Giancarlo Tulliano, was the owner of the flat.

The question of the flat has been at the centre of a months-long row, after Il Giornale, the Milan daily owned by Berlusconi’s brother Paolo, charged that it had been sold for a suspiciously low price in 2008 to Tulliani, publishing documents showing he was the owner.

The press campaign against the Speaker came after he broke with Berlusconi and set up the FLI.

Tulliani, who rents the apartment, has denied links to an offshore company said to own the flat even though the justice minister of St Lucia, Rudolph Francis, told Italian media that documents prove he is the owner.

During the summer Fini issued a televised version of events connected to the flat, pledging to stand down as Speaker if Tulliani turned out to be the owner.

In his message, Fini said he was “furious” when he learned Tulliani was the flat’s tenant and had received repeated assurances that he hadn’t bought it.

He said that, while nothing illegal had occurred, his “political ethics” would force him to quit as Speaker if it turned out he had been “duped” on this.

Rome prosecutors investigating the sale said in October they saw no evidence of fraud in the sale and had asked that the case, brought by members of Fini’s now defunct National Alliance party, be shelved.

Frattini dismissed opposition claims that his ministry should not be involved in the issue, saying it was “his duty” to report to the Senate.

The minister said he could not provide details on the documents sent by St Lucia authorities but stressed that they confirmed media reports about the sale.

The papers will be sent to prosecutors “who, if they wish, can make use of them,” he added.

Frattini said he had asked St Lucia for information because he wanted to dispel doubts cast by Fini supporters that the papers published by Il Giornale had been obtained by the Italian secret service.

On Tuesday Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party said it was “dumbfounded” by news of the probe into Frattini and voiced solidarity with the minister.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ruby Trial Request ‘Monday or Tuesday’

Judge to take five days to weigh evidence

(ANSA) — Milan, February 2 — Milan prosecutors probing Premier Silvio Berlusconi for allegedly paying an underage prostitute called Ruby for sex and allegedly abusing his power in getting her out of police custody said Wednesday they will file a request on Monday or Tuesday for the premier to stand trial.

“The request for an immediate trial for the premier will probably be sent to the preliminary hearings judge on Monday or Tuesday,” said Milan Chief Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati.

The judge is expected to weigh the evidence for about five days before deciding whether the premier should stand trial over allegations that have shocked the nation.

The trial request had been expected to come Thursday, the same day as the House votes on a request to search the offices of Berlusconi’s accountant.

But prosecutors have now decided to wait a few days, judicial sources said, especially as that vote is expected to narrowly go against them.

The House has received some 600 pages of wiretaps and other evidence backing the search request in a probe the premier says is politically motivated.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘No Elections’ Says Berlusconi

Poll shows trust in premier down 5 points but centre right ahead

(ANSA) — Rome, February 2 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday said he would press on despite a probe into his alleged use of an underage prostitute and ruled out elections before the end of the government’s term in 2013.

He said the allegations against him were “not only unfounded but outright ridiculous”.

The premier said elections would only “damage the country” and vowed to swiftly pass federalist reforms, a pet project of his key ally the Northern League.

Berlusconi has already announced a drive, to be launched Friday, to raise Italian growth rates to 3-4% in five years and to free up business from the restrictions allegedly binding them by an article in the Italian Constitution. The premier said he might reshuffle the government to help widen a slim majority in the House, where he won a confidence vote in mid-December by just three votes, but there was no need for “haste”.

He reiterated his view that biased Milan prosecutors, who have also accused him of abuse of office over a phone call to Milan police when Ruby was in custody, were trying to bring him down, saying “Italy has consigned itself to the magistrature”.

The government is set to press forward with a revised version of a trial-cap law, setting maximum trial lengths at six years for each of Italy’s three levels of justice.

Critics say the measure is aimed at freeing the premier from two of three bribery and fraud trials he faces in Milan after a shield protecting him from them was partially dismantled by the Constitutional Court last month.

Meanwhile the Milan prosecutors investigating the case of alleged prostitute Ruby, 17 when she allegedly had sex with the premier last year, are poised to ask a Milan judge for an immediate trial.

According to judicial sources, a preliminary hearings judge will take five days to decide whether to put the premier in the dock after the presentation of the request, expected to come on on Thursday.

Also on Thursday the House is expected to vote to send back to Milan a request to search the offices of Berlusconi’s accountant for the Ruby probe.

On Wednesday a new poll showed the premier’s personal popularity down five points to a new low of 35% but saw his centre-right alliance 2.4% ahead of the centre left in voting intentions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Wilders Aims Darts at Judge

THE HAGUE, 03/02/11 — Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders wants to call judge Tom Schalken as a witness in his court case, which resumes next week. The politician wants to demonstrate that the judge belongs “in a banana republic.”

Schalken is one of the three judges of the Amsterdam appeal court that in 2009 ordered the Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) to prosecute Wilders for incitement to discrimination and hatred. The OM had concluded that Wilders made no criminal statements, but due to this ruling, it had to launch proceedings against the politician after all.

Shortly before the case came up, Schalken had a meal with Arabic languages and cultures professor Hans Jansen, who has been acting as an expert for Wilders in the case. According to Jansen, who is known as an Islam critic, Schalken tried to convince him that Wilders was guilty. Wilders subsequently brought a charge against the judge for influencing a witness.

The PVV leader sees Schalken’s behaviour as “like a banana republic.” He “wants to show that it is anything but kosher. Let the whole world just see this. This is Nigeria squared.”

The case against Wilders was suspended in October because the judges — different judges, not Schalken — had given the appearance of bias. New judges have since been appointed.

On Monday, in the same district court in Amsterdam, the further course of the criminal case will be discussed, including the admission of witnesses. Wilders’ lawyer Bram Moszkowicz will then request calling Schalken. Wilders also wants to question Jansen again.

Moszkowicz wants an explanation from Schalken on “his precise role in the whole proceedings, particularly the assertion that he had been one of the originators of the order for Wilders to be prosecuted. And what precisely went on at the dinner table,” says the judge. “The question is whether Schalken is a suspect. The OM has not yet decided on this.”

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

New Dany Boon Film Plays on France-Belgium Prejudice

Benoit Poelvoorde and Dany Boon In the film, the two enemies endlessly insult each other’s homelands

Making fun out of national stereotypes is not exactly standard comic fare these days, so a new comedy out this week in France represents something of a gamble for its star and director Dany Boon.

Set at a customs post on the French-Belgian border, Rien a Declarer (Nothing to Declare) is the long-awaited follow-up to Boon’s 2008 blockbuster Bienvenu chez les Ch’tis (Welcome to the Sticks), which was seen by 20 million people and now ranks as the most popular French film ever.

The new film stays on Boon’s home turf of the French far north, where the locals are known as Ch’tis, drink Ch’ti beer and speak the Ch’ti dialect.

But if Bienvenu chez les Ch’tis was about the cultural misunderstandings that arise when a French southerner blows in, Rien a Declarer plays on another set of stereotypes — about Belgians.


“I wanted to do a film about racism, but I wanted to make it funny” Dany Boon Director

The year is 1993 and, following the creation of the EU’s Schengen passport-free travel zone, customs posts are to be dismantled along the Franco-Belgian border.

Dany Boon plays customs officer Mathias, whose opposite number on the Belgian side seethes with a virulent and irrational hatred of all things French.

Belgian officer Ruben is played with panache by Benoit Poelvoorde, the actor who recently vowed to let his beard grow until a government in Brussels is finally formed. Old-fashioned humour

Boon and Poelvoorde are condemned to work together when the authorities set up new bi-national mobile patrols.

There is a thwarted love affair — Mathias with Benoit’s sister Louise — a drugs syndicate and plenty of ribaldry, before finally peace descends in another feel-good finish. Belgian actor Benoit Poelvoorde (L) and French director Dany Boon Boon (r) says he wanted to make a film about racism, but wanted to make it funny

“When I was an arts student, I used to have to cross the border into Belgium and the guards gave me a hard time because of my long hair,” Boon said in an interview with the BBC.

“Then recently I was back on the border, and these small villages which used to be dominated by the customs now just stand empty. It was so evocative — like those dust-blown streets in the Wild West.”

Boon’s cinema is based on the familiar and the comforting. Experimental it is not. This is why, to an outsider’s eye, much of the humour seems extraordinarily old-fashioned.

The Poelvoorde character is motivated by a level of exaggerated ultra-nationalism last seen in mid-19th Century Prussia. In other glaring anachronisms, he goes to confession in church, and is driven to homicidal frenzy by the thought of his sister marrying a Frenchman.

Underlying his behaviour are the old national cliches — that the French think the Belgians are all thick, while the Belgians find the French arrogant and smug. The jokes abound.

Boon defends himself against charges that he is pandering to the stereotypes by describing his film as a satire on racism. Still from Rien a Declarer The film follows the fictional dismantling of customs posts along the Franco-Belgian border

“I wanted to do a film about racism, but I wanted to make it funny. The way to do that, it seemed to me, was to focus on a French-Belgian situation. French and Belgians are basically the same — the same language, the same skin, the same religion — so the racism is utterly ridiculous.

“If I tried to make a comedy about a real racist situation — say with North Africans — then it would be too sensitive to work.”

Some might say Boon is having his cake and eating it — playing for easy laughs and being high-minded at the same time.

But in France, the only question that matters is whether Rien a Declarer can live up to the success of its monumental predecessor, the Ch’tis.

For the critics, the answer so far has been a resounding “Non”.

Le Figaro described the film as “empty, lazy and tired”, while Liberation said it was a “reactionary fairy tale”. Even crueller was Les Inrockuptibles magazine, which said it was the sort of film wartime leader Marshal Petain would ask to see on his deathbed.

It is true that the France as portrayed in Rien a Declarer is a kind of de-globalised never-never-land where people behave according to uncomplicated, reassuring patterns.

But then exactly the same could be said of Bienvenu chez les Ch’tis, and that was the biggest French hit of all time.

The fact is that today’s French are suckers for anything that will make them forget their chronic sense of gloom.

Boon says he is upset by the critiques, but has a way of staying sane.

“I just get out the early reviews of les Ch’tis, and remind myself how the critics got that one wrong too.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Bildt Hails End of Mubarak Era in Egypt

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has hailed the end of the “Mubarak era” in Egypt, as Egyptians in Sweden planned additional demonstrations in support of pro-democracy forces in their home country.

Bildt said he “welcomed” a Tuesday night announcement by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak that he would not stand for re-election in Egypt’s elections, scheduled to take place in September.

“The Mubarak era in Egyptian politics is over,” he wrote.

“I now hope that real transition to a democratic, pluralistic, and stable Egypt can begin.”

Bildt has been in Brussels since Monday, where developments in Egypt have dominated meetings with EU foreign ministers and Swedish EU representatives.

Earlier in the week, Bildt explained that the EU is united in its belief that the only way to achieve a democratic and stable Egypt is through free and fair elections.

He cautioned, however, that the European Union has no views as to what the results of such elections should be.

In the seventh day of increasingly vocal protests that have left an estimated

300 people dead and more than 3,000 injured, millions of Egyptians took to the streets in protest on Tuesday calling on Mubarak to step down.

In a statement broadcast on television on Tuesday night, Mubarak, 82, said he would not stand for reelection, signaling the end of his three decades at the top of Egyptian politics.

While Bildt was encouraged by Mubarak’s announcement, Egyptians in Sweden who support calls for his ouster remained skeptical of the Egyptian president’s stated intention to get out of politics.

“He’s lying,” Kholoud Saad, an Egyptian living in Gävle in eastern Sweden, told The Local.

Saad has been active in organising demonstrations in Sweden to show support for protestors in her home country.

She claimed Mubarak has a history of hiding the truth from the Egyptian people and she saw no reason to think he would stop now.

“We demand that he step down immediately,” she said.

Saad fears that Mubarak will still be able to influence the September elections even if he’s not a candidate, either through having his son run for president or through rules that allow him and his allies to supervise the election.

“If the election is held under Mubarak’s supervision, we won’t be able to trust it at all,” she said.

In addition to Mubarak’s immediate departure, Saad and her fellow demonstrators have called for Egypt’s constitution to be changed to ensure independent electoral supervision and to remove restrictions on who can run for president, changes which Sweden’s foreign minister also supported.

“Now the crucial task is to arrange the free and fair election of Egypt’s next president and to create credibility for political developments until then,” said Bildt.

“But that is going to require major changes in current regulations to open things up for all candidates who wish to run. The old regime’s limitations must be abolished.”

“The Egyptian people’s ability to choose freely must not be restricted,” he added.

Saad and other Egyptians in Sweden are planning another demonstration to be held in central Stockholm on Saturday in which they will stage a mock trial of Mubarak.

“We want to let the world know what he has done,” she said.

Meanwhile, Swedish tour operators continue shuttling Swedish tourists home from Egypt, a country which has temporarily imploded, according to Sweden’s ambassador to Egypt, Malin Kärre.

Weary travelers who arrived back in Sweden on Tuesday night were relieved to be home, and voiced doubts over whether they would return to Egypt in the future.

“No more Egypt. You just want to get home because you’re worried and have this in the back of your mind the whole time,” Ann Kristin Jedler from Motola in central Sweden told the TT news agency.

Charter companies told TT they expect to have all their customers currently in Egypt back in Sweden by the end of the week.

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

Sweden: Fire Extinguisher Behind Post Office Explosion

The explosion at a post terminal in Borlänge in central Sweden on Wednesday morning was caused by a fire extinguisher, Dalarna police have confirmed.

The explosion caused a the terminal to fill with smoke and left several people covered in white dust. Around 30 affected staff were given treatment to counter anthrax, but the whole episode turned out to be a false alarm caused by a power extinguisher.

“The best thing is that it all turn out for the good,” said Dalarna police spokesperson Sven Åke Petters to reporters.

“There were eight people in the premises to begin with, but before the police arrived and the location was sealed off there were several more who had arrived, including emergency personnel,” said deputy county medical officer Astrid Danielsson.

Police received an alarm over the explosion at 8.20am on Wednesday morning. The premises filled with smoke and the white powder filled the air, Petters told The Local earlier on Wednesday.

Dalarna police led the investigation into the explosion although the Security Service followed developments after having been informed of the incident.

Borlänge post terminal is operated by Posten, formerly Sweden’s postal monopoly, and serves the county of Dalarna. The terminal was evacuated after the incident to allow for police forensics to conduct an examination.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Social Services Snatch 2 Girls From Music Class

‘Psychological’ issues claimed while mother levels child trafficking accusation

Social-services workers in Sweden without warning have taken two children from their mother in a move described by an analyst as legal even if there is no evidence of problems, and an expert on international law suspects that foster families in that nation are getting rich on such placements.

Michael Donnelly, director of international relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association, told WND that the case of Natalya, a Russian citizen living in Sweden, and her daughters, Masha and Nelly, “underscores the utter disregard for basic due-process rights that should be the hallmark of a fair system of justice.”


The agency report said a woman identified as Natalya was living in Sweden with her twin girls, Masha and Nelly, when the two girls disappeared from a music class at school without warning.

The two were held for an entire week before their mother was notified of allegations the family had “psychological” problems, which a family attorney said would suffice for social workers to send the children, 13, to foster homes.


Said the mother, “Children are human goods to them.”

A professor of international law, Jacob Sundberg, agreed.

Say you have six foster children, well, you can make a fortune [in Sweden},“ he told the agency, accusing the Scandavanian nation of operating the “big business” of foster care using doctors, psychologists, lawyers and social services agencies.


Claesson-Harrold also is watching the new case closely and agrees that there would be a financial motive for government workers to take custody of the children.

“Often people have relatives or friends working in social services and these friends or relatives help them to get foster children. We have cases where social services have been paid 10,000 Swedish pounds per day,” she told RT. “That’s about 1,200 euros per day for one single child. That is 3.65 million Swedish pounds per year — over 430,000 euros ($600,000) per year to take care of one child.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK Dept. Store Warns of Action Over Anti-Israel Campaign

British chain John Lewis threatens further action after Palestinian Solidarity Campaign fabricates claim they stopped carrying Ahava products.

LONDON — British department store John Lewis has warned an anti-Israel campaign group that it will take further action if it continues to fabricate a falsehood that the store is boycotting Israeli cosmetic products.

Earlier this month, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) claimed that John Lewis, the award-winning British retailer, had stopped stocking Ahava products on account of representations made by the radical fringe group.

“Ahava’s goods, processed on stolen Palestinian land, are becoming too hot to handle. Leading British retail business John Lewis is now refusing to stock this toxic brand,” claimed the PSC, a radical fringe group that supports Hamas, the boycott of Israel and a one-state solution.

John Lewis emphatically denied the charge, accusing the PSC of creating “false and misleading” information.

A spokesman for the retail giant said it had stopped stocking Ahava products in 2008, a number of years before PSC made any claims, on account of performance levels and that it was purely a commercial decision. It added that it still stocked Israeli goods and would continue to do so.

“The Ahava range was deleted at the end of 2008,” a John Lewis spokesman told The Jerusalem Post. “I have seen the sales figures report and can absolutely corroborate this. There were a few sales of products in 2009-10 but these were reduced residues selling through.”

This week, John Lewis wrote to the PSC for the second time after the group again included the story in its weekly email newsletter. The John Lewis spokesman told the Post that it has been very clear that the group was misleading and misquoting.

“We have written to the PSC pointing out the facts regarding Ahava and have followed this up, expecting the PSC to stop distributing the original article of 14th January, which contains ‘quotes’ which are false and misleading.”

“We have stated how disappointed we are that John Lewis’s decisions, which were for purely commercial reasons back in 2008, have been used out of context by the PSC,” the spokesman added.

The spokesman said that it would take further action if the PSC continued to distribute the story.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

UK: A Medieval Mural Depicting Henry Viii Has Been Uncovered by a Couple Renovating Their Home

A unique medieval mural of Henry VIII has been discovered by a couple renovating their Tudor home.

Angie Powell, 57, and her husband Rhodri, 56, uncovered the 20ft wide, six ft high, wall painting as they peeled back wallpaper and mortar from their grade II listed home.

The priceless picture, which shows the monarch sitting on his throne wearing his crown and holding a sceptre, is thought to have been painted shortly after the house was built at the turn of the 15th century.

At the time it was the home of Thomas Cranmer, the Archdeacon of Taunton who went onto become the Archbishop of Canterbury and helped Henry break from the Catholic Church and set up the Church of England.

Though the artist is unknown, it is thought to be unique.

The only other known mural of the King, painted in the Palace of Whitehall, was destroyed when it burned down in the 16th century.

Michael Liversidge, former head of history of art department at Bristol University, said the discovery was “totally fascinating” and of “enormous importance and significance”.

“It would have been an expression of loyalty,” he said.

“Cranmer could have done it as a tribute to Henry and that would make it an object of great importance and significance. It is a unique image.”

Mrs Powell and husband Rhodri have lived at the house near Taunton, Somerset, for about three years.

After the discovery, they brought in the experts who removed layers of plaster and mortar to clean up the image.

Mrs Powell, a children’s author, said they discovered the mural while redecorating.

“When we saw the eyes appear out of the plaster it was a real moment,” she said.

They had been removing wooden panels from the wall with a view to painting it.

“It is a presence and you do feel there’s just something there behind you looking over your shoulder,” she said.

“When people come in, he grabs the attention.”

Ann Ballatyne, a conservator, said: “This is quite special. I’ve not seen anything like it and I’ve been working on wall paintings since 1966.

“I’ve not seen anything as magnificent as this.”

Cranmer was chosen to be Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533 and immediately declared Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon void, and four months later married him to Anne Boleyn.

With Thomas Cromwell, he supported the translation of the bible into English.

In 1545, he wrote a litany that is still used in the church.

In 1549, he helped complete the book of common prayer.

After Edward VI’s death, Cranmer supported Lady Jane Grey as successor.

Her nine-day reign was followed by the Roman Catholic Mary I, who tried him for treason.

After a long trial and imprisonment, he was forced to proclaim to the public his error in the support of Protestantism, an act designed to discourage followers of the religion.

Despite this, Cranmer was sentenced to be burned to death in Oxford on 21 March 1556.

He dramatically stuck his right hand, with which he had signed his recantation, into the fire first.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Rapist Walks Free as Judge Agrees Girl, 12, Looked 16

A convicted child rapist who claims he believed a 12-year-old girl he raped was 16 has been given a conditional discharge by top judges.


After admitting rape in May 2010, he was given a six-month suspended jail term by Judge Timothy Mort, sentencing at Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court, who agreed it was right the victim could pass for 16.

However, Bhuta took his case to the Court of Appeal where three judges ruled the sentence was too harsh. The conditional discharge means if he goes a year without committing any other offence, the rape conviction will be removed from his record.

Gill Gibbons, chief executive officer of CROP (Coalition for the Removal of Pimping) said it was “very disappointing” and added: “We need to make sure those who are exploiting young people are convicted and prosecuted properly.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: PT: Bouteflika Must Authorise March in Algiers

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 1 — The leader of Algeria’s Workers’ Party (PT, Trotskyist), Louisa Hanoune, has asked President Bouteflika and the country’s Interior Minister “to authorise processions in Algiers, particularly the one scheduled on February 12”. “Considering the international situation”, said Hanoune, who is officially in opposition but in many cases backs the President, “a real democratisation of politics is necessary as well as an international political reform”. The PT “is for the revocation of the state of emergency” but “does not interfere with the strategy for the fight against terrorism”. According to Hanoune, the local press writes, “Algeria is different from Egypt”. For example, she concluded, “the country shouldn’t be ashamed of its foreign policies: it has never considered to normalise its relations with Israel and has always defended the sovereignty of its people”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: LADDH Party, Power Invisible, Revolution Difficult

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 1 — It is hard to imagine a Tunisia-style revolution happening in Algeria as well. This is the view of the Secretary of the Laddh Party, Mostefa Bouchachi, who, in a report by El Watan, has been speaking of the “particular and complex nature of the Algerian system”.

“The government is not the source of decisions,” he said, “the President is not the only one to take decisions; there are invisible centres of decision-making”. “When power is unseeable,” he added “success of a revolution is rendered difficult”.

Laddh, which is among the members of the ‘committee for change and democracy’ which will be taking to the streets on February 12 despite being banned by the authorities. It wants to lead “a peaceful revolution to protect Algeria as a nation”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: LADDH: We’ll March on 12/2 Despite Ban

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 1 — Despite a ban by the authorities, the “National Coordination for Democracy and Change” will protest in Algiers on February 12, announced the President of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH), Mostefa Bouchachi. “We will march with or without authorisation,” he said in an interview with El Watan. “There is no law that prohibits protest marches and the state of emergency is unconstitutional.” The state of emergency “may have been established to fight against political violence and terrorism in the 1990s,” he explained, “but it is now used against the people of Algeria to prevent them from expressing their point of view”. The Algerian regime, he added, “used the violence from the 1990s to create fear among Algerians. They used all means possible to hurt the credibility of the political parties and civil society” “to neutralise the population and isolate it”. Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia reiterated a few days ago that all protest marches in Algiers are prohibited. Together with the LADDH, the autonomous unions, student groups, and the movement of Archs (village assemblies in the Kabyles) as well as political parties, including the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) will take part in the protest. The march organised by the RCD on January 22 was blocked by security forces.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bloodbath in Egypt: 300 Feared Dead and 500 Injured as Mubarak Mob Attack Peaceful Protesters

Thousands of supporters of President Hosni Mubarak today attacked anti-government protesters as fresh turmoil gripped Egypt.

Backers of the president, who last night agreed to relinquish his grip on power, fought with the crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, at least 500 injured.

Some rode into the ranks on horses and camels and wielding whips. In chaotic scenes, they pelted each other with stones, large sticks and machetes.

The death toll since protests began is now believed to have hit 300.

Many of those who demonstrated in support of the regime are believed to be secret police in plain clothes. There were reports that concrete blocks has been hurled on pro-democracy protesters.

The army has stood by and refused to intervene so far. But there are growing fears that there will be a massacre. Opposition leader Mohamed ElBarawi said that Mr Mubarak was using ‘scare tactics’ to stay in power.

Mubarak’s supporters charge protesters on CAMELS as Egyptian revolution descends into violence

‘I’m extremely concerned. My fear is that it will turn into a bloodbath,’ he said.

The White House said the U.S. was ‘deeply concerned’ about the attacks on media and peaceful demonstrators.

The morning — the eighth day of protest — began peacefully enough with a fresh round of protests in Tahrir Square.

But for the first time thousands of Mr Mubarak’s supporters descended on the massive public space, the scene of a yesterday’s 250,000 strong demonstration.

Around 3,000 supporters of the 82-year-old leader were seen breaking through a human chain of anti-government protesters as they tried to defend the thousands gathered in the Square.

Chaos erupted as they tore down banners denouncing the president and fistfights broke out as they advanced across the plaza.

The two sides started hurling stones, bottles and sticks at each other and gave chase. At one point, some pro-Mubarak forces rushed in on horses and camels swinging whips and sticks.

Protesters retaliated — dragging them from their horses and throwing them to the ground then beating them.

People were seen running with their shirts and faces bloodied while some men and women in the crowd wept.

Tear gas was believed to have been deployed, though it was not clear who had fired it.

The demonstrations appeared to be the start of an attempt by Mr Mubarak’s three-million strong National Democratic Party to retake momentum from protesters demanding Egypt’s nearly 30-year ruler step down immediately.

In a broadcast last night, he had promised to step down at elections in December. But his opponents say that this is simply not soon enough.

Egypt’s band of opposition parties, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, have begun to coalesce around the figure of Mohamed El Baradei, a Nobel Peace laureate for his work as head of the UN nuclear agency.

Yesterday in Cairo, effigies of Mr Mubarak were hung from lamp-posts, as people screamed for him to quit, likening him to Hitler and a donkey.

Khaled Osman, 40, a tourist guide from Aswan, said: ‘I am so happy that the old man has finally given up. But he must go now. And we will stay here campaigning until he goes.

‘The game is over, he knows that.’

Tourist guide Mohammed Al Gawad, 33, from Hurghada, said: ‘We have had enough of his brutality. We want to be free.

‘We want to decide our own destiny. And we want jobs. These are the things that Mubarak has not given us. He just stole our money.’

Cairo’s international airport was a scene of chaos as thousands of foreigners sought to flee the unrest, and countries around the world scrambled to send in planes to fly their citizens out.

Some tourists even reported being forced to pay bribes to policemen before being permitted to board what planes did manage to take off.

An estimated 18,000 were still stuck there yesterday, although many British citizens and other holidaymakers in Sharm el Sheikh and the Red Sea resorts are staying put.

Even having a ticket was no guarantee that tourists could get on a flight, it has emerged.

‘People holding tickets had difficulties getting on the plane, because the airport in Cairo is pure chaos,’ Canadian tourist Tristin Hutton said Tuesday after his plane landed at Germany’s Frankfurt airport.

‘The terminals are full of panicking people. The ground staff is disappearing, and at the gate, just before entering, we all together had to collect $2,000 for a policeman at the door… He would not let us pass without paying.

Internet service also began returning to Egypt after days of an unprecedented cutoff by the government, and state TV said authorities were easing a nighttime curfew, which now runs from 5pm to 7am instead of 3pm to 8am.

The various protesters have little in common beyond the demand that Mubarak go.

Perhaps the most significant tensions among them is between young secular activists and the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to form an Islamist state in the Arab world’s largest nation.

The more secular are deeply suspicious as the Brotherhood aims to co-opt what they contend is a spontaneous, popular movement. American officials have suggested they have similar fears.

The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood remains Egypt’s largest opposition movement.

In a nod to the suspicions, Brotherhood figures insist they are not seeking a leadership role. ‘We don’t want to harm this revolution,’ Mohamed Mahdi Akef, a former leader of the group.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Demonstrators Want to Stay on Streets Till Friday

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 1 — Protestors who have been demonstrating on Cairo’s streets for over a week now, calling for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak, are to stay on the streets until Friday, when the ultimatum given to Mubarak by opposition leader Mohammed el Baradei expires.

The news comes in a report by Arab TV station Al Arabiya, citing sources close to the organisers. In the meantime, according to al Jazeera, the newly-appointed Interior Minister, Mahmud Wagdi, has stated that around 17,000 inmates have escaped from Egypt’s prisons, including some being held on charges of terrorism.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Protesters, Obama, Reject Mubarack’s Promise to Resign in September

Cairo, 2 Feb. (AKI) — Pressure for Hosni Mubarack to leave office after 30 years in power continued to grow even after the 82-year-old Egyptian president said he would see out his term and step down after elections in September.

Demonstrators in Egypt responded to their president’s televised address by continuing to demand that Mubarak resign immediately, while US president Barack Obama rejected Mubarack’s promise to leave office in eight months time by saying an orderly transition “must begin now.”

Following Mubarak’s address, many in central Cairo chanted: “We will not leave! He will leave!.”

Hundres of thousands of people on Tuesday filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square and its surrounding area in a protest dubbed the “March of Millions” which was marked by its celebratory atmosphere. Huge crowds also gathered in other major Egyptian cities after the country’s military promised to restrain from using violence to quell the protest.

In a statement, Obama said the US would be happy to offer assistance to Egypt during that process.

“It is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now,” Obama said he had told Mr Mubarak during a 30-minute phone call.

Demonstrations were sparked by a revolt in Tunisia which toppled its president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January. Reports said Jordan’s King Abdullah disolved his government amid street protests and asked an ex-general to form a new cabinet.

About 300 people have died so far in protests, according to the United Nations.

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

Egypt: Army Spokesperson, Go Home, Back to Normality

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 2 — The spokesperson for the Egyptian army has appeared on state television, calling on protesters still in the streets to go home in order to guarantee security.

The army spokesperson added that demands by protesters had been taken on board and that they now had to help the country to “return to normal life”. The curfew, meanwhile, has been reduced by two hours, starting today. It will begin at 5:00 pm and will remain in force until 8:00 in the morning.

While state television is reporting that contacts are continuing between Egypt’s Vice-President, Omar Soleiman and protesters in Tahrir Square, the internet was back up and running in the country a few minutes ago. ANSA has received emails on its mobile phones in the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Pro-Mubarak Protest Outside TV Headquarters

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 2 — Dozens of people are gathering outside the offices of Egyptian state television to express their support for President Hosni Mubarak. The television headquarters are around a kilometre away from Tahrir Square, the scene of mass anti-regime protests. Demonstrators are waving placards with the words “Yes to Mubarak, no to corruption”, “Mubarak until the end” and “The police is with the people”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Clashes Between Pro and Anti-Mubarak Groups

(ANSA) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 2 — Clashes took place and stones were launched on the north side of Tahrir Square between groups that are for and against President Hosni Mubarak, not far from the archaeological museum. Tensions in the area are extremely high.

The people have apparently not heeded the request made by the army to return home and resume everyday life. Thousands of protesters are in Tahrir Square in the centre of Cairo, and there is a constant influx of people arriving to join this fifth day of “occupation” of the square.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Government Rejects Appeals for Immediate Transition

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 2 — Egypt rejected the appeals for an immediate change in power, according to the Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hossam Zaki, repeatedly made by the international community.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Pro- And Anti-Mubarak Protesters Clash as the World Asks for a Transition

At least 500 people are hurt from beating, sticks and stones. The US president speaks with Egypt’s strongman. Sarkozy, Erdogan and Britain want immediate action for change. The military goes on TV to ask for an end to protests and a return to normal life. But the situation is still very unstable, and tensions remain high.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Thousands of anti-Mubarak protesters clashed with the president’s supporters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. At least 500 people were hurt from stones, sticks and beatings. The two groups pelted each other with stones, with some people getting into a fistfight. The military, which had said it would uphold law and order, did not move in, except to fire warning shots into the air.

Protesters who have occupied Tahrir Square for days want Mubarak’s immediate departure. The United States, Britain France and Turkey have asked for a “transition” to begin immediately. For now however, the situation in Egypt is still far from clear, as the army, in a televised appeal asks protesters to go home and resume normal activities. Many countries are trying to repatriate their nationals, for fear of the situation getting out of control, while the first signs of a return to normal can be seen, and the beginnings of a “change” emerge, in spite of some tensions between proponents and opponents of Mubarak. Internet is back, and Parliament has decided to suspend their activities pending outcome of a control on procedures in the general election last November. And the Speaker of Parliament has said that it will be possible to implement the constitutional reforms sought by reformers in about two months.

Mubarak has announced he will not be standing for a new term, but will remain until September. The announcement was greeted with cries of protests by demonstrators calling for him to leave immediately. The most important event on a political level is the speech of U.S. president. Obama said that Mubarak has realized that the status quo is not sustainable, and “that the transition of power must be real, must be done in a peaceful manner, and must be now,” and lead to free elections. Similar messages have come from French President, Sarkozy, (transition ‘without delay”), from Turkish Premier Erdogan (a “road map” and a timetable for the handover), and Great Britain.

But the situation remains volatile in Egypt. The Minister of Defence, which seems to want to take on a key role in the balance of power, and ensure the transition, has addressed demonstrators with a statement broadcast by Tv “Go home to allow us to restore security in the country. Your message is clear and your requests have been implemented. Are we to continue to stand in the street, stopping the life of the country, keeping the schools closed and workplaces closed?”, read the army spokesman. He continued:” We have to think about the future of the country and to think of Egypt. We ask you not by force but through dialogue. “ In an attempt to lower tensions discussions are on going between the Vice-President Omar Suleiman and Egyptian demonstrators in Tahrir Square, the state television reports. The curfew in Suez, Cairo and Alexandria has been reduced by two hours

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

Egypt: “Lost”, or Found?

by Andrew Bostom

Across the political spectrum, the punditry has been sharing its profound analytical wisdom on the Egyptian protests, and resultant political turmoil. Two dominant themes have emerged from these analyses: delusive celebratory predictions about the “democratic” uprising in Egypt from both mainstream (i.e., Left) and conservative pundits, or ahistorical drivel already assigning blame to the Obama administration for the “loss” of Egypt.

Amidst this cacophony of uninformed nonsense, motivated by the twin perversions of cultural relativism, and partisan hackery, I read these sobering observations written by an Egyptian student, Sam Tadros:

The opposition you wonder? Outside of the Muslim Brotherhood we are discussing groups that can each claim less than 5,000 actual members. With no organization, no ideas, and no leaders they are entirely irrelevant to the discussion.

The perspicacious Mr. Tadros’ concern raises larger questions—almost entirely ignored—about the Muslim Brotherhood’s unequivocal ideology, and societal goals, but more importantly, why its message resonates with the Egyptian Muslim masses.

The 1928 charter of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) states, “Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its Constitution; Jihad is its path, and death for the sake of Allah (i.e., murderous jihad “martyrdom”) is the loftiest of its wishes.” Hamas, popularly elected by Egypt’s Palestinian Muslim neighbors, is a self-avowed branch of the MB as proclaimed in its charter (article 2), “The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times.” Both the Egyptian MB, and its Hamas affiliate seek, progressively, local, regional, and ultimately global imposition of Islam’s totalitarian religio-political code—the Sharia—through non-violent and violent jihadism.

Mirroring the attitudes of its Palestinian constituents, elective democracy has already brought Hamas to power. Are there consistent trends discernible in Egypt?…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Grand Mufti Appeals for All to Return Home

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 2 — Arab television channel Al Jazeera has reported this evening that the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, has called “on everybody” demonstrating in the streets to “return to their homes”.

The same message has also been heard coming from some army sources, repeatedly, over the past hours.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Swedish Journalists Attacked by Cairo Mob

Two Swedish reporters were attacked by an angry mob Wednesday while reporting in an impoverished area of Cairo before a soldier arrested them and held them for several hours, their daily said.

A reporter and a photographer of the Aftonbladet tabloid — who were accompanied by an interpreter and a driver — were reporting on how the poorest Egyptians found food during the unrest that has rocked the Arab nation.

When the journalists got out of their car to ask a woman rummaging through garbage if they could film her, a mob suddenly formed around the pair.

“The crowd took the car keys and, the driver’s SIM card, placed rocks in front of the car wheels and spat in our faces” saying the team was from Israel’s Mossad spy agency, reporter Karin Östman said.

A soldier came to help the journalists, but then refused to release them and threatened them, she added.

“He said that if he killed us right then no one would find us, and ordered us to stay in the car,” she said, explaining that the soldier and other troops let them go after a few hours.

The incident comes on a day which saw supporters of embattled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak take to the streets in an attempt to show the Egyptian leader was not without allies following a week of protests calling for his ouster.

On Tuesday, Mubarak announced he would not run for reelection in Egypt’s September vote, news which did little to quell the growing tide of sentiment against him.

Hundreds of protesters were injured in clashes on Wednesday between pro-Mubarak demonstrators and anti-government protestors who want the president to step down immediately.

In light of the unfolding political crisis, Swedish tour operators Ving, Apollo, and Fritidsresor all announced they were cancelling all planned trips to Egypt for the rest of the winter season.

“All travelers will of course be offered free cancelation or rebooking,” Fritidsresor said in a statement.

According to Apollo, the cancellations will affect an estimated 20,000 customers, many of whom the company hopes can be rebooked on newly arranged trips to the Canary Islands and other destinations.

While the companies work to arrange alternate destinations for travelers still looking to escape the Swedish winter, they have also been busy flying Swedes home who have been on vacation in Egypt.

Nevertheless, the Swedish foreign ministry estimates that several thousand Swedes will still be in Egypt by the end of the week.

While the ministry continues to monitor developments, there are no plans for any additional measures above the evacuation efforts currently being undertaken by the tour operators.

“There are no changes in our travel advisory,” foreign ministry spokesperson Camilla Åkesson Lindblom told the TT news agency.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt Now Fears Obama a ‘Manchurian President’

‘They are trying to understand why he is acting against U.S. interests’

Top members of the Egyptian government say they feel betrayed by President Obama, charging that he is acting against American interests.

“Mubarak’s regime feels Obama is pushing the advancement of the Muslim Brotherhood against U.S. interests,” said WND’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior reporter Aaron Klein. “They are genuinely trying to understand why Obama is seemingly championing the anti-regime protests.”

Klein said that a top Egyptian diplomat with whom he has developed a rapport over the last few years asked him earlier this week to explain Obama’s motivation to support the opposition to Mubarak.

“I told him none of this should be a surprise,” said Klein, “that the Obama administration has developed an extensive relationship over the last few years with allies of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“That my investigating has proven that Obama has been closely associated throughout his political career with radical-left elements who have long petitioned for policies many believe are aimed at weakening the American enterprise both domestically and internationally.”

“The Egyptian diplomat seemed surprised,” said Klein. “I told him this material was thoroughly documented in my latest book.”

The diplomat requested 20 copies of Klein’s New York Times bestselling book investigating Obama, “The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s ties to communists, socialists, and other anti-American extremists.”

The diplomat said he would deliver the book, which was co-authored by Brenda J. Elliott, to senior officials in Mubarak’s embattled government.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Egypt: ‘Two Dead’ In Overnight Gunfire

Gunfire has rung out in the early hours of Thursday around Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where Egyptian anti-government protesters are camping out.

At least two people are reported dead. On Wednesday three died in clashes with supporters of President Hosni Mubarak.

Hundreds of people were wounded as rival groups fought pitched battles in and around Tahrir Square, in the worst violence in nine days of protests.

The protesters are demanding President Mubarak’s resignation.

He says he will serve out his current presidential term, his fifth, which ends in September.

The unrest has left about 300 people dead across the country over more than a week, according to UN estimates.

Cairo’s Tahrir Square has been the main focus of the protests.

There are reports early on Thursday that supporters of President Mubarak have been firing on people in the square from the October Bridge, with unknown numbers wounded.

The US State Department has urged all Americans in Egypt who wish to leave to go to airports “immediately”, adding that delay was “not advisable”.

“Additional US government flights after Thursday are unlikely,” the State Department added.

‘Paid to demonstrate’

Wednesday’s violence began when thousands of supporters of President Mubarak surged into the square.

One anti-government protester told the BBC that the pro-Mubarak activists had initiated the fighting.

“They started throwing stones at us,” the man, named as Zaccaria, said. “Then some of us started throwing stones at them and then we chased them out of the square. They returned once again with the horses and the whips and the thugs.”

Opposition supporters say many in the pro-government camp were paid by the authorities to demonstrate, and allowed into the square by the troops surrounding it.

The two sides pelted each other with stones in running battles lasting for hours.

Egyptian troops refused to intervene, but fired into the air to try to disperse people.

Egyptian Health Minister Ahmed Sameh Farid told the Associated Press news agency a member of the security forces died when he fell off a bridge.

Two other people died from unspecified wounds in hospital, he added. It was not clear whether they were critics or supporters of Mr Mubarak…

[Return to headlines]

Leader Eyes Political Role for Tunisian Islamists

Tunisian Islamist leader Rached Ghannouchi said Sunday his movement wanted to play a political role in Tunisia, upon returning to his homeland from more than 20 years in exile after the fall of the old regime.

He said Ennahda (Awakening) would join the government formed after president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s downfall if asked to do so, although he emphasized that it would not field a candidate in planned presidential elections.

“If we feel that the government satisfies the expectations of those who have led this revolution, then why not,” Ghannouchi said, speaking in a room decorated with a Tunisian flag as his aides offered tea and sweets to visitors.

“We were not consulted on the formation of the government. They want to forge Tunisia’s future without allowing other political forces to take part,” said Ghannouchi, who was greeted by thousands earlier on Sunday in Tunis.

A veteran opposition leader, Moncef Marzouki, who has also returned from exile since Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14, was one of the dozens of people who came to pay his respects and he embraced Ghannouchi. “The country needs all political forces, it needs a national unity government in which everyone can take part,” Ghannouchi said. “I myself will not run for the presidency,” he said, adding that he did not have ambitions for a ministerial or other type of official role.

He also dismissed fears among some Tunisians that his movement could seek to roll back women’s rights, saying these were the fruit of Ben Ali’s “propaganda machine” and he said he was “ready for dialogue” on issues such as abortion.

“People must accept that there are different versions of political Islam. We are much closer to the AKP of Turkey than we can ever be to the Taliban or (Osama) Bin Laden,” he said, referring to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party.

There were emotional scenes at the airport on Sunday as supporters held up olive branches, flowers and copies of the Koran to welcome Ghannouchi, who had not been in his native land since fleeing persecution by Ben Ali in 1989.

“God is great!” Ghannouchi cried out, raising his arms in triumph as he walked into the arrivals hall, the crowd around him intoning a religious song in honor of the Prophet Mohammed and singing Tunisia’s national anthem.

But there were also dozens of people protesting his arrival at the airport, holding up placards that warned against Islamic fundamentalism.

Experts said it is hard to gauge the strength of Islamism as a political force in Tunisia as it has been banned for decades. But Islamists were Tunisia’s most-powerful opposition force before persecution began in the early 1980s.

“There’s a lot more sentiment in his favor than most people realize. But they’re only going to be a player, not a dominant force,” said George Joffe, a lecturer in international affairs at Cambridge University.

The interim government installed in the North African state after the ouster of Ben Ali amid a wave of protests has granted unprecedented freedoms and allowed key exiles to return despite the bans from the old regime.

Ghannouchi still officially has a life sentence hanging over his head for plotting against the former president, although the government has drawn up an amnesty law for convicted activists that now has to go before parliament.

Ghannouchi fled Tunisia two years after Ben Ali came to power in a bloodless coup in 1987. In elections in 1989, which were heavily falsified, an Islamist-backed coalition still managed to win 17 percent of the vote.

Shortly after that, persecution of leading Islamists began and Ghannouchi went first to Algeria and then to Britain in 1991. Hundreds of Islamist activists who stayed behind were thrown into prison, often on flimsy charges.

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

Morocco: Expert Sees Seeds of Revolt But No Extremism

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JAN 31 — “There were, without doubt, the first seedlings of revolt in Morocco in November with the camp set up outside Layoune in the Western Sahara of 20,000 people claiming their rights to housing and employment and only marginally addressing the issue of self-determination for the Saharawi. But there is not yet a cohesive movement in the country capable of revolutionary extremes, such as happened in Tunis”. This is the analysis of Bernabe’ Lopez Garcia, lecturer in Contemporary Muslim History at Madrid’s independent university and a renowned contributor to the daily Pais. As an observer, he explains why, in his view, the risk of contagion of what happened in Tunisia, in Algeria and which is now befalling Egypt is a contained risk in the Alawite Kingdom.

The lecturer is certain that “it is one thing to free yourselves from a tyrant, quite another to depose an monarchy that has been in place for 400 years”.

And as much as Moroccans are desirous of a peaceful transition towards democracy, there are many factors slowing down the formation of a “movement with revolutionary demands”.

“There is a great desire for constitutional change which would bring in a separation of powers,” the lecturer explained, “There is a demand for a Constitutional Assembly going back to the time of independence. But there is no desire in the people that would drive people onto the streets calling ‘Down with the dictator!’ Intellectuals are calling for reform which would see the monarchy still reigning, but not governing; but they lack a social base. If there are no parties making this their cause, then nobody will take it up,” Lopez remarks.

Nonetheless, not even the political groupings, which at least guarantee formal political plurality, “have sufficient authority and prestige in a country where the executive governs little and parliament legislates even less”. “For some time there has been talk of the need to change the government of Morocco,” Lopez Garcia explains, “the Prime Minister Driss Jettou has hyper-politicised foreign policy with the claims being made by the Western Sahara, in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which are in line with the ideology of the moderate Islamic party, Istiqlal, which is the party of the Prime Minister. There was talk of change being imposed by King Mohamed VI: the appointing of a technical Prime Minister, the present Finance Minister. It is possible that the monarchy may attempt a reshuffle, although this could be seen as a sign of weakness”. Being governed “like a technocratic multinational is soulless”.

Morocco has registered a certain degree of development, but it is far from egalitarian. “Over the past ten years, the authoritarianism of the monarchy has increased against a civil society with a growing civic consciousness and which is highly compartmentalised. It is active, but not motivated by a common democratic project”.(

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama Quietly Builds Ties With Muslim Brotherhood

Back-door talks with movement vowing end of West, rule of Islam

JERUSALEM — President Obama and top administration officials have an extended history of reaching out to the organization representing the main opposition now in Egypt’s unrest, quietly building ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and its worldwide allies.

Even today, as throngs are flooding the streets of Egyptian cities targeting the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, the White House seemingly has been championing the protests.

The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to spread Islam around the world, in large part using nonviolent means. Hamas and al-Qaida are violent Brotherhood offshoots.

Muslim Brotherhood members reportedly were invited to attend President Obama’s 2009 address to the Muslim world from Cairo. Khaled Hamza, editor of the Muslim Brotherhood website, confirmed at the time that 10 members of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc received official invitations to attend Obama’s historic speech.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Pals Provoked Egypt Chaos

Radicals began stirring trouble months before current crisis

Months before protests erupted throughout Egypt aimed at toppling the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, President Obama’s own associates provoked anti-regime chaos on the streets of the now embattled Middle East country and longtime U.S. ally.


A similar scene unfolded in January 2010, when Obama associates provoked chaos in Egypt in an attempt to enter the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to join in solidarity with the territory’s population and leadership.

WND reported at the time those protests were led by former Weather Underground terrorists William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn — close Obama associates for years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tariq Ramadan Interview: ‘A Point of No Return’

Europe’s leading Muslim intellectual warns against demonizing Islamic movements, and challenges the West to truly stand for democracy in Arab world.

By Francesca Paci

LA STAMPA/Worldcrunch

Tariq Ramadan is used to pushing the boundaries. But even Europe’s most beloved and reviled Muslim intellectual, and grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, could not have predicted what is happening in the Arab world. He is clearly following the events with great interest. La Stampa reached the Swiss-born Ramadan by telephone.

How will events in the region evolve? “It is a revolution, a point of no return. After Tunisia, the analysts were on alert, knowing that Egypt had similar characteristics: corruption, unemployment, lack of freedom. But if they had told me then that events would unfold exactly as they have, I would have said ‘no.’ Egypt is such a strategic country. Instead what has emerged is a mass popular movement without allegiances to political parties or religious leaders. “

Who will lead the opposition? At the moment there is no leadership. There are three major forces, the Muslim Brotherhood, the secular left and the grassroots association Kefaya. But these are people united only by a desire to oust Mubarak. Sooner or later someone will take over the political reins, while the West is also trying to have its say. It is possible that someone from the army will lead the transition.”

Will the Muslim Brotherhood push the protest in an Islamist direction, as is feared? The fear comes from the Israeli propaganda that is the same used by the Mubarak regime when it justified itself by waving the threat of the fundamentalists. It’s a pity that there haven’t been Muslim leaders guiding the movement on the streets in recent days. I do not know what the strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood will be. For now, they are trying to keep a low profile, but also supporting (Mohammed) ElBaradei, even though he doesn’t have the support of the people.

That’s the point: the Muslim Brotherhood is the most popular force of opposition. Demonizing them is a dead end. Instead, we must ask ourselves, without prejudice, if we are for democracy or not? The Islamists are not all equal. Among the Muslim Brotherhood is a large gap between the older, more conservative generation linked to Saudi Arabia and new leaders who look to Turkey. The Brotherhood has been evolving for years, and it is right to pressure them on many issues such as their stance on women. But it is also time to give democracy a chance. Repression does not work. “

Which country is next? They’re all afraid. Yemen, Mauritania, Algeria, Syria. Jordan’s King just changed the government. After Tunisia, you could have your doubts about a domino effect, but now that Egypt has fallen, no. Now, it can happen anywhere. Even in Saudi Arabia. If Jordan fell, it would be an earthquake. Let’s see what happens in Egypt; the situation there is still fluid. And it’s not a given that removing Mubarak will bring democracy right away.

Will peace with Israel collapse? Peace depends on who will lead the new Egypt. However, unilateral support for peace with Israel cannot be taken for granted.

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

U.S. ‘Held Secret Meeting With Muslim Brotherhood’

Discussed fall of Egypt with group dedicated to Islam’s global spread

JERUSALEM — The Egyptian government has information a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Cairo secretly met yesterday with a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the nation’s major Islamist opposition group, WND has learned.

The topic of the meeting was the future of Egypt following the “fall” of President Hosni Mubarak, an Egyptian intelligence official told WND.

The claim comes amid charges from Cairo that the Obama administration has been encouraging the protests rocking Egypt and targeting the rule of Mubarak, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Hunt for ‘Anti-Islam’ Books

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, FEBRUARY 2 — Censorship has been introduced into the Gaza Strip controlled by the Hamas Islamic radicals in relation to the books of two of the most appreciated lay writers of Arab literature in recent years: Egyptian Alaa Al-Aswani, author of the best selling book ‘Yacoubian building’, and Syrian Haidar Haidar, both of whom in the past had already been targeted by the wrath of Mullahs around the world.

A complaint was recently signed by activists of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (Pchr), one of the most accredited local organisations working to protect civil rights.

According to the Phcr, the hunt started a few days ago with raids in bookshops and libraries and the seizure of the mentioned books. The list includes among others Al-Aswani’s ‘Chicago’ and one of Haidar best known works translated into English under the title ‘Banquet for Seaweed’.

A spokesperson for the Hamas police forces interviewed by ANSA stated that he was unaware of the situation and did not know of any directives on the matter. But the wave of seizures was confirmed in at least three of the largest bookshops located in Gaza City, including the one annexed to the headquarters of the Al-Azhar University. The undesired books were cleared out by scores of public officers working for the General investigation office who showed up with warrants and sales bans printed on Ministry of the Interior letterhead. The General investigation office is in charge of the local ‘vice squad’ which in the Gaza Strip acts as the custodian of Islamic moral values.

The charges against the targeted books are without appeal, since they represent blaspheme texts that “violate the Shaaria”, as stated in the warrant mentioned in the Pchr complaint against the event which asks for the “immediate withdrawal” of the alleged censorship measure. The two authors have been on the black list of the fundamentalists for some time now. The guardians of militant Islam see Haidar as an acclaimed reprobate. While Aswani, a dentist who became an internationally acclaimed writer while in the USA who later returned to Egypt to oppose Hosni Mubarak’s regime, under the ideological banner of the Kifaya post-Nasser minority, a viscerally anti-Zionist group of clearly secular origin, appears to lack some respect for religion.

However this is not the first episode of the sort to take place in Gaza. Born as the Palestinian version of those Muslim Brothers who in neighbouring Egypt are behind the popular uprising that is hanging over Mubarak in these days, to date Hamas has cautiously played its radical stance in a society that has inherited less weak lay traits compared to most of the Arab world. But it did not fail to set up a progressive move towards Islam of the cultural, social and legal system, in addition to repressing the most active objectors. Recent examples include the reports of threats to a young blogger who, over the internet, gave voice to dissatisfaction related not only to the isolation of the Gaza Strip wanted by Israel (and Egypt), but also to the impositions of Hamas. Or, yet again, the recent prohibition of a lively youth organisation with lay leanings that came out of the remains of the factions of the radical Palestinian left wing that is mostly dedicated to social or leisure activities: without any trace of separation between boys and girls.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Debated Sculpture in Eastern Turkey to be Demolished

The Kars Municipality has decided to demolish the hotly debated “Monument to Humanity” sculpture in the city, reported Anatolian news agency on Tuesday.

While 11 members of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and eight members of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, voted “yes,” four members of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, voted “no” during the municipal assembly meeting.

Private channel CNNTürk said an environment regulation appropriate to the historical texture will be made on the position of the sculpture. The “Monument to Humanity,” whose construction was started during the reign of the previous mayor, caused to debates given that it was within a protected area.

During a Jan. 8 visit to the eastern province of Kars, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointed to the 35-meter-tall sculpture and called it “freakish” and encouraged its removal.

The comments have since touched off a stormy debate over to what extent politics can dictate aesthetics.

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

Is the Arab Spring Israel’s Nightmare?

It began in Tunis, with the unexpected fall of the country’s 25-year dictator. Then, in a perfect domino effect, came Egypt. The country’s oppressed masses raided the streets, protesting Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. That “pharoah” is still in office, but he probably won’t be able to hold onto power for much longer.

These unexpected regime changes seem to herald a new era in the Middle East. The Arab countries that make up the bulk of this part of the world have never experienced something like modern democracy, leading to mistaken presumptions about their potential. Some argued that Arabs inherently love “strong men,” so they will never aspire for political freedom. Others argued those “strong men” were very much needed for they protected “stability” — a very tricky term which can simply mean “our interests” or “ suppression of people we don’t like.”

A farewell to ‘stability’

Yet it seems that “stability” by dictators is not going to last long in the Middle East. First the Tunisians and now the Egyptians are showing that there is something called “people power” in this part of the world as well. That power now has resources (such as Facebook or Twitter) to organize itself and has the confidence to raise its flag. The Arab Spring, if you will, seems to have begun.

If you are a believer in democracy and freedom, this might come as good news to you. But not everybody is that idealistic. The key word here is again “stability” and the political actors that used to benefit from it are skeptical these days, if not worried.

Washington, for its part, seems to oscillate between these two views. President Obama raised the idealist view when he declared that the United States will “stand up for” the freedoms of the Egyptian people. Yet, meanwhile, Vice President Biden was busy explaining why Mubarak is “not a dictator.”

That confusion is probably not an accident, for the United States is indeed uncertain about the outcomes of democratization in the Middle East. Most of the region’s authoritarian regimes are Washington’s good friends and have served “vital U.S. interests.” So, on the one hand, the U.S. feels obliged to defend the very political values she cherishes for herself. But, on the other hand, she feels concerned about how these values might unfold in the Middle East. “Democratization,” after all, does not mean “pro-Americanization.”

As for Turkey, I was disappointed with Ankara’s near-silence on what is happening in its region, until Prime Minister Erdogan made a helpful speech yesterday in Parliament. Up to that moment, despite the fact that the crumbling regimes resemble Turkey’s secularist Ancien Regime, and that the Arab opposition takes its inspiration partly from the incumbent AKP, the latter had remained unnecessarily cautious. This might be because of Ankara’s old-time “we-don’t-mess-with-internal-affairs” obsession and its effect on this government as well. However, yesterday, Erdogan said what he should have said. He supported the Egyptian people’s aspiration for freedom, and called on Mubarak to respect that yearning humbly and modestly. I can’t agree more.

Finally, let’s come to Israel, which seems to be the unhappiest country these days with regards to people power. In fact, it is no secret that Israelis never liked the calls for a more democratic Middle East, for they knew that Arab masses are not among their great fans. That’s why they preferred secular dictators such as Mubarak who can make or maintain deals with the Jewish state and crack down on anti-Israeli radicals (such as the Islamists) at home.

From within that perspective, the Arab Spring is an Israeli nightmare indeed. For a more democratic Middle East might well turn out to be less of an Israel-friendly one.

Why they hate you

But wait a minute. Why should Israel presume that she will be hated forever by Arab societies? Why can’t she hope that a more democratic Middle East will be politically “moderate” as well?

Over the years I have discussed these questions with various Israelis. Many of them (not all, to be fair) seemed to be very skeptical of the Arab societies’ potential to live peacefully with Israel and do this willingly without dictators. They all referred to how anti-Semitic the Arab media is, and how much appeal the anti-Israeli sentiment has.

What was painfully lacking in all these evaluations was the acknowledgement of what Israel herself has done to the Arabs, with her decades-long occupation and countless instances of intimidation and war crimes.

“Well, if you bomb the streets of Gaza or south Lebanon and kill hundreds of children, they won’t like you,” I once said to a friend from Tel Aviv. “What were you expecting?”

The more democratic the Middle East becomes, the more relevant this question will be.

My over-optimistic hope is that this might lead the Israeli society to think more seriously, and humbly, about peace — a peace not just with the rulers, but also the peoples of the region.

The less inspiring scenario is that Israel might become even more isolated, paranoid and aggressive as she loses her dictator friends — and become a real Jewish Sparta. That would be bad for all of us, for it would turn the Arab Spring into a very, very hot summer.

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

Islamic Radical Regimes and Western Ignorance

On January 31/2011, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei posted this statement on his website: “there is no doubt that based on realities envisioned by God, a new Middle East will be formed and this Middle East will be an Islamic Middle East.

Apparently, the western world and its US leadership are walking blindly through a field of explosive mines in the entire Middle East. This questionable and confusing path is seen by many Arab, Israeli and Lebanese analysts and politicians as a self destructive act due to the fact that all the pro-western regimes are falling one after the other, while the west it self is paving the way and preparing the milieus for Islamic fundamentalist groups to take over.

Sadly, it makes no difference if western policies are executed intentionally or unintentionally because they are advocating for the model of the two axis of evil regimes, Syria and Iran, which operate using Hezbollah and Hamas as their terrorist militias. The perplexing western acts of hostility toward their own allies by characterizing them as oppressive and not respecting the will of their own people, are portraying these two evil regimes as substitutes for all the pro-western ones.


One wonders why suddenly the west has decided to get rid of its number one ally in the Middle East, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak after toppling their other loyal ally, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia. There is no doubt Mubarak is a very bad ruler. But if he is compared to the Muslim Brotherhood organization’s leadership, who might now get their hands on Egypt and turn it into another Iran, Mubarak looks like a guardian angel. It is worth mentioning that Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri, the number two man in Al Qaeda’s hierarchy, is an Egyptian and not much different from his Muslim Brotherhood organization counterparts.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel, Alone Again?

ISRAELIS want to rejoice over the outbreak of protests in Egypt’s city squares. They want to believe that this is the Arab world’s 1989 moment. Perhaps, they say, the poisonous reflex of blaming the Jewish state for the Middle East’s ills will be replaced by an honest self-assessment.

But few Israelis really believe in that hopeful outcome. Instead, the grim assumption is that it is just a matter of time before the only real opposition group in Egypt, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, takes power. Israelis fear that Egypt will go the way of Iran or Turkey, with Islamists gaining control through violence or gradual co-optation.

Either result would be the end of Israel’s most important relationship in the Arab world. The Muslim Brotherhood has long stated its opposition to peace with Israel and has pledged to revoke the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty if it comes into power. Given the strengthening of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas’s control of Gaza and the unraveling of the Turkish-Israeli alliance, an Islamist Egypt could produce the ultimate Israeli nightmare: living in a country surrounded by Iran’s allies or proxies.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the icon of the Egyptian protesters, and many Western analysts say that the Egyptian branch of the Brotherhood has forsworn violence in favor of soup kitchens and medical clinics. Even if that is true, it is small comfort to Israelis, who fear that the Brotherhood’s nonviolence has been a tactical maneuver and know that its worldview is rooted in crude anti-Semitism.

The Brotherhood and its offshoots have been the main purveyors of the Muslim world’s widespread conspiracy theories about the Jews, from blaming the Israeli intelligence service for 9/11 to accusing Zionists of inventing the Holocaust to blackmail the West.

Others argue that the responsibilities of governance would moderate the Brotherhood, but here that is dismissed as Western naïveté: the same prediction, after all, was made about the Iranian regime, Hezbollah and Hamas.

The fear of an Islamist encirclement has reminded Israelis of their predicament in the Middle East. In its relationship with the Palestinians, Israel is Goliath. But in its relationship with the Arab and Muslim worlds, Israel remains David.

Since its founding, Israel has tried to break through the military and diplomatic siege imposed by its neighbors. In the absence of acceptance from the Arab world, it found allies on the periphery of the Middle East, Iran and Turkey. Peace with Israel’s immediate neighbors would wait.

That doctrine began to be reversed in 1979, when the Israeli-Iranian alliance collapsed and was in effect replaced by the Egyptian-Israeli treaty that same year. The removal of Egypt from the anti-Israeli front left the Arab world without a credible military option; indeed, the last conventional war fought by Arab nations against Israel was the 1973 joint Egyptian-Syrian attack on Yom Kippur.

Since then all of Israel’s military conflicts — from the first Lebanon war in 1982 to the Gaza war of 2009 — have been asymmetrical confrontations against terrorists. While those conflicts have presented Israel with strategic, diplomatic and moral problems, it no longer faced an existential threat from the Arab world.

For Israel, then, peace with Egypt has been not only strategically but also psychologically essential. Israelis understand that the end of their conflict with the Arab world depends in large part on the durability of the peace with Egypt — for all its limitations, it is the only successful model of a land-for-peace agreement.

Above all, though, Israeli optimism has been sustained by the memory of the improbable partnership between President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt and Israel’s prime minister, Menachem Begin. Only four years before flying to Tel Aviv on his peace mission, Sadat had attacked Israel on its holiest day. Begin, Israel’s most hawkish prime minister until that time, withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, an area more than three times the size of Israel.

Though Egypt failed to deliver the normalization in relations Israelis craved, the thousands of Israeli tourists who have filled the beaches of the Sinai coast experienced something of the promise of real peace. At least in one corner of the Arab Middle East, they felt welcomed. A demilitarized Sinai proved that Israel could forfeit strategic depth and still feel reasonably secure.

The Sinai boundary is the only one of Israel’s borders that hasn’t been fenced off. Israelis now worry that this fragile opening to the Arab world is about to close.

Yossi Klein Halevi is a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute and a contributing editor to The New Republic.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Jordan: King Changes PM, But Opposition Not Impressed

(By Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) — AMMAN, FEBRUARY 1 — Under pressure king Abdallah on Tuesday replaced his prime minister Sameer Refai by a former army general to give signals of his intention for change, but opposition activists say the country needs wide political reform.

At the headquarters of the professional associations in Amman, a bed rock of Islamist opposition, activists received the news with captious optimism. “There are demands for changing the government. The public however demands to change the entire political trend by which prime ministers are formed according to parliament elections,” said Islamist activist Badi Rafaya.

In the aftermath of Tunisia’s and Egypt’s public protests against two long lasting authoritarian regimes, many Arab leaders with similar mechanisms of ruling, started feeling the pressure, including the pro-west Abdallah.

Western diplomats have warned Jordan could be next in line for public revolt after weeks of protests by the opposition in demand of sweeping reform.But Abdallah’s preemptive move could ease the pressure on his regime.

“We hope this is the beginning of change. Let’s wait and see, but the signs are not promising,” said Rafaya.

Bakhit was first appointed by king Abdallah in the aftermath of 2005 al Qaedha bombing of three hotels in Amman, when 50 people were killed and 100 injured. The veteran general, who also served as an ambassador to Israel, waged a strong war against the Islamist movement by sending four its MPs to a desert prison for praising former al Qaedha leader in Iraq Abu Mussab Zarqawee.

His short rein saw him conduct parliament and municipal elections, which were marred by vote rigging. Activist Maysara Malas, said he was not optimistic about prospects of this government. “This is a change of one individual with another. It is the same policy of appointment. We want a prime minister to represent a parliament majority,” said Malas, accusing Bakhit of being inept. “Let us remember that this is the prime minister who overlooked fraud parliament elections and cost the country a billion dollars in the casino case,” said Malas, referring to a contract Bakhit signed with an Iraqi investor to establish a casino near the Dead Sea. The government then was forced to revoke the agreement under pressure from the parliament and was forced to cough up nearly USD 1 billion in damages.

Analysts said the arrival of Bakhit could usher a new era in the kingdom, depending on what the king has in mind. Political saloons in Amman are rife with speculations about fate of the parliament, elected a few months ago amid boycott from the Islamist movement. The new assembly has been labelled as a puppet house after giving the government a 111 out of 120 vote of confidence.

The kingdom has been marred by wide spread protests in the past three weeks as the public called on government of prime minister Refai to resign. The Islamist movement, the strongest opposition group, said the country needs a new parliament elected under a new elections law that guarantees presence of political parties in the house. “We expect a general reform that can see the public truly take part in decision making. But in general, having Bakhit as a prime minister is not a good news,” spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood Jameel Abu Baker told ANSA.

The frequent change of governments, sometimes with a purpose of appeasing influential tribes, has been blamed for worsening economic conditions and deterioration of freedom climate in this small kingdom. Poverty in Jordan is believed to be 25 per cent and unemployment is around 15 per cent, although unofficial figures put joblessness at much higher rate.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East Turmoil Called Win for Iran

Entire U.S. strategy to isolate Tehran ‘withering away’

The winner in the turmoil sweeping the Middle East from the Sunni-dominated countries of Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia to Lebanon is Shiite Iran, according to analysts quoted in a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The Islamic republic’s leadership already has expressed support for the popular uprisings seen in the past few weeks in Tunis first, then Amman and now Cairo.

Last month, Iran won a significant victory in Lebanon when the Western-backed government of Sunni Prime Minister Raad Hariri was replaced by Najib Miqati, the candidate of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Nearly 4 Million Turkish Women Illiterate, Report Says

According to a report by the Directorate General on the Status of Women, illiteracy remains a big issue for Turkish women and a barrier to their successfully entering working life. Still, it adds, ‘The increase in the number of female primary school teachers may have caused the parents of girls to allow them to go to school’

Nearly 4 million women in Turkey — just over 10 percent of the female population — are illiterate, according to a new report that has shown a major gender discrepancy in the ability to read and write.

Of the 4,672,257 illiterate people in Turkey, 3,757,203 are women, with the majority over the age of 50, said the national report titled “The Situation of Women in Turkey.”

Prepared by the Directorate General on the Status of Women using data collected by the Turkish Statistical Institute, or TurkStat, in 2009, the report made the connection between illiteracy rates and the low levels of female participation in the workforce.

The percentage of working women dropped from 34.1 percent in 1990 to 26 percent in 2009. The rate is 22.3 percent in urban areas and 34.6 percent in rural areas.

Of women who work, 43.7 percent are employed in the services sector, 41.7 percent in the agricultural sector and 14.6 percent in the industrial sector. Some 12.8 are bosses, 51.1 percent are employees and 34.8 percent perform unpaid labor for their families.

Women at work

While female academics are well represented in Turkey, at 38.7 percent, the report said men typically hold the higher-level positions at universities. Women make up only 5.2 percent of all rectors and 15.3 percent of all deans.

The situation is similar in politics and public life, where there are just 27 women among the country’s 2,948 mayors. Of the 110 ambassadors representing Turkey abroad, only 11 are women. Women also account for only 7 percent of high-level civil servants.

On the other hand, the rate of women in specialist vocations is higher than in many other countries, at 41.5 percent.

Illiteracy more common among older women

The Directorate General on the Status of Women’s report found that 2.5 million of the illiterate women in the country are above the age of 50, while 220,000 are between the ages of 6 and 24.

According to the TurkStat data, there are 18.5 million people in Turkey with only a primary-school education: 9,586,552 are female and 8,937,271 are male. Among high-school graduates, 4,376,541 are female and 6,200,688 are male. Of the country’s 4,320,813 university graduates, 1,786,379 are female and 2,534,434 are male.

The ranks of literate women in Turkey include 6,933,483 who do not have a school diploma but can read.

In a sign that the situation may be changing, women account for 44 percent of the country’s 3,529,334 university students. According to the report, the increase in the number of female teachers in primary schools may have caused the parents of female students to allow them to go to school.

Overall, the rate of primary school enrollment increased to 98.17 percent in the 2009-2010 school year, up from 84.7 percent in the 1997-1998 school year. The lowest rates of enrollment were observed in the Southeastern Anatolian provinces of Bitlis (84.27 percent), Van (84.57 percent) and Hakkari (85.05 percent). The highest enrollment rates are seen in Ankara, with 99.31 percent, followed by Izmir, with 99.18 percent, and Mersin, with 99.01 percent.

In its report, the directorate said the country’s aim is to reach 100 percent enrollment by 2013.

Maternal mortality

The report also showed that the maternal mortality rate in the country is 18.2 out of 100,000.

Stressing that care should be taken during pregnancy, the report said 92 percent of Turkish women overall take special care in this period. In Eastern Turkey, mostly in rural provinces, that figure falls to 80 percent.

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

The Jews Run the Risk of Another Genocide

Il Giornale, 27 January 2011

We can no longer celebrate Holocaust Remembrance Day simply by remembering, albeit from the depths of our hearts and with the greatest of goodwill. This Holocaust Remembrance Day must be lived in a fighting spirit. The illusion that the history of the world is marching in progress deluded us into believing that “never again” is not just a hope but a statement of fact. But it is indeed a very tough battle. The UN, born from the ashes of the Shoah, was, first and foremost, set up to guarantee that genocide policies or instigation to genocide would have been prohibited by international law. This is provided for in the UN conventions against genocide. But as a matter of fact, we have seen what has happened in Cambodia, in Darfur, in Rwanda… We have witnessed genocide attempts in Tibet and in Bosnia… As far as instigation is concerned, it has become par for the course, and all that is actually needed would be an international court prepared to pass fair sentences. But nobody lifts a finger.

Twice during my work as a journalist in the Middle East, I collected my gas mask, just like everyone else, from one of the centers designated for this purpose. In 1991, I took refuge in a safe room prepared in the house. In 2003 I converted a walk-in cupboard in my own house into a safe room by applying nylon sheeting and sticking adhesive tape around the door. My husband and I kitted ourselves out with plastic overalls able to withstand chemical or biological attacks, so that we could go out and cover the news. In fact, in 1991 Israel was attacked by Saddam’s missiles killing and injuring civilians; in 2003 the American attack on Saddam did not give him the time to respond. But the masks, then redistributed for fear of exterminating attacks with odorless, colorless gas that burns the skin and destroys the lungs with botulinum toxin or with anthrax, add to the unflagging efforts to build shelters for every house, school and hospital. Israel uninterruptedly patents new accident and emergency services, new mass evacuation systems, it sets up rapid medical and paramedical chains, it equips the hospitals with spacious anti-atomic underground bunkers. The population carries out drills in the event — unique in the world — of mass destruction, i.e. a new extermination of the Jews, as threatened in block capitals on the television, in the newspapers, on the Internet, and at the General Assembly of the UN, which failed to utter a cheep in response.

The postman delivers to each family in the Jewish State, as part of its routine mail, updated brochures that describe the possibility of missile and atomic attack, complete with photos of carefree mothers, fathers and children. The Jewish State is bled dry by the costs of military defense, of strategic defense systems. It is appalling to write this on Holocaust Remembrance Day, after so many have passed since the threat to the very existence of Israel virtually became a platitude. “The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm” “the Jews stink”; “As the Imam said, Israel should be erased from the map”; “After the Second World War, the Jews founded an artificial, false and sham state”; “They must know that their end is imminent”; “Among the Jews there have always been people who have slain God’s prophets and who have opposed justice and integrity. Throughout history, this religious group has inflicted unspeakable damage on the human race, and it has plotted against other nations and other ethnic groups in order to engender cruelty, malice and wickedness”; “And if a Jew hides behind a tree or a rock, the tree or rock will call out “O son of Islam come and kill the Jew who is hiding behind me”“.

These obscene statements, often made along with affirmations denying the very existence of the Shoah were uttered by the leaders, imams, terrorist militants, take your pick, who in Iran are making their way relentlessly towards the atomic bomb and who have equipped themselves with Shahab missiles that have a range of between 1300 and 2000 kilometers; who, like the Lebanese Hezbollah, have the ballistic power of 60,000 missiles of all ranges, that have been delivered to them by Syria and Iran; who, like Hamas in Gaza, in addition to arrays of suicide terrorists, are amassing ever more sophisticated weapons capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

We are trying, by keeping the memory of the survivors sacrosanct, to refocus attention on the fact that at the origin of the extermination of the Jews there is a psychological and propagandistic structure that delegitimizes the very existence of the Jews. The attack directed at Israel is increasingly more well-structured with the same elements, the same accusations of conspiracy, of thirst for blood, of insatiable desire for power and for money that led to and encouraged the genocide of the Jews, describing them as sub-humans, unfit to live.

It is by now simply impossible to maintain that the attack on Israel is connected to criticism of its politics when attacks on European Jews in 2009 exceeded those perpetrated on the eve of the Second World War. Anti-Semitism has not grown due to criticism of the State of Israel. It is the delegitimization of the State of Israel that has grown due to and along with anti-Semitism, which is fomented more and more by Islamic fundamentalism. And this too is difficult for us to denounce. But this is the task of those who can still see, in their mind’s eye, the image of the child in the Warsaw Ghetto with his hands raised. “Never again”! Do you want it never to happen again? You are going to have to work for it.

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

The Next Domino?

Yemeni President Promises to Quit in 2013

Protests in Tunisia and Egypt have inspired the opposition movement in Yemen, which has now scored a significant success. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced that he would not try to extend his presidency past 2013. But the opposition plans to go ahead with a “day of rage” on Thursday. Predictions of a “domino effect” in the Arab world after the fall of the Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali appear to be coming true. In addition to the ongoing revolt in Egypt, and the King of Jordan’s decision to fire his cabinet in the interest of “true democratic reforms,” protests in Yemen have now also had an effect. On Wednesday, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced that he would not try to stay in power beyond his current term, which ends in 2013.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Plight of Northern Yemen: A Life of Conflict, Dust and Ruins

The remote region of northern Yemen has been devastated by six wars and is cut off from regular aid supplies. A delegation of the UN relief agency and the EU recently visited the area for the first time — and found child warriors, desperate refugees and cities of dust.

The wars came like the seasons, and people became accustomed to them, counting them like years of their lives: the first war, the second, the third…

The sixth war in northern Yemen was the worst. It ravaged a country that was already on its knees. Each new round of hostilities was more complex and ruthless than the last, and fought with more expensive weapons. The conflict grew like a cancerous tumor, fed by suffering and increasingly multi-layered interests.

“What do you need,” Kristalina Georgieva, the European commissioner for international cooperation, asks a haggard, toothless man on a recent trip to the war-torn country. “Help,” he replies.

Humanitarian missions here are simple. Everything is scarce, water, flour, medicine, schools and clothing. Fuel, transport, beds, shade and justice. Everything is welcome. It’s that simple.

And there’s enough money to provide help. The EU will provide €19.5 million ($27 million) this year, and the refugee agency of the UN, the UNHCR, will provide almost $10 million.

All that needs to be done is to get the supplies to where they are most urgently needed. But that’s the problem. “We need access, access, access,” says Georgieva. “We know best where the need is greatest,” the governor of Saada replies. The aid, he says, should be handed over to him.

A Fragile Non-War

Georgieva was in the country with Antonio Guterres, the head of the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR. It was an unusual mission — such joint trips aren’t customary on the international aid circuit. But the situation in northern Yemen is so serious that customs don’t matter, they say.

The delegation walks through the ruins of the center of Saada. The sight of the devastation is made marginally more bearable because all the buildings are made of clay, and because children are clambering over the ruins everywhere. For some reason, clay ruins are less disturbing than mangled concrete.

The electricity comes from generators and the water has to be transported into the city in canisters. But many are happy to be able to live here. Outside the city, the situation is even worse. “Malnutrition among children under five is worse than in Darfur at the start of the conflict there,” says a leading aid official. Some areas have been cut off from any healthcare for the last five years.

There has been a ceasefire in the northern provinces of Yemen since August 2010, but it is a fragile state of non-war that could end at any time. The six waves of war flushed too many weapons into the country, and too many people have their own interests in the conflict. “We must show now that peace yields development, otherwise it will start again,” says Georgieva.

The government is trying to play down the conflict. “The Houthis are basically just a family” says one Yemeni diplomat accompanying the delegation. No government likes to admit that it doesn’t have any power in large parts of its country. Checkpoints mark a circle of around seven kilometers around the city. Beyond that line is a barely accessible region that could end up determining the future of Yemen…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Columnist Takes Leave of Absence After Racism Accusations

A columnist and television host has taken a leave of absence after facing widespread charges of racism over an article he wrote.

Candas Tolga Isik, columnist for the daily Posta and host for private channel TV8, wrote a column for the newspaper’s Jan. 27 edition claiming Kurdish people in southeastern Turkey do not read books but instead watch pornographic material via satellite dishes, which results in cases of incest and rape. The columnist did not base this claim on any research or facts but rather on his travels in the area.

After heavy criticism, Isik had the column removed from the newspaper’s website and wrote an apology for the follow-up column. He also tried to defend his position on Twitter, arguing that he is not a racist. However, the apologies were not found sufficient and crowds gathered in front of the Istanbul and Ankara offices of Posta on Sunday and Monday, including deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP. The police intervened in Istanbul with pressurized water and the crowd retaliated by throwing eggs and stones. Additional protests were held in Batman and Sanliurfa on Tuesday.

Rumors that Isik had been fired from his positions were not verified to Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review, which contacted Posta and TV8 Tuesday. Posta said his columns would be suspended “for a while” and TV8 said Isik himself asked for a leave of absence for an indefinite period of time.

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

Yemen: President Saleh, I Won’t Extend My Mandate

(ANSAmed) — SANAA — The President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been the target of street protests in recent weeks, has announced that he intends to freeze a constitutional change that would have allowed him to extend his mandate beyond its current end date of 2013. Saleh also promised that he would not hand over power to his son. The President announced the postponement of legislative elections scheduled for April 27, which were opposed by the opposition in the absence of political reform.

“I am against a mandate for life and against the hereditary passage of power,” said Saleh in a speech to Parliament in Sanaa, which was called for an extraordinary meeting yesterday. Tomorrow, the opposition has called for a “day of rage”, based on the recent Egyptian model, with large-scale protests organised to demand an end to the regime of Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years. Deputies were due to examine a reform that could have extended Saleh’s Presidential mandate on March 1.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Bishop of Padang: Jakarta Exploiting Moral and Religious Freedom for Political Games

Bishop of Situmorang warns against the use of religion for personal gain for electoral purposes. The prelate calls for greater attention to social justice, welfare and safety of persons. The government’s response is “sluggish” and the Church can not remain “silent”, but must give voice to “moral conscience”.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Authorities exploit religion and religious communities for “personal political gain” or to benefit “their group”, they look at freedom of religion as a mere “opportunity,” considering only its “ritual aspects” and not the “personal” and intimate choice that is the basis of faith. This is the stark reminder of Msgr. Martinus Dogma Situmorang, bishop of Padang, who explains to AsiaNews the reasons behind the social commitment of the Church in Indonesia and the awareness campaign promoted for the Executive and President Yudhoyono, until now only interested in “political games”.

In recent weeks, Protestant and Catholic leaders have criticized the government’s position on religion and social policies. A meeting between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, senior business executive and representatives of the Church has not provided “satisfactory” answers, the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) and the bishop of Padang — of the Batak ethnic group — wanted to represent a “critical voice” to improve the reality of the country.

Mgr Situmorang accuses the ruling class to looks on religious freedom as an “opportunity”, seeing only the “ritual ceremonies,” neglecting the “personal” aspect. Politicians are more interested in promoting an idea of personal “morality” rather than encourage “social justice, welfare and safety of persons.” Finally, they manipulate religion and religious groups “for personal interests or those of their own groups”. The prelate explained that these behaviours show “ the misinterpretation of the key element the Constitution and our Pancasila, which guarantees religious freedom.

The prelate branded the government’s response to social problems as “sluggish” and stresses that it is “part of the problem not the solution.” Politicians, he stresses, are too busy “promoting an image of a good politics,” but deny “the real problems of society.” In reality the assessment of good governance must be based not on “ways of thinking” and proposing oneself to citizens, but “the service rendered to the population, on the efforts made to promote social well-being … of justice…of national interest that makes Indonesia a multi-cultural society. “

The bishop of Padang further specifies that the Church has never been “silent”, but has always “carefully watched” the everyday reality and has tried to address problems in education, health, environment, workplace and interreligious dialogue. A “moral crisis,” is underway in said Msgr. Situmorang, coupled with a surge of sectarian-motivated intolerance: the Church can not remain silent and ignore what is happening in society. “For this reason — says the prelate — I wanted to give voice to moral conscience, a problem that affects not only the bishops, but all Catholics in Indonesia.”

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

Indonesia: Evacuation Taskforce Leaves for Egypt

Jakarta, 1 Feb. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa and transportation minister Freddy Numberi saw off the Indonesian Citizens Evacuation Taskforce, which departed for Cairo early on Tuesday morning.

The plane took off from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, and both ministers were accompanied by the presidential advisor and taskforce chief Hassan Wirajuda.

A Garuda Indonesia’s Boeing 747-400, with a total capacity of up to 450 passengers, is carrying 19 taskforce members, including taskforce deputy Air Marshal Sukirno and several officials from the National Education Ministry, the Health Ministry, the Foreign ministry, and the Indonesian Military (TNI).

“We’re only sending 19 personnel because the aircraft is supposed to bring our citizens back to Indonesia. (The personnel) will oversee the evacuation and the aircraft is expected to return with the evacuees”, Marty said.

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered the evacuation of thousands of Indonesian citizens from Egypt on Monday after the situation in the Arab world’s largest nation continued to worsen.

Yudhoyono said that the situation in Egypt might pose a threat to the lives of Indonesian citizens after reports circulated about difficulties in finding food.

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

Pakistan: Against Judges, Muslim Extremists Call for Asia Bibi’s Death and Mumtaz Qadri’s Release

Fundamentalists are putting more pressure to get the release of the assassin of Salman Taseer, the Punjab Governor who strongly opposed the blasphemy law. The transfer of a Christian woman whose life is in danger has been postponed. Catholic leaders warn that Pakistan is embracing Islamism against the principle of Ali Jinnah.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — Muslim extremists have threatened judges and prosecutors in order to get the release of Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed murderer of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. Meanwhile, the transfer of Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, has been postponed. Activists and human rights organisations are demanding her appeal be heard in jail. Despite tight security arrangements, fears for her life are increasing. Pakistan, a country founded by Ali Jinnah in 1947 on the principle of the separation of state and religion, appears to be embracing Islamism.

Educated and liberal in his views, Salman Taseer was the direct opposite of today’s average Pakistani. His murder, by one of his bodyguards, shows that people who want to see state and religion separate, who are opposed to aberrant laws like the blasphemy law, have no more space.

Mumtaz Qadri confessed to killing Taseer on 4 January, saying that he committed the deed because of the governor’s opposition to the ‘black law’ and for his support for Asia Bibi.

Since then, more than 800 lawyers and the country’s religious parties have tried to get Qadri’s release, putting pressure on prosecutors and political leaders.

A lawyer filed a petition before the Supreme Court for the murderer’s release but the justices rejected his application, arguing that no one is above the law. The first hearing in Qadri’s trial has been set for this Friday.

In the meantime, prison authorities have not yet authorised Asia Bibi’s transfer to the Multan prison for women. The Masihi Foundation wants her trial to be behind closed doors, out of fear of Muslim extremists who have threatened to kill the 45-year-old Christian woman. Ashaiq Masih, Asia’s wife, thanked activists for taking care of the case. For him, they are a “ray of hope”.

Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, told AsiaNews that Pakistan was set up as a nation for Muslims, not as an Islamic state. Its founder, Ali Jinnah, rejected the idea of mixing nationhood and religion. The prelate noted however, that matters of faith have always been treated by politicians as a blank cheque to be used at election time. Even so, voters have never rewarded Islamist parties at the ballot box.

Fr Joseph Xavier agrees that state and religion must be separated again. In his view, extremists must be turned over to the courts so that “balanced people can promote their ideas”.

Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti denied the existence of a committee to promote changes to the blasphemy law.

The minister, who was burnt in effigy along with Benedict XVI in street protests, said that President Zardari had planned to set up a study group to consult Islamic experts and eventually propose changes to the ‘black law’. However, the reaction of fundamentalists killed the initiative because it would have led to “misunderstandings about the government’s intentions”.

Bhatti denied that any changes to the law are being prepared, but added that “abuses must be prevented”. He also reiterated his belief that Asia Bibi is innocent and should be freed.

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

Far East

China Catching EU on Innovation, Amid Industrial Espionage Scandals

China is catching up with the EU on research and innovation, according to a new European Commission study designed to feed debate at this week’s summit. But, industrial espionage scandals in France and the US have painted China’s economic ambitions in a disturbing light.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

China’s Problems Driven Underground?

In a Beijing suburb, beneath one of the thousands of faceless residential tower blocks that have carpeted the city’s peripheries in a decade-long building frenzy, one of Beijing’s “bomb shelter hoteliers”, as they are known, agrees to show us his wares.

…There, in the city’s vast network of unused air defence bunkers, as many as a million people live in small, windowless rooms that rent for £30 to £50 a month, which is as much as many of the city’s army of migrant labourers can afford.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Singapore’s Lee: We Can’t Integrate Muslims

by Andrew Bolt

Singapore’s presiding genius, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, on the failure of Muslim integration:

In the book, Mr Lee, when asked to assess the progress of multiracialism in Singapore, said: “I have to speak candidly to be of value, but I do not wish to offend the Muslim community.

“I think we were progressing very nicely until the surge of Islam came, and if you asked me for my observations, the other communities have easier integration — friends, intermarriages and so on, Indians with Chinese, Chinese with Indians — than Muslims. That’s the result of the surge from the Arab states.”

He added: “I would say today, we can integrate all religions and races except Islam.”

He also said: “I think the Muslims socially do not cause any trouble, but they are distinct and separate.”

Not endorsing, not rejecting. Just noting. More here from the launch of the book: Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going.


The Spectator’s Rod Liddle bites back:

The chairwoman of the Conservative party (at time of writing, at least) Baroness Warsi made a speech in which she said that ‘Islamophobia’ had become ‘respectable’ talk at middle-class dinner parties, something which saddened and disturbed her. To which one must wonder — how do you know, love? Surely nobody would be crass enough to talk about how ghastly the Muslims were when she, a Muslim, was present at table, picking at her guinea fowl and looking embarrassed? If so, she deserves our apologies. Even if her speech, which was made to some people in Leicester, was perhaps the most intellectually muddled and facile speech I think I have ever read from a senior politician.

I should declare an interest. Warsi condemned the meeja for taking an adversarial and ‘shallow’ approach to Islam. She then held me up to ridicule for having made a speech from which the headline ‘Islamophobia — count me in!’ had been drawn. However, she hadn’t heard, or read, the speech I made, or asked what I had meant. Condemning a speech solely because of its headline strikes me as being the very apogee of ‘shallow’. My speech expressed a profound dislike of the ideology of Islam because it lends itself to a) homophobia, b) the subjugation of women, c) anti-semitism d) viciousness towards so-called apostates, e) authoritarianism and f) a somewhat medieval approach towards crime and punishment. And then there’s the barbarism of female circumcision, forced marriages and the notion that those who are not Muslims are not quite human, that their lives are worthless. These last three manifestations of Islamic thought are not universally present throughout the Islamic world, for sure. But the ideology facilitates them, offers them a weird sort of legitimacy.

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

Singapore: On Muslim Integration

The Straits Times on the claim by Lee Kuan Yew, published in his new book Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going, that Muslim integration in Singapore is failing:

MM’s [Minister Mentor’s] remarks on integration draw flak

In the book, Mr Lee, when asked to assess the progress of multiracialism in Singapore, said: “I have to speak candidly to be of value, but I do not wish to offend the Muslim community.

“I think we were progressing very nicely until the surge of Islam came, and if you asked me for my observations, the other communities have easier integration — friends, intermarriages and so on, Indians with Chinese, Chinese with Indians — than Muslims. That’s the result of the surge from the Arab states.”

He added: “I would say today, we can integrate all religions and races except Islam.”

He also said: “I think the Muslims socially do not cause any trouble, but they are distinct and separate.”

Mr lee then went on to speak of how his own generation of politicians who worked with him had integrated well, including sitting down and eating together. He said: “But now, you go to schools with Malay and Chinese, there’s a halal and non-halal segment and so too, the universities. And they tend to sit separately so as not to be contaminated. All that becomes a social divide.”

He added that the result was a “veil” across peoples. Asked what Muslims in Singapore needed to do to integrate, he replied: “Be less strict on Islamic observances and say ‘Okay, I’ll eat with you.’“


Right-wing Malay rights group Perkasa slammed Mr Lee, saying he seemed to be adapting the same tactic as non-Muslim opposition leaders in Malaysia who raised sensitive issues without bothering about Muslim sensitivities.

Perkasa secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali said: “Perkasa does not consider Lee Kuan Yew as being less able to respect other religions, but instead consider him a very senile old man.”


A reader on the Jakarta Globe website wrote [on Lee’s comments]: “Funny, if you say the same thing in Europe, you will be crucified. At least somebody who is calling a cat a cat.”

Source: The Straits Times, January 26, 2011

           — Hat tip: EW[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Escalation Off Somalia: German Shipowners Turn to Mercenaries to Protect Against Pirates

An attempt to rescue the pirated German freighter Beluga Nomination off the coast of Somalia ended in tragedy, with at least one crew member dead. Now shipowners are demanding that the German military protect their ships. Some have already resorted to hiring armed guards.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Canada: Hundreds Protest Cuts to Immigration Services

A frustrated Simon Zhong is one of hundreds of Toronto settlement workers being laid off or affected by funding cuts to 24 GTA organizations that help newcomers and immigrants.

Zhong was emotional at Toronto City Hall on Thursday as he voiced his anger against a federal immigration $40,000 cut to the budget of Toronto Community and Culture Centre that he operates.

“We don’t know what to do,” Zhong told hundreds of immigrant aid workers at a meeting. “We have all these people and don’t have the money to help them.”

He and about 300 others, including some high-profile politicians, urged immigration minister Jason Kenney to stop the $53 million cuts, of which $43 million is aimed at the Toronto area.

Tibetan monk Nawang Choedon said hundreds of young people from his community will be left out in the cold if the programs are axed.

“We have hundreds of young people in our community who are receiving assistance,” Choedon said. “The newcomers of our community are the ones who will suffer the most.”

Members of the Afghan Association of Ontario said most of their funding was cut and they won’t be training interpreters.

Kibrom Debru, of the Eritrean Canadian Community Centre, said his group will lose seven of its eight workers with $300,000 sliced from its budget.

Kripa Sekhar, of the South Asia Women’s Centre, said her group will lose in March almost $570,000 and will have to cut programs.

“We will have to cut back on many services since most of our funding comes from the government,” Sekhar said. “We have helped hundreds of women and their families and this is not fair.”

Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy said about 1,000 staffers may lose their jobs and will affect 78,000 people from 33 organizations that are slated to lose all or partial funding across the country.

About 28 of the agencies are in the GTA.

“This is not a problem for new Canadians but for all Canadians,” Kennedy told workers. “There is a 23% increase in new immigration arriving in the GTA.”

Kenney has said the programs will remain untouched because immigrants

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dominican Crackdown on Haitian Migrants Sows Fear

JIMANI, Dominican Republic (AP) — The Dominican Republic has deported thousands of illegal immigrants in recent weeks, sowing fear among Haitians living in the country and prompting accusations its government is using a cholera outbreak as a pretext for a crackdown.

In the largest campaign in years to target Haitians living illegally in the Dominican Republic, soldiers and immigration agents have been setting up checkpoints and conducting neighborhood sweeps, detaining anyone without papers and booting them from the country.

Erickner Auguesten, a 36-year-old father of three who has been in the Dominican Republic illegally since 1991, said agents stopped him as he exited a hospital where his pregnant wife was getting a checkup.

“When we left to get some food, the police pulled up and told me to get into the truck,” he told The Associated Press in the border town of Jimani. He said a friend who works for the border patrol helped him sneak back in.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians live at least part-time in the Dominican Republic, enduring frequent discrimination and the constant fear of being deported. A cholera epidemic in Haiti that has killed at least 4,000 people and sickened 200,000 has made matters worse.

Dominican officials eased border controls and halted deportations for humanitarian reasons after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake near Port-au-Prince that killed an estimated 316,000 people and devastated the already impoverished nation. But right at the one-year anniversary of the quake, the deportations resumed _ with greater enforcement than has been seen since 2005.

More than 3,000 people have been handcuffed and sent across the border in the past three weeks, including some legal residents who were simply caught without their documents, according to migrants and advocates.

“They grab them from the streets,” said Gustavo Toribio of Border Solidarity, an organization that provides assistance to migrant workers. “They don’t care if they have children, if they have property. They only ask them for their documents.”

The government denies that any legal residents have been deported. Dominican immigration chief Sigfrido Pared defended the deportations, saying his country cannot be an escape valve for Haitians fleeing extreme poverty and political instability.

The United Nations estimated before the earthquake that some 600,000 Haitians were living illegally in the Dominican Republic, which has a total population of nearly 10 million. Dominican authorities say that number has since grown to 1 million, most of them there illegally.

“It is very easy for some countries or some organizations to criticize the situation in the Dominican Republic,” Pared said. “No (other) country in the world has a border with Haiti. No country in the world has a Haitian problem like the Dominican Republic has.”

Dominican officials say the immigration crackdown is necessary to prevent the spread of cholera from Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

So far there have only been about 300 known cholera cases in the Dominican Republic _ with one fatality, a Haitian migrant believed to have contracted the disease back home. Even in Haiti, the disease has slowed in recent weeks amid a nationwide treatment and education campaign…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Sicily Landings Resume After Tunisian Uprising

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, FEBRUARY 1 — The uprising in Tunisia which has led to the flight of Ben Ali, and to a lesser extent the demonstrations in Egypt for the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, have triggered a new wave of immigration to Sicily, particularly to Lampedusa and Pantelleria, at a few dozen miles from the North African coast. The Coast Guard has recorded around twenty ‘events’ since the start of this year, for a total of 244 immigrants, all males.

167 of these landed in Lampedusa. Last night and this morning another 94 non-EU citizens arrived on the Palagie Islands: 32 were detained last night after landing on the island’s coast; another 62 were intercepted on a boat a few miles from the coast by a patrol boat of the Coast Guard. Most of the North Africans who arrived in Sicily said that they are Tunisians; some have asked for political asylum, claiming that they are close to the ousted President and fear for their lives.

On January 14 a yacht arrived at Lampedusa with 2 sailors on board who said that the ship belongs to a nephew of Ben Ali.

They set sail again after repairing some damage to the yacht.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Swedish Body Finds ‘Boxer’-Clad Cartoon ‘Offensive to Men’

The Swedish Advertising Ombudsman (Reklamombudsmannen — RO) has ruled as sexist an advert for TV operator Boxer featuring its animated pin up Robert dressed only in boxer shorts.

“The man is presented through his posture and lack of clothing as a mere sex object in a way that could be deemed offensive to men in general,” the ombudsman wrote in a statement.

The advert, which shows the computer-generated image of Robert lying seductively on sheep skins clad only in cotton boxer shorts with an outline of his oversized sex organ clearly defined, was reported to the ombudsman by a individual.

In the report to the ombudsman the complainant argued that the “focus on the organ and its size had nothing to do with the product and even if that was the case, is no way to portray either a man or a woman”.

The complaint also detailed the pressure that such a portrayal could impose on the advert’s male audience.

“The figure’s excessively muscular body and the large organ is a stereotype and an unrealistic depiction of a man which creates pressure for both younger and elder men.”

Boxer TV-Access AB meanwhile responded that the advert, which offers a package of channels for 79 kronor ($12), was designed for an advertising competition.

The competition, Boxer cited in its defence, encouraged submitting companies to “stretch their advertising concepts to give extra clarity in illustrating the medium’s visual language”.

Boxer also argued that its animated caricature Robert is a well-known character having featured in the firm’s advertising for over ten years and whose personality could be best described as “disarmingly sympathetic, almost overly courteous, and in some sense a pastiche of a ‘geek’“.

But despite Boxer’s insistence of the innocence of its “folksy” virtual spokesperson, the ombudsman reached the conclusion that the advert could be considered sexist and as such was in breach of Article 4 of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Consolidated Code of Advertising and Marketing Communication.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Kepler Spacecraft Finds 6 New Exoplanets and Hints at 1,200 More

NASA Ames Research Center—Kepler’s findings are growing ever more tantalizing. The latest batch of planets netted by the space observatory includes five of the eight smallest worlds now known outside the solar system. Small is good in this field, where small means more Earth-like.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]