Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110214

Financial Crisis
»Europe Revolts Against Merkel’s Euro-Zone Plan
»Greece: Troika: Sell Goods for 50 Bln Euros to Reduce Debt
»Greece Slams Debt Inspectors From IMF, EU
»Greece: Federation of Sailors Joins Strike
»Gulf: Member States Discuss Central Bank and Single Currency
»Portugal: Imports +10%, Exports +15.8% in Q4 2010
»Frank Gaffney: Conservative Crossroads
»Corbella: Let’s Change the Tune on Official Multiculturalism
Europe and the EU
»A Sweet Tooth Predicts Success of Alcoholism Treatment
»Danish Radio Embraces ‘Christian Values’ In New Contract
»Europe’s Melting Pot Cracks
»France’s Sarkozy to Trigger Global Muslim Riots?
»Germany: ‘Nazileaks’ And the NPD
»Hardened Criminals Held in Freedom
»Italy: Town Bans Profanity
»Italy: Berlusconi Slams ‘Eastern German Like Spying’
»Italy: Gelmini Wants Schools to Stay Open on Unification Holiday
»Italy: Berlusconi Says Women’s Protests Against Him Part of Leftist Plot
»Italy: Berlusconi Ruby Trial Decision ‘Expected Tuesday’
»Netherlands: Wilders to Boycott TV Talk Show Over ‘Disgusting Cartoon’
»Netherlands: Justice Minister Drops Prostitutes Licence System Plan
»Proposed Law Fines Bad Psychics in Romania
»Sweden: Doctor Told Patient to ‘Go Back to Africa’
»Sweden Democrat Criticises ‘Race Mixing’
»Swiss Press Uneasy About Egyptian Revolution
»Switzerland: Citizenship Refusal Confirmed by Federal Court
»The Al-Qaida Supergrass and the 7/7 Questions That Remain Unanswered
»UK: ‘Muslim Convert’ Wife Murdered Along With Her Two Children by Monster Husband Had Only Stayed With Him for ‘Sake of the Kids’
»UK: ‘Muslim Eton’ At Centre of Channel 4 Hate-Preaching Allegations is Forced to Shut Over Far-Right Safety Fears
»UK: ‘Anti-Terrorism Cash Wasted’
»UK: 7/7 Inquests: Gang Ringleader Tried to Convert Schoolboy to Islam
»UK: Cosying Up to Those Who Reject Democracy is Out
»UK: Fury as ‘Anti-Semitic’ Banker is Invited to Speak at LSE
»UK: Kidney Donor Awarded £6.7m in Damages After He Nearly Dies in Botched Surgery and Needs Transplant of His Own
»UK: Man Held in Mosque Assaults Probe
»UK: Terrorist Who Trained 7/7 Chief ‘While Acting as Supergrass for U.S.’ is Released From Jail Early After Serving Five Years
»What the Halal? For French Muslims, Confusion Over What’s Forbidden
»EU and US Accused of Cover-Up on Organ Trafficking
»Kosovo: NATO, KFOR to Protect Only 4 Monasteries From March
North Africa
»Algeria: FM: Demonstrations Will Remain Minority Protests
»Caroline Glick: The Legacy of a Teetering Peace
»Does Genocide Await Egypt’s Copts?
»Egypt: Tunis Celebrates After Mubarak’s Resignation
»Egypt’s State Media Denied Reports on Monday That Former Leader Hosni Mubarak Was in a Coma But Admitted He Was Ill.
»Egypt: Troops Order Demonstrators to Leave Square
»EU Parliament Chief Condemns Algeria Crackdown
»EU: In Contact With Cairo on Freezing Mubarak’s Assets
»Muslim Brotherhood to Form Political Party in Egypt
»Stupidity, Intelligence, And Egypt
»‘The Revolution Isn’t Over, It’s Only Just Beginning’
»The Limits of Morality: Sometimes It’s Right to Cooperate With Dictators
»Tunisia: Armed Group Arrested, Possible Links With Ben Ali
»Tunisia: Interior Ministry, Barracks Attacked in Hichria
Israel and the Palestinians
»Day of Pride: Against Hamas Through Facebook Appeal
»Israel Fears a More Hostile Regime in Egypt
»Israeli Army ‘Ready for All Eventualities’: PM
»Leviathan Gas Field, ‘Gas War’ On the Horizon?
»Netanyahu: Strong Tsahal Needed for Peace
»Palestinian Authority Cabinet PM Dissolves Government
Middle East
»Arab Summit in Baghdad on March 29
»Awlaki Urges Support for Jailed Yemeni Journalist
»In Iran, Modernity Takes on the Cult of the Virgin
»Muslims Are Grappling With Models of Statehood
»Obama’s Egypt and Foreign Policy Failures
»Revolts: Abdullah Gul, Satisfy People’s Demands
»Syria: Facebook and Social Networks Online at Present
»Syria: Female Highschool Student Blogger Jailed for Five Years
»Syria: Muslim Brotherhood Chief Urges Assad to Learn From Egypt and Tunisia
»Turkey: The Days of Disquiet
»Turkish Woman Recounts Difficult Life in Saudi Arabia With Book
»Yemen: Fourth Day of Protest in Favour of Political Reforms and President’s Resignation
»Egypt: Russian Reaction Restrained & Cautious
»Female Suicide Bomber Kills 1 Policemen in Russia
»Lavish Funerals Drive Azerbaijan’s Muslims Into Debt
South Asia
»Abu Bakar Bashir Denies Terrorism Charges in Indonesia
»Admitted Pakistani Assassin Gets Valentine’s Love
»Death to Minorities in Indonesia
»Indonesia: Prosecutors Say Terror Suspect Raised More Than $112,000 for Operations
»Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur: Christians and Muslims Against the “Trap” of Valentine’s Day
»Pakistani Writers in an Age of Extremism
»Shahbaz Bhatti: With or Without the Ministry, I Will Fight for Minorities in Pakistan
»US Plans to Create Turkish-Style ‘Village Guards’ In Afghanistan
Far East
»United States — China: Lang Lang’s Songs and Anti-US Insults
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Africa, China’s Bread Basket
»UNHCR Reports Over 800,000 Leaving North for South Sudan
»‘Biblical Exodus’: Thousands of Tunisians Arrive in Italy
»Italy: Frattini: ‘Marshall Plan’ Needed
»Italy: Maroni to EU: Tackle North Africa Crisis
»Italy: Maroni Calls for Emergency EU Summit on Migration
»Italy: Govt Asks European Union to Help Stem Tunisian Immigrant Influx, Steps Up Patrols
»Minister to Push for Italian Police Help to Stem Illegal Tunisian Migrants
»Tunisia Rejects Request to Send Italian Police to Stop Illegal Immigration
»Tunisia: Ashton to Discuss Landings in Italy
»Vessel Stopped: Revolt on Tunisian Patrol Boat
»Islam Against the Civilisation of the West
»Why Are Smart People Some of the Most Gullible People Around?

Financial Crisis

Europe Revolts Against Merkel’s Euro-Zone Plan

The so-called “Pact for Competitiveness” proposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to further integrate the European Union on economic issues has not been well received. Biting criticism has come from across the European Union.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán hadn’t received this much applause in Brussels in a long time. European politicians had been criticizing him for weeks over his restrictive new media law. But last Tuesday hundreds of officials with the European People’s Party celebrated the conservative politician like a hero.

The delegates from the EPP, a collection of Christian Democrats and other center-right parties from across Europe, had assembled in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert — and they were especially enamored of Orbán’s criticism of plans by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a Christian Democrat herself, to establish an economic government for members of the euro zone. “Have respect for the agreements,” Orbán told his audience, “and do not discourage the 10 EU countries that are not euro-zone members.” Germans in the audience, European parliamentarians from Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Democrats (CSU), likewise applauded Orbán.

It was a manifestation of their displeasure with the chancellor. Merkel had intended to impose the stamp of her reforms on Europe this year. In recent weeks, she and French President Nicolas Sarkozy had unveiled a long-term plan intended to provide a permanent solution for the ongoing euro crisis.

But other EU member states feel overrun by the new German-French axis, and resistance to the plan is currently taking shape across the 27-member bloc. The European Commission envisions a completely different structure for the planned crisis fund than that proposed by Berlin and Paris. Meanwhile, EU leaders strongly oppose the German-French competitiveness pact. Planned as a coup, the proposal “went down like a lead balloon” at an EU summit on the Friday before last, the Financial Times concluded.

Criticism from All Sides

European leaders clearly relished tearing apart Merkel’s ideas for a European economic government. Everyone had something to criticize, the long-time members from the West and the newcomers from the East, the small and the large countries, the debt-ridden southern countries and the fiscally disciplined northerners.

They all had one thing in common, namely that they were only familiar with the Chancellery’s plans from an article in SPIEGEL. Merkel had not considered it necessary to have copies of the plan made for her EU counterparts. “The German document is like the Yeti,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Neas quipped. “Everyone talks about it, but no one is familiar with it.”

Of the 27 heads of state and government, 19 commented on the proposal. Everyone had something to criticize, from substance to style to structure. Merkel and Sarkozy want to create a Pact for Competitiveness that would obligate all euro zone members to adhere to sound social and fiscal policies, including a pension limit that does justice to an aging population, consistent corporate income taxes throughout Europe, and modest wage increases that would no longer be adapted automatically to rising prices. The pact is intended to complement the permanent crisis fund for ailing euro countries, an element of which, Merkel hopes, will see private investors exposed to potential losses.

Non euro-zone members were irked by Merkel’s proposal that at first only the euro countries would dovetail their economic and social policies. “Why do you have to demonstrate a split?” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk asked the chancellor. He said that he had “fundamental doubts about the method” and asked: “Are the rest of us standing in your way?”

Hard-Hearted Merkel

British Prime Minister David Cameron also protested against a two-speed version of Europe, saying he didn’t want to see the European domestic market undermined.

Other summit participants accused Merkel of hard-heartedness. Coupling wages to price trends has been a “social model” in his country for decades,” Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme interjected. Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, a Social Democrat, opposed Merkel’s pension plans, saying: “I am not willing to tell my countrymen that they have to work longer.” Even Finnish Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi, ordinarily a champion of reform, voiced concern.

Another group contested the harmonization of corporate income taxes Merkel and Sarkozy had brought into play. His country’s economy depends on its low corporate tax, said Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias. “If I give in here, I won’t be able to go home,” he said. Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen also defended his country’s low corporate tax rates, saying: “We compete with non-EU countries.”

Merkel’s only supporter was her partner Sarkozy, who engaged in a heated debate with his Irish colleague. The French National Assembly has always complained about Ireland’s low corporate tax rates, he said, and yet he supported the billions in aid for Ireland. “I rescued you, and I went to my parliament on your behalf,” Sarkozy said testily. “Now you have to help us.”

The debate, in short, clearly revealed the new lines of battle within Europe: Berlin and Paris against the rest. And the spokesman for the rest of the countries is Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, whose relationship with Merkel and Sarkozy has been rocky for some time. “I really don’t see any added value to the plan,” he said critically. Eliminating wage increases pegged to inflation, Juncker said, is no more promising than the earlier proposal to suspend European Council voting rights for those countries who violate European Union budget deficit rules.

Tight Constraints

Finally, in the early evening, Commission President José Manuel Barroso proposed that the competitiveness pact only include such measures that would not “undermine the single market.” Barroso’s wording satisfied the critics and imposes tight constraints on Merkel’s plans.

The European Commission is also taking a stand against Merkel’s plans for a permanent euro crisis fund, as described in her concept of a “European Stability Mechanism” (ESM). The participation of private lenders in losses related to debt restructuring, to which Merkel attaches great importance, is only mentioned peripherally in the concept. The automatic mechanism whereby private lenders would be required to relinquish their claims, as demanded by the Germans, is off the table. According to the document, the affected countries are expected to enter into an “early dialogue” with their creditors, so that the creditors will participate “voluntarily” in debt restructuring measures.

Any forced debt waiver, the plan makes clear, should only be viewed as a “last resort, when alternatives compatible with the market have failed.” Those affected are even given a say in determining whether the controversial measure is included in any restructuring plans. “This passage is being tested with market players,” the Brussels proposal reads.

The Commission sees the ESM as having the authority to buy government bonds from ailing countries. Otherwise, the planned ESM looks like a copy of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Like the Washington-based organization, the ESM is also designed to stabilize the currency and help countries in financial straits with fresh cash. Depending on the severity of the fiscal emergency, credit lines for half a trillion euros would be provided for the short and medium term. These credit lines “could be temporarily increased as needed.”

The volume of ESM funds would be reviewed at least once every two years to determine whether they are still sufficient. A capital stock of €100 billion ($135 billion) is envisioned, and it would be provided by the member states of the euro zone, with each country’s share being determined by its share of the European Central Bank. Germany would thus contribute about €20 billion. In addition to this cash contribution, the countries would be expected to provide other guarantees.

The German government faces further unpleasant debates on the issue: Finance ministers from euro-zone countries plan to discuss the EU proposal at their meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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

Greece: Troika: Sell Goods for 50 Bln Euros to Reduce Debt

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 11 — Greece must sell property, shares and State-controlled companies to reduce its debt by 2015, for a total of 50 billion euros. This was announced by the representatives of the “Troika”,(IMF-EU-ECB) during a press conference after their meetings in the Greece capital.

In a joint statement, read during the conference, they announced their assessment of the progress made by Greece in the past months, saying that “the country’s stabilisation programme has made further steps towards its objectives. Despite the delays recorded in some sectors, the necessary reforms to reach the tax targets are being carried out”. Still, they underline in the statement, “important reforms must be planned and carried out to reach financial stability and economic recovery”.

The three officials announced that “green light” has been given to the allocation of the fourth tranche of 15 billion euros, part of the 110 billion euro loan that was granted to Greece. They underlined that the progress made with the reforms is too slow. “The programme is proceeding, but risks to ‘derail’ without a serious acceleration of the reforms”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece Slams Debt Inspectors From IMF, EU

An indignant Greece slammed EU and International Monetary Fund, or IMF, inspectors overseeing its efforts to reform its debt-crippled economy, accusing them Saturday of overstepping their role and interfering in Greece’s internal affairs.

In an unusually harshly worded statement, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis called the behavior of the inspectors at a Friday news conference unacceptable.

“We have needs, but we also have limits. And we do not negotiate the limits of our dignity with anyone,” Petalotis said. “We take orders only from the Greek people.”

It was the first time the government has publicly struck back at the IMF and the EU, which rescued Greece from bankruptcy but at a price that many Greeks consider too harsh.

The IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission delegation said Greece must privatize 50 billion euros ($68 billion) in state assets and speed up structural reforms in the next few months to keep its finances afloat. The IMF representative also said some of the frequent demonstrations against the Greek government’s reforms were being carried out by groups angry at losing their “unfair advantages and privileges.”

IMF mission chief Poul Thomsen said at the conference that “the mismanagement of public property is a major source of waste” in Greece.

Accusing drivers, pharmacists

He also said Greece’s long-term reforms were being “fiercely tested by vested interests” like truck drivers and pharmacists.

“I’m not surprised that these groups are protesting but I’m also convinced … that the Greek population see it for what it is: an attempt to preserve their unfair advantages and privileges,” he said.

Friday’s news conference led to quick outrage in sections of the Greek media, with one TV anchor describing the remarks as “unacceptable.” But there was no government reaction until Petalotis’ statement was issued shortly before 2 a.m.

“We asked them to help and we are fully honoring our commitments. But we didn’t ask for anyone to intervene in our country’s internal affairs,” Petalotis said, adding the government would make clear that “everyone must understand their role.”

Prime Minister George Papandreou expressed his dismay at the comments to IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a phone call Saturday, according to his office. The statement said Strauss-Kahn had called Papandreou, and that the prime minister had conveyed his government’s message “regarding the unacceptable behavior” of the delegation.

The opposition conservative party, however, struck back at the Socialist government, saying it was “too late for false tears,” and that the government’s “post-midnight theatrical performance is a farce.”

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

Greece: Federation of Sailors Joins Strike

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 14 — The national federation of Greek sailors announced today that it would take part in the general strike on February 23. The strike was called by the country’s two major trade unions, Adedy and GSEE, which respectively represent the public and private sectors. The federation announced that all categories of ship crew would join the strike.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gulf: Member States Discuss Central Bank and Single Currency

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 14 — The Gulf Monetary Council has discussed the necessary measures for the formation of a central bank and a single currency for its member States (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar), in yesterday’s meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh. So reports daily Al Quds Al Arabi, which specifies that the other two members of the Council, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman, will stay out of these procedures, at least for the moment. A source close to the Council underlined that the importance of strengthening institutional ties and the independence of the central bank was underlined in the meeting. The daily points out that the central banks of the Gulf countries that want to introduce a unified currency have not set a final date to do so. The unified central bank, whose balance sheet was approved earlier, will determine the value of the currency — in relation to other currencies — immediately after its introduction.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Portugal: Imports +10%, Exports +15.8% in Q4 2010

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 14 — According to data from the national statistics offices, in the fourth quarter of 2010 Portugal’s imports increased by 10.3% compared to the same period the previous year. During the same period, exports increased by 15.8%, which reduced the trade deficit in the period, with a coverage ratio of 64.5%. In the month of December 2010, imports and exports within the EU increased by 13.9% and by 21.0% respectively.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Frank Gaffney: Conservative Crossroads

To all outward appearances, the just-concluded Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was a huge success. It was attended by a large, boisterous crowd, a substantial part of which was student-age — a promising indicator of the movement’s appeal to the coming generation. A number of luminaries, including several prospective presidential candidates, addressed enthusiastic audiences clearly invigorated by last November’s successes at the polls.

CPAC’s apparent vigor, however, obscured the fact that the conservative movement is at a crossroads: Will it continue to be comprised of, and appeal to, all three elements of Ronald Reagan’s winning coalition — fiscal discipline, traditional family and other social values and a national security approach rooted in the philosophy of “peace through strength”? Or will it be reduced to a libertarian-dominated, small-government agenda which ignores or repudiates Reagan’s conservative values and robust defense platforms?

Upon the answer rests not only the future of this vital movement, but of America. For, if conservatives get this strategic question wrong, they not only are unlikely to enjoy the support of the electorate come 2012. They will not deserve that support.

Unfortunately, the evidence that libertarian impulses were ascendant at CPAC was not only to be found in the straw poll victory of their exemplar, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. It was also apparent in who was, and who was not, participating as sponsors of the conference and/or some of its events…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]


Corbella: Let’s Change the Tune on Official Multiculturalism

About one dozen families who recently immigrated to Canada are demanding that the Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg excuse their children from music and coed physical education programs for religious reasons…

Mahfooz Kanwar, a member of the Muslim Canadian Congress, says he has some better ideas.

“I’d tell them, this is Canada, and in Canada, we teach music and physical education in our schools. If you don’t like it, leave. If you want to live under sharia law, go back to the hellhole country you came from or go to another hellhole country that lives under sharia law,” said Kanwar, who is a professor emeritus of sociology at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Sweet Tooth Predicts Success of Alcoholism Treatment

A LIKING for sweetness might help alcoholics kick the habit. Alcohol dependence is treated using naltrexone, a drug that blocks opioid receptors in the brain, but it only works in around 78 per cent of people. David Sinclair and colleagues at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland, asked 78 people who had taken the drug recently to rate their preference for sugar solutions. Those who favoured the least sweet were more likely to revert to drinking.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Danish Radio Embraces ‘Christian Values’ In New Contract

Danish Radio has changed its official guidelines to include more focus on Danish Christian values, leaving critics fearful of moves towards Christian nationalism. While opposition figures have denounced the recent move as a case of discriminating ‘value politics’, the governing coalition have expressed their desire to ‘avoid shying away from … Danish Christian culture’

Denmark’s state-owned broadcast service Danish Radio, or DR, has sparked political controversy after officially changing the wording of its media contract to include “Christian values” earlier this year.

The change in DR’s so-called “public service contract,” the legal internal policy guideline dictated by Denmark’s Culture Ministry, was announced in early February of this year and has since drawn both support and criticism from different sectors of Danish society. The new wording of the contract states that “DR should emphasize on its role as a promoter of Danish art and culture as well as Danish cultural heritage, including the Christian cultural heritage.” Many in the country’s academic community have voiced strong negative reactions against what is being perceived as “nationalist conservative” policy from what is a public institution.

“This is a method of taking us hostage in a nationalistic Christian project,” Dr. Mikael Rothstein, a lecturer of religion at the University of Copenhagen, told the Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review on Saturday. “DR should be ours in common, but with these changes it appears to be more exclusive than inclusive,” he said.

Several politicians from the governing coalition have expressed their support for the new changes, emphasizing the positive aspects of Danish Christian values.

“Our society is built around our heritage in terms of culture and Christianity, it’s simply undeniable” said Rasmus Jarlov, a Danish parliamentary deputy from the Conservative Party, one of the three parties in the current governing coalition. “We must stand by our values, including Christianity, and not shy away or be ashamed,” he told the Daily News.

‘Honoring our heritage’ or creating divisions?

The inclusion of religious values in DR’s contract has added to the fears of religious and ethnic minorities who may be affected by growing nationalism in party politics.

“There is no reason to include anything Christian in the public service contract,” said Holger K. Nielsen, a parliamentary deputy from one of Denmark’s main opposition parties, the Socialist People’s Party, or SF. “It creates divisions and appears to be heavily influenced by national conservative elements, which are creeping into our public sphere,” he told the Daily News.

Politicians from the governing coalition, including Culture Minister and Conservative Party member Per Stig Moeller, have defended the recent move, noting that Christianity plays an important role in Danish values and culture.

“The Christian culture heritage is a part of the Danish cultural heritage and I believe that there are good reasons to point this out, considering the direction of our society today,” said Moeller.

Other members of the governing coalition have echoed Moeller’s sentiments, saying that Danish society’s tendency to shy away from a common cultural heritage, which includes religious aspects, is a negative trend.

“Simply because demographic changes in Denmark have occurred over the years does not mean that our cultural heritage should change,” Moeller told the Daily News. “We can’t simply lose our identity and pretend that it doesn’t exist when clearly our common historical, religious and cultural heritage shapes our society to a large extent today.”

Some experts claim that the new changes could create severe divisions, while exacerbating an already tense situation with far-right sentiments growing nationally.

The past 10 years have seen a consistent attempt by the governing parties to create value politics, with the result being precisely changes as the one we are seeing now, said Rothstein.

“It’s not about open debate, but simply about implementing a Christian mission, which proves frightening and intolerant,” said Rothstein.

(HH) Accusations of gross misinterpretations

Danish media reporting has been critical of the new development, sparking concerns by conservative politicians that the media is unfairly focusing on the wording “Christian values” and that the entire situation has been grossly misinterpreted.

“The situation seems to have gotten out of hand, considering that several newspapers even managed to change the wording of the deal,” said Jarlov. “The exact wording doesn’t eliminate the previous emphasis on a Danish cultural heritage; it simply adds Christian values to the equation, while most newspapers have portrayed it as a radical change which solely focuses on religion,” he told the Daily News.

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

Europe’s Melting Pot Cracks

France’s Nicolas Sarkozy recently declared multiculturalism a failure saying “It’s a failure, the truth is that in all our democracies, we’ve been too concerned about the identity of the new arrivals and not enough about the identity of the country receiving them.” Such statements are not new, they have already been echoed by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and British PM David Cameron. The question is now, what Europe is going to do with its immigrants and which immigration policy will be the most efficient. A scholar from the Institute for European Studies of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Shweizer, attempts to answer these questions:

“The immigration problem should be regarded in several aspects. The first is the economic viability of immigration in Europe: if France or Germany needs foreign labor, the issue is simple. However, European social policy is not ready for so many foreigners. Some say that European social security for the poor, who are often jobless, isn’t designed with account of so many new workers. The second aspect is cultural — the assimilation of African and Asian migrants into a new cultural environment. They are unlikely to abandon their religion and customs and will stick to their own internal rules. In Europe, they face the problem of new norms dictated by the receiving country. That is, new laws and behavior that don’t contradict European traditions, that do not violate public order, that prohibit sacrificing animals and littering in the streets. These issues are very important for favorable immigration prospects.”

“How do you see Europe in 20 years? Will Europeans manage to integrate immigrants or will a borderline between foreigners and natives be drawn?”

“It’s a difficult question, as, first of all, Europe deals with all sorts of migrants, for example calm and obedient Vietnamese on the one hand and Africans who have an entirely different way of life. I’m not saying it’s good or bad just different. All immigrants shouldn’t be cast in the same mold. Some are more likely to assimilate, realizing that they care more about jobs and economic welfare than their customs. It’s a matter of time. Sometimes, locals can object to migrants. Ultra nationalists in Germany or France will be against them, becoming another pain in the neck for the government . This must be also taken into consideration.”

Our next expert Alexander Ignatenko, the president of the Institute for Religion and Politics and a member of the presidential Council for Interaction with Religious Groups, sees the problem as follows:

“I think that statements made by Merkel and Sarcozy are true, as multiculturalism was a fiasco as it was wrong from the very beginning. Migration from many countries, primarily Islamic, was sporadic, while the receiving countries paid no attention to cultural distinctions. They knew, for example, that the Moroccans and the French are different. Islam was the main obstacle for integration into European society. It’s an illusion that Islam and the Orthodox religion are cognate, thus, people who came to Europe and didn’t care much about religion managed to assimilate like the first waves of immigrants to France and the UK, while the devote Muslims experienced culture shock in Europe and couldn’t and didn’t want to integrate.”

“Will Europe manage to recover from multiculturalism and find a way out of the situation?”

“I think it will. What we are seeing now is a global process, that’s why the statements were made against a background of unrest in Egypt, now facing a secular revolution which, in my opinion, will reduce the influence of religion on public and cultural life in this big Islamic country. And Egypt is not alone in this transitions and, thus, a new less religious environment will provide for better integration.

However, while Alexander Ignatenko expresses cautious optimism, the reality is different. Statements by David Cameron, Nicolas Sarcozy, Angela Merkel and Greece’s intention to build a wall separating it from Turkish migrants proves a change in the European approach to future migration and the integration of those who have already came to not-so-prosperous-now Europe.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

France’s Sarkozy to Trigger Global Muslim Riots?

Another European leader announced the failure of multicultural policies. French President Nicolas Sarkozy cracked down on Muslim individuals praying in the streets of Paris and other cities of France.

“The truth is that in all our democracies, we have been too concerned with the identity of the person who arrives and not enough with the identity of the country that takes that person in. Times have changed, and I understand that this could be found shocking. So it must stop. If you come to France, you accept to melt into one community which is the national community. If you can’t accept that, you can’t be welcome in France,” Sarkozy said.

“Our Muslim compatriots must be able to live and practice their religion, like anyone else. In France we don’t want people to pray in an ostentatious manner in the street. Prayer offends no one but we do not want . . . aggressive religious proselytising,” he stated.

Sarkozy is not the first European leader, who speaks so openly about the failure of the politics of Muslims’ integration in Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel shared a similar point of view last autumn. British Prime Minister virtually reiterated Merkel’s views last week. Now it is time for the president of Europe’s third largest country — France — to take the floor.

Until recently, such harsh statements about the French Muslims could be heard from the leaders of the far-right National Front only — Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter, Marine Le Pen. She particularly said that the sight of Muslim people praying in the streets reminded her of the time of Hitler’s occupation of France in 1940-1944. There are nearly 20 places in the country, she added, where the Muslims can block streets for prayers…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Germany: ‘Nazileaks’ And the NPD

Leak of 60,000 Far-Right E-Mails Reveals Extremist Chaos

A massive leak of internal communications, dubbed “NaziLeaks,” has embarrassed Germany’s far-right NPD. The roughly 60,000 e-mails which have been obtained by SPIEGEL reveal blatant racism, internal strife and shady financial dealings within the party.

Udo Voigt, the chairman of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), had hoped that 2011 would see the radical right make an important step forward in Germany. On Jan. 1, a merger with its rival far-right party, the German People’s Union (DVU), went into effect, thereby combining their numbers just in time for a year that will see parliamentary elections in seven of Germany’s 16 federal states. In a New Year’s speech, Voigt confidently told his supporters that 2011 would be a “small super-election year.”

“State elections, municipal elections — Germans will finally get a chance to punish those at the top,” Voigt said, looking straight into the camera. “We have a chance. We have a program for the future.”

Now, less than six weeks later, Voigt’s cockiness has given way to disillusionment. For the second time since 2008, tens of thousands of internal party e-mails have been leaked. SPIEGEL, along with other publications, has been given access to more than 60,000 e-mail messages from the accounts of NPD politicians. The party has labeled the people behind the leaks “criminal suppliers.” It remains unclear whether the digital information came from a disgruntled individual within the party’s headquarters or was obtained by a hacker.

The e-mails lay bare the chaotic internal life of the far-right party. They testify to the problems encountered during the merger with the DVU, shady finances related to state election campaigns and internal wrangling that often degenerated into hateful words and insults toward other party members.

The e-mails also document blatant racism. One senior Bavarian NPD official writes about “Kanacken,” a racist term of abuse directed against people of immigrant descent, while a well-known neo-Nazi from the southwestern city of Aschaffenburg reflects on the “National Socialist movement.” One NPD official from Hamburg complains about another party member having a “Negress” as a Facebook friend.

Sensitive Details about the NPD-DVU Merger

Still, the most awkward details from the data leak regard Voigt’s prestige project, the NPD’s merger with its former rival, the DVU. They disclose that there was massive resistance to the move within the DVU. One DVU member wrote in an e-mail sent ahead of Dec. 12, the day of the party convention where the merger was voted on, that DVU chairman Matthias Faust would get to experience his own “Waterloo” — in other words, a total defeat. In order to help the merger go through, one NPD official from the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg offered the support of a “Kampfgruppe” (a term associated with the Nazi era, referring to a combat unit) from the city of Schwäbisch Hall. The unit, the official wrote, could be transported in a rental van to the DVU convention, which was being held in Kirchheim, a small town in the eastern state of Thuringia. “Nine men cost €524 ($710),” he wrote. The fee included €45 for meals, he explained, “as an incentive.”

However, it would appear that not all of the van’s passengers would be eligible to vote. The NPD official asked Faust to supply him with a “back-dated DVU membership card and a back-dated invitation” for his girlfriend, who would be coming along. When approached by SPIEGEL, Faust denied having supplied a back-dated membership card or invitation. Talk of the “Kampfgruppe” could only have been “a joke,” he added, saying that “absolutely no combat units were present” at the convention. What’s more, he said, guests wouldn’t have been allowed to vote.

A majority of people attending the Dec. 12 convention voted for the merger. Since then, the right-wing extremists have been calling their common party “NPD — The People’s Union.” Still, the merger is far from being a done deal. After the vote was held, senior officials representing DVU associations in four states complained of voting improprieties, such as not having been given enough time to properly review and respond to certain documents in the run-up to the vote. In January, a state court in Munich sided with the complaining officials, declaring that the vote did not meet democratic requirements and that a new vote would have to be held before a merger agreement could be signed.

Money Problems and Inflated Ambitions

In addition to such legal troubles, the NPD continues to struggle with financial shortfalls. The NPD is hoping that it will clear the 5 percent hurdle in the March 20 election in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt and secure seats in the state parliament. But, to support its campaign, the party has apparently been forced to meet its financial needs with the help of private loans.

According to one of the internal emails, the family of Udo Pastörs, the deputy head of the NPD in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, extended a €25,000 loan to the Saxony-Anhalt campaign organization under his wife’s name. Ironically, Pastörs, an avowed critic of capitalism, is charging the Saxony-Anhalt brethren 3.5 percent interest on the loan and only appears to trust his notoriously cash-strapped party to a certain degree: As collateral for the loan, Pastörs demanded a guarantee from the NPD’s national organization, which had to be personally signed by the NPD’s national leader Udo Voigt.

This, in turn, does not seem to have entirely conformed to Voigt’s understanding of loyal camaraderie. In an e-mail to Matthias Heyder, the NPD’s lead candidate in the Saxony-Anhalt state elections, Voigt grumbled that it was “a joke that, of all people, a man as well-off as Udo (Pastörs) still wants a guarantee in this case.” Pastörs has confirmed the existence of the loan but refuses to provide any additional details. Voigt opted to not respond to questions regarding the loan.

The financial shortages also have something to do with the costly campaign in Saxony-Anhalt as well as with Heyder himself and his at times ambitious campaign plans. For example, although he is just a regional politician, Heyder wanted to have a “documentary” filmed about him in which he flies “from appointment to appointment” in an airplane and is welcomed upon arrival at airports. What’s more, as Heyder wrote to the NPD’s media relations officer, he wanted to have members of the press accompany him on his flights, who would get to see “real rallies” whenever he landed. The point of all these staged events would be to portray the NPD as a serious party — despite the fact that recent polls put its support at a meager 3 percent — and to help it secure the votes it needs to win seats in the state parliament. Heyder has also declined to respond to inquiries…

Translated from the German by Josh Ward

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

Hardened Criminals Held in Freedom

Doing Time on Norway’s Island Prison

No bars. No walls. No armed guards. The prison island of Bastøy in Norway is filled with some of the country’s most hardened criminals. Yet it emphasizes self-control instead of the strictly regulated regimens common in most prisons. For some inmates, it is more than they can handle.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Town Bans Profanity

Blasphemous oaths prohibited after priest complains

(ANSA) — Bergamo, February 11 — A small northern Italian town has banned profanity after a local priest complained he was hearing too many oaths against God.

“We live in a Catholic country and we want a certain decorum to be kept in places of worship and leisure,” said the mayor, Valerio Moro. The ban in Brignano Gera d’Adda near Bergamo does not just cover blasphemous swearing in church or in bars.

The town council, in fact, has passed an ordnance prohibiting profanity “in all commercial and business activities, public and private”.

It condemns anyone “of any religion, ethnicity and provenance” whose swearing imprecates against God or other religious figures like the Madonna.

Visitors to overwhelmingly Catholic Italy are sometimes surprised at the level of casual public profanity.

It was a misdemeanour felony until 1999, although the law was hardly ever enforced.

There have been efforts to stamp out religious imprecations in Italian soccer too with players getting cards for using swearwords with the words ‘God’ or ‘Madonna’.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Slams ‘Eastern German Like Spying’

Rome, 10 Feb. (AKI) — Italy’s sex scandal mired prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has likened Italy’s prosecutors, its left-leaning newspapers and TV talkshows to spies from the former communist East Germany.

“It’s clear that public prosecutors, and the newspapers and talkshows from the anti-Berlusconi lobby, who have no identity themselves, are collaborating and swapping documents,” Berlusconi told conservative newspaper Il Foglio in an interview due to be published on Friday.

“They they choose the timing and the method to transform into an international scandal farcical investigations which are worthy of the manhunts into people’s lives carried out by spies in communist East Germany,” he railed.

Berlusconi’s allies have rallied to his defence since Milan prosecutors on Wednesday formally requested a judge to send him for a fast-track trial for using an underage prostitute and abuse of office over the case.

The 74-year-old premier responded furiously to the move, threatening to “sue” the Italian state and said he would hold “subversive” Italian prosecutors responsible for their “unfounded” and “shameful” claims.

The request to put Berlusconi on trial came after media published a series of embarrassing wiretaps of concerning alleged orgiastic parties attended by “numerous” young women at the premier’s homes.

In their 782-page request for an immediate trial, prosecutors said they had “proof” Berlusconi paid to have sex with with Moroccan teenage nightclub dancer Karim El Mahroug, nicknamed Ruby, who has since celebrated her 18th birthday.

Soon afterwards, Umberto Bossi, head of Berlusconi’s allied party the Northern League, said the indictment request marked the start of a “total war” between Italy’s judiciary and its legislature.

Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini weighed into the fray on Thursday, claiming Berlusconi could take the Italian state to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for violating his privacy in the case of his alleged sexual dealings with El Mahroug.

‘(Violation of privacy) can be dealt with not just in Italy, but also at the European Court of Human Rights,” Frattini told reporters.

Berlusconi, who is already facing three trials, denies all wrongdoing and claims he is the victim of a conspiracy of leftist Italian magistrates.

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

Italy: Gelmini Wants Schools to Stay Open on Unification Holiday

Tension in government as doubts are raised over celebration. Bossi wants workday. Meloni objects that there are other things apart from money

ROME — “I think schools should stay open on 17 March”. Mariastella Gelmini chose the meeting of the Council of Ministers to make her announcement, joining Confindustria, the Northern League and the president of the guarantors for the celebrations Giuliano Amato in calling for a working 150th anniversary of national unity. Ms Gelmini said: “The anniversary can be celebrated in class during normal school hours by focusing special attention on this very important moment in history. It’s a way of adding value to a date that otherwise might be considered just another holiday”. The ministry of education is drafting a circular with guidelines for schools on what they should do.

The decision was taken a few days ago: schools and public offices would close on the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy and the day would be paid as a holiday in the private sector. But a change of heart is looking increasingly likely. Officially, Silvio Berlusconi has called for reflection on the issue yet junior minister Gianni Letta, despite having referred to a “decision written in the law”, has been trying to persuade former National Alliance (NA) ministers, the ones who defend the holiday most vigorously. Tempers rose at Palazzo Chigi during a meeting called to discuss the upcoming economic measures. Umberto Bossi and Giorgia Meloni, who clashed with unprecedented fury, were in the front line.

The Northern League leader said it was necessary to work because a “long weekend would be extremely dangerous at a time of crisis like this and I don’t think the business community would be happy”. Significantly, he added that “the holiday will be perceived differently in different places”. Youth minister Meloni was characteristically forthright: “A nation is made of other things apart from money. You can’t demote 17 March to a second-class holiday”. According to Ms Meloni, it is also wrong to keep the schools open because “there is no guarantee that the unity of Italy will actually be discussed in class”. Voices were raised and the two ministers continued to quarrel after the meeting. In the meantime, there was another confrontation between Roberto Calderoli and Ignazio La Russa, who had already exchanged salvoes from a distance. Soothing words from Maurizio Sacconi and Paolo Romani fell on deaf ears.

In the end, there was no shared position, merely division: “The decision has been postponed”, said welfare minister Sacconi, “but we’ll discuss it. We are seeking a solution that does not weigh heavily on economic growth yet at the same time allows fitting commemoration of an event that we celebrate every fifty years”.

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Berlusconi Says Women’s Protests Against Him Part of Leftist Plot

Rome, 14 Feb. (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said demonstrations that that brought hundreds of thousands of mostly women to the streets Sunday to demand respect were part of an attack by his country’s judiciary that aims prooke a colllapse of his government.

“It seems like a pretext to support a judiciary theorem that has no basis in reality,” the 74-year-old billionaire said Monday in an interview on an Italian television channel that is part of his media empire.

“It is a biased mobilisation that is against me personally and is part of a left wing that will use any method to defeat me.”

Organisers said coordinated rallies in than 230 other Italian cities, as well as 28 cities worldwide, attracted around 1 million people who say Berlusconi has created a disparaging image of Italian women who are treated as sex objects and housewives with little hope launching a successful career.

An Italian judge is expected to rule this week on a request by prosecutors in Milan to try Berlusconi for allegedly paying a teenage Moroccan nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug for sex when she was 17 and pressuring police to release her from custody in May 2010 in May.

The prosecutors have submitted to a judge 782 pages of wiretap transcripts and other documents backing their claims that Berlusconi paid El Mahroug and “numerous” young women for sex. It is the seventh sex scandal to hit him.

Although having sex with prostitutes is not an offence in Italy, using an underage prostitute is a crime which carries a prison sentence of up to three years.

Abuse of office is a more serious offence which is punishable by up to 12 years in jail.

Many Berlusconi supporters accuse his political supporters of moralism and carrying out a ‘puritanical’ campaign against the premier.

Berlusconi for years has said he is the victim of leftwing judicial persecution.

He claims to have the support of women who have met him.

“All the women who have had the opportunity to meet me know how much consideration and respect I have for them,” Berlusconi said in the interview on Monday.

He may be wrong on at least one count. Estranged wife Veronica Lario, who is divorcing her husband of 19 years, in a 2009 interview with left-leaning newspaper La Repubblica said she could not remain with a man who was “unwell”, “obsessed with sex” and who “frequents minors”.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Ruby Trial Decision ‘Expected Tuesday’

Premier denies alleged sex with underaged prostitute

(ANSA) — Rome, February 14 — A decision is expected Tuesday on whether to send Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi to trial for allegedly having sex with an underaged prostitute called Ruby and allegedly using his position to get the Moroccan runaway and belly dancer out of jail after an unrelated accusation of theft.

The decision by preliminary investigations judge Cristina Di Censo “could come tomorrow,” judicial sources said Monday.

Berlusconi, 74, and Ruby, now 18, deny having sex and she says money he gave her was a gift.

The case came to light when the premier phoned a Milan police station in May and enquired about the then 17-year-old, saying she was, as she had told him, the niece of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

He said he did so to avoid a diplomatic incident.

Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, was released into the custody of ex-showgirl Nicole Minetti, the premier’s former dental hygienist and now a regional councillor in Lombardy, the area around Milan.

Ruby, whose stage name is Heart Stealer, was supposed to stay with Minetti or go to a juvenile shelter but instead was handed over to a Brazilian prostitute.

Judicial sources said Monday the wider investigation into Minetti, Berlusconi news anchor Emilio Fede and talent scout Lele Mora for allegedly procuring prostitutes “should be closed by the weekend”. Prosecutors say they have “ample evidence” from wiretaps that Ruby was a prostitute, as were a “significant number” of other young women who attended Berlusconi’s famous ‘bunga bunga’ parties.

They say the body of evidence is so heavy that it warranted an immediate trial, skipping a preliminary hearing.

After routine procedures, the trial is expected to start in late April or early May.

Using a sex worker under the age of 18 carries a jail term of up to three years.

Abuse of office carries a term ranging from six to 12 years. Like most cases regarding the premier, the Ruby affair has split Italy with demos for and against him.

The premier, who admits he is a “sinner” but says he was spied on by “moralistic” voyeurs as in pre-1990 East Germany, still has an edge in opinion polls.

He has vowed to punish what he describes as hostile prosecutors, resurrecting a wiretap bill that stalled in parliament when his former ally turned fierce critic, House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, withdrew his key support.

The premier’s staunch ally, the regionalist Northern League, has vowed to stick by the premier and support his legislation, provided they secure their long-sought project of fiscal federalism, where more tax earnings remain where they are generated.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Wilders to Boycott TV Talk Show Over ‘Disgusting Cartoon’

PVV leader Geert Wilders is boycotting a televised election debate because the Vara public broadcasting company will not remove an offensive cartoon about him from one of its websites.

The cartoon, on the website, is a play on Wilders’ plan to set up special villages for people who cause a persistant public nuisance, which he called Tuigdorpen, or scum villages.

It features a queue of people, obviously immigrants, wearing the letter T on their clothes and being directed towards the showers by Wilders — drawing a comparison between the villages and the Nazi death camps.


The broadcaster has refused to remove the cartoon. A spokesman pointed out that the makers of the tv talk show have nothing to do with the cartoon or the decision to publish it.

In a statement on Monday, Wilders told the Telegraaf: ‘The VARA’s statement that it does not want to liken us to Nazis because it is the opinion of the cartoonist is nonsense and does not matter. If your neighbour invites you to visit and you know there is a painting in his living room which compares you to a Nazi you don’t go either.’

In the past, Wilders has defended both the Danish artists who published cartoons satirising Islam and Dutch cartoonist Gregorius Nekshot who was arrested and later released following the publication of drawings said to be offensive to immigrants.

At the time, Wilders accused the public prosecution department of have dictatorial tendencies. He also accused the Telegraaf of censorship for refusing to publish the work in an election special put together by the PVV leader himself.

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

Netherlands: Justice Minister Drops Prostitutes Licence System Plan

THE HAGUE, 12/02/11 — Security and Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten has dropped his plan to introduce a professional pass system for prostitutes.

The idea was that the prostitute could use the pass to show a client that she was working legally. Under the proposal, a prostitute would have to register with the municipality every three years.

The pass attracted great criticism both in the Lower House and among prostitutes. The biggest concern was that the government would in future assume that a woman was voluntarily practising prostitution providing she just had a pass. The House also feared that the registration would drive many women currently operating legally into the illegal circuit.

Nonetheless, the minister wants a client to be able to find out whether a prostitute is working legally, because visiting an illegal sex worker is an offence. He therefore wants to work out later how this could be done without a pass but with some form or other of registration.

One possibility that Opstelten now sees is that the register does not give the name and address, but only a number. The client could discover whether the prostitute was registered based on the number.

The Lower House will conclude the debate on the Prostitution Bill after the spring recess at the end of this month. In the coming weeks, the various parties first want to reflect on the plans.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Proposed Law Fines Bad Psychics in Romania

Psychics and witches in Romania, a country historically known for superstitions and vampire beliefs, are upset over a new law that would fine or imprison them for making incorrect predictions. Romania, like many other countries in Europe and around the world, is in the midst of a severe economic crisis, and the law is seen as a way to raise money for government expenditures. In an interesting twist, the psychics seemed to acknowledge that their predictions were often wrong but blamed their incompetence on divination tools such as Tarot cards and crystal balls. “They can’t condemn witches, they should condemn the cards,” prominent psychic Bratara Buzea told The Associated Press. If the law is enacted, it could lead to a class-action lawsuit against manufacturers of Ouija boards, Tarot cards, crystal balls, runestones, and tea leaves for selling defective products.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Doctor Told Patient to ‘Go Back to Africa’

A woman from Borås in western Sweden has filed a discrimination complaint against a health clinic after she was told to go back to Africa and get help from a medicine man for pain in her legs.

Sara Elmi visited the Viskafors health clinic last summer for advice for how to deal with the pain caused by a serious leg infection, Sveriges Radio (SR) reported.

As Elmi attempted to describe the problem, the doctor concluded that the patient was unable to gave a sufficient explanation and didn’t even bother to carry out an examination.

Instead, the doctor offered Elmi some rather unexpected advice before ushering her out of the exam room.

“Go back to Africa and get help from a medicine man in the village you come from,” said the doctor.

Elmi subsequently visited the Skene Lasarett hospital where she was told she had a serious infection related to varicose veins.

Elmi, who is originally from Somalia, considered the doctor’s statements to be racist and degrading, and has filed a complaint against the clinic with Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen — DO).

“We hope this results in the DO stating clearly that this is not acceptable,” Elmi’s boyfriend, Hassan Saad, told SR.

A spokesperson for the Swedish Medical Association (Läkarförbundet) condemned the doctor’s statements as “totally unacceptable”.

“There’s no way to defend such comments,” Tomas Flodin, chair of the medical association’s ethics committee, told the radio station.

A representative from the health clinic refused to comment on the matter, citing the ongoing investigation.

The Local reported in late January that a nurse in Norrköping in eastern Sweden said to a female patient, “If you don’t like the system, go to Ukraine” after she requested to have an immediate appointment to deal with a pressing medical condition.

After taking her case to the media, the patient was informed she had been granted an appointment.

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

Sweden Democrat Criticises ‘Race Mixing’

A replacement municipal councillor for the Sweden Democrats in eastern Sweden may be expelled from the party after writing in an online forum that he is against “race mixing” and that Europeans have children with “niggers, Asians, etc.”

“It would be good for the child if the parents are similar in appearance,” Isak Nygren told Expo magazine on Saturday.

Nygren, 21, who has stepped in for a departed Sweden Democrat municipal councillor in Katrineholm, claimed that he often “spiced up” his posts to provoke reactions, but continued to stand behind his views, Expo reported on Saturday.

According to Nygren, “miscegenation” leads to rootlessness, Expressen reported on Saturday.

“When the Sweden Democrats were against [overseas] adoption, it was for the same reasons. There will be identity problems and can result in mental health issues,” he said, according to Expressen.

Sweden Democrat press secretary Eric Myrin said on Saturday that Nygren’s views are contrary to the party’s and can be grounds for expulsion.

Nygren described himself as an “active anti-racist” and Sweden Democrat member “for many years” during the same time on his Twitter feed late on Saturday.

In an October blog post, he described Islam as “a violent pedophile cult.” He also praised the departure of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, but warned of worse to come.

However, Sveriges Radio P4 Sörmland reported in the summer of 2010 that Nygren, then running for the Sweden Democrats in both the municipal and county elections, had been active in a neo-Nazi network, according to Expo.

In 2008, Nygren applied for membership in the neo-Nazi Nordic Alliance (Nordiska förbundet) and started a now-dormant neo-Nazi network, SVT reported on Saturday.

According to Expo, Nygren was also very active in the Nordic Alliance’s online forum until 2008, writing about his extreme right-wing ideologies, denouncing mass immigration and criticising Islam.

When confronted by Expo, Nygren did not deny the postings, but claimed that they had nothing to do with neo-Nazism.

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

Swiss Press Uneasy About Egyptian Revolution

As Swiss people pore over their Saturday papers, Cairo is busy cleaning up after 18 days of protests that finally led President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

While the tone of the Swiss media has generally been encouraging and optimistic, a fair amount of criticism and concern underlines much of the latest commentary.

“The revolution has only just begun,” read the top headline on the Saturday edition of the Bern-based Der Bund newspaper.

Inside, an editorial called for the end of the hypocrisy that had characterised the nation for so long.

“What happened on Tahrir square looked more like a happening. What are missing are the leaders and the ideas that are necessary for the constructive shaping of the future,” stated Der Bund, citing problems such as poverty and unemployment.

As those problems indicate, solid national leadership has not been Egyptian’s strong suit in recent decades. The Geneva-based Le Temps newspaper had harsh words for the former president.

“Mubarak missed his last opportunity to leave with some semblance of dignity. The day before, in a speech that had an unbearably paternalistic tone, he proved that he was beyond help for Egypt. The lie didn’t work anymore,” wrote Le Temps.

It pointed out that, on the contrary, the people on Tahrir square showed a great deal of dignity. It stated that thanks to a great amount of sacrifice, they had obtained the right to be heard.

For Le Temps, “the region, in which Egypt has a central place, continues to be a ‘powder keg’. The resoluteness of protesters showed the scale of frustration, bitterness, imbalance and despoliation that accumulated in this country and in the majority of the Arab world”…

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

Switzerland: Citizenship Refusal Confirmed by Federal Court

An Algerian considered to be too close to his homeland’s Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) has seen his request for Swiss citizenship turned down by the Federal Court.

Judges in Lausanne confirmed an earlier decision by the Fribourg cantonal authorities, which considered the 61-year-old man as still being linked with the FIS.

During the naturalisation procedure he was heard by a Fribourg parliamentary committee. At that meeting, he described the FIS as a political party whose goals were to fight corruption and bring democracy to Algeria.

The committee vetoed his citizenship request in 2009, saying the FIS wanted to create an Islamic state and that it equated democracy with atheism. These positions, it added, were antithetical to Switzerland’s fundamental principles and legal system.

The court agreed, adding that the decision was not discriminatory. It pointed out that the refusal was largely based on the fact that the man had not distanced himself from FIS doctrine or its terrorist activities, presenting the movement as a democratic party.

The man was a member of the FIS until 1992, when it was officially disbanded, and served as its secretary-general in the Algerian city of Oran.

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

The Al-Qaida Supergrass and the 7/7 Questions That Remain Unanswered

In November 2001 when Mohammed Junaid Babar made his television debut, it was clear what side he was on. “When the American troops enter we will kill them in Afghanistan,” he said. The tubby, bespectacled 25-year-old Islamist from Queens, New York, had flown out to Pakistan adamant that he was going to commit murderous treason. Staring into the camera, without any face covering, he told an ITN reporter: “There is no negotiation with Americans. When they’re coming in with the mindset to kill my Muslim brothers and sisters, I will do the same on the frontline. I will kill every American that I see.”

Babar’s chilling words, spoken with a New York twang, were broadcast around the world. His dedication to the cause of jihad could scarcely be doubted. Even though his mother, working as a secretary on the ninth floor of the twin towers, had only narrowly escaped with her life before they collapsed, he had determinedly flown out to Pakistan a little over a week later to do his “Islamic duty” and support al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Over the next 21/2 years Babar met senior members of al-Qaida including its No 3, Abdul Hadi, and Omar Sheikh, the killer of US journalist Daniel Pearl, and provided them with money and equipment such as night vision goggles. He ran weapons, sent people into Afghanistan to fight US forces, planned to assassinate the president of Pakistan twice, and in summer 2003 set up a training camp in north-west Pakistan that provided lessons in bomb-making to young British jihadis including the leader of the 7 July cell, Mohammed Sidique Khan.

According to his own testimony Babar met Khan at Islamabad airport and took him to the training camp he had set up. There Khan learned how to fire machine guns, rocket-propel grenades and mix explosives — a crucial step towards making the London bombings the most deadly plot to have been carried out on British soil.

Now released after just a few years, Babar has paid a small penalty for his role in that atrocity. But, if allegations from a US terrorism lawyer are true, Babar may have been working for the US security services while pretending to be a jihadi — allegations that could imply serious failures to prevent the 7 July bombings. Babar’s story is the stuff of spy novels. One of the most dangerous home-grown Islamist terrorists the US has known was to become the world’s most formidable terror supergrass. Seemingly well embedded in the ranks of al-Qaida, in March 2004 he flew home to New York and moved back into his parents’ detached house in the Muslim area of Queens. US authorities have so far not explained why he was not placed on a no-fly list.

Instead, the official version of events records that a month passed before US authorities questioned him. As he walked to night school where he was training to become a taxi driver, three FBI and New York police agents asked Babar to accompany him to their car.

There was no shootout, no dawn raid, nor even a pair of handcuffs; just a tap on the shoulder. Instead of prison, the officers drove Babar to room 538 of the Embassy Suites hotel in downtown Manhattan. The two-bedroom suite had sweeping views of the Hudson river and was just blocks from the wreckage of the twin towers. Although he wasn’t under arrest, Babar almost immediately signed a document allowing his sworn enemy, the US government, to question him without a lawyer.

Five days later Babar began telling FBI agents everything he knew about his terrorist work, including highly detailed accounts of his dealings with dozens of jihadis around the world. As one lawyer who led a four-year investigation into Babar put it: “When Babar turns he gives the FBI extraordinary detail. Detail to the point where either you’d have to keep notes … or you have a photographic memory. It’s one of the two.”

Speaking for the first time on the condition of anonymity, law enforcement agent “A”, who stopped Babar on the street and subsequently spent over 500 hours debriefing him, described the five-day questioning session in the hotel as “very hard. Babar was very motivated … So he had a very hard time coming in and turning state’s witness. It wasn’t easy for him.”

On 12 April, two days after being formally arrested, Babar was brought in front of a judge at the southern district court in Manhattan, a dozen blocks from the hotel. The court document dealing with his appearance remains sealed but it is acknowledged that over the next eight weeks Babar hammered out a deal with prosecutors in which he agreed to act for the government and become its informant.

Then, until his release in December 2010, Babar spent the next six years flying around the world, helping to put nearly a dozen people behind bars in three countries and proving to be an invaluable asset. As district judge Victor Marrero heard from government representatives upon his release, Babar’s work as a supergrass was “exceptional” and “extraordinary. Mr Babar,” acknowledged Marrero, “worked with the FBI and foreign governments to assist in investigations of terrorism organisations, including al-Qaida, and of terrorist activities such as the London bomb plot … As a result of Mr Babar’s co-operation, multiple defendants were arrested, prosecuted, and eventually sentenced not just in the United States but in England and Canada as well.” Daniel Ollen, Babar’s defence attorney who is also speaking for the first time about the case, said that during Babar’s sentencing he had never seen a more glowing response from the government in 30 years of working in informant cases. “The government went to bat for Babar. They usually send a letter to the court, they remain mute, they say, ‘judge, we rely upon our submission’. But this prosecutor got up and told the court just how good a co-operator he was.”

In acknowledgement of his service Babar earned a dramatic reduction in prison time from a possible 70 years behind bars to “time-served” which amounted to just 41/2 years, a good proportion of which was spent outside of the regular prison system as he testified in three UK trials and one in Canada. He has also spent the last two years out on bail, walking the streets of the US, settling into a new life under his real name. Ollen confirmed Babar was no longer in the witness protection scheme…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Muslim Convert’ Wife Murdered Along With Her Two Children by Monster Husband Had Only Stayed With Him for ‘Sake of the Kids’

The wife whose ‘abusive monster’ husband murdered her and their two young children had only stayed with him for the ‘sake of the kids’, it has has been claimed.

Joy Small, 24, was found dead in her home along with her three-year-old son Aubarr and daughter Chanarra, two, on Saturday afternoon.

It is not yet known how they died, but it is thought police went to the flat after discovering the body of Miss Small’s husband, Aram Aziz, 32, in a country park the day before.

Aziz, who was described as an ‘abusive monster’, is said to have once poured petrol over Miss Small’s head and tried to set it alight.

Friends said she was so frightened of him that she installed a panic button in her flat and had kept a hammer under her pillow.

Miss Small, a mother-of-three from Leicester, is believed to have split from her husband, an Iraqi Kurd, last year, but she later rekindled their relationship.

Miss Small’s ex-husband Javed Ghaznavi, with whom she had one child, a boy of seven, claimed she had had got back with Aziz for the good of the children.

Mr Ghaznavi, 32,said he had last spoken to her eight months ago.

‘She was crying and was desperately upset,’ he said. ‘She was having problems with Aram and they had separated.

‘He was not very good for her. She said he was always smoking drugs, he was caught shoplifting and was in trouble with the police.

‘I saw Aram two months ago and he said they had got back together for the sake of their kids.’

Last night, her friend Jennie Bland, 27, from Leicester, said: ‘She was a good person, and a fantastic mum.

‘She would have done anything for those children. Her husband was extremely possessive. He beat her all the time and tried to stop her seeing her friends.

‘He’d poured petrol over her, tried to set her alight and had even thrown a mirror at their son. He was an abusive monster.’

She added that Miss Small, a former canteen worker who did not use her married name, had been getting her life back on track after separating from him.

‘She was doing really well, with the support of her friends,’ she said. ‘But she’d had a panic button installed in her flat. I stayed over one night and Joy had a hammer under her pillow, she was that scared of him.

‘When they split up, he’d left a message on her answerphone saying he would kill her and the children. He said she could never have another boyfriend.’

Miss Bland added: ‘I went away last July, and when I got back she was quiet. She said she had a new boyfriend, but I had my suspicions she was back with him.

‘In November, I found out she was and we fell out. I couldn’t stand by and let it happen. She had been warned by police and social services that if she got back with him, they’d take her kids off her.

‘I didn’t want that to happen but I wish I’d followed my instincts now and said something. If I had, she might still be alive.

‘At least she can rest in peace now. She is finally free of him.’

He added: ‘I don’t understand why the police didn’t help her and the children. Social services knew about the situation and so did the police, so why didn’t they do anything?

‘Maybe they could have saved her and the children if they had acted sooner. It is also strange that it took an entire day to find them. I don’t know why it took that long.’

Miss Small’s seven-year-old son lives with Mr Ghaznavi in Leicester.

‘She wasn’t interested in our son,’ he said.

‘She sent him Christmas cards and maybe saw him once a year. She had a really bad temper. She was a good person, but she was always losing control.’

Miss Small’s stepfather, Martin Small, from Londonderry in Northern Ireland, said: ‘We haven’t seen very much of Joy. She started living in a very Muslim area of Leicester and began living a Muslim life.

‘She wasn’t a Muslim convert as such but she did live that way of life to an extent: she was about half and half.’

Another friend of Miss Small, Lisa McNain, 26, from Leicester, said: ‘She was a lovely woman, devoted to her children. You couldn’t fault her.’

A park warden discovered Aziz’s body in Watermead Country Park, around two miles from the flat he is thought to have shared with Miss Small, at around 4pm on Friday. At 3pm the next day, police officers found her body, together with the bodies of her two children.

Yesterday, floral tributes and a pink and blue teddy bear were left outside the flat. One message read: ‘To a friend, u’ll be sadly missed so much, sleep tight.’ Others paid tribute to Aubarr and Chanarra, adding: ‘Taken so soon, sleep tight.’

A Leicestershire police spokesman said the family was known to them but would not elaborate. It is thought the family was also known to social services.

‘No causes of death have been established at present, but the deaths of the woman and children are being treated as suspicious,’ the spokesman said. ‘Inquiries are at an early stage, but officers are not looking for anyone else.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Muslim Eton’ At Centre of Channel 4 Hate-Preaching Allegations is Forced to Shut Over Far-Right Safety Fears

An Islamic school at the centre of a documentary row will close tomorrow amid safety fears.

Teachers at the Darul Uloom Islamic High School, in Small Heath, Birmingham, have held meetings with police chiefs and fear that youngsters could be targeted by the far-Right.

The Dispatches documentary, Lessons in Hatred and Violence, is due to air tonight and will show footage of a preacher making offensive remarks about Hindus and ranting: ‘Disbelievers are the worst creatures’.

But teachers at the school insist the undercover reporter captured an isolated incident where a 17-year-old senior student was talking to pupils.

The have provided a letter which shows that he was expelled for his views last August — five months before the school was made aware of the tapes by producers.

A Birmingham faith leader has now backed the school’s record of teaching tolerance and MP John Hemming said he believed the documentary was irresponsible and had put schoolchildren at risk.

The school’s head of curriculum Mujahid Aziz said the decision had been to bring forward the school’s half-term by a week after meetings with police.

Pupils will today be told not to return to classes until the start of March.

‘They filmed for six months and managed to collect a handful of comments which promote intolerance,’ said Mr Aziz.

‘We were aware of the views of this 17-year-old student and we dealt with him by exclusion straight away — before we even knew that we were being filmed.

‘What people will see in that clip is completely contrary to what we teach at the school about harmony and awareness of different faiths.

‘Our concern now is for the safety of children and people coming to the mosque because we are worried that some people will get completely the wrong impression once they have watched this programme.

‘After meeting with the police, we are bringing the half-term forward and we have been advised that there should be plenty of staff around on Monday night as a precaution.’

The Dispatches documentary will show hidden camera footage from several religious schools, including the Darul Uloom.

At the Markazi Jamia mosque in Keighley, west Yorkshire, a preacher was filmed hitting and kicking young boys at Koran reading classes.

Reporter Tazeen Ahmad claims the footage is evidence of a ‘hardline, intolerant and highly anti-social version of Islam’ being taught in Britain’s independent Islamic schools.

Birmingham’s Darul Uloom is among an estimated 2,000 UK schools for Muslim pupils which opt out of education authority control but are still subjected to government inspections.

The 130-pupil academy on Coventry Road, which is connected to the Jami Masjid mosque, was given a glowing report in 2009 for its interfaith teachings.

A hidden camera installed by a reporter at a school in Birmingham recorded a preacher telling pupils ‘the disbelievers are the worst creatures, they are the worst creatures’.

The 11-year-olds are then told not to trust more liberal Muslims.

Their teacher said: ‘The person who’s got less than a fistful of beard, then you should stay away from him the same way you should stay away from a serpent or a snake.’

Another group of pupils are told in an assembly at the school: ‘The disbelievers, they are the worst of all people. The Hindus do, they drink piss, I’ve told you this. Do they have any intellect? No.’

Birmingham MP John Hemming (Lib Dem, Yardley) said Channel 4’s portrayal of the school was irresponsible.

‘If Channel 4 thinks this is a school where racism and intolerance is accepted in any way, they have got their facts seriously wrong,’ he said.

‘They have already had hate mail and now they are having to close for the safety of their pupils.

‘This kind of documentary is ideal fodder for the EDL [English Defence League].

‘Channel 4 is putting the safety of children at risk by criticising a school which is doing its job properly.’

Mr Hemming was backed by Yann Lovelock, a Buddhist who sits on the executive board of Birmingham Interfaith Council.

He said: ‘They have gone out of their way to make other faiths feel welcome and I have been invited to the school several times to speak to pupils about Buddhism.

‘As far as I can see, they do everything they can to promote tolerance and understanding and I am happy to work with them.’

Dispatches sparked controversy back in 2008 with its Undercover Mosque investigation into Birmingham’s Green Lane Masjid, where preachers were secretly filmed allegedly preaching hate against homosexuals and non-Muslims.

A spokesman for West Midlands Police said: ‘Limited details are known as to what the filming will show.

‘We will be working with our partners in and monitoring any community tension which may arise as a result of the programme.’

A spokesman for Channel 4 said: ‘This investigation, which is clearly in the public interest, shows secret footage of numerous adults on different occasions teaching pupils as young as 11 years of age contempt for other religions and wider society.

‘We stand by our investigation and think the programme speaks for itself.’

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Anti-Terrorism Cash Wasted’

A £400,000 initiative aimed at tackling ‘Al Qaida-inspired extremism’ in Oxford has been branded “unnecessary and ill-judged”.

The four-year Preventing Violent Extremism programme has come to an end and more than £150,000 of the £437,000 pot remains unspent.

Muslim leaders say the cash was not needed, achieved little and could prove counter-productive by sparking reactions from right-wing groups.

Even those running the programme, at Labour-run Oxford City Council and Thames Valley Police, admit city schools were reluctant to get involved due to the stigma attached to its name.

Some 29 projects were funded, including sports activities for Muslim youths, refugee workshops and Bangladeshi theatre productions.

The council and police said Oxford had always been a low-risk area for Islamic extremism and so instead work focused on strengthening communities’ “resilience”.

Fazal Hussain, chairman of Central Mosque in East Oxford, said: “In Oxford there is no problem, so this should have involved all communities and not just singled out Muslims.”

He said the mosque, which has more than 1,000 members, had worked hard to encourage respect and understanding without Government funding.

He said: “I would have thought there were better ways of spending the money, on the NHS or on education.”

City councillor Altaf Khan said the majority of city Muslims did not want the cash.

The Liberal Democrat member for Headington and Northway added: “That’s why they cannot spend it.

“It was unnecessary and based on the wrong thinking.”

He was the council’s executive member for community safety at the time the programme was launched.

But he claimed he had no choice but to accept the cash, although he had raised concerns at that time.

He added: “I’m glad it’s over. It has done nothing.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: 7/7 Inquests: Gang Ringleader Tried to Convert Schoolboy to Islam

Mohammed Sidique Khan was working as a learning mentor in a primary school in Beeston, Leeds when he took the pupil under his wing. The inquest was told about the background of the bombers and how they became radicalised for the first time, starting with Sidique Khan. He was said to be well liked at Hillside Primary School by parents, staff and pupils and was described as “almost like a father” to those from broken homes.

“One pupil became quite close to him and Khan would take him around to his associates and try to interest him in the Muslim faith,” Hugo Keith QC, counsel for the inquest said.

Acting Det Insp Peter Sparks explained how the young man was taken to the Iqra bookshop in Beeston, which Sidique Khan and others used as somewhere to sell Islamic literature, use computers and talk about Islam.

“Khan had tried to persuade [the pupil] on numerous occasions to convert to Islam,” DI Sparks said.

The inquest heard later that the child was as young as 11 or 12 when he was told “people will pay for what has been done to Pakistan” along with comments about September 11 during a conversation in Sidique Khan’s car Sidique Khan apparently told the school that his father was ill and then that he was depressed in order to explain a series of absences and eventually resigned at the end of 2004, seven months before the bombings.

Another young man told police that Sidique Khan had organised paintballing, quad biking and visits to a climbing wall. Gareth Paterson, representing some of the bereaved families, said Sidique Khan was mentoring children with behavioural problems. “Children described as disaffected children, in a sense, vulnerable children,” he added.

He was said to have no formal qualifications for the job but had been working with young people from July 1997.

On another occasion Sidique Khan was asked if he could arrange a speaker for the school to talk about the Koran, but the man talked with such “fervour” that the other staff became concerned. He was brought up as a Muslim by his father but “turned out to be more religious” than his siblings, according to statements by the family to police.

At Hardy Street mosque, attended by his family, he organised trips for local children and set up activities in the countryside, the inquest heard.

“He was providing mentoring really for the youngsters coming into the mosque,” DI Sparks told the hearing. “He was very much looked up to.” He added: “Youths looked up to him, not because he was an extremist but because he was just a nice man and very well respected.” But his brother, Mohammed, has told police that Sidique Khan spoke to him at length about which schools of Islam he should follow — in particular al-Muhajiroun, an extremist group led by preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed, now living in Lebanon, and associated with Abu Hamza, serving a jail sentence for incitement to murder…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Cosying Up to Those Who Reject Democracy is Out

DAVID Cameron is not a professor, or even a student, of sociology. So when last week he used the word “multiculturalism” in his Munich speech, it is doubtful that he consulted the Wikipedia entry for that term and therefore understood just how complex and contested the expression is.

As a decent, tolerant, top-drawer British Tory, he will have known what he meant by it, and that will have been enough.

Unfortunately “multiculturalism” is one of those words that exists almost entirely in the mind of its beholder.

To a member of the English Defence League, it means letting Muslims build mosques when they should be praying out of sight at home.

To some excitable right-wing journalists, it means encouraging the burka. Most decent lefties will use the word interchangeably with “multiracialism” to mean tolerating people of other faiths and colours within our midst.

So when the headlines had Cameron disparaging “state-sponsored multiculturalism”, the readers variously translated this into no mosques, no arranged marriages, no curries, no blacks.

And so hardly anyone read his speech or tried to engage with it.

Which was a shame, but I think I can help. Take away all the unhelpful accompanying noise (some of it Cameron’s own) and we discover him coming down hard on one side of an argument about how best to combat “home-grown” terrorism.

This argument has gone on since 2001, and sharpened after the 2005 bombings. On one side are people such as Robert Lambert, formerly head of the Muslim Contact Unit at the Metropolitan Police and now co-director of the European Muslim Research Centre at the University of Exeter, and the American anthropologist Scott Atran, author of Talking to the Enemy.

Boiled down, their argument is that you set a thief to catch a thief. In their view, the most effective preventers of young men becoming domestic terrorists are those who share much of their religious ideology, but who argue against suicide bombings at home.

As Dr Lambert wrote this week, “effective opponents of al-Qa’ida need street credibility: that invariably entails maintaining the same robust opposition to the war on terror as to al-Qa’ida terrorism”.

Even some opponents of this approach allow that there are indeed examples of wannabe bombers being dissuaded by non-violent Muslim fundamentalists.

But they also argue that these Salafi and other groups, by their evangelical ideology, are those who often act to radicalise young Muslims in the first place.

After all, if you buy the ideas of Muslim victimhood, Jewish plots, female inferiority, the need for a punitive attitude towards Muslims who leave the faith and jihad, then whether you blow up a train may seem like a matter of tactics and not ideas.

Worse, the strengthening of such groups through official sponsorship may, as the Quilliam Foundation points out, undermine more mainstream and modernising tendencies within the Muslim communities.

Well, Cameron agrees with Quilliam and not Dr Lambert. But his speech also raises a second, related point, one that may be best illustrated with the example of Zakir Naik. Last year, Home Secretary Theresa May decided not to permit Dr Naik to come to Britain from India to take part in an Islamic speaking tour.

The Muslim Council of Britain (which has supported the exclusion of the would-be Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones and the Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders) demurred. Describing Naik as “renowned”, the MCB said May’s ban served to “demonise the very voices within the world ready for debate and discussion. The tour would have been a golden opportunity for young Muslims who are eager to hear the true messages of Islam, which promote understanding between communities.”

Naik is indeed, in the literal sense, renowned. He has a satellite TV channel that claims a viewership of up to 50 million people all over the world.

For all I know, he may also be, in the matter of theology, a genuine scholar. In the matter of intercommunity understanding, however, he leaves something to be desired, advocating the death penalty for apostates and homosexuals, the refusal of permission to build non-Muslim religious structures in Muslim lands and conspiracy theories about the Jews controlling the US…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Fury as ‘Anti-Semitic’ Banker is Invited to Speak at LSE

A German banker who has said “all Jews share a certain gene” and described Muslims as “dunces” will speak tonight at the London School of Economics amid a row over free speech.

Anti-facist campaigners vowed to demonstrate outside the LSE during Thilo Sarrazin’s appearance in a debate on multiculturalism. The former executive member of the Bundesbank caused outrage in Germany last year with his comments, in which he also attacked Basques. He was removed from the country’s central bank and raked down by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who called him “stupid”.

Jewish groups in London warned yesterday that allowing Mr Sarrazin a platform in Britain would be “provocative and almost certain to stir further hatred and offence”. He also labelled Germany’s Middle Eastern population “dunces” and attacked Muslims for not integrating well. Mr Sarrazin is due to appear as a speaker in a debate as part of the German Symposium event organised by the German Society at LSE.

Sabby Dhalu, the joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, called for Mr Sarrazin to be banned from the UK. “There is grotesque double standards in the implementation of bans on people entering Britain. There is no doubt that a known Muslim spouting similar views would be denied entry,” she said.

“LSE’s German society’s invitation to Thilo Sarrazin to address their ‘Future of Germany’ meeting is misguided and ill-judged. The title and invitation imply that Sarrazin is the future. I wonder how many Jewish and Muslim German people agree with him? Such vile, racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic views have no place in Britain, Germany or any other country.”

The Symposium’s organisers defended the decision to invite Mr Sarrazin, whose book, Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany does away with itself), has outraged many in Germany. Eva Gorenflo, a spokesman for the LSE German society, said: “Everybody should be allowed to express what they think and it is important that Mr Sarrazin be allowed to do that. “The speakers are going to have an open debate. It would be difficult to have a debate if everyone already agreed with each other. People will be given the opportunity to ask questions. I didn’t know they were planning to protest. We are hoping that everything runs smoothly. Those people are allowed to express their opinions and they are welcome to join the debate as well. As Benjamin Franklin said: ‘Without freedom of thought, there is no such thing as wisdom’.”

The LSE supported the society’s decision to invite Mr Sarrazin. A spokesman said: “LSE is committed to the principles of free speech and is, traditionally, a place where renowned speakers come to explain their thinking and answer questions. Students are free to hold and express their own views and this extends to organising events.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Kidney Donor Awarded £6.7m in Damages After He Nearly Dies in Botched Surgery and Needs Transplant of His Own

A man who nearly died during an operation to donate a kidney to his father has been awarded £6.74million in damages at the High Court.

The 39-year-old — who can only be identified as XYZ — had paid ‘a very great price’ for his generous act, Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel QC told Mr Justice Spencer in London.

While donating his right kidney in February 2008, he suffered irreversible left kidney failure which meant that he, in turn, needed a transplant from his sister.

XYZ’s own life had been shortened by about ten years and he had to suffer the trauma of dialysis, considerable health problems and the prospect of future deterioration with the inevitability of another transplant.

Liability was admitted by Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust on the basis that the surgeon, who is the subject of proceedings before the General Medical Council, was not only negligent but to a degree reckless.

But the Trust disputed the ‘potentially enormous’ compensation involved — XYZ had claimed £14million — particularly relating to loss of future earnings and medical expenses.

The judge said the consequences for XYZ, a dynamic and extremely hard-working professional and father-of-two, had been ‘catastrophic’ — physically, psychologically, emotionally and financially.

Ms Gumbel said XYZ had wanted to give his father a better quality of life in retirement.

‘The donation of the kidney was successfully achieved but at a great cost to the claimant who, during the course of the operation, suffered torrential, life-threatening haemorrhaging.’

XYZ had been shattered by the experience.

‘He faces a life filled with considerable uncertainty. He is understandably obsessed by his health. He remains on edge as to whether the kidney will be rejected.’

Nerve damage led to foot surgery which left him unable to run, and he would always need organ rejection suppressant drugs which carried significant risks.

Ruling that XYZ’s identity should not be disclosed, the judge said the circumstances were so exceptional that his naming would be likely to have a devastating effect on the family.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Man Held in Mosque Assaults Probe

A man has been arrested in connection with alleged assaults at a mosque following the publication of clips from a documentary due to be shown on TV.

Footage of children apparently being hit by their teachers during lessons in a British mosque are due to be aired on Channel 4’s Dispatches programme.

Some of the footage, apparently shot at a mosque in Keighley, West Yorkshire, has been posted on the internet and has been viewed by detectives.

West Yorkshire police issued a statement which said: “We have recently become aware of a number of incidents of alleged assault at a mosque in the Keighley area and just before the weekend were able to view edited footage of the alleged incident.

“These incidents have been recorded and posted on the internet. One man has been arrested in connection with the incidents and has been released on police bail pending further enquiries.

“West Yorkshire Police are receiving full co-operation from the Keighley Muslim Association who are working with us in support of the inquiry. Given that the criminal investigation is ongoing, we would ask that media outlets in possession of material relevant to this inquiry should handle the material responsibly and not publish or disseminate it in any way.”

Footage in the programme includes scenes of teenagers and a preacher hitting younger children. Pupils as young as six or seven were caught on camera being hit and kicked by the people supposed to be looking after them.

The screening of the documentary follows an investigation into how young Muslims are being taught extremist views in British mosques. A hidden camera installed by a reporter at a school in Birmingham recorded a preacher telling pupils “the disbelievers are the worst creatures, they are the worst creatures”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Terrorist Who Trained 7/7 Chief ‘While Acting as Supergrass for U.S.’ is Released From Jail Early After Serving Five Years

An American terrorist who helped train the leader of the July 7 bombers has been released from jail after serving less than five years, it has been claimed.

Mohammed Junaid Babar walked free early from a possible 70-year sentence because of what a New York judge described as ‘exceptional co-operation’ dating back to before his 2004 arrest.

It has led to suggestions that he could have assisted U.S. authorities even while helping to train the man who led the 2005 attacks on London that killed 52 innocent people.

Babar founded the Pakistan training camp where Mohammad Sidique Khan learned how to make bombs used in the attacks on three tube trains and a bus.

Babar later admitted being a dangerous terrorist who consorted with high-ranking Al Qaeda members, smuggling guns, cash and equipment, and planning two attempts to assassinate the former president of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf.

After his guilty plea in 2004, he spent much of his four and a half years outside the regular prison testifying in trials in the UK and Canada, The Guardian reported.

In 2008 he was granted bail awaiting final sentencing. On December 10 he was sentenced to ‘time served’ and released after being charged a $500 (£310) ‘special assessment’ fee.

His lenient treatment, said to be part of a plea-bargaining deal with U.S. prosecutors, has been compared to the early release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Graham Foulkes, a magistrate whose 22-year-old son David was killed by Khan at Edgware Road Underground station on 7/7, told the Guardian: ‘People can get four and a half years for burglary. They can get more for some road traffic offenses.

‘So for an international terrorist who’s directly linked to the death of my son and dozens and dozens of people to get that sentence is just outrageous.’

Clifford Tibber, the lawyer acting for the families of those who died or survived the London bombings in 2005, said: ‘Babar admitted setting up and funding training camps attended by the 7/7 bombers.

‘When the British government released Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber who received a life sentence, on compassionate grounds after eight years the Americans were furious. ‘Imagine how the bereaved and the survivors will feel about [Babar’s] paltry sentence.’

When granted bail in 2008, Babar was warned that his conviction on five terror offences could carry a sentence of 70 years.

And a probation report, dated July 9, 2010, recommended that he remain in jail for another 30 years.

But the U.S. attorney’s office submitted its own report to the court, known as 5K1, which praised the efforts of Babar, who was raised in the New York district of Queen by Pakistani parents…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

What the Halal? For French Muslims, Confusion Over What’s Forbidden

The news suspended forks on their way to mouths, and sent supermarkets rushing to pull goods from shelves. Last month, the website Débat Halal claimed it had evidence that a popular brand of halal-certified poultry sausages marketed in France by a giant international food producer actually contain pork, rendering them forbidden — or haram — to Muslims. The accusation led many French Muslims to question how they can be sure that any of the halal food they buy meets certification standards — only to discover that no single set of standards exists for determining which products are halal and which aren’t. Now, some observers are hoping that the haram hubbub may finally push France’s Muslim leaders to agree upon a united code for the halal food sector — one of the biggest-booming niche markets in the nation.

The stir began when Débat Halal published a Jan. 16 report saying that tests had detected pork — a substance forbidden under both halal and kosher rules — within halal-branded poultry sausages produced by Herta, a unit of global food giant Nestlé. Counter-tests revealed by Herta a week later found no traces of pork in their Knacki Halal poultry sausages. Nevertheless, on Feb. 1, one of France’s largest supermarket chains, Casino, removed the sausages from its stores to run its own test to “guarantee the strictest respect of halal certification.” Still, the entire episode led Muslim consumers to wonder about the reliability of all the halal food they buy.

And for good reason. The flap over Herta’s poultry sausages is only the latest controversy involving halal-certified food in France. In recent months, revelations of mechanized slaughtering by some industrial poultry Producers — rather than the manual culling and bleeding halal requires — have led some experts to estimate that up to 90% of poultry products labeled as halal in France don’t meet even the most basic, generally recognized standards. While trying to find out exactly what the national norms are for halal certification, French Muslims have found there is no unified set of criteria or inspection procedures to verify a product as being halal. Instead, food companies work along differing standards overseen by rival factions of France’s Islamic community. For Muslim consumers paying a premium to make sure that what they’re eating is compatible with their religious Beliefs, it’s an upsetting revelation.

“Questions of halal in France are overseen by the [country’s] three most influential Mosques — in Paris, Evry, and Lyon — and they each have their own criteria, inspectors, companies and products they approve and endorse,” says Abbas Bendali, director of the Paris-based Solis Conseil marketing consultancy, and an expert on France’s halal food sector. “France’s Muslim community is a mosaic of national origins, customs, tastes and habits to begin with, but unless rivalries can be overcome and a unified system regulating halal food can be created, the French halal market will remain splintered.”

That’s bad news for halal food producers who want to build on the booming sector, currently worth $7.6 billion in annual sales in France. Though that only accounts for a tiny slice of the estimated $655 billion global halal market, experts say its growth in France has consistently been in double digits for nearly a decade. Until recently, the vast majority of that activity has traditionally come from fresh meat sold by halal butchers, which still accounts for about 85% of France’s total halal market. But more recently, the fastest-growing niche in France’s halal food sector has been halal-certified cold cuts, soups, sauces, ready-made dishes, baby foods, and other processed products marketed by international companies who had previously focused distribution to the Middle East and Africa. Recently, Muslim shoppers also find they have a wider choice of diverse, innovative and more convenient, ready-to-eat goods than they’ve been used to — most of them produced by multinational groups like Nestlé, Panzani, Fleury Michon, and Unilever…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


EU and US Accused of Cover-Up on Organ Trafficking

Western governments have known about the criminal activities of senior politicians in Kosovo for a long time, Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty has said, adding that Europe is now unwilling to properly investigate the situation for fear of being exposed. “Western countries knew all the time what was happening in Kosovo but nobody did anything about it,” Mr Marty said in an interview with the Slovenian daily Delo on Saturday (12 February). Dick Marty said Brussels would do everything it could to make the case sink into oblivion. A report published by Mr Marty in December sent shockwaves through the international community when it linked Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci to a gruesome crime ring which carried out organ harvesting and heroin smuggling in the region. Serb prisoners held in special detention camps were killed and had their organs extracted for sale on the international black market in the 1990s, claimed the 27-page document. A former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Mr Thaci’s name was frequently cited in intelligence and diplomatic reports from Kosovo sent by western information agencies such as the FBI, MI6.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Kosovo: NATO, KFOR to Protect Only 4 Monasteries From March

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, FEBRUARY 14 — Starting on March 1, NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR will only be responsible for the protection of 4 Serbian Orthodox monasteries, said KFOR commander, German General Erhard Buehler, cited by Tanjug.

Buehler said that the move will take place to coincide with the reduction of the number of KFOR troops planned for the start of March to 5,000. The following 4 monasteries whose protection and security will be guaranteed by KFOR are: Visoki Decani, Holy Archangels, Devic and the Patriarchate of Pec. In Kosovo the transfer of responsibilities to protect and control monasteries and other Serbian buildings to Kosovo’s police has begun in recent months. NATO, in view of the significant improvement of the situation on the ground, has decided to gradually reduce its troops in Kosovo, which totalled over 10,000 at the end of 2010 and will decrease to 5,000 starting on March 1.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: FM: Demonstrations Will Remain Minority Protests

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 14 — Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said today that the protest marches organised in his country to ask for a change of the system will remain “minority movements”. He confirmed that the state of emergency will be lifted “in the coming days”.

“The marches organised 15 days ago and on Saturday”, Medelci said on French radio Europe 1, “clearly show that these are minority movements. I suppose this will not improve from march to march”. “Algeria”, he said responding to a question about a possible spreading of the uprising, “is not Tunisia, Algeria is not Egypt”.

The state of emergency was called 19 years ago in the country to deal with the violence of Islamic fundamentalists. Early this month President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that the state of emergency would be lifted.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: The Legacy of a Teetering Peace

One of the first casualties of the Egyptian revolution may very well be Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. The Egyptian public’s overwhelming animus towards Jews renders it politically impossible for any Egyptian leader to come out in support of the treaty.

Over the weekend, the junta now ruling Egypt refused to explicitly commit themselves to maintaining the treaty. Instead, under intense American pressure they sufficed with stating that they would maintain all of Egypt’s international obligations.

According to news reports, the generals themselves are split in their positions on Israel. One group supports maintaining the treaty. The other supports its abrogation…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Does Genocide Await Egypt’s Copts?

The Obama administration has repeatedly said it supports giving the Muslim Brotherhood, the Middle East’s oldest Islamic extremist movement, a seat at the table in a post-Mubarak Egyptian government.

Whether Egypt is soon ruled by this terrorist group, or whether it simply descends into anarchy, it looks increasingly likely that Egypt is fast approaching a tipping point of violence against its Christians.

Roughly 10 percent of Egyptians are Coptic Christians. The Copts thrived in Egypt and throughout the Middle East for centuries before Islam existed, but they have been living as second-class citizens for much of the recent past.

During President Hosni Mubarak’s decades in power, converts to Christianity were sometimes arrested, though the government often refused to prosecute crimes against Copts. Sharia law is even enshrined in the Egyptian constitution.

In recent months, Egypt has seen a rise in violence against its Copts. A Christmas Day shooting left six Coptic Christians dead. And 21 people were killed in a bomb attack outside a Coptic church on New Year’s Day.

These events prompted Pope Benedict XVI to publicly urge the Egyptian government and other leaders in the region to protect religious minorities. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Pope’s remarks were “an unacceptable interference” in the country’s internal affairs. The government then withdrew its ambassador to the Vatican.

As bad as Copts have had it in Egypt, conditions are likely to deteriorate soon, especially if the Muslim Brotherhood takes over. “The overthrow of the Mubarak regime will not by any sense of the imagination lead to the advent of Jeffersonian democracy,” former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton recently told the Daily Caller news website. “The greater likelihood is a radical, tightly knit organization like the Muslim Brotherhood will take advantage of the chaos and seize power. … It is really legitimate for the Copts to be worried that instability will follow Mubarak’s fall and his replacement with the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Copts are ambivalent about Mubarak’s ouster. “He’s the best of the worst,” Sameh Joseph, a church worker at a Coptic church in Alexandria, told a Los Angeles Times reporter. “Whoever comes after him might want to destroy us.”

A Washington Post piece highlighted the tension felt by many Coptic Christians. “The current situation for the Copts stinks, but Mubarak is the best of the worst for us,” said the Rev. Paul Girguis of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax County, Virginia. “If Muslim extremists take over, the focus will be extreme persecution against Copts. Some people even predict genocide.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Tunis Celebrates After Mubarak’s Resignation

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 11 — Immediately after the announcement of Mubarak’s resignation thousands of people broke out in celebration and started to sing and dance in the heart of Tunis. The noise made by car horns is deafening.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s State Media Denied Reports on Monday That Former Leader Hosni Mubarak Was in a Coma But Admitted He Was Ill.

The Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported on Sunday that Mubarak was gravely ill and had slipped into a coma after mass protests forced him from power on Friday.

The 82-year-old former head-of-state is in a “severe psychological condition and is declining treatment, despite his illness,” but not in a coma, the pro-government Al-Gomhuria daily said, citing sources close to Mubarak.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Troops Order Demonstrators to Leave Square

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 14 — Around ten Egyptian demonstrators on Tahrir square have been surrounded by the military police and troops who have ordered them to leave if they want to avoid being arrested.

“We have half an hour, we are surrounded by the police. We don’t know what to do, we are discussing it”, one of the protesters told Reuters, adding: “they have told us that we have one hour to leave the square or we will be arrested”.

Eyewitnesses report that they have seen the military police surround the demonstrators, supported by the military.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Parliament Chief Condemns Algeria Crackdown

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — European Parliament President and one-time Polish democracy activist Jerzy Buzek has called on Algeria’s pro-Western government, ostensibly an elected constitutional republic but whose military retains a veto over decision-making, to release democracy activists that have been arrested.

Over the weekend, the government cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrations that had sprung up in the wake of the fall of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. The interior ministry claims that 14 people were arrested, but human rights groups say that around 300 individuals have been detained.

“I call upon the Algerian authorities to refrain from violence and respect their citizens’ right to peaceful demonstration,” said Mr Buzek in a statement on Saturday (12 February), the first EU-level leader to comment on events in the country…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU: In Contact With Cairo on Freezing Mubarak’s Assets

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 14 — The European Union is in contact with Egyptian authorities on the issue of freezing the assets of former President Hosni Mubarak, but for now they are not able to make a decision, said the spokesperson of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. “We are in contact with the Egyptian authorities and when this issue is discussed, we will respond,” said spokesperson Maja Kocijancik. “If necessary, we will take the appropriate measures, but right now we cannot speculate on this,” she added.

On Friday, Switzerland announced that Mubarak’s assets on Swiss territory have been frozen. In order to make a similar decision, the EU needs to hold a meeting with the 27 member states and the authorities of the country involved. For the decision to freeze the assets of former Tunisian President Ben Ali and his wife, the EU acted “in the framework of a meeting with the authorities in Tunis” and with “all 27 EU countries,” said the spokesperson. The issue will be discussed by the EU foreign ministers and the foreign council on February 21.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Muslim Brotherhood to Form Political Party in Egypt

In a statement on Monday, Egypt’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, said it would establish itself as a political party once the Constitution has been amended to allow it to do so.

The group asserted its confidence that Egypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces would meet all its promises pledged in its fifth statement to the nation on Sunday.

The group asked the armed forces to declare a timetable for amending the Constitution and holding new presidential elections. It also called for abolishing military tribunals and pardoning all political detainees.

It also called for free and fair parliamentary elections under judicial supervision, for abolishing the Emergency Law and forming a new cabinet of ministers approved by the public…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Stupidity, Intelligence, And Egypt

If you want to understand why our power to influence world events is a shambles, you need only to listen to what came out of the White House, the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence this week in response to the crisis in Egypt.

Start with a point so basic that even liberals should agree with it: if you lack timely, accurate and expertly-analyzed intelligence on other peoples and nations, the making of foreign policy is reduced to mere guesswork. American policymakers have — roughly since Jimmy Carter and his CIA director, Stansfield Turner, decided that we really don’t need spies — been reduced to guessing what the world is doing. With President Obama in charge of the guesswork, American policy is apparently being made in disregard of what little intelligence there is. As I wrote on Egypt last week, Obama sided with the protesters, then with Mubarak and then again with the protesters who he assumed were aiming to establish a democratic government.

Throughout the crisis, Obama was content to dramatize his pretentiousness, doing his best to imply broadly that we had an influence on the outcome which we clearly do not. He assumed, without evidence, that the protesters uniformly demanded democracy and that if Mubarak fell, democracy would result. In his statement last Friday, Obama was taking credit for Mubarak’s fall and urging the Egyptian military to accomplish a quick transition to democracy. In response, the Egyptian junta suspended the nation’s constitution and dissolved its parliament. It is now reportedly forcing protesters to leave Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Too much has been made of CIA Director Leon Panetta’s prediction to a congressional committee that Mubarak would be out of office on Thursday night. In the open hearing, Panetta was repeating what he’d observed on television. If he had classified intelligence that indicated Mubarak’s imminent departure, he couldn’t have told the committee while the television cameras focused on him.

Panetta — a partisan Democrat with no intelligence experience — came into the CIA job at a time when the intelligence agency was under assault by the congressional Democrats who had followed Nancy Pelosi off the cliff in condemning CIA interrogations of terrorist prisoners. To his credit, Panetta defended the spy agency as best he could. His August 2009 op-ed in the Washington Post was unprecedented. In it he condemned the “…climate of suspicion and partisanship on Capitol Hill that our intelligence officers — and our country — would be better off without.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

‘The Revolution Isn’t Over, It’s Only Just Beginning’

With Hosni Mubarak out of power and the generals temporarily at the helm, Egypt appears to be on a path to democracy. The military has suspended the contested constitution and pledged free elections. German commentators have doubts about the army’s commitment to true change — but say the people have shown they won’t stop fighting for freedom.

Egypt’s generals are seizing control of the country following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, who stepped down on Friday after almost three weeks of public protests. The military council suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament on Sunday, and pledged to organize free and fair elections under a revised constitution. It gave no timetable, however, beyond saying that it would be in charge “for a temporary period of six months or until the end of elections to the upper and lower houses of parliament, and presidential elections.”

At present, it is unclear what civilian participation there will be in amending the constitution. The cabinet appointed by Mubarak last month will go on governing, reporting to the army chiefs. The army wants to get Egypt working again, to bring back tourists and attract foreign investments after the economy was damaged by the chaos of the revolution.

The army enjoys public respect, even though it has supported presidents drawn from its own ranks for six decades. Traffic is flowing once again through Tahrir Square and the army warned on Monday that it would clear the dozens of remaining protestors from the square which was the focus of the revolution.

Protest leaders have warned that Egyptians will demonstrate again if their demands for change are not met. They plan a huge “Victory March” on Friday to celebrate the revolution. That should serve as a reminder to the army of the will of the people.

German media commentators question how committed the army will be to implementing true change — but express faith in the Egyptian people’s determination to turn their country into a true democracy…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Limits of Morality: Sometimes It’s Right to Cooperate With Dictators

An Essay by Prof. Herfried Münkler

The uprisings in the Arab world have prompted much hand-wringing among Europeans, who worry that the West has been too lenient with the region’s autocrats. Sometimes, however, tolerating dictators is very much in the West’s best interest.

The popular movements in the Arab world have generated surprisingly little political resonance in the streets of European capitals. There have been no significant expressions of sympathy for the demonstrators, and no angry protests in front of the embassies of those Arab countries where police and security services have shot regime opponents or beaten them to death.

Given the dramatic changes that have taken place in Tunisia and Egypt within only a few weeks, the normally opinionated European left is paralyzed from shock, while the reaction of European civil society consists primarily in moral self-doubt over whether our own governments have perhaps been too closely aligned with dictators on the southern shores of the Mediterranean who acted as the guarantors of stability in their countries. North Africa has been gripped by a wave of self-liberation, but instead of enthusiasm we show, at best, sympathy. Mainly, however, it is melancholy self-doubt that is on display.

It was a different story more than three decades ago, when a popular uprising in Iran toppled, after bloody fighting, the shah’s regime and destroyed the power of the secret police. There were demonstrations in major Western European cities, and when the shah and his closest entourage fled from Tehran, it was celebrated as a sign of a victory by the common people. While the Americans, with the hostage crisis at their embassy, may see the Iranian trauma as a rescue attempt gone horribly wrong, the disappointed hope that the Iranian revolution would trigger a surge of democracy in the Near East and Middle East played a greater role in Europe. After initially downplaying the influence of the mullahs, Europeans turned away in frustration once it was no longer possible to overlook the repressive character of the mullah-controlled regime.

In Europe, the course of the Iranian revolution left behind a deep-seated mistrust of popular movements in the Muslim world. Europeans chose to take a wait-and-see approach, fearing that the Islamists could gain the upper hand in an uprising. Under the influence of such views, Europeans came to value the peace and stability guaranteed by pro-Western autocrats.

The melancholy self-doubts that are now taking shape are amplified by the images of European leaders cozying up to the region’s dictators, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Were the Europeans too lenient toward these regimes, merely because the rulers wore civilian clothing and donned a pseudo-democratic cloak by holding occasional elections? Had they been bullied by the threat that Islamism was the only alternative to the dictators’ regimes? Did they make moral concessions that have now proved to be embarrassing? Should they have been more insistent in calling for adherence to the principles of human rights, and should they have established closer contact with opposition groups?

Critical Reflection on the Past

The result of these self-doubts is that the Europeans are closely observing the current developments in the Arab world, but are not intervening and are waiting before taking sides. If we strip away the diplomatic verbiage, it becomes clear that the politicians and diplomats are also clueless — at least as clueless as the civil society.

The debate that has now begun over whether the European democracies paid too much attention to their interests and not enough to their values in their interactions with dictators and autocrats in the Arab world is also an expression of this perplexity. Those who don’t know what to do, and yet sense that they have to do something, resort to critical reflections on past deeds. That is not necessarily the worst solution. The only question is what the purpose of this self-imposed period of reflection is. Is it to analyze the new situation with a view toward a political reorientation, or is it aimed at self-recrimination?

The pitfall with this kind of retrospective reflection is that, in light of recent developments, it creates the impression that there was a direct, clean and decent course of action, and that the only reason it was not taken is that the Europeans were paying too much attention to their own interests. And because everything suddenly seems clear and unambiguous, we now insist that in the future we will orient ourselves more toward our values rather than our base interests. As a rule, this boils down to settling for the role of a critical observer.

Of course, there is a political cynicism that only recognizes values as long as they do not collide with one’s own interests or, worse yet, which sees values as a continuation of one’s own interests in normative clothing. Where values and interests diverge, the former are suppressed or bent so far that they conform to one’s interests once again. As a rule, however, states, especially democracies, seek compromises that allow values and interests to be brought into balance. In the process, the pendulum can swing more strongly in the direction of values in some cases, while in others it swings toward interests.

The question of how much it costs to commit to values plays a key role in this respect. Values have their price, especially in the political sphere, where they are passed on to the whole population in the form of collectively binding decisions. Anyone who would like to put the focus on values as a matter of principle has to address the question of whether they are prepared to cover these costs. This question can easily be turned into a moral accusation, one that may be justified in some cases. Most of the time, however, actual ability interferes with moral intentions: To what extent can the costs of normative, self-imposed commitments be borne? And at what point is this no longer the case?

The Cost of Change

The debate over forceful regime change in Iraq was a debate about such costs, which also consisted of moral paradoxes. Just because someone was opposed to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by military means, it didn’t mean that he or she necessarily saw the Iraqi dictator as a humanitarian. It was enough to argue that the costs of his overthrow were too high, or to have doubts that the project would have a positive outcome.

The debate over the pros and cons of regime change in Iraq may have been an extreme case of calculating the costs of enforcing one’s values, but essentially we always perform such calculations when we adopt a political position. Of course, we mainly do this intuitively and do not enter into a process of discursive reflection. The latter only happens when something has gone wrong.

In this sense, the costs of the alternatives should always be taken into account when considering the relationship between democracies on the one hand and autocrats and dictators on the other. Ever since there has been a massive opposition movement in which Islamists are represented but where they do not play the main role, the cost calculation is different from before. It is an old political principle that the opponents of dictatorial regimes must have demonstrated their support within the population and the inflexibility of their political will in a violent confrontation, before other countries will recognize them as an alternative to the status quo. The blood that is shed in violent clashes is a signal to the international community that a substantial portion of the population is no longer prepared to recognize the authority of the ruling regime.

The costs of asserting values change as the opposition’s visibility grows. In this situation, it is politically astute to carry out a fundamental recalculation of those costs. The about-turn that democracies are now making is only political opportunism at first glance. In reality, it isn’t just the political conditions in the countries in question that have changed, but also the costs of the previous stability…

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

Tunisia: Armed Group Arrested, Possible Links With Ben Ali

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 10 — A group of armed men, believed to be involved in last week’s serious incidents in Le Klef, was arrested last night in the same town in the north-west of Tunisia in a joint operation carried out by police and army. Press agency TAP reports that the men are also suspected of “smuggling and corruption in complicity with relatives of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Interior Ministry, Barracks Attacked in Hichria

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 10 — A statement has been released by the Interior Ministry regarding the incidents that took place on Tuesday in Hichria (in the Sidi Bouzid Est district), specifying that a group of people attacked a national guard post, after blocking the road by lighting tyres on fire.

The attackers were not able to enter into the building, and “went to the house of the police chief and completely ransacked it, terrorizing his family and lighting his car on fire. They also ransacked the home of another police officer”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Day of Pride: Against Hamas Through Facebook Appeal

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV/GAZA, FEBRUARY 11 — Though limited, the winds of resistance coming from Egypt and Tunisia are also blowing in Gaza. Mobilised through Facebook and the websites of al-Fatah, hundreds of Gaza Strip youths today openly stood against the security services of Hamas. Riot units, alerted time ago, quickly broke their ranks and carried out some 15 arrests.

But the protest remains meaningful because it comes on top of other sporadic episodes of political dissent against Hamas.

February 11 was meant to mark the beginning of ‘Thawrat al-Karamah’, the ‘Pride Revolution’. In recent days the organisers of the protest (openly supported by a member of al-Fatah, the former chief of security services in the West Bank Tawfiq Tirawi) announced that the people of Gaza would have taken to the streets at the end of prayers to express their intolerance towards the Hamas regime. According to the intentions of the organisers today’s demonstration was meant to bring together, in the streets, the “real Palestinian nationalists” (including the ‘healthy’ part of Hamas) against the grip of the “oppressive Hamas regime” and the “Israeli occupation”. In recent days there have been thousands of endorsements on Facebook.

But, either because of the security measures set up by Hamas or because of a realistic assessment of the situation, only hundreds showed up to join a silent protest march, without any slogans or signs, in front of the main mosque of Khan Yunes, south of Gaza.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel Fears a More Hostile Regime in Egypt

The Egyptian military’s reaffirmation of its country’s peace treaty with Israel has not allayed a fears here that the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak will bring a hostile regime to its southern border. The conservative Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and best-organized opposition group in Egypt, inspired the violently anti-Israel Hamas group that rules Gaza. With the professed goal of establishing an Islamic state in Egypt, the Brotherhood won 20 percent of the vote in 2005 elections, arguably the freest the country ever had. Although the Muslim Brotherhood is believed to have lost support in Egypt since then and disavowed violence decades ago, that has done little to calm Israelis, who say regional history suggests reason for concern.

Three decades ago, Iranians rebelled against the autocratic regime of the shah, only to install Islamic fundamentalists. More recently, U.S.-backed elections have strengthened the Islamic militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon, anti-American radicals in Iraq and Hamas militants in the Palestinian territories.

“The fear (in Israel) is that the Muslim Brotherhood will influence the army, the ranks of which are filled with religious soldiers and officers, and push it to undermining the peace treaty” Israel and Egypt signed in 1979, the Yediot Ahronot daily wrote…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israeli Army ‘Ready for All Eventualities’: PM

The Israeli military is “ready for all eventualities” as the Arab and Muslim world undergoes “an earthquake,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday just days after Egypt’s regime collapsed. “An earthquake is shaking the whole Arab world and a large part of the Muslim world and we don’t yet know how these things will turn out,” the premier said at a swearing-in ceremony for new army chief Major General Benny Gantz.

“We are ready for all eventualities because we know that the foundation of our existence, and our capacity to convince our neighbours to live in peace with us, is based on the Israeli army,” he said during a ceremony at his Jerusalem office.

Gantz takes over the post as Israel’s strategic stance in the Middle East undergoes a shakeup in the wake of a popular revolt in Egypt which ousted president Hosni Mubarak after three decades in power. Israel has reacted cautiously to the overthrow of Mubarak, an ally who was involved in years of Middle East peace negotiations. But it welcomed a statement by Egypt’s new military ruling council that Cairo remains committed to all its treaties, including its landmark 1979 peace deal with Israel…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Leviathan Gas Field, ‘Gas War’ On the Horizon?

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 14 — Israel is no longer just the land of milk and honey. It is now the land of natural gas too. Israeli energy company Delek and American partner Noble Energy announced that 130 km off the coast of Haifa in the Mediterranean Sea, they have discovered enormous hydrocarbon reserves. Explorations have yet to be completed, but the Leviathan gas field has been called the “largest natural gas reserve in the last ten years”. Israel has already granted licenses for exploitation and expects enormous advantages, but geopolitical experts are urging caution: a gas war could be on the horizon, because Leviathan could extend into Lebanese territorial waters. The gas field was discovered on the seabed bordered Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria, in addition to Israel, and everyone is looking for their share. Beirut notified the Israelis not to drill within Lebanon’s maritime borders: “We will not allow Israel to plunder our resources,” warned Energy Minister Gebran Bassil. The response from the Israeli Infrastructure Minister, Uzi Landau, was unambiguous: “Israel will not hesitate to use force to defend its interests.” The tones rise quickly in the Middle East. Israel and Lebanon are still formally at war, and the border dividing them is a critical hot spot. Delek does not seem to be worried. “Lebanon’s demands are ridiculous,” said a high-ranking official from the company who asked to remain anonymous. “For us it would be like if Italy started making demands. The whole of Leviathan,” assured the official, “is located in Israeli waters.” And so Israel could become an energy power, a possibility that is not pleasing to the Arab states in the region. “All of the countries bordering this body of water can conduct explorations and drilling,” admitted the official, “but for now Israel is the only country that has done so. Those other countries should have acted sooner.” The situation regarding Cyprus is different: “We have a deal for economic exploitation in that area with the Cypriots. The borders are very clear.” The compromise with Nicosia, however, has irritated Ankara, which declared it “void, because it ignores the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, an entity that is not recognised by the international community. Despite the confidence displayed by Delek and by the Israeli Infrastructure Ministry, this legal-geopolitical tangle appears difficult to resolve. International law professor Robbie Sabel of the University of Jerusalem explained: “It is necessary to negotiate a border between Israel and Lebanon in those waters,” he said, “but it is not simple because the coast is irregular. A mediator is needed, possibly from the UN. Defining this line is important to all states involved,” concluded the legal expert, “because in order to attract investments, it is necessary to know with certainty what belongs to whom.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netanyahu: Strong Tsahal Needed for Peace

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 14 — “An earthquake is under way in the Arab world and large parts of the Islamic world….

We hope to strengthen existing peace agreements, but remain “prepared for any possibility”. So said today Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu during the succession ceremony in which chief of staff General Gaby Ashkenazy handed over to Beny Gantz.

“Due to this great upheaval, what helps us to convince our neighbours to live in peace with us”, Netanyahu added, “is Tsahal (acronym of the armed forces, editor’s note). This is the true guarantee for peace”. The main task of General Gantz, according to Netanyahu, will be to guarantee Israel’s stability in a period of strong regional instability.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Authority Cabinet PM Dissolves Government

Ramallah, 14 Feb. (AKI) — Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad on Monday dissolved his government months ahead of balloting among Palestinians in general elections, according to news reports.

According to local sources, Fayyad plans to form a new cabinet to govern the West Bank until September when elections are due to be held.

It is expected that Fayyad will take two weeks to form a new government. During this time he will hold talks with representatives of different Palestinian factions, according to news agency Maan, citing an unnamed source.

The new cabinet with consist of 19 ministers, two less than the most recent Palestinian Authority government. A “substantial” shake-up is expected to take place, according to sources.

A government reorganisation has been expected since July, but has been delayed for unspecified reasons.

It is possible that the latest reshuffle comes following protests in Tunisia and Egypt which prompted those countries leaders to resign after decades in power.

The move, which was announced during an early-morning cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Fayyad told the ministers: “I am going to president (Mahmoud) Abbas to give him an official letter saying that we have resigned. This government is finished,” the minister said, according to a report.

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

Middle East

Arab Summit in Baghdad on March 29

Arab leaders will hold their annual summit in Baghdad on March 29, officials said Monday, in defiance of threats by Islamist insurgents waging a campaign against countries planning to take part. The meeting also comes at a critical time for the region’s mainly autocratic leaders, after two popular uprisings ousted two Arab presidents in less than two months amid mounting calls for political and economic reform.

“The Arab League summit will be held in Baghdad on March 29,” Iraq’s ambassador to the Arab League, Qais al-Azzawi, told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the league’s permanent representatives in Cairo.

Last month insurgents gunned down two Iraqi foreign ministry officials, after the Islamist group Ansar al-Islam posted threats against the summit in a statement on a jihadist website.

“The meeting of these tyrants in Baghdad forms part of American plans to normalise relations with the occupation government” in Iraq, it read. “Everyone must know Iraq is under the occupation of the Crusaders and that only the non-believers can legitimise the impious government,” it said, referring to the administration of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Abduljabbar Abdullah Mukhtar and Jamal Sattar Hussein were shot dead by gunmen using silenced pistols on January 26, two days after the murder of Duraid Ismail, an employee of the National Security Ministry. It will be the first summit of the 22-member League since the resignation of Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak, who led the regional heavyweight for 30 years and the ouster of Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.

Ben Ali fled Tunisia on January 14 after the self-immolation of a vegetable seller sparked an unprecedented wave of anti-government demonstrations.

Inspired by events in Tunisia, protests erupted on January 25 and toppling Mubarak’s regime 18 days later, in events that have shaken the region and sent shockwaves internationally.

Egypt’s new military rulers have vowed to pave the way for a free democratic society, which if implemented, could jolt the region whose people have long suffered from political repression, poor human rights and economic hardships.

Arab League chief Amr Mussa had warned leaders who met in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for an economic summit of “unprecedented anger” on the Arab street.

“The Arab soul is broken by poverty, unemployment and general recession,” he said. “The political problems, the majority of which have not been fixed have driven the Arab citizen to a state of unprecedented anger and frustration.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Awlaki Urges Support for Jailed Yemeni Journalist

U.S. radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki has called for support for a journalist jailed in Yemen after being convicted of helping al Qaeda, according to an audio recording posted on the Internet on Sunday.

“The free-spirited journalist Abdulelah Haidar Shai was imprisoned because he exposed American crimes in Yemen,” said the speaker in the recording, who sounded like Awlaki, a frequent propagandist for al Qaeda’s Yemen-based regional wing.

“Abdulelah was doing his journalistic duty and every journalist …, his tribe and all Yemenis should carry out their duty to support him,” said Awlaki, who is of Yemeni origin and believed to be hiding in southern Yemen. The recording’s authenticity could not be independently verified.

Shai, a Yemeni al Qaeda expert, was sentenced to five years in prison in January after being convicted of aiding the global militant group. He has denied the charges. [ID:nLDE70H0X2]

Yemen is under international pressure to quash the resurgent al Qaeda wing in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state, at the same time as it struggles to control southern secessionists and to cement a fragile truce with rebels in the north.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power for 30 years, has faced growing protests in recent weeks from thousands of Yemenis, inspired by uprisings that topped Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Hundreds of Yemeni protesters clashed with police blocking them from marching to the presidential palace in Sanaa on Sunday, witnesses said.

Awlaki drew attention to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables that showed Saleh secretly offered U.S. forces open access to his country to launch strikes against al Qaeda targets. [ID:nN03148704]

“The crime of the Yemeni government in collaboration with the Americans in bombing the people of Yemen should not be forgotten, and honest media people should take the banner from Abdulelah and conclude the journey he began,” Awlaki said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

In Iran, Modernity Takes on the Cult of the Virgin

Iran’s men are having trouble dealing with the brave new world that’s imposing itself on their bedrooms: an unnoticed tide of sexual change that could prove far more important in shaping the country’s cultural and political values than the 2009 democratic revolt-that-failed. “It is still widely accepted,” Negar Farshidi writes, “that a groom can make his marriage conditional on the bride remaining a virgin, and cancel it if it turns out she isn’t. Traditionally, a bloodstained sheet was produced after the wedding night as evidence of an intact hymen, but nowadays many men and their families ask for a ‘virginity certificate’ in advance.”

Similar practices are common throughout large swathes of Asia. But an official Iranian study, Farshidi records, has determined that more than half of all young people in Iran have had premarital sex — which means those certificates probably aren’t worth a whole lot. Iran’s powerful clerical establishment embraced the technological products of modernity, like computers and the internet, while railing against its cultural manifestations. But the fact is that modernity imposes its own culture. More and more young Iranians are working independently of their families. More and more Iranians are marrying late. More and more young Iranians are having premarital sex. Kelly Golnoush Niknejad had, a couple of years ago, written an insightful account of how the internet had made it increasingly difficult for the regime to censor what young people in Iran “see, hear and seek, especially when it comes to dating and sex.” Iran’s clerics, whatever their other failings might be, aren’t stupid: unlike Xerexes, they see that even three hundred lashes aren’t going to tame the sea. Ziauddin Sardar, in a must-read article, wrote of the clergy’s efforts to battle this epidemic by promoting muta, or temporary marriages. Precisely how these marriages are distinct from hiring a sex worker, I am unclear — but the distinction at least keeps up the pretence that the new sexual culture doesn’t violate religious order. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, has ruled that even if a married woman who claimed to be a virgin was proved to have had non-penetrative premarital sex, her husband could not divorce her unless the couple had agreed in advance that virginity meant no sex at all. Put crudely, it’s OK to play.

Some clerics are putting their faith in technology. Ayatollah Sadeq Rouhani, a conservative cleric, issued a ruling that that hymenoplasties — the surgical reconstruction of virginity — was lawful in Islam. “There is no difference between a real and fake hymen,” he reasoned, wisely putting pragmatism before principle…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Muslims Are Grappling With Models of Statehood

The question: Is Islamism dying?

When empires fall they tend not to rise up again. Harvard professor Noah Feldman observes that the same is true of government systems. The institution of the monarchy has been in general decline since the American revolution and not many people honestly expect Marx to be making a comeback any time soon. The two exceptions, Feldman points out in his book The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, are democracy and the Islamic state.

The abolition of the Ottoman caliphate by the newly established Turkish republic in 1924 led to the creation of a number of Islamic movements in Muslim-majority countries seeking to establish justice and restore Muslim civilisation to the heights of past glories. It was during this period that the two most influential Islamic groups, the Muslim Brotherhood (1928) and the Jamaat-i-Islami (1941), were founded in Egypt and British India respectively. The programmes of both groups were — not entirely unfairly — described as “totalitarian” in scope. Indeed, Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, made it clear that he believed that multi-party politics was too divisive and unsuited to his vision of an Islamic state.

Since then, the well-publicised failings of the self-avowedly Islamic governments that came to power in Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan have forced many Muslim thinkers to, well, think again. It has turned out that “good Muslims” are every bit as susceptible to monopolising and abusing power as their non-Muslim counterparts.

At the same time, the notable progress made in Turkey by the AK party working firmly within a secular democratic framework has led to new questions being asked about the relationship between Islam and the state. Add to that the first-hand experience of many tens of thousands of Islamic activists — not least in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt — with detention without trial, ruthless state repression, torture and outrageously rigged elections. This has helped to create a far greater awareness and appreciation for the centrality of human rights, constitutionalism, freedom and democracy in any conception of an “Islamic state”.

The Muslim Brotherhood circa 2011 certainly cannot be described as liberal democrats, but neither are they the extremists as portrayed by some of their detractors, as even Tony Blair conceded. Its leadership now embraces a range of nuanced political outlooks, many of them mercifully rather different to that originally envisioned by Hassan al-Banna. Though they are not there yet — a draft document circulated in 2007 outlining the Muslim Brotherhood’s political vision was heavily criticised for being too reactionary — it was an interesting and hopeful sign that quite a bit of that criticism came from younger members. I don’t believe there is a compelling reason why the Muslim Brotherhood cannot continue to evolve in the years to come to become the Egyptian equivalents of Germany’s Christian Democrats, whose party leader Angela Merkel is the current chancellor.

Just last week, David Cameron spoke of “Islamists” harbouring “real hostility towards western democracy and liberal values,” but this overlooks how people’s ideas can develop and change over time. A 2007 poll organised by the University of Maryland in the US to gather views in some key Muslim-majority countries found that a majority favoured reunifying their countries under a caliphate — but more noticeably an even greater majority wanted to see democracy established in their countries. Democracy and a caliphate: but aren’t they meant to be irreconcilable? Well, not necessarily, if, as some prominent Muslim thinkers including Abdulwahab el-Affendi have argued, that it is based on a European Union-type confederacy of independent democratic Muslim-majority states…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Egypt and Foreign Policy Failures

“The statesman can only wait and listen until he hears the footsteps of God resounding through events; then he must jump up and grasp the hem of His coat, that is all.” Thus Otto von Bismarck, the great Prussian statesman who united Germany and thereby reshaped Europe’s balance of power nearly a century and a half ago.

Last week, for the second time in his presidency, Barack Obama heard those footsteps, jumped up to grasp a historic opportunity … and missed it completely.

In Bismarck’s case it was not so much God’s coattails he caught as the revolutionary wave of mid-19th-century German nationalism. And he did more than catch it; he managed to surf it in a direction of his own choosing. The wave Obama just missed-again-is the revolutionary wave of Middle Eastern democracy. It has surged through the region twice since he was elected: once in Iran in the summer of 2009, the second time right across North Africa, from Tunisia all the way down the Red Sea to Yemen. But the swell has been biggest in Egypt, the Middle East’s most populous country.

In each case, the president faced stark alternatives. He could try to catch the wave, Bismarck style, by lending his support to the youthful revolutionaries and trying to ride it in a direction advantageous to American interests. Or he could do nothing and let the forces of reaction prevail. In the case of Iran, he did nothing, and the thugs of the Islamic Republic ruthlessly crushed the demonstrations. This time around, in Egypt, it was worse. He did both-some days exhorting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave, other days drawing back and recommending an “orderly transition.”

The result has been a foreign-policy debacle. The president has alienated everybody: not only Mubarak’s cronies in the military, but also the youthful crowds in the streets of Cairo. Whoever ultimately wins, Obama loses. And the alienation doesn’t end there. America’s two closest friends in the region-Israel and Saudi Arabia-are both disgusted. The Saudis, who dread all manifestations of revolution, are appalled at Washington’s failure to resolutely prop up Mubarak. The Israelis, meanwhile, are dismayed by the administration’s apparent cluelessness.

Last week, while other commentators ran around Cairo’s Tahrir Square, hyperventilating about what they saw as an Arab 1989, I flew to Tel Aviv for the annual Herzliya security conference. The consensus among the assembled experts on the Middle East? A colossal failure of American foreign policy.

This failure was not the result of bad luck. It was the predictable consequence of the Obama administration’s lack of any kind of coherent grand strategy, a deficit about which more than a few veterans of U.S. foreign policy making have long worried. The president himself is not wholly to blame. Although cosmopolitan by both birth and upbringing, Obama was an unusually parochial politician prior to his election, judging by his scant public pronouncements on foreign-policy issues…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Revolts: Abdullah Gul, Satisfy People’s Demands

(ANSAmed) — TEHRAN, FEBRUARY 14 — Turkish President Abdullah Gul has called for the governments of the countries in the region to “respect and meet the their people’s demands,” after the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and the protests that are continuing to take place in other countries in the Arab world.

“The recent events did not come as a surprise, because information circulates in the world today and people know about things,” said Gul speaking in a joint press conference in Tehran with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad after a meeting between the two leaders. This is why there is a need for “political and economic reforms that are in line with the demands of the people,” added the Turkish president. “When several leaders do not pay attention to the demands of the people,” said Gul, “society takes on initiatives to achieve their goals. This is why I hope that the demands of these nations are respected and satisfied.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Facebook and Social Networks Online at Present

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, FEBRUARY 9 — After having been kept completely offline in the past five years in Syria, Facebook, Youtube and other famous social networks and multimedia sharing websites can now be accessed by users in Damascus and other Syrian cities. A local ANSA reporter made the announcement, quoting the first hand experiences of many internet surfers and emphasising that for the moment there is no confirmation or denial by the official authorities in Damascus.

Up to last night anyone who wanted to visit Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and other social networks had to bypass the barrier imposed by Syria’s IT authorities by connecting to international servers that allow users to surf the web in a “clandestine” manner.

Some observers in Damascus draw a connection between the unexpected opening of websites that were banned up to yesterday and the attempt by Syrian authorities to counter, through Facebook and other social networks, a campaign against the regime launched on the web by certain movements within the local civil society in the wake of the wave of protests in Tunisia and Egypt.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Female Highschool Student Blogger Jailed for Five Years

Damascus, 14 Feb. (AKI) — A Syrian state security court on Monday jailed 19-year-old student blogger Tal al-Mallouhi for five years for “passing information to a foreign country,” the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.

In October, Syria’s pro-government Al-Watan newspaper reported that the authorities were accusing Mallouhi, a 19-year-old high school student, of spying for the US embassy in Egypt.

The charge was denied by Washington, which on Saturday called for her “immediate release” and condemned what it called her “secret trial.”

Web users users in Syria reported that direct access to the popular social networking website Facebook and video-sharing websiteYouTube was reinstated last Wednesday after being blocked since 2007.

A wave of popular protests has is unsettling the Arab region’s authoritarian governments after revolts in Tunisa and Egypt ousted both countries’ presidents in less than a month.

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

Syria: Muslim Brotherhood Chief Urges Assad to Learn From Egypt and Tunisia

London, 14 Feb. (AKI) — The leader of Syria’s banned Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group has urged the country’s president Bashar al-Assad to take note of the recent popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt which toppled their authoritarian presidents after decades in power.

“The government should come to its senses and learn from the Egyptian and Tunisian experiences,” Muhammad Ryadh al-Shafqa, told Adnkronos International (AKI) in an interview.

“The regime’s intransigence has led to the opposition stepping up its activities,” al-Shafqa added.

During the Israel’s deadly offensive in the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is linked to the coastal strip’s ruling Islamist Palestinian group Hamas, called for a truce with the Syrian government.

“All our attempts at dialogue were ignored. But we remain ready to respond to any concrete initiative which shows a real desire to act in the interests of the country and its citizens,” said al-Shafqa.

Hamas’ main political leader, Khaled Maashal, has lived in the Syrian capital, Damascus, since 2001.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which is also outlawed in Egypt had been part of “the triumph of the popular will” in the key North African country, al-Shafqa said.

He was referring to the resignation of Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak last week after 18 days of mass protests against his almost-30-year rule. The Muslim Brotherhood formed part of the anti-government forces protesting widespread poverty, corruption and repression under Mubarak.

The pro-democracy protests were inspired by the so-called ‘Jasmine’ revolution in Tunisia, which ousted its president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January after 23 years in power

“Islamic organisations, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, provide an element of stability and harmony in all the countries in which they are present,” al-Shafqa said.

“Trying to make out they are intimidatory is just a lie put about by dictators to help them stay in power.”

Al-Assad was appointed leader of the Baath-Party and the army after his father, Syria’s former president Hafez al-Assad died in 2000. He was confirmed as president in an unopposed referendum in 2001. He has been criticised for his disregard for human rights, his handing of the economy , for alleged corruption and sponsorship of terrorism.

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

Turkey: The Days of Disquiet

“Watch out,” he said after sipping his wine at the elegant ‘A Brasileira,’ “Either their zebibahs will fade or your leaders will start growing them.” To discuss Middle East politics under drizzle at Fernando Pessoa’s favorite coffeehouse was bizarre. But so was our conversational journey from “The Book of Disquiet” to “The Days of Disquiet.”

It was probably my fault as I mentioned Ibis, a sacred bird in ancient Egypt and an important symbolic reference for Pessoa (1888-1935), one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century — Ibis, the bird that diverted us from the great poet’s Book of Disquiet (which he wrote under the heteronym Bernardo Soares) to present-day Egypt’s “Days of Disquiet.” Perhaps we were like the “curious types whose faces are not interesting but who constitute a digression from life,” as Pessoa described the clientele at Lisbon’s second-class eateries.

With an “uninteresting” face perhaps still dizzy from the previous night’s melancholic songs at the A Tasca do Chico, my Lebanese friend repeated, “It’s the zebibah, habibi, watch out!” He was referring to the ostentatious display of piety in Egypt, the zebibah (raisin), a dark circle of skin or in some cases a bump, which comes from pressing the forehead into the ground during daily prayers.

“With their abstinence from alcohol and pork,” he went on, “Your leaders may look too pious for the less pious Turks; but without the zebibah shining on their forehead they can only look like elementary-level Muslims to the Brothers.” I had to remind him that he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood. He smiled.

Earlier during the day, at the Café Nicola, a passer-by had indiscriminately shouted at the customers, “You alcoholics!” “Your Brothers have found you here,” I teased him. “You thought you could get away from [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan,” he teased me. We were both wrong. The protestor, whom we later found reading his International Herald Tribune on a nearby pavement, was a Pakistani.

According to my Lebanese friend, as much as the “Turkish model” could be a template for the Brothers, the Brothers could be a template for Mr. Erdogan and his “brothers.”

The extremely common talk of the “Turkish model” these days is accurate, he said. “Because anyone who stands against Israel is a friend of Arabs… But that thinking has only built temporary alliances which easily turned into longer-term hostilities among the Arabs.”

Now he lit his fine Havana cigar, cursed the smoking ban and the drizzle, but started laughing when there was nothing to laugh. “I am thinking,” he explained, “Of the funny situation… [Mr.] Erdogan being accused of being ‘too Muslim’ in Turkey… Imagine him now being accused of being not Muslim enough by his role-model-partners…”

Middle East politics, no doubt, is more “religiotics [my neologism]” than politics. “When [the Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah makes a speech, all Lebanese forget about their religious identities,” he said. I told him that was a complete tautology.

And, fortunately, it was one of the rare moments my Lebanese friend ever agreed with my political views (my friend is in a love-and-hate relationship with Erdogan: He dislikes Mr. Erdogan “for what the prime minister is”; but at the same time he adores him for his bravado against Israel).

“Yes, it’s tautology. The Lebanese tend to forget their religious identities because Nasrallah speaks of unity… unity against Israel. But then there is religion about forgetting religious identities, too.”

I reminded my Lebanese friend of other facts of life in the Middle East political calculus, like the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri, his country’s former prime minister, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his country’s not-so-distant cousin. And he spoke to me like “the pragmatist Arab.”

“People [in Lebanon] don’t care who killed al-Hariri. Let it pass. What’s the point about who killed him? He was killed, and we want to look forward, move forward.” Good. Very pragmatic. But what about Mr. Ahmadinejad?

“Go back to my ‘who-stands-against-Israel-is-a-friend-of-Arabs’ theory. Ahmadinejad is not the darling of Arabs. But he is ‘accepted’.” I smiled, trying to look “impressed.”

The rest of the day? Borrowing/rewriting lines from Pessoa’s “A Factless Autobiography,” “I walked on the streets, until the night fell, my life felt to me like the life they had. By day they were full of meaningless activity; by night, they were full of meaningless lack of it. By day I felt I was nothing, and by night I was I. There was no difference between me and these streets, save they being streets and I a soul, which perhaps is irrelevant when we consider the essence of things.”

By night, I imagined a compromise for the Turkey-Egypt modeling efforts. In my theory, we shall see “modernized” Egyptian leaders whose zebibahs will fade a little bit; and “conservatized [my neologism, again]” Turkish leaders who will start growing pale (only pale!) zebibahs…

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

Turkish Woman Recounts Difficult Life in Saudi Arabia With Book

The difficulties of living as a woman in Saudi Arabia are the subject of a new book by Turk Zekiye Yüksel, who lived in the country for three-and-a-half years.

“You can never walk alone. You should either have your husband, father or brother with you. During the three-and-a-half years I stayed there, I couldn’t go out to buy bread even once, for instance. This is very important because it hurt me. That means you have no bread at home and cannot go out to buy it. I even had to order my tweezers through the driver,” she said.

Yüksel is the author of “Being a Woman in a Sharia Country,” which recounts her time in the austere kingdom as a literature teacher for Turkish children whose parents had moved to Saudi Arabia for work opportunities.

Most of the children were from the Mediterranean province of Hatay, which has a high Arabic-speaking population.

“My students were born and raised there. They had never gone to the theater. The Turkish school was like oxygen for them. They couldn’t go out, but the curriculum of the Republic of Turkey was used by the school,” said Yüksel.

Since the families heard about Turkish girls who married rich Saudi men but were unhappy, they generally sent their daughters back home to Turkey after graduation, Yüksel said.

“I lived in Riyadh and just craved to drive a car, go to a supermarket, take a commuter bus from one city to another and walk in the street. I learned how valuable life in the Republic of Turkey is. I walked 40 minutes every day in the school’s yard, as though I was pacing back and forth in a prison yard,” she said.

“Arab women communicate nonverbally through their eyes and feet. These are the only body parts visible to everyone. So, women give importance to their eyes and feet. Since the weather is always hot, they wear shoes and sandals that are unimaginably attractive,” Yüksel said.

Saudi houses are surrounded by high walls like castles from the Middle Ages, said Yüksel. “When you open the windows at your house, you face huge walls. Having a balcony is banned, in order to keep women inside.”

Yüksek said women were banned from driving in Saudi Arabia and added that women could not go anywhere alone because there were no commuter buses either.

“In Turkey, even if women are pious, they drink tea with neighbors and go to the village market. The wife of the religion instructor became ill in Riyadh because she did not have a social life. Since my friend was coming home tired, he couldn’t take his wife out,” he said.

Polygamy is widespread in Saudi Arabia, according to Yüksel. “I realized this because three or four women were walking behind a man in the street or at a park after they left luxurious villas.”

The muezzin, or the person who calls the faithful to prayer at the mosques, would make the call with an unattractive tone of voice in order to prevent women from falling in love with the voice, said Yüksel.

“After I returned to Turkey, I started to listen to the adhan [call to the prayer] admiringly,” she said.

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

Yemen: Fourth Day of Protest in Favour of Political Reforms and President’s Resignation

Ali Abdullah Saleh has been in power since 1978. Demonstrators clash with police in the capital of Sanaa and other Yemeni cities. In Bahrain, protesters are hurt in “day of rage”. The Palestinian government resigns.

Sanaa (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Anti-government protests continue for a fourth day in a row in Yemen in the wake of similar events in Tunisia and Egypt. About 3,000 people, mostly students and lawyers, took to the streets of Sanaa today to demand the resignation of President Ali Abdallah Saleh. “After Mubarak, Ali,” as they shouted their anger at the Yemeni president who, like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, has been in power for 32 years.

Students and civil society groups are behind the protest action. Demonstrators gathered at Sanaa University in order to march on Tahrir Square, where the government has its headquarters. Police created a human wall between protesters and government supporters.

In the industrial town of Taiz and in Aden, police fired shots into the air to disperse crowds.

Human Rights Watch slammed Yemeni police for using brutal methods without reason.

Thousands of protesters clashed with police yesterday.

Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power since 1978, recently announced that he would not run for re-election in 2013.

Local media say that he put off a visit to the United States because of the protests. Demonstrators attempted to march to the presidential palace in Sanaa on Sunday, chanting: “A Yemeni revolution after the Egyptian revolution.”

Witnesses said several people were hurt as police armed with batons clashed with stone-throwing protesters. At least ten people were arrested, reports said.

The uprising in Egypt appears to have caused a domino effect across the region. Thousands of people protested on Saturday in Algeria. A “day of rage” got underway today in Bahrain with a number of people injured. The Palestinian government headed by Salem Fayyad also resigned.

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


Egypt: Russian Reaction Restrained & Cautious

In contrast to many other nations, Russia reacted with extreme discretion and caution to the turmoil in Egypt. Following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, President Dmitry Medvedev said Egypt should hold legitimate elections and respect religious rights. In the first official reaction, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement asking Egyptians not to resort to violence and to strengthen democratic structures. The Kremlin earlier warned outside powers — presumably the United States — against wading into the crisis with “ultimatums.”

Moscow’s restraint was prompted, among other things, by concerns that the wave of unrest sweeping the Middle East and North Africa could lead to the radicalisation of the region — a major source of militants and money for Islamic insurgency in Russia’s North Caucasus in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.

It took Russia a decade of bloody war to curb separatism in Chechnya, but militancy in North Caucasus has been on the rise again sending deadly ripples across Russia. Three weeks ago, a suicide bomb attack on Russia’s largest Domodedovo Airport in Moscow killed 36 and wounded 180 people. It was the second attack in the Russian capital in less than a year. In March 2010, two “black widows” blew themselves up in the Moscow metro within minutes of each other killing 40 and wounding 80 people. Notorious Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for both attacks. In a video posted on a rebel website, he vowed to make 2011 a “year of blood and tears” for Russia and carry out attacks “monthly and weekly.”

In recent years, the low-intensity insurgency has spread from Chechnya to neighbouring territories in North Caucasus and undergone a transformation from a nationalist and separatist movement to pure jihadist movement that feeds on the radical strains of Islam.

In 2007, Umarov dissolved the self-proclaimed separatist “Chechen Republic of Ichkerya” and announced the establishment of a “Caucasus Emirate” appointing himself the “Emir of Caucasian Mujahidin.” Umarov embraced global jihad, pledging to fight a jihad against not only Russia but also the United States, Britain and Israel. “Our brothers are fighting today in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somali and Palestine,” Umarov said. “Everybody who attacks Muslims wherever they are will be our common enemy.”

It was a dramatic change of strategy. While separatist rebellion in the Caucasus has a long tradition dating back to the 18th century, religious extremism was never its driving force.

Historically, North Caucasus has been dominated by moderate Sufi Islam. However when the war broke out in Chechnya, Arab preachers and militants financed with Saudi money streamed into the region bringing with them the fundamentalist Wahabbi/Salafi strain of Islam. The seeds of radical Islamism sowed by Arab jihadists and Arab money have now sprouted across North Caucasus, which is the most depressed and corruption-ridden region in Russia. Unemployment among the young is as high as 80 per cent. Corruption is absolute. Millions of dollars poured into the region under federal programmes to uplift the local economy are stolen on a regular basis. “Official” muftis have discredited themselves by endorsing corrupt authorities. All this provides fertile soil for Islamic radicalism.

“Jihadisation” of the rebel movement helped Umarov take his war of terror from Chechnya, which has been largely pacified under the iron rule of former militant Ramzan Kadyrov, to neighbouring Muslim regions under the banner of radical Islam. The strategy paid off. Umarov reinvented the concept of a multiethnic Islamic state in the Caucasus that was popular during Russia’s wars for control of the region in the 19th century. The “Caucasus Emirate” united militant groups, jamaats, operating in the region’s ethnically defined Muslim autonomies — Dagestan, Ingushetia, Karachevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Adygeya.

Terrorist activity in North Caucasus has sharply increased since the establishment of the virtual “Caucasus Emirate.” In 2010, for example, the region saw a fourfold rise in terror attacks, according to Russia’s Prosecutor General Office. Terrorists staged more than 900 attacks in North Caucasus last year, killing and wounding about 800 police and military personnel as well as hundreds of civilians.

“Russia is facing a far higher terrorist threat than Israel,” says Major General (retd.) Vladimir Ovchinsky, former head of the Interpol office in Russia. “In Israel, the warring sides are divided by a wall, whereas in Russia there is no fence between North Caucasus and the rest of the country.”

Foreign militants, predominantly Arab natives trained in al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, have been active in North Caucasus since the early days of the Chechen war. Last year alone, the Russian security services killed two al-Qaeda emissaries in Umarov’s entourage — Mohmad Mohamad Shabaan and Abu Haled, both of Arab origin. More Arab militants were killed in Chechnya in the earlier years, including Khattab, Abu Walid, Abu Dzeit and Abu Omar Safs.

“The Caucasus Emirate is a branch of the al-Qaeda and part of its project of setting up a global caliphate,” says Dr. Alexander Ignatenko, president, Institute of Religion and Politics. There are strong fears in Russia that foreign support for insurgency in North Caucasus may grow if radical Islamic groups, such as the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, gain power in Egypt and other Arab countries. “There are no guarantees the radicals will not come to power in Egypt and Yemen,” warns Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament. “This, in turn, could have destabilising consequences for the situation in a much broader region.” The rise of radical Islamists “is a threat to the entire region’s security that can resonate in the Caucasus and even Tatarstan [a Muslim region in central Russia],” echoes Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy head of the U.S.A. and Canada Institute…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Female Suicide Bomber Kills 1 Policemen in Russia

Police in southern Russia say a female suicide bomber has killed one policeman and wounded six others during an attempt to enter a police station.

Regional police spokesman Vyacheslav Gasanov said the bomber blew herself up Monday in the central village of Gubden in Dagestan. He said the bomber tried to enter a local police station, but was stopped by a police patrol.

Dagestan is the largest province of the predominantly Muslim Northern Caucasus region and is beset by almost daily violence that stems from two separatist wars in neighboring Chechnya.

Also Monday, a suspected Islamic militant was killed in a shootout with security forces outside Dagestan’s capital, Makhachkala. Gasanov said two policemen were wounded during the shootout…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Lavish Funerals Drive Azerbaijan’s Muslims Into Debt

When Arzu Gahramanov’s father-in-law died, his family didn’t just have to endure the grief of losing a loved one — they also had to go into debt to pay for an expensive mourning ceremony. Mourning ceremonies have become increasingly extravagant in mainly Muslim Azerbaijan in recent years. Meals are often laid on for hundreds of friends, relatives and neighbours, served by waiters in large tents which are set up by the roadside for several days. Specialist companies now offer to provide tents, waiters and cooks — an indication that the mourning process has also become a lucrative business opportunity.

Gahramanov, a butcher in the capital Baku, said that he spent around 3,500 Azerbaijani manats (4,300 dollars/3,300 euros) on the ceremony and the funeral itself.

“Of course the funeral arrangements cost a lot. But there is no other way out,” he explained.

“If your loved one dies — and of course this is an unexpected moment — you will not bargain over prices and you will just pay what is requested. If there isn’t enough money, you are forced to borrow.” The economy in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan has been growing rapidly over the past decade due to the country’s huge oil and gas revenues, and conspicuous displays of wealth are not unusual in prosperous Baku. But rural areas are much poorer; the average annual income per capita nationwide is just over 2,500 manats (3,100 dollars/2,370 euros), and lawmakers have become increasingly concerned about the number of people running up large debts to pay for funerals.

“Mourning ceremonies are often held with excessive wastefulness, and it’s difficult sometimes to distinguish a funeral from a wedding party,” said the chairman of the parliamentary committee for social policy, Hadi Recebli…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Abu Bakar Bashir Denies Terrorism Charges in Indonesia

The Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir yesterday denied being the leader of a terrorist network found training in Aceh, and said a string of fresh charges against him had been fabricated and that he was simply defending Islam.

The trial of the 73-year-old resumed amid heavy security in the South Jakarta District Court when prosecutors read out a 93-page indictment detailing seven charges against him.

Hundreds of vocal supporters were at the court, but were outnumbered by heavily armed police. Police said 2000 officers had been deployed to the area.

Commenting from his cell before the hearing, Bashir rejected the allegations, saying they were “all made up”.

“I did nothing. I was only defending Islam,” he said.

The most serious charges include planning and/or inciting a terrorist act, and trafficking in weapons and explosives for the purpose of conducting terrorism, both of which carry a maximum penalty of death.

However, it is the charge of supplying funds for terrorism, which carries a jail term of between three and 15 years, for which it appears the prosecution has the strongest evidence, including statements from a number of Bashir’s associates from Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT).

It is through JAT, described by the International Crisis Group as an above-ground organisation with ties to fugitive extremists, that Bashir is alleged to have raised money for the training camp and to fund the new terrorist network.

The crisis group has said that JAT has also welcomed many members of the now defunct Jemaah Islamiah, co-founded by Bashir, and which was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Authorities plan to present evidence from eight witnesses, including statements from Hariyadi Usman and Dr Syarif Usman, that they gave 150 million rupiah and 100 million rupiah respectively at the request of Bashir. It’s alleged a total 1.2 billion rupiah ($131,000) was raised through JAT, some of which was also used to buy weapons which were discovered at the training camp in Aceh last year…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Admitted Pakistani Assassin Gets Valentine’s Love

The confessed killer of a liberal Pakistani governor pleaded guilty to murder Monday, telling a judge he had no regrets because he killed “an apostate” as required under his interpretation of Islamic law, lawyers said.

Mumtaz Qadri shot dead Punjab province Gov. Salman Taseer in January while serving as a bodyguard. Qadri has told authorities he killed Taseer because the governor spoke out against harsh Pakistani blasphemy laws that impose the death sentence for insulting Islam. The assassination horrified Pakistan’s relatively small liberal elite. However, some in the religious establishment and in legal circles have praised Qadri, a sign of the spread of Islamic fundamentalist thought in this South Asian nation.

Qadri was indicted Monday on a murder charge by an anti-terrorism court in the city of Rawalpindi.

Outside the court, dozens of Islamic activists carried banners saluting Qadri and demanded his immediate release. A small group of college students gave police flowers and a Valentine’s Day card they wanted delivered to the defendant.

“Happy Valentine!” read one of the banners.

Monday’s session was held behind closed doors. When the judge asked Mumtaz Qadri if he’d intentionally killed Taseer, the 26-year-old said he didn’t consider his actions illegal, said defense lawyer Shuja-ur-Rehman Raja.

The lawyer quoted his client as saying he dealt with “an apostate” as required under Quranic and Islamic laws.

Raja, prosecutors and legal experts said Qadri’s statement was considered a guilty plea under Pakistani law, despite his efforts to justify the killing and deny that it was illegal. “In such a scenario, the onus now falls on the accused to prove his act as being justified after pleading guilty before the court,” said Shaukat Siddiqi, a criminal lawyer.

An evidence hearing was set for Feb. 26.

Pakistan’s judicial system is opaque, and the courts have abysmal conviction rates, especially in terrorism cases where witnesses and court officials can be intimidated…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Death to Minorities in Indonesia

By Katherine Demopoulos

JAKARTA — Indonesia’s status as a thriving pluralist democracy is under threat as the country’s religious minorities face increasingly violent persecution and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government responds with what critics perceive as passivity and inaction.

An attack on three churches on Tuesday follows the killing on Sunday of three followers of Ahmadiyah, a minority Islamic sect perceived by some here as heretical. Ahmadis believe their founder is a prophet, in contradiction to mainstream Islam which views Mohammad as the final prophet.

Video footage has emerged showing the murders in graphic detail. First a mob armed with knives, sticks and stones attacked a group of Ahmadis defending a home. Rocks fly, glass shatters, a man smiles for the camera and the overwhelmed police mill about helplessly.

Later, two men are shown, stripped from the waist down, lying lifeless and muddied on the ground. Blood oozes into the mud, shouts of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great in Arabic) erupt and the attackers launch another savage volley of blows using sticks and bamboo poles, as others use their phones to record it.

Condemnation of the killings has come from the United States and European Union, as well as human-rights advocacy groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and Indonesian activists.

“The United States joins the vast majority of Indonesians in deploring the violence in Indonesia directed at members of the Ahmadiyah community that resulted in the deaths of three people and the wounding of several others over this past weekend. We also note with concern the recent church burnings in Central Java,” US ambassador to Indonesia Scot Marciel said in a statement.

Indonesia has both a history of sectarian violence and internationally respected pluralists, such as Abdurrahman Wahid, briefly Indonesia’s fourth president. On Monday, small numbers of protestors of various beliefs, mostly non-governmental organizations, activists and professionals on their lunch hour, gathered at the iconic Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, united by Twitter messages and a common goal of expressing solidarity with Indonesia’s religious minorities.

Yudhoyono has promised an investigation into the killings and has now called for violent groups to be disbanded, but critics argue that his government is part of the problem. In 2008, a triumvirate comprising the religious affairs minister, the attorney general and the interior minister passed a decree preventing Ahmadiyah from proselytizing and there are no indications of any intention to revoke the order.

Ismail Hasani, a researcher at the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, says attacks against Ahmadiyah were stepped up since the decree was imposed and calls for it to be revoked. “After the decree was launched the incidents increased. The decree has been used as a tool of legitimation in various incidents,” he said, pointing also to comments from the current religious affairs minister, Suryadharma Ali. “I’m sure the violence increases because the minister of religion always provokes the public [with calls] to ban Ahmadiyah,” he said.

The Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace says attacks on Ahmadiyah rose to 50 in 2010 from 33 in 2009 and 15 in 2008. The local Wahid Institute also records increases from 2009 to 2010 in violations of religious freedom, intolerance and discrimination.

Passive policy

Government passivity in dealing with the attacks is also an issue, says Lutfi Assyaukanie, co-founder of the Liberal Islam Network and a lecturer at Paramadina University. “The roots of the problem lie in the firmness of government and in the religious authority. We are a big nation with no big leader. SBY [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] doesn’t do anything. Only statements, statements, statements.”

Assyaukanie says the leadership of Indonesia’s two main Muslim organizations, Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, is “so weak” and “very political”. He says the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) is also to blame because in 2005 it reiterated a fatwa (edict) denouncing Ahmadiyah as heretic.

“As long as the MUI is ultra-conservative like now — they are still issuing fatwas against Ahmadiyah — if they are still blaming Ahmadiyah, we cannot stop the attack on Ahmadiyah. We cannot stop the violence. There is a strong relation between violence and the fatwa of MUI.”

Budiman Sudjatmiko, a legislator for Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan (PDIP), the party of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, said the government is failing in its duty to protect all Indonesians. “The state should protect those citizens and the state failed to do that. They [the government] have been intimidated by the radicals.”

The radicals he refers to are small pockets of Islamic networks, which include the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), religious vigilantes with links to the police. FPI members are now on trial in connection with the 2010 stabbing of a Christian pastor from the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan church in Jakarta’s suburbs following a dispute over the church’s permits.

Luspida Simanjuntak, a fellow leader at the church, was also beaten. She says the government promised land for a new church, but has still not handed over the plot. Although the church is still active, she remains “uneasy” since the attack and says banners are now hanging near the proposed site, saying, “We strongly reject the church’s establishment”.

Activists say while they don’t yet know which specific groups were behind the Ahmadiyah killings, with violence often hijacked for political and economic reasons, it is clear that the attack was organized.

The police, they say, are culpable in their consistent failure to enforce the law and protect Ahmadis, both in this recent incident, when they were warned several days in advance of possible trouble, as well as other assaults on the sect elsewhere on the islands of Java, Lombok and Sulawesi. The police themselves have claimed a lack of capacity to deal with the violence.

The threats to freedoms and the links to Muslim hardliners broadens into other arenas. Pop singer Nazril Irham, known as Ariel, was recently sentenced to three and a half years under Indonesia’s controversial 2008 anti-pornography law, in a sex video case seen by many as a useful media distraction from an ongoing corruption saga in Indonesia’s tax office. Muslim hardliners demonstrated at the court and were vociferous in their condemnation of Ariel.

The broad concern is that Indonesia is turning back the clock on what is generally viewed as a flourishing democracy and a successful emerging economy with impressive growth. Syafi’i Anwar, executive director of the International Center for Islam and Pluralism, wants the radical groups that perpetrate such attacks to be banned, but contends it won’t be easy. He warns that Indonesia is showing regressive tendencies. “Sometimes we are questioning — where is Indonesia heading right now?”

Katherine Demopoulos is a journalist based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She works as a freelance reporter for the BBC and Financial Times and writes extensively on Asian energy markets.

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

Indonesia: Prosecutors Say Terror Suspect Raised More Than $112,000 for Operations

Jakarata, 14 Feb. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Terror suspect Abu Bakar Ba’asyir allegedly raised Rp 1 billion (US$112,000) to buy firearms, ammunition and set up a terrorist training camp in Aceh, prosecutors say.

The radical cleric allegedly gave Rp 5 million (US$ 560) and an additional $5,000 directly to Joko Pitono in Ngruki, Central Java, according to the sentence demand read by prosecutors at Ba’asyir’s trial at the South Jakarta District Court on Monday.

Prosecutors said that Ba’asyir instructed Jamaah Anshorud Tauhid (JAT) members in several areas to donate money to support terrorism, raising Rp 80 million from supporters in Bima, Rp 160 million from supporters in Surakarta, Rp 25 million from those East Java and Rp 250 million in Bekasi.

Also implicated in the fund raising by prosecutors were Thoyib, Syarif Usman, Hariyadi Usman, Abul Hakim, Uqbah, Afif Abul Majid, Abdul Haris, Yudo, and Ubaid.

According to prosecutors, money collected by Ubaid was transferred to Dulmatin, the notorious terrorist in charge of the training, to purchase firearms such as AK-47 assault rifles, revolvers and ammunition.

Prosecutors further said that the weapons were used in the deadly heist of CIMB Niaga Bank and the Newnet Internet cafe in Medan.

“The attack sparked fear in those who directly experienced or witnessed the actions,” said lead prosecutor M. Taufiq.

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

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur: Christians and Muslims Against the “Trap” of Valentine’s Day

The lovers’ holiday, celebrated today throughout the world, is considered “anti-Islamic” by Muslim Malaysians. Christian leaders deny “links” with their faith and ask that the day not be exploited for manifestations of “hostility.” For the first time in Malaysia the World Week for inter-religious harmony.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Malaysian religious leaders are against the feast of St. Valentines, the day dedicated to lovers that is celebrated today throughout the world. Muslims have branded the holiday as “anti-Islamic”, the Christians deny that its “vices” associated with the festivities are “tied” to their faith. Malaysia, meanwhile, is preparing to celebrate — for the first time — the World Week for inter-religious harmony.

Today, February 14th in the world loving couples exchange flowers, chocolates and stuffed animals as a token of love. In Malaysia the celebration unites Christian and Muslim leaders, who “deplore” the excesses and encourage young people not to celebrate it. The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) warns that “Christians are offended by public statements that have recently emerged, linking Valentine’s Day to sin and Christianity.”

Christian leaders are also “deeply disappointed” by the words of Siti Nor Bahyah Mahamood, who expressed his “irresponsible remarks.” In a talk-show called “Valentine’s Day: forbidden in Islam” relaunched on YouTube, the Muslim leader has told young people not to celebrate the anniversary. The campaign against “the Valentine trap” also involves the government, while checks will be carried out in many hotels in the country to prevent to couples’ relationships “outside marriage”. The Heads of Cfm remember that Valentine’s Day “is not a Christian holiday” and caution against manifestations of “hostility”.

The campaign against the festival dates back to 2005, when a fatwa was issued against lovers. The youth wing of the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party promised repression and intervention in cases of “immoral activities”. However, not all Muslims agree with the repression. 40-year old musician Arrifin Akmal, considered such behavior as “tribal” and warned that “modern” Islam can not allow such repression.

Today, meanwhile, Malaysia is preparing to celebrate — for the first time in its history — the World Week for inter-religious harmony. The program sees, among other events, a meeting between religious leaders and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Other nations have celebrated the anniversary — wanted by Jordanian King Abdullah II — the first week of February: among them Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, Philippines, USA and Germany.

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

Pakistani Writers in an Age of Extremism

When journalists and political activists prominently feature in a literary festival, you know that freedom of speech is a major issue.

“We’re like the villain of a horror film,” said Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid about the international view of Pakistan.

This statement set the stage for an alternative narrative in Pakistan during the recent Karachi literary festival. The event was attended by some of the best-known writers, activists and artists in the country.

But what was clear throughout all the crowded, passionate sessions was that these voices are at risk of being drowned out by extremism.

Play banned

On a hot and tropical day, the halls of a coastal Karachi hotel were filled with young and old, some wading slowly through the crowds on crutches. The most popular sessions were those that discussed the identity of the country and the ever-present question of Pakistan’s future.

Madiha Gauhar of the Ajoka theatre organisation talked about her play Burqavanza, which was banned by the government in 2007. She said the play was about “love in the time of jihad”.

Love can be a dangerous thing. According to the director of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, there were 556 “honour killings” in 2010 — and the number is rising.

Ms Gauhar said “love is prevented by so many forces… and it happens every day over here, no matter what class you belong to”.

She had to face a parliamentary committee inquiry into her play.

“It’s a dangerous game sometimes, you get threats and it’s life threatening but it’s so needed here.”

In another session, Mohsin Hamid took the opportunity to highlight a recent incident in which an actress was condemned by an Islamic cleric for ruining the reputation of “Islam and Pakistan” when appearing on an Indian reality television show.

She later appeared with the cleric on a talk show and defended herself and her role as an entertainer.

Mohsin Hamid: ‘People who have guns are making Pakistan’ “She’s my hero… It’s so rare to see someone speak against a mufti. There’s a degree of self-censorship, and people who have guns are making Pakistan,” Mr Hamid said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Shahbaz Bhatti: With or Without the Ministry, I Will Fight for Minorities in Pakistan

At risk — because of public debt — the Ministry for minority groups, headed by a Catholic. Bhatti recalls the contribution of Christians to the birth of the nation. And he warns: we will work to remove discriminatory and inhuman laws, such as blasphemy.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — “My primary commitment is to serve humanity, either I remain the Minister or not, I will continue my mission to raise the voice of the Christian community and oppressed minorities”, Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities, tells AsiaNews confirming his desire to defend the rights of the weakest, even though the cabinet reshuffle announced by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will lead to the cancellation of his department. He adds: “Pakistani Christians have always been loyal to Pakistan. They shed their blood for the birth of Pakistan. And the country has found a place in the world, thanks to the casting vote of the Christian leaders of the time. “

The Ministry of minorities — the first in Pakistan’s history — was created on November 3, 2008, by the will of the executive led by the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Bhatti, a Catholic politician, President of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) and executive director of the Council for Human Rights, was the first politician to take office. Previously, minority issues were entrusted to a Minister of the State, who operated under the guidance of a Federal Minister.

In two years of work Bhatti wanted to “raise the voice of the oppressed”, the Ministry’s achievements include the 5% reserved for minorities in public offices, the reopening of the mission schools at the time seized by the government and some battles to protect the rights of the weakest. However, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have criticized the government of Pakistan of being too cumbersome — it is made up of 71 ministers, federal and state — and expensive. The number should be reduced and ministries also decreased, encouraging savings in public spending. And among the first to risk being “cut” is the Ministry for minority groups, which would become part of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Despite difficulties, death threats and the obstacles within his own party, Shahbaz Bhatti confirms to AsiaNews his intention to fight for the repeal of “all inhumane and discriminatory laws against minorities in Pakistan”. Among these, the Minister outlines the blasphemy laws “used as a potential weapon to injure, subjugate, terrorize and exert pressure.” “I received death threats from extremist groups,” says Bhatti, and the party “did not guarantee my safety” because “of pressure from fundamentalist movements.”

The Minister, however, wants to thank “all who have supported me in this battle” and ensures that he will continue “either I remain the Minister or not, I will continue my mission” working “in any capacity given to me by Pakistan Peoples Party.”

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

US Plans to Create Turkish-Style ‘Village Guards’ In Afghanistan

The United States plans to accelerate a program that has armed thousands of village recruits in its decade-long struggle against the Taliban, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has told the Financial Times.

The plan is similar to Turkey’s long-criticized “village guard” system, created to assist the military’s fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

With violence in Afghanistan rising and NATO allies anxious to carry out a handover to Afghan forces in 2014, Gen. David Petraeus wants to bolster security, in part by sending 12-man teams of U.S. special forces to train locals.

Turkey’s village guard system was introduced after the Village Law was changed in March 1985 and involved the military recruiting villagers to protect areas in Southeast Anatolia and provide intelligence to the military about the PKK. There are more than 80,000 village guards spread across 22 Turkish provinces; 59,000 are temporary and 23,274 are volunteers.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

“The idea is that these actually mobilize not just individuals, but communities,” Petraeus told the Financial Times about the system in Afghanistan. “There are typically several different villages in a district that will provide these Afghan Local Police members. This is now the community defending itself against the Taliban, which in some cases they have actually thrown off themselves, as in, say, Gizab — in Afghanistan’s southern Daikundi province.”

The plan has echoes of the approach Petraeus adopted while commanding the 2007 troop surge in Iraq, where he encouraged the Awakening movement of Sunni tribes that helped curb violence.

But he said the Afghan Local Police — as the plan is known — would be a very different exercise: It aims to work with the government to reach often isolated areas where people want help to resist the Taliban.

Since Petraeus took command of the international forces in Afghanistan in July, the program has been started in 17 sites, with a total of more than 3,100 paid recruits, he said. The NATO-led force is awaiting Afghan government approval for more than 40 additional sites, and hopes to add another 4,500 men by spring, a U.S. military official said, the Financial Times reported.

The recruits, whose biometric data is recorded, are given a salary, registered weapons and khaki uniforms. Their primary role is to man checkpoints or patrol their home areas. Petraeus said Afghan authorities, local governments, police and elders were overseeing the recruits’ training.

“They work for the district chief of police, not a local warlord or elder or power-broker,” he said.

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

Far East

United States — China: Lang Lang’s Songs and Anti-US Insults

During the state dinner in honor of President Hu Jintao, a famous Chinese piano player sang two Korean War songs that insult the United States and their soldiers. The Chinese leader smiled as if he won a battle. The Americans are angered and insulted. Who gains from such behavior? Here is the opinion of a great Chinese dissident.

Washington (AsiaNews) — During the state visit by the Chinese Communist leader Hu Jintao, a big event happened which is causing great anger in American society. The humiliating event at the White House has been talked a lot about this week. It happened during the state banquet offered to Hu Jintao and his group by the White House. There were some performances by famous artists. The one appearing most on the Internet was the solo piano performance by the Chinese pianist Lang Lang. After the performance, the guests applauded as expected, without anyone raising an objection. Further, it was rare to see the usually stone-faced Hu Jintao smile brightly; he even warmly hugged Lang Lang.

So what was the music about? It was a piano piece composed from the main theme song of the Chinese Communist movie “Battle of Triangle Hill” mixed with the main theme song of another famous propaganda movie “Hero Children,” both of which are about the Korean War. Both movies and their theme songs are well-known in China. Everyone knows their political significance.

Of course, as everyone knows, the United States is a country of free speech. If you are at home playing karaoke, or even in a party singing these songs, nobody would be bothered. Even if you praise the Chinese army’s performance in the Korean War on the Internet and in newspapers, you still have your freedom. However, to praise publicly the Chinese army defeating Americans, and even disrespect the war opponents by using the metaphor of “jackals and wolves” at a state banquet given by your opponent in your honour is way too much.

This was a public humiliation. Even though the lyrics were hidden, it was still a blatant insult. Therefore, the American people are boiling angry. While Chinese “patriotic” youths hail Lang Lang as the “national hero”, his image in the USA is disgraced to smelly dog faeces. Numerous American netizens are giving him the most terrible titles, while the American public condemns this diplomatic scandal as an extremely impolite humiliation to the host.

Lang Lang immediately changed his tune, even to the degree that he said he did not know at all the meaning of that music. However, he said earlier that it made him most proud that he was Chinese and thus it was selected. Now, no one believes his poor excuse. There are even reports that senior Chinese government officials and President Hu Jintao planned the music and insisted that the White House accept it. Hu’s bright smile proved that. Lang Lang is only a pawn to be used to humiliate the American people.

Some people argue: Why shouldn’t play the music that the Chinese people like in the White House? Of course. It is like when one visits someone else’s home. You may sing any song you want, but you do not pick the songs that insult the host. This is the essential morality of a guest. Diplomatically, it is even more so. Even sovereign states do not insult their puppet emperors right in their face that way. This time, it indeed created a record for the Guinness Book of diplomatic relations. Two big countries publicizing their differences at the welcome banquet is no surprise, but to humiliate publicly the host country in such way is unprecedented. If anything like it happens again, it probably would be done by either the Communist Party or the Nazis. That is because both are political groups that lack basic ethics.

Some friends feel very strange: Why did the U.S. government readily accept such a serious insult? Maybe they did not know the meaning? This argument was quickly rejected. First, the White House state dinner was strictly reviewed, unlike some ordinary family dinner. It was carefully arranged to such a degree down to the detail of floral arrangements and the significance of one colour, and even the importance for a piece of feather. Therefore, it cannot have such an oversight. The American government pays so many China experts; how could they do not know the meaning of these household-name songs? This explanation is clearly unreasonable. Therefore, there are some US scholars already asking: Why didn’t the China hands in the US Government tell the White House something so serious?

On the other hand, I want to ask the foreign affair experts groomed by the Chinese government: Why didn’t you warn Hu Jintao and Dai Bingguo not to play with fire? These experts should know what consequences would bring due to this kind of extremely impolite behavior violating basic moral standards. They should also clearly know what kind of disaster would come to China when they provoke a formidable opponent. So what was the purpose for them to craft skilfully this kind of diplomatic scandal? This question is something that indeed needs pondering deeply.

The first guess is that Hu Jintao wanted to use the performance to gain the support of the “patriotic youths”, in an effort to seize an opportunity for the power struggle in the future. However, people felt the price tag is too high, so at least it is not so simple. Then there was speculation that it is preparing public opinions for the upcoming outbreak of the second Korean War. Some even speculated that it was Hu’s political opponents who set up the trap. Before these speculations are confirmed, at least we could leave the matter open.

But one thing is certain. These Communist Party bureaucrats are used to putting on a face of hegemony. They have been habitually bullying the Chinese people inside China. When there is relatively more international pressure there is not much room to act as they wish, so they might behave themselves a little without too much arrogance and pretend to show politely respect to others. However, once they feel no pressure, they will get carried away. Especially when other people need their help, these communists’ habit of not treating other people as human beings will be exposed.

This is not due to ethnic or cultural differences. It is the nature of the evil communist cult. The images we are more familiar with in film and literature are those of the Nazis and the KGB. Yesterday, an old Taiwan-born scholar asked me: Why would Hu Jintao be so silly as to commit such a silly mistake? I told him: the Communist Party is bad, but not silly. It is hard for people like you living in normal society to understand their abnormal psychology.

Any matter that you think was immoral and shameful they could count as a gain. Reading the remarks by the “patriotic” youths inside China revealed that. They thought that Lang Lang was able to represent them (Lang Lang is the vice chairman of the official All-China Youth Federation under the Chinese Communist leadership) in taking advantage of the White House, so they hailed Lang Lang as a “national hero”. How could you think that Hu Jintao does not have the same psychology? Look at Hu’s bright smile after Lang Lang’s piano play. That smile was rare and heartfelt for Hu. It was the smile of bullies after they successfully bully the others. This behavior is indeed what we call “take the shame as one’s pride”.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa, China’s Bread Basket

For rapid industrialization, pollution and natural disasters, China increasingly lacking in agricultural land, which Africa has in abundance. But agriculture needs funding, technology, machinery. This could create a new fruitful collaboration.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Olives from Tunisia, Uganda’s coffee, sesame from Ethiopia: China opens up to agricultural products from Africa. Beijing needs more and more of agricultural products for domestic consumption and African agriculture needs investment and technology. A partnership that could reshape the world’s agriculture.

For years now, China has been plundering Africa of oil and precious minerals, which constitute over 90% of its imports from the Continent. Agricultural products were only 3% of its imports between 2006 and 2008. After all, Beijing has always sought food self-sufficiency, and many African countries only have sufficient agricultural production for domestic consumption.

But in China’s cultivated land is disappearing, because economic development for new industrial zones and residential neighbourhoods: 1996 to 2009, 8 million hectares of agricultural land was lost.

Many agricultural areas are also polluted. In addition, for years there have been continual natural disasters: this year the worst drought for 60 years in the north, floods in recent years, record snowfall or other episodes.

As a result of industrialization, pollution and drought, food prices are rising fast.

Africa has 733 million hectares of agricultural land, six times more than China, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

The South China Morning Post analyst Andrew Leung Kinpong noted that “Africa could become a bread basket of food for 1.3 billion Chinese.” “There is much room for China to start agricultural production in Africa.”

Among other things, some African countries like Burundi, are also poor in minerals and other resources and are unable to balance the imports from China. But the country tries to stimulate valuable and easy export crops like cotton, coffee and tea, and analysts believe it is interested in receiving funding, equipment and technology from China to improve production.

Lesotho has a similar situation, only barely meeting domestic consumption needs with the current agricultural production. Makhotsofalang Lekaota, the country’s ambassador in Beijing says “training centres and equipment to improve product quality” are needed.

But the problem is common to many African countries that have agricultural land but lack of investment, technology, technical assistance.

Beijing itself is concerned. Lin Yi, secretary of the Chinese-African Friendship of Peoples, said that in China there is great potential for African agricultural products such as coffee, tea, meat and flowers. “ China also has resources and experience to optimize the export of agricultural products. Meanwhile, it is creating agriculture training centres throughout the continent.

South Africa is China’s 2nd largest trading partner after Angola. Agricultural products constitute less than 1% of its exports to China, but with 64.3 million dollars in the first nine months of 2010 it more than doubled compared to 2009.

Experts agree that this collaboration would be beneficial to both China and African countries. Concerns focus on the kind of cooperation that Beijing will propose. The example of Mines of Zambia is underlined: Chinese companies own the mines, provide funds, managers and technicians. But in the depths of the tunnels the inhabitants of the country dig, often on Chinese working shifts and wages.

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

UNHCR Reports Over 800,000 Leaving North for South Sudan

(AGI) Geneva — Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), has reported that this year more than 800,000 Southern Sudanese will leave the north to return home. This will cause problems for the already fragile humanitarian situation in South Sudan. “More than 200,000 people have returned to South Sudan in the last three months,” said Edwards. “In Khartoum 75,000 people have already registered to return home.” . .

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


‘Biblical Exodus’: Thousands of Tunisians Arrive in Italy

A massive wave of migrants has struck the island of Lampedusa in Italy in recent days, as people seek to escape economic and political uncertainty in North Africa. Italy has declared a state of humanitarian emergency, but so far its requests to send police to patrol the Tunisian coast line have been rejected by government officials in Tunis.

Tunisian authorities have angrily turned down an Italian request to send police to help battle the overwhelming tidal wave of refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean. Thousands of would-be immigrants have swamped the tiny island of Lampedusa, a part of Italy but located just 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the North African country.

In the past five days, more than 5,000 Tunisians have inundated the 20 square-kilometer island, with around 1,100 refugees reaching the shore on Saturday night alone in what Italian Interior Minster Roberto Maroni has described as a “biblical exodus.” Some have been forced to wait on the pier in the cold winter weather, while others are in makeshift emergency shelters.

The constant stream of thousands of Tunisian refugees struggling to make it to European soil in boats has been declared a humanitarian emergency. It has also sparked a row between the two countries. On Sunday, the Tunisian government rejected a proposal from Rome to send Italian police officers to North Africa to stem the human tidal wave.

Government spokesman Taieb Baccouche told the al-Arabiya TV station that the Italian request was “unacceptable.” “The Tunisian people reject the deployment of foreign soldiers on our territory,” he said, before insisting that the Tunisian authorities would retain control of the coast.

Italy Seeks Permission to Deploy Police off Tunisian Coast

Maroni had announced he would ask the Foreign Ministry in Tunis for permission to deploy the officers on Tunisian territory in order to prevent any more refugees from trying to make their way to Europe, an often dangerous journey taken largely in small boats. Maroni, a member of the anti-immigration Northern League party, also said the Tunisian system was in the process of “collapsing.”

In response, Baccouche dismissed the politician’s comments as “unsurprising” coming from a minister who he said was from the “extreme fascist, right-wing.”

A wave of strikes and violent clashes have erupted in the North African country since long-serving President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was forced out of office by mass popular protests last month. Many police officers are no longer turning up for duty. Tunisia has beefed up the coast guard charged with protecting its borders, but it is still clearly being overwhelmed.

A government source in Tunis insisted on Sunday night that reinforcements were being sent, and that the coast guard was working day and night to stop the wave of immigration — with many people reportedly arrested while trying to cross the border. Officials did not disclose any information on the type and quantity of the reinforcments. Tunisia was going through an extraordinary period, the source added, but at the same time the problem of illegal immigration across the sea to Italy was not a new one.

‘Exceptional Pressure on Italy’

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is set to discuss the issue when she arrives in Tunisia for a planned trip on Monday, although a spokesman in Brussels said the refugee crisis would be a side issue of the real aim of the visit, to help foster democratic reforms in the country. Earlier, a spokesman for EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said she “is fully aware of the exceptional pressure on Italy” and was looking at ways to help the Italian authorities. Malmström said has been in contact with EU border agency Frontex and refugee organizations.

The refugee camp on Lampudesa, which normally only has room for 800 people, has been overwhelmed. Exactly how many would-be immigrants now find themselves on the island is unclear. The number is constantly fluctuating as more boats arrive laden with refugees. At the same time, planes and ships are being used to transfer those already on the island to holding centers in Sicily and on the Italian mainland. The Tunisian authorities have reportedly held 1,500 people who were trying to flee from the coast. Some 200 were arrested on the island of Djerba alone.

There has also been at least one migrant death. The official Tunisian news agency TAP reported that a refugee was killed when a boat carrying 12 people sank off the North African coast. Another refugee was reported as missing.

The Italians are not expecting the flow of refugees to ease any time soon, with ever more boats appearing on the horizon. The government in Rome declared a humanitarian emergency on Saturday, which enabled it to release funds and personnel to deal with the crisis. There was also a request for an immediate deployment by Frontex, the EU’s border security agency, to patrol and intercept refugee boats off the Tunisian coast.

On Friday, Interior Minister Maroni warned that possible terrorists and al-Qaida supporters as well as common criminals could be hiding amidst the wave of refugees. The UN’s refugee agency, meanwhile, said some of the migrants are seeking to escape the recent political upheaval in Tunisia while others are fleeing poverty.

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

Italy: Frattini: ‘Marshall Plan’ Needed

(ANSAmed) — TRIESTE, FEBRUARY 11 — “A ‘marshall plan’ is needed for immigration from the south, a strategic vision that is a bit longer than medium-term,” according to the Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, who has been speaking in Trieste about the new arrivals of illegal immigrants in Lampedusa.

“It is a real alarm and we had seen it coming,” Frattini said. “For this reason, the new Tunisian Foreign Minister will be in Italy next week to confirm once again our collaboration agreements”. Frattini added that “we are facing a real migratory emergency and we cannot imagine that Italy will be the place where everyone arrives and everyone stays. We had excellent collaboration with Tunisia, and we must confirm it with the new Minister”.

Regarding the “Marshall plan” for immigration, Frattini explained that “it means having a vision that is a bit longer than medium-term, and not to be restricted to emergency. It means that these countries — Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, but others too — require a strategy by which Europe provides much more substantial funds for economic development, for students, for universities”.

Basically, the Minister added, “a Marshall plan to avoid desperation being translated into flows of immigration. This is the danger”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Maroni to EU: Tackle North Africa Crisis

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Italy’s Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, has today sent a letter to the rotating Presidency of the European Council and to the European Commission, in order to ensure that “the crisis in North African countries and the issue of immigration and internal security in Europe are on the agenda at the next Council of Home Affairs and Justice”, the Ministry reports.

Maroni, in Venice, was speaking this morning about the new wave of immigration from Tunisia to Italy, following the jasmine revolution, saying that “there is a risk of a real humanitarian emergency”. “The serious crisis in North Africa, particularly in Tunisia and Egypt, is leading to mass flight towards Italy,” Maroni said. “Hundreds of people are arriving on the Italian coasts and we are doing all we can to tackle a real humanitarian crisis”.

Maroni said that the problem “is that the bilateral agreement we have with Tunisia, which has so far allowed us to efficiently manage illegal immigration, is not enforced by Tunis because of the crisis situation. The Tunisian authorities are unable to tackle the situation”.

To tackle the emergency, “there are a number of instruments available” in Italy, which will be examined by the National Committee for Order and Safety that Maroni and the Foreign Minister have called for next Thursday.

Maroni said that he had requested “the involvement of the European Commission, because the instruments necessary to remedy this situation cannot be contributed by Italy alone”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Maroni Calls for Emergency EU Summit on Migration

Minister denies not asking for help on Tunisian influx

(ANSA) — Rome, February 14 — Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has called for an urgent summit of European Union heads of State and government to devise a strategy for coping with immigration in the Mediterranean, given recent turmoil in the Maghreb countries. Maroni made his demand at the margins of a meeting on security pacts in the northern Italian city of Varese Monday, after thousands of Tunisians made the 115km (71-mile) crossing to the island of Lampedusa, which is closer to Africa than to Italy, in the last few days.

“With the Maghreb, we are confronting (another) fall of the Berlin Wall, a new 1989: Europe must give itself a strategy at the level of heads of state and government,” Maroni declared. “Not only is there the problem of countering clandestine immigration, a new scenario is looming and I believe it is absolutely urgent that the Heads of State and Government give us a strategy”.

Maroni complained that, despite Italian requests for clarification, the EU had yet to issue directives on migrants and asylum seekers from Tunisia, where violent street protests recently saw the ouster of the authoritarian president of 34 years, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Maroni also called for Europe to take on a greater share of the enforcement and processing burden, which he claims falls disproportionately on Italy.

“We have been asking for a long time that Europe (help us with) all that we are doing at our own expense and with our own efforts. This is one of the many requests that we have put forward, and on which Europe has yet to give us a response,” continued Maroni.

“There is the immigration aspect, the humanitarian emergency, and…the intervention of Frontex, the European agency that must (not only) counter landings in the Mediterranean, but also manage the arrivals, the identification centres and procedures for repatriation”.

Maroni’s spokesperson denied claims by the spokesperson of European Internal Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom that Italy had not asked the EU for help.

The minister’s spokesperson reiterated that Italy had called for a range of measures, but had “so far not had any response”.

“However, it is not our intention to row with (Malmstrom), whom the minister has on several occasions praised”. New Italian measures for dealing with immigrant landings are to be decided Monday afternoon at the interior ministry in Rome, Maroni added.

The migrant centre on Lampedusa, which had been closed because of the virtual disappearance of African sea-crossings thanks to a controversial ‘push-back’ treaty with Libya, has had to be reopened.

But it is already overflowing and the Tunisians, some of whom Maroni fears may be terrorists posing as refugees, are being taken to other reception sites in southern Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Govt Asks European Union to Help Stem Tunisian Immigrant Influx, Steps Up Patrols

Lampedusa, 14 Feb. (AKI) — Italian authorities have stepped up patrols on the tiny southern island of Lampedusa where over 5,000 illegal immigrants have arrived from Tunisia over the past week. The Italian government has declared a “humanitarian emergency”, and has asked the European Union for 100 million euros to help stem the flow of migrants amid fears the current unrest in North Africa could trigger a much vaster exodus.

Around 100 Carabinieri military police have been deployed on Lampedusa which lies between Sicily and Tunisia, and interior minister Roberto Maroni has ordered a longstanding refugee transit centre on the island to be reopened while many hundreds of migrants have been flown to other centres.

The spokeswoman for he UN refugee agency, Laura Boldrini, said an “unpredented” number of people had arrived on Lampedusa in such a short period of time.

“We need to accelerate the transfer of migrants on Lampedusa to other Italian locations,” she said, noting that 2,000 people are currently crammed into the Lampedusa transit centre which is designed to accommodate 800 people.

“This is a very difficult situation to manage,” she said, adding that the EU should “clarify the extent of its cooperation with the Italian government.”

UNHCR is offering protection to 200 minors intercepted on Lampedusa, she said.

For the past two years, the Italian government has relied on a policy of intercepting migrants at sea and returning them with the cooperation of the Libyan and Tunisian governments.

Italy appears to have been caught unprepared by the political situation in Tunisia, which has been beset by strikes and public sector wage demands over the past week. A popular revolt ousted its authoritarian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January after 23 years in power.

Desperate Tunisian migrants are gathering in the country’s ports and are understood to be paying people smugglers up to 1,400 euros each for their passage across the Mediterranean to Italy aboard rickety boats. Those who reached Lampedusa said they they were desperate for work, and were fleeing violence and disorder. Some said they feared persecution after Ben Ali’s overthrow.

Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, is currently visiting Tunisia to discuss the issue.

Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini was due to visit Tunisia late on Monday and to try and persuade its transitional government to allow Italian police there to help stem the outflow of illegal immigrants. The Italian government also hopes the EU borders agency Frontex will get involved, although Frontex said in a statement on Monday it had not received a formal request for help.

Maroni earlier on Monday likened the situation to the flow of migrants from East Germany after the collapse of the Berlin wall in 1989, and called for an urgent meeting of EU heads of state and government.

“Europe must have a common strategy. Italy is tackling this crisis alone with its own resources,” he said.

He has asked the EU for 100 million euros to tackle the influx of migrants.

Twenty-nine people lost their lives late Sunday when the boat they were travelling in was rammed by a Tunisian patrol boat near the city of Gabes, in Tunisia’s southeast, according to a report by an Arab-language internet site. Eighty-six people survived the incident, according to the site.

The incident drew condemnation from the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, which described it as “tragic”. It called the influx of migrants “a true emergency.”

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

Minister to Push for Italian Police Help to Stem Illegal Tunisian Migrants

(AKI) — Italy will try to convince Tunisia to allow it to send police to help stem a wave of illegal immigrant departures from the north African country to Italian shores, according to Roberto Maroni, the Italian interior minister.

“We are particularly ready to do what we did with Albania -to give a hand to the Tunisians by sending our contingents that are able to help patrol the coast which is the only way to put an end to the departures,” Maroni told reporters on Monday in the northern Italian city of Varese, north of Milan.

Maroni referred to the joint Italian-Albanian sea patrols which sought to turn back illegal immigrants attempting to cross the Adriatic to Italy in the mid-1990s.

Maroni spoke ahead of Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini’s visit to Tunisia. Frattina is on a tour of Middle East countries and was expected to arrive in Tunisia late on Monday.

Tunisia initially spurned Italy’s request to send police to help intercept boats full of illegal immigrants.

Tunisian government spokesman Tayeb Baccouch earlier on Monday described Maroni’s request as “unacceptable,” but said the issue would be discussed among officials in a cabinet meeting.

Dozens of boats carrying what Italian officials describe as an “exodus” of 4,000 immigrants are reported to arrived on the tiny island of Lampedusa this month. Italy has declared a humanitarian state of emergency and asked the European Union for help in bringing the situation under control.

Maroni said the breakdown in Tunisian security following last month’s ousting of president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in a revolt had allowed an exodus of illegal immigrants that was comparable to the flow to immigrants crossing borders to western Europe from the east after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

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

Tunisia Rejects Request to Send Italian Police to Stop Illegal Immigration

Rome, 14 Feb. (AKI) — Tunisia has rejected Italy’s request to send police to the north African country’s coast to stem a flow of illegal immigrants that has been arriving on the shores of a tiny island near Sicily following the unrest that unseated long-time president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Italy’s Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said on Sunday that Europe was not doing anything to help stop the flow of migrants and that he would request permission from Tunisia for Italian authorities to intervene.

Tunisian government spokesman Tayeb Baccouch described Maroni’s request as “unacceptable,” but said the issue would be discussed among officials in a cabinet meeting.

“We reject the idea of the presence foreign police along our coast and in our territory for stopping the departure of illegal immigrants,” Baccouch said on Monday in an interview with Arab-language satellite television station Al-Jazeera.

Dozens of boats carrying what Italian officials describe as an “exodus” of 4,000 immigrants are reported to have recently arrived to the island of Lampedusa.

Twenty-nine people lost their lives late Sunday when the boat they were travelling in was rammed by a Tunisian patrol boat near the city of Gabes, in Tunisia’s south east, according to a report by an Arab-language internet site. Eighty.six people survived the incident, according to the site.

Baccouche reportedly said the issue of migration illegally leaving Tunisia by boat nothing new, but that the problem may have been exacerbated by a breakdown in law and order, which the government is struggling to restore.

The Italian government has requested help from the European Union to deal with the immigrants and has said it may have to open a Lampedusa detention centre closed last year amid rioting.

Lampedusa lies around 113 kilometres from Tunisia and 205 kilometres south of Sicily. It has been a common point of entry for illegal immigrants aiming to reach Italy by boat in recent years.

Italy in May 2009 agreed to begin controversial joint patrols with Libya, turning back thousands of illegal immigrants aboard boats in the Mediterranean. But a massive wave of migrants has continued to arrive from Tunisia, which failed to enforce a similar pact, Maroni said.

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

Tunisia: Ashton to Discuss Landings in Italy

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 14 — The issue of the extraordinary wave of immigration from Tunisia to Italy “will be raised” by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton during her mission to Tunisia today, said spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic in Brussels. “The issue will be raised, but right now we do not know what the result will be,” said the spokeswoman. Ashton, who arrived early in the morning to the Tunisian capital for a brief visit, will meet Premier Mohamed Ghannouchi and the presidents of the committees with the responsibility of promoting political reforms and conducting investigations into abuses and corruption during the regime of former President Ben Ali.

On February 8, Ashton had called for “real” political reform in Tunisia, offering the help of the EU to fight against corruption and form more transparent governments. The visit of the European foreign policy chief comes during a serious humanitarian emergency, with thousands of illegal immigrants who have arrived on the Italian coasts.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Vessel Stopped: Revolt on Tunisian Patrol Boat

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, FEBRUARY 11 — A group of immigrants trying to escape from Tunisia and stopped by a Tunisian patrol boat, after coming on board, rebelled against the military people.

The scene of the revolt was noticed by a Coast Guard aircraft that was on reconnaissance service in the Channel of Sicily. Some people who had jumped into the sea, possibly those immigrants who refused to return home, later boarded the military unit. An Italian patrol that was in the area stayed on the fringe of Tunisia’s territorial waters, but its intervention was not made necessary.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Islam Against the Civilisation of the West

The bloody suicide bombing against the Christians praying in the church of Alexandria at midnight of the Christian New Year, 1 January 2011, was not only a ‘standard’ act of Islamic terrorism but also a symptom of a new intensified wave of aggression of Islam against the West as the American analysts of CIA and the NATO intelligence services say. They expect new terrorist attacks that are to be connected with the general expansion of Islam in the whole world. And facts can testify about it.

Demands of the imam

A few days after the attack in Alexandria Al-Kaida published in the Internet a list of all Christian churches in Egypt suggesting next terrorist acts. And the Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb in Cairo, one of the greatest authorities of the Islamic world, stated falsely, insincerely and cynically that the attack in Alexandria ‘had nothing to do with the Islamic community.’ He ensured that the rights of Christians in Egypt were duly protected by the law and long tradition of peaceful co-existence with the Islamists. The imam made a demand to the Pope. In his opinion, in order to deepen the dialogue Benedict XVI should give a message to the world of Islam that ‘would restore the bridge of confidence and disperse the causes of misunderstandings.’ The editorial of one of the biggest European dailies, the Italian ‘Corriere della Sera,’ notices that the imam, demanding a reconciliatory gesture from the Pope behaves as if it were the followers of Islam that suffered persecutions in Europe! Whereas it is exactly the opposite. One can see explicitly the pride and arrogance of the Islamic imam who dared to express his demands to the Holy Father purposely on the Feast of the Three Kings! ‘This despicable act of death, […], offends God and the whole of humanity,’ Benedict XVI commented on the terrorist attack in Alexandria. At the same time the Pope reminded us that it was not a single act of Islamic terrorism against Christians but one of many suicide bombings that had taken place in such Islamic countries as Iraq, Sudan, Indonesia, Lebanon and Egypt for a long time. About 30 Christians were killed and almost 100 wounded in the massacre during the service in the Coptic church in Alexandria when they were praying at midnight on 31 December 2010 welcoming the New Year. The Arab fanatics-terrorists chose this place and time on purpose. Alexandria is a four million metropolis, the second biggest city in Egypt. In the ancient times and early Middle Ages it was the biggest, besides Rome, centre of Christianity, civilisation and culture in the world. Here was the famous Library of Alexandria that was the biggest research, cultural and civilisational centre of the whole Christian world for several hundred years. The library had priceless manuscripts written in the biblical, Greek, Roman and early medieval epochs.

Wars with the giaours

Everything was burnt, literally and metaphorically, when the Arab followers of Muhammad began jihad after his death; jihad was codified as a religious commandment in the Koran by Muhammad. Jihad, i.e., holy war with giaours -infidels, has been directed against Christianity since the very beginning. After the Arabs had conquered Jerusalem and the Holy Land the first victim of jihad in the world was the Christian Egypt that fell being crushed by the Islamic aggression in the year 642. It was then that the Arabs conquered Alexandria, slaughtering all its citizens by ritually cutting their throats and right hands when the poor people tried to defend themselves, which was recognised as an act against Allah. It was then, in 642, that the victorious Arab caliph ordered his hordes to burn the Library of Alexandria. When one of the Christian scholars tried to make them aware of the value of the collections the caliph was to answer that for him the manuscripts were only worth of ashes since Muhammad included all wisdom of the world in the Koran and that was fully sufficient. Within only several dozen years, till 712, the Arabs conquered and destroyed Egypt and the entire Christian Northern Africa, made their war through the Strait of Gibraltar and conquered Spain and Portugal for ages. They even tried to conquer France but when they crossed the Pyrenees their unpunished jihad encountered the firm and determined opposition of the Francs. These fights against the Saracens, as the Arabs were called then, were passed down in the history, legends, literature and are commonly known from the narratives of the ‘Song of Roland.’

Personal identification number for Christianity In Egypt ca. 10-15 million Christians, the so-called Copts, have remained. The rest were forced to emigrate. One of them is the musician and conductor Ashraf Benyamin who is living in Poland. He describes the cynicism, falsehood and danger of Islam for the whole Christian civilisation and not only for Christians in Egypt, which the EU countries, including Poland, cannot see, ‘Poles and other European countries, know about it too little. Whereas the Muslims try to convince us that their faith is a religion of peace; they show that they can be gentlemen towards Polish women. If one does not say “stop”, there will be a civil war in Egypt. It can cause a big, unpredictable outbreak in the Arab world. Unfortunately, if anyone speaks about problems between Christians and Muslims in Egypt he is called a traitor. I cannot return to my country because I allegedly smear Egypt in the eyes of Poland and the EU. The attacks against Christians have lasted in Egypt for years. Once Christians had to wear black clothes in the Middle East. Now we have special identification numbers in our ID cards. And because of that we have troubles at university, work. I am a Catholic Copt. Copts are pure Egyptians. My family must have accepted Catholicism some 300 years ago. I am an Eastern rite Catholic. We recognise the Pope in the Vatican. Muslims want to destroy Egyptian Christians although we are a minority. We actually do not know how many we are. We believe to be one fourth of the population but the exact number is unknown. Although the Egyptian authorities know the number. And why is the fight with Christians? Perhaps I will be called intolerant but I think that Muslims are nice until they become practicing believers of Islam. Then they become terrorists. Since the Koran does not leave any space for dialogue. It says, Propose an infidel to convert to Islam. If he agrees, it is good and if he does not, kill him. Unfortunately, the West itself is to be blamed for the intensification of the Islamic movement’ (Rzeczpospolita, 3 January 2011).

Short-sightedness of the UE

The famous Italian-American writer and journalist Oriana Fallaci wrote about the guilt of the West, and especially the political short-sightedness of the European union towards the expansion of Islam in her famed book ‘Oriana Fallaci Interviews Herself — The Apocalypse.’ She wrote, ‘Europe is no longer Europe. It is ‘Eurabia,’ […] The so-called European Union, which rejects, i.e. negates our Christian roots, our identity in its pitiful and deceitful Constitution! I claim that the European Union is a tool that is to make it increasingly easier for invaders to enter our territory and then let them wander freely in our home […] The Islamic imperialism has always wanted to conquer the West because the West is the oldest and most faithful commentator of the Christian thought. The Italian imperialism has always dreamt of subduing Europe because apart from the fact that Europe is rich and free of prejudices and abounds in water, it is the cradle of Christianity. It knows well that without the cross we could not have stopped the siege of Vienna, we would never have resisted half a million Turks of Kara Mustafa […] In 1683 Poles defended Vienna, too! They arrived there under the command of the brave King Jan Sobieski and he shouted before the battle, “Soldiers, we must defend not only Vienna! We must save Christianity, the idea of Christianity!” During the battle he shouted, “Soldiers, we are fighting for Our Lady of Czestochowa!”. Oh, yes, for this Black Madonna.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Why Are Smart People Some of the Most Gullible People Around?

Richard Dawkins says there is an evolutionary advantage in believing what authority figures tell us: Children would wander off into the woods if they didn’t heed their parents’ admonition to stay near their homes. Toddlers cannot understand how a stovetop could burn them, yet most of them follow their parents’ warning to stay away from the range (as well as believe whatever they are told about Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and Dawkins’s favorite bugaboo, the Almighty).

I asked Stephen Greenspan, the author of Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It, to explain why intelligent people accepted our April Fool’s stories. “People trust authority—and DISCOVER is an authority for science news—unless the authority says something too far-fetched,” he said. Our economy and all other social interactions are based on trust and would collapse if we all doubted one another, he added. In other words, a society of paranoids and cynics would not function as a society. It is sobering to realize that human beings blindly trust authority and that authority figures like Nobelists are the ones most easily duped.

When I learned that Greenspan, perhaps the world’s foremost scientific authority on gullibility, had put $400,000 of his own retirement savings into funds that invested with Bernie Madoff, I no longer felt so stupid believing that Matt Damon was starring in a film about shogi. Come to think of it, the plot of the purported movie sounded a lot like Invictus.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]