Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111004

Financial Crisis
»Banks: Dexia on the Brink
»Debt Tumbling Markets Make Quarterly Sales Harder for Italy, Spain
»EU Hits Athens With “Fatal Bullet”
»Greece: Real Unemployment Rate to Hit 26% in 2012
»More and More Chinese Investors Discover Germany
»Profit Warnings and Greek Debt: European Banks Show Signs of Ill Health
»Tension Mounts Over Bank of Italy Nomination
»Unrest Spreads to Military as Retired Greek Officers Storm Defence Ministry
»Chris Christie Will Not Seek Presidency, Advisers Confirm
»Investigation Sought in FBI Training About Islam
»New Bill to Stop Beijing From Killing “US Jobs”
»US Muslim Inmates Sue Over Meal Preparation
»Young Muslim Community Organizer Challenges Ideas
Europe and the EU
»Austria: Devil Keeps Faith Alive
»Bishops Believe it is Time for Catholics to Form a Party
»Bulgaria — Romania: Congratulations, You Failed the Schengen Test
»Denmark: Towards an EU That Excludes
»Germany: Open Mosque Day Welcomes Non-Muslims in Germany
»In Sweden, Protecting the Reputation of Muslims is a Higher Priority Than Catching Rapist Who Attacked 12-Year-Old Girl
»Italy: Politicians Mull Bishop’s Morality Call
»Italy: Trial Date Set for Fede, Minetti and Mora
»Italy: Porn Star Back to Politics With Optimistic Futurist Party
»Italy: Fiat to Leave Top Trade Group for More Worker Contract Flexibility
»Netherlands: Sharp Rise in Pensioners Claiming Welfare Benefits
»Netherlands: Wilders Acts Up in Parliament
»New Center-Left Danish Government Withdraws Border Control Plans
»Our Clothing Could Clean the Air, UK Scientists Say
»Romania: Dictionary Dispute Over Terms of Abuse
»Scandinavia’s Largest Mosque Opened in Oslo
»Scott’s Biographer: British Polar Hero Was Incompetent
»UK: Ahava Finally Closes Its Doors in London
»UK: Anti-Fascists Mark Cable Street’s 75th
»UK: Colonel Tim Collins in Charge of Police Strategy? A Small Step Forward for Direct Democracy.
»UK: Cambridge Mosque Wins Support From Local Non-Muslims
»UK: Campaign Shuts West End Store
»UK: Cameron ‘Weasel Words’ Under Fire as Tories Demand Referendum on EU
»UK: City’s Ghettoes ‘Are Sleepwalking Towards a Schools Apartheid’
»UK: Home Secretary May Vows to End Human Rights Farce
»UK: Labour Front Benchers on Socialist Workers Party Platform
»UK: Michael Gove Bars Schools From Palestinian Literary Festival
»UK: Still Battling Blackshirts
»UK: Schools Out of Tottenham Palestinian Literary Festival
»UK: The Dark Secrets of St James’s Park
North Africa
»Don’t Fear Us: Tunisian Islamist Leader
»Egypt’s Copts, Muslims Protest Sectarian Violence in Edfu
»Gaddafi’s Migrant Invasion Plan Revealed
»Libya: Al-Qaeda Urges Rebels to Establish Islamist Rule
»Tunisia: Infiltrated Group ‘Neutralised’
»Tunisian Universities Say No to Niqab
Israel and the Palestinians
»Palestinians Link Foreign Aid to Occupation
Middle East
»Analysts: Arab Spring, Christian Minority Autumn
»Caroline Glick: Turkey’s House of Cards
»Lebanon: Threats Against Vendors of Alcohol in South
»Syria: Govt Lifts Suspension on ‘Luxury Goods’ Imports
»Putin Unveils Counter-EU Option for Post-Soviet States
»The Puppet President: Medvedev’s Betrayal of Russian Democracy
»Tracks in the Snow: Experts Gather for Siberian Yeti Conference
South Asia
»From Businessmen to Housewives, A Movement for the “Islamization” of Asia
»India: Rudrapur Killings: Muslim Leaders Demand Punishment for Guilty Officials
»India: Rudrapur Riots: 4 Deaths, Widespread Looting Reported
»India: Periodical Reveals Truth on Malabar Muslims
»Indonesia: Radical Islam Infiltrating Top Universities Says Counter-Terror Agency
»Religious Powder Keg Sizzles in Indonesia
Australia — Pacific
»Backlash Over Aboriginal Juvenile Crime Rates
»How I Became a Monster
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Rebels Kill Scores in Somali Capital Blast
»Terror: Somalia, Libya May be Sign of US Military Action to Come, Expert Says
»And Now the Muslims Attack the Cross on the Swiss Flag
»Hispanic Students Vanishing From Alabama Schools After Immigration Crackdown
»Lampedusa: Tunisian Media Ignore Clashes
»Spain: ‘A Phenomenon of Demographic Invasion Without Precedent in History’
»UK: Failed Asylum Seeker Who Had Four Children After Moving to UK Says Sending Her Back to China Would Violate Her Family’s Human Rights
»UK: Theresa May Moves to Make Deporting Criminals Easier
Culture Wars
»UK: Book Now for 15 Oct Conference to Defend Multiculturalism [Unite Against Fascism]
»Explosive Studies of Universe’s Expansion Win Nobel Prize in Physics
»Still-Mysterious Dark Energy Takes Physics Nobel
»Three Share Nobel Physics Prize for Research on Expansion of the Universe

Financial Crisis

Banks: Dexia on the Brink

De Morgen, 4 October 2011

Three years after its first bailout, “Dexia is fighting to survive,” headlines De Morgen, in the wake of an emergency meeting of the Franco-Belgian bank’s board of directors on 3 October — a meeting that continued today. “Rumours of the imminent break-up of Dexia have been completely ignored by the press release which makes no mention of a deal on this issue,” writes the Flemish daily. If the rumours of a carve-up are confirmed, Dexia’s “healthy” assets will be sold, while its “toxic” assets will be taken over by a “bad bank.” According to De Morgen, Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme has affirmed that, “if necessary,” the Belgian government will act as a guarantor for Dexia. Rival daily De Standaard reports that on 4 October, “shares in the bank fell by 37% after markets opened […] and were still down by 20 % shortly before midday.” According to Bloomberg, it is the group’s biggest drop in share value since 1996.

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

Debt Tumbling Markets Make Quarterly Sales Harder for Italy, Spain

(AKI/Blloomberg) — Spain and Italy face a tricky final quarter among the euro-area nations with most bonds left to sell as they try to lure investors amid falling prices.

The European Central Bank began purchasing securities of the region’s third- and fourth-largest economies on 8 August after debt-crisis contagion sent borrowing costs up to euro-era records.

Still, Italy and Spain may have to trim supply, count on investors to reinvest maturing-bond proceeds and use cash raised from state-asset sales to see them through the final three months of the year, strategists at Barclays Capital and UBS AG said.

“The next quarter will be very difficult for Italy and Spain — every single auction will be scrutinised,” said Nicola Marinelli, a London-based fund manager at Glendevon King Asset Management, which oversees 153 million dollars.

“If the market knows you have to refinance in this kind of environment, then it is going to be tough. If there is any hint that the ECB isn’t standing behind the bonds, then the auctions will be disasters.”

The extra yield investors demand to hold Spanish 10-year bonds instead of similar-maturity German bunds, the region’s benchmark government securities, widened to 418 basis points on 5 August, the most since the euro was introduced in 1999.

The Italian-German 10-year spread reached a record 416 basis points the same day and the Spanish spread climbed to 374 last week, the most since before the ECB began buying the debt, while Italy’s rose to 413.

Italian 10-year yields were two basis points higher at 5.64 percent today, while Spain’s were little changed at 5.20 percent.

Italy has 27 percent of its planned 226 billion-euro 2011 bond issuance outstanding, while Spain has 30 percent of an estimated 93.8 billion euros still to auction, according to Credit Suisse Group AG.

“It’s going to be a very tricky autumn for Italy and Spain, with yields at an uncomfortable sort of level,” said Huw Worthington, a fixed-income strategist at Barclays Capital in London. “They will be able to get the funding away, with the privatizations and the help of the ECB.”

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

EU Hits Athens With “Fatal Bullet”

Eleftherotypia, 4 October 2011

Greece is forced to make greater efforts: on 3 October, following the announcement that the decision to authorise a further €8 billion bail-out payment (initially scheduled for 13 October) will now be postponed, the members of Eurogroup told Athens that it will have to make budget cuts in 2013 and 2014, which are deeper than the ones recently announced for 2011 and 2012. This is “the fatal bullet” headlines Athens daily Eleftherotypia, which criticises the ever increasing burden imposed on Greece by its creditors: “A bullet calibrated to destroy wages, pensions, the welfare state, jobs and social entitlements.”

In rival daily To Vima, columnist Antonis Karakousis, deplores the game played by “European Sorcerer’s apprentices,” which has failed to produce a definite result: “no matter what anyone says, and notwithstanding any announcement or decision made by Europe or the troika, the solution to the Greek problem remains uncertain. That is the whole problem. Private sector participation in the new loan has yet to be validated by the banks, which have issued some positive signals. But will they accept to once again in vest in Greece? Neither Germany, nor the markets, has the solution, and the risk is that the Greek people will continue to be bled dry by an austerity whose effectiveness is debatable.”

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

Greece: Real Unemployment Rate to Hit 26% in 2012

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 29 — The rate of real unemployment in Greece will reach 26% next year, according to economics professor and director of the Labor Institute of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE-ADEDY) Savas Robolis. Speaking on Skai TV on Wednesday, Robolis said that while statistical unemployment figures will reach 21% in 2012, real unemployment will hit 26%, a figure representing 1.3 million Greeks on a population of 11,2 million. This will lead to serious pressure on local social security services and loss of revenue for the state. The bleak figures do not take into account the recently announced civil servants’ labor reserve scheme, said Robolis, who also noted that although some economic recovery is expected in 2015, the slow growth rate will be unable to absorb the country’s high unemployment reserves.

Meanwhile, a number of public sector employees are facing dismissals given that it is unlikely that the target of absorbing 30,000 employees into the labor reserve scheme will be reached within the year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

More and More Chinese Investors Discover Germany

Sino-German trade relations are steadily expanding. As an increasing number of Chinese businesspeople discover the benefits of investing in Germany, they are helping to overcome existing cultural differences.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Profit Warnings and Greek Debt: European Banks Show Signs of Ill Health

Germany’s Deutsche Bank issued a profit warning on Tuesday and a Franco-Belgian bank wobbled signficantly as Greek debt begins to drag significantly on Europe’s financial industry. The European Central Bank is expected to make emergency credit available this week for the first time since the Lehman collapse.

For months, financial experts have been warning that Europe needs to act quickly to shore up banks on the Continent due to their heavy exposure to Greek debt. This week, there are increasing signs that their dire prognostications may be correct. Deutsche Bank on Tuesday said in a statement that the company’s earnings targets for 2011 were no longer realistic and that third quarter results were well behind expectations. CEO Josef Ackermann, who is set to vacate his current post next May, had hoped to earn a record pre-tax profit of €10 billion ($13.27 billion) this year. But the bank was forced to write down €250 million in Greek debt in the third quarter after similar write downs of €155 million in the second.

In addition, share prices for stock in the Franco-Belgian bank Dexia plunged on Tuesday, the most recent symptom of its significant holdings of Greek debt. The stock dropped by as much as 38 percent on Tuesday as officials in Belgium and France struggled to come up with a plan to prevent it from collapsing altogether. The news also led to a general fall in European bank share prices which dragged down European and global markets on Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Tension Mounts Over Bank of Italy Nomination

President Napolitano concerned to safeguard central bank’s independence

ROME — The clash between Silvio Berlusconi and Giulio Tremonti has spilled over from the political arena into Italy’s institutions of state. Nomination of the new governor of the Bank of Italy is clearly now a major bone of contention. A game of Risk in the Prime Minister’s Office has morphed into a risky game of Monopoly and the Bank of Italy’s Palazzo Koch is on the board. It is no surprise that the issue of Mario Draghi’s successor was on the agenda during Mr Berlusconi’s conversation with his superminister if the prime minister sought respite by re-opening the door to Vittorio Grilli, Mr Tremonti’s candidate for the governorship of the Via Nazionale-based central bank.

No decision has yet been taken. “We’ll discuss it at the Council of Ministers”, Mr Berlusconi told the economy minister. But rumours from Europe have already reached Italy to boost the likelihood that the Treasury’s director general is in the race. Both the EU president Herman Van Rompuy and Commission president José Barroso are reported to have been informed unofficially. After President Napolitano and Mr Berlusconi’s meeting last week at the Quirinale Palace, the stage had looked set for the promotion of the current Banca d’Italia director general, Fabrizio Saccomanni, who is still in the running.

In reality, the roller-coaster ride of the Palazzo Koch stakes is of only tactical significance to Silvio Berlusconi as a way of putting off the final decision. The handover would ensure political heft for Mr Berlusconi again in the shape of an institutional interlocutor and the opportunity to lay down economic policy guidelines. The problem is that the political stalemate has a knock-on effect on institutions. While the President’s Office has not intervened — and has no intention of intervening — in the executive’s or majority’s internal issues, it refuses to stand by and let the nomination of the new governor be politicised. The Quirinale wants to save it from looking like a political transaction. In June, President Napolitano publicly expressed the hope that the handover would be managed according to “procedural rules”, “without political excesses or personal confrontations” while keeping Palazzo Koch and future European Central Bank president Mario Draghi “safe from damaging disputes”. The Italian president also acted behind the scenes, sending a personal letter to Mr Berlusconi to stress that it is the prime minister’s “exclusive prerogative” to indicate the name of the candidate to put before the Bank of Italy’s superior council. Only then does it fall to the government to ratify the appointment after consulting the President’s Office.

This explains why the President’s Office is upset at the moment. The President has been waiting for the prime minister’s view for four months and Mario Draghi will take up his post at the ECB in November. The clock is ticking. The rationale of postponement and the procedural irregularities have alarmed both the head of state and the Banca d’Italia while disorienting and bewildering European institutions. Signals to that effect have been arriving from Brussels and Frankfurt. In consequence, President Napolitano called for a “climate of discretion” over the nomination but instead this has given way to the very obvious conflict within the government between the premier and the economy minister. Improper mediation jeopardises the central bank’s independence, tarnishing the prestige of the governorship and of its previous incumbents while offering the markets a negative image of Italy’s institutions…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Unrest Spreads to Military as Retired Greek Officers Storm Defence Ministry

The Greek armed forces now appear to be entering the political and street-level debate in the country over EU- and IMF-imposed austerity, with a group of retired Greek officers storming the defence ministry and the armed forces’ professional organisation issuing a stern warning to the government that the military’s confidence in the “intentions of the state” regarding their pensions has been “shaken”.

Hundreds of retired Greek officers furious at EU-IMF-imposed cuts to their pensions invaded the Ministry of Defence on Friday (30 September), breaking doors and dismantling machinery. Amid a wider protest of some 2000 officers, around 300 stormed the building as the crowd shouted “down with the Pasok junta” — referring to the governing social democratic party. Defence minister Panos Beglitis denounced the officers’ actions as “anti-democratic bullying” by “the state within the state” and instructed the prosecutor of the Athens Military Court to conduct a preliminary investigation over whether the group had perpetrated any criminal offences against military institutions.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]


Chris Christie Will Not Seek Presidency, Advisers Confirm

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has decided not to seek the presidency, according to two sources who were told of his decision.

Mr. Christie is scheduled to announce his decision at a news conference in the state capital at 1 p.m. But two sources said Tuesday morning that the governor will not pursue the Republican nomination.

The decision ends a late flurry of indecision on the part of Mr. Christie, who had been encouraged by a growing number of Republican donors and activists who had hoped he would add his name to the field of candidates vying to challenge President Obama.

[Return to headlines]

Investigation Sought in FBI Training About Islam

Concerned the FBI is spreading “biased and inaccurate” information about Muslims during training sessions, a coalition of 16 Seattle-area community groups Monday called for an independent civil-rights investigation of the agency’s methods for teaching agents about terrorism.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the group accused the FBI of hiring anti-Islam experts to teach law-enforcement agents about Islam and of focusing a disproportionate amount of the training on the threat from Islamic terrorists.

“I don’t think there should be any training that links any ethnic group to any type of crime,” said Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the civil-rights group heading up the coalition.

The FBI’s Seattle office declined to address the groups’ specific complaints but noted in a prepared statement that “the FBI is currently conducting a comprehensive review of all training and reference materials that relate in any way to religion or culture.” Seattle FBI spokeswoman Ayn Sandalo Dietrich said the review is occurring at the local and national level.

At a news conference Monday, members of the Seattle coalition cited what they said was a troubling pattern of bias, including one incident in which a hired analyst told agent trainees in Quantico, Va., that peace was not possible between Muslims and non-Muslims. That analyst, William Gawthrop, reportedly told another group of law-enforcement officials that Islam itself was the problem, according to the news site, which posted a video.

Locally, the agency was criticized for focusing almost exclusively on Islamic groups during a presentation that was delivered as part of an outreach to members of the East African, Muslim, Sikh and Arab communities. It also included a discussion of state-sponsored terrorism that left some participants offended when the FBI showed the group a photo of what appeared to be the former leader of the Shia denomination.

During a news conference at CAIR’s Seattle offices Monday, an engineer who sits on the board of the state’s largest mosque said a handout linking Islam to Nazism was distributed during one of eight training sessions she attended as part of the FBI’s Seattle Citizens’ Academy. The handout was written by an FBI counterterrorism agent in Seattle and consisted of a two-page answer to a question about whether the Nazis and Arab states were allied during WW II and whether the current Arab-Israeli conflict is a continuation of Nazi anti-Semitism.

“I felt like I had been invited to someone’s house, and then the host starts calling me bad names,” said Ghada Ellithy, of Seattle, who wrote the agent to complain about what she said was inaccurate information. She said no one responded. The agent on Monday could not be reached for comment.

Jere Bacharach, professor emeritus of Islamic, medieval and modern Middle East history at the University of Washington, reviewed both the agent’s literature and Ellithy’s rebuttal at the request of The Seattle Times. He said the agent’s literature distorted the historic forces behind the current Arab-Israeli tensions. He also said it was hard to see the intended purpose of the handout given that the word “Nazi” is such a loaded word. “The wording is setting up an association that is invalid,” Bacharach said. “I find it offensive because it creates a predisposed image. Words mean something, and when you use the word ‘Nazi’ and then unfortunately bring up WW II, you are evoking very, very negative images and negative feelings.”

Jennifer Gist, civil-rights coordinator for CAIR’s Washington chapter, said the training issues that have come to light, and the FBI’s lack of transparency about the materials and experts it uses in its training, is undermining community confidence in the agency. She praised the FBI for undertaking the review but said someone outside the agency is needed to ensure that agents are not being trained to profile people based solely on their religion.

[JP note: CAIR shakedown of FBI continues — see also the William Gawthrope story here WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2011 — /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today joined a coalition of other civil rights and advocacy organizations in calling on the FBI to eliminate anti-Muslim bias from the system used to train its agents.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

New Bill to Stop Beijing From Killing “US Jobs”

The US Senate is set to discuss a bill that would allow US businesses and unions to trigger investigations against countries like China that illegitimately manipulate their currencies. This negative signal comes after a more positive one over weapons’ sale to Taiwan.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China will stop the “economic murder” of US jobs with its undervalued yuan and “will change its own behaviour” once it is shown that it is not in China’s interest to challenge the United States. US senators unveiled legislation on Thursday to punish China over currency manipulation. However, Washington’s position towards arms sale to Taiwan has not changed; the US will not sell new weapons to the island.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, a key backer of the bill, said President Obama opposes the measure but predicted “China will change its own behaviour once this bill passes the Senate” in a vote expected in October. The bill, which had support from several Republicans, appears a done deal.

The proposed legislation would empower US businesses and, in some cases, labour unions to trigger a US Commerce Department investigation into alleged currency manipulation.

Lawmakers hope that the draft bill will tighten currency controls. Countries declared as manipulators would be punished with countervailing duties and other economic measures that would make it impossible to export into the United States.

Thus, Washington could limit the damages caused to its economy, such as job losses and dependence on Chinese products, by an artificially undervalued yuan.

The same policy would also send a message to the Asian giant after the US decided two days ago not to sell new weapons to Taiwan but only upgrade its arsenal. The latter has led some to believe that Washington is no longer willing to back Taipei against Beijing’s expansionism.

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

US Muslim Inmates Sue Over Meal Preparation

(AP) COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Muslim death row inmate says the Ohio state prison system is denying him meals prepared according to Islamic law while at the same time providing kosher meals to Jewish prisoners, according to a federal lawsuit that alleges a civil rights violation. The state said Monday that it has already removed pork from its menus in response to the lawsuit brought by condemned inmate Abdul Awkal, who argues the prison system’s failure to provide halal meals is a restraint on his religious freedoms.

Awkal, joined by a second inmate not on death row, says the vegetarian and non-pork options offered by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction aren’t good enough. The inmates say food must be prepared in specific fashion, such as ensuring that an animal is butchered by slitting its throat and draining its blood, to conform to Islamic beliefs.

The issue of eating Halal meals is especially important to me because I face a death sentence,” Awkal said in a filing in federal court earlier this year. “It is important to me that I follow the requirements of my faith as I approach death.” The state’s recent decision to drop pork from all meals accommodates religious preferences without jeopardizing security, said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for the state corrections department. It “eliminates any doubt that Muslims or any inmate who has a specific prohibition against pork products receives pork inadvertently or otherwise,” he said.

But Monday’s announcement doesn’t solve that meat isn’t slaughtered in the appropriate way for Muslim inmates who adhere to religious tradition, said David Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, which brought the lawsuit on Awkal’s behalf. He said the lawsuit will continue. A judge has given lawyers and inmates for the state until next month to finish filing documents bolstering their arguments, ahead of an expected January trial.

Awkal, 52, is scheduled to die in June for killing his estranged wife, Latife Awkal, and brother-in-law Mahmoud Abdul-Aziz in 1992, in a room in Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court. Joining Awkal in the lawsuit is Cornelius Causey, 35, serving 15 years to life for murder and aggravated robbery convictions out of Hamilton County.

Ohio argues that it provides both non-pork and vegetarian meals to Muslims and says the courts have sided with this practice. The state also says that providing halal meals could hurt Ohio financially, given the current budget situation. Ohio included in its response to the lawsuit a document from a Muslim who does regular spiritual counseling of Muslim inmates. While Imam Sunni-Ali Islam said he thought it was problematic that Ohio provided kosher but not halal meals, he said he doesn’t think it rises to the level of religious discrimination.

The state’s prison guidelines for Jewish prisoners say, “The Department will accommodate kosher dietary restrictions to recognized Jewish inmates.” Kosher guidelines also address proper ways to slaughter animals and prepare meat. For Muslim inmates, prison rules say, “The diet will be free of all pork and products containing or derived from pork. The institution will provide nutritionally adequate meat and non-meat alternatives.”

Ohio spends about $3.50 to $7 on kosher meals compared to $1.70 for regular meals, LoParo said. He would not comment on the lawsuit itself beyond documents filed in support of the state position. California provides packaged kosher meals to Jewish inmates and halal meals prepared at prisons for Muslim prisoners. Meats used for the halal meals are cooked separately from other prison food, said spokesman Paul Herke. The state serves about 4,100 halal meals a day at a cost of about $3.50 per day, compared with about $2.90 a day for regular prison meals.

Arizona provides vegetarian and other options to satisfy the halal requirement but does not provide meals specifically dubbed halal.

Similarly, Muslim inmates in Texas can select regular, meat-free or pork-free meals but are not served halal meals. Massachusetts serves both both kosher and halal meals. Ohio says requiring halal meals could mean new dietary plans for as many as 2,000 inmates, while Awkal’s lawyers believe the figure is lower because not all Muslims eat halal meals.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Young Muslim Community Organizer Challenges Ideas

Rami Nashashibi, a Chicago-based community organizer, called for students and activists to confront notions of their own “intersectionality” and “self-interest” in a speech last Friday at the Davis Auditorium. The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center, in concert with Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, named Nashashibi one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World in 2009. Approximately 90 students and faculty came to the event to hear Nashashibi speak.The Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) sponsored the event, along with the University Chaplain’s office and AmeriCorps.

Nashashibi, dressed in a business suit and traditional Muslim “taqiyah” cap, commenced his remarks by wishing “peace and blessings” to all. Nashashibi said the subject matter of his work and passion is community organizing. As a college student in the mid-1990s, he founded the Chicago-based Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). IMAN serves Chicago’s Marquette Park, a south-side Chicago neighborhood central to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. The organization seeks to empower individuals through Islam and help members engage in community service.

According to Nashashibi, the organization is grounded in the space and reality of the Chicago southwest side. Nashashibi then showed the crowd a photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., taken on Aug. 5, 1966. In the picture, King was visiting Marquette Park. Nashashibi said the neighborhood’s history was an important period of Chicago’s community organizing past. Nashashibi urged agitation, challenging people and their perceptions and misconceptions and working to transform the community. By doing this, he said, it would advance progress in the community.

“The humble recognition that America has always afforded, not always willingly, to a hard fought space — to challenge and agitate American [citizens] to live up to the unfulfilled principles in society,” Nashashibi said, adding that this lies at the heart of community organizing. Nashashibi also showed a charted timeline of the eras of community organizing from 1940-2011. His chart covered the period of the controversial “Alinsky” method of organizing. The Alinsky method, developed by neosocialist community organizer Saul Alinsky, uses facilitators to manipulate people into forming task forces to bring about social change.

Nashashibi also said he praised the relatively modern conceptual notion of a “post-industrial ghetto neighborhood” model of organizing people and fundamentally changing their neighborhoods. In addition, he is listed on the White House’s website as a “Champion of Change.” In 2007, Islamica Magazine named Nashashibi one of the 10 Young Muslim Visionaries Shaping Islam in America. Chicago Public Radio also chose him as one of the city’s Top Ten Chicago Global Visionaries in 2010.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria: Devil Keeps Faith Alive

Falter, 28 September 2011

Worried by what is a growing trend in Austria, Falter headlines: “Patients visited by exorcist.” Having established that “the chief exorcist in the diocese of Vienna alone conducts 50 exorcisms a year,” the weekly wonders if these are carried out “In hospitals too?” It seems that they are. Falter cites a number of clues as to the prevalence of the practice: a seminar organised by an exorcist and the head of neuropsychiatry in Vienna’s second largest hospital, on the theme of obsession beyond psychosis. Then there are the “Catholic fundamentalists who visit the sick in the city’s public hospitals” and “psychiatrists who recommend exorcists to their patients” — a practice that stigmatises the mentally ill by implying that they are possessed by the devil.

“Welcome to modern Catholicism,” ironically remarks the weekly. “Instead of aligning itself with standards set by Vatican II, the Austrian church continues to attract the faithful with a mix of esoterism, mysticism and occultism, which is why Austrian dioceses have trouble fulfilling the large number of requests for exorcisms.”

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

Bishops Believe it is Time for Catholics to Form a Party

(AGI) Vatican City- The letter read yesterday by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco to the Italian Episcopal Conference and emphasized in a report from its news agency, the SIR, invited Catholics “to take action politically since the time has come to start to present a proposal.” “The Catholic world,” said the SIR, “is a very complex one, of course, that even even after the Christian Democrat Party was disbanded had provided many politicians and large numbers of administrators, and it fabric is still very lively.” .

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

Bulgaria — Romania: Congratulations, You Failed the Schengen Test

De Volkskrant, Amsterdam

The citizens of Romania and Bulgaria should be delighted by the rejection of Schengen membership applications submitted by Bucharest and Sofia, which have been vetoed by the Netherlands. Dutch daily De Volkskrant argues that it will be the spur they need to step up the fight against corruption and organised crime.

Jan Hunin

Romanians and Bulgarians do not hear good news everyday. However, this is precisely what they heard on 22 September, when EU interior ministers decided to postpone Romania and Bulgaria’s entry into the Schengen Area, which allows for the free movement of people across internal EU borders. No doubt, there will be objections to this decision in Bucharest and Sofia, where inclusion in the Schengen Area has been a priority ever since both countries joined the EU in 2007. So the Netherlands’ vetoing (with support from Finland) of the demand to remove controls on Bulgaria’s and Romania’s borders will certainly not be welcomed in political circles.

A measure of Bucharest’s displeasure can currently be seen on the Romanian border, where several trucks transporting Dutch tulips have been held up since 17 September. According to customs officers, the flowers may contain a dangerous bacteria, and a number of shipments have already been sent back to the Netherlands. It is likely that “tulip wars” will not be the only response to the decision — especially in the light of comments made by the Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who has already promised retaliatory measures.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if the Bulgarian and Romanian populations express support for their governments’ protests. A recent poll has shown that they are not very put out by the Dutch veto. In spite of the fact that Bulgaria already fulfills the criteria for Schengen, one in three Bulgarians believes that postponement of their country’s application is justified. In short, they understand the Dutch position, which is that Sofia and Bucharest will first have to make progress in the fight against corruption and organised crime.

This is not the first time that The Hague has come forward to take on a task that Brussels and other member states have been pleased to avoid. The Netherlands has already blocked Serbia’s accession to the EU, in response to Belgrade’s refusal to arrest war criminals. We also know that this pressure ultimately resulted in the capture of all of the names on the wanted list over the last few years.

In favour of continued border controls

The pressure now exerted on Romania and Bulgaria may yield equally impressive results. And it is clear that, if we are to intervene, now is the time to take action. Once they have won the battle on Schengen, the EU’s two poorest states will no longer need to heed Brussels on this issue.

The Dutch veto will definitely be good news everyone who cares about the fate of the citizens of Bulgaria and Romania. I am certain that in Bulgaria and Romania, people are much more worried about corruption and organised crime than they are about border controls.

A few years ago, Bulgarian journalist Lidya Pavlova won the Courage in Journalism Award for daring to write a series of reports about the mafia in her home town. She subsequently paid a high price for her bravery: her car was destroyed and her son, who was attacked and beaten, had to be hospitalised twice.

A lot has changed in the course of her ordeal which has lasted for several years. Although the two local mafia bosses are now behind bars, the town is still not a completely safe place for her to live. When I tried to obtain an interview with Lidya Pavlova last month, she told me: “I don’t want any more trouble.” Then she added that her car windows “have now been smashed 12 times.” Enough said. I will remain in favour of continued border controls until Lidya Pavlova no longer has to worry about her car windows.

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

Denmark: Towards an EU That Excludes

Politiken, Copenhagen

On 1st January, 2012, when Copenhagen takes over the rotating presidency of the EU, the recently elected left-wing government will have to contend with two major issues: the euro and Schengen, which have both come to represent an EU that is increasingly unable to rally support.

Thomas Lauritzen

In mid-January, when the social democratic Danish Prime Minister Premier Helle Thorning-Schmidt, gets to her feet in the European parliament, her presentation of the Danish European Presidency will likely mark the beginning of a difficult six months for her. The Eurozone and the Schengen Area, two of the EU’s main projects are both caught in the throes of severe crises. And although Denmark is not a major player in either of these [in particular it is not part of the Eurozone], both issues will exert an important influence on the country and on its role in the EU.

We are already involved in the reform of the Schengen Area. As a sop to the extreme right Danish People’s Party, outgoing Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen had agreed to reinforce customs controls on Danish borders, thereby provoking the ire of Denmark’s neighbours and European institutions.

On 16 September, the European Commission finally proposed that any country seeking to temporarily restore border controls should first seek authorisation from Brussels — an announcement that had initially been scheduled for three days earlier, but which had then been magically postponed until after the Danish general election vote…

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

Germany: Open Mosque Day Welcomes Non-Muslims in Germany

In Germany more than 500 mosques opened their doors to non-Muslims at the Day of the Open Mosque. For the 15th time Muslim communities invited visitors to get an insight into their religion and culture. Under the motto “Mohammed — the merciful prophet” in Berlin alone more than 20 houses of prayer opened their doors. Germany is home to more than around four million Muslims. Studies show that in Europe Germans are especially intolerant of Islam while a majority says not even to have any contact with Muslims at all. The Coordinating Council of Muslims expects more than 100.000 visitors. Taking place on the Day of German Reunification organizers initiated the event to stress that Muslims were also part of Germany. Here in Berlin many non-Muslims took the opportunity to see a mosque from the inside and learn about Islam. Especially in times of growing resentments towards Muslims the Day of the Open Mosque is to promote a better understand and dialog.

[JP note: Only a short step from the appellation ‘non-Muslim’ to second-class status of dhimmi — perhaps no step is required and this demeaning status already exists in the use of the term ‘non-Muslim’?]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

In Sweden, Protecting the Reputation of Muslims is a Higher Priority Than Catching Rapist Who Attacked 12-Year-Old Girl

Malmo is known as a heavily Muslim-colonised area. Our Mohammedan friends, following the example of their so-called prophet, are known to have a certain penchant for little girls. So, on the face of it, there is a very good chance that the perpetrator is a Muslim or at least a person of third-world immigrant origin. The girl got a good look at the perp so should be able to give a detailed description of him. At the very least, in a high-immigration area like Malmo, the colour of the rapist’s skin would be considered one of the most important details to make public. Even if perpetrator had white skin, saying so would significantly narrow down the field of suspects. But the police don’t do that. No details about skin colour, accent or apparent ancestry are supplied.

The only reasonable conclusion we can draw from this bizarre silence is that the perpetrator is a third-worlder, almost certainly a Mohammedan. And that to the Swedish police, protecting the reputation of Muslims from “islamophobes” is a higher priority than catching the rapist of a 12-year-old girl. How sick is that!

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Italy: Politicians Mull Bishop’s Morality Call

Berlusconi party says Bagnasco ‘not just talking about premier’

(ANSA) — Rome, September 27 — Italian politicians on Tuesday mulled a call from the country’s top bishop for greater morality in public life.

Amid a welter of graft and sex scandals, many of them involving Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco on Monday said: “the air must be purified, corruption is like an octopus”.

On Tuesday Deputy House Speaker Maurizio Lupi of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party said the call “concerns all who have political responsibility, not just Berlusconi”.

The leader of a small Catholic centrist party, Francesco Rutelli, said Bagnasco’s unusually strong statement showed “Berlusconi no longer has the backing of the Church”. An influential Catholic activist group, Sant’Egidio, saw Bagnasco’s words as a “clear call” for Catholics to engage in Italian politics.

Many observers claimed Bagnasco was expressing Catholic unease about the premier, who is involved in four trials, three for fraud, bribery and corruption and one for having sex with an underage prostitute and allegedly using his position to try to cover it up.

In a fifth case, Berlusconi is reportedly set to be placed under investigation for allegedly inducing a businessmen who paid prostitutes to attend the premier’s parties to lie to judges.

A minority of observers, however, saw the bishop’s call as a more general one after a series of other graft cases, some involving opposition parties. Bagnasco did not name any politicians in his address to Italian bishops.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Trial Date Set for Fede, Minetti and Mora

Three accused of procuring sex for Berlusconi

(ANSA) — Milan, October 3 — A criminal trial for three people suspected of procuring young women for Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s alleged sex parties has been scheduled for November 21 in Milan, the court announced Monday.

The trial hinges on accusations that Berlusconi paid for sex with Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan runaway and belly dancer also known as Ruby, before she turned 18.

The three accused of arranging sex for the premier are Berlusconi’s former dental hygienist, ex-showgirl and now Lombardy regional councillor Nicole Minetti, the PdL official who was sent to the police station for El Mahroug last year; a veteran news anchor at one of Berlusconi’s TV channels and close personal friend of the premier’s, Emilio Fede; and a showbiz talent scout and self-styled ‘VIP impresario’, Lele Mora.

The defence had argued that, if the case should have been heard at all, it should be held in Messina instead of Milan, but the court denied that request Monday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Porn Star Back to Politics With Optimistic Futurist Party

(AGI) Milan — Llona Staller, better known as Cicciolina, intends to return to politics founding the ‘Optimistic-Futurist Party’ as announced in an interview with the weekly magazine “Oggi”. The former porn start was elected to parliament in 1987 in the Radical Party lists with 20,000 votes. Four years later she founded the ‘Party of Love’ which was not successful at the elections.

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

Italy: Fiat to Leave Top Trade Group for More Worker Contract Flexibility

Turin, 3 Oct. (AKI) — Fiat will leave Italy’s largest business association Confindustria in January as it seeks more flexibility to negotiate contracts with workers and gain an advantage against competition.

“Fiat, which is engaged in the creation of a major international group with 181 plants in 30 countries, cannot afford to operate in Italy in an environment of uncertainty that is so incongruous with the conditions that exist elsewhere in the industrialized world,” said Fiat chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne, in a letter to Confindustria president Emma Marcegaglia, published Monday.

Marchionne, who has pledged 20 billion euros in investments in Italy, said his company would leave Confindustria on 1 January.

He has already won major victories in battles with Italy’s unions forcing them to renegotiate contract under threat of factory closures.

Fiat says it must leave the trade group to have more flexibility than labour rules guiding Confindustria members. The exit from the business lobby by Italy’s top manufacturer is a major blow to the prestige of the group.

Marchionne has said new work practices would bolster productivity and make the carmaker more competitive with European rivals like Volkswagen and Peugot. He has repeatedly threatened to shut down plants in Italy if workers refuse to accept new rules

Marchionne, who also runs Chrysler, is currently engaged in contract negotiations with American largest auto union, the United Auto Workers union,

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

Netherlands: Sharp Rise in Pensioners Claiming Welfare Benefits

The number of pensioners claiming welfare benefits because they are not entitled to a full state pension has more than doubled over the past 10 years, the national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday.

Nine out of 10 claimants have an ethnic minority background and have not lived in the Netherlands long enough to qualify for a full state pension.

In total, some 40,000 pensioners are claiming extra cash help.

The over 65s need to have lived in the Netherlands from the age of 15 in order to qualify for a full state pension. This means that people who came to the Netherlands to work at the age of 20, are only eligible for 90%. If they have no other financial means, they can claim welfare (bijstand) to make up the difference.

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

Netherlands: Wilders Acts Up in Parliament

De Volkskrant, 23 September 2011

After two days of heated debate in the National Assembly, De Volkskrant notes that “Geert Wilders is undermining the authority of Mark Rutte,” the Liberal Prime Minister. “Through a series of incessant provocations directed at the opposition, at the Greeks, at Islam and at the Prime Minister himself, the leader of the PVV has created the greatest indignation among both friends and enemies,” writes the daily. Wilders has called Job Cohen, the leader of the Labour opposition, a “poodle of the government,” mosques “palaces of hatred”, and the Greeks “crooks”. Mark Rutte said he was “extremely frustrated” by the way Wilders’ comments have dominated the 2012 budget debate “while we are in crisis [economic].” The opposition believes that Wilders “is putting the reputation of the Netherlands at stake”. The object of this scorn himself, however, considers his critics “hypocrites”, since for years he has been treated as “extremist, racist and xenophobic” by Parliament.

“The minority government should raise the question of whether political cooperation [minority coalition with the parliamentary support of the PVV] can or should still be pursued,” writes Trouw. De Volkskrant, for its part, asks Rutte to demonstrate “strong moral leadership and not let Wilders’s behaviour get under his skin or that of his government.”

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

New Center-Left Danish Government Withdraws Border Control Plans

Denmark’s previous government was harshly criticized for a decision to re-introduce permanent border controls. Germany has welcomed the new center-left government’s decision to keep its borders open.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Our Clothing Could Clean the Air, UK Scientists Say

Although the mighty steel production industry that once fed the northern English city of Sheffield buckled under the weight of cheap imports years ago, the air that fills its streets could still not be described as clean. But if local scientists get their way, that might be about to change, and Sheffield might acquire an altogether more innovative claim to fame.

Tony Ryan, the pro-vice chancellor for the faculty of science at the University of Sheffield, is convinced that the clothes we wear, could play an important role in cleaning the air. He describes the garments as catalytic clothing — and the way they work is similar to a catalytic converter on a car. He proposes the use of titanium dioxide nano-particles, which can help break down air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide produced by cars. This new design was demonstrated in London at an outdoor festival just last month.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Romania: Dictionary Dispute Over Terms of Abuse

Jurnalul National, 22 September 2011

“‘Tigan’ [Gypsy] and ‘jidan’ [kike] will be revised in the new DEX,” the dictionary of reference for the Romanian language, leads Romanian daily Jurnalul National. The Bucharest paper hails a decision aimed at ending a long “linguistic quarrel”. In February, an association of Roma asked for the removal of the definition of Gypsy: “epithet given to a person with low habits”. They asked that a description of Romanian Roma be added instead. In August, the Centre for the Monitoring and the Fight against Anti-Semitism (MCA) also asked the Romanian Academy, which publishes the DEX, for the pejorative nature of ‘jidan’ be clearly stated. “The Academy has made several proposals to the MCA, which has until September 27 to comment,” the paper explains.

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

Scandinavia’s Largest Mosque Opened in Oslo

The Baitul Nasr mosque, the largest in Scandinavia, was officially opened last Friday. The large building has been a focal point in the area for a number of years. The structure has a 5m dome, a 25m tower and can house up to 4500 people at a time. It has 3000 square meters of floor space.

The country’s Defence Minister, Grete Faremo, attended the event on behalf of the Norwegian Government and also presented a message on behalf of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. In her comments she said: “Religion has always played an important role in Norway. The new Norway also has a central role for religion. So we must open all our doors and invite all others as we are seeing here today. This is not my place of worship but irrespective of this I still feel real warmth here.”

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Scott’s Biographer: British Polar Hero Was Incompetent

You made a reputation taking apart the Scott legend. But if he was so incompetent, how did he become a national hero?

In Britain there is a tradition of admiration for the glorious failure, a Nelsonian idea of death in the hour of triumph. The other thing is a streak of morbidity. People love a good death, so Scott’s story appealed to that undercurrent.

But Scott’s diaries are eloquent, poignant…

People say he’s eloquent. I find his writing appallingly maudlin and self-regardant, almost pathologically inward-looking, a bit like Lawrence of Arabia. In Scott’s diary there’s self-pity and comments about poor luck with the weather. I read Amundsen and much prefer his writing. Scott’s diary is designed to make things seem heroic; Amundsen underplays things: there’s underlying humour, irony, self-deprecation. Returning to Scott, I thought, “oh no, not more of this romanticised trash”.

Do you think that it’s only when compared with Amundsen’s seemingly effortless expedition that Scott can be truly understood?

Here’s a telling statistic. Amundsen’s party had around 100 years of skiing between them; Scott’s could barely muster five. It seems to me that Amundsen had what the Greeks called arete, meaning being suited for what you do. By contrast, Scott was consumed with hubris, which is what killed him in the end.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

UK: Ahava Finally Closes Its Doors in London

Cosmetics company Ahava is finally to close its controversial Covent Garden store this week, and manager Odelia Haroush said that the company had no plans to move elsewhere in the city, at least for the foreseeable future. Demonstrations by pro-Palestinian activists have dogged the store for years. Protesters claim the products sold in the store are manufactured in a factory in Mitzpe Shalom, an Israeli settlement. In April this year, a judge ruled that four activists who chained themselves to concrete blocks inside the Ahava shop were illegally trespassing. The four arged that Ahava was committing “war crimes” by selling products from the West Bank.

Owners of the surrounding stores in Seven Dials complained to the landlord Shaftesbury PLC that the repeated protests were affecting their business. A pro-Israeli group also held fortnightly counter- demonstrations, which attracted renewed controversy when members of the English Defence League turned up, unasked, and joined in the demonstrations in support of Ahava.

Shaftesbury PLC eventually refused to renew Ahava’s lease. Lawyer Anthony Julius of Mishcon de Reya, who is also chairman of the JC, confirmed that he had held preliminary discussions with Ahava about trying to seek an injunction against the protests, but he said that the company did not follow through. It had been thought that the store would seek new premises in north London, but Ms Haroush now says they have no concrete plans to do so, despite telling the JC in March that it was very important to the Israeli company to have a presence in the UK. “It’s not just about making money,” she said.

Jonathan Hoffman, co-vice chair of the Zionist Federation, has led counter-demonstrations in support of the shop every fortnight for the last 15 months. He said: “The closure of the shop is very bad news but it has to be said that Ahava has done little to help itself in the face of a sustained campaign of hate against it. Neither has there been any support from politicians for a legitimate business, which was hounded out of London, as if it were Berlin in the 1930s. The aim of the delegitimisers in the UK is nothing less than a complete eradication of Israeli-owned businesses and Israelis.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Anti-Fascists Mark Cable Street’s 75th

Over 1,000 anti-fascists took over the streets of east London today sending a defiant message to mark 75 years since the historic victory over the blackshirts at Cable Street. Veterans and campaigners led a march and rally to the scene of the famous battle, fought by an alliance including the local Jewish community, Communist Party members and London workers against Oswald Mosley’s uniformed thugs.

They said the fight against Mosley’s modern-day equivalents would be equally tough.

Representatives from the local Jewish and Bengali communities were flanked by trade unionists from across the movement. Cable Street veteran and former Communist councillor Max Levitas emphasised the need for the trade union movement today to fight “modern fascism.” But he added: “We know that they are not really modern. They are no different from 1936.” Mr Levitas raised the biggest cheer of the day when he urged supporters to “join a union” and campaign to bring down the coalition government whose cuts allow fascism to thrive. We can only do it by campaigning and organisation,” he told the Cable Street 75 rally.

Mr Levitas was speaking as 30,000 trade unionists marched on the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. Rob Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain which co-organised the event, urged a broad defence of the country’s multicultural communities from the British National Party and the English Defence League. Mr Griffiths called for unity within the anti-fascist movement, appealing to “friends” Hope Not Hate and Unite Against Fascism to unite their forces “whatever your differing tactics.”

High-profile speakers from the trade union movement were also in attendance. TUC deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady told those gathered to send a message to EDL leader Stephen Lennon that “you are not a voice of the working class. We are. You are just a voice of fascism.” Ms O’Grady demanded of the government: “Instead of scapegoating migrant workers, why don’t you get out there and create some jobs and punish the bankers?”

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland warned that legislation created in 1998 to effectively end slavery and domestic servitude was on the Con-Dem government’s hit-list. She said workers “must oppose” any moves to scrap the legal safeguards. And RMT general secretary Bob Crow reminded the crowd that without Irish migrant labour the railways would not have been built. “Fascists feed off scapegoats,” he said. “But if you create a society where everyone has a job and a house then you have a society where the fascist cannot live. It’s the ideological issues we have to beat them on.” Mr Crow urged labour movement unity when workers go on strike next month over pensions. “We have to raise a movement that can beat fascism and help us build a socialist society,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Colonel Tim Collins in Charge of Police Strategy? A Small Step Forward for Direct Democracy.

by Ed West

Am I the only one who has entertained fantasies of the Army sweeping into London and throwing our entire political class, with their various confederates in the civil service, education system and media, into the Thames? Yep, probably, but I am certainly not the only person who would like to see someone from outside the system infiltrating Westminster and speaking up for us.

And while politicians in this country are largely despised, the Armed Forces and its personnel are universally admired. That’s partly why there has long been political speculation surrounding Colonel Tim Collins, the Belfast-born officer whose inspiring eve-of-battle speech in 2003 made him a household name, and articulated exactly what the British Army, and Britain, should stand for. Now it’s been reported that Colonel Collins is to stand as a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) in Kent, one of the Coalition’s new directly elected public offices, which would put him in charge of the police’s strategy (although not the overall day-to-day running of things).


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Cambridge Mosque Wins Support From Local Non-Muslims

The community in Mill Road has been involved in plans for the mosque from the outset, even in the choice of architect

The Mill Road area of Cambridge has no landmarks or attractions and does not feature heavily on tourist guides to the city. But that could change if ambitious proposals for a £13m mosque get the green light. The mosque, designed by the London Eye architects, Marks Barfield, will not have minarets, but instead will attempt to answer the question of what an English mosque should look like. Aside from a gold dome, there are no external markings to signify its function. What it will have is a cafe and a women-only massage therapy room.

But perhaps its most distinguishing feature is the support it enjoys from non-Muslims living and working in Mill Road who have been involved from the outset, even in the choice of architect and design.

Anne Prince, from the East Mill Road Action Group, is effusive in her praise for the mosque project team. She said: “The Muslim Academic Trust has been fantastic at engaging with the local community, and not in a tokenistic way. It chose to be very open about its plans. The mosque will be the most contemporary building in this area. It will be so outstanding, a destination, that people will want to come and see it.”Her enthusiasm is a rarity, as proposals for other mosques that have made headlines have often been met with hostility.

Earlier this year an inquiry rejected plans to replace a listed Victorian building with a domed mosque and minaret in Camberley, Surrey. Its proximity to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst led to senior military figures claiming the minarets could be used by snipers or other terrorists. In his decision, the planning inspector, John Gray, said the “loss of the school would harm the architectural conservation area along the London Road”.

In the West Midlands last month councillors were critical of a new mosque design, saying it was “almost an alien feature in this location” and “like a blot on the landscape”.

The most notorious row is over a building that has yet to leave the drawing board — the Abbey Mills mosque, near the Olympic site in east London, which has been mired in controversy since 2006, partly because of its sheer size.

But the Cambridge mosque team appears to have won people over. The teaching area, public garden and cafe will be among the spaces open to non-Muslims. It cannot have hurt that the appointed architects are behind one of the most popular visitor attractions in Britain, nor that the “face” of the project is Tim Winter, a Cambridge academic and Muslim convert who sometimes lends his voice to another institution, BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. Sarah Elgazzar, a project team member, said: “There are lots of misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. A lot of people who have those negative feelings have never interacted with Muslims. Reaching out in this way is a great opportunity for Muslims to give something back to Cambridge. I expected a little bit of negative feedback. I didn’t see it but I was waiting for it.” Elgazzar said there had not been many issues to compromise on. But there have been changes.

There will be an underground car park to allay concerns about traffic and the mosque was moved from the street to make way for a garden so that, according to Prince, one would get “some sense of green space at the front”. The design, says the architect David Marks, is a departure from the “preponderance of Ottoman mosques” in the UK. “We didn’t want to create a replica or pastiche of something that existed elsewhere. The opportunity to do something English, British, excited us. You don’t need to have a minaret to be a mosque. Can a mosque be a mosque without a dome? Yes. Now that there is a significant Muslim community it’s got time to work out what it means to have an English mosque.”

The main mosque in Cambridge is formed of terraced houses knocked together. It is in good condition but its capacity is tested on Fridays, when up to 700 people arrive for prayers. They sometimes pray on the streets, even when there are two sittings. The prospect of a new mosque, then, is an exciting one for congregants. Aminul Islam, a business owner who has lived in Cambridge for 15 years, has raised £250,000 in two years for the new building. “It is modern and welcoming to people who are non-Muslims. This is the 21st century. You have to make it attractive to our non-Muslim brothers and sisters. We have to leave this mosque to the next generation.” Plans for the new mosque will be formally submitted this year.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Campaign Shuts West End Store

A West End cosmetics store closed this weekend after being dogged for years by pro-Palestinian campaigners. Odelia Haroush, manager of Ahava in Covent Garden, which opened in 2007, said the company had no plans to open another outlet in London in the near future. Activists claimed the shop’s products were manufactured in Mitzpe Shalom, an Israeli settlement.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Cameron ‘Weasel Words’ Under Fire as Tories Demand Referendum on EU

Senior Tories accused David Cameron yesterday of using ‘weasel words’ to duck a referendum on Europe.

The Prime Minister has infuriated many at the Conservative conference by apparently ruling out a referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU — even if the idea is backed by MPs.

He said it was ‘the wrong answer for Britain’. But Tory MPs made their unhappiness plain at fringe events yesterday.

Prominent Eurosceptic Douglas Carswell said it was time for the public to be given a say on Europe.

‘The tide is moving irrevocably towards a referendum, regardless of whether or not the Prime Minister wants one,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: City’s Ghettoes ‘Are Sleepwalking Towards a Schools Apartheid’

London has become divided into ethnic ghettoes that are ‘sleepwalking towards Johannesburg’ under apartheid, according to a leading independent school head teacher.

David Levin, head of City of London School for boys, has spoken of his ‘increasing alarm’ at the way communities in London are split along race lines, with youngsters of different ethnicity rarely or never mixing and the inevitable tensions that causes.

At one school, Stepney Green Maths and Computing College, in Tower Hamlets, East London, 97 per cent of pupils are Bangladeshi.

And at another, in Peckham, South London, pupils are ‘overwhelmingly’ West African.

South African Mr Levin, whose school routinely tops GCSE and A-level league tables, suggested the worsening situation could lead to racial tension as people ‘fear those they do not know’.

He said: ‘I think London is sleepwalking towards Johannesburg — the ghettoisation of the community. It means they are not mixing with people from other faiths, different races and different socio-economic backgrounds.

‘One of the things I have learned pre and post — particularly post — apartheid is that your imagination is much stronger than the reality.

‘You may not like someone, but if you know them then you do not fear them.’

He claimed there are parts of London where ethnic minority youngsters never leave their council estate let alone their borough. He called on private schools to send mentors and teachers into the ‘ghettoes’ to ensure that disadvantaged pupils mix with youngsters of ‘different races and socio-economic backgrounds’.

Mr Levin, whose school has pupils from 41 countries, has set up outreach projects with some schools, such as Stepney Green, to teach maths and science.

City of London also offers scholarships to talented pupils.

Children from white families are in the minority in both Birmingham and Leicester, as well as most London boroughs.

Stepney Green, a boys’ school, has almost 900 pupils aged 11 to 16. It was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted this year. Despite being in a deprived part of London, some 82 per cent of its pupils got A* to C in English and maths GCSE in 2010.

Mr Levin, who is vice-chairman of the association of leading independent schools, the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, was speaking yesterday at its annual conference.

He is leading an initiative to encourage private primary schools to help sponsor academies.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Home Secretary May Vows to End Human Rights Farce

HOME Secretary Theresa May will today vow to end Britain’s human rights farce. At the Tory conference she will pledge to close a loophole allowing foreign criminals to stay.

It comes as the dad of a raped boy pleads to Ken Clarke on indefinite sentences. Foreign criminals and terror suspects will be kicked out of Britain under the shake-up of human rights laws, Mrs May will vow today. The Home Secretary is to unveil plans to stop foreigners using their right to “family life” to dodge deportation. She wants to rewrite immigration laws to make clear judges CAN overrule controversial human rights laws.

In her speech to the Tory conference in Manchester, she will say courts can kick out foreign criminals and terror suspects if they have committed a crime or are here illegally.

Mrs May has pledged to tackle “the problems we have in being unable to deport people who are terrorist suspects”. She will add: “Obviously we’ve seen it with some foreign criminals who are in the UK.” Ms May will stress today that even the European Convention of Human Rights makes clear the right to family life is NOT absolute. Article 8 of the charter says it can be over-ridden to protect “national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country”. It can also be overruled to prevent “disorder or crime” and to protect the “rights and freedoms of others”. Mrs May’s plans mean judges will be able to decide if a foreigner’s right to family life is outweighed by the threat they pose or the seriousness of their crimes.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Labour Front Benchers on Socialist Workers Party Platform

by Lucy Lips

Unite Against Fascism is a front organisation which is run by the far Left Socialist Workers’ Party, in concert with Socialist Action, an entryist incarnation of the International Marxist Group. It is holding a conference on Saturday 15 October, called Celebrate diversity, defend multiculturalism, oppose Islamophobia and racism. A list of speakers can be viewed on the Socialist Action website:

  • Jack Dromey MP
  • Helen Goodman MP
  • Peter Hain MP
  • Claude Moraes MEP
  • Jean Lambert MEP
  • Farooq Murad, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
  • Edie Friedman, Executive Director, Jewish Council for Racial Equality
  • Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary
  • Steve Hart, Political Director, Unite the Union
  • Megan Dobney, Regional Secretary SERTUC
  • Zita Holbourne, PCS NEC
  • Bob Lambert, co-Director, European Muslim Research Centre
  • Jody McIntyre, Journalist
  • Peter Oborne, Journalist
  • Dilowar Khan, Director, London Muslim Centre
  • Alaa’ Samarrai, VP Student Affairs, Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS)
  • Kanja Sesay, NUS Black Students’ Officer
  • Nitin Sawney, Musician
  • Sabby Dhalu, Secretary, One Society Many Cultures
  • Weyman Bennett, Joint National Secretary, Unite Against Fascism
  • Martin Smith, National Co-ordinator, Love Music Hate Racism.

Readers will be familiar with many of the names on this list. Let’s pick a few of them out, shall we?

Martin Smith was formerly National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. According to Andy Newman of Socialist Unity, he was forced to resign from that post because he was “sexually harassing a woman SWP member in Birmingham over a prolonged period”. He is also a convicted criminal. He runs “Love Music Hate Racism” — the obvious job for a man who was the driving force behind the partnership between the SWP and the antisemite and Holocaust “revisionist”, Gilad Atzmon. Indeed, they appeared together as a double act:


[Lucy Lips comment on 3 October 2011 at 6.40 pm]

Here are the statements in the piece. Happy to correct any of them

Andy Newman claimed that Martin Smith was forced to resign from that post because he was “sexually harassing a woman SWP member in Birmingham over a prolonged period”. He was convicted last year, and as far as I can see, has not had the conviction overturned. He organised events with the racist and Holocaust “revisionist” Gilad Atzmon, who the SWP defended from charges of antisemitism.

Weymann Bennett was reported to have called for Israeli Jews ‘should go back to where they came from … New York or wherever’.

Dilowar Khan’s London Muslim Centre is the public face of an organisation which has hosted a series of vicious homophobic and antisemitic hate preachers, including the late Al Qaeda leader, Anwar Al Awlaki. The LMC is run by a Jamaat-e-Islami clique.

Bob Lambert’s EMRC is funded and backed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s al-Tikriti and Hamas founder Mohammed Sawalha. Its advisors include Bashir Nafi, who has been indicted in the United States for racketeering on behalf of the terrorist group.

Farooq Murad, emerged at the last minute to ensure that the non-Jamaat-e-Islami supporter, Mohammed Amin, did not become Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain.

BTW, I assume that you accept that if these statements are indeed true, it disqualifies them from participating in an anti-racist event. It should also preclude involvement by the Labour Party, naturally.

But in what way is this a witch hunt.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Michael Gove Bars Schools From Palestinian Literary Festival

Education Secretary Micahael Gove stopped eight schools sending pupils to a Palestinian literature festival. Mr Gove challenged headteachers in Islington and Haringey to justify why they planned to participate in the event, run by a branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. As a result none of the schools attended the Tottenham Palestine Literary Festival over the weekend. Former children’s laureate Michael Rosen was among those who took part. Children from local schools had been invited to take part in workshops at the festival and enter a creative writing competition on the themes of human rights and children under occupation.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said schools were asked to withdraw from the festival or justify why they were taking part. Islington council also advised schools in the area not to participate. Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, who supports the festival, said: “It was a great opportunity for children to understand the wealth and joy of Palestinian literature and a little of the history of the region. It’s not in any way biased, but a festival which encourages children to broaden their horizons. The children were looking forward to it.”

A spokesman for the DfE said: “The Secretary of State wrote to a number of schools seeking an assurance that they were not in breach of their duty under section 407 of the Education Act 1996 requiring that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils, they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views. “All the schools responded confirming that they are not taking part in the festival.” Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the Jewish Chronicle: “I can think of few organisations which would be less appropriate to run a workshop in a school than the PSC.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Still Battling Blackshirts

We still feel the threat of the far right here, in Tower Hamlets, where the Battle of Cable Street was fought 75 years ago

In the London borough of Tower Hamlets on Tuesday we will be commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street. This was a momentous day in the history of London’s East End, when Oswald Mosley and his blackshirts were driven out of the then mainly Jewish area by demonstrators whose slogan was “They shall not pass!”. Joining us on this anniversary — one in which I will unveil the restored Battle of Cable Street mural — will be a veteran of that day, Max Levitas.

What I suspect unites the very different racial and religious communities in the historic diaspora that is Tower Hamlets is a sense of revulsion at bigotry and racism, wherever it comes from. This is why so many people came together recently to protest at the outrageous plan by the far right English Defence League to march through the same area that Mosley’s blackshirts had been ejected from. With the support of local MPs, councillors and religious leaders, as well as many outside the borough, we persuaded the Metropolitan police and the home secretary to ban the march.

So I was shocked to read recently that Adrian Tudway, the police’s national co-ordinator for domestic extremism, said he had formed the view that the EDL was not extreme after reading its website. According to the Guardian’s report, Tudway sent an email in April, urging a Muslim group to open up a “line of dialogue” with the EDL. He wrote: “In terms of the position with EDL, the original stance stands, they are not extreme rightwing as a group, indeed, if you look at their published material on their website they are actively moving away from the right and violence with their mission statement. As we discussed last time, I really think you need to open a direct line of dialogue with them and redirect their activity?”

At best this shows alarming naivety. At worst it demonstrates a callous disregard for those who have been on the receiving end of EDL violence. Disturbingly this came from a man whose unit was charged with investigating any links between the rightwing Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik and the EDL. Breivik boasted of having 600 EDL supporters as Facebook friends and said in his deranged 1,500-word manifesto that he had spoken with EDL members and supporters. This information should surely have been sobering enough for Tudway, and encouraged him to venture beyond the EDL’s website. Recently the Daily Mail exposed a stockpile of weaponry assembled by EDL members, which rather takes away from the idea that the organisation is a beacon of moderation.

In any event, if the EDL is on a journey of atonement why did the Met feel it necessary to deploy more than 3,000 officers in Tower Hamlets on the day the EDL had planned a march, despite the home secretary’s ban? What really links Breivik to the EDL is a corrosive Islamophobia, which to all intents and purposes is similar to the antisemitism that many experienced in my part of London in the last century. Not that this in any way excuses those who respond by twisting Islam into a fundamentalism that most in the community do not approve of and do not want. The trouble is, it would appear that the only focus for those attempting to tackle extremism in Britain through the government’s Prevent programme are such people — while those who express similar sentiments on the far right are treated with kid gloves.

I was pleased then to see that Dan Hodges from the anti-fascism organisation Searchlight appreciates what really lies behind the EDL. He has said that the police should classify the EDL as extremist and linked to violence, and that they should spend more time and effort trying to thwart the group’s plans. To that should be added recent comments by Zaheer Ahmad, of the National Association of Muslim Police, who noted that: “There is a strong perception in the Muslim communities that the police service does not take the threat of rightwing extremism seriously.” Here, in Tower Hamlets, we do take the EDL seriously. That is why, in the wake of repeated threats from that organisation, we want it reclassified as an extremist group, and banned from being allowed to march through our London borough again. That would be the best tribute of all to all those who drove Mosley and his blackshirts out of the East End so many years ago.

[Reader comment Ivy League on 2 October 2011 at 9:51 pm with 1,620 recommendations]

In any event, if the EDL is on a journey of atonement why did the Met feel it necessary to deploy more than 3,000 officers in Tower Hamlets on the day the EDL had planned a march, despite the home secretary’s ban?

Perhaps they were also concerned about the individuals who plastered your London borough in inflamatory posters claiming it was under Sharia law? One particularly vile one stating: ‘Gay free zone. Verily Allah is severe in punishment’.

[and Reader comment Gallogladh on 2 October 2011 at 9:53 pm with 517 recommendations]

Far-right? People that espouse banning of homophobia, keeping women out of the workplace and subservient to their husbands, and enforcing a strict illiberal doctrine based on outdated values and moral creeds? The EDL does none of those things: they oppose those things. That’s their point, protesting against Islamism. There may be madness in their methods, but they are not far-right. And they are not the dangerous ones.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Schools Out of Tottenham Palestinian Literary Festival

Eight schools pulled out of a literary festival organised by pro-Palestinian campaigners after Education Secretary Michael Gove intervened. Pupils from the primary schools in the north London boroughs of Haringey and Islington were due to attend workshops led by anti-Israel activists at the Tottenham Palestine Literary Festival last weekend. They were to have been encouraged to write about “children under occupation” and to examine “the themes of human rights” through rap, poetry and short story-writing. But their schools pulled out after Mr Gove wrote to headteachers giving them an ultimatum to withdraw or explain how their participation complied with the schools’ statutory duty to present the youngsters with a “balanced presentation of opposing political views”. The planned participation of the children in the festival — organised by the Haringey Justice for Palestinians branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign — had been criticised by the Board of Deputies. Both Haringey Council and Islington Council had encouraged their schools to reconsider the plans to take part. A Department for Education spokesman said all the schools had responded to Mr Gove’s letter confirming their pupils would no longer attend.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: The Dark Secrets of St James’s Park

The discovery of Robert Moore’s body on a small island is the latest odd event in the Royal Park near Buckingham Palace.

How strange that a skeleton could lie for three years within sight of the Queen’s windows in Buckingham Palace. At least, it would have been in clear sight but for some foliage. These were the remains, we reported yesterday, of Robert Moore, who, it seems, camped out there, with no comfort but a yellow cushion and a bottle of vodka tied to his clothes with string, determined upon stalking the Queen as if she were one of the decorative waterfowl that make the lake their home.

Were it not for Mr Moore’s reported habit of sending “offensive” packages to the Queen, his chosen way of life might deserve admiration, all the more for his having conducted it on his fowl-infested islet in the lake in St James’s Park while eluding the attention of hundreds of thousands of passers-by. It is true that the park becomes another world after dark, but historically it is just the place for a hermit.

When St James’s Park was being re-arranged in the first half of the 18th century, William Kent, who designed the pepper-pot topped Horse Guards, also ran up for Queen Caroline a hermitage called Merlin’s Cave. This rum cross between a grass-roofed African hut and a gothic ruin was installed in the gardens of Richmond Lodge. The Queen then appointed Stephen Duck, “The Thresher Poet”, as her ornamental hermit. Ornamental hermits were quite the thing in the Age of Reason. No grotto was complete without one. Had St James’s Park been allotted a sufficient colony of ornamental hermits, it might have vanquished its reputation as a slough of depravity.

The poet Rochester single-mindedly, if no doubt accurately, describes the park in the decade after the Restoration in language so — what should one say? — coarse or lewd, that it is very hard to quote any of its lines. Here is his mise en scène: “Carmen, divines, great lords, and tailors, / Prentices, poets, pimps, and jailers, / Footmen, fine fops do here arrive, / And here promiscuously they swive.”

Things do not seem to have improved much by 1759, when one James Brown admitted to having blackmailed 500 or more gentlemen that he had picked up in Birdcage Alley. He was sentenced at the Old Bailey to be hanged, for robbery. Another chance for a reform of morals came with the intervention of the Ornithological Society of London, which in 1837 presented the park with some birds, and, what’s more, erected Duck Island Cottage, which still fascinates tourists. It is at the other end of the lake from the late Mr Moore’s hide, and is often taken for no more than a shed for garden tools. But this little gabled cottage orné was built to house an official Birdkeeper. This was good for the pelicans, but proved insufficient to scare away less domesticated nighthawks.

“I am constantly annoyed by prostitutes,” wrote a reader under the pen-name A Pedestrian to one of the first issues of The Daily Telegraph in 1855. He was in the habit of cutting through St James’s Park and Green Park on his way from Westminster to Piccadilly. “As soon as it becomes dusk, they will not let anybody pass without attempting to detain them.” The letter appeared under the headline “Where are the police?” for, as the pestered Pedestrian explained, “I have complained to the police until I am tired of doing so, the only answer I ever get being, ‘Then you should go another way.’ ”

This solution occurred to Ferdinand Lopez, the anti-hero of Trollope’s The Prime Minister (1876), when his friend Everett Wharton suggested a walk there: “It is a wretchedly dark place at night, and you don’t know whom you may meet there.” Wharton insists, and is robbed and almost killed by a man and, notably, two women. Lopez is saved by his well-made hat from a deadly blow from a bludgeon.

So, would you walk though St James’s Park alone on a winter’s night today? I often have, the gold of my watch-chain no doubt glinting in the dim gaslight. To the Victorians, those gas lights would have seemed to dispel vice like the sun on snow. Today, an atmosphere of crime seems to congeal around them. As a consequence, few folk lurk in St James’s Park by night. I suspect even the muggers are unnerved by the dripping trees and sudden screech of the waterfowl.

There is no difficulty getting into the park, if you wanted to install a yellow cushion and a bottle of vodka under some bushes. The horizontal rail at the boundary seems to be fixed at the ideal height to step over. Even before the wartime salvage drive that had the spiked railings sawn down, they only reached to a little over waist height, so that, with the protection of your cushion perhaps, you could soon be over. Poor Mr Moore was able to make his bivouac, like Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden or Bevis in the woods, undisturbed by pedestrians or prentices, fops or footpads, penning his interminable and sad letters to the Queen in her lighted window beyond his world’s end.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Don’t Fear Us: Tunisian Islamist Leader

Reuters) — Tunisia’s Islamist party will uphold women’s rights and not try to impose strict Muslim values if, as many expect, it wins the first election since Tunisia’s revolution, its leader said.

The October 23 vote for an assembly that will draft a new constitution has pitted resurgent Islamists against secular groups who say their modern, liberal values are under threat. Tunisia electrified the Arab world 10 months ago when a popular uprising overthrew autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, creating a model that was copied by people hungry for change in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.

Western powers and governments in other Arab states are watching Tunisia’s election closely, worried that democratically elected Islamists might impose strict Islamic law and turn their back on Western allies. Rachid Ghannouchi, who returned to Tunisia from exile in Britain after Ben Ali’s fall, told Reuters in an interview that Western countries and Tunisian liberals had nothing to fear from a victory for his Ennahda party. “Ben Ali did everything he could to convince the West that we are a terrorist group but he couldn’t do it,” he said.

“We are not cut off from our environment … All the values of democracy and modernity are respected by Ennahda. We are a party that can find a balance between modernity and Islam.”

Litmus Test

More than 100 parties will contest the election, but Ennahda has the highest public profile and biggest support network. Opinion polls suggest it will get the most votes, but not win an outright majority in the assembly drafting the constitution. In the interview, Ghannouchi denied an allegation by his critics that he presents a moderate image in public but that once in power his party’s hardline character will emerge.

Two issues in particular, women’s equality and liberal moral attitudes, are seen by many Tunisians as a litmus test of how tolerant Ennahda will be if it gains power. In an indication of the party’s stance on women’s rights, a woman who does not wear the head covering favored by Islamists is Ennahda’s candidate for one district in the capital, Tunis.

“The values of modernity and women’s freedom began with the first president of Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba,” Ghannouchi said at his party headquarters, where many of the staff are women. We will not retreat from these values … We will support these values,” he said. “A woman’s freedom and her freedom of dress has been established and we will develop it.”

Western tourists are a major source of income for Tunisia but their habits of drinking alcohol and wearing skimpy clothing can cause tensions with devout Muslims. Nevertheless, Ghannouchi said he did not favor any restrictions. “We will seek to create a diversified tourism product, like Turkey,” he said, adding that hotels would not be prevented from offering alcohol and swimming pools, but that they would be encouraged to offer packages for observant Muslims without access to alcohol and with Islamic dress codes at the pool.

Foreign Relations

European states for years tolerated Ben Ali’s autocratic rule because Tunisia was a trading partner and it helped curb the flow of drugs, illegal migrants and Islamist militants northwards across the Mediterranean. Ghannouchi said it was in the interests of all sides for Tunisia to maintain good relations with the West. “I lived for a long time in Europe without any problems,” he said. “I lived in tolerance with everybody. During my meetings with Western officials and diplomats, I received the message that Ennahda will be welcomed if it wins the elections,” he said. “They told me that they stand at the same distance from all competitors and their goal is the success of the democratic transition, because the failure of the transition would be catastrophic for Europe, for example, which will be flooded by hundreds of thousands of migrants. We will maintain the relations with our traditional partners such as Europe, but we will seek to improve them in order to get advanced status,” Ghannouchi said, referring to a trade pact Tunisia is seeking with the European Union.

“But we will try also to diversify our partnership to open up to the United States and Latin America, Africa and Asia, and especially Arab markets,” he said.

One reason for the uprising against Ben Ali was that the economy was growing too slowly to generate jobs for youngsters. Ghannouchi said his party’s foreign policy would be driven by the need to fix this problem. “The biggest concern is to attract foreign investment as part of foreign and local partnerships to drive growth and increase jobs. The party aims to develop the knowledge economy by encouraging investment in the technology industry … There are significant growth opportunities in the telecommunications sector,” he said.

He said he had a message for potential investors. “Tunisia has become beautiful without Ben Ali … We will put an end to corruption, we will develop legislation to stimulate investment,” said Ghannouchi. “We will confront the corruption that has spread in the structures of the state.”

(Editing by Christian Lowe and Alistair Lyon)

[JP note: The photo accompanying this article is pretty scary — as if Gannouchi is auditioning for the part of Jim Carrey’s claw in the film Liar Liar.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Copts, Muslims Protest Sectarian Violence in Edfu

CAIRO: Hundreds of Coptic Christians protested early on Monday outside the Governor of Aswan’s headquarters in condemnation of the recent clashes in the town of Edfu, which left a number of houses and a part of another house of worship burned and a shop vandalized on Friday. The protesters, who carried big wooden crosses called on the governor to order the rebuilding of the damaged buildings and compensate the owners. A number of Muslims also joined the protest calling for justice to their neighbors. Protesters also called for the ousting of Governor Mostafa el-Said for his indecisiveness towards the clashes. El-Said told Egyptian national TV that the Copts “ought to apologize for the inciting the violence after they went further in construction of a building with the attempt of turning it into a church, which angered many Muslims around the country.” The clashes date back to Friday when tens of Muslim men surrounded the building in question and clashed with Copts soon after. They set ablaze a number of buildings owned by Copts, according to eyewitness.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi’s Migrant Invasion Plan Revealed

SITTING on the dockside in Tripoli harbour is one of the strangest crime scenes left by the Gaddafi regime. Harbour officials recall the day — Friday, May 6 — that a 100ft-long boat sailed off with its name painted over, as well as the reasons for its departure. “When NATO said there was a no-fly zone, after that Gaddafi [police] caught [migrant workers] in the street and took them by bus and put them on a boat and sent them to Europe,” said Abdul Bost, a harbour official. “Some people were jumping from the boats and swimming back.”

Libya’s new rebel government is to investigate claims that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi tried to trigger an immigrant invasion of Southern Europe as a crude weapon against Nato nations backing the rebels. Just beyond the mouth of the harbour, the overloaded boat capsized and sank. When it was salvaged days later, holes had to be cut through the hull to drag out what officials said were the bodies of 200 migrant workers trapped inside. Below decks, among piles of salt-stained clothes, The Times found dozens of photographs. Seawater had warped some of the images, creating lurid haloes to ghostly faces of young Somalis, Nigerians, Senegalese and Guineans.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Libya: Al-Qaeda Urges Rebels to Establish Islamist Rule

Rome, 4 Oct. (AKI) — Underscoring concerns about a rise of extremism in Libya, the purported leader of Al-Qaeda’s North African branch has urged the rebels who ousted autocratic leader Muammar Gaddafi to impose Islamic rule.

In a 12-minute audio message posted to jihadist websites, the voice of a man identified as Abdelmalek Droukdel congratulated the rebels for toppling Gaddafi and taking the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

But the message warned the west to stay away from Libya and urged rebels not to succumb to “NATO blackmail” as Gaddafi and members of his family remained at large.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb will torch the armies of France and NATO in Libya if they attempt to lead a ground invasion of the country,” the message said. “We will set their armies alight if they set foot in Libya,” it stated.

To avenge Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s killing by US special forces in Pakistan in May, AQIM will “deal a killing blow and will destroy the economies of western countries to complete the 9/11 attacks on America,” the message warned.

The message said anti-Gaddafi forces’ victory in Libya would inspire a revolution in neighbouring Algeria and urged Libyans to rise up against the rebel National Transitional Council, described as an agent of France.

“It is for Libyans to protect their revolution agains the unbeliever countries and the servants of France,” the message stated.

“No foreign party has the right to interfere in the affairs of Libya or to try and impose alternatives,” the message added.

The authenticity of the tape has not been verified.

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

Tunisia: Infiltrated Group ‘Neutralised’

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 22 — The group of terrorists who yesterday infiltrated into Tunisian territory from Algeria has been “neutralised”. This was the statement given by Tunisia’s Defence Ministry, reported this morning by TAP, in announcing the outcome of the wide-ranging operation which began late yesterday morning along the border with Algeria, when a convoy of off-road vehicles was intercepted with armed men onboard and equipped for heavy weaponry. The largest anti-terrorism operation conducted by Tunisia in the last few years has therefore ended — without the Army suffering any loss of life or material damage — with the destruction of seven vehicles and the neutralisation of two others, with the crucial intervention of combat helicopters. The latter are the only ones which could strike since the terrorist convoy had infiltrated into a rocky desert zone which would have made land-based searches difficult. The terrorists entered Tunisia at Bir Znigra in the Kebili governorate. The reason why the nine vehicles penetrated so far into Tunisia territory is not yet known.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisian Universities Say No to Niqab

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, OCTOBER 4 — Though respecting individual freedoms, the niqab (the full Muslim veil) should no longer be worn in Tunisia’s universities because it is completely alien to the country’s traditions and customs. This appeal was made by the Tunisian University Forum, which has officially spoken out against the full veil, asking the authorities for a ban. The Forum underlines in a statement that wearing a niqab is “a recent phenomenon,” “related to media and political influences from outside our country, that have nothing to do with our dressing traditions or our religious and cultural points of reference.” Therefore the Forum believes that “where in the past the Ben Ali regime reduced the university space to obedience to the RCD (the party of the former dictator, editor’s note) and the cult of his personality, it would be unworthy of the universities and the January 14 Revolution to allow anyone to use universities and to distort its scientific and educational mission.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Palestinians Link Foreign Aid to Occupation

PETER CAVE: The US congress has blocked about $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority as apparent punishment for its applying for statehood through the United Nations. The Authority relies on hundreds of millions of dollars a year in aid from foreign donors. But a new report suggests that Palestinians could easily survive without any aid at all if the Israeli occupation were to end. The report, released by the Palestinian Economics Ministry, suggests the occupation is motivated more by economic gain than for security reasons, as Israel claims.

Middle East correspondent, Anne Barker, reports.

AHAVA AD: My skin reborn. New from Ahava ‘Extreme’ a…

ANNE BARKER: Ahava is a multi-million dollar Israeli company that makes cosmetics from the mineral rich mud of the Dead Sea.

AHAVA AD: Ahava’s secret of youth.

ANNE BARKER: Its beauty products are sold over the world. Yet Ahava’s Dead Sea plant is in the West Bank, which is occupied Palestinian territory. Under international law it’s illegal for Israel to exploit natural resources on occupied land, meaning all such profits should go to the Palestinians. For the first time the Palestinian Authority has calculated the cost of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It estimates the occupation is depriving the Palestinian economy of nearly US$7 billion a year in lost revenue, or a staggering 85 per cent of its total GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Hasan Abu-Libdeh, is the PA’s (Palestinian Authority) minister for economy.

HASAN ABU-LIBDEH: Israel occupies the Palestinian territory, abuses its lands and resources, confiscating the lands for the settlers’ activities and uses and this all we pay for. We, the Palestinians.

ANNE BARKER: A report by the Palestinian Authority’s Economics Ministry breaks down the $7 billion cost into key components. So, the Israeli blockade on Gaza, for example, is estimated to cost nearly $2 billion a year because of the ban on exports and some imports. Restrictions on water use in the West Bank cost another $1.9 billion. Natural resource restrictions, including the loss of agricultural land, deprive the Palestinians of another $1.8 billion in revenue. And restrictions on movements of people and goods cost another $184 million. One of the report’s authors is Jad Isaac from the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem.

JAD ISAAC: Israel is exploiting 90 per cent of our water resources. They are building settlements on our land, they are causing hardship for our movement of goods and people which resulted in heavy losses to the Palestinian economy.

ANNE BARKER: In fact, the report estimates that without the occupation the Palestinian economy would triple in size. Meaning the PA could provide for its own people without having to depend on foreign aid. Minister Hasan Abu-Libdeh says it’s a strong argument for ending the occupation and effectively proves Israel’s real motive for occupation is more about economic gain than security.

HASAN ABU-LIBDEH: It’s not only occupying Palestine for ideological reasons but it’s also occupying Palestine for economic reasons.

ANNE BARKER: The Israeli government has refused to discuss the report’s detail, but a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Ilana Stein, spoke to The World Today.

ILANA STEIN: We don’t want to talk about this or that claim of theirs because it’s besides the point. The issue is what are we going to do to resolve our problems?

ANNE BARKER: I mean is it beside the point though, the Palestinians say that this report is proof that Israel has a much larger economic interest than a security interest in occupying the Palestinian territories.

ILANA STEIN: Our main interest in this is to resolve this problem, the conflict, and having solutions and resolutions will be much better.

PETER CAVE: Ilana Stein, from Israel’s Foreign Ministry, speaking to our Middle East correspondent Anne Barker in Jerusalem.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Analysts: Arab Spring, Christian Minority Autumn

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 30 — The transitional phase currently being experienced by a number of Arab countries is raising questions over the fate of Christian minorities who fear that radical Islam could come to power. These fears have led certain Christian leaders to defend some of the old regimes who portray themselves as protectors of minorities in the Middle East. Some observers quoted by the Middle East Online website say that the only guarantee for Christians comes through taking part in the process of democratic change, with all the risks that this entails, whether in terms of extremism or of general chaos.

“Christians are afraid of the future,” says Abdullah Abu Habib, the chair of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs and a former Lebanese ambassador. “Extremist Islamic forces are very strong, as are new democratic forces, but the stabilisation of democracy takes a long time”.

“We are looking at a transitional phase that it long enough to empty the Middle East of its minorities,” he continues. Abu Habib, who is also the deputy chair of the Maronite League in Lebanon, says that events in Iraq, from Saddam Hussein to the current democracy where security is lacking, represents the real source of worry for minorities. Clerical figures and research centres put the number of Christians in Iraq before the US-led invasion of 2003 at between 800,000 and 1.2 million, though the current figure does not exceed half a million. Many have fled the country due to the violence.

“Minorities are the weakest link in the social chain,” Abu Habib says. “They sometimes side with regimes who ensure their security, but are far from scorning change towards democracy”.

Despite the role played by Copts in the Egypt’s January 25 revolution, there have been many clashes between Egyptian Christian and Islamic fundamentalist groups, such as those in May in which 20 people died. In Syria, where Christians have traditionally entertained good relations with the regime, some now fear reprisals if Sunni fundamentalists come to power.

These fears were recently expressed by Bishara Al Rai, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, who underlined the risk of Islamic extremists coming to power and expressed his fears over the fate of Christians during the phase of transition.

“We see the model of democracy in Iraq,” Al Rai says, “where democracy has turned into civil war causing the migration of Christians”.

Christians in the Middle East look enviously at those in Lebanon, as the latter enjoy greater freedom in general and political freedom in particular. The Lebanese constitution guarantees Christians, who today have fallen to a figure of 35% of the population, a number of official positions, chief among them the role of Lebanese President, the Arab world’s only Christian President.

Some 20 million people out of 356 million living in the Arab world are Christian. Of these, 5 million are Catholic, according to the Synod for the Middle East organised by the Vatican in 2010. Egyptian Copts represent between 6 and 8% of the country’s population, an estimated 80 million. There are 200,000 Christians in Jordan, 57,000 in the Palestinian Territories and 143,000 in Israel, while the percentage in Syria, a country with a population of 22 million, is between 5 and 10%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Turkey’s House of Cards

To the naked eye, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to be moving from strength to strength. Erdogan was welcomed as a hero on his recent trip to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. The Arabs embraced him as the new face of the war against Israel.

The Obama administration celebrates Turkey as a paragon of Islamic democracy. The Obama administration cannot thank Erdogan enough for his recent decision to permit NATO to station the US X-Band missile shield on its territory. The US is following Turkey’s lead in contending with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s massacre of his people…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Threats Against Vendors of Alcohol in South

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, SEPTEMBER 30 — Protests have been made and threats issued over recent months against Christian-run shops that sell alcoholic beverages in the South of Lebanon, a ‘feudal’ territory ‘belonging’ to the Shiite Islamic Hezbollah movement and its militias.

In the latest case reported by the Marakaziya agency, a young tradesperson received anonymous threats in the post with a warning that they should close down their shop in Kferwe’, in the Nabatiyeh region.

A report in today’s edition of L’Orient le Jour states that the 24-year-old shopkeeper, identified by the surname of Yaacoub, immediately reported the incident to the police, who have opened an enquiry into the incident. Meanwhile, “inhabitants of the Christian-majority village have expressed their solidarity with him”. The young man has now moved to Kferwe’ after closing another shop in Nabatiyeh after a demonstration was organised against him in that town.

Over the past few days, another shopkeeper selling alcoholic products in Houla, in the province of Marjeyoun, saw his shop being targeted by a group of unknown persons throwing empty beer bottles.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Govt Lifts Suspension on ‘Luxury Goods’ Imports

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, OCTOBER 4 — After strong pressure from Damascus and Aleppo traders and entrepreneurs, Syrian authorities have today decided to abrogate a law which had just come into force on suspending imports of what are considered luxury goods, such as cars and industrial machinery. This was reported by the official agency SANA with a communiqué from the Cabinet which met this morning in Damascus. The measure, which included all foreign products whose customs duties are equal to or over 5%, was announced last week by Economy and Trade Minister Muhammad al Shaar with the stated objective of limiting the exit of heavy currency from the country, suffering under a number of packages of Western economic sanctions. Business circles in Damascus and Aleppo, traditionally loyal to the Assad family in power for 40 years, had over the past few days expressed their fears of a collapse of their activities and a resulting deterioration in the already precarious economic and social situation of Syria, shaken for the past almost seven months by protests the likes of which had not previously been seen.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Putin Unveils Counter-EU Option for Post-Soviet States

With EU-Ukraine association talks on the rocks, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has unveiled a new plan to pull former Soviet countries into a “Eurasian Union” instead. Putin outlined his ideas in an op-ed in Russian daily Izvestia on Tuesday (4 October). Noting that Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are already pressing ahead with plans to form a Customs Union and a Single Economic Space, he said the bloc will in future become a fully-fledged “Eurasian Union” with joint economic governance, common institutions and passport-free travel on the EU model.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

The Puppet President: Medvedev’s Betrayal of Russian Democracy

Dmitry Medvedev shocked Russians with his announcement that he was ceding the presidency back to Vladimir Putin. It is now clear that Medvedev was never more than a placeholder for his mentor, and his supposed plans to modernize Russia were little more than empty soundbites. Indeed, Medvedev may have damaged the country even more than Putin has.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Tracks in the Snow: Experts Gather for Siberian Yeti Conference

Large footprints in the snow have long fueled speculation that a mysterious beast lives in the icy wastelands of East Asia. Now a team of experts is gathering in a remote Russian town to examine the alleged existence of the creature known as the Yeti, promising “surprising findings.”

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

South Asia

From Businessmen to Housewives, A Movement for the “Islamization” of Asia

The group aims to create a global Caliphate, uniting all Muslims under Shariah. Where al Qaeda has failed, a group in expansion from China to Indonesia may succeed. It attracts members of the middle class, elite intellectuals and women, targeting the secular and democratic system “from within”.

Jakarta (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The Islamic movement Hizbut Tahrir, already present in many nations of the world, could succeed where the project of setting up al-Qaeda terror network created by Osama bin Laden failed to become a supranational body, capable of spreading a radical vision of Islam and unite the Muslims around the world (in a Caliphate), under Shariah (Islamic law). To reach their goal, the group’s leaders have identified a target of people thus far relegated — often — to the edge of the fight against extremism: university students, businessmen, professionals, engineers and even housewives. A network composed of white collar fundamentalist and a far cry from the image of the illiterate, poor fighter raised according to the fanatical jihadist version of the teachings of the Koran.

Active in 45 countries in the world today the Hizbut Tahrir movement is expanding, especially in Asia, spreading the radical Muslim vision from Malaysia to China. It is aimed at middle and upper classes, the elite leadership and while its project of the creation of an Islamic “umma” still seems far away, it is already undermines governments’ struggle to control extremism and promote a system of democratic government, as is clearly the case in Indonesia.

Rochmat Labib, president of the wing of the Indonesian group, reveals that the plan over the next five or 10 years is to “strengthen the people’s lack of confidence” in what he calls the regime, or the government in Jakarta. “That’s what we are doing — adds the Islamic leader — to convert people from democracy, secularism and capitalism to Islamic ideology.” Meanwhile, the Hizbut Tahrir — which means “Party of Liberation” — is growing exponentially in the United States, having long operated in the shadows since its beginnings dating back to the early 90s.

Banned in some countries, the movement is legal in many others including the USA, Great Britain, Australia and Indonesia. In many cases it operates at the limits of legality and is now aiming to spread especially in Asia, from Malaysia, Pakistan, to China where it is accused by Beijing of fomenting the Uyghur riots in Xinjiang. It is also the most popular and persecuted radical Islamic group in Central Asia.

Asked about the situation in China Zhang Jiadong, of Fudan University, calls the group one of the “most dangerous terrorist organizations,” because it exerts a greater influence “on the common people.” Hizbut Tahrir has at least 20 thousand followers in China and “more than terrorist attacks, it foments revolts and mass movements.” For the U.S. State Department, however, it could provide “indirect” support for terrorism, but there is “no evidence” that it has orchestrated any attacks. It is more likely that its members have led attacks under the “guidance” of other fundamentalist groups. Documents published recently show that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the massacres of September 11, had ties to Hizbut Tahrir, also the former head of al Qaeda in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi apparently has contacts with the movement, but of these two figures there is no certain and irrefutable evidence.

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

India: Rudrapur Killings: Muslim Leaders Demand Punishment for Guilty Officials

New Delhi: Muslim leaders unanimously condemned police firing at a crowd of Muslims who were protesting against the desecration of Holy Quran in Rudrapur town of Udham Singh Nagar district in Uttarakhand. Four people were killed and scores wounded in the firing on October 2. The Muslim leaders have demanded the state government to punish guilty police officials and to give proper compensation to the affected families.

Shahi Imam of Delhi Jama Masjid, Maulana Ahmad Bukhari while condemning the incident demanded high level inquiry and proper rehabilitation of the victims. “Muslims should not adopt violent ways in response to the provoking acts by miscreants because they first provoke Muslims then as per pre-planned program they destroy properties and lives of Muslims with the help of communal minded Police. If there is anything wrong, consult to regional Muslim leaders who should take it to the authorities” he advised.

“The killings of Muslims by Police in Forbesganj of Bihar, in Gopalgarh of Rajasthan and in Rudrapur of Uttrakhand are enough to prove that governments are neglecting the problems of Muslims and police are becoming biased against Muslims. This is very harmful for inclusive progress of the country which we are dreaming” said Nusrat Ali, secretary general of Jamaat-e- Islami Hind.

Dr. Manzoor Alam, General Secretary of All India Milli Council, while condoling the families of victims in Rudrapur riots, demanded from the government a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh to the families of each killed and Rs. 5 lakh to each injured besides, government job to one member of each family. He said that police was the real culprits for the incident because they did not act though Muslims complained about the desecration of holy Quran.

“If Police had acted rightly, the violence would not have erupted but once again Police showed its biased attitude and opened fire at Muslims while mischief mongers were allowed to attack on Muslims. Therefore, we demand from the government that guilty Police official should be dismissed and they should be booked with criminal case for their partial acts” demanded MP Maulana Asrarul Haque Qasmi, the General Secretary of All India Talimi Milli Foundation.

He demanded the Central Government to take stringent action against communal forces who want to create communal tension all over the country. “Gopalgarh riot and now Rudrapur riots are indicating that how anti-social forces are disturbing the communal harmony of the country. So, it should take it seriously and act against them severely “he added.

Maulana Usman Mansoorpuri, President of Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, has demanded the suspension of DM, SP, DSP of Udham Singh Nagar district and all other police officials who failed to control the Rudrapur incident. “The repeated incident of communal riots in the country strengthens our demand to hold administration responsible for the communal riot because either in Gopalgarh or Rudrapur the Police worsened the matter instead of controlling it. Therefore we urge the UPA government to get passed the Communal Violence Bill with the provision to hold authorities accountable for the riots” he added.

On October 2, communal violence gripped the Rudrapur town of Udham Singh Nagar district of Uttrakhand after a copy of Quran was desecrated by some anti-social elements. When police did not act to nab the guilty, Muslims came out on the road to protest. Police started lathi charge to disperse the protestors which resulted stone pelting from the protestors. Then police opened fire at them killing four and injuring score of others. The mob of non-Muslims also joined the attack on Muslims and they looted shops of Muslims in the market. After the incident curfew was imposed and security was tightened in the town.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

India: Rudrapur Riots: 4 Deaths, Widespread Looting Reported

RAMPUR: Four people have been killed in communal violence that began in Rudrapur, Uttrakhand yesterday. The violence began when Muslims protested against sacrilege of Quran. Reports suggest that tens of Muslim shops have been torched by mobs trying to destroy Muslim business establishments in the city.

The deaths were caused by indiscriminate police firing on Muslims who were protesting the desecration of the Muslim’s holy book, the Quran. Locals say the violence was preplanned and that this was not the first instance of desecration of the Quran. It was second such instance in a few weeks and people came out to protest against the police inaction in this regard.

Mohammad Nasir, a resident of Rudrapur was reported by India’s leading Urdu newspaper Rashtriya Sahara as saying, “the situation here is very critical. Arsonists are torching Muslim shops and houses one by one. They seem to have details of Muslim business establishments and shops. The condition is deteriorating rapidly. No action has been taken on desecration of the Holy Quran and when Muslims protested, police fired on them. Last month there was another incident when Quran was put on fire after putting an animal’s meat on it. So far five Muslims have been killed and more than three hundred people are still stuck inside the Jama Masjid here.”

Another Rudrapur resident Zamir Khan was quoted by Sahara as saying, “the desecration of the holy book was well planned. Last morning Muslims took out a procession to protest against it under the leadership of Barelvi leader Maulana Zahid Raza Khan. Muslims who were provoked started pelting stone. The police fired indiscriminately against them. Rioters seem to be everywhere. They are attacking Muslim shops and houses in large numbers and police are nowhere visible. Meanwhile curfew has been imposed on the city and police say condition is under control. Industrial production is likely to be affected tomorrow as a majority of factory workers live in Rudrapur town which is under curfew, said Udhamsingh Nagar District Magistrate B V R Purushottam.”The curfew has been clamped to deal with the situation in Rudrapur town where four to five shops and scores of vehicles have been torched,” said Purushotam said.

District administration has confirmed two deaths and the DM said they are trying to verify if there were any more deaths.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

India: Periodical Reveals Truth on Malabar Muslims

MALAPPURAM: To much of the amazement of the historians, a recently unearthed fortnightly in the extinct Arabic-Malayalam language reveals that the Muslim community in Malabar was very much concerned about the developments in different sectors of the Ottoman Empire and countries such as Syria during the 1890s.

Named ‘Salahul Ikhwan’, the four-page periodical edited by C Seythalikutty was published during the 1890s and 1900s from Tirur in the Muslim-dominated areas of the erstwhile Malabar province. It was also published in some parts of Tamil Nadu, Ceylon and Singapore as per the subscription tariffs. “This periodical had a very detailed and vibrant foreign news section which informed the readers mainly about the developments in the Ottoman Empire,” says Dr K K Abdul Sathar, head of the history department at PSMO College, Tirurangadi, who has analysed the contents of this rare catch among the Arabic-Malayalam literature in his collection.

Interestingly, a report in the foreign news section goes like this: “It is learnt that the Ottoman Empire has paid back 1,93,000 sovereigns which was the pending war penalty to be given to Russia.” Another news item gives an account of the severe plague outbreak in the Empire. As per the report, three doctors were sent to Bombay to understand how a similar outbreak was contained there. In another issue, there is a box news item telling that the Empire has made an additional revenue of about ‘2 lakh from its forest assets. A report in the same section of another issue tells the readers that Syria suffered heavily from an 18-hour continuous rain.

According to Dr Abdul Sathar, these show the strong pan Islamic concerns of the Muslim community in Malabar during the period. “The fact that a community which is often considered ignorant and less-educated had once closely followed the incidents in foreign countries indicates the global outlook of the society existed here during the time,” he said. The periodical, slightly bigger than a tabloid, had advertisements on the front page, mainly of its sister publications. As per the tariffs published in it, a one liner ad costed one anna and three paise, while a column ad costed three annas for a day and ‘30 for a month. A separate column devoted for local news comprised reports from different parts of Malabar. Question and answer series, a detailed article which resembled an editorial and travelogues constituted the oldest Arabic-Malayalam periodical unearthed till date.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Radical Islam Infiltrating Top Universities Says Counter-Terror Agency

Jakarta, 3 Oct. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Radicalism has found its way into several of Indonesia’s top universities, according to the national counter-terrorism Agency (BNPT) .says.

“We are seeing a massive increase in radicalism. It is penetrating some top-quality and favourite universities such as [the University of Indonesia] and [the Bandung Institute of Technology],” BNPT chief Ansyaad Mbai said Tuesday.

Mbai added that he had received reports from several university leaders about radical movements within their institutions.

“BNPT has received reports from rectors, deans and rector’s assistants concerning issues of radicalism at their campuses,” he said.

Radicalism had not only been found among students studying religion, but also students of other faculties such as engineering, mathematics and science, Ansyaad said.

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

Religious Powder Keg Sizzles in Indonesia

JAKARTA — More than a decade after Christian-Muslim clashes killed thousands and displaced as many as half a million people across Indonesia’s Maluku Islands, a new wave of sectarian violence threatens renewed instability in the remote, religiously mixed two provinces. The violence erupted on September 11 after a fatal traffic accident involving a ojek (motorcycle-taxi) driven by a Muslim teenager and an automobile driven by a Christian. The ojek driver died from his injuries while he was being rushed to a local hospital.

After the accident, a text message from an unknown source spread false claims that the ojek driver had been tortured to death by a group of Christians. The text message was then sent on from the Maluku island of Ambon to Surabaya, Solo, and other metropolitan areas in Java, Indonesia’s most populated island and center of political power.

When the funeral of the ojek driver concluded the next day, groups of Muslims, including the victim’s family, approached a group of Christians in Ambon. The groups first traded insults and slurs, then began throwing rocks, and finally drew machetes and began fighting, according to news reports. Rioters set fire to houses, cars and motorcycles despite warning shots fired by local police. Seven people were killed, 65 were injured and over 200 buildings were destroyed in the orgy of violence, according to news reports. While the unrest subsided the following day, rumors that Islamic jihadists in Java planned to instigate further attacks put government authorities on alert. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono dispatched more than 400 Special Forces personnel to beef up security in Ambon, the main island in the Maluku archipelago.

In East Java, security officials in Surabaya’s main Tanjung Perak port inspected all travelers bound for Ambon. Metal detectors were set up to detect any smuggled weapons bound for the Malukus and many seizures of small weapons were made. The same procedures were carried out in several traditional fishing ports in Ponorogo, Pasuruan, Banyuwangi, Gresik, which are all in East Java province.

The Indonesian Council of Ulema, meanwhile, issued a public message to discourage Muslim organizations from sending their supporters to Ambon in the name of jihad. The head of the organization’s East Java branch said, “We guarantee no Muslim organizations will be provoked to go to Ambon. We have to sit down together and discuss the situation.” It’s unclear, however, whether Ulema’s vows of non-violence will carry over to Indonesia’s radical Islamist organizations, including the Islamic Defenders Front, known for violence and intolerance. The previous jihad in Ambon, which lasted from 1999 to 2002 and led to the permanent segregation of previously integrated Christian-Muslim communities, was launched mainly from Java.

Thousands of Javanese jihadists funded and organized by the militant group Laskar Jihad traveled from Java to Ambon to fight what they viewed as Christian persecution of Muslims. Laskar Jihad’s raison d’etre, like the terror organization Jemaah Islameeyah, was to convert secular Indonesia into an Islamic state in the wake of authoritarian leader Suharto’s fall from power in 1998.

However, the jihadists of the late 1990s and those of today come from distinctly different backgrounds, despite their shared goal of imposing sharia law and creating an Islamic state. The jihadists of the 1990s were radicalized by their experiences supporting and fighting in Afghanistan against occupying Soviet Union forces. In Indonesia, their local jihad was fueled by repression under the secular, autocratic Suharto regime that collapsed after 32 years in the wake of pro-democracy protests.

In comparison, the current generation of jihadists have risen in a democratic era and have been radicalized by the US-led “war on global terror”. Their sympathies are with international and regional jihadi movements, such as al-Qaeda and the homegrown Jemaah Islameeyah, which stands accused of staging several terror attacks against Western targets in Indonesia.

They are known to be influenced by the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but are particularly motivated by the Indonesian government’s Western-backed counter-terrorism efforts. The government upended a terrorist training camp in the province of Aceh were recruits were reportedly being trained to stage an assassination attempt against Yudhoyono.

Historical roots

However, the roots of Ambon’s Christian-Muslim conflict runs much deeper than the 1980s or 1990s. In the 1950s, Ambon was the center of an uprising against Indonesian rule instigated by the breakaway Republic of South Maluku, which continues to exist in exile in the Netherlands and sporadically supports demonstrations in the Malukus.

During the colonial era, the Dutch created social schisms out of what was then a diverse but largely harmonious population. More than 350 years ago, when the Dutch arrived in the Malukus, then known as the Spice Islands, the colonialists encountered a mix of local animistic traditions, Muslim communities along the major trade routes, and Catholic communities that had been converted by the Portuguese prior to the Dutch’s arrival.

The Dutch converted the Catholics to Protestantism and then favored them in the spice trade by hiring them as administrators in their colonial civil service. They also rewarded them with parcels of the most fertile lands. The Ambon Protestants even fought on the side of the Dutch in the Indonesian war for independence (1945-1949) and they later evolved into the Maluku independence movement.

Significantly, Laskar Jihad exploited for nationalistic purposes the Protestants’ history of promoting separatism in their call for fighters to take up arms against Christians in the late 1990s. Based on the recent violent events in Ambon, there are fears that history could be repeated under a new generation of jihadists.

On September 28, a group known as the Indonesian Mujahideen posted a message on the radical website Forum Islam al-Busyro that not only vented anger over the Ambon riots but also claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a Protestant church in Solo city in revenge for the killings of Muslims in Ambon.

The message hailed “our noble brother Yosepa Ahmad Hayat who has sacrificed himself for the mission. May Allah accept it as one of His Martyrs.” Yosepa Ahmad Hayat was the suicide bomber who blew himself up at the church in Solo days after the Ambon riots. The message also said, “We came up with a little explosion to shake the throne of your [the Indonesian government] apostasy… To defend our brothers who were massacred in Ambon, our brothers who you killed in the ambushes by Detachment 88 [an elite counter-terrorism unit], and the brothers that you put behind bars simply because they deny you, the apostate government…”

What was initially an ordinary traffic accident between a Muslim and a Christian in Ambon risks morphing into a rallying call for Indonesia’s jihadists to take up arms against the government. The incident has provided extremists an excuse to reinvigorate their jihad despite widespread signs they have little support among the moderate masses.

Indonesian counter-terrorism forces have in recent years made significant gains in disrupting and dismantling extremist organizations prone to violence. The exploitation of the recent traffic accident in Ambon is thus more clearly a sign of jihadists’ growing desperation than rising strength. While some are still motivated to stir violence on religious lines, it’s clear most Indonesians remain faithful to a secular, democratic republic.

Jacob Zenn is a graduate of Georgetown Law’s Global Law Scholars program and was a State Department Critical Language Scholar in East Java in summer 2011. He writes about security issues in Southeast Asia and works as an international affairs consultant for companies based in Washington DC.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Backlash Over Aboriginal Juvenile Crime Rates

The head of the Aboriginal Legal Service has accused the WA Police Commissioner of inciting racial hatred after he spoke out about the high rate of Aboriginal juveniles involved in home burglaries. The Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan has released figures showing juvenile crime is spiralling upwards and 50 per cent of burglaries are committed by people 18 or under. He says what is more alarming is that Aboriginal youths represent 61 per cent of those juveniles. “Given that Aboriginal people make up about two per cent of our population in Western Australia that is a staggering over-representation in that age group and we have to stop that from occurring,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

How I Became a Monster

Ever wondered how it would feel to have a pack of journalists write about you? Especially one drooling to see in you the very worst?

I thought it would hurt a lot more.

Sure, it’s bad at first, but there comes a point when the hypocrisy, malice and sheer invention become so bizarre — especially from some members of the Leftist “elite” media — that you have to laugh.

For me, that point came on Monday, five days after being found to have breached the Racial Vilification Act for writing about fair-skinned Aborigines, by which time I’d read that I was actually a “Lying Dutchman” (Sydney Morning Herald) from the “outback” (The Monthly) of a country I’d never written about “with passion” (The Age), since I was confused about my identity and clung to “an archaic notion of European culture” (The Age).

I’d read that it was “the neo-Calvinist faith instilled by (my) Dutch father” (Crikey) which made me obsessed with the purity of the “Master Race” (The Age) and convinced that Aborigines were an “inferior race” which got “too much support” (The Age).

By Monday I’d even acquired a “former fiancee” (The Monthly) who next issue will help explain how I changed from the “‘introverted, restless, romantic’, with strong ethics” she’d reportedly known into this thing with dreadful views I never knew I had.

Naturally, I blamed my wife for this transformation — from a Byronic figure into a “serpent” (The Age) and “egomaniacal lackwit” with a “soft, white, privileged a—- “ (Brisbane Times) who “prefers his darkies dark” (SMH) — but oddly enough she wasn’t in a laughing mood.

Trying hard to see the upside, I boasted to my eldest son, a Mad Men fan, that at least I was now a man with a Hidden Past, the Don Draper of journalism, but he just smirked and said nothing would convince him I wasn’t boring.

I then rang Dad to blame him for having preached into me these racist notions during my most formative years (which I’d falsely imagined were spent in suburban Elizabeth and Darwin), but he just laughed, before asking why I’d never told him I’d been engaged before.

I accused him in turn of pretending to me for decades that he was an agnostic refugee from the Uniting Church, when I’d read in Crikey he was actually a Calvinist bigot whose faith’s “obsessions with purity … rolled over into racial terms when the Dutch acquired empires”. Dad just laughed again, and suddenly it all became clear.

In a media-pack attack like this, driven so much by ideology, the target of all this superheated venting just vanishes. I’ve been replaced by a make-believe monster so cartoonish that no one of sense could possibly believe it.

So, readers, if one day you find yourself in my position, remember these words and take comfort from One Who Knows.

I unwillingly became that One because last week a judge found I breached the Racial Discrimination Act for what I wrote — and how — about Aborigines of fair skin.

I’d said such Aborigines could also choose to identify with other parts of their ancestry or heritage, as well as their Aboriginal one. Or they could simply call themselves human beings, race irrelevant, which was my preference.

I’d stupidly imagined this was a stirring appeal to look beyond the differences of “race”, but Justice Mordecai Bromberg of the Federal Court has ruled that such arguments, in the way that I put them, are against the “values” of the RDA, since “people should be free to fully identify with their race without fear of public disdain or loss of esteem”.

Moreover, he ruled, it was factual error to claim that any of the nine “fair-skinned” Aborigines who took me to court had a choice in how they identified themselves — and this included the woman whose own sister did not identify as Aboriginal.

Now, normally you’d expect journalists to unite in defending our right to debate such matters — or almost anything touching on important social or political issues.

But the temptation to whack a conservative foe proved too tempting.

The Age spoke for many commentators within Fairfax and the ABC, by insisting this ruling was not a blow against free speech, but just against my “sloppy journalism”.

Hadn’t the judge said exactly that? Hadn’t I lost my defence of fair comment in part because his Honour found I’d included “untruthful facts”?

The Age, in its editorial justifying this decision, identified just one of those errors — the one routinely used by my critics to claim all my pieces on “fair-skinned Aborigines” can be dismissed as “racist garbage” (SMH).

AS The Age put it: “The European ancestry (Bolt) supplied for them was sometimes wildly off the mark: for example, he wrote that Aboriginal lawyer and academic Larissa Behrendt looked as German as her father — yet her father was Aboriginal and dark-skinned.”

I did indeed make a mistake to say Paul Behrendt was German. But does that really destroy my argument?

Unfortunately, the judgment against me suggests it may be against the law for me to argue that it does not.

For one, the judge ruled that Paul Behrendt, whose own father came from Europe and whose mother died when he was just four, was actually an “Aboriginal” with “dark” skin, so it would be dangerous to debate these points with The Age.

All I dare do is urge you to do a Google search for the obituary the SMH published on Behrendt’s death. Also check the picture.

I won’t pretend that’s the only mistake the judge identified in my work.

Here’s another: “Mr Bolt wrote that Ms Cole was raised by her English-Jewish or English mother …That statement is factually inaccurate because Ms Cole’s Aboriginal grandmother also raised Ms Cole and was highly influential in Ms Cole’s identification as an Aboriginal.”

Again, I do not dare argue against this finding or about its significance. All I suggest is that you Google search “Andrew Bolt on Trial: Bunjilaka” for the video Cole made with Melbourne Museum, showing her grandmother — and in the privacy of your own home reach your own conclusions.

But the judge found one more problem with the way I wrote about these fair-skinned Aboriginal lawyers, academics, authors and former bureaucrats. I’d also used “sarcasm and mockery” and been “offensive”, and that, with my opinions and “untruthful facts” is why my articles were unlawful.

That sarcasm and mockery led a former Age editor and now journalism academic to declare that for this alone he’d have never run my articles.

But I wonder, if sarcasm, mockery and errors are crimes, how many dozens of the journalists writing about me this past week should be in the dock, too?

There’s even racist abuse there, such as “Lying Dutchman”.

Don’t these geese realise this is about their free speech, too, as they gloat around my scaffold?

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Rebels Kill Scores in Somali Capital Blast

MOGADISHU (Reuters) — Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked rebels struck at the heart of the capital on Tuesday, killing scores of people with a truck bomb in the group’s most deadly attack in the country since launching an insurgency in 2007.

Mogadishu’s ambulance coordinator Ali Muse said at least 70 people had been killed by the blast. The African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM) said the attack had claimed “scores of lives.”

The AU force said a truck laden with drums of fuel rammed a checkpoint outside a compound housing government ministries in the K4 (Kilometer 4) area of Mogadishu, where students had gathered to register for scholarships offered by Turkey.

The al Shabaab insurgents who carried out the attack later warned Somalis to stay away from government buildings and military bases. “More serious blasts are coming,” spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told reporters.

The twisted axle from the exploded truck lay on blackened soil. A body draped with a red shawl lay nearby. People used corrugated iron, rugs and white sheeting to carry corpses away from the devastation at a normally bustling junction.

Ambulances rushed to and fro past twisted, charred trees and a burned out car. Hundreds of parents stood weeping outside the Madina Hospital in Mogadishu after being denied access for security reasons and nurses said they were overwhelmed.

“I was among the first people to arrive here moments after the explosion. I looked around and reassured those who were still alive,” said witness Halma Abdi.

Britain slammed the blast as “callous” while France said it was a “vile terrorist attack” and reasserted its support for the country’s U.N.-backed transitional government.

The U.N. special envoy to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, said he was deeply saddened by the senseless, cowardly attack.

“It is very difficult to prevent these types of terrorist attacks which we have consistently warned are likely to be on the increase,” he said.

The government said no senior officials were hurt in the attack on the ministry buildings.


Al Shabaab insurgents pulled most of their fighters out of Mogadishu in August allowing government troops and African Union soldiers to seize much of the capital. But the rebels vowed to still carry out attacks on government installations.

“AMISOM still considers al Shabaab as a terrible group and will work with other partners to stop their horrible attacks on civilians,” the AU force spokesman Paddy Ankunda said.

The blast flattened kiosks near the compound and a charred body lay near a blazing car. Debris from the explosion landed hundreds of meters away.

Scores of people with burns walked to a nearby hospital and police were trying to evacuate more students trapped inside the damaged buildings. Doctors said they were shocked by the number of casualties, in a city that has endured years of violence.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said more than 90 people, including five women and nine children, had been admitted to the Madina Hospital, many with burns and fractures.

Some analysts said they were worried the blast might prompt international agencies helping famine victims in Somalia to pull out, leaving operations in the hands of local organizations prone to corruption or theft by militias.

“Most humanitarian agencies were complaining about a lack of security and this might put off international agencies from going anywhere near Mogadishu now,” said Hamza Mohamed, a London-based Somali analyst. “This is my worst fear now.”

[Return to headlines]

Terror: Somalia, Libya May be Sign of US Military Action to Come, Expert Says

(AKI) -The toppling of Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year-old dictatorship was an apparent victory for rebels who fought together for six months with Nato support. Less obvious is that its success may signal Washington’s military strategy of minimising the risk of losing American lives by using naval and air forces in conjunction with “proxy” militaries during global interventions, according to a report by independent military correspondent David Axe published on the website of The Diplomat, a current-affairs magazine.

Dubbed “offshore balancing,” the strategy has been used for years in Somalia in the wake of the US withdrawal from the African country after the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu when 19 US and UN troops died during a disastrous humanitarian mission. The televised images of dead American servicemen being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu and the protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has caused the war-fatigued American public to sour on dropping troops into new conflicts.

“Instead, the United States pursued separate air, naval and proxy ground campaigns that, today, have combined into a major demonstration of offshore balancing — but not without some serious hiccups along the way,” according to Axe.

When Islamists took control of much of Somalia it was with a mix of moderate and hard-line rulers. But following the Sept. 11 attacks by Al-Qaeda on the US, Washington frowned on Islamists and backed Ethiopia with air cover when it invaded Somalia in 2006. The move radicalised the Islamist movement and opened the way for closer ties between Islamist Al Shabab and Al-Qaeda, Axe said.

The US shifted tactics. While supporting a coalition of African troops led by Uganda, it used offshore special forces to fly in to Somalia and strike against terrorist operatives. American offshore ships had been used to patrolling against pirates whose business was Somalia’s top source of revenue. Al Shabab’s went into financial straits after the US successfully severed international electronic money transfers that replenished the group’s coffers. Desperate for cash, it reversed an earlier assertion that piracy was un-Islamic and this year formed an alliance and started taking a cut if its profits.

“When the pirates allied with Al Shabab this year, the counter-piracy naval patrols became a de facto part of the counter-terrorism campaign. With that unification of once-separate efforts, offshore balancing for Somalia finally, and fully, coalesced,” the essay said.

“Make no mistake: The United States is at war in Somalia, and will likely only deepen its involvement as the present famine worsens. But that won’t mean large troop deployments as in 1992. Today’s intervention is unlike anything that was possible 19 years ago.”

The use of proxy armies and offshore bases for special forces has cost the US little in terms of its own blood, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a protracted conflict.

The US’ offshore balancing in Somalia is five years old and “could continue for years,” according to Axe. But this is one US conflict that seems like it might never end. As an exercise in offshore balancing, US assistance for Libyan rebels might end up seeming deceptively easy, inexpensive and, at just six months, shockingly brief.”

The apparent lesson from Libya is that offshore balancing is easy for Washington. Somalia reminds us that it’s not always so — that even wars fought mostly by ships, planes, Special Forces and foreign proxies are still wars. They’re ugly, complicated and risky.”

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


And Now the Muslims Attack the Cross on the Swiss Flag

Il Giornale, September 28 2011

A major campaign is about to start. It is staged by thelobby of Muslim immigrants in Switzerland, who, by now, account for 5 per cent of the Swiss population, i.e. 400,000 people. Their aim is to eliminate the historical brand of this Country, the cross on the flag. “This symbol is an offense against multiculturalism” says Ivica Petrusic, President of Second@plus, a lobby of second generation immigrants. She proposes a flag with the green, red and yellow colors of the 1799 Helvetian Republic. She insists, “this new flag would be similar to that of Bolivia and Ghana. It would represent a more progressive and open Switzerland”. Who knows. In the meantime, Muslim parents have obtained from a Court a decision to allow their children to attend swimming classes wearing “burkinis”, a piece of clothing that covers the whole body. And women try to go to work wearing their hijab.

But Switzerland doesn’t seem very progressive for its identity: a group of supermarkets has dared banning the hijab during working hours, triggering an outcry; the Secretary of the Basel community was condemned for incitement to violence when he said on TV that women must be beaten up when they are not disciplined under the Sharia law. A 66 year-old woman in Berne was given (only) a three-year and six-month sentence for having encouraged the father and the brothers of her daughter—in-law to kill her for having violated their honor. And it is well known that Switzerland rejected the construction of minarets with a referendum: 57.5 per cent vs. 42.5.

Here comes the great battle for the flag: will the flag manage to keep its cross? Or even the red penknife?

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

Hispanic Students Vanishing From Alabama Schools After Immigration Crackdown

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Hispanic students have started vanishing from Alabama public schools in the wake of a court ruling that upheld the state’s tough new law cracking down on illegal immigration.

Education officials say scores of immigrant families have withdrawn their children from classes or kept them home this week, afraid that sending the kids to school would draw attention from authorities.

There are no precise statewide numbers. But several districts with large immigrant enrollments — from small towns to large urban districts — reported a sudden exodus of children of Hispanic parents, some of whom told officials they planned to leave the state to avoid trouble with the law, which requires schools to check students’ immigration status.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Lampedusa: Tunisian Media Ignore Clashes

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 22 — With the exception of Le Temps, which only published a new agency piece on the second page highlighted by yellow half-tone, Tunisian media for the most ignored yesterday’s events on Lampedusa. Even newspapers that usually give a great deal of attention to issues concerning immigration from Tunisia to Italy — such as Le Quotidien — did not report on the clashes. The same can be said of online dailies, with the exception of Tunisie Numerique which put a brief piece on its homepage including a link to images of the clashes. The incidents on Lampedusa were however — paradoxically — highlighted on El Watan, the main French-language progressive daily in Algeria.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: ‘A Phenomenon of Demographic Invasion Without Precedent in History’

The president of the Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC), Josep Anglada, today expressed his concern about the “alarming” immigration figures reached in Spain, which, in his judgement, compromise very seriously the future of our collective identity.

“Although the data tends to be very opaque, and the numbers are prettified and attenuated, there are 6,000,000 immigrants in Spain; to those we have to add the around a million immigrants naturalised after several years of legal residence. This means 7 million foreigners in total; that is to say, more than 13% of the population living in Spain is foreign or of foreign origin. There is only one name for this: invasion,” warns Anglada.

The leader of the Spanish nationalists recalled that this “immigrant flood” occurred “in the brief period of fifteen years”, which in his opinion represents “a phenomenon of demographic invasion without precedent in history”.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

UK: Failed Asylum Seeker Who Had Four Children After Moving to UK Says Sending Her Back to China Would Violate Her Family’s Human Rights

A failed Chinese asylum seeker who has given birth to four children since coming to Britain claims her home country’s one-child policy means sending her home would violate her family’s human rights.

Xiu Fang Zhang, 34, claims her children could be taken from her if she returns to her homeland as the communist government only allows one-child families in urban areas.

Parents in some rural areas are permitted to have two children.

Mrs Zhang first came to Britain in 2003, and was refused asylum shortly after her arrival. Despite this ruling, she has remained in the country, giving birth to four children in her eight years in Britain.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Theresa May Moves to Make Deporting Criminals Easier

Theresa May will today go head-to-head with Nick Clegg over the human rights act by announcing that she wants to the immigration rules to end the abuse of “the right to a family life” — often referred to as “Article 8”. She will examine how to make clear in the immigration rules that a foreign national can be deported when he or she has been convicted of a criminal offence, has breached immigration rules and has established a family life while in the UK illegally. A conference announcement alone won’t satisfy many party activsts — but it is a start.

The “right to a family life” is set out in Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into UK law in the Human Rights Act. It often prevents the removal of foreign nationals who have been convicted of a criminal offence or breached immigration law. Every year, more than 3,200 foreign criminals, failed asylum seekers and EU “benefit tourists” use the Act to thwart Home Office attempts to remove migrants — or stop them arriving in the first place. The majority of cases use Article 8.

A Nepalese killer, Rocky Gurung, a Nepalese killer, was allowed to remain under Article 8 even although he was a single adult with no children. A Sri Lankan robber was allowed to stay as he has a girlfriend in Britain. And a Bolivian was permitted to remain to care for his pet cat. A Home Office source said that: “The Government is committed to ensuring a better balance between an individual’s right to a family life, expressed in Article Eight of the ECHR, and the wider public interest in controlling immigration.”

“We will therefore amend the immigration rules to achieve this objective. Everyone has a right under Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to respect for their private and family life, but it is not an absolute right. It is legitimate to interfere with the exercise of that right where it is in the public interest to do so, and in particular where it is necessary for public protection or for the economic well-being of the UK, which includes maintaining our immigration controls.”

The Home Office disclosed in a letter to Dominic Raab, the campaigning Conservative MP, that the equivalent of almost 600 economic migrants who had been denied a visa under the point-based system were using Article 8 to make successful appeals. Clegg said at the Liberal Democrat conference: “Let me say something really clear about the Human Rights Act. In fact I’ll do it in words of one syllable: It is here to stay.” However, the Home Secretary said last weekend that in her “personal view” the Act should be scrapped.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Book Now for 15 Oct Conference to Defend Multiculturalism [Unite Against Fascism]

A special one-day conference, titled Celebrate diversity, defend multiculturalism, oppose Islamophobia and racism, has been organised for Saturday 15 October. The conference is organised by UAF and One Society Many Cultures and supported by SERTUC — the TUC in London, the Southeast and Eastern region. It will take place at the TUC conference centre, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS. We will have more details of the conference soon.

Why we are backing the conference

Billy Hayes Communication Workers Union general secretary

Britain’s diversity offers many social, cultural and economic benefits. We must assert that we are one society with many cultures. This important event will be an opportunity to unite trade unions, faith and other communities to celebrate our multicultural heritage and oppose racism, Islamophobia and hatred.

Edie Friedman executive director, Jewish Council for Racial Equality

Britain has a proud tradition of being a haven for those fleeing persecution, tyranny and fear. We must protect that right to refuge. This timely event will celebrate the positive contribution we all make to society.

Farooq Murad secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain

Sadly, Islamophobia is an undeniable reality in our society. It is culminating in Mosques being attacked, Muslims being vilified in the media, hatred and violence being encouraged. We are committed to fight this by working with people from all walks of life. We need to celebrate diversity and promote understanding to create a just and cohesive Britain.

Michael Rosen poet and playwright

The far-right think that they can rustle up enough bullies and thugs to threaten the peace and security of Muslims. We can’t rely on the government doing anything about this. In fact, we’ve come to expect the opposite: they either keep suspiciously silent, or even worse: deliver speeches full of aggressive and prejudiced talk towards Muslim people. We need trade unionists and activists to come together to keep our streets and lives free of this danger so I welcome this conference on October 15.

Professor Danny Dorling University of Sheffield

When governments run out of good arguments to explain why their policies are hurting people they look for scapegoats. Suggesting that multiculturalism is a problem is just one way of trying to hide the fact that the rich are getting richer whilst most peoples’ living standards are falling.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Explosive Studies of Universe’s Expansion Win Nobel Prize in Physics

Three scientists have won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery that the universe is not just expanding but also picking up speed as it balloons, rather than slowing down, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Tuesday (Oct. 4).

Two teams, one headed by Saul Perlmutter of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley, and the other by Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University and Adam Riess of Johns Hopkins University and Space Telescope Science Institute, had set to work to map the universe by locating the most distant supernovas. They focused on so-called type Ia supernova, an explosion of an old compact star as hefty as the sun but as small as the Earth. The teams ultimately found 50 distant supernovas whose light was weaker than expected, meaning they were farther away than they should have been — a sign that the expansion of the universe was accelerating.

Both teams announced their discoveries in 1998. “We expected to see the universe slowing down, but instead, all the data fit a universe that is speeding up,” Riess said in 1998 while still a Miller Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UC Berkeley.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Still-Mysterious Dark Energy Takes Physics Nobel

Three cosmologists have shared a Nobel prize in physics for their discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. “The observation has changed our understanding of the universe,” said physicist Olga Botner for the Nobel prize committee at a press conference in Stockholm, Sweden. “This discovery is fundamental and a milestone for cosmology.”

The accelerated expansion has been attributed to the energy of space-time itself, dubbed dark energy. Dark energy creates a repulsive force that counters gravity and is now tearing apart space-time. It’s “dark” because physicists don’t know its exact nature. Half of this year’s prize goes to Saul Perlmutter of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, and the other half will be shared by Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University in Weston Creek, Australian Capital Territory, and Adam Riess of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Three Share Nobel Physics Prize for Research on Expansion of the Universe

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess, both American, and Brian Schmidt, a U.S.-Australian citizen, share the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics.

The trio were honored Tuesday “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe through observations of distant supernovae.”

[Return to headlines]