Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111007

Financial Crisis
»Bailouts or Bankruptcies? Europe Begins Working on Plan B for the Euro
»China: Economists Warn That Without Reforms China Will Fail
»ECB Offers New Loans to Banks in ‘Worst Crisis Since WWI’
»Greece: New Poor Seek Humanitarian Aid
»Greece: Roesler Offers Carrot, Stick for Investments
»Share Traders More Reckless Than Psychopaths, Study Shows
»U.S. Economy Added 103,000 Jobs in September; Unemployment Stays at 9.1%
»US Warns Against European ‘Gridlock’
»Caroline Glick: Justice for Jonathan Pollard
»Hertz Suspends Praying Muslim Shuttle Drivers
»Islamic Center Plan Sparks Controversy
»Michelle Obama’s Taxpayer-Funded Spending is an Embarrassment for the White House
»Mosque Madness: Lawsuits Pile Up Over Voorhies Avenue House of Worship
»Mosque Wants to Work With Neighbours
»Muslim Woman Removed From Southwest Plane to Sue
»Speaker to Share His Views on Islam
»Steve Jobs Was an Arab-American
»The Fear of a Sharia Planet
Europe and the EU
»Ancient Cave Paintings in Peril Again, Scientists Say
»Europe: Lies and Truths About the Human Rights Act
»French Suburbs Turn Away From State and Towards Islam
»Islamic (Sharia) Law in Germany, Holland and Britain
»Italy: Where Truth is Never Clear-Cut
»Melting Glaciers Reveal Ancient Artifacts
»Sweden: Malmö Mayor: Time to Try ‘Temporary’ Citizenship
»UK: Ambassador Taub Makes New Friends
»UK: Black History Month Kicks Off With Over 80 Events in Tower Hamlets
»UK: Israelis Fear Protests at Globe Shakespeare Festival
»UK: Mosque Plan Storm
»Warning Over France’s Islamic Suburbs Which Are Becoming ‘Separate Communities in a Divided Nation’
»Serbia: Italian FM: Support on Path to EU, Kosovo a Problem
North Africa
»Libya: Mantica Says Idris Represents Benghazi, Not All Libya
Israel and the Palestinians
»Ex Arafat Advisor: Palestinian State Perhaps Useless
»Yom Kippur 2011: Atonement Amid Roosters, Fish and Magic
Middle East
»Bahrein Security Forces Kill 16 Year Old Shiite
»Cautious Analyst of Change [Tarek Ramadan]
»Lebanon: Anti-Syria Front Seeks to Reassure Christians
»M.E Revolts and Arab Christians: A Justified Prudence
»Nobel Peace Prize to Tawwakol Karman, Yemeni Revolutionary
»Pat Condell’s Courageous Condemnation of Antisemitism
»Sarkozy Calls on Turkey to Acknowledge Armenian Genocide
»Spiegel Interview With Former Nuclear Watchdog: The Iranians ‘Tricked and Misled US’
»The Ottoman Empire’s Secular History Undermines Sharia Claims
»Turkish Tourism Drive Threatens Ancient Sites
»Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood Member Wins Nobel Peace Prize
South Asia
»India: Karnataka: Two New Attacks Against Pentecostal Ministers for Forced Conversions
»Making Afghanistan Safe for Sharia: Child Brides Division
»Pakistani Muslims on Strike Against the Death Sentence for the Murder of Salman Taseer
»Tajikistan Building Central Asia’s Biggest Mosque
»Tajikistan: Creeping Implementation of Parental Responsibility Law?
»Tajikistan Celebrates Giant Mosque Groundbreaking for Second Time
»Ten Years in Afghanistan: German General Says NATO Mission Has ‘Failed’
Australia — Pacific
»Local Islamists Draw on British Success in Bid for Sharia Law
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Sudan: Omar Al-Bashir’s Sudan Releases 140 Female Prisoners to Juba
Latin America
»1 in 50 Central American Men Murdered by Age 31: UN
»Defence Minister Confirms Migration Agreements With Libyan NTC
»Greece: 36,000 Illegal Caught in Evros This Year
»Italy: Farmers Association Reports Five Time More Immigrants
»‘Jaw-Dropping!’ Crab Nebula’s Powerful Beams Shock Astronomers
»Map: The Climate Change Scare Machine — the Perpetual Self-Feeding Cycle of Alarm
»Nobel Peace Prize Goes to Women’s Rights Advocates
»Out of Africa: The Origin of Donkeys
»Photo Reveals Turbulent Gas in the Void Between Stars
»Venus Has an Ozone Layer, Too
»Who Funds the Climate Alarmists?

Financial Crisis

Bailouts or Bankruptcies? Europe Begins Working on Plan B for the Euro

How should the euro zone solve its currency crisis? European capitals are currently preparing to inject fresh capital into their banks with some economists arguing that saving financial institutions would be cheaper than propping up entire countries.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

China: Economists Warn That Without Reforms China Will Fail

Wu Jinglian, a top adviser to China’s Communist leaders, attacks the government. Without political and economic reforms, China could fail.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China must reform and soon or will lose what it has gained over the past 30 years, this according Wu Jinglian. Neither a dissident nor an international analysts, Wu is one of Communist China’s foremost and most respected economists. In an article published in the Economic Information Daily, Wu criticise Beijing for back-pedalling by allowing the state sector to rule the private sector.

The 81-year-old Wu Jinglian has been advising the mainland’s top leaders since the start of Deng Xiaoping’s market-oriented economic reforms at the end of the 1970s. At present, he is a researcher at the Development Research Centre of the State Council and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference’s national committee, a top political advisory body of the government. In his article, he has called for breaking away from old ideologies and for the continued reform of state-owned enterprises.

His piece is so far the most direct attack against China’s leadership from within its ranks. The current crop of leaders is blamed for slowing the nation’s political and economic transition.

Even Premier Wen Jiabao said that more restrictions should be placed on the Communist Party’s use of power, but his words have fallen on deaf years.

This, Wu noted, has allowed state-owned enterprises to expand rapidly their monopolistic power because of administrative protection and massive credit support from the state-owned banking system. All this has had distortive effects.

For instance, in an attempt to mitigate the impact of the global financial crisis, the state banking system in 2009 provided as much as one trillion yuan worth of credit to maintain the continued growth of the economy. However, most of that money, Wu said, was given to state-owned enterprises and local governments.

This will harm the long-term health of the economy. The executives of state-owned company, who are usually political appointees, cannot match their counterparts in the private sector in terms of efficiency and profitability.

The only way out is to implement fully reforms Beijing adopted in the past three decades or so, but which it have yet to be put into full practice because of resistance from special interest groups and fears of those who clung to old ideologies.

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

ECB Offers New Loans to Banks in ‘Worst Crisis Since WWI’

The European Central Bank has announced new loans to banks amid mounting fears across Europe of a fresh credit crunch paralysing the continent’s economy. In his last press conference as president of the Frankfurt-based institution, Frenchman Jean-Claude Trichet on Thursday (6 October) said that the ECB would be providing unlimited 12-month and 13-month loans to banks and that the bank would purchase some €40 billion in covered bonds — debt securities backed by cash flows from mortgages or government loans. However, the central bank held interest rates unchanged at 1.5 percent despite increasing signs of European economic growth stalling.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Greece: New Poor Seek Humanitarian Aid

Hardest hit by the draconian budget cuts imposed by the debt crisis, the most disadvantaged Greeks are seeking health care from humanitarian NGOs. Interviewed by news web site EUobserver, Apostolos Veizis, head of Médecins Sans Frontières in Greece, says that a growing number of Greek citizens are knocking on the doors of its health centres. Implanted in the country since 1995, these are designed to care for immigrants and refugees sheltered in temporary retention centres, who do not have access to the national health care system.

“With the aggravation of the economic crisis, we are faced with the symptoms of a more serious problem,” says Veizis in the interview. “Today, retirees, the unemployed, the homeless, those infected with HIV or tuberculosis are also deprived of coverage,” he adds. “We’ve noted that the budgets of certain types of care, including public aid and the treatment of certain types of diseases are slashed by cuts of up to 80%,” Veizis says, denouncing the acute shortages of medical supplies, of medicine and of blood supplies. In addition, adds EUobserver, major pharmaceutical firms are refusing to deliver to certain hospitals for fear of not being paid.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Greece: Roesler Offers Carrot, Stick for Investments

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, OCTOBER 7 — Greek government officials said on Friday that talks with visiting German Economy and Technology Minister Philipp Roesler had been very positive, paving the way for much-needed investments in Greece, as daily Kathimerini website reports.

A meeting at the Maximos Mansion between Roesler and Prime Minister George Papandreou took place in “a very good atmosphere,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement, adding that Papandreou had emphasized to his visitor the efforts being made by the government and the maturity being shown by the Greek people in the face of an ongoing austerity drive. Roesler, for his part, reiterated his confidence in Greece’s ability to exit the current crisis and the interest of Germany in pursuing investments in Greece but he called for the resolution of “outstanding issues between German industry and the Greek state” — an apparent reference to a legal suit by German conglomerate Siemens against the Greek state — noting that this would send a “strong message” to would-be German investors in Greece. Roesler also met with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who stressed that Greece was on the right track to becoming an “investment-friendly” country, a reference to reforms aimed at slashing Greece’s notorious bureaucracy and facilitating procedures for would-be investors. Venizelos repeated too that Roesler “still regards Greece as a member of the eurozone,” following skepticism voiced by the German minister last month about the prospects for Greece. Roesler, who arrived in Athens on Thursday with 70 German entrepreneurs, also met with Development Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis and Environment Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou. The 38-year-old German, who is also vice chancellor, stressed that the businesspeople accompanying him were keen to meet with Greek partners. But he stressed that the implementation of reforms remained a prerequisite for German investments in the country.

“I am expecting clear structural changes from the government,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Share Traders More Reckless Than Psychopaths, Study Shows

What makes individual stockbrokers blow billions in financial markets with criminal trading schemes? According to a new study conducted at a Swiss university, it may be because share traders behave more recklessly and are more manipulative than psychopaths.

Two weeks ago, yet another case of rogue trading shocked the financial world when UBS trader Kweku Adoboli was arrested for allegedly squandering some $2.3 billion with a risky and unauthorized investment scheme. The 31-year-old, who had been based in London for the Swiss bank, remains in jail. The bank’s chief executive Oswald Grübel, meanwhile, has resigned over the scandal — the third major embarrassment to rattle the institution in just a few years.

The situation mirrors a similar scandal at French bank Société Générale, where another young “rogue trader,” Jérôme Kerviel, gambled away billions in 2010. He is still serving a three-year jail sentence. But why do these situations keep arising in the financial world?

According to a new study at the University of St. Gallen seen by SPIEGEL, one contributing factor may be that stockbrokers’ behavior is more reckless and manipulative than that of psychopaths. Researchers at the Swiss research university measured the readiness to cooperate and the egotism of 28 professional traders who took part in computer simulations and intelligence tests. The results, compared with the behavior of psychopaths, exceeded the expectations of the study’s co-authors, forensic expert Pascal Scherrer, and Thomas Noll, a lead administrator at the Pöschwies prison north of Zürich…

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

U.S. Economy Added 103,000 Jobs in September; Unemployment Stays at 9.1%

The American economy added 103,000 jobs in September, the Labor Department reported Friday, a positive sign amid warnings that the country could be headed back into recession.

In its monthly report, the department also revised the August figure to a gain of 57,000, after an initial reading of no net growth.

The unemployment rate remained at 9.1 percent in September for a third month.

The report came on the heels of disappointing data about consumer confidence and the housing market, and as President Obama pushes Congress to pass his jobs bill. And economists have grown increasingly concerned about a ballooning European debt crisis that could send ripples across the Atlantic.

[Return to headlines]

US Warns Against European ‘Gridlock’

In the latest round of public pressure mounted on European leaders to move swiftly to contain the worsening debt crisis, Washington has again demanded the EU “act fast”. US President Barack Obama on Thursday (6 October) in his first press conference since the middle of the summer said that the American economy was flagging and warned against European “gridlock”. “They’ve got to act fast,” he said speaking at the White House. “Our economy really needs a jolt right now. This is not the time for the usual political gridlock,” he continued.

“The problems Europe is having today could have a very real effect on our economy at a time when it’s already fragile.” His words were echoed by his economy chief, treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, who warned that the level of integration between the US and EU economies was such that Europe could end up dragging down the global economy.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]


Caroline Glick: Justice for Jonathan Pollard

Next month, convicted Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard will begin his 27th year in prison, and the Obama administration is displaying stunning insensitivity to what this means for the American Jewish community.

Pollard was arrested in 1985 for transferring classified documents to Israel during his service at US Naval Intelligence. In 1987, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for his crime.

Pollard’s sentence contradicted his plea bargain agreement. It was based, among other things, on an impact assessment report of his crimes that was authored by CIA officer Aldrich Ames. At the time of Pollard’s arrest, Ames had been spying for the Soviet Union for two years…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Hertz Suspends Praying Muslim Shuttle Drivers

Thirty-four Somali Muslims who drive airport shuttle buses for Hertz were suspended Friday over a dispute over praying on the job.

In the three years she’s worked as a shuttle driver for Hertz at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Zainab Aweis, had always taken time out of her shift each day to pray. An observant Muslim, she prays five times a day — with one, sometimes two of those prayer times falling during her shift. “That was the one benefit of the job,” the 20-year-old said.

On Friday, she and 33 other drivers — all of them Somali Muslims — were suspended indefinitely from their jobs after they took religious breaks to pray while at work without first clocking out. A spokesman for Teamsters Local 117, which represents the workers, said it is trying to get the workers back on the job. Both the company and the union late Thursday said they were waiting to hear back from the other.

While the drivers were allowed two, 10-minute breaks during their work shifts during which they could pray, Teamsters officials said managers had agreed in negotiations that workers would not have to clock out and in, though the contact itself does not address the matter. And the workers and their union said Hertz had previously not required that workers clock out for prayer. The union said it has filed an unfair-labor-practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Hertz for failing to notify the union in advance of what it called a policy change.

But Hertz said the rules aren’t new; that it had been trying for some time to enforce the terms of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settlement it reached with the workers two years ago that required them to clock out. A Hertz spokesman said the workers had been repeatedly told they needed to clock out and that the 34 suspended workers had not complied. “We felt it was reasonable for our Muslim employees who need to pray a couple times during the workday to clock in and clock out,” said Rich Broome, spokesman for Hertz.

Broome said it’s not about pay — break time is paid time — but to ensure that workers were staying within the 10-minute time slots, which has been a problem. He pointed out that Muslim workers who clocked out were not suspended. On Wednesday, a few dozen people from area labor and faith organizations protested on behalf of the workers outside the Hertz counter at the airport, waving signs saying, “Respect me, Respect my religion.”

The Teamsters represents about 79 drivers at Hertz — about 70 percent of whom are Muslim — earning between $9.15 and $9.95 an hour. They receive no health benefits, vacation or sick leave. Aweis said she was not aware the rules had changed until she arrived at work on Friday and managers told her and six other women who were about to pray that several other workers had been sent home that day for praying. “He said, ‘If you guys pray, you go home,’ “ Aweis recalled. “I said, ‘Is that a new rule?’ And he said, ‘yes.’ “ They prayed anyway, she said, contending that managers stood over them taunting and disrupting them. “I like the job,” Aweis said. “But if I can’t pray, I don’t see the benefit.” Mohamed Hassan, of the Somali Community Services Coalition, said the workers cannot afford to be away from their jobs. “They need to pay rent and buy food for their children.”

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Islamic Center Plan Sparks Controversy

Timoth Sylvia, pastor of HOPE United Church of Christ in Naperville, first noticed the signs saying “Vote No to Mosque on 248” early this week. The signs relate to the possible annexation into Naperville of a 14-acre property on 248th Avenue just south of 95th Street. The land is currently owned by the United Church of Christ’s national organization. However, the Islamic Center of Naperville is working to purchase the land and get it annexed into the city.

The site includes a four-bedroom house which United Church of Christ used for offices before moving to its new location at 1701 Quincy Ave. in Naperville this summer. The rest of the property is farmland. The annexation was discussed on Wednesday night at the Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. The meeting may have been the spark for those who put the signs up in the area.

Sylvia said he got word Monday that signs had been put up on the property. He said one sign put in the front yard of the property said “No Ragheads on 248.” “It was just disheartening,” he said.

There were also signs saying a basic “Vote No to Mosque on 248” on utility poles up and down 248th Avenue, he said, and also along stretches of Route 59 in Naperville. The signs pointed the way to a heated meeting Wednesday on the plans.

The proposal

The Islamic Center of Naperville was before the Planning and Zoning Commission looking to get the property annexed into the city. The land would be zoned residential. In the beginning, the group intends to use the existing house for administrative offices. In the long term, it may build a religious facility on the site. A religious facility would require a conditional use permit from the city. The issue sparked a lively give-and-take at the commission meeting. Community Planner Amy Emery presented information on the petition to the commission and spoke of a flier circulating that she said presented false information.

The information included the statement that the Islamic Center was planning to build a mosque on the property. Emery pointed out that any structure proposed by the center would require a conditional use ordinance and be subject to the same scrutiny as any other development in Naperville, including studies related to parking, traffic and stormwater detention.

Islamic Center attorney Leonard Monson stressed that the center was proposing no physical changes to the property at the moment.

Both Emery and Monson stressed that the annexation would be consistent with the city’s master plan and that the use of the land would not differ from the way it was being used by United Church of Christ. But Monson also admitted that the Islamic Center’s intent was to purchase the property for growth, saying they “intend to build a religious institution in the future,” a future he estimated to be anywhere from five to 20 years down the road. Monson also pointed out that the previous owner had planned to build a church on the property and that his client was seeking “the exact same rights” that the United Church of Christ was accorded.

Under questioning from commissioners, Monson said that access to reduced water and sewer rates was a factor in the desire for annexation. He also stressed that it would be difficult to have any type of larger property using well water. Commissioner John Williams wanted a better reason, saying that the fact that many Islamic Center members were Naperville residents and reduced costs weren’t enough reasons for the city to want to annex the land. “What’s in it for the city,” he asked. Community Planner Suzanne Thorsen pointed out that annexing the property would give the city greater jurisdictional authority over the property. “Perfect,” Williams responded. “Now I’m happy.”

Resident response

Instructions were given to the room full of citizens that the annexation question was the only issue at hand, and that any other issues were inappropriate. But residents had other ideas. “Some say don’t worry,” David Hunt said. “The entire process may take five to 20 years … but we heard tonight what the intent is.” One after another, Hunt’s neighbors lined up to express misgivings about the annexation, stretching the meeting well past 11 p.m. In answer to one question, Commissioner John Herzog said the group’s tax exempt status would be the same as any other religious institution. Herzog stressed to one questioner that the Islamic Center had no obligation to present plans to the commission for any future projects at this time.

One man cited the economy and said that redeveloping the property into residential homes was a better idea. “We’ve taken a lot of (economic) hits,” he said. Emery said that there was an annexation request in 2006 for a residential development, but that plan fell through. One man, Brad Knell, had a heated exchange with Williams about what requirements were needed in the way of notifying residents. Knell complained that he wasn’t given enough notice and demanded that the proceedings be postponed so that the opposition could retain counsel. But Knell’s residence wasn’t within the required distance for notification, according to the commission.

Williams hammered away at the notification issue, asking several times if Knell really wanted to ask for a continuation based on notification. “I’m asking for this body to be fair,” Knell responded. When Herzog asked what his opposition was, Knell responded that he believed the plan was a “Trojan horse” to lead the way for a larger structure on the property. Sherry Holt said her opposition to the annexation was based partly on the process, saying she wanted the land to remain agricultural. The signs that popped up along local streets were also mentioned.

Without pointing to a specific person in the audience, Monson made it clear that he blamed religious bigotry for the opposition. He said there existed “extremely stiff objections” from neighbors to the proposed 2006 residential development, saying that neighbors then wanted the property to remain religious in nature. “What’s changed,” he asked. “Only one thing.”

What next?

After the commission agreed to continue the public hearing until Nov. 2, Islamic Center President Ashraf El Essawy said he cautioned the center’s members against overreacting to opposition to the plans. El Essawy also characterized the hearing as “reasonable.” One resident, who declined to be named, said religion was the furthest thing from her mind. “We’ve lived here since 2006,” she said. “We’ve taken about a $250,000 hit on our home … I can’t afford any more hits.” Sylvia said he hopes that the discussion on the plans is a cordial one. He said he found some of the signs that have went up around the area “just a little disconcerting.” He said it is good that people speak out on the issue. “It is very important for people to voice their educated opinions,” he said. In the end, he hopes that the issue won’t cause friction between Moslems and other residents in Naperville. “There are so many misunderstandings about the many faith traditions (in the area),” he said. “It is unfortunate. Across the board, there are a lot of misunderstandings

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Michelle Obama’s Taxpayer-Funded Spending is an Embarrassment for the White House

Although ignored by most of America’s liberal-dominated media, several online US news sites are reporting that Michelle Obama’s grand tour of southern Africa earlier this year cost American taxpayers nearly half a million dollars — and that’s just for the flights. This follows in the wake of claims this August from sources inside the White House itself that the First Lady may have spent “$10 million of taxpayers’ money on vacations alone in the past year.” Without all the figures available, it is impossible to establish the total cost to the public purse of Michelle Obama’s 42 days of holiday during that period, which included her trip to Spain last year (though not the Obamas’ recent sojourn in Martha’s Vineyard).

But we do now know for sure that her visit to Africa in June, with a sizeable entourage in tow, cost taxpayers at the very minimum $424,142 in transportation costs, according to figures obtained by Washington-based watchdog Judicial Watch.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Mosque Madness: Lawsuits Pile Up Over Voorhies Avenue House of Worship

Builders of the controversial Sheepshead Bay mosque say they are getting ready to unload a new barrage of civil litigation after their countersuit against opponents of the Voorhies Avenue house of worship was shot down by a Brooklyn judge. Attorneys for mosque builder Allowey Ahmed say they have prepared a follow-up claim to the one Judge Mark Partnow recently denied on the grounds that Ahmed hadn’t proved opponents, led by the group Bay People, hurt Allowey’s reputation and finances.

Attorney Lamis Deek asked Partnow to order the Bay People to pay Ahmed’s legal fees, plus punitive damages for defamation and violating Ahmed’s right to build the mosque. Her request came just after Partnow denied the Bay People’s second attempt to halt the mosque’s construction. Opponents contend that if the mosque was built the neighborhood would be inundated with additional traffic and would not be able to accommodate worshiper’s cars, but Partnow said claims of excessive congestion and inadequate parking could not stop the as-of-right project from being built.

Yet Partnow wouldn’t award any damages to Ahmed either, ruling that Deek has yet to prove that he had suffered from the protests and court battles. “I think it’s unfortunate that my client could not be empowered by the court to defend themselves against what is a gross and costly abuse of process,” Deek said. “I hope that, eventually, the court will see that my client deserves compensation and that [the Bay People] are made to pay for the damage they have caused to not only my client but to society at large.”

But it doesn’t appear that Ahmed’s new suit has been filed. Attempts to find it in the county clerk’s office were unsuccessful. Bay People members say they haven’t received any notice of Deek’s counter-claim either — but they’re too busy preparing a new lawsuit of their own. “Bay People and the residents whose homes are immediately adjacent to the construction have filed an appeal with the Board of Standards and Appeals — the highest appellate body within the city’s Department of Buildings,” a Bay People spokesman told us. “We will also appeal the judge’s decision on the nuisance and injunction cases because mosque construction attorneys have filed false and misleading documents in their [paperwork].”

The Bay People say that some of the legal documents Allowey’s team filed have missing signatures — a clerical error that could get them a new trial. But they may be grasping at straws: both the city and the courts have repeatedly denied their attempts to halt the mosque’s construction, despite widespread protests joined by hundreds of Sheepshead Bay residents.

Opponents say that traffic is their driving concern in demanding that the mosque close, but the tenor of their rallies over the last year has been more anti-Islamic rather than anti-congestion, with neighborhood protestors and Brooklyn Tea Party members waving signs reading, “Islam not welcome here,” “New York is not Islamabad” and “Do not forget 9-11!” At one point, one resident even claimed he was going to “blow up the mosque” if it was built.

During a recent court appearance, Deek claimed that the Bay People’s protests and lawsuits are “entirely motivated by racism.” But Albert Butzel, the Bay People’s attorney, says that isn’t true. “We do not have a problem with the fact that this is a mosque,” Butzel explained. “This is a residential neighborhood and the mosque has been plunked down in the center. Problems with street parking will be extreme.”

Despite its legal losses, the Bay People have already had some success in halting the project’s completion: the building is moving ahead at a snail’s pace: only the foundation and basement have been built. Earlier this year, Ahmed said that the project would be built in stages because of a lack of funding.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Mosque Wants to Work With Neighbours

A new mosque to be constructed on 16th Avenue beside St. Brother Andre Catholic High School is eliciting a chain of reaction in cyberspace and elsewhere. Since the town’s development services committee gave the Islamic Society of Markham the go-ahead to build a 28,000-sq. ft. mosque last week, the Economist & Sun has received numerous calls, e-mails and website comments from area residents, many of whom said they were unaware the project was proposed in the first place.

The approval of the new mosque is even the subject of hundreds of comments on an online shopping site. Discussions there range from whether or not the mosque fits in with the community to debates about religion, culture, esthetics and architecture. See original story at — mosque-coming-to-markham

The mosque, to be named Masjid Darul Iman, meaning House of Believers, is designed to accommodate more than 500 worshippers with 188 parking spaces on site. The main building will stand 34 feet in height, with the top of the dome measuring 70 feet and the tall spire reaching 135 feet. The overall design was described by Region Councillor Joe Li as looking like the Taj Mahal. “Everybody knows about this mosque,” said Shafique Malik, a director with the mosque.

Mr. Malik said while he hasn’t heard any negative feedback from area residents about the project, he wants to work with the community to iron out any concerns about the new mosque that has been in the works for several years. The nearly two-acre site was rezoned to a place of worship in 2003 at the request of the subdivision developer, Karvon Homes Ltd. The Islamic Society bought the land in 2006.

Last August, they submitted the site plan application and after a year of “tedious” process with the town, Mr. Malik said they held a community meeting with the help of local Councillor Colin Campbell at Markham Museum last month to answer questions about the mosque. He said about 100 people attended the meeting. He said while there were a lot of questions in the beginning, people welcomed the mosque to the neighbourhood by the end of the night. One of the concerns raised at that meeting was the potential overflow of parking at the mosque.

Mr. Malik said he had approached the Catholic school board’s permit department to ensure that in the event of parking overflow, which he said won’t likely happen for at least 10 years until after the congregation has reached capacity, the mosque will go through the normal process of applying and paying for permits with the board to use the school’s parking lot, if available. “For this, you don’t need a written agreement,” Mr. Malik said, adding if the school ever needed to use the mosque’s parking lot for events or programs, the mosque would provide the space to them free of charge.

However, for the many residents who may not have been invited to the meeting, the new mosque comes as a shock after an application from the Fung Loy Kok Institute to build a Taoist temple on Steeles Avenue in Thornhill was turned down during the same meeting because its proposed built form was deemed incompatible with the neighbouring residential area. “I am wondering though, how they could decline the Taoist temple and give this mosque the green light?” a reader commented on “It will be a monstrosity and certainly will be out of place with the surrounding historical sites and architecture in Old Markham. We live right in Old Markham Village and we do not understand how this passed right under our noses!”

While Mr. Malik couldn’t say how many people were invited to the community meeting last month, he said he is willing to answer questions from concerned residents about the mosque. He can be reached at 905-209-8200.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslim Woman Removed From Southwest Plane to Sue

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A Muslim-American woman is suing Southwest Airlines for discrimination because she was removed from a plane by federal security agents.

Irum Abbasi of San Diego plans to announce the lawsuit Thursday.

Abbasi is a Pakistani immigrant who’s lived in the U.S. for a decade. She was on a flight from San Diego to San Jose in March when she says a flight attendant became concerned.

Abbasi, who was wearing a head scarf, told someone on her cell phone, “I have to go” because the plane was about to depart. But Abbasi says the attendant thought she said, “It’s a go.”

The mother of three was taken off the plane and briefly examined by TSA agents. She was placed on the next flight.

The airline later apologized. Abbasi has said she wants the crew disciplined.

           — Hat tip: ESW[Return to headlines]

Speaker to Share His Views on Islam

When Egyptian-born Christian and nationwide speaker Usama Dakdok visits Faith Evangelical Free Church in Austin Saturday, he’ll share what he says is a powerful message not against Muslims, but in opposition to their religion. “It is very important to know that I am not anti-Muslim; I am anti-Islam,” he said. Dakdok, a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and now a resident of Florida, will share his Christian ministry’s perspective on Islam. Through his foundation, The Straight Way of Grace Ministry, Dakdok travels the country and teaches what he calls the literal word of Islam to Christians and Muslims alike.

Dakdok said many Americans ignore what is happening within the Islamic faith, and many people have misconceptions about the religion. Dakdok and his ministry completed an English translation of the Quran, and they want to teach people what they believe the Quran says — as opposed to what people often perceive. “We need to learn the truth about Islam, and it is written in the book,” he said. One of Dakdok’s key points is the Doctrine of Abrogation, which is the removal or alteration of verses within the Quran for newer verses. Because of that doctrine, Dakdok said the Quran has inconsistencies. He believes the final word of the Quran has serious implications against all who are not Muslim. Dakdok will deliver his speech 7 p.m. Saturday at the Faith Evangelical Free Church youth building. To find out more about Dakdok and his ministry, go to

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Steve Jobs Was an Arab-American

Abdul Fattah Jandali, a young Syrian Muslim immigrant in Wisconsin, never met his son Steve Jobs. When a baby was born to the 23-year-old Jandali — now known as John — and his 23-year-old German-American girlfriend, Joanne Schieble, in 1955, there was no chance he’d be able to grow up with his biological parents.

Joanne, who belonged to a white, conservative Christian family could not convince her parents to marry an Arab, a Muslim, according to Jandali, who called her father “a tyrant” in a New York Post interview in August 2011. In fact, according to Jandali, she secreted off from Wisconsin to liberal San Francisco to sort out the birth and adoption without letting either him or her parents know. And so it was that a nameless Arab American baby was adopted by an Armenian American family. Clara Hagopian and her husband Paul Jobs had been married around seven years and had not been able to conceive. The little bundle that would be Steve, was very much wanted in the Jobs household.

Steve Paul Jobs, as they named him, grew up without ever knowing his biological father. It seems he had no interest in knowing him later in life, either. When, in August 2011, the London tabloid The Sun, contacted Jandali, he publicly reached out to Steve saying, ““I live in hope that before it is too late he will reach out to me. Even to have just one coffee with him just once would make me a very happy man.”

But Steve never replied. Less than two months later, he has passed away. Jandali says it was his “Syrian pride” that kept him from reaching out to his famous son. In a September 2011 interview with the Reno Gazette — Reno, Nevada being the city the 80-year-old Jandali lives and where, having never retired, he is the Vice President of a casino. “The Syrian pride in me does not want him ever to think I am after his fortune. I am not. I have my own money. What I don’t have is my son…and that saddens me.”

One wonders what Jobs knew of his background.

His biological father was no ordinary Syrian. According to an interview he gave to the Al Hayat newspaper in February 2011, he was born in French-mandated Syria in 1931 in the town of Homs to a “self-made millionaire” father with no university education who owned “several entire villages” and a homemaker, traditional mother. He was one of five children — the only son of a family with 4 daughters.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Fear of a Sharia Planet

by Arsalan Iftikhar

While laws preventing Islamic legal codes from supplanting American jurisprudence are often thrown out, that isn’t stopping Sharia from becoming a wedge issue in the 2012 election.

The “supremacy clause” of the U.S. Constitution is one of the first things taught in many first-year law school courses. Article VI, Clause 2 states quite clearly that the “Constitution and the laws of the United States … shall be the supreme law of the land” and that no other law (foreign or domestic) can pre-empt or supersede it. While that seems pretty clear, some national conservative political figures have convinced more than a dozen American states that “Sharia,” or Islamic law, is somehow on the verge of toppling the American way of law.

While that’s unlikely, some observers believe it will be the wedge issue of 2012. “Will anti-Sharia law initiatives be in future election cycles what anti-gay marriage initiatives were before [in the 2004 presidential elections]?” Marc Amdinber of The Atlantic cogently asked last year. “That is, a cultural wedge issue the GOP uses to ensure that hard-core conservatives enthusiastically flock to the polls?”

American Muslims represent far less than 5 percent of the national population; only two Muslims are currently members of Congress (Democratic congressmen Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana). Despite those low numbers, reading sites like, creepingsharia, and or even the more mainstream JihadWatch one might think that America is on the verge of being overrun by falafel carts and hookah bars. Even Republican presidential candidates like Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich make public statements such as, “Some people would infuse Sharia Law in our courts system if we allow it. I honestly believe that,” (Cain) or “Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.” (Gingrich)

The concept of Sharia is generally defined as “the ideal [practical] law of God according to Islam,” explains professor Intisar Rabb of Boston College Law School, with the traditional sources the Quran and the collected reports of actions taken by the prophet Muhammad. “Muslims believe that the Islamic legal system is one that aims toward ideals of justice fairness, and the good life,” and some Islamic majority countries do use Sharia as an integral part of the legal code.

“Sharia has tremendous diversity, as jurists and learned scholars figure out and articulate what that law is. Historically, Sharia served as a means for political dissent against arbitrary rule. It is not a monolithic doctrine of violence, as has been characterized in the recently introduced bills that would criminalize practices of Sharia.” Rabb also noted that Sharia “historically was a broad system that encompassed ritual laws, so in some ways it recalls Jewish law that has rules for how to pray, how to make ablution before prayers” or dietary laws involving kosher (or halal) foods.

To that point, in a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, Yale University professor Eliyahu Stern highlighted that some of these current anti-Sharia efforts would “curtail Muslims from settling disputes over dietary laws and marriage through religious arbitration, while others would go even further in stigmatizing Islamic life.” (Whether that in turn could violate the Constitution’s First Amendment might be a good follow-up question.) Stern pointed to legislation introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly that would equate Sharia with a set of rules that promote “the destruction of the national existence of the United States.

These unsubstantiated political fears about Sharia law are now taking hold and seem to be growing. In addition to Tennessee, nearly a dozen states including South Carolina, Wyoming, Texas and Georgia have introduced anti-Sharia legislation this year alone. A March 2011 report, “Understanding Sharia Law,” by the progressive-oriented Center for American Progress in Washington sought to demonstrate how a misunderstanding and ultimately disingenuous misinterpretation of Sharia would “both harm America’s national security interests and threaten our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms” if allowed to continue unchallenged.

The point lost in the debate is that the concept of “Sharia” would apply only to observant Muslims in the same way that the halacha (Jewish law) only applies to observant Jewish people. Thus, in addition to the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution blocking any pre-emption of American law, and keeping in mind that the nation’s highest court rejects even allowing the 10 Commandments to decorate a courtroom, remember that Sharia should never apply to any non-Muslim.

“Anybody who argues that America is in any danger of coming under Sharia law should retroactively fail ninth-grade civics class,” said Matthew Duss, national security editor at the Center for American Progress and one of the primary authors for the report. “In times of economic distress, people tend to be more susceptible to charlatans and demagogues telling them who to blame and who to fear. America has been through this sort of thing before with various minority groups, but we’ve always come through it stronger in the end.

“It’s seen as a way to create a more favorable political environment for hawkish conservatives.”

Duss likened the current anti-Sharia national movement to the “Team B” phenomenon in the 1970s where prominent neoconservative political figures sought to “issue a set of claims about Soviet capabilities and [nefarious] intentions that — as we now know — were just wildly overstated, to a hysterical degree.” The center’s report argued that adopting such a flawed analysis on Sharia would direct limited resources away from actual threats to the United States and bolster an anti-Muslim narrative that Islamist extremist groups find useful in recruiting sympathizers.

Even as the specific laws often fail legal litmus tests, parallels between the current anti-Sharia and the anti-gay marriage political movements in 2004 are on the lips of many.

“I think there’s a clear similarity,” Duss said, “in the way that anti-gay marriage [referendums during the 2004 presidential campaigns] and current anti-Sharia efforts are being used to stir up the conservative base” for the 2012 presidential elections. There is some Republican pushback against making Sharia a wedge issue. In August, New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie appointed Muslim-American lawyer Sohail Mohammed to a state judicial bench, which ruffled some feathers among some who fear the threat of Sharia law. Asked about those concerns, Christie — whose straight talk was made him a shadow contender for his party’s presidential nomination — made it quite clear that he had no patience for such “ignorance” and did not mince his words.

“Ignorance is behind the criticism of Sohail Mohammed,” Christie told a reporter, adding he was “disgusted — candidly — by some of the questions” he was asked at Mohammed’s confirmation hearings. “Sharia law business is just crap … and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies,” the governor concluded, adding, “it’s just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background.” Experts and analysts are currently debating whether the national anti-Sharia movement is on the upswing or not. “I see it gaining momentum in the short term,” said Duss. “There is a significant amount of money being pumped into the issue. Hopefully within a few years, the idea that all American Muslims want to turn America into an Islamic state will seem as stupid as the idea that a Catholic president would take orders from the Vatican.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Ancient Cave Paintings in Peril Again, Scientists Say

At least 14,000 years ago, artists took to Altamira cave in Spain with charcoal and red pigments, painting bison, deer and their own handprints on the rock walls and ceiling. This prehistoric art gallery is now closed to the public, but plans to reopen it have scientists raising the alarm. “Altamira cave, although currently closed, is at real risk,” a group of Spanish researchers wrote in the Oct. 6 issue of the journal Science. The threat, according to the scientists, is that even a limited stream of visitors will spur bacterial and fungal growth on the cave walls, damaging the very paintings tourists long to see.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Europe: Lies and Truths About the Human Rights Act

by Anthony Browne

The debate about the reform of the human rights legislation continues furiously after the conference, with David Aaronovitch in the Times today (£) denouncing Theresa May over the “cat flap”, and accusing the Tories of making up stories about human rights legislation to avoid talking about the economy.

Whatever the truth about that cat (does it have a name? Is it still alive? Has anyone interviewed it?), those who argue against reform of the human rights act normally use a range of arguments that don’t bear a lot of scrutiny. Both critics and defenders of the European Convention on Human Rights stretch the truth. For example, one common misapprehension is that being a signatory to the Convention means you have to abolish the death penalty — but the total abolition of the death penalty is actually contained in supplementary Protocol 13, which countries such as Russia, Poland and Latvia have not ratified. Other misleading arguments include:

  • Scrapping (or reforming) the Human Rights Act doesn’t mean pulling out of the European Convention of Human Rights — it would just mean returning to the position before 1998, when the Human Rights Act was introduced. You could certainly have a more flexible interpretation of human rights at national level than at European level, although it would probably create work for lawyers.
  • Being a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights does not inevitably mean that the European Court of Human Rights can overrule either our own courts (such as our not-quite-Supreme Court), or parliament (the critical issue over votes for prisoners furore is who has a final say — British MPs or Strasbourg judges?). The supremacy of the Strasbourg Court’s judgements is a comparatively recent development — until 1998, when Protocol 11 was introduced, being a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights did not necessarily mean accepting the supremacy of the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights over national courts and parliaments. This could presumably in theory be reversed, reasserting the supremacy of our own Supreme Court, or indeed of our supposedly sovereign parliament (although there would also be conventions about international treaty obligations to navigate).
  • Leaving the European Convention on Human Rights does not mean leaving the EU. This charge was made repeatedly by Labour before the 2005 election, to scare the British public about Tory proposals. But the spokesman of Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, was forced to make clear in an on the record statement that leaving the Convention would not mean leaving the EU — members of the EU are not required by treaties to be signatories of the ECHR, but only to abide by international standards of human rights (I covered it as Europe correspondent of the Times). In fact, it would be awkward for the EU to make being a signatory of the ECHR a condition of membership, because the ECHR is the creature of the far wider body the Council of Europe (which includes such countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia). Membership of the EU should be a decision for EU members, not subcontracted to the Council of Europe, which they don’t control.

The fundamental point is that the European Convention of Human Rights is not engraved in a tablet of stone. It is rather an evolving legal framework that has seen huge mission creep since it was written by British officials after the Second World War as a way of using international law to stop the re-emergence of dictators like Hitler and Mussolini. But there is nothing inevitable about its direction of change — we can, and indeed should, try and reform the Convention and the Strasbourg court, in the way that we want. That is something that both critics and supporters of the Human Rights Act could agree — and the cat might even purr its approval.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

French Suburbs Turn Away From State and Towards Islam

Local communities in France’s immigrant suburbs increasingly organise themselves on Islamic lines rather than following the values of the secular republic, according to a major new sociological study. Respected political scientist Gilles Kepel, a specialist in the Muslim world, led a team of researchers in a year-long project in Clichy-sous-Bois and Montfermeil, two Paris suburbs that exploded in riots in 2005. The resulting study — “Suburbs of the Republic” — found that religious institutions and practices are increasingly displacing those of the state and the French Republic, which has a strong secular tradition.

Families from the districts, which are mainly populated by immigrants from north and west Africa and their descendants, regularly attend mosque, fast during Ramadan and boycott school meals that are not “halal”. With between five and six million Muslim residents and citizens, France has the largest Islamic population in the European Union, and central government often struggles to address the challenges to integration that this poses. Kepel performed a similar study 25 years earlier, and told the daily Le Monde that the influence of Islam in the daily lives and cultural references of the suburbs has “diversified and intensified” since then.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Islamic (Sharia) Law in Germany, Holland and Britain

by Emerson Vermaat

October 3, 2011 — San Francisco, CA — — “Their courtrooms are mosques, their law is the Sharia: Islamic peace judges undermine the rule of law,” the influential German weekly Der Spiegel reported last August. “The legal authorities do not know how to defend themselves against it.” European crime statistics show a proportionally higher crime rate amongst populations of non-Western origin. (Drug smuggling, migrant trafficking, document forgery, violent robberies, rape, prostitution, honor crimes, etc.)

So-called Islamic “peace judges” or arbiters are settling criminal cases, not just in Germany but in other European countries as well. Muslim immigrants prefer their own judges and do not trust secular Western legal systems. Thus, Islamic shadow justice systems are making inroads into Western societies. “Under Sharia law to settle disputes can be innocent, but it can also undermine Western ideas of fairness,” Der Spiegel reports. Journalist Joachim Wagner, author of a new German study on parallel justice, says that the world of the Islamic shadow justice system is “very foreign, and for a German lawyer completely incomprehensible. It follows its own rules. The Islamic arbitrators aren’t interested in evidence when they deliver a judgment, and unlike in German criminal law, the question of who is at fault doesn’t play much of a role.” The arbitrators “talk with the perpetrator’s family who are generally the ones who have called the arbitrator, and with the victim’s family,” Wagner says. “They ask: Why did this happen? How bad is the damage? How serious is the injury? But for them, a solution of the conflict, a compromise, is the most important thing.”

“The problem starts when the arbitrators force the justice system out of the picture, especially in the case of criminal offenses,” Wagner says. “At that point they undermime the state monopoly on violence. Islamic conflict resolution in particular, as I’ve experienced it, is often achieved through violence and threats. It’s often a dictate of power on the part of the stronger family.” “These arbitrators try to resorve conflicts according to Islamic law and to sideline German criminal law. We see witness testimony withdrawn (from German courts) and accusations trivialized to the point where an entire case runs aground. The justice system is ‘powerless,’ partly because it hasn’t tackled the problem vigorously enough.” Judges and prosecutors “are overwhelmed, because they don’t know how to react,” Wagner claims “They are in the middle of a legal case, and suddenly there’s no evidence. Eighty-seven percent of the cases I researched either were dismissed or ended with an acquittal when Islamic arbitrators are involved.” “Decisions by Islamic arbitrators, so I noticed, are often implemented by force and making threats.” “Certain defense lawyers,” Wagner says, “need to stop behaving as if they were mere servants to a parallel justice system. They allow themselves to be directed by their clients’ desires, regardless of truth and justice.”

Der Spiegel discusses the case of Fuat S. who was beaten up so badly by a Palestinian named Mustafa O. and his three brothers, that he ended up in a Berlin hospital. S., a notorious gambler who is on welfare, owed Mustafa O. 150,000 euros. They threatened to kill him if he failed to pay Mustafa. Mustafa O. was a frequent violent offender and Berlin prosecutors now hoped they could finally bring him to justice. However, during the trial key witness Fuat S. unexpectely withdrew his previous statement, claiming it was not Mustafa O. who tortured him but a Albanian man he didn’t know. An obvious lie, but the court had to acquit the suspect. What had happened? The families of both the victim and the perpetrators had agreed to follow the decision of an Islamic peace judge or arbitrator. Fuat would not blame Mustafa in court, and for his part, Mustafa would let off part of Fuat’s debt.

Judges and prosecutors complain that witnesses are subjected to systematic intimidation, and that even they, too, are intimated. Serious crimes committed by an increasing number of Muslim immigrants are no longer cleared up. A Munich Imam named Sheikh Abu Adam, dresssed as a fundamentalist Muslim, told Der Spiegel: “My ruling is more just than the one proclaimed by the state.” “I tell my people, don’t go to the police. We solve these conflicts among ourselves.” vIslamic mediators also play an important role in “solving” cases of honor crimes and forced marriages. Der Spiegel reported last year that German courts apply Sharia law, especially concerning cases of family law and the law of inheritance. (Under Sharia law female heirs inherit half of what male heirs in a similar position would inherit.) Jordanian immigrants in Germany are married and divorced in accordance with Jordanian law. Even polygamous marriages are recognized. A Jordanian woman who enters into a polygamous marriage in her home country with a Jordanian immigrant in Germany is entitled to welfare in Germany. A Moroccan man living in Germany was married to two Moroccan women. One of the women refused to share her husband’s pension with his second wife. However, a German court applied Morrocan Sharia law and ruled that both wives were entitled to receive the same amount of money.

It was during a visit to Germany in February 2008 that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan called on the Turkish immigrant community not a assimilate into German society. Peter Struck, a prominent social democratic politician, then critized Erdogan saying he gave the impression that he endorsed the creation of “parallel societies.”

The Netherlands and Britain

The liberal Dutch newspaper NRC Next recently reported that Dutch courts sometimes apply Sharia law, too, provided, so the paper finds, it does not conflict with legal, social and moral principles deemed essential by these courts. A Dutch woman went to Iran and married an Iranian man. In doing so she automatically acquired Iranian nationality. When she applied for a divorce in Holland, Dutch judges decided not to apply Dutch but Iranian law, as both spouses were Iranians. Iran does not recognize community of property in marriages, so this woman did not receive anything from her former husband. This, in my view, was not a very wise decision by the Dutch court, even though this Iranian marriage was concluded before the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979. The woman in question was Dutch originally.

In 676 cases, Dutch courts even applied primitive Somali law. Such are the blessings of “multiculturalism.” A court in the Dutch city of The Hague ruled on June 29, 2009 that Somali law was applicable in the case of a Somali man who denied that he was the father of a child of his former wife. The court further ruled that “under Somali law” the man in question is not the legal father of the child. (Some Somali asylum seekers have more than ten children.)

Polygamous marriages are recognized under Sharia law and it is even possible to recognize (“register”) such marriages under Dutch law. Back in May 2008, Dutch Labor Party politician Jeroen Dijsselbloem sounded the alarm about polygamous marriages. “More and more young Muslims opt for Islamic marriages,” he said. “They don’t marry at city halls, so from a legal point of view such marriages are illegitimate. In doing so Muslims indicate that that to them Islamic marriage laws are more important than Dutch law.”

In 2008, a Dutch-Turkish woman was raped by her nephew. But the Dutch-Turkish Imam Bahauddin (Bahaeddin) Budak advised her not to inform her relatives about it. If she would go pulic about the crime and sue her nephew in court, her life might be in danger. He also advised her to forgive the perpetrator. Such crimes are very common among Turkish, Moroccan, Pakistani, Iraqi and Iranian immigrants in Europe many of whom still regard women as sex objects. There is also a strong tendency to cover up crimes such as rape. Women who dare to talk about it in public, or who report such crimes to the police, very often face serious repercussions, since the so-called “honor of the family” is at stake. In too many cases, these defenseless victims are subsequently even killed by family members. Budak was also a Muslim religious teacher at the “Inholland university of applied sciences” in Amsterdam. Inholland’s director Cor de Raadt had Budak temporarily suspended, but a lot of Dutch Muslims complained about De Raadt’s decision and showed solidarity with Imam Budak.

Islamic courts and fundamentalist Muslim clerics who introduce Sharia law to the Muslim community in Britain are having a greater impact on Britain’s 1.6 million strong Muslim community than is often assumed. While the traditional churches are on the decline and are loosing members every day, the Muslim community is thriving, and many young Brits are converting to Islam. Christian symbols are outlawed, and the British Mail on Sunday reported recently that the BBC “has stopped using the terms BC and AD, in case they offend non-Christians.” “The BBC has replaced ‘Anno Domini’ and ‘Before Christ’ with ‘Common Era’ and ‘Before Common Era.’“

In February 2008, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, an outspoken leftist, gave a lecture “that sparked controversy for advocating the adoption of parts of Sharia, or Islamic law, in Britain.” Quoting Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer Tariq Ramadan, Williams wanted to “dispell myths about Sharia.” He argued, the London Times reported, “for a ‘plural jurisdiction’ that would allow Muslims to choose whether some legal disputes were resolved in secular or Sharia courts. He called for ‘constructive accomodation’ over such issues as resolving marriage disputes.” “I seems unavoidable and, as a matter of fact, certain conditions of Sharia are already recognized in our society.” He also said that there was no place for “extreme punishments” and discrimination against women. Obviously, the most senior British cleric does not want Britain to return to the harsh human rights record of the Middle Ages (killing “heretics” and the burning of so-called “witches”, etc.)

Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali, the Anglican Bishop of Rochester and a Pakistani by birth, strongly disagrees with the Archbishop of Canterbury. He claimed recently that parts of Britain were no-go areas for non-Muslims. He also said: “English law is rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition and our notions of human freedoms derive from that tradition. It would be impossible to introduce a tradition like Sharia into this corpus without fundamentally affecting its integrity.”

Sharia law allows a Muslim man “to conclude multiple marriages with up to four wives, without the need for permission of the first wife.” Thus, polygamy is justified and “a growing number young British Muslims are taking second or third wives in an unexpected revival,” The Australian recently reported. “The new wave of polygamy is revealed in a special report by the BBC Asian Network using findings from the Islamic Sharia Council.” “These wives are not recognized by British law, but are considered legitimate within many Muslim communities.” Khola Hasan, lecturer and advisor to the Islamic Sharia Council said: “Young men who have come under a more radical understanding of faith know it is illegal to marry more than once (under British law), but do it to spite the system.”

“Our law maintains the best virtues of our society,” writes Minette Marrin, an excellent British columnist, in The Sunday Times of Febuari 2, 2008. “Anybody who does not accept it does not belong here.” She is right. If Muslims want to force medieval Sharia law practices on our secular societies, which they hate so much, why don’t they go back to Pakistan or the Middle East? Why don’t all those women wearing Burqas or Niqabs just emigrate to Saudi Arabia, Iran or Afghanistan?

“There is a lot to be said against Sharia and the desire of 40% of British Muslims to live under it,” writes Minette Marrin. “Sharia is rightly feared here: it is disputed, sometimes primitive, grievously in need of reform and wholly unacceptable in Britain.” She accuses the Archbishop of Canterbury of seeking “to undermine our legal system and the values on which it rests.” That is an “unnecessary appeasement to an alien set of values.” “It is a betrayal of all those who struggled and died here, over the centuries, for freedom and equality under the rule of law and of their courage in the face of injustice and unreason.”

Emerson Vermaat is an investigative reporter in the Netherlands. Website:

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Italy: Where Truth is Never Clear-Cut

The Guardian, London

The Amanda Knox case highlights one of the many failings of the Italian court system — it never delivers door-slamming certainty.

Tobias Jones

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito last night won their appeal against their conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher. But if many doubted the first verdict, just as many will doubt this one. It’s one of the many failings of Italian justice that it never delivers conclusive, door-slamming certainty. What usually happens is that the door is left wide open to take the case to the next level, first to appeal and then to the cassazione, the supreme court. The score in the public imagination, at the moment, is simply one-all.

It’s always been that way. There’s barely one iconic crime from the post-war years that has persuaded the country that, yes, justice has been done: the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini, the Ustica crash, the Bologna railway station bombing, the Piazza Fontana atrocity, the Monster of Florence murders, the murder of Luigi Calabresi, the “caso Cogne” … none has ever been satisfactorily, convincingly resolved. Instead the country seems to split into innocentisti and colpevolisti (those who believe in the innocence or guilt of the accused) and the heated debates continue for decades.

Part of the reason that the Knox trial has captivated media attention isn’t just the “Foxy Knoxy” thing, the fact that Knox was attractive and allegedly sexually adventurous. It isn’t just because of the cosmopolitanism of the crime, the fact that here was a foreign victim and, it was thought, a foreign assassin. Its appeal, if that’s not too gruesome a word, lies in the fact that there was sufficient doubt about both the prosecution and defence cases. Italy is divided down the middle, meaning that the case is, in a way, perfectly set up for a media circus, for debate and deconstruction. Already the Kercher case has spawned, at the last count, 11 books and a film.

Dietrologia — literally “behindery” or conspiracy-theorising — is a national pastime precisely because the courts don’t offer convincing verdicts. It allows every journalist, magistrate and barfly to try their hand. The result is that everyone with an active imagination has a go at explaining the truth behind the mystery, and inevitably the truth only gets further buried beneath so many excited explanations. The media plays an active role in keeping the circus going: in no other country are cronache nere — “black chronicles” — so much the mainstay of the evening news. There’s always a case on the go. Between 2005 and 2010, the seven national channels aired, in the evening news alone, 941 stories about the Meredith Kercher murder in Perugia, 759 about the Garlasco murder, 538 about the murder of little Tommaso Onofri and 508 about the murder in Cogne. Often studio shows in the afternoons talk about the ins and outs of these cases for hours, interspersing expert witnesses with short location reports. And because such cases often have one trial then another, they’re like stories that never end, so that the speculation and the spectacle can continue untramelled. As one journalist recently wrote in La Repubblica, these cases are popular because they “generate anxiety but, at the same time, they reassure. They brush up against us, but touch others. It’s like leaning over the edge of a precipice to step back at the last moment. You feel giddiness. Anxiety. But also relief. It’s a subtle pleasure”.

It’s a truism that fact and fiction often overlap, but in Italy it really is the case. Two of the best crime novelists — Giancarlo De Cataldo and Gianrico Carofiglio — have both worked as judges and draw on real life; and the godfather of Italian crime writing, Loriano Macchiavelli, has often revisited real crimes like Ustica and the Bologna bombing. Occasionally writers even get caught up in the weird wheels of Italian justice: the great writer Massimo Carlotto was accused of murder back in the 1970s and the American novelist, Douglas Preston, has been vociferous in his defence of Knox because the prosecutor in the case had previously turned his ire on Preston when he was writing about the Monster of Florence case. In Italy, true and fictional crime stories blur into one another and, as Luigi Pirandello warned almost a century ago, in this land of illusionism you could go mad searching for the missing truth.

There are also, however, more mundane reasons that Italian justice never seems to resolve anything. It’s partly a question of meritocracy: in a land in which appointments are invariably made through nepotism rather than competence, it’s perhaps inevitable that any investigation has holes in it and that decent lawyers are able to find them. A fair trial is often impossible because there’s no jury (at least not in the sense that we understand the term) and there’s no sense of sub judice: the juiciest bits have always been leaked to the press long before trial. The judiciary, no one really doubts it, is in desperate need of reform. The trouble is that the one man most desperate to reform it, the prime minister, is coincidentally the man most desperate to avoid it…

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

Melting Glaciers Reveal Ancient Artifacts

A well preserved male hunter’s coat from around the year 300 A.D. was found this summer in the Breheimen National Park, making it the oldest piece of clothing in the country. The coat was found in the rock bed left by a melting glacier. The warmer weather caused by climate change provides archaeologists, researchers and museums with new opportunities to find artifacts dating back hundreds of years. A new exhibition at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo will feature all finds from the melting glaciers, most of which date back to Roman times. “This find is sensational, not only in Norway, but internationally,” says Marianne Vedeler, Manager and Textile Expert at the Museum of Cultural History. The number of garments this old in all of Northern Europe can be counted on one hand, she explains to Aftenposten.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Malmö Mayor: Time to Try ‘Temporary’ Citizenship

Social Democrat Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu’s proposal to combat criminality by deporting new Swedish citizens who commit serious crimes has been slammed by party colleagues as “pure racism”. On Friday, Reepalu suggested deporting criminals and introducing ‘temporary’ citizenship as ways to help combat crime in Malmö in the wake of continuing problems in the city’s Seved district- “I believe this should be applied more often; that more active criminals who are not Swedish citizens should be deported,” said Reepalu to the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

During the spring, the problems in Seved grew more extreme and a massive police surveillance programme was initiated. But lately the problems have returned. Postal workers in the area now carry a personal alarm and many residents say they don’t dare go out at night.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

UK: Ambassador Taub Makes New Friends

Daniel Taub, the new Israeli ambassador to the UK, used events organised by Conservative Friends of Israel at the Conservative Party conference to thank the coalition government for “coming through” on amending the legislation on universal jurisdiction. Speaking at a private lunch on Monday, Mr Taub, who is three weeks into the job, announced that as a result of the change in the law, Israeli Opposition leader Tzipi Livni would visit the UK this week without fear of arrest for alleged war crimes.

At a CFI fringe meeting later in the day, Mr Taub said there had been a “very receptive response from the British government” to Israel’s concerns about the unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations last month. He said the move provided “a magnetic attraction away from the negotiating table”. He added that although the Palestinians stopped short of taking the proposal on observer status at the UN to a vote, this had merely bought time. “October is the new September,” he warned.

He said Israel had grown used to being told that its genuine friends were candid with their criticism, but asked: “Where are the genuine friends of the Palestinians?” He was joined on the panel by Middle East Minister Alistair Burt, who said he was pleased that a direct confrontation at the UN had been avoided, but that “time was pressing” to reach a negotiated settlement. Mr Taub took a similar message to the Labour Party last week. “It is sending a message to the Palestinians that you don’t have to make tough choices for peace,” he told a packed meeting of Labour Friends of Israel. He also condemned the TUC for its decision to review its relationship with the Histadrut: “It is a tragedy when progressivebodies play a non- progressive role.” He noted that 430,000 people had taken to the streets of Israel to campaign for social justice and called on people on the liberal left to recognise the significance of this movement.

Labour leader Ed Miliband told the same meeting that backing the Palestinian bid for statehood was the right thing for his party to do. He understood that for some in the room this was a difficult decision to accept. But as negotiations had not moved on, he believed it was “right to support the Palestinian wish for the upgrading of their status at the UN”.

Mr Miliband emphasised that Labour backing for Israel remained strong and pointed to Labour’s support for the change to the law on universal jurisdiction: “We were right to take the decision to support the principle of what the government is doing,” he said. Foreign Secretary [sic] Douglas Alexander joined him on the platform, while several other Shadow Cabinet members including Jim Murphy, Ivan Lewis and Ed Balls also attended the event, as did rising Labour stars Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger. The reception was the first since LFI became a membership organisation under the leadership of new director Jennifer Gerber. LFI chair John Woodcock MP paid tribute to his predecessor David Cairns, who died earlier this year.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Black History Month Kicks Off With Over 80 Events in Tower Hamlets

Black culture will be celebrated with more than 80 events in Tower Hamlets during this year’s Black History Month.

The borough which is bidding for city status is keeping the annual celebration while other London councils have either abandoned or scaled down what is one of the most important dates in the Black community’s cultural calendar because of funding cuts. Bromley Council has decided to cancel the event and has introduced a Diversity Day instead, while Barnet, Haringey, Lewisham and Southwark Councils are among those either scaling down or planning to scrap the event.

Events in Tower Hamlets this month range from dance and drumming sessions to film screenings paying homage to African, Caribbean and Black British society. Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, said: “Black History Month is now an important part of the annual calendar as it provides a fantastic platform to highlight the contributions made by black and ethnic minority communities to British life.” One of Britain’s most popular reggae groups Misty in Roots, which began life in Southhall in the early 1970s, will perform at Rich Mix on October 29 at 8pm. Tickets are £15 on the door and £12 advance.

Watney Market Library is hosting a photographic exhibition, Photos of Shadwell, and the Idea Store in Whitechapel is running an exhibition, People That Made Black History Month, featuring black athletes, scientists and adventurers. Whitechapel Idea Store will also hold an African drumming workshop on October 29. The Idea Store in Bow will host creative workshops for children exploring Aboriginal art and its role in story tellying on October 25 and 27 from 2-4pm. The Idea Store, Chrisp Street, Poplar, will have a family fun day on October 29 with craft activities and traditional Caribbean food from 2-4pm, and a taster session in gospel, hip hop or R’n’B singing on October 22 from 2-4pm. St John on Bethnal Green church will host an evening of live music celebrating the heritage, influence and joy of African and Caribbean music tomorrow (October 7) from 7-11pm. The Brady Arts Centre in Spitalfields will stage a day of activities celebrating the 2012 Olympics, on October 8 from 2-10pm, with film screenings, debates, exhibition, fashion and music. Somali Week Festival will be at Oxford House, Derbyshire Street, Bethnal Green from October 22-30 with poetry, literature and drama events.

Visit to find out more or pick up a programme at an Idea Store, library or One Stop Shop.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Israelis Fear Protests at Globe Shakespeare Festival

The producer bringing an Israeli theatre company to perform for the first time at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre has described it as “a dream come true”. But Rut Tonn of the Habima Theatre also expressed concern that the production would be targeted by protesters. Habima’s version of The Merchant of Venice will be one of 37 plays staged in 37 different languages at the Globe next April as part of an international William Shakespeare festival.

The six-week event, which opens on Shakespeare’s birthday, has been arranged to coincide with the Cultural Olympics before the summer Games. In addition to the Israelis taking on Shylock in Hebrew, the Palestinian Ashtar Theatre company will perform Richard II. “It’s a blessing that we can both take part,” said Ms Tonn. “We are always looking for collaborations which will help with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” She said: “Being asked to take part was like a dream, because for us London is like the Mecca of the theatre world. And it’s not just London, but the Globe as well. It was like someone calling and saying I’d won the lottery.”

The organisers chose the play for them — “It’s a very obvious choice,” she said — and the challenge now is to work on a production within the Globe’s traditional set and lighting.

“It’s limiting but it can be a route to great creativity,” said Ms Tonn, adding that she was sure that director Ilan Ronen would rise to the challenge. But she said she was concerned about problems with anti-Israel protesters at the two shows, after the IPO performance was badly disrupted during its show at the Royal Albert Hall last month. “There’s always a question of how it will go,” she said. “I hope it will be OK, but I have my concerns, and it’s very expensive for the company to go to London. It’s very important for us to do it and also for Israel that it goes well.”

In true dramatic irony, observant Jewish theatre fans will only be able to attend one of the two performances as the first is taking place on Shavuot. Likewise, one of the two Palestinian stagings will be on Shabbat. “There was no suggestion that this might be a problem when the dates were raised with the company and the Israeli Embassy,” said event spokesman Stephen Pidcock.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Mosque Plan Storm

MOSQUE is a word which has been spoken often in South Shore in recent months. But for some local residents, its very mention is causing a lot of anxiety and anger. The Noor-A Madina Mosque opened on Waterloo Road at the start of the year — and its appearance has caused significant waves in the local community. Last week, a 3,000 signature petition was handed in at Blackpool Town Hall calling on councillors to close down the “illegal” site.The petition claims the mosque — a former takeaway — was operating illegally as planning permission for its change of use was applied for retrospectively. The application is to be heard at the town hall in the coming months.

At a stormy public meeting held at The Waterloo Pub, on Tuesday, however, David Owen, head of planning at Blackpool Council, reassured residents the legality of the site was not an issue. Today Natasha Shah, co-owner of the Noor a Madina Mosque, detailed her plans for the site and spoke of her wish for integration in the South Shore community. She said: “People think we are millionaires who hope to buy up the whole block but this isn’t true. If we did have to move it would be a shame, all we want is somewhere to practise our faith in peace. We want the whole community to use this site for GCSE or parenting classes, our doors are open for anybody. We are not here to convert everyone to Islam, we just want to be part of the community.”

There are five buildings on the site, four in a terrace and a further property at the back. Two are currently in use, the main mosque, and a meeting room which is also used for GCSE classes. A third building, the women’s mosque, is in the process of being decorated and the fourth building in the terrace, which is currently boarded up, will house an after school club and multi-faith library. The final building will eventually be used for special events but there are no plans for its development until next year. The long-term plan includes applying to build a new modern mosque on the site, which blends with the local area. But these plans, if granted, are at least five years away, according to mother of seven Mrs Shah.

Up to 60 Muslims gather for Friday prayer at present. It is the parking for the mass gatherings, in particular, which is causing concern for Waterloo Road business people. South Shore residents have also questioned the need for another mosque in Blackpool, when there is one under a mile away on Central Drive. But the Muslim community in the resort may be bigger than people realise. Mrs Shah said: “There are around 6,000 Muslim households here. It’s not just people of Pakistani origin, there are Turkish people and Moroccans who are Muslims too. We don’t use the other mosque because we are more moderate Muslims. There are differences, just as there are different types of Christianity. The media and people like the English Defence League encourage a lot of scare mongering about Islam, we are not here to take over the country. I am offended when people accuse us of playing the “race card” to get this application through, I’ve never made an issue of my race or religion. I was born in this country and I have always encouraged my children to integrate with other faiths. I have heard parents encouraging their children to shout racist comments at me. It is a shame because they are influencing the next generation and not letting them make up their own minds.”

Greg Cook, who chaired Tuesday’s meeting, said feelings hadn’t changed about the mosque. He said: “I was keen to steer the meeting away from race and religion and onto the car parking issues. Almost all of the comments were focused, quite rightly, on the logistical issues. That site is wholly unsuited to any business which attracts a lot of traffic. There are racists out there, I’m not disputing that, but people are very concerned the race card will be played to get this application pushed through. Anybody who speaks out against Muslims seems to be immediately accused of being Islamaphobic, and this is not the case. The objections would be just as strong if this was plans for a bowling alley or a very busy church on that site. I am in no doubt if these plans are passed, it will cause major traffic problems in this area. That shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Warning Over France’s Islamic Suburbs Which Are Becoming ‘Separate Communities in a Divided Nation’

France’s run-down city suburbs are becoming ‘separate Islamic societies’ cut off from the state, a report has warned.

Arab communities are increasingly rejecting French values and identity to immerse themselves in Muslim culture and lifestyle, it was found.

Muslim pupils often boycott school dinners if the food is not halal and most Arabs oppose marriages to white French citizens, the study by respected political scientist Gilles Kepel revealed.

As a result, France — whose five million Muslims make up Europe’s largest Islamic population — was turning into a ‘divided nation’, the study called Suburbs of the Republic found.

Dr Kepel wrote: ‘In some areas, a third of the population of the town does not hold French nationality, and many residents are drawn to an Islamic identity rather than simply rejecting or failing to find a secular one.

‘French schools, which are rigorously non-religious, have traditionally been seen as having the role of training young citizens of the republic.

But local officials say Islamic pupils are heading home for a halal lunch.

‘Most people in France do not object to mixed marriages, but in the suburbs we were surprised to find a very large proportion of Muslim respondents said they were opposed to marriages with non-Muslims.’

The study was commissioned by the Institut Montaigne think-tank. It will make recommendations to the government in January.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Italian FM: Support on Path to EU, Kosovo a Problem

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 7 — Italy supports Serbia’s goal of obtaining in the European Council the “candidate status and of scheduling a date to start negotiations” by December, but the problem of a normalisation of regional relations with Kosovo remains, one of the prerequisites for Serbia’s path to Europe on which there “are still problems.” So said the spokesman of the Italian Foreign Ministry, Maurizio Massari, who also said in the weekly briefing that Minister Franco Frattini will visit Belgrade on October 12.

“Italy,” Massari explained, “believes that the natural seat to resolve the issues between Serbia and Kosovo is a dialogue facilitated by the European Union, which has already managed to revolve many problems.” Now, he continued, “the agreements that have already been closed must be put into effect, and new deals must be signed on telecommunication, electricity and Kosovo’s participation in regional cooperation forums.” The spokesman explained that the problems between Belgrade and Pristina mainly regard concrete questions that concern citizens. It will not be a simple dialogue, as Serbia’s ambassador to Italy Anna Hrustanovic underlined. “The tensions,” she said, “can only be eased with dialogue and with respect of the Serbia population living in the north of the Kosovo region, but the UN must make sure the KFOR mission keeps an impartial attitude.” But, she added, “at times it is difficult to negotiate when we have these escalations” of tensions “at our borders. “Serbia is open to dialogue, but everybody must be committed to their continuation.” Frattini will also receive a honorary degree from the political sciences faculty in Belgrade, for his support to the European integration process. He will discuss the bilateral relations with Serbia, with Italy as the country’s main buyer of goods and the third exporting country to Serbia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya: Mantica Says Idris Represents Benghazi, Not All Libya

(ANSAmed) — TAORMINA, OCTOBER 7 — Prince Idris al-Senussi, nephew of the last Libyan King Idris, has the right to lay claim to a political role in post-Gaddafi Libya, but is still the representative of a Cyrenaica potentate and not the entire country. This was the comment by Italy’s Foreign Undersecretary Alfredo Mantica on today’s statements by the prince in Taormina.

Mantica spoke on the fringes of the Taormina Forum on Africa and Europe organised by the Banco di Sicilia Foundation and Studio Ambrosetti. Not long before in the same location Idris had said that he did not want to return to the monarchy, but to claim an important role for his family in the building of the new Libya. “Idris is a Senussi from Cyrenaica, nephew of a Senussi king,” Mantica said. “He is an expression of that land, of the Senussi order ( which was the opposition to the Italians. He represents the world of Benghazi. I find his aspirations legitimate, but I was expecting him to say more on the difficulty of forming a government for the National Transitional Council.” In Mantica’s eyes “Benghazi inhabitants (who began the revolt against Gaddafi, Ed.) do not know what to do. They can’t seem to reach an agreement with those from Tripoli, with Berbers, with those from Misurata. Not to mention the tribes who still back Gaddafi: the Qaddafa, the Warfalla, the Tuareg. One third of Libya is still in the hands of loyalists.” According to the undersecretary, Sarkozy and Cameron also made a political mistake in their trip to Libya, underestimating these divisions. “They went there to celebrate with the victors, But who are the victors? Those from Benghazi, the Berbers, but not those from Tripoli. This division is what Libyans must now get past.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Ex Arafat Advisor: Palestinian State Perhaps Useless

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, OCTOBER 7 — A Palestinian State? That could be “useless”, because it is no good having a flag and a currency if the lives of citizens are not improved. It would be better to form “a Israeli-Palestinian federation,” in which “settlers are not asked to go” and Palestinians are guaranteed their civil rights, first of all their right to move around freely, but also their own economic interests, like the exploitation of the new off-shore gas fields which is currently not allowed. Assuming a controversial stance: this seems to be the calling of Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh, former advisor of Arafat, professor and chairman of the Al Quds University.

In his new book, ‘What is a Palestinian State Worth?’, presented today in Milan, he proposes to get rid of the choice between a “decapitated Palestinian State”, which could be useless because unable to guarantee security, work and a dignified life to its citizens, and the current “bi-national apartheid”, in which military occupation deprives the Palestinians from their civil rights. “The local situation,” he explains, “is moving backwards instead of forwards and the 2-State solution Abu Mazen, whom I respect, is fighting for will probably fail.” Meanwhile, he continues, “we should fight for access to basic civil rights, like the right to move freely or to get access to healthcare services.” In the ‘80s Nusseibeh created a stir with his provocative ideas, saying that the Palestinians should have recognised Israel while Israel should have annexed the occupied territories and give full citizenship to the Palestinians in a single bi-national State. Today his new proposal could have a similar effect on the debate. Some analysts have pointed out that his proposal might not be unwelcome for the more conservative part of Israeli politics.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yom Kippur 2011: Atonement Amid Roosters, Fish and Magic

(ANSAmed) — BENE’ BRAK, OCTOBER 7 — From the shiny high-tech skyscrapers of Tel Aviv to the orthodox suburb of Bené Brak it only takes ten minutes by car, if there isn’t too much traffic.

But once arrived, one gets the feeling of having travelled back in time on the days between the Jewish New Year’s Day and the expiatory solemnity of Yom Kippur (which starts tonight), like having arrived in a Jewish village in the east of Europe as it was two centuries ago. In the rabbinic court of Nadvorna, dozens of adults dressed in black, with a certain pomposity and sternness in their celebration customs, have come together around a small plastic swimming pool, just a metre in diameter, with its outside decorated with tortoise designs. Inside the basin are some fishes. This is a way for the community to celebrate the rite of ‘Tashlich’ (from the Hebrew imperative meaning ‘Throw’) in which the sins of the repentant are thrown in the waves. Prayers in this ceremony must be said near a flow of water or, if that is not available, in the presence of living fishes. In streets nearby one can see chickens being whirled around on the heads of the faithful and then killed (having ‘absorbed’ the sins of the repentant). Animal protection organisations have protested against this rite (‘Kapparot’), as have several rabbis who are more open to modernising certain traditions that may have seen their best time. According to a scholar of Jewish folklore, Ella Arazi, these rites — which are practiced this week as well near Tel Aviv — have been influenced by notions of magic and have their roots in the medieval period, often in the Jewish community in Germany. The ‘Tashlich’ rite, Arazi explains, is probably based on a desire to sooth the demons of the underworld by throwing them bits of food. The practice of ‘Kapparot’ seems toh ave the same purpose — in medieval Jewish magic — of keeping away the demons of the world of darkness, which are claimed to be afraid of roosters since they announce the light of day. But, the researcher wonders, why did the ancient Jews sacrifice roosters which also served a purpose as sentinels, looking out for the emissaries of Evil? An explanation that can be given for this is, that sacrificing such an important pawn the medieval Jews expected that they would not be touched by demons in the year to come. A sort of belligerence between Good and Evil, where the ones to suffer were the poor domestic birds.

Meanwhile, preparations for Yom Kippur in Israel have been completed, with extra security measures in Jerusalem and in the cities with a mixed Jewish and Arab population (like Acre) where tensions are feared, a few days after the arson of a mosque in Galilee, of which extremist Jews have been accused. Many people are expected to visit the synagogues and the ‘good’ seats inside them are sold at record prices this year.

The revenues will go to charity.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bahrein Security Forces Kill 16 Year Old Shiite

(AGI) Manama — A 16 year old Shiite protester, Ahmed Jaber al-Qatan, has been killed by shots fired by security forces in Manama. The police officers had intervened to break-up a protest in a square in the western part of the capital. The incident was reported by Al Wefaqu opposition sources, the most important political representatives of the Shiite majority, which, in the tiny insular emirate, is subject to a elite Sunni group of which the reigning Al Khalifa dynasty is part.

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

Cautious Analyst of Change [Tarek Ramadan]

Dr Tarek Ramadan says Arabs will have to deal with economic issues before they can celebrate a new chapter in Middle Eastern history

The year 2011 has been a very special one for the Arab masses. After decades of nothingness, and subservience even, the Arab street took things into their own hands and launched non-violent movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria, resulting so far in the toppling of three dictators. It is safe to say some experiences have been “more successful” than others and that some have taken a different route of fighting against their relentless regimes. But to get a better perspective of what happened and why, and what we can expect in the near future, Weekend Review sat down with Dr Tarek Ramadan, professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, to get his thoughts on the latest developments. Ramadan, who has already written a book on the so-called Arab Spring, to be released later this year, is “cautiously optimistic” as he spoke about the future of the Middle East.

Within minutes of our conversation, Ramadan is quick to dismiss the notion that the Arab uprisings sent shock waves everywhere. (Ramadan believes the “Arab Spring” is a misleading term and even refrains from calling the movements revolutions.) Instead, he brings our attention to the fact that the United States and Europe were involved in training non-violent and cyber dissident bloggers since 2004. He says that in September 2010 these bloggers had a meeting with Google in Budapest, where they were creating the first north African-Middle East blogger network. This was organised by Google and institutions connected to the US State Department. After this, many of the people were trained at the Albert Einstein Institute. So, he says, “they were trained and you can’t say their governments didn’t know”.

Ramadan believes the Arab uprisings shouldn’t be looked at from an emotional point of view and say they weren’t expected. “The fact is,” he says, “[Srdja] Popovic was the one who led all the popular mobilisations in Serbia and also trained Middle Eastern bloggers — he was involved in the whole process.” How is this not a conspiracy theory? Because, he says, the Hosni Mubarak regime was aware of the training and subsequently arrested a number of bloggers upon their return to Egypt in 2008. And just a note on Popovic, since he helped oust Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, he has been busy promoting non-violent warfare. In 2003, he founded the Centre for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) in Belgrade.

But is Ramadan putting too much emphasis on the bloggers or were they the story? “They’re the driving forces,” he says. The social network — the whole philosophy of it that worked in Serbia worked in Egypt. “But that’s not to say it would have been impossible without it,” he says. It has to be understood that there will be more opportunities in the future and people can still find new ways to bring about change.

So now that it has happened, can we say that countries such as Egypt and Tunisia are experiencing a new chapter in their history? Not so fast, says Ramadan. “There’s a sense that the face of the Middle East is changing, but we still can’t say that we’re headed towards independent, autonomous and transparent democracies. What’s missing in all discussions is the economic factor,” he says. What he means is the lack of emphasis on the marginalisation of people, high levels of poverty and unemployment in the countries. So while, politically speaking, Arab uprisings weren’t expected, economically speaking, they were. He is right. There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered. Looking at the situation in Egypt and Tunisia, nothing is settled and figures from the old regime still appear in today’s setting. The army is also still visible.

Pondering Egypt’s problems

Ramadan pays special attention to Egypt in our conversation. This is hardly surprising, since he is Egyptian. Besides, there is the little detail that he is the grandson of Hassan Al Banna who, in 1928, founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Ramadan’s father, who was also a prominent figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, was exiled by Jamal Abdul Nasser from Egypt to Switzerland, which is where Ramadan was born and raised. He says the Swiss government has advised him not to travel to Egypt during this period because of its instability.

So, on February 11, did Ramadan join fellow Egyptians in jubilation when Mubarak stepped down? The answer is immediately a no.

“I was very cautious about the fall of Mubarak,” he says. His biggest concern has to do with the level of discussions taking place in Egypt and Tunisia. “Egyptians are not ready for elections and they’re still talking about secularists versus Islamists,” he contends. If they don’t have people from within the civil society who are reacting with new thoughts to tackle the real issues (poverty, economy, education, gender), he ponders, how will they solve their problems?

It remains to be seen how the Islamists will fit into a new Middle East. They have an opportunity to be part of a new system as they enjoy historical legitimacy. However, Ramadan cautions: “The Islamists are very quick to fall into the trap of viewing their legitimacy against seculars. We also have to ask whether they are offering a political alternative, an economic alternative.” Ramadan also says the Islamists are busy debating references to Sharia in the Egyptian constitution when they should be looking at providing an overall strategy. He says that if anything, they are today scattered in different directions: Some leaders don’t want to be involved in politics. This is led by Ahmad Mursi.

Then there is Abdul Momin Abul Futouh, who is going it alone. There are also the young who are going in “Al Shabab Al Masri”, or the Egyptian youth direction. And there are the Islamists who are aligning themselves with the left. The Muslim Brotherhood was united against a dictator, their unity based on the power of the dictator; his absence exposes their weakness.

To dig deeper into the Muslim Brotherhood issue and tackle its questionable reputation, I asked Ramadan directly: Would an Islamist takeover in the Middle East be a terrible thing? Again, he is cautious; he says we have had bad experiences and propaganda. “In the West, they know that if the Islamists take over, it won’t be possible for them to deal with those countries to protect their interests in the same way; so they demonise them,” he says.

On the other hand, in Muslim majority countries such as Iran, there are questions on how Islam is implemented. “The very meaning of Sharia and how to implement it is not always clear and there’s confusion on how non-Muslims, morality and culture are handled,” Ramadan argues. So between this demonisation and idealisation, there is space for critical thinking. “As long as they don’t advocate violence, abide by the rule of law and accept the democratic process before and after the election, they should be involved in the political process. It’s the only way for them to evolve,” he adds. They could also look to Turkey for inspiration. While so much has been made of Recep Erdogan’s leadership skills, Ramadan says Turkey has managed to come up with a good governance system and put the army in the barracks — outside the political structure — which is imperative for its leadership’s success.

Leaderless dynamism

Surely, though, the Arab Spring or Arab uprisings help explain the Arab world? Ramadan thinks this is an important point to bring up. “We have energy and dynamisms; we have the majority of the people in the Arab world who are young and energetic,” he says without breaking concentration. This is all too well. But, he points out, between “using the means and the technology and getting the political sense, there’s no vision, and this is utterly important”. These are leaderless uprisings and it was specifically this setting that allowed the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt to succeed. That these movements didn’t have a specific leadership allowed them to concentrate on their dictator, making it a political message as apposed to just channelling their anger towards the West.

But it is rather ironic that the very reason for their success (no leadership) is also why they are weak today. Ramadan says that today, more than ever, they need political clarity and vision. He especially wants the people of Tunisia and Egypt to escape the decades-long dictator-imposed binary vision that pits the secularists against the Islamists in an attempt to polarise the political debate. It is this setting, he says, that allows the army a chance to play the role of arbitrator. His advice? Civil society intellectuals must find a new way (through more transparency) to govern and unite. Otherwise they will end up with a controlled democracy. Is it fair to say that because Arabs are not used to democracies, it is taking them a long time to figure it out?

Ramadan is quick to point out that democracy is not an overnight process, it takes time. “Arabs are capable and they have the history, the memory and the reference to reach that level,” he says. The way he puts it, Arabs must try to be the subject of their history and not the object of their control, that is, going towards autonomy. This will take time but it will still be a positive experience. I also raise the topic that many academics have stipulated that these Arab uprisings have had a very strong impact on Arab nationalism, a concept that enjoyed popularity and support in the 1950s and the 1960s but quickly died down with the advent of dictators. So is this a moment of revival? Ramadan says that for these individual uprisings to succeed, they need to become “national uprisings”.

“You’re not going to get transparent democracy or true democratisation if you only focus on your country,” he argues. That is, economic stability, which is a transnational problem, is at the heart of this quest for political freedom. And there is an urgent need for new regional political thinking. “Going back to 1950s nationalism would be a regression, because we’re talking today about true democracies and autonomy [not national independence],” he adds.

And let us not forget Palestine. “If we are going towards true democracies,” he says, “that direction would obviously go against Israel. Israel doesn’t want democracies; controlled democracies, however, it could live with.” To put it simply, Ramadan says, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict could become and should become a central issue for all these uprisings if Arabs understand that they have to connect and come up with one vision.” While it is difficult to be overly optimistic today, it sounds like the Arab uprisings of 2011 will be remembered as the beginning of a different era in Middle Eastern history, one that is not bogged down by dictatorship and injustice. The youth have shown a strong desire to build more equitable Arab societies, and that requires a lot of work, transparency and healthy participation.

Erudite scribe

Dr Tarek Ramadan, who holds a PhD in Philosophy, Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Geneva, is known for his substantial contributions to the debate on contemporary Islamic issues, and perceptions and misperceptions about Islam. In fact, he is an adviser to the European Union on religious issues. Dr Ramadan is at present a professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University. He is also a visiting professor in Qatar and director of a new research centre there that tackles Islamic legislation and ethics. Its areas of focus are medicine, education, gender, environment, economy, arts and food. Dr Ramadan was also to teach in the United States in 2004 before he faced major problems with his visa, which was eventually revoked by the US government. As Dr Ramadan donated to two charities supporting Palestinian projects, in the US he was suspected of providing material support to a terrorist organisation (linking it to Hamas). After a lengthy legal battle, Hillary Clinton lifted the ban on him in January 2010. His books include What I Believe and Radical Reform, Islamic Ethics and Liberation. He has just finished writing a book on the latest events in the Arab world, titled Islam and the Arab Awakening, which will be released at the end of the year.

[JP note: Let us not forget Palestine. Indeed.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Anti-Syria Front Seeks to Reassure Christians

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, OCTOBER 7 — A conference of politicians and activists from the Lebanese anti-Syrian opposition gathered together within the March 14 coalition was organised in order to send a reassuring message to the region’s Christian community, in which unease is spreading over the possible negative consequences that a fall of President Bashar Al Assad’s regime in Damascus could have on their minority in Syria. The conference will be held October 23 in the Lady of the Mountain monastery in the Lebanese district Jbeil. “It will be an intellectual, political and social gathering to examine the historical position of Christians after seeing some showing signs of confusion,” the coordinator of the March 14 movement general secretariat Fares Sweid told the newspaper the Daily Star. The latter was referring to the recent words of the patriarch of Lebanese Maronite Catholics, Monsignor Beshara Rai, who warned of the possible consequences that a revolution in Syria could have on the Christian minority and asked the international community to give more time to President Assad to carry out the promised reforms. “We must support the Arab Spring, which actually began in Lebanon in 2005,” said Sweid in reference to the popular protests that year which led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country after 29 years of occupation following the killing of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

M.E Revolts and Arab Christians: A Justified Prudence

The Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See justifies the prudence of the Christians in the face of Arab revolts that are afflicting the Middle East and cautions against giving too much importance to “unfounded accusations, they are our compatriots, they have everything in common with us, our homeland, purpose and destiny.”

Rome (AsiaNews) — Habib Mohammed Hadi Sadr, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq to the Holy See, wrote this article on the position and role of Arab Christians in the Middle East at the present time.

The Arab Spring regards Arab Christians; there has been growing criticism against them for the position some of them have expressed over the riots in Arab countries, some analysts believe that there will be a revival of Arab Christians thanks to what is taking place in the Arab world, and not what happened in the past. Christ has never been a model for dictators, and there are those who believe that a true, sincere Christian-Muslim dialogue can be born of the revolution, or in the period that will follow the revolution.

There are people who criticize the attitude of some of the Arab Christians against the current protest, who recall with admiration the noble position that Arab Christians during the Ottoman Empire at the time of the Arab liberation movements , and the very negative attitude of Christians towards the French and British policies in the Middle East, and in particular against the plans and behaviour of the Zionists in the occupied Arab territories.

The reality calls for a neutral and realistic analysis of the differing positions. So then we must first recognize an important fact: the Arab Christian component is a minority within the society in which they live. There is no denying the importance and weight of their role, through different historical periods, but the number counts, and the weight of the majority is completely different from that of the minority. This minority is alarmed. It fears that the political, social and economic turmoil which erupted unexpectedly, motivated by emotions rather than clear programs, and which does not take account of internal and international conditions, can have serious consequences on the lives of minorities, and open the way for an unknown and terrible future.

The first Arab revolts received the full support of the Arab world, but today this is no longer the case. For example, the societies in countries where there is a revolt — Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain — are divided on how the prospect of change and demands for democratic reforms. In some places there are calls for a peaceful solution, and protests against foreign interference, but elsewhere there are those who use violence and confrontation, and there are those who rely on armed protests and use foreign forces to overthrow the regime. The situation is made more difficult by the attitude of the international community and the UN Security Council. Each party is acting according to his own interests, analysis and strategies to operate in the present and future of the region. And this situation means that Arab Christians should wait before committing themselves, to avoid any errors in assessing all probabilities.

It is also only natural that Christians should mistrust these protests, fearing that they will be led by radical Islamic forces who want to seize power, based on the fact that they are more organized and have a greater, more effective ability to shuffle the cards. These are forces that have shed blood and desecrated Christian churches. As a result Arab Christians find themselves having to choose between accepting authoritarian systems, but with a certain amount of secularism, which guarantee freedom of religion, or a totally different type systems. They choose what seems to them the lesser of two evils.

What makes the problem complex and scene confusing is the lack of a convincing alternative to the systems protesters want to change. In addition, the protest movements do not have a unified command, a clear, specific program or trend. This situation allows opportunists to ride the wave of protest and direct the protest towards extremist goals. Arab Christians wisely use their position to make a decision. They see the danger of the conflicts between demonstrators and power, the killing of innocent people, destruction of property and the blocking of interests. They believe that peaceful solutions, the search for sober and discreet dialogue between people and rulers, opening the way for necessary reforms and restructuring are the best way to avert the possibility of external intervention in the water made increasingly cloudy by the riots.

The aspiration to satisfy the desire of Arab citizens for a democratic model to achieve the peaceful transfer of power by recourse to the polls is a right of citizens, but can only be reached with the constitutional rights, not with the method and language of bullets.

Arab Christians are no better than their brothers, but carry a very powerful voice of wisdom in the management of this crisis. They too are victims of what the dictatorial regimes of Arab countries have produced, namely marginalization in decision-making, silence and a condition of second-class citizens, and for this reason a large number of them decided to emigrate from their country, in search of freedom and dignity.

These reasons have led to a closure, demographic decline and their current role. This region is their birthplace, the historic cradle of the monotheistic religions.

The Holy See, worried, decided to convene a synod of bishops dedicated to the Middle East in October last year, to study this serious problem and take the necessary measures to stop this trend. The basic belief is that the wealth of this region lies in the plurality and diversity that exists within the various nations: religion, language, history and coexistence between different faiths. Christian ethics and culture are centred on a system of values that are opposed to injustice, far removed from corruption, and open to the concept of freedom. The message of Jesus Christ to people is rejection of authoritarianism, and the promotion of virtue and the renunciation of all forms of hatred, violence and coercion.

Therefore, after all that we have seen, we must accept the attitude of Christians, encouraging them to interpret what is right and logical, depending on each context, and not to give importance to unfounded accusations, they are our compatriots, we have everything in common, Homeland, purpose and destiny.

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

Nobel Peace Prize to Tawwakol Karman, Yemeni Revolutionary

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 7 — Member of a conservative party in the opposition, she is an objective journalist and who defied those in power by removing her veil, but retained the black attire of Muslim women.

Tawwakol Karman, 32 years old and with three children, has today been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the prejudices of Yemen’s male caste. Tawwakol Karman broke her own taboo in 2004 while taking part in a human rights meeting by removing her veil and never again putting it on, while asking her female comrades to do the same. Since then the courageous reporter has gone a long way. She has founded the association “Journalists Unchained”, begun a periodic collaboration with the Washington Post and Facebook, and avoided with the help of her bodyguards some of the attempted arrests by Yemen’s powerful president Ali Abdallah Saleh. She has received death threats, had leaflets confiscated, and spent a few days in prison. But the obstinate Tawwakol Karman has endured it all.

“It is a prize for me but especially for all Yemeni women,” she said today after receiving the award. Her struggle for women’s rights is also very difficult in a Yemen stuck in an ancient Islamic past. Elderly men get child brides despite Yemeni law, and while for the former divorce can — rarely — be imposed, for the young women stoning to death is frequently used.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Pat Condell’s Courageous Condemnation of Antisemitism

No, I don’t agree with everything the passionately secular Pat Condell says, but his courageous condemnation of Islamic antisemitism needs to be heard. The only controversy should be the question of why more “liberals” don’t unequivocally denounce the endemic, and decidedly illiberal, Jew hatred in the Middle East.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy Calls on Turkey to Acknowledge Armenian Genocide

(AGI) Yerevan — French president Nicolas Sarkozy said Turkey “should revisit its history concerning the Armenian massacres in 1915”, which France considers a genocide. Sarkozy was speaking at a joint press conference in Yerevan, in Armenia, where he met with the Armenian president, Serge Sarkisyan. The French president said that Turkey “is a great nation” and should do “what all great countries like Germany and France have done.”

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

Spiegel Interview With Former Nuclear Watchdog: The Iranians ‘Tricked and Misled US’

In a SPIEGEL interview, Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, offers his first assessment of his 27 years at the global nuclear watchdog. He addresses Iran’s nuclear program, his concerns about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and mistakes made in Fukushima.

Heinonen: I don’t know. I am, however, convinced that Tehran will reach the “break-out capabilty” — in other words, the capacity to produce weapons-grade uranium — as early as by the end next year. In that sense Iran aims to be a virtual nuclear power with the capability of producing the ultimate weapons at any time.

SPIEGEL: Was the Iranian program not damaged in any way by the Stuxnet computer worm that it appears Israeli scientists engineered and used to infiltrate the Natanz facility?

Heinonen: Sure it was. It had a delaying effect and was so effective that, by my estimates, it knocked out almost 2,000 centrifuges in Natanz. But the Iranian scientists are smart, and they got the problem under control.

SPIEGEL: Do you favor bombing Iran, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still appears to be considering?

Heinonen: Not in the least. I agree with former Mossad Director Meir Dagan, who considers such a first strike to be “insane.” We don’t even know all the sites that would have to be bombed.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

The Ottoman Empire’s Secular History Undermines Sharia Claims

A new paper shows 18th- and 19th-century Ottoman rulers decriminalised homosexuality and promoted women’s education

Hardline Muslim groups often portray the Ottoman empire as a magic template for a global caliphate. This is then used as a springboard for grandiose arguments that paint a caliphate as viable, and deem it as the only credible model of governance for the future. These arguments are based on a belief that the empire adhered to a single interpretation of sharia (Islamic law) for over 600 years, and — crucially — that its success was contingent on this.

But a paper by Hussain Ishtiaq, published by Faith Matters on Saturday displays a very different picture. Ottoman sultans, or caliphs, in the 18th and 19th centuries launched secular schools and promoted the education of women. The period of reformation known as the Tanzimat saw customary and religious laws being replaced in favour of secular European ones. More surprisingly, homosexuality was decriminalised in 1858 (long before many western states took their cue, and over a century before the American Psychiatric Association declassified it as a mental illness in 1973). Contrary to the claims of hardline groups, religious authorities approved many of these measures.

In terms of broader social change, the Ottomans made strong attempts to integrate non-Muslim communities. On the cultural front, it is well known that a minority of people claim that Islam frowns upon artistic expression. However, the last sultan/caliph, Abdulmecid Efendi (1922-1924) has numerous paintings on display in Istanbul’s new museum of modern art; many others were also keen musicians and played a variety of musical instruments. It is therefore clear that the sultan/caliphs enunciated a progressive vision for a secular Muslim society, many years before al-Qaida and similar groups came into existence.

For those who dismiss President Ataturk’s vision as an anomaly, this reconsideration of their history must come as a nasty shock.

The purpose of Hussain’s paper is to encourage people who carry the baton for totalitarian ideologies — including those who are inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki — to think again. The recent deaths of al-Awlaki and his demagogue Osama bin Laden only mean that part of the battle is won.

The other part of the battle is ideological, and this paper boldly leads the way by challenging a key component of that ideology. It does a stellar job in exposing the fallacies that lie within extremist narratives. For example, why do some groups refer to the Ottoman empire as a “caliphate” when it did not synchronise state law with religious law?

When hardline groups present Islam as a rigid political ideology, they end up doing a great disservice to Islam and Muslim communities. One of Islam’s strengths is its relevance to all places and all times, which means that it can take on numerous expressions according to local circumstances. Scholars like Emory University professor Abdullahi An-Na’im recognise that the content of the sharia is bound to its historical context.

An-Naim maintains that concepts such as human rights and citizenship are more consistent with Islamic principles than a state which purports to be Islamic and enforces sharia. In his book, Islam and the Secular State, he goes as far as to suggest that the very idea of an Islamic state is based on European ideas of state and law, and not the Islamic tradition.

It is now more important than ever for greater numbers of individuals to stand up against fascism and extremism — no matter where it comes from. This is why groups like British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD) — the organisation that I work for — have protested against both al-Muhajiroun (in their various guises) and Stop the Islamification of Europe.

Of course, we support the findings of this paper, and hope this is disseminated as widely as possible. I also hope this paper will get far-right groups to reconsider the history of Muslims in Europe, and make them realise the positive contribution Islam has made in countries like Turkey and Spain. The importance of grassroots work to this end — in schools, universities, refugee centres and on social networking sites — cannot be underestimated. Finally, I would like to see the government develop a sound understanding of the issues in this paper, and their relevance to the British Muslim situation. This would be a fitting token of support for organisations like BMSD and Faith Matters.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Turkish Tourism Drive Threatens Ancient Sites

Push for economic progress and development sidelines scholarship

Turkey’s ability to manage its vast cultural heritage may be at crisis point, experts warn. The recent decision to transfer the excavation permits from three well-known classical sites from non-Turkish to Turkish universities—a practice almost unheard of in the protocol-laden world of archaeology—is a cracking of the whip over foreign scholars regarded as not working fast enough to transform the country’s extensive array of antiquities into tourist attractions.

“The threats are direct and indirect and the atmosphere is just that much more difficult,” says Stephen Mitchell, the honorary secretary of the British Institute in Ankara. “Getting a permit is now a process of negotiation and academic concerns are not always the first priority,” he says. A recent broadside published by one of the country’s most eminent archaeologists describes policies more concerned with policing scholarship than confronting the wholesale erosion of Turkey’s vast heritage.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood Member Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Karman, 32, belongs to a Muslim movement with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group “which in the West is perceived as a threat to democracy.” He added that “I don’t believe that. There are many signals that that kind of movement can be an important part of the solution.” Yemen is an extremely conservative society but a feature of the revolt there has been a prominent role for women who turned out for protests in large numbers.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Karnataka: Two New Attacks Against Pentecostal Ministers for Forced Conversions

The incidents occurred in the districts of Belgaum and Hassan. Sajan George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC): “Not sporadic cases, but proof of the anti-Christian climate in Karnataka”. In September 2008 The Hindu Nationalist attacks on State churches.

Bangalore (AsiaNews) — “The Constitution guarantees us religious freedom, and yet the state of Karnataka, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh has the dubious distinction of witnessing an attack against Christians for the practice of faith. It is the duty of the government to safeguard the constitutional rights of all citizens, including minorities.” So Sajan K. George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), denounces two different incidents against Pentecostal pastors of Karnataka, which occurred yesterday, three years after a series of attacks on churches in Karnataka by Hindu extremists.

In the Hassam district, about 20 activists of Sangh Parivar (a Hindu nationalist movement) surrounded the house where pastor Daniel Raghu was leading a prayer service and accused him of practicing forced conversions. The activists then called the police station of Sakleshpur, which questioned and then arrested the pastor under section 153 A of the Penal Code (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, birth, residence, language).

The same day, in the Belgaum district, approximately 40 extremists of the Sangh Parivar interrupted a Pentecostal baptism and insulted the pastor, Santhosh Naganoor, accusing him of practicing forced conversions.

Such incidents “are not sporadic cases”, laments Sajan K. George, “but it is proof of the anti-Christian climate of Karnataka”. However, the most serious problem “is that these Hindu nationalist groups are emboldened by the Somashekar Commission”, explains the President of the GCIC, “which gave a clean chit to BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party, an ultra-nationalist Hindu party) and Sangh Parivar.”

Published last February, the Commission’s report cleared Somashekar Bajrang Dal (Sangh Parivar’s militant youth wing) and its leader Mahendra Kumar of any responsibility in the attacks on the churches of Karnataka, in 2008. From September to October of that year, Hindu nationalists perpetrated continuous and systematic attacks against churches and Christian places of worship. Among the hardest-hit districts, Bangalore, Mangalore, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Kolar.

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

Making Afghanistan Safe for Sharia: Child Brides Division

by Andrew G. Bostom

As reported by the London Evening Standard, (hat tip Religion of Peace) to its own self-described “shock” (despite the commonality of the practice — i.e., notwithstanding the civil law against child brides, more than half of all Afghan girls are married before they reach age fifteen), a decade after British troops entered this chronically war-torn Muslim backwater, the publication (emphasis added):

… has uncovered shocking evidence of an eight-year-old girl who was married off to a policeman for cash. She was sold to the officer, in his twenties, in clear breach of laws introduced two years ago to protect women. She was then the subject of a remarkable battle that symbolises the plight of girls in Afghanistan. Her story vividly highlights the failure to bring about social reforms in the stricken nation, despite the long presence of British forces. It is revealed ahead of tomorrow’s 10th anniversary of the first air strikes on Afghanistan and is a grim reminder of how once-high hopes for democracy, modern justice and social progress there have been dashed.

The child was sold to a member of the Afghan border police, a state employee, within the past year by her father in the southern Helmand district of Garmsir. A price was agreed with the father and the marriage was duly solemnized in a ceremony with a mullah. This was against Afghan state law on marriage but the ceremony gave legitimacy and status in the eyes of the communities and the families.

That’s because Muhammad married Aisha at age 6 or 7 (which is consistent with her playing with dolls during the “marriage”) and “consummated” the marriage when she was nine, according to Islam’s two most trusted and “canonical” hadith collections. The practice thus becoming “sacralized” as per Islam’s totalitarian, cloacal system of religio-political “law,” the sharia.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Pakistani Muslims on Strike Against the Death Sentence for the Murder of Salman Taseer

Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard who killed the Punjab governor, called “a hero of Islam” by Muslim parties and movements who are marching today after prayers in mosques. The bishop of Islamabad, “Qadri has betrayed a trust, killing the person whom he had sworn to protect.”

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Political parties and clerics have declared a nationwide strike for today to protest against the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. Yesterday Mumtaz Qadri appealed to the High Court in Islamabad against the death sentence pronounced by the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi October 1 last. (04/01/2011 Punjab governor assassinated, he had called for Asia Bibi’s pardon).

Qadri’s lawyer, Raja Shujahur Rehman, told the appeals court on that the anti-terrorism court was not the appropriate authority in the case, which should have been dealt with by the Federal Shariat Court. According to the lawyer, the Qadri case did not fall under the Pakistan Penal Code because he had killed a blasphemer according to the teachings of Islam. The appeal argues that Qadri is not responsible for terrorism, because killing Taseer was not an act of terror, and the lawyer concluded that the court had ignored Islamic jurisprudence. Shujahur Rehman said that “no sense of panic or insecurity has been created in the public at the time of the killing, so you can not define it as an act of terrorism, but on the contrary, people heaved a sigh of relief after the killing of a blasphemer. “

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the court in Islamabad chanting slogans in support Qadri and condemnation of the judge. The discussion of the appeal has been scheduled for Oct. 11. Deobandi and Wahhabi groups have announced their support for the demonstration organized by Islamic parties and other groups (about 40 in all) against the verdict, calling Mumtaz Qadri an “Islamic hero.” The Islamic Sunni Tehrik group has offered a large Dyat as “blood money” to the Taseer family to obtain forgiveness of Qadri. The chief of Jamat Islami (Islamic Union) Munawar Hassan said: “The verdict of conviction was a political decision to please the West, and every decision that goes against Islamic ideology is unacceptable, we live in an Islamic state.”

In addition to the closure of all activities, proclaimed by the Islamic parties, after Friday prayers there will be protest marches across the country. The organizers said that the protest will continue until the liberation of Qadri, and the elimination of every secular element opposed to the blasphemy law. One of the Islamic leaders, Maulana Aziz said: “We’ll get his release, and will not allow any profanity to exist in Pakistan. We will kill every blasphemer, and will ensure that Islam will prevail. “

The human rights organization Masihi Foundation in a press release said: “The conditions in Pakistan are becoming increasingly critical because of every day bigotry, which will lead to more violence and chaos. If we disagree with someone, you need not be violent. Individuals can not arrogate to themselves the authority to judge anyone, Muslim or infidel. Mumtaz Qadri has committed a heinous crime, and worse, a murder motivated by ideological reasons. The victim was the governor of Punjab, who in the observance of his public duty had met a woman convicted under a discriminatory law [Asia Bibi]. We oppose the death penalty in general, people should reject the death penalty in an unequivocal manner, especially as it is applied in Pakistan. Liberals who say they are against the penalty, but then go on to assert that they would support it in Qadri’s case, as an exception, have no ground to stand on”.

The bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Rufin Anthony said: “Qadri betrayed his trust and murdered the person he swore to protect. I am amazed that an attorney said that the court’s verdict is illegal and baseless, so is killing a person justified? Those who in this case argue that Quaid-e-Azam, Father and Founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the lawyer for the first Blasphemy case of IIam Din and tried to save him from capital punishment must understand that Mr. Jinnah was not the trial lawyer for Ilam Din. Jinnah only represented him in the appeal against the death sentence. Jinnah sought compassion from the court pleading the boy’s tender ageHe did not defend the action of Ilam Din, i.e. killing of Rajpal as justified”.

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

Tajikistan Building Central Asia’s Biggest Mosque

Dushanbe, October 6, Interfax — The construction of Central Asia’s largest mosque, capable of accommodating up to 150,000 worshippers at a time, was launched in Tajikistan on Thursday. The mosque’s complex and adjacent buildings will take up an area of 7.5 hectares. It will be crowned by four 65-meter-high minarets. The dome of the mosque will be 47 meters high, the Tajik presidential press service has reported. The cost of the project has been estimated at $100 million, of which $70 million will be provided by Qatar, and the rest by Tajikistan. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the mosque. Operating an excavator, he removed the first two buckets full of earth from the foundation pit.

Analysts have described the mosque construction project as an attempt to appease worshippers, who have been complaining of serious restrictions. For example, a president-proposed law banning underage children from visiting churches and mosques came into force in August. The Tajik authorities have also banned the hijab in all of the country’s secular schools and universities, as well as administrative buildings. Around 98% of Tajikistan’s 7.5-million population describe themselves as Muslims.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Tajikistan: Creeping Implementation of Parental Responsibility Law?

Tajikistan appears to be only implementing against Muslims its new Parental Responsibility Law, which among other restrictions bans people under 18, who are not receiving state-approved religious education, from all religious activity. However, Muslim young people are still attending mosques. Faredun Hodizoda, a Dushanbe-based commentator, told Forum 18 News Service that “religious leaders cannot tell young people not to come to mosques because that would be against Islamic law”. So he expected that young people would continue to attend mosques, and so “the authorities will have to punish the believers”. Daler Saidmurodov of the Interior Ministry admitted to Forum 18 that there is “tightened control” of mosques on Fridays. But he insisted that the restriction was on schoolchildren attending mosques during school hours, and that police have been ordered to stop this. Meanwhile, the country’s mosque closure campaign is continuing and a legally resident Jehovah’s Witness has been deported.

Tajikistan appears to be hesitantly implementing its repressive Parental Responsibility Law, whose Article 8 includes the clause: “Parents are obliged […] not to let children-teenagers participate in the activity of religious organisations, with the exception of those officially enrolled in religious education”. However local observers have told Forum 18 News Service that many young people — far more than attend officially registered religious education — are still attending places of worship.

After the Law entered into force on 6 August, officials appeared unsure when asked by Forum 18 how the Law’s numerous repressive articles would be implemented. Hikmatullo Sayfullozoda of the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) told Forum 18 that he thought that “the authorities will act once Ramadan is over [at the end of August].” (see F18News 16 August 2011 On 31 August, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that police stopped people under 18 from entering mosques to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.

“Religious leaders cannot tell young people not to come to mosques”

Faredun Hodizoda, a Dushanbe-based commentator with a long-standing interest in religious affairs, told Forum 18 on 6 October that he had observed children attending mosques during Ramadan and in September. He observed that “religious leaders cannot tell young people not to come to mosques because that would be against Islamic law”. So he expected that young people would continue to attend mosques, and so “the authorities will have to punish the believers”. He expected that in some circumstances this might lead to prison sentences against some young people or their parents thought to be violating the Law.

Christians and other minorities have also repeatedly expressed their opposition to the Parental Responsibility Law and how it may be implemented. Religious leaders of all faiths have also opposed an amendment to the Criminal Code passed at the same time punishing organisers of undefined “extremist religious” teaching, as well as an amendment to the Religion Law passed two weeks previously imposing tight restrictions on religious education in Tajikistan and abroad (see F18News 21 July 2011

But so far the authorities appear to have targeted only Muslims in implementing their latest repressive measures. Leaders of several Christian communities, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of state reprisals, told Forum 18 on 5 October that they have not so far faced any obstacles to children attending their worship services. “It looks like the authorities are quiet for the time being,” one Protestant commented.

“It’s the Law”

Daler Saidmurodov of the Interior Ministry’s Press Service claimed to Forum 18 on 6 October that police in the capital Dushanbe have been told to stop schoolchildren from attending mosques during school hours. “It’s the Law and — as an executive organ of the state — we must implement it,” he told Forum 18 on 6 October. He denied to Forum 18 that the Parental Responsibility Law banned children under 18 throughout Tajikistan, who are not receiving state-approved religious education, from attending places of worship, claiming that “as it says in the Law, schoolchildren are not allowed to attend the mosque during school hours”.

Saidmurodov also stated that on Fridays there is “tightened control” of mosques, as more people attend Friday prayers. He declined to comment on whether the Law is good or bad, or what kind of measures will be taken against parents who continue to send their children to mosques. Other Interior Ministry officials did not answer their telephones on 6 October.

Oleg Kadyrov, assistant to Dushanbe’s Mayor Mahmadsaid Uboydulloev, told Forum 18 on 6 October that Uboydulloev was busy and could not talk to Forum 18. He referred Forum 18 to Shakat Saidov, the Mayor’s Spokesperson. However, Saidov’s phones went unanswered on 6 October.

Mosque closures continue

Tajikistan also continues to close mosques. Bobokhon Sharbatov, the chief religious affairs official of Khatlon Region, stated that 229 unregistered mosques in the region will soon “change their status and become first-aid stations and sports halls”, independent press agency quoted him as declaring on 20 September. The Region’s Jomi District had “transformed 16 unregistered mosques into similar social facilities”, the agency reported. “This initiative is being adopted by other Districts in southern Tajikistan.”

The official who answered Sharbatov’s phone on 6 October told Forum 18 that Sharbatov was busy and not available to talk. He added that it was not in his competence to answer Forum 18’s questions. Other phone numbers at the Regional Administration went unanswered on 6 October.

Mavlon Mukhtarov, Deputy Chair of the state Religious Affairs Committee, said he is “not aware” of such continuing mosque closures. “I will find out about it, and you can call me later,” he told Forum 18 from Dushanbe on 6 October. He did not want to discuss other issues with Forum 18 saying that he was “in a meeting and very busy”. Tajikistan has been carrying out a sustained mosque closure campaign for some years (see eg. F18News 25 January 2011

Independent commentator Hodizoda observed to Forum 18 that many places used as mosques are so-called public places used by local residents for funerals and prayers. It is convenient for people to use them for prayers as they are close to where they live. “The authorities want these places to officially register as mosques,” he said, “but it is very difficult to register these places as mosques as the authorities demand 24 different stamps or permissions from different state agencies.” He further observed that many leaders of local Muslim communities do not know how to deal with this, so it is easier for the authorities to close them down.

Jehovah’s Witness deported

Sherzod Rahimov, a Jehovah’s Witness who is an Uzbek citizen was deported to Uzbekistan from Tajikistan on 17 August by the Tajik authorities, Jehovah’s Witnesses told Forum 18. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been banned in the country since October 2007 (see F18News 18 October 2007

Rahimov was along with other Jehovah’s Witnesses detained and fined on 12 August for breaking Article 474 Part 1 of the Code of Administrative Offences (“carrying out religious activity without state registration or re-registration of the organisation”). He was also accused under Article 499 part 1 of the Code of Administrative Offences (“violation by foreign citizens of the procedure for being in Tajikistan”) (see F18 News 16 August

Rahimov, who is 24, can only walk with the aid of crutches and was beaten and threatened by police officers as he did not want to renounce his faith. Jehovah’s Witnesses told Forum 18 on 6 October that Judge Izzatullo Shirinjonov of Dushanbe City Court on 17 August upheld the previous Court decision to fine and deport Rahimov, and “so he was deported on the same day”. As the Tajik border authorities put a “deported” stamp on each page of Rahimov’s passport, he now needs a new Uzbek passport.

Phones at the State Border Service of Tajikistan went unanswered on 6 October. Asked the same day why a legally resident person was deported, Olimkhon Shamsov, Head of Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry’s Consular Section, told Forum 18 this is “the first time I have run into such a problem”. After he took down the details of the deportation, he promised Forum 18 that the Ministry “will look into the matter.” (END) More coverage of freedom of thought, conscience and belief in Tajikistan is at

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Tajikistan Celebrates Giant Mosque Groundbreaking for Second Time

Officials in Tajikistan have been promising to build Central Asia’s biggest mosque for years, celebrating each step as if they had already set another Guinness record. Yesterday, they finally broke ground. For the second time, that is. President Emomali Rakhmon laid a foundation stone back in 2009, the BBC reported at the time, when the project was expected to take five years. The mosque in the Tajik capital will accommodate 150,000 worshippers, according to press reports, and cost $100 million. Dushanbe will pay $30 million; the rest is financed by Qatar.

Part of a large Qatari development that will include luxury-housing towers, Dushanbe’s chattering classes suspect the grand mosque is a sweetener that has allowed the Qataris to proceed with their other building plans. Dushanbe’s luxury building boom, which has cost hundreds of millions of dollars, has done little to alleviate rapidly rising housing prices, RFE/RL reported recently.

Of course, many in Tajikistan, where roughly half the working-age male population travels abroad seeking employment, are asking if the government might not kick a little more cash into social services, rather than more architectural bling. Dushanbe has steadily cracked down on religious freedom in recent years, forbidding Tajik youths from studying Islam abroad, forcing men to shave their beards and banning children from attending worship services — all efforts, officials say, to combat extremism. So there is one advantage of this project, at least for the overstretched security services: One giant mosque — even if it is mostly empty without the boys, and with so many men off in Russia — would make it easier to monitor the growing legions of Tajikistan’s Muslims.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Ten Years in Afghanistan: German General Says NATO Mission Has ‘Failed’

A top German general who was instrumental in planning the Bundeswehr’s mission in Afghanistan has said that the intervention has failed and the Taliban will regain power within months of withdrawal. Ten years after the invasion, he is far from alone with his critique.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Local Islamists Draw on British Success in Bid for Sharia Law

THE push to recognise sharia law in Australia has entered an ambitious new phase that draws on the tactics that have handed success to Islamists in Britain.

The latest move, under the guise of helping Muslim women, would give sharia law priority over Australian divorce law. If enacted, this plan would prevent Muslims from obtaining a civil divorce unless they first divorce under Islamic law. The plan, published by the Alternative Law Journal, would require Muslims to appear first before a proposed Islamic divorce council made up of imams and lawyers who are familiar with sharia and Australian law. This tribunal would “assess the credibility” of divorce applications from an Islamic perspective. Divorce decrees from this proposed council would be recognised under sharia law and become binding under civil law after approval by a civil court.

These are the key recommendations from an article in the journal that says its goal is to help Muslim women avoid improper pressure from former husbands who refuse to grant them a religious divorce. “By establishing the council and formalising the process, women would be able to present their case under fair and culturally sensitive conditions,” solicitor and migration agent Ismail Essof says. “A process which is recognised under Australian law would mitigate some of the abuses currently permitted.”

By giving indirect legal recognition to a tribunal applying sharia law, Mr Essof’s plan adopts one of the main techniques to have helped sharia law become part of Britain’s legal framework. During a visit to Australia in August, British-based anti-sharia law campaigner Maryam Namazie said Australia should learn from Britain’s mistake in extending a form of legal recognition to tribunals that use sharia law, not British law, to decide disputes. Ms Namazie’s organisation, One Law for All, produced a report last year that outlines how the British Arbitration Act has permitted sharia tribunals to make rulings based on principles that displace the normal law.

The rulings of sharia arbitrators can be registered with Britain’s civil courts and then enforced as if they are judgments of mainstream courts, the report says. Ms Namazie blames the liberal media in Britain and the British government for tolerating a form of “legal pluralism” that deprives individual Muslims of some of the rights enjoyed by other Britons. “When you look at sharia’s advancement, it restricts the rights and freedoms of Muslims first and foremost and therefore it is actually to the detriment of Muslims if it advances,” Ms Namazie says.

In the Alternative Law Journal, Mr Essof makes clear he has been influenced by the British response to sharia law and legal pluralism. His article quotes Britain’s Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips as saying: “There is no reason why sharia principles or any other religious code should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution.”

He endorses the concept of legal pluralism, asserting that it has been advanced in many democracies, “Australia included”.

This assertion by Mr Essof might seem odd when compared to the clear and repeated statements by federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland that Australian law wins out whenever there is a conflict between cultural values and the rule of law. Yet it is easy to see how Mr Essof could conclude legal pluralism has been embraced by Australia, just as it has been in Britain. Recent research by legal academics Ann Black and Kerrie Sadiq, published in the University of NSW Law Journal, found sharia law had already become a shadow legal system in Australia, endorsing polygamous and under-age marriages that are outlawed under the Marriage Act.

Mr Essof points to the fact that special sentencing courts for Aborigines, known as circle sentencing courts, are in place. He says they are “a contemporary example of the application of legal pluralism”. In the context of his plan for a sharia divorce tribunal, Mr Essof says legal pluralism means “a holistic approach to the law which allows minority groups to find recourse and cultural significance”. He writes that he does not advocate a separate legal system for Muslims “but rather incorporation of the single aspect of Islamic divorce law”.

“Failure to reconcile Islamic divorce law and Australian civil divorce would undermine court processes and have a negative impact on local Muslim communities in Australia,” he says.

Missing from Mr Essof’s argument is any reference to the backlash from Australian Muslims when Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Ikebal Patel called for Australia to compromise with Islam and embrace legal pluralism. Mr Patel said later that he supported secular law, and it had been a mistake to even mention legal pluralism. Mr Essof makes it clear that if his scheme takes root, the jurisdiction of the proposed sharia divorce tribunal could grow.”If the system proved successful and established grounds to look at addressing other areas of family dispute once a marriage has broken down, then the council could be given formal recognition in addressing these disputes as well, acting as an arbitrator, with the courts then providing a legally binding approval,” he says.

The first step would require the federal government to “empower and assist” the Muslim community to establish the council. “Australian law should require both parties to appear before the Islamic Divorce Council upon or before applying for a civil divorce in circumstances where their civil marriage was accompanied by a religious ceremony (as documented in the marriage certificate),” Mr Essof says. “The council will not have legally binding powers unless decisions were to be approved by a court during the civil divorce proceedings. A decree pronounced by the council would, however, be recognised by Islamic law.” The final step would require the inclusion of what Mr Essof describes as an “extra criterion” in a divorce application. “The applicant would be asked if they were married through a religious Muslim ceremony. If the applicant responded in the affirmative, then they would be required to prove to the registrar that the couple has been divorced under sharia law. Unless there is official documentation to prove a religious divorce has been granted, an application for divorce under civil law would be denied.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sudan: Omar Al-Bashir’s Sudan Releases 140 Female Prisoners to Juba

Predominantly Muslim Sudan has handed over some 140 female inmates charged under Sharia law to South Sudan in a slight thawing of tensions between the two new neighbours.

Those freed had been incarcerated before the Sudan split in July at Omdurman prison in the north under charges of making alcohol, theft and murder. However those on major charges will have their cases transferred to Juba, South Sudan’s capital. Their release followed a letter by South Sudan President Salva Kiir to Sudan President Omar al-Bashir seeking their release. South Sudan Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management minister Joseph Lual Achuil said that 47 of the freed inmates will return to Juba next week while the rest would first be reunited with their families. Mr Lual said that President Kiir argued in the letter that the South Sudanese in northern jails were so far foreigners in Sudan whose criminal cases could be handled based on applicable laws in South Sudan. A woman, who had already served six years in jail for allegedly killing a rape suspect in self-defence was among those freed, Mr Lual said. “This is a positive response [from Bashir] as the crimes were minor and the suspects were charged on Islamic laws — and they are not Muslims,” Mr Lual said. However, relations between Sudan and South Sudan are yet tense, with both sides bitterly claiming ownership of the fertile and oil-rich Abyei region straddling their common border.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Latin America

1 in 50 Central American Men Murdered by Age 31: UN

This is basically insane: A new UN report says that one in 50 Central American 20-year-old men will be murdered before they turn 31. Unsurprisingly, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime says the situation is nearing a “crisis point.” The report places much of the blame on violence between drug trafficking groups in the last five years, but also notes that the bump in murders coincided with the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

The murder rate in Central America had fallen between 1995 and 2005, before heading sharply upward beginning in 2007. It’s now “several hundred times higher than in some parts of Asia,” notes the report, which was issued today and is the agency’s first report on homicides worldwide. Reuters reports that 468,000 people were murdered around the globe last year; 80% of the killers and victims are men, and the homicides usually occur on the streets. Female victims are typically murdered in the home, by a family member.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]


Defence Minister Confirms Migration Agreements With Libyan NTC

(AGI) Tripoli — Libya’s NTC confirms Tripoli’s prior bilateral agreements with Rome on matters of clandestine migration. The Italian and Libyan governments have also agreed to beef up land and maritime border controls. News concerning the latter developments were reported by defence minister Ignazio La Russa during his visit to Tripoli and meetings with NTC counterpart Jalal Dhagely.

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

Greece: 36,000 Illegal Caught in Evros This Year

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, OCTOBER 7 — Some 36,000 illegal immigrants have been caught this year crossing into Greece via its land border with Turkey, the river Evros, according to figures made public on Friday. This compares to a total of just over 47,000 arrests during the whole of last year. Greece is in the process of building a 12.5-kilometer fence in Evros, which is one of the main points of entry for illegal migrants. The structure will consist of two parallel fences topped with barbed wire, as Ana reported. The Citizens’ Protection Ministry is inspecting 14 offers from private firms to construct a fence along Greece’s border with Turkey in Evros as part of an effort to deter illegal immigrants. The government hopes to have picked a successful bidder for the 5.4-million-euro project within the next days.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Farmers Association Reports Five Time More Immigrants

(AGI) Rome — In commenting ISTAT data on foreigners in Italy, the Farmers Association Cia-Confederazione reported that over 15 years the number of immigrants working rose to 197,000 in 2010 while in 1995 there were 52,000 immigrants employed on farms. This is a significant figure that amounts to about 20% of all those working the land, proving the indispensable role played by immigrants.

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


‘Jaw-Dropping!’ Crab Nebula’s Powerful Beams Shock Astronomers

When astronomers detected intense radiation pumping out of the Crab Nebula, one of the most studied objects in space, at higher energies than anyone thought possible, they were nothing short of stunned. The inexplicably powerful gamma-rays came from the very heart of the Crab Nebula, where an extreme object called a pulsar resides. “It was totally not expected — it was absolutely jaw-dropping,” Andrew McCann, a Ph.D. candidate at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and a co-author of the new study, told “This is one of the hottest targets in the sky, so people have been looking at the Crab Nebula for a long time. Now there’s a twist in the tale. High-energy rays coming from the nebula are well-known, but coming from the pulsar is something nobody expected.”

The photogenic Crab Nebula is really the wreckage of a long-dead star that emitted an explosion of light that reached Earth in the year 1054, and was seen and recorded by Chinese and Native American skygazers. At the heart of the nebula’s colorful layers of gas is a so-called pulsar, which is the remains of the original star’s core that collapsed in on itself into a super-dense, spinning neutron star.

“If you asked theorists a year ago whether we would see gamma-ray pulses this energetic, almost all of them would have said, ‘No,’“ study co-author Martin Schroedter, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., said in a statement. “There’s just no theory that can account for what we’ve found.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Map: The Climate Change Scare Machine — the Perpetual Self-Feeding Cycle of Alarm

Two professors of sociology think they can explain why “Climate Deniers” are winning. But Riley E. Dunlap and Aaron M. McCright start from the wrong assumption and miss the bleeding obvious: the theory was wrong, the evidence has changed, and thousands of volunteers have exposed it. The real question sociologists will be studying for years to come is: how was an exaggerated scare, based on so little evidence, poor reasoning and petty namecalling, kept alive for two whole decades?

Climate Change Scare Machine Cycle: see how your tax dollars are converted into alarming messages


[JP note: Click on article link to see the map.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Nobel Peace Prize Goes to Women’s Rights Advocates

OSLO, Norway (AP) — The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen for their work on women’s rights.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee honored the three women “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

“I am very very happy about this prize,” said Karman, a 32-year-old mother of three who heads the human rights group Women Journalists without Chains. She has been a leading figure in organizing protests President Ali Abdullah Saleh that kicked off in late January as part of a wave of anti-authoritarian revolts that have convulsed the Arab world.

“I give the prize to the youth of revolution in Yemen and the Yemeni people,” Karman told The Associated Press.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Out of Africa: The Origin of Donkeys

A genetic study has concluded that wild asses in Northeast Africa are the ancestors of modern donkeys, indicating that the first domesticated donkeys traveled out of Africa with their human companions. Donkeys are important because they mark the human shift from agrarian society to a more trade-oriented society, explains Albano Beja-Pereira of Université Joseph Fourier.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Photo Reveals Turbulent Gas in the Void Between Stars

“Empty space” is far from empty. Even in the vast astronomical distances between stars, something lurks. For the first time, we can see what the churning gas that pervades the interstellar space of the Milky Way looks like. Bryan Gaensler, an astronomer from the University of Sydney, and colleagues used the Australia Telescope Compact Array to capture an image of the frothing, turbulent gas across a section of the southern galactic plane, 10,000 light years away.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Venus Has an Ozone Layer, Too

Long ago, Venus was thought to be Earth’s twin — until measurements of its atmosphere revealed it to be a sweltering hellhole stifled by a runaway greenhouse effect. Now Europe’s Venus Express spacecraft has found a new trait that both Earth and our sister planet share: an ozone layer. The finding could help astronomers home in on life on other planets. Venus Express found ozone’s spectral signature in a layer 100 kilometres up in the planet’s atmosphere, at concentrations of no more than 1 per cent those found in Earth’s atmosphere.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Who Funds the Climate Alarmists?

A few days ago, none of you will have noticed, the New York Times’s tragically well-meaning environmental columnist Andy Revkin ran a flow chart on his blog — produced by two US academics with evidently an awful lot of time on their hands — showing the mechanisms of the EVIL CLIMATE DENIAL MACHINE (TM).

I personally was very disappointed in it. For one thing, it did not show the $10 million per day the Koch Brothers funnel directly into my account for the deliberate lies I tell on their behalf about Man Made Global Warming. For another, it did not include a picture of the splendid hooded purple velvet cloaks, nor the elaborate Blood-Diamond-encrusted cod pieces which we Deniers sport at our orgiastic convocations where we ritually sacrifice at least one polar bear cub, one snail darter and one California Delta Smelt to our God whose name (Long may he reign!) is Evil Selfish Greedor.

But I guess that’s the problem with these Alarmists. They repeat the same tedious old canards about “funded by Big Oil” (which was stale and untrue even when Al Gore was pushing it around to anyone who’d listen a decade ago) but they’re just too complacent to dig beneath the surface and reveal just how fully, ineffably Satanic in every possible way the vast and influential Climate Denial Conspiracy really is.

And now look and what Jo Nova’s gone and done. Why, the Australian Denier Minx has gone and used some of the A$ 258 billion she gets every day from the Australian mining industry to fund a lavishly detailed flow chart which impudently suggests that it’s the Warmists who are the real bad guys in all this. I ask you: why is she allowed to get away with saying all this true stuff? Isn’t it time the Australian judiciary tried to close her down, like they almost managed with that similarly evil Andrew Bolt?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]