Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111026

Financial Crisis
»Beleaguered Berlusconi Faces Summit Moment of Truth
»Berlusconi Cuts Deal ‘To Raise Retirement Age, Resign’
»Berlusconi Takes Pensions Compromise to EU
»EU Says Bailout Fund Chief to Visit China
»French Banks Need €10 Billion Boost: PM
»Lebanon: Consumer Prices Up 4.8% in One Year
»Save the Euro: Bomb Rome!
»‘Should Berlusconi Not Deliver, The Euro Could Fall’
»Bill Ayers Speaks to Occupy Chicago Protesters About Revolution and the Tea Party
»Breaking: Homeland Security Adviser Allegedly Leaked Intel to Attack Rick Perry
»Frank Gaffney: Who Lost the World? The Unraveling of the Globe Under Obama’s Watch
»MSU Awarded Grant to Study Muslim Americans’ Use of Pop Culture
»Muslims at UM Seeking Culture of Understanding
»NYPD Shadows Muslims Who Change Names
»U.S. Border Agent Jailed for Improper Arrest of Suspected Drug Smuggler
»Much Foreign Aid is Useless, The Rest is a Scam
Europe and the EU
»France: Homeless Woman Attempts to Self-Immolate by Elysée
»Germany: Oktoberfest Bombing Under Review: Officials Ignored Right-Wing Extremist Links
»In Norway, Gender Equality Does Not Extend to the Bedroom
»Italy: Bad Weather Batters Northern Italy, 9 Dead and 5 Missing
»No Reprisals for Frenchman Who Burned Koran
»Patrick Sookhdeo: Yes: I Criticise Certain Aspects of Islam, But Don’t Call Me a Bigot
»The Breivik Interrogations: Norway Massacre Suspect Reveals All But Motive
»UK: ‘Thousands of Children’ Sexually Exploited by Gangs
»UK: Barnabas Aid Not Spreading Islamophobia in UK Says Director
»UK: Barnabas Fund Vindicated by Charity Commission
»UK: Birmingham: Say No to the Racist EDL, Saturday 29 October
»UK: Concern Over Planned EDL March in Birmingham Next Saturday
»UK: EDL Birmingham Demo Location Moved by the Police
»UK: Fraudsters Convicted of ‘Crash for Cash’ Scam at Tottenham Garage
»UK: Half of Young Criminals Say Prison Does Not Rehabilitate
»UK: Loughborough Community Surgeries Resurrected
»UK: Students Protest After Hackney College Bans Segregation Curtain Used by Muslims
»UK: Thugs Racist Attack on Man
North Africa
»After the Arab Spring, Is Egypt Heading for a Rigid Winter?
»Libya: Gaddafi’s Family Denounces War Crimes to the Hague
»Libya: Italy Considers Participation Multinational Force
»Libya: Touareg Source, Saif Al Islam is in Niger
»Obama: It “Only Cost us a Billion Dollars” To Install Sharia Regime in Libya
»Political Islam a ‘Necessary Gateway’ For Middle East Democracy: Analyst
»Qatar Admits Sending Troops to Fight Alongside Libya NTC
»Religious Violence, Uncertainty in Post-Mubarak Egypt Threatens Ties to Israel, US
»The Arab Spring is Becoming an Islamist Takeover
»The Rise of Political Islam
»Tunisia: Elections: Ennahda Domino Effect in North Africa?
»Tunisia: Guardian’s Jonathan Steele Accuses Tunisian Muslims Who Oppose Radical Islam of Islamophobia
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gender Segregation Grows in Orthodox Jewish Areas
Middle East
»11,000 Australian Sheep Arrive in UAE for Eid
»Anti-Islam Toy Guns Found in UAE
»Hundreds of Women Burn Their Coverings in Street Protest Against Brutal Yemeni Regime
»Internet Censorship: American Technologies Used to Censoring the Internet Over Syria Area
»Lebanon: Christian Conference Wants Protection for Copts in Egypt
»Libya: Al Jazeera: Force Led by Qatar Instead of NATO
»The Arab Spring ‘Will Create Strong Islamist Parties’
»The Usage of VPNs is Criminalized in Iran
»Turkey: Armenians, Raised as Muslims, Get Baptized in Surp Giragos Church in Turkey
»Turkish Journalist Says Islam Craves Liberty
South Asia
»285 Indian Girls Shed ‘Unwanted’ Names
»Army Claws Back £433 ‘Overpaid’ To Dead Soldier… Because He Was Shot Dead in Afghanistan 10 Days Before Pay Day
»India and Israel: A Friendship Deepened by Prejudice
»Malaysia: A Peaceful Weekend
»Video Emerges of Swiss Hostages in Pakistan
Australia — Pacific
»Newport Mosque: Spades Dig in After 10-Year Wait
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ghana: Hearts Pray in Mosque … on Centenary Day
»Germany Looks Back at 50 Years of Turkish Immigration
»Italy Tries to Cope With Rising Tide of Immigration From Africa
»Obama Deportation Numbers a ‘Trick’
»Swiss Trade Union Calls for More Immigration
»Dwarf Planet Eris is ‘Almost Perfect’ Pluto Twin
»Internet Responsible for 2 Per Cent of Global Energy Usage
»Robot Venus Flytraps Could Eat Bugs for Fuel

Financial Crisis

Beleaguered Berlusconi Faces Summit Moment of Truth

Embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi joined an EU summit Wednesday under orders from his peers to prove he can keep Italy from drowning in debt, dragging the whole eurozone with it.

With his credibility at stake, Berlusconi was told to bring written evidence of his resolve to undertake austerity measures aimed at easing fears that the eurozone’s third biggest economy risks a financial meltdown.

The Italian premier waved as he arrived but ignored reporters’ questions, three days after a first summit at which German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy told him to come back with answers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi Cuts Deal ‘To Raise Retirement Age, Resign’

Rome (AKI) — Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has struck a deal with a critical governing coalition partner to resign and call early elections in exchange for raising the retirement age by two years to 67 years old, according to unconfirmed Italian news reports.

The Northern League Party’s Umberto Bossi met with Berlusconi on Tuesday to decide on reforms that would save heavily indebted Italy billions of euros and satisfy European Union members who demanded a letter outlining reforms before Wednesday’s meeting in Brussels.

Bossi, a fierce negotiator, had refused to touch Italians’ pensions. “They would kill us,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Elections would be called for the spring, a year short of finishing the five-year mandate, la Repubblica and la Stampa newspapers reported on Wednesday, without revealing their sources.

Without the support of the Northern League, Berlusconi would lose the parliamentary majority causing his government to come to an early end. In 1994, Bossi pulled the plug on his support for Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, causing the government to fall.

Berlusconi’s government in September passed a 54 billion round of cost cuts but that failed to satisfy all three of the major rating agencies who downgraded Italy’s debt. Germany, France and EU officials have since called on Rome to announce further moves aimed at reducing its 1.9 trillion debt and bringing life to its stagnant economy.

La Repubblica said the government will announce its plan to privatize industry.

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

Berlusconi Takes Pensions Compromise to EU

Uncertain if package will appease demands from Brussels

(ANSA) — Rome, October 26 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi travelled to Wednesday’s crunch EU summit in Brussels on the eurozone crisis after reaching a last-minute deal with his coalition partners on reforms demanded by Europe.

Berlusconi managed to persuade the Northern League, whose support he needs to keep his coalition government afloat, to accept a gradual increase in the retirement age from 65 to 67.

The measure is part of those outlined in a letter of intent the government is taking to the summit after France, Germany and the European Commission demanded action to boost growth and slash debt to restore investors’ confidence in Italy, which is at the centre of the eurozone crisis.

Political commentators said it was uncertain whether the measures were far-reaching enough to appease the demands of the European executive, which is worried that the entire eurozone will be in danger if its third-biggest economy loses control of a huge national debt that is over 120% of GDP.

The League has been staunchly opposed to pension reform and the party’s leader Umberto Bossi, the reform minister, suggested Berlusconi’s centre-right administration could still fall over the issue if Europe gives the thumbs down to Italy’s pensions compromise.

Italy last month approved a 54-billion euro austerity package aimed at balancing the budget in 2013 that convinced the European Central Bank to buy the nation’s bonds to keep servicing the national debt at manageable levels.

Experts fear the measures will slow an already sluggish economy even further if they are not accompanied by reforms and measures to boost growth, such as privatization, deregulation and the reduction of red tape.

The letter of intent also outlines plans for infrastructure projects, economic liberalization and the reduction of tax-evasion. Berlusconi said Monday that no European country was in a position to give lessons to its partners after demands for reform made by Germany and France were seen as a humiliation by many commentators here.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Says Bailout Fund Chief to Visit China

The head of the eurozone bailout fund will visit China and Japan this week, the European Union said Wednesday, as leaders of the bloc scramble to resolve its deepening debt crisis.

Klaus Regling, chief executive of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), will be in the Chinese capital on Friday, the EU delegation in China said in a statement.

Regling will travel to Japan at the weekend, EU officials in Tokyo said.

The announcements came while European leaders prepared to hold a second emergency summit later Wednesday as they struggle to find ways to boost their defences against the region’s worst financial crisis in decades.

The EU did not say who Regling would meet in Beijing and Tokyo or give reasons for his visit, but European leaders have been toying with the idea of asking China, Brazil and other top emerging economies to come to their rescue.

The eurozone wants to beef up its 440-billion-euro ($610 billion) rescue fund to convince markets it has the means to protect highly indebted nations such as Italy.

The state-owned China Daily newspaper, citing a source close to EU decision makers, said Wednesday China and other top emerging economies had agreed to help eurozone countries by contributing to the bailout fund.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French Banks Need €10 Billion Boost: PM

Prime Minister François Fillon said on Tuesday that French banks need to increase their capital by about €10 billion ($14 billion) to deal with the debt crisis but will not require public money to do so. “The recapitalization of banks will be done in an orderly fashion, for all European banks that need it,” Fillon told lawmakers in France’s National Assembly.

“Speaking of France, it (the recapitalization) should be in the order of €10 billion, in other words below their profits, which means that (French banks) can recapitalize without needing to ask for public aid.” He said an agreement on the recapitalization had been reached at a summit of European leaders on Sunday. His remarks came as Europe struggled on Tuesday for a solution to its debt crisis as talks intensified to shield Italy and press banks to take losses on Greek debt on the eve of a decisive summit.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Consumer Prices Up 4.8% in One Year

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, OCTOBER 26 — Inflation in Lebanon keeps rising, with consumer prices, according to figures that were released by the central statistics administration, climbing 4.8% on the year in October. The sharpest increase was recorded in the energy sector (power, gas and water) with 13.2%. Compared with 2007, when the official registration of consumer prices started, the rise was 16.3%. But many economists fear that inflation increase even further due to two initiatives that were recently announced by the government: a general rise of minimum wages and of value-added tax in 2012.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Save the Euro: Bomb Rome!

By Francesco Sisci

ROME — It is possible that the ongoing European Union summit on the European debt crisis, which is threatening to kindle a global economic meltdown, will manage to patch together a reasonable solution regarding Greece, the country that started the problem.

However, it is unlikely that much will be accomplished regarding Europe’s greatest issue, Italy, the country whose debt is too large to be bailed out by any individual EU member.

Observers and markets are skeptical that the shaky Italian government, which took long and precious weeks to decide on the appointment of a new central banker, will be able in just a few hours to present a convincing plan that will cut debts and jumpstart growth.

Nor did the European governments seem able to force Italy to change its old inward-looking government practices and accept the reforms necessary to save the country and the continent.

In fact, the ongoing crisis appears to be a failure for the fathers of the Maastricht treaty, the one that paved the road for the monetary union.

Those politicians — Germany’s Helmut Kohl, France’s Francois Mitterand and Giulio Andreotti of Italy — explicitly refused to conceive a way out of the euro for individual members, and in so doing, they believed that in any crisis there could be only one solution: moving forward with more political unity.

The idea then was to construe an economic deterministic mechanism that would effectively push for a real union that would be very hard to achieve otherwise. Therefore, they believed crises would actually be helpful to achievement of the ultimate European goal of political integration. But no road forward was clearly indicated, just as it is not clear how to get out of the euro.

In fact, in this crisis, it has been hard to think of expelling single delinquent EU members like Greece, for instance. But is also proving very hard to find a way forward for the union, and it has been even harder to impose the will of the majority members on the delinquent minority.

Certainly, there are also broad economic considerations that discourage expulsion from the union. Germany would lose the long-term benefits of the union if it were to expel Italy, its largest potential industrial competitor in Europe. Italian manufacturers could be boosted by a return to the lira, undercutting German exports. But these broad interests lose importance if Italy is unable to reform itself, and Germany is expected to shoulder most of the humongous 2 trillion euro (US$2.78 trillion) Italian debt.

Italian ruling politicians, who have been in power for years, in fact have no short-term interest in drastic measures to solve the Italian debt problems. Necessary measures, from cuts in expenditures to liberalization to kick-starting growth, would harm many interest groups and prove to the people that the politicians now in power did not act for years, even though they knew fully well the problems.

Benefits would conversely take years to reap.

There is therefore a fundamental contradiction between long-term national and international benefits of European integration and the short-term interests of those in the Italian ruling class who owe their power to the present status quo. Their short-term interest is in encouraging a different, growing popular sentiment: that Italy would be better off without the euro and with a return to the lira…

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

‘Should Berlusconi Not Deliver, The Euro Could Fall’

French and German demands for austerity in Italy have put Prime Minister Berlusconi in a tight spot. Italian newspapers are reporting that he may call new elections as a result. German commentators agree that it is time for Berlusconi to go, but that Merkel and Sarkozy were wrong to chide him.

Silvio Berlusconi’s government is in trouble. Not only has the Italian prime minister apparently lost the respect of his counterparts in Germany and France, but his coalition is facing fracture over possible austerity measures and social system reform.

Indeed, after coalition partner Umberto Bossi of the Northern League ruled out a proposed increase to the retirement age from 65 to 67, Italian dailies reported on Wednesday that Berlusconi may be planning to resign at the end of the year. Both La Repubblica and La Stampa write that Berlusconi and Bossi reached a secret agreement which foresees new elections to be held next March rather than in spring of 2013 as originally planned.

“Spare me a disgrace in Brussels and I promise you that we will hold elections in March,” Berlusconi told Bossi according to the article in La Reppublica.

Berlusconi finds himself in a tight spot after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked him to present a plan in Brussels on Wednesday for paying down Italy’s vast mountain of debt. Concerns are mounting that Italy, with sovereign debt worth close to 120 percent of its annual economic output, could become the euro zone’s next Achilles heel. Indeed, interest rates on the country’s sovereign bonds have once again begun climbing to worrisome levels, reminiscent of developments in August when the European Central Bank stepped in to buy significant quantities of Italian bonds to keep down interest rates.

Giving Lessons

Bossi’s refusal to consider a central element of the plan Berlusconi had been working on will make it difficult for the prime minister to convince Europe of his commitment to austerity on Wednesday. Just as troubling, though, are the clear indications that both Merkel and Sarkozy expected nothing less than his failure to do so.

Indeed, the video of a Sunday press conference which shows both Merkel and Sarkozy smirking when asked if they still had faith in Berlusconi has been making the rounds in the Italian media this week. The Italian premier has responded defiantly, saying on Monday that “no one is in a position to be giving lessons to their partners.”

But even Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, not known for losing his temper, criticized Merkel and Sarkozy on Tuesday for their “inappropriate and objectionable public comments” and complained of the “weak trust” Italy’s European partners had in Rome. Umberto Bossi, the head of the Northern League and an important member of Berlusconi’s coalition, also complained. In rejecting a major social system reform half-heartedly proposed by Berlusconi, Bossi said he can’t raise the retirement age “just to do the Germans a favor.”

German commentators on Wednesday take a closer look at the situation for both Berlusconi and Italy…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Bill Ayers Speaks to Occupy Chicago Protesters About Revolution and the Tea Party

Former terrorist-turned-university professor Bill Ayers (you may remember him from his ongoing presence in 2008 presidential campaign theoretic), made an appearance last week at Occupy Chicago.

The former radical, a member of the infamous and violent Weather Underground, discussed his experience with “revolutions,” gave advice about how to handle the Tea Party and took a solid jab at President Barack Obama — a man many believe he was once friends with.

Considering the Occupy movement’s ongoing calls for “revolution” and a major push for a fundamentally changed system, it’s no wonder Ayers was brought in to address the Chicago protesters. Among their many questions, his audience wondered how they should handle the media’s continued comparison between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party.

“A big bright line running through the Tea Party movement is Jingoism, Nativism, racism,” he told the protesters. “A big bright line is funding from the Koch brothers.” Of course, Ayers didn’t mention anything about the large-scale progressive groups that are assisting with Occupy Wall Street and its sister protests.

my money quote: And, very oddly, he was sure to slip in a dig at Obama. “Somebody like Barack Obama who drone strikes American citizens is saying ‘I want you all to be non-violent.’ Well, I want you to be non-violent,” he quipped.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Breaking: Homeland Security Adviser Allegedly Leaked Intel to Attack Rick Perry

TX Dept. of Public Safety Director: “We know [Mohamed Elibiary] has accessed DPS documents and downloaded them.”

by Patrick Poole

Texas Department of Public Safety officials are asking questions following a report that Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council member Mohamed Elibiary may have been given access to a sensitive database of state and local intelligence reports, and then allegedly shopped some of those materials to a media outlet. He allegedly used the documents to claim the department was promoting “Islamophobia” — claims that the media outlet ultimately rejected. They declined to do the story.

Earlier today, I received confirmation from a left-leaning media outlet that Elibiary had recently approached them asking to do a story attacking Texas DPS:…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Who Lost the World? The Unraveling of the Globe Under Obama’s Watch

Conventional wisdom has it that the 2012 election will be all about the dismal economy, unemployment and the soaring deficit. That appears a safe bet since such matters touch the electorate, are much in the news at the moment and have indisputably gotten worse on Barack Obama’s watch.

It seems increasingly likely, however, that the American people are going to have a whole lot more to worry about by next fall. Indeed, the way things are going, by November 2012, we may see the Mideast — and perhaps other parts of the planet — plunged into a cataclysmic war.

Consider just a few of the straws in the wind of a gathering storm…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

MSU Awarded Grant to Study Muslim Americans’ Use of Pop Culture

EAST LANSING — Facing “Islamophobia” and widespread hostility, Muslim Americans have adopted cultural techniques to make their voices heard, according to Michigan State University faculty set to use a grant to conduct a yearlong study of Islam-inflected culture. MSU’s Muslim Studies Program and Asian Studies Center were recently awarded $100,000 from the Social Science Research Council for “Migrations of Islam.”

The study will draw together experts, community members and producers of Muslim culture — from music to visual art to fashion — to explore how Muslim Americans use popular culture to engage society and promote public discourse, especially in a post-Sept. 11 world. “Through popular culture forms, Muslim Americans confront and transcend barriers that historically have denied their civil rights within the U.S.,” said Salah Hassan, core faculty member of MSU’s Muslim Studies Program, who’s coordinating the project.

Muslim Americans’ contributions to U.S. popular culture are critical to the debate on the role of Islam in the United States, Hassan said. Artists use culture to define their identity as Muslim Americans as they struggle to define what it means to be Muslim and what it means to be American. A series of performances, artist presentations and lectures run through December, starting with performances of “Hijabi Monologues” at MSU and Grand Valley State University.

In November, MSU, GVSU and the University of Michigan-Dearborn host a screening of “The Taqwacores,” a film about a Muslim punk rock scene, followed by a lecture by the director. Also in November, a Muslim traveling concert tour comes to GVSU and (scene) Metrospace, an art and performance space in East Lansing. And in the spring, “Migrations of Islam” hosts a conference. All events are free and open to the public. Hassan said materials generated by “Migrations of Islam” — videos, interviews, blogs and photos — will be housed on a new virtual resource called “Muslim Subjects,” which builds on the success of Islam, Muslims and Journalism Education. Muslim Studies faculty created IMAJE in 2009 to educate mass media on the reporting of Muslims and Islam.

Faculty members also are producing a feature-length documentary that will include footage of performances and interviews with participants and the public. “The performances, forums, the website and the documentary will serve the double purpose of challenging the misrepresentation of Muslims as antithetical to American culture and also producing a platform for conversation about Muslim American self-expression,” Hassan said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslims at UM Seeking Culture of Understanding

She’s not asking people to convert, but she is asking them to understand. Sophia Malani, president of the Muslim Student Association at The University of Memphis, said that Islamic Awareness Week, which started Monday and lasts through Thursday, is about diminishing ignorance about Islam. “We’re inviting people to step in our shoes,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for people to learn a religion and a culture together.”

Events for the week include a lecture from Kent Schull, associate history professor at The U of M, in the Rose Theater tonight at 6:30. The lecture will address misconceptions about Islam, as well as its comparisons to Christianity and Judaism. Wednesday, Oct. 26, in The University Center Theater at 6:30 p.m., the MSA will host a screening of “The Deen Show,” a TV show about Islam and the Muslim culture.

The week wraps up with a Fast-a-Thon. Students are invited to the Tiger Den Thursday at 5 a.m. for a free breakfast at Subway and are asked to fast all day afterward. Students will talk about their experience with fasting and have a traditional Indian and Middle Eastern dinner with the MSA from 6-9 p.m. in The University Center Ballroom. “I want students to have more awareness of the Muslim population on campus and understand what Islam is about,” Malani said. “Instead of just ‘that terrorist religion,’ I want them to know the soul and heart of Islam.”

Emanne Knefati, vice president of MSA and history major, said the week is meant to symbolize America and the freedom to speak and enlighten others about faith. “People are free to listen and learn and not force anything on someone,” she said. “It’s nice living in a place where we can all sit and learn about each other. These kinds of events eliminate the fear of the unknown.”

Amal Almoraisi, historian for MSA and sophomore political science major, said Muslims represent a huge part of the world and are often misunderstood. One in every four people in the world are Muslim according to a 2009 report on religion and public life by the Pew Forum. “We’re really misunderstood, and it’s really crucial to get people informed as to understand why we pray, what the jihab means, what is Ramadan and other traditions,” she said. Almoraisi said she is looking forward to learning about people’s different perceptions of Islamic practices. She said MSA planned Islamic Awareness Week months in advance. “If students take anything from it, let it just be an open mind, a new view and a better appreciation for cultures and faith,” she said.

[JP note: Translated — dhimmi know your place.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

NYPD Shadows Muslims Who Change Names

NEW YORK — Muslims who change their names to sound more traditionally American, as immigrants have done for generations, or who adopt Arabic names as a sign of their faith are often investigated and catalogued in secret New York Police Department intelligence files, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.The NYPD monitors everyone in the city who changes his or her name, according to internal police documents and interviews. For those whose names sound Arabic or might be from Muslim countries, police run comprehensive background checks that include reviewing travel records, criminal histories, business licenses and immigration documents. All this is recorded in police databases for supervisors, who review the names and select a handful of people for police to visit.

The program was conceived as a tripwire for police in the difficult hunt for homegrown terrorists, where there are no widely agreed upon warning signs. Like other NYPD intelligence programs created in the past decade, this one involved monitoring behavior protected by the First Amendment. Since August, an Associated Press investigation has revealed a vast NYPD intelligence-collecting effort targeting Muslims following the terror attacks of September 2001. Police have conducted surveillance of entire Muslim neighborhoods, chronicling every aspect of daily life, including where people eat, pray and get their hair cut. Police infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds more.

Monitoring name changes illustrates how the threat of terrorism now casts suspicion over what historically has been part of America’s story. For centuries, immigrants have Americanized their names in New York. The Roosevelts were once the van Rosenvelts. Fashion designer Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz. Donald Trump’s grandfather changed the family name from Drumpf. David Cohen, the NYPD’s intelligence chief, worried that would-be terrorists could use their new names to lie low in New York, current and former officials recalled. Reviewing name changes was intended to identify people who either Americanized their names or took Arabic names for the first time, said the officials, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the program.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne did not respond to messages left over two days asking about the legal justification for the program and whether it had identified any terrorists.

The goal was to find a way to spot terrorists like Daood Gilani and Carlos Bledsoe before they attacked. Gilani, a Chicago man, changed his name to the unremarkable David Coleman Headley to avoid suspicion as he helped plan the 2008 terrorist shooting spree in Mumbai, India. Bledsoe, of Tennessee, changed his name to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad in 2007 and, two years later, killed one soldier and wounded another in a shooting at a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark. Sometime around 2008, state court officials began sending the NYPD information about new name changes, said Ron Younkins, the court’s chief of operations. The court regularly sends updates to police, he said. The information is all public, and he said the court was not aware of how police used it.

The NYPD program began as a purely analytical exercise, according to documents and interviews. Police reviewed the names received from the court and selected some for background checks that included city, state and federal criminal databases as well as federal immigration and Treasury Department databases that identified foreign travel.

Early on, police added people with American names to the list so that if details of the program ever leaked out, the department would not be accused of profiling, according to one person briefed on the program.

On one police document from that period, 2 out of every 3 people who were investigated had changed their names to or from something that could be read as Arabic-sounding.

All the names that were investigated, even those whose background checks came up empty, were cataloged so police could refer to them in the future. The legal justification for the program is unclear from the documents obtained by the AP. Because of its history of spying on anti-war protesters and political activists, the NYPD has long been required to follow a federal court order when gathering intelligence. That order allows the department to conduct background checks only when police have information about possible criminal activity, and only as part of “prompt and extremely limited” checking of leads.

The NYPD’s rules also prohibit opening investigations based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment. Federal courts have held that people have a right to change their names and, in the case of religious conversion, that right is protected by the First Amendment. The NYPD is not alone in its monitoring of Muslim neighborhoods. The FBI has its own ethnic mapping program that singled out Muslim communities and agents have been criticized for targeting mosques.

The name change program is an example of how, while the NYPD says it operates under the same rules as the FBI, police have at times gone beyond what is allowed by the federal government. The FBI would not be allowed to run a similar program because of First Amendment and privacy concerns and because the goal is too vague and the program too broad, according to FBI rules and interviews with federal officials. Police expanded their efforts in late 2009, according to documents and interviews. After analysts ran background checks, police began selecting a handful of people to visit and interview.

Internally, some police groused about the program. Many people who were approached didn’t want to talk and police couldn’t force them to. A Pakistani cab driver, for instance, told police he did not want to talk to them about why he took Sheikh as a new last name, documents show. Police also knew that a would-be terrorist who Americanized his name in hopes of lying low was unlikely to confess as much to detectives. In fact, of those who agreed to talk at all, many said they Americanized their names because they were being harassed or were having problems getting a job and thought a new name would help.

But as with other intelligence programs at the NYPD, Cohen hoped it would send a message to would-be bombers that police were watching, current and former officials said.

As it expanded, the program began to target Muslims even more directly, drawing criticism from Stuart Parker, an in-house NYPD lawyer, who said there had to be standards for who was being interviewed, a person involved in the discussions recalled. In response, police interviewed people with Arabic-sounding names but only if their background checks matched specific criteria. The names of those who were interviewed, even those who chose not to speak with police, were recorded in police reports storied in the department’s database, according to documents and interviews, while names of those who received only background checks were kept in a separate file in the Intelligence Division.

Donna Gabaccia, director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota, said that for many families, name changes are important aspects of the American story. Despite the myth that officials at Ellis Island Americanized the names of people arriving in the U.S., most immigrants changed their names themselves to avoid ridicule and discrimination or just to fit in, she said. The NYPD program, she said, turned that story on its head. “In the past, you changed your name in response to stigmatization,” she said. “And now, you change your name and you are stigmatized. There’s just something very sad about this.”

As for converts to Islam, the religion does not require them to take Arabic names but many do as a way to publicly identify their faith, said Jonathan Brown, a Georgetown University professor of Islamic studies. Taking an Arabic name might be a sign that someone is more religious, Brown said, but it doesn’t necessarily suggest someone is more radical. He said law enforcement nationwide has often confused the two points in the fight against terrorism.

“It’s just an example of the silly, conveyor-belt approach they have, where anyone who gets more religious is by definition more dangerous,” Brown said. Sarah Feinstein-Borenstein, a 75-year-old Jewish woman who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, was surprised to learn that she was among the Americans drawn into the NYPD program in its infancy. She hyphenated her last name in 2009. Police investigated and recorded her information in a police intelligence file because of it. “It’s rather shocking to me,” she said. “I think they would have better things to do. It’s is a waste of my tax money.” Feinstein-Borenstein was born in Egypt and lived there until the Suez Crisis in 1956. With a French mother and a Jewish religion, she and her family were labeled “undesirable” and were kicked out. She came to the U.S. in 1963. “If you live long enough,” she said, “you see everything.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

U.S. Border Agent Jailed for Improper Arrest of Suspected Drug Smuggler

A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been sentenced to two years in prison for improperly lifting the arms of a 15-year-old drug smuggling suspect while handcuffed — in what the Justice Department called a deprivation of the teenager’s constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force.

Agent Jesus E. Diaz Jr. was named in a November 2009 federal grand jury indictment with deprivation of rights under color of law during an October 2008 arrest near the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas, in response to a report that illegal immigrants had crossed the river with bundles of drugs.

In a prosecution sought by the Mexican government and obtained after the suspected smuggler was given immunity to testify against the agent, Diaz was sentenced last week by U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludlum in San Antonio. The Mexican consulate in Eagle Pass had filed a formal written complaint just hours after the arrest, alleging that the teenager had been beaten.

Defense attorneys argued that there were no injuries or bruises on the suspected smuggler’s lower arms where the handcuffs had been placed nor any bruising resulting from an alleged knee on his back. Photos showed the only marks on his body came from the straps of the pack he carried containing the suspected drugs, they said.

Border Patrol agents found more than 150 pounds of marijuana at the arrest site.

The defense claimed that the smuggling suspect was handcuffed because he was uncooperative and resisted arrest, and that the agent had lifted his arms to force him to the ground — a near-universal police technique — while the other agents looked for the drugs.

The allegations against Diaz, 31, a seven-year veteran of the Border Patrol, initially were investigated by Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which cleared the agent of any wrongdoing.

But the Internal Affairs Division at U.S. Customs and Border Protection ruled differently nearly a year later and, ultimately, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas brought charges.

The Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council said the government’s case was “based on false testimony that is contradicted by the facts.”

In a statement, the council said that because the arrest took place at about 2 a.m., darkness would have made it impossible for the government’s witnesses to have seen whether any mistreatment took place. It said Marcos Ramos, the Border Patrol agent who stood next to Diaz, testified that he did not see any mistreatment of the smuggling suspect…

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]


Much Foreign Aid is Useless, The Rest is a Scam

What is the goal of foreign aid? Oh sure, we say it is about emergency relief from natural disasters, such as tsunamis and droughts. Or we claim it’s about helping the world’s poor lift themselves out of poverty and despair. But as often as not, I think it is about assuaging our Western guilt. We give money to rotting, fetid hellholes because doing so cleanses our consciences. It makes it possible for us to turn on the TV, see reports from disaster areas or squalid shantytowns and give ourselves permission not to mourn because we’ve done our bit.

But more often than not, we are merely tossing hard-earned tax dollars into a swirling, downward drain. Our aid does little good because it goes to the wrong people or the wrong solutions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

France: Homeless Woman Attempts to Self-Immolate by Elysée

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, OCTOBER 26 — A 68-year old homeless woman this morning attempted to set herself on fire outside the Elysée Palace in Paris this morning, where the weekly meeting of ministers is being held, according to police sources. One of the policewomen on duty outside the presidential palace, however, intervened immediately, putting out the fire before the woman suffered any burns.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: Oktoberfest Bombing Under Review: Officials Ignored Right-Wing Extremist Links

Thirty-one years after the 1980 Oktoberfest bomb attack, officials have reopened the case. Previously unknown documents reviewed by SPIEGEL show that the perpetrator, allegedly a lone wolf, was involved with the neo-Nazi scene and Bavarian conservatives. But the unwelcome clues were likely ignored.

The first booths were already open and a brass band was playing when a group of serious-looking people gathered at Munich’s Oktoberfest in late September. Tears were flowing, and some quietly placed red flowers at the entrance to the Theresienwiese, the site of the annual beer festival. They had come to commemorate their loved ones, their parents , siblings and spouses, who were murdered at this spot exactly 31 years ago, in the worst terrorist attack in postwar German history. Thirteen died and more than 200 people were injured.

Robert Platzer, one of the survivors, was 12 at the time. “I saw a young man bending over a waste basket at the entrance,” he recalls. “It was as if he were trying to lift something heavy with both hands.” At that moment, a bomb exploded in the young man’s hands. Platzer witnessed the deaths of two of his siblings, whose bodies were ripped apart and hurled through the air. At the commemoration ceremony politicians from all major parties vowed to reopen the case. Before that, the Bavarian state parliament had already adopted a nonpartisan resolution to resume the investigation.

Too many questions are still unanswered. Who was Gundolf Köhler, the man who had tried to plant the bomb and died in the process? Who or what made him a killer? And what were the politica l motivations for his crime? Was the attack part of a long series of right-wing extremist acts of violence that shook Western Europe at the time? Early in the case, there had been speculation about Köhler’s right-wing extremist background. And last year serious doubts emerged as to whether the 21-year-old was truly alone at the scene of the crime on Sept. 26, 1980. But the question of why the authorities never completely solved the case remains unanswered to this day. Could it have been that the party in power in Bavaria at the time, the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), had no interest in seeing the case solved?

Looming Election

It was less than two weeks before the Oct. 5, 1980 German parliamentary election, and the CSU and its then Bavarian state governor and chancellor candidate, Franz Josef Strauss, were not interested in right-wing extremist terrorism. In their worldview, the threat always came from the left. The social climat e was toxic, and the Strauss camp, and others, treated left-wing extremist terror group the Red Army Faction (RAF) and its sympathizers as Germany’s public enemy number one. What did not fit into this worldview was the idea that right-wing extremist groups were at the same time developing their own, loosely defined terrorist network, with cells in Hamburg, Nuremberg, Esslingen near Stuttgart, as well as in Antwerp and Bologna. Not surprisingly, efforts to investigate the threat from the far right were half-hearted at best.

For three decades, the official explanation for the Oktoberfest attack involved the theory of a confused “sole perpetrator.” In May 1981, after just eight months of investigation, the Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigation (LKA) postulated this theory in its “final comment” on the case. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office also noted that there was “no evidence whatsoever” that “third parties” could have influenced Köhler. Case closed — o r so it seemed.

Until now, this final comment was the only document relating to the case that had been made available to the public, while the investigation files on which it had been based remained unknown. Now SPIEGEL has evaluated these files for the first time, in addition to dossiers from the former East German secret police, the Stasi, and other records, some of which were formerly classified — a total of 46,000 pages.

Important Clues Ignored

The documents show that a number of Bavarian and federal government agencies were already aware of Köhler’s right-wing extremist connections before the attack, but did not seriously follow up on important clues. Evidence, including what was left of the bomb, was removed on the night of the attack, witnesses were not adequately questioned and important leads were not pursued.

More thorough investigations would likely have uncovered the right-wing extremist network behind Köhler. But this would have highlighted connections Strauss and other CSU politicians had to the far-right. Politicians and investigators threw away an important opportunity, and terrorism coming from the right, unlike leftist terrorism, was long downplayed and characterized as an aberration by “sole perpetrators.” This was precisely what happened in the Köhler case. The “final comment” in the investigation report by the Bavarian LKA makes no mention whatsoever of direct right-wing connections or possible accomplices.

The investigators described Köhler as the unremarkable son of middle-class parents in Donaueschingen, a town in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg. He was a geology student who became interested in chemistry and fossils as a teenager. The investigation report concluded that his motives were unknown, with the authors merely noting that the fact that Köhler had failed an important intermediate examination could have provided “the final impetus” to commit the crime.

But as the newly released documents show, the authorities knew more about the case than the report suggested. Köhler’s first interactions with the far-right NPD party began when he was 14. He attended the party’s state convention and campaign events. In Donaueschingen, he was in close contact with a former Nazi who served as a father figure and strongly influenced his worldview. For years, Köhler kept a portrait of Hitler above his bed, and he also collected badges, books and pictures from the Nazi era. For one of his birthdays, he treated himself to a steel helmet and military boots, and he joined a shooting club to practice using a weapon.

“He supported the extermination of Jews and communists in the Third Reich,” one of Köhler’s friends told police after the bombing. The friend also said that Köhler had raved about being part of an SS or Reichswehr military organization in Germany, “to be able to take action against communists.” Köhler once traveled to the eastern French city of Strasbourg to visit a brothel. Friends who had accompanied him later said that when he saw a group of orthodox Jews there, he said that “Adolf had forgotten to gas them, and now we had to pay for the pensions of these old men.” One of Köhler’s brothers later told the police: “This radical right-wing sensibility stabilized over the years.”

CSU Downplayed Neo-Nazi Activity

Still, in their final comments the Federal Prosecutor’s Office and the Bavarian LKA downplayed Köhler’s worldview and his strong connection to right-wing extremist organizations.

Köhler was a member of the Viking Youth, which, modeled after the Hitler Youth, was the most important German neo-Nazi youth organization at the time. The group’s several hundred uniformed members were led by a Gauführer, a term meant to invoke the Nazi officials known as Gauleiter. They learned how to shoot, committed pipe-bomb attacks and, calling themselves “youth loyal to the German Reich,” were determined to combat the left. In 1978, “Viking disciples” attacked four NATO soldiers at a military training area in the northern state of Lower Saxony and stole several submachine guns and magazines.

But the Munich police still did not feel that the neo-Nazi connection was was worth pursuing. During a search of Köhler’s room, they even failed to recognize his Viking Youth membership card. “Because I was unfamiliar with this organization (Viking Youth), I paid no attention to this membership card. I considered such cards to be part of Gundolf Köhler’s collection, a hobby,” the operations manager of the “Theresienwiese Special Commission” wrote in a report. The officers did take the membership card with them when Köhler’s room was searched again two weeks later. But this piece of incriminating evidence was not mentioned in the final comment, and there was no further investigation of the organization.

The authorities also showed little interest in Köhler’s involvement in the Wehrsportgruppe (Military Sports Group, WSG) paramilitary organization run by the neo-Nazi Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, or that he had attended one of their meetings “sometime in the past.” At the time, right-wing extremist activities were being downplayed by those at the very top of the political ladder in Bavaria. Speaking in the state parliament in March 1979, Strauss said: “Don’t make fools of yourselves by attributing significance to certain groups — you mentioned Hoffmann’s Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann today — that they have never had, do not have and will never acquire in Bavaria.”

The CSU chairman also had nothing but derision for the ban of Hoffmann’s WSG by the coalition government of the center-left Social Democratic Party and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party in Bonn in January 1980. Hoffmann, he said, ought to be “left alone” if he “happens to enjoy going for a walk in the country on a Sunday with a backpack and ‘battledress’ held up with a waist belt.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

In Norway, Gender Equality Does Not Extend to the Bedroom

Norway vies with its Nordic neighbors for the title of most gender-egalitarian country in the world. Yet gender equality still seems to stop at the bedroom door, and even here, women who recounted their experiences declined to be identified, fearful still of retribution. Sexual violence against women in Scandinavia shares characteristics seen in more unequal societies: It is all too common and rarely reported, and those who commit it are even more rarely convicted.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bad Weather Batters Northern Italy, 9 Dead and 5 Missing

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 26 — Provisional estimates suggest that the violent storms to hit northern Italy have left nine people dead and five missing. The storm clouds are now moving towards the south of the peninsula but the situation remains critical in Liguria and Tuscany. The worst affected areas are in the eastern part of Liguria, in the province of La Spezia, and in Borghetto Vara in particular, where six people are so far known to have died and another three missing. Two people have died in the Lunigiana area. An aid worker from Monterosso, in the Cinque Terre, is among the victims after being carried away by the flood that hit eastern Liguria. The man was washed away by a sea of mud as he tried to force open the drain covers in the area.

Downpours and mudslides have paralysed Liguria and Tuscany, but there is also serious disruption in the Veneto and Friuli regions. In the area to the north of Vicenza, rain has been falling constantly since yesterday, causing the river Bacchiglione to rise by two metres, taking it above three metres in the city (though still some way from the capacity of 4 and a half metres). In Venice, the tide today reached a high of 103 centimetres at 10:50 this morning, with high waters in other lower parts of the city, while a new tidal peak of 85 centimetres is predicted at around 23:00 tonight. The situation remains worrying in Friuli, with the river Varma having burst its banks in the province of Pordenone. Fire crews also rescued a motorist trapped in his car. In Borghetto Vara, meanwhile, where six people have died, one woman had a miraculous escape: after being washed a kilometre away by the force of the river, the woman saved herself by clinging to the basket of a local basketball court. She was found by the first volunteers to reach the scene, exhausted and in a state of shock.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

No Reprisals for Frenchman Who Burned Koran

An appeals court on Tuesday confirmed the acquittal of a Frenchman accused of inciting racial hatred after posting an internet video of himself burning a Koran and then urinating on it. Ernesto Rojas Abbate was arrested in October 2010 after posting footage of himself wearing a devil mask and tearing pages from the Islamic holy book before setting it on fire and later urinating on it to extinguish the flames.

Prosecutors, who had been seeking a three-month suspended sentence and €1,000 ($1,400) fine, appealed after a court acquitted him in May on charges of inciting racial hatred. In the footage Rojas Abbate, a 31-year-old resident of a suburb of the eastern city of Strasbourg, used pages of the Koran as a prop in a simulation of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York.

He made paper airplanes from pages of the Koran, threw them at glasses meant to represent the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, then burned the pages and the book before urinating on them.

The appeals court ruled that, while the video was “wilfully outrageous and deliberately provocative”, there was no evidence Rojas Abbate had intended “to arouse feelings of hostility… aimed at provoking discrimination, hate, or violence towards Muslims.”

His lawyer, Renaud Bettcher, hailed the ruling, saying: “In a secular and republican society, it is incomprehensible that my client was prosecuted. Blasphemy does not exist in France.” Police arrested Rojas Abbate after local Muslim leaders in Strasbourg reacted with outrage at the video.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Patrick Sookhdeo: Yes: I Criticise Certain Aspects of Islam, But Don’t Call Me a Bigot

I abhor all anti-Muslim prejudice and hatred, and have spoken out against it

by Patrick Sookhdeo

Mehdi Hasan names me as one of “a growing number of rightwing ideologues [who] … push the argument that Islam is at war with the west” (How fear of criminalisation forces Muslims into silence, 9 September). He refers to me as a “crude, anti-Islam propagandist”, and asks why western governments have “given such influence to preachers of hate and division”.

The only evidence cited to support these descriptions are brief references in the manifesto of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass killer, and a few short quotes from my books. But given the wide range of sources quoted by Breivik, his references to my writings hardly prove rightwing extremism on my part.

Hasan says that British Muslims have to endure “negative stereotypes” and “demonisation”. Yet he is prepared to use equally negative stereotypes to demonise those, including myself, who offer a well-researched and carefully reasoned understanding of Islam that is different from his own.

I utterly abhor anti-Muslim prejudice, bigotry and hatred in all its forms and am on record as speaking out against it. I have also worked hard on a number of occasions for the causes of Muslim minorities. I count many moderate and liberal Muslims among my close friends.

My work with the armed forces, cited disapprovingly by Hasan, has focused on facilitating understanding of and dialogue with Muslims, and has taken place in the context of peace and community relations. All this should perhaps gain my views a fair hearing from anyone not invincibly prejudiced against them.

There is a crucial difference, unacknowledged by Hasan, between anti-Muslim hatred and legitimate criticism of aspects of Islam. Like any other ideology, Islam must be open to being critiqued, and where its political aspects appear to challenge fundamental western values, these issues must be discussed openly and responsibly, without the debate being obscured by charges of “Islamophobia”.

It must also be possible to comment on the behaviour of individual Muslims where this contravenes our society’s basic norms, without being accused of racism or bigotry, and to speak in defence of persecuted Christians without such charges being levelled.

There is ample evidence from both Muslim and secular sources to prove that some Muslims in Britain are creating enclaves governed largely according to their own rules; and that smaller, more radical elements are advocating an Islamic society under sharia law. This process is not an invention of a few “anti-Islam propagandists”. It is a well-documented social change that demands a fair-minded debate. I suggest that Hasan’s unwillingness to acknowledge its existence raises questions about his own credibility as a commentator.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

The Breivik Interrogations: Norway Massacre Suspect Reveals All But Motive

Anders Behring Breivik has admitted to killing 77 Norwegians during a bombing and shooting massacre in July. Investigators say he is almost overly eager to talk. Still, after 100 hours of questioning, they have seen no signs of remorse and have little information about what really motivated him to kill.

According to Hatlo, Breivik explains patiently and in detail how he saw a particular girl or boy on Utøya, how he lured them out of their hiding places and how he took aim at them. He says he deliberately selected the adolescents while sparing the younger children because, as he has told investigators, they had not yet been indoctrinated by Norway’s Labor Party, which he refers to as the “cultural Marxists.”

Breivik wants to sit for these interrogations, and he wants everything he says to be written down and recorded.

“It’s no surprise that he was so careful about not getting shot during his arrest,” Rachlew says, shaking his head. Breivik is now the “rare animal in the zoo,” he adds, whereas similar killers usually end up killing themselves.

Breivik told Rachlew and Hatlo that it was difficult for him to shoot the first four victims. But then the music he was listening to on headphones, “Lux Aeterna” from “Lord of the Rings,” gave him a boost and made him feel euphoric. And then there were the drugs, the amphetamines. He said that he had switched “to autopilot,” as he called it.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Thousands of Children’ Sexually Exploited by Gangs

Thousands of children in England are being horrifically abused by gangs, the deputy children’s commissioner has said, as she launches an inquiry.

Current estimates say up to 10,000 children could be affected by the sexual abuse, but it is feared the true figure could be much higher.

“Children are being failed up and down the country — in every village, town and city,” said Ms Berelowitz.

“Emma”, who was 12 when she was targeted, said at first she was flattered.

“They then started to get nasty with me, really nasty, it wasn’t fun anymore, it wasn’t nice. They had full control over me, they got very violent and threatening, I’d get raped one a week, every week. I’d have to sleep with other men as well,” she said…

A snapshot survey of 33 out of 144 local authority areas identified more than 1,000 children being sexually exploited on just one day.

And the Office of the Children’s Commissioner believes that gang and group-related sexual exploitation is a risk in all parts of the country.

“It would also be wrong for anyone to conclude or assert that this is an issue for one particular ethnic community,”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Barnabas Aid Not Spreading Islamophobia in UK Says Director

Leaders of a support organization for persecuted Christians are relieved that the group has been exonerated by the United Kingdom’s Charity Commission after being a ccused of campaigning against Muslims in Britain. Barnabas Aid has been exonerated by the U.K. commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales, from any wrongdoing in passing out one of the group’s Operation Nehemiah booklets, Slippery Slope.

Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of Barnabas Aid, told The Christian Post that while his writings address problems with Islamic extremism, the group’s material such as the booklet, does not promote hatred toward Muslims. “In the U.K., where we are involved in education and in published materials, we believe that it is important for us to address those areas that cause persecution. For example, the apostasy law in Islam,” Sookhdeo said. “Furthermore, in the U.K. where Islamic extremism is growing and posing severe threats to the Church, and to Christian communities, and to converts, it is important for us to address those issues.”

The complaint, filed by a lay leader from the Church of England, challenged whether Barnabas Aid should be allowed to keep its charitable status when engaged in allegedly “divisive” activity, according to a statement from Barnabas. The accusation included the charge that the material passed out by the group could incite racial hatred. However, Sookhdeo said the booklet focused on addressing the issues of how Islamic extremism is beginning to affect society and how in turn it is affecting Christian communities within parts of Britain. The material is not meant to be hateful, he said. “We believe that Islam as a religion, and Muslims as a people, have every right to exist in Britain as a secular democratic society. We have no concerns about that. Our concern is what happens when religion becomes political in its nature and then seeks to transform society,” he said. “Under that type of transformation of society it poses stress upon Christian minorities and communities.”

The Charity Commission issued a response to the complaint, which Barnabas Aid published in its recent press release. The commission stated: “The charity, in its campaigning around ‘Operation Nehemiah’ appears to be acting within its objects, as the campaign can be seen as promoting ‘the advancement of the Christian faith.’ A charity can become involved in a campaign which furthers or supports its charitable purposes.”

The commission added, “The Commission acknowledges that the campaign material fits within its aims, and that the booklet quotes sources for the claims that it makes. They quote its statement of intent, not to promote anti-Muslim fear or hatred, but to address seriously the challenge of Islam to society. The campaign does not appear to be inciting racial hatred and the charity believes that it has public benefit in that it is committed to maintaining Christian values of freedom of conscience, speech and religion for the next generation in church and society. We are therefore content that the charity, in carrying out this campaign, is operating within its objects and within the terms of our guidance,” the commission concluded in its statement.

“Throughout my writings I have emphasized that there is no Islamophobia involved, no hate. Rather, these are legitimate points of concern. The Christian response should be one of love and tolerance, but at the same time, if those issues affect them, then those issues need to be raised,” Sookhdeo reiterated to CP Monday. “The difficulty which we are facing in the U.K. is that Islam is the elephant in the room and it cannot be discussed,” he explained. “As soon as you raise, for example, issues of the persecution of Christians, [then] newspapers, the media, and individuals will actually accuse you of being an extremist. We live in a culture of intimidation and silence. If anyone doesn’t agree with you they want you removed. There is no place for discussion or tolerance for saying you have your views I have mine,” he added.

In a statement issued by Barnabas Aid, Sookhdeo said, “We warmly welcome this positive response from the Charity Commission and its exoneration of our Operation Nehemiah campaign. We have been deeply saddened that some Christians regard Barnabas Aid as preaching hatred when we raise the plight of the persecuted Church and the growing influence of Islamism and its impact on the Church and the Christian heritage and liberties of Western society. We are unshakably committed to our stated goals and will continue to pursue them with vigour, for the sake of our Lord’s persecuted people at home and abroad,” he concluded.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Barnabas Fund Vindicated by Charity Commission

The UK Charity Commission has completely exonerated Barnabas Fund after receiving a complaint about one of our Operation Nehemiah booklets. On 7 August The Sunday Times carried an article about our campaign against the growing Islamisation of Britain, making reference to our booklet Slippery Slope. Having read the article, a lay Reader in the Church of England then filed a complaint against us with the Charity Commission.

The complainant asked whether Barnabas should be allowed to retain its charitable status when we were engaged in allegedly “divisive” activity. She suggested that “campaigning” against another religion was akin to inciting racial hatred and questioned its public benefit. The Charity Commission have now sent us their reply to the complainant. After looking at the article and our booklet, they have co ncluded:

The charity, in its campaigning around “Operation Nehemiah” appears to be acting within its objects, as the campaign can be seen as promoting “the advancement of the Christian faith”. A charity can become involved in a campaign which furthers or supports its charitable purposes.

The Commission acknowledge that the campaign material fits within its aims, and that the booklet quotes sources for the claims that it makes. They quote its statement of intent, not to promote anti-Muslim fear or hatred, but to address seriously the challenge of Islam to society. They then say:

The campaign does not appear to be inciting racial hatred and the charity believes that it has public benefit in that it “is committed to maintaining Christian values of freedom of conscience, speech and religion for the next generation in church and society”.

The response ends:

We are therefore content that the charity, in carrying out this campaign, is operating within its objects and within the terms of our guidance.

The Commission’s letter thus represents complete vindication for Barnabas Fund regarding the nature and conduct of our campaign. Since the complaint was lodged, we have been contacted by another person who is deeply unhappy about our policy of supporting only Christians, and who also intends to report us to the Commission. But the recent ruling demonstrates how careful we are to act within both the law and the charitable objects stated within our Articles of Association, and we are confident that any future complaints will receive a similar response.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:

We warmly welcome this positive response from the Charity Commission and its exoneration of our Operation Nehemiah campaign. We have been deeply saddened that some Christians regard Barnabas Fund as preaching hatred when we raise the plight of the persecuted Church and the growing influence of Islamism and its impact on the Church and the Christian heritage and liberties of Western society. We are unshakably committed to our stated goals and will continue to pursue them with vigour, for the sake of our Lord’s persecuted people at home and abroad

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Birmingham: Say No to the Racist EDL, Saturday 29 October

UPDATED Tues 25 October:Antifascists and local trade union and community groups in Birmingham will come together to say no to the racists and fascists of the English Defence League on Saturday 29 October. The EDL wants to bring its vicious anti-Muslim racist hatred to the multiracial, multicultural city. Antifascist campaigners and local black and Asian youth mobilised repeatedly to emphatically show the EDL they weren’t welcome in Birmingham in 2009. The picture shows an EDL member giving Hitler’s “sieg heil” salute when the police bussed the fascists and racists out of town in 2009. Last year the EDL again announced it would come to the city, but w as forced to cancel its planned racist demo.

This year, antifascists and local community organisations are determined to show again that Birmingham is proud to be a multiracial, multicultural city and that the EDL are not welcome.


“Love the Difference” event

Called by UAF and local community groups, trade unions and faith groups. Assemble 12 noon, Saturday 29 October, Chamberlain Square, central Birmingham

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Concern Over Planned EDL March in Birmingham Next Saturday

Local leaders, MPs and councilors in Birmingham have expressed their concern ahead of a planned march by the EDL next Saturday 29th October. According to the Birmingham Mail, the EDL “are set to take to the streets on October 29, more than two years after their last visit ended in confrontations with anti-fascist groups. The Unite Against Fascism group, whose supporters clashed with EDL followers during clashes in Birmingham in 2009, has also announced plans for a counter-demonstration in Birmingham on the same day.”

Over 600 EDL supporters have confirmed their attendance online on the EDL’s Facebook site. The police have, with other similar planned demonstrations, stated that they do not have the power to ban groups from engaging in a static protest. West Midlands police will however, be “monitoring the situation to ensure maintenance of public order and officers will be deployed throughout the city centre to provide a visible reassurance to retailers, shoppers and all those visiting Birmingham. Any criminal or public order offences will be robustly dealt with.”

Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe and Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood have expressed support for Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police in writing to the Home Secretary to ban the EDL protest. Mahmood described it as “just an excuse for violence. We’ve had two experiences of EDL marches in Birmingham and both resulted in damage to people and property. Most of these protesters don’t even come from Birmingham. They come here and use our city as a football. The council and police should stand up for the people of Birmingham,” he said.

McCabe added that, “I used to say that the EDL should be allowed to demonstrate but having seen the trouble they cause, I’ve changed my mind. This is a rag bag of extremism looking to cause trouble and I don’t think the Birmingham people deserve it.”

In September, the Home Secretary banned an EDL march from taking place in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets after being presented with a signed petition bearing signatures of more than 25,000 local residents. A static protest was allowed to take place. Local Labour councilor for Lozells and East Handsworth ward, Waseem Zaffar has sent an open letter to the Home Secretary calling on her to ban the march. If you live in Birmingham and would like to contact your local councilor or MP concerning the proposed EDL march, you can find details of how to get in touch here and here.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: EDL Birmingham Demo Location Moved by the Police

West Midlands Police have agreed to move the location of an English Defence League (EDL) demo planned for Saturday. A static demonstration was to take place in Victoria Square in Birmingham, but councillors were critical of police for allowing it to go ahead there. The Royal British Legion (RBL) has also moved the launch of its county Poppy Appeal in the city centre from Saturday to Friday, the council said . The demonstration will now be held in Centenary Square, police said. A similar EDL protest two years ago ended in violence between the group and anti-fascist protesters holding a counter-demonstration.

‘Unilateral decision’

Anti-fascist group Unite Against Fascism (UAF) said it planned to stage another event this weekend. Police said a “community event” by UAF is to be held in Chamberlain Square.

Councillor Alan Rudge wrote to the chief constable of West Midlands Police on behalf of the leader and deputy leader of the council to convey his “astonishment” at the “unilateral decision” that the demo was to go ahead in Victoria Square. Councillor Waseem Zaffar, councillor for Lozells and East Handsworth, also wrote to the council and police to ask for it to be moved. He said he feared there could be a repeat of the violence of 2009 if the demonstration was not moved.

‘Ensure safety’

“I don’t think here in Victoria Square is most ideal location,” he said before the decision to move the demo. “It’s possibly the most prominent place in the city. It was a place. whe re the EDL were protesting in 2009 and I think we need to find another place, maybe on the other side of the city centre, rather than this particular place.” There are also two football matches in the area on Saturday — Birmingham City host Brighton and West Bromwich Albion meet Liverpool. “Police will be carrying out an operation to ensure the safety of the public and protesters on the day at both [protest] events,” a spokesman said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Fraudsters Convicted of ‘Crash for Cash’ Scam at Tottenham Garage

A ring of fraudsters who staged car “crashing parties” in an elaborate car insurance scam have been jailed for a total of 12 years and three months.

Seven employees at Motor Alliance, an accident repair garage in Ashley Road, Tottenham Hale, made 123 fake claims to rake in up to £3million on top of the range vehicles in a three year wrecking spree.

The con artists — led by gangleader Mohammed Samsul Haque — staged drunken parties at the garage where they rammed luxury cars like Mercedes and Jaguars into each other and submitted claims to insurance companies. If the damage was not bad enough they finished the job with a baseball bat.

Haque, a 26-year-old architectural technology student, of Lydford Road, Maida Vale, personally made at least £180,000 from the “crash for cash” swindle.

And when officers raided the premises of Motor Alliance they discovered 64 files relating to bogus insurance claims in the boot of a silver Mercedes.

He was jailed for five years at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday, October 19.

Jobless Nazruislam Muhammad Rahman, 32, of Greyhound Road, Tottenham, was one of the six men working under the direction of Haque.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Half of Young Criminals Say Prison Does Not Rehabilitate

More than half of young criminals believe nothing in prison will stop them from reoffending when they are released.

While the overall number of children and young people in custody continued to fall during 2010-11 from 1,977 to 1,822, a “changing profile of the children and young people in custody” was emerging, the inspectors said.

The proportion of black and minority ethnic young men, already over-represented, rose to 39 per cent from 33 per cent the previous year.

Frances Done, chairwoman of the Youth Justice Board, said: “We are very concerned that in some areas young people’s experience of custody has deteriorated although in some it has improved.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Loughborough Community Surgeries Resurrected

A COUNCIL-led community reassurance surgery has been resurrected in Loughborough’s Muslim community following calls from concerned residents. Charnwood Borough Council and Leicestershire Police officers will attend Kings Road Mosque each month after a number of recent incidents including burglaries and thefts. The monthly surgeries used to be held regularly but were discontinued when previous issues were tackled by the authority and police. Councillor David Snartt, Charnwood Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Neighbourhood Services, said: “I hope the monthly surgeries will help members of our Muslim community feel safer and reassure residents that we are listening to their problems and delivering solutions.

“There have been a number of incidents recently which have led to increased calls for regular face-to-face meetings and we are only happy to help. “One of the Council’s priorities is to ensure that neighbourhoods are safe and cohesive places to live and this is part of that strategy which aims to make Charnwood a better place to live for everyone.” Recent incidents include two high value burglaries and a spate of incidents where people have helped themselves to metal from properties to sell as s crap.

Moulad Islam Khan, Chairman of the King’s Street Mosque, said: “We are very pleased that the police and the Council come to the mosque and listen to the concerns of the community and reassured us that action is being taken to address them.

“We are very happy that these surgeries will continue.”

Inspector Johnny Monks, Commander of Loughborough local policing unit, said: “I am glad we have reinstated these monthly meetings. As local officers, we strive to listen to the concerns of all members of our community and regular meetings help us to hear those concerns in person and take action.

“We encourage people to get to know their local beat officers and they can also contact them at any time by email or phone.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Students Protest After Hackney College Bans Segregation Curtain Used by Muslims

Muslim men angered as ‘decency curtain’ is removed

They have accused chiefs at Hackney Community College in Falkirk Street, Shoreditch, of “discrimination” after it took down the drapes in the college’s multi-faith facility. But the college says the room is for students and staff “of all faiths and none” and its actions are in line with its values of equality and inclusion. A group of students have now started a petition demanding the curtain be replaced and have so far collected 30 signatures, including men and women of different faiths. “Having the curtain is important because in Islam the men and women have to prostrate to pray,” said business student Kamil Alp,20. “It’s very inappropriate if a man does it in the presence of a woman when she is also prostrating.”

Prostration involves having the forehead, nose, both hands, knees and all toes touching the ground at the same time. Several years ago, some students erected their own dividing curtain to support segregated prayer. But it was removed by college staff . Kamil, said many Muslim students were being forced to pray in the corridors. “I feel discriminated against as they have given us the prayer room but are not letting us use it in the way we need to” he added. A college spokeswoman said the room had been designed as a place where students and staff — of all faiths or none — could practice individual reflection or prayer. She said the college had made arrangements with mosques for Muslim students requiring segregation. “We are aware not all students are happy with the current arrangements,” she said. We need to balance the needs of all students to enable access in line with our values of inclusion. However we welcome ongoing debate on the issue.”

[JP note: That the debate will be ongoing is guaranteed, but not necessarily to be welcomed.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Thugs Racist Attack on Man

A MAN was racially assaulted and brutally attacked as he walked through Queens Park in Bolton.

Officers were called by the North West Ambulance Service following the attack.

The victim was walking through the park when he was attacked by four Asian men, who shouted racist abuse before launching the brutal assault.

They repeatedly kicked him in the head, face and body.

One of the men men stood over him and stamped on his chest causing significant injuries. One man in the group shouted for them to leave and they all fled in different directions following the attack at just before 7.40pm on October 19.

The victim has bruising to the face, head and body. He has two broken ribs and a punctured lung.

One of the men has been described as Asian, in his early 30s, 6 ft 2 in, of heavy build, with a bald head and a thin ‘lined’ type beard.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

After the Arab Spring, Is Egypt Heading for a Rigid Winter?

The country is the scene of daily demonstrations, economic uncertainty and political chaos. The massacre of Copts, Gaddafi’s demise and the rise of Muslim fundamentalists, who could get half the seats in the next parliament, are factors of instability and concern in a country on a path towards democracy.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Recent events in Tunisia and Libya are shedding some new light on the situation in Egypt. It is true that the starting point of the Egyptian youth revolution was the murder of young Khaled Saïd six months before the immolation of Tunisian Mohammad Bouzidi. In the beginning of summer 2010, young Egyptians began demonstrating against the regime after it declared 25 January (Police Day) as a national holiday to celebrate the country’s security forces.

The Tunisian events of December and early January certainly gave a push to the Egyptian people who concretely felt the possibility of overthrowing the despised regime.

Then disillusion set in when elections were not held to amend the constitution at a time at a time when public opinion was eager to elaborate a completely new Constitution.

On Sunday, the Tunisian election for a Constitutional Assembly gave new hope for the Egyptian people, hope for free, fair and democratic elections. Still, public opinion is doubtful that old and deeply rooted habits forged in more than half a century of dictatorship can change suddenly, especially when everybody knows that the old regime is still alive and kicking.

People in the street prefer to repeat old popular sayings like “A dog’s tail never becomes straight” or and “Is it their nature or will they buy a new one?”

The recent past has been occupied mainly by the preparation for parliamentary elections, which should be held at the end of November. Yesterday was the last day for candidates to submit their names for the elections. The new parliament, which includes the People’s Assembly and the Consultative Council (equivalent to a Senate), is expected to set up a special body to elaborate a new constitution.

Fifty-three political parties have been registered. It is well known that members of the old National Democratic Party of former President Mubarak have split into ten different political parties and have infiltrated other parties. They are submitting 260 candidates.

A lot has been said about election system, divided between a party list (302 or two thirds of the seats) and first-past-the-post (one third).The fundamentalists known as Salafists have sponsored many individuals for the election. The Supreme Committee in charge of the elections has announced the results: 862 lists and 8,627 individual candidates have been duly registered: 6,591 individuals and 590 lists for the People’s Assembly, and, 2,036 candidates and 272 lists for the Consultative Council.

A ruling of the Administrative Court attached to the State Council issued yesterday now requires the Egyptian government to take the necessary measures to give Egyptians living abroad the right to participate in the next elections. According to well-informed sources, the number of Egyptians abroad is around 8 million, in the Arab countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates, as well as Europe, North America and Australia. By the end of this month, delegations from the Vital Records Office will travel to Europe, Canada and the United States to give Egyptian immigrants the opportunity to obtain a new Identity Card, which enables each Egyptian citizen to be registered automatically as a voter. Egypt recognises dual citizenship for all Egyptian immigrants.

It is well known that the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists are likely to win big. Well-informed experts give them 40 to 50 per cent of the vote. In addition, many commentators believe that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is backing this trend.

This is a source of concern among Copts, who represent more than ten per cent of the population, and are often victims of confessional harassment. The recent incident of 9 October, when 27 Christian demonstrators were savagely killed by bullets and crushed by armoured vehicles, had created a new iconic figure, Mina Daniel, a young blogger who actively involved in the January revolution and was killed by an armoured car on 9 October. According to his wish, his funeral went through Tahrir Square. A picture of his mother and the mother of Khaled Saïd has been posted on YouTube showing how Christians and Muslims are united in their destiny in Egypt.

In fact, alongside the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, many Muslims have been demonstrating along with Copts. They too fear fundamentalism, concerned that they would be the first victims of a trend that considers any Muslim without allegiance to the movement as a traitor to his faith.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists are making moderate announcements, like in Libya where the Transitional National Council has tried to allay fears about Islamisation.

It seems to all the observers that the wind of Islamisation is blowing from Tunisia and Libya and that by the end of November, it will definitely sweep over Egypt. Liberal movements calling for a civil society lack a strong structure to stand in front of the religious flow.

On one issue, everyone in Egypt agrees. The macabre exhibition of Gaddafi’s body was met by general disapproval. Both Muslim and Christian authorities expressed their revulsion at the gruesome spectacle. Part of public opinion in Egypt deplored the death of the Libyan dictator who escaped justice, but for another part, his death was the better situation because it ended a long and dark period in the history of Libya. Such a conclusion was preferable to a long trial, like in Egypt, that might come to a dead end. In Egypt, a group of lawyers has asked for the judge in charge of the Mubarak’s trial to be revoked, but the decision has been postponed to the end of December.

Demonstrations have never stopped in Egypt and include judges, teachers, lawyers, workers, civil servants, etc. For a couple of days, police officers have been demonstrating, shutting down the Ministry of Interior area. Some of their posters read, “Closed for cleaning”. They want to the dismissal of the current minister and the removal of all high rank officials from the old regime.

Yesterday, a new group named ‘Egypt above all’ was founded. It wants Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to be “the first president of the new Egyptian state for one term to help institute real democracy”.

Posters of the marshal in military uniform were plastered on walls in Tahrir square and others parts of Cairo as well as other towns, calling for a million signatures to get Tantawi to run for president.

At present, he is on his way to attend the funeral of the Saudi crown prince. Egypt’s military rulers have denied that they have any ambition to hold on to power.

Given the general situation in Egypt, characterised by demonstrations, a stagnant tourist sector, a shaky economy and a general feeling of insecurity and deadlock, is the Arab spring on its way to become a rigid winter in Egypt?

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

Libya: Gaddafi’s Family Denounces War Crimes to the Hague

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 26 — According to French TV channel website, Gaddafi’s family will denounce what happened to the ICC in the Hague, on grounds of “war crime” allegations. Marcel Ceccaldi, Gaddafi’s French lawyer, stated: “They will denounce what happened to Gaddafi at The Hague, so that the circumstances of his death are made clear. Some NATO helicopters hit the convoy he was travelling in. The convoy did not constitute a risk for civilians: therefore, this must have been a killing planned by NATO”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Italy Considers Participation Multinational Force

(ANSAmed) ROME, OCTOBER 26 — “Italy, together with the Libyan NTC and its partners, is exploring and assessing ways of participating” in the multinational force that could replace NATO in Libya, ANSA learned from reliable diplomatic sources. The idea of replacing NATO forces with a multinational force was suggested today in Doha during the meeting of Chiefs of Staff of countries that are active in Libya. Al Jazeera reported, quoting Chief of Staff of Qatar Ahmed Ben Ali al Atia, that the new force should be led by Qatar, and that its goals should include to assist Libya’s political stabilisation and to train Libyan security forces locally.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Touareg Source, Saif Al Islam is in Niger

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 26 — Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif Al Islam, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, is in Niger, according to a Touareg representative from the country, Riza Aj Bula, who was quoted on the website of the BBC’s Arabic service.

“Saif was taken from Algeria to Niger with the help of the Touaregs,” he said.

Another of Gaddafi’s sons, Saadi, has also sought refuge in Niger in recent months.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama: It “Only Cost us a Billion Dollars” To Install Sharia Regime in Libya

And just watch for the dividends that will come in from that billion: oppression of women (polygamy has already been legalized in Libya), oppression of non-Muslims (a Jew who returned to Libya after decades in exile has already been harassed and deported), the denial of free speech and the freedom of conscience, and more virulent anti-Americanism than Gaddafi ever imagined. A bargain!

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Political Islam a ‘Necessary Gateway’ For Middle East Democracy: Analyst

BEIRUT — The electoral victory of an Islamist-rooted party in Tunisia will likely be repeated in countries swept by the Arab Spring, but religious groups will face an uphill battle to maintain political momentum, experts say. “Political Islam is a necessary gateway for democratic change in the Arab world,” said political analyst Khattar Abou Diab, professor of international relations at L’Universite Paris-Sud. “This is the most powerful political force in the Arab world today,” Abou Diab told AFP. “Under oppressive regimes, Islamists were at war with the state but the collapse of these regimes led to the election results we saw in Tunisia and will lead to the same elsewhere.”

After having been silenced for years by dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, whose ouster inspired the Arab Spring, Tunisia’s Islamist group Ennahda claimed a significant win in the country’s first ever democratic election on Sunday, according to a provisional count. Massive numbers of voters turned out to elect a new 217-member assembly that will rewrite the constitution, appoint a new caretaker president and decide on how to guarantee basic liberties, including women’s rights.

Egypt, which is readying for a parliamentary vote on November 28, will likely see a similar political turn after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. But no matter how many seats they win, Islamist groups will have no choice but to join ranks — and compromise — with other parties, experts say. “After elections, there will be a transitional phase during which other [secular] parties restructure,” said Abou Diab. “In the meantime, the people may well realize that Islamists’ ability to work miracles is one big illusion.”

Groups like Ennahda and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and Syria had long been oppressed by the secular but autocratic regimes of Ben Ali, Mubarak and Bashar al-Assad.

The Brotherhood in Syria was all but wiped out in 1982 when Bashar’s late father, Hafez al-Assad, ordered a military crackdown in the town of Hama to quell a rebellion by the group.

But Islamists in those countries continued to work underground, rallying followers around effective but discreet preachers and wide-reaching charities.

While other parties did not have much time to pull together a platform before the election, all Ennahda did was reap what it already had sowed, experts say. “Some Tunisians wanted to give them a try, especially as Islamists cultivate an image of integrity, honesty and the ability to face up to challenges,” said Paris-based analyst Agnes Levallois, author of A User’s Guide to the Middle East. “The fact that they were victimized for so long also adds to their legitimacy, as it were.”

But Islamist gains in the wake of the Arab Spring have sparked regional and global fears of a repeat of the scenario in sharia-ruled Iran or in Algeria, where Islamist militants for years have been battling the military. Experts warn the breakthrough of Ennahda — Arabic for “Renaissance” — could pose a threat to the status of Tunisian women, who have long enjoyed better rights than their peers across the Arab world.

Such fears are exacerbated by a recent statement by Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of Libya’s National Transitional Council, who has called for the adoption of sharia law. Ennahda models itself on the ruling AKP party in Turkey, another Muslim-majority country which, like Tunisia, to date has a secular state. The group’s critics have accused the party of preaching modernism in public and radicalism in the mosques.

But no matter what political model Ennahda adopts, analysts say it will be held accountable to a people which found the courage to fight for a say in their future. “Islamists had long drawn their legitimacy from their declared battle against Mubarak and Ben Ali,” said Nadim Shehade, analyst at the London-based think-tank Chatham House. “The era of the rule of one leader, or one party, exists no more.” Levallois added that secular movements must take note of advances made by Islamists and remain vigilant. “They must ensure that Islamists do not believe they have the capacity to overhaul social rules,” she said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Qatar Admits Sending Troops to Fight Alongside Libya NTC

(AGI) Doha- Qatar has admitted to sending ground troops to assist Libyans in their fight against Gaddafi and loyalist forces. Qatar is the first nation in the international coalition to acknowledge its involvement on Libyan ground since the conflict began. Qatar’s chief of staff Major General Hamad bin Ali al-Atiya revealed that hundreds of Qatari soldiers joined the Libyan insurgents: “we were among them and the numbers of Qataris on ground were hundreds in every region,” he stated.

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

Religious Violence, Uncertainty in Post-Mubarak Egypt Threatens Ties to Israel, US

In the eight months since the Egyptian Revolution, radical Islamic groups are rising to power, the army seems unwilling or unable to stop a growing rash of sectarian violence and the long-standing friendship between the U.S., Israel and Egypt is in serious question. “I am the enemy of democracy,” Hesham al Ashry said in an interview with Fox News in his Cairo tailor shop. The devout Muslim is a main organizer in a group called the Salafists, which is working to bring Shariah law to Egypt. They, along with the Muslim Brotherhood, have risen quickly in the past eight months to fill the power vacuum left in post-Mubarak Egypt.

The massive change has billionaire tycoon and financier of the revolution Naguib Sawiris now calling Egypt’s future “dim … bad.” Mubarak’s heavy handed security apparatus kept groups like the Salafis on a tight leash; now free to organize and recruit the Salafists and Brotherhood have quickly climbed to the top of the political food chain with organizational help and financing from supporters in the Gulf states. “This is a big opportunity and it’s not going to go back. This was mentioned by the Prophet Mohammed. Peace be upon him. He said this was going to happen,” al Ashry said, speaking of the Arab Spring and the opportunity fo r groups like his to organize.

The past eight months have given a scary preview of what al Ashry’s opportunity might mean. It was a Salafy Cleric who called for the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cario, the rocket and suicide bomb attack on a southern Israeli highway which killed 8 and injured more than 40 was launched from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and it was the Army which intervened in a peaceful Coptic Christian protest killing more than two dozen. “They (the army) are completely frantic, they are (overwhelmed) by these every week demonstrations.the country is going bust. The economy is going down. They are unable to get it to rest (stop),” Sawiris, who says there is only a 20% chance of next month’s election producing a liberal or secular Muslim government, said.

Egypt’s first parliamentary elections are scheduled for late-November and many have warned they will become a flash point for the type of sectarian violence that left more than two dozen Coptic Christians dead. While al Ashry blames the Coptics for burning their own churches down in a sympathy ploy, it’s widely accepted that fundamentalists from the Muslim Brotherhood or Salafists are responsible for burning down a number of a Coptic churches. The church burnings have brought the Christians out in force beginning a cycle of violence which the army seems unable, or unwilling, to stop. “It is madness to hold elections in that short of a time. No securit y in the country. Anybody can do anything in Egypt with impunity,” said Coptic Christian politician Michael Muenier.

Egypt received $1.5B in foreign aid from the United States, making it one of the largest recipients in the world. Much of the aid comes in the form of military hardware and training.

Since Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel and the rise of President Mubarak, Egypt has functioned as a key U.S. ally in the region and has done much of Washington’s bidding, but the recent developments have put the special relationship into serious question. The Army has yet to arrest anyone for the string of Church burnings or punish any of the soldiers involved in the Coptic massacre in early October. Despite pleas from the United States, Egypt has continued to hold an American/Israeli citizen accused of spying, and the Army leadership has failed to secure arms smuggling/militant activity in the Sinai Peninsula.

This combination creates a new dynamic in the Middle East as Egypt no longer walks in step with her Western benefactors. For example, democratic elections long promised by the military already have Christians crying foul. “You are telling me the military just ran over 30 people with their tanks and we are going to feel comfortable going to elections,” Muenier who also predicts a win by the Muslim Brotherhood, said. As for what’s next if al Ashry and his followers get their way, “instead of one Iran .you have two.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Arab Spring is Becoming an Islamist Takeover

Much as I sympathise with the desire of millions of young Arabs to free themselves from the tyranny of autocratic government, I’m afraid I’m finding it hard to draw any positive conclusions from the results of last weekend’s elections in Tunisia, where the Islamist Ennahda party has emerged as the main winner. Ennahda was outlawed during the regime of President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali on the grounds that it was planning an Islamist takeover of the country and its leader, Rachid Gannouchi was — as is the custom — granted political asylum in Britain, where he lived for 22 years. Ennahda, for its part, claims it was simply the victim of Ben Ali’s parano ia. But many people remain very wary of Mr Gannouchi since his triumphant return to Tunis last January, which explains why his opponents shouted “terrorist” when he went to vote.

I’m sure the Foreign Office will now claim it has played a blinder in having the foresight to provide sanctuaty to a man who will now be a key figure in redrawing Tunisia’s constitution after decades of autocratic rule, and I sincerely hope they have backed the right horse. For the moment at least, Ennahda is making reassuring noises about backing the formation of a secular, Western-style government, but I’m afraid I have my doubts.

The same goes for neighbouring Libya, where Nato has just spent the past eight months helping the rebels to overthrow Col Gaddafi’s regime. No doubt mssrs Cameron and Sarkozy were hoping to replace Gaddafi with a pro-Western regime with whom they could negotiate lots of lucrative oil contracts. Instead they find that, when the interim government formally proclaimed the country’s liberation in Benghazi on Sunday night, the victors of Libya’s nasty civil war are now planning to set up a new government based on the strict interpretation of Sharia law. And for those who are not familiar with the dynamics of the Middle East, Sharia law is the complete antithesis of Western-style democracy, as we have seen in Iran these past 30-odd years. So, who wants to support the Arab Spring now?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Rise of Political Islam

Why have the revolutions of the Arab Spring brought political Islam to the fore? Asks Patrick Seale.

Political Islam is making a dramatic comeback right across the greater Middle East. Some in the West will react with alarm at what they see as a dangerous geopolitical upset. Democrats, secularists, feminists, Christians and other religious minorities may fear that a rigid application of the shari’a, the body of Islamic law, will threaten their freedoms and their way of life. But these fears are almost certainly exaggerated, if not wholly unfounded, at least in most Arab countries. The triumph at last Sunday’s elections of Tunisia’s leading Islamic party Ennahda (Renaissance) is the latest example of the revival of political Islam in the Arab world. But it is also cause for reassurance. This moderate Islamic party should not be confused with hard-line Salafis, who demand a return to the uncompromising values of early Islam.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Elections: Ennahda Domino Effect in North Africa?

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — It was the first country to “stage the revolution”, the first to set itself a (largely respected) agenda along the road towards democracy, the first to go the polls and will soon be the first to have an Islamic party governing its future. Tunisia, then, is turning over a new leaf, and doing so in an explosive manner as, in the space of only six months, and especially with a succession of purely democratic occurrences, it has entrusted its future to Ennahda, a declaredly religious party, which in the next year will need to explain its idea of government. Rachid Ghannouchi’s party has led an election campaign based essentially on the anger of the people. after years of a rapacious dictatorial regime. This starting point is also valid in Egypt and Libya, where people took to the streets to fight a system of power based on a family-oriented oligarchy, which suggests that the outcome of the vote for the Constituent Assembly in Tunisia could be followed and imitated in countries where, for decades, the fate of the people was in the hands of family clans. But the outlines are different. In Egypt, beyond Mubarak’s avowed iron fist, the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood was never truly eliminated, a sort of hidden tolerance that, though always denied, probably defused potential moments of open conflict over the years. In Libya, the presence of Islamists was effectively limited to the personal sphere, with fundamentalists concentrated in Cyrenaica. But now, with Mubarak and Gaddafi removed, Islamists, hardliners or new members, have risen again, saying that they are ready, like in Tunisia, to enter the fray. This could follow the Tunisian model, in which Islam is presented as moderate, open to the demands of all, and modulated on the respect for the freedom of everyone. Tunisia, though, can be a model if Libya and Egypt emerge from the quicksand represented, for example, by the religious and economic minorities, who feel oppressed and want to rebel, or the fragmentation of society into structures that are parallel to the state (families and tribes) and that have always struggled not to be subdued. The Tunisian model of moderate Islam, open and seemingly reassuring, especially towards foreign partners, therefore appears to be exportable and, in the next few years, could result in a platform that would not only be political and economic but also religious. This by no means suggest that an Islam flexing its muscles to the outside world is on the way, but would represent a reality to be assessed with a great and newer form of attention, on account of its proximity to Europe. It is certainly no co-incidence that, only a few hours after the vote in Tunisia and comments from the Libyan leader Jalil on Sharia law as the basis for future legislation, an Egyptian preacher called on all “Muslim rebels” to create a single Islamic republic from Tunisia to Egypt.

In this hypothetical scenario, other subjects, which are certainly interested in dialogue, are coming out to play. One example is Qatar, which in recent months has added to an already significant economic presence in North Africa with frantic diplomatic action that the Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani appears to have imposed. Qatar, a Sunni emirate with endless mosques, has used its oil riches to become a player in the region, not least in periods of emergency, intervening by providing funds and financing and upholding them for the future.

It did so for Tunisia, when the country was invaded by Libyans fleeing the war at home, giving off the idea that it the country was more than just a friend. Tunisia, like Libya and, indeed like Qatar, has a majority of Sunnis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Guardian’s Jonathan Steele Accuses Tunisian Muslims Who Oppose Radical Islam of Islamophobia

This is almost comical. Evidently, for Guardian journalists — who consistently fail to acknowledge the most explicit expressions of antisemitism — even a nation which is 98% Muslim can be plagued with the scourge of Islamophobia. The Guardian’s Jonathan Steele, commenting on the results of yesterday’s Tunisian elections, in “Tunisia’s clean election leads the way”, CiF, Oct. 25, in which the Islamist Ennahda party (led by Rached Ghannouchi) was victorious, wrote:

The party that has emerged from the poll most strongly is Ennahda (Renaissance), a party of modern democratic Islam

Modern? Democratic?


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gender Segregation Grows in Orthodox Jewish Areas

There is a neighbourhood in Jerusalem where men and women walk on different sidewalks. It is called Mea Shearim, a neighbourhood inhabited for years by Haredi Jews (literally “those who tremble”), an ultra-Orthodox branch of Judaism, reminiscent of an Ashkenazi Jewish corner of Poland in the 18th century. These separate sidewalks are an example of gender segregation practiced and invoked by strict Orthodox Jewish communities also in public places, despite the fact that several rulings in civil court have stated that these practices are illegal in Israel.

The most recent ruling came on October 16: the High Court stated that the streets of Mea Shearim belong equally to men and women, and banned discrimination. “Starting next year,” the judges ruled, “conduct contrary to this sentence will no longer be tolerated.” This type of statement would lead one to believe the police are required to enforce this decision. But in Israel there are few people who would be willing to make that bet. In recent years, gender separation in public areas has been constantly increasing alongside growing numbers and rising influence in the country of Haredi Jews and ultra-Orthodox Jews of various sects. “Gender segregation is a relatively new phenomenon in Jewish life,” said Yossi Gurvitz, one of the contributors to digital magazine +972, “it has been present for a decade, perhaps a few years more. The bitter fruit of Orthodox Jewish movements, Hasidic Jews in particular, who say that the presence of women (or girls, often who are very young) is inappropriate, and fuels impure thoughts.” The jump from this idea to banning women on sidewalks was a short one, but it wasn’t the only one. Recently, the idea of buses where women have to sit in the back has created a stir, even outside of Israel, on transport lines that serve Haredi Jewish neighbourhoods. An unwritten law requires female passengers, in a sort of backwards etiquette, to give up their seats for men and sit in the back of the bus.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

11,000 Australian Sheep Arrive in UAE for Eid

A shipment of nearly 11,000 Australian sheep aboard the world’s largest livestock vessel arrived in Dubai on Tuesday ahead of Eid Al Adha, when demand for sheep soars, newspapers said on Wednesday. The ship docked at Jebel Ali port and officials said they were examining the animals to ensure they are free of diseases before letting them in.

The livestock aboard the world’s largest cattle ship that can carry 100,000 sheep would be distributed to local markets before Eid Al Adha early next month.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Anti-Islam Toy Guns Found in UAE

Emirati social expert reports the toys to the police and urge action

An Emirati social expert and activist shopping in a local market stumbled across Chinese-made toy guns that issue sounds mocking Islam and called on authorities to take action against such products. The discovery came a few days after Saudi authorities said they seized nearly 1,500 Chinese-made toy guns issuing sounds that mock and insult Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).

Mariam Al Ahmadi, a well-known social activist in Abu Dhabi, said she found the toy guns at some shops in Bani Yas, just outside Abu Dhabi city. Quoted by the Dubai-based ‘Emarat Al Youm’ Arabic language daily, Mariam said she had reported the guns to the police and called for immediate measures.”I call upon the police and other competent authorities to investigate how these anti-Islam guns found their way into the UAE market and to take action against all those who had brought them in,” she said.

In Saudi Arabia, police said on Sunday they had seized nearly 1,500 Chinese-made toy guns at a local market found to be issuing sounds that abuse Aisha, one of the most venerated women in Islam.Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the most influential law enforcement authority in the country, seized the toys during a raid on a shopping centre in the western town of Jeddah. “The guns were found to be issuing sounds which are considered mocking and offending against the Prophet’s wife,” newspapers said, quoting Commission spokesman in Jeddah, Turki Al Zahrani.He said sellers of those toys, mostly Asians, apparently do not know they offend Islam as the guns issue sounds in Arabic.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Hundreds of Women Burn Their Coverings in Street Protest Against Brutal Yemeni Regime

Hundreds of Yemeni women have set fire to a pile of female face and body veils on a main street in the capital Sanaa to protest the government’s brutal crackdown against the country’s popular uprising.

The women spread a black cloth across a main street and threw their full-body veils, known as makrama, onto a pile, sprayed it with oil and set it ablaze. As the flames rose, they chanted: ‘Who protects Yemeni women from the crimes of the thugs?’

The women in Yemen have taken a key role in the uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s authoritarian rule that erupted in March, inspired by other Arab revolutions.

Protesting: Yemeni women burn their veils during a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa

Open dissent: The brutal Yemeni regime has fired into crowds of protesters so this rebellion is a dangerous one for the women involved

Symbolic burning: The protest is a Bedouin tradition which call for help from the tribesmen as violence rages all around them

Their role came into the limelight earlier in October, when Yemeni woman activist Tawakkul Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with two Liberian women, for their struggle for women’s rights.

The protest, however, was not related to women’s rights or issues surrounding the Islamic veils — rather, the act of women burning their clothing is a symbolic Bedouin tribal gesture signifying an appeal for help to tribesmen, in this case to stop the attacks on the protesters.

The women who burned clothing in the capital were wearing traditional veils at the time, many covered in black from head to toe…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Internet Censorship: American Technologies Used to Censoring the Internet Over Syria Area

American company technology are being used in Syria by government representatives in censoring and monitoring dissidents, according to activists.

Silicon Valley company produces the equipment which allows corporations and governments in managing data traffic. It also can be used for monitoring users and blocking access, social networking applications similar to Facebook, Internet phone websites , which has a key to the Arab spring, upspring in Tunisia and Egypt.

Some activists are seriously concerned Syrian government is being ruled by the al-assad family that uses blue coat technologies helping to overcome fall down on dissidents constantly protesting against autocratic government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Recently a group founded in Switzerland named “hacktivists” provided technical support for dissidents in the Middle East creating local communication system downloading 54 gigabytes of Syrian telecommunications.

           — Hat tip: LN[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Christian Conference Wants Protection for Copts in Egypt

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, OCTOBER 26 — The creation of democratic States that protect Christian minorities, in Egypt and other Arab countries where protests were staged in the past months, was requested during a conference in Beirut. The conference was dedicated to the situation of Copts in Egypt, after the violent repression on October 9 of a demonstration of this minority group in Cairo, protesting against the destruction of a church in Assuan. A total of 25 people were killed in the clashes, of whom 18 Copts, four Muslims and three troops.

Father Abdo Abou Kasm, director of the Catholic information centre in Beirut, which has organised the initiative, has asked the Egyptians to “study the new period the country is going through well and build a modern State founded on equality of rights and duties.” Father Antonios Ibrahim, pastor of Lebanese Catholic Copts, has underlined that “the Coptic Church sees itself as defender of the Christian faith. It has played an important role in the global Christian movement, being one of the founders of the World Council of Churches.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Al Jazeera: Force Led by Qatar Instead of NATO

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 26 — A multinational force led by Qatar could replace NATO in efforts to help the political stabilisation of Libya and the training of local police on the ground. This is according to Al Jazeera, which quotes Qatar’s Chief of Staff, Ahmed Ben Ali Al Atia. Qatar will lead the new coalition for a period that could stretch beyond the end of the year, according to the progress of security conditions in Libya, the Chief of Staff added, explaining that the coalition would not take part in police operations.

Al Atia also said that Qatar has made the proposal in light of the potential end of the NATO mission on October 31, as decided on a preliminary basis by the Atlantic Council.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Arab Spring ‘Will Create Strong Islamist Parties’

The strong showing by Islamists in Tunisia’s elections has raised doubts about the Arab Spring. Will rule by dictators in North Africa be replaced by Sharia law? Islam will have to play a role, say German commentators, but it’s not necessarily the end of the world — and Tunisian secularists are also strong.

Tunisians disappointed Western observers this week by giving Islamists a big majority in the country’s historic first election. A final count is expected Tuesday afternoon, but the poll was transparent, and Ennahda, a self-described moderate Islamist party, won an estimated one-third of the national parliament seats.

Ennahda will have to form a coalition to govern, but the widespread support for the party has disappointed many who hoped for a different outcome when Tunisia, almost by accident, started the wave of “Arab Spring” movements in North Africa this year. Tunisians fed up with joblessness and dictatorship took bravely to the streets and forced the long-ruling autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into Saudi Arabian exile.

‘Freedom is Very Important to Us’

Ennahda’s leader, Rashid al-Ghannushi, was for many years a London-exiled political dissenter, and he still benefits from popular support among Tunisia’s poor. He likes to compare Ennahda to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Islamist party in Turkey (the AKP) — or, less obviously, to Germany’s center-right Christian Democrats. Last week, before the Sunday poll, he defended the role of Islam in government.

“Sharia is not something that is alien or strange to our societies,” he said. “For example, in Britain we have Islamic finance and Islamic banking, and Islamic family law can be applied for marriage and divorce. We don’t see Sharia interfering in people’s private lives or in their freedom to wear what they want. Personal freedom is very important for us.”

German commentators on Tuesday worry about the prospect of women’s rights in Tunisia, but they sound guardedly optimistic about the country’s future…

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

The Usage of VPNs is Criminalized in Iran

Criminalized VPN usage in Iran should be noted that recently usage of VPN in Iran has become a criminal action as declared Iran’s Minister of Communications and Technology. Its usage in the country has become a legal violation.

A VPN is cyber network which helps users to get the access to web providers in Iran and outside its boundary by means of using ISP. Iranian internet users use VPN and proxies to overcome web censorship frames fixed by Islamic Republic, it tightly blocks some foreign opposition websites.

Minister of communications Reza Taghipour expressed it was a great unfortunate the internet has become the arena for the soft battles. However the country has a great technical ability to stand against it.

Iranian government authorities claim that the enemies are trying to destroy the stable situation in Islamic Republic by means of cultural and social intrusions which can be reflected as some kind of soft battles. The wide world web has been an interested target for Iranian authorities in the so-called computer battles.

A committee which is headed by Iran’s Prosecutor determined that some sites must be blocked for Iranian users.

           — Hat tip: LN[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Armenians, Raised as Muslims, Get Baptized in Surp Giragos Church in Turkey

PanARMENIAN.Net — A group of Armenians, raised as Sunni Muslims because their ancestors converted to Islam after the Armenian Genocide, were baptized at the newly re-opened Surp Giragos Church, Hurriyet Daily News reports. “I wish this church had always been open,” one of the group to be baptized, who also contributed to the restoration of the church, said. “It is unbelievable to be together here with people from all around the world with whom I share the same origins.” The baptism ceremony, which was closed to the press and outside visitors, was led by Deputy Patriarch Archbishop Aram Atesyan. The names of those baptized are not revealed for security reasons.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Turkish Journalist Says Islam Craves Liberty

Turkish journalist/author Mustafa Akyol challenges the practice of “enforced piety” in his new book, “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.”

“Enforced piety” or the act of coercing public respect for strict religious practice has come to be associated with Islam says Turkish journalist and author Mustafa Akyol. But in his new book, “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty,” Akyol challenges and refutes this association. Appearing recently on VOA’s Press Conference USA, Mustafa Akyol asserts that “piety police,” common in Saudi Arabia and Iran, are in fact, a product of authoritarian regimes that use Islam to consolidate power and rule through fear. Akyol also explains that laws against blasphemy and apostasy, which are also often associated with Islam, appear neither in the Ko ran nor in other Islamic texts. Instead, Aykol argues that such notions actually evolved within particular geographical, cultural and historical contexts where Islamic regimes found it convenient to attribute such ideas to Islam. Akyol is equally critical of authoritarian secular states such as Turkey in the 1980’s, which often denounced or even outlawed manifestations of piety, such as the use of the headscarf, in the name of secularism.

Akyol argues that coercion in Islam or in any faith for that matter, backfires, and that “one needs a free society to be a genuine Muslim.” He says “it is only through freedom of choice and true conviction that one can become a genuine believer.” Despite the emergence the puritanical Wahhabi sect prevalent in Saudi Arabia, which not only promotes a literalist reading of the Koran, but also conflates tribal customs with Islam, Akyol describes many other schools of Muslim thought which demonstrate that Islam is indeed compatible with free choice and reason. He contrasts the “Bedouin culture of the desert” with the more cosmopolitan historical contexts in which Islam has flourished and become a beacon of tolerance such as Muslim Spain (711 — 1492), the Ottoman Empire, and today’s modern Turkish state. Akyol asserts that in societies in which trade and commerce are dominant features of the economy Islam is also interpreted in a more open, flexible manner. It is worth noting that the Prophet Mohammed was a successful merchant.

Mustafa Akyol expresses concern that those in the West, who observe authoritarian elements within Muslim majority countries, might erroneously conclude that such practices are directly linked to Islam. Akyol not only refutes that argument but also underscores that even if it were partially true, many religions, not just Islam, have fallen victim to violent and authoritative interpretations of the faith. Christianity during the time of the Crusades and the Inquisition is a vivid example. But just as Christianity and its followers have reinterpreted the Bible to reconcile their beliefs with liberty and tolerance, Mustafa Aykol insists the “the same change is possible in Islam.” Moreover, Aykol argues that both Islamic and secular gove rnments in the Middle East are equally guilty of attacks on civil liberties. He speaks of two extremes in the Middle East: secular dictators like Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian President, and radical Islamist groups which oppose them. “And this vicious cycle between both extremes destroyed any room for a pluralistic, democratic system,” says Mustafa Akyol. For this reason, Akyol is cautiously optimistic that the democratic uprisings throughout the Arab world, as messy as they will be for some time to come, may foster greater democracy, pluralism and economic freedom, all of which can only bode well for the future of Islam.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Asia

285 Indian Girls Shed ‘Unwanted’ Names

More than 200 Indian girls whose names mean “unwanted” in Hindi have chosen new names for a fresh start in life.

A central Indian district held a renaming ceremony Saturday that it hopes will give the girls new dignity and help fight widespread gender discrimination that gives India a skewed gender ratio, with far more boys than girls.

The 285 girls — wearing their best outfits with barrettes, braids and bows in their hair — lined up to receive certificates with their new names along with small flower bouquets from Satara district officials in Maharashtra state.

In shedding names like “Nakusa” or “Nakushi,” which mean “unwanted” in Hindi, some girls chose to name themselves after Bollywood stars such as “Aishwarya” or Hindu goddesses like “Savitri.” Some just wanted traditional names with happier meanings, such as “Vaishali,” or “prosperous, beautiful and good.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Army Claws Back £433 ‘Overpaid’ To Dead Soldier… Because He Was Shot Dead in Afghanistan 10 Days Before Pay Day

The family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan have been ordered to repay hundreds of pounds — because he died after receiving his wages.

Military bosses said that since Lance Corporal Jordan Bancroft was paid a month in advance, his relatives must return £433 to cover the ten days after the 25-year-old was shot…

“‘When I read the letter you could have knocked me down with a feather. When it sunk in what it said, it felt like I’d been poked in the eye with a stick. I want to make it clear that this is in no way a question of money, but one of respect.’

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

India and Israel: A Friendship Deepened by Prejudice

by Kapil Komreddi

An alliance against Islamic extremism must not become an excuse for far-right parties to fan anti-Muslim sentiment

In 1974, the New York Times journalist Bernard Weinraub described India as “the loneliest post in the world” for Israeli diplomats. Having voted against the creation of Israel at the UN in 1947, India held back from establishing full diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv until 1992. For decades, Israel’s presence in India was limited to an immigration office in Mumbai. In between, India voted with the majority to pass UN resolution 3379, condemning Zionism as a form of racism, became one of the first non-Arab states to recognise Palestine’s declaration of independence in 1988, and was generally among the more vocal non-Arab voices against Israel.

Today, India is Israel’s closest eastern ally and its largest arms market. Annual non-military bilateral trade alone exceeds $4.5bn. Since 2001, the diasporas of the two countries have emerged as energetic allies against a shared enemy: Islamic extremism. A survey by the Israeli foreign ministry in 2009 found India to be the most pro-Israel country in the world, well above the US. Once a bastion of pro-Palestinian sentiment, India recently appeared at the bottom in a worldwide poll of countries sympathetic to Palestinian statehood. Throw a stone in Panaji and it is likely to land on an Israeli backpacking through India after his post-mandatory service.

What precipitated this dramatic shift? Israel had all along been a quiet ally of New Delhi, volunteering clandestine support as India sought to repel attacks by China (in 1962) and Pakistan (in 1965). Israeli officials knew also that India, which had no history of anti-semitism, had arrived at its Israel policy through a combination of post-colonial hauteur, realpolitik — particularly its desire to placate Arab opinion in its contest against Islamic Pakistan — and an ethical commitment to the Palestinian cause. Partly for these reasons, India’s anti-Israel actions rarely provoked any anxiety in Tel Aviv.

There are three principal reasons behind the shift in India’s attitude. The first is the belated realisation that no amount of deference to Arab sentiment could alter Muslim opinion in the Middle East in India’s favour: when it came to Kashmir, Shia and Sunni united in supporting Pakistan’s position. The second owes itself to the collapse of the old world order: the death of the Soviet Union meant that India had to seek out new allies. The third factor that contributed to the deepening of Indo-Israeli ties is less well-known: the rise of Hindu nationalism in India.

To votaries of Hindu nationalism, Israel is something of a lodestar: a nation to be revered for its ability to defeat, and survive among, hostile Muslims. As the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz put it, “Relations between Israel and India tend to grow stronger when . India experiences a rightward shift in anti-Muslim public opinion or in leadership”.

This explains why Hindu opinion is inflamed even by the most anodyne Indian expression of solidarity with Palestine. At the UN general assembly last month India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, offered some somniferous words of support for Palestine’s membership effort: “India is steadfast in its support for the Palestinian people’s struggle for a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognisable borders side by side and at peace with Israel”.

No one in Israel seemed to have noticed. None of the major newspapers editorialised it. There wasn’t even a specific news item in the Israeli press singling out India. Trade did not suffer. The markets registered no shifts. But this did not deter some Indians from rising to take offence on Israel’s behalf. To Sadanand Dhume, a US based commentator who published a hysterical philippic in the Wall Street Journal castigating India for not “throwing its weight behind Israel”, Singh’s speech was nothing short of a “foreign policy mishap”. According to Dhume, who has since been ordained “the go-to guy for all matters India” by an excited colleague of his: “Both India and Israel represent ancient civilisations whose land carries a special spiritual significance for most of its people.”

This desire to define citizenship and belonging in the procrustean terms of ancient culture over all other considerations is where Hindutva and Zionism converge. As Koenrad Elst, one of the most influential producers of pro-Hindutva pabulum, has said of the movement’s founder, “Veer Savarkar was the Hindu counterpart of a Zionist: he defined the Hindus as a nation attached to a motherland, rather than as a religious community”. “True, there is an obvious difference between the situation of the Jews, who had to migrate to their motherland . and the Hindus who merely had to remove the non-Hindu . regime from their territory.” This prescription for ethnic cleansing came to life in 1992, when Hindu nationalists brought down the Babri mosque in the northern Indian city of Ayodhya. Their ongoing struggle to seize the Babri land, which belonged to Muslims for over five centuries, looks to Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian territory as a useful template.

In 2009, Mumbai’s anti-terror squad arrested, among others, an officer in the Indian army, Prasad Purohit, for masterminding a terrorist attack on Pakistani citizens and plotting to overthrow the secular Indian state. In his confession, Purohit admitted to making plans to approach Israel for help. It says something about the state of Israel when the most virulently anti-Muslim terrorists in India reflexively look to it as a potential source of support.

This is tragic — because, in the minds of the formidable men who willed them into existence, India and Israel were alike. Theodor Herzl’s conception of Israel was remarkably similar to Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of India. Both men refined their ideas gradually. In Der Judenstaat, Herzl presented Israel as a “rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilisation as opposed to barbarism”. Several years later, he offered a more coherent version, a blueprint for a modern pluralistic state, operating under the aegis of Jews, but self-consciously inclusive: visionary Jews and welcoming Arabs people his extraordinary novel Altneuland, one of the founding texts of Zionism. Herzl resolved the conflicts of conscience by transmitting some of the most powerful arguments for Israel’s establishment through an Arab character, Reshid Bey. “It was a great blessing,” Reshid explains to a sceptical visitor. “Nothing could have been more wretched t han an Arab village at the end of the 19th century . [The Arabs] are better off than at any time in the past.” But Herzl was alert to the victim’s capacity to victimise. In Dr Geyer, we are shown a chilling vision of majoritarian zealotry: a fanatical rabbi, he wants all Arabs expelled from the New Society. Redemption comes in the form of David Littwak, the son of a peasant who believes in a land for all, Arab and Jew, and whose opposition to and victory over Geyer is cast as the highest affirmation of Zionism. Unlike Herzl, Gandhi scorned modern technology for most of his life. In his early life, Gandhi’s politics were conspicuously exclusionary. But the India he imagined even after alighting on his Satyagraha campaign relied on a network of Indian David Littwaks to survive. It was a dream that crashed during his own lifetime, with the partition of India.

Today, some of the most powerful politicians in Israel are those who violate Herzl’s ideas. Avigdor Lieberman, a Russian immigrant foreign minister of Israel, has openly echoed Geyer’s thoughts, calling for the expulsion of Israeli Arabs. In Gandhi’s home state, Narendra Modi, a rabidly anti-Muslim politician implicated in the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002, continues to secure handsome mandates from the largely Hindu electorate.

India’s support for Palestine is one of the last remaining precepts from time of Pandit Nehru, India’s first prime minister who is loathed by Hindu chauvinists for refusing to turn India into a “Hindu Pakistan”. As per the Hindu nationalist narrative, the Congress party’s support for Palestine — if such a thing actually exists in any meaningful sense — is a bribe to Indian Muslims. In reality, Indian Muslims have made noticeable efforts to build bridges with Israel. But if anyone can be accused of holding foreign policy hostage to religious bigotry, it is the Hindu nationalist BJP. During its disastrous term in power, from 1997 to 2004, ministers in the government dismissed pro-Palestinians as “more Palestinian than Palestinians themselves”. Its foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, suggested that a common civilisational outlook bound India and Israel — implying that Indian Muslims who shared the faith of the Arab majority were someh ow alien to India’s “civilisation”.

India and Israel have much to offer each other and Israel’s security must figure as a non-negotiable precondition in New Delhi’s support for Palestine. But Hindu nationalists are not concerned with the security of Israel: it is the abandonment of Palestinians they seek. The seeds of Israel’s redemption are embedded in Zionism, which is concerned with housing people, not displacing them. Israel must merely embrace it. It will still be a paternalistic form of “pluralism”, but it will be inclusive. On the other hand, Hindutva’s very purpose is the disenfranchisement and abolition of religious minorities. So Israelis must wonder what has become of them, their nation, that their most fervid admirers in the most pro-Israeli country in the world happen to be fascists. Until Israel and India undertake an honest reappraisal of their friendship, those who care about the ideas of Herzl and Gandhi must acknowledge this much: theirs is an alliance deepened by prejudice .

[JP note: Ready or not, name is as name does — Kapil kaputt?]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Malaysia: A Peaceful Weekend

by Tay Tian Yan

I had my lunch at a shopping mall in Petaling Jaya last Saturday. The shopping mall, filled with Malay, Chinese and Indian shoppers, was as busy as usual. Muslims and non-Muslims shopped, dined and enjoyed their weekend with their friends and family. It was a leisure and peaceful weekend. Inadvertently, I thought of the Himpunan Sejuta Umat (Himpun) assembly at the Shah Alam Stadium.

Some politicians had expressed their support to the assembly and the Utusan Malaysia had massively covered the story over the past few days, encouraging the public to participate. Some social networking websites also called the support of Muslims. An assembly with a million of participants would sure heat up the city. At that moment, however, everyone was carefree and relaxed.

Why didn’t the Muslims in the shopping mall attend the assembly? Could it be because they were not devout enough, or having not as much faith in their religion as those who attended the assembly? And why didn’t the non-Muslims in the shopping mall stay at home? Didn’t they worry about their safety or at least, try to avoid traffic jams? I was told that there were only about 1000 people at the stadium and the organiser had to delay the start of the assembly.

When they found that they could no longer delay it, the assembly started with about 5,000 participants, including many students who went in groups, as if they were on a school trip.

Among the attendees were Selangor executive councillor Datuk Dr Hasan Ali and Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali. Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria delivered a speech.

People started to leave the stadium even before the assembly was ended and the stadium, which could accommodate 80,000 people, looked deserted. The planned assembly of a million Muslims was participated only by less than 10,000 people. The 5,000 attendees were only a tiny part of the total 15 million of Muslims nationwide.

Most Muslims were doing their routine activities when the assembly was held. I believe that except for those who had attended the assembly, the remaining 14.99 million Muslims were as devout as the assembly attendees and they were having as much faith in Islam, too. However, they were open-minded, rational and having a sense of security. They did not agree with the assembly claiming that the Muslim community was encountering a crisis because other religions were trying to induce Muslims to apostate.

Assuming the claim was true, the legal and social system of Malaysia would be capable enough to deal with the matter. It could be solve through communication and negotiation, as well as legal actions. They did not join the assembly and it was not necessary to pressure them or touch the sensitive nerve of religious differences. The social characteristics of Malaysia, including moderation, plurality and toleration, have been reflected in the peaceful weekend.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Video Emerges of Swiss Hostages in Pakistan

A video has emerged showing a Swiss couple kidnapped by the Taliban in Pakistan nearly four months ago, flanked by four masked gunmen pointing rifles at their heads. In the video, which has been posted on YouTube, the man holds up a Pakistani newspaper dated September 15th and the couple speak Swiss German.

Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 28, appear in relatively good health and call on the Pakistani and Swiss governments to give into the demands of their hostage takers. Their faces appear to match pictures of the couple that were widely circulated after their kidnapping on July 1st. They speak calmly, but kneel before four masked men brandishing their guns at their heads. Pakistani think-tank, the FATA Research Centre, on its website posted links to the videos on YouTube, without saying how it had obtained the video.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Newport Mosque: Spades Dig in After 10-Year Wait

BUILDING will begin at the Australian Islamic Centre in Newport next week — nearly 10 years after planning began. The centre, on a 10,000-square-metre block in Blenheim Road, will be owned and run by the Newport Islamic Society and will be home to one of Australia’s biggest mosques. It will be built in three stages and comprise an education centre, library, prayer room, recreation and function room, an imam’s residence, two guest houses and 180 car park spaces. Society spokesman Mohamed El Hawi said he was glad work was finally beginning, with the turning of the first sod next Monday. He expected the first stage would be completed within two years. The society’s three applications to build the centre had previously been rejected by Hobsons Bay Council. “It’s been a long time coming and we’ve been campaigning [for the centre] for a long time,” Mr El Hawi said. “We established a group in the community to find a proper site for the centre [after the council verdict]. After a longer search, the council agreed to give us the current site.”

Mr El Hawi said more than 200 people had objected to the proposal. The matter had been referred to a panel set up by the Planning Minister, which granted the permit for the centre.

Another member of the Newport Society, Fatima Dennaoui, said she was excited work was starting. “It’s a relief for the whole community. The current mosque [in Newport] is a converted old warehouse and doesn’t fit everyone in.” The Newport Islamic Society will hold an official ceremony on Monday to mark the start of building work.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ghana: Hearts Pray in Mosque … on Centenary Day

ACCRA HEARTS of Oak will observe their 100 years of existence which falls exactly on Friday, November 11, 2011 with prayers at the Central Mosque in Accra. Mr. Frank Nelson said fans of the Phobians in the other regions are expected to throng mosques in their localities for special prayers on the historic day. According to him, after the Muslim prayers, the team would proceed on a float through the principal streets of Accra to observe the great day in the annals of the club.

On Saturday November 12, he said, Hearts would visit some selected orphanages in Accra where they would make some donations to the inmates. Mr. Nelson disclosed that a grand dinner where past and present personalities that have contributed to the growth of the club would be honoured, would be held on Saturday evening at the Banquet Hall in Accra.

Hearts, he said, would climax the 100 celebration with an international friendly game with Enugu Rangers of Nigeria at the Accra Stadium on Sunday, November 13, 2011.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Germany Looks Back at 50 Years of Turkish Immigration

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the treaty bringing hundreds of thousands of Turkish “guest workers” to Germany, a move which dramatically altered the fabric of German society. On October 30, 1961, booming West Germany signed a recruitment agreement with Turkey to supplement its workforce. The mostly unskilled labourers were promised minimum wages and accommodation for the duration of their temporary contracts.

Some 710,000 people answered the call until the 1973 global oil crisis ended the recruitment drive. Thousands of workers returned to Turkey, but many instead decided to bring their families to Germany, triggering a massive increase in the country’s Turkish population.

Today, more than 2.5 million people in Germany have Turkish heritage. Their presence has indisputably enriched Germany both culturally and economically — but it has also sparked countless debates concerning the integration of a group long seen only as guests eventually expected to leave.

This discussion hit a low point in 2010, when the controversial best-selling book by ex-central banker Thilo Sarrazin, Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany Abolishes Itself), contended Muslim immigrants were a drag on German society. The damage done was similar to that of a “bull in a china shop,” according to Klaus Bade, head of the German Advisory Council on Integration and Migration.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy Tries to Cope With Rising Tide of Immigration From Africa

The death of Moammar Gadhafi on Thursday and the ongoing Arab Spring protests in North Africa and the Middle East have been heralded around the world as a triumph of democracy. But the violence, war and political uncertainty that followed it in many countries has given rise to a new challenge.

Although African immigration is a “problem” across all of Europe, Italy and other Mediterranean countries are the most affected by this mass movement of people. Because of a 2003 European Union law called the Dublin II Regulation, the first European country an asylum seeker enters is solely responsible for the migrant’s protection and application. This places a disproportionate burden on countries like Italy, where hundreds of migrants fleeing Libya and Tunisia at the start of the revolution landed daily.

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Obama Deportation Numbers a ‘Trick’

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last week announced that the Obama administration has deported a record number of illegal immigrants in the past year. But the Obama administration is using smoke and mirrors to achieve its so-called historic record. Take away the illusion, and the facts show that the administration conjures up its deportation statistics.

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Swiss Trade Union Calls for More Immigration

Swiss trade union Travail Suisse has called on the government to loosen immigration laws and allow more workers into the country in order to fill future labour market gaps in sectors such as education, healthcare and engineering. The union acknowledged the sensitive nature of the proposals, which come shortly after the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) secured enough votes to launch an initiative to ‘stop mass immigration’. But Travail Suisse inisted it was essential to debate a topic it feels will soon loom large on the political agenda.

“We could remain silent in order not to alarm the population, but we know that the business community is pressing for more openness,” said union president Martin Flügel at a conference on Tuesday. “Faced with an ageing population and a skills shortage in Switzerland, a relaxing of the admissions policy is necessary,” Flügel said.

Travail Suisse’s suggestions refer not only to workers from the European Union, with which Switzerland has bilateral agreements, but also to employees from other countries, reports the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The trade union noted that other European countries were also ageing fast, a situation that called for more flexible immigration polices if Switzerland were to remain an attractive destination for migrant workers.

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Dwarf Planet Eris is ‘Almost Perfect’ Pluto Twin

Though the dwarf planet Eris on the edge of the solar system is much denser than Pluto, the two frigid worlds are nearly exactly the same size, a new study finds. Astronomers accurately measured Eris’ diameter for the first time using observations made late last year, when they caught the dwarf planet as it passed in front of a dim star. The observations, made using several telescopes in Chile, revealed that Eris and Pluto are pretty much identical in size, making them “almost perfect” twins, researchers said. The discovery, announced today (Oct. 26) in the journal Nature, runs counter to scientists’ original expectations.

When Eris was first discovered in 2005, it was thought to be significantly larger than Pluto. In fact, Eris’ discovery was a big reason astronomers demoted Pluto to dwarf planet status in 2006. That decision remains controversial to this day, making Eris’ name fitting: Eris is the Greek goddess of discord and strife, who stirred up jealousy and envy among the goddesses, leading to the Trojan War. The new observations should help astronomers learn more about Eris’ composition and evolutionary history. They show, for example, that the dwarf planet has a surface even more reflective than Earth’s snow, suggesting it’s covered in a thin layer of ice. “It is extraordinary how much we can find out about a small and distant object such as Eris by watching it pass in front of a faint star, using relatively small telescopes,” study lead author Bruno Sicardy, of the Pierre et Marie Curie University and Observatory of Paris, said in a statement.

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Internet Responsible for 2 Per Cent of Global Energy Usage

How much energy does the internet use? It’s hard to know where to start. There’s the electricity consumed by the world’s laptops, desktops and smart phones. Servers, routers and other networking equipment suck up more power. The energy required to manufacture these machines also needs to be included. Yet no one knows how many internet-enabled devices are out there, nor how long they are used before being replaced.

That hasn’t stopped Justin Ma and Barath Raghavan from trying to answer the question. The pair, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the nearby International Computer Science Institute respectively, estimate that the internet consumes between 170 and 307 GW. Which, of course, raises another question: is that is a big number, or a small one?

Raghavan and Ma came up with their total by conducting a rough internet census. By drawing on previously published research, they estimate that our planet is home to 750 million laptops, a billion smart phones and 100 million servers.

They also put figures on the energy that it costs to produce each of these devices (4.5 GJ and 1 GJ for a laptop and smartphone respectively) and the period for which each is used before being replaced (three years for a laptop, two for a smart phone). Estimates for the energy that cell towers and optical switches use when transmitting internet traffic, plus similar calculations for wi-fi transmitters and cloud storage devices, helped complete the picture.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Robot Venus Flytraps Could Eat Bugs for Fuel

ROBOTS that mimic the Venus flytrap could run on live insects and spiders, snatching and digesting them for fuel. Now two prototypes have been developed that employ smart materials to rapidly ensnare their prey.

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