Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111028

Financial Crisis
»A Hellenic Haircut
»Berlusconi: Euro: Strange and Vulnerable, Is Under Assault
»First Doubts Emerge Over Eurozone Deal
»Greece: Energy Plan to Help Reduce Public Debt
»Greece: From Contracts to Workers, Ultimatum on EU Rules
»Investing in the EFSF: China May Impose Conditions for Helping Euro Zone
»Italy: Unions Threaten to Strike Over Layoff Proposal
»London ‘Under Constant Attack’ From EU Directives: Cameron
»Spain: Record Unemployment Nears 5 Mln, 21.5% of Population
»Turkey’s Trade Deficit Widens to Record Highs
»At the Met, A New Vision of Islam in Hostile Times
»Breaking: Homeland Security Adviser Allegedly Leaked Intel to Attack Rick Perry
»CAIR Chapters Challenge Islamophobia, Defend Civil Rights
»Center for Disease Control Top Official Arrested for Bestiality and Child Abuse
»Centuries of Glory: Islamic Galleries at the Met
»Climate Change Scientist Faces Lie Detector Test
»Exhibits Highlight Islamic, Egyptian Art
»Herman Cain Identifies the “Fakestinians”
»Minneapolis Mosque Spurned Al-Shabaab Fundraiser
»Muslim Student Association Guest Speaker Tackles Fear of Sharia
»NPR Continues to be a Taxpayer-Funded Leftist Nest
»Occupy Wall Street Shrugged
»Occupy Wall Street Kitchen Staff Protesting Fixing Food for Freeloaders
»The Second Gilded Age: Has America Become an Oligarchy?
Europe and the EU
»British Muslims Go Underground — For Poppy Appeal
»Czech PM Mulls Euro Referendum
»Muslim Minister Urges More Christian UK
»Put Babar Ahmad on Trial in the UK Not the US
»Secret French Intelligence Report on Islam in Marseilles
»Swedish Court Bans Niqab-Wearing Women
»Switzerland: Muslim Group to Deploy ‘Jewish Star’ In Bern Rally
»UK: Exeter Mosque Official Opening Ceremony
»UK: Police Award for EDL March Handling
»Sarajevo Gunman in Custody, Officials Condemn Attack
North Africa
»Tunisia: Curfew in Sidi Bouzid, Protest Targets Tunis
»Tunisia: Ennahdha’s Great Success
»Tunisia: Pétition Populaire Lists Excluded, Protests Erupt
»Tunisia: Ashton and Fule Congratulate Ennahda Party
Middle East
»Key General: Iraq Pullout Plan a ‘Disaster’
»Saudi Arabia: Prince Nayef: 78 Years Old, Is New Crown Prince
South Asia
»Malaysia’s Minorities Fear Islamic Law Changes
»Pakistan Rejects Allegations of Links With Taliban
Australia — Pacific
»Islam Soft-Sell Has Got Legs, But Note the Fine Print
»Sweden’s Immigration Debate
Culture Wars
»‘Racist’ Halloween Costumes Stir Debate
»Record-Low 26% in U.S. Favor Handgun Ban
»Two Men Who Divorced Their Wives, Came Out as Gay, Became Transgender Lesbians, Now Marry After One Has a Sex Change
»Holy Smoke: Islamic Televangelists
»Holy Relevance: Religion and Economics
»Population to Hit Seven Billion: Experts Warn of ‘Bachelor Nations’
»Seven Billion People ‘A Catastrophe’: Professor
»Skype Security Flaw Can Expose a User’s Location

Financial Crisis

A Hellenic Haircut

by Srdja Trifkovic

There will be no Greek default—not for months to come at least, as we predicted here two weeks ago. The private banks that had splashed out on ostensibly lucrative Greek bonds will have to accept a “haircut” of fifty percent of their nominal value, according to an agreement reached early Thursday morning after days of tense talks between French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, other euro zone leaders and private financial institutions.

Greece’s private-sector debt is now down to 100 billion euros, and the country will continue its long road to nowhere with zero growth, cuts and austerity. Even after the 50 percent write down its debt is still 90 percent of the country’s GDP and for as long as it stays in the euro the burden can never be paid off. To make the banks agree to the deal, however, the euro zone governments had to offer them inducements in the form of “credit enhancements”—bureaucratese for provision of low-cost government liquidity—worth over a third of the “haircut” itself.

More significantly perhaps, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) will be boosted to €1tn ($1.4tn)—which may not be enough to preempt another crisis in a big southern economy, such as Italy or Spain. Merkel’s plan is to use the facility to provide insurance on new Italian and Spanish government bonds, but private investors are yet to be convinced that the fund will actually pay out in case of a large sovereign getting into trouble. If the insurance option is not embraced by private investors, the EFSF’s one trillion euros will be woefully insufficient to contain even the likely fallout from Grece’s half-default, let alone a major future crisis. This is the main weakness of the deal reached in Brussels. The European Financial Stability Fund needs to be expanded to be credible, and yet it cannot be done without issuing Eurobonds which the Germans unsurprisingly refuse to underwrite.

The elephant in the room is the euro itself. Back in 1990 the common currency was a French idea, the late François Mitterrand’s condition for his approval of Germany’s reunification. In theory it was supposed to remove exchange rate risks from the euro zone market, reduce the costs of transactions, stimulate cross-border trade, create an area of monetary stability, and force member countries to practice fiscal responsibility. The unstated intent was to curtail the power of the Deutschmark and to bind reunited Germany more closely to Europe. It was to be Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s burnt offering on the altar of European integration. In January 2002, colorful new banknotes and coins replaced national currencies in the initial 11 countries of the Eurozone…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi: Euro: Strange and Vulnerable, Is Under Assault

(AGI) Rome — “We are faced with an attack on the euro, a strange currency that convinces no-one and is thus very vulnerable to assault,” said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, making key points in his speech on the crisis to an audience of foreign trade representatives.

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

First Doubts Emerge Over Eurozone Deal

Markets sky-rocketed on Thursday (27 October) in reaction to the eurozone deal sealed by EU leaders earlier that morning, but economists are starting to question the fine print, which Polish Prime Minister presciently dubbed as “hell” hidden in the details. Stocks, commodity prices and the euro hiked on Thursday, as euphoria seemed to have gripped traders all around the globe after the second Greek bail-out, bank recapitalisation and an increase in the eurozone’s guarantee fund was announced. One of the US indices, S&P, reached its highest monthly gain since 1974.

But the details remain sketchy on how the current €440 billion worth of loan guarantees in the eurozone rescue fund (EFSF) will be boosted to around €1 trillion without any country increasing its contribution, via obscure financial engineering potentially including investments from China, Brazil and other emerging economies. In addition, it is not clear how to reach the agreed 50 percent writedown on Greek debt for private investors. There is no clarity on how many banks will take part or which ones as the haircut is supposed to be voluntary.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Energy Plan to Help Reduce Public Debt

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, OCTOBER 28 — Greece can reduce its public debt by 20-25 billion euros over 25 years by exporting to western Europe electric energy produced from photovoltaic systems, Energy and Environment Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou said on Wednesday as website writes. The Helios program, which has been prepared in collaboration with German industry, is mentioned in Wednesday’s decision by the European Union summit in Brussels as one of the ways in which the country can earn an additional 15 billion euros to help present balance budgets in coming years (apart from the initial sum of 50 billion eurso from privatizations -which has now been reduced to 30 billion euros). The minister, speaking at a press briefing on the presentation of the International Energy Agency (IEA) report on Greece, said the project for the production of 10,000 solar MW is estimated to cost 20 billion euros, while the direct electricity line to Germany would cost 10 billion euros. Total revenue over 25 years is estimated at around 80 billion euros, of which 20-25 billion euros would be due to Greece, given it would have a 30% share in the project -on the basis of negotiations to date. Concession of public land for 25 years and other facilities that may agreed can increase that sum. The IEA report also called for rises in Greek retail power prices that will fully reflect wholesale prices. “The Public Power Corporation is obliged to sell electric energy to the final users according to tariffs that reflect costs,” it said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: From Contracts to Workers, Ultimatum on EU Rules

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 28 — The European Commission has today issued the government in Athens with an ultimatum, saying that it must adjust a series of regulations that do not conform with EU rules, ranging from public administration to the award of contracts for computer services. Greece has two months to take the necessary measures, or the country could be hauled in front of the European Court of Justice.

In terms of access to public administration, Athens must put an end to discrimination against citizens from other member states.

Current Greek legislation stipulates that priority for jobs in local administration is given to residents registered in the town in which the jobs are available. The European Commission says that these conditions, though not directly linked to nationality, have an impact on the mobility of EU workers. The same is true of public contracts in computer services, a sector in which the European Commission demands that no direct or indirect conditions of discrimination be imposed for potential candidates from other member states, as occurred during a recent pitch. The restrictions prevented Greek citizens from enjoying a potentially improved service at lower costs. In the telecommunications sector, meanwhile, there is a problem of excessive bureaucracy, which forbids the easy installation of infrastructure such as aerials, masts, manholes and cables. The result of this is limited development of broadband compared to the EU average.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Investing in the EFSF: China May Impose Conditions for Helping Euro Zone

One day after European leaders announced a plan to boost their euro backstop fund to 1 trillion euros, China indicated it may attach conditions to any money it invests. One of those stipulations — that Europe stop criticizing Beijing’s monetary policy — could strain trans-Atlantic relations.

It didn’t take long for French President Nicolas Sarkozy to begin looking for investors in the newly designed euro backstop fund. Just hours after euro-zone leaders announced that they had agreed on a plan to boost the impact of the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) to €1 trillion ($1.4 trillion) on Thursday morning, Sarkozy telephoned with Chinese President Hu Jintao to discuss his country’s involvement.

While nothing concrete resulted from the chat, there are indications on Friday that any Chinese involvement could come at a price. According to a front-page story in the Financial Times, China would not only require water-tight guarantees on its investment, but Europe might have to pay a political price as well.

As a condition for its involvement, Beijing could ask European leaders to cease criticizing China’s policy of keeping its currency, the renminbi, artificially undervalued, Li Daokui, a member of China’s central bank monetary policy committee, told the paper. It is an issue that has repeatedly strained China’s relations with Europe, but especially with the United States. Were Europe to agree to such a demand, it could drive a wedge between Washington and Brussels.

“It is in China’s long-term and intrinsic interest to help Europe because they are our biggest trading partner,” Li told the Financial Times. “But … the last thing China wants to do is throw away the country’s wealth and be seen as just a source of dumb money.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Unions Threaten to Strike Over Layoff Proposal

Berlusconi measure ‘totally irresponsible’ says CGIL

(ANSA) — Rome, October 28 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has come under fire from Italy’s unions which are threatening a nationwide strike over a part of his economic reform package that would make it easier for companies to lay off employees.

Susanna Camusso, the head of Italy’s largest union CGIL, said Berlusconi’s proposal showed “a total lack of responsibility” while Italy’s three other major union groups — CISL, UIL and UGL — said in a joint letter they would be “forced to strike” if it were put into place.

The measure, which would make it easier for companies in financial difficulty to fire employees, came in response to the European Commission’s demand to boost growth and slash debt to restore investor confidence in Italy, which is at the centre of the eurozone crisis.

Well-received at Wednesday’s EU summit in Brussels, the layoff proposal earned the support of Italy’s biggest industrial group, Confindustria, which said failing to implement the reforms would represent “a total loss of credibility for our country”.

Berlusconi’s letter of intent for reforms also included cutting red tape, selling state property and a contentious plan to gradually increase the retirement age from 65 to 67.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

London ‘Under Constant Attack’ From EU Directives: Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron said London’s financial district was under “constant attack” from European Union directives, the BBC reported Friday. During a flight from the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, western Australia, Cameron told a BBC reporter that Britain’s finance industry should be protected from EU measures.

“London — the centre of financial services in Europe — is under constant attack through Brussels directives,” Cameron said. “It’s an area of concern, it’s a key national interest that we need to defend.”

Cameron’s comments came after Thursday’s Brussels summit, where leaders agreed to recapitalise banks across the EU, as part of a major deal to stop the debt crisis from engulfing the euro currency. Cameron’s statements coincided with reports that London Mayor Boris Johnson has written to Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, to express his strong opposition to a proposed tax on financial transactions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Record Unemployment Nears 5 Mln, 21.5% of Population

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — The number of unemployed in Spain reached record levels in the third quarter, totalling 4,978,300, equal to 21.56% of the population, six-tenths of a point higher than the previous quarter and a high since 1996, when statistical data reporting began. The figure from a survey on the active population (EPA), issued today by the national statistics institute (INE), is a consequence of the difficult period caused by the sovereign debt crisis and difficult lending conditions. Between July and September, the number of unemployed increased by 146,000 people, nearing an overall number of 5 million jobless. The deterioration of the job market and increased unemployment hit all sectors, from industry to services. Economic stagnation resulting from a resurgence of the crisis has complicated finding new jobs, causing structural problems that are difficult to resolve. The number of households in which all family members are unemployed totalled 1,425,200 in the third quarter, an increase of nearly 132,900 households compared to the previous quarter. The quality of jobs is also deteriorating.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey’s Trade Deficit Widens to Record Highs

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, OCTOBER 28 — Turkey’s trade deficit widened to a record level in September compared with last year, as daily Hurriyet reports citing official figures published Wednesday. Skyrocketing current trade deficit and a low domestic savings ratio in the growing economy raise concerns about the country’s dependency on import products and booming demand, according to professionals. The trade deficit was 10.4 billion USD in September, the biggest gap recorded, compared with 6.7 billion USD on September last year and 8.2 billion USD the previous month, according to figures published by Turkey’s Statistical Institute (TUIK). Measures taken by Turkey’s Central Bank have thus failed to reduce the trade gap in September, an economist told Hurriyet. Turkey might have already experienced the “peak” in its trade deficit by last month, and it might take a few months for the Central Bank’s steps to show their effect on the economy, Erol Katicioglu, a professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, told yesterday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


At the Met, A New Vision of Islam in Hostile Times

Over the past decade, many Americans have based their thoughts and feelings about Islam in large part on a single place: the blasted patch of ground where the World Trade Center once stood. But a rival space has slowly and silently taken shape over those same years, about six miles to the north. It is a vast, palacelike suite of rooms on the second floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where some of the world’s most precious Islamic artifacts sit sequestered behind locked doors.

On a recent afternoon, Navina Haidar stood in these rooms as a wash of voices echoed up from the halls of the Greek and Roman galleries, far below. Only three weeks remained until the long-hidden Islamic galleries were to be unveiled to the public, and Haidar — an elegant 45-year-old who was raised in New Delhi by a Muslim father and a Hindu mother — still had decisions to make. She has spent more than eight years devising a vision of Islamic tradition that is far more diverse, and less foreign, than the caricature mullahs and zealots who have come to define Islam for much of the non-Muslim world.

“We’re thinking of putting the Koran pages right here, by the entrance,” Haidar said, gazing at two eight-feet-tall manuscript pages in sloping Arabic script that date to the 15th century, parked casually on dollies. “That would make a bold statement right up front about Islam.” Around her, ladders and scaffoldings stood casually alongside life-size Afghan figures in stone and curved Ottoman daggers in gold.

There is far more at stake here than the overhaul of a permanent collection at the Met, itself a once-in-a-generation event. The museum’s directors are acutely aware that their collection will be unveiled at a time when Islam is a more inflammable subject than ever. That is no small part of what makes Haidar so nervous as she prepares for opening day. It is also one reason the galleries — closed since 2003 — spent so long in the dark. “There are so many things here that could easily be made controversial,” Haidar said. “For the museum, of course, it is about the art. But we understand that these things don’t appear in a void.”

The galleries have already become a tabloid target. Last year The New York Post published an article accusing the museum of caving in to Muslim extremists by refusing to display any images of the prophet Muhammad. In fact, there will be an image of Muhammad riding his winged steed, Buraq, a page from an illustrated 16th-century manuscript. Last month, Haidar got a taste of public reaction when dignitaries in town for the United Nations General Assembly asked to see the new galleries. One of them was Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, who was a model guest, admiring the art and chuckling at a wooden panel from Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein. But he stopped short when Haidar showed him a 10th-century Muslim prayer mat that was found on the shores of Lake Tiberias. The date suggested a very early Muslim presence in what is now Israel. Netanyahu asked if it was really that old, Haidar recalled, and she assured him that the carpet had bee n scientifically dated. But he kept staring at it quizzically. “ ‘I don’t know,’ he finally said, ‘it just doesn’t look that old to me.’ “

When the Met’s Islamic galleries first opened in 1975, they were presented as a cultural monolith, where nations and cultures were subsumed under one broad banner, as if Islam were another planet. Haidar and her colleagues have tried to emphasize the diversity of Islamic cultures across time and space. One result of that altered emphasis was the gallery’s new name. The “Islamic Wing” is gone, replaced by the “Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia.” It is a mouthful, but it makes a point.

“Not one world, but many; not another world, but our own,” Haidar said, repeating the mantra that has guided her thinking about the new collection over the years.

The collection is full of deliciously heterodox crossovers, like an image of the blue-skinned Hindu god Krishna that was painted for Akbar, the Muslim ruler of north and central India, in the late 16th century. There are Persian bowls alongside the Chinese models that inspired them. There is Muslim art from Spain and south Italy. “What do we put at the entrance?” Haidar said, still contemplating her question. “Is the Koran the right way to go? Will the public be attracted or repelled?” As if in answer, a group of museumgoers caught sight of the new gallery’s main door standing open and began hurrying toward it. “Terribly sorry, it’s not open yet,” Haidar told them, stepping forward with a broad apologetic smile on her face. “Please do come back on Nov. 1.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

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

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.

… In light of these allegations, I spoke today with Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw. He confirmed that Elibiary has access to the Homeland Security State and Local Intelligence Community of Interest (HS SLIC) database, which contains hundreds of thousands of intelligence reports and products that are intended for intelligence sharing between law enforcement agencies. (Full disclosure: I gave a briefing in April 2010 to the TX DPS on historical terror incidents and terror connections to Texas. I’ve also been critical of Elibiary’s involvement with DHS considering his past extremist statements and activities.)


In fact, Elibiary received his first official position serving on the TX DPS Advisory Board and leveraged that position into his current positions with DHS and the National Counterterrorism Center. Elibiary was appointed to the Homeland Security Advisory Council in October 2010.


When I directly asked [DHS spokesman Chris] Ortman about who gave Mohamed Elibiary access to the HS SLIC system, he abruptly ended the conversation and said he would need to call me back. After more than an hour wait and knowing from other sources that senior aides for DHS Secretary Napolitano had been fully briefed late last night on the matter and that the story is quickly leaking out, we are publishing what we have so far.

[Note from Egghead: The Muslim fox is officially in the infidel hen house!]

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]

CAIR Chapters Challenge Islamophobia, Defend Civil Rights

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2011 — /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A number of chapters of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) around the nation today once again demonstrated their commitment to challenging Islamophobia and defending civil and religious rights. CAIR’s Florida chapter thanked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Governor Rick Scott for declining to speak at next week’s Florida Tea Party convention, which features a presentation by anti-Islam extremist Pamela Geller and another Islamophobe.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Center for Disease Control Top Official Arrested for Bestiality and Child Abuse

Dr. Kimberly Quinlan Lindsey, a top official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been arrested and charged with two counts of child molestation and one count of bestiality.

Dr. Lindsey, who joined the CDC in 1999, is currently the deputy director for the Laboratory Science Policy and Practice Program Office. She’s second in command of the program office.

Prior to that role, she was the senior health scientist in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, an office that oversees the allocation.

According to CNN:

“Authorities also charged Lindsey’s live-in boyfriend, Thomas Joseph Westerman, 42, with two counts of child molestation.

The two are accused of ‘immoral and indecent’ sexual acts involving a 6-year-old …

The bestiality charge says Lindsey ‘did unlawfully perform or submit to any sexual act with an animal.’“

Between January and August last year, Dr. Lindsey and her boyfriend allegedly involved the child during sex, and DeKalb County police claim they discovered photographs of Lindsey performing sex acts on a couple of her pets.

[Not the kind of news we usually report. But this woman is in charge of disease prevention in the U.S. Wonder what kind of background check this bureaucracy did?]

[Return to headlines]

Centuries of Glory: Islamic Galleries at the Met

Years in the making, millions to build, and all of it was worth it

THE new Islamic galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York are magnificent. Some 1,200 works (from a collection ten times the size) arranged across 15 rooms vividly illustrate 13 centuries of art and history. This will excite not only scholars and the art world, but also the many neophytes who will be drawn to these exceptional examples of manuscripts, textiles, glass, ceramics, jewellery, armour, painting, scientific instruments and carvings (from wood to stone and ivory). The works are instructive, often beautiful and occasionally thrilling. Eight years in the making, the Met’s insightful and theatrical new presentation does justice to one of the most important collections of Islamic art outside the Middle East.

The rooms, which open to the public on November 1st, bear the official and unwieldy name the New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia. This is meant to highlight the geographic breadth and varied history of Islamic culture. The museum first considered renovating and expanding this collection over a decade ago. Subsequent events added an element of diplomacy to the project. Mindful of the narrow view of Islam in the West, Thomas Campbell, the museum’s director, came to see these galleries as a way “to educate our audience about the depths and magnificence of the Islamic tradition”.

The attention to detail in these rooms is remarkable. Architectural elements help to convey the sensibility of different eras and regions. The Introductory Gallery, for example, is paved with a design of white and gold marble inspired by decorations at the Taj Mahal, a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. For the Moroccan courtyard the museum commissioned carvings by craftsmen from Fez. Among their creations during months on scaffolding at the Met are replicas of 14th-century wooden doors, and geometrically patterned cornices and capitals. The space itself is opulent and serene, complete with a burbling fountain-one of several in these galleries. It is not surprising to learn that the construction budget alone for these rooms was $40m. But given the results, it doesn’t seem profligate.

Multiple entrances are provided, which nicely suggests there is no one way to approach the art within. But use the main one the first time. Here visitors are greeted with a large and arrestingly modern earthenware bowl. Made in Nishapur, Iran in the tenth century, this creamy, white piece is decorated with a seemingly abstract design on its perimeter, in fact a Kufic script that reads: “Planning before work protects you from regret; prosperity and peace”. Like much of the Met’s Islamic collection, the bowl was intended for secular not sacred use. As a result, the works on view are more accessible to those unfamiliar with Islamic practices.

Calligraphy and the arabesque-a continuous leaflike design-dominate Islamic art, yet there are many figurative works here as well. One of the first and most striking examples is a three-foot high, bronze lion with pussycat ears (pictured above). This 12th-century incense burner is incised with calligraphy that identifies its maker and first owner. Figurative art is not prohibited by Islam, as is commonly supposed. A few discreet depictions of the Prophet Muhammad may distress some Muslims, who object to any images of the prophet. But here-and as with everything else in these galleries-the museum has handled the presentation with sensitivity.

When travelling in a counter-clockwise path from the main entrance, the layout is broadly chronological, with galleries arranged by region. The route takes the visitor through the spread of Islam from Arab Lands and Iran under the Umayyads and Abbasids (seventh to 13th centuries) all the way to Later South Asia (16th to 20th centuries). The wall texts are informative, but the revelation is how powerfully the works speak for themselves, and how varied Islamic art is. The arrangement reveals stylistic differences as well as interactions across regions and over time. Chess, for example, began in India before the sixth century. On display is one of the earliest surviving chess sets, made by hand from a type of pottery in Iran in the 12th century.

The Greater Ottoman World gallery seems vast. Its domed ceiling, a later-Ottoman inspired, Spanish wood-lattice affair, rises to 23 feet. The walls and mottled marble floor are the colour of claret. The almost 30-foot-long “Simonetti Carpet” (made in Cairo around 1500) is unfurled in the centre of the room. Like the many carpets hanging on the walls, its dominant colour is red. For all its luxury there is something transcendently cosy about this room, which seems to hug viewers as it glows and pulsates with richly textured reds. It is easy to imagine the sight of it driving Mark Rothko into an envious rage.

The marvels keep coming, from astrological and medical texts to a richly embellished 18th-century Damascus reception room. Also on view are a dozen pages from the magnificently painted Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp. This reviewer never imagined that carpets-and there are many here-could be so moving. (No reference to magical airborne travels intended.)

The Met’s Islamic galleries offer a grand voyage to faraway times and places, and an eye-opening display of art. If these rooms do anything to replace fear and suspicion about Islam with a sense of wonder and curiosity, then there is all the more reason to celebrate.

[JP note: Little to celebrate as the West commits suicide with this exhibition of dhimmi cringe.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Climate Change Scientist Faces Lie Detector Test

It’s the next step in “Polarbeargate” — one of two scientists whose report on dead polar bears in the Arctic helped make the animal a potent symbol of climate change has been asked to take a lie detector test as part of an investigation by US agents.

The 2006 report from American wildlife researchers Jeffrey Gleason and Charles Monnett told of dead bears floating in the Arctic Ocean in 2004, apparently drowned, and focused attention on the vulnerability of the animals to the melting of the Arctic ice, which they need for hunting. Widespread references were made to the dead bears and they figured in the film An Inconvenient Truth, made by Al Gore to highlight the risks of global warming.

But earlier this year, allegations were made within the US Department of the Interior that acts of scientific misconduct might have been committed in relation to the report, and the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) began an inquiry.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Exhibits Highlight Islamic, Egyptian Art

The two civilizations are separated by centuries and sensibilities. One venerates only a single deity; the other worshipped a pantheon of gods. One remains a force in the world to this day; the other vanished from Earth thousands of years ago. Yet, in both the Islamic and ancient Egyptian cultures, religion is a constant beat that thrummed through the rhythms of daily life, surfacing in personal relationships, political maneuvers and faith-based rituals. It is also a motif running through two major exhibitions currently at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston — Gifts of the Sultan: The Art of Giving at the Islamic Courts and Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs.

In Gifts of the Sultan, ethical and moral guidelines set by the Quran weave through a collection of 200 works from the 8th through the 19th centuries. In Tutankhamun, relics depicting offerings and prayers to the gods illustrate a society in which the religious and routine are inextricably entwined. Gifts of the Sultan opens with a piece inscribed with a hadith, or saying attributed to the prophet Muhammad, that sets the framework for the exhibit and reflects a central tenet of the Islamic faith. Written in elaborate Arabic script around the rim of a 10th century bowl from eastern Iran, the hadith reads: “He who believes in recompense [from God] is generous with gifts.”

“It is a quintessentially Islamic form of generosity: paving your way to heaven by means of demonstrating generosity in your earthly life,” explained Francesca Leoni, who curated the show for the MFAH. “If you believe in the importance of generosity as a commandment, that it is something that every pious, every good person embraces, then it is, in a way, an overarching, ethical thread that connects all diverse circumstances around which these gifts are exchanged.”

In the exhibit, which was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a red room is devoted to personal gift-giving; a green room is dedicated to diplomatic exchange; and a gray room showcases pious gifts. A yellow room, serving as a contemporary coda, features the work of three current artists from the Islamic world. The objects on display — silken textiles, gold jewelry, ruby- and jade-inlaid weaponry, illuminated texts, exquisitely detailed miniature paintings — wend a path through every facet of Islamic culture: political overtures, personal milestones, quotidian life. And in every facet, the presence of faith recurs: in the utilitarian bowl adorned with the hadith, in the parchment Quranic manuscript bestowed to the Iranian embassy in 1567, in the 16th century prayer carpet likely sent as a state gift.

Among the highlights of the political section of the exhibit are two Bibles that offer a glimpse of the interplay between Islam and other religions. A Polyglot Bible, presented to the Mughal Emperor Akbar by a group of Jesuits in 1580, exemplifies the ruler’s interest in learning about other religions. A Morgan Crusader Bible, illustrated with brightly colored red, blue, and gold pictures, represents an attempt by Pope Clement VIII to convert Shah Abbas I in 1607. Although he was not swayed to Christianity, the Shah did order his courtiers to add margin notes in Persian, hinting of his desire to understand the text better.

“Sometimes, there was plenty of tolerance,” said Leoni. “Sometimes, there was plenty of interest in getting to know different religions and trying to discover common aspects of believing that transcend the specificity of the religious experience.” The sacred aspect of the exhibit comes to the forefront in the Pious Gifts section, where a vast room is dominated by massive, elaborately embroidered textiles used to decorate some of the most important shrines of the Islamic faith, including the Ka’ba in Mecca. Here, another hadith reinforces the religious element of the gift-giving ritual: “Generosity belongs to the dwellers of paradise.”

Many of the objects on display in this section fall under the heading of waqf — or gifts endowed to mosques, schools, hospices, madrasas, Quranic schools or shrines. They include ornately illustrated Qurans; massive silver candlesticks donated to mosques; and a crimson and gold carpet produced for the Ardabil shrine. One of the most striking pieces is an illuminated vaqfiye, a legal document detailing the endowment of a waqf The 18th-century document, which details the construction of a school, is adorned with lavish flourishes of gold leaf paper and gold borders.

In the Tutankhamun exhibit, which explores 30 dynasties spanning 2,000 years, the act of giving as a religious mandate also plays a central role. Here, ancient statues, hieroglyphs, gold-encrusted amulets, and enameled coffinettes portray Pharaohs making offerings to gods and following rituals prescribed in the Book of the Dead to ensure safe passage to the afterlife. In addition, the Pharaohs themselves were viewed as the ultimate high priests and divine incarnations of Horus, the god of life. During nearly all of the ancient dynasties, Egyptians worshipped more than 80 gods, often incorporating deities they admired from other cultures.

A significant portion of the exhibit also highlights the reign of Amenhotep IV, who eschewed polytheism in favor of the worship of one god — Aten, the sun disk. After changing his name to Akhenaten, this ruler moved the capital, excised other gods from temples and led daily offerings to the new religion. After his death, however, his son Tutankhamun reverted to the old gods. “Religion was intertwined with almost everything in daily life. Because they believed in afterlife and immortality, they began preparing for a second life almost as soon as they were born,” said Frances Marzio, the exhibit curator. “For thousands of years, they held these beliefs very strongly. And no one ever came back to tell them they were wrong.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Herman Cain Identifies the “Fakestinians”

Herman Cain in an interview with an Israeli newspaper said pushes by the “so-called Palestinian people” for statehood and an Iranian assassination plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States are evidence that President Obama is perceived as weak in the Middle East.

“I think that the so-called Palestinian people have this urge for unilateral recognition because they see this president as weak,” Cain said during an interview with Israel Hayom. “I haven’t seen all the facts but I think this whole assassination attempt was another example of seeing this president as weak, in that regard. So, weakness invites attack and I think that he has projected a sense of weakness.”

The Republican front-runner also said that the president “threw Israel under the bus” when stating support for a peace process brokered around the framework of the 1967 borders.”I believe that his lack of a firm stand regarding Israel has emboldened Israel’s enemies, and America’s enemies,” Cain said. “He threw Israel under the bus with the statement about the 1967 borders. He just threw them under the bus. He threw Prime Minister Netanyahu under the bus prior to his visit to America. In a Cain administration there would be no question in the minds of the world and the American people that we would stand with Israel.”

           — Hat tip: Van Grungy[Return to headlines]

Minneapolis Mosque Spurned Al-Shabaab Fundraiser

When the FBI began investigating the exodus of Somali men from the Twin Cities to fight for al-Shabaab, the probe cast suspicions on the Minneapolis mosque some of them attended and raised questions on whether leaders there were involved. Officials at the mosque, Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, denied any role in the men’s travels and said they opposed al-Shabaab, which the government considers a terrorist group. Now, the denials by the mosque’s leaders have been substantiated by an unlikely source — a woman convicted of raising money for al-Shabaab.

In secretly recorded phone calls played for the jury in her federal trial, Amina Farah Ali complained that when she and friends sought donations for al-Shabaab at the mosque in Minneapolis, they were turned away. “I pray for the people of Minneapolis to come to their senses, sister,” a frustrated Ali told her co-defendant, Hawo Mohamed Hassan, in a May 6, 2009, phone call. She lamented that when people at Abubakar As-Saddique encountered the women she sent to collect money, “They chased them away, sister.”

The mosque’s director, Hassan Jama, did not return calls for comment. Abubakar As-Saddique is the state’s largest mosque, and its membership is drawn largely from the nearly 19,000 Somalis estimated living in the Twin Cities.

Women Convicted

Last week, Ali, 35, and Hassan, 64, both of Rochester, Minn., were convicted on a federal charge of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Shabaab, which is waging guerrilla war against Somalia’s fledgling U.N.-backed transitional federal government. Ali also was found guilty on 12 counts of providing support. The charges involved a dozen wire transfers totaling $8,608 that she sent to al-Shabaab between September 2008 and July 2009. Hassan also was convicted of two counts of lying to the FBI.

The women, both naturalized U.S. citizens, never denied raising or sending money. They claimed it was for orphans and the poor in their native Somalia, a country left a shambles after two decades of civil war, fighting between clans, failed governments, drought and famine. Jurors didn’t buy it, concluding the women knew the money went to a group involved in terrorism or that they knew the State Department had named al-Shabaab a foreign terrorist organization. No sentencing date has been set. They could face 30 years in prison.

Probe Began in 2008

Agents in the FBI’s Rochester field office began investigating Ali in May 2008. The inquiry was not part of “Operation Rhino,” the agency’s probe into the exodus of 20 or more men with Twin Cities ties to return to Somalia to train and fight for al-Shabaab. “Rhino” resulted in charges against 18 men. Six have entered guilty pleas, two await trial, eight are fugitives and two died in Somalia. Some of those charged and some of the men who went to Somalia attended Abubakar As-Saddique. Court documents say some of the alleged co-conspirators met to discuss their plans at an unnamed mosque, as well as restaurants and private homes.

One of the men facing charges, Mahamud Said Omar, 45, of Minneapolis, was a janitor at the mosque. But FBI Special Agent E.K. Wilson, who has been involved in the investigation, said the bureau has found nothing to indicate leaders of Abubakar As-Saddique played a role in the exodus. “We have not uncovered any evidence to date that shows the mosque leadership was involved in the recruiting or radicalization of these guys,” said Wilson. Al-Shabaab, Arabic for “the youth,” controls much of southern Somalia. That is in contrast to the 7-year-old transitional government, which commands only a part of the capital of Mogadishu.

Al-Shabaab opposes the U.N.-sanctioned government, in part, because it believes it was set up Ethiopia, Somalia’s neighbor and long-time enemy. When the government brought in Ethiopian soldiers to retake Mogadishu in late 2006, al-Shabaab issued a call for fighters to repel troops many Somalis viewed as invaders and “infidels.” (Somalia is a Muslim country and Ethiopia is mostly Christian.)

Somalis in Minnesota Enticed

The FBI says the recruiting effort resonated in Minnesota, home to an estimated 32,000 Somalis. Beginning in late 2007, a number of young Somali men (FBI agents sometimes refer to them as “the travelers”) began boarding flights at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport with itineraries to their homeland. The transitional government has been beset by corruption and other problems, and much of the limited popular support al-Shabaab had dwindled after Ethiopia withdrew in January 2009.

After that, al-Shabaab escalated its violence, including suicide bombings that have claimed the lives of scores of civilians. Just hours before lawyers in Minneapolis were to deliver their opening arguments in the Ali/Hassan case, al-Shabaab carried out its deadliest attack yet, detonating a truck bomb on a busy street in Mogadishu, killing more than 100.

The group targets government offices and soldiers from Uganda, Burundi and, most recently, Kenya, which sent troops across the border into Somalia this month.

Al-Shabaab vowed reprisals against Kenya, and on Thursday, Kenyan soldiers and al-Shabaab troops fought their first ground battle, inside Kenya. The government in Nairobi said nine al-Shabaab fighters were killed. Over a 10-month period, the FBI intercepted 30,000 of Ali’s phone calls and searched her garbage twice a week. During the 13-day trial, prosecutors introduced 93 of the calls into evidence, and there was no evidence or testimony that any official of any mosques in the U.S. or Minnesota was involved in the women’s activities.

Minneapolis Somalis Criticized

In fact, Ali can be heard in some of the calls complaining that Muslim leaders in the Twin Cities wanted nothing to do with her efforts, with some even telling her the young men of al-Shabaab “should be isolated.” At one point in one of the calls with Hassan, Ali complained that when it came to donating money for al-Shabaab, Somali residents of Minneapolis “are the worst.”

In a July 2009 call with Hassan Afgoye, an unindicted co-conspirator who was Ali’s main al-Shabaab contact in Somalia, Ali said that when she tried to raise money, “some of them insult us over this matter; do you understand?” The women raised funds by going door to door in Rochester, as well as hosting teleconferences on a phone line Ali used for teaching classes in Islam. The in-person solicitations got limited results in Rochester, which has an estimated Somali population of a little more than 800.

The government proved that between Sept. 17, 2008, and July 5, 2009, Ali made 12 wire transfers totaling $8,608 to al-Shabaab. A source with knowledge of the case said that amount is probably enough to support 250 fighters for a month, excluding ammunition. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the case. The amount Ali sent is a small fraction of what al-Shabaab takes in annually. In July, the U.N. group monitoring the arms embargo against Somalia said al-Shabaab may lack popular support but it was an economic powerhouse, generating up to $100 million in revenue a year. The report cautioned the estimate was conservative.

Woman’s Help Minor

As some perspective, the amount of money Ali wired over a 10-month period is what al-Shabaab rakes in every 45 minutes. But, as prosecutors noted, the amount Ali sent wasn’t the issue; rather, it was the fact she sent any money at all. The State Department’s February 2008 terrorist designation made it illegal for U.S. citizens to send money or aid to al-Shabaab.

The U.N. isn’t sure how much aid the group receives from Somalis living abroad. Al-Shabaab’s main source of income is taxes, and the July U.N. report noted al-Shabaab’s taxation system “is far more sophisticated and comprehensive than that of any other Somali authority.” It also generates revenue through extortion, commerce, trade and aid from other countries. It was evident from a July 2009 call that Afgoye, a regional governor for the group, was more interested in Ali’s money than in the clothes she also collected and sent.

“First of all, at this moment, the thing we need the most is wealth,” he told her.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslim Student Association Guest Speaker Tackles Fear of Sharia

Haroon Moghul spoke during Islam Awareness week to educate listeners about prejudice

The Muslim Student Organization hosted Haroon Moghul on Thursday night as the keynote speaker of Islam Awareness Week. Moghul spoke to MU students and Columbia residents about the prejudiced fears concerning Islamic law in a presentation titled, “Are you Afraid of Shariah?” Moghul is the Executive Director at the Maydan Institute, a communication and consulting company dedicated to improving relationships between Muslims and the western world. Moghul was also named one of 300 Global Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University in New York.

Shariah, according to Moghul, is one of the two forms of guidance Muslims use in their understanding of how to live their daily life according to the Quran, which is the scriptural text for Islam. The Muslim prophet Muhammad is the other. “The Shariah is how God, or Allah in Islam, tells you how to survive in a manner fitting to the Muslim faith,” Moghul said. “It literally translates to say ‘the path to water,’ which symbolizes how to survive. Just like one cannot continue life with the absence of water, a Muslim cannot live without the Shariah.”

The Shariah has five objectives: to protect one’s life, property, intellectuality, family and religion. It is composed of two spheres, acts of worship and worldly affairs. Acts of worship entail anything that has no definitive answer, like why Muslims are required to pray five times a day, whereas worldly affairs are composed of all secular matters, which are addressed and answered in the Quran.

Because of these views, there are many misconceptions about the Shariah, Moghul said. Many westerners, according to Moghul, are fearful of Shariah because of the stigma that attaches itself to Islam and it is hard in general for many Muslims in the west. “Shariah is a difficult thing to explain to those who aren’t familiar with it,” freshman Andrew Darst said. “I wasn’t familiar with the term at all before (Moghul) addressed it and I think he did a great job. When he equated it with the Ten Commandments in the Christian faith, it made a lot more sense to me. I really learned a lot from the lecture.”

Sophomore MSO member Fatima Haider said the event was a success. “The fact that so many people showed up and we didn’t have seats for them all was a major ego booster,” Haider said. “Of course, we were all excited for this appearance, but we didn’t know how many to expect. Obviously, we underestimated greatly.” Moghul ended his speech with an open forum where participants were encouraged to ask any questions, of which many took advantage. Moghul said he believes it is important for people, especially Americans, to be aware of Islamic culture because of the negative connotation that is attached to the religion itself. The members of MSO agree, Haider said. “(MSO) thinks it is important because people around the world have a bad view of Muslims because of the media,” Haider said. “It is important for people to understand that our true beliefs and goals are to promote peace, not anger and rage.”

[JP note: Count me in as a committed Shariaphobe.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

NPR Continues to be a Taxpayer-Funded Leftist Nest

By Brent Bozell

National Public Radio continues to define itself in every way as a taxpayer-funded nest of leftism. NPR couldn’t just supportively report on the Occupy Wall Street protests. A fire-breathing spokeswoman for the “Occupy D.C.” protests against capitalism was also an NPR host.

From late 2000 to early 2002, Lisa Simeone was an NPR anchor for their weekend version of the newscast “All Things Considered.” Now this radical was leading protests as she hosted a radio documentary series called “Soundprint” and an arts show, “The World of Opera.”

Liberals have focused on the opera show so as to dismiss criticism from conservatives. Time magazine TV writer James Poniewozik joked, “Have you long worried that your station was undermining capitalism through its broadcasts of the Ring Cycle? Tired of having your children brainwashed by the socialistic messages of La Traviata?”

OK, so put the shoe on the other foot. Imagine an NPR opera host working the weekends for the Tea Party. Time magazine writers would require smelling salts.

They are focusing on the opera angle in order to dodge the much larger issue. In an era of trillion-dollar deficits, how much longer are we going to pretend that it is an essential function of government to prop up the wholly unnecessary NPR to spew on the air the same warmed-over ‘60s bilge the OWS rabble spews on the streets? It’s time for Congress to cut the umbilical cord and stop bankrolling this rogue political operation.

The narrower question about Lisa Simeone was whether NPR was going to live up to its own ethics rules, which forbid attending protests, let alone organizing them and serving as public r relations staff for them. The “Soundprint” series, which is not produced by NPR but is a current events show, fired Simeone. That decision was a no-brainer.

But the opera show, also not produced by NPR, but by an affiliate station in North Carolina, arrived at a different solution. NPR announced it would no longer distribute the program to the 60 stations that air it. Instead, the local station would. That’s merely solving an appearance problem and nothing more.

It is inexcusable that NPR didn’t fire Simeone long ago. It did nothing to stop Simeone before the story blew up in their faces. Simeone appeared in a YouTube video uploaded three months ago, declaring with an angry face that, “The time has come to stop these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and all the other places we’re now bombing with our drones and other equipment, and to demand that money that’s being spent and wasted on slaughter come home here to spent in the U.S. on human needs.”

Simeone promised she and her gang was going to sit on the cold ground for months to demand radical “reforms” in American government. A quick Google search found Simeone was all over the news as a spokeswoman in the first weeks of the protests. It was only when The Daily Caller exposed this radical that NPR acted.

In this atmosphere of controversy, one of NPR’s current news anchors, Michele Norris, announced that she would temporarily step down from the anchor chair (and political reporting) for a year while her husband, Broderick Johnson, works as a senior advisor to Obama’s re-election campaign. She’ll still report, just not fry the political hot potatoes.


Read the rest…

[Return to headlines]

Occupy Wall Street Shrugged

Editorial Comment by Robert Trancinski:


The first thing to notice about this story is the “bourgeois bohemian” snobbery of these enlightened, egalitarian progressives. These are a bunch of middle class kids in the middle of Manhattan, which is basically a giant playground for the upper-middle-class and the rich, who have sent down to Zuccotti the chefs from their favorite gourmet organic restaurants. But while spaghetti Bolognese is fine for folks like you and me—you know, good respectable bourgeois—we can’t have the actual grubby poor showing up to demand some of it. So let’s serve them gruel and fob them off on the local soup kitchen. I mean, don’t they know their place?

And yet you have to sympathize with the cooks who have been besieged by moochers. Behind the hypocrisy, there are real lessons to be learned: lessons about the relationship between productive people and freeloaders. About the need for police to protect decent people from criminals. About how con-men and the power-lusters always take over utopian schemes for their own benefit. About the taxing power and unaccountability of central authorities.

The spaghetti Bolognese incident sums it up. The workers who provide the goods everyone else lives off of are going on strike to protest against their exploitation by freeloaders. Has anyone else noticed that this is the basic plot premise of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged? Yet that is the story line they are unintentionally acting out.

Call it Occupy Wall Street Shrugged.


[Return to headlines]

Occupy Wall Street Kitchen Staff Protesting Fixing Food for Freeloaders


Occupy Wall Street volunteer kitchen staff launched a “counter” revolution yesterday — because they’re angry about working 18-hour days to provide food for “professional homeless” people and ex-cons masquerading as protesters.

For three days beginning tomorrow, the cooks will serve only brown rice and other spartan grub instead of the usual menu of organic chicken and vegetables, spaghetti bolognese, and roasted beet and sheep’s-milk-cheese salad.

They will also provide directions to local soup kitchens for the vagrants, criminals and other freeloaders who have been descending on Zuccotti Park in increasing numbers every day.

To show they mean business, the kitchen staff refused to serve any food for two hours yesterday in order to meet with organizers to air their grievances, sources said.

As the kitchen workers met with the “General Assembly” last night, about 300 demonstrators stormed from the park to Reade Street and Broadway, where they violently clashed with cops.

Officers made at least 10 arrests when rowdy demonstrators refused to get out of the street and stop blocking traffic. A dozen cops on scooters tried to force them back to the sidewalk.

There were no reported injuries.

The demonstrators said they were angry over the violence in Oakland.

After making their way to Union Square, many of the protesters returned to Zuccotti.

The Assembly announced the three-day menu crackdown announced earlier in the day — insisting everybody would be fed something during that period.

Some protesters threatened that the high-end meals could be cut off completely if the vagrants and criminals don’t disperse.


Overall security at the park had deteriorated to the point where many frightened female protesters had abandoned the increasingly out-of-control occupation, security-team members said.

Rumors swirled that one homeless man had pulled a knife in a dispute the night before — and that there had been yet another case of groping.

But protesters and a cop on duty told The Post that most of the crime goes unreported, because of a bizarre “stop snitching” rule.

“What’s happening in there is staying in there,” said the cop.

[Return to headlines]

The Second Gilded Age: Has America Become an Oligarchy?

The Occupy Wall Street movement is just one example of the sudden outbreak of tension between America’s super-rich and the “other 99 percent.” Experts now say the US has entered a second Gilded Age, but one in which hedge fund managers have replaced oil barons — and are killing the American dream.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

British Muslims Go Underground — For Poppy Appeal

Saturday 29th& Monday 31stOctober:

100 volunteers at 40 Zone 1 train and tube stations, aiming to raise £20,000

Young Muslims are planning to turn up at London’s rail and underground stations in force — to collect money for the Poppy Appeal. Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association will again be helping The Royal British Legion as a mark of good citizenship and a testament to the Islamic edict of demonstrating loyalty to your country. They will also pay tribute to the valuable role Britain played in the fight against fascism — and the continuing need to be ever vigilant to the threat of extremism. The carnage caused by bloody extremists on the underground on 7/7 will give greater resonance to the charity campaign.

More than 100 volunteers from the group will be stationed at over 40 Zone 1 train and tube stations in the city of London on Saturday 29th October and Monday 31st October. They will be hoping to raise more than the £20,000 they collected last year. This is part of a nationwide campaign by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to contribute to the country in different ways. This has included blood drives where Ahmadi Muslims give blood; charity walks; peace conferences and interfaith meetings.

The Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad said:

“Muslims are obliged to be loyal to the country in which they live. Honouring those who fought to defend and safeguard one’s country is an important principle of Islam and in fact is an important principle of peace — especially when it is carried out with a sincere heart and for the sake of winning God’s pleasure.”

Fahim Anwer, President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association which has over 6,000 members in the UK, said:

“We are again delighted and proud to support the Poppy Appeal which provides financial, social and emotional support to millions who have served or who are currently serving in the British Armed Forces, and their dependents. As Muslims living in the country it is our duty to honour those who risk life and limb for the protection of all British citizens.”

Russell Thompson OBE, Director of Fundraising at The Royal British Legion, said:

“Our beneficiaries come from all walks of life, as do our supporters, and we are proud to be an organisation that stands shoulder to shoulder with people of all faiths and backgrounds. We are grateful to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association for collecting for this year’s Poppy Appeal and for supporting those who are serving in Afghanistan today, veterans of past conflict, and their families. The money they raise will make it possible for the Legion to provide our beneficiaries with £1.4million every week in direct welfare support.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Czech PM Mulls Euro Referendum

The ruling euro-sceptic ODS party in the Czech Republic wants to push for a referendum on the country’s future eurozone accession, claiming that the rules have changed since 2003 when Czechs said yes to the EU and the euro.

The recent agreement on another bail-out for Greece and on boosting the eurozone’s bailout fund is fuelling Czech calls for a referendum, said Czech MEP Jan Zahradil, leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists. “We should allow non-eurozone members — such as my country the Czech Republic — to decide again whether they wish to enter. We signed up to a monetary union, not a transfer union or a bond union in our accession treaty. This is the major reason why the Czech Prime minister wishes to call the referendum on this matter,” Zahradil said in a statement.

The Czech Republic, along with all other eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, is obliged to adopt the euro once budget deficit and other economic conditions are met.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Muslim Minister Urges More Christian UK

CAIRO — The only Muslim woman in the British government said Britain should become a more Christian nation which would allow different faiths, each proud of their religion, to understand each other and communicate towards a common ground. “We need to create a country where people don’t feel like they have to leave religion at the door,” Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who is also co-chairman of the Conservative Party, wrote on the Daily Telegraph on Friday, October 28. “That means being proud of Christianity, not downgrading it. It means encouraging people to say that their faith inspires what they do,” she added.

Warsi urged the British government to create a country where people were not embarrassed to say they believed in God or attended church. “It means supporting religious charities in delivering public services in schools, hospices and rehabilitation,” she added. The Muslim minister denied claims that interfaith dialogue means compromising ones identity to understand others. It was a “mistake to assume that you compromise your identity the more you try to understand others,” Lady Warsi said. “The stronger your understanding of your neighbor, the stronger your own religious identity becomes.”

Warsi, a Minister without Portfolio in David Cameron’s Cabinet since May 2010, is the first female Muslim to serve as a minister in the UK. Warsi, 40, has been Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party with responsibility for Cities since 2005. At the 2005 election, Warsi became the first Muslim woman selected by the Tories to contest a parliamentary seat.

A solicitor by profession, she has worked for the Home Office and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Common Ground

Lady Warsi urged faith groups to talk more in order to find areas of common ground. “This dialogue needs to be congregation to congregation, community to community,” she said.

“Time and again, we encounter the assumption that some people of some faiths can be trusted while others cannot. Take it from me: there is nothing incompatible about a world of many religions and a world of strong, vibrant nation states.”

Facing British mistrust, Britain’s two million Muslims have taken full brunt of anti-terror laws since the 7/7 attacks. They have repeatedly complained of maltreatment by police for no apparent reason other than being Muslim. A Financial Times opinion poll has showed recently that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims. Earlier on February 2011, British PM David Cameron said he believed that multiculturalism has failed. Cameron’s comments were criticized by coalition government partner Nick Clegg, and many of Liberal

Democrats MPs, and Baroness Warsi, the Tory party chairwoman who said they preferred a more multicultural approach. Baroness Warsi said that when members of different faiths communicate, Britain would become a country where people can be proud of their religion. “For many years, I have been saying that the stronger we are as a Christian nation, the more understanding we will be of other faiths,” she said. “It is why the Pope’s visit was so important for our country. And it is why I am proud that this year, for the first time, the Prime Minister held an Easter reception in Downing Street.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Put Babar Ahmad on Trial in the UK Not the US

Have Faith in British Justice: Put Babar Ahmad on Trial in the UK NOT the US

The Muslim Council of Britain urges all British Citizens to sign the petition calling for Babar Ahmad, a 37 year old British Muslim held for 7 years without charge on an extradition request by the US, to be put on trial in the United Kingdom. Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB, commented, “The case of Babar Ahmad is problematic: here is a British citizen who is alleged to have committed crimes that can be prosecuted under British law and yet he is being shipped off to the United States, under the controversial Extradition Act 2003. The United States has a troubling record in dealing with terror suspects and therefore the British government has a responsibility to ensure the rights of its citizens are protected while at the same time ensuring justice is served.”

The Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP, Member of Parliament for Tooting said: “As Babar’s Member of Parliament, I have worked with his family and legal team for a number of years arguing that any trial should be held in the UK. I have known Babar for many years — we grew up in the same area of south London. This petition is a good way to raise public awareness of Babar’s case.” The MCB is supporting a call to designate Friday 28th October as “Babar Ahmad Day” encouraging mosques across the country to get their congregations to sign the petition.

To sign the e-petition, click here:

Muslim Council of Britain press release, 27 October 2011

[JP note: Alternatively, instead of signing the petition, you can watch the Babar youtube clip No place like home here ]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Secret French Intelligence Report on Islam in Marseilles

The newspaper La Marseillaise has published extracts from a secret report on Islam in Marseilles. Written by the French domestic intelligence agency in March this year, it dwells on the phenomenon of street prayers but has plenty to say about Islam in the city more generally. The date and the theme of street prayers suggest it was inspired by Marine Le Pen’s campaign on the issue around that time…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Swedish Court Bans Niqab-Wearing Women

Three women wearing head scarves completely shielding their faces were denied entry to a Gothenburg courtroom on Friday during the remand hearing of one of the suspects in the Röda Sten murder plot case.

“I am responsible for order in this court room and I feel I can’t achieve that if I am unable to see the faces of the people present,” said district court judge Stefan Wikmark to Swedish TV4.

The three women were stopped as they were trying to enter the courtroom for the remand hearing of a man under suspicion for plotting the murder of Swedish artist Lars Vilks at an art exhibition in Gothenburg in September.

All three women were wearing niqabs covering them from head to toe.

One of the guards at the Gothenburg District Court prevented them from stepping into the court room, referring to the ban on face coverings, according to TV4’s affiliate in Gothenburg.

The decision to refuse the women from entering the court room while wearing their traditional garb was taken by Wikmark during the remand negotiations.

The hearing stems from a raid carried out in September by officers from Swedish security service Säpo.

After receiving intelligence indicating that a terrorist attck would be carried out during an exhibition at Röda Sten, officers stormed and evacuated the gallery during the opening of an art exhibition.

Four men were arrested on the suspicion of preparing terrrorist activities following the raid.

However, one of the suspects was later released due to lack of evidence and the suspicions against the other men were subsequently downgraded from preparing terror crimes to preparing to commit murder.

Controversial artist Vilks has been under threat since his drawings of the prophet Muhammad, published in a Swedish newspaper, caused a wave of condemnation from Muslims worldwide.

At the remand hearing on Friday the court ruled that the man should remain in custody, pending trial.

The deputy prosecutor in chief Agnetha Hilding Qvarnström has demanded that the other two suspects remain held in remand as well.

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Muslim Group to Deploy ‘Jewish Star’ In Bern Rally

The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS), a conservative Muslim group, has chosen a symbol reminiscent of the Jewish Star of David for a planned protest against Islamophobia this weekend. Around 2,000 people are expected to participate in the ‘Day against Islamophobia and racism’, a mini-festival organized by ICCS in the capital Bern that will run from 2 to 5pm on Saturday.

In an attempt to draw parallels between the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany and Muslims in the Switzerland of today, many participants will wear t-shirts and stickers with the word ‘Muslim’ framed by a yellow star. The Bern-based ICCS was founded by young Swiss converts to Islam shortly before the political initiative to ban minarets. Some in the Swiss media have labeled its president Nicholas Blancho ‘the Bin Laden of Biel’, a reference to his home town.

The organisation, which has more than 2,000 members, professes a conservative interpretation of Islam and has often made headlines in Switzerland for its provocative campaigning. Seemingly unperturbed by the criticism, Blancho says there are distinct similarities between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

“We want to trigger a debate and show that the discrimination of Muslims in Switzerland is a fact,” he told Tages Anzeiger. “Muslims are treated as second-class citizens and are discriminated against, for example because they wear a headscarf or because of their name when they look for an apprenticeship or are looking for an apartment,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Exeter Mosque Official Opening Ceremony

Dignitaries and faith leaders from across Exeter came together to celebrate the opening of the Exeter Mosque and Cultural Centre which will provide a focal point for the 3,000 Muslims that live in the city. United Kingdom. 26th October 2011

Dignitaries and faith leaders from across Exeter came together to celebrate the opening of the Exeter Mosque and Cultural Centre. The ceremony included Professor Ekmeleddin Ýhsanoðlu, Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Professor Jamal Alturaifi, Representative of H. H. Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Ali Qasimi, Supreme Council member & Ruler of Sharjah, The Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Exeter Stella Brock and Stephen Otter, Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall Police. The Mosque will provide a focal point for the 3,000 Muslims that live in the city and for thousands more that live across the South West.

[JP note: What is the Secretary-General of the OIC doing in Exeter? Probably, as the home of the European Muslim Research Centre, it is one of many hot-beds of Muslim Brotherhood agitation operating in the UK.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Award for EDL March Handling

BEDFORDSHIRE Police has won a coveted award for its handling of February’s English Defence League march. The Force was presented with the partnership trophy and certificate at the ‘Equality and Diversity Awards 2011’ hosted by Bedfordshire Race & Equalities Council (BREC) at Bedford’s Barns Hotel. The award was in recognition of a community engagement programme that was part of the preparation for the protests and began more than two months before thousands of protestors from all over the country descended on Luton.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Sarajevo Gunman in Custody, Officials Condemn Attack

Mevlid Jasarevic, a 23 year old from Novi Pazar, Serbia fired shots at the US embassy in Sarajevo. Police told Balkan Insight that one security guard was injured, shot in the legs and the gunman was wounded but alive.

Sources from the general hospital in Sarajevo have said that the gunman has been brought to the hospital.

Jasarevic shot an automatic rifle multiple times at the US Embassy from the tram station across the road, in the Marijn Dvor district of the city. One security guard was injured, shot in the legs and was taken to surgery to the general hospital in Sarajevo.

Police sources have told Balkan Insight that the assailant was shot in the leg. He was taken to the hospital and is under arrest. The scene of the shooting is still cordoned off by the police while the interior ministry of the Sarajevo Canton, the federal police and the state agency for investigation and protection, SIPA are collecting evidence.

Traffic has been halted outside of the US Embassy to Bosnia and Herzegovina because of the shooting.

About a hundred people are milling around the police line, unable to return to their apartments in the blocked off area around the US embassy.

An eyewitness, Smail Zilic, who was driving by the embassy at the time of the shooting, told Balkan Insight that the man paced back and forth in front of the embassy for five minutes, screaming “Bring me an American, I want an American”

He said a sniper fired at the assailant twice, wounding him the second time in the leg.

According to Zilic, the gunman was clearly not a Bosnian, although he spoke the language perfectly, albeit with ekavica, a regional dialect found in Serbia.

Zlic said he fired five shots.

“This has nothing to do with religion,” said Zilic. “This man is clearly insane. He came here to die. He made no attempt to flee the scene, he wanted to be a martyr. But he is just crazy.”

“God help us all,” said Adi Hadzic, another Sarajevan. “We don’t need a terrorist attack like this in our city.”

“I heard noise for almost a minute,” said Will Richard, an American citizen who works in the nearby UNITIC towers. “It sounded like rapid fire, but thought it was just part of the construction projects in the area.”…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Tunisia: Curfew in Sidi Bouzid, Protest Targets Tunis

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, OCTOBER 28 — Protesters, most of them youths, who have been protesting since last night in the town of Sidi Bouzid, have said that they will take their protest to the Kasbah in Tunis, where the country’s government is based, perhaps as early as in the next few hours. Protesters told local radio stations that they will not demonstrate only in Sidi Bouzid and want the government to deal with the cancellation from the electoral lists of the Pétition Populaire party, even though the decision was taken by the high committee for elections in the country.

After setting fire during the night to the local offices of Ennadha, the party that won most seats in Sunday’s vote, and looting the headquarters of the city authorities, one group of protesters is now attempting to attack the building of the governor of Sidi Bouzid. Witnesses quoted by Reuters say that the police have been forced to fire shots in the air in order to disperse protesters.

Amid the continuing disorder, Reuters says that the government has imposed a curfew in the town, with the agency quoting sources from the Ministry of the Interior. The curfew will be applied between 19:00 and 05:00 and will be in force from tonight.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Ennahdha’s Great Success

(ANSA) — TUNIS, OCTOBER 27 — Ennahdha has won in terms of votes as well as percentages, and therefore seats. The party’s success is perhaps even greater than expected by its leaders, though they had suggested that 50% of votes would be possible. Ennahdha has literally triumphed, and the number of at least 88 seats already assigned to the party (the second party would only get 29 seats), could even rise thanks to the appeals that have already been presented or announced. Even before the official announcement of its success, the Islamic party has already opened negotiations in order to form a government coalition in the very short period (one month) scheduled by its leader, Rached Gannouchi.

Although officially no party can be ruled out as possible partner, it is already clear which ones will take place at the negotiation table. The progressive democratic party (PDP, 15 seats) of Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, who immediately admitted the party’s defeat (unexpected considering the resources used for its electoral campaign), said that he will never join a government led by Ennahdha. And the same is true for Petition Populaire (26 seats), the political formation created from nothing (both from a organisational and an ideological viewpoint) by Hachemi Hamdi which unexpectedly plays an important role, though the party may be excluded due to irregularities during the electoral campaign. Where the PDP party has announced that it will not participate in the negotiations, Ennahdha has ruled out any possibility of negotiating with Hamdi, who has insulted everyone with insinuations and accusations during his electoral campaign waged from a television studio in London.

For the rest, Ennahdha is free to choose. In the coming days the party will officially announce with which parties it will negotiate, in order to form a coalition as soon as possible and present a strong government to Premier-designate Hammadi Djebali.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Pétition Populaire Lists Excluded, Protests Erupt

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, OCTOBER 28 — Violence has returned to the streets of Tunisia, but it wasn’t sparked by the outcome of the Constituent Assembly elections which handed power in Tunisia over to Islamist party Ennahdha. Incidents broke out following a decision by the High Authority for Elections to disqualify the lists proposed by the Pétition Populaire in six districts due to the presence of candidates formerly part of the political party of former President Ben Ali.

Upon learning of the decision, following the announcement that the Pétition Populaire has been withdrawn from the Constituent Assembly, in Sidi Bouzid — the city where the uprising which toppled Ben Ali’s regime began — incidents erupted with thousands of young people taking to the streets, who surrounded the local headquarters of Rached Gannouchi’s party, shouting slogans and insults and then lighting the building on fire. The protestors then turned to another target, the town hall, attacking and looting the building in an act that resembled the darkest days of the revolution, when these types of occurrences were commonplace in nearly the entire country. The governorate headquarters did not escape the fury of the protestors, who lit dozens of tyres stacked in front of the main entrance to the building ablaze. Police intervened heavily with tear gas, but the rage of the young protestors was not extinguished. The crowd basically took over the city, gathering on the main roads and intersections. It is no coincidence that the protest exploded in Sidi Bouzid. Hachmi Hamdi, the billionaire leader of the Pétition Populaire, was born in this city, where Ennahdha suffered its only stinging defeat in the election in all 27 districts, with results that were nearly a rout. Pétition Populaire received 48,000 votes and three seats, leaving Ennahdha with 20,000 votes and only 2 seats. An overwhelming defeat for the Islamist party which yesterday, when the election results started to come in from the voting stations, issued a biting comment through its secretary, second in command and future premier, Hammadi Djelabi, who said that whoever voted for Hamdi is ignorant. His words fuelled the rage of the young protestors in Sidi Bouzid, who see Hamdi as one of their own, a man who started with nothing and became successful, and fondly remember Mohammed Bouazizi, the young street vendor who lit himself on fire at a market in the city when town law enforcement officials seized the meagre goods he was selling. With good reason, Hamdi called his native city the “flame of the revolution” in his aggressive and intense TV broadcasts from London. The fear is that protests will now spread to other areas and for other reasons, following an electoral campaign and elections that did not involve any serious incidents. Protests also erupted in Regueb, an indication of the lethal mixture of elements that have come together in recent hours.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Ashton and Fule Congratulate Ennahda Party

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 28 — EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, together with EU Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Stefan Fule, today congratulated the party that has won the first democratic elections in Tunisia, Ennahda.

They have underlined the EU’s commitment to support the country and after the recent clashes they asked for “calm and restraint.” “We congratulate,” Ashton and Fule write in a joint statement, “the Ennahda party which obtained the highest percentage of votes. The EU looks forward to working closely with the new Constituent Assembly and the Tunisian authorities and institutions in responding to the Tunisian people’s demands for democracy, freedom, social justice and dignity.” After thanking the EU electoral commission for the work it has done, Ashton and Fule turned to the newly elected Constituent Assembly which “will write the new Constitution of the country.” “It will need to work in a spirit of consensus in order to build a new democratic State.” Ashton and Fule also underlined the EU’s commitment to give “financial and political support to the Tunisian society,” and expressed their regret about the violent clashes staged after the announcement of the first results, urging “calm and restraint.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Key General: Iraq Pullout Plan a ‘Disaster’

Others echo call for strength against Iran

By Rowan Scarborough

President Obama’s decision to pull all U.S. forces out of Iraq by Dec. 31 is an “absolute disaster” that puts the burgeoning Arab democracy at risk of an Iranian “strangling,” said an architect of the 2007 troop surge that turned around a losing war.

Retired ArmyGen. John M. Keane was at the forefront of persuading President George W. Bush to scuttle a static counterinsurgency strategy and replace it with 30,000 reinforcements and a more activist, street-by-street counterterrorism tactic.

Today, even with that strategy producing a huge drop in daily attacks, Gen. Keane bluntly told The Washington Times that the United States again is losing.

“I think it’s an absolute disaster,” said Gen. Keane, who advised Gen. David H. Petraeus when he was top Iraq commander. “We won the war in Iraq, and we’re now losing the peace.”

U.S. troops will be vacating Iraq at a time when neither Baghdad’s counterterrorism skills nor its abilities to protect against invasion are at levels needed to fully protect the country, say analysts long involved in the nearly nine-year war.

“Forty-four hundred lives lost,” Gen. Keane said. “Tens of thousands of troops wounded. Over a couple hundred thousand Iraqis killed. We liberated 25 million people. There is only one Arab Muslim country that elects its own government, and that is Iraq.

“We should be staying there to strengthen that democracy, to let them get the kind of political gains they need to get and keep the Iranians away from strangling that country. That should be our objective, and we are walking away from that objective.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Prince Nayef: 78 Years Old, Is New Crown Prince

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 28 — The new crown prince of Saudi Arabia is prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz al Saud. But he is not at all a new face in the rigid panorama of Saudi power: Nayef is in fact 78 years old and has been Minister since 1975. The decision was taken a few days after the death of the previous crown prince and brother of the new heir, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz. With this appointment Nayef — considered to be a conservative — also takes the role of deputy Prime Minister in Riyadh, where king Abdullah, 87 years old, is still recovering from his third back operation in less than a year. A statement issued by the court and read on State television explained that the king (who has more than 35 children) took his decision after consulting the allegiance council (hiya al-baya), a sort of small parliament created by the royal family in 2006 to make the succession of Abdullah as fluid as possible, avoiding serious clashes between the various candidates. The current Saudi royal family members are all descendents of the first king of modern Saudi Arabia, king Abdullaziz, who reigned from 1902 to 1953. Nayef’s health is also not very good, and he has delegated part of his daily activities at the Ministry to his two sons, Mohammed and Saud. Analysts say that he is likely to continue the lack of dynamism that marked the reign of Abdullah in the past twenty years. Reformists in the kingdom, most of them part of the Saudi elite but not of the royal clan, are reportedly not pleased with his ascent, which could end any hope of renewal in the ultra-conservative country.

More traditionalist circles on the other hand — the Islamic clergy included — have already expressed their support of the choice. Others have said that the elderly future king may be ‘overshadowed’ by his brother, prince Salman, governor of Riyadh for years now and younger and more charismatic than Nayef.

Salman is now the strongest candidate to lead the powerful Defence Ministry, the domain of the deceased sultan for 50 years. The appointment of Nayaf seems to have swept away all hope for the ‘al-Faisal’ branch of the royal family: the two sons of king Faisal are well-known on international level. They are seen as the “new generation”, although the most likely candidate of them, Khalid, governor of Mecca, is also over 70.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Malaysia’s Minorities Fear Islamic Law Changes

Jennifer Pak

Malaysia’s Islamic party is pressing for more areas of law to be dealt with under an Islamic legal code, causing concerns among religious minorities, despite reassurances they would not be affected. There are two Malaysias. One for the Muslim majority — the other for Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and non-Muslims. For example, Malays do not have the freedom to choose their religion. It is written in the constitution that all ethnic Malays must, by definition, be Muslim. At the same time, other ethnic groups are allowed to worship freely. Political leaders would have you believe that these two Malaysias barely interact, and therefore do not conflict. It is true in some cases — but not in others.

Islamic police

Take my gay friend for example. On a few occasions, I have invited him to my place to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon cooking and watching some bad reality TV shows.

What I did not realise was that my innocent invitations could get him arrested. He is a Malay and, as a Muslim, he is subject to Islamic law which does not allow couples who are not married to each other to be in a secluded area together. That way nothing “immoral” can happen, and the offence of so-called close proximity is avoided. My friend is constantly worried that the security guards at my apartment block would call the Islamic police on him. The fact that he is gay would not absolve him since homosexuality is also a crime in Islam.

I, on the other hand, would not be arrested because I am a Christian, and Islamic law does not apply to non-Muslims. We are only subject to Malaysian civil law. So whenever the topic of Islamic law comes up, religious officials working for local and national government are always quick to point out that non-Muslims would not be affected by it in any case.

This is the argument that the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic party — or PAS — has used to call for the expansion of Islamic law in recent weeks. At present, if you are Muslim, all issues regarding family and faith are dealt with in Islamic courts. But PAS officials say they want Islamic law to cover criminal offences as well. The punishments they want would include, among other things, cutting off the hands of thieves and stoning adulterers to death. The party insists the move would not affect non-Muslims. That promise, however, is no longer reassuring for Malaysia’s religious minorities. Some feel Islamic law is already encroaching on their rights.

Child custody

It is a problem that Tan Cheow Hong, a Buddhist, never thought he would run up against. He and his wife had married according to civil law. They later separated and he took care of their daughter. This arrangement carried on for a few years until his estranged wife showed up last November at their child’s school with Islamic officials and police in tow. His wife had become a Muslim and obtained an Islamic court order to take their daughter back. The next day she had the child declared a Muslim as well, and was granted full guardianship of their daughter under Islamic law. Mr Tan says all of this was done behind his back. He has accused his wife of converting to Islam so that she would gain custody of their child.

Some say they suspect Islamic courts would automatically favour any Muslim parent. Mr Tan is now fighting the decision through the civil law system. His wife has refused to comment, but her lawyers say that as a Muslim she had every right to go to the Islamic court.

Dual courts

Mr Tan’s story is not unique. There are dozens of similar cases where disgruntled spouses are believed to be exploiting the country’s dual court systems. Their stories have sowed a feeling of distrust among religious minorities. “If Islamic authorities can snatch our children away, convert them, and decide on custody issues — all without the knowledge or presence of the other parent — then what rights do we as non-Muslims have?” said Mr Tan.

The federal court does not have a clear answer for him — at least not yet. Many families before him with similar cases have been told to go back to the Islamic court even though it supposedly has no jurisdiction over non-Muslims. In the face of rising Islamisation, legal scholars say politicians and judges here are unwilling to resolve the issue for fear they will be seen as anti-Islam. And the issue of justice might become even more complex if the proposed Islamic criminal code were introduced.

Zainah Anwar, a prominent Muslim rights activist, poses this scenario in a recent newspaper column. Suppose a Malay and Chinese were both caught stealing. The Malay-Muslim might get his hands chopped off, while his Chinese accomplice might only be locked up for a few months in jail. For the same crime only one person would be permanently disabled — because of their religion. It may seem idle to debate Islamic criminal law in Malaysia. There are still many legal hurdles to overcome before it can be enforced. Yet this time around, non-Muslims are alarmed. This may be a country that prides itself on its multi-religious and multi-ethnic harmony — but what happens in Muslim Malaysia is not always confined to the followers of Islam — and non-Muslims are feeling exposed.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Pakistan Rejects Allegations of Links With Taliban

Pakistani officials have rejected outright claims by Taliban commanders in a BBC report that Pakistan provides them with supplies. They have also denied allowing insurgents to fire on US troops across the Afghan border.

Pakistan has rejected US accusations that Pakistani armed forces allow insurgents to fire on American troops across the border in Afghanistan. “I completely reject this, it is wrong and baseless,” military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told the AFP news agency. According to US officials there has been a sharp rise in cross-border attacks against US soldiers in eastern Afghanistan since the killing of Osama bin Laden by US special forces and the subsequent deterioration of US-Pakistan relations.

The deputy US commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti, said on Thursday that rocket and mortar fire attacks seemed to come from within sight of Pakistani military posts. He also said officials were trying to re-establish military communications along the border, particularly between Afghan and Pakistani units facing each other because they were still not consistent with what the US wanted after they collapsed in the wake of the raid on bin Laden.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Islam Soft-Sell Has Got Legs, But Note the Fine Print

‘Bringing Islam to the masses” is the goal of the new TV campaign from MyPeace, the organisation that recently gave us the “Jesus: a prophet of Islam” poster. Clearly deciding it had generated enough controversy for one year, MyPeace has taken a softer approach; slo-mo visuals, mood music and a warm Australian voice inviting us to “explore the real values of Islam”.

“Saving one life is as if you have saved all of humanity” we learn, as a bronzed Aussie lifeguard rescues a boy from the surf. You can’t quibble with that, particularly if you’re a parent.

From an advertising point of view, the approach is similar to the current “Jesus-All About Life” campaign, also featuring visuals of sunburnt Aussies; along with a creme brulee, a dead pet goldfish, and questions about the meaning of life. Jesus himself even gets a chocolate-bar style logo.

Both ads, Muslim and Christian, offer a panacea to the “crisis of the soul” that supposedly afflicts modern Australia. Who could disagree with an ad that asks you to look after your parents in old age, reminding you that they looked after you as a child? Or who could not be moved by sentiments such as “How come the more you have, the more you want?” or the Facebook-ish conundrum that “we’ve got more friends, but less friendship”?

The role of advertising is to convert consumers to a brand’s point of view by finding its most salient aspect, linking it to a compelling insight, and allowing the brand to put its best foot forward. Both ads do just that. Were I in the market for a religious organisation to join, I’d be saying “sign me up for either one of those, thanks. They sound great. In fact, I think I’ll take them both”. After all, you can’t have too much of a good thing. With all ads, however, it’s worth reading the fine print first. Just in case. The Jesus ad is sponsored by a whole host of Christian organisations, so if I sign up I’ll have to make the sort of mind-numbing decisions normally required for choosing a broadband plan. Should I go Baptist or United? Join the Salvos or Hillsong? Too hard — I give up.

The MyPeace campaign for Islam is much simpler, giving me chapter and verse of the Koran to help me decide. It invites me to look more closely at the Koran, so I do. It only takes a few seconds online to check the veracity of the advert’s claims. Yep. Chapter 5 verse 32 points out the benefit of saving every single life, although oddly it refers to saving the Children of Israel rather than the Nippers of Bondi. But the point is the same. Intrigued, I read on.

And that is, of course, the problem with selective quoting. Readers should judge for themselves the appeal of the Koranic verses either side of the one quoted, but as an ad man I would struggle to make either 5:31 or 5:33 as convincing a “sell” as the lifesaver scenario. One has to admire the chutzpah (if that’s the right word) of choosing as your major sales pitch a quote adjacent to one advocating “that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off”. Still, the Bible has more than its fair share of blood and gore. Selective quoting (and interpretation) is something all religions and advertisers are guilty of, so it would be wrong to single out this ad exclusively.

However, reading the rest of the passage is a bit like a chocaholic being sold an amazing new flavour of Magnum ice-cream, eagerly biting into it, and discovering it’s anchovy.

Will the ad “bring Islam to the masses”? No, but it will make many non-Muslims re-consider their attitudes towards the religion. Will it attract converts? Undoubtedly. Was it worth doing? Definitely. Taken at face value, it is a positive expression of worthy sentiments espoused by Muslims. Full credit to MyPeace and its founder Diaa Mohamed, who clearly recognises the need for Islam to be seen putting its best foot forward and engaging in mainstream public debate about how its values are relevant to contemporary society. “We hope this campaign provides Australians with fact and insight around Islam,” Mohamed says. No problems there. Some consumers, however, may find themselves unconvinced when it comes to reading the fine print.

Rowan Dean is a freelance writer and advertising creative director.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Sweden’s Immigration Debate

Ilmar Reepalu is the Mayor of Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city. He is a man on the move, trying to promote and develop Malmo’s position as a leader in green technology around the world. He can squeeze us in for an interview at 8:30 on a Sunday evening. Uncomplaining, he rides up to Malmo’s City Hall on his bicycle in the dark and rain to talk to us.

We are in Malmo, not to discuss sustainability and fair trade in the city, but rather its massive immigration, which some call a problem, others consider a gift.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

‘Racist’ Halloween Costumes Stir Debate

An Ohio student group’s campaign has started a firestorm of debate in Canada and abroad over whether wearing Arab, Spanish and other ethnically inspired garb is proliferating stereotypes and feeding racism.

The campaign, by Ohio University’s Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS), features posters headlined “We’re a culture, not a costume.” Underneath the line, “This is not who I am, and this is not okay” are students of various ethnic backgrounds holding up photos of people wearing blackface, or dressed up as natives, Geisha girls or people depicting “terrorists,” for example.

Contacted by CBC News on Wednesday, a spokeswoman with the Athens, Ohio-based university said STARS was receiving an overwhelming number of requests for media interviews around the world, and may not return calls immediately.

STARS had garnered more than 8,000 views on president Sarah Williams’s blog, but the comment section was disabled due to inappropriate and hateful comments from some visitors. Still, Williams told the campaign was worthwhile: “We wanted to highlight these offensive costumes because we’ve all seen them. We just wanted to say, ‘Hey, this is not cool. This is offensive and this shouldn’t be taken lightly.’ It’s offending a culture and people should be aware.”

Canadian reaction to the campaign has ranged from huge congratulations for raising awareness about the ills of proliferating stereotypes, to accusing STARS of making something out of nothing.

Brent Farrington, a campaigner with the Ottawa-based Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), applauded the Ohio school’s poster campaign.

“There have been cases in Canada over the last couple of years that have really highlighted the fact that our campuses aren’t quite as free from racism as people think,” he told CBC News Wednesday…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Record-Low 26% in U.S. Favor Handgun Ban

Support for stricter gun laws in general is lowest Gallup has measured

by Jeffrey M. Jones

A record-low 26% of Americans favor a legal ban on the possession of handguns in the United States other than by police and other authorized people. When Gallup first asked Americans this question in 1959, 60% favored banning handguns. But since 1975, the majority of Americans have opposed such a measure, with opposition around 70% in recent years..

[See graph at link]

The results are based on Gallup’s annual Crime poll, conducted Oct. 6-9. This year’s poll finds support for a variety of gun-control measures at historical lows, including the ban on handguns, which is Gallup’s longest continuing gun-control trend.

For the first time, Gallup finds greater opposition to than support for a ban on semiautomatic guns or assault rifles, 53% to 43%. In the initial asking of this question in 1996, the numbers were nearly reversed, with 57% for and 42% against an assault rifle ban. Congress passed such a ban in 1994, but the law expired when Congress did not act to renew it in 2004. Around the time the law expired, Americans were about evenly divided in their views.


[Return to headlines]

Two Men Who Divorced Their Wives, Came Out as Gay, Became Transgender Lesbians, Now Marry After One Has a Sex Change

A pair of transgender lesbians today told of their joy at becoming man and wife, and also wife and wife, on the same day — after one had a sex-change.

Jenny-Anne Bishop, 65, formerly called Paul, and Elen Heart, 68, who was once named Alan, initially got together as a male gay couple in 2004.

The pair, who are both divorced and have five grown-up children between them, lived together in Clwyd, Wales, for six years as transgender lesbians.

But the couple decided against surgery due to the associated risks at their age until last year — when Jenny-Anne went under the knife for a gender reassignment op.

Father-of-two Jenny-Anne went on to have a breast augmentation procedure this January followed by facial feminisation surgery.

The couple have now officially tied the knot as ‘husband and wife’ after opting for a private civil ceremony in North Wales.

The retired newlyweds then had a gay wedding service at the Metropolitan Community Church in Manchester,

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Holy Smoke: Islamic Televangelists

Islamic preachers are drawing on a Christian tradition

SCREAMING hordes of teenage girls are a common sight at pop concerts and film premières. They are less usual when waiting to hear a religious preacher. But such girls-one gasping “I can see him, I can see him” through the folds of her niqab-awaited Moez Masoud, an Egyptian televangelist, recently in Cairo. He is part of a growing band of Islamic preachers who are true celebrities, says Yasmin Moll, a researcher at New York University, who attended Mr Masoud’s talk.

They draw on a Christian tradition pioneered in the 1950s by such preachers as Billy Graham. For the past ten years Amr Khaled, an Egyptian one-time accountant turned televangelist star, has led the way. Previously television preachers fitted the stereotype of white-haired, bearded sheikhs in white robes, monotonously exhorting the faithful, in classical Arabic, to follow the strictures of Islam more exactly. In 2001 Mr Khaled burst onto screens with his show “Words from the Heart” and his brand of modern, moderate piety. Sharp-suited, mustachioed and speaking colloquial Egyptian, Mr Khaled and his audience (of men and women) discussed the concerns of young Muslims, such as whether Islam forbids cinema-going.

Others have followed in his footsteps. Egyptians dominate, including Mr Masoud and Mustafa Hosny. In Indonesia Abdullah Gymnastiar, known as “Elder Brother Gym”, attracted millions of viewers to his television shows and seminars-until his decision to take a second wife in 2006 outraged his many female fans. The new breed of televangelist has proved hugely popular with young viewers uninterested in traditional religious programming. But the Muslim religious and political establishment is uncomfortable with these new celebrities: none boasts traditional training as a cleric. In an odd alliance, secularists are also chary, worried that the brand of moderate Islam they peddle could prove to be the gateway to a more extreme version. But stuffy religious authorities are now being forced to acknowledge these stars’ pulling power. In January Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of al-Azhar, the Cairo-based font of Islamic orthodoxy, met Mr Khaled to discuss how to renew religious discourse in Is lam.

The appeal of such preachers lies in large part in their very lack of official religious credentials. They present themselves as ordinary Muslims who have overcome personal struggles to discover their faith. Many say they were not religious when they were younger. Ahmad al-Shugairi, a Saudi preacher, describes a misspent youth in California, going to clubs with women and even drinking alcohol, before he returned to Saudi Arabia and Allah. Mr Masoud lost friends to a car accident, a drug overdose and cancer and he endured surgery and his own car crash before deciding to commit his life to God. The disappointment among Mr Gymnastiar’s followers at his second marriage-legal but widely frowned on in Indonesia-lay in the fact that it was at odds with his image as a devoted husband and family man, to many of his female followers at least. Sincerity and personal integrity are crucial to their appeal.

Messrs Khaled, Masoud and Hosny all got their start on Iqraa TV, a Saudi-based religious satellite channel. At one point, about 80% of Iqraa TV’s advertising was reportedly generated by Mr Khaled’s programmes. Mr Khaled has since broken away from Iqraa TV and his programmes are broadcast on a variety of networks, including secular ones such as MBC, a satellite channel based in Dubai. Until now most of these preachers have resolutely avoided getting involved in politics. But this may be changing. Since Egypt’s revolution, Mr Khaled, for instance, has become more political. In the run up to the constitutional referendum in March he and Mr Masoud joined the “no” campaign along with secular liberals. He has yet to declare any political intentions but if he does, the power of Islamic televangelists could reach a new level.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Holy Relevance: Religion and Economics

Faith can influence economic behaviour-but not always directly

AS PROTESTANT Europe, in its own eyes virtuous and thrifty, wrestles with the debt problems of the continent’s Catholic and Orthodox countries, the idea that religious affiliation may influence the way people save, work and spend is more appealing than ever. The toppling of Arab tyrants has lent urgency to a similar enquiry: do Islam and Islamism permit the legal and social conditions that make for prosperity?

Clearly many modern religious leaders have strong ideas about economics. In western Europe, organised Christianity often acts as a modest voice in the ranks of the egalitarian left. This month’s anti-banker protests in London initially found a friendly base for their tent city at Saint Paul’s cathedral. (In recent days, Richard Chartres, the bishop of London, has asked them to leave, while acknowledging that they had raised important issues.) In America religious voices both praise and decry the capitalist order. Also on the borderline between economics and ethics, many religious leaders have taken up the cause of climate change, and urged people to change their behaviour-though this week an Australian cardinal, George Pell, bucked that trend by addressing a group of climate-change sceptics in London.

But all the most interesting theories about religion and behaviour refer to unconscious influences. The best-known was devised by Max Weber, a father of modern sociology, who drew a connection between the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. Noting that Protestant parts of Germany were doing better (in the 19th century) than Catholic ones, he thought the “inner loneliness” of Protestants-who can never be sure if they are saved in the eyes of God-made them work harder. Unlike many other forms of faith, Protestantism has no mystical rite to absolve sin.

Sascha Becker, a professor at Britain’s Warwick University who tests Weber’s theories against real life, says the German thinker was both right and wrong. Protestant Germany did prosper, but not because of theology or psychology. Protestants wanted boys and girls to be able to read the Bible; higher literacy led to faster development. But for a given level of education, Protestants and Catholics did equally well. “Whether people are Protestant or Catholic now makes no difference,” Mr Becker says. Besides, the Catholic bits of Germany such as Bavaria are the richest.

Peter Berger, an American sociologist, has found that Weber’s theories have a certain plausibility in Latin America, where a Protestant, and especially a Pentecostalist minority, outperforms the Catholic majority. Both there and in Africa an individualist Protestant “prosperity gospel” which links financial success with divine favour seems more popular with the upwardly mobile than the recent Catholic stress on “liberating” the poor as a class. South Koreans (both in their homeland and as migrants to America) often convert from Buddhism to Protestantism as they rise economically. All this may reflect the fact that some kinds of Protestantism (like many strains of Islam) sit easily with a disciplined, reflective way of life. It would be odd if that had no economic effects.

But many attempts to link doctrine and economics have run up against exceptions and better explanations. In the Ottoman empire (and in some post-Ottoman places), Christian and Jewish minorities flourished in business. Yet this did not imply stereotypical “fatalism” or “backwardness” among Muslims; the main point was that desirable posts in public or military service were closed to non-Muslims.

Similarly, contemplating Greece’s economic woes, it is easy to dream up some theory that connects Orthodox Christianity (and its comparatively charitable attitude to human weakness) with corruption or cronyism. Orthodoxy has a less pessimistic view of “original sin” than the Christian West-and its prayers for the dead emphasise “no man lives who does not sin”. Does that imply winking at misdeeds? Possibly-but then try explaining why Greek-Americans, who are at least as devout as their motherland kin, do so very well in business, education and public service. The plausible reason lies in America’s institutions which make it easier to prosper in an honest way.

Intriguingly, research on Turkey’s devoutly Muslim heartland finds a strong positive link between Islamic piety and capitalist success. The term “Islamic Calvinist” has been used to describe the devout businessmen of central Turkey, who use religious networks to accumulate capital and extend their activities. Of course, none of this proves anything about how Muslim beliefs make people behave. Like all great religions, Islam is a complex system of beliefs, and people usually emphasise the features which appeal to them. Turkey’s pious producers like the bits in the Koran that favour honest trading. Yet Timur Kuran, a professor at America’s Duke University, argues that the inheritance rules in Islamic family law may have slowed development in the past by making it harder to accumulate wealth. If that is true, then modern Turkey may provide a uniquely favourable arena: secular law combined with the diligence and sobriety (in several senses) of Muslim Calvinists. Mr Kuran’s latest research looks at India over the last two centuries. He thinks the poor-ish showing of Muslim businessmen reflects Hindu practices that allow the build-up of family wealth, while Islam dissipates it by mandating legacies to distant kin. This gap emerged under the Raj, and seems to persist in modern India where different faiths still use different family law.

One problem, says Mr Kuran, is that religiously-inspired institutions change more slowly than religious dogma. Even text-based creeds, based on one-off divine revelation, can be quite flexible in reacting to new economic circumstances. But the world of Islam, in his view, has been held back by institutions like the waqf, a sort of Islamic charity which people sometimes use to create jobs for their families. In the end, laws and institutions seem to make more difference to people’s worldly chances than the arcana of theology.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Population to Hit Seven Billion: Experts Warn of ‘Bachelor Nations’

As the global population hits seven billion, experts are warning that skewed gender ratios could fuel the emergence of volatile “bachelor nations” driven by an aggressive competition for brides.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Seven Billion People ‘A Catastrophe’: Professor

“We’re behaving like spoiled egoists,” a University of Bergen zoology professor has said of a world too busy to contemplate the perils of the world’s rocketing population growth. As the world’s population topped 7 billion people on Monday, Professor Harald Kryvi said something needed to be done to counter the strain on the environment.

“There are two things we need to do — We must dare to discuss the problems that come from population growth, and we must provide (birth control) to areas where growth is biggest,” Kryvi told newspaper Bergens Tidende. The professor points to the large-scale stripping of resources and climate change as warning signs that there are too many people on Earth. “People talk about the effects of climate change. They don’t talk about the cause,” he said.

Politicians, he warned, were too fearful of “religious leaders” to begin talking about the need for more contraception in some parts of the world. To set an example, Norwegians should not have more than two children, he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Skype Security Flaw Can Expose a User’s Location

Skype is known for being cheap and extremely secure, but the reputation of the internet telephone service has taken a knock after researchers revealed how to covertly track the location of people who use it.

The problem lies with the service’s peer-to-peer technology, which establishes a direct connection between the two people participating in a call. Stevens Le Blond of the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems in Wartburg, Germany and colleagues worked out how to probe that connection to reveal the IP address of the person they were contacting.

IP (Internet Protocol) addresses identify individual computers and can be used to locate a device in the city, and sometimes even the specific building, where it is being used.

Le Blond’s hack is doubly worrying because it can be executed without alerting the victim. His team showed that they could initiate a Skype connection and scoop up the IP address without the person’s Skype account ever registering the call.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]