Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111029

Financial Crisis
»Greece: PM Says Country Has Unlimited Potential
»Gulf and Chinese Buyers Compensate for Struggling West
»Italy: PM Says Statement on Euro Intentionally Misinterpreted
»Sarkozy Says a “Mistake” Letting Greece Join Euro
»Frank Gaffney Claims Center for American Progress is Part of ‘Red-Green’ Axis With Muslim Brotherhood
»Mason Gun Instructor Wants No Liberals, Muslims
»Muslim Reality Show Proves They’re Not From Mars
»Occupying TV News
»Oklahoma Muslims Ready for Hajj
»Permit Denied for Occupy Madison Due to Public Masturbation
»Work-Time Prayer a Struggle for U.S. Muslims
Europe and the EU
»Italy: Prosecutor Accuses Berlusconi of Defamation in Mills Case
»Italy: ‘King of Escapes’ Has Escaped From Prison for 5th Time
»Italy: Expo 2015 Sets Its Sights on Private Sector
»Prince Charles: I Descend From Dracula, Vlad the Impaler
»Tax: Spain to European Court for Discriminating Against Non-Residents
»UK: “Unforseen Circumstances”
»UK: Alcohol-Blighted Area Faces an Off-Licence Battle
»UK: Britian Must be a Country Where People Can be Proud of Their Religion
»UK: IRNA [Islamic Repubilc News Agency] Interviews Chris Nineham on Islamophobia
»UK: Inquiry Into Baby Deaths Uncovers Shocking Maternity Care at Queen’s Hospital in Romford, Essex
»UK: Muslim Community Protests Against MP in Finchley
»UK: New BBC Sitcom Citizen Khan: Set in Birmingham, Filmed in Manchester
»UK: Poppy Appeal Launch Moved Over Fears About Birmingham EDL Protest
»UK: Welcome to Misery Tourism — A Gap Yah for Lefties
»UK: Women and Sharia Law in the UK
»Serbia: Italy to Invest ‘2 Bln Euros’ In Energy Projects
»Serbia Arrests 17 Over US Sarejevo Embassy Attack
Mediterranean Union
»Mediterranean to Face Grain Crisis by 2030
North Africa
»Coptic Christians Protect Monastery From Egyptian Army Assault
»Egyptian People Demand Rule of Islam
»Libya: Frattini: Considering Joint Effort for Stabilisation
»Tunisia Election Victory Marred by Violence
Israel and the Palestinians
»Carolyn Glick: Whither the IDF?
»Football Recruiting More Arab Players
»Palestinian PM Announces the Start of Building a Pulpit for the Aqsa Mosque
»Russian Aid Convoy Arrives in Gaza
»UNESCO: Eyes on Palestine, Membership Talks Under Way
Middle East
»Emirates: Trend to Sobriety Followed by Italian Design
»Emirates: Humanoid Robots to be Introduced in Classrooms
»Report: Top Muslim Adviser Blocks Obama Meeting With Christian Leader
»Saudi Arabia: Spanish Consortium to Build High-Speed Train in Desert
»Saudi Prince Offers $900k for Capture of Israeli Soldier
»Putin Disgusted by Images of Gaddafi’s Last Moments
South Asia
»India: Footpath Prayers Soon to be Heard
Far East
»China: Wuzhong Keeps Islam in Focus
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Africans ‘Rediscover’ Traditional Medicines
Latin America
»Trinidad & Tobago: Former Special Branch Head: We Knew Insurrection Was Imminent in 1990
»Blair Defends Opening the Door to Mass Migration and Says it Had a Very Positive Impact on Britain
»Netherlands: Angolan Youth Facing Deportation May Get Student Visa to Stay
»Sweden’s Immigration Debate
Culture Wars
»‘We’re a Culture, Not a Costume’ This Halloween
»UN, HR Bodies Biased Against Muslims — Jamaat e Islam

Financial Crisis

Greece: PM Says Country Has Unlimited Potential

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, OCTOBER 28 — “The crisis gives us the opportunity to change Greece and the Brussels agreement gives us the time to do it”, Prime Minister George Papandreou said in a televised message to the Greek people on Thursday night. “Our country has unlimited potential. It must not be buried under a wasteful and intransparent State, as in the past. This began from us. We shall need everyone’s participation to change it. We shall create a fair State that will be aware of its role and serve citizens faithfully,” he said. “We succeeded in writing-off a very significant part of our debt. The banks will pay the largest part of it. We also succeeded in covering the country’s borrowing requirements. We hope that 2012 will be the first year that we shall not have to shoulder new debts,” Papandreou continued. The premier said that the agreement would not obstruct the operation of banks and would not threaten pensions. Also, the permanent presence of representatives of the country’s creditors would not make inroads into national sovereignty. “We shall wield the responsibility. To have technical assistance available can only do good,” Papandreou said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gulf and Chinese Buyers Compensate for Struggling West

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, OCTOBER 24 — The big-time art merchants are baiting their hooks for the eyes — and pockets — of the rich Arabs of the Gulf region, who together with the Chinese are establishing themselves as the most desirable clients to face the crisis that continues to hit the West. In the coming days in Doha (Qatar), Sotheby’s will be displaying works of art that will be auctioned off in New York on November 9. Paintings by Pollock, De Kooning and three by Andy Warhol are just some of the pieces being presented. The Warhol pieces are a portrait of Jackie Kennedy Onassis with a starting price of 2 million dollars, another portrait of Mao and a “Dollar Sign”. “Before our route was London-Paris-Milan, but now it is London-Hong Kong-Doha, the art roads have changed,” Miety Heiden, the Vice President of Contemporary Art for Sotheby’s, told ANSA. “Since Qatar has become a superpower in the world of art, Doha has become a mandatory stop,” added Heiden. Previously, Sotheby’s buyers who spent millions of dollars were executives at large western financial firms, but following the economic crisis, the art business is now being sustained by China and the Middle East. The main difference between the Western market and the Qatari market, explained Heiden, is the disinterest of Arab clients in ancient paintings. Europeans have been collecting art since the 15th century, while in Qatar the market opened up about 10 years ago, focussing mainly on contemporary art. “People from Qatar want the best of the best,” said Heiden. It’s no coincidence that the Emir of Qatar spent nearly 73 million dollars for a Mark Rothko painting at a Sotheby’s auction in 2007, setting a record for the highest price ever paid at an auction for a painting from the post-WWII period. At the same auction, the emir and his wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, bought a Francis Bacon painting for nearly 53 million dollars. According to the Sotheby’s Vice President, what is taking place in the art market in Qatar is similar to what the United States experienced in the 1920s, when the art business started to benefit from the accumulation of wealth in the country and the great American museums were created. “It is a fantastic development and I am almost certain that Doha will become an important centre for art where people will go to visit museums and works of art,” said Heiden. In the capital of Qatar a sculpture entitled “Maman” was just unveiled, one of the large spiders by French artist Louise Bourgeois, installed at the Qatar National Convention Center of Doha, standing at nearly 9 metres tall and created by an artist whose works have been displayed in all of the contemporary art museums worldwide, from the Tate Gallery in London to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Reyna Sofia in Madrid. This is just the most recent acquisition in Qatar, which also already has the impressive Museum of Islamic Art built by Chinese architect Leoh Ming Pei, who also built the pyramid at the Louvre in Paris. The next unveiling in the world of art in Qatar will take place in 2014 with the opening of the Qatar National Museum, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, who also created the Copenhagen Concert Hall and the Torre Agbar in Barcelona, and who also built one of the skyscrapers in the West Bay area in Doha. Structures that become monuments and works of art embellishing the skyline of the capital of Qatar, making it a breathtaking sight even for Western eyes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: PM Says Statement on Euro Intentionally Misinterpreted

(AGI) Rome — Berlusconi said his recent statement on the euro may have been intentionally misinterpreted. “As usual, somebody is trying to use a statement of mine, which was interpreted in a malicious and distorted way, to raise controversy. The euro is our currency, our flag. In order to protect the euro from speculative attacks, Italy is making heavy sacrifices”, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said in a statement. “The problem with the euro is that it is the only currency in the world without a common government, without a State, and without a bank of last resort. For these reasons, it is a currency that can be easily targeted by speculative attacks” Berlusconi added.

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

Sarkozy Says a “Mistake” Letting Greece Join Euro

(AGI) Paris — Nicolas Sarkozy says Greece will make it through its sovereign debt crisis but he believes that letting it join the Euro in 2001 was a “mistake”.

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


Frank Gaffney Claims Center for American Progress is Part of ‘Red-Green’ Axis With Muslim Brotherhood

The Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney and “lawfare” expert Andrew McCarthy offered their response to the Center for American Progress’ Islamophobia report, “Fear, Inc.”, in a 10-minute segment on Gaffney’s radio show this week. Gaffney and McCarthy, who both are mentioned in CAP’s report as part of the influential “Islamophobia network,” make a series of unfounded allegations against CAP and the report. McCarthy, the author of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, has made no secret of his dislike for Muslims and progressives. His eagerness to create a grand-conspiracy between the two was on full display during the interview. But Gaffney and McCarthy take a turn into uncharted, and wildly unsubstantiated, territory when they float the theory that the CAP report was, as Frank Gaffney declares, a product of “a red-green axis between George Soros’ friends and beneficiaries on the radical left like the Center for American Progress and the Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood most notably.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Mason Gun Instructor Wants No Liberals, Muslims

FREDERICKSBURG — In a radio commercial for concealed handgun classes, instructor Crockett Keller is heard telling listeners that he’ll accept cash, credit cards, checks, gold or used guns as their $100 payment. But it’s what Keller won’t accept that has created a rhetorical firefight on talk shows and which has gone viral on the Web. “If you are a socialist liberal and/or voted for the current campaigner-in-chief,” Keller says in the 1-minute, 7-second ad, which aired several times last week in the Hill Country town of Mason, “please do not take this class. You’ve already proven that you cannot make a knowledgeable and prudent decision as required under the law. Also, if you are a non-Christian Arab or Moslem (sic), I will not teach you this class. Once again, with no shame, I am Crockett Keller.”

That last sentiment is spelled out in capital letters on a yellow sign that will be hanging today on Keller’s table at the Texas Gun and Knife Show at the Gillespie County Fairgrounds: “If you are Muslim and will not pledge allegiance to the United States of America, I will not sell you any firearm or accessory.” Since the brief spot aired on Mason’s KHLB, it has been turned into several YouTube clips, which together have logged more than 20,000 views. He says he has received about 1,000 phone calls. Nearly all have been supportive. A few have come from respectful dissenters.

Friday, however, Keller’s wife, Diane, played back two threatening recorded messages, including one in which a caller claimed to be Muslim and threatened to kill the Kellers. Sheriff’s deputies are investigating both calls. The affable Keller, 65, who typically sports a wide-brimmed straw hat, isn’t scared by the death threats, saying they vindicate his position.

“And that’s exactly why I won’t teach” Muslims, he said, setting up his booth Friday at the gun show. “Actually, I don’t have a problem with them, but I think I’m getting one. That’s OK. I guess turnabout is fair play.”

Just then, another gun dealer walked up to Keller and offered his hand. “I want to shake your hand,” said the 60-year-old retiree from Comfort, who declined to identify himself for publication. “Thanks for what you said. You spoke for all of us.” Keller says the ad isn’t just about his frustration with current events. His refusal to teach certain people, he says, fits in with his interpretation of state law, which gives him latitude in denying instruction to people who don’t appear mentally fit or capable of making good decisions with a firearm.

His concerns, he says, arose after the 2009 Fort Hood shooting spree that left 13 dead and 29 injured. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born Muslim, is charged in connection with that incident. Given the constant stream of terrorism threats from groups with Middle Eastern ties, Keller says, he can’t act in good conscience by training any Muslim to legally carry a firearm. Nor will he offer his instruction to anyone who admits voting for President Barack Obama.

“How can I trust that a person who made that mistake — who had 21/2 years to vet the man and still voted for him — will make a rational, prudent and sane decision” when to use a firearm?” he asks. “I can’t.” He says the ad’s caveats were made tongue-in-cheek and that he hasn’t yet had to turn down anyone. Not everyone sees it as a joke. Sarwat Husain, president of the San Antonio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, pointed out the irony of Keller’s commercial, which she says promotes the usage of a device with the sole purpose of killing. “We’re not missing anything,” she said. “I’m happy he’s not selling to the Muslims. Because that blood is on the hands of this guy. He’s a racist and he’s a bigot. He can keep his guns and he can promote killing.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslim Reality Show Proves They’re Not From Mars

A new reality television show may offer some viewers their first glimpses into the lives of Muslim Americans, showing that they face the same challenges and experience the same joys as any other American.” People fear what they don’t know,” Mike Jaafar, one of the fathers profiled in “All American Muslim” said in a press conference. “This show is based on everyday Americans, which we are. I’m not from Mars.”

The eight-part series will begin Nov. 13 on TLC, and follow the lives of five Muslim families from Detroit — including a newlywed couple, a working family with children, and two sisters, one who wears the traditional head scarf and the other who’s married to a Irish Catholic and sports tattoos. The population of Muslims in the United States is projected to double over the next two decades, according to the Pew Research Center, going from 2.6 million in 2010 to 6.2 million in 2030. The increase will be due to immigration and higher-than-average fertility among Muslims.

Some individuals in the show adhere more strictly to their faith than others, though most all are trying to find the balance between their traditional roots and American culture.

In fact, 56 percent of Muslims who come to the United States say they want to adopt American customs and ways of life — while only 33 percent of the general public believes that’s what Muslims want, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center. This won’t be the first time a religious group has been profiled in a reality show.

TLC also produced the show “Sister Wives,” which chronicles the lives of Kody Brown and his four wives, who all belong to the Apostolic United Brethren, a fundamentalist church that practices polygamy as part of its faith. The show, which first aired in 2010, also prompted an investigation into the relationships, as they appeared to be in violation of Utah’s bigamy laws. The Browns have since moved to Nevada.

Several years ago, a five-part miniseries on A&E, “God or the Girl,” followed the lives of four men who were torn between the choice to become a Catholic priest with its required vow of celibacy or develop a deeper relationship with each of the women in their lives. The documentary, with a slightly reality TV show feel, got more flack for its name than the actual content. “The title of the show is less than appealing to any faithful Catholic,” said 21-year-old Dan DeMatte, one of the young men profiled. “It’s not a decision between God or the girl. It’s a decision between serving God through celibacy or serving God through married life. God is No. 1 no matter what. The title is simply to catch eyes.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Occupying TV News

The Big Three TV networks have devoted far more attention to Occupy Wall Street than they did to the tea party, according to a new study by the Washington-based Media Research Center. CBS, NBC and ABC reported a mere 13 times on the tea party throughout all of its first year, 2009. In contrast, they ran 33 stories or segments about Occupy within 11 days.

So does the disparity in coverage mean Occupy is getting special treatment? Maybe, suggests the report. On CBS, NBC and ABC, most of the interview sound bites — 109 clips, or 87 percent — were from either protesters or supporters of Occupy, whereas only 6 percent were critical of the movement. Morning-show coverage has also been favorable, with seven guests expressing sympathy for protesters and none opposing or criticizing them.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Oklahoma Muslims Ready for Hajj

CAIRO — Preparing for the spiritual hajj journey, Mohammed and Becky Atiyeh, a Muslim couple from Oklahoma, are excited to join millions of Muslims in prayers in Makkah, in a life-time trip that enhances unity with their Muslim roots, The Oklahoman reported on Saturday, October 29. “Seeing the massive 3 million people — rich and poor, black and white, fat and skinny — doing the same thing, it’s breathtaking,” Mohammed Atiyeh said.

Mohammed, a native Palestinian, is the owner of five IHOP restaurants in the Oklahoma City metro area. Though being born to a Muslim family, he did not consider himself very religious. But in recent years, he felt compelled to take the Hajj pilgrimage to connect to his Islamic roots. His wife, Becky, converted to Islam about 11 years ago. The couple said they are most excited to interact and pray with the many other Muslims making the journey. “I’m looking forward to the tranquility,” Becky said “I know that sounds crazy with all the people,” she added, smiling.

Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family. Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime. Hajj will climax this year on November 5 when the faithful descend the Mount ‘Arafat.

Get Ready

Embarking on their first journey to Makkah, the Atiyehs will join several million Muslims from all around the world in the holy city. Mohammed Atiyeh said he is well aware of the spiritual significance of the trip. “Everything we do in Mecca, it is for God,” he said. Speaking about hajj preparations, Imad Enchassi, the Islamic Society’s imam, gave the couple, and other would-be pilgrims, tips about hajj preparations at a recent Hajj workshop at the Islamic Society’s mosque.

Patience was the most important tip given to pilgrims who will be gathering with millions of Muslims from around the world. “You are going to be shoved. You are going to be pulled. Don’t forget the rewards of the Hajj,” Enchassi said. The life-time journey is a symbol of unity for Muslims because all Muslim prayers, wherever they are performed, are oriented in the direction of the Kaaba. Doing so, Muslims were racing for the biggest prize of Allah’s forgiveness.

“If you go to the Hajj with the right intentions, you will come back a different person,” Enchassi said. Though there are no official figures, America is believed to be home to nearly eight million Muslims. Muslims in Oklahoma are estimated at 30,000, less than one percent of the state’s 3.7 million population, according to CAIR.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Permit Denied for Occupy Madison Due to Public Masturbation

The University of Wisconsin’s Daily Cardinal campus newspaper reports that protesters have been denied a permit for a public demonstration “due to inappropriate behavior, such as public masturbation, from street protesters.”

City officials have also stated that future permits will only be allowed if private restrooms are available for the protesters to engage in any anticipated masturbatory sign shaking.

As Madison Fire Prevention Officer Jerry McMullen stated, “You can’t be affecting the safety and health of other people around you. With the public health violations and the complaints I’ve heard, I don’t believe it meets the spirit of the ordinance to a street use permit.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Work-Time Prayer a Struggle for U.S. Muslims

Dr. Syed Malik is a devoted Muslim who tries, and mostly succeeds, to pray five times per day, as demanded by his Islamic faith. He is also an accomplished general surgeon in Orlando, Fla., who does complex operations that can last hours. Malik, 66, would never leave an operating table to pray. Instead, when surgery and prayer times conflict, he performs prayers before surgery or makes them up after. “I don’t care if this goes against what some scholars say, I feel very comfortable with how I approach prayers,” said Malik.

In fact, Islamic scholars generally agree that while prayers command high priority, they can be missed or performed later in extenuating circumstances. While Muslims differ about what constitutes extenuating circumstances, many successfully integrate prayer into their workday, often with help from their employers. Still, employers and Muslim workers sometimes clash over prayers.

This month (October), Hertz fired 25 Somali Muslim drivers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport who refused to sign an agreement pledging to clock out during prayer breaks.

Hertz says they initially allowed Muslim workers to pray during two paid daily breaks of 10 minutes each but many workers took more than 10 minutes. Nine Muslim workers signed the pledge. The workers’ union is challenging Hertz. But some Islamic scholars say that the rental car company offered the workers a solution compatible with their Islamic beliefs.

“Employers have the right to protect themselves. Unfortunately, there are Muslims who abuse the system,” said Imam Yahya Hendi, president of Clergy Without Borders, an interfaith organization in Washington, D.C.

Hendi said that it was un-Islamic to accept pay for work one did not perform, and chastised the fired Hertz workers for making Islam seem “complicated” and “inadaptable to America.” “If Muslims can do it on their own time, this is the idea,” said Zulfiqar Ali Shah, executive director of the North American Fiqh Council, a group of religious leaders who offer guidance on Islamic law. If there’s a conflict between prayer and work, the Muslims should accommodate to work,” said Shah. To emphasize that point, Muslims point to a hadith, or story, about Prophet Muhammad in which he prayed the midday and afternoon prayers together.

Most scholars recognize the exception, but caution that it should be used judiciously, and not just to avoid uncomfortable situations. “Would you step out of a meeting to use the bathroom or take a call from your son? Then why not take a few minutes to be with God?” said Hossam Al Jabri, an imam in Boston and former executive director of the Muslim American Society, an advocacy group. “Being a little inconvenienced for the sake of God is not such a bad thing.”

Most Muslims can complete their prayers in three to five minutes, although pre-prayer ablutions, or ritual washing, can take almost as long. For each of the five prayers — pre-dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and night — Muslims have a few hours to make them, although some say prayers are best when made early. These times change throughout the year as the length of the days varies. Many Muslims find that employers are happy to accommodate their prayer needs.

In his 20 years with the same company in Los Angeles, IT Manager Soheil Naimi has seen supervisors come and go, but none ever prevented him from praying. In fact, Naimi’s prayer space has improved as he’s been promoted. When he started, he had no office and used to pray in open conference rooms. He later received a cubicle that was big enough to pray in, but was often interrupted by co-workers, who he tuned out while praying. “I don’t think I offended anyone,” said Naimi, who asked that his company not be named. He now has his own office, so praying is easy. The only time performing prayers can be hard is when he’s out of the office, said Naimi, who has prayed in his car, in a bathroom, and has occasionally missed prayer altogether.

Kelly Kaufmann, a program manager at a Chicago health insurance company, keeps a prayer rug in a Macy’s tote bag at her office, and reserves one of her company’s many meeting rooms twice daily for 30 minutes. Kaufmann, who also asked that her company not be named, text messages Muslim co-workers to let them know when she has a room reserved.

“I am lucky that I make my own schedule and control when my meetings are, and can simply come to work earlier or stay later if needed to ensure the time taken to pray does not interfere with the amount of work I wanted to accomplish during the day,” Kaufmann said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Prosecutor Accuses Berlusconi of Defamation in Mills Case

(AGI) Milan — Prosecutor Alfredo Robledo has launched a civil suit for defamation in Brescia against Silvio Berlusconi. On several occasions the prime minister, has spoken of the “inertia” of Milan prosecutors, of their “pigheaded accusatory attitude” and of the “political use of justice” in relation to the Mills case. Robledo is claiming 500,000 euro in damages from Berlusconi.

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

Italy: ‘King of Escapes’ Has Escaped From Prison for 5th Time

(AGI) Bolzano — Robber Max Leitner, aka “the Vallanzasca from Alto Adige”, has escaped from prison for the fifth time. Since August 1990, when he was first arrested in Austria, Leitner, who is also nicknamed “the king of escapes”, has managed to escape from prison five times. The 52-year-old robber, a native of Elvas, didn’t turn up at the Asti prison this afternoon after he was released for a short time on good beahviour.

Leitner was sentence to 25 years for bank robbery and hijacking security vans in northern Italy, including the Alto Adige region, between 1988 and 2005.

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

Italy: Expo 2015 Sets Its Sights on Private Sector

Event will be ‘driving force’ says Confindustria

(ANSA) — Milan, October 26 — Expo 2015 is making room for private enterprise with construction work on the universal exposition’s site getting started in Milan this week as the event takes the international centre stage with a big participants’ meeting.

Expo CEO Giuseppe Sala said boosting the private sector’s role will be one of the organizers’ main goals for the next 14 months so after attracting 57 participant countries and international organizations, a record number with three years still to go before the official launch.

“We are launching a number of public competitions (for bids from potential partners),” Sala said during the three-day International Participants Meeting.

“In the first half of 2012 we want to wrap up lots of contracts”.

Organizers are aiming to raise around 400 million euros from the private sector via sponsorships and other forms of partnership. The biggest deal signed so far is one worth 43 million euros with Telecom Italia.

The nation’s business community is keen to be involved as it sees Expo as a massive opportunity, according to Emma Marcegaglia, the chief of industrial employers’ confederation Confindustria.

“Expo will be a huge driving force for Italy and the rest of the world,” Marcegaglia said on the second day of the International Participants Meeting Wednesday.

“Synergy between the private and public sectors is essential”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Prince Charles: I Descend From Dracula, Vlad the Impaler

(AGI) London — While visiting Romania to preserve the Transylvania forest, the prince of Wales claimed Dracula as an ancestor. Vlad the Impaler was a Romanian king in the 15th century who inspired Bram Stoker’s story about the vampire count. Charles said genealogy shows that he is related to Vlad, “so I have a bit of a stake in the country”, the prince said.

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

Tax: Spain to European Court for Discriminating Against Non-Residents

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 27 — The European Commission has decided to refer Spain to the European Court of Justice over its discriminatory regulations regarding taxes on inheritance and donations. Non-residents pay in fact higher taxes than residents. Brussels raised the issue over a year ago, but nothing has been done so far. Inheritance and donation tax in Spain are regulated on national and on municipal level. The regulations of local municipalities include benefits for residents, which in practice leads to lower tax payments than those that have to be paid by non-residents. According to the European Commission, this type of tax system forms an obstacle to the free movement of people and capital, two key principles of the single European market, and violates EU regulations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: “Unforseen Circumstances”

Some sad news from The Cordoba Foundation.

“The Cordoba Foundation regretfully announces that the forthcoming event on the 8th of November ‘Launch of Two Ground Breaking Pieces of Research’ has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. We apologise for any incovenience caused. Please visit our website for more details.”

The event in question was to have been held at the London Muslim Centre, the base of the Islamic Forum Europe, a front organisation for the far-Right Jamaat-e-Islami party. It was sponsored by the Cordoba Foundation: which the Prime Minister has correctly identified as a Muslim Brotherhood front. It was to have been moderated by the Cordoba Foundation’s head honcho, Anas Altikriti, who has called the murder of coalition troops in Iraq “legitimate”.

The two bits of “research” to be launched consisted of:

  • A report by Professor David Miller, Tom Griffin and Tom Mills, entitled The Cold War on British Muslims. Miller runs a website called “Spinwatch” and has a shameful track record of attacking Muslim liberals and opponents of terrorist movements. It is Miller’s belief that criticism of Islamist political parties, such as Jamaat-e-Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood, constitutes a “cold war” against Muslims. Notoriously, David Miller’s site presented the views of the prominent neo-Nazi Kevin MacDonald, to explain the political behaviour of Jews. Miller himself gave evidence for the hate preacher, Raed Salah: that the Community Security Trust could not be trusted on the question of antisemitism.
  • A report by Bob Lambert, entitled Countering Al-Qaeda in London. Bob Lambert forged relationships with Islamist political parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood, who faithfully promised him that they won’t encourage people to let off bombs in London. Bob Lambert’s thesis is that, by promoting such Islamist political parties and the hate preachers they favour, radicals will be diverted away from Al Qaeda. Lambert also believes that these organisations can be persuaded to ‘assist the police with their enquiries’: not in return for small amounts of money, as would be the case with ordinary police informants, but with political respectability. Bob Lambert’s European Muslim Research Centre is funded by various Muslim Brotherhood front organisations, including the Cordoba Foundation.

The “unforseen circumstances” are that, earlier this month, Bob Lambert was unmasked as a police spy, who had spent 5 years infiltrating a non-violent Green anarchist group, during the course of which, he had a relationship with a completely politically uninvolved woman, who he wooed by pretending to be an animal rights activist on the run.

It is a huge shame that this event has been cancelled. It would have been very entertaining indeed to have attended it.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Alcohol-Blighted Area Faces an Off-Licence Battle

RELIGIOUS leaders have blasted plans to sell alcohol from a new off-licence near a school, mosque and community centre.

A shop has asked for permission to sell alcohol between 8am and 11pm in the middle of an alcohol-free street zone. Burton Central Mosque, the Pakistani Community Centre and local councillors have all attacked the plans. The Mail reported several weeks ago Deya Market, on the corner of Uxbridge Street and Queen Street in Burton, had made a request for an alcohol sale licence to East Staffordshire Borough Council. The council has now published all the objections it has received from residents and community figures.

Umar Hayat, on behalf of the Pakistani Community Centre, which is just yards from the shop, wrote: “This (application) has caused great distress amongst local residents as this can reignite the previous ASBO problems which they have had to deal with in the past. There are already six off-licences in Uxbridge Street and granting permission to another will result in fierce competition and cheaper booze.”

Mr Hayat continued: “The new offlicence would be located central to our community centre, a local place of worship, Queen Street Community Centre and Anglesey Primary School, who work very hard together to tackle social problems.” Amjad Afsar, on behalf of the Burton Central Mosque Rizvia, wrote: “This concern of yet another off-licence being considered in Uxbridge Street has caused strong concerns amongst the parents of the children who attend the masjid and their local schools.”

The area of urban Burton surrounding Uxbridge Street is already blighted by street drinking, councillors claim, and drunken louts who consume alcohol early in the morning and are a threat to schoolchildren. At its most recent meeting, Anglesey Parish Council, which represents the area, decided to object to Deya Market’s application. Last year a several-street block in Anglesey was granted ‘alcohol-free’ status, meaning anyone caught drinking in public faces tough penalties.

[JP note: Sharia law zones?]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Britian Must be a Country Where People Can be Proud of Their Religion

The murder of Shahbaz Bhatti in Pakistan emphasises the urgent need for communication between faiths.

Earlier this year, people across the world were shocked and appalled when Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the Pakistani cabinet, was assassinated. I met him a week before he was murdered; last week, I saw his brother, Dr Paul Bhatti — a trained surgeon who has now become minorities adviser to the Pakistani prime minister, and helped set up a new Ministry of Harmony — and spoke to him about the plans Shahbaz and I had been discussing.

Back in March, when Shahbaz was murdered, I said that the soul of Pakistan was not in these attacks. There is nothing in the vision laid out by Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, that creates the space for such acts of hatred. The idea of unity through diversity runs through Pakistan’s history and helps to define its society today. In the last 18 months, I have made four visits to Pakistan, and I have seen for myself the moments of hope among the tragedies. It is heartening, for example, that for the first time in Pakistan’s history, a number of seats are to be allocated for minorities in the senate.

But two things struck me that are as relevant to us as they are to Pakistan. First, it is a mistake to assume that you compromise your identity the more you try to understand others. The stronger your understanding of your neighbour, the stronger your own religious identity becomes. 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. That is why, a year ago, I went to a bishops’ conference and said that this Government would “do God”. 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.

We need to create a country in which people can be unashamedly proud of their faith — where they don’t feel that they have to leave religion at the door. That means being proud of Christianity, not downgrading it. It means encouraging people to say that their faith inspires what they do. It means supporting religious charities in delivering public services in schools, hospices and rehabilitation.

Second, we need to address head-on the supposed conflict of loyalty that exists between faiths. Time and again, we encounter the assumption that some people of some faiths can be trusted while others cannot. Today, for example, we see some in the Muslim world questioning whether Christians can be trusted. In the Western world, we see some doubting the loyalty of some Muslims.

But as a proud British, Muslim, Conservative woman — one who has the privilege of serving her country as the first Muslim in full Cabinet — take it from me: there is nothing incompatible about a world of many religions and one of strong, vibrant nation states. Here in Britain, we have a proud history of pluralism and inter-faith dialogue. Now we need to go further: beyond the photo calls outside the mosque, beyond hosting the local imam for tea in a draughty church hall. This dialogue needs to be congregation to congregation, community to community. That is why we are working with the Church of England on the Near Neighbours programme, building up multi-faith social action using the existing parish infrastructure.

We also need to take the lead internationally. That means pressing other governments to safeguard religious minorities — be it the Copts in Egypt or Christians and other minorities in Pakistan. It means raising problems of persecution at the highest level, as the Archbishop of Canterbury recently did in Zimbabwe. Above all, it means all of us — as communities and individuals, believers and non-believers — taking inspiration from Shahbaz and Paul Bhatti, and giving all minorities in every country the courage and freedom to believe and worship in peace.

Baroness Warsi is the co-chairman of the Conservative Party and Minister without Portfolio

[JP note: Opportunistic optimism — file in the piffle bin.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: IRNA [Islamic Repubilc News Agency] Interviews Chris Nineham on Islamophobia

Islamophobia is being used as a form of propaganda in the so-called war on terrorism, according to British peace campaigner Chris Nineham. “One of the reasons why Islamophobia has become so virulent in the last 10 years in British society and elsewhere is that is used as a way to try to justify the wars the West is fighting against Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East, in Africa and south-east Asia,” said Nineham, a national officer of Stop the War Coalition (SWTC). “It is a kind of war propaganda in a way really and that is the link,” he said in an interview with IRNA. “It has been no coincidence that in the last decade, Islamophobia has rose because the West is fighting these wars,” he said.

Nineham, who is also a founding member of Enough Coalition against Islamophobia, rejected claims by the British government that they have not encouraged the rapid growth in the hatred against Muslims that has also spread throughout much of Europe. “Of course, the government do officially deny it, but the fact of the matter is they are engaged in peddling these kind of ideas,” he said. “Sometimes there are soft versions of it, but they still have a whole series of prejudices about Muslims, which are that Muslims are prone to being violent and terror acts, that Muslims are tempted to being against integration,” the peace activist said. “They have a view of Islam that it is a peculiarly radical religion. All of these prejudices are rife in the establishment. They play their role in shaping the ideas that are circulating in society,” he told IRNA. “I do think the establishment has been absolutely central in the way of propagating Islamophobia,” said Nineham, who has written widely on the anti-war movement and the anti-capitalist protests as well as on the media, modernism and cultural theory.

On Thursday, Enough Coalition held a conference at the University of London focusing on Islamophobia on campuses after holding an inaugural event on the spread of hatred against Muslims throughout Europe. Nineham had no doubts that Islamophobia in all its forms, including numerous incidents of Muslims being physically attacked and even killed, was not only an abuse of human rights but an extension of racism. “It is racism. It’s racism dressed up as something else, pretending to be something else. It is pretending to be a cultural critique, pretending to be an assertion of humanism or rationality,” he said. “But really that is just cover to dress up what is a continuity of racism against Arabs and people from south east Asia really. What I want is a coordinated, systematic campaigning both at a level of ideas and action against these ideas (Islamophobia) because I think they are very dangerous,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Inquiry Into Baby Deaths Uncovers Shocking Maternity Care at Queen’s Hospital in Romford, Essex

Mothers and babies are being put in danger by ‘abusive’ midwives at one of the country’s largest maternity units.

A damning investigation exposed the scandal after a string of deaths of women and newborns at the hospital.

The report comes after experts warned that understaffed and under-equipped maternity units across the country are coming under unprecedented strain because of the rising birth rate.

The Royal College of Midwives has warned that a record shortage of midwives around the country is putting mothers and babies at risk.

At least a further 4,700 midwives are needed to guarantee the safety of women and their newborns, it said.

And an investigation by BBC Panorama revealed that nearly 1,000 mothers were turned away from maternity units last year because of a shortage of beds and midwives.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Community Protests Against MP in Finchley

CAMPAIGNERS will gather outside the North Finchley mosque to protest against MP Mike Freer, as he hosts an advice surgery this afternoon. Members of the Muslim community are targeting the Finchley and Golders Green MP over his involvement in the arrest of Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic movement in Israel. Mr Salah was arrested on a travel ban in June following an appeal from the Conservative MP for him be banned from Britain because of his “history of virulent anti-semitism”. The protest is due to begin at 2.30pm ahead of Mr Freer’s surgery at 3pm. Mr Freer said he was aware of plans for a protest, but added: “How much support it has is unknown”. He said: “My views on anyone who tries to spread discord amongst faith communities are well known. I will object to any preacher of any faith who seeks to spread hatred or create divisions between our faith communities. I objected to the American preacher who called for the burning of the Koran. Locally our faith communities enjoy harmonious relations and I will continue, as I have done for many years, to fight to maintain that and to fight intolerance.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: New BBC Sitcom Citizen Khan: Set in Birmingham, Filmed in Manchester

A sitcom about a self-appointed Muslim community leader in Sparkhill will be screened next year — but it is being filmed in Manchester. Citizen Khan, which has been created by journalist and radio presenter Adil Ray, will become BBC1’s first Asian sitcom when it is screened next autumn. But despite being set at the heart of a Birmingham community, the six-part series will be made in-house at MediaCityUK in Salford. Birmingham Post columnist Ammo Talwar said he was pleased to see a project with a Birmingham heart make such progress — and hoped it would discourage certain perceptions of Muslims.

But, Mr Talwar, who is chief executive of Punch Records, said it was disappointing it would not be filmed in the city. He said: “I think it is great. It is fantastically impressive that someone from Birmingham has at such quick speed been able to use his localised creative juices and perspective to create a character which will have national appeal. “But it doesn’t make sense for him to have characterised someone from around here and not set any of it here. There is something quite beautiful about the fact that you can create laughter when often Muslims are not portrayed as people who laugh. All human beings laugh. This could potentially change the way that people are perceived.”

The show is set around businessman Mr Khan — played by Adil Ray — and his British-Pakistani family. It stands to break new ground as an Asian sitcom. While successful comedy chat show The Kumars At No 42 - which featured a British-Indian family — appeared on BBC1, it began life on BBC2. Mr Khan first came to the public’s attention in the BBC2 series Bellamy’s People, before featuring as a caller in the Radio 4 comedy series Down The Line.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Poppy Appeal Launch Moved Over Fears About Birmingham EDL Protest

THE launch of Birmingham’s poppy appeal had to be brought forward at the last minute over fears it could clash with an EDL march today.

The emotional service was instead held yesterday and saw tears shed by the city’s Lord Mayor Anita Ward, whose soldier son was injured in Afghanistan. Speaking after she scattered poppy petals into the Floozie in the Jacuzzi fountain, she said: “Knowing what might have happened upset me a bit. “I really do know how lucky I am this Remembrance Day.” Her 29-year-old son Vincent Hockley, who serves in the Irish Guards, was shot a year ago in the hip but the bullet travelled up his body and came out of his chest.

Coun Ward added: “He’s back with the regiment but still not what they term militarily fit. He’s getting there, we’re very proud of him and we all know how lucky we are.” James McDonald, county president for The Royal British Legion, criticised demonstrators taking part in today’s event. The 69-year-old, who injured his spine and legs in an explosion in Northern Ireland in 1974, said: “If they want to protest it’s up to them. But they should also remember we have got our right to respect our dead and our injured. They could have picked a better time — they know what happens this time of year.”

Gordon Pitchford, county rep of the riders branch, said the date of the launch was officially changed on Thursday. The 46-year-old said: “It wouldn’t be right, it wouldn’t be safe for everybody to be here. “This was a more subdued launch.” Up to 100 people took part in the launch, many of them scattering poppy petals into the fountain. Gordon, who served in the army medical corps in the first and second Gulf Wars, added: “This is always an emotional time especially for those of us who served our country, the ones who walked away near enough intact. “It’s so good to give back because we were the lucky ones.” Birmingham raised almost £400,00 in last year’s appeal.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Welcome to Misery Tourism — A Gap Yah for Lefties

Picture the scene. Residents of Tripoli cower in fear as gunmen spray bullets into the sky. Their AK-47s drown out the moans of a man who lies bleeding on the pavement. Next to him stands a youth in a T-shirt, jumping from one foot to another in a state of feverish excitement. He’s shouting at the man to keep still, and he’s pointing something in his face. But it’s not a gun. It’s an iPhone.

Meanwhile, 5,000 miles away, New York police have lost patience with Occupy Wall Street. Chanted slogans turn into girly shrieks as cops squirt Mace in protesters’ eyes and push them up against a barricade. The scene is witnessed by a young British woman — small, bustling, self-important — who taps angry tweets into a mobile phone before rushing back to her hotel to write a blog post.

Welcome to misery tourism, a sort of Gap Yah for well-heeled Lefties. Just as cheap flights enabled working-class Brits to descend on the Costa del Sol in the early 1970s, so information technology enables self-styled “activists” and “photo-journalists” to flit from trouble spot to trouble spot. Passport? Check. Smartphone? Check. Loan from mummy and daddy? Check. Congratulations: you’re a humanitarian.

Some of these kids take serious risks, though they may be unaware of the fact until they find themselves caught in the middle of a gunfight and in need of new underwear.

According to the New York Times, “hundreds of photographers from around the world flocked to the cities of Aldabiya, Benghazi and Misurata in the spring of 2011. Many of them were under 30 and under fire for the first time.” A few of these will turn into serious war photographers and reporters. But others are just joyriders, sniffing the air for suffering, looking for something really awesome for their cool blog. The writers among them are hoping that the New Statesman will offer them a column. Until this summer they wanted to be the next Johann Hari; he’s no longer their role model, but they’ve absorbed his modus operandi, inserting conveniently neat quotes from oppressed peasants, wounded protesters, rape victims etc into their blog posts.

Actually, the queen of misery tourism has already got herself a perch at the New Statesman and is eyeing Johann’s empty seat at the Independent. (Rumour has it that he won’t be returning, but don’t get me started on that subject.) Laurie Penny, known as PennyRed on Twitter, combines unblinking dogmatism with little-girl vulnerability: think Rosa Klebb disguised as Audrey Tautou. Recently she treated herself to a trip to Occupy Wall Street, from where she sent back deliciously self-regarding dispatches: “A young woman with long hair is handing out posies. ‘You’re very beautiful,’ she says, smiling, ‘have a bottle of flowers.’ “

Well, yes, Laurie, I’m sure you are very beautiful, and so are all the other groovy youngsters turning people’s grievances into digital entertainment. But great beauties can be heartless, and there’s something intrinsically cruel and self-indulgent about misery tourism. Because that’s all it is. When you’ve finished screaming and screaming until you are sick, Violet Elizabeth Bott-style, boredom sets in. Goodness, is that the time? Like the Occupy London Stock Exchange campaigners outside St Paul’s, you wait until the cameras have gone and then you creep back home to snuggle under your duvet. But not before checking your laptop to make sure that your Facebook friends have “liked” your harrowing account of oppression and brutality.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Women and Sharia Law in the UK

Reid Smith seeks to enlighten us on the question of Sharia law. But curiously he omits one of the central tenets of Sharia law — that the word of a woman is half that of a man.

Yet Smith is correct to say that we might be surprised by the number of countries which use Sharia law. Which brings me to the United Kingdom. As of 2010, there were just under 2.9 million Muslims in the U.K. comprising 4.6% of that country’s population. In less than a decade, Britain’s Muslim population has increased by nearly 75%.

Thus it should not come as a surprise that there are a network of Sharia courts in Britain and their rulings are legally binding. According to a study released in 2009 by Civitas, a British think tank, there are 85 Sharia courts in the UK. Some of these Sharia courts have issued rulings which are incompatible with British and European law including rulings forbidding marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims, ordering the removal of children from the custody of Muslim women who marry non-Muslim men, compelling women to have sex with their husbands and sanctioning polygamy. This past June, Baroness Cox introduced legislation in the House of Lords to rein in the Sharia courts requiring them to uphold the supremacy of British law. However, even if the bill is approved in the House of Lords it is not expected that the Cameron government will make it a priority in the House of Commons.

And lest anyone believe that women are afforded the same status as men in Sharia courts in the UK then consider the opinion of the London based Islamic Sharia council (H/T to legalpigeon):

The text (Surah Al-Baqara 2:282) which requires two female witnesses in place of one male witness, gives a clear reason for i.e. “if one of them forgets, the other reminds her.” Is this derogatory to the status of women or is it a revealed secret about the nature of the women? Though much has been said about the difference between a man’s brain and that of a woman but I would rather like to quote the latest research made about the issue. According to a survey, as published in Los Angeles Times (U.S.A.), made involving fifty men and women for quite a considerable time, the out come was as follows:

Man’s mind is uni-focal while the women’s mind is multi-focal. In other words, a man would be fully occupied with the task he is involved with; he may not be distracted by anything else while being engaged in his activity. On the other hand, a woman may be busy in kitchen work and she will be easily alert to a phone buzzer or her infants cry from the cradle. In a way she is found to be more sensitive and active in her dealings. Thus she has got a praise worthy character but that is not so good for a case of testimony which requires more attention and concentration. What is wrong then, if a second woman is needed, only to remind her is she fails to deliver her testimony completely. So it is a case of verification of the testimony, not that of degradation to the status of women at all.

I mean when Larry Summers spoke about the innate differences between men and women (an assessment with which he did not personally agree) he was forced to resign as President of Harvard University because of it. Yet it is part of the intellectual underpinnings of Sharia law and any lesson in Sharia 101 would incomplete without imparting that information.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Italy to Invest ‘2 Bln Euros’ In Energy Projects

Belgrade, 26 Oct. (AKI) — Serbian minister for infrastructure Milutin Mrkonjic has said Italy was about to invest up to two billion euros in energy projects in Serbia in one of biggest investment deals in the past ten years.

Mrkonjic signed an agreement with Italian minister for economic development Paolo Romani in Rome on Tuesday on cooperation in the field of energy and on building hydro-electric plants on the rivers Drina and Ibar in Serbia.

Mrkonjic was quoted by Serbian media on Wednesday as saying the project would be carried out by Serbia’s state energy giant EPS and Italian companies “Sechi energia” and “Edison”.

Mrkonjic said all electricity produced by about a dozen plants would be exported to Italy and, apart from financial effects, would create new jobs in the country with close to one million unemployed workers.

“All put together, it is clear that Serbia has a great perspective in the field of energy and I dare to say that energy is our biggest chance,” Mrkonjic said.

“This is very important for our country, because we need energy from renewable sources which we can’t produce in our country,” Romani was quoted by Tanjug news agency as saying.

“It is of key importance to import renewable energy from other countries in which Serbia has a special place,” Romani added.

Italy is Serbia’s leading trade partner with total annual trade turnover of some two billion euros. About 200 Italian companies, including Fiat, Benetton and Intesa Bank are already doing business in Serbia, employing about 15,000 people.

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

Serbia Arrests 17 Over US Sarejevo Embassy Attack

BELGRADE — Serbian police Saturday arrested 17 people in the Muslim-populated area of Sandzak after a suspected radical Islamist opened fire on the US embassy in Sarajevo, local media reported. “This morning at 5:00 am (0300 GMT) a (police) operation was launched against the extremist Islamist Wahhabi movement in the territory of Novi Pazar, Sjenica and Tutin,” Interior Minister Ivica Dacic told the Tanjug news agency.

All three towns are in southwestern Serbia with large Muslim communities. “Seventeen people were arrested, one of them from Bosnia,” Serbian police chief Milorad Veljovic told private B92 television channel. Police searched some 18 locations and seized a number of computers, CDs, mobile telephones, SMS cards, audio and video tapes as well as books, Veljovic said.

The arrests came after the attack on the US embassy by a Serbian national with ties to the local Wahhabi community, a radical branch of Islam. According to Veljovic, “police will determine whether there is a need to detain more people.” The suspected radical Islamist, a Serb national from Novi Pazar identified by Bosnian police as Mevlid Jasarevic, was wounded and arrested after opening fire Friday on the US embassy in Sarajevo. A police guard was wounded in the attack. “All 17 arrested are in some way related to Mevlid Jasarevic,” Veljovic said. Bosnia is home to a small minority of followers of Wahhabism, a strict and ultra-conservative branch of Islam which is dominant in Saudi Arabia.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Mediterranean to Face Grain Crisis by 2030

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, 27 OCT — This is not the first alarm to have been raised about cereal production in the Euro-Mediterranean region. But this time round, the gloomy forecasts contain plentiful data and concrete scenarios that foresee a phase of steep decline in cereal production in the area with predictable consequences — social as well as economic — given that the sector forms the basis of the food chain for many countries.

This latest analysis has been made by IPEMED, the forecasting think tank of the Mediterranean world which often concerns itself with food-related issues.

In one of its reports, the institute has stated that there is a risk of a “worsening of the cereal-production situation” in the area, naming the year 2030 as a possible point of collapse for a regions that already lives in “a permanent state of food insecurity”. Behind the dramatic phraseology lie the concerns expressed by a host of experts who continue to stress how cereal crops “have a central role in farming for food-production” in the region.

And so, just as with any upheaval affecting our ability to survive from one day to the next, strong — even violent — reactions can be expected from the area’s population.

Production in the cereal sector grew steadily following the 1960s, thanks to a series of targeted politico-economic initiatives, but this trend has since slowed and entered a stage of standstill leading to today’s trend reversal of production fallbacks. Such has been the impact of this trend that over the years production shortfalls have seen grain imports quadruple. And IPEMED’s pessimistic forecast is shared by the FAO, the global organisation for agriculture, which agrees that there is a “growing gap” between production and demand with the former in constant decline.

Going into a little more detail: the countries comprising the MENA area, (Middle East and North Africa) are experiencing a continuing trend of shortfall in cereal production compared to the rest of the world. According to experts, this weakness is manifest in many countries of the area, even affecting those with a positive tradition in this respect. This has led the “cereal bill” to be one of the weightiest economic drains on MENA countries. According to the IPEMED report, the countries of the MENA area spend more on average than any others in the world, importing approx. 50 per cent of their food requirement — the biggest importers among these being the Arab countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Coptic Christians Protect Monastery From Egyptian Army Assault

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Hundreds of Coptic Christians mobilized on Tuesday in front of the Monastery of the Virgin and St. John the Beloved, located on the Desert Road from Cairo to Ismailia. Although the Monastery has the necessary permits, the army had sent a message to the monastery that they would come on the next day, October 25, to demolish its fence, which guards it from unauthorized visits and criminals.

The official website of the Monastery warned of threats of a “ new massacre” by the Egyptian Armed Forces, and the removal of its fence, pointing out that the Monastery was built in 2002 and is under the supervision of the secretariat of H.H. Pope Shenouda.

When the Army vehicles with demolishing equipment arrived at the monastery, they were met by priests, monks, deacons and Copts all dressed up in white for mass, holding wooden crosses, praying and singing hymns.

Other Copts flocked to the Monastery, which lies 80 miles from Cairo, on hearing of the news.

Upon seeing this congregation of Copts in front of the Monasteery, Brigadier Shukry, who issued the demolition order, ordered his unit to withdraw. Church sources said that this might mean that he intends to implement the removal orders without prior warning to avoid the gathering of Copts.

Army engineers later came to the monastery, filmed the fence and the crowds, and said that the images will be sent to the commander of the army to decide what will be done.

Bishop Botros, Pope Shenouda’s secretary and General supervisor of the Monastery of Our Lady and St. John, said that relative calm returned to the Monastery by the evening, pointing out that the Monastery holds the official papers and licenses from the authorities. He expressed fears of renewed threats and attack on the monastery again.

On April 4, 2011 the armed forces demolished the Monastery’s fence, but when protests were raised, the authorities apologized the next day, claiming that they thought it was a “farm.” Brigadier Tarek el Kady asked Bishop Botros to raise a cross and hang a sign for the monastery on the main road. Afterwards he said the authorities have registered the place as a monastery and permission for a fence was given, which had to be rebuilt. There was peace until this incident.

About 15-20 Copts refused to go home and slept in front of the Monastery to guard it from army “attacks,” as they put it. “We are not committing a crime, we only ask to be left to pray,” said one of them.

The armed forces have stormed several monasteries Since the January 25 “Revolution”, demolished fences and fired on monks and visitors.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Egyptian People Demand Rule of Islam

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — Thousands of Egyptians from all walks of life gathered in al-Tahrir Square on Friday to call for the establishment of an Islamic government in their country, shouting “No to East, No to West, Yes to Islamic Government”. The demonstrators also demanded materialization of their revolution ideals and causes and called for an end to the rule of the interim military government.

More than 7,000 demonstrators took part in the rally which started after the Friday prayers in Cairo. Sheikh Hazem Salah Abu Islmail, a possible candidate in the upcoming presidential election, was among the demonstrators, chanting slogans against the interim military government. Egypt’s military council has come under heavy criticism for failing to transfer power to a civilian authority. The council had pledged to do so within six months after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in February.

Since the ouster of the Mubarak regime, the Tahrir Square has been the scene of weekly protests against the military council, which is headed by Mubarak’s former defense minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. The Friday protest came amid an outrage following reports that prison guards tortured an inmate to death. Essam Ali Atta, 24, died on Thursday at a Cairo hospital of heart failure after officers pushed water hoses for reportedly smuggling a mobile SIM card into prison. Egyptian activists have accused police forces of systematic use of torture against detainees.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Libya: Frattini: Considering Joint Effort for Stabilisation

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 28 — “Italy is not considering to participate in a coalition in Libya led by Qatar but in a joint effort to stabilise the country.” So said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who answered a question about the possibility of the creation of a new international coalition led by Qatar after the end of the NATO mission on October 31. The joint effort in Libya will include “civil formation and reconstruction,” added Frattini. Regarding the possibility of Qatar leading the new coalition, the Italian Minister said: “The fact that an Arab country has taken the initiative is positive, it means that the Arab world is not abandoning Libya in a difficult moment.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia Election Victory Marred by Violence

As the Islamist Ennahda party victory celebrations were under way, Ennahda offices in Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the Tunisian revolution, were targeted by youths upset after election authorities disqualified candidates belonging to a rival party.

Ennahda chief Rached Ghannouchi, speaking at party headquarters, called for calm as the interior ministry announced that a curfew would be imposed from 7 p.m. yesterday to 5 a.m. today in the central Tunisian town.

Several public buildings were vandalised overnight but calm had returned by the early morning hours, an AFP correspondent said.

Late-night results showed Ennahda, banned under dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, took 90 of the 217 assembly seats, or 41 per cent.

Some have voiced concern that the Islamist party would seek to curb women’s rights in an Arab country known for a progressive approach on gender equality.

Mr Ghannouchi however reaffirmed his party’s “commitment to the women of Tunisia, to strengthen their role in political decision-making, in order to avoid any going back on their social gains.”

The historic polls nine months after Ben Ali’s ouster saw the Congress for the Republic (CPR) and Ettakatol emerge as the biggest parties on the splintered left, with 30 and 21 seats respectively. Both have said they were in coalition talks with Ennahda.

Fourth place, with 19 seats, went to the Petition for Justice and Development, a grouping of independents led by Hechmi Haamdi, a rich London-based businessman said to have close ties to Ben Ali, despite the invalidation of six of the party’s candidates’ lists.

The CPR and Ettakatol, while secular in their constitutions, have insisted on Tunisia’s Muslim identity and did not run anti-Ennahda campaigns like some of the other parties on the left, the daily La Presse commented. “The Ennahda/CPR/Ettakatol alliance crystallises,” La Quotidien said on its front page.

Analysts have said that Ennahda, even in a majority alliance, would be unable to “dictate” any programme to the assembly, being obliged to appease coalition partners, a moderate-minded society, and the international community on whose investment and tourism the country relies heavily.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton yesterday congratulated Ennahda for its victory while commending all parties who contested in the vote.

Mr Ghannouchi said Wednesday that his party intended to form a new coalition government within a month.

The electoral system was designed to include as man

           — Hat tip: PJ[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Carolyn Glick: Whither the IDF?

It was a normal Shabbat afternoon in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood. Children were outside visiting with their friends and playing in the empty streets. But the tranquility of the scene was destroyed in a moment, when a Palestinian terrorist crept up on 17- year-old Yehuda Ne’emad and his friend and began stabbing Ne’emad in the abdomen and shoulder.

Ne’emad’s neighbor, a 12-year-old girl, told reporters that there but by the grace of God both she and her six-year-old brother would have also been attacked. After stabbing Ne’emad, the Palestinian terrorist began chasing the two children.

“It was only due to God’s help that I was able to escape,” she said. “I am sure that I couldn’t have escaped alone, because he was much faster than me.”

The IDF, which failed to prevent the attack, played no role in saving their lives. One week later, the terrorist was still at large…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Football Recruiting More Arab Players

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, OCTOBER 28 — Israeli football is undergoing dramatic change and recruiting more Arab players.

This phenomenon can be seen everywhere: on football fields in the suburbs, on youth teams, in Israel’s top tier clubs and now even in the Israeli national team.

This year’s statistics speak for themselves. The most popular attackers in Israel — Wissam Amasha and Ahmed Saba — are Arab, while four of the top ten goalscorers in the league are also Arab.

Of the 192 goals scored so far this season in Israel’s top flight, 39 have been from non-Jewish Israelis. The “football” honour of Israel’s Arabs (20% of a total population of 7.5 million) is no longer the sole preserve of the flagship club Bnei Sakhnin (the club from Galilee). Even the most famous Israeli clubs are now fighting over Arab stars, who are considered more attractive, often more gifted and almost always more determined on the pitch.

With the exception of Beitar Jerusalem, which is historically linked to the nationalist Israeli right and has fans who have expressed their xenophobia in the past, 14 teams in the Israeli league have Arab players in their starting line-up, with Maccabi Haifa (6 players), Hapoel Tel Aviv (5), Kiryat Shmona (5) and Maccabi Netanya (5), whose captain is an Arab, leading the way. The Arab presence in the Israeli national team, meanwhile, is increasing year on year. The trend is even more evident in youth teams, with some saying that in the near future, one in two professionals plying their trade in the Jewish state will be Arab.

The phenomenon, which captured the imagination of the sporting press and television channels, has deep-seated sociological reasons, some academics say. Young Arabs in Israel, especially those living on the outskirts of cities, are much more used to playing “street football” than their Jewish contemporaries, who spend more time in front of their computers and televisions. Coming from an often marginalised minority, young Arabs see sport as a means of emancipation from their hardship and a source of hope of wellbeing for themselves and their families.

According to Ahmed Tibi, an Arab-Israeli deputy at the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), the world of professional sport remains largely beyond the reach of Israel’s Arabs, with football representing the only free area. This explains the popularity of the sport, which is played on a vast scale all over the Middle East, beyond the rocky walls that continue to divide the region. Tibi says that the phenomenon is not limited to the region, with the number of Muslim players in Europe also rising constantly.

The local press is following these developments with quite a sympathetic attitude. Young Arabs, they say, distinguish themselves with their commitment, dedication and competitive spirit. Their rise in the world of football (a rare uniting factor of Jewish and Arab passions) could have a positive effect not only on Israeli football, but perhaps even on the cohesion of the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Palestinian PM Announces the Start of Building a Pulpit for the Aqsa Mosque

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — Ismail Haneyya, the Palestinian Prime Minister in Gaza, announced the start of building a Minbar (pulpit) for the Aqsa mosque out of optimism that the holy mosque will soon be liberated. During the wedding of freed captive Amer Sarhan which took place Friday evening in Gaza, Haneyyah said: “We have assigned those concerned to start building the Minbar for the Aqsa Mosque, in the footsteps of the leader Salahuddin who [ordered] the building of a Minbar for the Aqsa before it was liberated.” He said that this was suggested by Dr. Abdel-Aziz Omar, a freed captive from Jerusalem, during a welcome ceremony held at the Islamic University in Gaza. He added: “We have trust in God that we are closer to the time when God’s promise will be fulfilled and Jerusalem gets liberated.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Russian Aid Convoy Arrives in Gaza

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — A Russian aid convoy carrying medicines and medical equipment arrived to the Gaza Strip, which has been under siege for five years, through the Rafah crossing. This convoy, which is the first of its kind from Russia, set out last Tuesday under the slogan “Gaza, Moscow is with you”. As well as Lilya Muhammad Yarufa, chairperson of the Solidarity Charitable Foundation, the renown Russian journalists Maxim Shevchenko and his wife Nadezhda Kevorkova are participating in the convoy.

The Solidarity Charitable Foundation collected donations during the holy month of Ramadan from Muslims in Russia to buy medicines, medical consumables and medical equipment, which they bought from Egypt according to the list of depleted supplies in Gaza hospitals. Yarufa said that the organisation collected about 17,000 dollars from various parts of Russia to by medical essentials for the besieged Gaza Strip. The Ministry of Health in Gaza announced earlier that 310 types of medicine were running out and called everyone to help save the health service of the Gaza Strip from collapse. Yarufa added that the suffering of the Palestinian people “forms a challenge to Muslims around the world as it is a test of our sympathy brotherhood and humanity.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UNESCO: Eyes on Palestine, Membership Talks Under Way

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, OCTOBER 25 — Palestine’s progress towards obtaining a seat at the UN advanced in Paris today with the start of diplomatic talks over its application for membership status of the United Nations organisation for science, education and culture. The request for recognition, which has the support of 24 Arab states, has come before the 36th General Conference of UNESCO today where all 193 member states of the UN are represented. Here, a two-thirds majority will be necessary for Palestine to be admitted as a full member. The question comes up for debate tomorrow, sources inside UNESCO say, following the formalities of today’s opening session. But the definitive vote is not expected before the end of the month or during the opening days of November. UNESCO has, in fact, already recognised Palestine. On October 5 its Executive Council approved its recommendation for full membership. The decision was adopted with 40 out of 58 votes in favour. Among the abstainers were Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Belgium, while those voting against included Germany and the United States, which is already committed to blocking Palestine’s request within the UN’s Security Council. On the same evening, Spain’s government made it known that it would be voting in favour. Despite Israeli opposition and pressure stemming from Washington, the Palestine National Authority thus won its first diplomatic victory since President Mahmoud Abbas launched his challenge for recognition of the Palestinian state. The vote at the UNESCO Council was strongly criticised by both Washington and Paris, who defined the PNA’s accession request as “premature”. “The priority is the resumption of negotiations with Israel regarding the status of Palestine, and its in New York that talks should be taking place,” the French Foreign Office stated. US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, described the vote by the UNESCO Executive Council as “inexplicable” and “confused”. Ms Clinton noted how it was a decision that should be taken by the UN and not through its subsidiaries. The USA has also threatened to suspend payments of its contributions to UNESCO and has called on all delegations to express a No vote.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Emirates: Trend to Sobriety Followed by Italian Design

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, OCTOBER 24 — The interior design market in the Emirates is changing with a two-way development: there is an increase in the importance of the role of taste and sophistication while the pace of acquisition is slowing.

There are fewer highly polished, glossy surfaces; the amount of gold on show is more modest; arabesques are becoming more simplified to reveal a more sombre approach when compared with the pre-crisis period (2008). But at the same time there is a greater awareness of style, of line and of “pieces” having true value.

As Daniele Tredici, the owner of Florentine boutique Tredici Design puts it: “Emirati capacities for evaluation have grown.” Ms Tredici, whose now internationally sought-after chandeliers fuse Tuscan tradition with Venetian blown glass, (exemplars of her wares hang in the residence of Russian Premier Putin), continues: “There is less and less room for kitsch, but people still have some difficulties in telling a Chinese piece of glassware from one from Murano”. Ms Tredici’s is just one of the Italian faces present at Index, the Middle East’s most prestigious interior design event, currently under way in Dubai.

Indeed, another 150 Italian businesses are represented. ‘Made in Italy’ is a synonym for originality, quality and style and it is leaving a clear mark in the ‘formal’ panorama of the UAE, as the growing volume of trade in this sector between the two countries testifies, with the Emirates being the region’s leading destination for Italian exports. But a way will always be found to go over the top… One of the exhibition’s show-stoppers is the table football set by Teckell di Gallarate: a creation in crystal, gold and silver priced at 19,000 euros. A toned-down version — without the gold-plated players and score-tally — is already being stocked by one of Dubai’s better-known conceptual stores.

While there is no shortage of ready cash, there is still a tendency to attempt to grab the atmosphere a piece or design creates and to reproduce it in imitations.

“There is still a temptation to stop at the look, with a lot of work still to be done on the concept of investing in design,” warns Daniela Rossi, the hallmark of whose Dubai store, Authentic Living, is the quality of every single one of its items.

But the experience of Italian operators bucks the overall trend in the furnishing sector. This can be put down to the shift in the real estate market over the past few years from large-scale projects (which the crisis has either killed off or suspended) to the private buyer in search of an accessory or a furnishing solution that will make that special difference — as will those bearing the trade mark of an Italian designer label.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Emirates: Humanoid Robots to be Introduced in Classrooms

(ANSAmed) — Dubai, 26 ott — Humanoid robots are making an entry into classrooms in academic and research institutions in the middle east, promising to revolutionise the teaching process especially in the fields of science and mathematics, ‘The Economic Times’ reports.

French company Aldebaran Robotics, in partnership with Intel, has showcased the power of ‘Nao’ humanoid robots in the teaching process in the classrooms of Middle East educational institutions.

Powered by Intel Atom technology, ‘Nao’ is the first versatile and programmable humanoid robot to be used as a standard research platform and an educational tool for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Report: Top Muslim Adviser Blocks Obama Meeting With Christian Leader

An influential Muslim adviser to the White House who has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood has succeeded in canceling a meeting between President Obama and the leader of the persecuted Maronite church in Lebanon, according to the Beirut news agency el Nashra.

The Arabic-language report cited an unnamed U.S. source who said Dahlia Mogahed, “the highest adviser on Arab and Islamic Affairs in the State Department,” sought to block a White House meeting with Patriarch Beshara Rahi, according to a translation by blogger El Cid at

The report said the move heeded a request by top leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt who want the U.S. to back the Islamist Sunni movement opposing Iranian Shiite influence in the region.

Maronites number about 1 million in Lebanon and more than 10 millions worldwide. About 1.5 million are in the U.S.


CAIR and MPAC, the blogger noted, are pushing to eliminate any intelligence analysis focused on jihadist violence, particularly against the Christian communities in the Middle East.

Coptic Solidarity International, which advocates for Coptic Christians in Egypt who have endured increased persecution from fundamentalist Muslims under the new regime, also have unsuccessfully tried to obtain meetings at the White House or with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Iraqi Christians have been ignored, as well, despite the many massacres against Assyrian Christians in the country over the past two years, according to Administration officials have declined invitations to speak at the annual Assyrian convention this year.

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Spanish Consortium to Build High-Speed Train in Desert

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 27 — A Spanish consortium made up of twelve Spanish companies and two Saudi firms will build the high-speed railway line that is to connect Medina and Mecca, a 450 kilometre stretch that will transport an estimated 160,000 passengers per day.

The contract, which is worth 6.736 billion euros, was awarded by the Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO) on its website, and confirmed by Spain’s Infrastructure Ministry, which said that it was the largest international contract ever awarded to Spanish firms. The deal includes the design and construction of the railway line and the supply of 35 trains capable of reaching speeds of more than 300 kilometres per hour, with the option to purchase 23 further trains, as well as the management and maintenance of the line for a period of 12 years. The Spanish businesses involved in the Spanish-Saudi Al Shoula Group consortium include public companies such as Adif, Renfe and Ineco, which is controlled by the Ministry of Infrastructure, and private firms such as OHL, Indra, Talgo, Consultrans, Copasa, Imathia, Cobra, Dimetronic, Inabensa, and the Saudi groups Al Shoula and Al Rosan. Spanish companies control 88% of the consortium, while Saudis have the remaining 12%.

“This project enhances the development of high-level technology, which has put Spain at the forefront of the sector worldwide,” sources at Indra told ANSAmed. The company will be responsible for producting rail traffic management systems on the high-speed line for pilgrims, as well as telecommunications, ticketing and security, for a total cost of 440 million euros. Indra has developed state-of-the-art solutions for high-speed rail projects in countries such as the United Kingdom, China and the United States. With the “Spanish High Speed” brand, the country’s Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure aims to promote the internationalisation of companies in the sector in public-private consortia.

The desert line will cover the road trodden every year by millions of Muslim pilgrims, linking the cities of Medina, Jeddah and Mecca with trains travelling at 320 kilometres per hour, which will allow the entire journey to be made in two and a half hours, Spanish ministry sources say. The trains, from Renfe’s 102 and 113 series, will have a capacity of 450 passengers each and will cover demand of 166,000 travellers a day, some 60 million per year.

The Spanish Foreign Minister, Trinidad Jimenez, who is on an official visit to Morocco, said that the contract “is good news for the Spanish economy, as it shows its capacity for leadership abroad in hugely significant projects”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Prince Offers $900k for Capture of Israeli Soldier

(AGI) Riyadh — Prince Khaled bin Talal Abdulaziz al-Saud is offering a 900k dollar reward for the capture of one Israeli soldier. News to that effect was published by Palestine News Network, who also claim that the reward money adds to the 100k dollars offered by a Saudi cleric.

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


Putin Disgusted by Images of Gaddafi’s Last Moments

(AGI) Moscow — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said he was “disgusted” by images shown on TV portraying Muammar Gaddafi’s last moments. “Almost all the members of his family have been killed, his body has been shown on every television channel in the word. It is impossible to watch those images without experiencing disgust. What is it in them that people like?” asked the premier while addressing the Russian People’s Front’s committee. “The televised images showed a man covered in blood, wounded but alive and beaten to death.”

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

South Asia

India: Footpath Prayers Soon to be Heard

BANGALORE: It seems that Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) will ‘legalise’ unauthorised temples, churches and mosques constructed on footpaths across the city.

According to the statistics available with the BBMP, there are 174 such places of worship constructed illegally on the footpaths of Bangalore. This includes 169 temples, four churches and one mosque.

However, sources from the BBMP said that the figures are actually more than this, in all the eight zones. The Palike has not done a complete survey on these encroachments.

A senior official from the Palike said that though there is a supreme court direction, it is not possible for them to demolish or tell the concerned authorities to move out. “We fear it might disrupt communal harmony. Places of worship are too personal for most people,” the official said. “We know many of these temples, churches and mosques have become an obstacle for road users and pedestrains. But we are helpless,” the official added.

Now, the Palike is planning to streamline those illegally constructed buildings. Authorities are now planning to bring the illegally constructed temples under the Muzurai department, and move them from the control of temple trusts. “Similarly, mosques will be under the WAKF norms, and churches will be under the Churches of South India,” the official said.

When contacted C K Ramamurthy, chairman to standing committee (Town Planning), said that the matter is still under discussion. “The concerned file is with the commissioner,” he added. However, he said that the concerned assistant revenue officer of the particular zone will look into this. It can be recalled that in order to avoid such constructions on the footpaths, the state government had earlier directed urban and rural local bodies to earmark suitable places in the new layout plans for the construction of temples, churches, mosques and gurduwaras.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: Wuzhong Keeps Islam in Focus

Wuzhong city has a big Muslim community with 1,300 mosques. It is the first Muslim city in China to establish resource centres at mosques to rekindle interest in the religion among young Muslims.

WUZHONG is not as famous as the other Muslim cities like Urumqi, Kashgar and Lanzhou. It is not even mentioned in the travel guide Lonely Planet. But there is more to the city — about an hour-and-a-half drive from Yinchuan in China’s northwestern province of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region — than meets the eye. Here, Hui Muslims dominate in numbers, making up about 53% of its 1.5 million population. The city is a major religious hub with 1,300 mosques, more than any other city in China. Almost at every corner of the streets in the city, one would be able to chance upon a mosque with a mix of Moorish and traditional Chinese architectures. Blaring loudspeakers calling for prayers can be heard throughout the city. And there are plenty of restaurants emblazoned with the halal sign.

Li Hua, a Hui Muslim, was brimming with pride when she spoke about her hometown. In Wuzhong, almost every village has a mosque. On Wuzhong Street alone, there are four mosques, namely the Dong, Beida, Nan and Zhong mosques, she said. She often visits the mosques to slaughter the chickens that she sells at her stall. “Of course, I can slaughter the chickens I rear at my home. But, I want to make sure it is slaughtered the halal way for the sake of my Muslim customers,” she added.

Trader Ibrahim Wang said he liked to go to the Beida Mosque for prayers as he would be joined by many other fellow Muslims. Wunan Mosque imam Wang Jinyu said the mosque was among the 10 places of worship for Muslims in Shangqiao village, which had the highest number of Muslim inhabitants in the city. “Shangqiao is a purely Muslim vicinity. Maybe there is only one Han Chinese family living in this area,” he said. Wunan Mosque is among the top three mosques in Ningxia, along with Najiahu Mosque in Yongning county and Tongxin Mosque also in Wuzhong. The mosque hosts thousands of followers during Hari Raya every year.

Traditionally, a Muslim community will first build a mosque when they settle in a place because the mosque is where they seek spiritual balance. “In many big cities, there are not as many mosques because the Muslims there are uncertain about their faith. Unlike Muslims in northwest China, we are more passionate about the religion,” Wang said. According to Beida Mosque imam Ibrahim Ma, all the mosques in Wuzhong were funded and built by the Muslim community which received limited funds from the government for their activities.

He felt that although there was a huge Muslim population, the city did not need so many mosques, especially new ones, as some of them were underused.

Unlike Muslims of the Uyghur, Kazakh, Kygryz and Tajik ethnicity who have their own language, the Hui Muslims speak fluent Mandarin. Though some of them have brown eyes and speak a smattering of Arabic and Persian words, Hui Muslims are still the closest race to the Han Chinese, which is the majority race in China, in terms of physical features, character and lifestyle.

A big part of the Hui Muslims today are direct descendants of Arab and Iranian merchants who had inter-marriages with the local Chinese. Another section of the Hui are of the origin of the Arab mercenaries who were enlisted by the emperor of the Tang Dynasty in 756 to fight against General An Lushan in Chang’an (now Xi’an) during the An-Shi Rebellion, Ma said. He added that only a small part of Hui Muslims were actually converts of the Han Chinese who were originally Buddhists and Taoists.

Hui Muslims are estimated to make up about 10 million of China’s population. The ethnic group is the fourth largest among the 55 minority races. Ma said Hui Muslims were conservative and did not have the interest in spreading Islam to other races, especially Han Chinese. “We are doing quite poorly in terms of introducing our religion to non-Muslims in China. What we need to do now is to provide Hui Muslims with higher education so that they can interact with other races better and further promote the religion. “In fact, we are more afraid that Hui Muslims who have little knowledge of their faith would gradually be converted into Han Chinese after they marry with the Han Chinese,” he added.

Wuzhong is the first Muslim city in China to establish resource centres at mosques to rekindle interest in the religion among young Muslims. So far, more than 200 mosques are equipped with the resource centres where the followers can read books other than those related to Islam to broaden their knowledge.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Africans ‘Rediscover’ Traditional Medicines

(AGI) Nairobi — Having been set aside in the course of the last century, traditional African medicines are making a comeback.

The data reported in a WHO regional conference show that during the last 10 years the number of African Countries that introduced traditional medicines in their health care system has quintupled. These treatments are based on a millenanium-old experience acquired throughout the continent. Roughly 80% of the populations all the Developing Countries resort to traditional medicines for primary medical care.

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

Latin America

Trinidad & Tobago: Former Special Branch Head: We Knew Insurrection Was Imminent in 1990

Former head of the Police Special Branch Mervyn Guisseppi says he had absolutely no doubt in his mind that an uprising by the Jamaat al Muslimeen was imminent in 1990. Guisseppi, a former assistant police commissioner, made the disclosure yesterday as he gave evidence before the Commission of Enquiry into the July 27, 1990 attempted overthrow of the government by Muslimeen insurgents. He said he and other officers in the Special Branch knew that a coup d’etat was imminent based on intelligence they obtained about the Muslimeen over several years.

“The only thing we could not say that it would occur on July 27 at 6 pm and what form it would take. “But we knew it was coming,” Guisseppi said. He said the division had sources within the Jamaat who would give them “bits and pieces” of information. He said information came to them about a meeting former Jamaat second in command Bilal Abdullah had with eight members of the organisation in 1989. Abdullah, who led the attack on the Red House during the uprising, was reported to have said they were looking at early 1990 to stage the overthrow.

At the meeting, Abdullah indicated that Jamaat leader Imam Yasin Abu Bakr was in Libya and that he was negotiating for arms and ammunition and was seeking to increase the number of mercenaries who would support them, Guisseppi told the commission. Informants also reported to the Special Branch that Abdullah was preoccupied with how large quantities of arms and ammunition could come into the country. Bakr boasted in 1989 that the Jamaat’s recruitment drive had peaked to 400 members, Guisseppi added. He said the recruitment was done mostly through exhortation during services at the mosque through an “each one bring one” method.

There were about eight former members of the Defence Force in the Jamaat and four or five ex-police officers who were involved in the training of the Muslimeen. Training was conducted secretly in forested areas of Rio Claro, Cumuto, Cumaca, Toco, Blanchisseusse and at the Jamaat’s #1 Mucurapo Road compound, Guisseppi disclosed. Further, 25 Jamaat members were sent to Libya for training. Special Branch, through reports, told the Prime Minister and the national security minister who they were, when they left the country, what kind of training they did and when they returned to T&T, Guisseppi said. In an October 1989 meeting with senior Jamaat persons, members of the Munroe Road mosque in Cunupia spoke about collaborating with the Muslimeen and training with them.

The Munroe Road mosque promised to support the Jamaat’s overthrow the government, Guisseppi said. Guisseppi said “from early” Special Branch knew that the Jamaat received large sums of money from Libya which Bakr was possibly bringing back to T&T on several trips. The Jamaat also received donations from affluent Muslims in T&T and the business community and through “taxing” drug dealers. A Muslimeen called “Buffy”, whom he described as a principal activist, brought in as much as $400,000 in one week by taxing six drug dealers, Guisseppi added. He said it was believed that Buffy was the one who introduced the spate of kidnappings that rocked T&T post-1990.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Blair Defends Opening the Door to Mass Migration and Says it Had a Very Positive Impact on Britain

Former PM said it was ‘right’ that the country was made up of different cultures and faiths mixing together

Tony Blair has defended Labour’s controversial mass immigration policy by claiming that Britain cannot succeed unless it opens its borders to more people from different backgrounds.

The former prime minister said it was ‘right’ that the country was made up of different cultures and faiths mixing together.

Mr Blair added that migrants had made Britain ‘stronger’ and said those calling for greater curbs on foreigners entering the country were wrong.

His comments come just days after official figures revealed that the population is expected to soar by the equivalent of a city the size of Leeds every year for the next decade.

A defiant Mr Blair insisted his party’s policy on immigration was the right one. He said: ‘It’s been a very positive thing and there is no way for a country like Britain to succeed in the future unless it is open to people of different colours, faiths and cultures.’

Under Labour, up to 5.5million people born outside the UK arrived as long-term migrants.

Between 1997 and 2010, around 2.3million left the country, meaning the UK population increased by around 3.2million as a direct result of foreign migrants.

In an interview with Eastern Eye newspaper, Mr Blair said: ‘The vision of a country of different cultures and different faiths mixing together is the right one.

‘That is not to say you don’t have problems at certain points, but those problems are to be overcome without losing the essence of what has actually allowed this country’s people to get on and do well.’

His comments were branded ‘shameless’ by critics and are set to fuel claims that the huge increase in migrants under Labour were due to a politically motivated attempt by ministers to change the country.

Two years ago, Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, said that Labour’ s relaxation of controls was a deliberate plan to ‘open the UK to mass migration’.

He added that Labour wanted to rub the ‘Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date’.

Mr Blair added that the anti-immigration debate was one of the ‘past’. ‘I think the majority of people in Britain today are not prejudiced and can understand the benefits of migration.

‘I think what people worry about is where they feel there is no control over who comes in and there are no rules governing who comes in or not, and that is a different issue altogether.

‘It would be very unfortunate if by putting those rules into place, we view that immigration was a somehow bad thing for the country, because it is not.’

Tory MP Priti Patel, said: ‘As the daughter of immigrants, there is no question that those who work hard and make a positive contribution do enrich the fabric of our society.

‘But what Tony Blair has failed to recognise is that while he was in power, he opened the floodgates of mass and uncontrolled immigration which has left a damaging legacy in our towns and cities.’

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: ‘This is completely shameless from the Prime Minister who brought more than three million immigrants into Britain in the teeth of public opposition.’

Fellow Tory MP Dominic Raab added: ‘These comments are naïve if not reckless. Tony Blair has left Britain with a legacy of uncontrolled immigration that has put huge pressure on public services and undermined community cohesion’.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Angolan Youth Facing Deportation May Get Student Visa to Stay

An Angolan youth who has been in the Netherlands since he was 10 and now faces deportation is likely to be offered a student visa, Nos television reports.

Mauro Manuel, who has lived with a foster family in Limburg since he arrived here alone in 2003, is at the centre of a media and political campaign to win him permanent residency.

Sources have told Nos television immigration minister Gerd Leers is poised to offer Manuel a student visa. This would mean he could continue his education in the Netherlands but does not set a precedent for other youngsters in the same position.

Mauro is currently following vocational training at an mbo college.

On Tuesday, Labour and the ChristenUnie introduced draft legislation into parliament which would give young asylum seekers the right to stay in the Netherlands after eight years

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[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.

One-third of Malmo’s population is foreign-born. Another 10 percent are of a different nationality. The biggest influx these days is from the Muslim world. Many of them are very traditional — a small group is quite extreme. Sweden has a population of 9 million — of those, 1.4 million are immigrants. Approximately 100,000 pour in each year. Ilmar Reepalu thinks that’s a good thing. “Sweden needs lots of immigrants,” he says, “because otherwise we can’t keep up our welfare system. We, as most parts of Europe, have too few people. Within the coming 20 years, we will have a lack of labor force, so we need more people coming to Sweden. We don’t have enough kids from ourselves.”

Sweden has probably the most generous immigration, asylum and welfare policies in the world. Some natives have had it with this bottomless funding pit. For the first time last year, voters elected the far right anti-immigration Sweden Democrats-giving them a handful of seats in Parliament. MP Kent Ekeroth disputes the argument that immigration keeps Sweden’s welfare system afloat. “What kind of immigrants do we take in? It’s people from Somalia who have done nothing but herd sheep their whole life and we expect them to benefit our society? It’s ridiculous.”

The Sweden Democrats advocate cutting back 90 percent on immigration, redirecting the money currently spent on housing and caring for refugees to programs to improve life in their home countries. “If you bring one immigrant to Sweden, it’s expensive. It costs a lot of money. If you put that money to use in Africa or the Middle East or wherever, you can help hundreds more.” Ekeroth goes even further, “If you put this money over there to help them with food, with medicine, with education or whatever, you can help hundreds, maybe thousands, more. So what’s more humane? To help one person lead a life of luxury here in Sweden or to help 1000 to avoid starvation in Africa?”

The Sweden Democrats’ views have made them targets both of Sweden’s left, and of immigrants. Ekeroth travels with security. The tensions that have come as a result of the swelling immigration have affected all sides. Riots have periodically broken out in a largely Muslim neighborhood of Malmo, called Rosengard, sparked by the perception of mistreatment of residents by the police or other authorities. Firefighters at the scenes of some of these riots have been attacked. As a result, they will often refuse to answer calls to put out fires there without police escort.

There has been an Islamophobic backlash. Scandinavia’s largest mosque happens to be in Malmo. It was set on fire in 2004. The culprit was never found. An imam was shot on the premises. The head of the Islamic Center at Malmo’s main mosque, a man named Bejzat Becirov, regularly receives hate mail, adorned with pigs and pictures of Usama Bin Laden.

Becirov, a moderate Muslim from the former Yugoslavia, and hence, a European, from a community where women did not typically wear the veil, thinks the culprits behind these attacks on his mosque may be neo-Nazis, but may also be extremist Muslims who don’t like Becirov’s message of integration. He thinks immigrants to Sweden should try harder to blend in.

“Since religion doesn’t say anything about how you should dress, maybe it’s a good idea to try to take a look at how everybody else is behaving, and try to present themselves and adapt to that,” he says. “And that would make it easier for them. Perhaps things start there.” Becirov acknowledges that it’s harder for non-Europeans to adapt to a liberal place like Sweden. “If you look at Muslims coming from the Middle East, I think it takes 15 to 20 years before they are integrated-a generation.” Becirov believes the number of Malmo Muslims who subscribe to extremist ideology is small, but that their recruiting methods are aggressive. In his words, python-like. Ekeroth worries about how those extreme elements exercise their authority. “There’s unofficial Shariah police going around Rosengard, checking how women dress, and there are unofficial Shariah courts in Malmo, being used,” he says.

Despite the controversy, Swedes we interviewed outside Malmo’s main station were supportive of their country’s immigration policies. One young woman told Fox News, “I think we should take more. I know that not many people would agree with me.” A young man adds, “I think it’s good. It creates great diversity.” Another young woman, when asked about the face of Sweden changing dramatically due to massive immigration, said, “I think everything we call culture right now, it’s been so fluid throughout history. I don’t think it can be overruled like that. Everything that comes in, it just adds to the culture, it doesn’t take away.”

Sweden has taken in more Iraqi refugees than the United States has, the mayor of Malmo points out. That is something many Swedes are proud of. Mayor Reepalu believes that rather than cut back on immigration, Sweden should do more to help those coming to Sweden adapt to their new lives, especially the children. “The challenge,” he says, “is to have teachers good enough to take this quite tough situation, where you have lots of children coming into the schools, coming directly from conflict zones in different parts of the world, carrying with them lots of trauma of course. To take care of that-to help those people get a good start in their lives.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

‘We’re a Culture, Not a Costume’ This Halloween

Thinking about donning a kimono to dress like a geisha for Halloween, or a Mexican mariachi suit?

Students from Ohio University have a message for you: “We’re a culture, not a costume.”

With ethnic and racial stereotypes becoming increasingly popular Halloween costume themes, members of the school’s Students Teaching About Racism in Society are launching a campaign to make revelers think twice before reducing a culture to a caricature, the group’s president said.

“To treat a character like Batman or Superman as a Halloween costume is one thing, but to treat an entire ethnicity as a costume is something else. It suggests that people conflate the actual broad diversity of a culture with caricatures and characters.”

While Italian-Americans can be stereotyped as gangsters and Irish-Americans as hard drinkers, there are no pervasive stereotypes for whites on the same level that allow for them to be caricatured as a Halloween costume, Cobb said.

The ad campaign from Ohio University show students holding photos of different racial and ethnic stereotypes in costume: an Hispanic guy with a picture of the Mexican donkey costume, an Asian girl with an image of a Geisha, a Muslim student with a photo of a white guy wearing a traditional ghutra and iqal over his head, bombs strapped to his chest.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


UN, HR Bodies Biased Against Muslims — Jamaat e Islam

JAMAAT e Islami Ameer Syed Munawwar Hasan reiterated that United Nations and the world’s human rights bodies were biased against Muslims and had always supported powers and religious groups, which committed atrocities on the Muslims. Had UN supported Muslims in occupied Palestine and Kashmir, they would have been liberated by now, he said while delivering Friday sermon at Mansoorah Masjid. The world body had demonstrated shameful partiality in the liberation of Christians of South Sudan and East Taimur, he added.

He said the Kashmiris had observed Black Day on October 26, the day on which the Indian troops had entered the Valley. The Kashmiris had been protesting against Indian army brutalities but there was no one to listen to them, he lamented. Syed Munawwar Hasan condemned torture by the state on Muslims in Syria and Yemen and called for an emergent meeting of the Arab League and the OIC in this regard.

A resolution adopted on the occasion called upon the Syrian government to stop the massacre of innocent Syrian people. It urged the Muslim rulers to learn a less from the fate of Hosni Mobarak and Col. Gaddafi. The JI chief said that the Zardari government had deprived people of Roti, Kapra and Makan and forced them to commit suicides. He said PPP was in power for the fourth time and they were vying for another term. This was because despite PPP’s corrupt practices and bad governance, some people were ready to vote for it once again.

He said that a change could be brought about in the country through vote but a peaceful revolution was required to change the system based on corruption and tyranny. Meanwhile, Ameer Tanzim Islami Hafiz Akif Saeed has said that democracy based on rule of the chosen capitalists and usury is a horrifying combination under which mankind as a whole is being crushed badly. He said this while delivering Friday sermon at Jami’ul Quran Masjid, Quran Academy. He said the Capitalists fully controlled democracy which safeguarded their own interests in the name of rule of masses.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]