Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111105

Financial Crisis
»Referendums — Can’t Always Get What You Want
»Obama Gives Erdogan the ‘Hug Treatment’
Europe and the EU
»France, Charlie Hebdo and the Meaning of Mohammed
»France: Charlie Hebdo Attack: No More Excuses
»France: Integration of Muslims
»Greece: Central Athens Mosque Ready by Spring 2012
»Greece: New Restoration of Old Delphi, Nicopolis Theatres
»In Mantua: Discovering the Italian Origins and Delicacies of Halloween
»Islamophobia in France on the Rise, Muslim Group Claims
»Italian Waters Still Dragged by Illegal Nets
»Italy: A Modern Prince Fights for a Roman Emperor’s Villa
»Italy: Six Million Bottles of Novello Wine Will be Opened as of Sunday
»Italy Faces Up to the Evil Within
»The Arts Bloom in Greece’s Second City
»The Netherlands, Switzerland Have Least Corrupt Governments
»UK: Oxford Tories’ Nights of Port and Nazi Songs
»UK: Oxford Tory Song ‘Salutes Nazi Killings’: Drunken Students Facing Enquiry
»UK: Tensions Rise in Londonistan
»Albania: A New Mosque Soon a Reality in Tirana
»Croatia: Former Interior Minister Arrested for ‘Helping Kill Thousands’
North Africa
»Algeria: Algiers Metro: A 40 Year-Old Project
»Egypt Randomly Arresting Copts for Maspero Massacre
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israeli Navy Boards New Gaza Freedom Flotilla
»UK: Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, Slams FOSIS [Federation of Student Islamic Societies]
Middle East
»Arab Spring a Mask for Ruthless Men
»Iran: 2nd Int’l Islamic Resistance Poetry Congress Opens in Bushehr
»Syria: Alastair Crooke Stands by His Man, Bashar Al-Assad
»Turkey-Germany Trade Volume Exceeds 25 Bln USD
»Turkey: Ottoman Mania on TV and in Museums
South Asia
»Indonesia: Bali Opens Doors of First Gay Medical Clinic
»Indonesia: More Than 11,000 to be Deployed During SEA Games
»Pakistan: Muslims and Mosques in Germany: Let Photographs do the Talking
»US General Removed for Criticizing President Karzai
Far East
»Philippines: No Work, Classes on Nov. 7 to Mark Feast of Sacrifice
»Philippines: Islam Relives Abraham’s Sacrifice on Sunday
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Suicide Bombers, Gunmen Attack Northeast Nigeria
Latin America
»In Paraguay: Hotel With Ugly Nazi Past Lives on as Quaint Tropical Escape
»Interpreter Attacked at Asylum Facility in Southern Italy
»UK Border Chief Axed Passport Controls: Top Civil Servant Faces Sack Over Decision That Left Britain Open to Terrorists and Criminals
»UK: Passport Officials Were Told ‘Stop Checking’
Culture Wars
»Hidden Persuaders: The Unheralded Gains of the Pro-Life Movement
»The Truth About Taking on Andy McCarthy’s Column “Islam or Islamist?”

Financial Crisis

Referendums — Can’t Always Get What You Want

Rzeczpospolita, Warsaw

The EU leadership’s obsession with political and economic federation is the source of the current crisis rocking the eurozone, writes columnist Marek Magierowski.

Marek Magierowski

Things in Greece and elsewhere in the EU are far from funny, but some politicians seem never to lose their sense of humour.

“I hope that people in Greece realise that, voting in this referendum, they bear responsibility not only for their own country but for the rest of Europe as well,” said former German foreign minister and SPD leader, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The referendum was ultimately called off, which doesn’t change the fact that Steinmeier’s analysis is extremely funny. The “future of Europe” is the last thing the Greeks are preoccupied with today. Can you imagine an unemployed 25-year-old voting in favour of radical reforms because the ‘future of Europe’ demands this? Or a public servant who agrees to have his wages cut by a fifth because “Berlin expects this”?…

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


Obama Gives Erdogan the ‘Hug Treatment’

An interesting bit from White House reporter Tangi Quéméner’s latest pool report from the G-20 in Cannes, France:

[President Obama] entered the room at 1:15 and took to his left, heading to Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. They chatted for a few seconds before British Prime minister David Cameron joined them. Hard to understand what they were saying amid the cameras noise. POTUS then took a stroll to Australian Premier Julia Gillard who got a hug as European president Herman van Rompuy, European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan were watching. Eventually the Europeans got a handshake but Erdogan got the hug treatment. POTUS then walked all the way around after noticing that “people are really far away around there”. He stopped for quick handshakes and reached out to President Hu of China, telling him ‘ni hao’ (hello). They cordially shook hands and posed for photographers…POTUS then greeted his Argentinian counterpart Cristina Kirchner who just got reelected without runoff. Angela Merkel was just congratulating her (in English). “So Nicolas, we all have to take lessons” of Kirchner’s victory, joked POTUS, who’s up for reelection in ‘12, as Sarkozy is (next May).

Isn’t this whole scene pretty standard for President Obama? The Europeans get a handshake and the Islamist Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gets a hug. And all the president seems to have in mind is campaign politics and his reelection effort.

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

France, Charlie Hebdo and the Meaning of Mohammed

Crazy Muslims. Like many Muslim-Americans, I have spent much of the past decade trying to distance myself from a crescendo of rubble, suicide bombings and shouts of “Allahu Akbar”. After hearing about the petrol-bombing of the office of satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, that featured a cartoon of prophet Muhammad in today’s issue, I had flashbacks to the Jyllands Posten furore. I could hear pitchforks being sharpened, and on the other hand, the “average” Muslims preparing the standard “this is not our religion” speech. Both reactions are problematic.

While condemning the violent reactions of other Muslims around the globe, many still frowned upon publishing the cartoons, and Danish Muslim rights groups were able to wrangle an apology from the Jyllands Posten, for having “undeniably offended” Muslims around the world. Carsten Juste, the editor-in-chief at the time, denied the view that the cartoons were a “part of a hate campaign against Muslims” as many critics argued.

Some of the trendy reactions in the Muslim community seemed to push for limiting free speech in the name of “responsibility”. Nadeem Kazmi, who was a representative for an Islamic organisation called Al-Khoei Foundation, said that while he embraces freedom of expression, he believes that “freedom comes with responsibility”, and calls for a more “legitimate” form of debate. Dr Yunes Teinaz, spokesman for the London Mosque expressed a similar sentiment, and said that “freedom of expression is not a license to attack a culture or religion.”

The incident sparked a global debate on whether or not images of Muhammad should be published. The fear of the offended Muslim, burning flags and brandishing petrol bombs became a reason for many publishers and writers to avoid controversy. A great example of this is the 2008 publication of the Jewel of Medina, a fictionalised account of the life of Aisha, one of prophet Muhammad’s wives. Initially, the novel by Sherry Jones was set to be published by Random House, but the major publishing house decided to pull out, in fear of controversy. Jo Glanville, editor of Index on Censorship, wrote that the decision showed “how far we have lost our way in this debate over free expression and Islam,” and I would have to agree. Fear is hardly a reason to avoid publishing a book in a free society.

In self-fulfilling prophecy, the home of the London-based publisher who decided to publish the novel was firebombed, and as a result the crazy Muslim took centre stage once again, overshadowing some of the conversations surrounding the book, such as charges that the book was riddled with historical inaccuracies, or I don’t know — whether or not the book was actually good. Begging the world to play nice is not really a solution as much as it is a defence mechanism. Let’s face it: what many Muslims are really asking for is the right to be offended, which is an entirely different conversation.

As an amalgamation of Palestinian, Muslim, and American identities, I know how blurred the lines between culture and religion really are. A religion that is over 1,000 years old hardly exists in a vacuum, and so it is not the exclusive right of Muslims to critique the religion. While I have spent much of my life entrenched in a fight against the rantings of Jihad-watch type cowboys, in efforts to change the “Clash of Civilisations” narrative, I still think that such individuals have a right to share their opinion. No one group should set the rules for criticism. Conflating taboo with hatred sets a dangerous precedent, and silence in the name of avoiding offence is not a step in the right direction.

Censorship only serves as an indicator of a bigger problem: a fear of the savage and angry Muslim, which does not serve to challenge stereotypes or animosity towards Muslims. While the right to debate and the right to be offended are both valid, this does not mean that we should shy away from criticism, no matter what form that may take.

Sara Yasin is an editorial assistant at Index on Censorship and a regular contributor to Muslimah Media Watch

The Charlie Hebdo bombing exposes a gulf in understanding between the secular French establishments and Muslim immigrants, says Myriam Francois-Cerrah

The firebombing of Charlie Hebdo offices following its decision to run an edition featuring the prophet Mohammed as “guest editor”, is a sad reflection of France’s uneasy relationship to Islam and religion more generally.Sadly, there are some who do not believe that Charlie Hebdo should have the right to publish a satirical issue, in which it presents Prophet Mohamed as the inspiration of the Arab revolutions and subsequent rise of islamist parties in the region (regardless of the accuracy of this link!). They are no doubt in a minority, just as those who committed this crime will no doubt be revealed to be a fringe group or renegade individuals.

But there is no denying the fact many Muslims are offended by the decision to run an issue entitled “Charia Hebdo”, with reference to “100 lashings if you don’t die of laughter” (chuckle) and a “halal aperitif” (ha!) and perhaps more pertinently, to run images of Prophet Mohammed. Charlie Hebdo is renowned for being a highly satirical outlet which pushes the limits of public discourse on any given issue through its provocative illustrations and irreverent style. It has in its time, been accused of being anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic and now Islamophobic to boot and would no doubt parade these accusations as badges of honour.


Myram Francois-Cerrah is a writer, journalist and budding academic

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

France: Charlie Hebdo Attack: No More Excuses

The smoke had barely cleared from the firebombed office of Charlie Hebdo magazine — attacked for publishing cartoons of Mohammed — when TIME magazine’s Bruce Crumley chose to criticise the satirists before the terrorist. James Kirchick denounces a too-familiar tendency

There exists an unspoken rule in the Republic of Letters — that land where novelists, poets, mere ink-stained wretches like myself, think tank scholars who churn out dry policy reports…really anyone who writes for a living, reside: No one should be physically harmed, let alone threatened, for something that they publish. Don’t get me wrong. I love literary feuds, even the bristling, (if well placed and rare), ad hominem attack. But the minute someone raises a fist, he’s lost the argument. Indeed, it’s a sign of a shallow mind and an insecure personality (see Norman Mailer) when a writer, flummoxed by the prowess of his intellectual adversary, resorts to throwing a scotch glass across the room. I hope that if my worst enemy, someone who wrote things that I absolutely despise, were ever confronted with violence by a fanatic of any sort, (even someone ostensibly “on my side”), I would defend him to the hilt.

Writers in the West rarely have to confront violence, certainly not from the state. Writers with a social conscience understand that they have something important in common with writers, whom they may never know, in far away lands. We are united in a fundamental belief: that freedom of expression is irrevocable and fundamental to a free society. We see this grand tradition of literary solidarity in organizations like PEN International, advocates for writers in authoritarian regimes whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the mere exercise of activities which we in the West take for granted. And you see it in this fine publication, Index on Censorship, which for four decades has been exhaustively documenting challenges to free expression around the world.

That’s why the fatwa against Salman Rushdie was such a clarifying moment; here was a man who had published a book in the birthplace of free speech — the United Kingdom — whose murder had been suborned by a fanatical cleric halfway around the world. As Christopher Hitchens wrote about the death warrant put out for his friend, “I thought then, and I think now, that this was not just a warning of what was to come. It was the warning. The civil war in the Muslim world, between those who believed in jihad and Shari’a and those who did not, was coming to our streets and cities.”

Over the past decade, that civil war has intensified on the streets of Western cities; Amsterdam, (where the artist Theo van Gogh was murdered in broad daylight for a film which criticized misogynistic Koran verses), Nyhamnsläge, (the Swedish village where the home of cartoonist Lars Vilks, who drew images of Mohammed, has been repeatedly attacked), Aarhus (the Danish town where fellow prophet-image-maker Kurt Westergaard had to hide in a “panic room” after an axe-wielding Muslim broke into his home). It has thus been heartening to see this fundamental understanding among writers — that, no matter our political disagreements, we are all colleagues in a vitally important element of the free society — flower in response to a truly vile little excrescence by Bruce Crumley, the Paris correspondent for TIME magazine.

On Tuesday morning, the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were firebombed after it named the Prophet Muhammed its “editor-in-chief” for an upcoming issue. In an article entitled, “Firebombed French Paper Is No Free Speech Martyr,” Crumley taunted the paper’s editors. “Do you still think the price you paid for printing an offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient parody on the logic of ‘because we can’ was so worthwhile?” he asked. Crumley, who would make an excellent propaganda commissar in Uzbekistan or Iran, chided French politicians for “denouncing the arson as an attack on freedom of speech, liberty of expression, and other rights central to French and other Western societies,” which is exactly what it was.

The original title of Crumley’s piece, still viewable in the website URL, was “Firebombed French Paper: A Victim of Islam, Or Its Own Obnoxious Islamaphobia?” If a reader, so offended by Crumley’s excuse-making for theocratic nutcases, bombs TIME’s Paris Bureau, would that make Crumley a “victim” of his own obnoxious cowardice? If there was ever cause to deport someone from the Republic of Letters it would be Crumley’s article, for in it he committed treason against his trade by showing himself to be a man eager to rat out his fellow writers and sell them down the river in a heartbeat.

Though he fashions himself a bold truth-teller, Crumley’s justification of violent extremism isn’t new. It’s just the latest iteration of a tired excuse for terrorism, expressed by everyone from Noam Chomsky to Ron Paul, which is that the victims of terrorism have it coming. What made Crumley’s entry into the genre singularly poisonous, and what I believe elicited the widespread disgust from journalists of all political stripes, is that it was written by a working journalist, not an academic, politician, or anti-”Islamophobia” activist.

To take just two examples of people on polar opposite sides of the political spectrum: Michael Brendan Dougherty, a paleoconservative with whom I’ve sparred on more than one occasion, termed the piece “The Most offensive Thing You’ll Read Today” (my one quibble with his judgment is that this is the most offensive thing you will read all week, if not all month). Meanwhile, Spencer Ackerman, a man of the left, tweeted, “No one has the right not to be offended. No one has the right to firebomb a newspaper that offends them.”

It’s amazing, given all the struggles and sacrifices that have been made for freedom of speech over many years, that statements so simple bear repeating. But as long as we have moral cowards like Bruce Crumley around, repeat them we must.

James Kirchick is a contributing editor for The New Republic and a fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

[JP note: I suggest that the next ‘Draw a Mohammed Cartoon Day’ is re-named ‘The Bruce Crumley Draw a Mohammed Cartoon Day’ in honour of the good journalist’s contribution to cross-cultural understanding.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

France: Integration of Muslims

by Shada Islam

SO far, so predictable. The fire-bombing of the offices of a French satirical weekly after it printed a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has, once again, led to dire warnings that European Muslims are determined to destroy western civilisation, curb the fundamental right to free speech and impose the Sharia across the continent.

French politicians have been unanimous in defending freedom of speech and said perpetrators of the crime will be punished. French Muslims have been equally vocal in denouncing the attack — but also clearly angry at what they view as yet another attempt to insult Islam and Muslims. The head of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, told a news conference on Thursday: “I am extremely attached to freedom of the press, even if the press is not always tender with Muslims, Islam or the Paris Mosque. French Muslims have nothing to do with political Islam,” he said.

The weekly Charlie Hebdo has defended “the freedom to poke fun” and despite the attack, its four-page supplement has gone on sale, wrapped around copies of the left-wing French daily, Libération. The incident has unpleasant echoes of the controversy triggered by the publication of caricatures of the Prophet in a Danish newspaper in 2005. Despite the eurozone crisis, expect the Charlie Hebdo incident to remain on the French landscape for some months to come. With French elections set to be held next summer, politicians, especially from the increasingly popular far-right parties, will probably keep stoking the fires of xenophobic sentiment. Mainstream politicians, seeking to win over votes from the extremists, are likely to follow on the heels of French President Nicolas Sarkozy by maintaining a steady flow of criticism of multiculturalism.

And France’s six to seven million Muslims — the largest number of Muslims in a European country — will have to deal with a constant barrage of accusations that they are inherently ‘un-European and un-French’ and will never become trusted and true French citizens. Is it possible to break this predictable, toxic and tedious cycle of recrimination and counter-recrimination, accusation and counter-accusation? At first glance, the answer appears to be negative. After all, Muslims are already in the dock in France and many other European countries for their apparent failure to integrate. Late last month, a French court nullified the construction permit for a mosque in the southern city of Marseille, home to the largest Muslim community in France.

The Administrative Tribunal of Marseille ruled on Oct 27 that the mosque project would have to be cancelled because of failures to meet urban planning requirements. France, along with Belgium, has banned the burka although the garment is worn by a very small minority of Muslim women. French — and European — concerns about Muslims in their midst have been aggravated by the success of the Islamist party in the recent Tunisian elections, the rising popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Islamic trends within the new Libyan government.

Charlie Hebdo, known for its irreverent, harsh satire and mocking treatment of establishment and religious figures, published the special edition in the wake of the victory of the Islamists in Tunisia. “For many French Muslims, religion has become a cultural identity, a refuge in a troubled society where they don’t feel accepted,” French journalist Pierre Haski wrote in the Guardian. “And when a satirical magazine makes fun of Islam the way it would make fun of any other issue, French Muslims don’t laugh. Most of them are silently angry or indifferent, but a minority feels empowered to resort to violence. A disturbing reminder of the underground tensions in society,” Haski said. It is important to note, however, that so far, no one has claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack. Luz, the cartoonist who drew the cover cartoon at the centre of the controversy, has said it is still unclear just who was behind the fire-bombing. “Let’s be cautious. There’s every reason to believe it’s the work of fundamentalists but it could just as well be the work of two drunks,” he warned.

Are European Muslims condemned to live their lives on the defensive, their loyalty and citizenship in constant doubt because of the criminal acts of a small minority who dominate the national conversation about Islam? Or can Europe and its Muslims develop a fresh narrative of acceptance, integration and inclusion? In fact, the true story of Europe’s Muslims is much more heartening and upbeat than either side in the debate is ready to admit. Attacks such as the one on Charlie Hebdo may make the headlines, stirring trouble for the silent and law-abiding majority of Muslims who are happy to call Europe home. But fortunately such incidents are not the norm. European Muslims are making headway in politics, business and culture. They are breaking stereotypes and cliche’s — and emerging as full-fledged European citizens, ready to demand their rights but also fulfil their duties and obligations.

It is true that efforts to ensure a better integration of European Muslims are complicated by Europe’s own uncertainty about what it means to be ‘European’, the struggle between religion and secular beliefs and Europe’s unease about its economic future, including fears about the impact of globalisation on European jobs. In such an environment, there is suspicion and unease about ‘foreigners’ — Muslims, yes, but also Chinese, Indians and Russians. Europe needs the talent and abilities of all its citizens and of immigrants to climb out of the current economic downturn. And ordinary European Muslims just want to get on with their daily lives without being held to account for the lunatic and criminal acts of a small minority — or perhaps of just one man.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Brussels.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Greece: Central Athens Mosque Ready by Spring 2012

The construction of the first mega-mosque in Athens is estimated to be completed within the next 3 months given the rapid paces of the building company. The architectural designs were assigned to Tompazis Architectural Office, which is the only office in Greece specializing in such architectural works and has enough experience due to its designs for countries in the Middle East.

According to Vima daily, the mosque project calls for the plain and discrete renovation of an existing state building — on a disused navy base — in the industrial district of Votanikos near the centre of Athens. The total acreage of the mosque will not exceed 1.000 square meters and will have enough space for 350 worshipers, while no minaret (tower) will be featured.

The project’s estimated cost lies at around €16 million. The Greek government has committed to have the mosque ready by spring 2012, while analysts say that the Papandreou government is pushing the mosque project out of fear that the Muslim rallies in Athens over the past months would become more violent if it did not meet the Muslims’ demand for an official religious place. The construction plan is financially undertaken by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and will function under its attendance according to the respective 2006 bill. Until now, Athens had been the only capital from among the original 15 member states of the EU that did not have a mosque. Muslims in Greece have been praying so far in makeshift mosques in basement apartments, coffee shops, garages and old warehouses.

[JP note: Good to see the Greeks getting their priorities right.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Greece: New Restoration of Old Delphi, Nicopolis Theatres

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, OCTOBER 31 — The theatre of Delphi and the Roman theatre of Nicopolis, two of Greece’s most important ancient monuments, which are showing clear signs of age-old wear and tear, are soon to be restored, after the National Archaeological Council (KAS) approved new plans. The ancient theatre of Delphi is one of few for which chronological figures are known. The date of construction, design and shape of its “koilon” or cavea are all recorded, as are changes made to the theatre’s original structure in the following years. The first theatre was erected in the 4th century BC and took on its current form during the first years of the Roman period. It was restored for the first time in 159 BC by King Eumenes II of Pergamon.

In the original theatre, the public is likely to have been seated on wooden seats or on the floor. The building lies within the complex of the sanctuary of Apollo and was the biggest building of the entire site, with a total capacity of 5,000 spectators. In ancient times, the theatre hosted phonetic and instrumental music competitions, which were held as part of the Pythian Games, the most important in Ancient Greece after the Olympics. The Games would take place once a year, with the winners receiving a crown of laurels from the bay tree sacred to the God Apollo, which was situated in the Vale of Tempe. Later on, towards the middle of the third century BC, the Games were turned into a national competition to be held every four years. The preliminary study for the restoration of the theatre, which has been approved by the National Archaeological Council, is based on research carried out by the French School of Architecture, which has been present in the area since last century. The aim of the study is to restore the structure of the cavea and the surviving white stand, made of white marble from Mount Parnassus, which dominates the Delphic site. The Roman theatre of Nicopolis, one of the largest of the period, with a capacity of 15,000 spectators, is six kilometres from Preveza, a small town in the Epirus area. The theatre was build in the Proasteion area north of the town by Octavian Augustus to commemorate the victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra in the naval battle of Actium in 31 BC. The theatre was used mainly for the Actian Games, a series of religious games staged in honour of Apollo, featuring poets, philosophers, comedians, preachers and mime artists. The Emperor Nero also took part in the games, having visited Nicopolis twice, and renamed the city Neronicopolis. The plan to restore the theatre, which has been drawn up by the Institute of Archaeological Studies of Epirus, includes the urgent repair of walls on which many deep cracks are apparent.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

In Mantua: Discovering the Italian Origins and Delicacies of Halloween

Italians have ancient claims on the origins of the ever more global holiday of Halloween. In Mantua, where Jack-O-Lanterns — called “lumere” — light the roads to cemeteries, others may be more interested in the delicious dishes made with pumpkin. Ravioli-like tortelli is to die for



Halloween, Made in Italy. Actually, locals say it was invented here, in the northern Italian city of Mantua. For centuries, the night between October 31 and November 1, residents have hung carved pumpkins with a candle glowing inside: along roads leading to the cemeteries, on windowsills and on trees to scare the wayfarers. Mantua’s Jack-O-Lanterns are called “lumere,” and are celebrated with a big party attended by people dressed up as witches and wizards on October 30. The following night, according to the legend, the candles inside the carved pumpkins will help the souls of the dead to find their relatives who are still alive and have prepared for them a meal of pumpkin tortelli.

In the first century AD, the Latin poet Martial celebrated pumpkin in his Epigrams. “You’ll eat it as an appetizer, then as a side dish, and finally as a dessert. there are bland flat cakes, candies of every kind of shape and size, and pastries.” The giant squash are one of the most important ingredients of Mantua cuisine. Nothing must be thrown away. Leaves, pulp, seeds and flowers are all ingredients for cooking delicious food.

In the 18th-century Corte Sguazzarina in the village Castel Goffredo, at the foot of the slopes surrounding Lake Garda, there are pumpkin cooking classes. Pumpkin can be served as a hors d’oeuvres with mustard and parmesan, in cakes with herbs, in risottos with mushrooms and sausages, in cannelloni with lard, in breaded veal cutlet, in cookies with spices and in cakes with chocolate and almonds.

Over all, tortelli are the most beloved pumpkin dish. Tortelli are stuffed pasta which was the favorite food of Isabella d’Este Gonzaga, Marquise of Mantua, who, according to legend, inspired the recipe to the chiefs of her court. Today, every Mantua housewife has her own recipe and shapes tortelli in squares, rectangles, small bags and candies.

From the poet Virgil to Michelin stars

Vera Bini, chef of the Michelin-star-rated Aquila Nigra restaurant, serves up the tops in tortelli. “Pumpkin has an almost human quality,” Bini says. “Its life lasts from October to March and you have to figure out when it is just at its best.” Bini says the secret for the best stuffing for tortelli is mixing amaretto, apples, mustard, nutmeg, parmesan, and good pumpkin, adding a dressing of butter and sage.

The ancient Romans used to eat pumpkin. Probably even Virgil, one of Rome’s greatest poets, who was born close to Mantua, appreciated it. He is currently been celebrated with an exhibition in the 16th century Palazzo Te in Mantua.

The exhibition is showing for the first time in Italy the face of Virgil, which was portrayed in a mosaic discovered in 1896 in the Roman villa in the ancient city of Hadrumentum, in Tunisia. In the mosaic, Virgil has a slightly receding hairline and a pensive look. The muses of history Clio and of tragedy Melpomene stand on either side of the poet. On Virgil’s lap there is a volume on which is written his epic poem Aeneid.

Virgil has always been the most famous and beloved Mantua native. But now, the Lovers of Valdarno are challenging his supremacy. They are two human skeletons, dating back to the Neolithic era, which were found in a necropolis in the village of Valdaro in 2007, huddled close together, and are now on display at the Mantua Archeological Museum.

Just outside Mantua, you can sail the channels covered by millions of green lotus flowers in Mincio Park. In the park, grey herons fly free with Mantua’s Basilica of St. Andrea and the medieval towers as a backdrop. The fishermen’s boats along the Mincio River carry you to the small village of Grazie dedicated to the Virgin Mary and famous for its sanctuary adorned with odd ex-votos and statues.

But if possible, it is best to arrive in autumn, when the Halloween pumpkins are displayed in downtown Mantua, and locals burn the cane thickets along the river. The view of the red sky over the valley will continue to enchant poets and writers for centuries to come.

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

Islamophobia in France on the Rise, Muslim Group Claims

Islamophobia is on the rise in France, according to figures released by the French Muslim umbrella group, CFCM. Attacks and insults perpetrated against Muslims went 22 per cent in the first nine months of this year, the group says, and it fears that there will be more ahead of next year’s general election.

Citing Interior Ministry figures, the CFCM says that 115 cases were reported to the police between the beginning of January and the end of September. But they are a gross underestimate, according to CFCM president Abdallah Zekri, because victims are often loath to go to the authorities. “We can say that the rise, according to statistics we have, is about 50-55 per cent,” he told a press conference in Paris Thursday.

The figures cover profanation of cemeteries and mosques, physical attacks, insults, provocations and burning or profanation of the Koran. Zekri called on Interior Minister Claude Guéant to put pressure on the police to “arrest at least some of the people who have committed these acts”, expressing frustration that vandals who attacked cemeteries have not been identified. At between four and six million, France’s Muslim population is the largest in Europe.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Italian Waters Still Dragged by Illegal Nets

La Repubblica, Rome

The EU banned drift nets in 2002 to protect Mediterranean wildlife and paid out compensation to the fishers. But for many of the recipients, the tuna and swordfish fisheries are far too lucrative. And so they are getting around the ban, with the help of the Mafia.

Lorenzo Tondo — Dario Prestigiacomo

Some have handed them in to the authorities, like others once handed in their Colts and Winchesters to the town sheriff. Others, driven by greed or the need to survive, continue to use them, stowing them away near the docks of Tunisian ports and casting them widely in the waters off Calabria. Pelagic fishing nets, known here as spadare and used to catch tuna and swordfish, were banned by the European Union in 2002 because they wipe out the marine environment. In Italy they are the leading cause of death of sperm whales and dolphins, which become trapped in their invisible drifting walls.

The ultimatum which must put an end to the war arrived in Brussels on October 6. Italy has two months to turn the page. Sixty days to end ten years of illegality. Europe’s patience has cost it as much as 200 million euros, which is what the European Commission has paid out to Italy’s fishers to convert their pelagic net fisheries into other systems of fishing that are less devastating. After cashing their checks, though, Italian fishermen have continued to toss out their ghost nets.

Only one year ago, peace between the fishing boats and the harbour officials seemed close at hand, as a “cease-fire” was agreed to by the Bagnara Calabra fishermen in the province of Reggio Calabria. At a highly publicised press conference on 24 June 2010, they handed in their nets to the authorities in exchange for a few permits to practice longline fishing — long lines baited with series of hooks and thrown over the stern of a trawler. Few followed their example.

Between 2005 and 2009 alone some 2,800 kilometres of pelagic nets were confiscated — almost the distance between Agrigento and London. And during the first nine months of 2011, no fewer than 93 violations were recorded, leading to the confiscation of 221 km of prohibited nets, an increase of 64 percent over 2010.

Having cashed their checks they continued to defraud the system

On the list of 330 outlaw vessels published by the Pew Environment Foundation, “about 103 had received substantial grants from both the European Union and the Italian state (more than 12.5 million from 1998 to 2006) to convert pelagic nets to other gear less damaging to the environment.”

But with cheques in hand, the fishermen continued to defraud the system. One is the owner of the trawler San Francesco I of Palermo, who received a grant of 37,000 euros in 2004 and in the last six years has been fined six times. Or the captain of the Patrizia, fined four times in 2007 between the islands of Milazzo and Lipari after having picked up no less than 249,000 euros of state aid to convert his gear.

The Coast Guard officers suspect that “the funds granted for the conversion of fishing gear were actually used to purchase expensive equipment to continue practising the prohibited fishery with methods that are more efficient.” Often, the systems that are authorised serve as cover for the illegal methods. “In effect, the fishing licenses almost always cover the use of long lines, and the crews then report that the swordfish found on board have been caught with hooks — which, in reality, are hooked into the fishes’ mouths after their capture (in nets),” writes Alessandro Vittorio, commander of the Coast Guard…

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

Italy: A Modern Prince Fights for a Roman Emperor’s Villa

Rome, 2 Nov. (AKI) — The noble descendant of a 17th century pope is fighting a battle against government plans to dump Rome’s garbage at a site near one of the western world’s most celebrated archeological sites — Hadrian’s Villa.

Prince Urbano Barberini, whose bloodline is traced to some of Italy’s most storied nobles families and individuals — including Maffeo Barberini, who became Pope Urban VIII in 1623 — says disposing of the capital’s trash in a quarry near Hardian’s Villa in Tivola could keep tourists at bay when the wind passes over the tons of garbage in the direction of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Barberini has joined forces with Italian actress Franca Valeri and wants local farmers to join the battle. Valeri on Friday took out a full page add in Italy’s biggest daily Corriere della Sera where in an open letter she pleaded for the Rome regional government to scrap its plan for a dump or risking “damaging a portion of our territory that is full of history, natural beauty and culture.”

Hadrian ruled over the Roman Empire from 117 to 138 AD. to escape the sweltering summer he constructed a sprawling 250-acre complex consisting of at least 30 buildings, a Greek-style garden and a pond.

Most of the site’s marble and statues were plundered largely to construct the 16th century Villa d’Este in Tivoli — also a UNESCO Heritage Site — but what remains is more than enough to give testimony to Hadrian’s palatial tastes.

Barberini, whose title is Prince Urbano Riario Sforza Barberini Colonna di Sciarra and has made a career out of acting, says an ancient aqueduct dating from Roman times that still carries water to Rome runs under the proposed site and risks contamination should the dump open.

Rome’s garbage problem has not yet reached crisis proportions like Naples to the south. The collection of Naple’s waste is periodically interrupted by protesters who take to the streets in the city’s suburbs to keep the stinky waste from being dumped in overflowing sites in their neighbourhoods.

Rome’s regional government intends to use emergency powers to open the old quarry to dumping, but Barberini — a prominent landholder in the area — has told media he hopes to keep the plan from reaching fruition by rallying farmers and other locals to his cause.

“It’s like building a dump next to Egypt’s pyramids,” Barberini told Corriere della Sera.

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

Italy: Six Million Bottles of Novello Wine Will be Opened as of Sunday

(AGI) Rome — Starting Sunday November 6, over 6 million bottles of Novello wines ( will be opened as settled by a new wine-tasting calendar. The Italian farmers association, Coldiretti, said that by law wine-tasting events may be take place 24 hours ahead of schedule when special exhibitions and promotional events, like the Novello di Bardolino fair or the displays in Bareggio, close to Milan or in Genzano, close to Rome, are organized.

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

Italy Faces Up to the Evil Within

In Daily Mailer, FrontPage, by Bruce Bawer On November 2, 2011

There is no question that anti-Semitism in Europe has been on the rise during the last few years. The European left, for a range of reasons, has gotten into the habit of viewing Israel, and by extension all Jews, as the foremost challenge to peace on earth and goodwill toward men. As Europe’s Islamic communities have expanded, moreover, and their members grown less and less shy about expressing — and acting upon — their opinions, the articulation of anti-Semitic sentiments and the commission of anti-Semitic acts by young Muslim men has increased accordingly.

While all this has been going on, a number of European governments have chosen to look the other way. Many political leaders in Europe, indeed, have fueled anti-Semitism by word and deed. The Italian government, however, has been an exception.

It was in October 2009 that two committees of the Italian Parliament voted to commission an in-depth study of anti-Semitism in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. They established a sub-committee to perform the inquiry, and put the Jewish writer and parliamentarian Fiamma Nirenstein (whom I profiled here recently) in charge. Now the sub-committee’s report has been released, and its findings are well worth attending to.

The report acknowledges “a strong resurgence of anti-Semitism in European societies” in recent years — a new kind of anti-Semitism that is “less overtly racist, and therefore more subtle and insidious,” than previous varieties, and that is being spread especially through online social networks. As a consequence of this new brand of anti-Semitism, “Jewish communities in various Western countries have had to deal for the first time with a new atmosphere of insecurity” and “a new cultural climate.” Though Italy is nowhere near as severely plagued with anti-Semitism as many other European countries, recent years have nonetheless seen a rise in anti-Semitism on the Italian far left, which, like its counterparts elsewhere in the West, has come to view Israel as “a state based on apartheid against the Palestinians,” takes the view that “the victims of the past have become today’s executioners,” and relativizes the Shoah by essentially equating it to what is routinely, and absurdly, depicted as a “Palestinian Holocaust.”…

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

The Arts Bloom in Greece’s Second City

IT was early August, and clouds of tear gas drifted through much of Athens, the remnants of protests against austerity measures. But the country’s financial woes seemed far from the minds of the smartly disheveled young Greeks packed onto the roof terrace of the newly opened Fragile bar in Salonika, about 320 miles north of the capital. T-shirt-clad art students shouted over a mix of vintage doo-wop and ‘90s alt-rock, or ducked into the covered bar area, which evoked a vaguely postal theme, its corkboard-lined walls cross-hatched with packing tape.

“We wanted something simple, and we did all this alone — everything, there was nothing here,” said Mirsini Linou, 24, as she drummed on the raw wood bar. In July, Ms. Linou opened the space in the up-and-coming Valaoritou area, hiring friends as bartenders and D.J.’s. Fragile is one of several creative, no-frills night spots that have opened in Salonika in the past few months, joining a bevy of recently launched cultural sites and creative projects in Greece’s second city. Even as their country teeters on the brink of default and struggles with debt, Salonika’s youth are embracing a do-it-yourself ethos resulting in a wave of arts and night-life venues that they hope will hold up in tough times.

The youth movement is building on rich historical foundations. Salonika, which lies on the northern edge of the Thermaic Gulf, is the capital of the Greek region of Macedonia (not to be confused with the Republic of Macedonia). Punctuated by palm trees and relics of antiquity, mazelike city streets open to century-old marketplaces, where ripe produce, freshly dismembered livestock and an extravagance of spices still form the city’s commercial heart. Historically one of Europe’s oldest and most multiethnic cities, Salonika (called Thessaloniki in Greek) is home to architectural marvels that testify to its centrality in Byzantine, Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish history. The city is anchored by Aristotelous Square, where curved, columned facades open to the waterfront in one direction and frame views of the historic Ano Poli (Upper City) in the other.

Though it has only about one million people, compared with Athens’s five million, Salonika is widely considered the cultural capital of Greece. Festivals abound, most notably the International Film Festival, which draws hoards of film buffs to the city each November (this year Nov. 4 to 13). It has also produced many of the country’s most acclaimed bands, visual artists and designers. Yet despite Salonika’s vibrant cultural output and young population — students number around 150,000 — over the past few decades, its municipal leadership grew increasingly conservative, withholding support from projects that veered from its entrenched brand of Macedonian monoculturalism.

Last year, though, Yiannis Boutaris, a tattooed, quick-witted former winemaker who turns 70 in January, won the mayoral election by about 350 votes, making him the city’s first Socialist-backed mayor in 24 years. Mr. Boutaris quickly shook up the stagnant government, appointing a young staff that set to work opening up and re-examining the city’s multicultural legacy.


[JP note: A fulsome display of sacred, leftwing, multiculti pieties — it is a painful read.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Netherlands, Switzerland Have Least Corrupt Governments

The Netherlands and Switzerland are at the bottom of the latest Transparency International ranking of countries with the most corrupt governments to do business with.

The Bribe Payers Index is compiled on the basis of interviews with 3,000 businessmen and women in 28 of the world’s leading export nations.

Switzerland and the Netherlands scored 8.8 out of 10. Russia headed the list on 6.1, followed by China on 6.5.

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

UK: Oxford Tories’ Nights of Port and Nazi Songs

With two prime ministers and 13 cabinet ministers among its alumni, the Oxford University Conservative Association has become a conveyor belt for future leaders since it was founded in 1924.

But the student body, whose patron is Baroness Thatcher, is facing potentially the biggest crisis in its history after its own officers accused members of anti-Semitism, debauchery and snobbery at its alcohol-fuelled meetings. Four of the Association’s most senior members have announced they will be resigning after members allegedly sang a Nazi-themed song, while others complained that members from working-class backgrounds were ridiculed by a clique of former public schoolboys. Students are now facing possible disciplinary action by both the University and the Conservative Party, both of which have launched investigations. OUCA, whose honorary president is William Hague, uses its website to promote a public image of studious debate, with recent guest speakers including Sir John Major and Iain Duncan Smith. At its weekly “port and policy” meetings, however, drunkenness and discrimination have been the main items on the agenda, according to some disillusioned members.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Oxford Tory Song ‘Salutes Nazi Killings’: Drunken Students Facing Enquiry

One video said to show student singing ‘Dashing through the Reich’ to tune of Jingle Bells

Oxford University last night launched an investigation into claims that Tory students sang a ‘despicable’ song celebrating Nazi massacres during meetings. Members of the university’s Conservative Association were alleged to have given renditions of the song that revels in the killing of Jews during ‘port and policy’ nights. One video, filmed in the common room at Corpus Christi college, is said to show a student drunkenly chanting: ‘Dashing through the Reich’, before being silenced by another member.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Tensions Rise in Londonistan

Islamist extremists in London are growing steadily more aggressive. By Jeremiah Jacques

Last Friday, a British member of Parliament was threatened during a meeting in a London mosque, forcing him to abandon the event. The incident takes its place atop a mountain of evidence showing that Islamist aggression in Britain is intensifying. MP Mike Freer was holding a constituency surgery at the North Finchley mosque when a dozen Islamists from the “Muslims Against Crusades” group forced their way into the building. Freer, a homosexual man and a member of Conservative Friends of Israel, later said one of the activists called him a “Jewish homosexual pig.” He was forced to abandon the meeting and to hide in a locked section of the facility.

The strife started after Muslims Against Crusades posted messages on their website urging supporters to target Freer. The website also referenced mp Stephen Timms, who was stabbed by a Muslim woman in East London last year as he held a constituency meeting. The website said the attack on Timms should act as a “piercing reminder” to political figures that “their presence is no longer welcome in any Muslim area.” The online message also stated that “as a member of the Conservative Party,” Freer “has the blood of thousands of Muslims on his hands,” and that he was targeted also because of his decision earlier this year to demand that Palestinian extremist Sheikh Raed Salah be banned from visiting Britain.

As is the case in most such incidents, no arrests were made.

Part of a Bigger Picture

This is only the latest in a long list of such incidents showing that Islamists in London are growing more aggressive. Here are some examples:

In February of last year, the Telegraph reported that the Islamic Forum of Europe-which advocates jihad and sharia law, and desires to transform Britain and Europe into Islamic regions-had infiltrated the Labor Party, and could bring about a “mass mobilization” of voters. Also last year, a man woke up in a hospital partially blind and with a dislocated shoulder after he was attacked by a mob in Shadwell for smoking during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In July of this year, posters began sprouting up all over several East London boroughs that warned: “You are entering a Sharia controlled zone. Islamic rules enforced.” The posters said gambling, music, concerts, pornography, prostitution, drugs, smoking and alcohol were forbidden in the Muslim “zone.”

Earlier this year, four Muslims from Tower Hamlets were sentenced to 19 years for brutally assaulting a white teacher who taught religious studies lessons to Muslim girls. Later, Muslims threatened the life of a non-Muslim woman working at a pharmacy because she was not wearing a headscarf or veil. Also this year, Islamists put up posters throughout Tower Hamlets labeling the borough a “gay-free zone.”

Andrew Gilligan reported that the Telegraph has uncovered more than a dozen other incidents in the Tower Hamlets area where both non-Muslims and Muslims have been threatened or attacked for behavior said to violate fundamentalist “Islamic norms.” But the police downplay the incidents because they fear being accused of racism, Gilligan said:

“Teachers in several local schools have told the Sunday Telegraph that they feel “under pressure” from local Muslim extremists, who have mounted campaigns through both parents and pupils-and, in one case, through another teacher-to enforce the compulsory wearing of the veil for Muslim girls. …Tower Hamlets’ gay community has become a particular target of extremists. Homophobic crimes in the borough have risen by 80 percent since 2007/8, and by 21 percent over the last year, a period when there was a slight drop in London as a whole.”

But the latest incident involving MP Freer marks a new step in the Islamic incursion. Melanie Phillips said the attack shows that “the threatening implications of self-declared ‘Muslim areas’ are spreading into the heart of our democracy.” Phillips continued:

“Effectively, therefore, the North Finchley mosque became a no-go area for this MP. This surely represented not only a threat to Mr. Freer as an individual but to parliamentary democracy itself. More chilling still, it would seem that for “Muslims Against Crusades” Finchley is now to be regarded as a Muslim area-presumably on the grounds that any area with a sizable Muslim population is to be thus regarded-and its inhabitants subjected as a result to Islamist intimidation. Finchley happens to be home to a significant Jewish community which will now feel particularly vulnerable. But in fact everyone now comes under potential threat-including Muslims themselves-as can be seen from what has taken place in East London. For the posters there did not represent empty threats. The process of Islamization through intimidation is well under way.”

Britain’s Islamists are not content with the status quo, and many are willing to violate any state law that stands in the way of their goals of transforming London into Londonistan. Yet, the response from the overwhelming majority of non-Muslims has been silence. Britain was the U.S.’s strongest ally in the “war on terror.” But because of its weak will and sick heart, its policies have enabled the most extreme elements of Islamism in the world to set up base on its soil. Multiple radical groups have their headquarters or significant operations there. Consider this list of infamous Islamists: the murderer of journalist Daniel Pearl; al Qaeda members who sought to target U.S. financial centers; the man who rammed an explosive-laden truck into police barracks in Kashmir; shoe-bomber Richard Reid; suicide bombers who blew up Israelis in a Tel Aviv bar; one of the masterminds behind two attacks in Bali. All these terrorists called England their home.

To understand the prophetic significance of this alarming trend, read Trumpet columnist Joel Hilliker’s article “The Sickness in Britain’s Heart.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Albania: A New Mosque Soon a Reality in Tirana

The building of a new mosque in Tirana, a project that was dragged on for two decades, it is likely to become soon a reality for thousands of believers of Tirana. Vice President of the Muslim Community of Albania, Gazmend Aga, said that “the building of a cult object of contemporary dimensions is in the agenda of the Municipality of Tirana and the Albanian Muslim Community. We are doing our best to build a new mosque.” The new mosque foreseen to be built in the area known as Namazgjaja, near Parliament, will not be merely an object of cult, but a multifunctional complex, as a cultural center of Islamic faith, with a library and conference rooms. /

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Croatia: Former Interior Minister Arrested for ‘Helping Kill Thousands’

Zagreb, 2 Nov. (AKI) — The arrest of former Croatian interior minister Josip Boljkovac on Wednesday sparked protests and bewilderment, with former president Stipe Mesic accusing the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) of political revenge.

Boljkovac, 89, and two former government officials were arrested early Wednesday at his home near central city of Karlovac, 60 kilometers southwest of Zagreb on charges that he was responsible for killing of 21 Ustashe soldiers and sympathizers of the Nazi puppet Ustashe regime that help power during World War II.

Boljkovac was at the time a high secret police official and had held important political posts in the post-war communist Yugoslavia. He is known for his anti-fascist stands and a bitter opponent of the Ustashe, who formed Independent State of Croatia under the auspices of Nazi Germany.

Boljkovac was Croatia’s interior minister when late president Franjo Tudjman came to power in 1990. Tudjman declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and Boljkovac resigned soon thereafter.

As a communist guerilla, Boljkovac fought German and Italian occupying troops. Following the war he was a senior officer of the secret service that went on a revenge killing spree against anti-communists, including civilians. He is accused overseeing the killing of thousands of people buried in unmarked graves, his lawyer Anto Nobilo said.

Mesic said he was shocked by the Boljkovac arrest, because it showed how far was the current government ready to go “in settling accounts with anti-fascists”. HDZ has been tipped as a sure loser in December parliamentary elections and Boljkovac has thrown his support behind the opposition Social Democratic Party.

Mesic said the arrest was a “desperate attempt” to turn the attention away from corruption scandals the party is embroiled in. HDZ is being investigated for corruption and its former leader and Premier Ivo Sanader is standing trial in Zagreb.

Current Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, on the other hand, pointed out that war crimes had no statute of limitations and that police should be left to do its job.

But Zoran Pusic, president of the Citizen’s Committee for Human Rights, said if Boljkovac indeed committed crimes, there had been plenty of time to investigate it, not 60 years after it allegedly happened.

“This news will overshadow all others at the time when the ruling party is in big problems,” Pusic said. Boljkovac’s lawyer Nobile said the arrest was “politically motivated” and a “shame” for the HDZ.

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

North Africa

Algeria: Algiers Metro: A 40 Year-Old Project

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, 31 OCT — The Algiers metro, opened today by President Bouteflika, has a history dating back over forty years. Here is a brief chronology, reconstructed by el Watan: — 1970: the project begins — 1982: the first work takes place — 1985: the end of the technical studies — 1994: construction of the first section, from Piazza Emir Abdelkader to the Great Post Office — 1999: l’Entreprise du Métro d’Alger (EMA) launches an international tender; two groups are chosen, the French Systra and Algerian-German Gaama — 2003: The Algerian government decides to provide the project with the necessary financial resources and new facilities — 2006: the creation of the ‘whole system”(i.e. turnkey) is entrusted to the Siemens, Vinci and CAF group — 2008: the first carriage arrives in Algiers — 2011: the end of work and provisional delivery of the first line.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt Randomly Arresting Copts for Maspero Massacre

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Egypt’s Military Prosecutor decided on November 3 to continue the detention of 34 Coptic Christians for another 15 days, pending investigations on charges of inciting violence, carrying arms and insulting the armed forces during the October 9 Maspero Massacre, which claimed the lives of 27 Christians and injured 329 (AINA 10-10-2011).

The court session was attended by more than twenty defense lawyers. The case was adjourned to November 18.

According to defense lawyers, most of the detainees were arrested after October 9, and some were not even at the Maspero protest and were just collected from the streets for “being a Christian.” Three of them were teens under 16 years old and another had an operation to extract a bullet from his jaw and was chained to his bed in hospital, according to defense lawyer Ibrahim Edward. “After the operation he was sent straight to prison where he cannot eat without feeding tubes, so he lives on juices.”

Prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fatah, who criticized the army for the Maspero Massacre, was arrested on October 30, charged with inciting violence, seizing military equipment, and vandalizing military property. He refused to answer questions from the military prosecutors “in a case where the military is accused of committing a massacre when their APCs ran over peaceful protesters in front of Maspero on Oct. 9,” said his lawyer Ahmed Seif Al-Islam, former director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center.

Abdel-Fatah also played a big role in convincing the families of the Maspero Coptic victims to agree to have the bodies of their relatives autopsied in order to have proof that the military caused their death.

Two days ago, Mikhail Naguib, a Copt, was arrested at his home by the military and accused of stealing a machine gun and using it to kill Copts in Maspero on October 9.

The military prosecutors claimed that the gun, a type used by the army, was stolen from one of the APCs at Maspero. The army said that a taxi driver who brought Naguib on that night from Maspero to his home in the run-down area of Sharabia witnessed that he had a gun bundled in a plastic bag with him.

In an interview aired on the “The Way” Christian TV, Michael’s father said the army and police found nothing at home and that they beat his son and took him away in his underwear.

Dr. Naguib Gabriel, head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, said that this latest arrest and these extremely serious accusations raises questions about the intentions of the army. He wondered about the evidence the military has regarding these charges, and whether with this arrest the real culprits will not be brought to justice.

Families of detainees appeared in an interview with Coptic Channel CTV and told how their sons and husbands were arrested.

Ms. Magda, mother of Mina Talaat, said that her son did not attend the Maspero protest but was arrested after the violence at 20:30 in one of the roads leading to Maspero. “Mina was stopped by a soldier, who called a group of 20 people to come quickly, as he had found a Christian. The group beat Mina with short leather batons until his jaw was broken and he had to hold it back with his hand. He also had wounds in the head requiring 12 stitches.”

Mina told his mother on her first visit that he hid under an armoured personnel carrier but was dragged out and taken to a room on the third floor of the TV building, together with other Copts, and they were beaten until 8 AM. He was then taken to el-Kobah Military Hospital where he was chained to his bed. She said that Mina had a large tattoo of the Virgin Mary on his arm and “the soldier was so angry about that he wanted to shoot him.”

Ms. Mariam, wife of Mr. Amin Mouneer Ayad, who was at work and was dropped off by his company’s bus near Maspero after 22:00, said that a soldier asked her husband if he was a Christian and saw the tattooed cross on his wrist, then took him away to a room all covered in blood. After taking his money and cell phone, the soldiers beat him until he lost consciousness. “I did not recognize him at hospital,” said his wife. “His eyes were so swollen that when he cried no tears were flowing.”

The Al-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture said on its Facebook page that Mr. Amthal Mahmoud Abdel-Fattah, a Muslim arrested at Maspero by the military, was said by his mother to be mentally handicapped. Military prosecutors transferred him to Abbassiya mental hospital, which decided to keep him “until he comes back to his senses,” as per the hospital report.

“To arrest the victims and not the assailants shows the extent of persecution and humiliation the Copts are experiencing,” said Medhat Kelada, head of the Union of Coptic Organizations in Europe. “If there is any justice, the military prosecution should instead investigate the crimes committed by the military police.”

A list of suspects to be questioned by the military prosecutors with regards to the Maspero violence was published by the media, which included clergy, in addition to political movements like the Maspero Coptic Youth Union, Copts Without Borders and April 6. It also included the deceased Coptic protester Mina Danial, known from the January 25 Tahrir protests, who died in the Maspero Massacre from gun shots.

Father Filopateer was interrogated by the prosecution on October 26 and he completely refused to cooperate with the military investigation because he is a civilian and because it is biased and is part of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), with whom “…we are direct opponents in this case. I accused the SCAF, Field Marshal Tantawi and Brigadier Badeen, head of military police of being directly responsible for the Maspero Massacre.” He said that the SCAF was fishing for incriminating evidence.

Father Mattias Nasr went to the military prosecutor on October 20. He said that he did not expect to be accused, wondering how can a victim become a culprit? He described the investigations as a sort counterbalance to what was unveiled in the conference held on October 20 by the Maspero Coptic Youth Union. The conference accused the military of murdering the demonstrators through video footage and witnesses.

Right groups have criticized the ongoing arrests, denounced military trials for civilians and called for the transfer of the investigation of the case from military to civilian prosecutors.

Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East director of Human Rights Watch, said “The military cannot investigate itself with any credibility. This had been an essentially peaceful protest until the military used excessive force and military vehicles ran over protesters. The only hope for justice for the victims is an independent civilian-led investigation that the army fully cooperates with and cannot control and that leads to the prosecution of those responsible.”

“They are arresting Christians and levying accusation at them, most of which are really absurd, in an attempt to implicate them in the killings,” says activist Mark Ebeid, who attended the Maspero protest. “The Junta is trying to justify the impossible, which is putting the blame on someone else. We all witnessed the killings with our own eyes on that bloody Sunday.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israeli Navy Boards New Gaza Freedom Flotilla

The Israeli navy has boarded two international ships carrying pro-Palestinian activists who were trying to break the blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. An Israeli security source said there were “no injuries” during the boarding process which occurred just minutes before the start of the Jewish sabbath. Moves to board the ship came three hours after the navy had first made radio contact with the two vessels, warning them not to continue into naval territory which was under “a maritime security blockade in accordance with international law.” Organisers says the Irish Saoirse and the Canadian Tahrir were in the final stage of their voyage to Gaza, when they were contacted by the navy just before 1100 GMT at some 50 nautical miles from the shore.

The last time a boat tried to reach Gaza was in July when a French-flagged yacht, the last remaining boat of an earlier flotilla, was intercepted by the Israeli navy some 40 nautical miles off the coast. Activists organised a major attempt to break the Israeli blockade in May 2010, when six ships led by the Turkish Mavi Marmara tried to reach Gaza. Israeli commandos stormed the flotilla some 80 nautical miles off Gaza. The botched raid left nine Turkish activists dead and sparked a diplomatic crisis with Ankara, which expelled the Israeli ambassador and has cut military ties with the Jewish state. Organisers of the current flotilla, dubbed Freedom Waves to Gaza, said they had made their plans in secret, in a bid to prevent Israeli interference. Israel has vigorously defended its right to maintain a blockade on Gaza, saying it is necessary to prevent weapons from entering the coastal territory, which is run by the Islamist Hamas movement.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, Slams FOSIS [Federation of Student Islamic Societies]

At a Community Security Trust event last night, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, called out the Federation of Student Islamic Societies in the clearest possible terms.

Here is an extract from his speech:

I know that many people in the Jewish community are engaged in interfaith dialogue with British Muslims who represent Islam at its tolerant best. But where individuals and groups express attitudes that are hostile to Jews. Muslim and non-Muslim alike. That cannot be tolerated. And we need to be smart in our approach. How do you do that? I have always believed that, as a general principle. You don’t win the fight by leaving the ring. You don’t walk away from the battlefield and let bigots spread hate unchallenged. You engage — confident in the power of argument. Confident in the power of liberal values to defeat prejudice. Liberalism is muscular, not passive. And I will always defend the right of Ministers to take the fight to those who wish to divide our society.

Of course, there are limits. Some organisations we have no choice but to shun. If we are concerned enough about their activities we will — as a last resort, consider proscription. We won’t provide funding for groups that advocate intolerance. And ‘engaging to change’ is not the same as endorsing. To give you an example — we recently cancelled a recruitment event aimed at increasing applications by Muslims to the civil service fast stream. The proposed partner organisation was the Federation of Student Islamic Societies. An umbrella organisation which has failed to sufficiently challenge terrorist and extremist ideologies. If Ministers want to meet that organisation, setting out strongly the standards we expect, I am all for it. But am I willing for Her Majesty’s Government to treat them as a credible partner? Absolutely not. “Engage to change” — yes. Endorse and fund — no.

Nick Clegg has hit the nail on the head. This is precisely the position which a responsible government which cares about defeating extremism, and which has confidence in its “muscular liberalism” should take.

You can read about the crazy proposal to recruit FOSIS activists to work in the Civil Service Fast Track here.

What was FOSIS’s Nabil Ahmed’s response to the cancellation of that event? You can read it here in the New Statesman:

The allegation [of cultivating extremism by neglect] is slanderous, implying as it does that FOSIS fosters and promotes extremist elements. The absence of evidence is deafening.

The government continues to up its rhetoric on integration and extremism, making frivolous claims whilst laying the blame at the doorstep of FOSIS and other Muslims organizations, yet its deeds in policy formation and in cancelling events such as the above are counterproductive to any notion of integration.

It most certainly isn’t defamatory to say that FOSIS has “failed to sufficiently challenge terrorist and extremist ideologies”. The truth is far worse. It is clear from their actions that FOSIS institutionally subscribes to extremist ideologies itself.

Over the last three years speakers at FOSIS events have included the following:

  • Daud Abdullah, the Istanbul declaration signatory and head of hate publisher Middle East Monitor.
  • Hamas enthusiast Haitham Al-Haddad. The Gaza war made him happy because “it clearly encouraged Muslims to prepare themselves for jihad, all over the world”.
  • Canadian Islamist Muhammad Alshareef, who has said Jews should be hated and shunned. As for gays, Muslims should be “proud” to be called homophobic and need to harass gay rights demonstrators.
  • Australian preacher Shady Alsuleiman, a fan of Al Qaeda preacher and recruiter Anwar Al-Awlaki. Alsuleiman calls jihad “the peak of Islam”.
  • Moazzam Begg, the Taliban fan who heads the terrorist support group Cageprisoners.
  • Abdur Raheem Green, the head of iERA. It is an organisation which specialises in staging extremist conferences, such as this one at the Ibis hotel in southwest London which led to a furore earlier this year. Three of iERA’s foreign advisors have been banned from the UK.
  • Uthman Lateef, a gay hating and “don’t help the police” extremist. He appeared at events featuring Anwar Al-Awlaki into 2009, when it was very clear that Awlaki was a leading Al Qaeda operative.
  • Creepy Stephen Sizer, the church friend of extremists, including the racists and Hamas supporters of Viva Palestina Malaysia.
  • Azzam “Kaboom” Tamimi, the supporter of suicide bombings.
  • Notorious preacher Riyadh ul-Haq, who hates the West and Jews and supports the Taliban.

One of FOSIS’s latest moves was to stand up for the hate preacher Raed Salah. Whose testimony did it call on in defence of Salah? Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas.

FOSIS also did its bit to complicate the police investigation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the undie bomber. Qasim Rafiq of FOSIS was his “close friend” when the pair were at UCL.

There were many reasons that the FOSIS-Civil Service link up was sunk. One of those reasons is that a large number of attendees at the Civil Service recruitment event had declared themselves supporters of Babar Ahmed, a man who is attempting to evade deportation to the United States on terrorism charges. This is what the US has accused him of (there’s more here):

It is alleged that Ahmad and Ahsan, through an entity known as “Azzam Publications,” were members of a group that provided material support to the Taliban and the Chechen Mujahideen through various means, including the administration and operation of various web sites promoting violent jihad. The Azzam Publications websites, including, e.g., and, were hosted for a period of time through the services of a web-hosting company located in Connecticut. The indictment alleges that the defendants, using both cyberspace and real-world efforts, assisted the Taliban and the Chechen Mujahideen through money laundering, as well as by providing funds, military equipment, communication equipment, lodging, training, expert advice and assistance, facilities, personnel, transportation and other supplies, with the knowledge and intent that such conduct would support the military activities of these and associated groups. The indictment also alleges that, during a search of Ahmad’s residence in the United Kingdom in December 2003, Ahmad was found in the possession of an electronic document containing what were previously classified plans regarding the makeup, advance movements and mission of a United States Naval battle group as it was transiting from California to its deployment in the Middle East. The document discussed the battle group’s perceived vulnerability to terrorist attack.

This is what looked like just five days after 9/11. The main headline is “URGENT APPEAL TO DEFEND AFGHANISTAN”. […]

What was FOSIS’s response to being called out on its campaigning for various extremists, hate preachers, and supporters of terrorism? Why — to ramp up its campaign for Babar Ahmad. Don’t think that this is the end of FOSIS. These guys never give up. Like the Blues Brothers, they believe that they’re on a mission from God.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab Spring a Mask for Ruthless Men

The Biblical story of Jonah in the belly of a whale is a fascinating allegory of moral instruction taught by God to man, or of man’s struggle for redemption in a sinful world. It might also be read as a metaphor indicating only those individuals, or people, know best the nature of any beast if they have lived inside its belly, and survived to speak of the evil encountered.

The people who knew best the sheer evil nature of the former Soviet Union, for instance, were the ones who experienced it from within, and warned the world.

Similarly, only those with experience of politics in the Arab-Muslim world from the inside know well the true nature of its repressive culture riddled with violence. Khaled Abu Toameh is a journalist writing for the Jerusalem Post. He describes himself often as a Palestinian-Israeli, an Arab, a Muslim and a resident of Jerusalem. In other words Khaled — I will address him by his first name — is a man of multiple identities, and residing in the ground zero of the most intractable conflict of our time.

I draw attention to Khaled because his writings are warnings from within the belly of the Arab world. And his writings are required reading for anyone in the West seriously interested in understanding the interior nature of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or the emergent shape of Arab politics as one set of despots fall and another tyranny looms large. I first met Khaled here in Canada, and later visited him with his family at his home in Jerusalem. Khaled’s personality is radiant, his courage is indomitable and his knowledge indispensable for outsiders struggling to understand the labyrinthine nature of tribal politics of the Arab world.

In a recent article, Khaled told the world why the so-called Arab Spring is inevitably turning into an Arab Winter. He asks sardonically: “Will Libya take example from Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia where adulterers are stoned to death and convicted thieves have their hands cut off and beheaded in public squares?” He then writes: “Those who thought the Arab Spring would bring moderation and secularism to the Arab world are in for a big disappointment.”

And why, we may incredulously ask.

Khaled answers: “What many Western observers have failed to notice is that most of the anti-government demonstrations that have been sweeping the Arab world over the past 10 months were often launched from mosques following Friday prayer.” There you have the inside view from the belly of the beast. In our politically correct world of multicultural utopia, the reality of what occurs inside the mosque cannot be discussed. To the mayor of New York, the Ground Zero Mosque can only be a place of worship where pious men — and mostly men — gather. Khaled has no reason to be politically correct when he knows the inside story of how a mosque serves as the recruiting base for jihad against infidels and lapsed Muslims. This jihad is turning whatever little promise there was initially invested in the Facebook revolution called Arab Spring into an Arab Winter, and rule by ruthless men obsessed by their Islamist version of a cruel faith and a vengeful deity.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Iran: 2nd Int’l Islamic Resistance Poetry Congress Opens in Bushehr

IBNA: Ayatollah Safaei Bushehri, Bushehr’s Friday prayer Imam, Bahman Dorri, cultural deputy of Guidance Ministry, brigadier general Mohammad Hejazi, deputy of the armed forces’ general administration, Mohammad Hussein Jahanbakhsh, Bushehr governor, and commander Fathollah Jomeiri, commander of Imam Sadegh Sepah, were some of the guests who were present in the opening ceremony of the congress.

In his address, Bahman Dorri, cultural deputy of Guidance Ministry, endorsed the works presented to the congress by resistance poets from around the world and highlighted poetry as the most crucial, artistic tool and national wealth and that “we are committed to protect this wealth for rear young poets.” Dorri praised the congress as the source of omen and bliss [to the country] and added “the post-revolution poetry has settled its debts to the Islamic Revolution and it should be honored for this reason. We must constantly pay tribute to the resistance poetry and other artists may enjoy resistance poetry and poets in their works because pieces have passed Iran’s borders and have been exported to other countries in the world Islam.”

He further added that the doctrines of the Islamic Revolution have been welcomed in the world and its results are now evident in world events. “The pieces that are rehearsed in the congress for the first time will be endorsed by the cultural department of the ministry and their publication and translations into other languages will be put on the agenda,” he stated.

The poetry pieces that are recited in the congress are heard all over Iran, as many of the countries involved in the Islamic awakening are thirsty for such pieces, he asserted. “Today, we need to translate the works by these poets and export them to all parts of the world.”

Later in the ceremony, a number of poets including Javad Zahtab, Abbas Bagheri, Mohsen Khodayar and Saber Emami rehearsed some of their poetry pieces to the audience about the Islamic awakening. Resistance poetry is the most divine poetry style, asserted Ayatollah Safaei in his address. “The Islamic resistance poetry reminds us of the anti-Islamic poetry composed during the beginning years of Islam in wars like the wars of Ohod and Khandagh (ditch). The congress will run till Friday in Bushehr.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Syria: Alastair Crooke Stands by His Man, Bashar Al-Assad

It’s been a while since the Western commentariat has been afflicted by the opinions of Alastair Crooke, another British spy who devolved into apologetics for Islamism. Crooke’s last attempt to define down the Syrian revolution was in the Asia Times, where he blamed the entire uprising on Zarqawists from Iraq (no, really), in a piece that a little birdie tells me was originally rejected by Foreign Policy magazine for being morally obscene. Hardly anyone is buying Crooke’s Khomeinist bullshit these days except — you guessed it — The Guardian.


[JP note: By hook or by crook …]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Turkey-Germany Trade Volume Exceeds 25 Bln USD

(ANSAmed) — BERLIN, OCTOBER 31 — Trade volume between Turkey and Germany exceeded 25 billion USD in the first eight months of 2011, Anatolia news agency reports quoting Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan as saying. It was nearly 30 billion USD in 2010, added Babacan who spoke at Turkish-German CEO Forum in Berlin on Monday. Babacan said that Germany was Turkey’s number one trade partner. Noting that almost three million Turks were living in Germany and they were contributing to economic, political and social life of Germany, Babacan said that four million German citizens were visiting Turkey each year, adding that the number of Germans who wanted to live in Turkey was increasing rapidly.

Babacan said that 4,688 German companies were operating in Turkey, and their investments had reached 4.6 billion USD.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Ottoman Mania on TV and in Museums

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 4 — Television series, exhibitions at home and abroad and an endless array of references and initiatives, including a fountain with Italian lighting are all evidence of a movement sweeping through Turkey in recent months that, though no-one would dare to refer to it as such, is tantamount to a sort of “Ottoman-mania”. The phenomenon comes at the time of an expansive foreign policy inspired by the past splendour of the empire of the sultans.

The most visible and common demonstration of this trend is the two competing television series. The high headdresses, turbans and frogs of “This is Ottoman country” has in recent weeks challenged the more established audience of “Mutheshem Yuzyil”, the Magnificent Century, a reference to the Ottomans, of course, and whose producers have been fined by a watchdog for its treatment of a Sultan too partial to alcohol and indecorously, for Islam at least, tempted by the wonders of his hareem.

The era during which Turkey’s empire shone from Algiers to the Caspian and from Budapest to the Horn of Africa, is seeing a number of exhibitions flourish in Istanbul, with illustrations of Ottoman tastes in the most disparate of environments: calligraphy, drapes, the archaeologist and artist Hamdi Bey, clothing and even nineteenth century photographs that illustrate the relationship between the Ottomans and American Indians. The interest shown by one newspaper ended in the discovery of a private collection of over 15,000 picture cards gathered in 25 years by a Turk with 16th century paternal roots stretching as far as Perugia.

The revival even includes Italian taste (“I Guzzini”) in the new system of illumination that since the end of July has embellished the fountain of Ahmet III, one of Istanbul’s most prized monuments, located at the entrance of the Topkapi Palace, and on the lithography of restaurant walls.

The interest, however, is not simple nostalgia. The phenomenon is the cultural manifestation of a foreign policy that has been slightly maliciously described as “neo-Ottoman”, as it aims to regain influence in countries on three continents that were once part of the Empire. First among them is North Africa, the setting for the Arab Spring, where Turkey is presenting itself as a model of moderate Islam, acceptable democracy and economic growth. The Balkans and the Caucasus follow. The strategist of this policy, the Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, does not like the newly-coined word because of its hegemonic tones, but he accepts the expression of “pax ottoman” to suggest Turkey’s contribution to the stabilisation of a turbulent area.

Even outside of the exhibition halls, there is a nod in the direction of a past that the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, attempted to suppress in order to draw the country closer to Europe, In Biga, on the Dardanelles, the presence of archers has been signalled, some of them dressed as janissaries, the guards of the sultans, who challenged one another to three-day precision contests. In the Aegean city of Mugla, meanwhile, one Bed & Breakfast justifies its price — the equivalent of 700 euros a night — by ensuring a philological “Ottoman atmosphere” worthy of a Pasha. The tramp that set sail from Ankara in search of gas around Cyprus, fuelling a diplomatic and military crisis that for a few weeks sent the world’s media into overdrive, is named after the Ottoman captain and geographer, Piri Reis.

Ottoman-mania is also being felt overseas. Ottoman rooms have recently been opened at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, while the “Turkophilia” of private Ottoman art collections was on show at Sotheby’s in Paris in September. Elsewhere, “Sultans’ gifts” have been exhibited in Los Angeles and Houston, while an “Ottoman” military band (Mehter Takimi) was only prevented from parading in the streets of Hollywood because of the protests of descendants of the victims of the massacres carried out by the Sublime Porte, the Armenians. The Turkish news agency Anadolu has even reported a commemoration of the Ottoman traveller Evliya Celebi at the Vatican.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Bali Opens Doors of First Gay Medical Clinic

Jakarta, 2 Nov. (AKI) — The first medical clinic for gay patients has opened in Indonesia’s Kuta, Bali tourist destination.

The initiative aims to serve gays, lesbians and transgenders that are often denied admission to public medical facilities because of discrimination, according to the Antara news agency.

“The Bali Medika Clinic will be a safe haven for gays and transexuals that continue to experience difficulty getting access to treatment at general health care facilities, Dewa Nyoman Wirawan, an adviser for the clinic, told Antara.

Wirawan said the facility will provide general medical check-ups, as well as screening for sexually transmitted diseases, hormone therapy and psychological support.

The centre has been taking patients since 27 September but was officially opened on Saturday.

The Gaya Dewata Foundation, which provides counseling and promotes safe sex practices among Bali’s gay community, says the clinic will be welcomed by a community scared to find help in a society that shuns them.

“The gay and transgender community here tends to be closed off and its members are reluctant to let anyone find out about their sexual orientation, so they tend to avoid seeking medical treatment when they fall ill,” Christian Supriyadinata, the foundation’s director, told Antara.

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

Indonesia: More Than 11,000 to be Deployed During SEA Games

Jakarta 4 Nov. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesian national police spokesperson Saud Usman said around 11,200 personnel will be deployed to ensure security during the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, which starts next week.

Saud said the Indonesian military would also support security measures, providing around 5,700 personnel.

Security at the Games will placed under the leadership of national police senior general Imam Sudjarwo.

The the 26th Southeast Asian Games runs between 11 November and 22 November.

The Games is a biennial multi-sport events involving participants from the current 11 countries of Southeast Asia. The games is under regulation of the Southeast Asian Games Federation with supervision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympic Council of Asia.

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

Pakistan: Muslims and Mosques in Germany: Let Photographs do the Talking

ISLAMABAD: In order to promote religious harmony, “Mosques in Germany”, a photographic exhibition by Wilfried Dechau, was organised at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts on Friday. His photo reportage shows a collection of impressions on the theme of “Muslims and their houses of prayer in Germany.” Rare glimpses of Islamic architecture in Germany were exhibited. Dechau visited Hamburg, Imam Ali Mosque, Karlsruhe An Nur Mosque, Aachen, Bilal Mosque, and Stuttgart Islamic Union to capture these images in the urban context. His photographs have caught the spirit of the holy places with stunning illustrations of mosque interiors, the atmosphere at Friday prayers, and imams giving sermons. The photographs were taken in March and April 2008.

The exhibition was organised by the Embassy of Federal Republic of Germany in collaboration with (PNCA). German Ambassador Dr Michael Koch said that four million Muslims living in Germany have complete freedom of practising their religion, and this exhibition reflects this fact. Another official representing German Embassy said that the exhibition was already showcased in India, Bangladesh, and Tajikistan and would be held in Malaysia by the end of the year. A large number of visitors including some foreign dignitaries were present at the occasion.

[JP note: Repellent dhimmitude. The UK sponsored a similar exhibition — The Art of Integration: Islam in our green and pleasant land — by the photographer Peter Sanders — “The Art of Integration exhibition was first seen in Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt in January 2006. From here it began a tour of the Middle East including Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. Since then it has been seen in more than 64 cities in 30 countries around the world.” ]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

US General Removed for Criticizing President Karzai

(AGI) Washington — US generals get carried away during interviews. Stanley McChrystal, US troops commander, knows it well as he has been removed for criticizing the president in a Rolling Stones interview. Now also General Peter Fuller learned the lesson as he spoke out on Hamid Karzai. Fuller, vicecommander of the NATO training mission, spoke out in an interview to Politico, saying that Afghan leaders have “no notion of reality” and do not appreciate fully the sacrifice “in terms of blood and funds” that the US are doing for Afghanistan.

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

Far East

Philippines: No Work, Classes on Nov. 7 to Mark Feast of Sacrifice

WORKERS and students have another long weekend, thanks to the observance of the annual Eidul Adha or Feast of Sacrifice. President Benigno Aquino III has declared Monday a regular holiday through Proclamation 276, based on Republic Act 9849, which provides “that Eidul Adha shall be celebrated as a regular holiday.” It was the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos that recommended the observance of Eidul Adha on Nov. 7, while prayers are to be recited on Nov. 6.

The holiday is one of two big celebrations for the Muslim community. They are expected to gather in mosques early morning on Sunday for prayers and a short sermon, said Al-Mukri Aladdin Ubpon, Al-Khairiah Mosque imam and administrator. The other major celebration is the Eid al-Fitr, which was celebrated at the end of August this year or the end of Ramadan, one of the holiest times of the year that is observed through a month-long fast.

Ubpon said it is also part of tradition to slaughter a goat and distribute the meat to the less privileged members of the community during Eidul Adha. The celebration commemorates the time the prophet Abraham offered his son, Ismael, as sacrifice. “Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, just as Muslims are expected to give up difficult things in their life,” the imam said. He added that the 10-day Hajj is also performed this month.

Hajj is the obligation of every Muslim to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once during their lifetime, unless they are prevented by lack of finances or ill health.

Ubpon said the well-to-do Muslims should go to Mecca as often as they can. “Ang dili maka (Those who cannot) afford, are required to visit the mosque every Friday,” he said.

Today, Ubpon said, is the ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah (the Month of Hajj) and is called the Day of Arafat, the culminating event of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. At dawn of this day, Muslim pilgrims assemble on the hillside and plain called Mount Arafat and the Plain of Arafat, which is six miles from Mecca. “The pilgrims stay in Arafat for three days, which is equal to one month of fasting or Ramadan,” he added.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Philippines: Islam Relives Abraham’s Sacrifice on Sunday

MANILA, Philippines — As the 1.6-billion world of Islam celebrate on Sunday, the patriarch Abraham’s unwavering faith to God through Eid’l Adha (Feast of Sacrifice), President Benigno S. Aquino III Saturday sent his greetings to Muslim Filipinos, hoping for their continuing commitment to stability. The President had proclaimed, Monday, Nov. 7, as a regular non-working holiday for Eid’l Adha. “Our government joins all Muslim Filipinos in observance of Eid’l Adha, one of the most revered festivals of the Islamic community,” the President said. Eid’l Adha, he said, is a reminder for them that sacrifice puts to a test one’s principles amid life’s complexities.

The President noted that their solemn dedication to upholding their faith strengthens Islam’s ideals of peace, solidarity, and modesty. He said their earnest conviction and steadfast fulfillment of their religious obligations “serve as an inspiration to your countrymen.” The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), headed by Secretary Bai Omera D. Dianalan Lucman, released the traditional presidential message to the Manila Bulletin. She sent her greetings to her compatriots, saying the lessons learned from this auspicious day should be put at heart for the whole year round. The President’s message should be an inspiration, Lucman said.

“I am hopeful that you will remain committed to helping us create an environment of stability through harmonious relations among all Filipinos. May this celebration bring forth serenity within yourselves and your respective communities, and further unite a nation that is now treading the straight path toward lasting amity and equitable progress,” the President said.

An Islamic religious leader, Ustadhz Naguib Taher, chairman of the Al Insan Assembly-National Capital Region Chapter, said Eid’l Adha is Islam’s biggest celebration, with Eid’l Fitr (Festival of Breaking Fast) coming in second. “Islam has only two major festivals, Eid’l Adha and Eid’l Fitr. Eid’l Adha is the biggest event because it celebrates Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his first born son. To us Muslims, the first born was Ishmael,” said Taher. He said the story of Abraham, called Ibrahim in Islam, is found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. “Abraham’s story should be a source for peace and unity between and among believers of the three religions,” said Taher.

Hundreds of worshipers are expected to perform the early morning Eid’l Adha prayer at the Rizal Park in Manila, he said. Worshipers will also be coming in droves Sunday to pray at the Blue Mosque, Maharlika Village, Taguig City; Golden Mosque, Quiapo, Manila, Islamic Center Mosque, Carlos Palanca, Quiapo, Manila; Salam Mosque, Tandang Sora, Quezon City, and in many mosques, he added. “One of the lessons of Eid’l Adha is that family unity and unwavering faith in God can produce miracles,” said the Islamic leader.

[JP note: The biggest miracle is getting people to believe that Islam is a religion of peace.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Suicide Bombers, Gunmen Attack Northeast Nigeria

(Reuters) — A triple suicide bombing of military headquarters in Maiduguri and three roadside bombs in different areas shook northeast Nigeria’s biggest city Friday, while militants launched multiple gun and bomb attacks two other cities west of it, witnesses and the military said. It was one of the most violent days in radical Islamist sect Boko Haram’s growing campaign of violence against local authorities in dry, dusty northeastern Borno state. “One soldier and six civilians have been injured by the three suicide bombers in multiple blasts,” Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed, commander of the Joint Military Taskforce for Borno state, told Reuters.

Earlier, three roadside bombs exploded in quick succession in an apparently coordinated strike, hitting the wards of Meduguri and Jajeri and the El-Kanemi College of Islamic Theology, all of them around the time of Friday prayers, sending the Muslim faithful fleeing from their mosques. The northeast’s almost daily shootings and frequent bombings in the past months have been blamed on Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden.” The attacks usually target public and religious figures in the poor, semi-arid north.

If the attack on the military headquarters is confirmed to be the work of Boko Haram suicide bombers, it will mark the second confirmed time the group have used this tactic.

The other was a suicide car bomb attack against the United Nations’ Nigeria headquarters in Abuja, which killed 26 people and gutted several floors of the building. Boko Haram says it wants sharia law more widely imposed across Nigeria. It draws much of its support from unemployed youths in the remote, economically deprived north. The group appears to be growing in sophistication and security analysts believe it has made links with al Qaeda’s north African affiliate — al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb.

A local security source said it was not yet clear if there were any casualties from the three bomb blasts in Maiduguri. Suspected Boko Haram gunmen later attacked the towns of Damaturu and Potiskum, next to each other about 100 km west of Maiduguri, in Yobe state, and engaged in running gun battles with security forces, witnesses said. Residents heard several explosions, which later turned out to be bombings of small local churches and a police stations, they said. “Several police stations and churches were bombed. The whole problem started around 6 p.m. this evening, when there was exchange of gun fire between the sect and the security operatives,” said Damaturu resident Umar Gambo. “It’s horrible.”

Another witness in Damaturu, a local journalist who declined to be named, said he had seen a group of 10 militants had attacked a mosque and the local police headquarters. “We are all indoors while the fighting is going on. Damaturu and Potiskum my home town are under siege. The Boko Haram sect have taken over the towns and the security men are battling them. No one is safe,” said Potiskum resident Mammam Mohammed. Security forces this week started door-to-door searches for weapons in the northeast, after an arms amnesty for Islamist militants expired on October 31. It was unclear whether or not this spate of attacks was a response to that operation.

(Reporting by a correspondent in Maiduguri and Mike Oboh in Kano; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Alison Williams)

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Latin America

In Paraguay: Hotel With Ugly Nazi Past Lives on as Quaint Tropical Escape

Paraguay was infamous as a favorite hiding destination of Nazi fugitives after World War II. But the links to Nazism actually go much farther back — and live on: Hotel Del Lago, which was frequented by severable notable Nazi supporters before the war, is still a prime tourist spot

Paolo Manzo

Experiencing the Nazi legacy in South America costs just $40. This is the rate to spend a night in the best room of the Hotel del Lago, founded in 1888 on the shores of the Ypacaraí Lake, in Paraguay, in the small town of San Bernardino, 50 kilometers east of the country’s capital, Asuncion. Given that Paraguay does not have access to the sea, the lake is the trendiest destination for a vacation. San Bernardino, however, is notorious as the place that sheltered Joseph Mengele, the Angel of the Death, a German SS officer and physician in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. After Germany’s defeat in World War II, Mengele fled to South America where he hid for decades. According to unproven theories, Mengele, one of the most wanted Nazi war criminals, died in San Bernardino, not in Brazil, as usually reported. Regardless, there are plenty of other phantoms from the past in this small town, which was founded in 1881 by five German families, and still hosts a German Mennonite colony.

The hotel is still very popular and has a cultural center that promotes local craftsmanship. But behind its quiet façade and tropical setting, this village hides a long string of connections with Nazism. Passing a 19th century Teutonic-style hall, a smiling waitress walks the visitor to the best suite of the hotel, and reveals other old stories.

The German architect Wilhelm Weiler designed Hotel del Lago. In one of its rooms, Bernhard Förster — husband of Elisabeth- Förster- Nietzsche, and brother-in-law of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a brave explorer but also a theoretician of anti-Semitism — committed suicide. After the failure of his project to fund an Aryan colony in Paraguay, named Nueva Germania, Bernhard chose death before dishonor. In the 1930s, Nazism became popular in Paraguay, and Förster was considered a hero to some. Adolph Hitler would later order German soil spread over his grave. Moving from the hall of the hotel to the suite, the visitor has to walk in front of Förster’s room, number 19. La Tigresa and Hitler In one of the building’s small towers, there is the favorite room of one of the most powerful women in San Bernardino, the French-German Hilda Ingenohl, known as “la Tigresa,” due to her passion for hunting large felines.

“She was a Nazi supporter, worshipped Hitler’s ideas and claimed to be his friend,” says a woman from San Bernardino, who didn’t want to give her name. Ingenohl’s life had many chapters. She was born in Paris in 1874, and was a nurse in Europe during World War I. Flying was another passion of hers. Some say she was actually a pilot during the war, and that she was one of the first women who attempted, unsuccessfully, an uninterrupted aerial circumnavigation of the world.

After the end of the war in 1918, Ingenohl moved to South America. First, she went to Uruguay, upon the invitation of Grete Goetsch, wife of the German ambassador, then, to Argentina, where she directed the German Hospital in Rosario, and finally to San Bernardino, which she fell in love with. She bought 200 hectares of land, but she spent most of the time in the room in the tower of Hotel del Lago. Today, that same room still features a king-size-bed, a closet with a mirror, and large balcony which looks over the entrance of the hotel. This was Ingenohl’s small kingdom, where she planned her frequent trips to Europe. She loved classical music and founded a youth orchestra. She had even met the famous Paraguayan musician Florentín Giménez. In 1953, she got cancer and moved back to Bonn, in Germany.

The hotel claims other notable — non-Nazi — guests from the past, including the French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Swedish writer Ida Bäckmann. Still, it is the link to Nazism that remains a major skeleton for both this town, and the country as a whole. Even well before Mengele’s soujorn after the war, it was in Paraguay, in 1927, that the first Nazi party outside of Germany was established.

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


Interpreter Attacked at Asylum Facility in Southern Italy

(AGI) Lamezia Terme — An interpreter working at a temporary migrant holding centre outside Cosenza, suffered an attack today. The incident took place at Lamezia Terme and led to the arrest of five — three of whom from Ghana, Nigeria and Mali.

Police carried out the arrests on charges of holding the interpreter against his will, of grievous bodily harm, attacking a public official and resisting arrest.

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

UK Border Chief Axed Passport Controls: Top Civil Servant Faces Sack Over Decision That Left Britain Open to Terrorists and Criminals

Vital border checks for criminals and terrorists were secretly abandoned over the summer.

In a major new immigration fiasco, three senior officials — including the £135,000-a-year head of the UK Border Force — have been suspended.

There are fears that hundreds of thousands of travellers waltzed into Britain without crucial vetting.

Unknown to ministers, guards were allegedly told not to bother checking biometric chips on passports of citizens from outside the EU to ensure they are not fraudsters.

More worryingly, staff were also instructed not to bother checking their fingerprints or other personal details against the Home Office’s so-called Warnings Index.

This contains the names of terror suspects and illegal immigrants who must be refused entry to the UK to keep the public safe.

The Home Secretary is said to be furious.

Border Force head Brodie Clark was suspended on Thursday after allegedly confirming that he had authorised abandoning specific checks at ports including Heathrow and Calais.

Two more top officials, Graeme Kyle, the director of the UK Border Agency at Heathrow, and Carole Upshall, director of the Border Force South and European Operation, have also been suspended

The revelations come after MPs revealed how the UK Border Agency — dubbed ‘not fit for purpose by Dr Reid — had ‘lost track’ of 124,000 asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Passport Officials Were Told ‘Stop Checking’

THE man in charge of making British borders secure has been suspended over claims checks that might spot terrorists were dropped over the summer. UK Border Force boss Brodie Clark is being investigated after officials were told not to bother checking the biometric chips of passports belonging to non-EU nationals. The chips provide a back-up to confirm the person holding the passport is who they say they are.

It is also alleged that officials stopped cross-referencing personal details and fingerprints against the Home Office’s Warnings Index. That would have increased the risk a dangerous fanatic could enter the UK. The decision to stop the checks is believed to have been taken to prevent tourists complaining about long queues. But ministers were kept in the dark.

The border controls — at ports and airports including London’s Heathrow and the UK check in Calais — were compromised between July and the beginning of this month. Mr Clark — said to be on £135,000 a year — was suspended on Thursday.

But Home Secretary Theresa May also ordered the suspension of two of Mr Clark’s colleagues, Graeme Kyle, the director of the UK Border Agency at Heathrow, and Carole Upshall, director of the Border Force South and European Operation. Mrs May has asked former Met police officer David Wood to investigate the allegations. Labour’s Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “These developments are extraordinary in that they involve such senior members of the UK Border Agency. “The Border Police are supposed to keep people out, not let people in.” Mr Clark refused to comment last night.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Hidden Persuaders: The Unheralded Gains of the Pro-Life Movement

Opponents of abortion are rarely interviewed on television these days. “It’s much harder to get on TV than it used to be,” says Charmaine Yoest, who heads Americans United for Life. Bookers of guests for news shows tell her, “We don’t want to talk about abortion. We’re tired of it.”

Perhaps the mainstream media are simply incapable of covering more than one social issue at a time. For the moment, the conflict over gay marriage and gays in the military is monopolizing media coverage, TV and print alike. Abortion is barely an afterthought.

There’s an upside to this for the pro-life movement, a benefit of benign neglect. Foes of gay rights are now seen by the press as fighting the bad war, roughly analogous to Vietnam. Pro-lifers are waging the good war, like World War II. “You get much less grief fighting against abortion than you do fighting to preserve traditional marriage,” says Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.


All that is dwarfed by an even bigger change. Pro-lifers have captured the high moral ground, chiefly thanks to advances in the quality of sonograms. Once fuzzy, sonograms now provide a high-resolution picture of the unborn child in the womb. Fetuses have become babies.


Three pro-life trends have spiked in 2011. The first is the rise in opposition to abortion among young people. The under-30 cohort was the most pro-choice in the 1970s, second most in the 1980s and 1990s. Now they’re “markedly less pro-choice” than any other age group, scholars Clyde Wilcox and Patrick Carr have written. “Clearly, something is distinctive about the abortion attitudes of the Millennial Generation of Americans.”


The second trend is the explosive growth of refuges for pregnant but unmarried women… They all do the same thing, nurturing single women during their pregnancy and recommending against abortion. The results are one-sided: 80 to 90 percent of the women who have sonograms at pregnancy centers choose to have their baby.

Today there are nearly three times as many of these centers (2,300) as abortion facilities (800 to 850). One reason for the disparity is that women stay for months in pro-life centers, but only briefly in abortion clinics. The Care Net network reflects the growth: 550 centers in 1999, 1,130 today.


Trend number three: the rejuvenation of old pro-life groups and the sprouting of new ones. Kristan Hawkins was a political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services in 2006 when she responded to an ad for the newly created job of executive director of Students for Life. The group had been around for two decades, operating with a minimal staff and fewer than 300 chapters. Now Students for Life has 637 chapters, a full-time staff of 10, and a dozen regional coordinators. “We’re almost everywhere,” assistant director Tina Whittington says.


Michael New, a soft-spoken political science professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, is a leading pro-life thinker. He has studied the effect of state-enacted restrictions on abortion over the past decade and found they reduce the number of abortions. New (Dartmouth B.A., Stanford Ph.D.) hasn’t promoted his evidence through normal pro-life channels. Instead, he followed academic practice and submitted them for peer review.

That took three years, plus another year before his conclusions were published. He tested the impact of three restrictions: no public funding, parental involvement, and informed consent. He determined that all three reduced the abortion rate, particularly parental participation in the case of a minor.

He’s now studying whether involvement of two parents is more effective than one and which pro-life restrictions are the most effective.


Fetal pain is another issue that has invigorated the pro-life movement in recent years. Improved ultrasound revealed to doctors that at around 20 weeks an unborn child reacts visibly to pain. “All the neurological equipment is present at 20 weeks,” according to Teresa Collett, a professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minnesota and an expert on fetal pain. Fetal pain was recognized, Collett says, as an “independent basis for a state to protect the life of a child.”


The key is to burden the abortion industry with intrusive regulations. This amounts to using liberal means to produce a conservative result. “When you regulate something, you get less of it,” a pro-life leader reminds me. So precise conditions at abortion clinics would be imposed, as Virginia did this year. New requirements for safety, bookkeeping, record-keeping, and reporting would be applied. That’s not all. More laws limiting abortions would be needed, as would cultural efforts to shrink the demand for abortions.

The informal division of labor among pro-life groups leaves SBA with the conventional mission of electing candidates who are pro-life to Congress and defeating those who aren’t.

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]


The Truth About Taking on Andy McCarthy’s Column “Islam or Islamist?”

Last Friday, a Bosnian Muslim named Mevlid Jasarevic walked up to the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo with a rifle and opened fire, terrorizing the city center until he was wounded by a police sharpshooter. Media reports identified him as a “radical Islamist.” What made him an “Islamist”? The fact that he shot up the embassy. On Thursday, Mevlid Jasarevic was simply a Muslim. He became an Islamist with the first shot from his Kalashnikov.


All too often, American analysts have assumed that Muslim individuals and groups who have no open involvement with terrorism fully accept pluralism, constitutional values, and Western notions of human rights, including the freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and equality of rights for women. And all too often, they have been wrong in that assessment, often disastrously so.

Actually there are many authentic forms of Islam, but one of the things they all agree on is that Islamic law should rightly be the law of society and that Islam should have a political manifestation. Sunnis, Shi’ites, and even Sufis (who were for a considerable period the leaders of the jihad in Chechnya against the Russians) hold to this idea.


“Andy sees hopeful signs in Afghanistan’s dropping apostasy prosecutions after international pressure, Iran’s delaying stoning an adulteress, and the Saudis’ outlawing slavery. He sees the latter as evidence that “sharia can be changed.” But in reality, that ban doesn’t change sharia. It changes Saudi adherence to it. Sharia is still the same; there is still no madhhab (school of Islamic jurisprudence) that teaches that in the Islamic state slavery may not legitimately be practiced. Nor does Afghanistan’s reversal change Islamic apostasy law. It just shows that the Afghans are susceptible to world opinion. While that is welcome news, it is not Islamic reform, and does not offer a different version of Islam.”


We do indeed, as Andy says, want Muslims as our allies, provided they sincerely reject Islam’s political and supremacist aspects.

[Note from Egghead: Here’s the intellectual schizophrenia: Islam is supremacism achieved via political dominance. The entire point of Islam in SUM is that Muslims are to physically conquer and possess the entire world for Allah to be ruled by Sharia Law. Any Muslim who rejects Islam’s political and supremacist aspects is NOT a Muslim but rather an apostate or ex-Muslim under instant ummah-wide death threat. Thus, by Islamic definition and practice, Muslims can NEVER be long-term allies of non-Muslims!]

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]