Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111116

Financial Crisis
»‘Europe’s Toughest Hour Since World War II’: Merkel’s Warning as ‘Super Mario’ Reveals New Cabinet of Non-Political Experts
»European Union: Our Friends From Goldman Sachs…
»Eurozone Italian Bond Yields Hit 7% Again on ‘Most Worrying Day’ — 15 November 2011
»Eurozone Recession Looming, As Debt Costs Soar
»‘Good Friends Are There to Help’: Chinese Investors Take Advantage of Greek Crisis
»Greece: Papademos: Deficit at 9% of GDP by Year-End
»Greece: 68,000 Small Companies Closed Since 2010
»Italy: Monti Government Born With Technocrat-Only Team
»Netherlands: Prime Minister Again Says Countries Should be ‘Pushed Out’ Of Euro
»The Crisis and Three Europes
»The ECB Has Only to Say the Word
»The Struggle to Win Back Confidence
»A Fund-Raiser for New York City Comptroller John C. Liu is Accused of Fraud
»Ball State Breaks Steroptypes of Islam
»IANT [Islamic Association of North Texas] Hosts Reception in Dallas
»Ibrahim Hooper: Isamophobia on Rise in States
»Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Filmmakers Take on Radical Islam
»Students Look for Prayer Area
»Student Gunman Shot by UC Berkeley Police Dies
»Suspect Arrested in White House Shooting
»Suspect Arrested in Friday’s Shooting at White House
»Mayor Says Hatred Tends to Spread
»Muslim Meat Donation Helps Soup Kitchen
Europe and the EU
»Belgium: Pakistani Family Stand Trial for ‘Honour Killing’
»Benetton Launches Shock New Anti-Hate Campaign
»British Muslims: Active Players in UK Counterterrorism Efforts
»Germany: Islamic Da Vinci Code: Is Christian Symbolism Hidden in Cologne’s New Mosque?
»Germany: Neo-Nazis May Have Planned to Target Politicians
»Norway Builds New Courtroom for Terror Trial
»Political and Business Pressure Mounts to Clear Dutch Occupy Camps
»Swedes Warned of Danish Sex Jaunt Risks
»Sweden: New TV Series Explores the Use of Arabic in Contemporary Europe
»UK Muslims: New Names, Old Groups
»UK: Man Plans to Use His Own Garage as Town’s Mosque
»UK: Number of Black and Asian Children in London Schools Overtakes White Pupils for the First Timestudy Author: ‘Very High Levels of Segregation’
»UK: Romanian Gangs ‘Drive Increase in Metal Theft’ As Cost of Plunder Hits £770m a Year
»UK: The State is Failing Its Duties. The British People Will Soon Run Out of Patience
»Muslim Unity in Serbia is Close, Says Foreign Minister
North Africa
»Egypt: Members of Mubarak’s Party Can Run in the 28 November Election
Israel and the Palestinians
»Archaeology: Crusader Inscription in Arabic Deciphered
Middle East
»Iran: Ghadir and Islamic Awakening Conference Planned
»Jordan: Man Cuts Sister’s Throat to Cleanse Family Honour
»Rebirth of Turkish Bath — Mediterranean Treasure
»Syria: New Attack on Foreign Embassies in Damascus, TV
»Turkey: Many Violations of Freedom of Expression
»Turkey: Activists Publish Confiscated Book
»Two Explosions Rock South Lebanon
»Yemen: Militants Capture Another City in South
»Mothers to Save Russia From Extinction
»Russia Gets the Red Planet Blues: Phobos Probe Failure Puts Planetary Comeback in Doubt.
South Asia
»India: Strong Show of Unity by Muslims Ahead of Malegaon Youth’s Release
»Indonesia: Assaulted Aceh Preacher Faces Defamation Charge
Far East
»British Workers Accuse Chinese Telecoms Firm of Race Discrimination as 49 Non-Chinese Staff Are Made Redundant
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Mauritanian Mufti Decries Bigotry
»Somalis on Trial in France for Yacht Hijacking
»Australia’s Abused Asylum Seekers Paid Multi-Millions
»Romanians, Bulgarians to Still Face Dutch Restrictions
»UK: Harriet Harman Praises ‘Hero’ Immigrants Who Send Welfare Handouts Home
Culture Wars
»Spain: Rajoy Front Runner, Gays Rush to the Altar
»Jupiter Moon’s Buried Lakes Evoke Antarctica

Financial Crisis

‘Europe’s Toughest Hour Since World War II’: Merkel’s Warning as ‘Super Mario’ Reveals New Cabinet of Non-Political Experts

She said: ‘If the euro fails then Europe fails, and we want to prevent and we will prevent this, this is what we are working for, because it is such a huge historical project.’

Mario Monti, dubbed Super Mario, set about creating his cabinet — which is tasked with overhauling an ailing economy to keep market fears over the country from threatening the existence of the euro.

The FTSE 100 closed 0.38 per cent down at 5,524.49; Germany’s DAX ended 1.00 per cent down at 5,996.25; and France’s CAC 40 finished trading 1.20 per cent down at 3,111.53.

Asia’s markets had earlier been boosted by the developments — the Hang Seng Index finished 1.94 per cent up at 19,508.18; China Enterprises Index ended the day 2.75 per cent up at 10,716.9; and the Shanghai Composite Index closed 1.92 per cent up at 2,528.71.

The markets have also been hit, slightly, by the news that Spain and France could be the next eurozone countries to fall into economic chaos

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

European Union: Our Friends From Goldman Sachs…

Le Monde, Paris

Mario Monti, Lucas Papademos and Mario Draghi have something in common: they have all worked for the American investment bank. This is not a coincidence, but evidence of a strategy to exert influence that has perhaps already reached its limits.

Marc Roche

Serious and competent, they weigh up the pros and cons and study all of the documents before giving an opinion. They have a fondness for economics, but these luminaries who enter into the temple only after a long and meticulous recruitment process prefer to remain discreet.

Collectively they form an entity that is part pressure group, part fraternal association for the collection of information, and part mutual aid network. They are the craftsmen, masters and grandmasters whose mission is “to spread the truth acquired in the lodge to the rest of the world.”

According to its detractors, the European network of influence woven by American bank Goldman Sachs (GS) functions like a freemasonry. To diverse degrees, the new European Central Bank President, Mario Draghi, the newly designated Prime Minister of Italy, Mario Monti, and the freshly appointed Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos are totemic figures in this carefully constructed web.

Heavyweight members figure large in the euro crisis

Draghi was Goldman Sachs International’s vice-chairman for Europe between 2002 and 2005, a position that put him in charge of the the “companies and sovereign” department, which shortly before his arrival, helped Greece to disguise the real nature of its books with a swap on its sovereign debt.

Monti was an international adviser to Goldman Sachs from 2005 until his nomination to lead the Italian government. According to the bank, his mission was to provide advice “on European business and major public policy initiatives worldwide”. As such, he was a “door opener” with a brief to defend Goldman’s interest in the corridors of power in Europe.

The third man, Lucas Papademos, was the governor of the Greek central bank from 1994 to 2002. In this capacity, he played a role that has yet to be elucidated in the operation to mask debt on his country’s books, perpetrated with assistance from Goldman Sachs. And perhaps more importantly, the current chairman of Greece’s Public Debt Management Agency, Petros Christodoulos, also worked as a trader for the bank in London.

Two other heavyweight members of Goldman’s European network have also figured large in the euro crisis: Otmar Issing, a former member of the Bundesbank board of directors and a one-time chief economist of the European Central Bank, and Ireland’s Peter Sutherland, an administrator for Goldman Sachs International, who played a behind the scenes role in the Irish bailout.

Relay exclusive information to the bank’s trading rooms

How was this loyal network of intermediaries created? The US version of this magic circle is composed of former highly placed executives of the bank who effortlessly enter the highest level of the civil service…

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

Eurozone Italian Bond Yields Hit 7% Again on ‘Most Worrying Day’ — 15 November 2011

Here’s what Riddell told M&G’s clients (with thanks to my colleague Patrick Collinson):

Today we’ve seen probably the most worrying day of this crisis so far. It’s a ‘risk off’ day, yet even the Netherlands, which the market perceives to be the second strongest Eurozone sovereign, is coming under a bit of pressure with Netherlands 5 year bond prices down 1% on a day when Germany has rallied.

France is seeing a full blown run on its debt, with France 30 year bond yields soaring to 4.43%, the highest since June 2009 (German 30 year bond yields are at record lows of 2.45%). In price terms, 30 year French bonds have underperformed 30 year German bonds by 14% since the beginning of November and by 20% since the beginning of October.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Recession Looming, As Debt Costs Soar

Economic growth in the eurozone is slowing down, with the Netherlands and Cyprus heading back into recession, fresh quarterly statistics show.

Overall growth in the eurozone was at 0.2 percent in July-September compared to the previous three months — with the highest scores in Estonia, Germany and France, while the Netherlands and Cyprus slid back into recession and Belgium and Spain ground to a halt, Eurostat, the bloc’s statistics office said Tuesday (15 November).

The statistics did not include any data for Italy, Ireland, Greece, Malta, Luxembourg and Slovenia. But with dim economic forecasts by the EU, IMF and other international bodies, the eurozone seems to be heading towards a new recession, as people’s incomes have been slashed by austerity measures, resulting in depressed consumption. And despite the new ‘technocratic’ prime ministers in Greece and Italy, markets have continued to drive their borrowing costs up and have started to dump even triple-A-rated bonds from France, Austria, Finland and the Netherlands.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Good Friends Are There to Help’: Chinese Investors Take Advantage of Greek Crisis

With Greece desperate for solvent friends, Athens has been looking to Beijing for help in the fight against its crisis. But Chinese investors are setting tough conditions in return for their money, and many Greeks are unsure if the investments will be beneficial in the long run.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Papademos: Deficit at 9% of GDP by Year-End

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 14 — The Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said his country’s budget deficit will be reduced to 9% of GDP by the end of the year. “The sacrifices to which the Greek people have been called must not be wasted,” said Papademos, who added that “despite progress made, Greece is still at a crossroads.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: 68,000 Small Companies Closed Since 2010

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 15 — The National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) — citing a research conducted by the European Commission — announced that 68,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in Greece have gone out of business since 2010. This is more than double the 30,000 businesses that shut down over a seven-year period between 2003 and 2010.

According to ESEE, as daily Kathimerini reports, some 53,000 businesses are currently struggling to stay afloat and may close by the end of this year. Meanwhile, the number of shop vacancies around Athens, Thessaloniki and other big cities is growing despite a steep 30% drop in rental prices. About 20% of all shops along downtown Ermou Street and in Kolonaki — two of the city’s busiest shopping districts — are vacant, according to ESEE. The same data show half of all first-floor shops and offices in Athens are also vacant. The business owners’ association in Thessaloniki estimates 21% of shops have gone out of business so far this year in this northern city.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Government Born With Technocrat-Only Team

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 16 — Italy’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Mario Monti, has announced the make-up of his new administration. There ware seventeen ministries, of which twelve are with portfolio. But just sixteen ministers have been appointed as the Premier himself will retain charge of the Economy Ministry for the meantime. Three women have been given important posts: Anna Maria Cancellieri is Interior Minister, Elsa Fornero at Labour and Paola Severino is Justice Minister. Among the others, Foreign Minister is Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, at Defence is Giampaolo Di Paola, at Education Francesco Profumo and Corrado Passera is the new ‘super-minister’ for Development and Infrastructure.

“During consultations I came to the conclusion that the absence of politicians in the government would facilitate it: it would remove a reason for awkwardness,” Mr Monti told a press conference on presenting his new team. There will be no “handing on of batons as this is a race against time,” he added, replying to a question about possible additions of political figures at a later date, thus conveying the level of commitment of his executive, whose swearing-in is scheduled for 5pm CET today.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Prime Minister Again Says Countries Should be ‘Pushed Out’ Of Euro

Prime minister Mark Rutte ‘stoked fears’ that the collapse of the euro could become a reality by saying some countries could be pushed out, the Guardian reports on Wednesday.

Rutte made the comments on the second day of a two-day visit to Britain. ‘We would like countries to be able to be pushed out of the eurozone,’ Rutte said, adding that member countries must ‘put out the fire’ of the debt crisis.

Earlier this year, the Netherlands called for expulsion as a last resort for countries which do not get their economies in order. The cabinet has also called for the appointment of a special EU commissioner to ensure budgetary discipline.

One analyst told the Guardian that Tuesday was the most worrying day yet in the euro crisis. ‘Even the Netherlands, which the market perceives to be the second strongest eurozone sovereign, is coming under a bit of pressure,’ Mike Riddel of M&G’s international sovereign bond fund is quoted as saying.

Yesterday, new macro-economic figures showed the Dutch economy is on the verge of a recession, after contracting 0.3% in the third quarter.

Finance minister Jan Kees de Jager said the new figures are ‘worrying’ but that he is sure the government is on the right track. ‘Everyone will now see that cuts are necessary,’ De Jager told television programme RTLZ.

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

The Crisis and Three Europes

România libera, Bucharest

The EU may well soon be split up between the performers, the lame, and the laggards, worries Romanian political scientist Alina Mungiu-Pippidi. And let’s not count on a fake European identity to bring everyone together.

It wasn’t very polite on the part of Europe to get into a crisis just after we rejoined them, a diplomat friend from eastern Europe told me with some bitterness. After fighting for several years against the two-speed Europe, my perplexed friend now sees this way out as the only road to salvation. What else can be done?

If we accept solutions such as the one put forward by Jean-Claude Piris (one of the lawyers who had a hand in the drafting of the Lisbon Treaty) — a supplementary treaty just for those eurozone members capable of moving on to fiscal federalism — we’ll have put the euro crisis behind us, but we’ll have three Europes: the unified eurozone of the efficient; the eurozone of the lame, not sure whether to go forward or go back (Greece, Portugal, and others) — and the Europe of those outside the circle who have no serious prospects of catching up.

Europe has been through other crises. Why is this one any more tragic? Everyone — starting with the Americans — was betting on the capacity of Europe to bring peripheral countries up to a common denominator, both in terms of democracy and prosperity, and so such crises seemed to be “problems of growth.”

The obsession with Europeanness

The reality, writes Ivan Krastev in his text for the Dahrendorf Symposium (held on 9 and 10 November in Berlin in memory of the German sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf, who died in 2009), is that we are witnessing a crisis of disintegration: everything that has made the European project possible is turning against it at this time of divergence.

First democracy, with populism and the concessions made to populism by European leaders, and then the welfare state as a birthright that democracies can hand out to their citizens regardless of the economic realities.

Supporters of Europe hold that if we can prove the existence of a common European identity, solidarity with others will flow naturally, as will support for European policies and tighter integration. So why do the Greeks, who have identity to spare, not back the policy of their government? More generally, how can identity alone serve to legitimise any policy?

The obsession with Europeanness and Europeanism, generally based on an identity defined by a psychological point of view, make us lose sight of what Europe really is: a set of laws and the ability to apply them. Greece is not a standard — no more than Italy and Portugal are — and this is what threatens to disintegrate Europe, not the much-despised immigrants, and not Russia or China.

Ready-made European identity

In short, as proposed by Professor of European studies at Oxford Jan Zielonka in “The Ideology of Empire”, European identity is merely propaganda out of Brussels to justify the neo-colonial European desire to push for European standards beyond its borders, in Ukraine, Libya and the Maghreb…

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

The ECB Has Only to Say the Word

Le Monde, Paris

There is a simple way to resolve the Eurozone crisis: the European Central Bank just has to state that it will be the lender of last resort for European states. But this solution, which has the support of many economists, is rejected by the ECB — a doctrinaire position, which a Le Monde columnist deplores.

Alain Frachon

According to many economists, a single sentence announced by the European Central Bank would be enough to quell the Eurozone crisis. The ECB simply has to make it clear that it will act as a lender of last resort for the most indebted members of the monetary union. If it did, the euro would be off the ropes.

Not only that but the markets would be obliged to show some respect, and — oh, supreme joy! — we could stop worrying about the ratings agencies. We would be able to relax the vice-like grip of fiscal restraint and relax spending cuts to promote a resurgence of growth that would facilitate the clearing of debt.

And, without indulging in empty promises, we would be able to break out of the vicious circle that has turned the eurozone into a bowling alley where governments fall like skittles: first Athens, then Dublin, Lisbon, Madrid, Rome — en attendant Paris…

When an issuing institution mints coins — which is one of its functions — by definition, it benefits from unlimited resources. If the ECB said it would be the insurer of last resort, it would deter speculation, and the markets would be pacified to the point where they would no longer demand extraordinary interest rates to invest in loans to the most indebted states.

Hampered by a doctrine

Embattled governments would no longer have to contend with the snowballing costs required to service their debt, and thus would have an opportunity to exit the vicious circle whose various stages are now well known: having been excluded from sovereign bond markets where they are obliged to offer exorbitant rates of interest, ignoble indebted states are forced to hold out a begging bowl to external creditors who make their insistence conditional on draconian austerity conditions that suck the blood out ailing economies.

But if the European Central Bank were to announce in advance that it intended to invest in loans to a state that has difficulty settling its debts, the outcome would be radically different: with purchases by the issuing institution forcing down interest rates to a reasonable level in the event that the announcement of its intention to pursue such a policy was not sufficient in itself.

This is what happens outside the eurozone in such countries as the United States, Britain and Japan. For diverse reasons, these countries do not score better than the average state in the eurozone. But it is clear to everyone concerned that the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan would not hesitate in such circumstances.

Why then has the ECB not taken the initiative? Because it is hampered by a doctrine that advocates the separation of powers. The bank is there to regulate monetary policy, while budgetary policy is left to governments. It is the bank’s role to ensure currency stability (no inflation), while it is up to governments to manage their debts. In other words, the issuing institution should not fly to the rescue of an embattled treasury, because that is not its mandate…

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

The Struggle to Win Back Confidence

The latest buzzword is “investor strike”. One trail leads to ECB

First it was “spread”. Now it looks as if we will have to get used to another Anglo-Saxon expression — “investor strike” — as money people close their collective wallets. The phrase crops up again and again in reports from merchant banks and on Monday’s market rumour mill, this singular form of protest was being justified by operators as follows: “Two governments have fallen in Greece and Italy. We’re waiting to see what happens but in the meantime we are not renewing bonds that mature. It’s too risky”. This, then, is the bitter truth with which the Monti government must come to terms. So far, none of the big names in financial consultancy have been prepared to speak up in Italy’s defence. No strong hands are reaching out for Italian BTPs. Significant economic players ready to consolidate their position are thin on the ground. This is a fever that will not run its course in a single day. And if anyone had been toying with the idea of buying Italian bonds, the head of the European Banking Federation Christian Clausen was on hand to cool their ardour. His message to bankers in an interview was unambiguous — trim your portfolios if you don’t want to be “sucked into the epicentre of the crisis”. Last Friday’s recovery in the Bund-BTP spread was due to major operators like Soros and Fidelity covering their positions. On Monday, no one followed suit. The Italian banks that might have purchased are already so stuffed with Italian treasury bonds that if anything the reverse is likely to obtain as automatic mechanisms that prevent them from issuing buying orders are triggered.

If that is how the land lies — and according to many market observers, it is — the days ahead will not be easy. Politicians like Democratic Party (PD) deputy secretary Enrico Letta, who during the last days of the Centre-right government stated publicly that Berlusconi’s departure would be worth “100 basis points”, have been comprehensively confuted. And the Right can happily point the finger at them for yielding to the temptation of propaganda and telling lies. Modish anti-Berlusconism has also gulled the talk-show bankers who played to their audience and actually doubled the Letta bonus, predicting a 200 basis point fall in the bond spread! A wake-up call arrived on Monday when the market imparted its harsh lesson and the pollyannas duly switched off their mobiles to avoid having to answer for their embarrassing predictions. The upshot is that today, when Mario Monti is due to announce his decision, we are still looking at a Bund-BTP spread not far short of 500 basis points. There was no “Caimano” effect [Nanni Moretti’s 2006 film about Silvio Berlusconi — Trans.]. The optimists claim it will kick in over the next few days when the new prime minister presents his government and, crucially, his programme. The spread should then fall. But by how much? In the wake of the earlier erroneous predictions, no one wants to answer that question. It is easier to find professionals who depict the Monti government’s future as a Via Dolorosa. The argument is that a broad but politically fragile parliamentary majority means that the spread will be rolled out at every opportunity during debates in the Chamber of Deputies and Senate on each and every bill. In other words, we will have to get used to these swings even if the tenant of Palazzo Chigi is respected in the City and esteemed in the European diplomatic circles that matter…

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


A Fund-Raiser for New York City Comptroller John C. Liu is Accused of Fraud

A fund-raiser for the New York City comptroller, John C. Liu, whose campaign finances are under federal investigation, was arrested on Wednesday morning on charges of attempted wire fraud and conspiracy, people briefed on the matter said.

The charges against the man, Xing Wu Pan, do not mention Mr. Liu, but say that Mr. Pan served as a bundler — or person who gathers donations from a group of contributors — for a citywide candidate in New York for the 2013 election. A person briefed on the matter said the candidate was Mr. Liu.

The arrest underscores the political peril for Mr. Liu, who is considered a rising star in New York politics and a possible successor to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Mr. Liu has quickly amassed more than $1 million in campaign contributions, but questions have surfaced about the legitimacy of his donations.

[Return to headlines]

Ball State Breaks Steroptypes of Islam

Many people don’t understand the themes of Islam — testimony of faith, prayer, fasting, almsgiving and pilgrimage. Instead, they feel fear and contempt for the ancient religion, a Muslim student said. “The religion is not established on hate, but rather love,” Sohaib Sajjad, pre-medical graduate student, said. Sajjad participated in a lecture and panel Tuesday night that discussed the history of Islam in America and the rise of Islamophobia in the Western world. In his o pening remarks, Sajjad talked about the origins of Islam in the United States and how some of these ideological values played a part in the founding of the country. “Islam did not come now,” he said. “It was here a long time ago. We need to go back to that sense of literacy that our founding fathers had. They went to the actual sources, the people.”

Panelists included Sajjad; Joseph Marchal, associated professor of religious studies; and George Wolfe, coordinator of outreach for the Peace Center. Many of the students attending the event, such as Kalyn McDaniel, were there to gain some kind of understanding about the rationale behind the lack of positive support for Islam in America. “You can see after 9/11 how people were treated,” said McDaniel, a freshman family and consumer science major. “Ame ricans seem to hold strong to the fact that the Islamic faith is evil.” After the initial lecture, the panelists were brought to the stage and encouraged the viewers to ask questions directed at the expert group. Most of the questions dealt with understanding the definitions of Islamophobia and the cultural ramifications of these fears.

Sajjad and Wolfe defined Islamophobia as an irrational fear of a group that one might not understand, though Marchal saw it as more of a blatant prejudice similar to anti-Semitism and racism and less to an inherent psychological fear. Panel members and some Islamic audience members stressed the importance of unity between the Judeo-Christian American culture and the American Muslims in order to improve religious relations in the country. “It’s also important that Muslims build relationships with those outside of the Islamic faith,” Wolfe said. “The more you can educate, the more you can build cooperation.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

IANT [Islamic Association of North Texas] Hosts Reception in Dallas

DALLAS: Assistant Attorney General USA Thomas E Perez has said that their focus of attention is not Muslims in particular but only the crime and criminal elements in the community.

Perez was addressing Muslim leaders and imam of DFW area at a reception hosted by Islamic Association of North Texas (IANT) in Richardson during Perez short tour from Washington DC. He expressed his wish to meet with all of the Imams and Muslim leaders of Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) area in his visit to get awareness of Muslims issues and concerns regarding FBI and their workings. He said that he welcome criticism and comments on his department of Justice. He expressed his appreciation for community members helping and stressed on mutual benefit.

Perez explained as how his department has helped Muslims in protection against discrimination, hate crimes and in similar cases where his department has helped getting justice to victims and to bring the criminal elements to justice. He said America is for all of us, we would have to work together to protect our communities and country for ourselves and for our children. US Attorney for Texas Northern District Sarah R. Saldana while addressing the gathering said that “We come here to inform you about our department as how they work. I will welcome anyone coming to my office”. She said that her department and FBI play a major role in apprehension and prosecution of criminal elements in the society.

Special Agent in-charge Federal bureau of Investigation (FBI) for North Texas Robert E.Casey while addressing the gathering said that those individuals who work with FBI are highly professional people. Every case goes through a protocol where senior officers also look into the cases, and according to their authorities all regulations are followed. Muslim community leader Khalid Hamideh while thanking the attendees stressed on the need of working together with mutual respect to put a common front for crimina l elements. He said that Muslim community relationship goes long way and from before 911. He said Islam also teaches us to live with peace and tranquility. The gathering was also addressed by IANT imam Yusuf Kavacki, while community leaders IANT Chramin Mohsin Mandaia and IANT hosted Imams of various mosques and religious and community leaders attended the meeting. US attorney of Eastern region J,Malcolm Bales also attended the reception. All invited guests met with community members whereas the Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez left for the airport. State US Attorney had a photo op session with community members and invited attendees to contact him in Washington without any hesitation. IANT also hosted a dinner in honor for all the participants.

[JP note: Shame about the acronym — the association should have prefixed itself with ‘greater’ to avoid the ant-like IANT.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Ibrahim Hooper: Isamophobia on Rise in States

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — Latest FBI records show the number of hate crimes against Muslims increased nearly 50 percent last year. One hundred and sixty cases of hate crimes against Muslims were reported in 2010 compared to 107 in 2009. A report by the Center for American Progress released in August named several foundations and wealthy donors as being behind a ten year campaign to spread Islamophobia in the US. There is an interviewed Ibrahim Hooper from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in New York to discuss the issue further.

Q: With the statistics that have come out, were you surprised at the figures? What do you think needs to be done at this point in time to try to decrease these numbers?

Hooper: I don’t think this jump in the report of anti-Muslim hate crimes is a surprise at all. We have seen for the last almost two years a tremendous rise in the level of anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society by what we call the Islamophobia machine that is a coordinated, well-financed group of individuals and organizations that promote and exploit Islamophobia.

We have seen this over the past two years — primarily catalyzed, I think, by this manufactured controversy over the park51 Islamic community center in New York. So, it has been our experience whenever you see a rise in the anti-Muslim rhetoric, you are going to see a similar rise in anti-Muslim incidents and I think that is what has been demonstrated here.

Q: What about the reports now that say many of these organizations have had direct or indirect ties with Israel. Can you give us your perspective on that?

Hooper: I don’t know about that, the Islamophobia machine has a number of different motivations. We see extreme right wingers, we see religious extremism there, there is all kinds of motivation so I don’t know you can assign it to one particular motivation but we see increasingly these individuals coordinated amongst themselves, support each other. We saw the terrorist who gunned down dozens and dozens of civilians in Norway citing, in his manifesto American Islamophobes who are part of this Islamophobia machine. So it even goes beyond national borders.

Q: What about average American Muslims, do you think they feel the difference — compared to prior to 9/11 and now? Do you think there is a sense of more awareness on the part of Musl ims now in the US?

Hooper: You cannot help but be aware of the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society, you can’t turn on a talk radio program, you cannot read the comments on articles online related to Islam and Muslims, you cannot watch the right-wing cable news programs without seeing, reading and hearing anti-Muslim rhetoric on a daily basis. That is why we have asked mainstream leaders and individuals in America to speak against out this rising level of intolerance and hatred and so far we hadn’t had a great response; there have been some people who have spoken out but we need it come from the top even into the White House.

Q: What kind of effect this has had, specially on the young Muslims in the society — as far as their psyche, when according to what you are saying, when they turn on their TV or turn on cable, there are so many programs talking negatively about Islam. Wha t does that do for the Muslim identity, especially for the young people in the US?

Hooper: That is a very good question because as adults we can often put up with this kind of rhetoric, we have life experience, we know times when this wasn’t the case, but how is this going to affect a young person who’s just started growing up now in a society where their faith is vilified publicly so often and so regularly; it is yet to be determined how that will impact those children.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Filmmakers Take on Radical Islam

On this week’s edition of the Stakelbeck on Terror show, I sit down with Alex Traiman, writer and director of the blockbuster documentary “Iranium” and Harold Rhode, a former foreign affairs specialist at the Department of Defense who’s featured in the film.

Alex and Harold are part of the Clarion Fund, a non-profit group dedicated to producing documentaries on the global threat of Islamic jihad.

In this episode, we discuss issues surrounding Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and the jihad against America and Europe. We also highlight the Clarion Fund’s award-winning films, which include Iranium, The Third Jihad and Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.

Click the link above to watch.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Students Look for Prayer Area

Recent interest of a meditation space on campus has been of topic lately throughout the religious community at Sacramento State. Sac State hosts 14 clubs dedicated to religious groups such as the Christian, Islamic, Catholic, Sikh, and Jewish faith. Most, including the Muslim Student Association, have been pulling for a space to be able to carry out their meditations in private comfort. Senior accounting major Yusuf Ahmed, a member of the Muslim Student Association, has encountered difficulties trying to pray on campus. “Trying to pray can be embarrassing,” Ahmed said. “It’s not very quiet and people are trying to study. It’s hard to pray in a place where there is not any privacy.”

Islamic tenets require an individual to pray five times a day. Many students who practice on campus have to pray on the concrete, in public walkways and even parking garages in order to fulfill daily worship. Many groups have suggested a prayer space modeled after institutions that already have this as an option — such as UC Berkeley, or St. Peter’s Catholic College, which opened a Hindu prayer space to accommodate those of another religion. Junior biological sciences major Mashel Alam is an officer in the Muslim Student Association on campus. “It makes me feel really uncomfortable, you’re out there in public and don’t want someone to interrupt because once you’ve started your prayer, you’re not supposed to break it,” Alam said. “It can also be threatening, such as if someone were to come up behind you while you’re praying, it’s really scary. It makes me feel more at peace and concentrated on prayer to have the comfort of seclusion.”

Muslim Student Association President Aida Selmic, senior international relations major, has circulated petitions via email to the religious organizations throughout campus to jump-start the process. “I personally don’t pray on campus. I don’t want to deal with people walking by, giving looks,” Selmic said. “I’m not Arab and I don’t look like it, so I feel if I were to be praying on the ground people would be taken aback.” Selmic said it can be tough for students to find a warm, safe and dry place to pray on campus, especially in the winter. Many are forced to pray in harsh conditions. “People try to find a secluded place, and it’s not always ideal,” Selmic said. “I would pray on campus if I had a specific spot. It’s more private and it’s just less of a hassle. I heard about someone praying in a parking structure, and with those attacks that have been happening, that’s the worst place you can be. It really comes down to a safety issue.”

Hanan Hasson, former president of the Muslim Student Association, has been trying to get a prayer center started since she came to Sac State four years ago. “I pray at school every day, wherever I can find a spot. Honestly, in the hallways, balconies, I’ve prayed in parking lots, the library, wherever I can find a secluded place,” Hasson said. A prayer space could be a safe place for those of every religion or group to come meditate, even those who do not have a religious conviction. “We’re trying to get a space in the Union. I have their full support and they think it’s a great idea because it’s not geared towards Muslims only, or any religion, even atheists are welcome. Anyone who wants a nice quiet place,” Hasson said. “It’ll be a place where people can sit and relax, reflect, sometimes we have so much going on in our personal lives that we just need time to ourselves.”

Alysson Satterlund, director of Student Organization and Leadership, is active in the process of finding such a space. “We’ve been working with Hanan and the MSA to find out what’s been happening with our sister schools to see guiding principles for its use,” Satterlund said. “Hanan brought the interest and the need to us at campus life and student affairs, and we have been looking to find out what it would take to make that space available on our campus by researching other schools.” Satterlund hopes the research found will help point them in the direction toward procuring a space for the groups. “It would be wonderful to be able to provide all of the exciting programs and services our students desire, a lot depends on what resources are available and what we can provide,” Satterlund said. “Ultimately, my job is to bring the research forward for those who can do something with this.”

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students underwent a similar struggle to get the Pride Center established in the University Union in 2007, and succeeded with persistence.

“What it comes down to with administration is numbers, how many people want this, like the pride center is a good example,” Selmic said. “A lot of people fought for it for a long time, and it’s a good safe resource for that specific demographic and I think the prayer center would be a good resource for the religious demographic.” Satterlund and Hasson have a teleconference scheduled this week with UC Berkeley to find out what their own meditation space brings, and what needs have to be met.

“It’s really exciting to learn what’s happening around the system and so much of that is inspired by students, we’re really excited to learn and see what we can do with this venue and what is available,” Satterlund said. “That’s what we do in student life, is student leadership development, we want out our students to take the initiative. ‘Leadership begins here,’ so this is a perfect example of that.” Hasson said he believes having a place to pray and meditate on campus could help bring the school closer together. “I think the prayer space is a necessity on campus, for all students,” Hasson said. “Honestly, in a way it will help bridge gaps between the students, cultures, and religions.” Hasson said she hopes the prayer space will not only serve as a center to meditate, but also as a place to learn about others’ cultures and beliefs, and that it could help reduce instances of Islamaphobia that have occurred in recent years. “This is one step closer to relieving everyone of t hat ignorance. When someone sees something they learn about it, and when they’re educated we build that level of tolerance,” Hasson said. “I think everyone should be free to practice their religion, especially in a college environment where people are learning not just about religion, but everything in general.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Student Gunman Shot by UC Berkeley Police Dies

A student shot by UC Berkeley police as he brandished a gun in a computer lab at the Haas School of Business has died of his wounds, officials said.

Berkeley officials said the man, who died Tuesday evening, was a senior at the business school and had transferred to UC Berkeley. His name was not released by authorities.

He was conscious when he was taken to Highland Hospital, where he underwent surgery.

He entered the business school Tuesday afternoon and walked into an elevator with a female employee of the school, said UC Police Chief Mitch Celaya.

He pressed the button for the third floor and the woman for the fifth floor, Celaya said.

The student then looked at the woman, pulled out what appeared to be a gun from a backpack and then put it back, police said. After leaving the elevator, the staff member told her supervisor and both went to the computer lab.

They saw the student there and called police.

Police received a 911 call at 2:17 p.m., and three officers responded two minutes later.

The student then “pulled a firearm out of his backpack and displayed it in a threatening manner,” Celaya said.

He said the officers told the student to drop his weapon, and when he didn’t, one of the officers fired. Police would not say how many shots were fired…

[Return to headlines]

Suspect Arrested in White House Shooting

WASHINGTON — UPDATE: The Secret Service says the man wanted in connection with Friday’s shooting near the White House has been taken into custody.

Authorities say Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez was arrested at a hotel near Indiana, Pa. at about 12:35 p.m. Wednesday and is currently in the custody of Pennsylvania State Police.

Ortega-Hernandez was sought by federal authorities after reports of gunfire near the White House on Friday night. Witnesses heard shots and saw two speeding vehicles in the area. An assault rifle was also recovered.

No one was injured in the shooting, but officials are investigating two bullets that hit the White House, one of them apparently cracking a window on the residential level where President Barack Obama and his family live.

The Secret Service said it discovered the bullets Tuesday, but said it was not certain they were connected to Friday’s shooting. On Wednesday, officials could be seen taking photographs of a window on the south face of the executive mansion. The window is in the center of the rounded portico.

“An assessment of the exterior of the White House is ongoing,” Secret Service spokesperson Ed Donovan says in a statement emailed to reporters.

“A round was stopped by ballistic glass behind the historic exterior glass,” he says. “One additional round has been found on the exterior of the White House. This damage has not been conclusively connected to Friday’s incident.”

U.S. Park Police identified the suspect in Friday’s shooting as Oscar Ramiro Ortega, 21, and obtained a warrant charging him with carrying a dangerous weapon, a felony. A Secret Service spokesman identified the suspect as Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, saying that is the name on his driver’s license…

[Return to headlines]

Suspect Arrested in Friday’s Shooting at White House

Federal law enforcement authorities on Tuesday arrested a 21-year-0ld Idaho man suspected of shooting with a semiautomatic rifle at the White House on Friday night, as the Secret Service reported finding that at least one bullet had indeed struck the presidential residence.

The Secret Service said that Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez was arrested at a hotel near Indiana, Pa at approximately 12:35 p.m. by the Pennsylvania State Police, acting on information from the Secret Service’s agents in Pittsburgh.

Gunfire was heard in the vicinity of the White House late Friday night, and a man abandoned a car several blocks away, fleeing on foot and leaving behind an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle. It was not clear for several days that someone had deliberately fired at the White House itself.

[Return to headlines]


Mayor Says Hatred Tends to Spread

Anti-Muslim statements linked to Parents’ Voice founder, who calls it all a ‘tempest in the teacup’

Burnaby school trustee candidate Charter Lau is in a bit of hot water for his connection to a Christian organization’s online statements about Muslims. Lau is a candidate for Burnaby Parents’ Voice, a party that formed in opposition to the school board’s policy on sexual orientation and gender identity. Mayor Derek Corrigan brought the website to the attention of representatives from the Burnaby mosque.”There is apparently a website that Charter Lau is involved with that has those comments on it,” Corrigan said. “I was thinking simply that hate doesn’t tend to stop at one identifiable group. It tends to move on to others very quickly. That’s been the history of intolerance and hatred. While one group is isolated, it’s only a matter of time till another group is isolated.”

The organization in question is the Christian Social Concern Fellowship. Lau was director and chair of the group but stepped down this year, although he’s still an active member. The Muslim comments on the group’s homepage were by Rev. Wayne Lo. “We have to pray for Canada that more Christian public servants can be bold witnesses to act with justice according to biblical teaching to counteract the influence of Muslims in our society,” Lo wrote. Imaad Ali, spokesperson for the Burnaby mosque, said they didn’t know about the website. “When we heard about that, we were pretty concerned. That was a little bit of a surprise to us,” he said. Lau said he hadn’t seen the online remarks and couldn’t comment. He also said he had no problem with Muslims, as he has worked w ith Daud Ali (Imaad’s father and the Burnaby mosque’s outgoing chairperson) and Homara Ahmad, a fellow Burnaby Parents’ Voice school trustee candidate, who has been active with the B.C. Muslim Association. “I’m working with (Muslims) all the time,” Lau said. “This is (a) tempest in the tea cup.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslim Meat Donation Helps Soup Kitchen

A New Brunswick soup kitchen will be able to serve hundreds of meals with fresh meat thanks to a donation from the local Muslim community following a religious celebration.

The Fredericton Community Kitchen received more than 350 pounds of ground beef and stew beef from the Pak-Canada Association of New Brunswick. The meat was prepared in a special ceremony as part of a three-day celebration called the Festival of Sacrifice, which is based on the Old Testament story of Abraham. God prevents Abraham from sacrificing his son, so he sacrifices an animal instead. In celebration, Muslims sacrifice an animal. “We’re just overwhelmed by the generosity of this community to help us,” said Cheryl Mercer, who’s the bookkeeper for the kitchen. It means that we’re going to be able to put food on the table, good quality beef that arrived,” she said, estimating it will produce about 600 meals.

Dr. Zeeshan Aslam, president of the Pak-Canada Association of New Brunswick, said it could become an annual donation. The festival requires Muslims to donate one-third of a slaughtered animal to charity, he said. “And that brings all the community into the celebration of this festival,” he explained. So when the group realized the kitchen could handle fresh meat, a quick decision was made, said Dr. Kanza Hashmat. “They were the ones who just said, ‘Everything works for us, when you are ready, we are ready.’ So they were opening their doors, and we were opening our hearts, and that’s how it all came together,” she said. Kitchen officials are thrilled about the prospect of the donation becoming an annual event, said Mercer. “Right now we’re serving about 100,000 m eals a year, and this donation means that we are going to have about 600 of those meals provided by this association,” she said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Belgium: Pakistani Family Stand Trial for ‘Honour Killing’

BRUSSELS — A Pakistani family of four go on trial Thursday in connection with the “honour killing” of a 20-year-old woman who defied them by living with a Belgian and refusing an arranged marriage.

Sadia Sheikh, a Belgian law student of Pakistani origin, was shot dead by three bullets fired by her older brother Mudusar on October 22, 2007, when visiting her family who had pledged to patch up their quarrel.

Her parents and sister are accused of aiding and abetting the killing.

She had left the family home to study after her shopkeeper parents tried to arrange a marriage with a cousin living in Pakistan she had never met.

Before moving in with a Belgian man her age named Jean, she spent some time in a centre for victims of domestic violence where she drew up a will as she felt threatened.

She nonetheless agreed to visit the family in hopes of making peace.

Her parents and sister have denied involvement in the murder, saying Mudusar, now aged 27, killed his sister in a fit of anger.

But her father Tarik Mahmood Sheikh, mother Zahida Parveen Sariya and sister Sariya will be in the dock with Mudusar on Thursday in a jury trial in the town of Mons, and will also face charges of “attempting to arrange a marriage.”

The four face sentences of life imprisonment if found guilty by the jury in hearings expected to last three to four weeks.

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

Benetton Launches Shock New Anti-Hate Campaign

(ANSAmed) — PONZANO, NOVEMBER 16 — A kiss between Pope Benedict XVI and Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, the imam who heads Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque, features in a global anti-hate campaign launched by the Italian fashion giant, Benetton, on Wednesday.

Benetton, which has a reputation for provocative advertising, also uses a photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kissing Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Obama kissing Chinese leader Hu Jintao in the controversial lineup. There are several other shots including one showing French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel kissing one another.

The ‘Unhate Campaign’ is designed to highlight the damage caused by a culture of hatred and promote peace and co-operation between people around the world. The worldwide campaign was presented by Alessandro Benetton, Executive Deputy Chairman of the Benetton Group, at the company’s flagship store in the centre of Paris. “While global love is still a utopia, albeit a worthy one, the invitation ‘not to hate’, to combat the ‘culture of hatred’, is an ambitious but realistic objective,” Benetton said in a statement.

The Benetton family founded the company in 1965 and the company has a network of around 6,000 stores with a total turnover of 2 billion euros generated in 120 countries. Benetton attracted worldwide attention with its ‘United Colors’ publicity campaign by Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani. The campaign features images depicting a man dying from AIDS, an unwashed newborn baby with an umbilical cord still attached and a man slain by the Mafia lying in a pool of blood. The photographer also offended Catholics in the past with pictures of a nun kissing a priest.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

British Muslims: Active Players in UK Counterterrorism Efforts

Global Arab Network — Earlier this year British Prime Minister David Cameron criticised “state multiculturalism” for encouraging people of different cultures, including Muslims, to live separate lives. While this does not in itself sound harmful, the speech went on to suggest that it was time for “less passive tolerance” and “more active, muscular liberalism” when dealing with extremism — either advertently or inadvertently linking extremism with culture. His target seemed to be community-based counterterrorism programmes, which he felt were accepting government funding but doing little to prevent extremism. Community-based counterterrorism, however, has a proven track record in preventing terrorist incidents, with the communities themselves being the first to condemn criminal activity in their desire for peace. For example, Muslim communities in the United States have helped foil close to a third of Al Qaeda-related terror plots since 11 September 2001. Likewise in the UK, M uslim activists have worked for many years to cooperate with police, empowering their communities and helping shape the debate against extremism within them.

Rather than seeing British Islam as a political and security problem — undermining civil and religious liberties — the British government should view it instead in the context of diverse cultural expressions within its stated policy goal of promoting community cohesion. Much of Britain is profoundly ethnically segregated with different communities leading parallel lives, as Paul Thomas, Senior Lecturer in Youth and Community Work at the University of Huddersfield, notes in his 2010 article, “Failed and Friendless: The UK’s ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’ Programme”. Instead of winning hearts and minds, some government initiatives have led to a significant growth in surveillance of Muslim communities. It is deeply offensive to British Muslims to know their mosques are being spied upon by intelligence agents who co nsider Muslims the “enemy”, which has the opposite effect of achieving social cohesion by focusing on Muslims and antagonising the very communities they are trying to win over.

One approach has been to fund new organisations and promote them as the voice of contemporary, mainstream British Islam. Successful community programmes, such as Channel — which works with at-risk youth — and those which prioritise work with Muslim women and children, may continue to be an effective alternative to isolation and disaffection amongst British Muslims. A survey in 2009 on the attitudes of British Muslims showed they identified strongly with the UK and had a high regard for its institutions, including higher education. If this respect is to continue, then attention must be paid by the discerning public to the standard of contemporary scholarship regarding multiculturalism, which is not always academic or impartial, and the prevalence of harmful terminology in popular media and cultu re.

The British people are continually being warned about the threat of Islam, “Islamic extremism”, “Islamic radicalisation”, and the lack of cultural integration from a variety of sources: the media, right-wing think tanks and sometimes even the government. According to the University of Exeter’s European Muslim Research Centre, “these reductionist and populist portrayals of Muslims in Britain don’t do our society any credit. Politicians need to be braver — and reject cheap votes for real political engagement.” Negative terminology is being steadily countered by work at many different levels. For example, cultural programmes, funded either directly or indirectly by the UK government, are empowering Muslim voices calling for understanding, integration and harmony through the Muslim press, Arabic-language television programmes, which at the same time are strengthening links with non-governmental organisations, and building religious and educational initiatives.

A positive sign of Muslim participation in political power is that the number of Muslim Members of Parliament in Britain continues to rise, with eight Muslims elected to the British Parliament in the 2010 election, including three women. For example, incumbent Shahid Malik, who lost his seat but remains an active participant in British-Muslim dialogue, has emphasised that the perpetrators of the June 2007 attack should be described by the media as “criminals”, not “Muslims”. It is this important distinction and its accompanying attitude that must be encouraged as the British government moves to defuse the Islamophobic undertones of the debate on multiculturalism and violent extremism.

* Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a fellow and member of the Board of Directors at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding, former Research Scholar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and World Fellow at Yale University.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Germany: Islamic Da Vinci Code: Is Christian Symbolism Hidden in Cologne’s New Mosque?

The architect of Cologne’s not-quite-completed new mosque has been fired, accused among other things of having hidden Christian symbolism in various places in the new structure. At the very least, we have the first Da Vinci Code conspiracy plot with a modern Muslim twist.

COLOGNE — Christianity’s waning relevance in modern Europe is well documented. But even as church pews remain empty, there is an odd twist unfolding in Cologne, a city rich in Catholic history, where a new mosque is being built amidst the whiff of an ancient conspiracy theory. The details are these. The architect of a near-completed mosque was fired by his client, the Turkish Islamic association DITIB. One of the reasons given was that he had hidden Christian symbols in the building — little crosses, for example, or “Chi-Rho” (XP), the Greek monogram for Christ. And what was the first reaction of the local press? It sided with the architect. As the supposed symbols couldn’t be found on the plans, the accusations were deemed groundless and any suggestion of conspiracy brushed aside.

But let’s take another look at those plans. Look at the way the prayer room faces East, officially of course because that’s where Mecca is — but isn’t Jerusalem and the Tomb of Christ there too? And how about that cupola, doesn’t it sort of resemble two stylized fish? Fish — secret symbols of the first Christians. If DITIB sees it that way, some say, the whole building may have to come down and construction begin anew. And who could blame the Christians, really, if this really is some kind of conspiracy? After all, Cologne’s famous gothic cathedral represents a major success story for secret Muslim societies. It contains relics of the Three Kings, who after all were from the East, and all those representations of Mary, who happens to be one of the main female figures in the Koran. Is history repeating itself? Just like some fear will happen with the mosque, construction on the cathedral was halted because of the hidden Islamic symbols. And it was some 300 years before it resu med.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Germany: Neo-Nazis May Have Planned to Target Politicians

New evidence suggests Germany’s Zwickau neo-Nazi terror cell may have been planning attacks on politicians, including two members of parliament. Two members of the Green Party and the conservatives who appeared on the list expressed their dismay in Berlin on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway Builds New Courtroom for Terror Trial

Confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik will be tried in a new 25 million kroner ($4.3 million) courtroom, as Norway starts spending some of the 600 million kroner ($110 million) set aside for the terrorism trial in the 2012 budget. Room for 204 people inside will be augmented by adjacent spaces for victims’ families and survivors of the July 22nd attacks on Utøya Island that killed 69 at a camp for Young Labour members. A press centre for 372journalists is also0 being rented at the nearby Bristol Hotel.

The 2,500-square-metre space comprises the entire second floor of Oslo District Court, the site of high-profile murder and armed robbery cases as well as civic marriage ceremonies. Breivik’s trial begins on April 16th when he will face terrorism charges at what will by then be Norway’s largest courtroom.

The case is seen lasting 10 weeks without the civil suits anticipated from survivors and victims families.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Political and Business Pressure Mounts to Clear Dutch Occupy Camps

Although none of the Dutch Occupy camps have yet been dismantled, political and business pressure is mounting for a clear-up, the Volkskrant reports on Wednesday.

Amsterdam’s mayor Eberhard van der Laan has said he would like the protestors camped outside the former stock exchange in the heart of the city to move by the beginning of next year.

‘It would be good if Occupy Amsterdam had moved to the Zuidas business park by the time we celebrate Sinterklaas (December 5),’ Van der Laan is quoted as saying.

Local business are also considering going to court to have the protest camp removed, the Volkskrant said.


In Arnhem, companies located next to the Willemsplein camp have also made a formal complaint, which is supported by VVD councillors. ‘The right to demonstrate is good but the tents are ruining the square,’ the party says in an open letter.

In Eindhoven, the city council has agreed a small group of protesters can remain on the Clausplein until November 29. However, VVD councillors say the Occupy camp is an event rather than a protest and that the demonstrators should be liable for costs.

In Nijmegen, however, mayor Thom de Graaf has said the camp of around 30 tents can remain in the Valkhof park for an unlimited period.

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

Swedes Warned of Danish Sex Jaunt Risks

Swedish men travelling to Copenhagen to partake of the Danish capital’s plethora of sex clubs, massage parlours and swinger clubs have been warned that they face a heightened risk of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

It is furthermore legal to purchase sex services in Denmark, whereas the practice was outlawed in Sweden in 1999.

Copenhagen, just a short hop by train over the Öresund bridge from the Swedish city of Malmö, is a popular destination for southern Swedes looking for sex, according to a survey which is set to be published on Friday in a report from sex advice groups.

The survey, undertaken by National Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), that 56 percent of the 457 people, mostly men, who responded to the survey said that they have had sex with someone who lives in Denmark in the past year.

Furthermore 22 percent said that they had had a relationship.

The sex advice groups pointed out that the risk of being infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) is considerably higher on the other side of the Öresund.

One further conclusion in the report is that men who have sex with other men are even more exposed to HIV and STDs and that special attention should be given to this group in any precautionary advice and measures taken to combat infection.

The survey also confirms previous studies about the heightened risks of sexual liaisons while overseas.

“The statistics speak loud and clear. They show that in regards to foreign infections in Skåne then Denmark is at the top of the list, among other things for HIV,” said Emma Skarpås at RFSU Malmö in a statement.

The report is set to be presented at a seminar in Malmö on Friday.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Sweden: New TV Series Explores the Use of Arabic in Contemporary Europe

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — A new Swedish television series explores the question: “To what extent does Arabic enable you to get by in Europe?”

Rena rama arabiskan [Swedish for: Pure Arabic] provides a survey of places where Arabic is spoken in Europe, focusing in various episodes onn Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Italy, Malta, Spain and Bosnia. Nadia Jebril, a Swedish journalist of Palestinian origin, came up with the idea for a series. “We wanted to do something about the Arabic language,” she explains. “But everyone was only talking about Islam and the Middle East, as though they were obliged to stick to well-established subjects”. Then she thought: “A lot of us are Muslims, and most of us speak Arabic. But here is where we live! And we don’t speak the same Arabic they speak in the Middle East, it’s a kind of a mix. My generation is a group apart. We have grown up in an environment that is radically different to the one experienced by our parents. When you look around Europe, there is a whole range of different mixed backgrounds that overlap. It is a new phenomenon and no one pays any attention to it!”

In the first episode, she travels around Sweden with a sign that says, “Do you speak Arabic?” As the series continues, she moves on to other countries where she encounters people in the street, and interviews writers, humourists and artists. And it is at this point that the programme takes on the air of a mischievous guide to Europe — a portrait that goes beyond the simple framework of the Arabic language.& nbsp; For Nadia Jebril, her tour of Sweden, where she met with people who interested in Arabic and other issues, came as a pleasant surprise. However in Denmark, a country where the question of multilingualism is the subject of stormy debates and where Arabic-speaking children are often told they should not be speaking Arabic, the challenge was a lot tougher. “They bundle a lot of stuff into the debate about language, because their goal is to get onto the subject of immigration”, she explains.

In France, she meets people who speak Arabic but who refuse to give her directions to a record shop. Then they insult her and yell at her to turn off the camera. Even when she tries to approach people with her sign, she ends up empty-handed. Having concluded that this behaviour has been prompted by the way Arabic speakers have been portrayed in the French media, she manages nonetheless to obtain a rendez-vous with raï-music king Khaled. Both of us wer e having a fit of the giggles, she remembers. He was worried about the idea of speaking Arabic and his answers were full of French; to the point where she only understood half of what he was saying. She herself was worried about speaking her own Arabic: a Palestinian dialect enlivened by such terms as brunsås [brown sauce]. Nadia Jebril insists that the series has no political objective. Even if it was shot before the summer, when the Arab Spring in North Africa had brought about a range of events that would have major repercussions. “Today we no longer see Arabs solely as victims or oppressors, but as people like everyone else, who just want to live well and who are prepared to fight to achieve this goal. And this has prompted a resurgence of interest. As for us, in as much as we resemble those people who fought for their ideals, I think we can hold our heads high”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK Muslims: New Names, Old Groups

“Transforming Muslim Communities into Islamic Emirates”

The British government has banned “Muslims Against Crusades” (MAC), an Islamic extremist group that recently launched a campaign to turn twelve British cities — including what it referred to as “Londonistan” — into independent Islamic states. British Home Secretary Theresa May signed an order on November 9 that makes membership or support of MAC — which is closely linked to seven other previously-banned groups — a criminal offense. May said MAC was “simply another name for an organization already proscribed under a number of names including Al Ghurabaa, The Saved Sect, Al Muhajiroun and Islam4UK. The organization was proscribed in 2006 for glorifying terrorism and we are clear it should not be able to continue these activities by simply changing its name.” In practice, however, the effectiveness of the ban is likely to be relatively short-lived. The Islamists behind MAC are determined to establish Islamic Sharia law in Britain — and elsewhere in Eur ope — and will almost certainly resurface under a new name within due course.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Man Plans to Use His Own Garage as Town’s Mosque

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — A MUSLIM man who has been trying to build a mosque in West Bridgford for the past five years has found a new location — his garage. Mohammed Malik, 68, of Loughborough Road, has applied for planning permission to turn his garage into a mosque. Mr Malik says Muslims in West Bridgford have nowhere to pray without travelling into the city. He said: “I have tried everything to try and find a suitable piece of land where the council will let us have a mosque, but have been consistently blocked. Now I’m hoping to get permission to allow my home to become a place of worship for people. There is a prayer room for men and a separate room for women. The community of West Bridgford is big enough now to deserve its own mosque. St Ann’s, The Meadows, Forest Fields, Sneinton have all got one — why hasn’t West Bridgford?”

Mr Malik, who lives in a semi-detached house, says people have been using his garage — nicknamed the Madrasah Taleem-ul-Quaran — as a place of worship for the past ten years.

In 2008, Mr Malik applied to build a mosque on land owned by Rushcliffe Borough Council off Collington Way, West Bridgford, but his plans were rejected by the council. He appealed against the decision and won, in 2009, but he was unable to buy the land from the council. A borough council spokesman said: “We never told Mr Malik that we would sell him the land.” Since then Mr Malik, a former secretary of the Islamic Centre in St Ann’s, has looked into obtaining other areas of land in West Bridgford but to no avail.

Earlier this year a man admitted racially or religiously aggrav ated criminal damage, and also causing racially or religiously aggravated alarm, harassment or distress by words or writing, after spraying the words ‘No mosque here EDL Notts’ on the pavement in Collington Way, West Bridgford. Three other men pleaded guilty to racially or religiously aggravated harassment after a pig’s head was put on a pole nearby.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Number of Black and Asian Children in London Schools Overtakes White Pupils for the First Timestudy Author: ‘Very High Levels of Segregation’

There are now more black and Asian pupils in the capital’s secondary school system than white children, according to a landmark report.

The study, which is the most definitive study of its kind, found 53 per cent of secondary pupils in London are now from an ethnic background, and warned of ‘very high’ levels of segregation.

It is the first time that the number of black and Asian children has outstripped white pupils.

There has also been a huge rise in other towns and cities with large ethnic minorities, notably Slough, where non-white children now make up 64 per cent of the numbers, Leicester (58 per cent), Birmingham (52 per cent) and Luton (51 per cent).

Manchester and Bradford are not far behind with 43 per cent.

It comes after David Levin, head of the fee-paying City of London School, claimed pupils are being ‘taught in ghettos’ as inner-city schools become increasingly divided along racial lines, and warned that London is ‘sleepwalking’ towards apartheid.

Professor Chris Hamnett of King’s College, who compiled the study, said ‘ghettoisation’ was too negative a term, but added: ‘There are very high levels of ethnic minority segregation in some schools.’

He said: ‘London as a whole now has an ethnic minority-dominated secondary school system. In some boroughs, and some schools, ethnic minorities constitute the overwhelming majority of pupils. This has implications for both ethnic segregation in schools, and for pupil attainment.

‘Some ethnic minorities, notably Indian and Chinese pupils have consistently high attainment at GCSE, while other groups, notably those from black and Bangladeshi backgrounds get lower than average results.

‘Thus, the ethnic composition of schools will feed through into different levels of attainment.’

The proportion of black, Asian and other ethnic pupils is higher in inner London, where two thirds now come from those backgrounds. In Brent and Tower Hamlets, where the ethnic presence is largest, more than four out of five secondary pupils are non-white. The main reason is thought to be births to earlier generations of migrants.

Professor Hamnett, whose report measures change from 1999 to 2009, said another key feature had been the spread of ethnic pupils into the outer London boroughs. Barking and Dagenham, which now has a 40 per cent non-white secondary school population, more than double the figure 10 years earlier, saw the biggest increase.

In Croydon, Merton, Redbridge and Enfield, ethnic numbers have risen 20 per cent in a decade, and in Barnet, almost half of secondary pupils are non-white. But Professor Hamnett said the most ethnically divided schools remain in inner London. In a handful of schools, notably in Tower Hamlets and Newham, ethnic minority pupil levels are 90 per cent and over, he added. Ethnic minority pupils accounted for 40.3 per cent of secondary school children in London in 1999. The 2009 figure is 53.6?per cent. Every inner London borough now has more than 50 per cent of ethnic minority pupils.

Prof Hamnett added that with ethnic minority babies now making up more than 50 per cent of births in London, the non-white secondary population was likely to increase further.

Mr Levin, who grew up in apartheid South Africa, said: ‘I think we are selling our children short if they only mix with one tiny cultural or ethnic group.

‘The joy of London should be having a very cosmopolitan, multi-faith experience.

‘My experience at City of London, where our children have links to 41 different countries, has resulted in a very stimulating and exciting educational experience.’

           — Hat tip: Paul Weston[Return to headlines]

UK: Romanian Gangs ‘Drive Increase in Metal Theft’ As Cost of Plunder Hits £770m a Year

The surge in thefts of metal from railway lines, power stations and war memorials is being driven by Romanian gangsters, police believe.

Syndicates normally linked to child trafficking and street begging are attracted to scrap dealing by quick profits and the low risk of being caught.

The plunder of copper, lead and bronze is estimated to cost £770million a year.

Network Rail claims that 1,602 thefts between April and October alone have led to 1,969 cancelled trains and £8.5million in lost revenue.

And police say it is only a matter of time before lives are lost as metal thieves target the infrastructure of the emergency services.

Cables have been stolen from the air traffic control system at Stansted Airport, the Airwave radio communications system used by the police has been hit and Solent coastguards lost communications for 36 hours.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: The State is Failing Its Duties. The British People Will Soon Run Out of Patience

There have been a couple of erudite reports recently that no doubt cost a great deal of money to produce, and came to rather similar conclusions. One was looking at the way in which the scale of the disorder s and looting escalated, particularly in London this summer; the other at the difficulty in maintaining an atmosphere conducive to teaching in classrooms. Their conclusion was broadly that if rules are not enforced then more and more people will ignore them. As if anyone who has ever brought up children or house-trained puppies, let alone commanded men at times of danger, could not have told us that for nothing! So I have some sympathy for the poor clergy at St Paul’s. They have been rightly condemned for their muddleheaded response to the layabouts on the steps of the cathedral. Now the infection has spread westwards with an encampment disfiguring Exeter Cathedral.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Muslim Unity in Serbia is Close, Says Foreign Minister

Divided Muslim groups in Serbia’s Sandzhak region are very close to reaching an agreement, according to the Turkey’s foreign minister, who engaged in a secret mission within the knowledge of Serbian government to unify these rival groups. “These are controversial issues that have long been discussed in Serbia, in Sandzhak. An overnight solution should not be expected, but we have observed that a climate for an agreement is emerging. We wish to solve it within the shortest time,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoðlu told reporters Saturday in Belgrade where he had talks with President Boris Tadic and Foreign Minister Vuk Yeremic.

There are two main Islamic groups in Sandzhak region whose majority is made of Bosniak Muslims. Muammer Zukoric, who has close links with Grand Mufti of Bosnia Herzegovina, leads the Islamic Communities of Serbia, whereas his main rival Adem Zilkic leads the Islamic Communities in Serbia, backed by Belgrade. This division is feared to destabilize the region as well as the relationship between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Turkey’s initiative to end disagreement in the region has turned into a diplomatic action after the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, Mehmet Görmez, held several meetings with religious leaders in the Balkan region. “We have to work patiently. Our work aims to find common ground on which these different views can come together,” Davutoðlu said.

Despite the initiative from Turkey, the Serbian government did not hesitate to accept it given the good relations between the two countries. Turkey’s action is interpreted as a good will mission in Belgrade. “I hope this unity in Sandzhak will be possible by the power we take from the friendship between Turkey and Serbia. We will continue to work with Serbia. We are leaving Belgrade with positive impressions,” he said. “We are trying to channel the issue into a more positive field. These kinds of problems can be seen rooted issues, but a great portion of them are psychological.” In the meantime, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selçuk Ünal said Turkey’s efforts in Sandzhak were appreciated by Serbia and that the initiative will continue to be pursued within Serbia’s demand and close contact and cooperation.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Members of Mubarak’s Party Can Run in the 28 November Election

Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court overturns a decision of a lower court. Pro-democracy parties protest the decision. The National Democratic Party was banned on 16 April following youth protests in Tahrir Square.

Cairo (AsiaNews/ Agencies) — Members of Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP) can run for office, Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court ruled today, overturning an earlier decision by the Administrative Court in the city of Mansoura, which had banned six NDP members from registering as candidates. Officials from pro-democracy parties created during anti-regime protests in Tahrir Square protested the decision, announcing more mass action if additional NDP members are allowed to run.

“Although the decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court cannot be overturned, we shall fight to ensure that all corrupt officials are barred from politics,” said Injy Hamdi, a spokesman for the April 6th Youth Movement.

Dozens of members of Egypt’s former strongman are still running for office, as independents or in other parties. The dissolution of the NDP, which occurred on 16 April, last, was one of the demands of demonstrators during the Jasmine Revolution.

All NDP assets were seized and placed under the trusteeship of the Supreme Military Council.

Established in 1978, the party ruled the country for 30 years through electoral fraud and the banning of opposition parties.

Mubarak, his sons and other party officials are presently on trial for corruption and human rights violations.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Archaeology: Crusader Inscription in Arabic Deciphered

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, NOVEMBER 16 — A Crusader inscription in Arabic dating from 1229 has been found and deciphered for the first time in the history of Middle Eastern archaeological studies by an Israeli specialist, who has been telling local media about the exceptional discovery in recent days. The inscription, which has dimensions of 50 by 60 centimetres, was set in to a building in the region of Tel Aviv, but is now confirmed to have come from the old walls of the fortified port of Jaffa. Professor Moshe Sharon, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the man who classified and deciphered the inscription, identifying a reference in Arabic characters to “Frederick II, King of Jerusalem” and the indication of the date: “Year 1229 of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus the Messiah”. “It is an unprecedented find,” Professor Sharon said, “because no Crusader inscription in Arabic had been found anywhere in the Middle East until now”. The reference to Frederick II fits perfectly with the inscription’s place of origin. The Swabian sovereign, who was known as “stupor mundi” to the subjects of his favoured southern Italy, was responsible for the sixth Crusade, which took place between 1228 and 1229. The Crusade was proclaimed in defiance of Pope Gregory IX, who had recently excommunicated Frederick, and was aimed at reconquering Jerusalem and the Holy Lands (which had been wrestled from Christian hands by Saladin) from the Arab Muslims.

The mission passed through Jaffa, where Frederick occupied a position and had the old walls strengthened. It was also here that he managed, almost without fighting, to reach a deal with the Sultan of Egypt that returned temporary control of Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem, and their surrounding areas, to the “Franks”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran: Ghadir and Islamic Awakening Conference Planned

QOM, Iran (Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — The holy city of Qom is to host a conference this week titled “Ghadir and Islamic Awakening”. Slated for Thursday, November 17, the conference will be attended by the source of emulation grand Ayatollah Nouri Hamedani, said Hojat-ol-Islam Ansari Borujerdi, who heads the World Assembly of Shia Studies.

He added that Ayatollah Alavi Borujerdi and Hojat-ol-Islam Qara’ati would also take part at the event, which would be organized by the assembly in cooperation with the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Al-Mustafa International University and the Police Force. He said a large number of articles have been submitted to the secretariat of the event, some of which would be presented by the authors. Hojat-ol-Islam Ansari Borujerdi noted that the conference seeks to discuss the role of Ghadir on Islamic awakening. “Islamic awakening and the recent developments in the region have been influenced by the event of Ghadir,” he said, stressing that Ghad ir has insured Islam until the Day of Judgment.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Man Cuts Sister’s Throat to Cleanse Family Honour

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, NOVEMBER 16 — A man from the southern city of Tafilah killed his sister in public by slitting her throat for being involved in a romantic relation, police sources said on Wednesday.

The 18 year old man attacked his sister in the main bus station of the town, before being arrested, said the sources.

Eye witnesses said medics arrived when the girl was making her last breath as investigation continued to determine other culprits in the brutal attack.

The killer told police he wanted to kill his sister to cleanse the family honour after the victim admitted involvement with a man who wanted to marry her, said the police sources.

The death brings number of women killed in the name of honour to nearly 15 since the start of the year, say officials.

The government promised to adopt an iron fist policy with such cases following campaigns from human rights groups.

But activists say strict social habits make it difficult to eradicate such phenomena.

Killers are often handed a sentence between six months to one year for the murder, say activists.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Rebirth of Turkish Bath — Mediterranean Treasure

(by Chiara Spegni) (ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 16 — The Hammamed Project, which is financed by the EU as part of its Euromed Heritage IV programme, is following one leading principle: that of restoring antique ‘hammams’, i.e. the characteristic Turkish baths of the Mediterranean region in order to assign them to their rightful place as part of a shared cultural heritage, as well as places to go and socialise.

Hammamed invites us to rediscover these hidden jewels of an ancient Muslim tradition both in Damascus (Syria) and in Fez (Morocco).

As architect Rachid Aloui puts it in the documentary directed by Elke Groen and Ina Ivancenau: “For the Medina to survive, it has to keep its soul”. The documentary is published on the Hammamed project website.

Mr Aloui is engaged in restoring the fourteenth century ‘hammam’ of Seffarine in a historic district in the centre of the medina of Fez to its antique glory. As the architect explains: “The room in which you undress, take breakfast and tea is like a public square: it has a great central dome and four smaller lateral domes. In addition, there is a rarity: a small room in which to pray, which we intend to restore in order to recreate the original environment”. Thanks to the research so far undertaken, “we shall restore the small wardrobes to functional order: these are not merely decorative in purpose. We have also considered restoring the mosaics, piece by piece, to bring them back to life”. The architect concludes: “We have to restore the hamman to its former splendour and use it as a living space for the populace. This is the objective of our work: it is a social commitment, as well as a rediscovery of our cultural baggage’.

In Damascus, on the other hand, restoration of the Ammouneh baths, in the Al Ukaiba, has already been completed. This treasure of Islamic tradition dates back to the twelfth century and is situated in an area at some distance off the tourist track: it offers a break during the day, or a venue for special ceremonies. The Hammamed project has involved the local residential community through various meetings and seminars in order to succeed in recovering this historic place, which was on the verges of being closed down just three years ago, in 2008.

The main meeting place is the entrance hall, where women sit together and take tea, smoke and engage in conversation. Unlike other active Turkish baths in the city, whose customers are mainly male, this area is dedicated to women only and is open until eight in the evening.

Running until the end of this year, the Hammamed project is led by Oikodrom, the Vienna Institute for Urban Sustainability, in association with the University of Liverpool, the French Institute for the Near East of Damascus and ADER (Agence pour la Dedensification et la Rehabilitation de la Medina de Fes).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: New Attack on Foreign Embassies in Damascus, TV

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — Groups of Syrian loyalists have today attacked the embassies of Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in the capital Damascus, and surrounded the residence of the Moroccan ambassador in the country, according to the pan-Arab satellite television networks, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyya. If confirmed, this would be the second time in the last few days that Syrian loyalists have targeted the diplomatic offices of Arab countries that have backed the Arab League’s decision to suspend Syria from the organisation. The keenly anticipated meeting of Arab ministers is currently being held in the Moroccan capital Rabat, where Syria’s suspension from the Arab League will be made official.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Many Violations of Freedom of Expression

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 15 — The European Court of Human Rights is currently examining one thousand presumed violations of freedom of expression in Turkey, a huge amount, according to the secretary general of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, who has been speaking in Ankara today. Jagland repeated the European Council’s concern at the constriction of freedom of the press in the country but also focussed on the commitment with which the Turkish government wants to bring the country’s legal standards up to European levels.

“There are 16,000 cases pending against Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and one thousand of these concern freedom of expression,” said Jagland, who underlined that the figure is the source of “much concern”, not least because it has a “freezing effect” on the freedom “of journalism and journalists in Turkey”. The secretary general did not give any comparative figures on the number of cases faced by other countries but said that the one thousand brought against Turkey were “a lot” and the sign that “there are problems here”.

Speaking to journalists during a conference on Turkish cases at the Strasbourg court, which was also attended by the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the secretary general of the Council of Europe said that for “historical” reasons legal proceedings concerning freedom of the press are interpreted “very differently” from the standards of “every European country”, where people are “free to criticise the government” without risking legal action for defamation. Jagland highlighted the importance of today’s conference in Ankara, saying that “the extraordinary level” of participation — an implicit reference to the attendance by Erdogan and by the Turkish Justice Minister, Sadullah Ergun — showed that the Turkish government is tackling the problem “very seriously”, working with the Council of Europe to review “Turkish laws and their application” in a process of reform that “will need to go a long way”. Jagland also said that the length of remand periods in the country was a “problem”.

As has been documented, pre-trial custody in Turkey can last up to ten years. Some 60 journalists are currently detained in Turkish jails on suspicion of participation in attempted coups against Erdogan or sponsoring terrorism, a number that one association says makes Turkey one of the world’s worst offenders, even ahead of China.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Activists Publish Confiscated Book

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 16 -Around 125 journalists, civil rights activists and academics have contributed to the publication of a book confiscated in Turkey because it is considered a “document by a terrorist organisation”. The book was written by a journalist imprisoned for his involvement in a presumed coup against the moderate Islamist Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The journalist responsible for the book is Ahmed Sik and the manuscripts of his book, which is entitled “Imamin Ordusu” (The Imam’s Army) were confiscated in March as part of investigations into the coup plan known as “Ergenekon”. Based on this text, a book entitled “000Kitap” (000Book) has now been published, and is the “product of the collective efforts of those who insist upon respect for freedom of expression and the right for freedom of information”, according to a statement released to co-incide with the publication, during Tuyap, the book fair currently being held in Istanbul. The website of the opposition newspaper Hurriyet says that the 125 volunteers divided up writing duties, draft corrections and grammar and punctuation checks so as to extend criminal responsibility for the operation to the point at which its political application is too burdensome. Despite the confiscation, some 100,000 copies of the book, which is now being published by Postac Publishing House, are thought to have already been downloaded on the Internet. Turkey has been criticised by a number of countries and institutions, including the EU, the US, the European Council, the OECD, Turkey’s social democrat opposition party and human rights organisations, for its supposed restrictions of freedom of expression, which have resulted in the arrest of around sixty journalists currently imprisoned on charges of participation in coups or terrorist activity.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Two Explosions Rock South Lebanon

TYRE, Lebanon: Two near-simultaneous explosions shook the southern port city of Tyre early Wednesday, including one at a hotel frequented by U.N. peacekeepers. No casualties were reported.

The first explosion at 4:55 a.m. ripped through a restaurant at Queen Elissa Hotel, damaging several cars, including one belonging to a U.N. officer who works for the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).

A similar explosion tore through a liquor store near the port of Tyre five minutes later, inflicting material damage.

According to explosive expert adjutant Talal Ajram the hotel bomb weighed three kilograms of TNT.

Commenting on the early-morning explosions, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel urged that the issue not be regarded as targeting the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL), saying the incidents centered on the fact that the establishments served alcohol.

“What happened today in Tyre is not security-related but linked to the sale of alcohol,” Charbel told Voice of Lebanon (93.3 FM).

Lebanese security forces cordoned off the area around Queen Elissa Hotel, preventing reporters and photographers from getting close to the site.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Militants Capture Another City in South

Sanaa, 15 Nov. (AKI) — Al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen have captured the town of Al-Khoud in the southern Abyan province, according to news reports.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the local branch of the terrorist group, resisted bombing since Monday afternoon by the Yemeni airforce, Xinhua news agency reported, citing unnamed sources.

Al-Khoud is the latest town to fall into militant hands following the capture of numerous other cities and town in Yemen’s south.

About 12,000 insurgents fight for AQAP in in Yemen. The force has benefited from the government’s entanglements with a popular uprising and an armed separatist movement.

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


Mothers to Save Russia From Extinction

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Russia becomes extinct slowly but surely. According to the UN, Russia is ranked fourth on the list of depopulating countries. To struggle with the crisis, authorities and public organizations elaborate many different programs. One of them is called “The Holiness of Motherhood.”

UN specialists created the “map of extinction,” on which Russia was ranked fourth among other fast-depopulating countries. The company, which Russia has on this list, includes Macao, Hong Kong, Bosnia, Malta, Slovakia, Singapore, Romania, Hungary and Ukraine. If nothing changes for the better, the native population of these countries will disappear by 3200. Russia will become an empty place 350 years earlier than that. To put it in a nutshell, in 800 years, the Russian population (in the modern sense of this word) will become extinct without any wars and cataclysms.

Specialists from the Berlin University delivered a report at the Moscow Carnegie Center not so long ago. The report was titled “The Disappearing World Superpower.” According to the report, Russia will naturally lose as many as 35 million people by 2050. The demographic situation in Russia leaves much to be desired indeed. The percentage of large families in the country is small. However, the number of abortions in Moscow alone makes up nearly 50,000 a year (1.5 million in Russia on the whole).

The Russian authorities, the Church and public organization try to do something to struggle with the demographic crisis. The National Glory Center organization, for instance, developed a special program five years ago titled “The Holiness of Motherhood.” The basic goal of the program is to form people’s attitude to family, motherhood, fatherhood and childhood as life’s greatest values by recreating the spiritual and moral potential of the Russian family.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Russia Gets the Red Planet Blues: Phobos Probe Failure Puts Planetary Comeback in Doubt.

It was the largest planetary mission in the history of space exploration, bearing Russia’s hopes of recapturing Soviet-era glory in Solar System exploration. But instead of rocketing off on a mission to return soil from the Martian moon Phobos, Phobos-Grunt is stuck in Earth orbit. Barring a miraculous restarting of its engines, it will make a fiery fall to Earth, probably by the year’s end.

The Russian planetary programme could plunge along with it. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, had hoped that a successful robotic surface-sample return — a feat that NASA has not yet achieved — would, in one stroke, erase the demons of past failures. Instead, the agency finds itself exactly where it stood 15 years ago after the launch of the ill-fated Mars 96 mission, a previous massive assault on the red planet: unable to leave Earth orbit. “It was over-ambitious,” says Roald Sagdeev, former head of the Space Research Institute (IKI) in Moscow, who is now at the University of Maryland in College Park. He sees a suite of future planned missions now in jeopardy, as well as chances for international cooperation. “Opponents will say: why should we waste money on planetary missions?”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Strong Show of Unity by Muslims Ahead of Malegaon Youth’s Release

Malegaon: If not impossible, it is uncommon indeed to see a Muslim cleric from one sect leading prayers and delivering religious discourses in a mosque belonging to other sect. However, this rare but pleasant happening is witnessed in a Mumbai mosque where Muslims from Malegaon are camping while in the metropolis to seek bail for the local youths who are holed up in jail for the last five years after being arrested in the 2006 Malegaon blast case.

A group of about 30 Muslims from Malegaon comprising relatives, close friends, guarantors and lawyers of the seven accused are staying at Jama Masjid Ahle Hadees in Central Mumbai since Monday. Led by the Kul Jamaati Tanzeem leaders, they are in Mumbai waiting for the release of the accused from jail. The accused were granted bail by the Special MCOCA Court on November 05 and are expected to be released any moment. As the procedure for checking and verifying the bail documents is taking time longer than expected, the trustees of the Jama Masjid Ahl-e-Hadees are leaving no stone unturned to provide them relief and comfort. At the same time, their extended stay in the mosque has given birth to some extraordinary and rare scenes.

“While people from other Muslim sects find it comfortable to offer prayers in different mosques belonging to different sects, it is normally a tradition that prayers are led and religious discourses are delivered by the clerics from the same sect to which the mosque belongs. However, it is heartening to see the way the trustees of the Jama Masjid Ahl-e-Hadees are offering their services to the fellow brothers from Malegaon”, Imtiyaz Khaleel, a Mumbai-based documentary film producer says while speaking to “They are not only extending remarkable hospitality to provide them utmost comfort, but going beyond the prevalent traditions are also requesting the Kul Jamaati Tanzeem leaders to deliver the religious discourses in the mosque”, he adds.

Kul Jamaat Tanzeem which comprises clerics from all Muslim sects was formed immediately after the 2006 Malegaon blast. Their campaign which began in 2006 to seek justice for the local youth arrested in the case and arrest of the actual perpetrators is perhaps one of the longest in the history of Malegaon. Interestingly, the immediate motive behind the formation of the Kul Jamaati Tanzeem was to reject the investigation theory floated after the 2006 Malegaon blast suggesting that the sectarian differences among the Muslims could be the reason behind the blast.

The series of blasts that had rocked Malegaon on September 08, 2006 was conspired ahead of Shab-e-Barat, a Muslim festival when thousands of people were busy offering Friday prayers at the Hamidia Masjid in Malegaon Qabristan. Another blast had occurred at nearby Mushawerat Chowk few minutes later. 37 people were killed and more than 300 were injured in the blasts, most of them being children — all Muslims. Investigations were of the view that the Muslims who are against celebrating Shab-e-Barat were behind the attack.

“It was a deliberate and cleverly hatched theory to nab the Muslim youth and save the real perpetrators of a clear attack on a Muslim mosque”, Maulana Abdul Hameed Azhari, one of the founders and front leader of the Kul Jamaati Tanzeem says.

The leaders by forming the Kul Jamaati Tanzeem not only shattered to pieces the investigation theory but also provided the country a model to fight and stand against injustice. Incidentally, efforts were also on ever since the formation of this unique group to crumble its extraordinary unity. But the group not only kept its rank and file intact but also became stronger with every passing day. “Ittehad zindagi hai aur Inteshar maut“, another Kul Jamaati Tanzeem leader Sufi Ghulam Rasool Qadri would exhort his colleagues to make them realise the importance of unity. He adds that what is seen in the Mumbai mosque in the last three days is a glimpse and result of their efforts taken in last five years.

“Differences among Muslims are a fact. But it does not mean that we bomb each other. No way. This is what we wanted to show to the world. And, also to show very clearly that when time demands we are one and united despite our differences and can pray under one roof and in same mosque”, he says. Interestingly, impressed by the strong show of unity by the Kul Jamaati Tanzeem leaders of Malegaon, community leaders from Mumbai are contemplating the idea of experiencing the same in other parts of the state and the country.

“Today, the Kul Jamaati Tanzeem leaders, their unity and struggle for justice have become a model for the entire country. We would definitely like to see this experience emulated in other parts”, Ameer Jamat-e-Islami Hind Maharashtra Nazar Mohammad Mud’oo says after meeting the Muslim leaders of Malegaon yesterday at Jama Masjid Ahl-e-Hadees, Mominpura in Mumbai.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Assaulted Aceh Preacher Faces Defamation Charge

Banda Aceh. After freeing his attackers on bail, police in Aceh’s Pidie district have charged a preacher with defamation for his anti-corruption and pro-peace comments. Saiful Bahri used his Friday khutbah sermon at Keumala Grand Mosque on Sept. 9 to speak out against election violence and self-enrichment allegedly committed by local politicians and former members of the disbanded Free Aceh Movement (GAM). His lecture angered some of the 200-odd worshippers at the mosque, and Saiful was pulled from the podium and beaten.

Four of Saiful’s alleged attackers were declared suspects, including Zulkifli, Mukhtaruddin, Sabirin and Ilyas. All four are former GAM fighters. Police arrested Zulkifli and Mukhtaruddin, who were later released on bail, while Sabirin is still being sought for questioning. Pidie Police chief Dumadi said that although police were still preparing the case against Saiful’s attackers, a counter-complaint has forced them to dec lare the preacher a suspect, too.

“Saiful was questioned as a suspect on Monday, but he was not put in custody because the criminal code clauses with which he was charged were not of a serious criminal nature,” Dumadi said. He said the crimes carried a maximum sentence of nine months imprisonment. “He [Saiful] insulted and defamed the people who then attacked him. This included an executive of the Aceh Party, who felt insulted at the contents of Saiful’s khutbah sermon,” Dumadi said. The police chief said he hoped the case would not be politicized because “the police had already worked professionally” in declaring Saiful a suspect based on a public complaint. Saiful had requested that he be questioned in order for the case to be dealt with quickly, Dumaidi said. Muzakar, a member of the Muslim Defenders Team (TPM) Aceh acting as Saiful’s legal advisor, said he felt that his client’s status as a suspect “is strange and smacks of interference.” “Our client was only giv ing a sermon, and he became a victim of assault. Yet the police instead decide he’s a suspect. This is very naive,” Muzakar said.

“His message was simply religious advice.”

[JP note: Advice to preacher: find a new religion.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

British Workers Accuse Chinese Telecoms Firm of Race Discrimination as 49 Non-Chinese Staff Are Made Redundant

A telecoms company is accused of race discrimination after axing almost 50 British workers and replacing them with Chinese employees.

Judeson Peter, 39, told an employment tribunal that Huawei Technologies made him redundant from their office in Basingstoke, Hampshire, because he was British.

The £48,000-per-year customer support engineer, who specialised in fibre optics, said there was ‘clearly’ an increasing number of Chinese staff at the firm.

In total, they moved 342 workers to Britain over three years, the tribunal heard.

In the same period, 49 British and non-British staff lost their jobs.

Mr Peter said: ‘A large number of Chinese employees were joining the workforce in 2009 at the same time that I was being made redundant.

‘I believe I could have done these roles. Far more non-Chinese employees have been selected for redundancy than Chinese employees.

‘With regard to engineers, it should be noted that not a single Chinese engineer has been made redundant, whereas 30 non-Chinese have been.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mauritanian Mufti Decries Bigotry

In his Eid al-Adha sermon, Mauritania’s mufti made an appeal for interfaith collaboration, reminding people that constructive relations with the West do not contravene Islamic law.

“Islamic sharia prohibits severing relations with non-Muslim states or rejecting to co-operate with them as long as these states don’t occupy Muslim lands and don’t fight Muslims to impose their religions on them,” Ahmedu Ould Lemrabott Ould Habib al-Rahman said on Sunday (November 6th). He added that “when Muslims establish relations with non-Muslim states, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Muslims are allying with those states if the purpose of these relations is to bring benefits to Muslim peoples”. Islam accepts the other who has different religion and creed, Ould Habib al-Rahman stressed. He emphasised the importance of national unity and transcending differences. The sermon is a rebuke of “the extremist ideas that al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its proponents have always promoted against Western countries and the need to expel them from Muslim land under the pretext that they are invaders and occupiers”, commented analyst Rabii Ould Idoumou.

“AQIM’s Mauritanian mufti Abderrahman Tandaghi and al-Qaeda emir in Mauritania Khadim Ould Semane have issued many fatwas about the permissibility of fighting countries that support, or are engaged by proxy in, war against mujahideen because they consider the Western countries as infidel countries trying to destroy Muslims,” Ould Idoumou added.

The Mauritanian army is repeatedly mentioned in AQIM’s statements as “an army allied with infidels against the mujahideen who are seeking to establish an Islamic state”, he said.

The Mauritanian mufti often speaks about current issues, said analyst Mohamed Ould Mohamed Lamine. The pressing issue today is religious extremism that “Salafist jihadists and some of their assumed followers embrace”, he added. “The behaviour of Salafists who reject dialogue has shown that they don’t respect the legitimacy of the political regime and that they promote their ideology among young people,” Ould Mohamed Lamine added. “Therefore, the imam thought that the best way to deal with that ideology is fatwa, given that it is the same means used by deviators in getting their ideas across.”

The mufti’s words, however, did not go unnoticed by terrorists. AQIM southern cell emir Khaled Abou El Abbas (aka Mokhtar Belmokhtar, or “Laaouar”) gave a lengthy interview to Mauritanian news agency ANI three days later. The terrorist said that AQIM’s strategy is to confront the West because “it is the real ruler of Muslim countries”. Furthermore, he confirmed that AQIM had obtained Libyan weapons from ousted leader Moamer Kadhafi’s arsenal. “We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world,” Abou El Abbas said. “As for our acquisition of Libyan armament, that is an absolutely natural thing,” he said, without elaborating on the nature of the weapons purportedly acquired.

The AQIM emir also expressed the willingness of his terror group to halt operations in Mauritania. “We do not refuse this in principle based on certain things,” he said. “However, we don’t believe this is the right venue to discuss and present things.” The statements raised a number of questions among security analysts. “Has Laaouar reached a deadlock and started to look for a lifeline in Mauritania?” wondered Riadh Ould Ahmed El Hadi, a journalist and expert in terror group ideologies. “Is this due to his continued differences with partners in the Sahara emirate and his expectation of dangers that may be posed by Touareg rebels, tog ether with the continuous pressures from Mauritanian army on the region since July 2010?” Abou El Abbas cannot appease Mauritania “while continuing to kidnap hostages on Mauritanian soil”, he added. “This is because Mauritania entered the war seriously only after kidnappings were carried out on its soil, and it would be strange for Laaouar to seek shelter in Mauritania in particular given that he’s the one responsible for most operations that were carried by al-Qaeda on its soil.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Somalis on Trial in France for Yacht Hijacking

Six Somali men accused of taking a French couple hostage on their yacht went on trial in Paris on Tuesday in France’s first prosecution of alleged Somali pirates. They are facing charges of hijacking, kidnapping and armed robbery after they allegedly seized the yacht and its crew, Jean-Yves Delanne and his wife Bernadette, both aged 60, off the coast of Somalia in 2008. They face life in prison if convicted.

The six, aged between 21 and 35, were captured and flown to France after French special forces stormed the yacht, the Carre d’As IV, and rescued the couple. A seventh suspect was killed in the raid. One of the suspects was a minor at the time of the crime but the court granted the defence’s request to hold the trial in public and not behind closed doors.

The suspects had reportedly demanded a ransom of $2 million (€1.5 million) for the couple’s release. But in the French courtroom on Tuesday only one of them admitted to taking part as an “underling” in the hostage-taking. “I was in such a financial situation, I have six children, it was then that I crossed paths with someone who recruited me,” said Ahmed Hamoud Mahmoud, a fisherman who is accused of being one of the leaders of the operation.

Another Somali suspect claimed he himself was “kidnapped” by pirates who commandeered his boat to carry out the operation. One suspect spoke of being grabbed by pirates when he got into trouble in the Gulf of Aden en route to Yemen to look for work, while another said all he did was cook the food. Their trial, which resumes Wednesday and is expected to last to November 30th, marks the first time France has brought alleged Somali pirates to court.

Somali suspects in three other cases are currently awaiting trial. Dozens of ships, mainly merchant vessels, have been seized by gangs off Somalia’s 3,700-kilometre coastline in recent years. The pirates travel in high-powered speedboats and are armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. They sometimes hold ships for weeks until they are released for large ransoms paid by governments or owners.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Australia’s Abused Asylum Seekers Paid Multi-Millions

The Australian government has been forced to pay A$23 million (£14.7 million) since 2000 to asylum seekers as compensation for being unlawfully detained or for sustaining injuries in government-run detention centres. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, reports released by the Australian government under freedom-of-information legislation show that there have been 404 claims for compensation from people in detention centres since 2000, including 293 claims of unlawful detention and 111 claims of negligence.

Another report, released by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, shows that there are currently more than 4000 people in immigration detention. Under Australian law, an asylum seeker — someone seeking international protection who has not yet been adjudged a refugee — is immediately placed in detention while their application for refugee status is processed.

“The majority of people that we represent have been injured psychologically through post-traumatic stress disorder or depression,” says Elizabeth O’Shea, a social justice lawyer at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in Melbourne, Australia. Whether these problems are a result of detention or from previous experiences, she says the government owes all detained asylum seekers a duty of care to avoid mental and physical injury that could reasonably be foreseen.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Romanians, Bulgarians to Still Face Dutch Restrictions

Social affairs minister Henk Kamp is to propose a further two-year delay to allowing Romanian and Bulgarian nationals to work in the Netherlands without a permit, sources have told Nos television.

The delay will be discussed at Friday’s cabinet meeting, Nos says.

Kamp wants to limit Romanian and Bulgarian immigration to people who are doing work which no other EU national is able to do.

This summer he stopped farmers employing seasonal fruit pickers from the two EU member states, saying jobless Dutch people should do the work instead.

The Netherlands has also voted against Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen open border area.

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

UK: Harriet Harman Praises ‘Hero’ Immigrants Who Send Welfare Handouts Home

Harriet Harman has praised ‘heroic’ immigrants who claim welfare payments in Britain and use the cash to support families living abroad.

She said the Government should make it easier for them to send the money home and called for tax refunds to encourage more immigrants to follow suit, in particular those who paid for their children to be educated in the Third World.

The Labour Deputy Leader, who is also the party’s spokesman on International Development, derided ‘those who say we should look after our own first’ in the recession and vowed to fight any attempt to cut the £9.4 billion overseas aid budget.

Last night the Government challenged her ‘bizarre’ conduct.

Her comments were made at a meeting at Southwark town hall in her South London constituency, called to find ways to increase the flow of money from Britain to other nations in ‘remittances’ — money sent by families who have settled here to those left behind.

The meeting was attended by many local voters with Nigerian, Ugandan and other foreign backgrounds, as well as representatives of aid charities.

An eyewitness said: ‘Harriet led a discussion on how to back up what she called the “hidden heroes of development through developing new policies on remittances”.’

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Spain: Rajoy Front Runner, Gays Rush to the Altar

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 15 — Some of the great social ‘conquests’ chalked up by José Luis Zapatero are looking a little shaky with the approach of a probable win at the early general elections on Sunday for the head of the opposition, Mariano Rajoy. Mr Rajoy may well re-pose the question of gay marriages and the decriminalisation of abortions. The risk of a U-turn is creating a storm in Spain’s influential (under Zapatero at least) gay community, and has led to a steep increase in the number of marriages and adoption applications among homosexual couples.

Following the passing of the law in 2005, Mr Rajoy’s Partido Popular lodged an appeal as to its constitutionality. Spain’s Constitutional Court has yet to rule on the matter. Last year, Mr Rajoy warned that he would “not undertake to keep” the law.

Since then, he has avoided saying what he will do. Today, polls say that 70% of Spaniards approve of gay marriages.

In a recent televised face-to-face debate with Socialist candidate Alfredo Rubalcaba, Mr Rajoy said only that he would rather favour “civil unions”. Therefore it is not to be ruled out that a PP election victory could usher in this kind of change to the law, as well as re-open the question of gay adoptions. This has led to a rush to the altar among Spain’s homosexuals ‘before Rajoy gets in’. In Spain, it is not possible for laws to have a retro-active effect: the 20,000 homosexuals who have already married will remain so, and the same applies to adoptions. Among other things, a change in the law would lead to a judicial mess, between those who are ‘married’ and those who can only hope for a ‘civil union’. As to the question of the children that have already been adopted. A network has arisen in the country to help those who want to get married quick.

Requests for information from the Federation of Gay-Lesbian Associations have risen by 40%. “There are couples bringing the date forward, but postponing the celebrations” in order to speed things along, says Chair Antonio Poveda. In the Socialist Mayor of Jus José in Andalusia, Antonio Rodriguez has made it known he is ready to marry gay couples in record times, with all the necessary documentation available online.

A PP victory could also lead to changes in the law decriminalising abortion. The PP has also lodged an appeal with the Constitutional Court over this 2010 law, which empowers any woman aged over 16 years freely to choose whether or not to undergo an abortion up until the 14 th week of pregnancy. Again, the Constitutional Court has yet to rule. Mr Rajoy has made clear his opposition to ‘free’ abortions, (without the parents’ consent) for minors between 16 and 18 years of age. But the PP is itself divided over these changes to the law. The liberal wing of the party under Madrid’s Mayor, Alberto Gallardon, would prefer to leave them untouched. The Right, on the other hand, is for abrogating them. Mr Rajoy will find himself in the position of arbitrator. But first of all, should he lead Spain’s next government, he will find a list of much more urgent matters waiting to be dealt with, such as how to save Spain from the risk of economic collapse and how to isolate the country from the financial contagion currently spreading across Greece and Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Jupiter Moon’s Buried Lakes Evoke Antarctica

Some of the most frigid areas on Earth are providing scientists with tantalizing hints of water only a few miles under the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Patches of broken ice unique to the moon have puzzled scientists for over a decade. Some have argued they are signs of a subterranean ocean breaking through, while others believe that the crust is too thick for the water to pierce.

But new studies of ice formations in Antarctica and Iceland have provided clues to the creation of these puzzling features, which imply water nearer to the moon’s surface than previously thought. Hundreds of odd formations, known as “chaos terrains,” are spread across Europa’s icy surface. These irregular areas contain domes and iceberglike blocks that no theoretical models have been able to replicate.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]