Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111124

Financial Crisis
»Brussels Pushes for Radical Shift in Budget Powers Away From Parliaments
»Euro on ‘Death Watch’ After Investors Spurn German Bonds
»Fortunes, and Tables, Turn for Portugal and Angola
»Germany No Longer Immune to Crisis
»Italy: Monti Meets Sarkozy and Merkel for Talks on Crisis
»Italy: Milan Stock Exchange Chiefs to Back Italian ‘Bond Day’
»PM Monti Vows to Balance Italian Budget by 2013
»Portugal: Strike Against Austerity Threatens to Cripple Country
»Portuguese Unions Launch Austerity Strike
»The Great Leap Forward: In Search of a United Europe
»DARPA: Let’s Get Rid of Antibiotics, Since They’ll be Obsolete Anyway
»Federal Judge Hands Down Big Blow Against Blocking Mosque Expansion
»Minority Support May Boost Obama in 2012, Despite Economy
»Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo: Tourists in for a ‘Magical’ Ride
»‘You Are Praying to the Same God’
»Group Still Wants Answers on Mosque
Europe and the EU
»Angry Face of Far-Right Protest Prepares to Storm Local Elections
»European Judge Slams UK ‘Xenophobia’
»Germany: Scientists Find Secret of Limb Regeneration
»GSD [Gibraltar Social Democrats] Meet Moroccan Workers at the Mosque
»Norway: School to Stop Grouping Kids by Race
»Shocking New Research: Stasi Had Thousands of Spies in West Germany
»Shutting Down Switzerland’s Nuclear Power Stations Will Cost About 20.7 Billion Swiss Francs
»Sweden: Giant Penis Mystery Baffles Stockholm Suburb
»Sweden: ‘Gang Leader’ Shot Dead in Malmö
»UK: ‘The Queen Holds a Halal State Banquet’ Shock
»UK: Ken Livingstone on ‘Islamophobic’ Gove
»UK: Mosque Plan for Concorde House
»UK: Muslims Proud to be British? There’s Something to Learn From the Surprise
»UK: Madrassas Modernise to Meet Needs of British Muslims
»UK: Moreton-in-Marsh Stone Age Axe Find Leads to Seaside Theory
»UK: Paedophile Who Downloaded Extreme Child Porn Spared Prison After Judge Says it Will Make Him WORSE
»UK: Somali Gangs Bring Back Terror to the Tower Block
»UK: Three Faiths to Worship Together in Edinburgh Mosque
»Medfilm: Jasmin Durakovic’s Post-War Bosnia
»NATO Clashes With Serbs in Northern Kosovo
North Africa
»Arab Spring is in Truth the Victory of Militant Islam
»EU Takes Key Step in Solar Energy Project in Arab Deserts
»Morocco: Elections Tomorrow, Islamic Party a Top Runner
»Morocco’s Revolution Proceeds Calmly
»Unholy Alliance: Egypt’s Military & the Muslim Brotherhood
Israel and the Palestinians
»Old Coins Force Re-Think on Jerusalem’s Western Wall
Middle East
»European Parliament President Arrives in Turkey
»Jordan: Islamists Gear Up for Large Rally Near Israel Border
»Turkey: Gul: EU “Miserable” On Cyprus’s “Half Presidency”
»Yemen: Armed Clashes Between Loyalists and Rebels in Sanaa
»Yemen: Saleh: 33 Years of ‘Dancing on the Head of Snakes’
»Dagestan — The Most Dangerous Place in Europe
South Asia
»American Woman and Partner Attending Family Wedding in Pakistan Murdered in Suspected Honour Killingby Graham Grant, Home Affairs Editor
»Pakistan: Punjab: Catholic Activist Murdered by Muslim Mafia
Australia — Pacific
»Inclusion Not Exclusion is Uni’s Missing Message
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ottoman Turkish Diplomat’s Body Relocated Near S. Africa’s Mosque
»South Africa: Places of Beauty and Peace
»The ANC’s State Secrecy Law Belongs to the Apartheid Era
»Switzerland: Language to Play Key Role in New Immigration Law
»UK: Migration in 2010 at Record High
Culture Wars
»Russia Faces Protests Over ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law
»20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Fire
»IQ Blackout: Why Did Studying Intelligence Become Taboo?
»LHC Antimatter Anomaly Hints at New Physics
»Space ‘Superbubbles’ Could Spawn Energetic Cosmic Rays
»The IEA’s Dire Warnings on Peak Oil and the Desperate Need for Energy Innovation

Financial Crisis

Brussels Pushes for Radical Shift in Budget Powers Away From Parliaments

The European Commission has proposed perhaps the most radical shift in decision-making away from parliaments and toward unelected bodies in the history of the European Union. Under proposals unveiled by the EU executive on Wednesday (23 November), while formal domestic lawmaking procedures are to remain in place, almost all fiscal policy decisions would be taken out of the hands of national assemblies and delivered up to European civil servants.

The far-reaching proposals instantly provoked accusations of a hollowing out of democracy in Europe — allegations that the commission has angrily dismissed, saying the moves are necessary if the euro is to survive. Under pressure from markets to deliver tighter economic integration in the eurozone, the EU executive has proposed that governments in member states that use the single currency be forced to submit their budgets to both the commission and the eurogroup of states for vetting — before they are submitted to their own national parliaments.

If the commission does not like what it sees, it can demand changes to the budget, as well as other mid-term plans a government may have for its economy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Euro on ‘Death Watch’ After Investors Spurn German Bonds

Investors began to fear the worst for the euro after unusually weak demand at an auction for bonds from Germany, the region’s largest economy.

Germany sold just 60 percent of the 6 billion euros in 10-year bunds it brought to auction, about the weakest demand seen for the country’s debt in the currency’s 16-year history, economists said. The rejection of debt from Europe’s safe harbor marks a new stage for the crisis.

“No bunds wanted equals no Euros wanted equals the Euro death watch,” wrote Mark Steele, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Fortunes, and Tables, Turn for Portugal and Angola

The world-turned-upside-down of the European debt crisis reached a new extreme last week when Europe came pleading for lucre where it once only seized it: Africa. The hands-out visit on Thursday of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho of Portugal to its former colony Angola — once a prime source of slaves, then a dumping ground for the mother country’s human rejects and now swimming in oil wealth — was a milestone of sorts.

While Europe’s financial distress has already revived bad historical memories — 70 years after Nazi occupation, Greeks are grumbling about taking marching orders from German gauleiters — and reversed others — there was talk of a Chinese rescue for the continent that once humiliated it — the Angola-Portugal moment has had no equal in its upfront plaintiveness. “Angolan capital is very welcome,” Mr. Passos Coelho said in Luanda, the capital city. That may be an understatement: the former colony’s cash could be essential as Portugal is forced to sell off state-owned companies and shutter embassies after a $105 billion International Monetary Fund bailout this year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany No Longer Immune to Crisis

Germany had significant trouble offloading its bonds on Thursday in a sign that the eurozone crisis has spread to the very heart of Europe. The country, whose credit worthiness has until now been viewed as nigh-on pristine, could only sell two thirds of its ten-year bonds at auction, a development that has sent shockwaves through markets as investors wonder whether the fittest economy in Europe can remain immune to contagion from the eurozone periphery.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s spokesman however was quick to reassure reporters that the failed auction would not have any effect on the government’s ability to finance its operations. In recent weeks, borrowing costs have steadily ticked upward not only for those states on the southern edge of the single-currency area, but also for France, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Meets Sarkozy and Merkel for Talks on Crisis

New Italian premier expected to push for eurobonds

(ANSA) — Rome, November 24 — New Italian Premier Mario Monti meets French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday for the first time since he replaced Silvio Berlusconi at the helm of government.

The talks in the French city of Strasbourg will give Monti the chance to explain the measures he intends to pass to boost economic growth and slash Italy’s massive debt to revive investor confidence in the eurozone’s third-biggest economy.

The leaders will also talk about the escalating eurozone debt crisis as a whole, after one of Germany’s worst bond sales since the launch of the euro on Wednesday sparked fears the eurozone debt crisis was beginning to threaten even Berlin.

Political commentators believe there is likely to be pressure on Merkel to drop her resistance to the introduction of eurobonds, which the French and Italian leaders look upon favourably.

Another issue is likely to be whether the European Central Bank (ECB) should act as the single currency’s lender of last resort and step up its intervention in bond purchases.

The French have been calling for a move in this direction, but the German government does not like the idea, arguing the only way to lasting stability for the single currency is greater fiscal discipline and integration throughout the 17-state eurozone.

Italian government sources said that Monti intended to act as a “mediator” between Paris and Berlin in Strasbourg, both talking of the importance of safeguarding the current statute of the ECB, as requested by Berlin, while highlighting the advantages of eurobonds.

Former European commissioner Monti met with the speakers of the Italian Senate and Lower House on Wednesday and agreed on moves to fast-track reform legislation his administration will present to parliament over the next few months. Monti met on Tuesday with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels, both of whom expressed faith in his ability to steer Italy out of the crisis.

The respected economist stepped in after media magnate Berlusconi resigned as the financial markets had lost faith in his centre-right government’s ability to solve the crisis and his majority had crumbled away in parliament.

Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party is supporting Monti’s administration and so are the main parties who were in opposition.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan Stock Exchange Chiefs to Back Italian ‘Bond Day’

Italians have chance to ease national debt commission-free

(ANSA) — Milan, November 24 — The operators of the Milan stock exchange announced Thursday they would back a “Bond Day” in which Italians can help ease the pressure on the country’s debt-burdened economy by buying bonds without paying a fee.

“We consider it important to give our contribution to the success of this joint initiative that aims to support and enhance the confidence of private investors at a delicate time for our economy,” said Raffaele Jerusalmi, CEO of Borsa Italiana. A number of financial institutions and the Italian banking association ABI have endorsed the proposal from Tuscan banker Giuliano Melani, who earlier this month took out a full-page ad in an Italian daily calling on citizens to buy up bonds to support the economy.

“We need to save this country and hold up this building that’s crumbling,” he told ANSA, proposing November 28 to be commission-free for bond purchases. The yield on 10-year Italian bonds has been hovering around the 7%-mark that some analysts believe would make servicing Italy’s 1.9-trillion-euro debt unsustainable if it stuck in the long term.

According to the Bank of Italy, about 58% of the country’s debt is already in the hands of private citizens.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

PM Monti Vows to Balance Italian Budget by 2013

Italy’s new Prime Minister Mario Monti insisted at eurozone debt crisis talks Thursday that his country would balance its budget in 2013, after raising doubts over its ability to do so. Monti said after the talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he had laid out his economic programme to the leaders, “confirming the objective of a balanced budget in 2013.”

Monti had on Tuesday raised doubts about his chances of balancing the budget by 2013, saying his government would “respect” the commitments made by his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi, who was toppled by the crisis. But he said of the 2013 budget: “We want to see how to take into account the (economic) cycle to calculate this objective.”

On Thursday, Monti said: “The objective of balancing the budget in 2013 is not called into question. “Italy must make a particular effort because it has a very high debt,” said Monti, who took office earlier this month at the head of a technocrat government of national unity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Portugal: Strike Against Austerity Threatens to Cripple Country

Lisbon, 24 Nov. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Portugal braces for its first general strike in a year today as unions disrupt travel, shipping and services to protest austerity measures agreed to by the government to gain an international bailout.

State-owned rail service operator CP-Comboios de Portugal says on its website it expects serious disruption in rail services today due to the strike. Airport operator ANA- Aeroportos de Portugal SA says passengers should contact their airlines to confirm the status of their flights.

“It will be a demonstration of displeasure, of protest,” said Rui Leao Martinho, head of Portugal’s Economists’ Association.

The protests comes on the one-year anniversary of the country’s first general strike since 1988, which was held after the previous government announced austerity measures that failed to avert the bailout in April. Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho is imposing more spending cuts and tax increases to meet the terms of the 78 billion-euro aid plan from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Oil Supplies

Galp Energia SGPS SA (GALP), Portugal’s biggest oil company, has taken all the measures it can to ensure the strike has a minimum impact on customers, spokesman Pedro Marques Pereira said in a telephone interview yesterday. Galp’s Oporto refinery in northern Portugal can process about 90,000 barrels of oil a day, while its refinery in Sines, on the coast south of Lisbon, can process about 220,000 barrels a day.

No liquefied natural gas shipments are scheduled to arrive at Portugal’s only LNG terminal in Sines today, according to that port’s website. No crude cargos were due today.

A Nov. 8 strike by Portuguese transport workers against austerity measures left commuters stuck in traffic as they tried to make their way to work. Last year’s general strike shut Lisbon’s metro and most flights departing from Lisbon and Oporto airports were canceled.

At the heart of the protests are austerity measures that are hurting an economy where growth has averaged less than 1 percent a year in the past decade, one of Europe’s weakest rates.

The economy will shrink 3 percent next year and may then expand 1.1 percent in 2013, the European Commission forecast on Nov. 10, the only euro-zone economy to contract besides Greece, which is set to shrink 2.8 percent. The commission forecasts a euro-area expansion of 0.5 percent.

Unemployment Rising

Portugal’s jobless rate rose to 12.4 percent in the three months through September as the country’s economy contracted for a fourth quarter. The government predicts unemployment will reach 13.4 percent in 2012 before starting to decline in 2013.

The government aims to trim the budget deficit to 5.9 percent of gross domestic product this year and 4.5 percent in 2012, less than half last year’s 9.8 percent shortfall.

To help meet the 2011 goal the government has announced a one-time Christmas income-tax surcharge. The 2012 budget would eliminate summer and Christmas salary payments for state workers earning more than 1,000 euros a month. Other measures pledged to creditors include a reduction in tax deductions and an increase in the value-added tax on some goods. Portugal will also allow private-sector working hours to increase by 30 minutes a day during the next two years.

Avoiding Violence

Greece and Ireland requested bailouts before the Portuguese government did, and so far demonstrations in Portugal have not degenerated into the kind of violence seen in Athens, where riot police have regularly had to use tear gas to quell the protests.

“In Portugal workers have never indulged in violent behavior,” Manuel Carvalho da Silva, CGTP’s secretary-general, said on Oct. 19 when he announced the date of today’s general strike. The 1974 revolution, which ended a four-decade dictatorship, was not violent, he said.

Portugal aims to return to bond markets in 2013, even though borrowing costs have increased since the bailout was requested. The difference in yield that investors demand to hold Portugal’s 10-year bonds instead of German bunds reached a euro- era record of 10.8 percentage points on July 12 and was at 9.2 percentage points yesterday, up from 5.11 when former Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates sought the rescue on April 6.

Debt will reach 100.8 percent of GDP this year and peak at 106.8 percent in 2013 before starting to decline, the government forecast on Aug. 31. Debt was 93.3 percent of GDP in 2010.

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

Portuguese Unions Launch Austerity Strike

A general strike called by Portugal’s trade unions has brought the troubled eurozone nation to a virtual standstill. Workers oppose budgetary cuts agreed between its new center-right government and international lenders.

A general strike called by Portugal’s two main trade unions brought the troubled eurozone nation to a virtual standstill on Thursday. At the Lisbon airport, protestors in a picket line chanted, “the strike is general, the attack is global!” Workers oppose budgetary cuts agreed between its new center-right government and international lenders.

Nearly all flights were cancelled, with national airline TAP cancelling 121 of its 140 scheduled flights. Trash remained uncollected, and public transport services, including Lisbon’s trains, tram services and ferries were halted. Many hospitals offered only minimum treatment. Shops, however, remained open in central Lisbon and Portugal’s second largest city, Porto.

Complicating the drama was a decision by the ratings agency Fitch on Thursday to downgrade Portugal’s debt assessment a notch to BB+ because of the eurozone nation’s “adverse economic outlook.” Trade union leader Manuel Carvalho da Silva said the 24-hour strike called by two top confederations, his communist CGTP and the Socialist UGT, had drawn a “very significant number of people” in the Iberian nation of 11 million. The unions had previously forecast 3 million protestors.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Great Leap Forward: In Search of a United Europe

It used to be easy to convince people to support the European project back when many benefited financially from the common market. But now that the euro crisis has divided the continent into winners and losers, people have lost faith in the EU. Reformists are warning that the EU needs to become a full political union or it will die.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


DARPA: Let’s Get Rid of Antibiotics, Since They’ll be Obsolete Anyway

For the better part of a century, antibiotics have given doctors great powers to cure all sorts of bacterial infections. But due to bacteria’s nasty habit of evolving, along with widespread overuse of these drugs, disease-causing bacteria are evolving antibiotic resistance at an alarming rate, making it much harder, and at times impossible, to wipe them out. DARPA, the military’s research agency, is eyeing an innovative solution to the problem: Rather than struggling to make better antibiotics, ditch them altogether. It may be time to start killing bacteria a whole new way.

The agency issued a call for proposals to develop a system of bacteria-beating drugs based on siRNAs, tiny scraps of genetic material that turn genes on and off. The idea is to hitch siRNAs onto a nanoparticle, which can make its way into the bacterial cell. What’s more, DARPA wants siRNAs “whose sequence and objective can be reprogrammed ‘on-the-fly’ to inhibit multiple targets within multiple classes of pathogens,” meaning they can be easily tweaked and tailored in the lab to combat a new bacteria or virus, be it a naturally emerging disease or a carefully designed bioweapon.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Federal Judge Hands Down Big Blow Against Blocking Mosque Expansion

ALPHARETTA, Ga. - A federal judge has dealt a potential blow to the city of Alpharetta’s efforts to block the expansion of a Mosque. The Islamic Center of North Fulton is suing the city over its 2010 decision to deny the expansion at its facility on Rucker Road. In voting for the denial, Alpharetta leaders cited what they believed was an agreement between the center, its neighbors and Fulton County that the center would never expand. The property was eventually annexed into Alpharetta. Center attorneys said there was no such agreement ever made. The city also hired professional traffic engineer, G. Edward Ellis, to examine the impact of the expansion on traffic. Ellis concluded that there wouldn’t be sufficient parking at the location, but Islamic Center attorneys objected to his conclusion.

This month, Judge J. Owen Forrester ruled Ellis’ statements can’t be used in the case because they weren’t based on hard facts. “All he did was park close to the property, observe it, and never go on to the property,” attorney Doug Dillard told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik. Dillard said the judge’s decision was “significant.” “Since the denial, they’ve paid great amount of attention to traffic, parking and access to and from the property,” Dillard said. Wednesday, Alpharetta attorneys filed a motion for the judge to reconsider his decision. “Mr. Ellis made clear that his opinions are based on his review of the record in light of his extensive experience,” Scott Busby wrote in his motion. “…The court should not have excluded his report or deposition, either in part or in whole.” The Justice Department has launched an investigation into the city’s decision, but so far there has been no conclusion. An Alpharetta city spokesman told Petchenik the city couldn’t respond about the judge’s decision because it’s pending litigation.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Minority Support May Boost Obama in 2012, Despite Economy

A new report shows that even with losses among white working-class voters, the president might win

Economics may be priority one in the 2012 presidential election, but the people who are voting matter, too. That is one conclusion from a new report that predicts that Election Day 2012 will be a “showdown” between demographics and economics.

“On the one hand, the state of the economy, writ large, is the biggest factor in favor of the GOP candidate, whoever that might be. … That’s the biggest thing the Republicans have going for them,”

“On the other hand, the demographic shifts in this country … are very much in favor of Democrats and will help Obama in the 2012 election.”

A look at 2008 shows that the president had the support of 80 percent of minorities and only a four-point disadvantage among white college graduates. Meanwhile, among the white working class, Republicans had an 18-point advantage. But the minority share of voters is projected to have grown by 2 percent from 2008 to 2012

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo: Tourists in for a ‘Magical’ Ride

The 400 space tourists who’ve already signed up to fly on the private Virgin Galactic space plane are in for a wild ride. Virgin Galactic is developing the SpaceShipTwo vehicle to carry passengers to the edge of space for $200,000 each. Once the prototype is ready, a fleet of the spacecraft will be produced by The Spaceship Company, and will launch out of Spaceport America in New Mexico.

The Spaceship Company’s chief engineer, Scott Ostrem, recently gave a preview of what the ride would feel like at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, N.M.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘You Are Praying to the Same God’

Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergy try to bridge religious gap in forum

In the wake of anti-Semitic incidents in Queens and Brooklyn, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik sat in a Queens mosque on Sunday, flanked by two imams and a reverend. Potasnik grew animated. “When a mosque is torched, how much more important is it for Jewish or Christian leaders to come forward and say, ‘Now you have attacked one of us?’“ said Potasnik, the vice president of New York’s board of rabbis. “When it’s anti-anything, we have to all stand together in speaking out against hate of any kind.” In the multiple incidents that happened in November, vandals spray painted swastikas and the acronym “KKK” on buildings. In the Brooklyn incident, one or more anti-Semites also set three cars ablaze.

Potasnik’s remarks came during a meeting between several religious leaders at the Bait uz Zafar Mosque in Hollis. Potasnik, along with the Rev. N.J. L’Heureux Jr., and Imams Daud Haneef and Azhar Hanif, gathered to discuss the importance of religion in modern society but also touched on topics like religious persecution and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“There are many in this society who have allowed the economy and the political system to become idols to be worshipped,” said L’Heureux, executive director of the Queens Federation of Churches. “For anyone to usurp the whole from the few is immoral. This worship of our economy is absolutely blasphemous.”

The speakers all argued that many of the problems in modern society — like the economic downturn and others — are primarily caused by people’s lack of religious belief. But the speakers were careful to clarify that no one religion is better suited to fixing those problems, because of the commonalities between them all. “When we look into the eyes of someone else, we become aware that we are all one family and Queens gives us the chance to do that,” L’Heureux said. “Hatred and bigotry breed on the notion that we don’t know each other.”

The Bait uz Zafar Mosque, which sponsored the interfaith event, ascribes to the Ahmadiyya branch of Islam. The century-old sect views all religions as one community that is distinguished by taste. “You are praying differently, but you are praying to the same God,” said Mohemmad Afzel, a volunteer at the mosque, before the event. “All the prophets were right.” The Ahmadi use interfaith communications like the Sunday meeting to find commonalities and resolve the differences that lead to religious discrimination. “As we get closer to God, we must learn to get closer to one another,” said Imam Hanif, vice president of the Amhadiyya Muslim Community in the United States.

Toward the end of the event, Potasnik told a brief story about a basketball game in the 1990s in which Michael Jordon scored 50 points in one game. It was a testament to Jordan’s superior skill in the sport. Jack Haley, a teammate of Jordan’s, scored only one point. When a reporter asked Haley how he would remember that night, Haley replied, “One day I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren that Michael Jordan and I scored 51 points together.” Potasnik said he and many other spiritual leaders believe that “and” is the most important word in religious scripture because it is one that brings two parties together. “I hope that when we leave here today,” Potasnik said, “that we will all use the word ‘and’ more than we ever have before.”

[JP note: And?]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Group Still Wants Answers on Mosque

A community group, lobbying for the relocation of the approved Markham mosque, took its concerns to council once again last night. “The issues are still the same … we are not going away,” said Alex Hardy of Markham Residents for Responsible Planning. The group hasn’t received a response from the town about its traffic, safety, parking, congestion and preservation concerns, Mr. Hardy said. While mosque-triggered overdevelopment issues, raised by residents, were not on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Hardy was given 10 minutes to address council on behalf of the group. However, resident Bhupen Karia and others stayed for the meeting, demanding to be heard. Mr. Hardy asked council if a new traffic study was in the works, not just at the intersection of Williamson Road and 16th Avenue, where the mosque and a proposed townhouse development will be built, but the bottlenecked area of Hwy. 48 and 16th, where a condominium is under construction, north of Markham Museum. “We want to see some movement on these issues from town council,” Mr. Hardy said. The meeting became heated when Mr. Karia claimed he was told by a planning department staff member all mosque files are in Mayor Frank Scarpitti’s office.

Doesn’t have all files

Mr. Scarpitti asked Mr. Karia to get the name of the individual he dealt with at the planning department. “To suggest that I have all the files — do you know how ridiculous that is?” Mr. Scarpitti said. “I don’t have enough room in my office for all the files.” The mayor offered to meet with residents after the meeting. “I’m happy to talk with you anytime, sir, that’s how I work in this municipality and I’m proud of it,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Angry Face of Far-Right Protest Prepares to Storm Local Elections

English Defence League to enter electoral politics after signing pact with British Freedom Party

by Kevin Rawlinson

The English Defence League plans to field candidates for the first time in local elections after an alliance is finalised between the far-right group and the British Freedom Party, which was set up by disgruntled members of the British National Party.

Senior figures said that the EDL, which has become known for its protests in English towns with Muslim populations, needed to “detoxify” its name by moving into politics with an existing party. Their new partners hope to capitalise on the EDL’s ability to mobilise a large number of supporters.

Both groups will retain a measure of independence but will support each other. EDL members will be invited to join the newly affiliated political wing and stand as candidates under its name. “There is a gentleman’s agreement in place, we are looking at the EDL becoming political early next year,” said Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the leader of the far-right group. Mr Yaxley-Lennon, who also goes by the name Tommy Robinson, confirmed he had met the British Freedom Party leader Paul Weston and that discussions were at an advanced stage.

Mr Weston confirmed the plans and revealed he would offer Mr Yaxley-Lennon a place on the party’s executive committee. He added: “We are going to say we support the principles of the EDL. We will get a lot of people who can stand in local constituencies and they will get a genuine political party in return.”

The move is likely to meet with some resistance from those EDL members who want to see the group remain a “street movement”. Mr Yaxley-Lennon acknowledged the issue, saying he will consult the leaders of the group’s local divisions.

Dr Matthew Goodwin, a specialist on far-right politics, thought the move would receive significant support within the EDL “simply because Mr Yaxley-Lennon is the main face of the movement”. He said: “It’s difficult to tell at this point as the EDL has a very fluid membership structure. It is not the case, for example, that you ever really join the EDL. There are no official entrance mechanisms.”

Babs Davis, an EDL member, backed the move if the leadership thought it was in the best interests of the group. “A lot of people have said that we should go political but the movement never really wanted to do it,” she said.

“If that is what Tommy Robinson thinks is the right thing to do, then I agree with him. I think he has done a brilliant job. The whole point of being in the EDL is to follow what the leadership says.”

Dr Goodwin, who is a professor at the University of Nottingham, said: “Since the widespread defeat for the BNP in last year’s general election, the far right-wing landscape of British politics has seen the emergence of several small political parties and movements, all attempting to fill the gaps left by Nick Griffin’s party and exploit wider public concerns about immigration.”

He said at least 45 per cent of voters refused to back any of the main parties on immigration, leaving “clear potential” for a far-right group.

Dr Goodwin added: “Having passed through its embryonic stage, the EDL is now very much at a crossroads: it can either remain as a confrontational streets-based social movement, or it can attempt to transform itself into a radical right-wing political party. This shift will require members and money.

“It has also developed links with far more successful radical right parties in other European states, that may pass on successful strategies and tips.”

Allies on the right: The leaders

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson

The former BNP member is the founder and leader of the EDL. He has recently forged a strong relationship with British Freedom Party leader Paul Weston.

He is known for wearing a St George’s Cross mask when making public appearances and was one of two EDL members who protested on the roof of FIFA’s Zurich offices about the attempt by world football’s governing body to ban England players from wearing poppies during a recent match. Earlier this month he received a 12-week sentence for assault, suspended for a year, at Preston magistrates’ court.

Paul Weston

A former electoral candidate for UKIP, Mr Weston is described by Mr Yaxley-Lennon as a “charismatic public-schoolboy type”.

He took over the chairmanship of the British Freedom Party two weeks ago. Like many of the party’s founders, he is said to be an experienced political campaigner. He is thought to want to keep his party free from the “historical baggage associated with parties such as the BNP”.

[Return to headlines]

European Judge Slams UK ‘Xenophobia’

Europe’s most powerful judge has publicly complained about “senior members” of the UK government fostering hostility towards the European Convention on Human Rights.

Citing the “vitriolic” and “xenophobic fury” directed against judges on the European Court of Human Rights, Sir Nicolas Bratza has acknowledged that relations between Strasbourg and the supreme court in London are under “strain”.

“The scale and tone of the current hostility directed towards the [ECHR] and the convention system as a whole, by the press, by members of the Westminster parliament and by senior members of the government has created understandable dismay and resentment among the judges in Strasbourg,” Bratza wrote.

“The vitriolic — and I am afraid to say, xenophobic — fury directed against the judges of my court is unprecedented in my experience, as someone who has been involved with the convention system for over 40 years.”

“As an overall assessment of our court’s work, I have to say that I do not find the criticisms to be fair ones.”Bratza takes issue with the apparently resentful epigram coined by the late supreme court justice Lord Rodger: “Argentoratum locutum: iudicium finitum — Strasbourg has spoken, the case is closed”. (Argentoratum was the Roman name for Strasbourg).

Bratza said: “Brilliantly Latinised as was the sentence… [this] is not the way which I or my fellow view the respective roles of the two courts.. “ Although, he added, it was “important” in that case that the House of Lords should follow the ECHR decision.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Scientists Find Secret of Limb Regeneration

Scientists at the University of Konstanz in southern Germany announced Thursday they have worked out how some animals can re-grow amputated limbs, successfully completing three decades of research. Many animals have the ability to re-grow limbs, but the undisputed champion of the art is the zebrafish, a tropical freshwater fish found in the southeastern Himalayan region. The minnow-sized fish can re-grow lost fins, organs, and heart-muscles.

Scientists already knew that the tropical zebrafish somehow uses a special “retinoic acid” to rebuild its limbs, but no-one has know exactly how this worked. Konstanz doctoral student Nicola Blum, part of a team led by researcher Gerrit Begemann, was the first to show that the substance is essential to regeneration.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

GSD [Gibraltar Social Democrats] Meet Moroccan Workers at the Mosque

Caretaker Chief Minister led a GSD delegation to the mosque for a meeting with the Moroccan Workers Association. M Sarsri addressed the meeting.

Caretaker Chief Minister Peter Caruana addressed Moroccan workers at the Europa Mosque yesterday evening. According to M Sarsri, the now retired long standing president of the Moroccan Workers Association, this is part of their planned meeting with all the three political parties contesting the elections with a view to presenting their ‘wish list’ and acquainting themselves with the political programme of each of the parties in respect of the situation of Moroccan workers in Gibraltar. Speaking to the Chronicle, M Sarsri said that for many Moroccan workers who have been in the Rock for close to 50 years, Gibraltar is an important part of their lives and they have a natural interest in the current election process.

“We want what is best for Gibraltar, and we want Gibraltar to prosper and to function properly. As long term residents and with a huge part of our lives linked to the Rock, we understand that if Gibraltar does well, it will mean that we also benefit from this.” He said the MWA notes the results of the Spanish elections and understood the political situation and pressures faced by Gibraltar, while calling on Gibraltarians to reflect deeply on who they are going to vote at the next general election. In his view, people casting their vote on December 8th should not vote out of any individual interest or individual grievance, but vote for the party they think will do best for Gibraltar collectively and best uphold the public interest. “They should not vote on the basis that my son is unemployed, to punish one or the other, or on the basis of the ‘sweets’ that they are being offered or of the ‘lollipop’ that may be taken away. They have to vote maturely to uphold what is in the best interests of the community,” he declared.Meetings with the GSLP/Alliance and the PDP are also planned.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Norway: School to Stop Grouping Kids by Race

Dividing kids into racial groups has been the practice in at least one Norwegian high school, where ethnicity determined where kids sat. With the story in the media glare on Thursday, the school’s principal was ordered to “re-do the arrangement” by Oslo city’s education committee. School staff said the practice of grouping kids by their racial background was forced on them by the flight of “ethnic Norwegian” students to other schools.

“We chose in the end to take the slightly difficult decision to place 14 ethnic Norwegian pupils in each of the two classes and none in the third,” Bjerke Videregående school department head Hanna Norum Eliassen told broadcaster NRK. “It has resulted in fewer Norwegian students leaving,” said Eliassen, who said the experiment, if successful, was to have delivered the type of multicultural school the staff wanted. She said the alternative was a “sad” division between “brown” and “white” schools.

A few of Oslo’s cramped neighbourhoods have been transformed by the influx of newcomers to Norway with refugees and foreign workers settling in tiny city enclaves.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Shocking New Research: Stasi Had Thousands of Spies in West Germany

New research has revealed that the notorious East German secret police, the Stasi, had a network of spies in West Germany that was much bigger than previously known. Thousands of people worked as informers and spied on their colleagues and friends — including a priest who filed reports on a young Joseph Ratzinger.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Shutting Down Switzerland’s Nuclear Power Stations Will Cost About 20.7 Billion Swiss Francs

Shutting down Switzerland’s five nuclear power stations will cost about 20.7 billion Swiss francs ($22.5 billion) and take about 20 years, Swiss authorities said on Thursday. A study published by the Federal Office of Energy said that the cost had risen by 10.0 percent compared with a 2006 estimate. The most expensive part of the process will be the long-term management of radioactive waste, it said.

The Swiss parliament approved a phased exit from nuclear energy at the end of September, six months after the Fukushima plant catastrophe in Japan. Strong public opposition to nuclear led to a recommendation that Switzerland’s five reactors not be replaced when they come to the end of their operation in 2034. A huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11th knocked out cooling systems at Fukushima, sending reactors into meltdown and leaking radiation in what was the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Giant Penis Mystery Baffles Stockholm Suburb

A wealthy Swedish businessman was surprised to learn on Wednesday that the grounds near his luxurious home appear to feature a giant penis visible only from the sky.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: ‘Gang Leader’ Shot Dead in Malmö

A 31-year-old man believed to be the head of a criminal gang was killed in a shooting at an industrial site in Malmö, in southern Sweden, on Thursday morning. “He is previously known to the police,” said Cindy Schönström-Larsson, press officer for the Skåne County police, to news agency TT. According to the local Sydsvenskan newspaper, the victim was the head of the Bröderskapet (‘The Brotherhood’) criminal gang.

However police refused to comment on the report, instead saying that they plan to hold a press conference about the incident on Friday morning. The area has been cordoned off and is being searched by K9 patrols. At this point the police can’t say exactly where the shooting occurred, if it took place indoors or on the street. “We don’t know yet if the man was shot where he was found or somewhere else,” said another police press officer, Calle Persson. But according Sydsvenskan, the shooting most likely occurred indoors, in an office belonging to a taxi company.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘The Queen Holds a Halal State Banquet’ Shock

The Queen held a halal state banquet at Buckingham Palace for Turkish President Abdullah Gul tonight and promised British backing for his country’s bid to join the European Union.

She celebrated ever-closer political and economic ties between the two nations, despite concerns over allowing the predominantly Asian and Muslim country into the EU. “We have come through a great deal together to develop what is, today, a very modern partnership,” she said. “In Europe, the British Government remains committed to working with you to secure your place in the European Union.” The 85-year-old monarch and 170 British and Turkish guests sat down to a completely halal state banquet of lamb from the royal estate at Windsor in the palace ballroom. “It’s a matter of politeness that it’s halal. The President and his wife are guests of the Queen. We wouldn’t do a separate menu for them so everyone eats the same,” a palace spokeswoman said. Meat used at similar banquets for the King of Saudi Arabia in 2007 and the Emir of Qatar last year were also slaughtered in a traditional Islamic way to ensure they too were halal.

Daily Express, 23 November 2011

The response of Express readers is predictable:

“Here we go again!! Britain bending over backwards to please some Muslim who cant wait to join the E.U. so that his people can come here and claim benefits. Muslims extremists blow us up, Muslims say how much they hate the British people, Muslims insult our brave soldiers, and we go out of our way to support and appease them. I really fear for the generations who will have to live with the consequences of these actions”

“The Quisling….oops, i mean Queen, is little more than a willing follower of this multi-cultish nonsense who is helping the Islamic world to colonise our land.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ken Livingstone on ‘Islamophobic’ Gove

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has claimed Education Secretary Michael Gove is “stridently Islamophobic”. Mr Livingstone made his comments in an interview after being asked about his invitation to controversial Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi during his time as mayor. He said “fervent Zionists” such as Mr Gove had wanted to “isolate” Sheikh al-Qaradawi because of his criticisms of Israel. Mr Livingstone added: “Just look at [Gove’s] writings and the general tone he takes is to depict Islam as genuinely a threat. He’s at the extreme end of this.” He told the London Loves Business website that “people like Michael Gove and others have been stridently Islamophobic for some time, and they assume there are votes in this”. Last year the Labour stalwart was forced to pay an estimated £11,000 in damages to former Tower Hamlets Council leader Michael Keith after accusing him of Islamophobia.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Mosque Plan for Concorde House

Permission is being sought to establish a new mosque in Scunthorpe. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association wants to create the mosque, complete with living accommodation for a religious leader, and community facilities at Concorde House, on Bessemer Way, Scunthorpe. Part of Concorde House is currently used for offices, but the rest of the site is empty.

If granted permission, the mosque would be used for prayers five times a day and the site would be used for community meetings and indoor community activities. Dr Syed Muzaffar Ahmed, president of the Scunthorpe Muslim Association said the current mosque on Cliffcloses Road had become too small to accommodate its growing number of worshippers.

“It has been over eight years since we had our existing mosque and now children have grown up membership has increased and hence we would like to have a bigger place of worship for prayers and community activity,” he has told North Lincolnshire Council. He went on: “Because of the economic slowdown this property has been for sale for a number of years and in receivership for over a year-and-a-half. With businesses going bust nearby, we feel it will bring some vibrancy to the area.” A conditional sale of the building has been agreed subject to permission being granted to change its use. It is expected a decision will be reached early in the new year.

[JP note: A little-known fact that Scunthorpe Museum has a letter from Rudyard Kipling stating that he never visited Scunthorpe.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslims Proud to be British? There’s Something to Learn From the Surprise

Bemusement at the findings of Muslim pride in Britain stems from stereotyping about religious groups

The finding in Demos’s report A Place for Pride that 83% of Muslims said they were proud to be a British citizen, compared with the national average of 79%, has been met with surprise in some parts of the press. Clearly many British citizens have both a strong religious identity and a strong national identity. Yet it also seems clear that many people see these identities as mutually exclusive. Why is this the case? That 83% of Muslims are proud to be British does in fact make sense. Many British Muslims come from families that have sought the opportunity and refuge offered in this country. The Demos report suggests that “People who are religious are more likely to be patriotic than are those who self-define as atheists or nonbelievers”; 88% of Anglicans and Jews agreed that they were “proud to be a British citizen”. Many British Jews have a family history of refugee status and it follows that this leads to a sense of pride in their British identity. People with a strong religious identity are also often part of a strong community, and benefit from the co-operation and collective goodwill that can come with this. Patriotism, the report suggests, isn’t only concerned with Queen and flag, but also with community values.

There is a lot of misinformation about the British Muslim community. In 2009 the Gallup Coexist Index found that only 36% of the British public thought that British Muslims were “loyal to this country” as opposed to 82% of the British Muslim community. The surprise at the findings of Muslim pride in Britain is rooted in a prejudice that leads people to believe that it is paradoxical for someone to hold both their religious and national identities as important. Lazy caricatures of Islam as contradicting many of the rights and values that are seen as quintessentially British — particularly freedom and democracy — only exacerbate this problem. So, how do we tackle the prejudice that leads to this view? We must start by challenging perceptions of faith groups that rely on broad stereotypes, and instead provide people with opportunities for meaningful engagement, where they can meet and learn about each other as individuals.

The report quotes a student who participated in Three Faiths Forum’s Undergraduate ParliaMentors programme, which gives young people the opportunity to work with students of different faiths and non-religious beliefs on social action projects, and to be mentored by MPs and peers. The “people I worked with, neither of them had even met a Jewish person before. I found it quite daunting but it was good and it helped me in a way to understand who I am as well as to know more about Islam and Christianity. In the end, the things we sometimes fell out about were what we were doing on the project — not God.” Finding out that the difficulties that come with working with others are often simply the usual interpersonal challenges is an important part of seeing others as individuals, not just a Muslim, Jew, atheist etc. What we need are more opportunities for this humanising process. If we can find these while people work together on a social cause then this is all to the good. One of the clear implications of the Demos research is that public pride is linked closely with “social engagement, interpersonal trust and volunteerism”. If we embrace opportunities to work with people of all faiths and beliefs then we can start to overcome the prejudice that leads to surprise that other people are also proud of Britain. We will, in turn, also give ourselves more reasons for civic pride.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Madrassas Modernise to Meet Needs of British Muslims

For many young Muslims who have been born and brought up in the UK, going to the mosque to attend religious classes in madrassas can bring back unhappy memories. Getting shouted at by teachers who could not speak English was a common complaint. Abid Hussain, from the Keighley Muslim Association in West Yorkshire, says that up until the last few years, children often got frustrated because they could not understand Punjabi or Urdu. “Their mosque teachers were having problems with their English and this caused problems,” he said. “Thankfully this situation is now changing and most madrassas who don’t employ British-born imams usually have one or two teachers who were educated in this country.”

Most mosques have their own madrassa or religious school. Larger mosques can have a number of them, and they all form an integral part of the local community.

English ‘mother tongue’

In close knit neighbourhoods most Muslim children regularly attend their local madrassa, in part due to peer pressure, as everyone living near the mosque does so. But in recent years that situation seems to have changed as many madrassas are attempting to modernise. That has led to some children transferring from one madrassa to another as parents seek institutions where their children will receive an Islamic education given in English, which is also a safe and happy environment. Bradford is home to around 85 mosques and madrassas. They are usually situated in heavily populated areas. The Victor Street Mosque in Manningham is a converted church hall and is run by Jamiat Tabligh ul-Islam, an Islamic organisation which also operates 16 other mosques in the city, all having their own madrassas.

Despite the building’s old facade some of the rooms inside have been been converted into modern classrooms with white board facilities and computers which are used to teach children from the age of four. Unlike older mosques, children sit at desks and chairs, instead of the floor, and although everyone has to learn Arabic so they can read the Koran, classes are taught in English. Mohammed Sarfaraz is one of the teachers who works here. He said: “It’s different to when we grew up when we could not understand Urdu very well. In my class we all speak English as it is the mother tongue of all the students. “The benefits are that they learn quicker and they remember more, and at the end of the day what they learn, they can put to use in their everyday lives.” Twelve-year-old Hamza used to go to another madrassa in Bradford, where he was taught in Urdu. But his parents found he was not learning anything, and moved him to Victor Street mosque. “I’m now doing good because I can understand my teacher, what he’s saying, I’ve grown up my whole life speaking English and I can’t really understand Urdu.”

Shaykh Abdul Wajid heads the teaching staff at the Victor Street Mosque. He said: “Our syllabus has changed and we teach our children through love. But it is not only in the classroom as we organise sporting events and take the kids out so they can form a better bond with their teachers.” The majority of mosques and madrassas in Bradford are affiliated to the Bradford Council for Mosques. Spokesman Ishtiaq Ahmed said: “Most of the Imams and teachers have been Criminal Records Bureau-checked, or this process is under way. We work closely with safeguarding initiatives, but children being slapped or harmed in anyway is not acceptable — children should feel safe.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Moreton-in-Marsh Stone Age Axe Find Leads to Seaside Theory

A Stone Age hand axe which was found on a building site could help prove part of Gloucestershire was once “almost on the seaside”, experts have said. Archaeologists uncovered the finely-worked stone tool, which may be about 100,000 years old, on a housing development in Moreton-in-Marsh. They said they believed it may have been used by cavemen on the shores of a lake that spanned across the Midlands.

The axe is thought to have been used primarily for butchering large animals. The tool was found by Cotswold Archaeology earlier this month on the building site at The Fire Service College. A similar axe was found nearby a few years ago, which experts said made the latest find “hugely significant”. Neil Holbrook, chief executive at Cotswold Archaeology, said: “Back in the deep distant past, before the Ice Age, there was a huge lake in central Britain covering most of what is now Warwickshire and heading up to Leicestershire, which geologists now call Lake Harrison.

“Moreton-in-Marsh would have been on the southern shore of this great lake. “Perhaps it’s just too much coincidence that we’ve found these two prehistoric axes in that location. “I wonder whether these Neanderthals were coming to camp and forage on the shores of the lake? “Perhaps it points to a time when Moreton-in-Marsh was almost on the seaside.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Paedophile Who Downloaded Extreme Child Porn Spared Prison After Judge Says it Will Make Him WORSE

A judge provoked outrage yesterday after sparing a paedophile jail because it would only ‘make him worse’.

Christopher Arno, 21, faced up to 18 months in prison after downloading more than 800 ‘revolting’ images of child abuse.

Among them were hundreds of photographs graded as the most serious, including images of rape, sadism and torture.

But Judge Alistair McCreath allowed him to walk free saying mixing with other perverts could make him a danger to the public.

He said: ‘Right-thinking people are revolted at people looking at this material. Understandably they think people looking at it should go to prison.

‘The difficulty is that the prison sentence I could pass on you would be really short and you would no doubt come out worse than when you went in.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Somali Gangs Bring Back Terror to the Tower Block

SOMALI drug gangs have returned to terrorise residents in a Southend tower block — two years after the Echo first exposed them.

The ruthless dealers, from London, drove a vulnerable man out of his home in the Pennine flats, Coleman Street.

The terrified tenant, who has learning difficulties, fled. Police moved him to a safe location.

Sgt Rob Enderby said: “This vulnerable man was being bullied by this lot. He didn’t feel strong enough to get them out. He left voluntarily and we have rehoused him.”

Two years ago, the Echo revealed a Somalian gang had been preying on vulnerable people in Southend.

Their method is to force their way into flats, then use them as bases to sell crack cocaine.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Three Faiths to Worship Together in Edinburgh Mosque

In what may be a ‘first’ in Britain, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will share worship with leaders of the Jewish and Muslim communities at a mosque. On Friday 25 November the Rt Rev David Arnott and Rabbi David Rose of the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation will join Muslims at Annandale Mosque in Scotland’s capital for prayers. The occasion is part of a unique three-day programme in Edinburgh of talks between the three main Abrahamic traditions. Mr Arnott commented: “Interfaith dialogue is about showing respect for the traditions of each other’s faith. There is no better way to do that than by sharing openly in worship together.” He continued: “This is how we say to the community where we all live this is how we should live together, with respect and understanding of what is important to each other.”

From Friday to Sunday representatives from the three traditions will stand alongside each other during each of the different faith services. Rabbi David Rose, who is also co-convener of the Edinburgh Interfaith Association, said: “The mutual respect we show to each other in visiting other faiths’ places of worship is a clear signal that the various faiths in our city is committed to living together in harmony and together contributing to the wellbeing of the city.” Bashir Malik, a mosque representative, said: “The Jewish and Christian faiths are deeply connected with Islam with all three being a continuation of the Abrahamic faith.” He added: “We must show respect for each other from the core of our hearts, and these visits of each other’s place of worship is the best way to express our respect and commitment to contributing to achieving peace and harmony within our communities.” The programme starts at Annandale Mosque on Friday, then on Saturday at the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation’s synagogue, ending with a Church of Scotland service on Sunday at St Andrew’s, St George’s West, Edinburgh.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Medfilm: Jasmin Durakovic’s Post-War Bosnia

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 22 — Islam and disinhibition, modernity and traditions, political stability and deep economic hardship preventing young people from trusting in the future: 16 years after the end of the war, the Bosnia created by the Dayton Accords (signed November 21 1995) is still finding it difficult to find its way towards stability and risks falling into the abyss. This is the harsh picture of a contradictions-filled reality shown in “Sevdah for Karim” (a scene from the film in the photo), the second feature film by the Bosnia director and screenwriter Jasmin Durakovic.

Karim (a de-miner by profession), his sister Dzemila (strongly attached to traditions), his friend Juka (who lives by his wits and uses drugs and alcohol) and Ivana, an attractive and disinhibited girl wanted by both of them, live in a Sarajevo filled with the post-9/11 ghosts. The story is set against the backdrop of war memories, the economic crisis and strong pressure towards Islam.

Jihadist tendencies are spreading in Bosnia, said the director who is in Rome in these days to present his work at the Medfilm Festival, yet “religious fundamentalism will not manage to gain a foothold, since our society is not a practicing one.” Things could, however, change. In the film Durakovic depicts a part of Bosnian Islam, that of the Sufi current. “In Bosnia,” said the director, “confraternities are tolerated. Karim frequents a tekke” (a Naqshbandiyya rooted in the Sunni tradition, Ed.). However, after work and prayer, he lives his life in an absolutely dissolute manner, balanced between two realities. “This is exactly what is happening in the country,” he replied, “either you become very religious or you become an alcoholic.” The rise in Wahhabism in Bosnia, said Durakovic, derives from the continual political and economic security in which the country finds itself. “With the Dayton Accords Bosnia was divided artificially into three parts. We are a large-scale political experiment which, however, does not work.” Even more serious, since October 3 2010 the country has not had a government. “Once more there are too many divisions. If we do not find a solution,” he warned, “ we may end up in another conflict.” A “non-practicing” Muslim, as he calls himself, Durakovic — who has numerous documentaries, short films and made-for-TV ones to his name — has a Serbian wife, proof that inter-religious and inter-ethnic problems can be overcome. The cinema can also be of aid to this end, of course. And the successes of directors such as the 2002 Oscar Award-winning Danis Tanovic (“No Man’s Land”), the 2006 Berlin Golden Bear winner Jasmila Zbanic (“Grbavica”), or the Grand Prix winner of the 2008 Cannes film festival Aida Begic (“Snow”) — to name only a few — show that Bosnia Herzegovina filmmaking has much to say through its strong stories, while Sarajevo, with its international film festival, represents a small miracle to preserve. “I believe,” said Durakovic, “that it is necessary to bring out into the open what one has to say.” His next film is called “Body Complete”, another punch to the stomach for viewers, is dedicated to the recognition of bodies mutilated and thrown into mass graves during the conflict. “The war must be exorcised and artists must pull out what they have inside.” The aim, he concludes, is however to go forward and not continue to move backwards.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

NATO Clashes With Serbs in Northern Kosovo

NATO peacekeepers have clashed with Serbs manning a roadblock in northern Kosovo. It’s the latest in a series of incidents as Serbs in the region continue to resist the country’s ethnic Albanian administration.

NATO claims that 21 of its soldiers suffered injuries during clashes with ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo amid an ongoing dispute over border management. The incidents occurred around midnight local time on Thursday when dozens of troops from NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) attempted to dismantle a Serb-manned roadblock at Dudin Krs, near the town of Zvecan.

A few hundred Serbs were summoned by sirens to defend the barricade and threw stones and drove trucks loaded with gravel at the peacekeepers, who eventually responded with tear gas. KFOR said in a statement that it ended the operation to avoid “serious casualties on both sides.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Arab Spring is in Truth the Victory of Militant Islam

THE deepening cycle of violence in Egypt has exposed the gullibility and moral blindness of western leaders.

Earlier this year, as the so-called Arab Spring swept through the Middle East, politicians hailed the uprisings as the harbinger of a new era of peace and democracy.

The revolts were “an inspiration”, said President Obama. Others portrayed the events as the Arab equivalent of the Berlin Wall’s collapse. But today, almost a year after the insurrections first began in Tunisia, this stance appears increasingly foolish and misplaced.

The supposed spring is rapidly turning into a winter of conflict. The shadow of repression, chaos, and Muslim fanaticism now casts its darkening shadow across the region.

Much of the political elite’s noisy enthusiasm for change has been based on wishful thinking. It is the same kind of wilful reluctance to face reality that has brought us the ideological nightmares of European integration and mass immigration.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

EU Takes Key Step in Solar Energy Project in Arab Deserts

Two major European consortiums joined forces Thursday in an ambitious project to capture solar and wind energy across Arab deserts in order to power homes in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The German-led Desertec Industry Initiative (DII) signed a memorandum of understanding with Medgrid, founded by French energy giants, on the sidelines of a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels.

“By joining efforts and coordinating their approaches, the two initiatives take a truly European dimension,” said EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger. “There is now a concrete perspective of solar and wind energy being produced for the joint benefit of European and northern African and Middle Eastern citizens, as well for the benefit of both markets,” he said.

DII, whose shareholders include German industry giant Siemens, major lender Deutsche Bank and power supplier EON, wants to produce sun and wind power in the deserts of north Africa and the Middle East. The group’s goals is to meet 15 percent of Europe’s electricity demand by 2050. Medgrid, founded by French energy giants Areva and EDF, along with engineering group Alstom and others, plans to build underwater links between Europe and Africa to transport electricity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Elections Tomorrow, Islamic Party a Top Runner

On wave of Arab Spring, Feb. 20 movement calls for boycott

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 24 — On the wave of the Arab Spring still affecting North Africa, Morocco is setting in motion the November 25 early elections called after the ‘yes’ vote won for the new Constitution wanted by King Mohammed VI in order to stem the tide of the popular revolts. The move was deemed insufficient by the February 20 Movement, which at the beginning of the year led the protests demanding profound social and political reforms and which today has once again called for a boycott of the elections. Thirty-three political parties will be competing for the 395 seats in Parliament, but only a handful aspire to a substantial number of deputies. In the line — though not at the same level — of Ennahdha, the Tunisian Islamic party which won the October 23 elections, many analysts (lacking polls, prohibited for the two weeks leading up to the vote) say that a religious party is among the top runners — the Justice and Development Party (PJD) led by Abdelilah Benkirane, who has often been criticised for his hostility towards secularity. Currently in the opposition with 47 seats out of 395 total, the PJD will however be going up against the most deeply-rooted Istiqlal (Independence), the party under Prime Minister Abbas Al Fassi (in Parliament with 52 deputies), as well as the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) and the National Rally of Independents (RNI, liberal) under Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar.

Livening up the political debate on the eve of the elections is the new Constitution (approved on July 1 with 98% voting “yes” to it), which grants more power to the prime minister. The new prime minister will be appointed by the winning party instead of the king and will have among his prerogatives that of dissolving the Parliament. The electoral reform also calls for a minimum of 60 female deputies and reserves 30 seats for candidates under age 35. The debate however does not seem to move the population much, which is detached from politics. Friday’s vote is uncertain amid the unknown element of abstentions (in 2007 turnout stood at 37%) and calls for a boycott. This morning in a press conference at the offices of the Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH) in Rabat, reported on live via Twitter by militants, the movement called the Constitution undemocratic and denounced corruption, the media war and the persecution of activists. It also called for a “Day of Rage” on December 4, urging Moroccans to take part in the marches which the movement claims will not be stopped. The voting — with about 13 million Moroccans eligible to do so (including residents abroad who will be able to vote ‘by proxy’) — will be monitored by 4000 local and international observers.

The voting stations will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on November 25, while the official results will be communicated the following day by the Interior Ministry.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Morocco’s Revolution Proceeds Calmly

While the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt toppled those countries’ regimes, the situation in Morocco has remained remarkably calm. The elections on Nov. 25 are the next indicator of how the country has progressed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Unholy Alliance: Egypt’s Military & the Muslim Brotherhood

Despite protestations of its purported political neutrality Egypt’s besieged military leadership has been secretly funneling financial, food, and security support to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and its allied Salafist parties in the run up to next week’s parliamentary elections.

The assistance takes the form of “walk around” money, clothing and food giveaways secretly funneled to the coffers of the Brotherhood’s front party — the Freedom and Justice Party, the Construction and Development Party, as well as to allied Salafist Parties, including Al Nour, Al-Asalah, Al-Fadilah, Al Islah and others — in a bid to buy votes and provide Islamist parties a military supported upper hand in the upcoming parliamentary elections..

The military leadership has not only channeled financial support to the Islamists, it has also secretly collaborated with Salafists who have attacked Copts throughout Egypt in a show of support for more punitive discriminatory acts against Egypt’s Coptic minority to curry further favor with Salafists.

Hundreds of Copts were attacked by unknown assailants en route to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on November 18th the second night of demonstrations this month while security forces stood by. This latest attack comes in the wake of October’s attack by the army which used live fire and drove military vehicles into a crowd of Copts protesting a rash of attacks on Copts and Coptic churches, killing 25 innocent protestors.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Old Coins Force Re-Think on Jerusalem’s Western Wall

Israeli archaeologists on Wednesday said they had found ancient coins that overturned widely-held beliefs about the origins of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites. For centuries, many thought the wall was built by King Herod — also infamous, in the Christian tradition, for his efforts to hunt down the baby Jesus in the original Christmas story.

But archaeologists said they had found coins buried under the wall’s foundations minted 20 years after King Herod’s death in 4 B.C., showing the structure was completed by his successors. The find will mean a re-think for the city’s army of tour guides.

“Every tour guide … grounded in the history of Jerusalem” had replied “Herod” when asked who built the wall, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement.

“This bit of archaeological information illustrates the fact that the construction of the Temple Mount walls and (the adjacent) Robinson’s Arch was an enormous project that lasted decades and was not completed during Herod’s lifetime,” the Authority added.

The authority said academic historians were already aware of an account by the Jewish historian Josephus that the wall was completed by Herod’s great grandson.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

European Parliament President Arrives in Turkey

European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek arrived in Ankara on Thursday for talks on Turkey’s European Union membership bid as well on of human rights and media freedom, a European source said. Buzek will meet Turkish parliament speaker Cemil Cicek and address the Turkish legislature later Thursday. He will also meet ruling party and opposition deputies.

“Turkey and the EU share the same history and the same destiny. Europe needs Turkey, Turkey needs Europe,” Buzek said in a statement ahead of the visit. “I would like to reaffirm during my visit the European Parliament’s strong support for Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU.”

On Friday, Buzek will meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey and the EU began formal accession negotiations in 2005 but since then Brussels has opened with Ankara only 13 of the 35 policy chapters that every state must negotiate in order to join the bloc. Just one chapter has closed.

Turkish-EU talks have stalled over problems relating to EU member Cyprus, the divided island part held by Turkey. There has also been growing unease shown by the leaders of France and Germany over enlargement to include a massive, mainly Muslim emerging economic and strategic power. The recent arrest of several journalists charged with aiding a shadowy group aiming to topple the Islamist-rooted government is also a source of concern about freedom of expression in Turkey.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Islamists Gear Up for Large Rally Near Israel Border

(by Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) — AMMAN, NOVEMBER 24 — Preparations continue for a massive protest near the Israeli border to be held on Friday to lobby for support against Israeli settlement expansion in occupied Jerusalem, organizers said.

The Islamist movement, represented by its political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF) and a number of charity groups has mobilized its vast resources to bring tens of thousands to the sensitive border area for a rally.

Buses are expected to be ferried from refugee camps and towns with a large concentration of Palestinian refugees on Friday, as attention shifts from reform protests to the long saga of the Arab Israeli conflict.

Leaders from the Islamist movement told ANSAmed participants will gather in town of Sweimeh, 40 km west Amman near the borders with Israel.

They emphasised that they will not walk to Jordan river, a restricted military area that separates Jordan from Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“This is a stand of support to people in Jerusalem. Israel is doing all it can to change demographic balance in the holy city and evict Palestinians from their land,” said Ali Abul Sukkar, president of the IAF shura council.

He said the rally is being hold in coordination with other opposition groups and social movements around the kingdom.

“We do not intend to reach the border. This is a political stance meant to pressure countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel to take an action over continued judaization policy in the holy city,” he told ANSAmed.

The rally is organized to shed light on measures by Israel to build settlements in Jerusalem and evict Palestinian from the holy city, occupied by Israel after the 1967 war.

Palestinian officials and international groups say Israel’s right wing government continues with its policy to expand settlement consternation in several parts of the disputed city, where the Palestinians want to have their capital in a future state.

The Palestinian authority is seeking international support to declare an independent state at the UN after leaders from the Ramallah based Palestinian authorities said they no longer trust in talks with the current Israeli government.

But their calls have been rebuffed by Washington and other western countries as unfeasible, and instead called for talks between the two sides.

The rally will be part of other demonstrations to be held in Egypt and Lebanon simultaneously, amid concern of security meltdown in case protesters decided to head to the borders.

In Jordan, government sources said security forces will be mobilized to the region for fear of attempts by some groups to head to the border area.

Earlier this year, Jordan’s security forces attacked protesters as they marched towards the border, leaving dozens injured and other arrested.

Officials in Tell Aviv said they will be closely monitoring developments on all border areas.

Earlier this year, clashes took place near the borders with Syria and Lebanon after some protesters tried to reach the borders.

Jordan is the second country in the Arab world to make peace with Israel after Egypt and maintains a strong military presence on the border to prevent cross border attacks on Israel.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Gul: EU “Miserable” On Cyprus’s “Half Presidency”

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 23 — The Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, has called the European Union “miserable”, according to the opposition newspaper Hurriyet, which has reported comments made by the head of state to journalists in London, where he is on an official visit.

Reaffirming a position that he had express more vehemently in Ankara at the end of the summer, Gul added the adjective to his criticism of the rotating EU Presidency, which will be entrusted for the second half of 2012 to Cyprus, the island divided after the Turkish invasion of 1974 to contrast the annexationist aims of the Greek Colonels’ regime.

“Southern Cyprus is a half state, which represents only half of its population,” Gul said. “Now this half-country will become the rotating EU president. What a coincidence: a half-country will become the president of a pitiful Union”.

The Cypriot veto, along with opposition from France and reservations from Germany, is the main obstacle to Turkey joining the EU, a move “sponsored” by at least 9 EU countries, including Italy.

Since July, Turkey has threatened to freeze relations with the EU if Cyprus takes up the rotating presidency of the EU in 2012, before a solution to the Cypriot question has been reached.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Armed Clashes Between Loyalists and Rebels in Sanaa

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMEBR 23 — Armed clashes have broken out in Yemen’s capital Sanaa between loyalists of disputed President Ali Abdallah Saleh and soldiers who have joined the ranks of anti-regime protestors. Reports were from the correspondent of the Saudi pan-Arab television channel Al Arabiya, which specified that explosions were heard not long before from the northern area of Hasba, a stronghold for the military rebels.

President Saleh arrived in Riyadh this morning to take part in the signing of a power-transferring agreement, announced state-run Yemeni television quoted by Agence France Presse.

After months of uprisings and violence which has taken the country to the verge of a civil war, Saleh agreed to sign the plan proposed by the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) calling for him to step down and transfer his power to his deputy, in agreement with the opposition.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Saleh: 33 Years of ‘Dancing on the Head of Snakes’

Skilled and ferocious with tribes,swept away by Arab Spring

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 24 — Alì Abdallah Saleh once said that governing Yemen was like “dancing on the heads of snakes”. The ‘snakes’ are the over 200 tribes in the country, quarrelsome and heavily armed. It is a dance that the former military man knew how to carry forth for years, but now the end has come. Saleh was born in 1942 in the northern part of the country to a family of Shiite Zaidis. He attended only elementary school and joined the army at a very young age. In 1977 he became the military governor of Taiz, while in 1978 he was elected President of Northern Yemen by the Parliament following the assassination of the former head of state. The young leader began governing with an iron fist, not hesitating to shoot down his political opponents while at the same time managing rivalries between tribes. His aims were to reunite the north and south and modernise the country. The former he succeeded in doing in 1990. With the fall of the USSR, the Marxist state of Southern Yemen ended up agreeing to reunification with Saleh as president. The modernisation of the country instead remained simply a dream. The president had to employ all his energy to keep the turbulent tribes within his country under control. It is said that he managed to escape hundreds of attacks on his life. For thirty years Saleh was able to get himself re-elected on a regular basis, and his son Ahmed became his designated heir. The president put his relatives in positions of power. With the Bush administration he managed to gain a name as a reliable anti-Al Qaeda combatant. However, over the past few years his power had begun to wear down. The separatist drives of tribes increased, the population was ever more fed up with the corruption and excessive power of the president’s clan. And the Arab Spring gave the final shove.

Protestors called for him to step down and he promised not to stand again as candidate but violently put down protests. The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) drew up a plan for him to leave power but he rejected it. The army became divided, with a part following General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and defending the protestors in the street. On June 3 rockets were shot at the presidential palace, Seriously injuring Saleh and causing him to be transferred to Saudi Arabia for treatment. He went back to his home country on September 23. On October 8 he announced that he would soon be resigning. Yesterday in Riyadh Saleh signed the GCC plan he had previously rejected. He agreed to leave power within 30 days to the vice president in exchange for immunity. According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, he will be going to the US for treatment.

The “dance on the heads of snakes” is over for him.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Dagestan — The Most Dangerous Place in Europe

Once it was Chechnya, today it is the republic of Dagestan on the Caspian Sea that is the most explosive place in Russia — and in Europe. There are bomb attacks almost daily, shootouts between police and militants, tales of torture and of people going missing. Two armed men in camouflage holding Kalashnikov rifles enter the shop and tell the customers to leave. The terrified cashier stumbles past as one of the men puts a bomb on the counter and sets the timer. He does not bother emptying the till, he just walks out of the door.

Seconds later, the shop is filled with smoke. Attacks like this one caught on supermarket security cameras — in which Islamic fighters punish shops that sell alcohol — have become routine events in Dagestan’s capital, Makhachkala. The owners typically get a warning first, often delivered by text message, or on a USB memory stick thrown through car windows, or into a letterbox.

If they ignore it, there may be a bomb or a shootout or the owners may agree to pay protection money. “The fighters like to portray themselves as so devout,” says a lieutenant colonel in the anti-terrorism police, who I will call Bashir. “But many are just cynical criminals running protection rackets.” I met Bashir at a football match, watching the Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o — reportedly the world’s best-paid footballer — play for Anzhi Makhachkala. The atmosphere inside the stadium was relaxed, even joyful, with old men munching sunflower seeds and children waving flags, despite the heavy security outside. After the game, a smiling Eto’o told me he was proud to play in Dagestan — but he does not spend much time here, heading straight back to the safety of Moscow after every match.


In the centre of Makhachkala, there are armed police on almost every corner. Bashir drives me past a place where two car bombs recently killed a policeman and a young girl and wounded 60 police and passers-by. “When our guys rushed to the scene of the first explosion, a blast about 12 times more powerful went off,” he adds. “It was a trap. They wanted to get as many of us as possible.” He asks me not to use his real name, or to photograph his face. Government officials and policemen are the main targets of the increasingly ruthless Islamic insurgents. Many officers are too scared to go on to the street in their uniform. Police who have to stop and search cars often wear masks. But unlike some of his colleagues, Bashir seems to want to understand why so many young Dagestanis have joined the rebels and gone into hiding — known here as “going into the forest”.

At the university, I watch him lecture students about the dangers of fundamentalist websites. He tells them a cautionary tale about a young medical student who made some so-called friends online, and who later forced him to plant a car bomb. Bashir is joined by an imam, who urges moderation and compliance with Russian law. “If a man only gets secular education he will be heartless — if he only gets religious education he’ll be a fanatic,” the imam says. Most Muslims in Dagestan are Sufi but younger people are increasingly drawn to the Salafi branch of Islam, which is less mystical, more puritanical and, crucially, outside the control of the state. This is seen by the interior ministry as a problem, as I discover in the village of Sovietskoye, three hours south of Makhachkala.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Asia

American Woman and Partner Attending Family Wedding in Pakistan Murdered in Suspected Honour Killingby Graham Grant, Home Affairs Editor

Couple about to start new life together in the U.S.

Sources suggest the groom’s relatives had been happy with the marriage, but it had caused upset among the bride’s family

A Scottish businessman and his American wife were gunned down in the street in a suspected honour killing while on holiday in Pakistan.

Glasgow-based Saif Rehman, 31, and Uzma Naurin from New York, 30, were shot dead when their car was ambushed in the north-eastern city of Gujrat following a shopping trip.

The couple had been about to start a new life together in the U.S. after their trip to Pakistan for Mr Rehman’s brother’s wedding.

It is understood the couple were accompanied by a driver, Mr Rehman’s sister and her two-year-old daughter, but the other passengers were unharmed.

The group of four gunmen stopped the car, opened fire and killed Mr Rehman before bundling his wife into their vehicle and killing her at a spot nearby — then dumping her body by the roadside.

Pakistani police are probing claims that there had been tension between the couple’s in-laws over their marriage three years ago.

They were married in Manchester but another, fuller ceremony involving both sides of the family took place in Glasgow in June, when it appeared that the differences might have been resolved.

Sources close to the dispute last night suggested Mr Rehman’s relatives had been happy with the marriage, but it had caused upset among some of his bride’s relatives.

Saif Ali, 30, of Cumbernauld, Dunbartonshire, who runs a mobile phone repair company, met Mr Rehman — who ran a similar firm called GSM Communications in Glasgow — three years ago…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Punjab: Catholic Activist Murdered by Muslim Mafia

Akram Masih, married and father of four children, was killed last night by an armed commando close to Muslim landowners. For years the man was the target of threats, for his strenuous battle to defend the rights of minorities. Local Priest: Muslims landowners “steal” Christian property with the support of authorities.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — A group of men linked to the land mafia, led by Nadeem Ashraf, has murdered Akram Masih, a Pakistani activist, a married father of four children, in Khurda Renala, Okara district in Punjab province. According to preliminary reports the crime took place around 10.30 last night. Local church sources report that the man was a devout Catholic, committed to social problems, who fought with dedication and passion for the rights of religious minorities in the area. Among the many battles waged, Akram Masih had recently launched a campaign against the rich landowners who arbitrarily confiscate the land of Christian peasants.

Last year alone he, together with some members of the Catholic Church had “saved” two Christian schools on the verge of being seized by landlords with the backing of local authorities. From that moment Masih continued to receive constant death threats culminating in yesterday evening’s assasination. Fr. John Joseph, a priest at Renala Khurda, confirms that “for months” Muslim landowners have been trying to steal land from Christians, with the support of the authorities. “ Akram Masih added that the priest “has always courageously opposed this” and never allowed them to “carry out their evil plans.” The area included in the Okara district is famous for its fertile soils, where potatoes, tomatoes and rice are grown. Three weeks ago Masih bought a small plot of land, , which the local mafia has been trying to expropriate. Personal threats again ensued and a complaint to the police proved useless, as the officers did not even launch an investigation.

Speaking to AsiaNews Fr Shahbaz Aziz, from Okara district, said last night “around 10.30 several gunshots were heard “ and “at 11 Akram Masih was found dead “ near the place where he lived with his family. The priest adds that “Nadeem Ashraf is the strong man of the area” and “head of the local land mafia “ with his brothers he “has repeatedly threatened Masih” leading to the death of the Christian activist. Fr. Aziza states that “the body shows signs of torture,” but the police — even if forced to open a file — have shown no special interest or effort in finding the killers.

In 2003, Fr. George Abraham was killed in similar circumstances in the area. He was also an activist for minority rights and a staunch defender of their property, under threat of confiscation by the rich landowners Muslims. “Christians in the region — said Father Shahbaz Aziz — are humiliated, and cases of persecution are common. How many lives will still be broken, before the Punjab government intervenes? “. And how much blood, he asks, “will still have to be spilled?”.

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

Australia — Pacific

Inclusion Not Exclusion is Uni’s Missing Message

MONASH University in Melbourne prides itself on its “multicultural learning environment” — and yet it produces a handbook for one certain class of students, and not others.

“Salaam Monash” is the title of the university’s glossy 50-page “handbook for Muslim students”. Monash deputy vice-chancellor Stephanie Fahey writes in the handbook’s foreword: “At Monash we understand that Muslim students have specific social, religious and cultural needs.” The booklet lists Islamic banking and financial institutions, Muslim publications, women’s groups, and schools. It also has lists of Muslim medical and dental practitioners, which split doctors into male and female. There is a halal food guide and a list of halal grocers and halal butchers.

Much of the information seems useful and having had a young Muslim houseguest recently, I know it can be tricky to find halal food. But there is no similar handbook for other religious or ethnic groups, not for Buddhists, Taoists, Germans, Greeks, Sikhs, Mormons or vegans. Why encourage one group to maintain an identity separate from other Australians?

Most unwise, however, is that the handbook lists without comment some of Australia’s most radical prayer halls, including Sheik Mohammed Omran’s Islamic Call Society in Brunswick.A number of men arrested over a foiled 2005 Melbourne terror plot, had frequented the mosque. A New York Police Department study identified it as an “extremist incubator”.

The handbook also points students towards the ISNA Mosque associated with preacher Abu Hamza, who was taped telling men they could “beat their wives to shape them up” as a “last resort”. In the lecture, “The Keys to a Successful Marriage”, he said: “You smack them, you beat them. You are not allowed to bruise them.” The handbook has angered people on campus. Said several insiders who wrote to me: “Monash University should not be endorsing (an) ideology which prescribes that Muslims must not eat our food, wear our clothes, share our services or even use our ‘infidel’ money. “International students would be better served with a handbook explaining Australian culture and values.” Monash is not alone. La Trobe has its own Muslim student guide and last year opened a $927,000 prayer room. Macquarie University and the University of NSW offer website information exclusively for Muslim students. And in 2006, RMIT produced its Muslim handbook “In the name of Allah the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”. Two years later, 1000 Muslim students protested against sharing brand new prayer rooms with Christians and Jews.Overseas Muslim students are a lucrative part of the fee-paying student body and keeping them happy is important. But the message should be about mutual respect and hospitality — not segregation and exclusion.

[JP note: Almost a textbook-like example of what is wrong with the West’s engagement with the Islamic world.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ottoman Turkish Diplomat’s Body Relocated Near S. Africa’s Mosque

A decorated Ottoman Turkish diplomat who was appointed to the Ottoman Embassy in South Africa in April, 1914, Mehmet Remzi Efendi’s body has been relocated to a memorial park designated near a newly built mosque approximately after 100 years. When World War I broke out later that year between Britain (the colonial ruler of South Africa at that time) and the Ottoman Empire, Mehmet Remzi’s embassy was closed. Mehmet Remzi and his family were reportedly forced to stay in South Africa due to the dangers of travel during wartime. In 1916 Mehmet Remzi was arrested by the British on the suspicions that he was trying to organize the Zulu people of South Africa to rise up against the British. Mehmet Remzi was reportedly tortured for information. He died later that year in prison. Over the years visiting Turks — who consider Mehmet Remzi a national hero — have stated that Mehmet Remzi ought to be interned in a strictly Islamic burial ground. Close to 100 years after his death and burial Mehmet Remzi’s remains were recently moved to a Turkish mosque in Johannesburg called Nizamiye Mosque and buried in the official Islamic fashion.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Africa: Places of Beauty and Peace

Johannesburg’s skyline is undergoing change that reflects shifts in society and religious faith. Rising from the Witwatersrand ridge are incredible structures where the Muslim faithful pray. These enormous prayer houses can be found in the green leafy northern suburbs and in underprivileged areas where Christian church steeples have up until now been the most prominent landmarks. The New Age went to find out more about these exquisite new landmarks. Soweto has just received its second large mosque, the Allansar mosque, a brand new and prominent feature which can be seen from afar. Though it took some time for locals to accept its presence in the township, the Imam of the Musjid-Allansar, Abdul Aziz Maluleke, said the mosque has become a haven for those seeking Allah in their lives.

The building, lying on the same stretch of road as two Christian churches, was funded by the Sediki trust. It joins the skyline with another mosque, the Dlamini mosque in Soweto, which became a refuge for many who were evading security forces in the 1980s. Another mosque which snares the attention of motorists on the K101 road, is the Nizamiye Midrand mosque, which it is believed will be the biggest mosque in the southern hemisphere once completed. The estimated cost of the building is R210m. A project manager said the mosque would feature many extra facilities besides a worship centre, including a high school with boarding facilities for pupils, a bazaar, clinic, conference centre and a community hall. He said the project was being funded by a Turkish businessman, Ali Katircioglu, and would be handed over to a non-profit organisation which would oversee the mosque on completion. The mosque is the first example of Ottoman architecture, which dates back to the 14th century, in South Africa.

Another mosque catching the eye on the M1 near Rosebank, is the Houghton Jumma mosque which is still under construction. It is being funded by the Saudi Arabian government and the King Fahd Islamic centre trust will be responsible for its administration. The spokesperson for the mosque, Emran Dasoo, said once the building was completed in April 2012, the mosque would begin phase two, an additional building which would host a community hall, a conference centre, and a library. The Kerk Street mosque in the Johannesburg CBD is the city’s crown jewel, and has been declared a national heritage site. Mosques have a number of unique features, but the one fast rule which reflects the religion’s origins is that they must face Mecca, which in South Africa is towards the north east.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The ANC’s State Secrecy Law Belongs to the Apartheid Era

The party of freedom has turned into a party of fear

The ANC has vigorously pursued attempts to set up a government-led media appeals tribunal to regulate the print media. Since the ascent of Zuma and his coterie of securocrats to power in 2009, we journalists have been living with our hearts in our mouths, afraid that the party of Nelson Mandela would veer away from the open society it had fought for and join the likes of Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea — countries whose secrecy laws allow them to jail journalists at will.

For years we had pointed to the north, saying such draconian laws would never arrive here. Not in the land of the ANC, Africa’s oldest liberation movement, steeped in the values of openness and dedicated to the fight against corruption.

The new South Africa is not comparable to the evils of old. But on Tuesday, when parliament passed a state secrecy law, we were shamed. The ANC became like its apartheid predecessors.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Switzerland: Language to Play Key Role in New Immigration Law

Non-EU workers and their relatives will have to prove knowledge of one of Switzerland’s national languages if they want to stay in the country. Immigration permits for non-European Union citizens will be harder to get in Switzerland, but the country will also have to improve its efforts to integrate the newly arrived. Those are the two main goals of the proposed new Immigration and Integration Act presented on Wednesday by the Federal Council, in agreement with the cantons.

“Switzerland can and should do more,” Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told reporters on Wednesday in Bern. According to the draft, spouses or children of Swiss or non-Swiss nationals who aspire to reside in the country will have to prove they speak German, French or Italian, or that they have enrolled in a language course to learn one of the languages. This will only apply to citizens coming from outside the European Union, including adult children, with the exception of people who are disabled or illiterate.

“Language plays an absolutely central role in integration,” said Sommaruga. Immigrants from the EU and EFTA cannot be forced to learn a language since this would violate bilateral agreements, even though the Justice Minister said that they should be encouraged.

Other mandatory criteria that will have to be met include respect for the fundamental principles of the Swiss Constitution, respect for public safety and order, as well as a desire to participate in the economic life of the country or receive some sort of training.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Migration in 2010 at Record High

Net migration to Britain last year hit a record high, according to official figures published today.

The Office for National Statistics said that net migration in 2010 was 252,000 — the highest calendar year figure on record.

The ONS said that while immigration was steady at 591,000, the rise in the net figure was due to a fall in the number of people leaving the country.

In all, 339,000 people emigrated from the UK — the lowest level of emigration since 2001.

Emigration by non-British citizens also fell to 203,000 from a peak of 255,000 in 2008.

The ONS said fewer people were leaving the country from the UK for work-related reasons…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Russia Faces Protests Over ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law

A PROPOSED LAW banning ‘gay propaganda’ in the Russian city of St Petersburg has sparked reaction across the world.

Legislators in the city have temporarily shelved the bill, which would impose possible fines of more than €1,000 on all “public activities promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgender identity”, RIA Novosti reports.

The US State Department is among those who have protested at the legislation. A spokesperson said the department was “deeply concerned” at the developments, adding:

“As Secretary Clinton has said, gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Fire

1 Fire is an event, not a thing. Heating wood or other fuel releases volatile vapors that can rapidly combust with oxygen in the air; the resulting incandescent bloom of gas further heats the fuel, releasing more vapors and perpetuating the cycle.

2 Most of the fuels we use derive their energy from trapped solar rays. In photosynthesis, sunlight and heat make chemical energy (in the form of wood or fossil fuel); fire uses chemical energy to produce light and heat.

3 So a bonfire is basically a tree running in reverse.

4 Assuming stable fuel, heat, and oxygen levels, a typical house fire will double in size every minute.

5 Earth is the only known planet where fire can burn. Everywhere else: Not enough oxygen.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

IQ Blackout: Why Did Studying Intelligence Become Taboo?

Scholars used to avidly study human intelligence. They measured cranial capacity. They administered IQ tests. They sought to define what intelligence was and who had more or less of it and why.

These days, not so much. Somewhere along the way, the very idea of intelligence became politicized. Its legitimacy as a field of study, as a measurable quality — on par with height, eyesight and hand-and-eye coordination — and as a concept came under fire. Talk of “brainpower” and “smarts” ebbed as scholars proposed “multiple intelligences” — such as musical, spatial, interpersonal and intrapersonal — rather than whatever had hitherto been called IQ.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

LHC Antimatter Anomaly Hints at New Physics

WE ARE here thanks to a curious imbalance in the universe. To the best of our knowledge, the universe began with equal, or nearly equal, amounts of matter and antimatter. Because these particles annihilate on contact, they should have destroyed each other long ago in a blaze of radiation, leaving little if anything behind to form stars, planets and people. Clearly, that didn’t happen.

The hunt for the special something that might have skewed the universe in favour of matter occupies the best minds in physics. Compelling signs of such lopsided physics have emerged at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN near Geneva in Switzerland. It is the first sign of new physics at the LHC and could provide a boost for the theory of supersymmetry, which adds a zoo of new particles to the ones we already know. “We are getting excited,” says Yuval Grossman of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Space ‘Superbubbles’ Could Spawn Energetic Cosmic Rays

Enigmatic cosmic rays that strike Earth with giant amounts of energy might come from hot gaseous “superbubbles” in space, a new study reveals. Cosmic rays have perplexed scientists for a century. These electrically charged particles bombard Earth with energies dwarfing anything we are capable of, but their origins remain a mystery.

Since cosmic rays are electrically charged, they can get pushed and pulled around by interstellar magnetic fields in the gas between the stars as they zip through space, obscuring where they come from. One suspected fountain of cosmic rays are star-forming regions. The massive stars within these stellar nurseries can spew out massive amounts of energy and explode as supernovas.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The IEA’s Dire Warnings on Peak Oil and the Desperate Need for Energy Innovation

by Tom Whipple

Last week the International Energy Agency released its annual report (600 pages) on just where energy production and consumption in the world is going over the next 25 years.

Four or five years back, producing the annual World Energy Outlook was a rather straightforward task. All the IEA had to do was to take the world’s current rate of economic growth, calculate how much oil, coal and natural gas it would take to support that growth and publish the results. There was never much consideration of whether resources would start to run out or become too expensive to exploit, or what, if anything, the massive amount of carbon dioxide that was being dumped into the atmosphere was doing to the climate. In the last few years the IEA’s annual report has come to recognize that the next 25 years are unlikely to be anything like the last 25 and the report has become much more nuanced. Gone are the extreme predictions that the world will be consuming 50 percent more oil 25 years from now. In their place are forecasts that global oil production will depend heavily on what alternative policy paths are taken by major governments and how much ($38 trillion is necessary) will be spent to find and exploit fossil fuel resources in the coming years. As global energy policies and the realities and costs of production are very much in flux these days the EIA has decided to look at the future from three differing perspectives and forecast how the future might evolve if one of these three paths is followed. The first of course, is business as usual with no major changes to the energy policies of the major countries. The second is termed “new policies” which looks at what might happen if the major energy consumers do what they say they will do with regards to carbon emissions. The third, the “450 Scenario,” examines what might happen if the world takes seriously the warning that we must keep atmospheric carbon below 450 parts per million which is believed will keep global warming down to a 2oC increase in average global temperature.


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