Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111226

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Economic Crisis Causes Increase in Crime
»Greece: Hearses Clog Streets in Anti-Austerity Protest
»Decades Later, A Cold War Secret is Revealed
»Defense Department Agrees to Allow Muslim Cadets to Wear Hijabs
»Georgia Woman Who Threatened 2 New York Lawmakers is Shot to Death by Cop
»Man Who Sexually Assaulted Chihuahua Gets 10-Year Sentence
»Victims in Hacking of Security Analyst Stratfor Targeted After Speaking to News Media, Online
»Woman Charged With Punching Elderly Walmart Greeter
»Yemeni Leader to be Admitted Into U.S. For Medical Care
Europe and the EU
»France: Genocide Law MP Receives Death Threats
»Germany: Hitler’s Favourite Singer Dies Aged 108
»Italy: Five ‘Fake’ Blind People Cited for Fraud
»Norway: Herder Wants Hollywood Cash for Old Joik
»Sweden: Busy Christmas Weekend for the Swedish Police
»Sweden: Disabled at Risk After Assistance Centre Theft
North Africa
»Egypt’s Nude Blogger Calls for Women Without Veils Pictures
»Libya: U.S. To Buy Anti-Aircraft Missiles From Militias
»The Female Faces of Egypt’s Revolution
»Tunisia: Revolution Betrayed, Return of Protests, Blogger
Israel and the Palestinians
»Caroline Glick: Netanyahu’s Misleading Lessons in Governance
Middle East
»Iranian Sakineh’s Death by Stoning May Commute to Hanging
»Switzerland Freezes More Iran Assets
»Turkish-French Tensions Rising. Algeria Was Genocide, Erdogan
South Asia
»Indonesia: Rocker Accuses Police of Banning Him to Please Organization
»Indonesia: West Java: Islamic Extremist Groups Threaten Catholics, Christmas Celebrations at Risk
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Pope Condemns Attacks in Nigeria
»White House: Appears Nigeria Attacks Were Terrorism
»A Grim Christmas
»Genes Play Major Role in Primate Social Behavior, Study Finds

Financial Crisis

Greece: Economic Crisis Causes Increase in Crime

Most crimes committed in Athens,robberies double in one year

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 23 — The deep economic crisis that has hit Greece, entering its fourth year of recession, has had many negative consequences. One of these is a sharp increase in crime across the country. Armed robberies doubled in the past year and all other types of crime are also increasing by the day, causing citizens to feel more and more uncertain. The police do what they can, despite the fact that there isn’t always petrol for their cars, that the stations are understaffed and that officers are waiting for months to get paid. In Athens, according to figures released by the institute for tourist research and forecasts, organised crime has reached the highest levels compared to the rest of the country. The figures show that 64% of all murders, 75% of robberies, 64% of thefts and 65.5% of cases of smuggling are recorded in the capital.

“Organise crime, which has seen a sharp rise in the centre of the city but also in its outskirts, must be fought,” said the mayor of the capital, Giorgos Kaminis, in an interview with newspaper To Vima. The Municipality, the mayor continued, has insufficient resources to fight organised crime but the problem is real in the centre of Athens. The economic crisis, the high concentration of unemployed or under-employed illegal immigrants and the continuous decay of the centre of Athens have created an explosive situation.

Gangs of several nationalities, drug addicts and prostitutes are a regular sight in the centre of the Greek capital. Foreign tourists, scared, leave also the last hotels that are still open and the few inhabitants and shopkeepers that have stayed are living in fear and uncertainty, far away from the reassuring presence of the police. In the past year 18 hotels closed their doors in the historic centre of Athens, according to the Greek Hotel Chamber. The consequences for the city’s economy and the increase in unemployment in the hotel sector are obvious. Chairman of the Chamber Giorgios Tsakiris said recently in a joint press conference with the mayor of the capital that the degradation of the centre of Athens will force other hotels to close down as well. Tsakiris also accused the Ministry for Citizen Protection and other relevant institutions — which are responsible for the situation in the centre of Athens according to a report issued by an interdepartmental commission — that they have left the city centre “in the grip of crime and delinquency” due to their omissions and incompetence. Kaminis has announced after last Friday’s meeting with Premier Lucas Papademos that he will prepare a plan to “rescue Athens.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Hearses Clog Streets in Anti-Austerity Protest

Athens, 22 Dec. (AKI) — Greek hearse drivers on Thursday protested their government’s cost-cutting programme by driving empty vehicles through Athens and Thessaloniki, the country’s second-largest city.

Organizers of the protest are worried that a sharp rise in annual road taxes could close the casket on their businesses.

Greece is attempting to rescue itself from economic collapse by imposing emergency taxes as amid years of recession.

The hearse drivers were the lastest profession to hit the streets in a wave of demonstrations. The government this week said around 1,580 protests had been held in Athens this year.

A 110-billion-euro bailout package from the european Union and the International Monetary Fund partners in May 2010, saved the country from bankruptcy.

Negotiations are in progress that would allow Athens another rescue package, this one 130 billion euros. Such a deal would erase half of the value of Greek bonds held by private investors.

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


Decades Later, A Cold War Secret is Revealed

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) — For more than a decade they toiled in the strange, boxy-looking building on the hill above the municipal airport, the building with no windows (except in the cafeteria), the building filled with secrets.

They wore protective white jumpsuits, and had to walk through air-shower chambers before entering the sanitized “cleanroom” where the equipment was stored.

They spoke in code.

Few knew the true identity of “the customer” they met in a smoke-filled, wood-paneled conference room where the phone lines were scrambled. When they traveled, they sometimes used false names.

At one point in the 1970s there were more than 1,000 people in the Danbury area working on The Secret. And though they worked long hours under intense deadlines, sometimes missing family holidays and anniversaries, they could tell no one — not even their wives and children — what they did.

They were engineers, scientists, draftsmen and inventors — “real cloak-and-dagger guys,” says Fred Marra, 78, with a hearty laugh.

He is sitting in the food court at the Danbury Fair mall, where a group of retired co-workers from the former Perkin-Elmer Corp. gather for a weekly coffee. Gray-haired now and hard of hearing, they have been meeting here for 18 years. They while away a few hours nattering about golf and politics, ailments and grandchildren. But until recently, they were forbidden to speak about the greatest achievement of their professional lives.

“Ah, Hexagon,” Ed Newton says, gleefully exhaling the word that stills feels almost treasonous to utter in public.

It was dubbed “Big Bird” and it was considered the most successful space spy satellite program of the Cold War era. From 1971 to 1986 a total of 20 satellites were launched, each containing 60 miles of film and sophisticated cameras that orbited the earth snapping vast, panoramic photographs of the Soviet Union, China and other potential foes. The film was shot back through the earth’s atmosphere in buckets that parachuted over the Pacific Ocean, where C-130 Air Force planes snagged them with grappling hooks.

The scale, ambition and sheer ingenuity of Hexagon KH-9 was breathtaking. The fact that 19 out of 20 launches were successful (the final mission blew up because the booster rockets failed) is astonishing.

So too is the human tale of the 45-year-old secret that many took to their graves.

Hexagon was declassified in September. Finally Marra, Newton and others can tell the world what they worked on all those years at “the office.”

“My name is Al Gayhart and I built spy satellites for a living,” announced the 64-year-old retired engineer to the stunned bartender in his local tavern as soon as he learned of the declassification. He proudly repeats the line any chance he gets.

“It was intensely demanding, thrilling and the greatest experience of my life,” says Gayhart, who was hired straight from college and was one of the youngest members of the Hexagon “brotherhood”.

He describes the white-hot excitement as teams pored over hand-drawings and worked on endless technical problems, using “slide-rules and advanced degrees” (there were no computers), knowing they were part of such a complicated space project. The intensity would increase as launch deadlines loomed and on the days when “the customer” — the CIA and later the Air Force — came for briefings. On at least one occasion, former President George H.W. Bush, who was then CIA director, flew into Danbury for a tour of the plant.

Though other companies were part of the project — Eastman Kodak made the film and Lockheed Corp. built the satellite — the cameras and optics systems were all made at Perkin-Elmer, then the biggest employer in Danbury.

“There were many days we arrived in the dark and left in the dark,” says retired engineer Paul Brickmeier, 70.

He recalls the very first briefing on Hexagon after Perkin-Elmer was awarded the top secret contract in 1966. Looking around the room at his 30 or so colleagues, Brickmeier thought, “How on Earth is this going to be possible?”

One thing that made it possible was a hiring frenzy that attracted the attention of top engineers from around the Northeast. Perkin-Elmer also commissioned a new 270,000-square-foot building for Hexagon — the boxy one on the hill.

Waiting for clearance was a surreal experience as family members, neighbors and former employers were grilled by the FBI, and potential hires were questioned about everything from their gambling habits to their sexuality.

“They wanted to make sure we couldn’t be bribed,” Marra says.

Clearance could take up to a year. During that time, employees worked on relatively minor tasks in a building dubbed “the mushroom tank” — so named because everyone was in the dark about what they had actually been hired for…

[Return to headlines]

Defense Department Agrees to Allow Muslim Cadets to Wear Hijabs

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced today that the Department of Defense will begin allowing Muslim and Sikh students who wear an Islamic head scarf (hijab) or a turban to participate in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC).

“We welcome the fact that Muslim and Sikh students nationwide will now be able to participate fully in JROTC leadership activities while maintaining their religious beliefs and practices,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

In October, the Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta after a 14-year-old Muslim student at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tenn., was forced to transfer out of a JROTC class when her commanding officers told her she could not wear hijab while marching in the September homecoming parade.

CAIR requested constitutionally-protected religious accommodations for the girl and for future Muslim JROTC participants.

In a Dec. 19 letter sent to CAIR, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Larry Stubblefield wrote:

“I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta to your October 13, 2011 letter concerning Miss Demin Zawity’s request to wear a religious head covering (hijab) while participating in an Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) event at Ravenwood High School.

“Based on your concerns, the Army has reviewed its JROTC uniform policy and will develop appropriate procedures to provide Cadets the opportunity to request the wear of religious head dress, such as the turban and hijab. This change will allow Miss Zawity and other students the chance to fully participate in the JROTC program. Additionally, a representative from the U.S. Army Cadet Command will contact Miss Zawity and provide her the opportunity to rejoin the Ravenwood High School JROTC unit.

“The Army prides itself in being a diverse organization, comprised of individuals from many faiths and religions. We appreciate you bringing this matter to our attention.”

NOTE: The Orlando Sentinel says there are 952 comments but you can only see two. Neither of them supports the Army’s decision.

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]

Georgia Woman Who Threatened 2 New York Lawmakers is Shot to Death by Cop

Jameela Barnette targeted Rep. Pete King & state Sen. Greg Ball

A Muslim woman who had been charged with sending fake weapons and a pig’s foot to two New York lawmakers was killed during a struggle with a cop in Georgia on Sunday, authorities said.

Jameela Barnette, 53, of Marietta, was slapped with federal charges last month for sending New York State Sen. Greg Ball (R,C-Patterson) a vial of perfume, a hate-filled letter and a doll of the monkey Curious George wearing two Stars of David.

She had also mailed a pig’s foot to Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.) in response to controversial hearings he held in March on the purported radicalization of American Muslims, Politico has reported.

A spokesman for Cobb County Police said an armed Barnette was shot to death after officers responded to a panic alarm she activated at her apartment at 11 a.m. Christmas Day.

When the cops arrived, Barnette opened the door while wielding a knife and a handgun and assaulted an officer with the blade, the spokesman said.

The unnamed officer shot her, killing Barnette at the scene, police said.

“Despite receiving injuries to his arm, the officer was able to use his service weapon to stop the assault,” the spokesman said.

The cop was treated for minor injuries to his arm and placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Police said they did not know why Barnette triggered the alarm.

Barnette railed to several media outlets against what she called anti-Muslim congressional hearings last spring. She told a local TV station she sent Ball, who represents Putnam County and parts of Westchester and Dutchess counties, the threatening package because he’s racist toward her faith and supported King’s hearings.

“I knew the Jews were behind the hearings,” she told Politico. “A monkey is a representation of who the Jews are.”

A judge released Barnette without bail after her arrest in November.

Both Ball and King are Catholic.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Man Who Sexually Assaulted Chihuahua Gets 10-Year Sentence

A Sacramento parolee convicted of sexually assaulting a chihuahua was sentenced this week to 10 years in prison and must now register as a sex offender. A jury last month convicted Robert Edward De Shields of strangulation and sexual abuse of the 8-month-old chihuahua. He was high on meth at the time of the attack, prosecutors said.

De Shields is confined to a wheelchair and had rented space in a South Sacramento home. When the homeowners came home one day in March, they found De Shields holding the scared dog, prosecutors said. The next day, the dog was missing, but found in the garage with De Shields. The dog was in pain and shock, prosecutors alleged.

A veterinarian later found severe injuries to the dog’s rectum and internal organs. De Shields has been in and out of prison since 1992. Because of this case’s additional requirement that he register as a lifetime sex offender — which is unusual for an animal-cruelty case — he must now serve his sentence in state prison. Under the state’s prison realignment system, he would have otherwise served the time in county jail, the Sacramento County district attorney’s office said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Victims in Hacking of Security Analyst Stratfor Targeted After Speaking to News Media, Online

NEW YORK — Victims of a data breach at the security analysis firm Stratfor apparently are being targeted a second time after speaking out about the hacking.

Stratfor said on its Facebook page that some individuals who offered public support for the company after it revealed it was hacked “may be being targeted for doing so.”

The loose-knit hacking movement “Anonymous” claimed Sunday through Twitter that it had stolen thousands of credit card numbers and other personal information belonging to the company’s clients. Anonymous members posted links to some of the information Sunday and more on Monday.

Stratfor, based in Austin, Texas, said its affected clients and its supporters “are at risk of having sensitive information repeatedly published on other websites.” The company has resorted to communicating through Facebook while its website remains down and its email suspended.

A message posted online Monday by a group asserting it spoke for Anonymous mocked victims who spoke to The Associated Press about the experience of learning that their credit card information was stolen and used to make unauthorized charitable donations. The message also ridiculed someone who criticized the hacking on Facebook, saying “we went ahead and ran up your card a bit.”

A Stratfor spokesman would not say whether the information was encrypted in its database or what the company has learned since the incident began.

Anonymous has said the data was not encrypted. If true, that would be a major embarrassment for a security-related company.

The spokesman, Kyle Rhodes, said the company could not discuss any details because several law enforcement agencies are investigating the incident.

The data was posted in a series of releases in links embedded in online messages that, in turn, were linked to from Twitter.

[Return to headlines]

Woman Charged With Punching Elderly Walmart Greeter

BATAVIA, N.Y. — A woman spent Christmas in jail, accused of punching a Walmart greeter as she left the store Christmas Eve.

Batavia resident Jacquetta Simmons, 26, was charged with two counts of second-degree assault, State Police Trooper Tracy Patterson said. She faces a second count because the victim, Grace Suozzi, 70, is older than 65.

Patterson said Simmons is accused of punching and knocking down Suozzi at 11:23 a.m. after the employee asked Simmons to see receipts for items the customer was carrying in store bags. After hitting Suozzi, Simmons ran out of the store, but employees and customers quickly surrounded her until police arrived.

Suozzi suffered fractures to the left side of her face and significant swelling, Patterson said.

Simmons on Sunday was being held in Genesee County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.

Patterson said Simmons had receipts for everything in her bags.

[Return to headlines]

Yemeni Leader to be Admitted Into U.S. For Medical Care

HONOLULU — The Obama administration will allow the embattled president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to travel to New York City for medical treatment, an administration official said Monday, after a vigorous internal debate over fears the United States would be criticized for appearing to provide a safe haven for a reviled Arab leader responsible for the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators.

Mr. Saleh could arrive at New York-Presbyterian Hospital as soon as the end of this week, the official said, for treatment of medical problems stemming from a near-fatal bomb blast in June at the mosque in his presidential complex. He would be the first Arab leader to request, and to be granted, admission to the United States since political unrest began convulsing the region a year ago.

Though officials had been concerned that the decision would anger the many Yemenis eager to see Mr. Saleh prosecuted, they decided that giving Mr. Saleh a way out of Yemen, even temporarily, could help smooth the way to elections next year and perhaps end a political crisis that has brought the government of the impoverished nation to the brink of collapse.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

France: Genocide Law MP Receives Death Threats

The French parliamentarian who proposed a controversial genocide denial bill has received death threats and had her website attacked. Valérie Boyer, a member of the governing UMP party, was successful in getting parliamentary approval for a bill that outlawed the denial of a massacre of Armenians by Ottoman troops in 1915.

The bill’s passage unleashed a wave of indignation in Turkey. Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the vote represented “politics based on racism, discrimination and xenophobia.” Daily newspaper Le Parisien reported that Boyer’s website was attacked on Sunday. Visitors were redirected to a site showing the Turkish flag and a message attacking the French government and the Armenian community in France.

“You, the Armenian diaspora, are so cowardly that you don’t have the guts to open up the archives and face the truth,” said the message. In an attack on French politicians the message said “you, the French, are so pitiful and pathetic that you ignore the truth to get votes.” On Monday morning, the site,, was still unavailable with a “site indisponible” message being shown.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Hitler’s Favourite Singer Dies Aged 108

Johannes Heesters, a controversial operetta singer who became famous in Nazi Germany and who was considered one of the world’s oldest performing artists, died on Saturday aged 108, his agency said. A favourite of Hitler, Heesters was born in the Netherlands in 1903 and made his name performing in Nazi Germany. He died in a clinic in the town of Starnberg in Bavaria where he lived, said his agency Ross. Heesters played in numerous films and theatre plays, including performing the main role in the Merry Widow, an operetta by Franza Lehar, some 1,600 times.

Heesters’ popularity with the Nazis haunted him throughout his life, with protests accompanying his 2008 concert in the Netherlands, his first in decades in his home country. During his previous concert in the Netherlands in 1963 the audience chased him off by giving him a Hitlerian salute when he appeared on stage. Heesters had recently been ailing, being cared for in a hospital intensive care unit since December 17. His death prompted condolences, including one from Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer who said “elegance and lightness were his trademark.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Five ‘Fake’ Blind People Cited for Fraud

‘We have crushing evidence’ police say

(ANSA) — Rome, December 23 — Five fake blind people have been cited for fraud in the Abruzzo city of Pescara, Italian police said Friday.

The five, on benefits for “total blindness”, were filmed walking about the city, dodging traffic and taking buses.

“We have crushing evidence,” police said.

One of the five, carrying a walking stick for the blind, went to a health office, picked up a certificate and checked that it was OK, police said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Norway: Herder Wants Hollywood Cash for Old Joik

A reindeer farmer in northern Norway is claiming a traditional Sami chant used in Hollywood movie The Thing was originally given to him as a gift by his aunt. The chant, or joik, used in the film first came to prominence in 1980, when it formed an integral part of Norway’s entry in that year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Now, more than 30 years later, reindeer herder Isak Mathis Triumf has threatened to take legal action against the Norwegian duo that performed Sámiid Ædnan (Sami Earth) in front of a huge European television audience.

In a field of 19 entrants, the song finished 16th. The competition was won that year by Ireland’s Johnny Logan with the song What’s Another Year. While the joik failed to win over Europe’s music juries, its reappearance this year in horror film The Thing is expected to vastly increase the value of the copyright. And Triumf is determined to have a share of the spoils. “We Sami don’t know how much money could be involved, or how much we can actually earn from this. That’s why I haven’t reacted earlier,” he told national broadcaster NRK.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Busy Christmas Weekend for the Swedish Police

Murders, break-ins and accidents made it a busy Christmas holiday weekend for the police and emergency services across Sweden this year. With so many people traditionally away from their homes, Christmas is often a busy time for burglars and this year proved to be no exception. 28 break-ins were reported in the county of Skåne, in the south of Sweden, alone, while there was also a spate of burglaries in Kalmar, Oskarshamn and Partille.

The worst hit area was the western part of the county, with six burglaries in Helsingborg, five in Malmö and four in Ängelholm. “Most of the burglaries were discovered in the evening when people came home after Christmas celebrations with relatives and friends,” said Skåne police on their website.

Meanwhile further north in Växjö, Kronoberg County, thieves broke into a safety deposit at the county council building and found keys to several vehicles, including minivans and cars, which they proceeded to steal. The building itself was vandalised and several computers were also reportedly stolen during the robbery.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Disabled at Risk After Assistance Centre Theft

A home assistance centre in Kronoberg county, central Sweden, was left reeling after a burglary on Christmas day, where thieves took off with both cars and computers after demolishing the centre’s offices. “Not a fun Christmas present. Now we have no cars to reach clients and service their wheel chairs and other home aids,” the center’s head Yvonne Hellsten told news agency TT.

On Sunday she received a text message telling all employees that Tuesday will not be an ordinary work day. The five stolen vehicles were a car, a minibus and three service busses with special equipment for handicapped passengers, including ramps. The material value of these vehicles is estimated at 2 million kronor ($291,000).

Somewhere between 12pm Christmas Eve and 10am Christmas day, the thieves broke into the centre’s offices in one of Växjö’s industrial areas. They jimmied a safe, stole the car keys, and made their escape with all the centre’s vehicles. “We will try to borrow cars,” said Yvonne Hellsten. Police began their forensic investigation of the crime scene on Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt’s Nude Blogger Calls for Women Without Veils Pictures

CAIRO: Egypt’s controversial “Nude Blogger” Aliaa al-Mahdy on Monday asked women who want to remove their veils to send her photographs to publish them online. It comes only weeks after she posted a full-frontal image of herself on her blog, sparking massive criticism from both liberals and conservatives alike in Egypt.

Mahdy called on women to send photos of themselves with and without the veil, their reasons behind having worn the veil and why they took it off as well as the reactions of others after they had removed it.

“Women who were veiled and took off the veil and women who are veiled and want to take off the veil, send me all or some of these items … if you agree to publish them,” Elmahdy wrote on her blog A Rebel’s Diary.

Mahdy sparked controversy last month when she posed completely nude and posted the photo on her personal blog. She wrote on her website that it was an act of protest, but both liberals and conservatives have condemned the move.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Libya: U.S. To Buy Anti-Aircraft Missiles From Militias

Weapons were taken from Gaddafi forces’ barracks

Libyan rebels prepare to fire rockets during the battle to liberate the city of Sirte, Libya, 11 October 2011

(ANSAmed) — NEW YORK — The U.S. is discussing a loan with Libya to recover, by buying them, thousands of portable anti-aircraft missiles. The weapons were taken from Libyan barracks by rebels and militants during the revolution against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. The missiles are light, easy to use and have a heat-seeking system that poses a limited threat to modern military aircrafts, but a serious threat to commercial airliners. Commercial airplanes are rarely equipped with defence systems to protect them against missile attacks. The weapons could end up on the black market and fall into the hands of terrorists. Sources in the U.S. administration have told the New York Times that the details of the agreement still have to be worked out. They specified that the deal is based on the idea that the U.S. will supply money and technical support to Libya to buy missiles and secure or destroy them. The U.S. has already allocated 40 million USD to secure weapons of Libyan rebels, mainly anti-aircraft missiles, while a precise budget for acquisition has not been established yet, the sources added. The same type of programme has also been used in Afghanistan in the past, where the U.S. has bought back many Stinger missiles that it had supplied to the forces that fought against the Soviet occupation in the ‘80s.

According to estimates made by the U.S. government, the Gaddafi regime has imported around 20 thousand anti-aircraft missiles over the years. There are now precise estimates regarding the number of missing missiles.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Female Faces of Egypt’s Revolution

Egyptian women have been beaten by soldiers and humiliated before the world but have become key players in the Arab spring. Whether Muslim or Christian, together they oppose the lies of the caretaker government and the media. Still, as new demonstrations are planned for Tahrir Square, violence against young people continues.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Egyptian Women, deliberately ignored and put aside from the revolution since last March are now regaining their dignity and are letting the whole world hear their voice.

Not one of them was elected in the recent parliamentary elections held in two thirds of the 27 provinces or governorates. Terribly mistreated by the army in the last days, in front of the whole world, they reacted by organizing a major demonstration Tuesday in Cairo. Thousands of them crossed the heart of Cairo, walking along Maspero Avenue, where the Egyptian State TV building stands, to reach Tahrir Square to make their voice and protest heard.

Women with or without veil

Among the many veiled and unveiled women, some well know figures, like Bouthayna Kamel, candidate to the presidency. The women were surrounded by large numbers of men who decided to join them and protect their sides from any possible attack.

They were strongly shouting their protest against the recent events, which showed the world how many Egyptian women have been molested and savagely attacked by soldiers. “Women have not been undressed, it is the armed forces who unveiled their real face,” read one of the many banners, they held.

Other banners read, “Egyptian women are a red line not to cross,” “The army is to protect us, not to undress us,” “You who are silent, why? Isn’t she your sister?”, “Down with the army rule”, and paraphrasing a famous poem by the late poet Amal Dongol, “No reconciliation for bloodshed”.

They were also denouncing “the rotten official information and media, directly accusing the armed forces of responsibility in all recent events, even when fire broke out in buildings like the Egyptian Institute.

In fact, no one in Egypt can accept what happened, how people, women, doctors, journalists and demonstrators have been treated.

Many women and other segments of the population, when asked, totally reject excuses presented in Tuesday’s press conference held on Tuesday by one of top generals. Instead, they are asking instead for “official and political excuses by Marshal Tantawy (acting chief of state) along with a quick investigation about the events and harsh penalty sentences”.

A group of public figures, among whom are some of the elected candidates in the Parliament, have lodged an official accusation against the armed forces, namely the general in charge of the troops downtown Cairo, as well as the minister of the Interior , the minister of Health, the minister of Information, for the death of 15 people in the recent events. This group held a sit-in front of the Supreme Court in the central Cairo. The moment they arrived there, they found groups of baltagiyya (hooligans) waiting for them, so they went to have the sit-in front of the Lawyers Trade Union, behind the court. This sit-in is maintained every day four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening.

All TV channels and newspapers, except the official ones belonging to the state have reproduced women total refusal of the armed forces excuses. The press conference held Tuesday by General Adel Emara was badly welcomed, since he used an authoritarian way shouting at journalists and threatening a woman journalist to “shut up or be expelled!” He barely recognized the way women were treated and asked people to consider this as part of a terrible situation, accusing “a third party”, without mentioning who it is, to be handling the events in the framework of a vast plot and conspiracy against Egyptian state.

This same trend was adopted yesterday in another press conference by the minister of justice, “accusing external powers to destroy Egyptian revolution” and “warning against what could happen on the 25th of January, for the first anniversary or the revolution”. The minister did not name any of these dark and unknown powers, just hinting that many civil society NGOs “received illicit funds from abroad”. This did not answer the question raised by the famous novelist Alaa al Asswany about the huge funds received by the Muslim Brothers and the Salafists from Saudi Arabia. Mr Asswany stated recently that a check of 300 million has reached the Salafists without the authorities asking how and why.

Media lies

About the information conveyed by the official media and by the authorities, all the experts state, “We are back to the former way of distorting realities.” A famous editorialist, Salah Issa is asking about details concerning this conspiracy “so that we can share in dismantling it if ever it exists”. Azza Karim, a woman teacher of sociology in the National Centre for Sociological studies is stating that “the real responsible for a new revolution is the SCAF (Supreme Council of Armed Forces), since he had for the past period all the legislative and executive prerogatives without using them to achieve the legal demands of the revolution. Egypt does not need a new revolution as much as new waves to achieve the basic requirements”. She added, “The SCAF should very quickly deliver the power to civilians”.

At the same time, many media revealed the wrong information conveyed by the official channels of TV who have been showing a group of young men testifying that they have been paid by someone from the Parliament to launch Molotov cocktails and set fire in different places.

The media were able to discover that this group of men had been arrested two days before the events and are still detained by the public prosecutor’s department. They have even given the official number of the summons warrant. Many such information accusing known persons are spread about people like Ayman Noor, or Ramy Lakah, who threatened to sue anyone diffusing such “false accusations, without any proof”.

Mrs Radwa, activist in the Human Rights field, expressed her disillusion about proceeding to the old way of cheating and lying, telling falsehoods, “Egypt will never advance without adopting a new way of telling the truth and facing realities in a positive way, instead of always rejecting the responsibility on a ‘third element’ who is always unknown”.

Many statements have expressed the strong disappointment provoked by the armed forces in their way of handling the situation. Dr Nihad Aboul Omsâne, activist women member of the Centre for Human Rights stated that “the armed forces have completely destroyed their relationship with the Egyptian people, refusing, as she said, the dual choice offered, ‘to die drowned or burned’.”

Egyptian women have the reputation to be strong, even though denied their rights or mashed by traditions and by men. With their reaction in Tuesday’s demonstration, their regained their dignity and firmly asserted their strong personality.

On FaceBook, they recently organized what is called, “Sisters of the Revolution Movement” and they shouted strongly in Tahrir Square, “No to marginalization of women and preventing them from sharing in the events and in the democratic transformation of the country”. They insisted also to let the famous undressed woman (Ghada Kamal Abdel Raziq) be molested by the army regain her dignity stating, “We are all Ghada Kamal Abdel Raziq”.

The women of the revolution

The mother of Ahmad, a young man killed in the events of Mohammad Mahmud street on 19 November, has never stopped sharing the demonstrations. These last days, she was shouting in Tahrir Square, “Dear Marshal, come and see what is happening to our youth, come and explain to us what happened to Khalid Said, Mina Daniel, Ahmad, Alaa Abd al Hadi…”.

Nashwa Abdel Tawwab, widow of famous Shaykh Emad Effat, assistant to the Mufti, who was shot at point-blank range last week in the events in front of the Ministers’ Council stated that “he was expecting to die as a martyr and this is what happened”, but she is still waiting to find out about the inquiry and know exactly who has shot him and obeying to what orders.

On the other side, a university woman teacher, Hind Nafeh Badawy badly injured and transferred to the military hospital dismissed Marshall Tantawy when he came to visit the wounded people in the hospital. She turned him down, as was reported by Al-Badil newspaper.

It has later been reported on FaceBook that she received bad treatments after this sequence and finally she was transferred to a university hospital. Yesterday, a complaint was lodged against this university hospital, the minister of Higher Education, the Ministry of Health and the university because many patients, among whom Hind, were denied treatment by doctors and nursing staff who maintained them with the handcuffs.

Farida is a young medical doctor who emigrated to Australia last year and shared over there many support demonstrations to the Egyptian revolution. She decided to come back last summer and fully share the movement for the changes desired for Egypt. She explained at the TV how she was arrested on her way to cure the wounded people next to Parliament a few days ago. She was beaten and harassed by army members who took her inside the Parliament premises. There she found many other people arrested, among whom a woman called Ghada, who answered back to the soldier beating her and was threatened not to come out of this in one piece. Farida tried to tell everyone not to react. Finally, an officer superior in grade, came in, presented his excuses and told them they would be released, which took a certain time to happen after their I.D. papers were returned to them.

Old and new violence

Another medical doctor, Christian Dr Mona, who is acting at the field hospital next to Omar Makram Mosque in Tahrir Square explained now the campaign hospital was burned with all the medicine and equipment. Still the hospital maintained, inside the mosque premises, treatment for wounded, mainly people injured with severe wounds on the head and the face, compound fractures, wounds provoked by bayonets, as well as some people hit by bullets.

Four days ago, Alaa Abd al Hady, a young doctor in his final year of medicine, coming to help at the field hospital was shot dead in front of Omar Makram mosque field hospital. Yesterday another student, Mohammad Mustapha, engineer, from the same university died after a surgery. He received a bullet in his back in Tahrir square at Tuesday dawn. He had a strong haemorrhage that needed transfusing 38 packages of blood offered by his fellow students, but he died yesterday evening. He was a national tennis champion.

The two of them belonged to Ayn Shams University in Abbasseyya area, not far away from the defence ministry. On Wednesday afternoon, even before Mohammad Mustapha’s death, a huge student demonstration headed by the University President and the teaching staff started from the university until the defence ministry where the SCAF stands.

The question everyone is asking, why this brutality? Why people are not peacefully arrested ad submitted to a clean investigation, why this ferocious way of treating the people?

Radoua Ashour, woman novelist and teacher at both Ayn Shams and Cairo Universities, was stating yesterday, “We have not been able to protect our youth, who are the future of the country, who are its blossoming flowers. The responsible people of all this mess must be tried and convicted. She added what was stated fifteen years ago by another teacher, “They are victims, but they write history”. What everyone wants, added Radoua, “is the famous slogan of the Egyptian spring revolution of January 2011, ‘Bread, Liberty and Social Justice’.”

Egyptian Students Federation is initiating a “Week for Universities’ Anger”. Tomorrow, Friday, a huge demonstration in called on Tahrir square under the title “Friday of Recovering Dignity”. Sixteen movements and parties are calling for it, but the Muslim Brothers and the Salafists announced they are not sharing. Late, yesterday, a counter demonstration was called in Abbasseyya square, next to defence ministry.

On Tuesday a communiqué form the SCAF suggesting a presidential election around the 25th of January to mark the revolution anniversary has not been welcomed, as if SCAF “wants to withdraw from responsibility” as many sources reacted.

Yesterday, Marshall Tantawy called the new Parliament to hold its first meeting on Monday the 23d of January at 11 am.

Until then a general feeling of worry is spread and everybody is caring about what can go on and how the armed forces will try to prevent any revolutionary movement on the Egyptian revolution anniversary for the 25th of January next.

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

Tunisia: Revolution Betrayed, Return of Protests, Blogger

‘We wanted reforms, not a government that teaches us Islam’

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 22 — A year after the start of the ‘Jasmine Revolution’, people in Tunisia will start demonstrating again. This prediction was made by Tunisian blogger and symbol of the revolution, Lina Ben Mhenni.

“One year ago people in Tunisia demonstrated to ask for social and economic reforms and for more freedom, not for another government that tells us how to be good Muslims,” she said in an interview with ANSA, referring to the Ennahda Islamic party that won the elections in October. “On the outside it looks like a moderate party, but the truth is different,” she explains: instead of responding to the demands of the Tunisians “who have sacrificed their lives for freedom, the Constituent Assembly is discussing non-existent problems like identity or the niqab.” And “people are already organising sit-ins and demonstrations: Ennahda has promised 600 thousand jobs in two years and people are now claiming what was promised for their vote,” the 28-year-old Nobel Peace Prize candidate continued. Moreover, “articles that criticise Ennahda,” the moderate Islamic party in the Tunisian government, “have started to disappear” from the social networks and blogs used by Tunisians to breathe life into the Jasmine Revolution.

As regards to the other media, newspapers and television, “the situation has not changed from the period under Ben Ali”, the President who was ousted in the Tunisian Spring, added the activist. “Before the elections everybody could say what they wanted, now the lies and manipulations of the truth are back: the media sing praise to the new President and the new power.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Netanyahu’s Misleading Lessons in Governance

Many of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s supporters were stunned last week when IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz announced he was promoting Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon to major general and appointing him to serve as the next commander of the Central Command.

Alon completed a two-year tour of duty as Judea and Samaria Division Commander in October. During his tenure, Alon distinguished himself as the most radical, politically insubordinate officer to have held the position in recent memory.

In an interview with The New York Times in October, Alon openly sought to undermine and discredit declared government policy. He called for the US Congress to continue to fund the Palestinian Authority’s security services despite the PA’s decision to ditch the peace process…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iranian Sakineh’s Death by Stoning May Commute to Hanging

(AGI) Teheran — The death by stoning sentence issued against Sakineh may be commuted to a hanging sentence. News of the potential move was announced by the Iranian East Azerbaijan’s chief magistrate. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has a death sentence pending after she was found guilty of conspiring to murder her husband. Her death sentence was suspended last year following concerted international pressure.

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

Switzerland Freezes More Iran Assets

Switzerland ratcheted up sanctions against Iran on Thursday, announcing it was freezing the assets of 180 Iranian people and enterprises. Many of the individuals and companies affected belong to Iran’s maritime transport sector, according to a list published by the State Secretariat of Economic Affairs.

The move echoes steps taken on December 1st by the European Union, which has strengthened sanctions against Iran over the country’s nuclear programme. Switzerland in November placed 116 names on its Iran sanctions list. Iran’s nuclear programme is of extreme concern to many in the international community who accuse the country of developing nuclear weapons.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkish-French Tensions Rising. Algeria Was Genocide, Erdogan

After law that criminalises denying Armenian massacre

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 23 — The diplomatic crisis between France and Turkey is deepening. Today Turkish Premier Recep Erdogan accused France of perpetrating ‘genocide’ during its colonial period in Algeria, the day after the French parliament passed a law that criminalises the denial of genocide, including the Armenian genocide in 1915. The French authorities have called the Turkish response “excessive”, and have asked Turkey for “moderation”, trying to heal the rift. “We estimate that 15% of the Algerian population was massacred by the French as of 1945. That is genocide,” accused Erdogan in a press conference in Istanbul. He referred to the violence committed by the French during the Algerian independence process between 1945 and 1962. Then Erdogan directly attacked the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his family: “If Sarkozy does not know about this genocide, he can ask his father, Pal Sarkozy, who was a legionnaire in Algeria in the ‘40s. I’m sure that (Pal Sarkozy, editor’s note) has much to tell to his son about the massacres committed by the French in Algeria,” Erdogan continued. “The Algerians have been burned collectively in ovens. They have been tortured without mercy.” Five months before the presidential elections in 2012, “Sarkozy has started to look for votes,” Erdogan added, “using feelings of hate against Muslims and Turks. The election in France, a country where around 5 million Muslims are living, has clearly shown at this point that racism, discrimination and anti-Muslim sentiments have reached dangerous levels in France and Europe.” >From Prague, where he attends the funeral of Vaclav Havel, Sarkozy has explained that France does not give and does not accept lessons, and that it will try to ease the tensions. “I respect the convictions of our Turkish friends. Turkey is a great country, a great civilization but it must respect us,” said the President. “I think there was no need for this initiative but the Parliament has voted in favour of it. Now will try to resume peaceful relations. It will be difficult, I am aware of that, but time will do its work,” commented France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe’, who called Erdogan’s statements “excessive.” But “there are many reasons for France and Turkey to maintain a relation of trust and friendship, therefore I call for cool-headedness and moderation.” The father of the French President, Pal Sarkozy, has said that he has “never been in Algeria.” This morning the Turkish ambassador to France has returned to his fatherland for “consultations”, and several anti-French demonstrations have been organised in Istanbul. The law that was approved yesterday by the French parliament includes one year of imprisonment and a 45,000 euro fine for people who deny the Armenian genocide, which France recognised in 2001. Turkey, apart from recalling its ambassador, has announced a freeze in political and military cooperation projects between the two NATO allies. The sanctions against France do not regard commercial trade or activities of French companies in Turkey, though Erdogan does not rule out further restrictive measures. Trade between the countries reached 12 billion euros in the first 10 months of 2011.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Rocker Accuses Police of Banning Him to Please Organization

Jakarta, 21 Dec. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesian rock star Ahmad Dhani says that he will report the National Police for bowing to a warning from a mass organization to ban his music group, TRIAD, from performing at a certain cafe in the city.

“How come the police are powerless against a mass organization? I am disappointed with the police, particularly the Cirebon Police and the fact that they are afraid of mass organizations,” he said Wednesday.

He said that his decision to file an official report against the police came after lengthy consideration.

“After consulting with a lot of police officers, who also regretted this incident, I will report them to the National Police Headquarters,” he said.

Dhani said that Cirebon was not the first city to ban him and his band from performing, as he recalled that he had also been barred from playing in Yogyakarta. However, he said that on that occasion, the local police had had the courage to take charge of the situation.

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

Indonesia: West Java: Islamic Extremist Groups Threaten Catholics, Christmas Celebrations at Risk

Fundamentalists attack the faithful of the parish of St. John the Baptist in Parung. Threats of attacks if prayers services are held. For Islamists, the building has nopermit. Allegations rejected by the local faithful. For the Executive Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference it is a clear violation of religious freedom.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Islamic fundamentalist groups in Parung, Bogor regency, West Java province, are threatening and “warning” the local Catholic community, victims of attacks in anticipation of the holiday season. At the risk of the celebration of Masses and religious services, especially with regard to the faithful of the parish of St. John the Baptist, long the center of a dispute between Christians and Muslims that revolves around the building construction permit.

A statement published by the “ Parung Society of Muslim “ emphasizes the “strong support” of the stance of the Govenor of Bogor regency, who opposes the plan to build a church for the faithful of the parish of St. John the Baptist. Again, the controversy revolves around the infamous IMB — the Izin mendirikan bangunan — essential for any contrustion in Indonesia and even more difficult to obtain when it comes to a place of Christian worship.

Speaking to AsiaNews Fr Benny Susetyo Pr, Executive Secretary of the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI), speaks of “unfriendly methods” of Islamic fundamentalists, who end up “undermining the spirit of Pancasila”, the guiding principles of the state that promote religious freedom, multiculturalism and unity in diversity. The priest also points the finger at local government officials, who have never wanted to find an agreement on the matter that concerns the place of worship.

In recent days, members of the Muslim Parung demonstrated against what they call “illegal” construction of a church, which actually has had a permit for six years and is home to the functions of the local Catholic community of the village of Waru. Last year, fundamentalist groups have prevented the celebration of Christmas functions, the faithful have had to move elsewhere to avoid new attacks during the services.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Pope Condemns Attacks in Nigeria

‘Stop the hand of the violent’, Benedict pleas

(ANSA) — Vatican City, December 26 — Pope Benedict on Monday condemned Christmas Day bomb attacks by Islamists in Nigeria that killed dozens of Christians.

Speaking at Angelus prayers, the pontiff voiced “deep sadness” at the attacks on the churches and appealed to authorities to “stop the hands of the violent ones”.

“Violence,” he said, “is a path that only leads to pain, destruction and death”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

White House: Appears Nigeria Attacks Were Terrorism

HONOLULU (Reuters) — The White House condemned the violent attacks in Nigeria on Sunday, which it said appeared to be acts of terrorism.

“We condemn this senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day,” the White House said in a statement released from Hawaii, where President Barack Obama is vacationing.

“We have been in contact with Nigerian officials about what initially appear to be terrorist acts and pledge to assist them in bringing those responsible to justice,” it said.

[Return to headlines]


A Grim Christmas

by Srdja Trifkovic

This Christmas let us spare a thought and say a prayer for countless Christian victims of Muslim brutality, over the centuries and in our own time.

An explosion ripped through a Catholic church during Christmas Mass near Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Sunday morning, killing at least 25 people. A radical Muslim group, Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attack and another bombing in the city of Jos, as explosions also struck the nation’s predominantly Muslim northeast. The Christmas Day attacks show the growing national ambition of Boko Haram, was responsible for some 500 murders this year alone. The assaults come a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded.

Egypt’s dwindling Copts have seen their position deteriorate over the past year from precarious to perilous. Already facing discrimination and harassment from Mubarak’s secular regime, they now see that things could get a lot worse under the Islamists who are poised to take power. Their annus horribilis started on New Year’s Day 2011, when a powerful car bomb targeted a Coptic church in Alexandria, killing 25 parishioners and wounding nearly 100 just as they were finishing midnight Mass. The next turning point was the Maspero massacre on October 9, when 27 unarmed Christian protesters were killed and hundreds more injured, not by some shadowy Islamic extremists but by the military. An official commission—established by the Army—has unsurprisingly absolved the Army of all responsibility for the killings.

The country’s eventual transition to what passes for democracy in the Muslim world is going to make matters far worse for the Copts, who are fearful the army and courts will no longer be able to shield them from ever-greater discrimination and harassment. The writing is on the wall. The Freedom and Justice Party, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood, won the second round of the three-stage parliamentary elections last Wednesday and Thursday, taking 38 of the 59 seats contested; an even more radical group, the Salafist Nour Party, won 13 seats. The adherents of political Islam, in other words, have captured 86 percent of all seats contested. Their spiritual leader is Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, who in a recent video reminded the faithful that Christians are kuffar, or infidels. After quoting Quran 5:17 (“Infidels are those who declare God is Jesus, son of Mary”) he went on to declare that any association between a human and God (shirk) is the greatest sin: “Whoever thinks Christ is God, or the Son of God, not symbolically—for we are all sons of God—but attributively, has rejected the faith which God requires for salvation.”

The Sheikh’s position is eminently mainstream in the Muslim world, which may explain the fact that he is still hailed in the West as a moderate. Three years ago, in a U.S. News article titled “Finding the Voices of Moderate Islam,” Lawrence Wright described him as “a highly promoted champion of moderate Islam”: “He is the kind of cleric the West longs for, because of his assurances that there is no conflict with democratic rule and no need for theocracy.” His assurances, indeed… On this form watch out for the Coptic Exodus of 2012, on par with that of the Christians in Iraq since the “liberation” of 2003.

Iraq’s dwindling Christian population marked Christmas on Sunday with religious leaders calling for peace, days after attacks across Baghdad killed dozens. A week after US forces completed their withdrawal from the country, a senior bishop noted that little was being done to prevent a continuing Christian exodus from Iraq. As worshippers gathered for Sunday morning Christmas services, their churches were guarded by armored security vehicles, heavily-armed soldiers and policemen patrolling the surrounding streets and guarding rooftops. “Our faithful are like everyone in Iraq—they have fear,” Chaldean Bishop Shlemon Warduni told AFP. “They feel there is no peace, no security, so they go where they can live in peace. We don’t agree, we don’t want them (to go), but they say, ‘If we don’t go, can you ensure my life, can you ensure my job, can you ensure the future?’ … The government cannot ensure their lives, how can we ensure their lives?”

The Christian community in Iraq was some two million strong before the US-led invasion of 2003. Up to four-fifths are estimated to have left the country in recent years following a series of attacks by Muslim extremists. On October 31, 2010, an Al-Qaeda assault on a Baghdad church left 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security force members dead. “We have concerns about the US withdrawal, despite the security forces saying it will be safe,” says Louis Sako, Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk. “There has been a failure to ensure the safety of Christians—the security forces are not sufficiently prepared to ensure the protection of Christians. Even though we have repeatedly asked to raise the level of security, the results are not encouraging.” According to Sako, 57 churches and houses of worship in Iraq have been attacked since the invasion, with more than 900 Christians killed and more than 6 000 wounded.

Syria has the largest Christian community in the region, some 2.5 million strong. Most of them are supporting President Bashar Al Assad amidst ongoing protests in the country. A Syrian Christian explained that they prefer “a brutal dictator who guarantees the rights of religious minorities to the uncertain future that Assad’s departure might bring.” It is not to be doubted that if the Obama Administration is successful in its stated objective of bringing Assad down, the Christians in Syria will follow their Iraqi brethren into exile.

Two thousand miles further east, Asia Bibi, a mother of five children, is one of a dozen Christians in the province of Punjab currently awaiting appeal or execution under Pakistan’s scandalous blasphemy laws. On Christmas Day, after a year in jail, she will not be able to say prayers or to see her children and husband. She is being held in isolation, has not been allowed to bathe for over two months, and cannot stand unsupported. It is worthy of note that Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated last January and Federal Minorities Minister Shahbaz_Bhatti was killed in March for defending Asia Bibi and criticizing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Pakistan has a constitution that guarantees religious freedom, but murders, discrimination, and violent harassment of its small Christian minority are persistent. Any dispute with a Muslim—most commonly over land—can become a religious confrontation. Christians are routinely accused of “blasphemy against Islam,” an offense that carries the death penalty. Charges of blasphemy can be made on the flimsiest of evidence—one man’s word against another, and since it is invariably a Muslim’s word against that of a Christian, the outcome is preordained. The ease with which blasphemy charges can be made to stick has led to a spate of malicious complaints motivated by personal enmity and greed, especially for the Christians’ land. On many occasions Christians charged with blasphemy have been murdered before their cases reached the courts.

The scene is the same in Alexandria, Aceh, Istanbul, Prishtina, Karachi, Nazareth… Heavily armed police guard churches as hostile crowds look on. Wherever Muslim numbers dominate, Christians have reason to fear for their safety. The majority know Sheikh Ali Goma is right. The refusal of the People of the Book to acknowledge him, Muhammad, as the messenger of God doomed them to unbelief and eternal suffering after death (Kuran 5:72-73). Christians are mortal sinners and their condemnation is irrevocable: “God will forbid him the garden and the fire will be his abode… They blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a trinity; for there is no god except One Allah. Christ the son of Mary was no more than an apostle; many were the apostles that passed away before him.” (5:75)

As he progressed from a moral teacher to the secular ruler of Medina and master of people’s destinies, Muhammad made the final break with the Jews and Christians, who are fiercely denounced. The Muslims must be merciless to the unbelievers but kind to each other. (48:29) “Whoso of you makes them his friends is one of them.” (5:55) The punishment for resistance is execution or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides. (5:33) Muhammad was no longer trying to convert; Allah is a repetitive polemicist rejoicing in infidel suffering.

Thirteen centuries of Islam have effectively eliminated Christianity from the land of its birth. The terminal decline of the Christian remnant in the Middle East has been accompanied by the indifference of the post-Christian West to its impending demise. Once-thriving Christian communities are now tiny minorities, and in most countries of the region their percentages have been reduced to single digits. Whether they disappear will partly depend on Western leaders belatedly expressing their outrage at Christian persecution. According to David Parsons, media director for the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, there is clear historic precedent for such outside intervention in the Arab/Muslim world to protect Christian communities:

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Genes Play Major Role in Primate Social Behavior, Study Finds

Nicholas Wade

Social behavior among primates — including humans — has a substantial genetic basis, a team of scientists has concluded from a new survey of social structure across the primate family tree.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]