Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120204

Financial Crisis
»Crisis Could Push Europe to ‘Early Grave’: Australia
»Italy: Premier Monti Satisfied by Spread Trend
»Over 57% of Spaniards Struggle to Get to End of Month
»The Democratic Malaise
»The Failure of the Euro
»US, EU Must Deepen Economic Ties to Fight Crisis: Clinton
»When Currencies Collapse
»As Sheepshead Bay Mosque Construction Progresses, Organizers Renew Outreach Efforts
»Don’t Rush to Judge Grassroots America
»Iowa Muslim Leader: Law Enforcement Betrayed Us
»Islamophobia — The Latest Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory
»Muslims Petition Attorney General for NYPD Probe
»Romney Wins Nevada GOP Caucuses, Fox News Projects
»Terry Jones Planning Anti-Muslim Rally in Dearborn
»The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America (Andrew C McCarthy)
»US Free Speech Faces Islamic Blasphemy Law Pressure, Analyst Says
»Media Whitewashing Muslim Violence
»New Mosque Coming for Area’s Muslims
Europe and the EU
»EU Says Gas Supplies Are Down Despite Gazprom Claims
»How Secularism is Used to Attack Muslims in France
»Is Europe Setting Up Clash Between Muslims and the West?
»Italy: Investigators Arrest Ex-CEO of Highway Works
»Italy: Rome’s Unfinished Metro Line Most Expensive in History
»Italy: Snow in Rome Causes Major Disruption
»UK: Hajj — Journey to the Heart of Islam, British Museum — Review
»UK: Teachers Visit as Part of Project
»Albania: “Mohammad (PBUH); the Best Model” Forum in Albania
»Croatia: Ice and Snowstorms in Dalmatia
North Africa
»Egypt: Two American Tourists Kidnapped in Sinai
»Egypt: Comic Sentenced to Jail for Islam Insult
»NATO’s Victory in Libya
Israel and the Palestinians
»UK: Is ‘Federation of Student Islamic Societies’ (FOSIS) Training the Violent Extremists of Tomorrow?
Middle East
»Iran Asks OPEC States Not to Raise Oil Output
»Iraq: Germanic Delegation in Al Abbas Holy Shrine
»Kuwait: Islamists Reign as Women Lose Out
»Prophet Muhammad (S) In the Eyes of Non-Muslim Thinkers
»Russia and China Veto U.N. Security Council Resolution Condemning Syria
»Syria Releases the 7/7 ‘Mastermind’
»The U.S. And the “Nightmare” of Hard-Line Islamic Regimes
»Watch: M.I.A.’s Middle Finger to Saudi Arabia’s Insane Driving Laws Trumps Madonna’s Sexy Pop
»Is This Russian Landscape the Birthplace of Native Americans?
»Russian Scientists Poised to Reach Ice-Buried Antarctic Lake
South Asia
»India: Team Anna Invites Muslims at Rally to Project Secular Image
»India: Church Decries Silence on Sharia Court’s Verdict
»Kyrgyz Islam: Embracing the Future or Breeding Radicals?
»Muslims in Nepal Demand Recognition as a Distinct Minority Group
»New Bible Translation Introduced so as Not to Offend Muslims
Far East
»Video: A-ha’s ‘Take on Me’ Gets North Korean Treatment
Australia — Pacific
»Muslim Privacy Comes at a Cost to Ratepayers
»Europe at Bay
»Washington Imam: US Muslims Live Under Nazi-Style Oppression
Culture Wars
»UK: You Haven’t a Prayer With the New Atheists
»New Life-Forms Found in Blue Holes — Clues to Life in Alien Oceans?

Financial Crisis

Crisis Could Push Europe to ‘Early Grave’: Australia

(MUNICH) — Australia’s foreign minister launched a fierce broadside at Europe Saturday, saying the financial crisis has caused it to turn in on itself and warning it risked an “early grave” amid Asia’s rise. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Kevin Rudd warned that Europe had become sidelined from the debate over the growing economic and political influence of China and Asia and urged Europeans to re-engage.

“Here in Europe, this continent has largely been missing in this debate, this should no longer be the case,” Rudd said, adding that the region still had “a great deal to offer” in terms of diplomacy. “The danger that I see is Europe progressively becoming so introspective and so preoccupied with its internal problems on the economy and on the eurozone in particular that Europe runs the risk of talking itself into an early economic and therefore globally political grave,” he said.

“We don’t want that. We actually think Europe has fundamental strengths to deliver to the rest of the world but we are not seeing a whole lot of that right now,” added the minister.

The European Union’s internal market commissioner, Michel Barnier, hit back, saying that Europe would “emerge stronger and better organised from this crisis.” Rudd was speaking on a panel on “America, Europe and the rise of Asia” at the annual gathering of leaders, ministers and top brass that wraps up on Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Premier Monti Satisfied by Spread Trend

Italian bonds continue to improve with respect to bund

(ANSA) — Rome, February 3 — Premier Mario Monti on Friday expressed satisfaction at the continuing downward trend in the spread between Italian bonds and the benchmark German bund.

Monti, however, cautioned that the decrease “does not yet mean that Italian accounts are safe”. The spread between the 10-year Italian bond and its German equivalent had been hovering around 500 points for months before it began edging down in recent weeks following government measures to steer the country out of the debt crisis.

The spread was down to 372 base points on Friday on the heels of the most positive four-week trend in Italy’s sovreign-debt market since December 2009. A day after dipping below the 3%-yield mark for the first time since June, the spread on 2-year bonds dropped another five points on Friday with a yield of 2.95%.

Monti stepped in to lead a government of technocrats following the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi as premier in November brought about by the country’s severe economic troubles

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Over 57% of Spaniards Struggle to Get to End of Month

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 3 — Confidence in the economy among Spaniards continues to nosedive, falling by 2.7 points to 68.3 in January compared to the previous month, some way beneath the 100-point mark that indicates a positive perception of the economic situation, according to figures released today by Spain’s national institute of statistics. Prospects are especially negative regarding the domestic economy, with 57.6% of Spaniards saying that they struggle to get to the end of the month or have to eat to eat in to their savings, while a further 6.3% have been forced to run up debts to cover their monthly needs.

Prospects for the future are no more promising, with 70% of those interviewed saying that the economic situation will be similar or worse in the next six months. The increase in prices, the freeze on wages and the continuing escalation of unemployment are the main reasons for pessimism.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Democratic Malaise

Globalization and the Threat to the West

A crisis of governability has engulfed the world’s most advanced democracies. It is no accident that the United States, Europe, and Japan are simultaneously experiencing political breakdown; globalization is producing a widening gap between what electorates are asking of their governments and what those governments are able to deliver. The mismatch between the growing demand for good governance and its shrinking supply is one of the gravest challenges facing the Western world today.

Voters in industrialized democracies are looking to their governments to respond to the decline in living standards and the growing inequality resulting from unprecedented global flows of goods, services, and capital. They also expect their representatives to deal with surging immigration, global warming, and other knock-on effects of a globalized world. But Western governments are not up to the task. Globalization is making less effective the policy levers at their disposal while also diminishing the West’s traditional sway over world affairs by fueling the “rise of the rest.” The inability of democratic governments to address the needs of their broader publics has, in turn, only increased popular disaffection, further undermining the legitimacy and efficacy of representative institutions.

This crisis of governability within the Western world comes at a particularly inopportune moment. The international system is in the midst of tectonic change due to the diffusion of wealth and power to new quarters. Globalization was supposed to have played to the advantage of liberal societies, which were presumably best suited to capitalize on the fast and fluid nature of the global marketplace. But instead, mass publics in the advanced democracies of North America, Europe, and East Asia have been particularly hard hit — precisely because their countries’ economies are both mature and open to the world.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Failure of the Euro

The euro should now be recognized as an experiment that failed. This failure, which has come after just over a dozen years since the euro was introduced, in 1999, was not an accident or the result of bureaucratic mismanagement but rather the inevitable consequence of imposing a single currency on a very heterogeneous group of countries. The adverse economic consequences of the euro include the sovereign debt crises in several European countries, the fragile condition of major European banks, high levels of unemployment across the eurozone, and the large trade deficits that now plague most eurozone countries.

The political goal of creating a harmonious Europe has also failed. France and Germany have dictated painful austerity measures in Greece and Italy as a condition of their financial help, and Paris and Berlin have clashed over the role of the European Central Bank (ECB)?and over how the burden of financial assistance will be shared.

The initial impetus that led to the European Monetary Union and the euro was political, not economic. The primary political motive for increased European integration was, and may still be, to enhance Europe’s role in world affairs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

US, EU Must Deepen Economic Ties to Fight Crisis: Clinton

(MUNICH) — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Saturday for Europe and the United States to trade more and urged them to “work harder” together to battle economic crises. In a speech in Munich, Clinton voiced confidence that Europe has “the will and the means” to cut runaway debt, build “the necessary firewalls” to protect the euro and take steps to spur growth.

While acknowledging that the United States was dealing with its own financial crisis, Clinton pointed to improved US jobs figures, which showed unemployment dropping to 8.3 percent — its lowest level since February 2009. “Although we get good news from time to time as we did yesterday with jobs figures and drops in unemployment, we know we have a ways to go as well,” she said at the Munich Security Conference, an annual defence policy gathering.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

When Currencies Collapse

Will We Replay the 1930s or the 1970s?

The international monetary system rests on just two currencies: the dollar and the euro. Together, they account for nearly 90 percent of the foreign exchange reserves held by central banks and governments. They make up nearly 80 percent of the value of Special Drawing Rights, the reserve asset used in transactions between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and its members. Of all debt securities denominated in a foreign currency, more than three-quarters are in dollars and euros.

The two currencies together account for nearly two-thirds of all trading in foreign exchange markets worldwide. They are the essential lubricants of global trade and finance. Were they not widely accepted, the global economy could not sustain current levels of international trade and investment.

That is why the problems now faced by both currencies are so alarming. Today, more than at any time in recent memory, analysts and investors are voicing doubts about the stability of the dollar and the euro and the international monetary system that depends on them. Consider first the dollar. Faith in its reliability was seriously undermined last summer when the debt-ceiling imbroglio in the United States revealed a seemingly unbridgeable gap between the political parties and raised concerns about the capacity of U.S. policymakers to put the country’s financial house in order.

Foreign investors, who hold slightly less than half of all marketable U.S. Treasury debt, saw the crisis as proof that members of Congress would rather let the country default on its obligations than compromise on their own partisan objectives. And foreign governments were spooked. As the debate reached a peak, Chinese officials lectured Washington on the need to act responsibly, China’s state-run news agency disparaged the negotiations as a “madcap farce of brinkmanship,” and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin characterized Americans as “living like parasites off the global economy and their monopoly of the dollar.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


As Sheepshead Bay Mosque Construction Progresses, Organizers Renew Outreach Efforts

It’s been a while since we’ve had a proper update on the Sheepshead Bay mosque (2812 Voorhies Avenue). Last we heard, the opponents of the mosque, Bay People, lost their zoning challenge against the construction, but vowed to push forward with their lawsuit against the mosque’s backers (who, it should be noted, have filed a countersuit).

As the picture above illustrates, construction at the site has been moving along swiftly. The steel and cinder block frame is just about done on the first two stories, and work has started on the third (and final) floor. The third floor will be recessed from the front. For what it’s worth, several readers have sent us e-mails noting that it’s not nearly as big as they expected.

That hasn’t soothed the fears of Bay People members, though. The opposition distributed an informational packet to media and local leaders in January summarizing their complaints and compiling letters to and from elected officials, attorneys, city agencies, et cetera. The packet also blasted some leaders that they felt were ignoring their concerns. Though the group insists in the document that their concerns are about traffic, parking and quality of life, they also cast doubt on the background of the organizers. “The organization behind the project ‘has a troubling history of associates with radical organizations and individuals that promote terrorism, anti-Semitist and reject Israel’s right to exist,’“ they write. The complete packet can be seen at the end of this post. Muslim American Society, the mosque backers, are firing back with a renewed outreach effort.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Don’t Rush to Judge Grassroots America

Generally speaking, we Brits tend to be pretty sniffy about American politics. When Sir Max Hastings, a former dean of this parish now writing in another place, describes the Republican candidates hoping to oppose Barack Obama as “grotesques and buffoons”, and their voters as inhabitants of “the lunatic, gun-toting badlands of America’s Hicks-ville, Tea Party country”, I suspect his description elicits an audible harrumph of agreement around many English breakfast tables. But having just spent a week touring the badlands of Florida during the recent primary contest, and spending many hours speaking to the “gun-toting hicks” and Tea Partiers, I’m afraid I didn’t find them quite as Sir Max imagines.

It is true that American politics is deeply polarised at the moment, that the loopy flat-earth fringes has its grotesque elements, but look just slightly beyond that caricature and the debate is more sophisticated than you might imagine. Ordinary Americans have a gut feel for the narrative arc of their history that most English voters do not. The freedoms won at the Revolution and the principles set out in the Declaration of Independence live and breathe in the political conversation.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Iowa Muslim Leader: Law Enforcement Betrayed Us

The Muslim community in Des Moines, Iowa, is as small as it is diverse. The members of the four mosques here are from Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, among other nations. Although the roots of the Muslims here may be worlds apart, the community is a tight-knit group. That’s why what happened at their mosques here is alarming to so many of its members. “That was really surprising, very sad that somebody would come or the FBI or Homeland Security would send somebody here to pretend to be Muslim and try to find out what goes on here. I feel there is no need for that,” said Dr. Hamed Baig, president of the Islamic Center of Des Moines.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Islamophobia — The Latest Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory

Extremist political conspiracies such as “birthers” and “truthers” may be a dominant theme of post-9/11 America, but in a new book by Arthur Goldwag, he argues that modern conservative groups may be a product of history repeating itself. In Goldwag’s book, “The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right,” due out on February 7, the author traced the historical origins of rhetoric and ideologies associated with birtherism, Islamophobia, anti-immigration sentiment and other touchstones of modern conservative factions such as the Tea Party movement. Throughout his book, Goldwag highlighted similarities in rhetoric between such past movements and some present political discourse, drawing parallels between anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic literature from 100 years ago and statements from contemporary politicians and commentators concerned that Muslims represent a threat to America’s security and way of life. “If you read the really anti-Islamic stuff, it reads exactly like the anti-Semitic stuff from the 1920s,” Goldwag told Reuters. “It has this totalizing quality, projecting immutable characteristics onto a whole class of people, and it’s never going to be true if you do that.”

Reuters, 3 February 2012

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslims Petition Attorney General for NYPD Probe

(RNS) More than 30 Muslim and legal advocacy groups are urging New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to investigate the New York City Police Department after the second scandal in as many weeks involving Muslim Americans.

On Thursday (Feb. 2), The Associated Press reported that it had obtained a secret 2006 NYPD report, “U.S.-Iran Conflict: The Threat to New York City,” which recommended that officers “expand and focus intelligence” at Shiite mosques.

The previous week, it was revealed that a documentary film that critics say demonizes Muslims was shown in 2010 to nearly 1,500 police officers during anti-terrorism training. Several months earlier, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said only a small number of police officers had viewed “The Third Jihad,” sparking charges of a cover-up and calls for NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Browne to resign.

The two incidents show “the need to hold the NYPD accountable for its flagrant use of discriminatory policing practices has never been more glaring and urgent,” Muslim groups said in a Friday letter to Schneiderman.

Farhana Khera, executive director of San Francisco-based Muslim Advocates, which spearheaded the letter, said city officials had lost trustworthiness, and could not be counted on to conduct a credible investigation.

“The mayor’s office and the City Council have been asked repeatedly to hold the NYPD accountable, and they have not done so,” Khera said. “It’s time for the state to get involved.”

Calls and emails to the NYPD and Schneiderman’s office were not returned. In October, several state senators called on Schneiderman to investigate the NYPD after reports that they were racially profiling and spying on Muslims.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Romney Wins Nevada GOP Caucuses, Fox News Projects

Mitt Romney cruised to a dominating victory Saturday night in the Nevada Republican presidential caucuses, Fox News projects, leveraging a base of support that dates back to his 2008 run to notch the first back-to-back win of the 2012 contest.

The former Massachusetts governor, who won the Florida primary earlier in the week, was beating Newt Gingrich by a double-digit margin. The victory cut across virtually every demographic group and builds Romney’s lead in the delegate count, though Nevada is only the first in a string of lesser contests following the first four behemoth primary battles

The candidates head next into Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and Maine, though the Missouri election is more of a beauty contest as it doesn’t determine delegates.

At his victory rally in Las Vegas, Romney took the same approach as he did after the Florida race — utterly ignoring his Republican opponents, keeping his focus on President Obama and polishing his own brand.

“America needs a president who can fix the economy because he understands the economy, and I do, and I will,” Romney said.

Romney said the president should “be apologizing to America,” describing him as a leader who “demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy.” Romney also seemed to be honing his potential general election message, downplaying recent improvements in the unemployment rate as modest and disconnected from the Obama administration’s policies.

“This president’s misguided policies made these tough times last longer,” Romney said.

Gingrich, though, is vowing to wear Romney down. He has said he’ll take the race to every state in the country in a diligent battle for convention delegates.

With 31 percent of precincts reporting, Romney was pulling 43 percent in Nevada. Gingrich had 26 percent and Ron Paul had 18 percent, with the race for second too close to call. Rick Santorum, with 13 percent, will place last, Fox News projects.

Nevada offers a modest delegate haul, with 28 convention delegates at stake. Romney led the field going into the race with 87, followed by Gingrich with 26, Santorum with 14 and Paul with four. It takes 1,144 delegates to win.

Romney, who is Mormon, benefited from the state’s demographic makeup, with Mormons composing roughly a quarter of the GOP electorate and almost uniformly supporting him.

Entrance polls also showed Romney crushing the competition among those who value beating President Obama in November as the most important quality in a GOP candidate…

[Return to headlines]

Terry Jones Planning Anti-Muslim Rally in Dearborn

“Pastor” Terry Jones, whose March, 2011, Qur’an burning set off riots in Afghanistan that cost the lives of nine United Nations aid workers, is planning a series of events for 2012. His first one will be a rally in front of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, on April 7. The rally will be on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. Last year, Jones wanted to hold a rally at the ICA on Good Friday, but the city refused to grant him a permit because of the proximity to so many Christian churches that would be holding Good Friday services. Jones’ final rally will be held in Gainesville, Florida, on September 11, and is being billed as the “International Judge Muhammed Day.”

The Wayne County, Michigan, prosecutor’s office filed a complaint against Jones and an associate named Sapp last year over the planned rally. A jury at the 19th District Court in Dearborn, found that Jones and Sapp were “likely to breach the peace.” They were ordered to pay a single dollar “peace bond” and stay away from the ICA for three years. The were jailed for a short period for refusing the order. On appeal, the requirement for them to stay away from the ICA was overturned. Jones has held two previous demonstrations in Dearborn that ended in counterprotesters storming the rallies and people being arrested. “Pastor” Terry Jones is not affiliated with any organized religion. He simply declared himself to be a pastor and set up a “church” in his home. He is fanatical in his hatred of Islam, considers Allah to be a demon instead of the Arabic word for the same God that Christians and Jews worship, considers all Muslims to be murderous terrorists who should be deported, preferably to hell. He announced last fall that his “church” was bankrupt and he was losing his home. He refused to see any connection between his actions and the deaths in Afghanistan because he believes Muslims of all nations and sects build bonfires with Bibles.

Ever since 9-11, there have been small pockets of fundamentalist evangelicals who call Allah the “Monkey God” and say that Mohammed was a child molester because his third wife was only a child when he “married” her. They refuse to admit that Islam is based on both the Old and New Testament, with Muslims claiming descent from Abraham’s son Ishmael by the Egyptian servant Hagar. In Islam, Jesus is a prophet, not the son of God. Aisha was the daughter of one of Mohammed’s generals and somewhere between six and ten years old when the marriage ceremony was conducted. The fanatics will not listen to the facts, that the marriage was political, that it was a common practice in that time, that Aisha lived with her parents until she reached puberty and that with a life expectancy of only 35 years for men and less for women, a girl being married at 13 or 14 made perfect sense. Facts, reason and historical perspective make no difference to these people. Their hatred of Muslims is total and all one billion Muslims around the world are responsible for 9-11.

Terry Jones is more than a loose cannon. He is a danger to our troops and to aid workers in the Middle East. There are people in Islam who are just as fanatical as Jones is, and they will blame some innocent doctor or nurse for Jones’ actions. Free speech is a Constitutional right, but I have to wonder if James Madison and his colleagues ever considered the impact of hate speech, and if they would have altered the First Amendment to exclude speech that carries the potential of inciting the murder of innocents.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America (Andrew C McCarthy)

by Karen Lugo

The political left has been accused of serial hypocrisies to the end of advancing ideology over celebrated causes. But according to Andrew McCarthy, the alliance between sharia-advancing Islamists and the left is the most significant betrayal yet of claimed liberal causes like equal protection and basic civil rights. In The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, Andrew McCarthy demonstrates that leftists and political Islamists have mounted a dynamic double-front against American and Western traditions. While acknowledging that the alliance may be temporary while deferred cultural disagreements are tabled, McCarthy builds a strong historical and motivational case for the contemporary collaboration. The premise of the book — that both groups work to sabotage fundamental strongholds of rule of law and expressive rights — is key to understanding the dimensions of the cultural conflict. With constitutional American and political Islamist objectives clashing, sober insight and sound analysis are useful. Andrew McCarthy has unique qualifications as an assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York at the time of the first World Trade Center attack; he served the people well in the successful prosecution of Omar Abdel-Rahman (the “blind sheikh”). Rahman is now serving a life sentence. The unique and intensive trial strategy added dimensional legal expertise to McCarthy’s biography, but most importantly to his role as a national security commentator, he also gained rare insight into the history, mentality, and the pervasive honor and shame code that drives militant Islamists.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

US Free Speech Faces Islamic Blasphemy Law Pressure, Analyst Says

Washington D.C., Feb 4, 2012 / 07:05 am (CNA).- Paul Marshall, a religious liberty expert, says that attempts to “export” Islamic anti-blasphemy laws to the West could pose a threat to freedom of speech in the U.S. Marshall, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said that many governments deliberately manipulate alleged instances of blasphemy by provoking popular outrage, enabling them to advance “particular policy goals.” Marshall made his remarks Feb. 3 at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C. He argued that blasphemy codes in the Muslim world are used to stifle religious minorities, as well as Muslim reformers who support religious liberty, freedom of speech and democracy. In the U.S., Marshall observed, courts generally uphold the First Amendment’s free speech protections. But he said that America is still threatened by blasphemy laws, and cited efforts by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to promote international laws that ban insults to Islam, through the United Nations.

Marshall also cautioned against a growing tendency towards “extra-legal intimidation,” which involves private individuals pre-emptively censoring themselves — often under the guise of religious sensitivity — because they realize that it is “too dangerous” to insult Islam. To illustrate the effectiveness of this intimidation, he gave multiple examples of books, newspapers and television shows that refused to publish content that could be deemed offensive to Islam, although they chose to carry similar material that mocked Christianity and other religions. He also recounted the 2010 story of Molly Norris, a Seattle cartoonist, who called for an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” in response to such self-censorship. She received death threats for the suggestion and, under the advice of the FBI, changed her name and went into hiding.

Marshall also warned of the potential for government policies that seek to restrict speech. He observed that the Obama administration has vocalized a commitment to fighting “negative stereotypes of Islam,” although it has not done the same for other religions. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he noted, invited the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to a meeting in Washington, D.C. to discuss how the U.S. could carry out this commitment. According to Marshall, the December 2011 meeting featured presentations on how

America should fix its treatment of Muslims. It was also suggested that the U.S. should learn from countries in the organization, which use the death penalty to fight blasphemy within their borders, he said. Although Clinton claimed to be simply pursuing tolerance, Marshall said it was concerning that she was partnering with an organization that has been aggressively lobbying to restrict free speech through legal controls. He urged the Obama administration to end this partnership and instead promote the idea that “in open, boisterous, free societies” all religions will likely be subject to criticism. The American founders considered freedom of speech to be critical, Marshall concluded, adding that “their example is always needed, but never more so than in a time such as this.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Media Whitewashing Muslim Violence

The story is grisly: a husband and wife murdering their three young daughters, ages 19, 17 and 13, by drowning them along with their stepmother. The couple was assisted by their 21-year-old son. All were found guilty of first-degree murder in Ontario, Canada. They were sentenced to life in prison. Mohammad Shafia and his wife, Tooba, immigrated to Canada from Afghanistan in 2007. Being Muslims, they believe in Sharia law, which in some cases allows so-called “honor killings” — that is, if a family member deviates from strict Muslim teachings, other family members can execute them. Of course, that’s insane. But under the Taliban in Afghanistan and in some other parts of the world, “honor killings” are allowed.

In his eyes, Shafia’s three daughters were guilty of becoming westernized, wearing nontraditional Muslim clothing and associating with the dreaded Christians. So this demented father ordered the girls killed, as well as his first wife, whom he believed was aiding them in their alleged transgressions. Reporting on the story in America has been scant and strange. On NBC’s “Nightly News,” anchor Brian Williams said this: “A verdict has been reached in a murder case that’s gotten a lot of attention because it involved so-called honor killings of family members. In this case, an Afghan family living in Canada. It is a culture clash getting a lot of attention to our north.”

Culture clash? Between whom? Afghans and Canadians? What is Williams talking about?

The reporter on the story, Kevin Tibbles, also avoided using the word “Muslim.” He described the motivation for the violence as “a strict religious family that felt it had been disgraced.” What religion? Incredibly, the reporter didn’t say. This is no coincidence. The politically correct U.S. media are frightened by Muslim violence. They avoid the issue whenever they can. Political correctness is dangerous because it obscures the truth. Shafia, his wife and his son are Muslim fanatics who believe they have the right to commit murder in the name of their religion. Somebody get that dispatch to the media.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

New Mosque Coming for Area’s Muslims

The Muslim community of Victoria will have a new place to worship by the end of the year. The groundbreaking for a new mosque, Masjid AlIman, took place on the front lawn of 2218 Quadra St. Friday. The mosque has been designed by Herbert Kwan Architects of Victoria. “This is very exciting,” said Salah Awadalla, president of the Victoria branch of the B.C. Muslim Association, at the ceremony. We have put a lot of time, effort and money toward it.” Muslims arrived in Victoria in the early 1900s. Today, there are about 1,500 Muslims in the capital and 250,000 in the province. Each year, about 70 Muslims arrive in Victoria.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

EU Says Gas Supplies Are Down Despite Gazprom Claims

(BRUSSELS) — The EU executive said Friday that Russian gas deliveries have fallen in nine countries, with Gazprom invoking flexibility clauses as it also braves a cold snap. The European Commission was highlighting the drop a day after Russian state gas giant Gazprom said it had increased volumes exported to European Union neighbours amid a sudden drop in temperatures.

With more than 220 lives lost as these temperatures reached new lows, the European Commission said Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania and Slovakia had each registered drops in gas supplies. A spokeswoman for EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger, Marlene Holzer said that “our member states have been informed by the Russian authorities that there is exceptional cold weather, and that Russia needs more gas (for its own use) than normal.”

She added, however, that Gazprom contractual small print with European buyers “allows for a certain flexibility.” Austria, for instance, had logged a 30 percent fall and Italy had seen deliveries fall by 24 percent, though she noted that stocks were not at an “emergency” level in any of the nine.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

How Secularism is Used to Attack Muslims in France

By Marwan Muhammad*

In the difficult times we’re going through, you might think French politicians would be focusing all their energy on saving jobs, stopping the financial crisis or solving the housing problem. Not so. Apparently there is something more important than facing these problems. Something that requires all citizens’ attention: the banning of any Islamic religious signs from the public sphere. It all started in the 1990s. At that time, there was some controversy about some Muslim teens wearing the hijab at school. A few politicians tried to forbid it, but at that time the State Council, the supreme legal authority in the country, made it clear a ban would contradict the most elementary freedom of faith.

But in March 2004, with a lot of help from mainstream media showing persecuted Muslim housewives at dinner time, these politicians succeeding in passing a law which banned any religious symbols in public schools. More recently, in 2010, the government passed a law banning the niqab from any public place, putting the discrimination of Muslim women at the core of their definition of “laïcité”, or secularism. “Laïcité” is a typically French concept established in 1905 to separate religion from the state. It was designed to guarantee freedom of faith and avoid government intervention in religious affairs (and reciprocally, avoid religious pressures on government policy).

Unfortunately, this idea has been manipulated in order to deny minorities their right to express their religion in any physical form, in a quest for “neutrality”. This new interpretation aims at banning any religious expression from the public sphere and is mainly targeted at Muslims.

Islamophobia infects all political parties. Both left wing and right wing politicians resort to it in order to send electoral messages to those (mainly on the far right) who perceive Muslims’ visibility in France as a problem. Only the arguments used differ: conservatives claim that Islam is not compatible with the traditional Judaeo-Christian European identity and that Muslims need to assimilate into the pre-existing model. Left wingers come to the same conclusion from a different angle. They concentrate on women’s rights and the threat of allegedly backward religious practice, even though conservative religious groupings like the Taliban do not exist in France.

The stigmatisation of Muslims has a direct effect on hate crimes and discrimination against Muslim men, women and institutions. In 2011, the Collective Against Islamophobia in France documented more than 250 cases, and the list is still being updated. Peaks in hate crimes against Muslims coincide with national campaigns spreading Islamophobic propaganda, whether it is the right wing’s “national debate on Islam” or the left wing senatorial bill on banning the hijab even in the private sector. We have now reached a point where Muslims’ safety in France is no longer guaranteed, and this raises a whole new set of questions for the upcoming presidential elections. Muslims will have to face their responsibilities and decide for themselves if they want to continue to watch their own demise or if they want to protect their rights and take part in building a more open and progressive France.

*Marwan Muhammad is a member of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, which helps victims of Islamophobic crimes as well as monitoring information on Islamophobia and racism in France. Marwan is a statistician by profession and author of ‘Foul Express’.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Is Europe Setting Up Clash Between Muslims and the West?

Editor’s note: Mohammed Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor of International Relations at Michigan State University and adjunct scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding

(CNN) — Europe and the Muslim world seem to be on a collision course that could have major political, economic and ideological ramifications. January 23, 2012, may well come to be remembered as the crucial date when Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis, which many of us believed discredited beyond repair, was reaffirmed. Political scientist Huntington wrote in 1993 that cultural divisions preclude a defining global civilization, and the West and the Muslim world would never share the same values.

Last month, Europe took two different actions that nonetheless sent the same message to the Muslim world: You are not our equals and are doomed to be judged by standards different from those by which we judge ourselves. Future historians might call January 23 the day when Europe irreversibly alienated not one, but both, pivotal powers — Iran and Turkey — that in all probability will dominate the political landscape of the Middle East for several decades. One action was the European Union’s decision to ban oil purchases from Iran, including imports of crude oil, petroleum products and petrochemical products, to force Tehran to negotiate away its uranium enrichment program, which Tehran insists is for civilian use only. This is the latest in a series of increasingly stringent sanctions that Western powers have unilaterally imposed on Iran. These sanctions go well beyond those required by the U.N. Security Council.


Many Muslims perceive these moves as the West targeting Iran and Turkey in an attempt to prevent important Muslim countries from achieving the military capacity — Iran — and the political stature — Turkey — they deserve. Many see behind these moves the not-so-hidden hand of an ideology based on Huntington’s theory of the clash of civilizations. Although these perceptions may not fully conform with reality, it is well established that perceptions count much more than reality in the conduct of international relations.

[JP note: Europe is literally bending over backwards to accommodate Muslims, but obviously this is not enough for the likes of Muslim supremacists such as Ayoob.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Italy: Investigators Arrest Ex-CEO of Highway Works

Bribes allegedly taken for public construction contracts

(ANSA) — Venice, January 31 — Italian finance police arrested northeastern building magnate Lino Brentan following investigations of corruption, fraud and bribery. Commenting on the coordinated effort with police forces and Venice prosecutors, leading investigator in the case Stefano Ancilotto told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that it was “a good day for Venice”. As CEO of the provincial body responsible for constructing the Venice-Padua leg of the northeastern highway, Brentan allegedly awarded contracts directly to suppliers, bypassing the legal bidding process.

Finance police have also confiscated 170,000 euros from his bank accounts.

On his arrest, Brentan spoke in Veneto dialect, telling police that he “didn’t rob,” and that he only “did what was good for everyone”.

Venice finance police allege Brentan directly awarded public building and material contracts to local companies between 2005 and 2009 after receiving bribes ranging from 15, 20 to 60 thousand euros in guarantee for contracts.

The publicly employed CEO also allegedly received pay-offs from consultants to the effect of 10% of the total cost per consultation.

Now under house arrest, Tuesday morning Brentan suspended his membership the Democratic Party(PD), for which he also served as an assembly member.

The Venice prosecutor’s office held a press conference Tuesday morning alongside Chief Prosecutor Luigi Delpino, Finance Police Commander General Marcello Ravaioli and Tax Police Commander Colonel Renzo Nisi to present details and results from investigations leading to Brentan’s arrest.

Prosecutor Carlo Mastelloni said during the press conference that investigations were “laborious, despite focusing on one suspect” and were not yet complete.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rome’s Unfinished Metro Line Most Expensive in History

6 billion euros, 22 years under construction

(ANSA) — Rome, February 2 — Building Rome’s newest metro line appears destined to become the slowest and most expensive construction project in Italian and European Union history and it risks not being finished, the Audit Court president said Thursday. “All of the problems, vices and defects of public works in Italy are visible,” said Luigi Giampaolino at a meeting on public infrastructure held inside the Rome underground a day after the Audit Court published a 182-page report on the delayed project. Construction on the C line, Rome’s third subway track, has cost the city over 5 billion euros — 3 billion more than initially forecast when building began in 1990. It was originally slated for completion in 2000 when millions came to Rome to celebrate the Catholic Church’s Year of Jubilee. As the city and the rest of the country now finds itself in a budget crunch, planners are worried that the project risks being left unfinshed in 2020 when officials hope to bring the Summer Olypics to Rome.

“It’s not the fault of one single project or of the person who managed it; this project includes every challenge immaginable: institutional, procedural and technical,” Giampaolino said. Administrators point out that building a subway line in the ancient city is particularly difficult due to the endless trove of artefacts underground that must be excavated before construction can proceed. Giampaolino went on to call for a simplified public administration process and to look for private funds to make up for drained public coffers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Snow in Rome Causes Major Disruption

Transport hit, schools, public offices closed

(see related stories on site)

(ANSA) — Rome, February 3 — The wave of bad weather that gave Rome a rare covering of snow on Friday, caused major disruption in the capital, with schools and government offices closed and public transport badly hit.

Many workers had to return home from work on foot, as taxis and buses were hard to find.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno ruled that cars must have snow chains to be able to use the city’s roads until midday on Sunday.

This weekend’s Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and Inter Milan at the Stadio Olimpico has been shifted from Saturday to Sunday because of the weather.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Hajj — Journey to the Heart of Islam, British Museum — Review

An exhibition of profound cultural importance has just opened at the British Museum. It is not devoted to the thing beautiful, though it enlists many such things to illustrate its purpose; instead, it examines a spiritual exercise that is central to the religious observance and beliefs of myriads of people, nations, tribes, kingdoms and commonwealths encircling the world. This is the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj (literally “a setting-out”) obligatory to all adult Muslims, female as well as male, if strong enough to endure the privations of the journey and rich enough to pay for it. It is a demonstration of faith, now made by air and sea to Jedda, the nearest port and airport, and thence by road transport; over the many early centuries of Islamic expansion, however, west into Africa and Spain, east to the Spice Islands of Java and Sumatra, and north to the Silk Route and Afghanistan, the journeying grew steadily longer, the hardships tougher and the mortalities greater. Imagine, a thousand years ago, setting out for Mecca from Timbuktoo, how perilous might be the journey in terms of the Sahara — broiling heat by day, bitter cold by night, shortages of food and water, sandstorms, brigandage and banditry, disease and death the constant stalkers of the caravan.

In essence the Hajj is much the same as the great Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Rome and, particularly, Compostela — an ascetic and cathartic experience purifying, confirming and justifying faith, rubric and ritual its unifying discipline, its compelling force the conviction that merit can be gained by visiting the holy place that is its focus. Sanctioned by custom, it is enriched by the great weight of its past. All Christians who have performed a pilgrimage will recognise the fervour of the Hajj, the passion, the intensity of the religious experience; those who have been to Lourdes may also see some similarity in the quality of souvenirs. All practising Christians, and even those who have lapsed, will recognise biblical events and characters common to both Christianity and Islam — but here there is a difficulty, for those of us who are atheists, agnostics and Christmas members of the Church of England may not have quite the same command of the biblical background necessary to see that Judaeo-Christian and Islamic monotheism share the same root. Who now, in this country, under the age of 30 — other than Muslims and Jews — has acquaintance with the Bible close enough to know that there are two Testaments, and that in the Book of Genesis lies the explanation of the great ancestral divide between the Muslim and the Jew that today still bedevils the politics of the Near East and sets Abraham’s descendants through his legitimate son, Isaac, against those of his illegitimate son, Ishmael?

It all began in the mists of time with Adam’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. He it was, the first man to have immediate contact with God, who built the first Ka’ba, the great cubic block that is the most important physical feature of the Hajj in Mecca; this, by the time of Abraham, some 1,700 years BC, had so deteriorated that its site had to be revealed to him by God Himself. By divine design, no doubt, it was close to the place where Abraham had abandoned Hagar, the Egyptian slave who had borne him his then only son, Ishmael; at this point the Islamic version differs from the biblical and has it that Abraham left the mother and their child with nothing but a bag of dates to eat, and when her water-skin was empty she ran distractedly hither and yon until, miraculously, she found a spring. Drinking water from that spring and mimicking Hagar’s frantic running became rituals of the Hajj that continue to this day.

As Abraham returned to Mecca and, with young Ishmael’s aid, rebuilt the Ka’ba, he is regarded as the founder of the Hajj and its first pilgrim. During the rebuilding a mysterious Black Stone, a metre or so long, was set in the wall; this, profoundly precious to Islam, is variously believed to have been discovered by Ishmael on a nearby hill, or to have been given to Abraham by the Archangel Gabriel. More than a century ago William Robertson Smith, distinguished Arabist, archaeologist, biblical critic and expert on the primitive religion of the Semites, described it as of “volcanic or meteoric origin, originally a fetish, the most venerated of a multitude of idols and sacred stones …” cleared away by Mohammed when he purged the site of the pagan beliefs that had degraded it in the 2,000 years since Abraham.

So there we have it: in Abraham, the ancient Hebrew patriarch whose name is taken to mean “father of a multitude”, we have the origin of two divergent faiths, both believing in one god only and in the merit of male circumcision, but one exclusive and territorial, fixed on the inheritance of Canaan, the other universal and open to all races, its multitude annually drawn together in the inclusiveness of the Hajj.

It is with this drawing together that the British Museum’s exhibition is concerned. In the divine revelations that Mohammed received, in his consequent purging the pure faith of heathen accretions, his removal of idols from the Ka’ba, his redirecting the directional focus of daily prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca, and his own solitary performance of the Hajj in AD 632, the year of his death, he established the great pilgrimage once and for all in every detail of its disciplines. Pilgrims must bathe from top to toe, abjure all sexual activity and refrain from quarrelling and misbehaviour of any kind, for the Hajj is an act of ritual consecration and spiritual exaltation, absolution its reward and benison. With every element of its performance in Mecca, the emotional intensity increases — and those who have been on a Christian pilgrimage requiring some physical endurance, will recognise the degree to which the hardship of the journey opens the spirit to exalted states of rapture, even ecstasy.

To all this the British Museum’s approach is didactic. Later 19th century and other early photographs give us impressions of the Hajj before the aeroplane became its primary vehicle; 18th-century engravings record the grandeur of ritual processions; in manuscripts, miniatures and maps, wonder and beauty inform the essential information. We learn what pilgrims wore, in what ships they sailed, how they pitched their tents in Mecca and of what animals they sacrificed. We are astonished by the rich embroideries with which, in the 19th century, the exterior of the Ka’ba was hung, and appalled by the vulgarity of one that is a modern souvenir. A handful of contemporary works of art demonstrate that in Islam it is still possible for religion and belief to inform the artist’s practice and be not maudlin, as in the Christian west, but mystical.

My only regrets are that so little is said of the interior of the Ka’ba where, in Robertson Smith’s day there was a mosaic pavement, and two slabs of verde antico marked the graves of Hagar and Ishmael, and that, while we know so much of Jewish history between Abraham and Christ, we are left in ignorance of Arab history and faith between Abraham and Mohammed. I came away from this exhibition grateful to be so much better informed. It is what multiculturalism should be — information, instruction and understanding, academically rigorous, leaving both cultures (the enquiring and the enquired) intact, rather than the sanctimonious and sentimental slush that pleases prating politicians. I am inclined to commend a Hajj to Bloomsbury for every adolescent in the land — though that thought is immediately crushed by my awareness that with the death of education in our nullifidian society, these adolescents, deprived of what was once every Englishman’s cultural background, will recognise none of the elements common to Jewry, Christianity and Islam, and will lack the curiosity to respond to stimulus.

This exhibition is important.

Hajj — Journey to the Heart of Islam is at the British Museum, WC1 (020 7323 8181, until April 15. Open Sat-Thurs, 10am-5.30pm; Fri, 10am-8.30pm. Admission £12 (concs available)

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Teachers Visit as Part of Project

NORTH Leamington School welcomed two teachers from its sister school in India last week as part of a set of visits to organise projects between the schools. Shamael Khawaja and Fauzia Ansari, of Anjman-I-Islam Saif Tyabji Girls’ School in Mumbai, visited the Sandy Lane site for five days last week. Pupils at both schools are working together on projects in geography, citizenship and religious education. A highlight of the visit was a video conference involving both sets of students in which they discussed issues of similarities and differences as part of their geography work. The visiting teachers also held an assembly to celebrate Indian’s Republic Day last Thursday. The partnership between the schools, which has been funded by the British Council, is now into its second year. A return visit by two members of North Leamington’s staff is scheduled for April.

[JP note; That would be the Islamisation of Britain project I’d guess.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Albania: “Mohammad (PBUH); the Best Model” Forum in Albania

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — On the occasion of birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), a forum titled “Mohammad; the Best Role Model” was held on February 3, in Tirana, Albania. The forum was organized by Muslims’ Committee in Albania. It began at 10:30 am. local time and was attended by various groups of people. Speeches on the Seerah and character of the Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) and papers on “the universal character of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)” and “Morality of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)” by Ali Za’eemi and Nasif Huja, respectively, were presented at the forum. At the end of the program, the participants were gifted a book entitled “Seerah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)” and some other books on Hadiths and Islamic issues.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Croatia: Ice and Snowstorms in Dalmatia

Adriatic islands and Istria snowed under, emergency in Split

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, FEBRUARY 3 — Arctic temperatures and snowstorms have caused serious disruption to traffic throughout Croatia, with major problems for everyday activities particularly being felt in the areas of Istria and Dalmatia, on the Adriatic coast, where snow is far from being a common occurrence.

This morning, the southern Adriatic city of Split, the region’s capital, awoke to a covering of around 10 centimetres of snow after a storm that meteorologists say was the most violent in fifty years. The city is effectively at a standstill, with public transport decimated and only one bus circulating in roads that have been cleared by snowploughs, without a fixed route or timetable. The traffic meltdown has also caused problems to the supply of bread and some fresh foods. City authority rules state that a “Snow Day” can be declared in the case of serious snowfall, at which point all schools and the entire city administration are automatically closed. All universities, courts and the city’s airport have also been closed.

Because of strong winds, a ship travelling from the Dalmatia islands, which are also covered in snow, collided with the shore as it attempted to dock, but no-one was injured. Road traffic towards the centre of the country and the capital Zagreb is reduced and a number of bus services have been suspended until the situation returns to normal. Meanwhile, stretches of the motorway leading to Rijeka and to the Dalmatia area are closed to traffic.

Given the rarity of the event, the local population, and young children in particular, are enjoying the snow and the unexpected day off. Snowmen have been built and some people have even been seen skiing through city streets.

In all coastal cities, meanwhile, the authorities have set out measures to take in the homeless and other citizens whose limited financial means do not allow them an adequate central heating system to combat the arctic temperatures.

Temperatures of around -20 degrees have been recorded inland in inhabited mountainous areas that are accustomed to much colder winters. The temperature in Zagreb this morning was -7 degrees, while heavier snow is forecast for tomorrow.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Two American Tourists Kidnapped in Sinai

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 3 — Two female American tourists have been kidnapped by a group of armed and masked Bedouins in the city of Dahab, on the south-eastern coast of the Sinai. ANSA has learned from local sources that the two women were part of a group of five American tourists. The other three were allowed to leave in their car, after having their mobile phones and all of their possessions stolen.

Along with the two American women, the Bedouins have also kidnapped an Egyptian interpreter.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Comic Sentenced to Jail for Islam Insult

The Arab world’s most famous actor, Adel Imam, has been sentenced to three months in jail for “defaming Islam” on stage and screen.

A Cairo court sentenced Imam, a UN goodwill ambassador described as the Arab world’s Charlie Chaplin, in absentia to three months’ jail with hard labour, after being sued by Asran Mansur, a lawyer with Islamist ties. “I will appeal the ruling,” the Egyptian comic said. “Some people seeking fame filed a suit against me over works I have done which they consider insulting to Islam, and this is, of course, not true.” The 71-year-old has a long history of legal tangles with Islamists who regard his work as blasphemous. In the latest case, Imam said the works criticised are the 1994 movie al-Irhabi (The Terrorist), in which he portrays an Islamic fundamentalist and the play al-Zaeem (The Leader), in which Imam pokes fun at the region’s autocratic leaders. “All the works in which I have starred went through the censors. Had they been found to be defamatory, the censors would have banned them,” he said. Imam has acted in more than 100 films, including the award-winning The Yacoubian Building. In a 1998 TV debate, called Star on a Hot Tin Roof, Imam squared off with three Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement whose members now hold a strong majority in Egypt’s parliament. Since 2000, Imam has served as a goodwill ambassador for the UN refugee agency, alongside the likes of Angelina Jolie and Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani. “Imam became a symbol for people promoting tolerance and human rights in the Arab world,” the agency says in a biography on its website.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

NATO’s Victory in Libya

The Right Way to Run an Intervention

NATO’s operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention. The alliance responded rapidly to a deteriorating situation that threatened hundreds of thousands of civilians rebelling against an oppressive regime. It succeeded in protecting those civilians and, ultimately, in providing the time and space necessary for local forces to overthrow Muammar al-Qaddafi. And it did so by involving partners in the region and sharing the burden among the alliance’s members.

NATO’s involvement in Libya demonstrated that the alliance remains an essential source of stability.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

UK: Is ‘Federation of Student Islamic Societies’ (FOSIS) Training the Violent Extremists of Tomorrow?

This is cross posted by Hasan Afzal at Huffington Post

University Islamic Societies have been described as ‘conveyor belts’ for extremism and terrorism. There may be some truth in this. After all, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, better known to you and I as the underwear bomber, who tried to make a martyr of himself by attempting to detonate a bomb in an airplane en route to the US was the president of UCL Islamic Society. Amazingly, Malcolm Grant, the vice-chancellor of the University, tried to later claim that campus extremism is ‘made up’. The ‘conveyor belt’ theory follows the line that young Muslims enrol into university as liberal-minded, impressionable students only to be indoctrinated by extremist Islam and turned into insular, backward-thinking, extremely conservative Muslims. In turn, the mindset of these students can then be used by terrorist recruiters to mould them into potential bombers. The rationale is convincing as this is precisely what is thought to have happened to Abdulmutallab.

All too often we see the end product of the conveyor belt. We see the Abdulmutallabs and extremists of this world when it’s too late. Ever seen what goes on in the middle? Have you ever wanted to know how well intentioned young Muslims turn into their community’s worst nightmare? I can give you a sneak peak. The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), the umbrella organisation that represents most Islamic Societies, likes to make-believe that it has no part to play in turning young Muslims into extremists. If that is the case, why is FOSIS hosting an event with a vicious hate preacher to an audience described as “exclusively for the leaders of London Islamic Societies”?

A concerned Muslim student provided us with a link (in case it is shut, have a look at this screenshot) inviting that person to a religious gathering. The concerned student had reason to be worried for Haitham al-Haddad would be speaking at that event. Haitham al-Haddad is an extremist. Let’s have a look at what this man believes in:

The Arab-Israeli conflict is one of our generation’s biggest challenges. To solve the conflict, it will take time, nuance and a lot of patience. But, that’s not how al-Haddad it. Like other extremists, he takes the far-right view that the conflict is one against Muslims and Jews (ignoring the fact that Israel’s population is one-fifth Arab). In a video on YouTube, al-Haddad’s advice to Muslims is to “be ready to pay the price for this victory from our blood”. You read that correctly. Whilst NGOs and governments across the world try to bring both sides together in peace, Mr al-Haddad has told Muslims to be ready to die. Indeed, al-Haddad’s opinion on the Gaza conflict is to tell Muslims, “to prepare themselves for jihad, all over the world.”

Furthermore, Haitham al-Haddad runs such a Sharia court. Sharia law brings untold, and often unheard, misery to moderate Muslims in the United Kingdom (just have a look at the brilliant work of One Law for All). There are many stories of women being denied justice because they are forced by their families or communities to go through the unfair and unjust sharia court system in the UK. Al-Haddad’s tribunal has issued a number of judgements (otherwise known as fatwas). In a question asked to him on why sharia law considers two women the equivalent of one man, he answers with the following, “The text (Surah Al-Baqara 2:282) which requires two female witnesses in place of one male witness, gives a clear reason for it i.e. “if one of them forgets, the other reminds her.” Is this derogatory to the status of the women or is it a revealed secret about the nature of the women?”. The misogyny and extremism is laid bare.

In another judgement, al-Haddad was asked if stoning and hand lopping should be discontinued as a barbaric practice. al-Haddad’s answer was, “As a Muslim we should know that our religion is perfect without any imperfection as Allah says, ‘this day, I have perfected your religion for you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion’. Therefore, belittling them or calling them as out-of-date constitutes disbelief as Allah says.”

A final example of the sick mind of Haitham al-Haddad comes in a fatwa asked of him what to do if a woman refuses to sleep with her husband due to a history of childhood sexual abuse. His answer is that should that woman refuse to sleep with her husband, “angels will curse” her. So, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies London is inviting someone whose views would render him a sociopath in a decent-thinking person’s judgement. This is what young Muslims in Islamic Societies across the country are taught, they are taught to hate the very society that has brought them up. Just don’t be surprised when the next Abdulmutallab decides come off the conveyor belt and into the news headlines. I challenge Nabil Ahmed, the president of FOSIS, and FOSIS London to explain why they are inviting such a nightmarish individual to their ‘religious gathering’? What good can this man do to the minds of young Muslims?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran Asks OPEC States Not to Raise Oil Output

(TEHRAN) — Iran has asked OPEC members not to raise oil production to compensate for a European Union embargo against the Islamic republic, Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said on Saturday. Qasemi said the request was forwarded in a letter to Iraq, the current head of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The European Union, which imports about 20 percent of Iran’s oil exports, adopted an oil embargo against Tehran on January 23 that would gradually cut purchases of crude from the country during the next five months. The measure was the latest effort by Western countries to curtail Iran’s nuclear programme.

“We have asked the current head of OPEC to tell members to respect the interests of other members and the rules of cooperation” within the oil cartel, Qasemi told a news conference. Qasemi said Tehran had also made the request to Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest producer which has said it is ready to make up for any shortfall in Iran’s oil exports under the new Western sanctions.

He did not give any other details, nor did he say when Iran had issued the request to Saudi Arabia. Mehr news agency said the letter was sent to Iraqi Oil Minister Abdelkarim al-Luaybi. It said that the letter criticised those willing to boost their production levels instead of observing “a policy of cooperation consistent with the interests of all members.”

Iran has repeatedly warned Gulf Arab states in recent weeks against any “unfriendly” attempts to increase oil production to compensate for tensions on the global market. If Arab neighbours compensate for the ban, “they will be held responsible for what happens,” Iran’s representative to OPEC, Mohammad Ali Khatibi, said in mid-January. “One cannot predict the consequences,” Khatibi said.

Iran is the second-biggest producer in OPEC, behind Saudi Arabia. It pumps some 3.5 million barrels a day and exports 2.5 million bpd — 70 percent of which goes to Asia, mainly China and India. Europe imported 600,000 barrels from Iran on a daily basis in the first 10 months of 2011.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Germanic Delegation in Al Abbas Holy Shrine

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency)- As usual for visiting the holy shrines, a Germanic delegation, cultural and economic figures visited Al Abbas holy shrine on 27 of January 2012. The delegation took a tour in the departments of the holy shrine, where they got information about the duty for each section. Mr. Cristan, the deputy of economic ministry declared that” It is honor for us to visit Al Abbas holy shrine, and getting the information about the work in Karbala as a whole and the holy shrine especially”. Added” It is amazing the advanced levels that the holy shrines reached in construction, scientific and other fields. We are going to visit all the holy shrines due to Al Hekma establishment invitation”. Claimed” To have collaboration with the holy shrines is a great idea to translate the thoughts of Ahl Al Bayt in the Germanic colleges. Added; the ministry of economics is ready to help the holy shrine for any project”. It is well to be mentioned that Al Hekma institution works to show the thoughts of Ahl Al Bayt for all the people.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Kuwait: Islamists Reign as Women Lose Out

KUWAIT: The Kuwaiti opposition scored a resounding election victory unparalleled since 1992 by securing 34 of the 50-member National Assembly, one more than the required absolute majority to dictate terms. Sunni Islamists and the nationalist Popular Action Bloc emerged the main winners, with Salaf and the Islamic Constitutional Movement, or Muslim Brotherhood, each winning all the four seats they contested.

The government and its supporters were hammered with Shiites winning seven seats down from nine, liberals reduced to just two from at least five in the previous National Assembly and pro-government around five MPs from as many as 15. No women were elected to the new house compared to four in the previous assembly when women made history by winning seats in the assembly. Analysts have attributed the women debacle to the female lawmakers’ blind support of the government.

With the opposition impressive win, veteran lawmaker and former three-time National Assembly speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun is tipped to become the next speaker even if the government decides to support other candidates. The win of the opposition was so impressive that leading opposition figures Jamaan Al-Harbash, Faisal Al-Muslem, Mussallam Al-Barrak and Falah Al-Sawwagh came in first position in the second, third, fourth and fifth constituencies.

The opposition also bagged 18 of the 20 seats available in the fourth and fifth tribal constituencies, in addition to seven seats in the third, at least five in the second and four in the first. Prominent winners include Saadoun, a member of parliament since 1975, Mussallam Al-Barrak, who secured over 30,000 votes, a record high in Kuwait’s history. The new house includes 26 new MPs with 19 fresh members, with the third constituency producing the maximum number of new faces with six.

Only two of the 13 former MPs who were questioned on charges of corruption managed to get re-elected. They are Saad Al-Khanfour and Saleh Ashour. The rest either did not contest, lost in tribal primaries or defeated in the National Assembly election. Kuwaiti tribes, though emerged the main platform for the opposition, secured only 23 seats, down from 25 in the previous assembly with the loss coming from the first and second electoral districts with one each.

Awazem, Mutairi and Ajmans maintained their strength with six, five and four MPs, respectively, while Rasheedi got one more on the four it had. Enezi tribe had only one seat compared to three in the previous assembly, Hawajer lost its solitary seat while Oteibi got one compared to two. Shimmari however secured one seat while it had nothing in the previous house.

The Salafists and their supporters improved from just three in the previous assembly to as many as 12 and the Islamic Constitutional Movement and its supporters also improved from just to two to as many as eight. There are several independent Islamists. The Popular Action Bloc, headed by Saadoun, raised its strength by one seat to five but it also has at least four supporters, thus becoming an important force in the new assembly. Liberals suffered the most with losses by all the Democratic Forum four candidates including former MPs Salah Al-Mulla and Mohammad Al-Abduljader. Other liberals to lose include Aseel Al-Awadhi and deputy speaker Abdullah Al-Roumi.

Shiites were reduced to seven MPs from nine in the previous house with Maasouma Al-Mubarak and Rula Dashti the main losers. The Shiite National Islamic Alliance added one more seat to former MP Adnan Abdulsamad when former MP Ahmad Lari won. Hussein Al-Qallaf and new comer Abdulhameed Dashti also won. Former female MP Maasouma Al-Mubarak, who maintained her position among the top 10 during most of the counting period but lost at the end, said she will challenge the results in court, alleging irregularities in counting and calculation.

But the main loser among Shiites was moderate MP Hassan Jowhar who at times was close to the opposition. He came in the 17th position. Main losers among the pro-government MPs include Mekhled Al-Azemi, Khalaf Dumaitheer, Askar Al-Enezi and Mohammad Al-Huwailah. Among the main former MPs who returned is leading liberal MP Mohammad Al-Sager, Islamists Mohammad Al-Kundari, Abdullatif Al-Ameeri and Mohammad Al-Hatlani. The main surprise of the election perhaps is the unexpected victory of controversial anti-opposition figures Nabeel Al-Fadl and Mohammad Al-Juwaihel, both from the third constituency. Juwaihel and Fadl, a columnist in Al-Watan, have been highly critical of Bedouin tribes and the opposition.

The two candidates are believed to have received most of their votes from the 9,000-strong Shiite voters who were urged by their religious leaders to support them. Shiite candidate Fakher Al-Qallaf, who lost in the same constituency, protested strongly after the results at why Shiite leaders supported Juwaihel and Fadl and not their own candidates. The whereabouts of Juwaihel are unknown since he disappeared on Monday after harshly criticizing the Mutairi tribe at an election rally, prompting thousands of tribesmen to burn his election tent.

The new assembly must hold its first session within two weeks of officially announcing the results. Several constituencies erupted in celebrations even before the results were officially announced, with some people firing from automatic weapons to mark the impressive win. MP Obaid Al-Wasmi, a professor of law who won for the first time, told cheering supporters that he will open all corruption files and will push for the implementation of the law against all. “The Kuwait of tomorrow will not be the Kuwait of yesterday” said the outspoken opposition figure.

           — Hat tip: RR[Return to headlines]

Prophet Muhammad (S) In the Eyes of Non-Muslim Thinkers

By Hasan Kamoonpuri — The entire world of Islam is all set to observe the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) on 12th Rabee al Awwal (February 5). He introduced Islam, which is the culmination of the core teachings, values and essence of all the 1,24,000 prophets sent by Allah from time to time in different lands. The Prophet of Islam’s wise sayings, glorious actions and attitudes are everlasting guidelines for mankind towards virtue and righteousness. He is the supreme role model in every aspect of their lives.

Allah the Exalted says in the Glorious Quran “O Prophet! Surely We have sent you as a witness, and as a bearer of good news and as a warner, And as one inviting to Allah by His permission, and as a light-giving torch. And give to the believers the good news that they shall have a great grace from Allah. And be not compliant to the unbelievers and the hypocrites. Disregard their annoying talk, and put thy trust in Allah. Allah is sufficient as a Protector”. (33:45-48). The Prophet (pbuh) preached an all-encompassing way of life (Deen), founded a state, built a nation, laid down a moral code, initiated countless social and political reforms, established a dynamic and powerful society to practice and represent Islamic teachings, and completely revolutionised the worlds of human thought and action for all times to come.

Over the centuries, many eminent non-Muslim scholars have rated Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) most highly and have given due recognition to his greatness. Mahatma Gandhi, speaking on the character of the Prophet (PBUH) said: “I wanted to know the best of one who holds today’s undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind. I became more than convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet (PBUH), the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to this friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the 2nd volume (of the Prophet’s biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of the great life.” (Young India, 1924).

Sir George Bernard Shaw writes in his book The Genuine Islam, Singapore, Vol 1, No 8, 1936): “I have always held the religion of Muhammad (PBUH) in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion, which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence, which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him — the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of Humanity. If a man like him were to alive today he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness: I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad (PBUH) that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Russia and China Veto U.N. Security Council Resolution Condemning Syria

Russia and China on Saturday vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Saturday condemning the Syrian government’s crackdown on protests for the second time. At the meeting in Manhattan, 13 countries voted for the resolution proposed by European and Arab nations that gave strong support to an Arab League plan to end the crackdown and call for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside. But Russia and China both vetoed the measure.

[Return to headlines]

Syria Releases the 7/7 ‘Mastermind’

The alleged terrorist mastermind behind the July 7 London bombings is reported to have been freed from a Syrian jail by President Bashar Assad’s regime.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

The U.S. And the “Nightmare” of Hard-Line Islamic Regimes

by Salah Bayaziddi

Last week, the U.S. confronted a new reality in the Middle East and the possible “nightmare” of Islamic regimes spreading across the Middle East and Africa. In a surprising turning point, the international media reported “American citizens barred from leaving Egypt have sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo amid growing tensions between the two longtime allies over an Egyptian investigation into an allegation of foreign-funded pro-democracy groups.” The Obama administration immediately reacted and said it was disappointed with Egypt’s handing of the issue, which U.S. officials have warned could stand in the way of more than $1 billion in badly need U.S. aid. The growing tension between the two allies may have damaged more than three decades of close military cooperation and, at the same time, it reflects the uncertainty as they redefine their relationship nearly one year after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February 2011.

Since the rise of massive political upheaval in the Arab world, and the fall of dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and most recently Yemen, the process of regime change is likely to continue, and it seems Syria is next in line. While this massive political turmoil and eventual regime changes can be interpreted as a rise of political consciousness and pro-democracy movements in the Arab world, since the early stages, the U.S. has shown deep concern that developments in the most volatile region of the world could change the political landscape of the Arab and Muslim world from Morocco to Malaysia. Nevertheless, U.S. officials have hesitated to openly discuss the gravity and threat of hijacking Arab revolutions by the hard-line Islamic groups who would bring an anti-Western atmosphere in the region. Even from point of view of people in the region, the dream of achieving freedom and political representation seems to be doomed and the new political groups that took over from ousted dictators are overwhelmed by the massive rise of radical Islam and religious fundamentalism.

The Muslim Brotherhood, one of the region’s oldest Islamist parties, founded in Egypt, seems to be one of the biggest winners in the Arab and Islamic world. Now the Muslim Brotherhood strives to influence governments in the region toward more Islamic values following Arab Spring. These fundamentalists zealously believe they have God-given obligations to overthrow the pro-Western governments of their respective nations and stay away from all Western values and political terminologies, such as democracy and human rights. But at the same time, there appears to be an effort to show a different vision of these worrying signs and unprecedented developments following the rise of political Islam in the Middle East and North African countries. Indeed, some political circles aim to show that these Islamists are trying to work out how to integrate more Islam into new democratic systems. Many terms used in the debate are ambiguous, and some, especially the concept of Sharia, are often misunderstood by non-Muslims.

In line with this argument of so-called “moderate Islam,” Ennahda, the Islamist party leading the vote for Tunisia’s constituent assembly, is the first in the Arab Spring countries to start spelling out how much Islam it wants. It says it respects democracy and human rights and wants to work with secularist parties to draft a new constitution. Its leader, Rashid Ghannouchi, has long advocated moderate Islamist policies, like those of the AKP, the ruling party in Turkey. But there is an important question that must be asked here: Does Ghannouchi truly believe in democracy and free political representation based on universal human rights and values’ The answer may show there are worrying signs of a terrifying, bleak future. In line with this troubling outcome, a European media report provided further details on the return to Tunisia of Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Ghannouchi, who, following the ousting of Tunisian dictator, compared his views to those of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. While this image seems to be a suitable and satisfactory outcome for the Arab Spring, there is worrying news about the new, poised-to-be leader of the first freely elected Arab nation. In 1994, scholar Martin Kramer reported on the extremist background of Ghannouchi. According to that report, “Assuming a valid distinction can be made between Islamists who are “extremist” and “reformist,” Ghannouchi clearly belongs to the first category. Since his last visit to the U.S., there are worrying signs because he has openly threatened U.S. interests, supported Iraq against the U.S. and campaigned against the Arab-Israeli peace process. Indeed, Ghannouchi in exile has personified the rejection of U.S. policies, even as he dispatches missives to the State Department.”

In the beginning, the U.S. somehow managed to be on both sides of the pro-democracy movements and simultaneously on the side of the authoritarian Arab governments, finally it ended up to a situation that no longer could ignore the popular revolutions in the Arab world. The Obama administration is fully aware that this political drama is still unfolding and the gravity of the situation will have a huge impact on the scope of its national interest in the Arab world and beyond. There also could be a long period of political instability and social unrest, which could breed economic chaos across the region and derail economic recoveries in the U.S. and Europe. While some might argue the Obama administration cannot afford to remain on the sidelines for much longer, there are some credible reasons to have second thoughts about supporting freedom and democratic movements in the Arab and Islamic world. If our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us anything, it is that the removal of tyranny alone is insufficient to create stable democracy.

In light these factors, sooner or later, the U.S. will have to face the reality on the ground and evaluate its clear stand following the ouster of its authoritarian allies in the region. However, there is no doubt that the spreading political unrest across the Arab world is giving the Obama administration its most acute foreign policy crisis to date. Egypt, the largest Arab nation, is critical of U.S. foreign policy and its broader goals in the Middle East: The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, containment of Iran’s influence and nuclear ambitious and counterterrorism. To grasp the gravity of the situation in Egypt, note the words of former diplomatic troubleshooter Nicholas Burns, who was the Bush administration’s point man on Iran from 2005 to 2008 when he said: “The consequences of instability in Egypt to the U.S. are really important. Indeed, the strategic interests of the U.S. are on the line.” It seems logical to assume that consequences are so crystal clear after the collapse of such an ally and it will likely embolden U.S. enemies around the world.

It is necessary to analyze the social and political roots of a society before condemning them to anarchy and political unrest. It is not by accident that while every other region in the world has seen significant gains for democracy and freedom, the Arab countries and the Islamic world have experienced a significant increase in repression. The Arab world needs to experience a massive social and political transition before it gives its societies democracy and individual freedoms. There is no doubt the U.S., in the aftermath of Sept. 11, didn’t pay much attention to the necessity of these preconditions, and the Bush administration was hoping by the democratization of Islamic states that the threat of political Islam would be diminished. Speaking on the eve of war in 2003, President George W. Bush told the guests at the American Enterprise Institute’s annual dinner that he discerned “hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Watch: M.I.A.’s Middle Finger to Saudi Arabia’s Insane Driving Laws Trumps Madonna’s Sexy Pop

“Anyway, it’s not hard to imagine what the Sri Lankan-British singer — a sucker for political statements — is saying. It’s a great big middle finger to Saudi Arabia’s inhumane laws about women. It’s the only country in the world where women are banned from driving. Muslim academics warned in December that allowing women to drive would “provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce”. Please.”

[Note from Egghead: The video is worth a watch, but I think that the British author has completely missed the mark. I see an Islamic gangsta type video with a bunch of covered up men watching a bunch of covered up women dancing around car races with male drivers. There MIGHT be one brief scene with women driving — but otherwise the women are strictly passengers or onlookers. I see a joyful celebration of Islam with Middle Eastern musical riffs. Compared to the previous M.I.A. video called Born Free (which is also worth a watch on YouTube), this video can hardly be called an indictment of Muslim politics regarding anything including female driving — whereas the Born Free video is clearly an damning indictment of the ‘police state’ of the United States of America which murders its ‘victims’ based on arbitrary physical characteristics versus their own evil actions.]

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]


Is This Russian Landscape the Birthplace of Native Americans?

Mountainous region of Siberia gave rise to New World peoples, study says.

Native Americans originated from a small mountainous region in southern Siberia, new genetic research shows. The work is the most targeted study yet to suggest a genetic “homeland” for North America’s indigenous peoples, according to the authors. New DNA analysis of ethnic groups living in the Altay Mountains revealed a unique genetic mutation that also occurs in modern-day northern Native Americans.

In the case of the Altay people, the scientists found a mutation in one paternal lineage that arose about 18,000 years ago-a genetic marker that’s also found in modern-day Native Americans. The finding dovetails with previous studies.

This time line also fits with other genetic research showing that the first Altay populations began to leave for North America about 15,000 years ago, most likely reaching the continent via the now submerged Beringia land bridge.

According to anthropologist Connie Mulligan, the new paper-to be published in the February 10 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics-offers the most detailed genetic picture yet of ethnic Altay peoples.

Yet she thinks Shurr is “a little overly specific” in saying that Native Americans’ founding DNA comes from the Altay region. “I would broaden (that) to say (it’s) that general region of central East Asia,” said Mulligan, of the University of Florida in Gainesville. That’s because the mitochondrial and Y chromosome mutations that Schurr identified are also found together elsewhere in Asia, for instance, in China and Mongolia, she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Russian Scientists Poised to Reach Ice-Buried Antarctic Lake

At a tiny outpost in the middle of Antarctica, Russian scientists are poised to become the first humans to reach a massive liquid lake that has been cut off from the sunlit world for millennia, and may house uniquely adapted life forms that are new to science. Researchers are racing against the fast-approaching bitter cold and total darkness of Antarctic winter to complete a drill hole to Lake Vostok, one of the largest lakes on Earth, and the largest of the nearly 400 ice-buried lakes discovered on the frigid continent so far.

The researchers are not lost, nor is there evidence that anything sinister is afoot at Vostok Station, contrary to reports from other news outlets that suggest the scientists are in danger or missing. It’s an effort that began more than 10 years ago, and one that has been plagued by difficulties — and this season, the stakes are higher than ever. If they don’t reach the lake before they are forced to leave for the winter, the Russian team will be forced to wait two more years to sample water from the lake, and discover what may be living in it.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Team Anna Invites Muslims at Rally to Project Secular Image

Faizabad (UP), Feb 3 (PTI) Stung by charges that it was playing in the hands of RSS and BJP, Team Anna today invited some prominent Muslim personalities to share stage at a public meeting here addressed by Kiran Bedi. Prof Tariq Sayeed, Head of the Urdu department in a local college chaired the meeting where the main speakers included Mufti Shamim Qasmi, a religious scholar of Darul Uloom Deoband and former MP Ilyas Azami. Besides putting up the portraits of Anna Hazare, Bhagat Singh and Mahatma Gandhi, the organisers installed a big photograph of freedom fighter Ashfaq Ullah Khan on the dais. Addressing the meeting organised by India Against Corruption, Team Anna member and former IPS officer Bedi appealed to voters to exercise their right to reject tainted contestants. At the same time, she appealed to voters to back those who are secular and do not have criminal background. “The Uttar Pradesh elections will pave the way for the country’s future,” she told the electorate.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

India: Church Decries Silence on Sharia Court’s Verdict

BANGALORE: Rejecting the charge of forced religious conversions in Kashmir valley by it, the Catholic Church on Tuesday decried the silence by the political class over a Sharia court verdict on the issue and said it was ‘disastrous’. “We are against forced conversions and careful over somebody wanting to change his or her religion… Surprisingly the political class has not spoken a word about it (the Sharia court order), which is disastrous,” Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India President Oswald Cardinal Gracis said. The stand of the Catholic church was very clear that there was no question of any forced conversion in the Kashmir valley, but it was the fundamental right of the people to choose his or her religion, he told reporters here. The self-styled shariah court had recently held pastor C M Khanna and his associate Jim Borst guilty of luring Muslim youths to Christianity. Gracias said the Sharia court’s decision does not have the jurisdiction over any other faiths. “… If we allow this then you will have parallel systems which is not possible in a democratic country,” he added.

“Apart from Catholic churches there are other churches running their educational institutions in Kashmir valley … We will not own up for conversion activities taking place across the country,” Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) spokesperson Babu Joseph said. Gracias said the 30th general body meeting of CBCI would be held here from February 1 to 8.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Kyrgyz Islam: Embracing the Future or Breeding Radicals?

The Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan has its own unique brand of Islam. Now, it has opened its doors to more fundamentalist strains of the religion. But will it help defuse social tensions, or lead to radicalization and the erosion of freedoms? The spectacle of tens of thousands of Kyrgyz men praying in the capital’s central square, just underneath the Vladimir Lenin monument, says much about Kyrgyzstan. Even in its heyday, Communist ideology was never able to mobilize as many people as Islam does nowadays. But the unity of Muslims at prayer masks the vast differences in theology and lifestyle that exist among various branches of Islam in Kyrgyzstan. Over the past decade, the country has become a testing ground for Islamic missionaries of all kinds. Some of them have less in common with each other than they do with Jews or Christians.

Kyrgyz people converted to Islam in the 17th century but they were never over-zealous about their faith. Mixed with shamanism and nomadic customs, the Kyrgyz version of Islam has long been more of a moral code than a religious doctrine. It has helped shape a society where women are just as active and ambitious as men, and where religiosity went hand in hand with a good education. Now, though, that is starting to change. “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan has seen a very fast growth of Islam. Some of it is domestically driven — poverty, poor education, corruption, mistrust of authorities — all of that is prodding people toward the religion,” Kadyr Malikov, a Kyrgyz expert in religious studies told RT. “But much of it is also driven from abroad. Countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are very generous when it comes to building mosques here.”

Islam is on the rise across all of Central Asia, but only in Kyrgyzstan have the authorities adopted an open door policy. Take the Tabligh Jamaat sect. Its members have featured in a string of terrorism investigations, and, as a result, the group was labeled extremist by many European governments. In Kyrgyzstan, their community is growing fast. “We teach people how to find happiness in Allah, how to build your life in accordance with his wishes. And by teaching others, we learn ourselves,” says Khanybek Masyrov, a member of Tabligh Jamaat in Kyrgyzstan. While gender separation is emerging as a new feature of Kyrgyz public life, women are not excluded or marginalized — indeed, they are at the forefront of the Islamic resurgence. RT visited an Islamic academy where more than half the students are female, and their number has tripled in the past few years. “When they graduate, they’ll get a diploma in Arabic studies and Sharia law. There is a lot of interest in these areas and, if they decide to work, it shouldn’t be difficult finding a job,” says Sanaubar Kendzhaeva, a teacher of Arabic language.

The resurgence of Islam in forms traditionally alien to Kyrgyz society has many opponents. Some fear that Saudi or Pakistani versions of Islam may corrupt the country’s traditional values. “When the first Islamic missionaries arrived here three centuries ago, they were respectful of our customs. That’s why Islam in Kyrgyzstan has been very much integrated with our indigenous culture… But the version of Islam that’s being pushed on us nowadays, with hijabs and restrictions, is not only foreign to us, it’s aggressive,” believes Chinara Seydakhmatova, who works as a designer of traditional Kyrgyz costumes. The country’s authorities are not oblivious to the rising tide of Islamization and, some suggest, are even trying to harness it. Kyrgyzstan’s top officials are frequently to be seen praying alongside the crowds. They claim full religious freedom is the best strategy against radicalization.

“The results of the Arab Spring have shown that secular governments are cracking under the pressure of political Islam. Muslims are an enormous human resource. The one who knows how to manage this force will rule the streets,” Kadyr Malikov believes. For Kyrgyzstan, which has seen two revolutions in five years, there are few things more pressing than finding a formula to prevent all hell breaking loose again — even if that does mean embracing a fundamentalist strain of the Muslim faith.

[JP note: Both.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslims in Nepal Demand Recognition as a Distinct Minority Group

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — The Muslim community in nepal has demanded that they be recognised as a separate minority group — not conflated under the rubric of the ethnic group Madhesis. The Muslims threatened to take to the streets if they are not given separate status and the government continues to ignore problems faced by the community. Muslim leaders, speaking at a programme organised by the Nepal Muslim Ittehad Organisation, said the government needs to take measures to boost participation of the community in all sectors of the country. The National Muslim Ittehad Organistaion warned of protests if the government continues to classify followers of Islam as ethnic Madhesis. The organisation said it has already submitted a memorandum to the government. Also speaking at the programme, UML leader Mahamud Aalam said that the community would not remain silent until the governmental ensured propositional representation of Muslims in each and every sector of the state. He accused the government of failing to recognise 4 million Muslims, saying there was no alternative to protests to air their grievances. “The government’s move to include Muslims in the Madhesi is a ploy to ignore the identity of Muslims,” said Aalam.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

New Bible Translation Introduced so as Not to Offend Muslims

In the world of questionable and sometimes downright silly Bible translations, one would think that it couldn’t get any worse.

After all, we’ve seen the “In da beginnin’ Big Daddy created da heaven an’ da earth” Ebonics Bible, as well as the “Apostle’s Log” Star Trek English paraphrase Bible. In a more serious effort, the New Oxford Annotated Bible was created in part by pro-”gay” and feminist scholars in order to set forth a more “gay” revisionist interpretation of Scripture.

But now there is a major controversy developing as the latest altered Bibles are being created by organizations that most would think of as being more conservative and reasonable. At the forefront of the controversy are the Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Summer Institute of Linguistics and Frontiers, all of which are producing Bible translations that remove or modify terms which they have deemed offensive to Muslims.

That’s right: Muslim-friendly Bibles.

Included in the controversial development is the removal of any references to God as “Father,” to Jesus as the “Son” or “the Son of God.” One example of such a change can be seen in an Arabic version of the Gospel of Matthew produced and promoted by Frontiers and SIL. It changes Matthew 28:19 from this:

“baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”

to this:

“cleanse them by water in the name of Allah, his Messiah and his Holy Spirit.”

A large number of such Muslim-sensitive translations already are published and well-circulated in several Muslim-majority nations such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia.

[Return to headlines]

Far East

Video: A-ha’s ‘Take on Me’ Gets North Korean Treatment

Five North Korean accordion players have breathed new life into A-ha’s classic 1980’s hit ‘Take On Me’ with a video version recorded just two days after they heard the song for the first time. The man behind the video, Norwegian artist Morten Traavik, said the musicians from the hermetically sealed totalitarian state were not previously acquainted with Norway’s foremost pop stars, who scored a massive international hit in 1985 with their breakthrough single.

“It didn’t seem like they had heard the song before, but they were extremely effective. They got the CD on Monday afternoon and the clip was recorded on Wednesday morning,” Traavik told newspaper Verdens Gang. The musicians performed the song at the Kum Song School in Pyongyang, where Traavik says they have also been practising other Norwegian classics.

The North Korean accordionists form part of the artist’s ‘Promised Land’ project. They will join him next week for the opening of the Barents Spectacle festival in Kirkenes in the far north of Norway.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Muslim Privacy Comes at a Cost to Ratepayers

RATEPAYERS will pay for a $21,000 blowout in the cost of special curtains to protect Muslim women’s privacy during female-only exercise classes at a suburban pool.

Monash Council has approved the extra cash, bringing the cost of the curtains to more than $66,000. Last year, it won an exemption from anti-discrimination laws to run the women-only sessions at its Clayton pool, but failed to get a Victorian Multicultural Commission grant to pay for the curtains. Monash councillor Denise McGill yesterday questioned the amount.

“We could have bought 600 (Islamic) swimsuits for the price we are paying for the curtains,” she said. Cr McGill said she did not oppose the sessions, but believed the money could be better spent. Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Nazeem Hussain said: “The purchase of these curtains, and whether they are too expensive, is a decision for the councillors to make, and if the constituents aren’t happy … they are able to object.” Monash Mayor Stefanie Perri said it was wrong to say the sessions were only for Muslims or other minorities.

“This … will allow women from all backgrounds the opportunity to enjoy a girls’ night out in Clayton and will include a series of dry exercise programs, including Zumba and yoga classes,” Cr Perri said. As reported in the Herald Sun last year, the push for the sessions came from a group of mainly African Muslim women. Council accepted a screen was needed for “cultural reasons”. Women will pay a fee for the classes. The extra money needed for the curtains will be drawn from Monash pool funds.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Europe at Bay

Jeremy Harding on migrants and the battle for borders

A young, personable man who speaks fair English, Hamraz had been in Dunkirk for about a month when we met. He was a member of the Afghan National Army, from the district of Azra, south-east of Kabul. Early in 2011, going home on leave, he was called to account by local Taliban as a collaborator and told he would have to take part in a car-bomb attack on a nearby hospital if he wanted to redeem himself. He couldn’t return to his regiment without putting his family at risk and he couldn’t stay in Azra, so he left the country. The bomb attack on the hospital went ahead, reducing it to rubble. More than thirty people were killed. He had been on the road for quite a while; his heart was set on the UK, where his cousin had already arrived. The cousin, he explained, had been one of Vice-President Haji Abdul Qadr’s bodyguards at the time of his assassination in 2002, and had gone into exile in Pakistan, but started to receive death threats on his mobile phone eight years later. So now he was in Birmingham, and it made sense for Hamraz to join him if he could steal a ride in a lorry and hop the Channel. The West’s exertions on far-off battlefields, shaping a world in its likeness, are among the reasons Europe is the place of choice for thousands of people like Hamraz. In ways we fail to acknowledge, we issue the invitation and map their journeys towards us.

In Calais, a group of Eritrean asylum seekers talks about the war for independence from Ethiopia. They have a good sense of the history though the oldest would have been ten when the war ended in 1991. Their destination is the UK, but nobody seems to be making a connection for the Channel crossing. They’ve got this far by dodging the Eurodac identification system, which means that they avoided fingerprinting in the first EU country they entered (probably Greece or Italy). The Cool Britannia eat-by date is long expired, and they know it, but they cling to the lingering hope of a deregulated country where they can link up with other Eritreans — there are 40,000 in Britain — and find a way of life.

A thin Ethiopian, spooning up a charity risotto, admits very cautiously to a ‘political problem’ in Addis Ababa, and goes on to explain that his passion is long-distance running. He competed in Serbia, then went on to run in Greece, where he spent several months and won seven races — ‘Google me in Greek alphabet if you know it’ — but for reasons he won’t explain he’s burned his bridges at home. His distance is 10k. ‘Running,’ he says, ‘is all about this.’ He taps his forehead with his finger. England will do more for his mental attitude than Serbia or Greece, and 2012 is Britain’s Olympic year: sports psychologists will be queuing to receive him. All that remains is to slip across the Channel.

Hundreds of thousands attempt to enter Europe without permission every year, or stay on when their visas have expired. Calls to tighten European immigration policy go hand in hand with the project of strengthening its borders, yet it is still a desirable place to be, despite the fact that a majority of Europeans would prefer a deserter from Afghanistan or an athlete from Ethiopia to go away. There are also some who worry about the migrants who are already here: in the vast majority, their papers are in order, they pay taxes and draw benefits, but there’s a nagging suspicion that they are a net drain on European exchequers. In recession country, that makes it easy to cast them as the enemy within.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Washington Imam: US Muslims Live Under Nazi-Style Oppression

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — The oppression of Muslims in the United States has become similar to the mistreatment Jews experienced in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, said a US-based Imam. “This is the atmosphere we live in. These are the environmental circumstances that we encounter as we try to practice our daily Islam,” Abdul Alim Musa, the Imam of Masjid Al-Islam in Washington, DC, told in an interview conducted on Thursday local time on the US East Coast. That has turned many Muslims into “government informers” and reinforced the “state of suspicion and paranoia” in which Muslims live, Musa added. “Many new immigrants that come to the United States are hired right off the boat, to go to the masjid (mosque), right, and become spies for the government,” he said. “In fact, the government, seems that they are importing spies from our countries, right, to infiltrate Muslim group movements and organizations,” the Masjid Al-Islam Imam asserted.

Musa made the comments shortly after a May 2006 intelligence report was released which suggested that New York police officers should expand their covert operations against Shia communities in the northeastern region of the US, solely because of their religion. “This document is a continuation of the oppression, the spreading of fear and suspicion, not only to the general public, about Muslims, but also amongst Muslims themselves,” Musa said. According to many Muslims, hate crimes, racial profiling, and discrimination have increased in the US since the 9/11 attacks. In January 2012, it was revealed that the New York Police Department (NYPD) had used an anti-Islamic documentary film entitled “The Third Jihad” as a training video in 2011. The video, which was used to train over 1,500 NYPD anti-terrorist police cadets, depicted Muslims as violent and supportive of extremism.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: You Haven’t a Prayer With the New Atheists

As if the Guardian were not already preachy enough, it has signed up an actual preacher to write its leaders and op-eds. The Rev Dr Giles Fraser resigned as a canon of St Paul’s in sympathy with people camped on its doorstep for whom I think the kindest word is “troubled”. His departure puzzled his colleagues, who had detected beneath his right-on sound bites a Trollopian eagerness for preferment. They were wrong. Giles is now a professional hack, and he has used his first big article to suggest that the Occupy movement may “revitalise traditional Christianity”.

Of all the delusions nurtured by Left-wing Christians, perhaps the loopiest is that anyone under the age of 40 gives a monkey’s about their opinions. Let me spell this out for ex-Canon Fraser (who, like his former boss Richard Chartres, is jolly keen on his “Doctor” title, though unlike the bishop he at least has a proper doctorate). Chartres could don mitre and nose-peg and ordain the Occupy protesters as priests of the Church of England and it still wouldn’t revitalise Christianity. England’s few remaining churchgoers have lost any sympathy they had with the smelly fanatics, who yesterday locked boy scouts out of their London headquarters so they could squat in it.

But the crucial point is that the sharpest young opinion-formers are atheists. This is a development that seems to have been missed by the old boobies who pass for bishops in the Anglican and Catholic Churches. It’s a rapid and startling change in our religious landscape and not one that is going to be reversed. The average bright 25-year-old Briton isn’t looking for supernatural solutions to existential problems. Senior churchmen speak of the “spiritual hunger” of the young. That’s wishful thinking. The next generation don’t believe in God. Few of them frame their arguments as rabidly as Richard Dawkins; they don’t all use the word “atheist” — “humanist” is cooler — but that’s what they are. If they worship anything, it’s “human rights” or, in the case of Johann Hari, Laurie Penny and Owen Jones, themselves.

Their attitude towards Christians ranges from indifference to hatred. This is partly thanks to the paedophile scandal in the Catholic Church. We can argue about the extent to which this has been misreported, but not about the fact that crimes against children were covered up by bishops (and not just conservative ones, either). These crimes were seized upon by academics, writers and opportunistic publishers to create an indestructible caricature of institutional Christianity. One reason that caricature isn’t challenged is that this is the first generation of young people whose parents didn’t go to church themselves. Their religious education consists of nativity plays, visits to Sikh temples and lectures about energy-saving light bulbs.

But that doesn’t make the new atheists stupid, despite their intergalactic levels of conceit. The brightest of them are far, far cleverer than the bishops, who (if you ignore the puzzling anomaly of Rowan Williams) are men of middling intellect — and that’s being polite, in the case of the Catholic hierarchy. All that drivel about “religion in the public square” makes me want to convert to a more rigorous creed, such as a Prince Philip-worshipping cargo cult. I was going to suggest that, for all the good they do, the bishops might as well join Giles Fraser and write Guardian leaders for a living. But, frankly, they’re not up to it.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


New Life-Forms Found in Blue Holes — Clues to Life in Alien Oceans?

Bacteria in Bahamas may resemble possible microbes on icy moons, experts say.

Cave-diving scientists have discovered hot spots of microbial life deep inside three ocean abysses in the Bahamas called blue holes. Many of the blue holes’ microbes aren’t known to science. But the colonies that the team was able to identify appear to feed on sulfur compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide, that are toxic to most other forms of life.

The announcement of the hardy new bacteria intrigues not only researchers seeking extreme life on Earth but also those looking for it off-world. That’s because similar conditions might exist in pitch-black oceans millions of miles away-perhaps under the icy crusts of Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, said Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist and NASA’s deputy chief scientist for solar system exploration.

“My ears always perk up when I hear about sulfur-based ecosystems and microbes in extreme environments. Much of the chemistry that may dominate ice-covered ocean worlds is sulfur chemistry,” said Hand, also a National Geographic Society emerging explorer who wasn’t involved in the new research. (The Society owns National Geographic News.) “It’s through our study of life’s extremes on Earth that we can extend our understanding of habitable environments off Earth,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]