Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/25/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/25/2009Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan were ambushed by “opposition groups” near Mazar-i-Sharif. The Swedes fired back, and three of the enemy-like people were killed. According to rumor (I haven’t seen it in English yet) there will be an investigation by Swedish military authorities into the conduct of their soldiers.

In other news, drought-stricken Indian farmers are asking their unmarried daughters to plow the fields au naturel, so that they will embarrass the gods into providing rain.

Thanks to AA, Apollon Zamp, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Gaia, Insubria, Nilk, Steen, TB, VH, Zonka, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Europe and the EU
Berlusconi in Phoenician Tomb Flap
Italy: Lowering the Limit to Save Private Giusy
Italy: D’addario-Berlusconi Recordings Online — Right and Left Clash
Italy: Muslim Group Urges German Chancellor to ‘Fight Islamophobia’
Italy: Muslim Annual Summer Camp to be Held in Quake-Hit Abruzzo
UK: Gallery’s Invitation to Deface the Bible Brings Obscene Response
UK: Huge Mosque Build Given Go-Ahead
UK: Police Called to Religion Row
UK: WWI Veteran Patch Dies Aged 111
North Africa
In Egypt Writers Are Free to Criticize Authority, Al-Ghitani
Morocco Challenges Mideast Holocaust Mind-Set
Israel and the Palestinians
Arab TV Network Closed After Arafat Murder Claims
Middle East
Journey Through the West Bank, Where Life is “Frozen”
Turkey: Discrimination on the Pitch
Turkey: 200 Fundamentalist Group Members Arrested
Turkey: Hagia Sophia’s Angel Uncovered
Turkey: Despite Europe’s Request, Ankara Continues to Waver on Religious Freedom
UAE: ‘God’ Shoes Confiscated for Breaking Islamic Law
South Asia
India: Inquiry Into Confessional Polarisation a Pretext Against Religious Minorities
India: a Year After the Swami’s Murder, A “Day of Peace and Harmony” In Orissa
India: Plowing Naked, Not Singing in the Rain
Pakistan: Swat Taliban Leader Vows to Seize Assets of Pro-Army ‘Traitors’
Swedes Kill Three in Afghanistan Fire Fight
Far East
China: Peking is Planning to Tear Down the Historical Centre of Kashgar
Tibet — China: Lawyer Ejected Because of “No Use”: Monk Sentenced to Life
Australia — Pacific
Mad Cow Swapped So Hindus Can Hold Sacred Ceremonies
Amnesty: More Attention to Human Rights
Bloody Siege of Calais: The Violent New Breed of Migrants Who Will Let Nothing Stop Them Coming to Britain
EU: No to Repulsions Back to Risk Countries
Immigrants: Maroni, We’re Kinder Than the Vatican
Italy and Algeria Sign Cooperation Agreement
Save the Children, Fears for Minors in Libya
Culture Wars
Abortion: Spain; Judiciary, Adolescents Can Decide at 16
A Jihad on Bruno: Islamofashionist Terror Threat

Europe and the EU

Berlusconi in Phoenician Tomb Flap

Premier asked to explain alleged finds at Sardinian villa

(ANSA) — Rome, July 24 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi must come clean about whether he is ‘hiding’ 30 ancient Phoenician tombs at his Sardinian villa, a former culture minister said Friday, adding to calls from archaeologists and opposition politicians. The possible existence of the tombs came to light in audio tapes published by left-leaning weekly Espresso this week alleged to be of conversations between Berlusconi and an escort girl, Patrizia D’Addario, who claims she was paid to attend parties at his home in Rome.

In one of the conversations posted Thursday, the male speaker alleged to be the premier appears to be showing D’Addario photos of his Sardinian residence, Villa Certosa, and points out where the 30 tombs, dating to 300 BC, were found.

The Italian media has reported that the Sardinian authorities are unaware of the archaeological find on the premier’s private property, which by law must be reported to the authorities to inspect and decided whether to excavate.

“If what the premier said is true and the existence of the tombs is confirmed, we will need to ask him if he has followed the measures set out by law to safeguard the country’s artistic and archaeological heritage,” said Giovanna Melandri of the opposition Democratic Party (PD), who served as culture minister from 1998-2001.

“It would be extremely serious if the law, to which all Italian citizens are subject, were to have been violated”.

“Villa Certosa, as far as we know, does not yet enjoy privileges of extraterritoriality,” she added.

An international observatory for the protection of archeological sites meanwhile lodged a complaint with Rome prosecutors and the headquarters of Italy’s art police asking them to verify whether a crime had been committed and if the tombs should be seized.


On Thursday Manuela Ghizzoni, the PD’s chief representative in the Chamber of Deputies’ culture committee, also called on Culture Minister Sandro Bondi to explain the situation.

Ghizzoni said she was “sure” the premier had obtained all the necessary research permits from the culture ministry before digging up the tombs, but added that if this was the case it was “very curious that the scientific community has completely ignored a discovery of such exceptional interest”.

The National Association of Archaeologists said that if the discovery was confirmed it would be “incredibly important” for the study of settlements on the island by the Phonecians, an ancient maritime trading people who formed a massive commercial empire throughout the Mediterranean from their bases along the coast of modern-day Lebanon, Syria and Israel.

“Experts have been debating for years about whether the ancient city of Olbia was founded by Greeks or Phoenicians,” said association president Giuseppina Manca di Mores.

“If the discovery of new Phoenician material is confirmed, it would represent a new detail for the story of the island and would open new channels of research,” she said.

Earlier this week after Espresso posted the first in a series of recordings purportedly between Berlusconi and D’Addario, the premier’s lawyer Niccolo’ Ghedini dismissed them as “without any merit, completely improbable and the fruit of invention”.

D’Addario claims she and other women were paid by a Bari businessman to attend parties at the premier’s residences and that she secretly recorded conversations and phone calls.

She says she attended two parties at Berlusconi’s Rome home last year, spending the night with him on the second occasion.

Bari prosecutors are probing the businessman, Gianpaolo Tarantini, for abetting prostitution.

Tarantini has denied that the premier knew that the girls he took or sent to parties at Berlusconi’s Rome home or at his villa in Sardinia were in fact being paid.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Lowering the Limit to Save Private Giusy

Woman to enlist after amendment to law. Father died in Afghanistan

MILAN — First, her school-leaving diploma and then the military academy. After that, Giusy can become a soldier. It has been her dream since she was a little girl, and it was a pledge she made in church at her father’s funeral. That moving promise can now be kept. The scene was Oderzo, in the province of Treviso; the date, 16 February 2008. Giovanni Pezzulo, not yet 45, an army warrant officer killed by gunfire in Afghanistan, lay in a flag-draped coffin as his daughter mounted the altar. “I don’t know where I can find the strength. I know you are giving it to me. You are my comfort, my pride”. There were tears in her eyes but she kept going. “Daddy, this isn’t the end. I shall finish your work”. Enlisting in the army became Giusy’s goal and her reason for living. But first she had to deal with the red tape. While the law allows the children and spouses of fallen soldiers to volunteer, it does not exempt them from the routine physical, psychological and attitudinal tests. And Giusy Pezzulo, a petite 19-year-old, wasn’t tall enough. A few, apparently insignificant, centimetres put her ambition beyond reach for the minimum height to join the Italian armed forces is one metre 61. However, Giusy was not about to give up. More than a year passed and yesterday came the crucial news. Giusy heard that the barrier separating her from her dream had been removed and the minimum height requirement for the army is now one metre 50.

A minor amendment to the law, published in the Official Gazette, has enabled Giusy to start making plans. She said: “Now I know what to do. Next year, I’m going to enrol at the non-commissioned officer’s academy in Viterbo. But first, I’m going to finish scientific secondary school. I had a difficult period but I’m through to the final year”. It’s a glimmer of happiness, or at least a prospect of some kind of future in front of her. In her father’s footsteps. “I’m happy, but of course I’ll be missing something, like the pat on the back of a dad saying ‘Well done. You made it’“. Giusy doesn’t look to the past, though. She is worried about her grandparents. “They don’t really agree with what I’m doing. They’re worried after what happened to my father, but they’re going to have to accept it”.

It’s time for a holiday now, at Carinola in the province of Caserta, the home town of both Giusy’s parents. Then in September, Giusy will be heading back to school. With all of her usual gritty determination. It was that determination which probably convinced Parliament to amend the law and enabled her to make her dream, or rather her life choice for it is more than a job, finally come true.

“Dear Dad, you raised me to the age of 18 and taught me things I shall always remember”. Giusy’s pledge on the altar had an air almost of defiance. “Goodbye, my hero. I shall follow your path”. Today, the pledge is Giusy’s whole life.

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: D’addario-Berlusconi Recordings Online — Right and Left Clash

PDL closes ranks around premier but PD’s Gentiloni claims facts have been re-established after attempts to cover up with “pathetic lies”

MILAN — The political scene is buzzing again after the publication on the Espresso magazine website of some of the recordings of Patrizia D’Addario and Silvio Berlusconi. The material comprises tapes of telephone or face-to-face conversations between the Puglia-born escort and the premier, or between Ms D’Addario and Gianpaolo Tarantini, her contact with the prime minister’s inner circle and the man who opened the doors of Palazzo Grazioli to her. The conversations date from October and November 2008.

LEGAL ACTION — Mr Berlusconi’s lawyer, parliamentarian Niccolò Ghedini, has already announced his intention to take legal action against publication: “As emerges from the proceedings, Ms D’Addario handed over the recordings allegedly made to the Bari public prosecutor’s office, and they are still in the possession of that public prosecutor’s office, subject to the secrecy that covers the investigation, and their publication is prohibited absolutely. The veracity and legality of the alleged recordings had already been previously contested. In the light of the recordings published on the Repubblica website, and it is to be hope that the competent judicial authorities will verify how the journalists came to secure them, one can only conclude that this material is worthless, entirely implausible and the product of invention”. “Whatever the case, integral publication is in itself an unlawful act which should be prosecuted, and every appropriate legal action will be taken against anyone who thinks fit to retrieve this material”.

PDL’S DEFENCE — Publication of these private conversations instantly provoked an indignant reaction from the Centre-right. People of Freedom (PDL) spokesman Daniele Capezzone compared the Espresso group to the “proverbial last Japanese soldier”, pointing out that “despite all the effort, the bubble of gossip and mud against Silvio Berlusconi and the government has already burst”. “I do not think this adds anything to the fruitless campaign waged by Espresso and Repubblica”, opined Maurizio Gasparri, the PDL’s group leader in the Chamber of Deputies. The minister for the implementation of the government’s programme, Gianfranco Rotondi, referred to a “violation of all ethics of communication” that “reveals how intense the intimidation is against the government and how serene and clean Berlusconi’s service leading the country is”. Another minister, Ignazio La Russa, dismissed the issue as a “desperate attempt to push Italian politics back into gossip of the crudest kind”. For Osvaldo Napoli, deputy PDL leader in the Chamber of Deputies, the recordings in the end are merely “trash”.

OPPOSITION PRESSURE — Meanwhile, invitations to throw light on the issue were arriving from the opposition. According to Paolo Gentiloni, the head of communications for the Democratic Party (PD), the recordings “re-establish the boundary between the reality of the facts and the pathetic lies attempting to cover them up”. The PD spokesman continued: “The depressing fact that emerges from the tapes is that the escort was certainly not an unknown stranger and that payments to those attending the premier’s parties were normal practice. Instead of attacking the press, which is doing its job, those in Palazzo Grazioli should make up their minds and finally come clean to the country”. Another PD parliamentarian and member of the party secretariat, Federica Mogherini, said that the tapes “certified the prime minister’s embarrassing behaviour. It is fortunate that for the premier’s appointed defenders, these are only lies, a campaign of defamation. It is time for the prime minister to reply truthfully to the questions that public opinion is asking about his behaviour, as it emerges from the documents highlighted in the Espresso investigation”. For the Italian Communist Party (PDCI), Jacopo Venier said: “The country is on the slide, there’s an appalling crisis and we have a prime minister with other things on his mind. A smidgeon of shame wouldn’t go amiss. The PDL’s reactions are over the top. The regime’s retainers and one-way moralists go to any lengths to deny the evidence, play down the problem and intimidate the media because no matter which way you look at it, what emerges is the obscenity of this regretful episode”.

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Muslim Group Urges German Chancellor to ‘Fight Islamophobia’

Rome, 23 July (AKI) — Italy’s largest Muslim group, the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy or UCOII has sent a letter to German chancellor Angela Merkel expressing the Muslim community’s concern about the death of an Egyptian woman in a German courtroom in early July.

“We would like to express our pain and concern by the Islamic community in Italy for the assassination of our sister Marwa el-Sherbini, slain in a German courtroom,” said Mohammed Nour Dachan, president of UCOII.

Dachan, who is also the imam of the central Italian city of Ancona’s mosque, said that in Berlin “there is a climate of widespread Islamophobia…fuelled by certain political forces as well as the media’s often irresponsible and scandalous behaviour.”

“In your country there is a large and integrated Muslim community of workers that have considerably contributed to the rebirth of your country after the terrible years of the war. This community is now worried and shocked and must be reassured of their safety.”

Thirty-two year-old Egyptian national Marwa el-Sherbini died when she was stabbed multiple times by a German man in a courtroom in the eastern German city of Dresden on 1 July.

She was four months pregnant and killed in front of her husband and three-year old son in a crowded courtroom.

Sherbini had accused the man of racism in 2008 for allegedly calling her a terrorist, apparently because she wore the Hijab, or Muslim headscarf.

She made a complaint to police and was taking legal action in court when the man murdered her.

The murder has provoked widespread protests in Egypt and elsewhere. Following Sherbini’s funeral, an angry mob gathered outside the German embassy in Cairo and called Western civilisation “brutal and anti-Islamic”.

In Iran there were protests outside the German embassy in Tehran at the weekend as Berlin’s ambassador to Iran was asked to step up efforts to protect rights of minorities in Germany.

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

Italy: Muslim Annual Summer Camp to be Held in Quake-Hit Abruzzo

Rome, 21 July (AKI) — Italy’s largest Muslim group, UCOII, will this month hold its annual summer camp in the quake-stricken central Italian Abruzzo region to show solidarity with the earthquake victims. The camp is taking place from 25-30 July at a hotel near the picturesque Lake Bomba outside the town of Chieti.

A total 294 people were killed and another 55,000 were left homeless by the powerful earthquake that struck Abruzzo’s capital city of L’Aquila and surrounding areas on 6 April. Tens of thousands of people are still living in tents and temporary accommodation.

“We will be meeting as brothers to show solidarity with the people of Abruzzo,” UCOII said.

“We will live together for several days in a highly spiritual atmosphere, holding meetings, studying, recharging our batteries and living our faith,” the group added.

“Our choice of Abruzzo this year is a clear sign that we share in the pain and distress of the its people and support their efforts to recover from this emergency and rebuild the cities and villages seriously damaged or destroyed by the earthquake.”

UCOII’s decision to hold its 40th annual summer camp in Abruzzo follows Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s announcement last week that he planned to spend his summer holidays in Abruzzo instead of his usual stay at his luxury villa on the island of Sardinia.

Controversially, Berlusconi also switched the venue for the G8 summit held earlier this month to L’Aquila from the Sardinian island of La Maddalena.

Aftershocks have continued to rock Abruzzo since the April quake.

Berlusconi said he wanted to monitor the progress of reconstruction in L’Aquila. His government is facing criticism from the many thousands of earthquake victims who are still homeless and complaints about lagging reconstruction efforts.

Berlusconi’s decision to vacation in Abruzzo also came amid allegations that he hosted a number of parties at his Sardinian villa attended by young, attractive women who were paid to attend.

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

UK: Gallery’s Invitation to Deface the Bible Brings Obscene Response

A publicly funded exhibition is encouraging people to deface the Bible in the name of art — and visitors have responded with abuse and obscenity.

The show includes a video of a woman ripping pages from the Bible and stuffing them into her bra, knickers and mouth.

The open Bible is a central part of Made in God’s Image, an exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art (Goma) in Glasgow. By the book is a container of pens and a notice saying: “If you feel you have been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it.”

The exhibit, Untitled 2009, was proposed by the Metropolitan Community Church, which said that the idea was to reclaim the Bible as a sacred text. But to the horror of many Christians, including the community church, visitors have daubed its pages with comments such as “This is all sexist pish, so disregard it all.” A contributor wrote on the first page of Genesis: “I am Bi, Female & Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this.”

The Church of Scotland expressed concern, the Roman Catholic Church called the exhibit infantile, and a Christian lawyers’ group said that the exhibition was symptomatic of a broken and lawless society.

The exhibition has been created by the artists Anthony Schrag and David Malone, in association with organisations representing gay Christians and Muslims. Mr Schrag, the gallery’s artist in residence, said that he did not believe in God, but that his research for the £7,000 show had underlined his respect for people of faith.

The community church, which celebrates “racial, cultural, linguistic, sexual, gender and theological diversity”, had suggested the “interactive” Bible and pens and Mr Schrag, 34, said he had been intrigued.

“Any offensive things that have been written are not the point of the work,” he said. “It was an open gesture. Are those who say they are upset offended by the things that people write, or just by the very notion that someone should write on a Bible?”

The artist, a Canadian who took a master’s degree at Glasgow School of Art, said that human rights were at the centre of the show. “If we are to open up the Bible for discussion, surely we have to invite people to speak out,” he said. “Art allows us to discuss difficult things, and Goma allows difficult discussions to take place — that is why Glasgow is at the cutting edge of contemporary art.”…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Huge Mosque Build Given Go-Ahead

Plans for the construction of a five-storey building which will be one of London’s biggest mosques have been given the go-ahead.

Harrow Central Mosque will serve Muslim worshippers from across north London when it is built on Station Road. The designs include a 40m-high minaret, a gym, a crèche and a café within the 5,745 square metre development.

It is expected to open next year after Harrow Council approved changes to the original plans, which were passed in June 2000.

The planning committee has imposed conditions on the build, which include that a house on Station Road currently being used as the mosque is turned into affordable housing. The Mosque builders will also pay £15,000 towards controlled parking measures in Rosslyn Crescent.

Councillor Marilyn Ashton, cabinet member for planning, development and enterprise, said: “This is a very significant building on Harrow’s skyline and while permission was given some while ago, it was important we regularised changes that had been made. I’m pleased that we have been able to give formal permission while at the same time balancing that with the views of local residents.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Called to Religion Row

RELIGIOUS tensions were raised in the centre of Wood Green at the weekend as Islamic activists set about trying to convince shoppers that “Jesus was a Muslim”.

Police stepped in to calm the situation as bystanders were confronted with up to 70 activists aiming to give them a taste of a Britain under Shari’ah Islamic law.

The activists, who have held similar “roadshows” in south, east and west London, set up outside fashion chain H&M in Wood Green High Road on Saturday afternoon, but tensions were soon strained.

One onlooker said: “They unfurled this huge banner proclaiming that Jesus was a Muslim, which understandably raised some people’s heckles.

“These people were slagging off Britain and trying to convert people to Islam. They were quite confrontational.

“The police moved in twice while I was there. They didn’t take people away but they stepped in to calm them down.”

A website publicising the roadshow, originally scheduled for July 4, said Wood Green had been chosen because of the “perpetual malaise” the community suffered — crime, fuel poverty and a high rate of mental health problems.

The activists intended to show how Shari’ah law would combat “gang crime, poverty and promiscuity” in the borough.

A Haringey police spokeswoman said the force had not been informed about the roadshow beforehand, and attended at 3pm to “ensure that there was no breach of the peace”. No arrests were made.

Inspector Eric Monk, of Haringey’s Community Engagement Team, said: “This is a diverse borough and I doubt that this activity will have any significant impact on the strong, positive inter-faith relationships that exist in Haringey.

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

UK: WWI Veteran Patch Dies Aged 111

The last British survivor of the World War I trenches, Harry Patch, has died at the age of 111.

Mr Patch was conscripted into the Army aged 18 and fought in the Battle of Passchendaele at Ypres in 1917 in which more than 70,000 British soldiers died.

He was raised in Combe Down, near Bath, and had been living at a care home in Wells, Somerset.

The sole British survivor of the war is former seaman Claude Choules, who is aged 108 and lives in Perth, Australia.

           — Hat tip: Apollon Zamp[Return to headlines]

North Africa

In Egypt Writers Are Free to Criticize Authority, Al-Ghitani

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 24 — “True democracy exists in Egypt, at least on a cultural level. Today, in fact, writers are free to criticise the authority. Under Gamal Abd el-Nasser or during the Anwar al-Sadat government on the other hand writing a single line against regime could potentially cost ones freedom”. This is the opinion of Egyptian writer Gamal Al-Ghitani, founder and director (since 1993) of the weekly publication Akhbar al-Adab (Literary News), a magazine that is one of the leading authorities on literature in the Arab world, which has launched famous authors in the West like Ala Al-Aswani (Yacoubian Palace, 2006, Feltrinelli). Born in 1945, a many-sided personality, Al-Ghitani began as a rug designer (he is considered to be one of the leading experts in the field), to then go on to a career in journalism for the paper Akhbar al-Yawm and follow the Arab-Israeli conflict as a correspondent (from ‘68 to ‘73), as well as the war in Lebanon and that between Iran and Iraq. “The Egyptian literary landscape in recent years”, he affirmed, “has changed notably. In the ‘60s we were arrested, like I was between ‘66 and ‘67, for having criticised the Nasser regime”. Today’s young authors, he continued, are courageous, are prolific and have introduced new styles. Literature, Al-Ghitani says, has taken a leap forward. “They talk about sex and the country’s social situation, the hinterland and the countryside”. That which is missing, however, is literary criticism “because the cultural level of the country is low”. Like Naghib Mahfouz, who encouraged him to pick up the pen and pursue writing, Al-Ghitani too is a ‘chronicler of Cairo’, and owes him, for example, the introduction to the historic novel which exposes the tyranny and oppression under ‘Zayni Barakat. The Story of the Grand Censor of the City of Cairo’ (1997, Giunti Publishers). A predominant figure on the Egyptian literary landscape, no other Egyptian author seems to surpass Mahfouz’s Nobel Prize. “There aren’t writers like him around, but there are some very good ones”, Al-Ghitani noted. “Many light authors have appeared”, he commented, “whose books, supported by large scale distribution, become best-sellers even if they lack any kind of literary value”. Books, he maintains, “that have the shelf-life of a Kleenex, like ‘Taxi’ by Khaled Al Khamissi (2008, Il Sirente) or ‘The Proof of the Honey’ (2008, Feltrinelli) by the Syrian author Salwa al-Neimi”. They are books that sell very well in the West as well. “Al-Neimi”, he commented sarcastically, “has had better distribution than Mahfouz, but this certainly doesn’t mean that she writes like him”. If, as A-Ghitani says, the atmosphere in Egypt has changed, one aspect is not altogether clear. How can one explain that writers like Al-Aswani, or the dissident Nawal El Saadawi, do not appear on the official list of authors that the Egyptian Ministry of Culture presented during the last edition of the Turin International Book Fair for which Egypt was the guest of honour? “It is of no importance”, Al-Ghitani responded, “that they were invited by the organisers of the festival and not by the Egyptian authorities. There were very valid writers making up the official delegation and Al-Aswani is well respected by everyone, while El Saadawi has lived for years in the United States”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Morocco Challenges Mideast Holocaust Mind-Set

RABAT, Morocco — From the western edge of the Muslim world, the King of Morocco has dared to tackle one of the most inflammatory issues in the Middle East conflict — the Holocaust.

At a time when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s dismissal of the Holocaust has made the biggest headlines, King Mohammed VI has called the Nazi destruction of the Jews “one of the most tragic chapters of modern history,” and has endorsed a Paris-based program aimed at spreading the word among fellow Muslims.

Many in the Islamic world still ignore or know little about the Nazi attempt to annihilate the Jews during World War II. Some disbelieve it outright. Others argue that it was a European crime and imagine it to be the reason Israel exists and the Palestinians are stateless. The sentiment was starkly illustrated in March after a Palestinian youth orchestra performed for Israeli Holocaust survivors, only to be shut down by angry leaders of the West Bank refugee camp where they live…

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Arab TV Network Closed After Arafat Murder Claims

Ramallah, 15 July (AKI) — The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday closed the office of Arab TV network Al-Jazeera in the West Bank on Wednesday, after it aired allegations that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas colluded with former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to kill the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The decision to shut the office of the Qatar-based network’s office reportedly took place after it reported on a media conference held in Jordan on Monday.

At the media conference, Fatah member and PLO executive committee member Farouq Qaddoumi produced, what he claimed, to be a transcript of a meeting between Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan where they discussed assassinating the iconic Arafat.

“Al-Jazeera has always dedicated a wide portion of its transmission to incite against the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority,” said prime minister Salam Fayyad’s office in a statement.

“Despite repeated requests to be impartial in its coverage of Palestinian affairs, the station continued to incite against the PLO and the PA. The latest false news was aired yesterday,” said a statement by prime minister Salam Fayyad’s office.

“As a result of this, and to protect our people, the PA has decided to take legal action and to suspend the work of Al-Jazeera’s office in Palestine until the court makes its decision.”

The PLO and the PA have accused Qaddoumi of lying.

“We expect all media outlets operating in Palestine to practice their work in a way that does not contradict the Palestinian national interest and sovereignty of law,” said the statement.

Arafat, (photo) the former head of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Nobel laureate died in Paris on 11 November 2004 of unknown causes.

His tomb is located in the West Bank’s administrative capital of Ramallah, inside the presidential compound known as the Muqata.

Since his death Palestinian politics has been seriously divided with the most dramatic and often violent differences between the ruling secular-nationalist Fatah party and the radical Islamist group Hamas, but also within the Fatah party.

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

Middle East

Journey Through the West Bank, Where Life is “Frozen”

Il Giornale, 13 July 2009

Those devils in the settlements. In reality, those “colonist” devils, using a word that evokes the cruel memories of exploitation and imperialism. These days, everyone is talking about them — even the G8 — demanding a “freeze” of their presence in the West Bank. And the idea comes from President Obama himself. In the popular imagination, the colonists keep their rifles by their side, devastate Palestinian olive trees, are religious fanatics, and breed like rabbits, turning their “natural growth” into a devastating weapon. Today, common wisdom says that a freeze is the only way to go.

But what exactly is a colonist? We went around quite a bit to check things out, studying olive trees, maps, laws, and history. First, the colonist is a tiny figure in the Middle Eastern conflict. The fact that he is a political giant today has little to do with a jihad that — since the 1920s — has forbidden Arabs to see Israel as a state firmly anchored amidst the Islamic umma. And whether that umma is seen in religious or pan-Arabic terms is of little importance. In the eyes of many of the Islamic faithful, Israel itself is just one big settlement. Second, even though US representative Mitchell and Netanyahu might be on the verge of presenting a six-month suspension in the settlements’ internal growth, many villages and communities have been blocked for years. Oded Revivi, the mayor of Efrat, a large, blossoming settlement in Gush Etzion, is quite blunt, “When young people here decide to get married, they know it’s time to pack their bags. Everything has been at a standstill since the time of the Road map. We’ve already been strangled. Prices are as high as in Tel Aviv.” A leader of the area of Shilo, Yehiel Leiter, points out five houses on the top of a hill. “They’re the same as thirty years ago. Except that sometimes, a trailer here and there is turned into a brick house, in secret.” Frozen. That’s the way it is for all the settlements except for three. Since 2007, the population of 21 settlements in the West Bank has remained the same or fallen while 74 have seen a rise of no more than 100 people. Only Modi’in Illit, Betar Illit, and Ma’ale Adumin, three communities inside the security fence — which could easily be left in peace with a territorial agreement if the Palestinians were actually interested in peace — represent 57 percent of the natural growth, i.e. 110 thousand inhabitants of a total of 285 thousand in the West Bank. Instead of making a din about “freezing” the settlements, attention should be concentrated on three of them, establishing which ones are untouchable and in exchange for what, while the others are negotiable. In other words, it would be much better for everyone involved if there were peace meetings instead of rhetoric.

Most of the time, the settlers are normal people, just persevering and tough, who see themselves as part of a work in progress: Israel. They are not convinced, as Leiter puts it that “here in Judea, I have to leave room for a small authoritarian, Islamic state, which might be Iranian like Hamas.” The setters include both people who wanted inexpensive housing, and dangerous extremists. The latter are generally idealists who see Judea and Samaria, occupied by Jordon from 1948 to 1967, as indispensable for reasons linked to history and defense. The Israeli governments in power over the years have oscillated, generating a great deal of confusion, either considering those lands as a currency of exchange for peace with the Palestinians or freed land that could give tiny Israel security and protection as well as historic memories. Many people care nothing for the Bible, but one must admit that it is a nice document to produce when giving your address. Even if some settlements cannot be forfeited and others can, Netanyahu has not explained which ones he intends to give up. On their side, almost all the settlers have the reasons of people who have built their homes with the bare hands and risk their lives every night when they come home. And who obeyed when the tragic evacuation of Gaza was decided.

Amidst the oat stubble on the red earth terraces, adorned with grape vines and olive trees in the valleys throughout Judea and Samaria, the most cinematographic scenes are those of the teenagers. Sometimes they are on horseback and always in groups, their long hair flying in the wind, their yarmulkes askew, and their ritual fringes peeking out from under faded t-shirts, the girls surprisingly agile in their long skirts. They feel like rebels from the time of Judas Maccabeus, who challenged the Romans to the death. They are edgy young people, their heads full of Biblical history, who don’t want to convince anyone and will not be convinced. They certainly aren’t the only young people around. They have peers in the neighborhood who are studious and disciplined and come from idealistic but law-abiding families. Families like Yehiel Leiter’s: five children, youngsters with friendly faces and good manners. They have lovely faces, glowing with solidarity and community spirit, who make the most daring soldiers in the army, just like the left-wing youth from the kibbutzim used to. The ruffians among them are the ones who make the forays into the Arab olive groves and fight with the Israeli police. They are the young people who bring a tent and a trailer, set themselves up on the top of a hill, because there lies a memory of history. These are the stereotypes of the settlers. But even the gentlest of them, like Yair Hirsch of Achy, who produces three flavors of olive oil, believes — like the others — that the Palestinians would not stop if they managed to throw him out of his home. He says they would fight for Tel Aviv. Yair, a peaceful man, knows that he is paying a high price for his choice: political hatred, a life of danger, and often one of scarcity and solitude. Ninety-eight percent of the settlers have nothing to do with the stereotype that have turned the colonies into something even more urgent to dismantle than the Iranian atomic bomb. Mitchell certainly knows that the settlements are not illegal. However, a number of outposts located beyond the borders of the communities are and the government intends to dismantle twenty-two of them immediately. They are scattered throughout the West Bank, for instance in the area of Kyriat Arba, right next to Hebron. That is where the most aggressive colonists live, where Elyakim Haezni, one of the toughest leaders, asks us — and he isn’t religious — why he should think of leaving? Why shouldn’t the Jews live near the cave of Machpelah, with the large tomb for Abraham and Sara built by Herod the Great. Why? Just because a mosque was built on top of it? Why should the Jews be thrown out of the first capital of King David? And what is this undisputed idea of an Arab world cleaned of Jews while a million four hundred thousand Israeli Arabs live in Israel as free citizens? What does Amnesty say, asks a sarcastic Haezni. And what if a future Palestinian state were willing to have him as a citizen? First of all, he says, he could never live under a dictatorship. And second, and he cites Hobbs, “life would be ‘nasty, brutish, and short’, especially short.”

Even the settler movement considers Kyriat Arba a borderline case, a spiral of blood and violence. But there are all kinds of settlers: religious and not religious, ideologues and simple people, those leading an austere life and hippies, men and women and many children. Oded Revivi, a lawyer and mayor of Efrat, wanted a nice house in Jerusalem without having to spend too much. Today he is proud of the coexistence with the Arabs who live and cultivate their olive trees inside the settlement itself. But he also shows me the capital in the distance and says that, without defending this small piece of land, the attacks would multiply and the missiles would rain down from Gaza as they do on Sderot. In another part of Jerusalem, we climbed up the top of Kida in the valley of Shilo to meet the young Tzofia Dorot, a tanned, active mother of two. Her officer husband is far away and a few neighbors live as she does, in clean, well-cared for trailers. Tzofia has just managed to open a kindergarten, and she works as a physiotherapist. But the windy Kida is doomed to disappear since it is on the list of the twenty-two outposts. In answer, just today, Tzofia received a visit from a Tel Aviv architect. It’s a marvelous place for tourism, he told her, and those three trailers are already rooms where people can come for the weekend to enjoy the nature there. Not far away is another outpost, Givat Arel. Daniel Bin Nun built it with his own hands in memory of Arel, his brother who was killed, as was his father. The fresh air is not free. The outpost contains a therapeutic horse stable where Daniel treats 100 children from all over Israel.

The memory of the many who paid with their lives is almost everywhere. Below Eli, you cross through a bottleneck where a Palestinian sharpshooter eliminated ten people, one by one, with an old rifle. Sara lives in Eli. She is the wife of 32-year-old Commander Uri Klein who threw himself on a grenade during the war in Lebanon to keep his soldiers from being hit. Instead, in Gush, at Tekoa, we visited the home of Sherry Mandell, whose son Koby, 13, was stoned to death in a cave he was exploring. The settlers want people to know that they are not supported by the state, as is often affirmed. Yehiel Leiter took me around wineries and olive oil plants. But most of all, he explained another basic point of his reasoning: security. “Territorial continuity is everything for Israel. For example, inhabiting the valley of Shilo, even from west to east, in other words from the coast toward the Jordan is the only way for Israel to have contact with the Jordan Valley.” Those who have lived through all the wars, and all the Palestinian refusals from 1948 to Abu Mazen’s very recent rebuff of Olmert, those who have not seen a hand held out, but only terrorism and the hope of reducing the size of Israel bit by bit, are not interested in pleasing international public opinion. They want to defend their country. There is not only Jordan. Beyond that is Iraq, Syria, and then Iran. In general, Israel cannot imagine the idea of having Palestinian, and perhaps Iranian, missiles five hundred meters from the airport, or from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Haifa was recently bombed by the Hezbollah, and Ashdod from Gaza. In short, says Yehiel, let’s stop fooling ourselves. Even the Americans know that you’re at risk without territorial space. And Bibi’s promise of a demilitarized Palestinian state is not enough because there is no guarantee that it will remain so over the years.

History, territorial defense and, ultimately, a sense of identity. Those who don’t like it never will, no matter how many explanations are given, says Shaul Goldstein, head of the organization of the Gush Katif area. He has an oak tree in his garden that he planted twenty-two years ago, but he knows that many will agree to move if they are certain of a home and a job inside the Green Line. But you see, he insists on adding, “Sharon told Bush that he would dismantle Gaza if Bush promised an exchange of land for some settlements that we cannot give up. Which is what Bush did, with a letter. Bibi should clearly state which ones they are. And the world should state clearly for once and for all whether history is important. Whether heritage is important. Because, if it is not, everything changes. We have to reconsider the concept of nations for all the peoples in the world, and not just for us.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Discrimination on the Pitch

Gay Referee Cries Foul in Turkey

A gay soccer referee recently suspended in Turkey is planning to sue the country’s national football federation on grounds that it discriminated against him because of his homosexuality. Halil Ibrahim Dincdag says he is ready to take his case as far as the European Court of Human Rights…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: 200 Fundamentalist Group Members Arrested

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 24 — Around 200 people have been arrested in a police operation in Turkey on suspected membership in a Muslim fundamentalist group. The news was announced by Anatolia agency, which specified that the blitz had succeeded in dismantling the Hizb-ut-Tahrir organisation, which aims to bring in a worldwide Muslim State and enforcement of the Sharia (Islamic religious law). The operation was carried out in 23 Turkish cities simultaneously and was coordinated by Ankara anti-terrorism police. According to investigators, the group has ties with al Qaeda and is believed to be responsible for the Istanbul attacks in November 2003 on two synagogues, the British consulate and a British bank, in which 63 people were killed and hundreds injured.(ANSAmed).

2009-07-24 12:00

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Hagia Sophia’s Angel Uncovered

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 24 — Experts have uncovered one of the six angel mosaics within the world-famous Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul after it had been hidden for 160 years behind plaster and a metal mask, Hurriyet daily reports. The mosaic, which measures 1.5 meters by 1 meter, was last seen by Swiss architect Gaspare Fossati, who headed restoration efforts at the museum between 1847 and 1849, and Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid. Experts were surprised to see that the mosaic, believed to date from the 14th century, was so well preserved. Hagia Sophia, built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian between A.D. 532 and 537, was originally a basilica before it was converted into a mosque when Ottoman Turks conquered the city in 1453. During the conversion process, the Ottomans covered the mosaics with plaster instead of removing them. The building served as a mosque until 1934, when it was turned into a museum. The uncovered mosaic is located in the pendentive, an arched triangular section supporting the building’s huge dome. After 10 days of work on the area, experts removed several layers of plaster and the metal mask to uncover the angel. The mosaic’s true age will be assessed after an analysis by the Hagia Sofia Science Board compares it to similar mosaics. The six-winged figure is though to depict the seraphim, an angel described in the biblical book of Isaiah. When the plaster covering the mosaics began to fall off, Sultan Abdülmecid ordered Fossati to remove all the old plaster, restore the mosaics and cover them up again. A book prepared by Fossati at the time is seen as the main source about mosaics that did not survive to the present day. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Despite Europe’s Request, Ankara Continues to Waver on Religious Freedom

The head of EU enlargement has said that the accession process of Turkey also depends on the Halki school, an institution for the formation of the clergy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, closed since 1971. The government remains silent, while the debate grows in the media. The real issue is the recognition of the status of the Patriarchate.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) — Rumours abound in Turkish press over the imminent reopening of the Halki Theological School (see photo), for the formation of theologians and the clergy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, closed suddenly in 1971, after more than 100 years of activity. The issue is being widely discussed in the media, with the mixture of opinions for and against the reopening.

It all began when Oli Rehn, head of EU enlargement, and thus also of Turkey’s accession to the EU, in a meeting with journalists in Brussels, June 10 last, said that this process also takes into consideration the reopening of Halki. He also made known to press, concerns expressed to him by the Holy See regarding the level of religious freedom in Turkey. Influential journalists, writers and professors, like Baskin Oran, Murat Belge, Ali Birant, Kanli and Orhan Kemal Cengiz, have come out in favour of the reopening. The latter, in an article in Today’s Zaman entitled “Is the Ecumenical Patriarchate waiting for Godot?” describes, as never before, the shameful and persistent behaviour of the Turkish authorities, bent on the complete extinction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, through methods of persecution including insidious legislation, even arriving at accusing the Patriarchate because, in his opinion, it left its appeal to the court in Strasbourg too late and is guilty of trusting too much to the periodic promises made by the Turkish authorities.

Voices against the reopening of Halki have been raised, however, by the Istanbul Lawyers Association, a very important institution, during a conference organized after (a coincidence?) Rehn’s statement. Arguments against the reopening and against the Patriarchate far from polite. The legal status of the Patriarchate was challenged, and consequently it’s right to have a school of theology. The chairman of the association, Muammer Aydin, accused the Phanar of despising Turkey and of aiming to establish itself as the Vatican of the East, while a professor at the University of Marmara, Ozel Sibel, having listed a series of norms which, she claims, prohibit the recognition of the Patriarchate and the reopening of Halki — justifiably closed in her opinion — concluded that “no one can impose the reopening of Halki”. The Turkish government, for its part, has spoken for the first time through Erdogan, who, on the sidelines of the recent expanded G8 summit, responding to questions from journalists on the Halki question, said that he had not received any request on the issue by the parties directly concerned, i.e. the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

But in order to understand the true intentions of Turkish authorities, regardless of the kind of government in power, the statements of the Minister Egemen Bagis, head of Turkey-EU relations are important. Bagis remarked the other day: “The reopening of Halki is a domestic issue for Turkey”, that is an internal issue for its citizens. One solution, according Bagis, lies in the context of reciprocity with the rights of Muslims (approximately 140,000) who live in the northeast of Greece, because, although Greek citizens, according to Ankara they are all ethnic Turks.

“In short it’s the same old story,” says a senior lecturer in history, a Greek from Istanbul, Dimitri G., one of the last remaining members of the almost non existent Orthodox community in the city. “Every time the issue of Halki arises, particularly during the visits of Heads of State to Ankara, not least the recent visit of Obama, Ankara, caught unprepared by its interlocutors, raises the question of reciprocity with the Muslim community in Greece, and so it avoids dealing with the issue”. “But what kind of reciprocity are they speaking about?” continues Dimitri G. “In Greece there is a community of Greek citizens of Muslim religion about 140 thousand people of different ethnic origins: Turkish, Pomak (Slavs converted to Islam) and gypsies, who are flourishing, with clergy and mosques, Islamic schools and cultural activities, according to the dictates of religious freedom. All this funded by the Greek State and also by the EU, because they are nationals of an EU Member State. And rightly so. In Turkey, on the contrary, following the systematic purging of the past years, from 100 thousand souls that existed in 1923 — which according to the Treaty of Lausanne were to be treated as the Muslim minority in Greek Thrace, for the principle of numerical reciprocity, wanted and ordered by Turkish authorities themselves — we have been reduced to barely a 3 thousand. The historic status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has never recognized and it must raise funds by its own means. The Mufti in Greece are public employees. And, again, is right. Therefore, any invocation of reciprocity from the Turkish side is unacceptable, because it is they who have deliberately and systematically violated it”.

Father Distheos, head of external relations for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a German citizen, but Greek of Constantinople, very esteemed in the international arena for his perspicacity, said in this regard to AsiaNews: “with all this fuss that has been created in the media regarding the possible reopening of Halki — magisterially orchestrated as is usual with the media in Turkey — there is the risk of obscuring the essence of the fundamental question, which is much more important. Namely that of the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Regarding Halki, the solution is simple: return to the status prior to 1971. It is up to the authorities to restore it”. As to the statements of Prime Minister Erdogan that they had not received any request from those directly involved Father Dositheos reports that Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of courtesy visits made in 2007 both to President Gul and other Turkish authorities, he certainly raised all issues of concern, including that of Halki, and they “simply replied that they would take them into consideration..”.

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

UAE: ‘God’ Shoes Confiscated for Breaking Islamic Law

Dubai, 23 July (AKI) — A large quantity of women’s shoes have been confiscated from a shop by the inspection and customer protection section of the United Arab Emirate’s department of economic development because they had the word God, or Allah, printed on them.

Dubai-based daily Gulf News, reported the confiscation on Thursday and said the head of the department said that the shop where the seizure took place is one of the Emirate’s biggest fashion showrooms specialising in selling women’s shoes.

The official said they confiscated the shoes and issued a fine against the store after receiving multiple complaints from the public.

The deputy director of the economic development department, Hamad al-Shamsi, said that other legal measures will be taken against the shop for infringement of the Islamic moral code.

Al-Shamsi said that their action follows Article 10 of the so-called Violations and Fines List. The article says that the department will punish and impose fines to all those who sell or display publicly products that can directly violate the decency code or Islamic regulations.

This is not the first instance with the printing of Allah on shoewear.

In 1997, the sportswear company Nike was forced to recall a pair of basketball shoes because of a symbol on the back that accidentally resembled that of the Arabic script for Allah.

Nike later apologised after realising what they had done.

Printing God, or Allah, on shoes is considered morally wrong because in the Muslim faith the sole of the shoe is the most unclean part of an unclean object and shoes are considered ritually unclean.

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

South Asia

India: Inquiry Into Confessional Polarisation a Pretext Against Religious Minorities

Gujarat has set up a commission of inquiry to study state-wide demographic shifts. Jesuit priest slams the exercise as a way to sow divisions and discriminate against minorities.

Delhi (AsiaNews) — The commission of inquiry into the changing demographic profile of Gujarat since independence is only a pretext against religious minorities, this according to Cedric Prakash, director of the Prashant Jesuit Centre for Human Rights. In his view the State government is pursuing a “communal agenda” to polarise the population and discriminate on the “basis of religion”.

In Gujarat, a state that was the scene of past anti-Christian and anti-Muslim violence, the chief minister, Narendra Modi, appointed a commission of inquiry to look into the spatial shifts of religious minorities on a ten-year basis over the period that began with Independence (15 August 1947) until today.

According to Father Cedric (pictured), a human rights activist, the commission on the pretext of studying the polarisation of the State’s population along confessional lines will end up negatively affecting religious minorities and fuel the fear of minorities who suffered at the hands of Hindu fundamentalists.

In fact Christians in 1998-1999 and Muslims in 2002 were attacked by extremists close to the State government.

Even today “minorities in Gujarat continue to be victims of overt and subtle intimidations, harassment and attacks,” the Jesuit priest said.

In the past the State set up another commission to look at confessional affiliation, he noted. Like that one, the one just set up should be rejected.

“The government of Gujarat should be concerned that each citizen of the State is treated with respect and dignity, enjoying the same rights and liberties guaranteed by the constitution, rather than fuel tensions,” he said.

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

India: a Year After the Swami’s Murder, A “Day of Peace and Harmony” In Orissa

A day of remembrance is called for 23 August to commemorate the assassination of Hindu leader and the victims of the anti-Christian pogrom. Mgr Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack- Bhubaneswar, is among the promoters of the initiative. India and the world should remember the event so that violence against religious minorities is stopped around the world.

Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) — Mgr Raphael Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack- Bhubaneswar; Swarupananda Patra, president of the Orissa Minority Forum; and Bibhudata Das, spokesperson for the Utkal Christian Council have called for a day of “peace and harmony” in Orissa on 23 August 2009.

In a joint statement the three leaders said that “peace and harmony [in Orissa] was shattered by the gruesome murder of Swami Lakhmananda Saraswati and his disciples,” an event that was followed by the “mindless violence against innocent men, women and children in Kandhamal and across Orissa”. In doing this, “criminals have tarnished the image of Orissa and India in the sight of the global community”.

At present Indian Christians are patiently waiting “for the true criminals to be” punished according to the law, confident that they “will not allow [. . .] those past painful events to reoccur.”

Hence “it is necessary to [. . ..] remember August 23 [. . .] as a day for ‘peace and harmony’ so that the evil designs of ‘criminals’ to divide civil society on religious lines is [. . .] thwarted.”

In order to end the “hate campaign” and ensure that “violence” does not “wreak havoc in the land of ‘peaceful’ Orissa, the Christian community and” minority leaders are proposing a seven-point plan.

The day of 23 August 2009 should be a day of “peace and harmony” to remember the assassination of the swami, his followers and many innocent people and remind civil society of the value of “unity” against the evil designs of the “criminals” who promote discord and divisions.

For this reason the signatories of the statement urge the government of the State of Orissa and the central government to observe the day of ‘peace and harmony’ and call on the United Nations to declare the day as a ‘Global Day for Peace and Harmony” so that the whole world may observe it.

They also ask the international community to take part in the event in memory of “the pain and suffering” endured by the victims in Kandhamal and call on state and union governments to “provide complete security and protection to religious minorities, their lives, property, institutions, places of worship, etc.” as well as “to swamiji, their disciples and ashrams since violence against them” is used by criminals “to attack religious minorities”. (NC)

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

India: Plowing Naked, Not Singing in the Rain

Desperate farmers in an eastern Indian state have thrown their veil of modesty to the winds and have asked their unmarried daughters to embarrass the weather gods by plowing their dry fields a buffo. Read on for more bare details.

According to news sources, naked girls in the Bihar state of India plow their parents parched fields, invoking the aid of ancient gods through chants and hymns. In a nation known for its modesty, this is a desperate move to save their bumper crops and rid their land of the insidious drought, which is the worst it has been in the last eight decades. The girls are being dutiful children as the request to plow the fields naked comes from their parents who hope to embarrass the weather gods and force them to bring some badly needed monsoon rain. Elderly women of the village are said to help the younger ones drag the plows after sunset across the dangerously dry fields. In the words of Upendra Kumar, a village council official from Bihar’s remote Banke Bazaar town:

“They (villagers) believe their acts would get the weather gods badly embarrassed, who in turn would ensure bumper crops by sending rains. This is the most trusted social custom in the area and the villagers have vowed to continue this practice until it rains very heavily.”

Desperate times call for desperate measures, (although whoever said that probably had his clothes on).

           — Hat tip: Zonka[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Swat Taliban Leader Vows to Seize Assets of Pro-Army ‘Traitors’

Mingora, 21 July (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — As thousands of people continued to return to Pakistan’s troubled northwest Swat region, local Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah vowed to seize property belonging to families who have backed the ongoing military operation in Swat.

Militant sources told Adnkronos International they have been waiting for the refugees to return to Swat so they can use them as human shields against the military.

The militants have also been waiting for the onset of winter when snowfalls will cut off military supplies, the sources said

“Once these two things happen, militants will once again occupy 90 percent of the valley,” a militant told AKI.

According to the Pakistani military, more than 2,000 Taliban have been killed and the local Taliban have been completely defeated in the three-month-long offensive to quash insurgents in the restive region.

Some three million people fled the conflict, which began earlier this year in Swat district and spread to the neighbouring districts of Buner and Lower Dir. Militants are fighting to introduce strict Islamic law in Swat and several surrounding areas.

Earlier this month, the Pakistani army said Fazlullah had been seriously injured in the military offensive and another militant leader, Abu Jandal, had been killed.

But residents of Mingora, the largest town in Swat said Fazlullah had been heard last week making illegal FM radio transmissions. It could not be confirmed if the broadcast was a live or a pre-recorded one. Some residents were quoted as saying Fazlullah sounded unwell in the broadcast and that his voice lacked its previous energy.

Pakistani military forces reportedly killed over suspected 50 Islamist militants in a two-day battle on Sunday and Monday in the Lower Dir district.

The Taliban however claimed their command and control structure had remained by and large intact during the military operation in the northwest.

Only two Taliban commanders, Daud and Shah Doran, had been killed, while command of the Swat militants is in the hands of Bin Yameen, according to the Taliban.

The Pakistani army earlier claimed Yameen had died in the military operation.

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

Swedes Kill Three in Afghanistan Fire Fight

Swedish military forces were involved in a battle in Aqchah in northern Afghanistan on Thursday night. No Swedish soldiers have been reported injured.

The battle began around 6.30pm on Thursday night when opposition groups ambushed the Swedish troops.

The Swedes were in armoured wheeled vehicles and later received reinforcements from several soldiers in a Combat Vehicle 90.

“The firefights were intermittant during the evening and night,” Veronica Sandström, press officer for the Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten), told the TT news agency.

The Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reported Friday that three members of the attacking troops were killed and an additional two injured.

Aqchah is approximately 40 kilometres west of Mazar-i-Sharif, the largest city in northern Afghanistan and the base for the Swedish force led by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

ISAF is a NATO-led security and development mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations Security Council in 2001. The base is home to Swedish and Finnish peacekeeping forces.

DN reported the attack came in the wake of several other incursions in the region.

“We have had three incidents within a month and it is more than usual. The violence in Afghanistan has ramped up due to the elections on August 20th,” Regnér told DN.

The exact number of Swedish soldiers involved in the battle remains unknown, but 40 to 50 Swedish military personnel are stationed in Aqchah.

In Afghanistan, there are a total of approximately 400 Swedish military personnel, according to the Armed Forces.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: Peking is Planning to Tear Down the Historical Centre of Kashgar

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 20.07.2009

Matthias Messmer raises the alarm: Peking is planning to tear down the historical centre of the 2000-year-old Uigur city of Kashgar on the silk route. “Kashgar would not only loses its unique architectural face, the century-old living and working spaces of the majority of the population would also be destroyed. Just like during the Cultural Revolution a piece of world history would be erased completely. According to the plans of the Chinese government, only 15 percent of the old houses would remain standing as a sort of open-air museum of theme park displaying Islamic culture to tourists from the world over and, of course, as testament to the tolerance of the Han Chinese, who make up the majority of the population.”

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

Tibet — China: Lawyer Ejected Because of “No Use”: Monk Sentenced to Life

Tibetans are stopped from employing a trusted lawyer, lawyers are removed and they denied access to clients. In closed door trials, without a trusted defence, Tibetans who dared to protest or praise to the Dalai Lama, are handed down heavy sentences.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) — The Court does not allow the lawyer, because the client already has one appointed by the court: Sentenced to life imprisonment.

Beijing lawyer, Li Dunyong, along with others have repeatedly declared they are ready to defend Tibetans. He was named by relatives to defend the monks Tsultrim Gyatso and Thabkey Gyatso from the monastery of Labrang (Gansu), arrested for taking part in a political protest. Li says that the authorities have responded that his work was not necessary, because the monks “already had a lawyer.”

The two monks, after they were denied defence, were sentenced to life and 15 years in prison for “having attempted to divide the country.”

Radio Free Asia yesterday reported a number of cases in which the court has not accepted the legal representation of Tibetan defendants. Officials of the court in Xining (Qinghai) refused Li permission to defend documentary producer Dhondup Wangchen.

Wangchen has been held since March 2008 for having interviewed two Tibetans about their political ideas, for the film “Leaving Fear Behind”. The film, which collects testimonies of the Tibetans on the Dalai Lama, Chinese policy in Tibet and the Olympic Games in Beijing, has been translated into seven languages and screened in over 30 countries. Li has been appointed by the family of Wangchen, who only discovered the arrest after a year.

Meanwhile, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reports that the court of Kardze (Sichuan) on July 3 sentenced Tibetan monk Jamyang Tenzin to 3 years in prison for having protested against the campaign of “Patriotic Education” launched in Lithang 2007.

Jamyang was arrested on 3 October 2007 because he objected to a peaceful campaign of “education” underway in Yonru monastery, County Lithang. Since then he has been held in prison but his family knew nothing about the arrest and hence no one has been able to go and visit him. It is not known whether he had legal advice in the trial.

In September 2007 the Chinese authorities imposed campaigns of indoctrination on the monasteries of Lithang. The “instructors” have also demanded monks to write complaints against the Dalai Lama and to show loyalty to the Chinese government. Janyang protested and shouted slogans like “May the Dalai Lama live thousands of years.” He was taken away one night, at the end of the education campaign.

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

Australia — Pacific

Mad Cow Swapped So Hindus Can Hold Sacred Ceremonies

BRISBANE’S Hindu Society bought a Brahman heifer for worshippers to adorn with garlands for worship and prayer ceremonies at their Burbank temple.

In return for their adoration and specially prepared vegetarian meals, the worshippers were chased, hit and kicked by the bovine, whose attitude was more mad cow than sacred cow.

Unlike Brahman cattle in India, which are very docile and perfectly suited for being around a temple, this particular Australian animal was very aggressive — so much so that a month of important ceremonies in September looked under threat.

That was when the Queensland Department of Primary Industries stepped in to solve this cow conundrum.

“Unfortunately this particular Australian Brahman has a very difficult temperament and was almost unapproachable,” Primary Industries Minister Tim Mulherin said.

“She was tethered in an enclosure, and the congregation was not sure on how they were going to handle the animal.”

To solve the problem, the DPI brokered a cow-swapping deal between the Hindu Society and Maleny High School on the Sunshine Coast.

Biosecurity Queensland district inspector Janet Hull became aware of the situation when she was contacted by saleyard staff.

“Ms Hull consulted with Binendra Pratap, a DPI Veterinarian of Hindu faith, who knew exactly what the cow was for and understood the situation,” Mr Mulherin said.

Dr Pratap said that as soon as he visited the temple it was immediately clear that the cow was unsuitable for Hindu ritual.

“If the cow was injured, it would be an insult to the Hindu society, which had purchased this heifer for the community to worship,” he said.

However, Ms Hull knew Maleny State High wanted to sell some of its Southern Devon heifers to purchase new stock for the students.

“When I contacted the school and told them the problems the Hindu community was facing, they offered to swap one of their docile heifers for the Brahman heifer the Hindu temple had purchased,” she said.

“Let me tell you, the joy on the face of the Hindu priest and the other people at the temple was worth seeing when I told them.”

Ms Hull said the Brahman was “settling in beautifully at the school” and enjoyed its new surroundings. It had shown a completely different temperament with the children.

The Hindu Society’s Asha Tripathi, wife of priest RH Tripathi, said cows were sacred and were treated like the mother of the family.

“The old one was very aggressive. . . but this (new) cow is very gentle, very nice, very calm and we can handle her easily,” Mrs Tripathi said.

“We cannot express our feelings of joy. We love this cow, we have called her Ganga. We will always worship our Ganga.”

Mrs Tripathi said the first cow had cost the society $3000.

They had also bought two peacocks, which are also important to have around the Hindu temple, but there have been no reports of behavioural problems with the birds.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]


Amnesty: More Attention to Human Rights

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 24 — The theme of multi-culturalism in Italy is so far only “the caption to a photograph that is however an ugly photograph,” says Riccardo Noury, spokesman for Amnesty International in Italy, which will take part Sunday in the Est film festival at Montefiascone for the screening of the documentary ‘Like a man on Earth,’ directed by Andrea Segre e Dagmawi Yimer. In an interview with ANSAmed, Noury commented positively on the growing attention to the theme of the different cultures living together in Italy, but repeated the need for “greater sensitivity and attention” to the human rights conditions of immigrants. “It is important that one starts talking about multi-culturalism because this is a positive term,” he said, “by contrast with immigration which is used negatively to speak of illegal residence, which now has become a criminal offence, and terrorism,” forgetting that migrants try to cross the Mediterranean “only to look for a peaceful place.” The documentary “reveals the dramatic conditions of detention and inhuman treatment that migrants undergo when, through Libya, they try to reach somewhere free of poverty, hunger, persecution, torture and war,” says Noury. “A veil of silence covers these conditions and those detention centres now, just after the Italy-Libya agreement on immigration, and its application already under way with hundreds and hundreds of migrants rejected by our country and taken back to Libya, in violation of international norms on human rights,” said the Amnesty spokesman. After the recent frank exchange between Chamber of Deputies President Gianfranco Fini and Libya “one needs to move from declarations and letting of steam to facts, not just through monitoring of the Libyan camps but also through a general re-thinking of the agreement.” “We will have a real achievement when there is a real commitment to the defence of human rights,” said Noury, “explaining that Amnesty International in Italy is “trying to repair the damage that security crackdown packages, broken down into various different measures, have created in 12 to 13 months.” Such a commitment also can be taken forward through documentaries such as “Like a man on earth,” which Amnesty decided to sponsor “allowing in this way its screening in hundreds of cinemas. “One has to shake up public opinion, which has little power to decide but can choose who to take the decisions,” Noury said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bloody Siege of Calais: The Violent New Breed of Migrants Who Will Let Nothing Stop Them Coming to Britain

Some still try to get through by clinging to the undercarriage of lorries. Others have been found hidden in ‘coffins’ — plastic containers with tiny air vents — close to death.

Either way, you can be certain of one thing: that when a truck stops on the now notorious Rue des Garennes on the outskirts of Calais, someone will emerge and attempt to get on board. Day or night.

So it was late on Wednesday afternoon when Mail photographer Will Leach trained his lens on an HGV stopping for petrol about 50 yards from his own car. An all-too-familiar scene was unfolding.

Danger zone: Two migrants attempt to stow away on a lorry at Rue des Garennes on the outskirts of Calais

Two would-be asylum seekers were climbing into the gap behind the cab and the trailer. You can see them in his dramatic footage. One is in a sweatshirt and tracksuit bottoms and there is a gold ring on his finger. He is no more than 18 or 19. His companion is in a leather jacket and baseball cap.

The time, recorded on the clock on Will’s camera, is 18.01. He was unable to capture what happened next on film. For, moments after the picture was taken, the migrant with the gold ring began sprinting towards him armed with a lump of concrete.

‘Out of the corner of my eye I saw two other figures rushing out of the bushes so I put the car into gear and my foot down hard on the accelerator,’ he says. The first missile shattered the rear windscreen.

The second obliterated a back window on the driver’s side, showering 26-year-old Will with shards of glass. A third left a huge dent in the bodywork of the car.

‘An occupational hazard’ is how he later calmly described being ambushed. Nevertheless, he could have been badly injured or even killed.

The evidence, if any were needed, was inside his car: a lump of concrete the size of two cricket balls.

It smashed into the headrest of the front passenger seat. Had it not been there, it might not have been such a lucky escape.

We had come to Calais to investigate the escalating violence by illegal immigrants after a spate of ‘highway robberies’ involving British holidaymakers.

Was the violence becoming more indiscriminate, as local reports suggested? At 18.01 on Wednesday we had our answer.

A shanty town of makeshift tents has sprung up in woods bordering Rue des Garennes, where Will Leach came under attack. They call it The Jungle.

The population of mainly refugees from Afghanistan is around 800 — and growing. Conditions and health problems in The Jungle — where fights and feuds between rival factions are commonplace — are akin to the trenches, according to a French doctor who has been there.

Escape: An asylum seeker hides on a lorry roof as it drives into the ferry port in Calais heading to Britain

But The Jungle — or at least the law of the jungle — has now extended beyond the boundaries of this godforsaken ‘community’. Death threats. Assaults. Robberies. This is now the way of things in Rue des Garennes, one of the main routes in and out of the ferry port.

A security guard at an American owned company on the mile-long stretch was clubbed over the head with an iron bar a few weeks ago.

At a nearby truckers’ cafe, the owner has had knives pulled on him so many times he is considering pulling out (a number of businesses already have), and at least two British families have been ‘carjacked’ after being forced to stop by immigrants forming a human chain across the road.

Anyone, it seems — not just journalists who might be perceived as a threat — is fair game. Police have now stepped up patrols. This not just a story spun by the local council’s public relations department. We saw the evidence for ourselves.

‘This is now routine,’ said an officer who was leading up to 20 of his men into The Jungle — from three vans bearing the letters CRS — on Thursday morning. CRS stands for Compagnie Republiquaine de Securite: the elite — and feared — French riot force.

The officers were armed with tear gas, handguns and batons. A ‘routine’ inspection of the camp takes place at least once a week, every week.

There is a terrible irony at the heart of the so-called ‘siege of Calais’. Those are not our words. They belong to the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchard. The irony is that migrants are finding it harder to get into Britain through the port because of increased security on both sides of the Channel.

Yet the number trying to reach the UK has increased, to more than 2,000 a month — a figure that has doubled over the past year. The desperation behind these statistics can be found in three adjoining houses on the edge of Quai de La Moselle, a vast open space in the middle of Calais. Around 50 men and women from Eritrea and other African countries have turned the properties into a squat.

Outside, in a walled yard, one of the residents, a 25-year-old from Kenya, picks up a four-inch metal bolt that is attached to coat-hanger wire. Every month, he says, he heats up the bolt and then, one by one, touches the scolding metal with his fingertips, which doesn’t cause major scarring, but alters the texture and appearance of the skin.

It’s an excruciatingly painful but effective way, he explains, of removing your fingerprints. ‘I have to do this regularly because your prints can grow back,’ he says.

Migrants can be deported if fingerprint checks reveal they have lodged asylum applications elsewhere. No fingerprints, no deportation; instead the opportunity to stay in Calais, from where you can try to enter Britain.

Already the young Kenyan has made 30 such attempts in the six months since he arrived. He said that four others in the squat have also burned off their fingerprints.

His claims would be hard to believe had the phenomenon not been confirmed by the authorities here. At least 57 asylum seekers questioned in the port over the past few weeks have had their fingerprints — and sometimes even the tips of their fingers — erased. Most placed their fingers on a heated oven hob. Knife and razor scars were also commonplace.

The kind of people who are prepared to mutilate themselves to conceal their identities will do almost anything. It is a situation that is being exploited more than ever by people traffickers.

When we entered The Jungle on Rue des Garennes earlier this week such people, we were told, were not in the camp. They were back in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but not here. The police tell a different story.

A single raid by the CRS in April resulted in 194 arrests of suspected people traffickers. In other words, nearly a quarter of those living in this sprawling cardboard and tarpaulin city had possible criminal links.

It is extremely difficult to build a case strong enough to put before the courts. So almost all of them had to be released. ‘Technically, we can return them to the country they arrived from,’ said a police source. ‘They usually say Belgium but if we take them there they just come straight back again.’

Good for Belgium. Not so good for Calais, which is bearing the brunt of an international crisis that is having a disastrous effect on tourism and business in the town.

Many of the migrants here are children, and you’d have to have a hard heart not to feel some sympathy for a 14-year-old boy like Dil Khan, whose family handed him over — blindfolded — to a gang they paid to smuggle him out of wartorn Afghanistan. They wanted to give him the chance of a better life; instead, he now shares a hovel with another poor wretch.

Or 16-year-old Jan Jamal, who lost four fingers on his left hand in a bomb blast in the same country. Jamal repeatedly pointed to the boot of our car when we spoke to him and a friend in Rue des Garennes. ‘We can fit. We can fit,’ he kept saying. What he meant was: ‘Please take us with you.’

Pitiful stories. Equally tragic examples of forgotten youngsters were standing in the long, winding queue for the twice-daily soup kitchen in Quai de La Moselle near the squat where the young Kenyan we spoke to scratches out an existence.

But you do not have to be in Calais long to realise this is not the whole picture. Not today, anyway. Many of the ‘poverty-stricken’ migrants have mobile phones and new clothes.

It’s no mystery. At the Hotel de Poste — the local post office — in Place De Reims in the town centre, the woman in charge reveals how some of her most regular customers are asylum seekers.

The branch is small, no bigger than a corner shop. Yet every day migrants come in to collect money, transferred to them via the Western Union bank, from relatives overseas, including many in Britain. The payments are made out in cash with the production of a valid ID.

Most migrants have papers to meet this requirement. The branch itself handles about 45 such transactions a day. The average is 500 euros (£430). ‘It’s a massive amount for a small post office,’ said the manageress.

Once upon a time, Calais used to be synonymous with shopping trips to stock up on duty-free food and drink for Christmas. But a spokesman for the mayor’s office admitted: ‘Calais is now blighted as a place to do business, and as a place to live.’

The problems facing the town, it is claimed, are reminiscent of the ‘worst days of Sangatte’. The Red Cross Centre at the village outside Calais was shut down in 2002 over its role as a magnet for would-be illegal immigrants.

Five years on and many in Calais, including the mayor herself, blame Britain for what is happening. If Britain were not perceived as ‘El Dorado’, they say, there would be fewer migrants. She has a point.

A meeting, attended by French immigration minister Eric Besson, was held at the Tioxide factory a few weeks ago to listen to the views of those who work and live near the Rue des Garennes.

Just days earlier, a nightwatchman evicted two residents from The Jungle who had broken into the plant. For months, small groups had been getting in to use the shower facilities and to charge their mobile phones. On this occasion, the two young men decided to come back.

They found the guard and smashed him over the head with a metal bar. Had he not been wearing a helmet, Philippe Ficquoy might not be turning up for duty today.

Other staff, we learned, have also been attacked over the past few months, and have received death threats. Some local businessmen have already thrown in the towel.

One moved his caravan showroom out of Calais after experiencing intimidation and break-ins. Another who owned a yard selling second-hand pallets has closed altogether.

Then last week, two British families found their cars surrounded by migrants. In the first carjacking, the male driver was forced to throw his wallet out of the window after having a knife waved in his face.

Among those who was at the meeting with Mr Besson was Chris Wood, 63, who set up his business, Eurostop, selling beer and wine 20 years ago. His offices and warehouses are the closest buildings to The Jungle. He said his profits are down 50 per cent because of the problems in Rue des Garennes.

‘A lot of lorry drivers are now too nervous to stop here because they know as soon as they get out of their cabs people from the camp will try to get in the back, and when they are challenged they can get very nasty,’ said Mr Wood, who has a French wife and three children.

Mr Wood himself has been threatened with iron bars and cut-throat gestures. ‘The police are doing the best they can,’ he said. ‘But I think the situation is now out of control.’

The closure of the Red Cross centre was supposed to help relieve the pressure on Calais by discouraging migrants from coming to this area. In fact, almost the complete opposite is true, and no one on either side of the Channel seems even remotely close to finding a solution.

For the thousands of British families who will run the gauntlet of these lawless streets in their cars this summer, it is a chilling prospect.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

EU: No to Repulsions Back to Risk Countries

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JULY 22 — The European Commission has reminded Italy in a “firm” manner of applicable laws according to which it is not permitted to return people to countries in which “their lives are at risk or they are at risk of being maltreated”. The words came in a reply given to MEP questions by the Vice President of the European Commission, Jacques Barrot. The EU Commissioner reported that the Commission had asked the Italian government for explanations of the way in which “some embarkations carrying irregular migrants, among whom there may have been asylum seekers, were repulsed and returned to Libya”. Barrot noted that the Commission had reminded the Italian government “in clear terms” of the principles governing repulsion, stressing that for its part, Italy “has not carried out any further actions of this kind”. The European Commissioner told MEPs that he is working on a mission that should be taking him to Libya. Dates are not yet fixed but the visit should come at the beginning of the autumn with a threefold objective: “To ensure that there is no complicity with people smugglers, to re-accept re-admissions and set up reception centres for bona fide asylum seekers who are entitled to due protection”. Barrot, who said that he would also be visiting Turkey, stressed the need of involving the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “A way must be found in which applications for asylum can be presented without having to cross the sea and without having to rely on traffickers simply to get to Europe”. Barrot several times referred to the need for solidarity across the European level with managing people who seek asylum. The European Commissioner noted that he is unable to impose “compulsory” unanimity and that therefore sharing out of people who have been granted asylum in Europe will be done on a voluntary basis. The first programme will be a pilot project to be set up on Malta.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Immigrants: Maroni, We’re Kinder Than the Vatican

(AGI) — Orvieto (Terni), 24 July — Minister of the Interior Roberto Maroni defended the new law on immigration and told the Church, which criticised him, that “We did a good job reviving legality, and we were insulted and compared to Hitler’s racist laws. Our law is similar to that of other European countries.

Even the Vatican prescribes imprisonment for illegal aliens, it’s a law that works very well for them. But we’re kinder, we only provided a fine, an ancillary sanction because we don’t want to send people to jail, we want to send them home”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy and Algeria Sign Cooperation Agreement

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JULY 22 — The Italian and Algerian police forces will exchange information, experience and training activities. Such is the content of the agreement signed today in Algiers by Italian police chief Antonio Manganelli and Algerian police chief Ali Tounsi to “naturally” boost cooperation between the two countries when it comes to illegal immigration. After signing the agreement, Manganelli stated that “In Italy we are setting up a smart balance between immigration policy, integration and zero tolerance of illegal immigration, which is often tied to the world of organised crime”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Save the Children, Fears for Minors in Libya

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 24 — Save the Children has said that the charity is concerned by what has been reported by the weekly magazine L’Espresso. According to the magazine, in one of the detention centres for immigrants in Libya, there are around 800 people, including 30 children, detained in inhumane conditions. “Our organisation,” said Valerio Neri, director general of Save the Children, “has repeatedly expressed our concern over immigrants being immediately returned to a country that does not guarantee the required safeguarding to people who are in flight in search of protection and that does not take due consideration of the more vulnerable groups such as minors.” Italy, he underlined, “cannot put into action border control measures in international waters that do not take account of migrants’ human rights, nor can they return people to non-EU states where these rights are not guaranteed.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Abortion: Spain; Judiciary, Adolescents Can Decide at 16

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, JULY 15 — Adolescents aged from 16 to 18 are mature enough to decide on their own whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, says a report by the Spanish General Council for the power of the judiciary in its assessment of an abortion reform bill introduced by the Zapatero Government and due to come before Spain’s Parliament. The report was approved by the magistrates’ ruling body by three votes in favour to two against. According to judicial sources cited by El Pais newspaper, the report nevertheless expresses the view that legislation should allow for parents to have the right to be informed of their minor child, even if their opinion regarding any decision to interrupt a pregnancy will have no juridical value. In a case where a parent refuses to give their consent, the Spanish magistrates’ ruling body considers it “adequate” that a judicial procedure be envisaged to authorize the abortion. In this way, according to the Spanish magistrates, “one contributes to reconciling the young girl’s right to decide, since she is sufficiently mature, with the faculty of giving advice and orientation which comes from the parents.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


A Jihad on Bruno: Islamofashionist Terror Threat

ABU BOO-BOO: Sacha Baron Cohen, wielding a Chanel “weapon” at the “Bruno” premiere, stepped up real-life security after an interview in the film with Palestinian militant Ayman Abu Aita sent his group into a rage.

Sacha Baron Cohen has stepped up his security after being threatened by a terrorist organization that is angered at its portrayal in the film “Bruno.”

The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a coalition of Palestinian militias in the West Bank, said it was “very upset” that it was featured in the movie, starring Baron Cohen’s homosexual fashionista alter ego.

Baron Cohen’s Austrian character ridicules the terrorist group when he attempts to get himself kidnapped during a meeting with Ayman Abu Aita, who is identified in the film as the leader of the Martyrs’ Brigades.

The British comic is taking the threat seriously and has improved secu rity arrangements for himself and his family in preparation for violent reprisals.

The Martyrs’ Bri gades has issued a statement to a Jerusalem-based journalist including a veiled threat against Baron Cohen, 37.

“We reserve the right to respond in the way we find suitable against this man,” it said. “The movie was part of a conspiracy against the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.”

The group condemned the use of the interview.

“According to what we checked, there was no meeting about the real context of the film,” the statement said. “This was a dirty use of our brother, Ayman, and we don’t accept that the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is part of the film.”

The group is responsible for dozens of suicide bombings and shootings, and has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.

Baron Cohen’s Austrian character is shown telling Abu Aita: “I want to be famous. I want the best guys in the business to kidnap me. Al Qaeda is so 2001.” Before Abu Aita can respond, Bruno suggests that he remove his moustache, explaining: “Because your King Osama looks like a kind of dirty wizard or homeless Santa.”

Abu Aita claims that he was tricked into appearing in the film and has insisted that he is no longer involved in the Martyrs’ Brigades. He has threatened to sue Baron Cohen.

“This man, I think he is not a man,” Abu Aita said. “He is not saying the truth about me. He lied.”

Abu Aita’s lawyer, Hatem Abu Ahmad, has said that he is preparing a legal action against Baron Cohen and Universal Studios alleging that the terrorist reference could get his client in trouble with the Israelis and that the gay association could get him killed by Palestinians.

Abu Ahmad said: “This joke is very dangerous. We are not in the United States, we are not in Europe, we are in the Middle East, and the world operates differently here.” The Times of London

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

"Abu Aita’s lawyer, Hatem Abu Ahmad, has said that he is preparing a legal action against Baron Cohen and Universal Studios alleging that the terrorist reference could get his client in trouble with the Israelis and that the gay association could get him killed by Palestinians."

That's so Solkhar-like : typical Muslim chutzpah and reversal of responsibilities.

The guy is a violent extremist, he support an ideology which says homosexuals should be killed. And now, just because this criminal has been set up by a prankster posing as a homosexual, he complains that his own friends might kill him, because they abide by his own ideology.

That's exactly the same as Solkhar antics about the West being responsible for Muslim fundamentalism, because it let its representatives in its midst.

One more proof that proselytizing Muslim "moderates" are not fundamentally different from extremists.

One more proof that Islam really is a mental disease.

heroyalwhyness said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zenster said...

Arab TV Network Closed After Arafat Murder Claims

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday closed the office of Arab TV network Al-Jazeera in the West Bank on Wednesday, after it aired allegations that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas colluded with former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to kill the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Few things are more entertaining that watching Islam choke on a dose of its own taqiyya and eternal conspiracy theories.

For now we will disregard the irony of just how badly Arafat, the grandfather of modern day terrorism, needed murdering. Preferably in a long drawn out fashion but let's not be picky.

Were they not such a danger to all free people, the antics of these Islamic @ssclowns would be nothing short of hilarious.

Dice said...

Where's the publicly funded exhibit that invites viewers to deface the Koran?

Anonymous said...

I thought it was common knowledge that you can't sue a comedian for making fun of someone